"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
Five-star DE Da'Shawn Hand announces his college decision between Michigan, Alabama, and Florida on Thursday at noon—today, Rivals revealed that the announcement will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network and streamed on Rivals.
It's not worth delving too deeply into speculation when we'll know Hand's decision so soon; it appears that his decision will come down to Michigan or Alabama—while the Wolverines haven't exactly been tearing things up, his visit to Florida came just in time to see Will Muschamp's seat go from "hot" to "scalding". Remember Notre Dame? Hopefully he does, too.
I'll quickly address that the Alabama Scout board has a rumor that Hand is down to Alabama and Florida, and that rumor has been shot down by at least one credible source. You'll probably hear a lot of stuff like this before Thursday, and given how little Hand has been willing to reveal throughout the recruiting process, it'll all be educated guesses at best, total BS at worst.
If you want a more complete breakdown, 247 has a free primer detailing the positives/negatives for each school.
A free 247 article on Malik McDowell's Army All-American jersey presentation features more quotes from McDowell than we've seen in a while:
“I never could say (Michigan) was on top but they’re one of my favorite schools,” McDowell said. “Ohio State has always been one of my favorite schools. Michigan State has been impressing me ever since I got my offer from them.”
The Wolverines were one of the first schools to extend a scholarship to McDowell and the relationship continues to grow.
“That was like my second offer,” McDowell said. “It was a big deal. We keep in touch a lot. I like Coach (Greg) Mattison and I’m real cool with Coach (Brady) Hoke. I just really like their whole coaching staff.”
McDowell visited Ohio State for the Penn State game, received a visit from Mark Dantonio last week, and was reportedly in attendance at the Nebraska game on Saturday. He's still discussing setting up an official visit to Florida on Thanksgiving (to watch them get crushed by Florida State, in all likelihood) and mentions Alabama, LSU, and Oregon as other potential official visit destinations.
[Hit THE JUMP for a must-read piece on Detroit recruits from TomVH, new offers in the 2015 and 2016 classes, Jabrill Peppers highlights, and a roundup of last weekend's commit stats.]
Thanks to multiple sources including Tim Sullivan, 247, and multiple Twitter accounts of recruits themselves, the visitor list for today’s game has been assembled and is pretty respectable. I was able to touch base with some of the players leading up to today’s game.
Grand Rapids (MI) Christian WR Drake Harris – Harris has been hampered by a hamstring injury throughout his senior season and he told me it’s been horrible having to just watch his team. He’s enjoyed watching his team succeed but obviously would rather be on the field. He will be in attendance for the Nebraska game and will be wearing his recruiting hat.
Kenton (OH) LB Noah Furbush – Furbush is a very keep-to-himself kind of kid. He is one of the few recruits I have never had any contact with. He doesn’t do much as far as interviews go and also isn’t much for social media. He just does work on the field, which is actually sort of refreshing.
Warren (MI) De La Salle LB Jared Wangler – Wangler is obviously very familiar with Ann Arbor and The Big House, but a game against Nebraska is a nice draw. He’ll be in attendance with his high school teammate, quarterback Giovanni Rescigno, and his father, John.
Southfield (MI) DE Lawrence Marshall – Marshall’s season was unexpectedly cut short by an upset loss to Seaholm in the first round of the playoffs, so Lawrence can now turn all of his football attention to becoming a Wolverine. That will include checking out his future team taking on the Huskers today.
Southfield (MI) DL Malik McDowell – Like Marshall, McDowell unexpectedly has extra free time now to focus on his recruitment. He has taken some surprise visits, like one to Ohio State a couple of weeks ago, and also to East Lansing. He’ll be in Ann Arbor today, a place he’s visited most frequently, to check out Michigan’s defensive line play.
Warren (MI) De La Salle WR Brent Morris – Brent, the younger brother of current Michigan quarterback Shane Morris, will be at the game today to hopefully see big bro’s squad get a win. The younger Morris doesn’t hold any offers yet, and probably won’t receive one from Michigan, but with no offers to weigh, a preferred walk-on is a possibility for him.
Warren (MI) De La Salle QB Giovanni Rescigno – There seems to be a De La Salle theme among this visitors list and Rescigno is another Pilot that will be in attendance. Rescigno currently has no offers.
Kenton (OH) QB Grant Sherman – Sherman is the high school teammate of current Michigan commit Noah Furbush and while he currently has no offers he comes from a polished program that produced the Mauk brothers.
Jackson (MI) Lumen Christi RB Khari Willis – Willis will be taking his first visit to Ann Arbor today a week after a record breaking performance of 303 rushing yards with 5 touchdowns. Willis has a few offers from Division II schools but that will more than likely change over the next year.
Indianapolis (IN) Lawrence Central LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. – I spoke with Kirkland Jr. and he sounded very excited to check out a game at The Big House. Coach Smith checked out Kirkland in action a few weeks ago and Kirkland can’t wait to meet the rest of the coaching staff today. He really wants to tour campus and check out Michigan Stadium as much as he’s allowed to. He really hopes an offer comes at some point even if it’s not today.
Grand Blanc (MI) DB Trevon Avery – The younger brother of Courtney Avery will be in attendance today, nothing new for him as he visits regularly. He doesn’t hold any offers right now but has good size and athleticism. He’s merely a name to watch at this point.
Brownsburg (IN) OL Evan Mallory – I introduced Mallory as a name to watch back during my M Block days and he is a pretty big Michigan fan. He told me he wants to try and talk with the coaches and watch Michigan win. He feels pretty good about his relationship with the coaches so far and wants a Michigan offer above all others.
Northville (MI) OL David Moorman – I’ve spoken with Moorman before, but wasn’t able to contact him before his visit today. The last time we spoke he talked about how strong his relationship was with Coach Funk and that an offer from Michigan would be beyond special. When I asked him if a commitment would follow he level-headedly answered, “Let’s just see if they offer first.”, with a laugh.
Bloomfield Hills (MI) Brother Rice QB Alex Malzone – Malzone’s name continues to pop up among 2015 signal callers and will visit today and for the Ohio State game at the end of the month. He’s in regular contact with Coach Borges and is looking more and more like a possibility for an offer at some point.
Clinton Township (MI) Chippewa Valley DB Stefan Claiborne
Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s LB Daelin Hayes
Saline (MI) QB Joshua Jackson (son of RB coach Fred Jackson)
St. Joseph (MI) DE Corey Malone-Hatcher
Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s LB Joshua Ross (brother of current LB James Ross)
This GIS went much better than expected.
This feature on Wilton Speight has perhaps the least informative headline ever; that's okay, though, because it comes from The Goochland Gazette, and [keels over laughing].
Okay, pull yourself together, post rapturous blockquote:
Standing in a huddle on the sideline with his teammates just before kickoff, he towers over his running backs and offensive line by a good five inches. He gestures confidently, like a conductor fully in charge of an orchestra, wholly in tune with and in charge of his surroundings.
The next thing that strikes your attention is that beautiful spiral. Tight and wind-resistance, he hums the pigskin all over the yard, from sideline-to-sideline, completing every route in the playbook - hitches, curls, posts, outs, you name it — with uniform ease. Comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger are a given, not only because of his 6’6, 230 pound frame, but also due to his surprisingly nimble feet and his innate ability to prolong plays and spin productive downs out of would-be sacks.
CA ATH JuJu Smith was always considered a longshot to end up at Michigan, even though he'd previously scheduled an official visit for the Ohio State game. After very positive visits to Notre Dame, Ohio State, and new contender Oregon, Smith dropped the Wolverines from his list, citing their less-than-stellar performance:
JuJu Smith said he thinks Michigan is a great school, but not a fit for him. Cancelled his visit said losses caused them to drop on his list
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) November 5, 2013
Before PANIC sets in, please note that this is relatively unusual; yes, of course winning helps recruiting, but normally a team's win/loss record affects the next class more than the current one (in this case, Michigan isn't doing itself any favors for 2015). If you click through to Tom's tweet, you'll note that he responds to someone stating that Da'Shawn Hand may feel the same way with a straightforward "No, I don't think that." Along those same lines...
There is no way that I would change my mind over 1 loss, the future is bright! Go blue 〽
— Drake Harris (@drizzygetbusy01) November 5, 2013
Now, does Michigan's demoralizing loss to State potentially affect 2015 in-state recruits like Mike Weber, Josh Alabi, and Brian Cole? Absolutely. To Michigan kids who've now seen MSU take five of the last six games, the Spartans are now the state's top football program—and the most stable one. That doesn't mean they won't consider U-M—the flip side to this is a recruit sees plenty of opportunity to help bring a traditionally strong program back to the top—but at the same time, it obviously doesn't help.
Hand's Final Visit
Da'Shawn Hand's final official visit comes on Saturday when he watches 4-4 Florida take on Vanderbilt; while the Gators were once considered a potential dark horse, a season even uglier than Michigan's has robbed them of any momentum, especially with coach Will Muschamp squarely on the hot seat (while a team's record doesn't have a huge effect on most recruits, the coach recruiting them potentially not having a job next year usually does). Rivals's Mike Farrell, who's the recruiting reporter in closest regular contact with Hand, says in his latest column that he thinks Michigan holds a slight edge over Alabama ($). It's hard to see Florida jumping into the mix with Hand's announcement coming a week from today.
The M Block's Eric Rutter pens a lengthy, quote-filled feature on 2014 commit Chase Winovich, covering his season, playing both ways this year, his friendship with fellow Pennsylvanian Sterling Jenkins (both plan to visit for the OSU game), and his feelings on Hand and Malik McDowell:
Chase then went on to share his thoughts on how Michigan will close the 2014 class, focusing specifically on defensive line prospects Malik McDowell and DaShawn Hand. "I have a gut feeling that Malik McDowell will go to Michigan. I'm not to sold on [DaShawn] Hand yet, but people seem pretty, pretty, really, really confident that they know their stuff and say he's headed to Michigan. So I'm going to trust them and say, yeah, I hope he's going to Michigan. But like I said, I definitely have that gut feeling on Malik McDowell." This would put the finishing touches on a strong class that ranks among the best in the country for 2014.
Winovich is apparently taking his recruiting guru cues from Sam Webb.
If you've got a 247 subscription, Clint Brewster looks at five candidates to be Michigan's next 2015 commit ($).
247 released their Crystal Ball rankings; I'm currently ranked #40 (out of 194, so... I'll take it!) for 2014 and, thanks to Michigan's early efforts, am all the way up at #16 for the class of 2015.
Keeping His Hand To Himself
This week's edition of "First and 17" features Da'Shawn Hand's coach telling Mike Farrell, "I don't know if he knows for sure for sure. I feel like he really likes Michigan. He's gonna go feel the flavor of the SEC because of everything everyone's talked about, but... you know, I don't even know. I think he knows. I don't even know if pops knows yet ... At this point, none of where he picks will surprise me, because they're all great schools." (2:25 mark.) He also tells Roy Manning, who stopped by Woodbridge during the bye week, that he thinks Hand is leaning towards Michigan—but also that he likes Alabama, and this is before Hand's official to Tuscaloosa. (7:25 mark.)
Later, Hand discusses why he likes to keep his thoughts to himself (9:44 mark): "When I take one visit, everyone thinks I'm committing to the college ... I just don't like showing people my full hand, because then everyone can pick out your every move. Everyone tries to get in my head, but that'll never happen."
So... your guess is as good as mine. We'll know in ten days when he makes his announcement.
Michigan Still In Mix For Glenville Duo
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt caught up with highly-touted 2014 Glenville teammates Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith to discuss their respective recruitments. Like Hand, both are playing it coy when it comes to naming a leader, even though Ohio State is the presumed destination for both (especially Lattimore; fitting Smith into the class could get difficult for OSU). Both have four official visits left to schedule—Alabama is already on the docket for each—and Michigan is in the running for both. Here's Lattimore ($):
"I am going to take all of my officials. I have to plan them with Marcelys Jones and Erick Smith," Lattimore said. "Ohio State, probably USC, I might try to get out to Oregon, probably Michigan and Louisville. I was always interested in all those schools, and will give them equal opportunity."
And Smith ($):
Alabama assistant coach Bobby Williams was at Glenville on Friday and Smith is looking at rescheduling that trip for sometime in December. He has a group of a half dozen schools who are in the mix for his remaining four official visits.
"I am not for sure, but I know Ohio State, Michigan, Louisville, Kentucky, Michigan State and Georgia Tech too - those are all up there," Smith said. "You could say those are the schools I am really looking at right now."
With Lattimore and Smith planning their trips together, it's fair to guess that OSU, Michigan, and Louisville (along with Bama) have an edge—those schools are mentioned by both prospects. It's tough to see Michigan beating out Alabama and Ohio State given how the season is playing out and the fact that neither are sure they'll take another trip to Ann Arbor.
Meanwhile, four-star MI DL Malik McDowell has scheduled his official visit to Florida and tells GatorCountry.com that he's in frequent contact with head coach Will Muschamp. He's another prospect who's very difficult to read; the very frequent trips to Ann Arbor—and playing on the same line with commit Lawrence Marshall—suggest Michigan holds an edge, but it's clear that he's serious about looking around.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Sheriron Jones, a must-read feature on a current commit, and a roundup of last weekend's high school action as playoff season gets under way.]
Beards Require No Context Or Reason
— Tim Sullivan (@TimS_Wolverine) October 30, 2013
Tim did this because he's still a blogger at heart, obviously.
Consider that George Campbell's treat, accompanied by this nifty trick:
Da'Shawn And The Battle Of Academic Departments
As more details emerge from Da'Shawn Hand's official visit to Alabama, it's clear that (1) the Tide are very much in the running, and (2) Professor Needs A Raise has a Southern counterpart, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
"The engineering dean is the man!" Hand exclaimed. "He is that guy! I met with the business professor too and he was good. The academic support is amazing. They have individual tutors and that's good to help you manage your time."
In talking with TomVH, Hand revealed this his decision may in fact come down to his choice of major ($):
Hand says that if he wants to go into sports management it will be Michigan, and if he wants to go into engineering it will be Alabama. Florida offers both, so he will be spending time with professors in both fields on that trip to see if that has any impact on his decision.
The 6-foot-4, 262-pound defensive end says for right now he’s just focused on Florida, though, and will head out to Gainesville on November 9.
One of the Michigan coaches may want to alert him to this.
In other pursuits of 2014 blue-chip prospects, Oregon has become a major player for CA ATH JuJu Smith after he visited Eugene in place of a planned trip to Ole Miss; he told Rivals's Adam Gorney($) that the Ducks are "another top team to beat." Smith already had very positive official visit experiences at Notre Dame and Ohio State, has USC and UCLA under consideration, and has two officials left: Alabama (vs. LSU) and Michigan (vs. OSU). With that much competition, it's tough to peg Michigan as anything but a longshot, even with whatever edge they might get from receiving Smith's final official.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the 2014 running back situation—there seems to be a situation—plus Freddy Canteen makin' moves, evaluations of a couple M commits, and more.]
Bye Week Visits: A Trip To Colorado (No, Not For That)
Well played, Maison Bleue.
Last weekend's bye afforded the coaches an opportunity to hit the recruiting trail, and Michigan coaches checked in on the likes of top 2015 MN DE Jashon Cornell, 2015 four-star NC OL Mason Veal, 2015 four-star RB Nasir Bonner, 2015 NJ WR Irvin Charles, and several others.
The most interesting prospect to receive a visit, however, is 2014 ATH Kalen Ballage, as Coach Funk stopped by his school last week, per Sam Webb ($). Michigan originally recruited Ballage as a running back, and it's been long thought that the Wolverines had cooled on him—that obviously isn't the case, even if Ballage is simply a backup option, and the fact that he can also play linebacker or safety is likely fueling at least some of Michigan's renewed interest. With a few spots left in the class and only a handful of prospects under consideration, his versatility could be the key should he want to end up in Ann Arbor.
[EDIT: Per Brandon, Michigan may not have talked to Ballage at all:
Just talked with 2014 ATH/RB Kalen Ballage and he tells me that the #Michigan coaches did NOT visit him.
— Brandon Brown (@CoachBrown3) October 28, 2013
Webb is pretty plugged in and I can't find any sort of retraction from him; since there are rules about contact with recruits, it's possible Funk stopped by Ballage's school but never actually was in contact with him. I'll try to clarify the situation when more information is available.
UPDATE TO THE EDIT: Per 247($), school was not in session when Michigan dropped by; the Wolverines are still recruiting Ballage but obviously didn't talk to him first-hand when they were out there.]
Another visit recipient that caught my eye: 2015 NC jumbo athlete Anthony Rush, who told 247's Steve Lorenz that Michigan is "leaning towards" extending an offer ($). Rush is listed at 6'4", 280 pounds as a junior, and the Wolverines are recruiting him as a tight end. Clearly, the coaches would like more blocking and size up front—most schools are looking at Rush as a defensive tackle.
Prepare For PANIC
(Aw, crap, it's already started.)
As you're probably well aware, Da'Shawn Hand took his official visit to Alabama over the weekend, and reports from the trip have been quite positive. Here's Hand himself:
This visit couldn't of been any better. Had a great time in T-Town
— Da'shawn Hand (@TheHand54) October 27, 2013
Despite the good visit experience for Hand, Alabama insiders around the internets seem to think the Tide still have ground to make up if they're going to catch Michigan; if that's the case, the Wolverines just have to survive Hand's official to Florida—just five days before his Nov. 14th announcement—and they should be in the clear. Still, Alabama is a serious contender, and that's always a frightening opponent to face on the recruiting trail.
To keep the good times rollin', Malik McDowell took a surprise visit to Ohio State for their evisceration of Penn State; he was his usual verbose self in the aftermath:
On my way home from Ohio State. Good game.
— BIG LEEK SOSA (@D1_LEEK) October 27, 2013
At this point, I might be more confident in Hand ending up at Michigan than McDowell, for the sole reason that we have some idea about what Hand thinks about Michigan, while getting information out of McDowell is like breaking into Fort Knox. If I had to bet, I'd wager both land at Michigan, but there's plenty of uncertainty.
[Hit THE JUMP for commit stat updates, the newest 2015 offer recipient, and more.]