Inside the Fish Bowl is the Center of Attention on Leap Day

Spring practice has kicked off in Bradenton, Florida which means Michigan football is back. Excited? To make things even better for all of you logo lovers, the players are wearing Nike cleats during practice. But that won’t be the only new addition to the practices. Check out Brandon Peters and Ahmir Mitchell sporting the Maize and Blue:

As well as John O’Korn officially rockin’ his new number:

On top of the football team being back in play, recruiting is starting to pick up with camps taking place and the spring game in just over a month. Here’s the latest:

Centers of Attention

There may not be a position the coaching staff is in need of more in the 2017 class than the center position and they’re in great shape with two of the top centers in the country.

IMG Academy (FL) C Cesar Ruiz has been the favorite to end up at Michigan after a couple visits and his two former teammates and a good group of his friends signed with UM in the 2016 class. He’s spoke with plenty of reporters in the last week or two about his recruitment and interest in the Wolverines, including Rivals’ Mike Farrell:

Per Scout’s Corey Bender, Ruiz may visit Michigan in the near future. As will another top center prospect on the staff’s board and in the class in Santa Margarita Catholic (CA) C Brett Neilon.

I caught up with Neilon to talk about his recruitment and his interest in the Wolverines. He’s clearly very high on Michigan and they look like the most likely non-west coast landing spot for him. If his visit goes really well and they continue to make him a priority, I like UM’s chances at receiving his pledge if he commits over the summer, like he said was a possibility.

New Offers, New Interest 

Michigan has been sending out plenty of offers over the last couple weeks and, like expected and planned, most of them have helped draw up big interest out of the recipients, including:

Redlands East (CA) OLB/DE Jaelan Phillips has blown up on the recruiting trail in recent weeks, which included adding offers from Alabama, Texas A&M and Michigan in this past week. Speaking of that Michigan offer, Phillips spoke with Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz about it as well as his interest in UM’s “academic and athletic combination” ($).

At this point, he looks likely to stay on the west coast but Michigan’s well rounded pitch could be something to watch throughout his recruitment.

Colerain (OH) CB Amir Riep is one of the somewhat rare offers out of Ohio for the new Michigan staff (yes, things have changed quite a bit). He caught up with The Wolverine’s Brandon Brown about his offer and interest in UM recently, which included his relationship with LB Joe Bolden, him not having a favorite team, and his plans to visit Ann Arbor “whenever (he) can” ($).

QuarterBack to the Future 

Jim Harbaugh signed one of the top pro-style passers in the 2016 class (Brandon Peters) and already has a solid commitment from the top pro-style quarterback in the 2017 class (Dylan McCaffrey). Could he really be in line to add another top signal caller in 2018? UM is in great shape with Paramus Catholic (NJ) QB Allan Walters but he’s not the only top guy on the board.

Early on, things look pretty good as Newbury Park (CA) QB Cameron Rising is taking an early liking to Harbaugh and the Wolverines.

Rising spoke with 247Sports’ Ryan Bartow about his latest offer from Michigan and his interest in UM ($):

“It was like a crazy feeling because they’re one of the best college programs ever, offering me to go play football at their school,” he said upon getting the offer. “It’s the University of Michigan. They’re winners. They’ll win games. Coach Harbaugh knows how to adjust. Look at how he did with Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick hasn’t been the same since Harbaugh left. He knows how to adjust to his players’ abilities and get the most out of them.”

Kid knows his stuff, huh? If that love for Michigan produces an early visit from Rising, things could heat up quickly here. His game would go well alongside Peters and McCaffrey who are more pocket passers than Rising, who can make plenty of plays with his feet.

Another name to watch on the 2018 quarterback board is Bishop Gorman (NV) QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who will visit Michigan on March 25th ($), per BuckNuts’ Bill Kurelic via Wolverine247’s Steve Lorenz.

Quick Hitters

  • I caught up with Ligonier (PA) S Collin Smith recently and he let me know he’ll be attending the spring game on April 1st. If he’s a top target for the staff, I believe he ends up at Michigan. Not only because of his offers at the moment but he’s a great fit on a Harbaugh roster and the fact that UM was his first offer is clearly carrying a lot of weight.
  • Newton (GA) RB Kurt Taylor has been a vocal leader of the 2017 class for Michigan early on and he’ll have the chance to do some recruiting for UM in the near future. He let me know he’s planning on visiting before the spring game and possibly even for the spring game. He may also visit IMG Academy on Friday.
  • Another SEC country prospect is looking to visit Michigan as American Heritage (FL) OT Kai-Leon Herbert told The Michigan Insider’s Brice Marich that he “may” visit Ann Arbor this summer.
  • Glynn Academy (GA) CB Deejay Dallas is one of the top players on Michigan’s board and have let him know it. That interest and the early offer has helped put UM on Dallas’ top 15 list that he recently released. Looking at the list, UM is the only northern team on the list and looks to be a favorite early on. An early visit this spring should do wonders for the Wolverines chances. I’ll hopefully have more from him soon.

Happy Leap Day! 

Brought to you from one of the greatest leapers in Michigan football history, Mr. Braylon Edwards:

Who is your favorite “leaper” in Michigan history? Favorite jump ball play? Add your thoughts in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: Tony Ding/Associated Press