But Is He ELITE? (Yes.)
Before rankling a certain perpetually aggrieved blogger with one of the most innocuous rivalry tweets ever, Alex Malzone earned himself a bid to the Elite 11 finals with an outstanding performance at the Columbus regional. 247's Barton Simmons put him at the top of the list when running down the best QBs in the "Pressure Chamber" drill (video above):
Alex Malzone – Malzone, the Michigan commit, had a very solid evening and had one of the better arms at the event. He also has good active feet in and outside the pocket. He could blend in at times but he definitely rose to the occasion during his pressure chamber showing. Of his five throws, four of them were dimes that he threw with a lot of command. He missed on a dig route but all in all, he had a strong output on his rival’s field. Later Monday night Malzone earned an invitation to the Elite 11 finals, securing one of the final 18 spots.
Scout's Allen Trieu was also impressed, though it sounds like Malzone still has a little work to do on his mechanics ($):
Malzone was generally on the money. His passes down the seam were excellent and showed the arm to hit the deep outs as well. As noted in the past, he has a hitch in his delivery, but the ball comes out of his hand nicely, with good pace, and he's an accurate passer.
Fellow commit Tyree Kinnel took the field last weekend at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and ranked #5 on their list of top defensive backs at the invite-only event ($):
Multiple times on out routes, Kinnel came up and stepped in front of the pass. He showed off great instincts and a great ability to read receivers' routes and then come up to make the play. Kinnel's backpedal is smooth and then he turns and runs well with receivers. Kinnel is set with his Michigan commitment.
Interestingly, Rivals listed Kinnel as a cornerback; while Michigan recruited him as a safety, he's displayed the requisite coverage ability to have positional flexibility in the secondary. After the event, Kinnel told the Daily's Alejandro Zuniga he's fully committed to U-M despite recent overtures from Alabama and Michigan State.
[Hit THE JUMP for coverage of Ty Isaac's impact on the 2015 RB situation, Grant Newsome's upcoming decision, weekend visit reactions, a potential five-star visitor, and more.]
Michigan hosted four-star Illinois jumbo receiver Miles Boykin and his family for an unofficial visit over the weekend, and after receiving the full campus tour with a special "here's how we'll use you like Devin Funchess" film session, at least one of the Boykins was ready to sign up, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“My dad and my brother are the biggest Michigan fans I know,” Boykin said. “So they loved it.”
Boykin adding, “When we got back home my brother looked at me and he said, ‘Miles, you’re a better man than I am.’ And I asked what are you talking about? And he was like, ‘I would’ve committed already bro.’
Miles told 247's Steve Wiltfong that he thought the trip "went awesome," and he "loved it" when Jeff Hecklinski showed him how he'd be utilized in the offense($), so while Boykin claimed no leaders it's tough not to feel like Michigan is in a very good position for him—especially since he already visited for the Spring Game and already plans on taking another summer unofficial to Ann Arbor before an August decision. Notre Dame is a serious contender and they're up next on his visit list, so this is far from over, but I like where Michigan stands.
The Wolverines also continue to look good for a few of their top targets, as well. Sam Webb's latest Detroit News article details a slight shift in recruiting strategy by the coaches—focusing on recruiting their position of specialty, as opposed to a set region, earlier than in years past—and how that's affected Michigan's chances with CT TE Chris Clark and NJ OT Grant Newsome.
Both have developed a close relationship with their potential future position coaches—Dan Ferrigno for Clark, Darrell Funk for Newsome—and will be on campus for critical unofficials this month, each accompanied by their mothers this time around. Michigan is Clark's stated leader, while Newsome is down to U-M and Penn State. Read Webb's whole article, which includes details on Alex Malzone's recruiting efforts, and you'll come away feeling good about Michigan's chances to land both.
Newsome won't be the only four-star tackle on campus this summer. According to Webb and Josh Newkirk, TN OT Drew Richmond has been impressed enough with Funk's continued recruiting efforts—even after Richmond left U-M out of his top 11 in March—that he's going to visit in July ($):
“I feel like he knows what he’s talking about and he cares about what he’s doing,” Richmond said about Funk.
The four-star offensive tackle continued: “They have just been consistently recruiting me. I really love the fan base.”
Meanwhile, recently offered TX WR A.D. Miller is on campus today while on a Midwest swing from Illinois to Ohio State, and he told Tim Sullivan he'll narrow down his focus to "about eight schools" after these trips ($). In other positive 2015 news, four-star TN LB Josh McMillon put Michigan in his unordered top ten.
Trending Not So Well...
Ohio State's campus hosted a Nike camp over the weekend, and the recruiting updates from Columbus weren't so good on the Michigan front. Damien Harris, in particular, came away singing the praises of OSU and Urban Meyer, per Doug Lesmerises:
"It's still kind of cool the way things go with Coach Meyer," Harris told cleveland.com Sunday, while attending a Nike Football Training Camp at Ohio State. "As a kid growing up, I'd see him on TV and I was like, 'Man, he's the man.' And now I get to be real cool with him. We walk into a basketball game together, we just get to enjoy life together right now - maybe for the next four years. It' definitely been a blessing. I get to be looked at as important enough to spend time with one of the greats of all time. It's definitely an honor. I don't take it for granted. I'm real thankful for it."
Harris told Steve Wiltfong that Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio State were the programs recruiting him the hardest; in the same article, he discussed how much he "loves" various aspects of OSU, UK, Florida, and Alabama, but when asked about Michigan he mentioned trying to "continue to develop a better relationship" with Doug Nussmeier ($). Harris, if you'll recall, was close with Al Borges before U-M changed OCs; I've finally given in and flipped my Crystal Ball pick for Harris to Ohio State.
The above makes this bit of news from TomVH a little tougher to stomach:
RB Mike Weber told me he does have a top 3 within his top 5. Ohio State, MSU, Wisconsin but Michigan and Tennessee still in it.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) June 1, 2014
So that's not good. Michigan may be left looking for other options, and they at least have a couple. Tim Sullivan reports that Michigan offered three-star MO RB Alec Murphy (highlights above) a few weeks ago, and Murphy says he's looking at visiting U-M when he attends the Sound Mind Sound Body camp this month ($). The Wolverines could make a quick move here—at the moment, Iowa is his next-best offer.
There's also three-star GA RB Mikell Lands-Davis, who was offered a month ago. Steve Lorenz wrote a couple weeks ago, after U-M dropped by for an in-school visit, that the Wolverines could very well be the #2 team for him behind Clemson ($). If they can get him on campus—and they're working on setting that up—we'll see what happens.
Michigan was one of the first schools to seriously pursue four-star MN DE Jashon Cornell, and at the very least its paying off with continued mentions among his very top schools. The trouble is that the Wolverines have never seemed to quite reach the peak of his list; Notre Dame has the Cretin-Derham pipeline, Michigan State was his stated leader at one point, and now Ohio State has made a move to the forefront, per Wiltfong ($):
Sources close to Cornell told 247Sports Ohio State is now the team to beat. Cornell himself said the Buckeyes are in his top three now. They were on the outside looking in until this visit.
“Something about Coach (Larry) Johnson and Coach (Urban) Meyer,” Cornell said. “They bumped up high.”
Who else is in the top three?
“Maybe Michigan and Penn State,” Cornell said.
The bad news, of course, is that the Buckeyes appear to be on top. The good news is Michigan is still very much in the hunt, and they'll get another chance—along with Michigan State—to jump atop his list after an unofficial when he's in the state for SMSB.
Darrin Kirkland: NFTC LB MVP
One definitively good piece of news to come from the Columbus NFTC—commit Darrin Kirkland Jr. is doing quite well at the whole football thing, per Allen Trieu:
Linebacker MVP: Darrin Kirkland – Lawrence Central (Ind.)
The Michigan commit was impressive with his lateral agility. He did well in pass coverage, not something that was necessarily considered his forte coming in. He was invited to The Opening.
There's something about Kirkland and excelling in Columbus—his excellent coverage in passing drills "surprised" scouts at both the Nike and Rivals camps held there last summer. At some point, maybe it won't surprise anymore.
Recent Offers, Visitors
After receiving a Michigan offer last Wednesday, four-star FL DE Janarius Robinson told 247's Chris Nee he plans to visit Ann Arbor on June 20th ($). While Florida State will be tough to beat, a campus visit with these coaches can't be overlooked.
Another relatively recent offer that went unreported—or at least I didn't notice—until Tim Sullivan dug it up is four-star MD OL Pat Allen, who plans to visit this summer and expect U-M to fall within an impressive top five ($):
"Michigan is going to be in my top five, Georgia's going to be in my top five," he started. "I'm going to have those two, Ohio State is definitely in my top three, Florida State most likely top five.
"With Georgia, it's really the area. I've been there a couple times. It's a really good school, and I think Georgia's a solid program. I don't know much about Michigan yet. They do have a good program, and honestly anybody would be a fool not to go to Michigan. At Ohio State, I'm comfortable when I've been there. The region's really good, the coaching staff is great, the people there are comfortable to be around, I like the city of Columbus, it's really cool.
While OSU is in very good position, that could change once Allen sees U-M for the first time.
In the 2016 class, offers continue to go out to top national quarterback prospects. California five-star, #1 dual-threat QB Malik Henry pulled in an offer last week. Henry's already got serious national interest, and as always, it's best to take a wait-and-see approach with any top California prospect.
Michigan also offered the nation's top pro-style quarterback in WA five-star Jacob Eason, per 247's Clint Brewster. His offer list is even more impressive than Henry's, so he'll also be a tough pull from the West Coast.
The third QB to pull in a recent offer is four-star CA pro-style prospect KJ Costello, who told Scout's Greg Biggins he's visiting Ann Arbor on June 15th to kick off a trip that'll have him see several of the nation's top programs ($). Same deal here—we'll see how he feels after the visit.
GBW reports offers out to a pair of 2016 receivers. Four-star MD slot (5'9", 152) Steven Smothers was very excited to hear the news ($):
“[Mattison] called my coach,” Smothers said on his Michigan offer. “I had the offer for a week or two [before he told me]. But my coach just told me today. I’m really at a loss for words. A big school like that offering is shocking.
“I was pumped, I mean, what more can I say? It’s Michigan!”
U-M is now in his top six along with Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, and West Virginia. While FL WR Binjimen Victor is unranked on the recruiting services thus far, he's also received some impressive offers, and he immediately brought up Denard Robinson upon hearing that U-M offered; unfortunately, the Wolverines still have work to do to crack his top group ($):
Victor, who stands at 6-foot-4, 170-pounds, says he is planning on making his final decision sometime during his senior season. While he wouldn’t name a leader, he did say there were a few schools sticking out early on in his recruitment.
“I’m not trying to (commit) or anything but the schools I really like right now are Miami, Ohio State, and Clemson,” said Victor.
Finally, 2016 OH LB Brendan Ferns—younger brother of U-M LB Michael Ferns—visited campus last weekend, and while he doesn't yet have an offer he told GBW having his brother on campus "will help" should one come along ($). After he pulled in a recent offer from Michigan State, it wouldn't surprise if U-M followed suit before too long.
Happy Trails, Shaun Crawford
It felt like only a matter of time, and so it was...
No longer a commit to Michigan Football.
— Big Poppa (@1ShaunCrawford) May 24, 2014
Shaun Crawford is no longer a member of the 2015 class after following through with his expressed desire to visit Notre Dame and scheduling an Ohio State visit for this weekend. Michigan is recruiting other cornerbacks—the timing of the recent offer to TN four-star Cameron Ordway was no coincidence—and while they'll pursue Crawford, his recruitment isn't heading in the right direction:
Recent decommit Shaun Crawford tells me that #Michigan definitely still has a chance with him. I'm personally not very optimistic.
— Brandon Brown (@CoachBrown3) May 24, 2014
247's Notre Dame insider believes a commitment to the Irish could be imminent, which would not surprise. Wherever he ends up, best of luck to the young man—if your sentiments are markedly different, consider refraining from commenting on this post. Fair warning.
Other Than That...
Yes, today's roundup started on a sour note, but the rest of the recent developments in the 2015 class are actually quite positive.
Things are looking especially good with four-star CT TE Chris Clark, who named Michigan his leader after his last visit and plans to see Ann Arbor again—along with Tennessee, Arizona State, and possibly North Carolina and Ohio State—before announcing his decision at The Opening on July 10th. The return trip is a good sign on its own, and the recruiting efforts of Alex Malzone appear to be paying off as well, per 247's Rusty Mansell ($):
There are few top prospects that Clark says he would like to play on the next level with.
“Oh man, that is a tough one, there is a couple of them, I like Matt Burrell a lot,” he said.”If we are talking quarterbacks, I definitely wouldn’t mind catching passes from Brady White (ASU commit), or Alex Malzone, who just committed to Michigan.”
Mansell, writing that post for 247's Georgia outlet, commented that he thinks Michigan is the ultimate destination. 11W's Jeremy Birmingham has the same gut feeling, as well. That would be especially tough for OSU given their other top TE target, Hale Hentges, committed to Alabama over the weekend. (Hentges also held a Michigan offer, but it's clear the Wolverines have dialed in their efforts on Clark.)
Meanwhile, Michigan made a slew of top lists for some quality 2015 targets. Four-star OH OLB Justin Hilliard named the Wolverines to his final five along with Notre Dame, Iowa, Ohio State, and Alabama, per Rivals' Josh Helmholdt ($):
"Michigan is definitely a school I have a lot of comfort with," Hilliard said. "Coach [Greg] Mattison, the linebackers coach, is very cool, very experienced and coached some of the greatest linebackers in the League. He is very involved in my recruiting right now.
Hilliard expects to make a decision before his senior season.
Michigan landed in the top three for OH DE Dre'Mont Jones, though they still have work to do to reach the top of his list, per 247's Tom Loy ($):
“Ohio State is No. 1 right now, then Michigan, then Notre Dame,” Jones mentioned. “Ohio State has the edge because I always have a great time when I’m up there. I like how they run their practices and I like how the coaches treat the players and it’s a great school.”
It's tough to see Jones ending up anywhere but Columbus, but Michigan at least has a shot—Jones plans to see Ann Arbor as one of several summer visits.
Cass Tech RB Mike Weber cleared up any misconception that U-M isn't among his top schools, telling Scout's Josh Newkirk they're in his top five with MSU, OSU, Wisconsin, and Tennessee, while also discussing Doug Nussmeier's offense in a very positive light ($):
“He coached a lot of great backs that are in the league right now or are going to the league,” Weber said. “So when he tells me things, I believe – because there is proof. He’s going to be good.”
Weber was slated to visit over the weekend, rooming with his old CT teammate David Dawson. After he seemed to cool on the Wolverines over the course of last season, it seems like the Nussmeier hire has really helped Michigan get back into serious contention.
Funchess-sized four-star IL WR Miles Boykin put Michigan in his top ten, as announced on Twitter. Aside from Florida and Oregon, it's a very Midwest group. According to 247's Steve Wiltfong, Michigan is up near the top of that group, and Boykin is set to visit on June 6th ($).
U-M also appears in the top ten for four-star TX S Khalil Haughton, whose list shows he's very willing to consider out of state schools.
[Hit THE JUMP for details on the latest strong camp showing from Alex Malzone, who Michigan's quarterback commit is recruiting himself, and MSU fans not grasping the core concept behind rankings changes.]
Malzone Gets The Bump
Because way too many people my age think Kanye wrote a great horn line for "Touch The Sky"
After updating their top 100 on Monday, Rivals continued this week with a revised Rivals250 and newly minted four-star prospects. In the former, Shaun Crawford (#111) and Tyree Kinnel (#193) both had very minor drops, while Darrin Kirkland Jr. moved up from #183 to #167. In the latter, Alex Malzone led off the list of non-Rivals250 prospects to earn the four-star bump:
Malzone has consistently upped his play over the last year, doing so again most recently at the RCS Detroit, where he brought home the quarterback MVP award. We already knew he had a strong arm and his team's state title last fall showed he has the intangibles as well. What Malzone showed at the Rivals Camp was pinpoint accuracy on his throws, showing he has taken ownership of his arm mechanics. College coaches were also impressed by his workout this spring, and he accepted an offer from Michigan in May. - Josh Helmholdt, Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Analyst
While the Michigan commitment certainly earned Malzone a closer look from recruiting analysts, it sounds like he was well on his way to that fourth star with or without the Wolverine pledge. As I said in yesterday's roundtable, I expect ESPN and 247 to follow suit eventually. Either way, Malzone is now officially ineligible for MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year status.
Crawford Update: Mixed Messages
According to Josh Helmholdt, after speaking with the coaches, Shaun Crawford still considers himself a Michigan commit:
— Michael Spath (@Spath_Wolverine) May 22, 2014
Considering he visited Notre Dame last weekend, that'd be a departure from the usual way the coaches have handled these situations—if a prospect takes visits, they're not considered a commitment—but perhaps they've reevaluated how they'd like to handle this type of scenario.
Or, potentially, not. Rumors abound that the Crawfords aren't at all pleased about Michigan's visit policy, and Sam Webb no longer considers Shaun a commit:
— nezz21〽 (@nezzy21) May 19, 2014
I doubt that is just Sam's opinion. Notably, Crawford is no longer listed among Michigan's 2015 class on Scout. There's a rumor on the GBW board that Crawford may not visit Ohio State, which would be good news; that may also be an indication he's leaning towards ND, however. Hopefully this situation clears up one way or the other before too long, as I dislike the soap opera aspect of recruiting as much as anybody.
[Hit THE JUMP for news on several new offers, updates on top targets in both the 2015 and 2016 classes, and much more.]
From Darrin Kirkland's junior highlights, which you should watch.
Four-star IN ILB Darrin Kirkland Jr. became Michigan's seventh 2015 commit, and second in the last week, when he made his pledge while visiting campus yesterday. You can find his Hello post here, and Brandon caught up with him for an interview posted this morning. A pleasant bit of news that didn't make either post appeared in a short piece in the Indy Star—Kirkland plans to enroll early:
"I feel good and my family is extremely proud," Kirkland said. "I can't wait to graduate and head over there in the winter time."
Kirkland plans to graduate in December and take part in Michigan's spring practice in 2015. Kirkland had 71 solo tackles, 40 assisted tackles and three sacks last season.
Even though there are plenty of inside linebackers on the roster in the classes ahead of him, making early PT something of a longshot, it never hurts to get a head start on navigating both the playbook and college life in general.
When we left off last week, Shaun Crawford had told the coaches of his plans to visit Notre Dame and Ohio State. Now we can add another school to that list:
DB Shaun Crawford says he will also be visiting Miami in June. Hasn't talked to Hoke yet
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) May 17, 2014
Right on the heels of that Crawford news comes word that Michigan has offered another 2015 cornerback:
2015 DB Cameron Ordway (Pulaski, Tenn.) says Michigan offered.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) May 19, 2014
Ordway is a four-star and the #21-ranked cornerback in the class according to the 247 Composite, and his offer sheet—which includes Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, FSU, LSU, Notre Dame, OSU, Ole Miss, PSU, and Tennessee—is quite impressive.
Tennessee and Ole Miss are currently favored on the Crystal Ball. Given that list of interested parties, I'll believe Ordway has serious interest if, and only if, he makes it to campus.
Speaking of offers to highly sought prospects that probably won't come here, Michigan offered the nation's #10 WDE, Georgia prospect Arden Key, according to 247's Kipp Adams. Key's already named a powerhouse-laden top five:
Last week Key named a top 5, in order, of Oregon, Miami, LSU, Ole Miss and South Carolina.
There's time for U-M to get involved, as Key plans to decide at the Army AA Bowl, but I'd put him in the same category as Ordway—until there's word of a visit, I wouldn't get too optimistic.
The 2015 Rivals100 got an update today, and it features a lone Michigan commit: Garrett Taylor, who took a slight dip from #41 to #48 overall, though he remains the #6 corner in their position rankings. A few of U-M's top targets were among the biggest movers, both good and bad:
- FL RB Jacques Patrick jumped 26 spots to #18 overall and picked up a fifth star. He's now the second-ranked running back on the list, behind only Damien Harris (#4 overall).
- FL WR George Campbell lost his fifth star and tumbled 26 spots to #42 overall; Rivals cited continued concerns about his catching ability.
- CA WDE Keisean Lucier-South moved up 40 spots to #35 overall after being "virtually unstoppable" at multiple camps this spring.
- NC SDE Darien Roseboro, who recently named U-M to his top ten and may very well have the Wolverines out in front, moved down from #45 to #79. With Roseboro now weighing 283 pounds, Rivals pegs him as a tweener who may have to move inside.
Other prospects of interest include IL DT Terry Beckner Jr. (#32), OH OLB Justin Hilliard (#49), UT OLB Osa Masina (#58), MN DE Jashon Cornell (#76), and VA DE Clelin Ferrell (#77).
Rivals named Tyree Kinnel as the #10 performer among defensive backs who participated in one of their camps, citing his ability to cover like a cornerback ($):
The 6-foot, 190-pound Kinnel is a safety prospect, but he was able to show off the coverage skills of a cornerback en route to winning MVP honors at RCS Columbus. Not surprising considering he is a safety, Kinnel was physical at the line of scrimmage and bumped wide receivers off their routes. He was also able to open his hips and run with them down the field. Kinnel is headed to Michigan, making a commitment to the Wolverines last summer.
IL DT Terry Beckner Jr. has been quiet on the recruiting trail—so far, the only visit he's made was to nearly Mizzou—but he told Tim Sullivan that he plans to visit a couple familiar schools ($):
"I'll go to camp June 1 at Ohio State," Beckner explained. I'm excited to get there.
"I haven't made it up to Michigan yet. I'm going to try to go there. Their coach was just at the school, I think coach Hecklinski. I really haven't had a chance to talk to him yet though."
We'll see here—the fact that the OSU date is set and the Michigan one isn't is of some concern.
Tip o' the cap to Rice for winning the recruiting game. Shut it down. We can all go home now.
Crap, This Again
Just when Michigan had finally received some good recruiting news, 247's Tom Loy dropped a big ol' WELP this morning ($):
I've confirmed with a source in [Michigan commit Shaun] Crawford's camp, who gave the green light to report this information at this time, that Shaun, accompanied by his father, brother and a close friend, will take an unofficial visit to Notre Dame on Sunday. They will arrive early in the morning, stay for most of the day, and then head home Sunday evening.
Crawford has not decommitted from Michigan and he's informed the staff that he will visit South Bend this weekend.
This isn't the first time Crawford's considered a post-commitment visit to South Bend, and this time it's more than just a rumor. He had very serious interest in the Irish early in his recruitment but didn't have an offer from them when he pledged to Michigan; when Notre Dame replaced departed DC Bob Diaco with Brian Vangorder, Crawford picked up that offer.
Notre Dame isn't the only school Crawford is planning to visit, either, as 247's Bob Kurelic confirmed he'll also check out Ohio State on May 31st ($).
Crawford maintains he's committed to Michigan, and it's important to note that he informed the coaches ahead of time about his intentions to take visits—not doing so was a major issue for this staff in the cases of Pharaoh Brown and David Dawson. The infamous "Policy" is going to get a lot of play as Crawford takes these visits, so let's clear up what this really means:
And as we've all reported/wrote a million times: Hoke's "policy" says if you visit elsewhere, they'll start recruiting your spot again
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) May 15, 2014
There's a huge difference between "recruiting your spot again" and completely breaking off a commitment. Michigan is likely to look around at other cornerbacks, though they could decide not to—it's not a huge position of need in the class and they've also got top-100 corner Garrett Taylor in the fold. If Crawford decides he still wants to be at Michigan after looking around, it's highly unlikely that door is closed; remember how Dawson's recruitment played out, and he was far less up front with the coaches about his visit intentions than Crawford.
This isn't good news, of course. Crawford is a hell of a prospect, and if he goes elsewhere it'll be difficult to replace him with a similar talent. Before hitting the panic button, however, let's see how these visits play out.
[Hit THE JUMP for what's actually an entirely positive recruiting roundup save for what you've already read, including more on Alex Malzone's commitment, three top 2015 prospects showing very serious Michigan interest, and more.]