Elite 11/The Opening Updates: Michigan Commits
Nice photo of Alex Malzone via @qbcentric (HT: 247)
Alex Malzone didn't make the cut from the 18 quarterbacks invited to the Elite 11 finals down to the top 11, as he couldn't put together enough consistency to move on, according to the camp's resident QB coach, Trent Dilfer (via the Freep):
“When you put him in an environment like this where it’s really fast and great athletes around you and every little microsecond of timing matters, there’s been some inconsistencies. His good is extremely good. His bad has been bad at times, and he’ll be the first to tell you that.”
Dilfer noted that Malzone's baseball background affects his mechanics as a quarterback—the football throwing motion requires a more compact delivery—which makes it tough to maintain consistency. That's apparent on the film from the first day of camp; on a few throws, Malzone keeps his motion pretty tight, but on others—especially the throws when he has to avoid rushers, a situation where a QB is likely to revert to their most natural-feeling delivery—he lets his throwing arm dip down too far, elongating the motion.
Playing in a loaded field while tweaking his mechanics on the fly, with a very limited number of reps to work with, Malzone making the final cut was a tall order. When I say limited reps, I mean limited reps, as Malzone relayed to Scout's Sam Webb and Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
“Yesterday, all we had on the field was a red zone session, seven on seven, each quarterback had six throws, missed a couple of guys. I felt like I could have done better myself. I made up for it in the end. I threw one touchdown at the end and today I came out and did what I could do.”
Ultimately not selected in the top group of the Elite 11 following the rigorous workouts, Malzone just sees it as extra motivation, noting he most definitely gave it his all.
Malzone's moved on to The Opening, which is in its final day today, and as expected recruiting for Michigan is as much a focus as playing at the camp, per 247's Steve Lorenz ($):
"I've talked to [George] Campbell, [Mike] Weber, Keisean [Lucier-South], [Auden] Tate, Ray-Ray [McCloud], Damien [Harris], [Mook] Reynolds and Iman [Marshall]," [Malzone] said.
When asked which player seemed the most receptive to Michigan? "Mike Weber."
More on that last bit later in this post.
Michigan's other representative at The Opening, Darrin Kirkland, stood out as one of the best defensive performers on Tuesday, garnering top ten honors from Scout's Allen Trieu...
Darrin Kirkland - Linebacker, Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence Central
Kirkland, a Michigan commit, has worked hard on his ability to run and move in space and that was on display today as he was one of the top linebackers in coverage. He could run with backs and did a nice job playing the ball in the air, coming away with a couple of interceptions.
...and earning a mention as one of the top four linebackers in attendance from 247's Barton Simmons:
Michigan commit Darrin Kirkland Jr. doesn’t strike you as an overwhelming kid athletically but he is always in the right place, he doesn’t get shaken in space, he can get in the hip pocket of a tight end or running back and he can make a play downfield on the football.
For a prospect whose ability to stuff the run is supposed to be his biggest strength, Kirkland sure gets a lot of camp praise for his coverage. That came up a fair amount during last year's camp season, as well.
2015 Updates: Running Backs
Things are happening on the running back front, as both Damien Harris and the aforementioned Mike Weber will visit for this month's BBQ at the Big House. Harris, who's at The Opening, told 247's Luke Stampini that he's still searching for that feeling he had when he initially committed to Michigan ($):
“I still talk to Coach (Doug) Nussmeier and Coach (Brady) Hoke now and then. People think I lost all connections with Michigan because I decommitted. That wasn’t the case. I just wanted to step back and reevaluate my options.”
He’ll be looking for that spark he once had with Michigan the next time he’s in Ann Arbor.
“Just that feeling I got when I was there initially, the first couple times when I was committed,” Harris said. “That family feel I got with Coach Hoke and the staff. Just kind of reconnect with them.”
Alabama, Kentucky, and Ohio State are the other schools that seem to have separated themselves from the pack. After landing commitments from Jashon Cornell and Justin Hilliard last week, the Buckeyes may very well have the edge, per Webb ($):
“I’d be lying if I said (the Hilliard and Cornell commitments) didn’t impact me a lot,” Harris stated. “Those are just two of my good friends that I’ve become friends with in this whole recruiting process. We all talked about playing together like you said, and now that they’ve committed it gives me more to think about… if I do still want to play with them, or if they (just) went to the school that I like. I just have to take all these things into my thought process and making my decision.”
Harris plans to cut his list to five just before his senior season, then take official visits to each of those schools. Michigan should make the cut, but I get the feeling Ohio State will be tough to overcome. Don't everybody sigh at once, now.
The good news is Michigan still seems to be trending up with Weber, and he's not the only other option should Harris end up elsewhere. Four-star FL RB Dexter Williams, who's "80-percent committed to [Miami]," told Scout's Gerard Martinez that Michigan is one of three other schools he plans to visit ($):
“I know I’m taking an official visit to USC and Michigan as well. I might also officially visit Notre Dame too if I can’t get out there this summer on my own.”
Another, potentially more realistic, option is three-star MO RB Alec Murphy, who recently named a top four of Iowa, Purdue, Mississippi State, and Michigan. Among that group, only the Wolverines haven't offered him, which leads me to believe they'd have a great shot to land him if they eventually extend one. The quote he gave to Scout's Derek Young about Michigan and his decision timeline makes it seem like he may even be waiting on U-M before making his choice ($):
Michigan: "They haven't offered me, yet. An offer could come at some point. They've had a lot of interest in me. I'm hoping they possibly offer because they are a great program."
A summer decision is not out of the question for Murphy.
"I'm thinking about making my decision over the summer," he pointed out. "I'm not real sure yet. If I find the right place before the season then I will make my commitment."
With Ty Isaac in the fold and likely redshirting, my guess is Michigan will wait on the higher-ranked backs before moving on to Murphy—they only need one back in the class, and Murphy seems like a prospect they could offer late in the process and earn a commitment even if he's pledged elsewhere.
2015 Updates: Everything Else
While also mentioning that he's trying to set up a visit for the BBQ, as well as confirming U-M will receive one of his official visits, four-star TN LB Josh McMillon told 247's Clint Brewster two schools are currently standing out to him ($):
Ranked as the 11th best player in Tennessee and the 17th best outside linebacker, McMillon mentioned some programs that have an edge at this point in the process.
“Michigan, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt. Michigan and Alabama are pretty much on top I would say.”
Florida State, Ohio State, and USC are also in the mix, as McMillon said he plans to take official visits to those schools—he can visit the SEC schools among his top group without having to use officials. While that's stiff competition, Sam Webb posted a very positive outlook on Michigan's standing with McMillon on the GBW board ($). Michigan looks to be in very good shape here.
Another standout linebacker at The Opening, four-star UT OLB Osa Masina, plans to cut his list to five before the season starts, per TomVH ($). In that same board post, Webb suggested Michigan could be on the outside looking in due to distance playing a bigger factor that Masina originally expected. Tyriq Thompson and Asmar Bilal are more realistic candidates to end up in the class, as Brandon suggested earlier today.
The pipe dream of landing five-star CA CB Iman Marshall seems to be exactly that; while Marshall previously mentioned a possible July visit in addition to a potential official visit, he told Webb and Bogenschutz at The Opening that nothing has been set yet ($):
One other visit Marshall has been toying with taking is to Ann Arbor to check out Brady Hoke and the Michigan Wolverines.
“It’s still in the planning stages,” Marshall said. “Like I said it’s really been a hectic couple of months and stuff like that so I want to sit down with my parents and discuss what our visit plans are going to be, our travel plans are going to be, so it correlates all together.”
Working in Michigan's favor, however, is the presence of Freddy Canteen, who's been recruiting Marshall since they worked out at the same gym recently. If Marshall is going to get to campus, though, it seems like an official visit is the best bet, and regardless of the visit situation he'll be an extremely tough pull from the West Coast.
Another potential Shaun Crawford replacement, DC CB Marcus Lewis, a current Florida commit, told GatorBait.net that—along with Miami and Oregon—Michigan is one of three schools that'll receive an official visit from him ($):
On Michigan: "They've been recruiting me really hard even though I'm committed. Coach (Kurt) Mallory, coach (Roy) Manning and the whole staff down there. I've heard it's a nice campus, and they're rebuilding. They got a good 2014 class in, so we're going to see what they can do in the Big Ten.
"Right now they look good. Coach (Brady) Hoke, we had a good conversation. I mean he basically said he needs corners. They've got corners on the way out and they need that next Reed to come in. They've got Garrett Taylor and another kid committed, so they need one more DB.
Lewis doesn't seem very strong in his Florida pledge; in the same article, he mentioned concern over the number of cornerbacks they've taken recently (four in the 2014 class, two in 2015). If that's a major factor, uh, nobody show him the depth chart, okay?
Four-star NC SDE Darian Roseboro named Michigan to his top six along with Alabama, Clemson, North Carolina, NC State, and Tennessee, per Scout's Michael Clark ($). He's set to announce on August 29th, and Michigan looks to have serious momentum in their favor right now; if he picked today, they'd likely be the choice.
Four-star FL WR Auden Tate is another top prospect who's trying to set up a visit to the BBQ, and he's slated to take an official to Ann Arbor during the season, per 247's Luke Stampini ($). Tate described U-M as a "dream school" and his "favorite school" growing up, though Florida State, Florida, and Georgia are also serious contenders. With Miles Boykin off the board to Notre Dame, expect the coaches to make a serious push for Tate.
ESPN released their initial Junior 300 for the 2016 class. Messiah deWeaver came in at #115 overall (#11 pro-style QB), while Erik Swenson landed at #256 (#20 OT). ESPN's scouting report on Swenson is quite light on details, so it's quite possible he moves up after further looking into his game (assuming ESPN does so).
The #50 overall player on that list (and #41 in the 247 Composite), LA OT Willie Allen, told Tim Sullivan that Michigan will get a visit from him, though the timing could be a ways off ($):
"I know they're close to an Ivy League school academically, but I really don't know too much about them," [Allen] said of the Wolverines. "I plan on taking a visit up there, but financial-wise, it's when my family can really afford it. I'll have to talk to Coach Fred and see what we can do. It'll probably be next summer. If I can get the money this year, I'll definitely take a visit to Michigan. I plan on waiting it out until senior year, and then making my commitment to a school. But I'm open right now. Every offer that I have as of now is equal. I just want to wait it out."
If Allen makes his way to Ann Arbor, Michigan will be in on one of the most coveted prospects in the 2016 class; as always, however, a top-flight prospect from Louisiana should be presumed to go to LSU or Alabama until all signs say otherwise.