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 ($):
What schools does he plan to check out?
"Like the Florida schools - Florida, Florida State, Miami," Young said. "Those three, I'll also try to visit Arkansas, Tennessee, Michigan… Arizona State."
Michigan still has a very real chance with Winovich; that said, it's clear that they're also exploring other options in case they need one.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on four top 2014 targets—including one discussing a possible commitment—as well as news on Michigan's 2015 QB offeree and much more.]
Lawrence Marshall, Troll of the Year Candidate
Michigan's latest commit, Southfield DE Lawrence Marshall, was presumably headed to East Lansing before pledging to Michigan last weekend, according to virtually everyone who followed his recruitment. Another example of Brady Hoke's remarkable ability to change recruits' minds during their visits, right? Oh, no, it's much better than that, per Sam Webb ($) [emphasis mine]:
“I was thinking about committing (to Michigan) for like a month now, so I knew where I was about to go for a whole month,” Marshall said sheepishly. “I just didn’t want nobody to know where I wanted to go. I went up (to Ann Arbor today for a visit) and it was the perfect timing to commit. I think I caught them by surprise. I don’t think they really knew that I was going to commit there today.”
Wait for it...
Now twist the knife ($):
One phrase Marshall has already been saying is that the "best players in Michigan go to Michigan". With that, attention now turns towards his strong-side counterpart and Detroit native Malik McDowell.
"I'd say Malik is that last part of the puzzle," he said. "Michigan is where the best players in the state want to play and he's the last one left. We'll be turning our attention on him and will try to get him to come on board with us because we're building something special here."
According to 247's composite rankings, Michigan has two of the top four in-state players in Marshall and (oh, hey) Drake Harris, with their sights firmly set on top-ranked Malik McDowell. The Wolverines also have the #9 player in Moe Ways. Michigan State has just the #6 and #7 players (Deon Drake and Byron Bullough) and no other commits among the state's top 25 prospects.
For comparison, Western Michigan now has the #5 and #8 prospects (Chase Stewart and Chukwuma Okorafor), along with 13th-ranked Jordan Van Dort. Only two uncommitted prospects remain among the state's top 13 players—McDowell and his high school teammate, OL Ka'John Armstrong, who's visited MSU several times but has yet to receive an FBS offer.
Where's the threat?
[Do I have to keep writing? I mean, that's the perfect place to stop. Okay, if you insist, hit THE JUMP for Chase Winovich's visit reaction, Jabrill Peppers running pretty fast, a look at the enormous foreign exchange student offered by Michigan, and more.]
Before I get into the recruiting roundup, I'm planning a recruiting mailbag post for tomorrow and could use a couple more questions. If you've got one (or more!) please send me an email or tweet it to me. Now back to your regularly scheduled Jabrill Peppers update.
Jabrill Peppers Heat Status: Infinity Chilli
If you somehow haven't watched this just do it already. Yes, all of it.
As the recruitment of Jabrill Peppers evolves, Michigan's chances of landing the five-star corner appear to be getting better and better. The latest news from Peppers is that he's moving up his decision timeline and putting Penn State back in the mix—he'll make a May 18th visit to Happy Valley per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($) [emphasis mine]:
“They never left the picture,” [Paramus Catholic head coach Chris] Partridge said of Penn State. “Them and Michigan were his top visits. He decided he wanted to move up his decision timeline. He doesn’t have any negatives about Penn State. Them or Michigan. He wants to go and stay overnight at Penn State.”
Peppers is still aiming to get to Stanford before deciding.
“He is looking to commit sometime in early June,” Partridge said.
Peppers previously visited Penn State on February 20th, and while his coach is now talking up the visit there wasn't nearly the same over-the-moon reaction in the immediate aftermath as he had post-Michigan. Securing a second visit from Peppers is remarkably impressive for Bill O'Brien and PSU considering the circumstances; it seems unlikely they'd be able to overtake Michigan. This is very important considering the next bit of visit-related news:
2014 DB Jabrill Peppers hasn't cancelled his Stanford visit but it is proving difficult to plan around his track schedule, per his coach.
— The M Block (@TheMBlock) May 8, 2013
Despite finding it difficult to reschedule his trip to Stanford, Peppers is moving up his timeline. Even the staunchest of pessimists has to take that as a very good sign for Michigan's chances.
As it stands, it's hard to see a scenario in which Peppers sticks to his new timeline and doesn't choose the Wolverines. Penn State—and, if he makes the trip, Stanford—is still a threat, but there's more than one reason for Peppers to take a final visit: not only does he want to make sure he's making the right decision, he's got a high school teammate—QB Steve Shanley—who visited Happy Valley with him in February and is still hoping for a Nittany Lion offer.
PSU insiders certainly seem less optimistic than their Michigan counterparts—for good reason, with the sanctions and all. If early June is really the decision timeline, the Wolverines are going to be very tough to beat here. The current commits certainly seem to think so—either Drake Harris knows something we don't or he's just a very confident recruiter, via Sam Webb ($):
When asked if he thinks Michigan has a good chance of landing Peppers’ after their private conversations?
Harris replied, “I’ll just say we have good chance.”
Do you feel good where things stand with Peppers?
“I feel great!” Harris replied with a coy smile confidently.
Go ahead, watch that highlight tape again, and allow yourself to get a little excited.
[Hit THE JUMP for more from last weekend's camps, this weekend's visitor list, notes on new offers, and more.]
"East Lansing's Big Ten Team" Doesn't Have The Same Allure, For Some Reason
It's been a quiet week, relatively speaking, for Michigan recruiting, so today's roundup kicks off with an update on the program making a serious run for the #3 spot in the Big Ten recruiting rankings: Northwestern.
Yes, you read that right.
No, seriously, you read that right.
The Wildcats built upon their on-field success under Pat Fitzgerald with a solid recruiting class in 2013, landing consensus four-star QB Matt Alviti, underrated RB Godwin Igwebuike, and a solid group of three-stars—not just Midwest kids, either, with signees hailing from Texas (3), California (3), Florida, and New Jersey.
On the heels of a ten-win season and their first bowl win in 63 years, Northwestern is now poised to put together their best recruiting class in... ever? The Wildcats have already hauled in another four-star signal-caller, Clayton Thorson, giving Northwestern future four-star depth at quarterback, a position where they've already managed to turn an array of middling recruits with varying levels of scrambling ability into competent (at the very least) conductors of their up-tempo spread in recent years. Now the Wildcats have jumped up to 19th(!) in the 247 Composite Team Rankings after reeling in MI OL Tommy Doles and OH ATH Dareian Watkins in the last week.
Doles, of course, was long thought to be a heavy Michigan lean—I lost count of the number of times the Grand Rapids Christian product has been on campus in the last year. Given his other offers—Army, Air Force, Iowa State, and Northwestern—and the fact that he seemed on the verge of committing for months, it appears Doles' choice has as much to do with Michigan backing off as Northwestern coming on strong; regardless, the Wolverines should be fine when it comes to O-line recruiting, and the academic-minded Doles found a great fit from an on- and off-field perspective in Evanston.
Watkins, who announced his choice this morning, is the more interesting example of a prospect choosing the Wildcats over several Big Ten (and beyond) options previously thought to be more desirable. Michigan State was his other finalist, and he also held offers from Illinois, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, NC State, Penn State, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others. When Watkins' father explained his choice, Northwestern's academics were cited as a huge reason for the commitment, but the football reasons played a large role as well ($) [emphasis mine]:
"We're all very very excited about the chance to go to Northwestern. We think it's not just an amazing academic opportunity, but an amazing football opportunity. The academics overshadow the football part sometimes, but Coach Fitz has turned the program around. They were 10-3 last year, won the Gator Bowl against an SEC football team, and he was 2-0 against the SEC last year. We think it's undervalued what they are as a football program. As much he chose a life path, he's also very competitive. He wants to be part of a Big Ten Championship and compete for national championships and we think that can be done at Northwestern."
We'll, um, see about the national championships, but there's no question Fitzgerald has put the program in a position to contend for conference titles.
Unlike me, Brian is willing to wade into the shallow end* of the RCMB, and he passed along this glorious response to the usual unhinged ranting following Watkins pledging to Not Michigan State:
*There is no deep end, thankfully. It's actually an inflatable kiddie pool filled with horse manure.
[For the rest of the roundup, including updates on Jamarco Jones, Clifton Garrett, and Jae'Sean Tate, hit THE JUMP.]
J-Reall Recognize Real, That Is
Jabrill Peppers is doing pretty well for himself. The five-star recruit is one of the most sought-after prospects in the country. His highlight tape is 12 minutes of filth, in a good way. Before too long he'll likely choose whether he wants to attend Michigan or Stanford, two of the finest schools—not to mention football programs—in the country.
It's no surprise, then, that USA Today chose Peppers to pen a blog detailing his recruitment and personal life, and some kids have such an overabundance of talent that the rest of us feel bad:
Most people don't know that I'm a music artist. They only know that I play football, but I've been singing and rapping as long as I've been playing football; since the age of 4 or 5.
Being the type of guy that I am I really take rap as a challenge. I'm from the hood, but I'm very well educated and I keep my verses clean. At the same time I appeal to the guys that I grew up with. I don't degrade women or rap dirty or anything like that I'm just real about my experiences.
This is what I really do. That's why my name is J-Reall. My cousin, Tiyahnn Bryant, gave me that name in third grade and it kinda stuck.
Normally, when I read about a high school kid's burgeoning music career, I move along before clicking on anything that could cause permanent hearing damage or complete loss of faith in the next generation*. This time, though, I clicked on the link to Peppers' song (the YouTube video above), and... it's pretty solid. Great beat selection (MF DOOM), solid flow—he sounds like a sober Curren$y, which does not exist in nature—and surprisingly polished lyrics ("I had it restless/during my adolescence/not having my pops mad depressin'"); I gave it two listens and didn't regret it, which I can't say about 85% of newly-released rap.
Oh, right, the part you really care about:
I do feel like I'm gonna be coming to a decision soon though. I just want it all to be over and done with.
Peppers further clarified that point to Sam Webb, saying he hopes to move up his Stanford visit so he can make a decision in June ($). When asked what made such a strong impact on him during his visit to Michigan, Peppers summed it up in the best possible way [emphasis mine]:
It wasn’t the “red carpet treatment” that allowed the Wolverines to set the visit standard by which others are now being measured. Turns out, it was exact opposite.
“Real recognize real,” Peppers said matter-of-factly. “That’s the shortest and sweetest way you can say it. Real recognize real. They didn’t put on a show and they just kept it 100. Basically who they are -- they remind me of my coaches right now. That’s how comfortable we felt there. It was like wow, it was like we were still at (Paramus Catholic). That was the main thing, just the comfort level and just how down-to-earth those guys are. How they are with their players. They coach you hard and just everything. It was a great visit.”
Peppers also has plenty of good things to say about Michigan in a free interview over at The M Block. His recent interviews, as we've gleefully pointed out at every opportunity, point strongly towards Michigan being in command of his recruitment; I've heard very promising things that haven't been printed (and won't), as well. How do you feel about all this, Stanford coach David Shaw?
Their education is almost as good as Stanford's? When is almost enough for a true competitor? 3 BCS in a row, #1 education in D1 #gostanford
— David Shaw (@CoachDavidShaw) April 30, 2013
He took it personal, I guess.
*I say this as a former member of a high school ska band. I've self-inflicted enough damage.
[For the latest on K.J. Williams, Alex Bars, Kalen Ballage, Kyron Watson, and much more, hit THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup attempts to catch on everything that's gone down in the Michigan recruiting world since last Tuesday, when certain other events precluded any coverage involving high school athletes.
Schembechler Hall Presumably Now Covered In Brains
As Michigan's basketball team made their run to the national title game, the football team hosted some big-time recruiting visitors over the past week. The biggest name on campus was five-star Paramus (NJ) Catholic CB Jabrill Peppers, the #2 overall player (behind Da'Shawn Hand) on the Rivals100 and a consensus top-ten recruit. Peppers told Rivals' Adam Friedman that the trip to Ann Arbor was his "best visit"($) and changed his expectations for any school he'll check out:
"Now I don't even know what to expect anymore," Peppers laughed. "Michigan just completely exceeded my expectations. I'm just going to have to see how Michigan and Ohio State pair up and it should be a great experience but Michigan was probably one of the best visits I've been on without a doubt. Everything felt right."
According to his interview with 247's Steve Wiltfong, Peppers plans to be back, too ($):
“All in all, it was a really, really great visit and they exceeded expectations. I definitely didn’t think it would be that mind-blowing. I’ll definitely have to take a trip back.”
Peppers was joined on his visit by Paramus Catholic teammate and four-star OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty*—after the pair checked out Ohio State following the Michigan trip, their high school coach gave the update on where both stand to Friedman ($) [emphasis mine]:
"I don't know about Jabrill," [Paramus Catholic head coach Chris Partridge] said. "He's still kind of evaluating everything, and he's got LSU and Stanford to look at. I know Juwan's top school is Michigan right now. He's pretty fired up about them. Ohio State didn't offer [Bushell-Beatty], so who knows. Jabrill is a pretty loyal guy, so I don't know if it left a sour taste in his mouth. I know Juwan loved Michigan and it's a great fit for him, too.
So Michigan is in the lead for Bushell-Beatty (whom they have offered, to be clear) and made a very strong impression on Peppers, at the very least. The only direct quote from Peppers on his Ohio State trip—the rest were handled by his coach—is from this Wiltfong article ($):
"I really think that the Coach (Kerry) Coombs is a great coach," Peppers said. "I love him and enjoy being around him. Obviously Urban Meyer is an incredible, smart, proven winner. They let me meet the athletic director and the president of the school and it's really cool to see how everyone is behind the Ohio State football team."
High praise, yes, but not the over-the-moon review that he gave Michigan. Of course, visit reactions often depend on the interviewer, the questions they ask, and what they choose to print—in this case, however, Wiltfong got two very different post-visit reactions from Peppers. Read into that what you will.
Four-star PA ATH K.J. Williams also checked out campus last week, and there's no need to read between the lines of his post-visit reaction:
Michigan is by far my top school now!! #BlewMyMind
— TheWorldsGreatest#2 (@KJWilliams2) April 8, 2013
Another young mind destroyed by Michigan's overwhelming recruiting tactics. They show no respect for these recruits, I say. /RCMB'd
Two familar names also made appearances in Ann Arbor. Detroit Country Day WR Maurice Ways was there for the second straight weekend and the coaches have him "very high on their radar," per an interview with Tim Sullivan ($). Ways doesn't have an offer but it seems like one will come sooner or later—if he gets one, Michigan should be in the driver's seat. Meanwhile, Southfield DE Lawrence Marshall (offer) told GBW's Josh Newkirk($) that "everything was good" as he checked out a spring practice, and he came away impressed with Frank Clark, who plays the same weakside DE spot that Michigan hopes Marshall will play for them.
[Hit THE JUMP for a rundown of Spring Game visitors, a new offer, the latest on Drake Harris, a couple happy trails, and more.]