"East Lansing's Big Ten Team" Doesn't Have The Same Allure, For Some Reason
It's been a quiet week, relatively speaking, for Michigan recruiting, so today's roundup kicks off with an update on the program making a serious run for the #3 spot in the Big Ten recruiting rankings: Northwestern.
Yes, you read that right.
No, seriously, you read that right.
The Wildcats built upon their on-field success under Pat Fitzgerald with a solid recruiting class in 2013, landing consensus four-star QB Matt Alviti, underrated RB Godwin Igwebuike, and a solid group of three-stars—not just Midwest kids, either, with signees hailing from Texas (3), California (3), Florida, and New Jersey.
On the heels of a ten-win season and their first bowl win in 63 years, Northwestern is now poised to put together their best recruiting class in... ever? The Wildcats have already hauled in another four-star signal-caller, Clayton Thorson, giving Northwestern future four-star depth at quarterback, a position where they've already managed to turn an array of middling recruits with varying levels of scrambling ability into competent (at the very least) conductors of their up-tempo spread in recent years. Now the Wildcats have jumped up to 19th(!) in the 247 Composite Team Rankings after reeling in MI OL Tommy Doles and OH ATH Dareian Watkins in the last week.
Doles, of course, was long thought to be a heavy Michigan lean—I lost count of the number of times the Grand Rapids Christian product has been on campus in the last year. Given his other offers—Army, Air Force, Iowa State, and Northwestern—and the fact that he seemed on the verge of committing for months, it appears Doles' choice has as much to do with Michigan backing off as Northwestern coming on strong; regardless, the Wolverines should be fine when it comes to O-line recruiting, and the academic-minded Doles found a great fit from an on- and off-field perspective in Evanston.
Watkins, who announced his choice this morning, is the more interesting example of a prospect choosing the Wildcats over several Big Ten (and beyond) options previously thought to be more desirable. Michigan State was his other finalist, and he also held offers from Illinois, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, NC State, Penn State, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others. When Watkins' father explained his choice, Northwestern's academics were cited as a huge reason for the commitment, but the football reasons played a large role as well ($) [emphasis mine]:
"We're all very very excited about the chance to go to Northwestern. We think it's not just an amazing academic opportunity, but an amazing football opportunity. The academics overshadow the football part sometimes, but Coach Fitz has turned the program around. They were 10-3 last year, won the Gator Bowl against an SEC football team, and he was 2-0 against the SEC last year. We think it's undervalued what they are as a football program. As much he chose a life path, he's also very competitive. He wants to be part of a Big Ten Championship and compete for national championships and we think that can be done at Northwestern."
We'll, um, see about the national championships, but there's no question Fitzgerald has put the program in a position to contend for conference titles.
Unlike me, Brian is willing to wade into the shallow end* of the RCMB, and he passed along this glorious response to the usual unhinged ranting following Watkins pledging to Not Michigan State:
*There is no deep end, thankfully. It's actually an inflatable kiddie pool filled with horse manure.
[For the rest of the roundup, including updates on Jamarco Jones, Clifton Garrett, and Jae'Sean Tate, hit THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers last weekend's visitors, including #1 overall recruit Da'Shawn Hand, as well as new offers and more.
Michigan Gets Leg Up On Hand! Can They De-Feet Rest Of Country? Head-To-Toe Coverage Follows.
Sorry, everyone. Just practicing in case I ever get a job writing headlines for a tabloid. (Don't worry, I'm keeping my day job.)
Anyway, VA DE Da'Shawn Hand—the nation's top-ranked recruit—spent the weekend in Ann Arbor and posted his impressions on Twitter in the aftermath. You could say it went well:
The full weekend visit allowed Hand to take in a lot for one trip, from a spring practice to a meeting with a Sports Management professor to a one-one-one chat with Denard Robinson. What stood out the most, though, was his time spent getting to know the players and coaches, per 247's Steve Lorenz ($) [emphasis mine]:
Among the players Hand spent time with were sophomore cornerback Blake Countess, sophomore tight end AJ Williams, incoming freshmen Shane Morris and Taco Charlton and also fellow 2014 recruit Michael Ferns, who is already committed to Michigan.
"Honestly, it was like I had known these guys for years," Hand said. "We all clicked right away. The people in general are just really nice and really genuine. It's the one thing about the visit that really stood out most to me. The coaches as a whole all really stood out as people - - they are my favorite coaching staff and being around them this weekend reinforced that."
That last bit is a major, major statement, as is this: Hand told Lorenz that he's "absolutely" coming back for the Notre Dame game, and may even fit an additional summer visit into his busy schedule. Sam Webb got a few more details on why Michigan's coaches have made such a strong impression ($):
“It was the coaching staff,” Hand said, reflecting upon what stood out most. “It was my favorite coaching staff. A lot of charisma. They’re just fun guys to be around. You can tell by looking at the players. All the players are comfortable talking to the coaches. A lot players (at different schools) say, ‘man I can’t stand this coach.’ And also when practice is done they can’t wait to leave. But the (Michigan) players… it seemed like they want to stay around. They don’t mind being around their coaches.”
“Coach Mattison is the man,” Hand exclaimed. “That dude is a genius. The things he teaches his players… it’s so simple, but it amazing at the same time because it works. His defensive scheme is real creative, it’s real tricky, and he likes the bring the house. I respect that. He has a lot of different blitz packages with looping and stunting, and I love that because you’ll never get bored during the game.”
Hand also gave Webb as glowing a quote as I've seen about an academic presentation, saying that to hear Sports Management professor Mark Rosentraub talk "was really amazing," and that he "just wanted to sit there in the class." Hand has made it clear that academics will play a serious role in his recruitment; it doesn't sound like he's just paying lip service to that notion, just as it appears Michigan did a great job of showing him what the school can provide.
While the Wolverines certainly strengthened their position, Hand is waiting until he sees each school in his top five before he begins to compare them, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
"Well I'm not comparing schools right now," Hand explained. "I'm just experiencing each one. Once I go to all five schools then I can compare them. I'm just taking it slow again. I'm not making any sudden moves.
"I'm going to chill out, focus on school and train," he said. "The new guy I train with, Kevin Johnson is amazing. This guy is really high energy, does his research and we always have a good time. We work on a lot of core, balance and explosion stuff."
Time will tell where Michigan stands with Hand, but it's hard to imagine this visit could have gone much better. While it's far too early to call them any sort of favorite—Alabama looms, after all—it's apparent that the Wolverines will be in contention until the end.
[Hit THE JUMP for more weekend visit reactions and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers this weekend's visitors, the latest on Malik McDowell, and more. Thankfully, I wrote this before the Wisconsin game, and feel no remorse about immediately bumping my own post off the top of the page.
[Insert Hand Pun Here]
Purported high schooler Da'Shawn Hand
Michigan hosts a small group of 2014 visitors this weekend. Small isn't bad, however, when one of those visitors in the nation's top overall prospect, VA DE Da'Shawn Hand. Sam Webb has an extensive feature on Hand in the Detroit News in which he alleviates any concern that Jerry Montgomery's departure will hurt Michigan's chances:
"I heard about it, but I'm not sweating it," said Hand on Montgomery's departure. "Montgomery is a good dude, and that's a good move for him, but I'm not interested in Oklahoma whatsoever. That's how I feel about it. He is a good dude, but I like Coach Mattison."
"(Mattison) is young at heart. I don't even know how old he is. I think he's like 60 — don't tell him I said that — but that dude is 25 at heart. And he's a good guy. He's funny, but he knows what he's talking about. He knows his stuff. He's been a defensive coordinator for the (Baltimore) Ravens. I look up to Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, — it's so many people, it's endless. And they have so many components to that defense. For him to come to Michigan just shows how dynamic the defense is, and for me to be a part of that, they can move me everywhere and get me prepped for the NFL."
Mattison would be Hand's position coach at Michigan, a point I'm sure won't go unmentioned this weekend. Hand also discussed his friendship with fellow Virginian Derrick Green, whom he met on the camp circuit—the two have "just been clicking" since hanging out at The Opening. The Wolverines will be in a serious battle with the rest of Hand's top five—Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech—but they've certainly got a few things working in their favor.
[Hit THE JUMP for more on this weekend's visitors and, um, more.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers weekend visitor reactions and more.
Sunday's Silver Lining
The third Michigan visit in three weeks for MI WR Drake Harris culminated in a tour of Michigan Stadium after The Basketball Game That Shall Not Be Named. Harris was accompanied in Ann Arbor for the first time by his mother and grandfather, as well, and he told WolverineNation's Chantel Jennings that his comfort level at Michigan is growing ($):
“I just enjoyed it,” Harris said. “Just hanging out with the coaches, they’re showing a lot of interest in me and showing me how much they want me to be a part of the team.”
The Watch List wide receiver said that with each visit, he, too, feels more and more comfortable around the coaches, specifically wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski. Harris has had the opportunity to meet Hecklinski’s wife and children, who he describes as “sweet.”
Harris is still a Michigan State commit by name, though it's worth noting that the Spartans also played a home game yesterday—for the third straight week, Harris was in Ann Arbor. His high school teammate, lineman Tommy Doles, also made the trip from Grand Rapids, and in the same article from Jennings he shed some light on the offensive line situation:
“There are, I think, two spots left for offensive linemen,” Doles said. “If one closes up, I’ll have to make some decisions and think about that. I’m aware of the situation, and I’ll be thinking about that.”
Doles told 247's Steve Lorenz that he may be back on campus next weekend, and said he'd "like to get things over sometime this spring," when asked about a timeline ($). Doles recently took a trip to Northwestern, but if he sticks to a spring decision it's hard to see him landing anywhere but Michigan.
[Hit THE JUMP for more visit reactions and the new 2014 Scout 300.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers this weekend's visitors, the latest word from Da'Shawn Hand, Wheatley on Wheatley, and more.
Guess Who's Back?
The visitor list for this weekend isn't quite as star-studded as it was two weeks ago, but it still features a top tight end target and some marquee in-state prospects.
One such Michigander is WR Drake Harris, who'll be making his third visit to Ann Arbor in three weeks. Harris told Scout's Sam Webb this week that Devin Gardner receiving his medical redshirt "did help out" Michigan's chances, though he maintains that he's committed to Michigan State... for now ($) [emphasis mine]:
The Wolverines have clearly made up substantial ground in a very short period of time, and they’ll have an opportunity to further improve their position when Harris returns to Ann Arbor Sunday for his third visit in as many weeks. That said, Harris made it clear that anyone suggesting that Michigan has unseated Michigan State as the team to beat is off base. Many have questioned whether he still considers himself a Spartan commit, and hasn’t hesitated in offering them an answer.
“Yeah, right now I am,” he said regarding his commit status. “It’s a solid verbal. I said that I don’t have a list right now, but if I did have a list (Michigan) would be somewhere around the top.”
In my opinion, Harris will maintain that Michigan State leads as long as he's still considered a commit—frankly, I'm not sure he has much of a choice in that regard. The Spartans could very well be leading at this juncture, too. The trend of his recruitment, however, points towards an eventual decommitment, with Michigan in a very strong position to take over that top spot sooner or later.
Here's the full visitor list for this weekend, culled from multiple sources, including WolverineNation ($) (2014 prospects unless otherwise noted):
- MI OL Tommy Doles — Doles is likely the only prospect who could be thinking about a commitment this weekend, though that's been the case for a while now and he's yet to pull the trigger.
- MI CB Jalen Embry — Embry is a cornerback prospect out of Detroit King who currently holds a handful of MAC offers. He's making the trip with high school teammate...
- MI LB Carl Fuller — Fuller is one of the better linebacker prospects in the state, though his chances of getting an offer are hurt by what should be a very small Michigan class at the position.
- 2015 OH S Tyree Kinnel — Kinnel, a rising junior from Dayton (OH) Wayne, doesn't hold any offers but has early interest from both the Wolverines and Buckeyes.
- MI DE Malik McDowell — The top player in the state will be in Ann Arbor for the second time in three weeks, but he's still a long way off from a decision.
- IL TE Nic Weishar — The four-star tight end also took an unofficial to Ann Arbor last August, but Michigan may have some ground to cover to catch Notre Dame.
2015 Cass Tech QB Jayru Campbell is also a potential visitor, though he's yet to confirm.
[Hit THE JUMP for Da'Shawn Hand's thoughts on his upcoming visit and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup revels in the wake of Derrick Green's commitment and has the latest updates on Denzel Ward, Henry Poggi, and more.
Hello: Derrick Green
In case the rock you live under still isn't wi-fi capable, I have good news: Derrick Green, the nation's top-ranked running back, committed to Michigan on Saturday. He gets the full "Hello" treatment here, and below is local news coverage featuring video of his announcement:
Green's remarkable physical transformation—he entered high school at 268 pounds—is recounted in Sam Webb's latest DetNews article, which also gives a look into Green's recruitment. Green calls Fred Jackson "a father figure," and Brady Hoke managed to have a huge impact before ever meeting him in person [emphasis mine]:
With those bonds fortified there was one important connection left to be made — the one with Hoke. Even in his absence Michigan's head coach managed to begin that process with a gesture that resonates with his prized recruit to this day.
Said [Green's mother, Fran] Knight, "When we went (on the March 18 visit), he wasn't there. His dad had just passed, but I was amazed how even though he was going through the situation with his father passing, he still took the time out to call Derrick and let him know that he really wanted him there, he really wanted to be there, (and) he was looking forward to meeting him. That spoke volumes to me about the type of person he was."
If you'd like to see more scouting on Green, the DetNews also has blurbs from several Scout analysts.
In other current commit news, 247 named David Dawson and Patrick Kugler to their All-American first team for the class of 2013. Kyle Bosch and Henry Poggi earned second-team nods.
Speaking of Poggi, multiple outlets have confirmed that he did visit Alabama last weekend, and the Tide are actively recruiting him. While the exact nature of the visit is unclear—some say it was a visit to a friend on the team while others say that he took an official, and the Poggis are staying quiet—the general sense from insiders is that he'll still end up at Michigan in the end.
After a move to Florida—one that reportedly came as a surprise to the coaches—a parting of the ways between Michigan and 2014 commit Denzel Ward seemed inevitable. Today, it came to pass:
I am no longer a commit to the University of Michigan, I really appreciare the love from there but I just want to make the best decision.
— Denzel Ward (@DW75_) January 29, 2013
Michigan Leads For Doles
In-state 2014 OL Tommy Doles was on campus again last weekend, this time to check out the academic side of things, and per GBW's Kyle Bogenshutz the trip cemented Michigan at the top of his list ($):
“It helped a lot,” said Doles. “I can say Michigan is the frontrunner now. I wasn’t ready to make a commitment or anything – I think I still want to see what the options are. I think I’m just not quite ready to make a decision yet, but Michigan is a good option at this point."
Doles may take his time and check out some other options, but at this point it's tough to see him winding up anywhere but Michigan.
Per multiple sources, including 247's Clint Brewster($), Michigan offered 2014 five-star GA DE Lorenzo Carter. Carter holds one of the most impressive offer sheets in the country—pulling a five-star deep out of SEC country is a tall task, so until further notice don't get expectations too high for him.