Inside the Fish Bowl is Hitting Up the Casino

Michigan is wrapping up one of the top recruiting weekend visits of the year and, oh boy, was it eventful. Though the staff didn’t receive a boatload of pledges like Tennessee (9 commits over 3 days) they did land a prospect that is rated higher than any of the new Volunteers commits. That addition plus all of the movement UM made with the other top targets who visited this past weekend has to have the staff feeling pretty good about their prospects.

Check out all of the latest Michigan football recruiting updates Inside the Fish Bowl:

Bingo 

In a true underdog story, Leesburg (GA) DT Aubrey Solomon became the biggest recruiting shock of the summer so far when he committed to the staff during his first trip to campus this past weekend.

Solomon was a player everyone projected to either Alabama or Georgia thanks to him being a top100 recruit out of SEC country. But that didn’t stop Harbaugh and company from changing his mind about the north quickly.

Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz was all over this news before it even went down, putting in a Crystal Ball before it happened and then putting together some great behind the scenes notes on both Solomon and teammate/2018 UM commit Otis Reese’s commitments ($). The best part was that Solomon didn’t even know he held an offer from Michigan until he got on campus. Once that was known, it was all down hill from there:

The top 100 defensive tackle is the newest addition to the 2017 class and, though the SEC powers won’t give up on him until he signs his LOI, his love for what Michigan offers outside of the football facilities is what drew him to the Wolverines. According to The Wolverine’s Brandon Brown, that feeling and his chance to play alongside Rashan Gary isn’t going to change ($).

Solomon’s addition to the class is huge and he takes the defensive line haul from good to very good with the chances to go to great. How could it be great? Adding one or two more top targets.

Looking for the Cherries

With two defensive tackles and two defensive ends committed, the Michigan staff doesn’t necessarily HAVE to add any more defensive lineman. But with the names that are high on UM, there’s no way they’re going to slow up their pursuit of adding a couple cherries on top of their sundae.

One name to watch closest just recently left Ann Arbor after making the trek across the country to see the campus for the first time. Cathedral (CA) DE Hunter Echols spent two days camping at and touring Michigan, and from all accounts, things went very well.

Echols has been committed to the Bruins since February but has a soft spot for the Maize and Blue. His family is full of UM fans and he grew up watching the Wolverines. So, this visit was one he was looking forward to after receiving his offer in March. And with the trip in the books and going over well, Michigan looks to have a real shot at flipping the former fan, though more the staff will need to sell him on more than his fan hood. Moving that far away from home and being the 3rd defensive end in the class could be hangups.

Look for Echols to officially visit this fall.

Speaking of visits, the next big visitor that’s coming to Ann Arbor is Lake Taylor (VA) DT Darnell Ewell, who’s expected to be on campus this weekend. Everyone, including OSU, is expecting the Buckeyes to win out here but we’ll see if they’re still the heavy favorite on Monday.

Another player that has plans to visit Michigan and may be favoring the Buckeyes, Bingham (UT) DT Jay Tufele caught up with Scout’s Blair Angulo at the Pride Camp and told him about his future plans and where the staff has him on their board ($):

Tufele is a top target and one of the best tackles in the class. The satellite camp experience clearly helped Michigan here and the official visit could give the Wolverines as good of a chance as anyone to sign the standout lineman.

As for a name that is still completely flying under the radar though has been on my two previous BGRCs, Murphy (AL) DT Neil Farrell recently released his top 9 teams and Michigan is running 2nd behind the Crimson Tide.

Farrell is the dark horse candidate to join this class. He is one of the more underrated prospects on the board and would be a really nice addition with all of the losses coming in the next year or two at the defensive tackle position. Keep an eye on him as he could begin to favor the Wolverines if they press for him.

Playing with (Big) House Money  

While Michigan is sitting pretty with their defensive line, the offensive line, the biggest need in this class, is stagnant at one commitment (JaRaymond Hall). But it looks like help could be on the way.

At this point, the most likely addition to the class is recently offered Darien (CT) OT Andrew Stueber. He’ll return for the BBQ on August 6th with his mom and, unless something changes, I expect him to commit to the staff in person. My Crystal Ball was the first one in. 

After Stueber, there are plenty of options to join the class. Two of the guys who are looking pretty good at this point are at the top of the staff’s board and just so happened to be on campus this past weekend in American Heritage OL Tedarrell Slaton and OL Kai-Leon Herbert.

This was Slaton’s 2nd visit to Michigan and things looked to go very well. He spoke with Wolverine247’s Isaiah Hole about his trip and where things stand with the Wolverines ($):

Slaton is a player that I’ve had a part of my BGRC for awhile not and still believe he ends up at Michigan. This last visit and the staff’s pursuit of his good friend and teammate only helps.

Speaking of his teammate, Herbert was easily one of the top targets on campus and the staff rolled out the red carpet for the talented tackle. He spoke with Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz about his first visit to town and how the staff is recruiting him different than most:

Honestly, I really liked the fact that they didn’t pressure me in any way, shape or form,” Herbert said. “The schools recruiting me know that I want to decide before my senior season, and some have pressured me into committing earlier than I planned on. The ‘We need you. You can be a leader for us’ type stuff. Michigan does the exact opposite. They just treated TJ and I like we were already part of the family. I can talk to them about stuff besides football and have gotten to know them as people.”

This visit clearly helped Michigan’s chances greatly as they looked to be running 2nd behind Florida before the trip. Did UM overtake the lead for Herbert? He told Isaiah Hole that he doesn’t have a leader but does have a top list ($):

I have my top list: Michigan, Florida, Miami, Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee,” Herbert said. “I don’t have a leader, but this was definitely a visit to remember.”

He also spoke with The Wolverine’s Brandon Justice about his trip and where the trip ranks amongst all of his other visits ($):

Coming into the visit, I expected it to be like any other school,” he said. “Coming out of the visit, it’s definitely a school that is on top of everyone else.”

At this point, I like where Michigan stands, though Florida won’t go down without a fight. They’ve been the heavy favorite for the majority of the cycle so a summer sway to UM would be one of the best recruiting wins of the Harbaugh era. His decision is expected prior to his senior season.

As for two other offensive lineman that made their way to Ann Arbor this past weekend, the staff looked to make a move with both St John Bosco (CA) OL Wyatt Davis and Gadsden (AL) OT Toryque Bateman.

Davis was one of the premier recruiting visitors and a player Michigan was quietly sitting pretty well with prior to the visit thanks to his relationship with Tim Drevno. He spoke with 247Sports’ Tom Loy about his visit, building up the relationships with the coaching staff and what the staff is pitching him on ($):

They said that I would have a great chance of playing right away because they said they’re losing all five of their starters,” said Davis. “They said that there is a chance for early playing time. They also said their degree is something that I should definitely take under consideration.”

He also mentioned his plans to officially visit Michigan this fall, which could obviously be huge for the staff’s chances to land one of the top players in the class. UM was quietly in good shape before and now looks to be a legit option moving forward so make sure to keep an eye on Davis from here on out.

As for Bateman, he wasn’t the highest ranked lineman to visit but his size and athleticism gives him one of the highest ceilings. He spoke with The Michigan Insider’s Brice Marich about how the trip exceeded his expectations, his relationship with fellow Alabama visitor Nico Collins and why the staff wants him in the class ($):

I got to talk with Coach Harbaugh, Coach Bam and Coach Drevno,” said Bateman. “They all told me I was a necessity and that they loved my feet and ability to bend.”

Bateman is another lineman that Michigan now looks to be at/near the top of the list for thanks to the visit. But unlike the previously mentioned visitors, UM doesn’t have as much competition for his services. If he truly is a necessity and they push for him, the chances of him committing to UM is pretty high.

You Win Some, You Lose One

I hope you didn’t think the offensive line update was done. Another name that looks to be up higher than most might believe is Skyline (WA) OL Henry Bainivalu. And he’s high on Michigan as well.

Bainivalu stealthily visited Ann Arbor early on in the spring and the visit clearly left an impact on him. He spoke with Scout’s Scott Eklund about that visit and why Michigan is a team that’s not only going to get a return official visit but is the first name he mentioned as a school that’s sticking out in his recruitment ($):

I added Bainivalu to my May BGRC via a shot in the dark (mainly because he made the most sense from reading the tea leaves) and I may have hit myself a target. His decision isn’t expected to come until after his senior season but a successful official visit and a strong push from the staff could end up putting Michigan out front for good here.

Another lineman that has been a fixture in my recruiting class predictions has been elite Poly Prep (NY) OT Isaiah Wilson. He’s long raved about the Wolverines and has named them his leader in the past. But, like most top recruits, as more offers come through and pursuit picks up, they hold off on naming a leader. Wilson was the same way. 

The talented tackle visited Ann Arbor back in February and has already stated that he’ll officially visited Michigan this fall. All good things. However, recent visits to Tuscaloosa and Athens have started to sway the conversation from the Wolverines to the SEC.

Rivals’ Adam Friedman caught up with Wilson recently to talk his recent visit to UGA, how rumors have run rampant throughout his recruitment and how it may still be a Michigan vs Alabama battle ($)

If I were a betting man, I’d say it will still come down to the Harbaugh vs Saban. And though Michigan has plenty of tackles still on the board, Wilson is a guy they’ll prioritize until NSD. As for Bama, having OT Alex Leatherwood and OT Elliot Baker already in the class with the likes of Wyatt Davis, OT Trey Smith and OT Kendall Randolph looking good for the Crimson Tide could help Michigan’s chances. And don’t forget their ridiculous depth at the position through previous recruiting classes. 

This will likely be one of several elite prospect battles between Michigan and Alabama this cycle. So, grab the popcorn, crack a cold drink, sit back and enjoy. 

As for a top target that looks destined to go elsewhere, IMG Academy (FL) OL Robert Hainsey recently released his top list of schools and, though it wasn’t a slam dunk that UM would be included, they’ll at least receive a medal at the podium:

Though Hainsey is one of the best and most versatile lineman in the class and looks to be a top target for the staff, I see the Wolverines taking home the bronze here. Michigan State has been the longtime favorite though it looks like the latest visit to South Bend may have pushed Notre Dame into the driver’s seat with an announcement expected to come at The Opening in a couple weeks.

To round out the offensive line news, if you missed the note in the Fish Bowl, Top 100 Lafayette (KY) OT Jedrick Wills was unable to make it to Michigan for a visit this week for the on-campus camps but confirmed with MGoFish that he’ll be attending the BBQ at the Big House on August 6th. The list of visitors that weekend could trump this past weekend’s, which is pretty scary.

Filling Up the Slots

After signing six receivers in 2016, four of whom look like they could play in the slot if necessary, most believed that Michigan would hold off on targeting non-super slot receivers in the 2017 class. Well, Jim Harbaugh doesn’t care what we think and what the more logical move may be. The staff is looking for home run hitters for the slot and as a return man and two names have emerged as the most likely additions to the class:

St Thomas Aquinas (FL) WR Mike Harley and Murietta Valley (CA) WR Maurice Bell.

Harley is a player that caught the staff’s attention at the satellite camp in Fort Lauderdale and once again on his visit up to Ann Arbor this past weekend.

The visit ended up going much better than I think anyone may have thought as Michigan not only made a move for him but they did such a good job that the last four Crystal Ball predictions are in favor of the Maize and Blue, including Wolverine247’s Lorenz and Hole, with a decision expected in the near future.

I’m still trying to do some digging before I’ll put in my CB for Harley but I’m getting close. One reason I haven’t just yet is because of the other offered slot receiver who was on campus this past weekend.

Bell also visited campus for the first time and was also blown away by what the university had to offer and the staff had in mind for him. At this point, I believe Michigan is in the lead for his services and if he does indeed make his decision soon, it’ll be for the Wolverines.

So, here’s the reason I haven’t put in my CB for either player:

Will the staff take both players? Could it be a “first come, first serve” situation? Can they even fit four receivers in the class? 

  • They’re being recruited for the same exact positions (slot and return man) and, not that long ago, it looked like they’d only take one receiver all together in this class, though that’s clearly changed with the likelihood of Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins.
  • So, I wouldn’t be shocked either way because I believe both players could bring that electricity and big play dimension that the staff wants. However, there is a limit on scholarships and I doubt the staff wants to deal with another messy situation of “finding spots” before NSD.
  • At this point, Michigan looks to be the favorite for all four receivers (DPJ, Collins, Harley & Bell) with two other top 200 players still very much on the board (Tarik Black and Jhamon Ausbon). They signed six in 2016 and, though they badly need the depth and it looks like there could possibly be some attrition to the freshmen class already, it might be a stretch to fit 4+ receivers in this class.

So, my CBs may be postponed until more concrete information comes available. But, either way, Michigan looks extremely likely to add at least one of these electric receivers to the class in the not-so-distant future. If I had to guess, Harley would be just above Bell on the board.

What do you think? Will Michigan add one or two of the defensive line targets left on the board? What will the offensive line haul look like on NSD? Should the staff bring in two more slot receivers? Let us know in the comment section below! 

Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky, Associated Press