at least it's not just us?
Beards Require No Context Or Reason
— Tim Sullivan (@TimS_Wolverine) October 30, 2013
Tim did this because he's still a blogger at heart, obviously.
Consider that George Campbell's treat, accompanied by this nifty trick:
Da'Shawn And The Battle Of Academic Departments
As more details emerge from Da'Shawn Hand's official visit to Alabama, it's clear that (1) the Tide are very much in the running, and (2) Professor Needs A Raise has a Southern counterpart, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
"The engineering dean is the man!" Hand exclaimed. "He is that guy! I met with the business professor too and he was good. The academic support is amazing. They have individual tutors and that's good to help you manage your time."
In talking with TomVH, Hand revealed this his decision may in fact come down to his choice of major ($):
Hand says that if he wants to go into sports management it will be Michigan, and if he wants to go into engineering it will be Alabama. Florida offers both, so he will be spending time with professors in both fields on that trip to see if that has any impact on his decision.
The 6-foot-4, 262-pound defensive end says for right now he’s just focused on Florida, though, and will head out to Gainesville on November 9.
One of the Michigan coaches may want to alert him to this.
In other pursuits of 2014 blue-chip prospects, Oregon has become a major player for CA ATH JuJu Smith after he visited Eugene in place of a planned trip to Ole Miss; he told Rivals's Adam Gorney($) that the Ducks are "another top team to beat." Smith already had very positive official visit experiences at Notre Dame and Ohio State, has USC and UCLA under consideration, and has two officials left: Alabama (vs. LSU) and Michigan (vs. OSU). With that much competition, it's tough to peg Michigan as anything but a longshot, even with whatever edge they might get from receiving Smith's final official.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the 2014 running back situation—there seems to be a situation—plus Freddy Canteen makin' moves, evaluations of a couple M commits, and more.]
Bye Week Visits: A Trip To Colorado (No, Not For That)
Well played, Maison Bleue.
Last weekend's bye afforded the coaches an opportunity to hit the recruiting trail, and Michigan coaches checked in on the likes of top 2015 MN DE Jashon Cornell, 2015 four-star NC OL Mason Veal, 2015 four-star RB Nasir Bonner, 2015 NJ WR Irvin Charles, and several others.
The most interesting prospect to receive a visit, however, is 2014 ATH Kalen Ballage, as Coach Funk stopped by his school last week, per Sam Webb ($). Michigan originally recruited Ballage as a running back, and it's been long thought that the Wolverines had cooled on him—that obviously isn't the case, even if Ballage is simply a backup option, and the fact that he can also play linebacker or safety is likely fueling at least some of Michigan's renewed interest. With a few spots left in the class and only a handful of prospects under consideration, his versatility could be the key should he want to end up in Ann Arbor.
[EDIT: Per Brandon, Michigan may not have talked to Ballage at all:
Just talked with 2014 ATH/RB Kalen Ballage and he tells me that the #Michigan coaches did NOT visit him.
— Brandon Brown (@CoachBrown3) October 28, 2013
Webb is pretty plugged in and I can't find any sort of retraction from him; since there are rules about contact with recruits, it's possible Funk stopped by Ballage's school but never actually was in contact with him. I'll try to clarify the situation when more information is available.
UPDATE TO THE EDIT: Per 247($), school was not in session when Michigan dropped by; the Wolverines are still recruiting Ballage but obviously didn't talk to him first-hand when they were out there.]
Another visit recipient that caught my eye: 2015 NC jumbo athlete Anthony Rush, who told 247's Steve Lorenz that Michigan is "leaning towards" extending an offer ($). Rush is listed at 6'4", 280 pounds as a junior, and the Wolverines are recruiting him as a tight end. Clearly, the coaches would like more blocking and size up front—most schools are looking at Rush as a defensive tackle.
Prepare For PANIC
(Aw, crap, it's already started.)
As you're probably well aware, Da'Shawn Hand took his official visit to Alabama over the weekend, and reports from the trip have been quite positive. Here's Hand himself:
This visit couldn't of been any better. Had a great time in T-Town
— Da'shawn Hand (@TheHand54) October 27, 2013
Despite the good visit experience for Hand, Alabama insiders around the internets seem to think the Tide still have ground to make up if they're going to catch Michigan; if that's the case, the Wolverines just have to survive Hand's official to Florida—just five days before his Nov. 14th announcement—and they should be in the clear. Still, Alabama is a serious contender, and that's always a frightening opponent to face on the recruiting trail.
To keep the good times rollin', Malik McDowell took a surprise visit to Ohio State for their evisceration of Penn State; he was his usual verbose self in the aftermath:
On my way home from Ohio State. Good game.
— BIG LEEK SOSA (@D1_LEEK) October 27, 2013
At this point, I might be more confident in Hand ending up at Michigan than McDowell, for the sole reason that we have some idea about what Hand thinks about Michigan, while getting information out of McDowell is like breaking into Fort Knox. If I had to bet, I'd wager both land at Michigan, but there's plenty of uncertainty.
[Hit THE JUMP for commit stat updates, the newest 2015 offer recipient, and more.]
McDowell Lines Up Officials
Malik McDowell (#67) relaxes before playing Farmington (Bryan Fuller)
Southfield top-50 DL Malik McDowell has been quiet throughout the recruiting process to the point that I'm not entirely sure this is breaking news; regardless, Josh Helmholdt posted McDowell's official visit plans in his Around The Midwest column, and this is the time I've seen five schools lined up for visits ($):
While the Wolverines and fellow in-state Big Ten program Michigan State are strong contenders for McDowell's signature, the nation's No. 40-ranked prospect will take all of his official visits out of state. All will take place after his senior season. The five schools he has tabbed for those official visits are Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU and Ohio State.
Michigan and MSU won't get officials because McDowell has seen each school multiple times and can easily make his way to games if he wishes. The Wolverines are in the driver's seat of McDowell's recruitment and I don't think the official visit schedule changes that; while that's a who's-who list of top programs, depending on how far Southfield goes in the playoffs, McDowell's season could extend into November, limiting his options for visiting on actual game days—the visits that tend to have the biggest effect on a recruitment. McDowell is so familiar with the Michigan program at this point that it's hard to see him winding up elsewhere.
Cole: "They're All Even"
2015 Saginaw Heritage ATH Brian Cole's recruitment has already taken a couple twists and turns—first Michigan looked to be in command, then MSU, and now the Wolverines again as Saginaw natives haven't appreciated MSU's (lack of) usage of De'Anthony Arnett—and for now, Cole says there isn't a leader at all, per Sam Webb ($):
“(I like) Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Alabama, Wisconsin, Indiana, and a couple more schools,” Cole said. “They’re all even. They’re all about the same. They all treat me nice. I’m not committing anywhere yet.”
I'd expect this still comes down to an in-state battle—one that'll be hotly contested—though some schools on there (OSU, Alabama) cause more concern than others (Indiana? Word?). Michigan is recruiting Cole as a receiver, though he could also play defensive back at the next level.
[Hit THE JUMP for evaluations of Da'Shawn Hand, Lawrence Marshall, Jared Wangler, Erik Swenson, and Kyle Kearns, plus updates on a couple underclassmen.]
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.]
Yes, A WOW Experience
— Justin Hilliard (@1Justinhilliard) September 8, 2013
I deign to use Dave Brandon's favorite phrase in any non-sarcastic context; when you've got Beyoncé on the big board introducing the halftime show, Eminem up in the booth, and a record-setting crowd rocking the Big House in a rivalry win, however, it's appropriate, especially when talking about how UTL II came off to a large contingent of high school recruits.
From L to R: Mason Cole, Matthew Burrell, Damien Harris, Tim Settle, Da'Shawn Hand, Wilton Speight, Drake Harris, George Campbell (photo courtesy of reader Canzior)
According to his mentor, five-star WDE Da'Shawn Hand came away very impressed on his official visit, per Scout's Sam Webb ($):
“It went very well,” said Hand’s mentor and former coach John Harris. “The boys got to hang out with (Wilton) Speight after the game. The atmosphere at the game was electric also.”
"The boys" also included 2015 five-star DT Tim Settle and 2015 four-star OL Matthew Burrell. Despite their high ratings, neither holds an offer; if one comes for Burrell, it sounds like Michigan will be at or near the top of his list, per Steve Lorenz ($):
"This was by far the best visit I've been on," Burrell said. "The people, the coaches. It was just a well-rounded visit. I felt like I was on top of the world I was having so much fun and I wasn't even a commitment."
Based on Coach Funk telling Burrell that he "hope[s] that [Burrell] will be a Wolverine," I'm guessing an offer will come sooner or later; Burrell and PA four-star OT Sterling Jenkins are two quality options for what is, for now, Michigan last O-line spot in the '15 class. Thanks to friend of the blog Canzior for sending along several photos from the Virginia crew's trip, including this fantastic shot of Burrell on the field with John Beilein:
Canzior mentioned that a parent of one of the prospects went so far as to say that Ohio State "didn't even compare" to Michigan.
In a late surprise, four recruits from Glenville—2014 ATH Marshon Lattimore, 2014 S Erick Smith, and 2015 WRs Milan Golden and Trevon Story—made the trip to Ann Arbor; their assistant coach, Robert Andrews, told 247's Steve Wiltfong that all four came away very impressed ($):
“Those guys they were blown away by Michigan. Michigan has treated them special. Our kids come from the inner city and a lot of times they lack the little things in life, and people making a big deal about the little things for them, and Michigan makes everything they do big and important.”
Ohio State still has to be considered the favorite to land Lattimore and Smith, though it's unclear if they'll have room to take the latter; if they don't and Michigan does, the Wolverines are in very good position for him.
2014 five-star DL Malik McDowell ended up staying the night after the game—obviously, a positive sign—and his father told Wiltfong that the visit went very well ($):
“I know [staying the night] was a big plus for him,” Greg McDowell, Malik’s father told 247Sports early Sunday afternoon.
“I just got off the phone with him. He said it was crazy in the Big House. It was roaring. He enjoyed the game and everything.”
Michigan top target in the 2015 class, five-star WDE Jashon Cornell, gave quite a lofty comparison when discussing the atmosphere, per TomVH ($):
“We all thought it was crazy that they had Beyonce on the big screen and Eminem and all the famous people. It was like the Super Bowl,” he said. “All the recruits thought it was special, too, because that’s the last time they will play each other there.”
Cornell won't name any leaders but said that the Wolverines "stand up there" to Wiltfong ($). He'll be back in Ann Arbor in November for The Game.
2015 four-star OH LB Justin Hilliard was impressed with the festivities, as you can see at the top of the post, and told Scout's Dave Berk that Michigan is among a group of schools standing out to him early ($):
“Right now programs like Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State, Ole Miss and some others are sticking out,” said Hilliard. “It’s getting a little overwhelming, but not too much. So I’ll probably be narrowing my list down after my season.
Iowa is also a major factor in his recruitment; his brother, C.J., is committed to their 2014 class.
2015 four-star Cass Tech RB Mike Weber came away from the game with a rediscovered love for Michigan, per Scout's Josh Newkirk ($):
“When I was little I loved Michigan,” Weber said. “Then I still loved Michigan. But when the other guy (Damien Harris) committed, I kind of put my head down towards it. But after I went there last night – it’s back to where it had been when I first even thought about Michigan.
“I know what college is the best fit for me, there is people there. I know I will have to beat them out. I’m not scared of competition.”
If Michigan has room for him, Weber seems like a good possibility to end up in the class.
Per Steve Lorenz, 2016 IL OT Erik Swenson—one of the top prospects in the class and a heavy Michigan lean—had an "insane" time at the game and will be back for the Ohio State game ($). He has no other visits lined up. JPTTA.
Despite the lack of commitments, it's tough to say that last weekend was anything but a roaring success from a football and recruiting standpoint.
[Hit THE JUMP for a roundup of Michigan's commits in high school football action from last weekend.]
Oh, Cool, We Get To Root For The Blue Guys Again
It's a very odd experience to have Cass Tech playing a marquee game and not have several Michigan commits/targets to root for wearing green and white, but that was the case on Friday night when the Technicians—featuring OSU commit Damon Webb and MSU commit Jayru Campbell—took on a Southfield squad starring Michigan pledge Lawrence Marshall and top Wolverine target Malik McDowell. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend due to a family matter (all is well, don't worry), but there was plenty of coverage to round up from Cass Tech's 18-14 victory.
Maize & Blue News has cut-ups of McDowell (#67 in white), who finished with five TFLs in a very impressive performance in his first game for Southfield—an especially good sign given the greatly increased level of competition compared to what he faced in his first three years of high school:
This was Marshall's first game after tragically losing both his father (complications from diabetes) and grandfather (heart attack) within the last two months; TomVH has the full story of Marshall using football as his refuge while going through such a difficult time. Despite those trying circumstances, Marshall had a very impressive game; here's Lorenz on his performance ($):
Marshall was another player who impressed consistently. He still has difficulty disengaging blocks at points, but was very impressive physically and did not look even the slightest bit slower after putting on about 30 pounds since this time last season. He never quits on a play, and made a couple backside pursuit tackles that may have prevented Cass Tech touchdowns. He looked great.
McDowell, meanwhile, earned the nod as top defensive performer of the entire Prep Kickoff Classic from Rivals's Josh Helmholdt ($):
McDowell was named by Rivals.com as one of 10 class of 2014 players who needed to step it up in his senior season, and in the first game he did just that. Detroit Cass Tech fields one of the biggest offensive lines Southfield will see all season and it sent double teams at the 6-foot-7, 290-pound defensive lineman all night long, but it didn't matter. McDowell lived in the Cass Tech backfield, registering five tackles for loss. He was making plays sideline to sideline, showing a great motor.
The major questions surrounding McDowell after three years at Detroit Loyola centered on his motor and whether he could dominate against high-level competition; the early returns on both fronts are obviously quite good. His ability to play both inside and outside on the line could be very valuable if he ends up at Michigan given Greg Mattison's proclivity for moving players around depending on the situation.
Cass Tech's major standout was 2015 RB Mike Weber, who scored two touchdowns and had another brought back due to a penalty. While it's unclear if Michigan will have room for him in their class with Damien Harris already on board, Weber told Scout's Josh Newkirk that he's still got U-M under consideration ($):
While Michigan already has a running back Damien Harris committed in its 2015 class, Weber said he’s still looking at U-M as an option and he isn’t afraid of a little competition in Ann Arbor.
“I’ll go compete anywhere,” Weber said. “If I want to go there and it’s a good fit for me, I don’t care how many running backs go there -- I’m going to try to beat them all out.”
Weber visited for the Central Michigan game and enjoyed seeing several of his former high school teammates on the field, per Steve Lorenz ($). Michigan, Michigan State, and Tennessee are the three schools currently standing out for him; there's a large overlap between his top schools and those of 2015 teammate Joshua Alabi, who told Scout's Mike Wilson that he and Weber share a top two ($):
“Me and Mike, we liked Tennessee,” he said. “That’s our number one, but our number two is both Michigan State, so it’s kind of like even. … We were planning on going to Tennessee’s first night game, so whenever that is.”
Alabi's quotes about the rest of his top five—Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin—indicate that the Wolverines are still under consideration, and may in fact have a good shot if they seriously pursue him:
Michigan: Michigan, that’s a home school. Who wouldn’t want to play for Michigan? If I wind up there, it would be a blessing.”
Michigan State: “With Jayru Campbell, he just committed there so I wouldn’t mind going there with me, Mike and Jayru. We were planning on all going to one school, so that could work out.”
Reading into quotes from high schoolers is a dangerous exercise, but that sure looks to me like Alabi is hoping for a spot to open up. At this point (even with an offer out) I think the coaches are in wait-and-see mode, and Alabi reportedly didn't impress with his play on Friday.
[Hit THE JUMP for the full roundup of Michigan commits in action, including Damien Harris posting mind-blowing numbers, a look at the Rivals250 Watch List for 2015, and more.]