"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
Malzone Gets The Bump
Because way too many people my age think Kanye wrote a great horn line for "Touch The Sky"
After updating their top 100 on Monday, Rivals continued this week with a revised Rivals250 and newly minted four-star prospects. In the former, Shaun Crawford (#111) and Tyree Kinnel (#193) both had very minor drops, while Darrin Kirkland Jr. moved up from #183 to #167. In the latter, Alex Malzone led off the list of non-Rivals250 prospects to earn the four-star bump:
Malzone has consistently upped his play over the last year, doing so again most recently at the RCS Detroit, where he brought home the quarterback MVP award. We already knew he had a strong arm and his team's state title last fall showed he has the intangibles as well. What Malzone showed at the Rivals Camp was pinpoint accuracy on his throws, showing he has taken ownership of his arm mechanics. College coaches were also impressed by his workout this spring, and he accepted an offer from Michigan in May. - Josh Helmholdt, Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Analyst
While the Michigan commitment certainly earned Malzone a closer look from recruiting analysts, it sounds like he was well on his way to that fourth star with or without the Wolverine pledge. As I said in yesterday's roundtable, I expect ESPN and 247 to follow suit eventually. Either way, Malzone is now officially ineligible for MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year status.
Crawford Update: Mixed Messages
According to Josh Helmholdt, after speaking with the coaches, Shaun Crawford still considers himself a Michigan commit:
— Michael Spath (@Spath_Wolverine) May 22, 2014
Considering he visited Notre Dame last weekend, that'd be a departure from the usual way the coaches have handled these situations—if a prospect takes visits, they're not considered a commitment—but perhaps they've reevaluated how they'd like to handle this type of scenario.
Or, potentially, not. Rumors abound that the Crawfords aren't at all pleased about Michigan's visit policy, and Sam Webb no longer considers Shaun a commit:
— nezz21〽 (@nezzy21) May 19, 2014
I doubt that is just Sam's opinion. Notably, Crawford is no longer listed among Michigan's 2015 class on Scout. There's a rumor on the GBW board that Crawford may not visit Ohio State, which would be good news; that may also be an indication he's leaning towards ND, however. Hopefully this situation clears up one way or the other before too long, as I dislike the soap opera aspect of recruiting as much as anybody.
[Hit THE JUMP for news on several new offers, updates on top targets in both the 2015 and 2016 classes, and much more.]
"Good Source" vs. Mom, or Just Another Day In Recruiting
Even though Damien Harris stepped back from his Michigan commitment after the firing of Al Borges, the top 2015 running back has maintained that the Wolverines are still right in the thick of his recruitment, if not leading it outright—his mother has gone so far as to say the Wolverines would still be his choice if he made it right now.
That made this Friday morning tweet from outspoken Rivals analyst Mike Farrell quite surprising:
— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) March 28, 2014
As it turns out, Michigan fans weren't the only ones caught off guard by this. Harris released an unordered top ten—yes, Michigan is in there, as are the four schools above—within the hour with no mention of a smaller top group. Harris's mother, meanwhile, offered a flat-out denial to 247's Steve Lorenz ($):
"Maybe it's his top four after Michigan!," Harris's mother told me. "Just because he's opened up his recruiting doesn't mean Michigan has gone down on his list."
Michigan was also skeptical about the idea that they aren't in Harris's top group, as they feel good about the relationship offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has built with the Harris camp.
The general, non-Farrell feeling about Harris is that Michigan and Ohio State are the teams to beat, with Florida making a push after a recent on-campus visit. A lot can change, especially as Harris continues taking visits, but I'd be very surprised if Michigan currently sat outside his top group.
[Hit THE JUMP for a look at Michigan's latest offer, Justin Hilliard's top ten, an update on Tim Settle, and more.]
Jabrill Peppers Is Fast, Part Whatever
Oh, just Jabrill Peppers fielding a kickoff at the 0:21 mark, hauling down the far sideline—I like that sideline—and reaching the end zone at the 0:32 mark despite high-stepping the final few yards. 96 yards. 11 seconds. In full pads.
He's okay, I guess.
This weekend marks the time when just about every 2014 commit will take their official visit to Ann Arbor, including Peppers, who'll presumably have a nice chat with Brady Hoke about taking other visits—if he hasn't already been talked out of them by the coaches and his family, who've reportedly expressed their desire for Peppers to stick to his commitment.
According to multiple outlets, one uncommitted 2014 prospect will also take his official this weekend: three-star TX RB Vic Enwere, a current Cal commit. Enwere committed to Cal without ever visiting Berkeley—he's slated to visit there in January, and otherwise has no officials set up, so this is looks to be a two-team battle that could go either way. Enwere is now the only feasible target at running back to hold an offer, as CO ATH Kalen Ballage made a surprise commitment to Arizona State this week; he'd been expected to pledge to either Boise State or Michigan State.
The other visitor to keep an eye on is 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, who's recently stated an interest in visiting Ohio State. He's maintained all along that he's "100% committed" to Michigan, so hopefully a quick discussion about Hoke's job security—like Peppers, Crawford cited rumors about a potential coaching change as reason to look around—will dispel any desire to visit the Buckeyes.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, Tim Settle, a couple of four-star 2015 tackles, and more.]
Michigan Offers Sills, Settle
Michigan offered two 2015 prospects over the weekend; one came as no surprise at all, while the other was somewhat unexpected.
The former is five-star VA DT Tim Settle, who had rave reviews of Michigan after he visited for the Notre Dame game; with Hjalte Froholdt going off the board to Arkansas last week, Settle was at the top of the board for available DTs. Settle will have his choice of just about any program in the country, and while the Wolverines made a strong early impression, they likely have some catching up to do now that the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and USC have come through with offers of their own.
The latter is Eastern Christian Academy QB David Sills, whose name should be familiar to you for two reasons: first, he notably committed to USC—then coached by Lane Kiffin—at the age of 13; second, he's teammates with U-M commits Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson at ECA, the football-centric school founded by Sills' father. TomVH notes that there's another Michigan connection here:
On the David Sills offer, he trains with Steve Clarkson who also trains Wilton Speight. Clarkson and Borges have known each other for years
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 6, 2013
Five-star CA prospect Josh Rosen is the only other 2015 quarterback with an offer; while he's recently expressed some interest in a visit to Ann Arbor after previously saying that wouldn't happen, he's very much a longshot. Although Sills hadn't been talked about as a prospect under serious consideration for the next offer, it's clear he's the #2 guy on the board, and per TomVH the coaches will have to wait and see if he's willing to open up his recruitment after the coaching change at USC ($):
According to his father, Sills wants to wait and talk with [USC head coach Steve] Sarkisian before making any decisions or commenting on his status. Sills' father believes it is too early to comment or respond to anything just yet without giving the new Trojans coaches an opportunity to speak with their son.
We'll see where this goes; there's little-to-no precedent for a prospect committing to a program before he's in high school, only for that program to fire the head coach he committed to when the prospect is in the midst of his junior year. Add in Michigan's multiple connections to Sills and this could get interesting.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on two cornerback commits and their potential visit plans, how Michigan's commits fared in the state playoffs, and more.]
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.]