“I’m way more comfortable,” Gardner said. “Last year was my first year starting, and it was rough, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity. A lot of adversity I fought through, and I feel like I did a really good job of never giving up, never giving up on myself and my teammates. I feel my teammates recognized that, and my coaches recognized that, and I feel like that will help me.”
"Bud Foster is my favorite coach, but I haven't talked with him in a while," [Da'Shawn] Hand said.
"But my favorite coaching staff is Michigan," Hand said. "With Michigan, what you see if what you get. It's professional. With some, you feel like when you get to college it might, change, but with Michigan, everyone says they're straight.
According to the author of the article, SBNation's Bud Elliott, Michigan and Virginia Tech are "running neck and neck" for the lead in Hand's recruitment. Hand refuses to acknowledge even that much—he's says he enjoys the suspense—and he does have an unofficial visit set up to Alabama in July and is looking at trips to Florida, LSU, and USC, per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($). That said, his only planned official visit thus far is to Michigan, for the Notre Dame Game (a trip he recently locked in), and of the previously listed schools only Alabama appears to be a serious threat to his presumed top two.
One school we know for sure won't be pushing for his commitment is Ohio State, despite a campus visit last weekend that went better than his first trip to Columbus:
With the NFTC on the Ohio State campus, Hand took the opportunity and made an unofficial visit to the Buckeyes, along with friend Tim Settle, one of the top players in the class of 2015.
'It was straight, we talked," Hand said. "But I was with Tim, and he's a beast, and it was kind of his visit. Everyone knows that my first visit wasn't all that, but this visit was better. Still, I don't want to get anyone's hopes up."
Meanwhile, Hand revealed in an interview with Bruce Feldman that he's being recruited by at least one insane person:
Q: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you since you've been named the nation's No. 1 recruit?
Hand: Well, I ain't gonna say any names, but one coach told me that since I'm the No. 1 player, I'm gonna get to meet Michael Jackson. I said, "Isn't he already dead?" The coach goes, "Well, all right, you can meet Tito." I was like, all right. OK, I'm done.
It was crazy, but it is what it is.
[Bets all hypothetical internet dollars entire real-life savings account on Les Miles]
In the SBNation article, Hand said he's unsure of his timeline for a commitment. Regardless of when that comes, he told Feldman the announcement will be low-key:
I don't want to be like everybody else and be all flashy and do this and play around with people. For my commitment day, I just want to have it at my school. I'm not going to have three hats. I'm going to have one hat. I'm gonna call the coaches the night before. Tell them what school I'm going to and that's it.
At this point, it's looking more and more likely that hat will have a block 'M' on it. Which, uh, would be pretty nice.
[Hit THE JUMP for more on newest commit Chase Winovich, the latest on Artavis Scott and Adoree' Jackson, a Michigan commit earning an invite to The Opening, and more.]
“If I take my own kid through this recruiting process, [Michigan] is where I’d want him to go,” Winovich said.
[pencils in Chase Winovich Jr. for the class of OH GOD I'M OLD]
Winovich gave Steve Lorenz plenty of detail on why he committed; his third and final visit to Ann Arbor is what sealed the deal ($):
"I got to know some of the players better," he said. "I got to know people like Jake Ryan and Taylor Lewan who had been around the system longer than most kids have, but I also got to know the guys that I'll be around as well. That combination really helped persuade me. That last visit gave me something to compare to Ohio State and I really felt more comfortable at Michigan than both Pitt and Ohio State, which is funny because Pitt is only about twenty minutes from my house. They were able to show me a lot of the things I needed to see in an actual college while also being a place I could feel most comfortable. Those were the criteria I had set beforehand and Michigan fulfilled it best."
Scout's Northeast recruiting analyst, Brian Dohn, broke down Winovich's junior film after his commitment; after throwing around terms like "Wow factor" regarding Winovich's frame and athleticism and praising the "thud" that comes with each of his tackles, Dohn ends the report thusly ($):
Can we fast-forward to the 2016 season? by then, Winovich could be a monster. It may happen sooner, but he needs some time to add strength and weight, but his brings very good athleticism, speed and size to the strong side linebacker spot. He could survive playing as a true freshman, but red-shirting is never a bad thing.
Then, give him a year experience and the following season he could be dominant.
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that Winovich will move up the Scout rankings the next time they're updated.
That would be Michigan commit Mason Cole Lewan-lifting his top-100 wide receiver teammate, Artavis Scott, presumably after one of Scott's four touchdowns—on his first four touches—in East Lake's spring scrimmage win over Osceola ($):
The biggest reason Cole's team came out victorious? Top Michigan wide receiver target Artavis Scott, who scored four touchdowns the first four times he touched the ball on scores of 90, 55, 68 and 90 yards respectively.
"I really think he's the best player in the country," he said. "We worked a lot this spring and with Tay all you have to do is get the ball in his hands and he is going to do something big with it."
Highlights are here and will make you be like dang. (You might also ask why any team would dare kick to him twice, let alone once.) Cole told Steve Lorenz (above link) that both Scott and 2015 five-star athlete George Campbell are scheduled to come to July's BBQ at the Big House with him. I've heard a few things lately that have changed my tune on Scott; Michigan has a very real chance of landing him—yes, I changed my prediction on the Crystal Ball—and doing so would put them in great position with Campbell, as well.
While he's doing some recruiting of his own in trying to bring his high school teammates into the fold, Cole is happy to be done with his recruiting process and is now eyeing a January graduation, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Camp Stuff: Bunting Gets Invite To "The Opening"
PROTIP: When filming quarterback camps, at least attempt to show the targeted receiver.
Wilton Speight was out in California two weekends ago at a quarterback retreat with his private coach, Steve Clarkson, and afterwards he talked to Sam Webb about the improvements in his game ($):
Sam Webb: I know you’ve been working with Steve for a while now, so take me through your game when you started, and where it is now. Where you do see the biggest improvements? How is your game different?
Wilton Speight: “We’ve been together for about a year and eight month or so, and when I first started working with him, I had a powerful arm, and you know, 40% to 50% of the time I was using the full potential of my arm, you know, all the strength that I had, and that was just throwing the heck out of the ball as hard as I could. After working with him for a couple months, he really started to get my whole body into it, and now at this point, being almost two years into training with him, my footwork has come extremely far, and my drop backs, all the coaches that I’ve thrown in front of over the past year said that my foot speed and how I move in the pocket is very impressive for a guy who’s 6’6”. That aspect of my game has become a lot better with the work of Steve. The knowledge of the game – he and I watch a lot of film together, so he helps me there, and how to read every single defense, and pre-snap reads, blocking protection, scheme, stuff like that, so really all around, I’m two to three times the quarterback I was before starting with him.”
Speight's quick feet are apparent on film; once again, his arm strength appears more than adequate, as well. Thought the setting was more relaxed than your average camp, Speight got some work in with his future top target, Drake Harris, whose athletic talents really impressed Scout West Coast analyst Greg Biggins ($):
He looked all of 6-3, 175 pounds with a long, lean frame and will have no problems adding weight down the line. He’s both quick off the line and has a smooth, easy stride allowing him to get separation down the field. His leaping ability is off the charts and it’s always well documented what an elite basketball player Harris was/is.
When you watch him go up for a pass, it’s like he’s skying for an ally-oop and he’ll be a nightmare match up in the red zone on any kind of fade pattern. He catches the ball very well and makes everything look effortless on the field.
Harris said he currently weights around 180 pounds and plans to be up around 195 when he gets to Michigan, which would bode well for his chances of seeing the field early.
Several top Midwest talents were in Columbus last weekend at the NFTC, where prospects were competing for coveted spots in Nike's elite invite-only camp, The Opening. Scout's Kyle Bogenschutz broke down the performance of Michigan commits Ian Bunting—who earned tight end MVP honors and an invite to The Opening—and Michael Ferns; both impressed against very good competition ($):
2014 TE commit Ian Bunting looked strong catching the ball and is progressing with his route running and technique. He is BIG and has the frame to add plenty of muscle. Bunting earned tight end MVP and was invited to The Opening out in Oregon starting on June 30th.
Fellow 2014 commit, LB Michael Ferns looked strong in drills and much STRONGER in general. Ferns was only beaten cleanly once in 1-on-1's, showing nice cover skills, good footwork, and instincts jumping routes. Ferns and Bunting were both putting in work to recruit defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand.
File under "high school camps are weird sometimes": Da'Shawn Hand "lived up to his billing" but did not win defensive line MVP honors.
Jabrill Peppers Update
Potentially the best player in the history of modern New Jersey high school football? Check.
Breaking more records on the track? Check. (Video? Check.)
"I thought about that when I talked to Jabrill before he committed to Michigan," Jackson said. "We've talked about playing with each other for a while. Now that he's committed there and is a part of it, he's just trying to get me up there as well."
"It's definitely something that is making Michigan more attractive," he said. "They must be doing something right, and it makes you curious as to what they're doing so well that makes all these big-time athletes want to commit to the school. It makes you want to go see it for yourself."
Jackson has talked for a while about possibly visiting the Midwest this summer (he was born and raised in Belleville, IL), and right now it looks like there's a good possibility that it will happen.
"Yeah, it's a possibility," he said. "At the end of July, I think I should be up there for sure."
In further news on Jackson, the Wolverines made the cut on his top ten, which he unveiled on Twitter yesterday. Michigan still has plenty of work to do to land him, but at this point I'm having a hard time ruling out their chances with anybody.
Jamarco Jones Sets Decision Time
We've known for a few weeks that IL OL Jamarco Jones would make his decision on July 27th—now we have a specific time and setting for that announcement: 1 p.m. at his school, per Jones himself. His finalists are Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, and according to TomVH he'll make visits to all four schools before making his final decision.
Ohio State is the presumed leader, though Jones won't say as much himself. While the Buckeyes may be tough to beat, Jones is at least noticing the class Michigan is putting together, and the current commits are noticing Jones, too:
“@jjones_73: Michigan is putting together a real nice class so far” we have room for a few more my man (hint) #GoBlue
Keep an eye on 2014 FL LB Darrion Owens, who's still a candidate to join the class after Winovich's commitment—with the depth at strongside linebacker still a little thin, the Wolverines have been after him hard, per Steve Lorenz ($). Owens is expressing interest in visiting for the BBQ, and while he won't name leaders he currently "likes" Michigan, Miami, and Auburn.
Michigan offered highly-regarded 2015 CA DB Iman Marshall, who told Sam Webb that he's "definitely" planning to visit Ann Arbor ($). Marshall already holds offers from the likes of Florida State, Notre Dame, Oregon, and USC.
The top-ranked player in Ohio's 2015 class, Cincinnati St. Xavier LB Justin Hilliard, plans to camp at Michigan and Notre Dame this summer, per 247's Clint Brewster ($). Hilliard is looking towards a decision after his junior season, so getting in on him early is important.
If you missed it, The Mathlete compared Michigan's class (pre-Winovich) to Hoke's previous classes at the midway point in the recruiting cycle. SPOILER: It's good.
8. Both of them unequivocally eliminated Ohio State from contention early on. It's hard not to take at least a little extra pleasure from that one.
I might also add:
9. Both are not only big fish in the nationwide recruiting pond, but they could be representative of the UM coaches building steadier pipelines into NJ and VA, both of which produce a lot of football talent each year.
MSU has either a comparable or a better engineering school than Virginia Tech. Can't find the USN&WR list, but MSU is top 25 I think and VaTech is too. Honestly, MSU gets a little overshadowed because there are so many excellent engineering schools in the Big Ten
From what I've read, Hand has said that he wants to major in engineering (or at least he did until learning about the UM Sports Marketing program), and Va Tech had the engineering program he wanted. I wasn't trying to get into academic rankings, but if he chose to go there because they had his major, then he went there for the academics. That's why I wrote "strongly in its favor".
So VA Tech has a top 20-25 undergrad engineering school and Da'Shawn Hand was interested in Civil Engineering (which they have a top 10 school).
But, to steal an ESPN phrase..."not so fast my friend"....
AFTER visiting Michigan, he seems to be leaning towards a new major in Sports Management.
It's an unbelievably good sign that a visit not only turns him on to Michigan but has him openly changing his intended major. So, yeah, he loves our coaching staff....he also happens to love our academic staff in his new intended major.
TomVH has been cryptic about Hand and hasn't come out and said it outright but let's just say, buckle...er, prepare yourself.
...the fact that we have a legit shot to land Hand, McDowell, Westphal, Scott and Owens (and maybe another long shot like Jackson, Smith or Jones) to what is already an elite class is just RIDICULOUS! And it looks like the foundation for an incredible 2015 class is being laid as we speak. Thank you Coach Hoke!
Wilton looks to have a much faster release in these then you can tell from highlights. Impressed with the speed of the spin on the drill and the following throws. Obviously bigger than Shane but looks to have a stronger arm. BTW - do these guys just make up crap for QB's to do? I can understand dropping, dodging a defensive player and releasing to make a throw, but some of this just looks to be filler for the camp drill session.
Glad to see Bunting get some love from the Opening. Kid has the potential to be an absolute monster. With his physical traits, he could very well end up being the guy we all man crush on in 3-5 years out of this whole class.
If I was Jamarco Jones (spoiler alert: I'm not), I would commit to Michigan just so I don't get embarassed once a year by Hand during The Game...instead, I'd get better by facing him every day in practice...
When Jackson says he's visiting at the end of July, does that mean the BBQ? Haven't heard a date on that yet but it seems like some recruits know when it's going to be. I feel like I've heard a couple other big time recruits say they'll visit in July too but can't remember who. Maybe Hand said it was a maybe? Get all our current commits in there too and it could be a HUGE day.
"Michigan Defense" is dominating everything, in every aspect of life. That's a rough definition.
....as a Michigan man myself, but doesn't just about every school alum claim class and high character as exemplars of their school?
OSU would say the same about Hand if he were considering them....sounds like an "OSU man" and would say it with a straight face evidence be damned.
Heck, GVSU would as well.
You would never hear an MSU alum say... that Titus Young, hell of a talent, crazy as a bat, awful teammate, lengthy criminal record....has "Michigan State" written all over him. Well, maybe you would on our board....
The point I was making was that Hand's comment suggested a kind of low-key, workman-like quality to it. And if you look back across the general tone and tenor of Michigan football since Hoke arrived, you'll see the same kind of attitude displayed by many of the prominent players. Denard Robinson was justly famous for his humble demeanor and strong commitment to effort and teamwork. Taylor Lewan, for all the talk about his bicycle built for two and his pig, stayed low-key and workman-like regarding his return to Michigan for his 5th year.
I'm not married to the "Michigan Man" phrase as if it embodies some trancendental qualities that only Michigan possesses. But it is true that Michigan has a unique history as one of the longest-running and winningest programs in college football. It's no mystery why the "Team 13x" lable is so popular with the players. It connects these young men with a tradition that is proud and honorable.
My hope is Deshawn Hand comes to Michigan. If the low-key manner in which he plans to make his announcement is any indicator of his work ethic and character, then I think he will fit in very well with the kind of program Hoke is head of, and Hoke's imprint has by now worked into every corner of operation.
I believe the statement includes a persons character before going to Michigan. Saying Hand sounds like a Michigan Man, or saying DRob had those qualities before shows the type of man Michigan wants. They show qualities of a Michigan Man.
You have a point, but still, I think being a Michigan alum means a lot more off-the-field than it does at a lot of places. Not that other schools aren't proud of their alums, but having a Michigan degree opens doors to a lot of places, and therefore Michigan alums have a stronger interest in ensuring that prospective students and current students will represent the university well and continue to maintain that high standard.
The point about "Michigan Man" being a meaningless moniker that no one has really defined has come up a lot in the past few years. Maybe it wasn't well defined at one point, but that doesn't mean it can't come to mean something in the future. I'd say the kids Hoke has recruited have a definite quality about them that makes me proud to call them Michigan Men.
"Michigan Defense" is dominating everything, in every aspect of life. That's a rough definition.
Holy Lord. I think that power clean number is the most impressive. That's a lot of weight to throw around. Not like the other two aren't pretty nutty, though.
And he's already 240 pounds, too. (I know this is legit because he tweeted a pic of him on a scale a month ago or so that said 238.5 or something like that). He might be a 260 pound middle linebacker before all is said and done. Good luck blocking him.
...is like M-Basketball this year. Fun. I've enjoyed following this process and hearing from these kids. Haven't seen much of the crap that makes you turn your head or put your hand over your face. I wish all of these kids the best, but I'm going to root hard for Project 135, these guys are really coming together and I hope this momentum continues...I want to see something that we all remember for the ages. Hand, McDowell, Jackson, Smith, Jones, Westphal, Owens, etc. --- let's make it happen.
“True loyalty is that quality of service that grows under adversity and expands in defeat. Any street urchin can shout applause in victory, but it takes character to stand fast in defeat. One is noise — the other, loyalty.”
Sweet Jebus... I just watched Scott's highlight tape for the first time. That kid can ball. Imagine him+Harris+Bunting in the same receiving corps. Serious offensive weapons like we haven't had even in the very highly rated recent classes (excepting Funchess)
Call Mr. Plow, that's my name, that name again is Mr. Plow