Inside the Fish Bowl is Having Déjà Vu

It’s the second week of the satellite camp tour for Michigan and Jim Harbaugh doesn’t look to be slowing down at all. From wearing local legend’s jerseys to running each camp he attends, that guy truly is a jackhammer. That doesn’t even include what his staff has done all around the world in the mainland as well as American Samoa and Australia.

The satellite camps are getting all of the attention at the moment but the trip back to Ann Arbor next week is the time to watch closest. While the program is putting on their team camps, several top targets will make their way to town, including WR Nico Collins, OT Toryque Bateman, OL Tedarrell Slaton, OT Kai-Leon Herbert and much more.

Speaking of top targets….

Déjà Vu 

Almost exactly a year ago, Michigan had their list of top recruiting targets at every position. And cornerback was one position that looked to be going in a much different direction than what happened on NSD. Lavert Hill was committed to Penn State and wasn’t really interested again in Michigan until the late summer/early fall. As for David Long, he was vibing hard with Stanford and was actually just two months away from committing to the Cardinal.

Fast forward 7 months later and both Hill and Long are signing with Michigan.

So, what does that have to do with the 2017 class?

Like 2016, the cornerback position has plenty of questions in 2017. Benjamin St-Juste is already on board and Ambry Thomas is looking more and more likely to end up in the class. Both would be very nice signings but the staff always has other top targets. And just like last year, one of their top cornerback targets is a top 150 recruit out of Detroit King (Thomas) while the other looks to be an elite two-way talent out of the Golden State.

Calabasas (CA) CB Darnay Holmes is that guy and could very well be the David Long of the 2017 class.

Over the last couple weeks, Holmes has been one of the biggest names on the Michigan recruiting front and for good reason. He’s an elite athlete and has the ability to be one of the top gets in the entire class. It also helps that Jim Harbaugh, the staff and Long himself have ramped up the pressure on Holmes and have started to recruit his cousin/2015 recruit WR Desean Holmes. All of which is clearly paying off.

Holmes was supposed to make his collegiate decision on June 23rd with Nebraska, Stanford or UCLA looking like the top potential landing spots. But thanks to the pursuit from UM, he called off his announcement plans and now will wait to make a decision until he’s “ready to commit”, which may come after a couple visits this fall.

And one visit is expected to be to Ann Arbor.

According to a source, the Penn State game on September 24th is a possible official visit date for Holmes and others. While I didn’t get this deep of a scoop, according to The Michigan Insider’s Brice Marich, the Calabasas standout could be accompanied by a very large group of Michigan’s fellow Californian targets ($), including RB Stephen Carr.

On top of an extremely likely official visit planned for this fall, Holmes also told Maize N Brew’s Evan Petzold that Michigan is the only known team at the top of his list:

Does this mean Michigan outright leads for Holmes? I wouldn’t go that far though a source on the UM side is feeling good about their chances at this point. I think Nebraska and Stanford may make up the rest of his top three with either school having a leg up on the Wolverines thanks to familiarity and past visits. But that doesn’t exactly mean that I think either of those teams will sign him.

If the staff and David Long continue to push for Holmes, he takes that official visit to Ann Arbor this fall and has as good of a time as expected, and UM has a great season on the field, they could steal the top corner off the west coast for the 2nd straight year. Add in a commitment from his cousin and the Wolverines may become the outright favorite. 

More Cornerback Talk 

While Thomas and Holmes look to be the top two targets on the board, the staff is continuing to do their due diligence with several other corners in this class. That includes going after another top player in the class, Tristian Christian (FL) CB Shaun Wade.

Wade, who has been committed to Ohio State since January of 2015, is a consensus top player in the class and for good reason. He has the size and athleticism to be a game changer at the position. But will that be for the Buckeyes or for another program?

The OSU pledge spoke with The Wolverine’s Brandon Brown at the satellite camp in Jacksonville about his interest in Michigan and plans to visit both Ann Arbor and other top schools around the country ($):

I’m taking all five [official visits] I just don’t know where,” he said. “That’s why I’m trying to narrow it down now. Ohio State is definitely going to be one. There’s a couple of other schools in the group for the others. Florida, Michigan, Alabama, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, UCLA and USC. Stanford would be one if I could get in there.”

While Wade also said Michigan was “a visit that I’m going to take”, I’m not holding my breath just yet on a potential flip of the five star defensive back. Not only has he been with the Buckeyes for the majority of his recruitment but he also made his way up to Columbus with his parents this past weekend. And from his mother’s interview with Bucknuts’ Alex Gleitman, Wade doesn’t look to be going anywhere ($).

If a visit does indeed happen, Michigan will have their shot to give Wade a second thought. However, if one school truly looks to have a chance at flipping him, it’s his mother’s favorite, Alabama.

As for another name to watch that happens to be committed elsewhere, Columbus (FL) CB Chris Henderson has been committed to Miami (FL) since February but thanks to his showing at the Fort Lauderdale satellite camp, he now holds an offer from Michigan:

Henderson is a guy the staff has been monitoring for quite sometime but his in-person performance was clearly all they needed to see to fully extend an offer. He let me know that this is indeed a big offer for his recruitment and he’s now looking to visit Ann Arbor this summer or fall.

As for a name not to forget, for more than one reason, Sandalwood (FL) CB Ameer Speed was another Jacksonville satellite camper that proved his talents in front of the Michigan coaching staff. He also caught up with The Wolverine’s Brandon Brown to discuss a possible visit to Ann Arbor and his interest in the Maize and Blue ($):

They are up there,” Speed said of Michigan. “I haven’t narrowed anything down yet, but they are definitely up there in consideration. There are some schools that I’m taking out, but Notre Dame and Michigan are still in there.”

If Michigan is indeed able to get Speed up to campus, he could become a name to watch closely. At 6’3”, he has the elite size and length that most staffs are looking for in their press corners.

Forgotten Crystal Ball 

Michigan has a handful of “must get” recruits in the 2017 class and I just so happened to put in a 247Sports Crystal Ball prediction for one of them a couple weeks ago that I forgot to touch on.

That prediction was for Paramus Catholic (NJ) LB Drew Singleton to follow his former teammates, Jabrill Peppers and Rashan Gary, and head coach, Chris Partridge, to Ann Arbor and sign with the Wolverines.

While it’s not a huge reach to predict Singleton to Michigan (95% of CBs are pointing in that direction), it’s still pretty significant because of how important he is to this class. As for why I did it, there’s just too much information out there about UM’s standing with the talented linebacker.

The guys at Wolverine247 have publicly felt better than anyone on Michigan’s chances, as they’ve heard that Singleton “has been the safest major bet on the staff’s board for quite awhile” ($). On top of that, Scout’s national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn said it’s “hard to imagine” Singleton going anywhere but Michigan thanks to his ties to the program ($), especially his relationship with Peppers.

Add all of that in with months of coverage and digging, and that’s how you get a Crystal Ball prediction.

Proving It in a New Place  

In college athletics, transfers have become the new norm. As for high school sports, it’s not that common. But we saw two transfers with ties to Michigan in the past two days.

First, after weeks of rumors, 2017 commit RB Kurt Taylor has officially made the move north from Newton (GA) to powerhouse Grayson (GA). Why? Taylor let me know that he’s planning on graduating in December but needed to transfer to be able to enroll early at Michigan. This move does that and now things are set up on both sides for his dream to become a reality.

The move to Grayson also sets Taylor up to win himself a state championship and fight for a national championship. And when you look at some of the top names on the roster, you can see why:

Yeah, that roster is stacked.

As for recruiting his new teammates to Michigan, Taylor plans on letting his play do the talking:

“Every one knows how I feel about Michigan. My goal is to dominant and lead by example. I want my leadership to be and Influence on my teammates to want to join me in Michigan.”

The move to Grayson will not only allow Taylor to compete for a state/nation title and graduate and enroll at Michigan early but it will also give him the chance to prove his talents even more. If he puts up numbers his senior season that’s even close to his junior year, questions about his recruitment should go out the window.

As for a name that was right in Michigan’s backyard but looks to have slipped down the staff’s recruiting board, 2017 WR KJ Hamler announced on Tuesday that he’ll make the move from Orchard Lakes St. Mary’s (MI) to uber national powerhouse IMG Academy (FL) for his senior season:

With the move to Florida, the odds of Hamler ending up in Ann Arbor looks to be nearly zero. Michigan State and Oregon look to be the favorites at this point but with Hamler likely to blow up in a pass heavy offense at IMG, he should see his offer list grow even more.

To tie the two together, Grayson will play IMG Academy on ESPN on August 27th. That’s a must watch game for all recruiting fans.

Shuff-OL-ing  

With around 7 months to go until NSD, there are (obviously) a couple position groups that are completely up in the air for the Michigan recruiting staff. One of those spots is the offensive line, especially the center position.

The top two targets at the position for UM just so happens to be the top two centers in the class. And UM has been a favorite for both. But could that have quickly changed?

Santa Margarita Catholic (CA) OL Brett Neilon announced on Tuesday night that his decision is on deck:

Coming out of the blue, this early decision may not be a great sign for Michigan. I’m still trying to do some digging here but the latest Crystal Ball predictions are in for USC and that makes sense after he visited the Trojans just last week. 

Michigan is still a definite factor here and will likely continue to recruit Neilon to the whistle whether he chooses them or not. But if he picks USC, the staff may take their pursuit of IMG Academy (FL) OL Cesar Ruiz to an even higher level, especially after he announced that things have changed a bit for his top teams: 

The list he’s referring to featured Michigan at the top of his list, like most analysts had heard and thought. But now Ruiz is saying that all 12 of his top teams are on an even level.

Now, do I think UM is falling? Not really. He’s a top target and has been favoring the Wolverines for a long time. Recruiting is extremely fluid and other teams make runs. While I don’t believe he’s a “lock” to sign with Michigan, I do still believe they will remain the favorites (especially with an even stronger pursuit), barring any drastic changes.

Moving to the tackle position, one of the names that the staff looks to be ramping up their pressure on is Alabama commit and Washington (FL) OT Alex Leatherwood.

Leatherwood is one of the best players and tackles in this class, so it’s easy to see why Tim Drevno wants him and Mario Cristobal wants to hold onto him. But will Cristobal be able to do so?

The Bama commit spoke with 247Sports’ Nate Adelson about his recruitment and didn’t exactly solidify his spot with the Crimson Tide ($):

For my situation, Alabama was the first college campus I saw,” Leatherwood said. “I had someone enlighten me on their tradition and that’s why I chose to commit. I’m still looking around though, I made that decision without anything to compare. I want to weigh my options and build relationships with more coaches so I’m sure about everything.”

Clearly the door is still open for another program to kick it in. Will Michigan be that team? They definitely have their chance.

Leatherwood told The Wolverine’s Brandon Justice (back when he was at MaizenBrew) that Michigan is “really close” with Alabama after Drevno visited him in May. How close? Leatherwood is working on visiting Ann Arbor this summer:

If that visit happens and/or he takes an official visit to campus this fall, Michigan should become a very real threat to stealing the top tackle away from Alabama.

Latest from the Twittersphere 

Twitter is college football recruiting nowadays as almost every recruit and recruiting analyst updates the latest in the world of recruiting via the social network. And this past week was one of the most busy in the last couple months. 

2017 Clay-Chalkville (AL) WR Nico Collins

  • Note: This looks to be a Michigan vs Alabama vs Georgia battle though I believe UM may still have the upperhand moving forward. With him visiting for the camp on the 17th, they could take a big lead for the talented wideout this summer.
2017 Starkville (MS) Willie Gay

  • Note: Gay was a member of my last BGRC but if he sticks to the plan of committing before he’s able to visit Ann Arbor, it’s tough to see him choose UM in late July. However, no matter who he picks, I don’t see the staff giving up on him until he signs his LOI or his spot is spoken for.
2017 Centennial (CA) WR Tyjon Lindsey

  • Note: Lindsey is easily one of the most dynamic players in this class and should be an instant impact recruit at whichever school he chooses. And it’s very likely that’s not Michigan. Though UM is hanging around and keeping their name out there, it’s looking like the Wolverines will have to worry about playing against him instead of playing with him as Nebraska and Ohio State are the rumored favorites.
2017 Los Angeles Senior (CA) DT Martin Andrus Jr.

  • Note: Andrus is not a name that gets a lot of pub at the defensive tackle positions but could be a name to watch moving forward. Most believe he’ll stay on the west coast and play his ball in the LA area but a visit for a satellite camp and/or campus visit could shoot Michigan up his list.
2017 Grenada (MS) S CJ Avery

  • Note: Like Andrus, Avery is a player that doesn’t get a lot of publicity from the UM side of things but could be a name to watch. Michigan has been trying to get into Mississippi for awhile now and their camp in Pearl could really help themselves in the state and with Avery. He’ll be a very tough pull out of SEC country but being in the race at this point is a win in and of itself.
2017 The Hun School (NJ) DT Fred Hansard

  • Note: Hansard was looked to be a top target early on in the process for most programs, including Michigan. But things looked to have quickly changed. According to Wolverine247’s Steve Wiltfong, it looks like the staff didn’t view Hansard as a take ($). So, it makes sense that UM is no longer in contention for the New Jersey DT.
2017 IMG Academy (FL) WR Jhamon Ausbon

  • Note: Ausbon decommitted from Baylor back in March and wasn’t really a name that Michigan fans were watching too closely. However, landing in his top four is something to watch. The staff offered him in April, visited him in May and clearly left their mark. While it’s tough to see him in UM’s class at this point, they at least have themselves much more than a puncher’s chance.

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports