Happy Trails, 2015
Roquan Smith signed his financial aid agreement—but not an LOI!—with Georgia today, ending his recruitment after that whole ordeal with UCLA and their now-departed defensive coordinator, who reportedly still tried to recruit Smith in an unofficial capacity after doing this:
Last Wednesday, Smith committed to UCLA over UGA in front of ESPN cameras. But he decided against turning in his NLI after reports surfaced later that day that Bruins defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich had accepted a job with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
Smith said Ulbrich had told him on the eve of signing day that he had “declined” the job offer from the Falcons, per UGASports. On Thursday, Ulbrich (now with the Falcons) declined comment to the AJC about Smith’s claim.
While Smith didn't end up at Michigan, it's great to see him spurn both UCLA and the LOI process. With Mike Weber sticking out his commitment to Ohio State, we can now close the books on the 2015 class.
Race For QB Spot?
Michigan offered two 2016 quarterback prospects this week, four-stars Brandon Peters and Dwayne Haskins. While Haskins looks like he'll be a difficult pull—a day after the offer, he named a handful of schools sticking out to him that didn't include Michigan($)—Peters looks like a serious candidate to commit. He told The Wolverine's Brandon Brown that the offer vaulted Michigan to the top of his list ($):
"I'm totally pumped," Peters said. "It would be an awesome experience to play under a coach like Jim Harbaugh. It's awesome. I definitely would put Michigan at the top now, to be honest with you."
Per 247's Steve Wiltfong, Peters quickly locked in an unofficial visit for April 4th, Michigan's Spring Game.
With Michigan likely only taking one quarterback this cycle, the Peters news has left many asking where that would leave KJ Costello, the top QB target on the board for Michigan. In what may not be coincidence, Costello is looking to get on campus very soon, per Steve Lorenz:
"I am looking to visit in the next two weeks or so," Costello said. "It'd be my dad and I. I have been talking to the coaching staff all the time."
It looks like, one way or the other, Michigan should have a lot more clarity about their quarterback situation for 2016 in the near future.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
We've got a vision quest
not so fast my friend
It's not exactly a vision quest because GA LB Roquan Smith has a very good reason for hanging around after signing day: UCLA DC Jeff Ulbrich is apparently taking a position coach job with Atlanta, and that news broke almost at the same time his commit did. Way to go, Jim Mora:
Speculation behind the scenes in the media is that at least one media outlet was aware Ulbrich was going to leave UCLA as long as three weeks ago, but sat on the story until after Signing Day.
“It was common knowledge,” said one reporter. “They just agreed not to report it until after signing day.”
In any case, Smith backed off his commit and is in the wind post-signing day:
Roquan Smith’s coach told the AJC on Wednesday evening that Smith has re-opened his recruitment, and will take a couple of days to figure things out. “He’s going to open things up with his recruiting,” Macon County’s Larry Harold said. “It’s pretty much UGA, Michigan, and Texas A&M – and UCLA is still in it. Coach Ulbrich told him that he hasn’t signed anything yet (with the Falcons), and that he hasn’t made a decision. So I think they are still in it as well. We’re going to sit back for a couple of days and see how this thing plays out.”
Smith's affection for Georgia seems to have been overstated—he did commit to UCLA after all—and 24/7 reports that Michigan feels they are in the thick of it. Keep an eye out. It's probably Georgia now, but stranger things have happened.
Like a running back flipping on the eve of Signing Day
The diaries were graced by a post from one of Karon Higdon's coaches:
I did not get a hint or a hunch on Tuesday or Wednesday morning. There were no clues. Karan went radio silent. Karan is a very mature young man and this was not uncommon for him to focus when it was called for. On Wednesday the crowds gathered and after nearly 200 people piled in to watch the announcement, Karan made his way wearing all black through the court yard. He had two hats in his hands. One Iowa. One Michigan. He looked me in my eyes as I shook his hand and embraced him. In his eyes I saw determination. I still didn't quite know but Iowa would've been my guess. He looked very focused and walked in and took his seat. We went through our announcements until he was the last one left. There was obvious anticipation and his mother was a nervous wreck. She really didnt know and neither did I.
Much longer, and recommended.
On to 2016
Aside from that potential top 50 linebacker and a grad transfer or two, the 2015 class is in the books. Eyes now turn to the 2016 class, which will be a critical one for Harbaugh to establish himself a silverback on the national level. Michigan has 14 seniors and one open slot, so our baseline is 15. Add a reasonable amount of attrition and graduate transfers and Michigan's looking at a class of about 20-24.
What that might look like by position:
QUARTERBACK: 1. Harbaugh takes a lot of quarterbacks and will obviously take at least one. With two in the most recent class, the O'Korn transfer, and no one scheduled to exit for two years, this is likely to be a rare one-QB Harbaugh class. That's even more likely if the #1 guy is CA QB KJ Costello, a national top 50 type who was highly interested in Michigan—like commit-last-summer-until-Hoke-dissuaded-him interested. If he hops on board Michigan might find it hard to grab another guy of sufficient quality to entice. Costello is giving serious consideration to Stanford and USC but even in articles from those sites he has some positive things to say about Michigan:
"Now they have Harbaugh and some big-time coaches surrounding him. I'm definitely interested. He's trying to start something new and build an unbelievable 2016 class and really get things rolling here. He was all fired up and I really dug him. He was cool."
If QB recruiting gets past Costello, OH decommit Messiah DeWeaver is a guy Michigan will keep after. There also seems to be initial mutual interest in national #1 (and Georgia commit) Jacob Eason and fellow five star Shea Patterson.
RUNNING BACK: 1 or 2. Higdon's commitment gives Michigan flexibility here. One is highly likely, as Michigan is going to lose three guys all at once in two years. Two is a possibility.
If the current staff is as interested in IL RB Kentrail Moran as the previous one was, Michigan might not have to wait long to get their first guy in the boat here. Moran flat-out told recruiting sites that he'd probably commit if Michigan hired Harbaugh, and lo, it came to pass. Moran just told an Illinois site that he was "wide open" with no leaders, though, so it seems like Michigan has not reached out to him yet. With 2015 in the books we should know within a couple weeks how serious the current staff's interest is in him.
If Moran falls through or they do take a second there are a couple of instate options: Southfield RB Matt Falcon had a nasty knee injury last year but is still a four-star type, as is Detroit King's Martell Petteway. (Falcon's reported interest in OSU is likely moot after OSU took two 2016 RBs.) GA RB Elijah Holyfield (yes, that Holyfield) almost committed($) to Brady Hoke and was reportedly hyped on the Harbaugh hire.
FULLBACK: 1. You know it's happening. No names yet.
WIDE RECEIVER: 2 or 3. Michigan has as lot of solid options but no blue-chips except Drake Harris and his no good very bad hamstrings. They'd like to change that, and there are a couple of big time options available. CA WR Dylan Crawford is close friends with Costello and visited at the same time he did last year. Fellow CA WR Theo Howard is planning a visit this month($) and gave M the ol' "dream offer" treatment. He seemed to mean it:
"They are my dream school. I know some say dream school and then name four or five schools, but I can say that Michigan is the school I've dreamed of playing for."
There is chatter that Costello, Crawford, Howard, and CA DB David Long would all make a trip to Ann Arbor together($) in the near future. If that does come off that would be major commit watch time.
Michigan also fired off an offer($) to three-star CA slot Demetric Felton. That's his second offer (Utah was first); he's also interested in Duke, so academics are a priority.
There are also options closer to home. Michigan's starting from behind with Detroit King WR Donnie Corley, but you know Harbaugh will be coming at him hard now. Chandler Park WR Jalen Martin is a (currently) three-star option; IN WR Austin Mack is being pursued by all the regional powers and Harbaugh will stick Michigan's name in as well. MSU commit and NJ WR Cameron Chambers will probably get a poke as well in case he's more interested in Harbaugh; he camped last year.
TIGHT END: 1 or 2. HARBAUGH LIKE TIGHT END SMASH. &c.
The prime target here is OH TE Luke Farrell, who figures to be a Michigan-OSU battle if OSU is going to continue recruiting Farrell after getting a commit from Jake Hausmann. CA TE Devin Asiasi would fill Michigan's sudden need for a guy named Devin who loves bucket hats and declared he would officially visit($) as soon as he got an offer. M also offered Philly TE Naseir Upshur, but he's tough to get a read on at the moment.
OFFENSIVE LINE: 3 or 4. Michigan already has IL OL Erik Swenson in the boat. He's strictly a tackle. Traverse City OL Thiyo Lukasa was on the verge of committing to Michigan early, then dropped M entirely during The Troubles and now sounds interested again. If Harbaugh goes after him hard I would bet he gets him.
Fellow in-state OL Michael Jordan is impossible to Google but has seven picks for M in on the 247 Crystal Ball, all of which date back to the Hoke era. Like Corley, they're currently behind but that could change in a hurry here.
Regionally, WI OL Ben Bredeson is a major national prospect who expressed a lot of interest in Michigan early. Can Harbaugh overcome the natural gravity of the Badgers? Virginia's Clark Yarborough visited Michigan twice last summer and spurred a rash of M predictions before things went south
DEFENSIVE END: 2. Still more depth required here. One of Harbaugh's first offers was to AZ DE Connor Murphy, the brother of former Stanford DE and current NFLer Trent. He was very excited about the opportunity.
In-state DE Khalid Kareem momentarily committed to MSU but put himself bac on the marker two days later; Michigan is after IL DE Josh King, though the current trend is OSU on him. Staggeringly huge Cinci DE Prince Sammons (6'8", 280) was interested last summer.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: 2 or 3. A major need after zero in the 2015 class, tackle will be addressed in depth. The #1 target is also the #1 player in the country: NJ DT Rashan Gary of Paramus Catholic. Michigan has a couple of Paramus kids on the roster and hired his old high school coach in a recruiting capacity. Meanwhile his new high school coach played for Harbaugh in the NFL. That doesn't guarantee a commit but it should mean Michigan has an inside track.
There aren't a whole lot of other names out there other than Cass Tech OG/DT Michael Onwenu. As with many local guys, Michigan is behind right now with the transition and rush to finish the 2015 class but has the potential to move up quickly.
LINEBACKER: 3. Michigan has MD LB Dele Harding committed. Other than that, names have yet to pop up. Other than the best name: IL LB TUF BORLAND. Wisconsin will be tough (tuf?) competition, though they just changed coaches as well.
DEFENSIVE BACK: 3. This is also a spot where realistic names are currently thin. Michigan will go after PSU commit LaVert Hill, the brother of Delano, until such time as they're told not to.
Michigan is in the top eight for NJ ATH Ahmir Mitchell despite little contact thus far from Harbaugh. VA CB Patrice Rene first made a name for himself as a Canadian kid who showed to Michigan's camp; he is a high academic kid who should be interested in what Michigan has to offer when the staff gets around to evaluating him.
SPECIALISTS: 1? K Andrew David arrives and it looks like Michigan is trying to bring in an Aussie to compete with Kenny Allen at punter. Even if they do, the Aussie will be gone and Allen a senior by the time this class hits campus. Michigan could be on the hunt for a punter, especially if they're going heavy into a rugby style Allen may be unfamiliar with.
That's 19-23 guys in what should be a top ten class.
just overheard an #Amaizing phone call!
— Jay Harbaugh (@JayHarbaugh) February 2, 2015
A "miscommunication" means that Deontay Burnett is not only not a Michigan commit right now, but won't end up in the class, period. The Wolverines won't go wanting for long, though. Jay Harbaugh's tweet indicates a commitment is imminent, and I'm hearing the same thing.
Since I may have just spent a good part of my afternoon writing up a commitment post, I'm holding off on Signing Day stuff until tomorrow, when I'll write up a primer for what should be an eventful day.
Williamson Announces Tonight
In unrelated* news, three-star FL ATH Chris Williamson will announce his choice between Cal, Florida, Michigan, and UNC tonight at 10 pm. Sam Webb talked to Scout's Chad Simmons before the weekend to get the lay of the land after Williamson's recent official to Ann Arbor:
Michigan has already cemented themselves in the game, they’re right there I think with North Carolina at the top right now in the top two. Florida beat out Georgia, an instate school for the final visit this weekend, so Florida I think is the third team.
As the weekend wore on, however, Florida picked up a lot of expert picks—I'd expect him to end up with the Gators.
*Not tongue-in-cheek—Williamson isn't the prospect referenced in the previous section.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
T-Minus Six Days
As we reach the last week before Signing Day, Jim Harbaugh and Co. don't seem to be sleeping, and they're being sustained by meals eaten on in-home visits. (Sorry, guys, but Bryan Mone is already on the roster.) Steve Lorenz published a free rundown of everything that happened just in the last 24 hours, and it was necessary.
I'll start with the latest round of offers. Michigan went after a trio of committed running backs, and while two—Texas Tech pledge Corey Dauphine and future Arizona Wildcat Orlando Bradford—politely declined to take official visits, Wisconsin commit Titus Booker will be on campus this weekend. Booker is one of the few prospects whose 40 time contains no FAKEs; he ran a 10.68 100-meter dash to finish second in the state of Illinois last year. He's a solid all-around athlete, as well—the Badgers recruited him as a cornerback.
Michigan also convinced two committed receivers to take officials this weekend. Four-star TN WR Van Jefferson received interest from the previous staff, and while he's an Ole Miss commit now, the Wolverines aren't as unlikely of a choice as one might expect from a recruit with his profile—Jefferson is a Detroit native who didn't leave the area until his junior year, per Lorenz. The coaches also offered CA WR Deontay Burnett, a Washington State commit. Given what he told Rivals' Adam Gorney, Burnett may be harder to convince to flip than Jefferson ($):
It could be tough to pull Burnett away from Washington State especially since he likes the pass-happy offense so much and that he's been committed for months. The three-star sees a lot of opportunities in Pullman so a late push even by Michigan might not be enough.
"I love the offense there," Burnett said. "As a receiver it's pretty attractive that their offense throws the ball a lot."
Finally, M also offered three-star AL CB Keith Washington, who committed to Cal just four days ago. I haven't seen any indication regarding whether he'll visit.
[Hit THE JUMP for news on Ty Wheatley Jr. Chris Clark, Iman Marshall, Mike Weber, and more.]
I don't think #60 is gonna catch him. [Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal]
Gentry's commitment post focused a lot on his athleticism and mechanics, so this quote Scout's Greg Biggins gave to MLive's Nick Baumgardner about his arm strength proves useful:
"He's got an NFL arm, I've seen him flick the wrist and it's effortless, he doesn't have to wind up, the release is tight and he can throw it," Scout.com national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said Sunday. "A lot of times you see young quarterbacks try to get more velocity by winding up, and they lose accuracy. With him, it's effortless. He just flicks the wrist and the accuracy and mechanics stay the same.
"Mechanically he's strong, and I love his arm strength."
Three of the four recruiting services rated Gentry as a four-star—Rivals and ESPN have him just outside the top 100—with the only holdout being 247. That doesn't mean 247 doesn't see his potential; when running down the best of the 2015 class, Barton Simmons pegged Gentry as a boom-or-bust candidate with serious upside:
3-star that could play like a 5 – Zach Gentry
A recent Texas decommit and Michigan commit, Gentry is the single most unique talent in this class. He’s huge at 6-7, he has a big arm, he doesn’t have good footwork but he is also extremely athletic, he’s extremely raw, plays shoddy competition in New Mexico but he’s got a world of potential. Still following? Bottom line: Don’t be surprised if Jim Harbaugh turns Gentry into a first-round draft pick as a quarterback, but also don’t be surprised if Gentry goes the Blake Bell route and ends up at tight end either.
Nolan Ulizio's commitment post was a little light on scouting reports; since that published, ESPN gave Ulizio a three-star rating and posted an evaluation ($):
Ulizio is an OL prospect with good size and a physical, lunch pail type style. Little better football player then he is overall athlete and ceiling may not be real high, but with some continued development good prospect that has flown under the radar some and can be a productive contributor to an FBS OL potentially as a RT or could very well see a move inside to OG.
Ulizio's high school coach also discussed his game with The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan ($):
"The great part about Nolan is he's a very physical, aggressive player," said Cox. "He plays with a nasty attitude and enjoys being an offensive lineman. He takes his job of protecting the quarterback and running backs really seriously. He's 6-5, 285. For a high school senior, that's pretty special. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, he plays to the whistle, and he finishes really really well. Secondly, I think Nolan does a great job of conceptualizing what you're trying to do offensively. He can think on his feet, with the defense a moving object that he reacts to quickly.
That last bit is important—a big part of a lineman's job in Harbaugh's offense is identifying the right man to hit when pulling, which isn't always easy to do on the fly.
The Wolverine's Brandon Brown caught up a position coach at Reuben Jones' school—former M OL Ricky Barnum ($):
"He's one of the players that I love to coach against and coach with," Barnum said. "He's an extremely hard worker and he's very strong. I'm not just saying that either. In games, he gets double and tripled-teamed and he manages to fight through it. You can watch his highlight where he runs plays down from the backside. I'm talking 40 or 50 yards down the field. On the field he really has a motor. That's the one thing I'd say about him, he has a motor."
With the three additions, Michigan's 2015 class jumped 22 spots in the 247 Composite team rankings to #69 overall. That's still well off the pace M would like to be at, obviously, but they're poised to push into the top 30 if they round out the class as expected, which would be quite acceptable given the small group of commits compared to other schools.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Zach Gentry: Eyes Off Texas?
In recent days, Texas has turned up the heat on their pursuit of 2015 five-star QB Kyler Murray, a Texas A&M commit, even getting him to take an unofficial visit to Austin.
What does this have to do with Michigan? Well, Texas already has a 2015 QB commit: 6'7", 230-pound NM four-star Zach Gentry, who pledged to the Longhorns last May and has turned down overtures from the likes of Alabama and Tennessee since. With Texas eyeing Murray, Jim Harbaugh visited Gentry in Albuquerque on Monday, and things are moving quickly. Gentry removed "committed to Texas" from his Twitter bio, and multiple outlets, including Wolverine247, report that he'll take an official visit to Ann Arbor this weekend.
Just like that, Michigan may very well be the favorite to end up with him:
— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) January 22, 2015
What would the Wolverines be getting? Scout's free evaluation makes him sound like an ideal fit for a Harbaugh offense:
Gentry is an intriguing quarterback with NFL size but surprising mobility for a big man. He has a downfield arm and can make every throw but also shows the ability, when flushed out of the pocket, to run for positive yards. He looks to have a good feel in the pocket and doesn't panic when the rush comes at him. He can keep his eyes down the field and throws an accurate ball whether in or outside of the pocket-Biggins
The film backs that up; other than some mechanical issues with his delivery, there's little not to like there.
Jay Harbaugh checked out another under-the-radar QB, California prospect Anthony Gordon. Gordon, like McLane Carter, was very productive in high school on a title-winning team but hasn't generated much in the way of college interest or attention from the recruiting services.
[Hit THE JUMP for a couple impending announcements, a rundown of weekend official visitors, and much more.]