I'm baaaaack. Didn't miss a thing, right? Oh, yeah, THAT. Signing day has come and gone, and while Michigan is still in on a couple of prospects, today's roundup will focus on the endless fluff pieces on Michigan commits, the flood of new offers for 2013 recruits, and the search for the real Fred Jackson.
Hoke By First-Round KO
Bob Wojnowski is one of the best on the Michigan beat, but I couldn't help but snicker at the headline of his post-NSD column:
Backyard recruiting brawl is back on between Michigan, Michigan State
After Michigan pulled in seven of Rivals's top ten in-state prospects, leaving Sparty with academic question mark Aaron Burbridge, I imagine that brawl going a little like this:
Yes, I know Wojo didn't write the headline. In fact, I'm hoping this a wonderfully back-handed way of saying that it's back to "Big Two, Little (Rest of B1G)" status [emphasis mine]:
There's nothing more emotional than Michigan-Michigan State and Michigan-Ohio State games. But now all three programs are fighting on familiar ground, while other Big Ten heavyweights have issues.
Michigan State's familiar ground: Lurking under the table for the in-state scraps while Ohio State poaches their top commits. Things just feel so wonderfully right now, don't they? They should: Michigan finished with a class that ranked #6 on Rivals, #4 on Scout, #7 on ESPN, and #8 on 24/7, and while Ohio State did come out on top in the conference recruiting rankings, anyone who expected different when the Buckeyes hired Urban Meyer was kidding themselves. Also, they oversigned, so the moral high-ground remains ours. Never forget how important that is to maintaining our conference-best arrogance.
Sam Webb took a look at five recruits—Joe Bolden, Kyle Kalis, Ondre Pipkins, A.J. Williams, and Chris Wormley—who could have an immediate impact on the field in 2012. Most of the article is stuff you've seen before, but Scout's Dave Berk had some especially high praise for Bolden:
"I thought he was the best linebacker in the state of Ohio for two years now," said Scout.com Ohio analyst Dave Berk. "He has a high football IQ. A lot of times we say that about guys that don't have athletic ability, but Joe has the athletic ability to go with it. He has got great physical size and he can go sideline to sideline. He can be an outside backer or he can be a middle backer. He is a playmaker. … I think Ohio State and Notre Dame whiffed on that one."
Okay, I really just wanted a quote that knocked OSU and ND. I doubt you mind.
Somebody Save Fred Jackson from the Pirates, Please
This cannot be the real Fred Jackson. There is clearly an imposter masquerading as the King of Hyperbole ($):
Late addition Dennis Norfleet also comes in listed as a running back, but Jackson noted that at 5-7, 170, he's not as suited to every-down back duty in this offense.
"I'm not too sure about his overall ability as a back," Jackson said. "He's more of a utility kind of guy. He's not a guy who is going to go in and play like a Drake, or a [Thomas] Rawls, or guys like that, with that size. He's more of a utility guy that can help you in a lot of ways.
Jackson wasn't quick to jump on the notion of Norfleet as the next Vincent Smith, either, given what Smith has already proven.
"I know you know what I think about Vincent Smith," Jackson assured. "That's saying a lot. Vincent Smith, to me, is pound-for-pound, probably the toughest guy on our football team. I don't know if you can say a guy is going to be like that. I'd hope he could eventually get that way."
Until Jackson describes Norfleet as "Darren Sproles with the wings of an angel and the feet of a young Michael Jackson," I'm going to assume he's been captured by Somali pirates, whom he's currently convincing are the greatest pirates since the days of Bluebeard.
Imposter Fred Jackson did manage to sign seven of the eight players he targeted while recruiting the state of Michigan for the first time this year (all held MSU offers, by the way) en route to being named one of 24/7's top 50 recruiters for this year's class, joining Greg Mattison on the list. At least Imposter Fred Jackson can still recruit.
The Wolverine released an endless series of profiles on class of 2012 commits—all behind paywalls, of course, because knowing Ben Braden played hockey is premium info, y'all—and perhaps the most interesting is the profile of Kyle Kalis, who's got a sensitive side when he's not bashing defenders into the ground ($):
"Kyle is not a kid you can stereotype. He has a myriad of friends, all types of kids," he said. "As an artist, he's tremendous. Some of his work, if you saw it, you'd be really impressed. With the guitar, he didn't take lessons … he taught himself. I believed he played it a little for Coach [Greg] Mattison when he came for a visit.
"Kyle is a young man with intangibles. So often we just want to measure these kids on their grades and test scores, but there is so much more to our personalities and who we are than that, and Kyle epitomizes what you want out of a well-rounded individual."
If the painting at right is any indication, Kalis also likes the Rolling Stones. No word on whether he's more of a Let It Bleed/Beggars Banquet guy or an Exile on Main St. fan. In actual football-related news, Kalis is unsure whether he'll be a guard or a tackle for the Wolverines—according to him, Hoke is giving Kalis the chance to choose between right tackle and right guard once he gets onto campus and has a few practices under his belt. If Michigan doesn't land Jordan Diamond (announcing at 8pm EST tonight), the need for depth at tackle may be too great for him to land at guard, at least for this year.
Quickly: For the last time, A.J. Williams is a tight end, though he'll fill the role of the 'Y' position—blocking TE—while Devin Funchess will play the 'U,' a TE/WR/FB hybrid ($); Erik Magnuson considers himself a good luck charm after visiting for the Notre Dame and Ohio State games ($); ESPN video of Funchess, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Terry Richardson, and James Ross, all former members of the youth football Westside Cubs who have now been reunited as Wolverines.
This is probably the last time I'll have a section called "2013 Notes," since now we're officially in the class of 2013 recruiting cycle. The initial ESPN U 100 ($) was released on signing day and it's littered with Michigan targets. Tom has a full breakdown over on ESPN Insider, but Shane Morris was indeed awarded five-star status, Dymonte Thomas got four stars, and the Wolverines are recruiting eight five-stars—TE Adam Breneman, CB Kendall Fuller, LB Michael Hutchings, S Leon McQuay, OL Ethan Pocic, OL Jake Raulerson (who just committed to Texas), OL Laremy Tunsil, and DT Greg Webb—and 18 four-stars from the list.
Michigan sent out a ton of offers this past week, so I'll summarize in bullet form:
- Cass Tech CB Jourdan Lewis, who got his "dream offer" from the Wolverines ($). I'm a big fan of Lewis after seeing him three times this past year, and it's quite possible he could be the next junior to commit.
- That is, if Lewis isn't beaten to the punch by Columbus (OH) Marion-Franklin WR Jaron Dukes, who named Michigan as his top school after receiving his offer ($).
- Columbus Bishop Hartley's Jacob Matuska is the third TE to be offered by Michigan ($), joining Adam Breneman and Jake Butt.
- Indianapolis North Central OL Darius Latham, 24/7 #67 overall prospect, was offered by Michigan and Tennessee recently ($).
- Lincoln Way-West (IL) OL Colin McGovern becomes another standout Illinois lineman to receive an offer, and Allen Trieu has a free article that's well worth a read.
- Cincinnati Moeller LB Shane Jones picked up offers from Michigan and Indiana ($), joining Cincinnati among his early offers.
- Avon (IN) DE Elijah Daniel, another top-100 prospect to 24/7, grabbed a Wolverine offer ($). He's already visited Ann Arbor twice and is considering taking a visit on the 18th.
- Two more players added M offers: Columbus (OH) Walnut Ridge WR Rob Wheelwright and Dayton (OH) Trotwood-Madison DE Michael McCray, according to 24/7 ($).
In other news, quickly: Pickerington (OH) North TE Jake Butt named Michigan, Stanford, Northwestern, Maryland, and Tennessee as his early top five ($); Logan Tuley-Tillman will visit Ann Arbor this weekend ($); Allen Trieu takes a look at some of the emerging juniors and sophomores, many of whom are being recruited by the Wolverines.
Between National Signing Day and the Superbowl, we are in the last little oasis of The Footballs before the other things take over again. Then comes the long months before little bits of spring trickle in. So let's with the footballs! The footballs last year! The footballs this year! The footballs in four years!
Maize_in_spartyland put a lot of time into using this year's success as a predictor for next year's strengths of schedule across the conference, including early 2012 projections for each team. Michigan's schedule is up there but Nebraska and Penn State seem to have the toughest roads ahead, not that you have any sympathy for either of them.
CRex continued (2002-2005) and then concluded his year-by-year study of Minimum Playoff Size, with 2006 through 2011. He's got a 5-team playoff for 2006 that doesn't include Michigan, which highlights the problem with doing this with hindsight (ie including the bowl results) instead of looking at the pre-bowl situation and saying "THIS would settle it."
He also put together a long review of Coaching the West Coast Quarterback, a book by one Al Borges and his brother Keith in 2002 while they were at Cal. If you're the kind of person who buys coaching books by your team's coordinators* there's one new one left at a reasonable price on Amazon. Or you could read the diary. Combined effort nets this man Diarist of the Weeks.
With NSD passed we really are into next year now. One last trip, then, into that which was 2011, courtesy of Eye of the Tiger, who after a bolded "But" with an ellipsis and its own line goes on to make a good point that V-Tech ended up looking eerily like Mississippi State 2010. The offense scored a few more points but wasn't as good as expected. The defense was WAY better than we dreamed. Brunette girls fixed the kicking problems (Misopogal: "We are awesome like that") and we all converted back to the church of…Time of Possession?!?
What I learned this season was that ToP may not matter in many cases, but it sure does when you're exactly the kind of team that has close to zero depth on defense. Then you really should keep them off the field if you can. Oregon can do the uptempo thing because they have lots and lots of depth on defense. They may not be Alabama, but they have a legion of solid dudes they can substitute in and out, and that's exactly what they do.
This makes sense. Let's recruit like 10 DL/LB this year so we don't have to … oh we did that. Carry on.
The Footballs, Recruiting is Perspective:
RJS and the Temple of Zooms
Well you know how National Signing Day went down. In case you missed some of the lead-up, Ace interviewed 2012 commit Royce Jenkins-Stone, the No. 1 player in the home state according to Scout (but not Dantonio). And you figure he's run out of funny names for 2013 prospects, but there's still one (Florida OT) Laremy Tunsil to go along with a boring old electric 6'4 receiver from Jersey named Charlie. Six Zero turned the microphone around and interviewed the weirdly named Ace Anbender.
WolverineBlue took Scout's recruiting scoring system and tried to predict where Michigan would land. It's as of 1/24, so needs updating after we know what the OL are doing, but he's accurate as of this writing. WolverineLake went backwards in time, grabbed a bolded personality, and showed the Scout recruiting rankings are predictive but the margin for error is big enough to drive Wisconsin's offensive line through it.
So the plan this year was to lean on the front court while breaking in a new PG so he's not overwhelmed with responsibility an…hey, this freshman IS our offense:
Player Year FGM Assists Team FGM % Team FGM Eric Turner 1981-82 163 120 696 40.70% Trey Burke 2011-12 99 92 472 40.50% Daniel Horton 2002-03 151 134 706 40.40% Manny Harris 2007-08 159 86 709 34.60% Jalen Rose 1991-92 206 135 1,014 33.60% Gary Grant 1984-85 169 140 936 33.00% Kevin Gaines 1999-'00 110 133 780 31.20% Antoine Joubert 1983-84 118 102 867 25.40% Dion Harris 2003-04 112 76 823 22.80% Darius Morris 2009-10 52 84 732 18.60%
So Trey Burke is right there among the leaders for this metric.
Raoul goes on to compare him favorably against the best point guards in the country in how much of his team's offense is generated by the 1.
AC1997 has put together a fantastic and nice-looking study on Michigan's season to date. This is outdated post-Indiana but still very good and very relevant as it breaks the schedule into good wins, good losses, bad losses, and what various outcomes of what cometh would mean.
Hey, what was up with our Power Play vs. Notre Dame eh? Yesman2221, our resident hockey guru other than that Cook guy, PP'ed Michigan's PP.
Etc. In the fall your blood is for beating Ohio. But in hockey/hoops season, you can put it all toward beating State. M Wolve with a list of places to donate. If your name is Zack Novak you are welcome to give directly at Breslin. A couple of Blockhams.
Best of the Board
OH FATHER! M PULLS TWO SIGNING DAY SURPRISES
Congrats to two new MGoDaddies who kept Michigan fans on edge for only a few hours before leaking their new sons' final college choices. Shortly after these announcements Mark Dantonio assured alumni he already had a solid verbal from the top 2030 prospect in the state. Further shout-outs to zohizzle101 for the recruit profiles you see above, and comment of the year from gajensen:
WE'RE GETTING COMMITS IN PAIRS AGAIN!!1!1!
I would also like to send out my deepest condolences to the Facebook friends of Florida Blue and Wolverine In a Bag. Once there were epic Youtube links, lolz pics from George Takei*, and breaking Michigan news—no more. As of now the baby has probably already taken over the profile pic and will be the subject of every update until at least 2016. In other M legacy recruits, Madonna's pushing her daughter to choose Michigan.
*Damn you Takei, another hour of my life. Sigh. Urban Meyer in college:
YOU'RE FOR THE G-MEN SUNDAY RIGHT? YOU'RE WHAT? HHHMMMMMMM.
No Dave Baas, I'm not rooting for your team, and not just because the Giants' whites look like a certain group of unmentionables when your helmets are off. I'm sure the readers have some sort of deep-seated reasoning, or office squares, or deep knowledge about the Pats and Giants, but since the Lions have never sniffed such a thing in my lifetime, in Superbowls I root for whoever's got the most Michigan guys and/or fewest Buckeyes, with ties going to the most favoritists of M players, or guys who haven't won before. This year the Giants have Super Mario and David Baas of the Daves*, versus Tom Brady and Zoltan the Inconceivable. The former link there is 12 trivia about Brady. The latter is a link to a link to a Romanian Space Emperor/Epic Punter/Business Major doing Borat. For this, I wish him great success.
*My senior year Michigan ran most of its plays up the middle behind an interior line made up entirely of guys named Dave. Since I didn't have access to a blog at the time I just tried to get my section to call them things like "Dave Petruziello of the Daves" or "Dave Pearson of the Daves."
NO LEGS? NO VAK!
MGOBLOG: THE MAGAZINE RETURNS
As Brian announced in a meta thread, we are bringing back "Hail to the Victors" this year, and for the first time producing it independently. Look for future updates on this as we use your support to prove we can afford to do it. There's still some time to submit your ideas of things you would pay for to help support the launch effort.
ACE: THE PODCAST
++ = listen.
NFL's new rookie cap might drive more players to the NFL faster. Future Museday: how many 4- and 5-stars make it to NFL Contract #2. If you've caught yourself double-posting something and want us to erase your heinous, unforgiveable crime for all time, you can change the title to "Mods Please Delete," or you can invoke the Space Emperor (of Space).
[UPDATE: There is some dispute as to whether or not Henry has committed. Tom texted Henry, who said he hasn't committed yet and was looking to announce on Tuesday ($). Sam Webb, on the other hand, confirmed the commitment with Ted Ginn, Henry's head coach at Glenville. Sounds like Henry will end up at Michigan either way and there was some miscommunication between him and Ginn about the announcement, but I'll let you know if circumstances change.]
Sam Webb is reporting on Twitter that Glenville (OH) DT Willie Henry, who visited and got an offer over the weekend, has committed to Michigan. Henry becomes Michigan's 24th commit of the class of 2012 and projects to fill a spot at three-tech defensive tackle. The last Glenville product to join the Wolverines was another three-star defensive lineman, current DE Frank Clark—let's hope Henry is able to impress the coaches as much as Clark did last year.
|3*, #38 DT||3*, NR DT||3*, 75, #97 DT||3*, 83, #75 DT|
Coming from a high-profile program in Glenville, Henry has had his fair share of exposure, and all four services agree that he's a low-to-mid three-star prospect. The general consensus on his size is that he's in the area of 6'3", 270 pounds, so he'll have to put on some weight if he's going to land at defensive tackle.
He appears to have the frame to do just that, according to ESPN's evaluation ($):
Though Henry needs to keep developing his frame and add some more good mass he does possess good natural size and looks to carry more bulk than is listed. As a defensive tackle he flashes a good get-off, but can be inconsistent and while at times he shows a nice burst at other times he can be a beat late and needs strive to be more consistent in his get-off. He can tend to play high and needs to work to keep his pad level down. When he does work to stay low he can get overextended and needs to do a better job of playing with better bend and generating more power from his lower body when he engages blockers. When he can gain leverage he is a tough guy to move, but he seems to make things hard on himself at times. He looks to have a solid reach for his build, but needs to do a better job of bringing and using his hands to keep blockers from getting into his frame. When he is active with his hands he can battle and be tough to handle, but with a tendency to pop up and lead with the shoulder and lose his hands he can let blockers into him and can be pushed back. Demonstrates adequate ability to locate the ball though doing a better job of separating from blockers could help to find the ball better. Displays marginal short-area change-of-direction skills.
As is expected with a sleeper prospect like Henry, improving technique will be key if he is going to contribute down the road, and it sounds like he has a fair amount of work to do in that regard. This is when it's quite handy to have three defensive line coaches on the staff. Scout, who ranked Henry the highest out of any recruiting service, has a more positive take on his game. They list athleticism, foot quickness, and pass-rushing ability as his strengths, with size as his area for improvement. Allen Trieu likes Henry's athleticism and, in contrast to ESPN, praises his jump off the line:
Henry is an athletic player who is light on his feet, has good coordination and closing speed. He is disruptive and gets good penetration because he has good get off. He shows a good motor and foot speed in pursuit. He has to add some bulk and strength to be able to anchor against the run, but he flashes, makes some big plays in the backfield and is a good interior pass rusher.
Trieu evaluated Henry at the Columbus NIKE Football Training Camp last May, where he competed alongside the likes of Ondre Pipkins, Danny O'Brien, Mario Ojemudia, and Adolphus Washington, and said he "produced outstanding results in the 1-1s. He’s quick and agile, and used that to win every rep he took."
John McAllister of MSROhio notes that Henry spent his winters focused on basketball, which could help explain his solid athleticism and his need to add weight, and he echoes the praise for Henry's quickness:
Listed at 6'3-270, he uses his athleticism and quickness to beat offensive linemen. Really like the way he uses his hands to separate. Plays pad under pad. Needs to improve his change of direction, but his closing speed on his pass rush is excellent. He agrees that his quickness is his strength. A weakness is that he feels that he must play hard every down. Going both ways on a high level program is hard. He wants to play hard every play. Conditioning and pacing himself is important. Honestly, evaluating him, he does not take many plays "off."
To sum it up, Henry fits the mold of a raw but talented D-line prospect: athletic, quick, and with a good frame, but in need of some serious coaching on technique.
Henry held offers from Akron, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisville, Marshall, Ohio, Pitt, Syracuse, and Toledo. Obviously, that's a lot of MACtion, but offers from the Illini, Pitt, and Syracuse stand out.
No stats were available through an initial Google-stalk. If you spot any, post them in the comments and I'll update the post.
FAKE 40 TIME
ScoutingOhio lists Henry with a 4.78 40-yard dash. That would be outstanding for an interior lineman, even one who played TE and DE in high school, so I'll give that four FAKEs out of five and hope I'm wrong.
Henry boasts a rather extensive, and impressive, senior highlight film:
These are only highlights, obviously, but he looks very quick off the ball.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
As stated earlier, Henry should land at the three-tech at Michigan once he puts on some weight. It's always tough to project these sleeper recruits as anything more than useful depth for the squad, but Henry looks like a player who could contribute down the road as a situational pass-rusher—if he can keep his burst and quickness after adding 20-30 pounds, he could be a real handful for interior offensive linemen. With Ondre Pipkins slated to hold down the nose and command double-teams for the next four years, Henry could see a lot of single-blocking if he eventually sees the field, and he has the athleticism to take advantage. Given the need to add weight and refine his technique—as well as the strong class of defensive linemen already in the fold—it's safe to assume that Henry will redshirt and likely take at least a couple of years to crack the depth chart.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Henry's commitment leaves up to four open spots in the class of 2012, but at this point there aren't four obvious candidates to fill those spots. With Josh Garnett, Armani Reeves, Alex Kozan, and Sam Grant all committing elsewhere over the past week, only Jordan Diamond remains as a clear option to join the class. He announces on February 3rd, two days after signing day, so we'll see if any other surprises pop up in the interim. There are no huge needs remaining for the class (more on that tomorrow), though getting at least one more offensive lineman—Diamond, in all likelihood—would alleviate some depth concerns. Other potential positions to watch would be tight end, wide receiver, and cornerback, though as I said there are no current targets on the radar, at least when it comes to the recruiting services. We'll have to wait and see if the coaching staff has other plans or if they choose to pocket a couple scholarships for the 2013 class.
With the Thursday Recruitin' posts getting lengthy and signing day just over a week away, we decided—with the help of some reader requests—that it would be best to do two recruiting roundups per week. So, welcome to Tuesday Recruitin', which should serve to wrap up the happenings of the previous weekend and set the table for the upcoming week. Thursday Recruitin' will now be moved to Friday and focus on any upcoming visits while catching up with the events of the week. This new setup allows me to get more recruiting information to you each week and should cut down on the total link overload that was quickly becoming an unwanted staple of my recruiting roundups. Anyways, there is much to discuss, so let's get this party started.
Caleb Stacey Decommits; How Will M Round Out The Class?
Caleb Stacey announced on Saturday that he was changing his commitment from Michigan to Cincinnati, citing a desire to stay close to home during college:
"When it came down to it, Caleb just wanted to stay closer to home," said Oak Hills assistant coach Kyle Ralph. "He's a Cincinnati kid, and as it came down to it, he was more comfortable staying home in Cincinnati."
In fact, Stacey actually got in touch with the Cincinnati coaching staff himself, as they had respected his pledge to Michigan and backed off from recruiting him. Stacey's decommitment leaves the Wolverines with 23 commits (four along the O-line) in the class of 2012, leaving up to five spots available. While Michigan looks to have a good shot with higher-ranked offensive linemen Josh Garnett, Jordan Diamond, and Alex Kozan, Stacey's absence will be felt—he was the only current commit projected to play center, a position of great need for the Wolverines, and only Kozan looks like he could fill that void.
This week will be huge for offensive line recruiting, starting with Josh Garnett's announcement on Thursday afternoon. Garnett has officially narrowed his choices to a final two of Michigan and Stanford ($, info in header), as expected. Michigan did get the last word, as Brady Hoke made the final in-home visit to Garnett on Sunday. I expect Garnett to end up as a Wolverine, though that's admittedly based on zero inside knowledge of his recruitment.
Hoke also has the final in-home visit with Kozan, who will choose between Michigan, Iowa, and Auburn. Kozan told GoBlueWolverine that he will announce his choice "right after the Coach Hoke visit," which is scheduled for this Friday ($). He claims no leader at this time, and Hoke has the chance to make a very strong pitch—with Stacey out of the class, Kozan could be the most important recruit left on the board due to his ability to play center.
Jordan Diamond, meanwhile, will announce his decision on February 3rd—two days after signing day—between Michigan, Ohio State, Arkansas, Auburn, and Wisconsin. Michigan coaches have an in-home visit with him today, and he also maintains there's no leader in his recruitment.
Moving on to other position groups, two major targets formally decommitted this week: cornerback Armani Reeves from Penn State (same as Diamond link) and tight end Sam Grant from Boston College ($, info in header). Both could make their decisions as soon as this week. Reeves is now down to Michigan and Ohio State, and hosted Brady Hoke on Saturday before welcoming Urban Meyer—along with OSU assistants Everett Withers and Mike Vrabel—to his home last night. While some Buckeye insiders anticipated a commitment, none has come, and Greg Mattison will see Reeves tonight for his final in-home visit. This looks like a 50/50 tossup.
Grant, meanwhile, will likely choose between Michigan, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
A few happy trails: Yuri Wright found a home at Colorado despite recently being kicked out of Don Bosco Prep for his controversial tweets; Monty Madaris will decide on Wednesday, and he appears to be down to Cincinnati and Michigan State; four-star OL and soft Wisconsin commit Kyle Dodson plans to announce his choice on Saturday between the Badgers, Ohio State, Michigan State, USC and Auburn ($).
Receiver Commits: Anything But Divas
You have likely read the story of receiver commit Amara Darboh, who lost his parents to the civil war in Sierra Leone when he was just two years old before finding his way to Des Moines, where he found a family and eventually became a four-star football recruit. Chantel Jennings profiled Michigan's other receiver commit, Jehu Chesson, on WolverineNation today, and the article is well worth the cost of ESPN Insider. I'll do my best to block-quote as little as possible, and encourage you to read the whole thing, which details Chesson's charity work—along with his knack for juggling—as well as his path to the United States ($):
In 1993 Chesson was born in war-torn Liberia in the middle of its first civil war. The country had broken into factions, and by the time the war was over in 1996, nearly 200,000 Liberians had died. Chesson moved from Liberia to the Ivory Coast, and from the Ivory Coast to St. Louis when he was 5.
He doesn't have many memories from that early in his life, but he saw on TV when Liberia fought its second civil war and the unrest that has come from it.
He could be angry. He still has family in Africa. His grandmother is there.
But Chesson said the kids have taught him how to forgive. He laughs when he talks about two young kids at the camp who fight and punch one another, but 10 minutes later they're playing with each other again.
He said that even though some of those kids have very little, they have the capacity to forgive, which some adults -- who've been tarnished by money or pessimism -- can't do.
"The best and worst part of it all is that I can ponder a question about why some are born into greatness and others never get a chance," Chesson said. "I'll probably never get an answer. But I can give of myself, which is sort of like working toward an answer."
The level of maturity shown by Chesson—as well as Darboh—would put many 30-year-olds to shame, and I'm very excited to see him don the winged helmet and, more importantly, get the opportunity to earn a degree from Michigan.
The Detroit News is rolling out daily profiles of the recruits on their Blue Chip list, and so far they've covered Terry Richardson, James Ross, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Matt Godin, and Devin Funchess. Most of it is fluff—Richardson discusses his spirituality, Ross—like Ben Braden—played hockey, RJS wants to be a chef, Godin wanted to play QB as a HS freshman, and Funchess plans to become a coach—but for those doubting Ross's size and ability to play inside, he has a message for you:
"I believe my size benefits me," he said. "I'm quick to the ball. When I was at the Army (All American) Game, I was able to get to the ball quickly. I'm able to get through the holes. I make the reads, and at the snap of the ball I can step into those holes. Can I get stronger? Sure I can. And I will."
Ross said the U-M coaches have no plans to move him to another position and that he is slated to play weak-side linebacker.
"I'll be the linebacker that checks the slot receiver or the running back out of the backfield," he said.
We'll see in the fall if Ross is really 6'1", 220 pounds, as the article claims, but even if he's a little smaller I think WLB is the best position for him.
Quick 2013 Hitters; New 2014 (!) Offer
A quick roundup of the news on current junior prospects:
- Woodbridge (VA) C.D. Hylton linebacker E.J. Levenberry, who visited Michigan last weekend and holds an early offer, has the Wolverines in his top three with Florida and FSU ($, info in header).
- Top-ranked tight end Adam Breneman revealed a list of upcoming visits on his Twitter; he plans to take a trip to Ann Arbor in March, and he's also got visits set for Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame. He's also looking at Miami and North Carolina for potential unofficials.
- In case you missed it, Michigan was one of several schools to recently offer Monaca (PA) Central Valley receiver Robert Foster, an early candidate for five-star status ($, info in header).
- Four-star Pickerington (OH) North TE/DE Jake Butt had the coaches drop by last week ($, info in header), and he says Michigan will be in the mix when it comes time to narrow down his list of schools.
- Cleveland (OH) Shaker Heights ATH De'Niro Laster told Greg Mattison he plans to take an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor the weekend after signing day ($, info in header).
- Somerville (NJ) Immaculata four-star DE Tashawn Bower expects a Michigan offer soon after talking with Coach Curt Mallory ($).
- Sam Webb's weekly DetNews piece is on Lemont (IL) OL Ethan Pocic, who recently earned top offensive lineman honors at the Core6 Showcase in Westmont, IL, which also featured top junior linemen like Logan Tuley-Tillman and Colin McGovern.
- Happy trails to Trotwood-Madison cornerback Cam Burrows, as one of the top players in Ohio pledged to Ohio State last week.
Finally, Michigan gave out its second verbal offer to a class of 2014 prospect. Woodbridge (VA) defensive end Da'Shawn Hand picked up his sixth offer as the Wolverines joined Boston College, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, N.C. State and Rutgers. Hand tallied 21 sacks as a sophomore and earned district Co-Defensive MVP honors. Michigan's other sophomore offeree is also a defensive lineman, Highland (UT) DT Bryan Mone, teammate of 2012 pledge Sione Houma.
I'll have more on the ramifications of this during the week, but 2012 OL Caleb Stacey announced on Twitter today—and it has been confirmed by multiple sources—that he has switched his commitment from Michigan to Cincinnati:
Before it gets out from anyone but me I have decided to decommitt from Michigan to stay home and play ball at the University of Cincinnati
— Caleb W. Stacey (@Caleb_Stacey) January 21, 2012
An assistant coach at Cincinnati Oak Hills, Stacey's high school, told The Wolverine that Stacey wanted to stay closer to home ($), and that was the reason for the switch. Michigan now has 23 commits in the current class with room to take up to five more players, and they are among the finalists for three offensive line recruits: Josh Garnett, Jordan Diamond, and Alex Kozan. It's feasible that the coaching staff could take all three, bringing the total to seven offensive linemen in the class, if they desired to do so.
I hope you all will join me in wishing Caleb the best of luck at Cincinnati.
This week's Thursday Recruitin' looks at receiver recruiting in the wake of Darryl Stonum's dismissal, looks at the final updated rankings from three recruiting services, rounds up last weekend's visits, and much more. Usual request: please contact me via email or Twitter (or leave a comment) with any suggestions, tips, or links you think should show up in the next recruiting roundup.
More Receivers? Not So Much, At Least For Now.
After Darryl Stonum was kicked off the team this week amidst rumors of multiple in-home (Cal commit Jordan Payton [$]) or official (uncommitted Monty Madaris) visits from four-star receivers, it appeared that Michigan would try to immediately fill the void left by Stonum with a third wideout in the 2012 class. Now the picture is far murkier. Tremendous posted late last night that Michigan coaches would no longer visit Payton today, and he would instead take a visit to Washington, where his primary recruiter at Cal, Tosh Lupui, now coaches after a surprising decision to change jobs. Tremendous seems to believe Michigan still has a shot with Payton, but it doesn't look good—Payton had an interview with Scout on Tuesday in which he stated interest in UW and UCLA, but never once mentioned Michigan ($).
Meanwhile, Monty Madaris was initially slated to take a visit to Ann Arbor this weekend, but instead he's decided to travel to Michigan State, now one of his two finalists along with Cincinnati. Madaris, depending on where you look, will either decide this weekend or next, and either way the chances appear slim that the Wolverines will be a major factor. Four-star former Arizona State commit Kenny Lawler, who had previously mentioned interest in Michigan, also looks to be off the board as he narrowed his focus to Oregon State and Washington State this week ($, info in header).
So, will Michigan take a third receiver in the class? I think it would be a good idea, especially if they can find a bona-fide deep threat—a specialty the team sorely lacks without Stonum—but right now there are no obvious candidates on the board unless you're one of the few, stubborn holdouts hoping for Stefon Diggs or Dorial Green-Beckham (not happening, people).
There are other positions Michigan is looking to fill, however, and prospects look brighter along the O-line and even at tight end. Josh Garnett visited Stanford last weekend, and the blue-chip lineman says things are still even at the top between Michigan and the Cardinal ($, info in header). Potential money quote:
"It's pretty much even, really, he said. "It didn't move Stanford ahead at all, actually. A lot of people think it didn't at all. It's going to be tough to pick just one, but with those schools, there's no wrong choice."
That's not a particularly glowing quote after a final official visit to one of your finalists. If you're of the belief that Michigan held a slight edge in Garnett's recruitment heading into last weekend—and that opinion is becoming more popular among experts as time passes—then that quote would indicate that the Wolverines still hold a slight lead. At worst, it appears to be a coin-flip proposition, and he plans to announce his decision on January 26th, so we'll find out relatively soon. If Michigan can't bring in Garnett, they still have a very good shot at four-star OL Alex Kozan, who has the Wolverines in his final three along with Iowa and Auburn ($, info in header). Michigan had an in-home visit with Kozan on Monday, and he's looking to wrap up his recruitment soon.
The Wolverines hosted a few visitors themselves last week, including tight end Sam Grant, who now has Michigan in his final four with Arkansas, Boston College, and Oklahoma ($, info in header). Grant initially wanted to get his recruitment over with as soon as possible, but he's now saying he'll take his time to weigh his options, and all four of his finalists have visited or will visit with him at his home this week.
Four-star corner and tenuous Penn State commit Armani Reeves enjoyed his official visit to Michigan ($, info in header), and the coaches will be in-home with him on Saturday. He still has a visit to Ohio State set up, as well as a tentative visit scheduled to Penn State after he gets to know the new coaching staff, but the Wolverines appear to be in very good position to land his commitment should he choose to decommit from the Nittany Lions.
Also visiting was Jordan Diamond, and the behemoth offensive lineman not only enjoyed his visit ($, info in header), but allayed concerns that the large number of incoming recruits along the O-line would be a negative factor for Michigan:
“They said I’m still a tackle, but wherever they want me at (along the offensive line) I’ll do,” he stated. "I can play both tackles. Yeah, they’ve recruited a lot of linemen, but I’m a competitior [sic] and I’m willing to try to beat anybody out because that’s how it’s going to be wherever I go.”
There are a couple of Happy Trails to report to go along with Payton and Madaris. Four-star corner Kenny Crawley, a former Tennessee commit who briefly popped back up on the radar, will decide on the 25th and currently has Colorado, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Maryland, and Michigan State atop his list ($). Four-star linebacker David Perkins, who Michigan considered as a running back recruit, committed to Ohio State this week ($, info in header).
Don't Answer the Phone, Mom. It's Urban Meyer.
Rivals released their updated Rivals100 and Rivals250 lists this week, and Ondre Pipkins shot up from #59 to #14 overall, picking up his coveted fifth star in the process on the heels of an outstanding week at the Army All-America Game. Touch the Banner has full breakdowns of the movement of Michigan commits—the most notable are a 29-spot drop to #78 for Erik Magnuson and a 41-spot rise to #111 by Joe Bolden, as all the other moves are relatively minor.
ESPN also just released their updated ESPNU 150, and there's an obvious emphasis on players who participated in the Under Armour All-America Game, which of course is televised on (wait for it...) ESPN. Terry Richardson is Michigan's highest-ranked recruit, coming in at #68. Royce Jenkins-Stone is #113, Kyle Kalis is #132, and Joe Bolden is #142. Pipkins's absence is highly perplexing.
"Defensively, the only player in my 50 years of coaching I'd compare him to is Lamarr Woodley (Saginaw High)," [Harrison head coach John] Herrington said. "We played Saginaw in the playoffs (in 2001, Harrison defeated Saginaw 31-14 in Division 3 semifinals) and Woodley was pretty good. Mario can't be blocked. He burst onto the scene his junior year. We played him just on offense his sophomore year. Don't ask me why. I remember against Novi, that first game his junior year, we said, 'Oh my!' He's got great speed, sure, but he's so quick off the ball. He can play pretty well in space, but it'll take awhile (to adjust)."
The adjustment Herrington is referring to is Ojemudia's transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, which appears inevitable due to his 215-pound frame. Other players of note in the Blue Chip list: Richardson (#2), James Ross (#3), RJS (#4), Aaron Burbridge (MSU commit, #5), Matt Godin (#6), Devin Funchess (#7), Ben Braden (#10), and Drake Johnson (#13).
Kyle Kalis was named to the Parade All-American team this week, and he also had quite the interview with Tremendous. Apparently, he was not to keen on speaking with Urban Meyer, and these comments set off a bit of a firestorm from trolling Buckeye fans:
Tremendous: Speaking of phone calls, did you decide to answer it when Urb hit you up a few weeks ago?
Kyle: Well, it happened like this: I heard the phone ring one night and I saw it was a 614 number and knew who it was right away because it was right after a speech he gave. Before I had a chance to stop my mom, she had picked it up, so I had to talk to him.
Tremendous: What did you guys talk about?
Kyle: It was really awkward.
Tremendous (laughing at AWKWARD URB): What do you mean?
Kyle: I was half listening, pretty much saying "uh-huh" the entire conversation. I was being respectful but in the back of my mind I just wanted it to end.
Quickly: Touch the Banner interviews Matt Godin; Drake Johnson and Godin will appear in the MHSAA's East vs. West All-Star Game on June 30th; and Chantel Jennings profiles Amara Darboh over at Wolverine Nation ($).
Quick 2013 Updates
Holy moley this is getting long, so 2013 updates will come fast and furious.
Shane Morris interviewed with ESPNHS about participating in last year's Elite11 regional camp as they look ahead to the quarterbacks who will comprise this year's Elite11. The video feature can be found at MGoVideo.
Blue-chip RB Ty Isaac discusses his unofficial visit to Michigan last weekend with both Sam Webb ($) and TomVH ($). He told Webb that Michigan will definitely be in his final list when he decides to narrow things down, no matter the length of said list—that's obviously great news for Michigan, who could really use a dynamic running back recruit.
The other big-time junior to visit last weekend was Woodbridge (VA) Hylton LB E.J. Levenberry, who now has Michigan in a list of schools he's seriously considering along with Ohio State, FSU, Oklahoma, Florida, Notre Dame, Tennessee, and Auburn ($).
Quickly: Michigan offered Fort Wayne (IN) Bishop Luers LB Jaylon Smith ($, info in header); Jerry Montgomery paid a visit to four-star Richmond (VA) safety Tim Harris, who expects on offer soon ($, info in header); Tremendous talked with four-star LB Peter Kalambayi, who has Michigan in his top four; Baltimore DT Henry Poggi is looking at a potential visit for a Michigan basketball game ($); top-ranked Ohio DB Cameron Burrows will announce his choice today, and all signs point to Ohio State ($, info in header); and five-star QB/ATH Jalin Marshall will announce on the 31st, choosing between Notre Dame, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Tennessee, and Alabama ($, info in header).