at least it's not just us?
You Know The Drill
TRUE FACT: TomVH used to say "buckle up" all the time. You should remind him of this frequently.
On Wednesday morning, TomVH broke the news that five-star NJ CB Jabrill Peppers will announce his college decision live on ESPNU on May 26th*, when he'll choose between finalists LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, and Stanford. Peppers
has a visit set to Penn State for tomorrow, and could make one more "surprise" visit—presumably Rutgers—before making his announcement.
[UPDATE: Scout's Brian Dohn just posted on the GBW message board that a source tells him Peppers has cancelled his Penn State visit ($).]
As for any concerns that those final visits could sway Peppers from a presumed pledge to Michigan—let's just say it doesn't sound likely, given this quote to a local paper:
“I know and feel very confident in the decision I’m going to make,” said Peppers.
Michigan commits feel very confident in that decision being for—you guessed it—Michigan:
— Drake Harris™ (@drizzygetbusy01) May 15, 2013
(If you're wondering why Speight and Harris will be in San Diego, quarterback guru George Whitfield—the guy with the broom who's worked with Devin Gardner—is hosting a camp that weekend.)
You have nine days until following proper safety protocol is strongly advised. I have eight days to decide whether pre-writing a post is worth the jinx-bait.
BONUS: In the wake of the MSU-Jay Harris mutual** parting of the ways so Harris can pursue a rap career, Peppers weighed in on his USA Today blog [emphasis mine]:
Peppers, who will choose between Michigan, Stanford, Penn State, Notre Dame, LSU and Rutgers on May 26, said that each school is well aware of his current rap career and long-term aspirations.
"They ask me about it all the time," Peppers said. "They're OK with it because my raps are clean. I just think if he (Harris) really wanted to pursue rap he could've gone about it a better way. I don't think anyone in their right mind would turn down a free education to a prestigious university to play football. It could only help your career."
Peppers said from broadening your vocabulary, to overwhelming exposure, to having an established fan base, "whether you're nice with your rap skills or not," college has "unlimited benefits" to boosting a career in the booth.
One key difference between Peppers and Harris, aside from the blunt-smoking and bailing on a free education: Peppers is nice on the mic, Harris... well, you've probably seen the video by now. I'm legitimately disappointed Leon McQuay III didn't sign on this year, both for the obvious reason—he's pretty good at football—and so he and Peppers could potentially form the elite defensive back version of JDK & Rey.
BONUS BONUS: Speaking of good defensive back recruits, IL CB Parrker Westphal could be approaching a commitment, per TomVH ($):
After his visit to Arizona State [this weekend] Westphal says he might take a trip to Tennessee, but nothing is set in stone. From there he will only focus on those schools on his list and continue to visit and evaluate what those programs have to offer. Westphal still says he is in no hurry to make a decision, but would like to get it done sooner than later.
“I want to make it before the season,” he said. “Games don’t start until August, but practice is in a few weeks so we’ll see when it happens.”
Michigan is "still the school he uses to compare other visits," and Westphal noted that his recent Florida visit went well... with the caveat that Michigan offers better academics. If he sticks to a summer decision timeline, it's hard to see him ending up elsewhere.
*Now a banner day for fans of Michigan football and Arrested Development. Peppers' announcement will hopefully ensure that I don't attempt to watch the entire fourth season in one sitting. (I probably will anyway.)
**Since Harris had signed a LOI, it's my understanding that State could not legally revoke his scholarship without consent, though the looming prospect of getting through admissions means Harris still didn't have much of a choice, in all likelihood.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the linebacker situation, new offers, Michigan visiting the son of rap royalty, and more.]
Lawrence Marshall, Troll of the Year Candidate
Michigan's latest commit, Southfield DE Lawrence Marshall, was presumably headed to East Lansing before pledging to Michigan last weekend, according to virtually everyone who followed his recruitment. Another example of Brady Hoke's remarkable ability to change recruits' minds during their visits, right? Oh, no, it's much better than that, per Sam Webb ($) [emphasis mine]:
“I was thinking about committing (to Michigan) for like a month now, so I knew where I was about to go for a whole month,” Marshall said sheepishly. “I just didn’t want nobody to know where I wanted to go. I went up (to Ann Arbor today for a visit) and it was the perfect timing to commit. I think I caught them by surprise. I don’t think they really knew that I was going to commit there today.”
Wait for it...
Now twist the knife ($):
One phrase Marshall has already been saying is that the "best players in Michigan go to Michigan". With that, attention now turns towards his strong-side counterpart and Detroit native Malik McDowell.
"I'd say Malik is that last part of the puzzle," he said. "Michigan is where the best players in the state want to play and he's the last one left. We'll be turning our attention on him and will try to get him to come on board with us because we're building something special here."
According to 247's composite rankings, Michigan has two of the top four in-state players in Marshall and (oh, hey) Drake Harris, with their sights firmly set on top-ranked Malik McDowell. The Wolverines also have the #9 player in Moe Ways. Michigan State has just the #6 and #7 players (Deon Drake and Byron Bullough) and no other commits among the state's top 25 prospects.
For comparison, Western Michigan now has the #5 and #8 prospects (Chase Stewart and Chukwuma Okorafor), along with 13th-ranked Jordan Van Dort. Only two uncommitted prospects remain among the state's top 13 players—McDowell and his high school teammate, OL Ka'John Armstrong, who's visited MSU several times but has yet to receive an FBS offer.
Where's the threat?
[Do I have to keep writing? I mean, that's the perfect place to stop. Okay, if you insist, hit THE JUMP for Chase Winovich's visit reaction, Jabrill Peppers running pretty fast, a look at the enormous foreign exchange student offered by Michigan, and more.]
Southfield (MI) DE/LB Lawrence Marshall, a former Ohio State commit and presumed Michigan State lock, has committed to... Michigan, of course, per fellow commit Michael Ferns and confirmed by the various recruiting outlets. Marshall was on campus today with Ferns and receiver commit Moe Ways, a long-time AAU teammate of Marshall's who's been recruiting him hard lately.
Marshall was expected to make a decision soon, but the choice wasn't supposed to be Michigan—according to 247, he's visited East Lansing eight (eight!) times since the beginning on February, and all six of the 247 experts to weigh in predicted he'd choose Michigan State.
Where's the threat? Oh, it's right here, and it's devouring us alive.
4*, #12 DE,
|3*, #19 WDE||
4*, 83, #12 DE,
4*, 91, #12 WDE,
As you'll see in the scouting section, Marshall is a relatively raw prospect with plenty of upside, so it's not surprising to see a major outlier in his rankings prior to his senior season; while the other three services have Marshall safely within their top lists, Rivals pegs him as a three-star ranked three spots below the last WDE four-star (Gelen Robinson, incidentally). His listed measurables range from 6'3", 215 lbs. to 6'4", 230—based on recent camp reports, the latter figure is probably more accurate.
With the rankings for Marshall largely based on his potential, his senior season and future camp performances could spur plenty of movement in either direction.
Allen Trieu's free report on Marshall's Scout profile is a good place to start—his listed strengths are athleticism, backside pursuit, and lateral range, with "techniques and moves" as his area for improvement:
Very long frame. Has great athleticism, change of direction and speed in pursuit. Has all of the tools to be an elite pass rusher, just needs continued work on his technique. Plays with hand down in high school, but may be a stand-up rusher in college. Has not been asked to drop into coverage much, but that's something he may be asked to do at the next level. Has to add some weight, but all of the raw tools are there. - Allen Trieu
I believe Marshall is more likely to end up at weakside DE—playing with his hand down—than standing up at outside linebacker, so this note from Trieu after an Adidas camp in March brings up an important point ($):
He's very long and athletic. He needs to still get stronger. Big, physical offensive linemen had success when they got their hands on him, but his feet and quickness are very impressive.
Until Marshall adds the requisite size and technique, he'll have a tough go against big offensive linemen. In college, that's every offensive lineman.
His athleticism, however, makes him a tantalizing prospect as an edge rusher. Steve Lorenz named him one of the top performers at the first HYPE Showcase in Canton, citing his size/speed combo as the primary reason, a couple weeks ago:
DE Lawrence Marshall (Southfield, MI/Southfield): Marshall was the headliner and for the most part performed as such. He continues to build himself up and has become a potentially lethal combination of size and speed. He still can occasionally struggle against bigger defenders a bit, but still usually gets to the tackling dummy without much of an issue.
And at the aforementioned Adidas camp Marshall even took a couple reps on offense... at wide receiver:
Southfield (Mich.) High Top247 defensive end Lawrence Marshall took a few reps at defensive end before moving over and showing his athleticism at receiver. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Marshall was rocked up and continues to add size each time we see him.
The fact that Marshall is consistently adding size is, of course, also a major positive at this point. In fact, according to a report from Rivals' Josh Helmholdt during Marshall's junior season, while Marshall needs to add size his strength may actually be a positive ($) [emphasis mine]:
DE Lawrence Marshall, Southfield, Mich. (2014):: The last few weeks have been especially fruitful for Marshall. Although his team made a second-round exit from the Michigan high school state playoffs, a wave of new scholarship offers has helped assuage the agony of defeat. Among the most recent to offer are Big Ten programs Indiana and Michigan State, and the appeal of Marshall is evident on junior film. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Marshall still has a lean frame, but he does not have issues with strength at the point of attack. He does a great job creating upfield momentum, which all starts with his explosive first step. Marshall comes off the line hard and low, and puts an exclamation point on his sacks by being a heavy hitter.
That was five months and 20-or-so pounds ago. If Marshall continues to get bigger, as is expected, I don't think there will be much question about him playing on the line when he gets to campus. His athletic ability gives him much more potential if he's playing defensive end—where it's harder to find such an athlete that can also hold the point of attack—than if he's thrown into Michigan's deep pool of linebackers.
Marshall also held offers from Michigan State, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Pitt, Syracuse, and Tennessee, among several others.
Southfield High School (Class A, Division 2) has been an above-average program for the last several years but hasn't had a lot of success in the state playoffs—last year, they fell to Oak Park in the second round. Marshall is the highest-ranked prospect the school has produced in the Rivals era—and that's going by his three-star Rivals ranking. Other notable prospects include 2012 TE Ron Thompson, who chose Syracuse over Michigan, and 2012 Cincinnati cornerback signee LEVITICUS PAYNE.
According to 247, Marshall recorded 79 tackles, 15 sacks, and four interceptions during his junior season.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the sites list a FAKE (or real) 40 time.
Marshall's tape very much falls in line with the scouting reports. He's got a great burst off the line and gets to the football in a hurry; he's also hardly touched on a good number of these plays and needs work on technique—when he gets to Michigan, he won't be able to simply run right past offensive linemen.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
In case it hasn't been made abundantly clear, Marshall is a high-ceiling, boom-or-bust recruit. The potential is there for him to be a highly impactful edge rusher, but first he must add weight and refine his technique. [Insert praise of Michigan's D-line coaching here.]
It's possible that Marshall ends up at strongside linebacker, though I like him a lot more as a weakside end. Still, he has some positional flexibility and at the very least should turn himself into a situational pass-rusher. This comparison has been made elsewhere, but his size/speed combo and raw potential are very reminiscent of Frank Clark, this year's presumed starter at weakside end. Unlike Clark, Marshall should have a couple years of seasoning before he needs to see the field with Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton in the two classes ahead of him. From there, it's all about maintaining his athleticism while adding bulk and refining his technique—if he can do that, he's got double-digit sack potential.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
I covered Michigan's defensive line situation in great detail yesterday; the short version is they'll happily take Marshall, Malik McDowell, and Da'Shawn Hand should the latter two also decide on the Wolverines. That would give Michigan one complete line in the 2014 class with Marshall (WDE), McDowell (3-tech/SDE), Bryan Mone (NT/3-tech), and Hand (SDE/WDE). This is by no means guaranteed to happen, but at this point it's difficult to not at least consider it a definite—and pretty damn awesome—possibility. Even if Michigan misses out on Hand, that's a heck of a D-line haul if they can keep McDowell in-state, which at this point is the expectation.
As for the class as a whole, Michigan now has nine commits (not including grayshirt Brady Pallante) in the 2014 class, which currently has room for 14 players but should end up closer to 20 when all is said and done. We know the Wolverines will take one more linebacker—probably either Chase Winovich or Kyron Watson—and probably a third offensive lineman, and spots will be held open for McDowell and Hand. Other priorities include a third receiver and, say, an elite defensive back (ahem).
STAT OF THE DAY
Percentage of ESPN 150 commits to total commits: Michigan: 88%, LSU: 50%, Florida: 44%, FSU: 44%, TAM: 30%, Tenn: 16%, Texas: 14%
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) May 11, 2013
Most of the recent recruiting content has centered on the nation's #2 overall prospect, Jabrill Peppers. Today's mailbag, in contrast, focuses on the nation's #1 overall prospect, Da'Shawn Hand.
Michigan football recruiting: not doing too bad these days. On to your questions...
My question concerns "saving spots" for higher ranked prospects. We've seen with other (less ethical) coaches, that they will take a commitment from a lower ranked prospect and then abruptly take that scholarship promise away to give to a higher ranked prospect before signing day. Since our coaching staff seems unwilling to do that (thankfully), how do we see this staff balancing between saving room for the higher ranked prospects while also not leaving themselves in a position to be completely hosed on signing day if a bunch of those prospects choose to go another way? This question occurred to me in relation to Marshall's visit this weekend, and how a commitment from him might prevent one (or both) from McDowell or Hand further down the road.
Thanks for your articles on MGoBlog!
I'll address the "saving spots" issue here, and move on to Michigan's 2014 D-line situation below (as you'll see, this is a pressing question for those following recruiting). Last year's recruiting class gave a lot of insight into how the coaches handle a potential numbers crunch at a position. For the 2013 class, the coaches stopped recruiting two position groups with highly interested four-stars after filling up early: offensive line and linebacker. In both cases, they approached the number they wanted early on in the process, informed the remaining recruits in each group that they'd have to commit soon or potentially lose their spot in the class, and filled the final spot quickly.
Ben Gedeon's commitment effectively ended the recruitments of Dorian O'Daniel and E.J. Levenberry at linebacker. Patrick Kugler's commitment did the same on the offensive line until David Dawson briefly looked around; Michigan stopped targeting Ethan Pocic (eventual LSU commit), and by the time the coaches realized they could take a sixth lineman, he was off the board. In both of those cases, however, the current commits in the class—and the recruits that took the final spots—were of comparable talent to the available uncommitted prospects.*
The situation with this year's defensive line is a bit different, and apparently of some concern to you guys...
[Hit THE JUMP for my attempt to sort out the D-line situation and answers to a couple questions about quarterback recruiting.]
Before I get into the recruiting roundup, I'm planning a recruiting mailbag post for tomorrow and could use a couple more questions. If you've got one (or more!) please send me an email or tweet it to me. Now back to your regularly scheduled Jabrill Peppers update.
Jabrill Peppers Heat Status: Infinity Chilli
If you somehow haven't watched this just do it already. Yes, all of it.
As the recruitment of Jabrill Peppers evolves, Michigan's chances of landing the five-star corner appear to be getting better and better. The latest news from Peppers is that he's moving up his decision timeline and putting Penn State back in the mix—he'll make a May 18th visit to Happy Valley per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($) [emphasis mine]:
“They never left the picture,” [Paramus Catholic head coach Chris] Partridge said of Penn State. “Them and Michigan were his top visits. He decided he wanted to move up his decision timeline. He doesn’t have any negatives about Penn State. Them or Michigan. He wants to go and stay overnight at Penn State.”
Peppers is still aiming to get to Stanford before deciding.
“He is looking to commit sometime in early June,” Partridge said.
Peppers previously visited Penn State on February 20th, and while his coach is now talking up the visit there wasn't nearly the same over-the-moon reaction in the immediate aftermath as he had post-Michigan. Securing a second visit from Peppers is remarkably impressive for Bill O'Brien and PSU considering the circumstances; it seems unlikely they'd be able to overtake Michigan. This is very important considering the next bit of visit-related news:
2014 DB Jabrill Peppers hasn't cancelled his Stanford visit but it is proving difficult to plan around his track schedule, per his coach.
— The M Block (@TheMBlock) May 8, 2013
Despite finding it difficult to reschedule his trip to Stanford, Peppers is moving up his timeline. Even the staunchest of pessimists has to take that as a very good sign for Michigan's chances.
As it stands, it's hard to see a scenario in which Peppers sticks to his new timeline and doesn't choose the Wolverines. Penn State—and, if he makes the trip, Stanford—is still a threat, but there's more than one reason for Peppers to take a final visit: not only does he want to make sure he's making the right decision, he's got a high school teammate—QB Steve Shanley—who visited Happy Valley with him in February and is still hoping for a Nittany Lion offer.
PSU insiders certainly seem less optimistic than their Michigan counterparts—for good reason, with the sanctions and all. If early June is really the decision timeline, the Wolverines are going to be very tough to beat here. The current commits certainly seem to think so—either Drake Harris knows something we don't or he's just a very confident recruiter, via Sam Webb ($):
When asked if he thinks Michigan has a good chance of landing Peppers’ after their private conversations?
Harris replied, “I’ll just say we have good chance.”
Do you feel good where things stand with Peppers?
“I feel great!” Harris replied with a coy smile confidently.
Go ahead, watch that highlight tape again, and allow yourself to get a little excited.
[Hit THE JUMP for more from last weekend's camps, this weekend's visitor list, notes on new offers, and more.]
"East Lansing's Big Ten Team" Doesn't Have The Same Allure, For Some Reason
It's been a quiet week, relatively speaking, for Michigan recruiting, so today's roundup kicks off with an update on the program making a serious run for the #3 spot in the Big Ten recruiting rankings: Northwestern.
Yes, you read that right.
No, seriously, you read that right.
The Wildcats built upon their on-field success under Pat Fitzgerald with a solid recruiting class in 2013, landing consensus four-star QB Matt Alviti, underrated RB Godwin Igwebuike, and a solid group of three-stars—not just Midwest kids, either, with signees hailing from Texas (3), California (3), Florida, and New Jersey.
On the heels of a ten-win season and their first bowl win in 63 years, Northwestern is now poised to put together their best recruiting class in... ever? The Wildcats have already hauled in another four-star signal-caller, Clayton Thorson, giving Northwestern future four-star depth at quarterback, a position where they've already managed to turn an array of middling recruits with varying levels of scrambling ability into competent (at the very least) conductors of their up-tempo spread in recent years. Now the Wildcats have jumped up to 19th(!) in the 247 Composite Team Rankings after reeling in MI OL Tommy Doles and OH ATH Dareian Watkins in the last week.
Doles, of course, was long thought to be a heavy Michigan lean—I lost count of the number of times the Grand Rapids Christian product has been on campus in the last year. Given his other offers—Army, Air Force, Iowa State, and Northwestern—and the fact that he seemed on the verge of committing for months, it appears Doles' choice has as much to do with Michigan backing off as Northwestern coming on strong; regardless, the Wolverines should be fine when it comes to O-line recruiting, and the academic-minded Doles found a great fit from an on- and off-field perspective in Evanston.
Watkins, who announced his choice this morning, is the more interesting example of a prospect choosing the Wildcats over several Big Ten (and beyond) options previously thought to be more desirable. Michigan State was his other finalist, and he also held offers from Illinois, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, NC State, Penn State, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others. When Watkins' father explained his choice, Northwestern's academics were cited as a huge reason for the commitment, but the football reasons played a large role as well ($) [emphasis mine]:
"We're all very very excited about the chance to go to Northwestern. We think it's not just an amazing academic opportunity, but an amazing football opportunity. The academics overshadow the football part sometimes, but Coach Fitz has turned the program around. They were 10-3 last year, won the Gator Bowl against an SEC football team, and he was 2-0 against the SEC last year. We think it's undervalued what they are as a football program. As much he chose a life path, he's also very competitive. He wants to be part of a Big Ten Championship and compete for national championships and we think that can be done at Northwestern."
We'll, um, see about the national championships, but there's no question Fitzgerald has put the program in a position to contend for conference titles.
Unlike me, Brian is willing to wade into the shallow end* of the RCMB, and he passed along this glorious response to the usual unhinged ranting following Watkins pledging to Not Michigan State:
*There is no deep end, thankfully. It's actually an inflatable kiddie pool filled with horse manure.
[For the rest of the roundup, including updates on Jamarco Jones, Clifton Garrett, and Jae'Sean Tate, hit THE JUMP.]