alternate headline: man does job
Ian Bunting: Tall
Bunting and Funchess: Hopefully the football version of this minus the disappointment.
Tight end Ian Bunting was Michigan's lone representative* at Nike's invite-only camp The Opening, which wrapped up over the weekend. While he didn't crack any of the top performer lists I've seen, Bunting stood out in a more literal fashion, leading off 247's rundown of players with "eye-popping" measurements:
At 6-foot-6, Bunting measured in as the tallest prospect in attendance at The Opening. He also weighed in at 223 pounds and has added some strength to his frame, starting to look like a college tight end.
Bunting dealt with a balky hamstring during the combine and 7-on-7 sessions; with the injury, he recorded a 33-inch vertical leap and 5.0-second 40-yard dash ($). Assuming that 40 time improves when healthy, Bunting has some tantalizing measurables — combining that hamstring-hampered leap with his height puts Bunting at 9'3" off the ground, by my math, before he even puts his hands in the air. Putting him and Devin Funchess on the field at the same time could cause total matchup chaos for future Michigan opponents, especially in the red zone.
While slot receiver commit Freddy Canteen wasn't invited to The Opening, four-star CB Jalen Tabor told Sam Webb($) that he would've shined — a notable shout-out considering Tabor is one of the few to face Canteen in person:
“He’s got good routes. I definitely respect Freddy Canteen. We go at it all the time. That’s my man. We just had 7-on-7 at Maryland. The whole championship game it was just me and him. My coach said, ‘go get (Canteen).’ And they were testing me. We were going at each other. So I’ve definitely got a lot of respect for Freddy Canteen. He is going to be good in college.”
Asked if Canteen would've done well at The Opening, Tabor replied "without a doubt, yes." He also spoke highly of fellow corner Brandon Watson, specifically for his ability to jam receivers at the line: "I've seen him jam some people up... real good." Unsolicited praise about Michigan commits from a prospect who's not considering Michigan is always nice to see. This is your weekly Rank Our Guys Higher For Reasons update.
The Opening Recruiting Updates: It's Real, And It's Spectacular
(via SBNation Recruiting)
PA S Montae Nicholson could be Michigan's most realistic possibility to fill the final spot in the secondary, depending upon your thoughts—or the coaches', really—about Parrker Westphal's prospects as a safety. He continues to play his cards close to the vest, telling SBNation in the above video that he's still open to several schools, including Florida State and Stanford (skip to 1:48 for recruiting talk unless you want to hear Nicholson's thoughts on sneakers). Nicholson's recruitment should extend through official visits, and in a good sign for Michigan, the only one of those he's set up so far is for Michigan-ND in September. Penn State is another school that could make a run; Michigan being one of the first schools to recruit Nicholson should help them be in the mix until the very end.
Meanwhile, five-star CA ATH Juju Smith told GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz at The Opening that, despite the distance factor, Michigan is very much a player in his recruitment ($):
For Michigan, the interest on Smith’s end is sincere, with an official visit to Ann Arbor set in stone this fall.
“It’s really real,” Smith told GoBlueWolverine. “On an honest level, Michigan is up there. They’re one of my top five, I’m taking an official visit, and hopefully I can see what they have for me.
Smith originally planned to take an official for the Notre Dame game but instead will be in Ann Arbor for The Game. Michigan would likely take him as a safety who could moonlight as a receiver; Smith's top schools—including Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, UCLA, and USC—have all mentioned the possibility of playing on both sides of the ball. While expectations should always be held in check when it comes to top-flight West Coast prospects, the Wolverines have a legitimate shot here.
Michigan also has a real chance at another top California product, four-star OLB Dwight Williams, who confirmed to Bogenschutz that he'll take an official for the Notre Dame game ($). Florida, the only other school scheduled to receive an official from Williams, may be the biggest competition for the Wolverines.
Four-star GA DE Andrew Williams — Do I consistently get him confused with Dwight Williams? Yes. — also attended The Opening; not only is Michigan among his leaders, but he'll be on campus soon, per Sam Webb ($):
Though not yet ready at the time of this interview to lay out his entire list of finalists, he did open up a bit regarding the Wolverines’ standing.
“They’re up there,” Williams replied when asked if Michigan is in his top five.
“I would love to get down there for the 19th. That’s definitely one visit I personally plan on taking. I’m definitely interested in Michigan.”
Michigan is firmly in the mix for Da'Shawn Hand and Malik McDowell; Williams is quite the contingency plan should one (or both) of those two end up elsewhere.
*Drake Harris also received an invite, but couldn't attend due to summer school — if you missed the news, he did that to ensure that he can enroll early.
[Hit THE JUMP for LEONARD FOURNETTE VISIT POSSIBILITY (sirens), the latest on Shaun Crawford, and more.]
2013 Eastern Christian Academy prospect Kenny Bigelow has already enrolled at USC.
I initially planned on covering football and basketball as well as recruiting in this mailbag, but enough of you sent in questions (thanks!) that I had to go recruiting-only; I may do a separate mailbag to cover the rest later in the week. On to the questions...
For a number of reasons, I'm not worried about this. If you haven't read the SI article on Eastern Christian Academy, it's highly recommended, and should allay some of these concerns [emphasis mine]:
Strictly speaking, Eastern Christian is not even a school but rather a club, with members who attend an online private school called National Connections Academy. "There is a lot of confusion," says Steven Guttentag, president of Baltimore-based Connections Learning, which is the parent company of National Connections. "Eastern Christian is not a school. It's a football training program that provides a site. National Connections Academy is the school. They're our team." Connections Education counts more than 45,000 students among its accredited private and public schools. Its students include everyone from prodigies at New York City's prestigious Juilliard School of Music to Olympic hopefuls, but Eastern Christian represents the company's first foray into team sports.
[T]he reputation of National Connections, and the fast-growing digitalization of U.S. education, affords Eastern Christian a degree of insulation from skepticism. The growth of charter schools and homeschooling have pushed the number of students in grades K-12 taking online courses well into the hundreds of thousands. "What you're describing is definitely unusual," says Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who spent 11 years investigating diploma mills. "But this sounds like a proctored setting, with adults watching over kids as they do their work and take their exams, and in today's world that's becoming normal."
The NCAA, according to the article, considers National Connections "an approved nontraditional course provider," so there should be no issue passing their academic requirements. ECA and its predecessor, Red Lion Christian Academy, have produced several D-I recruits in the last few years, and as far as I can tell there's been no issue with the NCAA or the recruits' respective schools. An incomplete list:
- 2011 Red Lion DL Angelo Blackson is entering his junior year at Auburn, where he's expected to start for the second straight season.
- 2012 Red Lion DL Eli Ankou was accepted by UCLA and redshirted last season.
- 2013 ECA five-star DL Kenny Bigelow enrolled early at USC, so he's already passed admissions and gone through a semester of classes.
- Fellow 2013 ECA prospects Khaliel Rodgers (USC) and Jahmere Irvin-Sills (Miss. St.) signed with BCS programs. Michigan's coaches reportedly contacted Rodgers after David Dawson's decommitment last year, but he was solid to USC and did not receive an offer.
Michigan admissions could be a different animal — though UCLA and USC are both fine schools — but here's where my final point comes in: Brady Hoke, quite simply, doesn't take academic risks. None of his recruits have failed to qualify and the line of communication between his staff and the admissions department is strong; let's just say the athletic department learned from the Demar Dorsey debacle.
While we're on the subject of Canteen and Watson...
Ace! Love your writing, dude.
Question on Recruiting. I trust the coaches, I love the coaches. They've earned the right to pick who they want. But do you think it's a little weird to go so hard after a few guys so off the radar at this point in the process (the past 3 days), or do you think the coaches truly see that much potential in these guys, and got some steals? I know - hard to know when a guy only plays 3 games a year, but curious for your take.
The longer I cover recruiting and, on occasion, happen to stumble into some insider-y info, the more I realize that the coaches do everything — everything — for a reason. In fact, you don't even need insider info to know this. Just look at how the wide receiver recruiting shook out over the last few weeks:
- Artavis Scott visits Clemson for their camp, which runs from June 12th-14th.
- Freddy Canteen picks up his offer at Michigan's camp on June 18th.
- In an article released on June 24th, K.J. Williams tells 247 that his top three is Syracuse, Michigan, and Mizzou, in that order ($).
- On June 26th, ESPN's Brian Stumpf reports that Scott has moved up his announcement and will decide at The Opening, which is going on this week. Clemson immediately becomes his presumed destination.
- Freddy Canteen commits to Michigan on June 29th.
Even if we presume that Canteen is the third option among those prospects — and I'm not sure the coaches would put Williams above him, especially since they wanted a slot receiver — it's clear that the coaches saw the way things were trending with Scott and Williams and decided to make a move instead of waiting, which could've left them coming up empty on all three prospects.
Then we get into the fact that Canteen, along with Watson, had very good reasons for being under the radar, and earned their offers by performing for the coaches in person. The Wolverine's Michael Spath posted a great rundown of recruits who were offered at camp and committed to Michigan; there have been 23 such players since 2002 ($). Of those 23, just six ended up as four-star prospects, and given that fact Michigan has been quite successful in identifying overlooked talent:
Among the 23, 21 have already completed their eligibility, and of those, 10 started at least one season for the Wolverines. Multi-year starters include: LB David Harris (2002 class), [OL Jake] Long, [DL Will] Johnson, [OL Alex] Mitchell, P Zoltan Mesko (2005) and OL David Molk (2007).
Yes, the list of camp-offered commits includes such luminaries as David Harris, Jake Long, David Molk, and the Space Emperor (Of Space). NOT BAD.
With the increased pace of recruiting, it's easy to forget that the current rankings will look wildly different come February; the recruiting services still haven't had a look at every available prospect, obviously, and there's still a good chunk of camp season, next fall's actual football season, and the postseason All-American games to go. Especially at this stage in the recruiting process, it's best to trust the coaches, at least until there's any shred of evidence that they're not good talent evaluators (and all of the available evidence points in the exact opposite direction).
It's not as simple as this with most prospects — the coaches do their best to use everything at their disposal to evaluate a recruit, and how much they weigh each factor is largely dependent on the specific recruit. Camp allows the coaches to not just judge a player's size, potential, and technical ability in person, it also gives them insight into how quickly a prospect picks up on their coaching — they can judge coachability and character in a way that they obviously can't do with a highlight tape.
The problem with camp, of course, is that it isn't actual football — they're running drills without pads, not lining up and playing 11-on-11. That's why game film is still quite valuable. With guys like Canteen and Watson, who simply don't have much film available, the coaches have to lean more heavily on how they did at camp, but for most prospects that's not the case. I wouldn't say camp trumps film, nor the opposite; this answer is a bit of a cop-out, but it goes on a case-by-case basis, as the available information differs — sometimes dramatically — from prospect to prospect.
I know people pay probably too much attention to stars when it comes to recruits, but the recent conversation about what coaches saw in certain players bothered me because it was based on an inexact rating system. If you think about a previous QB battle, mgoblog has this to say:
"Projection: Even if Robinson doesn't pan out Michigan won't be moving him for at least two years and doesn't have the quarterback depth to redshirt anyone this year, so at the very least you'll see him reprise the Feagin role from last year's Minnesota game except with a definite possibility he'll throw. Going forward it'll be a battle between his electric athleticism and Forcier's polish, with Forcier having the obvious early edge because of his spring enrollment."
And remember the recruiting hubaloo around Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver. This got me thinking, of those who have pledged to Michigan in the past few years which player(s) do you think have far outperformed their ranking?
I'm not sure the example used here is the best one for the question, since both Forcier and Denard were highly-regarded prospects, but there are a few from Hoke's first couple classes. In the 2011 class, Frank Clark looks poised to outperform his three-star rating; he may have done so already simply by seeing the field and contributing early. 2012 signee Devin Funchess was a borderline 3/4-star recruit and he showed tantalizing potential as a freshman; when a freshman gets put on school record watch — in this case, Jim Mandich's career mark for receptions by a tight end — it's safe to say he's performing at a very high level. Ben Braden is another player from the 2012 class who could easily surpass his three-star expectations; Braden has a good chance to start at guard as a redshirt freshman and eventually make his way out to left tackle. Jehu Chesson, Willie Henry, and Mario Ojemudia are a few other candidates from that class to make a bigger splash than their recruiting rankings would indicate, potentially as soon as this fall.
So, with the three recent commits and the 2014 class already up to 14 guys, does this mean it's all quiet on the (mid)western front? I know this class was projected to be in the teens, maybe up to 20 guys, and I feel like we've gotten there quickly. Is Michigan kind of done for the time being on the recruiting scene or will there be another push right before the season?
I'm tempting fate by saying this, but I think the pace of recruiting for the 2014 class is going to slow down now that camp offers have gone out (and been accepted) and most of the remaining targets are high-profile players — those guys are more likely to utilize the full process, take their officials, and make a late decision knowing that programs will leave a spot open for them. Da'Shawn Hand, Adoree' Jackson, Malik McDowell, and JuJu Smith all fall under this category, and I'm surely forgetting a couple other targets either slated for late decisions or taking the process slowly. It's possible that Michigan picks up a couple more commits before the season starts, but for the rest of the summer I'd expect as much action (if not more) from the 2015 class.
How do you see the 2014 recruiting class finishing up based on what we know today? — AC1997
I'm operating under the assumption that Michigan makes it to 20 spots in the class, even though for now there aren't that many scholarships available. With 14 current commits, that leaves six open spots. I'd expect those to be filled by:
- VA DE Da'Shawn Hand (not a lock by any means, though)
- MI DL Malik McDowell
- A safety, hopefully JuJu Smith (a longshot) or PA ATH Montae Nicholson (a much more realistic option).
- An offensive tackle. There isn't an obvious candidate here with Jamarco Jones committing to Ohio State.
- An outside linebacker. Of the players currently holding offers, three-star Jimmie Swain and four-star Dwight Williams are the most likely candidates. I'm skeptical of Michigan's chances with Williams (a presumed Florida lean), though, and Swain named Oregon and Stanford to his top five recently despite not holding an offer from either; if one of those two comes through, that could spell trouble for Michigan's chances. We could see a late offer go out here.
- The best player available that doesn't match the above. That could be Jackson, though I highly doubt he ends up at Michigan, or perhaps a running back — CO three-star Kalen Ballage is the back they appear to have the best chance of landing with Jonathan Hilliman leaning towards Ohio State.
I did not overlook Parrker Westphal, though that's not based on any insider info. The longer his recruitment stretches out, the less I think he ends up at Michigan, especially since he seems like a better cornerback prospect than a safety and the Wolverines just took a pure corner in Brandon Watson.
Hey kids. Ace is off and I step into the recruiting roundup breach.
Guest columnist Adoree' Jackson
Verily, let us discourse on the fine gentlemen of the Michigan recruiting class. Nay, ask me not your questions. Rather I will ask you which of the gentlemen has the most beatific smile. The world is all topsy-turvy this day! Ha-HA!
–probably what Jackson is saying right here
CA CB Adoree' Jackson talks about his fresh top ten with College Level Athletes, and would we be reading too much into a random interview if we noted that Jackson seems to know almost as much about Michigan's recruiting class as the assembled lunatics here?
"It means something because you wanna build a class that you feel comfortable with. For me and the (Jabrill) Peppers situation, that's a corner that's similar to me and we could do a lot of the same things, and if you just look at that you've got confidence on the other side. Like I said, 'me and Jabrill on the field, that's a scary sight.' You don't really think of having two great corners on the same team… that's rare."
"(Wilton) Speight at the quarterback position, you want somebody who's good so when you're practicing they can go hard at you and you can compete. As for Drake (Harris) as a receiver, he's a great receiver, so you just want to compete with them everyday, day-in and day-out. That's going to be a decision for me, making sure we have a great quarterback and great receivers. I want to make sure the receivers are sound so we can all get better."
Jackson spends a lot more time talking Michigan than any of his other schools, and while I still suspect that track is going to pull him away from Ann Arbor I get the vibe that he really likes M. Dollars to donuts they at least get an official.
Sam Webb's News article this week covered a lot of ground, some of it about Jackson's recruitment:
“I don’t think he’s leaning anywhere. I think he's extremely open to leaving the West Coast because he's not a West Coast guy, and he'll openly say, ‘I’m not a West Coast guy.’ He kind of brags about it. It's almost like he wears that with a badge of courage, so I definitely think he's open. I think so much of Adoree’s recruitment is going to be determined by how they do on the field. The Serra connection he has kind of tells me that USC kind of has the inside track.
Uber-WR Marquise Lee is also from Serra. Biggins says he's "extremely open" to leaving the West Coast, but that the local schools are still in it. IE, ain't nobody know things.
Challenge leads to visits
Kalen Ballage uses myspace and has a dumbphone. Kalen Ballage is from 2005. He is also a SWAG ANIMAL, of course. Kalen Ballage is an important recruit to get even if he is from 2005.
The Rivals Five-Star Challenge was held in Chicago over the weekend, which provided a couple of distant prospects the opportunity to check out the Midwest. CO RB Kalen Ballage told Rivals he'd visit Michigan on Thursday (and Michigan State afterwards, but lol). Arizona State, Boise State, Nebraska, Washington, and Vandy are also involved.
AZ WR Jalen Brown is stopping by Tuesday as part of a Midwest swing that encompasses OSU, MSU, and Wisconsin. Brown wants to cut things down after that an a visit to some southern schools and pick pretty quickly after that.
CA WR/S JuJu "John" Smith was a guy who expressed interest in the Midwest early and has since dropped off the radar. Why? Dunno, as Smith told Rivals's West Coast guy that leaving the state remains a strong possibility:
The four-star safety said during registration day … that some of the major programs in the Big Ten appeal to him, among others.
When you mention Wisconsin, you are seriously serious about exiting. Smith mentioned he was "especially serious"—author's words—about Michigan and OSU. So that's good, but it's an uphill battle if USC decides to get involved:
“He grew up an SC fan. I talked to (another recruit’s) dad after they were at the USC-UCLA game last year, which was at UCLA. He said JuJu was openly cheering like you would not believe for SC the entire game -- in the UCLA student section."
That would be a first: a USC fan that gives a crap about cheering for USC.
On the other hand, USC isn't after him that hard right now and amongst non-USC options it sounds like Michigan is a strong contender, possibly the strongest:
I think [USC's lack of pursuit] made it more open. I think he is open to leaving. He loves Michigan, he likes Notre Dame a little bit, and UCLA has done well with him.
The 247 Crystal Ball is split about evenly between ND, UCLA, and USC, FWIW. IE: ain't nobody know.
And in "really lol wut" news, LA RB Leonard Fournette wants to visit Michigan!
"What I'm looking for is academics first," he said. "People-wise, I love great personalities. That's it. That's what I like about Michigan."
Has Fournette planned a trip to Ann Arbor?
"No, not yet," he replied. "I would like to take a visit up there. It would be during the fall, for an official visit."
I'm just… naw. Naw man, naw. We'll see if that gets scheduled before we move Fournette from total pipe dream to "so you're saying there's a chance." I'm leaving him in the pipe dream category at the moment.
In non-Challenge-related visit news, according to TomVH($) IL OL Jamarco Jones has planned his final visits: M Saturday, MSU Sunday, OSU Monday. Notre Dame appears to be out. The M Block reports that NJ RB Jonathan Hilliman is trying to decide between Michigan and Vandy for a visit this weekend
McDowell admits a leader sorta kinda probably
That's a really good disguise, Adoree', but I see right through it. Five stars have x-ray vision, which you know because you, too, are a five-star. See into my heart. Yes. It is a regulation block M the right color and everything. I can give you the hex codes.
-probably what Malik is saying right there
Five-star MI DT Malik McDowell weighed in at 6'6", 306 at the Challenge, which like whoah. Tim Sullivan described him as a "grown-ass man," so he'll pump in a hat trick against a Caribbean team sometime soon. Woo deep-cut Eddie Johnson references!
McDowell's been keeping things close to the vest after some early indications he wanted to commit to Michigan, but he finally came out and said he probably might have a kinda sorta leader($):
He confirmed all four were still high on his list, though one was the current team to beat.
"It's Michigan, probably … that's home," McDowell said. "They are kind of normal … they hang out at regular places. You think they would be all uppity, but they are down-to-earth."
Thanks, I think?
McDowell has tentative plans to visit FSU, UF, and USC. Probably. A decision doesn't seem to be coming in the near future.
OH LB Noah Furbush made a return trip to Michigan's campus last week, a sign of serious-serious interest that combines with Furbush's offer list—MSU, Mizzou, Northwestern, Tennessee, etc.—to suggest Michigan is in the driver's seat with him. Unless Northwestern gets all up in there, I guess.
Allen Trieu caught up with Furbush, who also recently hit up Purdue, and he had some weird things to say about his recruitment, specifically where colleges are projecting him($):
[At] Purdue, it's more of an outside linebacker. At Michigan, it's more of an inside linebacker. In our defense, we do a package where I line up to the inside a little bit, so I've experienced it a little bit."
I would be shocked to see Michigan sporting a 6'4" MLB. Either Furbush is a bit shorter than that and won't end up in that 250-260 range or he shouldn't be a generic three star. Or he's a SAM/WDE. Those are our options.
Trieu asked flat out whether Chase Winovich's commitment affected Michigan's pursuit of him and Furbush said he still had a spot. While Michigan's in on a couple more remote kids who are higher-rated*, I'd peg Furbush as the third LB in this class all. He would provide some drama in the MGoBlog Sleeper Of The Year competition, which is currently between Moe Ways and… Moe Ways because no one else meets the criteria. Hoke uber alles.
The distant future the year 2000 (and fifteen)
FUTURE'S SO BRIGHHHHHHT I GIVE IT SIX SWAG MATTISONS
Yeah, we're talking about it. Michigan's camp is coming up soon, and these days that's an opportunity for juniors and sophomores to draw notice. A number of guys will come in looking for offers, and there's a nonzero chance Michigan picks up its first 2015 commit at the camp. I mean, KY RB Damien Harris is just itching to drop.
June 16th can't come soon enough. I'm ready to be in Ann Arbor!! #Hail
— Damien Harris (@Damien_D1Harris) June 5, 2013
247's Clint Brewster has five more 2015 campers to keep an eye on for possible offers:
- VA CB/WR Garrett Taylor—Big time prospect with Stanford offer amongst others that aren't like whoah academics.
- GA OL Chuma Edoga—half dozen good Southern offers already.
- OH LB Justin Hilliard—brother of recent Hawkeye RB commit CJ, which might give the Hawkeyes a leg up except CJ is an Iowa running back and will be having a hand grafted onto his knee so he can keep playing at UW-Whitewater in two weeks. Looking like a big time prospect.
- OH S Tyree Kinnel—a strong lean if offered; would be a guy Ace and I would add to our Crystal Ball if he picks up an M offer. Just Ark/UK offer at the moment.
- MI LB/S Tyriq Thompson—son of Clarence.
Cleveland-area running back Andrew Dowell is also planning on attending($) after an impressive NFTC performance. He missed most of his sophomore year and is thus a little under the radar. Dowell has a twin brother David, a wideout.
We've already got five guys ticketed to M in what should be a small class, so as early as next week we could have a rough outline for what half of the Team 136 class looks like.
Elsewhere in 2015 guys, six-foot-eight PA OL Sterling Jenkins has emerged into a primo left tackle prospect in the 2015 class. He picked up a Michigan offer recently, competed in Chicago—an indicator he will be a top 100 prospect at the very least next year—and it sounds like he'll be a Midwest fight($):
"I plan to go to Ohio State and Penn State, then Michigan," he said. "Ohio State for the 19th [of June], Penn State the 26th, and Michigan around the end of July for their barbecue."
Jenkins isn't quite sure what the difference is between an unofficial visit and an official one… he's a ways from a decision. I wish his last name was Archer.
CA DE Keisean Lucier-South, a Crable-sized defensive end at 6'6", 215, has some nice early offers (Texas, Miami, Tennessee) and grew up a Michigan fan($):
“The school that I really want an offer from is the University of Michigan. That’s one of my favorite schools since I was a little kid and I’d watch them all the time. They have some of the top talent out there and the way they treat football is insane, like the Big House, or the rivalry with Ohio State. That might be the best rivalry in sports. It’s amazing there and that’s what I like about Michigan.”
Lucier-South is just outside the top 100 in 247's extremely preliminary rankings.
Oh and there's Minkah Fitzpatrick, a NJ CB who seems to be on the verge of a Michigan offer.
Clarkson Camp Scouting
That Webb article also touches on Wilton Speight and Drake Harris, who went out to Steve Clarkson's "quarterback retreat" in San Diego. Biggins gives both guys good reviews. Speight:
When I watched him this year and saw the physical way he carried himself, the confidence that he carried was crazy. He was literally like a different person. Now he’s a very confident guy. He kind of carries himself with a certain swagger. Not arrogance, but definitely very confident in everything he does. He’s more decisive in his throws. … I definitely like the progression. He has made huge strides.
He exploded out of his cut, the ball was overthrown, he jumps up, grabs it, and you’re like, ‘Who the heck is that?!’ Everything about the guy, just the way he moves -- you’re either born like that, or you’re not. He’s so fluid in his movement, and it’s so natural, where he doesn’t fight anything. I love the size, and he’s going to put weight on. He’s just a super athletic kid. A lot of times with those athletic kids, they’re not going to be super polished or catch the ball well, but he’s already pretty advanced. He’s an instant impact guy.
Harris is one slot away from five stars, and while Scout has evidently changed their policy of giving everyone in the top 50 the fifth star they went up to 42 last year (Adam Breneman), which is considerably less stingy than some other sites. Harris should get there eventually. Speight sounds like he'll stick as a well-regarded three-star.
Happy trails to VA DT Andrew Brown, who named a top eight in Chicago that did not include M.
Here's a DaShawn Hand vs Damian Prince vine. FL WR Artavis Scott says he'll "definitely" visit Clemson, Michigan and OSU this summer($), plans an Army game decision. We'll see if it gets that far. NJ CB commit Jabrill Peppers wins the 100 and 200 in NJ.
You Know The Drill
TRUE FACT: TomVH used to say "buckle up" all the time. You should remind him of this frequently.
On Wednesday morning, TomVH broke the news that five-star NJ CB Jabrill Peppers will announce his college decision live on ESPNU on May 26th*, when he'll choose between finalists LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, and Stanford. Peppers
has a visit set to Penn State for tomorrow, and could make one more "surprise" visit—presumably Rutgers—before making his announcement.
[UPDATE: Scout's Brian Dohn just posted on the GBW message board that a source tells him Peppers has cancelled his Penn State visit ($).]
As for any concerns that those final visits could sway Peppers from a presumed pledge to Michigan—let's just say it doesn't sound likely, given this quote to a local paper:
“I know and feel very confident in the decision I’m going to make,” said Peppers.
Michigan commits feel very confident in that decision being for—you guessed it—Michigan:
— Drake Harris™ (@drizzygetbusy01) May 15, 2013
(If you're wondering why Speight and Harris will be in San Diego, quarterback guru George Whitfield—the guy with the broom who's worked with Devin Gardner—is hosting a camp that weekend.)
You have nine days until following proper safety protocol is strongly advised. I have eight days to decide whether pre-writing a post is worth the jinx-bait.
BONUS: In the wake of the MSU-Jay Harris mutual** parting of the ways so Harris can pursue a rap career, Peppers weighed in on his USA Today blog [emphasis mine]:
Peppers, who will choose between Michigan, Stanford, Penn State, Notre Dame, LSU and Rutgers on May 26, said that each school is well aware of his current rap career and long-term aspirations.
"They ask me about it all the time," Peppers said. "They're OK with it because my raps are clean. I just think if he (Harris) really wanted to pursue rap he could've gone about it a better way. I don't think anyone in their right mind would turn down a free education to a prestigious university to play football. It could only help your career."
Peppers said from broadening your vocabulary, to overwhelming exposure, to having an established fan base, "whether you're nice with your rap skills or not," college has "unlimited benefits" to boosting a career in the booth.
One key difference between Peppers and Harris, aside from the blunt-smoking and bailing on a free education: Peppers is nice on the mic, Harris... well, you've probably seen the video by now. I'm legitimately disappointed Leon McQuay III didn't sign on this year, both for the obvious reason—he's pretty good at football—and so he and Peppers could potentially form the elite defensive back version of JDK & Rey.
BONUS BONUS: Speaking of good defensive back recruits, IL CB Parrker Westphal could be approaching a commitment, per TomVH ($):
After his visit to Arizona State [this weekend] Westphal says he might take a trip to Tennessee, but nothing is set in stone. From there he will only focus on those schools on his list and continue to visit and evaluate what those programs have to offer. Westphal still says he is in no hurry to make a decision, but would like to get it done sooner than later.
“I want to make it before the season,” he said. “Games don’t start until August, but practice is in a few weeks so we’ll see when it happens.”
Michigan is "still the school he uses to compare other visits," and Westphal noted that his recent Florida visit went well... with the caveat that Michigan offers better academics. If he sticks to a summer decision timeline, it's hard to see him ending up elsewhere.
*Now a banner day for fans of Michigan football and Arrested Development. Peppers' announcement will hopefully ensure that I don't attempt to watch the entire fourth season in one sitting. (I probably will anyway.)
**Since Harris had signed a LOI, it's my understanding that State could not legally revoke his scholarship without consent, though the looming prospect of getting through admissions means Harris still didn't have much of a choice, in all likelihood.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the linebacker situation, new offers, Michigan visiting the son of rap royalty, and more.]
Before I get into the recruiting roundup, I'm planning a recruiting mailbag post for tomorrow and could use a couple more questions. If you've got one (or more!) please send me an email or tweet it to me. Now back to your regularly scheduled Jabrill Peppers update.
Jabrill Peppers Heat Status: Infinity Chilli
If you somehow haven't watched this just do it already. Yes, all of it.
As the recruitment of Jabrill Peppers evolves, Michigan's chances of landing the five-star corner appear to be getting better and better. The latest news from Peppers is that he's moving up his decision timeline and putting Penn State back in the mix—he'll make a May 18th visit to Happy Valley per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($) [emphasis mine]:
“They never left the picture,” [Paramus Catholic head coach Chris] Partridge said of Penn State. “Them and Michigan were his top visits. He decided he wanted to move up his decision timeline. He doesn’t have any negatives about Penn State. Them or Michigan. He wants to go and stay overnight at Penn State.”
Peppers is still aiming to get to Stanford before deciding.
“He is looking to commit sometime in early June,” Partridge said.
Peppers previously visited Penn State on February 20th, and while his coach is now talking up the visit there wasn't nearly the same over-the-moon reaction in the immediate aftermath as he had post-Michigan. Securing a second visit from Peppers is remarkably impressive for Bill O'Brien and PSU considering the circumstances; it seems unlikely they'd be able to overtake Michigan. This is very important considering the next bit of visit-related news:
2014 DB Jabrill Peppers hasn't cancelled his Stanford visit but it is proving difficult to plan around his track schedule, per his coach.
— The M Block (@TheMBlock) May 8, 2013
Despite finding it difficult to reschedule his trip to Stanford, Peppers is moving up his timeline. Even the staunchest of pessimists has to take that as a very good sign for Michigan's chances.
As it stands, it's hard to see a scenario in which Peppers sticks to his new timeline and doesn't choose the Wolverines. Penn State—and, if he makes the trip, Stanford—is still a threat, but there's more than one reason for Peppers to take a final visit: not only does he want to make sure he's making the right decision, he's got a high school teammate—QB Steve Shanley—who visited Happy Valley with him in February and is still hoping for a Nittany Lion offer.
PSU insiders certainly seem less optimistic than their Michigan counterparts—for good reason, with the sanctions and all. If early June is really the decision timeline, the Wolverines are going to be very tough to beat here. The current commits certainly seem to think so—either Drake Harris knows something we don't or he's just a very confident recruiter, via Sam Webb ($):
When asked if he thinks Michigan has a good chance of landing Peppers’ after their private conversations?
Harris replied, “I’ll just say we have good chance.”
Do you feel good where things stand with Peppers?
“I feel great!” Harris replied with a coy smile confidently.
Go ahead, watch that highlight tape again, and allow yourself to get a little excited.
[Hit THE JUMP for more from last weekend's camps, this weekend's visitor list, notes on new offers, and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers weekend visitor reactions and more.
Sunday's Silver Lining
The third Michigan visit in three weeks for MI WR Drake Harris culminated in a tour of Michigan Stadium after The Basketball Game That Shall Not Be Named. Harris was accompanied in Ann Arbor for the first time by his mother and grandfather, as well, and he told WolverineNation's Chantel Jennings that his comfort level at Michigan is growing ($):
“I just enjoyed it,” Harris said. “Just hanging out with the coaches, they’re showing a lot of interest in me and showing me how much they want me to be a part of the team.”
The Watch List wide receiver said that with each visit, he, too, feels more and more comfortable around the coaches, specifically wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski. Harris has had the opportunity to meet Hecklinski’s wife and children, who he describes as “sweet.”
Harris is still a Michigan State commit by name, though it's worth noting that the Spartans also played a home game yesterday—for the third straight week, Harris was in Ann Arbor. His high school teammate, lineman Tommy Doles, also made the trip from Grand Rapids, and in the same article from Jennings he shed some light on the offensive line situation:
“There are, I think, two spots left for offensive linemen,” Doles said. “If one closes up, I’ll have to make some decisions and think about that. I’m aware of the situation, and I’ll be thinking about that.”
Doles told 247's Steve Lorenz that he may be back on campus next weekend, and said he'd "like to get things over sometime this spring," when asked about a timeline ($). Doles recently took a trip to Northwestern, but if he sticks to a spring decision it's hard to see him landing anywhere but Michigan.
[Hit THE JUMP for more visit reactions and the new 2014 Scout 300.]