"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
My latest foray into the world of high school football took me deep into the heart of Buckeye country to see the cross-town rivalry between Pickerington North and Pickerington Central. Before I get into the game recap and scouting, a few words on the atmosphere: this was the most enjoyable experience I've had at a high school game, and it isn't particularly close.
It started at the church next to the football stadium, where I got paid a dollar to park. The stands at Central were packed on both sides well before kickoff, everyone decked out in their school colors. The game ball was flown in via skydiver (seriously—I have photographic proof). It was louder than a lot of college venues. Best of all, despite this being a heated rivalry, the fans were civil—there was trash talk, to be sure, but nothing that went beyond that. At one point, the Central mascot walked up to me on the sideline and asked if I was enjoying the game.
The game itself wasn't the expected tight contest, as North—0-5 to that point against Central, including a playoff loss—broke it open in the second half and ran away with a 37-0 victory. It was a very emotional experience for both Michigan commits. North's Jake Butt embraced teammate and Northwestern commit Godwin Igwebuike in the waning minutes, triumphant in a long-awaited victory. On the opposite sideline, Central's Taco Charlton sat alone, head buried in his hands, barely acknowledging those that came up to console him.
This is how rivalry games should be, and it was a pleasure to be there to witness it.
[Video, photos, and scouting report after THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers last weekend's high school action, the latest on Leon McQuay III, the 2014 ESPN 300 Watch List, and more.
Butt Turns Tables, Defeats Taco
Remember the picture of former Michigan safety Carvin Johnson as the saddest of sad pandas after losing the state title game? Taco Charlton also hates losing, and after his Pickerington Central squad fell 37-0 to Pickerington North—the first time in six tries that North defeated their crosstown rivals—he's the next in line for Agony of Defeat Photo of the Year:
Much like Johnson in that state title game, Charlton was phenomenal in a losing effort, recording ten tackles and 1.5 sacks while playing on offense, defense, and special teams for the Tigers. In the end, though, it was fellow Michigan commit Jake Butt, who finished with nine catches for 92 yards and a TD as well as a crucial fourth-down sack, celebrating a rivalry win on Central's home turf. I'll have much more on this game, including more photos and video highlights, in tomorrow's Future Blue Originals.
Speaking of outstanding two-way efforts, Dymonte Thomas led Marlington to a 34-14 victory with 249 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries and also recorded an interception—all after suffering an ankle injury that forced him out of the first offensive series. Thomas also threw an eight-yard touchdown pass. You can see highlights from the game at the 4:30 mark of this video.
Channing Stribling continued to show why he's regarded as a fast-rising prospect, returning an interception 25 yards for a touchdown for Matthews Butler. According to TomVH, Stribling now has five interceptions in six games on the season as well as a kickoff return for a TD and a receiving TD.
We haven't heard much from Wyatt Shallman, who's been battling injuries, thus far this season, but he had a breakout performance on Friday. Playing defensive tackle, Shallman finished with six tackles, four hurries, a sack, and an interception (returned for 20 yards), via TomVH.
DeVeon Smith rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns on only 12 carries in a 37-14 victory for Warren Howland. Several other commits found paydirt over the weekend, including Mike McCray (77 yard TD catch along with five solo tackles), Gareon Conley (TD catches of 58 and three yards), Ross Douglas (13-yard TD run), Ben Gedeon (71 rush yards and two TDs), and JaRon Dukes, whose 10-yard TD reception provided the winning points in a 7-6 victory.
In other commit news, David Dawson announced on Twitter that he's been invited to represent Team USA in the International Bowl. Also, Magnus has an interesting discussion about Wyatt Shallman's college position over at TTB; I agree with him that Shallman stands out much more on offense, and I believe he'll stick at running back.
[The latest on McQuay's visit plans and more after THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup discusses a pair of new 2014 offers, Leon McQuay III's finalized official visit date, and more.
2014 Recruiting Ramps Up
The 2014 recruiting cycle in still in the early stages, but the process is quickly ramping up over the course of the bye week as Michigan's coaching staff finally has (some) free time to review film and visit schools. Two new offers have already gone out this week to a pair of five-star recruits, VA DB Quin Blanding (#6 overall on the 2014 Top247) and VA DT Andrew Brown (#2).
At 6'2", 200 pounds, Blanding has the size and athleticism to play either corner or safety at the collegiate level, though he probably fits best as a safety. He's already garnered offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, FSU, Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia, among several others.
Brown—already listed at 6'4", 282 pounds—has a similarly outstanding offer list featuring Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, FSU, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. The arrow is probably not necessary in his sophomore highlight tape, because he's the one MURDERING SMALL CHILDREN:
Michigan should pursue Brown heavily assuming he isn't imprisoned for any of the above.
Perhaps the top in-state priority for the Wolverines is Detroit Loyola DE Malik McDowell, who received a visit from Brady Hoke on Monday. While NCAA rules prevented Hoke from speaking directly with McDowell, he still managed to make a "huge impression" on both the junior lineman and his coach, according to 247's Steve Wiltfong ($). He did this, of course, by being Brady Hoke [emphasis mine]:
“Spent about an hour or so,” Loyola head coach John Callahan said. “Real good visit. Very impressive. I’ll tell you why. I was extremely impressed with how he, we talked a little about their loss (to Notre Dame on Saturday), and he said his only concern was his quarterback was feeling bad and responsible and he felt really bad for the kid. Really genuine. No excuses or no nothing. He was just worried about his kids. That’s the kind of coach you want taking care of your kids. I was real impressed with his demeanor and he said they had to get better.”
If Hoke ever gets tired of this coaching thing, he's got a surefire fallback career as the world's greatest babysitter.
Curt Mallory, meanwhile, is making the rounds on the Atlantic coast, visiting Baltimore Gilman($)—home of 2013 commit Henry Poggi and 2014 CB offer Troy Vincent Jr.—and 2014 Washington D.C. four-star CB Jalen Tabor, who lumped the Wolverines in with Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida as the schools going after him the hardest.
This is also a time for new prospects to hit the radar, including 2014 Orchard Lake St. Mary's DB Jalen Watts-Jackson, who was outstanding at both cornerback and wide receiver in last Friday's victory over Cass Tech. TomVH scored an interview with the junior prospect, who said that he's hearing from Michigan, MSU, and Purdue, and wants to hear more from the Wolverines—his top school and childhood favorite ($).
[The rest of the recruiting roundup, including the lastest on McQuay/Green/Treadwell, after THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup discusses last weekend's high school football action, the latest on Leon McQuay III, and the inspiring story of David Dawson.
Warning: Dust Storm Ahead
At Cass Tech's game against Detroit Renaissance a couple weeks ago, Technician lineman and Michigan commit David Dawson received his Under Armour All-American jersey in a halftime ceremony. As you can see above, it was an emotional moment for Dawson and his family, for reasons that went far beyond the football field; it's been a tumultuous year for Dawson, who lost his father in a car accident in April.
Your must-read article of today, then, is Mick McCabe's tear-jerker of a profile on Dawson—it's hard to imagine going through such a difficult situation as a high school senior:
"One day, a few days before the accident, I got in the car and he was staring at me for 5 minutes," Dawson said. "I asked him why he was staring at me. He said: 'I'm extremely proud of what you're doing now.' When I thought about that, it sent me into an emotional wreck."
When his father died, nothing seemed important to Dawson anymore. Not football, not school, not anything.
"He's still dealing with it," said his mother. "He's a little better. He's getting through it. I let him talk about it. If he has to cry, he cries; if he has to talk, he'll talk.["]
There's much more in the full article, from similarly heartbreaking reflections on Dawson's father to more lighthearted anecdotes about his football career. You root for every commit to excel at Michigan, of course, but you root extra hard for David Dawson.
[Commitment stat roundup and much more after THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup has the latest on the Green/Treadwell/McQuay triumvirate, the status of Shane Morris, and much more.
Morris Done For The Year?
This isn't at all how Shane Morris expected to finish out his high school career—the Freep's Mick McCabe reports that Morris will miss this weekend's game with mono, and his coach doesn't expect him back for the rest of the season. If you doubt the kid's toughness, read this paragraph...
“He had a sore throat and took some medicine and took it easy at practice but didn’t feel any better," Verska said. “Friday morning, he had a blood test and found out right before the game he had mono. He said he wanted to play, and the doctor said it was OK, because it wasn’t in his spleen. And Mom and Dad said it was OK. He tried, but he ran out of gas in the second quarter.’’
...and then see where he ended up a couple days later:
Shane Morris sent me a text saying he is hospitalized for the night with mono, and they're not yet sure what will happen with his season.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) September 19, 2012
The biggest priority for Morris will be getting back on his feet and caught up in the classroom—no easy feat with mono—and I hope you'll join me in wishing him a swift recovery, because mono really, really sucks.
[Hit THE JUMP for upcoming official visit plans of McQuay, Green, and Treadwell, plus much more.]
Chandler Park Academy wide receiver Csont'e York has largely flown under the radar during the recruiting process, and as a three-star he's one of Michigan's lesser-heralded commits. The Charter School Conference isn't heavily scouted, so I was curious to see how York performed over the course of a full game. On Friday, he caught two passes for 33 yards and a touchdown and added a two-point conversion as CPA fell in double overtime to Old Redford Academy, 26-20.
To discuss York's performance, it's best to add some context. This was lower-division football, and it showed; I lost count of pre-snap procedure penalties when they hit double-digits, both teams put the ball on the ground, officials missed spots by ten yards, and quarterback play was... not stellar. Chandler Park's strategy also left something to be desired—despite having York, the lone BCS-level prospect on the field, facing corners eight inches shorter than him, CPA only targeted him five times during the game, three of those coming on the same drive at the goal line.
As a result, York spent much of the game run-blocking, acting as a decoy, or running routes downfield without much hope of seeing the ball. These highlights reflect that, and trust me, I could've added a solid five minutes of York jogging downfield to this reel. York is easy to spot—he's the one with the maize arm sleeve, maize gloves, maize shoelaces, maize stripes on his socks, and maize mouthguard:
[Hit THE JUMP for the full scouting report and photo gallery.]