A Successful Time At The Opening
The Opening was a chance for Michigan commits and targets to show what they can do against other top players, but it was also a chance to get to know each other off the field. On both counts, it was a successful week.
One of the players who participated in The Opening Finals was O’Maury Samuels, who was one of many on Team Hypercool. He had this to say to Scout.
“It’s awesome man, the competition is great. It was good to bond with the top guys in the nation... and get to know them better. Before you go off to college and hangout with them the next four years, it’s huge. That bond is great.”
Samuels got some recruiting in, of course.
“Yes,” he said. “Drew Singleton, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, guys like that, they’re so good, we just need to get them on the team.”
"That's a cool laid back kind of dude,” Collins said of McCaffrey. “We talk about anything. We have fun together. On the field it's all about business. We are out here getting each other better."
Collins is still planning a Signing Day decision, and wants to see the campuses at Clemson and Florida State. But his top three is currently Michigan, Alabama, and Georgia, with the Wolverines leading.
Meanwhile, hidden gem turned Opening superstar Benjamin St-Juste spoke to Rivals this week, and the Montreal native said he’ll be heading to Virginia Tech at some point. Still, the allure of the university that stood by him from very early on could be strong.
"It's an awesome feeling seeing that all my hard work and grinding has paid off," St-Juste said. "I always knew I had the talent to play in the NCAA, but I had to prove everybody wrong."
"I never had the chance to see what other colleges had to offer. I've been hearing from Virginia Tech and I just want to see if they can offer me more than Michigan," he said. "I might go visit, but I need to see if I like the coaches."
Warning: there is some language in the video above.
Leaves In The Wind
Here are a few notes that might turn out to be something, and might not be. First, Michigan’s staff has started talking to elite 2017 linebacker Antjuan Simmons, an Ohio State commit who currently resides in Ann Arbor. Rivals’ Brandon Justice ($):
According to Simmons, Michigan's staff is back in contact with him after 'not talking to any of them for a minute,' so it has been a while.
As far as how the conversations go, he said they're 'like no conversation I have had with them before.'
He said they're pretty casual and 'cool' conversations. They have not asked him to visit or decommit from Ohio State, he said they're 'just talking to me, it's cool.'
Michigan did not make Simmons’ top 11 which he released in January. Speaking to Maize ‘n’ Brew, he said the reason was simple: "I didn't have a good enough relationship with the staff yet," he said. "They're still in the hunt if they try." It’s possible the staff is starting to do just that.
Another note on Simmons: he is a terrific blend of the athleticism you’d want to see in an outside linebacker (which is where he’s listed on 247Sports, and probably where he’d fit into the Michigan class) and the physical, violent style of an inside enforcer. It’s worth noting that Simmons is a composite four-star, but only a three-star according to 247Sports’ own rankings. But I believe he is much better than that.
Switching to 2018 for a quick second, there could be a very interesting recruitment brewing with Stephon Wynn, a four-star strongside defensive end out of South Carolina. Wynn is the son of a Clemson tight end from the ‘90s, and he called his Clemson “a dream come true.” Unsurprisingly, Clemson leads his Crystal Balls in the early going.
But Wynn has also insisted he plans on looking around pretty thoroughly, and he is even seriously considering Clemson’s bitter rival South Carolina. About Michigan, he had plenty to say to Rivals’ Brandon Brown ($).
"(Jay Harbaugh) came through the school and watched me work out. I didn’t even know he was there until afterward. He was there really early and then dipped out," Wynn explained. "I’ve had a little bit of contact with him but that’s it. So far my contact has been pretty limited."
The limited contact hasn't kept Wynn from learning about the university and program. As a solid student, Michigan's academic prowess appeals to Wynn and has him interested in seeing everything firsthand.
"I know that Michigan is one of the best schools in the country," he said. "It’s a legendary school and I can’t wait to hopefully get up there one day and take a visit.”
Wynn is listed as one of the top five strongside defensive ends in the 2018 class, and he might end up turning into a three-technique defensive tackle before all is said and done. He’s a phenomenal player, as evidenced by offers from more than half the SEC, Clemson, Penn State, Virginia Tech and Louisville.
Finally, perhaps the least likely person to commit in this section: 2017 five-star running back Stephen Carr, out of Fontana, California. Carr is a verbal commit to USC, but Michigan is in his ear and he had a good experience at Michigan’s spring game ($).
"Michigan is a run-heavy offense. Me and Coach Wheatley talk all the time and he tells me that I’d be a perfect fit though," Carr explained. "He said I’d be the great, all-purpose back that could fit right now. They have three running back commits and I’d be different from them. He says I can work down field, work down the middle, and go out in routes. I think I could do that for them."
"(Ann Arbor) was beautiful," he continued. "The way they host everything, I loved it. It was so organized and just felt good. It’s a great facility. The coaches are great and I loved the way they treated me up there. It’s real nice.
"It is cold up there, that’s for sure, so heading there from Cali that’ll be a big climate change. It’s nothing you can’t get used to. In the NFL you’d be playing in all types of weather so you might as well adjust now."
LaMarr Woodley Talks Michigan Recruiting
Rivals had a really good piece ($) this week about LaMarr Woodley, one of the best Wolverines from the 2000’s and, at age 31, currently an NFL free agent. Woodley talked about his connection to the university, the hectic nature of the modern recruiting cycle, and Michigan joining the Jordan brand. Here’s a brief excerpt.
Woodley came down to Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, and USC. He obviously chose the Maize and Blue and went on to become an All-American and a second-round NFL draft pick. Before he committed to the Wolverines he went through the process just like players do today.
"I always said when I was younger that I wanted to go somewhere warm and play," Woodley said with a laugh. "Michigan State was actually the first school to recruit me and then Michigan started recruiting me after that.
"It was a toss up in the beginning because you have to understand from where I’m from, at Saginaw High, we had about four guys on the team at Michigan State at the time. These were guys that I had personal relationships with. They were definitely pushing for me to come there. There was only one guy at Michigan in Roy Manning but overall, I knew the best decision for me was to go to Michigan."
Isaiah Wilson Interview
Meanwhile, five-star Isaiah Wilson gave a good interview ($) of his own, and while nothing major has changed with his recruitment, he elaborated on some of his thoughts about the whole process.
"I hear from Michigan pretty much every day," he said. "They're really good about not bombarding me. They'll back off and let me have my space if they know I have a busy day or school work, etc." ...
"I honestly, and I mean this with no cockiness, think I am the top in my class at playing in a pro-style offense," he said. "At Michigan, it's very similar to what they run at my school, so it wouldn't be much of a transition - just a little more bulk.
"Basically, Michigan talks up their academics that would prepare me for the real world," he said. "And it's a pretty good pitch, to be honest."
Wilson also said he is trying to make it to the BBQ this August.
Other News & Notes: Déjà Vu
Crystal Balls have been coming in for wide receiver Oliver Martin to commit to Michigan; Martin burst onto the scene at The Opening and gelled very well with Michigan’s commits. Martin also makes this fun list of 2017 recruiting battles between Michigan and Sparty.
Rivals has a thorough breakdown ($) of where Michigan stands with recruits in the state of Texas. Quick update on Kenedy Snell: the formerly unranked receiver from Waxahachie is now a composite three-star and seems to be trending to TCU. He has offers from ten programs now, including Wisconsin and Illinois.
We’ve already talked about four-star receiver/safety Markquese Bell and his comfort level leaving the state of New Jersey, but here was a good quote ($) to that effect from Scout:
"(Being away from home) is not hard… not hard at all. I've been waiting to get away from home a little, trying to get away for a little bit."
"(Visiting Ann Arbor) was a great experience,” he added. “It was the first big school I'd been to and I'd stayed more than one day at. So that really helped a lot. To be there with a lot of Jersey recruits and Jersey commits, it opened my eyes. I feel like I can relate to a lot of guys that are on campus."
We’ve also talked already about five-star Ohio State commit Shaun Wade trying to make it up to Ann Arbor for the BBQ - nothing definitive there yet - but here was a good quote ($) to add as an addendum.
“I liked them as a kid,” he said of Michigan. “They’ve been a great program. I’ve been talking to the coaches and stuff. So they’ve been recruiting me hard. They came down there for a satellite camp, and I sat down with Coach Harbaugh. He really likes me.”
Finally, three-star defensive lineman James Hudson confirmed to 247Sports ($): "Right now, Michigan State and Michigan has (separated) from the pack"; nothing too surprising there. He added that Kentucky has been trying hard to win back his commitment.