Yup, Still Want
Damien Harris headlined last weekend's Best of the Midwest combine, and for good reason—no matter where you look, he leads off the list of top performers. Scout's Allen Trieu broke down his overall combine MVP performance:
One of the headliners was Madison Southern (Ky.) running back Damien Harris, a four-star junior who will challenge to be the top running back in the country on Scout. We all know Harris is fast and he proved that again by clocking in the 4.3s in his 40 yard dash. But he also showed grit, toughness and great technique when it came to the pass blocking drills. He took on some of the camp's most physical linebackers and won his reps. We also had a chance to see him catch the ball a little bit, something we had already known he could do from past events. He has shown time and time again that he is a complete all around back and did nothing to diminish his standing as our top prospect in the Midwest.
247's Barton Simmons called Harris "dominant" and stated Michigan and Ohio State are on top in Harris's recruitment right now. Another program recently entered the picture, however. Harris is slated to visit this weekend for Michigan's Junior Day; his other planned trip is to the latest school to enter the picture, Alabama, per Trieu ($):
The Wolverines are one of the schools he will visit in the near future. The other school is Alabama, his most recent offer.
"I'm going up to Michigan on the 23rd of this month then I'm taking a visit to Alabama on March 1st but after that I don't really know. I haven't made any plans for spring or who I'm going to check out for spring ball. I'll probably do that soon."
With Harris planning to extend his recruitment until Signing Day, the Tide have plenty of time to work their way towards the top of his list. Based on the quotes Harris has given since his decommitment, however, including this one to Land Grant Holy Land (SBNation's OSU outlet), Michigan will still be the team to beat going forward:
"Like I said earlier, my interest in [Michigan] hasn't gone down. I don't not like them as much as I did before, there's really nowhere I like more than that. But with coach Borges being gone, it's hard going somewhere with someone who didn't recruit you."
The latter part is why Harris took a step back; if he develops the a similar comfort level with Doug Nussmeier as he had with Al Borges and sees improvement in Michigan's offense, he should end up back in the fold.
Meanwhile, Michigan is making a strong push for 2015 Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, who visited campus last weekend. He said as much to 247's Steve Wiltfong ($):
"Yeah," Weber said on Wednesday when asked if the Wolverines are trending with him. "They are on me hard."
The Wolverines looked to be the clear leader early in Weber's recruitment before Harris committed and interest between both parties seemingly waned, allowing Michigan State to become Weber's leader; he even considered committing to MSU back in November. With Michigan redoubling their efforts to land Weber, however, the battle between the two in-state powers is pretty even at this point.
One 2015 running back you can cross off your wish list is recently offered TX four-star Ronald Jones II, who gave this refreshingly honest quote to Scout's new Midwest intern, Eric Rutter ($):
“[Michigan] probably won’t [be visited] to be honest,” said Jones. “If there is a great opportunity away from home then I would take it, but I would say location would be a factor.”
[Hit THE JUMP for new offers, visit reactions from last weekend, Shaun Crawford runnin' real fast, and more.]
Shaun Crawford: Fast
— The Opening (@TheOpening2014) February 15, 2014
Commit Shaun Crawford posted the second-best SPARQ rating at the Massillon (OH) Nike combine en route to becoming the third 2015 prospect invited to The Opening. Scout's Bill Greene caught up with Crawford to get his reaction and discuss his recruitment ($):
"I only trained the past two weekends for this, and it's hard to find indoor fields right now," he added. "My forty time was 4.50, and I know I can run faster than that. I can't complain because it's faster than last year, but my start wasn't good. I really wanted to beat last year's score of 90.0, and I blew that out of the water, so I'm happy with how everything turned out."
It's safe to say Crawford holds himself to a high standard. It's also safe to say he's strong in his commitment, as he also said, "every time I visit there I become more Michigan and more Michigan," before mentioning that he plans to do some recruiting of his own. Crawford will get a chance to do so this weekend when he visits for U-M's Junior Day.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest turn in the Malik McDowell recruitment, where things stand with a trio of 2015 running backs, a potential summer commit, and more.]
Damien Harris Visiting, U-M Still Leader
Next weekend's Michigan State game will double as a de facto Junior Day for the football team, and 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed a big-time visitor will be in attendance—one-time Michigan commit Damien Harris:
It will be Harris's first unofficial visit to Michigan since the Notre Dame game last fall, making it his first appearance since stepping back from his early commitment to the Wolverines. His mother has publicly stated that Michigan is still the top school for her son and that he just wants to re-evaluate his options.
Harris took an unofficial to Ohio State—his first visit anywhere in months—for the Michigan game and tweeted out some support for the home team. His coach, however, said U-M is still the team to beat:
Harris' high school coach at Madison Southern (Ky.), Jon Clark, told Rivals.com earlier this week that the Wolverines are still No. 1 on the list for the top running back in the class of 2015.
"Michigan is still his top school, but he wants to make sure," Clark told the site. "He's open to looking."
While Harris is still picking up offers—Auburn, Miami (YTM), and Wisconsin all entered the post-decommitment fray—this looks to be a classic Michigan-OSU battle with the Wolverines, at least for now, holding the edge.
[Hit THE JUMP for a rundown of new offers, weekend visitors, and more.]
Damien Harris Fallout: Back In It For Mike Weber?
2015 five-star RB Damien Harris decommitted from Michigan this week. After Al Borges—his primary recruiter—was fired, Harris decided he needed to take a step back and explore his options, though his mother says Michigan is still on top, per Sam Webb ($):
“The reason he came to this decision is he felt like when he committed, at the time, we felt like it was the right decision even though it was early,” she explained. “Months later he has been thinking and thinking, ‘I didn’t really go and look at other places probably like I should have. I didn’t consider other places like I should have.’ Even though Michigan is #1, and that hasn’t changed, he just wants to make sure he doesn’t have any regrets when he gets ready to enroll. He just wants to make sure that he didn’t leave any stone unturned and wants to make sure he didn’t miss out on anything, even though he knows Michigan is still his #1. That’s all. He is just making sure that if he was to visit other places, he wasn’t going to regret not taking the full experience.”
Meanwhile, a certain despicable portion of the fanbase* isn't helping Michigan's cause. Harris has taken a lot of heat on Twitter for his decommitment and his coach told TomVH that could be a factor in his ultimate decision ($):
“People need to back off of him [on Twitter]. He’s a 16-year-old kid. People are attacking him on there,” [Madison Southern coach Jon] Clark said. “You have grown men who are way out of line, and Michigan fans better ease up or they’re going to push him away from Michigan. The coaches aren’t; the fans are.
“The only impact a fan ever has on a kid is a negative one; that’s it. There’s not a fan out there that has a positive impact on this kid.”
To state the blitheringly obvious: DON'T DO THIS. I realize/hope this doesn't apply to 99% of you, but nothing you're going to do as a fan—positive or negative, in person or on social media—is going to make a positive difference in a prospect's recruitment. Leave the recruiting to the coaches and, as a general life rule, leave harassing high school students to... nobody. Nobody should do that.
Anyway, with Harris opening up his recruitment, Michigan has rekindled their interest in 2015 four-star Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, per GBW's Josh Newkirk ($):
“I talked with (Nussmeier) for a half-hour on the phone. He is real excited about recruiting me,” Weber told GoBlueWolverine. “He told me it was crazy that Michigan stopped recruiting me. So when he got there he was telling me how he really wanted me (at Michigan). It made me open my eyes back up to Michigan.
“Michigan is back on the radar.”
Weber named a top five of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Tennessee (in no particular order); the Spartans and Vols have been the presumed favorites for a while now, though the renewed Michigan interest could change that. It didn't take long for Weber to recipricate that interest, too—he was the only prospect in attendance at last night's Iowa game, which he seemed to appreciate. Whether or not things work out with Harris, Weber would be a great addition to the class; he's been very productive against solid competition for the last two years and looks great on film.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, new 2015 offers—including a long-awaited one to a California DE—the final Rivals250, and more.]
This is very 2013 of you, recruiting.
Sam Webb is reporting that Damien Harris is no longer a Michigan commit($).
For what it's worth, his mom says that "Michigan is #1, and that hasn't changed," but that he wants to make sure he goes through the recruiting process and whatnot; also Borges's departure was a factor. (His high school coach used to be a GA for Borges.) Time will tell whether this is like the Jabrill Peppers wavering or more like George Campbell. Nussmeier made his first stop as OC Madison Southern, Harris's high school, so Michigan is on it, insofar as they can be on it.
I suggest we immediately move Fred Jackson to Beverage Coordinator and hire Mike Hart but that's just me.
As recently as yesterday, it appeared all but assured that Michigan would take a running back in the 2014 class, whether it be Jeff Jones or newly offered Marlon Mack or perhaps a reinterested Kalen Ballage.
Not so fast, my friends. This morning, Sam Webb said on his WTKA recruiting segment* that he doesn't expect Jones or Mack to end up in the class—a change from his earlier stance—and he reiterated that in a board post on GBW (link $). 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed that report this afternoon and added that he believes it also applies to Ballage ($).
As of now, the reasoning behind this shift from the coaching staff is unclear. There's an optimistic take out there, though; Doug Nussmeier visited 2015 RB commit Damien Harris last week in the midst of rampant speculation—including from his fellow commits—that a decommitment was on the horizon. Harris has been quiet of late; it's possible that Nussmeier felt more comfortable with Harris' status—and Michigan's depth chart at RB—after the visit and felt a scholarship could be better used at another position (or in the 2015 class). It may also help Harris' commitment status if he's reassured that there won't be extra competition from a running back in the class ahead of him.
It appears it's Malik McDowell or bust to round out the 2014 class; given the needs already filled and the small projected class size for 2015, banking a scholarship or two isn't a bad idea, even if it means a less exciting Signing Day (again) this year. For what it's worth, while Sam Webb continues to be optimistic that McDowell will stay close to home, at least one reliable Florida State insider likes their chances after McDowell took his official to Tallahassee last weekend.
[Hit THE JUMP for info on Michigan's two most recent 2015 offers, the final Rivals 100, the DetNews Blue Chip list, and more.]