Rule: This team is for those who made their contributions off the field. I don’t mean being a quiet model citizen; I mean doing things that we found entertaining, insane, or otherwise meme-worthy.
Cutoff Point: Had to exist in the Michigan consciousness during the Time of Blog (2005-present)
Quarterback: David Cone
Please still exist please still exist please still exist DAMMIT.
Why you gotta use MySpace, Notorious C.O.N.E.? Since stone age social media no longer hosts, former WR Toney Clemons filmed roommate/former QB David Cone in their apartment laying some sick rhymes (free mgoshirt to whoever can track down a copy of the album for us).
Fortunately MVictors still has the audio, if the vid is gone for all time. But that video was so good.
Honorable Mention: Denard. How do you separate Brian’s kid’s name, Shoelace, the smile, Whaaaaat?!?, the cover of the last NCAA edition for a decade, and a crumpled up mailbox from the actual dilithium? You can’t, and the purpose of this list is to honor the Coners because these lists otherwise exist just for an excuse to put Denard at QB when you wouldn’t otherwise.
[Bolded player rules: not necessarily returning starter, but someone we've seen enough of that I'm no longer talking about their recruiting profile. Extant contributor.]
Michigan loses their starter but returns 60% of their running back carries, so experience won't be in short supply. Neither will quicks, what with Chris Evans and Karan Higdon emerging into a one-two punch. This is a major shift from De'Veon Smith, a battleship of a back who was great at carrying defensive backs like recalcitrant children but never a visionary.
The nature of these gentlemen is interesting. Most are short, and quick, and clever. Mike Spath gathered this quote at Big Ten media days from an anonymous opponent:
"They have a lot of speed backs now that Smith is gone. They're not going to be a power-running team so I'll be curious to see what type of formations they run. They've got the two guys that could be really good as a No. 1 - Evans and [Karan Higdon]."
This is a sea change from the Smiths and Derrick Greens of the world where how mean you look is priority one. Chris Evans looks like a dang sweetheart, but he's a killer all the same.
This is a good preview. It is not an infallible one, as last year's take on CHRIS EVANS demonstrates:
…our bet is the Evans hype is likely to peter out into not very much this year. There are only so many snaps to go around and you know Smith, Isaac, and Peppers are going to get their cuts.
Evans was first amongst equals in the three-man platoon behind De'Veon Smith and is now projected by many to start and have a huge breakout year. That includes this space, and not just because of this:
[Evans] coaches a local kids flag football team. This in and of itself is odd and very, very Harbaugh. An acquaintance of mine relates that his kid is in this flag football league, and that his game was at 7:15 in the morning, with a potential second game at 9:30 if his kids' team won. Chris Evans is at this game. Not because his team is playing—his team is the one waiting for the winner at 9:30. Chris Evans is... taking notes? Watching intently? Is Chris Evans, starting Michigan running back, scouting a flag football game at 7 in the morning? Yes. Yes he is.
Also the depth chart. Early in camp there were some rumors that Karan Higdon had grabbed the starting job; those were forcefullydebunked by both Scout and 247. Evans remains first among equals and should see a plurality—if not a majority—of the carries. His quick hook in the spring game is plenty of evidence in that department:
"I wanted to play more …but they said 'nah, nah, nah, you're not going to play, you're not going to play.'
Also his ability to deploy a sick crossover in a sport that doesn't have them:
Evans breaks ankles. He is superbly agile and able to juke guys in a quick one-two-three step ballet move. He needs little room to pull this off:
In the bowl game he did this literally while in the hole, running through the subsequent arm tackle it set up:
This offseason someone close to the team told me that Evans even had a tendency to juke guys there was literally no way he could see, because he knew what the likely structure of the defense was and what that meant for, say, a safety approaching from the side. He's not just scouting flag football.
This is no doubt part of the reason why Evans seemed immediately more instinctual than De'Veon Smith and Michigan backs since, jeez, Fitz Toussaint. I spent virtually the entire Hoke era complaining about straight-ahead running, bad cuts, and an inability to set up blocks. Evans was a breath of fresh air in that department. He had a feel for how to commit the second level and then burst into a different gap:
As a true freshman he's already better at taking advantage of his blocking than anyone who's been in the backfield at Michigan for a minute. And once he gets in the open field it's jockstrap time:
Evans did all he could last year to establish himself as Michigan's top back, and that continued through the offseason:
"He's coached the flag football team. He's held youth camps," he said. "He did that all on his own. His nose was in the playbook all off-season. He put in the work to get bigger. His dedication to taking the next step has been a lot of fun to watch. He's relentless."
While it wasn't all sunshine and roses—Evans made an occasional wacky cut and drew some grumbles around here for going down at first contact too often—it was a freshman year to sit up and take notice of. Numbers adore Evans. Obligatory caveat: they should all come with a big flashing "SMALL SAMPLE SIZE" sign. They are all we have to go on, though, so:
Evans is first among returning Big Ten RBs in PFF's "Elusive Rating," which turns a combination of broken tackles and yards after contact to "measure a runner's success beyond the point of being helped by his blockers." Ty Johnson and Akrum Wadley are 2 and 3, so the metric passes a basic sanity test.
Evans was the second most likely returning Big Ten back to get five yards on any particular run ("opportunity rate") and towards the top of the league in yards acquired after he got to five ("highlight yards"). He's behind only the two Maryland backs in highlight yards per attempt, and was significantly better than the other three Michigan backs last year in all categories.
Evans just about swept the RB portion of Michigan's winter combine, winning everything except the powerball throw.
Maybe that's a bad run, a dinged up guy, or a typo. I'd be surprised if Evans isn't a legitimate 4.5 guy and, depending on your definition of legitimate, 4.4. But hey, don't take it from me, take it from Drake Johnson, raconteur:
"He's mad athletic. You just see some people and think 'yeah, he's an athlete.' He's an athlete, he just does stuff. He's smooth, he's real smooth. He's like butter smooth, we're just like 'ooh, wow.' He's like *sound effects* someone flips to the side, like he had no chance. Like, I'm sorry you could've tried but it sucks to suck. He just makes it look easy."
(Someone give this man a job talking about things.) Evans's home run ability should be top notch. This doesn't feel like a slow RB:
If he has a problem in this department it would be the ability to turn 40 into 50, and all the evidence outside that 4.64 suggests he'll be fine
Evans's other potential drawback is much more real: pass blocking. He was barely asked to do it last year—14 snaps total per PFF, and when he did it was ugly. He's bigger and older now but still not that big and not that old. He's never going to be Mike Hart. Michigan has a solution and it's one with a lot of upside. Evans:
"I'm coming out of the backfield or in the slot because I'm bigger, but I'm not 230. I can't really step up in the hole and block people. Well, I can -- that's what I've been working on all offseason. [But] we can block with five and send five receivers downfield. Stretch the field out with guys -- the good receivers that stretch the field out. It'll give me more open lanes to run through."
With 91 catches his last two years in high school, Evans was as much a receiver as he was a running back. Michigan entirely neglected to explore that talent a year ago; plenty of spread looks in the spring game suggest they will not continue doing so this year. Webb reports that you should expect him to get more looks thanks to his "outstanding receiving skills" that could have seen him play slot.
Evans should bust out to become one of the Big Ten's best backs, and its most prolific receiver out of the backfield, give or take an Akrum Wadley. He's got the quicks, speed, dedication, and agility to make a great many folks look foolish. You can't project All Big Ten nods in a league where a pretty dang good running back is going to be the 8th-best guy in the conference; Evans should perform at that level.
[After THE JUMP: a cast of thousands! several, anyway. plenty. pedant.]
Kurt Taylor got to Michigan by sheer force of will. He jumped on an early offer and was immediately earmarked by Michigan fans as this year's unfortunate and somewhat embarrassing forced decommit, but it never happened. Taylor was so gung-ho about Michigan and so clearly working his ass off day after day that they had no choice but to keep him.
So here he is. He's not that big and not that fast. He's not going to win the Heisman. He still has a role to play.
That role is likely as a third down back. Taylor is low to the ground and "built like a bar of steel," so he should have the same kind of blocking upside as Vincent Smith and Mike Hart, both short guys who were able to stand up taller, heavier folks by getting under their pads. Even when Taylor was first emerging onto the scene as a rising junior, the first thing that stood out about him is his thickness…
Taylor would certainly make the cut if you are choosing the first guy to get off the bus. Few high school prospects are put together as well as the 5-foot-9, 205 pound back.
…only going into his junior season, but he looks college ready now. Strapped with muscle, Taylor's bench press is up to 370 pounds, leg press is 580 pounds, power clean is at 310 pounds, and his forty yard dash time is down to a 4.5 seconds.
No doubt those numbers have continued to improve. Harbaugh saw a lot of similarities with his favorite guy in the universe because of Taylor's body type:
"Coach said he couldn't remember seeing a high school junior that was as physically built as I was," Taylor said. "He told me my low center of gravity and build was a lot like Frank Gore. To hear that was a blessing because Frank Gore was a great running back both in college and in the pros."
That sounds outlandish but deep into his NFL career Gore is still listed at 5'9", 212. Taylor will probably hit that this year.
There was a moment in there where Taylor's recruitment looked like it would take off. He was fairly well regarded when he committed, sitting in the 3.5* range, and a couple of complimentaryreports from FSU's camp made it seem like he was on the verge of a Seminole offer. When he attended an Opening regional as an underclassman he was singled out as one to watch:
This writer would’ve absolutely loved to see the 5-foot-9, 194-pound Taylor in a padded camp, but this young man brings it as a powerful and decisive ball carrier. Both up-and-comers have SEC offers with more to come.
That moment faded. Taylor lost about 600 slots on 24/7 and got an extremely rare downgrade to two stars from Rivals—when he committed he was the #19 RB in the country(!) and on the verge of four stars. I don't think I've ever seen a Michigan commit lose a third star. Five yes, four yes. Three? No.
There's that, and there are the scouting reports. It seems unlikely that Taylor will emerge into the feature back given the scouting reports. ESPN:
…stout muscular frame with good pop to it. Runs with a low center of gravity and solid, sturdy base. …better burst than top-end speed. … Lacks an extra gear … doesn't consistently see and hit the smaller cutbacks. … Flashes good burst … Gears down some when cutting at full speed. Shows effective lateral cutting ability and is quick enough to get through a tight seam. … We do question if he will continue to produce between the tackles at the next level given his size and at this time lacks the speed to add a playmaker element at the Power 5 level.
"… tough runner. I'm not sure how fast he is, top-end speed wise. He doesn't have that suddenness you look for in a bigtime running back. I'd like to see more of that explosion, and I think that'll come. He's got a ton of muscle and he's really built well. … If Michigan wants a bowling ball guy though, he fits it."
Taylor's package of size and speed isn't great. That isn't the end of the world for running backs if they have a standout skill like vision or acceleration, but those don't come up either, or if they do there are conflicting takes. The positive aspects of Taylor's scouting reports focus on his strength and desire.
…looks like he has already been in a college weight program for a couple of years. He is physically fit, very strong, and back who can hit the hole on the interior or get to the perimeter. Better burst and quick acceleration than top-end speed. Can definitely break tackles and get yards after initial contact. Loves to compete. Plays with some attitude.
compact, hard-nosed runner that can move the pile. … very low to the ground … excellent power to his lower half. … runs with great effort and intensity. He keeps his feet moving through traffic and can pinball from defender to defender … good balance …isn't a home-run back … very good blocker in pass protection.
That version of Taylor could have a role as little thunder to someone else's lightning and could be a useful short-yardage back who consistently falls forward for extra yardage. Harbaugh's take suggests that the head man sees something along those lines as a possibility:
"He's very well put together and well built. He can run inside or outside and get to the edge, and he has the frame and power to be a strong pass blocker as well. … has a lot of power. He also has vision that, when put into action in combination with his other positive traits, leads him to take advantages of angles and rack up a lot of yards after contact."
There are a couple of positive notes about his pass protection above, and that is a rarity. Maybe that's just people looking for something nice to say; maybe it is a real positive. After his junior year his coach talked to Rivals about his upswing in that department:
"He's definitely better in the passing game than in the past… a lot of what we need our backs to do is pass pro and catch swing passes out of the backfield. Last year we had concerns with his pass blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield. That was the part of the game that needed to improve for Kurt and it has tenfold."
"He has at least 10 catches now on the season and he's doing well blocking."
Taylor has the potential to be a great pass protector, solid short yardage guy, and dumpoff target. That's not Adrian Peterson but if you get an A+ guy in any of those departments that's a valuable player along the lines of Khalid Hill. Taylor will give his all to be that.
"Kurt is a wonderful kid. He's very respectful and shakes everybody's hand all the time. I don't let him shake my hand because he's too strong now, but he'll try," Banks said with a laugh. "He walks through the hallway, holding his football, and shakes the teachers' hands and says hi to everybody.
Why Vincent Smith? Smith was a short, tough gent who made his way through college football on sheer will. Smith was never a feature back but found a role as a third down back because of his pass protection and screen proficiency. Taylor's probably never going to be a feature back; there is always a role on the team for someone who won't take no for an answer.
Kevin Grady is another comparable. Grady was a short, thick bowling ball type of guy. He was one of the most overrated players in Michigan history, dropping from five star range to bit player by his second year.
Guru Reliability: High. Taylor did his share of camps, isn't switching positions, and played at a couple of high profile Georgia schools.
Variance: Low. A+ dude with top-end work ethic and one clear niche he is very likely to fill.
Ceiling: Low. Tops out as a solid contributor.
General Excitement Level: Not great. All players can defy their rankings an expectations, but there's not a lot about Taylor's profile to suggest he will. Even a late Michigan State offer came during their "oh God we need anybody" phase.
Projection: Obvious redshirt since Michigan goes four deep at RB before even considering the freshmen. Afterwards it's going to be a crowded backfield for a while: Evans has three more years, Walker four, Samuels four or five. Taylor should carve out his role by year two or three and then remain a useful piece for the rest of his eligibility.
As Webb mentions above, this was part of Harbaugh's in-home visit with 5* GA DT Aubrey Solomon. It appears to have gone well:
“Just finished such an awesome in home visit where we bowled, raced cars & finished a pre-k project celebrating 100 days of school for Lee County Pre-K, Solomon’s mother Sabrina Caldwell told The Michigan Insider. “He brought his daughter and it was the best visit ever.”
Yep, Harbaugh brought his daughter on a recruiting visit, which is no doubt causing the inmates of the RCMB to splutter in impotent rage. (Also targets of their impotent rage: women, people who don't drink Faygo, algebra.) Webb says he doesn't have a gut feeling on Solomon, but that he fits many of the criteria. It's usually a good sign when Webb starts getting a ton from the parents.
A couple of 247 guys have joined Barton Simmons with Michigan predictions, and they're both guys covering UGA. Both flipped from Alabama predictions, and while opinion on Solomon has blown like the wind since his decommit there's not much time for things to swing back—Solomon now says he's done with visits after he heads out to USC. Rusty Mansell, one of the Georgia guys who CBed Solomon to Michigan, is hearing that Nick Saban and Kirby Smart might not even get in-homes. That would be game over.
Solomon is obviously the top target left on Michigan's board and would almost certainly be in the two deep as a freshman; as the First Look post from last week noted, Michigan's interior line depth is nonexistent.
The other major targets
Georgia is buzzing for 4* AL WR Nico Collins, which would be deeply irritating after they swooped on Isaiah Wilson out of nowhere. At least Alabama is "no longer considered a factor" for Collins, per Lorenz. Webb says it's "become more of a toss up" since Fisch departed; Pep Hamilton will have to build a relationship in a short period of time. He still gives Michigan the edge.
Wiltfong reports that Michigan is getting back in the game with IA WR Oliver Martin, who most were projecting in this class until Brad Hawkins suddenly re-emerged. Martin has two officials left and Michigan could get one of them—his October visit was an unofficial. Wiltfong is still riding with ND.
4.5* MS LB Willie Gay fielded an in-home visit from Chris Partridge on Thursday that didn't generate much content in the aftermath. Mississippi State firing its defensive coordinator probably doesn't help the Bulldogs, but LSU is looming.
4* FL OL commit Kai-Leon Herberttook a visit to Auburn this weekend, and had a very crootin' quote in the aftermath:
"I'm definitely going to commit before National Singing Day or re-afffirm my commitment if I happen to choose Michigan," Herbert said. "I'm not that guy who does the hats."
Herbert is more of a Walking Dead parody video kind of guy. Herbert's commit is obviously butter soft at this point, potentially opening the door for Thorpe. Lorenz reports that Michigan is going to try to solidify him with an in-home after he visits Miami and UF the next two weekends; he doesn't see it happening.
4* NM RB commit O'Maury Samuels is the recruit most affected by Ty Wheatley's departure and has been somewhat soft for several months now. Michigan has an official remaining, which is good, and Sameul's father told Webb that there's only one other school in contention:
“I think (Arizona is the only other school being considered). I think he narrowed it down to Michigan and Arizona. There were other schools, but it’s Michigan and Arizona. If I had to bet on it.”
Much easier fending off one school, especially one coming off a tough year, than a full-court press from most of the SEC. Webb says it's "not a slam dunk"; Isaiah Hole reported that Samuels is "fully expected to qualify and to be part of the class."
Happy trails to 3* CT CB Brandon Sebastian, who abruptly cancelled his upcoming visit and is now set to stick with BC. Brice Marich says it was a "mutual" decision—unlikely. This is made even weirder by another weird thing: 4* ND commit Elijah Hicks decommitted from ND... so he could immediately enroll at Cal, which did not have a head coach at that juncture.
Michigan now has zero realistic targets* at defensive back. Reports that Michigan is getting back in with IA WR Oliver Martin may not be entirely Collins related; it's possible the fifth DB is going to be a wide receiver they convert, probably NJ WR Brad Hawkins.
*[Definition of "realistic target": someone who has been on campus or scheduled a visit.]
4* VA LB Ellis Brooks tells Rivals he will "probably" take a visit next weekend; he's currently at LSU and Oregon is on the docket this weekend. Michigan bumped ND, so there's that. Brooks is a big dude at 240; any Michigan pursuit should not be interpreted as pessimism regarding Gay. Brooks just took an official to Northwestern, so he's got a super weird top five: NW, Oregon, LSU, Michigan, and Maryland.
A couple of OL prospects now seem like somewhat reasonable possibilities. Bradon Justice reports that 4* PA OL CJ Thorpewill take an official next week. This space has mentioned Thorpe in passing after Michigan started poking around, but this is is the first indication this pursuit is anything serious. Thorpe is a legacy—thus that quote from his dad about how Urban Meyer can't recruit him—but a late January visit is always a threat.
Clemson OL Jake Fruhmorgen is transferring; Michigan and Florida are the schools most prominently mentioned for him at this early stage. Fruhmorgen played in 11 games as a true freshman and started the first eight games of Clemson's national championship season before getting knocked out with a shoulder injury. PFF reports that he didn't grade out well, but he's a true sophomore who has eight starts; probably some potential there.
Lorenz reports that Michigan is interested enough to check him out; in his opinion Michigan was second for Fruhmorgen during his initial recruitment. He'd have to sit out next year and then would have two to play; if Michigan has some extra spots, as it looks like they might, Fruhmorgen would be an opportunity to patch some holes in the upperclass OL.
Finally, Marich reports that Michigan has been in contact with 4* TN RB Cordarrian Richardson, a Clemson decommit. Jay Harbaugh is going to make an in-home with him, no doubt in the hopes of securing an official from him. Richardson has just three crystal balls, two of which are foggy—this is a potential Alpaca Out Of Nowhere recruitment if things go well.
Rivals finalizes top 100
Ruiz is the top rated center in a minute
The post-All Star rankings are generally the last ones, and Rivals is first out of the gate with a finalized top 100. Michigan commits:
#12 Donovan Peoples-Jones
#26 Jordan Anthony
#41 Cesar Ruiz (up from 77)
#52 Drew Singleton
#74 Luiji Vilain (up from 181)
#76 Tarik Black
Dylan McCaffrey was the only dropper; he's now outside the top 100 after being #52. TTB points out that everyone except McCaffrey took big upward leaps since the initial Rivals 100 for this class, so maybe not so much with the tinfoil hats this year.
“The rare polished high school center, Ruiz is a natural fit for the position. He shined at this year's Under Armour All-America Game, where he displayed impressive extension and solid power. The fact that he's spent his high school career snapping the ball from the center spot is a bonus for Michigan, which could use him at both guard and center early in his time in Ann Arbor.” – Rob Cassidy, Rivals.com Southeast Recruiting Analyst
“Vilain will be a great pass rusher at Michigan, but at the Under Armour All-America Game he showed that he's not a one-trick pony. He played with more power than ever before and had lots of success in practices. Vilain's presence in the backfield during the game showed he will have success against elite competition.” - Friedman
Lorenz reports that Michigan is really high on OH DT commit James Hudson. Same.
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.
Michigan is in prime position to pick up another offensive lineman when four-star FL OT Kai-Leon Herbert announces his decision sometime tomorrow between the Wolverines, Florida, and Miami (YTM). Michigan got his most recent visit and has the last nine picks on his Crystal Ball, including that of 247 scouting director Steve Wiltfong. When previewing his decision for 247's Luke Stampini, Herbert may have tipped his hand in what's been considered a Michigan/Florida battle with Miami on the periphery [emphasis mine]:
“It’s the relationship I have with Coach [Mike] Summers, Coach [Randy] Shannon, and Coach [Jim McElwain] himself,” Herbert said of Florida. “They were my leader for quite some time and they definitely know how to recruit.
Herbert would be an impressive pull from a powerhouse program (American Heritage), and a commitment from him could also help Michigan land five-star OG teammate TJ Slaton, whose recruitment may become a Michigan/Clemson battle.
a big strong quarterback who has electric reset ability with his feet, meaning when he goes from one target to the next he wastes no time. He resets to number 2 better than most college quarterbacks. Dylan has a great smooth delivery.
He's a top 50 player to everyone except Rivals because of course; Rivals has him just outside their top 100.
McCaffrey told Sam Webb that it would take something "super traumatic" for McCaffrey to even consider a decommit. Hopefully Harbaugh doesn't broach the idea of practicing over spring break until after Signing Day. McCaffrey also has a #1 target as he dons his recruiter hat: yep, MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones.
FWIW, Wiltfong lists a bunch of guys who may join McCaffrey in the 2017 class. I'm not sure where either of these reads comes from, but it's clear he's in contact with the coaching staff:
It’s going to be a small class for Michigan in 2017 after signing 29 in what turned out to be the nation’s No. 5 recruiting class this past cycle according to 2016. … Michigan may take just one receiver in 2017.
Unless there's unexpected attrition from the senior class Michigan should have 18 to give at a minimum, and then there are a number of potential fifth-year guys that could exit. With the NFL and playing time transfers I expect Michigan at least gets to 25.
And finally, McCaffrey's commitment gives us the chance to catch up with immaculately-coifed Denver sportswriter Neal Devlin, who we last encountered during Alex Kozan's vision quest.
Juan Harris, DT, West Union (Iowa) North Fayette Juan Harris is an interesting guy. As we head into the spring of his junior year, he has already decommitted twice and had three different commitments, all involving the same school – Iowa. He's currently committed to the Hawkeyes and appears to be solid but all of that off-field drama distracts from the more important fact that this kid is a beast. At 6-4 and a weight that varies between 365 and 400 pounds, Harris has nimble athleticism and more mass than most offensive linemen can handle.
Somewhere in the fields of Iowa there is a 400-pound defensive tackle who has already committed to the Hawkeyes three times and recinded it twice.
Nobody has to make America great again; it never ceased being great.
SIDE NOTE: Ace reminded me that Williams is the guy who we thought Mike Onwenu was being confused with when news first broke that Onwenu was playing at 370, because if anyone at SMSB was 370 it was Williams. Onwenu is still made of some superdense alloy.
More Wilson react
Sam Webb caught up with NY OL Isaiah Wilson after his unofficial. Wilson has backed off Michigan as his leader, at least publicly. Things still sound pretty good:
“They made great impressions. Everything about them was genuine and inviting. They’re all on a mission. There is not any nonsense going on over there. I was with Ahmir Mitchell, Kareem Walker, who I’ve played against, and Khalid Hill.”
A summer decision is a possibility if Wilson thinks he's seen enough. He doesn't have anything upcoming listed on his 247 profile yet, FWIW. He's already been a number of places.
Tufele top four
Defensive tackle is a huge need in 2017 and Michigan doesn't have a lot of top names on the board right now; one of them is UT DT Jay Tufele. Tufele told Oregon's 247 site that Michigan is in his top four along with Utah, USC, and Ole Miss(?!), though an Oregon offer could change that.
Unfortunately, he does not have a visit to Michigan on the docket; he does expect to take his recruitment close to Signing Day, giving Michigan an opportunity to impress on an official.
FL CB Stanford Samuels III is at Flanagan, where Michigan picked up three players a year ago. He's got a top four consisting of M, Clemson, FSU, and Georgia. Going to be tough—Samuels, like Devin Bush Jr, is an FSU legacy—but they did get Bush.
The NTDP, for football
An extensive article on IMG Academy notes that they cannot offer scholarships to in-state players, so any FL guy you see on the roster is paying like 70k for the privilege. Meanwhile it doesn't seem like a year or two in Florida is having much impact on recruits' final destination:
Most believed Florida, Florida State and Miami would get inherent advantages in recruiting players from IMG, specifically the Seminoles. Former Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke, the 2000 Heisman Trophy winner, was IMG’s head coach in 2013 and 2014.
Three signing classes later, the same amount of IMG athletes (three) have signed with the Seminoles as Ohio State. That said, FSU and Miami are tied with the Buckeyes for the most IMG signees.
Just two other programs — LSU and Notre Dame — have signed more than one athlete from IMG in this three-year stretch. The Tigers reeled in receiver Davis and cornerback Smith, while the Irish got running back Tony Jones Jr. and safety Spence Perry.
Florida has signed no one from IMG Academy after defensive tackle Shavar Manuel, a Gators commitment, flipped to Florida State on national signing day last week.
That isn't much bias since a lot of the kids are close to Florida anyway. In this it's like hockey's NTDP, which has been in or near Ann Arbor for the duration of its existence but has mostly seen its kids go back to where they came from after they're done. By the time a lot of the IMG kids play a down for the school they'll be committed or en route to doing so.
Michigan offers underworld robot, also other new names
Deommodre Lenoir is not a fan of Zoidberg
CA CB Deommodre Lenoir is interviewed by Washington mods in a break between rounds. He's got a Michigan offer and tentatively plans a visit; he seems to be leaning towards leaving the state. Washington is a serious contender, and I'm not just saying that to forestall a duel. Apparently nicknamed, yes, "Clamp Clampington." Do want.
LA S Todd Harrispicked up an offer. Normally offering a top 100 kid from Louisiana* would be an exercise in futility, but Harris told Lorenz that "there's just something different about Michigan" and would like to take a visit. He also says he wants to "compete for a starting job immediately," something Michigan can absolutely offer.
Michigan, along with MSU and Oregon, offered previously unknown MI OL Phil Paea, a guy with no articles at any recruiting site until just recently. At 6'4" Paea is probably destined to be a guard. Trieu says this one will be "tough" for Michigan, with Oregon a "dream school." Possible he's related to NFL DE Stephen Paea, who went to Oregon State, and is from a West Coast family.
This might not be a new offer but it's new to me: TX RB Eno Benjamin is planning a visit on March 8th. Benjamin is a top 100 guy to Scout and just outside of it on the composite. The visit is part of a Midwest swing through M, OSU, NW, Iowa, and… uh… Kansas?
Michigan is also moving up the list of FL RB Kyshaun Bryan. Bryan attended Heritage with new Michigan tight end Nick Eubanks; he's transferring to St Thomas Aquinas for his final year. He tells Lorenz that Eubanks is "honestly like a brother" and that he's setting up a spring visit. SEC schools are the competition. Bryan was also interviewed by Scout and seems to have a tentative top four of M, UF, FSU, and LSU, although Florida hasn't talked to him recently.
*[An aside on the LSU-football-might-not-exist thing: it's brinksmanship balderdash that will have zero impact on any recruit this cycle. LSU, the institution, has been strugglingfor abit now and it just does not matter to instate recruits. Meanwhilethe state goverment isn't going to let their flagship institution close for a semester.]
Michigan getting a return visit feels like a trip to confirm, with only one late official visit to a yet-to-be-determined team able to overturn what looks like a large Michigan lead. Sam Webb has a couple of long posts about Gary's status that continue to give off the impression that Gary is headed to Ann Arbor. Interestingly, the second discusses a prospect committed elsewhere who does not want his name out who will visit in January, might flip, and if he did flip would lock down Gary. Sam offers zero hints as to who this might be but it's a guy
at the UA game
with a connection to Gary
There are two guys who seem like candidates: PA TE Naseir Upshur, an FSU commit who is tight with a lot of the NJ prospects flooding to Ann Arbor, and five-star TX OL Greg Little. Little, an Ole Miss commit, was briefly a source of Ole Miss optimism about Gary since those two have apparently struck up a friendship over the course of their recruitments. Little and Gary were at Ole Miss on the same weekend. Maybe this is a situation where these guys might be a package if they can find a school both guys like.
There just isn't another player like this one in the country. He is elite and he is No. 1 in the country for many reasons. He was constantly beating the one in front of him, he was in the backfield all day, and he was chasing plays down.
Rivals has him as a "stock up" guy despite the fact that his stock can't actually go up. Here's a bunch of reps between Gary and Little:
I like 'em both.
As far as Gary's decision goes, feelin' real good.
Delance said he and his mother have to "duke it out" over where he goes. That his mother openly prefers him to stay at Texas, and that the phrasing implies he and Mom are on opposite sides of a disagreement (or boxing match, if he's being strictly literal, I guess)... that means he's favoring Michigan, right?
I mean, he told Josh Newkirk this about Texas:
“Texas is right down the street from my house,” he said. “(In my) home state, that’s what people want me to do. But I got to follow my own dreams, make my own destiny."
Sometimes quotes like that don't mean as much as it sounds like they do, but with Delance he's said things along those lines while being effusive about Harbaugh.
On the other hand, Scout guys are hearing Texas. The Texas 247 guy feels "just as strong about Texas as I did the day I put in a crystal ball for him." (As we'll see in a bit that might not be a bad thing.) Wiltfong and LSU guys at 247 were hearing Texas as well.
And Michigan did offer MD OL Stephen Spanellis, a Virginia commit. Normally that's a bad sign about the other guys on the hook but we've seen Michigan set up a few January visits for guys they may not have room for. Michigan is going into what will be a busy, tense Signing Day and they want to have backup options. A Spanellis offer does say one thing: Michigan has not gotten an official "yes" from Delance and desires to cover themselves if things go the wrong way.
So I don't know. I think it'll be M but if it goes the other way nobody will be too surprised.
Some conflicting information on NJ WR commit Brad Hawkins, who told Rivals he's thinking about visits to North Carolina and South Carolina and "wasn't sure if his recruiting process is over and done with."
Scout then reported he and NJ DE commit and teammate Ron Johnson could visit North Carolina despite being "100 percent with Michigan" per their coach. 247 had an article with similar sentiments:
"I'm 100-percent committed to Michigan," he stated. "I picked Michigan because it just felt like home. The people there are great people. The environment is a great environment. It's a college football town. There's nothing like it."
Maybe keep an eye on that but it appears that Hawkins is still a very good bet to end up in the class; can't say that about some other people who have scheduled visits. One thing that is clear: neither Hawkins or Johnson is set to enroll early. They were intending to but apparently are no longer.
FWIW, that 247 article confirms that Hawkins is coming in at WR. I'd speculated that either he or Mitchell might be slated for a switch to safety given reports that Michigan would take both CA WR Dylan Crawford and FL WR Pie Young should those prospects be amenable. That still might be the case—see Brian Cole and a zillion other position switches—but not right away.
FWIW, Hawkins is impressing at the Semper Fi game, with Brian Dohn reporting that he's "looked very good" and is amongst the best WRs at the game. Meanwhile Johnson was named the ALPHA DOG on day two:
Ron Johnson (Camden, N.J./Camden) was easily the most dominating player on the second day of practice.
The four-star Michigan commitment could not be blocked at the line of scrimmage, firing off the ball and using his raw strength to explode on contact. At 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, Johnson is lean, but on Thursday he showed the upper body strength is already there to throw blockers to the wayside. … Coaches were raving about his performance on Day two, and rightfully so.
Johnson and Hawkins have sort of been forgotten men since their commitments but they're both four star guys.
The last New Jersicorn
Hey, so NJ S Jordan Fuller has had a recruitment even more mysterious than that of TX DE Levi Onwuzurike. He has talked to virtually nobody. He's offered no lists. The only indicator that he's considering anyone is that he took an official to Notre Dame. Dohn reports that Fuller has now set visits to OSU on January 15th and Michigan on the 22nd, with a couple schools trying to get a visit the following week. That appears to be a top three of M, OSU, and ND.
WI OL commit Ben Bredeson has also caught the eye. There have been mixed reports since apparently he drew a lot of duty against Gary, which isn't going to go well for anyone in a drill. Bredeson apparently slowed Gary down a bit, which is good enough to claim the "most successful vs Grendel" award.
Coach Herm Edwards mentioned a few players who stood out: Dwayne Haskins, Ben Bredeson, Levonta Taylor, Rashan Gary, Nigel Knott on the list
He had a good day Monday, and most people would agree he was one of the top linemen on Team Highlight. Bredeson is huge, but he was far more athletic than he looks on film, with better footwork. He was aggressive, and it was apparent he came to play football, not be on vacation.
Bredeson told folks he would start out at left guard when he arrived at Michigan. I'm pretty sure we already knew he was slated to be an interior OL, but there's oddly specific confirmation all the same.
Keep recruitin' that chicken
EJ Holland, the Texas guy who refused to believe that TX DT Jordan Elliott was favoring Michigan—which other people believed due to things like "Elliott saying it to every recruiting reporter he talked to"—will not let his recruitment die:
According to a couple of sources, Elliott is committed to Michigan but could still sign elsewhere in February. Texas will have a good shot if Jeffrey McCulloch and Dontavious Jackson side with the Longhorns. All three communicate frequently.
Michigan still leads for five star NY OL Isaiah Wilson, with Ole Miss and OSU the other two schools drawing mention. Lorenz cautions that Wilson's recruitment is likely to be a "bumpy ride."
2017 GA WR commit Jeremiah Holloman is impressing at a camp: "Holloman is a legit 6-foot-3, and, while he's lean, he's got a really well developed frame. He does a tremendous job of using his height to his advantage, and he was a troublesome matchup for many of the top rated defensive backs during practice." Twitter has a catch for those interested.
Three-star 2017 Covington (GA) Newton running back Kurt Taylor committed to Michigan on Friday afternoon, before, you know, all of that happened.. Taylor named the Wolverines as his leader when they offered him in August, had a great trip for the BYU game, and didn't need to wait until the Michigan State game to announce his commitment on his latest campus visit.
Taylor is the third Michigan commit in the 2017 class, joining tight end Carter Dunaway and cornerback Benjamin St-Juste.
3*, #19 RB
3*, 88, #24 RB,
3*, #35 RB,
All the sites save ESPN have Taylor ranked as a three-star, though he's within sniffing distance of four-star territory on 247 and Rivals. He's a short, solidly built back, listed at either 5'8" or 5'9" and right around 200 pounds on all four recruiting services. Taylor already looks like he's come relatively close to maxing out his frame.
[Hit THE JUMP for the full, informative commitment post.]
MSU Visitors: Biggest Recruiting Weekend Of The Fall
Well, I hadn't even started this post before Michigan got a commitment this weekend. Three-star GA RB Kurt Taylor is the newest member of the 2017 class; here's a short post on him for now, and he'll get the full Hello treatment on Sunday.
Five-star GA TE Isaac Nauta is arguably the most important recruit left on Michigan's board—yes, perhaps even including Rashan Gary—and this weekend's visit will give the Wolverines a chance to push past home squad Georgia.
Four-star CA WR Dylan Crawford hasn't let on much about his recruitment, but 247 national analyst Steve Wiltfong recently put in a Crystal Ball pick to Michigan.
Four-star CA ATH Lamar Jackson was ticketed for USC by most; with that program in a state of disarray, the door is open for another school to make a move.
Four-star CA CB David Long is a Stanford commit but Michigan appears to have a real shot regardless.
Penn State commits Lavert Hill (four-star Detroit King CB) and Quinn Nordin (top-ranked Rockford kicker) will be two to keep an close eye on this weekend, especially Nordin. Hill's teammate Donnie Corley (four-star WR) is also expected to be in attendance.
Four-star 2017 CO QB Dylan McCaffrey, Michigan's top target at the position in the class, will be on campus. With Stanford, where his father Ed went and brother Christian currently stars, coming off a blowout of UCLA, Michigan might need to make a statement.
Several members of the Pipeline 9, including five-star Cass Tech WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, are expected to be there.
Three-star 2017 Ann Arbor Pioneer OLB Antjuan Simmons could be in line for an offer; his recruitment has blown up lately.
There are plenty more at the link above. This is a huge recruiting weekend for Michigan. That probably didn't need to be said.