Dear Diary was going to be in this spot this morning, but the site was 504-ing and I couldn't get at all my precious tabs. So instead you get Esther McCleery.
My good friend Nate is certainly the most interesting person I've ever met. He's one of those diamonds from the middle of nowhere that the University of Michigan goes out of its way to collect, the nowhere in this case being Eastern Kentucky and the middle being a small town called Grayson. I'll save you his list of accomplishments because he'll be famous enough one day for all of them to end up in a book.
In a town like Grayson hoarding is one of the things that register on a list of pastimes. While sorting through one trove Nate found a stack of old copies of Life magazine and brought them with him to our college reunion last weekend. Inside he found and framed enough ads for bourbon to keep Kentucky bars well-tchotchke'd for a decade.
This he was doing at the breakfast table on Saturday morning while another friend and I were trying to justify to our wives why we're blowing what could have been a Europe trip on a few upcoming Saturdays.
That's when Nate serendipitously discovered an article on Homecoming in the November 1959 issue. Hey it's our band:
That's the only photo in the article that's pointed at the field. Life's photographer instead spent the 4th quarter with his camera turned toward Class of '34 alumna Esther McCleery. I'll reproduce that for you now:
HOMECOMING SPIRIT at game is shown in the mobile face of Mrs. Esther McCleery, class of '34 at Michigan. Above Mrs. McCleery screams, "Go, Team, Go, this is it!" as Michigan, behind 16-10 in final quarter, intercepts pass deep in Wisconsin territory. "All right, Blue," Mrs. McCleery bellows. "This is it, we've got 'em now."
But a moment later Michigan fumbles and Mrs. McCleery's face falls (below)
In the final minutes of the game, she dejectedly watches Wisconsin wrap it up with a field goal. "We've had it but good," she mutters.
But she brightened. "Next year we'll get 'em," she says.
Everyone ought to see Notre Dame du Paris (NOTE-rruh Dahm) one time in their life just to appreciate the feats of art and engineering that mankind can accomplish when we feel like it. To understand why we'd ever build such things, first you ought to experience something like Notre Dame at Michigan, since there are few other things in the world—other than gaining or losing another human being—that can make you truly appreciate the depths of emotions that make being a human animal quite worthwhile.
29 days, Esther.
For being arguably the top prospect in the country from the 2014 class, Da’Shawn Hand isn’t talked about a whole lot, and that’s exactly how he wants it. As Hand prepares for his senior season at Woodbridge Senior High School in Virginia, he has managed to lay low this summer despite being one of the most coveted prospects in the nation. I was lucky enough to catch up with Da’Shawn to ask him about his summer, visit plans, and timetable among other things.
So how has your summer been going? What camps have you attended and how do you think you performed at those camps?
I went to two camps this summer, I went to The Opening and the Rivals 5-Star Challenge in Chicago. I think I did pretty well man, it was a lot of fun. I went for the gear, for the experience, and just to meet a lot of people and make some good connections for a lifetime.
I read somewhere that you didn’t even lose a rep for a few days at the Rivals challenge?
Yeah, I didn’t! That was at the Rivals camp and I was ballin! (Laughs) When I went to The Opening, at first it was really cool, but I got a little camped-out and by the end of it I was definitely ready to just focus on my season.
With football being such a huge part of your life year-round, how has your summer been as far as non-related football activities goes?
It’s been good man, just been chillin’ with family, seeing my family, hanging out with my friends, and just traveling. Oh, and I’ve been…even though it has to do with football a little bit, I’ve been helping out and coaching kids in little kid camps.
When do you start practice for your senior year and what have you done to prepare yourself for a senior season that is going to be very closely watched by a lot of people?
We start practicing August 1st. You know it’s always possible to get better. I’ve been training like a dog. I’ve been doing cross-fit training, I’ve been doing yoga. I do a lot of running in a gas-mask, I’ve just been doing a lot of things to improve in as many areas as I can.
I talked with your coach about how you decided to lay low a little bit with the recruiting aspect and just focus on getting ready for your season. How come?
Yeah, and honestly I think that was the smartest decision I’ve made with my recruitment. I just wanted to lay low. I haven’t really talked to any coaches or anything, maybe once in a while I’ll call them but I have really been focusing on myself and just working.
With all the work you’ve put in what are your goals for your last year in high school, team-wise and individually?
Well of course team-wise I just want to get to the state championship and win it, I want a ring. I want to go out on top. My individual goals are, I want have over 100 tackles, 40 or more tackles for loss and 30 sacks.
Pretty lofty, you think you can get there?
You mentioned your recruitment a little bit but that you did take it off this summer, but how has that been going? Same top 3? Other coaches still hounding you? Just give me an insight as to how it goes for you.
Yeah my top 3 is still the same, Alabama, Florida, and Michigan. Other coaches still try to recruit me for sure, but I really don’t know about it. Me and Coach Harris, we have a system. When I was younger I would talk to all the college coaches as much as possible you know? I told a lot of coaches that I was interested and found out their interest and started to get offers. Then after that we started doing our research. Then after the research was done, he wouldn’t tell me to cut off any schools or anything, he would just say to start chopping my list down, take my time, give me advice. It was fun during my sophomore year, I got like 50 offers or something, it was crazy. The summer leading up to my junior year, that’s when it got like really hectic and it’s been pretty hectic ever since. That’s why I cut it down to three, it’s gotten easier and easier.
How much do you pay attention to the stuff that’s written about you? With all the articles, blogs, Twitter, rankings, videos, etc…how much do you pay attention to it and what is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen about yourself?
Honestly this year, I don’t really care about all of that stuff. When I was younger, like during my freshman and sophomore year it was really cool being told I was the #1 player in the nation and all that, but then during my junior year I really stopped paying attention to it because I mean everyone is good. I mean the top 100 kids in the nation are all top-notch athletes, I really don’t see a need to rank them and they are all going to play in college. As far as untrue stuff, all the time! (Laughs) I don’t really say anything about it, I just let them do them. That’s how they make their paycheck I guess, I don’t really care. One time when I went on a visit someone wrote that the school was now my top school and that they had nothing to worry about, that I was locked. I was like, I never said that? That doesn’t even sound like me. So yeah, there are always things about me that just aren’t true.
What have the Michigan coaches told you about a specific position? Have they discussed where and how they’d like to use you on defense?
Michigan has told me that they want me at end. That’s all, they didn’t really say what side. They like to mix it around and use different combinations. Alabama said they want me to be a JACK kind of like Courtney Upshaw was. Florida was like Michigan, they want me to play just the end since they’d like to mix it up a lot.
I remember watching a video interview you did where you seemed to get really excited about a certain professor at Michigan. Tell me what was so different, unique, or special about that professor to get a reaction like that from you.
That dude was amazing! (Laughs) Goodness, gracious! He just blew us away. I can’t pronounce his last name, (laughs) he has like a long last name, but he just….oh my goodness! Just the way he presented everything was amazing. He talked about what we’re going to learn, he told us that it’s not going to be easy. It even made my dad want to go back to school again, it was just wild, it was insane.
So as your season begins and fall is getting close, what are your plans for your official visits?
Right now I know for sure I’ll visit my top 3 schools but other than that I don’t really know.
Your official visit for Michigan is against Notre Dame for the Under the Lights II game. What are your expectations for the game itself?
I have never been to a game at Michigan so I just want to see how the crowd is, the whole atmosphere, how it feels on a gameday, what does the town do, you know those little things. I also want to see how the coaches face adversity.
So you’ve got your top 3, you have a basic idea about your official visits. What are going to be the deciding factors when you finally decide to commit?
Just my personal evaluation I guess, that’s all I can really tell you. There are so many things that I think about and I just keep that personal you know?
It’s been made public that you have a bit of a relationship with Jabrill Peppers, is that at all something that might factor in to your decision?
Oh, that’s my man! He’s cool, he’s cool people.
How about your decision timeline? Do you have an idea when you are going to commit?
Nothing has really changed. Whenever I feel like the time is right I am going to commit. I want to do it before December but whenever it feels right, it’s right.
Commitments these days can get pretty crazy. How do you plan on doing it? You seem pretty humble and don’t necessarily need the limelight, so how’s it going to go down?
I’m going to be at my school, in the auditorium or in the gym or wherever it needs to be. I’m just going to do it the classic way. I’m not going to have the three hats, I’m just going to have one hat and announce it, and that’s about it.
Talking with Da’Shawn was a pleasure and he’s another testament to the types of kids that Coach Hoke and staff are trying to recruit. Not only is he immensely talented but he genuinely cares about his education and was a really pleasant kid to talk to. He didn’t really dodge any questions which is refreshing, but he didn’t take the Jabrill question completely head-on. He perked up about him when I asked, but he didn’t mention at all if playing with Jabrill would factor into his decision. One thing I did notice, and I don’t know if it was a Freudian Slip or if it was nothing, but he spoke about the professor at Michigan as if he has already decided that he will be his teacher. The fact that a non-football related experience has made that much of an impact on him has got to be a great thing. I expect his official visit against Notre Dame to make a big impact on him and honestly wouldn’t be shocked if he thought about committing while in Ann Arbor for his first game at The Big House among that atmosphere and many other recruits and commits.
We found it hard to have Ace be both the recruiting analyst and the reporter at the same time since those roles often conflict, and now that he's moved into basketball pretty heavily we had a gap in our coverage. Brandon will fill that by talking to recruits.
Credentials time: Brandon started doing this himself after an offer to write for another burgeoning site went under when the primary author shut the thing down suddenly. In a relatively short time Brandon established himself as a guy on top of things, correctly identifying the mystery quarterback recruit out of Virginia who would soon become Wilton Speight, commit and George Campbell closer. He also pegged the direction the Drake Harris and Chase Winovich recruitments were going seemingly before anyone else. In a relatively brief period of time he's established himself as a guy who gets things.
He'll be posting two to three things a week, mostly interviews. A Central Michigan grad, Brandon's day job is teaching middle school science in South Carolina; he also coached that level of football. He'll have something coming up in the next couple hours that's rather cool.
Not Dead ... Yet
The commitment of 2015 KY RB Damien Harris led many, including myself, to assume that Michigan's recruitment of 2014 LA RB Leonard Fournette — who'd just no-showed a planned visit for the BBQ — was D-E-D dead. Per 247's Kipp Adams, however, it appears there's still a faint pulse ($):
According to Fournette’s father, Leonard II, three of those four programs are slated to get coveted official visits from the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2014 247Composite.
“He plans to take officials to Alabama, USC, Michigan and Florida,” Fournette II said, adding that Miami (Fla.) is likely to receive the fifth one.
LSU was not listed as a school slated to get an official, but Fournette II did list them as an additional top school.
Unfortunately, Michigan isn't mentioned once in the rest of the article, which features plenty of talk about LSU, Alabama, and USC. There is one other revelation: the Fournettes are apparently the Gradys of the South, as Leonard III's younger brother — a thus-far unoffered 2015 running back — is named... Lanard. That doesn't get confusing, I'm sure.
As far as Fournette's recruitment goes, I'll believe Michigan has the slightest of chances when he's physically on campus, and even then the outlook is still probably grim. But, hey, Damien Harris...
PRETTY GOOD, GUYS
...is pretty good, guys. GBW had Allen Trieu talk about Harris's potential impact and lo, is there ever potential for impact ($):
“He was at the Best of the Midwest Combine two winters ago," Trieu said, "and he was already pretty physically put together, and ran a pretty good 40 there, and then when you find out that kid is only a freshman you’re like, wow. I was able to go back and pull up the film from his freshman year and after the first three plays on the film, I basically turned it off and said I know this guy is a big time guy -- a national guy. And I don’t get too many guys like that, to be honest.
"There’s not a ton of guys that I turn on the film and right away I know that this guy is going to be right up there with the best in the country but, for him to be that way at an early age, I knew that there was something special there.”
Trieu also mentions that Harris is a "really good receiver" in a camp setting, something that doesn't come through on film because why throw to the guy when you can hand the ball to him directly and probably score a touchdown, amirite?* Harris's high school coach echoed Trieu's praise and talked up his football IQ to TomVH ($):
Madison Southern High coach Jon Clark said Michigan is getting a big, multidimensional back in the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Harris.
"He's a lot bigger than people think. He's not a small speed back, either," Clark said. "He's an excellent receiver out of the backfield, he is a smart player and he understands defensive schemes."
Harris confirmed to Trieu in another article that, while he's been leaning heavily towards Michigan for a long time, the commitment of George Campbell accelerated his process; a childhood fan of the Wolverines, Harris gave a great quote about committing to his dream school ($):
"I don't even know what to expect. Growing up and loving a school and it being your dream and being able to achieve the dream and play at Michigan, it's mind blowing to think it's coming true. I'm going to be thinking about how blessed I am to be playing, not only for a great school, but with great teammates and great coaches and a great fan base. I hope to live up to the expectations they have, but I'm going to work hard and come in and play my game."
It's always great to see these kind of dreams fulfilled, and even better when they're the dreams of five-stars.
Speaking of insanely talented recent 2015 commits, a local news article on Campbell contains this tidbit about his academic plans:
"Everyone, not just the coaches but also the players, they all took me in as one," Campbell said on Monday. "Pretty much, it's like a big old family there. Not just that, but the academics. I plan on majoring in Sports Management, and they have a great program there. It's the best choice for me at the moment and for my future, too."
If this was the work of Professor Needs A Raise, he's now been upgraded to Professor Needs A Building Named After Him. You know, as soon as one of us remembers his real name — The Professor Needs A Building Named After Him, Er, Building doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
How rare is a commitment from a kid like Campbell? DGDestroys put together this chart over at Maize n Brew of the eventual destinations of Florida five-stars ranked among the top 15 players in their class (covering 2002-2013):
You'll note the complete lack of Big Ten schools, with Notre Dame representing the only program north of West Virginia to land a prospect matching the criteria. That prospect was Aaron Lynch, who transferred to USF after his freshman year. As long as Michigan holds onto Campbell — and he stays where he is in the rankings — then they're pulling off something that hasn't been done in the Rivals era.
Speaking of making recruiting history, The Wolverine's Michael Spath dug through the Rivals database($) and found that the last team to pull in the #1 players in their class at running back and receiver was USC in 2007 with Joe McKnight and (sigh) Ronald Johnson. Michigan has a chance to do that with Campbell and Harris; it would be the first time the Wolverines pulled off the feat since 1998, predating the modern recruiting services, with Justin Fargas and David Terrell.
[Hit THE JUMP for, oh hey, another 2015 prospect that looks like a stone-cold Michigan lock, more reactions from last weekend's BBQ, how OSU's latest commitment could affect the Wolverines, and more.]
Countdown to Kickoff exists again. Talkin' with Devin Gardner:
So that explains that. If you were wondering why Michigan's option plays weren't actual option plays the last couple years, well, yeah:
“We did it [the Wildcat] in OTAs and a couple of times he ran the ball and fumbled the ball and he didn’t know how to pitch," Bradley said, according to the Register.
The one time he did try to pitch on a speed option was when he got lit up in the backfield, and that was a fumble.
Oklahoma State was not always good. Wolverine Historian presents the 1992 non-classic:
Gardner on Darboh. I think both of last year's wide receivers are on pace to work out, and Darboh is ahead of the curve:
"He's just a great athlete," Gardner said of the wideout. "He's strong, he's fast, he catches the ball well. He's pretty much everything you could ever want in a receiver."
Gardner compares Darboh to Junior Hemingway, but fast. No, seriously:
"He goes up and gets the ball just like Junior. And he runs fast."
I'll take it.
O'Bannon-related victory. I thought Sam Keller's lawsuit had been folded into the O'Bannon suit, but apparently not. They've just won at the appellate level:
By a 2-1 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said EA's use of the athletes' likenesses in its NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball games did not deserve protection as free expression under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
EA is disappointed that free speech doesn't cover important things like college football videogames using the representations of people without mentioning it to them, and plans to appeal, for all the good that will do.
They'll have to name him Lack Of Seat Cushions. Sorry, those are the probably fictional, possibly offensive stereotypical Native American rules:
I don't make the probably fictional, possibly offensive stereotypical Native American rules. I just enforce 'em, lady.
Jordan Paskorz: I'm not dead yet! Michigan could use some tight end depth with veteran Mike Kwiatkowski departed, and Jake Bu—MAH GAWD THAT'S JORDAN PASKORZ'S MUSIC, AT LEAST I THINK IT IS BECAUSE I'M NOT SURE HE EVEN HAD SOME:
[Paskorz's] career has since been derailed by seemingly interminable instability.
But that's about to change, as he enters his second season at tight end and seems to have fought his way into the rotation as a blocking specialist. …
"What I like is, we settled him into that position and I think he can be a guy who gives us a little more on-the-line-of-scrimmage movement. That’s exciting."
At 6'3", 251, he is about the right size to be more of a pusher at TE. AJ Williams is a guy Michigan will ask to fill that role as well, but he needs a lot of technique work to get there. We'll see if the talk translates into playing time.
When do I get to be on a bulletin board? Because if Steve Everitt's lighthearted jab at Kirk Cousins qualifies…
…surely I can come up with something vile enough to get up there despite not being a viking. Hey, Spartans! You smell! Bad!
I'll work on it.
In related news, Dave Brandon once again reiterated that he doesn't want a night game in the series. This is correct. I hope the real reason is wanting to tweak MSU by playing anyone but them at night, but I'll take "don't want a bunch of East Lansing people drunj" after the Gathering of the Juggalos that was two years ago.
Speaking of. UTL II Hype Video:
Glenn Robinson: now he can jump. Yeah, now:
His vertical is up four inches to 12'3".
Etc.: Introducing Dr. Gay Hitler, who was of course from… Ohio, and the son of George Hitler, and a dentist.
Here is a class of 1927(!) alum talking bout her days on campus. Oregon has some money. People don't like dynamic pricing, except for that one guy on facebook who hasn't been to a game since 1982 but likes being a prick to people on the internet. Bill Connolly previews Ohio State. Lewan talks Gholston punch.
THIS GUY SAYS MICHIGAN IS #17
And will remain there all year because coaches don't pay attention to football games other than their own. The whole thing, with opponents bolded:
- Ohio State
- Texas A&M
- South Carolina
- Notre Dame
- Florida State
- Oklahoma State
- Boise State
- Oregon State
Michigan State is in also receiving votes at #27, and that's it for teams Michigan will face.