Inside the Fish Bowl is Sitting Pretty for Top 2017 Targets

Though a verbal commitment did not come out of this weekend, it still looked to be a big success. The staff hosted several top targets on Saturday, including several 2017 defensive standouts and one of the top names on the 2018 board. And from all accounts, things went extremely well.

Sitting Pretty 

The name most were watching this weekend was 2017 Episcopal (VA) DE Luiji Vilain. Going into his unofficial visit myself and the rest of the world seemed to put in a Crystal Ball prediction in favor of Michigan for the Canadian standout. Though it wasn’t known if a commitment would come during or after the trip, it looked like the staff was about to wrap up his recruitment. And they just may have.

According to multiple accounts, things went about as well as possible. That includes the famous “gut feeling” from The Michigan Insider’s Sam Webb who is hearing very positive things ($).

With the Ann Arbor trip in the books, Vilain is now expected to make his decision in the coming weeks. And barring any crazy turn of events, it should be Michigan here.

As for another top 2017 target who recently visited Ann Arbor, Clay-Chalkville (AL) WR Nico Collins is looking more and more like an eventual member of this class.

Collins named Michigan his leader soon after his first trip to campus and while some believed he may have just been coming down from a visit high, it still looks like the talented receiver is feeling the Maize and Blue as he recently caught up with Rivals’ Adam Friedman at the NC Elite 7v7 Tournament in Raleigh ($):

Michigan was my most recent visit. I kind of love it up there. There’s a vibe that everybody has with you and they make sure everything is good with you. It’s a wonderful campus and everything.”

It’s still early but he’s already planning on returning in mid-June for a camp visit which is obviously a very good sign. This is a recruitment that won’t officially end until NSD but Michigan is looking strong here. If the second visit goes as well as the first, UM could solidify their spot atop his list.

How about a third top overall target Michigan is sitting pretty for? Ask and you shall receive.

I mentioned how Michigan was in very good shape for the three of their top Detroit targets in Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jaylen Kelly-Powell and Ambry Thomas in my May In-State Recruiting Update. DPJ and JKP have been guys who Michigan has looked good for since the beginning. However, Thomas was a different story.

Coming out of Detroit King, Thomas looked like he may either end up following several of his past teammates to East Lansing or possibly even leave the state for his college ball. But that was until the Michigan coaching staff ramped things up a bit. He’s now clearly one of the top overall targets to the staff and thanks to that pursuit, as well as his weekend visit and the staff pushing playing alongside his cousin and good friend Kelly-Powell, things are looking better than ever.

Thomas told TMI’s Josh Newkirk that, though he doesn’t have a leader, Michigan is “near the peak” ($). But could he just be playing the game there? 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong is hearing very good things on UM’s chances ($). So good that he went ahead and put in his Crystal Ball prediction for Thomas to Michigan.

If Michigan keeps the pressure turned up on Thomas and the staff can add the public commitment of his cousin and good friend, Kelly-Powell, they may be the team to beat throughout.

Is Dylan McCaffrey Elite? 

Though he was ranked the top quarterback on multiple recruiting websites, 2017 Michigan commit and Valor (CO) QB Dylan McCaffrey had been questioned a bit as he wasn’t a player seen at many camps. But the top get in the class changed that tune quickly as he participated in The Opening Regional camp in Oakland and showed out.

Though he didn’t take home camp MVP honors, McCaffrey was invited to the top quarterback competition camp in the country, The Elite 11:

This camp will be a big factor in where McCaffrey is ranked at the end of the day. Though winning it is not necessary to prove he’s the top quarterback in the class, a good showing will obviously help.

As for McCaffrey being a leader of the class, the five star talent spoke with 247Sports’ Barton Simmons about his recruitment and who he’s recruiting to Michigan:

Landing the top ranked quarterback in the same class that happens to feature, arguably, the best player to come out of Michigan in recent memory (Peoples-Jones) is a big feather in the cap for Michigan. Having that top ranked quarterback heavily recruit the top ranked in-stater is even bigger.

Future Flipmode Squad Victims

I’ve already put together an article this month on Michigan’s top targets who happen to be committed elsewhere at the moment and where UM stands with each of them. It’s a post I’ll continue to do every couple months and two names who very well may be added to the list are midwest products.

One name that is not yet committed elsewhere but could be in the next couple weeks, Moeller (OH) TE Matt Dotson is a name that has drawn up a ton of buzz lately. He’s one of Michigan’s top tight end targets in the class and has been receiving two different Crystal Ball tidal waves over the last two weeks.

After naming Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State to his top three, most analysts were hearing that the Spartans were the favorites to land the Cincinnati talent with Michigan rumored to be right at the top and PSU barely standing a chance. But after a weekend visit to Happy Valley, Dotson has told multiple people that the Nittany Lions now lead for his services.

It’s clear to see that great visits go a long way in Dotson’s recruitment. So, with him expected to visit both East Lansing, Ann Arbor and, possibly, State College, this roller coaster is unlikely to slow down up until his decision at The Opening in July.

Here’s how I look at this situation: Michigan is definitely still in the thick of things. Their unofficial could sway things back towards Maize and Blue but will it stick? That’s unknown. Even if he commits elsewhere, Penn State or Michigan State, I don’t see Michigan going away quietly. I still see them pushing hard for Dotson up until he signs his LOI which is why he’ll remain on my BGRC that will be out this week.

As for a local product who most thought was completely off the table, Ohio State commit and Ann Arbor Pioneer (MI) ATH Antjuan Simmons was a player I mentioned in the May In-State Recruiting Update as a guy who could become a target for the staff again. If they come to the point that they’re pushing for him as a top target, it’ll be tough to see Simmons turn down the school across the street.

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Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports