Michigan’s junior day saw a bevy of talent come through Ann Arbor from all over the country and at a number of positions of need. They’ve been in the mix for IL WR AJ Henning since last spring (he visited for the spring game that didn’t happen), and they remains high on his list. There’s one key difference between last year’s staff and this one, though, and Henning got time to sit down and take in a presentation from new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis when he visited for junior day last weekend. It sounds like Gattis gave him the #SpeedInSpace pitch, pulling up film that illustrated how the Wolverines would use the nation’s #51 overall prospect and #8 WR. From what he told 247’s Steve Wiltfong, it sounds like Henning would be a perfect fit for Gattis.
"He's seen players like me before, the type of player that can make plays outside and make plays in space. Primarily they'll have me in the slot and move me around, different stuff with jet motion and outside as well.
Henning told Wiltfong that he has a good relationship with most of Michigan’s staff and just needs to continue to build one with Gattis. Five of six crystal balls favor Notre Dame, but they’re months (or, in two instances, over a year) old. This is a recruitment to keep an eye considering the fit, Michigan’s need for 2020 receivers, and the length of time they’ve been after him. 247’s Steve Lorenz asked around and was told that Michigan did what they needed to during the visit to become a real factor in Henning’s decision. Henning also spoke with The Wolverine’s Brandon Brown, telling him that he doesn’t know whether he will commit before or after the season and that his commitment date will impact when he takes his officials, but he does plan to take another visit to Michigan.
That said, there are certainly outside influences at play. 247’s Allen Trieu posted an excellent Midwest update in which he noted that he could see Henning and four-star IL WR Jadon Thompson going to the same school, and Thompson currently has one CB in: for Purdue, from Trieu. Thompson was on campus with Henning last weekend, though. Thompson told WolverinesWire’s Evan Petzold that Michigan is high on his list after visiting; he has a top-six of Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Illinois, and Purdue.
[This post gets decidedly supernatural after THE JUMP]
Two longtime targets at receiver were also visited Ann Arbor last weekend. MI WR Devell Washington is thought to be a Michigan State lean (he’s related to Charles Rogers), but he told 247’s Allen Trieu his last visit to Michigan was amazing. His tape shows a receiver who can beat press, leap and high point the ball, and though that’s probably where he’ll end up he’s also been pitched on the other side of the ball. Washington told Rivals’ Josh Helmholdt that he talked to Don Brown during his visit and Brown told him defensive players last longer in the NFL. Wouldn’t mind having a 6’4”, 215 pound safety with Washington’s level of athleticism, to be honest. Purdue also seems to be of serious interest to Washington, who likes the authenticity of their staff. He’s slated to visit there in a couple of weeks, take spring officials, and decide this summer.
Less clearly delineated is the timeline for MI WR Rashawn Williams. He too visited Ann Arbor to go bowling for Michigan’s junior day, and he had nothing but positive things to say to 247, Rivals, and WolverinesWire afterward. New OC Josh Gattis seemed to make quite an impression, as Williams told Rivals’ Josh Helmholdt that Gattis is “…like a football wizard,” 247’s Allen Trieu “[Gattis] is a football wizard,” and WolverinesWire’s Evan Petzold that meeting Gattis was like “meeting a football wizard.” I feel that I am somewhat of an authority on this topic as someone who has both read the Harry Potter books and seen all of the movies (some more than once), and I deem this a positive development. Less positive: Williams told Helmholdt that he let Indiana and Purdue’s staff know that his recruitment is “100 percent open” when they visited his school, and both schools said they’d recruit him harder now that they knew that. Like Washington, he’s scheduled to visit Purdue later this month. Williams also updated Helmholdt on his decision timeline:
“If I feel the time is right tomorrow, I guess that will be the right time.”
In light of that, it makes some sense that current 2020 pledge MI CB Andre Seldon told The Michigan Insider about a month ago that he thinks Williams could commit to Michigan soon.
A number of other top in-state prospects were also on hand for junior day, including Southfield A&T DT Bryce Austin. He’s unranked in the composite but 247 has him #318 overall and #23 at his position. He told The Michigan Insider’s Sam Webb that he wasn’t worried when Michigan came through his school and offered two quarterbacks (2020’s Anthony Rompfh and a seventh-grader) but not him. He got his offer once Michigan got its defensive line coach, as Harbaugh and Shaun Nua let Austin know he had an offer at the junior day event. From what he told Webb, Purdue and Boston College seem to be in serious contention thanks to their frequent contact, but Austin’s two CBs are on Michigan State and the offer from Michigan instantly rocketed them into his top five; Austin told Webb he will likely commit before the season, but there’s clearly quite a bit for him to still sort through right now. He has only played defensive line for a year and his tape shows impressive speed off the snap and motor, and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t make a significant move up the rankings by the time all is said and done.
Four-star SDE Braiden McGregor, one of Michigan’s top priorities this cycle, got to spend plenty of time with newly hired DL coach Shaun Nua during junior day. This was especially important for McGregor, who had built a close bond with Greg Mattison. McGregor told The Wolverine’s Brandon Brown that he really likes Nua, then dropped some interesting information about his decision timeline (muddied a bit by attention from schools around the nation) and possible position fits. McGregor told Brown he plans to visit some southern schools in March before making a decision in April. If one of those schools is Alabama, he’ll be sitting with the tight ends coach; they’re looking at him exclusively at TE. Michigan, however, is recruiting McGregor as a tight end and defensive end. Clemson and Ohio State are looking at McGregor as a TE/DE as well, while all other schools involved see him as a DE.
One big prospect being recruited solely as a tight end is Windsor (Ont.) TE Theo Johnson, a composite three-star currently ranked 2020's #11 tight end. He recently completed his fourth visit to Michigan and finally picked up a scholarship offer last month. The 6’5”, 235-pounder got to spend time with TEs coach Sherrone Moore and further develop that bond, as well as receive a presentation about how tight ends will be used under Josh Gattis. Turns out the presentation was insightful for both fans and Johnson.
“What he told me was that I’m rarely if ever going to have my hand on the ground. I’m either going to be in a two-point, or in a receiver stance out in the slot. So, it seems to me like they plan on doing a lot more passing stuff to their tight ends, rather than a lot of the traditional stuff they’ve been doing over the years.
Moore told TMI’s Sam Webb that Penn State and Georgia have shown the most interest thus far, but he thinks that Michigan will soon be at the same level should the amount of contact he’s had with Moore stay consistent. According to The Wolverine’s Brandon Brown, Moore told Johnson that Michigan likes his size, and they believe he can get to 250 without losing any mobility. Moore also let him know that Michigan only has five tight ends on scholarship right now, which should be fairly beneficial in Johnson’s recruitment as he thought they had 13. He told both Brown and Webb that he’d like to pick his college destination before the season but that it might slip, so don’t be surprised when Johnson is still being written about in this space in October.