Previously: Michigan State Offense
I switched around the games a bit for scouting MSU's defense. For recency, I went back over the Maryland game last night. (I recommend doing this.) For an opponent that more closely resembles Michigan, I went back to the Wisconsin game. State had a number of changes to the two-deep between those two games, including moving their best player. I have more notes than are probably necessary, so let's dig right in.
Personnel: Seth's diagram [click to embiggen]:
Changes on the Michigan side: Henry Poggi at fullback with Khalid Hill dinged up (Hill may very well still play) and Jehu Chesson loses his shield—the production and draft hype both aren't there right now, but that could change.
MSU has shifted their lineup around quite a bit. Evan Jones, who started the first five games at SDE, is out with an undisclosed injury. To cover for him, Malik McDowell slid out from three-tech to SDE, opening up a spot for Brandon Clemons, who's been surprisingly good for a midseason position-switch starter—he started the first four games at right guard.
CB Darian Hicks was out of the lineup for two games with an injury and returned to his starting spot last week. "STAR" linebacker Jon Reschke has been out since week three with an ankle injury. Riley Bullough is back at the MIKE for at least, like, ten minutes or so.
Base Set? 4-3. MSU utilizes a number of defensive backs in nickel and dime formations. The primary reserve is freshman corner Justin Lane, who usually plays on the outside with Vayante Copeland or another starting DB sliding inside.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
Dymonte Thomas (L) and Jourdan Lewis (R) both committed before receiving coveted offers.
It's been a long time since I did one of these, and after the Shaun Crawford decommitment the topic of discussion is Michigan's very simple policy: if a commit takes visits, the coaches will continue recruiting for that spot, and while they'll continue recruiting the prospect taking visits they'll no longer consider him a commit.
At this point, the policy itself is clear to the point that its particulars aren't up for debate. Its merits, on the other hand, have been questioned. Here's a great question that helps show why it works:
Two part question:
Have there been any Michigan signees that come to mind who benefited the most from the policy being in place? A guy who was locked in early before he blew up regionally or nationally and it kept him in Michigan’s camp maybe? Or a guy, maybe like Peppers, who by committing and not looking around was solely focused on his senior year and helping the recruiting effort.
And on the flip side can you think of a couple of specific names (not including Dawson and the guys who have decommitted this year) who were probably scared away by it and may otherwise have ended up in a Michigan class had it not been for the coach staffs visit rules?
Jabrill Peppers is a nice example to start with, as he considered taking visits a couple months before Signing Day, then reaffirmed his pledge after taking his official visit to Michigan and talking with both the coaches and his family. Who knows what would've happened if Brady Hoke had allowed him to remain committed and visit, say, Alabama? At best, it would've bothered a lot of the other commits. At worst, Peppers would've ended up in Crimson.
Two other current U-M defensive backs come to mind when answering the first part of the question. Dymonte Thomas committed nearly a year-and-a-half before signing his LOI; at the time, the Alliance, Ohio product didn't hold an Ohio State offer, which befuddled Buckeye recruitniks. Even though Thomas' cousin, Bri'onte Dunn, committed to OSU in the interim, when Urban Meyer extended an offer two months later Thomas laughed it off on Twitter. He'd committed, end of story, and he knew what a commitment to Michigan entailed—no trips to check out Columbus and see if he'd want to play with his cousin, something they'd discussed before their respective commitments.
There's also Jourdan Lewis, who eventually became an Army All-American but held this list of offers when he pledged during The Greatest Mid-February Weekend In The History Of Mid-February Weekends: Michigan and Toledo. That's it. Other schools tried to enter the fray, but Lewis remained firm in his pledge—again, in part because he knew the consequences if he started looking around. All he had to do was ask his teammate, David Dawson, the shining example of how the Damien Harris situation can still work out in Michigan's favor.
As for the flip side, there have been multiple prospects in recent years who very nearly committed to U-M while on visits, and in retrospect it's clear the policy helped avoid an eventual decommitment. Malik McDowell immediately comes to mind, as does Artavis Scott. If McDowell had committed, his journey to East Lansing—and I believe he'd have ended up there regardless—would've had even more twists and turns. Same goes for Scott, who took to Clemson's overtures so quickly it's difficult to imagine a Michigan pledge would've stuck.
The best example of the policy avoiding a major issue, however, is a prospect who did at one point commit to U-M: 2014 OT Denzel Ward. His recruitment requires bullet points:
- Committed to Michigan in October 2012, a week after receiving the U-M offer, his best to date. By the first week of January, he'd also hold offers from Arizona State, Florida, and Ohio State.
- Took an unofficial visit to Florida in January 2013 without informing the coaches; at this time, he also transferred high schools from the Chicago area to the IMG Academy in Florida, which also came as a surprise to Michigan's staff.
- Shortly thereafter, Michigan told Ward he was no longer a commit, and due to the lack of communication with the coaches they didn't plan to pursue him again.
- Ward named Florida as his leader in March. He picked up an Oklahoma offer around that time.
- Despite an impressive offer sheet, Ward committed to Purdue in June.
- Three days after an official visit to USF, Ward decommitted from Purdue in December.
- Less than a week after taking his final official visit to Syracuse, Ward committed to the Orange and signed his LOI.
When Michigan recognized Ward was a serious flight risk, they broke things off, and eventually replaced him in the class with a higher-rated, UA All-American tackle in Juwann Bushell-Beatty. If I had to guess whether JBB lasts longer at Michigan or Ward at Syracuse... well, I bet you can guess my answer.
This was going to be a full mailbag, but I got pretty wordy on this one, so I'll answer the rest of the questions in a separate post tomorrow.
Malik McDowell will play for MSU after all. [Fuller]
Finally, the book is closed on the 2014 recruiting class:
The recruiting saga of Malik McDowell is over.
The No. 5-rated defensive tackle in the Class of 2014 delivered a signed letter of intent Wednesday to Michigan State, the school to which he committed on signing day amid a flurry of confusion.
I think everyone is happy to move on at this point, and it's nice to see that Malik ultimately got his wish—this was, after all, his decision.
Spring Game Visitors: A Legacy On Campus?
Scout's Allen Trieu caught up with Tyrone Wheatley to discuss the recruitment of his son, 2015 TE/DE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., and the elder Wheatley revealed a visit to Ann Arbor could happen this weekend ($):
"There is a good chance we might hit the Michigan spring game this weekend and this summer, we're going to go to Miami (Fla.), Florida and we will try to catch Auburn. Coming up on spring break, we're going on a West Coast trip. We're going to go out to see UCLA and USC."
Wheatley is still considering many options, and it appears his recruitment won't end for a while; Michigan is the presumed favorite, however, and could cement that status with a good visit should Wheatley make it into town for the spring game.
Tim Sullivan posted a list of other weekend visitors ($). They include:
- Four-star 2015 IL WR Miles Boykin (unoffered)
- Four-star 2015 MO TE Hale Hentges (offered)
- Three-star 2015 Northville OL David Moorman (unoffered)
- 2016 OH LB Brendan Ferns (unoffered, brother of Michael Ferns)
- 2016 Orchard Lake St. Mary's LB Daelin Hayes (offered, cousin of Justice Hayes)
- 2016 Cass Tech DB Lavert Hill (unoffered, brother of Delano Hill)
- 2017 OLSM LB Joshua Ross (offered, brother of James Ross)
It'll be interesting to see if any of the unoffered prospects picks one up this weekend. Boykin holds offers from Notre Dame, Michigan State, and in-state Illinois, among several others; at 6'5", 208 pounds, he's the type of big wideout Michigan covets. Meanwhile, Brendan Ferns recently pulled in offers from Cincinnati, Kentucky, and West Virginia; if Michigan wants to get in on him early, now would be the time.
Four-star FL OT Jake Fruhmorgen visited Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State last weekend, and his father told 247's Steve Lorenz that the trip to Ann Arbor impressed his son the most ($):
"Michigan was definitely his favorite visit of the three schools he saw this weekend. I think they're in it still for sure; I haven't gotten to talk to him in-depth about it because he had to get back to school today after getting home late last night. I know he really liked the Michigan coaching staff and got along with the players really well too. Of course, the Big House was impressive too."
Before the visit, insiders expected Fruhmorgen to pick Clemson, and soon; it'll be good news if he decides to wait on making a decision.
Four-star FL RB Jacques Patrick will announce his decision on October 27th, per Scout's Jamie Newberg, and Michigan is still in the running:
“I like about ten schools,” Patrick said. “My favorites are Miami, FSU, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio State, UCF, Notre Dame, Auburn and Alabama. I want to go visit Auburn, Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and all the in-state schools this spring and summer.”
Florida State and Florida are the schools to beat right now; the planned spring/summer visit will be huge if Michigan wants to have a real shot here.
One option that can be taken off the board is four-star Texas RB Ronald Jones II, who narrowed his list to five schools and didn't include Michigan ($).
Either Mark Richt is spending a significant amount of time hand-drawing recruits or, well, somebody in Georgia's athletic department is, and either way it's in that gray area between impressive and creepy that recruitniks know all too well.
McDowell's: Still Open For Business
Malik McDowell committed to Michigan State last Wednesday, so why is he leading off another recruiting roundup? Well, his mother still refuses to sign a LOI that will send him to East Lansing, leaving his recruitment at an impasse. Now it appears McDowell may not end up a Spartan after all; 247's Steve Wiltfong has the latest ($):
The elder McDowell says all four schools remain in play and that they are in the process of scheduling unofficial visits back to the Buckeyes, Seminoles and Wolverines campuses. He added a return trip to Michigan State is not necessary for the family.
“He wants Michigan State, he wants that,” Greg McDowell said. “I know he wants that.”
Greg McDowell says he’s fine with his son attending Michigan State if that’s what he truly wants, while McDowell’s mother Joya Crowe has yet to come around on the Spartans.
In case matters weren't complicated enough, the News' Tom Markowski caught up with McDowell's high school coach, who said the visits are "something his dad is wishing for, but Malik hasn’t said anything but MSU."
It still looks like Michigan is on the outside looking in, but it also looks a lot less likely McDowell will end up at Michigan State than it did just a few days ago.
New 2015 and 2016 Offers
A couple more offers went out in recent days as Michigan continues to go after more and more underclassmen targets.
Four-star 2015 IN ILB Josh Barajas (junior highlights) told Wiltfong he was "still in shock" shortly after receiving his Michigan offer ($). UPDATE: Brandon spoke to him. The Wolverines appear to have timed this offer well; despite fielding recent interest from Michigan State and Notre Dame, only Illinois and Purdue offered Barajas before Michigan. He's got visits scheduled to U-M, MSU, and ND in the next month.
Michigan also offered 2016 TX OL Greg Little, who's quickly transition from tight end to burgeoning tackle prospect, per Steve Lorenz ($). His offer list—which includes the likes of Arizona State, Baylor, Clemson, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech—suggests he's one of the top tackle prospects in his class; while Little says he will try to visit Michigan, he could be a very tough pull.
PSA: Phones Can (And Should) Film Horizontally
Jabrill Peppers released the first of an unspecified number of YouTube videos documenting his visit to Michigan and why he chose the Wolverines. I haven't had the chance to go through the 15-minute episode above, but a quick scan reveals that arrrrrgghhh vertical video whyyyyyyyyy. Aside from that poor choice, however, this should be a very interesting watch.
In other commit news, here's a fun quote from 2015 CB Shaun Crawford:
On Wednesday, during an interview with Cleveland.com, Crawford was once again asked about his Buckeye offer and what it meant to him.
Without much hesitation, Crawford reached for a Michigan hat, put it atop his head and fully declared where his heart resides at the moment.
"I'm Michigan all the way," Crawford said. "Picking up the Ohio State offer was great.
"But they were a little too late."
Ali-esque rhyming dig right there. I like it.
Recently offered four-star NJ OT Grant Newsome told Sam Webb he will "definitely" visit Michigan and placed the Wolverines among the top schools he plans to visit ($):
Sam Webb: Aside from Michigan, do you know off the top of your head some of the other schools that you for sure are going to visit?
Grant Newsome: “I haven’t really set the list yet. I will probably be taking a visit to Penn State and Northwestern, maybe South Carolina. I think those are four I will probably take visits to but I really haven’t set the list.”
Newsome wants to make a decision before his senior year; with his recruitment picking up steam, Michigan looks to be a strong contender.
Another recent OL offer, 2015 PA four-star Ryan Bates, told Webb that new offers from Michigan and Michigan State will be compared to his current favorites, Penn State and South Carolina; that should happen soon, as he plans to decide in the spring or early summer ($).
Michigan made the top ten for four-star TX dual-threat QB Jarrett Stidham, though Texas Tech is still regarded as his early leader.
Scout updated their top 300 for the 2015 class. Shaun Crawford comes in at #65 (#8 CB), Tyree Kinnel at #220 (#27 CB), and Jon Runyan Jr. at #294 (#20 OG).
Signing Day: It Happened, I Guess
OFFICIALLY OURS NOW
By the time I was able to get my laptop to start yesterday*, Michigan had already received LOIs from every committed prospect, and Malik McDowell had announced his intention to attend Michigan State. Brandon caught up with all the freshly inked signees on Tuesday night; other than the usual coachspeak-filled presser, there was little else of note to happen on the recruiting front yesterday for the Wolverines.
Of course, there's the McDowell situation, which is a mess. He committed to MSU in a ceremony at Southfield High School. His father attended, though he's still not a big fan of the decision; his mother did not. As of now, McDowell's LOI remains unsigned, and potentially could for a while:
“I’m not legally able to do it because I’m not the custodial parent,” Greg [McDowell, Malik's father] told The Detroit News, noting that Malik is only 17. “[Joya Crowe, Malik's mother] has to sign it and I have to sign it, too. I don’t know when it will happen. Malik has to handle that with his Mom. I’m willing to do whatever my son wants. It’s been a long process and an uneasy process.
“That’s something he’ll have to deal with, because at the end of the day it’s all about him and he has to work it out.”
State's coaches sounded confident that he'll be a Spartan eventually—if worst comes to worst, McDowell doesn't even need a LOI in order to get his scholarship and enroll in the fall, though that leaves MSU in the unenviable position of hoping he sticks to his commitment without any binding document.
Could Michigan potentially get back into his recruitment in the meantime? It's highly unlikely. Malik is obviously intent on going to MSU; if he's forced to compromise with his mother, FSU and OSU are also possibilities—and there's also the matter of whether or not the coaches would want a player who may not really want to be in the program. Usually in these types of situations, the prospect eventually gets his wish, and that's what I expect to happen here.
As for actual newsworthy bits regarding Michigan's commits, there's one worth reprinting: Drake Harris, who missed his senior season with a torn hamstring, is "feeling more and more 100 percent," according to Jeff Hecklinski, and should be healthy for spring practice.
[Hit THE JUMP for a great Bo Schembechler story, Bo Pelini's unusual recruiting methods, lolTimBeckman, actual evidence that tweeting at recruits doesn't work, and more.]
Left: The Perfect Spartan [Fuller]. Right: Drake Harris [Josh Hemholdt/Rivals]
Tomorrow is Signing Day. If you live in the state of Michigan, that means you'll be hearing from your nearest Spartan about their Top 25, better-than-Michigan's (on one of the four sites) class, and how they always get the best player in the state no matter how far the definition of that must be stretched to achieve it.
2012-'13: Return of the Normal
Left: Burbridge, Funchess and Ojemudia. Right: Shane Morris; yes we got him a better hat.
|Touted Recruits||Head to Head||Signee Rankings|
|2013||5||1||1||3||2||1,2,3,6,7,11,13, 17||4, 8, 14|
Michigan wins: James Ross, Ben Braden, Dennis Norfleet, Matt Godin, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Mario Ojemudia, Terry Richardson, Devin Funchess, Shane Morris (though extremely early), Wyatt Shallman, and David Dawson
MSU wins: Aaron Burbridge, Jon Reschke, Dennis Finley
Elsewhere: DT Danny O'Brien (Tennessee), OT Steve Elmer (ND)
MSU never got around to offering Jourdan Lewis before that legendary February commitment blitz. In both of these classes once Michigan was done with what they wanted there just wasn't much left.
MSU's solitary victory in 2012 was Burbridge, who tired of Michigan's wait-'n-see approach with his academic eligibility. Both of State's head-to-head 2013 wins were guys Michigan gave extremely cursory offers after they were already committed to MSU: legacy Jon Reschke, and OT Dennis Finley, a Cass Tech kid who was passed on earlier and then was offered during David Dawson's vision quest.
|Touted Recruits||Head to Head||Signee Rankings|
|2014||2||0 or 1||1 or 2||3||0 or 1||3,4,8,14||(1?),5,7,10,16,24,25|
This year the two mitten rivals had more than a few battles outside of the state. Montae Nicholson had lots of national offers and was a Michigan target until Michigan told him they were filled up at his position in August. Wisconsin DT Craig Evans, who flipped from the Badgers to the Spartans "not because of academics" yesterday, claimed a doubtable Michigan offer. On the flipside Michigan's entire LB class (Michael Ferns, Chase Winovich and Noah Furbush, plus our in-state legacy) and Juwaan Bushell-Beatty held unrequited offers to attend MSU.
But this isn't about that. It's about who owns the State of Michigan. And that is…
Head-to-Head Wins for MSU:
- If DL Malik McDowell chooses MSU (against his parents' wishes) they would have one.
Head-to-Head Wins for Michigan:
|Marshall on the sidelines during Seaholm's late playoff comeback. [Me!!!]|
- WR Drake Harris: Committed to MSU as 2-sport athlete, switched to Michigan when he decided on football.
- WDE Lawrence Marshall: Committed to OSU, then was thought an MSU lock, then switched to Michigan last spring. "The best players in Michigan go to Michigan" will go in bucket of all-time Sparty trolls. Other offers: Neb, Okla, Ole Miss. Bama and USC interest, but no offers.
- WLB Jared Wangler: A 2-star with offer from…LSU?--oh right, he's Johnny Wang's kid. Was first a Penn State commit over MSU (also Cincy and Yale), who flipped on the offer to dad's school.
Michigan Commit who Michigan State Didn't Offer:
- WR Mo Ways: MSU coaches visited, wanted him to camp again before extending their offer. ND coaches came that day too. He took an unofficial to M right after those meetings, got an offer, and pulled the trigger. Iowa, Rutgers were other offers, OSU, NWern were interested too.
Michigan State commits who Michigan didn't offer:
- ATH (WR/CB) Jalen Watts-Jackson: SMSB camp offer, previously just had EMU and CMU interest. My neighbor's kid plays with Jalen at OLSM, and apparently he was the kid throwing the ball around on my street all the time; I didn't pay attention because I had no idea he was a D-I recruit before it got too cold, so I have nothing to offer.
- LB Byron Bullough: Is a Bullough.
- NT David Beedle: MAC offers, committed on offer after SMSB camp.
- LB Deon Drake: Cass Tech kid Michigan passed on. Knee issues last summer.
- OL Nick Padla: Illinois, MAC offers. M never showed interest.
- TE Matt Sokol: Illinois and Wisconsin sent offers, Michigan never got involved.
Guys who went somewhere else:
CB Damon Webb: Urban getting the top-rated Cass Tech kid would be like Michigan doing the same from Glenville.
- OL Tommy Doles: Academic-minded, early on looked like a Michigan lock; seems like there was a mutual parting last spring. MSU was interested, but never in it.
- If Malik chooses OSU or FSU he goes here.
- DE Jhonathan Williams: MSU was involved as a two-sport before he committed to Mizzou. ND flipped him in late November. Michigan had an offer in after losing Hand.
2015: The Year of Hover Cars and Mr. Fusion
Is next year! Great heavy this is scott.
Power laces: alright!
So far MSU has commitments from OT/DT Kyonta Stallworth, CB Tyson Smith, and Jayru Campbell if he can right himself, but none of those were really Michigan targets. Campbell's Cass Tech teammates RB Michael Weber and OT Joshua Alabi both seem to be MSU leans at this point; again, Michigan hasn't been as involved. The big battle will be over Brian Cole, one of the country's top cornerbacks, and Michigan State seems to be in good position there right now. The other in-stater being fought over is SAM-like object Tyriq Thompson. I reiterate my completely non-professional preference that they offer Brother Rice QB Alex Malzone now.