also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
Raiding The Old Dominion
Michigan is once against looking to the state of Virginia, where they've pulled Derrick Green and Wilton Speight in the last two classes, for an infusion of talent. The Wolverines have put out offers to 2015 top-100 WDE Clelin Ferrell and heralded 2016 WR Scott Bracey, both of Richmond Benedictine College Prep. In a two-part article, Sam Webb interviewed Benedictine coach Greg Lilly to get the scoop on the pair ($):
Greg Lilly: “Coach Manning has done a great job as far as recruiting the guys. When he has had the opportunity to get to the state of Virginia has always come by and seen us and he has done a really good job when he has been here. He is a very nice guy, personable guy. I think he had a great rapport with the kids. I can’t remember if it was in January or December, whatever that recruiting period was, but Coach Hoke did come in and stop by and let us know how interested they were in both kids. I think both the guys, Clelin and Scott were impressed by that and honored by that. We’re a small private school, 275 boys. It is a military school, a catholic school. There is obviously an emphasis put on their education and them wanting to go to good academic schools and be good student-athletes and obviously Michigan offers that opportunity.”
Ferrell and Bracey have been taking unofficial visits together, and Lilly said "they are going to get out there and see Michigan," when they take some trips this summer. It appears Michigan has a better shot with Ferrell—despite being in the class below him, Bracey holds more offers at the moment—though the Wolverines are in the mix for both.
[Hit THE JUMP for a quick recap of last weekend's visits, the latest on Brian Cole and several other 2015 prospects, and more.]
Damien Harris: Not Gone, Gone, Gone, Woooooaaaahhhh
Sam Webb caught up with Damien Harris's mother in the wake of the former commit's visit last weekend; she had very positive things to say about Doug Nussmeier, and it sounds like her son still has Michigan on top ($):
“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.]
Junior Day: No Commits, Still A Success
Shaun Crawford (left) and Tyree Kinnel at the MSU game [Fuller]
Brandon continues to round up reactions from yesterday's Michigan State game/Junior Day, which featured high-profile visitors such as Damien Harris and Brian Cole. Michigan nearly secured their second commit of the 2016 class; while Traverse City West OL Thiyo Lukusa ultimately decided to take his time, the Wolverines are his team to beat:
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.
Lukusa understandably wants to see more schools before he makes a commitment at this early juncture; it's tough to see a school overcoming Michigan even with so long to go until he signs an LOI. Hit the link for more reactions from yesterday's visitors.
After hosting him last weekend for their Underclassmen Day, Michigan offered 2017 Orchard Lake St. Mary's LB Josh Ross, the younger brother of Michigan LB James Ross. The younger Ross already holds offers from Oklahoma and Michigan State, and he told Steve Lorenz that U-M provides a point of comparison for the other schools pursuing him ($):
"I hear stories about [James's] work in the weight room and he is definitely enjoying his time at Michigan," [Ross] said of his brother. "It does give Michigan a bit of advantage because I've been around it a lot and know everyone in the program so well, whether it be players, coaches or even parents and all of that stuff. I know exactly what Michigan is all about and what they have to offer me. They give me something to compare other programs to going forward."
With his early offers and pedigree, Ross has the look of a national-level prospect—expect Michigan to have plenty of competition for his signature.
Offers keep going out to 2015 prospects, as well; four-star DC CB Marcus Lewis got one late last week and told Lorenz he plans to visit Michigan and MSU either this spring or summer ($). Curt Mallory has already established a strong connection with Lewis, including multiple in-school visits, which should help the Wolverines moving forward.
Michigan Adds Walk-On Long Snapper/Potential YouTube Sensation
Allen Trieu reports Michigan has added 2014 Troy Athens long snapper Andrew Robinson as a preferred walk-on:
"It is great to be given this opportunity. I have worked so hard and put so much time into my snapping, i would have never thought it could get me this far and especially to a school with such football tradition like Michigan. I never doubted myself, I just knew it was going to be a long process and I didn't know where I would end up at the end."
As you can see from the video above, Robinson has some skills—the coaches said he'll have the opportunity to compete for a starting job this fall.
Michigan's first 2017 offeree, OH OL Josh Myers, told Tim Sullivan about his reaction to getting offered by the Wolverines ($):
"My expectations were to meet the coaches, and have a good time and get to meet some of the other players that are getting recruited and are committed. I wasn't quite expecting an offer or anything going into it. With that being said, it surpassed my expectations bigtime. I couldn't really believe it to be honest. I had tears in my eyes. I thanked them - I couldn't thank them enough - and I was just really excited."
Michigan is the best program among Myers's five offers, though there's a long time to go, of course. He's still open to all schools and planning to visit Kentucky, Ohio State, and Tennessee over the new few weeks.
Fast-rising 2015 IN LB Josh Barajas put Michigan among his top schools after receiving an offer, per Allen Trieu ($):
Barajas also visited rival Michigan State and several new offers have come since. Even though he remains open, he does have a few programs he is liking.
"For the most everyone is on the same level but I'd say Michigan, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Ole Miss are my top right now."
In variations on the same theme, coveted 2015 CA DE Keisean Lucier-South won't name leaders but did note the schools pursuing him the hardest, per Scout's Anna Hickey ($):
Though Lucier-South does not have any favorites at this point, he did name five schools that were recruiting him the hardest.
"UCLA, USC, Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee," Lucier-South said.
This one won't end any time soon, as KLS plans to take all his officials before making a commitment. LSU just put forth an offer, as well.
If you missed it, Brandon got an offer reaction from VA CB Garrett Taylor, who's got Michigan among his top schools.
Yup, Still Want
Damien Harris headlined last weekend's Best of the Midwest combine, and for good reason—no matter where you look, he leads off the list of top performers. Scout's Allen Trieu broke down his overall combine MVP performance:
One of the headliners was Madison Southern (Ky.) running back Damien Harris, a four-star junior who will challenge to be the top running back in the country on Scout. We all know Harris is fast and he proved that again by clocking in the 4.3s in his 40 yard dash. But he also showed grit, toughness and great technique when it came to the pass blocking drills. He took on some of the camp's most physical linebackers and won his reps. We also had a chance to see him catch the ball a little bit, something we had already known he could do from past events. He has shown time and time again that he is a complete all around back and did nothing to diminish his standing as our top prospect in the Midwest.
247's Barton Simmons called Harris "dominant" and stated Michigan and Ohio State are on top in Harris's recruitment right now. Another program recently entered the picture, however. Harris is slated to visit this weekend for Michigan's Junior Day; his other planned trip is to the latest school to enter the picture, Alabama, per Trieu ($):
The Wolverines are one of the schools he will visit in the near future. The other school is Alabama, his most recent offer.
"I'm going up to Michigan on the 23rd of this month then I'm taking a visit to Alabama on March 1st but after that I don't really know. I haven't made any plans for spring or who I'm going to check out for spring ball. I'll probably do that soon."
With Harris planning to extend his recruitment until Signing Day, the Tide have plenty of time to work their way towards the top of his list. Based on the quotes Harris has given since his decommitment, however, including this one to Land Grant Holy Land (SBNation's OSU outlet), Michigan will still be the team to beat going forward:
"Like I said earlier, my interest in [Michigan] hasn't gone down. I don't not like them as much as I did before, there's really nowhere I like more than that. But with coach Borges being gone, it's hard going somewhere with someone who didn't recruit you."
The latter part is why Harris took a step back; if he develops the a similar comfort level with Doug Nussmeier as he had with Al Borges and sees improvement in Michigan's offense, he should end up back in the fold.
Meanwhile, Michigan is making a strong push for 2015 Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, who visited campus last weekend. He said as much to 247's Steve Wiltfong ($):
"Yeah," Weber said on Wednesday when asked if the Wolverines are trending with him. "They are on me hard."
The Wolverines looked to be the clear leader early in Weber's recruitment before Harris committed and interest between both parties seemingly waned, allowing Michigan State to become Weber's leader; he even considered committing to MSU back in November. With Michigan redoubling their efforts to land Weber, however, the battle between the two in-state powers is pretty even at this point.
One 2015 running back you can cross off your wish list is recently offered TX four-star Ronald Jones II, who gave this refreshingly honest quote to Scout's new Midwest intern, Eric Rutter ($):
“[Michigan] probably won’t [be visited] to be honest,” said Jones. “If there is a great opportunity away from home then I would take it, but I would say location would be a factor.”
[Hit THE JUMP for new offers, visit reactions from last weekend, Shaun Crawford runnin' real fast, and more.]
Shaun Crawford: Fast
— The Opening (@TheOpening2014) February 15, 2014
Commit Shaun Crawford posted the second-best SPARQ rating at the Massillon (OH) Nike combine en route to becoming the third 2015 prospect invited to The Opening. Scout's Bill Greene caught up with Crawford to get his reaction and discuss his recruitment ($):
"I only trained the past two weekends for this, and it's hard to find indoor fields right now," he added. "My forty time was 4.50, and I know I can run faster than that. I can't complain because it's faster than last year, but my start wasn't good. I really wanted to beat last year's score of 90.0, and I blew that out of the water, so I'm happy with how everything turned out."
It's safe to say Crawford holds himself to a high standard. It's also safe to say he's strong in his commitment, as he also said, "every time I visit there I become more Michigan and more Michigan," before mentioning that he plans to do some recruiting of his own. Crawford will get a chance to do so this weekend when he visits for U-M's Junior Day.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest turn in the Malik McDowell recruitment, where things stand with a trio of 2015 running backs, a potential summer commit, and more.]
Damien Harris Visiting, U-M Still Leader
Next weekend's Michigan State game will double as a de facto Junior Day for the football team, and 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed a big-time visitor will be in attendance—one-time Michigan commit Damien Harris:
It will be Harris's first unofficial visit to Michigan since the Notre Dame game last fall, making it his first appearance since stepping back from his early commitment to the Wolverines. His mother has publicly stated that Michigan is still the top school for her son and that he just wants to re-evaluate his options.
Harris took an unofficial to Ohio State—his first visit anywhere in months—for the Michigan game and tweeted out some support for the home team. His coach, however, said U-M is still the team to beat:
Harris' high school coach at Madison Southern (Ky.), Jon Clark, told Rivals.com earlier this week that the Wolverines are still No. 1 on the list for the top running back in the class of 2015.
"Michigan is still his top school, but he wants to make sure," Clark told the site. "He's open to looking."
While Harris is still picking up offers—Auburn, Miami (YTM), and Wisconsin all entered the post-decommitment fray—this looks to be a classic Michigan-OSU battle with the Wolverines, at least for now, holding the edge.
[Hit THE JUMP for a rundown of new offers, weekend visitors, and more.]