Michigan loses two of three starters from last year and has a couple of start-by-default replacements. Unlike the secondary, though, expectations are high for both newbies after veritable torrents of offseason hype. Michigan now has a linebacker corps that Doctor Blitz can do nefarious things with. Youth will lead to mistakes; Brown will solve his problems with aggression. As one does when one is Doctor Blitz.
VIPER: DOCTOR WHO JUST HIT ME WITH A TRUCK
Hudson is wha ah ah ah ah down with the sickness [Barron]
Yeah, Jabrill Peppers is gone. I'm not sweating it. I'm wearing a KHALEKE HUDSON [recruiting profile] fez, waving a Khaleke Hudson flag, and writing a PhD dissertation about Khaleke Hudson's senior highlight reel. Anyone who's read this site for a hot second knows its staff comprises the biggest Hudson fan group outside of his immediate family, and if he takes off like Michigan hopes he will they're going to have to really up their game at Christmas.
So far, so good as Hudson tries to redeem our unseemly enthusiasm. All the overheated rhetoric from his recruiting profile is on track, whether it was from an opposing coach…
"He is the best combination of strength, speed and burst I've seen in a long time," said Ruane. "Every tackle, run and block is violent with him. He will be playing on Sundays someday. And I'm happy he's graduating."
…or your author:
A multiple-position star who is seemingly designed by man and God to punish people … I mean, he's not Peppers. But other than not being Peppers, he's basically Peppers.
The people saying these things are now his coaches and teammates, and that's one step closer to realizing his potential. Chris Partridge:
Khaleke Hudson and the skills that he brings to that position?
“Violence. Aggression. Hammerhead. He’s a guy that just loves contact. I think that people feed off that, too. He’s becoming very well rounded as a player so he’s going to be very enjoyable to watch.”
“Well, I love him. He’s a very physical guy. His learning at that position has been outstanding and he’s competing at a high level. … Some guys’ arrow is flat, some guys’ arrow is down -- his arrow is constantly going up.”
Brown doesn't just rattle off praise for everyone—see the CB spot. If he's a Hudson believer that's meaningful.
Hudson got his first action on Michigan's punt block, where he was sufficiently explosive and physical to drive through shield blocking and return two to sender. But he was clearly behind Metellus, who was getting more garbage time snaps and got the call when Peppers was unavailable for the bowl game. That's likely because Metellus picked up the defense faster. Don Brown calls him a "savant"; meanwhile a couple of insider reports I got asserted that Hudson was a bit slow to grasp Brown's intricate defense.
Spring, and a definitive move to viper, has cleared Hudson for liftoff. He says he's got the defense down now:
"I feel like I know it really well now," Hudson said. "I still go back and forth with Josh. We both get reps at viper, but I feel like it's starting to be a good position for me."
"He’s very physical, he’s low to the ground, he gets under people, he strikes people, he plays really hard, he’s very self-motivated."
He impressed in the spring game. Ace named him one of the standouts:
The hype here isn't going to slow one bit after today. Hudson was everywhere on defense, looking like the heavy-hitting player we expected against the run and proving equally formidable in coverage, where he broke up a couple passes and nearly came up with an interception. As is his wont, he came inches away from a blocked punt, too.
That heavy hitting was deployed against John O'Korn in the picture that leads this section. O'Korn broke the pocket and looked certain to punch the ball into the endzone until he met Hudson:
"I think he's going to be one of the best players in the nation this year, and in the future, because he can play linebacker, and he can play safety. If he wanted to, he could probably play corner. He's just a freak athlete, and he's really good."
Webb asserted that Hudson kept it up from his excellent spring and has "found his home" at viper(!), where his tendency to be a large hadron collider was a "revelation." Later he'd talk to JT Rogan, who concurred:
"Khaleke Hudson is a great downhill player. He is similar to Jabrill Peppers... man, is he strong and he's fast."
He's "a bull against the run game" and Rivals reports that Michigan tight ends are hugely productive... when Hudson is on the sideline. That about covers it.
Hudson's a perfect fit for the glamor spot in Michigan's defense and has all the arrows pointing the right way. He'll have his share of busts in year one as a starter; when not doing that he'll be turning in more TFLs, big hits, and PBUs. He won't be Peppers, but he's basically Peppers.
[After THE JUMP: fey Johnny Depp! Hhhhhhhyyyyaaaaarrr!]
“Good. It’s been good. We had a good day. Our guys had more energy and were moving around better; [they] had a bounce in their step. This’ll be a big weekend. This is—guys are going to get done with training, get into playing positions. It’s a big weekend for it because we start making those two-deep rosters soon. Train’s already left the station and it’s picking up steam.”
Are you going to give us those two-deeps?
“Uh…no, I didn’t say that.”
You said 8-15 practices for the quarterbacks to--
Has anybody stepped up? Is it still a three-horse race or a two-horse race?
“Yeah, John [O’Korn] and Wilton [Speight] have really stepped up. I think they’ve created a little bit of separation and they’re battling now. It’s going one with the ones and the next day the other’s with the ones and the other’s with the twos. We’re keeping a very close eye on it and it’s progressing well.”
Pep said the other day that one of the things he really likes [QBs to have] is command of the offense. As a former quarterback, what does that mean to you when somebody says they have command of the offense?
“Well, it’s just a process of knowing where all your players are and figuring out what the defense is trying to do to you or take away or give you or where they’re more vulnerable, being able to move the team in and out of the huddle, and make reminders is always another one.
“If a guy has good command of the offense he’ll be able to give other guys reminders, the running back or the fullback or a wide receiver or a tight end. He’s got it on the tip of his tongue and he just knows it cold; that’s having command of the offense.”
Is that the kind of thing that Brandon [Peters] has to do to get back to the same level as John and Wilton?
“Yeah, I mean, it’s just a process for him. He’s competing hard and doing good. Not to say that it’s set in stone right now. I think that the two guys have really created a little bit of separation.”
[After THE JUMP: right side of the line, the unblockables, young guys likely to contribute, and more]
[Ross's] status as a Michigan lock for the vast majority of his recruitment has relegated him to an underrated status among most casual fans.
Josh Ross was a Michigan lock from the minute he stepped on the field at OLSM his freshman year, and he committed a year ago, and I've been all about the other two linebackers in this class. This is because Ross has been as out of sight, out of mind as it's possible for a consensus top 250 player to be. Then I watched the tape above.
Linebacker tape is often a compilation of comical offensive busts on which the LB in question gets to shoot into a ballcarrier without anyone even trying to block him. Ross's tape is not that. Ross stacks and sheds repeatedly—once he even does so on offense, violently discarding a DE to get into a route—before getting to the ballcarrier and terminating him with extreme prejudice. Another genre of play in that reel is Ross reading an attacking before an OL attempting to zone him can make contact. He cuts through trash; he times a number of blitzes immaculately; he shows sideline to sideline range. It's just a highlight tape. But it's a good-ass highlight tape.
Heck of a play by Josh Ross. Shoots the gap. Knows exactly where the play is going. No wasted steps with him https://t.co/jRtanieYAZ
The Ross grew up in a linebacker family, and was a four year starter at OLSM who racked up more than 500 career tackles. Only the odd injury early in his career prevented him from having the maximum amount of experience an incoming freshman can have. The end result is a high school linebacker with an uncanny ability to read what's in front of him. OLSM coach George Porritt's favorite Ross anecdote is an uncanny read…
“The thing was, I knew they were running that play,” Ross said. “They ran it like five times and I knew they were running the wheel route.”
As the play began to develop Ross made his move.
“I dropped back and the running back came out on the same route,” he said. “So I went underneath him and caught the pick and ran out of bounds. I should have run to score, but I felt the game was over and we could take a knee.”
…that Ross made as a 13-year-old freshman.
The default comparison is his older brother, the ultra-instinctive James Ross. Ross was an intermittent starter and Penn State obliterator who was 5'11" in a Not Don Brown defense, and a lot of scouting reports envision Josh as that plus three inches and 30 pounds. Josh Newkirk said he "plays just like his brother" after catching him at the Opening regional in Columbus; Steve Lorenz calls him a "bigger version of his brother." Tim Sullivan:
It's unfair to compare Ross to his older brother James, but at the same time, it's almost impossible not to. In physical appearance, playing style, even facial similarity, he's a whole lot like "Biggs."
Scouting reports that aren't referencing James emphasize the rough and tumble nature of the younger Ross's play. He is a hammer in search of a nail:
Scout: "Physical linebacker who is best when coming forward. Takes on blocks with aggressiveness and leverage and likes contact. Anticipates well and shoots gaps. A sure tackler who wraps up and drives through the ball carrier. Strengths: Instincts, Shedding Ability, Tackling Technique."
Allen Trieu scouting him against Dewitt: "…physical player … really comes down hill and loves contact. He is a strong kid who strikes with power. He shows good burst and straight line speed. We really like his size, physicality and his intangibles. He is a smart kid who reads keys … takes on lead blockers [very well]"
Tim Sullivan: "reads and reacts … with outstanding quickness, and he has the physical quickness to get to the point of attack in a hurry. He doesn't quite bring the same level of violence to the ball carrier that James did in high school, but isn't far off."
Brandon Brown: "…looks to be nearly 230 pounds. He's solid, stout, and muscular but still moves extremely well. …repeatedly took on very large offensive linemen before shedding the block and searching for his gap. … strong, athletic, in very good shape, highly intelligent, a natural leader, and loves contact. "
Clint Brewster: "…great instincts and gets a beat on the play with a quick first step. His ability to shoot a gap and blow up the ball carrier is uncanny. … won't give ground and will meet the ball carrier or fullback in the right hole and not get pushed backwards. … plays really fast but with a controlled aggressiveness. …exciting closing burst and plays with great confidence."
Chris Partridge: "He's physical, he's tough, and he's hard-nosed. He is one of those guys you think about when you think Michigan football and the level of physicality we play with here. He is going to be a middle linebacker for us."
Don Brown: "… tremendous fundamental linebacker. He is also an excellent blitzer. He is an aggressive player and a great tackler, and his fundamentals are off the charts. Josh plays with tremendous passion at the linebacker position."
Porritt: “reacts to the ball so well and (has) that instinctive ability to get to the ball. He’s got a lot of strength and power and is an intelligent kid. Works at the game, loves the game and plays it with passion.”
…explosive, big-play linebacker with an attack mentality. Lacks ideal length/range for an OLB and size/power of an ILB prospect. …Beats blockers to ball with quickness. Slips through seams between the tackles more than stacks and sheds with physicality. … Transitions smoothly in coverage and shows good range and athleticism. Quick to level off in zone, read the QB, underneath route development and close on targets with terrific timing, burst and balance. Does not project to be a guy who will win many battles in a phone booth at the college level; most production should come from his instincts and quickness in the short-area.
That is a coverage LB who needs to be sheltered from lead blockers and is not the player described by the other three sites.
In fact, those other sites think Ross's main drawback is coverage. While there were some positive mentions in early camp sessions, by the time he was a mature prospect it was consistently mentioned as the proverbial Area For Improvement. Scout's profile mentions he "can continue to get quicker and improve in pass coverage," and when it came time for Sam Webb to discuss Michigan's linebacker contingent at the Opening the phrases were along the lines of "a little stiff," "held his own," "adequate in coverage," and "can and will show better with the pads on."
The other source of dissent is, awkwardly, Future Blue Originals. Ace took in the 2015 OLSM-De La Salle game and came away a bit disappointed:
I'm still waiting for Ross to put it all together … still has moments when he gets taken out of plays, not because of his physical talent, but because he can be hesitant. … A big issue is Ross still hasn't developed any moves to shed blocks; unless Ross had a lot of momentum going and could bash through a guy, once a lineman got his hands on Ross he was effectively neutralized. … if the switch is flipped his ceiling is very high—he's big, fast, and relatively fluid for an inside linebacker.
… packs a heck of a punch …. There are no light or glancing blows; every hit is a hit. Unsurprisingly, he was consistently able to take on blockers and knock them back. The play at 1:00 is a nice example of this, as Ross bashes the tackle and ricochets off, which allows him to slow down the back and assist on the tackle. … (2:00) sees Ross knock back a blocker, escape, pull up to avoid a fallen offensive lineman, pursue toward the sideline, and make the tackle before the back can turn the corner.
I ran Ross's tape by Ace to see if his opinion changed and he did say that the senior version of Ross was displaying abilities Ace hadn't seen in person.
Per Lorenz, Michigan projects him to middle linebacker. Brown did mention he could play either of the fairly interchangeable ILB spots. Ditto Singleton; Anthony is a guy who will have a shot at being a linebacker version of viper(!!!) and could be a WLB. Michigan is apparently in love with all three.
Performance: Stud. Beast. Man. Animal. People from other teams — players, coaches, and parents alike — used these words to describe Ross throughout the day.
Studbeast Manimal is a 2020 recruit out of Louisiana.
Why Ben Gedeon? Uncannily close fit in terms of recruiting accolades—Gedeon was composite #215—and frame—he was listed at 6'3", 220. Gedeon became a hard-nosed middle linebacker with good range; his main problem was covering in space. Selected NFL.com draft profile takes:
Keeps pads square. Does a good job of punching blockers early and keeping himself in position to make a play. Shows ability to play off of block and keep his contain shoulder clean. Doesn't fly downhill unnecessarily. Plays with instincts in the middle. Processes well sifting through blocks and bodies to find the ball carrier. … Just an average athlete. … Lacks pursuit speed and reactive athleticism to consistently secure tackles in space. Gets engulfed at times and lacks a counter to unhinge quickly from a player's length. … Man coverage responsibilities could become a chore.
Gedeon got locked behind Desmond Morgan and Joe Bolden, the latter inexplicably, before emerging into a starter and fourth round pick his senior year. Ross probably needs a year to get up to the 230-240 range Gedeon finished in, but from there should be a viable candidate to start in the middle.
Other comparables include Morgan (the best stack-n-shed Michigan linebacker in recent memory but more athletically limited than Ross projects to be) and, yes, his brother.
Guru Reliability: Exacting. Zero projection, Opening appearance, ton of scouting opportunities, near-total agreement.
Variance: Low. Already technically advanced, zero projection, minimal size questions.
Ceiling: High. May just lack the top end athleticism that would make him an early NFL draft pick. Otherwise seems to have the total package.
General Excitement Level: High. High ceiling multiplied by high likelihood he hits that ceiling equals high excitement level.
Projection: Like the other two linebackers in the class there will be an apprenticeship year followed by a multi-way war for the open MLB spot created by Mike McCray's graduation. With apologies to the guys already on campus, it appears the leader going into that war will be the freshman who gets the most playing time and practice hype this year. Prior to doing this profile I thought that was unlikely to be Ross; now I'd give him at least as much of a shot as anyone else, and maybe more since he projects as a thumper in the middle more cleanly than Singleton or Anthony.
When getting off of the line of scrimmage, Black knows how to set up the cornerback and stick his foot into the ground and make a cut. He gets his head around quickly and locates the ball well.
Black also has big, strong hands, and he does a very good job of securing the ball quickly and heading up the field to make yards.
I'm not sure who he'll get compared to when I do the recruiting profile. Michigan hasn't had a lot of 6'4" guys at WR with Black's apparent polish. FWIW, Black will enroll early.
Orbiting panic guy getting a workout
Drama must accompany any announcement from a recruit in the five star range even when there doesn't seem to be much available, and we hit that point with MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones and NY OL Isaiah Wilson yesterday. There has been FSU and OSU chatter about Peoples-Jones, and there was a surge of Georgia optimism—one that included a couple crystal balls—for Wilson.
The situations for both are similar: there is a genuine uncertainty since neither player has told coaching staffs where they are headed prior to their announcement. Black was a silent commit for a couple months before his announcement, and there are some other guys on the board who are equally drama-free. Neither of these gents are that.
Webb reports that Peoples-Jones was still sounding folks out for advice as of Monday. DPJ has been on Michigan's campus a zillion times, including an official visit last weekend; Isaiah Hole reports that he spent a lot of time with Najee Harris and his mother, purportedly in an attempt to recruit them to Michigan. Lorenz says it would be a "considerable upset" if he went anywhere else, etc. This has a Lavert Hill vibe to it where there's some uncertainty going into the announcement but the sheer number of visits DPJ has taken and his connections to Michigan should see M win out.
The Wilson stuff looks like a Reverse Nauta to me. If you remember last year's recruitment of TE Isaac Nauta you'll remember the surge of Michigan optimism late that ended up petering out. This is a little different since 247's Ryan Bartow has issued a CB for Wilson to UGA based on a "trio of contacts." He's currently the only member of the insider crew with that opinion. Lorenz is still hearing Michigan; Bama people are hearing Wilson "prefers to play in the SEC" but that Alabama isn't really in it anymore for whatever reason and still riding with Michigan; Mike Farrell and Adam Friedman at Rivals are picking Michigan; 247 Georgia guy Rusty Mansell thinks it's "tight" but also goes with Michigan.
I still go back to that Friedman article I've referenced a couple times where he said he pretty much knew where he was going. That was before the Georgia visit. So for Georgia to win this recruitment one of these two things has to be true:
Everyone was completely wrong about Wilson's inclinations for the duration of his recruitment and a single unofficial over the summer to UGA was enough to overcome full-court presses from Alabama and Michigan.
Georgia did enough on his official visit to overturn an already-made decision.
I guess it's possible; I'll believe it when I see it. Wilson should decide around noon tomorrow.
Obligatory Najee Harris section
Wheatley coaching Harris at Michigan's satellite camp in Antioch
Sam Webb dropped what is probably the longest insider post on a single recruit I've ever seen. The topic, as you may infer from the section header, is naturally CA RB Najee Harris. There's too much in it to even summarize. The most salient bit in my eyes is the total media blackout since Harris's visit:
That includes Scout's Bama writer A.P. Steadham, who has actually spent time in Najee's home interviewing his mom. He was the first to interview her, and for that matter I think he has interviewed her more than anyone else. Since the visit I’m told he has gotten crickets.
Huffman has spoken with the kid and folks in the school more than anyone else in the media (Huff is SUPER connected Antioch). So far crickets for him too (but don’t expect it to be that way much longer).
That blackout results in the kind of reports you see about Harris, where guy who works for team-oriented recruiting site asks team sources how they feel. Naturally they feel real good. 247's Hank South is their main Alabama guy and reports that "a source familiar with Harris's recruitment" believes Harris will stick with 'Bama, which is basically what they've been saying for a year with no more or less conviction.
The other running backs
Harris's uncertain status and AJ Dillon's BC flip puts the other two RB commits in the spotlight. MSU appears to be kicking the tires on 3* GA RB Kurt Taylor. Dillon's decommit should make Taylor's spot in the class much more secure. Still worth noting since that's the only non-Michigan activity on Taylor's profile since April, when he may or may not have taken an unofficial to South Carolina.
Meanwhile NM RB O'Maury Samuels was upgraded to "moderate" on the imaginary flip watch spreadsheet after his official had to be delayed until January so he could re-take the ACT. Sam mentioned a potential Brad Hawkins redux in the Scout best guess list; not everyone is up for a prep year if someone else will take you immediately.
If Harris goes the wrong way Michigan could end up with a thin RB crew. Probably doesn't matter a ton since they have three contributors returning and Davis/Walker coming off redshirts, but I really liked both Samuels and Dillon as prospects.
In case you'd like to know how competitive Michigan State is in the race for MI DE/DT Deron Irving-Bey's commitment, here's an MSU recruiting insider bombing the talent level of the only instate four star other than MSU legacy Hunter Rison the Spartans have a shot at:
A source added that, "Irving-Bey's senior film wasn't that impressive and doesn't play with a high motor."
Spartan Tailgate was told Irving-Bey is not likely to end up at Michigan State unless they miss out on several other defensive linemen targets ahead of him. That's one of the reasons why Irving-Bey hasn't taken an official visit to Michigan State yet.
Irving-Bey will announce on January 7th at the Army game. MSU's several DL targets in front of Irving-Bey... will not do that.
A source close to Harris told SEC Country recently that he prefers Alabama’s weight program more so than Michigan’s. In fact, one player Harris personally knows at Michigan became very out of shape, and it was off-putting. Harris is a workout freak and Alabama strength coach Scott Cochran may be the best in college football.
That is almost certainly Harris's trainer and indicates where he wants Harris to go more than anything else. The idea that there's a huge problem with a Michigan S&C program that is about to put 12 kids in the NFL draft is bush league pyschout stuff, man.
EPISODE IV: A NEW ROSS
Senior film from 4* MI LB commit Josh Ross:
Ross is a bigger version of his brother and will probably play ILB what with Michigan recruiting various safety/LB hybrids for the Peppers spot.
CA CB Elijah Hicks is in a holding pattern after his official to Michigan. His coach still swears up and down he'll sign with ND, but he is an unreliable narrator. Michigan stopped by PA OL and PSU commit CJ Thorpe for whatever reason. Unless things go haywire down the stretch that's unlikely to amount to anything either way.
2019—you are old and will die soon—GA OL/DL Chris Hinton Jr is a potential five star who Michigan has offered. He's worth a mention even at this early stage because both his parents went to Northwestern. I'm giving him an honorary hyphen and expect he'll be a hot name around this time next year.
Former MSU DT Craig Evanslands at Oregon State after a JUCO year. Oregon State is where Gary Andersen is after he left Wisconsin in a huff, largely because he couldn't get guys like Evans, a former UW commit, in. So there's a thing.
MI CB Donovan Johnsonshot up to #7 in the state on the composite, which is a bummer for Michigan twitter screenshotting. Johnson just committed to PSU. MSU didn't even offer, which is the weirdest thing about this year's in-state recruiting.
Also I just need to say that Alabama is recruiting guys named "Buggs" and "Ruggs" at the same time. That is all.
David and I traveled to the friendly confines of Wayne State’s Tom Adams Field last Friday to watch Orchard Lake St. Mary’s take on De La Salle. It was a beautiful game for a certain definition of the word; if you like heavy sets and spread-to-run offenses, then this was a game for you. It was also kind of ugly. Neither team had much of a passing game to speak of, and a fairly strong wind made punting an adventure, as one punt looked like it was going out of bounds before a gust sent it careening past the sidelines toward the stands. OLSM ended up eking out a 14-7 win while holding De La Salle to 63 yards passing and 81 yards rushing.
De La Salle’s offense may not have been able to get much going, but their zone read and jet sweep action made it an interesting game for linebackers. It just so happens that a linebacker is exactly who David and I were there to watch, as we wanted to get a look at how Michigan commit Josh Ross had developed halfway through his senior season.
High school football season is here, with scrimmages dominating the slate last weekend and the real games getting under way for the most part this weekend; the MGoCrew will be at the Prep Kickoff Classic on Saturday to see Southfield A&T vs. Detroit King and Cass Tech vs. Oak Park.
One Michigan commit performed so well last weekend that he's already earned a rankings bump on one site and could see a second follow suit soon. Four-star GA DT Aubrey Solomon ranked #207 overall on 247's (non-composite) rankings when he committed in June; after Barton Simmons saw his scrimmage, he's up to #110:
In Aubrey Solomon's first game of the year on Thursday night, he was totally dominant. The 6-3, 305-pound Michigan commit out of Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County showed outstanding motor, physicality and quickness in his team's win over Jones County High School. During a cycle in which the defensive tackle position doesn't have a lot of depth, Solomon is one of the rare interior defenders that would be among the best in the country in any recruiting class.
Aubrey Solomon was a force against Jones County week zero in the Corky Kell Classic. He may not have had a dozen tackles, but he was consistently pushing offensive linemen backwards, pushing the pocket back, forcing the running backs to change their lanes, and forcing the quarterback to throw early Thursday night. Solomon has come into this season is great shape 295 pounds, and he played fast. He flashed great quickness off the ball and a motor that did not stop. He chased the ball, he had a key sack, and he was a force all night. Solomon is currently the No. 2 defensive tackle in the South behind LSU commit Tyler Shelvin — that could change.
Solomon looked great on the field. Off the field, he gave a 15-minute interview to 247 that requires its own section. Let's get to it after the jump.
The spring/summer camp season culminated with The Opening finals, and as prospects turn their attention to the upcoming season, the recruiting sites are updating their rankings. Scout and 247 both released new rankings over the last week, and while Michigan lost their only composite five-star, there were quite a few positive developments.
QB Dylan McCaffrey was good, but not great, at The Opening, and that was enough to drop him from #39 to #101 overall on Scout and from #30 to #54 on 247. He's now the #39 overall player on the 247 Composite, 12 spots away from regaining five-star status.
DE Luiji Vilain moved up nine spots to #85 on 247 and held steady at #138 on Scout. Making incremental gains—and avoiding small drops—is tougher the higher a player is ranked, especially when there's significant movement like there is in the post-camp re-ranks; Vilain inching up the composite (to #96) is impressive in that context.
The same principle applies to DT Aubrey Solomon, who dropped nine spots to #216 on 247 and two spots to #129 on Scout. LB Josh Ross had a more significant fall, moving down 16 spots to #193 on 247 and an even hundred spots to #228 on Scout.
The most significant split is over CB Benjamin St-Juste, whose star turn at The Opening earned him a massive jump from three stars all the way to #92 overall on 247; Scout, meanwhile, kept him as a three-star, only giving him a four-spot bump to #32 in their cornerback position rankings. The point of contention doesn't seem to be the quality of his camp performances—those were praised by both sites—but the dearth of other information on the Canadian prospect; if he played his high school ball in, say, Florida, I don't think there's much doubt he'd be a solid four-star.
There's a similar difference of opinion on RB AJ Dillon, who vaulted 112 spots to #99 overall on 247 while remaining a three-star on Scout. Again, weighing camp performances against quality of high school competition could be an issue here—Dillon doesn't face high-level foes in Massachusetts.
DE Corey Malone-Hatcher and OT JaRaymond Hall both dropped out of the Top247; Malone-Hatcher is still a four-star at #260 overall, while Hall lost a star in dropping down to #370. Both took less drastic tumbles on Scout, landing at #248 (Hall) and #296 (CMH).
OT Kai-Leon Herbert stayed at #180 on Scout and didn't crack the Top247. 247 still hasn't updated Herbert's ranking, but Barton Simmons indicated on their board that Herbert is in line to move up from his outdated, middling three-star ranking:
Good player. Size/Strength keeps him out of the Top247 for now. He's athletic. Will be a guy to monitor.
He should get a bump once 247 updates rankings of guys beyond the Top247.
While that isn't an ordered top ten, Michigan is the first program listed by five-star TN WR Tee Higgins, a one-time Tennessee commit who's expressed his interest in paying his way to Ann Arbor this summer, per 247.
“I know I want to get down to Michigan and Florida State,” Higgins told 247Sports National Analyst Ryan Bartow last week. “(Michigan’s coaches) really want me to get on campus, so I just told them I’d get down there."
Clemson is the current Crystal Ball favorite, receiving all the predictions following Higgins' decommitment from UT. A visit could chance that outlook, but there's no question Higgins will be a tough pull.
The most plausible five-star wideout option is still just a few minutes down I-94. Cass Tech's Donovan Peoples-Jones took another visit to campus last weekend, and according to The Wolverine's Brandon Brown, it might have put Michigan out in front:
The 6-1, 188-pounder was at U-M yesterday and was able to tour many of Michigan's medical facilities and also got the chance to speak with many doctors and medical professionals during his trip. The visit went so well that people in the know at Cass Tech now feel that Michigan may be firmly in the driver's seat with his recruitment.
Michigan is still competing with a pile of top programs that Peoples-Jones plans to visit before a decision. As an expected early enrollee, Peoples-Jones doesn't have as long to check out all those schools as most prospects, however, and a lead by the home team could be tough to overcome. Fingers crossed.
"Coach Harbaugh is a laid-back fun guy that you can talk about anything with," he said. "They care about you. Right now they are standing out. The coaching staff really stands out. The program that they have and what they are going to do for you after college is over. They have you set up for life. That was the main thing they care about. They want you to graduate and to get better at life too. It's a life decision. It's not a big lead, but they've been my best visit so far for sure. Georgia and Alabama were the other schools I've really enjoyed so far."
Guarded optimism seems to be the proper response in Collins' case. For the receiver position as a group, you can probably increment that up to full-blown optimism. With Harbaugh at the helm and a five-star quarterback in the fold, convincing top-flight wideouts to come to Michigan shouldn't be too difficult.
Orchard Lake St. Mary's linebacker Josh Ross followed in his brother James' footsteps when he announced his commitment to Michigan yesterday morning. The younger Ross showed strong interest in the Wolverines since he emerged as a freshman starter at OLSM; such strong interest, in fact, that according to Steve Lorenz other coaches saw his commitment as a foregone conclusion:
Well over two seasons ago, a coach on another staff offered Ross. When I asked them about their belief in their chances, the answer was pretty simple.
"He's going to Michigan," they said. "We just really like him and his family, so we offered so I could keep in contact with them."
With Ross, it was never really a matter of who he was going to choose, it was when.
In spite of this, Ross put together one of the more impressive offer sheets in the Midwest. He's Michigan's sixth commit in the 2017 class, the first at linebacker, and the third from in-state, joining Oak Park OT JaRaymond Hall and Brother Rice TE Carter Dunaway.
4*, #10 ILB,
4*, #9 OLB,
4*, 81, #11 OLB,
4*, 92, #6 ILB,
4*, #7 ILB,
While the four sites are split as to whether Ross is an inside or outside linebacker, they're generally in concordance on his ability—all have him in the 150-250 range overall. Ross is a good prospect who's not quite in the elite tier.
There's most disparity regarding his size. Rivals lists him at 6'0", 219 pounds; ESPN at 6'1", 220; Scout and 247 at 6'2, 225.