Even though Devin Funchess is
more of a wide receiver these days, the tight end position is once again a prominent piece in the Michigan offense. Jake Butt had great success as a true freshman and Ian Bunting looks like a Funchess-style matchup problem who could grow into a combo star in the future. The 2015 class for Michigan is expected to be around 15 or so and the coaches would like for two of those spots to go to tight ends. At this point five tight ends have been offered and two of them do seem like possible eventual commits. There are multiple others who have been in contact with the coaches to some degree and may earn an offer moving forward.
Devonaire Clarington – Champagnat Catholic – Hialeah, FL (★★★★ .9535)
Clarington is a Funchess-type of athlete at 6’6” and just over 220 lbs. and could be the same type of weapon at the next level. While he holds a Michigan offer I don’t see much of a chance he ends up in Ann Arbor. Clarington told me that he hears the most from Miami, living just miles from campus it’s easy to understand why. He also said this his entire recruitment is extremely difficult to sort through. He says that he has no leader and all teams are even right now, but I’m pretty confident that Ann Arbor won’t be his future home.
Chris Clark – Avon Old Farms – Avon, CT (★★★★ .9386)
Chris Clark surprised a lot of people by committing to North Carolina just a few days ago, including me. I intro’d Chris back in December when he only had 10 offers, a list that didn’t include Michigan at the time and when he committed he had over 40. I had actually been in pretty regular contact with Chris as he was set to visit Ann Arbor this upcoming weekend and I didn’t get the slightest feeling that the Tarheels had a chance with him. I actually thought he’d be a Wolverine, Buckeye, or a Sun Devil based on our conversations. He told me that in the end North Carolina just felt like home to him when he visited. He also cited the way that UNC uses their tight ends as a reason he liked them and that the recent success of Eric Ebron was a good testament to that. Chris was really looking forward to his visit to Ann Arbor but the charm of Chapel Hill won him over before the visit happened.
Hale Hentges – Helias – Jefferson City, MO (★★★★ .9378)
Hentges told me that he and Chris Clark are actually close friends and talked about their recruitment weekly and even he was surprised by Clark’s commitment to Carolina. That being said, Hentges may be the new top target for Michigan and they are preparing for his visit the weekend of April 4th. Hentges actually spoke with Coach Ferrigno the day I spoke with him and he said he was getting anxious to check out Ann Arbor. Hentges rattled off an unofficial top 5 of Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State, and LSU when I asked him what schools he was serious about. He plans to visit all of those schools and possibly a few others. Hentges will not camp at Michigan this summer be he said he would like to see a game during the fall. Competition will be stiff for him, but his upcoming visit to Ann Arbor could really help Michigan’s chances.
Tyrone Wheatley Jr. – Canisius – Buffalo, NY (★★★★ .9252)
“TJ” as he’s known, is thought of by most as a virtual Michigan lock, but everything he has ever told me doesn’t necessarily support that. He was very open with me when I asked him about his recruitment.
I have no leaders or favorites. My recruitment is still wide open and I’m talking to new schools every day. I was recently offered by Louisville and Auburn so I’m still just trying to get to know everyone and see all of my options. I’m still not even sure if I want to play tight end or defensive end at the next level.
247Sports has 25 Crystal Ball predictions for Wheatley Jr. and 100% of them say Michigan is the future spot for him. I asked him about that and asked him to clarify why “expert opinions” are so strong in favor of the Wolverines and his answer was pretty interesting.
I mean they probably think that because my dad played there and I have lived there, but you’d really have to ask them how they came up with that because I’ve honestly never spoken to any of them. I myself wonder sometimes how they come up with that stuff. I mean I have talked with some of the Michigan guys (I mentioned Lorenz, Webb, Sullivan) but not in a while, but there’s like 25+ predictions. I’ve talked with like four people.
Wheatley Jr. says he’d like to take officials but won’t know where to until much later in the process. He is not looking that far ahead yet, he’s just trying to succeed in the now.
It obviously wouldn’t surprise anyone if Wheatley Jr. eventually did choose Michigan, but I don’t believe it’s 100% guaranteed like many might think. TJ has a stacked offer list and Michigan isn’t the only place he could make an impact.
Jalen Wilkerson – Coffee – Douglas, GA (★★★ .8845)
Wilkerson is a Georgia product that doesn’t appear to be leaving the south as 247Sports says he’s high on Florida State, Auburn, and Alabama. Wilkerson hasn’t responded to me recently and his name is almost never brought up in Michigan circles. He doesn’t appear to be a realistic option.
[after the jump: targets]
Michigan hosted some big time prospects this past weekend and they seemed to do very well with every one of them. It’s not unrealistic to say that three to four of the visitors could potentially become Wolverines.
CB Garrett Taylor - St. Christopher's School - Richmond, VA
Michigan hosted highly touted defensive back Garrett Taylor this past weekend and the Wolverines are in outstanding shape with him following his visit. Taylor arrived on Friday morning and spent the entire weekend in Ann Arbor, shoving off on Sunday morning. The extended time is sitting well with him.
I loved it, it was definitely a great visit. I really felt like the coaches were really excited to have me out there and that they really want me up there. I was really impressed with the whole package. They showed off all of their facilities which are great. The Al Glick Fieldhouse and Schembechler Hall were incredible and the campus was awesome. All of the football stuff was great but so was the academic side of things. We got to go to the academic building and it was really clear that there is a great support system in place. The tutors, the mentors, just everyone to help keep you on track was really cool.
Clearly Taylor enjoyed himself and the coaches did a solid job setting him up with a fellow Virginian to ensure that he would.
I had Wilton Speight as my player host. It was really cool, I definitely got to see what the campus life was like and what the dorm life was like. His roommate was real cool, Drake Harris, another early enrollee. I got to meet some other guys like Derrick Green and Shane Morris, hung out with those guys so it was really cool to see that side of things.
Just a few minutes after Taylor and I finished speaking he released his top five via Twitter, a group made up of Michigan, Stanford, Michigan State, South Carolina, and Tennessee. He has visited all of the campuses except for South Carolina and he plans to make his decision within the next month. Right now it is a two horse race between Stanford and Michigan and with academics being a huge factor for Garrett, Michigan finds itself in unfamiliar territory as the less heralded academic institution when compared to the Cardinal.
Garrett is a stand-up young man and said when he commits, he will be a man of his word and honor his commitment, a value instilled in him by his parents. Right now it really sounds like it’s about 50/50 between Michigan and Stanford and he said he may not be able to fit in any other visits so the positive memory of Ann Arbor will be the freshest in his mind. His offer list is stacked and landing him would be big for the Wolverines.
LB Justin Hilliard - St. Xavier - Cincinnati, OH
Justin Hilliard is one of Michigan’s top targets in the 2015 class and he seems to be pretty keen on the Wolverines as well. Hilliard has now visited Ann Arbor six times on his own dime and every time he returns he has positive things to say. He was really looking forward to this visit and he was able to experience some firsts this time around.
It was a great visit! I got to see how the coaches run practices. I was able to spend a lot of time with the coaches and the players. I spent most of my time with Coach Mattison and I was with a bunch of players that night but mostly Blake Countess.
Countess has the reputation of being a great host and Hilliard definitely seemed to enjoy himself. Hilliard has already included Michigan in his top 15 and I expect him to put them in his top ten as well when he releases that soon.
OL David Moorman - Northville High School - Pinckney, MI
As an in-state prospect with primarily MAC offers (Illinois as well) David Moorman is hoping that his recruitment will continue to gain momentum especially with Big Ten schools.
I grew up a fan of the Big Ten in general. I loved watching Michigan when Mike Hart and Coach Carr were there and as soon as Coach Hoke got the job I started appreciating Michigan football again. I’m still open to all schools and I’m just considering every option that’s out there for me.
Moorman was very excited to tell me about his experiences in Ann Arbor.
I pretty much just watched practice and got a tour of Schembechler Hall which was by far one of the nicest facilities I’ve seen. Practice was high tempo and intense and I really liked the way the coaches ran practice. All the coaches were great! I have a pretty good relationship with Coach Funk so it was good to see him again. Obviously it was really cool to talk to Coach Hoke and Coach Nussmeier too.
Moorman doesn’t hold that Michigan offer yet, but it has been discussed.
The coaches told me to be patient with them and if they can get some things worked out numbers wise an offer could come. If they did offer Michigan would for sure be at the top of my list and I would definitely highly consider them. Right now I’m training as hard as I can so in June I can go out on the camp circuit and prove that I’m one of the best offensive lineman in the country and then I’ll see what happens.
Before June gets here though, Moorman has intentions to re-visit Ann Arbor as well as some other campuses.
I’m for sure heading back to Michigan again soon and I’m going to visit Michigan State in the next couple of weeks and then probably Ohio State, Illinois, Toledo, Wake Forest, and Wisconsin.
QB Josh Rosen - St. John Bosco - Bellflower, CA
Rosen’s visit was kept under wraps for unknown reasons, but people don’t seem to care about that now. The visit happened and he enjoyed it. He’s a big time talent and getting him on campus about a week before he is set to commit was huge. Rosen is Michigan’s #1 target at quarterback but the Wolverines are playing from way behind trying to catch in-state and suspected favorite, UCLA. The coaches closed the gap but it is still going to be an uphill climb to land him.
Rosen is planning on announcing March 20th and even the Michigan coaches are wondering if his most recent visit was enough for him to rethink what everyone assumes is an eventual verbal pledge to the Bruins.
QB David Sills - Eastern Christian Academy - Elkton, MD
Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson talked David Sills into taking a visit to Ann Arbor and he told me that it was a really good time. He left Ann Arbor still committed to USC but he said that a flip commitment isn’t completely ruled out. He told me that he is planning on visiting Oregon and Penn State before he starts to think about what’s next in his recruitment.
Sills spent a lot of time with all of the coaches, most notably Coach Nussmeier and believes that if he had wanted to commit while on the visit he could have. The coaches are still in close communication with a lot of quarterbacks so the picture isn’t clear just yet. Sills did say that he’d like to make his final decision before his senior season starts so expect Michigan to stay in the loop.
TE CJ Conrad - Keystone High School - Lagrange, OH
CJ Conrad is a very real possibility for an offer in the future as potential top target Chris Clark committed to North Carolina over the weekend. Conrad talked with me about his visit and his future expectations.
Michigan was good. I talked to Coach Hoke and Coach Ferrigno. They said that they loved my film and they want me to come to a camp in order to evaluate me better and get a possible offer. I will definitely be at that camp on June 8th.
Conrad has around 15 offers but Michigan is one that he particularly covets.
If Michigan offered me they would be right up there. Right now Kentucky is my leader because I fit their offense really well and I really like Coach Marrow. I like Michigan a lot but I’m not sure if they can pass Kentucky or not.
Upon hearing the news of Clark’s commitment I asked CJ if he had heard anything about it and he replied, “Yeah I just found out, that’s big news for me.” He saw the news on Twitter but immediately thought that he might benefit from Clark’s pledge in regard to his chances of earning a Michigan offer.
Surprise Visitor Surprised By Visit
Most of the recruiting buzz last week centered on a surprise visitor who didn't want his name to be revealed. That visitor turned out to be five-star CA QB Josh Rosen, the first quarterback offered by Michigan in the 2015 class. Rosen had already set a March 20th decision date before his trip to Ann Arbor, and UCLA was—and still is—his expected choice. He told Scout's Greg Biggins, however, that Michigan made the choice more difficult ($):
“I was honest and told [Doug Nussmeier] that I didn’t see myself picking Michigan. He told me I should still come up, no strings attached but said to just come up and check out the school for the experience and I have to, it was a lot better than I thought. I was actually hoping to get up there and not like it to reaffirm my decision but I really loved it there, Michigan is an incredible place.”
Just getting Rosen on campus is impressive; the program leaving that level of an impression even more so. Unfortunately, it appears this will be a moral victory, as Rosen still plans to keep his current timeline, and he told Rivals's Adam Gorney that his ultimate decision is unlikely to change ($):
"Coach Nuss is a very convincing guy," Rosen said. "He talked about the pro-style versus the spread offense and how my skill set would fit in one versus the other. He took me to The Big House and there were a lot of academic meetings and there is a great support staff at that school.
"I'm going to step back and think a little bit. I'm pretty positive, I'm pretty sure I'm going to stick with who I originally thought of, but it makes the decision harder.
While it's unlikely Michigan ends up getting Rosen, that doesn't mean the weekend was all for naught. Word spreads quickly among top recruits, and Michigan is targeting several California prospects. While Rosen will likely be recruiting for UCLA, the Bruins can't land everyone in the state, and a good word for Michigan could help get other recruits on campus—and that's often all this coaching staff needs to make a huge move in a prospect's recruitment.
[Hit THE JUMP for a potential commit watch from a big-time recruit, visit reactions, other 2015 QB updates, and more.]
This weekend’s basketball game has huge implications in the B1G standings and something like above would be marvelous. Taking advantage of the expectedly electred atmosphere in Crisler Arena, the coaches scheduled a junior day for the big game. A few younger prospects will also be on hand for the biggest recruiting event of the year thus far. I heard back from about 50 prospects and each one will be listed and labeled with information as I dig it up.
CB Shaun Crawford
K Andrew David
S Tyree Kinnel
ATH Brian Cole
CB Ray Buford Jr.
DE Dre’Mont Jones (maybe, basketball schedule may interfere)
LB Tyriq Thompson
LB Darrin Kirkland Jr.
LB Troy Henderson
LB Asmar Bilal
RB Damien Harris
RB Mike Weber
TE Austin Ervin
TE David Edwards
TE/OL Harrison Moon
ATH Daelin Hayes
OL Thiyo Lukusa (commit watch)
RB Kentrail Moran
WR Desmond Fitzpatrick
OL Jon Runyan Jr. (will visit March 8 & 9)
CB Garrett Taylor (will visit for a spring practice)
CB Minkah Fitzpatrick
DE Darian Roseboro
DE Jake Pickard (will visit during the summer)
DE Josh Alabi
DE Jashon Cornell (visiting Ole Miss this weekend, no plans to visit at this time)
LB Josh Barajas (visited for Wisconsin game, may visit again for spring practice)
LB Jerome Baker (will visit for a spring practice)
LB Jake Cooper (has frequent contact with staff, no plans to visit at this time)
LB Justin Hilliard (would like to visit for a spring practice)
OL Drew Richmond (has no plans to visit at this time)
OL Sterling Jenkins (will visit for a spring practice)
OL Gabe Megginson (high interest, would like a Michigan offer)
OL Grant Newsome (will visit for a spring practice)
QB Nick Johns (will visit during his spring break)
QB Brandon Wimbush (will visit for a spring practice)
QB Ryan Willis (focusing more on schools that have offered, waiting on more interest)
QB Alex Malzone (will visit for a spring practice)
QB Riley Neal (not much contact since hiring of Nussmeier)
QB Jon Wassink (very interested, not much contact since hiring of Nussmeier)
RB Andrew Dowell (would like to visit for a spring practice)
S Omari Stringer (would like to visit for a spring practice)
TE Chris Clark (will visit March 22)
TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (will visit for a spring practice)
TE Austin Dorris (will visit March 1)
TE CJ Conrad (will visit for a spring practice)
TE Cole Chewins (has no plans to visit at this time)
WR David Dowell (would like to visit for a spring practice)
Oh, Right ... That
There hasn't been a recruiting roundup since Jabrill Peppers tweeted his intention to take official visits after the season, catching not only Michigan fans off-guard, but also his fellow commits and even his own coach, Paramus Catholic's Chris Partridge—notably, the man who sets up all of Peppers' visits. After the tweet set fire to this corner of the internet, Peppers released a statement through Partrige:
I am still 100% committed to the University of Michigan and that is the place where I want to go to college. With the rumors about Coach Hoke possibly not being there I need to make sure that I have options and have seen other places in case the University of Michigan decides to go in a different direction. For the sake of my future I need to make sure I have other options. No need to look into it any further! Go Blue and beat TDS
Peppers reiterated that he's not decommiting and just wants to use any potential visits as a "security blanket," to Scout (via Sam Webb's latest column in the Detroit News).
Michigan has already begun efforts to assuage Peppers' fears, certainly with an eye on keeping him from taking any visits, which would put Brady Hoke in quite the bind as he balances the massive need to keep Peppers in the fold with the possibility of angering other commits—and displaying what could easily be interpreted as hypocricy by Michigan targets and their coaches—by not enforcing his no-visit policy. Dave Brandon's statement in support of Hoke specifically mentioned Michigan's national recruiting "from New Jersey to California, from Michigan to Florida." I don't believe New Jersey is in there by accident; in fact, the whole statement seems to be as much a response to the Peppers situation as it is to any fan discontent.
There are a few things working in Michigan's favor. Peppers and his Paramus Catholic squad play in the state championship game this weekend; the following weekend he's set to take his official visit to Michigan. Peppers didn't talk to Hoke when he made his statement last week—Hoke had a few other things to worry about—but he'll definitely find out where things stand when he's in Ann Arbor; if the coaches (and Brandon) can convince him that the program is on stable ground, it's entirely possible that this whole thing blows over without him ever setting foot on another school's campus.
Even if Peppers still wants to explore other schools after his Michigan official, the timing is tough; an NCAA-mandated recruiting dead period goes into effect after next week's visit, so he wouldn't be able to visit any school until mid-January, just a couple weeks before Signing Day.
For his part, Peppers certainly seemed committed to Michigan during The Game on Saturday, tweeting out his support multiple times during the game and indicating afterward that he'd be taking part in it next season, and not as a Buckeye. While the fact that Peppers even needs reassurance that Hoke will still be at Michigan next year isn't a good sign regarding his recruitment or the program, I don't think there's a lot to worry about here unless Peppers actually goes on other visits—for now, only his trip to Ann Arbor is set to go.
[After THE JUMP, Michigan drops the 'grey shirt' distinction for Brady Pallante, visit reactions from The Game, and a roundup of the latest on Michigan's commits who are still alive in the playoffs.]