Tyree Kinnel Talks Friendship With Justin Hilliard, Solidity of Damien Harris' Commitment

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

With recruiting set to pick up in the class of 2015, both Michigan and commit Tyree Kinnel have zeroed in on five-star outside linebacker Justin Hilliard (St. Xavier/OH). Tyree also goes in-depth on what he is feeling regarding the state of five-star running back Damien Harris' commitment, and it doesn't look good for the maize and blue.

After his pre-season commitment to Michigan, Wayne (OH) safety Tyree Kinnel set a high standard for himself to live up to.  This was no problem for the standout, as Tyree helped lead his team to an 11-2 record and a top -20 team in the state of Ohio, checking in at 17 according to MaxPreps.com.  This is just the start for Kinnel, though, as he looks to become a more complete player before joining Michigan in the fall of 2015.

"I'm going to only get better," said Kinnel. "I'm going to improve my speed and my strength and help lead my team as a senior on the way to the Ohio state championships.  I accomplished a lot these last three season including conference titles.  I want to make first team All-State.  I've made everything else, so that's something I really want to make."

One aspect of Kinnel's high school career that is not typical with many of his classmates is the ability to come into the Wayne Varsity squad and start from day one.  Tyree joined a select few Wayne alums who started as freshman for their entire season, which speaks to Kinnel's very high ceiling.

One aspect of Kinnel's game that allowed him to see the field so early is his nose for the football.  Kinnel bounced around at different positions in the defensive backfield for Wayne, but saw most of his time at safety.  Kinnel is a powerful tackler, launching his body at ball carriers and laying crushing blows more often than not.  This tendency to finish his tackles forces a lot of fumbles, and Kinnel is an accomplished defender in coverage as well.  He grades out as a four-star, and this looks to be a fair assessment.

"Starting freshman year at my school is always pretty tough to do," said Kinnel.  "Anthony Freeman and Braxton Miller from Ohio State have done it along with Tre' Moore from Northern Illinois, but that's it."

Michigan was set out to stack its defensive backfield with the 2015 class and the Wolverines are off to a solid start with four-star safety Tyree Kinnel and  four-star cornerback Shaun Crawford in the fold.  The Ohio duo committed to Michigan just a day apart, with Crawford the first to drop on August 23.  Kinnel, however, issued his verbal commitment to Michigan the very next day, a decision that he felt very comfortable with.

"I always grew up liking Michigan and I always watched Michigan when i was growing up," said Kinnel.  "Another big part is that they were the first school to recruit me coming out of my freshman year.  Coach Smith recruited me and they were the first to get to me.  Then I built a relationship with coach Smith and the staff.  We've become a family and I have a real strong relationship with everyone now."

After committing to Michigan five months ago, Kinnel has seen the importance of togetherness first-hand at Michigan.  The Wolverines' 2014 class is one of the strongest groups in the nation, and this camaraderie is something Tyree would like to see in his class, although he presently has some doubts.

"It would be good to have a strong class," said Kinnel.  Right now we just have to keep everyone in the class.  Losing George was pretty big.  I hope we don't lose Damien too, but I think he might on the edge.  Once we build our class, we will start to become a family."

After the decommitment of five-star East Lake (FL) wide receiver George Campbell in December, losing the pledge of Damien Harris would be a crushing blow to the Wolverines.  It has been suggested that Harris is on such rocky waters at the moment due to his very close relationship to former Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges.  Without Borges in the fold, Damien may need some more time to think things over and reaffirm his commitment.

"I just know that, well basically everyone knows, that he's on the edge," said Kinnel.  "I think honestly he'll decommit pretty soon just based on conversations I had with him.  Hopefully we can keep him here at Michigan.  Even if he does go through something like George is, but hopefully we can get him back to 100% Michigan."

The quickest way to get Harris back on board would be with a visit from the coaches and this is exactly what Michigan has in store for the class of 2015's No. 1 running back.  Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is expected to drop into Berea, Kentcky to check in on Damien today as the Dead Period officially expires.

"It will be good to get our new coach to go see him and repair those relationships as well.  I think that was a great pick up."

If Harris were to decommit, this would be less of a surprise to Tyree than the George Campbell situation was.  Once the story of Campbell's decommitment broke, it quickly gained traction and also caught Tyree off guard.  Keeping his faith to building Michigan's 2015 class, Tyree let Campbell know that he is missed in Ann Arbor.

"I was surprised, you actually texted me the day it happened," said Kinnel.  "I didn't ask George what happened, but I did text him to say that we want him here, but he has to do what's best for him.  I had to let him know that we still want him here at Michigan."

In taking the leading role in recruiting for the class of 2015, Kinnel has had a good amount of time to perfect his sales pitch to other recruits.  With his loyalty to the program, it's an easy conversation to have for Tyree.

"I let other kids know that we're doing special things up at Michigan," said Kinnel.  "Coming off a bad year, it's kind of hard to tell them what we're going to do, but coach Hoke has it together and I believe in this coaching staff.  The kids that are coming up will be able to do something special.  Michigan will be the place to be in a couple years."

Kinnel is selective in who he chooses to recruit for the maize and blue, but his choices all make sense and are current Michigan targets.  After a busy week fit with new offers for the class of 2015, Tyree has his hands full at the moment.

"I've been talking to Justin Hilliard a lot," said Kinnel.  "I've reached out to both of our two new 2015 offers last week and have talked to them.  I talked to Jalen Dalton already.  It was short, but I was congratulating him on the offer.  I told him to come up here and get out to visit where he can see how it is.  I reached out to Minkah Fitzpatrick too.  It was my first time hearing from him, but I reached out to him. That would be good if he could come on board."

Five-star St. Xavier (OH) outside linebacker Justin Hilliard, a confirmed target of both Mifchigan and Tyree, is one player that Kinnel has zeroed in on.  Hilliard is the staff's top target at the linebacker position, and he will continue to receive the full court press going forward.

"Yeah, I talk to Tyree a good amount," said Hilliard.  "I talk to him and Crawford the most out of anyone."

This is an impressive statement, as Hilliard as begun to hear from commits of the various schools pursuing his talents.  Hilliard spoke in general terms regarding his future schools, but he laid out exactly what he is looking for in his future college.

"I'm looking for a bunch of things from all the different schools," said Hilliard.  "I want to be comfortable on the campus if I'm going to be there for the next four years, but also the education plays a big role in my decision as well.  I want to do something in the line of Sports Management or Business.  Something like that."

This bodes well for Michigan, as the Wolverines have had Hilliard on campus four times this season, giving him ample time to take in the campus that he may be spending his time at in the future.

"I like the campus and being on the campus is a big thing for me," said Hilliard.  " know there are very young kids on the team, so they are definitely up and coming.  Coach Smith, the middle linebacker coach, has been talking to me.  So far he seems like a really good guy.  I've been to practices and I've been to games and he definitely took time out of his coaches to talk to me as well."

As far as Justin's relationship with the position coach, such as Mark Smith, it's not a huge buy-in for him, but he is fond of how Smith has interacted with him thus far.

"I don't look too much at the position coaches because you never know about the job security, but when I do look at it I look at how they coach the position and interact with the players," said Hilliard.  "They're really good recruiters that spend a lot of time with the players.  Some coaches are like recruiters, but it's always nice when they take time out of what they're doing to interact with you."

With the dead period ending on Thursday, Hilliard is a good candidate to receive a visit from Michigan.  This date is not set in stone, but expect it to come as coach Smith is able to make the trip.

"I think they're visiting me," said Hilliard.  "I haven't talked to them about it yet, but I think they are going to visit me here soon."

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