so much for that
Before I get into the recruiting roundup, I'm planning a recruiting mailbag post for tomorrow and could use a couple more questions. If you've got one (or more!) please send me an email or tweet it to me. Now back to your regularly scheduled Jabrill Peppers update.
Jabrill Peppers Heat Status: Infinity Chilli
If you somehow haven't watched this just do it already. Yes, all of it.
As the recruitment of Jabrill Peppers evolves, Michigan's chances of landing the five-star corner appear to be getting better and better. The latest news from Peppers is that he's moving up his decision timeline and putting Penn State back in the mix—he'll make a May 18th visit to Happy Valley per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($) [emphasis mine]:
“They never left the picture,” [Paramus Catholic head coach Chris] Partridge said of Penn State. “Them and Michigan were his top visits. He decided he wanted to move up his decision timeline. He doesn’t have any negatives about Penn State. Them or Michigan. He wants to go and stay overnight at Penn State.”
Peppers is still aiming to get to Stanford before deciding.
“He is looking to commit sometime in early June,” Partridge said.
Peppers previously visited Penn State on February 20th, and while his coach is now talking up the visit there wasn't nearly the same over-the-moon reaction in the immediate aftermath as he had post-Michigan. Securing a second visit from Peppers is remarkably impressive for Bill O'Brien and PSU considering the circumstances; it seems unlikely they'd be able to overtake Michigan. This is very important considering the next bit of visit-related news:
2014 DB Jabrill Peppers hasn't cancelled his Stanford visit but it is proving difficult to plan around his track schedule, per his coach.
— The M Block (@TheMBlock) May 8, 2013
Despite finding it difficult to reschedule his trip to Stanford, Peppers is moving up his timeline. Even the staunchest of pessimists has to take that as a very good sign for Michigan's chances.
As it stands, it's hard to see a scenario in which Peppers sticks to his new timeline and doesn't choose the Wolverines. Penn State—and, if he makes the trip, Stanford—is still a threat, but there's more than one reason for Peppers to take a final visit: not only does he want to make sure he's making the right decision, he's got a high school teammate—QB Steve Shanley—who visited Happy Valley with him in February and is still hoping for a Nittany Lion offer.
PSU insiders certainly seem less optimistic than their Michigan counterparts—for good reason, with the sanctions and all. If early June is really the decision timeline, the Wolverines are going to be very tough to beat here. The current commits certainly seem to think so—either Drake Harris knows something we don't or he's just a very confident recruiter, via Sam Webb ($):
When asked if he thinks Michigan has a good chance of landing Peppers’ after their private conversations?
Harris replied, “I’ll just say we have good chance.”
Do you feel good where things stand with Peppers?
“I feel great!” Harris replied with a coy smile confidently.
Go ahead, watch that highlight tape again, and allow yourself to get a little excited.
[Hit THE JUMP for more from last weekend's camps, this weekend's visitor list, notes on new offers, and more.]
"East Lansing's Big Ten Team" Doesn't Have The Same Allure, For Some Reason
It's been a quiet week, relatively speaking, for Michigan recruiting, so today's roundup kicks off with an update on the program making a serious run for the #3 spot in the Big Ten recruiting rankings: Northwestern.
Yes, you read that right.
No, seriously, you read that right.
The Wildcats built upon their on-field success under Pat Fitzgerald with a solid recruiting class in 2013, landing consensus four-star QB Matt Alviti, underrated RB Godwin Igwebuike, and a solid group of three-stars—not just Midwest kids, either, with signees hailing from Texas (3), California (3), Florida, and New Jersey.
On the heels of a ten-win season and their first bowl win in 63 years, Northwestern is now poised to put together their best recruiting class in... ever? The Wildcats have already hauled in another four-star signal-caller, Clayton Thorson, giving Northwestern future four-star depth at quarterback, a position where they've already managed to turn an array of middling recruits with varying levels of scrambling ability into competent (at the very least) conductors of their up-tempo spread in recent years. Now the Wildcats have jumped up to 19th(!) in the 247 Composite Team Rankings after reeling in MI OL Tommy Doles and OH ATH Dareian Watkins in the last week.
Doles, of course, was long thought to be a heavy Michigan lean—I lost count of the number of times the Grand Rapids Christian product has been on campus in the last year. Given his other offers—Army, Air Force, Iowa State, and Northwestern—and the fact that he seemed on the verge of committing for months, it appears Doles' choice has as much to do with Michigan backing off as Northwestern coming on strong; regardless, the Wolverines should be fine when it comes to O-line recruiting, and the academic-minded Doles found a great fit from an on- and off-field perspective in Evanston.
Watkins, who announced his choice this morning, is the more interesting example of a prospect choosing the Wildcats over several Big Ten (and beyond) options previously thought to be more desirable. Michigan State was his other finalist, and he also held offers from Illinois, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, NC State, Penn State, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others. When Watkins' father explained his choice, Northwestern's academics were cited as a huge reason for the commitment, but the football reasons played a large role as well ($) [emphasis mine]:
"We're all very very excited about the chance to go to Northwestern. We think it's not just an amazing academic opportunity, but an amazing football opportunity. The academics overshadow the football part sometimes, but Coach Fitz has turned the program around. They were 10-3 last year, won the Gator Bowl against an SEC football team, and he was 2-0 against the SEC last year. We think it's undervalued what they are as a football program. As much he chose a life path, he's also very competitive. He wants to be part of a Big Ten Championship and compete for national championships and we think that can be done at Northwestern."
We'll, um, see about the national championships, but there's no question Fitzgerald has put the program in a position to contend for conference titles.
Unlike me, Brian is willing to wade into the shallow end* of the RCMB, and he passed along this glorious response to the usual unhinged ranting following Watkins pledging to Not Michigan State:
*There is no deep end, thankfully. It's actually an inflatable kiddie pool filled with horse manure.
[For the rest of the roundup, including updates on Jamarco Jones, Clifton Garrett, and Jae'Sean Tate, hit THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers upcoming visitors, Gareon Conley's status, and more. Apologies for the lack of content from me this week—in the midst of an ill-timed move. Things will be back to normal next week.
McDowell Takes All Of The Visits?
2014 MI DE Malik McDowell is perhaps the top in-state recruit in the junior class, and both Michigan and Michigan State are in hot pursuit of the Detroit Loyola prospect. Tremendous reported on Tuesday that McDowell would visit Ann Arbor for this weekend's UMass game. Great news, right?
Not so fast, my friend.
Scout's Allen Trieu quickly refuted that report, saying he'd talked to multiple sources close to McDowell who said that he's actually be at Saturday night's Michigan State-Notre Dame matchup. Bad news, right?
Not so fast, my friend.
As it turns out, Ann Arbor and East Lansing are rather close, and not all college football games begin at the same time. Trieu cleared the air this morning, posting on the GBW's message board that McDowell will make it to both games this weekend ($). I'm guessing McDowell will have to leave the Big House a little early to get to EL in time for kickoff, but it's a very encouraging sign that he's willing to see Michigan play freakin' UMass at all, let alone go out of his way to check out the game.
McDowell isn't the only big-time 2014 recruit slated to visit this weekend, as Tremendous reports that 247Sports five-star FL RB Sony Michel will make the trip to Ann Arbor. Michel holds offers from a laundry list of national powers and will likely add one from Michigan when he's on campus. Again, anybody willing to visit for a game against UMass likely has serious interest, so this is big news. Michel missed last season with an injury, but played on varsity starting in 8th grade(!)—you can see his impressive freshman highlights above. There's also a short reel from his first game back from injury this season; let's just say he hasn't lost a step.
EDIT: Tim Sullivan gave me a heads up—as did several of you in the comments—that Michel's brother plays for UMass, which is the main reason he'll be at the game this weekend. Probably best to dial down expectations regarding his interest. Carry on.
The Michigan State game continues to shape up into the biggest recruiting event of the fall for the Wolverines. 247's Steve Wiltfong details the official visit plans of 2013 FL S Leon McQuay III—his visit for that weekend is set($), and he's also planning to check out Vanderbilt, USC, Oregon, and Florida State. USC is believed to have the edge for McQuay, but there are concerns that they won't have an available spot for him due to their NCAA-mandated scholarship crunch. Also visiting for MSU will be 2014 OH OL Nathaniel Devers, high school teammate of Gareon Conley, according to Scout's Bill Greene ($).
Conley Taking Visits?
2013 commit Gareon Conley caused a stir last week when he posted a couple tweets—which he later deleted—suggesting that he had committed to Michigan too soon and may be looking to take visits. Bill Greene made his way to Massillon Washington to further investigate and was told by both Conley and his head coach that he's still committed to Michigan ($). Not all appears to be settled, however, as Greene says that Conley's family believes he committed too quickly and is encouraging him to take visits—his mother lives on the West Coast and reportedly would like for him to check out some schools out there.
This shouldn't come as a huge surprise; Michigan represented the first major interest in Conley as a recruit and he committed almost immediately upon receiving an offer. Since that time, his stock has exploded, both as a cornerback and more recently at wide receiver. It's entirely understandable that he may be rethinking how he went about his recruitment.
I don't think there's cause for major concern until we get word from Conley directly that he'll take visits—remember, we've been through this before with guys like David Dawson and nothing came about from that situation. That said, Brady Hoke has been steadfast in his policy regarding commits taking visits—if they do, they're no longer a commit—and I don't expect him to soften that stance. It sounds like Conley still wants to end up at Michigan, but he'd like to see a few schools to make sure he didn't rush into a choice—it's entirely possible that a meeting with the coaches is all it takes to settle this issue, as it did with Dawson.
If Conley takes visits and is dropped from the class, McQuay becomes a higher priority—while he projects more as a safety than a corner, Michigan should still be set at CB with Jourdan Lewis, Ross Douglas, and Channing Stribling.
Tremendous introduces you to 2014 Detroit Country Day WR Moe Ways, who is 6'3", 185 pounds, and most importantly named Moe Ways. He's received interest from Michigan State and Northwestern and really wants to hear from the Wolverines. Also, Moe Ways. Moe Ways.
Potential high school transcript malfeasance regarding a former SEC commit? Well, I never.
Potential booster malfeasance regarding a former SEC recruit? I'm shocked at the very notion.