"East Lansing's Big Ten Team" Doesn't Have The Same Allure, For Some Reason
It's been a quiet week, relatively speaking, for Michigan recruiting, so today's roundup kicks off with an update on the program making a serious run for the #3 spot in the Big Ten recruiting rankings: Northwestern.
Yes, you read that right.
No, seriously, you read that right.
The Wildcats built upon their on-field success under Pat Fitzgerald with a solid recruiting class in 2013, landing consensus four-star QB Matt Alviti, underrated RB Godwin Igwebuike, and a solid group of three-stars—not just Midwest kids, either, with signees hailing from Texas (3), California (3), Florida, and New Jersey.
On the heels of a ten-win season and their first bowl win in 63 years, Northwestern is now poised to put together their best recruiting class in... ever? The Wildcats have already hauled in another four-star signal-caller, Clayton Thorson, giving Northwestern future four-star depth at quarterback, a position where they've already managed to turn an array of middling recruits with varying levels of scrambling ability into competent (at the very least) conductors of their up-tempo spread in recent years. Now the Wildcats have jumped up to 19th(!) in the 247 Composite Team Rankings after reeling in MI OL Tommy Doles and OH ATH Dareian Watkins in the last week.
Doles, of course, was long thought to be a heavy Michigan lean—I lost count of the number of times the Grand Rapids Christian product has been on campus in the last year. Given his other offers—Army, Air Force, Iowa State, and Northwestern—and the fact that he seemed on the verge of committing for months, it appears Doles' choice has as much to do with Michigan backing off as Northwestern coming on strong; regardless, the Wolverines should be fine when it comes to O-line recruiting, and the academic-minded Doles found a great fit from an on- and off-field perspective in Evanston.
Watkins, who announced his choice this morning, is the more interesting example of a prospect choosing the Wildcats over several Big Ten (and beyond) options previously thought to be more desirable. Michigan State was his other finalist, and he also held offers from Illinois, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, NC State, Penn State, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others. When Watkins' father explained his choice, Northwestern's academics were cited as a huge reason for the commitment, but the football reasons played a large role as well ($) [emphasis mine]:
"We're all very very excited about the chance to go to Northwestern. We think it's not just an amazing academic opportunity, but an amazing football opportunity. The academics overshadow the football part sometimes, but Coach Fitz has turned the program around. They were 10-3 last year, won the Gator Bowl against an SEC football team, and he was 2-0 against the SEC last year. We think it's undervalued what they are as a football program. As much he chose a life path, he's also very competitive. He wants to be part of a Big Ten Championship and compete for national championships and we think that can be done at Northwestern."
We'll, um, see about the national championships, but there's no question Fitzgerald has put the program in a position to contend for conference titles.
Unlike me, Brian is willing to wade into the shallow end* of the RCMB, and he passed along this glorious response to the usual unhinged ranting following Watkins pledging to Not Michigan State:
*There is no deep end, thankfully. It's actually an inflatable kiddie pool filled with horse manure.
[For the rest of the roundup, including updates on Jamarco Jones, Clifton Garrett, and Jae'Sean Tate, hit THE JUMP.]
It's been a light week for recruiting, which is fine because HAVE WE MENTIONED MICHIGAN IS IN THE FINAL FOUR? Anyway, here's the latest from the recruiting scene.
Succinct, At Least
Earlier this afternoon.
me: ugh you had to post the ferns thing
that's definitely what's leading off my post right now
Brian: if it gets posted twice oh well
me: yeah, I made a different joke, at least.
Brian: just make some snarky comment about how i'm a jerk
me: that can be done.
Brian is a jerk.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, Michigan commit Michael Ferns posted this picture to his Instagram account today, with the caption "Ummm.. Thanks Coach":
It appears Mississippi State is interested in Ferns, knows he's a fan of Michigan's family atmosphere, and therefore let one of their coaches' six-year-old kids be his primary recruiting contact. The small child that penned the above clearly pictures himself as the future recruiting coordinator at NC State.
Greg Mattison finds this all rather adorable, and will now return to recruiting players the likes of which Mississippi State hasn't seen in ever.
[Hit THE JUMP for spring practice visit reactions and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers #Project135, reactions from last weekend's unofficial visitors, and much more.
2014 commit Michael Ferns unwittingly incited mass speculation last week when he teased a recruiting-related "big surprise" on Twitter that he dubbed "#Project135". Fans hoping for a new commit were disappointed, but what Ferns revealed on Friday was actually a pretty cool idea:
Kids pick the darndest fonts
Even before this, Ferns had been very active in recruiting his 2014 classmates—it's clear that Shane Morris and his tireless efforts to bring in commits for Team 134 have influenced the next wave.
One of Michigan's other 2014 commits, Wilton Speight, got the profile treatment from MLive's Kyle Meinke; in the piece, Speight talks about flying 2,000 miles to train, and also why he felt comfortable with Michigan's coaching staff:
"Michigan's staff was the first staff to be 100 percent honest with me throughout the whole process, and that meant a huge amount to me," Speight said. "There's lots of coaches from all over the country who will come in and say, 'You're our guy, you're our guy. Just wait, you're going to get an offer.' And then they go out and find someone who's better.
"Michigan, they didn't necessarily tell me I was their guy. They said, 'We're looking at two other guys too.' The thing is, I already knew that, because the quarterback recruits, we're a tight circle. We're all pretty close, and I knew who else they were looking at. And the fact they were up front with me about that meant a lot.
"It was just a perfect fit for me. It was a no-brainer."
It seems like every time Michigan pulls in a commit, one of the top two or three reasons they give for their choice is the level of honesty and openness they experience with the coaches. That's a very good thing, of course, especially in today's recruiting echo chamber—gone are the days when a coach could tell three players at the same position that they're all the school's number one priority and get away with it, not with the pervasiveness of recruiting news and recruits staying in close contact with each other.
[Hit THE JUMP for visit reactions from Parrker Westphal and Daniel Helm, the latest top schools for several recruits, and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup is short and sweet, as Monday's edition got bumped back to Tuesday; read on for updates on weekend visitors and a compelling feature on Maurice Hurst Jr.
Maurice Hurst Jr. Feature
The Boston Globe's Bob Holmes profiled commit Maurice Hurst Jr. this week, focusing on his relationship with his father, former New England Patriots defensive back Maurice Hurst. The elder Hurst has never seen his son play football and is almost entirely out of the picture, though he did try to give Maurice Jr. some advice on his recruitment:
One effort by Hurst Sr. to get involved backfired earlier this year.
The last time Maurice saw his father was freshman year, when he and his mother traveled to New Orleans, Hurst Sr.’s hometown. Since then there has been no contact, until they spoke just prior to Maurice’s commitment to Michigan in June.
“My mom told me to give him a call to talk about schools. It was kind of uncomfortable because he kind of wanted me to go to LSU or Alabama. He didn’t really think Michigan was an ideal school so it kind of frustrated me a little bit.’’
Maurice never told his father he was going to Michigan.
“My mom may have, I’m not really sure.’’
Hurst Jr. said in the article that he was looking for a school that balanced great academics with a shot at the NFL instead of just looking for a football school, so his final choice was not a surprise. The whole piece is well worth a read, and I'm sure Michigan coaches are excited to hear that Hurst's fabled 75-yard touchdown run last season came on a "power right" playcall.
Weekend Visitors Update
By his standards, it's been a while since IL WR Laquon Treadwell visited Ann Arbor. That will change this weekend, however, as he's set up an unofficial visit for the Air Force game:
— Laquon Treadwell (@SuccessfulQuon) September 4, 2012
According to Josh Helmholdt, Treadwell also has an unofficial visit set up for Ole Miss the next weekend when they host Alabama ($). It's great for Michigan to get Treadwell back on campus, but I wouldn't expect a commitment; he's been steadfast in his insistence that he take visits before making a decision.
Also visiting this weekend is 2014 OH TE/DE Chance Sorrell, according to Tremendous. Michigan is joined by Wisconsin and Tennessee in Sorrell's top group, though none of the three have offered as of yet. TN OL Alex Bars, younger brother of Michigan freshman Blake Bars, also plans to attend the Air Force game, via Tim Sullivan ($). A handful of commits will be there as well, though not ace recruiter Shane Morris, who has a game against Cincinnati Moeller on Saturday afternoon.
Tremendous's Gobluegr gives us a name to watch as Michigan rounds out the 2013 class: Ann Arbor Pioneer cornerback Dewan Olive-Abinojar, who was very impressive when the Pioneers played Warren De La Salle (Shane Morris) in the season opener. Curt Mallory reached out to Olive-Abinojar after that game and told him he could potentially earn a scholarship, though I suspect he's a backup plan if the Wolverines miss out on higher-rated targets. Olive-Abinojar plans to attend the Michigan State game and says it's likely he'd commit if Michigan offered.
Happy trails to 2014 WI DE Conor Sheehy, who decided to stay in-state and commit to Wisconsin. The Badgers are off to a nice start in their 2014 class with four prospects—including MI QB Chance Stewart—already in the fold.