Today's recruiting roundup covers this weekend's visitors, the latest word from Da'Shawn Hand, Wheatley on Wheatley, and more.
Guess Who's Back?
The visitor list for this weekend isn't quite as star-studded as it was two weeks ago, but it still features a top tight end target and some marquee in-state prospects.
One such Michigander is WR Drake Harris, who'll be making his third visit to Ann Arbor in three weeks. Harris told Scout's Sam Webb this week that Devin Gardner receiving his medical redshirt "did help out" Michigan's chances, though he maintains that he's committed to Michigan State... for now ($) [emphasis mine]:
The Wolverines have clearly made up substantial ground in a very short period of time, and they’ll have an opportunity to further improve their position when Harris returns to Ann Arbor Sunday for his third visit in as many weeks. That said, Harris made it clear that anyone suggesting that Michigan has unseated Michigan State as the team to beat is off base. Many have questioned whether he still considers himself a Spartan commit, and hasn’t hesitated in offering them an answer.
“Yeah, right now I am,” he said regarding his commit status. “It’s a solid verbal. I said that I don’t have a list right now, but if I did have a list (Michigan) would be somewhere around the top.”
In my opinion, Harris will maintain that Michigan State leads as long as he's still considered a commit—frankly, I'm not sure he has much of a choice in that regard. The Spartans could very well be leading at this juncture, too. The trend of his recruitment, however, points towards an eventual decommitment, with Michigan in a very strong position to take over that top spot sooner or later.
Here's the full visitor list for this weekend, culled from multiple sources, including WolverineNation ($) (2014 prospects unless otherwise noted):
MI OL Tommy Doles — Doles is likely the only prospect who could be thinking about a commitment this weekend, though that's been the case for a while now and he's yet to pull the trigger.
MI CB Jalen Embry — Embry is a cornerback prospect out of Detroit King who currently holds a handful of MAC offers. He's making the trip with high school teammate...
MI LB Carl Fuller — Fuller is one of the better linebacker prospects in the state, though his chances of getting an offer are hurt by what should be a very small Michigan class at the position.
2015 OH S Tyree Kinnel — Kinnel, a rising junior from Dayton (OH) Wayne, doesn't hold any offers but has early interest from both the Wolverines and Buckeyes.
MI DE Malik McDowell — The top player in the state will be in Ann Arbor for the second time in three weeks, but he's still a long way off from a decision.
IL TE Nic Weishar — The four-star tight end also took an unofficial to Ann Arbor last August, but Michigan may have some ground to cover to catch Notre Dame.
2015 Cass Tech QB Jayru Campbell is also a potential visitor, though he's yet to confirm.
[Hit THE JUMP for Da'Shawn Hand's thoughts on his upcoming visit and more.]
Show Him The Hands On Museum HARF HARF HARF
The nation's top overall recruit, VA DE Da'Shawn Hand, will be on campus from March 15-17, and 247's Steve Lorenz caught up with his high school defensive coordinator, John Harris, to preview the visit. Harris says Hand is looking to see if Ann Arbor is "a place he can live and call home for four years," and that the star defensive end sees many similarities between Michigan's program and Virginia Tech, his presumed leader ($):
"I think Da'Shawn looks at the two schools as close in a lot of ways," he said. "He loves Coach Hoke and Coach Mattison, much like he loves Beamer and Foster at Tech. He sees them as pretty similar in an academic light given they both have good engineering programs as well. He's more comfortable at Virginia Tech right now because he's been there a few times and feels comfortable around the players, many of which he's known before they went to college. That's where Michigan can impress; just getting him around the players and making him feel welcome."
It's obviously going to be a battle any time the number one recruit is involved, and Michigan is faced with a tall task: making a player feel as comfortable as he does in his own backyard. Getting Hand on campus is a great start; if the coaches can secure a return trip, then it's time to consider the Wolverines as a real contender for his services.
Hand isn't the only elite defensive lineman from Virginia that Michigan is involved with: Chesapeake (VA) Oscar Smith DT Andrew Brown, a top-ten overall prospect, named the Wolverines to his top ten recently and told Scout's Michael Clark that the coaches have caught his eye ($):
“The head coach (Brady Hoke) and the defensive line coach (Greg Mattison) are what are what attracted me to them. Coach (Hoke) told me everything about his family and coaching staff. The whole staff is just a real humble set of guys and I would love to be taught by them.”
Brown's only visits thus far have been close to home—Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia, and Virginia Tech—so there's still lots of room for movement on his list.
Other 2014 News: So You're Saying There's No Chance
Per 247's Steve Wiltfong, five-star Kansas guard Braden Smith will pass through Ohio State, Michigan, and Notre Dame—in that order—starting on March 18th ($). As always, getting a top recruit on campus is good news, but I'm not sure about Michigan's chances with Smith—he's planning a late decision and Michigan has limited room for interior linemen. With Mason Cole already on board and Doles a strong candidate to fill another spot, the Wolverines might not be willing to wait on Smith if it's not clear they have a very, very good chance to land him.
The nation's top tight end, La Mirada (CA) prospect Tyler Luatua, told Scout's Greg Biggins($) that Michigan is in his top five with Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, and USC. Alabama and USC appear to have the early edge—Luatua's brother plays for the Tide while the Trojans are his childhood favorite.
According to Tim Sullivan, Michigan has extended an "unofficial" offer to FL ATH Jimmy Bayes, a current USF commit ($). Bayes says he doesn't expect to be able to visit Ann Arbor until it's time to take his official visits, and Michigan isn't among his leaders, so there's a long time to figure out what exactly an "unofficial" offer means—my guess is the Wolverines wanted to show interest to a prospect they haven't had much contact with.
Sturgis (MI) QB Chance Stewart decommitted from Wisconsin, not a surprise given the new staff didn't bother to contact him or show much interest in keeping him after Bret Bielema bolted for Arkansas. Michigan didn't show a lot of interest themselves even before they landed Wilton Speight, and I don't think that changes now that he's opened up. User Blazefire sums things up as well as anyone can:
Any further questions about Stewart can be directed to that gif.
The Bear Is Wise, Young Wheatley
Sam Webb caught up with 2015 TE/DE Tyrone Wheatley Jr.—who recently received a Michigan offer—and his very proud father for his latest Detroit News article, which contains this gem:
"I mean, come on — it was like 'hell yeah,'" a still jubilant Tyrone Sr. exclaimed. "It was really like, 'wow!' Ever since they were little dudes — six or seven months — I had bought these little teddy bears. I had bought him one and then his brother one. You pushed the paw and it played the Michigan fight song.
"Those bears have survived the test of time. In their rooms, they grew up with Michigan bedspreads. You look at the lineage of the great Michigan families — the Woolfolks' (Butch and Troy), the Edwards' (Stan and Braylon) — it's incredible. You just kind of say 'man, I'd like that to be me and my family.' But I also have to understand that it's his decision."
The whole article is well worth your time—it sounds like both Junior and Senior have a very healthy perspective on the recruiting process.
Not Shy, This One
Michigan is one of five schools—along with Florida State, Maryland, Ohio State, and Virginia—currently standing out to DC CB D'Andre Payne, per Scout's Brian Dohn ($). The four-star prospect certainly wasn't bashful when asked about what he hears about himself on the recruiting trail [emphasis mine]:
And he said the message from the coaches is often the same.
“They say I’m just a straight-up baller,” Payne said. “I can play off (a receiver). I have good technique. I have good speed and nobody is going to run past me, and I’m pretty physical.”
No word on whether he's a shot-caller with 20" blades on his Impala.