"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Commitments Come In Pairs, Volume [I Lost Count]
Michigan's 2015 class grew by two highly-regarded Ohio defensive backs over the weekend; if you missed them, here are the commitment posts for cornerback Shaun Crawford and safety Tyree Kinnel. The pair represent the fifth and sixth commits in the '15 class; to say the pace of recruiting has increased is an understatement:
Commitment no.5 for class of 2014 was Drake Harris, 4 months ago. No.5 for 2013 was on The Weekend that killed @AceAnbender
— Brett Thiessen (@The_Mathlete) August 23, 2013
Adding to that, Michigan's sixth commitment for the '14 class came when Ian Bunting pledged on April 23rd of this year; their sixth for '13 also occurred during The Greatest Mid-February Weekend In The History Of Mid-February Weekends.
Crawford and Kinnel aren't just highly-touted players from Ohio; they're both lifelong Michigan fans, which played a part in each of their commitments. Here's Crawford's post-commitment reaction to Tim Sullivan ($):
"Just being able to run out the tunnel and jump up and touch the sign, I've always seen it on Saturdays and finally getting the opportunity to do it is something I've always wanted to do," he said. "I can't wait to make the Michigan family happy."
And Kinnel talking to Scout's Dave Berk ($):
“We’re all Michigan fans because my dad grew up in Jackson, Michigan,” he said. “He just loved Michigan and ever since I was born, he just brained washed me on Michigan.”
They've been groomed for the Maize and Blue; now, do they fit The Pattern™? Of course they do. Crawford to 247's Mark Zakrajsek ($):
"I will bring my effort, that's the only thing I can promise right now," Crawford said. "With great effort all the great things I do on the field will come. I will play every down like it's my last because it's my dream to play on national television on Saturdays. My goal isn't to win the Heisman or any personal awards, I just want to be the best teammate I can be and make sure my team and coaches know I won't let them down."
And Kinnel's high school coach to Berk ($):
“Tyree comes from a great mom and dad,” said Minton. “He’s from a great close knit family and he’s not your typical high school kid that goes out and hangs out.
He’s much more like Braxton [Miller] was as they don’t mind staying in and playing a video game or something like that. He knows there are a lot of bad decisions that are out there and he doesn’t want to get caught up by anything like that.”
As for on-field ability, I posted my favorite Crawford clip as a GIF and forgot to do so for Kinnel; Kinnel's coach talked up his instincts and play recognition, and this is a fine example—watch him play bracket coverage underneath the slot receiver while managing to keep his eyes on the quarterback, then come screaming from the opposite side of the field to stop the QB's scramble cold when it looked like an inevitable first down or even touchdown:
Making that play wasn't Kinnel's responsibility; he made it anyway after taking away the deep crossing route. Add that to the quote from his Hello post about Kinnel's coaches trusting him to call defensive audibles as a rising junior and we get an idea of his level of football smarts—he's very advanced in that regard for a player his age and it shows in his play.
Crawford and Kinnel were each Michigan's first offered prospects at their respective positions; their commitments add to an impressive trend in Brady Hoke's '15 class:
Worth noting that #Michigan has gotten commits from their first offers at CB, WR, RB, S and K now. That's five of six positions committed
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) August 24, 2013
That is a remarkable stat considering four of those players—Crawford, RB Damien Harris, WR George Campbell, and K Andrew David—are considered among the very top prospects (if not the top) at their position, and only David didn't hold offers from multiple BCS powers when he committed.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on Da'Shawn Hand's and Leonard Fournette's official visit plans, highlights of several Michigan commits from last weekend's high school action, and two reasons you're definitely going to want Hjalte Froholdt to end up at Michigan.]
Not Dead ... Yet
The commitment of 2015 KY RB Damien Harris led many, including myself, to assume that Michigan's recruitment of 2014 LA RB Leonard Fournette — who'd just no-showed a planned visit for the BBQ — was D-E-D dead. Per 247's Kipp Adams, however, it appears there's still a faint pulse ($):
According to Fournette’s father, Leonard II, three of those four programs are slated to get coveted official visits from the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2014 247Composite.
“He plans to take officials to Alabama, USC, Michigan and Florida,” Fournette II said, adding that Miami (Fla.) is likely to receive the fifth one.
LSU was not listed as a school slated to get an official, but Fournette II did list them as an additional top school.
Unfortunately, Michigan isn't mentioned once in the rest of the article, which features plenty of talk about LSU, Alabama, and USC. There is one other revelation: the Fournettes are apparently the Gradys of the South, as Leonard III's younger brother — a thus-far unoffered 2015 running back — is named... Lanard. That doesn't get confusing, I'm sure.
As far as Fournette's recruitment goes, I'll believe Michigan has the slightest of chances when he's physically on campus, and even then the outlook is still probably grim. But, hey, Damien Harris...
PRETTY GOOD, GUYS
...is pretty good, guys. GBW had Allen Trieu talk about Harris's potential impact and lo, is there ever potential for impact ($):
“He was at the Best of the Midwest Combine two winters ago," Trieu said, "and he was already pretty physically put together, and ran a pretty good 40 there, and then when you find out that kid is only a freshman you’re like, wow. I was able to go back and pull up the film from his freshman year and after the first three plays on the film, I basically turned it off and said I know this guy is a big time guy -- a national guy. And I don’t get too many guys like that, to be honest.
"There’s not a ton of guys that I turn on the film and right away I know that this guy is going to be right up there with the best in the country but, for him to be that way at an early age, I knew that there was something special there.”
Trieu also mentions that Harris is a "really good receiver" in a camp setting, something that doesn't come through on film because why throw to the guy when you can hand the ball to him directly and probably score a touchdown, amirite?* Harris's high school coach echoed Trieu's praise and talked up his football IQ to TomVH ($):
Madison Southern High coach Jon Clark said Michigan is getting a big, multidimensional back in the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Harris.
"He's a lot bigger than people think. He's not a small speed back, either," Clark said. "He's an excellent receiver out of the backfield, he is a smart player and he understands defensive schemes."
Harris confirmed to Trieu in another article that, while he's been leaning heavily towards Michigan for a long time, the commitment of George Campbell accelerated his process; a childhood fan of the Wolverines, Harris gave a great quote about committing to his dream school ($):
"I don't even know what to expect. Growing up and loving a school and it being your dream and being able to achieve the dream and play at Michigan, it's mind blowing to think it's coming true. I'm going to be thinking about how blessed I am to be playing, not only for a great school, but with great teammates and great coaches and a great fan base. I hope to live up to the expectations they have, but I'm going to work hard and come in and play my game."
It's always great to see these kind of dreams fulfilled, and even better when they're the dreams of five-stars.
Speaking of insanely talented recent 2015 commits, a local news article on Campbell contains this tidbit about his academic plans:
"Everyone, not just the coaches but also the players, they all took me in as one," Campbell said on Monday. "Pretty much, it's like a big old family there. Not just that, but the academics. I plan on majoring in Sports Management, and they have a great program there. It's the best choice for me at the moment and for my future, too."
If this was the work of Professor Needs A Raise, he's now been upgraded to Professor Needs A Building Named After Him. You know, as soon as one of us remembers his real name — The Professor Needs A Building Named After Him, Er, Building doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
How rare is a commitment from a kid like Campbell? DGDestroys put together this chart over at Maize n Brew of the eventual destinations of Florida five-stars ranked among the top 15 players in their class (covering 2002-2013):
You'll note the complete lack of Big Ten schools, with Notre Dame representing the only program north of West Virginia to land a prospect matching the criteria. That prospect was Aaron Lynch, who transferred to USF after his freshman year. As long as Michigan holds onto Campbell — and he stays where he is in the rankings — then they're pulling off something that hasn't been done in the Rivals era.
Speaking of making recruiting history, The Wolverine's Michael Spath dug through the Rivals database($) and found that the last team to pull in the #1 players in their class at running back and receiver was USC in 2007 with Joe McKnight and (sigh) Ronald Johnson. Michigan has a chance to do that with Campbell and Harris; it would be the first time the Wolverines pulled off the feat since 1998, predating the modern recruiting services, with Justin Fargas and David Terrell.
[Hit THE JUMP for, oh hey, another 2015 prospect that looks like a stone-cold Michigan lock, more reactions from last weekend's BBQ, how OSU's latest commitment could affect the Wolverines, and more.]
If you think the headline contains a typo, try listening to better music.
George Campbell, Mayor Of Twitter
As Michigan fans tried to decrypt Wilton Speight's Twitter teaser, Saturday afternoon bled into Saturday evening with no word about a commitment. Would it be Shaun Crawford? Sterling Jenkins? Erik Swenson? Maybe even Malik McDowell? Any would've been great; the real answer, though, elicited a rapturous response.
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) July 27, 2013
— DG (@DGDestroys) July 27, 2013
holy pants. Hoke, you are the stockiest ninja.
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) July 28, 2013
George Campbell's commitment briefly turned the entire Michigan twittersphere into Robin and Brady Hoke into the proudest papa.
Mason Cole's Instagram also features ... are those tears, Coach?
It also attracted the attention of the CEO of Twitter, Michigan grad Dick Costolo.
— dick costolo (@dickc) July 29, 2013
Modified rule: Don't tweet at recruits — unless you're the CEO of Twitter. [Side note: This is a story. Get here already, football season. Also, Matt Hayes must be stopped, and this is one of a very short list of things Michigan and Ohio State fans can agree upon.]
Why is everyone so excited? Because if "500" was an Olympic sport, George Campbell would win the gold, silver, and bronze.
Also, have I mentioned he's 6'4" and runs a 4.36 40-yard dash?
There were 3 WR's in the 2013 NFL Combine w/ a 40 as fast/faster than George Campbell. They were 6', 5'8", and 5'9". Campbell is 6'4". Wow.
— CoachBrown TheMBlock (@CoachBrown3) July 28, 2013
Yes, Campbell still has work to do when it comes to his hands and route-running — this video from the Columbus NFTC highlights both the best and worst parts of Campbell's game right now — but with two more years of high school ball to play, his potential is terrifyingly vast. Scout's Jamie Newberg provided a detailed scouting report of Campbell after his commitment, and even the areas for improvement section features one of them good problems ($):
What may be of concern: Campbell catches the ball well but is not a natural pass catcher. Sometimes he fights it but he is getting better and better. Size is also an issue because you just can’t forecast just how big this cat is going to get. He has a giant frame and long arms so there is no telling what his size will be like in three or four years. Remember, he still has two high school seasons to play before he gets to Ann Arbor. Will his growth prompt a position change? If so, how will that impact his develop?
All of these are concerns but I see them as minor concerns because Campbell is such an outstanding athlete. Recruit him now and worry about it later.
Oh no he might be even more giant and still probably really fast.
Campbell's commitment does more than just give Michigan one of the top prospects in his entire class. It also looks like he'll be a major recruiting conduit in the tradition of Morris, Speight, Ferns, et al — Campbell reportedly struck up a close friendship with 2015 MI ATH Brian Cole, and he's already reaching out to other top prospects on Twitter. Others, including 2015 MN LB/DE Jashon Cornell, ESPN's #1 overall recruit in the class, took immediate notice after Campbell tweeted out his commitment announcement.
— Jashon Cornell (@Jay_Rock16) July 28, 2013
— Jashon Cornell (@Jay_Rock16) July 27, 2013
Oh, and some other guy passed along his congratulations.
— Damien Harris (@Damien_D1Harris) July 28, 2013
That guy is consensus top-100 2015 running back Damien Harris. He committed to Michigan while I was writing this post. Brian, mercifully, handled the Hello post. Commitments come in pairs, Brady Hoke poops magic, and Michigan now has their top targets at wide receiver and running back already in the fold for 2015.
Hello there, potential überclass:
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) July 29, 2013
Not a bad start to the week, you guys.
[Hit THE JUMP for much, much more on the BBQ, including reactions from Malik McDowell, Shaun Crawford, Sterling Jenkins, and Justin Hilliard, plus surprise appearances from a couple of Glenville's finest.]
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.]
I'm back from parts unknown—okay, Phoenix—with definitive proof that TomVH, not myself, is the recruiting analyst with the vacation-commitment curse (or gift, depending on your perspective). It's been mostly quiet on the recruiting front for the past week, save for Michigan finally pinning down a big-time visit.
Roll Out The
Red Blue Carpet
LA RB Leonard Fournette would like some extra barbeque with his barbeque, please:
New Orleans (LA) St. Augustine 2014 running back Leonard Fournette has been talking about visiting Michigan for some time now.
On Sunday, Wolverine247 insider Steve Lorenz confirmed that Fournette, the Nations top running back, will visit Michigan for an extended visit next week.
This year's BBQ at the Big House is a two-day event slated for Saturday/Sunday; Fournette will arrive in Ann Arbor on Thursday and spend the weekend — accompanied by both of his parents, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($). Fournette and his family remain adamant that the nation's top back doesn't have any leaders despite everyone expecting the Louisiana native to stay in the Southeast. Michigan is still a longshot and I will continue saying that until there's very concrete evidence to the contrary; Fournette staying for a long weekend with his parents, however, certainly indicates serious interest.
Fournette won't be the only 2014 running back in attendance at the BBQ; Michigan has long been among the top schools for New Jersey three-star Jonathan Hilliman, whose offer sheet far outstrips his current rankings — he'll be in town this weekend, but the Wolverines have ground to cover, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
Hilliman's top five schools were, in no order, Ohio State, Alabama, Rutgers, Michigan and Vanderbilt but he already knows of one school that will make it to the next round.
"I'm going to cut down to three," he said. "Ohio State is still the leader. We're keeping in contact and it's easy for me to see how interested they are. I know Ohio State is going to make the cut and most likely Rutgers will also but I want to see how the visit goes. I'm not sure of which school will be that third one.
The BBQ gives Michigan a good chance to be that third school; Ohio State is obviously the team to beat. I'll have the full rundown on BBQ visitors on Thursday, once I've had a chance to settle back in and more recruits confirm whether or not they'll attend.
[Hit THE JUMP for news on early enrollees, the latest on Adoree' Jackson, and updates on several underclassmen, including Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and the two choice eliminations from his recruitment.]
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.]