the season has truly begun now
This GIS went much better than expected.
This feature on Wilton Speight has perhaps the least informative headline ever; that's okay, though, because it comes from The Goochland Gazette, and [keels over laughing].
Okay, pull yourself together, post rapturous blockquote:
Standing in a huddle on the sideline with his teammates just before kickoff, he towers over his running backs and offensive line by a good five inches. He gestures confidently, like a conductor fully in charge of an orchestra, wholly in tune with and in charge of his surroundings.
The next thing that strikes your attention is that beautiful spiral. Tight and wind-resistance, he hums the pigskin all over the yard, from sideline-to-sideline, completing every route in the playbook - hitches, curls, posts, outs, you name it — with uniform ease. Comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger are a given, not only because of his 6’6, 230 pound frame, but also due to his surprisingly nimble feet and his innate ability to prolong plays and spin productive downs out of would-be sacks.
CA ATH JuJu Smith was always considered a longshot to end up at Michigan, even though he'd previously scheduled an official visit for the Ohio State game. After very positive visits to Notre Dame, Ohio State, and new contender Oregon, Smith dropped the Wolverines from his list, citing their less-than-stellar performance:
JuJu Smith said he thinks Michigan is a great school, but not a fit for him. Cancelled his visit said losses caused them to drop on his list
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) November 5, 2013
Before PANIC sets in, please note that this is relatively unusual; yes, of course winning helps recruiting, but normally a team's win/loss record affects the next class more than the current one (in this case, Michigan isn't doing itself any favors for 2015). If you click through to Tom's tweet, you'll note that he responds to someone stating that Da'Shawn Hand may feel the same way with a straightforward "No, I don't think that." Along those same lines...
There is no way that I would change my mind over 1 loss, the future is bright! Go blue 〽
— Drake Harris (@drizzygetbusy01) November 5, 2013
Now, does Michigan's demoralizing loss to State potentially affect 2015 in-state recruits like Mike Weber, Josh Alabi, and Brian Cole? Absolutely. To Michigan kids who've now seen MSU take five of the last six games, the Spartans are now the state's top football program—and the most stable one. That doesn't mean they won't consider U-M—the flip side to this is a recruit sees plenty of opportunity to help bring a traditionally strong program back to the top—but at the same time, it obviously doesn't help.
Hand's Final Visit
Da'Shawn Hand's final official visit comes on Saturday when he watches 4-4 Florida take on Vanderbilt; while the Gators were once considered a potential dark horse, a season even uglier than Michigan's has robbed them of any momentum, especially with coach Will Muschamp squarely on the hot seat (while a team's record doesn't have a huge effect on most recruits, the coach recruiting them potentially not having a job next year usually does). Rivals's Mike Farrell, who's the recruiting reporter in closest regular contact with Hand, says in his latest column that he thinks Michigan holds a slight edge over Alabama ($). It's hard to see Florida jumping into the mix with Hand's announcement coming a week from today.
The M Block's Eric Rutter pens a lengthy, quote-filled feature on 2014 commit Chase Winovich, covering his season, playing both ways this year, his friendship with fellow Pennsylvanian Sterling Jenkins (both plan to visit for the OSU game), and his feelings on Hand and Malik McDowell:
Chase then went on to share his thoughts on how Michigan will close the 2014 class, focusing specifically on defensive line prospects Malik McDowell and DaShawn Hand. "I have a gut feeling that Malik McDowell will go to Michigan. I'm not to sold on [DaShawn] Hand yet, but people seem pretty, pretty, really, really confident that they know their stuff and say he's headed to Michigan. So I'm going to trust them and say, yeah, I hope he's going to Michigan. But like I said, I definitely have that gut feeling on Malik McDowell." This would put the finishing touches on a strong class that ranks among the best in the country for 2014.
Winovich is apparently taking his recruiting guru cues from Sam Webb.
If you've got a 247 subscription, Clint Brewster looks at five candidates to be Michigan's next 2015 commit ($).
247 released their Crystal Ball rankings; I'm currently ranked #40 (out of 194, so... I'll take it!) for 2014 and, thanks to Michigan's early efforts, am all the way up at #16 for the class of 2015.
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 Peter Principle Has Its Limits...
...those limits include allowing 62 points to Arizona State, apparently. (Photo: USA Today)
USC fired Lane Kiffin upon his return to Los Angeles after the Trojans fell 62-41 at Arizona State, their seventh loss in the last 11 games. The method? Coooooold bloooooded.
Lane Kiffin remained on the bus when a #USC administrator blocked the gate and stopped bus, asking Kiffin to step off
— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) September 30, 2013
Lane Kiffin told bus to stay but adminisrator told driver to go to #USC with Kiffin's briefcase still on the bus
— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) September 30, 2013
Pat Haden then fired Lane Kiffin in parking lot at Landmark Aviation at LAX. A football staff member then got sent to USC to get briefcase
— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) September 30, 2013
The InsideUSC feed is a font of Kiffin schadenfreude; the players are just as happy as the admistrators to get rid of him, it appears. When you're done enjoying that, it's time to address the truly important question: how does Kiffin's firing affect Michigan's recruiting?
In all likelihood, not a great deal. Kiffin's firing at this juncture not only boosts USC's morale for the rest of the season—more importantly, it gives them a jump start on reeling in a big-name replacement, and the Trojans program carries enough cachet that the list of potential successors is quite distinguished. USC may experience a dip in recruiting efforts while they wait to find the right replacement; if they hire a coach worthy of the program—and I'm assuming they will—then they should be back to full speed for the 2015 class. Those in need of an example of how this works at powerhouse programs need only look at Michigan's recruiting efforts once Brady Hoke got to recruit for a full cycle.
There is, however, an opening in the 2014 class, as USC is one of the schools competing with Michigan for CA ATH John "JuJu" Smith—the childhood USC fan had already read the tea leaves, per 247:
Similar to five-star Adoree’ Jackson, Smith is one of the most highly recruited uncommitted prospects out west and is a five-star prospect that could play either side of the football. Also similar to Jackson, Smith is a major USC priority and hails from a talent factory at Long Beach Poly.
“I already knew it was coming. So it doesn’t change anything until they do something.”
Smith seems to have cooled on USC since Kiffin's job security came under serious question; while the right hire could get the Trojans right back in the mix, there's a real chance that he heads out of state, with official visits already lined up to Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Oregon. UCLA is also in the mix. Pulling blue-chip recruits out of California is never easy, but Michigan's done so before, and Smith is actually in contact with one such player who hails from the same high school, per The Wolverine's Andy Reid ($):
"Michigan hasn't offered a kid from Poly since Donovan Warren. I'm the one that's next. I've talked a bit to him, good kid. Just saying the name 'Donovan Warren' is like saying Michigan right off the bat at Poly."
That's a good sign, as is Michigan getting Smith's final official visit. With such fierce competition for his signature—look out for Oregon, as Smith cancelled an Ole Miss official to get them on his schedule—and five visits to go, his recruitment could go in just about any direction; that includes USC if they make the right hire at the right time.
[Hit THE JUMP for Wilton Speight's thoughts on Da'Shawn Hand, a wrapup of Michigan commit performances from last weekend, and more.]
Shaun Crawford, Mini-Jabrill
A much-anticipated matchup between Cleveland.com's top-ranked Cleveland St. Edward squad and #9 Cincinnati Elder didn't live up to the hype, as St. Eds ran away with a 48-7 victory. Much of the credit for the blowout goes to 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, whose stat line looks like one posted by a certain other defensive back headed for Ann Arbor:
@TomVH Shaun Crawford: 9 carries, 124 yds, 2 TDs 3 receptions, 28 yds, 1 punt return 63 yds, TD, 1 kick return 25 yds. 240 all-purpose yds
— Brad Bournival (@bbournival) September 22, 2013
Yes, it appears Michigan may have the best player on the best team in Ohio, and he's only a junior. This is nice.
Jabrill Peppers, Still Jabrill
2014 commit Jabrill Peppers, meanwhile, did a little bit of everything to lead Paramus Catholic to a 35-21 victory over DePaul. Peppers rushed seven times for 41 yards, caught four passes for 49 yards and a TD, returned a kickoff for 47 yards, tallied four solo tackles, recorded three pass defenses, and returned an interception 32 yards for another TD.
[Hit THE JUMP for more outstanding performances by Michigan commits, plus an interesting development in JuJu Smith's recruitment.]
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.]
Ace: off. That is not a John Woo movie, but rather a state of things. Fearless Leader steps into the breach. I probably shouldn't call myself that.
Kiss the baby
For some reason, that's what MD WR commit Freddy Canteen wants to make defensive backs do. I don't know why, but I do know I've watched the footwork video another three times. Stupid mesmerizing footwork video.
Anyway, Canteen's team is continuing to tour camps and 7-on-7 events. Last week's event was a good one for baby-kissing coercion. Scout's Brian Dohn:
…like he did so many other times in the last few months, covering him at the 7-on-7 was virtually impossible.
Canteen used his speed and route-running technique to set up cornerbacks all day en route to Eastern Christian Academy (Elkton, Md.) winning the title. If he wasn’t catching 5-yard in routes, he was using his speed to blow past the cornerback and beat the safety for deep scores, and it should come as little surprise.
Tennessee was actually recruiting him as a corner; Scout's now listing him at 6'1", and Rivals says he's 6'2" and change now. His role in the offense:
“I did what I regularly do; route running, technique, speed, hands,” he said. “I’ve worked on everything. I think I got better everywhere. (Michigan) liked my route-running. With them having all the 6-4, 6-5 commits, I offer a different game. I can play the slot and I can play outside. I can return kicks.”
I was always fine with Canteen's addition to the class and each new report amps the enthusiasm. Could be a sleeper of the year… d'awww he's got four stars on Rivals. I think I have to relax that requirement: with four sites to track, dang near everyone who ends up at Michigan is going to look shiny in someone's eyes. Canteen might not even make the sleeper cut with relaxed requirements, though, as Dohn said Canteen has "a very good shot" to get a fourth star as soon as his team plays some, you know, games.
Minor downer: MD CB commit Brandon Watson "good, not great" in Dohn's eyes.
Merph: Tranquill Moving Towards Happy Trails
I was all about the possibility of adding IN LB Drue Tranquill after he had great performances at both SMSB and Michigan's camp, but it seems like Noah Furbush dropping has pushed Tranquill out of the class. Without an offer from M or ND, Tranquill looks to be taking his talents to West Lafayette:
While Tranquill doesn’t have his mind made up just yet, he is certainly leaning toward one school.
“I have a good idea [about the decision],” Tranqull said. “Obviously, Purdue has been my top school. Unless something jumps out, they’re the one to beat.”
I like S/LB hybrids who can play nickel or WLB, and don't see one in this class. Maybe Gedeon in the last, I guess?
It is possible that Michigan could come back later in the year and flip the kid. Sounds like the door isn't totally closed:
Notre Dame and Michigan were also in that top group to start the month, though neither has offered. Michigan picked up a linebacker commitment shortly after Tranquill camped with the Wolverines. Communication is still ongoing there, but the timetable for a potential offer has been pushed back.
If they end up with a spot late they could do worse. Yes, Purdue, we can drink your milkshake like that.
HANDPOCA—actually a rather small Hand item
— Tim Sullivan (@TimS_Wolverine) July 16, 2013
A Man Who Knows How To Travel
CA S JuJu Smith is a man with many traits to envy, like his nickname and ability to run and tackle a deer. But near the top of the list is his knack for scheduling official visits:
The 6-foot-1, 206-pound athlete had official visits scheduled to Michigan on Sept. 6 and Notre Dame on Oct. 18. Recently, he added to those with trips to Ohio State on Sept. 27 and Alabama on Nov. 8. He'll see the Wolverines host Notre Dame, the Irish host USC, the Buckeyes host Wisconsin and the Crimson Tide host LSU. Smith also will take an official visit to Mississippi, though he hasn't set a date for that trip at this point.
Dang son. UCLA and USC are also in the mix. Wisconsin is claimed to be, but the team that isn't local and doesn't get a visit is not actually in contention. Smith's all over the place with his quotes. This article has one that is unfriendly to M's chances, maybe:
"Everybody says it's the best league, and you get a chance to compete against the best of the best," Smith said. "Staying home is good too, but I feel like going out and competing against the best will make me a better player."
"It" is the SEC, of course. That does sound like a guy leaving the West Coast, at least.
Smith just lit up a 7 on 7 out west:
Smith turned in arguably his best performance this offseason. Early in the day against powerhouse Serra, the four-star standout caught two touchdown passes at receiver and picked off a pass playing safety. There are times when Smith gets lost in the shuffle, but he has the ability to dominate on both sides of the ball. He looked unstoppable at receiver and safety.
Michigan's hired a track coach. Why is this in a recruiting roundup? CA CB Adoree Jackson and his Olympic long-jump hopes. Let's check the new guy's bio:
During Clayton's 15 seasons at Auburn (1998-2013), the Tigers won the 2006 NCAA Women's Outdoor Track and Field championship. He helped Auburn to 18 top-10 finishes at the NCAA Track and Field Championships (indoor and outdoor), including 10 top-five finishes. Clayton personally coached 10 NCAA national champions, had his student-athletes earn 51 All-America honors and 34 SEC individual titles. He had 79 performers qualify for the NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Wait, what? Michigan hired Auburn's head track coach? Weird. So… the guy's established, has a lot of success, and married a long-jump All-American. If Michigan won't let Jackson run track as a freshman that's probably all for naught but it sounds like short of importing Baylor's program Michigan's done as well as they could with that hire, in both Jackson-acquisition and hey-this-guy-runs-the-track-program departments.
Not likely to matter in the end, though. FWIW, Jackson gave an interview to ESPN in which he says little except he's going all the way to Signing Day with his decision; he told Rivals his list has actually expanded by adding Oregon and Oklahoma.
2015 OH S Tyree Kinnel was reputed to be a guy who might drop for Michigan the instant he got an offer. An offer has not come yet, and he seems a bit frustrated:
"I’ve heard a little bit from Michigan since I camped there,” he said. “I know they want to follow me this fall. But I don’t know what is holding them back from offering me as they’ve told me they really want me with them.”
Kinnel's a little small for Michigan's tastes but camp observers thought he played very well.
Mayor this commissioner, water general
Sam Webb hits up uber-2015 WR George Campbell:
"Me and Tay grew up together ever since we were little kids, so we’re like brothers and we have a close bond,” Campbell said. “So it’s kind of a big impact what he chooses, but at the same time I have to do what’s best for me and choose my school for me."
Stupid Clemson. Campbell is planning on being at the BBQ, so there's that. He plans on waiting a while.
Soon-to-be-retracted Malik McDowell leader opinion
This one comes from his dad, so may have some staying power:
“In my opinion I believe [Michigan and Michigan State] are the front runners,” Greg McDowell, Malik’s father told 247Sports. “By us being here located in Michigan and him getting to those schools as much as he has, those are the ones heavy on his mind.
“He’s had the opportunity to go to both schools and everything they do to invite him out to games and practices, they’re top contenders and rank right up there. But he wants to visit other schools and get a feel for what they’re about and get a sense for the direction he wants to go.”
They're headed south to some SEC heavyweights in the fall, and they may provide some competition. It has long seemed like McDowell is just waiting around to commit to M, but Treadwell and etc etc etc. I'll eat my hat if he goes to State, though.
PA S Montae Nicholson has made an exciting cut to… twelve schools. Nevermind. Michigan is on said list. He's planning on taking all his officials. He did say he's "built really good relationships pretty much the entire staff up there."
Michigan to make 2015 FL RB Jacques Patrick's top ten. 2015 MI RB Mikey Weber will hit the BBQ. Michigan's sole 2015 QB offeree is CA QB Josh Rosen, and while he says he's willing to look outside of California if you read between the lines Michigan's going to have to offer some more dudes to find a QB. Bizarrely, his team went 8-5 last year with four forfeits.
NJ CB commit Jabrill Peppers is going after Hand and Leonard Fournette. Godspeed, Jabrill. Next time you talk to Borges make sure he brings up Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown in re:
"The best part is that [having Derrick Green around] would preserve him more because he's not gonna have to take on the whole load by himself. He'll get a blow and we won't lose productivity on the field. Getting those breaks will allow him to have a longer career than most running backs."
Though I'm sure Borges has already thought of that.