Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson, CB Jabrill Peppers, LB Jared Wangler, LB Chase Winovich, LB Noah Furbush, LB Michael Ferns, DL Brady Pallante, DL Bryan Mone, DL Lawrence Marshall, OL Mason Cole, OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty, WR Moe Ways, WR Freddy Canteen, WR Drake Harris, TE Ian Bunting.
|Richmond, VA – 6'6", 234|
3*, NR overall
3*, NR overall
NR QB, #27 VA
4*, #257 overall
#13 pro QB, #8 VA
3*, NR overall
#23 pro QB, #16 VA
|Other Suitors||Miami, NC State|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
Also senior highlights on hudl.
It's back. The Michigan Artillery Piece QB has been revived and recruited in the form of Wilton Speight. Yes, Shane Morris before him is a pro-style guy. He is not a 6'6" man-mountain who will only cross the line of scrimmage in the event of an emergency or Buffalo Stampede.
Wilton Speight is. Seriously. Compare him to someone, ESPN!
Physically he reminds us of Brock Osweiler (the Arizona State Osweiler, not the high school version).
I think you mean "the 6'8" Brock Osweiler—the 6'8" Arizona Osweiler, not the 6'8" high school version." This is your context.
When we're talking about artillery pieces, it's about fitting footballs into tight windows at high velocity 99 times out of 100. That's why Tom Brady is married to a Brazilian supermodel; it's why people still put up with Ben Roethlisberger. Can Speight reach those heights? It's a bit murky right now.
Speight was going all out in high school, flying out to be tutored by Noted Quarterback Guru Steve Clarkson monthly. This is dedication. Dedication is good, and it comes with impressive quotes from Clarkson:
"His arm is every bit as strong as Ben Roethlisberger, and I've worked with Ben. … I've known Al Borges for well over 20 years, so we actually talked quite a bit before the commitment. He wanted to know what kind of player Wilton was.."
"His football IQ is very high, and he's just deadly accurate. … This is a kid that I think plays on Sundays, that's how good he is. I don't throw that around that often, but this kid, I think he plays on Sundays."
Clarkson and Speight did collectively take a radical step forward from his destiny. Scout's Greg Biggins:
At the time, I was at one of Steve’s camps and I was thinking, okay this guy is kind of tall, gawky, does not really look the par, kind of really over the head release. I thought he is a nice enough guy, maybe he will go to lower level MAC school if he is lucky kind of a thing.
I saw him again last year at the camp and he was incredible. It was a night and day difference in terms of just being comfortable as a quarterback. …. just from three years ago to today, it is like it is a different sport he is playing.”
This was not enough to get him a bump but recruiting sites succumb to momentum like any other human endeavor; it's generally the case that guys who improve a lot late remain underrated.
[After the JUMP: arm strength not in Morris's league, surprising mobility, Borges's horrific QB recruiting track record.]
News bullets and other important items:
- Delonte Hollowell has a cast on his hand and Ondre Pipkins was held out of two-a-days as a precaution.
- Shane Morris is the backup QB. They like the progress he’s made, but he’s the backup.
- Wilton Speight is competing with Russell Bellomy for the third-string QB job. Decision on whether Speight should redshirt will be made in a couple of weeks.
- The first team offensive line should be determined over the next week.
- May use by-committee approach to running backs, but they would like to have a featured back.
- Drake Johnson and De’Veon Smith are 1 and 1a on the RB depth chart, with Derrick Green at 2.
- Team is still searching for an identity, though Hoke wants it to be one that can run the ball and have toughness on both sides of the ball. Toughness was mentioned a lot today.
- Brian is probably going to have to eat a lemon.
“Good morning. I’m glad you’re here. Overall, we’re really happy with the progress we’ve made from spring. I think in the practices that we’ve had, we went two yesterday-- really good effort and good competition, which is what we’re striving for at every position but also offense versus defense, the kicking game versus the kicking game, all those things, we’ve come out and competed hard. Now we are not, as far as being a good football team yet. But the way they’ve come to work every day and what they’ve done, I think the identity of this team is still one that we’re developing and trying to develop. I think the team has invested themselves in a lot of ways in each other and in what we’re trying to get done. This next week is a grind and should be because you’ve got some double-day practices in there. We’ll scrimmage sometime during that time, during that week, trying to get reps and see what matchups we like as an offense and defense. Really looking into the situational football standpoint of it, how we match up and how we will match up during the course of the year. Excited about where we’re at knowing that we’ve got a lot of hard work that we’ve got to put into it. Staff-wise, player-wise, trainer-wise, manager-wise, everybody that’s involved. So from that standpoint there’s a lot of positives. From the standpoint of where we want to be, we’re not near that yet.
Can you say anything particular about any injuries that have occurred?
“You know,there are some guys who are banged up. Delonte Hollowell, he’s got a cast on his hand. As far as anything real major besides a couple guys we held out, Ondre Pipkins in two-a-day days, trying not to overwork him. We’re doing a lot with some of the GPS tracking that we’re into. I think the first time around doing all that stuff you’re trying to get some baselines and some data and all that and I think that’s helping us when we go out to practice.”
What can you tell me about your thought process through the kicking game this year? Special teams particularly, because you’re going to be seeing a lot of new faces. So what can you tell me, from long snapper to holder to PK…
“Yeah. Matt Wile has done a nice job in his career so far in the kicking part of it. Will Hagerup, it’s great to have Will back. He’s had a good camp so far. Kenny Allen is a young man who’s walked on here who’s worked really hard and is developing a little bit on kickoffs. He’s a very good punter. Snapper, Scott Sypniewski and Danny Liesman are two guys that are really competing there. Scott we brought in a year ago and were able to redshirt him, but losing Jareth Glanda, that’s a big loss but Scott’s done a nice job in that part of it. When you look at the return game there’s a lot of different guys. Norfleet’s really taken most of them but a guy like Freddy Canteen, a guy like Jabrill Peppers, some of those guys have a skillset that we think is pretty good. And the other part of that is having Drake Johnson back is a real plus.”
I’m curious to know how is the development of your wide receiver group going and the transition to a new offensive system?
“The wide receivers, I think, are learning every day. I think the pressure and the stress that we put on them and how we practice as a whole team but for those guys when you’re talking about formationally getting lined up and the different personnel groups and depending on what the quarterback sees and what he’s pointing and all that, I think they’re learning a lot there. I think with Devin [Funchess] and Jehu [Chesson], Amara [Darboh] coming back is a real plus for us. He’s had a real good camp so far. Again, it’s not like we’re in three weeks of it but he’s done a nice job. Freddy Canteen, I think all those guys, Bo Dever, Da’Mario Jones, all of them have improved. They fit what we’re doing. We’ve recruited them to fit what we’re doing offensively.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Ryan, leadership, Gardner, and more.]
I Have To Praise You Like I Should
High School All-American week is officially over. Jabrill Peppers unofficially won the week. Just ask ESPN's Tom Luginbill, who wrote this in response to a question about the most impressive Under Armour practice performer [emphasis mine]:
[Peppers] is more than capable of playing both ways if needed, but as far as cover corners go, he is a more explosive version of Dee Milliner, and we love that he welcomes contact too. He is mature and knows that there are high expectations for him to perform.
Or ask his Team Nitro coach, former NFL head coach and defensive back Herm Edwards—and his friend, some guy named Deion:
"It’s not even close. He’s the best [UA All-American defensive back] I’ve coached. I called Deion [Sanders] over and said look at that guy, and Deion saw the same thing," Edwards said. "[Robert] Nkemdiche was really good last year, he was a big guy who could run and [Peppers] is comparable to that as far as skill level at the position he’s playing. I played that position and coached that position for a long time and he’s a special talent."
Or ask Scout, which named Peppers the top practice performer of the week on either team while noting that this year's crop of defensive backs was particularly strong.
Rivals stands as the least bullish outlet on Peppers after the UA game, and all they did was name him Sunday's #3 performer, Monday's #1 performer, and Tuesday's #5 performer, and the actual game's #9 performer for Team Nitro before giving him the third spot overall for Team Nitro on the week behind Da'Shawn Hand and Ermon Lane ($):
Playing in his first national-level event, Peppers was surrounded by intrigue from the moment he arrived in Florida. As it turned out, it didn't take him long to live up to his billing. Peppers, the No. 2 overall prospect in his class, was dominant in every practice and was as aggressive and spirited as any player on the field. He struggled a bit in Thursday's game but didn't allow a big play all week. Peppers also blocked a field goal that was ultimately negated because of an all-star-game specific rule.
In addition to the negated blocked field goal (above)—illegal because rushers on kicks weren't allowed to go inside their man in the UA Game, which... okay—Peppers had a couple passes defended, returned two kickoffs for 65 yards (one a 41-yard burst to midfield), and took a few snaps as a wildcat quarterback, though he couldn't break anything big offensively in a pretty ugly game overall, as high school all-star games tend to be.
Interestingly, Scout omitted both Hand and Lane from their top ten overall list, with neither cracking the top two of their respective position groups. It's safe to say Peppers made a strong argument that he deserves consideration for the top overall spot in the 2014 class.
[Hit THE JUMP for a whole lot of content from the All-American games, Michigan's latest 2014 offer, an update on George Campbell, a potential second quarterback in the '14 class, and more.]
Oh, Right ... That
There hasn't been a recruiting roundup since Jabrill Peppers tweeted his intention to take official visits after the season, catching not only Michigan fans off-guard, but also his fellow commits and even his own coach, Paramus Catholic's Chris Partridge—notably, the man who sets up all of Peppers' visits. After the tweet set fire to this corner of the internet, Peppers released a statement through Partrige:
I am still 100% committed to the University of Michigan and that is the place where I want to go to college. With the rumors about Coach Hoke possibly not being there I need to make sure that I have options and have seen other places in case the University of Michigan decides to go in a different direction. For the sake of my future I need to make sure I have other options. No need to look into it any further! Go Blue and beat TDS
Peppers reiterated that he's not decommiting and just wants to use any potential visits as a "security blanket," to Scout (via Sam Webb's latest column in the Detroit News).
Michigan has already begun efforts to assuage Peppers' fears, certainly with an eye on keeping him from taking any visits, which would put Brady Hoke in quite the bind as he balances the massive need to keep Peppers in the fold with the possibility of angering other commits—and displaying what could easily be interpreted as hypocricy by Michigan targets and their coaches—by not enforcing his no-visit policy. Dave Brandon's statement in support of Hoke specifically mentioned Michigan's national recruiting "from New Jersey to California, from Michigan to Florida." I don't believe New Jersey is in there by accident; in fact, the whole statement seems to be as much a response to the Peppers situation as it is to any fan discontent.
There are a few things working in Michigan's favor. Peppers and his Paramus Catholic squad play in the state championship game this weekend; the following weekend he's set to take his official visit to Michigan. Peppers didn't talk to Hoke when he made his statement last week—Hoke had a few other things to worry about—but he'll definitely find out where things stand when he's in Ann Arbor; if the coaches (and Brandon) can convince him that the program is on stable ground, it's entirely possible that this whole thing blows over without him ever setting foot on another school's campus.
Even if Peppers still wants to explore other schools after his Michigan official, the timing is tough; an NCAA-mandated recruiting dead period goes into effect after next week's visit, so he wouldn't be able to visit any school until mid-January, just a couple weeks before Signing Day.
For his part, Peppers certainly seemed committed to Michigan during The Game on Saturday, tweeting out his support multiple times during the game and indicating afterward that he'd be taking part in it next season, and not as a Buckeye. While the fact that Peppers even needs reassurance that Hoke will still be at Michigan next year isn't a good sign regarding his recruitment or the program, I don't think there's a lot to worry about here unless Peppers actually goes on other visits—for now, only his trip to Ann Arbor is set to go.
[After THE JUMP, Michigan drops the 'grey shirt' distinction for Brady Pallante, visit reactions from The Game, and a roundup of the latest on Michigan's commits who are still alive in the playoffs.]
As reported on multiple outlets, including this one, Michigan is in line to get a commitment sometime this week. Brandon promised the prospect he wouldn't mention his position, class, or location (or name, obviously), so I'll say that he is a football player, and his pledge will come as welcome news. This post will self-destruct in 3... 2... 1...
Darn, I was really hoping that would get me out of writing the rest of this post. The above was the good news. Here's the bad, per Scout's Allen Trieu ($):
Michigan also recently offered Williams and he was considering a visit to Ann Arbor but he now says he is ready to shut things down.
"As far as right now, I'm done with recruiting. My top two are Notre Dame and Missouri and just want to decide between those two. I'm just trying to figure it out."
That's 2014 Berrien Springs (MI) DE Jhonny Williams, whom Michigan offered immediately after they missed out on Da'Shawn Hand. Williams took an official visit to Notre Dame last weekend, had a great time, and decided he'd either stick with his current commitment to Missouri or flip to the Irish. So it goes.
A potential backup option to the backup option is WI TE/DE Gaelin Elmore. Elmore is a Minnesota commit; 247's Steve Lorenz reported that Michigan's coaches got in contact with him last week ($). Brandon caught up with Elmore to get more details, and for now he doesn't sound like a realistic option:
I'm not sure exactly what the coaches are planning with Elmore but he was pretty clear with how he is currently feeling. "I'm not really interested in Michigan at this point. It'd just be interesting to see what they had to say."
I don't know if the coaches were caught completely off guard by Hand's commitment to Alabama; it sure looks like they're scrambling to find a suitable replacement in the class.
[Hit THE JUMP to see which pair of highly-ranked 2015 targets have Michigan among their top schools, updates from last weekend's high school football action, and where Wolverine commits and targets stand in the updated ESPN 300 for 2015.]
This GIS went much better than expected.
This feature on Wilton Speight has perhaps the least informative headline ever; that's okay, though, because it comes from The Goochland Gazette, and [keels over laughing].
Okay, pull yourself together, post rapturous blockquote:
Standing in a huddle on the sideline with his teammates just before kickoff, he towers over his running backs and offensive line by a good five inches. He gestures confidently, like a conductor fully in charge of an orchestra, wholly in tune with and in charge of his surroundings.
The next thing that strikes your attention is that beautiful spiral. Tight and wind-resistance, he hums the pigskin all over the yard, from sideline-to-sideline, completing every route in the playbook - hitches, curls, posts, outs, you name it — with uniform ease. Comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger are a given, not only because of his 6’6, 230 pound frame, but also due to his surprisingly nimble feet and his innate ability to prolong plays and spin productive downs out of would-be sacks.
CA ATH JuJu Smith was always considered a longshot to end up at Michigan, even though he'd previously scheduled an official visit for the Ohio State game. After very positive visits to Notre Dame, Ohio State, and new contender Oregon, Smith dropped the Wolverines from his list, citing their less-than-stellar performance:
JuJu Smith said he thinks Michigan is a great school, but not a fit for him. Cancelled his visit said losses caused them to drop on his list
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) November 5, 2013
Before PANIC sets in, please note that this is relatively unusual; yes, of course winning helps recruiting, but normally a team's win/loss record affects the next class more than the current one (in this case, Michigan isn't doing itself any favors for 2015). If you click through to Tom's tweet, you'll note that he responds to someone stating that Da'Shawn Hand may feel the same way with a straightforward "No, I don't think that." Along those same lines...
There is no way that I would change my mind over 1 loss, the future is bright! Go blue 〽
— Drake Harris (@drizzygetbusy01) November 5, 2013
Now, does Michigan's demoralizing loss to State potentially affect 2015 in-state recruits like Mike Weber, Josh Alabi, and Brian Cole? Absolutely. To Michigan kids who've now seen MSU take five of the last six games, the Spartans are now the state's top football program—and the most stable one. That doesn't mean they won't consider U-M—the flip side to this is a recruit sees plenty of opportunity to help bring a traditionally strong program back to the top—but at the same time, it obviously doesn't help.
Hand's Final Visit
Da'Shawn Hand's final official visit comes on Saturday when he watches 4-4 Florida take on Vanderbilt; while the Gators were once considered a potential dark horse, a season even uglier than Michigan's has robbed them of any momentum, especially with coach Will Muschamp squarely on the hot seat (while a team's record doesn't have a huge effect on most recruits, the coach recruiting them potentially not having a job next year usually does). Rivals's Mike Farrell, who's the recruiting reporter in closest regular contact with Hand, says in his latest column that he thinks Michigan holds a slight edge over Alabama ($). It's hard to see Florida jumping into the mix with Hand's announcement coming a week from today.
The M Block's Eric Rutter pens a lengthy, quote-filled feature on 2014 commit Chase Winovich, covering his season, playing both ways this year, his friendship with fellow Pennsylvanian Sterling Jenkins (both plan to visit for the OSU game), and his feelings on Hand and Malik McDowell:
Chase then went on to share his thoughts on how Michigan will close the 2014 class, focusing specifically on defensive line prospects Malik McDowell and DaShawn Hand. "I have a gut feeling that Malik McDowell will go to Michigan. I'm not to sold on [DaShawn] Hand yet, but people seem pretty, pretty, really, really confident that they know their stuff and say he's headed to Michigan. So I'm going to trust them and say, yeah, I hope he's going to Michigan. But like I said, I definitely have that gut feeling on Malik McDowell." This would put the finishing touches on a strong class that ranks among the best in the country for 2014.
Winovich is apparently taking his recruiting guru cues from Sam Webb.
If you've got a 247 subscription, Clint Brewster looks at five candidates to be Michigan's next 2015 commit ($).
247 released their Crystal Ball rankings; I'm currently ranked #40 (out of 194, so... I'll take it!) for 2014 and, thanks to Michigan's early efforts, am all the way up at #16 for the class of 2015.