Not Dead ... Yet
The commitment of 2015 KY RB Damien Harris led many, including myself, to assume that Michigan's recruitment of 2014 LA RB Leonard Fournette — who'd just no-showed a planned visit for the BBQ — was D-E-D dead. Per 247's Kipp Adams, however, it appears there's still a faint pulse ($):
According to Fournette’s father, Leonard II, three of those four programs are slated to get coveted official visits from the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2014 247Composite.
“He plans to take officials to Alabama, USC, Michigan and Florida,” Fournette II said, adding that Miami (Fla.) is likely to receive the fifth one.
LSU was not listed as a school slated to get an official, but Fournette II did list them as an additional top school.
Unfortunately, Michigan isn't mentioned once in the rest of the article, which features plenty of talk about LSU, Alabama, and USC. There is one other revelation: the Fournettes are apparently the Gradys of the South, as Leonard III's younger brother — a thus-far unoffered 2015 running back — is named... Lanard. That doesn't get confusing, I'm sure.
As far as Fournette's recruitment goes, I'll believe Michigan has the slightest of chances when he's physically on campus, and even then the outlook is still probably grim. But, hey, Damien Harris...
PRETTY GOOD, GUYS
...is pretty good, guys. GBW had Allen Trieu talk about Harris's potential impact and lo, is there ever potential for impact ($):
“He was at the Best of the Midwest Combine two winters ago," Trieu said, "and he was already pretty physically put together, and ran a pretty good 40 there, and then when you find out that kid is only a freshman you’re like, wow. I was able to go back and pull up the film from his freshman year and after the first three plays on the film, I basically turned it off and said I know this guy is a big time guy -- a national guy. And I don’t get too many guys like that, to be honest.
"There’s not a ton of guys that I turn on the film and right away I know that this guy is going to be right up there with the best in the country but, for him to be that way at an early age, I knew that there was something special there.”
Trieu also mentions that Harris is a "really good receiver" in a camp setting, something that doesn't come through on film because why throw to the guy when you can hand the ball to him directly and probably score a touchdown, amirite?* Harris's high school coach echoed Trieu's praise and talked up his football IQ to TomVH ($):
Madison Southern High coach Jon Clark said Michigan is getting a big, multidimensional back in the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Harris.
"He's a lot bigger than people think. He's not a small speed back, either," Clark said. "He's an excellent receiver out of the backfield, he is a smart player and he understands defensive schemes."
Harris confirmed to Trieu in another article that, while he's been leaning heavily towards Michigan for a long time, the commitment of George Campbell accelerated his process; a childhood fan of the Wolverines, Harris gave a great quote about committing to his dream school ($):
"I don't even know what to expect. Growing up and loving a school and it being your dream and being able to achieve the dream and play at Michigan, it's mind blowing to think it's coming true. I'm going to be thinking about how blessed I am to be playing, not only for a great school, but with great teammates and great coaches and a great fan base. I hope to live up to the expectations they have, but I'm going to work hard and come in and play my game."
It's always great to see these kind of dreams fulfilled, and even better when they're the dreams of five-stars.
Speaking of insanely talented recent 2015 commits, a local news article on Campbell contains this tidbit about his academic plans:
"Everyone, not just the coaches but also the players, they all took me in as one," Campbell said on Monday. "Pretty much, it's like a big old family there. Not just that, but the academics. I plan on majoring in Sports Management, and they have a great program there. It's the best choice for me at the moment and for my future, too."
If this was the work of Professor Needs A Raise, he's now been upgraded to Professor Needs A Building Named After Him. You know, as soon as one of us remembers his real name — The Professor Needs A Building Named After Him, Er, Building doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
How rare is a commitment from a kid like Campbell? DGDestroys put together this chart over at Maize n Brew of the eventual destinations of Florida five-stars ranked among the top 15 players in their class (covering 2002-2013):
You'll note the complete lack of Big Ten schools, with Notre Dame representing the only program north of West Virginia to land a prospect matching the criteria. That prospect was Aaron Lynch, who transferred to USF after his freshman year. As long as Michigan holds onto Campbell — and he stays where he is in the rankings — then they're pulling off something that hasn't been done in the Rivals era.
Speaking of making recruiting history, The Wolverine's Michael Spath dug through the Rivals database($) and found that the last team to pull in the #1 players in their class at running back and receiver was USC in 2007 with Joe McKnight and (sigh) Ronald Johnson. Michigan has a chance to do that with Campbell and Harris; it would be the first time the Wolverines pulled off the feat since 1998, predating the modern recruiting services, with Justin Fargas and David Terrell.
[Hit THE JUMP for, oh hey, another 2015 prospect that looks like a stone-cold Michigan lock, more reactions from last weekend's BBQ, how OSU's latest commitment could affect the Wolverines, and more.]
Michigan's annual BBQ at the Big House is on Sunday, and the Wolverines will also host visitors on Saturday — or, in LA RB Leonard Fournette's case, starting today. All of the major sites have published expected visitor lists, and in the grand tradition of attempting to pin down the plans of teenagers, there are slight discrepancies between them. Here's a rundown of the top targets who will be on campus this weekend and a general idea of where Michigan stands with each of them:
Ian Bunting, Freddy Canteen, Mason Cole, Michael Ferns, Drake Harris, Lawrence Marshall, Wilton Speight, Brandon Watson, Maurice Ways, and Chase Winovich are all expected to be in attendance. Jabrill Peppers is trying to make it into town, as well — his presence would only help Michigan's efforts with the uncommitted recruits, and especially fellow blue-chip Fournette.
Fournette is obviously the big fish here; the nation's top running back — and #1 overall prospect on the 247 Composite — arrives in Ann Arbor today and will stay all the way through Sunday's BBQ. If you regularly read this roundup, you've seen his highlight tape. A video released by ESPN this week shows more of his personal side, and none of it will make you want him at Michigan any less. The broken record on Fournette is that, despite his assertions of being wide open, he'll inevitably end up in the SEC, likely at LSU. GBW's Kyle Bogenshutz talked to Fournette's father, and NOPE NOPE NOPE I REFUSE TO GET MY HOPES UP ($):
As a father that knows his son’s game and how it might translate to the college level, he can see what the portrait might look like in the Maize & Blue.
“For sure he would be a good fit for Michigan,” said Fournette’s father. “I know for sure he would be a great fit for Michigan. He’ll fit right in.”
“Me and my wife are real high on education, first of all,” Fournette’s father said. “And we have to feel like our child is going to be in good hands, from a family aspect, not just coaches, but a friend and a father figure on the field and off the field.”
Fournette will be accompanied by his parents on the trip; he'll undoubtedly get the full tour of both the academic and football side of things, and it'll be very interesting to see where Michigan stands after this weekend.
NJ RB Jonathan Hilliman is listed as attending in some places and not in others; assuming he shows, this will be Michigan's best chance to chip away at Ohio State's lead for the three-star boasting a very impressive offer sheet. [EDIT: Per 247, Hilliman won't be visiting for the BBQ. That ship appears to have sailed; it's Fournette or bust at running back, reportedly, with Kalen Ballage being recruited as an athlete-slash-backup plan.]
MI DL Malik McDowell is always tough to pin down when it comes to his recruitment plans; he's another potential visitor. While he's attempted to stay quiet about where things stand, he's let slip a couple times that the Wolverines are out in front, and the general opinion is that he'll stay in-state.
Cass Tech DE Josh Alabi and RB Mike Weber will visit Ann Arbor together for the umpteenth time. Both are early four-stars with a high level of interest in the Wolverines.
FL WR George Campbell is the top-ranked 2015 recruit who'll be on campus, coming in at #7 in the 247 Composite. He'll have his high school teammate, Cole, giving him the full sales pitch. How he reacts to this latest trip to Ann Arbor should give a good indication of where the Wolverines stand now that fellow East Lake receiver Artavis Scott chose Clemson over Michigan.
OH CB Shaun Crawford has long held Michigan as his leader, with many even expecting that he'd commit during an earlier visit this offseason. Crawford will have his family in tow, and his mother makes it sound like he's the best possibility of a commitment this weekend, per TomVH ($):
"Michigan is definitely at the top of the list, because it's a wonderful school. It's been a favorite for a long time and he grew up a Michigan fan," Crawford's mother said. "I think this type of event will kind of answer any questions we all may have and bring it all together for him. It's definitely something that's worthwhile in the decision process."
In this early stage of the 247 Composite rankings (only 247 and ESPN have released 2015 rankings), Crawford is listed as the #92 overall player, #9 corner, and #4 prospect in Ohio. He'd be a very nice early pickup, obviously.
OH LB Justin Hilliard ranks one spot above Crawford in the Ohio state rankings. His recruitment could come down to a big Midwestern battle — his older brother plays for Iowa and he already holds offers from all the Big Ten powers and some national schools, as well.
At 6'8", 305 pounds, four-star PA OT Sterling Jenkins is exactly what Michigan is searching for in an offensive lineman — tackle is the biggest, and potentially only, need left on the offensive line. Michigan is among his top schools, and despite lots of national interest they could very well be in the lead.
Michigan has experienced recent success recruiting in Utah, landing Sione Houma in 2012 and Bryan Mone for the 2014 class. They'll try to replicate that with four-star UT LB Osa Masina, though the Wolverines could be facing an uphill battle against the in-state Utes, where Masina's older brother signed in 2013.
The above players are confirmed for this weekend by multiple outlets; other potential visitors include MI ATH Brian Cole, OH DT Hjalte Froholdt, and NY TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. — Michigan is in very good shape with all three prospects.
If Crawford isn't the most likely to commit this weekend, then it's 2016 IL OL Erik Swenson, who's stated in no uncertain terms that a Michigan pledge is all but inevitable — he nearly pulled the trigger when he camped here last month.
Swenson is the only rising sophomore slated to attend who currently holds an offer, but that could change; MD LB De'le Harding is expected to join his older teammates, Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson, on this weekend's visit, and he's a player who should earn an offer sooner or later. OH QB Messiah DeWeaver, who's shown very strong interest in Michigan, will also be at the BBQ, though I'd be surprised if a 2016 quarterback pulled an offer this early.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on Parrker Westphal, JuJu Smith, Dravon Henry, and more.]