"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Today's recruiting roundup covers the latest on Jabrill Peppers, a new 2014 offer, visit reactions, and more.
Must-Read Of The Week: Jabrill Peppers Feature
NJ ATH Jabrill Peppers is a state champion, honor roll student, and five-star prospect, with every major program in the country in pursuit of his signature come Signing Day. Read ESPN's Jared Shanker's feature on Peppers and his childhood in East Orange, New Jersey, however, and you'll get an appreciation for just how much he had to overcome to reach that point. His older brother, Don Curtis, was murdered in 2010 at the age of 20. Jabrill could only talk to his father, imprisoned since 2007 for a weapons charge, by phone. Peppers told Shanker that the street life in East Orange nearly sucked him in, as well:
"Oh man, I've seen people get stabbed, shot, beat up," Peppers said. "Saw my boys steal cars then crash into a light pole, other things at night, seeing guys selling the illegal products."
But ask about specifics, some of the things he has taken part in, and he clams up. He answers quickly. That smile so many people love to talk about leaves his face. He wants to move on to the next question.
"Too much to name that I got away with because of my athleticism," Peppers said. "I don't want to say too much more on that, but too much that I'm ashamed with."
Peppers has moved on to star both on and off the field; a perennial honor student, he currently holds Stanford—with their rigorous academic standards even for athletes—as his leader. Michigan is currently in his top five, joined by LSU, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. Peppers says he is a long way from a decision; wherever he goes, he's a player who will be easy to root for.
[For the latest on Michigan's most recent offer, plus visit reactions and Drake Harris's newest visit plans, hit THE JUMP.]
Lima (OH) Central Catholic DB Darius West has hit the camp circuit hard over the summer with standout performances at Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Despite growing up as an Ohio State fan, West has since found room for Michigan alongside the Buckeyes in his top two. I caught up with Darius earlier this week to talk about his recruitment, camp performances, preferred position, and more:
ACE: How's everything going with your recruitment and which schools are in contact with you right now?
DARIUS: Everything is going real good. I've got Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Louisville, West Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, a lot of MAC schools, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky.
ACE: Out of those schools, which ones have extended you an offer so far?
DARIUS: Illinois, Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Akron, and Toledo.
ACE: Do you have any favorites?
DARIUS: My two favorites are Michigan and Ohio State.
ACE: You've been to Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State camps recently. How did those go for you and what was your impression of each of the three schools?
DARIUS: The camps went really good. The Michigan State camp, I got there late, so I was only able to do one session with them. At Ohio State, the coaches were really nice, they worked me real hard, and the camp was organized with a lot of competition out there. Michigan, I really enjoyed the environment, the facilities, and the coaches taught me a lot. The Michigan State camp, I wasn't getting too much out of that camp because I got there late.
ACE: Talking about Michigan a little bit more, which coaches were you working with at the camp and what did they have to say to you both about their recruitment of you and what they thought about your game?
DARIUS: I had the cornerbacks coach and the safeties coach [Ed.-Ace: I'm assuming he's referring to Curt Mallory and a grad assistant, since Mallory coaches the whole secondary], and then I talked to the defensive coordinator [Greg Mattison] after the camp. The defensive coordinator, he told me everything, he said, "just give us a little chance, I know you're from Ohio, but keep it in mind and you'll like it if you ever come in to visit here." He was saying they're going to be all over me in the recruiting process and basically they said they would like to have me. They're recruiting me as a cornerback, so... I don't know.
ACE: Do you have a preference in terms of position? Would you rather play safety versus corner or the other way around?
DARIUS: Yeah, I want to play safety, but if they want me to play corner I'll do that too.
ACE: Do you think that would factor into a decision at all?
DARIUS: Nah, not really.
ACE: You mentioned the defensive coordinator saying you're from Ohio and asking you to give Michigan a chance. Did you grow up as an Ohio State fan and will that be a factor at all?
DARIUS: Yeah, I grew up as an Ohio State fan, but not at all [will it be a factor].
ACE: Talking about your game a little bit, what would you say are your biggest strengths on the football field and what are you trying to work on to improve both in the summer at these camps and for next season?
DARIUS: My strength is my strength, how strong I am, and my explosiveness. What I really need to work on is my hip movement because my hips are a little stiff; that's what Ohio State told me. They told me if I can get that down I can be a good player. I mean, my hips aren't bad, but they aren't where they should be to play the position I want to play.
ACE: Looking ahead to the rest of the summer, do you have any other plans in terms of camps you're attending or any visits you'd like to take, both through the summer and into the fall?
DARIUS: I would like to go back to Michigan and take a tour, because I didn't get to take the tour there, so I'd like to go there. I'm going up to Cincinnati soon. I've got one more camp in Dallas for the Underclassmen Showcase, the All-Star Camp; I'm going July 7th through the 9th.
ACE: What are the biggest factors that you're going to be looking at when you start visiting these schools and ultimately making a decision?
DARIUS: The coaching staff, that's my first impression right there. Then the facilities, the atmosphere that I'm going to be around, the players I'm going to be around, when would I get a chance to play, things like that.
Today's recruiting roundup discusses visits from Alvin Bailey and Jordan Wilkins, the top lists of #1 overall prospect Da'Shawn Hand and other 2014 standouts, and more. Also included is an interview with Michigan's first 2014 offered prospect, UT DT Bryan Mone.
Future Touchdown Dance: The Funky Charleston
Pictured on the right is FL WR Alvin Bailey (photo via his Twitter) from his visit to Michigan on Wednesday. If Bailey and his Seffner Armwood teammate Leon McQuay III both end up as Wolverines, let me present the motion to nickname the duo "Kid 'n Play," both due to Bailey's spectacular high-top fade and the fact that it could spur Special K to play some decent music for once.
Anyway, Bailey was on campus this week, and the four-star receiver came away impressed, according to an interview with TomVH ($, info in header):
"It helped them a lot. I was already up on Michigan, but this definitely helped," he said. "I knew some things about them, but being able to see it in person it meant a lot."
Bailey is in the midst of a slew of trips that has also seen him visit Georgia, South Carolina, Notre Dame and Clemson, with Florida State, Georgia, and Auburn also on the docket for July. The Wolverines and Irish could be at a serious disadvantage, however, as Bailey said this to GBW's Kyle Bogenshutz ($):
One issue that plays against Midwest schools such as Notre Dame (which he visited on this trip as well, right before U-M) and Michigan, however, is the issue of distance from home—something Bailey admits is a factor for him.
“It’s big,” said Bailey. “I’m not going to lie, it’s real big. That’s something that I would probably have to sacrifice, so it’s big.”
Sounds like distance is a big factor, which would not bode well for Michigan's chances. Bailey also mentioned that the Wolverines will only take two more players—not a surprise, considering the current number crunch—and his decision could come either before or after his senior season.
While Bailey got the full tour, TN RB Jordan Wilkins stopped by on Tuesday for a quick three-hour visit, and there's very little in the way of visit reaction from him thus far. 247's Clint Brewster did post on their message board that Wilkins's father, who wasn't on the trip, said the visit went "very well" for Jordan ($). There's discussion of a potential visit later in the summer, which would greatly improve Michigan's chances of getting Wilkins, but for now it's safe to assume that Auburn is still the prohibitive favorite.
In 2013 commit news, Jourdan Lewis was invited to the Army All-American Bowl, joining fellow commits Chris Fox and Mike McCray should he choose to participate (roster here). Michigan also has six commits—Shane Morris, Gareon Conley, David Dawson, Logan Tuley-Tillman, McCray (he'll have to choose just one, obviously), and Patrick Kugler—currently slated to participate in the Under Armour All-American Game.
First Journey Joke Earns a Banhammer
Sam Webb's latest DetNews profile is on 2014 OH LB Michael Ferns, who recently narrowed his list to a final three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State. While making such a cut this early is unusual, Ferns's father reveals that there's a very good reason his son has eliminated many of the schools pursuing him, including the home-state squad:
"It's not that he doesn't like the coaches, facilities, etc. (at Ohio State)," Mr. Ferns explained. "It's just that he grew up in a town of 3,500, so it's difficult to feel comfortable in a (large) city. It has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that he feels more comfortable in college town settings. Ideally, if Ohio State would work for him, it would be great for me from a geography and local hype standpoint. But if you don't feel comfortable living in a city, you simply don't. It's no different than the kid in the south having no interest in moving north. It's what they know."
He's just a small-town boy, you see, born and raised in [bans self]. The elder Ferns—no word on if Webb stood between the two during the interview, unfortunately—also had very high praise for their recent trip to Michigan and Jerry Montgomery as a recruiter—"He's as strong a recruiter as we've dealt with." As for future visits, Ferns plans to check out a game at all three of his final schools during the fall.
Also getting the profile treatment this week was IL CB Parrker Westphal, whose father spoke at length with TomVH. According to Mr. Westphal, Michigan has set the standard by which his son will measure his other suitors ($):
"I think what better school to base a standard from. Michigan is a big school with a big program, really good academics and facilities," he said. "If he would have gone to Nebraska first, though, that's a big school with modern facilities. That might have been the standard."
It doesn't mean that U-M is Parrker's favorite, but it is up there.
Westphal's father mentioned that Parrker would like to finish up his recruitment "sooner rather than later," but there's no rush as they make sure to examine each school carefully.
OH DB Darius West was one of the standouts at Michigan's camp, and although he didn't pick up an offer, he's got serious interest and reciprocated by putting the Wolverines in his top two with childhood favorite Ohio State, according to Matt Pargoff. You'll also enjoy this quote that he gave to Sam Webb ($):
Sam Webb: Talk to me about Michigan State. How did that camp go for you?
Darius West: “I mean, if I had to rank Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan camp, Michigan State would be third.“
West told Pargoff he'd like to decide by the end of his junior year, so he's one to keep a close eye on if Michigan comes through with an offer. He told Webb he's being recruited at both corner and safety at the moment.
247's J.C. Shurburtt caught up with the nation's #1 overall prospect for 2014, VA DT Da'Shawn Hand, and got an early top seven from him: Virginia Tech, Ohio State, UNC, Clemson, USC, Alabama and Michigan. VT seems to have the early edge—he's visited campus twice and mentions Bud Foster as his favorite recruiter—but he's yet to visit most of the schools on his list, including Michigan.
Happy trails to MI WR Drake Harris, who committed to Michigan State on Wednesday over Michigan and Notre Dame.
Quickly: Clint Brewster reports that Michigan offered CA TE Tyler Luatua, who's pegged as the top tight end in the class in 247's early rankings. Correction from Tuesday's post: TX LB Hoza Scott doesn't yet have an offer, according to Tim Sullivan, but he probably has to visit campus first, which may not happen soon due to the distance factor ($). MI CB Damon Webb continues to see his stock rise, recently picking up offers from Ohio State, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Catching Up With Bryan Mone
I had the chance to chat with UT DT Bryan Mone, a high school teammate of incoming freshman Sione Houma who picked up Michigan's first 2014 offer way back in December. This is the first time Mone has given an interview, and he updated me on the status of his recruitment, his current size and preferred position, and a potential visit next week:
ACE: First of all, how's everything going with your recruitment? Which schools are in contact with you right now?
BRYAN: So far, so good. It's just really a blessing sir. But the schools that I'm in contact with are Utah, BYU, and Utah State.
ACE: Which schools have offered you so far?
BRYAN: All of the three [as well as Michigan].
ACE: I know Michigan gave you their first 2014 offer. Have you been in contact with Michigan at all since then?
BRYAN: Yeah, well kind of. I keep in contact with the D-line coach. I might just go out to Michigan with my dad next week.
ACE: Do you talk to Sione Houma at all now that he's enrolled? What has he told you about Michigan?
BRYAN: Yes I do, I was just talking to him. He told me that it's really good out there and that some of the football players don't know what a Tongan is [laughs] and he was just saying it's a great program and all.
ACE: You mentioned possibly visiting Michigan. Are there any other schools you'd like to check out over the summer?
BRYAN: No sir, just Michigan.
ACE: I know it's early, but do you have any favorites at this point?
BRYAN: All my favorite schools are the ones that offered me and Colorado all because my other cousin told me about Colorado.
ACE: What's your height and weight right now, and what would you like to play at next season?
BRYAN: 6'4" height, 300 weight [Ed-Ace: Up from a listed 6'3", 255 last year]. I'm going to play D-tackle and offensive guard.
ACE: What would you say are your biggest strengths on the field, and what are you trying to improve for next year and the next level?
BRYAN: My biggest strengths are mainly [being able to play] on the line on both sides of the ball. I am trying to improve on my speed and strength for next year and the next level.
ACE: When looking at schools, what do you think will be the biggest factors in your decision? Do you know when you'd like to make a choice?
BRYAN: First of all my education and how I would fit in the program and the community and the brotherhood of the football team. I don't know [when I'd like to make a decision] ... like you said sir I'm still young.