LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE ARE RECRUITING IN SPACE
Hi. Ace is off for the next week and I, Brian, am piloting you through the interstellar gulf that exists between your brain and those of extremely talented young football players who haven't instantly chosen to play at Michigan, which like come on man.
Shall we take stock?
Michigan's scholarship count stands at 15 right now. Technically it's 14 since Michigan is at 86, give or take a long snapper scholarship and Will Hagerup's existence. It'll be 15 by August. From there normal levels of attrition will see them reach 20 or so. Assuming 20:
QB(1): Wilton Speight, check.
RB(1): Unknown. Michigan has a few offers out to three-star sorts. Colorado Kalen Ballage may be your leading candidate; more likely Michigan's RB in this class will be someone you haven't heard of yet.
WR(3): Drake Harris is in the barn, mid-four-star KJ Williams is still saying Michigan is his leader after the post-visit glow has worn off. Instater Maurice Ways is reputedly on the verge of an offer he won't take long to accept. Mason Cole teammate Artavis Scott has backed off the promise of a package deal but is still high on Michigan and just visited for spring. Childhood M fan Corey Holmes is another possibility.
TE(1): Whoever it is, he'll probably be from Illinois. Daniel Helm has backed off after announcing Michigan his leader and now maintains a top four with Michigan and a few Southern schools. Alarmingly, Ole Miss is amongst them. Ian Bunting may favor Notre Dame at the moment but will visit USC and Michigan before a forthcoming decision. Nic Weishar is also coming up on a decision.
OL(4): Mason Cole is in the barn. Jabrill Pepper's teammate Juwann Bushell-Beaty maintains Michigan as his leader; Blake Bars's brother Alex Bars is a top 100 prospect at tackle; Drake Harris's teammate Tommy Doles has seemed to be on the verge of dropping for months but recent scuttlebutt has him holding off despite the possibility of a crunch.
NT(1): Bryan Mone in the barn. With Hurst/Pipkins/Henry(?) in front of him Michigan can be done. Mone could play three tech, but if Michigan gets Hand and McDowell, he's the nose in that group.
SDE/3T(2): Michigan trails VT for #1 overall player Da'shawn Hand… probably. See below. Instate star Malik McDowell is rumored to be a Michigan lean.
SAM/WDE(1): Ferns barn, likely a SAM. With Ojemudia and Charlton they could skip a WDE. If they don't there's an obvious candidate in instater Lawrence Marshall. He was briefly an OSU commit; he'll come down to those guys and the two in-state schools.
ILB(2): A spot where OSU has held onto some in-state stars Michigan was after; now M is on to plan B. Those appear to be IL LB Kyron Watson and PA LB Chase Winovich. Winovich is a big guy a 6'4" and may end up a SAM type; Watson is more of a WLB. Both are three stars, but Winovich also has an OSU offer.
CB(2): If Michigan can hold off Stanford they'll reel in consensus five star Jabrill Peppers. Todd Howard protégé Parrker Westphal seems likely to join up. Californian Adoree Jackson is another five-star who has Michigan high on his list.
S(2): Californian Juju Smith has Michigan a solid member of a top five that leads you to believe a CA exit is possible; he could play WR but Michigan's in on a bunch of those. Pennsylvanian Montae Nicholson is another option.
K/P(0): With Wile, McGrath, and Allen on the roster next year they can go without. Would not be surprised to see them look for a quality walk-on kicker to compete with McGrath.
ESPN ranks them all
ESPN has put out its top 300. Players of interest (bold: commit; italics: have at least a 50-50 shot):
- #2 NJ CB Jabrill Peppers
- #4 VA DE Da'Shawn Hand
- #5 CA CB Adoree Jackson
- #29 LA WR Malachi Dupre
- #55 TN OL Alex Bars
- #62 CA S John "Juju" Smith
- #69 MI DT Malik McDowell
- #72 UT DT Bryan Mone
- #75 FL WR Corey Holmes
- #85 FL WR Artavis Scott
- #87 IL CB Parrker Westphal
- #96 MI WR Drake Harris
- #107 MI DE Lawrence Marshall
- #112 OH LB Michael Ferns
- #120 NJ OT Juwan Bushell-Beatty
- #125 VA QB Wilton Speight
- #145 FL OT Mason Cole
- #208 AZ TE Mark Andrews
- #239 PA S Montae Nicholson
That's a pretty long list of targets, one that includes every Michigan commit so far in their top 150. Michigan has a good shot at bringing in ten to twelve of the ESPN 150. Pants? Off.
He loves me, he loves me not
ESPN has just released preliminary rankings—remember when they were supposed to be getting rankings out before these kids' junior year?—and we're getting a look at their usual idiosyncrasies. One to the good is Wilton Speight, who makes Tom Luginbill's top ten quarterbacks:
7. QB-PP Wilton Speight
Richmond, Va./Collegiate School
This guy has some juice to him. The more you watch Speight, the more subtle, savvy traits show up. Physically he reminds us of Brock Osweiler (the Arizona State Osweiler, not the high school version). He possesses great size and adequate bulk. He's strong with deceptively good mobility and athleticism. Stands tall and is balanced in the pocket. Drop speed and set up is quick and steady. Plays with poise and confidence in his abilities.
Luginbill says the position is down a bit nationally. FWIW, he's the #4 pocket passer in their rankings. Last year the #4 pocket guy was 64th overall (Stanford commit Ryan Burns). Shane Morris was 8th; the top 10 were in their 150. Ballpark Speight around 100th, it would seem.
On the other hand, while two Michigan WR targets do appear in Luginbill's take on the WR class Drake Harris does not. Luginbill on Holmes:
7. WR Corey Holmes
Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas
Holmes is a lean and lanky prospect with ideal height and long limbs. He is flexible and plays primarily on the inside as a slot in high school, but could be an outside threat for the next level. He is shifty and fluid, which makes it difficult to gauge his deceptively good speed and acceleration.
Complete eval | Highlights
9. WR Artavis Scott
Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake
Scott has very few physical weaknesses, but he also lacks ideal measurables in terms of bulk and strength. Given his frame, he still needs to add strength to aid his physicality. He displays good straight-line burst off the line of scrimmage. This is a very fluid and smooth player in his overall movements. Does not show breakaway speed on tape, but does have good enough downfield speed and quickness to be an adequate outside route runner at the next level.
Complete eval | Highlights
Harris must have been #11.
The next to drop
If aforementioned MI WR Maurice Ways does pick up an offer that means a couple things: Michigan is ready to take his commitment and they like the kid quite a bit since they've got higher rated guys on the hook and are willing to push one of them elsewhere. The offer situation as of ten days ago($):
"They said I'm very high on their radar," Ways explained. "I've been their most talked-about recruit the past two weeks. They're saying just to be patient. They're going to watch my film again as a staff Monday, and make a decision from there."
Monday was, uh, Monday, and the chatter out there indicates that offer could be forthcoming soon. Other candidates include Pick A Tight End and the aforementioned Parrker Westphal, who will also be in this weekend.
Tight ends resolved while you wait
More on that Ian Bunting kid: the small-forward-sized Illinois TE did just go to Notre Dame and came back speaking thusly:
“I found out that Notre Dame is a special place,” Bunting said. “It’s really cool with all the history. There is something special there with all the tradition they have and I love the way they use their tight ends. I’m definitely higher on them than I was before.”
He's at USC today; tomorrow he will be at Michigan. A decision "could come shortly after." Bunting's been reticent about stating anything more than a vague top group. ND is probably the team to beat given the above quote; his only other visits since last year's football season were to Oregon, Wisconsin and Northwestern, and I can't find anything similarly positive on those trips. Hoke and company have shown an ability to flip kids' minds once they get on campus, which I think we say every week but you're probably not tired of that fact yet. It is thus concluded we will keep saying it.
IL TE Daniel Helm's timeline is getting shorter($) as well:
"Originally I was hoping to take official visits, now I am realizing positions fill up and sometimes the scholarship you may want might not be there. So, I am pretty confident I will make a decision before the season, but I'm not sure when."
Helm's been to each of his top four schools (Michigan, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Florida); Michigan may have an advantage since they just got a second, this one with his dad. Helm also publicly favored Michigan not too long ago($), and was telling Nebraska sites it was M.
Meanwhile, IL TE—they're all IL TEs—Nic Weishar will visit($) the twin spires of Mordor this weekend, whereupon he'll sit down and come out with a short top list. Weishar visited Michigan a month ago($), and hit up a few other schools earlier. Dollars to donuts this comes down to an old-fashioned Midwestern three corners match between ND, M, and OSU.
Michigan also has AZ WR/TE Mark Andrews coming in. He's ranked as a WR by most of the scouting services despite actually being heavier than Bunting and Helm; he's checking Michigan out as part of a ND/OSU/M Midwest swing. He grew up an Oklahoma fan($) and has a brother there, so they're the tentative favorite. Michigan will either be in a leading group or out after the weekend.
The Hand Of God
Da'Shawn Hand demonstrating the fish story coaches who do not successfully recruit him will tell.
That would be #1 overall player VA DT Da'Shawn Hand, who Michigan is after in a serious way. Hand talked to Yahoo radio recently, and declaimed thusly:
- he "recently decided" he wants to major in sports management, something that came up as he's talking Alabama.
- What is it about Michigan? "Everything. The coaches, the players, the town, the professors, the academic buildings, the food… it was cold, but I can manage that, I'm from Philly. Everything was just great about it."
- Meanwhile, on VT: "Well, first, they're close to home. Bud Foster's been my favorite coach… it just feels like home there. [garbled] …I'm just comfortable there and they play good football."
- He wants to take his officials; has no timeline.
He hasn't been down to Florida yet and his statements about the other SEC teams in his top five (South Carolina and Alabama) were considerably more lukewarm than the two I transcribed above. Everyone says VT is on top, but if you had to pick from the quotes above…
From Wolverine Nation, an article on the potential for guys to hop aboard($) the class before their spot gets full. MI OL Tommy Doles:
“I’d like to know by the summer and whether or not I’d have to [decide] before then, I guess I’d have to think about that when it came around,” Doles said. “But yeah, it could accelerate things if it were to happen.”
A couple of the WRs pop in to say similar things. We could see some quick movement at the catching positions if Ways is offered and commits as KJ Williams, Artavis Scott, and possibly Corey Holmes think it over.
Let's all debunk RCMB nuts
MI WR Drake Harris's recruiting process took a major turn during the course of his junior year, when he found out he was a capital-E Elite football prospect and only a good basketball prospect. He changed what sport he was going to play; thus the decommit. This is not an eyebrow-cocking Gunner Kiel saga.
“Drake is firmly committed to playing at Michigan, and I would be absolutely shocked if he didn’t follow through it,” Fellows said. “People forget that Drake was going to Michigan State to play basketball and football, and MSU was the best choice for him to play football and basketball. …
“Once he decided to play just football, that all changed, so it’s unfair to compare the two scenarios. Drake told me his heart is at Michigan, and I am taking his word at it. I’ve known Drake since the eighth grade, and he has never lied to me. He went to Ohio State on Friday and Michigan on Saturday, and he told me that’s all he had to see.”
Never say never and all that; Harris is no more likely to decommit than anyone else Brady Hoke's picked up in his three years. He in fact got his re-recruitment done early because he's sick of the song and dance. You have a 2% chance, decommit-chasing guys. Have fun storming the castle.
Michigan has an offer out to OH S Erick Smith, who is at Glenville and thus has visited OSU all the time($). He is planning a Michigan trip in the near future along with visits to Alabama and Tennessee; in general prospects with a Glenville kid who has an OSU offer are always going to be dim. This is a hill to climb for a guy who hasn't been on M's campus:
He’s seen the Buckeyes more than once and always walks away feeling good. His last visit was nine days ago at student appreciation day, where he brought his parents along for the ride. All three liked what they saw.
“It’s the atmosphere and the people,” Smith said. “When you go there, they’re all for real.
“My dad is getting used to it, so he enjoyed himself. My mom loved it. She talked about getting down there and getting to know them better.”
Michigan offers TX RB Vic Enwere, a three-star with middling offers. Unless it was actually Michigan State who offered. The usual with three-star sorts from far away: he'll be on the radar once he visits. [UPDATE: Rivals's Tim Sullivan passes along a note that the Enwere offer was erroneously reported; it's actually an MSU offer.]
The future: the usual
2015 KY RB Damien Harris, you have the power:
It would be pretty tight if me and Drake Harris both committed to Michigan!
Harris, regarded as one of the top tailbacks in his class, already has an offer and mostly tweets 1) things about how he likes Michigan and 2) retweets of other people telling him to go to Michigan (which is an NCAA violation, don't do that). If he doesn't end up in the next class it'll be a surprise.
Malik McDowell offered by Alabama and LSU. M offers LA S Mattrell McGraw, says he'll visit soon with teammate and consensus top 100 prospect Malachi Dupre. McGraw's rankings haven't caught up to a booming offer sheet. NJ OL Juwan Bushell-Beatty says he's "getting closer to a decision($)," possibly after visits to offerees Florida and Tennessee. An early decision is better for Michigan.
Today's recruiting roundup is short on length but long on top-two overall prospects with heavy interest in Michigan. That works for me. If you're looking for more on the Drake Harris commitment, click here for the Hello post.
Heavy Leanin' (No Purple Stuff, Though)
Many thanks to the board for posting the latest on five-star NJ CB Jabrill Peppers, as I can no longer stand to follow Mike Farrell's Twitter interactions with his "haters" in order to see the occasional nugget of Michigan-related info. Sometimes, though, you pan through the gravel and come up with this:
— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) April 15, 2013
This would be good news no matter what, but the timing in this case is particularly promising: in the last two weeks, Peppers has visited Michigan, Ohio State, and LSU. Stanford is still a major player in Peppers' recruitment, and right now it looks like this will come down to whether his summer visit to the Cardinal lives up to his time in Ann Arbor. 247 just unveiled a (very impressive) overhaul to their database*—player pages now include updated expert predictions on where a player will commit, and all six of the 247 experts familiar with Peppers' recruitment have him pegged for Ann Arbor.
Farrell's info on #1 overall recruit VA DL Da'Shawn Hand seems a little less concrete, but nevertheless is good news for the Wolverines:
— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) April 15, 2013
Virginia Tech has long been the presumed leader for Hand—they're his home-state school and he has a very strong relationship with Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster. 247's experts, FWIW, are split 75-25 between VT and U-M as Hand's eventual destination. In my non-insider opinion, I think Michigan has a very good chance to close that gap; Hand is very familiar with VT but is still learning about Michigan, and he'll be back in Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame game and perhaps once more before making a decision. Being in the mix for other five-star prospects certainly doesn't hurt, either.
Because the above certainly won't cause enough over-excitedness, 247's experts are 7-for-7 in picking MI DE Malik McDowell to Michigan. Please remember that it's still early. You still have permission to feel very, very good about Brady Hoke's recruiting prowess, though.
[Hit THE JUMP for Spring Game visit reactions and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup attempts to catch on everything that's gone down in the Michigan recruiting world since last Tuesday, when certain other events precluded any coverage involving high school athletes.
Schembechler Hall Presumably Now Covered In Brains
As Michigan's basketball team made their run to the national title game, the football team hosted some big-time recruiting visitors over the past week. The biggest name on campus was five-star Paramus (NJ) Catholic CB Jabrill Peppers, the #2 overall player (behind Da'Shawn Hand) on the Rivals100 and a consensus top-ten recruit. Peppers told Rivals' Adam Friedman that the trip to Ann Arbor was his "best visit"($) and changed his expectations for any school he'll check out:
"Now I don't even know what to expect anymore," Peppers laughed. "Michigan just completely exceeded my expectations. I'm just going to have to see how Michigan and Ohio State pair up and it should be a great experience but Michigan was probably one of the best visits I've been on without a doubt. Everything felt right."
According to his interview with 247's Steve Wiltfong, Peppers plans to be back, too ($):
“All in all, it was a really, really great visit and they exceeded expectations. I definitely didn’t think it would be that mind-blowing. I’ll definitely have to take a trip back.”
Peppers was joined on his visit by Paramus Catholic teammate and four-star OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty*—after the pair checked out Ohio State following the Michigan trip, their high school coach gave the update on where both stand to Friedman ($) [emphasis mine]:
"I don't know about Jabrill," [Paramus Catholic head coach Chris Partridge] said. "He's still kind of evaluating everything, and he's got LSU and Stanford to look at. I know Juwan's top school is Michigan right now. He's pretty fired up about them. Ohio State didn't offer [Bushell-Beatty], so who knows. Jabrill is a pretty loyal guy, so I don't know if it left a sour taste in his mouth. I know Juwan loved Michigan and it's a great fit for him, too.
So Michigan is in the lead for Bushell-Beatty (whom they have offered, to be clear) and made a very strong impression on Peppers, at the very least. The only direct quote from Peppers on his Ohio State trip—the rest were handled by his coach—is from this Wiltfong article ($):
"I really think that the Coach (Kerry) Coombs is a great coach," Peppers said. "I love him and enjoy being around him. Obviously Urban Meyer is an incredible, smart, proven winner. They let me meet the athletic director and the president of the school and it's really cool to see how everyone is behind the Ohio State football team."
High praise, yes, but not the over-the-moon review that he gave Michigan. Of course, visit reactions often depend on the interviewer, the questions they ask, and what they choose to print—in this case, however, Wiltfong got two very different post-visit reactions from Peppers. Read into that what you will.
Four-star PA ATH K.J. Williams also checked out campus last week, and there's no need to read between the lines of his post-visit reaction:
Michigan is by far my top school now!! #BlewMyMind
— TheWorldsGreatest#2 (@KJWilliams2) April 8, 2013
Another young mind destroyed by Michigan's overwhelming recruiting tactics. They show no respect for these recruits, I say. /RCMB'd
Two familar names also made appearances in Ann Arbor. Detroit Country Day WR Maurice Ways was there for the second straight weekend and the coaches have him "very high on their radar," per an interview with Tim Sullivan ($). Ways doesn't have an offer but it seems like one will come sooner or later—if he gets one, Michigan should be in the driver's seat. Meanwhile, Southfield DE Lawrence Marshall (offer) told GBW's Josh Newkirk($) that "everything was good" as he checked out a spring practice, and he came away impressed with Frank Clark, who plays the same weakside DE spot that Michigan hopes Marshall will play for them.
[Hit THE JUMP for a rundown of Spring Game visitors, a new offer, the latest on Drake Harris, a couple happy trails, and more.]
It's been a light week for recruiting, which is fine because HAVE WE MENTIONED MICHIGAN IS IN THE FINAL FOUR? Anyway, here's the latest from the recruiting scene.
Succinct, At Least
Earlier this afternoon.
me: ugh you had to post the ferns thing
that's definitely what's leading off my post right now
Brian: if it gets posted twice oh well
me: yeah, I made a different joke, at least.
Brian: just make some snarky comment about how i'm a jerk
me: that can be done.
Brian is a jerk.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, Michigan commit Michael Ferns posted this picture to his Instagram account today, with the caption "Ummm.. Thanks Coach":
It appears Mississippi State is interested in Ferns, knows he's a fan of Michigan's family atmosphere, and therefore let one of their coaches' six-year-old kids be his primary recruiting contact. The small child that penned the above clearly pictures himself as the future recruiting coordinator at NC State.
Greg Mattison finds this all rather adorable, and will now return to recruiting players the likes of which Mississippi State hasn't seen in ever.
[Hit THE JUMP for spring practice visit reactions and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers today's spring practice visitors, new 2014 offers, and updates on several top targets.
Michael Ferns, Rebel With A Cause
Michael Ferns: star high school football player, Michigan commit, GameBoy aficionado, leader of the air traveler resistance movement.
No flight attendant, I'm not turning my gameboy off. You can't stop this Pokemon master.
— Michael Ferns (@M_Ferns10) March 28, 2013
Also, wearer of silly hats.
Spring Practice Visitors
Michigan is hosting several recruits for today's spring practice. Here's a list of the top targets on campus today, culled from several outlets:
- TN OT Alex Bars — The four-star younger brother of U-M OL Blake Bars is one of the early favorites to fill a spot in this class, though a decision is not imminent.
- MI CB Jalen Embry — The Detroit King product does not hold an offer and probably won't get a chance to until he camps at Michigan this summer. If he earns one, however, the Wolverines are the likely favorite to land him.
- MI DE Malik McDowell — McDowell is still largely quiet about his recruitment, with the early consensus that it'll come down to Michigan and Notre Dame not really changing yet. Though I don't expect his recruitment to end any time soon, another trip to Ann Arbor can't hurt Michigan's standing.
- MI WR Maurice Ways — Detroit Country Day's Ways, much like Embry, is an intriguing in-state prospect who could earn bigger offers (including Michigan) down the road with a strong summer.
- 2015 RB Mike Weber, 2015 DE Joshua Alabi, 2015 QB Jayru Campbell — The Cass Tech rising junior contingent will once again make their way to campus. Weber and Alabi hold offers and regard Michigan among their leaders; Campbell, as a quarterback, will have to wait until the coaches get around to narrowing down their 2015 prospects at the position.
Southfield DE Lawrence Marshall was expected to be on campus today, but according to 247's Clint Brewster he was unable to make the trip.
[After THE JUMP, updates on new offers, some big-time potential visitors, and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers the latest on Jabrill Peppers, a new 2014 offer, visit reactions, and more.
Must-Read Of The Week: Jabrill Peppers Feature
NJ ATH Jabrill Peppers is a state champion, honor roll student, and five-star prospect, with every major program in the country in pursuit of his signature come Signing Day. Read ESPN's Jared Shanker's feature on Peppers and his childhood in East Orange, New Jersey, however, and you'll get an appreciation for just how much he had to overcome to reach that point. His older brother, Don Curtis, was murdered in 2010 at the age of 20. Jabrill could only talk to his father, imprisoned since 2007 for a weapons charge, by phone. Peppers told Shanker that the street life in East Orange nearly sucked him in, as well:
"Oh man, I've seen people get stabbed, shot, beat up," Peppers said. "Saw my boys steal cars then crash into a light pole, other things at night, seeing guys selling the illegal products."
But ask about specifics, some of the things he has taken part in, and he clams up. He answers quickly. That smile so many people love to talk about leaves his face. He wants to move on to the next question.
"Too much to name that I got away with because of my athleticism," Peppers said. "I don't want to say too much more on that, but too much that I'm ashamed with."
Peppers has moved on to star both on and off the field; a perennial honor student, he currently holds Stanford—with their rigorous academic standards even for athletes—as his leader. Michigan is currently in his top five, joined by LSU, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. Peppers says he is a long way from a decision; wherever he goes, he's a player who will be easy to root for.
[For the latest on Michigan's most recent offer, plus visit reactions and Drake Harris's newest visit plans, hit THE JUMP.]