We're in this thing. Proudbox is carrying HTTV in its initial… uh… box, if you haven't already ordered a copy. In addition to HTTV the thing comes with a pile of other unique Michigan items, including a Harbaugh bobblehead that tweets trash talk at SEC coaches*. They're working with the university itself so each box comes with one piece of officially licensed merch and various other goodies like stuff from Shinola, Zingermans baked goods, special publications from The Michigan Daily, Michigan Marching Band music or "something really amazing," like a Jim Harbaugh bobblehead that tweets trash talk at SEC coaches***.
They've got an introductory deal for MGoBlog persons, and five percent of the proceeds go to the U or various charities like Mott. Check them out.
*[it does not do this**]
**[but maybe it does!]
***[again, it does not do this****]
****[unless it does!]
— Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye) June 15, 2016
Jarrod Wilson doing well. He was an undrafted free agent since he was so boring at Michigan, but it seems like he might make the Jaguars:
In just two minicamp practices, Wilson has collected two interceptions. While he is playing against third-string talent, it is hard to ignore his clear playmaking ability.
“It’s amazing, he’s very sharp," defensive coordinator Todd Wash said on Wednesday. "He comes in, he learns the package really well, and he puts himself in position to make a lot of plays out of the middle field. It’s good to see. Up until today he was what we called our 'ball aware player' who was leading the team so far here. We’re excited about his progress so far.”
…veteran free safety and high-profile free agent addition, Tashaun Gipson, sees a little bit of himself in the rookie.
"I've been truly impressed with Jarrod," Gipson said. "He's truly one of those guys, he reminds me of myself, I made most of my noise around this time [as a rookie] heading into training camp. Like him I was undrafted."
Those two interceptions are half of his career total at Michigan, where he would not have been described as a "playmaker"; he was more an underappreciated security blanket. Maybe that was more an artifact of his deployment than his skills.
Harbaugh in Tennessee. His camp stop in Murfreesboro draws a long, good article from SEC Country because it's more interesting than looking at an empty field. I like Harbaugh talking like he's in Fargo:
Harbaugh then asks, “Is there anywhere else you’d rather be?”
Players (halfheartedly): “No.”
Harbaugh: “Anywhere at all?”
The players grunt.
Harbaugh: “Heck no! Ya like football!”
At some point a little kid watching from the sidelines gets bonked:
A tiny grade schooler on the other side of the fence is struck in the mouth with a wayward pigskin. “Oooooh,” say the people nearby.
The child, outfitted in a No. 4 Michigan jersey, is crumpled on the ground as his parents tend to him. No crying. Just shock.
Harbaugh notices the commotion.
“Everything OK?” He yells from the practice field.
The child is still lying face down on the ground. Several adults give thumbs up.
Good start for that kid. Demonstrating toughness. Later, Harbaugh catches up with him:
Before Harbaugh can escape (he’s not trying too hard), the parents of a little boy approach him. Their kid is the one who got clocked by an errant football earlier in the night.
“That was you?” Harbaugh asks, bending down to get on the kid’s level.
The kid nods. The coach imparts his wisdom.
“That would’ve killed a lesser man,” Harbaugh said. “A lesser man would’ve been dead.”
Whole thing is recommended.
Say what? Athlon's All Big Ten team goes four deep and looks pretty reasonable to me with a couple exceptions. One is the inclusion of Bryan Mone, who probably isn't even going to start over Ryan Glasgow. Glasgow isn't included despite the fact that he should be second-team at worst. Ryan Glasgow is good, and nobody seems to want to acknowledge this.
I went in to WTKA today to talk about the USA soccer match to night and along the way we got to talking about Glasgow because Sam posted what he's hearing about the configuration of the defensive line*; he had the temerity to list Glasgow as a starter. This caused a lot of people to groan about how that must mean Mone isn't going to live up to the hype. I read this thread. It was boggling. Nobody appreciates Ryan Glasgow. Read the dang UFRs!
*[Which is that the starters will be read Gary/Glasgow/Wormley/Charlton and backed up by Marshall/Mone/Hurst/Winovich.]
The second thing:
I literally went "bwa hwa wha?!" when I saw Nicholson, who couldn't stay in the starting lineup of an abject MSU secondary last year. People improve, etc.; having Nicholson that high on your list is asking for a truly spectacular one-year turnaround.
BTW, Michigan guys on the list:
- First team: Jehu Chesson, Jake Butt, Mason Cole, Jabrill Peppers, Jourdan Lewis, Chris Wormley.
- Second team: Taco Charlton, Erik Magnuson, Amara Darboh
- Fourth team: Kyle Kalis, Bryan Mone, Peppers(PR), Lewis(KR).
Magnuson and Kalis are a bit high and leaving off Glasgow is goofy, but it's reasonable. I'd bet that Michigan's QB is better than Tommy Armstrong and Wes Lunt but since you don't have any idea who that's going to be it's hard to put them on a list. I applaud their bravery in leaving De'Veon Smith entirely off a list of Big Ten RBs that goes eight deep.
This guy again. OSU WR coach Zach Smith is really mad at Nebraska for some reason. It's a thing. This manifests publicly on Smith's twitter account, which is kind of like Harbaugh's if Harbaugh had the intellect of a cabbage:
The scare quotes around "claim" really make this one. Quotes in previous sentence not scare quotes but actual quotes since they were used to quote the tweet. Anyway.
Lotta starts coming back. Michigan has one of the most experienced OLs in the country:
That and a cup of acid thrown at a district attorney's face gets you legendary Batman villain Two-Face, but it's better than the alternative.
Left: The Perfect Spartan [Fuller]. Right: Drake Harris [Josh Hemholdt/Rivals]
Tomorrow is Signing Day. If you live in the state of Michigan, that means you'll be hearing from your nearest Spartan about their Top 25, better-than-Michigan's (on one of the four sites) class, and how they always get the best player in the state no matter how far the definition of that must be stretched to achieve it.
2012-'13: Return of the Normal
Left: Burbridge, Funchess and Ojemudia. Right: Shane Morris; yes we got him a better hat.
|Touted Recruits||Head to Head||Signee Rankings|
|2013||5||1||1||3||2||1,2,3,6,7,11,13, 17||4, 8, 14|
Michigan wins: James Ross, Ben Braden, Dennis Norfleet, Matt Godin, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Mario Ojemudia, Terry Richardson, Devin Funchess, Shane Morris (though extremely early), Wyatt Shallman, and David Dawson
MSU wins: Aaron Burbridge, Jon Reschke, Dennis Finley
Elsewhere: DT Danny O'Brien (Tennessee), OT Steve Elmer (ND)
MSU never got around to offering Jourdan Lewis before that legendary February commitment blitz. In both of these classes once Michigan was done with what they wanted there just wasn't much left.
MSU's solitary victory in 2012 was Burbridge, who tired of Michigan's wait-'n-see approach with his academic eligibility. Both of State's head-to-head 2013 wins were guys Michigan gave extremely cursory offers after they were already committed to MSU: legacy Jon Reschke, and OT Dennis Finley, a Cass Tech kid who was passed on earlier and then was offered during David Dawson's vision quest.
|Touted Recruits||Head to Head||Signee Rankings|
|2014||2||0 or 1||1 or 2||3||0 or 1||3,4,8,14||(1?),5,7,10,16,24,25|
This year the two mitten rivals had more than a few battles outside of the state. Montae Nicholson had lots of national offers and was a Michigan target until Michigan told him they were filled up at his position in August. Wisconsin DT Craig Evans, who flipped from the Badgers to the Spartans "not because of academics" yesterday, claimed a doubtable Michigan offer. On the flipside Michigan's entire LB class (Michael Ferns, Chase Winovich and Noah Furbush, plus our in-state legacy) and Juwaan Bushell-Beatty held unrequited offers to attend MSU.
But this isn't about that. It's about who owns the State of Michigan. And that is…
Head-to-Head Wins for MSU:
- If DL Malik McDowell chooses MSU (against his parents' wishes) they would have one.
Head-to-Head Wins for Michigan:
|Marshall on the sidelines during Seaholm's late playoff comeback. [Me!!!]|
- WR Drake Harris: Committed to MSU as 2-sport athlete, switched to Michigan when he decided on football.
- WDE Lawrence Marshall: Committed to OSU, then was thought an MSU lock, then switched to Michigan last spring. "The best players in Michigan go to Michigan" will go in bucket of all-time Sparty trolls. Other offers: Neb, Okla, Ole Miss. Bama and USC interest, but no offers.
- WLB Jared Wangler: A 2-star with offer from…LSU?--oh right, he's Johnny Wang's kid. Was first a Penn State commit over MSU (also Cincy and Yale), who flipped on the offer to dad's school.
Michigan Commit who Michigan State Didn't Offer:
- WR Mo Ways: MSU coaches visited, wanted him to camp again before extending their offer. ND coaches came that day too. He took an unofficial to M right after those meetings, got an offer, and pulled the trigger. Iowa, Rutgers were other offers, OSU, NWern were interested too.
Michigan State commits who Michigan didn't offer:
- ATH (WR/CB) Jalen Watts-Jackson: SMSB camp offer, previously just had EMU and CMU interest. My neighbor's kid plays with Jalen at OLSM, and apparently he was the kid throwing the ball around on my street all the time; I didn't pay attention because I had no idea he was a D-I recruit before it got too cold, so I have nothing to offer.
- LB Byron Bullough: Is a Bullough.
- NT David Beedle: MAC offers, committed on offer after SMSB camp.
- LB Deon Drake: Cass Tech kid Michigan passed on. Knee issues last summer.
- OL Nick Padla: Illinois, MAC offers. M never showed interest.
- TE Matt Sokol: Illinois and Wisconsin sent offers, Michigan never got involved.
Guys who went somewhere else:
CB Damon Webb: Urban getting the top-rated Cass Tech kid would be like Michigan doing the same from Glenville.
- OL Tommy Doles: Academic-minded, early on looked like a Michigan lock; seems like there was a mutual parting last spring. MSU was interested, but never in it.
- If Malik chooses OSU or FSU he goes here.
- DE Jhonathan Williams: MSU was involved as a two-sport before he committed to Mizzou. ND flipped him in late November. Michigan had an offer in after losing Hand.
2015: The Year of Hover Cars and Mr. Fusion
Is next year! Great heavy this is scott.
Power laces: alright!
So far MSU has commitments from OT/DT Kyonta Stallworth, CB Tyson Smith, and Jayru Campbell if he can right himself, but none of those were really Michigan targets. Campbell's Cass Tech teammates RB Michael Weber and OT Joshua Alabi both seem to be MSU leans at this point; again, Michigan hasn't been as involved. The big battle will be over Brian Cole, one of the country's top cornerbacks, and Michigan State seems to be in good position there right now. The other in-stater being fought over is SAM-like object Tyriq Thompson. I reiterate my completely non-professional preference that they offer Brother Rice QB Alex Malzone now.
NITRO EXPLOSION NEON HIGHLIGHT CHROMETACULAR
This week marks the start of high school All-American bowl practices, which are already under way and feature eight Michigan commits: Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Michael Ferns, Drake Harris, Bryan Mone, Jabrill Peppers, Wilton Speight, Jared Wangler (Under Armour, all on Team Nitro), and Mason Cole (Army, Team East). At the start of day two, we've already had some Michigan-on-Michigan crime:
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
And subsequent trash talk:
Peppers screamed, "That's all day next year, Wilt" after his interception.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
The No. 2 player in the Rivals100 Presented by Under-Armour had never participated in a national-level event until now, so there was some intrigue surrounding his arrival in Florida.
So far, so good. Peppers was one of the top performers on Day 1. He was a nightmare in coverage and was beaten only once during one-on-one reps. He showed the speed to stay with smaller wide receivers and the strength to press larger ones. Peppers was aggressive without gambling and stood out like the country's No. 2 player should.
And today he received some lofty praise from former NFL head coach and standout defensive back Herm Edwards, especially when considering the spectacular performance of current Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves in the same game last year:
Herm Edwards told me in his three years coaching in the #UAALLAMERICA game, Jabrill Peppers is the best DB he's seen.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 30, 2013
There will be much more coverage of both All-American games in the next two roundups; the UA game—which may be difficult to watch without protective eyewear—kicks off on Thursday at 4 pm on ESPN, while the Army game is set for Saturday at 1 pm on NBC. Maize n Brew has an informative primer for both games, and MGoUser MJ14 posted a nice roundup of first-day practice reactions from the UA game.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest 2015 offer, updates on Malik McDowell, Cassius Peat, and Keisean Lucier-South, and more.]
Michigan’s 2014 class only has about 3 or 4 spots remaining and one of them figures to go to a member of the secondary. There are still several uncommitted defensive back prospects on Michigan’s board, but only a few of them look like realistic options at this point. Perhaps the most realistic option is S Montae Nicholson. Nicholson is a consensus 4-star prospect out of Pennsylvania and he recently cut his list of schools down to 12, a list that includes the Wolverines. I talked with Nicholson and he may have been the most impressive young man I’ve spoken with to date.
What has your summer been like? Have you participated in many camps?
Not a lot. I was at the Rivals 100 and The Opening. I obviously went to the camps to get to both of those camps. I went to the Columbus NFTC and I went to the Rivals camp while they were on tour over here.
Speaking of the two main attraction camps, the Rivals 100 and The Opening, how do you feel like you performed among some of the best prospects in the country?
Honestly the Rivals 100 wasn’t my best camp. I mean I did alright but it was definitely not my best showing. At The Opening I definitely feel like I performed well for as many times as I got the ball. I had a couple of interceptions and a few touchdowns. I think what really set the tone for those camps was just how I was feeling and the amount of fun I was having. Honestly I didn’t know the guys out at the Rivals camp, but a lot of those same guys were at The Opening and when I started talking to them more and having a little more fun, I think that really elevated my play.
Cool, that actually leads me into my next question, you seem like a pretty quiet kid. Obviously you are highly ranked and coveted by a lot of schools, but you seem to stay out of the spotlight. Is that part of your personality and by design?
It is both actually. I’m not really on social media, I don’t like it much. I’m not really that kind of guy that’s just out there all the time. I have a few friends, I don’t really go everywhere, I don’t need to do all of that, I just stay to myself.
A lot less stress that way huh?
Oh yeah, definitely.
Well I know you’ve been busy with a few camps and you told me earlier that you’ve been working this summer too, what’s that all about, what do you do for work?
I teach little kids how to fence. (Laughs)
Yes. It’s a little summer camp thing. They would be there all day and I would just come for my sessions and I would teach them how to fence. They would have little tournaments. It was a program called Summer Dreamers. You know how they preach, like, kids lose a lot over the summer? I was part of a program where the kids would do some work and whatever they did work-wise, they got to choose whatever they wanted to do as a reward. There was fencing, there was a group called Club Adventure, Imagination Exploration. So I was part of the fencing group and the kids would fence each other and then at the end we chose two to fence in front of the whole camp and they went at it! (Laughs) It was fun, some of the kids really loved it.
That is really unique and interesting, I did not know that about you.
Well with your football camps and teaching fencing to kids, how has your recruitment been going this summer? Any time for it?
It’s going pretty smoothly. There’s nothing really big happening, just pretty much taking things as they come. I haven’t really been anywhere because of my busy schedule, so recruiting-wise it’s been a really easy summer.
We talked about this a little before but discuss your top group again.
Yeah I recently cut my list down to 12. There’s Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Florida State, West Virginia, Penn State, Pitt, Temple, Oregon, Stanford, Miami, Michigan, and Michigan State.
I’m not trying to get you to rank those or anything but out of those 12 who do you think you hear from the most, or do you have the most contact with?
Well I’m in contact with all of the schools constantly over Facebook, but mail-wise would be Penn State, Pitt, West Virginia, Florida State, and Michigan, and The U, they probably send me the most mail. I mean the other schools all send me mail too on a day-to-day basis, but the other schools I just named, they send me like piles and piles of mail. (Laughs)
Yeah, I’ve seen pictures on Twitter and stuff that recruits post showing off the heaps of mail from schools, it’s pretty crazy.
(Laughs) Yeah, like I said I’m not really that guy to do all of that, but if I did it would probably cover the floor of my game room and it’s a pretty large room.
Well being a Pennsylvania kid, you mentioned Pitt and Penn State in that persistent group, is there any pressure to choose one of those in-state schools?
I mean there is pressure, but not from anybody close to me. Not from my mom, my teammates, my coach. But you know, like the public there is kind of that pressure to stay home, and “be the hometown hero” and stuff like that. It doesn’t really affect me or anything, but it’s there. At the end of the day I’m going to choose the best fit for me.
Let me shift over to Michigan a little bit. You listed them in your top 12, they contact you a lot via mail. What do you like about Michigan, how much do you like them?
Oh, very much actually. You know they were one of my earlier offers and that’s one of the reasons they are in that top 12, it just shows me how much I mean to them and how much they want me to come play for them. I really do appreciate that, it just shows me that if I was to go there it wouldn’t be just because everybody else wants me, it shows me that they were interested in me early, which proves that I would mean something to them.
I know you’ve been to Michigan, but how many times and for what events?
Yeah, I’ve been there 3 times actually. I was there for the BBQ, for the game against Michigan State, and for camp.
Is another visit this fall for an official something you’ve thought about?
Hopefully. I’m not really sure right now, I have to look at my schedule and their schedule to see how things matchup.
So you’ve got your top 12, are you planning on cutting that down again anytime soon and will that next group be the schools you take official visits to?
Yeah, hopefully I can get it cut down before my officials, but that is going to be a very difficult task. I’d probably like to get my list down to 5 or 6 with those officials in mind. I don’t really know when that might happen, I have to sit down with my mom and talk about it and then go from there.
Once that part of the process happens, and you’ve got your top 5-6, you’ve got some officials lined up or possibly taken, when does a decision come for you? Obviously you can take until February if you want to, but how do you plan on handling that as you think about it right now?
I mean probably towards the end of my season if not after. It really all depends on how our season goes.
When I look at your top group, you have a pretty wide range of schools when it comes to style of play, distance from home, you have some very high-level academic schools in there. What is going to make School A better than School B once you start thinking about a commitment?
Well when I cut it down to 12 it was pretty much the schools that I kept in contact with the most. There were other schools in there that offered me early that just really didn’t talk to me too much anymore, and there was no point in keeping those schools in there just to say I have so many offers. That doesn’t really matter to me, I just wanted to cut it down and figure out what I really need. As far as how I’m going to cut it down after 12…ugh, it’s going to be really, really difficult. It’s just got to be the best fit for me. It could really come down to something very simple because all of these schools are great schools and they’ve all been in contact so much that it really could just come down to something very simple.
Montae finished our conversation by congratulating me on my engagement, as we had been trying to get this interview lined up for a few days but our schedules weren’t cooperating. He was mature beyond his years, well-spoken, very level-headed, and seemed to understand the opportunity he has earned. He talked about how difficult it was going to be to choose just one school and I felt that indecision in his answers.
He is taking his time, weighing his options, and figuring out what the best situation is for himself. I believe Michigan will make his next cut since as the Wolverines they showed early interest, which Montae seems to value a lot.
Ian Bunting: Tall
Bunting and Funchess: Hopefully the football version of this minus the disappointment.
Tight end Ian Bunting was Michigan's lone representative* at Nike's invite-only camp The Opening, which wrapped up over the weekend. While he didn't crack any of the top performer lists I've seen, Bunting stood out in a more literal fashion, leading off 247's rundown of players with "eye-popping" measurements:
At 6-foot-6, Bunting measured in as the tallest prospect in attendance at The Opening. He also weighed in at 223 pounds and has added some strength to his frame, starting to look like a college tight end.
Bunting dealt with a balky hamstring during the combine and 7-on-7 sessions; with the injury, he recorded a 33-inch vertical leap and 5.0-second 40-yard dash ($). Assuming that 40 time improves when healthy, Bunting has some tantalizing measurables — combining that hamstring-hampered leap with his height puts Bunting at 9'3" off the ground, by my math, before he even puts his hands in the air. Putting him and Devin Funchess on the field at the same time could cause total matchup chaos for future Michigan opponents, especially in the red zone.
While slot receiver commit Freddy Canteen wasn't invited to The Opening, four-star CB Jalen Tabor told Sam Webb($) that he would've shined — a notable shout-out considering Tabor is one of the few to face Canteen in person:
“He’s got good routes. I definitely respect Freddy Canteen. We go at it all the time. That’s my man. We just had 7-on-7 at Maryland. The whole championship game it was just me and him. My coach said, ‘go get (Canteen).’ And they were testing me. We were going at each other. So I’ve definitely got a lot of respect for Freddy Canteen. He is going to be good in college.”
Asked if Canteen would've done well at The Opening, Tabor replied "without a doubt, yes." He also spoke highly of fellow corner Brandon Watson, specifically for his ability to jam receivers at the line: "I've seen him jam some people up... real good." Unsolicited praise about Michigan commits from a prospect who's not considering Michigan is always nice to see. This is your weekly Rank Our Guys Higher For Reasons update.
The Opening Recruiting Updates: It's Real, And It's Spectacular
(via SBNation Recruiting)
PA S Montae Nicholson could be Michigan's most realistic possibility to fill the final spot in the secondary, depending upon your thoughts—or the coaches', really—about Parrker Westphal's prospects as a safety. He continues to play his cards close to the vest, telling SBNation in the above video that he's still open to several schools, including Florida State and Stanford (skip to 1:48 for recruiting talk unless you want to hear Nicholson's thoughts on sneakers). Nicholson's recruitment should extend through official visits, and in a good sign for Michigan, the only one of those he's set up so far is for Michigan-ND in September. Penn State is another school that could make a run; Michigan being one of the first schools to recruit Nicholson should help them be in the mix until the very end.
Meanwhile, five-star CA ATH Juju Smith told GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz at The Opening that, despite the distance factor, Michigan is very much a player in his recruitment ($):
For Michigan, the interest on Smith’s end is sincere, with an official visit to Ann Arbor set in stone this fall.
“It’s really real,” Smith told GoBlueWolverine. “On an honest level, Michigan is up there. They’re one of my top five, I’m taking an official visit, and hopefully I can see what they have for me.
Smith originally planned to take an official for the Notre Dame game but instead will be in Ann Arbor for The Game. Michigan would likely take him as a safety who could moonlight as a receiver; Smith's top schools—including Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame, UCLA, and USC—have all mentioned the possibility of playing on both sides of the ball. While expectations should always be held in check when it comes to top-flight West Coast prospects, the Wolverines have a legitimate shot here.
Michigan also has a real chance at another top California product, four-star OLB Dwight Williams, who confirmed to Bogenschutz that he'll take an official for the Notre Dame game ($). Florida, the only other school scheduled to receive an official from Williams, may be the biggest competition for the Wolverines.
Four-star GA DE Andrew Williams — Do I consistently get him confused with Dwight Williams? Yes. — also attended The Opening; not only is Michigan among his leaders, but he'll be on campus soon, per Sam Webb ($):
Though not yet ready at the time of this interview to lay out his entire list of finalists, he did open up a bit regarding the Wolverines’ standing.
“They’re up there,” Williams replied when asked if Michigan is in his top five.
“I would love to get down there for the 19th. That’s definitely one visit I personally plan on taking. I’m definitely interested in Michigan.”
Michigan is firmly in the mix for Da'Shawn Hand and Malik McDowell; Williams is quite the contingency plan should one (or both) of those two end up elsewhere.
*Drake Harris also received an invite, but couldn't attend due to summer school — if you missed the news, he did that to ensure that he can enroll early.
[Hit THE JUMP for LEONARD FOURNETTE VISIT POSSIBILITY (sirens), the latest on Shaun Crawford, and more.]
2013 Eastern Christian Academy prospect Kenny Bigelow has already enrolled at USC.
I initially planned on covering football and basketball as well as recruiting in this mailbag, but enough of you sent in questions (thanks!) that I had to go recruiting-only; I may do a separate mailbag to cover the rest later in the week. On to the questions...
For a number of reasons, I'm not worried about this. If you haven't read the SI article on Eastern Christian Academy, it's highly recommended, and should allay some of these concerns [emphasis mine]:
Strictly speaking, Eastern Christian is not even a school but rather a club, with members who attend an online private school called National Connections Academy. "There is a lot of confusion," says Steven Guttentag, president of Baltimore-based Connections Learning, which is the parent company of National Connections. "Eastern Christian is not a school. It's a football training program that provides a site. National Connections Academy is the school. They're our team." Connections Education counts more than 45,000 students among its accredited private and public schools. Its students include everyone from prodigies at New York City's prestigious Juilliard School of Music to Olympic hopefuls, but Eastern Christian represents the company's first foray into team sports.
[T]he reputation of National Connections, and the fast-growing digitalization of U.S. education, affords Eastern Christian a degree of insulation from skepticism. The growth of charter schools and homeschooling have pushed the number of students in grades K-12 taking online courses well into the hundreds of thousands. "What you're describing is definitely unusual," says Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who spent 11 years investigating diploma mills. "But this sounds like a proctored setting, with adults watching over kids as they do their work and take their exams, and in today's world that's becoming normal."
The NCAA, according to the article, considers National Connections "an approved nontraditional course provider," so there should be no issue passing their academic requirements. ECA and its predecessor, Red Lion Christian Academy, have produced several D-I recruits in the last few years, and as far as I can tell there's been no issue with the NCAA or the recruits' respective schools. An incomplete list:
- 2011 Red Lion DL Angelo Blackson is entering his junior year at Auburn, where he's expected to start for the second straight season.
- 2012 Red Lion DL Eli Ankou was accepted by UCLA and redshirted last season.
- 2013 ECA five-star DL Kenny Bigelow enrolled early at USC, so he's already passed admissions and gone through a semester of classes.
- Fellow 2013 ECA prospects Khaliel Rodgers (USC) and Jahmere Irvin-Sills (Miss. St.) signed with BCS programs. Michigan's coaches reportedly contacted Rodgers after David Dawson's decommitment last year, but he was solid to USC and did not receive an offer.
Michigan admissions could be a different animal — though UCLA and USC are both fine schools — but here's where my final point comes in: Brady Hoke, quite simply, doesn't take academic risks. None of his recruits have failed to qualify and the line of communication between his staff and the admissions department is strong; let's just say the athletic department learned from the Demar Dorsey debacle.
While we're on the subject of Canteen and Watson...
Ace! Love your writing, dude.
Question on Recruiting. I trust the coaches, I love the coaches. They've earned the right to pick who they want. But do you think it's a little weird to go so hard after a few guys so off the radar at this point in the process (the past 3 days), or do you think the coaches truly see that much potential in these guys, and got some steals? I know - hard to know when a guy only plays 3 games a year, but curious for your take.
The longer I cover recruiting and, on occasion, happen to stumble into some insider-y info, the more I realize that the coaches do everything — everything — for a reason. In fact, you don't even need insider info to know this. Just look at how the wide receiver recruiting shook out over the last few weeks:
- Artavis Scott visits Clemson for their camp, which runs from June 12th-14th.
- Freddy Canteen picks up his offer at Michigan's camp on June 18th.
- In an article released on June 24th, K.J. Williams tells 247 that his top three is Syracuse, Michigan, and Mizzou, in that order ($).
- On June 26th, ESPN's Brian Stumpf reports that Scott has moved up his announcement and will decide at The Opening, which is going on this week. Clemson immediately becomes his presumed destination.
- Freddy Canteen commits to Michigan on June 29th.
Even if we presume that Canteen is the third option among those prospects — and I'm not sure the coaches would put Williams above him, especially since they wanted a slot receiver — it's clear that the coaches saw the way things were trending with Scott and Williams and decided to make a move instead of waiting, which could've left them coming up empty on all three prospects.
Then we get into the fact that Canteen, along with Watson, had very good reasons for being under the radar, and earned their offers by performing for the coaches in person. The Wolverine's Michael Spath posted a great rundown of recruits who were offered at camp and committed to Michigan; there have been 23 such players since 2002 ($). Of those 23, just six ended up as four-star prospects, and given that fact Michigan has been quite successful in identifying overlooked talent:
Among the 23, 21 have already completed their eligibility, and of those, 10 started at least one season for the Wolverines. Multi-year starters include: LB David Harris (2002 class), [OL Jake] Long, [DL Will] Johnson, [OL Alex] Mitchell, P Zoltan Mesko (2005) and OL David Molk (2007).
Yes, the list of camp-offered commits includes such luminaries as David Harris, Jake Long, David Molk, and the Space Emperor (Of Space). NOT BAD.
With the increased pace of recruiting, it's easy to forget that the current rankings will look wildly different come February; the recruiting services still haven't had a look at every available prospect, obviously, and there's still a good chunk of camp season, next fall's actual football season, and the postseason All-American games to go. Especially at this stage in the recruiting process, it's best to trust the coaches, at least until there's any shred of evidence that they're not good talent evaluators (and all of the available evidence points in the exact opposite direction).
It's not as simple as this with most prospects — the coaches do their best to use everything at their disposal to evaluate a recruit, and how much they weigh each factor is largely dependent on the specific recruit. Camp allows the coaches to not just judge a player's size, potential, and technical ability in person, it also gives them insight into how quickly a prospect picks up on their coaching — they can judge coachability and character in a way that they obviously can't do with a highlight tape.
The problem with camp, of course, is that it isn't actual football — they're running drills without pads, not lining up and playing 11-on-11. That's why game film is still quite valuable. With guys like Canteen and Watson, who simply don't have much film available, the coaches have to lean more heavily on how they did at camp, but for most prospects that's not the case. I wouldn't say camp trumps film, nor the opposite; this answer is a bit of a cop-out, but it goes on a case-by-case basis, as the available information differs — sometimes dramatically — from prospect to prospect.
I know people pay probably too much attention to stars when it comes to recruits, but the recent conversation about what coaches saw in certain players bothered me because it was based on an inexact rating system. If you think about a previous QB battle, mgoblog has this to say:
"Projection: Even if Robinson doesn't pan out Michigan won't be moving him for at least two years and doesn't have the quarterback depth to redshirt anyone this year, so at the very least you'll see him reprise the Feagin role from last year's Minnesota game except with a definite possibility he'll throw. Going forward it'll be a battle between his electric athleticism and Forcier's polish, with Forcier having the obvious early edge because of his spring enrollment."
And remember the recruiting hubaloo around Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver. This got me thinking, of those who have pledged to Michigan in the past few years which player(s) do you think have far outperformed their ranking?
I'm not sure the example used here is the best one for the question, since both Forcier and Denard were highly-regarded prospects, but there are a few from Hoke's first couple classes. In the 2011 class, Frank Clark looks poised to outperform his three-star rating; he may have done so already simply by seeing the field and contributing early. 2012 signee Devin Funchess was a borderline 3/4-star recruit and he showed tantalizing potential as a freshman; when a freshman gets put on school record watch — in this case, Jim Mandich's career mark for receptions by a tight end — it's safe to say he's performing at a very high level. Ben Braden is another player from the 2012 class who could easily surpass his three-star expectations; Braden has a good chance to start at guard as a redshirt freshman and eventually make his way out to left tackle. Jehu Chesson, Willie Henry, and Mario Ojemudia are a few other candidates from that class to make a bigger splash than their recruiting rankings would indicate, potentially as soon as this fall.
So, with the three recent commits and the 2014 class already up to 14 guys, does this mean it's all quiet on the (mid)western front? I know this class was projected to be in the teens, maybe up to 20 guys, and I feel like we've gotten there quickly. Is Michigan kind of done for the time being on the recruiting scene or will there be another push right before the season?
I'm tempting fate by saying this, but I think the pace of recruiting for the 2014 class is going to slow down now that camp offers have gone out (and been accepted) and most of the remaining targets are high-profile players — those guys are more likely to utilize the full process, take their officials, and make a late decision knowing that programs will leave a spot open for them. Da'Shawn Hand, Adoree' Jackson, Malik McDowell, and JuJu Smith all fall under this category, and I'm surely forgetting a couple other targets either slated for late decisions or taking the process slowly. It's possible that Michigan picks up a couple more commits before the season starts, but for the rest of the summer I'd expect as much action (if not more) from the 2015 class.
How do you see the 2014 recruiting class finishing up based on what we know today? — AC1997
I'm operating under the assumption that Michigan makes it to 20 spots in the class, even though for now there aren't that many scholarships available. With 14 current commits, that leaves six open spots. I'd expect those to be filled by:
- VA DE Da'Shawn Hand (not a lock by any means, though)
- MI DL Malik McDowell
- A safety, hopefully JuJu Smith (a longshot) or PA ATH Montae Nicholson (a much more realistic option).
- An offensive tackle. There isn't an obvious candidate here with Jamarco Jones committing to Ohio State.
- An outside linebacker. Of the players currently holding offers, three-star Jimmie Swain and four-star Dwight Williams are the most likely candidates. I'm skeptical of Michigan's chances with Williams (a presumed Florida lean), though, and Swain named Oregon and Stanford to his top five recently despite not holding an offer from either; if one of those two comes through, that could spell trouble for Michigan's chances. We could see a late offer go out here.
- The best player available that doesn't match the above. That could be Jackson, though I highly doubt he ends up at Michigan, or perhaps a running back — CO three-star Kalen Ballage is the back they appear to have the best chance of landing with Jonathan Hilliman leaning towards Ohio State.
I did not overlook Parrker Westphal, though that's not based on any insider info. The longer his recruitment stretches out, the less I think he ends up at Michigan, especially since he seems like a better cornerback prospect than a safety and the Wolverines just took a pure corner in Brandon Watson.