As recently as yesterday, it appeared all but assured that Michigan would take a running back in the 2014 class, whether it be Jeff Jones or newly offered Marlon Mack or perhaps a reinterested Kalen Ballage.
Not so fast, my friends. This morning, Sam Webb said on his WTKA recruiting segment* that he doesn't expect Jones or Mack to end up in the class—a change from his earlier stance—and he reiterated that in a board post on GBW (link $). 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed that report this afternoon and added that he believes it also applies to Ballage ($).
As of now, the reasoning behind this shift from the coaching staff is unclear. There's an optimistic take out there, though; Doug Nussmeier visited 2015 RB commit Damien Harris last week in the midst of rampant speculation—including from his fellow commits—that a decommitment was on the horizon. Harris has been quiet of late; it's possible that Nussmeier felt more comfortable with Harris' status—and Michigan's depth chart at RB—after the visit and felt a scholarship could be better used at another position (or in the 2015 class). It may also help Harris' commitment status if he's reassured that there won't be extra competition from a running back in the class ahead of him.
It appears it's Malik McDowell or bust to round out the 2014 class; given the needs already filled and the small projected class size for 2015, banking a scholarship or two isn't a bad idea, even if it means a less exciting Signing Day (again) this year. For what it's worth, while Sam Webb continues to be optimistic that McDowell will stay close to home, at least one reliable Florida State insider likes their chances after McDowell took his official to Tallahassee last weekend.
[Hit THE JUMP for info on Michigan's two most recent 2015 offers, the final Rivals 100, the DetNews Blue Chip list, and more.]
Two More 2015 Offers
Michigan offered a pair of touted 2015 prospects over the weekend. Four-star Tampa (FL) Plant OT Jake Fruhmorgen (Hudl highlights) already held offers from a who's-who of college football powerhouses—including Alabama, where his father John starred on the O-line—before the Wolverines came through with one, but Michigan has some connections of their own and should be in the thick of his recruitment, per Steve Lorenz ($):
"Michigan is a school I know he was excited to get an offer from," [John] Fruhmorgen said. "It's always been a school he's followed since he was a kid. I used to coach (former Michigan kicker) Jay Feely and we've also had a relationship with (former Michigan kicker) Garrett Rivas as well, as he coaches at a school we're familiar with at Berkeley Prep. When he was younger, Rivas was one of Jake's favorite players, so Michigan has always been there in his mind."
The elder Fruhmorgen said he's "very confident" Michigan will receive a visit. Right now he's still in the evaluation stage, not naming any leaders, and while there's plenty of competition the Wolverines should be firmly in the mix to land him.
The Wolverines also offered TN OLB Joshua McMillon (Hudl highlights), another four-star holding offers from several top SEC schools. He told 247's Clint Brewster that he maintains no leaders and would like to visit Michigan ($). Michigan is pushing hard for outside linebackers in the 2015 class—each of their nine linebacker offers has gone out to a player projected to play on the outside.
Final 2014 Rivals100, DetNews Blue Chip Rankings Released
The finalized Rivals100 is out for the class of 2014 and just two Michigan commits made the cut: Jabrill Peppers dropped from #2 to #3 (#1 CB) and Mason Cole moved up from #129 to #92 (#12 OT). Malik McDowell earned a fifth star in the final rankings, climbing to #26 overall, and Josh Helmholdt explained the reasoning behind the bump:
"When McDowell first burst onto the scene as a sophomore, it appeared the sky was the limit. Here was a kid 6-foot-6, 290 pounds running a sub-5.0 40 and he was dominating older Division I offensive line prospects. But McDowell did not progress during that first year and a half," said Rivals.com Midwest Analyst Josh Helmholdt. "It wasn't until his senior season that he started to realize his own potential and played to it, and by the time he arrived at the Army Bowl, he had solidified himself as elite defensive linemen."
Meanwhile, Drake Harris earned the nod for the #1 spot in the annual Detroit News Blue Chip list, enraging scorned Spartans who don't understand that the list is a projection of how good these prospects will be in college, not a redundant all-state team. McDowell is third, followed by his fellow Southfield lineman, Lawrence Marshall. At #9, Moe Ways rounds out the Michigan pledges on the list.
Recently offered five-star 2015 NJ CB Minkah Fitzpatrick wants to visit Michigan "as soon as possible," per an interview with Steve Lorenz ($).
The coaches dropped in on 2015 in-state targets ATH Brian Cole (offered) and OL David Moorman (not offered) last week, per Allen Trieu($) and Kyle Bogenschutz($), respectively.
If you missed it, Brandon caught up with Michigan's latest legacy offer, Detroit MLK OLB Tyriq Thompson.
*Listen for plenty of optimism on the Malik McDowell front, as well.