Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
I Have To Praise You Like I Should
High School All-American week is officially over. Jabrill Peppers unofficially won the week. Just ask ESPN's Tom Luginbill, who wrote this in response to a question about the most impressive Under Armour practice performer [emphasis mine]:
[Peppers] is more than capable of playing both ways if needed, but as far as cover corners go, he is a more explosive version of Dee Milliner, and we love that he welcomes contact too. He is mature and knows that there are high expectations for him to perform.
Or ask his Team Nitro coach, former NFL head coach and defensive back Herm Edwards—and his friend, some guy named Deion:
"It’s not even close. He’s the best [UA All-American defensive back] I’ve coached. I called Deion [Sanders] over and said look at that guy, and Deion saw the same thing," Edwards said. "[Robert] Nkemdiche was really good last year, he was a big guy who could run and [Peppers] is comparable to that as far as skill level at the position he’s playing. I played that position and coached that position for a long time and he’s a special talent."
Or ask Scout, which named Peppers the top practice performer of the week on either team while noting that this year's crop of defensive backs was particularly strong.
Rivals stands as the least bullish outlet on Peppers after the UA game, and all they did was name him Sunday's #3 performer, Monday's #1 performer, and Tuesday's #5 performer, and the actual game's #9 performer for Team Nitro before giving him the third spot overall for Team Nitro on the week behind Da'Shawn Hand and Ermon Lane ($):
Playing in his first national-level event, Peppers was surrounded by intrigue from the moment he arrived in Florida. As it turned out, it didn't take him long to live up to his billing. Peppers, the No. 2 overall prospect in his class, was dominant in every practice and was as aggressive and spirited as any player on the field. He struggled a bit in Thursday's game but didn't allow a big play all week. Peppers also blocked a field goal that was ultimately negated because of an all-star-game specific rule.
In addition to the negated blocked field goal (above)—illegal because rushers on kicks weren't allowed to go inside their man in the UA Game, which... okay—Peppers had a couple passes defended, returned two kickoffs for 65 yards (one a 41-yard burst to midfield), and took a few snaps as a wildcat quarterback, though he couldn't break anything big offensively in a pretty ugly game overall, as high school all-star games tend to be.
Interestingly, Scout omitted both Hand and Lane from their top ten overall list, with neither cracking the top two of their respective position groups. It's safe to say Peppers made a strong argument that he deserves consideration for the top overall spot in the 2014 class.
[Hit THE JUMP for a whole lot of content from the All-American games, Michigan's latest 2014 offer, an update on George Campbell, a potential second quarterback in the '14 class, and more.]
Just When You Thought It Was Safe...
Jabrill Peppers reaffirmed his commitment this week. So did Shaun Crawford. Michigan had successfully weathered the storm caused by their on-field woes. And then...
GEORGE CAMPBELL OUTTA NOWHERE.
According to multiple outlets, Campbell actually decided to decommit last week, but waited until this week to inform the coaches of his decision. Steve Lorenz relays the news that Florida, Florida State, and Clemson (ugh) are involved in Campbell's recruitment, and while Michigan isn't out of the picture, they're losing perhaps their biggest edge ($):
Yesterday, I tweeted out that Michigan was still in it for Campbell after his decommitment. I still believe this, but after doing some digging while on the road today, I'm not sure how high the Wolverines are on his list at this point. If you forced me to choose, I believe he ends up somewhere else. Where that is, I don't know. Mason Cole leaving for Michigan within the next two weeks is about the worst thing that could happen in this regard because their friendship was a big part of getting Campbell committed in the first place. Without Cole in his ear and Michigan being a ways away, the excitement about the Wolverines could fade over time.
The Wolverines will continue to pursue Campbell and in-state athlete Brian Cole as their top priorities for receiver in the 2015 class; after being in great shape for both just a few months ago, however, there's a distinct possibility that both end up elsewhere—there's a very good chance Campbell stays in the South, while Cole may be a Michigan State lean and also has interest in Ohio State. Michigan's very strong group of 2014 receivers mitigates some of the hurt from this, but there's no sugarcoating the loss of one of the nation's top prospects, especially when it seems directly tied to uncertainty (real or perceived) regarding the program.
It might not end with Campbell, either. Shortly after that decommitent went public, fellow 2015 blue chip commit Damien Harris tweeted "Here comes the tough decision.." which, well, obviously raised some red flags given the timing. That could very well be nothing, however, as Harris—unlike Campbell, a childhood fan of Florida—grew up rooting for Michigan; he also subsequently retweeted fellow recruit Justin Hilliard questioning why anyone would commit to a school without "110%" certainty, as well as today's news about Michigan scheduling the game against Florida in Dallas in 2017, when he'd be a junior. Since Harris' first tweet has garnered a lot of attention, I figured I'd add some context—for now, at least, it seems early to panic.
This entire sports year post-Final Four can still die in a fire, though.
[Hit THE JUMP for updated Scout rankings, the latest on Vic Enwere and Josh Rosen, and more.]
Lament, for 2013 is not done with you, human being with a Michigan soul dong. Per everybody, last night one of those awesome things you were hanging your hat on when the universe was all like "I'm going to put you in a Copper Bowl that doesn't even call itself the Copper Bowl" is also no longer happening:
No. 2 ranked WR George Campbell has decommitted from Michigan. He decommitted Friday, didn't want it out for awhile but that happens.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 18, 2013
Campbell (hello post) is a top ten overall sort of recruit and like Peppers, is one of the guys Michigan could use as leverage to convince other top recruits that the program's on the upswing. He's teammates with 2014 OL commit Mason Cole, who is probably hiding in a bunker right now.
Hope? Tim Sullivan wrote last night that his status is "no longer a solid commitment" and that he's yet to call the coaches (not paywalled), postulating this could be a ploy to take in the visitation process. Lorenz notes that Michigan is "still being considered" before mentioning another receiver M may look at. Hope is nice, but I think it's a formality.
I don't have to remind you to be nice on Twitter, or ruthless with those who aren't.
Go now and die in what way seems best to you.
Michigan Offers Sills, Settle
Michigan offered two 2015 prospects over the weekend; one came as no surprise at all, while the other was somewhat unexpected.
The former is five-star VA DT Tim Settle, who had rave reviews of Michigan after he visited for the Notre Dame game; with Hjalte Froholdt going off the board to Arkansas last week, Settle was at the top of the board for available DTs. Settle will have his choice of just about any program in the country, and while the Wolverines made a strong early impression, they likely have some catching up to do now that the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and USC have come through with offers of their own.
The latter is Eastern Christian Academy QB David Sills, whose name should be familiar to you for two reasons: first, he notably committed to USC—then coached by Lane Kiffin—at the age of 13; second, he's teammates with U-M commits Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson at ECA, the football-centric school founded by Sills' father. TomVH notes that there's another Michigan connection here:
On the David Sills offer, he trains with Steve Clarkson who also trains Wilton Speight. Clarkson and Borges have known each other for years
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 6, 2013
Five-star CA prospect Josh Rosen is the only other 2015 quarterback with an offer; while he's recently expressed some interest in a visit to Ann Arbor after previously saying that wouldn't happen, he's very much a longshot. Although Sills hadn't been talked about as a prospect under serious consideration for the next offer, it's clear he's the #2 guy on the board, and per TomVH the coaches will have to wait and see if he's willing to open up his recruitment after the coaching change at USC ($):
According to his father, Sills wants to wait and talk with [USC head coach Steve] Sarkisian before making any decisions or commenting on his status. Sills' father believes it is too early to comment or respond to anything just yet without giving the new Trojans coaches an opportunity to speak with their son.
We'll see where this goes; there's little-to-no precedent for a prospect committing to a program before he's in high school, only for that program to fire the head coach he committed to when the prospect is in the midst of his junior year. Add in Michigan's multiple connections to Sills and this could get interesting.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on two cornerback commits and their potential visit plans, how Michigan's commits fared in the state playoffs, and more.]
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.]
Keeping His Hand To Himself
This week's edition of "First and 17" features Da'Shawn Hand's coach telling Mike Farrell, "I don't know if he knows for sure for sure. I feel like he really likes Michigan. He's gonna go feel the flavor of the SEC because of everything everyone's talked about, but... you know, I don't even know. I think he knows. I don't even know if pops knows yet ... At this point, none of where he picks will surprise me, because they're all great schools." (2:25 mark.) He also tells Roy Manning, who stopped by Woodbridge during the bye week, that he thinks Hand is leaning towards Michigan—but also that he likes Alabama, and this is before Hand's official to Tuscaloosa. (7:25 mark.)
Later, Hand discusses why he likes to keep his thoughts to himself (9:44 mark): "When I take one visit, everyone thinks I'm committing to the college ... I just don't like showing people my full hand, because then everyone can pick out your every move. Everyone tries to get in my head, but that'll never happen."
So... your guess is as good as mine. We'll know in ten days when he makes his announcement.
Michigan Still In Mix For Glenville Duo
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt caught up with highly-touted 2014 Glenville teammates Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith to discuss their respective recruitments. Like Hand, both are playing it coy when it comes to naming a leader, even though Ohio State is the presumed destination for both (especially Lattimore; fitting Smith into the class could get difficult for OSU). Both have four official visits left to schedule—Alabama is already on the docket for each—and Michigan is in the running for both. Here's Lattimore ($):
"I am going to take all of my officials. I have to plan them with Marcelys Jones and Erick Smith," Lattimore said. "Ohio State, probably USC, I might try to get out to Oregon, probably Michigan and Louisville. I was always interested in all those schools, and will give them equal opportunity."
And Smith ($):
Alabama assistant coach Bobby Williams was at Glenville on Friday and Smith is looking at rescheduling that trip for sometime in December. He has a group of a half dozen schools who are in the mix for his remaining four official visits.
"I am not for sure, but I know Ohio State, Michigan, Louisville, Kentucky, Michigan State and Georgia Tech too - those are all up there," Smith said. "You could say those are the schools I am really looking at right now."
With Lattimore and Smith planning their trips together, it's fair to guess that OSU, Michigan, and Louisville (along with Bama) have an edge—those schools are mentioned by both prospects. It's tough to see Michigan beating out Alabama and Ohio State given how the season is playing out and the fact that neither are sure they'll take another trip to Ann Arbor.
Meanwhile, four-star MI DL Malik McDowell has scheduled his official visit to Florida and tells GatorCountry.com that he's in frequent contact with head coach Will Muschamp. He's another prospect who's very difficult to read; the very frequent trips to Ann Arbor—and playing on the same line with commit Lawrence Marshall—suggest Michigan holds an edge, but it's clear that he's serious about looking around.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Sheriron Jones, a must-read feature on a current commit, and a roundup of last weekend's high school action as playoff season gets under way.]