Michigan will have their top two wideout targets on campus for the Penn State game. Five-star Cass Tech WR Donovan Peoples-Jones still isn't saying much to the media, but given the number of visits he's taken it's hard to imagine any other school being out in front, and he's got plenty of connections to the current roster:
"Really trying to see the players that went (to Cass Tech), players I know compete," Peoples-Jones said. "I know Lavert Hill, Mike Onwenu, Jourdan Lewis, all the Cass Tech guys. It's always a great time to see them in action and see them in general."
DPJ's only official visit so far has been to Nebraska, a school that's not a threat to land him. While he plans to see Florida and FSU, he hasn't set those dates yet. Michigan is looking good here.
While Georgia has been making a push of late, four-star AL WR Nico Collins will visit Michigan for the fifth time this weekend, and nobody pays their way for five unofficial visits without some serious interest. Sam Webb caught up with Collins's father, who as it turns out has been doing his part to recruit Collins to the Maize and Blue since he was a youngster:
"I'm a Michigan fan through and through,” the elder Collins said laughingly. “I could be in Jamaica somewhere (and) I'm still a Michigan fan. Yeah, I'm a Michigan fan through and through. The football down here is pretty tough, but you like to be true to your team. You grow up as a Michigan fan or any fan, that's who you like to ride with."
"I used to talk to (Nico) about Michigan a lot when he was a little younger. He wouldn't buy into it. He's always been a closet Michigan fan, but it actually took the trip... the first visit on campus… (that is what) I think sold him."
The elder Collins also called Jim Harbaugh a "genius at what he does," and took note of number of freshmen who saw the field immediately, saying "that's a big thing." Despite the rumored surge from the Bulldogs, Michigan is still the odds-on favorite.
Meanwhile, Corey Malone-Hatcher is doing his best to push for a commitment from Tarik Black. Michigan may not have any receivers committed to the class yet; that doesn't mean they're in bad shape at the position—far from it, in fact.
While early commitments are more like declaring a current leader these days, I had some hope four-star 2018 OH LB Antwuan Johnson would stick based on his comments after Leonard Taylor's decommitment. Nope.
Johnson set up a long slate of visits before the season; this looks like another case of a player committing as more of a placeholder than anything else. Michigan is now down to one commit in the 2018 class, Georgia safety Otis Reese. It's far too early in the cycle to get worked up about this stuff.
And, when I was just about done with this post, this broke:
The weekend in which I can't leave my laptop for more than 30 seconds is nearly upon us. The BBQ at the Big House is on Saturday, and it features a visitor list absolutely loaded with top-end talent. 247's Steve Lorenz has the full, updated list posted for free, as well as an excellent VIP post that goes in-depth on each uncommitted 2017 and 2018 prospect who'll be on campus. I'll do my best to cover the highlights. Keep in mind that every 2017 Michigan commit save for Aubrey Solomon, Kai-Leon Herbert, and AJ Dillon is slated to be in attendance.
The headliner, of course, is #1 overall prospect Najee Harris, the California running back committed to Alabama. According to Lorenz, Bama insiders think Michigan is the top threat to flip him from his current commitment, and Harris will be accompanied by his mother on the trip. Harris won't be the only back at the BBQ; four-star UT RB Sione Heimuli-Lund is a Stanford commit who could wind up at RB, FB, or LB (or, given Harbaugh, all of them).
Michigan's top four targets at wide receiver will all be in attendance. Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins need no introduction at this point; Michigan leads for Collins and is the presumed leader for DPJ. Four-star IA WR Oliver Martin is ramping up his recruitment now that baseball season is over—this weekend should give us a good idea of where Michigan stands compared to MSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, and his other contenders. Four-star CT WR Tarik Black has Michigan in his top group, though Lorenz thinks Notre Dame and Stanford are out ahead at this point. Michigan's top tight end on the board, four-star CA TE Josh Falo, will also be at the BBQ.
With three-star AL OT Toryque Bateman naming Michigan his leading heading into his BBQ visit, the offensive line is the most likely (though far from only) source of a weekend commitment—Bateman pegged his chances of committing at 50% and potentially higher if the visit goes as well as his last trip to Ann Arbor. Four-star tackles Isaiah Wilson and Aaron Banks are also on the list; Wilson is a Michigan/Bama battle right now, while the Wolverines are hoping to lure Banks away from top-tier Pac-12 programs.
As I was writing this, Steve reported that four-star OT Henry Bainivaluwill make the trip from Washington. This is the second unofficial for Bainivalu, which is especially notable for a prospect from the other side of the country—Michigan definitely has a shot, and...
...oh boy, we might have a situation here.
One prospect who'd been mentioned as a possible visitor who won't make it: five-star KY OT Jedrick Wills, who looks like a longshot at best.
In the 2018 class, four-star Oak Park OG Marquan McCall—who could also wind up at DT—will accompany his committed teammate, OT JaRaymond Hall. While I've avoided mentioning the 2019 class, early rankings have Belleville OT Devontae Dobbs as a five-star prospect; he'll be at the BBQ with a couple classmates from a program that's got a lot of young talent.
I hope beyond hope that this is the end of coverage from last week's The Opening finals, but there are some loose ends to tie up, and thankfully they're positive from a Michigan standpoint.
SBNation's Bud Elliott posted some thoughts from the event that go beyond the usual who played well, who didn't observations. He opens by cautioning recruiting followers not to get too caught up in how well shorter players perform in 7-on-7 settings, which cater to their skills without exposing a significant weakness; there are also notes on a few teams, Michigan included:
Michigan is building the perfect foil to Ohio State’s spread in the Big Ten, a bruising throwback pro-style offense with great diversity in its run game scheme and top-notch QB coaching.
Some of Michigan’s commitments won’t exactly shine in a non-contact event. Take 6’1, 232-pound running back A.J. Dillon. A padless, non-contact event just isn’t his game. The same thing goes for running back O’Maury Samuels, whose game is mostly straight-line size/speed. Oh, and Benjamin St-Juste, a 6’3 defensive back from Quebec should in no way be a three-star after the event. He showed good fluidity and was not outclassed by the major step up in competition.
That sentiment on St-Juste is universal. 247 named him one of the two cornerbacks on their "Dream Team" from the event alongside five-star Darnay Holmes, calling St-Juste "the biggest revelation on defense of the weekend." They've mentioned in a couple spots that St-Juste will get a bump in the rankings soon. Scout's Brian Dohn said Michigan "looks to be getting a gem" in St-Juste, so you can bet he'll rise there, too.
Thomas came in ranked as the No. 77 overall prospect in the country, so quite high already, but he not only validated that ranking, he may have shown that he needs to go higher. He used his speed and athleticism to consistently stand out and not just at cornerback, but also on offense, throughout the course of the event. Currently Michigan is trending with Michigan State also right there and Florida being a hot name of late in his recruitment.
Thomas made every all-Opening team I've seen, and new offeree Oliver Martin also earned a ton of mentions—including "Alpha Dog" among Big Ten targets at 247—after his breakout performance at receiver.
Another week, another positive Nico Collins update. This time, the top-100 receiver from Alabama told AL.com that Michigan still leads for him. Collins has built a rapport with Dylan McCaffrey, who's targeting Collins with both passes and recruiting pitches:
McCaffrey and Collins are on Team Alpha Pro at The Opening with more targets that the Wolverines are after. The two have thrown together plenty in the first two days of competition.
"Every day we're up here, he's having a conversation with me about Michigan," Collins said. "We were walking through the headquarters and we saw some Jordans. He said, 'You'll get these every day if you come to Michigan.' It's just the little stuff. We're getting to know each other out here, running routes."
McCaffrey has put on his recruiting hat at The Opening; 247's Isaiah Hole reports he's also working onDonovan Peoples-Jones and four-star CA TE Josh Falo—that is, when he's not dealing with the perils of being a McCaffrey:
But being in the shadow of Christian McCaffrey has its...challenges, the younger McCaffrey says.
"I have plenty of girls asking me, talking to me--cute girls--and they'll be like, 'Hey! Can you introduce me to your brother?'"
Chin up, kid. Michigan quarterbacks have done okay in that regard.
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.
This is from AL.com and thus rather AL centric, but it's well done all the same:
Michigan doesn't get a mention except at the very tail end when he's listing his top schools, but I believe this is the second workout that Collins has been taped at where a certain Maize and Blue item features:
We'll see if that matters long term. Better than nothing.
Package or no
MI CB Ambry Thomastalks to Kyle Bogenschutz and says 1) that he's "more than open to leaving the state" and 2) that playing with MI S Jaylen Kelly-Powell is kind of a big deal:
"It's very important, that's like blood," he said. "It is very important. 10 (out of 10)."
Also MSU is "real smooth." These things don't go together, but when someone asks you about school X it's not like you say "those guys suck and their coach is an eggplant." Thomas currently plans a Signing Day decision.
California camp folk
CA RB Najee Harris, the #1 prospect in the country depending on who you listen to, came out to Michigan's LA camp and actually worked out, which is a rarity for big-timers. Isaiah Hole got some video of Harris getting coached by Ty Wheatley, and reports that Michigan seemed to help themselves out:
Pretty much the entire staff -- save for Jim Harbaugh, who spent his time interacting with all the campers -- got some face time with Harris. It was something of a cacophony in the way the staff moved from station to station, working with the bulk of the camp and then spending a little time with Najee himself. Harris seemed to really enjoy himself, especially his time with Wheatley.
Harris is a nominal Alabama commitment but showed up at the camp in USC gear and what does commitment even mean, you know?
“It's pretty up there because they use the tight end a lot,” Falo said. “[Coach Jay Harbaugh is] a relaxing dude, he's straight forward with you and he doesn't lie to you.”
Falo is one of this year's mystery recruits. I haven't seen any indication where he might be leaning. That might be good for Michigan in the long run, as they don't have a slam dunk second TE target in the class. M and Falo could circle back around late and find something mutually appealing. FWIW, Falo is on Team Hypercool, AKA team Michigan Targets And Commits Except Jaylen Kelly-Powell For Some Reason, at the Opening.
CA DE DJ Johnson is similarly mysterious; it's not often you get a California kid whose crystal ball consists of four picks split evenly between Ole Miss and Miami. Johnson has a murky top four of Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Miami. He showed at Michigan's camp as an observer and talked to Isaiah Hole:
“They told me they're going to have an attack defense,” Johnson said. “It's going to be a great one. I like what I'm hearing from them and stuff like that. It should be a great experience, hanging out with them and watching them play live when I go out there and watch them play."
He'll take an official to Michigan in the fall. Nothing would surprise in his recruitment.
"We play Otis all over the place because of how multi-faceted he is," Fabrizio said. "We’ll bring him off the edge because he’s a mismatch for anyone trying to block him. We’ll roll him down into the box to help against the run and we’ll also split him out to cover the other team’s best receiver. We ask a lot of him and we try to take advantage of the wide range of abilities he has."
That gentleman is destined to be a SAM linebacker a la Peppers. I love the fact that Michigan's defense now has a dedicated slot for a hybrid space player. I'm excited to see Michigan finally deploy a modern anti-spread D.
"What sets him apart is that, although he’s 6-6 and around 300 pounds, is the way he moves. I know the Michigan coaches saw that in person. He won a bunch of the speed and agility tests out at the camp. Coach Brown called me up and told me how impressive he was and I said, ‘Yup! I told you so.’”
Stueber isn't even 17 yet, which means he might add another inch or two of height and is far away from his physical ceiling. His coach thinks he's a left tackle all the way. If he ends up at 6'8"—he's already measured in at 6'6.5" at an Opening regional—and able to move he'll certainly be groomed as one.
OH OL Joel Honigford released a top four of M, MSU, Auburn, and Oregon. Michigan was a hot name for him for a minute but Andrew Stueber's commitment probably means that Michigan focuses on the big fish they've got on the hook.
Michigan's offered TN OL Obinna Eze, who is another left tackle type at 6'7" or 6'8" depending on who you listen too. Wingspaaaaaan:
Anyway, Brown reports that Eze was shocked at a Michigan offer because it shows "people on the other side of the country" know about him. (Please do not get out your maps and #wellactually a recruit.) We're big in Nigeria:
"Michigan is a big institution. My mom in Nigeria knows what school Michigan is. I’m just grateful for it."
Eze worked out at Michigan's Tennessee satellite camp; his recruitment has zero shape right now. There's one Bama crystal ball in for him; meanwhile his 247 profile lists Kentucky and only Kentucky as "warm." I seriously doubt he ends up at either place. As of about ten days ago Eze was trying to get his recruitment wrapped up relatively quickly, so Michigan will have to get an unofficial real soon or an early-season official to stay involved.
Thompson-Robinson won approximately half -- if not more -- of the drills that he participated in, including fastest man in camp and the backpedal drill. Jim Harbaugh openly acknowledged, "This is a first! We haven't had a quarterback win these drills!" The Michigan legacy was fast and showed a lot of composure in every drill he competed in.
You may remember that Thompson-Robinson had some contradictory thoughts about Michigan and Ohio State after a Midwest visit sweep a few months ago. That appears to be a moot point with OSU focused on another QB prospect. Thompson-Robinson told Sam Webb that UCLA, Michigan, and Arizona State were sticking out and that mom, an alum, was a little excited with the Michigan offer:
"I was actually in the car with my mom when I got it," Thompson-Robinson said. "She was so happy she almost crashed the car. It was a really fun time. I was really happy I got that one."
"With Rio he has a great relationship with them so he can fill me in a lot about what they’re all about. I talked to him right after I got offered and he was like, ‘Hurry up and commit.’ He was very excited for me — it was a great moment."
Oghoufo just picked up a Notre Dame offer on his visit and has been up to MSU multiple times.
CA OL Wyatt Davis committed to OSU; FL WR Michael Harley committed to WVU; FL WR Jhamon Ausbon committed to LSU. 2018 NJ DE and LB Jayson and Justin Ademilola both committed to ND, which sucks mostly because we had crystal balls for them to Michigan.
Ace is on vacation! This post is already long! I'm posting it today!
On the Solomon commitment
Solomon and Reese [Sam Webb]
These days, the flood of "he won't stick" assertions in the aftermath of an unexpected commit from a far-flung high school prospect is inevitable. They certainly rolled in for GA DT Aubrey Solomon, both from the Michigan and SEC ends. Just like "offers" and OFFERS there are "commitments" and COMMITMENTS. The concern with Solomon is that he's issued the former.
Despite the fact that there's no evidence behind this assertion, people thinking this are not crazy. Michigan's already seen a GA commit peace out once the big local teams came in. But outright pessimism is unwarranted. Reasons Solomon will stick:
Solomon already has big time offers and just visited Alabama and Georgia, who were previously thought to be the main contenders. He's seen what his leaders have to offer already and it's not like a bigger school than Bama or UGA can throw their hat in the ring.
Michigan also picked up a commit from 2018 LB/S Otis Reese, a teammate. Reese had Michigan way out in front; he'll be there until Signing Day.
Michigan's depth chart is attractive for a nose tackle. They have three-star Michael Dwumfour in the class ahead of him and not much else. Meanwhile the prospect of playing with Rashan Gary, even for just a couple years, is appealing.
Reasons it won't:
The glow of the visit might not last.
Parents might not be such a big fan of the decision.
Michigan's benefited from the latter a few times—Lawrence Marshall was an OSU commit for ten seconds before his parents put the brakes on—and suffered from it a few times. Solomon did talk to his mom on the phone before pulling the trigger:
“At first she was a little shocked because she’s never heard me trying to commit somewhere just like that,” Solomon said. “So she said I must be in love with the school and I told her that academically I would be good there."
Solomon's mother was in Louisiana for a business trip at the time and told Dawgs247 the commitment caught her off-guard. She twice deemed the decision a "soft commitment," and mentioned that it is pending research. Again, her thoughts on the Georgia program were very high, and she said she is waiting to see what the outcome is in his recruitment.
Trying to figure out what Solomon will do through two separate lenses, one of them extremely red-tinted, is difficult. That doesn't sound great on the mom front.
“The Michigan coaches are professionals,” Pych said. “They’re not sitting here blowing these kids’ phones up and they’re not pressuring them. That’s what sold these guys, that they care about making them into men.”
FL OL Kai-Leon Herbert reiterated that: Michigan coaches are amongst the lower-pressure ones out there. Sam Webb has an extensive article in the News about both Georgia commits in which Solomon tells it from his perspective:
"I was just thinking, ‘They want what's best for me, so let me call my mom.’ I'm a big momma's boy (so) I called her and talked to her about it. She was like, 'Is this really what you want to do?' and I told her, ‘Yeah, I can see myself playing here.’ Then she was like, 'Well, do what you've got do, baby. I love you,' and I said, 'I love you,' and went in there and said, 'I will commit here.'"
Whether that's good or bad is in the eye of the beholder. Hopefully mom can get on campus when Solomon takes his official.
What about Reese? While he is in a somewhat similar situation in his case a brother at Central Michigan and the fact that his commit was not off the cuff but something he'd been seriously thinking about should mean he's 90%+ to stick.
[After THE JUMP: more visit weekend fallout, new names dropping in via helicopter, Ace gets angry about KJ Hamler again despite being on vacation]
The 2017 recruiting board was updated heading into the weekend. Meanwhile, I'm taking off for vacation tomorrow and will be out until next Wednesday. Naturally, today's send-off roundup is one of the longest of the year.
There was very good reason nobody saw Aubrey Solomon's commitment coming. Solomon didn't even initially plan on being in Ann Arbor last weekend; he was supposed to be on an unofficial visit to Alabama. He told Sam Webb that once he got to Michigan and found out he had an offer, things moved quickly from there:
“I came into Michigan not knowing that I had an offer,” Solomon said. “Once I found that out it really changed everything. Then seeing what they could do for me in the future, like 10-20 years after football, I just fell in love with it. It wasn't just football, it was ‘what would I do for the rest of my life after football?’"
Solomon credited Chris Partridge and Jim Harbaugh for convincing him Michigan was the place to be.
The commitment of Solomon's 2018 teammate, Otis Reese, came as far less of a shock; Reese had previously named Michigan as his leader and he has ties to the area—his older brother is a redshirt freshman receiver at Central Michigan. Reese described the scene when he and Solomon committed to Webb:
"(Solomon) was feeling it but he kind of shocked me,” said Reese. “I didn't know he was going to commit."
"Coach Harbaugh was on the phone with my mom and we were talking about my commitment. Aubrey got on the phone talking to his mom and he said he wanted to commit. It was just like the whole room was lit… full happy emotions. They were jumping around. Actually my receiver coach (who brought them up on the visit) and Coach Harbaugh traded shirts. Coach Harbaugh still has (Lee County) shirt on, and my coach has his on. It was just a happy moment and it was a blessing."
Michigan nearly added another commitment on the weekend. Three-star CT OT Andrew Stueber impressed the coaches at camp enough to pull in an offer, and in the aftermath Steuber told 247's Steve Wiltfong that Michigan is "the one to beat" in his recruitment. Based on what Sam tweeted over the weekend, it sounds like Steuber will join the class as soon as he can get his mom to campus.
A few significant developments emerged from what was a strong recruiting weekend for Michigan. First and foremost is the optimism surrounding Michigan's chances with top-100 VA WDE Luiji Vilain following his weekend visit. Michigan has pursued Vilain, a Canadian import, since he was a freshman and Brady Hoke was still in charge, and they were one of the first Power 5 schools to get in on what's become a legitmately national recruitment. Sam Webb has a lengthy, free post on Vilain's reaction to his visit last weekend, and the Wolverines are in great shape:
“I came in with high expectations, but I was still pretty blown away,” said Vilain. “It was really good. Everything was different. The vibe as soon as I get there, I felt that it was different. There’s change. I guess that’s the Harbaugh effect.”
Webb issued one of his famous "gut feelings" about an unnamed recruit who will make his choice public in mid-June, and all signs point to Vilain, who told Sam that after last weekend he won't need to take any more visits before making his decision. After speaking with his parents and his trainer, he'll decide between Michigan, Virginia Tech, and USC. It would be a surprise if he didn't end up a Wolverine before the end of the June.