Today's recruiting roundup discusses early returns on Shane Morris at the Elite 11 finals, 7-on-7 highlights of Khalid Hill and Csont'e York, and a few happy trails in both the '13 and '14 classes. Also included is an interview with 2014 TX CB Nick Watkins.
Arm Cannon: Engaged
Embedded again, both for informative purposes and so I can make a "Tom Luginbill got his watch from a Happy Meal" joke.
The Elite 11 finals are under way in California, and naturally they feature Shane Morris throwing a football a very long distance:
So the QBs are throwing 55 yards at a target, Shane Morris dropped back to the 35 and hit the End line, 75 yards
— Scott Kennedy (@ScoutKennedy) July 19, 2012
Shane Morris, Warren (Mich.) De La Salle: Morris clearly has the biggest arm at the event and loves to show it off. But this is even more encouraging: He is improving his touch and the ball didn't sail on him nearly as frequently as it has in past showcases. His long ball wobbled a bit, but it wasn't too concerning. Morris' ceiling is very, very high.
And his Day 2 performance even moreso, as he landed atop Farrell's list of standouts ($):
1. Shane Morris, Warren (Mich.) De La Salle - Morris earned the gold jersey for the afternoon after winning the accuracy contest in the morning and he continued his fine play in 7-on-7 situations. While all of the quarterbacks have been encouraged to check down quickly, Morris keeps his eyes downfield more than others, has a cannon arm and fit the ball into some tight windows. He still clearly prefers to throw to his left so he needs to work on field vision, but he has shown the most overall tools through two days.
The lefty's tendency to focus on only half of the field appears to be the area he must work on the most, as it also cropped up in Scout's rundown of the second day's top performers ($):
4. Shane Morris - There shouldn't be much question of who has the strongest arm any more. Including the college players acting as counselors, the strongest arm at the Elite 11 Finals belongs to Morris. When push comes to shove, Morris has a laser-like focus on the left side of the field. That's a habit he'll need to outgrow.
That arm, though; counselors at the event include Georgia's Aaron Murray and Clemson's Tajh Boyd, and if Scout is to be believed Morris already has more arm strength than those two.
With the event still ongoing, I'll have more on Morris's Elite 11 performance in Tuesday's roundup. Other early standouts include Miami commit Kevin Olsen, USC commit Max Browne, and Notre Dame commit Malik Zaire.
Khalid Hill And Csont'e York 7-on-7 Highlights
GBW's Josh Newkirk recently uploaded Maximum Exposure player highlights from the IMG 7-on-7 National Championships, giving us a close look at tight end commit Khalid Hill...
...as well as wide receiver commit Csont'e York:
Hill's more extensive highlight reel suggests that he was a more frequent target of Morris at the event, and you can see why: he does a nice job working underneath the coverage as well as finding space up the seam. York gives defenders trouble with his length, but the brief clip doesn't tell us a whole lot more about him as you can't see him run most of the routes.
Speaking of MaxEx, 247's Steve Wiltfong recapped their summer performances thus far, including blurbs on Morris, York, Hill, Jourdan Lewis, Damon Webb, and Malik McDowell.
Not much news on the 2013 recruiting front this week, but we do have a few happy trails, unfortunately.
It should come as no surprise that TN RB Jordan Wilkins pledged to Auburn after previously eliminating the Wolverines from contention. VA RB Derrick Green is now the lone remaining running back target in the class.
There had been some talk of five-star FL CB Vernon Hargreaves III putting Michigan back into the mix in his recruitment, but he tweeted yesterday that he won't be able to visit Ann Arbor; he's releasing a top five momentarily, and the Wolverines won't be on it.
HI DT Scott Pagano named a top four of LSU, Alabama, Florida, and Clemson, and will name his choice on August 10th ($). He hasn't visited Michigan and I don't believe the coaches are taking another defensive tackle regardless.
OH LB Michael Ferns has already narrowed his list down to a final three of Michigan, Penn State, and Notre Dame. ESPN's Jared Shanker reveals he's also ahead of the game when it comes to academics:
Ferns will return to the Red Devils basketball team after taking his sophomore year off. His head coach at St. Clairsville, Brett McLean, said Ferns will be in the running for valedictorian in 2014, and to top it off the imposing, hard-hitting linebacker is preparing to go pre-med when he gets to college.
"As soon as I got into high school science and math stuck out for me," Ferns said. "From a social aspect, I feel like I could make (football and pre-med) work. Every college at this level is going to have a great education. I'm focusing on going to school but also the opportunities I'll have after my four years and what it takes to finish up pre-med."
[ed-S: Med School rankings by USN&WR, just sayin': Michigan-10th; Penn State-unranked, at least worse than 110th; Notre Dame-doesn't have one]
Matt Pargoff recently caught up with Ferns, who says he's looking to make a decision by the end of his junior year, and he plans on graduating early. Ferns made trips with his whole family to Notre Dame and Penn State, but on his prior visit to Ann Arbor was accompanied only by his father; he plans to rectify that situation for next weekend's BBQ at the Big House.
Those hoping Cass Tech CB Damon Webb would make an early decision to Michigan might want to temper those expectations after Webb camped at LSU and came away with an offer ($). Webb's father told Allen Trieu that a decision won't come until "probably this time next year," and they'll make a return trip to Baton Rouge before then. He's also quoted by Steve Wiltfong($) as saying that "LSU is right up there with Michigan." Webb is looking like a top-100 player who will garner attention from a who's-who list of national powers, which gives me the feeling his recruitment is far from over, even though Michigan holds home-field advantage.
Here's a fun example of why I don't often post links here when recruits say they want to visit a school but don't set a date. Two days ago, 247's Todd Worly posted an article on FL ATH Javon Harrison containing this quote($):
“I’ll try to visit [Michigan],” Harrison said. “I’ll try to go this fall during the week, and I probably could make it for a game. Probably both.”
On the same day as the article was posted, Harrison announced his commitment to Virginia Tech. It's always a good idea to take any quote like the above with a grain of salt when it's given to a reporter from a team-specific site.
Joining Harrison in the happy trails category are AZ OT Casey Tucker, who pledged to USC this week, and SC LB K.C. Crosby, who will choose on Sunday between a final five that doesn't include Michigan ($).
An Interview With Nick Watkins
TX CB Nick Watkins has already garnered offers from Michigan, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M. He's also ranked as the #36 overall prospect in the class of 2014 by 247. At 6'0", 180 pounds, he has frame to be an elite cornerback, and with those early offers it's easy to see him maintaining his blue-chip status through the recruiting process. I had the chance to briefly chat with Nick earlier this week, and here's the transcript of our interview:
ACE: First of all, which schools have been in contact with you the most so far, and how many offers are you up to?
NICK: I am up to I think 13, and all of the schools have been in contact with my coaches about me.
ACE: Do you have any favorites or a top list right now?
NICK: Nah, not really, all of them are at the top right now.
ACE: What do you know about Michigan, and what was your reaction to getting an offer from them?
NICK: I know that they're a winning program, with great tradition. My reaction was surprised because they hadn't sent me any mail or been in contact with my coaches until the last week of spring football.
ACE: Now that they've offered have you been in touch with the coaches more? If so, which coach or coaches do you talk to?
NICK: Yes, I have been. I talk to Coach Mallory and Coach Funk.
ACE: What schools have you visited so far, and do you have plans to take any visits during the rest of the summer?
NICK: I only visited Texas. And nah, not right now.
ACE: I know it's a long way away, but what factors will determine where you want to go to school?
NICK: The education [is] first. So a good business major! Also, where I can compete and get on the field early, a good school atmosphere and a good coaching staff!
ACE: If you had to scout yourself, what would you say is your biggest strength and what do you want to improve before you get to the next level?
NICK: My biggest strength would be my length. I have great hips for a tall corner, and I can make plays! I want to improve my strength right now.
Note: I'm getting error messages like whoa from 247Sports, so I can't access some of the tabs I had saved for this post. Apologies in advance if something gets left out; if you notice anything glaring that I've overlooked, let me know in the comments (and, if you can, please link to an original source of information).
Recruiting: Now Reaching Ludicrous Speed
"They've gone to plaid!"
I doubt this fact will surprise many Michigan fans, but the pace at which players are committing in the 2013 recruiting cycle appears to be unprecedented. SBNation's Jason Kirk—co-host of the incomparable Shutdown Fullback—took a look at early commitments in the past few years, and even in that short time span there's a very clear trend:
Over the past three years, the nation's top 75 recruiting teams have averaged about three commitments at this point in the year, though that doesn't include decommitments. Right now, they're averaging more than five.
And, of course, the main case in point is Michigan [emphasis mine]:
The big story is the Michigan Wolverines, whose 17 commits make for more than they've had in any combined two years of the Rivals era, and, thus, probably ever. It's noteworthy that Brady Hoke was the Big Ten coach most supportive of Urban Meyer back during Recruit-TakingGate. But almost across the board, schools are getting more and more early commitments.
The Wolverines had six commitments through April 30th for the 2012 class, and just three in 2011.
Kirk doesn't spend much time examining why this is the case, and I don't want to spoil tomorrow's recruiting roundtable podcast (yes, there's a podcast!) in which this very topic is discussed at length. One point I will make, however, is that the greatly increased attention on recruiting from both traditional and non-traditional media has placed enough stress on recruits that I believe many decide to end the process in part to get out of the increasingly-bright spotlight.
That brings me to IL RB Ty Isaac, who had an extensive profile in CSNChicago giving the latest on his recruitment [emphasis mine]:
"I took unofficial visits in March, when it worked out for my parents," he said. "Now my visits are out of the way. Nothing else is planned now. To be honest, I don't know if I will visit any more schools. Some have asked me to visit. But if I don't have any interest, I don't want to waste either side's time. If the schools I have visited, I'd be perfectly fine to go to either one of them."
However, he is sure of one thing at the moment. "I'm not a fan of the recruiting process at all. When I started, like everybody, I was excited. After you get the first couple of offers, you know you will have an opportunity to play at the next level. But now it gets overwhelming. It feels like it never stops," he said.
Isaac's apparent lack of interest in taking visits to new schools bodes well for Michigan. More trips to places like Notre Dame and USC could still be in the cards, but he's already seen those campuses and the Wolverines have remained in a strong position to land him. Also, given his justifiable disdain for the recruiting process, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him wrap things up in the near future—Isaac still maintains no public timetable.
Thomas Firmly Committed, New Offers, Etc.
While OH S Dymonte Thomas has remained steadfast in his insistence that he's firmly committed to Michigan, it's been difficult to keep a lid on discussion that he could still end up joining his cousin Bri'onte Dunn at Ohio State. In a two-part feature($) by GoBlueWolverine's Josh Newkirk, Thomas reiterates that he's "100-percent committed." In addition, we could see Thomas in Ann Arbor pretty soon, which would finally end any rumors about him flipping to the Buckeyes:
Thomas also plans on starting his Michigan career as early as possible. He is currently awaiting the results of his ACT test scores. He said he should receive the results within the next three to five weeks. If he receives passing test scores, Thomas said he will graduate early and enroll at Michigan next January.
Any doubt that Thomas ends up as a Wolverine can probably be dispelled at this point. Ohio State insiders don't like their chances and the Buckeyes continue to target other safeties for the class.
Michigan sent out a few new offers this week, and one is NOTY-worthy: 2013 NY DE Ebenezer Ogundeko is a three-star prospect to every service but Scout (who currently has him unrated), but his recruitment is picking up serious steam, as he received unexpected offers from Michigan, Notre Dame, and Marshall on the same day ($). According to Scout, Ogundeko also holds offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Boise State, Florida, Georgia Tech, and Ohio State, among several others, so he could be a guy who makes a rapid rise up the rankings; those offers aren't the type you'd expect for a guy on the three-star/unranked borderline.
The Wolverines also offered a trio of 2014 prospects. AZ OT Casey Tucker is getting early interest from several of the nation's top programs and could be one of the top linemen in his class. IL CB Parrker Westphal (first name: not a typo) picked up his first two offers from Michigan and West Virginia this week. Tim Sullivan reports on The Fort($) that Michigan has also offered FL DB Javon Harrison, who could play corner or safety at 6'2", 195 pounds.
Quickly: The soft-spoken MD DT Henry Poggi on his Alabama trip ($): "It was good." TomVH reports that Michigan is getting interest from consensus four-star FL S Leon McQuay III, who plans to visit on May 18th ($). VA DE Wyatt Teller is planning a decision in the late spring or early summer, and Michigan is in his tentative top five ($). OH CB Darian Hicks has yet to receive an offer, but says Michigan would be "extremely high on [his] list" if they do ($). Hicks will camp at Michigan this summer. Jerry Montgomery almost certainly had to put up a fight in order to secure Hawaii as part of his recruiting territory. Happy trails to OH WR Rob Wheelwright, who committed to Wisconsin over the weekend.