Tristan Nickelson on an unofficial visit to Auburn. [Photo courtesy of the Nickelson family]
League City (TX) Clear Falls offensive tackle Tristan Nickelson projects to be one of the top offensive tackles in the nation in 2013, and it looks like Michigan will be a serious player in his recruitment. The 6'7", 280-pound prospect is an ESPNU 150 Watch List candidate and could receive consideration for five-star status when the 2013 class is ranked. Excelling in the classroom as well as on the field, Nickelson carries a 4.1 GPA (!) and plans on studying mechanical engineering in college. His father was kind enough to update me on Tristan's recruitment as he prepares for his junior season, which kicks off tomorrow against the Hitchcock (TX) Bulldogs.
ACE: Who has been recruiting Tristan from Michigan? What is his interest level in the Wolverines, and are there any plans to take a visit at this point?
MR. NICKELSON: Coach Funk personally sent Tristan a hand-written invitation to attend one of the summer camps in Ann Arbor last June -- unfortunately we had a conflict in scheduling and were unable to attend. Based on NCAA rules, Tristan can’t receive any recruiting information until September 1st, 2011.
At this point (still very early in the recruiting process) Michigan would be his top choice, based on the new coaching staff, Coach Funk, the engineering department, and the incredible facilities. Tristan asked me several years ago, “Which top-25 program also has a world-class engineering department?" I answered Michigan, so since that time Michigan has been his favorite college team, even though I played for coach Jim Wacker at TCU (4-year letterman 1984-1988) and his mother played volleyball for Texas A&M. (Our daughter Taylor is a freshman at Texas A&M.)
We would like to explore taking an unofficial visit to Michigan to expose Tristan to the game day environment, and we're thinking that invitation will happen -- but again, most likely after Sept. 1st. It would be Coach Funk’s call or the recruiter assigned to the greater Houston area.
Tristan also plans on attending the Michigan Football Camp in June 2012.
ACE: What other schools have shown interest, and does Tristan have an idea of which programs are among his favorites?
MR. NICKELSON: Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Florida State, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, TCU, West Virginia, Arizona State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M -- basically everyone on the list has started showing interest in recruiting Tristan by inviting him to games and unofficial campus visits.
His top three at this point (in order) would be: Michigan, LSU and Texas A&M.
ACE: Does Tristan have a timetable in mind for his recruitment? How has he handled all the attention so far?
MR. NICKELSON: We plan on attending a number of college football games this season, then continuing with unofficial visits throughout the spring and summer. Tristan is being considered for the U.S. Army All-American Game (Jan. 2013) and could wait until then to announce his final choice. I guess the timeline is still undetermined at this point. Schools can start contacting him directly on April 16th, 2012 -- I’m sure it will get crazy at that point.
ACE: This might be tough to answer, being his father, but how would you evaluate Tristan's strengths and weaknesses on the field? Is there anything specific he's working on in his game right now?
MR. NICKELSON: Although several publications have him listed at 6’6”, 255 lbs. [and playing for] Clear Springs High School, the correct information is 6’ 7 3/8”, 281 lbs. (with a shoe size of 17) at Clear Falls. So we need to improve on his “feet work” along with his 40 time; at the Under Armour Combine he was timed in the 6.4’s, which he has since improved to under a 6.0. Based on the top 10 OT numbers, Tristan really needs to be under a 5.2 by spring football (March 2012). His shuttle times have also continued to improve, and I would say at the point in his career, he is a much better run blocker than he is on pass protection. On over 50% of the run plays, he ends up with a “pancake block.”
From a positive standpoint, he is very strong and increasing weekly as he matures. Several programs, including Auburn, feel like Tristan will play in the 310-320 range. He has a wingspan of 82.5” and extremely large/strong hands (Tristan had the strongest hands at the UA Combine -- 165 lbs. on pressure). He is also on the wrestling team, placing 4th in district last year as a sophomore in the 285-pound class (his weight was 241 during the season). He is being trained by one of the top Olympic lifting coaches in the country, Tim Swords.
ACE: You said that your son is planning to study mechanical engineering in college. What qualities is he looking for in his future college choice?
MR. NICKELSON: As I mentioned, the combination would be a top-25 football program with has a top-tier engineering school; it’s only a handful of schools that have both. In addition, we have talked about playing for an offensive line coach that played the position in college or in the pros, along with a head coach that will have some level of flexibility in regards to the engineering curriculum.
Based on recent events, it will also be very important that the program is in good standing with the NCAA, and not under any type of current investigations.
If Tristan has the opportunity to play in the NFL that will be great, but we have always stressed the need for a great education, which he has done a great job of managing to date. So from our perspective, the pursuit of the [mechanical engineering degree] should always be equally as important as playing for a major university.
Cincinnati Oak Hills OL Caleb Stacey was Michigan's second commit of the 2012 class, pledging all the way back in March, when people were still freaking out about Brady Hoke's ability to pull a solid class together. Stacey, of course, is still committed, while any concerns about Hoke's ability to recruit have been shunted aside for full-scale Hokeamania. Caleb was kind enough to agree to an interview as he prepares for Oak Hills's opener against Cincinnati La Salle.
ACE: What are your goals heading into your senior season? Doing anything special to prepare for Michigan?
CALEB: Heading into my senior season there is only one goal on my mind, and that is to take my team to the state playoffs for the first time in school history since joining the GMC conference. Preparing for Michigan right now really isn't on my mind much because I have another season to play in high school, but I'm definitely trying to get better week by week -- whether that be working on footwork, getting stronger in the weight room, or really focusing on fundamental things like hand placement and zone steps.
ACE: Do you have any visits planned at this point?
CALEB: Yes, I have a visit planned for the ND game. Although it's an unofficial I'm still ecstatic to get up there again. Already have my hotel booked!
ACE: Have you been talking to any other recruits, either in your class or 2013 players? Now that you're committed, are you doing any recruiting yourself?
CALEB: I try to do as much recruiting as I can to help The Team out. When I get a chance to talk to some of the recruits I really sell what a great place Michigan is and how when you visit there isn't much you don't like, if anything.
ACE: With the news that Tony Posada is transferring, it looks like Michigan is going to have to rely upon some young players on the interior line in the very near future. Does the prospect of being on the two-deep as a freshman change how you approach preparing for college? Have the coaches asked you to do anything specific to get ready for Ann Arbor?
CALEB: It doesn't really change how I approach preparing. I'm always going to work as hard as possible at what I do. That's just the type of player I am. The coaches haven't really told me anything specific I need to prepare for when I arrive on campus, just to be ready to work hard and have a great attitude.
Many thanks to Caleb - who's already caught on that at Michigan, "The Team" is capitalized, often thrice - for taking the time to answer my questions. He asked that I make sure to let you know that you can follow him on Twitter. Help a future Wolverine out, MGoTweeters!
Sorry, my mind is still swimming from the whirlwind of this past week and I couldn't come up with a better title, but I figured I'd introduce myself.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with me, my name is Ace Anbender, and I've previously written at The Wolverine Blog, The Wolverine Magazine, and The Ace of Sports (I was quite the humble college freshman, I guess). I've been following football recruiting with more than a passing interest since high school, and while it has never been the main focus of my writing, I will be doing everything I can in the upcoming weeks and months to provide the expert analysis that you guys have enjoyed from the great work of Tim and TomVH, who both leave big shoes to fill.
I graduated from U-M with my bachelor's in history last December, after four-and-a-half years (including five, shall we say, interesting years in the student section) as a Wolverine. Though I was born in San Francisco, the undisputed greatest city in the world, I have lived in Ann Arbor since the age of five and started attending football games with my father during the 1994 season. I almost never made it here, as my first game in Michigan Stadium was supposed to be the Colorado game that season, but a serendipitous work trip kept my father from taking me and my mother sold the tickets - who knows what would've happened had I experienced my first soul-dong punch at such an impressionable age.
My favorite Wolverines of my lifetime - well, the part of my lifetime when I've been able to follow a football game - are Charles Woodson, Brandon Graham, Mike Hart, and Tim Biakabutuka, while my favorite games that I have been able to attend are '97 and '03 Ohio State, '07 Michigan State, '08 Wisconsin, '09 Notre Dame, and '10 UConn. I realize those games have a very recent flavor (a flavor which, I admit, had some bitter aftertaste), but I hope you understand that attending games as a student is an altogether different experience.
None of that has much at all to do with what I'll be working on here, and when it comes to recruiting I welcome any and all input, which will be a huge help especially as I get acclimated to the new job. Don't hesitate to contact me via Twitter (@aceanbender) or email (aceanbender [at] gmail [dot] com) with any advice, criticism, helpful recruiting tidbit or article, anything that you think would help me do the best possible job I can at the best Michigan blog in existence. I'll also be a constant presence on the board, posting under the moniker "Ace", so you can track me down there as well.
Thank you all for what has already been an outpouring of support, which is very much appreciated - I know that I'm following in the footsteps of a couple of great guys who did fantastic work, and I hope you all enjoy what I bring to this fine establishment.
I know Brian has already done extensive coverage of Michigan's recruiting, but I figured I'd take my own stab at projecting the Class of '08. Before I made my guesses, I went through 11 years of Michigan recruiting data (covering 1993-2003) to see trends in how the average recruiting class turns out. Revelations included:
- 22% of recruits end up getting drafted, which is way higher than I would have thought
- Just about as many end up being All-Big Ten
- Half the guys who leave early for the NFL go undrafted. The other half go in the first round. (This doesn't include Manningham/Arrington, both of whom fall in the middle but also fall outside the years I was looking at).
- Almost 40% of scholarship recruits don't make it through their full eligibility.
- You're just as likely to show your bits to girls on Minerva Street as you are to win the Heisman
I just posted up a pretty detailed breakdown of Pat White and Justin Feagin over on my site. Don't worry, I'm not deranged, and I'm not saying Feagin will be the next White. However, there are some interesting similarities that I'm sure you all are aware of. With a summer of Barwis and some extra time in the film room, Feagin could definitely have a bigger impact next year than people are giving him credit for.
I just got sent the ratings for every team in NCAA 09, for those who are interested in video games.
I posted a breakdown of Michigan's ratings on my site here.