Position: Tight End
Ht/Wt/40: 6'6" / 245 lbs. / 4.85
Location: Columbia Central High School – Columbia, TN
Offers: Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Ranking: ★★★ .8704 (247 Composite)
Coach Nussmeier recruited Jackson Harris while still employed at Alabama, and on his first full day as Michigan’s offensive coordinator he messaged Harris with a simple message: “Go Blue! I’ll be in touch soon.” just to let him know that he’s still a priority. Nussmeier has been recruiting Harris since early fall, has visited Columbia Central multiple times, and he and Harris message back and forth quite a bit. Luckily for Michigan, big-bodied tight ends with a propensity to block work in Ann Arbor just as well as they do in Tuscaloosa.
On film Jackson doesn’t jump off the screen as an elite athlete, but he’s big and strong and drives on his blocks like some elite linemen you watch on film. He doesn’t possess great speed but he seems to have a knack for getting open and catches the ball smoothly. At 6’6”and 245 lbs. he could easily grow into a jumbo tight end, primarily used for blocking, with the ability to catch passes. He also looks pretty good at defensive end for what it’s worth.
Nuss is basically the reason Harris is even considering Michigan. “I hadn’t heard much from Michigan before so they weren’t really on my radar. I haven’t seriously considered them until now. Now that Coach Nuss is there I’m definitely going to look into them quite a bit. I honestly don’t know too much about Michigan so I can’t say too much yet.” Harris really appreciates that Coach Nussmeier thought enough of him to reach out so quickly. “He’s a good guy. He’s pretty straightforward for the most part, he seems all business but I really like him.”
With Jackson now paying attention to Michigan he says that an offer from the Wolverines would be something to take seriously. “Yeah, if they offer I would definitely like to check it out. I’ve heard good things about them and it would be cool to visit.”
Jackson obviously means something to Coach Nussmeier as he wasted no time in reaching out to him. With little attrition and few seniors next season the 2015 class is going to be small, and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. remains the most likely candidate for one obvious tight end spot. If things don’t pan out with Wheatley Jr. or Coach Nuss is given the opportunity to offer another TE, expect Jackson to be at the top of that list.
With the season in the rearview and a new playcaller on the payroll the coaches have wasted no time in putting some new names on the offer board. Five new scholarship offers were extended within the past week, three from the 2015 class and two from 2016. Four of these young men will be recruited primarily by linebackers coach Roy Manning and from all accounts that is a positive thing. I was able to chat with each new offeree about the offer among other things.
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht/Wt: 6'4" / 187 lbs.
Location: Randleman High School (2015) – Randleman, NC
Offers: Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Michigan, North Carolina, NC State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Ranking: ★★★★ .9163 (247 Composite)
If the Michigan coaches had a machine that created wide receivers, one might walk out that looked like Juval Mollette. He’s built a lot like Drake Harris, Csonte’ York, Jaron Dukes, and Moe Ways. At 6’4” he’s your typical long-striding, high-pointing type of receiver. He has good straight line speed but won’t lose anyone in a phone booth. He definitely does know how to use his frame to get position and make catches in traffic.
Coach Manning was the coach to offer the junior over the phone and Juval feels like Michigan is a good offer to add to his list. “My interest in Michigan is pretty high, but I really have the same interest in all of the schools that have offered me at this point.” Growing up in North Carolina, a state without much college football success, Juval didn’t really have a favorite team growing up and admits to not even really watching football until his freshman year. Because of that, and as you might expect he doesn’t know much about Michigan just yet. “I honestly don’t know too much. I know they have a great tradition of winning. I’m sure I’ll start to learn more.” Juval said Coach Manning made it a point to emphasize how important he was and that they don’t offer just anybody.
Based on his lack of interest in watching football and not really being a fan of anyone I’d say his recruitment is wide open. He has a solid offer list already with Michigan and Ohio State being the only non-ACC/SEC teams to show that level of interest. He’s never been to Michigan in any capacity and until he visits I think there’s a low probability of him becoming a Wolverine.
Ht/Wt: 6'0" / 185 lbs.
Location: St. Peters Prep (2015) – Jersey City, NJ
Offers: Alabama, Boston College, UConn, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Carolina, NC State, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Stanford, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wisconsin
Ranking: ★★★★★ .9859 (247 Composite)
Jabrill Peppers 2.0? Like Peppers, Minkah Fitzpatrick hails from New Jersey, plays a myriad of positions, looks far better than almost everyone else on the field, and is just a special athlete. I first made contact with him during my M Block days and honestly wonder why it took so long for the coaches to offer this kid.
From Fitzpatrick himself he says he already draws comparisons to Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and prides himself on his Sherman-like physicality. Completely different from Sherman, Minkah thinks he needs to be more vocal on the field with communication and leadership.
Coach Manning once again was on the job and spoke to Minkah and his coach deciding to extend an offer to play at Michigan. I have heard great things from many recruits about Coach Manning and Minkah was no different. “Yeah I talked to him a lot. he seems like he would be a great leader and a great coach.”
Coach Manning won’t be the only person trying to bring Fitzpatrick to Ann Arbor as the aforementioned Jabrill Peppers reached out to Minkah immediately following his tweet about the Michigan offer.
— Breez (@JabrillPeppers) January 9, 2014
Jabrill and Minkah do have a bit of a relationship, he explained to me with a laugh. “We communicate a little bit but not too often. He’s tried recruiting me before though. I might ask him a few questions about Michigan but that’s about it. Or we’ll see how much he tries to recruit me.” And all Michigan fans rejoice.
With a look at his offer list Fitzpatrick has Michigan among many others to choose from and I asked him how the Maize and Blue stack up against the rest. “It’s a great program and I always liked the way they play. I’m really excited about the offer! I always try and do my research with every school and now that I have an offer I can start learning a lot more.” Part of that learning process will involve a first visit to Ann Arbor that Fitzpatrick hopes to take in the spring.
Fitzpatrick is going to have scads of options to weigh before he makes his decision but he really doesn’t want it to drag out if he can help it. “I would like to get it done before my senior season but if I don’t find the school that fits me best before then, I would probably have to wait until signing day.”
Fitzpatrick seemed genuinely interested in Michigan. He did admit to me that he also likes the Buckeyes quite a bit. I couldn’t help but notice him tweeting about them during their bowl loss. That being said I think Michigan has a real shot with him. He’s going to be able to go wherever he wants but the coaches have done well in New Jersey as of late and with Peppers in his ear that can’t hurt. Coach Manning appears to have made a great early impression and if he makes that visit in the spring I expect Michigan to be in it until the end.
Position: Weakside Defensive End
Ht/Wt: 6'6" / 235 lbs.
Location: West Forsyth High School (2015) – Clemmons, NC
Offers: Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, Florida State, North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia
Ranking: ★★★★ .9553 (247 Composite)
Born and raised in North Carolina, defensive end Jalen Dalton was a name I was not very familiar with. After seeing his name attached to an offer I watched his film and liked what I saw. He has a fantastic frame for growing into a beast of an edge rusher and uses it to perfection against much lesser competition in high school. Dalton describes himself as a physical, pure pass-rusher with a knack for deflections.
In his area of Winston-Salem he’s often compared to local star Kareem Martin, a first team All-ACC’er that just finished his senior season at North Carolina with 20 TFL and 11 sacks. After looking at Martin a little bit I can definitely see it. Dalton does a lot of things very well for a young pass rusher.
Coach Manning has made another solid impression on a recruit and Dalton couldn’t say enough about him. “My coach called me on my way to school and told me that Michigan had offered. Later that day I had PE so we called Coach Roy and we talked for a little while. He is a good man, really down to Earth. He seems really cool and laid back. That’s what I like in a coach. I really don’t know a lot about Michigan but I know I like Coach Roy.”
Dalton really wants to take a trip to Michigan and hopes to do that as soon as plans can be made. He said he’s big on the “vibes” that he feels when he visits a school. “Schools in my top list just have to give me that good vibe. I’m not sure how my recruitment will really play out but I’m going to start working on a bit of a timeline and ideas for visits soon and might know some by Tuesday.”
Dalton kept things pretty short and sweet but it was clear that Roy Manning did a very good job with him. He seemed to be quite proud about being born and raised in North Carolina which makes me feel like he might be tough to pull away from ACC country, especially when you look at his offer list containing both in-state schools, Clemson, and Florida State. We’ll see just how much magic Coach Manning has as Dalton’s recruitment progresses.
I almost always approve of Michigan following suit when Michigan State and Wisconsin offer offensive linemen and that’s exactly the case with in-state product Thiyo Lukusa. At 6’6” and 310 lbs. he figures to be a future tackle prospect and has performed well in that arena at several camps to date.
Lukusa has been open about how much he wanted an offer from the Wolverines, telling me that it was indeed a big time offer for him. He was informed of his offer by a phone call from Coach Hoke and almost all of the rest of the staff.
He wouldn’t call Michigan his leader but he did say, “they’re at the top though.” To me that sounds like the same thing, but I digress. I mentioned to him that 100% of the Crystal Ball picks at 247 think he’s a future Wolverine and he responded with, “MSU had a great season though, so I can’t say anything.” Seconds later he admitted to growing up a huge Michigan fan, “for sure!”. He said growing up a big Michigan fan will factor in to his decision….but not as much as roses. “Roses smell so good.”
I am 99.9% sure this will be a Wolverine/Sparty battle all the way. He’s got just the four offers right now but the way he spoke about both in-state schools it just seemed obvious at this early stage of his recruitment. Michigan State’s on-field success has clearly impacted the big lineman prospect but if Michigan can right the ship over the next two seasons, I believe Lukusa will be joining fellow tackle prospect Erik Swenson in the trenches in Ann Arbor.
Another New Jersey product, Kareem Walker is the first running back to receive an offer in the 2016 class. This kid came off to me as incredibly humble and genuinely grateful for an offer from Michigan. From Jersey, he also has a connection with Jabrill Peppers and already relates to him. “I’m from Irvington, New Jersey, it’s not a good neighborhood at all, kind of like Jabrill. As it comes closer to me getting ready to commit it will be helpful to know Jabrill because he will already be there and he will be able to tell me certain things.”
Ok, don’t freak out but on the field Walker actually reminds me of Denard with how he runs the ball. It’s not just because he has dreads, although that helps, but he does a lot of the same insane cuts, displays similarly quick feet, and like Denard, when there’s an opening he’s to it and through it before the defense knows what happened. This is how he describes himself. “I’m a person who you can’t take your eye off or you will miss out. I won’t quit no matter what the score is. It can be 100-0 and I still won’t give up on a play. I will continue to play with intensity and try to make big plays.” His high school coach compares him to Eric Dickerson, but I’m going to stick with Denard.
Like a lot of kids, from Michigan or not, their Wolverine knowledge begins and ends with Charles Woodson and The Big House. “I know a little about Michigan, mainly Charles Woodson. He kind of changed the face of college football by playing both ways and just going crazy in The Big House. I know that stadium is live and I hear the atmosphere is like no other.”
It’s obviously very early in the process for Kareem and he plans to take as much time as he needs to make the right decision. “I don’t really have a set time frame. I plan on taking my official visits and then talking it over with my parents and family before deciding. It really could be at any point after that.”
I had already had limited contact with each of these young men in the past except for Jalen Dalton, but after some in depth conversation with them I wouldn’t mind if they all committed today. On film they look great, they all seem to be grounded guys, and some of their best qualities seem to be off the field.
I’ve also learned more about how good of a recruiter Roy Manning seems to be. First impressions aren’t everything but he appears to be a pro at them. Maintaining a solid relationship and closing with some of these guys will bring his skillset full circle and solidify him as a quality recruiter in my mind.
Position: Running Back
Ht/Wt: 5’11" / 196 lbs.
Location: Washburn High School – Minneapolis, MN
Offers: Minnesota, Florida, Iowa State, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Syracuse, Wisconsin
Ranking: ★★★★ .9454 (247 Composite)
This isn’t exactly breaking news at this point but it is something to watch as signing day nears. 2014 RB Jeff Jones is currently committed to his home-state Golden Gophers but after his MVP performance during the Under Armour All American game his recruiting is more hectic now than it’s ever been.
Jones committed to Minnesota back in March and has flown under the radar for most of that time period. Once he landed in Florida for the UA game, that all changed. He routinely caught the attention of coaches and reporters during the week of practice and took his performance to even another level during the actual game.
I was able to exchange just a few messages with Jeff about his Michigan offer and his revved up recruitment. He told me that his recruitment is a lot crazier now than it ever has been. He also said with a laugh that he thought all of that stuff was supposed to be over with once he committed. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your standpoint, his phenomenal performances have led to a late upswing in his recruitment.
Jones visited Michigan back in June and left impressed but wasn’t pursued very aggressively at that time. After his showing in St. Petersburg the Wolverine coaching staff wasted no time in extending an offer, one that Jones says is big news.
Michigan wasn’t the only school to take notice of Jones’ performance in Florida, as the Gators extended an offer as well. Jones isn’t certain whether he’ll visit anywhere else or not and didn’t offer up any information as to what his plan is moving forward. He currently remains a “soft commit” to Minnesota and I’m sure Jerry Kill and staff are working overtime to make sure he stays that way until February 5 when faxes start rolling in. I think Michigan has a slim, outside chance to make a late impression on Jones. I believe it would’ve been a very different story had the coaches chosen to really go after him following his visit to Ann Arbor this past summer.
Per Hoke's press conference this morning, Shane Morris will start the Copper Bowl in place of Devin Gardner, whose fourth metatarsal finally fell off after hanging precariously from a piece of torn cloth that was being used to hold together what remained of his last rib. Or, you know. Per people on twitter Gardner broke his foot against OSU, then kept playing. Add to the list of people who should never have to pay for beer within 4 miles of Ann Arbor the rest of his life (once he's eligible to have beers bought for him).
In the recent practice report video are guys talking about Morris; you can take Jehu Chesson:
"He does a good job, you know, reading the defense, you know, getting the ball to us. A lot of people talk about his arm; he has a good arm, great arm, um, uh, [shakes head]. The other people talk about does he throw the ball too hard. You know, with Shane, whenever he's going to be in the game, or when he's in the game or what, he's going to make the right throws at the right time and the right decisions because that's what a Michigan quarterback is expected to do."
…and Taylor Lewan:
"He has the potential to be an extremely good player. [Thing about lefty QB means Lewan is no longer blind side]. I think given the opportunity, and if he stays confident and all those things, he's going to be very successful."
…at their words. Or you can read between lines and use your expertise from watching Lie to Me to discern panicky things from Jehu's microexpressions. Being a negative nancy blogger I shall of course do the latter.
Also in that video the starting linebackers are both practicing, so there's that at least.
Position: Tight End
Ht/Wt: 6'6" / 243 lbs.
Location: Avon Old Farms School (worth noting the mascot is the Winged Beaver) – Avon, CT
Offers: Georgia, Texas Tech, Indiana, NC State, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Syracuse, Temple, Ohio State
Ranking: ★★★ .8800 (247 Composite)
When it comes to identifying potential Michigan targets I tend to pay attention to who else is paying attention to a prospect. Depending on position if the Ohio States, Wisconsins, Penn States, Michigan States, and Notre Dames of the world are interested, I’d expect Michigan to show a little bit of interest at some point as well.
2015 TE Chris Clark was offered by the Buckeyes last week and I immediately reached out to him to see if the Michigan coaches have contacted him or if he had any interest in the Wolverines. To my surprise his interest level in Michigan was extremely high, despite it not being mutual from the coaches. In the 2015 class at the tight end spot Michigan figures to be in pretty good shape for Tyrone Wheatley Jr., but backup plans are always necessary.
Clark passes the eyeball test for a Big Ten tight end at 6’6” and 243 lbs. making him as big as several NFL tight ends already, let alone college starters. Clark was very open and insightful when it came to his interests and plans regarding his recruitment.
On film Clark’s size and strength are apparent but so is his willingness and ability to block, which isn’t always what you see out of high school tight ends. Clark seemed to have a good understanding of his strengths as well as what could be improved upon before and during college.
I believe my strengths are my hands and my ability to get yards after the catch. I am also pretty strong and can get off press coverage and block really well. I would definitely like to work on perfecting my route running. My coaches continue to tell me that route running in college will give me an advantage.
Clark has been compared to Tyler Eifert when he was coming out of high school and that doesn’t appear to be a stretch at all. Clark is actually about the same size that Eifert is right now as a Cincinnati Bengal.
With his offer list growing Clark has decided to take a level-headed approach to choosing a leader or a favorite, which he doesn’t have right now. He did admit to growing up a Boston College fan for pretty obvious reasons.
I loved BC growing up because my dad went there but that won’t have an impact on where I go.
Michigan hasn’t reached out to Clark at this time but he says Michigan is a school he’s always paid attention to when I asked him about the Wolverines.
Of course I’m interested, I mean it’s Michigan! Football is a lifeline for the school and I really like how passionate the fans are. The history of the program is just incredible and seeing The Big House on TV is awesome. Walking out onto that field, man, I bet there is no better feeling. I definitely plan on reaching out to the coaching staff at some point.
Right now he said that Michigan is definitely high up on his least despite not holding an offer. For what it’s worth he had the same sentiment about the Buckeyes who did just offer him.
Clark has started to make a mental checklist of what he needs out of a school and his priorities seem to be in solid order.
My relationship with the coaches is going to be big. Also if they utilize the tight end in the offense. I want to like the campus and the school in general. I have to be able to get a great education and just need to have the feeling that I could call that place home for four years. God forbid I got injured, it has to be a place where I would be happy if I wasn't playing football. My goal is to make it to the NFL but a backup plan would probably be something in the sports world so a school that can help with that is going to be important.
To go along with balanced priorities Clark also prides himself on his work ethic and plans to keep working until he is the best tight end in the country. He calls himself the most competitive person he knows and wants to win at everything he does.
Clark wants to make his decision sometime before his summer camp starts in mid-August so he can just focus on his senior season. That being said the Wolverines may or may not factor in since no offer has been extended at this time. Scholarships are tight for the 2015 class but right now all of the eggs are in the Wheatley Jr. basket when it comes to tight end recruiting. The way Clark talked about Michigan it surprises me that a relationship has not been formed yet especially since he’s not close to being an under-the-radar prospect. He did say he plans on contacting the Michigan coaches and when he does I’ll get another update from him.
In just about two weeks the Wolverine football family will grow by seven members. Bryan Mone, Michael Ferns, Mason Cole, Freddy Canteen, Brandon Watson, Wilton Speight, and Drake Harris will arrive in Ann Arbor on January 5th. As all seven young men prepare for the next chapter of their academic and athletic lives the winds of change have them anxious and excited.
Bryan Mone feels a little like the lost member of this recruiting class for the simple fact that he hasn’t been around as much as the others due to living in Utah. Mone also isn’t much for the spotlight and doesn’t do a lot of interviews or partake in social media like a lot of the other commits. Mone is set up to room with Scott Sypniewski a long-snapper already on the roster. At this point in time Mone is just ready to get on campus and do anything he needs to do to get on the field, even though he doesn’t know exactly what that is yet. Mone told me he’d like to wear #90, which should be possible as it’s currently not in use.
After flipping from Michigan State, Drake Harris has become one of the more popular commits in the 2014 class simply because of his seemingly unlimited potential at wide receiver. At 6’4” he has the kind of speed and size that can blow the top off of a defense, something that has been missing a bit in recent years. Harris missed most of his senior season with an injury so his level of anxiousness may be even more elevated than the rest. Harris will room with fellow incoming early enrollee Wilton Speight where to two hope to grow their chemistry. Harris says he hopes to do everything he can to earn the #1 jersey but believes he will start off in the #4.
Speaking of Wilton Speight, he told me he is coming to Ann Arbor with a chip on his shoulder. As a 3-star recruit he comes in a class behind Michigan native and golden boy, 5-star Shane Morris. That alone is enough to motivate him and he’s been working out non-stop and eating right trying to prepare anyway he can before starting a more regimented college workout and diet plan. He plans to hit the ground running with his offseason conditioning and lifting program as soon as he arrives. Look for Speight to rock the #19 in Ann Arbor just like he did in high school.
High school teammates Brandon Watson and Freddy Canteen were unsure of who their roommates would be, but both assumed it would be each other. Watson will arrive on campus at 6’1” and 190 lbs. which is bigger than I thought he was. He confirmed that he has definitely grown since any of his recruiting profiles were last updated. Watson plans to sport the #4 which will be available with the departure of Cam Gordon. Canteen didn’t have much to say but he did tell me that he was unsure of exactly what he will do as far as workouts, diet, and studying goes but he’s just ready to get to work.
Leaving the warmth and heading up north to the cold, Mason Cole can’t wait to get to Ann Arbor. The coaches haven’t told Cole what they want him to do as far as weight gain, working out, or what specific position he’ll play on the line, but he said simply, “It’s go time.” once he’s there. He just wants to get there and work out, get in shape, and study non-stop. Right now Cole is at 6’5” and 275 lbs. and he said he’d like to be at about 290 by the time fall camp rolls around.
Cole’s roommate, Michael Ferns was the only early enrollee I wasn’t able to talk to but I’d assume he’s very happy this day has almost arrived since he was the first commit of the class all the way back in August of 2012. If I do end up hearing from him I’ll add it in.