I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
McDowell Lines Up Officials
Malik McDowell (#67) relaxes before playing Farmington (Bryan Fuller)
Southfield top-50 DL Malik McDowell has been quiet throughout the recruiting process to the point that I'm not entirely sure this is breaking news; regardless, Josh Helmholdt posted McDowell's official visit plans in his Around The Midwest column, and this is the time I've seen five schools lined up for visits ($):
While the Wolverines and fellow in-state Big Ten program Michigan State are strong contenders for McDowell's signature, the nation's No. 40-ranked prospect will take all of his official visits out of state. All will take place after his senior season. The five schools he has tabbed for those official visits are Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU and Ohio State.
Michigan and MSU won't get officials because McDowell has seen each school multiple times and can easily make his way to games if he wishes. The Wolverines are in the driver's seat of McDowell's recruitment and I don't think the official visit schedule changes that; while that's a who's-who list of top programs, depending on how far Southfield goes in the playoffs, McDowell's season could extend into November, limiting his options for visiting on actual game days—the visits that tend to have the biggest effect on a recruitment. McDowell is so familiar with the Michigan program at this point that it's hard to see him winding up elsewhere.
Cole: "They're All Even"
2015 Saginaw Heritage ATH Brian Cole's recruitment has already taken a couple twists and turns—first Michigan looked to be in command, then MSU, and now the Wolverines again as Saginaw natives haven't appreciated MSU's (lack of) usage of De'Anthony Arnett—and for now, Cole says there isn't a leader at all, per Sam Webb ($):
“(I like) Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Alabama, Wisconsin, Indiana, and a couple more schools,” Cole said. “They’re all even. They’re all about the same. They all treat me nice. I’m not committing anywhere yet.”
I'd expect this still comes down to an in-state battle—one that'll be hotly contested—though some schools on there (OSU, Alabama) cause more concern than others (Indiana? Word?). Michigan is recruiting Cole as a receiver, though he could also play defensive back at the next level.
[Hit THE JUMP for evaluations of Da'Shawn Hand, Lawrence Marshall, Jared Wangler, Erik Swenson, and Kyle Kearns, plus updates on a couple underclassmen.]
Shaun Crawford, Mini-Jabrill
A much-anticipated matchup between Cleveland.com's top-ranked Cleveland St. Edward squad and #9 Cincinnati Elder didn't live up to the hype, as St. Eds ran away with a 48-7 victory. Much of the credit for the blowout goes to 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, whose stat line looks like one posted by a certain other defensive back headed for Ann Arbor:
@TomVH Shaun Crawford: 9 carries, 124 yds, 2 TDs 3 receptions, 28 yds, 1 punt return 63 yds, TD, 1 kick return 25 yds. 240 all-purpose yds
— Brad Bournival (@bbournival) September 22, 2013
Yes, it appears Michigan may have the best player on the best team in Ohio, and he's only a junior. This is nice.
Jabrill Peppers, Still Jabrill
2014 commit Jabrill Peppers, meanwhile, did a little bit of everything to lead Paramus Catholic to a 35-21 victory over DePaul. Peppers rushed seven times for 41 yards, caught four passes for 49 yards and a TD, returned a kickoff for 47 yards, tallied four solo tackles, recorded three pass defenses, and returned an interception 32 yards for another TD.
[Hit THE JUMP for more outstanding performances by Michigan commits, plus an interesting development in JuJu Smith's recruitment.]
Apologies for the lateness and relative brevity; I spent all day dealing with Comcast, whose technician decided it was necessary to shut off my internet while changing out cable boxes, then left for an hour when he realized he had the wrong box—without turning the internet back on. Good times.
I Was Like "Hmmmm" (Whoosh) And I Was Like "BOOM" (Cackles)
The Washington Post series with Da'Shawn Hand has been a great follow for moments like the one featured below, in which Hand picks up some poor running back and just body-slams him into the turf. The header is my best effort at a verbatim quote from Hand when he's interviewed about the play. Yeah, it's impressive:
GIF'd, because this is what I do:
Apologies for the quality; working out the kinks with my screengrab software.
As for recruiting-related info, Hand talked before his visit for UTL II about how his main priority was finding a place where he's comfortable. Steve Lorenz caught up with Hand after the visit, and yes, it sounds like he's pretty comfortable here ($):
Coaches: "That comfort level has been there for a long time. I watched some film with Coach Mattison, but in a lot of ways this visit was the same with the coaches, which is great because I like that coaching staff."
Hand's comfort level with the coaches and the commits is going to be tough to top by Florida and Alabama; his Florida visit will be his first time in Gainesville, and he's been in Ann Arbor more times than he's been to Tuscaloosa and seems to have a better rapport with Michigan's coaching staff.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mark Rosentraub, aka Professor Needs A Raise, is mentioned by name as being "the man". Seriously, get that man a raise.
Hand brought two friends with him: 2015 five-star DT Tim Settle and 2015 four-star OT Matthew Burrell. According to Hand's former coach and current mentor, John Harris, the visit went very well for both junior prospects, per Lorenz ($):
"They both knew this visit was mostly about Da'Shawn," he said. "The coaches sat both of them down and told them they passed the eye test. They said they just want to make sure they have the numbers to back up a potential offer for either player. Michigan has always been honest with Da'Shawn, so it makes it easier for the kids to believe what they're saying. They have learned a lot about recruiting already even though they're pretty young. I think they were too busy enjoying themselves to worry about an offer at this point."
That's an important point, as Michigan hasn't offered either prospect; in Burrell's case because of the numbers crunch at tackle, while with Settle there are rumors of potential grade issues on top of the limited scholarship availability. Despite leaving without an offer, Settle spoke very highly of Michigan in the aftermath of his visit to Sam Webb, and Webb also got a very intriguing quote from Wilton Speight, who spent much of the game chatting up his fellow Virginians ($):
“I really felt that like we made tremendous progress on Tim Settle,” said Speight. “He actually said after the game, ‘I didn’t even have Michigan on my list. I had no idea about any of this up here. Da'Shawn just wanted me to come. Now this is my top school.’ It just made a huge impression on him.”
Settle, who seems to take after his friend Hand in terms of playing his cards close to the vest, wouldn't name any leaders when asked about that by Webb. One would still have to think that Michigan would be among his top schools if they come through with an offer; the same goes for Burrell. Rivals analyst Mike Farrell said much the same in his "Mind of Mike" column, and also gave Michigan a 75% chance of signing Hand ($). Notably, Florida—not Alabama—is the school he gives a 20% chance of pulling the upset.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates/scouting on Noah Furbush, Ian Bunting, Erik Swenson, and Tim Settle.]
Notre Dame Visit Primer
The second interation of Under The Lights should be Michigan's biggest recruiting weekend of the fall. 247's Steve Lorenz was kind enough to give me permission to post his list of visitors($); this doesn't cover every visitor who'll be on campus this weekend (there are many), just the ones I've deemed most important to point out. To make this easier, I'm breaking it up into categories.
Unfortunately, Michael Ferns and Jabrill Peppers can't make it, so Michigan won't have two of their primary commits/recruiters; Wilton Speight will be there, however, as will George "The Mayor" Campbell, Damien Harris, and a host of other Wolverine pledges from both the 2014 and 2015 classes.
2014 Uncommitted Prospects
Just two players fall into this category, and they happen to be the two prospects sitting atop Michigan's board for 2014: Southfield DL Malik McDowell and VA WDE Da'Shawn Hand. The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan caught up with Hand's mentor and former position coach, John Harris, to discuss what the nation's top defensive end will look for on his visit ($):
"[Saturday,] he'll look at how the coaches react if Notre Dame gets an early touchdown. Do they get down on guys or are they encouraging? He'll look at the scheme, but he's already been through that. If you can justify how you can use him in it, he won't say, 'I don't like that front.' Everything is about how he fits into it."
Tell Hand the story of Brendan Gibbons's confidence-fueled rise from beaten-down shank artist to brunette-envisioning record-setter and I think he'll be encouraged by the coaching staff's level of, er, encouragement. Hand himself also spoke with Adam Friedman of Rivals about what he wants to see this weekend ($):
"I just want to go up there and have fun," said the 6-foot-4, 248-pound defensive end. "The first time I was up there it was mainly an academic visit because I met with one of the professors. This is more of a visit to see if I can live there for four or five years. I know that it's not going to be like this weekend every day but at the same time I want to see how it is on game day."
As for McDowell, he told Sam Webb that he won't take any official visits during the season in order to focus on his own football season ($). That means he'll try to cram in five officials between the end of his season (likely November with playoffs included) and whenever he makes his decision; this is just my speculation—I don't see that happening. Regardless, Michigan is still in a very good position for McDowell.
2015 Uncommitted Prospects
Da'Shawn Hand is bringing a pair of very talented friends with him to Michigan: five-star DT Tim Settle and four-star OT Matthew Burrell Jr. will accompany Hand on the trip. While neither of those players currently hold offers, I'd expect both will have them after the weekend; the coaches like to wait until prospects show serious interest before putting offers out there and a visit certainly qualifies. Both Settle and Burrell are top prospects at positions of need who'll be the subject of heated recruiting battles; it's good that Michigan is getting early looks from each of them.
Four-star Saginaw athlete Brian Cole looked to be a strong Michigan lean early; since Michigan State hired Curtis Blackwell, his 7-on-7 coach, the tides have shifted in favor of the Spartans—at least, that's the perception after Cole has been a steady presence in East Lansing. He's visited Michigan several times, as well, and a positive experience this weekend could move the needle once again. Cole is the one 2015 in-state prospect that I think Michigan would do well to haul in; it'd be a real loss if he ended up at State.
A few other notable in-state prospects are scheduled to attend: the Cass Tech duo of RB Mike Weber and DL Joshua Alabi plan to be there along with a few of their 2016 teammtes (CB Lavert Hill, brother of freshman S Delano Hill, as well as linemen Ostell Martin and Michael Onwenu). Detroit King LB Tyriq Thompson, son of former Michigan safety Clarence Thompson, is likely to attend as well.
MN DE Jashon Cornell is the #1 overall 2015 prospect on ESPN and a composite five-star; his visit is particularly interesting given that he comes from a school, Cretin-Derham Hall, that is traditionally a Notre Dame pipeline. Though he boasts offers from across the country, Cornell appears to be looking to stay in the Midwest—he's also got unofficials lined up to Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and—yes—Notre Dame. He took notice when George Campbell committed and The Mayor will surely look to convince Cornell that they should team up in college.
Four-star linebacker Justin Hilliard is a consensus top-three player in Ohio; he's got an extensive list of planned unofficials that includes a return trip to Ann Arbor for The Game. It wouldn't be surprising if his recruitment came down to Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Iowa, where his brother C.J. is 2014 running back commit (lord help him—no, AIRBHG, a different lord ohhhhhh no what have I done).
A couple more potential visitors are AZ ATH Cassius Peat, a 3.5-star OLB/DE-type and the brother of Stanford lineman Andrus, and NY TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., son of... well, you can probably guess. Peat has an early Michigan State offer and enjoyed a summer visit to Ann Arbor; Wheatley already has a Michigan offer and looks like a strong candidate to end up in the class at some point.
LA four-star DT TD Moton is also a potential visitor, though there's a hurdle to clear here:
— Tim Sullivan (@TimS_Wolverine) September 5, 2013
Stay strong, Mr. Moton.
2016 Uncommitted Prospects
The one to watch here is IL OT Erik Swenson, whose tone regarding Michigan has been downright rapturous after his previous visits; he may want to take his time with a decision, but sooner or later he's almost guaranteed to end up committing. That will be very good news, since he's one of the top overall prospects in the 2016 class.
Other notable sophomores include Traverse City OL Thiyo Lukusa, who already has a Michigan State offer, and Farmington WR Desmond Fitzpatrick, who has three offers himself (Indiana, Ohio, and Toledo) and has been a consistent presence on campus
There isn't an obvious candidate to commit this weekend with the possible exception of Swenson—interestingly, one of the youngest prospects who'll be in attendance. The two 2014 targets have long maintained that their recruitments will stretch well past this weekend. The 2015 visitors for the most part are either players who should have very competitive recruitments (Settle, Burrell, Cornell) or guys Michigan hasn't offered or may not have room to take—Wheatley is an intriguing exception to this rule.
Of course, this was much the same case the last time these two teams played at the Big House, and then Dymonte Thomas shocked Ohio State fans by pledging to the good guys (and, yes, sticking to that commitment) after getting swept up in the excitment of Robinson-to-Roundtree. In what should be another incredible atmosphere on Saturday, who knows what surprises this weekend holds in store?
I should note that 247's Steve Wiltfong has a very informative free overview of what's turning into a big visit weekend across the Big Ten.
[Hit THE JUMP for a couple of Michigan commits getting rankings bumps, highlights of Jashon Cornell in action, the decline of head-to-head recruiting battles between Michigan and Notre Dame, and more.]
You Know The Drill
Michigan's latest 2014 offer, Warren De La Salle linebacker and current Penn State commit Jared Wangler, will visit campus today along with his father, former Michigan quarterback John Wangler, per Jared's Twitter. Wangler plans to decide between sticking with PSU and flipping to Michigan before the start of football season, and while many expect him to choose the Wolverines today, that's not coming from Wangler — he told Scout's Allen Trieu($) that he's "not planning on committing today," and you can read into that however you like.
I think Wangler will end up at Michigan, but it's certainly not guaranteed; don't count out the fact that Penn State was the first major program to offer him. He even passed up an offer from LSU that came in a couple weeks after his initial commitment. That said, his father and brother didn't play for the Tigers, and the Wanglers being something of a Michigan institution should factor heavily into his final decision.
A 150+ Comment Thread Suggests I Should Talk About This
Michigan State's hiring of Curtis Blackwell as their de facto recruiting coordinator paid immediate dividends yesterday when 2015 Cass Tech quarterback Jayru Campbell committed to the Spartans. Campbell was one of several top in-state juniors in East Lansing yesterday — Technician teammates Mike Weber and Josh Alabi, Saginaw athlete Brian Cole, Oak Park athlete John Kelly, and Saint Clair Shores lineman Kyonta Stallworth (who may or may not have committed, and almost certainly will eventually) were also present. Getting that many key local targets on campus — and pulling in commitments from two of them, most likely — is a big step for State, and the credit should rightfully go to Blackwell, who has a relationship with all of these players from his time running Sound Mind Sound Body and coaching the Maximum Exposure 7-on-7 squad.
HOWEVA, the consternation among Michigan fans in the wake of Campbell's commitment is unnecessary for a couple of reasons:
- Campbell, in all likelihood, was never going to get a Michigan offer. CA five-star Josh Rosen is the only 2015 QB with an offer, and I don't believe Campbell was even in the next group of signal-callers being considered by the Wolverines. Having watched Campbell play many times over the course of the last two years, I don't think he has the pure arm strength — especially on short-to-intermediate routes — that this coaching staff wants in a quarterback. You can watch the tape and judge for yourself.
- Michigan's projected to take a very small class in 2015, and so far they're pursuing elite national prospects to fill those coveted spots. Weber's potential place in the class was taken by Damien Harris, a higher-ranked running back; Kelly wasn't under serious consideration for an early offer; and the Wolverines may only take two offensive linemen — with Jon Runyan Jr. already in the fold and Michigan looking good for PA four-star tackle Sterling Jenkins, I don't think Stallworth was going to get one, either. Cole and Alabi are the only two guys among yesterday's MSU visitors who could be counted as real head-to-head losses for Michigan, and neither is guaranteed to end up at State by any means.
Is Campbell a solid pickup for State? Certainly. He's made great strides as a passer in the last two years while quarterbacking CT to back-to-back state titles and he gives MSU a commitment from the state's best talent factory.
Is this a major blow to Michigan? Nope. The Wolverines could strike out on every top in-state junior and still put together one of the best classes in the country; in case anyone has forgotten, they're already off to a very good start in that regard.
[Hit THE JUMP for perhaps the worst recruiting pitch ever, the latest on Malik McDowell's transfer to Southfield, and more.]
The answer is still no, and that's excuse enough to post this again.
More specifically, HANDOCALYPSE MID-NOVEMBER:
I will be committing on Nov 14 at my school. Can't wait to get this over with!
— Da'shawn Hand (@TheHand54) August 4, 2013
That, of course, is arguably the #1 overall prospect in the country, VA DE Da'Shawn Hand, who now has a decision date in mind — not coincidentally, his 18th birthday — with his field now narrowed down to his top three schools, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
"I just decided that there is no need for all of this to get drawn out," Hand said. "I was interested in USC and LSU but I know a lot about Michigan, Alabama and Florida and I'm just going to let them be."
Lane Kiffin reacted to this news by drinking a six-pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade and tearfully sending Hand a slew of angry texts that all ended in "im so sorry plz come visit". Les Miles chewed on fieldturf — the rubber pellets really add texture — and contemplated the meaning of... fieldturf, probably.
Hand will officially visit Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame game; he has yet to set up officials to Alabama or Florida, though both he and his coach say those visits will happen as well.
Whether or not those officials happen, Michigan appears to be in very good position — especially since Alabama's marquee home game, against LSU, occurs just five days before Hand plans to announce his choice. Given that Hand seems like the type of recruit who's going to be very well-versed in each school before he makes a decision, I'd be surprised if he waited that long to make the trip to Tuscaloosa. It's also still possible, of course, that he's blown away at the Notre Dame game and never ends up taking those last two officials. We'll see — it's never safe to count out Nick Saban.
Michigan could also see Hand's 2015 five-star buddy, VA DT Tim Settle, on campus in the relatively near future, per 247's Michael Bohlin ($):
"I am supposed to be going to Michigan but I don't know when," replied Settle. "I will be going to UVa for the Oregon game, I want to go to the Virginia Tech vs Alabama game but that one is in Atlanta so we'll see. I am also planning on taking a visit to USC at some point."
I'd speculate that Settle would visit for the Notre Dame game, in order to be on campus with Hand, but that Virginia-Oregon game is slated for the same day. We'll see if he ends up making the trip, but at the very least there's another five-star considering Michigan, and that's never a bad thing.
[Hit THE JUMP for more recruiting news, including Michigan attempting to snake-oil a legacy recruit, Bruce Feldman on what it'll take to keep the momentum going, and more.]