"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
McDowell Watch: Day Somethingorother
Let's go to Sam Webb, live on the scene ($):
"He talked with (Hoke) late last night," McDowell's father reported. "(Michigan's in-home) is for tomorrow. We (i.e. both parents and Malik) are going to Ohio State this weekend. Florida State is making it in tomorrow also."
Malik McDowell released a top four of Michigan, Michigan State, Florida State, and Ohio State—in no particular order—earlier this week. FSU and OSU seem like longshots—the 'Noles because of distance, the Buckeyes because it's tough to get a read on where they stand, though that could easily change after his official visit this weekend.
The in-home visit from Michigan is a huge one; the general consensus is that his parents are very much in Michigan's corner, but Malik is more enamored with Michigan State. With in-homes this week from U-M, FSU, and potentially MSU, plus a final official to OSU this weekend, McDowell is on track for his planned Signing Day announcement. The biggest question at this point: how much influence will his parents have on his decision? That could very well determine if he ends up a Wolverine. The mood is tense.
Also, it's pretty clear at this point that McDowell is the only 2014 prospect left on Michigan's radar. Michigan backed off in their recruitments of running backs Jeff Jones and Marlon Mack, who flipped his commitment from UCLA to USF yesterday, while the latest Rivals update on soft Arizona State commit Kalen Ballage—who some thought Michigan would continue to pursue as an athlete—contains no mention of the Wolverines ($).
[Hit THE JUMP for the most recent spate of underclassmen offers, updates on a couple key 2015 targets, and more.]
2015 Quarterback Musical Chairs
Should be awarded fifth star just for using early Black Keys.
When Michigan named Doug Nussmeier offensive coordinator, five-star QB Ricky Town was committed to Alabama, Michigan offeree David Sills was USC's lone (and long-time) 2015 QB commit, and CA five-star QB Josh Rosen had shown little interest in his Wolverine offer.
That's all changing quickly. Town decommitted from Alabama on Saturday, launching speculation that he may want to follow his former would-be offensive coordinator and position coach to Ann Arbor. That speculation lasted a matter of hours before Town committed to his home-state childhood favorite... USC. Even before Town's commitment, Sills started fielding interest from other schools, and a decommitment—possibly of the mutual "this is best for everyone" variety—could very well be in the cards; this quote via ESPN's Blair Angulo is telling ($):
[USC coach Steve] Sarkisian, according to Sills' father, David, was slated to check in at the school sometime this month. That plan might still be in play, though some close to Sills' recruitment got word about Town's decommitment and aren't optimistic.
"The staff was supposed to come by two or three weeks ago, but apparently they will swing by this coming week," Eastern Christian Academy coach Dwayne Thomas said.
"David is still considering other schools," Thomas said.
Michigan could very well be one of those schools under consideration, though that situation is complicated, too. Sills was offered under Al Borges, not Nussmeier, and Michigan continues to throw out offers to '15 quarterbacks—most recently, Notre Dame commit Blake Barnett and 247 Composite top-50 TX dual-threat QB Jarrett Stidham. It's unclear how serious Sills is about Michigan; it's also unclear how interested Michigan (read: Nussmeier) is in Sills.
In case matters weren't complicated enough, Rosen's interest in Michigan has grown to the point that he's hankering to visit Ann Arbor, per Rivals' Adam Gorney ($):
"I've seen plenty of Cal and Stanford," Rosen said. "The school I'd actually travel to see is Michigan. I've seen Cal like four times now because I've seen Bryce (Treggs) up there and went to Elite 11 stuff. I pretty much know what's going on there.
"I want to check out Michigan, maybe Texas, I don't know. Michigan is one I definitely want to go to."
UCLA has a decided edge for Rosen—he even considered an early commitment to the Bruins—but if he gets on campus, who knows what can happen from there.
Since it's tough to keep track, Michigan has offered four 2015 quarterbacks: Rosen, Sills, Barnett, and Stidham. Barnett is a firm Notre Dame pledge, Rosen seems likely to stay in California, the Sills situation is covered above, and Stidham has a great offer list that includes the in-state triumverate of Texas/TAMU/Baylor. The search for the right '15 QB could go on for quite a while at this rate, and I wouldn't be surprised if more offers go out in the near future.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on new 2015 offers, the chances of bringing Harris and Campbell back into the fold, and more.]
Damien Harris Fallout: Back In It For Mike Weber?
2015 five-star RB Damien Harris decommitted from Michigan this week. After Al Borges—his primary recruiter—was fired, Harris decided he needed to take a step back and explore his options, though his mother says Michigan is still on top, per Sam Webb ($):
“The reason he came to this decision is he felt like when he committed, at the time, we felt like it was the right decision even though it was early,” she explained. “Months later he has been thinking and thinking, ‘I didn’t really go and look at other places probably like I should have. I didn’t consider other places like I should have.’ Even though Michigan is #1, and that hasn’t changed, he just wants to make sure he doesn’t have any regrets when he gets ready to enroll. He just wants to make sure that he didn’t leave any stone unturned and wants to make sure he didn’t miss out on anything, even though he knows Michigan is still his #1. That’s all. He is just making sure that if he was to visit other places, he wasn’t going to regret not taking the full experience.”
Meanwhile, a certain despicable portion of the fanbase* isn't helping Michigan's cause. Harris has taken a lot of heat on Twitter for his decommitment and his coach told TomVH that could be a factor in his ultimate decision ($):
“People need to back off of him [on Twitter]. He’s a 16-year-old kid. People are attacking him on there,” [Madison Southern coach Jon] Clark said. “You have grown men who are way out of line, and Michigan fans better ease up or they’re going to push him away from Michigan. The coaches aren’t; the fans are.
“The only impact a fan ever has on a kid is a negative one; that’s it. There’s not a fan out there that has a positive impact on this kid.”
To state the blitheringly obvious: DON'T DO THIS. I realize/hope this doesn't apply to 99% of you, but nothing you're going to do as a fan—positive or negative, in person or on social media—is going to make a positive difference in a prospect's recruitment. Leave the recruiting to the coaches and, as a general life rule, leave harassing high school students to... nobody. Nobody should do that.
Anyway, with Harris opening up his recruitment, Michigan has rekindled their interest in 2015 four-star Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, per GBW's Josh Newkirk ($):
“I talked with (Nussmeier) for a half-hour on the phone. He is real excited about recruiting me,” Weber told GoBlueWolverine. “He told me it was crazy that Michigan stopped recruiting me. So when he got there he was telling me how he really wanted me (at Michigan). It made me open my eyes back up to Michigan.
“Michigan is back on the radar.”
Weber named a top five of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Tennessee (in no particular order); the Spartans and Vols have been the presumed favorites for a while now, though the renewed Michigan interest could change that. It didn't take long for Weber to recipricate that interest, too—he was the only prospect in attendance at last night's Iowa game, which he seemed to appreciate. Whether or not things work out with Harris, Weber would be a great addition to the class; he's been very productive against solid competition for the last two years and looks great on film.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, new 2015 offers—including a long-awaited one to a California DE—the final Rivals250, and more.]
Scout, 247 Release Final 2014 Rankings
ESPN released their final 2014 rankings earlier this week—covered in the last roundup—and now Scout and 247 have followed suit.
Here's the movement for Michigan commits and targets in the final Scout rankings:
- Commit Jabrill Peppers moved up from #4 to #3 overall (#1 CB)
- Target Malik McDowell moved up from #42 to #36 (#7 DE)
- Early enrollee Drake Harris moved up from #54 to #52 (#8 WR)
- Target Jeff Jones is ranked #78 (#12 RB) (unsure of previous ranking since he just recently picked up a Michigan offer, but I'm pretty sure he moved up)
- Early enrollee Bryan Mone moved up from #90 to #88 (#6 DT)
- Commit Lawrence Marshall moved up from #105 to #104 (#12 DE)
- Early enrollee Freddy Canteen fell from #171 to #172 (#31 WR)
- Early enrollee Michael Ferns fell from #178 to #179 (#8 MLB)
- Early enrollee Mason Cole fell from #249 to #253 (#18 OT)
- Commit Chase Winovich fell from #277 to #281 (#26 OLB)
That gives U-M eight commits in the Scout 300 with a realistic shot at adding two more. The reshuffling is less kind at 247, which appeared to base a good deal of their final rankings on the All-American games/combines:
- Commit Jabrill Peppers fell from #3 to #4 overall (#1 ATH)
- Target Malik McDowell moved up from #53 to #38 (#2 SDE)
- Target Jeff Jones moved up from #188 to #55 (#5 RB)
- Early enrollee Bryan Mone fell from #46 to #83 (#9 DT)
- Early enrollee Mason Cole moved up from #111 to #87 (#4 OG)
- Early enrollee Drake Harris fell from #43 to #88 (#12 WR)
- Early enrollee Michael Ferns fell from #191 to #198 (#7 ILB)
- Commit Lawrence Marshall moved up from #229 to #221 (#11 WDE)
- Commit Ian Bunting fell from #224 to #230 (#6 TE)
- Commit Juwann Bushell-Beatty fell off the list from #208 (remains four-star, now #23 OT)
A much wider range of movement here, obviously, with Jeff Jones and Mason Cole benefiting from outstanding All-American performances and Bryan Mone and Juwann Bushell-Beatty going in the opposite direction. It's obvious that the recruiting services are having a hard time figuring out what to do with Drake Harris, who's remained in or around the top 50 on the recruiting rankings on the basis of his stellar junior year and, depending on the site, is either staying there (Scout) or falling after missing his entire senior season and the UA game (247, ESPN).
Even with the wider variety in postseason movement, Michigan ends up with just as many top-250 prospects on 247 (seven, pending the decisions of McDowell and Jones) as they do on Scout—not a bad haul at all in a class currently standing at 16 commits. ESPN remains your recruiting service of choice this year, as they have eight Wolverines in the top 200.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Jones and McDowell, the Daily on Jared Wangler, Michigan offering a legacy prospect, and more.]
Something Unrelated To Nussmei--wait it's totally about Nussmeier
Sam Webb's latest Detroit News feature covers the potential recruiting impact of Doug Nussmeier; according to Greg Biggins—who covered the West region for Scout before becoming their national analyst, and therefore is familiar with Nussmeier's recruiting efforts at Washington—he's a more active and willing recruiter than his predecessor:
“I'm a big fan of Doug Nussmeier as a coach, recruiter and person,” Scout.com National Recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said. “He's a high-energy, loud, fun-loving coach who has a magnetic personality. He relates very well to kids because of his youthful, outgoing personality. Just from a personality standpoint he's basically the opposite of Al Borges if you're looking for a comparison. He really loves to recruit.
As a lead recruiter, Nussmeier secured commitments from two four-star All-American QBs at Washington for the 2012 class, four-star All-American Cooper Bateman for Alabama in the 2013 class, four-star All-American David Cornwell for 2014, and the consensus #2 2015 quarterback, Ricky Town, who pledged to the Tide last August (and remains "very solid" in that commitment, for those hoping he'd follow Nussmeier to Michigan). That's quite a track record, and there's more; even if you don't want to credit him too much for landing 4.5-star Tuscaloosa native Bo Scarbrough, he certainly earns points for venturing up to Ohio to reel in four-star WR Derek Kief in the 2014 class.
With Michigan still searching for a quarterback in the 2015 class—and highly unlikely to receive a commitment from their two current offered prospects, five-star Josh Rosen and three-star David Sills—there's work to be done on that front by Nussmeier. Thankfully for Michigan, he's already developed a relationship with one of their top targets, three-star CA QB Kyle Kearns:
2015 QB Kyle Kearns who has been a #Michigan target says he has a very good relationship already with Nussmeier. Calls him a good friend.
— Brandon Brown (@CoachBrown3) January 9, 2014
We've also got a "sam webb knows all" tag on this blog for a reason; it's possible he gave away Michigan's next offer, as this is buried in the Nussmeier story:
Pending Nussmeier’s evaluation the Wolverines could decide to intensify their pursuit of already-offered prospects like Bellflower (Calif.) Don Bosco’s Josh Rosen (five-star, No. 2 QB nationally), Elkton (Md.) Christian Academy’s David Sills (three-star, USC commit), and Albuquerque (N.M.) Eldorado’s Zach Gentry (four-star, No. 23 QB nationally) -- or move on to other talented options like Birmingham Brother Rice triggerman Alex Malzone (four-star, No. 20 QB nationally).
None of the four recruiting services—including Scout, Webb's employer—lists Gentry as holding a U-M offer; thus far, his only listed offers are from Louisville, Tennessee, San Diege State, and the two New Mexico schools. That list should grow, however, as he's the 12th-ranked quarterback in the country according to to the 247 Composite and his film is impressive—he's a 6'6" pocket passer with impressive mobility and a strong, accurate arm when he's not throwing off his back foot (a big issue in his sophomore tape). If Michigan has offered (or plans to offer) Gentry, he looks quite worthy of it.
The reaction from current commits and targets in the wake of Nussmeier's hiring was overwhelmingly positive($); here's a pretty representative quote from four-star 2015 PA OT Sterling Jenkins:
"That's a great hire for Michigan. I can't wait to get the chance to meet him."
Meanwhile, Nussmeier is already reaching out to prospects he was recruiting at Alabama. On the recruiting front, there's no question he's an upgrade over Borges. The only current commit whose status may be of concern after Borges' firing is 2015 RB Damien Harris, whose high school coach was a grad assistant under Borges:
Damien Harris' mom said it was sad and a shock to hear about Borges, but right now they are letting it sink and aren't talking about it.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) January 8, 2014
There's been concern about Harris' commitment going back prior to the OC change; thus far, however, there's been no remotely definitive sign that the childhood Michigan fan is going to back out of his pledge. For now, it's a wait-and-see situation, and the Wolverines don't plan to wait long to talk to Harris: Nussmeier and Fred Jackson plan to stop by his school later this week, per Sam Webb.
[After THE JUMP, a Michigan commit saves a life (seriously), the latest on the 2014 running back situation, Brandon details five new underclassman offers, and more.]
NITRO EXPLOSION NEON HIGHLIGHT CHROMETACULAR
This week marks the start of high school All-American bowl practices, which are already under way and feature eight Michigan commits: Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Michael Ferns, Drake Harris, Bryan Mone, Jabrill Peppers, Wilton Speight, Jared Wangler (Under Armour, all on Team Nitro), and Mason Cole (Army, Team East). At the start of day two, we've already had some Michigan-on-Michigan crime:
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
And subsequent trash talk:
Peppers screamed, "That's all day next year, Wilt" after his interception.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
The No. 2 player in the Rivals100 Presented by Under-Armour had never participated in a national-level event until now, so there was some intrigue surrounding his arrival in Florida.
So far, so good. Peppers was one of the top performers on Day 1. He was a nightmare in coverage and was beaten only once during one-on-one reps. He showed the speed to stay with smaller wide receivers and the strength to press larger ones. Peppers was aggressive without gambling and stood out like the country's No. 2 player should.
And today he received some lofty praise from former NFL head coach and standout defensive back Herm Edwards, especially when considering the spectacular performance of current Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves in the same game last year:
Herm Edwards told me in his three years coaching in the #UAALLAMERICA game, Jabrill Peppers is the best DB he's seen.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
There will be much more coverage of both All-American games in the next two roundups; the UA game—which may be difficult to watch without protective eyewear—kicks off on Thursday at 4 pm on ESPN, while the Army game is set for Saturday at 1 pm on NBC. Maize n Brew has an informative primer for both games, and MGoUser MJ14 posted a nice roundup of first-day practice reactions from the UA game.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest 2015 offer, updates on Malik McDowell, Cassius Peat, and Keisean Lucier-South, and more.]