Programming note: Brian is out for the day and I've got a pretty busy non-blogging day myself. We've got a lot of content ready to go, and I'll be checking in throughout the day, but Friday Recruitin' will either come late this afternoon or will morph into Saturday Recruitin', depending on my schedule.
Everett (MA) OL John Montelus recently earned a place at #214 overall in the Rivals250, making him one of the top prospect for 2013 on the East Coast. Standing at 6'5", 295 pounds, Montelus already has a college-ready body and holds early offers from Michigan, Boston College, UConn, Florida, N.C. State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia, and West Virginia. I caught up with John recently to talk about his recruitment and his interest in the Wolverines:
ACE: Which schools have you been in contact with the most right now?
JOHN: Right now I'm contacting pretty much all the schools that have offered.
ACE: I know you got the Michigan offer relatively recently. Who have you been talking to from Michigan?
JOHN: I've been talking to Coach Funk and Coach Mallory. Both these guys are really good and I can't wait to go down there to make my unofficial visit soon.
ACE: Do you know when you want to visit the school or is that still up in the air right now?
JOHN: It's still up in the air right now, but I'm definitely going to make a visit soon.
ACE: What do you know about Michigan as a program?
JOHN: They have really good academics and they produce a lot of good offensive linemen.
ACE: Looking back at your junior year, how do you think you performed on the field?
JOHN: I played well. I did better than my sophomore year. I got way bigger; my sophomore year I was 245 and my junior year I was 295.
ACE: What would you say are the biggest strengths of your game, and what are you looking to improve to get to that next level?
JOHN: My biggest strength is definitely pass-blocking. I can run-block, but next year we're going to run more. I need to work, basically, on run-blocking.
ACE: You mentioned wanting to visit Michigan. Are there any other schools you want to visit at this point?
JOHN: I'm going down to Florida on my April vacation.
ACE: Do you have an idea of when you want to narrow down your choices?
JOHN: At the end of the summer I'll probably have my top five favorite schools.
ACE: When it comes time to pick a school, what are going to be the main factors that you're looking at?
JOHN: Good academics and a winning team, that's all I want.
ACE: In terms of position, I know you play offensive tackle in high school. Is that where you think you fit best at the college level?
JOHN: I could play offensive tackle in college, but if coaches think I can play guard I'll play guard. It doesn't matter what position.
ACE: Going away from the football field, what's something about you that you think people should know about you?
JOHN: What do I do after football? Mostly I lift in the weight room.
Pickerington (OH) North tight end Jake Butt recently was named as the #96 overall prospect in the Rivals250, and he's seen his recruitment take off in recent weeks. Butt now holds offers from Michigan, Boston College, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, UCLA, and a handful of MAC schools while also generating interest from Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin. I caught up with Jake this week to talk about his recruitment, top schools, and upcoming visit to Michigan:
ACE: How many offers are you up to at this point, and which schools have been in contact with you the most lately?
JAKE: I'm up to 18 offers, and the most contact I've been getting is from Michigan—I've gotten a lot of stuff [from them]—Tennessee, Northwestern, Purdue, Maryland, and Iowa.
ACE: You've said that Michigan was your leader in the past. If you had to make a top five right now, which teams stand out to you the most?
JAKE: My top five would have to be Maryland, Northwestern, Michigan, Tennessee, and Stanford. Michigan I'd say is my leader just because of the attention I've been getting from all the coaches, and they said I'm the number one tight end on their board. They've got the number one quarterback in our class committed, Shane Morris, he's a beast. There's just a lot of plusses going on with them. But it's still early, so it's all subject to change.
ACE: You mentioned Shane Morris. Has he been making his recruiting pitch at all to you, and if so, what's he telling you?
JAKE: Yeah, I've been talking to him a lot. He's got like 6,000 followers [on Twitter], so he'll tweet me and get all his little followers, Michigan fans, to really show their love. [They'll say] "I want to see you break records with Shane Morris when you go there," or "I want to see you catching touchdown passes from Shane," and stuff like that. I'm going to be going up [to Michigan] this Saturday and he's supposed to be there with some other recruits.
ACE: I know you've been to Michigan a couple times before. Is there anything specific you're going to be looking for this weekend?
JAKE: No, just kinda getting to know my position coach, Coach Ferrigno, a little bit better, spend a bit of time with him. Then get to see the campus, talk to some of the academic advisors, just kinda get a feel for what life is like up there.
ACE: You mentioned the coaches talking about using you as a tight end. I know with Michigan they use their tight ends in multiple ways. Do the coaches talk a lot about what your role would be like there?
JAKE: They said that they could use me at multiple position. They could use me anywhere from receiver, with a foot on the line, tight end with my hand down, or fullback even. They have a U-back and a Y-back, something like that, they have two different tight ends and they said I could play either, so I'll be playing both if I go there.
ACE: What else have the coaches been telling you when they're recruiting you?
JAKE: Different little things like "I can't wait to see you in the blue and gold," or "you'd look great in the winged helmet." They sent me an article about some of their top tight ends that they've had. Five different coaches have come down to the school, and I've talked to five different coaches by myself, too, so they're showing a lot of love there.
ACE: I've seen a concern among Michigan fans after you said the Wolverines were your leader, and that's with you not holding an Ohio State offer yet. Growing up as a Buckeye fan, if Ohio State were to come into play, how do you think that would change the landscape of your recruitment?
JAKE: You know, Ohio State is definitely a great school. They've got a lot of good things to offer. Urban Meyer is a great coach. That being said, there's a lot of great coaches out there and there's a lot of great programs out there. I like the fact that I got early offers and my early offers definitely stand out having thought of me on top of their list. I wouldn't worry about if from some of the fans's standpoint, I guess, because I'm going to pick my early offers over my late offers any day.
ACE: You just mentioned the early offers being important. When it comes down to making a decision, what else are going to be the main factors when you ultimately decide on a school?
JAKE: The early offers are kind of like a tiebreaker, it's not that big of a deal. Definitely academics is a big deal, having a good football program with a good tradition is a big deal. Then somewhere my parents want me to go. Someone told me that you want to pick a college where if you were to get hurt playing football, you can see yourself living there without football in your life, so that's another factor.
ACE: Other than coming up to Michigan this weekend, do you have any other planned visits or schools you'd want to check out?
JAKE: As of right now I don't. I'm just waiting for basketball season to end before I take other visits, but I'm going to have to get down to some schools because some schools won't give you an offer unless you show you're willing to make the trip down there, so I'll be going to some other schools too.
ACE: In terms of a timeline for when you'd want to get your recruitment wrapped up, do you know when that would be?
JAKE: Probably before next football season I'd like to get it done, but if not, I can wait until after.
ACE: How's basketball season going for you?
JAKE: Pretty good. I'm the leading scorer and rebounder for our team. I think I lead our team in steals, too, so it's going pretty good. Our team as a whole is kinda underachieving, but that being said, I set the bar high for us. I'm the only guy returning with experience right now. We had ten seniors last year, so we lost all of them, and those were our top ten guys other than me, I was the sixth man off the bench. We really don't have any experience coming back, but we're 11-8 right now and we've got a tough game coming up on Friday, too.
ACE: Just to go away from the football field and the basketball court for a second, what's one thing about yourself—whether it's a hobby that you've got outside of sports or whatever—what's something outside of sports that you think people would like to know about you?
JAKE: I'm a leader. I've been selected, not for sports, but for other activities, for leadership conferences. As a sophomore I was one out of four kids in our school that got to go to a leadership conference at Ohio State, and I got selected to a school leadership program called Sunny Side Up in our group where you have to get nominated by teachers other students from your school to go there. You get a three-day trip where you go down you get to do different things, leadership-building activities and such, so I got to do that.
ACE: It sounds like that would obviously translate well to the field and help you there.
Dadeville (AL) DT Rod Crayton is coming off an extremely impressive junior season, and his recruitment is beginning to gain steam as a result. Standing at 6'2", 290 pounds, Crayton currently holds offers from Arizona, Auburn, FAU, Louisville, LSU, Memphis, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Penn State, and Washington State. He's one of several top-flight visitors who will be in Ann Arbor this weekend, and he's expecting to get some big news when he's on campus:
ACE: First of all, what schools have been showing interest in you lately?
ROD: LSU, Tennessee, Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, FAU, Memphis, Louisville, Michigan, Penn State, Washington State, and Arizona, and also Auburn and Alabama.
ACE: Talking about Michigan specifically, have they offered you, and do you have any plans to come up and visit?
ROD: I'm visiting Michigan on Sunday. They tell me they have some good news for me when I come up there, so I'm expecting an offer.
ACE: Who are you talking to from Michigan?
ROD: Coach Montgomery.
ACE: When you come up to visit, what are you going to be looking for in terms of checking out the school?
ROD: I'm just going to see how it is. See the campus, see the coaches and get to know them a little bit. See how everything is up there.
ACE: Going back to your junior season, how do you think you performed on the field, and what kind of numbers did you put up?
ROD: I did pretty good. I had 162 tackles and 11 sacks.
ACE: If you had to scout yourself as a player, what would you say are your biggest strengths and what are you looking to improve for your senior season and the next level?
ROD: To improve, I have to stay low. My strengths are working with my hands, pushing back the pocket, and making plays down the line of scrimmage.
ACE: Do you know what schools you'd like to check out over the offseason?
ROD: I'm actually going to Penn State on Saturday, then Michigan on Sunday.
ACE: Do you have any idea in terms of a timeline of when you'd like to make a commitment?
ROD: That's not gonna be any time soon. I'm trying to [take some visits first].
ACE: What are going to be the main factors that you're looking for when it comes down to picking a school?
ROD: Somewhere where I feel comfortable at, where I've got a good relationship with the coach, and where I can play at—I want to go somewhere that best fits me.
Jersey City (NJ) St. Peter's Prep CB Tre Bell has seen his recruitment take off recently, seeing his offer list hit double digits after Michigan, Florida, Nebraska, and West Virginia all offered in a 24-hour span. The 5'11", 170-pound junior also holds offers from UConn, Rutgers, South Carolina, South Florida, UCF, Vanderbilt, and Wisconsin, and he's also hearing from schools like LSU, Maryland, and Notre Dame. I caught up with Tre shortly after he received his Wolverine offer to talk about his recruitment and his thoughts on Michigan:
ACE: How's everything going with your recruitment and what schools have been in contact with you the most right now?
TRE: Recruiting is going well. I've picked up a lot in the past few weeks, I've picked up ten offers. I've been talking to Florida a lot— they offered me—Michigan, Nebraska, West Virginia—I just went down there as well. Pretty much all the schools that offered me, they've been showing me a lot of interest.
ACE: Getting ten offers in two weeks, have you been able to sort through which schools are standing out to you as favorites right now or are you still waiting to see what comes in?
TRE: I'm waiting to see what comes in, just talking every night with my family.
ACE: You mentioned Michigan offered recently. How'd you hear about the offer and what coach has been your recruiting contact there?
TRE: Me and Coach Mallory have been talking a lot. He told me to call him last night, so I gave him a call and he let me know that they wanted to offer.
ACE: What are your thoughts on Michigan as a school and a program, what do you know about them?
TRE: Oh, man, Michigan speaks for itself. Just the history alone is just great. That's really what brings a lot of the recruits in, so I can't wait to get down there and check it out.
ACE: Going back to your junior year, how did you play and what kind of numbers did you put up?
TRE: I had 36 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and ten pass breakups.
ACE: If you had to scout yourself, what would you say are your biggest strengths on the field and what are you trying to work on to improve for the next level?
TRE: I definitely want to improve on my speed and my strength for the next level and just bring my game higher. Right now I think what I'm best at is my ability to make a play on the ball, my athleticism, I'll come up and hit you, I think my tackling is pretty good, but all that stuff has to increase up ten notches going into college.
ACE: Looking ahead to this offseason and the summer, do you have any visits planned or do you have any schools specifically that you'd like to go see?
TRE: Certainly I would like to go see Florida and Michigan. That's just about it right now.
ACE: Do you have a timeline in mind for when you'd like to get your recruitment wrapped up?
TRE: Maybe before my senior season.
ACE: When it comes down to whenever you decide to make your decision, what are you looking for in a school?
TRE: First is academics. Academics is always first. I want to stay all four years and get my degree. After that would be the coaches and my bond with them, campus lifestyle, and after that early playing time.
ACE: What's something that you enjoy doing away from sports or something that you'd like people to know about you that doesn't have anything to do with the football field?
TRE: I was a basketball player all my life, but I had to stop playing for football, to concentrate on that. It's going pretty good so far, but I'm really into basketball. I like just hanging out with my friends and chilling with my family.
As you probably know, Peoria (IL) Manual OT Logan Tuley-Tillman visited Michigan last weekend, bringing his mom along with him for the trip. I checked in with Logan today to get his impressions from the visit and talk about his recruitment, so here's a quick update on how things are going with him:
ACE: Take me through what you did on the visit. What stood out to you on this particular trip to Ann Arbor?
LOGAN: Well it was like my fifth time there. It was my mom's first time, and I know she pretty much had fun. I went through the whole thing, just the regular academic thing, then seeing the Big House. It was snowing, snowed out, but they had marked out the 'M', so it was nice seeing it like that.
ACE: I know it was important for you to bring your mom up and have her see the school and meet the coaches. What was her impression of the visit and what was her reaction?
LOGAN: She really loved it. She really liked the climate up there and with my aunt being up there, she really like that, too, so she gave that a plus.
ACE: Having your aunt up here, how does that factor in terms of looking at Michigan as a potential destination?
LOGAN: It really does a lot, so that will be something that I will have to look into.
ACE: The last time we talked you were getting ready to visit Alabama. Where does Michigan stand in terms of your favorite teams right now, and how do the other schools stack up?
LOGAN: They're definitely up there with Alabama. I really want to get out to all of these places and see what things are like.
ACE: Do you have any other trips planned? I know you've mentioned the possibility of visiting Michigan this weekend. Do you have that nailed down?
LOGAN: Yeah, I'm probably going to do that. Also USC, I'm going to go down there and go to a Clippers game, that should be fun.
ACE: I know you've been working out at Core 6, and there's obviously a lot of talented players in Illinois in your class. Have you been talking to any of the other prospects in your class and what do you guys talk about?
LOGAN: Yeah, I talk to [2013 Peoria Richwoods RB] Kendrick [Foster] on the regular. We talk about just basic football and stuff. It's not really individual schools and all that. Also Ty [Isaac] and Ethan [Pocic] and Kyle [Bosch].
ACE: You were up with another Illinois prospect, Laquon Treadwell. Did you come across paths with him at all while you were on your visit?
LOGAN: Yeah, we talked for a little bit. He's a real funny guy, he's fun to be around.
ACE: You mentioned not talking about specific schools, but is there any talk among you guys about ending up at the same school, or is that something where you're leaving it up to everyone to make an individual choice?
LOGAN: It's about everyone's individual choices.
ACE: Do you have any idea when you'd like to make a decision? I know with so many schools offering that you pushed your original date back, but do you have a timeline in mind?
LOGAN: Yeah. I'm probably still going to make after all my officials.
ACE: Do you have an idea of where you'd like to take those official visits?
LOGAN: No, not yet, there's not anything set in stone. I know [I'll probably use them] for the very far visits, probably like Oregon and some other ones.
ACE: Have there been any other recent offers to come in during the last couple of weeks? I know the last time I checked you were at 23 or so.
LOGAN: Yeah, I'm at 26 or 27 now. The very last were Texas A&M, North Carolina, and Vanderbilt.
ACE: Obviously having your mom up in Ann Arbor was a big deal. Was there anything else specific about this trip that stood out to you compared to your other visits to Michigan?
LOGAN: No, this was pretty much it, it was pretty much the same thing. It was a lot of fun, though.
ACE: Did you enjoy the basketball game?
LOGAN: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.
ACE: Being up here so often, have you reached the point where people are starting to recognize you?
LOGAN: (laughs) Yeah, it actually happens a lot.
ACE: What do people say to you? Is it all good or does it ever get to the point where it's a little awkward?
LOGAN: No, it's never really been awkward, they're just always yelling "Go Blue" and "Tuley-Tillman," stuff like that.
ACE: Do you like that? Is that a positive to have that kind of fan support?
LOGAN: Yeah, it's really a big plus. I really like talking to them, especially the hard-working fans that work five days a week and bust their tails to be able to come to a Michigan sporting event. I really feel it's an obligation to talk to the fans like that, because I really like doing it and just getting that perspective and views on things.
ACE: Other than taking trips, what else is going on? Are you still doing Core 6?
LOGAN: Yeah, just trying to keep developing, that's one of the biggest things. I'm still doing Core 6. I'm adding weight, too. I'm up to about 304 but I really don't even feel like it.
ACE: Any other stuff you're working on specifically to try to get better right now?
Phoenix (AZ) Brophy Prep WR Devon Allen has garnered some major recruiting buzz after stellar sophomore and junior seasons. The 6'1", 190-pound junior had 60 catches for 915 yards and six TDs in 2010 and followed that up with 44 catches for 844 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2011; his performance earned him the #110 overall slot in the Rivals250, a three-star ranking on 24/7, and a spot on the ESPNU 150 Watch List. After picking one up from Michigan a week before signing day, Allen now holds offers from the Wolverines, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado State, Duke, Mississippi State, Oregon State, Purdue, Stanford, and Washington, and he's garnered interest from the heavy-hitters on the West Coast. I caught up with Devon last week to talk about his recruitment:
ACE: How's everything going with your recruitment and which teams are pursuing you the hardest right now?
DEVON: It's going pretty well. I've got a couple offers here and there. The schools talking to me the most right now are probably Washington, Ohio State, and a little bit of Notre Dame and Oregon.
ACE: I know you picked up an offer from Michigan recently. Who is the coach who's been in contact with you and what was your reaction to getting the offer?
DEVON: Coach Don Ferrigno. It was kind of surprising because I haven't really been in contact with Michigan, so when they just showed up I thought it was going to be just another coach coming to meet me and talking to me. I guess they had some interest and saw my highlight tape and they liked what they saw.
ACE: What are your thoughts on Michigan as a school?
DEVON: I know for sure that it's a great school. I've heard that it has a great campus, a beautiful campus. I know it's a big powerhouse football school, it's always been since a long time ago, so it would be a great place to maybe look at going, maybe attending Michigan.
ACE: Do you have any favorites early on in the process or is it too soon to say right now?
DEVON: Not really. I've only visited two schools, Stanford and ASU [ed. note: he's since visited USC for their junior day], so I kind of know what they're about right now. I'm originally from Washington, so I know the weather and the environment up at the University of Washington; those are the schools I know the most about. I'm trying to get around, maybe take some unofficial visits, go to some junior days here in the near future, just see what some of the other schools have to offer.
ACE: Do you have any of those junior day visits planned out yet?
DEVON: I think so. I should be attending the USC junior day this weekend on Sunday.
ACE: Going back to your junior year, how do you think you performed and what kind of numbers did you put up?
DEVON: I don't know exactly, I know it's a little over 800 [yards] and I know I scored 17 touchdowns, but that's about it. The season went pretty well. As a team we were young, so we have some growing to do still. We all wanted to win state, that was the main goal, so we were disappointed, but other than that I think if you ask my team we overall had a good year and we got to know each other. We'll just keep growing over this next year and we should be in contention for a state championship in Arizona.
ACE: If you had to scout yourself on the field, what would you say are your biggest strengths as a player and what are you working on to improve for your senior year and the next level?
DEVON: I'd say [my strengths are] definitely my speed and my route-running, my ability to make plays, my size—I'm a little over 6'1". I've been gaining some weight here lately because I've been working out, so I'm getting kind of on the heavier side, I'm 190 right now. Something I can improve on is definitely blocking, that's what all the coaches are looking at so I definitely take pride in that. I can always get better at route-running, learning the game and knowing what to do in certain situations—you know, a cover 2, how to beat that, if there's a press, how to beat that, learn all the receiver positions so I can play anywhere on the field.
ACE: Looking ahead in your recruitment, what do you think it's going to come down to when you make a decision, what are going to be the deciding factors for you?
DEVON: I really don't know 100% yet, but I think they'll be the environment, the program, and what they have to offer education-wise. But really it's up in the air right now, I have to get to know all the coaches, all the staff, and figure out what I want to be when I grow up, see what major I want to major in. It will be a tough process, but it should be a fun one.
ACE: In terms of a timeline, do you have any idea when you'd like to get things wrapped up?
DEVON: I think I definitely want to commit just right after football season. I'm not really into that whole hat-picking thing that all the players do, it'd be nice, but I think that's kind of disrespecting the other coaches, leaving it up to the final day to pick your school so if you don't pick their school the other team has to go and find a recruit to fill the spot. I'll probably commit maybe a month, a month or two before signing day and then I'll just sign.
ACE: Going away from football, what's one thing that you like to do away from the field that's something you think people would like to know about you?
DEVON: I run track, that's a big thing for me, I'll probably run track in college also. Also, I like to play music. I'm learning the piano right now and I'm getting pretty good at it. That's a hobby of mine. Then at track, I got second in the state at the 200 [meter dash], second in the 110 hurdles last year as a sophomore, so this year I'm hopefully going to be in contention for winning it.
ACE: What kind of music do you like playing on the piano?
DEVON: I like classical, it always sounds cool, but for my generation it's more the modern music, the music that's on the radio all the time. I'll just get some sheet music for that, look it up on the internet, and just play with it and see how it sounds and manipulate it to see if it sounds good the way you play it. It's fun to me to be able to play and people are impressed by it, so I always like to do that.
St. Paul (MN) Cretin-Derham Hall ATH James Onwualu recently picked up a Michigan offer as the Wolverines joined Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Purdue, and Stanford among schools to extend him a scholarship. I interviewed Onwualu back in January, before receiving his offer, and recently got the chance to talk to him again now that his recruitment is quickly picking up steam. Onwualu told me prior to the interview that he planned on graduating early, so we discusses his accelerated timeline, new offers, and more:
ACE: You just got your Michigan offer recently. Who have you been talking to from Michigan and what was your reaction to getting the offer?
JAMES: I've mainly been talking to Coach Mattison, but also talking to Coach Hoke. Obviously that's a big offer for me, a big-time school. They're really making a lot of different changes and really coming up as a program. It's a huge offer for me. I was excited.
ACE: What's your impression of Michigan as a school and a football program?
JAMES: I think they're one of the best in the nation, personally. I think that their academics are extremely high, their business school ranks high, which means a lot to me. Also their alumni base ... is huge. Then I think everybody pretty much knows what their football traditions are, what they look to in every season.
ACE: You pulled in a few other offers recently. What other schools are showing interest in you now and how do the schools stack up in terms of your interest?
JAMES: I haven't really made a list of where I'm going to go yet, I haven't come up with a top ten list or anything. I'm just kind of pulling everything in. But Notre Dame continues to show a lot of interest, Stanford, Florida, Ohio State, Texas, a lot of big schools have been showing a lot of interest. I'm just keeping it open right now.
ACE: Do you have any plans in terms of taking visits to schools now that you've got offers coming in?
JAMES: Yeah. I'll definitely go up to Michigan. I haven't gone out there before so it'd be good to go out there. I'll probably go back down to Florida and go down to Stanford, possibly.
ACE: Coming from Cretin-Derham, that's a school that's obviously produced a lot of football talent. Do you ever talk to some of the guys who have gone D-I from there and got an impression of what going through the recruiting process is like?
JAMES: Yeah. Actually, [former Heisman winner] Chris Weinke is one of the guys who's kinda guided me through this whole thing, along with [former Notre Dame receiver] Mike Floyd, and also [Baltimore Ravens Pro-Bowl center] Matt Birk. Oh yeah, and also [Denver Broncos offensive tackle] Ryan Harris. Having people like that around me, it really helps being able to manage the schools and balance out what the coaches are actually saying and what I actually want in my future.
ACE: I know you did the Army All-American combine, but do you have any more plans for doing training or camps over the summer?
JAMES: Probably not. I train seven days a week with the best trainer in the nation, Ted Johnson. I don't really find the need to go to any more camps. I think that I can really start focusing in on what I want to do in college. I'm looking to be committed here so I'm going to be spending a lot of time with the school that I'm going to.
ACE: The last time I talked to you, you said you were looking to commit in the spring, and you mentioned the possibility of graduating early. Is that timeline still holding true right now for you?
JAMES: Yeah, as of right now, I think so. It may be pushed back a little bit into the summer, but as of right now, I think I'm going to get it done with and start focusing on what I have to do, like I said.
ACE: In terms of focusing, in terms of improving on the football field, what do you think are your strongest qualities on the football field as a player right now, and what are you looking to improve as you work towards the next level?
JAMES: I think the main thing I'm good at is really making a play after the catch. That's probably just because of my base in playing running back, being versatile all over the field. I really think that I'm going to start working on—there's so many different styles of play around the nation—just learning different styles of DBs and just getting more experience.
ACE: What position did Michigan offer you for? I know you're listed as an athlete. Do you know what position you'd play if you decided on Michigan?
JAMES: Well, as of right now, they just have me offered as an athlete. We haven't really talked position-wise. Since I've been talking to Mattison a lot of people assume I'm going to be playing safety or corner, but as of right now I don't really know.
ACE: Do you have a preference in terms of where you fit best on the field? Do you prefer offense or defense?
JAMES: I don't know, it could change. Next year I'm going to be all over. We've got a really good running back, [2014 RB] Blake Banham, who's going to be playing next year, so I'm not going to playing as much running back. We've also got a safety, [2014 S] Tim Gordon, so we're going to have to see, I might be playing corner and receiver.
ACE: Going away from the football field, what's one thing you want people to know about you that has nothing to do with football?
JAMES: That's a tough question. I'd say I like going and watching my friends play sports, like Cortez Tillman, I don't know if you've heard of him, but he plays basketball at my school, so I like going and watching him on the weekends.
Thanks to James for taking the time to do the interview. He made sure to tell me before we ended that I should be keeping an eye on his class of 2014 teammates—he sounds like a great guy to have alongside you on the team.
Columbus (OH) Marion-Franklin WR Jaron Dukes made his first-ever trip to Ann Arbor yesterday for an unofficial visit to his childhood favorite, Michigan. Dukes told me earlier this week that he was "ecstatic" upon receiving his Wolverine offer and "[has] my mind set on where I want to go," but he's heeding the advice of his coaches and parents and making sure to check out not only Michigan, but other schools as well before me makes a commitment. I spoke with Jaron last night when he returned from his visit, and needless to say he enjoyed the trip:
ACE: How'd you enjoy the visit?
JARON: Oh, I loved it. It was the best.
ACE: Do you want to expand on that? Take me through what you saw in Ann Arbor.
JARON: I'll tell you what I saw. I saw a love for Michigan. Everybody I talked to loves the university, loves everything about it. They were a family, you could tell there was a bond everywhere you went, you could just feel it. It was just a great place to be. They took me through the facilities, they showed me the field, academic center, athletic center, I talked to the dean, everything—it was just great.
ACE: Who hosted you on the visit and what coaches were you talking to?
JARON: It was myself, Coach Heck, Coach Montgomery, and another coach, I think he was the linebackers coach.
ACE: What was your impression of the coaching staff?
JARON: (laughs) We were just over there having a good time, laughing and talking, making sure Michigan will be a place that I will be happy at. It was just having a great time getting to know the school and everything, not putting pressure on me, just letting me enjoy seeing the campus and everything for right now.
ACE: What would you say was the high point of the visit? Can you pick out a particular thing that stood out to you?
JARON: Easily. Easily I can say the highest point was me starting from the very top of the tunnel, running down the tunnel, jumping, and just walking out onto the field. I went from the 'M' in the center of the field, to end zone, to end zone, and back to the center, and a tear came down my face.
ACE: Is Michigan a place you could see yourself playing?
JARON: Oh, yes sir.
ACE: I know you didn't want to make a snap decision, a commitment on the visit, but what is it going to take it terms of knowing when you'd like to make a decision? Also, what's it going to take for another school to be able to match what Michigan offers?
JARON: I don't think, well, I don't know. I guess they have to show, they'd have to impress my parents. If my parents are happy, then I'm going to be happy, but as long as I feel I'm safe there, then it'll be OK.
ACE: What did your parents think of the trip?
JARON: My parents really liked it, they loved it. They just want me—and they should—they want me to go around and make sure that I've got everything else out of the way that I want to see. They want me to go around and see what other colleges have to offer. Show me that there's more than just one school out there.
ACE: Do you know what other schools you want to see at this point?
JARON: Yes. I would like to take a trip to Cincinnati, Michigan State, I'd like to go up to West Virginia, maybe Illinois.
ACE: Do you know when you'd want to take those visits and when you'd want to be done with your recruitment, or is that still to be decided?
JARON: That still has to be decided with my parents, and me and my coaches would have to go over it.