"It's a lot easier being a drug dealer than an AAU coach" - this guy. Tell me something I don't know. I mean, don't think but have never tried either.
Today's recruiting roundup features the initial 2014 Top247, the inspiring story of Dareian Watkins, Shane Morris's strange celebratory dance, and more.
I See Your Raekwon And Raise You A Draequan
Swagger advantage: Suleiman, barely
Given that it's the August before their junior year, it's way too early for a 2014 Top247, but I'll be damned if there isn't one. Michigan commit Michael Ferns* lands at #98, a four-spot drop from his placement in 247's early top 100. Other prospects with Wolverine offers:
- VA DE Da'Shawn Hand — #1 overall
- NJ CB Jabrill Peppers — #3
- LA OT Cameron Robinson — #4
- LA RB Leonard Fournette — #5
- TX S Edward Paris — #11
- KS OT Braden Smith — #12
- AL ATH Bo Scarbrough — #13
- MD OT Damian Prince — #14
- NC OT Bentley Spain — #18
- CA TE Tyler Luatua — #19
- OH LB Dante Booker — #20
- DC CB Jalen Tabor — #21
- MI DE Malik McDowell — #24
- TX CB Nick Watkins — #30
- FL OT Kc McDermott — #38
- FL DT Khairi Clark — #43
- FL OT Mason Cole — #44
- TX OT Demetrius Knox — #47
- TN ATH Jalen Hurd — #48
- TN WR Josh Malone — #60
- AT OT Casey Tucker (USC commit) — #63
- MO OT Andy Bauer (Mizzou commit) — #68
- IL OG Jamarco Jones — #82
- AZ TE Mark Andrews — #85
- MI WR Drake Harris (MSU commit) — #89
- MO OT Roderick Johnson — #91
- OH LB Michael Ferns — #98
- SC DT Dexter Wideman — #103
- TX S T'Kevian Rockwell — #115
- NJ ATH Kiy Hester — #128
- NC TE Jeb Blazevich — #164
- IL CB Parrker Westphal — #165
- TN OT Alex Bars — #168
- DC CB D'Andre Payne — #171
- SC TE Kevin Crosby — #181
- MI CB Damon Webb — #192
- IL TE Nic Weishar — #205
- PA S Montae Nicholson — #212
- MI OT Tommy Doles — #219
- TX S Brandon Simmons — #226
- OH DE Joe Henderson — #241
- GA OT Orlando Brown Jr. — #242
By my count, Michigan has offered 27 of the top 100 prospects and 42 of the top 247. That's... a lot. In case it hasn't been made abundantly clear, the coaching staff is focusing on getting offers out to the top national prospects before focusing on evaluating and offering regional talent.
Of course, there are more important matters at hand. Namely, who are the Name of the Year (NOTY for short) candidates in the 2014 class? The class of 2013 had a very strong group, but I think it's surpassed by their younger counterparts. There is GA LB Raekwon McMillian for the Wu-Tang fans, though he may be one-upped by AL S Draequan Murphy. CA CB Adoree' Jackson tacks on not only the extra 'e', but a completely unnecessary apostrophe. LA WR Speedy Noil is an early leader for best nickname. LA WR Malachi Dupree easily beats out NC ATH Elijah Hood for best biblical moniker. The aforementioned T'Kevian Rockwell can't quite match FL LB D'ronzjiah Mathews(!) in the "let's come up with a name before my epidural wears off" category. I'm not sure what an Aggadoria Bowers is, but such a thing exists.
For my money, however, none of those can match the power of CA ATH Sulaiman Hameed, potential lost heir to the Ottoman Empire. If his nickname isn't "The Magnificent," I'll lose all faith in humanity.
*Great tidbit on Ferns: As pointed out in the comments of yesterday's FBO primer, he is not only Michigan's first recruit from Southeastern Ohio, but the only four-star prospect from the region in the Rivals era. This makes Michigan the only school to pull in a four-star recruit from each region in Ohio.
Now Lean Back, Lean Back, Lean Back, Lean Back
Part 2 of Shane Morris's Elite11 camp experience has been posted by MGoVideo. I would like to draw your attention to the 1:06 mark:
Fat Joe appreciates your support for the Terror Squad, but thinks you should dial it back a little.
Alvin Bailey: Still Probably Not Happening
Tuesday's update included a story on FL WR Alvin Bailey, who's looking to make his decision soon and has UCF as his stated leader. Things didn't look good for Michigan then, and they certainly don't now that he's picked up a Florida offer ($):
"Alvin was offered by Florida today and no he's not committing tonight and he's not going to commit tomorrow either," [Bailey's HS coach Sean] Callahan said. "He said he'd like to make his decision before September 1 and I expect he'll be a man of his word and get it done before then."
Callahan had said that Bailey was excited about the Florida offer but has a lot of thinking to do.
Any time such a vehement denial of an imminent commitment is required, it's usually a sign that one could very well happen. Even if Bailey still waits until September, it seems very unlikely that he'll leave the state, let alone go all the way up north.
OH ATH Dareian Watkins is a 2014 Michigan target and a freshly-minted member of the Top247. He also has a remarkable backstory, featured in this must-read article from Allen Trieu:
The story begins painfully, but through years of struggle, persistence and faith, and with the help of good people, it is headed full speed towards a happy ending. Dareian was adopted at 11 years old by Heath and Cheryl Watkins. He calls it the second biggest day of his life. The biggest is the day he was taken from his biological mother.
“I was at school and I got called down to the office,” Dareian said. “Thinking I was in trouble, I took my time. I saw a lady walk out of the office towards me and I didn't know what was going on. They had told me to go straight home after school and say bye to my mom. I didn't think anything of it. I got there and my mom was crying and I hugged her, then they pulled me away and said we had to go.”
The whole thing, obviously, is well worth your time. Watkins is one of those recruits you'll root for regardless of where he ends up.
Michigan sent out an offer this week to three-star PA LB Brenon Thrift, according to 247's Clint Brewster ($). Thrift also has scholarship offers from West Virginia and Pittsburgh and says he'll look to visit sometime in the future.
IL DL Brian Allen, who has yet to earn an offer from the Wolverines, has Michigan in his top five with Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State, according to 247's Evan Flood.
Matt Pargoff continues his look at the 2014 class with a rundown of ten cornerback prospects to watch.
Today's recruiting roundup discusses the Honey Badger; the latest on Alvin Bailey; scouting reports on Shane Morris, Dymonte Thomas, and Michael Ferns; and more.
Maybe He Just Has Glaucoma, Pawwwwwwl
You might find it unusual that a recruiting post starts off with a story about Tyrann Mathieu's dismissal from the LSU program, but Tony Barnhart's take on the matter is anything but usual. Mathieu reportedly failed multiple drug tests during his time in Baton Rouge, which of course means we should blame the recruiting process. Wait, what?
To some extent we're all guilty for the fall of Tyrann Mathieu.
• When we offer a 14-year old kid a scholarship, we're guilty.
• When we put four or five stars by a kid's name and hang on his every word until he signs on the dotted line, we're guilty.
• When we hold press conferences in high schools for kids to VERBALLY announce where they are going to school, we're guilty.
• When we hold press conferences on national signing day where kids play with hats, signs, dogs and the media turns out in full force and gives the process legitimacy, we're guilty.
• When college coaches tell teenage children anything and everything they (and their parents) want to hear in order to get them to sign because careers and millions of dollars hang in the balance, we're guilty.
• When the sense of entitlement created in high school is allowed to continue in college because winning (and making money) is all that matters, we're guilty.
• When we allow the primary (and sometimes only) goal of these kids to become holding up a jersey with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on a Thursday night in New York City, we're guilty.
• When we in the media go along with the process because we're trying to satisfy the public's insatiable appetite for college football, we're guilty.
I'm all for a good takedown of the current recruiting climate, but please, enlighten me as to how this has anything to do with Tyrann Mathieu. Yes, the "Honey Badger" persona took on a life of its own, but that happened once he was in college. In fact, if you bother to do so much research as clicking on Mathieu's old Scout and Rivals profiles, you'd learn that he wasn't even a consensus four-star. Oh, and he verbally committed in July of his senior year when Les Miles offered him after LSU's camp ($). No waiting until signing day, no press conference, no hats, and certainly no live animals (well, unless you count Les Miles).
If the attention went to Mathieu's head, it was probably the attention that came well after the recruiting process. Or, perhaps, it had nothing to do with attention at all:
We now know that whatever demons Tyrann Mathieu was fighting -- be they the trappings of fame or his difficult upbringing -- he simply could not overcome them. In short, Mathieu's biological father is in prison and his mother could not raise him. He was taken in by a grandfather who died in 1997. Then his aunt and uncle adopted him. The scars were always there.
That's from the same article. I don't think we need to spend too much time digging up reasons that a talented football star repeatedly—gasp!—smoked weed (in college, even!); we definitely don't need to use the fall of the Honey Badger to take on the state of recruiting. If you look hard enough, there are plenty of other stories that could accomplish that end.
But I Had So Many Kid 'n Play Jokes...
FL WR Alvin Bailey is moving closer to choosing a school, telling 247's Chris Nee that he'll probably decide a couple weeks into the season between Florida State, Georgia, UCF, and Michigan ($). Chances are looking, well, not so good:
The Tampa-area prospect once again confirmed that Central Florida is atop his list at this stage.
“They are,” Bailey said when asked if the Knights were his leader. “I feel like it has a great family atmosphere and it is a place I can make a great impact at.”
Bailey doesn't mention Michigan as a school he'll visit again before his decision, meaning it's almost assured that he and his magnificent flat-top will head elsewhere.
Set Phasers To "Effusive"
I've said this before, but I don't think people are properly excited about Dymonte Thomas, who would likely be a top 100 prospect at either running back or safety. According to Thomas's head coach, Ed Miley, he could see time at another position, as well ($) [emphasis mine]:
"We didn't do much with him in today's scrimmage, because we know what he can do, so don't let this fool you at all. He's way better than last year and it will show in the games, trust me," Miley continued. "Today was a day to see what our other guys can do. I spoke to (Michigan assistant coach) Greg Mattison the other day about Dymonte, and we talked about how much better he is this year. Michigan will probably use him as a kickoff returner too, and Mattison said he could help out on offense. Dymonte is on track to graduate early, but the decision hasn't been made about whether he will go to Michigan in January or not. A lot depends on how he feels about playing baseball as a senior, and if he still has thoughts about a pro baseball career. I think Dymonte knows it's all football for him, but we will see how that goes."
It will be interesting to see how Michigan ultimately decides to use Thomas; he might be too skilled and athletic to keep from playing on multiple sides of the ball.
Fellow early 2013 commit Shane Morris, meanwhile, should have no durability concerns if his QB guru, Donovan Dooley, is to be believed:
“Shane would go to his two practices,” Dooley said. “Then come to QBU, which shows his dedication and grind towards being the best in the country. He came to the Silverdome and went full throttle with me.”
He added, “He's a machine. Machines don't get tired.”
Shane Morris, Fall 2013, somewhere deep below Schembechler Hall: "I know MANBALL."
Michigan's latest commitment, 2014 OH LB Michael Ferns, has also come in for the coaching praise treatment in recent days. The Wolverine's Andy Reid caught up with a rival high school coach ($):
"He's very athletic. He's a great kid from a great family, and he has played very well, and he did great against us a year ago. He can do a lot of things. He played some fullback, running back. Offensively, he has good hands, but defensively, I think, is his strong suite [sic], and I believe that's what he's been recruited for. He has good size, range, speed. He finds the ball. Some kids have all the measurable, but they can't find the ball - but he's always around it. He makes a lot of plays for them.["]
Recruiting guru Jim Stefani dug up combine numbers from last summer that put Ferns squarely on his radar for the top 2014 prospects ($):
Ferns first came to my attention in June 2011 when I was perusing the results of a combine that was held in western Pennsylvania. As I was going through the list of combine attendees and making notes of ones who could have future D-I potential, the figures for one particular freshman stood out - Ferns, who measured in at 6-2 ½, 218 with a 4.72 forty and 4.29 shuttle.
These numbers were not just impressive, but virtually off the charts when it came to a high school freshman.
According to 247's Clint Brewster, 2014 TN OL Alex Bars, younger brother of current Michigan freshman Blake Bars, will visit campus for the Air Force game ($).
Chantel Jennings reports from Cass Tech's intrasquad scrimmage that 2014 prospect Gary Hosey is being looked at as a running back, not a linebacker, by Michigan ($). Deon Drake is generally regarded as having the highest ceiling among Cass Tech's rising junior linebackers, so this may be Hosey's best chance of landing an offer.
Today's recruiting roundup discusses the Michael Ferns commitment, recruiting in Ohio, SEC sketchiness (surprise!), and more.
You Keep Toledo, We'll Just Take These Four-Stars, Thanks
The big news of the day is obviously the commitment of OH LB Michael Ferns, and the full Hello treatment went up this morning. If you were lurking on the board last night, you witnessed historic levels of excitement, at least if duplicate posts are any indicator:
(Screenshot via MGoUser a2_electricboogaloo)
Maybe it's best to sit the next couple plays out, kaykay. As for Professor X, well, no words do this justice.
Anyway, Sam Webb caught up to Ferns in the aftermath of his commitment, and the newest Wolverine explained his thought process in making an early decision:
“I think when I went back (to Ann Arbor) the second time for the barbecue, I felt good about making the decision,” Ferns admitted. “After that you just kind of look out for the academic stuff focusing on fixing my junior schedule up to graduate early my senior year. After that I was ready to go.”
“Michigan just stuck out to me. After that second visit up there it kind of really stuck out more. I felt good the whole time I was there. I felt great and I knew it was time to make the decision.”
Ferns is all set to enroll early, so he'll be on campus in... 16 months. Criminy.
Michigan's first 2014 commit doesn't just represent a four-star from Ohio, but a four-star from Ohio with an Ohio State offer. It's always great to see The Other Brian surface over at Genuinely Sarcastic, and he emerged last night to detail Brady Hoke's remarkable recruiting run:
Since June 10, 2011, basically 14 months, Brady Hoke has landed eight (8) players from the state of Ohio who held Ohio State offers:
- 2012 DE Tom Strobel
- 2012 OL Kyle Kalis
- 2012 DE Chris Wormley
- 2013 S Dymonte Thomas
- 2013 LB Mike McCray
- 2013 RB Deveon Smith
- 2013 LB Ben Gedeon
- 2014 LB Michael Ferns
In the previous TEN classes COMBINED, from 2002 to 2011, Michigan landed seven (7) players from Ohio with OSU offers:
- 2003 LB/DE Shawn Crable
- 2003 S/LB Prescott Burgess
- 2004 DE/TE Mike Massey
- 2005 WR Mario Manningham
- 2006 OL Justin Boren
- 2008 TE Kevin Koger
- 2009 DB Justin Turner
Well, then. Buckeye fans can somewhat justifiably point to Tressel's firing to explain the 2012 class, but with Urban Meyer fully in place by the time the 2013 cycle started, that line of reasoning only goes so far. There's no question Hoke is doing a better job on the recruiting trail than RichRod could manage at Michigan, and he's also in the process of blowing Lloyd Carr's classes out of the water, largely because of his unprecedented success in Ohio.
In a nice coincidence, Rivals released an article today breaking down which states do the best job of holding onto their five-star talent. When it comes to Rivals five-stars, Michigan is #2 in the country—behind only the black hole that is Mississippi—at keeping them in-state for college, with only Ronald Johnson (USC) escaping among the seven five-stars since 2002. Will Gholston was the only in-state five-star to head to MSU, so the Wolverines have historically done a stellar job of locking up the best local talent. When the list expands to include all Rivals100 recruits, Michigan (as a state, so including MSU) is fifth in the country at retention rate, behind Alabama, Louisiana, California, and Mississippi.
By comparison, Ohio has produced more than twice as many five-stars—17 compared to Michigan's seven—but have only held on to nine of those players, all of whom ended up in a Buckeye uniform. Of the eight that left the state, two—Prescott Burgess and Kyle Kalis—landed in Ann Arbor. Of course, a state that produces more high-end talent will naturally have more competition for those players, so the results of this study aren't exactly a surprise.
Nope, Nothing To See Here
This all sounds very legitimate indeed:
The Darius Paige case has entered the wait-and-see phase.
Paige, a senior defensive tackle who has verbally committed to play football at the University of Alabama, transferred to Foley High School in Alabama on Tuesday amid allegations that Crimson Tide assistant coach Jeremy Pruitt recommended he go to Foley because they could “take care of him academically.”
Paige was ineligible for spring ball at Washington High School in Penascola, Florida, and unless this is all just a remarkable coincidence it appears Alabama's coaches have encouraged him to transfer to a high school that gives him a better chance of qualifying. Alabama, of course, has no comment. Odds of the NCAA looking into this: slim. Blergh.
All I Need Is One Throw
MGoVideo has helpfully compiled all the Shane Morris bits from ESPNU's coverage of the Elite11 finals, which so far has focused on the first day of camp. Watch to see Trent Dilfer make Morris wait for the single throw that will determine the entire course of the rest of his career, or something:
Seriously, these guys make, like, 30 throws all camp. The relative rankings significance of an Elite11 throw versus a throw in a regular high school game is astronomically high, which is probably kinda dumb.
In other commit news, Gareon Conley and his Massilon squad scrimmaged against fellow Ohio power St. Edward (home of Kyle Kalis), and Scout's Bill Greene came away impressed:
Gareon Conley (Michigan commit) had opportunities to make big plays offensively, and just missed connecting with Kempt on several long throws. Defensively, Conley had great success locking up multiple offer wide receiver Anthony Young. Conley will play cornerback for the Wolverines, and could be ready to play early.
One of the most interesting recruits to watch this fall will be Conley, whose spot at #61 overall in the ESPN150 is far higher than at any of the other recruiting services; if his other rankings start to fall in line with ESPN, it'll be a great sign.
Not a whole lot of action on the recruiting trail this week, so this will be short and sweet.
The headline is more positive than the actual quote, but GBW reports that 2013 AZ WR Devon Allen is considering an official visit to Michigan ($). Allen was on campus the day before the BBQ and enjoyed his visit. While his father says they'd like to come up to Ann Arbor again in the fall, he also mentions the difficulty in arranging a flight that fits with Allen's schedule. We'll see where it goes from here.
2014 OH OL Jimmy Byrne told Tremendous's Mark that he has a top three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, in no particular order. Byrne is #3, one spot behind Ferns, on OhioPreps's top 25 prospects in the state of Ohio.
Two 2014 recruits have expressed interest in visiting for a game this fall: four-star OH ATH Dareian Watkins, a high school QB who could play either WR or DB in college($), and IN WR Dominique Booth, who camped at Michigan in June ($). Both players are hoping to earn an offer.
I'm not exactly sure why this is news as opposed to a foregone conclusion from birth.
As first reported by TomVH, St. Clairsville (OH) linebacker Michael Ferns committed to Michigan on Wednesday, becoming their first commit in the class of 2014. Ferns had recently named a top three that also included Notre Dame and Penn State, and a very positive unofficial visit for the BBQ at the Big House likely pushed him to make a pledge.
|NR MLB||NR ILB||NR ILB||
4*, 93, #5 ILB,
Only 247Sports has released rankings for the class of 2014, so our lone national data point for Ferns has him pegged inside the top 100 prospects overall and top five at his position. All save ESPN list him at 6'3", 235 pounds—ESPN has him 20 pounds lighter, likely an outdated figure—which has him easily on track to be a college-sized strongside linebacker by the time he hits campus.
While the national services aside from 247 have not released rankings, OhioPreps already has a top 25 list for the class of 2014. Ferns is second, behind only fellow linebacker Dante Booker, and Marc Givler suggests that those two have separated themselves from the rest of the class.
Other information on Ferns is scarce, as he hasn't hit the camp circuit and St. Clairsville is a small school that hasn't produced much in the way of D-I talent*. We do get one player comparison courtesy of Scout's Dave Berk ($):
Standing 6-foot-3, 235-pounds, Ferns reminds some of current Irish inside linebacker Jarrett Grace, at least in terms of his physical stature. However, Ferns shows a unique skill set for a player of his size.
While St. Clairsville High School is far from one of Ohio’s top big-school programs, Ferns athletic ability could easily transfer to a bigger program as he shows on film the ability to play several positions on both sides of the ball.
Grace was a 2011 recruit on the 3/4-star borderline; at 6'3", 240 lbs., he's very comparable in terms of size. Grace's ESPN scouting report($) praised his athleticism and play recognition, and as you'll see in his film those are also two areas of Ferns's game that stand out.
Besides the above, most of the articles on Ferns focus on his intelligence both on and off the field. He's made it clear from the beginning of his recruitment that academics are the top priority—which he backed up with a top three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State, as well as an offer from Stanford—and he plans to study pre-med. 247's Steve Wiltfong details this side of Ferns in an article rather unfortunately titled "Ferns Is Freaky On & Off Field"($):
Growing up, Ferns always saw his parents on the computer messing around with this new sensation known as the internet. The two-year old didn’t want to be left out.
“He wanted to play on the computer so bad, and he’d keep asking us what words were,” the elder Ferns said. “It just got to the point where he taught himself how to read so he didn’t keep asking us. He was in diapers. We bought him reading programs for kids ages 4-5, and it wasn’t three weeks later we were buying the programs for ages 6-8. Over the course of a month, he was on the internet. At that time it was dial up, but he wanted to do it so bad.”
“I was always a little ahead of the time,” Ferns added. “I remember being in diapers on the computer. I’d say I was a little advanced back in day.”
Ferns has grown a bit since then, and now his intellect is paying dividends on the football field [emphasis mine]:
“He’s 6-3, 230-pounds and runs like a deer,” McClean said.
“Besides just his size advantage, he can do a lot of different things. We lined him up at three different positions on offense. On defense he’s an intellectual person, he can handle things a lot of people couldn’t do. He’s like a coach on the field from his linebacker spot.”
That astute play, when combined with impressive athleticism, could make Ferns a candidate for early playing time. According to Scout's Allen Trieu, who posted a scouting report on Ferns after his commitment, the only thing stopping Ferns could be Michigan's depth chart ($):
Upshot: He's going to come in college ready in terms of size and speed. If he adjusts to the speed of the game and learns the defense, he has the tools to play early. Not sure if the depth chart will allow that because there are so many linebackers, but he has what you look for in an early impact guy.
Trieu compares Ferns to freshman Joe Bolden, a 2012 Under Armour All-American who's already pushing for playing time at WLB, and says he's a "pretty safe bet" for four stars.
Magnus broke down Ferns's sophomore film and came away impressed:
I really like what I see on Ferns's film. He plays both ways for his high school team, although keep in mind as you watch that St. Clairsville is a small school with fewer than 700 students enrolled; the competition is not excellent. Ferns plays some fullback, tight end, wide receiver, and linebacker. He shows very good instincts as a linebacker. Ferns the younger plays downhill nicely, showing quick initial reads and stepping up into holes that open. He keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and is a very solid tackler. He also does a nice job of side-stepping blockers and using his hands to shed when necessary. His change-of-direction skills are also apparent as an offensive player, where he swivels his hips pretty well to slither past defenders.
So, while scouting on Ferns is still limited, what we see suggests he's got the size, athleticism, and instincts to excel at the collegiate level.
*The only other St. Clairsville player in the Rivals database (dating back to 2002) is 2013 3-star WR Dan Monteroso, a Boston College commit.
Ferns built up an impressive offer list for a junior-to-be, choosing Michigan over Notre Dame, Penn State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Stanford, Virginia, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and a handful of MAC offers.
Ferns tallied 136 tackles as a sophomore while also chipping in 441 yards on 31(!) rushes and 301 yards on 15(!) catches. He had 88 tackles as a freshman in 2010.
FAKE 40 TIME
No 40 time is listed for Ferns on any of the four recruiting sites.
As you can see, there's little not to like in the film, though the lack of high-end competition is apparent.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
While Michigan has recruited extremely well at linebacker over the last couple classes, Ferns could have a relatively clear path to the two-deep if he lands at strongside linebacker. That spot is currently manned by Jake Ryan and Cam Gordon, and Ryan will be a senior (I know, right?) when Ferns steps on campus. Unless Royce Jenkins-Stone bulks up significantly, at that point Mike McCray will be the only player standing between Ferns and a spot in the rotation.
It's also possible that Ferns ends up at middle linebacker, a position where he can better show off his instincts. While Joe Bolden and potentially Jenkins-Stone stand in the way there, Ferns could get a three-year separation from those two if he takes a redshirt year (assuming Bolden and RJS play this year, a much safer assumption for the former).
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
At this early juncture, it looks like Michigan is in line for a relatively small class in 2014, but with a year-and-a-half before signing day a great deal can change. One thing we're pretty sure of is that the Wolverines can afford, once again, to be picky at linebacker; unless there's unexpected attrition, Ferns will likely be joined by one other linebacker recruit, likely a guy who projects to the middle.
Today's recruiting roundup is relatively light after a calm week following the BBQ, but there's still much to talk about, including Derrick Green, the E.J. Levenberry non-story, and some 2014 updates.
Wait, That Randy Edsall?
SBNation's Bud Elliott takes on the trend of early commitments and even earlier offers in college football recruiting, an issue I briefly addressed in yesterday's mailbag. He focuses on the practice of schools giving out hundreds of verbal offers—with various levels of commitability, if I'm allowed to completely make up words—since the NCAA pushed back the date when players can receive written offers (for the class of 2013, written offers couldn't go out until this Wednesday).
Elliott doesn't come up with much of a solution for the spate of early verbal offers—he suggests moving up the date when written offers are allowed to go out, even though he acknowledges that in the current structure written offers bear the same level of binding agreement as verbal offers: none. Personally, I think the NCAA is going to have to institute an early signing period like they have for basketball. The process is only speeding up, and an early signing period allows for a little more stability for both coaches and players, with the added benefit of saving committed players the hassle of dealing with other coaches trying to flip their commitment all the way through signing day.
Anyway, Elliott brought up the topic to several coaches at ACC Media Day, and leave it to the conference's running joke of a coach, Maryland's Randy Edsall, to... say something really insightful?
Edsall was also the only coach to discuss the new NCAA qualifying rules that will impact the class of 2015.
"It just doesn't make sense to me [to offer players early] because you have new rules that are going to go into effect where you've got to have a 2.3 [GPA] and a 1020 [SAT] in order to be eligible. We don't know until the end of that kid's junior year if he's even going to be on track to do that."
"The NCAA talks about education and APR? And all this stuff? And then they're allowing us to go and recruit kids and then thinking about making this the wild west where you can text a kid as much as you want? I mean, what are we doing? There's no wonder kids who are 12, 13, who think they're entitled. We're creating part of the problem. I just don't get it. Where is the leadership coming from in terms of allowing open season on all these kids who aren't mature enough to be able to handle all this recruiting?"
In a few years we're going to see schools scrambling to replace the academic casualty who's been committed to them for years, and while Randy Edsall probably won't be at Maryland at that point he'll still be very, very right.
VA RB Derrick Green named his top six yesterday, with Michigan, Auburn, Oregon, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Virginia Tech comprising the list. Of those schools, Michigan and Auburn are the two regarded as favorites, and the recent decommitent of four-star RB Greg Bryant from Oklahoma could swing that race decidedly in Michigan's favor, according to 247's J.C. Shurburtt:
That leaves us with the question- where will Bryant land? Best guess at this point is Auburn. Reports indicated the Tigers and South Carolina were his top two choices with Georgia also in the mix. Auburn makes the most sense based on everything that is known at this time.
Bryant to AU leaves us with another question. How does that impact four-star running back Derrick Green (Richmond, Va./Hermitage) and where he will land? The Tigers will take one more back. They like both Bryant and Green, but it’s highly doubtful they take both and unless a new school makes a charge, they are getting Bryant.
Shurburtt speculates that would be enough for the Wolverines to land Green. For what it's worth, Green told Mike Farrell that he has no current timeline, but would like to take some officials ($):
So now that Green is down to six, what's next?
"I am focusing on the season, we are in two-a-days now," he said. "I'd like to get this down to three schools sometime soon if I can, but I'm not sure of any timeframe right now. I'll obviously take some official visits as well but I'm not sure where and when yet."
Though Green's recruitment could very well stretch into the season, Michigan is in a very strong position to land him.
Mike Farrell: Troll King?
Remember E.J. Levenberry, the linebacker recruit who chose Florida State over Michigan all the way back in April? Since Michigan has claimed to be full at linebacker since even before Ben Gedeon committed, Wolverine fans haven't given him a second thought. That is, until Wednesday, when Mike Farrell posted a letter from Levenberry's father on The Wolverine's message board that strongly hinted at a decommitment and ended thusly ($);
Right now I have to say my son made the right decision in choosing Jimbo and FSU but that Michigan degree and Greg Mattison's relationship with my son are hard to resist.
Farrell "confirmed" with Levenberry's father that E.J. would take an official visit to Ann Arbor for the Michigan State game. Recruitment back on, start your engines, buckle up, and all that noise, right? Not so fast, my friend; Sam Webb caught wind of the news and swiftly shot down any misconceptions about Levenberry's recruitment:
Lots of chatter suddenly about EJ Levenberry. Great player/prospect, but no room at the inn at
#Michigan and no official visit to Ann Arbor
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) August 1, 2012
In other words, the circumstances at Michigan didn't change one bit, and Levenberry's dad almost certainly didn't check with the coaches before floating the official visit idea out there. 20 minutes after Webb's tweet, Farrell backpedals:
And just like that
#Michigan pulls out of the Levenberry race unless they lose a commit per levenberry's father
— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) August 1, 2012
"Just like that," eh? This is the problem with premium recruiting websites; if Farrell wanted to get the right story out there, he would've checked into Michigan's scholarship situation before posting that to a Michigan recruiting message board. HOWEVA, he knew that post would cause a stir and get a lot of clicks whether Michigan could take him or not. The result, of course, is that he posts, people freak out, and then Webb has to come along and insert some reality into the situation, but Rivals gets a nice spike in pageviews.
Even worse is that Farrell acknowledges he was probably played by Levenberry's father, who's likely trying to give FSU's coaching staff a wake-up call by talking up Michigan and Oklahoma:
— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) August 1, 2012
Sam Webb's latest at the DetNews is a profile on IL CB Parrker Westphal, who's now visited Michigan twice after attending the BBQ. In case you haven't followed along, Westphal's position coach in high school is none other than former Michigan CB Todd Howard. Guess where he expects Westphal to end up?
"For me, I always said that I wanted to coach and get somebody to go to Michigan," Howard admitted to Scout.com. "I want our kids to go where they can go, the best choice for them, and where they'll be able to max-out their potential. Of course, I'm biased toward Michigan. I pulled Parrker aside before he even enrolled in high school and I said, 'You're going to go to Michigan.' I looked at his dad and said that and they said, 'You think so?' I guess one Wolverine can always pick out another."
Westphal himself also discussed his recent visit and may have unwittingly given us some insight into why Michigan doesn't yet have a 2014 commit:
When the time came to talk recruiting, the conversation was brief and to the point.
"Coach (Jeff Hecklinski) was telling me he doesn't want me to commit now because it's too early," Parrker said. "He just wants me to take my time."
Westphal doesn't claim any leaders at this time, though Michigan stands out among the schools he's visited. He looks like a candidate for an early commitment and the Wolverines would likely be the choice if that's what he does.
Webb also talked to OH LB Michael Ferns after the BBQ, and Ferns offered some insight into his potential timeline ($):
I still plan on waiting until mid-junior year, or the end of my junior year to commit because I feel like that would be a great time. By then, I’ll have a good understanding of what I want, and I’ll have seen enough to make a decision.
When pressed for a leader, Ferns admitted that Michigan is his favorite, with the caveat that they'd had the advantage of a return trip that his other top schools—Notre Dame and Penn State—have not had yet.
Tremendous caught up with MD CB Troy Vincent Jr.—son of the former NFL cornerback—after his BBQ visit, and for some reason this is one of my favorite quotes from a recruit [emphasis mine]:
Help Michigan?: "I wouldn't say it helped Michigan. I look at it more as them successfully reinforcing what I already believed about them. The visit confirmed a lot of thoughts for me with them and allowed my parents to draw their own conclusions as well".
Full steam ahead for the Brady Hoke Hype Train.
Quickly: Another 2014 quarterback to watch is VA QB Caleb Henderson, who "wants to pursue Michigan" after visiting for the BBQ ($). Matt Pargoff assembles lists of ten 2014 receivers and ten 2014 running backs to watch. Recruiting message boards are really special places, you guys.
OH LB Michael Ferns is one of a handful of early 2014 targets from the Midwest (photo via DetNews)
It's time for another edition of the Recruitin' Mailbag. Today, much of the focus is on the 2014 class, though of course there's a Laquon Treadwell question for those of you not ready to look that far ahead yet. You can ask a question for the next mailbag via email or with the hashtag #mgomailbag on Twitter.
Huge fan, you do an outstanding job. My recruiting question for you is, with so many scholarships given out to the 2014 class I've noticed that there has been a "lack of interest" so far with student athletes from the Midwest. My meaning of "lack of interest" doesn't mean they don't have kids from that area on their recruiting board. I'm wondering if the reason for that is because there is a lack of talent for the 2014 class in the Midwest compared to this 2013 class. Thank you for reading and answering my email. Take Care!
Going by Touch The Banner's 2014 offer board (and adding in OH RB L.J. Scott, who picked up an offer last week), Michigan has sent out 52 offers in the class, but only 13 have gone to prospects within the Big Ten footprint. A quick glance at 247's early 2014 rankings, however, should tell you what this staff is thinking: the Wolverines have offered six of the top ten players in the country and ten of the top 20.
This early in the cycle, the emphasis has been on gauging the interest of the blue-chip national prospects; with that level of prospect, it's often the case of getting in early or not getting in at all. They're also the players who need the least amount of evaluation to determine if they're worthy of an offer. It's not like the Midwest isn't represented, either, and offers have gone out to in-state standouts Malik McDowell, Damon Webb, and Tommy Doles; I don't believe this is an issue of lack of local talent, even though we may not see Illinois produce the same level of prospects that they have in 2013.
I'd expect you'll see many more offers go out to Midwest prospects when the fall rolls around and the coaches have some junior-year film to evaluate. With a year-and-a-half until 2014 signing day, there's still a lot of time before we can begin to question the talent level in the area.
Is there any indication that Hoke & staff prefer to have the class wrapped up early? What I mean is, do they put pressure on the kids (saying "hey, we're not going to hold a scholarship and we're recruiting others for your position") and that's part of the reason some guys (i.e. LTT, Treadwell's possible earlier decision) commit early?
The Wolverine asked Brady Hoke about the trend of early commitments in recruiting at Big Ten media days, and while Hoke said he's unsure if he liked sending out offers so early, he may not have much of a choice:
If they didn't take kids early, he added, they'd be in danger of falling behind.
"If we didn't, somebody else would," he said. "We're going to be aggressive in what we do. You can't sit back, or somebody's going to pass you, but I don't know what they're going to do [to slow it], or who's going to handle it["]
As for pressuring players to commit, several recruits have noted that the coaching staff has done no such thing; they want recruits to commit only if they're ready to do so. That said, the coaches are very open with recruits about the current scholarship situation and whether other recruits are poised to commit—see: the staff informing Leon McQuay III before Ross Douglas committed—with the implication that time may be running out to secure a spot in the class. They're not going to give a player an ultimatum; at the same time, they're not going to put the class on hold to wait on one prospect.
How much of an impact is the "no other visits" rule having on early commits for '14? — @Bry_Mac
Well, hey there, Blue in South Bend. I think the rule is absolutely having an impact at this stage, and that's a good thing; it's quite possible that without the rule in place a guy like Damon Webb would have committed by now, even though he's still getting offers from schools like LSU that would understandably make him think twice about that commitment. At this stage, the 2014 prospects haven't had much of a chance to see schools outside of their immediate area, and asking them to make an ill-informed decision is begging for some decommitment drama down the road.
Once some of the local prospects take a few visits to check out other schools, I think you'll start seeing the commitments trickle in; I'd be surprised if Michigan entered the 2012 season without at least one junior committed. They're in great position with a few prospects—especially OH LB Michael Ferns—and should get off to a strong start when the time comes. That time just might not be now.
How much does HS coaching (or lack thereof) shade our views of recruits? Can a great coach oversell a meh talent? — @hooverstreet
At a certain level, possibly, though that would be limited to positions like quarterback where the system really has a big impact, and usually you're able to tell regardless of stats whether a QB has the frame and arm strength to make it at the collegiate level.
I actually think that playing for a poorly-coached team can have a strange way of benefiting certain players; if a physically impressive prospect plays in a system not tailored to their game, the hype can build around untapped potential. To take an example—and I'm by no means saying he'll be a bust—Taco Charlton is now a four-star on the basis of his athletic ability, frame, and camp performances, but so far in high school he's been a situational pass-rusher. If he was out there every down and we got to see how he stood up against the run, it's quite possible that he wouldn't be as highly regarded.
For the most part, with all the camps and 24/7 recruiting coverage, I think it's difficult at this point for a recruit to get too overrated due to the high school system they play in; eventually, they either have to match up with other top prospects or they'll get dinged for shying away from top competition. That's a big reason why camps have taken on such a life of their own; in this day and age, it's all about seeing how top prospects handle playing against other top prospects.
why the sudden interest in Florida, lsu, auburn from QuonT. Is he cooling on mich? — @natebburn
It's important to note that this "sudden interest" in Laquon Treadwell from SEC schools is still coming six months before signing day; even last year this wouldn't be considered getting into the race late. As for Treadwell's interest in Michigan, I'll believe he's "cooling" on the Wolverines when he says so himself, and he's said nothing to indicate that they're anything but his clear-cut top school.
Just because the trend has gone towards early commitments doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with taking your time, checking out as many schools as possible, and waiting until you're 100% ready before making a commitment. Give Treadwell a chance to do his due diligence; I'd expect that whenever he's ready, you'll be happy with his decision.