"This is really important to be here," Lewan said. "I'm here to give back and help out my teammate."
Today's recruiting roundup recaps the Rivals Five-Star Challenge, discusses a pair of 2013 visits and Drake Harris's impending decision, goes over a slew of new 2014 offers, and more.
Five-Star Challenge Recap: New '13 OL Target?
Rivals hosted their first annual Five-Star Challenge last weekend as their answer to Nike's The Opening and four Michigan commits—David Dawson, Jourdan Lewis, Mike McCray, and Chris Fox—were in attendance alongside a bevy of the nation's top prospects. Dawson continued his outstanding camp season with an impressive performance, making Josh Helmholdt's "Surprise Standouts" list($) and earning the #4 spot on Helmholdt's rundown of the top offensive linemen ($):
4. OC David Dawson, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech: The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Michigan pledge is listed as an offensive guard and plays tackle for his team but says he could end up anywhere on the line for the Wolverines. When the coaches needed a center, Dawson stepped in without hesitation. Though pass protection on the interior is completely different than at tackle he made a seamless transition. He has a strong base and used his lower body strength to hold the big noseguards at bay. Dawson should prove to be invaluable in Ann Arbor because of his versatility and willingness to play wherever he is needed.
Cass Tech's other camp stalwart, Jourdan Lewis, did not disappoint either, excelling in the 7-on-7 portion. Mike Farrell ($):
10. DB Jourdan Lewis, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech: Lewis started off very well with one of the best interceptions you'll see when he showed off his closing speed and undercut a pass from Tyrone Swoopes, the only interception the Southwest quarterback threw. Lewis was solid throughout the day, flashed that speed and took on bigger receivers well at times. Despite his closing ability, he sometimes allowed too much of a cushion.
That last part is an issue that has shown itself in multiple settings, including the Sound Mind/Sound Body camp and during Cass Tech's season last year. On the positive side, Lewis continues to show exceptional ball skills.
According to Tim Sullivan, Fox performed well at several different positions along the line, while McCray displayed decent coverage skills against backs and tight ends but also measured in at just 6'1" ($). That's a lot smaller than expected for McCray and could be a point of concern if he ends up at strongside LB, as expected.
A new target may have emerged at the camp, as well, and the position he plays might surprise you. Tremendous caught up with 2013 MD OL Khaliel Rodgers, who revealed that David Dawson was selling him hard on Michigan at the camp. Rodgers now plans to visit for July's BBQ at the Big House and appears to have pushed back his decision date, which was originally set for this week. He also tweeted last night that having him and Dawson on the same O-line would be "epic" and "unreal". The scouting services are split on Rodgers, with Rivals listing him as their #1 guard and a top 100 overall prospect, ESPN giving him four stars, Scout putting him as a three-star but the #2 center, and 247 giving him a meh three-star rating.
This could be nothing, or it could be a sign—especially if we get word that the coaches are after Rodgers—that things aren't entirely settled along the line. I doubt Michigan would take a sixth lineman in the class, but with over 20 commits in June, it's almost certain that the class will experience a decommitment or two at some point before signing day. Rodgers looks like he can slide in at any spot on the interior of the line and he'd be a quality contingency plan should attrition occur.
Wilkins, Bailey Visiting This Week
Michigan will host two big-time 2013 recruits this week. TN RB Jordan Wilkins tweeted out plans to be on campus today and later confirmed the visit with TomVH ($). He also told Tom that his top four consists of Auburn, Vanderbilt, Michigan, and Tennessee, though Auburn is widely presumed to be his leader after he almost committed to the Tigers on a visit a couple of weeks ago. The Wolverines will need to make a big impression if they want to catch up.
FL WR Alvin Bailey is set to swing by Michigan and Notre Dame this week, and according to Scout's Tom Beaver his visit is set for Wednesday ($). Bailey is in the running for the last open receiver spot, and with the news this week that Laquon Treadwell wants to visit Auburn($), the race for that spot may be tighter than anticipated. Treadwell is still looking at a senior year decision, and if Bailey wants to come on board the coaches probably can't afford to wait on him.
The Wolverines made the cut on a couple of top lists, as well. MD CB Kendall Fuller revealed to Rivals($) that he now has a top three of Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Michigan. The Wolverines may have a tough time overcoming Fuller's close connections to VT and Clemson, but they've hung around a lot longer than expected with Fuller, so you never know. Meanwhile, VA DE Wyatt Teller now has a top five($) of Virginia, VT, Michigan, Clemson, and Oregon, and he told 247 he'd like to visit Michigan and Oregon before making a decision. He's looking to decide before his senior season, so things should move quickly on that front.
CA WR/CB John Ross has seen his stock blow up over the summer, and Michigan recently offered him at cornerback, according to Scout's Greg Biggins ($). With the Wolverines taking Channing Stribling at corner last week, I don't anticipate them taking another defensive back unless it's Fuller or Leon McQuay III, though that could change if Michigan misses on their wide receiver targets and the coaches decide to move Stribling to offense.
Harris Decision On Wednesday & More 2014 Updates
Sam Webb reported yesterday that 2014 Grand Rapids Christian two-sport star Drake Harris will decide between Michigan, Michigan State, and Notre Dame on Wednesday. Harris earned a Michigan offer for football while camping in Ann Arbor last week, which makes the timing of his announcement interesting, though he also was at a Tom Izzo basketball camp last weekend. Most pundits have him pegged for State, which has been recruiting him hard for both football and hoops for a long time, and we'll find out soon enough if the common wisdom is correct. Harris projects as a wide receiver on the football field, where most scouts think he has the most potential, and he'd also be a very solid shooting guard prospect on the hardwood.
More evidence of the trend towards an accelerated timeline in recruiting comes from OH LB Michael Ferns, who announced not a top three, but a final three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State. Ferns told Sam Webb that he wants to stay close to home and make a decision by the end of his junior year ($). The Wolverines appear to be in very good position here after a great visit to Ann Arbor for last week's camp.
Michigan sent out several offers recently, which I'll run down in bullet form:
- TX OLB Hoza Scott, who already holds offers from heavy hitters Alabama, Florida, LSU, Oregon, Texas, and USC, among others.
- TN OL/DL Alex Bars, younger brother of incoming freshman Blake Bars, was just offered according to TomVH ($).
- PA S Montae Nicholson earned an offer after camping at Michigan last week, according to 247's Clint Brewster ($).
- Drake Harris's high school teammate, OL Tommy Doles, picked up an offer on Friday, via Tim Sullivan ($).
- TX S Brandon Simmons pulled in offers from Michigan, LSU, and Ohio State last week, joining a list of over 20 schools ($).
- FL WR Corey Holmes added a Michigan offer after camping last week, and he told Brewster that the offer "gave [him] butterflies" before naming Michigan his top school ($). He's pondering a commitment prior to his senior year and is one to keep an eye on.
- OH LB/DE Joe Henderson also earned a post-camp offer ($). Not to be confused with this guy.
- Chantel Jennings reports that Michigan offered New Orleans RB Leonard Fournette, a massive prospect at 6'1", 232 pounds. Fournette's backstory, a heartbreaking account of surviving the streets of New Orleans in a pre- and post-Katrina world, is well worth your time.
Quickly: OH OL Nathaniel Devers is one tough kid. I'm sure you'll enjoy KY QB Drew Barker telling Eleven Warriors that he'd like to emulate the way Shane Morris has helped spearhead Michigan's recruiting efforts.
Glory days. Once upon a time Minnesota was pretty good at football. During head coach Bennie Bierman's 18-year tenure in the WWII era, the Gophers claimed five national championships and seven conference titles. A decade later (1960) Minnesota claimed another national crown under Murray Warmath. They won a Rose Bowl a year later. And then the bottom fell out.
Since then, no Gophers coach has recorded a winning record (including Lou Holtz, who coached there in 1984 and 1985) until Glen Mason, who posted .535 and their first 10-win season since 1905. No coach has since recorded a winning record, either.
This is a circuitous way to say WHY WOULD YOU FIRE HIM???
The actual preview part
The Metrodome, which
unfortunately is not where this year's game will be played.
Last season sucked for the most part but ended with a ray of hope for the Minnesota football program. They stole a victory from Iowa and trounced Illinois, effectively ending GopherQuest, an unofficial pursuit to become the Worst Big Ten Team Ever.
So despite finishing 3-9, second year head coach Jerry Kill bought himself and his coaching staff time to rebuild the program. Whether Kill ever reaches the success of even the Mason era remains to be seen. He has a good track record as a coach, but taking a program like Minnesota from its previously moribund state into contention to even win the division will require a quantum leap. At the very least it will have to start with recruiting. For the Gophers, that currently isn't going so hot.
In the meantime Michigan fans can sit back and enjoy Minnesota's presence as the reputed "thorn in the side" of mid-major Big Ten teams -- the Iowas and the Illinoises, I suppose -- without Michigan itself being in any real danger of succumbing to the occasional upset.
Here's hoping for a Minnesota victory on November 24.
- Aug. 30 (Thursday), @ UNLV
- Sept. 8, New Hampshire
- Sept. 15, Western Michigan
- Sept. 22, Syracuse
- Sept. 29, @ Iowa
- Oct. 6, WIFEDAY
- Oct. 13, Northwestern
- Oct. 20, @ Wisconsin
- Oct. 27, Purdue
- Nov. 3, Michigan
- Nov. 10, @ Illinois
- Nov. 17, @ Nebraska
- Nov. 24, Michigan State
Non-conference will be interesting only because Minnesota hosts Syracuse, who has a running backs coach by the name of Tyrone Wheatley. Other than that, there's not much reason to tune into any of their first four games unless you're so jonesing for B1G football by August you'll watch Gophers in Nevada on a Thursday night.
Not much is particularly notable about their B1G schedule. Having both Wisconsin and Nebraska on the road isn't ideal, but I don't really think anyone's expecting the Gophers to win either of those games regardless of location. Also, the last four games will be rough.
Matchups to watch: at Iowa and Michigan State at home. Minnesota played both of those teams competitively last season and even managed to eke out the Iowa game. It will be interesting to see whether there is something inherent in the Gophers' playing style that's favorable against those two teams, who share similar systems, or whether they just played two really flukey games last year.
Minnesota should be able to get three wins out of non-conference and pull out a B1G win over Illinois (most likely) or Purdue or Northwestern (less likely).
This schedule is as favorable as: a half hour "hill workout" on a stairmaster.
X's and O's, Jimmys and Joes
No. 5 QB Marqueis Gray
Style: Spready McSpreaderson
Key losses: RB Duane Bennett (639 yards, 3.8 ypc, 3 TD), WR Da'Jon McKnight (51 rec, 760 yards, 4 TD), TE Collin McGarry (16 rec, 120 yards, 2 TD), RT Chris Bunders, RG Ryan Orton, C Ryan Winn.
Top returners: QB MarQueis Gray (50.7%, 1495 yards, 8 TD, 8 INT), WR Devin Crawford-Tufts (8 rec, 156 yards), WR Brandon Green (15 rec, 190, 1 TD), LT Ed Olsen, LG Tommy Olsen.
Everything anyone needs to know about Minnesota's offense begins with MarQueis and ends with Gray. Gopher fans say Gray is their Denard Robinson (or better than Denard Robinson). Really he's more their version of Devin Gardner, i.e. a super athlete with a less than accurate arm who's probably better off playing receiver if not for the dire QB depth situation.
Last year he ran Minnesota's offense about as well as you could expect him to. He started 11 games, missing the entirety of the Michigan game due to a broken thumb, and otherwise got spelled by backup QB Max Shortell in a three-game stretch before wresting the starting job back completely. With the help of some decent skill players like Bennett and McKnight around him, Gray put on a few commendable performances against Iowa, Michigan State, and Illinois late in the season.
The loss of Bennett, McKnight, and the entire right side of the offensive line means Minnesota should probably brace for some "growing pains" -- as Al Borges would say -- this season. They might be okay at receiver. They have a couple fast guys (Crawford-Tufts, WR Marcus Jones) who should be effective in the spread. The running back competition seems to be murky at this point, however. The Gophers don't really have a whole lot in the way of reinforcements since their recruiting hauls have been understandably meager the last few years. They're going to have to make up with heart what they lack in stars.
Unless the Gophers can get their other receivers and a running back to step up, it will be the MarQueis Gray show until he gets injured, at which point the Gophers should just crawl into a hole and hope they don't see any shadows next spring.
This offense is as frightening as: A one-legged pirate who became a one-limbed pirate after a recent case of gangrene. Fear level = Yarrr! (3)
No. 11 CB Troy Stoudermire
Key losses: S Kim Royston (123 tackles (2nd in B1G), 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 1 INT), MLB Gary Tinsley (87 tackles, 9 TFL 4 sacks, 3 PBU), DT Anthony Jacobs (26 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack).
Top returners: CB Troy Stoudermire (24 tackles, 3 PBU, 2 INT, missed 8 games due to injury), WLB Keanon Cooper (77 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU)
One major reason Michigan blew Minnesota out of the water last season was the absence of MarQueis Gray. Another, perhaps more easily forgotten reason is the fact that Troy Stoudermire was missing from the game as well due to a fractured wrist. Stoudermire was a converted receiver playing corner in 2011, but through four games he proved to be a pretty competent one.
While the loss of Gray obviously had the bigger impact, having Stoudermire in the defensive backfield may have kept Denard in the game longer and given Borges a better opportunity to test Denard's passing issues against a decent corner instead of pulling him after an impeccable first half and calling it a day. Could have helped with the first half against Northwestern is all I'm sayin'. Dawg.
This season Minnesota should be getting Stoudermire back from injury. Good thing, because the Gophers lose a big chunk of their defensive impact players. Like the offense, this defense isn't going to get by on talent; other than Stoudermire, you wouldn't call anyone else on the unit a "solid B1G starter."
That's not to say they aren't any good at all. If you take away the massive skewing effects of their scores vs. Michigan, Purdue, and Wisconsin, their defensive stats weren't all that bad, especially toward the end of the season. That is a rough estimate.
Even without massaging the numbers, Minnesota ended up above average in things like pass defense, which is to say that with the right coaching they can at least milk their talent to allow them to hover around mediocre in other categories as well. They'll have to start with the front seven -- they were horrible against the run last season, and Ace identified this obvious weakness in his FFFF, back when North Dakota State was averaging 5.0 ypc against them. Not good.
This defense is as frightening as: A one-limbed pirate who contracted frostbite in his remaining foot due to his inability to put on socks. Fear level = Yarr? (2)
Record: 4-8 overall, 1-7 B1G.
Against Michigan: They might actually score a touchdown. Michigan will score fewer touchdowns. 31-7 Michigan.
Their chances of winning the B1G are as good as: A one-limbed pirate with frostbite completing a half hour hill workout on a stairmaster.
Turns out the Internet has a rich selection of cats in party hats
The Pre-Sale for our (now-independent) preview book is over; if you have still not bought the thing, you are now out of excuses because you can buy the thing. If you have already bought the thing, you may commence your mailbox vigil. If you're in Ann Arbor or environs, you can also just walk into Moe's and buy a copy.
EDIT: Now available at all three UGP locations:
- 1114 South University
- 329 S. Main Street
- 711 N. University (Moe's)
I'll put up a list of other outlets where available, when available, but one I know for sure is…
Official MGoEvent the First:
In celebration of now having the thing, THIS SATURDAY (Saturday! Saturday!) from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., you are welcome to come join us for the all-official Hail to the Victors 2012 Launch Party. Meet Brian and the MGoStaff, talk Michigan football, and show your spouse that your internet friends are really real and stuff. Answer the poll above if you plan on coming so I can get an idea of attendance.
What? MGoBlog's Launch Party of Hail to the Victors 2012
Where? Underground Printing, 1114 South University, Ann Arbor, MI
When? Saturday, June 30, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. –ish.
Parking? Street parking. Warning: 320-pound defensive tackles who think they're Dukes of Hazzard have recently been sighted in the area, so bring the car with the hood you don't like.
I already have an event that day at 3 at Middle Earth: Of course you do. #myreaders
So can I come by afterwards? Yeah, it's open-house-y.
Can I help/bring cookies? Contact Seth at misopogon, at symbol, att dot net. If it's about cookies, contact any time. Doesn't even have to be related to the party, or the blog, or Michigan if it's cookies.
When do I get my book? Kickstarter and pre-sale orders have been processed. If you have a t-shirt coming it might take a bit longer since those had to get printed and it's a different shipping mechanism.
Say 'punch and pie' or nobody will come! Punch and pie.
We'll have copies and t-shirts available there for pickup if you bought on the Kickstarter. There will also be some sort of Q&A session with Brian, Ace, Heiko, myself, Upchurch, and some of the other contributors (jamiemac should be there; Dooley, Kryk, Ross, and Chris Brown are various levels of maybe).
I am pleased to announce that, after months of neglect followed by a furious-but-fruitful search for the old smileys, the MGoBlog Recruiting Board has been revived. You can now find the link under the "Useful Stuff" drop-down menu at the top of the page, and I'll keep the board updated regularly.
As always, please take careful note of the legend before jumping to any conclusions about a recruit; even a "Mr. Blue" only denotes a ~65% chance of landing an uncommitted recruit, and none of the uncommitted recruits merited that status (a month ago, Laquon Treadwell likely would have, but there's still a long way to go in his recruitment). It won't be long before I get to work on creating the 2014 board, but for now, please accept this humble offering as a sign that, yes, we do occasionally work during the summer.
As Michigan runs out of available spots in the 2013 class, the focus is quickly shifting to the rising juniors of the class of 2014. One of the top in-state 2014 targets is Sturgis (MI) quarterback Chance Stewart, who camped at Michigan last week in hopes of earning an offer; Stewart appears to be battling Toledo (OH) Central Catholic's Deshone Kizer for the available QB scholarship in the class. I caught up to Stewart this morning to get his thoughts on the camp, the state of his recruitment, and how a Michigan offer would affect his status:
ACE: First of all, which teams are currently recruiting you?
CHANCE: Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Penn State, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan.
ACE: Out of those teams, who's extended an offer, and do any teams currently stand out for you as potential leaders?
CHANCE: Wisconsin and Western have offered me. I'd probably say Michigan (even though I haven't gotten that offer yet) and Wisconsin are on top.
ACE: I know you camped at Michigan last week. What was that experience like for you and how do you think you performed?
CHANCE: [It was a] great experience—always fun working with Coach Borges. I thought I threw the ball very well in the afternoon session.
ACE: What have the coaches told you about what you need to do to earn a Michigan offer?
CHANCE: Coach Borges just told me I needed to have an impressive camp and when I left he said we'd be in contact.
ACE: I know it's still early, but what factors are you looking for when evaluating a potential school?
CHANCE: Right now pretty much I'm just looking at the basics—coaching staff, facilities, campus. I haven't really made a list of things I really like and don't.
ACE: Do you have an idea of when you'd like to make a decision?
CHANCE: Sometime in my junior year—not sure when though exactly.
ACE: Do you have any camps or visits planned for the rest of the summer? Any plans to visit Michigan again soon?
CHANCE: Three more camps: Western and Eastern Michigan, and Penn State. And as for Michigan visits, I plan on going to a game this fall.
ACE: How would a Michigan offer affect your recruitment? What would it mean to you and would it potentially affect your timetable?
CHANCE: If Michigan were to offer I feel like Wisconsin and Michigan still would be on the top. As far as changing my timetable, yes that could be a possibility.
ACE: What do you think is your biggest strength as a quarterback and what are you looking to improve during the summer and your junior year?
CHANCE: Accuracy is the main thing I want to improve on, and my biggest strength is leadership! Quarterback is a position where when everything is going wrong in a game, you have to be there to let your teammates know you got their back and we can do this! So I feel like that's my biggest strength.