Michigan's annual BBQ at the Big House is on Sunday, and the Wolverines will also host visitors on Saturday — or, in LA RB Leonard Fournette's case, starting today. All of the major sites have published expected visitor lists, and in the grand tradition of attempting to pin down the plans of teenagers, there are slight discrepancies between them. Here's a rundown of the top targets who will be on campus this weekend and a general idea of where Michigan stands with each of them:
Ian Bunting, Freddy Canteen, Mason Cole, Michael Ferns, Drake Harris, Lawrence Marshall, Wilton Speight, Brandon Watson, Maurice Ways, and Chase Winovich are all expected to be in attendance. Jabrill Peppers is trying to make it into town, as well — his presence would only help Michigan's efforts with the uncommitted recruits, and especially fellow blue-chip Fournette.
Fournette is obviously the big fish here; the nation's top running back — and #1 overall prospect on the 247 Composite — arrives in Ann Arbor today and will stay all the way through Sunday's BBQ. If you regularly read this roundup, you've seen his highlight tape. A video released by ESPN this week shows more of his personal side, and none of it will make you want him at Michigan any less. The broken record on Fournette is that, despite his assertions of being wide open, he'll inevitably end up in the SEC, likely at LSU. GBW's Kyle Bogenshutz talked to Fournette's father, and NOPE NOPE NOPE I REFUSE TO GET MY HOPES UP ($):
As a father that knows his son’s game and how it might translate to the college level, he can see what the portrait might look like in the Maize & Blue.
“For sure he would be a good fit for Michigan,” said Fournette’s father. “I know for sure he would be a great fit for Michigan. He’ll fit right in.”
“Me and my wife are real high on education, first of all,” Fournette’s father said. “And we have to feel like our child is going to be in good hands, from a family aspect, not just coaches, but a friend and a father figure on the field and off the field.”
Fournette will be accompanied by his parents on the trip; he'll undoubtedly get the full tour of both the academic and football side of things, and it'll be very interesting to see where Michigan stands after this weekend.
NJ RB Jonathan Hilliman is listed as attending in some places and not in others; assuming he shows, this will be Michigan's best chance to chip away at Ohio State's lead for the three-star boasting a very impressive offer sheet. [EDIT: Per 247, Hilliman won't be visiting for the BBQ. That ship appears to have sailed; it's Fournette or bust at running back, reportedly, with Kalen Ballage being recruited as an athlete-slash-backup plan.]
MI DL Malik McDowell is always tough to pin down when it comes to his recruitment plans; he's another potential visitor. While he's attempted to stay quiet about where things stand, he's let slip a couple times that the Wolverines are out in front, and the general opinion is that he'll stay in-state.
Cass Tech DE Josh Alabi and RB Mike Weber will visit Ann Arbor together for the umpteenth time. Both are early four-stars with a high level of interest in the Wolverines.
FL WR George Campbell is the top-ranked 2015 recruit who'll be on campus, coming in at #7 in the 247 Composite. He'll have his high school teammate, Cole, giving him the full sales pitch. How he reacts to this latest trip to Ann Arbor should give a good indication of where the Wolverines stand now that fellow East Lake receiver Artavis Scott chose Clemson over Michigan.
OH CB Shaun Crawford has long held Michigan as his leader, with many even expecting that he'd commit during an earlier visit this offseason. Crawford will have his family in tow, and his mother makes it sound like he's the best possibility of a commitment this weekend, per TomVH ($):
"Michigan is definitely at the top of the list, because it's a wonderful school. It's been a favorite for a long time and he grew up a Michigan fan," Crawford's mother said. "I think this type of event will kind of answer any questions we all may have and bring it all together for him. It's definitely something that's worthwhile in the decision process."
In this early stage of the 247 Composite rankings (only 247 and ESPN have released 2015 rankings), Crawford is listed as the #92 overall player, #9 corner, and #4 prospect in Ohio. He'd be a very nice early pickup, obviously.
OH LB Justin Hilliard ranks one spot above Crawford in the Ohio state rankings. His recruitment could come down to a big Midwestern battle — his older brother plays for Iowa and he already holds offers from all the Big Ten powers and some national schools, as well.
At 6'8", 305 pounds, four-star PA OT Sterling Jenkins is exactly what Michigan is searching for in an offensive lineman — tackle is the biggest, and potentially only, need left on the offensive line. Michigan is among his top schools, and despite lots of national interest they could very well be in the lead.
Michigan has experienced recent success recruiting in Utah, landing Sione Houma in 2012 and Bryan Mone for the 2014 class. They'll try to replicate that with four-star UT LB Osa Masina, though the Wolverines could be facing an uphill battle against the in-state Utes, where Masina's older brother signed in 2013.
The above players are confirmed for this weekend by multiple outlets; other potential visitors include MI ATH Brian Cole, OH DT Hjalte Froholdt, and NY TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. — Michigan is in very good shape with all three prospects.
If Crawford isn't the most likely to commit this weekend, then it's 2016 IL OL Erik Swenson, who's stated in no uncertain terms that a Michigan pledge is all but inevitable — he nearly pulled the trigger when he camped here last month.
Swenson is the only rising sophomore slated to attend who currently holds an offer, but that could change; MD LB De'le Harding is expected to join his older teammates, Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson, on this weekend's visit, and he's a player who should earn an offer sooner or later. OH QB Messiah DeWeaver, who's shown very strong interest in Michigan, will also be at the BBQ, though I'd be surprised if a 2016 quarterback pulled an offer this early.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on Parrker Westphal, JuJu Smith, Dravon Henry, and more.]
Parrker In Hollding Patttern
Scout knows how to paywall an article in which the only content is a YouTube video, yet they haven't figured out to make those YouTube videos private, so... free Parrker Westphal interview! There's nothing groundbreaking here as Wesphal has largely backed off the recruiting process this summer, but he does mentioned hightened interest in Michigan State, with plans to visit there this fall.
Michigan appeared to be out of the picture when four-star PA CB Dravon Henry left them out of his top four (Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, and West Virginia), but the latest efforts of the Wolverines may have piqued his interest, per Scout's Brian Dohn ($):
The Michigan interest, though, is a rekindling of a past relationship. The Wolverines were one of the first schools to recruit Henry, and the staff is asking him to visit this summer.
“We’re talking with the Michigan defensive backs coach a lot,” Roland Henry said. “Honestly, Michigan was probably one of the first schools recruiting him. Michigan was in contact with him all last season.”
Henry wants to make a decision after the season and has yet to set up any official visits, so there's plenty of time for Michigan to climb back into the picture.
A roundup on West recruiting from Rivals states that the insider consensus on five-star CA ATH JuJu Smith is that he'll end up at USC ($). Smith plans on taking all five of his officials, including one to Ann Arbor for The Game, so his recruitment is also far from over.
Four-star 2015 NJ CB Minkah Fitzpatrick tells GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz that he plans to visit Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State this fall ($). Fitzpatrick is being recruited in part by fellow Jersey native Jabrill Peppers.
Michigan got an unofficial visit from 2015 TX RB Chris Warren, along with Warren's mother, and both spoke highly of the trip and especially Michigan's academics to GBW ($). Warren doesn't yet hold a Wolverine offer, his offer sheet already includes Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Texas, UCLA, and several others, and he said the Michigan coaches told him an offer will eventually come. For now, he's wide open in his recruitment.
Sterling Jenkins posts a relatively innoculous tweet about how the Michigan commits he's met are less cocky than their Ohio State counterparts. The reaction was disappointingly unsurprising, per Rivals ($):
"I tweeted a while ago that the Ohio State commits that I met were a lot cockier than the Michigan commits I've met," said Jenkins. "I tweeted that and people are saying I'm some racist, gangbanging, womanizing guy. I'm trying to think where they got all this from. It really came out of nowhere. I really didn't expect any of this."
Read between the lines and DON'T TWEET AT RECRUITS:
"I'm feeling good about Michigan, Penn State and Pittsburgh," said Jenkins. "I feel like they like me and are recruiting me pretty hard. I want to go to a game and see some spring practices from them to check them out."
Seriously, don't tweet at recruits.
*Incidentally, this is what I call the stains on my shirt after gorging myself on some pulled pork.