I did not make this headline up
Today's recruiting roundup is football. Football!
After going to five games in two days over the weekend, I can officially declare it to be football season, not that I'm in a position to declare such things. But seriously: football is here, and a bunch of future Wolverines are playing it. This is not quite as exciting as current Wolverines taking the field on Saturday, but it's exciting nonetheless.
I'll have much, more more coming tomorrow, but Shane Morris opened his senior season in the shadow of the Big House at Ann Arbor Pioneer. After struggling early, throwing a pick on his first pass and starting just 2-for-9, he bounced back to finish 14-for-26 for 177 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that could've been better if not for several drops. He'll have to work on starting as strong as he finishes; he still looks like a five-star prospect. My brother and roommate each saw Morris for the first time on Friday, and all it took was one effortless launch of the football in warmups to convince them both that the hype is warranted. Morris makes throwing a football 60 yards look as easy and routine as brushing your teeth.
Cass Tech's tilt with Brother Rice—when not interrupted by shooting scares, again more on which tomorrow—was a classic battle that went down to the wire. The Technicians pulled out a 25-18 victory thanks to two Damon Webb touchdown catches—one on an end-around pass by Jourdan Lewis(!)—and a late 74-yard touchdown run by junior Gary Hosey. Lewis had an uneven performance at corner but had a big punt return on the only time Brother Rice didn't actively avoid him. David Dawson gave his usual stellar effort at left tackle, paving the way for big rushing efforts from Hosey and Deon Drake.
In the other game I saw this weekend featuring a Michigan commit, Khalid Hill caught three passes for 83 yards and a touchdown—coming on an impressive 65-yard catch-and-run—but it wasn't quite enough to lead East Lake Village over Oak Park. Hill looked impressive in the passing game but left a lot to be desired as a run blocker.
[After the jump, more football(!)]
Previously: In-State Primer
Yesterday, I went over the schedules of Michigan's in-state commits, highlighting certain matchups for this fall's Future Blue Originals. Today's out-of-state primer is going to look a little different, mostly because I didn't want to embed 20-something tables into this post. Last year we got some great reader submissions of scouting reports, photos, and even video of Michigan commits for games I could not attend. We'd love to get even more of those this year, so I've compiled a couple of handy resources that should make this easy to organize.
View Future Blue Originals Commit/Target Map in a larger map
Say you live in—to take a completely random example—eastern Ohio, and you're wondering how you could help the blog. Well, wonder no more. The map above features the high school locations for each of Michigan's 23 senior commits, as well as Detroit Loyola (Malik McDowell) and St. Clairsville (Michael Ferns). If you live close to any of the above locations and think you could contribute a passable scouting report, mark it down on the...
Handy Master Schedule
...master schedule for each of Michigan's commits and select targets. It's a Google Doc that I've made editable by the public (please use this privilege wisely); as you can see, games I'll be attending are in bold, followed by my name. If you plan to attend a game and submit a report, photos, or video, mark it down in the same fashion. If you're willing, please also include your email; if you (understandably) don't want it on a public document, just shoot me an email, but please make sure to still mark the game you're attending so others know what's covered as well.
If you're one of those people who watches a lot of football but you aren't sure you've got the chops to do a detailed report, please contact me anyway; I'm happy to give a few pointers about what to watch for a particular position or prospect. If we get enough user-submitted reports, I'll either include them in each week's FBO post or compile them in a weekly feature.
Now, on to the primer itself, broken down by region.
Eastern Ohio/Western Pennsylvania
CB Ross Douglas (2013 Commit), Avon High School, Avon (OH): Avon is coming off a 13-2 season that ended at the hands of Mike McCray, Cam Burrows, and their Trotwood-Madison squad in the Division II state title game. Douglas plays running back as well as corner for the Eagles, so there will be plenty to scout if you check him out.
LB Ben Gedeon (2013 Commit), Hudson High School, Hudson (OH): Hudson finished 10-2 in 2011, bowing out in the second round of the OHSAA playoffs. Gedeon does a little bit of everything, playing tight end, H-back, wide receiver, kick returner, and even quarterback. He might be the recruit I most wish lived three hours closer to Ann Arbor.
CB Gareon Conley (2013 Commit), Washington High School, Massillon (OH): Perennial powerhouse Massillon Washington had a down year by their standards in 2011, going 7-3 and missing the state playoffs. Conley managed to record four interceptions and nine PBUs last year despite playing much of the season in a cast; there's a good chance he'll be making big plays if you decide to head to a game.
RB DeVeon Smith (2013 Commit), Howland High School, Warren (OH): Howland's perfect 9-0 regular season in 2011 was spoiled with a first-round exit from the Division II playoffs. Smith has combined for just under 4,000 rushing yards over the last two seasons; if you're looking for a prospect that's easy to scout and will have plenty of opportunities to show his stuff, it's probably Smith.
S Dymonte Thomas (2013 Commit), Marlington High School, Alliance (OH): Marlington posted an 8-2 record in 2011, which wasn't quite good enough to earn them a spot in the state playoffs. Thomas rushed for 875 yards and 13 TDs as a running back while tallying 102 tackles and an interception on defense. In fact, I'd say he's the best guy to scout over Smith, but safety play is a little tougher to evaluate than a running back.
LB Michael Ferns (2014 Commit), St. Clairsville High School, St. Clairsville (OH): St. Clairsville finished 10-2 last season, going down in the second round of the Division IV playoffs. Ferns tallied 136 tackles at linebacker and also was a very dangerous weapon at both running back and tight end.
OL Patrick Kugler (2013 Commit), North Allegheny High School, Wexford (PA): North Allegheny advanced all the way to the state semifinals before suffering their first loss of the season in 2011.
TE Jake Butt (2013 Commit), Pickerington North High School, Pickerington (OH): Despite an 8-2 record, Pickerington North failed to make the playoffs last season. Butt starred at both tight end and defensive end, tallying 427 yards and seven TDs on offense and ten sacks on defense. I'm planning to watch North take on their cross-town rivals, who feature...
DE Taco Charlton (2013 Commit), Pickerington Central High School, Pickerington (OH): Central not only defeated North last season, they made it all the way to the Division I title game before falling to St. Ignatius. Charlton had 60 tackles and seven TFL as a situational player last year and should see his role expand this season.
WR Jaron Dukes (2013 Commit), Marion-Franklin High School, Columbus (OH): The Red Devils went 13-1 in 2011, losing only to Trotwood-Madison in the Division I state semifinals. Dukes contribted 36 catches for 673 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Marion-Franklin faces off against Pickerington Central on August 31st at 7:30 pm; I'll be in Dallas, so if someone could cover that game it would be a huge help.
Definitely Not The Columbus Area*
LB Mike McCray (2013 Commit), Trotwood-Madison High School, Trotwood (OH): Trotwood-Madison captured the Division II state title last season over Douglas's Avon squad to cap off a perfect 15-0 season. McCray had a big year statistically at linebacker—88 tackles, two forced fumbles, five interceptions, and three defensive touchdowns—and also contributed heavily at tight end. They open on August 26th with a televised game against Ft. Lauderdale University School.
*Apologies, Trotwood natives.
OL Kyle Bosch (2013 Commit), St. Francis High School, Wheaton (IL): St. Francis went 8-3 last season, falling in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs. Bosch earned all-area and all-state honors and should do the same this season.
OL Logan Tuley-Tillman (2013 Commit), Manual High School, Peoria (IL): Manual struggled to a 3-6 record last season. Tuley-Tillman will once again start at left tackle; his development is one to watch closely given his raw talent.
LS Scott Sypniewski (2013 Commit), Marquette High School, Ottawa (IL): Marquette finished just 2-7 last fall. Scouting the long snapper is probably quite unnecessary, but if you'd like to, it's a free country.
OL Chris Fox (2013 Commit), Ponderosa High School, Parker (CO): Ponderosa finished just 4-6 last season. Fox starred on both the offensive and defensive lines.
DT Maurice Hurst Jr. (2013 Commit), Xaverian Brothers High School, Westwood (MA): Xaverian Brothers went 6-5 in 2011. Hurst was a first-team all-state defensive tackle, and perhaps more impressively also toted the rock as a massive running back. Fat guy touchdowns, ahoy!
DT Henry Poggi (2013 Commit), Gilman School, Baltimore (MD): Gilman, coached by Poggi's father Biff, finished 10-1 in 2011 against an impressive schedule, with Henry posting ten sacks. This year Gilman opens against three powerhouse programs: Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller (8/26), Our Lady of Good Counsel (8/31), and Don Bosco Prep (9/8). Any one of those games would be great to attend and scout.
CB Channing Stribling (2013 Commit), Butler High School, Matthews (NC): Butler capped off an 11-2 season with a run to the Class 4AA state quarterfinals in 2011. Stribling excelled on both sides of the ball, catching eight touchdowns as a receiver and intercepting six passes at corner. As one of Michigan's least-scouted prospects, I'd love to hear reports on him, as well.
If you're able to attend any games for the above players—or the in-state recruits, as well—update the Google doc and send me an email. I'll be in contact with those who express interest in scouting as the season approaches.
Hey, kids. Ace is off for the next week and I return to recruiting roundup duties.
Poggi: I don't care that it's not pronounced like that, I'll get nostalgic for slammers anyway
I never played pogs so I may be off on the lingo. Anyway.
Anyway… MD DT Henry Poggi jumped on a Michigan offer recently, sending the usual folks to scouts to tell us what we've won. Mike Farrell makes it sound like we've won Ryan Van Bergen 2.0($):
There's not an ounce of baby fat left on him, and he's got a frame to hold 285 pounds without losing a step. The player Gilman assistant Henry Russell once said played with a "ridiculous" motor never came off the field between tight end and defensive tackle, but he never slowed down, either, "a tribute to his character." …
"Henry is athletic and quick, but he's very technically sound, too. He does a really good job with his arms and gets off the snap, doesn't lose balance. If you try to cut him or go low in traffic, he's very good at keeping his feet."
RVB barely came off the field in his last three years and always—always—kept his feet. Poggi is a bit shorter and may be more of a quick-twitch guy; otherwise that's a tight comparison.
I hear your Opening has an… opening
Nike's high-falutin' big time big timer camp with the artsy name continues to issue invitations to Michigan recruits. IL OL Kyle Bosch is the eighth Michigan commit to get a trip to Oregon paid for, joining Logan Tuley-Tillman, Shane Morris, David Dawson, Jourdan Lewis, Mike McCray, Taco Charlton, and Jake Butt. Serious targets Laquon Treadwell, Leon McQuay III, and Joe Mathis (hey, top three at this instant) are also scheduled to attend. That is a lot of names I would normally bold if they weren't crammed together so tightly.
I'll be most interested in how McCray, Butt, and LTT show up. By this point we know what Morris and Dawson and Lewis and Charlton are (probably) going to do; the previous three haven't been making as much noise on the camp scene or, in LTT's case, are working their way back into healthy shape.
Joe Mathis knows how to plan a visit
Tim Sullivan catches up with CA DE Joe Mathis, who backs off his stated top three of Washington, Nebraska, and Michigan a little bit in favor of a broader top ten, declares he'll officially visit Hawaii—a team not in his top ten—and says Michigan sees the 6'3", 245 pound end as (surprise!) a Baltimore Raven($):
"When they've talked to me, they want me to play like a Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens," he said. "That's kind of the defensive player they'd want me to be at Michigan, a standup defensive end."
That would make him a WDE, which is plausible. He also mentions probable officials to Arizona State and Michigan. If those come off like that you might begin to feel cautiously good about landing Mathis—an official to sort of stated leader but not other sort of stated leaders would seem to bode well. Except this is one of those shapeshifting recruits, so… yeah. In an article just a day later($), Mathis says he'll visit Michigan and Washington officially but isn't sure about going back to Nebraska because he was there for four days and thus risks death by boredom if he ever returns*. In an article a day after that one($), Mathis says he is "definitely" visiting Michigan for the OSU game—which is in Columbus—and may go to LSU for their game against Alabama.
Next week: Mathis declares Miami his leader and that he is a peanut butterfly.
*[this may not be an exact quote]
2014 Caremeter: incrementing
The pool of 2014 players who are not random names to be googled if they become relevant at a future date incremented by one after the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp when Cass Tech CB/WR Damon Webb picked up a Michigan offer. He joins DE Malik McDowell as an in-state kid with an offer widely regarded to be a Michigan lean; add in Todd Howard protégé Parrker Westphal—still not a typo—and those are your contenders for first 2014 commit. Ace covered Webb's impressive performance at the SMSB camp yesterday…
Webb turned heads a couple weeks ago when he blanketed Laquon Treadwell at the IMG 7-on-7 and he built on that with an MVP-worthy performance yesterday. Despite being a year younger, Webb has more bulk on his 5'11" frame than his teammate Jourdan Lewis, and like Lewis he's an outstanding athlete.
Also like Lewis, Webb can play either wide receiver or cornerback at the next level, though his size suggests that corner is his optimal position. He was fantastic playing corner in the one-on-one drills, staying step-for-step with Lewis—though Jourdan managed to bring in a diving catch—and 2013 Notre Dame commit James Onwualu, who was torching the less-heralded prospects. Webb faced Onwualu three times, and aside from slipping on a hitch route, he came out on top.
…and someone asked Allen Trieu for a instate top ten($) on the Scout message board that featured Webb #3 behind McDowell and Grand Rapids dual-sport star Drake Harris, who will play wideout if he picks football for college. Those three players were a cut above a trailing group of nine including all three Cass linebackers and yet another Bullough from Traverse City who will be an early commit to Michigan State. This one's named Byron.
Webb looks like he'll extend Cass Tech's streak of sending a corner recruit to a BCS school to a remarkable six straight years. They're even growing them a little bigger these days.
As for where Webb might end up…
“It would play a factor,” he explained. “I’d be comfortable there. I’d know that. And that’s a main factor - feeling comfortable.”
“I’m looking for comfortablity in a college and I would like my parents to come see me and play. That’s a big factor too. If I’m comfortable there, and then the education – if they have my major and what I plan to study.”
…Michigan's in decent shape.
As for McDowell, Matt Pargoff caught up with him. He's playing it cool these days:
“I went for the spring game … Michigan was real fun. All the coaches had their attention on me. I got to talk to all the coaches besides Brady Hoke. He was stuck talking to reporters.
“It was real fun. The crowd was real hyped. It wasn’t as big as a normal Big House game, but it was still fun.”
He says a decision won't come until he's in the midst of his senior year. I bet that timeline changes.
Elsewhere in 2014 recruits to maybe care about some, early five-star OL Damian Prince tells 247 he's "really interested($)" in Michigan and Tremendous catches up with FL OL Mason Cole, who claims offers from M, OSU, and Florida amongst others. Cole moved from Chicago when he was eight and still has a ton of family in the area; he's also planning a visit in early August. He'll be one to keep an eye on.
Other SMSB Takes
You've read Ace's take on things from the camp unless you're a bad person. Others are also saying things about activities. 247's Clint Brewster($) on Shane Morris's showing:
Morris dropped-jaws with his impeccable footwork and ultra-quick release. Morris is so smooth and sound in his mechanics and can effortlessly fire the ball down field with just a quick flick of his wrist. Morris has also bulked up to over 200 pounds of solid muscle. The future couldn’t look any brighter for Michigan with Morris under center.
I'll take it. The rest of the article continues in that vein about Michigan recruits, though, so you may want to take that with a grain of salt.
Maize and Blue News has takes on the relevant folks in attendance, and the evaluations are on the more credible end of things. Pargoff's take on LTT:
OL Logan Tuley-Tillman – Peoria (Ill.)
Tuley-Tillman noted that he has lost a fair amount of weight recently, but still has some pounds to drop. The latter part of that statement was evident, though the improved conditioning appeared to help his game. He wasn’t as impressive as Dawson, but had a solid showing overall. There were some good reps and some not so good ones.
The biggest area for improvement right now remains conditioning. He has the feet and the athleticism to play at the Big Ten level, but he still needs to drop some fat and replace it with muscle.
Webb, Dawson, York, and Morris also feature.
Josh Helmholdt also breaks down the OL and DL. David Dawson:
Dawson only attended the first day of the camp, but was the standout of the offensive line group as he has been at several of the recent camps he has attended in the last few months. Physically, Dawson is starting to develop his upper body, which was an area that was lacking earlier in his career. His strength, as a result, has also improved and he is unbeatable once he locks on to defenders. Dawson always brings a passion to compete and shows good leadership skills as well.
Malik McDowell, meanwhile, arrived at the camp looking "noticeably thicker" and is now a strapping 280 pounds. LTT "did a good job handling a very capable group of speed rushers and was much lighter on his feet than his last performance."
Allen Trieu's defensive recap says McDowell was possibly the best player there despite being a rising junior($) and has the usual level of praise for Jourdan Lewis:
Michigan commit Jourdan Lewis again locked up nearly everyone he went up against. He has great feet, change of direction and excellent ball skills. His long arms allow him to play a little bigger than his listed size too.
OH WR Jaron Dukes is committed to Michigan, and Michigan is committed to him. This is news because one of the Ohio State insiders ("Nevadabuck," if you follow things closely enough to have heard of random internet insiders with occasionally-accurate information and a massively inflated view of themselves) claimed that Michigan was dropping the kid. A flurry of worried phone calls later and there's the usual array of clearing-the-air-type articles($).
Nothing to see here, etc. Michigan loves them some oversized WRs with large catching radii, and Dukes is that in spades.
CA WR Darren Carrington, a new offeree from Hoke's old stomping grounds in San Diego, is tentatively planning on camping($). 2014 IL LB Clifton Garrett plans a visit to Michigan($) for the BBQ. GRIII's younger brother, 2014 IN LB Gelen Robinson, will attend Michigan's camp($). Here's an article on… guh… a class of 2015 QB from Canada. Already 6'5", though. 2014 OH QB DeShone Kizer on a recent Illinois offer($): ""Being from Ohio, I really don't know a lot about Illinois yet." Ouch.
Two OL Michigan would normally be in on but for having all the OL already: Cass Tech OL Dennis Finley has just blown up, getting offers from Wisconsin, MSU, and OSU after his SMSB showing, and Eleven Warriors talks with OH OL Matt Miller, the younger brother of center heir apparent Jack Miller, after his appearance at OSU's camp.
Things are relatively quiet on the recruiting front at the moment, but here's an update on weekend visitors, players planning to attend the spring game, and more.
Weekend Visitors, Webb on Webb, Spring Game, Etc.
The list is short this week, with Washington (DC) Gonzaga CB Devin Butler the only uncommitted 2013 prospect slated to be on campus ($). Butler currently has Penn State as his leader, but the Wolverines are among a group of nine schools also in contention for his services.
Other visitors this weekend include 2013 commits Jake Butt and Jaron Dukes, and once again Cass Tech will be well represented—2014 WR Damon Webb, 2014 RB/DB Johnny Miggins, and 2015 QB Jayru Campbell will make the short trip to Ann Arbor.
Meanwhile, top receiver target Laquon Treadwell told Chantel Jennings that he'll visit for a spring practice in the first week of April ($, info in header). That will be Treadwell's fifth visit to Ann Arbor, but he still maintains that he won't make a decision until after his senior season.
The big visit weekend, however, will be when Michigan takes the field for the spring game on April 14th. One top-flight prospect who will be on campus is Erial (NJ) Timber Creek DT Greg Webb, who was the subject of Sam Webb's latest DetNews feature. Greg Webb's father earns major bonus points for saying Mike Martin and Iowa's Mike Daniels are two of his favorite D-linemen, because "they're undersized and they're badgers." The elder Webb also shed some light on the mindset of recruits who are witnessing a rather unprecedented rush to commit early:
"Michigan already (received verbal commitments from) 16 kids," Mr. Webb stated. "They're almost finished with their class. If you look at schools like Ohio State, they don't have as many scholarships (to offer). They're probably going to only take two or three D-tackles. You have to look at the numbers. If the schools you want to go to already have 16 or 17 commits, or they're only taking three more (players at your position), I don't think you can wait until signing day. A lot of the schools that he likes are a lot of the higher-profile schools. They're all going to fill up quick, so really I think we're going to have to look how things are going the next two or three months and see (if its best to make an early decision)."
With Michigan likely taking just two more defensive linemen—and also being in strong position with DT Henry Poggi—there could certainly be extra pressure on Webb to commit early if he wants a spot in the class.
Webb won't be the only elite D-lineman on campus for the spring game, either, as four-star SDE Joey Bosa will also be in attendance ($). Bosa currently has Michigan in his top six, but the competition—Florida State, Florida, Alabama, Wisconsin, and Ohio State—is stiff. Two other recruits who will be in that weekend are Cleveland Glenville S Christopher Worley (confusing, I know), who's currently holding offers from Arkansas, Bowling Green, and West Virginia ($), and 2014 Mequon (WI) Homestead DT Brandon Hines, who'll visit Ann Arbor on the 13th before checking out Iowa ($).
Quickly: Columbus (OH) Walnut Ridge WR Rob Wheelwright holds an offer, has Michigan in his top group, and is setting up a visit with coach Jerry Montgomery ($). Santa Monica (CA) WR Sebastian LaRue has "high interest" in the Wolverines and plans on taking a spring or summer visit ($). Grand Blanc (MI) DE Daniel Davis has been hearing from Michigan recently and plans to visit next week ($). TomVH on Michigan targeting several bigger cornerbacks in the 2013 class ($).
Michigan hauled in their 12th commitment of the class of 2013 yesterday when Columbus (OH) Marion-Franklin WR Jaron Dukes pledged to the Wolverines. The 6'5", 200-pound receiver fills a position of huge need for Michigan, and the Wolverine lifer could barely contain his excitement about the commitment. I spoke to Jaron yesterday evening, just hours after he committed, and we talked about why he chose Michigan, how he feels being in Columbus as a Wolverine, his game against Cam Burrows, and more:
ACE: What made you decide that today was going to be the day to commit?
JARON: I don't know. It was more my coach's decision. He was like, "I can tell. You know what, I can see it in your heart, and I see it in your eyes, and I know that's where you want to go." My family, my mom, they said, "I think it's time, go ahead," and I was like "ahhhhhhh." Then I just went ahead and did it.
ACE: I know you had a great time on your visit a couple weeks ago. Has it pretty much been in your mind to commit since then and you were just waiting for the right time?
JARON: Yeah, I was just waiting on the right time. I was going to wait and do what my mother said, go see more colleges, get the full experience and everything. What nudged it on was a lot of the pressure, it's a lot of pressure.
ACE: Did the fact that Michigan got eight commits over the weekend have any effect at all? Did you take notice when that went down last weekend?
JARON: I heard, but I really wasn't hesitating much. I was talking to Taco [Charlton], he committed, and he was telling me it felt right for him. I've been talking to him a lot. Having somebody that I know that's going to be there made me even more comfortable about going there.
ACE: Have you been talking to any of the other guys who committed to Michigan?
JARON: The only people I've been talking to are Shane [Morris] and Taco.
ACE: What did Shane tell you?
JARON: He was telling me to just come join the family, that we're going to take the top. He was just telling me this and that. I could see that he had as much love for Michigan, as much as I did, maybe even more (laughs).
ACE: What set Michigan apart from the other schools you were considering?
JARON: They actually got my mom to be quiet, once (laughs). They answered all her questions, they answered all my questions, it was just the perfect place. It felt like it was built for me. It just felt right. It just felt like that was the place for me, and why wait?
ACE: What made the coaching staff different from the other coaching staffs that you were in contact with?
JARON: They wouldn't just all play. You know, "Hey, all right, how you doing, man? We're going to have a great time up here, you're going to do this, do that, we're going to be awesome." They sat me down and they were real with me. I felt a connection already. I've seen that they love their players, they love their family; actually, Michigan is their family. It just felt like a good vibe. They were real, they said we're going to work, but we're going to have fun at the same time, because you're going to love what you do. You're going to be proud waking up in the morning and putting on that Maize and Blue. I wanted to be a part of that.
ACE: Being from Columbus, do you feel safe down there being a Michigan commit right now?*
JARON: No (laughs). No I do not. I got messages in my inbox from fans going, "boo go away, y'all suck," when I committed. I'm not affected by it. I made my decision. I'm happy with my decision. People that support me, thank you, I won't let you down, and I won't let my teammates down. People who don't, I'm sorry, but this is my life, and I have to live it.
ACE: There's been a lot of attention, just in the hours since you committed, about you playing against Cam Burrows in the playoffs last year and putting up some pretty good numbers. Are you looking forward to matching up against him again in college?
JARON: Oh, yeah. I would love to keep going against him. He's a great guy. It's fun. After the game, and when I got hurt, he was cool; he came over and he was talking, we were having a good conversation and everything. I have nothing against him. He was a great person, so it's fun going against people you know and it's cool that you can just showcase your talent.
ACE: If you had to boil down why you chose Michigan into a few words, what would they be?
JARON: Family, love, dedication, hard work, honesty, and trust.
*Just to be clear, that question was entirely (okay, mostly) in jest, and Jaron took it that way, too.
Sam Webb just broke the news on Twitter; yes, Michigan has picked up another commit:
Columbus Marion-Franklin HS WR Jaron Dukes has pledged to #Michigan
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) February 22, 2012
LOL my life. Informative update forthcoming.
Informative Update: According to Michael Spath of The Wolverine, Dukes is the first-ever offensive skill position player from Columbus to commit to Michigan, which is pretty mind-boggling. Despite growing up in the heart of Buckeye country, Dukes actually is a lifelong Michigan fan, and he told me that he got emotional running onto the field at the Big House when he visited a couple weekends ago. Despite his trip going as well as it possibly could, he wanted to make sure he took the time to think things over and talk to his parents and coaches before coming to a decision; it appears he's thought things through.
|NR WR||NR WR||NR WR||3*, 87, #63 WR|
As you can see, Dukes is flying under the radar right now and has yet to be ranked by any of the recruiting services, though I expect that will change soon now that he's committed to Michigan [EDIT: Talk about your quickly-fulfilled predictions; 24/7 just gave Dukes a three-star rating]. Though Dukes is listed at anywhere between 6'2" and 6'5" in his recruiting profiles, recent observations peg him at a legit 6'5", 200 pounds; he's definitely the big type of wideout that Al Borges has been looking for.
Bucknuts listed Dukes as their #29 prospect in Ohio for the class of 2013, and their evaluation included this quote from scout Mark Porter ($):
“He’s the biggest wide receiver in the class. He’s not as big as TY Williams a couple of years ago. But he has great size and is useful down around the goal line. He had a nice game against Trotwood.”
In that game against Trotwood—playing against cornerback and consensus top player in Ohio, Buckeye commit Cam Burrows—Dukes tallied six catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Scout's Dave Berk was on hand for that game, and while there are questions surrounding Dukes's speed, he seems to think that won't be a big issue ($):
At 6-foot-5, 200-pounds, Dukes has the physical size Notre Dame coaches love from the wide receiver position. Besides his size, Dukes showed surprising speed during his six-catch, 173-yard two-touchdown performance.
On one of Duke’s [sic] two touchdowns, Burrows had the angle to make the stop, but Dukes showed a burst that sent him past the standout corner that already holds an early offer from the Irish.
A recent Tim Sullivan feature talked about the strength of Jaron's game—his ability to high-point the football, a la Junior Hemingway—and had a glowing quote from his head coach ($):
Whichever school he does ultimately pick will be getting a talented wideout. Standing 6-5 and weighing 197 pounds, he's a physically-imposing receiver who can use his mass to shield defenders - and make blocks on the edge. He also has the body control to high-point the ball once it's in the air, and a knack for making plays after the catch.
"He's 6-4 or 6-5 legit, 200 pounds, he runs a 4.6," said Coach Haffele. "He has great ball skills catching the ball. He's a pretty good blocker. All that god-given talent he has. And then, once you meet the kid and talk to him, that's the selling point. He's just such a great kid."
We'll see about that 4.6; Dukes himself knows that he has to work on his speed to take his game to the next level, and he told me as much when I first interviewed him before his visit:
JARON: My biggest strengths are being able to read the secondary, keeping a level head, going out there and having fun and being able to go out and catch, just catch the ball. I would love to get faster. They keep telling me speed kills, so I want to be the fastest one out there. I want to be the fastest one on the field.
As you'll see on film, Dukes is very reminiscent of Hemingway in his ability to go up and get the football. His speed doesn't stand out, though he's clearly working on changing that fact. Burner or no, he'll provide a big downfield target for Shane Morris and he should be a major weapon in the red zone.
Dukes also held offers from Illinois and Toledo while garnering interest from Cincinnati, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State; he visited OSU multiple times before reaching his decision, though he did not hold an offer.
Dukes told me he had 36 catches for 673 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists a 40 time of 4.6 seconds, the time his coach claims he ran. Seeing Dukes on tape, I have to give that a four FAKEs out of five; he's going to have to work on his speed, as has been said above, including by Jaron himself.
Junior highlights from ScoutingOhio:
It's difficult to get a read on his route-running from that short clip; hopefully more video surfaces in the near future, as there isn't even paywalled tape on Rivals right now.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
The evidence is flimsy indeed, but Dukes—like every receiver from the 2012 and 2013 class—is going to have every opportunity to compete for playing time right away. When Dukes arrives on campus, the Wolverines will have just six returning wideouts—Jeremy Jackson (SR), Jeremy Gallon (SR), Drew Dileo (SR), Jerald Robinson (JR), Amara Darboh (SO), and Jehu Chesson (SO)—and the only players with even comparable size are Jackson and Chesson, who both stand at 6'3".
That said, Dukes is a developmental prospect, and it seems likely he'll take a redshirt year as long as the Wolverines don't suffer attrition, especially if they can bring in a blue-chip prospect like Laquon Treadwell in the 2013 class. Dukes appears to be a late-bloomer—he told me his coaches said he "couldn't catch a cold" as a freshman—so there's a chance he makes a big leap up in the rankings and changes that opinion. With little film to go on, for now I see him as another Hemingway type; a big receiver who uses his body well and is a deep threat by virtue of his size and leaping ability, but not a burner who's going to be a steady possession receiver.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has 12 commits in the class of 2013, almost certainly more than half of what they'll take in a class projected to fill out at around 20-22 players. Dukes represents a player of major need at receiver, and the Wolverines will take at least one more player at the position; Treadwell seems to be the leader in the clubhouse for that spot, but Michigan has 14 other offers out to uncommitted prospects. Other positions of need include one more offensive lineman, an every-down running back, nose tackle, and depth in the back seven, specifically at linebacker (likely just one, and M can be picky) and cornerback.
Brady Hoke... I really just don't know what else there is to say about his—and his coaching staff's—effort on the recruiting trail. I've run out of platitudes, but this class is already on pace to be one of the top five—at least—in the country. It's still February. This is relatively unprecedented, but you know that already.