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.]
Malik McDowell (#67) is still taking his recruitment at a leisurely pace.
Not All Slow Recruitments Are Bad Recruitments
The list of players once considered long-time Michigan locks only to commit elsewhere is long, distinguished, and oft-cited in just about any discussion about MI DL Malik McDowell. This is understandable: after recruitments of players like Ronald Johnson, Dee Hart, Josh Garnett, Jordan Diamond, and Laquon Treadwell went awry, any recruit that seems to have every reason to pull the trigger yet draws out the process is now met with a healthy amount of skepticism.
In McDowell's case, however, his inertia appears to be a good sign for Michigan. After previously stating that he'd take all five of his official visits to out-of-state schools, that may no longer be the case, per Tim Sullivan ($):
"I want to wait until after the season [to take the visits]," McDowell explained. "I'm still going to try to make it down to Florida over Thanksgiving weekend. I don't know right now just because things are real busy.
"[In addition to Florida, LSU, and Alabama], I don't really have a last two visits planned; I might save the last two for some in-state schools, but I might go out-of-state, I don't really know."
While Michigan State is nominally in the picture, it would be shocking if McDowell chose the Spartans over the Wolverines, so this is quite a good sign for Michigan. Official visits to a trio of top SEC schools can alter any recruitment significantly, of course, but first McDowell has to actually follow through on those visits, which have yet to be set up; even if he makes it to all three schools, it's going to take a lot to unseat the in-state favorite given how many times McDowell has been on Michigan's campus. Given the direction McDowell's recruitment is (slowly) moving, I'd be surprised if he ends up anywhere else.
[Hit THE JUMP for the roundup of best commit performances from last weekend's games.]
Weekend Visitors: Goddag, Hr. Froholdt
Hjalte Froholdt (photo via 247)
The list of visitors for the Indiana game is short, though it's headlined by a very important potential member of the 2015 class who could be deciding quite soon. DT Hjalte Froholdt, who's currently playing semi-pro football for a year in his native Denmark, will be in attendance and tells Brandon that a list of top schools will shortly follow his visit:
Froholdt will release a version of his top list after his visit to Ann Arbor Saturday, but he already told me that Michigan will probably be toward the top of his list.
Froholdt has a very strong relationship with Greg Mattison, and as of now his recruitment looks like a classic Michigan/OSU battle, with the Wolverines possibly out in front. The picture may not be that clear, however, as Froholdt is in the midst of a country-wide recruiting tour that's included Arkansas, Alabama, and Florida State; he pulled in an offer from the Tide following his visit and already had one from the Razorbacks. With a decision planned within the next couple months, this is a very important visit for Michigan, especially with 'Bama now very much on the radar.
As noted in this week's previous recruiting roundup, the other big-time visitor for this weekend is 2015 Cass Tech RB Mike Weber. I said in that roundup that Michigan probably wouldn't take another back given the small class size and commitment of Damien Harris, but I may have been mistaken; with no running back committed in the 2014 class (which is unlikely to change), a second would be a high priority, and the Wolverines are also still heavily recruiting '15 FL RB Jacques Patrick. Weber still has significant interest in Michigan and has repeatedly said that he's not averse to competing with Harris; Michigan State, Ohio State, and Tennessee are all strong contenders, as well.
A couple younger brothers of current Michigan players will also be in attendance: 2016 Cass Tech DB Lavert Hill, brother of Delano, and 2017 OLSM LB Joshua Ross, brother of James, are slated to visit according to Tim Sullivan ($). Both are very talented prospects in their own right and have been steady presences in Ann Arbor; offers may not come imminently, but both could be Michigan-caliber players.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on Malik McDowell and JuJu Smith, the latest commits to ink their LOIs for 2014, and more.]
McDowell Lines Up Officials
Malik McDowell (#67) relaxes before playing Farmington (Bryan Fuller)
Southfield top-50 DL Malik McDowell has been quiet throughout the recruiting process to the point that I'm not entirely sure this is breaking news; regardless, Josh Helmholdt posted McDowell's official visit plans in his Around The Midwest column, and this is the time I've seen five schools lined up for visits ($):
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 ($):
“(I like) Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Alabama, Wisconsin, Indiana, and a couple more schools,” Cole said. “They’re all even. They’re all about the same. They all treat me nice. I’m not committing anywhere yet.”
I'd expect this still comes down to an in-state battle—one that'll be hotly contested—though some schools on there (OSU, Alabama) cause more concern than others (Indiana? Word?). Michigan is recruiting Cole as a receiver, though he could also play defensive back at the next level.
[Hit THE JUMP for evaluations of Da'Shawn Hand, Lawrence Marshall, Jared Wangler, Erik Swenson, and Kyle Kearns, plus updates on a couple underclassmen.]
Yes, A WOW Experience
— Justin Hilliard (@1Justinhilliard) September 8, 2013
I deign to use Dave Brandon's favorite phrase in any non-sarcastic context; when you've got Beyoncé on the big board introducing the halftime show, Eminem up in the booth, and a record-setting crowd rocking the Big House in a rivalry win, however, it's appropriate, especially when talking about how UTL II came off to a large contingent of high school recruits.
From L to R: Mason Cole, Matthew Burrell, Damien Harris, Tim Settle, Da'Shawn Hand, Wilton Speight, Drake Harris, George Campbell (photo courtesy of reader Canzior)
According to his mentor, five-star WDE Da'Shawn Hand came away very impressed on his official visit, per Scout's Sam Webb ($):
“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.]
As the Wolverines and the Irish prepare to square off in the second installment of Under the Lights many high profile recruits will begin arriving in Ann Arbor to take in the experience. Now that my internet is finally hooked up at my new house I’ve been able to touch base with just a few of them and see how they are feeling about what is poised to be an electric atmosphere.
2014 Uncommitted Prospects
Southfield DL Malik McDowell is a hard young man to get in touch with but I did speak with his trainer John Vickers to see what he thinks is going on inside Malik’s head. I asked John if there was any chance of Malik committing this weekend and he said, “I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure he’s waiting it out. We will see though. It’s really hard to say honestly. 99% he doesn’t. There is 1% slight chance though. He really wants to see other schools.” Most believe McDowell will be a Wolverine, but it doesn’t seem as though it will be anytime soon.
Big-time DE Da’Shawn Hand didn’t respond to me this time around, but after speaking with him last month I got the impression that he knows he’s coming to Michigan and I really believe this visit will solidify that decision. Alabama will get the last crack at him before he decides and that’s dangerous, but I think Michigan is in really good shape.
2015 Uncommitted Prospects
Potential top Ohio prospect LB Justin Hilliard will be in attendance as well and he holds the Wolverines and the Irish both in high regard. “It’s going to be a great game and definitely will have a lot of excitement. I’ve wanted to see Michigan football in full effect. I’m sure this visit will help out Michigan a lot but we’ll see.” Ace mentioned yesterday that his final four could very well consist of Ohio State, Iowa, and of course the two teams playing tonight under the lights. A Michigan victory could be a solid recruiting boost for his services.
6’6”, 215 lb. QB David Edwards will roll into Ann Arbor with his father and his O-line coach around 6 pm, just in time for a 6:30 recruiting presentation which will be packed with talented recruits. Edwards and I will speak after his visit so I can get the scoop on what the presentation was all about and see how his overall visit went.
In-state signal caller Alex Malzone will be in attendance for the game but not as a recruit this time. He’s going as a fan and he mentioned to me that he actually hasn’t talked with the coaches since he attended the Michigan camp in June. I’ve stated before that Malzone appears to be on the coaches radar but isn’t a top priority at this point in time.
Virginia OT Matthew Burrell is making the trip to Ann Arbor with fellow Virginians Da’Shawn Hand and 2015 DT Tim Settle. Burrell summed up his thoughts about the visit with one word, “Ecstatic!!!” in a text response to me last night. Burrell and Settle will probably both receive offers this weekend now that they’ve shown enough legitimate interest by visiting.
Safety prospect Tyriq Thompson out of Detroit King makes the quick trip to Ann Arbor looking for his third potential B1G offer after Illinois and Wisconsin saw enough in the young man to extend a scholarship. Thompson is a legacy recruit as his father played for the Wolverines in the 90’s. He knows the history between the two teams, “I’m excited to see the matchup. It’s a great rivalry.” He must’ve been listening to Brian Kelly…during the latter part of the week anyway.
The potential top player in the nation, DE Jashon Cornell has been texting with Wolverine commits George Campbell and Damien Harris all morning about the excitement surrounding this weekend in Ann Arbor. Cornell said “I’m feeling pretty good. I just can’t wait for my first College Gameday experience.” He said he was looking forward to hanging out with George and Tim Settle and the other recruits from his class. He also said that Notre Dame and Michigan might be his top two right now, but wouldn’t commit to that completely. Regardless of where the two schools currently rank for the five-star this game is a big one in his recruitment.
2016 Uncommitted Prospect
Stud OL Erik Swenson, who is supposed to be a Michigan lock, will be in Ann Arbor with his dad and had this to say, “It’s going to be a lot of fun! It’s giving me goosebumps just thinking about over 75,000 people singing Hail.” Don’t expect a commitment from Erik just yet, as he told me that “my parents don’t want me to decide until my junior year just to see all what happens.”
However, he then went on to say that he would like to commit right now…but you’ve got to listen to your parents. I think we can write his name on the 2016 commitment list, even if it’s in pencil for now.
This weekend is going to be invaluable in making connections between commits and targets across the 2014, 2015, and 2016 classes. A Michigan victory could tip the scales in the minds of some of the players in attendance but I don’t believe there will actually be a commitment this weekend. Many of the players attending have already set timetables. If there isn’t a commitment this weekend it is not cause for panic. The atmosphere will be electric and the experience enjoyable for all in The Big House. A “W” would be icing on the cake for fans and recruits alike.