Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
wait spring football is what again
It's this practice thing that we used to think was super super important because the basketball team was a wet cat and the spring game was in late April. Now we haven't even thought about it because the basketball team is IMPORTANT and also still playing and they've moved the spring game up despite having horrible weather for seemingly the last decade solid.
So… yeah. It is a glimpse into what the football team might be like next year.
So last year's was a constant parade of quotes about how everyone was getting tackled for loss?
Well… no. It is a Pravda-like glimpse weighted by both the program's desire to look good in the absence of actual games and your hope that the next football season will be a fulfilling exercise in fandom.
Consider that hope to be disposed of in a dumpster behind a Five Guys.
All right, then. Let's enter the realm of football with a properly jaundiced eye.
Things To Watch
Will they be a single thing? "Aggression" is the guaranteed defensive watchword every time a coordinator change is made, and "simple" is the equivalent on the offensive side of the ball.
Kyle Kalis says Doug Nussmeier is gradually installing the offense. Much simpler. 'Last year, you never knew what was going to be called.'
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 25, 2014
How much of this is standard boilerplate and how much of it is a real problem that Nussmeier is going to solve is pretty much the question for the season. (No, it is not "who is going to start at quarterback?" You are a silly person, person who thinks that.) Lord knows that this site spent most of last year—most of the last three years—blasting Al Borges for not having anything resembling a base offense in his time. Last year's wander from stretch to power to tackle over to inside zone and all things in between was particularly egregious.
It was hardly unprecedented. Michigan never figured out how to run play action off their best play, the inverted veer, never figured out that having mobile quarterbacks run the waggle is just asking them to eat defensive end as soon as they turn around, never figured out what, in fact, they were. Having an identifiable identity is step one towards having one of those offense things.
Let's try to keep me alive this play, gents [Bryan Fuller]
Is the offensive line… tolerable? Extant? Sieve sieve sieve sieve sieve? I can't say the good feelings are pouring out of spring. This is not a world in which claims that true freshman Mason Cole has a great chance to play the most important position on the line…
Another early enrollee opening eyes at Michigan is OL Mason Cole. Competing for starting LT job. Funk says Cole has great chance to play.
— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) March 31, 2014
…can be dismissed as so much spring hogwash. I mean, yeah, it's almost certainly spring hogwash. But given the situation that buzz comes off as a negative thing about people not named Mason Cole as much as it is a positive one about Cole.
Meanwhile Graham Glasgow, the one returning guy who had a job for the entirety of last season, got held out for a while due to an issue that will also see him suspended for The Horror II, and oh good now I'm thinking about what might happen in The Horror II without Michigan's best interior lineman.
Thinking: try not to do it.
Anyway, injuries have held near-sure-LT Erik Magnuson out and forced Michigan to try a parade of guys probably better suited to play guard at that spot. Reading the tea leaves, the most likely starting line for the spring game reads:
- LT David Dawson
- LG Kyle Bosch
- C [Glasgow placeholder]
- RG Kyle Kalis
- RT Ben Braden
And in a perfect world that would remain the line through fall camp except for the insertion of Magnuson. When pinged for offensive line data, Hoke was his usual recalcitrant self but did not seem super enthused all the same:
"The physicalness isn't where we want it yet. I couldn't point out one guy who has been a great finisher.
"Probably Graham (Glasgow), as much as anybody, in some ways. Ben (Braden) is getting better. But we're not near where we need to be."
Not that they could be near where they need to be a few months after whatever that was.
Here's to this being the "before" picture. [Fuller]
Are Are De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green any diff—. Previous sentence was tackled for loss. Green's been tweeting out pictures of his weight as he strives to get back down to the bowling ball that was the #1 overall tailback in the country to a couple of different services instead of the bowling ball he was last year. Here is a swathe of boilerplate.
"De'Veon's had a very good spring, Derrick's had a better spring than he did in the fall," Hoke said last week. "Justice Hayes has done some really good things, and I'm really proud of him. Both carrying the ball and in the protection game. It'd be nice to get Drake (Johnson) back and put him in the mix."
Chances are it will be hard to tell much what with the offensive line coming together and folks looking confused, but give me one cut from Green that he probably couldn't have managed last year and I'll be happy.
Is Ross Douglas viable at tailback? I kind of think no if only because the Hoke era has expressed a preference for large men running the ball even if they bring little else to the table other than size. Meanwhile, Douglas's bounce to offense comes in the context of Taylor/Countess/Peppers/Lewis/Stribling, a veritable bounty at corner that Douglas didn't figure to crack any time soon. He's also down the depth chart on offense:
"Justice, De'Veon and Derrick are a little bit ahead still, but I think Ross is giving us a little bit more depth and that's really good for us.
"We'll do this through spring and see how he does, and then make a determination if he'll go back to DB."
This kind of positional uncertainty is never a good sign for a prospect's future. If Douglas was in the mix at corner he'd be at corner. Instead he's fourth at best at tailback and probably fifth when Drake Johnson gets back.
But there is a new offensive coordinator who may do things like see what happens if you give Dennis Norfleet the ball, so you never know.
But that probably means the secondary is loaded, right? At first blush Michigan has more corner depth than I can remember. They return both starters from last year plus a couple of promising freshman who did the really hard part—sticking with your man—last year before wilting at the last minute. And then there's that Jabrill Peppers dude. Douglas's positional vagabondery would not be taking place if Michigan didn't go five deep in solid options at corner.
Wide receiver war. With Devin Funchess entrenched at wide receiver, playing time there is now at a premium. The departure of Jeremy Gallon opens up scads of catches, some of which will go to Funchess and Jehu Chesson. The rest will get spread out. While a number of those will go to Amara Darboh, who was building up steam with his play in practice last year before a season-ending foot injury, Michigan is still being cautious with him. You won't see him on Saturday:
“Right now I feel like I’m 100 percent, but they’re keeping me out,” Darboh said Thursday. “By the time fall camp comes around I should be 100 percent.”
One gentleman you will see, and possibly see a lot of, is Freddy Canteen. The freshman early enrollee has been this spring's easy winner of the Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award. Almost literally everyone who has gotten practice buzz or been there themselves has come away talking about his quickness and advanced technique. One example of many:
WR Freddy Canteen creating a buzz this spring at Michigan. Players, coaches very impressed with early enrollee. Getting run with the ones.
— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) March 31, 2014
"Running with the ones" is a slightly overrated concept since in the course of a spring or fall practice just about everyone will get their shot on the top team to keep folks motivated and just to see what happens. Even so the Canteen drumbeat has been so consistent that he will be the guy everyone is watching for.
One guy you shouldn't expect anything from: Drake Harris. Harris has been shut down for the rest of spring with a hamstring issue. He had a similar problem for his senior year of high school and at this point it seems like he might be headed for a redshirt with Funchess/Darboh/Chesson/Canteen and last year's three-man class potentially ahead of him on the depth chart.
I'm looking at the man in the mirror. Middle. Whatever. [Fuller]
And then the weird thing. Jake Ryan, middle linebacker. I'm skeptical Ryan will be able to transition to a very different spot that asks him to read and react and then shed responsibly. If he does manage it, it seems like a part of his barbarian nature will be lost. Ryan is a shocking vertical attacker; middle linebackers are not generally tasked with that. When Ryan has been drafted into read and react situations by defensive alignment, it has gone poorly.
But they're going to try it, and spring will be an opportunity to see what's going on with that.
Safeties: we have them? Michigan was clearly dissatisfied with Thomas Gordon midway through last year, which just goes to show that Brady Hoke was in Muncie or San Diego for the decade of Michigan safety play between Marcus Ray and Jordan Kovacs. Great he may not have been; he was pretty much good enough, and when other guys got in the game the step down from pretty much good enough to not was obvious.
Now Gordon is gone and the list of potential replacements is short (inexplicably so given Michigan's apparent need): sophomores Jeremy Clark, Delano Hill, and Dymonte Thomas. Michigan barely has enough dudes to put together a two deep, and there are few candidates to move from corner. Stribling's 176-pound frame would get him run over; ditto Lewis; they're not moving Countess; Taylor's run support is not a strength. That leaves Peppers (moving him away from boundary corner would be a travesty of justice) and redshirt freshman Reon Dawson, who's super super fast but raw and skinny.
So finding someone to play opposite Jarrod Wilson is an important target to hit with few bullets. Here's hoping Clark wins the job with ease; he's got the most experience.
Can a tight end hit something? One of the underrated problems with Michigan's offense a year ago was the tight end spot's total lack of progress. Devin Funchess proved that as a tight end, he was a good wide receiver; more worryingly, AJ Williams was hardly better despite not being, you know, a game changing receiver. Jake Butt was probably the best blocker Michigan had available, and he promptly tore his ACL. Jordan Paskorz left the program.
So. Michigan will hope Williams makes a step forward and turn to two guys coming off redshirt: Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman. They've also converted former SDE Keith Heitzman to that side of the ball. The freshmen are more H-back types than inline ones; Michigan may end up playing them both places just because they have to. Shallman's flirtation with tailback seems over:
Shallman has taken a few reps at running back this spring, but Hoke said he envisions him as a tight end-fullback hybrid.
Given the depth chart that makes sense. I'll be looking for anything resembling a block out of this crew.
Weather. Let's hope it's nice.
As recently as yesterday, it appeared all but assured that Michigan would take a running back in the 2014 class, whether it be Jeff Jones or newly offered Marlon Mack or perhaps a reinterested Kalen Ballage.
Not so fast, my friends. This morning, Sam Webb said on his WTKA recruiting segment* that he doesn't expect Jones or Mack to end up in the class—a change from his earlier stance—and he reiterated that in a board post on GBW (link $). 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed that report this afternoon and added that he believes it also applies to Ballage ($).
As of now, the reasoning behind this shift from the coaching staff is unclear. There's an optimistic take out there, though; Doug Nussmeier visited 2015 RB commit Damien Harris last week in the midst of rampant speculation—including from his fellow commits—that a decommitment was on the horizon. Harris has been quiet of late; it's possible that Nussmeier felt more comfortable with Harris' status—and Michigan's depth chart at RB—after the visit and felt a scholarship could be better used at another position (or in the 2015 class). It may also help Harris' commitment status if he's reassured that there won't be extra competition from a running back in the class ahead of him.
It appears it's Malik McDowell or bust to round out the 2014 class; given the needs already filled and the small projected class size for 2015, banking a scholarship or two isn't a bad idea, even if it means a less exciting Signing Day (again) this year. For what it's worth, while Sam Webb continues to be optimistic that McDowell will stay close to home, at least one reliable Florida State insider likes their chances after McDowell took his official to Tallahassee last weekend.
[Hit THE JUMP for info on Michigan's two most recent 2015 offers, the final Rivals 100, the DetNews Blue Chip list, 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.]
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.]
If the gloves fit, you must commit.
This afternoon, Wilton Speight sent out a TomVH-like cryptic tweet about some potentially big news coming from this weekend's BBQ. Despite holding Michigan recruitniks hostage for most of a summer Saturday, ALL IS FORGIVEN:
— George Campbell (@GeorgeCampbell0) July 27, 2013
George Campbell, for those unfamiliar, is the #1 wide receiver in the 2015 class, and high school teammates with 2014 OL commit Mason Cole. The "Brady Hoke can't close on elite skill position prospects" meme? Deader than dead. And don't even think about pulling a fast one, other programs:
George Campbell said if any other schools try to recruit him, "I'm committed to Michigan and that's final."
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) July 27, 2013
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA okay calming down here's some actual info wait wait WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO alright serious face LOCK IT DOWN ANBENDER
|NR WR||NR WR||
4*, #1 ATH,
5*, #1 WR,
5*, #1 WR,
Only ESPN and 247 have put out rankings for the class of 2015, and they're in agreement: George Campbell is the best receiver in his class and one of the top overall prospects. His height is listed between 6'3" (247) and 6'5" (Rivals & Scout), with ESPN splitting the difference; his listed weight is anywhere between 181 and 198 pounds. His official listed measurements from The Opening are 6'3.5", 185 pounds.
Campbell first made waves at Florida's "Friday Night Lights" camp last year as a rising sophomore, earning 247's top overall performer honors over a host of 2014 prospects, including former Michigan target Alex Anzalone:
1- George Campbell, WR, Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake (Class of 2015)
The 6-3, 180-pound pass catcher could be one of the top prospects in the Sunshine State for the 2015 cycle and certainly looked the part, showing off advance route running skills, an ability to get off the press and play physical. He reported a 37-inch vertical and the game seemed to move very slow for him on a night where prospects where tight and trying to impress.
Campbell made such an impression that, just two days ago, Florida's 247 outlet published a list of the five most memorable FNL performances; he made the list along with four five-stars of yore: Stefon Diggs, Ronald Powell, Cam Newton, and Tim Tebow. Not bad company, to say the least.
Since then, Campbell has torn up the (often older) competition at a wide variety of camps and 7-on-7 tournaments, forming a nearly unstoppable duo with '14 Clemson commit (and, yes, former Michigan target) Artavis Scott. Despite losing out on positional MVP honors to his teammate, Campbell actually finished one spot higher than Scott on Rivals's list of top performers at this year's Orlando NFTC:
While he was edged out by his teammate for MVP honors, Campbell looked like one of the best wide receivers at the event. He's a true deep threat and during the deep ball portion of the day he showed great speed combined with solid pass-catching ability. He still has some work to do on shorter routes when the ball comes quickly, but right now he's quite the home run hitter in the passing game.
At the same event, 247's Gerry Hamilton found just one area in need of real improvement, though it's a big one:
As has been the case for nearly a year now, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Campbell was dominant in the testing portion of the combine running a 4.48 laser timed forty-yard dash, a 4.2 shuttle and a 37-inch vertical. When it came time to run routes, Campbell was also dominant bursting off the line, quickly getting into routes for his size and creating instant separation out of cuts. One area the class of 2015 prospect struggled at times today was finishing plays. He fought the ball at times, and didn’t have the look of a natural pass catcher.
ESPN's scouting report seems to echo this amidst the usual fawning over Campbell's athleticism and jump ball skills:
STRENGTHS: Excellent athlete with eye-popping size and speed measurables. A legit vertical threat who can stretch the field on offense. Displays a long wingspan on a very tall frame for a receiver. Runs extremely well and is a major mismatch on corners when positioned one-on-one. Shows great range and length with a quick initial burst covering ground on defense. Demonstrates good instincts in pursuit and will finish plays. Possesses good ball skills and is very solid in zone coverage closing on the pass from depth. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Can continue to refine his route running and become more consistent with his hands. Would benefit from adding bulk and strength to his frame. Not presently an overpowering downhill run defender on defense.
Why does ESPN's profile focus so much on his defense? Well, Campbell lined up at defensive end for East Lake last fall, and in June's IMG 7-on-7 championships he cracked Rivals's list of top performers... on defense:
Campbell is already one of the top wide receiver prospects for the class of 2015, but on Saturday he did his damage on the defensive side of the ball. He had at least two interceptions and also had a key pass breakup that helped his team secure a victory. He'll likely play offense at the next level, but it's clear he's a very versatile athlete.
Despite the above, Campbell should end up at receiver at the next level, though if he doesn't develop on offense he could easily find a home as a ball-hawking safety.
While Campbell's skills are still developing — remember, he's a rising junior — his athleticism is already at a very elite level. As one of just five 2015 prospects invited to this year's edition of The Opening, Campbell showed up and blew everyone away on the track:
While Noil was busy winning the overall SPARQ Championship, Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake wide out, and top Florida 2015 target, George Campbell won the fastest man competition.
The junior-to-be ran a 4.37 to take home the award.
Those are electronic times. Campbell also recorded a 37-inch vertical leap. He's almost 6'4". Al Borges is probably trying to find a way to get him on the team this fall, let alone two years from now.
Campbell held offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and West Virginia, among many others. It's safe to assume that he would receive offers from just about every program in the country if he didn't make an early commitment; as it stands, that offer list is impressive even for a decorated senior, and Campbell has yet to play his junior season.
Tarpon Springs (FL) East Lake, as you well know by now, also features 2014 prospects Mason Cole (Michigan) and Artavis Scott (Clemson); they have one other '14 BCS commit in three-star DB Devin Abraham. Aside from 2013 three-star and UCF signee QB Pete Dinovo, no East Lake player earned more than two stars on Rivals prior to this class.
According to 247, Campbell recorded 30 receptions for 766 yards (25.5 ypc) and five touchdowns as a sophomore last fall, while also contributing 57 tackles on defense.
FAKE 40 TIME
Campbell's 4.36 40 time is gloriously NOT FAKE AT ALL.
More highlights with single-game cut-ups are available at Campbell's Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Campbell will give Michigan a pair of hyper-athletic deep threats at receiver when he joins 2014 commit Drake Harris. It's tough to project Campbell's ability to make an early impact considering he's got plenty of work to do refinining his technique in the two years before he hits campus; the good news, of course, is that there are still two years before he hits campus.
What we do know is that, in 2015, Shane Morris or Wilton Speight is slated to have Harris, Campbell, Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, Moe Ways, Freddy Canteen, Jaron Dukes, Da'Mario Jones, Csont'e York, Devin Funchess, Jake Butt, and Ian Bunting as potential targets, in addition to Derrick Green and DeVeon Smith at running back. Oh, and that offensive line. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Campbell is the third commit in the 2015 class, joining OT Jon Runyan Jr. and K Andrew David; 2014 grayshirt commit DT Brady Pallante will also join the team in 2015.
Campbell's presence is a boon to the 2015 class in that (1) he's George Campbell, five-star receiver, and (2) his early commitment should help attract other top talent to Michigan. At this point, it's way too early to go over numbers, so for now just celebrate the fact that HOLY CRAP GEORGE CAMPBELL JUST COMMITTED.
Michael Ferns, Da'Shawn Hand, and Ian Bunting at last weekend's Columbus NFTC (via)
[Reads Between Lines] [Tries To Hold It Together] [Fails]
So... this quote [emphasis mine]:
"Bud Foster is my favorite coach, but I haven't talked with him in a while," [Da'Shawn] Hand said.
"But my favorite coaching staff is Michigan," Hand said. "With Michigan, what you see if what you get. It's professional. With some, you feel like when you get to college it might, change, but with Michigan, everyone says they're straight.
According to the author of the article, SBNation's Bud Elliott, Michigan and Virginia Tech are "running neck and neck" for the lead in Hand's recruitment. Hand refuses to acknowledge even that much—he's says he enjoys the suspense—and he does have an unofficial visit set up to Alabama in July and is looking at trips to Florida, LSU, and USC, per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($). That said, his only planned official visit thus far is to Michigan, for the Notre Dame Game (a trip he recently locked in), and of the previously listed schools only Alabama appears to be a serious threat to his presumed top two.
One school we know for sure won't be pushing for his commitment is Ohio State, despite a campus visit last weekend that went better than his first trip to Columbus:
With the NFTC on the Ohio State campus, Hand took the opportunity and made an unofficial visit to the Buckeyes, along with friend Tim Settle, one of the top players in the class of 2015.
'It was straight, we talked," Hand said. "But I was with Tim, and he's a beast, and it was kind of his visit. Everyone knows that my first visit wasn't all that, but this visit was better. Still, I don't want to get anyone's hopes up."
Meanwhile, Hand revealed in an interview with Bruce Feldman that he's being recruited by at least one insane person:
Q: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you since you've been named the nation's No. 1 recruit?
Hand: Well, I ain't gonna say any names, but one coach told me that since I'm the No. 1 player, I'm gonna get to meet Michael Jackson. I said, "Isn't he already dead?" The coach goes, "Well, all right, you can meet Tito." I was like, all right. OK, I'm done.
It was crazy, but it is what it is.
all hypothetical internet dollars entire real-life savings account on Les Miles]
In the SBNation article, Hand said he's unsure of his timeline for a commitment. Regardless of when that comes, he told Feldman the announcement will be low-key:
I don't want to be like everybody else and be all flashy and do this and play around with people. For my commitment day, I just want to have it at my school. I'm not going to have three hats. I'm going to have one hat. I'm gonna call the coaches the night before. Tell them what school I'm going to and that's it.
At this point, it's looking more and more likely that hat will have a block 'M' on it. Which, uh, would be pretty nice.
[Hit THE JUMP for more on newest commit Chase Winovich, the latest on Artavis Scott and Adoree' Jackson, a Michigan commit earning an invite to The Opening, and more.]