"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Good Counsel High School in Maryland produces top prospect after top prospect year in and year out. Michigan signed one of them last year in DB Blake Countess, and they're targeting a few of his teammates for 2012. I spoke with assistant coach Kevin McFadden today about his athletes, and where they're at in the process. "Michigan has a shot, all the kids are open right now. They're all just thankful that they have the opportunity with all these programs. They're trying to concentrate on the academic side of everything, so when the time comes they have everything in order," said Coach McFadden.
The Michigan coaches have targeted and offered DB Stefon Diggs, RB Wes Brown, DE Ryan Watson, and OL Mike Madaras so far from Good Counsel. "Wes is probably one of the most sought after running backs in the country. He has a ton of offers, he's a leader, and his work ethic is good," he said. "Wes is going to be a rags to riches story. He takes the game serious, and it's all about creating an outlet for his family. He's a very responsible kid, and even more focused on academics now more than ever." Coach McFadden is also confident that Michigan will be interested in a few more of his players once he sends their film. "We have a couple other kids Michigan should offer, we have DL Rod Chungong (6'3", 240 lbs), 2013 DB Kendall Fuller (6'0", 175 lbs), and 2013 DB Kirk Garner (5'10", 165 lbs) that will get some looks from Michigan," he said.
The fact that Michigan did sign Blake Countess may end up helping them, but it's no guarantee according to the coach. "Blake's been talking to them about Michigan, but he knows just like it was for him, it's their decision. I'm sure he's been saying stuff about Michigan, but he understands what they have to do," said McFadden. Having coached so many prospects, and for a number of years Coach McFadden has also built relationships with fellow coaches that may help Michigan in the future. "Me and Urban Meyer played together at Cincinnati, that's my guy. He and Mattison coached together, and Mattison is one of my mentors in the business and the game. We kindled that relationship years ago, and we stumbled upon each other again when he came through to recruit Blake," he said. Again, the hiring of Greg Mattison and his track record has been validated from the outside.
McFadden has coached his fair share of athletes, some of which are now competing to make it to the NFL. Despite the amount of talent that he's seen, he thinks this batch is just as good. "These kids are NFL kids, they're good. They're right up there with some of the best kids we've had. They've seen the kids before them, and the appropriate measures they've had to put in place with academics, perseverance, and they've seen the outcome with those other guys. The success of the other kids has really prepared them for everything," he said. As far as what's next for this group, Coach McFadden says they will take a few trips during the spring, and try to get everything in order for the summer.
The Stadnik household in Greensboro, North Carolina is currently two men short of fielding a complete offensive line. John Stadnik, the dad, played center in the USFL and briefly in the NFL for the Chargers. His twin sons are now following in his footsteps with Brock (6'5", 285 lbs) playing offensive tackle and Clayton (6'2", 255 lbs) as a center for Western Guilford High School.
Both boys currently hold division one offers, with Brock being the more coveted prospect so far. "Clayton has five offers right now, and he's going through the same steps as me. We're both pretty wide open right now, and we'll probably take some visits together. It's pretty exciting to be able to go through this with him," Brock said. It's a unique situation for the pair to be able to go through in the same year, and compare notes. The twins share offers from East Carolina, NC State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest.
While they have a few offers in common, they aren't necessarily looking to be a package deal. "When we take visits we'll try to see where we feel most comfortable. We'll try to pick the schools that are best for us, and if we end up playing together then that's fine. It might happen," said Brock.
With seventeen current offers Brock will be most likely see his number rise, and will be able to have his pick from most schools. He currently holds a 4.2 GPA with AP courses, but says that academics won't be a huge factor in how he evaluates programs. "Most schools are going to offer top educations, and I don't really want to specialize in anything," he said. "I'm leaning towards business or marketing and all universities pretty much have that. I'll be looking more for coaches chemistry, how they treat the players, comfort level, and the environment." Michigan is one of his seventeen offers and one of the schools he will be looking to evaluate in the coming months.
Brock doesn't have a set schedule or timetable for his visits to happen yet, but does know that Michigan is a school that he wants to get to know better. "I was really excited about the Michigan offer because Michigan is pretty huge, and I really liked Jake Long growing up," he said. "As far as visits go, it's tough to get up there right now with school and everything, so I'm not sure when I'll make it up." The distance from North Carolina to Ann Arbor may hinder him from visiting now, but has helped Michigan some in his mind as well. "Michigan is a big offer too because it came from that far away this early. It's exciting to hear my name reaching places like that, and being talked about by those coaches," he said.
The combination of Brock's GPA, self-awareness, and the fact that he's a "nice kid" doesn't stop him from getting angry on the field. "A lot of people say I'm a teddy bear off the field, but when I step on the field that's when the beast comes out. I show everyone the intensity I can bring, and I leave a lot of anger on the field," he said. A 6-foot-5 teddy bear with a nasty streak that carries a 4.2 GPA has probably helped him rack up all his interest from college coaches.
While the offers continue to come in though, Brock maintains that he's open to any school, and will wait a few months to narrow everything down. "I don't really have a top group yet. I'm still trying to hear from more schools like Penn State or USC, and a few other big ones. I've been very blessed so far with the offers I have," he said. "Everyone's pretty equal, but over the summer I'll have a better understanding and a top five. That should make things easier on me, and after that I'll be able to take visits to get to know coaches better." Brock said that it's still too early to tell who will be on his top list, but that he is definitely hoping to get to know the Michigan coaches better to help him evaluate where they stand.
Tales from Last Night
All the games in which Michigan had a semi-serious rooting interest last night went the wrong way (though most of those results were expected):
- Notre Dame beat Villanova 93-72.
- Florida Gulf Coast beat USC Upstate 81-65.
- Bethune-Cookman beat NC Central 73-60.
- Kansas State beat Texas 75-70. The Longhorns have singlehandedly choked their way into getting Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas State onto the bubble.
- Gonzaga beat Cal State-Bakersfield 96-49.
None of these were killers, to say the least, but Kansas State is solidly in the tournament at this point.
The Matrix hasn't been updated since last night's results, so consider it a day-ish behind. The information isn't changing quickly enough for that to be a huge hindrance to our purposes.
Per the Bracket Matrix:
|Bids||Bubble In||Bubble Out||Change|
|Big East||11||Marq (10)||None.|
|SEC||6||Tenn (9), UGa (10), Bama (12)||None.|
|Big Ten||6||Ill (10), MSU (11), Mich (12)||Minn, PSU||MSU down from 10, Mich in, Minn out.|
|ACC||5||BC (12), VT (10), FSU (9)||Clem, Mary||Seeds reshuffled.|
|Big 12||5||KSU (8)||Neb, Bay, Colo, OkSt||KSU up from 9.|
|Pac-10||3||Wash (9), UCLA (8)||USC, Washington St.||Washington down from 8.|
|Atlantic 10||3||Richmond (11)||Dayton||Duquesne gone.|
|Mountain West||3||UNLV (8)||Colo St||None.|
|West Coast||2||Zaga (12), St Mary's (11)||None.|
|Colonial||2||Old Domin (8)||VCU||None.|
|CUSA||2||Memphis (11), UAB (12)||USM, UTEP, Marsh, UCF||None.|
|WAC||1||Utah State (9)|
|Horizon||1||Butler (12)||Cleve St, UW-Mil|
|Summit||1||1-bid Oakland (13)|
|Ivy||1||1-bid Princeton (13)||Harvard||Princeton in, Harvard out.|
I've excised all of the conferences that are going to have 1 bid no matter what, because they won't affect our bubble watch (unless a past Michigan opponent goes on a crazy run and wins the conference tourney, of course).
As always, your general principle is to root against all teams on the bubble, whether they're in the tournament for now, or just barely on the outside. Things get a little more complicated when Michigan's past opponents are involved.
- Illinois @ Purdue (7:00 ESPN). Since Michigan played each of these teams only once, I think you want Purdue to win. The Wolverines are fighting with Illinois for a bubble spot.
- Baylor @ Oklahoma State (7:00 ESPN2). Both of these teams are on the outside of the Big 12 bubble. I think you want Baylor to win, since they're more likely to lose their final game to Texas (well, with the way Texas is playing, who knows?) than Oklahoma state is to lose to Oklahoma.
- Alabama @ Florida (7:00 ESPNU). You want Florida to win. They are solidly in the tournament, whereas Alabama is a hardly-deserving bubble team. This could knock them out.
- Gardner-Webb @ Coastal Carolina (7:00 Gametracker). Gardner-Webb is a past Michigan opponent. They're facing Big South 1-seed Coastal Carolina in the first round of the conference tournament. An upset here would be nice, since this is a 1-bid conference either way.
- Kent State @ Bowling Green (7:30 ESPN3). Bowling Green is a past opponent. Kent State currently leads the MAC, but it is a 1-bid league either way.
- Missouri @ Nebraska (8:00 ESPN3). Missouri is solidly in the tournament, whereas Nebraska is barely on the bubble. This would definitely knock the Huskers out for good.
- Ohio State @ Penn State (9:00 BTN). I'm torn on this game. With a sweep of the Nittany Lions under our belt, you want them to be a top-50 RPI team. On the other hand, that means they strengthen their bubble position, harming Michigan. I still think a tiebreaker of 2-0 head-to-head between UM and PSU would swing things in Michigan's way. I'll say watch this game closely, but no clear rooting interest.
- Boston College @ Virginia Tech (9:00 ESPNU). This is another game that you could go either way on. One team will knock the other onto the wrong side of the bubble for the time being. I'll say you want BC to lose, since they have a near-automatic win (against Wake Forest at home) up next. You'll be rooting HARD for Clemson to beat Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Get your rootin' shoes on. Hopefully, it'll go better than last night. It should, as you want Kenpom's favored team to win 4 of the 7 games in which there's a clear rooting interest - he also favors Ohio State to knock Penn State down the pecking order, for what it's worth. Last night, we were pulling almost exclusively for underdogs (and a crappy Texas team).
It's not every day that a high school football recruit says that they want to major in nuclear engineering. That, however, happens to be the case for Indiana tight end Pierre Aka out of Pike High School. "I'm a really unique person. When I was looking at different jobs I was interested in engineering came up," said Pierre. "When I was little I was watching this show and I wondered how they created all those buildings, and how did they make sure everything was right. I've always been good at Math and Science, so it seems natural for me."
Not only is it unique for a teenager to have a grasp for what they want to do in the future, but Pierre also understands why he wants to major in engineering. "In the next ten years nuclear engineering needs more people. Creating power sources interests me, and I know not many people are into it but I am," he said. His future job choice isn't the only aspect about him that makes him unique. "I was born in France, and my parents are from Africa. I moved to the United States when I was eleven, so I don't remember too much," Pierre said. His full name is Pierre Jean-Baptist Aka, which gives a great sense of his heritage.
Combine his smarts and self-awareness with his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame and you have a football prospect that will garner some serious attention. "There's a lot of schools that are interested, and that have been recruiting me right now. I have a top four though of Stanford, Michigan, Northwestern, and Penn State," Aka said. Academics has obviously been a main focus for him, and he's serious about his future. "A school like Indiana, they don't offer my major so they're automatically at the bottom of the list. Michigan and Stanford are both ranked high for their engineering schools, so they stick out to me," he said.
Outside of the classroom and on the football field Aka believes he has a high ceiling, and room for improvement. "I'm a little raw right now. I've been playing since I was in eighth grade, but I'm a run blocking tight end," Pierre said. His high school team runs a spread offense that typically only uses tight ends for blocking. That hasn't stopped him, though, from making his presence on the field. "I finish every play. When I step on that line I'm looking to destroy the guy in front of me. I don't stop until the whistle blows twice, and I'm not the tight end that catches a ton of balls but I still make plays," he said.
With regards to Michigan specifically, Pierre has been in contact with the coaching staff and plans to look further into how he would fit with Michigan. "I've talked to Coach Borges and he said they're going to evaluate me and that we'll stay in contact," he said. While no offer has been extended yet, tight end is a position of need for the Wolverines. The next moves for Aka will be to take visits, and continue to build relationships with coaching staffs.
The Michigan offer blitz is in full effect with over 100 offers already extended by the coaching staff. The 2012 offer list is here and for the most part accurate. There have been a lot of questions asked about the number of offers being thrown out. It's probably not going to be a normal thing in the future. These coaches are new to the neighborhood so they're trying to make their presence known.
Giving out offers to high profile kids does a few things for the coaches. It shows everyone that they're serious about recruiting high talent kids to Michigan, that they think they can land some of them, and that they want to build relationships for the future. In year one, this is probably a decent strategy. Here's a look at some of the recent happenings.
6'0", 185 lbs.
Old Tappan, New Jersey
Fuller is an outstanding athlete that brings a lot to the table at many positions. He has made a name for himself in his area, and his film is really impressive. He was recently extended a Michigan offer and very excited about that.
It's a huge [offer] for me and my family. I know they have great tradition over there, and they all know how to win. Plus the academics are great as well. I don't have a top list yet, but Michigan was a big one, I must say. The coaches see me at quarterback, but they will give me a chance at any other positions. I'm probably looking to make my decision in the summer time so I can get it over with.
As Devin said the Michigan coaches have told him he can try quarterback. He's an all round athlete so it wouldn't be wasting a scholarship if that didn't work out.
6'6", 260 lbs.
Williams is a big tight end prospect who has been offered by Michigan, Boston College, Illinois, NC State, and Toledo among others. He's a little raw, but obviously has the size.
It means a lot that [Michigan] offered. I love the way the staff is honest and I love how it's a big powerhouse. It means a lot that they were recruiting me from the beginning too. Kind of like a friend that was with you since childhood, if someone else comes a long you still like the childhood friend better. I'm going to try to make it up there after basketball season, and really get everything going then.
Williams sounds very interested in Michigan and is also hearing from Iowa, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. The coaching staff has already made AJ feel comfortable, as he mentioned about honesty. They told him they would be recruiting him, that they would offer, and everything they've said to him that would happen has happened. That's made an impact on him.
6'1", 182 lbs.
Gant was talked about a lot before the 2012 recruiting class started, and has seen his recruitment consistently gain profile. He doesn't have a top list yet, but still sees Michigan as one of his top schools.
I talked to Coach Funk and Coach Mattison sent me something last week. I don't have the exact date set up, but I will be visiting there soon. I think they might offer me either after they see my film, or after I go to camp. I'm just focusing on a place where I know I can be happy, and I can contribute right away.
Grant's play speaks for itself, and he should be in the top 20 players in Ohio. Considering the amount of talent in their state this year, that's pretty impressive. Although I'm sure he'd like to make a name for himself, Michigan fans probably know him best for being related to Charles Woodson and being the son of a former Michigan football player.
Names to Keep An Eye On:
DE Javonte Magee (6'5", 262 lbs) Texas: big time defensive end from Texas is close to an offer. Will probably be hard to pull from Texas, though.
OL Prince Eshan (6'3", 295 lbs) Texas: teammate of Javonte Magee says that he hopes to get a Michigan offer. He likes the snow, and wants to check out some teams to the north.
DT Jonathan Taylor (6'4", 315 lbs) Georgia: Huge defensive tackle with a very impressive offer list could be hearing from Michigan soon.
- Illinois OL Dan Voltz says that Michigan will be one of his top teams.
- Michigan DT Matt Godin talked to me about his offer and Michigan.
- A look at some of the running backs Michigan is after so far. That list has gone up since RB Vonte Jackson was offered.
- Georgia DT Jordan Watkins talks about Michigan, and the fact that he could be closing in on an offer.
- Ohio State commit OL Kyle Kalis was offered by Michigan. Three of his teammates also hold Michigan offers, and could affect where he goes.
It's the last day of February. Selection Sunday is 13 days away. While I constantly keep tabs on the Bracket Matrix throughout the winter, doing so now carries even more excitement because who is in the Matrix now might finally resemble who actually makes the field [Ed-M: and Michigan's in it!].
Mock brackets throughout most of January and February are so fluid that it's hard to put a ton of stock in them, other than to guage where exactly certain teams are on the pecking order at that moment in time. Now grabbing a spot in the Matrix means you could be a win or two away from netting an actual bid. As far as interest from the mock crowd goes, this is the time to be peaking. And while our Michigan Wolverines still have some work to do to get into the actual tournament they and their profile are grabbing people's attention at the right time. Let's take a look.
Right now, Michigan sits with 12 of 75 votes among the mock bracketology crowd. That number obviously is a low one but it represents major progress on two fronts. One, it's the most mock votes the Wolverines have had at any time this season. At the beginning of each of the last two weeks they had peaked with seven votes. For the first time on the campaign, Michigan has been elevated into the Matrix's final eight cut group, albeit in the eighth spot. The numbers may look bleak and small, but at least the Wolverines are trending in the right direction at the right time. The question is will there be enough season left and can Michigan win enough games and others lose enough during that point to make a major move?
A look deeper into the Matrix numbers reveals that Michigan may be a lot closer to the actual bracket than their measly 12-vote haul indicates. Let's break it down by the most recent straw poll. All told, there are 75 bracketologists that participate. However, only 28 of them have cast their ballots since the close of Saturday's action. Let's focus on those 28 ballots. The Wolverines grab 10 of their votes from those early voters, so they are running at about 35-percent support when it comes to the most recent exit poll. Should Michigan maintain that level of support with the remaining four dozen or so ballots, they would rise to about 27 votes. In the current Matrix, that high of a vote total would be good for third-from-last cut.
Even better, Michigan is really maxing out with more support among the early voters than a lot of the other teams ahead of them in the Final Eight Cut list. For example, currently Cleveland State, Colorado State and Wichita State are the first, second and third to last teams cut from the comprehensive Matrix. But they're still relying on support from mocks that have not updated to prop up their position in the pecking order. Of the 28 early voters this week, Cleveland State and Wichita have six votes apiece while Colorado State, fresh off one of the worst bubble losses of the weekend to Air Force, has just one vote. If the early voting is any indication, Michigan has passed all three of those teams. They're also faring better than Southern Miss, fifth-to-last cut, who had six votes from the early mocks and UTEP, sixth-to-last cut, who had just one. If voting form holds--a big IF obviously -- when the Matrix updates again (usually around dinner time every Monday night) expect Michigan to at least be a couple spots closer to the field than their current eight-from-last-cut Matrix position.
The only two teams within that Final Eight Cut group trending better than Michigan are Clemson--a team Michigan beat on the road three months ago, who netted 13 of 28 early votes and have a total of 22 votes altogether and Colorado, who like Michigan, has 12 total votes with almost all of them coming from the early voters. In that demographic, the Buffs grabbed 11 votes, one more than the Wolverines. The Tigers have a huge game at Duke this week, then close the season at home against Virginia Tech. I think an argument can be made on either side of the coin as to whether or not we should be cheering for or pulling against Clemson. As for Colorado, their surge comes on the heels of their electric second half Saturday night when they took down Texas, one of the marquee wins of the weekend. They travel to Iowa State on Wednesday and close at home over the weekend against Nebraska. They can't afford to lose either game. We are decidedly Cyclone and Cornhusker fans this week.
Outside of the final eight cut, there are a couple teams to look out for, which are trending at upwardly support but just a smidge beneath Michigan. Penn State received eight of their 11 total votes from the 28 early ballots and Baylor grabbed seven of their 10 from that same crowd. Both have major showdowns this week where wins could skyrocket them up the charts. The Nittany Lions--a team Michigan swept in two games this season--play host to Ohio State and travel to Minnesota. A 2-0 week would be a major statement and put them in position for an actual bid heading into the Big 10 Tournament. As for Baylor, they continued their inconsistent season over the weekend with a win over Texas A&M. They travel to Oklahoma State and host Texas to close the season. They need a 2-0 week as well, and if they pull that off, a bid might be back in their grasp when their league sectional begins. So, we should keep an eye on both PSU and Baylor and cheer against both this week. So, uh, Go Buc....eh, I cant say it, even if I mean it.
As for the teams currently perched inside the Matrix, there are a couple really shaky at large bids right now. Michigan is trending equally or better than both based on the early returns. One, of course, is Minnesota which Michigan defeated in glorious fashion on Saturday. The Gophers still have 45 total votes, good for a spot on the 11-line. But only six of 28 early voters have them in their field. That's four less than the Wolverines pulled in the early straw poll. They might tumble out of the Matrix during its next comprehensive update. So too might the Alabama Crimson Tide. They suffered a bad road loss to Ole Miss over the weekend, something akin to losing on the road to Iowa to make a Big 10 comparable. Like the Gophers, they're seeing their support hemmorage. They are on the 12-line with 42 votes, but they received the exact amount of support--10 votes--as Michigan in the early voting this go around.
What does all this mean? Well, not much. The Selection Committee doesnt really care what mock bracketologists have to say. But these folks put a ton of effort into it and, in the end, they're competing with one another to produce the most accurate facsimile of the eventual field. And among that crowd, Michigan right now is rising. When the Matrix does its next comprehensive update, depending on how many fresh votes it entails, don't be surprised to see Alabama and Minnesota fall out, Clemson and Colorado jump in to take their place and Michigan elevate as high as one of the final two teams cut from the Matrix. It might not be the best position to be in, but at least a clear path exists between and the field of 68.
One last note on the mock bracket crowd. Much has been made in the forums over the weekend about Lunardi finally putting us in his field. Since he hasnt formally published a new bracket at ESPN.com, his vote has not been updated in the Matrix. So, we can assume Michigan will at least pick up one more vote there. But, what I want to mention is something I've brought up numerous times. He is not the best bracketologist, just the most famous. The best, IMHE, is Bracketology 101. Not only have they proven more accurate than Joey Brackets in recent years, but they just put a lot more thought and foresight into their projections. And I swear Joey Brackets' updates throughout the winter are geared a little bit to put an extra highlight on upcoming televised games on the WWL. Just an observation I've made over time. B101 has no such biases. Anyway, Michigan has been one of their final four teams cut for two weeks running and they've mentioned several times that the Wolverines have been one of their most debated teams during the back half of February. It's worth pointing out the Michigan has been elevated into their field for the first time this season, projected as a 12-seed to play fellow 12-seed Colorado in one of the play-in games. Is it a good thing that the most accurate bracketologist has the Wolverines in their field with just 13 days to go until Selection Sunday? Yes, it is. Here is what they said about the Wolverines:
With no bid-stealers available, we had to pick from a group of teams with a lot of warts and a lot of work left to do. . . . . . Michigan made the cut, despite their loss at home to Wisconsin on Wednesday, because we think they have a decent chance to beat Michigan State at home this weekend and then win their first Big Ten tourney game.
So there you go. The best in the biz saying that Michigan might be just two wins away from the bid and they have a decent enough shot of pulling that off that they made their field. It's not the most ringing endorsement, but given the expectations we had when the season began, we'll take it. It should be a fun weeklong building up to the State game on Saturday and, of course, scoreboard watching in the interim.