Friday, January 10, 2014

New Year, New Changes at The M Block

Hey guys,

I think it's time we have a State of the Blog type address around here.  For the past few months, I've done my best to take over for Brandon and to provide you guys with the best content I could regarding Michigan recruiting.  This turned into far more than I had initially expected when I joined The M Block team back in April-ish, and I have loved every second of it.  

Writing for The M Block has allowed for me to explore areas of Michigan's recruiting that I had never delved into.  I've built relationships with so many great young men that all have very bright futures, and with coaches and administrators that do their best to provide for these kids.  Recently, I've been in close contact with Justin Cessante and John Vickers at HYPE, and that has been a great opportunity to more-closely monitor the Michigan camp circuit.  

I've taken a laissez-fair approach at The M Block, covering anything from football news, to basketball recruiting and even hockey updates.  This freedom, as well as the ability to work with my good friends Austin, Dan, Tyler and Chris has been extremely enjoyable from every aspect.  The old adage goes, "When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life."  This couldn't be any more true than in this situation.

Unfortunately, this is a turbulent time at The M Block and there will be some changes moving forward.  Each of us all have our own unique aspirations, and while The M Block has been an exciting part of our lives, understand that other aspects of life take presidence.  Take Chris for example.  In December, Chris became engaged to his long-time girlfriend (By the way, congratulations, Chris!) and will be obligated to focus on that moving forward.  As such, he will no longer be able to provide the basketball columns that we all thoroughly enjoyed.  Best of luck to Chris moving forward.

The next change at The M Block comes from my camp.  Much like Brandon, I have been angling for future opportunities in the journalism world with The M Block.  Brandon had the great fortune to move on to a great situation at MGoBlog, and we wish him all the best.  It looks like that transition has been solid.  From my perspective, I have had several opportunities open up as of recently, and I would be remisced if I did not explore them.  I have a feeling that my dream job is just around the corner...

In the meantime, I will be moving to Maize n Brew where I will cover Michigan recruiting exclusively.  I absolutely love The M Block and poured my heart into keeping everything running smoothly after Brandon's departure, but a multitude of reasons instigated this transition.  I hope I can count on a few loyal readers to carry over their viewership to Maize N Brew in the coming weeks and months.

With Chris and myself out of the picture, The M Block will be a bit different moving forward.  Austin, Dan and Tyler will remain and look to stay on the recruiting beat moving forward.  Austin and Dan are both full-time students, while Ausitn and Tyler both work full time, so give them some leeway at first.  Transition is hard on everyone, and it may take some time to adjust.  However, I am confident that The M Block will continue in my absence and can build on the great things that we have accomplished thus far.  

I will obviously continue to frequent the site and I may pop in here and there in The Locker Room.  This place is addicting, and I can't imagine myself staying away- at least from a reader's standpoint.  I want to thank everyone that has had kind words about my time here and I only ask that you continue to frequent the blog, but don't feel afraid to check out MnB if you don't already.  

As always, Go Blue!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Michigan Offers 2016 OL Thiyo Lukusa

Position: Offensive Tackle
Ht/Wt: 6'5" / 300 lbs.
Location: Traverse City West - Traverse City, Michigan
Class: 2015
Offers: Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin
Film: Hudl

With a talented crop of in-state prospects emerging as Michigan targets in the class of 2016, Thiyo Lukusa may headline the bunch.  As one of the largest players in the conference, Lukusa experienced a somewhat successful season (5-5) before Traverse City West was eliminated by regional power Rockford in the playoffs.

Today began like any other day for sophomore offensive lineman Thiyo Lukusa.  After a couple snow days to kick off 2014, Lukusa returned to school yesterday.  His first few days back, though, haven't gone quite as expected for the big time (6'5" and 300 lbs.) prospect thanks to some extra curricular activities that took place over break.  "My principal and my uncle were in my school and they told me to come down because they wanted to talk to me," said Lukusa.  "I thought I was in trouble and that it was because I was drifting in the parking lots over break.  The parking lot is just so wide open. and they said that was the reason.  Then they got on me really hard and said they had it on camera and that the police were getting involved.  They said Officer McKinley, a policeman in our area, was on the phone and wanted to talk to me.  Then coach Hoke was actually on the other end and said 'Hey Thiyo, how are you doing?'"

Thanks to a crafty set-up on the part of coach Hoke, this offer was completely unexpected by Thiyo and quite literally came out of thin air.  "Oh my gosh, I felt like I got punked," said Lukusa.  "I talked to coach Hoke for a good five minutes and said how I thankful I was for receiving the offer.  It was a great phone call."  This was Lukusa's second offer, with the other coming from Michigan State, but it is certainly not the last offer that he would receive as several schools are already very involved in his recruitment.  "About five minutes ago I talked to Wisconsin and they offered me too."

Partly due to the elaborate set-up, Lukusa was legitimately surprised to hear that he would not be reprimanded for drifting in the school parking lot, but instead has a scholarship offer to one of his favorite schools waiting for the taking.  "I was in shock and didn't really know what to say," said Lukusa.  "I said thank you to coach Hoke about seven times and that I would really think about it.  It's been a crazy day."

There has been speculation in recent weeks that Michigan State may have gained an advantage by extending an offer to Thiyo before the Wolverines had the chance to, but this is actually not the case.  Lukusa went on to speak about his feelings surrounding both in-state schools.  "State didn't really gain an advantage by offering me first, it's more about what they did during the season," said Lukusa.  I love Michigan and I love Michigan State and the relationship that I've built there.  But they've had a really good year at MSU and they were impressive.  They're making me think a lot now.  I'll be going to visit them just as much as Michigan here on out.  They've evened out for sure."  Lukusa is tentatively set to visit for Michigan's basketball game versus Minnesota at Crisler on March 1.

This offer continues what has been a very busy 24 hours for the Michigan staff.  The Wolverines traded Al Borges for former Alabama staff member Doug Nussmeier at the offensive coordinator position, a move which has made waves since it was announced late last night.  "I saw that last night," said Lukusa.  "I had a basketball game and got on the bus to start scrolling through my Twitter feed.  I saw a bunch of rumors and things that said he may possibly be the new coach, but then it was like 'wow, it actually happened'."

Lukusa doesn't appear close to making a decision any time soon, but it seems like there is a strong chance he will stay in-state, attending college at either Michigan or Michigan State.  It is very early, but these two schools stand out the most, though Lukusa mentioned that he values all the attention he is receiving from schools and will treat each school fairly.  A strong season from Michigan in 2014 may be the most direct way to reverse the ground Michigan State made up during the season, and I ultimately believe that he will be a Wolverines when it is all said and done, joining Erik Swenson in Michigan's 2016 class.

Vic Enwere Visit Schedule Grows Clearer


Position: Running Back
Ht/Wt: 6'1" / 210 lbs.
Location: Fort Bend Austin High School - Sugar Land, Texas
Class: 2014
Offers: California, Colorado, Duke, Houston, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, North Texas, Rice, SMU, Texas State, Utah, Virginia, Wake Forest
Film: Hudl

With the end of the 2014 class drawing ever closer, Michigan is still looking to fill a few holes in their recruiting class.  Seven members of the '14 class are already on campus and attending class as early enrollees, but there are also nine more commits waiting to join the members of Team 135 after graduating from high school.  The coaching staff is looking to bump that number of commits up to 10 or 11 with a crucial month of January about to unfold.  The three main targets left on their board are running backs Vic Enwere and Jeff Jones (both offered) along with in-state strong-side defensive end Malik McDowell.


This month will be very important for Enwere in his decision making process as he takes his first visit out to Cal, the school which he committed to back on June 17, 2013.  Although he has not made a trip out to California to check out Cal as of yet, Enwere has built a connection to the Golden Bears in other ways.  Enwere recently played in the Blue-Grey All Star game with fellow 2014 Cal commit quarterback Luke Rubenzer and was able to connect with his future teammate in that context.  Enwere mentioned that he developed some chemistry with Rubenzer on the field during prior conversations.  This was apparent as Enwere had two 40+ yard touchdowns in the game.

As time progresses and National Signing Day nears, Enwere's visit situation is becoming a bit more clear.  "I think it's probably going to still boil down to the Cal visit," said Enwere.  "I don't think I'm going anywhere else.  If so and I do decide to take a trip go anywhere else, it would be on the 31st if another school were to come into play."  In terms of which schools may receive an official from Enwere, he mentioned Boise State and TCU has two possible locations.

With the Wolverines' pursuit of Enwere in full force in the time leading up to Enwere's December 13 official visit to Ann Arbor, Vic has built a good relationship with a few members of the coaching staff.  This group includes former Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges.  I spoke with Enwere about this development and what it means for Michigan moving forward.  "I heard about that," said Enwere.  "They now have another piece of a the puzzle arrive and  I would have to work with that coach.  With Borges being gone, there's another relationship to build again in that aspect, so it makes things harder.  It hurts just from a familiarity stand point."

Since Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier operates a balanced offense and has shown success running the football in the past, Michigan has a different potential package to offer Enwere- one that looks more promising from an strategic stand point to say the least.  "I've heard about the Alabama guy coming in and being the Michigan OC," said Enwere.  "Not really change anything.  All respect to Alabama and what they achieve, but I'm not a hype guy or too concerned with the accolades I have from an individual standpoint.  That's why I'm not drawn to the Alabama staff."

It sounds like Enwere is not further drawn to Michigan just because their new offensive coordinator carries the Alabama seal of approval.  Vic will still approach this stand point from a judicious perspective and will focus on evaluating Cal on January 24.  If this visit is unsatisfactory, look for Enwere to take an additional visit to either Boise State or TCU on January 31.  It sounds like Michigan is trailing Cal in this recruitment and may even be running in third place depending on how a potential January 31 official visit goes.  As of right now, I remain skeptical that Michigan will close their 2014 class with Enwere.

The M Block evaluated Enwere last month after his official visit to Michigan took place and Vic graded out as a low 4-star prospect.  He has a lot of upside and is a very physical and productive runner hailing from the tough state of Texas.  His martial arts background has helped to prepare him up to this point, and Vic has remained on a strenuous schedule that helps prepare him for college.  Here is an excerpt from Enwere's breakdown:
"One of the main reasons that the staff has decided to increase their pursuit of Enwere is because of the versatility that he could bring to the Wolverines backfield.  It is clear that Enwere is a strong, powerful runner who appears to get downfield not only in a hurry, but with ease.  His long stride length helps to break long runs, bringing Enwere to the front of the pack and keeping him there.  While he is not a massive tailback at 6'1" and 210 lbs., he is very lean and is a strong athlete with a great center of gravity and core strength.  Enwere theorizes that his extensive martial arts career helped to create his superb balance and finds a link between martial arts training and his hip fluidity.

When Enwere is not receiving hand-offs out of the bacfield or direct snaps in the wildcat formation, Vic is also a likely target in the passing game for Fort Bend Austin.  Enwere slips out of the backfield on screen plays multiple times and shows good patience in following his blocks downfiield.  It is also at this time where Enwere's quick change of direction and vision is showcased.  Vic consistently cuts in and out of the way of defenders, extending many runs that were at one time nearly garbage downs."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Michigan Replaces Al Borges with Doug Nussmeier at Offensive Coordinator Position

The 2013 version of Michigan's offense resembles a familiar collection of large players set on playing a physical brand of football.  Michigan's offense, however, did not experience anything even nearing familiar results from what is generally regarded as a disastrous season.  At times, Michigan's offense ran fluidly and executed the plays that were called, which was evidenced during shoot outs with Indiana and Ohio State.  The Wolverines was crippled at other times as Michigan failed to rush for positive yardage in multiple games and looked relatively inept and unwilling to change at other times.  The Wolverines turned in a marginal attempt at cultivating any semblance of offense in 2013, checking in at No. 46 nationally in scoring offense, No. 51 in passing offense and No. 103 in rushing offense.   These results are notably sub-par compared to the expectations of a dominant Michigan offense.

Former Michigan OC Al Borges
Much of the criticism fell on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Al Borges.  Michigan chooses not to carry a quarterback coach because Borges preferred to have an influential approach with installing the Michigan offense with his hand-picked quarterbacks.  As the primary play caller, Borges operated from the booth during the season, which may have played a role in his mid-game adjustments.  When combined with a predictable strategy of play calling in order to compensate for a failed running game, Michigan's offense was wildly inconsistent.

The turbulent results that the Wolverines experienced in 2013 were deemed unacceptable and a statement released by the University of Michigan detailed this staffing move:
"ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke announced today (Wednesday, Jan. 8) that offensive coordinator Al Borges will not be retained for the 2014 season.  
"Decisions like these are never easy," said Hoke.  "I have a great amount of respect for Al as a football coach and, more importantly, as a person.  I appreciate everything he has done for Michigan football for the last three seasons."
Prior to joining U-M in 2011, Borges was a member of Hoke's staff at San Diego State in 2009 and '10.  
The Wolverines will begin spring practice on Feb. 25, and finish with the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 5, at Michigan Stadium."

This move was unexpected in the sense that there were no clues Al Borges would be without a job on January 8, but there were signs that he would be removed from his position at OC sooner rather than later.  The M Block has received word that as many as four coaches may not return next year.  Not all moves are expected to be firings, however, as these moves come from a variety of reasons.  Borges was a likely candidate to receive a critical review and this was the final straw in his tenure at Michigan.

With the recently-vacant offensive coordinator position at Michigan up for grabs, Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is expected to assume the same role for the Wolverines.  This move is going to be the most important coaching staff decision made during the Brady Hoke era up to this point, and the success of Michigan's offense next year (as well as the program in general) will be crucial in keeping this staff intact.
New Michigan OC Doug Naussmeier

As a former quarterback that experienced a good deal of success in both college and the NFL before beginning his career as an offensive-minded coach.  Nussmeier has had control of offenses in the CFL, the NFL and in college as part of his laundry-list of coaching experience.  One interesting element of his history is that Nussmeier is not a stranger to living in Michigan, as he was the quarterback coach for Michigan State from 2003-2005.

Since taking the reigns of Alabama's offense in 2012, Nussmeier has been fitted with a wealth of talented options at all positions.  What makes him a good potential fit for the Michigan job is that he runs a very balanced offense, one which incorporates a bit of everything.  Michigan is certainly sticking with the pro-style formula of offense that they have developed in Ann Arbor since 2011 and Nussmeier looks like the guy to further implement this scheme for the Wolverines in 2014.

Several names have come up as potential options at offensive coordinator, but a couple have stood out as the most likely to make a lateral move and assume the OC job at Michigan.  The first option that everyone was aware of is LSU's Cam Cameron.  Keeping in line with the narrative that a 'Michigan Man' is preferred over a candidate without ties to the University, Cameron is as well-connected to the Wolverines as any coach on their radar.

Cameron began his coaching career in Ann Arbor as a graduate assistant in 1983. and would have made sense for the hire.  From here, Cameron stayed on the Michigan staff for 10 years in some capacity, moving on to wide receiver coach and eventually quarterback coach.  During his time at Michigan, Cameron helped mentor many great athlete that went on to have success in the NFL.  Cameron then bounced around between gigs with the Washington Redskins, Indiana Hoosiers, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and Baltimore Ravens before landing with the LSU Tigers last year in 2013.  The LSU offense last year was far superior to anything that Borges could generate at Michigan- to say the least.  LSU ranked No. 24 in points for, No. 29 in rushing yards and No. 44 in passing yards.

It is clear that Cameron can work with the talent he is given and he would receive a depth chart of players that should fall into a very well-designed system.  Cameron orchestrated an offense that allowed quarterback Zach Mettenberger to turn in a 64% completion rate on nearly 300 passes and over 3,000 yards with 22 touchdowns.  This fantastic season was complimented by a more than capable running attack that featured two halfbacks who combined for over 2,000 yards (Jeremy Hill 1,401 and Terrence McGee 626).  The dynamic pair also combined for 22 touchdowns.  This means LSU was able to generate 44 touchdowns between three offensive players, which is quite a feat in a tough SEC conference.

One element of his coaching history that may play in Michigan's favor is Cameron's history with the Baltimore Ravens.  It is well-known that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison helped captain a dominant Ravens defense and he coached alongside Cameron for three years from 2008-2010.  This connection is another potential reason for Cameron to assume what would likely be the same position as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach that he currently assumes at LSU.

Although Cameron was a logical pick, he will not be the next offensive coordinator, and neither will Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.  Many remember Loeffler from his playing career at Michigan from 1993-96.  Loeffler then served on the Michigan staff as a graduate assistant and part-time quarterbacks coach until 2001.  After a two-year stint at Central Michigan, Loeffler returned to Michigan, again at QB coach and remained in that role until 2007.

Since leaving Michigan one last time in '07, Loeffler operated in a QB coach / offensive coordinator capacity for Florida, Temple and Auburn before landing at Virginia Tech in 2013.  The Hokies did not experience very much success on offense this year and ended the season with marks that were fairly similar to Michigan's.  A near-50% completion rate and almost even TD-to-INT numbers (16/13) from quarterback Logan Thomas plagued the Virginia Tech offense and handcuffed what they were able to do, as VT ranked No. 101 in points for, No. 109 in rushing yards and No. 61 in passing yards.  This level of mediocrity would not be acceptable if Loeffler were to join Michigan, but the Wolverines appear to be in a much better position moving forward than Virginia Tech is in.

The departure of a member of the Michigan staff will always have a notable impact on recruiting, especially when it involved a position as important as offensive coordinator.  With the news about Borges' firing coming out a little over four hours ago, I reached out to several players regarding the impact this will have on Michigan in their eyes.  I focused mainly on junior QBs as they would be handled closely by Borges should they so choose the Wolverines in the future.  Borges has spent extensive time recruiting three quarterback prospects in Alex Malzone (Brother Rice/MI), Riley Neal (Yorktown/IN) and Kyle Kearns (Foothill/CA).

Living in the state of Michigan, Malzone may have been able to keep a closer ear to the ground than some of Michigan's other targets.  This may have allowed for Alex to keep in mind that Borges' future at Michigan might be close to expiring.  "I was pretty surprised," said Malzone.  "But based on the year they had, some change was expected."  Alex also mentioned that he saw some things that needed adjustment in the Michigan offense, which is something that the Wolverines hope to correct by making this move.

Once he found out that Nussmeier would be taking the OC job at Michigan, Malzone seemed excited to hear of this news and mentioned that it did increase his interest in the Wolverines.  "Oh yeah, definitely," said Malzone.  "With the success he's had at Alabama, definitely."

Riley Neal, who has been primarily recruited by Borges up to this point, was also caught off guard by Borges' firing.  "Just surprised overall," said Neal.  While Borges is the main coach he has been hearing from, Riley has also developed a good relationship with head coach Brady Hoke, wide receiver coach Jeff Hecklinski and recruiting assistant Danny Ifft.

Neal expanded on how this move could effect his interest in Michigan moving forward.  "I guess it just depends on who they hire and what offense they bring in.  I thought their offense under-performed for sure.  Not saying it was Borges' fault, though."  Neal mentioned that he would like to see an OC who favors pro-style quarterbacks and that this move certainly has not hurt Michigan's chances with him.  After Nussmeier was announced as the guy at Michigan, Neal evaluated the hire as a good decision for the Michigan staff moving forward.

Foothill quarterback Kyle Kearns was also surprised to hear about this development, going as far as saying he was "shocked."  During our conversation regarding this move, Kearns said he was curious as to who will be replacing Borges and that he will be monitoring the situation closely, noting that he hopes the new offensive coordinator is a pro-style guy.

Kearns' wish for a pro-style coach came true as Nussmeier, the engineer of a very balanced attack at Alabama, was named the new offensive coordinator.  Kearns already has a strong relationship with coach Nussmeier and this looks to help the Wolverines in Kearns' case.  "I'm really good friends with coach Nuss.  He's a great guy- pro-style.  I look forward to talking to him soon."

While Eldorado High junior signal caller Zach Gentry has been receiving steady contact from the Wolverines, he was also unaware that such a move could be on the horizon.  "I was really surprised," said Gentry.  "I hadn't really heard any speculation on whether or not he would return, so it was a bit of a shock to see today."  Even with this move, Gentry maintains a strong interest in the Michigan program that will be unaffected by this move.  "Regardless of the staff, Michigan is still a great program with so many great upsides and tradition."

Gentry foreshadowed Michigan's hire well, as Gentry is an accomplished coach that fits the mold of what Michigan is trying to do very well.  Zach spoke on what he thought about the Wolverines' latest hire.  "I think he is a good fit at Michigan," said Gentry.  "I'd like to see him continue to run the ball a good amount.  I liked the way he ran things at Alabama because he makes it easy on the quarterback with play action."

As another top target of the Michigan staff, Gonzaga quarterback Nick Johns isn't very worried by the news that Borges is on his way out.  "It didn't mean much," said Johns.  "I know that they will fill the spot with a great coach.  Just someone who runs a balanced offense with a little bit of everything integrated into the system."  In terms of what he would personally like to see from the next Michigan OC, Johns thinks he may fit in with whoever they choose.  "They have a great running and throwing quarterback now, so they should hire someone that molds his skill set.  I think mine is similar."  Johns and I were discussing what he would like from Michigan's next OC when the Nussmeier news was announced and had a few ideas on what he would like to see.  "I wouldn't necessarily say open, but I would like a mix of pro style and read option."
2015 Gonzaga QB Nick Johns

Johns spoke highly of Loeffler and said he would be excited be that potential move.  "I think he's a great coach and they are very similar in the types of offensive schemes they each run."  Johns, however, was not as familiar with Nussmeier and said he would have to build that relationship going forward.  "I've never really talked with him.  I guess we will have to see."

Centennial junior quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald also weighed in on the surprising news of Borges' departure.  He says that it does not affect his feelings on Michigan at the moment.  "Not so much," said Fitzgerald.  "It's still a great school with great academics and athletics."  Regardless of who the next hire is, Michigan will be in it for Fitzgerald.

I also touched base with 2014 linebacker commit Jared Wangler, who shared his thoughts on the development that Borges would not be returning for his freshman season after building a relationship with him up to this point.  Wangler's commitment to Michigan remains firm and he expressed this in clear form.  "Pretty shocked, but coach Hoke's job is to do what's best for the program," said Wangler.  "If this is what he sees fit then I'm not worried."  After word broke that Nussmeier would be the guy, Wangler said, "It's a great fit from what I've heard."

2015 Name to Watch: Cassius Peat

Position: Outside Linebacker
Ht/Wt: 6'4" / 235 lbs.
Location: Corona Del Sol High School - Tempe, Arizona
Class: 2015
Offers: Arizona, California, Michigan State, Vanderbilt
Film: Hudl

Although he battled through an injury-riddled season, junior outside linebacker Cassius Peat (Tempe, AZ) did enough to warrant the attention he is receiving from major college programs.  "I would say it went pretty well," said Peat.  "I missed the first five games because of a ankle injury, but I played pretty well even though my team didn't make the playoffs. There were some fibers in my Achilles that were torn that I had to get repaired.  It's a lot of rehab, but it's been fine for a couple months now.  It's been fine for a good while now."

Peat's ability to impact the game for Corona Del Sol was evident after his return, and the composite 4-star recruit on 247sports has continued to hear from some big names across the country.  Cassius includes Michigan, Michigan State, Florida State, USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Nebraska and Vanderbilt as just a few of the schools in steady pursuit.

But it is usually Peat that finds himself in pursuit and he recognizes that this quality stands out when watching his film.  "I'm a physical, athletic, smart player that tries to cause havoc for the offense on every single play," said Peat.  One aspect that bodes well for Peat once he hits college is his very long, athletic frame.  He has a strong build, but looks capable of supporting more weight if he is asked to rush the passer at the next level.  This versatility has also helped elevate his profile as a top target for the Wolverines on the west coast.

Over the summer, Peat took a trip up to Michigan for an AAU basketball tournament and made a stop in Ann Arbor to check out the Wolverines campus.  Peat enjoyed what he saw during his stop at Michigan and returned the favor when Michigan traveled to his neck of the woods for bowl practice in December.  Peat dropped by to observe Michigan prepare for Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and was impressed with what he saw.  "Yeah, I was able to get out and watch a practice," said Peat.  "I had the chance to watch the linebackers and defensive line- the front seven.  I saw their special teams play too.  I stayed for about 45 minutes and got to see a lot.  It was great."

During his visit, Peat had the chance to talk to a member of the Michigan staff, but it was a short conversation for obvious reasons.  "I talked to coach Singletary briefly," said Peat.  "They can't talk to us too much because of NCAA rules so it was just a brief conversation."  The dialogue between Peat and Michigan is more than established at this point and it is likely that it will grow over the offseason.

Although Michigan is a tough trip for Peat to make geographically speaking, this factor does not hurt Michigan's chances in the least.  "No, not at all," said Peat.  "Whichever schools fits me best is where I'll be.  It doesn't matter where it's at.  I'm looking for a good coaching staff and good academics.  I'm also looking for the chance to play early on."

At the moment Peat is unsure of just exactly which schools will receive a visit from him over the offseason, but Michigan sticks out as a team that has a good chance to experience a return trip.  "That's another thing I'm going to sit down and talk with my parents," said Peat.  "I don't have any specifics yet, but I'll have a better year when the school year ends  Michigan definitely one of the teams.  I got to go and see the campus over summer and I definitely plan on going back, maybe for a game next year."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2015 WR Christian Kirk Eyes Midwest Trip

Position: Wide Receiver
Ht/Wt: 5'10" / 175 lbs.
Location: Saguaro High School - Scottsdale, Arizona
Class: 2015
Offers: Arizona, Arizona State, Florida State, Miami (FL), Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Wisconsin
Film: Hudl

After East Lake High wide receiver George Campbell decommitted in mid-December, Michigan began to more seriously pursue some past targets that could be a good fit in the Wolverines system.  One player that Michigan reached out to before the season is Saguaro wideout Christian Kirk.  The speedy receiver did not hear much from Michigan during the season, but this changed after Campbell's decommitment.

Once the Wolverines were slated to play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against the Kansas State Wildcats, Michigan reached out to several prospects in the area of their bowl game.  Kirk and fellow junior Cassius Peat were invited to attend a practice leading up to the BWW bowl, but only Peat was able to attend.  Regardless of his absence, Kirk was extended a scholarship offer and was told that Michigan would be pursuing him with gusto moving forward.

This was part of my immediate take on Kirk's offer after it was extended on Christmas Eve:
"With a huge junior year under his belt, Kirk has elevated his already high status as one of the nation's most heavily regarded prospects.  Kirk saw time at multiple positions this year, showing his ability to take handoffs, catch passes and return kicks or punts.
At the end of the year, Kirk totaled 2,331 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns on the way to putting together a very impressive highlight tape, and it is easy to see why so many colleges would love to have Kirk suiting up on their team in the fall of 2015.  Kirk shows his dynamic quality as a game-changer at running back or wide receiver by running past, around and even over opposing defenders.  He has a low center of gravity and good vision that combine to set up timely cuts which usually lead to pay dirt.  His elusiveness and change of direction are strong points of his game as a speedster that could translate to a few different positions in college."
As evidenced by the gaudy amount of yards he accumulated for Saguaro this year, Kirk had a dominant junior campaign.  "It was a successful junior season," said Kirk.  "I did all of the things I would like to have done and set our seniors out with rings, so I set every goal I set out for in 2013.  It was very successful."

Kirk was able to have such a strong season thanks to his physical ability that separates himself quite-literally from opposing defensive backs.  "I play fast," said Kirk.  "I'm pretty sure it's obvious to most people when they watch my film.  I'm very dynamic and I can play multiple positions.  However, I have remained very good at one main position.  I have really good, reliable hands and I play hard and physical.  Whatever college I go to, people ca expect big plays and something to happen every time I have the ball in my hands."

These traits are part of the reason why Kirk is such a highly-coveted prospect at this point.  Kirk has well over 20 schools vying for his services and will have a very difficult decision when it comes time to choose his future destination.  In fact, Kirk is already unsure of where his recruitment may lead.  "I don't have any favorites at this point," said Kirk.  "Going into the spring evaluation period as winter ends, just coming into contact with schools and scheduling some visits here and there.  That's about it."

Even though he already has racked up quite a few offers, Kirk maintains that it is not too late for Michigan to become a very serious contender for his services.  "No, any school that is offers me has a shot and I wouldn't consider this late," said Kirk.  "The end of the junior year is when most kids get offered, so I'd give them an equal opportunity.  If a school tried as hard as they can and they built a close relationship real quick, you never know what could happen."

The relationship aspect is what would help Michigan the most in Kirk's recruitment as he is already well aware of the Wolverines deep history.  This relationship might be given the chance to prosper over the offseason as Kirk is contemplating a visit.  "I've been thinking about heading up to the midwest and seeing some schools," said Kirk.  "I want to see all the big ones like Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.  All those schools that are pretty close to each other.  If I'm  up there, I might as well hit all of them."

While Kirk has been used to playing in the friendly conditions of Arizona up to this point, he admits that the transition to a cold-weather school such as Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State would be difficult.  "It would be rough," said Kirk.  "I'm not a guy that enjoys the cold.  If it's somewhere I want to play football then I would definitely tough it out."

In addition to his relationship with the coaching staff, Kirk has an idea of what he would like out of not just the school, but the city that his future college is in.  "I want a place where I'm comfortable outside of the football program," said Kirk.  "When there's free time, I want there to be stuff to go out and do.  I don't want to be locked up at a dorm the whole time.  I want to enjoy myself.  And if my coach were to leave, I want to be at a place I can see myself going to school and still enjoying without having to transfer.  That's the ultimate goal.  Also a program that can help me for my future.  Ultimately my goal is to get to the NFL, so I want to go to a school that is pumping out guys at my position and that runs a successful scheme.  That will pop out to me too."

Look for Kirk to schedule a visit to Michigan either for a basketball game or the spring game.  The Wolverines will become more active in hosting recruits once the dead period is over, and that is when Kirk may receive his shot at furthering his relationship with the Michigan staff.

Tuesday Recruiting Feed Camps Out

With a little over a week remaining before the dead period expires, there is not too much happening on the recruiting front to report.  While a lot actually is occurring behind closed doors with the coaching staff, their main priority is finishing the 2014 class.  Michigan is thought to have two or three spots if they decide to use them.  One spot is reserved for Southfield defensive lineman Malik McDowell and it looks like Michigan favors a running back for another spot.  Whether that back will be Vic Enwere or Jeff Jones remains to be seen.

Early Enrollees

Seven members of the 2014 class have already moved onto campus as the early enrollees are now officially part of the Michigan football team. Wilton Speight, Michael Ferns, Bryan Mone, Mason Cole, Drake Harris, Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson all bared the inclimate weather conditions and will begin classes either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Redshirt: Intact
Out of the seven freshman who enrolled early, I predict that three freshman will plan to be redshirted and receive an additional year of athletic eligibility in 2018.  The first redshirt that I think make the most sense is Wilton Speight.  With two quarterbacks that can run the Michigan offense in Devin Gardner and Shane Morris both returning (not to mention the return of Russell Bellamy), there doesn't appear to be much need for Speight in 2014.  If Wilton comes into spring ball and lights the field on fire, I expect him to be given a fair shot in the quarterback competition, but an extra year is always crucial in a quarterback's development.

The next redshirt out of this group could very well be Mason Cole.  Michigan has a wealth of young, highly-touted lineman just one and two classes in front of Cole, so I think it is another case of need overruling talent.  Cole has shown the ability to play every position on the offensive line during Army All-American bowl practice, and most likely translates to guard in college.  This is a position where Michigan has a high amount of potential bodies, although none have proven to be too effective.

Finally, one redshirt will likely go to Brandon Watson.  The Wolverines took five defensive backs in the 2013 class and will have Blake Countess, Jarrod Wilson and Raymon Taylor returning in the secondary, eliminating the need to use Watson unless something drastic occurs in the Michigan secondary.

Redshirt: Burned
ILB Michael Ferns
Four players out of the group of early enrollees stick out as freshman that the coaching staff will have a very difficult, if not impossible time keeping off the field.  The current policy is to play the freshman who earn their way on the field and redshirt the rest, and four players in this group should earn considerable playing time in 2014.

First, I think the player most likely to lose his redshirt is linebacker Michael Ferns.  At 6'3" and 240 lbs. of solid muscle, Ferns is incredibly put together for a true freshman.  With all of this mass, he carries his weight very well and is as fast as he has ever been.  From a purely physical perspective, Ferns does not look like the average freshman by any means.  He will probably start out on special teams, but could work his way into the rotation of linebackers getting consistent snaps by the end of 2014.

 After Ferns, either and probably both wide receivers could see quite a bit of playing time next year.  Drake Harris and Freddy Canteen will both benefit immensely from getting on campus early.  Harris is recovering from a hamstring injury that knocked out his entire senior season, but he is reportedly healthy enough to practice.  Drake will be looking to meet up with strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman in order to bulk up, as he checks in at a lanky 180 lbs. for his 6'4" frame.  Harris is a tall target that will be hard to keep off the field.  Canteen, on the other hand, is a route running technician that will excel once he learns the playbook and picks a handful of routes to concentrate on.  Canteen is very quick getting in and out of his cuts, and may find the earliest playing time coming in the slot.

The last freshman who I could see earning playing time is four-star defensive tackle Bryan Mone.  The mammoth defensive tackle was very impressive during Under Armour All-America bowl practices and is a force in the middle of the defensive line.  He makes a habit of collapsing pockets and is a very disruptive pass rusher that clogs running lanes, often requiring a double team to handle his strength.  Mone comes in at a position of need for Michigan and has a very good chance to see plenty of time in the two-deep.

There is, however, a good deal to report on Michigan targets who have begun the camp circuit as part of their offseason training.

Elite 11 Performers

The Elite 11 series of quarterback camps is back for another installment and recently held a workout at Santa Monica City College in California for local gunslingers to test their skills against other top QBs.  Foothill High's Kyle Kearns had a very strong showing over the weekend at the Elite 11 and stood out with several great throws.  Even though he had a good day, Kearns is still focused on the continual task of improving his game.  "I was hoping to prove that I belong in the finals and can process new information and apply it quickly," said Kearns.  "I felt that I could have been more consistent with my feet and thrown the 18-yard dig better.  I drift a little bit to the right when I'm throwing right and can tempo the ball better on longer developing routes.  I'll be working on a lot of things this offseason trying to 'master my craft' as Yogi Roth says."

In August, Austin Bailey broke down Kearns' game and analyzed his latest film to provide an accurate description as to why he is so highly coveted by the Michigan staff:
"It's hard to miss the arm strength Kearns exhibits on the field when evaluating his game. Whether its a 10-yard out route, slant across the middle, or back shoulder fade, he delivers the ball quickly and accurately to his target, putting his teammates in position to make plays after the catch. Even though Kearns' delivery may appear to be somewhat unconventional, the ball is released fast and high enough to avoid passes being batted down at the line of scrimmage. At 6-foot-3, he possesses good size for a quarterback and has plenty of time to fill into his frame. His speed nor athleticism aren't going to impress anyone, however he is far from a sitting target and does have enough quickness to buy a little extra time in the pocket."
Kearns is one of the top junior quarterbacks in the state of California and is a top choice for the Michigan staff.  Another top California QB who is also interested in Michigan, but isn't quite seeing the same in return is Hart High School's Brady White.  The 6'2", 183 lb. quarterback from Santa Clarita, California had himself a very strong day that was highlighted by a litany of difficult throws.  "I thought my performance today was great," said White.  "I was hoping to and think I did show that I am one of the top quarterbacks in the entire country and that I can throw and compete with anyone.  I thought my footwork was great and I threw very well.  It was an overall awesome day.  It was great to compete with the top QBs across the nation and to showcase what I'm all about."

What he is 'all about' consists of a great throwing motion that can deliver the football to anywhere on the field while also having the mobility to extend plays outside of the pocket.  White has a very fast release that helps him avoid sacks and the arm strength to hit his receivers in stride from anywhere on the field.  "In these camps it's kind of hard to show the things like toughness, both mental and physical, and the ability to avoid the rush and make plays with your feet.  So I thought that what I showcased today was everything they asked me to do."
Hart QB Brady White

As part of the instruction that White received, the coaches provided a lot of knowledge and tips on what being a complete quarterback is all about.  This was certainly not lost on White.  "I believe I got better with the repetition, the drills, the competition and the overall camp," said White.  "I am going to take the drills I learned today and use them on my own to better myself.  I'll also take the coaches' teaching points and information to improve my game and work on things that I need to work on."

White's recruitment is quite puzzling as he is in constant communication with some of the top programs in the nation, yet he still only holds two offers (San Jose State and Colorado State).  White is being pursued by over 20 teams including top-flight programs such as Oregon, Notre Dame, Auburn, Stanford, Georgia, Alabama and USC.  Still, White maintains a strong interest in Michigan despite receiving only one piece of mail from the Wolverines so far.  White trains with quarterback coach Steve Clarkson who has well-known ties to Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges.  Because of this link, it would not be out of the question for Michigan to get involved with White, although the clock is ticking.

Under Armour All-American Combine

In addition to all of the work that the seniors put in at the Under Armour All-American festivities, several of the nation's top juniors participated in a combine at the UA facilities.  Several Michigan targets were selected to the combine and reportedly all had very strong performances.  As one of the top 6 quarterbacks on Michigan's radar, Gonzaga College's Nick Johns was one of the best QBs in the field of top prospects.  Johns displays a sense of innate comfortability in the pocket that is very valuable in quarterbacks.  He also has great size given his degree of athleticism.  Scout.com's Kyle Bogenschutz published a piece detailing a few of Michigan's top performers and left notes on the showing of each prospect.   Here is what he had to say about Johns:
"Most likely the most polished of the quarterbacks at the Under Armour combine, Johns showed no rust in his first real action throwing the football since returning from a broken collarbone.  Johns is intense and stays consistent in his mechanics and delivery, routinely throwing nice footballs in good spots for his receivers to make plays.  A very impressive showing Thursday by Johns."
Another top target on the Wolverines board in the 2015 class is Keystone tight end CJ Conrad.  The Wolverines have shown a high degree of interest in Conrad in the past month and seem to only be increasing their desire for the 6'5", 225 lb. tight end.  Michigan is set to visit Conrad once the dead period ends, their second coaches visit in as many months, and I expect Conrad to walk away with an offer.  Here is how Bogenschutz evaluated his performance:
"The most consistent tight end on Thursday, Conrad runs crisp routes and possesses soft hands to go with his big frame.  Conrad is easily comparable to Michigan freshman tight end Jake Butt given his frame and ability to make plays in the passing game." 
Lincolnton DE Darian Roseboro
Keeping up with the 2015 vibe of the combine, Lincolnton super-athlete Darian Roseboro was in attendance for the UA-AA combine.  Roseboro, who set the sack record at his school this year, displays an excellent amount of speed and agility for a 6'5", 265 lb. athlete.  He has mainly lined up at strong-side defensive end this year and looks to play that position in college, although he possesses the versatility to start at a number of positions.  Here is Bogenshutz's breakdown of Roseboro's performance:
"Flashing both power and speed, Roseboro also dominated the competition winning every rep he took during the 1-on-1 portion of the combine.  Roseboro has the frame to easily add weight without losing quickness."
Former Michigan commit wide receiver George Campbell also competed in the combine, although he appeared to struggle on the day and did not quite live up to his billing as one of the nation's top 10 players.  Even with a rough showing, Campbell displays the potential and athletic ability to more than justify his ranking and is a very highly-sought after player despite recent transgressions.  Here is how Campbell fared on the day:
"Not a good day for Campbell Thursday.  Easily one of, if not the best athlete and fastest in attendance at the combine, Campbell struggled catching the football in drills and 1-on-1's.  The quarterbacks didn't help Campbell's cause throwing a lot of balls out of the end zone, but the five-star appeared to struggle a bit with timing his jump and locating the football to make the grab."

2nd Annual Elite Football Showcase

Last Thursday while I was at the HYPE Lineman Academy, another camp was taking place that would feature many of the state's top prospects.  The D Zone, Bfit and 1st and Goal Recruiting partnered to provide the 2nd Annual Elite Football Showcase for unsigned seniors, as well as rising juniors, sophomores or younger prospects.

One athlete who I am hoping to get the chance to evaluate in person this offseason is Chippewa Valley athlete Stefan Claiborne.  As one of the state's top prospects in the class of 2016, Claiborne was enjoying a great sophomore season before suffering an ankle injury that he has since been recovering from.  This camp was mainly to test his ankle and to provide a measuring stick in terms of his recovery.  "I knew going into the combine that my times wouldn't be my best," said Claiborne.  "I just wanted to see where I was at with my ankle and it's doing well.  It's getting better surely, but slowly."

Claiborne checked in with some fairly impressive times considering his bum wheel.  Stefan clocked in with a 4.5 second 40-yard dash, a 4.3 second shuttle, 29 foot medicine ball toss and a 9 foot broad jump.  The shuttle time and broad jump distance are most directly affected by his ankle injury, and he will look to improve on these numbers moving forward in his recovery.
Cass Tech OL / DL Michael Onwenu

Another top athlete on the day was Cass Tech offensive lineman Michael Onwenu.  The massive sophomore lineman was supposed to make both the HYPE Lineman Academy and the Elite Football Showcase, but weather was a factor and he could not make the former.  Onweny stood out as one of the best at his respective camp and feels great about the work he put in.  "I would say my performance was great," said Onwenu.  "They said I was the  best on both offense and defense.  I wad amazed in myself that week.  It was all cold and snowing, so I didn't really get out besides that day because I was sick.  In my opinion, I stood out because of my agility.  I'm a 347 lb. 10th grader and every recruiter says I'm light on my feet and my hands are great.  I just do whatever to get the job done whether it is me getting to the quarterback or protecting the quarterback."

Both Claiborne and Onwenu have visited Michigan this season and have drawn a good deal of attention from the Wolverines.  The pair look to be in the discussion for the title as Michigan's top player in the 2016 class and Michigan will look to stay on them moving forward.  Look for both to have a very impressive season on the camp circuits, especially Claiborne once his ankle completely heels.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Alex Malzone Breakdown

Position: Quarterback
Ht/Wt: 6'3" / 200 lbs
Location: Brother Rice High School - Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Class: 2015
Offers: Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Old Dominion, Toledo, Western Michigan
Film: Hudl

Since the Brady Hoke regime began in 2011, the Michigan Wolverines have expressed great caution in how they recruit the quarterback position.  As 2014 commit Wilton Speight is set to begin classes either Monday or Tuesday at Michigan depending on the weather, the next signal caller to join the maize and blue will come from the 2015 class.

Only two offers have gone out to 2015 QBs so far, and neither situation looks to be changing much in the near future.  The first offer went to consensus 5-star St. John Bosco QB Josh Rosen, who has recently alluded to potentially visiting Michigan.  This would be a direct reversal from his previous comments regarding a visit to Ann Arbor, but that there is not much action on that front.  Michigan's next offer went to Eastern Christian Academy junior David Sills.  This might be a familiar name to those who have followed recruiting for quite some time as Sills first made waves with his commitment to USC back in 2010 as a 7th grader.  The Trojans have since undergone a coaching change, but it looks like the current staff has reaffirmed their commitment to Sills as well.

With both of those situations at a relative standstill, Michigan may look in-state for their next target.  The Wolverines have developed a six-man group of QBs that currently have their attention, and Brother Rice's Alex Malzone has established himself as a potential option at the position for Michigan.  Malzone visited the Michigan campus three times this season and kept in regular contact with Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges on a regular basis.  The two typically would remain in communication with a weekly phone call coming on Thursday nights.  The two built a bond during these Thursday night calls and Malzone currently has a great deal of interest in the Michigan program.

The M Block Rating: 77.5/100 (3-Star)

Accuracy: 8.5
Arm Strength: 7.5
Pocket Presence: 9
Mechanics: 8
Escapability: 7.5
Footwork: 8.5
Size: 7
Speed: 7
Vision: 8.5
Offers: 6

After watching Malzone in-person on multiple occasions this year, I was very impressed by what the Brother Rice quarterback had to offer.  Although he doesn't exactly tower over his teammates at six feet tall and around 200 lbs., but Malzone carries himself like a big time player.  There is an element of composure that is obvious when watching Malzone lead the Warriors offense.  This likely comes from his experience in pressure situations as Alex has led Brother Rice to back-to-back state championships as a starter.  Experience like Malzone has is not something that can be found in every quarterback and gives Alex a leg up on his competition as he is a proven winner.

In terms of his mechanics, Malzone is a fairly polished passer that fits the bill as a division one quarterback.  As with many high school quarterbacks, his release is a bit longer than it needs to be and has a hitch in his throwing motion, but he gets rid of the football quickly.  This is a very important characteristic of Malzone's game- since he is not overly mobile and doesn't pose a great running threat, his quick release is useful in avoiding sacks.  Like I said, although Malzone is not the quickest athlete, he does have the agility and quickness to extend plays, which at times is just as important as pure speed.

From a pocket passer standpoint, Malzone has all of the tools that division one programs are looking for.  His release point is high, which predicates a tight spiral that often has good trajectory.  Malzone displays good touch on short and long passes and puts appropriate zip on the football for most throws.  He has the arm to make any throw on the field and is usually pretty smart with the football.  This reliability and talent is what has allowed Malzone to smoothly assume the Brother Rice starting quarterback job last year and he has since caught fire.  Look for him to be a strong candidate to receive the next Michigan quarterback offer when the dead period ends on January 16.