a terrible blight on our fine country
Dymonte Thomas (L) and Jourdan Lewis (R) both committed before receiving coveted offers.
It's been a long time since I did one of these, and after the Shaun Crawford decommitment the topic of discussion is Michigan's very simple policy: if a commit takes visits, the coaches will continue recruiting for that spot, and while they'll continue recruiting the prospect taking visits they'll no longer consider him a commit.
At this point, the policy itself is clear to the point that its particulars aren't up for debate. Its merits, on the other hand, have been questioned. Here's a great question that helps show why it works:
Two part question:
Have there been any Michigan signees that come to mind who benefited the most from the policy being in place? A guy who was locked in early before he blew up regionally or nationally and it kept him in Michigan’s camp maybe? Or a guy, maybe like Peppers, who by committing and not looking around was solely focused on his senior year and helping the recruiting effort.
And on the flip side can you think of a couple of specific names (not including Dawson and the guys who have decommitted this year) who were probably scared away by it and may otherwise have ended up in a Michigan class had it not been for the coach staffs visit rules?
Jabrill Peppers is a nice example to start with, as he considered taking visits a couple months before Signing Day, then reaffirmed his pledge after taking his official visit to Michigan and talking with both the coaches and his family. Who knows what would've happened if Brady Hoke had allowed him to remain committed and visit, say, Alabama? At best, it would've bothered a lot of the other commits. At worst, Peppers would've ended up in Crimson.
Two other current U-M defensive backs come to mind when answering the first part of the question. Dymonte Thomas committed nearly a year-and-a-half before signing his LOI; at the time, the Alliance, Ohio product didn't hold an Ohio State offer, which befuddled Buckeye recruitniks. Even though Thomas' cousin, Bri'onte Dunn, committed to OSU in the interim, when Urban Meyer extended an offer two months later Thomas laughed it off on Twitter. He'd committed, end of story, and he knew what a commitment to Michigan entailed—no trips to check out Columbus and see if he'd want to play with his cousin, something they'd discussed before their respective commitments.
There's also Jourdan Lewis, who eventually became an Army All-American but held this list of offers when he pledged during The Greatest Mid-February Weekend In The History Of Mid-February Weekends: Michigan and Toledo. That's it. Other schools tried to enter the fray, but Lewis remained firm in his pledge—again, in part because he knew the consequences if he started looking around. All he had to do was ask his teammate, David Dawson, the shining example of how the Damien Harris situation can still work out in Michigan's favor.
As for the flip side, there have been multiple prospects in recent years who very nearly committed to U-M while on visits, and in retrospect it's clear the policy helped avoid an eventual decommitment. Malik McDowell immediately comes to mind, as does Artavis Scott. If McDowell had committed, his journey to East Lansing—and I believe he'd have ended up there regardless—would've had even more twists and turns. Same goes for Scott, who took to Clemson's overtures so quickly it's difficult to imagine a Michigan pledge would've stuck.
The best example of the policy avoiding a major issue, however, is a prospect who did at one point commit to U-M: 2014 OT Denzel Ward. His recruitment requires bullet points:
- Committed to Michigan in October 2012, a week after receiving the U-M offer, his best to date. By the first week of January, he'd also hold offers from Arizona State, Florida, and Ohio State.
- Took an unofficial visit to Florida in January 2013 without informing the coaches; at this time, he also transferred high schools from the Chicago area to the IMG Academy in Florida, which also came as a surprise to Michigan's staff.
- Shortly thereafter, Michigan told Ward he was no longer a commit, and due to the lack of communication with the coaches they didn't plan to pursue him again.
- Ward named Florida as his leader in March. He picked up an Oklahoma offer around that time.
- Despite an impressive offer sheet, Ward committed to Purdue in June.
- Three days after an official visit to USF, Ward decommitted from Purdue in December.
- Less than a week after taking his final official visit to Syracuse, Ward committed to the Orange and signed his LOI.
When Michigan recognized Ward was a serious flight risk, they broke things off, and eventually replaced him in the class with a higher-rated, UA All-American tackle in Juwann Bushell-Beatty. If I had to guess whether JBB lasts longer at Michigan or Ward at Syracuse... well, I bet you can guess my answer.
This was going to be a full mailbag, but I got pretty wordy on this one, so I'll answer the rest of the questions in a separate post tomorrow.
I'm beginning this draft on Thursday morning, and four-star IL OL Jamarco Jones is scheduled to choose between Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State at 2 pm. It doesn't seem like any insiders have a great feel for his destination, but the general consensus is that it's unlikely to be Michigan. This means a head-to-head loss against either MSU or OSU; you can decide for yourselves which one of those is the least undesirable scenario.
PRE-POST UPDATE: It's Ohio State, as most everyone predicted. This is certainly a tough loss for Michigan, though it's worse for MSU, which needs more depth—not to mention high-end talent—on the offensive line. If you still need to feel better (and you might before the end of this section), there's always being Not Illinois:
BREAKING: A top recruit in the state of Illinois commits to a school outside the state of Illinois
— TheChampaignRoom.com (@Champaign_Room) June 27, 2013
[insert Tim Beckman derp face here]
Meanwhile, the tide appears to have shifted dramatically in the recruitment of FL WR Artavis Scott, who said this after a return visit to Clemson last weekend, per Rivals ($)...
So, which school is recruiting him the hardest to ensure they get an official visit?
"Clemson. I'm building a great relationship with Coach [Tony] Elliott and Coach [Jeff] Scott. When I'm there I talk to Coach [Dabo] Swinney and guys like Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. They tell me how it is and my bond is growing with Clemson," stated Scott.
...then promptly moved up his decision timeline:
— Brian Stumpf (@Stumpf_Brian) June 26, 2013
The Opening starts on Sunday, though Scott's announcement will likely come later in the event, which runs through next Wednesday. Regardless of when he makes the call, it's a bad sign that Scott suddenly decided to announce (1) on the heels of a Clemson visit and (2) before a planned trip to the BBQ at the Big House. For his part, though, Scott is at least keeping up the appearance of being undecided:
This is probably the hardest decision I've ever had to make
— DÂ_GRËÂT7 (@tayscott7) June 27, 2013
It should come down to Michigan and Clemson; the Tigers appear to have the edge.
Scott's five-star 2015 teammate, ATH George Campbell, told Scout's Amy Campbell that he still wants to visit for the BBQ with Scott and commit Mason Cole, but he's unsure it it'll happen—though it appears this depends more on Cole's plans than Scott's ($). Campbell also mentions plans for a return trip to Clemson, saying "it's basically family," so... crap. Projections have quickly shifted from Michigan potentially getting all three of the East Lake trio to just the one they have in hand.
To keep the good vibes going, Tim Sullivan caught up with CA CB Adoree' Jackson; recent buzz surrounding Jackson and Michigan has been quite positive, but this is a cold dose of reality ($):
"That's going to be the main factor," [Jackson] said of a school's track program. "That's the biggest. It's probably one of my biggest things right up there with education."
Michigan's standing in his recruitment may suffer from Jackson's intense focus on track. The Wolverines are currently without a track coach following the retirement of longtime coach Fred LaPlante, and U-M's program has not been on the national stage in quite some time - the last national title came in 1923.
Jackson still plans to spend part of the summer in his native state of Illinois, but told Tim that he's "not really worried about" taking the time to head up to Michigan's BBQ. The Wolverines are still slated to get an offical visit, per Scout's Greg Biggins($), but at this point they're a heavy underdog against the likes of USC, UCLA, Florida, and LSU.
So, not a good week for pipe dream class projections, then. Please don't shoot the messenger.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup. I swear there's good news in there.]
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
The recruiting services are split on the #1 overall prospect in the 2014 class; Rivals and 247 give VA DE Da'Shawn Hand top honors, while LA RB Leonard Fournette earns that distinction on Scout and ESPN. Michigan is among the top contenders for Hand, of course, and Fournette is a lock to stay in the SEC, either at LSU or Alabama. Unless...
LSU and Alabama are the teams to beat for five-star New Orleans-St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette.
Except Fournette says it isn't so.
"That's not accurate," Fournette said Thursday, insisting he doesn't yet have any favorites among a list of offers so long he's stopped counting.
Well, then. The article by al.com's Mike Herndon names two other schools Fournette has visited—Florida State and Texas—as well as a certain program he's strongly considering for an official visit; yes, Michigan:
"You could say that (top prospects) pay attention to where other guys go," Fournette told Rivals.com. "I like Michigan. School-wise, they're more focused on grades than football. That's what I like about them. I think Jabrill made a good choice."
This is not happening. I refuse to believe this is happening. I will refuse to believe it even if Fournette makes it to campus, and will cease disbelief if—and only if—Fournette's name is signed in ink on a LOI faxed directly to Schembechler Hall in February. At that point, I'll still consider the whole thing a cruel hoax until Fournette actually suits up in a Michigan uniform.
[watches highlight tape again]
[counts plays before Fournette is tackled]
Apologies in advance for him committing to LSU and all of us feeling sad.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest round of underclassmen #JPTTA, updates on several top 2014 targets, and more.]
Michael Ferns, Da'Shawn Hand, and Ian Bunting at last weekend's Columbus NFTC (via)
[Reads Between Lines] [Tries To Hold It Together] [Fails]
So... this quote [emphasis mine]:
"Bud Foster is my favorite coach, but I haven't talked with him in a while," [Da'Shawn] Hand said.
"But my favorite coaching staff is Michigan," Hand said. "With Michigan, what you see if what you get. It's professional. With some, you feel like when you get to college it might, change, but with Michigan, everyone says they're straight.
According to the author of the article, SBNation's Bud Elliott, Michigan and Virginia Tech are "running neck and neck" for the lead in Hand's recruitment. Hand refuses to acknowledge even that much—he's says he enjoys the suspense—and he does have an unofficial visit set up to Alabama in July and is looking at trips to Florida, LSU, and USC, per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($). That said, his only planned official visit thus far is to Michigan, for the Notre Dame Game (a trip he recently locked in), and of the previously listed schools only Alabama appears to be a serious threat to his presumed top two.
One school we know for sure won't be pushing for his commitment is Ohio State, despite a campus visit last weekend that went better than his first trip to Columbus:
With the NFTC on the Ohio State campus, Hand took the opportunity and made an unofficial visit to the Buckeyes, along with friend Tim Settle, one of the top players in the class of 2015.
'It was straight, we talked," Hand said. "But I was with Tim, and he's a beast, and it was kind of his visit. Everyone knows that my first visit wasn't all that, but this visit was better. Still, I don't want to get anyone's hopes up."
Meanwhile, Hand revealed in an interview with Bruce Feldman that he's being recruited by at least one insane person:
Q: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you since you've been named the nation's No. 1 recruit?
Hand: Well, I ain't gonna say any names, but one coach told me that since I'm the No. 1 player, I'm gonna get to meet Michael Jackson. I said, "Isn't he already dead?" The coach goes, "Well, all right, you can meet Tito." I was like, all right. OK, I'm done.
It was crazy, but it is what it is.
all hypothetical internet dollars entire real-life savings account on Les Miles]
In the SBNation article, Hand said he's unsure of his timeline for a commitment. Regardless of when that comes, he told Feldman the announcement will be low-key:
I don't want to be like everybody else and be all flashy and do this and play around with people. For my commitment day, I just want to have it at my school. I'm not going to have three hats. I'm going to have one hat. I'm gonna call the coaches the night before. Tell them what school I'm going to and that's it.
At this point, it's looking more and more likely that hat will have a block 'M' on it. Which, uh, would be pretty nice.
[Hit THE JUMP for more on newest commit Chase Winovich, the latest on Artavis Scott and Adoree' Jackson, a Michigan commit earning an invite to The Opening, and more.]
Tick tock, Maurice Ways
MI WR Maurice Ways did get his offer over the weekend. He did not commit, possibly so that he could follow through on a promise to go up to Michigan State's spring game. Ways said a Michigan commitment was a "huge possibility($). Huge!
But Ways did not commit. Why:
“I’ve got a scholarship so it’s a good chance. But my parents were very excited, growing up a Michigan fan, being in the state of Michigan, playing for Michigan football it just seems like the right thing to do.
“But once again I do want to wait my options and not rush into anything and make sure it’s the right fit for me and my family as a football player and as a young man.”
Ways is setting up another Ann Arbor trip. When that occurs I will eat my hat if he doesn't commit. #justpullthetriggeralready
Visitors and such
Westphal is #21
IL CB Parrker Westphal was the headliner. Afterwards he told 247 that "Michigan was still the standard($)" and that he considered committing but decided to hold off until he goes on another couple visits in May. This was his sixth trip to Ann Arbor. If not for Ways, Westphal would be your leading candidate for next commitment. #jptta
BONUS: Westphal came in for a full-on (free) profile from 247. I lol'd:
“When my friends were out partying, I’d be at home studying, doing situps and pushups and go for a run at night,” Westphal said. “I’d try and do what Herschel Walker did. Those 3,500 situps, 1,500 pushups, that dude was a freak. I think he lied about that. That’s hard. You need time to do that.”
AZ TE Mark Andrews visited OSU, told Eleven Warriors some noncommital things about Ohio State, visited Michigan, about which I can find nothing, visited ND, and told 247 some nice things about ND($). With Michigan seemingly days away from its second commitment from a 6'4" wide receiver, Andrews's positional preference probably means this is the last we'll hear about his recruitment:
“I don’t want to be the guy that sits on the line and blocks. I want to be the guys making plays with the ball in his hands,” the No. 62 overall prospect in the line said. “But with how Notre Dame uses the tight end it fits my skill set well. I love Notre Dame’s offense and how they utilize the position.”
Michigan has filled his spot if he's averse to playing TE. Also I can't turn up anything from the Michigan sites on him. Bad sign.
IL TE Ian Bunting was a little more open about his thought process:
"I liked it a lot. They have great people and just a really cool culture there." Bunting wasn't ready to name a leader yet but he did say he was going to sit down and narrow his list in the next couple of days. He wasn't sure if his list was going to be a top 2, 3, or even 5, but he did say Michigan would be on that list regardless of the length.
The M Block's vibe is that Michigan is still behind… someone. The conventional wisdom is that would be Notre Dame. He told Allen Trieu much the same($), saying Michigan was "near the top" and he'd have a shortlist soon. 247 got some more detail($):
"I got to sit down with the coaches and we watched a lot of film," he said. "We didn't just watch film from Michigan games, but also San Diego State games as well. They wanted to show me first hand the transition they are making from where they were when Denard was their quarterback to where they eventually want to get to in using their tight ends. I've played receiver my entire career, but know I will be a tight end at the next level and am ready to work hard and show that I can play on the blocks as well."
Turning Bunting's head is a little more important because of part of this next section.
A guy Michigan does lead for
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt interviewed MO LB Kyron Watson at the St. Louis camp that occurred over the weekend, and Watson flat-out said Michigan was his leader($):
Helmholdt: Is there a team you're really excited about right now?
Watson: Yeah, it's Michigan right now. [coy smile]
Evaluations are all over the place on Watson. He's 100th on ESPN, a 3/4 star borderline guy on Rivals, and a generic three star at the other two places. TCU, Missouri, and Illinois are the main competitors.
IL TE Daniel Helm was at that same event and impressed Helmholdt:
"I think he has the ability to play at an elite level," Helmholdt said. "He is a receiving tight end and won the MVP of the Rivals Underclassman Challenge last year, so we will see what happens."
Helmholdt said that, along with his physical makeup, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound player has a personality that draws others to him.
"First of all, he is a super-nice kid who is shy in the way that even he is impressed that we think he is a four-star player," Helmholdt said. "He is respectful and humble.
"As far as being a prospect, I think he has a lot of upside. Right now he has coat-hangar shoulders, and I could see him easily getting up to 240 or 250 pounds."
Also he is refreshingly honest about his F5-pounding abilities in re: his ranking:
"(I look) more than I should," Helm joked. "That is all I'm going to say."
Helm said he knew he was the No. 201 player in the country, as well as the No. 6 tight end. He added that he wasn't checking the rankings as a motivational tool but a measuring stick.
In an interview similar to the Watson one($) he mentioned that Florida had not actually offered him yet despite their presence in his top four. If that decision does come soon they would not be a factor, leaving just Tennessee and Ole Miss as competition.
Unfortunately, Rivals's Dallas Jackson came away from that camp thinking Tennessee was his leader:
If I had to make one prediction about YOUR FACE it is that is is WRONG sorry sorry be professional… be professional.
We'll see if that's just a one-off thing or not. If you're looking at Helm's unease at waiting and possibly passing up a spot as a good thing for Michigan, Tennessee already has a TE this year and took two last year; Ole Miss took three last year. Options are limited at all of his top schools.
Wouldn't it be nice
ESPN has a feature breaking down the recruitments of their top ten players. Michigan is involved with four: CA CB Adoree' Jackson, VA DE Da'Shawn Hand, VA DT Andrew Brown, and NJ CB Jabrill Peppers. It won't surprise you to find out that ESPN says Michigan leads for Peppers, but they buck the conventional wisdom($) with one Mr. Hand:
Who's in the driver's seat: Michigan
Other candidates: Alabama, Florida and South Carolina
Dark horse: Virginia Tech
Most recent visit: Hand recently took a visit to South Carolina.
What they said: On Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison: "He's always energetic. That dude is insane. I don't know how old he is, but at heart that dude is 21," he said. "We get there and he is listening to Rihanna and Drake, he was dancing and singing. The players said he's really like that, too. That dude is wild."
TomVH says Mattison is Michigan's "secret weapon." If Michigan does manage to snatch Hand away from VT there will be Bud Foster Forever Alone ragecomics.
Virginia is leading for Brown, and Jackson—an Illinois transplant who's only been in California for one year—is completely wide open. HOWEVA, Michigan was mentioned as a team "rising" for Brown at 247 and he told Scout that he plans an M/OSU trip($) "in the near future," presumably after he makes a southern swing through Alabama, Florida, FSU, and Not That USC.
Also in Hand positive vibes, Steve Lorenz says Hand's dad is on board($) with M and that they're even with VT.
Everything's coming up Milhouse
NJ DE/TE Garrett Dickerson has a top five($), and it's an interesting one: Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford, and Northwestern. His brother already plays for the Wildcats, if you're playing the One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other game. On Michigan:
“I visited there last year and had a great time, and really enjoyed that atmosphere and the coaches are great. The facilities are great as well.”
Dickerson hasn't been back since that November visit. He also saw OSU around then. He just went to Stanford and Northwestern, and hasn't been to Tuscaloosa at all yet. The nerd schools have to be the favorites, then, until Dickerson finds his way to others in his top five. He had to shoot down some rumors that he committed to Stanford, FWIW.
Scott impresses, says recruiting is a foreign thing
FL WR Artavis Scott may not like talking to reporters about what he's thinking
One of the most impressive athletes out on the field at IMG Academy was Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake wide receiver Artavis Scott. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder caught upwards of five touchdowns passes on Saturday, showing his ability to run nearly every type route.
"I don't know. I really don't worry about all that stuff right now. I really don't have any standings on any team," said Scott.
His mom likes Florida "but, I don't know, it's whatever I want."
Semi-weekly Damien Harris tweet
2015 KY RB Damien Harris's latest foray into indicating to everyone he would like to go to Michigan:
Me and my bro
@GeorgeCampbell0 need to take a trip to Ann Arbor together soon! #136
Campbell, the massively-touted 2015 teammate of commit Mason Cole and target Artavis Scott, retweeted it. Let's all have a tizzy.
Just got off the phone with Coach Borges. Had a productive conversation! Go Blue!
The suspense is not killing me here. #jptta
Etc.: Michigan offers FL LB Darrion Owens($). Reminder: Tim Sullivan of Rivals confirms that offer to TX RB Vic Enwere I was a little suspicious of was a reporter getting M and MSU mixed up.
2015 stuff: Add the name "Tim Settle" to your radar; the VA DT has local offers and is claiming interest from all three Big Ten heavyweights. MI OL Kyonta Stallworth has offers from… uh, UCLA and Florida($)? Wow? M offers($) IL LB Terry Beckner Jr. M makes top ten($) for CO RB Christian McCaffrey (yes that McCaffrey).
Today's recruiting roundup is short on length but long on top-two overall prospects with heavy interest in Michigan. That works for me. If you're looking for more on the Drake Harris commitment, click here for the Hello post.
Heavy Leanin' (No Purple Stuff, Though)
Many thanks to the board for posting the latest on five-star NJ CB Jabrill Peppers, as I can no longer stand to follow Mike Farrell's Twitter interactions with his "haters" in order to see the occasional nugget of Michigan-related info. Sometimes, though, you pan through the gravel and come up with this:
— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) April 15, 2013
This would be good news no matter what, but the timing in this case is particularly promising: in the last two weeks, Peppers has visited Michigan, Ohio State, and LSU. Stanford is still a major player in Peppers' recruitment, and right now it looks like this will come down to whether his summer visit to the Cardinal lives up to his time in Ann Arbor. 247 just unveiled a (very impressive) overhaul to their database*—player pages now include updated expert predictions on where a player will commit, and all six of the 247 experts familiar with Peppers' recruitment have him pegged for Ann Arbor.
Farrell's info on #1 overall recruit VA DL Da'Shawn Hand seems a little less concrete, but nevertheless is good news for the Wolverines:
— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) April 15, 2013
Virginia Tech has long been the presumed leader for Hand—they're his home-state school and he has a very strong relationship with Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster. 247's experts, FWIW, are split 75-25 between VT and U-M as Hand's eventual destination. In my non-insider opinion, I think Michigan has a very good chance to close that gap; Hand is very familiar with VT but is still learning about Michigan, and he'll be back in Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame game and perhaps once more before making a decision. Being in the mix for other five-star prospects certainly doesn't hurt, either.
Because the above certainly won't cause enough over-excitedness, 247's experts are 7-for-7 in picking MI DE Malik McDowell to Michigan. Please remember that it's still early. You still have permission to feel very, very good about Brady Hoke's recruiting prowess, though.
[Hit THE JUMP for Spring Game visit reactions and more.]