RB Situation Never Settled
Not long ago, Michigan was set on skipping out on recruiting running backs in the class of 2014. The staff had--keyword: had-- Damien Harris in the stables for 2015, to go along with plenty of talent on the roster between Green, Smith, Hayes and others. Early offers to Kalen Ballage and other running backs weren't being followed up on.
Then, within the past month, running back recruiting picked back up in the class of 2014. Michigan offered rising star Jeff Jones and three-star back Marlon Mack, giving the impression that the staff was determined to find an all-around running back for its 2014 class. Jones was very much interested, setting an official visit to Michigan as his last, and Mack reciprocated interest as well.
Things have changed again. Michigan has apparently ceased its recruitment of both Jeff Jones and Marlon Mack($):
Almost as quickly as the Wolverines jumped into the mix for Sarasota (Fla.) Booker RB, Marlon Mack they've jumped out of it. Our southern guys indicated to me last night that Michigan has already informed the youngster's family the new direction... one that very likely won't include a tailback in 2014.
So you do not want a running back? Final answer? Yes, final answer.
Sort of. Michigan might still pursue four-star athlete Kalen Ballage. Ballage is capable of playing everything from linebacker to running back, making him more valuable in the eyes of a staff that isn't in dire need of a back in this class. I don't see Michigan landing him.
Let's go back to the Damien Harris keyword: had. The five-star back was a shaky verbal weeks ago, and it turns out that the firing of Al Borges pushed him over the edge. Despite his decommitment, Michigan is still the favorite going forward($):
"He decommitted this weekend. Michigan is still his No. 1 choice; he just committed early," Clark said. "He is making sure that he made the right decision, and Michigan is still his top priority. He just wants to make sure it's right."
This sounds like a high school coach backtracking for his player; it doesn't boost my confidence in Nussmeier's ability to reel Harris back in. That said, Michigan's offense won't look radically different under Doug Nussmeier, and Harris liked Michigan more for Michigan than for Al Borges, so the possibility of him coming back on board is very real.
Class of 2015 running back recruiting won't end there. Four-star Cass Tech running back Mike Weber cooled on Michigan months ago when Harris was solid to Michigan and the Wolverines weren't desperate for junior running back prospects. That's quickly changing, largely because of Doug Nussmeier($):
"The way the offense is setup now and the offense I am in now -- is like the offense at Michigan," Weber said. "I talked with (Nessmeier) and they have a lot to offer. He really wants me and they are more interested in me now. I am really looking forward to (visiting).
"Like, real soon."
Real soon turned out to be ASAP; Weber was the only invited recruit on hand to see a red-hot Michigan team beat Iowa at the Crisler Center. Everything is working in favor of Michigan in the race for Weber: academics, offensive schemes, school tie-ins and more all favor the Wolverines.
And it doesn't end there. Our Eric Rutter dives even deeper into the class of 2015 running back situation and the other options Michigan may or may not pursue.
Michigan Offers Lucier-South, Among Others
Michigan was in California to see Keisean Lucier-South, offering the elite weak-side defensive end prospect a scholarship while they were in the area. He's an impressive looking defender:
Michigan was content playing their long position with top-rated end Jashon Cornell, selling him on the fact that he was the one and only offer at his position. That has since changed with offers going out to two other rush ends.
Lucier-South calls Michigan his dream school and may not be as excited about the offer as his mother was. Expect the Wolverines to remain in his top group until the very end; they're currently in a battle with UCLA and will definitely receive an official visit.
Other were also offered this week. Class of 2015 quarterbacks Blake Barnett and Jarrett Sitdham both received offers, as well as 2015 running back Johnny Frasier and 2016 TE Kaden Smith. Whether or not Michigan will become a major player for either QB remains to be seen--both prospects are elite and either committed or leaning elsewhere--but expect the Wolverines to contend for Frasier.
Coaches Flying All Over
Michigan's coaching staff has been hot on the recruiting trail ever since the latest dead period came to a close. They're travelling in wealthy fashion:
Everywhere we go!!!! GO BLUE! pic.twitter.com/OHYbJemWyv— Jeff Hecklinski (@JeffHecklinski) January 22, 2014
Yes, the University of Michigan allows its coaches to fly on a custom UM private jet to do their recruiting.
The staff has been all over the country, including stops in Ohio, California, Arizona, Illinois and many other states. Steve Lorenz of 247 Sports has a great list of prospects visited here($).
Five Questions For The Only Colors About UM-MSU
Chris Vannini of The Only Colors gives his insight on the UM-MSU game Saturday.
Names that jump out this week are Brian Cole, Ricky Town and Josh Rosen. Cole is still far from making his decision and is weighing offers from Michigan, MSU, OSU and Alabama; don't expect him to leave the state, as both UM and MSU are in good shape and have made him a top priority.
The visits to the two five-star signal callers are what really intrigue me. Town is currently committed to Alabama and obviously already has a relationship with new OC Doug Nussmeier, who would like to flip him if at all possible. I'm more impressed with Rosen than anyone else in this class; he's talking about travelling to see UM:
"I've seen plenty of Cal and Stanford," said Rosen -- a Bellflower, Calif. native -- to Rivals.com's Adam Gorney. "The school I'd actually travel to see is Michigan. I've seen Cal like four times now ... I pretty much know what's going on there.
"I want to check out Michigan, maybe Texas, I don't know. Michigan is one I definitely want to go to."
I still don't expect him to leave California when all is said and done, but this helps. The hiring of Doug Nussmeier has helped Michigan greatly at the QB spot thus far.
Come back throughout the week for much more on the staff's visits.
General Notes and Multimedia Items
I hesitated to put this in the section regarding Damien Harris because it was a distraction from the main takeaway, but here it is: don't ever freaking tweet recruits. Ever:
Just spoke with Damien Harris' coach, he had a message he was adamant that I tweet to Michigan fans.— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) January 21, 2014
"People need to back off of [Damien]. People are attacking him and the fans better ease up or they're going to push him away from Michigan."— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) January 21, 2014
Harris' coach said the only impact a fan can have on a prospect's recruitment is a negative one. Apparently Michigan fans have been nasty.— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) January 21, 2014
Have something positive and nice and awesome to say to a recruit? You're the 1,000,000th person with the same idea; he doesn't care. Want to tell him to go to hell because he broke your heart by decommitting? You're an ass, and he still doesn't care. I honestly don't care if you tweet a recruit something legitimately respectful, because you're still some guy on the internet reaching out to a teenage football prospect. Leave them alone.
Now that I'm done ranting about that--for the nth time during my time here at Maize n Brew--I can move on to another important piece of information:
ESPN 300 Malik McDowell, that's big for the Spartans RT @D1_LEEK I'm making a official visit to MSU this weekend.— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) January 22, 2014
That's huge for the Spartans, who are now in prime position for both McDowell and Alabi. Michigan's chances of landing McDowell have been on the decline for months now--they're rapidly approaching zero.