"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
This weekend’s basketball game has huge implications in the B1G standings and something like above would be marvelous. Taking advantage of the expectedly electred atmosphere in Crisler Arena, the coaches scheduled a junior day for the big game. A few younger prospects will also be on hand for the biggest recruiting event of the year thus far. I heard back from about 50 prospects and each one will be listed and labeled with information as I dig it up.
CB Shaun Crawford
K Andrew David
S Tyree Kinnel
ATH Brian Cole
CB Ray Buford Jr.
DE Dre’Mont Jones (maybe, basketball schedule may interfere)
LB Tyriq Thompson
LB Darrin Kirkland Jr.
LB Troy Henderson
LB Asmar Bilal
RB Damien Harris
RB Mike Weber
TE Austin Ervin
TE David Edwards
TE/OL Harrison Moon
ATH Daelin Hayes
OL Thiyo Lukusa (commit watch)
RB Kentrail Moran
WR Desmond Fitzpatrick
OL Jon Runyan Jr. (will visit March 8 & 9)
CB Garrett Taylor (will visit for a spring practice)
CB Minkah Fitzpatrick
DE Darian Roseboro
DE Jake Pickard (will visit during the summer)
DE Josh Alabi
DE Jashon Cornell (visiting Ole Miss this weekend, no plans to visit at this time)
LB Josh Barajas (visited for Wisconsin game, may visit again for spring practice)
LB Jerome Baker (will visit for a spring practice)
LB Jake Cooper (has frequent contact with staff, no plans to visit at this time)
LB Justin Hilliard (would like to visit for a spring practice)
OL Drew Richmond (has no plans to visit at this time)
OL Sterling Jenkins (will visit for a spring practice)
OL Gabe Megginson (high interest, would like a Michigan offer)
OL Grant Newsome (will visit for a spring practice)
QB Nick Johns (will visit during his spring break)
QB Brandon Wimbush (will visit for a spring practice)
QB Ryan Willis (focusing more on schools that have offered, waiting on more interest)
QB Alex Malzone (will visit for a spring practice)
QB Riley Neal (not much contact since hiring of Nussmeier)
QB Jon Wassink (very interested, not much contact since hiring of Nussmeier)
RB Andrew Dowell (would like to visit for a spring practice)
S Omari Stringer (would like to visit for a spring practice)
TE Chris Clark (will visit March 22)
TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (will visit for a spring practice)
TE Austin Dorris (will visit March 1)
TE CJ Conrad (will visit for a spring practice)
TE Cole Chewins (has no plans to visit at this time)
WR David Dowell (would like to visit for a spring practice)
Something Unrelated To Nussmei--wait it's totally about Nussmeier
Sam Webb's latest Detroit News feature covers the potential recruiting impact of Doug Nussmeier; according to Greg Biggins—who covered the West region for Scout before becoming their national analyst, and therefore is familiar with Nussmeier's recruiting efforts at Washington—he's a more active and willing recruiter than his predecessor:
“I'm a big fan of Doug Nussmeier as a coach, recruiter and person,” Scout.com National Recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said. “He's a high-energy, loud, fun-loving coach who has a magnetic personality. He relates very well to kids because of his youthful, outgoing personality. Just from a personality standpoint he's basically the opposite of Al Borges if you're looking for a comparison. He really loves to recruit.
As a lead recruiter, Nussmeier secured commitments from two four-star All-American QBs at Washington for the 2012 class, four-star All-American Cooper Bateman for Alabama in the 2013 class, four-star All-American David Cornwell for 2014, and the consensus #2 2015 quarterback, Ricky Town, who pledged to the Tide last August (and remains "very solid" in that commitment, for those hoping he'd follow Nussmeier to Michigan). That's quite a track record, and there's more; even if you don't want to credit him too much for landing 4.5-star Tuscaloosa native Bo Scarbrough, he certainly earns points for venturing up to Ohio to reel in four-star WR Derek Kief in the 2014 class.
With Michigan still searching for a quarterback in the 2015 class—and highly unlikely to receive a commitment from their two current offered prospects, five-star Josh Rosen and three-star David Sills—there's work to be done on that front by Nussmeier. Thankfully for Michigan, he's already developed a relationship with one of their top targets, three-star CA QB Kyle Kearns:
2015 QB Kyle Kearns who has been a #Michigan target says he has a very good relationship already with Nussmeier. Calls him a good friend.
— Brandon Brown (@CoachBrown3) January 9, 2014
We've also got a "sam webb knows all" tag on this blog for a reason; it's possible he gave away Michigan's next offer, as this is buried in the Nussmeier story:
Pending Nussmeier’s evaluation the Wolverines could decide to intensify their pursuit of already-offered prospects like Bellflower (Calif.) Don Bosco’s Josh Rosen (five-star, No. 2 QB nationally), Elkton (Md.) Christian Academy’s David Sills (three-star, USC commit), and Albuquerque (N.M.) Eldorado’s Zach Gentry (four-star, No. 23 QB nationally) -- or move on to other talented options like Birmingham Brother Rice triggerman Alex Malzone (four-star, No. 20 QB nationally).
None of the four recruiting services—including Scout, Webb's employer—lists Gentry as holding a U-M offer; thus far, his only listed offers are from Louisville, Tennessee, San Diege State, and the two New Mexico schools. That list should grow, however, as he's the 12th-ranked quarterback in the country according to to the 247 Composite and his film is impressive—he's a 6'6" pocket passer with impressive mobility and a strong, accurate arm when he's not throwing off his back foot (a big issue in his sophomore tape). If Michigan has offered (or plans to offer) Gentry, he looks quite worthy of it.
The reaction from current commits and targets in the wake of Nussmeier's hiring was overwhelmingly positive($); here's a pretty representative quote from four-star 2015 PA OT Sterling Jenkins:
"That's a great hire for Michigan. I can't wait to get the chance to meet him."
Meanwhile, Nussmeier is already reaching out to prospects he was recruiting at Alabama. On the recruiting front, there's no question he's an upgrade over Borges. The only current commit whose status may be of concern after Borges' firing is 2015 RB Damien Harris, whose high school coach was a grad assistant under Borges:
Damien Harris' mom said it was sad and a shock to hear about Borges, but right now they are letting it sink and aren't talking about it.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) January 8, 2014
There's been concern about Harris' commitment going back prior to the OC change; thus far, however, there's been no remotely definitive sign that the childhood Michigan fan is going to back out of his pledge. For now, it's a wait-and-see situation, and the Wolverines don't plan to wait long to talk to Harris: Nussmeier and Fred Jackson plan to stop by his school later this week, per Sam Webb.
[After THE JUMP, a Michigan commit saves a life (seriously), the latest on the 2014 running back situation, Brandon details five new underclassman offers, and more.]
With the season in the rearview and a new playcaller on the payroll the coaches have wasted no time in putting some new names on the offer board. Five new scholarship offers were extended within the past week, three from the 2015 class and two from 2016. Four of these young men will be recruited primarily by linebackers coach Roy Manning and from all accounts that is a positive thing. I was able to chat with each new offeree about the offer among other things.
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht/Wt: 6'4" / 187 lbs.
Location: Randleman High School (2015) – Randleman, NC
Offers: Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, Georgia Tech, Michigan, North Carolina, NC State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
Ranking: ★★★★ .9163 (247 Composite)
If the Michigan coaches had a machine that created wide receivers, one might walk out that looked like Juval Mollette. He’s built a lot like Drake Harris, Csonte’ York, Jaron Dukes, and Moe Ways. At 6’4” he’s your typical long-striding, high-pointing type of receiver. He has good straight line speed but won’t lose anyone in a phone booth. He definitely does know how to use his frame to get position and make catches in traffic.
Coach Manning was the coach to offer the junior over the phone and Juval feels like Michigan is a good offer to add to his list. “My interest in Michigan is pretty high, but I really have the same interest in all of the schools that have offered me at this point.” Growing up in North Carolina, a state without much college football success, Juval didn’t really have a favorite team growing up and admits to not even really watching football until his freshman year. Because of that, and as you might expect he doesn’t know much about Michigan just yet. “I honestly don’t know too much. I know they have a great tradition of winning. I’m sure I’ll start to learn more.” Juval said Coach Manning made it a point to emphasize how important he was and that they don’t offer just anybody.
Based on his lack of interest in watching football and not really being a fan of anyone I’d say his recruitment is wide open. He has a solid offer list already with Michigan and Ohio State being the only non-ACC/SEC teams to show that level of interest. He’s never been to Michigan in any capacity and until he visits I think there’s a low probability of him becoming a Wolverine.
Ht/Wt: 6'0" / 185 lbs.
Location: St. Peters Prep (2015) – Jersey City, NJ
Offers: Alabama, Boston College, UConn, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Carolina, NC State, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Stanford, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wisconsin
Ranking: ★★★★★ .9859 (247 Composite)
Jabrill Peppers 2.0? Like Peppers, Minkah Fitzpatrick hails from New Jersey, plays a myriad of positions, looks far better than almost everyone else on the field, and is just a special athlete. I first made contact with him during my M Block days and honestly wonder why it took so long for the coaches to offer this kid.
From Fitzpatrick himself he says he already draws comparisons to Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks and prides himself on his Sherman-like physicality. Completely different from Sherman, Minkah thinks he needs to be more vocal on the field with communication and leadership.
Coach Manning once again was on the job and spoke to Minkah and his coach deciding to extend an offer to play at Michigan. I have heard great things from many recruits about Coach Manning and Minkah was no different. “Yeah I talked to him a lot. he seems like he would be a great leader and a great coach.”
Coach Manning won’t be the only person trying to bring Fitzpatrick to Ann Arbor as the aforementioned Jabrill Peppers reached out to Minkah immediately following his tweet about the Michigan offer.
— Breez (@JabrillPeppers) January 9, 2014
Jabrill and Minkah do have a bit of a relationship, he explained to me with a laugh. “We communicate a little bit but not too often. He’s tried recruiting me before though. I might ask him a few questions about Michigan but that’s about it. Or we’ll see how much he tries to recruit me.” And all Michigan fans rejoice.
With a look at his offer list Fitzpatrick has Michigan among many others to choose from and I asked him how the Maize and Blue stack up against the rest. “It’s a great program and I always liked the way they play. I’m really excited about the offer! I always try and do my research with every school and now that I have an offer I can start learning a lot more.” Part of that learning process will involve a first visit to Ann Arbor that Fitzpatrick hopes to take in the spring.
Fitzpatrick is going to have scads of options to weigh before he makes his decision but he really doesn’t want it to drag out if he can help it. “I would like to get it done before my senior season but if I don’t find the school that fits me best before then, I would probably have to wait until signing day.”
Fitzpatrick seemed genuinely interested in Michigan. He did admit to me that he also likes the Buckeyes quite a bit. I couldn’t help but notice him tweeting about them during their bowl loss. That being said I think Michigan has a real shot with him. He’s going to be able to go wherever he wants but the coaches have done well in New Jersey as of late and with Peppers in his ear that can’t hurt. Coach Manning appears to have made a great early impression and if he makes that visit in the spring I expect Michigan to be in it until the end.
Position: Weakside Defensive End
Ht/Wt: 6'6" / 235 lbs.
Location: West Forsyth High School (2015) – Clemmons, NC
Offers: Clemson, Duke, East Carolina, Florida State, North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia
Ranking: ★★★★ .9553 (247 Composite)
Born and raised in North Carolina, defensive end Jalen Dalton was a name I was not very familiar with. After seeing his name attached to an offer I watched his film and liked what I saw. He has a fantastic frame for growing into a beast of an edge rusher and uses it to perfection against much lesser competition in high school. Dalton describes himself as a physical, pure pass-rusher with a knack for deflections.
In his area of Winston-Salem he’s often compared to local star Kareem Martin, a first team All-ACC’er that just finished his senior season at North Carolina with 20 TFL and 11 sacks. After looking at Martin a little bit I can definitely see it. Dalton does a lot of things very well for a young pass rusher.
Coach Manning has made another solid impression on a recruit and Dalton couldn’t say enough about him. “My coach called me on my way to school and told me that Michigan had offered. Later that day I had PE so we called Coach Roy and we talked for a little while. He is a good man, really down to Earth. He seems really cool and laid back. That’s what I like in a coach. I really don’t know a lot about Michigan but I know I like Coach Roy.”
Dalton really wants to take a trip to Michigan and hopes to do that as soon as plans can be made. He said he’s big on the “vibes” that he feels when he visits a school. “Schools in my top list just have to give me that good vibe. I’m not sure how my recruitment will really play out but I’m going to start working on a bit of a timeline and ideas for visits soon and might know some by Tuesday.”
Dalton kept things pretty short and sweet but it was clear that Roy Manning did a very good job with him. He seemed to be quite proud about being born and raised in North Carolina which makes me feel like he might be tough to pull away from ACC country, especially when you look at his offer list containing both in-state schools, Clemson, and Florida State. We’ll see just how much magic Coach Manning has as Dalton’s recruitment progresses.
I almost always approve of Michigan following suit when Michigan State and Wisconsin offer offensive linemen and that’s exactly the case with in-state product Thiyo Lukusa. At 6’6” and 310 lbs. he figures to be a future tackle prospect and has performed well in that arena at several camps to date.
Lukusa has been open about how much he wanted an offer from the Wolverines, telling me that it was indeed a big time offer for him. He was informed of his offer by a phone call from Coach Hoke and almost all of the rest of the staff.
He wouldn’t call Michigan his leader but he did say, “they’re at the top though.” To me that sounds like the same thing, but I digress. I mentioned to him that 100% of the Crystal Ball picks at 247 think he’s a future Wolverine and he responded with, “MSU had a great season though, so I can’t say anything.” Seconds later he admitted to growing up a huge Michigan fan, “for sure!”. He said growing up a big Michigan fan will factor in to his decision….but not as much as roses. “Roses smell so good.”
I am 99.9% sure this will be a Wolverine/Sparty battle all the way. He’s got just the four offers right now but the way he spoke about both in-state schools it just seemed obvious at this early stage of his recruitment. Michigan State’s on-field success has clearly impacted the big lineman prospect but if Michigan can right the ship over the next two seasons, I believe Lukusa will be joining fellow tackle prospect Erik Swenson in the trenches in Ann Arbor.
Another New Jersey product, Kareem Walker is the first running back to receive an offer in the 2016 class. This kid came off to me as incredibly humble and genuinely grateful for an offer from Michigan. From Jersey, he also has a connection with Jabrill Peppers and already relates to him. “I’m from Irvington, New Jersey, it’s not a good neighborhood at all, kind of like Jabrill. As it comes closer to me getting ready to commit it will be helpful to know Jabrill because he will already be there and he will be able to tell me certain things.”
Ok, don’t freak out but on the field Walker actually reminds me of Denard with how he runs the ball. It’s not just because he has dreads, although that helps, but he does a lot of the same insane cuts, displays similarly quick feet, and like Denard, when there’s an opening he’s to it and through it before the defense knows what happened. This is how he describes himself. “I’m a person who you can’t take your eye off or you will miss out. I won’t quit no matter what the score is. It can be 100-0 and I still won’t give up on a play. I will continue to play with intensity and try to make big plays.” His high school coach compares him to Eric Dickerson, but I’m going to stick with Denard.
Like a lot of kids, from Michigan or not, their Wolverine knowledge begins and ends with Charles Woodson and The Big House. “I know a little about Michigan, mainly Charles Woodson. He kind of changed the face of college football by playing both ways and just going crazy in The Big House. I know that stadium is live and I hear the atmosphere is like no other.”
It’s obviously very early in the process for Kareem and he plans to take as much time as he needs to make the right decision. “I don’t really have a set time frame. I plan on taking my official visits and then talking it over with my parents and family before deciding. It really could be at any point after that.”
I had already had limited contact with each of these young men in the past except for Jalen Dalton, but after some in depth conversation with them I wouldn’t mind if they all committed today. On film they look great, they all seem to be grounded guys, and some of their best qualities seem to be off the field.
I’ve also learned more about how good of a recruiter Roy Manning seems to be. First impressions aren’t everything but he appears to be a pro at them. Maintaining a solid relationship and closing with some of these guys will bring his skillset full circle and solidify him as a quality recruiter in my mind.
Overkill Is Underrated
You've seen the run. You've seen it twice. You've seen it a thousand times. You've seen the picture pages. Now let's see the analysis; 247's JC Shurburtt gives his take on where Michigan should play cornerback/safety/tailback/receiver/savior Jabrill Peppers, per Steve Lorenz ($):
"We think he's probably as good or better at defensive back, but there aren't a lot of teams that want to test him in that manner, so there's not as big of a sample size," he said. "That doesn't mean he won't turn out to be Patrick Peterson or Jimmy Williams, but those guys are exceptions to the rules and because of the unknown factor, it's hard to project him higher on defense [than running back]. We saw Peterson, for example, in high school cover and cover and cover some more. There was no doubt about it. With Peppers, we just don't know. What does it for me, though, and why I say offense is this- if he's a safety (which I think he will be- and probably one of the best in college football from the moment he steps on the field if that's what happens), then you have to think Michigan will have or can go find other great safeties."
Shurburtt goes on to say that Peppers is a more "electric and dynamic" running back than Derrick Green or De'Veon Smith (no argument here), and that's why the Wolverines should play him on offense—go for the Auburn-under-Borges embarrassment of riches strategy.
I think Shurburtt is hampered here by a lack of knowledge of Michigan's defensive depth chart, as I read the last part of the above blockquote and thought, well, they have these two great running back recruits—and another coming in Damien Harris, an explosive big-play threat—and much less certainty at safety (and corner, as well), so Peppers could help the team out more in the defensive backfield. The difference between Peppers and Green/Smith/Harris is probably not going to be as great as the difference between Peppers and his competition at safety or corner, and that's no knock on Michigan's defensive backs—the talent level at running back is just getting a little ridiculous.
Then there's the fact that an all-world safety—or a lockdown corner—is more rare and valuable than even a great running back, and I think Michigan is doing the right thing by planning to start Peppers on defense. Plus, it's not like they won't let him see a few snaps on offense, not to mention as a returner, and putting the ball in his hands just a few times a game may be enough for him to make the desired impact on the scoreboard while still being a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. I'd rather see him paired with Dymonte Thomas at safety for every defensive snap, or locking down half the field across from Blake Countess or Raymon Taylor or Channing Stribling, than getting 10-15 touches a game in a running back platoon, especially since he should still get his hands on the ball anyway a la Charles Woodson.
Regardless, this is, like, the best of problems. Hoke über alles. Swag Mattison fo' life. Etc.
Speaking of Finding Safeties...
Michigan appears much less likely to do so in the 2014 class after telling PA S Montae Nicholson—long thought to be a very likely candidate to end up in the class—that they're no longer actively recruiting him because (and this part strikes me as odd) injuries have affected the numbers for this class, per The M Block. Unless Courtney Avery's injury is much more serious than expected, or the coaches aren't telling us about a season-ender for another player—even for The Fort, that seems unlikely—then I'm not sure what's really going on, because the current listed injuries shouldn't affect next year's scholarship count.
Sam Webb posted on The Victors Board($) that Michigan hit a numbers crunch, and while they're not currently pursuing Nicholson they're still leaving the door open if the scholarship situation changes—though, given Nicholson's impression that he's essentially being dropped, it could be tough to get back in the race. Webb also debunked a rumor that Nicholson's situation was affected by any changes in 2015 defensive back recruiting; there was a Twitter rumor going around this week that five-star junior corner Minkah Fitzpatrick was transferring to Paramus Catholic, Jabrill Peppers' school—and that was taken as a good sign for Michigan—but that transfer isn't happening.
At this point, it looks like Michigan's 2014 class will wrap up with Da'Shawn Hand and Malik McDowell, and they'll try to grab a safety if another spot opens up or one of those two players goes elsewhere. With Nicholson looking to make an earlier decision, that could mean Michigan's top priorities at safety are now CA ATH JuJu Smith and OH S Erick Smith, who are planning to choose later in the recruiting cycle; by then, Michigan should know if they've got the space to take another defensive back.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Leonard Fournette's official visit plans, game film (finally!) of Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson, unoffered four-star juniors coming out of the woodwork with plans to visit, and more.]