Update 5/12: Linked to articles on TN OL Alex Bullard (downgrade to red), TN OL Alex Bullard (upgrade to yellow... woo conflicting info), MD RB Tavon Austin (second, downgrade to red), GA S Darren Myles (second), MI WR Dion Sims, FL RB Mike Gillislee, LA WR Willie Haulstead, PA DE Tyrone Ezell, header on MN WR Bryce McNeal, NC OL Xavier Nixon, OH S Isaiah Bell.
Roundup article from Kornblut has news on SC DE Chris Bonds, claim of offers for SC ATH David Sims and SC WR Alshon Jeffery. (Via Big House Blog.) Added Sims, Jeffery, FL WR Rantavious Wooten (video), MD DE Sean Stanley, OK CB David Gordon, GA LB DeDe Lattimore, MI QB Keith Nichol(?... I guess... more).
Removed FL WR Nu'Keese Richardson (very probably dropped us), MS S Rod Woodson (owie it's cold hold me). Bumped CA QB Jason Forcier to yellow.
Editorial Opinion: Full board is here.
I bet you thought we were done talking about quarterbacks until February. No, not so much, and it's not just one.
First: I've upgraded CA QB Jason Forcier from red to yellow after persistent efforts from Forcier to reassure everyone that Michigan is still under consideration. Also, a reader provides this tip:
My buddy who worked for the team last year has also been saying that there's still a pretty good chance we could land Forcier even with 2 in the fold. I kind of had the same reaction you did. This tidbit doesn't really mean much, but it adds a little bit more credence to what GBW is saying...
So... if the guy's got the confidence to come in and take a shot, hey, I'm all for that. We might have an ND-esque transfer party in two years, but at least the winner will be as awesome as Jimmy Clausen. Er. Scratch that.
Speaking of transfer parties, Oklahoma freshman Keith Nichol is fleeing from the presence of ninja freshman starter Sam Bradford. A top-100 sort last year, Nichol originally committed to Michigan State in the hopes of being the next Drew Stanton. When John L Smith slapped himself out of a job and Mark Dantonio brought his paleolithic offense to State, he decommitted for the greener pastures of Rhett Bomar-less Oklahoma.
Now he's on the open market again and likely to end up somewhere close to home, as transfers often do. Michigan suddenly has a crowded depth chart in '09 -- sophomores Steven Threet and Justin Feagin, freshmen-to-be Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver -- but none of those guys exactly projects to have a Bradford deathlock on the job. There is a consistent undercurrent of speculation, much of it based from Lowell -- where he went to HS -- locals scurrying to the internet to assure people Nichol will be at Michigan in the fall.
At first glance, it seems like an excellent fit. Nichol ran for over 1,000 yards in both his junior and senior years of high school; he also completed 63% of his passes. I mean... his senior stats are preposterous:
As a senior, Nichol, a three-year starter at quarterback, threw for 2,225 yards, 31 TDs and six INTs (118 for 185); and he rushed for 1,075 yards and 19 TDs on 121 carries. he was named to the Detroit News "Dream Team". Keith Nichol is one of the very best quarterback prospects in the Midwest. He threw for 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior. Also rushed for 900 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore. committed to Michigan State before his junior season.
In '09 Nichol would presumably have a leg up on any incoming freshman, with a year and a half years at Oklahoma (he enrolled early) and a year of getting Barwisized and learning the offense at Michigan, but it's risky: if he doesn't get the starting job he's either got to give up the dream of playing in college or head to a I-AA school.
A Free Press article makes it sound like Nichol is just looking for options at this point and will consider anyone who wants to offer him:
"People assume it's a Michigan State-Michigan deal," Nichol said, adding he's open to all options. "But they're the same as any other program in the country, just more attractive because they're closer to home."
The popular perception is that Michigan is QB depth chart heaven, but though State moved away from Nichol's preferred offense they graduate Brian Hoyer after this year and two low-rated redshirt freshmen are the only other quarterbacks on the roster. (State does have a commit from instater Andrew Maxwell.)
Would State have interest in a kid who stiffed them? Would Michigan take his transfer and risk spooking Newsome and/or Beaver? I dunno. A caller to the "Huge" show claimed that Nichol was a done deal to Michigan, FWIW. The same caller apparently predicted Nichol's transfer three months ago, but that bit of prognostication was obvious to anyone who picked up Oklahoma's depth chart and saw the "Fr" next to Bradford's name. There's also been considerable internet buzz to the same effect, but nothing from a reputable source.
Offensive linemen are starting to shake out. The best news from Michigan is what appears to be strong interest from NC OL Xavier Nixon:
Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon, an ESPN 150 Watch List talent, is holding about 40 scholarship offers, according to affiliate Web site GatorCountry.com. Despite the long list of suitors, Nixon already knows that he'd like to visit Notre Dame and Michigan. "Those are the only two that are set in stone, but I don't know beyond that."
Nixon also expressed what he's seeking in a school, "I'm looking at education, how comfortable I feel at a school - if it's a place that reminds me of home, if my playing style fit the program, if I can take what I've learned in high school and ap
ply it there instead of having to chance everything I've learned."
Nixon is one of those super-elite sorts (#27 overall to Rivals and the #1 OT, period, to Scout) who defies the conventional wisdom that offensive line rankings should be taken with a grain of salt; landing him would be a coup.
Michigan has an offer out to TN OL Alex Bullard, but he seems likely to stay in state. There is this hilariously biased article from "Vols Extra" to consider wherein he names a top three of ND, Tennessee, and Florida; more neutral is an Allen Wallace piece:
Although Bullard says he's still open, he admits he favors Tennessee slightly over Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan, Florida and South Carolina. All of his favorites have offered.
"I like them all, but Tennessee is close and they are recruiting me the most right now," Bullard said. "Just the prestige and tradition there is amazing. That's a place I know a lot of people at and feel at home. I really like coach Phillip Fulmer. He's a very good man and very kind. He's easy to talk too."
Tentatively yellow but it's not looking good here.
The recent subject of a Scout-Rivals tiff, instate WR/TE Dion Sims plainly likes basketball more than football despite having a far higher ceiling as a 6'5", 230 pound wide receiver than a as tweener basketball wing. Scout analyst Dave Telep:
"I think he's a college hoops prospect on the mid-level. His body is a huge asset and his mid-range game is a help. So far this year in the limited times I have seen him, he's had moments where his shot has looked very good and he can pass the ball. I would think MAC programs would love to get their hands on him. To be higher, you would like to see him round out his game â€” maybe add a post-up element to take advantage of size mismatches."
Sims' father says Michigan State leads slightly:
"It is real close," Donald Sims said. "I wouldn't say one or the other, but if I had to really put down where I think his heart is at this point as far as in-state, I think Michigan State has a little bit of an advantage."
Hopefully that's because of the basketball programs' relative strength; if so that might change after a reassessment of which sport is the wiser one to pursue in college. One other note: Rodriguez is recruiting Sims as a tight end, not a wide receiver.
Some new names at defensive end: PA's Tyrone Ezell and MD's Sean Stanley. SC's Chris Bonds also has us in a leading group of about seven. Not much free on the new guys yet, but a few more names on the board is reassuring.
A couple of Nike Camps went down over the weekend. OH S Isaiah Bell was singled out for praise by ESPN:
Under Armour All-American safety Bell could have passed for a weakside linebacker and actually looked bigger than his listed measurables. When you look at his rangy, long-limbed frame, particularly the length of his arms, it's not out of the realm this kid has another inch or two of growth left. He looked far from frail though and was defined with good muscle tone and lean bulk. We joked with the recruited safety that linebacker could be in his future at Michigan, and he smiled like he had heard that comment before. It's hard not to see a potential 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame in two or three years, and he did look better at times playing the ball in front of him Friday as opposed to backpedalling.
Reports vary on how Bell did in drills but safeties always get the shaft at these things because they're essentially forced to play corner. Fitzgerald Toussaint did not show in Columbus because of an injury; in State College commit Will Campbell crushed all opponents and Teric Jones had an impressive day. Campbell still insists he's going to visit places like Miami, FWIW.
Update: ESPN's just posted their recap of the State College Nike camp. This is their opinion of Will Campbell:
Kevin Newsome got gently panned, though:
He showed some flashes of becoming a solid passer but has a lot of mechanical and technical glitches to work through. He is very inconsistent with his accuracy, but when he is fundamentally sound, he delivers the ball with nice zip and good power on the deep ball. With his frame and athleticism, he is definitely a candidate to be moved to tailback, safety, linebacker or wide receiver.