Monday Recruitin' Cuts Back

Monday Recruitin' Cuts Back

Submitted by Ace on January 20th, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Backtrack

As recently as yesterday, it appeared all but assured that Michigan would take a running back in the 2014 class, whether it be Jeff Jones or newly offered Marlon Mack or perhaps a reinterested Kalen Ballage.

Not so fast, my friends. This morning, Sam Webb said on his WTKA recruiting segment* that he doesn't expect Jones or Mack to end up in the class—a change from his earlier stance—and he reiterated that in a board post on GBW (link $). 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed that report this afternoon and added that he believes it also applies to Ballage ($).

As of now, the reasoning behind this shift from the coaching staff is unclear. There's an optimistic take out there, though; Doug Nussmeier visited 2015 RB commit Damien Harris last week in the midst of rampant speculation—including from his fellow commits—that a decommitment was on the horizon. Harris has been quiet of late; it's possible that Nussmeier felt more comfortable with Harris' status—and Michigan's depth chart at RB—after the visit and felt a scholarship could be better used at another position (or in the 2015 class). It may also help Harris' commitment status if he's reassured that there won't be extra competition from a running back in the class ahead of him.

It appears it's Malik McDowell or bust to round out the 2014 class; given the needs already filled and the small projected class size for 2015, banking a scholarship or two isn't a bad idea, even if it means a less exciting Signing Day (again) this year. For what it's worth, while Sam Webb continues to be optimistic that McDowell will stay close to home, at least one reliable Florida State insider likes their chances after McDowell took his official to Tallahassee last weekend.

[Hit THE JUMP for info on Michigan's two most recent 2015 offers, the final Rivals 100, the DetNews Blue Chip list, and more.]

Running Back Runaround

Running Back Runaround

Submitted by Brandon Brown on January 18th, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Wrenches keep getting thrown into the system when it comes to Michigan’s 2014 running back recruiting. Until about two weeks ago it didn’t really look like Michigan had any realistic running back options in the 2014 class, then there appeared to be one, then he recommitted to Cal, and now there could be two and maybe a long-shot third.Jeff Jones

On January 3rd Jeff Jones was offered after a stellar performance at the Under Armour game and it was quickly learned that the interest was mutual. He told me that it was a big deal to get the Michigan offer and he was excited to have it. Jones has been on campus before but wasn’t recruited very aggressively immediately following his brief visit to Ann Arbor. I’ve had limited conversation with Jones and he basically just told me that he has to finish all of his visits before he can make a final decision. The good news for Michigan is that he will take his final visit, to Ann Arbor, on January 31st, just five days before signing day. It’s believed that Jones is considering only Michigan, Florida, and the team he’s currently committed to, Minnesota, so with Michigan getting the last crack at him, there’s reason for optimism.

Just two weeks after Jones was offered another name was thrown into the hat when the coaches decided to offer Marlon Mack, coincidentally on the same day he decided to decommit from UCLA. 

Marlon Mack

Jeff Hecklinski was at Mack's house and stayed for about an hour, with that visit culminating with an offer. Mack said that he was feeling Michigan quite a bit after meeting and talking with Coach Heck and news of his decommitment followed later that evening. He obviously has a lot to mull over and didn’t give me much about what he was going to do. He told me that Michigan definitely has a chance but right now he has no leader, no top group, and no timeline for when he’ll make his final decision.

Kalen Ballage is a name that Michigan recruitaholics are very aware of but fell by the wayside after he, somewhat surprisingly, committed to Arizona State on December 11th. I was able to confirm with Ballage today however that Michigan is indeed actively recruiting him again and that he has been in contact with Coach Funk. 

Kalen Ballage 3

Before Ballage committed to ASU he was always a bit tough to read and today was no different. I asked him if he was solid to Arizona State or if he was considering Michigan again and he cryptically said, “I’m not sure right now.” To me that means he’s at least entertaining the idea of reopening his commitment but right now there’s no real reason to think he’ll decommit or flip to Michigan or anyone else for that matter.

--------------------

I feel confident in saying that Michigan will definitely add a running back to the 2014 class but right now it is very tough to predict who. Jones seems like option #1. He will officially visit Ann Arbor just five days before National Signing Day and that bodes well for the Wolverines but also leaves them little time to deal with surprises.

Mack is likely option #2 if Jones doesn’t pan out although Coach Heck being in his house and offering in person shows a high level of legitimate interest.  Neither Jones or Mack was able to specifically tell me if their offers were committable, but with just 18 days until signing day one would assume that they both are. I never thought Michigan had a great chance with Ballage and I still don’t. He doesn’t appear to be solid to Arizona State but I just don’t think Michigan can suddenly become his leader and flip him within the next two weeks.

It’s been tough to get a good grasp on this situation. The vibes I’m getting suggest it’s about 60/40 in favor of Jeff Jones being Michigan's running back of this class, with Mack a possibility to join regardless of that decision, and the most likely to commit if Jones doesn't.

Thursday Recruitin' Drinks Milkshake, Becomes Engineer

Thursday Recruitin' Drinks Milkshake, Becomes Engineer

Submitted by Ace on December 12th, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Jabrill Peppers Is Fast, Part Whatever

Oh, just Jabrill Peppers fielding a kickoff at the 0:21 mark, hauling down the far sideline—I like that sideline—and reaching the end zone at the 0:32 mark despite high-stepping the final few yards. 96 yards. 11 seconds. In full pads.

He's okay, I guess.

Weekend Visitors

This weekend marks the time when just about every 2014 commit will take their official visit to Ann Arbor, including Peppers, who'll presumably have a nice chat with Brady Hoke about taking other visits—if he hasn't already been talked out of them by the coaches and his family, who've reportedly expressed their desire for Peppers to stick to his commitment.

According to multiple outlets, one uncommitted 2014 prospect will also take his official this weekend: three-star TX RB Vic Enwere, a current Cal commit. Enwere committed to Cal without ever visiting Berkeley—he's slated to visit there in January, and otherwise has no officials set up, so this is looks to be a two-team battle that could go either way. Enwere is now the only feasible target at running back to hold an offer, as CO ATH Kalen Ballage made a surprise commitment to Arizona State this week; he'd been expected to pledge to either Boise State or Michigan State.

The other visitor to keep an eye on is 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, who's recently stated an interest in visiting Ohio State. He's maintained all along that he's "100% committed" to Michigan, so hopefully a quick discussion about Hoke's job security—like Peppers, Crawford cited rumors about a potential coaching change as reason to look around—will dispel any desire to visit the Buckeyes.

[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, Tim Settle, a couple of four-star 2015 tackles, and more.]

Thursday Recruitin' Wears A Blogger Costume

Thursday Recruitin' Wears A Blogger Costume

Submitted by Ace on October 31st, 2013 at 3:17 PM

Beards Require No Context Or Reason

Tim did this because he's still a blogger at heart, obviously.

Consider that George Campbell's treat, accompanied by this nifty trick:

Da'Shawn And The Battle Of Academic Departments

As more details emerge from Da'Shawn Hand's official visit to Alabama, it's clear that (1) the Tide are very much in the running, and (2) Professor Needs A Raise has a Southern counterpart, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):

"The engineering dean is the man!" Hand exclaimed. "He is that guy! I met with the business professor too and he was good. The academic support is amazing. They have individual tutors and that's good to help you manage your time."

In talking with TomVH, Hand revealed this his decision may in fact come down to his choice of major ($):

Hand says that if he wants to go into sports management it will be Michigan, and if he wants to go into engineering it will be Alabama. Florida offers both, so he will be spending time with professors in both fields on that trip to see if that has any impact on his decision.

The 6-foot-4, 262-pound defensive end says for right now he’s just focused on Florida, though, and will head out to Gainesville on November 9.

One of the Michigan coaches may want to alert him to this.

In other pursuits of 2014 blue-chip prospects, Oregon has become a major player for CA ATH JuJu Smith after he visited Eugene in place of a planned trip to Ole Miss; he told Rivals's Adam Gorney($) that the Ducks are "another top team to beat." Smith already had very positive official visit experiences at Notre Dame and Ohio State, has USC and UCLA under consideration, and has two officials left: Alabama (vs. LSU) and Michigan (vs. OSU). With that much competition, it's tough to peg Michigan as anything but a longshot, even with whatever edge they might get from receiving Smith's final official.

[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the 2014 running back situation—there seems to be a situation—plus Freddy Canteen makin' moves, evaluations of a couple M commits, and more.]

Monday Recruitin' Waits It Out

Monday Recruitin' Waits It Out

Submitted by Ace on October 28th, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Bye Week Visits: A Trip To Colorado (No, Not For That)


Well played, Maison Bleue.

Last weekend's bye afforded the coaches an opportunity to hit the recruiting trail, and Michigan coaches checked in on the likes of top 2015 MN DE Jashon Cornell, 2015 four-star NC OL Mason Veal, 2015 four-star RB Nasir Bonner, 2015 NJ WR Irvin Charles, and several others.

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:

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.

Prepare For PANIC

(Aw, crap, it's already started.)

As you're probably well aware, Da'Shawn Hand took his official visit to Alabama over the weekend, and reports from the trip have been quite positive. Here's Hand himself:

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.]

An Interview With Kalen Ballage

An Interview With Kalen Ballage

Submitted by Brandon Brown on August 16th, 2013 at 10:50 PM

Kalen Ballage 2

It’s been assumed for a while that Michigan would not take a running back in the 2014 class but after talking with ATH/RB Kalen Ballage I’ve learned that the coaches may still be in the market for a ball carrier. Ballage is a bit of a wildcard being a multi-purpose Colorado kid, but his measurables and physical attributes are on an elite level. He was a very unique young man to speak to and he had some good things to say about Michigan as well as another program in the mitten.

Being a Colorado kid, pretty far from Michigan and the midwest, we don’t necessarily hear a ton about you, so what have you been up to this summer, football or non-football related?

A lot of both really. I believe that you can’t be wrapped up in a sport for too long, I think that hurts you as an athlete. I never understood when guys play basketball year-round or anything like that. Do something different, I think it helps you as an athlete. I’ve been just hanging out with friends, going swimming, you know bonding with my teammates outside of football but it also helps with football. We’ve spent time doing workouts and getting it in on the field as well.

I know a little bit about you, as much as is posted on the recruiting sites. Tell me your most recent and accurate height, weight, and speed because what’s listed is pretty impressive.

Right now I’m 6’2”, 225 and I run a 4.37, and yes that is laser-timed. I haven’t ran it since I got that time and that was last summer. I haven’t really ran a 40 since and I think I’m a lot stronger since then and I believe faster as well, with putting on 10-15 pounds. I’ve just tried to better myself as an athlete.

You’ve mentioned the word “athlete” a couple of times now and most sites list you as such, but Michigan is looking at you purely as a running back correct?

Yes sir, actually most teams are now. A couple of schools have offered me at linebacker, but the more and more they see my film they start to see me as a running back even though I’m capable of playing an outside linebacker position. Running back is the place that I’d like to be personally, and some schools that have offered me at linebacker have switched to linebacker, and those who haven’t still do see me as a linebacker.

You talked about the different positions you can play, what do you think you bring to the field as a player, either at running back or linebacker? In other words what do you think you do well on the field?

One thing I definitely bring is a winners mentality. If a coach tells me to do something, I just do it. I don’t have a problem doing it if it’s about the team. That’s what I’ve always been about, that’s just what I’ve been taught, my parents have raised me well. Whatever I can do to help the team, that’s what I want to do. If you want to stick me at corner or safety, I actually have an offer at strong safety, Vanderbilt wants me to play there. If you wanted to put me at O-line or D-line, that has never happened (laughs) but I’d do it to the best of my ability if the coach needed me to.

That pretty much leads me into my next question and you sort of answered it already, but headed into your senior year what do you think you bring to the team or the field as a teammate or as a coachable person?

Yeah, the thing about me is that I didn’t become a leader just this year. I’ve been a leader since I stepped onto the field on varsity as a freshman. I’ve just always been that guy, you know? No matter how young or old I am I’ve tried to be a leader and leadership-wise I don’t think much will change just because I’m a senior.

Most schools around the country have started practicing in some capacity so what has your high school team done so far?

Yes sir, we started actually on Monday and we’re easing into it like every other team I’m sure. First we had to go helmets, then helmets and shoulder pads, then full pads without much hitting, and then we actually got to bang a little bit today. That was definitely fun, first hitting of the season is always hype. We’ve got music playing and doing Oklahoma’s and stuff so that was a lot of fun. Our first game is on August 30th, so we’re getting there.

How has your recruitment been going this summer? Run down your offers a little bit and just tell me in general how it’s gone.

To be honest I can’t name all of them. I know some of my main guys right now are Michigan, Michigan State, Boise, Nebraska, Washington and ASU. You know those schools are up there. I also have offers from Arizona, Colorado, Colorado State, Georgia Tech…man, I can’t remember all of them and I know that’s probably bad, but.

Not putting words in your mouth but would those “main guys” you named make up your top group at this point?

Definitely. Those are the schools that I’ve found out more about and I’ve been in contact with them. I just know a little bit more about them and what they have to offer me.

I can’t remember where I saw it, maybe Twitter or something, but you are planning on taking an official visit to Michigan now correct?

I believe so, I believe so. I actually don’t have a Twitter so a lot of people do twist my words up. It’s definitely a school that I’m considering taking an official visit to more than some others so, yeah.

Who are some of the others that you are juggling around with Michigan right now for your officials?

Michigan State, Boise, Nebraska, and ASU or Washington, still kind of looking for a 5th there, but still not even completely closed to any school to be honest.

I’m curious, as a Colorado kid, why so much interest in the Michigan schools?

Their ability to produce big running backs. Michigan State the past couple of years, more than Michigan (he said it with a “with an all due respect” tone), I mean I’m a big running back and people think that if you’re big you just shouldn’t be in this position, but I like to prove people otherwise. That’s not me being cocky that’s just me feeling that I can do anything I set my mind to. Michigan State produced Le’Veon Bell and now he’s in the NFL playing with the Steelers. You know if you don’t have the desire, or don’t want to play in the NFL, I don’t think you should be playing college football. Guys want to get to the league, you know, that’s been their dream ever since they were little. I think that’s going to be a factor in deciding what school you want to go to.

You mentioned that you did a little more research and found out more about Michigan. What do you know now and what did you find out?

Oh man all of the attributes they have! I still have not taken a visit there, but I speak with the coaches as often as I can. You know The Big House, the facilities, they just have so many things to offer a football player beyond football and academics to take care of you as an athlete.

When you think about the other schools you mentioned earlier what are some other factors that are going to help determine where you’ll play in college?

Like I said Michigan State and their ability to produce big backs and be a team in the Big Ten that runs the football a lot. If I go to a school I don’t want to sit back and watch the ball get slung around, you know like Texas Tech or something. I’d like to tote the rock a little bit and that’s what I like most about them. For Boise State, a lot of people ask me, “Why Boise State?” It’s just their ability to win. They’ve been winners, they have the best win percentage in college football for like, the last 10 years. You definitely want to be on a winning football team. Nobody wants to be on a team where there’s nothing there for them. Also their ability to put people in the NFL. These last couple of years you know, Doug Martin, DJ Harper, they have some DB’s and wide receivers in there. And you know, Boise was my first offer and that holds some kind of sentimental value because when nobody else looked at me, and no one else thought I was anything, they did and they offered me. They’re kind of the reason I have these other big offers from Michigan and the other big schools, they kind of blew me up. That first offer is just special.

So you’re about to start your senior year, you seem to have a top 5 or 6 and some officials in mind, when would you like to make a decision and end the process?

To be honest, ideally, I’d like to make my final decision soon after my football season. I’m one to focus on what I’m doing and I don’t want any distractions out side of football even though it’s more football, I just want to focus on the season at hand and then focus on my commitment. It’s my last high school football season ever and I learned from the seniors on my team last year that your senior season is one of your most special seasons of your football career. No matter if you’re still in high school, college, or even playing in the NFL, no one ever forgets their high school senior year.

I’ve been impressed with your answers and you seem to be a pretty deep thinker, so I’m curious as to how you see your own decision going. What will Kalen Ballage’s commitment look like?

I actually spoke with Tom Lemming and I might end up making my decision on his show so I can talk about why I made that decision over others. That’s more like a 10 minute thing, you know at the Army game I won’t be able to really announce why I went to this school, you kind of just pick up your hat and they move on from it. I’d really like to explain why I make the choice that I make.


Ballage is yet another well-spoken, intelligent young man who seems to be taking his recruitment very seriously so he can make the best decision for himself. The Michigan coaches seem to value these types of attributes more and more with each kid that I speak to. It will be interesting to see if Ballage does schedule an official visit to Michigan or not given the fact that most people believe there will be no running back taken in the 2014 class. Personally I’m all for 6’2”, 225 lb. athletes that clock laser-timed 4.37 forty’s, but that’s just me.

Thursday Recruitin' Waits For The Inevitable

Thursday Recruitin' Waits For The Inevitable

Submitted by Ace on August 15th, 2013 at 1:11 PM

Oh, Just Another Imminent Probable Commitment


Shaun Crawford (#17) makes a tackle (via Cleveland Plain-Dealer)

2015 four-star OH CB Shaun Crawford has long been on commitment watch, and now we know precisely when to watch for said commitment:

"I will be making my decision public on August 23rd," Crawford told Scout.com. Lakewood St. Edward has a scrimmage scheduled that day with Warren Harding, and the Crawford announcement is expected at 5 p.m.

While Crawford spoke positively of Miami (YTM) and Notre Dame after visiting those schools over the summer, he named Michigan as his leader following the BBQ at the Big House and hasn't taken any visits since. It would be quite a surprise if he didn't choose the Wolverines.

For more on Crawford, Maize n Brew's Anthony Mammel just happened to post a lengthy breakdown of his game this morning. Purely coincidence, I'm sure.

The Glenville Duo Speaks

Glenville prospects Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith were surprise visitors for last month's BBQ, but in the time since we haven't heard much from them about their respective recruitments. Scout's Bill Greene finally caught up with the pair to talk about their trips to Ohio State (for their Friday Night Lights event) and Michigan; here's Lattimore on the BBQ ($):

On Michigan: “It was my first time out there," he stated. "It was nice. I’m considering them, too. It was everything. It was just the coaches, everyone was laid back. It’s like a team up there. It was nice to see the chill side of the coaches and see how they really are outside of football. I liked it.”

And Smith ($):

"It was my first time being at Michigan," he added. "It was actually better than I thought it would be. I really enjoyed myself. All the coaches were there. Coach [Brady] Hoke was a lot more active than I thought he would be. I got to establish a relationship with the coaches. They were down to earth. I feel I could fit in there."

Lattimore added that Michigan and Ohio State will both receive official visits from him this fall — notably, he didn't name any other teams in the running for officials — and presumably he'd be accompanied by Smith on those visits. Both prospects still hold Ohio State in very high regard, but Michigan is at least making a push. In Smith's case especially, the Wolverines appear to have a decent shot at landing a commitment; it's uncertain if OSU will have room in their sanction-limited class to take him.

[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Parrker Westphal and Kalen Ballage, updates on a couple top underclassmen recruits, a look at the new 2015 Scout 300, and more.]

Tuesday Recruitin' Makes Up Its Mind

Tuesday Recruitin' Makes Up Its Mind

Submitted by Ace on July 2nd, 2013 at 4:29 PM

Catching Up, Three Commits Later

Michigan hauled in three 2014 commits in the last three days in Freddy Canteen, Brandon Watson, and Noah Furbush — if you missed any of their Hello posts, simply click on their name. While I initially couldn't find any film of Canteen in game action, a poster helpfully noted (though I forget where and can't find the link) that he shows up plenty in ECA quarterback David Sills' highlight tape. The focus of the video is obviously on Sills, so we don't get to see Canteen's vaunted route-running; he does, however, make several impressive grabs — look for him in the #19 jersey:

That's a solid body of work for just three games, and is evidence that Canteen has the hands and ball skills to complement his footwork.

In a post-commitment interview with Sam Webb, Watson revealed that despite talking about committing together, he and Canteen actually decided to pull the trigger independently; he also threw out a juicy morsel about another offer ($):

“We’ve been talking about (committing to Michigan) since we got the offer,” said Watson.  “Freddy was looking at a couple of schools, and I was kind of leaning toward USC and Michigan.  I just wanted to go out to SC and see what that felt like.  When I came back I talked to coach I just said, ‘I want to go to Michigan.’  Freddy called about two minutes after and said, ‘yo, are you committing tomorrow?’  I said, ‘yeah.’  He said, ‘oh yeah? Me too!’  We basically told Coach Hoke ten minutes apart.”

It’s funny I just got the Tennessee offer this morning,” Watson later added.  “I told him ,’it’s a little too late… I’ve already made up my mind to go to Michigan.

Watson's coach had previously mentioned that a USC offer was forthcoming until he committed to Michigan, adding to the growing pile of evidence that he and Canteen are better prospects than their rankings would indicate.

Landing two prospects from Eastern Christian Academy gives the Wolverines a potential edge with 2016 ECA LB De'le Harding, whose coach said he earned rave reviews at camp, per Sam Webb ($):

He is the best rising sophomore in the country,” ECA coach Dwayne Thomas said.  “I took him to Tennessee’s camp he was dominant and he got an offer.  I took him to Michigan’s camp and no one would have even known he was 14 years old unless I told them.  They’re going to offer him.  Brady told me, ‘coach, we love that dude.’  The defensive coordinator told me, ‘we love that dude.’  I’ve been doing this a long time.  I coached in college for 17 years and I don’t blow smoke.  He will be the best player I’ve ever had.  I’ve coached a lot of great ones.  I’ve got two at USC and one already committed; I’ve got them at Auburn… I’ve got a lot of kids over the last three years at a lot of places, and he will be the best one, no doubt.”

Harding already has offers from Tennessee and USC after dominant performances at their respective camps; he's poised to be one of the top players in his class, and a Michigan offer should come sooner or later. Canteen and Watson both say they'll be giving their younger teammate their best recruiting pitch.

With the commitment of Furbush, meanwhile, Michigan is looking for one more linebacker prospect, specifically an outside linebacker, to complete their 2014 recruiting of that position group. Four-star CA OLB Dwight Williams is rumored to favor Florida, though Michigan also has a good shot; he told 247 that he's locked in officials to Florida, Michigan, and Hawaii, and the Wolverines are speculated to be the Gators' biggest competition ($). Three-star MO OLB Jimmie Swain, the other most-likely target, told Rivals that he's looking to cut two schools from his top five to ensure he can take officials to each of his finalists ($). Michigan is joined in that group by TCU, Michigan State, Oregon, and Stanford; the two Pac-12 school have yet to offer, and it appears the Horned Frogs currently hold the edge:

"TCU is the only one of the top five I've visited already. When I went down there, I just enjoyed the campus and the team and the way they practice. Coach Patterson and I talk on a regular basis. I just loved what I saw when I went down there. Ever since then, I have just been all about TCU. I just loved the atmosphere and everything about that school."

Swain says he hopes to decide in September; his visit, should he make it, will obviously be of great importance if Michigan hopes to land him.

[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on a trio of five-star prospects, an overview of the 2014 running back situation, and more.]

Recruitin' Mailbag: ECA Academics, Camp Vs. Game Film, Trusting The Coaches, And More

Recruitin' Mailbag: ECA Academics, Camp Vs. Game Film, Trusting The Coaches, And More

Submitted by Ace on July 2nd, 2013 at 1:16 PM


2013 Eastern Christian Academy prospect Kenny Bigelow has already enrolled at USC.

I initially planned on covering football and basketball as well as recruiting in this mailbag, but enough of you sent in questions (thanks!) that I had to go recruiting-only; I may do a separate mailbag to cover the rest later in the week. On to the questions...

For a number of reasons, I'm not worried about this. If you haven't read the SI article on Eastern Christian Academy, it's highly recommended, and should allay some of these concerns [emphasis mine]:

Strictly speaking, Eastern Christian is not even a school but rather a club, with members who attend an online private school called National Connections Academy. "There is a lot of confusion," says Steven Guttentag, president of Baltimore-based Connections Learning, which is the parent company of National Connections. "Eastern Christian is not a school. It's a football training program that provides a site. National Connections Academy is the school. They're our team." Connections Education counts more than 45,000 students among its accredited private and public schools. Its students include everyone from prodigies at New York City's prestigious Juilliard School of Music to Olympic hopefuls, but Eastern Christian represents the company's first foray into team sports.

...

[T]he reputation of National Connections, and the fast-growing digitalization of U.S. education, affords Eastern Christian a degree of insulation from skepticism. The growth of charter schools and homeschooling have pushed the number of students in grades K-12 taking online courses well into the hundreds of thousands. "What you're describing is definitely unusual," says Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who spent 11 years investigating diploma mills. "But this sounds like a proctored setting, with adults watching over kids as they do their work and take their exams, and in today's world that's becoming normal."

The NCAA, according to the article, considers National Connections "an approved nontraditional course provider," so there should be no issue passing their academic requirements. ECA and its predecessor, Red Lion Christian Academy, have produced several D-I recruits in the last few years, and as far as I can tell there's been no issue with the NCAA or the recruits' respective schools. An incomplete list:

  • 2011 Red Lion DL Angelo Blackson is entering his junior year at Auburn, where he's expected to start for the second straight season.
  • 2012 Red Lion DL Eli Ankou was accepted by UCLA and redshirted last season.
  • 2013 ECA five-star DL Kenny Bigelow enrolled early at USC, so he's already passed admissions and gone through a semester of classes.
  • Fellow 2013 ECA prospects Khaliel Rodgers (USC) and Jahmere Irvin-Sills (Miss. St.) signed with BCS programs. Michigan's coaches reportedly contacted Rodgers after David Dawson's decommitment last year, but he was solid to USC and did not receive an offer.

Michigan admissions could be a different animal — though UCLA and USC are both fine schools — but here's where my final point comes in: Brady Hoke, quite simply, doesn't take academic risks. None of his recruits have failed to qualify and the line of communication between his staff and the admissions department is strong; let's just say the athletic department learned from the Demar Dorsey debacle.

While we're on the subject of Canteen and Watson...

Ace!  Love your writing, dude. 

Question on Recruiting. I trust the coaches, I love the coaches. They've earned the right to pick who they want. But do you think it's a little weird to go so hard after a few guys so off the radar at this point in the process (the past 3 days), or do you think the coaches truly see that much potential in these guys, and got some steals? I know - hard to know when a guy only plays 3 games a year, but curious for your take.

Josh

The longer I cover recruiting and, on occasion, happen to stumble into some insider-y info, the more I realize that the coaches do everything — everything — for a reason. In fact, you don't even need insider info to know this. Just look at how the wide receiver recruiting shook out over the last few weeks:

  • Artavis Scott visits Clemson for their camp, which runs from June 12th-14th.
  • Freddy Canteen picks up his offer at Michigan's camp on June 18th.
  • In an article released on June 24th, K.J. Williams tells 247 that his top three is Syracuse, Michigan, and Mizzou, in that order ($).
  • On June 26th, ESPN's Brian Stumpf reports that Scott has moved up his announcement and will decide at The Opening, which is going on this week. Clemson immediately becomes his presumed destination.
  • Freddy Canteen commits to Michigan on June 29th.

Even if we presume that Canteen is the third option among those prospects — and I'm not sure the coaches would put Williams above him, especially since they wanted a slot receiver — it's clear that the coaches saw the way things were trending with Scott and Williams and decided to make a move instead of waiting, which could've left them coming up empty on all three prospects.

Then we get into the fact that Canteen, along with Watson, had very good reasons for being under the radar, and earned their offers by performing for the coaches in person. The Wolverine's Michael Spath posted a great rundown of recruits who were offered at camp and committed to Michigan; there have been 23 such players since 2002 ($). Of those 23, just six ended up as four-star prospects, and given that fact Michigan has been quite successful in identifying overlooked talent:

Among the 23, 21 have already completed their eligibility, and of those, 10 started at least one season for the Wolverines. Multi-year starters include: LB David Harris (2002 class), [OL Jake] Long, [DL Will] Johnson, [OL Alex] Mitchell, P Zoltan Mesko (2005) and OL David Molk (2007).

Yes, the list of camp-offered commits includes such luminaries as David Harris, Jake Long, David Molk, and the Space Emperor (Of Space). NOT BAD.

With the increased pace of recruiting, it's easy to forget that the current rankings will look wildly different come February; the recruiting services still haven't had a look at every available prospect, obviously, and there's still a good chunk of camp season, next fall's actual football season, and the postseason All-American games to go. Especially at this stage in the recruiting process, it's best to trust the coaches, at least until there's any shred of evidence that they're not good talent evaluators (and all of the available evidence points in the exact opposite direction).

It's not as simple as this with most prospects — the coaches do their best to use everything at their disposal to evaluate a recruit, and how much they weigh each factor is largely dependent on the specific recruit. Camp allows the coaches to not just judge a player's size, potential, and technical ability in person, it also gives them insight into how quickly a prospect picks up on their coaching — they can judge coachability and character in a way that they obviously can't do with a highlight tape.

The problem with camp, of course, is that it isn't actual football — they're running drills without pads, not lining up and playing 11-on-11. That's why game film is still quite valuable. With guys like Canteen and Watson, who simply don't have much film available, the coaches have to lean more heavily on how they did at camp, but for most prospects that's not the case. I wouldn't say camp trumps film, nor the opposite; this answer is a bit of a cop-out, but it goes on a case-by-case basis, as the available information differs — sometimes dramatically — from prospect to prospect.

Ace,

I know people pay probably too much attention to stars when it comes to recruits, but the recent conversation about what coaches saw in certain players bothered me because it was based on an inexact rating system.  If you think about a previous QB battle, mgoblog has this to say:

"Projection: Even if Robinson doesn't pan out Michigan won't be moving him for at least two years and doesn't have the quarterback depth to redshirt anyone this year, so at the very least you'll see him reprise the Feagin role from last year's Minnesota game except with a definite possibility he'll throw. Going forward it'll be a battle between his electric athleticism and Forcier's polish, with Forcier having the obvious early edge because of his spring enrollment."

And remember the recruiting hubaloo around Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver.  This got me thinking, of those who have pledged to Michigan in the past few years which player(s) do you think have far outperformed their ranking?

Thanks,

Chris

I'm not sure the example used here is the best one for the question, since both Forcier and Denard were highly-regarded prospects, but there are a few from Hoke's first couple classes. In the 2011 class, Frank Clark looks poised to outperform his three-star rating; he may have done so already simply by seeing the field and contributing early. 2012 signee Devin Funchess was a borderline 3/4-star recruit and he showed tantalizing potential as a freshman; when a freshman gets put on school record watch — in this case, Jim Mandich's career mark for receptions by a tight end — it's safe to say he's performing at a very high level. Ben Braden is another player from the 2012 class who could easily surpass his three-star expectations; Braden has a good chance to start at guard as a redshirt freshman and eventually make his way out to left tackle. Jehu Chesson, Willie Henry, and Mario Ojemudia are a few other candidates from that class to make a bigger splash than their recruiting rankings would indicate, potentially as soon as this fall.

So, with the three recent commits and the 2014 class already up to 14 guys, does this mean it's all quiet on the (mid)western front? I know this class was projected to be in the teens, maybe up to 20 guys, and I feel like we've gotten there quickly. Is Michigan kind of done for the time being on the recruiting scene or will there be another push right before the season?

I'm tempting fate by saying this, but I think the pace of recruiting for the 2014 class is going to slow down now that camp offers have gone out (and been accepted) and most of the remaining targets are high-profile players — those guys are more likely to utilize the full process, take their officials, and make a late decision knowing that programs will leave a spot open for them. Da'Shawn Hand, Adoree' Jackson, Malik McDowell, and JuJu Smith all fall under this category, and I'm surely forgetting a couple other targets either slated for late decisions or taking the process slowly. It's possible that Michigan picks up a couple more commits before the season starts, but for the rest of the summer I'd expect as much action (if not more) from the 2015 class.

How do you see the 2014 recruiting class finishing up based on what we know today? — AC1997

I'm operating under the assumption that Michigan makes it to 20 spots in the class, even though for now there aren't that many scholarships available. With 14 current commits, that leaves six open spots. I'd expect those to be filled by:

  • VA DE Da'Shawn Hand (not a lock by any means, though)
  • MI DL Malik McDowell
  • A safety, hopefully JuJu Smith (a longshot) or PA ATH Montae Nicholson (a much more realistic option).
  • An offensive tackle. There isn't an obvious candidate here with Jamarco Jones committing to Ohio State.
  • An outside linebacker. Of the players currently holding offers, three-star Jimmie Swain and four-star Dwight Williams are the most likely candidates. I'm skeptical of Michigan's chances with Williams (a presumed Florida lean), though, and Swain named Oregon and Stanford to his top five recently despite not holding an offer from either; if one of those two comes through, that could spell trouble for Michigan's chances. We could see a late offer go out here.
  • The best player available that doesn't match the above. That could be Jackson, though I highly doubt he ends up at Michigan, or perhaps a running back — CO three-star Kalen Ballage is the back they appear to have the best chance of landing with Jonathan Hilliman leaning towards Ohio State.

I did not overlook Parrker Westphal, though that's not based on any insider info. The longer his recruitment stretches out, the less I think he ends up at Michigan, especially since he seems like a better cornerback prospect than a safety and the Wolverines just took a pure corner in Brandon Watson.

Monday Recruitin' Reads Monday Recruitin'

Monday Recruitin' Reads Monday Recruitin'

Submitted by Brian on June 10th, 2013 at 11:28 AM

Hey kids. Ace is off and I step into the recruiting roundup breach.

Guest columnist Adoree' Jackson

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Verily, let us discourse on the fine gentlemen of the Michigan recruiting class. Nay, ask me not your questions. Rather I will ask you which of the gentlemen has the most beatific smile. The world is all topsy-turvy this day! Ha-HA!

–probably what Jackson is saying right here

CA CB Adoree' Jackson talks about his fresh top ten with College Level Athletes, and would we be reading too much into a random interview if we noted that Jackson seems to know almost as much about Michigan's recruiting class as the assembled lunatics here?

"It means something because you wanna build a class that you feel comfortable with. For me and the (Jabrill) Peppers situation, that's a corner that's similar to me and we could do a lot of the same things, and if you just look at that you've got confidence on the other side. Like I said, 'me and Jabrill on the field, that's a scary sight.' You don't really think of having two great corners on the same team… that's rare."

"(Wilton) Speight at the quarterback position, you want somebody who's good so when you're practicing they can go hard at you and you can compete. As for Drake (Harris) as a receiver, he's a great receiver, so you just want to compete with them everyday, day-in and day-out. That's going to be a decision for me, making sure we have a great quarterback and great receivers. I want to make sure the receivers are sound so we can all get better."

Jackson spends a lot more time talking Michigan than any of his other schools, and while I still suspect that track is going to pull him away from Ann Arbor I get the vibe that he really likes M. Dollars to donuts they at least get an official.

Sam Webb's News article this week covered a lot of ground, some of it about Jackson's recruitment:

“I don’t think he’s leaning anywhere. I think he's extremely open to leaving the West Coast because he's not a West Coast guy, and he'll openly say, ‘I’m not a West Coast guy.’ He kind of brags about it. It's almost like he wears that with a badge of courage, so I definitely think he's open. I think so much of Adoree’s recruitment is going to be determined by how they do on the field. The Serra connection he has kind of tells me that USC kind of has the inside track.

Uber-WR Marquise Lee is also from Serra. Biggins says he's "extremely open" to leaving the West Coast, but that the local schools are still in it. IE, ain't nobody know things.

Challenge leads to visits

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Kalen Ballage uses myspace and has a dumbphone. Kalen Ballage is from 2005. He is also a SWAG ANIMAL, of course. Kalen Ballage is an important recruit to get even if he is from 2005.

The Rivals Five-Star Challenge was held in Chicago over the weekend, which provided a couple of distant prospects the opportunity to check out the Midwest. CO RB Kalen Ballage told Rivals he'd visit Michigan on Thursday (and Michigan State afterwards, but lol). Arizona State, Boise State, Nebraska, Washington, and Vandy are also involved.

AZ WR Jalen Brown is stopping by Tuesday as part of a Midwest swing that encompasses OSU, MSU, and Wisconsin. Brown wants to cut things down after that an a visit to some southern schools and pick pretty quickly after that.

CA WR/S JuJu "John" Smith was a guy who expressed interest in the Midwest early and has since dropped off the radar. Why? Dunno, as Smith told Rivals's West Coast guy that leaving the state remains a strong possibility:

The four-star safety said during registration day … that some of the major programs in the Big Ten appeal to him, among others.

"So far I have Michigan, Ohio State, and I'm going to take a visit to Alabama and maybe Ole Miss, and Notre Dame looks good too," Smith said. "Wisconsin is also looking good."

When you mention Wisconsin, you are seriously serious about exiting. Smith mentioned he was "especially serious"—author's words—about Michigan and OSU. So that's good, but it's an uphill battle if USC decides to get involved:

“He grew up an SC fan. I talked to (another recruit’s) dad after they were at the USC-UCLA game last year, which was at UCLA. He said JuJu was openly cheering like you would not believe for SC the entire game -- in the UCLA student section."

That would be a first: a USC fan that gives a crap about cheering for USC.

On the other hand, USC isn't after him that hard right now and amongst non-USC options it sounds like Michigan is a strong contender, possibly the strongest:

I think [USC's lack of pursuit] made it more open. I think he is open to leaving. He loves Michigan, he likes Notre Dame a little bit, and UCLA has done well with him.

The 247 Crystal Ball is split about evenly between ND, UCLA, and USC, FWIW. IE: ain't nobody know.

And in "really lol wut" news, LA RB Leonard Fournette wants to visit Michigan!

"What I'm looking for is academics first," he said. "People-wise, I love great personalities. That's it. That's what I like about Michigan."

Has Fournette planned a trip to Ann Arbor?

"No, not yet," he replied. "I would like to take a visit up there. It would be during the fall, for an official visit."

I'm just… naw. Naw man, naw. We'll see if that gets scheduled before we move Fournette from total pipe dream to "so you're saying there's a chance." I'm leaving him in the pipe dream category at the moment.

In non-Challenge-related visit news, according to TomVH($) IL OL Jamarco Jones has planned his final visits: M Saturday, MSU Sunday, OSU Monday. Notre Dame appears to be out. The M Block reports that NJ RB Jonathan Hilliman is trying to decide between Michigan and Vandy for a visit this weekend

McDowell admits a leader sorta kinda probably

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That's a really good disguise, Adoree', but I see right through it. Five stars have x-ray vision, which you know because you, too, are a five-star. See into my heart. Yes. It is a regulation block M the right color and everything. I can give you the hex codes.

-probably what Malik is saying right there

Five-star MI DT Malik McDowell weighed in at 6'6", 306 at the Challenge, which like whoah. Tim Sullivan described him as a "grown-ass man," so he'll pump in a hat trick against a Caribbean team sometime soon. Woo deep-cut Eddie Johnson references!

McDowell's been keeping things close to the vest after some early indications he wanted to commit to Michigan, but he finally came out and said he probably might have a kinda sorta leader($):

He confirmed all four were still high on his list, though one was the current team to beat.

"It's Michigan, probably … that's home," McDowell said. "They are kind of normal … they hang out at regular places. You think they would be all uppity, but they are down-to-earth."

Thanks, I think?

McDowell has tentative plans to visit FSU, UF, and USC. Probably. A decision doesn't seem to be coming in the near future.

Furbush return

OH LB Noah Furbush made a return trip to Michigan's campus last week, a sign of serious-serious interest that combines with Furbush's offer list—MSU, Mizzou, Northwestern, Tennessee, etc.—to suggest Michigan is in the driver's seat with him. Unless Northwestern gets all up in there, I guess.

Allen Trieu caught up with Furbush, who also recently hit up Purdue, and he had some weird things to say about his recruitment, specifically where colleges are projecting him($):

[At] Purdue, it's more of an outside linebacker. At Michigan, it's more of an inside linebacker. In our defense, we do a package where I line up to the inside a little bit, so I've experienced it a little bit."

I would be shocked to see Michigan sporting a 6'4" MLB. Either Furbush is a bit shorter than that and won't end up in that 250-260 range or he shouldn't be a generic three star. Or he's a SAM/WDE. Those are our options.

Trieu asked flat out whether Chase Winovich's commitment affected Michigan's pursuit of him and Furbush said he still had a spot. While Michigan's in on a couple more remote kids who are higher-rated*, I'd peg Furbush as the third LB in this class all. He would provide some drama in the MGoBlog Sleeper Of The Year competition, which is currently between Moe Ways and… Moe Ways because no one else meets the criteria. Hoke uber alles.

*[Namely Dwight Williams, a WLB type out of CA, and Darrion Owens, who could play any of the LB spots depending on how much weight he adds.]

The distant future the year 2000 (and fifteen)

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FUTURE'S SO BRIGHHHHHHT I GIVE IT SIX SWAG MATTISONS

Yeah, we're talking about it. Michigan's camp is coming up soon, and these days that's an opportunity for juniors and sophomores to draw notice. A number of guys will come in looking for offers, and there's a nonzero chance Michigan picks up its first 2015 commit at the camp. I mean, KY RB Damien Harris is just itching to drop.

247's Clint Brewster has five more 2015 campers to keep an eye on for possible offers:

  • VA CB/WR Garrett Taylor—Big time prospect with Stanford offer amongst others that aren't like whoah academics.
  • GA OL Chuma Edoga—half dozen good Southern offers already.
  • OH LB Justin Hilliard—brother of recent Hawkeye RB commit CJ, which might give the Hawkeyes a leg up except CJ is an Iowa running back and will be having a hand grafted onto his knee so he can keep playing at UW-Whitewater in two weeks. Looking like a big time prospect.
  • OH S Tyree Kinnel—a strong lean if offered; would be a guy Ace and I would add to our Crystal Ball if he picks up an M offer. Just Ark/UK offer at the moment.
  • MI LB/S Tyriq Thompson—son of Clarence.

Cleveland-area running back Andrew Dowell is also planning on attending($) after an impressive NFTC performance. He missed most of his sophomore year and is thus a little under the radar. Dowell has a twin brother David, a wideout.

We've already got five guys ticketed to M in what should be a small class, so as early as next week we could have a rough outline for what half of the Team 136 class looks like.

Elsewhere in 2015 guys, six-foot-eight PA OL Sterling Jenkins has emerged into a primo left tackle prospect in the 2015 class. He picked up a Michigan offer recently, competed in Chicago—an indicator he will be a top 100 prospect at the very least next year—and it sounds like he'll be a Midwest fight($):

"I plan to go to Ohio State and Penn State, then Michigan," he said. "Ohio State for the 19th [of June], Penn State the 26th, and Michigan around the end of July for their barbecue."

Jenkins isn't quite sure what the difference is between an unofficial visit and an official one… he's a ways from a decision. I wish his last name was Archer.

CA DE Keisean Lucier-South, a Crable-sized defensive end at 6'6", 215, has some nice early offers (Texas, Miami, Tennessee) and grew up a Michigan fan($):

“The school that I really want an offer from is the University of Michigan. That’s one of my favorite schools since I was a little kid and I’d watch them all the time. They have some of the top talent out there and the way they treat football is insane, like the Big House, or the rivalry with Ohio State. That might be the best rivalry in sports. It’s amazing there and that’s what I like about Michigan.”

Lucier-South is just outside the top 100 in 247's extremely preliminary rankings.

Oh and there's Minkah Fitzpatrick, a NJ CB who seems to be on the verge of a Michigan offer.

Clarkson Camp Scouting

That Webb article also touches on Wilton Speight and Drake Harris, who went out to Steve Clarkson's "quarterback retreat" in San Diego. Biggins gives both guys good reviews. Speight:

When I watched him this year and saw the physical way he carried himself, the confidence that he carried was crazy. He was literally like a different person. Now he’s a very confident guy. He kind of carries himself with a certain swagger. Not arrogance, but definitely very confident in everything he does. He’s more decisive in his throws. …  I definitely like the progression. He has made huge strides.

And Harris:

He exploded out of his cut, the ball was overthrown, he jumps up, grabs it, and you’re like, ‘Who the heck is that?!’ Everything about the guy, just the way he moves -- you’re either born like that, or you’re not. He’s so fluid in his movement, and it’s so natural, where he doesn’t fight anything. I love the size, and he’s going to put weight on. He’s just a super athletic kid. A lot of times with those athletic kids, they’re not going to be super polished or catch the ball well, but he’s already pretty advanced. He’s an instant impact guy.

Harris is one slot away from five stars, and while Scout has evidently changed their policy of giving everyone in the top 50 the fifth star they went up to 42 last year (Adam Breneman), which is considerably less stingy than some other sites. Harris should get there eventually. Speight sounds like he'll stick as a well-regarded three-star.

Miscellaneous

Happy trails to VA DT Andrew Brown, who named a top eight in Chicago that did not include M.

Here's a DaShawn Hand vs Damian Prince vine. FL WR Artavis Scott says he'll "definitely" visit Clemson, Michigan and OSU this summer($), plans an Army game decision. We'll see if it gets that far. NJ CB commit Jabrill Peppers wins the 100 and 200 in NJ.