spoiler alert: i linked this
I changed up the format this week since the question was a seven-parter. A reminder of who everyone is:
- Brian: Blogger of mighty repute.
- Ace: Lead reporter, recruiting/basketball guy.
- Seth: Associate editor/site business guy
- BiSB: A funny person.
- Adam Schnepp: Press correspondent (Heiko's old job) and hockey guy.
- Alex Cook: Basketball correspondent
- Dave Nasternak: J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Lead Backend Logistics Strategist and Associate Vice President of Name Day Nittany Lion Taunting and Corporate Titlery (i.e. a responsible adult)
The Question Seven Questions:
Brian: Best recruit? Most important? Most likely to outperform ranking? Best name (nationally)? Guy who got away who will haunt you? Guy you are most irrationally enthusiastic about? Overall class hot take? Harbaugh?
BiSB: Brian Cole. He's a fantastic athlete, but more importantly Cole is a guy with speed in a position where, despite the assertions of some, SPEED IS A GOOD THING THAT CANNOT BE TAUGHT AND IS A GOOD THING. One caveat: Roquan Smith takes this category if he picks Michigan.
|Five votes for the superlative in-stater. [Allen Trieu/Scout]|
Seth: Brian Cole. In a terribly weak in-state class, this player this year was the perfect opportunity for Dantonio to flip the in-state script—no weird families or MSU connections or coaches who lock players in their cars during their Michigan visits or questionable transcripts.
AND he's a great player at two positions of need. Other than Borgesian leapers at receiver there's Canteen and Drake Harris's un-Dude hamstrings. Safety is an even greater need; if by some holy luck Peppers stays through 2018, Michigan would have two safeties in 2018. I'd gladly take Cole and four more just like him.
Adam Schnepp: Zach Gentry. I am an unabashed fan of gun-slinging giants who causes Physics and Anatomy to get into a fight over who left THAT loophole open. I think about fitting him into a Harbaugh-ffense and find myself chortling under my breath. If you're a commit who makes me chortle when thinking about your fit with Michigan's system then you too could be a contender for next year's Best Recruit.
Dave Nasternak: Probably Brian Cole. I can see arguments for Gentry, but I think that Cole is the best overall player, right now. And I think (hope?) he is the only member from this class who will not see a 2015 redshirt...if for no other reason than they just will not be able to keep him off of the field. There are a handful of places that he should be able to contribute early -WR, Returner, ST coverage, etc.
Ace: Another vote for Cole. He's such a good athlete that it's hard to imagine he won't end up contributing somewhere, and he's especially impactful with the ball in his hands.
Alex Cook: Brian Cole. The whole "the best players from Michigan go to Michigan" thing is, um, patently false, but there's a good chance that Cole will be the best homegrown recruit in this cycle. Oh, and he was a presumed State lean before committing to Michigan - and he stuck through the coaching change? Great. I'm sold.
Brian: I'm going with Zach Gentry. You do not get guys flying past safeties 50 yards downfield at 6'8" anywhere, and Gentry improved considerably over the course of his career. John Navarre running Buffalo 100 Meter Dash? I'll take it. Gentry has higher bust potential, yeah, but that upside. Yooooooo.
[Hit the jump for most important, sleeper, best names, the one that got away, and bloggers going squeeee]
FL RB Karan Higdon: flips from Iowa to Michigan
CT TE Chris Clark: inexplicably chooses UCLA
AL CB/QB Keith Washington: flips from Cal to Michigan
MI RB Mike Weber: sticks with OSU
GA LB Roquan Smith: picks UCLA
TN WR Van Jefferson: 1:30? 3:45? Vision quest?
FL DE Shelton Johnson: 3 PM
NY TE/DE Ty Wheatley Jr: 3:15 PM
CA CB Iman Marshall: 4 PM
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Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (far right) on his recent visit.
This post will be updated as new info comes in.
6 PM TUESDAY UPDATE: Added Shelton Johnson to the board.
7 PM TUESDAY UPDATE: Added Keith Washington to the board.
10 PM TUESDAY UPDATE: Added Karan Higdon to the board.
National Signing Day is tomorrow and the action gets started early for Michigan, as tight end target Chris Clark is slated to announce at 8:30 am ET. Here's eveything you need to know heading into the biggest day on the recruiting calendar.
The Current Class
Michigan currently sits at nine commits, headlined by in-state ATH Brian Cole—who's expected to end up at receiver, though he could also play safety—and New Mexico QB Zach Gentry, a recent flip from Texas. The list should hit ten by tomorrow; as you probably gathered yesterday, three-star Brother Rice WR Grant Perry, who was offered this week and decommitted from Northwestern last night, is expected to commit... well, any moment now.
The current list of propsects with offers and legitimate Michigan interest is down to eight prospects, including Perry. Here's the rest of the board, with their announcement time (if they've scheduled one) and my best guess at M's chances:
FL CB Jarius Adams (Rutgers commit) — 3-star, #125 CB, #1388 Overall (247 Composite)
Adams is a Rutgers commit who took an official to Michigan last weekend, and he's down to those two schools. He's actually expected to announce his destination sometime today, and it appears he'll stick with his current commitment.
CT TE Chris Clark — 4-star, #2 TE, #85 Overall
The one-time Michigan commit (and, previously, UNC commit) will choose between Michigan and UCLA at 8:30 am on ESPNU/WatchESPN. While Clark has been arguably the new staff's top target, insiders from both sides believe he's leaning towards UCLA. Of course, Clark's recruitment has been tough to predict all along, so we'll just have to wait and see.
TN WR Van Jefferson (Ole Miss commit) — 4-star, #11 WR, #108 Overall
Jefferson's recruitment is hard to pin down, as well. He committed to Ole Miss on January 25th, got a Michigan offer three days later, and took an official visit to Ann Arbor last weekend. Rumors swirled of a possible flip when he left campus, but a recent report from 247's Barton Simmons indicates he's expected to stick with the Rebels, albeit while leaving open the possibility that he'll change his mind.
CA CB Iman Marshall — 5-star, #1 CB, #4 Overall
The pipe dream. Marshall has long been expected to end up at USC and that hasn't changed despite a solid official visit to Michigan a couple weeks ago. Florida State is also a factor; after visiting FSU, M, and LSU, Marshall cancelled a planned official to Oregon. He's announcing his decision on ESPNU/WatchESPN at 4 pm ET.
GA LB Roquan Smith — 4-star, #5 OLB, #47 Overall
While there was a fair amount of optimism after Smith's official visit in January, spurred by his strong bond with DJ Durkin, that's all but vanished in recent days. Steve Lorenz reports that Smith is expected to choose between in-state Georgia and (of course) UCLA, with the Bruins the surprise favorite to land him ($). He'll announce at 11 am ET on ESPNU/WatchESPN.
MI RB Mike Weber (Ohio State commit) — 4-star, #9 RB, #78 Overall
The Cass Tech star has totally shut down communication with the media in recent weeks, and it doesn't seem like insiders on either side have a clear idea of what he's going to do. Since Weber sat down with Jim Harbaugh last week there's been increasing optimism from Michigan's end, however, and in the last day or so that's leaked over to the Ohio State side of things. We'll see.
NY ATH Tyrone Wheatley Jr. — 4-star, #12 TE, #312 Overall
Wheatley is another prospect who's gone quiet with the press, but an out-of-the-blue trip to Ann Arbor last week provided a great deal of hope that he'll join his father at Michigan. According to Lorenz, the team with the best chance of stealing Wheatley away from Michigan is, in fact, UCLA, who's come on strong of late ($). He's expected to announce around 3:15 pm ET tomorrow.
LATE ADDITIONS: FL DE Shelton Johnson — 3-star, #20 SDE, #364 Overall
Late Tuesday afternoon, 247's Clint Brewster reported that two sources are telling him Michigan has a legitimate shot with Johnson, who visited in January. Johnson is also considering Florida State (the presumed favorite) and Miami. He's high school teammates with Markel Bush, who could be in line for a late offer.
AL CB Keith Washington (Cal commit) — 3-star, #76 ATH, #954 Overall
This is a suprising name to add to the board, as Washington initially rebuffed Michigan and never visited campus, but I'm told he'll choose between M and Cal at 8:30 am ET.
FL RB Karan Higdon (Iowa commit) — 3-star, #40 RB, #478 Overall
Higdon will choose between Michigan and Iowa at 8 am ET, according to Hawkeyes247's Andrew Kulha, despite previously announcing that he'd reaffirmed his commitment to the Hawkeyes after taking an official visit to Ann Arbor last weekend.
Michigan has at least five open spots left in the class (assuming Perry takes a spot), and it doesn't look very likely that they'll get five players from the above group, so there's a decent chance we'll see a late offer or two go out, Dennis Norfleet-style. While the very nature of these offers make them pretty tough to predict, two names come to mind as potential candidates.
Unranked FL CB Markel Bush took an official visit a couple weeks ago; if Michigan misses out on Adams and Marshall, as expected, he could fill a need at corner. Bush doesn't hold any offers and would likely jump at the opportunity.
Cass Tech three-star LB/FB Michael Oliver, a Central Michigan commit, has come up as a potential late offer, and he could fill a need at either linebacker or fullback.
T-Minus Six Days
As we reach the last week before Signing Day, Jim Harbaugh and Co. don't seem to be sleeping, and they're being sustained by meals eaten on in-home visits. (Sorry, guys, but Bryan Mone is already on the roster.) Steve Lorenz published a free rundown of everything that happened just in the last 24 hours, and it was necessary.
I'll start with the latest round of offers. Michigan went after a trio of committed running backs, and while two—Texas Tech pledge Corey Dauphine and future Arizona Wildcat Orlando Bradford—politely declined to take official visits, Wisconsin commit Titus Booker will be on campus this weekend. Booker is one of the few prospects whose 40 time contains no FAKEs; he ran a 10.68 100-meter dash to finish second in the state of Illinois last year. He's a solid all-around athlete, as well—the Badgers recruited him as a cornerback.
Michigan also convinced two committed receivers to take officials this weekend. Four-star TN WR Van Jefferson received interest from the previous staff, and while he's an Ole Miss commit now, the Wolverines aren't as unlikely of a choice as one might expect from a recruit with his profile—Jefferson is a Detroit native who didn't leave the area until his junior year, per Lorenz. The coaches also offered CA WR Deontay Burnett, a Washington State commit. Given what he told Rivals' Adam Gorney, Burnett may be harder to convince to flip than Jefferson ($):
It could be tough to pull Burnett away from Washington State especially since he likes the pass-happy offense so much and that he's been committed for months. The three-star sees a lot of opportunities in Pullman so a late push even by Michigan might not be enough.
"I love the offense there," Burnett said. "As a receiver it's pretty attractive that their offense throws the ball a lot."
Finally, M also offered three-star AL CB Keith Washington, who committed to Cal just four days ago. I haven't seen any indication regarding whether he'll visit.
[Hit THE JUMP for news on Ty Wheatley Jr. Chris Clark, Iman Marshall, Mike Weber, and more.]
I don't think #60 is gonna catch him. [Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal]
Gentry's commitment post focused a lot on his athleticism and mechanics, so this quote Scout's Greg Biggins gave to MLive's Nick Baumgardner about his arm strength proves useful:
"He's got an NFL arm, I've seen him flick the wrist and it's effortless, he doesn't have to wind up, the release is tight and he can throw it," Scout.com national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said Sunday. "A lot of times you see young quarterbacks try to get more velocity by winding up, and they lose accuracy. With him, it's effortless. He just flicks the wrist and the accuracy and mechanics stay the same.
"Mechanically he's strong, and I love his arm strength."
Three of the four recruiting services rated Gentry as a four-star—Rivals and ESPN have him just outside the top 100—with the only holdout being 247. That doesn't mean 247 doesn't see his potential; when running down the best of the 2015 class, Barton Simmons pegged Gentry as a boom-or-bust candidate with serious upside:
3-star that could play like a 5 – Zach Gentry
A recent Texas decommit and Michigan commit, Gentry is the single most unique talent in this class. He’s huge at 6-7, he has a big arm, he doesn’t have good footwork but he is also extremely athletic, he’s extremely raw, plays shoddy competition in New Mexico but he’s got a world of potential. Still following? Bottom line: Don’t be surprised if Jim Harbaugh turns Gentry into a first-round draft pick as a quarterback, but also don’t be surprised if Gentry goes the Blake Bell route and ends up at tight end either.
Nolan Ulizio's commitment post was a little light on scouting reports; since that published, ESPN gave Ulizio a three-star rating and posted an evaluation ($):
Ulizio is an OL prospect with good size and a physical, lunch pail type style. Little better football player then he is overall athlete and ceiling may not be real high, but with some continued development good prospect that has flown under the radar some and can be a productive contributor to an FBS OL potentially as a RT or could very well see a move inside to OG.
Ulizio's high school coach also discussed his game with The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan ($):
"The great part about Nolan is he's a very physical, aggressive player," said Cox. "He plays with a nasty attitude and enjoys being an offensive lineman. He takes his job of protecting the quarterback and running backs really seriously. He's 6-5, 285. For a high school senior, that's pretty special. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, he plays to the whistle, and he finishes really really well. Secondly, I think Nolan does a great job of conceptualizing what you're trying to do offensively. He can think on his feet, with the defense a moving object that he reacts to quickly.
That last bit is important—a big part of a lineman's job in Harbaugh's offense is identifying the right man to hit when pulling, which isn't always easy to do on the fly.
The Wolverine's Brandon Brown caught up a position coach at Reuben Jones' school—former M OL Ricky Barnum ($):
"He's one of the players that I love to coach against and coach with," Barnum said. "He's an extremely hard worker and he's very strong. I'm not just saying that either. In games, he gets double and tripled-teamed and he manages to fight through it. You can watch his highlight where he runs plays down from the backside. I'm talking 40 or 50 yards down the field. On the field he really has a motor. That's the one thing I'd say about him, he has a motor."
With the three additions, Michigan's 2015 class jumped 22 spots in the 247 Composite team rankings to #69 overall. That's still well off the pace M would like to be at, obviously, but they're poised to push into the top 30 if they round out the class as expected, which would be quite acceptable given the small group of commits compared to other schools.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Zach Gentry: Eyes Off Texas?
In recent days, Texas has turned up the heat on their pursuit of 2015 five-star QB Kyler Murray, a Texas A&M commit, even getting him to take an unofficial visit to Austin.
What does this have to do with Michigan? Well, Texas already has a 2015 QB commit: 6'7", 230-pound NM four-star Zach Gentry, who pledged to the Longhorns last May and has turned down overtures from the likes of Alabama and Tennessee since. With Texas eyeing Murray, Jim Harbaugh visited Gentry in Albuquerque on Monday, and things are moving quickly. Gentry removed "committed to Texas" from his Twitter bio, and multiple outlets, including Wolverine247, report that he'll take an official visit to Ann Arbor this weekend.
Just like that, Michigan may very well be the favorite to end up with him:
— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) January 22, 2015
What would the Wolverines be getting? Scout's free evaluation makes him sound like an ideal fit for a Harbaugh offense:
Gentry is an intriguing quarterback with NFL size but surprising mobility for a big man. He has a downfield arm and can make every throw but also shows the ability, when flushed out of the pocket, to run for positive yards. He looks to have a good feel in the pocket and doesn't panic when the rush comes at him. He can keep his eyes down the field and throws an accurate ball whether in or outside of the pocket-Biggins
The film backs that up; other than some mechanical issues with his delivery, there's little not to like there.
Jay Harbaugh checked out another under-the-radar QB, California prospect Anthony Gordon. Gordon, like McLane Carter, was very productive in high school on a title-winning team but hasn't generated much in the way of college interest or attention from the recruiting services.
[Hit THE JUMP for a couple impending announcements, a rundown of weekend official visitors, and much more.]