This is my first time doing a [day of the week] Recruitin' post, so please let me know if you have any comments, criticism, suggestions, etc. — as always, I'll be reading the comments, and you can also reach me on Twitter or via email, where I'll also encourage you to send any recruiting articles of interest that you think I should include for the next week's edition.
Drop Everything and Read This
Most Michigan fans who follow recruiting know that Des Moines (IA) Dowling Catholic senior Amara Darboh is one of the class of 2012's best wide receiver prospects, but I personally had no idea what it took for him to get to that point. As it turns out, he is by no means your typical four-star football prospect — to reach Des Moines, Darboh had to flee Sierra Leone at age seven and landed in Iowa as an orphan in a refugee program before being adopted by the family that would eventually introduce him to football. His incredible story is detailed in the Des Moines Register, and I can't encourage you enough to read the whole thing:
Though Darboh was too young to remember details, his father, Solimon, and mother, Kadita, were slain during Sierra Leone’s civil war that started in 1991. Darboh and other family members were left without any recourse but to flee.
He first went to Gambia, then to Senegal, before eventually ending up in the United States — and finally in the Des Moines home of Dan and Mary Schaefer.
Darboh has grown into a young man, a senior at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines. He has become such a good football player that big-time coaches throughout the country, including those from the two major programs in Iowa, have offered scholarships.
From his initial Who’s Who list, Darboh narrowed down finalists to Iowa, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
That's as small a chunk as I could bring myself to block-quote, and like I said, seriously read the whole thing. Wherever Darboh ends up playing out his collegiate career, I'll be rooting for him.
Awesome Fluff-like Substance
Scout released an online portion of Allen Trieu's magazine profile of defensive tackle commit Ondre Pipkins, who was apparently quite the Herculean child:
Al knew his son just had something, but it was even before he coached him at Central Middle School in Saginaw. He says the moment he knew his son may someday be a great football player came even earlier.
“When he benched pressed 80-lbs at six years old on a stationary weight machine.”
Good lord. When I was six, I needed help opening jars of apple sauce. Ondre, not so much.
Tom Strobel sought the advice of an NFL star who ultimately helped him decide upon Michigan, and of course that NFL star was Drew Brees. Wait, what?
"Drew Brees is such a great guy," Stroble [sic] said. "I was fortunate to talk to him on the phone when I needed advice about choosing a school. He called me and he just gave me great advice with his main point being to take football completely out of the equation and at the end of the day just choose a place you want to be if you were not playing football. For me, that place was Michigan."
Please tell me Danny Hope read this and had his mustache spontaneously combust as he screamed "Damn you, snake oil!" to the heavens. Thanks, Drew!
Also filed under 'things that make little sense': Ben Braden, 6-foot-7, 320-pound offensive lineman, finally turned his full focus to football in his sophomore year of high school after giving up his first sporting love... hockey. Obvious quote is obvious [emphasis mine]:
"I played hockey from fifth grade until my sophomore year," Braden said. "I started out as a defenseman and moved to left wing and right wing. I played football once in fourth grade, and again in eighth grade, but I loved hockey.
"There aren’t too many 6-7, 320-pound hockey players."
If former Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig was nicknamed "Godzilla" while standing at 6'3", 221 lbs., I can't even imagine what Braden's hockey nickname would've been (maybe just "Sir," as in, "please don't leave me broken in a thousand places, Mr. Braden, Sir."). In article bits that are actually useful, Braden does say that playing hockey did help him with his flexibility, footwork, and ankle strength, so he's got that going for him, which is nice.
Tight end A.J. Williams may hail from Cincinnati, but a local newspaper feature reveals that he has "a little bit of country" in him:
"I love to fish, said Williams, who orally committed to Michigan April 22. "I try to do it all. I try to be a well-rounded person."
Williams said his grandfather is from Georgia and that helped influence his love of the outdoors. Williams said he also likes to ride a four-wheeler while he is with his family.
1) Please don't crash that four-wheeler, A.J., and 2) He says he plans on trying to catch catfish with his bare hands (a technique called "noodling"), which is pretty badass.
MaxPreps profiles Terry Richardson as part of their "Top 50 recruits in 50 days" feature (T-Rich is #33).
When driving to a photoshoot featuring Northeast Ohio's top offensive linemen, always call shotgun. Also, Tom Strobel's feet aren't the same size, which is kinda strange and gives me a probably-irrational fear of future injury, though at least he isn't the player in the article whose feet are compared to Yao Ming's.
The Seattle Times has a piece profiling blue-chip offensive linemen Zach Banner and Josh Garnett, who are part of a pretty outstanding class of O-lineman in the state of Washington. They say they'd love to form a "Dream Team" of the top five guys in the state, but that appears pretty unlikely, especially since even two-man package deals always seem to fall through.
Actual, You Know, Recruiting News
Rivals released its updated Rivals100 and Rivals250 rankings this week, and you can track the movement of Michigan's commits in two posts at Touch the Banner. While several Michigan commits fell in the new rankings, Pipkins made a huge leap from #246 all the way up to #53:
"Pipkins was impressive when we saw him at the U.S. Army Junior Combine in January, but he had trimmed some of the bad weight by the time he showed up at the Ohio State NIKE Camp and looked to be in much better shape," said Helmholdt of the 6-foot-3, 325-pounder from Kansas City (Mo.) Park Hill who is committed to Michigan. "He is explosive off the snap and once he gets that big frame moving up field offensive linemen have trouble slowing him down. Pipkins uses his hands well and is a potent combination of quickness, power and technique."
"Pipkins has added some muscle since the U.S. Army Combine in January," Perroni agreed. "He has an extremely strong lower body and uses it to overpower most opposing offensive linemen. He proved that he can play the pass just as well as he stuffs the run on film."
Another defensive tackle of great interest made a similar jump, as Danny O'Brien moved up 68 spots to #154:
"O'Brien has always had an explosive first step, but what was holding him back from a higher ranking early in the process was that he did not play with the power of other elite defensive tackles," Helmholdt said.
"Over the course of the spring, however, O'Brien added 25 pounds to his frame and with the weight gain came the needed strength. He was impressive at the Ohio State NIKE Camp in May, then went out and had increasingly better performances at college camps and The Opening over the summer."
Speaking of O'Brien, Sam Webb's latest DetNews column focuses on his recruitment. O'Brien plans on taking an official visit for the Notre Dame game, and had this illuminating quote about being recruited by Michigan [emphasis mine]:
"Hoke said to me, 'Take your time. I know you're one of those guys that is really making a decision in cutting them down.' He said, 'Take your time and we will take you whenever.' That stood out to me. I was never the guy that had a dream school picked out. That was big for me because I've been down to Tennessee a few times and that's what I liked about them. They said, 'Take your time. It's your decision. You are your own man and you have to make your own decision.' When Coach Hoke finally said that (also), that was big for me with Michigan."
The Flint Powers standout says he's considering announcing his college decision on October 7, during his high school's homecoming week. He has an official visit planned for Michigan State for October 15, when they coincidentally play Michigan. You do the math there.
Lakewood (CA) wide receiver Darius Powe plans to visit Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame game ($, info in header).
Adolphus Washington and Dwayne Stanford will take official visits together to Michigan, USC, Alabama, and Arizona State, but Tim Sullivan (yes, that one) says not to expect these guys to become Wolverines, in so many words. All signs, especially with Washington, point to Ohio State at this time.
Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep cornerback Yuri Wright, who is now Rivals's #51 overall prospect, is keeping his options open ($, info in header). He recently said Rutgers and Cal stood out among his leaders, which also include Michigan, Georgia, Notre Dame, and Michigan State, but he has backed off that statement and claims he doesn't have any favorites or a timeline. Wright plans on taking all five official visits.
Defensive lineman Aziz Shittu claims to be down to a top three, and it doesn't include Michigan ($, info in header). I'm not sure if the coaches would take him at this point regardless.
Josh Garnett is still figuring out where to take his official visits ($, info in header), and the Wolverines appear to be in the mix.
Offensive lineman Jordan Diamond was one of the standouts at the Chicagoland Pre-Season Prep Bowl, according to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports in a free article.
Happy trails to defensive tackle Jarron Jones, who somewhat surprisingly committed to Notre Dame on Monday. Many experts expected he'd end up at Penn State. He teams up with Sheldon Day to give the Irish a really good pair of DTs in the class — their defensive line is going to be scary good in a few years. Blergh.
The Detroit News names Terry Richardson the top prospect in the state. There's a disappointing lack of actual scouting reports throughout the entire countdown, but here's a quote from Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher:
"He's one of the biggest recruits we've had," Wilcher said. "People asked me why Terry is so good. He's a great cover guy and he's fast."
Other players of interest in the countdown: James Ross (2), Mario Ojemudia (3), Royce Jenkins-Stone (4), Ron Thompson (5), Aaron Burbridge (6), Matt Godin (8), Devin Funchess (9), Danny O'Brien (10), Ben Braden (12), LEVITICUS PAYNE (19).
Meanwhile, Duane Long has rated 11-50 of his top 50 prospects in Ohio [parts 1, 2, 3, and 4], and here's the Michigan commits included so far: Tom Strobel (12), Pharaoh Brown (17), Jarrod Wilson (18), Joe Bolden (26), A.J. Williams (31), Caleb Stacey (48). That means Kyle Kalis and Chris Wormley are almost assuredly in his top ten, but it'll be interesting to see if Kaleb Ringer and Allen Gant make the cut or are (unjustifiably, in my somewhat-biased opinion) left off the list entirely. For context, the #50 prospect, Mason Monheim, is unrated on Rivals and holds offers from Illinois and a handful of MAC schools.
Dave Berk, who covers Ohio high schools for Scout, tweets that Joe Bolden is the "top pure linebacker" in the state in the 2012 class.
Scout released their initial list of five-star recruits for the class of 2013, and Shane Morris is one of them. Analyst Bill Greene on the future Wolverine quarterback:
"I've never seen him play in pads yet, but I've seen him at Pittsburgh, seen him in Florida, saw him in Cleveland, NIKE, four or five times. The thing that sticks out is arm strength, one of the strongest arms you'll ever see, especially on a kid that young. He's still developing. What I got to see in the 7 on 7s, is competitiveness. His team had been on road a lot. He hadn't been home in awhile, and it was about 100 degrees in Florida, and I think a lot of kids mailed it in that day, and that kid wasn't going to mail it in. He wanted to win, and they did. He couldn't just gun it into windows down there either, he had to show touch. There was speed all over the field, and he had to throw over linebackers, underneath safeties, and he did it. You saw how much he loved to compete. It meant a lot to me too, that, at NIKE, Elite 11, they made them do a lot of things they don't do at any other event, with throwing on the run, the targets they have to hit, and his accuracy was impressive. I didn't know he had that type of accuracy. He's as good as it gets as a quarterback prospect. I like what he does with footwork, release, and he'll only get better, bigger, and stronger."
Scott Kennedy piles on with more hype, saying, "I don't know where he'll be ranked overall in the Class of 2013, but he'd easily be a Top 10 guy in the Class of 2012." It's not clear whether he means overall or among quarterbacks, but regardless... word.
Scout also posted a breakdown of recruits in the Midwest who could earn the coveted five-star rating or at least crack the Scout 300, and those players include: Fort Wayne (IN) ATH Jaylon Smith (not offered yet), Midland OL Steven Elmer (offered), Marlington (OH) ATH Dymonte Thomas (offered), Trotwood-Madison (OH) S Cameron Burrows (interest, no offer), Hudson (OH) OLB Ben Gedeon (offered), Huber Heights (OH) Wayne OL Lovell Peterson (interest, no offer), Joliet (IL) Catholic Academy RB Ty Isaac (interest, no offer), Avon (IN) DE Elijah Daniel (interest, no offer), Detroit Catholic Central ATH Wyatt Shallman (offered), Brother Rice DE Jon Reschke (interest, no offer), and Grand Blanc Community DE Luke Maclean (interest, no offer). Got all that? There will be a quiz next week.
The Saginaw News prominently features Steven Elmer in a preview of Midland's season, and despite drawing interest from schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Syracuse, and Mississippi State, it sounds like he'll be holding off on a decision for the near future:
"Steven's been recruited heavily, while Wylie, Vieau, Alek Swiercz have been going to some MAC and GLIAC schools," [Midland head coach Eric] Methner said. "I'm not worried about it being a distraction because their focus is on Midland High School right now. The recruiting stuff was for the spring and winter. They are absolutely focused on their role as Chemic football players. Our coaches are doing a good job of keeping them focused."
Lake City (FL) OL Laremy Tunsil was named one of 24/7's first five-stars in the class of 2013 ($, info in header). He's been hearing from the Michigan coaches, and I'm guessing an offer will come sooner or later. The 6'6", 275-pound junior already holds scholarship offers from Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame, USC, Arkansas, and South Florida.
Finally, Farmington Hills Harrison sophomore running back Lorenzo Collins is profiled by 24/7's Steve Wiltfong. Collins talks about attending Michigan's camp with teammates Devin Funchess and Mario Ojemudia:
“[Fred Jackson] told me a lot of speed things and things that would help me with my footwork,” Collins said. “He was just telling me and actually motivating me. He told me he’d be looking at me. I’ve never been a big fan of Michigan, but I’m really starting to like it. It’s a fun school. I like the coaches. The coaches are real motivating.”
Unfortunately, no glowing Fred Jackson quotes comparing Collins to a young Bo Jackson with more speed were readily available.