I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
After Jabrill Peppers announced his intention to take official visits, multiple outlets speculated that this brewing storm could very well blow over by the time Peppers has finished taking his official to Ann Arbor next weekend. According to Mike Farrell, that appears to be the case ($):
Paramus (N.J.) Paramus Catholic cornerback Jabrill Peppers made a huge splash last week when he tweeted that he was going to take official visits despite his commitment to Michigan. Now the word is that Peppers will take his official visit to Michigan on Dec. 13 with his mom and that will likely end the process. Alabama appeared to be the biggest threat to the Wolverines, but now I hear that most close to Peppers want him to stick to his word and play in Ann Arbor. Stanford was the only school everyone green lit and that apparently isn't going to happen this late. Michigan coaches will be on hand en force this Friday for Peppers' final game and then the following weekend I expect them to close things out on his official. Crisis averted barring a surprise.
Further corroboration comes from Peppers himself, who contemplated his future Michigan uniform number on Twitter yesterday:
— Breezy (@JabrillPeppers) December 5, 2013
In this case, the (mis)use of "Big Blue" is completely forgiven. The important part is Peppers wanting to follow in Charles Woodson's footsteps.
THIS CALLS FOR A FEAST.
Coach Hoke had a nice feast with the Mone family last night for his in-home visit. pic.twitter.com/DaKu7m8S0q
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) December 4, 2013
Forks are for spread enthusiasts, anyway.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell's top schools and visit plans, the 2014 running back situation, visit reactions from The Game, and more.]
The Michigan coaching staff is being diligent when it comes to offering quarterbacks from the 2015 class. Josh Rosen is still the only signal caller to be offered but two new names have surfaced as potential offerees: Zach Gentry and Jimmy Fitzgerald are both receiving substantial attention from the Michigan coaches. I was able to catch up with both to see how they are feeling the Wolverines and gauge interest from both ends.
Name: Zach Gentry
Ht/Wt: 6'6"/230 lbs.
Location: Eldorado High School – Albequerque, NM
Offers: Louisville, New Mexico, New Mexico State, San Diego State
When you are the grandson of the all-time winningest high school coach in your home-state you are expected to be a student of the game. Zach Gentry is just that as the grandson of Bill Gentry, a National High School Hall of Famer and all time wins leader in New Mexico. Grandpa Bill taught his grandson well and has helped mold him into a coveted prospect in the 2015 class.
Gentry was invited by the Michigan staff to attend the Ohio State game last weekend but being a New Mexican the travel arrangements and his basketball schedule proved to be too much to overcome. Gentry was legitimately bummed out that he couldn’t make it.
I wish I could’ve went but unfortunately between expenses and my basketball schedule I just couldn’t do it. I watched it on TV though! Michigan is a place that I am definitely interested in so I could see myself visiting at some point for sure. I would love to visit and it’s something I will discuss with my family, but I need to know where exactly they stand with me too.
It’s easy to understand why the coaches are interested in Gentry. At 6’6”, and over 230 lbs. he has prototypical size to run the pro-style offense. He’s also more athletic than most people give him credit for, running a 4.67 forty. I asked him to describe his own game.
I think that I’m described as a pocket-passer but people don’t realize that I can actually tuck the ball and I feel really comfortable running. If people watched me play they would see how I can sling the ball around well, but move and make quick cuts also for how big I am.
A few college coaches have told Gentry that he reminds them of a more athletic Ryan Mallett with his big frame and strong arm.
Michigan has shown an increased level of interest in Gentry recently and he is starting to form a pretty solid relationship with the staff.
They have done a great job staying in contact with me via game invites and mail. I’d say that of all the teams interested in me, Michigan has arguably sent me the most mail and invited me to the most games. I really like the staff there a lot and I think Coach Hoke will always have Michigan competitive. The staff has done a great job with me.
The young quarterback kept it PC and didn’t tip his hand to any type of leader or favorite at this point when it came to desirable offers. Being from New Mexico he didn’t really grow up rooting for any particular team.
A family friend of Zach’s currently attends Michigan and has spoken very positively of her experiences on campus and in the stands.
She has been to a lot of games and has said that they are absolutely awesome! She says that the crowd and pregame festivities are unbelievable!
Since Zach has never even been to the state of Michigan this influence from a family friend is a nice boost in his perception of student life in Ann Arbor. He hopes to someday experience it himself during a visit.
As always west coast kids can be hard to pull from home, but New Mexico isn’t California with multiple high-level universities to choose from. Gentry is 1,500 miles from Ann Arbor but that distance isn’t enough to keep the tradition and history out of his mind. He expressed how grateful he was that a school and program like Michigan was interested in him.
With a few offers already in his pocket and a senior season still to play Gentry has a while until a decision needs to be made and he is not in a hurry.
I’d like to let things happen and just play out for now, but if I feel really comfortable with a place I’ll go ahead and decide. As far as factors are concerned, the coaching staff, academics, and the type of offense they run are all important to me. I’d like an offense where I can sit in the pocket and throw the ball from a drop-back, but I’d also love to get the ball in my hands to carry it too. Michigan definitely fits the bill at this point.
I really like Gentry on film and he’s not lying when he says that he moves well for a kid his size. Louisville is a nice early offer for him but he didn’t mention the Cardinals at all when I asked him about a leader or favorite group. If offered I expect Michigan to get a very serious look from him.
Name: Jimmy Fitzgerald
Ht/Wt: 6'3"/220 lbs.
Location: Centennial High School – Champaign, IL
Offers: Akron, Harvard, Illinois, Yale
Clearly a smart kid, Jimmy Fitzgerald knew that he needed to be on hand last Saturday for The Game to take in his first experience at Michigan. Despite the outcome he came away more than impressed with the atmosphere of the The Big House.
Fitzgerald has made a big enough impression on the coaching staff for Coach Mallory to make a trip to Centennial High School on Tuesday to watch him throw in person. Fitzgerald told me that he threw it well enough to warrant a return trip from Coach Borges next week.
His offers from Harvard and Yale prove that he’s an intelligent young man and when I asked him to describe his game he answered just how you’d expect him to.
I’m about 6’3” and 220 lbs. and I ran a 4.71 40. I consider myself a coach on the field and I love to distribute the ball to our athletes and give them room to work.
He compared himself to Andrew Luck, which is obviously a tall order to live up to, but clearly this kid has confidence in his ability and his intelligence.
Michigan has been recruiting Fitzgerald pretty aggressively and he spoke very highly of the university and the coaching staff.
Michigan is a great school academically and athletically. It really would be a great opportunity. I already feel like I’m pretty close with Coach Mallory. I had a brief conversation with Coach Hoke on Saturday during my visit but Coach Mallory is my main contact.
Fitzgerald admitted to following the Illilni growing up in Champaign but he’s grown to like a lot of other schools realizing that they all have something different to offer a student athlete. He didn’t mention any specific schools as a leader or an early favorite, rather he said his main focus right now is just working hard in the weight room and concentrating on his studies.
Fitzgerald is nowhere near a decision at this point in his recruitment but he did say he will commit whenever it feels right. He is very serious about his academics and that is going to factor in just as much if not more than his athletic desires. It is worth noting that his grandmother is a Michigan graduate so he does have some Wolverine blood in him.
Fitzgerald is actually listed as a dual-threat quarterback on Rivals but on film his mobility appears slightly above average. He’s not going to run all over the place but he can move the chains and keep a defense honest. He seems to be pretty high on the quarterback board as Coach Mallory and Coach Borges have already made plans to watch him throw again next week. He is definitely an offer possibility.
It appears that the Michigan coaches are focusing in on about 4-6 quarterbacks in the 2015 class and Gentry and Fitzgerald appear to be two of them. I still believe the rest of the list consists of Kyle Kearns, Riley Neal, Nick Johns, and Alex Malzone. If the coaches approach the quarterback position like they did last year we are still about two months away from finding out who will claim the #2 spot behind a Cali-school-bound Josh Rosen.
Oh, Right ... That
There hasn't been a recruiting roundup since Jabrill Peppers tweeted his intention to take official visits after the season, catching not only Michigan fans off-guard, but also his fellow commits and even his own coach, Paramus Catholic's Chris Partridge—notably, the man who sets up all of Peppers' visits. After the tweet set fire to this corner of the internet, Peppers released a statement through Partrige:
I am still 100% committed to the University of Michigan and that is the place where I want to go to college. With the rumors about Coach Hoke possibly not being there I need to make sure that I have options and have seen other places in case the University of Michigan decides to go in a different direction. For the sake of my future I need to make sure I have other options. No need to look into it any further! Go Blue and beat TDS
Peppers reiterated that he's not decommiting and just wants to use any potential visits as a "security blanket," to Scout (via Sam Webb's latest column in the Detroit News).
Michigan has already begun efforts to assuage Peppers' fears, certainly with an eye on keeping him from taking any visits, which would put Brady Hoke in quite the bind as he balances the massive need to keep Peppers in the fold with the possibility of angering other commits—and displaying what could easily be interpreted as hypocricy by Michigan targets and their coaches—by not enforcing his no-visit policy. Dave Brandon's statement in support of Hoke specifically mentioned Michigan's national recruiting "from New Jersey to California, from Michigan to Florida." I don't believe New Jersey is in there by accident; in fact, the whole statement seems to be as much a response to the Peppers situation as it is to any fan discontent.
There are a few things working in Michigan's favor. Peppers and his Paramus Catholic squad play in the state championship game this weekend; the following weekend he's set to take his official visit to Michigan. Peppers didn't talk to Hoke when he made his statement last week—Hoke had a few other things to worry about—but he'll definitely find out where things stand when he's in Ann Arbor; if the coaches (and Brandon) can convince him that the program is on stable ground, it's entirely possible that this whole thing blows over without him ever setting foot on another school's campus.
Even if Peppers still wants to explore other schools after his Michigan official, the timing is tough; an NCAA-mandated recruiting dead period goes into effect after next week's visit, so he wouldn't be able to visit any school until mid-January, just a couple weeks before Signing Day.
For his part, Peppers certainly seemed committed to Michigan during The Game on Saturday, tweeting out his support multiple times during the game and indicating afterward that he'd be taking part in it next season, and not as a Buckeye. While the fact that Peppers even needs reassurance that Hoke will still be at Michigan next year isn't a good sign regarding his recruitment or the program, I don't think there's a lot to worry about here unless Peppers actually goes on other visits—for now, only his trip to Ann Arbor is set to go.
[After THE JUMP, Michigan drops the 'grey shirt' distinction for Brady Pallante, visit reactions from The Game, and a roundup of the latest on Michigan's commits who are still alive in the playoffs.]
There are several lists circulating around out there so I decided to reach out to as many prospects as I could to confirm either that they will be in attendance or that they won’t be. Every name below I have personally confirmed their presence or absence. These lists are of course always quite fluid and even from places like Rivals or 247 there are constantly changes. I will post updates as the week progresses.
LB-Darrin Kirkland Jr.
As reported on multiple outlets, including this one, Michigan is in line to get a commitment sometime this week. Brandon promised the prospect he wouldn't mention his position, class, or location (or name, obviously), so I'll say that he is a football player, and his pledge will come as welcome news. This post will self-destruct in 3... 2... 1...
Darn, I was really hoping that would get me out of writing the rest of this post. The above was the good news. Here's the bad, per Scout's Allen Trieu ($):
Michigan also recently offered Williams and he was considering a visit to Ann Arbor but he now says he is ready to shut things down.
"As far as right now, I'm done with recruiting. My top two are Notre Dame and Missouri and just want to decide between those two. I'm just trying to figure it out."
That's 2014 Berrien Springs (MI) DE Jhonny Williams, whom Michigan offered immediately after they missed out on Da'Shawn Hand. Williams took an official visit to Notre Dame last weekend, had a great time, and decided he'd either stick with his current commitment to Missouri or flip to the Irish. So it goes.
A potential backup option to the backup option is WI TE/DE Gaelin Elmore. Elmore is a Minnesota commit; 247's Steve Lorenz reported that Michigan's coaches got in contact with him last week ($). Brandon caught up with Elmore to get more details, and for now he doesn't sound like a realistic option:
I'm not sure exactly what the coaches are planning with Elmore but he was pretty clear with how he is currently feeling. "I'm not really interested in Michigan at this point. It'd just be interesting to see what they had to say."
I don't know if the coaches were caught completely off guard by Hand's commitment to Alabama; it sure looks like they're scrambling to find a suitable replacement in the class.
[Hit THE JUMP to see which pair of highly-ranked 2015 targets have Michigan among their top schools, updates from last weekend's high school football action, and where Wolverine commits and targets stand in the updated ESPN 300 for 2015.]
Life After Hand
It goes on, believe it or not. Michigan responded to missing out on Da'Shawn Hand by immediately offering Berrian Springs (MI) DE Jhonny Williams, a Missouri commit since September, and judging by his comments to Brandon he's taking his new opportunity very seriously:
Williams wasn’t shy about being excited to hear from Michigan for the first time just recently when we first spoke. After receiving his offer, Jhonny texted me last night with a very respectful message as he sorts through his options.
"I’m not ready to comment on the recent events. I’ll let you know my thoughts when I gather them. I need time. Thank you."
He didn’t hide the fact that he’s juggling some thoughts now that Michigan has offered and I expect the Wolverines to get some consideration.
Williams is a three-star, #42 strongside DE, and #15 prospect in the state according to the 247 Composite; while the rankings are middling, interest in him has picked up of late, as Notre Dame offered him last week. He looks impressive, albeit against relatively low-level competition, in his senior highlights on Hudl.
Shooting Down ALL THE RUMORS
Lose out on a top prospect in the midst of a very ugly stretch for the football team and now even the most outwardly faithful commits have to deny rumors of jumping ship. Rivals posted clickbait so obviously clickbait that I refuse to link it in which they suggest that Jabrill Peppers could join Hand at Alabama despite acknowledging in the very same article that Peppers hasn't spoken with the Tide in months. It even features speculation by a certain national analyst with the quote "I have nothing to back that up."
Meanwhile, Scout's Brian Dohn actually talked to Jabrill Peppers—a novel concept—and Peppers shot down the notion that he's looking around at all ($):
“I’m going to try to go out there for the game against that down south team,” Peppers said. “Everybody is worried about all of the recruits because of the losses, but that is why it’s called rebuilding. We have a new coach (Brady Hoke). He’s bringing in the talent.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to make sure we bring Michigan back to the Michigan we knew before.”
Not only is Peppers remaining a part of the class, he's planning to head to Ann Arbor for The Game. He's even giving quotes to the Daily about his future role on the team:
“I love (playing both ways),” Peppers said. “I love being able to have as many big-impact plays on the game as I possibly can. I definitely would love doing that, but first I want make sure that I’m fully committed and understand the defense and what coach Mattison is trying to do before they start moving me around to the offensive side of the ball.
“I’m all for it and want to do it and try to make as many plays as I possibly can.”
Decommitment pending, I'm sure.
As for Mason Cole and George Campbell, Sam Webb caught up with them after their regular season finale a week ago; they seem solid, as well ($):
Before departing the field both future Wolverines posed for photos that demonstrated their Maize & Blue pride in the form of Michigan caps and ‘M’ gestures with their hands. Upon putting on his hat, Campbell offered up an emphatic ‘Go Blue!’ When asked if that meant his commitment is solid, he didn’t hesitate.
“Yes,” he responded. “I am not listening to the calls (from other schools).”
Another "Go Blue", this time in tandem with Cole, hammered that point home.
Various tweets from other commits over the past couple weeks have driven this point home—the 2014 class is remaining firm in their commitments, at least for the time being, and there's nothing but pure speculation to suggest otherwise.
[Hit THE JUMP for a roundup of commit performances from last weekend.]