The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
Beards Require No Context Or Reason
— Tim Sullivan (@TimS_Wolverine) October 30, 2013
Tim did this because he's still a blogger at heart, obviously.
Consider that George Campbell's treat, accompanied by this nifty trick:
Da'Shawn And The Battle Of Academic Departments
As more details emerge from Da'Shawn Hand's official visit to Alabama, it's clear that (1) the Tide are very much in the running, and (2) Professor Needs A Raise has a Southern counterpart, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
"The engineering dean is the man!" Hand exclaimed. "He is that guy! I met with the business professor too and he was good. The academic support is amazing. They have individual tutors and that's good to help you manage your time."
In talking with TomVH, Hand revealed this his decision may in fact come down to his choice of major ($):
Hand says that if he wants to go into sports management it will be Michigan, and if he wants to go into engineering it will be Alabama. Florida offers both, so he will be spending time with professors in both fields on that trip to see if that has any impact on his decision.
The 6-foot-4, 262-pound defensive end says for right now he’s just focused on Florida, though, and will head out to Gainesville on November 9.
One of the Michigan coaches may want to alert him to this.
In other pursuits of 2014 blue-chip prospects, Oregon has become a major player for CA ATH JuJu Smith after he visited Eugene in place of a planned trip to Ole Miss; he told Rivals's Adam Gorney($) that the Ducks are "another top team to beat." Smith already had very positive official visit experiences at Notre Dame and Ohio State, has USC and UCLA under consideration, and has two officials left: Alabama (vs. LSU) and Michigan (vs. OSU). With that much competition, it's tough to peg Michigan as anything but a longshot, even with whatever edge they might get from receiving Smith's final official.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the 2014 running back situation—there seems to be a situation—plus Freddy Canteen makin' moves, evaluations of a couple M commits, and more.]
Weekend Visitors: Goddag, Hr. Froholdt
Hjalte Froholdt (photo via 247)
The list of visitors for the Indiana game is short, though it's headlined by a very important potential member of the 2015 class who could be deciding quite soon. DT Hjalte Froholdt, who's currently playing semi-pro football for a year in his native Denmark, will be in attendance and tells Brandon that a list of top schools will shortly follow his visit:
Froholdt will release a version of his top list after his visit to Ann Arbor Saturday, but he already told me that Michigan will probably be toward the top of his list.
Froholdt has a very strong relationship with Greg Mattison, and as of now his recruitment looks like a classic Michigan/OSU battle, with the Wolverines possibly out in front. The picture may not be that clear, however, as Froholdt is in the midst of a country-wide recruiting tour that's included Arkansas, Alabama, and Florida State; he pulled in an offer from the Tide following his visit and already had one from the Razorbacks. With a decision planned within the next couple months, this is a very important visit for Michigan, especially with 'Bama now very much on the radar.
As noted in this week's previous recruiting roundup, the other big-time visitor for this weekend is 2015 Cass Tech RB Mike Weber. I said in that roundup that Michigan probably wouldn't take another back given the small class size and commitment of Damien Harris, but I may have been mistaken; with no running back committed in the 2014 class (which is unlikely to change), a second would be a high priority, and the Wolverines are also still heavily recruiting '15 FL RB Jacques Patrick. Weber still has significant interest in Michigan and has repeatedly said that he's not averse to competing with Harris; Michigan State, Ohio State, and Tennessee are all strong contenders, as well.
A couple younger brothers of current Michigan players will also be in attendance: 2016 Cass Tech DB Lavert Hill, brother of Delano, and 2017 OLSM LB Joshua Ross, brother of James, are slated to visit according to Tim Sullivan ($). Both are very talented prospects in their own right and have been steady presences in Ann Arbor; offers may not come imminently, but both could be Michigan-caliber players.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on Malik McDowell and JuJu Smith, the latest commits to ink their LOIs for 2014, and more.]
The Foolproof Way To Avoid Senioritis
Michigan has its first official signee of the 2014 class. Impossible, you say? Not if you're Michael Ferns, who can sign because he graduated from high school in three years, according to WRTF.com. Ferns is finishing his senior season of football at St. Clairsville while taking classes at Ohio University-Eastern and will enroll at Michigan next semester—the normal time for early enrollees to hit campus.
Other recruits planning to enroll early include Wilton Speight, Bryan Mone, Drake Harris, Mason Cole, and the ECA duo of Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson.
Froholdt, Weber To Visit This Weekend
The M Block's Eric Rutter caught up with 2015 DL Hjalte Froholdt, who's playing his junior season in a semi-pro league in Denmark; he's been able to come back across the Atlantic for visits, however, and after visiting Arkansas last week he'll be in attendance at the Big House this weekend—it'll be a big one, as he's getting close to a decision:
Froholdt has already announced a final top group of Arkansas, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State and intends to choose from those schools soon- as in within the next couple months, although an official date has not been set. Froholdt visited Arkansas on Saturday to watch the Razorbacks host South Carolina for a 52-7 beating. Michigan will get the next crack at impressing Froholdt as he will be in Ann Arbor on October 19 to watch the Wolverines host the Indiana Hoosiers.
Head on over to the original post to read Froholdt's comments about his relationship with Greg Mattison, his primary recruiter. SPOILER: He likes Greg Mattison. Michigan is very much in the hunt to land Froholdt and an impressive visit experience this weekend could put them in the driver's seat.
2015 Cass Tech RB Mike Weber talked to The Wolverine's Branden Hunter about his relationship with Michigan and upcoming visit ($):
"His commitment really didn't affect me at all," Weber said of [Damien] Harris' pledge. "I grew up liking Michigan, and I'm not scared of competition, so if that college is the best fit for me, that's were I'm going.
"I talk to Michigan a lot," Weber said. "I'm supposed to go to their next home game I believe, and coach Singletary wished me luck before the game. Michigan always shows love."
Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Tennessee are also mentioned as teams showing serious interest in Weber. The issue with his recruitment may not be one of interest as much as it is space in the class; with Harris already committed, I'd be surprised if Michigan takes two running backs unless more spots open up, and by that point they may have a hard time catching up to schools that have the room to tell Weber they can take him at any time.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest 2015 offer and the weekly commit stat wrapup.]
Michigan Probably Leads For A Five-Star Dual-Threat QB. Wait, What?
Michigan's 2015 quarterback situation is the subject of much conjecture and little more, as the only prospect offered at the position—California five-star Josh Rosen—has stated that he's not interested in the Wolverines. Several names have been thrown out there as potential backup options, with player types ranging from pocket statues to Gardner-like dual threats. If Michigan wants to go the latter route—and Al Borges seems more open to the idea now that the NFL is heading in that direction—then a five-star option has emerged in CA ATH Kevin Dillman, per 247's Ryan Bartow [free article, also contains sources saying that JuJu Smith currently favors Notre Dame and Alabama over the field right now, and Michigan gets mentioned among the leaders of several 2015 prospects]:
3- Kevin Dillman, 5-star QB, La Mirada (Calif.)
Michigan and Nebraska are his Top 2. If Michigan offers, the Wolverines could likely land a commitment this winter or spring.
“I grew up watching Tom Brady. If there was one offer I could wish for it would be Michigan. I really like their coaching staff,” - 5-star QB Kevin Dillman, La Mirada
Please and thank you, right? Well, we'll see. Dillman's sophomore highlights (above) show a lot more of the athlete side—the first clip is a kick return—than the downfield passing aspect that Borges will focus on heavily when deciding whom to offer. Personally, I'd love to see Michigan go the dual-threat route, and if Dillman has enough to work with as a passer, he seems like the best available—and highly interested—option.
Nobody seems to have a clear picture of the 2015 QB pecking order after Rosen, though, and I'm assuming the coaches are hoping to evaluate several options more extensively once junior film starts rolling in. With room for just one QB in the class, this approach makes sense—the coaches can't afford to miss.
One such option is Brother Rice QB Alex Malzone, who's off to a strong start this season. He's the headlining visitor for Minnesota in a quiet weekend for uncommitted prospects and another prospect who's likely to commit if offered, though I think Dillman and a handful of other quarterbacks are higher priorities. Malzone is mentioned as one of five Midwest juniors "on the rise" this season—along with Cass Tech RB Mike Weber—by Allen Trieu.
[Hit THE JUMP to see which Michigan commit is nominated for Gatorade's national player of the year—yeah, you probably guessed it—plus evaluations of a few commits and more.]
Overkill Is Underrated
You've seen the run. You've seen it twice. You've seen it a thousand times. You've seen the picture pages. Now let's see the analysis; 247's JC Shurburtt gives his take on where Michigan should play cornerback/safety/tailback/receiver/savior Jabrill Peppers, per Steve Lorenz ($):
"We think he's probably as good or better at defensive back, but there aren't a lot of teams that want to test him in that manner, so there's not as big of a sample size," he said. "That doesn't mean he won't turn out to be Patrick Peterson or Jimmy Williams, but those guys are exceptions to the rules and because of the unknown factor, it's hard to project him higher on defense [than running back]. We saw Peterson, for example, in high school cover and cover and cover some more. There was no doubt about it. With Peppers, we just don't know. What does it for me, though, and why I say offense is this- if he's a safety (which I think he will be- and probably one of the best in college football from the moment he steps on the field if that's what happens), then you have to think Michigan will have or can go find other great safeties."
Shurburtt goes on to say that Peppers is a more "electric and dynamic" running back than Derrick Green or De'Veon Smith (no argument here), and that's why the Wolverines should play him on offense—go for the Auburn-under-Borges embarrassment of riches strategy.
I think Shurburtt is hampered here by a lack of knowledge of Michigan's defensive depth chart, as I read the last part of the above blockquote and thought, well, they have these two great running back recruits—and another coming in Damien Harris, an explosive big-play threat—and much less certainty at safety (and corner, as well), so Peppers could help the team out more in the defensive backfield. The difference between Peppers and Green/Smith/Harris is probably not going to be as great as the difference between Peppers and his competition at safety or corner, and that's no knock on Michigan's defensive backs—the talent level at running back is just getting a little ridiculous.
Then there's the fact that an all-world safety—or a lockdown corner—is more rare and valuable than even a great running back, and I think Michigan is doing the right thing by planning to start Peppers on defense. Plus, it's not like they won't let him see a few snaps on offense, not to mention as a returner, and putting the ball in his hands just a few times a game may be enough for him to make the desired impact on the scoreboard while still being a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. I'd rather see him paired with Dymonte Thomas at safety for every defensive snap, or locking down half the field across from Blake Countess or Raymon Taylor or Channing Stribling, than getting 10-15 touches a game in a running back platoon, especially since he should still get his hands on the ball anyway a la Charles Woodson.
Regardless, this is, like, the best of problems. Hoke über alles. Swag Mattison fo' life. Etc.
Speaking of Finding Safeties...
Michigan appears much less likely to do so in the 2014 class after telling PA S Montae Nicholson—long thought to be a very likely candidate to end up in the class—that they're no longer actively recruiting him because (and this part strikes me as odd) injuries have affected the numbers for this class, per The M Block. Unless Courtney Avery's injury is much more serious than expected, or the coaches aren't telling us about a season-ender for another player—even for The Fort, that seems unlikely—then I'm not sure what's really going on, because the current listed injuries shouldn't affect next year's scholarship count.
Sam Webb posted on The Victors Board($) that Michigan hit a numbers crunch, and while they're not currently pursuing Nicholson they're still leaving the door open if the scholarship situation changes—though, given Nicholson's impression that he's essentially being dropped, it could be tough to get back in the race. Webb also debunked a rumor that Nicholson's situation was affected by any changes in 2015 defensive back recruiting; there was a Twitter rumor going around this week that five-star junior corner Minkah Fitzpatrick was transferring to Paramus Catholic, Jabrill Peppers' school—and that was taken as a good sign for Michigan—but that transfer isn't happening.
At this point, it looks like Michigan's 2014 class will wrap up with Da'Shawn Hand and Malik McDowell, and they'll try to grab a safety if another spot opens up or one of those two players goes elsewhere. With Nicholson looking to make an earlier decision, that could mean Michigan's top priorities at safety are now CA ATH JuJu Smith and OH S Erick Smith, who are planning to choose later in the recruiting cycle; by then, Michigan should know if they've got the space to take another defensive back.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Leonard Fournette's official visit plans, game film (finally!) of Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson, unoffered four-star juniors coming out of the woodwork with plans to visit, and more.]
Commitments Come In Pairs, Volume [I Lost Count]
Michigan's 2015 class grew by two highly-regarded Ohio defensive backs over the weekend; if you missed them, here are the commitment posts for cornerback Shaun Crawford and safety Tyree Kinnel. The pair represent the fifth and sixth commits in the '15 class; to say the pace of recruiting has increased is an understatement:
Commitment no.5 for class of 2014 was Drake Harris, 4 months ago. No.5 for 2013 was on The Weekend that killed @AceAnbender
— Brett Thiessen (@The_Mathlete) August 23, 2013
Adding to that, Michigan's sixth commitment for the '14 class came when Ian Bunting pledged on April 23rd of this year; their sixth for '13 also occurred during The Greatest Mid-February Weekend In The History Of Mid-February Weekends.
Crawford and Kinnel aren't just highly-touted players from Ohio; they're both lifelong Michigan fans, which played a part in each of their commitments. Here's Crawford's post-commitment reaction to Tim Sullivan ($):
"Just being able to run out the tunnel and jump up and touch the sign, I've always seen it on Saturdays and finally getting the opportunity to do it is something I've always wanted to do," he said. "I can't wait to make the Michigan family happy."
And Kinnel talking to Scout's Dave Berk ($):
“We’re all Michigan fans because my dad grew up in Jackson, Michigan,” he said. “He just loved Michigan and ever since I was born, he just brained washed me on Michigan.”
They've been groomed for the Maize and Blue; now, do they fit The Pattern™? Of course they do. Crawford to 247's Mark Zakrajsek ($):
"I will bring my effort, that's the only thing I can promise right now," Crawford said. "With great effort all the great things I do on the field will come. I will play every down like it's my last because it's my dream to play on national television on Saturdays. My goal isn't to win the Heisman or any personal awards, I just want to be the best teammate I can be and make sure my team and coaches know I won't let them down."
And Kinnel's high school coach to Berk ($):
“Tyree comes from a great mom and dad,” said Minton. “He’s from a great close knit family and he’s not your typical high school kid that goes out and hangs out.
He’s much more like Braxton [Miller] was as they don’t mind staying in and playing a video game or something like that. He knows there are a lot of bad decisions that are out there and he doesn’t want to get caught up by anything like that.”
As for on-field ability, I posted my favorite Crawford clip as a GIF and forgot to do so for Kinnel; Kinnel's coach talked up his instincts and play recognition, and this is a fine example—watch him play bracket coverage underneath the slot receiver while managing to keep his eyes on the quarterback, then come screaming from the opposite side of the field to stop the QB's scramble cold when it looked like an inevitable first down or even touchdown:
Making that play wasn't Kinnel's responsibility; he made it anyway after taking away the deep crossing route. Add that to the quote from his Hello post about Kinnel's coaches trusting him to call defensive audibles as a rising junior and we get an idea of his level of football smarts—he's very advanced in that regard for a player his age and it shows in his play.
Crawford and Kinnel were each Michigan's first offered prospects at their respective positions; their commitments add to an impressive trend in Brady Hoke's '15 class:
Worth noting that #Michigan has gotten commits from their first offers at CB, WR, RB, S and K now. That's five of six positions committed
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) August 24, 2013
That is a remarkable stat considering four of those players—Crawford, RB Damien Harris, WR George Campbell, and K Andrew David—are considered among the very top prospects (if not the top) at their position, and only David didn't hold offers from multiple BCS powers when he committed.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on Da'Shawn Hand's and Leonard Fournette's official visit plans, highlights of several Michigan commits from last weekend's high school action, and two reasons you're definitely going to want Hjalte Froholdt to end up at Michigan.]