Ondre Pipkins should be back this week. Sounds like he was injured last week.
The coaches want the running game to be filtered through the running backs because they don’t want the quarterback to get hurt
Maurice Ways and Chase Winovich are two younger guys who have garnered attention from the coaches
Mo Hurst was a running back in high school and has good vision; hence his use in goal line situations
Jabrill Peppers is not out for the season
“Thanks for coming out today. Yesterday, again, the consistency of having good practices continued. They went out and it was spirited. It was tough. Obviously they want to win. They want to play better. They want to compete better, and I think they’ve done that throughout so that’s been focusing on improving at each position and what we can do to play better, coach better, the whole deal. You know Penn State has a very good defense. Very salty, very good defensive front. I think Hackenberg is as talented as a quarterback as you’re going to find. I remember talking to Bill O’Brien about him and I know what Bill thinks of him as a quarterback and I can tell you we share those sentiments. We’re excited to get back out on Saturday. I think that’s the great part about football; you get another opportunity. We’ve got to take advantage of it. It’ll be a historic night, obviously, with the first Big Ten night game in Michigan Stadium. The atmosphere the night games have created the last two years have been something that has been very exciting for our players, so we’re excited about that.”
Coach, Ondre Pipkins didn’t travel with you. Where is he in the mix on the defensive side?
“He’ll be back with us this week.”
So you’re not talking about injuries, but-
With the running backs, do you move [Ross] Douglas back there or do you do anything else to get more depth, because you were kind of thin there anyway?
“You know, Ross is playing a little bit of the slot. He’s helping us there a little bit. Haven’t moved him full-time back. The good thing is he’s had some snaps there but right now we feel pretty confident with DeVeon and Justice and Drake Johnson. In some personnel and situation things Joe Kerridge being back there is a possibility.”
Is Wyatt Shallman playing there?
“Well, he- a little bit, yeah. He does some things for us.”
We’ve talked about this all the years with Denard and now Devin but the balance between letting them run, which was obviously successful the other day, and then now the injury factor; how do you balance that?
“Well, I think with two good athletes like that who from an instinctive point of view maybe run the ball a little bit more than you want depending on what they see down the field in those passing situations, but I think there is a balance. I think we would like to keep creating the runs from the tailback position as much as possible so that we don’t have to put him in harm’s way.”
How much of it is Devin initiating it and how much of it is directed from Doug [Nussmeier]?
“Well, I think he initiates some of it. He has a feel for it, and instinct for it but obviously there were some designed runs that were in there.”
[After THE JUMP: Get out your Ouija board, because we’re (barely) talking injuries]
It was pretty easy to project Chase Winovich's future until a few months ago. Winovich comes with the violent upfield acceleration that Jake Ryan does, so redshirt him, pack some pounds on him, and unleash once properly marinated to be Ryan 2.0.
Then Ryan got moved to MLB and Michigan decided they were going to be more of an over outfit and things got murky. Winovich is tall and fast and has played his share of high school MLB, so the obvious thing is to do the bit in the previous paragraph and hope it all works out. And it might. It's just less obvious that it will.
Nonetheless, Winovich has a number of arrows pointing in the right direction. He chose Michigan in a heated battle with OSU and had a smattering of other A-level offers. After he committed he had an outstanding two-way senior season that saw three of the four services offer up a fourth star to him.
He runs like a receiver and is flexible. He has a very good feel for the game, anticipates well, has speed and burst and plays a physical style. … explosion in two or three steps is outstanding. He closes quickly and gets to the quarterback to make the play.
…patient as he watches the play develop. There is no guessing on what is happening. When it sees it, he plants his left foot in the ground and explodes to the right to make a tackle and shut down what looked like a big running lane.
…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…. a force coming off the edge as an outside linebacker and can really close on the quarterback. … great fit as an outside linebacker in college, where Michigan is recruiting him at.
"He's an all-out kid that's always playing at full speed, he's big, he can run, he just finds the ball and closes. He's a guy who is going to do whatever it takes to win, whatever he has to do. He's all about winning.
"We had him play on special teams, he played running back, he played quarterback -- whatever he asked him to do, he did it."
"A great family, wonderful family. Chase is going to remind a lot of people of Jake Ryan. Fun-loving, great to be around, great smile, great teammate."
Alright then. I concur; watching Winovich's tape was like seeing skinny Jake Ryan ripping around.
While he's relatively skinny at the moment, that won't last. Brewster mentions Winovich's "long frame and huge wingspan"; Scout notes he is "all of 6'3"+ plus" with "room to get much bigger"
So that's the vertical attacking bit. How much he gets to do that is unknown; Michigan could flip back to an under next year; he could maybe get large enough to play nickel DE; etc. If he does end up on the interior long term, middle linebacker is something that he is at least a decent fit for. Multiple scouting reports praise his sideline-to-sideline range, coverage potential and tackling…
Brewster: excellent pursuit speed and angles, as well as being able to drop into coverage and get in passing lanes. Winovich runs through ball-carriers instead of catching or meeting them.
Kyle Bogenschutz: Winovich's athleticism and ability to run sideline to sideline stands out. In 1-on-1's, Winovich ran step for step with a wide receiver down the sideline and into the corner of the endzone before making a leaping and juggling one handed interception,
Finally, his ability to pick through traffic is also an oft-repeated asset. ESPN:
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.
… changes direction well and has very good feet, which allows him to navigate through congestion and avoid blocks. … Winovich shows his ability to run to the sideline and make the play. Again, he tracks it well and gets to the ball carrier quickly. He is also able to get through the traffic to make a tough play look simple and natural.
The MLB thing is actually rather plausible as long as he gets big and can shed guards.
Negatives are not mentioned much; when they are it is the obvious thing: he is 215 pounds. Brewster also mentions that he could "do a better job of getting his pad level down to take on contact" as a 6'4" LB, which is also something that shows up on film. Winovich tackles a lot of guys high. In HS this allows him to run through guys and flex afterwards; against guys his weight but squatter it might not work out so well. ESPN also mentions that he's inexperienced in coverage.
If you're thinking all this sounds pretty good for a guy who didn't crack anyone's top 250, well… yeah. The OSU battle even though OSU was already in possession of a couple of OLB types is also another positive sign. Even though Winovich got bumped by the recruiting sites out of sleeper of the year territory, it seems like he's still underrated.
As far as next year goes, a redshirt seems certain. Bogenschutz reported that Winovich was down to 208 by the time the O-D Bowl came around. That is well short of what he'd need to see the field at 6'4" even if he was at SAM, or WILL, or whatever the light, tight-end-tracking linebacker is going to be this year. Winovich doesn't appear to be the kind of guy who demands/asks to be on the field immediately; he told Nick Baumgardner that "my goal isn't necessarily to play as early as I can, it's to be the best player and contributor I can be for Michigan."
"I had Ohio State jerseys, I had Ohio State buckeyes in my room, I had the Ohio State flag in my room," Winovich recalls. "I even had an Ohio State-themed credit card."
Why Jake Ryan? Same frame, same five-yard explosion that makes Ryan so adept at finishing plays in the backfield. Ryan was bigger coming out of high school; Winovich sounds like he's less of a wildman—for both good and bad. Ryan was a true sleeper, but obviously an underrated player.
Guru Reliability: High-ish. Healthy, played for PA powerhouse, little projection in terms of position. Some disagreement, though an understandable one since ESPN is way more fire-and-forget with their rankings than others.
Variance: Moderate-plus. Has to add a lot of weight, and there is some positional uncertainty.
Ceiling: High. Small area burst like that is very appealing. If he works out can be the sort of LB who racks up 15-20 TFLs and gets confetti thrown at him in postseason awards and whatnot.
General Excitement Level: High. Variance is variable. But dat burst yo.
Projection: As mentioned above, redshirt should be a lock. Afterwards it depends on whether Michigan sticks with the over or goes back; if they go back he is a natural fit at SAM and will contribute immediately, fighting with McCray and lighter guys to start. The over is trickier; he'd probably be at WLB in that setup, as Bolden/Ferns/Gedeon are a bit shorter and stouter. That would allow Michigan to flip their setup, as well.
So it's a bit fuzzy. Winovich is likely to find some sort of role because of his ability to go from point A to point B in a flash.
Schembechler Hall will be buzzing all morning as National Letter’s of Intent arrive in the football offices via fax machine. Team 135 plans to add nine new members as the remaining verbal commits make it official and put pen to paper.
We checked in with each of them last night:
CB Jabrill Peppers – Paramus Catholic High School – Paramus, NJ
With coaches trying to persuade Peppers away from the Wolverines into the eve of National Signing Day I wasn’t surprised that Jabrill didn’t respond to me, but I think his tweet was enough to put Wolverine fans at ease about his final decision.
Paramus Catholic is closed due to heavy snowfall but according to TomVH, Jabrill plans to sign his letter of intent anyway with the actual celebratory ceremony being moved to Thursday.
DE Lawrence Marshall – Southfield High School – Southfield, MI
Marshall’s recruitment was one of the more eventful processes in the class with an initial commitment to the Buckeyes followed by a decommitment and then a presumed new commitment to Michigan State which never happened, only to actually wind up a Wolverine.
Marshall had a simple yet heartfelt message about tomorrow, “Man, I just can’t wait to be a Wolverine.” Marshall will sign his letter of intent at Southfield High School at 9:30 a.m., followed by a 3 o’clock interview with Sam Webb, and finally another commitment ceremony at 6 p.m.
LB Chase Winovich – Thomas Jefferson High School – Clairton, PA
Long thought to be a Buckeye lean, Winovich decided to pledge to the Wolverines on the first day of June last summer. Last night Winovich sent some people into a frenzy when he cryptically tweeted, “Decisions, decisions, decisions.”
I asked Chase about that and he said with a laugh, “That was just to rouse everyone out. Figured I’d have some fun with a situation that is obviously very serious.” He confirmed that he was all Michigan shortly after that. “Just need to let the committee of sleep do the rest of the shoring up tonight.” Winovich is a different kind of cat and his comments didn’t change that perception.
TE Ian Bunting – Hinsdale Central High School – Hinsdale, IL
A lot of people are enamored with a 6’7” tight end who played mostly wide receiver in high school. Ian Bunting is just that and will be another big target for future Michigan quarterbacks to throw to. Ian could barely contain his excitement about tomorrow.
“I can’t wait! Today went by really slowly. I’m excited to start this new chapter and I’m proud to be a part of the Michigan family and Team 135.”
Bunting will sign his letter of intent at 7:15 a.m. and the plan is to fax them immediately after. Once the paperwork is done Bunting knows that he’s still several months away from being in Ann Arbor. “I plan to do a lot of lifting and yoga. I’m going to start lifting a lot once basketball is over and doing a lot of yoga to get in tip-top shape. Other than that, I’m just going to enjoy the rest of my senior year with all of my friends and family.”
OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty – Paramus Catholic High School – Paramus, NJ
While maybe not as famous as his Paramus teammate Jabrill Peppers, Juwann Bushell-Beatty reeled in some very solid offers before committing to Michigan almost a year ago. JBB expressed his readiness for National Signing Day.
“I’m excited! It’s been almost a year now waiting for this day. Being able to finally solidify this is going to be great. It just motivates me more to be great.” Juwann was actually the one who told me of Paramus being out of school due to the snowstorm and the rescheduling of his signing ceremony. Even with school being cancelled Juwann plans to sign his letter early and get it sent in around 8 or 9.
WR Moe Ways – Detroit Country Day School – Franklin, MI
Out of all of the prospects I’ve ever talked to, Moe Ways might’ve been the one who seemed to want to be a Michigan Man more than anyone else. He reinforced that notion when I asked him about signing his letter. “Man I’m just so blessed and excited to make everything official and officially become a Michigan Man and Wolverine.” Moe will sign his letter around noon and then will celebrate the rest of the day with his family.
LB Noah Furbush – Kenton High School – Kenton, OH
Furbush is one of the very few recruits I’ve never had any actual contact with. He has managed to stay under the radar and out of the spotlight throughout his entire recruitment and even when he committed there weren’t many fireworks involved. He comes in at almost 250 lbs. and people who have seen him play in person and know his body type suspect he’ll play with his hand in the dirt at some point in college.
S Jared Wangler – De La Salle Collegiate – Warren, MI
Son of legendary Michigan quarterback Johnny Wangler, Jared Wangler was once committed to Penn State but once the Wolverines came a’callin’ it was inevitable that he’d be part of this class. As you’d expect his final decision is one that holds a special place in his heart for obvious reasons. “It’s an indescribable feeling. It’s been my dream since I was a little kid. I’m excited to officially become a Michigan Wolverine.”
Wangler actually has a busy morning scheduled before his letter will be signed. He’s got a 5 a.m. wake-up planned in order to play in his intramural basketball game at 6 a.m. at DLS. After hoopin’ he’ll head home to clean up and prepare for his 9 a.m. signing ceremony. I asked Jared if anything noteworthy happened during his recruitment from other coaching staffs and he had a rather interesting reply. “It was pretty funny that Bill O’Brien swore to me that he’d be at Penn State for all of my four years.” Yeah…about that.
DT Brady Pallante – Barron Collier High School – Naples, FL
Not everyone was a fan of the Brady Pallante commitment, but when a guy is almost a clone size and story-wise of Mike Martin, I’d say let’s at least give him a chance first. Given the fact that Pallante was first thought of as a greyshirt commit, his emotion toward tomorrow was easily detected. “I’m truly blessed to have this opportunity. Not many people can say they’re going to college on a full ride. Honestly, I’m still amazed at the opportunity I was given.” Pallante will sign his letter first thing in the morning and plans to have it faxed by 7:30 a.m.
Of course the elephant in the room is the decision of DL Malik McDowell. I personally don’t think he’s choosing Michigan and I haven’t in a long time. It’s been made pretty clear that Malik himself wants to go to Michigan State, but his parents don’t want him in East Lansing. Does that mean they’ll keep him in-state and he’ll go Blue? I don’t think so, but I honestly don’t know. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised by him choosing any of his four finalists. McDowell will be a Wolverine, a Spartan, a Seminole, or a Buckeye and at this point your guess is as good as anyone’s.
Finally, will there be any Norfleet-like surprises on signing day this year? I haven’t heard anything but when I asked that exact question to one of the coaches, he replied with “You never know.” Coach speak? Really not knowing? Hoping? We shall see.
2015 five-star RB Damien Harris decommitted from Michigan this week. After Al Borges—his primary recruiter—was fired, Harris decided he needed to take a step back and explore his options, though his mother says Michigan is still on top, per Sam Webb ($):
“The reason he came to this decision is he felt like when he committed, at the time, we felt like it was the right decision even though it was early,” she explained. “Months later he has been thinking and thinking, ‘I didn’t really go and look at other places probably like I should have. I didn’t consider other places like I should have.’ Even though Michigan is #1, and that hasn’t changed, he just wants to make sure he doesn’t have any regrets when he gets ready to enroll. He just wants to make sure that he didn’t leave any stone unturned and wants to make sure he didn’t miss out on anything, even though he knows Michigan is still his #1. That’s all. He is just making sure that if he was to visit other places, he wasn’t going to regret not taking the full experience.”
Meanwhile, a certain despicable portion of the fanbase* isn't helping Michigan's cause. Harris has taken a lot of heat on Twitter for his decommitment and his coach told TomVH that could be a factor in his ultimate decision ($):
“People need to back off of him [on Twitter]. He’s a 16-year-old kid. People are attacking him on there,” [Madison Southern coach Jon] Clark said. “You have grown men who are way out of line, and Michigan fans better ease up or they’re going to push him away from Michigan. The coaches aren’t; the fans are.
“The only impact a fan ever has on a kid is a negative one; that’s it. There’s not a fan out there that has a positive impact on this kid.”
To state the blitheringly obvious: DON'T DO THIS. I realize/hope this doesn't apply to 99% of you, but nothing you're going to do as a fan—positive or negative, in person or on social media—is going to make a positive difference in a prospect's recruitment. Leave the recruiting to the coaches and, as a general life rule, leave harassing high school students to... nobody. Nobody should do that.
Anyway, with Harris opening up his recruitment, Michigan has rekindled their interest in 2015 four-star Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, per GBW's Josh Newkirk ($):
“I talked with (Nussmeier) for a half-hour on the phone. He is real excited about recruiting me,” Weber told GoBlueWolverine. “He told me it was crazy that Michigan stopped recruiting me. So when he got there he was telling me how he really wanted me (at Michigan). It made me open my eyes back up to Michigan.
“Michigan is back on the radar.”
Weber named a top five of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Tennessee (in no particular order); the Spartans and Vols have been the presumed favorites for a while now, though the renewed Michigan interest could change that. It didn't take long for Weber to recipricate that interest, too—he was the only prospect in attendance at last night's Iowa game, which he seemed to appreciate. Whether or not things work out with Harris, Weber would be a great addition to the class; he's been very productive against solid competition for the last two years and looks great on film.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, new 2015 offers—including a long-awaited one to a California DE—the final Rivals250, and more.]
The most interesting prospect to receive a visit, however, is 2014 ATH Kalen Ballage, as Coach Funk stopped by his school last week, per Sam Webb ($). Michigan originally recruited Ballage as a running back, and it's been long thought that the Wolverines had cooled on him—that obviously isn't the case, even if Ballage is simply a backup option, and the fact that he can also play linebacker or safety is likely fueling at least some of Michigan's renewed interest. With a few spots left in the class and only a handful of prospects under consideration, his versatility could be the key should he want to end up in Ann Arbor.
[EDIT: Per Brandon, Michigan may not have talked to Ballage at all:
Just talked with 2014 ATH/RB Kalen Ballage and he tells me that the #Michigan coaches did NOT visit him.
Webb is pretty plugged in and I can't find any sort of retraction from him; since there are rules about contact with recruits, it's possible Funk stopped by Ballage's school but never actually was in contact with him. I'll try to clarify the situation when more information is available.
UPDATE TO THE EDIT: Per 247($), school was not in session when Michigan dropped by; the Wolverines are still recruiting Ballage but obviously didn't talk to him first-hand when they were out there.]
Another visit recipient that caught my eye: 2015 NC jumbo athlete Anthony Rush, who told 247's Steve Lorenz that Michigan is "leaning towards" extending an offer ($). Rush is listed at 6'4", 280 pounds as a junior, and the Wolverines are recruiting him as a tight end. Clearly, the coaches would like more blocking and size up front—most schools are looking at Rush as a defensive tackle.
Despite the good visit experience for Hand, Alabama insiders around the internets seem to think the Tide still have ground to make up if they're going to catch Michigan; if that's the case, the Wolverines just have to survive Hand's official to Florida—just five days before his Nov. 14th announcement—and they should be in the clear. Still, Alabama is a serious contender, and that's always a frightening opponent to face on the recruiting trail.
To keep the good times rollin', Malik McDowell took a surprise visit to Ohio State for their evisceration of Penn State; he was his usual verbose self in the aftermath:
At this point, I might be more confident in Hand ending up at Michigan than McDowell, for the sole reason that we have some idea about what Hand thinks about Michigan, while getting information out of McDowell is like breaking into Fort Knox. If I had to bet, I'd wager both land at Michigan, but there's plenty of uncertainty.
[Hit THE JUMP for commit stat updates, the newest 2015 offer recipient, and more.]
Two 2015 Ohio defensive backs have proclaimed Michigan their outright leader, and both have given Michigan fans a reason to believe they'll pop in the near future. In OH CB Shaun Crawford's case, that's because he's announcing on Friday at 4 PM on ESPN.com. He told Rivals's Mark Givler that "I don't really have a group of finalists, it's mainly just that one school for me," actually moved Miami down his list after visiting, and hasn't been offered by other potential favorite Notre Dame. This one is not heavy on suspense.
Crawford is a leetle guy at 5'8" to 5'10", depending on who you believe, but he brings 170+ pounds to the table already—the same as Michigan's 6'2" freshman corners—and impressed Givler with his toughness:
Shaun Crawford is as good in run support as any corner I've seen come out of Ohio the last few years.
Commence the Antoine Winfield comparisons that will never, ever stop.
That is a highly reassuring thing to hear about Crawford, since no one doubts his athleticism or skill—it's all on the size, or lack thereof. Crawford's actually playing safety for his team so that he'll have more impact on the game this fall, FWIW.
The other guy, OH S Tyree Kinnel, has not been as explicit as Crawford but according to Brandon has set a visit for Saturday. Kinnel was clamoring for a Michigan offer, extremely disappointed when one didn't come after camp, and now has one. A commit watch is definitely on. While Kinnel was momentarily inclined to open things up given the lack of proverbial love, Hoke and company have a knack for closing the deal, like they did with George Campbell.
Kinnel is a four-star to 247 and Scout but has not been rated by ESPN yet. Those four star rankings in the range where Kinnel would be on the tail end of top X lists or just outside; he's a solid 3.5 star guy by our reckoning. The major drawback is that he seems to be a CB/S tweener, which Michigan doesn't care about at all. Nickelback, maybe?
"Bud Foster is my favorite coach, but I haven't talked with him in a while," [Da'Shawn] Hand said.
"But my favorite coaching staff is Michigan," Hand said. "With Michigan, what you see if what you get. It's professional. With some, you feel like when you get to college it might, change, but with Michigan, everyone says they're straight.
According to the author of the article, SBNation's Bud Elliott, Michigan and Virginia Tech are "running neck and neck" for the lead in Hand's recruitment. Hand refuses to acknowledge even that much—he's says he enjoys the suspense—and he does have an unofficial visit set up to Alabama in July and is looking at trips to Florida, LSU, and USC, per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($). That said, his only planned official visit thus far is to Michigan, for the Notre Dame Game (a trip he recently locked in), and of the previously listed schools only Alabama appears to be a serious threat to his presumed top two.
One school we know for sure won't be pushing for his commitment is Ohio State, despite a campus visit last weekend that went better than his first trip to Columbus:
With the NFTC on the Ohio State campus, Hand took the opportunity and made an unofficial visit to the Buckeyes, along with friend Tim Settle, one of the top players in the class of 2015.
'It was straight, we talked," Hand said. "But I was with Tim, and he's a beast, and it was kind of his visit. Everyone knows that my first visit wasn't all that, but this visit was better. Still, I don't want to get anyone's hopes up."
Meanwhile, Hand revealed in an interview with Bruce Feldman that he's being recruited by at least one insane person:
Q: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you since you've been named the nation's No. 1 recruit?
Hand: Well, I ain't gonna say any names, but one coach told me that since I'm the No. 1 player, I'm gonna get to meet Michael Jackson. I said, "Isn't he already dead?" The coach goes, "Well, all right, you can meet Tito." I was like, all right. OK, I'm done.
It was crazy, but it is what it is.
[Bets all hypothetical internet dollars entire real-life savings account on Les Miles]
In the SBNation article, Hand said he's unsure of his timeline for a commitment. Regardless of when that comes, he told Feldman the announcement will be low-key:
I don't want to be like everybody else and be all flashy and do this and play around with people. For my commitment day, I just want to have it at my school. I'm not going to have three hats. I'm going to have one hat. I'm gonna call the coaches the night before. Tell them what school I'm going to and that's it.
At this point, it's looking more and more likely that hat will have a block 'M' on it. Which, uh, would be pretty nice.
[Hit THE JUMP for more on newest commit Chase Winovich, the latest on Artavis Scott and Adoree' Jackson, a Michigan commit earning an invite to The Opening, and more.]
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."
"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 week—insiders 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.
3*, #28 OLB
3*, #29 OLB
3*, 78, #30 OLB
3*, 87, #49 OLB
3*, #41 OLB,
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.
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 blockersand 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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
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.
(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.]