picture via Philly.com
This past weekend was huge for the final push in Michigan recruiting class. The next couple weekends could be equally big for the Wolverines. One of the big names taking a visit is PA WR Je'ron Stokes. Stokes is committed to Tennessee but looking around in the wake of the Vols coaching change. I spoke with Je'Ron Stokes about the upcoming visit, here's what he had to say...
TOM: What are the main reasons that made you decide to start taking visits?
JE’RON: My main reason was that I just wanted to be sure about the decision I make. I’ve been committed for so long, and so early. I’ve only gotten to see one place. Things changed, and this is a business decision. The quarterback situation, I thought was wrong, but the coach has a lot on his plate, and he wants to do what he feels is best for the team. It was kind of a 50/50 thing, after awhile it didn’t bother me how he handled it.
TOM: What is your official status with Tennessee?
JE’RON: I really don’t know. I’m still committed, I just want to take some visits and make sure I’m making the best decision.
TOM: Has Lane Kiffin done anything to try and keep you at Tennessee?
JE’RON: Oh yea, he’s spoken with my family. He’s making some good efforts; I’ve met a few of his staff and everything. It’s kind of like starting a new relationship
TOM: You’re visiting Michigan this weekend, what are you looking to get out of the visit? What other schools do you plan on visiting?
JE’RON: Everybody’s going to have good academics; this is the highest level of college football you could play in. So I’m looking for relationships with the people, players, and coaches. The town, just how the overall atmosphere. I’m going to visit Illinois, Penn State, and maybe Georgia. I probably will take a visit to Penn State; I’m not 100% on that yet.
TOM: Is there anything specifically that you’re excited to see, or that you want the coaches to focus on?
JE’RON: Not really, just want to see everything. Just kind of see the whole package.
TOM: Are there any other recruits that you’ve developed a friendship with recently?
JE’RON: I met some people at the All American Game, Jeremy Jackson, and a lot of people. Too many to name. Will Campbell too, he’s a funny guy.
TOM: Since you were concerned about Tennessee’s lack of a quarterback, have you spoken to any of the QB’s from the schools you’re visiting? Have you talked to Tate Forcier at all?
JE’RON: I haven’t. I know the new quarterback at Penn State, Kevin Newsome, but other than that no. We worked together a few times. I’m going to talk to the quarterbacks at the visit, and get a feel for them just as players and people.
TOM: The schools that are left rank them in order of who excites you the most, or who you are most curious about.
JE’RON: Honestly I don’t even know, I’m curious about all of them. I really can’t do that right now.
TOM: When do you think you’ll make your decision?
JE’RON: Most likely not until signing day.
TOM: If any of these visits blow you away, do you think you’ll commit on the spot?
JE’RON: No, I’m going to take my time. I’ll talk to my family about everything, and make sure it’s right.
TOM: With your recruiting, are you kind of blazing the trail for your brother Malik? Do you think he’ll follow, or do his own thing?
JE’RON: Where ever God leads him. He’s going to make the best decision for him, where ever he wants to go. We played together in high school so it’d be nice, but I want him to do what’s right for him.
With a lot of the focus on the All American games, Michigan's newest quarterback has quietly made his way to Michigan. Tate Forcier arrived in Michigan today, and we spoke about what the future holds, and how he plans on getting himself, and the team on a winning track.
TOM: What are you most excited for on your way to Michigan?
TATE: Just getting started, it’s kind of hard because it’s different from San Diego. This is my new home, a new experience. I’m just going to have fun.
TOM: What’s the first thing Coach Rodriguez wants you to do football wise?
TATE: I’m supposed to meet with him tomorrow. I’m assuming he’s going to get me with Mike Barwis. I’ll be hurting the next day, but it will be good pain.
TOM: Have your brothers given you any advice on how to adjust, both to college life and to the speed of the game?
TATE: Both of them said it’s going to be different, but the first few days you’re going to think these guys are all amazing players. After a few practices it will start to slow down and you’ll learn what you can do and what you can’t do. They told me not to try to do too much, just take it one day at a time. Stay busy, and don’t ever catch yourself doing nothing.
TOM: Realistically, where do you want to be for spring ball? As far as knowing the playbook, weight training, and chemistry with the offense?
TATE: I want to satisfy the coaches. I want to be where they want me to be. I’m not sure the exact plans yet, but they’re not going to throw everything on me all at once. I’m just not going to rush it, that’s why I came out early, and just try to learn and have fun.
TOM: I read in another interview, you said you want to be like Colt McCoy. After that being said, is that who you would compare yourself to? Who do you think you see yourself really being like as a collegiate quarterback?
TATE: He’s nearly the same size as me; they don’t run a complete spread, but they run close to what Michigan does. When I watch all the college quarterbacks, he’s who I would describe myself as. He makes big plays, and he can run. I’m almost exactly like him.
TOM: Have you talked to any of the other offensive players yet, either current players or commits?
TATE: I have been talking to Willie Haulstead, and I’ve been trying to get him to commit. I’ve talked to him several times, it seems like it’s between Michigan and Florida State. What I’ve been saying to everyone is this is not any other school, this is Michigan. People ask me why I chose Michigan, and the first thing I say is because it’s Michigan. You can’t really ask for anything more than what’s here, it’s the best of everything.
TOM: Your teammate, Brennan Clay, is a Michigan target for next year. Is there anything you’ve said to him about joining you, or is there anything you’ll do in the future?
TATE: I’ve been working on him since day one. He’s getting a lot of attention, he just got offered by USC last week. I want what’s best for him, but I have a good feeling if he was going to come back east, this would be a school he could choose. He’s going to come out for spring ball, so hopefully I can convince him. I know he loves Coach Smith and Rodriguez, and he likes Michigan. Talking with those guys is like extended family, they’re just really cool guys, which helps.
TOM: I know everyone is expecting a lot out of you in your first year, how do you deal with the expectations and pressure that comes along with this experience?
TATE: I’ve watched a lot of freshman play, and Coach Smith talked to me about this. I’m not going to try to do too much. I’m going to manage the team, rather than try to make the big play and taking a sack. The seniors and juniors make the plays, and I’ll just keep moving the chains. Take it one week at a time.
TOM: You’re going to get every chance to compete for the starting job, but it’s not going to be handed to you, what are you going to do to ensure you are the starting quarterback?
TATE: I can’t even answer that, there’s so much I have to do. I don’t care who you are, you have to earn it. I need to learn the playbook; work with the receivers, there’s so much. I can’t answer that until maybe spring ball, because I don’t know how to answer it.
TOM: What were your thoughts and initial feelings when you heard that Shavodrick Beaver had changed his commitment to Tulsa?
TATE: Shavodrick, I told Coach Smith I knew it was going to come. I almost felt like he was just trying to wait me out, to see what I would do. I think sometimes kids make their choice for the wrong reasons, and then this ends up happening. Decommitting happens though, but this is Michigan, we should have no problem filling those spots, and we haven’t. As much as we would like to have those guys, we have found great replacements for them that are as good, if not better.
TOM: Have the coaches said anything to you about anything new they want to try, or anything on the offensive side that will change this year?
TATE: Coach Rodriguez says he’s going to be able to open up his offense more with me. With Threet and Sheridan you can’t really run the option with pro style quarterbacks. It’s hard to run the true spread without a dual threat quarterback. He’s going to have me running a lot. I just have to listen and learn.
TOM: Throughout college there’s going to be a lot of adversity. With not being selected to the All American games, and the star rankings you experienced a little already. How do you use that to your advantage?
TATE: That makes me want to prove myself, and nothing against the recruiting services, but the star system is just opinion, it’s not fact. I have a lot to prove, and I’m not sure why I wasn’t rated higher than I am just based on stats. But, I don’t really care what the recruiting services say; I care what the coaches say. I was recruited by Michigan, so that’s proof enough for me. I just want to show everyone a freshman can do it.
TOM: I know you’re not there yet, but what are the keys to success for Michigan this year? Is there anything the coaches have been emphasizing?
TATE: For the team, I need to get more involved to answer that. For myself, it all comes on me, no one’s going to do it for me. I need to study, get all the guys together for drills. I have to go to them, they can’t come to me. Understanding why the coaches have the plays built the way they do is huge.
TOM: So, let’s put a hypothetical out there, or a look into the possible future. Tate Forcier is the starting quarterback, and the Wolverines are about to take the field. Everyone looks to you as the leader, what’s the message you give? How do you command your offense?
TATE: Show confidence. I’m going to have the same swagger as I always have. The quarterback is the leader for a reason. Michigan saw something special in me, and I’ll project that to the team. I want to be the same confident kid that I’ve always been.
The past few days, we’ve all gotten a glimpse of how good this recruiting class really is, and they haven’t even gotten to play the games yet. Michigan has representation at both the Army All American game and the ESPN Under Armour game as well. I’ve been a little discouraged lately with rumors and talk of negative recruiting, and the media repeatedly asking commits about decommitting. The positive attention Michigan and their recruits have gotten is a breath of fresh air, and something we didn’t get to see a lot of this past season. At the Army All American game, Justin Turner has turned heads with how well he’s covered some of the top receivers. Jeremy Gallon has shown why he was chosen as an All American in the first place. Anthony LaLota has only been playing football for two years, and said that this experience has already given him confidence knowing he can hang with the best. Craig Roh has shown his athleticism in the few days he’s practiced with the Under Armour teams.
The latest commit, Taylor Lewan, is finally getting a chance to show the nation what all the talk is about. Taylor’s father Dave shared some of the highlights from the Under Armour practice so far. “I’ve read some good things about Taylor so far, and I think he’s doing a good job of showing off his footwork and athleticism.” In practice, Taylor has been going up against Sam Montgomery, one of the top defensive end recruits, and has proven he belongs at this game. “It’s been fun for Taylor, because him and Craig are solid on Michigan, and they’re comfortable with who they are, so they get a chance to just meet some new people, catch up with kids they’ve met at camps, and really test themselves against the best kids in the country,” said Dave.
The fact that Michigan has such a high number of commits at these games bodes well for a couple of reasons. It helps dispel some of the negatives that this past season brought, it gives everyone a chance to see what “Rich Rodriguez’s guys” actually look like, but it also shows the future recruits that Michigan football hasn’t gone anywhere. There will always be negative recruiting that goes on, but if we can continue to pull in high caliber, and character guys we won’t have to worry about a thing.
Below is the list of commits that will be playing in the All American games
Army All American
ESPN Under Armour
I just spoke with Ricardo Miller about the recent coaches visit, and a little about his reaction to Shavodrick Beaver decommitting. Here’s what he had to say.
TOM: Coach Smith and Frey came to see you, Kenny Shaw, and Demetrius Hart the other day, how did that go?
RICARDO: It went real well, I was excited to have them there. They were down here to see Jeremy Gallon, and then decided to come over and see us. That just proves to me what Coach Rodriguez said earlier. He told me earlier that he’s just as committed to me as I am him, and this showed me that. We started talking just about our year, and how we’re trying to improve. Then Kenny and Demetrius got there, and they were telling them how they think they’ll fit in, and how they can help Michigan.
TOM: Kenny Shaw is in your class, and a receiver, and Demetrius Hart is a sophomore, so what were they telling them? How do they fit in?
RICARDO: They were telling Kenny he could be a real good slot receiver up there, and get a chance to show the fans what he’s got. Demetrius, they were telling him that he’s perfect for their offense. He’s quick and could come in at running back.
TOM: How do you think they liked the coaches, and the experience?
RICARDO: I could tell they were real excited. Kenny and Demetrius are the same as me. They’re looking to find a home, and a place that they can feel like family. They’re going to keep their word, wherever they go, and do everything to help their team. I tell them all the time that Coach Rodriguez is here to help us all the time. From the talks that we have, I know he’s there for me on and off the field, which I love. I’ve just been focusing on that, and letting them know they can trust him, and he has our best interests in mind.
TOM: So, I broke the news to you last night that Beaver decommitted, what is your reaction?
RICARDO: I’m not even going to look into it. I’m disappointed, and I lost some respect for him, because I feel like you need to be true to your word. We became good friends, and we talked like we were brothers, so I don’t really get it. I was told that he said he didn’t feel like he fit in, and he was overwhelmed by the crowd at the game. You told me some things he said about Tulsa being focused on family, and that was a huge part of why I chose Michigan. That’s my family, and they’ve always focused on that. But, like I said, I’m not even worried about that. I’m moving forward, and Coach Rodriguez told me they are too. They’re excited to get Tate up there, and are going to find someone else to come in too. Coach Smith told me they’re disappointed in how it all happened, but they know he’s missing out. I’ve actually already started working on Devin Gardner, and trying to get him to come up there. I’m going to talk to him today about this, and see what he says. After talking with him at the Michigan State game, I really don’t think he’s the kind of guy to just choose a school to say he’s going there.
TOM: What do you mean?
RICARDO: Well I chose Michigan because I love Michigan. I’ve been a fan for who knows how long. After talking with the coaches, and being up there, I knew that was the place for me. I think sometimes kids make their decision just for themselves, to say I’m going to Michigan, or whatever school, not the right reasons. I’m recruiting some other kids, and I want Michigan men there. Guys that want to be at Michigan, because that’s what’s going to help the team. Look at Braylon Edwards, he’s like the spokes person for Michigan, because he’s a Michigan man. I mean, in the real world, you can’t tell someone you’re going to do one thing, then not do it. I don’t want to do anything that will show against my character, and I think that does.
TOM: You mentioned that Michigan is your family, what made you really feel that?
RICARDO: Well, when I went to Michigan for the Michigan State game, I knew that was the place. The coaches made me feel wanted, and so did the fans. The fans were all screaming my name, and telling me they want me, and I’m a junior. I mean, I went to Florida, and no one even knew who I was, or said anything to me, it was weird. Not that I want attention, but it was just like I was another kid coming in.
TOM: What are you focusing on right now?
RICARDO: I’m training for the Army All American combine, just trying to get ready to compete. Just trying to get to next season, keep my 3.5 GPA up, and just try to get to Michigan as fast as I can.
The recent happenings at Auburn have left a few of their commits looking for possible new homes. Louisiana receiver Travante Stallworth is still committed to Auburn, but will be taking visits to both Michigan and South Carolina. He's 5' 10" 180 pounds, and runs a 4.4 40. He's a dual threat quarterback for his high school, and has been recruited as a wide receiver by every school but one. Take a look at which school that is after Stallworth's highlight video:
TOM: So are you still committed to Auburn, since you’re now looking at other schools?
TRAVANTE: Yes sir, I’m still committed to Auburn.
TOM: When did you decide you wanted to start looking around?
TRAVANTE: I decided last weekend to take visits, when I found out who the new coach was. I just wanted to look at new schools, and make sure I was still in the best place.
TOM: Was that the main reason, or was there anything else?
TRAVANTE: Well, they fired the staff too, and I was real close to the TE/WR coach. I haven’t talked to anybody from Auburn since. My recruiting coordinator got fired, but he called me yesterday. That’s the only person I’ve talked to.
TOM: So what schools are you most interested in right now?
TRAVANTE: I’m highly interested in Michigan, I’m real interested in South Carolina, and I’m kind of interested in TCU.
TOM: Tell me what it is about those schools that stand out to you.
TRAVANTE: With Michigan there’s so much history. My coach called me two weeks ago and said Michigan is interested, and my eyes got big, because not everyone gets that opportunity. I already know what kind of offense they run, and it’s the same offense we run in high school. With South Carolina it’s still in the south, and kind of close to home. They also said I’ll get a chance to play early. Steve Spurrier is a great coach, and his son is the offensive coordinator. In their offense, they throw the ball a lot, so I like that.
TOM: What position are you being recruited at?
TRAVANTE: Everyone is recruiting me as a wide receiver, and Michigan said I can try quarterback if I want.
TOM: Are you going to make an announcement if you decide to choose schools?
TRAVANTE: I’m just trying to wait and see how everything goes, I’ll probably just wait until signing date to see where I’m going to go.
TOM: What if you go to one of these visits, and it blows you away, do you think you’ll make a decision on the spot?
TRAVANTE: Yea, if it blows me away, then yea I’ll make a decision right there. My mom is coming with me on the visits, so she’ll be there to help.
TOM: I’ve seen your highlight tape, and you look good, what do you think the reason some schools are coming onto you late?
TRAVANTE: I don’t know why they came on late. Michigan is just looking for more athletes. A lot of schools don’t have a lot of time to talk during the season, so I understand. I think my commitment had something to do with it too.
TOM: What were the reasons that you originally committed to Auburn?
TRAVANTE: I chose Auburn because it was close to home, my dad is in the military and stationed 30 minutes away. I also have family in Florida, and the last thing was the offense they were running.
TOM: You’ve mentioned a couple times about distance, and the south. Will that play into your decision?
TRAVANTE: No, distance won’t play in to it. I’m a military kid, so I’ve been moving a lot. My other relatives can watch me if I choose Michigan because they’re always on TV.
TOM: What do you say to coaches when they ask you what you bring to the table?
TRAVANTE: I’m a great kid, and I don’t get in trouble. I focus on my school work. I’m not going to be out worked on the field. My coach always tells us not to get out worked. I just want to be the best that I can be, and learn as much as I can.
TOM: What other teammates do you have that are going through the recruiting process as well?
TRAVANTE: Our running back, Michael Ford, he’s committed to LSU. Our safety is committed to Louisiana Tech. We have a LB/DL going to Grambling, and we’re trying to get another wide receiver and corner back to go somewhere. I introduce all the coaches to most of the people I play with, we’re all close so it would be nice to have someone come with me where ever I go.
TOM: When is your Michigan visit, and what are you looking for on these trips?
TRAVANTE: January 9th is the date to Michigan. I’m real high on facilities, and I already know Michigan has great facilities. I want a great degree in case football doesn’t work out. Just how the fan base is, and the people there. I want to play early too, so that will factor in as well.
TOM: A question I’ve been asking a lot of recruits is about Michigan’s losing season. How did that affect you?
TRAVANTE: The losing doesn’t affect me, because Coach Rodriguez is a great coach, and I know how fast he can turn things around. They’re trying to get their players real quick, and once he does they’re going to be real good.
The Scout Top 100 list for 2010 is up, and one of the new five star recruits is Christian Lombard. He’s an offensive line recruit from Illinois, and has a hefty list of offers already. “I don’t really have a top list yet, I want to do some more research on all of them. The ones that I’ve visited will all be on my list though,” Lombard said. Christian has seen Michigan, Notre Dame, and Iowa. He is now going to start focusing more on recruiting as he goes into his senior year, and said that, “academics is number one, without an education there’s no football, next is the football team in general, and the training program, and third is the campus and everything outside of football.” The training program was one aspect that stuck out to him when he spoke with Mike Barwis. He said, “Coach Barwis is real high energy, I’ve met him a couple times. It was cool, when we were there, Braylon Edwards and Mike Hart were working out. It was cool to see some NFL players with him.” Lombard has a lot of offers from Midwest schools, but told me, “I’m not sure if distance is a factor yet, I’ve talked to the coaches at North Carolina, so we’ll just see how it plays out.” Christian came to Michigan on an unofficial visit, and got to watch the Michigan, Michigan State rivalry first hand. “It was definitely powerful. It was exciting, Michigan State had as many fans there as Michigan. That rivalry is huge, and the tradition there is pretty neat.” His footwork, knowledge of the game, and his strength are what he prides himself on, and uses to his advantage. His high school runs a variety of offensive schemes, and he told me, “We run pretty much everything, primarily a spread. I don’t really prefer a style, but I can run in a spread.” His coach has been helping him with the recruiting process, and it seems like he’ll let us know where he decides when he knows. “I’m just going to see what happens, when I find the school I think I fit into I’ll probably make my decision, why wait?”