Not A Good Look
At this point, anyone reading this post is pretty familiar with Da'Shawn Hand, the nation's top overall prospect. Michigan and Virginia Tech are presumed to lead the other three schools in his top five—Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina—while LSU and USC are on the outside looking in. Even further on the outside is Ohio State, where Hand reportedly had a poor visit experience the first time around, and despite a decent trip there last weekend—he swung by while in town for the Columbus NFTC—the Buckeyes won't be a factor in his recruitment going forward.
If you believe Eleven Warriors [ed-S: ...''s recruiting guy Jeremy Birmingham, not Ramzy] , this is because the Ohio State coaches suddenly decided they weren't very interested in the top player in the country—for reasons, you see—and here begins the fisking:
For some reason, my contention that Ohio State would not be aggressively attempting to get back into the Hand sweepstakes set off an internet wildfire with people.
This contention is reasonable; it's become clear that Ohio State is a longshot at best to get Hand, and the coaching staff could better spend their time targeting prospects with more interest in the Buckeyes. This would be a good place to stop, but...
As I have said a few times, it's a simple matter of personality. Ohio State wants people who are going to go 1000 miles per hour, every day, on and off the field. They want people who fight for each other, for their university and for their own improvement. They want people who are challenging themselves to improve every day and do so without the need to proclaim their own greatness for people to see, read, or hear. They want competitors and they want fighters.
...then there's this load of crap, as if the above doesn't fit what every football coach in America is trying to find in a recruit. Which leads us to the really stupid thing:
As far as Da'Shawn Hand? I've never said he was not a competitor, just that things with Ohio State and Hand did not see eye-to-eye from the start of his visit in November because he was not being treated any differently than any of the other recruits on hand, 90-minutes before kick-off of the biggest game of the year. The Buckeyes could not give Hand the attention they would have liked to, and the day was a bit too hectic for him to get "comfortable" at Ohio State.
This is a remarkably shitty thing to write about a high school kid without anything approaching first-hand evidence. The "I've never said..." hedging is just that, hedging, because discussing OSU's supposed lack of interest in reconnecting with Hand after everything in the previous paragraph is either a case of really unfortunate juxtaposition or the type of insinuation that unfairly impugns the character of a 17-year-old — one who, by all other accounts, is a kid of extremely high character.
The timing—when it's become blindingly obvious that Hand doesn't want to go to Ohio State—makes this come off as some seriously sour grapes. I'm sorry, Buckeye faithful, that Hand's reaction to being asked about Ohio State in the above video was this:
But, no, I'm not actually sorry. A high-profile player isn't interested in your school and may very well end up at a rival school. These things happen. Responding to this by suggesting that a player doesn't work hard enough, or is afraid to compete against the best, or isn't motivated enough to improve ... even if the implication is merely by context, that's a bad look. Nearly as bad as the one Hand gave when asked about Ohio State.
I think Eleven Warriors does a fantastic job, and that includes their recruiting coverage, but seeing this—and the wild speculation that it inevitably led to in such a forum—was disappointing. Perhaps, next time, just say that the kid isn't interested and move on.
[Hit THE JUMP for camp highlights of Ian Bunting, the latest on the Malik McDowell transfer rumors, and more.]
Michael Ferns, Da'Shawn Hand, and Ian Bunting at last weekend's Columbus NFTC (via)
[Reads Between Lines] [Tries To Hold It Together] [Fails]
So... this quote [emphasis mine]:
"Bud Foster is my favorite coach, but I haven't talked with him in a while," [Da'Shawn] Hand said.
"But my favorite coaching staff is Michigan," Hand said. "With Michigan, what you see if what you get. It's professional. With some, you feel like when you get to college it might, change, but with Michigan, everyone says they're straight.
According to the author of the article, SBNation's Bud Elliott, Michigan and Virginia Tech are "running neck and neck" for the lead in Hand's recruitment. Hand refuses to acknowledge even that much—he's says he enjoys the suspense—and he does have an unofficial visit set up to Alabama in July and is looking at trips to Florida, LSU, and USC, per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($). That said, his only planned official visit thus far is to Michigan, for the Notre Dame Game (a trip he recently locked in), and of the previously listed schools only Alabama appears to be a serious threat to his presumed top two.
One school we know for sure won't be pushing for his commitment is Ohio State, despite a campus visit last weekend that went better than his first trip to Columbus:
With the NFTC on the Ohio State campus, Hand took the opportunity and made an unofficial visit to the Buckeyes, along with friend Tim Settle, one of the top players in the class of 2015.
'It was straight, we talked," Hand said. "But I was with Tim, and he's a beast, and it was kind of his visit. Everyone knows that my first visit wasn't all that, but this visit was better. Still, I don't want to get anyone's hopes up."
Meanwhile, Hand revealed in an interview with Bruce Feldman that he's being recruited by at least one insane person:
Q: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you since you've been named the nation's No. 1 recruit?
Hand: Well, I ain't gonna say any names, but one coach told me that since I'm the No. 1 player, I'm gonna get to meet Michael Jackson. I said, "Isn't he already dead?" The coach goes, "Well, all right, you can meet Tito." I was like, all right. OK, I'm done.
It was crazy, but it is what it is.
all hypothetical internet dollars entire real-life savings account on Les Miles]
In the SBNation article, Hand said he's unsure of his timeline for a commitment. Regardless of when that comes, he told Feldman the announcement will be low-key:
I don't want to be like everybody else and be all flashy and do this and play around with people. For my commitment day, I just want to have it at my school. I'm not going to have three hats. I'm going to have one hat. I'm gonna call the coaches the night before. Tell them what school I'm going to and that's it.
At this point, it's looking more and more likely that hat will have a block 'M' on it. Which, uh, would be pretty nice.
[Hit THE JUMP for more on newest commit Chase Winovich, the latest on Artavis Scott and Adoree' Jackson, a Michigan commit earning an invite to The Opening, and more.]
Jefferson Hills (PA) Thomas Jefferson linebacker Chase Winovich got his first offer from Pitt, and his home-state school appeared to hold the early edge in his recruitment ($):
Thomas Jefferson has sent four players to Pitt since the recruiting class of 2007, and Winovich knows about that pipeline. In fact, it's not hard for him to imagine himself joining it.
"I see the talent they have produced; my neighbors are the Nix brothers, and I watched them and the DeCicco's play at Pitt," he said. "Personally, I love Pitt. I love the coaching staff, I love Pittsburgh, I'm a hometown guy. I want to keep my options open but I can't really find too many flaws in Pitt. I'm looking at them a lot."
Childhood favorite Ohio State offered in early April and immediately vaulted to the top of his list ($):
"This really changes things for me, and I have to say it's a dream come true since I'm an Ohio State fan," he admitted. "I'm not ready to commit right now to anyone, but Ohio State is in my top-three. I can't deny that I love it, and it's going to be tough to find a school that will top Ohio State."
"Pittsburgh was the first school to offer me and they're right in my backyard, so they're a favorite of mine," Winovich added. "I'm still looking for that third school and I'm not shutting anybody out right now."
A short time later, Michigan came through with an offer, and after two visits to Ann Arbor—the second for the Spring Game—the Wolverines made a serious move of their own ($):
“Michigan is definitely in my top three,” he said. “The only reason they really weren’t before was because they (hadn’t) offered. It would have been them above Ohio State, but obviously they hadn’t offered me at that point. It hurt that they didn’t offer before Ohio State got involved, but I’m just happy they’re in now and they’re definitely in my top three. I’m excited about them.”
At various points over the last month—heck, the last week—insiders from all three schools have been confident that Winovich was leaning towards their program, despite him never publicly naming a leader. Today the speculation ended as Winovich announced his commitment to Michigan, according to multiple outlets.
|3*, #28 OLB||3*, #29 OLB||3*, 78, #30 OLB||3*, 87, #49 OLB||
3*, #41 OLB,
The scouting services are almost eerily in lockstep when it comes to Winovich; 247 is a slightly low outlier, and otherwise Winovich is placed just inside the top 30 outside linebackers in the class. Going by position rankings, Winovich is four spots away from a fourth star on Scout and ESPN, nine spots away on Rivals, and 21 on 247.
The services have a general consensus on Winovich's measurables, pegging him at 6'4" and around 215 pounds; his own highlight tape lists an updated weight of 218 as of last month. The Wolverines recruited Winovich as a strongside linebacker, and that frame fits the mold for the position.
In-person scouting of Winovich is pretty scant at this point; if he hit the camp circuit before his junior season, nobody wrote about it, and in the lone camp he's been to this spring—the Rivals Camp Series event in Pittsburgh—he and fellow commit Michael Ferns were overshadowed by less-heralded prospects ($):
The biggest names at the linebacker position coming into the Pittsburgh Rivals Camp were four-star Michael Ferns and three-star Chase Winovich. While both prospects had solid performances, they were outdone by lesser-known linebackers during Sunday's competition.
Neither future Wolverine made the top ten defensive performers list, so no further details are provided on what constituted a "solid" showing.
ESPN sees Winovich as an outside linebacker all the way, praising his "long, sturdy frame," sideline-to-sideline range, and tackling ability. They also like his instincts...
Quick off the mark showing outstanding downhill ability vs. the inside run. Maintains good leverage on the ball and isn't fooled by misdirection. Although he needs to become a more physical take-on guy, his quick hands allow him to shed and get off blocks. Demonstrates the quickness, balance and agility needed to avoid blockers and make plays in tight spaces. Moves through traffic very well, showing excellent sideline-to-sideline range. Has the playing speed needed to chase down ball carriers when in long pursuit.
...and ability to drop into coverage or come on the blitz in third-down situations:
Shows the ability to open his hips, turn and run. Demonstrates good underneath route awareness with a closing break on underneath throws and screens. Will need to gain experience as a coverage defender. His ability to run and make tight turns indicates potential as a man coverage defender. Displays very good blitz timing with a burst to the quarterback. Developing a repertoire of moves is a must.
Areas for improvement are the usual: add muscle, refine technique. After an almost entirely positive rundown of Winovich's game, ESPN says he has "very good potential" ... as a special teams player, though they do note the possibility of early situational playing time.
247's Clint Brewster took a look at Winovich's junior film and came away very impressed, listing only bulk and pad level—natch—as areas for improvement; the rest sounds quite good ($):
[H]as an instinctive first step and blows plays up before they even happen. Winovich plays with outstanding aggression and is very explosive. He has excellent speed and can make plays from sideline to sideline. Winovich has enough speed to chase down running backs far down field. He does a nice job of using his hands to shed blockers and scraping to get to the ball carrier. Winovich is really long at 6-foot-4 and can really get in between passing lanes. He is excellent when dropping into coverage. Winovich can be a force coming off the edge as an outside linebacker and can really close on the quarterback. He is very good at finishing off his opponent when he tackles. Winovich has great form tackling.
Caveats about scouting based only on film go here—they're called "highlights" for a reason—but after looking at individual game cut-ups from Winovich's Hudl page, I see a lot of the same positives that Brewster does.
The coaches have made it clear to Winovich that they like him on the strong side, going so far as to show his film side-by-side with Michigan's current standout at the position ($):
“Coach Hoke wasn’t there (last time),” Winovich said noting the difference between visits. “The environment was a lot different. All the players were there this time, I got to sit in with the coaches and really discuss everything about me and my future there, and they seemed more excited about me this time around. Kurt Mattes the film guy there he put together a (video) at the request of Coach Mattison. It’s this film of me one play and then Jake Ryan the next play, and then it goes back and forth every other play. It showed how comparable we are. (Ryan) would do one play and then it’d be the exact same play or scenario (with me) on the other side. It was really cool seeing the comparison.”
Winovich has a very similar frame to Ryan—who was listed at 6'3", 220 lbs. as a recruit—and displays a lot of the same athletic traits, especially in his ability to explode off the snap. Whether he can maintain that athleticism while adding 25-or-so pounds (Ryan is now listed at 241), not to mention develop Ryan's maniacal playmaking ability, is a question that won't be answered until he's on campus for a couple years.
As for the "would you let him date your daughter?" test, here's an excerpt from a Chantel Jennings article($) on Chase's relationship with his older brother, Peter, who played for Bowling Green from 2004-2008:
But there were similarities for many years. Peter took up baseball, so Chase did, too. Peter took up basketball, so Chase did, too.
But Chase went on to become student body president. Peter never did that. And Chase decided to start taking piano lessons last year. Peter never did that, either.
“As much as I like him following in my footsteps, he has definitely always done his own thing,” Peter said. “With football I think there was a lot of pressure on Chase … and he has been able to do it and do even more in his own way, so that has been awesome.”
Winovich's offer sheet included Arkansas, Florida State, Michigan State, Mizzou, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pitt, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. That's a pretty impressive list for a consensus three-star; it will be interesting to see if Winovich moves up the recruiting rankings during his senior season, as college coaches seem to be seeing something that the recruiting services aren't at this point.
Thomas Jefferson High School boasts five WPIAL (Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League) Class AAA titles, including three straight from 2006-08, as well as state championships in 2004, 2007, and 2008. The Jaguars have produced six recruits rated three-stars or higher in the Rivals era; four of those players went to Pitt, including four-star prospect and current Oakland Raiders guard Lucas Nix.
Via Scout ($):
This past season, Winovich helped his team to a 11-1 record, another conference title and an appearance in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals. He earned first-team all-conference honors, finished with 69 tackles, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a 40 time of 4.65, which appears pretty reasonable when you watch Winovich's film—he's got great straight-line speed for a linebacker prospect. I'll give it two FAKEs out of five.
Winovich's first step, play diagnosis, movement in traffic, and tackling ability all stand out on tape; you can see that linear speed at the :29 mark when he chases down a perfectly set-up slip screen from behind to save a touchdown.
Again, you can see much more of Winovich on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Winovich is destined for the strongside linebacker spot; when he gets to campus, the only returning players at the position will be a senior Jake Ryan and a redshirt freshman or sophomore Mike McCray. While Winovich appears likely to need a redshirt year to add weight and learn Greg Mattison's defense, he should be in the mix for playing time as early as his redshirt freshman season, and at the very least should contribute on special teams.
I've had Michael Ferns projected as a strongside 'backer in this space before, but my guess is he'll come to campus as an inside linebacker with Winovich in the fold; Ferns has the versatility to play inside or outside, while Winovich is more of a pure outside type.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has 11 commits in the class of 2014 and should be finished recruiting linebackers with Ferns and Winovich in the fold. The Wolverines currently have room to take ~15 players in the class, though that number should swell to around 20 when all is said and done. The main targets moving forward are SDE Da'Shawn Hand, 3-tech/SDE Malik McDowell, slot receiver Artavis Scott, and a trio of highly-ranked defensive backs: CA ATH Juju Smith, CA CB Adoree' Jackson, and IL CB Parrker Westphal, with the latter the most likely to end up in the class. They'll also likely take one more offensive lineman, though the top candidate for that spot is less clear—IL OL Jamarco Jones is the highest-rated target and has Michigan among his favorites, but Ohio State is presumed to hold the edge in his recruitment.
BREAKING: ESPNU Host Doesn't Understand Concept Of "Freestyle"
In case you didn't put off your Sunday dinner plans while the Nebraska/Oregon softball game dragged on interminably, above is Jabrill Peppers' unsuspenseful-but-still-quite-worthwhile announcement of his college decision. Peppers decided on Michigan, of course, and you can find what I'm pretty sure is the longest "Hello" post in MGoHistory here if you spent your Memorial Day weekend doing things like "go outside and grill like a normal person."
The commitment post covers Peppers' considerable potential to make an on-field impact; he should also make a big splash as a recruiter now that he's in the fold, and told WolverineNation's Mike Rothstein that he's already got some key targets in mind:
"Oh yeah. Tell Da'Shawn Hand I'm coming," Peppers said. "They call me, 'Commish.' Commissioner Peppers. Malik McDowell. Da'Shawn Hand. You need those defensive linemen.
"A great defensive line makes a great DB and a great defensive secondary. Those guys are definitely on my radar. I'm coming strong. Emphasis on strong."
It may not stop there, though. The mere presence of the nation's best defensive back in Michigan's class should have other elite prospects giving the Wolverines a hard look—instead of shying away from competition, top prospects are looking to play with other top prospects these days—and Tim Sullivan lists a couple of very intriguing possibilities to fill the final defensive back spot should IL CB Parrker Westphal also join the class ($):
If U-M reels in Westphal, there may be only one space remaining in the secondary. It could be either a safety or a cornerback, thanks to the versatility of both Peppers and Westphal, but would almost certainly go to an elite player. Prospects such as Gardena (Calif.) Serra five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson and Long Beach (Calif.) Poly safety John "Juju" Smith are likely options.
While the Wolverines aren't the favorite to land either Jackson or Smith, both plan to visit Ann Arbor during the recruiting process—Smith even set up an official for the Notre Dame game—and we've seen what this coaching staff can do while hosting a prospect on campus. The limited space in the class, number of interested top prospects, depth on the current roster, and positional flexibility of the current/recent recruits (i.e. 2013's defensive back haul) all give Michigan the ability to hone in on a few top targets; think last year's USC class minus the overhanging NCAA sanctions and Lane Kiffin factor.
Oh, and regarding one particular five-star...
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Da'Shawn Hand—is Michigan now his leader?—and more.]
THE IMPORTANT THING: What Time Do I Need To Take A Break From Watching Arrested Development on Sunday?
Jabrill Peppers announces his college decision on Sunday at 5:15 pm ET on ESPNU. Everything we've seen and heard for the last several weeks—Gerry Hamilton's contrarianism notwithstanding—points to a Michigan commitment. While Peppers is declining to take interviews until his announcement, his coach is making the media rounds and claims that his star athlete isn't quite sure of his decision yet:
Representatives from the University of Michigan visited Paramus Catholic last week and spent much of the day there, inquiring about the Garden State's top athlete. The Wolverines are thought to take a commanding lead for his services into the weekend, although the star athlete has yet to officially solidify which school he will be selecting, Sunday.
"He doesn't know, just yet," [Paramus Catholic coach Chris] Partridge told NJ.com. "He's still visiting schools this week."
Although Partridge was reluctant to release the list of schools Peppers will be taking a look at during the final days of his recruiting process, there has been speculation that he will make a stop at Rutgers some time this week.
I'm not saying Peppers' coach is just doing his best to add some suspense—and there's nothing wrong with that—but I'll just leave this quote here:
“I know and feel very confident in the decision I’m going to make,” said Peppers.
Okay, I'm saying Peppers' coach is just doing his best to add some suspense. That's my last word on Peppers until Sunday, when there will either be many more words or we'll be attempting to salvage the flaming wreckage of the MGoBoard.
Chase Winovich Update: More Of The Same
PA LB Chase Winovich still has Michigan in his top three (with Ohio State and Pitt), is still contemplating visits (definitely to Pitt, unsure of others), and, yes, is still giving really confusing quotes to reporters, per Sam Webb ($):
That consistent focus that trio of favorites combined with his aforementioned decision timeline was fodder for speculation about a commitment being forthcoming. One recent report went a step beyond speculating and indicated that a decision next week was imminent, a claim that Winovich denies.
"I think the question (from the reporter) was 'is it possible that I could commit to a school after my Pitt visit?'," he recalled. "I think I said, 'yeah, anything is possible.' He said, 'could you let me know so I could put you on a commit watch?' So I said, 'yeah, anything is possible.'" (Laughter).
For the record, Winovich is still in deliberation mode with no definite decision date in sight.
I've said previously that I've heard optimism from both the Michigan and Ohio State sides regarding their chances with Winovich; the above may give a hint as to why. I claim no insider info here, but I switched my prediction for him from U-M to OSU yesterday, because it appears the Wolverines are picking up interest in other OLB prospects—something I doubt they would do if they were confident Winovich would take the final linebacker spot.
[Late-Breaking NOTE: Ohio State just added a commitment from linebacker Dante Booker, but according to 247's Steve Wiltfong the Buckeyes would still accept a commitment from Winovich($). Bad news for Michigan, good news for me not having to rewrite this entire section.]
After a period in which they'd fallen out of contact, Michigan and Crete (IL) Monee four-star LB Nyles Morgan have reconnected, and Morgan told GBW's Josh Newkirk that he's still interested in the Wolverines ($):
“Coach (Curt) Mallory came by,’ [Morgan] said. “I also talked with (defensive coordinator) Greg Mattison on the phone last week. He said he would be by this week.”
With the Wolverine coaching staff accelerating their efforts to connect with Morgan, he said he would like to build a better relationship with Mattison.
“I just want to have a good conversation with him,” he said. “I had previously good conversations with him before. At Michigan we had real good conversation. That was pretty nice, too. I just want to get to know him a little better and have him get to know me.”
Morgan mentioned the possibility of visiting either for July's BBQ at the Big House or a game this fall; he's not in any hurry to decide, so Michigan could still become a contender for his signature.
According to 247's Clint Brewster($), linebackers coach Roy Manning spent seven hours(!!) with Florida prospect Darrion Owens and claimed he is their "top target" at linebacker. Owens received an offer a month ago and—at 6'3", 225 pounds—has the frame to play on the strong side.
Four-star LA LB Kenny Young—who claims a very strong list of offers—hasn't been mentioned as a major possibility for the Wolverines, but he has them on a list of schools he'd like to see, per Rivals' Jason Howell ($):
What schools does he plan to check out?
"Like the Florida schools - Florida, Florida State, Miami," Young said. "Those three, I'll also try to visit Arkansas, Tennessee, Michigan… Arizona State."
Michigan still has a very real chance with Winovich; that said, it's clear that they're also exploring other options in case they need one.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on four top 2014 targets—including one discussing a possible commitment—as well as news on Michigan's 2015 QB offeree and much more.]
*BREAKING* 6'6", 230-Pound Quarterback Has Strong Arm After All
Michigan quarterback commit Wilton Speight flew across the country to compete in the Elite 11 San Francisco regional camp last weekend. Despite a field featuring several of the top prospects in the country,—including #1 pro-style QB Keller Chryst and Oregon commit Morgan Mahalak—nobody at the camp earned an invite to the Elite 11 finals; Speight showed off a strong arm and high ceiling but struggled a bit with his mechanics, as you can see in the above video (he's the one with the Michigan shorts, natch). The Elite 11's resident coach, former NFL QB Trent Dilfer, gave his thoughts on Speight to 247's Barton Simmons:
One of the longest commutes to compete at the event came from Richmond, Va. native Wilton Speight. The Michigan commit was also one of the biggest prospects in attendance with regard to his physical stature and Dilfer noted that his size is both his strength and his weakness at this point.
Dilfer on Speight: “He had a nice day. He’s obviously a very physical kid, tall, strong. I think he’s got to get more organized. Everything’s just got to get more organized for him to be consistent. That’s typical for a lot of linear guys. There’s a lot of moving parts.”
Scout's crew of experts all had Speight outside the top five performers, but national analyst Greg Biggins—as well as Speight himself—still had a largely positive review of his play ($) [emphasis mine]:
The biggest quarterback in the camp was easily Richmond (Va.) Collegiate School’s Wilton Speight. The Michigan commit looks all of 6-6, 230 pounds and he had a solid camp. He was able to make all the throws showing off a strong arm and actually looked better than expected when he had to throw on the run.
Speight is a pure drop back quarterback who throws a tight ball and can get the ball down the field. He threw some of the best deep balls in the camp and makes it look easy and effortless.
“I was happy with my performance, I wasn’t overly thrilled with all my throws but overall, I thought I had a good day,” Speight said. “There’s always a couple of throws you want back but the beauty of this is there’s still 13 spots left for the final Elite 11. No one got the invite today so you just have to stay patient and let the process play itself out.”
As Speight said above, he'll still have a chance to earn his way into the finals later this spring; he won't be the only one from the SF regional with something to prove, as five-star Chryst reportedly (and by his own admission) struggled mightily.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest visit plans of five-star DT Andrew Brown, Michigan commits in the updated Rivals100 and Top247, and more.]