I did not make this headline up
With the Thursday Recruitin' posts getting lengthy and signing day just over a week away, we decided—with the help of some reader requests—that it would be best to do two recruiting roundups per week. So, welcome to Tuesday Recruitin', which should serve to wrap up the happenings of the previous weekend and set the table for the upcoming week. Thursday Recruitin' will now be moved to Friday and focus on any upcoming visits while catching up with the events of the week. This new setup allows me to get more recruiting information to you each week and should cut down on the total link overload that was quickly becoming an unwanted staple of my recruiting roundups. Anyways, there is much to discuss, so let's get this party started.
Caleb Stacey Decommits; How Will M Round Out The Class?
Caleb Stacey announced on Saturday that he was changing his commitment from Michigan to Cincinnati, citing a desire to stay close to home during college:
"When it came down to it, Caleb just wanted to stay closer to home," said Oak Hills assistant coach Kyle Ralph. "He's a Cincinnati kid, and as it came down to it, he was more comfortable staying home in Cincinnati."
In fact, Stacey actually got in touch with the Cincinnati coaching staff himself, as they had respected his pledge to Michigan and backed off from recruiting him. Stacey's decommitment leaves the Wolverines with 23 commits (four along the O-line) in the class of 2012, leaving up to five spots available. While Michigan looks to have a good shot with higher-ranked offensive linemen Josh Garnett, Jordan Diamond, and Alex Kozan, Stacey's absence will be felt—he was the only current commit projected to play center, a position of great need for the Wolverines, and only Kozan looks like he could fill that void.
This week will be huge for offensive line recruiting, starting with Josh Garnett's announcement on Thursday afternoon. Garnett has officially narrowed his choices to a final two of Michigan and Stanford ($, info in header), as expected. Michigan did get the last word, as Brady Hoke made the final in-home visit to Garnett on Sunday. I expect Garnett to end up as a Wolverine, though that's admittedly based on zero inside knowledge of his recruitment.
Hoke also has the final in-home visit with Kozan, who will choose between Michigan, Iowa, and Auburn. Kozan told GoBlueWolverine that he will announce his choice "right after the Coach Hoke visit," which is scheduled for this Friday ($). He claims no leader at this time, and Hoke has the chance to make a very strong pitch—with Stacey out of the class, Kozan could be the most important recruit left on the board due to his ability to play center.
Jordan Diamond, meanwhile, will announce his decision on February 3rd—two days after signing day—between Michigan, Ohio State, Arkansas, Auburn, and Wisconsin. Michigan coaches have an in-home visit with him today, and he also maintains there's no leader in his recruitment.
Moving on to other position groups, two major targets formally decommitted this week: cornerback Armani Reeves from Penn State (same as Diamond link) and tight end Sam Grant from Boston College ($, info in header). Both could make their decisions as soon as this week. Reeves is now down to Michigan and Ohio State, and hosted Brady Hoke on Saturday before welcoming Urban Meyer—along with OSU assistants Everett Withers and Mike Vrabel—to his home last night. While some Buckeye insiders anticipated a commitment, none has come, and Greg Mattison will see Reeves tonight for his final in-home visit. This looks like a 50/50 tossup.
Grant, meanwhile, will likely choose between Michigan, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
A few happy trails: Yuri Wright found a home at Colorado despite recently being kicked out of Don Bosco Prep for his controversial tweets; Monty Madaris will decide on Wednesday, and he appears to be down to Cincinnati and Michigan State; four-star OL and soft Wisconsin commit Kyle Dodson plans to announce his choice on Saturday between the Badgers, Ohio State, Michigan State, USC and Auburn ($).
Receiver Commits: Anything But Divas
You have likely read the story of receiver commit Amara Darboh, who lost his parents to the civil war in Sierra Leone when he was just two years old before finding his way to Des Moines, where he found a family and eventually became a four-star football recruit. Chantel Jennings profiled Michigan's other receiver commit, Jehu Chesson, on WolverineNation today, and the article is well worth the cost of ESPN Insider. I'll do my best to block-quote as little as possible, and encourage you to read the whole thing, which details Chesson's charity work—along with his knack for juggling—as well as his path to the United States ($):
In 1993 Chesson was born in war-torn Liberia in the middle of its first civil war. The country had broken into factions, and by the time the war was over in 1996, nearly 200,000 Liberians had died. Chesson moved from Liberia to the Ivory Coast, and from the Ivory Coast to St. Louis when he was 5.
He doesn't have many memories from that early in his life, but he saw on TV when Liberia fought its second civil war and the unrest that has come from it.
He could be angry. He still has family in Africa. His grandmother is there.
But Chesson said the kids have taught him how to forgive. He laughs when he talks about two young kids at the camp who fight and punch one another, but 10 minutes later they're playing with each other again.
He said that even though some of those kids have very little, they have the capacity to forgive, which some adults -- who've been tarnished by money or pessimism -- can't do.
"The best and worst part of it all is that I can ponder a question about why some are born into greatness and others never get a chance," Chesson said. "I'll probably never get an answer. But I can give of myself, which is sort of like working toward an answer."
The level of maturity shown by Chesson—as well as Darboh—would put many 30-year-olds to shame, and I'm very excited to see him don the winged helmet and, more importantly, get the opportunity to earn a degree from Michigan.
The Detroit News is rolling out daily profiles of the recruits on their Blue Chip list, and so far they've covered Terry Richardson, James Ross, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Matt Godin, and Devin Funchess. Most of it is fluff—Richardson discusses his spirituality, Ross—like Ben Braden—played hockey, RJS wants to be a chef, Godin wanted to play QB as a HS freshman, and Funchess plans to become a coach—but for those doubting Ross's size and ability to play inside, he has a message for you:
"I believe my size benefits me," he said. "I'm quick to the ball. When I was at the Army (All American) Game, I was able to get to the ball quickly. I'm able to get through the holes. I make the reads, and at the snap of the ball I can step into those holes. Can I get stronger? Sure I can. And I will."
Ross said the U-M coaches have no plans to move him to another position and that he is slated to play weak-side linebacker.
"I'll be the linebacker that checks the slot receiver or the running back out of the backfield," he said.
We'll see in the fall if Ross is really 6'1", 220 pounds, as the article claims, but even if he's a little smaller I think WLB is the best position for him.
Quick 2013 Hitters; New 2014 (!) Offer
A quick roundup of the news on current junior prospects:
- Woodbridge (VA) C.D. Hylton linebacker E.J. Levenberry, who visited Michigan last weekend and holds an early offer, has the Wolverines in his top three with Florida and FSU ($, info in header).
- Top-ranked tight end Adam Breneman revealed a list of upcoming visits on his Twitter; he plans to take a trip to Ann Arbor in March, and he's also got visits set for Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame. He's also looking at Miami and North Carolina for potential unofficials.
- In case you missed it, Michigan was one of several schools to recently offer Monaca (PA) Central Valley receiver Robert Foster, an early candidate for five-star status ($, info in header).
- Four-star Pickerington (OH) North TE/DE Jake Butt had the coaches drop by last week ($, info in header), and he says Michigan will be in the mix when it comes time to narrow down his list of schools.
- Cleveland (OH) Shaker Heights ATH De'Niro Laster told Greg Mattison he plans to take an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor the weekend after signing day ($, info in header).
- Somerville (NJ) Immaculata four-star DE Tashawn Bower expects a Michigan offer soon after talking with Coach Curt Mallory ($).
- Sam Webb's weekly DetNews piece is on Lemont (IL) OL Ethan Pocic, who recently earned top offensive lineman honors at the Core6 Showcase in Westmont, IL, which also featured top junior linemen like Logan Tuley-Tillman and Colin McGovern.
- Happy trails to Trotwood-Madison cornerback Cam Burrows, as one of the top players in Ohio pledged to Ohio State last week.
Finally, Michigan gave out its second verbal offer to a class of 2014 prospect. Woodbridge (VA) defensive end Da'Shawn Hand picked up his sixth offer as the Wolverines joined Boston College, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, N.C. State and Rutgers. Hand tallied 21 sacks as a sophomore and earned district Co-Defensive MVP honors. Michigan's other sophomore offeree is also a defensive lineman, Highland (UT) DT Bryan Mone, teammate of 2012 pledge Sione Houma.
This week's Thursday Recruitin' recaps the All-American games are takes a look at what could be a big visit weekend for the Wolverines. Usual request: please contact me via email or Twitter (or leave a comment) with any suggestions, tips, or links you think should show up in the next recruiting roundup.
Big Visit Weekend: Will Wright Make It?
The recruitment of four-star cornerback Yuri Wright took some bizarre twists and turns this week, as there remains disparate view between recruiting sites on whether or not he'll even be on campus this weekend for his previously-scheduled official visit. Sam Webb suggested on WTKA that, in essence, the staff has cooled on Wright and he's no longer among the list of visitors. Over at The Wolverine, Tim Sullivan talked with Wright and his coach and both were still under the impression that the visit was still on ($). I'm not sure what the situation is, though Wright looked very raw at corner during the Army All-America Game and the buzz is that he could project better as a free safety—the coaches want a true corner, so it's quite possible the staff have turned their attention to Armani Reeves.
Speaking of Reeves, the current Penn State commit, he will be in Ann Arbor for an official visit this weekend ($). He had played the waiting game while Penn State looked (and looked, and looked) for a new coach, and now that New England offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is in the fold there, Reeves was able to make his schedule. Since O'Brian is coaching in the NFL playoffs this weekend, Reeves will be at Michigan, and he'll visit Penn State with his last official. Ohio State has also emerged with some new-found interest, and it's likely Reeves will take a trip to Columbus next week.
In other DB recruiting news, four-star corner Kenny Crawley decommitted from Tennessee, and Michigan could be in the picture for him:
Crawley, a shutdown corner who notched 43 tackles and five interceptions last season, will take an official visit to Kansas next week with teammate John Walker, a senior defensive back, Johnson said.
Crawley is also considering Auburn, Georgia, Maryland and Connecticut. He is also going to re-consider Michigan, Johnson said. His remaining official visits will likely be to three of those five schools.
“We’re sitting down and considering [official visits] today,” Johnson said. “I think Georgia is playing a key role in there. Colorado is real high on his list. He liked the school and liked what they got.”
Considering the lack of any word on Crawley and Michigan since last Friday, when the above article was posted, and the lack of clarity on whether or not the coaching staff is even pursuing him, consider this a longshot prospect for now. It looks pretty clear that the staff is putting most of their efforts into trying to flip Reeves to Michigan, then be done with defensive back recruiting for the class.
Meanwhile, Jordan Diamond has narrowed his list to a final five, though it's not set in stone:
"I've got five but things could change," Diamond said. "With coaching staff changes going on, I'm definitely going to wait it out."
Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Auburn and Arkansas are the final five listed by the Maxpreps number seven offensive tackle in the class of 2012. He has officially visited all but the Wolverines so far and is looking for each program to match the criteria he's laid out.
Diamond will visit Michigan this weekend, Arkansas next weekend, and he's tentatively scheduled to head to Wisconsin the week after that ($).
Another prospect who has just been confirmed by Scout to be visiting on an unofficial this weekend ($) is tight end Sam Grant—teammate of Kyle Kalis—who has maintained since December that he would like to wrap up his recruitment in the near future. He reportedly had a great visit at Oklahoma last weekend, and they will be a major threat, but if Michigan can make a big impression this weekend we could be on commitment watch.
Happy trails to Monty Madaris, whose finalists are Cincinnati, Michigan State, and Kentucky (and Ohio State, if they offer), and David Perkins, who was considered by the Wolverines as a running back prospect but now has a final five of Mizzou, Ohio State, Oregon, Illinois, and Cal after things never really got off the ground with his Michigan recruitment ($).
Ondre Pipkins: Video Gold
First of all, if you somehow missed Ondre Pipkins's Brady Hoke impression, just click here right now. DO IT. Now you can watch his highlights from the Army Game, where he recorded two tackles and a forced fumble—take special note of his annihilation of a poor, unsuspecting QB at the 2:05 mark and him somehow chasing down Stefon Diggs and knocking the ball loose at 2:35:
The big man has some surprising wheels, looked fantastic in the game, and he drew a lot of praise for his work all week. He won Rivals.com's Mike Farrell's award for the prospect who improved his stock the most ($), and was named by Brian Perroni as the #6 performer overall for the West squad ($), taking both practices and the game into account:
The huge 6-foot-3, 330-pound defensive tackle moves much, much better than a player his size should. Pipkins proved to be a tough matchup for a very good offensive line all week in practice. In addition to his strength he has a motor that is nonstop. He had one of the most impressive plays of the game where he chased the opposing quarterback all the way to the sideline and made a huge hit that left the crowd in awe.
On top of that, Farrell cited Pipkins as the "War Room Favorite" for the player who hit it off the best with the reporters, and he did the Hoke walk after nailing Hoke's introductory press conference speech. Quite a week, that.
Also drawing major praise from the Army game was Kyle Kalis, who earned the #5 spot among the East's top performers on Rivals ($):
The 6-5, 305-pound Kalis was moved between tackle and guard most of the week in bowl practices and showed he could be effective against college-bound defensive linemen in either role. When game time rolled around Kalis was used exclusively at right guard and was solid in that role, despite spending his entire senior season at tackle. Throughout the week, Kalis proved to be the most consistent offensive line prospect on the East squad. He does not have the upside of a D.J. Humphries, but he has the size, strength and technique to step on the field early in his career.
Kalis actually matched up several times against Pipkins in the game, and they both won their fair share of battles—they'll likely reprise that matchup many more times in future Michigan practices, as Kalis certainly looked at home at guard.
For more from the Army Game, make sure to check out highlight videos of all the Michigan commits plus Yuri Wright over at MGoVideo.
In the Under Armour Game, early enrollee Joe Bolden was one of the top standouts of the week from any position group, tallying seven tackles during the game (highlights courtesy of MaizeNBlueJ):
24/7's J.C. Shurburtt was duly impressed by Bolden in this free article, which also covers his thoughts on Terry Richardson:
The Michigan commit was impressive all week in practice, and quickly caught all the coaches attention at Under Armour. He is a guy that certainly really impressed with his football IQ. Not just that, but his ability to move laterally, and his general ability to play his assignments and to not take false steps. He reads the play and is more athletic than people give him credit for, and is one of those guys that if you go to a camp or see him at a 7-on-7, maybe he is not as high on your list, but you put him in pads and you can really see this guy having a great college career and playing a lot in the National Football League.
Shurburtt noted that Richardson is not physically ready for the college game, which does not come as a surprise, but was very impressed with his athleticism. Bolden, meanwhile, was also named the week's Best Tackler by Rivals.com's Chris Nee ($). Sam Webb has a complete rundown on Bolden, Richardson, and Josh Garnett, plus early practice impressions of the Michigan commits in the Army Game, in his column last week in the Detroit News.
Not to be forgotten is Mario Ojemudia, who participated in last Tuesday's inaugural Semper Fidelis All-American Game. Though an ankle injury kept Ojemudia out of the second half of the game, Scout's Josh Newkirk still came away with a favorable impression ($):
Ojemudia only played the first half because of an ankle injury he sustained right before half time. It was nothing serious, but he sat out the second half for safety precaution. That said, in the time that Ojemudia did play, his presence was felt. He made two tackle on the afternoon and held contain pretty well. He did get caught up with bigger bodies at times, confirming his admitted need to add bulk to his frame. Other times he showed why even at his current weight he can be a handful and why he’ll be even scarier when he is heavier.
Ojemudia matched up once against Jordan Diamond and used his quickness to beat Diamond with an inside swim move. He really needs to put on weight—as I noted last week, he was often stonewalled at the line of scrimmage—but he's a heck of a pass-rush threat even at around 215 pounds.
Quickly: Chantel Jennings profiles early enrollee Kaleb Ringer, whose dad hit it off so well with Hoke that Michigan's coach almost forgot to extend Ringer an offer when he was on his official visit ($).
Two blue-chip juniors will be on campus for visits this weekend: Joliet (IL) Catholic RB Ty Isaac will be in Ann Arbor on Saturday ($, info in header), and Woodbridge (VA) C.D. Hylton LB E.J. Levenberry will also visit on Saturday ($, info in header). It's great to get two highly-touted prospects on campus this early, as both players project to be near the top of their position groups nationally in the 2013 class.
Michigan offered several prospects in the last week, highlighted by five-star receiver Robert Foster ($, info in header). Foster wasn't the only receiver to pull in an offer, as Michigan also extended one to Uriah LeMay, who I interviewed this week, and Wylie (TX) receiver Marcell Ateman ($). Louisville (KY) Trinity DE Jason Hatcher—whose teammate, junior receiver James Quick, was recently offered—also picked up an offer ($, info in header).
New blog on the scene Tremendous scored a chat with Logan Tuley-Tillman, who named a top five, in order, of Michigan, Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio State, and South Carolina. Arkansas and SC were both recent offerrees, and Tuley-Tillman plans to attend Alabama's junior day, though he has yet to receive an offer from them—the newly-crowned national champs could be a major player in his recruitment.
Quickly: My interviews with PA TE Adam Breneman and IL OL Colin Goebel; 24/7 breaks down Michigan's current offer list for both offense ($) and defense ($); Shane Morris commits to playing in the 2013 Under Armour AA Game ($, info in header); and Michigan shows interest in Canton (OH) McKinley OT Xzavier McAllister ($, info in header), adding to the fantastic list of names on the 2013 recruiting board.
Usual request: please contact me via email or Twitter (or leave a comment) with any suggestions, tips, or links you think should show up in the next recruiting roundup. I will be taking a vacation starting, oh, just after this gets posted, and I'll be doing my best to stay away from my computer over the holidays, but if something big breaks I should be able to address it. Since it's a recruiting dead period, it's unlikely that will be the case, but you never know.
Hello: Jehu Chesson
Oh, hey, new commit! Jehu Chesson became the 24th member of the class of 2012 yesterday, and you can find much, much more on him at his commitment post. Chesson's senior highlight reel also came out yesterday, unfortunately after I did the "Hello" post, and I think you'll be impressed (though you might want to turn your sound down/off):
Check the 2:27 mark if you want to see him go into full-on beast mode. Welcome to the fold, Jehu.
Chesson's commitment probably closes out Michigan's receiver recruiting for this class, but just in case it doesn't, here's the latest on recruiting at the position. Jordan Payton has Cal on top of his list ($), which now includes Arizona State and UCLA along with Michigan and Notre Dame, and signs point to him staying out west. He will make his decision at the Army All-American Game on January 7th, and he's currently trying to figure out if Notre Dame is too far away from home ($, info in header)—I think it's safe to assume Michigan is in the same category. With a recruiting dead period for the holidays and an early January decision, I'd be very surprised if he didn't end up at Cal.
As for Monty Madaris, he's narrowed his list to Michigan, MSU, Cincinnati, and Kentucky—he plans taking an official visit to Ann Arbor the weekend of January 13th, but it's unsure if that will be affected at all by Chesson's commitment. We'll have to wait and see there.
While the immediate need at receiver looks to be filled, offensive line is still a priority for the coaching staff, and Michigan is still right in the thick of things for Josh Garnett. Garnett has narrowed his list to three schools—Michigan, Notre Dame, and Stanford—and says they are all tied at the top for him ($, info in header). It sounds like Michigan has some extra incentive to perform well in the Sugar Bowl:
All three programs are set to face off in bowl games this season. Notre Dame will face Florida State in the Champs Sports bowl on Dec. 29, Stanford faces Oklahoma State in the Fiesta bowl on Jan. 2, and of course Michigan plays in the Sugar Bowl live on ESPN against Virginia Tech at 8:30 p.m. EST on Jan. 3. Now that the hectic visits of the regular season have come to an end, Garnett will use the bowl games to further evaluate the product on the field at each school.
"After all the bowl games I'd have a little more perspective," he said. "I'm going to be able to watch them on TV now, and see how they fare against great opponents. So I can definitely watch all the schools and watch the O-line play, because I really couldn't do that during the regular season."
Garnett is also a very serious student, and he's looking towards medical school down the road, as you can read about in this column by Chantel Jennings ($).
Meanwhile, Jordan Diamond has established a top five of Ohio State, Auburn, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Michigan ($, info in header)—he claims no leader at this time, though he had a glowing review of his recent official visit to Auburn ($, info in header). Michigan will have another chance to make an impression when Diamond takes his official visit the weekend of January 27th, making the Wolverines his last visit before he makes a decision.
Alex Kozan is still narrowing things down, but says he is approaching a decision, though he doesn't have a specific timetable ($). While Michigan appears to have a decent shot at landing one of the three aforementioned O-line recruits, they're also still contacting other prospects, including four-star Las Vegas Desert Pines OL Jeremiah Poutasi, whom the coaches stopped by and talked to last week ($). He says he'd consider a visit, so we'll see if things pick up on that front soon. Michigan is also still in the running for a visit from current Wisconsin commit Kyle Dodson, who's also looking at Ohio State, Auburn, USC, and MSU ($).
Sam Webb discussed the recruitment of cornerback Armani Reeves in last week's DetNews feature, and the four-star Penn State commit gave him an update on where things stand:
"I just want to see what Penn State's going to do as far as bringing in a new coach and what his plans are and what he's going to do before I set anything official up," Reeves said. "(Penn State) has expressed that they're going to hire a coach towards Christmas. That's the dead period, so it gives me a lot of time to think about everything — where they're heading and what direction they're going. "If they hire a coach before Christmas, that really gives me a good indication if I need to take the visits or if I'm going to stay committed.
"If I do take any visits, it'll definitely be Michigan and Notre Dame, those will probably be the only two schools."
We'll have to wait to see what happens with Reeves, but there's also top-ranked corner Yuri Wright, who will be taking his official to Michigan on January 13th after placing them as co-leaders along with Colorado. I expect the Wolverines to be able to land at least one of those two prospects—they're in strong position for both, and if Reeves decommits from PSU it looks like Michigan would be in the driver's seat there.
Quickly: Tight end Sam Grant—a current Boston College commit and HS teammate of Kyle Kalis—is looking to end his recruitment as soon as possible ($, info in header)—he's taken official to Michigan, Arkansas, and BC, and just landed an Oklahoma offer; Michigan is showing interest in four-star ATH David Perkins as a running back, but they still have to make a push to get him to schedule an official visit—he's got all five planned, but late January visits to LSU and Tennessee are tentative at this point ($); Bri'onte Dunn will, in fact, enroll early at Ohio State ($, info in header), so if you haven't taken the many signs that his recruitment is over to heart, well, it's over. Best of luck to Bri'onte.
Michigan Commits Make All-America Lists
- Kyle Kalis made the first team on SI; he's also a finalist for the Anthony Munoz Offensive Lineman of the Year award, which will be handed out during the Army Bowl dinner on January 6th.
- Devin Funchess is the second-team tight end for SI, while his teammate Mario Ojemudia earns honorable mention on the D-line.
- Chris Wormley and Royce Jenkins-Stone also earn honorable mention by SI.
- Speaking of RJS, he's a first-team linebacker to ESPN after recording 145 tackles and five sacks this season.
- Terry Richardson earns ESPN second-team AA honors at corner, incidentally alongside Yuri Wright.
Congratulations to all of the commits above.
Chantel Jennings caught up with linebacker commit Joe Bolden to talk about enrolling early ($, info in header):
For his final winter break, Bolden is focused on spending time with friends and family, what he calls "the important stuff." But he's still remembering the long-term goal while he's packing for college and getting ready to move in, and that outweighs the negatives of leaving high school early.
"It's weird thinking that I may not have a winter break again," Bolden said. "But if we're playing in bowl games and hopefully national championship games, then I have no problem with it at all."
Bolden is quickly compiling a lengthy dossier of awesome quotes; file the last bit under that category.
After many commits took recent official visits, there's a slew of paywalled articles out there documenting their excitement to get to Ann Arbor. Kyle Kalis tells 247Sports his favorite NFL player is none other than Steve Hutchinson. Sam Webb interviewed Tom Strobel, who told his coaches to let Urban Meyer know "to not even bother. I've made my choice," which is all kinds of fantastic. Erik Magnuson, whose first offer was from San Diego State back when Hoke was their coach, tells Chantel Jennings he's "always wanted to play for Coach Hoke."
I wish I could just blockquote the entire article, but just go now and read Sam Webb's latest on 2013 Peoria (IL) Manual OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, who shows maturity well beyond his years as he works to give himself and his family a better future:
"Coming up in this city I had a lot of friends that were on the right track and had opportunities like me, but got killed or wound up in jail," said Tuley-Tillman. "For me, (failure) is not an option. Not working hard is just not an option. I will do whatever it takes to send myself to the next level. Every time I'm at home and I see my niece, I just look in her eyes and I just know that she depends on me to do something for her — (something) to better (our) future. I want success as bad as I want to breathe. It's not something that won't happen for me. It's something that will happen because I'm doing all the things in order to get there."
He's not kidding around when it comes to doing whatever it takes—Logan talks about scraping together the money for a train ticket so he can go work out in Chicago at Core6 Athletes on the weekends and spending extra time after school with a tutor to make sure he's prepared for college academically. There's recruiting news in there too—Michigan is still on top for Tuley-Tillman, despite a recent push from Notre Dame, and he's thinking of making a decision on March 20th, his 17th birthday—but I can't recommend enough reading the whole article to get a sense for the type of quality young man Michigan is recruiting.
Last weekend the Pontiac Silverdome hosted the Maximum Exposure camp, and a couple of recognizable names stood out. Shane Morris ran a 4.7 hand-timed 40 and was reportedly outstanding throwing the football, but the big standout was Berkley Edwards—younger brother of Braylon and currently a Chelsea Bulldog—who ran a camp-best 4.35 40-yard dash ($). If Michigan is interested in Edwards—likely as a receiver—he'll be listening. Both Morris and Edwards also were standouts at the Sound Mind Sound Body combine, and there's a free 247 article detailing their exploits.
Quickly: Tim has a rundown on many of the recent offerees over at the Free Press; Michigan offered top safety prospect Su'a Cravens ($, info in header), Ashburn (VA) Stone Bridge DE Jonathan Allen ($), and Yuri Wright's Don Bosco teammate, DE Alquadin Muhammad ($, info in header).
Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, and I'll be back to run down film on Virginia Tech before the new year. Thanks for all your support as I continue to settle in to the new job. It's been an incredible four months, and I have a great appreciation for the job, my co-workers, and the readers—I'm having a blast, and I hope you all enjoy my contributions to this great site.
Last Friday saw one of the most exciting and dramatic games of the season at Lake Shore High School, where Cass Tech knocked off host Warren De La Salle in a 6-0 thriller, with Michigan commit Royce Jenkins-Stone running in the game-winning touchdown with just 1:38 remaining. The defensive slugfest featured three Michigan commits—Jenkins-Stone, his teammate Terry Richardson, and Warren De La Salle's Shane Morris—and several D-I prospects, including class of 2013 Cass Tech corner Jourdan Lewis, who turned in an outstanding performance. Here are some highlights, courtesy of StateChampsTV:
Royce Jenkins-Stone (Cass Tech LB/FB #10, 2012 commit): RJS recorded six tackles at linebacker, where he was consistently active and a major factor in the Technician defense holding De La Salle's rushing attack to just 108 yards on 26 carries. Despite Cass Tech's outstanding all-around defensive effort, which kept the Pilot offense off the field for much of the game, Jenkins-Stone managed to get in on more plays than I'd seen from him in either of the previous two times I watched him play this season. When he gets to the ballcarrier, he arrives with ill intentions, and delivered a couple of very nice hits.
On this day, however, Jenkins-Stone would be most lauded for his offensive performance, as he carried the ball 22 times for 67 hard-fought yards, and Cass Tech repeatedly fed him the ball on a final drive that took 10:53 off the clock and ended with a three-yard TD run for RJS. While the rushing numbers aren't particularly impressive, they were earned in a fashion befitting of a linebacker—pretty much all of Jenkins-Stone's runs came on fullback dives into the line, and he showed a lot of toughness and durability in repeatedly slamming into the line, taking a couple big hits but shaking them off and continuing to go full-bore on both sides of the ball. RJS is still a bit raw as a prospect—James Ross has more of a play-to-play impact from what I've seen, though Ross also plays less on offense—but his heart and motor should not come into question.
Terry Richardson (Cass Tech CB/WR #9, 2012 commit): Richardson's coverage was a big reason why Shane Morris could never find a rhythm, as he was consistently right in the pocket of the receiver he was tasked with covering. Cass Tech trusted Richardson and fellow corner Jourdan Lewis to play man-up for much of the game, and both were up for the challenge. Though Richardson had been battling a leg injury since the regular season finale, and spent much of warmups on his own testing out the leg, he looked just fine once the game started, exhibiting the speed and hip swivel that make him a four-star corner prospect despite his small stature. He was also strong in run support, tallying four tackles, including a textbook wrap-up in space on a play that got to the outside quickly—he was alone on an island, but managed to drive through the ballcarrier and keep him from gaining any extra yards.
Richardson also added two catches for 46 yards, including a huge 23-yard reception on Cass Tech's game-winning drive. There are going to be questions about his size until he steps onto the field as a Wolverine and proves his height (I'd say 5'8" after standing right next to him for a post-game interview) won't be an issue, but his athleticism and coverage skills are elite for a high school player.
Jourdan Lewis (Cass Tech CB/WR #1, 2013 recruit): Lewis was the best player on the field on Friday, recording three pass breakups and a critical interception (included in the video highlights above), where he read where Morris was going beautifully and made a great play on the ball. Lewis has a couple inches on Richardson, and while he's still quite skinny, he's able to play a more physical game while still exhibiting good speed and agility.
With Richardson doing such a great job blanketing receivers on the opposite side of the field, Morris often tried to throw at Lewis, but the junior was ready—he did a great job of staying right with the receiver, waiting until the ball was there, then reaching around and knocking it away without committing a penalty—his pass breakups all felt like a carbon copy of the previous one. Lewis is the next in line in the Cass cornerback pipeline, and he looked worthy to take up the mantle previously held by Richardson, Dior Mathis, and Boubacar Cissoko, though he has a little bit of height on each of his predecessors.
Shane Morris (De La Salle QB #12, 2013 commit): This was not Morris's finest performance, and he completed just 4-of-17 passes for 28 yards and a pair of interceptions while also losing a fumble on a QB keeper. I know I'm going to sound like a homer when I say this, but I don't think the stats are truly representative of his effort, at least when it comes to completion percentage—De La Salle's receivers could not get an inch of separation all night, and Morris was constantly trying to fit the ball into a tiny window. I also counted three drops by DLS receivers, which didn't help matters. Late in the game, Morris started forcing the issue, and that's when the picks came in—the interception to Lewis was Morris trying to get a big play downfield that just wasn't there—but with Cass Tech shutting down the De La Salle run game, Morris was left in a very tough position.
That's not to say he played well. De La Salle had Morris throw on a few designed rollouts early, but even on normal drop-back throws he didn't seem comfortable in the pocket, and on one play he shuffled smack into pressure while throwing and had his pass fall harmlessly incomplete. He still had a couple passes that reminded you why he's a five-star talent, and I think a lot of his issues came from facing two D-I corners with a pedestrian group of receivers, but it seemed like he let his frustrations get the best of him as the game wore on and it was clear things weren't going well. This is the time to remind yourself that Shane is still just a junior, and one who can throw the ball 80 yards in the air. This was a tough game against a very good Cass Tech defense, and in this case the bevy of D-I talent bested the up-and-coming quarterback.
After the jump, check out a photo gallery from the game plus interviews with both Jenkins-Stone and Richardson.
This week, the Creeper Van made its way to not one, but two local games, catching Cass Tech's Royce Jenkins-Stone and Terry Richardson as they took on Cody, and then visiting Orchard Lake St. Mary's standout James Ross as he faced U-D Jesuit. Both teams featuring Michigan recruits rolled to easy victories, with Cass Tech taking the afternoon matchup, 36-6, and OLSM winning under the lights (NTUTL) with a 34-0 shutout. Here are exclusive (high definition!) highlights of Michigan's commits from both games:
On to the scouting reports...
Royce Jenkins-Stone: By my count, Jenkins-Stone had four tackles through three quarters before the van made an early exit to catch the second game. Much like the last time I saw him play, there was a concerted effort by his opponent to run away from him, but I must admit I was still disappointed by his performance overall. RJS has all the physical tools you'd like to see in a BCS-caliber linebacker, but it appeared either his effort or instincts were lacking at times (my, er, instinct is that the latter is more the issue, since RJS appears to be very into the game emotionally at all times)—this is no more apparent than in the third clip from the video, in which he bites hard on an end-around fake and leaves a huge gap for the quarterback to take off up the middle.
This is not to say that I don't think Jenkins-Stone is a good player—when he's aggressive, he does a good job of finding a way to the ball and either making a play or forcing the ballcarrier into the rest of the defense. I like the way he's able to shed blocks to get to where he wants to go, and his athleticism and size combine to be a huge asset, and if anything, he's just got to harness that athleticism and play more under-control—overpursuit was an issue on a couple plays, and I think he just needs to slow down a little to become a bigger playmaker at linebacker.
Terry Richardson: Friday's game was not exactly a showcase for Richardson, as Cody mostly ran the ball and when passing did not throw it in his direction—I didn't count a single play in which he was challenged through the air. Richardson blanketed his receiver, using his superior speed and quickness to stay step-for-step with his man, and there really wasn't an opportunity to pass on him at all. If a cornerback is practically invisible in the passing game, I'll take that as a good sign.
I was also encouraged by Richardson's physicality, considering his rather small stature. The first clip in his section above shows him playing bump-and-run and driving a wideout a few yards out of bounds without drawing a flag. Richardson also picked up a flag for holding when he got a little too aggressive in chucking the receiver more than five yards past the line of scrimmage, and while you don't like to see defensive backs drawing penalties, the fact that he was so effective in the bump-and-run was good to see.
Richardson's biggest impact came on offense, as there wasn't a returnable kickoff or punt in the time that I watched. His recorded his only tackle after a Cass Tech fumble, when he chased down a Cody defender from behind to mitigate the damage. Later in the game, he torched a defensive back from the slot for an easy 24-yard touchdown—his speed was on full display on that play. This wasn't an easy game to get a solid evaluation of Richardson, but I thought he played well.
James Ross: Ross, in stark contrast to RJS, was all over the field for OLSM, tallying 11 tackles and two QB hurries through a little more than three quarters of play. Ross was never caught out of position and did a fantastic job of diagnosing plays, using his instincts and athleticism to stymie Jesuit's running and short passing attacks with apparent ease.
From the middle linebacker position, Ross covers the field sideline-to-sideline in a fashion that reminds me (lofty comparison alert!) of former Michigan beast-backer and current New York Jet David Harris. No matter where the ball ended up on the field, Ross was there at the end of the play, either making the tackle himself or cleaning up the pile. He plays up on his toes at the beginning of the snap, as you can see on the video, and this allows him to easily go in whatever direction the play takes him with speed.
When Ross got his hands on a ballcarrier, it was over—his open-field tackling was very solid, especially on a screen pass in which he avoided three oncoming blockers and wrapped up the running back for a minimal gain on a play that should've gone for at least ten yards. His low center of gravity allows him to take on blocks and either knock his man back or simply use his quick feet to slip by entirely, the latter being his preferred method for wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Ross also played occasionally as a back in OLSM's wing-T, and while he didn't carry the ball he did deliver a few punishing blocks, including one that took out two Jesuit defenders and sprung his running back for a touchdown. While this didn't help in evaluating him as a linebacker, Ross was able to show off his strength, always knocking defenders backward when he made contact.
My one concern with Ross is his size. He's listed on Rivals at 6'0", but I think that's generous by at least an inch or two, and it will be interesting to see how much weight he can pack on to his 209-pound frame before he starts losing some speed and agility—he already looks like he's beginning to max out his frame. Otherwise, I thought he was the most polished prospect I've seen so far on the recruiting trail, just edging out Matt Godin in that regard, and I think he'll be a big-time player at the next level.
Apologies for the lack of action photos, as I was scouting these games solo and spent most of the time taking video before my camera died at just about the time that OLSM began putting in their backups. Here are a few shots from Cass Tech vs. Cody...
...and here's my set from OLSM vs. U-D Jesuit:
This Week: The van heads down to the Toledo area to see Allen Gant's undefeated Southview squad take on Maumee (3-1).