Chatting With Jaron Dukes, Wolverine

Chatting With Jaron Dukes, Wolverine Comment Count

Ace February 23rd, 2012 at 12:02 PM


Michigan hauled in their 12th commitment of the class of 2013 yesterday when Columbus (OH) Marion-Franklin WR Jaron Dukes pledged to the Wolverines. The 6'5", 200-pound receiver fills a position of huge need for Michigan, and the Wolverine lifer could barely contain his excitement about the commitment. I spoke to Jaron yesterday evening, just hours after he committed, and we talked about why he chose Michigan, how he feels being in Columbus as a Wolverine, his game against Cam Burrows, and more:

ACE: What made you decide that today was going to be the day to commit?

JARON: I don't know. It was more my coach's decision. He was like, "I can tell. You know what, I can see it in your heart, and I see it in your eyes, and I know that's where you want to go." My family, my mom, they said, "I think it's time, go ahead," and I was like "ahhhhhhh." Then I just went ahead and did it.

ACE: I know you had a great time on your visit a couple weeks ago. Has it pretty much been in your mind to commit since then and you were just waiting for the right time?

JARON: Yeah, I was just waiting on the right time. I was going to wait and do what my mother said, go see more colleges, get the full experience and everything. What nudged it on was a lot of the pressure, it's a lot of pressure.

ACE: Did the fact that Michigan got eight commits over the weekend have any effect at all? Did you take notice when that went down last weekend?

JARON: I heard, but I really wasn't hesitating much. I was talking to Taco [Charlton], he committed, and he was telling me it felt right for him. I've been talking to him a lot. Having somebody that I know that's going to be there made me even more comfortable about going there.

ACE: Have you been talking to any of the other guys who committed to Michigan?

JARON: The only people I've been talking to are Shane [Morris] and Taco.

ACE: What did Shane tell you?

JARON: He was telling me to just come join the family, that we're going to take the top. He was just telling me this and that. I could see that he had as much love for Michigan, as much as I did, maybe even more (laughs).

ACE: What set Michigan apart from the other schools you were considering?

JARON: They actually got my mom to be quiet, once (laughs). They answered all her questions, they answered all my questions, it was just the perfect place. It felt like it was built for me. It just felt right. It just felt like that was the place for me, and why wait?

ACE: What made the coaching staff different from the other coaching staffs that you were in contact with?

JARON: They wouldn't just all play. You know, "Hey, all right, how you doing, man? We're going to have a great time up here, you're going to do this, do that, we're going to be awesome." They sat me down and they were real with me. I felt a connection already. I've seen that they love their players, they love their family; actually, Michigan is their family. It just felt like a good vibe. They were real, they said we're going to work, but we're going to have fun at the same time, because you're going to love what you do. You're going to be proud waking up in the morning and putting on that Maize and Blue. I wanted to be a part of that.

ACE: Being from Columbus, do you feel safe down there being a Michigan commit right now?*

JARON: No (laughs). No I do not. I got messages in my inbox from fans going, "boo go away, y'all suck," when I committed. I'm not affected by it. I made my decision. I'm happy with my decision. People that support me, thank you, I won't let you down, and I won't let my teammates down. People who don't, I'm sorry, but this is my life, and I have to live it.

ACE: There's been a lot of attention, just in the hours since you committed, about you playing against Cam Burrows in the playoffs last year and putting up some pretty good numbers. Are you looking forward to matching up against him again in college?

JARON: Oh, yeah. I would love to keep going against him. He's a great guy. It's fun. After the game, and when I got hurt, he was cool; he came over and he was talking, we were having a good conversation and everything. I have nothing against him. He was a great person, so it's fun going against people you know and it's cool that you can just showcase your talent.

ACE: If you had to boil down why you chose Michigan into a few words, what would they be?

JARON: Family, love, dedication, hard work, honesty, and trust.

*Just to be clear, that question was entirely (okay, mostly) in jest, and Jaron took it that way, too.


Hello: Jaron Dukes

Hello: Jaron Dukes Comment Count

Ace February 22nd, 2012 at 3:47 PM


Sam Webb just broke the news on Twitter; yes, Michigan has picked up another commit:

LOL my life. Informative update forthcoming.

Informative Update: According to Michael Spath of The Wolverine, Dukes is the first-ever offensive skill position player from Columbus to commit to Michigan, which is pretty mind-boggling. Despite growing up in the heart of Buckeye country, Dukes actually is a lifelong Michigan fan, and he told me that he got emotional running onto the field at the Big House when he visited a couple weekends ago. Despite his trip going as well as it possibly could, he wanted to make sure he took the time to think things over and talk to his parents and coaches before coming to a decision; it appears he's thought things through.


Scout Rivals ESPN 24/7 Sports
NR WR NR WR NR WR 3*, 87, #63 WR

As you can see, Dukes is flying under the radar right now and has yet to be ranked by any of the recruiting services, though I expect that will change soon now that he's committed to Michigan [EDIT: Talk about your quickly-fulfilled predictions; 24/7 just gave Dukes a three-star rating]. Though Dukes is listed at anywhere between 6'2" and 6'5" in his recruiting profiles, recent observations peg him at a legit 6'5", 200 pounds; he's definitely the big type of wideout that Al Borges has been looking for.

Bucknuts listed Dukes as their #29 prospect in Ohio for the class of 2013, and their evaluation included this quote from scout Mark Porter ($):

“He’s the biggest wide receiver in the class. He’s not as big as TY Williams a couple of years ago. But he has great size and is useful down around the goal line. He had a nice game against Trotwood.”

In that game against Trotwood—playing against cornerback and consensus top player in Ohio, Buckeye commit Cam Burrows—Dukes tallied six catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Scout's Dave Berk was on hand for that game, and while there are questions surrounding Dukes's speed, he seems to think that won't be a big issue ($):

At 6-foot-5, 200-pounds, Dukes has the physical size Notre Dame coaches love from the wide receiver position. Besides his size, Dukes showed surprising speed during his six-catch, 173-yard two-touchdown performance.

On one of Duke’s [sic] two touchdowns, Burrows had the angle to make the stop, but Dukes showed a burst that sent him past the standout corner that already holds an early offer from the Irish.

A recent Tim Sullivan feature talked about the strength of Jaron's game—his ability to high-point the football, a la Junior Hemingway—and had a glowing quote from his head coach ($):

Whichever school he does ultimately pick will be getting a talented wideout. Standing 6-5 and weighing 197 pounds, he's a physically-imposing receiver who can use his mass to shield defenders - and make blocks on the edge. He also has the body control to high-point the ball once it's in the air, and a knack for making plays after the catch.

"He's 6-4 or 6-5 legit, 200 pounds, he runs a 4.6," said Coach Haffele. "He has great ball skills catching the ball. He's a pretty good blocker. All that god-given talent he has. And then, once you meet the kid and talk to him, that's the selling point. He's just such a great kid."

We'll see about that 4.6; Dukes himself knows that he has to work on his speed to take his game to the next level, and he told me as much when I first interviewed him before his visit:

JARON: My biggest strengths are being able to read the secondary, keeping a level head, going out there and having fun and being able to go out and catch, just catch the ball. I would love to get faster. They keep telling me speed kills, so I want to be the fastest one out there. I want to be the fastest one on the field.

As you'll see on film, Dukes is very reminiscent of Hemingway in his ability to go up and get the football. His speed doesn't stand out, though he's clearly working on changing that fact. Burner or no, he'll provide a big downfield target for Shane Morris and he should be a major weapon in the red zone.


Dukes also held offers from Illinois and Toledo while garnering interest from Cincinnati, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State; he visited OSU multiple times before reaching his decision, though he did not hold an offer.


Dukes told me he had 36 catches for 673 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior.


Rivals lists a 40 time of 4.6 seconds, the time his coach claims he ran. Seeing Dukes on tape, I have to give that a four FAKEs out of five; he's going to have to work on his speed, as has been said above, including by Jaron himself.


Junior highlights from ScoutingOhio:

It's difficult to get a read on his route-running from that short clip; hopefully more video surfaces in the near future, as there isn't even paywalled tape on Rivals right now.


The evidence is flimsy indeed, but Dukes—like every receiver from the 2012 and 2013 class—is going to have every opportunity to compete for playing time right away. When Dukes arrives on campus, the Wolverines will have just six returning wideouts—Jeremy Jackson (SR), Jeremy Gallon (SR), Drew Dileo (SR), Jerald Robinson (JR), Amara Darboh (SO), and Jehu Chesson (SO)—and the only players with even comparable size are Jackson and Chesson, who both stand at 6'3".

That said, Dukes is a developmental prospect, and it seems likely he'll take a redshirt year as long as the Wolverines don't suffer attrition, especially if they can bring in a blue-chip prospect like Laquon Treadwell in the 2013 class. Dukes appears to be a late-bloomer—he told me his coaches said he "couldn't catch a cold" as a freshman—so there's a chance he makes a big leap up in the rankings and changes that opinion. With little film to go on, for now I see him as another Hemingway type; a big receiver who uses his body well and is a deep threat by virtue of his size and leaping ability, but not a burner who's going to be a steady possession receiver.


Michigan now has 12 commits in the class of 2013, almost certainly more than half of what they'll take in a class projected to fill out at around 20-22 players. Dukes represents a player of major need at receiver, and the Wolverines will take at least one more player at the position; Treadwell seems to be the leader in the clubhouse for that spot, but Michigan has 14 other offers out to uncommitted prospects. Other positions of need include one more offensive lineman, an every-down running back, nose tackle, and depth in the back seven, specifically at linebacker (likely just one, and M can be picky) and cornerback.

Brady Hoke... I really just don't know what else there is to say about his—and his coaching staff's—effort on the recruiting trail. I've run out of platitudes, but this class is already on pace to be one of the top five—at least—in the country. It's still February. This is relatively unprecedented, but you know that already.


An Interview With Jaron Dukes

An Interview With Jaron Dukes Comment Count

Ace February 7th, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Columbus (OH) Marion-Franklin WR Jaron Dukes may have grown up deep in enemy territory, but he's a lifelong Michigan fan. His childhood favorites extended a scholarship offer on signing day and the Wolverines immediately jumped to the forefront of his recruitment. The 6'5", 200-pound junior also holds an offer from Toledo and has interest from several prominent Midwest schools, but other suitors might have to hurry if they want a say before he makes a decision. I talked to Jaron last night and he made it very clear which team leads for him in a big way:

ACE: How is everything going with your recruitment, and which schools are going after you the hardest right now?

JARON: Everything's going great. I'm starting to hear from Ohio State, all of a sudden I'm starting to hear a lot more from Michigan, Michigan State, and I'm getting letters from Nebraska now and Illinois.

ACE: You got your Michigan offer recently. What was your reaction to that and what are your thoughts on the school and the program?

JARON: Ecstatic. (laughs) I'm going up there for a visit on Friday. When I first got the offer my mind was blown.

ACE: I know you're coming out of Columbus. Did you grow up as a Michigan fan or were you an Ohio State guy?

JARON: I was a Michigan fan all my life. I got a lot of criticism, you know, being a Michigan fan in Ohio.

ACE: Is that going to play a factor at all when it comes down to making a decision?

JARON: I think I kind of have my mind set on where I want to go. I think all I can do is pray on it and make sure, hope I make the right decision.

ACE: You said you've got your mind set on it. In terms of a timeline, when do you think you're going to make that decision?

JARON: I'm not sure. I'd like to talk it over with my coaches and everything and make sure that's what I really want to do—[see if I should] visit the college more than once, see it in different environments like dorm food, after school, and on weekends, make sure that's where I officially want to be, and do the same for other schools.

ACE: How did your junior season go and what kind of numbers did you put up?

JARON: I thought my junior season went very well. I didn't know it was going to be that good. My freshman year my coaches always said "you can't catch a cold," and I dropped everything that came towards me. Other than that, I think it went very well. I had 663 or 673 yards, 18.5 yards per catch, 36 catches, and seven touchdowns.

ACE: If you had to evaluate your game, what would say are your biggest strengths on the field and what are you trying to work on for your senior year and beyond?

JARON: My biggest strengths are being able to read the secondary, keeping a level head, going out there and having fun and being able to go out and catch, just catch the ball. I would love to get faster. They keep telling me speed kills, so I want to be the fastest one out there. I want to be the fastest one on the field.

ACE: I know it sounds like you're leaning towards Michigan right now, but in terms of when it comes down to making your choice, what are you looking for in a school specifically?

JARON: Academics, somewhere where I can be happy. The technique of the game, if they're a passing team, if they're going to pass me the ball when it's there or if they're just going to keep running the ball. Somewhere where it just feels right.

ACE: Moving off the field, what's one thing you'd want people to know about you that has nothing to do with football?

JARON: (laughs) Oh, man, I don't really know. I draw a lot. I love music. I like sitting—sometimes I just like being by myself and just relaxing.

ACE: What kind of music?

JARON: I listen to all types of music. Country, rock, metal, rap, R&B. The funny thing is, a lot of times, I don't like the new generation of rap now.

ACE: I'm with you there. I like the old school stuff, but the new stuff isn't really my thing.

JARON: Yeah, it's not mine, either.


Friday Recruitin' Searches for the Real FreddieJax

Friday Recruitin' Searches for the Real FreddieJax Comment Count

Ace February 3rd, 2012 at 1:03 PM

I'm baaaaack. Didn't miss a thing, right? Oh, yeah, THAT. Signing day has come and gone, and while Michigan is still in on a couple of prospects, today's roundup will focus on the endless fluff pieces on Michigan commits, the flood of new offers for 2013 recruits, and the search for the real Fred Jackson.

Hoke By First-Round KO

Bob Wojnowski is one of the best on the Michigan beat, but I couldn't help but snicker at the headline of his post-NSD column:

Backyard recruiting brawl is back on between Michigan, Michigan State

After Michigan pulled in seven of Rivals's top ten in-state prospects, leaving Sparty with academic question mark Aaron Burbridge, I imagine that brawl going a little like this:

Yes, I know Wojo didn't write the headline. In fact, I'm hoping this a wonderfully back-handed way of saying that it's back to "Big Two, Little (Rest of B1G)" status [emphasis mine]:

There's nothing more emotional than Michigan-Michigan State and Michigan-Ohio State games. But now all three programs are fighting on familiar ground, while other Big Ten heavyweights have issues.

Michigan State's familiar ground: Lurking under the table for the in-state scraps while Ohio State poaches their top commits. Things just feel so wonderfully right now, don't they? They should: Michigan finished with a class that ranked #6 on Rivals, #4 on Scout, #7 on ESPN, and #8 on 24/7, and while Ohio State did come out on top in the conference recruiting rankings, anyone who expected different when the Buckeyes hired Urban Meyer was kidding themselves. Also, they oversigned, so the moral high-ground remains ours. Never forget how important that is to maintaining our conference-best arrogance.

Sam Webb took a look at five recruits—Joe Bolden, Kyle Kalis, Ondre Pipkins, A.J. Williams, and Chris Wormley—who could have an immediate impact on the field in 2012. Most of the article is stuff you've seen before, but Scout's Dave Berk had some especially high praise for Bolden:

"I thought he was the best linebacker in the state of Ohio for two years now," said Ohio analyst Dave Berk. "He has a high football IQ. A lot of times we say that about guys that don't have athletic ability, but Joe has the athletic ability to go with it. He has got great physical size and he can go sideline to sideline. He can be an outside backer or he can be a middle backer. He is a playmaker. … I think Ohio State and Notre Dame whiffed on that one."

Okay, I really just wanted a quote that knocked OSU and ND. I doubt you mind.

Somebody Save Fred Jackson from the Pirates, Please

This cannot be the real Fred Jackson. There is clearly an imposter masquerading as the King of Hyperbole ($):

Late addition Dennis Norfleet also comes in listed as a running back, but Jackson noted that at 5-7, 170, he's not as suited to every-down back duty in this offense.

"I'm not too sure about his overall ability as a back," Jackson said. "He's more of a utility kind of guy. He's not a guy who is going to go in and play like a Drake, or a [Thomas] Rawls, or guys like that, with that size. He's more of a utility guy that can help you in a lot of ways.


Jackson wasn't quick to jump on the notion of Norfleet as the next Vincent Smith, either, given what Smith has already proven.

"I know you know what I think about Vincent Smith," Jackson assured. "That's saying a lot. Vincent Smith, to me, is pound-for-pound, probably the toughest guy on our football team. I don't know if you can say a guy is going to be like that. I'd hope he could eventually get that way."

Until Jackson describes Norfleet as "Darren Sproles with the wings of an angel and the feet of a young Michael Jackson," I'm going to assume he's been captured by Somali pirates, whom he's currently convincing are the greatest pirates since the days of Bluebeard.

Imposter Fred Jackson did manage to sign seven of the eight players he targeted while recruiting the state of Michigan for the first time this year (all held MSU offers, by the way) en route to being named one of 24/7's top 50 recruiters for this year's class, joining Greg Mattison on the list. At least Imposter Fred Jackson can still recruit.

The Wolverine released an endless series of profiles on class of 2012 commits—all behind paywalls, of course, because knowing Ben Braden played hockey is premium info, y'all—and perhaps the most interesting is the profile of Kyle Kalis, who's got a sensitive side when he's not bashing defenders into the ground ($):

"Kyle is not a kid you can stereotype. He has a myriad of friends, all types of kids," he said. "As an artist, he's tremendous. Some of his work, if you saw it, you'd be really impressed. With the guitar, he didn't take lessons … he taught himself. I believed he played it a little for Coach [Greg] Mattison when he came for a visit.

"Kyle is a young man with intangibles. So often we just want to measure these kids on their grades and test scores, but there is so much more to our personalities and who we are than that, and Kyle epitomizes what you want out of a well-rounded individual."

If the painting at right is any indication, Kalis also likes the Rolling Stones. No word on whether he's more of a Let It Bleed/Beggars Banquet guy or an Exile on Main St. fan. In actual football-related news, Kalis is unsure whether he'll be a guard or a tackle for the Wolverines—according to him, Hoke is giving Kalis the chance to choose between right tackle and right guard once he gets onto campus and has a few practices under his belt. If Michigan doesn't land Jordan Diamond (announcing at 8pm EST tonight), the need for depth at tackle may be too great for him to land at guard, at least for this year.

Quickly: For the last time, A.J. Williams is a tight end, though he'll fill the role of the 'Y' position—blocking TE—while Devin Funchess will play the 'U,' a TE/WR/FB hybrid ($); Erik Magnuson considers himself a good luck charm after visiting for the Notre Dame and Ohio State games ($); ESPN video of Funchess, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Terry Richardson, and James Ross, all former members of the youth football Westside Cubs who have now been reunited as Wolverines.

2013 Notes

This is probably the last time I'll have a section called "2013 Notes," since now we're officially in the class of 2013 recruiting cycle. The initial ESPN U 100 ($) was released on signing day and it's littered with Michigan targets. Tom has a full breakdown over on ESPN Insider, but Shane Morris was indeed awarded five-star status, Dymonte Thomas got four stars, and the Wolverines are recruiting eight five-stars—TE Adam Breneman, CB Kendall Fuller, LB Michael Hutchings, S Leon McQuay, OL Ethan Pocic, OL Jake Raulerson (who just committed to Texas), OL Laremy Tunsil, and DT Greg Webb—and 18 four-stars from the list.

Michigan sent out a ton of offers this past week, so I'll summarize in bullet form:

  • Cass Tech CB Jourdan Lewis, who got his "dream offer" from the Wolverines ($). I'm a big fan of Lewis after seeing him three times this past year, and it's quite possible he could be the next junior to commit.
  • That is, if Lewis isn't beaten to the punch by Columbus (OH) Marion-Franklin WR Jaron Dukes, who named Michigan as his top school after receiving his offer ($).
  • Columbus Bishop Hartley's Jacob Matuska is the third TE to be offered by Michigan ($), joining Adam Breneman and Jake Butt.
  • Indianapolis North Central OL Darius Latham, 24/7 #67 overall prospect, was offered by Michigan and Tennessee recently ($).
  • Lincoln Way-West (IL) OL Colin McGovern becomes another standout Illinois lineman to receive an offer, and Allen Trieu has a free article that's well worth a read.
  • Cincinnati Moeller LB Shane Jones picked up offers from Michigan and Indiana ($), joining Cincinnati among his early offers.
  • Avon (IN) DE Elijah Daniel, another top-100 prospect to 24/7, grabbed a Wolverine offer ($). He's already visited Ann Arbor twice and is considering taking a visit on the 18th.
  • Two more players added M offers: Columbus (OH) Walnut Ridge WR Rob Wheelwright and Dayton (OH) Trotwood-Madison DE Michael McCray, according to 24/7 ($).

In other news, quickly: Pickerington (OH) North TE Jake Butt named Michigan, Stanford, Northwestern, Maryland, and Tennessee as his early top five ($); Logan Tuley-Tillman will visit Ann Arbor this weekend ($); Allen Trieu takes a look at some of the emerging juniors and sophomores, many of whom are being recruited by the Wolverines.