With 10 commits selected to a post-season all-star game, Michigan was well represented in various senior exhibitions this year. Michigan's highly-touted 2014 class sent commits to the Under Amrour All-American, Army All-American and O-D Bowl, which is another barometer to judge the relative strength of a recruiting class. Michigan checks out in that regard after strong performances by almost every commit.
Two Wolverines who surely caused their stock to rise are Chase Winovich and Lawrence Marshall, the two Michigan pledges for the O-D Bowl. After committing to Michigan on May 11, Marshall was the ninth prospect to join the Wolverines' 2014 class at the time. Not even three weeks later, Winovich joined Marshall as the 12th member of Team 135 on June 1. This was clearly a very lucrative recruiting period for Michigan.
During the 2013 season, Winovich impressed with his incredible versatility, agility and overall play-making ability. Chase played quarterback, outside linebacker and even led Thomas Jefferson on special teams. On defense, Chase poached on running backs around the line of scrimmage and exploded off the edge to disrupt quarterbacks time at time again, and is also leading Thomas Jefferson to a strong season on the hardwood as well.
"We have a couple big games coming up so I'm preparing for that," said Winovich. "We lost to a conference rival that I think we should have beaten. I think we'll get them next time around. We're 9-2 right now. It's championship or bust- that's always the goal."
Winovich enjoyed his time down in Orlando, Florida, to participate in the Offense-Defense Bowl against some of the top talent from across the country. This event served a few different purposes for Winovich.
"Had a great time there," said Winovich. "I had the chance to meet a lot of big time players and a lot of great guys. It was an awesome opportunity. I represented Michigan, my family and my school the best I could. You can't find this competitiveness anywhere else other than all-star games. Everyone in the game was going to a big time BCS program, so it was a good competition with good battles."
This exhibition game was more than likely the first chance for Marshall and Winovich to play against another team built entirely of college-bound seniors, and ones that have proven themselves as the elite as their position no less. This surely served as a previews for their first practices in Ann Arbor, and Marshall is pleased with how he fared as well.
"Competing against all division one talent, I did very well," said Marshall. "It was all business when we got down there. We went to our rooms, then got with our teams. I think my performance went great and I think I did everything perfectly fine. I played hard, had fun and met new people."
Also in his first match-up against other top talent, Winovich excelled and rose to the occasion in the O-D Bowl. Winovich finished the game with five tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. This game also gave him the opportunity to preview a need that he will be asked to fill at Michigan in 2014.
"I think I played really well," said Winovich. "They had me in a different role. I didn't do much coming off the edge and I was in coverage a lot. I feel like I was a bit restricted in my game. It was a great opportunity to play SAM backer, and athletically, I think I was as athletic as the slot receivers I was going up against. Because it was the SAM, I would be asked to drop back in coverage. I always put myself in a position to make a play, but my teammates did a great job on eliminating garbage yards as well. Michigan wants me at SAM backer, but I'll play any position that can get me on the field. If I have to be a running back, that's what I'll do. They have me as the SAM backer for now though."
Because of their close proximity throughout the week, Marshall had the chance to strengthen his bond to a future teammate in Winovich.
"Yeah, we were roommates," said Marshall. "I got the chance to know the type of player and the type of roommate better as well."
Chase also felt like he grew closer to Marshall and, as the social guy that he is, thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet other top prospects from across the country.
"We got the chance to know each other a little better," said Winovich. " I met a lot of people, but I roomed with him so obviously we spent a lot of time together. It was a positive experience and we are excited- no, ecstatic to play on the same team and by smashing Buckeyes."
With less than a month until he will official sign on as a future member of the Michigan Wolverines, Marshall is beginning to feel surreal about the entire experience thus far. He reflected on where his desire to play for the Wolverines first began.
"It's crazy," said Marshall. "Signing Day is a month away and everything I have been thinking about as a kid is going to come to reality. I'm just amazed."
As Marshall said, there is four weeks and counting until Michigan's 2014 recruiting class will be locked up and official with National Signing Day on February 5. After a dominant performance in the Under-Armour All-American Bowl game, Minnesota commit Jeff Jones made waves with 37 rushing yards and 35 receiving yards, including a touchdown catch. This showing, which earned Jones MVP honors, also netted the the 5'11" / 196 lb. running back an offer from the Wolverines, a school that he has visited in the past. Winovich touched on Michigan's chances on closing their class with a Minnesota flip.
"I talked to Jabrill and he said he was with Jeff Jones the whole week," said Winovich. "He said they were really good buddies and really have a connection. So I think that will be really helpful in getting Jeff Jones to come to our school. With our style of offense, everything is coming together and I think the coaches are confident they can take him from Minnesota as well. Obviously Jabrill is a great recruiter. I hope it pays off and he can really help our team. We are really planning on running the ball and that's one position you can't have too much depth at."
Jones is slated to visit Michigan officially on January 31. This will be his last chance to take in a recruiting pitch before making his future collegiate decision. Another player that is in Michigan's cross hairs, but won't be taking a last trip to Michigan, is Southfielfd strong-side defensive end Malik McDowell. Few people know McDowell better than his Southfield teammate Lawrence Marshall, and he weighed in on where McDowell may be headed.
"I really don't know what he's thinking about, but I think he's still choosing Michigan right now," said Marshall. "It will be a big surprise when he comes out with his decision. It's a mystery with him."
It is clear why McDowell, a four-star prospect who is the top player in Michigan for 2014, is a top target for the Wolverines. Marshall raved about how easy it was to play with McDowell this year.
"It was great playing next to Malik," said Marshall. "He clogged up the lanes so they had to bounce it out to me. Or other times I would stop it outside and they'd cut inside. But Malik always ate that up as a run stopper. We had a great defensive line that was stacked. We stopped the football before it got to the linebackers."
As the hourglass on his journey to playing at Michigan is ticking, Marshall is confident that he can have an impact on the Wolverines defensive line from the jump.
"I will make a play from sideline to sideline," said Marshall. "I have a great motor. I'm a good pass rusher that will only get better in that regard. I will definitely improve that part of the defense. I plan to start my journey at Michigan and compete in order to earn a starting role on the defensive line."