We're this close to the kickoff of another Michigan football season. Let's celebrate with some recruiting news, and maybe a little something else, too.
Michigan Full at Defensive Back
The Michigan football staff has been recruiting prospects like Montae Nicholson, Parrker Westphal and John "Juju" Smith for quite some time now. The Wolverines were thought to be the leaders or in the leading group for all three defensive backs, but it now looks like the staff won't take another corner or safety. The late decision to offer yet another linebacker could cost Michigan a chance at an elite safety prospect, which was one of the few real needs left in the class.
There could be an exception for John Smith, who is being recruited as an "athlete" and still plans on visiting:
2014 ATH JuJu Smith (Long Beach, Cali.) told me last night he did speak with Michigan yesterday and is visiting for OSU game.— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) August 28, 2013
I don't see Michigan landing Smith, regardless of what position they're recruiting him at. The only other position Smith could play is wide receiver, and the roster isn't in need of another pass catcher. I don't know why slapping the "athlete" label on Smith means he can still be recruited when he's destined to play the same position as Nicholson. It's a real head scratcher, this one.
Don't expect Michigan to drop Nicholson and Westphal altogether. Michigan will certainly drop on both players' list, and it wouldn't surprise me if the prospects make individual decisions to cut ties with Michigan, but the possibility of a spot opening up for them still remains. I'm beginning to feel like the first open slot will result in the staff reaching out to a safety who was previously offered but has since dropped off of the board, although the class of 2015 could prevent Michigan from recruiting the position for good.
Damien Harris Given Five Stars
Class of 2015 running back commitment Damien Harris has been given a five-star rating by Rivals, which has yet to release full rankings for the upcoming recruiting cycle; Rivals is typically one of the last to the party. Someone at Rivals gives us an awkward breakdown of Harris' game:
And more from Mike Farrel:
Why He's a Five-Star: "In a year loaded with top-end running backs, Harris stands out because he has the size and burst above the rest right now. He sees the hole, hits the hole and can be gone in a flash despite being a big back. He's also very quick cutting and has start-stop ability, but what I like the best is his finish. He won't go down easily. It's odd because the last two years we've had many five-star running backs but 2015 is much, much deeper overall. That being said, Harris could be one of only a couple who end up as five-stars, and that makes him special. Big backs with a little wiggle and excellent speed are hard to find, and ones who like to deliver punishment and work hard are even rarer." -- Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst, Rivals.com
Harris isn't a lateral back, but his speed and build–5'11", 205 pounds, 4.5s forty-yard dash–will keep him in the top fifty players of the country until his cycle concludes. Maybe I'm all too used to prospects being degraded once they commit to Michigan, but I wouldn't expect Harris to be a consensus five-star player when all is said and done.
Jabrill Peppers Still Insanely Talented
Some players should be kept out of high school games for safety purposes. I played for a high school that consistently churns out division II running backs; teammates were constantly shuffling their position in line during tackling drills in an attempt to match up with someone who wouldn't run them into the ground. I can only imagine what these kids do when their coach tells them to meet Jabrill Peppers head on in form drills. He does things like this on a regular basis:
These young men are out here throwing themselves at an athlete who looks like the Greek God of Muscle. They can try to bring him down, but it just isn't happening.
Peppers was the top overall play in SportsCenter's daily top ten. So yea, it was a pretty okay run.
General Notes and Multimedia Items
Five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand will see Michigan against Notre Dame, Florida against Arkansas and Alabama against LSU. Some are trying to give Alabama an edge for taking his final visit, but the fact that Hand had his date set with Michigan long before the other two should negate that thought.
The UTL game isn't only attracting elite football talent like Hand:
I'm hearing 3 five star caliber bball prospects are visiting Michigan for UTL II, could they land all three? (VIP) http://t.co/dilwcXjRYb— Mark Zakrajsek (@Mgobluegr) August 28, 2013
Even John Beilein is taking advantage of the UTL spectacle.
Scout's Sam Webb had the interesting opportunity to speak to John Wangler about his son, Jared Wangler, and his abilities on the field:
Webb also covers Michigan's recent commitments and recruiting efforts.
Class of 2015 Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone had a decent outing in his most recent scrimmage:
Michigan has more talented passers on its board, but Malzone is still a name to keep in mind.