"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Fasten Your Seatbelts?
Four-star 2016 PA WR Cameron Chambers will announce his college choice tomorrow, and while he released a top five on Monday the overwhelming consensus is he'll pick between Michigan and Michigan State, the two schools he visited most recently. No one seems to have a good read on which of the two he'll pick, however, including his high school coach, per Scout's Brian Dohn ($):
"I really don't know what he wants to do," Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson. "I think he had a good time at Michigan, and had a great time at Michigan State. He was at Michigan for two days, and he said Michigan State was awesome, and he said the same thing about Michigan.
I haven't been able to find a specific time for the announcement tomorrow—I don't think Chambers has determined one—but I'll update if/when one comes out.
KLS Top Five: Michigan In, USC and ND Out
Five-star CA WDE Keisean Lucier-South trimmed his list to five schools this week. Michigan made it, which won't shock anyone, but a pair of omissions might, per Scout's Greg Biggins ($):
On the recruiting front, Lucier-South cut his list down to a final five that consisted of Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon, Michigan and UCLA.
"Those are the five schools that I felt most comfortable with and the ones that I felt matched my style the best," Lucier-South said. "It was really hard to cut Notre Dame and USC. Those two schools have been on me hard for a long time but I just felt like the five I choose were the best fits for me."
KLS had mentioned Notre Dame as a school he planned to see on an official visit, while USC is one of just two schools—along with UCLA—that he's visited unofficially. Now he's planning to take trips to each of his top five schools before a Signing Day decision.
Oregon and Oklahoma are relative newcomers to the party, though they could both very well be a major factor in Lucier-South's recruitment going forward. For now, UCLA and Michigan are generally regarded as the schools out in front.
More BBQ Reactions: Jalen Bates
Sam Webb's latest Detroit News article* is a great wrapup of last Sunday's BBQ at the Big House, and it includes some very glowing quotes from three-star LA DE Jalen Bates, who moved Michigan into his top five after his visit:
“(Michigan is in) the top five right now for sure,“ said Bates. “(The barbecue) was fun. It was one of the (most fun) times I’ve had. They treated me like family. All the coaches, they all treated me like they have been recruiting all their life. They all kind of flocked to me and they treated me like I was a celebrity. I liked the way they treated my family — all the coaches’ wives and their kids.”
“(Michigan assistant Fred Jackson) was like one of my uncles. It was like he missed me. We hung out almost the whole time. It was like I was out here visiting family, and I haven’t even met some of these people. It was cool.”
Bates had a September 19th decision date set before the visit, and he plans to stick to that timeline. A Scout article published yesterday appeared to indicate that Michigan was suddenly out of the mix, as it quoted Bates saying he'd choose between Mississippi State, Texas Tech, and Louisiana-Lafayette. While that is apparently Bates' top three, he insisted on Twitter that isn't a concrete top group, and Michigan is still very much under consideration:
Why would I kick UM out . Grew up watching UM. They just have a few negs & pos. That I have to weigh out
— Jalen Bates (@KINNG_MEE) July 31, 2014
One of those negatives is almost certainly distance from home, and getting Bates back on campus before his decision could go a long way towards convincing him that shouldn't be a huge factor. Luckily, Bates told 247's Steve Lorenz that a return trip to Ann Arbor is likely to happen ($):
"I am gonna try to get to a game before I decide," he said. "Michigan is probably going to get an official. They were already in my top five going into this visit and they really, really helped themselves on this visit. It was a real surprise how much I liked it there and how much fun I had. I know Michigan is great academically; top 10 in the country and top 20 in the world. They definitely stand out that way. I'm looking for a school and coaching staff that can develop me. That's the biggest thing for me. Wherever I go, I am ready to work as hard as I can; I want to play for coaches that can take that hard work and help turn me into a great player."
I like Michigan's chances if Bates follows through on that official; if he doesn't, I'd be surprised if he ends up straying too far from home.
*Strongly suggest you click through and read that whole thing, as there's a lot of good stuff in there I'm not bothering to reprint here since it's free and all.
Even More BBQ Reactions: Bredeson, Holyfield
Michigan got a nice leg up in the recruitment of top-50 2016 WI OT Ben Bredeson when his older brother, Jack, committed to the baseball team while the family was in town for the BBQ. Per Lorenz, Bredeson is already planning a game visit, and he'll likely see the Wolverines a couple times on the road, as well ($):
Going forward, Bredeson does not look to make a commitment until sometime next spring or summer. A group of schools has separated themselves at this point with Michigan, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Ohio State being among those considered most at this point.
"It's a really good feeling to have such great programs wanting you to play for them," he said. "Right now, I'm looking at returning to Michigan for a visit when they play Penn State. I also might end up seeing them play at Notre Dame and at Ohio State this season as well. It will depend on how I am able to work my schedule because I have practice on Saturday mornings after my games on Friday. I'm hoping to make it work though."
The Penn State game, as expected, is shaping up to be Michigan's biggest in-season recruiting event.
2016 four-star RB Elijah Holyfield camped at Michigan this summer; he told Tim Sullivan that coming back for the BBQ—and bringing his mother and step-father—was actually his idea, which sounds pretty encouraging from Michigan's perspective ($):
"A couple recruits had told me about it, and I called Coach Hecklinski and he thought it'd be a good idea to get my parents up there, and I wanted my parents to see it also," Holyfield explained. "I really like Michigan a lot, so I wanted them to see it and see how they like it also. I thought it'd be a good time to come back up.
"Me and my parents got there the day before, so I got the chance to sit down with all the coaches one-on-one and talk to them. That really helped a lot. Any questions that my parents had, they were able to answer. It was really nice, I really enjoyed myself on the whole visit."
Holyfield said the trip "definitely helped Michigan" in his recruitment, and he indicated that his parents were also quite impressed. He might come back again for a game this fall.
Steve Lorenz reported that the top-ranked running back in the 2016 class, five-star New Jersey product Kareem Walker, will visit Michigan next week ($). While there will be tons of competition for Walker's signature, Michigan has a couple things going for them: they were one of the first programs to offer Walker a scholarship, and Walker's connected with fellow Jersey native Jabrill Peppers.
Congratulations to 2015 commit Darrin Kirkland, who accepted an invite to the Army All-American Game yesterday.
Happy trails to former commit George Campbell, who released a top ten that didn't include Michigan ($). The only two non-ACC/SEC schools to make the list are UCLA and... Maryland. Okay, then.
An off-the-radar name to remember: Darrin Paulo, a three-star 2015 OL from Sacramento, told Scout's Brandon Huffman that Michigan is under consideration for his final official visit spot ($):
“I know where I’m going to visit, but I don't have dates,” said Paulo. “Washington State, UCLA, USC and Oregon are the main four I know I want to visit. I think I will take all five though and I’m debating the last one in my mind. I’m still considering Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona State for the last one.”
Scout and Rivals both list Paulo as holding a Michigan offer. It seems unlikely anything will come from this, but it's at least worth noting.
Cole Commits, Plans To Enroll Early
Michigan's BBQ at the Big House proved a success even before meat hit grill when Saginaw Heritage WR/DB Brian Cole committed to the Wolverines on Saturday, becoming the ninth commit in the 2015 class and giving U-M a big head-to-head win over MSU for the top-ranked player in the state. Multiple outlets report that Cole will start out as a slot receiver in Doug Nussmeier's system, though with his size and athleticism he'll likely move around the formation a bit.
Cole didn't head into his weekend visit with plans to commit, but he told MLive's Nick Baumgardner the visit changed his mind:
"But everything felt right, everything felt like home," the Saginaw Heritage football star said Saturday. "This morning, I just felt it. Instead of wasting time going to the other schools, I just wanted to end it. This just felt like the place I wanted to be."
Fellow Saginaw native Roy Manning played a huge role in Cole's commitment—in the same article, Cole said "it seemed like I've known him my whole life." While the jury's obviously still out on Manning as a cornerbacks coach, there's no question he's a heck of a recruiter.
Cole also plans to enroll early, which should assuage fears that his commitment won't stick. His pledge moved Michigan up to fifth in the Big Ten (#29 nationally) in the 247 Composite team rankings, even though the Wolverines are tied for the fewest number of commits in the conference. Michigan's average prospect rating is best in the conference and sixth nationally, behind only Alabama, USC, Texas A&M, UCLA, and Florida.
#BBQMaizeRace Produces Leader: Michigan
Could Marcus Lewis (second from L) join Garrett Taylor (back) in the Michigan secondary? (photo via Taylor)
Michigan added some excitement to the BBQ this year with the introduction of the #bbqmaizerace, in which the recruits on campus were split into teams and had to run around campus, Amazing Race-style, to take photos at various campus landmarks. The race played out on Twitter, which proved to be an excellent recruiting tactic—at least one major target who wasn't in attendance took notice of the new twist on a campus tour:
Wish i was at the #bbqmaizerace
— Keisean South (@KLSouth16) July 27, 2014
The event also made a major impact on the prospects in Ann Arbor, of course, especially 2015 four-star DC CB Marcus Lewis, who entered the weekend as a Florida commit. Lewis struck up a friendship with fellow corner Garrett Taylor, and after the visit he made it pretty clear he could see himself lining up across from Taylor in the future, per Sam Webb ($):
“Garrett Taylor… by far I definitely connected with him the most,” he said. “We spent a lot of time together. (We) just did different things and talked about different stuff. He is a good kid. We didn’t always talk about football. We talked about school... just different types of things. You could tell he is a really good kid, so we’re definitely going to get along.”
That last statement may not be a slip of the tongue. While Lewis hasn’t yet made a final decision on which school he’ll ultimately attend, he has made a decision about where Michigan now stands on his list.
“They’re definitely high,” Lewis said of the Maize & Blue. “They’re at the top. They’re right at the top.”
Lewis told Webb that Michigan, Oregon, and Miami are now the three schools he plans to take official visits to—in fact, that's his new top three, in order, per 247's Ryan Bartow($)—and "that will probably be it" before he makes a fall decision. Unsurprisingly, given the above, it didn't take Lewis long to end his commitment to Florida:
#Michigan target Marcus Lewis officially de-commits from Florida.
— Clint Brewster (@clintbrew247) July 28, 2014
Even if a commitment isn't imminent—Lewis told 247 that he wants to take his officials before making another pledge—Michigan looks to be in really good shape here.
That may not be the case with three-star Detroit King OLB Tyriq Thompson, who was considered by most insiders as a Michigan State lean heading into his BBQ visit. If that's true, Michigan looks like they'll be runners-up in this particular race, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“(Michigan is in the) same position as before I guess,” Thompson said.
“I’ve been thinking about everything (with my recruitment) these past couple days,” Thompson added.
Asked directly if he feels ready to make a decision and knows where he wants to go to school, Thompson answered swiftly.
“Yes,” he said.
While it was encouraging that Thompson made it to the BBQ before he announced his decision—a date/time hasn't been set yet, but one should come soon—either Michigan was in much better shape than most thought or he's headed to State.
Michigan did come out of the weekend still looking very strong for NC four-star SDE Darian Roseboro, who'll decide in about a month, as well as LA three-star WDE Jalen Bates, who told Webb that Michigan is "definitely" in his top five now ($).
BBQ: Weber Makes The Trip
In an encouraging sign for Michigan, Cass Tech RB Mike Weber took an early flight back from an unofficial to USC in order to make the BBQ. Weber pulled in a Trojans offer while out west, and they'll be a factor in his recruitment moving forward, as they made the top five list he gave GBW's Josh Newkirk after the BBQ ($):
After his visit to Michigan on Sunday, where does U-M stand in his recruitment?
Tennessee had previously been in his top five; the other four schools remain the same. While USC could definitely be a threat, the feeling surrounding Weber's recruitment is still that this is a Michigan-MSU battle, and the Wolverines seem to be building some serious momentum.
The Trojans already made a serious mark on Michigan recruiting last weekend, as they landed the consensus top player in the state's 2016 class, four-star Orchard Lake St. Mary's linebacker Daelin Hayes. Hayes received his USC offer while on an unofficial visit and jumped on it immediately.
BBQ: 2016 Commit Watch?
2016 Philadelphia (PA) Timber Creek four-star WR Cameron Chambers spent the weekend in Ann Arbor, and following the visit he's ready to make a decision, per 247's Steve Lorenz:
2016 Top100 wide receiver Cameron Chambers confirmed to Wolverine247 that he will release a top five on Monday and then will make his college decision on Friday.
Ohio State was considered the favorite heading into the visit, but the timing of the announcement—right after Chambers spent two days in Ann Arbor—is encouraging for Michigan. He announced his top five today and both schools made the cut, along with Alabama, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
BBQ: Cass Tech Updates
Four-star Cass Tech DL/OL Michael Onwenu almost missed the trip to Ann Arbor, but thankfully his coaches and teammates knew he'd be getting good news and lit up his phone, per The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan ($):
"I was actually asleep, and I had forgotten I was supposed to go to Michigan today," he said. "Since Coach Crowell and the other guys [Donovan Peoples-Jones, LaVert Hill, and Mike Weber] blew up my phone I had an idea the offer was coming."
"The offer is for DL," he said. "Coach Hoke offered personally, and wants me to play the nose. He said I did great at the camp. I was light in my feet and my burst and strength is amazing. Even though he said that, I thought I could've done better.
As someone who once slept through a midterm because I confused the dates... I know that feel, Michael.
Michigan offered Onwenu's teammate—and the younger brother of current U-M S Delano Hill—four-star CB Lavert Hill last week, and he told Wiltfong he had a "great time" at the BBQ ($). Ohio State also joined the fray with an offer last week, though confidence is high that Michigan will land Hill sooner or later.
Joining Onwenu and Hill—as well as Weber—on campus was standout 2017 Cass Tech WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, who should turn into one of the state's top prospects in his class. While Michigan hasn't yet put forth an offer, Ohio State, Miami (YTM), Penn State, and a few others already have.
BBQ: More 2016 Reactions
Michigan also got a major in with top-50 2016 WI OT Ben Bredeson, arguably the most coveted lineman in the Midwest, when his older brother Jack committed to the baseball program while both visited campus over the weekend. Ben told 247's Steve Wiltfong that the family trip to Ann Arbor was a great one:
"We are really excited [about Jack's commitment]," Bredeson said.
The football staff at Michigan was excited to see the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Bredeson back on campus, and no question they were pumped about the elder Bredeson committing to the school. It certainly can't hurt their chances with Ben, who had another positive experience in Ann Arbor.
"It was amazing as usual," Bredeson said. "I love coming here."
Michigan will get plenty of competition from Ohio State and Wisconsin, but only one of those schools has Bredeson's brother headed their way—we'll see how big a factor that plays as Ben's recruitment moves forward.
Another top-50 overall prospect, IL SDE Josh King, told Wiltfong that the trip was "amazing" and surpassed any of his previous visits ($):
King has been on a few visits to places like Iowa and Notre Dame but this was his favorite trip thus far.
"I'd have to say so," King started in. "The coaches were real. It seemed like the place to be. Just the overall experience."
Michigan also made inroads with a pair of four-star 2016 Indiana prospects. Four-star DE Auston Robertson pulled in an offer while at the BBQ, then gave his reaction to Wiltfong:
"Man it was great I got the offer," Robertson told 247Sports after leaving campus. He made the trip with friend, fellow 2016 four-star and major Michigan target in Top100 receiver Austin Mack.
"I love the coaching staff, but I'm going to stay humble and wait everything out with Austin."
Mack, who earned an offer earlier this summer at Michigan's camp, told Scout's Allen Trieu that 2016 U-M QB commit Messiah deWeaver is "my dude" and discussed the possibility of playing with Robertson at the next level ($):
"Yeah it's something that's definitely a key factor. We'd love to. Right now I'm talking with other schools to talk to him. We will work together to see if it's the right thing for us to do but we would love the opportunity to play together, so we'll see how that goes."
Package deals fall through more often than not, but for now this gives Michigan a solid recruiting pitch for both Robertson and Mack.
Four-star IL OLB TUF BORLAND also was in attendance at the BBQ, and while his offer list—Illinios and UMass—doesn't yet match his rankings, he feels that Michigan could help change that soon, per Sullivan ($):
"The visit went well," he said. "They said that they were really excited to have me up there, and they're really close to offering. They just said to keep doing what I'm doing, and that they'll be around my school soon."
Borland has been to U-M multiple times and only plans on visiting Illinois before his junior season begins; the Wolverines would have a very good shot with him if an offer comes through.
BBQ: 2017 (AHHHH) Update
2017 OLSM LB Josh Ross isn't getting pressured to commit yet, according to his father, but based on the vibe he gets in Ann Arbor it'd be a surprise if he didn't eventually suit up in Maize and Blue, per Allen Trieu ($):
"It's almost to the point come to those deals, especially Coach Mattison, we always see him, we always talk. We don't get into too much depth, just little stuff. Everybody comments on his size (6-2, 210) because the dude is so much bigger. Looking at him and he looks like somebody else, he doesn't look like my kid."
"It's like home up there," [father James Ross Sr.] added. "Not to say that's how we'll go with it, but with that group of guys up there, there's no pressure. It's family. It's how they do it. It's always laid back. They know and respect what kind of athlete he is."
Despite Daelin Hayes' commitment to USC, Ross is the reason I'll be scouting games at a blood-red field for the next few seasons.
Happy trails to three-star 2015 Cass Tech DL Joshua Alabi, who committed to Ohio State at their Friday Night Lights event over the weekend. While Michigan offered Alabi relatively early in the process, mutual interest between the two seemed to wane over the last several months.
While 2015 NC DE Kengera Daniel didn't end up making the BBQ, he told Scout's Michael Clark that Michigan is one of the schools he's seriously considering ($):
“Right now, the main schools I’m looking at are Tennessee, Michigan, Miami and Alabama,” said Kengera Daniel. “Those aren’t necessarily my top schools, but those are the schools I’ve been looking at the hardest. Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky still have a chance, too.
Daniel plans to take all five officials; Michigan is fighting for one of three spots there, as he's already reserving two of those for Tennessee and Alabama.
OT commit Erik Swenson came in at #70 on the initial 2016 Rivals100.
For the love of all things sacred and holy, somebody please do this with a baby wolverine.
Hi. I'm back, and ingeniously timed my return for the last roundup before the BBQ, which means... oh, jeez, there's a lot to catch up on. Time to get rid of, oh, 50 or so open tabs. I totally thought this one through, everyone.
BBQ Preview: Bad News First
Michigan's biggest summer recruiting event, the BBQ at the Big House, is on Sunday, and one of the program's top 2015 targets won't be able to make the trip as originally planned.
While four-star TN LB Josh McMillon maintains this is due to a logistical issue, and Michigan is still in the running for his commitment, this isn't the headline you want to see with a decision less than a month away, via Tim Sullivan:
McMillon will miss Barbecue, but nears decision
That decision is set for August 22nd, and the signs point to Alabama being the choice at this juncture. In a free Scout article, McMillon discussed his recent Ole Miss visit and current plans to visit Auburn before his final choice, but when talking about Michigan he didn't mention any plans to reschedule his trip to Ann Arbor. That doesn't look so good in conjunction with this quote:
Michigan is where his high school coach, Rodney Saulsberry, graduated.
"He always talks about what a good experience he had at Michigan. I probably know less about Michigan than the other schools, but I did get a chance to go up there and take a look around. I didn't know anyone from Michigan but a defensive lineman of theirs named Pip talked to me for a while. I got a chance to meet several of their players on their team. They told me that it is fun to play for their coaches. He said they are real happy with their coaching staff."
McMillon has been to Alabama multiple times, including with his parents. Unless he finds time to schedule a visit to Ann Arbor with his family in tow before his decision date, it'd be a major surprise if he didn't choose the Tide.
At least one top running back target won't make it this weekend, either. Per Sullivan, Damien Harris no longer plans to attend the BBQ ($). Mike Weber might not be able to make it, either, as he's visiting USC until Sunday and might not make it back in time to get to Ann Arbor before the BBQ is over—he says he's trying to make it work, however, and as you'll see below Michigan continues to work their way back to the top of his list.
BBQ Preview: The Good, And The List
Before I go any further, Brandon posted a tentative list of BBQ visitors last week; there have been a few other changes in addition to the cancellations of McMillon and Harris.
Four-star in-state ATH Brian Cole is off the "maybe" list; while he won't be at the BBQ itself, 247's Steve Lorenz reports he'll be on campus tomorrow with his father and uncle ($). Michigan will host one other pre-BBQ visitor this weekend: 2016 four-star PA WR Cameron Chambers, who'll visit on Saturday. There's also an addition to the visitor list for the BBQ: three-star LA DE Jalen Bates, who's seeing increased interest from top schools, including a recent offer from Texas A&M.
While a lot of the recent focus here has been on 2015 four-star Virginia Tech CB commit Mook Reynolds, who'll be at the BBQ, another corner committed elsewhere could be in line to take Shaun Crawford's vacated spot in the class. Four-star DC CB Marcus Lewis will be in town on Sunday—he told 247's Steve Wiltfong that U-M is "very close" to Florida, the school to which he's currently committed, and the Wolverines might even be in position to change his mind this weekend ($):
"I don't think I'll commit, but I'll definitely make progress," Lewis told 247Sports on Tuesday morning. "It'll be a great visit though."
At the very least, he's leaving open the chance that Michigan will make a serious move towards the top of his list. In addition to the coaches, a host of current U-M commits—including recruiting point man Alex Malzone—will be at the BBQ, and you can bet they'll be turning up the heat on Lewis, who said this will be his final visit of the summer.
If you're hoping for a commit watch, the best bet among offered prospects is four-star NC SDE Darian Roseboro, whose presumed leader is Michigan heading into his weekend visit; he's already planned an August 29th decision, however, and should stick to that unless his time on campus goes so well he can't wait that long—a definite possibility given this coaching staff's track record with campus visits. If he reels in an offer, 2015 three-star Birmingham WR Grant Perry, Malzone's top target on Brother Rice, could be a guy who commits immediately. Perry camped at Michigan each of the last four years and has the attention of the coaches.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on a pair of Cass Tech prospects, three new 2016 running back offers, updates on several key 2015 and 2016 targets, and more.]
Promising Quote Is Promising
Is four-star LB Josh McMillon looking blue? [photo via 247]
It's no secret that Michigan's scholarship availability for the 2015 class is dwindling. Per Sam Webb, that fact is not lost on four-star TN LB Josh McMillon, who's spoken very highly of the Wolverines lately ($):
One of the topics of discussion in recent weeks has been Michigan’s dwindling scholarship availability. McMillon is well aware that there is only one scholarship left for a linebacker, but he has made it a point to not let it affect his recruitment.
“They said I was number one on their boards, so I feel like if they did take someone it would be my loss rather than theirs,” he stated.
Well, hello there.
McMillon will visit for the BBQ at the Big House on July 27th, and he's also got trips planned to Alabama (July 12th) and Auburn (TBD) before a decision he'll make either in August or September. McMillon spoke in glowing terms about his last visit to Ann Arbor—when he was the first recruit to see the new Schembechler Hall renovations—from both a football and academic standpoint, as well as his close relationship with Chris Singletary.
A potential commitment from McMillon could leave four-star UT OLB Osa Masina, who named Michigan to his top five on Thursday, out of a spot—he doesn't plan to decide until the Army AA Game, per 247's Evan Flood ($). This is what we call a good problem.
Prospects are looking up on the defensive line, as well. Four-star NC SDE Darian Roseboro has Michigan as the only non-ACC/SEC school in his top six thanks to the connection he and his family have made with the coaching staff, especially Roy Manning, per Webb's latest DetNews article:
“I like the coaching staff,” said Roseboro to Scout.com. “They’re all down to earth and I have a real good relationship with them. I also enjoyed being around the players when I visited and I like the environment.”
His connection with Michigan assistant Roy Manning served as the catalyst for his initial interest. During the visit that bond quickly expanded to also include Roseboro’s parents.
“We got along perfect,” Roseboro’s father Johnny said. “(Manning) was like someone I have known for years. We just clicked and I liked that. He didn’t try to be anybody else. They are themselves. What you see is what you get. I like that.
Webb confirms that Roseboro will be in attendance at the BBQ, which gives U-M the chance to make another strong impression before he makes his college choice on August 29th. The whole article is well worth your time; notably, both Roseboro's mother and father made sure to note that distance won't play a factor, which is excellent news for Michigan given the other finalists. There's a very good chance the Wolverines add two highly touted defenders to the 2015 class before football season begins.
Obligatory 2015 Running Backs Update
While Damien Harris, Jacques Patrick, and Ray-Ray McCloud were also in attendance, the 2015 running back creating the most Michigan recruiting buzz at The Opening was Mike Weber, who showed up rocking the Maize and Blue, something both Alex Malzone and Darrin Kirkland were eager to point out. Whether on their own volition or by instruction from the coaches, Michigan's current commits have made Weber their top recruiting priority at the position, per GBW's Josh Newkirk ($):
“I’d probably say Mikey (Weber),” Malzone said, when asked which running back he wanted this years class. “I talk to Mikey a lot. I’ve known him from Cass Tech, Michigan native.
“Mike Weber, we’re getting him to go blue.”
With Malzone and Nussmeier both making Weber their No. 1 priority, Weber has no choice but to choose Michigan, right?
“Alex [Malzone] has just been saying come down there and have a good time with him,” Weber said on conversation with Malzone. “Hopefully that will affect my decision.”
Weber's recruitment has increasingly looked like an in-state battle; according to Newkirk, one-time contender Tennessee has backed off lately in their efforts to land Weber, potentially eliminating one of his top five schools.
Positive news for Michigan State could also be positive news for Michigan in this case. The Spartans pulled a recruiting coup on Friday, landing four-star OH RB LJ Scott in a head-to-head win over Ohio State. The Only Colors is projecting a relatively small class for MSU, and it's quite possible the Spartans are done with running back recruiting for 2015. That'd leave Ohio State, Wisconsin, and possibly Miami (YTM) as Michigan's competition for Weber, and the Wolverines would likely be out in front of that group. We should find out more when he's on campus for the BBQ.
That's good news on its own, and better still since U-M is on the outside looking in for their other top running back targets. Four-star FL RB Jacques Patrick told Scout that while Michigan is staying in regular contact with him, Florida State and Alabama are his top two schools ($). With an announcement already planned for October 27th, it looks unlikely U-M will climb back into contention.
Same goes for four-star FL ATH/RB Ray-Ray McCloud, who told Rivals' Adam Krohn that he'll decide on July 28th, and he already has his mind made up ($):
"I know the school I'm choosing," he said. "It felt right for me every time I went on campus, and the relationships I have with the coaches."
Florida is the overwhelming favorite. McCloud hasn't made it to Michigan's campus and doesn't plan to before his decision, so it's about time to wish him happy trails.
U-M isn't entirely out of quality options if Weber ends up elsewhere, however. There's always the chance Damien Harris re-commits, though that's not my expectation, and GBW reports that four-star Florida back and current soft Miami commit Dexter Williams will take official visits to Michigan, USC, and possibly Notre Dame ($).
In 2016 running back news, Michigan could be in on another ex-North Carolina commit after previously reeling in 2015 TE Chris Clark after his decommitment from the Tar Heels. The coach of four-star NC RB Antonio Williams told 247's Steve Lorenz that Michigan is "absolutely under consideration" after Williams decommitted from UNC over the weekend ($). Once again, it's Roy Manning making a major impact in that area:
"I know [Williams and Manning] had a great relationship for a long time," [Williams' coach] said. "We had always been led to believe that Michigan was going to make Antonio the first RB offer in their class, but they backed off a bit after he made his commitment to North Carolina. Antonio really likes Michigan a lot and always have. We are going to sit down in the very near future and discuss what his next moves are going to be as far as visits go."
Williams himself said he's looking to talk to Manning "as soon as he can," presumably to set up a visit. If he gets on campus, an offer is likely to follow for the nation's #8-ranked running back on the 247 Composite.
Kirkland, deWeaver Impress At Camps
While I can't find anything on Alex Malzone that isn't recruiting-related, Darrin Kirkland's performance at The Opening earned positive reviews, impressing Scout's national scouting guru over the course of the three-day event, per Newkirk ($):
“Kirkland stood out early in footwork drills and then showed his change of direction and straight ahead speed in one-on-one drills,” said Scout national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn, on Kirkland’s Tuesday performance. “He moved fast but remained patient. He was able to beat the running back to the point of attack on several drills and used his length well.”
Kirkland also took the opportunity to pitch Michigan to Weber, Harris, Patrick, and Masina. 247's Clint Brewster listed him as one of five Michigan commits or targets who look primed for a ratings bump after The Opening; Weber also made the cut after showing some impressive receiving ability out the backfield.
Meanwhile, 2016 QB commit Messiah deWeaver participated in the Rivals250 Underclassmen Challenge on Saturday, and Josh Helmholdt ranked him as the fourth-best signal-caller in attendance ($):
DeWeaver came to Jacksonville on a run of outstanding off-season performances, and he continued that momentum on Saturday. A year ago, the Ohio native had real loose mechanics and struggled with consistency, but he has developed into one of the more well-rounded quarterbacks in the 2016 class with clean mechanics and good footwork. The recent Michigan commit made some of his best throws during one-on-one play, fitting passes into tight windows and varying his trajectory well.
At the same event, 2016 Orchard Lake St. Mary's four-star Daelin Hayes won positional MVP honors among linebackers ($). He picked up a Notre Dame offer after a standout performance at their camp last month, adding to a list that already includes U-M, OSU, MSU, PSU, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. While this is a Midwest battle in the early going, and Michigan should be in good position to land him, expect more big-time competition to appear—he's looking like one of the top LB prospects in the class regardless of region.
Elite 11/The Opening Updates: Michigan Commits
Alex Malzone didn't make the cut from the 18 quarterbacks invited to the Elite 11 finals down to the top 11, as he couldn't put together enough consistency to move on, according to the camp's resident QB coach, Trent Dilfer (via the Freep):
“When you put him in an environment like this where it’s really fast and great athletes around you and every little microsecond of timing matters, there’s been some inconsistencies. His good is extremely good. His bad has been bad at times, and he’ll be the first to tell you that.”
Dilfer noted that Malzone's baseball background affects his mechanics as a quarterback—the football throwing motion requires a more compact delivery—which makes it tough to maintain consistency. That's apparent on the film from the first day of camp; on a few throws, Malzone keeps his motion pretty tight, but on others—especially the throws when he has to avoid rushers, a situation where a QB is likely to revert to their most natural-feeling delivery—he lets his throwing arm dip down too far, elongating the motion.
Playing in a loaded field while tweaking his mechanics on the fly, with a very limited number of reps to work with, Malzone making the final cut was a tall order. When I say limited reps, I mean limited reps, as Malzone relayed to Scout's Sam Webb and Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“Yesterday, all we had on the field was a red zone session, seven on seven, each quarterback had six throws, missed a couple of guys. I felt like I could have done better myself. I made up for it in the end. I threw one touchdown at the end and today I came out and did what I could do.”
Ultimately not selected in the top group of the Elite 11 following the rigorous workouts, Malzone just sees it as extra motivation, noting he most definitely gave it his all.
Malzone's moved on to The Opening, which is in its final day today, and as expected recruiting for Michigan is as much a focus as playing at the camp, per 247's Steve Lorenz ($):
"I've talked to [George] Campbell, [Mike] Weber, Keisean [Lucier-South], [Auden] Tate, Ray-Ray [McCloud], Damien [Harris], [Mook] Reynolds and Iman [Marshall]," [Malzone] said.
When asked which player seemed the most receptive to Michigan? "Mike Weber."
More on that last bit later in this post.
Michigan's other representative at The Opening, Darrin Kirkland, stood out as one of the best defensive performers on Tuesday, garnering top ten honors from Scout's Allen Trieu...
Darrin Kirkland - Linebacker, Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence Central
Kirkland, a Michigan commit, has worked hard on his ability to run and move in space and that was on display today as he was one of the top linebackers in coverage. He could run with backs and did a nice job playing the ball in the air, coming away with a couple of interceptions.
...and earning a mention as one of the top four linebackers in attendance from 247's Barton Simmons:
Michigan commit Darrin Kirkland Jr. doesn’t strike you as an overwhelming kid athletically but he is always in the right place, he doesn’t get shaken in space, he can get in the hip pocket of a tight end or running back and he can make a play downfield on the football.
For a prospect whose ability to stuff the run is supposed to be his biggest strength, Kirkland sure gets a lot of camp praise for his coverage. That came up a fair amount during last year's camp season, as well.
2015 Updates: Running Backs
Things are happening on the running back front, as both Damien Harris and the aforementioned Mike Weber will visit for this month's BBQ at the Big House. Harris, who's at The Opening, told 247's Luke Stampini that he's still searching for that feeling he had when he initially committed to Michigan ($):
“I still talk to Coach (Doug) Nussmeier and Coach (Brady) Hoke now and then. People think I lost all connections with Michigan because I decommitted. That wasn’t the case. I just wanted to step back and reevaluate my options.”
He’ll be looking for that spark he once had with Michigan the next time he’s in Ann Arbor.
“Just that feeling I got when I was there initially, the first couple times when I was committed,” Harris said. “That family feel I got with Coach Hoke and the staff. Just kind of reconnect with them.”
Alabama, Kentucky, and Ohio State are the other schools that seem to have separated themselves from the pack. After landing commitments from Jashon Cornell and Justin Hilliard last week, the Buckeyes may very well have the edge, per Webb ($):
“I’d be lying if I said (the Hilliard and Cornell commitments) didn’t impact me a lot,” Harris stated. “Those are just two of my good friends that I’ve become friends with in this whole recruiting process. We all talked about playing together like you said, and now that they’ve committed it gives me more to think about… if I do still want to play with them, or if they (just) went to the school that I like. I just have to take all these things into my thought process and making my decision.”
Harris plans to cut his list to five just before his senior season, then take official visits to each of those schools. Michigan should make the cut, but I get the feeling Ohio State will be tough to overcome. Don't everybody sigh at once, now.
The good news is Michigan still seems to be trending up with Weber, and he's not the only other option should Harris end up elsewhere. Four-star FL RB Dexter Williams, who's "80-percent committed to [Miami]," told Scout's Gerard Martinez that Michigan is one of three other schools he plans to visit ($):
“I know I’m taking an official visit to USC and Michigan as well. I might also officially visit Notre Dame too if I can’t get out there this summer on my own.”
Another, potentially more realistic, option is three-star MO RB Alec Murphy, who recently named a top four of Iowa, Purdue, Mississippi State, and Michigan. Among that group, only the Wolverines haven't offered him, which leads me to believe they'd have a great shot to land him if they eventually extend one. The quote he gave to Scout's Derek Young about Michigan and his decision timeline makes it seem like he may even be waiting on U-M before making his choice ($):
Michigan: "They haven't offered me, yet. An offer could come at some point. They've had a lot of interest in me. I'm hoping they possibly offer because they are a great program."
A summer decision is not out of the question for Murphy.
"I'm thinking about making my decision over the summer," he pointed out. "I'm not real sure yet. If I find the right place before the season then I will make my commitment."
With Ty Isaac in the fold and likely redshirting, my guess is Michigan will wait on the higher-ranked backs before moving on to Murphy—they only need one back in the class, and Murphy seems like a prospect they could offer late in the process and earn a commitment even if he's pledged elsewhere.
2015 Updates: Everything Else
While also mentioning that he's trying to set up a visit for the BBQ, as well as confirming U-M will receive one of his official visits, four-star TN LB Josh McMillon told 247's Clint Brewster two schools are currently standing out to him ($):
Ranked as the 11th best player in Tennessee and the 17th best outside linebacker, McMillon mentioned some programs that have an edge at this point in the process.
“Michigan, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt. Michigan and Alabama are pretty much on top I would say.”
Florida State, Ohio State, and USC are also in the mix, as McMillon said he plans to take official visits to those schools—he can visit the SEC schools among his top group without having to use officials. While that's stiff competition, Sam Webb posted a very positive outlook on Michigan's standing with McMillon on the GBW board ($). Michigan looks to be in very good shape here.
Another standout linebacker at The Opening, four-star UT OLB Osa Masina, plans to cut his list to five before the season starts, per TomVH ($). In that same board post, Webb suggested Michigan could be on the outside looking in due to distance playing a bigger factor that Masina originally expected. Tyriq Thompson and Asmar Bilal are more realistic candidates to end up in the class, as Brandon suggested earlier today.
The pipe dream of landing five-star CA CB Iman Marshall seems to be exactly that; while Marshall previously mentioned a possible July visit in addition to a potential official visit, he told Webb and Bogenschutz at The Opening that nothing has been set yet ($):
One other visit Marshall has been toying with taking is to Ann Arbor to check out Brady Hoke and the Michigan Wolverines.
“It’s still in the planning stages,” Marshall said. “Like I said it’s really been a hectic couple of months and stuff like that so I want to sit down with my parents and discuss what our visit plans are going to be, our travel plans are going to be, so it correlates all together.”
Working in Michigan's favor, however, is the presence of Freddy Canteen, who's been recruiting Marshall since they worked out at the same gym recently. If Marshall is going to get to campus, though, it seems like an official visit is the best bet, and regardless of the visit situation he'll be an extremely tough pull from the West Coast.
Another potential Shaun Crawford replacement, DC CB Marcus Lewis, a current Florida commit, told GatorBait.net that—along with Miami and Oregon—Michigan is one of three schools that'll receive an official visit from him ($):
On Michigan: "They've been recruiting me really hard even though I'm committed. Coach (Kurt) Mallory, coach (Roy) Manning and the whole staff down there. I've heard it's a nice campus, and they're rebuilding. They got a good 2014 class in, so we're going to see what they can do in the Big Ten.
"Right now they look good. Coach (Brady) Hoke, we had a good conversation. I mean he basically said he needs corners. They've got corners on the way out and they need that next Reed to come in. They've got Garrett Taylor and another kid committed, so they need one more DB.
Lewis doesn't seem very strong in his Florida pledge; in the same article, he mentioned concern over the number of cornerbacks they've taken recently (four in the 2014 class, two in 2015). If that's a major factor, uh, nobody show him the depth chart, okay?
Four-star NC SDE Darian Roseboro named Michigan to his top six along with Alabama, Clemson, North Carolina, NC State, and Tennessee, per Scout's Michael Clark ($). He's set to announce on August 29th, and Michigan looks to have serious momentum in their favor right now; if he picked today, they'd likely be the choice.
Four-star FL WR Auden Tate is another top prospect who's trying to set up a visit to the BBQ, and he's slated to take an official to Ann Arbor during the season, per 247's Luke Stampini ($). Tate described U-M as a "dream school" and his "favorite school" growing up, though Florida State, Florida, and Georgia are also serious contenders. With Miles Boykin off the board to Notre Dame, expect the coaches to make a serious push for Tate.
ESPN released their initial Junior 300 for the 2016 class. Messiah deWeaver came in at #115 overall (#11 pro-style QB), while Erik Swenson landed at #256 (#20 OT). ESPN's scouting report on Swenson is quite light on details, so it's quite possible he moves up after further looking into his game (assuming ESPN does so).
The #50 overall player on that list (and #41 in the 247 Composite), LA OT Willie Allen, told Tim Sullivan that Michigan will get a visit from him, though the timing could be a ways off ($):
"I know they're close to an Ivy League school academically, but I really don't know too much about them," [Allen] said of the Wolverines. "I plan on taking a visit up there, but financial-wise, it's when my family can really afford it. I'll have to talk to Coach Fred and see what we can do. It'll probably be next summer. If I can get the money this year, I'll definitely take a visit to Michigan. I plan on waiting it out until senior year, and then making my commitment to a school. But I'm open right now. Every offer that I have as of now is equal. I just want to wait it out."
If Allen makes his way to Ann Arbor, Michigan will be in on one of the most coveted prospects in the 2016 class; as always, however, a top-flight prospect from Louisiana should be presumed to go to LSU or Alabama until all signs say otherwise.
Four-Star Vine, I'd Say
It's perhaps the biggest week in camp season, as the Elite 11(-ish) is underway and Nike's elite camp The Opening begins tomorrow. Quarterback Alex Malzone is representing Michigan in both events, and linebacker Darrin Kirkland will join him for The Opening; tight end Chris Clark was also slated to attend the latter event, but pulled out due to personal reasons, per Tim Sullivan ($).
Day one of the Elite 11 finals is already in the books, though the meat of the event takes place today. Malzone measured in at 6'1", 202 pounds when he arrived, and told 247's Barton Simmons of his recruiting plans for later this week:
"I've built some good relationships with a lot of our top targets," he said. "Auden Tate and Michael Weber are a couple guys I'm looking to talk to. Keisean Lucier-South is another big one. Ray-Ray McCloud is another. The coaches have mentioned some guys I should talk to, but I've done most of the work on my own. I'm looking forward to meeting all the players Darrin (Kirkland) and I have been talking to and finding out the interest."
Simmons suggested both Malzone and Kirkland are poised to move up in 247's rankings if they turn in solid performances this week; Malzone recently moved into high three-star territory (and picked up a fourth star on the 247 Composite) and seems likely to earn a fourth from 247 sooner or later. The E11 quarterbacks who haven't already been selected will also get the opportunity to play for a spot in the Army All-American Bowl. In a brief, free update from the first day of E11, Simmons praised Malzone's presence, focus, and arm strength. So far, so good.
If you're looking to watch any of the camps, The Opening will be televised on ESPNU starting tomorrow night; the full schedule is here.
Happy Trails: Four Off The Board
I'm equally confused, Tim.
Four prospects holding Michigan offers went off the board since last Wednesday; three decisions went as expected, while one came as a bit of a surprise.
Nobody was shocked when both five-star OLB Justin Hilliard and four-star DL Jashon Cornell committed to Ohio State during simultaneous announcements last week; each favored the Buckeyes recently and stated a desire to play together. Jumbo WR Miles Boykin's commitment to Notre Dame was similarly predictable.
Then there's three-star TX WR A.D. Miller, who holds offers from the likes of Arizona State, BYU, Miami (YTM), Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. He chose...
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) July 6, 2014
With Boykin and Miller off the table, expect Michigan to make a hard push for another big wideout, 6'4" FL four-star Auden Tate, whose recruitment may come down to a battle between the Wolverines, Florida State (the presumed leader), and Florida. With the other offered receivers on Michigan's board likely ticketed elsewhere, it wouldn't surprise if some new offers went out, as well.
Michigan stopped recruiting Cornell because he'd gained enough weight to project inside; they'd previously wanted him as a weakside DE, and the top option there remains five-star California prospect Keisean Lucier-South, who gave an update on his recruitment to Brandon last week. As for outside linebacker, U-M is high on the respective lists of UT four-star Osa Masina and in-state four-star legacy Tyriq Thompson. Four-star TN ILB Joshua McMillon, who's had very good things to say about the Wolverines recently, could also project to the outside.
2015 Visit Updates
Per 247's Ryan Bartow, four-star NC CB Mook Reynolds, a current Virginia Tech commit, will visit Ann Arbor for July 27th's BBQ at the Big House. While a few other big-name schools are also in pursuit, that's the only visit he's got planned for now. He'll be at The Opening, as well, where he'll likely get some attention from Michigan's pair of commits in attendance.
Also planning a BBQ visit is three-star NC DE Kengera Daniel, whose ranking belies an impressive offer sheet that includes Alabama, Miami (YTM), and Tennessee in addition to Michigan. According to Tim Sullivan($), Daniel plans to take his official visits before making a decision during his senior season; securing one of those officials will be key for landing his commitment.
Scout's Sam Hellman caught up with recently offered four-star NJ ATH Ahmir Mitchell, who told him that unlike all the other schools that have offered him as a receiver, Michigan is recruiting him as a safety ($).
Four-star IN DE Auston Robertson, who camped at Michigan and is expecting an offer relatively soon, will be back in Ann Arbor for the BBQ, per 247's Steve Lorenz ($). While Notre Dame is his early leader, he said that the Wolverines would join them at the top of his list if they come through with an offer.
Five-star Cincinnati (OH) Elder OL Tommy Kraemer told Lorenz that Michigan could join a pair of familiar foes at the top of his list should the coaches, as expected, extend him an offer ($):
Kraemer, who holds offers from Ohio State and Notre Dame among others, says the Wolverines would immediately join that top group with an offer.
"They're the team I grew up following," he said. "My dad coached a former Michigan player and I've always been told about how great of a place it is there. I would want to visit and see it for myself first, but I am pretty sure they would be right there with the other schools I'm highly considering."
Kraemer was invited to the BBQ, but is unlikely to attend because of a conflict with his high school team's camp; he's looking to set up a visit before that camp starts on July 17th. With Kraemer planning to make a decision after his junior season, expect Michigan to throw their hat in the ring whenever he gets on campus.