"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
In the half-hour we spent on the field talking to players at Sunday's Media Day, the theme of this offseason and fall camp was clear: change is here. For the offense, that means a change in coordinators, and with that a significant difference in how they practice. The tempo is being pushed like never before in Brady Hoke's tenure at Michigan, and that also affects the defense, which is dealing with change of their own, as the coaching staff on that side shifts roles while the defense moves from a 4-3 under to a 4-3 over.
I caught up with Dennis Norfleet, Jake Ryan, and Wyatt Shallman to discuss these changes and more, including Ryan saying he feels fully recovered from the ACL tear that limited him to just five starts in 2013. Tomorrow, I'll have further player interviews with the significant portion of the team that hails from Cass Tech.
You're getting work in the slot now pretty much exclusively, it sounds like. How comfortable are you at that position right now?
I'm getting a lot better. The wide receiving crew is really helping me out a lot. Coach Hecklinski is a great coach, he's getting me to feel comfortable when I get in there and getting me comfortable with my plays, so I'm doing pretty well.
What's been the biggest difference with the new offensive coordinator, the biggest change between last year and this year?
The biggest change is we're moving faster, up-tempo. We're a lot better as an offensive crew, we're more than a team, we're a family, so that's what makes a big difference to us now.
With that big increase in tempo, it sounds like you guys are getting more reps in. How much of a difference has that made in terms of getting more comfortable in the offense?
It's a making a lot of difference. It's a big difference because we have a lot of rotation, everybody gets to know their plays, nobody's going out there not knowing what they're doing, and if they don't they have people to tell them if they go wrong. That's a big difference.
How do you see your role being this year? Obviously you're playing the slot, but there's a lot you can do, so how do you see yourself being utilized in the offense this year?
I'm just doing my job, you know. If I get open space, I do what I do best, you know. I'm also being a role model for the younger players that came in. We're basically working as a team in everything that we do.
At returner, you obviously have a lot of experience there. Coach Hoke said you're getting a lot of the reps there but that there are a couple freshmen who are also coming in and making a push. How do you feel at returner right now, and is that a place you feel you can make a really big impact?
Kick returning has always been something that I go into the game and everything, you know, willing that I want to return a kick [for a score] every game. We've been rotating a lot, we've got a lot of players that are competing, spots that's not really set out for who starts where, so we're just having fun in camp right now and competing.
It sounds like both at slot and returner that you're working a lot with Freddy Canteen. What have you seen out of him in the spring and fall so far?
Canteen's becoming a better young man, not just a football player, just in life. He's been looking up to the older receivers, like Devin Funchess, me, [redshirt senior walk-on Anthony] Capatina. It's just a lot of people he can look up to, to become a better person, both in our lives and football.
You keep mentioning how you guys have come together as a team. What's been the biggest change since last year, and do you feel like as an upperclassman now you're really grown into a leadership role?
When I came in, I did things that upperclassmen always told me was wrong that I didn't think were wrong, but now that I'm older I can see what they were talking about. You know, it's more than just a game. We're trying to win a championship, the Big Ten, so as we go along that's the focus of our days. That's what we're ready for.
[Hit THE JUMP for Jake Ryan discussing his transition to middle linebacker and his full recovery from the ACL tear, and Wyatt Shallman talking about his role in the offense and the changes in style under Doug Nussmeier.]
News bullets and other important items:
- Delonte Hollowell has a cast on his hand and Ondre Pipkins was held out of two-a-days as a precaution.
- Shane Morris is the backup QB. They like the progress he’s made, but he’s the backup.
- Wilton Speight is competing with Russell Bellomy for the third-string QB job. Decision on whether Speight should redshirt will be made in a couple of weeks.
- The first team offensive line should be determined over the next week.
- May use by-committee approach to running backs, but they would like to have a featured back.
- Drake Johnson and De’Veon Smith are 1 and 1a on the RB depth chart, with Derrick Green at 2.
- Team is still searching for an identity, though Hoke wants it to be one that can run the ball and have toughness on both sides of the ball. Toughness was mentioned a lot today.
- Brian is probably going to have to eat a lemon.
“Good morning. I’m glad you’re here. Overall, we’re really happy with the progress we’ve made from spring. I think in the practices that we’ve had, we went two yesterday-- really good effort and good competition, which is what we’re striving for at every position but also offense versus defense, the kicking game versus the kicking game, all those things, we’ve come out and competed hard. Now we are not, as far as being a good football team yet. But the way they’ve come to work every day and what they’ve done, I think the identity of this team is still one that we’re developing and trying to develop. I think the team has invested themselves in a lot of ways in each other and in what we’re trying to get done. This next week is a grind and should be because you’ve got some double-day practices in there. We’ll scrimmage sometime during that time, during that week, trying to get reps and see what matchups we like as an offense and defense. Really looking into the situational football standpoint of it, how we match up and how we will match up during the course of the year. Excited about where we’re at knowing that we’ve got a lot of hard work that we’ve got to put into it. Staff-wise, player-wise, trainer-wise, manager-wise, everybody that’s involved. So from that standpoint there’s a lot of positives. From the standpoint of where we want to be, we’re not near that yet.
Can you say anything particular about any injuries that have occurred?
“You know,there are some guys who are banged up. Delonte Hollowell, he’s got a cast on his hand. As far as anything real major besides a couple guys we held out, Ondre Pipkins in two-a-day days, trying not to overwork him. We’re doing a lot with some of the GPS tracking that we’re into. I think the first time around doing all that stuff you’re trying to get some baselines and some data and all that and I think that’s helping us when we go out to practice.”
What can you tell me about your thought process through the kicking game this year? Special teams particularly, because you’re going to be seeing a lot of new faces. So what can you tell me, from long snapper to holder to PK…
“Yeah. Matt Wile has done a nice job in his career so far in the kicking part of it. Will Hagerup, it’s great to have Will back. He’s had a good camp so far. Kenny Allen is a young man who’s walked on here who’s worked really hard and is developing a little bit on kickoffs. He’s a very good punter. Snapper, Scott Sypniewski and Danny Liesman are two guys that are really competing there. Scott we brought in a year ago and were able to redshirt him, but losing Jareth Glanda, that’s a big loss but Scott’s done a nice job in that part of it. When you look at the return game there’s a lot of different guys. Norfleet’s really taken most of them but a guy like Freddy Canteen, a guy like Jabrill Peppers, some of those guys have a skillset that we think is pretty good. And the other part of that is having Drake Johnson back is a real plus.”
I’m curious to know how is the development of your wide receiver group going and the transition to a new offensive system?
“The wide receivers, I think, are learning every day. I think the pressure and the stress that we put on them and how we practice as a whole team but for those guys when you’re talking about formationally getting lined up and the different personnel groups and depending on what the quarterback sees and what he’s pointing and all that, I think they’re learning a lot there. I think with Devin [Funchess] and Jehu [Chesson], Amara [Darboh] coming back is a real plus for us. He’s had a real good camp so far. Again, it’s not like we’re in three weeks of it but he’s done a nice job. Freddy Canteen, I think all those guys, Bo Dever, Da’Mario Jones, all of them have improved. They fit what we’re doing. We’ve recruited them to fit what we’re doing offensively.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Ryan, leadership, Gardner, and more.]
News bullets and other important items:
- Blake Countess (groin) and Mario Ojemudia (ankle) were held out of practice but should return by Monday
- Drake Harris injured his other hamstring and has been limited to doing rehab reps
- The offensive line could change from morning practice to afternoon practice until they find a combination they like. Don’t shoot the messenger.
- The open scrimmage on the 16th was Hoke’s idea and will feature…football. They’re going to play football.
“Thanks for coming. Number one, it’s always good to get in the pads for the first day. You know, even though you've been in short pads and helmets it was good to get out in full pads. It was good that the energy that we've had all week has been really positive, how the guys have reacted to some adversity that we put them under. Today we did a little crowd noise and certain situational football setting and you could see we've got a lot of work to do. So we'll continue to put a bunch of pressure on our team. You know, Blake [Countess], he's got a little bit of a groin so we held him out today. Mario's [Ojemudia] got a little bit of an ankle, he's in a boot, but talking to him he said that he feels better every day and I think he'll be okay. Blake and Mario, they should be by Monday ready to go so we're excited about that. We've had good practices but we've got a long way to go when you look at where we need to be.”
What would you say, in just the five days of practice, you've seen the most improvement of and where would you say 'we've got to get this better pretty quick?'
“Well, I guess the biggest thing is how they came into camp. From conditioning and all, the kind of shape we're in, to football IQ and where that's at, and that's why we’ve got to continue to put a lot of stress on them. You know, that way things become a little more reactive and automatic when you're looking at it. That's probably in how they're competing with each other, you know, we get a couple scuffles now and then, and most of that is guys just going. And they're going hard.”
Could you talk about the enthusiasm? They were jacked up at the beginning today.
“Well, they were jacked up at the beginning. It was great they were jacked up at the beginning and it was great they were jacked up at the end. I mean, you need both. You can always start fast but you've got to finish. I thought they've come out every day that way, so they've been excited about football. Obviously tomorrow we'll go two practices and that will be a little bit more challenging in some ways. I think we've got a really good plan when you look at the health and wellness and getting them off their feet and trying to get them as much sleep as we can. That's a little different than years past and I think that's a testament a little bit to how they've gone about their team business.”
About the freshman; are all of them participating?
“All of them are participating. Some of them have to leave a little early depending on what they have on the academic schedule.”
They're all qualified?
“Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yes. I didn't know you were talking about that. They're all qualified, they're all here.”
With being unsure whether Ty [Issac] is going to be given the opportunity to play or not, how do you decide how many reps to get him in case he can play or in case he doesn’t and you don’ want to take away from somebody else
“Right, right. And I think the one thing we’ve done is we are getting a ton of reps. How we practice—so there’s enough reps there. I think as we get closer, a week from now, when you start really game planning—because he really needs to take some reps to learn what the offense is.I think luckily he’s played at a Division I university and there’s a lot of similarities always but I think this has been beneficial for him and I think everyone’s kind of gotten what we need.
Would you be surprised if Devin [Gardner] wasn’t the guy in week 1?
“I would think he’s had a really good fall camp so far. You know, it’s five days. He’s right now the guy taking most of the reps with the ones but we’re splitting them up a little bit at times and if he’s not playing well, you know, Shane [Morris]—Doug’s not hesitant in practice to make that change and so they both are taking reps with the ones. Devin’s getting the majority of them.
You talked a little bit about multiple running backs. Could you see early in the season, let’s say Devin’s the starter, trying to get Shane in there earlier than later and getting him some playing time?
“You know, we haven’t really talked about what kind of contingency plan or plan to try and get him, if he isn’t the starter, reps yet in that first game, second game, third game, fourth game, whatever it might be.”
You talked before about staying away from ‘I like this team,’ but do you have a sense of this team’s identity yet?
“No, not yet but we talk about it every day, their identity and what they want to make it. It’s things that you do repeatedly and they can be good or bad.”
And what’s the response you get?
“Well, I think from a physical standpoint it’s been real positive. I think from a competitive standpoint it’s been real positive.”
In terms of freshmen getting in the mix, Freddy [Canteen] especially…
“I think Freddy. I think Mason Cole. Mason Cole’s a good football player. I think I said that in the spring. He’s a little different than most freshmen offensive linemen in some ways. I think [Bryan] Mone, Mone’s a little different. Him being here was a big plus. Wilton Speight’s taken some good reps. Drake Harris is the other guy. He’s got a little bit of a ham, hammy, hamstring and so he’s a guy that hasn’t—he’s taken some limited reps but not like we’d like to get with him.
Was that something that he re-hurt this week?
“Yeah. He re-hurt it early in the week. Different hamstring.”
Did you guys think about shutting him down for a while?
“He has been shut down.”
You said he’s been doing limited reps…
“Limited, yeah. And most of those are rehab reps.”
You were in pads for the first time today. Do you know when you’ll have your first scrimmage?
“Yeah I do but I don’t know if I remember right now. Sometime next week, but I couldn’t tell you when it is. I kind of go by it daily.”
Blake’s injury is, you said, a groin. Is that related to the core [injury that caused him to have offseason surgery]?
“No. No, no, no. He’ll be fine.”
Is this just a brief thing with Drake here?
“You know, I’m not a doctor so it’s hard for me to really analyze that. I think it’s something that we’re very weary about. I think Coach Wellman, Strength and Conditioning—I think the rehab that we’ve done, I think Paul Schmidt and the trainers have all handled it very well. You know, is it a nagging thing? Maybe. Some people have those things so we have to think what can we do to help besides this rest and they know much better than I know.”
Who do you see mixing in besides Funchess among the wide receivers at the top spot?
“Jehu [Chesson]. Amara’s [Darboh] done well. Dennis [Norfleet] and Freddy [Canteen] right now have done a nice job. Bo Dever. Jack Wangler’s made some good plays but if I would look at that group I think Funch, Amarah, Jehu, Fleet and Canteen.”
Norfleet and Canteen are at slot?
“They’re at slot, yes.”
What kind of progress has Amara made after sitting out last year with injury?
“He really has come along real well. I think in the spring, probably the last two weeks, we could have put him in live stuff but we just decided not to. He’s done well.”
Where have you seen this week the impact of Coach Nussmeier’s new system on the offensive line?
“Well, I think there’s some things that we like more vertical. I think that the combination schemes that we want to be a little more heavy on the line of scrimmage. When you look at hands, you know, four hands on one man to initiate some movement on the line of scrimmage. I think the backs themselves, Drake Johnson, Derrick [Green] and De’Veon [Smith], they’re downhill guys so it’s punctured the line of scrimmage a little bit.
When it comes to the line right now, how do you balance moving guys around trying different things versus wanting to have one unit building cohesion playing alongside each other?
“How do you balance it? I think it can be tricky but I think it can be massaged very well. I think Darrell [Funk] has done a nice job with it and Nuss and who we’ve put in that first group and maybe that changes daily. I’m sure it will change from a morning practice to the afternoon at times until we really feel this is it with these guys. I think the competition there has been really good for us and I think they’ve come out every day very physical.”
So who was the first group today?
“Today it was Mason Cole at the left tackle position, Jack [Miller] was at the center position, Magnuson was at the left guard position for a little bit, Ben Braden was at right tackle, and the right guard was Graham [Glasgow] and David Dawson.”
Can I ask a question about the open scrimmage [on August 16th]?
“I’d love for you to.”
You talked about in the spring how you didn’t show your cards. Is this going to be the same kind of thing?
“That’s why you have to come.”
You could have opposing coaches come in, right?
“If they’re coming in during two-a-day…”
“Well, they could. Do you think they will?
Yeah, they could have a graduate assistant or somebody…
“Are you going to trust a graduate assistant right now?”
I think you were one once, right?
I don’t know your bio by heart.
“That’s okay. Yeah but what are you showing? We’re going to play football though.”
So you will keep your cards close to the vest.
“No, you said that. I didn’t say that. We’re going to play football.”
Whose idea was it?
You’ve got to put this thing together pretty quickly.
“I think it’s good. You know, the more you look at pro football and for a team that’s got some youth but experience I think it’s good for them to be in front of people. Just like crowd noise today, I want as many distractions as we can get. I also think it’s great for Michigan fans because we love them.”
Do you want to invite us more to distract the players?
“No, probably not. You don’t distract them. You may distract me.”
Playing at home hasn’t been a problem. Have you considered doing a scrimmage at an away stadium?
“You know, we’ve done that. We did that when we were going to Alabama, to Texas. I thought that was really good for us. I thought it would’ve been maybe better if we could’ve opened it up and had people in Ford Field. I think that would’ve been pretty cool but that’s pretty hard to negotiate when they have their security, their event staff, all those things.”
Name: Garrett Taylor
Ht/Wt: 6'1" / 188 lbs.
Location: St. Christopher’s School – Richmond, VA
Offers: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Nebraska, North Carolina, NC State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Penn State, South Carolina, South Florida, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Rating: ★★★★ .9566 (247 Composite)
Ranking: #90 NAT/ #9 CB (247 Composite)
From the onset of our conversation it was easy to see that Garrett Taylor was very happy to have received a scholarship offer from Michigan.
I was really pretty surprised. Coach Manning told me a little while back that they had to look at who they took for corners in the 2014 class and that the 2015 class was going to be really small so that’s why things were taking so long. My coach texted me today and said that I needed to call Michigan so I called and Coach Manning said I was offered. I was really excited.
With that offer sheet and a top-100 ranking it's not that shocking. Michigan has routinely spent time recruiting the talent-rich DC-Maryland-Virginia area. Even though he’s in the heart of ACC country he holds Michigan in high regard.
I was born and raised in Virginia but I’d say that Michigan is definitely in the mix. They are a school since the beginning of this recruiting process that I’ve had my eyes on. I wanted them to offer and I was really interested in them. It has taken a little while but they finally did offer and they are still solid with me.
Michigan has a lot to offer in many arenas and Garrett was able to tell me what exactly it was about the Wolverines that grabbed his attention early on.
First with the football program it’s just one of the most historic programs there is. I mean if you ask anyone for a storied college football program they might give you a Notre Dame, maybe an Alabama, and they’ll give you Michigan too. Also what they can offer in terms of academics as well as football is huge. Academics are very important to me and my family so just the fact that they can offer both at a very high level is really important to me. Also when I first started talking to Coach Manning he was just a great guy, he was really down to Earth, really honest. You could tell he wasn’t trying to pull anything, he was just really straight up, so I really like that about him. Coach Hoke too, was just really genuine and just showed me that Michigan has a lot to offer.
Taylor mentioned that he had been eyeing Michigan since the beginning of his recruitment so it was only natural to inquire about who else might be catching his eye.
There are a few schools that I’ve been interested in like Tennessee, South Carolina, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Michigan State, and Miami. Those are some of the schools that are sticking out to me right now.
With so many offers, Garrett is going to have some tough decisions to make when it comes to narrowing down his list, but he already has a basic timeline and plan in place.
Right now my plan is to start narrowing down my list. I know I have a lot of schools on my list and it’s really hard to take a very serious look at all of the schools I might be interested in. When you have all of the coaches coming at you with the same sort of intensity it’s really tough. Right now I’m going to try and narrow my list down to about 10 to 15 schools, hopefully closer to 10 by the end of the spring so I can start to plan some visits out during the summer. After that I’ll narrow it down again so I can get official visits set up during my season, maybe one or two after the season. At that point if I know which school I want to go to I’ll probably commit early to mid-winter. If all else fails and I am having a hard time deciding I would probably just wait until National Signing Day, but hopefully I can get it done at the early part of winter.
I always ask recruits if there is anything unique or interesting about themselves they’d like me to include because a lot of these Q&A’s start to sound alike; most of them kindly decline. Garrett chose to finish our conversation by telling me about his passion for literature.
I really like English. I’m in an AP English class so I can earn an AP credit. It’s a really cool class. I’ve always liked reading so I guess that’s something a little different. It can be hard to balance academics and football, especially with the school I’m at, St. Christopher’s, but I feel like I do a pretty good job. I’ve been there since like 1st grade so it’s always been normal for me to balance school and athletics.
[Lloyd Carr nods in solemn approval.]
I fully expect Michigan to make the cut/multiple cuts with Garrett and believe that they’ll have a chance to land him for a while. He looks great on film, was a joy to talk to, and seems to have his priorities in order. Whether he picks Michigan or not I will be a fan of Garrett Taylor.
St. Thomas Aquinas could probably compete with some small level colleges as they pump out D1 prospects like some clever analogy for industriousness the other guys might come up with. The 2015 class alone boasts nine players who might play at the next level and Michigan has offered two of them.
Name: Devante Peete
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht/Wt: 6'6" / 200 lbs.
Location: St. Thomas Aquinas High School – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Offers: Alabama, Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, LSU, Miami, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio State, South Carolina, West Virginia
Ranking: ★★★★ .9440 (247 Composite)
Devante Peete is a tall, smooth receiver at 6’6” and like most receivers of his stature he is a natural at high-pointing the ball and using every inch to his advantage. Peete told me that he hasn’t run a 40 recently but he looks to have very good speed for a receiver his size.
I was able to speak briefly with Devante and he came off as a young man of few words but he answered all of my questions with what felt like honesty and the expected levels of uncertainty. Coach Mattison chatted very briefly with Devante and just told him that the coaches all really liked what he can do on the field and extended him the offer in person.
Devante said he really likes the idea of Michigan Stadium, but admitted to not knowing much about Michigan at this time. “I really like their stadium. I’m feeling Michigan. It seems like it would be a great place to play football.” He assured me that he will be doing his research on the Wolverines.
Peete told me that he has no leader right now and he really is just trying to learn as much as he can about every school and program that has offered him. He plans to take his officials during his senior season and trim his list to a potential top 10, 5, or 3 before announcing his final decision at the end of the season. I asked him if Michigan would be one of his official visits and he said, “Most likely.”
Name: Rashard Causey
Ht/Wt/40: 6'0" / 190 lbs. / 4.4
Location: St. Thomas Aquinas High School – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Offers: Arkansas, Cincinnati, Clemson, Eastern Michigan, Florida, Indiana, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi State, Nebraska, NC State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Carolina, South Florida, Tennessee, UCF, UCLA, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Western Kentucky, Wisconsin
Ranking: ★★★ .8800 (247 Composite)
Even though Causey is rated lower than his fellow Raider, his offer list doesn’t reflect it. With good size, fantastic speed, and over 20 offers, it’s clear that Causey is a player. Rashard hasn’t played a season yet at Aquinas as he just moved into his new high school to finish out his prep career, a move that is sure to get more eyes on him.
Causey seemed to be genuinely excited about receiving the offer from Michigan. “I’m really excited man, I can’t wait to visit! I’m probably going to take an official during the season. I want to be in the crowd while it’s live!”
I had to admit to Rashard that I didn’t know much about him and didn’t realize Michigan was recruiting him and to my surprise he basically said the same thing. “I have no idea how long they’ve been on me. I met Coach Mattison yesterday and he told me to call him and they offered me. He said they all loved my film.”
It’s not much of a surprise but Florida kids don’t seem to know much about Michigan football and Rashard was no different. “I don’t really know much but I know their games be mad packed! I don’t know much about Big Ten football period.” Causey was born and raised in Florida and when I asked him if he liked any of the big schools from the Sunshine State he responded quickly and passionately with, “Noles!” Florida State hasn’t offered Causey but with his answer I had to ask what might happen if they do and he said, “It might change the game for me!”
Even though he clearly likes Florida State a lot, he seemed to be genuinely interested in the Wolverines too. He said he plans to cut his list down to a top 10 as soon as the spring rolls around and Michigan will 100% be in his top 10.
After talking with both of these young men I’d be beyond surprised if either of them ended up at Michigan. Peete just didn’t seem to have any genuine excitement surrounding his Michigan offer and while Causey did, if Florida State offers he’s a Seminole lock. Causey said that it was a 100% certainty that he’ll visit Michigan and Peete said he’d most likely check out Ann Arbor. It is worth noting that Michigan got serious attention from Corey Holmes who just finished his senior season at Aquinas and is a close friend of Peete. Holmes ultimately committed to Notre Dame but there was a time that Michigan looked like a real possibility. If Causey and Peete make trips to Ann Arbor happen, obviously my feelings could change but for now I’d say these guys are slim-to-noners.
The Michigan coaches have been on the road, checking in on recruits from all corners of the country. Multiple offers have gone out over the past couple of weeks and two of the latest are to tight ends Hale Hentges and Chris Clark.
Name: Hale Hentges
Position: Tight End
Ht/Wt: 6'5" / 230 lbs.
Location: Helias High School – Jefferson City, MO
Offers: Arkansas, Florida State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee, Wisconsin
Ranking: ★★★★ .9175 (247 Composite)
Hentges is one of the more coveted tight end recruits in the 2015 class according to his offer list (most of the Big Ten, Oklahoma, FSU, some SEC schools), and is a 4-star recruit according to the 247 Composite. Hale’s offensive coordinator is his father Chris, and I was able to catch up with him once I learned of the offer. Hale has a basketball game tonight so I plan on getting his opinion a little later on.
Hale tweeted about the Michigan offer and his father explains how it happened.
Evidently Coach Hoke and Coach Nussmeier said that they were looking at tight end tape this weekend and they put in some tape from a lot of tight ends around the country and they really liked Hale’s. They discussed it and came to a consensus that they’d like to offer him. Coach Hecklinski was the one who actually notified us of the offer so that was very exciting.
Chris also talked about how being the father and the offensive coordinator gives him a unique opportunity to be very involved in his son’s recruitment.
Once the coaches find out that I’m on staff it does make it convenient for the recruitment to go forward. Phil Pitts is the head coach and he’s very involved in the recruiting process as well.
With a change at offensive coordinator and two very solid tight ends on the roster already it will be interesting to see how involved the tight ends will be in Coach Nuss’s system and Chris had some insight to that as well.
The tight end is a position that the coaches really want to focus on in the 2015 recruiting class, they need to get two. They said they were looking for the best in the country and based on what they’ve seen they believe that Hale fits into that category.
The elder Hentges talked to me about how excited he and his son both were to have this Michigan offer moving forward. He spoke of Michigan’s proud tradition and rich academic and athletic history and said with a humbled laugh that the Michigan offer has definitely piqued their interest. Michigan is one of the schools Hale definitely plans to visit in the spring so that he can begin to narrow his list down to schools that fit the character and culture he will comfortable at.
Chris also spoke about the schematic fit that could best utilize Hale’s skillset which includes a toughness and ability to play with his hand in the dirt as well as the versatility and athleticism to play in the slot or out wide. Having guys like Devin Funchess and Jake Butt on the field should certainly catch the eyes of both father and son in that regard.
Chris seemed to be quite informed as it pertained to scheme which you’d expect but he was also pretty knowledgeable when it came to Michigan in general.
I’m aware that Coach Hoke has just finished his 3rd year. We follow football all across the country and we aren’t just SEC or Big 12 fans, we’re just football fans. We know of Michigan because of the big rivalry game every year with Ohio State. Ohio State is another school that’s already offered and we got their perspective on the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry and it will be really interesting to get Michigan’s take on it. We know that Michigan has an awful lot to offer academically and athletically and we are just intrigued, I think that’s the best way to put it.
With a very impressive offer list already Michigan has it’s work cut out for them but Hale’s father seemed very sincere when he mentioned the interest and intrigue involving the Wolverines. They plan to visit Ann Arbor and if they do I’d say Michigan has as good a shot as any to be a major factor in Hale’s recruitment.
Name: Chris Clark
Position: Tight End
Ht/Wt: 6'6" / 243 lbs.
Location: Avon Old Farms School – Avon, CT
Offers: Arizona State, Arkansas, Boston College, Georgia, Indiana, Miami, Michigan, NC State, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Syracuse, Temple, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wake Forest
Ranking: ★★★ .8800 (247 Composite)
A little over a month ago I posted a Names To Watch article on Chris Clark and today he was offered by Michigan. Clark, while not quite as highly rated as Hentges, boasts an offer list just as impressive with schools from all over the country (Ohio State and Georgia among them) extending scholarships to the big tight end. Clark spoke highly of the Wolverines before and now that he has an offer it appears that Michigan will definitely factor in to his recruitment.
Clark didn’t hide the fact that he was pumped about his Michigan offer, tweeting the news with a pretty indicative hashtag.
Got offered by the university of Michigan #dreamcometrue
— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) January 29, 2014
I had to ask him about that along with how the offer came about and just his reaction about the whole thing.
I’m really excited about it, it definitely was a dream come true. Coach Ferrigno checked in at my school today and told my coach that I had been offered by Michigan. He made it a point to say that at Michigan they offer the best players in the country and they didn’t want to let me slip away without showing how much they want me there. He said that Michigan plans to use the tight end in mismatches as much as possible whether it be in-line or in the slot which is cool.
Clark made mention of Michigan’s current tight ends and the talent level that’s already on the roster.
Michigan is intriguing to me because they have great tight ends right now. I love to compete though. I love to show that I’m better than the guy in front of me. There are a bunch of reasons why I like Michigan, just in terms of the competition, of what every day in practice would be like, it’s awesome. At a place like Michigan you can never take a day off because there will be guys in front of you and behind you that are so talented.
Connecticut doesn’t exactly have the reputation of being a great football state or a place where a lot of talent comes from, so I asked Chris about what it’s like being from Connecticut and how it might factor into his allegiances and recruitment.
Growing up I loved Boston College because my dad went there, he didn’t play for them but he attended BC and actually a lot of my family actually did. That has no influence in my recruitment either, but a lot of people ask me if I’m going to go there because my dad and other family members. I would never make a decision based off of something like that but they were the team I really liked growing up. Obviously everyone knows about Michigan, growing up I always watched them on TV. It’s one of the few programs in college football where you say the name and just think football. Michigan IS college football in some ways, just the fans and how they feel about the team, the stadium, the success that they’ve had. It’s really just the whole package.
Clark’s recruitment has really been picking up lately as he’s added almost a dozen offers since I posted the Name To Watch article on Christmas Eve. There are already a few schools rising to the top, again referencing the #dreamcometrue comment from his tweet about the Michigan offer.
There’s a couple of schools that I would say that for where it’s like, “Wow, that offer is a dream come true.” Georgia is definitely one of them too and so is Ohio State. Some people might have taken that out of context and assumed that Michigan is #1 now, they are definitely one of my favorites, but that statement doesn’t mean that I’m definitely a Michigan guy now. I love Michigan but there are a few other schools that could also make me say that. I would say that Michigan, Ohio State, Georgia, Tennessee, and Miami are the ones that I really like right now.
Clark won’t be able to attend the Junior Day event coming up at Michigan but he did say he already plans on attending a spring practice during his March break. He said visiting Michigan is “a priority and I will definitely attend a spring practice”. In the immediate future he leaves for Athens tomorrow to check out Georgia and will visit Ohio State on March 21st.
After talking with Hale’s father and Chris himself I fully expect Michigan to be in it toward the end with both tight end prospects. Michigan will apparently take two tight ends in the 2015 class with one of them assumed to be Tyrone Wheatley Jr., one of these young men could very realistically be the other. I like both of them on film and honestly am pretty indifferent when it comes to a preference. It seems both will definitely visit Michigan and once that happens a commitment is always a possibility.