I'm beginning this draft on Thursday morning, and four-star IL OL Jamarco Jones is scheduled to choose between Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State at 2 pm. It doesn't seem like any insiders have a great feel for his destination, but the general consensus is that it's unlikely to be Michigan. This means a head-to-head loss against either MSU or OSU; you can decide for yourselves which one of those is the least undesirable scenario.
PRE-POST UPDATE: It's Ohio State, as most everyone predicted. This is certainly a tough loss for Michigan, though it's worse for MSU, which needs more depth—not to mention high-end talent—on the offensive line. If you still need to feel better (and you might before the end of this section), there's always being Not Illinois:
BREAKING: A top recruit in the state of Illinois commits to a school outside the state of Illinois
— TheChampaignRoom.com (@Champaign_Room) June 27, 2013
[insert Tim Beckman derp face here]
Meanwhile, the tide appears to have shifted dramatically in the recruitment of FL WR Artavis Scott, who said this after a return visit to Clemson last weekend, per Rivals ($)...
So, which school is recruiting him the hardest to ensure they get an official visit?
"Clemson. I'm building a great relationship with Coach [Tony] Elliott and Coach [Jeff] Scott. When I'm there I talk to Coach [Dabo] Swinney and guys like Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. They tell me how it is and my bond is growing with Clemson," stated Scott.
...then promptly moved up his decision timeline:
— Brian Stumpf (@Stumpf_Brian) June 26, 2013
The Opening starts on Sunday, though Scott's announcement will likely come later in the event, which runs through next Wednesday. Regardless of when he makes the call, it's a bad sign that Scott suddenly decided to announce (1) on the heels of a Clemson visit and (2) before a planned trip to the BBQ at the Big House. For his part, though, Scott is at least keeping up the appearance of being undecided:
This is probably the hardest decision I've ever had to make
— DÂ_GRËÂT7 (@tayscott7) June 27, 2013
It should come down to Michigan and Clemson; the Tigers appear to have the edge.
Scott's five-star 2015 teammate, ATH George Campbell, told Scout's Amy Campbell that he still wants to visit for the BBQ with Scott and commit Mason Cole, but he's unsure it it'll happen—though it appears this depends more on Cole's plans than Scott's ($). Campbell also mentions plans for a return trip to Clemson, saying "it's basically family," so... crap. Projections have quickly shifted from Michigan potentially getting all three of the East Lake trio to just the one they have in hand.
To keep the good vibes going, Tim Sullivan caught up with CA CB Adoree' Jackson; recent buzz surrounding Jackson and Michigan has been quite positive, but this is a cold dose of reality ($):
"That's going to be the main factor," [Jackson] said of a school's track program. "That's the biggest. It's probably one of my biggest things right up there with education."
Michigan's standing in his recruitment may suffer from Jackson's intense focus on track. The Wolverines are currently without a track coach following the retirement of longtime coach Fred LaPlante, and U-M's program has not been on the national stage in quite some time - the last national title came in 1923.
Jackson still plans to spend part of the summer in his native state of Illinois, but told Tim that he's "not really worried about" taking the time to head up to Michigan's BBQ. The Wolverines are still slated to get an offical visit, per Scout's Greg Biggins($), but at this point they're a heavy underdog against the likes of USC, UCLA, Florida, and LSU.
So, not a good week for pipe dream class projections, then. Please don't shoot the messenger.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup. I swear there's good news in there.]
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
The recruiting services are split on the #1 overall prospect in the 2014 class; Rivals and 247 give VA DE Da'Shawn Hand top honors, while LA RB Leonard Fournette earns that distinction on Scout and ESPN. Michigan is among the top contenders for Hand, of course, and Fournette is a lock to stay in the SEC, either at LSU or Alabama. Unless...
LSU and Alabama are the teams to beat for five-star New Orleans-St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette.
Except Fournette says it isn't so.
"That's not accurate," Fournette said Thursday, insisting he doesn't yet have any favorites among a list of offers so long he's stopped counting.
Well, then. The article by al.com's Mike Herndon names two other schools Fournette has visited—Florida State and Texas—as well as a certain program he's strongly considering for an official visit; yes, Michigan:
"You could say that (top prospects) pay attention to where other guys go," Fournette told Rivals.com. "I like Michigan. School-wise, they're more focused on grades than football. That's what I like about them. I think Jabrill made a good choice."
This is not happening. I refuse to believe this is happening. I will refuse to believe it even if Fournette makes it to campus, and will cease disbelief if—and only if—Fournette's name is signed in ink on a LOI faxed directly to Schembechler Hall in February. At that point, I'll still consider the whole thing a cruel hoax until Fournette actually suits up in a Michigan uniform.
[watches highlight tape again]
[counts plays before Fournette is tackled]
Apologies in advance for him committing to LSU and all of us feeling sad.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest round of underclassmen #JPTTA, updates on several top 2014 targets, and more.]
THE IMPORTANT THING: What Time Do I Need To Take A Break From Watching Arrested Development on Sunday?
Jabrill Peppers announces his college decision on Sunday at 5:15 pm ET on ESPNU. Everything we've seen and heard for the last several weeks—Gerry Hamilton's contrarianism notwithstanding—points to a Michigan commitment. While Peppers is declining to take interviews until his announcement, his coach is making the media rounds and claims that his star athlete isn't quite sure of his decision yet:
Representatives from the University of Michigan visited Paramus Catholic last week and spent much of the day there, inquiring about the Garden State's top athlete. The Wolverines are thought to take a commanding lead for his services into the weekend, although the star athlete has yet to officially solidify which school he will be selecting, Sunday.
"He doesn't know, just yet," [Paramus Catholic coach Chris] Partridge told NJ.com. "He's still visiting schools this week."
Although Partridge was reluctant to release the list of schools Peppers will be taking a look at during the final days of his recruiting process, there has been speculation that he will make a stop at Rutgers some time this week.
I'm not saying Peppers' coach is just doing his best to add some suspense—and there's nothing wrong with that—but I'll just leave this quote here:
“I know and feel very confident in the decision I’m going to make,” said Peppers.
Okay, I'm saying Peppers' coach is just doing his best to add some suspense. That's my last word on Peppers until Sunday, when there will either be many more words or we'll be attempting to salvage the flaming wreckage of the MGoBoard.
Chase Winovich Update: More Of The Same
PA LB Chase Winovich still has Michigan in his top three (with Ohio State and Pitt), is still contemplating visits (definitely to Pitt, unsure of others), and, yes, is still giving really confusing quotes to reporters, per Sam Webb ($):
That consistent focus that trio of favorites combined with his aforementioned decision timeline was fodder for speculation about a commitment being forthcoming. One recent report went a step beyond speculating and indicated that a decision next week was imminent, a claim that Winovich denies.
"I think the question (from the reporter) was 'is it possible that I could commit to a school after my Pitt visit?'," he recalled. "I think I said, 'yeah, anything is possible.' He said, 'could you let me know so I could put you on a commit watch?' So I said, 'yeah, anything is possible.'" (Laughter).
For the record, Winovich is still in deliberation mode with no definite decision date in sight.
I've said previously that I've heard optimism from both the Michigan and Ohio State sides regarding their chances with Winovich; the above may give a hint as to why. I claim no insider info here, but I switched my prediction for him from U-M to OSU yesterday, because it appears the Wolverines are picking up interest in other OLB prospects—something I doubt they would do if they were confident Winovich would take the final linebacker spot.
[Late-Breaking NOTE: Ohio State just added a commitment from linebacker Dante Booker, but according to 247's Steve Wiltfong the Buckeyes would still accept a commitment from Winovich($). Bad news for Michigan, good news for me not having to rewrite this entire section.]
After a period in which they'd fallen out of contact, Michigan and Crete (IL) Monee four-star LB Nyles Morgan have reconnected, and Morgan told GBW's Josh Newkirk that he's still interested in the Wolverines ($):
“Coach (Curt) Mallory came by,’ [Morgan] said. “I also talked with (defensive coordinator) Greg Mattison on the phone last week. He said he would be by this week.”
With the Wolverine coaching staff accelerating their efforts to connect with Morgan, he said he would like to build a better relationship with Mattison.
“I just want to have a good conversation with him,” he said. “I had previously good conversations with him before. At Michigan we had real good conversation. That was pretty nice, too. I just want to get to know him a little better and have him get to know me.”
Morgan mentioned the possibility of visiting either for July's BBQ at the Big House or a game this fall; he's not in any hurry to decide, so Michigan could still become a contender for his signature.
According to 247's Clint Brewster($), linebackers coach Roy Manning spent seven hours(!!) with Florida prospect Darrion Owens and claimed he is their "top target" at linebacker. Owens received an offer a month ago and—at 6'3", 225 pounds—has the frame to play on the strong side.
Four-star LA LB Kenny Young—who claims a very strong list of offers—hasn't been mentioned as a major possibility for the Wolverines, but he has them on a list of schools he'd like to see, per Rivals' Jason Howell ($):
What schools does he plan to check out?
"Like the Florida schools - Florida, Florida State, Miami," Young said. "Those three, I'll also try to visit Arkansas, Tennessee, Michigan… Arizona State."
Michigan still has a very real chance with Winovich; that said, it's clear that they're also exploring other options in case they need one.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on four top 2014 targets—including one discussing a possible commitment—as well as news on Michigan's 2015 QB offeree and much more.]
J-Reall Recognize Real, That Is
Jabrill Peppers is doing pretty well for himself. The five-star recruit is one of the most sought-after prospects in the country. His highlight tape is 12 minutes of filth, in a good way. Before too long he'll likely choose whether he wants to attend Michigan or Stanford, two of the finest schools—not to mention football programs—in the country.
It's no surprise, then, that USA Today chose Peppers to pen a blog detailing his recruitment and personal life, and some kids have such an overabundance of talent that the rest of us feel bad:
Most people don't know that I'm a music artist. They only know that I play football, but I've been singing and rapping as long as I've been playing football; since the age of 4 or 5.
Being the type of guy that I am I really take rap as a challenge. I'm from the hood, but I'm very well educated and I keep my verses clean. At the same time I appeal to the guys that I grew up with. I don't degrade women or rap dirty or anything like that I'm just real about my experiences.
This is what I really do. That's why my name is J-Reall. My cousin, Tiyahnn Bryant, gave me that name in third grade and it kinda stuck.
Normally, when I read about a high school kid's burgeoning music career, I move along before clicking on anything that could cause permanent hearing damage or complete loss of faith in the next generation*. This time, though, I clicked on the link to Peppers' song (the YouTube video above), and... it's pretty solid. Great beat selection (MF DOOM), solid flow—he sounds like a sober Curren$y, which does not exist in nature—and surprisingly polished lyrics ("I had it restless/during my adolescence/not having my pops mad depressin'"); I gave it two listens and didn't regret it, which I can't say about 85% of newly-released rap.
Oh, right, the part you really care about:
I do feel like I'm gonna be coming to a decision soon though. I just want it all to be over and done with.
Peppers further clarified that point to Sam Webb, saying he hopes to move up his Stanford visit so he can make a decision in June ($). When asked what made such a strong impact on him during his visit to Michigan, Peppers summed it up in the best possible way [emphasis mine]:
It wasn’t the “red carpet treatment” that allowed the Wolverines to set the visit standard by which others are now being measured. Turns out, it was exact opposite.
“Real recognize real,” Peppers said matter-of-factly. “That’s the shortest and sweetest way you can say it. Real recognize real. They didn’t put on a show and they just kept it 100. Basically who they are -- they remind me of my coaches right now. That’s how comfortable we felt there. It was like wow, it was like we were still at (Paramus Catholic). That was the main thing, just the comfort level and just how down-to-earth those guys are. How they are with their players. They coach you hard and just everything. It was a great visit.”
Peppers also has plenty of good things to say about Michigan in a free interview over at The M Block. His recent interviews, as we've gleefully pointed out at every opportunity, point strongly towards Michigan being in command of his recruitment; I've heard very promising things that haven't been printed (and won't), as well. How do you feel about all this, Stanford coach David Shaw?
Their education is almost as good as Stanford's? When is almost enough for a true competitor? 3 BCS in a row, #1 education in D1 #gostanford
— David Shaw (@CoachDavidShaw) April 30, 2013
He took it personal, I guess.
*I say this as a former member of a high school ska band. I've self-inflicted enough damage.
[For the latest on K.J. Williams, Alex Bars, Kalen Ballage, Kyron Watson, and much more, hit THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup attempts to catch on everything that's gone down in the Michigan recruiting world since last Tuesday, when certain other events precluded any coverage involving high school athletes.
Schembechler Hall Presumably Now Covered In Brains
As Michigan's basketball team made their run to the national title game, the football team hosted some big-time recruiting visitors over the past week. The biggest name on campus was five-star Paramus (NJ) Catholic CB Jabrill Peppers, the #2 overall player (behind Da'Shawn Hand) on the Rivals100 and a consensus top-ten recruit. Peppers told Rivals' Adam Friedman that the trip to Ann Arbor was his "best visit"($) and changed his expectations for any school he'll check out:
"Now I don't even know what to expect anymore," Peppers laughed. "Michigan just completely exceeded my expectations. I'm just going to have to see how Michigan and Ohio State pair up and it should be a great experience but Michigan was probably one of the best visits I've been on without a doubt. Everything felt right."
According to his interview with 247's Steve Wiltfong, Peppers plans to be back, too ($):
“All in all, it was a really, really great visit and they exceeded expectations. I definitely didn’t think it would be that mind-blowing. I’ll definitely have to take a trip back.”
Peppers was joined on his visit by Paramus Catholic teammate and four-star OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty*—after the pair checked out Ohio State following the Michigan trip, their high school coach gave the update on where both stand to Friedman ($) [emphasis mine]:
"I don't know about Jabrill," [Paramus Catholic head coach Chris Partridge] said. "He's still kind of evaluating everything, and he's got LSU and Stanford to look at. I know Juwan's top school is Michigan right now. He's pretty fired up about them. Ohio State didn't offer [Bushell-Beatty], so who knows. Jabrill is a pretty loyal guy, so I don't know if it left a sour taste in his mouth. I know Juwan loved Michigan and it's a great fit for him, too.
So Michigan is in the lead for Bushell-Beatty (whom they have offered, to be clear) and made a very strong impression on Peppers, at the very least. The only direct quote from Peppers on his Ohio State trip—the rest were handled by his coach—is from this Wiltfong article ($):
"I really think that the Coach (Kerry) Coombs is a great coach," Peppers said. "I love him and enjoy being around him. Obviously Urban Meyer is an incredible, smart, proven winner. They let me meet the athletic director and the president of the school and it's really cool to see how everyone is behind the Ohio State football team."
High praise, yes, but not the over-the-moon review that he gave Michigan. Of course, visit reactions often depend on the interviewer, the questions they ask, and what they choose to print—in this case, however, Wiltfong got two very different post-visit reactions from Peppers. Read into that what you will.
Four-star PA ATH K.J. Williams also checked out campus last week, and there's no need to read between the lines of his post-visit reaction:
Michigan is by far my top school now!! #BlewMyMind
— TheWorldsGreatest#2 (@KJWilliams2) April 8, 2013
Another young mind destroyed by Michigan's overwhelming recruiting tactics. They show no respect for these recruits, I say. /RCMB'd
Two familar names also made appearances in Ann Arbor. Detroit Country Day WR Maurice Ways was there for the second straight weekend and the coaches have him "very high on their radar," per an interview with Tim Sullivan ($). Ways doesn't have an offer but it seems like one will come sooner or later—if he gets one, Michigan should be in the driver's seat. Meanwhile, Southfield DE Lawrence Marshall (offer) told GBW's Josh Newkirk($) that "everything was good" as he checked out a spring practice, and he came away impressed with Frank Clark, who plays the same weakside DE spot that Michigan hopes Marshall will play for them.
[Hit THE JUMP for a rundown of Spring Game visitors, a new offer, the latest on Drake Harris, a couple happy trails, and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers weekend visitor reactions and more.
Sunday's Silver Lining
The third Michigan visit in three weeks for MI WR Drake Harris culminated in a tour of Michigan Stadium after The Basketball Game That Shall Not Be Named. Harris was accompanied in Ann Arbor for the first time by his mother and grandfather, as well, and he told WolverineNation's Chantel Jennings that his comfort level at Michigan is growing ($):
“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.]