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"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.]
J-Reall Recognize Real, That Is
Jabrill Peppers is doing pretty well for himself. The five-star recruit is one of the most sought-after prospects in the country. His highlight tape is 12 minutes of filth, in a good way. Before too long he'll likely choose whether he wants to attend Michigan or Stanford, two of the finest schools—not to mention football programs—in the country.
It's no surprise, then, that USA Today chose Peppers to pen a blog detailing his recruitment and personal life, and some kids have such an overabundance of talent that the rest of us feel bad:
Most people don't know that I'm a music artist. They only know that I play football, but I've been singing and rapping as long as I've been playing football; since the age of 4 or 5.
Being the type of guy that I am I really take rap as a challenge. I'm from the hood, but I'm very well educated and I keep my verses clean. At the same time I appeal to the guys that I grew up with. I don't degrade women or rap dirty or anything like that I'm just real about my experiences.
This is what I really do. That's why my name is J-Reall. My cousin, Tiyahnn Bryant, gave me that name in third grade and it kinda stuck.
Normally, when I read about a high school kid's burgeoning music career, I move along before clicking on anything that could cause permanent hearing damage or complete loss of faith in the next generation*. This time, though, I clicked on the link to Peppers' song (the YouTube video above), and... it's pretty solid. Great beat selection (MF DOOM), solid flow—he sounds like a sober Curren$y, which does not exist in nature—and surprisingly polished lyrics ("I had it restless/during my adolescence/not having my pops mad depressin'"); I gave it two listens and didn't regret it, which I can't say about 85% of newly-released rap.
Oh, right, the part you really care about:
I do feel like I'm gonna be coming to a decision soon though. I just want it all to be over and done with.
Peppers further clarified that point to Sam Webb, saying he hopes to move up his Stanford visit so he can make a decision in June ($). When asked what made such a strong impact on him during his visit to Michigan, Peppers summed it up in the best possible way [emphasis mine]:
It wasn’t the “red carpet treatment” that allowed the Wolverines to set the visit standard by which others are now being measured. Turns out, it was exact opposite.
“Real recognize real,” Peppers said matter-of-factly. “That’s the shortest and sweetest way you can say it. Real recognize real. They didn’t put on a show and they just kept it 100. Basically who they are -- they remind me of my coaches right now. That’s how comfortable we felt there. It was like wow, it was like we were still at (Paramus Catholic). That was the main thing, just the comfort level and just how down-to-earth those guys are. How they are with their players. They coach you hard and just everything. It was a great visit.”
Peppers also has plenty of good things to say about Michigan in a free interview over at The M Block. His recent interviews, as we've gleefully pointed out at every opportunity, point strongly towards Michigan being in command of his recruitment; I've heard very promising things that haven't been printed (and won't), as well. How do you feel about all this, Stanford coach David Shaw?
Their education is almost as good as Stanford's? When is almost enough for a true competitor? 3 BCS in a row, #1 education in D1 #gostanford
— David Shaw (@CoachDavidShaw) April 30, 2013
He took it personal, I guess.
*I say this as a former member of a high school ska band. I've self-inflicted enough damage.
[For the latest on K.J. Williams, Alex Bars, Kalen Ballage, Kyron Watson, and much more, hit THE JUMP.]
Running back: I guess we should get one
Jonathan Hilliman has two Is in his last name.
ESPN's Jared Shanker reports Michigan was visiting NJ RB Jonathan Hilliman recently. Sort of:
Michigan was at the school of RB Jonathan Hilliman today, who at the beginning of the month put Michigan No. 2 on his top 10. He said today that he would no longer rank his top seven (his original top 5 of OSU, UM, Bama, Rutgers, Stanford plus Vandy and BC) but those are the schools he is focusing on. That is very subject to change, though.
He did not get to see the Michigan coaches today, however, as they came after school and Hilliman was already gone.
They were also checking out a couple teammates, one the a spectacularly-named 2015 CB named Minkah Fitzpatrick. Hilliman is a consensus three-star who claims mega offers: not only the midwest powers but Alabama, Georgia, Oregon, Florida, etc. Sometimes those lists are a little inflated—or a lot—but Hilliman is getting Florida coaches in and the Bama 247 site seems to think got a real offer, so…
In any case, with the Smith/Green duo of a year ago and a couple of promising 2015 kids waiting in the wings, tailback is not a huge priority for this class. They'll take one.
Hand continues giving interviews, not eating reporters
Unfortunately, VA DE Da'Shawn Hand didn't respond to an ESPN guy's question about how he feels about being #4 on the ESPN 150 with "TOO LOW /consumes reporter." He did talk his top five, sounding more enthusiastic about Alabama and Florida than he did previously but reiterating he's changing his major from engineering to sports management—Michigan has a whole school for that—and talking about the Wolverines thusly:
The coaches are genuine; the players love the coaches. The town itself. It's cold, but I can get used to that. Everything… the sports management professor was amazing; he blew me away.
Hand talks up South Carolina's food. On VT:
Bud Foster's my favorite coach. When I go there I feel like I'm at home. It's like going to your grandparent's house. And then you don't have to worry about any coaches changing positions or anything or getting fired. … nobody's leaving.
One point is awarded to whoever that kinesiology professor is. Here is some super-bonus deduction: Hand mentions that he still needs to talk to the Alabama guy in that field, says the South Carolina guy is a good guy but not "amazing," and seems to have changed his major plans after his Michigan visit. (He hasn't been to Florida yet.) That bodes well for M.
Here's a guy at OSU's ESPN site telling Buckeye fans to brace themselves as "Hand is likely gone to Michigan." /selfhighfive
Google Image Search for Chase Winovich: slightly terrifying
The M Block has acquired optimism in re: PA LB Chase Winovich, a consensus three-star that is nonetheless the subject of a heated recruiting battle between Michigan and Ohio State. Pitt is the other school in his top three($), and while the Panthers actually have a good track record against Michigan for WPIAL kids* it doesn't look like Winovich is going to stay in-state. He just made a second trip to Ohio State and is returning to Ann Arbor May 10th.
As for that optimism, the M Block:
The M Block has uncovered some information regarding the final linebacker spot in the 2014 class and we feel very confident that it could belong to Chase Winovich. Several sources close to the situation have informed us that Winovich will visit Michigan on May 10th and will have a chance to commit while on that visit.Obviously these situations are never 100% guaranteed but this one seems to be headed in that direction.
And a reiteration:
I talked to 2014 LB Chase Winovich last night...I'm standing by my prediction that he'll be a Wolverine.
HOWEVA, Rivals got a different vibe($) from their just-completed Pittsburgh camp, wherein Winovich said it was "always a dream" of his to go to OSU. Commit Michael Ferns was working on him and Winovich said that M visit "could be a watershed visit"—Rivals' words, not his—with a decision soon to follow. Momentum is with OSU, declareth Rivals.
Winovich would be an interesting addition to Michigan's class. At 6'4", 205, he's got a lot of filling out to do and likely projects to the SAM spot most had assumed the 6'3", 230 pound Ferns was headed for. If Michigan adds him they'd likely bring in Ferns as an MLB.
Winovich plans to pull the trigger in July.
@JabrillPeppers Bro Follow Back We Might Be Team Mates One Day ...
I'd be surprised if Watson is uncommitted into June.
Side note: Watson is about to be a father. In Let's Get Way Ahead Of Ourselves Theater, that provides plenty of motivation since it seems like the place he lives is not one he'd like to stay. If he does develop into a guy with significant NFL interest, he's probably not going to pull a Lewan. This has been Let's Get Way Ahead Of Ourselves Theater.
*[Jonathan Baldwin comes to mind most prominently.]
Between two Ferns: the camp
So Ferns showed out for Rivals and came away with an invite($) to the "Rivals Five Star Challenge," which is one of these nouveau invite-only camps like the Opening. Mike Farrell on Ferns:
"He is the stereotypical Big Ten linebacker," Farrell said. "He is explosive to the football and takes great angles. He is hard-nosed and physically impressive. He is exactly what you expect when you think of a major prospect from this area at that position."
I think that's supposed to be nice, but after this most recent NFL draft I am not entirely sure. The other guy to get an invite was PA S Monate Nicholson, who's taking his recruitment easy, man. Tim Sullivan notes that he's still in contact with Darrell Funk($) and tentatively plans a summer visit.
Speaking of that Peppers fellow
Not even the birth of TomVH's daughter (congrats!) could move NJ CB Jabrill Peppers's announcement date up to last weekend, but he did rumble about getting things over with a lot faster than anyone expected. Also via the M Block:
Jabrill Peppers head coach says "He is getting close to a decision. He will prob make his decision in early June to focus on Sr. year."
(Peppers retweeted that, FWIW.) That would be very good for Michigan. He's got a Stanford visit upcoming… in July($). Either that gets bumped up or it's all over but the awkward self-high-fiving at your computer.
TomVH also talked to Peppers on an ESPN podcast. He's noncommital for the most part, but does say he'll only take two officials… if he goes that long uncommitted.
UPDATE: Sam Webb talked to Peppers' coach($), who says that a Stanford visit will occur before any decision is made.
Show's over folks
WR commit Drake Harris:
I'm not talking to anymore coach's I'm happy with the decision I made, and nothing is going to change my mind
Send your missives, Mississippi State, and they will be ignored. Meanwhile, some guy asked Harris "do you even lift bro?" Harris said he just started a month and a half ago.
I am not paying attention to 2016 recruits($) until they are out of the womb, okay? If I was, I might mention that there's an instate WR kid at Farmington Hills Harrison named Desmond Fitzpatrick who is probably going to be one of the top five kids in the state. But I won't, because that kid is still in the developmental stage where he's got flippers.
Happy trails to NC RB Elijah Hood, who committed to Notre Dame, which makes me sad since it's basically irrelevant. Boo on you, end of ND series. Also happy trails to PA S Dravon Henry, who didn't include Michigan in his top four.
Michigan is still looking at($) MI TE Kyle Rachwal as a FB or LB after confirming to him that Ian Bunting fills their single spot at TE.
Michigan's extremely-critical 2014 class has a couple of guys who already sport offers but have not committed for reasons that are unclear to me. I mean srsly, you can play for Pilot Walter White in a fun system and go to the Final Four. Commit already you guys.
IN SF Vince Edwards, a guy with a median ranking around 60, says he's down to Michigan and Purdue and is looking for love. These things may not seem related, but they are.
"Just show me, you know?" Edwards said. "Just show me that you're interested. Just show me like you've been showing me."
Edwards on his finalists:
"I like both," Edwards said. "Honestly, I like Michigan because I really think their offense fits my style. Being a 6-7 wing who can shoot, that really fits in with Coach Beilein. He likes guys who can do that, so I think I can really fit in well with him and his offense and he thinks so, too.
"With Coach Painter, what I really like about Purdue is -- they're both actually great coaches -- but Coach Painter had to take some guys and develop them this year and you could tell by the way he coaches that he's a great coach. He can develop players really well."
Purdue's supposed to be in the tentative lead for some reason. I mean, what does Beilein have to do to prove he can develop guys?
Maybe he has to have a who-dat postgrad point guard go off for 17 points in the national championship ga—oh yeah that actually happened and was not a crazy dream we all had collectively. In conclusion, Matt Painter smells faintly of gasoline and Vince Edwards has an obvious choice.
Michigan's after MS SG Devin Booker, of course, and while one suitor probably took itself off the table when Duke took a commitment from big-timer Grayson Allen at Booker's position, Kentucky has now offered. Goody.
Touted 2015 center Stephen Zimmerman plans a visit, as does($) CA PG Sedrick Barefield. That class is the one in which Michigan's Final Four run should really open up possibilities. It helps with 2014, but the guys they're after are for the most part still the same guys they were after before.
Who's next, Malcolm Streamers lol zing
I AM TALL ARE YOU TALL CHANTEL IT'S TOUGH TO TELL BECAUSE PEOPLE UP TO EIGHT FEET SHORTER THAN ME ARE STILL TALL SOMETIMES
Michigan picked up their tight end in Ian Bunting, a 3/4 star tweener at the moment who should rise this fall if he can stay on the field for a change. Bunting has the offer list of a clear top 100 guy (M, ND, OSU, OU, USC, etc.) and enormous skillet-sized hands on a 6'7" frame. There is the Hello post; 247 also posted some extra analysis($) after that went up:
Similar to Michigan’s Devin Funchess, Bunting should be a great weapon in the red-zone against smaller defenders. Bunting shows strong hands with the ability to extend and pluck the ball out of the air. … I really like Bunting’s burst in and out of his breaks for as tall and long as he is. The ceiling is very high for Bunting, especially being in a very tight end friendly system at Michigan.
I am hyped about Bunting, and I hear the coaches are too. He was the proverbial #1 TE on their board—and a lot of others.
Actually it's probably Mo Ways
Ways is on campus as you read this. It's hat-eatin' time if he doesn't commit today.
And then probably Kyron Watson
Kyron Watson terrifies Alex Anzalone
IL LB Kyron Watson features in a freebie by Allen Trieu in which his coach flat-out states he's a visit away from a commitment:
"His top two, I think, honestly are Michigan of course and Kansas. Michigan because it’s Michigan. Kansas, it's because of Reggie Mitchell. He's great recruiter for our type of kids, which I’ll call inner-city kids. … I believe, and I can’t speak for Kyron, but as soon as he gets a visit to Michigan, I believe he'll walk away committed to them."
Pencil that in. The days when Charlie Weis could keep kids from Ann Arbor are long over. As for what kind of player Watson is, your keyword is "violent":
It only takes a play or two of Kyron Watson's highlight tape to understand what you're dealing with. The 6'1, 220-pound junior made 142 tackles last season, but it was the three or four at the start of his tape, violent de-cleaters, which immediately caught the eyes of college coaches. …
"He's always been an aggressive kid. Towards the end of year, he began to understand it and blew up in terms of physical contact and meeting them in the hole. He's a special kid. As he grew, the impact of hips became a little more damaging. He came in at like 160-165-pounds. He's 220 now. In two years, he gained basically 60 pounds."
His best other offers are Missouri, Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois, and MSU; he does have a believer in ESPN.
And eventually Parrker Westphal
Sullivan catches up with the guy I invariably call a Todd Howard protégé in a lengthy article that confirms a lot of what we already know about him: ie, that he'll probably commit sooner or later. He's got an interesting top five($) forming:
"I told the Michigan coaches that whatever list that I cut down, whether it's a top five or top three, they'll be in it," he said. I'll make that cut probably the summer. I'm hoping earlier, but we'll see. No [other schools have a spot on that list] so far, but Northwestern and Vanderbilt, they're ranked pretty high because academically and athletically they're pretty good. They'll probably be in it.
Always good to see a guy with Vandy and Northwestern as serious options consider M, as those kind of kids are low-attrition sorts that often pick M even when ND, OSU, and Florida are options, as they are for Westphal.
Westphal wants to make a decision before his high school season, which means anyone trying to catch Michigan will have to do so without the opportunity for an official visit.
Also: Westphal talked a lot about how Michigan wants to blitz him, so he may be destined for the nickelback/safety spot that Dymonte Thomas is currently slotted in.
And then those Paramus guys
ESPN's Jared Shanker catches up with both. NJ OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty had previously declared Michigan his leader and basically confirms that:
The Wolverines are in a strong position for the top 10 tackle nationally following the two-day visit earlier this month, which he took with five-star teammate Jabrill Peppers.
“It just felt like a lot of what I was looking for,” the four-star said. “Everything felt like a family. The player felt like real guys; the coaches felt like real guys.”
He maintains a top three of M, Boston College, and Florida, and says he has offers from all plus FSU, Miami, and Tennessee. He says he'll probably pull the trigger in the next couple months.
As for NJ CB Jabrill Peppers, this is a tantalizing headline($) for a guy who just declared Michigan his leader:
Peppers should know future school soon
The money quote:
“Definitely after I visit Stanford I should have it pretty clear where I want to go,” Peppers said.
The five-star cornerback is coming off April trips to LSU, Michigan and Ohio State, and while Peppers did not tip his hand, people close to the dynamic two-way athlete say Michigan has a sizeable lead of those three. He has listed Stanford as his No. 1 for several months and will visit Palo Alto before officially dropping them from the top of his list.
HOWEVA, Peppers isn't going to commit after the Stanford visit, at least not publicly. He plans to take a couple of officials after his high school season, at which point he may as well just announce at an All-Star game. Hopefully that'll be one of those anticlimactic ones.
Touted DC CB Jalen Tabor visited yesterday as part of a team-wide swing through the Midwest. AZ OL Casey Tucker decommits from USC($), may poke around Michigan, doubt we see much come of this. PA S Montae Nicholson has many offers($), refreshingly seems to not give two hoots about deciding between them. Michigan is mentioned in a quasi-top eight.
IL DE Terry Beckner, Watson's HS teammate, was one of the best performers($) at the St. Louis Rivals camp:
2. DE TERRY BECKNER JR., EAST ST. LOUIS, ILL. (2015)
Despite Hendrix's dominating performance on Sunday, his was not a walkaway MVP win because Beckner nearly matched his interconference foe in level of domination. Beckner is an imposing 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds and shows an advanced technical grasp of his position for a sophomore. He plays with great pad level and has exceptionally fast hands. Most impressive was his two-rep win over four-star offensive guard D.J. Foster, who has been nearly unbeatable in past camps.
"Terry will be, at some point, this is my early prediction, a top ten player next year. For his age and size, the skill set he has, he’s a very dominant player and will only get better. He gave what they consider a top 100 player, Dewayne Hendrix, a run for his money as being the best guy there at the camp on Sunday. The sky’s the limit. He will even play a little offense this year. Terry, I believe, will be the first five-star at East St. Louis in this era."
Beckner has the local offers: Illinois, Kansas, Mizzou, Purdue, Nebraska.
Touted Mason Cole teammate and FL WR George Campbell shrinks to 6'3" in this article—a lot of places list him at 6'5"—in which he talks about the broken hand keeping him out of action and says he's talking to Michigan, Auburn, and A&M. He also went to the Vandy and Florida spring games.
QB commit Wilton Speight picks up a Miami offer.
Tick tock, Maurice Ways
MI WR Maurice Ways did get his offer over the weekend. He did not commit, possibly so that he could follow through on a promise to go up to Michigan State's spring game. Ways said a Michigan commitment was a "huge possibility($). Huge!
But Ways did not commit. Why:
“I’ve got a scholarship so it’s a good chance. But my parents were very excited, growing up a Michigan fan, being in the state of Michigan, playing for Michigan football it just seems like the right thing to do.
“But once again I do want to wait my options and not rush into anything and make sure it’s the right fit for me and my family as a football player and as a young man.”
Ways is setting up another Ann Arbor trip. When that occurs I will eat my hat if he doesn't commit. #justpullthetriggeralready
Visitors and such
Westphal is #21
IL CB Parrker Westphal was the headliner. Afterwards he told 247 that "Michigan was still the standard($)" and that he considered committing but decided to hold off until he goes on another couple visits in May. This was his sixth trip to Ann Arbor. If not for Ways, Westphal would be your leading candidate for next commitment. #jptta
BONUS: Westphal came in for a full-on (free) profile from 247. I lol'd:
“When my friends were out partying, I’d be at home studying, doing situps and pushups and go for a run at night,” Westphal said. “I’d try and do what Herschel Walker did. Those 3,500 situps, 1,500 pushups, that dude was a freak. I think he lied about that. That’s hard. You need time to do that.”
AZ TE Mark Andrews visited OSU, told Eleven Warriors some noncommital things about Ohio State, visited Michigan, about which I can find nothing, visited ND, and told 247 some nice things about ND($). With Michigan seemingly days away from its second commitment from a 6'4" wide receiver, Andrews's positional preference probably means this is the last we'll hear about his recruitment:
“I don’t want to be the guy that sits on the line and blocks. I want to be the guys making plays with the ball in his hands,” the No. 62 overall prospect in the line said. “But with how Notre Dame uses the tight end it fits my skill set well. I love Notre Dame’s offense and how they utilize the position.”
Michigan has filled his spot if he's averse to playing TE. Also I can't turn up anything from the Michigan sites on him. Bad sign.
IL TE Ian Bunting was a little more open about his thought process:
"I liked it a lot. They have great people and just a really cool culture there." Bunting wasn't ready to name a leader yet but he did say he was going to sit down and narrow his list in the next couple of days. He wasn't sure if his list was going to be a top 2, 3, or even 5, but he did say Michigan would be on that list regardless of the length.
The M Block's vibe is that Michigan is still behind… someone. The conventional wisdom is that would be Notre Dame. He told Allen Trieu much the same($), saying Michigan was "near the top" and he'd have a shortlist soon. 247 got some more detail($):
"I got to sit down with the coaches and we watched a lot of film," he said. "We didn't just watch film from Michigan games, but also San Diego State games as well. They wanted to show me first hand the transition they are making from where they were when Denard was their quarterback to where they eventually want to get to in using their tight ends. I've played receiver my entire career, but know I will be a tight end at the next level and am ready to work hard and show that I can play on the blocks as well."
Turning Bunting's head is a little more important because of part of this next section.
A guy Michigan does lead for
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt interviewed MO LB Kyron Watson at the St. Louis camp that occurred over the weekend, and Watson flat-out said Michigan was his leader($):
Helmholdt: Is there a team you're really excited about right now?
Watson: Yeah, it's Michigan right now. [coy smile]
Evaluations are all over the place on Watson. He's 100th on ESPN, a 3/4 star borderline guy on Rivals, and a generic three star at the other two places. TCU, Missouri, and Illinois are the main competitors.
IL TE Daniel Helm was at that same event and impressed Helmholdt:
"I think he has the ability to play at an elite level," Helmholdt said. "He is a receiving tight end and won the MVP of the Rivals Underclassman Challenge last year, so we will see what happens."
Helmholdt said that, along with his physical makeup, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound player has a personality that draws others to him.
"First of all, he is a super-nice kid who is shy in the way that even he is impressed that we think he is a four-star player," Helmholdt said. "He is respectful and humble.
"As far as being a prospect, I think he has a lot of upside. Right now he has coat-hangar shoulders, and I could see him easily getting up to 240 or 250 pounds."
Also he is refreshingly honest about his F5-pounding abilities in re: his ranking:
"(I look) more than I should," Helm joked. "That is all I'm going to say."
Helm said he knew he was the No. 201 player in the country, as well as the No. 6 tight end. He added that he wasn't checking the rankings as a motivational tool but a measuring stick.
In an interview similar to the Watson one($) he mentioned that Florida had not actually offered him yet despite their presence in his top four. If that decision does come soon they would not be a factor, leaving just Tennessee and Ole Miss as competition.
Unfortunately, Rivals's Dallas Jackson came away from that camp thinking Tennessee was his leader:
If I had to make one prediction about YOUR FACE it is that is is WRONG sorry sorry be professional… be professional.
We'll see if that's just a one-off thing or not. If you're looking at Helm's unease at waiting and possibly passing up a spot as a good thing for Michigan, Tennessee already has a TE this year and took two last year; Ole Miss took three last year. Options are limited at all of his top schools.
Wouldn't it be nice
ESPN has a feature breaking down the recruitments of their top ten players. Michigan is involved with four: CA CB Adoree' Jackson, VA DE Da'Shawn Hand, VA DT Andrew Brown, and NJ CB Jabrill Peppers. It won't surprise you to find out that ESPN says Michigan leads for Peppers, but they buck the conventional wisdom($) with one Mr. Hand:
Who's in the driver's seat: Michigan
Other candidates: Alabama, Florida and South Carolina
Dark horse: Virginia Tech
Most recent visit: Hand recently took a visit to South Carolina.
What they said: On Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison: "He's always energetic. That dude is insane. I don't know how old he is, but at heart that dude is 21," he said. "We get there and he is listening to Rihanna and Drake, he was dancing and singing. The players said he's really like that, too. That dude is wild."
TomVH says Mattison is Michigan's "secret weapon." If Michigan does manage to snatch Hand away from VT there will be Bud Foster Forever Alone ragecomics.
Virginia is leading for Brown, and Jackson—an Illinois transplant who's only been in California for one year—is completely wide open. HOWEVA, Michigan was mentioned as a team "rising" for Brown at 247 and he told Scout that he plans an M/OSU trip($) "in the near future," presumably after he makes a southern swing through Alabama, Florida, FSU, and Not That USC.
Also in Hand positive vibes, Steve Lorenz says Hand's dad is on board($) with M and that they're even with VT.
Everything's coming up Milhouse
NJ DE/TE Garrett Dickerson has a top five($), and it's an interesting one: Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford, and Northwestern. His brother already plays for the Wildcats, if you're playing the One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other game. On Michigan:
“I visited there last year and had a great time, and really enjoyed that atmosphere and the coaches are great. The facilities are great as well.”
Dickerson hasn't been back since that November visit. He also saw OSU around then. He just went to Stanford and Northwestern, and hasn't been to Tuscaloosa at all yet. The nerd schools have to be the favorites, then, until Dickerson finds his way to others in his top five. He had to shoot down some rumors that he committed to Stanford, FWIW.
Scott impresses, says recruiting is a foreign thing
FL WR Artavis Scott may not like talking to reporters about what he's thinking
One of the most impressive athletes out on the field at IMG Academy was Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake wide receiver Artavis Scott. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder caught upwards of five touchdowns passes on Saturday, showing his ability to run nearly every type route.
"I don't know. I really don't worry about all that stuff right now. I really don't have any standings on any team," said Scott.
His mom likes Florida "but, I don't know, it's whatever I want."
Semi-weekly Damien Harris tweet
2015 KY RB Damien Harris's latest foray into indicating to everyone he would like to go to Michigan:
Me and my bro
@GeorgeCampbell0 need to take a trip to Ann Arbor together soon! #136
Campbell, the massively-touted 2015 teammate of commit Mason Cole and target Artavis Scott, retweeted it. Let's all have a tizzy.
Just got off the phone with Coach Borges. Had a productive conversation! Go Blue!
The suspense is not killing me here. #jptta
Etc.: Michigan offers FL LB Darrion Owens($). Reminder: Tim Sullivan of Rivals confirms that offer to TX RB Vic Enwere I was a little suspicious of was a reporter getting M and MSU mixed up.
2015 stuff: Add the name "Tim Settle" to your radar; the VA DT has local offers and is claiming interest from all three Big Ten heavyweights. MI OL Kyonta Stallworth has offers from… uh, UCLA and Florida($)? Wow? M offers($) IL LB Terry Beckner Jr. M makes top ten($) for CO RB Christian McCaffrey (yes that McCaffrey).
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE ARE RECRUITING IN SPACE
Hi. Ace is off for the next week and I, Brian, am piloting you through the interstellar gulf that exists between your brain and those of extremely talented young football players who haven't instantly chosen to play at Michigan, which like come on man.
Shall we take stock?
Michigan's scholarship count stands at 15 right now. Technically it's 14 since Michigan is at 86, give or take a long snapper scholarship and Will Hagerup's existence. It'll be 15 by August. From there normal levels of attrition will see them reach 20 or so. Assuming 20:
QB(1): Wilton Speight, check.
RB(1): Unknown. Michigan has a few offers out to three-star sorts. Colorado Kalen Ballage may be your leading candidate; more likely Michigan's RB in this class will be someone you haven't heard of yet.
WR(3): Drake Harris is in the barn, mid-four-star KJ Williams is still saying Michigan is his leader after the post-visit glow has worn off. Instater Maurice Ways is reputedly on the verge of an offer he won't take long to accept. Mason Cole teammate Artavis Scott has backed off the promise of a package deal but is still high on Michigan and just visited for spring. Childhood M fan Corey Holmes is another possibility.
TE(1): Whoever it is, he'll probably be from Illinois. Daniel Helm has backed off after announcing Michigan his leader and now maintains a top four with Michigan and a few Southern schools. Alarmingly, Ole Miss is amongst them. Ian Bunting may favor Notre Dame at the moment but will visit USC and Michigan before a forthcoming decision. Nic Weishar is also coming up on a decision.
OL(4): Mason Cole is in the barn. Jabrill Pepper's teammate Juwann Bushell-Beaty maintains Michigan as his leader; Blake Bars's brother Alex Bars is a top 100 prospect at tackle; Drake Harris's teammate Tommy Doles has seemed to be on the verge of dropping for months but recent scuttlebutt has him holding off despite the possibility of a crunch.
NT(1): Bryan Mone in the barn. With Hurst/Pipkins/Henry(?) in front of him Michigan can be done. Mone could play three tech, but if Michigan gets Hand and McDowell, he's the nose in that group.
SDE/3T(2): Michigan trails VT for #1 overall player Da'shawn Hand… probably. See below. Instate star Malik McDowell is rumored to be a Michigan lean.
SAM/WDE(1): Ferns barn, likely a SAM. With Ojemudia and Charlton they could skip a WDE. If they don't there's an obvious candidate in instater Lawrence Marshall. He was briefly an OSU commit; he'll come down to those guys and the two in-state schools.
ILB(2): A spot where OSU has held onto some in-state stars Michigan was after; now M is on to plan B. Those appear to be IL LB Kyron Watson and PA LB Chase Winovich. Winovich is a big guy a 6'4" and may end up a SAM type; Watson is more of a WLB. Both are three stars, but Winovich also has an OSU offer.
CB(2): If Michigan can hold off Stanford they'll reel in consensus five star Jabrill Peppers. Todd Howard protégé Parrker Westphal seems likely to join up. Californian Adoree Jackson is another five-star who has Michigan high on his list.
S(2): Californian Juju Smith has Michigan a solid member of a top five that leads you to believe a CA exit is possible; he could play WR but Michigan's in on a bunch of those. Pennsylvanian Montae Nicholson is another option.
K/P(0): With Wile, McGrath, and Allen on the roster next year they can go without. Would not be surprised to see them look for a quality walk-on kicker to compete with McGrath.
ESPN ranks them all
ESPN has put out its top 300. Players of interest (bold: commit; italics: have at least a 50-50 shot):
- #2 NJ CB Jabrill Peppers
- #4 VA DE Da'Shawn Hand
- #5 CA CB Adoree Jackson
- #29 LA WR Malachi Dupre
- #55 TN OL Alex Bars
- #62 CA S John "Juju" Smith
- #69 MI DT Malik McDowell
- #72 UT DT Bryan Mone
- #75 FL WR Corey Holmes
- #85 FL WR Artavis Scott
- #87 IL CB Parrker Westphal
- #96 MI WR Drake Harris
- #107 MI DE Lawrence Marshall
- #112 OH LB Michael Ferns
- #120 NJ OT Juwan Bushell-Beatty
- #125 VA QB Wilton Speight
- #145 FL OT Mason Cole
- #208 AZ TE Mark Andrews
- #239 PA S Montae Nicholson
That's a pretty long list of targets, one that includes every Michigan commit so far in their top 150. Michigan has a good shot at bringing in ten to twelve of the ESPN 150. Pants? Off.
He loves me, he loves me not
ESPN has just released preliminary rankings—remember when they were supposed to be getting rankings out before these kids' junior year?—and we're getting a look at their usual idiosyncrasies. One to the good is Wilton Speight, who makes Tom Luginbill's top ten quarterbacks:
7. QB-PP Wilton Speight
Richmond, Va./Collegiate School
This guy has some juice to him. The more you watch Speight, the more subtle, savvy traits show up. Physically he reminds us of Brock Osweiler (the Arizona State Osweiler, not the high school version). He possesses great size and adequate bulk. He's strong with deceptively good mobility and athleticism. Stands tall and is balanced in the pocket. Drop speed and set up is quick and steady. Plays with poise and confidence in his abilities.
Luginbill says the position is down a bit nationally. FWIW, he's the #4 pocket passer in their rankings. Last year the #4 pocket guy was 64th overall (Stanford commit Ryan Burns). Shane Morris was 8th; the top 10 were in their 150. Ballpark Speight around 100th, it would seem.
On the other hand, while two Michigan WR targets do appear in Luginbill's take on the WR class Drake Harris does not. Luginbill on Holmes:
7. WR Corey Holmes
Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas
Holmes is a lean and lanky prospect with ideal height and long limbs. He is flexible and plays primarily on the inside as a slot in high school, but could be an outside threat for the next level. He is shifty and fluid, which makes it difficult to gauge his deceptively good speed and acceleration.
Complete eval | Highlights
9. WR Artavis Scott
Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake
Scott has very few physical weaknesses, but he also lacks ideal measurables in terms of bulk and strength. Given his frame, he still needs to add strength to aid his physicality. He displays good straight-line burst off the line of scrimmage. This is a very fluid and smooth player in his overall movements. Does not show breakaway speed on tape, but does have good enough downfield speed and quickness to be an adequate outside route runner at the next level.
Complete eval | Highlights
Harris must have been #11.
The next to drop
If aforementioned MI WR Maurice Ways does pick up an offer that means a couple things: Michigan is ready to take his commitment and they like the kid quite a bit since they've got higher rated guys on the hook and are willing to push one of them elsewhere. The offer situation as of ten days ago($):
"They said I'm very high on their radar," Ways explained. "I've been their most talked-about recruit the past two weeks. They're saying just to be patient. They're going to watch my film again as a staff Monday, and make a decision from there."
Monday was, uh, Monday, and the chatter out there indicates that offer could be forthcoming soon. Other candidates include Pick A Tight End and the aforementioned Parrker Westphal, who will also be in this weekend.
Tight ends resolved while you wait
More on that Ian Bunting kid: the small-forward-sized Illinois TE did just go to Notre Dame and came back speaking thusly:
“I found out that Notre Dame is a special place,” Bunting said. “It’s really cool with all the history. There is something special there with all the tradition they have and I love the way they use their tight ends. I’m definitely higher on them than I was before.”
He's at USC today; tomorrow he will be at Michigan. A decision "could come shortly after." Bunting's been reticent about stating anything more than a vague top group. ND is probably the team to beat given the above quote; his only other visits since last year's football season were to Oregon, Wisconsin and Northwestern, and I can't find anything similarly positive on those trips. Hoke and company have shown an ability to flip kids' minds once they get on campus, which I think we say every week but you're probably not tired of that fact yet. It is thus concluded we will keep saying it.
IL TE Daniel Helm's timeline is getting shorter($) as well:
"Originally I was hoping to take official visits, now I am realizing positions fill up and sometimes the scholarship you may want might not be there. So, I am pretty confident I will make a decision before the season, but I'm not sure when."
Helm's been to each of his top four schools (Michigan, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Florida); Michigan may have an advantage since they just got a second, this one with his dad. Helm also publicly favored Michigan not too long ago($), and was telling Nebraska sites it was M.
Meanwhile, IL TE—they're all IL TEs—Nic Weishar will visit($) the twin spires of Mordor this weekend, whereupon he'll sit down and come out with a short top list. Weishar visited Michigan a month ago($), and hit up a few other schools earlier. Dollars to donuts this comes down to an old-fashioned Midwestern three corners match between ND, M, and OSU.
Michigan also has AZ WR/TE Mark Andrews coming in. He's ranked as a WR by most of the scouting services despite actually being heavier than Bunting and Helm; he's checking Michigan out as part of a ND/OSU/M Midwest swing. He grew up an Oklahoma fan($) and has a brother there, so they're the tentative favorite. Michigan will either be in a leading group or out after the weekend.
The Hand Of God
Da'Shawn Hand demonstrating the fish story coaches who do not successfully recruit him will tell.
That would be #1 overall player VA DT Da'Shawn Hand, who Michigan is after in a serious way. Hand talked to Yahoo radio recently, and declaimed thusly:
- he "recently decided" he wants to major in sports management, something that came up as he's talking Alabama.
- What is it about Michigan? "Everything. The coaches, the players, the town, the professors, the academic buildings, the food… it was cold, but I can manage that, I'm from Philly. Everything was just great about it."
- Meanwhile, on VT: "Well, first, they're close to home. Bud Foster's been my favorite coach… it just feels like home there. [garbled] …I'm just comfortable there and they play good football."
- He wants to take his officials; has no timeline.
He hasn't been down to Florida yet and his statements about the other SEC teams in his top five (South Carolina and Alabama) were considerably more lukewarm than the two I transcribed above. Everyone says VT is on top, but if you had to pick from the quotes above…
From Wolverine Nation, an article on the potential for guys to hop aboard($) the class before their spot gets full. MI OL Tommy Doles:
“I’d like to know by the summer and whether or not I’d have to [decide] before then, I guess I’d have to think about that when it came around,” Doles said. “But yeah, it could accelerate things if it were to happen.”
A couple of the WRs pop in to say similar things. We could see some quick movement at the catching positions if Ways is offered and commits as KJ Williams, Artavis Scott, and possibly Corey Holmes think it over.
Let's all debunk RCMB nuts
MI WR Drake Harris's recruiting process took a major turn during the course of his junior year, when he found out he was a capital-E Elite football prospect and only a good basketball prospect. He changed what sport he was going to play; thus the decommit. This is not an eyebrow-cocking Gunner Kiel saga.
“Drake is firmly committed to playing at Michigan, and I would be absolutely shocked if he didn’t follow through it,” Fellows said. “People forget that Drake was going to Michigan State to play basketball and football, and MSU was the best choice for him to play football and basketball. …
“Once he decided to play just football, that all changed, so it’s unfair to compare the two scenarios. Drake told me his heart is at Michigan, and I am taking his word at it. I’ve known Drake since the eighth grade, and he has never lied to me. He went to Ohio State on Friday and Michigan on Saturday, and he told me that’s all he had to see.”
Never say never and all that; Harris is no more likely to decommit than anyone else Brady Hoke's picked up in his three years. He in fact got his re-recruitment done early because he's sick of the song and dance. You have a 2% chance, decommit-chasing guys. Have fun storming the castle.
Michigan has an offer out to OH S Erick Smith, who is at Glenville and thus has visited OSU all the time($). He is planning a Michigan trip in the near future along with visits to Alabama and Tennessee; in general prospects with a Glenville kid who has an OSU offer are always going to be dim. This is a hill to climb for a guy who hasn't been on M's campus:
He’s seen the Buckeyes more than once and always walks away feeling good. His last visit was nine days ago at student appreciation day, where he brought his parents along for the ride. All three liked what they saw.
“It’s the atmosphere and the people,” Smith said. “When you go there, they’re all for real.
“My dad is getting used to it, so he enjoyed himself. My mom loved it. She talked about getting down there and getting to know them better.”
Michigan offers TX RB Vic Enwere, a three-star with middling offers. Unless it was actually Michigan State who offered. The usual with three-star sorts from far away: he'll be on the radar once he visits. [UPDATE: Rivals's Tim Sullivan passes along a note that the Enwere offer was erroneously reported; it's actually an MSU offer.]
The future: the usual
2015 KY RB Damien Harris, you have the power:
It would be pretty tight if me and Drake Harris both committed to Michigan!
Harris, regarded as one of the top tailbacks in his class, already has an offer and mostly tweets 1) things about how he likes Michigan and 2) retweets of other people telling him to go to Michigan (which is an NCAA violation, don't do that). If he doesn't end up in the next class it'll be a surprise.
Malik McDowell offered by Alabama and LSU. M offers LA S Mattrell McGraw, says he'll visit soon with teammate and consensus top 100 prospect Malachi Dupre. McGraw's rankings haven't caught up to a booming offer sheet. NJ OL Juwan Bushell-Beatty says he's "getting closer to a decision($)," possibly after visits to offerees Florida and Tennessee. An early decision is better for Michigan.