Mike Lantry, 1972
Yup, Still Want
Damien Harris headlined last weekend's Best of the Midwest combine, and for good reason—no matter where you look, he leads off the list of top performers. Scout's Allen Trieu broke down his overall combine MVP performance:
One of the headliners was Madison Southern (Ky.) running back Damien Harris, a four-star junior who will challenge to be the top running back in the country on Scout. We all know Harris is fast and he proved that again by clocking in the 4.3s in his 40 yard dash. But he also showed grit, toughness and great technique when it came to the pass blocking drills. He took on some of the camp's most physical linebackers and won his reps. We also had a chance to see him catch the ball a little bit, something we had already known he could do from past events. He has shown time and time again that he is a complete all around back and did nothing to diminish his standing as our top prospect in the Midwest.
247's Barton Simmons called Harris "dominant" and stated Michigan and Ohio State are on top in Harris's recruitment right now. Another program recently entered the picture, however. Harris is slated to visit this weekend for Michigan's Junior Day; his other planned trip is to the latest school to enter the picture, Alabama, per Trieu ($):
The Wolverines are one of the schools he will visit in the near future. The other school is Alabama, his most recent offer.
"I'm going up to Michigan on the 23rd of this month then I'm taking a visit to Alabama on March 1st but after that I don't really know. I haven't made any plans for spring or who I'm going to check out for spring ball. I'll probably do that soon."
With Harris planning to extend his recruitment until Signing Day, the Tide have plenty of time to work their way towards the top of his list. Based on the quotes Harris has given since his decommitment, however, including this one to Land Grant Holy Land (SBNation's OSU outlet), Michigan will still be the team to beat going forward:
"Like I said earlier, my interest in [Michigan] hasn't gone down. I don't not like them as much as I did before, there's really nowhere I like more than that. But with coach Borges being gone, it's hard going somewhere with someone who didn't recruit you."
The latter part is why Harris took a step back; if he develops the a similar comfort level with Doug Nussmeier as he had with Al Borges and sees improvement in Michigan's offense, he should end up back in the fold.
Meanwhile, Michigan is making a strong push for 2015 Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, who visited campus last weekend. He said as much to 247's Steve Wiltfong ($):
"Yeah," Weber said on Wednesday when asked if the Wolverines are trending with him. "They are on me hard."
The Wolverines looked to be the clear leader early in Weber's recruitment before Harris committed and interest between both parties seemingly waned, allowing Michigan State to become Weber's leader; he even considered committing to MSU back in November. With Michigan redoubling their efforts to land Weber, however, the battle between the two in-state powers is pretty even at this point.
One 2015 running back you can cross off your wish list is recently offered TX four-star Ronald Jones II, who gave this refreshingly honest quote to Scout's new Midwest intern, Eric Rutter ($):
“[Michigan] probably won’t [be visited] to be honest,” said Jones. “If there is a great opportunity away from home then I would take it, but I would say location would be a factor.”
[Hit THE JUMP for new offers, visit reactions from last weekend, Shaun Crawford runnin' real fast, and more.]
Oh, Right ... That
There hasn't been a recruiting roundup since Jabrill Peppers tweeted his intention to take official visits after the season, catching not only Michigan fans off-guard, but also his fellow commits and even his own coach, Paramus Catholic's Chris Partridge—notably, the man who sets up all of Peppers' visits. After the tweet set fire to this corner of the internet, Peppers released a statement through Partrige:
I am still 100% committed to the University of Michigan and that is the place where I want to go to college. With the rumors about Coach Hoke possibly not being there I need to make sure that I have options and have seen other places in case the University of Michigan decides to go in a different direction. For the sake of my future I need to make sure I have other options. No need to look into it any further! Go Blue and beat TDS
Peppers reiterated that he's not decommiting and just wants to use any potential visits as a "security blanket," to Scout (via Sam Webb's latest column in the Detroit News).
Michigan has already begun efforts to assuage Peppers' fears, certainly with an eye on keeping him from taking any visits, which would put Brady Hoke in quite the bind as he balances the massive need to keep Peppers in the fold with the possibility of angering other commits—and displaying what could easily be interpreted as hypocricy by Michigan targets and their coaches—by not enforcing his no-visit policy. Dave Brandon's statement in support of Hoke specifically mentioned Michigan's national recruiting "from New Jersey to California, from Michigan to Florida." I don't believe New Jersey is in there by accident; in fact, the whole statement seems to be as much a response to the Peppers situation as it is to any fan discontent.
There are a few things working in Michigan's favor. Peppers and his Paramus Catholic squad play in the state championship game this weekend; the following weekend he's set to take his official visit to Michigan. Peppers didn't talk to Hoke when he made his statement last week—Hoke had a few other things to worry about—but he'll definitely find out where things stand when he's in Ann Arbor; if the coaches (and Brandon) can convince him that the program is on stable ground, it's entirely possible that this whole thing blows over without him ever setting foot on another school's campus.
Even if Peppers still wants to explore other schools after his Michigan official, the timing is tough; an NCAA-mandated recruiting dead period goes into effect after next week's visit, so he wouldn't be able to visit any school until mid-January, just a couple weeks before Signing Day.
For his part, Peppers certainly seemed committed to Michigan during The Game on Saturday, tweeting out his support multiple times during the game and indicating afterward that he'd be taking part in it next season, and not as a Buckeye. While the fact that Peppers even needs reassurance that Hoke will still be at Michigan next year isn't a good sign regarding his recruitment or the program, I don't think there's a lot to worry about here unless Peppers actually goes on other visits—for now, only his trip to Ann Arbor is set to go.
[After THE JUMP, Michigan drops the 'grey shirt' distinction for Brady Pallante, visit reactions from The Game, and a roundup of the latest on Michigan's commits who are still alive in the playoffs.]
Shaun Crawford, Mini-Jabrill
A much-anticipated matchup between Cleveland.com's top-ranked Cleveland St. Edward squad and #9 Cincinnati Elder didn't live up to the hype, as St. Eds ran away with a 48-7 victory. Much of the credit for the blowout goes to 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, whose stat line looks like one posted by a certain other defensive back headed for Ann Arbor:
@TomVH Shaun Crawford: 9 carries, 124 yds, 2 TDs 3 receptions, 28 yds, 1 punt return 63 yds, TD, 1 kick return 25 yds. 240 all-purpose yds
— Brad Bournival (@bbournival) September 22, 2013
Yes, it appears Michigan may have the best player on the best team in Ohio, and he's only a junior. This is nice.
Jabrill Peppers, Still Jabrill
2014 commit Jabrill Peppers, meanwhile, did a little bit of everything to lead Paramus Catholic to a 35-21 victory over DePaul. Peppers rushed seven times for 41 yards, caught four passes for 49 yards and a TD, returned a kickoff for 47 yards, tallied four solo tackles, recorded three pass defenses, and returned an interception 32 yards for another TD.
[Hit THE JUMP for more outstanding performances by Michigan commits, plus an interesting development in JuJu Smith's recruitment.]
If you think the headline contains a typo, try listening to better music.
George Campbell, Mayor Of Twitter
As Michigan fans tried to decrypt Wilton Speight's Twitter teaser, Saturday afternoon bled into Saturday evening with no word about a commitment. Would it be Shaun Crawford? Sterling Jenkins? Erik Swenson? Maybe even Malik McDowell? Any would've been great; the real answer, though, elicited a rapturous response.
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) July 27, 2013
— DG (@DGDestroys) July 27, 2013
holy pants. Hoke, you are the stockiest ninja.
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) July 28, 2013
George Campbell's commitment briefly turned the entire Michigan twittersphere into Robin and Brady Hoke into the proudest papa.
Mason Cole's Instagram also features ... are those tears, Coach?
It also attracted the attention of the CEO of Twitter, Michigan grad Dick Costolo.
— dick costolo (@dickc) July 29, 2013
Modified rule: Don't tweet at recruits — unless you're the CEO of Twitter. [Side note: This is a story. Get here already, football season. Also, Matt Hayes must be stopped, and this is one of a very short list of things Michigan and Ohio State fans can agree upon.]
Why is everyone so excited? Because if "500" was an Olympic sport, George Campbell would win the gold, silver, and bronze.
Also, have I mentioned he's 6'4" and runs a 4.36 40-yard dash?
There were 3 WR's in the 2013 NFL Combine w/ a 40 as fast/faster than George Campbell. They were 6', 5'8", and 5'9". Campbell is 6'4". Wow.
— CoachBrown TheMBlock (@CoachBrown3) July 28, 2013
Yes, Campbell still has work to do when it comes to his hands and route-running — this video from the Columbus NFTC highlights both the best and worst parts of Campbell's game right now — but with two more years of high school ball to play, his potential is terrifyingly vast. Scout's Jamie Newberg provided a detailed scouting report of Campbell after his commitment, and even the areas for improvement section features one of them good problems ($):
What may be of concern: Campbell catches the ball well but is not a natural pass catcher. Sometimes he fights it but he is getting better and better. Size is also an issue because you just can’t forecast just how big this cat is going to get. He has a giant frame and long arms so there is no telling what his size will be like in three or four years. Remember, he still has two high school seasons to play before he gets to Ann Arbor. Will his growth prompt a position change? If so, how will that impact his develop?
All of these are concerns but I see them as minor concerns because Campbell is such an outstanding athlete. Recruit him now and worry about it later.
Oh no he might be even more giant and still probably really fast.
Campbell's commitment does more than just give Michigan one of the top prospects in his entire class. It also looks like he'll be a major recruiting conduit in the tradition of Morris, Speight, Ferns, et al — Campbell reportedly struck up a close friendship with 2015 MI ATH Brian Cole, and he's already reaching out to other top prospects on Twitter. Others, including 2015 MN LB/DE Jashon Cornell, ESPN's #1 overall recruit in the class, took immediate notice after Campbell tweeted out his commitment announcement.
— Jashon Cornell (@Jay_Rock16) July 28, 2013
— Jashon Cornell (@Jay_Rock16) July 27, 2013
Oh, and some other guy passed along his congratulations.
— Damien Harris (@Damien_D1Harris) July 28, 2013
That guy is consensus top-100 2015 running back Damien Harris. He committed to Michigan while I was writing this post. Brian, mercifully, handled the Hello post. Commitments come in pairs, Brady Hoke poops magic, and Michigan now has their top targets at wide receiver and running back already in the fold for 2015.
Hello there, potential überclass:
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) July 29, 2013
Not a bad start to the week, you guys.
[Hit THE JUMP for much, much more on the BBQ, including reactions from Malik McDowell, Shaun Crawford, Sterling Jenkins, and Justin Hilliard, plus surprise appearances from a couple of Glenville's finest.]
Michigan's annual BBQ at the Big House is on Sunday, and the Wolverines will also host visitors on Saturday — or, in LA RB Leonard Fournette's case, starting today. All of the major sites have published expected visitor lists, and in the grand tradition of attempting to pin down the plans of teenagers, there are slight discrepancies between them. Here's a rundown of the top targets who will be on campus this weekend and a general idea of where Michigan stands with each of them:
Ian Bunting, Freddy Canteen, Mason Cole, Michael Ferns, Drake Harris, Lawrence Marshall, Wilton Speight, Brandon Watson, Maurice Ways, and Chase Winovich are all expected to be in attendance. Jabrill Peppers is trying to make it into town, as well — his presence would only help Michigan's efforts with the uncommitted recruits, and especially fellow blue-chip Fournette.
Fournette is obviously the big fish here; the nation's top running back — and #1 overall prospect on the 247 Composite — arrives in Ann Arbor today and will stay all the way through Sunday's BBQ. If you regularly read this roundup, you've seen his highlight tape. A video released by ESPN this week shows more of his personal side, and none of it will make you want him at Michigan any less. The broken record on Fournette is that, despite his assertions of being wide open, he'll inevitably end up in the SEC, likely at LSU. GBW's Kyle Bogenshutz talked to Fournette's father, and NOPE NOPE NOPE I REFUSE TO GET MY HOPES UP ($):
As a father that knows his son’s game and how it might translate to the college level, he can see what the portrait might look like in the Maize & Blue.
“For sure he would be a good fit for Michigan,” said Fournette’s father. “I know for sure he would be a great fit for Michigan. He’ll fit right in.”
“Me and my wife are real high on education, first of all,” Fournette’s father said. “And we have to feel like our child is going to be in good hands, from a family aspect, not just coaches, but a friend and a father figure on the field and off the field.”
Fournette will be accompanied by his parents on the trip; he'll undoubtedly get the full tour of both the academic and football side of things, and it'll be very interesting to see where Michigan stands after this weekend.
NJ RB Jonathan Hilliman is listed as attending in some places and not in others; assuming he shows, this will be Michigan's best chance to chip away at Ohio State's lead for the three-star boasting a very impressive offer sheet. [EDIT: Per 247, Hilliman won't be visiting for the BBQ. That ship appears to have sailed; it's Fournette or bust at running back, reportedly, with Kalen Ballage being recruited as an athlete-slash-backup plan.]
MI DL Malik McDowell is always tough to pin down when it comes to his recruitment plans; he's another potential visitor. While he's attempted to stay quiet about where things stand, he's let slip a couple times that the Wolverines are out in front, and the general opinion is that he'll stay in-state.
Cass Tech DE Josh Alabi and RB Mike Weber will visit Ann Arbor together for the umpteenth time. Both are early four-stars with a high level of interest in the Wolverines.
FL WR George Campbell is the top-ranked 2015 recruit who'll be on campus, coming in at #7 in the 247 Composite. He'll have his high school teammate, Cole, giving him the full sales pitch. How he reacts to this latest trip to Ann Arbor should give a good indication of where the Wolverines stand now that fellow East Lake receiver Artavis Scott chose Clemson over Michigan.
OH CB Shaun Crawford has long held Michigan as his leader, with many even expecting that he'd commit during an earlier visit this offseason. Crawford will have his family in tow, and his mother makes it sound like he's the best possibility of a commitment this weekend, per TomVH ($):
"Michigan is definitely at the top of the list, because it's a wonderful school. It's been a favorite for a long time and he grew up a Michigan fan," Crawford's mother said. "I think this type of event will kind of answer any questions we all may have and bring it all together for him. It's definitely something that's worthwhile in the decision process."
In this early stage of the 247 Composite rankings (only 247 and ESPN have released 2015 rankings), Crawford is listed as the #92 overall player, #9 corner, and #4 prospect in Ohio. He'd be a very nice early pickup, obviously.
OH LB Justin Hilliard ranks one spot above Crawford in the Ohio state rankings. His recruitment could come down to a big Midwestern battle — his older brother plays for Iowa and he already holds offers from all the Big Ten powers and some national schools, as well.
At 6'8", 305 pounds, four-star PA OT Sterling Jenkins is exactly what Michigan is searching for in an offensive lineman — tackle is the biggest, and potentially only, need left on the offensive line. Michigan is among his top schools, and despite lots of national interest they could very well be in the lead.
Michigan has experienced recent success recruiting in Utah, landing Sione Houma in 2012 and Bryan Mone for the 2014 class. They'll try to replicate that with four-star UT LB Osa Masina, though the Wolverines could be facing an uphill battle against the in-state Utes, where Masina's older brother signed in 2013.
The above players are confirmed for this weekend by multiple outlets; other potential visitors include MI ATH Brian Cole, OH DT Hjalte Froholdt, and NY TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. — Michigan is in very good shape with all three prospects.
If Crawford isn't the most likely to commit this weekend, then it's 2016 IL OL Erik Swenson, who's stated in no uncertain terms that a Michigan pledge is all but inevitable — he nearly pulled the trigger when he camped here last month.
Swenson is the only rising sophomore slated to attend who currently holds an offer, but that could change; MD LB De'le Harding is expected to join his older teammates, Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson, on this weekend's visit, and he's a player who should earn an offer sooner or later. OH QB Messiah DeWeaver, who's shown very strong interest in Michigan, will also be at the BBQ, though I'd be surprised if a 2016 quarterback pulled an offer this early.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on Parrker Westphal, JuJu Smith, Dravon Henry, and more.]
I'm back from parts unknown—okay, Phoenix—with definitive proof that TomVH, not myself, is the recruiting analyst with the vacation-commitment curse (or gift, depending on your perspective). It's been mostly quiet on the recruiting front for the past week, save for Michigan finally pinning down a big-time visit.
Roll Out The
Red Blue Carpet
LA RB Leonard Fournette would like some extra barbeque with his barbeque, please:
New Orleans (LA) St. Augustine 2014 running back Leonard Fournette has been talking about visiting Michigan for some time now.
On Sunday, Wolverine247 insider Steve Lorenz confirmed that Fournette, the Nations top running back, will visit Michigan for an extended visit next week.
This year's BBQ at the Big House is a two-day event slated for Saturday/Sunday; Fournette will arrive in Ann Arbor on Thursday and spend the weekend — accompanied by both of his parents, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($). Fournette and his family remain adamant that the nation's top back doesn't have any leaders despite everyone expecting the Louisiana native to stay in the Southeast. Michigan is still a longshot and I will continue saying that until there's very concrete evidence to the contrary; Fournette staying for a long weekend with his parents, however, certainly indicates serious interest.
Fournette won't be the only 2014 running back in attendance at the BBQ; Michigan has long been among the top schools for New Jersey three-star Jonathan Hilliman, whose offer sheet far outstrips his current rankings — he'll be in town this weekend, but the Wolverines have ground to cover, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
Hilliman's top five schools were, in no order, Ohio State, Alabama, Rutgers, Michigan and Vanderbilt but he already knows of one school that will make it to the next round.
"I'm going to cut down to three," he said. "Ohio State is still the leader. We're keeping in contact and it's easy for me to see how interested they are. I know Ohio State is going to make the cut and most likely Rutgers will also but I want to see how the visit goes. I'm not sure of which school will be that third one.
The BBQ gives Michigan a good chance to be that third school; Ohio State is obviously the team to beat. I'll have the full rundown on BBQ visitors on Thursday, once I've had a chance to settle back in and more recruits confirm whether or not they'll attend.
[Hit THE JUMP for news on early enrollees, the latest on Adoree' Jackson, and updates on several underclassmen, including Tyrone Wheatley Jr. and the two choice eliminations from his recruitment.]