this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Arizona offensive lineman Andrus Peat (6'7", 305 lbs) is one of the top prospects in the nation, a five star to most sites. Peat decided to take a trip up to Ann Arbor this weekend and I caught up with him to see how the visit went. Here's a look at his film and what he had to say.
TOM: What was the reason that you decided to visit Michigan?
ANDRUS: Right now I'm just trying to get out to all the schools that I'm seriously interested in. I've been to Florida State, USC, and Stanford. I just wanted to get out to Michigan because they have a great tradition for winning and getting linemen to the NFL. I'm also going to Notre Dame tomorrow and then going back home.
TOM: Once these visits are done are you going to try to narrow things down based off of what you saw?
ANDRUS: Yeah, I'm going to cut my list to probably around 5 to 8 after I get out to these schools. By the end of the summer I'll make that cut.
TOM: To get to this visit to Ann Arbor specifically, what did you do once you first got there?
ANDRUS: When I got there I got to meet with the coaches, we toured the campus, and then saw the facilities. It was good to see everything, I was really impressed by the campus and the college atmosphere. It was a lot better than I expected.
TOM: I'm assuming you got to meet with Coach Funk, what did you talk about with him?
ANDRUS: He was saying that there's a great opportunity for linemen because they only have like 8 on scholarship, I think. It's a great opportunity to play early and they said they really like me. I definitely want to give them a good look.
TOM: Do you think this visit helped you get more comfortable with the coaches? Since you live in Arizona did this help make a better connection with the coaches?
ANDRUS: I think it helped me a lot to get to know the coaches better. Coach Funk was at my school a couple times so I'm familiar with him. It was good for me to get on campus though and see everything.
TOM: You said you have been out to places like Florida State and USC, how did this visit compare to those?
ANDRUS: It's definitely way up there. It was the biggest stadium I've ever seen, and I had a really good feeling about it. The whole atmosphere, the college town which I like, and the area was good. Talking to all the coaches and seeing the opportunity to play there, it was really good.
TOM: I know Michigan fans are curious, now that Nebraska is in the Big Ten, your brother Todd signed with the Cornhusker in last year's class. Is that going affect on you at all?
ANDRUS: I'm going to give them a look, but just because he's there doesn't mean that's where I'll go. I want to find the right opportunity for me and take a look at all these schools.
TOM: Do you think this visit helped Michigan at all, and when do you plan on making your final decision?
ANDRUS: For sure, I was really impressed with everything. I could definitely see myself playing there. I don't know when I'll make my decision, just whenever I feel right. I will probably take official visits and then decide after my senior season.
Georgia wide receiver Jason Croom (6'5", 215 lbs) is fresh off of receiving a Michigan offer just yesterday. The Wolverine staff had great timing because Croom's mom just happened to be in the state of Michigan. She got a chance to check out campus and meet the coaching staff today. Jason wasn't with her, but here's what she had to say.
TOM: You told me that you were visiting with the coaches, was that over the phone or did you go check everything out in person?
MRS. CROOM: I went over to campus and met everyone. We are originally from Detroit, and our older daughter got married up here yesterday so we are here. We just happened to be here when they made the offer. Jason didn't come because he was doing a 7 on 7 tournament. Since we were already up here we decided to check it out. I was able to talk to some of the coaches, we didn't get to meet Brady [Hoke] because he was in a meeting.
TOM: Do you think Jason will make it back up to see everything you just did?
MRS. CROOM: Yes, we will be back up in August for unofficial visit with Jason. We'll be up the last week of July to the first week in August to see Michigan and Michigan State with Jason. He won't be taking official visits probably until December.
TOM: Since you're originally from Detroit does that mean you all are Michigan fans?
MRS. CROOM: Yes, we are Michigan fans. We've only been away from Michigan for six years. Jason isn't as familiar with the program as we are though.
TOM: I know Jason said that he had a top three of Tennessee, Miami, and Mississippi State recently. Is that final, or where is he at?
MRS. CROOM: Those are just the three schools that he hears the most from. Those coaches have taken the time to get to know us as a family, that's all.
TOM: I know this is all early and happening fast, but does Michigan have a chance to get in that group?
MRS. CROOM: From a parent stand point this is home, from an academic stand point it's great, and distance wouldn't matter because he would be surrounded by family. It's convenient. One of the [Michigan] coaches actually grew up in the same neighborhood as me and we didn't know it. We had a good conversation, we knew a lot of the same people. The other coaches are all new to campus so they don't really know us yet.
TOM: It's tough to really gain a comfort level with someone in such short time, but what are you and Jason really looking for out of a program or coach?
MRS. CROOM: With him it's going to be a coach that he can truly relate to. It's someone that is going to deal with him being a direct person, somebody that's open, and can create plays around him. It's going to have to be a coach that's very creative. Most schools, including Michigan, are recruiting him as a Z receiver.
TOM: What other visits have you taken so far?
MRS. CROOM: We are actually on tour this week. Last weekend we visited Mississippi State and Alabama. My husband took him to Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, FSU, Florida, and we just got back from Miami and Tennessee. This won't be a snap decision. We have a lot of SEC schools, but things are starting to branch out so we'll look at everything. We have a spread sheet with pro's and con's of each school. We'll begin to narrow things down and go from there. It's definitely an honor to get a scholarship offer from a high institution like Michigan.
Tennessee offensive lineman Blake Bars [6'5", 275 lbs, 4 Star] is on his way up to Ann Arbor for his visit that will take place tomorrow [Saturday the 18th]. Bars' name hasn't been thrown around as much as some of the other prospects Michigan is after, but that doesn't mean he's wanted any less. Blake told me about his recruitment and what lead to a slow start in his process. Here's a look at his film then the answers.
TOM: The fans aren't as familiar with you as they are for some of the other prospects. It seems like your name has shot to the top very quickly though, is there any reason for that?
BLAKE: Yeah, we didn't get any of our game film until late in February. Our coach just didn't give them to us until after the season in fear that we would focus too much on recruiting and not the program. We got it in late February and put together a highlight film, sent them out the schools and got really positive feedback. That's why it took so long.
TOM: That makes sense. Since you got somewhat of a late start, at least compared to the rest of the crop, where are you at in the process? Do you have a top group yet?
BLAKE: My top schools are probably Penn State, Florida, Vanderbilt, LSU, and Michigan. There are some other schools I would maybe want to consider, but that's my top group right now. We're focusing on visiting the top schools right now, and we really wanted to visit Michigan. We're headed down there right now.
TOM: Ok, and to talk more specifically about Michigan how familiar are you with the program?
BLAKE: We lived in Trenton [Michigan] for around 12 years. I went to a Lloyd Carr camp in Wyandotte once, but I can't really tell you much more than that, I was pretty young. We did go up to Michigan last year and took a brief visit. We have relatives in Ann Arbor and we wanted to look around the stadium. We're excited to go back up and meet the coaches and go on a tour.
TOM: Does Michigan have any advantage with all this since you have family there and you've lived there before?
BLAKE: I think my Aunt who lives in Ann Arbor is a pretty good recruiter. She always says that if I come to Michigan she'll have special things for me. She'll bake me cookies and cook for me. I like the fact that my family is there, and my mom's uncle actually played for Michigan, but I'm not sure how much it will factor in.
TOM: What coach from Michigan are you mainly in contact with?
BLAKE: Coach Smith is recruiting our area. He came out to watch me practice and he said he was pretty impressed. The offer came after that. He's a great guy and I'm excited to meet him. When I talked to him on the phone we got to talk to Coach Hoke which was pretty cool.
TOM: With this visit what are you looking to get out of it? Are there any specific questions you want answered?
BLAKE: Right now I'm just keeping an open mind about each school. When we see it tomorrow I don't know that I have a specific questions other than just hearing what the coaches have to say. I want to find out about the academic side of everything. I think I'm looking for a school that's well balanced, good academics and good athletics as well.
TOM: You said you want to visit your top schools, so how do you think this whole process is going to play out for you?
BLAKE: I think I'm looking to get everything done sooner than later. I want to make a decision before our season starts. We have a really good team this year and we have a good shot at states. Getting that decision out of the way will help that. We have the top five right now and we'll try to get it down from there.
There probably isn't a more anticipated position group for the Michigan coaches to get on campus than the 2011 offensive line commitments. With only three signed in the class they need all the depth they can get. When Illinois lineman Chris Bryant announced his commitment to Michigan it was a sigh of relief for the fans and coaches alike. The 6-foot-5, 340-pound guard waited all the way until January 28th to announce that decision and chose Michigan over the likes of Arizona, Illinois, Pittsburgh, and Stanford.
Now that Chris is only a week away from making the trek to Ann Arbor to start his new journey he says it's all starting to become real. "It hasn't really hit me yet, I don't think it will really hit me until I get down there," he said. "We're moving in on the 25th, I'm not going to be there this weekend [the 17th] with Jordan because I want to spend time with my family. The whole process is something you dream about and it doesn't even seem real yet." While everything is sinking in, Bryant has already started to think about what he's most excited for once he gets to campus. "I think seeing my name in the locker room, and having it be official. Putting on that winged helmet and just being a part of all that tradition is just exciting," said Bryant.
Often times offensive linemen can have one of the more difficult transitions from high school to college. Their training both on the field and off the field can be drastically different, which is why Bryant is trying to follow everything by the books. "It's a big jump from high school and a lot of work, but I'm trying to do the workout book they sent me," he said. "They want me up there at 335 pounds and I'm at 340 right now. The conditioning was the toughest part but that's preparing for the next level."
Preparing his body is only one part of the process for Chris, and he also understands that he will have a huge adjustment to make in his academic and social life. "I'm going to try to balance my time with all the things being around my class, the weight room, in everything I do balance will play a big part in that," he said.
As Bryant gets closer to joining the Wolverine family he's had plenty of time to reflect on his journey. The recruiting process was long and sometimes tiresome for Bryant which is why he's passed on some of his knowledge to teammate Jordan Diamond. "I waited everything out and took my time, which was good and bad. It got to be really long for me," Bryant said. "It's Jordan's decision and he has a lot of offers from great football schools and great academic schools, but I tell him Michigan has both. He grew up a Michigan fan, so that makes it a little easier, but he'll make the right choice."
Bryant may not be nudging Diamond to join him in Ann Arbor, but the sheer fact that he'll be there makes it a little more comfortable for Jordan without saying anything. Having close friends and family close by makes it easier for anyone to adjust, and that holds true for Bryant as well. "When I went up there for the spring game that's when a lot of kids in my class went up and we all just bonded. We are really close, and there's not one person that I bonded with more than another. It's just a big family there and that's what's special about it," he said. Chris will be rooming with fellow 2011 signee TE Chris Barnett once he gets to Ann Arbor, and said that he's ready for everything in front of him.
Taft WR Dwayne Stanford has been at the top of the conversation when it comes to wide receiver prospects. It doesn't hurt that his teammate, DE Adolphus Washington, is a top recruit also being courted by Michigan. Stanford and Washington had previously been unable to make their visit to Michigan and Stanford finally rescheduled his trip for this weekend. Here's what he had to say about the upcoming visit and where he's at.
TOM: You and Adolphus are making your way up to Michigan this weekend?
DWAYNE: No, Adolphus can't make it this weekend but I am going. He's going to Kentucky on Friday and I'm going to Michigan on Saturday.
TOM: Don't you guys usually travel together? Is this the first visit you'll take without him?
DWAYNE: I visited Tennessee during a football game and he didn't go, but other than that yeah we've been together. This will really be one of the first unofficial visits not to a game that I've taken besides camps or anything.
TOM: With this visit what are you looking to learn from Michigan? Do you have any questions you want answered, or coaches you want to meet?
DWAYNE: I just want to go up there and talk to some of the players and the coaches. I want to find out exactly how they want to use me. I'm really just going up there with open eyes. I'd like to get to know the wide receivers coach better. I had misplaced his number so I have some questions for him about how they'll use me. I basically want to put a name to the face and develop that relationship.
TOM: I know I spoke with you briefly when the Ohio State allegations came out. What were you and your family thinking when it happened?
DWAYNE: We were all in shock. I didn't think that Coach Tressel would resign or get fired, I thought he would stick it out. Fickell is the head coach now and he'll do what he can to win them a Big Ten Championship and if the NCAA lets them, go to a bowl game. Ohio State is bigger than one coach, the tradition they have. At first it did hurt their chances with me, but I talked to the wide receivers coach and he's brought everything up for me. I don't want to say they're at the top but they're up there.
TOM: What about Michigan, where do they stand right now?
DWAYNE: Michigan, they're not at the very top either but they're up there on my list because of how persistent they've been to get me up there. They have a great tradition, won championships, won Big Ten titles. They're in a rebuilding stage which is even better because I could help Michigan get back on top. They've been at the top parts of my list for awhile now.
TOM: I know you go to some of the same camps as Michigan commits, and they have some Ohio kids. Do you ever talk to any of them?
DWAYNE: Yeah, I was at a 7 on 7 with Joe Bolden and he was trying to recruit me. I've been talking to the quarterback Shane Morris, too, I've been talking to him a lot. He's going to be up there this weekend I think, and he was saying we need to show the coaches the future and all that. I'm also good friends with AJ Williams, too. He's always in my ear.
TOM: What's next? I know you've said you want to wait to make your decision, is the timeline still the same?
DWAYNE: I'll have my official top five out in September. My top eight right now is Michigan, Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Miami, Florida State, North Carolina, and Tennessee. I'm going to go out to Tennessee, North Carolina, and obviously Michigan this summer. As far as a timeline it'll probably be towards the end of the season. It's really whenever I feel comfortable with the school and with my parents. I'm just projecting that it will be at the end of the school year.
Defense was a huge priority for Brady Hoke the second he stepped on the recruiting trail for Michigan. That was made apparent when four of his first six commitments for the 2011 class were defensive players. Cincinnati linebacker Antonio Poole was one of those commitments despite not receiving an offer from the previous Michigan coaches. Poole was a name that frequently came up throughout the recruiting process and that fans were happy to see on the Wolverine commitment list.
As the days get closer for Antonio to step on campus and make an impact, he still has one more big game to prepare for. Along with Michigan signees LB Frank Clark and DE Keith Heitzman, Poole was selected to play in the annual Big 33 game that puts the best high school players from Ohio against the best that Pennsylvania has to offer. "You have to be nominated by someone like a coach, and then they choose the best players from the nominations," said Poole.
The game is his main focus right now, but it has given him a chance to connect with his future teammates Clark and Heitzman. "We've been focused on the game and trying to win, but we have been talking about Michigan too," he said. "Frank is actually playing defensive end, linebacker, and some safety; he's really athletic. Keith has been doing pretty good, too, they're both really good." Antonio will be lined up as a MIKE linebacker so there's a chance for all three to be on the field at the same time.
The Big 33 is an honor for Antonio and he's excited about being able to represent his state, but it's also an excellent opportunity for him to prepare for better competition at the next level. "I think this will help me get better, help me to go up against better competition and get myself prepared to make an impact once I get [to Michigan]," said Poole.
The preparation and competition is only one aspect of how he's getting himself ready to compete at Michigan. The biggest change for Poole was probably his new workout program he received once he signed his LOI. "When I first got the exercise book I didn't even know how to do some of them, so it was kind of hard," he said. "The running stuff I knew how to do that, and I think I've built up a lot of stamina from the workouts. I've gotten a lot faster and I'm up to 220 pounds now." The coaches will probably have him play around 225 as a freshman so he's almost at his ideal weight.
The Big 33 game has some great tradition behind it, and has seen some outstanding players in their past years. Both are aspects of Michigan that Antonio is recognizing by comparison. "This game is going to be on TV so it's a big stage. After this I'm just excited to get on the field and play in the Big House, even bigger stage. I want to bring the winning back to Michigan and the tradition back to what it was," said Poole. As a versatile linebacker that can play either WILL or MIKE, Poole will have every opportunity to compete for a starting spot to help Michigan back to prominence.
The Big 33 will be played on Saturday June 18th at 7:00pm EST. More information on the game can be found here.