things go poorly
This three part series and then we're done for four years, haterz. This three part series: projecting the USA's 2018 roster. All sections ordered by likelihood of inclusion.
The USA's single outfield player older than 32 since 2002 was Brian McBride in 2006, who was a starter at 34. That should eliminate Brad Davis, Chris Wondolowski, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, DaMarcus Beasley, and Clint Dempsey, along with various others in the player pool (Gomez, Donovan, etc) who didn't make the 23.
In addition, Tim Howard will be 39 in 2018. It's not unheard of for a goalie to make it that long, but with the US in possession of Brad Guzan it seems likely Howard will retire internationally, as will Nick Rimando.
Then there are three guys in the age danger zone: Bedoya and Zusi were already weak points at 27. If they're on the roster in 2018 the US will not have progressed as far as we want them to. Cameron will be 32, obviously workable but less than ideal.
There is some chance one or two of the old guys hangs on. Dempsey is the most likely, as there seems to be an obvious we-need-a-goal sub role for him. Beasley, amazingly, would be next since left back is a bitch to fill and he may be immortal.
That leaves the US with approximately 10 spots to fill, 8 of them outfield players.
- The US plays a four-man backline.
- Michael Bradley returns to a defensive mid role, because he can't cover as much ground at 30 and the shape of the player pool changes pretty dramatically this cycle.
- The end result is either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1.
- There is a kid no one's ever heard of who will be on the team.
JOZY ALTIDORE – Sunderland (England) - 28 in 2018 – 71 caps
Jozy's obvious. Hopefully he'll get away from the crap end of English football to someplace where the ball comes to him every once in a while.
TERRENCE BOYD – RB Leipzig (Germany 2nd) – 27 in 2018 – 13 caps
Assuming that the US does go with a single central striker most of the time, Klinsmann won't make the same mistake he made in this cycle by leaving without a like for like replacement for his starter. The 6'2" Boyd is capable target forward coming off scoring nearly a goal every two games in the Austrian league who's just transferred back to Germany. While the fact that he's in the 2.Bundesliga is a bit of a disappointment, RB Leipzig is ripping up the divisions after Red Bull purchased them and gave their director a pile of money to rip up the divisions. By 2018 they very well could be a Bundesliga club.
Anyway, Boyd's the most like-for-like guy on the US radar right now, and as a bonus he's pretty good.
JUAN AGUDELO – free agent – 25 in 2018 – 18 caps
Agudelo's in a bit of limbo at the moment since he couldn't get eligible for his club. England restricts non-EU players to exceptional talents. If you've got some percentage of your international team's recent caps they'll let you in, and they'll also make exceptions for particularly young players who have broken through. (Players like Marc Pelosi avoid this process thanks to possession of an EU passport.) Stoke thought Agudelo counted; the board has said no twice. He was forced to play in Holland on loan as a result.
That and ill-timed injuries (he was supposed to be on the 2013 Gold Cup squad) have seen him drop out of the national team picture. He's too talented to remain out of it. His 14 appearances for Utrecht saw him collect three goals and three assists for a relegation-threatened club in desperate need of offense. As of late May he was supposed to be joining Bundesliga outfit Hannover 96.
------------this line demarks the sadness of being left out---------------
ARON JOHANNSSON – AZ Alkmaar (Holland) – 27 in 2018
It's 50/50 whether Johannsson gets on the next roster after only being deployed against Ghana, and then passed over for one of the USA's marginal wing midfielders. Has been bagging goals in Holland, but that's just what happens in Holland.
GYASI ZARDES – LA Galaxy – 26 in 2018 – 0 caps
Despite a late debut as a pro after a four-year career at UCSB that in fact featured a redshirt(!), Zardes has impressed with a combination of size and speed at LA Galaxy. He may be a prime example of a guy who the US development system hurt, but looking through the pool for Lukaku types who can change a game by being large and mean and fast and you land on Zardes.
RUBIO RUBIN – FC Utrecht (Holland) – 22 in 2018 – 0 caps
Speaking of Holland, Rubin is there for a mid-table club trying to break through, impress, and get sold. It's not a bad plan; Rubin was a youth star for the MNT.
---------------you're not sad at this point because you didn't come that close----------------
Jack McInerney had a couple of promising years with Philadelphia before hitting a rough patch and getting traded to Toronto; he could be a 25-year-old version of Wondo if things break right for him.Harry Shipp has made an instant impact in MLS after a brief career at ND.
Bobby Wood's been playing in the second tier of German football as a 21 year old and got a Gold Cup callup before his team requested he pass on it. 18-year-old Lynden Gooch is impressing on Sunderland's youth side; similarly barely-legal Paul Arriola is playing for Tijuana in the Mexican league. A kid named Dembakwi Yomba is at Atletico Madrid, having popped up on everyone's radar when he signed there.
The US loses no one from this spot since they don't really have anyone. With a lot of the D-mid depth chart dropping out due to age and the clear problems the US had maintaining possession in this World Cup, goal #1 is going to get something resembling a true #10 on the field so Bradley can slide back.
Fortunately, there are a number of attractive options here. There is in fact a pile.
I don't think anyone's necessarily in or out yet. These guys are ordered by likelihood to show up on the 2018 roster.
DARLINGTON NAGBE – Portland Timbers – 27 in 2018 – 0 caps
Nagbe was born in Liberia and moved around the world a bit before landing in Cleveland as an 11 year old; you may remember him from Michigan's trip to the soccer Final Four. Nagbe was the super-skilled attacking-mid for Akron. A few years later he's become the focal point of Portland's attack. He does crazy, crazy stuff. I would like him to become an American citizen.
Fortunately, Nagbe recently married a citizen. That pushes his timeline forward to 2015. Count on him getting a call-up at the first available opportunity. He'll be in the heart of his prime in 2018.
MIX DISKERUD – Rosenborg (Norway) – 27 in 2018 – 20 caps
Diskerud made this most recent World Cup roster and then didn't get a game. Brad Davis got a game. I am worried about him. Diskerud is talented but physically slight and not extraordinarily fast. He's also still in Norway at 23. If he's in Norway at 27 I don't think he's on the roster.
LUIS GIL – Real Salt Lake – 24 in 2018 – 1 cap
Gil has a shocking number of MLS appearances for a 20-year-old: he's currently on 95, all with RSL. He was the focal point of youth national teams for three or four years—he has a whopping 51 youth caps—and showed incredible craft on the ball.
He's found the transition to MLS a little rougher than you'd like, but he is still a regular starter for RSL and, remarkably, is entering his fifth season as a pro. He got a call-up in the last cycle and will get a heavy look in this one.
------------------------line of sadness----------------------------
JUNIOR FLORES – Borussia Dortmund (Germany) – 22 in 2018 - 0 caps
Flores was impressive enough to sign a four year deal with a major German club when he was just 16. Since U18 kids can't transfer abroad he had to wait until just a few months ago to sign. Flores led the US to a 3-1 win over Brazil's U20s in some Nike thing or another in which he was clearly the man of the match; he is a true #10, if he can only develop.
Flores can also play for El Salvador but turned down a call-up from them.
GEDION ZELALEM – Arsenal (England) – 21 in 2018 – 0 caps
Zelalem is the other hot prospect USA fans are in vapors about. Born in Germany to Ethiopian parents, Zelalem spent a good chunk of his childhood in the US before Arsenal signed him. His citizenship quest was thought to be a lost cause, but a few months ago someone figured out that if his dad became a citizen before Zelalem turned 18 he would automatically become one without losing the German passport that allows him to skate by England's restrictive foreigner laws.
Zelalem's already made his debut for Arsenal in an FA Cup match and was on the substitutes bench for three league games. That is kind of a big deal at 17. Here's a completely reasonable evaluation of him:
'dribbles like Iniesta and passes like Xavi'
All right then.
Obviously, acquiring US citizenship is hurdle #1 here. Then it's getting a good loan somewhere and establishing himself a EPL-level player.
-------------------line of not that close-----------------------
Joe Corona has 11 caps and will be 27 in 2018 but I just don't see it happening for him. For one, Nagbe's about to blast ahead of him in the pecking order. For two, he just doesn't seem to have that je ne sais quoi.
The "I can't believe you're still that young" twins: Jose Torres and Freddy Adu are just 26 and 24 at the moment, respectively. It could still happen! Really!
There's also this generation's John O'Brien, Stuart Holden. Holden is 28 and what with all the injuries seems highly unlikely to get to 2018 without seeing his physical abilities drop below the international level, but you never know. Fresh legs, that's the ticket.
Diego Fagundez would not be in this category except for the fact that he's not a citizen yet despite having been in the States since he was five. He recently acquired a green card and will be eligible for citizenship in 2017. That's hypothetically long enough to slot in the team before the World Cup, but at that point he'd have to climb over a number of other aspirants. Also, Uruguay could come calling before then.
Oh, hey there. We have to stop meeting like this.
We don’t meet. We’re the same person. I just hit Ctrl-B and I’m you.
So I’m Tyler Durden, and you’re… Robert Paulson? No, that was Meat Loaf. Wait, Edward Norton didn’t have a name in that movie, did he? Huh. I guess I never realized that.
And neither of us knows Helena Bonham-Carter. But watching Michigan football these days is like punching yourself in the face in a parking lot, so I guess that works.
I’ll be over here making soap if you need anything
Anywho, the O’Bannon trial ended last Friday, and it’s time to poke the corpse with a stick for a while. Many people spent the weeks and months up to the trial saying that the NCAA was probably screwed. Many of those same people spent the three weeks of the trial declaring that the NCAA was DEFINITELY screwed (and mocking them at every turn). And then came the last day of the trial, in which the plaintiffs had a bad day and some people declared that the NCAA was only mostly dead. So, to clear things up, I’ll make the following nuanced legal prediction:
The NCAA remains deeply and profoundly screwed. I think.
We shall delve into the ways, and the likely outcomes, but if you don’t want to read beyond the impending blather and the jump and the more blather, you may enjoy this Fourth of July weekend comfortable in the knowledge that Mark Emmert will, in short order, have a sad.
So why did everyone say the NCAA might not have to go on the cart?
Well, the thing about anti-trust law…
[returns to rendering fat]
…is that it isn’t the remedy for all ills caused by gigantic douchey monoliths. The plaintiff (O’Bannon) has the burden of showing violations of antitrust law, not just terrible behavior; the NCAA could have burned the entire 1995 UCLA Bruins basketball at the stake and it wouldn’t be an antitrust violation. As sports law and antitrust guru Michael McCann put it, antitrust law is “about protecting competition in the marketplace for the benefit of consumers and marketplace participants.” O’Bannon has to point to a specific defined market that the NCAA is harming, and to identify who the buyers are and who the sellers are in the market, as well as the specific harm created to consumers or market participants. If you can’t figure out how that works when we’re talking about college sports, you’re in the company of at least one federal judge.
The plaintiffs struggled to articulate these things at the weird closing argument Q&A the judge did, because it doesn’t really map to college football very well. But while it is understandable, if O’Bannon can’t explain how the NCAA is harming consumers in a specific market, the NCAA could skate.
[AFTER THE JUMP: NSFMBF]
Five-star defensive end Keisean Lucier-South has a top 11 list that includes Michigan. It's 11 right now, but I believe Michigan would be on his list if it was just a top 3. Either way, Lucier-South has a public affinity for the Wolverines and his recruitment involving the maize and blue has been and still is trending in a positive direction.
As you'd expect though, a talent like Lucier-South has many suitors. His recruitment is one that will be contested until he finally makes his decision.
"Man, my recruitment is still insane," he said with a laugh. "I'm still talking to coaches everyday, I get letters everyday. Michigan, USC, Oklahoma, Florida, UCLA, Oregon, and all of the schools in my top 11 are all still very involved. It is crazy."
Lucier-South has backed off of calling UCLA his leader and now says that all of his top schools are pretty much even. He still isn't shy about his love for Michigan though, consistently calling them one of his favorites.
"I like Michigan a lot right now," he said. "The coaches direct message me everyday. I hear from Mattison, Hoke, and Ferrigno regularly. Hoke and Mattison don't DM me, but Ferrigno does. The commits are trying to get me there as well. Alex Malzone, Darrin Kirkland, and Chris Clark are all coming after me. They say like, 'Michigan is a great place and we can be really special.' I believe them too. Michigan is doing a great job in my recruitment."
The coaches and the commits aren't the only things attracting Lucier-South to Ann Arbor. For a California kid, he has a lot of love for the Wovlerines.
"I just love the history and the tradition," he explained. "I've been watching Michigan since I was little so that's why I like them so much. I honestly don't really know why I started watching them. My dad is a Michigan fan so I just always watched the games with him."
In his own words, Lucier-South says that Michigan is doing a great job recruiting him, but it won't be known if it's good enough for quite a while. Lucier-South plans to commit on National Signing Day as of right now. With so much time left in his recruitment, he has just two of his alotted five official visits scheduled, one of them being to Ann Arbor on October 11 against Penn State. He also has arranged plans to visit South Bend to watch Notre Dame against Stanford the week before that.
Lucier-South will be at The Opening in Oregon which begins this weekend and once that's over, he'll spend the rest of his summer prepping for his senior season.
7/1/2014 – USA 1, Belgium 2 (ET) – out of World Cup
I never really forgave the guy. Admittedly, it's not like there was a huge amount to forgive. I just thought that after I'd indulged his desire to go to a couple of shows that I normally would not have he would reciprocate. Instead, he sulked through the entirety of a fun Robert Earl Keen show that I should have enjoyed about 15% more.
We were 20-ish, in Austin, Texas. We were engineers on summer internships, suddenly stripped of our friend networks and ill-equipped to forge new ones. In such circumstances, horizons broaden rather quickly, which is how I'd ended up at a Smashing Pumpkins show a few weeks earlier.
I know exactly what I wore: a terrible replica Michigan hockey jersey forged from whatever that fabric is that comes with large, regular holes and feels more like plastic than anything else that humans put on their bodies. I know this because after the show this material was absolutely soaked with sweat. Some of it was mine; the majority was from the writhing mass of humanity that had surged to and fro for the duration of the show.
I had no idea the thing could even get so sodden. I'd washed it several times and knew it was the kind of material that exited a washing machine as dry as it entered. After that show the thing was ten pounds heavier than it was two hours before.
I sat on a stoop in the bright Texas sun and tried to process the weird communal thing I'd just gone through. It was, above all, exhausting.
On the day that hooked me for life, I force-marched myself down to the pub at halftime. I was in Ireland for a summer mostly because a girl had dumped me and I wanted to broaden the ol' horizons and the United States had just roared out to a 3-0 lead against impregnable invulnerable super-skilled Portugal. My place was about 20 minutes from the city center at reasonable pace; I got myself down there in 15, huffing and puffing as the second half kicked off.
To the Irish, the USA game that had just blown my mind was just an appetizer to Ireland-Germany. Group stuff meant that a draw would just about see the Irish through—they had Saudi Arabia last. Germany scored, because Germany. A loss was deadly. Everything was desperation and death until stoppage time, when Niall Quinn knocked a ball down to Robbie Keane and Kahn was finally breached.
Pandemonium. I ended up hugging a guy who was definitely not Irish. 12 years on I can only say he was Pakistani-ish. We hugged like we'd known each other since birth and jumped up and down and I was permanently in the power of the World Cup.
Ireland decided to take the afternoon off to drink by the river.
Four years later I watched the USA get blasted off the field by the Czechs. Six-foot-one-hundred Jan Koller pounded in a cross in the first ten minutes and things got worse from there. I sat across the table from Anthony, who'd moved to Ann Arbor and read my blog and knew I liked the USMNT. He'd emailed me because he needed someone to watch them with.
A number of months later, a guy who'd just moved to Ann Arbor named Jerry joined us at Charley's for some match or another—Gold Cup?—because he needed someone to watch the USMNT with. I don't remember what it was. It doesn't matter. From there it the web expanded to encompass most of my friendships forged after college. When I got married three years ago, Jerry was our officiant and Anthony was the best man.
Four years later I was in Chicago for the very exciting Blogs With Balls conference; the World Cup was in South Africa and the USA was playing a tune-up friendly against Australia on the premises, which meant the thing was at approximately 7 AM. I met a guy I'd known as Orson and kind of now know as Spencer (but who is still mostly Orson) at a bar somewhere proximate to Wrigley Field and watched Robbie Findley round the goalkeeper and shoot about 20 feet wide.
When I started this blog, there were two other college football blogs, period. Orson ran one. As college football blogs developed it gradually dawned on a large percentage of the early adopters that we had another, odder obsession: the US national soccer team. I think it's because the kind of person into college football enough to start a blog about it prefers his emotional gambling on sports to be as high-stakes as possible.
We gathered it ourselves in weird ways. I watched the 1994 World Cup in my basement on a 14 inch TV, just like FIFA wanted, and then helpfully forgot about it in 1998. I honestly have no idea what drew anyone else to the national team other than Orson, who's written about it. At the moment I was force-marching to the King's Head in Galway, Orson was running up a darkened street towards a lunatic screaming "WE'RE UP ON PORTUGAL" at five in the morning. I imagine all of us were, in some manner of speaking, running towards a lunatic at some point.
We were together then. I saw Landon score against Algeria in a bar with my best friends, both the half-dozen I knew already and the two hundred who just happened to be there.
I love the US national team. I love it in the way you can only love your wife: I chose it. It was not given to me by my father, like Michigan was. As something approximating an adult I made a decision. It stuck in a way that the Red Wings did not stick, that the Oilers did not stick, that every single other attempted non-Michigan affiliation did not stick. I chose it, and somehow it chose me.
Now I am in so deep that in some weird way the anger cannot stick. If I saw Chris Wondolowski today I'd buy him a beer and say "it's okay, man." I wrote a column earlier this year about how I invented a slur for people who annoy me by being even slightly incompetent. And yet here I am after getting crushed and all I want is for September 23rd to roll around. That's the next time the USA takes the field.
So I'm under this table. I'm under it because the US has just worked a brilliant drawn-up-in-the-dirt free kick that results in a goal a universe where being really clever is everything. I am aware I am not in this universe. If I was being a teenager would have gone a lot better. Therefore the US is still down a goal with five minutes left.
I am under this table an unusually long time. I am the kind of person who screams SHOW ME THE GAME when, say, a basketball broadcast cuts away from a point guard bringing the ball up the floor uncontested. I am still under the table, though. If I remain under the table I will not have to see the clock ticking inexorably upward. I know that I have to stop being under the table pretty soon, but I like it under the table where time has stopped.
Eventually I undo the emergency squat and stop being under the table, and time resumes. I'm not soaked in sweat but it's not for lack of trying. I have lurched to and fro only metaphorically this time, with a mass of humanity that extends to the table I had to abandon to get to the spot where I could stop time, to Atlanta and Alabama and Denver where Orson and Jerry and Jess are, to that setup in Kansas City or Chicago they keep showing on TV in an attempt to catch that Landon-vs-Algeria video live.
Above all, it is wonderful. Except for the score, of course, which is a crime and a lie. But I would not trade the horrible roiling feeling of doom for anything. As Michael Bradley said, the World Cup is about suffering well. We do, together.
I ain't got nothing. I mean, I could, but I can't. Instead, some goodbyes to guys who probably aren't going to see 2018:
BEASLEY. I may have been excessively strident in my attempt to stab anyone who said anything bad about Beasley, and then Beasley goes and redeems all excessive strident-ness. Amazing career, terrific player, terrific story arc, still weighs about 65 pounds. Most underrated USMNT player ever.
HOWARD. YOU SHALL NOT PASS, he said. He had an incredible beard as he did so. "Distribution… brilliant."
DEMPSEY. 1000% Anthemface. 1000% Deuceface. Scored goal after goal and stood as an eagle-riding, gun-waving avatar of America. Made it impossible to accuse USMNT of being euro floppers for duration of career. A hard man for hard times.
JONES. Anyone who says this is not an American is going to get run into the ground and then lashed in the face by a shot. Jones may not have known it, we may not have known it, but the man was born in Kansas and never left. He has overalls, and has always worn them.
BECKERMAN. Sanneh 2014. The guy who you're just like "remember when Beckerman played out of his mind?" Legacy is being that guy in the movie who gets on the Sports Or A Capella Team just at the end and kills it.
DONOVAN. Mexico feared Landon Donovan.
It's was sunny and lovely out yesterday in Michigan. Sunday night's storm swept the humidity aside and deposited rain where it belongs: on my lawn. So why did it feel like that sun was a little darker, that sky a little hazier, this July a little less nice than the June that preceded it? Oh, right.
— Maryland Athletics (@umterps) June 30, 2014
It's official: our moms are forcing us to play with Scott Malkinson.
Why is this happening again? Well they're joining for the money: both schools have had relatively bad athletic departments who over-leveraged themselves in the big sport facility and coaching arms races, Rutgers less so than Maryland, but then Rutgers was about to wind up trapped in the sinking ship of the Big East/American. Maryland has massive debt from its building projects and the ACC ain't gonna pay them, so they were ready to whore themselves out to whichever conference came along, even if it meant an end to their relationship with Duke.
(No, Penn State fans don't care about either as rivals.)
The real question is why in the heck we'd want them. It's cable TV. Starting with the Big Ten, the big conferences have been getting in on the great scam of cable bundling. Cable providers have monopolies in their markets, and are second only to the military-industrial complex in political spending, all so they can force subscribers into all-or-nothing tiers of hundreds of channels to get one they want (and try to charge people extra to not get their internet slowed).
|Big Ten's Expansion Plan: rip off the cable companies after they rip off America. [Image credit: HuffPo]|
This works out very well for the cable giants but leaves them a particular vulnerability to any network with a sports license. Fiercely loyal college football fans will scream at their cable providers if they can't watch the game, and advertisers lust after sports because they're the last of the DVR-proof live events, so cable providers pay out the nose for the network with the game. Then they place that network on a relatively accessible tier that everybody in that market must pay for, and raise prices accordingly.
In this way, if there are just enough A&M fans in Dallas, every cable subscriber in Dallas will pay an extra $5/month to the SEC and its partner (ESPN). If there are just enough Missouri fans in St. Louis, if there just enough Maryland fans in D.C. metro area, if there are just enough Rutgers fans in New York City, etc. The Big Ten schools are gambling on there being enough Rutgers fans to scam $5/month from everyone in New York. So far they've already got New Jersey and Maryland.
The gamble for the schools is they think they'll sell out the stadiums no matter who's visiting, so who gives a damn if it's Maryland visiting instead of Wisconsin. The fans aren't going to see a dime of the Comcast deal (at least not at Michigan—most schools are a little less adversarial to their fans) and just have to decide to put up with the new faces, or not.
In the list of downsides, there are worse things that can happen than having Wisconsin disappear forever, or the invention of more derived, ugly trophies. So long as it ends with Ohio State and MSU is in there, it's a Michigan season, while any Notre Dame or Minnesota you can sprinkle in is appreciated. To put the loss in context I thought I'd look through Michigan's history with the conference with respect to the frequency we've faced various conference rivals.
A History of Western/Big Ten Conference Scheduling
Early years (1892-1906): Prior to the invention of the conference, Michigan already played some of its future rivals. They played Chicago twice in 1893 (both on the road), and even after joining the conference Michigan had an extra (non-conference) game against Chicago's med students.
|Hey, just 'cause we left you guys aren't supposed to be rivals. [Chicago vs. Minnesota in 1916.]|
There were seven teams in the original 1896 conference—Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Chicago—with Indiana and Iowa joining in 1899. Teams customarily only played games in October and November, and Michigan played anywhere from two to five conference opponents a year. The 1906 team (the last before leaving the conference for a time) played just one conference game (Illinois) among five games plus an alumni exhibition.
If there was any pattern to this, it's that Michigan and Chicago would play every year except 1899 and 1906. There were a few stretches of other rivals lasting not more than four years. The newcomers (Indiana 1900-'03, Iowa 1900-'02) apparently were guaranteed some starter games with Michigan. Wisconsin (1899, 1902-'05) was the next-most regular. Northwestern and Michigan only played twice before M left. Once we did, we played Minnesota twice but nobody else.
[after the jump, we lose Chicago, gain worse]
Starting With The Good...
It'll take, at most, four plays for you to yell "DO WANT."
2015 TN ILB Joshua McMillon visited Michigan back in April, and it apparently made quite the impression on him. McMillon told GBW's Josh Newkirk that the Wolverines "stand very high on the charts" in large part because of their focus on academics ($):
“They separate themselves from everybody else because they set their [academics] standards so high,” McMillon said. “So they actually expect their student-athletes to actually be students first instead of athlete-student. I love that about them. They make sure they get their work. They base their schedule around their major instead of around their athletics. Even though they are on athletic scholarship, they make sure they get an education.”
McMillon is planning a return trip to Ann Arbor with both his parents in tow—only his father was able to accompany him on the previous visit—and he spoke very highly about his rapport with the coaches, especially Greg Mattison (who, surprise!, busted out the Ray Lewis comparison). U-M is firmly in McMillon's top five as he nears an August decision, and they could very well be on top already while waiting for the all-important Mom Stamp of Approval. They've already got one from McMillon's dad, per 247's Steve Lorenz ($).
It's been a while since we've heard a major update on NY TE/DE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., and after Chris Clark's commitment there was concern it'd negatively affect Michigan's chances to land the son of the great U-M running back. Not so, says the younger Wheatley himself, per Sam Webb ($):
Many observers wonder if Clark’s presence in the Wolverines’ recruiting class will adversely affect their standing in Wheatley’s eyes.
“No,” he replied swiftly. “I actually know Clark. I’ve been talking to him for a while. He actually contacted me a while back. We’ve just been talking about the recruiting process and different schools. He had a lot of big schools as well.”
Wheatley named Michigan to his top five alongside Alabama, USC, UCLA, and Miami (YTM), and he plans to take official visits to all five schools.
The Wolverines are poised to make the top five for another top target, five-star CA WDE Keisean Lucier-South, per Tim Sullivan ($):
"Right now, I don't know who'll be in the top five yet, I'm still figuring it out. [UCLA and Michigan] probably," he admitted with a chuckle. "I think they're going to be in there. I know the coaches, they're good to me, and they're always talking to me, so they're probably going to be in that list. All the other schools are still talking to me too, so it's going to be really hard to see what my top five is going to be."
KLS will see Ann Arbor for the first time when he takes an official visit for the Penn State game, which should be a huge recruiting event.
Three-star FL WR/TE Auden Tate, whose ranking belies an excellent offer sheet, checks in at 6'4", 200 pounds and Michigan is recruiting him as a big wideout in the Devin Funchess mold. U-M's pitch that Tate could eventually replace Funchess looks to be working—he's planning a visit for this month's BBQ at the Big House, and Michigan is also in line to receive one of his officials despite an upcoming planned decision, per Scout's Amy Campbell ($):
Tate hopes to have his decision wrapped up in the next month, but he plans to take several officials this fall too.
“Florida State and Michigan will be official visits, I don’t know about the other three yet,” he said.
Florida State—the presumed team to beat—and Clemson should be the biggest competition here. Florida is also a factor.
...And Moving On To The Less Good
Three Midwest prospects who at one point or another have been top Michigan targets will their respective decisions tomorrow, and the outlook isn't good for U-M.
MN DL Jashon Cornell and OH LB Justin Hilliard are holding press conferences at the same time tomorrow morning (10 am ET), and it looks like Ohio State will be the ultimate destination for both of them. Michigan stopped pursuing Cornell recently after he bulked up to interior lineman size—U-M isn't taking a DT in this class—but Hilliard was their top target at outside linebacker, a position they've recruited heavily for 2015.
Michigan has a slightly better shot at landing IL WR Miles Boykin, but not by much—Notre Dame is the prohibitive favorite to get the commitment when Boykin announces on Twitter at an undetermined time tomorrow.
If a Hello post goes up tomorrow, it'll be written from scratch.
2015 Top247 Updated
247 updated their 2015 rankings, and they featured rises from Darrin Kirkland and Alex Malzone. Kirkland slotted just inside the top 200 after impressing on the camp trail:
Darrin Kirkland Jr. – Michigan is getting a good one in Kirkland. Checking in at No. 199 overall, Kirkland was arguably the top linebacker in attendance at the Ohio Nike Camp and he’ll be looking to raise his stock even more at The Opening.
While Malzone didn't quite get his fourth star on 247, he improved his standing and closed the gap between his ranking and that of Ohio State QB commit Joe Burrow:
Heading into the Elite 11 in Columbus, Michigan commit Alex Malzone was rated as 3-star with an 86 grade. Ohio State commit Joe Burrow was a four-star with a grade of 90. After watching them workout side by side at the event, we’ve moved the two to the same grade of 88. Burrow has more physical and athletic upside and we like we he does with his feet on film but after watching him throw in person for the first time, he’s still got some work to do in his consistency as a passer. Malzone on the other hand is a little bit undersized but has outstanding feet in the pocket and a really live arm. He doesn’t have the ceiling of Burrow but he’s the more college ready player right now.
That boosted Malzone's score enough to be a four-star, ranked #300 overall and #10 among pro-style quarterbacks, on the 247 Composite.
Michigan's other commits in the Top247:
- Garrett Taylor is the team's highest-ranked commit at #77 overall (#10 CB), up two spots from when he committed.
- 247 remains the least bullish on Chris Clark, also moving him up two spots to #189 (#5 TE).
- Grant Newsome held steady at #192 overall (#23 OT).
Sam Webb's latest at the Detroit News is a feature on 2016 Eastern Christian Academy OLB Dele' Harding, whose high opinion of U-M in the wake his recent offer hasn't changed. Harding's father said Dele' was "elated" upon receiving the offer, and Dele' himself said the presence of his two former high school teammates will be a factor when he considers U-M:
Said Harding: “I would probably say (Canteen and Watson being at Michigan) helps just for the simple fact that they are my coolest teammates and talk to me almost every day. So I would say it would probably be a plus.”
Harding has tentative plans to make a decision after his upcoming junior season. USC seems to be the main competition among schools that have offered, though Harding noted that he's not nearly as familiar with the new Trojan coaching staff as he was with the Kiffin regime. While it's still early, U-M looks to be in very good position for him.
Michigan offered 2016 TX S Brandon Jones, the top-ranked safety in the class, last Thursday, per Jones himself. As you'd expect, Jones has a very impressive offer sheet, and so far all 13 picks on the 247 Crystal Ball have him heading to Texas A&M.
After a recent visit and Michigan offer, four-star PA RB Miles Sanders has Michigan in his top three, per Sam Webb ($):
Miles Sanders: “Right now I have Penn State first and Michigan and Michigan State tied.”
Sanders has a Michigan connection, as he attends the same high school (Woodland Hills in Pittsburgh) that produced Steve Breaston and Ryan Mundy, both of whom have talked to Sanders while stopping by their old school.
Michigan is one of six schools standing out for behemoth four-star guard Richard Merritt, per 247's Ross Martin:
"I don't have any favorites right now, " the 6-foot-5, 345-pound Washington D.C. product said. "but the schools that are standing out are Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State, West Virginia, and Virginia Tech."
Offensive lineman highlights aren't always the most interesting watch, but you're gonna want to click play on the reel embedded above. Merritt is ranked as the #53 overall player and #2 guard in the early composite rankings.
Four-star NC RB Robert Washington told GBW's Josh Newkirk that Fred Jackson informed him an offer should come within the next week ($).
This has nothing to do with Michigan, in all likelihood, but it must be posted here. 2017 FL WR Emmanuel Greene already holds offers from Clemson and Miami, and this video gives you a pretty good idea why:
If this was the And1 tour, Greene would've just chucked the ball out of bounds after the third juke, and the entire camp would've ended at that moment. Life should be more like the And1 tour.