Monday Recruitin' Transcends Fred Jacksoning

Submitted by Ace on January 6th, 2014 at 2:01 PM

I Have To Praise You Like I Should

High School All-American week is officially over. Jabrill Peppers unofficially won the week. Just ask ESPN's Tom Luginbill, who wrote this in response to a question about the most impressive Under Armour practice performer [emphasis mine]:

[Peppers] is more than capable of playing both ways if needed, but as far as cover corners go, he is a more explosive version of Dee Milliner, and we love that he welcomes contact too. He is mature and knows that there are high expectations for him to perform.

Or ask his Team Nitro coach, former NFL head coach and defensive back Herm Edwards—and his friend, some guy named Deion:

"It’s not even close. He’s the best [UA All-American defensive back] I’ve coached. I called Deion [Sanders] over and said look at that guy, and Deion saw the same thing," Edwards said. "[Robert] Nkemdiche was really good last year, he was a big guy who could run and [Peppers] is comparable to that as far as skill level at the position he’s playing. I played that position and coached that position for a long time and he’s a special talent."

Or ask Scout, which named Peppers the top practice performer of the week on either team while noting that this year's crop of defensive backs was particularly strong.

Rivals stands as the least bullish outlet on Peppers after the UA game, and all they did was name him Sunday's #3 performer, Monday's #1 performer, and Tuesday's #5 performer, and the actual game's #9 performer for Team Nitro before giving him the third spot overall for Team Nitro on the week behind Da'Shawn Hand and Ermon Lane ($):

Playing in his first national-level event, Peppers was surrounded by intrigue from the moment he arrived in Florida. As it turned out, it didn't take him long to live up to his billing. Peppers, the No. 2 overall prospect in his class, was dominant in every practice and was as aggressive and spirited as any player on the field. He struggled a bit in Thursday's game but didn't allow a big play all week. Peppers also blocked a field goal that was ultimately negated because of an all-star-game specific rule.

In addition to the negated blocked field goal (above)—illegal because rushers on kicks weren't allowed to go inside their man in the UA Game, which... okay—Peppers had a couple passes defended, returned two kickoffs for 65 yards (one a 41-yard burst to midfield), and took a few snaps as a wildcat quarterback, though he couldn't break anything big offensively in a pretty ugly game overall, as high school all-star games tend to be.

Interestingly, Scout omitted both Hand and Lane from their top ten overall list, with neither cracking the top two of their respective position groups. It's safe to say Peppers made a strong argument that he deserves consideration for the top overall spot in the 2014 class.

[Hit THE JUMP for a whole lot of content from the All-American games, Michigan's latest 2014 offer, an update on George Campbell, a potential second quarterback in the '14 class, and more.]

Michigan Has Other Commits, Too!

Sorry, sometimes I have to remind myself of these things. After his strong week of practice, Peppers was named a Team Nitro captain; also receiving that honor was quarterback Wilton Speight, who also started the UA game. He didn't have the gaudiest stat-line—2-for-6, 63 yards, an interception, and eight rushing yards on three attempts—while spearheading the first couple possessions for Team Nitro; that interception, which came on a pass to the end zone that looked to be open, wasn't his fault, as noted by intended receiver (and former U-M target) Jeb Blazevich:

As for the week of practice, Speight stood out in earning the captaincy and starting role, and Scout's Scott Kennedy noted his improvement from previous combine outings ($):

All the Elite 11 things kind of run together so I don’t remember which of the camps I saw him at, but I remember seeing him before and thinking, okay, solid, but I do not remember the tight spiral I am seeing this week.  I remember it fluttering a little bit more.  So everything that he is doing, he has gotten better at.  That is all you ask out of a player, especially one that is 6’4” plus, 200 plus pounds with an arm like his. Is he going to keep improving?  Yes, absolutely he has.  He is setting his feet well.  The ball is coming out.  It is coming out hot.  It is coming out with a tight spiral.  It is coming out accurate.  What more could you possible look for?

Speight even showed enough mobility to escape the pocket a couple times in the UA game and gain positive yards; he's no dual-threat, obviously, but he's also not John Navarre back there.

Bryan Mone had a relatively quiet game, though that didn't mean he played poorly; at the nose, he did his job, holding up against double-teams, displaying a good motor, and consistently moving linemen into the backfield, something he also did in practice one-on-ones:

Reports were mixed on tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty, who displayed a lot of raw talent but was beaten regularly in both practice and game settings, mostly by quick defensive ends beating him to the edge. It wasn't a wholly bad week for JBB, though; Team Nitro's offensive line coach told GBW's Kyle Bogenshutz that "he learns very fast," though he may not be a blindside protector at the next level ($):

“Definitely, in my opinion, he’s a right tackle,” Hegamin said. “He’s got that big, thick right tackle build, I wouldn’t even be surprised to see him at guard some because he’s a pretty big, stout guy.”

Michigan's other three commits named to the game—Drake Harris (torn hamstring), Michael Ferns (shoulder), and Jared Wangler (shoulder)—all had to sit out due to injury. Harris, who didn't even travel to the game, and Ferns should get a nice boost to their rehab after enrolling early at U-M this week, joining Freddy Canteen, Mason Cole, Mone, Speight, and Brandon Watson. All three injured commits should be healthy for fall camp; Harris has the most serious injury and he sat out his entire senior season to make sure he's ready for 2014, while Ferns and Wangler both considered giving it a go in the UA game ($).

Three other future Wolverines participated in postseason all-star games. Mason Cole's East team was on the wrong side of a 28-6 blowout in the Army All-American Game, though he stood out on an otherwise-struggling line to earn the #6 overall spot on Josh Helmholdt's list of the team's top performers of the week ($):

Cole was one of the East's best offensive line performers all week, and he capped it with a great performance in Saturday's Army Bowl. While his fellow linemates were having a tough time corralling the West defensive line, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Cole had not [sic] trouble handling his own assignments. He lined up at both left guard and right tackle, showing he was light on his feet, while also being strong enough to battle on the interior.

He had at least one pancake block, to the delight of his future quarterback (Cole is #52):

Finally, Lawrence Marshall and Chase Winovich participated in the Offense-Defense Bowl. While Winovich didn't make the cut, Marshall made Rivals' list of the game's ten best players after recording a pair of TFLs and a quarterback hurry ($).

Michigan (Finally) Offers Jeff Jones

As Michigan has pursued (and offered) three-star Cal RB commit Vic Enwere, I've wondered if they'd consider going after four-star Minnesota commit Jeff Jones, whose stock has steadily risen while his commitment status has softened. After Jones—who visited campus last summer after participating in the Sound Mind Sound Body camp—won team MVP honors in the UA game with an outstanding performance as both a runner and receiver out of the backfield, the Wolverines came through with that offer, and per Scout's Allen Trieu there's mutual interest ($):

"I like Michigan a lot," he said, "just knowing the history of the program."

...

When asked if he would visit Michigan again or give them a harder look in his recruitment, Jones said, "Yes, for sure."

The Wolverines have plenty of competition for Jones; he has an official set to Florida for January 24th and plans to visit Michigan State, while Iowa State is also a factor (though we'll see if that lasts now that he's pulling in more impressive offers). If a visit materializes—and it sure looks like that will happen—then I think the Wolverines are in a good position to flip his commitment.

George Campbell Update: So You're Saying People Overuse The "So You're Saying..." Line

It's never a good sign when a player decommits from a school, especially when said player resides in an entirely different area of the country that's chock-full of football powerhouses. That's the case with George Campbell, and I have very little in the way of optimism that he'll find his way back into the class. That said, he's still talking like Michigan is a contender for his services, per Tim Sullivan ($):

"Michigan is still in the mix. [With Mason Cole], that's something he does. Even though when I decommitted he was kind of upset, but at the same time he understood. As a friend, he's still pulling for me to come for Michigan. He pretty much gave me some good advice on that recruitment. Pretty much saying, 'hey, Go Blue,' and 'you know where home is.'"

Wilton Speight, albeit a biased source, believes Campbell will end up back in the fold, and shed a little light on why Campbell decommitted in the first place, per Sam Webb ($):

When asked if he believes the five-star pass catcher will eventually rejoin the Maize & Blue fold Speight didn’t hesitate.

Oh I think for sure,” he quickly responded.  “The relationship he has with Mason and his family, and then already with our recruiting class… it was, we thought special.  I think that he still thinks that too, but it was a tough situation.  His uncle wanted him to take some more visits and I think George thought it was best for him too because he is so young.  We’ve got to let George do what he thinks is best for him and respect his decisions. We’re here for him if and when he decides to come back.

While Speight's optimism is slightly encouraging, the meddling uncle aspect—especially given heavy interest in Campbell from SEC and ACC powerhouses—is pretty disconcerting if you're a Michigan fan, even more so after taking into account how fellow East Lake receiver Artavis Scott's recruitment went down.*

Happy Trails/Etc.

With Bill O'Brien off to the Houston Texans, Penn State now lacks a coach, which has put the commitment status of several 2014 prospects up in the air. That includes four-star FL QB Michael O'Connor, who remains committed to PSU but has heard from other programs according to his former high school coach, per TomVH ($):

O’Connor remains committed to Penn State, but other programs have reached out to gauge his status. Tedondo has spoken with Syracuse, Michigan State and even Michigan about O’Connor’s situation.

I talked to Coach [Al] Borges and he told me that it was down to two guys. He liked Michael O’Connor a lot, but they were set on taking one quarterback in this class,” he said. “They’re off until Tuesday, so I sent him Michael’s film and they’re going to talk about it as a staff and get back to me. They were set on one quarterback, but they’re going to talk about it.

If a scholarship is available, I don't think it'd be a bad idea at all for Michigan to try to add a second quarterback in this class, assuming Speight doesn't mind the competition. We've all witnessed in the past few years (okay, several years) how quickly QB depth can become an issue.

The Glenville duo of Erick Smith and Marshon Lattimore pulled something of a Will Campbell this week in the leadup to the Army game, with each saying they were re-thinking their respective decisions to announce their commitments during the game. Whether they legitimately had second thoughts or just wanted to drum up drama is now a moot point—both committed to Ohio State during the game, as expected.

Another Happy Trails goes out to CA LB Dwight Williams, once thought to have serious U-M interest, though he never ended up on campus—he committed to in-state school UCLA during the Army game.

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*For those who don't remember, Scott was thought to be Michigan-bound until Clemson swooped in and nabbed him late.

Comments

ihateMichigan

January 6th, 2014 at 5:07 PM ^

It's a terrible theory because OSU is not full.  They are still pursuing other players.  Smith wasn't considering Michigan, rather he had a late intrigue for Kentucky.  Ted Ginn sr. had a sit down with both players and their parents at the Army game.  He let them know to stop screwing around and basically set them straight.

Brimley

January 6th, 2014 at 5:07 PM ^

In another thread, it was noted that word on the street was that Ted Ginn told the guys to quit fucking around and just let coaches know their decision.  That makes sense given that Ginn has a lot of respect for Hoke and wouldn't want the kids misleading him while they goofed on us fans.

thisisme08

January 6th, 2014 at 2:34 PM ^

Honestly, I do believe what Speight is saying about Campbell (in that we have a chance).  If Gorgeous Borges puts on a show next year with a bunch of OSU type gameplans then we at least stand a punchers chance of re-landing Campbell.  However, if we go out and lay a couple more egg's against non-con's and MSU then you can bet your ass he is going to stay close to home.

BlackOps2ForLife

January 6th, 2014 at 2:35 PM ^

Bad grades better be the only reason Peppers does not start next season. If he doesn't, then I am seriously going to start questioning this coaching staff. Clearly Derrick Green should have been playing earlier and more often, so let us hope that Hoke & Co. don't make the same mistake with Peppers.

Ron Utah

January 6th, 2014 at 2:53 PM ^

1.  Derrick Green showed-up with too much bad weight, then got injured in training camp.  By his own admission, he was not in playing shape to start the season.  He also had to learn pass pro.

2.  It's hard to argue that Hoke doesn't play whom he thinks the best available player.  Here are the true freshmen that have seen significant playing time since Hoke arrived:

  • Kyle Bosch
  • Devin Funchess
  • AJ Williams
  • Jake Butt
  • Dennis Norfleet
  • Shane Morris
  • Derrick Green
  • De'Veon Smith
  • Frank Clark
  • Brennen Beyer
  • Mario Ojemudia
  • Taco Charlton
  • Joe Bolden
  • James Ross III
  • Ben Gedeon
  • Jarrod Wilson
  • Jourdan Lewis
  • Channing Stribling

Yeah, they are going to play the best player.  You can question this staff's ability to develop talent, but you sure can't question that they are willing to play younger guys.

cigol

January 6th, 2014 at 4:14 PM ^

You're overcounting quite a bit there.  Most of these happened after A) an injury or B) the previous staff literally did not recruit that position or C) upper classmen were so so so bad that we were setting historic records in futility.

That does not lend itself to "the best players play."  See: Fitz.

switch26

January 6th, 2014 at 4:39 PM ^

Injuries or not, we started the most freshman this year than we ever have in program history..  I was kind of shocked when i read that in one of the Wolverine Magazines.. and that was half way thru the season

BoWoody

January 7th, 2014 at 8:58 AM ^

lol, what gives you the impression that peppers will play next year.  Hoke will let him sit the bench like green to favor a less talented senior or junior.  Green getting one carry in the bowl that says a lot about the coaching staff. This coaching staff and their decision making leaves a lot to be desired.  From talent evaluation to pre-game strategies to in game adjustment to coaching staff loyalty.  I just dont see this program putting their best foot forward to return to an elite level.

borninAnnArbor

January 6th, 2014 at 2:46 PM ^

With Peppers in the secondary, I really hope Michigan's defense return to aggressive and spirited.

With Campbell, I still think there is a good chance he will still come to Michigan. I think he understood Hoke's no visit policy, and his uncle talked him into seeing more schools. Right now, being a huge Michigan fan but pretending I was a five star athlete, still a teenager, and had a full head of hair I would want to visit other schools too. SEC trips are famous. I am not insulating he is the prodigal son or has moral issues. I think his uncle was saying the equivalent of being sure you want to marry your high school sweetheart. I hope people on the blog are still nice to him on here because I think anyone that good who commits that early really likes that school. I still hope to see him in a Michigan uniform. Go blue.

MGoBlueChip

January 6th, 2014 at 2:56 PM ^

Regardless if the dude let Peppers go inside and the rule says you cannot block kicks or whatever, when is the last time you saw somebody from the edge jab step outside and still get there in time to block a pat/fg?  Amazing athletic ability.  Can't wait for him to get on campus.

His Dudeness

January 6th, 2014 at 3:09 PM ^

Shouldnt that say "Clemson swooped in on Scott early?"

Because if it were late it would be happening like right now... Clemson nabbed Scott pretty early given that Scott is still a senior in high school.

cigol

January 6th, 2014 at 3:58 PM ^

that the coaches actually use him as opposed to playing upper classmen due to "better technique" and "consistency."  The fact that Dymonte played so little on this crappy team with hardly a speck of offensive or defensive athleticism still chaps me.

Given that Fitz got 90% of the carries through week 8, I think these coaches have a stubborn ass element to them that will prevent Peppers from having a huge impact.

WolvinLA2

January 6th, 2014 at 5:25 PM ^

This is such a ridiculous line of thinking. Maybe Green and Thomas just weren't ready? Hoke played Lewis and Stribling in the secondary, so clearly he not opposed to the concept. Gedeon was playing over players his senior late in the season as did Taco.

Saying "Hoke doesn't like playing freshman because no freshman played" would make sense, if true. But "Hoke doesn't like playing freshmen because Green and Thomas didn't play as much as I think they should have" is a very uncompelling argument.

cigol

January 6th, 2014 at 6:13 PM ^

For not being able to hit a hole, break a tackle, or pick up a block?  I'm pretty confident that we'd be in a far better spot as a program and have a similar 2013 record had Green / Smith been out there all season.

My point isnt that Peppers won't be contributing by the end of the year.  My point is that given how many times these coaches will bang their heads against walls before realizing that the wall is winning, I have a hard time seeing them run Peppers out there right away.  They'll claim some sort of horse shit like "consistency" or "technique" and we won't see much of him outside of a formation rotation until the end of the season.

If you have great freshmen and shitty upper classmen that can't push around / burn Akron and UConn by their 3rd / 4th / 5th years in the program, then you should be playing your freshmen even if they are a little raw.  Given Hoke's unfathomable loyalty to his assistant coaches, it's obvious that he would have some loyalty to upper classmen as well. 

WolvinLA2

January 6th, 2014 at 7:18 PM ^

You realize that even really talented freshman sometimes aren't ready for significant PT right off the bat, right?  Derrick Green showed up to campus about a month before our first game, was somewhat (maybe more?) out of shape, likely knew very little of the playbook, and had never picked up a blitz from a college linebacker.  This is not rocket science, but it's not innate either, so it took some time for him to get it all down.  

Even you have to admit that Derrick Green looked a lot better toward the end of the year than he did in the first few games he carried the ball.  

Your argument has tons of holes, yet you don't try to dispute any of my points.  You just want to say things like "bang heads into walls."  If they were so busy banging their heads, how did Stribling and Lewis get in so early, despite upperclassman starters at their positions?  Hoke will play the young guy who are ready to play.  If that's Peppers, he'll play.  

True Blue Grit

January 6th, 2014 at 4:12 PM ^

I was really impressed with him at his Army game announcement.  He seems like a very bright, articulate young man who also said the right things.  Would have made a great Michigan Man, but I wish him the best of luck at UCLA.  

PAproudtoGoBlue

January 6th, 2014 at 5:57 PM ^

Is it too early to order a Peppers jersey? Hope he's as good as advertised, seems M might be getting the second coming of Mr. Woodson. If Leon Sandcastle thinks he's that good that's good enough for me.

Mgodiscgolfer

January 7th, 2014 at 11:14 AM ^

The next Woodson train. I have heard it many times over with past recruits and at first wondered if that could be true then came to my senses. Knowing that Woodsons don't come every year especially to the same school. I don't want to get into Woodsons ability or one of my long drawn out diatribes of the whats and wherefores. Just to say that UM won a MNC and he won the first primarily defensive player Hiesman while he played 3 years here, really says it all. Then I hear people calling Deon Sanders over (who wasn't a bad player in his day) to take a look, I have to wonder and watching this guys (Peppers) film, he can really get the wow! out of me. I just hope he stays healthy and knowing the coaches are smart enough to use him in the best possible ways, I am excited for the future and possibly at seeing the next Mr Woodson a REAL game changer. Go Blue!!!

UMichMSW07

January 7th, 2014 at 12:47 PM ^

Thought it was interesting to see a tweet on george campbells page last night. It was from his uncle who stated, "you will fall in love with the Noles tonight." seem like a very good kid and I wish him nothing but success, but he is not coming to michigan. Sounds like family want him close to home, which I don't blame.

UMichMSW07

January 8th, 2014 at 10:10 AM ^

I heard Sam Webb on WTKA say that, there might be some hesitation due to the fact that Al Borges is on the hot seat. Damiens coach goes back to Auburn with Borges. My opinion and my opinion only, I would rather see a more competent OC come in and do a better job with this offense, and take my chances with Harris down the road.