Inside the Fish Bowl is Digging December for Diamonds

Michigan hosted its biggest official visit of the year this past weekend. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The college football recruiting dead period went into effect on Monday and will run until January 11th. That means all of the staff’s top targets that were in town for the weekend would have seen Michigan last going into their decisions.

And the master plan looks very likely to pay off quickly.

December to Remember

In each and every recruiting cycle, when winter comes, the fun begins. And for a premier program like Michigan, it’s even more fun thanks to the ridiculous amount of elite level recruits that will be enrolling early and, in turn, announcing their decisions prior to the mid-January enrollment period.

Here’s the list of upcoming announcements (in order), where things stand, as well as my prediction on each target:

2017 Cheshire Academy (CT) WR Tarik Black

I’ve had my Crystal Ball on Black to Michigan since the end of August after he visited Ann Arbor for the BBQ at the Big House and set to officially visit again for the season opener. The plan at the time was to silently commit to his school of choice prior to the start of his senior season. So, all signs pointed to the Wolverines. And that looks it may have been exactly what happened.

As for his upcoming announcement, even though he named Alabama his leader after his recent official visit to Tuscaloosa and someone put in a Crystal Ball in Auburn’s favor after his official visit to AU, there isn’t a player I feel more confident in choosing Michigan than Black. His fit in the pro-style offense, longtime relationships with the staff and recruits, as well as the fact that he “surprisingly” made an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor this past weekend have Michigan sitting pretty here. And after doing some digging, I’d be shocked if he didn’t choose UM.

  • Decision Date: Wednesday, December 14th at 1pm (EST)
  • Prediction: Michigan 

2017 Cass Tech (MI) WR Donovan Peoples-Jones 

Peoples-Jones is the top player in the state and top wide receiver in the class. And he’s looked very likely to end up at Michigan for most of the recruiting cycle. That was mainly because of the lack of another option outside of the Wolverines.

But that was until a fun new rumor popped up on LandOf10 from OSU beat writer Jeremy Birmingham. That rumor being that not only was Michigan not going to be the choice but that the Wolverines weren’t even in the running for the Detroit standout and he was down to Ohio State and Florida State.

This thing took off like wildfire through the CFB recruiting world. And it definitely put some doubt into Michigan fans minds. That was especially the case when OSU’s DB coach Kerry Coombs and Urban Meyer made a late Sunday night in-home visit to the Peoples-Jones’ household. But it looks like it may be all for nothing as even Birm himself admitted to not believing what his sources were telling him and mentioning that he thinks the top ranked receiver will still choose the in-state program.

And I’m with him.

And so are TMI’s Sam Webb, who’s been all over DPJ’s recruitment from the start ($), and Allen Trieu, who all but confirmed the false claims that Michigan was out of the race ($).

While Florida State and Ohio State’s strong pursuits look to have at least have him thinking and has me not as confident as before, I’m still like this one to go in favor of the home team. Not only has Peoples-Jones visited Michigan much, much more than any other program, he’s also big on academics and actually did work at the UM hospital over the summer. Add in his chance to play right away in Ann Arbor, his strong ties to the coaching staff, current roster, current commitments and his family ties to the University, at this point, I’d be pretty shocked if he chose anyone but Michigan on Thursday night.

  • Decision Date: Thursday, December 15th at 8:30pm (EST) on ESPN
  • Prediction: Michigan

2017 Poly Prep (NY) OT Isaiah Wilson

Wilson has been a priority recruit for the Michigan coaching staff since the day they started focusing on the 2017 class and it’s clearly paid off. The big man was rumored to be close to committing to the Wolverines nearly a year ago but held off to make sure he made the right move. And that nearly cost UM his pledge.

Alabama was the favorite for a couple months over the summer but his return visit to Ann Arbor for the BBQ at the Big House put Michigan back on top. And it looks like it’ll be for good.

Since that trip, Michigan has been the rumored favorite and, from all reports, that looked to be the truth. Thanks to those visits, the connections with members of the staff and the very real shot at playing early on led me to putting in my Crystal Ball back in September. I’d be shocked if that prediction ended up being wrong on Friday.

2017 IMG Academy (FL) C Cesar Ruiz 

For months, Ruiz has been one of the safest bets on the board. He was an immediate priority recruit for the staff as the center position was one of the most needed positions and Ruiz, who happened to be former teammates with freshmen DE Ron Johnson and 2017 commit WR Brad Hawkins, is the top center in the class.

Thanks to the longtime familiarity with the staff and campus, as well as the chance to start his freshmen year, Michigan has been in the driver’s seat. North Carolina and Alabama were threats at one point but it always looked to be UM in the end. That’s why it would be one of the biggest upsets in recent UM recruiting history if he were to commit elsewhere.

  • Decision Date: Monday, December 19th
  • Prediction: Michigan

2017 IMG Academy (FL) LB Jordan Anthony 

Like his IMG teammate, Cesar Ruiz, Anthony is another player I feel excellent about choosing Michigan. He’s a player that completely flew under the radar on the recruiting trail as his talents may have been hidden a bit from the surrounding talent down in Florida. There aren’t many better pure athletes than him in the class and his senior tape at linebacker is extremely impressive.

Anthony is another player on this list that really hadn’t had another true favorite outside of Michigan since the spring. He was one of my first Crystal Ball predictions and the only thing that had me nearly waver for a second were some qualifying questions. But with that looking to be cleared up, this decision has Maize and Blue written all over it.

  • Decision Date: Thursday, December 22nd
  • Prediction: Michigan

2017 Antioch (CA) RB Najee Harris 

Harris has yet to announce an exact date for his final decision but it looks like it could come at anytime between now and the Army All-American game on January 7th. And I’m starting to become more and more optimistic about Michigan pulling off the unthinkable here.

Now, I’m not ready to put in a Crystal Ball prediction and would still put money on Alabama winning out in the end but it’s really close. Harris made his long awaited official visit to Ann Arbor this past weekend, which gave UM the chance to be the last full coaching staff and campus he was able to see before the quiet period.

And, according to all reports, things couldn’t have gone much better.

To go along with all of that positivity, according to a trusted source, I can also confirm Michigan feeling good about its chances to flip the #1 player in the class.

But will all of this effort be for nothing? This should be a very close call in the end. Like someone mentioned to me earlier, the ending to this recruitment could end up being wildly similar to Rashan Gary’s last cycle. But this one may not go in Michigan’s favor.

One thing to keep an eye on. The sooner the decision date, the better for Michigan, in my opinion.

  • Decision Date: TBD
  • Prediction: Alabama

2017 Paramus Catholic (NJ) LB Drew Singleton

Along with Ruiz, Anthony and Black, there aren’t any 2017 recruits I feel more confident in choosing Michigan than Singleton. His story has been told a million times and his future continues to point directly towards Ann Arbor.

Singleton was in town for his official visit this past weekend and, from all reports, looked to have a fantastic time. He spoke with LandOf10’s Brandon Justice about sitting down with Don Brown to talk schemes and the other recruits, who could very well end up being his future teammates.

Though a decision date is not officially set, he did tweet out on Monday night that a decision date was “coming soon”. Whether that happens in December or January, I firmly believe it will be Michigan over Clemson. And that’s especially true with some of the reports out there about the Tigers pulling back a bit.

  • Decision Date: TBD
  • Prediction: Michigan

2017 Clay-Chalkville (AL) WR Nico Collins

Collins is another top target that will be enrolling early so a decision could come at any time. Unlike Harris, this decision date isn’t expected until after he finishes out his official visits in January. But because of the constant change that comes with recruiting, it’s hard to rule out him possibility bumping up the date.

Now, Collins recently told 247Sports’ Steve Wiltfong that he doesn’t have a leader ($). However, I’m not completely buying it. Besides a short stint over the summer where he admitted Michigan was his top team, Collins has kept the drama alive as he’s continued to say he doesn’t have a leader. Consistently mentioning Georgia and Alabama along with UM when interviewed. But UM looks to be quite confident.

According to multiple reports, Michigan looks to have backed off WR Oliver Martin. And with the staff looking to bring in a big receiver haul, that move has me thinking that the staff feels very good about its chances to sign its top three targets in this class, as well as already having the return commitment of 2016 signee WR Brad Hawkins.

Add in all of the positive notes for Michigan in the pursuit of Collins, including his numerous visits to campus since the spring and “something different” feeling about being in Ann Arbor ($), and, though the final visits could get him thinking, he’s yet another top target I’d be pretty surprised to see end up elsewhere.

  • Decision Date: TBD
  • Prediction: Michigan

Ballin in the Fish Bowl

It may have flown under the radar a bit but I put in my Crystal Ball prediction for 2017 Southwestern (MI) DL Deron Irving-Bey to Michigan after his official visit this past weekend.

I originally had my CB on Michigan State for the Flint standout but thanks to a strong pursuit from the Michigan staff (Greg Mattison especially), Michigan has looked like the favorites for quite sometime. The only thing holding me back from the prediction before was the lack of space available and DIB waiting until the Army All-American game to announce his decision. But that all looks to have gone out the window.

With DT Rutger Reitmaier now looking very likely to stick with Oregon, I feel good about a spot remaining when Irving-Bey makes his announcement. Add in Steve Lorenz’s choice to put in a CB for DIB to UM (you’re welcome for that) and it was all I needed to jump on board as well.

Quick Hitters 

  • Over the last week or so I’ve made some changes on my Crystal Ball predictions. That includes moving my CB back to Oregon for Rutger Reitmaier, moving my CB to Cloudy for Oliver Martin and moving my CB to Cloudy for CB Darnay Holmes. I talked about the Reitmaier and Martin reasoning above. As for Holmes, the inability to make an official visit to Michigan at this point, along with OSU surging, had me back off the post-BBQ prediction.
  • 2018 Bishop Gorman (NV) TE Brevin Jordan released his Brandon Whitaker top three special and it included Michigan along with UCLA and Miami (FL). With UM pushing hard for Jordan’s teammate and good friend, 2018 QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the Wolverines look to be in good shape early on to pull two of the top players in the class out of one of the nation’s top high school football programs.
  • Speaking of the MGoFish media arts team, make sure to keep an eye out for our video specialist Stephen Osentoski’s latest work.

Photo Credit: Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

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