FWIW. Michigan doesn't seem inclined to get re-involved.
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.
Something Unrelated To Nussmei--wait it's totally about Nussmeier
Sam Webb's latest Detroit News feature covers the potential recruiting impact of Doug Nussmeier; according to Greg Biggins—who covered the West region for Scout before becoming their national analyst, and therefore is familiar with Nussmeier's recruiting efforts at Washington—he's a more active and willing recruiter than his predecessor:
“I'm a big fan of Doug Nussmeier as a coach, recruiter and person,” Scout.com National Recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said. “He's a high-energy, loud, fun-loving coach who has a magnetic personality. He relates very well to kids because of his youthful, outgoing personality. Just from a personality standpoint he's basically the opposite of Al Borges if you're looking for a comparison. He really loves to recruit.
As a lead recruiter, Nussmeier secured commitments from two four-star All-American QBs at Washington for the 2012 class, four-star All-American Cooper Bateman for Alabama in the 2013 class, four-star All-American David Cornwell for 2014, and the consensus #2 2015 quarterback, Ricky Town, who pledged to the Tide last August (and remains "very solid" in that commitment, for those hoping he'd follow Nussmeier to Michigan). That's quite a track record, and there's more; even if you don't want to credit him too much for landing 4.5-star Tuscaloosa native Bo Scarbrough, he certainly earns points for venturing up to Ohio to reel in four-star WR Derek Kief in the 2014 class.
With Michigan still searching for a quarterback in the 2015 class—and highly unlikely to receive a commitment from their two current offered prospects, five-star Josh Rosen and three-star David Sills—there's work to be done on that front by Nussmeier. Thankfully for Michigan, he's already developed a relationship with one of their top targets, three-star CA QB Kyle Kearns:
2015 QB Kyle Kearns who has been a #Michigan target says he has a very good relationship already with Nussmeier. Calls him a good friend.
— Brandon Brown (@CoachBrown3) January 9, 2014
We've also got a "sam webb knows all" tag on this blog for a reason; it's possible he gave away Michigan's next offer, as this is buried in the Nussmeier story:
Pending Nussmeier’s evaluation the Wolverines could decide to intensify their pursuit of already-offered prospects like Bellflower (Calif.) Don Bosco’s Josh Rosen (five-star, No. 2 QB nationally), Elkton (Md.) Christian Academy’s David Sills (three-star, USC commit), and Albuquerque (N.M.) Eldorado’s Zach Gentry (four-star, No. 23 QB nationally) -- or move on to other talented options like Birmingham Brother Rice triggerman Alex Malzone (four-star, No. 20 QB nationally).
None of the four recruiting services—including Scout, Webb's employer—lists Gentry as holding a U-M offer; thus far, his only listed offers are from Louisville, Tennessee, San Diege State, and the two New Mexico schools. That list should grow, however, as he's the 12th-ranked quarterback in the country according to to the 247 Composite and his film is impressive—he's a 6'6" pocket passer with impressive mobility and a strong, accurate arm when he's not throwing off his back foot (a big issue in his sophomore tape). If Michigan has offered (or plans to offer) Gentry, he looks quite worthy of it.
The reaction from current commits and targets in the wake of Nussmeier's hiring was overwhelmingly positive($); here's a pretty representative quote from four-star 2015 PA OT Sterling Jenkins:
"That's a great hire for Michigan. I can't wait to get the chance to meet him."
Meanwhile, Nussmeier is already reaching out to prospects he was recruiting at Alabama. On the recruiting front, there's no question he's an upgrade over Borges. The only current commit whose status may be of concern after Borges' firing is 2015 RB Damien Harris, whose high school coach was a grad assistant under Borges:
Damien Harris' mom said it was sad and a shock to hear about Borges, but right now they are letting it sink and aren't talking about it.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) January 8, 2014
There's been concern about Harris' commitment going back prior to the OC change; thus far, however, there's been no remotely definitive sign that the childhood Michigan fan is going to back out of his pledge. For now, it's a wait-and-see situation, and the Wolverines don't plan to wait long to talk to Harris: Nussmeier and Fred Jackson plan to stop by his school later this week, per Sam Webb.
[After THE JUMP, a Michigan commit saves a life (seriously), the latest on the 2014 running back situation, Brandon details five new underclassman offers, and more.]
The firing of offensive coordinator Al Borges obviously shook things up among Michigan fans as Twitter and MGoBlog almost exploded once the news dropped. Then all that happened was a pluck-job of Alabama’s offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Again, the Michigan universe went into a frenzy. How is all of this affecting recruits? I was able to touch base with a few just to get an idea of how the decision is sitting with people who will and might wear the Maize and Blue.
2014 TE commit Ian Bunting
The Fire: Coach Borges did help recruit me so it’s obviously not the ideal situation but I trust that the staff is only making decisions that are in the best interest of the team. I’m still set on Michigan though! I have no idea who the replacement could or should be. Someone who likes to pass a lot, especially to the tight ends. Maybe the New England Patriots OC? (Laughs)
The Hire: It’s awesome! The OC from Bama? It’s sweet. It’s definitely encouraging. I just hope he likes throwing to his tight ends. I do know that he likes winning.
2014 RB offeree Vic Enwere
The Fire: Coach Borges getting fired changes things for me a little bit. It’s just going to take more time now to understand the new offensive approach. Coach Borges and I had a great talk when I went up there and a little bit before that too. We haven’t really talked since my last visit. I’m not sure if the words “hurt Michigan’s chances” are accurate but it does make it a bit tougher. Uncertainty just makes it tough.
The Hire: I honestly never heard his name before but I am familiar with his style. Being the offensive coordinator from Alabama definitely means something though.
2015 OL offeree Sterling Jenkins
The Fire: I definitely respect Coach Borges as a person but I hope I get to meet the new OC and I hope no one else from the staff goes. On my visit I mostly talked to Coach Borges and Coach Funk so we for sure had a relationship. Him being fired won’t really affect me. That has been happening all over the country. Michigan won’t hire someone who’s not up for the job. I think they’ll be okay, if not better from this move.
The Hire: I am looking forward to meeting him. He definitely has a good track record coming from Bama.
2015 WR offeree Christian Kirk
The Fire: I never got a chance to talk to Coach Borges during the bowl practice so I don’t really have a thought on him being fired. It doesn’t change anything for me in regards to Michigan.
The Hire: Interesting! We will see what he brings to Michigan! It helps Michigan’s case in my mind because I’m interested to see if he can turn it around. If he decides to come in contact with me it definitely helps Michigan’s chances.
2015 QB offeree David Sills:
The Fire: I’ve actually never talked to Coach Borges but I heard he was a great coach. He wasn’t personally involved with me and my offer. I’m not sure if I’m going to visit Michigan or not. Having two teammates up there means Michigan will always be an option. Right now though I am still with USC.
The Hire: I’m sure he will do great at Michigan. Michigan has always been attractive to me and always will be, so no real change.
2015 QB target Jimmy Fitzgerald:
The Fire: I just heard about Coach Borges being fired. I haven’t ever talked to him too much, Coach Mallory is my main contact. It doesn’t really change my view on Michigan. It’s not exactly the news I’d like to hear but Michigan is still a very attractive school both academically and athletically.
The Hire: That’s big time!
2015 QB target Kyle Kearns:
The Fire: Wow, I didn’t know anything about Coach Borges getting fired. I probably talked to him maybe 2 or more weeks ago. I’m still very interested in Michigan though, I’ll make sure to talk Coach Ferrigno about it the next time we talk.
The Hire: It’s awesome. I am really good friends with Coach Nuss. I have been in contact with him since last year.
2015 QB target Riley Neal:
The Fire: I had no idea they were thinking about firing him. I talked to Coach Borges maybe a week or two ago, but it’s crazy that he’s fired. Him getting fired doesn’t really change my view on Michigan. I liked Coach Borges but I still like the program they have at Michigan. I’m interested to see who they hire. I plan on calling one of the GA’s here soon to see if he knows anything.
The Hire: I think it’s a good hire for them. It should help Michigan in my eyes because he has won national championships and that’s always the goal so he brings that experience in with him.
2015 QB target Nick Johns:
The Fire: I heard about Coach Borges getting fired while I was at school. Now I’ll just wait and see who they hire. It doesn’t change anything for me right now. It’s been a long time since I’ve talked with Coach Borges. I kind of assumed he might be let go since he stopped talking to me. Hopefully Michigan will hire someone good.
The Hire: That’s a great move of power on Michigan’s part. It absolutely helps their cause in my eyes.
2015 QB target Alex Malzone:
The Fire: Man, I had no idea Coach Borges would be fired. I have always stayed in touch with Dan Ifft and then Coach Singletary a little bit so we’ll see who is brought in next. Obviously I’ve started to build a relationship with Coach Borges but it’s still Michigan football and they will bring in the right guy. I haven’t talked to Coach Borges since my Ohio State visit. I’m anxious to see who they hire.
The Hire: It’s a great hire, I’m excited about it. I’ve always been high on Michigan but it is a boost in my interest. I plan on calling Coach Ifft today to see what’s going on.
2015 QB target Zach Gentry
The Hire: (I didn’t hear back from Zach until news had surfaced that Nussmeier would be the replacement so we discussed only that) I think it’s a really solid hire! He balances the running and passing game well and he makes the system easy on the quarterback. I’d say it definitely helps Michigan in my eyes. I think it’s important that they have a really balanced attack. they seem to have the right players coming in that can help plus solid returning offensive guys. I’m still highly interested in Michigan. Coaching changes are going to happen everywhere. It doesn’t take anything away from Michigan and their tradition. I think I’ll probably try to reach out and get in touch with Coach Nussmeier and get established with him.
When you have success at the level that Alabama has, it carries a lot of weight and the reactions from commits and targets is clear evidence of that. The hiring of Nussmeier has already sent a shot of rejuvenation into the Michigan fanbase as well as potential Michigan players.
It is going to be really interesting to see how this hire affects recruiting as well. I’m very curious to see how the 2015 quarterback situation shakes out now, as Borges sort of ran the show on that evaluation. #1 2015 QB Ricky Town was recruited to Alabama by Nussmeier and while I don’t see him bailing on Bama, I’m sure Nuss will get in touch with him. Intrigue all around with a splash hire like this.