OR: JABRILL PEPPERS AND COMFORTING UNCERTAINTY
Three receivers make this post. This guy isn't one of them.
For the first time in years, Michigan's depth chart isn't patched together with duct tape and hope, so the incoming freshmen of 2014 don't have as many opportunities for early playing time as past classes. This is worth celebrating, especially when one particular freshman is poised to make a big impact at a position with some experienced depth anyway.
After Jabrill Peppers, there isn't a clear role for any of the incoming freshmen, and getting this list up to five involved a few reach picks. Again, this is good. Without further ado, here's the list.
1. JABRILL PEPPERS, CB/KR/PR (6'1, 210; 5*, 247 Composite #1 ATH/CB)
Surprise! Despite the presence of four older cornerbacks with significant game experience (Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Jourdan Lewis, and Channing Stribling), Peppers is simply too talented to keep off the field. He should see immediate time in Michigan's nickel package, either as the nickelback or playing on the outside with Countess in the slot, and as the season progresses he'll challenge Taylor for a starting spot—with his size, athleticism, and ability in run support, Peppers is an ideal fit on the boundary.
With apologies to Fearless Leader, I believe Peppers will make an instant impact in the return game, as well. While Dennis Norfleet consistently threatened to break long returns, they rarely materialized last year. Michigan had just one kickoff return of 40+ yards (T-89th nationally) and none of 50+; just two punt returns went for 20+ (T-58th), one 30+, and zero 40+. Averages were middling at best: 49th in kickoff returns and 91st in punt returns. Fielding kickoff returns, at the very least, would be a great way to get Peppers the ball without overwhelming him with too much responsibility. If he has a role on offense this year, it'll likely be limited to just a handful of plays.
2. FREDDY CANTEEN, SLOT (6'1, 170; 4*, #41 WR)
Canteen is the player going solo/the one with insanely quick feet
Slot receiver is one of a small number of spots with total uncertainly on the depth chart. Just two players return there: Norfleet (six career "catches" that were actually end-arounds) and sophomore Da'Mario Jones, who only saw time on special teams last year. While Doug Nussmeier may have a different outlook, thus far the coaches have been hesitant to give Norfleet a significant role. A relative unknown committed to Central Michigan before Michigan came calling, Jones never rose above middling three-star even after flipping his commitment. This spot is wide open.
Enter Freddy Canteen, who went from completely off the radar when his high school didn't play actual games in 2012 to a hot camp commodity with ever-rising rankings in 2013. At 6'1, he's got the size this coaching staff covets, and his route-running is very advanced for an incoming freshman. On top of that, he's got speed to burn and a phenomenal name. What more can one ask for? It wouldn't surprise me at all if Canteen, an early enrollee, is the starter in the slot from day one.
3. IAN BUNTING, TE/FUNCHESS (6'7, 233; 4*, #11 TE)
Photo credit: J. Geil/Chicago Sun-Times
Bunting wouldn't have cracked this list a couple weeks ago; then Jake Butt went down with a torn ACL. Now Michigan is down to one tight end that actually catches passes, and that's only if you believe Devin Funchess is still a tight end. AJ Williams is almost exclusively a blocker (and he's still working on that), while Jordan Paskorz is a former linebacker without a catch to his name. Khalid Hill comes off a redshirt and could factor in as an H-back, but that's about it as far as tight end depth goes. There's room for another pass-catcher.
The question is whether or not Bunting will be at all ready to put his hand in the dirt; even in high school, he did most of his damage split out wide. At 233 pounds (on a 6'7 frame), he needs to bulk up significantly to be able to hold his own as a blocker. As an enormous receiver with great hands, however, he can at least see the field as a third-down/red-zone specialist; putting him on the field with Funchess poses major matchup problems for opposing defenses.
4. BRYAN MONE, NT (6'4, 328; 4*, #8 DT)
Another player on the list due to injury on the current roster, Mone could be forced into duty at nose tackle if Ondre Pipkins is limited in his return from a torn ACL. The only other true NT on the roster is redshirt freshman Maurice Hurst, who was listed at 270 pounds on last year's roster.
Mone's stock fell from near-consensus top-50 player to borderline top-100 prospect (or, in Rivals' case, flat-out three-star) after he looked overweight and out of shape at the Under Armour game. Mone put on a ton of weight in a short period of time before his senior season and it clearly affected his conditioning. Luckily for Michigan, he's enrolled early, so efforts to turn bad weight into good are already underway. It's highly unlikely Mone is ready to play a major role, but Michigan might need him to hold his own in sporadic rotation snaps and short-yardage situations.
5. MICHAEL FERNS, ILB (6'3, 235; 4*, #6 ILB)
Another early enrollee, Ferns isn't likely to see much early action on defense. James Ross and Desmond Morgan have the two ILB spots locked down, and both have viable backups with playing experience in Ben Gedeon and Joe Bolden. If there's an injury, however, Ferns is the incoming linebacker best suited to see the field with his size and status as an EE.
Ferns also fits right in on special teams—with his athleticism, he could make an immediate impact on coverage units. This will be a frustrating way to burn a redshirt if Ferns doesn't get some in-game experience at linebacker, but it's inevitable that the coaches will burn a linebacker's redshirt for special teams, and it may as well be the one most ready to see the field.
HONORABLE MENTION: WRs DRAKE HARRIS & MOE WAYS
Both Harris and Ways look like college-ready receivers; Harris benefits from enrolling early, while Ways has the bulk and blocking ability to see the field as a freshman. They'd be higher on the list if playing time on the outside wasn't so hard to come by. Funchess and Jehu Chesson should lock down the starting spots, Amara Darboh is another starting candidate now that he's healthy, and two other options come off redshirts in Jaron Dukes and Csont'e York.
Harris is coming off a hamstring injury that cost him his entire senior season. Ways made great strides from his junior to senior seasons but could still use some, er, seasoning. It'd be great if Michigan was able to redshirt both of these guys, especially if Canteen can also contribute on the outside.
The great coach smackdown of 2013. Sound Mind, Sound Body—an offseason camp that is set up such that college coaches can go—is too good to be true and will flame out in the near future when sixty other camps imitate it and the NCAA closes the loophole. But for now, we get things like Michigan coaches doing drills right next to Ohio State coaches that can be bothered to show up.
This is the setup for an uncomfortably hilarious moment. Mike Vrabel gets done with his drill segment early, badgers Mattison about finishing his bit when there's still time on the clock before the next rotation, and Mattison Is Not Having That. Via Sam Webb($):
“How about you coach them as hard as you can for as long as you have them?” Mattison yelled back tersely. “YOU GIVE THEM EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT!!”
Mattison then donned his swag glasses and told Lawrence Marshall "that's why you don't go to Ohio State, Lawrence."
There's a great Greg Robinson story behind that paywall still.
Run, don't walk. Outside of paywall is a terrific article by Mike Rothstein on the basketball program's unique approach to recruiting, in which Michigan offers only after June 15th of a prospect's junior year and maintains a sedulous respect for the process of getting to know kids.
“I’ll throw this at people,” Jordan said. “‘What’s your mom’s name?’ Because there’s a curiosity of why haven’t you offered. ‘How many brothers? How many sisters? What’s your family like? Have you considered the fact that we don’t really know each other, but there is a desire for a scholarship offer?’
“So now it’s like, ‘OK.’ It’s the education.”
It does seem like the Michigan offer is now something that means something, unlike a number of other schools.
There’s another, almost unintentional, byproduct. By having prospects wait for an offer and go through myriad steps, Michigan has created more perceived value around an offer from the school. Instead of just another scholarship offer on a list, it is one the player had to work for.
“To see that they still wanted to offer me, it meant a lot after recruiting me for a year and seeing how well I developed and saw how much potential I had,” Irvin said. “That was really special to me.”
Rothstein noticed that Beilein often goes after kids who are young for their grade—Caris LeVert is a recent prominent example—and got shot down when he asked the coaches about it. So he's on to something there.
Brady Hoke problems. ESPN gives Maurice Ways a fourth star, which means the list of current commits eligible for this site's Sleeper of the Year designation reads:
- Michigan State commits
If I have to I'll open it up to kids who got just one four-star ranking, which opens the door to a whopping three guys at the moment: Ways, Chase Winovich, and Wilton Speight.
ESPN also moved Drake Harris up 25 spots to 71st; the rest of Michigan's commits had insignificant drops of a spot or two.
Sense. And sensibility. And zombies. This bowl news is trickling out so gradually it begins to remind me of the Big Ten's realignment, which was announced weekly for two months. But I think one of the priorities fans had was being able to you know, watch the Big Ten's bowl lineup and Delany has confirmed that is something on the docket:
"I think what you'll see is a truly national slate of bowls," Delany said. "I think you'll see us probably stronger on the West Coast than we've been. You'll see us as strong in Florida as we've been, but probably not as much on New Year's [Day]. I think you'll see us in Texas, and you'll see us with some games in our region, some games on the East Coast. I think it's going to be a great slate. We've made a lot of progress."
Also, the league is about to force bowls to take at least five different teams over the next six years, so no Yet Another Orlando Trip. I'm a little leery of that. The impulse behind the idea is a good one but that threatens to screw with bowl matchups.
Finally, a chorus of angels sounds from above!
"We've been trying to create a model that's more realistic," Delany said. "We'll take fewer, better tickets. If that means the payouts have to come down some, that's OK. Because it makes no sense to overpay on tickets, over-commit and find out you're really subsidizing the bowls, financing your own game."
I'm going on six years of bitching about this. No more. Freedom! (Have I told you how terrible the scholarship model is?).
Could make the West more… nahhh. Tim Beckman picks up Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt, who started six games as a true freshman for the Cowboys. Michigan won't see him unless Illinois rotates onto the schedule in 2016, but the addition of a quality quarterback could make the Illini the scariest 4-8 team in college football.
The one time when a coach really could claim to block a player's transfer for their own good, and Gundy doesn't. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ –edsbs
Just once, Illinois, you could try looking at a photograph of the guy you're hiring before doing so. Then you would not hire the people you hire. I challenge anyone to find a picture of Tim Beckmann that does not beg to be captioned "derp" or "hurrrr durrrr" or "is what how can do?"
NOPE NOPE NOPE
Okay guy. It must be brutal to write something for a newspaper in June, but uh.
Freep Guest Column: Alternate jerseys and helmets continue to impress recruits
I don't think it's working. Next time put actual fireworks in the helmets?
Gant move confirmed. Brady Hoke confirmed that Allen Gant was now at SAM, stating thusly:
"He's a rangy guy and he's got length to him," Hoke said last week. "His body has the opportunity to put weight on, the structure and the genetics of the body.
"I think that's the biggest part of it."
If he tops out at 230, think Stevie Brown rather than Jake Ryan.
We missed this, but it's a little explosion-y so let's just do it now. Sam Webb puts out a Da'Shawn Hand article about two seconds after I do a final scan through my RSS feed for the recruiting roundup. Well played.
Most of it is stuff you've heard before about Professor Needs A Raise and how the Michigan staff is his favorite staff. But while I think a version of this quote was in a video somewhere this is the first time it's in text:
"My goal is try to make a decision before December,” Hand reported. “At first I was going to stretch it out, but then after talking with my pop -- we kind of had a heart to heart -- I kind of have to make up my mind. It’s a big decision, but at the same time I kind of have a gist of knowing where I’m going, but I ain’t gonna say that.”
GO LITTLE GUY GO. RUN IN CIRCLES. YES. GO.
The annual Sound Mind, Sound Body camp was over the weekend, and the thing is getting too huge to contain. Since SMSB is a non-profit, coaches can attend by donating their time. That's a rare opportunity—a unique one, as far as I know—and thus both coaches and prospects descend on it in droves. This year there were 800-some kids, including delegations from California, Minnesota, etc. It's big.
State and Michigan sent their entire staffs, Glenville brought 50 kids and scrimmaged Cass Tech in 7-on-7 afterwards, Ohio State deigned to send Vrabel and that lunatic from Cincinnati who can't seem to recruit anyone from Cincinnati, etc. It has blown up.
I would like to see Drue Tranquill's bandana collection.
At this point Michigan is mostly on the lookout for 2015 kids, but there are a few wobbly spots in the class still, like safety, and one of the breakout players was IN S Drue Tranquill, a 6'2" LB/S who had MAC offers before the camp. He's now got a couple of low-level Big Ten offers (Indiana, Minnesota) and will be a guy to watch if he camps at Michigan, which he plans on doing. Sam Webb on Tranquill($):
No player’s stock rose more than Tranquill’s on day one. The 6-2, 208-pounder came out of nowhere to emerge as a viable football prospect in recent months after initially fancying himself more of a baseball prospect. Tranqill pairs 4.49 speed with impressive lateral quickness. There were only a few occasions where receivers got the best of him on the day (one just happened to be Maurice Ways on a crossing route)… but even when he was beaten he was only inches from making a play.
He told Josh Helmholdt that both the Michigan and Ohio State coaches were hot after him. Helmholdt, meanwhile, named him the top guy there, period:
Many teams are trying to fit the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Tranquill in at linebacker, but he showed he can definitely play safety with outstanding footwork, fluidity, speed and instincts in coverage.
An offer will likely depend on if Michigan thinks he can play safety… or maybe nickel. A couple of schools from the Ohio State defensive tree (like, say, Ohio State) are recruiting him for "star" linebacker, which is their fancypants equivalent. Since Michigan's camp is going on right now, we won't have to wait long to see.
MI WR commit Mo Ways came out, which is an unusual thing:
Ways has not been real active on the camp scene this offseason, but the SMSB Camp gave us another chance to evaluate the relatively new-to-the-game wide receiver and his progression is coming along nicely. The top defensive backs at the camp wanted to take on the Michigan commit, and he handled them with relative ease, getting open and making easy catches.
Michigan receiver commit Maurice Ways looks ready to suit up for the Wolverines in this year’s season opener. Standing in at 6-foot-4, 197-pounds, the Detroit (Mich.) Country Day standout was a late edition to the camp, and was physical nightmare for cornerbacks trying to check him.
Meanwhile, Ways is making projections about the third WR spot in the class:
“If I could say myself, it would be Artavis Scott,” Ways said. “… If everything goes well then Tay Scott will be the third receiver.”
Other interesting names:
- 2016 ON(!) CB Patrice Rene, who Webb says is already a graceful 6'2". Rene is a lifelong Michigan fan and will camp.
- 2015 CA CB Stanley Norman, who obviously came all the way from California and was mentioned as a talent by multiple services. He's got a UCLA offer already, and took an unofficial to M($) after he got done winning the CB MVP at SMSB. Norman is more in the Countess mold than that of Peppers, but he might have some growth in him yet as a rising junior.
- 2015 TE/DE Ty Wheatley Jr. appears to be establishing himself more on the offensive side of the ball($), but his dad thinks he's still better off at DE. At 6'6", 240, I'd take him either place.
SMSB also provided some kids the opportunity to take unofficials to Michigan, including touted 2015 MN DE Jashon Cornell:
A man with taste in numbers.
ND signee James Onwualu does not approve.
@Jay_Rock16 That makes me wanna throw up hahaha
— James Onwualu (@J_Walls) June 15, 2013
Afterward, Cornell sounded pumped up about Michigan($), calling Michigan's facilities "one of the best things I've ever seen." Notre Dame is an early favorite for anyone from Cretin-Derham Hall, so we'll see if Cornell wants to break the mold.
IL OL Jamarco Jones made his planned visits over the weekend, and will decide in a little under two weeks. His OSU visit is going on right now.
Jones remains as inscrutable as ever, but I feel a little bit better after he told Scout's Beth Long that he wasn't sweating two-deeps despite being highly encouraged to do so:
Depth doesn't matter too much, 'cause wherever I go I'm going to compete for a spot regardless. Coaches talk about that a lot but I don't pay too much attention to that. Nothing is guaranteed.
I think we can agree that Michigan is not the school bringing up depth charts. On the other hand, Jones's MSU visit coincided with a one-day camp at Michigan State and this is quite a quote fight($). On M:
"What stood out was how genuine the coaches are and how much they care about you as a person."
"I really felt like I was part of their family and team already. It was fun just seeing all the players I could potentially be playing with next year and how we all are similar and have the same goals."
I dunno. It's hard to believe that Jones will pick Michigan State if only because the last out-of-state guy to pick State over Michigan was during the Time of Troubles, when there were a few.
McDowell retracts his leader admission
Last week, MI DT Malik McDowell fessed up that he liked Michigan, probably. This week, he says that ain't true($):
Another hot rumor coming out of McDowell’s appearance in Chicago last weekend revolves around his college recruitment. Holding offers from the likes of Alabama,LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, among others, it was reported that McDowell named the Wolverines his favorite.
When asked about it Thursday, McDowell smiled, quietly saying, “no (that’s not true)"
Mmm quote that is 3/4ths in brackets. Meanwhile that "rumor" was a direct quote, one that came after erratic but consistent declarations that Michigan was maybe sort of out front. Weird recruitment. McDowell seems to want to commit to Michigan but someone in his camp is trying to get him to string it out as long as possible without indicating so much as a leader.
McDowell kind of implies he'd like to go to Michigan
This week, MI DT Malik McDowell attended the SMSB camp and seemed mostly interested($) in the local Big Two:
“Michigan and Ohio State, those are the two that I talked to that I was going to talk to when I got here,” McDowell said.
And in particular one of the Big Two:
McDowell has visited the Wolverines campus several times in the past and looks forward to getting back to Ann Arbor this summer.
“They still haven’t slowed down any recruiting,” McDowell said. “They’re recruiting me just as hard as they did in the beginning.”
The 6-foot-7, 290-pound McDowell added that he’s noticed Michigan’s No. 3 ranked recruiting class led by Jabrill Peppers and Drake Harris.
“That’s real nice,” McDowell said. “Would be a nice little team there.”
McDowell has not been to OSU yet but tentatively has a July visit scheduled. After discussing the local big two, McDowell quickly added that he'd like "to explore all [his] options" by visiting Florida, FSU, and USC.
Linebacker top fives: in them
Two of the three linebackers listed in the last recruiting roundup have released top fives. MO LB Jimmie Swain's consists of Michigan, MSU, Oregon, Stanford, and TCU; FL LB Darrion Owens is down to($) Michigan, Ohio State, Auburn, Georgia, and Miami.
24/7's Gerry Hamilton says Georgia "is thought to be in a very good position" after Owens camped in Athens. Need to get Owens on campus to do anything about that.
Swain is a guy Michigan is in totally random spot for. His only visit so far was to TCU. He'll take officials, it seems. So State's out, but everyone else is in play.
Your moment of zen
Tranquill on his Minnesota offer($):
“I’ve done my research and they’re a good engineering school and one of the best public universities in the country,” Tranquill said. “The Mall Of America is there. The coaches were throwing that at my mom."
This has been your moment of zen.
Happy trails to MD OL Damian Prince, who says it was tough to leave Michigan out of his top ten($) but dang-diddly-did it anyway.
Not quite a happy trails to AZ WR Jalen Brown, but yeah pretty much:
It was different at Michigan," Brown said. "They didn't show that they needed me too much. It was more about me being a valuable player. They seem pretty set at receiver. With Michigan State, they kind of showed that they needed me there. It was more being honest with how they see me and what they are trying to do. They have really good people there, and they were trying to show that to me."
Michigan is definitely taking a third wideout in this class, so for the coaches to tell a top prospect like Brown that they're "set at receiver" implies a great deal of confidence in someone.
UT DT commit Bryan Mone is trying to graduate early, which would make him early enrollee #5 along with Michael Ferns, Wilton Speight, Mason Cole, and Drake Harris.
2015 Cass Tech DT Joshua Alabi tells Josh Helmholdt($) that he is "definitely" most comfortable with Michigan State's coaches. He does have M and OSU offers; we'll see if that lasts.
FL RB Jacques Patrick is almost certainly not going to end up at M for reasons of Mikey Weber, Damien Harris, and strong interest in Patrick from the home state schools, but if you want details on his recruitment he talked to Eleven Warriors in two parts.
There is another: Delano Hill's younger brother LaVert Hill is a 2016 Cass DB who showed well($) at SMSB.
Detroit Country Day receiver Maurice Ways has committed to Michigan. Surprise! He's the second receiver in the class, joining Drake Harris, and is in much the same mold: long, rangy, downfield threat.
Let's do it.
|3*, #50 WR||3*, #54 WR||NR||3*, #86 WR, #9 MI|
Yes, sometimes Michigan does recruit consensus three stars. Ways is currently one of them. He doesn't look like one on film, though. He's long, lanky, and lopes away from the competition with long strides; he's a guy who makes you think "catching radius" all the time. He looks like a guy who would get an early offer from Michigan.
The catch appears to be, uh, catches. The stuff they don't put in the highlight film, like a this Country Day playoff game($) Tim Sullivan caught last year:
Junior wide receiver Maurice Ways caught two passes for 29 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown reception. He also dropped four passes. …
Ways definitely looks the part of a big, physical wide receiver at 6-3, 185 pounds. Though he's not a burner, he has good speed and agility. The question mark on Ways will continue to be his hands (he had a key drop in a previous game as well). He's reminiscent of former Michigan standout Braylon Edwards in that he'll make spectacular catches regularly, but drop easy balls with just as much frequency. Of his four dropped passes, at least two should have been reeled in, and he had a good chance at the other two, as well. He needs to improve his concentration in order to realize his potential as a wideout.
Oh, look, hives! On my skin! Thinking about that dropped pass against OSU that should have gone to Jason Avant! Hello, hives! We are going to die, all right?
The other game Sullivan caught($) also featured a crucial drop. Ways didn't get as much separation as you'd like but at 6'3" with a "very long wingspan" and leaping ability, he is a matchup problem, hopefully one like the guys Ways models himself after:
“I model my game after Calvin Johnson with our same body types and play-making ability,” said Ways. “I watch film on him a lot and try to emulate my game after his, and also A.J. Green.” … “Basketball was my first love,” Ways said. “But I noticed that I had talent in football and could go further in this sport. Rebounding in basketball is like going up for a jump ball. Blocking out is like blocking a defender.”
As long as he's catching the ball.
Ways has a good excuse for the drops and route-running issues: he's raw. He was gunning for a basketball scholarship when he entered high school and only focused on football last year:
"This is my first year on varsity," he explained. "… It's a big role, and I had to mature fast, had to learn the offense fast. The game speed is faster than JV of course, and the physicality is better. It makes me have to think more to try to manipulate defense in terms of route running."
Somewhat oddly, Trieu's take on Ways's Scout profile lists "hands" as an asset.
Kid with a great frame and height. Has filled out his body, but needs to continue to do that and add strength. Shows good ball skills and uses his natural athleticism to track down the ball and can go up and get it in traffic. No timed speed on him, but shows ability to get downfield on film and also makes some things happen after the catch. Relatively inexperienced, so needs to continue to work on route running and technique. - Allen Trieu
247 predicted he would be a riser this spring:
Maurice Ways, WR, Franklin (Mich.) Detroit Country Day
If you follow recruiting even passingly in the Midwest, you’ve heard of the big, talented Derek Kief at wide receiver. We’re hear to tell you that you need to know the name Ways too if you don’t already. … With the way he moves on film, the ball skills he shows and the big play ability he threatens, Ways could see his offer list triple over the next month.
Both Steve Lorenz of 247 and Sullivan projected that their rating services would move Ways up in the near future. How much? The guess here is that vague four-star-but-not-ranked area.
Rutgers, Iowa, and Kansas were the other BCS schools. Ways had a number of MAC offers as well. He visited Ohio State a couple times; the Buckeyes seemed to have sincere interest but had not offered yet. The wanted him to camp.
You are aware of Detroit Country Day, surely. They were state runners-up last year. Michigan's only recruit in the past decade or so to come from DCD was Kenny Demens, thought they have acquired a number of walkons—including the spectacularly-named O'Neil Swanson III—in recent years.
Ways had an impressive 51 catches for 957 yards and 9 touchdowns last year. It helps that he had Rutgers commit Tyler Weigers throwing to him. Not a lot of schools in Michigan have a D-I to D-I connection going on.
Before that, he was on JV.
FAKE 40 TIME
Doesn't have one. Divide by zero fakes.
Rivals has a couple games of full-game highlights($) behind their paywall. It has some of those aforementioned drops. Braylon vibe: confirmed.
EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THING
Ways is a member of the Greg Oden "is that guy 45?" club.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Ways will be put in the same opportunity-laden environment as a freshman that Harris will be. Amara Darboh is poised to lock down a starting job with a strong performance this fall, and Jehu Chesson will have a couple years on this class's PT candidates. Other than that, it's wide open with the three sleeper sorts from last year going up against the more athletic 2014 guys. I'd guess Ways gets a redshirt unless he ends up ahead of Harris. With Harris higher-ranked and planning to enroll early, that's approximately a 1/3rd shot.
Long term, he has plenty of upside what with the size and catching radius, and no one actually know how fast he is. You'd think that would be one of the easiest things to get right, but when Chesson was a recruit the main knock on him was his speed. Chesson tore up the track after his LOI and is now getting buzz from players and coaches as a fast-as-hell deep threat($). Also: Braylon. So… yeah.
He should spend the next year having the jugs machine throw babies at him. We'll see where we go from there. Could be big time, could be Tyrece Butler 2.0. Filed under boom or bust.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Ways and Harris help restock Michigan's outside receiver corps pending the departure of Jackson, Gallon, and Dileo in the offseason. That only gets them to seven players for 2.5 starting spots, so they're still looking. They could use a slot, and FL WR Artavis Scott fits that bill nicely. PA WR KJ Williams, another lanky outside threat, may have missed the boat. Mutual interest with AZ WR/TE Mark Andrews also just ended abruptly.
I actually wouldn't be surprised if Michigan took a fourth receiver somewhere along the line unless attrition is super-low. The numbers everywhere else project to be fine, and depth at WR comes in handy.
By the way, Michigan pass targets in the last two classes go 6'7", 6'4", 6'4", 6'6", 6'4", 6'3", 6'2", and 6'2". Al Borges is going to find Tacopants and starve him off the roster.
Tick tock, Maurice Ways
MI WR Maurice Ways did get his offer over the weekend. He did not commit, possibly so that he could follow through on a promise to go up to Michigan State's spring game. Ways said a Michigan commitment was a "huge possibility($). Huge!
But Ways did not commit. Why:
“I’ve got a scholarship so it’s a good chance. But my parents were very excited, growing up a Michigan fan, being in the state of Michigan, playing for Michigan football it just seems like the right thing to do.
“But once again I do want to wait my options and not rush into anything and make sure it’s the right fit for me and my family as a football player and as a young man.”
Ways is setting up another Ann Arbor trip. When that occurs I will eat my hat if he doesn't commit. #justpullthetriggeralready
Visitors and such
Westphal is #21
IL CB Parrker Westphal was the headliner. Afterwards he told 247 that "Michigan was still the standard($)" and that he considered committing but decided to hold off until he goes on another couple visits in May. This was his sixth trip to Ann Arbor. If not for Ways, Westphal would be your leading candidate for next commitment. #jptta
BONUS: Westphal came in for a full-on (free) profile from 247. I lol'd:
“When my friends were out partying, I’d be at home studying, doing situps and pushups and go for a run at night,” Westphal said. “I’d try and do what Herschel Walker did. Those 3,500 situps, 1,500 pushups, that dude was a freak. I think he lied about that. That’s hard. You need time to do that.”
AZ TE Mark Andrews visited OSU, told Eleven Warriors some noncommital things about Ohio State, visited Michigan, about which I can find nothing, visited ND, and told 247 some nice things about ND($). With Michigan seemingly days away from its second commitment from a 6'4" wide receiver, Andrews's positional preference probably means this is the last we'll hear about his recruitment:
“I don’t want to be the guy that sits on the line and blocks. I want to be the guys making plays with the ball in his hands,” the No. 62 overall prospect in the line said. “But with how Notre Dame uses the tight end it fits my skill set well. I love Notre Dame’s offense and how they utilize the position.”
Michigan has filled his spot if he's averse to playing TE. Also I can't turn up anything from the Michigan sites on him. Bad sign.
IL TE Ian Bunting was a little more open about his thought process:
"I liked it a lot. They have great people and just a really cool culture there." Bunting wasn't ready to name a leader yet but he did say he was going to sit down and narrow his list in the next couple of days. He wasn't sure if his list was going to be a top 2, 3, or even 5, but he did say Michigan would be on that list regardless of the length.
The M Block's vibe is that Michigan is still behind… someone. The conventional wisdom is that would be Notre Dame. He told Allen Trieu much the same($), saying Michigan was "near the top" and he'd have a shortlist soon. 247 got some more detail($):
"I got to sit down with the coaches and we watched a lot of film," he said. "We didn't just watch film from Michigan games, but also San Diego State games as well. They wanted to show me first hand the transition they are making from where they were when Denard was their quarterback to where they eventually want to get to in using their tight ends. I've played receiver my entire career, but know I will be a tight end at the next level and am ready to work hard and show that I can play on the blocks as well."
Turning Bunting's head is a little more important because of part of this next section.
A guy Michigan does lead for
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt interviewed MO LB Kyron Watson at the St. Louis camp that occurred over the weekend, and Watson flat-out said Michigan was his leader($):
Helmholdt: Is there a team you're really excited about right now?
Watson: Yeah, it's Michigan right now. [coy smile]
Evaluations are all over the place on Watson. He's 100th on ESPN, a 3/4 star borderline guy on Rivals, and a generic three star at the other two places. TCU, Missouri, and Illinois are the main competitors.
IL TE Daniel Helm was at that same event and impressed Helmholdt:
"I think he has the ability to play at an elite level," Helmholdt said. "He is a receiving tight end and won the MVP of the Rivals Underclassman Challenge last year, so we will see what happens."
Helmholdt said that, along with his physical makeup, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound player has a personality that draws others to him.
"First of all, he is a super-nice kid who is shy in the way that even he is impressed that we think he is a four-star player," Helmholdt said. "He is respectful and humble.
"As far as being a prospect, I think he has a lot of upside. Right now he has coat-hangar shoulders, and I could see him easily getting up to 240 or 250 pounds."
Also he is refreshingly honest about his F5-pounding abilities in re: his ranking:
"(I look) more than I should," Helm joked. "That is all I'm going to say."
Helm said he knew he was the No. 201 player in the country, as well as the No. 6 tight end. He added that he wasn't checking the rankings as a motivational tool but a measuring stick.
In an interview similar to the Watson one($) he mentioned that Florida had not actually offered him yet despite their presence in his top four. If that decision does come soon they would not be a factor, leaving just Tennessee and Ole Miss as competition.
Unfortunately, Rivals's Dallas Jackson came away from that camp thinking Tennessee was his leader:
If I had to make one prediction about YOUR FACE it is that is is WRONG sorry sorry be professional… be professional.
We'll see if that's just a one-off thing or not. If you're looking at Helm's unease at waiting and possibly passing up a spot as a good thing for Michigan, Tennessee already has a TE this year and took two last year; Ole Miss took three last year. Options are limited at all of his top schools.
Wouldn't it be nice
ESPN has a feature breaking down the recruitments of their top ten players. Michigan is involved with four: CA CB Adoree' Jackson, VA DE Da'Shawn Hand, VA DT Andrew Brown, and NJ CB Jabrill Peppers. It won't surprise you to find out that ESPN says Michigan leads for Peppers, but they buck the conventional wisdom($) with one Mr. Hand:
Who's in the driver's seat: Michigan
Other candidates: Alabama, Florida and South Carolina
Dark horse: Virginia Tech
Most recent visit: Hand recently took a visit to South Carolina.
What they said: On Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison: "He's always energetic. That dude is insane. I don't know how old he is, but at heart that dude is 21," he said. "We get there and he is listening to Rihanna and Drake, he was dancing and singing. The players said he's really like that, too. That dude is wild."
TomVH says Mattison is Michigan's "secret weapon." If Michigan does manage to snatch Hand away from VT there will be Bud Foster Forever Alone ragecomics.
Virginia is leading for Brown, and Jackson—an Illinois transplant who's only been in California for one year—is completely wide open. HOWEVA, Michigan was mentioned as a team "rising" for Brown at 247 and he told Scout that he plans an M/OSU trip($) "in the near future," presumably after he makes a southern swing through Alabama, Florida, FSU, and Not That USC.
Also in Hand positive vibes, Steve Lorenz says Hand's dad is on board($) with M and that they're even with VT.
Everything's coming up Milhouse
NJ DE/TE Garrett Dickerson has a top five($), and it's an interesting one: Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford, and Northwestern. His brother already plays for the Wildcats, if you're playing the One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other game. On Michigan:
“I visited there last year and had a great time, and really enjoyed that atmosphere and the coaches are great. The facilities are great as well.”
Dickerson hasn't been back since that November visit. He also saw OSU around then. He just went to Stanford and Northwestern, and hasn't been to Tuscaloosa at all yet. The nerd schools have to be the favorites, then, until Dickerson finds his way to others in his top five. He had to shoot down some rumors that he committed to Stanford, FWIW.
Scott impresses, says recruiting is a foreign thing
FL WR Artavis Scott may not like talking to reporters about what he's thinking
One of the most impressive athletes out on the field at IMG Academy was Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake wide receiver Artavis Scott. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder caught upwards of five touchdowns passes on Saturday, showing his ability to run nearly every type route.
"I don't know. I really don't worry about all that stuff right now. I really don't have any standings on any team," said Scott.
His mom likes Florida "but, I don't know, it's whatever I want."
Semi-weekly Damien Harris tweet
2015 KY RB Damien Harris's latest foray into indicating to everyone he would like to go to Michigan:
Me and my bro
@GeorgeCampbell0 need to take a trip to Ann Arbor together soon! #136
Campbell, the massively-touted 2015 teammate of commit Mason Cole and target Artavis Scott, retweeted it. Let's all have a tizzy.
Just got off the phone with Coach Borges. Had a productive conversation! Go Blue!
The suspense is not killing me here. #jptta
Etc.: Michigan offers FL LB Darrion Owens($). Reminder: Tim Sullivan of Rivals confirms that offer to TX RB Vic Enwere I was a little suspicious of was a reporter getting M and MSU mixed up.
2015 stuff: Add the name "Tim Settle" to your radar; the VA DT has local offers and is claiming interest from all three Big Ten heavyweights. MI OL Kyonta Stallworth has offers from… uh, UCLA and Florida($)? Wow? M offers($) IL LB Terry Beckner Jr. M makes top ten($) for CO RB Christian McCaffrey (yes that McCaffrey).
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE ARE RECRUITING IN SPACE
Hi. Ace is off for the next week and I, Brian, am piloting you through the interstellar gulf that exists between your brain and those of extremely talented young football players who haven't instantly chosen to play at Michigan, which like come on man.
Shall we take stock?
Michigan's scholarship count stands at 15 right now. Technically it's 14 since Michigan is at 86, give or take a long snapper scholarship and Will Hagerup's existence. It'll be 15 by August. From there normal levels of attrition will see them reach 20 or so. Assuming 20:
QB(1): Wilton Speight, check.
RB(1): Unknown. Michigan has a few offers out to three-star sorts. Colorado Kalen Ballage may be your leading candidate; more likely Michigan's RB in this class will be someone you haven't heard of yet.
WR(3): Drake Harris is in the barn, mid-four-star KJ Williams is still saying Michigan is his leader after the post-visit glow has worn off. Instater Maurice Ways is reputedly on the verge of an offer he won't take long to accept. Mason Cole teammate Artavis Scott has backed off the promise of a package deal but is still high on Michigan and just visited for spring. Childhood M fan Corey Holmes is another possibility.
TE(1): Whoever it is, he'll probably be from Illinois. Daniel Helm has backed off after announcing Michigan his leader and now maintains a top four with Michigan and a few Southern schools. Alarmingly, Ole Miss is amongst them. Ian Bunting may favor Notre Dame at the moment but will visit USC and Michigan before a forthcoming decision. Nic Weishar is also coming up on a decision.
OL(4): Mason Cole is in the barn. Jabrill Pepper's teammate Juwann Bushell-Beaty maintains Michigan as his leader; Blake Bars's brother Alex Bars is a top 100 prospect at tackle; Drake Harris's teammate Tommy Doles has seemed to be on the verge of dropping for months but recent scuttlebutt has him holding off despite the possibility of a crunch.
NT(1): Bryan Mone in the barn. With Hurst/Pipkins/Henry(?) in front of him Michigan can be done. Mone could play three tech, but if Michigan gets Hand and McDowell, he's the nose in that group.
SDE/3T(2): Michigan trails VT for #1 overall player Da'shawn Hand… probably. See below. Instate star Malik McDowell is rumored to be a Michigan lean.
SAM/WDE(1): Ferns barn, likely a SAM. With Ojemudia and Charlton they could skip a WDE. If they don't there's an obvious candidate in instater Lawrence Marshall. He was briefly an OSU commit; he'll come down to those guys and the two in-state schools.
ILB(2): A spot where OSU has held onto some in-state stars Michigan was after; now M is on to plan B. Those appear to be IL LB Kyron Watson and PA LB Chase Winovich. Winovich is a big guy a 6'4" and may end up a SAM type; Watson is more of a WLB. Both are three stars, but Winovich also has an OSU offer.
CB(2): If Michigan can hold off Stanford they'll reel in consensus five star Jabrill Peppers. Todd Howard protégé Parrker Westphal seems likely to join up. Californian Adoree Jackson is another five-star who has Michigan high on his list.
S(2): Californian Juju Smith has Michigan a solid member of a top five that leads you to believe a CA exit is possible; he could play WR but Michigan's in on a bunch of those. Pennsylvanian Montae Nicholson is another option.
K/P(0): With Wile, McGrath, and Allen on the roster next year they can go without. Would not be surprised to see them look for a quality walk-on kicker to compete with McGrath.
ESPN ranks them all
ESPN has put out its top 300. Players of interest (bold: commit; italics: have at least a 50-50 shot):
- #2 NJ CB Jabrill Peppers
- #4 VA DE Da'Shawn Hand
- #5 CA CB Adoree Jackson
- #29 LA WR Malachi Dupre
- #55 TN OL Alex Bars
- #62 CA S John "Juju" Smith
- #69 MI DT Malik McDowell
- #72 UT DT Bryan Mone
- #75 FL WR Corey Holmes
- #85 FL WR Artavis Scott
- #87 IL CB Parrker Westphal
- #96 MI WR Drake Harris
- #107 MI DE Lawrence Marshall
- #112 OH LB Michael Ferns
- #120 NJ OT Juwan Bushell-Beatty
- #125 VA QB Wilton Speight
- #145 FL OT Mason Cole
- #208 AZ TE Mark Andrews
- #239 PA S Montae Nicholson
That's a pretty long list of targets, one that includes every Michigan commit so far in their top 150. Michigan has a good shot at bringing in ten to twelve of the ESPN 150. Pants? Off.
He loves me, he loves me not
ESPN has just released preliminary rankings—remember when they were supposed to be getting rankings out before these kids' junior year?—and we're getting a look at their usual idiosyncrasies. One to the good is Wilton Speight, who makes Tom Luginbill's top ten quarterbacks:
7. QB-PP Wilton Speight
Richmond, Va./Collegiate School
This guy has some juice to him. The more you watch Speight, the more subtle, savvy traits show up. Physically he reminds us of Brock Osweiler (the Arizona State Osweiler, not the high school version). He possesses great size and adequate bulk. He's strong with deceptively good mobility and athleticism. Stands tall and is balanced in the pocket. Drop speed and set up is quick and steady. Plays with poise and confidence in his abilities.
Luginbill says the position is down a bit nationally. FWIW, he's the #4 pocket passer in their rankings. Last year the #4 pocket guy was 64th overall (Stanford commit Ryan Burns). Shane Morris was 8th; the top 10 were in their 150. Ballpark Speight around 100th, it would seem.
On the other hand, while two Michigan WR targets do appear in Luginbill's take on the WR class Drake Harris does not. Luginbill on Holmes:
7. WR Corey Holmes
Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas
Holmes is a lean and lanky prospect with ideal height and long limbs. He is flexible and plays primarily on the inside as a slot in high school, but could be an outside threat for the next level. He is shifty and fluid, which makes it difficult to gauge his deceptively good speed and acceleration.
Complete eval | Highlights
9. WR Artavis Scott
Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake
Scott has very few physical weaknesses, but he also lacks ideal measurables in terms of bulk and strength. Given his frame, he still needs to add strength to aid his physicality. He displays good straight-line burst off the line of scrimmage. This is a very fluid and smooth player in his overall movements. Does not show breakaway speed on tape, but does have good enough downfield speed and quickness to be an adequate outside route runner at the next level.
Complete eval | Highlights
Harris must have been #11.
The next to drop
If aforementioned MI WR Maurice Ways does pick up an offer that means a couple things: Michigan is ready to take his commitment and they like the kid quite a bit since they've got higher rated guys on the hook and are willing to push one of them elsewhere. The offer situation as of ten days ago($):
"They said I'm very high on their radar," Ways explained. "I've been their most talked-about recruit the past two weeks. They're saying just to be patient. They're going to watch my film again as a staff Monday, and make a decision from there."
Monday was, uh, Monday, and the chatter out there indicates that offer could be forthcoming soon. Other candidates include Pick A Tight End and the aforementioned Parrker Westphal, who will also be in this weekend.
Tight ends resolved while you wait
More on that Ian Bunting kid: the small-forward-sized Illinois TE did just go to Notre Dame and came back speaking thusly:
“I found out that Notre Dame is a special place,” Bunting said. “It’s really cool with all the history. There is something special there with all the tradition they have and I love the way they use their tight ends. I’m definitely higher on them than I was before.”
He's at USC today; tomorrow he will be at Michigan. A decision "could come shortly after." Bunting's been reticent about stating anything more than a vague top group. ND is probably the team to beat given the above quote; his only other visits since last year's football season were to Oregon, Wisconsin and Northwestern, and I can't find anything similarly positive on those trips. Hoke and company have shown an ability to flip kids' minds once they get on campus, which I think we say every week but you're probably not tired of that fact yet. It is thus concluded we will keep saying it.
IL TE Daniel Helm's timeline is getting shorter($) as well:
"Originally I was hoping to take official visits, now I am realizing positions fill up and sometimes the scholarship you may want might not be there. So, I am pretty confident I will make a decision before the season, but I'm not sure when."
Helm's been to each of his top four schools (Michigan, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Florida); Michigan may have an advantage since they just got a second, this one with his dad. Helm also publicly favored Michigan not too long ago($), and was telling Nebraska sites it was M.
Meanwhile, IL TE—they're all IL TEs—Nic Weishar will visit($) the twin spires of Mordor this weekend, whereupon he'll sit down and come out with a short top list. Weishar visited Michigan a month ago($), and hit up a few other schools earlier. Dollars to donuts this comes down to an old-fashioned Midwestern three corners match between ND, M, and OSU.
Michigan also has AZ WR/TE Mark Andrews coming in. He's ranked as a WR by most of the scouting services despite actually being heavier than Bunting and Helm; he's checking Michigan out as part of a ND/OSU/M Midwest swing. He grew up an Oklahoma fan($) and has a brother there, so they're the tentative favorite. Michigan will either be in a leading group or out after the weekend.
The Hand Of God
Da'Shawn Hand demonstrating the fish story coaches who do not successfully recruit him will tell.
That would be #1 overall player VA DT Da'Shawn Hand, who Michigan is after in a serious way. Hand talked to Yahoo radio recently, and declaimed thusly:
- he "recently decided" he wants to major in sports management, something that came up as he's talking Alabama.
- What is it about Michigan? "Everything. The coaches, the players, the town, the professors, the academic buildings, the food… it was cold, but I can manage that, I'm from Philly. Everything was just great about it."
- Meanwhile, on VT: "Well, first, they're close to home. Bud Foster's been my favorite coach… it just feels like home there. [garbled] …I'm just comfortable there and they play good football."
- He wants to take his officials; has no timeline.
He hasn't been down to Florida yet and his statements about the other SEC teams in his top five (South Carolina and Alabama) were considerably more lukewarm than the two I transcribed above. Everyone says VT is on top, but if you had to pick from the quotes above…
From Wolverine Nation, an article on the potential for guys to hop aboard($) the class before their spot gets full. MI OL Tommy Doles:
“I’d like to know by the summer and whether or not I’d have to [decide] before then, I guess I’d have to think about that when it came around,” Doles said. “But yeah, it could accelerate things if it were to happen.”
A couple of the WRs pop in to say similar things. We could see some quick movement at the catching positions if Ways is offered and commits as KJ Williams, Artavis Scott, and possibly Corey Holmes think it over.
Let's all debunk RCMB nuts
MI WR Drake Harris's recruiting process took a major turn during the course of his junior year, when he found out he was a capital-E Elite football prospect and only a good basketball prospect. He changed what sport he was going to play; thus the decommit. This is not an eyebrow-cocking Gunner Kiel saga.
“Drake is firmly committed to playing at Michigan, and I would be absolutely shocked if he didn’t follow through it,” Fellows said. “People forget that Drake was going to Michigan State to play basketball and football, and MSU was the best choice for him to play football and basketball. …
“Once he decided to play just football, that all changed, so it’s unfair to compare the two scenarios. Drake told me his heart is at Michigan, and I am taking his word at it. I’ve known Drake since the eighth grade, and he has never lied to me. He went to Ohio State on Friday and Michigan on Saturday, and he told me that’s all he had to see.”
Never say never and all that; Harris is no more likely to decommit than anyone else Brady Hoke's picked up in his three years. He in fact got his re-recruitment done early because he's sick of the song and dance. You have a 2% chance, decommit-chasing guys. Have fun storming the castle.
Michigan has an offer out to OH S Erick Smith, who is at Glenville and thus has visited OSU all the time($). He is planning a Michigan trip in the near future along with visits to Alabama and Tennessee; in general prospects with a Glenville kid who has an OSU offer are always going to be dim. This is a hill to climb for a guy who hasn't been on M's campus:
He’s seen the Buckeyes more than once and always walks away feeling good. His last visit was nine days ago at student appreciation day, where he brought his parents along for the ride. All three liked what they saw.
“It’s the atmosphere and the people,” Smith said. “When you go there, they’re all for real.
“My dad is getting used to it, so he enjoyed himself. My mom loved it. She talked about getting down there and getting to know them better.”
Michigan offers TX RB Vic Enwere, a three-star with middling offers. Unless it was actually Michigan State who offered. The usual with three-star sorts from far away: he'll be on the radar once he visits. [UPDATE: Rivals's Tim Sullivan passes along a note that the Enwere offer was erroneously reported; it's actually an MSU offer.]
The future: the usual
2015 KY RB Damien Harris, you have the power:
It would be pretty tight if me and Drake Harris both committed to Michigan!
Harris, regarded as one of the top tailbacks in his class, already has an offer and mostly tweets 1) things about how he likes Michigan and 2) retweets of other people telling him to go to Michigan (which is an NCAA violation, don't do that). If he doesn't end up in the next class it'll be a surprise.
Malik McDowell offered by Alabama and LSU. M offers LA S Mattrell McGraw, says he'll visit soon with teammate and consensus top 100 prospect Malachi Dupre. McGraw's rankings haven't caught up to a booming offer sheet. NJ OL Juwan Bushell-Beatty says he's "getting closer to a decision($)," possibly after visits to offerees Florida and Tennessee. An early decision is better for Michigan.