Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
One of the biggest questions left, besides William Campbell, is if Michigan will sign an outside receiver. I spoke with Willie Haulstead, a Florida State commit that has been taking visits to see what other schools have to offer. “I originally committed to Florida State because I talked with a lot of their players that told me how it was up there, and I liked their tradition,” Willie said. He told me, “I just wanted to make sure I was making the right decision, and I have always wanted to visit Auburn too, so we’ll see,” when I asked him why he is taking more visits, rather than actually looking for something specific. He took a visit to Michigan and told me how it compared to Florida State, “at Michigan, the atmosphere and all the people were crazy, and Florida State I just like their swagger and tradition.” He’s already 210 pounds, and says his fastest 40 time is a 4.4, but when asked what he brings to the table he told me, “I bring excitement, speed, I have an ability to make plays, I’m just a vocal leader when I’m on the field.” He said that playing early will play a factor in his decision, and both Michigan and Florida State told him he will have that chance. When asked if the possible departure of Bobby Bowden had played into his decision to look around, he told me, “I’m alright with a coaching change, they told me it’s not going to change that much.” The process has also lead him to some new friends, and it seems like that is even a Michigan, Florida State battle. Willie told me, “I’ve been talking mostly with Florida State kids, but also Shavodrick Beaver, Brandin Hawthorne, and Vincent Smith.” Haulstead is not planning on enrolling early, and when asked if there will be an official announcement on his decision he said, “No, I’m going to take everything in, look at all the teams, and make a decision at the end.” So we will all have to wait it out until the end for either his de-commitment, or affirmation of his current choice.
Devin Gardner is the quarterback for Inkster, and is looking to win a State Championship this weekend, as a junior. [Note: Inkster lost to EGR 43-24 in the state finals; this interview took place before that. –ed]
His team is obviously having a great year, but Gardner's individual stats stick out as well. He has 47 total TD's, 25 passing and 22 running, with only 6 INT's. He looks to take that success to a State Championship against East Grand Rapids. He hasn't been able to put 100% into his recruitment yet, but says he'll be able to narrow things down after his basketball season. Here's what he had to say.
TOM: What do you think has lead to your improvement from last year to this year?
DEVIN: Coach Carter helped me, he didn’t accept anything but perfection. We focused on throwing, decision making, and running. We run a mixture of a spread, the read option and pass, so it’s important to make good decisions.
TOM: What have you focused on when trying to improve?
DEVIN: I can always improve my decision making. I’m over 60% with my completion percentage, so that’s good. I just practice every play hard, so when game time comes, I know where my teams going to be. So in time it’s going to get better, and easier.
TOM: What goals do you want to accomplish for your senior year?
DEVIN: I want to win a state championship this year. Next year, I want to do the same thing. I don’t really want the individual award. If we win state then that means I did a good job.
TOM: When do you think you’ll really start to get into the recruiting process, and start to analyze schools?
DEVIN: I took a few visits, but haven’t really gotten into it yet, I’m still focused on state championships. I’m going to focus more during basketball season.
TOM: Are there already some schools that have you thinking about them?
DEVIN: Not really, all the schools are equal right now. I guess if I had to name the top right now it’s Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, those are a few that have been in contact with me.
TOM: I heard that you said Ohio State is a school you really like, what about them sticks out to you?
DEVIN: When I was younger, I didn’t pay attention to the actual football game, but my favorite color was red, and they always won. I never knew about the Michigan, Ohio state rivalry, but they’ve always been good. They just continue to win, that’s what sticks out.
TOM: So does playing early factor into your decision?
DEVIN: Possibly. Anywhere I go there’s going to be competition, but it may come into play.
TOM: What about the style of offensive scheme, will that matter?
DEVIN: It doesn’t matter, because I’m getting better at throwing so it doesn’t matter. Plays are always going to break down, so if I’m in pro I can show my athleticism. Whether it’s designed to run or not, I’ll still be able to run.
TOM: Have you started building any relationships with coaches?
DEVIN: I talk to a lot of coaches, everyone that’s offered me. Most of the coaches talk about my family, and how I’m doing in school, they all are trying to build personal relationship.
TOM: Lately, there’s been some comparison with yourself and Robert Bolden, what do you bring to the field that he doesn’t? What sets you apart from the quarterbacks in your class?
DEVIN: I’m more athletic, and I’ve got great speed. My determination, I just want to win. I can’t speak for them, but I know I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. There are also a lot of athletes, not just quarterbacks, and I’m a quarterback that’s athletic.
TOM: Have you gotten to take any unofficial visits to any schools yet?
DEVIN: Yea, I went to Notre Dame, Bowling Green, Toledo, Michigan, MSU, and Ohio State for the Nike camp.
TOM: As a quarterback, how do you decide what school is really best for you?
DEVIN: That’s the toughest part, because that’s the most important decision of my life. My mom, brother, and coach Carter talk about what school is best. Ultimately it’s my decision, but they’ll help.
TOM: Do you want to try to go where any of your teammates go?
DEVIN: It would be nice if they could, but I want them to go where is best for them. That would be selfish of me. I tell coaches about them, because they work hard. From my class we have a really good wide receiver, Jonathon Taylor.
TOM: A question that a lot of people having been asking is about Michigan’s losing season. Can you weigh in on it? From a recruits point of view, how does this season, and the losing record factor in?
DEVIN: It really doesn’t bother me that much, because I saw Michigan last year, and it was totally different. They haven’t gotten their players yet. I can see the system will work, it’s just not working because the players aren’t doing the right things, or plays are breaking down. Once they get the right players, and the others used to it, they’ll be good.
TOM: Have you developed any relationships with other recruits yet?
DEVIN: Yea, Austin White, Nick Hill, we met at the Notre Dame game, Jeremy Jackson, Ricardo Miller, Robert Bolden, and Joe Boyster.
Most of you may not know that I live in Arizona. I recently [ed note: not that recently anymore!] got the chance to see one of the final football games of the regular season for Michigan defensive end commit Craig Roh and offensive line target Taylor Lewan, teammates at Chaparral High. Chaparral beat Lewan's former team Cactus Shadows 45-28. Their team is 9-1, and they both have a lot to do with their team's success.
Craig Roh is a defensive end, four star recruit, and Michigan commit. Throughout the entire game he played strong, and didn't seem fatigued. The P.A. regularly announced his name for tackles and big plays. He was very vocal on the sidelines, focused on the team rather than himself.
He told me that was one of the things that drew him to Michigan, "They treat everyone like family, whether you're a freshman or not. I really like that each player gets treated the same, and with respect."
He also really likes the tradition of Michigan football, and has already started to build friendships with other players. "I've talked with Anthony Lalota a little bit," said Roh, "and I actually have Mike Martin's phone number, so we talk too, which has been good to get to know my future teammates."
We went on to talk about his excitement to get up to Ann Arbor this summer, where is his main focus will be building strength and putting on weight. When I asked him whether or not he was trying to convince his teammate, and friend to join him at Michigan, he looked back at Taylor down the field, and said "yeah, I want him to come to Michigan; I want him to be there with me."
While the recruiting process has slowed for Roh after his commitment, it's picked up for Taylor Lewan. Lewan, a recent convert to offensive tackle, stands 6' 7", 272 pounds and runs a 4.72 40. Before his senior season, he was relatively unknown, but now he's one of the hottest offensive line prospects in the country, a newly-minted four-star recruit and possessor of over 20 offers. Oklahoma State and Missouri are the latest BCS schools to add themselves to that list.
I had the privilege of talking with Taylor and his father Dave. They both seem to be taking the process for a ride, and are excited about Taylor's success. The elder Lewan was an athlete at Minnesota, and lived in the Detroit area earlier in his life. He told me "I'm not being biased at all, this is Taylor's time, and he's going to make the decision."
They both told me about Taylor's favorite player: former Michigan left tackle and current Miami Dolphin Jake Long. Dave told me that every Sunday, “Taylor watches the Dolphin games, and actually rewinds every offensive play to see what Jake was doing, and his technique.” Lewan draws comparisons to the first pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Taylor plays left tackle, wears the number 77, is one of the smartest players on and off the field, and has based his game on strength. Coming out of high school, Long was a recent convert to offensive line rated about where Lewan is.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Lewan since he was relatively new to the position, but he showed why colleges across the country are after him. He stands taller than most of the players on the field, and lacks the usual spare tire around his waist. He's solid muscle, and has a good frame to build on.
Then he strapped on his helmet, and showed me his best Jake Long impersonation. He plays with harnessed anger and emotion, and more importantly plays snap to whistle on every play. The play that stuck out was when he drove a defensive end all the way past the right hash mark, and would've kept going had the whistle not blown. His dad told me that Taylor thought he had a poor game, but that type of play is pretty normal for his son. "If you watch his highlight film,” he said, “there's a play where Taylor drives a kid 30 yards down the field, and actually out of the camera shot."
He told me he actually prefers playing in the cold, which is refreshing to hear from a warm climate player.
Coach Dews has been in contact with Lewan regularly, and has made a great impression on him. "I really like how Coach Dews treats me, and when we talk, I feel like he's my friend," said Lewan. Taylor seems to have a great head on his shoulders, and the right support system in his family. He's looking for the right opportunity, and wants to play. Roh and Lewan were both recently invited to play in the Under Armour All American Game. They drill together after practice, and credit each other for their success.”There’s no way that I would be where I’m at right now without Craig, he’s pushed me, and I’ve pushed him to where we are today,” said Taylor. Lewan told me that he will be taking one of his visits to Michigan. He originally planned to do so this weekend, but Chapparal has a playoff game and he has to reschedule. He currently plans to visit December 6th.
Michigan has some good competition for this highly touted recruit, but I can confidently say he will be a household name where ever he goes. Both he and his family spoke highly of Michigan, and had some great things to say about the coaching staff as well. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out, and there will be a lot of teams watching his every move.
Tom VanHaaren interviews one of the top OL prospects in the class of 2010.
I recently had the privilege of talking with Robert Crisp. I’m sure not too many people know that name yet, but "yet" is the key word. Crisp is a 6’8” 295 pound junior left tackle, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and he's one of the best in the 2010 class.
As big as he is, Robert runs a 4.85 40, and still looking to improve his time. He is a monster that plays on both sides of the ball. Basketball was his first love, and he didn’t even start playing football until a year and a half ago. He currently plays football, basketball, and will start track for his high school this year. Here’s the conversation we had.
TOM: You’re a junior, and it seems like you’re still a little under the radar. Tell me a little about yourself.
ROB: I’m 6 feet 8 inches and 295lbs. Our team is doing pretty good; we lost Friday 31-34. Our record is 6-3. We’re still looking okay though; we should have a chance to win it all. We made it to the playoffs last year, to the 3rd round. That’s not normal for our school, but we’ve been good since I’ve been there.
TOM: Now, I read that you are 6 feet 8 inches tall, 295 pound Offensive Tackle, and you run a 4.85 40? Is that right?
ROB: Yea, I ran that last year, I’m still around that, but I’m always trying to improve on it.
TOM: So are you a multisport athlete then? Basketball and Track too?
ROB: Yeah, well, in football I play offensive tackle, and defensive tackle. I also play basketball, which used to be my main sport. I was better at basketball than football. I’m going to start with shot put this year too.
TOM: Is being athletic something that you’ve worked on, or has it come naturally?
ROB: I just like to work hard, what I’ve learned, I do in the game. I like to pay attention and learn. My coaches have been crucial to my success.
TOM: You’re still young, but you’re going to start seeing and hearing a lot about colleges pretty soon. What is most important to you for the next level?
ROB: Academics is the first thing I think of. Who knows if I can go to the NFL, so I want a good education. Staying with my brother Pete is important, and being able to keep in touch with my guardian. I would love to go to college with Pete, who plays wide receiver and safety, we’ll see if that happens though. The last thing is just the environment on game day.
TOM: Are there any schools right now that stick out to you?
ROB: I don’t say I have a school on my mind right now, no favorite yet. I just think about where I’ll get the best education and opportunity.
TOM: Being from North Carolina there’s been a new rise with the schools there, have you seen any of those teams in person yet? Talked to any of the coaches?
ROB: No I haven’t gotten a chance to talk with them. I went to Duke last weekend, but other than that no.
TOM: Do you want to stay on the Offensive Line in college? Has anyone talked about moving you anywhere else?
ROB: I definitely want to play left tackle, if they give me the chance to play both I will. I’ll do whatever is best for the team. I try to stay humble.
TOM: You’ve got offers from Boston College, Clemson, Georgia, and Michigan to name a few. Is there one offer that you’re really hoping to get?
ROB: Last year I wanted an offer from Florida. But when I went, it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I still haven’t even gotten an offer yet, but I’m not really that excited any more. Maybe they don’t know about me, but I went down there in person, so that affects it a little bit, but not totally.
TOM: Growing up, was there one college team that you always followed, always wished you could play for?
ROB: Duke. I always dreamed about going to Duke. Basketball was my first love, and I wanted to play for the Duke basketball team.
TOM: Do you know a lot about Michigan football?
ROB: I actually don’t. We were looking for tickets to fly up this weekend, but it’s too expensive right now.
TOM: Offensive line is a big need for Michigan and always a need for a lot of teams; will early playing time affect your decision?
ROB: I don’t think so. The starting position is the guy that works the hardest and learns the most. If I work harder then I deserve it. If I don’t work hard, then I don’t deserve it.
TOM: Does it make a difference of how much coaches show interest, and how much they talk to you?
ROB: I understand if they can’t talk to me right now, they’re in the middle of their season. But hearing from them a lot is good, but I understand they’ve got work to do.
TOM: So is everyone still pretty equal, are there any schools you know you want to see?
ROB: There are some schools I want to see, I still want to come see Michigan and LSU. But there’s no leader.
TOM: Have your coaches helped you at all, early on, to sort the process out?
ROB: They told me about the rules and regulations of recruiting. But they haven’t really tried to lead me on to any schools.
TOM: When do you think you’ll start planning visits?
ROB: After this football season. I haven’t decided if I’m going to play basketball yet. But I’m going to get some trips in after the football season.
TOM: Are you the kind of guy who wants to get your decision out of the way to stay focused, or take your time with everything and make a decision later on?
ROB: I’m going wait it out, and try to get as much information as possible. Tommy Bowden told me this is one of the most important decisions I’ll make. I’m going to wait until my senior year.
Someone had asked me if we could look at the past recruits, compared to Rich Rods class. I took a look at the past, and figured out a big part of the reason why we're here. When I use the word "good" here it's pretty loose, basically if they start or contribute in some way, to give an idea of what our recruiting since 2005 has gotten us. If they're not mentioned on here, it's because they suck, don't play, aren't very good yet, or are transfers.
2005: 23 Total Recruits
NFL - Mario Manningham
Good - Terrance Taylor (4 Star), Brandon Harrison (4 Star), David Moosman (4 Star), Zoltan Mesko (3 Star)
Bust - Kevin Grady (5 Star), Antonio Bass (4 Star), Carson Butler (3 Star)
2006: 19 Total Recruits
Benedict Arnold - Justin Boren (4 Star)
Good - Stephen Schilling (5 Star), Brandon Graham (5 Star), Greg Matthews (4 Star), Brandon Minor (4 Star), Obi Ezeh (3 Star, Running Back)
Bust - Jason Kates? (4 star DT), Steve Brown ( I couldn't decide where to put him)
2007: 20 Total Recruits
Narcissist - Ryan Mallett (5 Star)
Good - Donovan Warren (5 Star), Toney Clemons (4 Star), Michael Williams (4 Star), Junior Hemmingway (3 Star), David Molk (3 Star)
So, since 2005, we basically have 14 people really contributing to the team. Morgan Trent is really the only notable, besides Charles Stewart still around from 2004. We currently have 8 true freshman that have contributed in some way. This is 8 players from one year, compared to 14 since 2005. You can draw your own conclusions from this, but it makes me very encouraged for our future recruiting.
An election day special from Tom VanHaaren.
Change we can believe in. Hope for the future.
This isn’t a cheesy political statement, but rather a description of Ricardo Miller. With the season going the way it is, Michigan needs a big time playmaker, and Miller is that player. If you haven’t watched video of the highly touted junior, take a look at his highlights from this year in the video provided:
With two spread friendly quarterbacks in this year’s class, Rich Rodriguez has got to be licking his chops with this commit.
“They use me where ever I can get a mismatch in high school, whether it’s in the slot, on the linebacker, tight end, or the outside,” Miller told me. Miller plays big, fast, and competitive. Along with his competitiveness he brings the kind of character and personality expected from a Michigan Man. Only a junior in high school, Ricardo told me he already thinks about earning the coveted number one jersey. Take a look at what else he had to say.
TOM: Tell me about your visit, all I've heard is good things from you.
RICARDO: I really liked the atmosphere, and the whole stadium. I felt like a part of the team already, and I can’t wait to prove myself. I want to show everybody I’m not just the Ricardo Miller in high school; I can help Michigan turn it around.
TOM: Did this visit really put the cap on the recruiting process for you?
RICARDO: I feel like that visit, it made my commitment stronger. Besides the loss, it was great. I’ll fit in Michigan real well, with my personality and my character. It really made me feel my decision was the right one. It was cool, all the coaches showed me love, and I knew I made the right move.
TOM: When did you really know that Michigan was it?
RICARDO: When I saw Braylon Edwards go for over 3,000 receiving yards, I said that is going to be me. I want to work for that number 1 jersey like he did.
TOM: Have other schools still been trying to recruit you?
RICARDO: I still get Florida calling, Stanford, and Rutgers. But, it’s all straightforward, I don’t really pay attention.
TOM: You're kind of like the spokesman for Michigan in Florida right now, what are you trying to tell other recruits?
RICARDO: I just tell them that no matter what decision you make, make sure it’s a good one. From what I’ve seen, I feel like Michigan has all the tools you need to be that great football player. All this talent going to one team, it’s going to be unstoppable. The SEC, ACC, we’re going beat them all. It will also help you in the process to get to the next level.
TOM: What recruits have you really be working hard on?
RICARDO: I’ve been working on Lo Wood, a cornerback from Apopka. Marvin Robinson, Michigan is still on top for him, but hasn’t made a decision. A future 5 star, Demetrius Hart, he plays running back and corner back. Whoever I can get in contact with that will go to Michigan. Demetrius Hart is excited about Michigan, and Lo Wood after being up there he thinks that Michigan is something special.
TOM: With your team right now, you are used all over on offense, have the coaches told you how they want to use you at Michigan?
RICARDO: They use me where ever I can get a mismatch in high school, whether it’s in the slot, on the linebacker, tight end, or the outside. The Michigan coaches told me that they want me mostly at WR, x and z. But if they want that mismatch, they’ll put me at tight end too.
TOM: Are you excited for that creativity that Rich Rodriguez brings? Being able to make plays specifically for you?
RICARDO: Yea, and just being around guys like that. Someone with that much ability to make a program good is exciting. The spread that he runs, he’ll make plays for me, and they’ll be big time plays, it will be crazy. To be able to make something big happen, it’s stunning. Being the kind of wide receiver I am, playing for Rich Rodriguez is going to be a dream.
TOM: Have you started to build a friendship with Shavodrick Beaver or Tate Forcier?
RICARDO: Yea, Tate I haven’t talked to yet. Beav we talked for a couple months now, just trying to get used to see how his personality is, him as a quarterback and me as a wide receiver. Beav is a cool guy.
TOM: Your Mom is a UM grad, how much did she weigh in on your decision?
RICARDO: I won’t lie; my mom was in my ear about Michigan ever since I can remember. I messed with her when I was younger, and would say I’m going to a different school, and she would say, oh no you’re not. But she’s sacrificed a lot for me, so I feel that I’m gaining another bond with her by going to Michigan.
TOM: How do you think your commitment to Michigan will have an effect on Michigan’s efforts in Florida and the south for your class?
RICARDO: By me committing and being from Florida, you don’t see too many wide receivers leaving the state. So I hope I show kids they can go anywhere, I have a positive influence on other recruits. They’ll start to think, if he’s going there maybe I should check it out, there must be something good about it.
TOM: You are miles ahead of most recruits your age, is almost a relief to know that you can focus on your senior year?
RICARDO: You don’t know how many letters and phone calls I got before I committed. My High School coach gave me the keys to the mailbox at school, and told me to go get the mail. It’s down now, and I get a lot more time to myself. I don’t worry about this coach calling, and that coach wanting to talk to me. Coming from where I come from, this is the greatest opportunity I’ll ever get. People used to tell me I was an average player, and I didn’t listen, and I feel like I can be an outstanding player.
TOM: Is there anything you want to really focus on getting better at? Since college is a big jump, what have the coaches told you to work on?
RICARDO: They feel like I basically have the essentials, but just stay focused. It’s a big step and transitioning to Michigan and a college atmosphere, I just need to stay focused on the task at hand. There are thousands of people screaming your name, and you have to be ready for whatever is thrown at you. My focus level has to be high; there will be a lot of obstacles. With my character and personality I should be fine. You can always improve, and I just want to keep improving.
TOM: Is there any possibility anyone could get you away from Michigan?
RICARDO: No, no, no. Honestly people asked me that after the visit, and I told them after seeing that atmosphere, there’s no way I’ll give up that opportunity. Rich Rodriguez said as much as you’re committed to me I’m as committed to you.