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Four-Star Vine, I'd Say
It's perhaps the biggest week in camp season, as the Elite 11(-ish) is underway and Nike's elite camp The Opening begins tomorrow. Quarterback Alex Malzone is representing Michigan in both events, and linebacker Darrin Kirkland will join him for The Opening; tight end Chris Clark was also slated to attend the latter event, but pulled out due to personal reasons, per Tim Sullivan ($).
Day one of the Elite 11 finals is already in the books, though the meat of the event takes place today. Malzone measured in at 6'1", 202 pounds when he arrived, and told 247's Barton Simmons of his recruiting plans for later this week:
"I've built some good relationships with a lot of our top targets," he said. "Auden Tate and Michael Weber are a couple guys I'm looking to talk to. Keisean Lucier-South is another big one. Ray-Ray McCloud is another. The coaches have mentioned some guys I should talk to, but I've done most of the work on my own. I'm looking forward to meeting all the players Darrin (Kirkland) and I have been talking to and finding out the interest."
Simmons suggested both Malzone and Kirkland are poised to move up in 247's rankings if they turn in solid performances this week; Malzone recently moved into high three-star territory (and picked up a fourth star on the 247 Composite) and seems likely to earn a fourth from 247 sooner or later. The E11 quarterbacks who haven't already been selected will also get the opportunity to play for a spot in the Army All-American Bowl. In a brief, free update from the first day of E11, Simmons praised Malzone's presence, focus, and arm strength. So far, so good.
If you're looking to watch any of the camps, The Opening will be televised on ESPNU starting tomorrow night; the full schedule is here.
Happy Trails: Four Off The Board
I'm equally confused, Tim.
Four prospects holding Michigan offers went off the board since last Wednesday; three decisions went as expected, while one came as a bit of a surprise.
Nobody was shocked when both five-star OLB Justin Hilliard and four-star DL Jashon Cornell committed to Ohio State during simultaneous announcements last week; each favored the Buckeyes recently and stated a desire to play together. Jumbo WR Miles Boykin's commitment to Notre Dame was similarly predictable.
Then there's three-star TX WR A.D. Miller, who holds offers from the likes of Arizona State, BYU, Miami (YTM), Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. He chose...
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) July 6, 2014
With Boykin and Miller off the table, expect Michigan to make a hard push for another big wideout, 6'4" FL four-star Auden Tate, whose recruitment may come down to a battle between the Wolverines, Florida State (the presumed leader), and Florida. With the other offered receivers on Michigan's board likely ticketed elsewhere, it wouldn't surprise if some new offers went out, as well.
Michigan stopped recruiting Cornell because he'd gained enough weight to project inside; they'd previously wanted him as a weakside DE, and the top option there remains five-star California prospect Keisean Lucier-South, who gave an update on his recruitment to Brandon last week. As for outside linebacker, U-M is high on the respective lists of UT four-star Osa Masina and in-state four-star legacy Tyriq Thompson. Four-star TN ILB Joshua McMillon, who's had very good things to say about the Wolverines recently, could also project to the outside.
2015 Visit Updates
Per 247's Ryan Bartow, four-star NC CB Mook Reynolds, a current Virginia Tech commit, will visit Ann Arbor for July 27th's BBQ at the Big House. While a few other big-name schools are also in pursuit, that's the only visit he's got planned for now. He'll be at The Opening, as well, where he'll likely get some attention from Michigan's pair of commits in attendance.
Also planning a BBQ visit is three-star NC DE Kengera Daniel, whose ranking belies an impressive offer sheet that includes Alabama, Miami (YTM), and Tennessee in addition to Michigan. According to Tim Sullivan($), Daniel plans to take his official visits before making a decision during his senior season; securing one of those officials will be key for landing his commitment.
Scout's Sam Hellman caught up with recently offered four-star NJ ATH Ahmir Mitchell, who told him that unlike all the other schools that have offered him as a receiver, Michigan is recruiting him as a safety ($).
Four-star IN DE Auston Robertson, who camped at Michigan and is expecting an offer relatively soon, will be back in Ann Arbor for the BBQ, per 247's Steve Lorenz ($). While Notre Dame is his early leader, he said that the Wolverines would join them at the top of his list if they come through with an offer.
Five-star Cincinnati (OH) Elder OL Tommy Kraemer told Lorenz that Michigan could join a pair of familiar foes at the top of his list should the coaches, as expected, extend him an offer ($):
Kraemer, who holds offers from Ohio State and Notre Dame among others, says the Wolverines would immediately join that top group with an offer.
"They're the team I grew up following," he said. "My dad coached a former Michigan player and I've always been told about how great of a place it is there. I would want to visit and see it for myself first, but I am pretty sure they would be right there with the other schools I'm highly considering."
Kraemer was invited to the BBQ, but is unlikely to attend because of a conflict with his high school team's camp; he's looking to set up a visit before that camp starts on July 17th. With Kraemer planning to make a decision after his junior season, expect Michigan to throw their hat in the ring whenever he gets on campus.
But Is He ELITE? (Yes.)
Before rankling a certain perpetually aggrieved blogger with one of the most innocuous rivalry tweets ever, Alex Malzone earned himself a bid to the Elite 11 finals with an outstanding performance at the Columbus regional. 247's Barton Simmons put him at the top of the list when running down the best QBs in the "Pressure Chamber" drill (video above):
Alex Malzone – Malzone, the Michigan commit, had a very solid evening and had one of the better arms at the event. He also has good active feet in and outside the pocket. He could blend in at times but he definitely rose to the occasion during his pressure chamber showing. Of his five throws, four of them were dimes that he threw with a lot of command. He missed on a dig route but all in all, he had a strong output on his rival’s field. Later Monday night Malzone earned an invitation to the Elite 11 finals, securing one of the final 18 spots.
Scout's Allen Trieu was also impressed, though it sounds like Malzone still has a little work to do on his mechanics ($):
Malzone was generally on the money. His passes down the seam were excellent and showed the arm to hit the deep outs as well. As noted in the past, he has a hitch in his delivery, but the ball comes out of his hand nicely, with good pace, and he's an accurate passer.
Fellow commit Tyree Kinnel took the field last weekend at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and ranked #5 on their list of top defensive backs at the invite-only event ($):
Multiple times on out routes, Kinnel came up and stepped in front of the pass. He showed off great instincts and a great ability to read receivers' routes and then come up to make the play. Kinnel's backpedal is smooth and then he turns and runs well with receivers. Kinnel is set with his Michigan commitment.
Interestingly, Rivals listed Kinnel as a cornerback; while Michigan recruited him as a safety, he's displayed the requisite coverage ability to have positional flexibility in the secondary. After the event, Kinnel told the Daily's Alejandro Zuniga he's fully committed to U-M despite recent overtures from Alabama and Michigan State.
[Hit THE JUMP for coverage of Ty Isaac's impact on the 2015 RB situation, Grant Newsome's upcoming decision, weekend visit reactions, a potential five-star visitor, and more.]
Michigan hosted four-star Illinois jumbo receiver Miles Boykin and his family for an unofficial visit over the weekend, and after receiving the full campus tour with a special "here's how we'll use you like Devin Funchess" film session, at least one of the Boykins was ready to sign up, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“My dad and my brother are the biggest Michigan fans I know,” Boykin said. “So they loved it.”
Boykin adding, “When we got back home my brother looked at me and he said, ‘Miles, you’re a better man than I am.’ And I asked what are you talking about? And he was like, ‘I would’ve committed already bro.’
Miles told 247's Steve Wiltfong that he thought the trip "went awesome," and he "loved it" when Jeff Hecklinski showed him how he'd be utilized in the offense($), so while Boykin claimed no leaders it's tough not to feel like Michigan is in a very good position for him—especially since he already visited for the Spring Game and already plans on taking another summer unofficial to Ann Arbor before an August decision. Notre Dame is a serious contender and they're up next on his visit list, so this is far from over, but I like where Michigan stands.
The Wolverines also continue to look good for a few of their top targets, as well. Sam Webb's latest Detroit News article details a slight shift in recruiting strategy by the coaches—focusing on recruiting their position of specialty, as opposed to a set region, earlier than in years past—and how that's affected Michigan's chances with CT TE Chris Clark and NJ OT Grant Newsome.
Both have developed a close relationship with their potential future position coaches—Dan Ferrigno for Clark, Darrell Funk for Newsome—and will be on campus for critical unofficials this month, each accompanied by their mothers this time around. Michigan is Clark's stated leader, while Newsome is down to U-M and Penn State. Read Webb's whole article, which includes details on Alex Malzone's recruiting efforts, and you'll come away feeling good about Michigan's chances to land both.
Newsome won't be the only four-star tackle on campus this summer. According to Webb and Josh Newkirk, TN OT Drew Richmond has been impressed enough with Funk's continued recruiting efforts—even after Richmond left U-M out of his top 11 in March—that he's going to visit in July ($):
“I feel like he knows what he’s talking about and he cares about what he’s doing,” Richmond said about Funk.
The four-star offensive tackle continued: “They have just been consistently recruiting me. I really love the fan base.”
Meanwhile, recently offered TX WR A.D. Miller is on campus today while on a Midwest swing from Illinois to Ohio State, and he told Tim Sullivan he'll narrow down his focus to "about eight schools" after these trips ($). In other positive 2015 news, four-star TN LB Josh McMillon put Michigan in his unordered top ten.
Trending Not So Well...
Ohio State's campus hosted a Nike camp over the weekend, and the recruiting updates from Columbus weren't so good on the Michigan front. Damien Harris, in particular, came away singing the praises of OSU and Urban Meyer, per Doug Lesmerises:
"It's still kind of cool the way things go with Coach Meyer," Harris told cleveland.com Sunday, while attending a Nike Football Training Camp at Ohio State. "As a kid growing up, I'd see him on TV and I was like, 'Man, he's the man.' And now I get to be real cool with him. We walk into a basketball game together, we just get to enjoy life together right now - maybe for the next four years. It' definitely been a blessing. I get to be looked at as important enough to spend time with one of the greats of all time. It's definitely an honor. I don't take it for granted. I'm real thankful for it."
Harris told Steve Wiltfong that Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio State were the programs recruiting him the hardest; in the same article, he discussed how much he "loves" various aspects of OSU, UK, Florida, and Alabama, but when asked about Michigan he mentioned trying to "continue to develop a better relationship" with Doug Nussmeier ($). Harris, if you'll recall, was close with Al Borges before U-M changed OCs; I've finally given in and flipped my Crystal Ball pick for Harris to Ohio State.
The above makes this bit of news from TomVH a little tougher to stomach:
RB Mike Weber told me he does have a top 3 within his top 5. Ohio State, MSU, Wisconsin but Michigan and Tennessee still in it.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) June 1, 2014
So that's not good. Michigan may be left looking for other options, and they at least have a couple. Tim Sullivan reports that Michigan offered three-star MO RB Alec Murphy (highlights above) a few weeks ago, and Murphy says he's looking at visiting U-M when he attends the Sound Mind Sound Body camp this month ($). The Wolverines could make a quick move here—at the moment, Iowa is his next-best offer.
There's also three-star GA RB Mikell Lands-Davis, who was offered a month ago. Steve Lorenz wrote a couple weeks ago, after U-M dropped by for an in-school visit, that the Wolverines could very well be the #2 team for him behind Clemson ($). If they can get him on campus—and they're working on setting that up—we'll see what happens.
Michigan was one of the first schools to seriously pursue four-star MN DE Jashon Cornell, and at the very least its paying off with continued mentions among his very top schools. The trouble is that the Wolverines have never seemed to quite reach the peak of his list; Notre Dame has the Cretin-Derham pipeline, Michigan State was his stated leader at one point, and now Ohio State has made a move to the forefront, per Wiltfong ($):
Sources close to Cornell told 247Sports Ohio State is now the team to beat. Cornell himself said the Buckeyes are in his top three now. They were on the outside looking in until this visit.
“Something about Coach (Larry) Johnson and Coach (Urban) Meyer,” Cornell said. “They bumped up high.”
Who else is in the top three?
“Maybe Michigan and Penn State,” Cornell said.
The bad news, of course, is that the Buckeyes appear to be on top. The good news is Michigan is still very much in the hunt, and they'll get another chance—along with Michigan State—to jump atop his list after an unofficial when he's in the state for SMSB.
Darrin Kirkland: NFTC LB MVP
One definitively good piece of news to come from the Columbus NFTC—commit Darrin Kirkland Jr. is doing quite well at the whole football thing, per Allen Trieu:
Linebacker MVP: Darrin Kirkland – Lawrence Central (Ind.)
The Michigan commit was impressive with his lateral agility. He did well in pass coverage, not something that was necessarily considered his forte coming in. He was invited to The Opening.
There's something about Kirkland and excelling in Columbus—his excellent coverage in passing drills "surprised" scouts at both the Nike and Rivals camps held there last summer. At some point, maybe it won't surprise anymore.
Recent Offers, Visitors
After receiving a Michigan offer last Wednesday, four-star FL DE Janarius Robinson told 247's Chris Nee he plans to visit Ann Arbor on June 20th ($). While Florida State will be tough to beat, a campus visit with these coaches can't be overlooked.
Another relatively recent offer that went unreported—or at least I didn't notice—until Tim Sullivan dug it up is four-star MD OL Pat Allen, who plans to visit this summer and expect U-M to fall within an impressive top five ($):
"Michigan is going to be in my top five, Georgia's going to be in my top five," he started. "I'm going to have those two, Ohio State is definitely in my top three, Florida State most likely top five.
"With Georgia, it's really the area. I've been there a couple times. It's a really good school, and I think Georgia's a solid program. I don't know much about Michigan yet. They do have a good program, and honestly anybody would be a fool not to go to Michigan. At Ohio State, I'm comfortable when I've been there. The region's really good, the coaching staff is great, the people there are comfortable to be around, I like the city of Columbus, it's really cool.
While OSU is in very good position, that could change once Allen sees U-M for the first time.
In the 2016 class, offers continue to go out to top national quarterback prospects. California five-star, #1 dual-threat QB Malik Henry pulled in an offer last week. Henry's already got serious national interest, and as always, it's best to take a wait-and-see approach with any top California prospect.
Michigan also offered the nation's top pro-style quarterback in WA five-star Jacob Eason, per 247's Clint Brewster. His offer list is even more impressive than Henry's, so he'll also be a tough pull from the West Coast.
The third QB to pull in a recent offer is four-star CA pro-style prospect KJ Costello, who told Scout's Greg Biggins he's visiting Ann Arbor on June 15th to kick off a trip that'll have him see several of the nation's top programs ($). Same deal here—we'll see how he feels after the visit.
GBW reports offers out to a pair of 2016 receivers. Four-star MD slot (5'9", 152) Steven Smothers was very excited to hear the news ($):
“[Mattison] called my coach,” Smothers said on his Michigan offer. “I had the offer for a week or two [before he told me]. But my coach just told me today. I’m really at a loss for words. A big school like that offering is shocking.
“I was pumped, I mean, what more can I say? It’s Michigan!”
U-M is now in his top six along with Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, and West Virginia. While FL WR Binjimen Victor is unranked on the recruiting services thus far, he's also received some impressive offers, and he immediately brought up Denard Robinson upon hearing that U-M offered; unfortunately, the Wolverines still have work to do to crack his top group ($):
Victor, who stands at 6-foot-4, 170-pounds, says he is planning on making his final decision sometime during his senior season. While he wouldn’t name a leader, he did say there were a few schools sticking out early on in his recruitment.
“I’m not trying to (commit) or anything but the schools I really like right now are Miami, Ohio State, and Clemson,” said Victor.
Finally, 2016 OH LB Brendan Ferns—younger brother of U-M LB Michael Ferns—visited campus last weekend, and while he doesn't yet have an offer he told GBW having his brother on campus "will help" should one come along ($). After he pulled in a recent offer from Michigan State, it wouldn't surprise if U-M followed suit before too long.
Malzone Gets The Bump
Because way too many people my age think Kanye wrote a great horn line for "Touch The Sky"
After updating their top 100 on Monday, Rivals continued this week with a revised Rivals250 and newly minted four-star prospects. In the former, Shaun Crawford (#111) and Tyree Kinnel (#193) both had very minor drops, while Darrin Kirkland Jr. moved up from #183 to #167. In the latter, Alex Malzone led off the list of non-Rivals250 prospects to earn the four-star bump:
Malzone has consistently upped his play over the last year, doing so again most recently at the RCS Detroit, where he brought home the quarterback MVP award. We already knew he had a strong arm and his team's state title last fall showed he has the intangibles as well. What Malzone showed at the Rivals Camp was pinpoint accuracy on his throws, showing he has taken ownership of his arm mechanics. College coaches were also impressed by his workout this spring, and he accepted an offer from Michigan in May. - Josh Helmholdt, Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Analyst
While the Michigan commitment certainly earned Malzone a closer look from recruiting analysts, it sounds like he was well on his way to that fourth star with or without the Wolverine pledge. As I said in yesterday's roundtable, I expect ESPN and 247 to follow suit eventually. Either way, Malzone is now officially ineligible for MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year status.
Crawford Update: Mixed Messages
According to Josh Helmholdt, after speaking with the coaches, Shaun Crawford still considers himself a Michigan commit:
— Michael Spath (@Spath_Wolverine) May 22, 2014
Considering he visited Notre Dame last weekend, that'd be a departure from the usual way the coaches have handled these situations—if a prospect takes visits, they're not considered a commitment—but perhaps they've reevaluated how they'd like to handle this type of scenario.
Or, potentially, not. Rumors abound that the Crawfords aren't at all pleased about Michigan's visit policy, and Sam Webb no longer considers Shaun a commit:
— nezz21〽 (@nezzy21) May 19, 2014
I doubt that is just Sam's opinion. Notably, Crawford is no longer listed among Michigan's 2015 class on Scout. There's a rumor on the GBW board that Crawford may not visit Ohio State, which would be good news; that may also be an indication he's leaning towards ND, however. Hopefully this situation clears up one way or the other before too long, as I dislike the soap opera aspect of recruiting as much as anybody.
[Hit THE JUMP for news on several new offers, updates on top targets in both the 2015 and 2016 classes, and much more.]