Hello: Chase Winovich

Hello: Chase Winovich

Submitted by Ace on June 1st, 2013 at 6:06 PM

Jefferson Hills (PA) Thomas Jefferson linebacker Chase Winovich got his first offer from Pitt, and his home-state school appeared to hold the early edge in his recruitment ($):

Thomas Jefferson has sent four players to Pitt since the recruiting class of 2007, and Winovich knows about that pipeline. In fact, it's not hard for him to imagine himself joining it.

"I see the talent they have produced; my neighbors are the Nix brothers, and I watched them and the DeCicco's play at Pitt," he said. "Personally, I love Pitt. I love the coaching staff, I love Pittsburgh, I'm a hometown guy. I want to keep my options open but I can't really find too many flaws in Pitt. I'm looking at them a lot."

Childhood favorite Ohio State offered in early April and immediately vaulted to the top of his list ($):

"This really changes things for me, and I have to say it's a dream come true since I'm an Ohio State fan," he admitted. "I'm not ready to commit right now to anyone, but Ohio State is in my top-three. I can't deny that I love it, and it's going to be tough to find a school that will top Ohio State."

"Pittsburgh was the first school to offer me and they're right in my backyard, so they're a favorite of mine," Winovich added. "I'm still looking for that third school and I'm not shutting anybody out right now."

A short time later, Michigan came through with an offer, and after two visits to Ann Arbor—the second for the Spring Game—the Wolverines made a serious move of their own ($):

Michigan is definitely in my top three,” he said.  “The only reason they really weren’t before was because they (hadn’t) offered.  It would have been them above Ohio State, but obviously they hadn’t offered me at that point.  It hurt that they didn’t offer before Ohio State got involved, but I’m just happy they’re in now and they’re definitely in my top three.  I’m excited about them.”

At various points over the last month—heck, the last weekinsiders from all three schools have been confident that Winovich was leaning towards their program, despite him never publicly naming a leader. Today the speculation ended as Winovich announced his commitment to Michigan, according to multiple outlets.

GURU RATINGS

Scout Rivals ESPN 247Sports 247 Comp.
3*, #28 OLB 3*, #29 OLB 3*, 78, #30 OLB 3*, 87, #49 OLB 3*, #41 OLB,
#535 Ovr

The scouting services are almost eerily in lockstep when it comes to Winovich; 247 is a slightly low outlier, and otherwise Winovich is placed just inside the top 30 outside linebackers in the class. Going by position rankings, Winovich is four spots away from a fourth star on Scout and ESPN, nine spots away on Rivals, and 21 on 247.

The services have a general consensus on Winovich's measurables, pegging him at 6'4" and around 215 pounds; his own highlight tape lists an updated weight of 218 as of last month. The Wolverines recruited Winovich as a strongside linebacker, and that frame fits the mold for the position.

SCOUTING

In-person scouting of Winovich is pretty scant at this point; if he hit the camp circuit before his junior season, nobody wrote about it, and in the lone camp he's been to this spring—the Rivals Camp Series event in Pittsburgh—he and fellow commit Michael Ferns were overshadowed by less-heralded prospects ($):

The biggest names at the linebacker position coming into the Pittsburgh Rivals Camp were four-star Michael Ferns and three-star Chase Winovich. While both prospects had solid performances, they were outdone by lesser-known linebackers during Sunday's competition.

Neither future Wolverine made the top ten defensive performers list, so no further details are provided on what constituted a "solid" showing.

ESPN sees Winovich as an outside linebacker all the way, praising his "long, sturdy frame," sideline-to-sideline range, and tackling ability. They also like his instincts...

Quick off the mark showing outstanding downhill ability vs. the inside run. Maintains good leverage on the ball and isn't fooled by misdirection. Although he needs to become a more physical take-on guy, his quick hands allow him to shed and get off blocks. Demonstrates the quickness, balance and agility needed to avoid blockers and make plays in tight spaces. Moves through traffic very well, showing excellent sideline-to-sideline range. Has the playing speed needed to chase down ball carriers when in long pursuit.

...and ability to drop into coverage or come on the blitz in third-down situations:

Shows the ability to open his hips, turn and run. Demonstrates good underneath route awareness with a closing break on underneath throws and screens. Will need to gain experience as a coverage defender. His ability to run and make tight turns indicates potential as a man coverage defender. Displays very good blitz timing with a burst to the quarterback. Developing a repertoire of moves is a must.

Areas for improvement are the usual: add muscle, refine technique. After an almost entirely positive rundown of Winovich's game, ESPN says he has "very good potential" ... as a special teams player, though they do note the possibility of early situational playing time.

247's Clint Brewster took a look at Winovich's junior film and came away very impressed, listing only bulk and pad level—natch—as areas for improvement; the rest sounds quite good ($):

[H]as an instinctive first step and blows plays up before they even happen. Winovich plays with outstanding aggression and is very explosive. He has excellent speed and can make plays from sideline to sideline. Winovich has enough speed to chase down running backs far down field. He does a nice job of using his hands to shed blockers and scraping to get to the ball carrier. Winovich is really long at 6-foot-4 and can really get in between passing lanes. He is excellent when dropping into coverage. Winovich can be a force coming off the edge as an outside linebacker and can really close on the quarterback. He is very good at finishing off his opponent when he tackles. Winovich has great form tackling.

Caveats about scouting based only on film go here—they're called "highlights" for a reason—but after looking at individual game cut-ups from Winovich's Hudl page, I see a lot of the same positives that Brewster does.

The coaches have made it clear to Winovich that they like him on the strong side, going so far as to show his film side-by-side with Michigan's current standout at the position ($):

“Coach Hoke wasn’t there (last time),” Winovich said noting the difference between visits.  “The environment was a lot different.  All the players were there this time, I got to sit in with the coaches and really discuss everything about me and my future there, and they seemed more excited about me this time around.  Kurt Mattes the film guy there he put together a (video) at the request of Coach Mattison.  It’s this film of me one play and then Jake Ryan the next play, and then it goes back and forth every other play.  It showed how comparable we are.  (Ryan) would do one play and then it’d be the exact same play or scenario (with me) on the other side.  It was really cool seeing the comparison.

Winovich has a very similar frame to Ryan—who was listed at 6'3", 220 lbs. as a recruit—and displays a lot of the same athletic traits, especially in his ability to explode off the snap. Whether he can maintain that athleticism while adding 25-or-so pounds (Ryan is now listed at 241), not to mention develop Ryan's maniacal playmaking ability, is a question that won't be answered until he's on campus for a couple years.

As for the "would you let him date your daughter?" test, here's an excerpt from a Chantel Jennings article($) on Chase's relationship with his older brother, Peter, who played for Bowling Green from 2004-2008:

But there were similarities for many years. Peter took up baseball, so Chase did, too. Peter took up basketball, so Chase did, too.

But Chase went on to become student body president. Peter never did that. And Chase decided to start taking piano lessons last year. Peter never did that, either.

“As much as I like him following in my footsteps, he has definitely always done his own thing,” Peter said. “With football I think there was a lot of pressure on Chase … and he has been able to do it and do even more in his own way, so that has been awesome.”

Yup.

OFFERS

Winovich's offer sheet included Arkansas, Florida State, Michigan State, Mizzou, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pitt, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. That's a pretty impressive list for a consensus three-star; it will be interesting to see if Winovich moves up the recruiting rankings during his senior season, as college coaches seem to be seeing something that the recruiting services aren't at this point.

HIGH SCHOOL

Thomas Jefferson High School boasts five WPIAL (Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League) Class AAA titles, including three straight from 2006-08, as well as state championships in 2004, 2007, and 2008. The Jaguars have produced six recruits rated three-stars or higher in the Rivals era; four of those players went to Pitt, including four-star prospect and current Oakland Raiders guard Lucas Nix.

STATS

Via Scout ($):

This past season, Winovich helped his team to a 11-1 record, another conference title and an appearance in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals. He earned first-team all-conference honors, finished with 69 tackles, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

FAKE 40 TIME

247 lists a 40 time of 4.65, which appears pretty reasonable when you watch Winovich's film—he's got great straight-line speed for a linebacker prospect. I'll give it two FAKEs out of five.

VIDEO

Junior highlights:

Winovich's first step, play diagnosis, movement in traffic, and tackling ability all stand out on tape; you can see that linear speed at the :29 mark when he chases down a perfectly set-up slip screen from behind to save a touchdown.

Again, you can see much more of Winovich on his Hudl page.

PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE

Winovich is destined for the strongside linebacker spot; when he gets to campus, the only returning players at the position will be a senior Jake Ryan and a redshirt freshman or sophomore Mike McCray. While Winovich appears likely to need a redshirt year to add weight and learn Greg Mattison's defense, he should be in the mix for playing time as early as his redshirt freshman season, and at the very least should contribute on special teams.

I've had Michael Ferns projected as a strongside 'backer in this space before, but my guess is he'll come to campus as an inside linebacker with Winovich in the fold; Ferns has the versatility to play inside or outside, while Winovich is more of a pure outside type.

UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS

Michigan now has 11 commits in the class of 2014 and should be finished recruiting linebackers with Ferns and Winovich in the fold. The Wolverines currently have room to take ~15 players in the class, though that number should swell to around 20 when all is said and done. The main targets moving forward are SDE Da'Shawn Hand, 3-tech/SDE Malik McDowell, slot receiver Artavis Scott, and a trio of highly-ranked defensive backs: CA ATH Juju Smith, CA CB Adoree' Jackson, and IL CB Parrker Westphal, with the latter the most likely to end up in the class. They'll also likely take one more offensive lineman, though the top candidate for that spot is less clear—IL OL Jamarco Jones is the highest-rated target and has Michigan among his favorites, but Ohio State is presumed to hold the edge in his recruitment.

Tuesday Recruitin' Welcomes The Commish

Tuesday Recruitin' Welcomes The Commish

Submitted by Ace on May 28th, 2013 at 2:08 PM

BREAKING: ESPNU Host Doesn't Understand Concept Of "Freestyle"

In case you didn't put off your Sunday dinner plans while the Nebraska/Oregon softball game dragged on interminably, above is Jabrill Peppers' unsuspenseful-but-still-quite-worthwhile announcement of his college decision. Peppers decided on Michigan, of course, and you can find what I'm pretty sure is the longest "Hello" post in MGoHistory here if you spent your Memorial Day weekend doing things like "go outside and grill like a normal person."

The commitment post covers Peppers' considerable potential to make an on-field impact; he should also make a big splash as a recruiter now that he's in the fold, and told WolverineNation's Mike Rothstein that he's already got some key targets in mind:

"Oh yeah. Tell Da'Shawn Hand I'm coming," Peppers said. "They call me, 'Commish.' Commissioner Peppers. Malik McDowell. Da'Shawn Hand. You need those defensive linemen.

"A great defensive line makes a great DB and a great defensive secondary. Those guys are definitely on my radar. I'm coming strong. Emphasis on strong."

It may not stop there, though. The mere presence of the nation's best defensive back in Michigan's class should have other elite prospects giving the Wolverines a hard look—instead of shying away from competition, top prospects are looking to play with other top prospects these days—and Tim Sullivan lists a couple of very intriguing possibilities to fill the final defensive back spot should IL CB Parrker Westphal also join the class ($):

If U-M reels in Westphal, there may be only one space remaining in the secondary. It could be either a safety or a cornerback, thanks to the versatility of both Peppers and Westphal, but would almost certainly go to an elite player. Prospects such as Gardena (Calif.) Serra five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson and Long Beach (Calif.) Poly safety John "Juju" Smith are likely options.

While the Wolverines aren't the favorite to land either Jackson or Smith, both plan to visit Ann Arbor during the recruiting process—Smith even set up an official for the Notre Dame game—and we've seen what this coaching staff can do while hosting a prospect on campus. The limited space in the class, number of interested top prospects, depth on the current roster, and positional flexibility of the current/recent recruits (i.e. 2013's defensive back haul) all give Michigan the ability to hone in on a few top targets; think last year's USC class minus the overhanging NCAA sanctions and Lane Kiffin factor.

Oh, and regarding one particular five-star...

[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Da'Shawn Hand—is Michigan now his leader?—and more.]

Thursday Recruitin' Drops It Like It's Hot

Thursday Recruitin' Drops It Like It's Hot

Submitted by Ace on May 23rd, 2013 at 3:35 PM

THE IMPORTANT THING: What Time Do I Need To Take A Break From Watching Arrested Development on Sunday?

Jabrill Peppers announces his college decision on Sunday at 5:15 pm ET on ESPNU. Everything we've seen and heard for the last several weeks—Gerry Hamilton's contrarianism notwithstanding—points to a Michigan commitment. While Peppers is declining to take interviews until his announcement, his coach is making the media rounds and claims that his star athlete isn't quite sure of his decision yet:

Representatives from the University of Michigan visited Paramus Catholic last week and spent much of the day there, inquiring about the Garden State's top athlete. The Wolverines are thought to take a commanding lead for his services into the weekend, although the star athlete has yet to officially solidify which school he will be selecting, Sunday.

"He doesn't know, just yet," [Paramus Catholic coach Chris] Partridge told NJ.com. "He's still visiting schools this week."

Although Partridge was reluctant to release the list of schools Peppers will be taking a look at during the final days of his recruiting process, there has been speculation that he will make a stop at Rutgers some time this week.

I'm not saying Peppers' coach is just doing his best to add some suspense—and there's nothing wrong with that—but I'll just leave this quote here:

“I know and feel very confident in the decision I’m going to make,” said Peppers.

Okay, I'm saying Peppers' coach is just doing his best to add some suspense. That's my last word on Peppers until Sunday, when there will either be many more words or we'll be attempting to salvage the flaming wreckage of the MGoBoard.

Chase Winovich Update: More Of The Same

PA LB Chase Winovich still has Michigan in his top three (with Ohio State and Pitt), is still contemplating visits (definitely to Pitt, unsure of others), and, yes, is still giving really confusing quotes to reporters, per Sam Webb ($):

That consistent focus that trio of favorites combined with his aforementioned decision timeline was fodder for speculation about a commitment being forthcoming. One recent report went a step beyond speculating and indicated that a decision next week was imminent, a claim that Winovich denies.

"I think the question (from the reporter) was 'is it possible that I could commit to a school after my Pitt visit?'," he recalled.  "I think I said, 'yeah, anything is possible.' He said, 'could you let me know so I could put you on a commit watch?' So I said, 'yeah, anything is possible.'" (Laughter).

For the record, Winovich is still in deliberation mode with no definite decision date in sight.

I've said previously that I've heard optimism from both the Michigan and Ohio State sides regarding their chances with Winovich; the above may give a hint as to why. I claim no insider info here, but I switched my prediction for him from U-M to OSU yesterday, because it appears the Wolverines are picking up interest in other OLB prospects—something I doubt they would do if they were confident Winovich would take the final linebacker spot.

[Late-Breaking NOTE: Ohio State just added a commitment from linebacker Dante Booker, but according to 247's Steve Wiltfong the Buckeyes would still accept a commitment from Winovich($). Bad news for Michigan, good news for me not having to rewrite this entire section.]

After a period in which they'd fallen out of contact, Michigan and Crete (IL) Monee four-star LB Nyles Morgan have reconnected, and Morgan told GBW's Josh Newkirk that he's still interested in the Wolverines ($):

“Coach (Curt) Mallory came by,’ [Morgan] said. “I also talked with (defensive coordinator) Greg Mattison on the phone last week. He said he would be by this week.”

With the Wolverine coaching staff accelerating their efforts to connect with Morgan, he said he would like to build a better relationship with Mattison.

“I just want to have a good conversation with him,” he said. “I had previously good conversations with him before. At Michigan we had real good conversation. That was pretty nice, too. I just want to get to know him a little better and have him get to know me.”

Morgan mentioned the possibility of visiting either for July's BBQ at the Big House or a game this fall; he's not in any hurry to decide, so Michigan could still become a contender for his signature.

According to 247's Clint Brewster($), linebackers coach Roy Manning spent seven hours(!!) with Florida prospect Darrion Owens and claimed he is their "top target" at linebacker. Owens received an offer a month ago and—at 6'3", 225 pounds—has the frame to play on the strong side.

Four-star LA LB Kenny Young—who claims a very strong list of offers—hasn't been mentioned as a major possibility for the Wolverines, but he has them on a list of schools he'd like to see, per Rivals' Jason Howell ($):

What schools does he plan to check out?

"Like the Florida schools - Florida, Florida State, Miami," Young said. "Those three, I'll also try to visit Arkansas, Tennessee, Michigan… Arizona State."

Michigan still has a very real chance with Winovich; that said, it's clear that they're also exploring other options in case they need one.

[Hit THE JUMP for updates on four top 2014 targets—including one discussing a possible commitment—as well as news on Michigan's 2015 QB offeree and much more.]

Monday Recruitin' Doesn't Film In Shed

Monday Recruitin' Doesn't Film In Shed

Submitted by Ace on May 20th, 2013 at 2:26 PM

*BREAKING* 6'6", 230-Pound Quarterback Has Strong Arm After All

Michigan quarterback commit Wilton Speight flew across the country to compete in the Elite 11 San Francisco regional camp last weekend. Despite a field featuring several of the top prospects in the country,—including #1 pro-style QB Keller Chryst and Oregon commit Morgan Mahalak—nobody at the camp earned an invite to the Elite 11 finals; Speight showed off a strong arm and high ceiling but struggled a bit with his mechanics, as you can see in the above video (he's the one with the Michigan shorts, natch). The Elite 11's resident coach, former NFL QB Trent Dilfer, gave his thoughts on Speight to 247's Barton Simmons:

One of the longest commutes to compete at the event came from Richmond, Va. native Wilton Speight. The Michigan commit was also one of the biggest prospects in attendance with regard to his physical stature and Dilfer noted that his size is both his strength and his weakness at this point.

Dilfer on Speight: “He had a nice day. He’s obviously a very physical kid, tall, strong. I think he’s got to get more organized. Everything’s just got to get more organized for him to be consistent. That’s typical for a lot of linear guys. There’s a lot of moving parts.”

Scout's crew of experts all had Speight outside the top five performers, but national analyst Greg Biggins—as well as Speight himself—still had a largely positive review of his play ($) [emphasis mine]:

The biggest quarterback in the camp was easily Richmond (Va.) Collegiate School’s Wilton Speight. The Michigan commit looks all of 6-6, 230 pounds and he had a solid camp. He was able to make all the throws showing off a strong arm and actually looked better than expected when he had to throw on the run.

Speight is a pure drop back quarterback who throws a tight ball and can get the ball down the field. He threw some of the best deep balls in the camp and makes it look easy and effortless.

I was happy with my performance, I wasn’t overly thrilled with all my throws but overall, I thought I had a good day,” Speight said. “There’s always a couple of throws you want back but the beauty of this is there’s still 13 spots left for the final Elite 11. No one got the invite today so you just have to stay patient and let the process play itself out.”

As Speight said above, he'll still have a chance to earn his way into the finals later this spring; he won't be the only one from the SF regional with something to prove, as five-star Chryst reportedly (and by his own admission) struggled mightily.

[Hit THE JUMP for the latest visit plans of five-star DT Andrew Brown, Michigan commits in the updated Rivals100 and Top247, and more.]

Friday Recruitin' Battles Buckle-Phobia

Friday Recruitin' Battles Buckle-Phobia

Submitted by Ace on May 17th, 2013 at 1:01 PM

You Know The Drill

TRUE FACT: TomVH used to say "buckle up" all the time. You should remind him of this frequently.

On Wednesday morning, TomVH broke the news that five-star NJ CB Jabrill Peppers will announce his college decision live on ESPNU on May 26th*, when he'll choose between finalists LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, and Stanford. Peppers has a visit set to Penn State for tomorrow, and could make one more "surprise" visit—presumably Rutgers—before making his announcement.

[UPDATE: Scout's Brian Dohn just posted on the GBW message board that a source tells him Peppers has cancelled his Penn State visit ($).]

As for any concerns that those final visits could sway Peppers from a presumed pledge to Michigan—let's just say it doesn't sound likely, given this quote to a local paper:

“I know and feel very confident in the decision I’m going to make,” said Peppers.

Michigan commits feel very confident in that decision being for—you guessed it—Michigan:

(If you're wondering why Speight and Harris will be in San Diego, quarterback guru George Whitfield—the guy with the broom who's worked with Devin Gardner—is hosting a camp that weekend.)

You have nine days until following proper safety protocol is strongly advised. I have eight days to decide whether pre-writing a post is worth the jinx-bait.

BONUS: In the wake of the MSU-Jay Harris mutual** parting of the ways so Harris can pursue a rap career, Peppers weighed in on his USA Today blog [emphasis mine]:

Peppers, who will choose between Michigan, Stanford, Penn State, Notre Dame, LSU and Rutgers on May 26, said that each school is well aware of his current rap career and long-term aspirations.

"They ask me about it all the time," Peppers said. "They're OK with it because my raps are clean. I just think if he (Harris) really wanted to pursue rap he could've gone about it a better way. I don't think anyone in their right mind would turn down a free education to a prestigious university to play football. It could only help your career."

Peppers said from broadening your vocabulary, to overwhelming exposure, to having an established fan base, "whether you're nice with your rap skills or not," college has "unlimited benefits" to boosting a career in the booth.

One key difference between Peppers and Harris, aside from the blunt-smoking and bailing on a free education: Peppers is nice on the mic, Harris... well, you've probably seen the video by now. I'm legitimately disappointed Leon McQuay III didn't sign on this year, both for the obvious reason—he's pretty good at football—and so he and Peppers could potentially form the elite defensive back version of JDK & Rey.

BONUS BONUS: Speaking of good defensive back recruits, IL CB Parrker Westphal could be approaching a commitment, per TomVH ($):

After his visit to Arizona State [this weekend] Westphal says he might take a trip to Tennessee, but nothing is set in stone. From there he will only focus on those schools on his list and continue to visit and evaluate what those programs have to offer. Westphal still says he is in no hurry to make a decision, but would like to get it done sooner than later.

“I want to make it before the season,” he said. “Games don’t start until August, but practice is in a few weeks so we’ll see when it happens.”

Michigan is "still the school he uses to compare other visits," and Westphal noted that his recent Florida visit went well... with the caveat that Michigan offers better academics. If he sticks to a summer decision timeline, it's hard to see him ending up elsewhere.

--------------
*Now a banner day for fans of Michigan football and Arrested Development. Peppers' announcement will hopefully ensure that I don't attempt to watch the entire fourth season in one sitting. (I probably will anyway.)
**Since Harris had signed a LOI, it's my understanding that State could not legally revoke his scholarship without consent, though the looming prospect of getting through admissions means Harris still didn't have much of a choice, in all likelihood.
--------------

[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the linebacker situation, new offers, Michigan visiting the son of rap royalty, and more.]

Monday Recruitin' Knew It All Along

Monday Recruitin' Knew It All Along

Submitted by Ace on May 13th, 2013 at 1:54 PM

Lawrence Marshall, Troll of the Year Candidate

Michigan's latest commit, Southfield DE Lawrence Marshall, was presumably headed to East Lansing before pledging to Michigan last weekend, according to virtually everyone who followed his recruitment. Another example of Brady Hoke's remarkable ability to change recruits' minds during their visits, right? Oh, no, it's much better than that, per Sam Webb ($) [emphasis mine]:

I was thinking about committing (to Michigan) for like a month now, so I knew where I was about to go for a whole month,” Marshall said sheepishly.  “I just didn’t want nobody to know where I wanted to go.  I went up (to Ann Arbor today for a visit) and it was the perfect timing to commit.  I think I caught them by surprise. I don’t think they really knew that I was going to commit there today.”

Wait for it...

Now twist the knife ($):

One phrase Marshall has already been saying is that the "best players in Michigan go to Michigan". With that, attention now turns towards his strong-side counterpart and Detroit native Malik McDowell.

"I'd say Malik is that last part of the puzzle," he said. "Michigan is where the best players in the state want to play and he's the last one left. We'll be turning our attention on him and will try to get him to come on board with us because we're building something special here."

According to 247's composite rankings, Michigan has two of the top four in-state players in Marshall and (oh, hey) Drake Harris, with their sights firmly set on top-ranked Malik McDowell. The Wolverines also have the #9 player in Moe Ways. Michigan State has just the #6 and #7 players (Deon Drake and Byron Bullough) and no other commits among the state's top 25 prospects.

For comparison, Western Michigan now has the #5 and #8 prospects (Chase Stewart and Chukwuma Okorafor), along with 13th-ranked Jordan Van Dort. Only two uncommitted prospects remain among the state's top 13 players—McDowell and his high school teammate, OL Ka'John Armstrong, who's visited MSU several times but has yet to receive an FBS offer.

Where's the threat?

[Do I have to keep writing? I mean, that's the perfect place to stop. Okay, if you insist, hit THE JUMP for Chase Winovich's visit reaction, Jabrill Peppers running pretty fast, a look at the enormous foreign exchange student offered by Michigan, and more.]

Hello: Lawrence Marshall

Hello: Lawrence Marshall

Submitted by Ace on May 11th, 2013 at 11:35 AM


via Michael Ferns' Instagram

Southfield (MI) DE/LB Lawrence Marshall, a former Ohio State commit and presumed Michigan State lock, has committed to... Michigan, of course, per fellow commit Michael Ferns and confirmed by the various recruiting outlets. Marshall was on campus today with Ferns and receiver commit Moe Ways, a long-time AAU teammate of Marshall's who's been recruiting him hard lately.

Marshall was expected to make a decision soon, but the choice wasn't supposed to be Michigan—according to 247, he's visited East Lansing eight (eight!) times since the beginning on February, and all six of the 247 experts to weigh in predicted he'd choose Michigan State.

Where's the threat? Oh, it's right here, and it's devouring us alive.

GURU RATINGS

Scout Rivals ESPN 24/7 Sports
4*, #12 DE,
#89 Ovr
3*, #19 WDE 4*, 83, #12 DE,
#107 Ovr
4*, 91, #12 WDE,
#207 Ovr

As you'll see in the scouting section, Marshall is a relatively raw prospect with plenty of upside, so it's not surprising to see a major outlier in his rankings prior to his senior season; while the other three services have Marshall safely within their top lists, Rivals pegs him as a three-star ranked three spots below the last WDE four-star (Gelen Robinson, incidentally). His listed measurables range from 6'3", 215 lbs. to 6'4", 230—based on recent camp reports, the latter figure is probably more accurate.

With the rankings for Marshall largely based on his potential, his senior season and future camp performances could spur plenty of movement in either direction.

SCOUTING

Allen Trieu's free report on Marshall's Scout profile is a good place to start—his listed strengths are athleticism, backside pursuit, and lateral range, with "techniques and moves" as his area for improvement:

Very long frame. Has great athleticism, change of direction and speed in pursuit. Has all of the tools to be an elite pass rusher, just needs continued work on his technique. Plays with hand down in high school, but may be a stand-up rusher in college. Has not been asked to drop into coverage much, but that's something he may be asked to do at the next level. Has to add some weight, but all of the raw tools are there. - Allen Trieu

I believe Marshall is more likely to end up at weakside DE—playing with his hand down—than standing up at outside linebacker, so this note from Trieu after an Adidas camp in March brings up an important point ($):

He's very long and athletic. He needs to still get stronger. Big, physical offensive linemen had success when they got their hands on him, but his feet and quickness are very impressive.

Until Marshall adds the requisite size and technique, he'll have a tough go against big offensive linemen. In college, that's every offensive lineman.

His athleticism, however, makes him a tantalizing prospect as an edge rusher. Steve Lorenz named him one of the top performers at the first HYPE Showcase in Canton, citing his size/speed combo as the primary reason, a couple weeks ago:

DE Lawrence Marshall (Southfield, MI/Southfield): Marshall was the headliner and for the most part performed as such. He continues to build himself up and has become a potentially lethal combination of size and speed. He still can occasionally struggle against bigger defenders a bit, but still usually gets to the tackling dummy without much of an issue.

And at the aforementioned Adidas camp Marshall even took a couple reps on offense... at wide receiver:

Southfield (Mich.) High Top247 defensive end Lawrence Marshall took a few reps at defensive end before moving over and showing his athleticism at receiver. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Marshall was rocked up and continues to add size each time we see him.

The fact that Marshall is consistently adding size is, of course, also a major positive at this point. In fact, according to a report from Rivals' Josh Helmholdt during Marshall's junior season, while Marshall needs to add size his strength may actually be a positive ($) [emphasis mine]:

DE Lawrence Marshall, Southfield, Mich. (2014):: The last few weeks have been especially fruitful for Marshall. Although his team made a second-round exit from the Michigan high school state playoffs, a wave of new scholarship offers has helped assuage the agony of defeat. Among the most recent to offer are Big Ten programs Indiana and Michigan State, and the appeal of Marshall is evident on junior film. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Marshall still has a lean frame, but he does not have issues with strength at the point of attack. He does a great job creating upfield momentum, which all starts with his explosive first step. Marshall comes off the line hard and low, and puts an exclamation point on his sacks by being a heavy hitter.

That was five months and 20-or-so pounds ago. If Marshall continues to get bigger, as is expected, I don't think there will be much question about him playing on the line when he gets to campus. His athletic ability gives him much more potential if he's playing defensive end—where it's harder to find such an athlete that can also hold the point of attack—than if he's thrown into Michigan's deep pool of linebackers.

OFFERS

Marshall also held offers from Michigan State, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Pitt, Syracuse, and Tennessee, among several others.

HIGH SCHOOL

Southfield High School (Class A, Division 2) has been an above-average program for the last several years but hasn't had a lot of success in the state playoffs—last year, they fell to Oak Park in the second round. Marshall is the highest-ranked prospect the school has produced in the Rivals era—and that's going by his three-star Rivals ranking. Other notable prospects include 2012 TE Ron Thompson, who chose Syracuse over Michigan, and 2012 Cincinnati cornerback signee LEVITICUS PAYNE.

STATS

According to 247, Marshall recorded 79 tackles, 15 sacks, and four interceptions during his junior season.

FAKE 40 TIME

None of the sites list a FAKE (or real) 40 time.

VIDEO

Marshall's tape very much falls in line with the scouting reports. He's got a great burst off the line and gets to the football in a hurry; he's also hardly touched on a good number of these plays and needs work on technique—when he gets to Michigan, he won't be able to simply run right past offensive linemen.

PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE

In case it hasn't been made abundantly clear, Marshall is a high-ceiling, boom-or-bust recruit. The potential is there for him to be a highly impactful edge rusher, but first he must add weight and refine his technique. [Insert praise of Michigan's D-line coaching here.]

It's possible that Marshall ends up at strongside linebacker, though I like him a lot more as a weakside end. Still, he has some positional flexibility and at the very least should turn himself into a situational pass-rusher. This comparison has been made elsewhere, but his size/speed combo and raw potential are very reminiscent of Frank Clark, this year's presumed starter at weakside end. Unlike Clark, Marshall should have a couple years of seasoning before he needs to see the field with Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton in the two classes ahead of him. From there, it's all about maintaining his athleticism while adding bulk and refining his technique—if he can do that, he's got double-digit sack potential.

UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS

I covered Michigan's defensive line situation in great detail yesterday; the short version is they'll happily take Marshall, Malik McDowell, and Da'Shawn Hand should the latter two also decide on the Wolverines. That would give Michigan one complete line in the 2014 class with Marshall (WDE), McDowell (3-tech/SDE), Bryan Mone (NT/3-tech), and Hand (SDE/WDE). This is by no means guaranteed to happen, but at this point it's difficult to not at least consider it a definite—and pretty damn awesome—possibility. Even if Michigan misses out on Hand, that's a heck of a D-line haul if they can keep McDowell in-state, which at this point is the expectation.

As for the class as a whole, Michigan now has nine commits (not including grayshirt Brady Pallante) in the 2014 class, which currently has room for 14 players but should end up closer to 20 when all is said and done. We know the Wolverines will take one more linebacker—probably either Chase Winovich or Kyron Watson—and probably a third offensive lineman, and spots will be held open for McDowell and Hand. Other priorities include a third receiver and, say, an elite defensive back (ahem).

STAT OF THE DAY

Recruitin' Mailbag: "Saving" Spots, D-Line Numbers, Second '14 Quarterback?

Recruitin' Mailbag: "Saving" Spots, D-Line Numbers, Second '14 Quarterback?

Submitted by Ace on May 10th, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Most of the recent recruiting content has centered on the nation's #2 overall prospect, Jabrill Peppers. Today's mailbag, in contrast, focuses on the nation's #1 overall prospect, Da'Shawn Hand.

Michigan football recruiting: not doing too bad these days. On to your questions...

My question concerns "saving spots" for higher ranked prospects. We've seen with other (less ethical) coaches, that they will take a commitment from a lower ranked prospect and then abruptly take that scholarship promise away to give to a higher ranked prospect before signing day. Since our coaching staff seems unwilling to do that (thankfully), how do we see this staff balancing between saving room for the higher ranked prospects while also not leaving themselves in a position to be completely hosed on signing day if a bunch of those prospects choose to go another way? This question occurred to me in relation to Marshall's visit this weekend, and how a commitment from him might prevent one (or both) from McDowell or Hand further down the road.

Thanks for your articles on MGoBlog!

Best,
Stephen

I'll address the "saving spots" issue here, and move on to Michigan's 2014 D-line situation below (as you'll see, this is a pressing question for those following recruiting). Last year's recruiting class gave a lot of insight into how the coaches handle a potential numbers crunch at a position. For the 2013 class, the coaches stopped recruiting two position groups with highly interested four-stars after filling up early: offensive line and linebacker. In both cases, they approached the number they wanted early on in the process, informed the remaining recruits in each group that they'd have to commit soon or potentially lose their spot in the class, and filled the final spot quickly.

Ben Gedeon's commitment effectively ended the recruitments of Dorian O'Daniel and E.J. Levenberry at linebacker. Patrick Kugler's commitment did the same on the offensive line until David Dawson briefly looked around; Michigan stopped targeting Ethan Pocic (eventual LSU commit), and by the time the coaches realized they could take a sixth lineman, he was off the board. In both of those cases, however, the current commits in the class—and the recruits that took the final spots—were of comparable talent to the available uncommitted prospects.*

The situation with this year's defensive line is a bit different, and apparently of some concern to you guys...

[Hit THE JUMP for my attempt to sort out the D-line situation and answers to a couple questions about quarterback recruiting.]

Thursday Recruitin' Moves Up The Scoville Scale

Thursday Recruitin' Moves Up The Scoville Scale

Submitted by Ace on May 9th, 2013 at 1:58 PM

Before I get into the recruiting roundup, I'm planning a recruiting mailbag post for tomorrow and could use a couple more questions. If you've got one (or more!) please send me an email or tweet it to me. Now back to your regularly scheduled Jabrill Peppers update.

Jabrill Peppers Heat Status: Infinity Chilli

If you somehow haven't watched this just do it already. Yes, all of it.

As the recruitment of Jabrill Peppers evolves, Michigan's chances of landing the five-star corner appear to be getting better and better. The latest news from Peppers is that he's moving up his decision timeline and putting Penn State back in the mix—he'll make a May 18th visit to Happy Valley per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($) [emphasis mine]:

“They never left the picture,” [Paramus Catholic head coach Chris] Partridge said of Penn State. “Them and Michigan were his top visits. He decided he wanted to move up his decision timeline. He doesn’t have any negatives about Penn State. Them or Michigan. He wants to go and stay overnight at Penn State.”

Peppers is still aiming to get to Stanford before deciding.

“He is looking to commit sometime in early June,” Partridge said.

Peppers previously visited Penn State on February 20th, and while his coach is now talking up the visit there wasn't nearly the same over-the-moon reaction in the immediate aftermath as he had post-Michigan. Securing a second visit from Peppers is remarkably impressive for Bill O'Brien and PSU considering the circumstances; it seems unlikely they'd be able to overtake Michigan. This is very important considering the next bit of visit-related news:

Despite finding it difficult to reschedule his trip to Stanford, Peppers is moving up his timeline. Even the staunchest of pessimists has to take that as a very good sign for Michigan's chances.

As it stands, it's hard to see a scenario in which Peppers sticks to his new timeline and doesn't choose the Wolverines. Penn State—and, if he makes the trip, Stanford—is still a threat, but there's more than one reason for Peppers to take a final visit: not only does he want to make sure he's making the right decision, he's got a high school teammate—QB Steve Shanley—who visited Happy Valley with him in February and is still hoping for a Nittany Lion offer.

PSU insiders certainly seem less optimistic than their Michigan counterparts—for good reason, with the sanctions and all. If early June is really the decision timeline, the Wolverines are going to be very tough to beat here. The current commits certainly seem to think so—either Drake Harris knows something we don't or he's just a very confident recruiter, via Sam Webb ($):

When asked if he thinks Michigan has a good chance of landing Peppers’ after their private conversations?

Harris replied, “I’ll just say we have good chance.”

Do you feel good where things stand with Peppers?

“I feel great!” Harris replied with a coy smile confidently.

Go ahead, watch that highlight tape again, and allow yourself to get a little excited.

[Hit THE JUMP for more from last weekend's camps, this weekend's visitor list, notes on new offers, and more.]

Monday Recruitin' Wants To Compete

Monday Recruitin' Wants To Compete

Submitted by Ace on May 6th, 2013 at 2:56 PM


Because.

"East Lansing's Big Ten Team" Doesn't Have The Same Allure, For Some Reason

It's been a quiet week, relatively speaking, for Michigan recruiting, so today's roundup kicks off with an update on the program making a serious run for the #3 spot in the Big Ten recruiting rankings: Northwestern.

Yes, you read that right.

No, seriously, you read that right.

The Wildcats built upon their on-field success under Pat Fitzgerald with a solid recruiting class in 2013, landing consensus four-star QB Matt Alviti, underrated RB Godwin Igwebuike, and a solid group of three-stars—not just Midwest kids, either, with signees hailing from Texas (3), California (3), Florida, and New Jersey.

On the heels of a ten-win season and their first bowl win in 63 years, Northwestern is now poised to put together their best recruiting class in... ever? The Wildcats have already hauled in another four-star signal-caller, Clayton Thorson, giving Northwestern future four-star depth at quarterback, a position where they've already managed to turn an array of middling recruits with varying levels of scrambling ability into competent (at the very least) conductors of their up-tempo spread in recent years. Now the Wildcats have jumped up to 19th(!) in the 247 Composite Team Rankings after reeling in MI OL Tommy Doles and OH ATH Dareian Watkins in the last week.

Doles, of course, was long thought to be a heavy Michigan lean—I lost count of the number of times the Grand Rapids Christian product has been on campus in the last year. Given his other offers—Army, Air Force, Iowa State, and Northwestern—and the fact that he seemed on the verge of committing for months, it appears Doles' choice has as much to do with Michigan backing off as Northwestern coming on strong; regardless, the Wolverines should be fine when it comes to O-line recruiting, and the academic-minded Doles found a great fit from an on- and off-field perspective in Evanston.

Watkins, who announced his choice this morning, is the more interesting example of a prospect choosing the Wildcats over several Big Ten (and beyond) options previously thought to be more desirable. Michigan State was his other finalist, and he also held offers from Illinois, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, NC State, Penn State, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among others. When Watkins' father explained his choice, Northwestern's academics were cited as a huge reason for the commitment, but the football reasons played a large role as well ($) [emphasis mine]:

"We're all very very excited about the chance to go to Northwestern. We think it's not just an amazing academic opportunity, but an amazing football opportunity. The academics overshadow the football part sometimes, but Coach Fitz has turned the program around. They were 10-3 last year, won the Gator Bowl against an SEC football team, and he was 2-0 against the SEC last year. We think it's undervalued what they are as a football program. As much he chose a life path, he's also very competitive. He wants to be part of a Big Ten Championship and compete for national championships and we think that can be done at Northwestern."

We'll, um, see about the national championships, but there's no question Fitzgerald has put the program in a position to contend for conference titles.

Unlike me, Brian is willing to wade into the shallow end* of the RCMB, and he passed along this glorious response to the usual unhinged ranting following Watkins pledging to Not Michigan State:

I find it funny that people would think we have such a clear advantage over NW. At least they've been to a Rose Bowl since I've been out of diapers.

Northwestern has long been on the cutting edge when it comes to both academics and the spread offense; with their location, new-found winning tradition, and ideal fit at head coach, it's about time we get used to them not just pulling upsets on the field, but in recruiting as well. And maybe we won't call them "upsets" for long.

-------------
*There is no deep end, thankfully. It's actually an inflatable kiddie pool filled with horse manure.

[For the rest of the roundup, including updates on Jamarco Jones, Clifton Garrett, and Jae'Sean Tate, hit THE JUMP.]