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Thursday Morning Brews: Combine Bound

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Fourteen players head to the NFL Combine, 2019 Football recruiting is starting to heat up, and Gymnastics is having another strong year

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Thursday, folks, and welcome to this morning’s Brews. Today we have more NFL analyst commentary on Jabrill Peppers as the Combine gets started tomorrow, basketball power rankings heading into the final week of the regular season, and a little bit of recruiting news. So grab some coffee, sit back, and relax because the weekend is almost here.

Let’s hit the links:

The NFL Combine opens tomorrow and many eyes will be on Michigan standout Jabrill Peppers. As reported in last week’s Brews, many NFL scouts are unsure what to make of Peppers - with his athletic prowess being offset by his relative lack of extensive experience at any one position. Nick Baumgardner of MLive reports that Peppers is listed as a linebacker in NFL Combine materials. He further reports that NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock thinks that despite this listing, Peppers projects best as a safety in the NFL. In order to help his draft stock, Mayock says Peppers needs to show top-end speed (on the order of a sub-4.5 40 time) and exhibit good technique in coverage drills. You can watch Peppers and the other 13 former Michigan players Friday through Monday on NFL Network or through a livestream on NFL.com.

As you’re all aware, Michigan has undertaken some significant building and expansion projects in recent years. The Big House revitalization, the Al Glick Field house, and various remodeling efforts in existing athletics buildings, to just name a few. These efforts have contributed to a growing debt pile for the athletic department, now totaling over $240 million according to Crain’s. To put this debt figure in context, Crain’s also reports that the 2016-17 athletic department budget was $161 million. Of course, this isn’t to say that there is cause for immediate concern. After all, it’s not as if all of the debt is due at once. Crain’s reports that the portion of the annual budget dedicated to servicing the athletic department’s debt stands at roughly 10%. However, with additional expenditures expected in coming years, and with deteriorating cable subscription numbers beginning to impact sports behemoths like ESPN, the athletic department’s debt level is something to keep an eye on for the future.

The B1G Conference schedule has been rather...interesting this year, and not just for Michigan basketball. Brendan Quinn of MLive points out that there is still the possibility of a four-way tie for the regular season title. Such a tie, were it to occur, would consist of Purdue, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Maryland or Michigan State. It’s perhaps fitting that all of those teams, with the exception of Michigan State, are projected 4-7 seeds in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology installment. There simply isn’t that much room between them, and this underscores the B1G’s status as a good-not-great conference this year - which is also generally true of college basketball as a whole. Michigan could end up anywhere from third to ninth in the final conference standings depending on how these last two games go - so if you’re going to the B1G Tournament next week, maybe don’t buy those session-specific tickets just yet. Despite the uncertainty, Quinn does his best to produce a B1G power ranking - and slots Michigan in the fourth spot.

Women’s gymnastics is having another characteristically strong season. The 21-time conference champions currently hold an 8-2 team record and are ranked first in the B1G and North East Region. This past weekend, the team bested Southern Utah by a score of 197.825 to 196.600. Michigan’s performance was good enough to tie their second-highest score ever. The school record of 197.850 was set during the 2000 B1G Championships. Senior day is this coming Saturday, when the Wolverines will take on Oklahoma at the Crisler Center. Men’s gymnastics is also having a strong season, and is currently ranked 11th nationally.

2019 CB prospect Moses Douglass is seeing his stock rise. Scout Ohio Recruiting Analyst Bill Greene is high on Douglass, calling him one of the best sophomores in the state known for producing college talent. The 6’0” 170lbs recruit suffered from injuries that shortened his sophomore campaign, but Greene reports that he’s back in the weight room and looking strong. Greene also is reporting that Douglass identified Michigan, Kentucky, and Iowa as his current leaders. Douglass’s father, and current head coach, played for Kentucky.

Another 2019 prospect was recently on campus, and Scout’s Corey Bender is reporting($) that Michigan knocked it out of the park. Anthony Solomon, the 4* Florida prospect, is also drawing the attention of other top-flight college programs like Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State according to 247 Sports. However, despite this interest, Solomon was ready to declare Michigan his leader following his recent visit. Of course it’s a long way until National Signing Day 2019, but Solomon figures to be a significant addition to whichever recruiting class he ends up joining.

Folks, I know I’ve been harping on the Coaches 4 Charity Challenge a lot recently but it’s a great cause, so I’m going to keep doing it. The final round of voting has begun, and John Beilein has taken a small, but definite, lead over Purdue’s Matt Painter. This doesn’t mean you should get complacent, though. This round determines whether the ChadTough Foundation will receive $15,000 or $100,000. It’s a lot of money either way, but your vote can make that $85,000 difference - and perhaps help save the life of a child like Chad Carr. All you have to do is click on the link in the tweet above and click “Vote” under John Beilein’s photo. You can do so once per day. The challenge runs through the afternoon of March 11th. Go Blue.