2015 Quarterback Musical Chairs
Should be awarded fifth star just for using early Black Keys.
When Michigan named Doug Nussmeier offensive coordinator, five-star QB Ricky Town was committed to Alabama, Michigan offeree David Sills was USC's lone (and long-time) 2015 QB commit, and CA five-star QB Josh Rosen had shown little interest in his Wolverine offer.
That's all changing quickly. Town decommitted from Alabama on Saturday, launching speculation that he may want to follow his former would-be offensive coordinator and position coach to Ann Arbor. That speculation lasted a matter of hours before Town committed to his home-state childhood favorite... USC. Even before Town's commitment, Sills started fielding interest from other schools, and a decommitment—possibly of the mutual "this is best for everyone" variety—could very well be in the cards; this quote via ESPN's Blair Angulo is telling ($):
[USC coach Steve] Sarkisian, according to Sills' father, David, was slated to check in at the school sometime this month. That plan might still be in play, though some close to Sills' recruitment got word about Town's decommitment and aren't optimistic.
"The staff was supposed to come by two or three weeks ago, but apparently they will swing by this coming week," Eastern Christian Academy coach Dwayne Thomas said.
"David is still considering other schools," Thomas said.
Michigan could very well be one of those schools under consideration, though that situation is complicated, too. Sills was offered under Al Borges, not Nussmeier, and Michigan continues to throw out offers to '15 quarterbacks—most recently, Notre Dame commit Blake Barnett and 247 Composite top-50 TX dual-threat QB Jarrett Stidham. It's unclear how serious Sills is about Michigan; it's also unclear how interested Michigan (read: Nussmeier) is in Sills.
In case matters weren't complicated enough, Rosen's interest in Michigan has grown to the point that he's hankering to visit Ann Arbor, per Rivals' Adam Gorney ($):
"I've seen plenty of Cal and Stanford," Rosen said. "The school I'd actually travel to see is Michigan. I've seen Cal like four times now because I've seen Bryce (Treggs) up there and went to Elite 11 stuff. I pretty much know what's going on there.
"I want to check out Michigan, maybe Texas, I don't know. Michigan is one I definitely want to go to."
UCLA has a decided edge for Rosen—he even considered an early commitment to the Bruins—but if he gets on campus, who knows what can happen from there.
Since it's tough to keep track, Michigan has offered four 2015 quarterbacks: Rosen, Sills, Barnett, and Stidham. Barnett is a firm Notre Dame pledge, Rosen seems likely to stay in California, the Sills situation is covered above, and Stidham has a great offer list that includes the in-state triumverate of Texas/TAMU/Baylor. The search for the right '15 QB could go on for quite a while at this rate, and I wouldn't be surprised if more offers go out in the near future.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on new 2015 offers, the chances of bringing Harris and Campbell back into the fold, and more.]
Damien Harris Fallout: Back In It For Mike Weber?
2015 five-star RB Damien Harris decommitted from Michigan this week. After Al Borges—his primary recruiter—was fired, Harris decided he needed to take a step back and explore his options, though his mother says Michigan is still on top, per Sam Webb ($):
“The reason he came to this decision is he felt like when he committed, at the time, we felt like it was the right decision even though it was early,” she explained. “Months later he has been thinking and thinking, ‘I didn’t really go and look at other places probably like I should have. I didn’t consider other places like I should have.’ Even though Michigan is #1, and that hasn’t changed, he just wants to make sure he doesn’t have any regrets when he gets ready to enroll. He just wants to make sure that he didn’t leave any stone unturned and wants to make sure he didn’t miss out on anything, even though he knows Michigan is still his #1. That’s all. He is just making sure that if he was to visit other places, he wasn’t going to regret not taking the full experience.”
Meanwhile, a certain despicable portion of the fanbase* isn't helping Michigan's cause. Harris has taken a lot of heat on Twitter for his decommitment and his coach told TomVH that could be a factor in his ultimate decision ($):
“People need to back off of him [on Twitter]. He’s a 16-year-old kid. People are attacking him on there,” [Madison Southern coach Jon] Clark said. “You have grown men who are way out of line, and Michigan fans better ease up or they’re going to push him away from Michigan. The coaches aren’t; the fans are.
“The only impact a fan ever has on a kid is a negative one; that’s it. There’s not a fan out there that has a positive impact on this kid.”
To state the blitheringly obvious: DON'T DO THIS. I realize/hope this doesn't apply to 99% of you, but nothing you're going to do as a fan—positive or negative, in person or on social media—is going to make a positive difference in a prospect's recruitment. Leave the recruiting to the coaches and, as a general life rule, leave harassing high school students to... nobody. Nobody should do that.
Anyway, with Harris opening up his recruitment, Michigan has rekindled their interest in 2015 four-star Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, per GBW's Josh Newkirk ($):
“I talked with (Nussmeier) for a half-hour on the phone. He is real excited about recruiting me,” Weber told GoBlueWolverine. “He told me it was crazy that Michigan stopped recruiting me. So when he got there he was telling me how he really wanted me (at Michigan). It made me open my eyes back up to Michigan.
“Michigan is back on the radar.”
Weber named a top five of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Tennessee (in no particular order); the Spartans and Vols have been the presumed favorites for a while now, though the renewed Michigan interest could change that. It didn't take long for Weber to recipricate that interest, too—he was the only prospect in attendance at last night's Iowa game, which he seemed to appreciate. Whether or not things work out with Harris, Weber would be a great addition to the class; he's been very productive against solid competition for the last two years and looks great on film.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, new 2015 offers—including a long-awaited one to a California DE—the final Rivals250, and more.]
As recently as yesterday, it appeared all but assured that Michigan would take a running back in the 2014 class, whether it be Jeff Jones or newly offered Marlon Mack or perhaps a reinterested Kalen Ballage.
Not so fast, my friends. This morning, Sam Webb said on his WTKA recruiting segment* that he doesn't expect Jones or Mack to end up in the class—a change from his earlier stance—and he reiterated that in a board post on GBW (link $). 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed that report this afternoon and added that he believes it also applies to Ballage ($).
As of now, the reasoning behind this shift from the coaching staff is unclear. There's an optimistic take out there, though; Doug Nussmeier visited 2015 RB commit Damien Harris last week in the midst of rampant speculation—including from his fellow commits—that a decommitment was on the horizon. Harris has been quiet of late; it's possible that Nussmeier felt more comfortable with Harris' status—and Michigan's depth chart at RB—after the visit and felt a scholarship could be better used at another position (or in the 2015 class). It may also help Harris' commitment status if he's reassured that there won't be extra competition from a running back in the class ahead of him.
It appears it's Malik McDowell or bust to round out the 2014 class; given the needs already filled and the small projected class size for 2015, banking a scholarship or two isn't a bad idea, even if it means a less exciting Signing Day (again) this year. For what it's worth, while Sam Webb continues to be optimistic that McDowell will stay close to home, at least one reliable Florida State insider likes their chances after McDowell took his official to Tallahassee last weekend.
[Hit THE JUMP for info on Michigan's two most recent 2015 offers, the final Rivals 100, the DetNews Blue Chip list, and more.]
Wrenches keep getting thrown into the system when it comes to Michigan’s 2014 running back recruiting. Until about two weeks ago it didn’t really look like Michigan had any realistic running back options in the 2014 class, then there appeared to be one, then he recommitted to Cal, and now there could be two and maybe a long-shot third.
On January 3rd Jeff Jones was offered after a stellar performance at the Under Armour game and it was quickly learned that the interest was mutual. He told me that it was a big deal to get the Michigan offer and he was excited to have it. Jones has been on campus before but wasn’t recruited very aggressively immediately following his brief visit to Ann Arbor. I’ve had limited conversation with Jones and he basically just told me that he has to finish all of his visits before he can make a final decision. The good news for Michigan is that he will take his final visit, to Ann Arbor, on January 31st, just five days before signing day. It’s believed that Jones is considering only Michigan, Florida, and the team he’s currently committed to, Minnesota, so with Michigan getting the last crack at him, there’s reason for optimism.
Just two weeks after Jones was offered another name was thrown into the hat when the coaches decided to offer Marlon Mack, coincidentally on the same day he decided to decommit from UCLA.
Jeff Hecklinski was at Mack's house and stayed for about an hour, with that visit culminating with an offer. Mack said that he was feeling Michigan quite a bit after meeting and talking with Coach Heck and news of his decommitment followed later that evening. He obviously has a lot to mull over and didn’t give me much about what he was going to do. He told me that Michigan definitely has a chance but right now he has no leader, no top group, and no timeline for when he’ll make his final decision.
Kalen Ballage is a name that Michigan recruitaholics are very aware of but fell by the wayside after he, somewhat surprisingly, committed to Arizona State on December 11th. I was able to confirm with Ballage today however that Michigan is indeed actively recruiting him again and that he has been in contact with Coach Funk.
Before Ballage committed to ASU he was always a bit tough to read and today was no different. I asked him if he was solid to Arizona State or if he was considering Michigan again and he cryptically said, “I’m not sure right now.” To me that means he’s at least entertaining the idea of reopening his commitment but right now there’s no real reason to think he’ll decommit or flip to Michigan or anyone else for that matter.
I feel confident in saying that Michigan will definitely add a running back to the 2014 class but right now it is very tough to predict who. Jones seems like option #1. He will officially visit Ann Arbor just five days before National Signing Day and that bodes well for the Wolverines but also leaves them little time to deal with surprises.
Mack is likely option #2 if Jones doesn’t pan out although Coach Heck being in his house and offering in person shows a high level of legitimate interest. Neither Jones or Mack was able to specifically tell me if their offers were committable, but with just 18 days until signing day one would assume that they both are. I never thought Michigan had a great chance with Ballage and I still don’t. He doesn’t appear to be solid to Arizona State but I just don’t think Michigan can suddenly become his leader and flip him within the next two weeks.
It’s been tough to get a good grasp on this situation. The vibes I’m getting suggest it’s about 60/40 in favor of Jeff Jones being Michigan's running back of this class, with Mack a possibility to join regardless of that decision, and the most likely to commit if Jones doesn't.
Scout, 247 Release Final 2014 Rankings
ESPN released their final 2014 rankings earlier this week—covered in the last roundup—and now Scout and 247 have followed suit.
Here's the movement for Michigan commits and targets in the final Scout rankings:
- Commit Jabrill Peppers moved up from #4 to #3 overall (#1 CB)
- Target Malik McDowell moved up from #42 to #36 (#7 DE)
- Early enrollee Drake Harris moved up from #54 to #52 (#8 WR)
- Target Jeff Jones is ranked #78 (#12 RB) (unsure of previous ranking since he just recently picked up a Michigan offer, but I'm pretty sure he moved up)
- Early enrollee Bryan Mone moved up from #90 to #88 (#6 DT)
- Commit Lawrence Marshall moved up from #105 to #104 (#12 DE)
- Early enrollee Freddy Canteen fell from #171 to #172 (#31 WR)
- Early enrollee Michael Ferns fell from #178 to #179 (#8 MLB)
- Early enrollee Mason Cole fell from #249 to #253 (#18 OT)
- Commit Chase Winovich fell from #277 to #281 (#26 OLB)
That gives U-M eight commits in the Scout 300 with a realistic shot at adding two more. The reshuffling is less kind at 247, which appeared to base a good deal of their final rankings on the All-American games/combines:
- Commit Jabrill Peppers fell from #3 to #4 overall (#1 ATH)
- Target Malik McDowell moved up from #53 to #38 (#2 SDE)
- Target Jeff Jones moved up from #188 to #55 (#5 RB)
- Early enrollee Bryan Mone fell from #46 to #83 (#9 DT)
- Early enrollee Mason Cole moved up from #111 to #87 (#4 OG)
- Early enrollee Drake Harris fell from #43 to #88 (#12 WR)
- Early enrollee Michael Ferns fell from #191 to #198 (#7 ILB)
- Commit Lawrence Marshall moved up from #229 to #221 (#11 WDE)
- Commit Ian Bunting fell from #224 to #230 (#6 TE)
- Commit Juwann Bushell-Beatty fell off the list from #208 (remains four-star, now #23 OT)
A much wider range of movement here, obviously, with Jeff Jones and Mason Cole benefiting from outstanding All-American performances and Bryan Mone and Juwann Bushell-Beatty going in the opposite direction. It's obvious that the recruiting services are having a hard time figuring out what to do with Drake Harris, who's remained in or around the top 50 on the recruiting rankings on the basis of his stellar junior year and, depending on the site, is either staying there (Scout) or falling after missing his entire senior season and the UA game (247, ESPN).
Even with the wider variety in postseason movement, Michigan ends up with just as many top-250 prospects on 247 (seven, pending the decisions of McDowell and Jones) as they do on Scout—not a bad haul at all in a class currently standing at 16 commits. ESPN remains your recruiting service of choice this year, as they have eight Wolverines in the top 200.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Jones and McDowell, the Daily on Jared Wangler, Michigan offering a legacy prospect, and more.]
Position: Running Back
Ht/Wt: 6'0" / 190 lbs.
Location: Booker High School (2014) – Sarasota, FL
Offers: Ball State, Florida Atlatntic, Florida Intl, Indiana, Iowa State, Marshall, Middle Tenn St, Northern Illinois, Ohio, South Florida, UCLA
Ranking: ★★★ .8365 (247 Composite)
The coaches have made it quite clear that they’d like to take a running back in the 2014 class. Unfortunately every running back they’ve offered is already committed elsewhere. That didn’t stop the coaches from offering Vic Enwere, who ultimately re-committed to California, and Jeff Jones who remains committed to the Golden Gophers but is definitely flirting with other schools, including Michigan. The most recent name to pop up on the RB radar is current UCLA commit Marlon Mack. I posted a forum about him the day Enwere reaffirmed his commitment, but things have advanced even further since then.
With the dead period ending on Tuesday the coaches are wasting no time to strengthen their relationship with Mack. I talked with him Tuesday evening and he informed me that Coach Jeff Hecklinski will be visiting him Thursday. Mack was honest in saying that he really doesn’t know if an offer will come his way or not and he also wasn’t really sure what to expect from Coach Heck’s visit.
Mack has rather impressive film but it was discussed by several commenters on the forum that he might not play the best of competition. He plays at a “big-ish” school in Florida for a team that enjoys moderate success, evidenced by a 7-4 overall record and a 2nd round exit from the Florida state playoffs. Running back is a position where competition level obviously makes a difference in how a player looks on film, but you can’t teach big and fast.
My guess would be that Coach Heck is heading to Florida to get a feel for Marlon and hopefully shoot him straight on what their plans are at the running back position for 2014. It seems pretty easy to figure out that Jeff Jones is the top target right now, but if he decides to honor his pledge to the Golden Gophers or flips to somewhere else, Mack will probably receive an offer. Even though his commitment to UCLA seems to be chinchilla-fur soft at this point, I don’t think an offer from Michigan automatically means a flip is imminent. Coach Heck making that trip to Sarasota does show that the interest is legitimate though. I will attempt to catch up with Marlon after his visit with Coach Heck on Thursday.