Top Lists For Kenneth Murray, Hunter Echols
A couple of notable tidbits from this weekend: Michigan made the top six for three-star linebacker Kenneth Murray (Missouri City, TX), and the top 11 for four-star defensive end Hunter Echols (Los Angeles, CA). Michigan isn’t the favorite in either of these races, but they have a respectable shot with Murray, and a pretty good shot with Echols.
Murray is an outside linebacker prospect, a position where Michigan is also pursuing Baron Browning, Drew Singleton, and Jordan Anthony. Linebacker is one of the big remaining needs in this class, and while there might be another commitment at inside linebacker (more on that below), OLB is more important right now.
Kenneth Murray is probably the least position-flexible of those four players I mentioned; he’s good as a pass rusher and for getting his nose into whatever run blocking schemes he’s trying to disrupt, but he lacks the physicality of Singleton and Anthony, and the size of Anthony and Browning. So, if Michigan didn’t land a commitment here, they’d still be in good shape overall.
As for Hunter Echols, Notre Dame leads ($) for the dynamic and powerful defensive end, who decommitted from UCLA this weekend but said he still really likes the Bruins. Michigan and Nebraska are also in the hunt.
“I just felt like I had to open it back up and (evaluate) other options... I like other schools. I didn’t want to do UCLA like that and make it seem like I’m going to go there, and then come Signing Day I sign with another school. So I just had to open it up to respect them and to also be honest with myself.”
There are already a few d-line players committed to Michigan, but Echols is deservedly ranked one of the top 100 players in the country.
Michigan Battling LSU For 2018 Commit
When 2017 DT Aubrey Solomon and 2018 S/OLB Otis Reese committed to Michigan on June 18th, the attention understandably went to Solomon, who was a surprise commitment and the second elite defensive tackle to commit to the Wolverines in a period of five months (after Rashan Gary on Signing Day).
However, Otis Reese is no slouch himself, and one team that seems to be noticing is LSU, which hosted Reese at a camp this weekend and is now in close second for the potential heir to Jabrill Peppers.
"Those guys (at LSU) are at a whole other level," Reese said to 247Sports ($). "They have some good people there (at LSU)."
Reese, who remains committed to Michigan, also said he is hoping for offers from Georgia and Florida State. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about here, however. The things that propelled LSU into this race with Michigan - Reese spoke about good communication with LSU’s coaches, good people in the program and good coaching - are also Michigan’s strengths. The Wolverines may be in a dog fight for one of the top prospects of 2018, understandably, but they have a lot of advantages as they try to fend off LSU and others. Solomon being committed to Michigan also helps.
Interest Peaking For McDonald’s
No, that wasn’t a product placement. Rather, the McDonald brothers, out of Long Beach, California, made it all the way over to Michigan this week and took in the sights. They came away impressed ($).
“It went great,” said older brother Nolan. “We got to see the campus and they showed us the museum, the weight room, training office and indoor facilities. We then went to the game field and (Camren and I) took some pictures .... My favorite part was visiting the indoor facilities. They're by far the nicest I've seen.”
Nolan is a 2017 athlete/quarterback, and is unranked on Rivals and 247 and a three-star on Scout. His younger brother Camren, a 2018 tight end/receiver, is a composite four-star. Camren echoed what Nolan had to say.
“It was an amazing visit,” he said to The Michigan Insider ($). “The best facilities I've seen so far. I got a tour of the whole facility and got to talk with the coaches. We talked about how they use the tight ends in their offense, their strength and conditioning program, ideal freshman weight and some other things.”
“They're very versatile in the offense,” he added. “They have a package with 4 tight ends on the field at once. They throw to them a lot as well. Absolutely, it's appealing. I have a similar build and skill set to Devin Funchess, so I can see them using me like they used him.”
Neither Nolan nor Camren currently has an offer from Michigan, but Camren said he feels one is upcoming. It’s not clear if Nolan will get an offer, but if he does, Michigan will be in great shape with both players.
“It'd mean a lot, especially coming from such a prestigious school,” Nolan said. “It'd be the first offer me and my brother both share... and we have family close to the campus, so it'd be a great fit. They are in Dearborn, and yes, a couple of them are (Michigan) fans.”
Let’s Talk Aaron Banks
While not as ridiculous as a top 34 or a top 82 would be, it’s ordinarily not too note-worthy that Michigan made a top-16 list for someone - in this case Aaron Banks, a four-star offensive tackle of El Cerrito, California.
However, Banks is a dark horse who’s worth mentioning after a number of discussions about Michigan’s offensive line recruiting. Banks has taken (and is taking) his dear old time deciding where to go, but the guy can definitely move when he’s on the football field, and he’s the type of player I think Michigan really wanted in this cycle (similar to Isaiah Wilson and Tedarrell Slaton, two players that Harbaugh still might land). At 6’7”, 344 pounds, he’s an early-impact guy who resembles Michael Onwenu in a lot of ways.
If Michigan feels like they have a good chance with him, they might start a full-court press sometime down the road. Banks had this to say about Michigan’s coaching staff in June.
"I talk to (Michigan) often," he said. "Almost every day, Coach Jay or Coach Drevno... (Drevno is) really down to earth and he knows what he's talking about. He has the best interest of his players, off the field as well as on the field. How many players (an OL coach) puts into the league matters but it’s not the most important thing.”
Busy Schedule For Oliver Martin
Another BBQ attendee is the top recruit in the state of Iowa, wide receiver Oliver Martin. Martin, who comes in at a little more than 6’0”, 185, is also planning visits ($) to East Lansing at the end of July and Notre Dame on August 2nd. Wisconsin is potentially on the docket as well.
Update On Anthony Payne
I haven’t paid a lot of attention in these columns to Anthony Payne, who was a hidden gem that Michigan uncovered in June. At 6’3”, 250 pounds, Payne is already bigger than some defensive linemen, but Michigan is currently recruiting him at linebacker (presumably MIKE). Payne will be attending Michigan’s BBQ on August 6th, and they seem like a favorite unless Nebraska or someone else comes through with an offer ($).
It’s also worth noting that Payne has almost identical measurables to current Michigan commit Ben Mason, who’s 6’2.5” and 247. Both play a similar game; they have great mobility for someone their size, they’re perfect for playing against the run but they’re not a liability against the pass.
Also, here is a pretty awesome video of Anthony squatting 635 pounds.
These names haven’t been covered too much, but happy trails to Ovie Oghoufo, the 2018 linebacker and cousin of Mario Ojemudia who committed this week to Notre Dame. Also, Jonathan Sutherland, who was mentioned last week when Michigan made his top five, committed on Sunday to Penn State.