...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Damien Harris: Not Gone, Gone, Gone, Woooooaaaahhhh
Sam Webb caught up with Damien Harris's mother in the wake of the former commit's visit last weekend; she had very positive things to say about Doug Nussmeier, and it sounds like her son still has Michigan on top ($):
“It was the same comfort,” Ms. Harris reported. “I know for me it was. I really haven’t gotten a chance to sit down with Damien and discuss it (at length) because he has been in school and practice since we got home. I did ask him (Monday) night, ‘did the feelings come back that you had initially with Michigan?’ He was like, ‘the feeling never left. I never loss [sic] any of the feeling that I had for Michigan.’
In fact, Ms. Harris went on to say that she believes her son's recruitment is a Michigan-OSU battle and the good guys have the edge. There are several visits yet to come—Alabama, Florida, FSU, Miami, and Wisconsin all got mentions—and a long way to go until Signing Day, when Harris now plans to announce his decision. Still, this is a very positive sign, and per 247's Steve Lorenz, Harris may be back on campus in the near future ($):
"I haven't talked to Damien about it yet, but I believe we will be back up in the spring, and possibly the summer too," [Ms. Harris] said. "There are other schools he's looking to visit right now, and if we're not able to make it during the off-season, we will be up for at least one game."
All indications since Harris's decommitment have been that Michigan is still his favorite school and he just wants to utilize the entire recruiting process to check out other schools and ensure he makes a well-informed decision. In my opinion, nothing has changed there; if anything, Harris developing a relationship with Nussmeier has only strengthened Michigan's position.
Speaking of top 2015 targets, in-state four-star ATH Brian Cole also visited over the weekend, he told Tim Sullivan what he's looking for in his recruitment ($):
"I'm just trying to find the truth," he said. "That's basically it, just trying to find the truth, see who's real and not real. I don't know how I'll figure it out.
"Everybody's even. Everybody's No. 1 right now."
Michigan State and Michigan have been his presumed leaders for a while, with the Spartans seemingly holding the edge. Cole had to cancel a planned trip to Wisconsin recently that he plans to reschedule; he's also fielding increased interest from Alabama and could visit there, too.
[Updates on Michigan's 2015 defensive back commits, a look at U-M's options at linebacker, and more after THE JUMP.]
Damien Harris and Nussmeier, BFFForeverever!!!! [MFRHQ Facebook Group]
I plan to add to the few prospects that I didn’t hear back from yet, but I wanted to post the information that I did gather. Still waiting for responses from some of them; those will be added as they come in this evening.
CB Shaun Crawford - It was great! We toured campus, ate together, and watched the game!
K Andrew David – It was awesome! I’ve never been to a basketball game there before but it was a crazy atmosphere! I couldn’t have picked a better first game though. I got to catch up with some of the other guys which was nice too. I talked with Jake Ryan and Dymonte Thomas who are close friends of mine. I was with Shaun Crawford and Tyree Kinnel most of the time. I was next to Thiyo Lukusa for a while during the game and he was enjoying it to say the least. (laughs) I talked to a couple of the 2016 guys. They seemed really enthusiastic with everything.
S Tyree Kinnel – It was great!
ATH Brian Cole
LB Tyriq Thompson – It was nice, I had a good time. I got a chance to meet the entire staff for the first time. It was a laid back visit. I just sat back and enjoyed the game. Of course I like Michigan but I don't have a leader right now. I'll probably visit again when spring practices start. After that I want to focus on my senior season and my team before I even think about making a decision. No commitment plans or anything like that will happen until my senior season is over.
LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. – It was a great day and a great overall experience. I really hope they pull the trigger soon! The coaches and I did talk about an offer a little bit. They said that they would call me later this week. I could see myself as a Wolverine and if they offer I will strongly consider them.
LB Troy Henderson – It was amazing! From talking to the coaches, the game, meeting the other recruits, and seeing the facilities. I could definitely see myself rocking the Maize and Blue!
LB Asmar Bilal – It was good. Great tradition, winners, with nice facilities! The stadium was huge! Yeah, it was nice overall. The coaches didn’t mention an offer they just said they were going to keep in tough and that they brought me there for a reason. I could possibly see myself playing there.
RB Damien Harris
TE Austin Ervin – It was really good. I was able to see the practice field, walked onto the game field, interacted a lot with the coaches, and of course the basketball game was fun. Talking with the coaches was real casual. Coach Ferrigno wants me to come to camp this summer to see my blocking skills. He already likes how I can spread out, my athleticism, my hands, my ball skills, but he wants to see me block on the line.
TE David Edwards – It was great! It really stuck out to me that the coaches are extremely committed to making sure that you're set for life after football. Their athletic advisors set up a program and they have this huge networking. There was a lot of emphasis on education.
TE/OL Harrison Moon – Loved it! I had a great first visit! We didn’t talk about an offer but hopefully one will come through. I got to meet the coaches, see the facilities and the academic areas, eat, watch the basketball game and toured The Big House. The Big House was crazy! It was the coolest stadium I’ve ever seen. It’s a special place. If Michigan decides to offer me I’d still keep my options open because it’s early, but they are definitely a place of interest. I would really like to go back up there and just keep building the relationships. I think we will try to get back up there this spring or over the summer.
ATH Daelin Hayes – The visit was great. (Daelin said he is waiting until tomorrow for other comments.)
OL Thiyo Lukusa – It was sweet, super fun! I decided to put my commitment on hold for now. I just have to be 100% sure. The visit and the activities were 1st class as always. I’m still all Michigan right now but I just want to enjoy my recruitment.
WR Desmond Fitzpatrick (via his father, Greg) – It was a great visit! We took a tour that included the academic center, The Big House, the weight room, and we also met the entire staff. After all of that we attended the basketball game. We also spent time with the new offensive coordinator, Doug Nussmeier and spent a ton of 1-on-1 time with Coach Heck. An offer wasn’t specifically mentioned, but I feel as though Desmond is on the right track based on the growing relationship and the evaluation of his film. We never talk about potential offers. He knows that if he continues to get bigger and stronger, the offers will come. The coaches were shocked when they saw how much he’s grown since they last saw him. He measured in at 6’2” and 184 lbs. He’s working hard hitting the weights, running track, and playing 7 on 7. That’s the regimen for the next few months. We develop this work ethic now and it becomes second nature later.
*Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Weber, Ray Buford Jr., and Kentrail Moran didn’t end up making the trip.
This weekend’s basketball game has huge implications in the B1G standings and something like above would be marvelous. Taking advantage of the expectedly electred atmosphere in Crisler Arena, the coaches scheduled a junior day for the big game. A few younger prospects will also be on hand for the biggest recruiting event of the year thus far. I heard back from about 50 prospects and each one will be listed and labeled with information as I dig it up.
CB Shaun Crawford
K Andrew David
S Tyree Kinnel
ATH Brian Cole
CB Ray Buford Jr.
DE Dre’Mont Jones (maybe, basketball schedule may interfere)
LB Tyriq Thompson
LB Darrin Kirkland Jr.
LB Troy Henderson
LB Asmar Bilal
RB Damien Harris
RB Mike Weber
TE Austin Ervin
TE David Edwards
TE/OL Harrison Moon
ATH Daelin Hayes
OL Thiyo Lukusa (commit watch)
RB Kentrail Moran
WR Desmond Fitzpatrick
OL Jon Runyan Jr. (will visit March 8 & 9)
CB Garrett Taylor (will visit for a spring practice)
CB Minkah Fitzpatrick
DE Darian Roseboro
DE Jake Pickard (will visit during the summer)
DE Josh Alabi
DE Jashon Cornell (visiting Ole Miss this weekend, no plans to visit at this time)
LB Josh Barajas (visited for Wisconsin game, may visit again for spring practice)
LB Jerome Baker (will visit for a spring practice)
LB Jake Cooper (has frequent contact with staff, no plans to visit at this time)
LB Justin Hilliard (would like to visit for a spring practice)
OL Drew Richmond (has no plans to visit at this time)
OL Sterling Jenkins (will visit for a spring practice)
OL Gabe Megginson (high interest, would like a Michigan offer)
OL Grant Newsome (will visit for a spring practice)
QB Nick Johns (will visit during his spring break)
QB Brandon Wimbush (will visit for a spring practice)
QB Ryan Willis (focusing more on schools that have offered, waiting on more interest)
QB Alex Malzone (will visit for a spring practice)
QB Riley Neal (not much contact since hiring of Nussmeier)
QB Jon Wassink (very interested, not much contact since hiring of Nussmeier)
RB Andrew Dowell (would like to visit for a spring practice)
S Omari Stringer (would like to visit for a spring practice)
TE Chris Clark (will visit March 22)
TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (will visit for a spring practice)
TE Austin Dorris (will visit March 1)
TE CJ Conrad (will visit for a spring practice)
TE Cole Chewins (has no plans to visit at this time)
WR David Dowell (would like to visit for a spring practice)
Beards Require No Context Or Reason
— Tim Sullivan (@TimS_Wolverine) October 30, 2013
Tim did this because he's still a blogger at heart, obviously.
Consider that George Campbell's treat, accompanied by this nifty trick:
Da'Shawn And The Battle Of Academic Departments
As more details emerge from Da'Shawn Hand's official visit to Alabama, it's clear that (1) the Tide are very much in the running, and (2) Professor Needs A Raise has a Southern counterpart, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):
"The engineering dean is the man!" Hand exclaimed. "He is that guy! I met with the business professor too and he was good. The academic support is amazing. They have individual tutors and that's good to help you manage your time."
In talking with TomVH, Hand revealed this his decision may in fact come down to his choice of major ($):
Hand says that if he wants to go into sports management it will be Michigan, and if he wants to go into engineering it will be Alabama. Florida offers both, so he will be spending time with professors in both fields on that trip to see if that has any impact on his decision.
The 6-foot-4, 262-pound defensive end says for right now he’s just focused on Florida, though, and will head out to Gainesville on November 9.
One of the Michigan coaches may want to alert him to this.
In other pursuits of 2014 blue-chip prospects, Oregon has become a major player for CA ATH JuJu Smith after he visited Eugene in place of a planned trip to Ole Miss; he told Rivals's Adam Gorney($) that the Ducks are "another top team to beat." Smith already had very positive official visit experiences at Notre Dame and Ohio State, has USC and UCLA under consideration, and has two officials left: Alabama (vs. LSU) and Michigan (vs. OSU). With that much competition, it's tough to peg Michigan as anything but a longshot, even with whatever edge they might get from receiving Smith's final official.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the 2014 running back situation—there seems to be a situation—plus Freddy Canteen makin' moves, evaluations of a couple M commits, and more.]
Commitments Come In Pairs, Volume [I Lost Count]
Michigan's 2015 class grew by two highly-regarded Ohio defensive backs over the weekend; if you missed them, here are the commitment posts for cornerback Shaun Crawford and safety Tyree Kinnel. The pair represent the fifth and sixth commits in the '15 class; to say the pace of recruiting has increased is an understatement:
Commitment no.5 for class of 2014 was Drake Harris, 4 months ago. No.5 for 2013 was on The Weekend that killed @AceAnbender
— Brett Thiessen (@The_Mathlete) August 23, 2013
Adding to that, Michigan's sixth commitment for the '14 class came when Ian Bunting pledged on April 23rd of this year; their sixth for '13 also occurred during The Greatest Mid-February Weekend In The History Of Mid-February Weekends.
Crawford and Kinnel aren't just highly-touted players from Ohio; they're both lifelong Michigan fans, which played a part in each of their commitments. Here's Crawford's post-commitment reaction to Tim Sullivan ($):
"Just being able to run out the tunnel and jump up and touch the sign, I've always seen it on Saturdays and finally getting the opportunity to do it is something I've always wanted to do," he said. "I can't wait to make the Michigan family happy."
And Kinnel talking to Scout's Dave Berk ($):
“We’re all Michigan fans because my dad grew up in Jackson, Michigan,” he said. “He just loved Michigan and ever since I was born, he just brained washed me on Michigan.”
They've been groomed for the Maize and Blue; now, do they fit The Pattern™? Of course they do. Crawford to 247's Mark Zakrajsek ($):
"I will bring my effort, that's the only thing I can promise right now," Crawford said. "With great effort all the great things I do on the field will come. I will play every down like it's my last because it's my dream to play on national television on Saturdays. My goal isn't to win the Heisman or any personal awards, I just want to be the best teammate I can be and make sure my team and coaches know I won't let them down."
And Kinnel's high school coach to Berk ($):
“Tyree comes from a great mom and dad,” said Minton. “He’s from a great close knit family and he’s not your typical high school kid that goes out and hangs out.
He’s much more like Braxton [Miller] was as they don’t mind staying in and playing a video game or something like that. He knows there are a lot of bad decisions that are out there and he doesn’t want to get caught up by anything like that.”
As for on-field ability, I posted my favorite Crawford clip as a GIF and forgot to do so for Kinnel; Kinnel's coach talked up his instincts and play recognition, and this is a fine example—watch him play bracket coverage underneath the slot receiver while managing to keep his eyes on the quarterback, then come screaming from the opposite side of the field to stop the QB's scramble cold when it looked like an inevitable first down or even touchdown:
Making that play wasn't Kinnel's responsibility; he made it anyway after taking away the deep crossing route. Add that to the quote from his Hello post about Kinnel's coaches trusting him to call defensive audibles as a rising junior and we get an idea of his level of football smarts—he's very advanced in that regard for a player his age and it shows in his play.
Crawford and Kinnel were each Michigan's first offered prospects at their respective positions; their commitments add to an impressive trend in Brady Hoke's '15 class:
Worth noting that #Michigan has gotten commits from their first offers at CB, WR, RB, S and K now. That's five of six positions committed
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) August 24, 2013
That is a remarkable stat considering four of those players—Crawford, RB Damien Harris, WR George Campbell, and K Andrew David—are considered among the very top prospects (if not the top) at their position, and only David didn't hold offers from multiple BCS powers when he committed.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on Da'Shawn Hand's and Leonard Fournette's official visit plans, highlights of several Michigan commits from last weekend's high school action, and two reasons you're definitely going to want Hjalte Froholdt to end up at Michigan.]
Huber Heights (OH) Wayne defensive back Tyree Kinnel waited a while for Michigan offer; though the Wolverines began looking at him during his freshman season, Kinnel went without one through several campus visits and even Michigan's technique camp this summer. After an outstanding performance at Ohio State's Friday Night Lights camp last month, Kinnel finally received the offer he coveted, and today he became Michigan's sixth commit in the 2015 class and their second in two days following Shaun Crawford's pledge yesterday.
4*, #24 CB,
|NR CB||3*, NR S||4*, 90, #18 S||
4*, #20 S,
Rivals still hasn't released 2015 rankings; the other three sites are split on both Kinnel's talent and his future position. Scout likes him as a cornerback and puts him well within their top 300; 247 pegs him as a safety and has him just outside their Top 247 (the #16 safety is #241 overall); ESPN also has him as a safety and gives him a three-star rating.
Scout lists Kinnel at 5'11", 170 lbs., ESPN at 5'11", 183, and both Rivals and 247 have him pegged at 6'0", 190; he's got the size to play either safety or corner. According to multiple reports, Michigan recruited Kinnel as a safety; Ohio State was looking at him as a bigger corner, and with the Wolverines looking for similar attributes from their cornerbacks it's possible he could end up there as well.
Although Kinnel has started at Wayne since his freshman year, there's surprisingly little scouting material on him from anything aside from last month's Friday Night Lights camp. Since that's the most recent look at him, we might as well start there; here's Scout's Dave Berk on Kinnel's FNL performance ($):
Damon Webb would be hard to knock as the top defensive back at Friday Night Lights, but Kinnel was extremely impressive in coverage. Much like he stated, I agree that he can play either safety or cornerback at the next level, and that will all sort itself out over the next two years of high school football. Kinnel is a bigger corner, and college programs love this size out on an island. He is one of Ohio's top 2015 prospects, and he certainly raised his stock with his performance at Friday Night Lights.
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt delves into more detail about Kinnel's coverage skills ($):
The 6-foot, 190-pound Kinnel appears headed for the safety position in college, but he has excelled this summer in camp settings where he is asked to cover like a cornerback. His best attribute at this stage is his break on the football, but the rising junior also shows fluid hips and the speed to cover downfield. He is thickly built and has the frame of a future college safety, but his coverage skills may allow him to play anywhere in the defensive backfield at the next level.
Like Berk, Helmholdt had Kinnel behind only Damon Webb among defensive backs at FNL.
One more bit from FNL from Rivals Ohio analyst Marc Givler ($):
Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne defensive back Tyree Kinnel continues to turn in special performances on the camp circuit and was outstanding once again showing the size and strength of a free safety but the cover skills of a corner. It won't be long until Kinnel is a 20 offer kid.
Kinnel's excellent performance in one-on-one WR/DB drills at FNL—a true test of a defensive back's man coverage ability in a drill that favors the receiver—negates the only negative from ESPN's evaluation that isn't the usual call to add bulk that applies to just about every high school prospect:
STRENGTHS: A savvy player with good instincts and vision. Shows good playing speed and strength. A playmaker in defending both the run and pass. Excellent in zone coverage reading the QB's eyes and making a break on the football. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: Will benefit from adding bulk to his frame. Lacks experience in laying [sic] man to man coverage. ... BOTTOM LINE: Kinnel is a solid all-around safety that does many things well. Shows the potential to be productive in man coverage with good physical tools.
ESPN gave Kinnel a three-star rating and has yet to give a specific grade or include him in their position ratings, so I don't think they're done evaluating him; then again, this is fire-and-forget ESPN we're talking about, so who knows.
Here's Berk again from a Sam Webb feature in the Detroit News pointing out an important area for improvement:
“I project him as a safety with solid ball skills,” said Berk. “At the same time he is aggressive, has good strength, and is able to support the run extremely well. He needs to work on better tackling technique, but overall he has got all the skills that you’d see in a top level safety at the next level.”
Considering Kinnel has shown a willingness to come up in run support and be effective in doing so, and he's got two more season of high school ball before he gets to Michigan—where he'll be coached up even more on technique—this isn't something I find particularly concerning.
Steve Lorenz caught up with Kinnel's high school position coach after his commitment to get a few more details about his game, specifically his advanced knowledge of football for a rising junior ($):
"He's a person who is still learning the game, but you don't get a player like Tyree very often," Powell said. "He has the size and speed, but he has something that you can't teach a lot of players: he has the instincts to see things before or as they are happening. This gives him the ability to make reads quicker and make plays. He knows how to disguise coverages and he knows how to read opposing offenses. As his position coach, I've given Tyree the permission to call audibles on our coverage. This off-season he really improved in that aspect and can pick up the tendencies of a quarterback with relative ease. He's ahead of his age in terms of understanding the game. The other intangible he has that I really admire about him is his passion and love for the game itself. He's a young man who goes out every day and works his tail off."
Powell also said he expects Kinnel to be named captain, a high honor for a junior, and relayed a story from a recent intrasquad scrimmage in which Kinnel, disappointed with the play of the defense, actually ordered the first team off the field and brought the second team on with the full approval of the coaching staff. Again, The Pattern™ emerges.
Kinnel had offers from Arkansas and Kentucky when he made his commitment, as well as interest from Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Huber Heights Wayne is a solid program in Ohio's Division I, making it to the state championship game (and losing, unfortunately) in 1999 and 2010. Their most notable football prospect is current Ohio State QB Braxton Miller; the school also produced former Wolverines Terrence and Terry Talbott, both of whom had injuries cut their college careers short.
Cincinnati.com has a game-by-game breakdown of Kinnel's sophomore season, in which he recorded 30 solo tackles, a fumble recovery, and two interceptions.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a 40 time of 4.40; this has the look of a self-reported time and I can't find any electronically-timed combine figures, so this gets a solid four FAKEs out of five. While I don't doubt Kinnel's speed, 4.4-flat is an elite time for a college player, let alone a high school junior.
As usual, more highlights and individual game cut-ups are available at Kinnel's Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
If Kinnel, as expected, ends up at safety he'll have the opportunity to compete for playing time at a relatively early juncture. When he arrives in 2015, Michigan will have a senior Jarrod Wilson and juniors Dymonte Thomas, Delano Hill, and Jeremy Clark on the roster, plus a 2014 recruit (Montae Nicholson is currently the top candidate to fill the open safety spot in the class; Erick Smith and JuJu Smith are other, less likely options). That should afford Kinnel a redshirt year and then a one-year apprenticeship as a backup before he competes for a starting job; unless Michigan decides to move one of their young corners to safety, he's got a relatively clear path to playing time.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Slightly edited from yesterday's Hello post:
With a very small projected class and plenty of depth in place, the Wolverines would likely take just one more defensive back—NJ CB Minkah Fitzpatrick is a top national target who's shown some interest in Michigan, and five-star CA CB Iman Marshall has an offer in hand, though he's a longshot. [EDIT: I should also mention four-star MI ATH Brian Cole, who projects to corner and is strongly considering both Michigan and Michigan State—the Spartans may actually be the team to beat for him; he's still a more realistic option than Fitzpatrick or Marshall at this juncture.]
Kinnel is Michigan's sixth commit in the '15 class (seventh if you count grayshirt DT Brady Pallante); that group may only expand to 15-17 signees, so Michigan will be very selective about whom they offer. Top priorities include quarterback, at least one more offensive lineman, defensive end, and outside linebacker.