"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."
Ray Ball is an offensive tackle out of Westerville, Ohio. Ray was in Ann Arbor this weekend for camp, but didn't work out. He just wanted to come up, and get a chance to meet the players and coaches, to get a feel for everything. He told me today that he got that and a lot more. Here's a look at his highlight video, and then our conversation:
TOM: How was the trip up to Michigan?
RAY: It was awesome, I really enjoyed myself. I got to look around at the whole campus, and we got to watch some of the camp, and all the players work out. We got a chance to talk with the coaches, which was great. Those coaches are awesome, and really cool to be around; I really liked them. I also got to meet three of the players on the team that will be freshmen this year. I know next time I come up there, we're going to hang out some more, they were really welcoming and nice.
TOM: When will you be coming back for your next visit?
RAY: I'm not sure exactly, but since this one was so fun, it will probably be very soon.
TOM: Ok, so it sounds like this visit might have pushed Michigan further up on your list then?
RAY: Yes, sir. I know the top schools I have on my list are Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and UCLA, but this definitely puts Michigan in a better spot than before.
TOM: Do you know when you're making your final decision yet?
RAY: Either at the beginning of the season, or in the middle. I'm not positive yet.
Valdez Showers is a versatile athlete out of Madison Heights, Michigan, mainly being recruited as a defensive back. Sitting in Michigan's backyard, Valdez has an offer from the Wolverines and just picked up a somewhat surprising offer from Florida. Auburn, Michigan State, and others have offered.
First his junior highlight film:
There's film on him from a 7 on 7 tournament, as well. Here's what Showers had to say.
TOM: Word on the street is that you received an offer from Florida recently?
VALDEZ: Yeah, I went down there on the 16th to visit the school. I camped the next day, and I could tell that the coaches were impressed. When I got home, I talked to one of the coaches, and he offered me a scholarship. They just said that overall I'm a great player, and I would fit well at cornerback for them.
TOM: Is that what most schools are recruiting you for? Cornerback?
VALDEZ: Yeah, that's what pretty much everyone sees me at.
TOM: That's a pretty big offer; how many total do you have now?
VALDEZ: I have a total of around 16 now. I don't have a top list yet, though. I'm going to sit down this week, and see if I can narrow it down.
TOM: There has to be some schools that stick out to you, though, right?
VALDEZ: Yeah, I mean, Florida sticks out because they have great football, and academics. Michigan sticks out, they'll probably be in the top group, too. I have a good connection with the coaches at Michigan, and they're well rounded, too.
TOM: When you say you want to narrow your list down, how are you going to decide who makes the cut? You have some nice offers from Auburn, Cinci, Michigan, and Florida, what's the criteria?
VALDEZ: I'm looking for great academics, great football, and a good coaching staff, of course. I really want to find the school that's the right fit for me, though. So, I'm not sure when I'll decide. I just want to take my time with it, and put it in God's hands.
TOM: With some offers out of state, and across the country, how will distance factor in?
VALDEZ: Distance won't be a factor. I'll just go where ever is best for me. My mom was excited when I got the Florida offer, and she's said that she'll come watch me play where ever I go, so that doesn't matter.
TOM: Were you able to make it back up for the Sound Mind Sound Body camp this weekend?
VALDEZ: Yeah, I went, but my flight got delayed from Florida. I came late to the second day, so I couldn't do a whole lot. I got to talk to a couple coaches from Michigan, and they were telling me to come back up and visit sometime soon. I'm going to try to get back up there pretty soon. I'm not sure when, though.
TOM: Since you're from Michigan, are you friends with any of the other Michigan recruits? Do they try to recruit you?
VALDEZ: I'm friends with Shawn Conway. We met through the 7 on 7's, and became cool through that. He doesn't really try to recruit me, he just tells me to pick the best school for me.
TOM: Describe yourself as an athlete to someone who has never watched film on you.
VALDEZ: I'm a leader on the field, a hard worker, explosive, fast, and I just make plays. I ran the 40 at the Florida camp, and I was timed at a 4.48, and a 4.5. I have a hamstring injury, too, so I know I can run faster than that.
I had just spoken with a sophomore recruit, and he told me the first day he would be able to receive an offer was September 1st of this year. I reported that. Tim tweeted me, and told me the rule had changed, and that Junior prospects can not be offered until August 1st, of their senior year.
So, I looked into it.
The proposal is here, on page 11: 2009-47-B
Question: Prior to August 1 of the prospective student-athlete's senior year in high school, may the institution verbally indicate that it will offer a prospective student-athlete athletically related financial aid?
This rule was adopted by the NCAA in May, as you can see here. It was adopted, with a 60-day override period (not 100% on what that means).
Another rule that was proposed, was 2009-45 on page 10. This rule would have allowed Juniors, who had completed their academic year, would be allowed to take official visits starting in June. The maximum number would have stayed at five. Unfortunately, this rule was defeated, as you can see here.
2009-45 – Recruiting – Official visit – First opportunity to visit – June immediately prior to senior year – Football. Status: Defeated.
I'm not sure how the rule that was adopted will help, since it seems like it will get more confusing for a recruit to keep track of "verbal" offers, than written ones. A verbal offer, from this standpoint, will be pretty much the exact same thing as an early written offer is now. I would have liked to see them defeat that proposal, and adopt the early official visit proposal. That to me would have made more sense.
I totally fell asleep on last week's rankings, failing to add the newest conference member, Nebraska. They're included in this edition, and will be for all rankings in the foreseeable future. Though Notre Dame (still) isn't in the Big Ten, I'll continue including them since they're a yearly Michigan opponent, and keeping tabs on their talent is still of interest for Michigan fans.
Action since last rankings:
6-14-10 Northwestern gains commitments from Shane Mertz and Mark Szott. Purdue gains commitment from Brandon Cottom.
6-16-10 Illinois gains commitment from Chris O'Connor. Indiana gains commitment from Nick Stoner.
6-17-10 Indiana gains commitments from Kenny Mullen, Mark Murphy, and CJ Robbins. Ohio State gains commitment from Devin Smith. Purdue gains commitments from Randy Gregory and Michael Rouse. Nebraska gains commitment from Daniel Davie.
6-18-10 Northwestern gains commitment from Max Chapman. Notre Dame gains commitment from Clay Burton.
6-19-10 Indiana gains commitment from Raymon Taylor. Nebraska gains commitment from Bubba Starling.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals and Scout are on the 5-star scale, ESPN is on their numerical rankings. In next week's update, I may convert Rivals to their "RR" rating. Please bear with me (and let me know) if you see any errors in the charts, as adding Nebraska may have screwed with some stuff that I didn't notice.
|#1 Ohio State - 15 Commits|
Devin Smith picks up a Buckeye offer and commits almost immediately. No surprise there.
|#2 Nebraska - 11 Commits|
The Huskers grab top QB Bubba Starling. They debut at #2 in the rankings.
|#3 Notre Dame - 10 Commits|
Irish pick up Clay Burton for their first commitment in quite some time. They have a couple top guys, but their class is underwhelming so far, per the rankings.
|#4 Michigan - 5 Commits|
No commits for Michigan coming out of their Elite Camp, but a new offer or two could net them a new pledge soon. Michigan and Michigan State are right on Notre Dame's tail, despite the Irish having many more commits.
|#5 Michigan State - 5 Commits|
The Spartans are right on Michigan's tail, and the next commitment could push them over the top - if the Wolverines don't beat them to the punch.
|#6 Indiana - 16 Commits|
Huge week for Indiana, as they add to their already-large class. I will eat my hat if Raymon Taylor's ranking stays that lofty through signing day.
|#7 Iowa - 3 Commits|
The Hawkeyes are staying quiet for now, but a strong camp season could see more commits.
|#8 Purdue - 5 Commits|
Purdue adds a couple pieces. If those guys were ranked by all services, the Boilers would probably be ranked ahead of Iowa.
|#9 Northwestern - 5 Commits|
A couple pickups for Northwestern help them pass Wisconsin. They will benefit when their last couple guys get full rankings.
|#10 Wisconsin - 4 Commits|
Nothing new for the Badgers.
|#10 Minnesota - 4 Commits|
ESPN has finally recognized James Farrow's decommitment. The Gophers have nothing new.
|#11 Illinois - 4 Commits|
Chris O'Connor pledges to Ron Zook.
|#12 Penn State - 1 Commit|
This began as a reply to the Board Post below, but screw it, Dad deserves better.
I didn't stand a chance of being anything other than a Michigan fan. Dad, Mom, Grandparents, countless aunts and uncles, Sister, Brother, several cousins... most are alums and diehard Wolverines. Growing up was centered around family every Fall Saturday, with huge parties for the OSU, MSU, and Rose Bowl games. Wins on any given Saturday were followed immediately by a dash to the phone to call Grandma and scream "Yay! Yay! Yay!"
My Dad did host most of those parties, always setting up a great time by all even if Michigan lost (read: most Rose Bowls). I can remember joyous yells of "Touchdown Michigan!" filling the house after yet another brilliant play by Bo's Wolverines. I recall the elation of watching Jamie Morris scamper for a TD, and the horror of watching Tony Boles have his career cut short. Watching a game on TV still always takes me back to that little TV room in Saginaw.
He also took each of us kids to Ann Arbor for a day on our 7th birthdays. My day started with the long car ride, early in the morning before the sun came up. We got to Ann Arbor just after first light and then began with a walk up to and around Central Campus. I especially remember the feeling of running up and down the stone walls that lined some side streets. Then it was off to the Big House, a frigid scamper on the Astroturf field (gotta love Ann Arbor in December), and a climb to the top of the bowl. Finally there was a trip to Blimpie Burger, and then into the car for the ride back north. That trip made me realize that Ann Arbor was sacred ground, without Dad ever having to say it outright.
When Saturday Afternoons were compromised by duck hunting, the radio was always right there in the blind. Dad took his hunting very seriously and he would stay very still and quiet with me charge of listening to the headphones and giving updates. I always hated getting up early, in horrendous weather, to hunt the ducks, but I have some of my most enduring memories of my father from those times in the marshes of Shiawassee, Crow Island, and Saginaw Bay.
Notre Dame games are a blur of memories, almost all taken in at a bar in Lovells. The
town village crossroads is right next to the land where we would one day have a cabin. We seemed to always be there on the weekend of the Notre Dame game and the bar/restaurant would be packed nearly standing room only, with all eyes glued to the tiny TV in the corner of the room. When Michigan scored, things would get rowdy in there. I think Dad even dislocated Grandma's thumb with a high-five once.
Of course introducing me to Michigan Fandom was really the least of what my Dad has done and continues to do for me. He is the most upright role model I know to this day. He instilled a sense of morals and dignity in all of his children, and protected and enriched us in countless ways. He gives of himself always to the benefit of all that know him, and many who do not. If I can end up half the man my Dad is, I will consider myself a success and net benefit to the world.
Thanks Dad, for everything.
The Beginning of an Era
As many of you know by now this year is supposed to be the turn around year for the Michigan Wolverine football program. Rich Rodriguez has had two years to bring his players into the system and get his offense/defense style into effect. The past two years have been dismal but showed improvement from year one to year two. Quarterback Tate Forcier is erratic but shows signs of greatness. We have a strong D-line and an amazing receiving core. All improvements aside, this is the Hot Seat year for Rich Rodriguez. Most of the players in Ann Arbor are his players so this year we will see how good his system is working.
Last years recruits for Rodriguez had many good players come into the system. Tate Forcier no doubt the most helpful as he showed he can lead this team and with effort, could become the Michigan Savior we all want. Although he was very erratic he threw for over 2,000 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. With a 58% completion rate, maybe he will be able to get that TD-INT ratio a little bit better.
Denard Robinson was another good recruit Rich brought into the system last year. He was not a very good QB. He had only 2 touchdowns with 4 interceptions but did not get anywhere near the playing time Forcier did. While Robinson may not be much of a starting QB, he definitely poses a threat whenever Michigan decides to run the Wildcat formation (even if it is only a couple plays all year long), Gardner has exceptional speed and is very agile.
Vincent Smith promises to be a good running back. He was second on the team with 5.8 yards per carry behind senior Carlos Brown with 5.9.
This years recruits are not amazing (with the turndown of Demar Dorsey) but some are attracting a lot of hype, such as Devin Gardner. The ESPNU top 150 recruit and Under Armour All American is predicted 3rd string but many think if Tate and Robinson falter, he could be moved up in the depth chart.
Rich Rodriguez will need to improve Michigan's defense if he wants to have a better year than last years 5-7 season. Michigan ranked 91st in rushing defense last year, 67th in passing defense, 77th in scoring defense and 82nd overall. This will have to be improved if Rich wants to get to a bowl game this year.
Although we lost Brandon Graham, who had more sacks than the rest of the line last year, this year our D-line is looking to be a strong one (although not as strong as last years) with the rest of the D-line returning.
With Donovan Warren and Boubacar Cissoko gone, J.T. Floyd and Troy Woolfolk will need to step it up this year to make our secondary not as horrendous as last years.
Rich Rodriguez will need to win at least 7 games this year if not more if he wants to coach the Wolverines much longer. While i doubt Michigan will fire him if he goes 5-7 again it will definitely be discussed at the end of the season if Rodriguez cannot turn things around in Ann Arbor. Michigan has a very easy non-conference schedule with the exception of Notre Dame this year. Starting the season off with Connecticut, Notre Dame, Massachusetts, and Bowling Green respectively. The Maize and Blue faithful will be expecting 3-1 at the VERY, and i stress very, least. After that we begin the always tough conference schedule with Indiana, although not strong they did compete with us last year. Then we have Michigan State at home, Iowa, and Penn State in Happy Valley. We than have easier games, although not definite wins with Illinois and Purdue. We then finish off the season with Wisconsin and a trip to the Horseshoe to battle Ohio State. Rodriguez will need to beat Ohio State if he wants total job security at the end of the year.
This is going to be a crucial year for Rodriguez. He will need to impress the fans more this year than ever. He will have very little excuses this year unless we have injury trouble.
This is looking to be an exciting year for the Wolverines. We have many good prospects coming in to go along with old ones still trying to prove they have what it takes. I personally think the Wolverines will go 8-4 this year, challenging Ohio State to the last minute, earning a bid to the Alamo Bowl or the Champs Sports Bowl and winning it. Anything less and i will be very shocked. I think Tate will develop into a better than average QB this year with very few erratic moments. I also think our secondary along with our D-line will step up to make our defense in the top 50. This will be a very important year for Rich Rodriguez and Michigan Football.