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.]
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.]
NITRO EXPLOSION NEON HIGHLIGHT CHROMETACULAR
This week marks the start of high school All-American bowl practices, which are already under way and feature eight Michigan commits: Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Michael Ferns, Drake Harris, Bryan Mone, Jabrill Peppers, Wilton Speight, Jared Wangler (Under Armour, all on Team Nitro), and Mason Cole (Army, Team East). At the start of day two, we've already had some Michigan-on-Michigan crime:
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
And subsequent trash talk:
Peppers screamed, "That's all day next year, Wilt" after his interception.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
The No. 2 player in the Rivals100 Presented by Under-Armour had never participated in a national-level event until now, so there was some intrigue surrounding his arrival in Florida.
So far, so good. Peppers was one of the top performers on Day 1. He was a nightmare in coverage and was beaten only once during one-on-one reps. He showed the speed to stay with smaller wide receivers and the strength to press larger ones. Peppers was aggressive without gambling and stood out like the country's No. 2 player should.
And today he received some lofty praise from former NFL head coach and standout defensive back Herm Edwards, especially when considering the spectacular performance of current Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves in the same game last year:
Herm Edwards told me in his three years coaching in the #UAALLAMERICA game, Jabrill Peppers is the best DB he's seen.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
There will be much more coverage of both All-American games in the next two roundups; the UA game—which may be difficult to watch without protective eyewear—kicks off on Thursday at 4 pm on ESPN, while the Army game is set for Saturday at 1 pm on NBC. Maize n Brew has an informative primer for both games, and MGoUser MJ14 posted a nice roundup of first-day practice reactions from the UA game.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest 2015 offer, updates on Malik McDowell, Cassius Peat, and Keisean Lucier-South, and more.]
Argh on you, club_med. Yes, I am flattered that you were inspired by my annual FEI-based bowl game watchability article, and I think it's great that you added Sagarin to it. Except now I actually have to find something else to write next Tuesday. Perhaps I'll do senior haikus.
I still can't believe
They pegged you as a safety
Here is your meat: raw.
Sorry Brian. You can do the next USCHO/RPI/Standings poll update from Center Ice. And he can take over LSA's weekly stat wrap, and LSA can take Best & Worst after the bowl game from bronxblue, who can do Inside the Box Score instead of ST3, and we'll send him to cover the press conference, and that'll be how we replace Heiko.
Season of Infinite Pain, Reviewed. "The Year of Infinite Pain" (glossary) was a name Brian came up with for 2005, before he knew what 2008 or 2009 or 2010 or 2013 could be like. Now diary giant Ron Utah is using "The Season of Infinite Pain" to describe this one. Not saying things won't improve, but, you know, that's just a might set up against two rivals who are peaking in a tough division, and a national competitive environment in which a lot of teams wantonly break the rules and ours doesn't. So just in case we need some more names:
- The Autumn of Infinite Pain
- The Time of Infinite Pain
- The Annum of Infinite Pain
- The Age of Infinite Pain
- The Span of Infinite Pain
- The Fiscal Year of Infinite Pain
If we are actually living in the last, here's guessing I don't make it past the 2014 Notre Dame game. If Dantonio and Urban get to 10 wins apiece against us there are several synonyms for "infinite" (eternal, interminable, perpetual, everlasting, boundless, incalculable, supertemporal) that may be substituted in various combinations.
Anyway Ron's wrap starts with the defensive line, which he gave a C+, but I think he's too high on Clark's season, too hard on Washington's (he was injured), and there needs to be more analysis of the heavy (ha!) rotational guys like Henry, Beyer, Ojemudia, Wormley, Heitzman and Pipkins.
Not on the Pistons, that's where. AC1997 is tracking Michigan guys in the NBA, as well as the transfers and dudes playing abroad. I'd love for this to be a regular monthly update for each season in action (so have a hockey one, and a baseball one, and football from August (free agent movement) through the Superbowl.
Etc. A quick statistical preview of Stanford, whom Michigan must beat lest they end the nonconference season without a signature win.
[Jump for Best of the Board and zen.]
Yes, Another 'Jabrill Peppers Is Staying' Header
Michigan's biggest official visit weekend, featuring nearly all of the 2014 commits plus running back target Vic Enwere, is now in the books, and it appears we can close the "Jabrill Peppers scares the bejeezus out of everybody" chapter. Peppers heard chants of his name at Crisler while cheering on the hoops squad, then tweeted out affirmation that he'll be in Ann Arbor next fall:
Ann Arbor it's been real, thanks for all the love, truly a memorable weekend! Team135 coming in with big plans! #GoBlizzyBlue
— Breezy (@JabrillPeppers) December 15, 2013
“Jabrill said he is 100 percent solid. He and I had a conversation away from the rest of the group on Saturday,” [Wilton] Speight said. “He said all he was looking to do was have fun on a couple visits, but that he is not interested in playing anywhere besides Michigan.”
Speight also said that 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, who was also on campus, is in the same boat as Peppers and "isn't going anywhere"—Crawford had recently mentioned interest in visiting Ohio State, though he'd maintained throughout that he was 100% committed to Michigan.
[UPDATE: As I hit publish, TomVH drops an article in which Crawford reaffirms his Michigan pledge, saying "the only trip I’ll be making to Columbus is for the Columbus Touchdown banquet." Huzzah.]
Multiple crises averted? It sure looks that way.
[Hit THE JUMP for Vic Enwere's visit reaction, the latest on a couple underclassmen prospects, and more.]
Jabrill Peppers Is Fast, Part Whatever
Oh, just Jabrill Peppers fielding a kickoff at the 0:21 mark, hauling down the far sideline—I like that sideline—and reaching the end zone at the 0:32 mark despite high-stepping the final few yards. 96 yards. 11 seconds. In full pads.
He's okay, I guess.
This weekend marks the time when just about every 2014 commit will take their official visit to Ann Arbor, including Peppers, who'll presumably have a nice chat with Brady Hoke about taking other visits—if he hasn't already been talked out of them by the coaches and his family, who've reportedly expressed their desire for Peppers to stick to his commitment.
According to multiple outlets, one uncommitted 2014 prospect will also take his official this weekend: three-star TX RB Vic Enwere, a current Cal commit. Enwere committed to Cal without ever visiting Berkeley—he's slated to visit there in January, and otherwise has no officials set up, so this is looks to be a two-team battle that could go either way. Enwere is now the only feasible target at running back to hold an offer, as CO ATH Kalen Ballage made a surprise commitment to Arizona State this week; he'd been expected to pledge to either Boise State or Michigan State.
The other visitor to keep an eye on is 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, who's recently stated an interest in visiting Ohio State. He's maintained all along that he's "100% committed" to Michigan, so hopefully a quick discussion about Hoke's job security—like Peppers, Crawford cited rumors about a potential coaching change as reason to look around—will dispel any desire to visit the Buckeyes.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, Tim Settle, a couple of four-star 2015 tackles, and more.]