Happy Trails, 2015
Roquan Smith signed his financial aid agreement—but not an LOI!—with Georgia today, ending his recruitment after that whole ordeal with UCLA and their now-departed defensive coordinator, who reportedly still tried to recruit Smith in an unofficial capacity after doing this:
Last Wednesday, Smith committed to UCLA over UGA in front of ESPN cameras. But he decided against turning in his NLI after reports surfaced later that day that Bruins defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich had accepted a job with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
Smith said Ulbrich had told him on the eve of signing day that he had “declined” the job offer from the Falcons, per UGASports. On Thursday, Ulbrich (now with the Falcons) declined comment to the AJC about Smith’s claim.
While Smith didn't end up at Michigan, it's great to see him spurn both UCLA and the LOI process. With Mike Weber sticking out his commitment to Ohio State, we can now close the books on the 2015 class.
Race For QB Spot?
Michigan offered two 2016 quarterback prospects this week, four-stars Brandon Peters and Dwayne Haskins. While Haskins looks like he'll be a difficult pull—a day after the offer, he named a handful of schools sticking out to him that didn't include Michigan($)—Peters looks like a serious candidate to commit. He told The Wolverine's Brandon Brown that the offer vaulted Michigan to the top of his list ($):
"I'm totally pumped," Peters said. "It would be an awesome experience to play under a coach like Jim Harbaugh. It's awesome. I definitely would put Michigan at the top now, to be honest with you."
Per 247's Steve Wiltfong, Peters quickly locked in an unofficial visit for April 4th, Michigan's Spring Game.
With Michigan likely only taking one quarterback this cycle, the Peters news has left many asking where that would leave KJ Costello, the top QB target on the board for Michigan. In what may not be coincidence, Costello is looking to get on campus very soon, per Steve Lorenz:
"I am looking to visit in the next two weeks or so," Costello said. "It'd be my dad and I. I have been talking to the coaching staff all the time."
It looks like, one way or the other, Michigan should have a lot more clarity about their quarterback situation for 2016 in the near future.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
I changed up the format this week since the question was a seven-parter. A reminder of who everyone is:
- Brian: Blogger of mighty repute.
- Ace: Lead reporter, recruiting/basketball guy.
- Seth: Associate editor/site business guy
- BiSB: A funny person.
- Adam Schnepp: Press correspondent (Heiko's old job) and hockey guy.
- Alex Cook: Basketball correspondent
- Dave Nasternak: J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Lead Backend Logistics Strategist and Associate Vice President of Name Day Nittany Lion Taunting and Corporate Titlery (i.e. a responsible adult)
The Question Seven Questions:
Brian: Best recruit? Most important? Most likely to outperform ranking? Best name (nationally)? Guy who got away who will haunt you? Guy you are most irrationally enthusiastic about? Overall class hot take? Harbaugh?
BiSB: Brian Cole. He's a fantastic athlete, but more importantly Cole is a guy with speed in a position where, despite the assertions of some, SPEED IS A GOOD THING THAT CANNOT BE TAUGHT AND IS A GOOD THING. One caveat: Roquan Smith takes this category if he picks Michigan.
|Five votes for the superlative in-stater. [Allen Trieu/Scout]|
Seth: Brian Cole. In a terribly weak in-state class, this player this year was the perfect opportunity for Dantonio to flip the in-state script—no weird families or MSU connections or coaches who lock players in their cars during their Michigan visits or questionable transcripts.
AND he's a great player at two positions of need. Other than Borgesian leapers at receiver there's Canteen and Drake Harris's un-Dude hamstrings. Safety is an even greater need; if by some holy luck Peppers stays through 2018, Michigan would have two safeties in 2018. I'd gladly take Cole and four more just like him.
Adam Schnepp: Zach Gentry. I am an unabashed fan of gun-slinging giants who causes Physics and Anatomy to get into a fight over who left THAT loophole open. I think about fitting him into a Harbaugh-ffense and find myself chortling under my breath. If you're a commit who makes me chortle when thinking about your fit with Michigan's system then you too could be a contender for next year's Best Recruit.
Dave Nasternak: Probably Brian Cole. I can see arguments for Gentry, but I think that Cole is the best overall player, right now. And I think (hope?) he is the only member from this class who will not see a 2015 redshirt...if for no other reason than they just will not be able to keep him off of the field. There are a handful of places that he should be able to contribute early -WR, Returner, ST coverage, etc.
Ace: Another vote for Cole. He's such a good athlete that it's hard to imagine he won't end up contributing somewhere, and he's especially impactful with the ball in his hands.
Alex Cook: Brian Cole. The whole "the best players from Michigan go to Michigan" thing is, um, patently false, but there's a good chance that Cole will be the best homegrown recruit in this cycle. Oh, and he was a presumed State lean before committing to Michigan - and he stuck through the coaching change? Great. I'm sold.
Brian: I'm going with Zach Gentry. You do not get guys flying past safeties 50 yards downfield at 6'8" anywhere, and Gentry improved considerably over the course of his career. John Navarre running Buffalo 100 Meter Dash? I'll take it. Gentry has higher bust potential, yeah, but that upside. Yooooooo.
[Hit the jump for most important, sleeper, best names, the one that got away, and bloggers going squeeee]
2015: Not Dead Yet
Well, I'll be damned:
In a move that comes as something less than a shock, UCLA announced Sunday that defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich "has stepped down" from his position on the Bruins' staff.
Ulbrich has been widely linked with new coach Dan Quinn's Atlanta Falcons staff and is expected to become the Falcons' new linebackers coach, per reports.
With that news, it's unlikely 2015 top-50 LB Roquan Smith will re-commit to UCLA. After taking a break last weekend, Smith will reevaluate his final four—UCLA, Georgia, Michigan, and Texas A&M—this week. With the extra time, Smith's coach believes he'll be more assured of his decision, per GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“He’s actually relieved,” Harold said. “Like I told him, and the relief comes from the fact he gets more time. He went on five straight trips so of course the last trip you take is still fresh on your mind and he didn’t have like two days to hash everything out. He was conflicted up until he went on television. I told him you can go with your heart now and not turn a letter in and make a better decision because I want you to be 100-percent sure.
Georgia is the presumed favorite, but Michigan should be right in the running—yes, despite the "Michigan University" sign, which Smith's coach admitted was his error, not his star player's.
There's no substantive update on Mike Weber and whether or not he'll ask out of his Ohio State LOI.
[Hit THE JUMP for updated 2016 rankings, a ton of new offers, and more.]
[Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News]
Gentry a huge get, Malzone a little bit overlooked as a result, the perpetually open Grant Perry, a few OL, and a big TE get.
DEs are clutch, Washington a favorite, overall class take.
A big year in state and a potential wave of California stars should put Michigan in a good spot. Shout out to Dele Harding, who hated Dave Brandon as much as the rest of us.
Praise is delivered unto MAAR.
"Across 110th Street"
"Sorry For Stealing Your Man," Jessica Hernandez And The Deltas
"Open Up Them Pearly Gates," Billy Strings and Don Julin (who are at the Ark on April 24th)
"Lie, Cheat, Steal," Run The Jewels
THE USUAL LINKS
According to multiple outlets, Tyrone "TJ" Wheatley Jr. chose Michigan over UCLA this afternoon, and will join his legendary father—now the running backs coach—in Ann Arbor. Wheatley is regarded as an athlete who could play either tight end or defensive end; in this class, he'll most likely start out on offense. Wheatley is the 14th commit in the 2015 class and the first at tight end.
4*, #25 DE,
|4*, #13 TE||3*, 79, #12 TE-Y||4*, 90, #13 TE||
4*, #12 TE,
Only Scout evaluated Wheatley as a defensive end; perhaps not unrelated, they rank him the highest of the four services. The tight end disctinction appeared to hurt his ratings elsewhere. Wheatley was an early member of the Rivals250, but they only placed five TEs in their final rankings (as opposed to 17 SDEs). He came closer to the top list on 247—their top ten TEs made the Top247. Wheatley also made ESPN's Junior 300 back in July of 2013, then gradually slid back to a three-star—his underclassman evaluation focused much more on his potential as a defender than his final scouting report.
All four sites list him at 6'6" with a significant spread in weight: anywhere from 245 (Rivals) to 270 (Scout, which also gives him an extra half-inch of height). A recent quote from Wheatley Sr. pegs his son at 6'6", 255—he'd apparently reached 270 before cutting some weight.
I guess the lack of interest in New York high school football trumps the desire to evaluate a four-star prospect in person, as there's surprisingly little on Wheatley outside of camp and film evaluations. Luckily, most scouting reports focus on his prospects as a tight end, where he's expected to end up at Michigan.
ESPN likes his potential more on offense than defense; here's what they have to say about his ball skills and blocking ($):
Ball Skills: Displays good hands with the ability to extend and catch away from his frame. Displays ability to reach up and snag passes thrown above his head. Flashes adequate ability to adjust to throws off target, but displays some tightness and not always natural when having to open up frame and adjust.
Blocking: Flashes ability to deliver an initial pop and get good placement with his hands with enough strength to control defenders when he gets locked on. Needs to watch pad level and more consistently roll hips at contact. Displays adequate ability to adjust and get a hat on second-level targets.
Always with the pad level.
Wheatley worked out at tight end at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp way back in 2013, and he impressed GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
At 6-6, 240-pounds, Wheatley Jr. certainly isn’t a gentle giant and despite the non-padded drill work the tight ends did on Saturday, the son of former Michigan great Tyrone Wheatley was able to use his physicality and size to his advantage in the 1-on-1’s against linebackers. Wheatley Jr. already runs refined routes for such a young prospect, showing a nice resemblance of footwork passed down by his father.
Much more recently, Wheatley had a standout performance in the Semper Fi All-American Bowl practices, earning top performer honors on the third day from 247's Alex Gleitman...
Alpha Dog: Tyrone Wheatley Jr.
The 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end is one of the most physically imposing players on the East team, but it is his athleticism and soft hands at that size that make him the outstanding prospect that he is.
Wheatley had an outstanding today in general skeleton drills, as well as the scrimmaging and goal line sessions, flashing enough speed to get free from defenders, as well as using his strength and body size to get positioning in shorter yardage situations.
The chatter among onlookers at practice was that there was no question that Wheatley was the most impressive performer in today's practice session.
...and coming in second according to Rob Cassidy of Rivals ($):
Wheatley Jr. is a menace. He has a wide body and impressive strength. And while he usually shines as a blocker, he made his presence known in the passing attack on Friday. He didn't look pretty catching passes at all times. In fact, he fought the ball on occasions, but he always made the catch when targeted. He made a long list of plays throughout the afternoon and always seemed to find a way to get open in the flat.
Scout's free evaluation focuses on his ability on defense:
Wheatley plays tight end and defensive end, but he looks more comfortable and natural on defense. He gets off the ball quickly, but sometimes gets upright too quickly. Wheatley has the size to overpower an offensive tackle, and also can use his speed to get around the edge. In addition, he can run a play down from behind and is versatile enough to move inside and play defensive tackle if he adds the weight. -- Brian Dohn
That sounds pretty ideal for an SDE in Durkin's hybrid system. The other defense-focused evaluations come from 247's Clint Brewster in 2013, looking at Wheatley's sophomore film ($)...
As a defensive end, Wheatley is a destructive force with his size and strength. He is instinctive and can hold the edge in the run game or get after the quarterback with his extremely long wingspan. Wheatley Jr. has a pretty good motor and doesn’t quit, as he will make plays downfield or away from the line of scrimmage. He gets his hands up to deflect passes and gets in passing lanes.
...and a Rivals camp update from the following spring, when Adam Friedman named him the top performer at the NFL Prep 100 ($):
Wheatley was far and away the best player at the camp. The Rivals250 defensive end has added a lot of strength to his core and it helped him play with good leverage. Wheatley used that strength to help push offensive linemen out of the way en route to the quarterback. He also showed very good technique, beating offensive linemen inside and outside.
I'll give the final word to a man who's quite familiar with Wheatley—his father, who went into exacting detail on his son's game in a free interview with Sam Webb that's well worth your time:
Tyrone Wheatley, Sr.: “His route running, understanding leverage, understanding zone reads. I think that is the biggest improvement where he has blossomed, where last year he was just running to run. He was running routes. He didn’t understand coverage and how to set a route up, when the defense is in a zone or set man coverage up. Now there are certain routes that he likes and is he starting to (make more plays). He knows he is going to be doubled team or however they are going to play him. He sees that right off the bat. He understands the leverage and how to get open in those situations.”
The elder Wheatley noted yards after the catch and blocking technique as areas for improvement. Check out the full interview for his thoughts on TJ as a DE.
Wheatley held offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, UCLA, UNC, Washington, and Wisconsin, among others.
Wheatley is the first four-star prospect in the Rivals era (2002-) to come out of Canisius. In fact, the only three-star prospect they've produced is 2014 Pitt signee Qadree Ollison.
According to MaxPreps, Wheatley had 11 catches for 182 yards and two TDs in a run-heavy offense and 68 tackles, 24 TFLs, ten sacks, three pass deflections, four forced fumbles, and two blocked punts on defense en route to NYSSWA Player of the Year honors as a senior. The previous year, he recorded 16 catches for 190 yards and two TDs along with 41 tackles, 14 TFLs, two sacks, an interception, and four forced fumbles.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the four sites list a 40 time.
Senior highlights at tight end:
Junior offense highlights:
Junior defense highlights:
Single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page. Unfortunately, there's no available highlight tape of him on defense as a senior.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Wheatley could contribute on either side of the ball and fill a pretty big need; it appears he'll at least start his college career at tight end, where he could see the field immediately as a big blocker who can slip out into the flat and occasionally threaten up the seam. Whether he comes in on offense or defense, it's unlikely he'll take a redshirt—Michigan needs help at DE, as well.
While Wheatley's lack of top-end speed and post-catch elusiveness may limit his ceiling, he should be an important cog in Harbaugh's offense due to his ability to block and catch at his size. If he ends up on defense, he should provide depth and eventually make a bigger impact as a strongside DE.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Unless WR Van Jefferson pulls a surprise or Michigan sends out some late offers, Wheatley is almost undoubtedly the last commit in the class.
Delray Beach (FL) Atlantic DE Shelton Johnson announced a commitment to Michigan over fellow finalists Florida State and Miami in a ceremony at his school this afternoon. Johnson becomes the 13th commit in the 2015 class and fills a major need at defensive end. He joins Karan Higdon and Keith Washington among NSD commits for the Wolverines.
4*, #27 DE,
|3*, #37 WDE||3*, 79, #36 DE||4*, 91, #16 SDE||
3*, #20 SDE,
There's a split in Johnson's rankings—Scout and 247 both have him in the top-300 area, while Rivals and ESPN place him in the nondescript three-star category. All four sites list him at 6'5" and 220-225 pounds.
Scout's Jamie Newberg named Johnson the #4 defensive lineman in Florida—in a stacked class—heading into his senior season:
Johnson is not as highly touted as the others above here but this kid has a ton of talent. He looks terrific on film. Johnson can put his hand in the dirt or stand up. He can also slide inside. He has versatility and athleticism. Johnson gets off the ball well and can use his hands to shed blocks. He shows speed and lateral quickness.
ESPN likes his frame, though they point out he needs to weight and strength, and say that he's a good physical prospect in need of some refining ($):
Flashes ability to fire out and uncoil, but needs to continue add size to help him maintain and hold ground. Flashes active, violent hands, but needs to continue to develop hand usage. Displays enough range to be factor in backside pursuit.
Good burst and length can be assets in his development. Long and little straight line, but flashes ability to do decent job of dipping inside shoulder and turning the corner. Needs to learn to better utilize hands and reach. Flashes some ability to transfer speed-to-power and knock blockers back at times.
They add that he plays "with a physical and at times violent nature."
There's surprisingly little else out there on him. Johnson earned his FSU offer after an impressive camp performance last summer (video below) and got a late bump into the four-star range on 247 after his senior season.
Johnson held offers from Florida State, FAU, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami (YTM), Minnesota, Mississippi State, NC State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. He had interest, but no offer, from Florida, LSU, and Georgia.
Atlantic has produced a couple of very successful four-star prospects in 2009 CB Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech, now on the New York Giants) and 2006 OL Orlando Franklin (Miami, now on the Denver Broncos). There's also a Big Ten connection: Minnesota RB Donnell Kirkwood was a 2010 three-star.
Johnson's stats weren't readily available and are impossible to Google thanks to the existence of an NFL player of the same name.
FAKE 40 TIME
Partial senior highlights:
This performance at FSU's camp last summer earned him an offer from the Noles:
Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
There's not a ton to go on here, but Johnson is clearly in need of some seasoning before he's ready to see the field. Even with Michigan's thin depth chart, he should take a redshirt year unless he looks ready to contribute at the hybrid WDE/OLB position as a situational pass-rusher. For Michigan's purposes, it'd be ideal if he's able to bulk up and play SDE, which is quite plausible with his frame; that might take a year or two, however.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Johnson fills a significant need at DE. Michigan is now waiting on announcements from TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (any moment now) and CB Iman Marshall (4 pm). Wheatley is down to Michigan and UCLA, with the edge to the good guys, while Marshall is highly unlikely to end up in the class.