The Life and Times of a Michigan Recruiting Reporter

To change things up a bit, we wanted to interview the guys who help make this whole Michigan recruiting world happen. It is a position that all Wolverine recruiting fans rely on so I wanted to take time to spotlight what goes into being a top of the line Michigan recruiting reporter.

Here are the reporters we interviewed:

As for the piece, we asked each reporter about how they got into the game, what their jobs consist of, their favorite recruits of all time, and even their prediction on the 2015 Michigan football season aka Team 135. Enjoy!

@MGoFishHow did you get into the world of recruiting?

@TremendousUM: To be honest, it was completely by chance. A buddy and I were bored after Michigan lost to Iowa a few years ago (the Junior Hemingway missed TD call) and decided to start a blog for fun. After we realized we were just re-hashing the same stuff a lot of other sites were, I figured it might be fun to give recruiting a try. It was unique because I never had any interest in recruiting whatsoever and had no idea how the market really worked. I think it\’s what made it fun and kept it fresh when the Tremendous site started to build popularity.

@JoshuaHenschke: I think it was purely out of interest. Being a Michigan fan in school at the time, I was interested in seeing where the future was headed to my favorite school. Then it kind of clicked with me, why don\’t I give it a shot? I felt that it was cool that other reporters could go out and see these high school kids grow into a massive life decision. I thought I could try to add more, maybe do it a little differently. My mindset going into it was, why not me? I knew I could handle the responsibility and I figured I would give it a shot.

@Spath_Wolverine: By circumstance. When I was hired by TheWolverine.com in Aug. 2002, it was done so with the intention of being a second football writer, assist with basketball, cover Olympic sports and help a little with football recruiting. But our football recruiting writer left abruptly early in my tenure and so it was a role I was thrust into it. My colleague, Chris Balas, and I handled it for about four months, thru Signing Day, and then we hired Josh Helmholdt and subsequently Tim Sullivan. Both have done an outstanding job, but everyone on our staff plays some role with recruiting.

@CoachBrown3: I\’ve always been a fan of recruiting whether it was following it in real life or controlling it on NCAA video games. I followed the recruiting blog MGoRecruit closely, was offered a position as a \”film guy\” because of my coaching experience and out of the blue Benji, the sites creator, shut the site down two days after I was brought on board. I had caught the bug though and decided to start my own site, The M Block, and my passion for covering recruiting was born. I started gaining a pretty loyal following and was identified by 247 and Scout as a potential employee, but those fell through. Eventually I was hired to cover recruiting part-time at MGoBlog and that\’s what I\’m still doing.

@DavidMormino: I got into the world of recruiting on accident, actually. I\’ve always been a fan of UM, but when I was approached to start building a website, and a brand, I jumped at it. Hopefully I\’m doing a decent job at it haha

@anthonytboome: Recruiting was actually the way I got into covering Michigan athletics. I was never a huge fan, but I was given the opportunity and found that it was a different and interesting way to expand upon my interest in the Wolverines.

@MGoFish: What are the hardest aspects of the job?

@TremendousUM: Probably having to manage the message board and calm fans down when negative news hits. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college football program, but it\’s also become an arm of the game that is much more about perception than reality because of how quickly the pace continues to build. We\’re doing updates on 2016 and 2017 prospects that won\’t make decisions for a couple years still. It\’s important to do those updates now because you have to build contacts before the kids get tired of media stuff, but in the end, Michigan\’s success both on and off the field will be determined by how they perform on the field every year.

@JoshuaHenschke: Although my recruiting coverage has taken a major step back since joining SB Nation, I think the hardest part of it was tracking down the kids in general. Searching their names on Facebook was a little peculiar, as was asking for a followback on Twitter. But, it had to be done in order to be successful. However, it didn\’t come without difficulty.

@Spath_Wolverine: When we started in 2002, recruits and coaches were thrilled to talk to the media, and you were privy to strong, engaging interviews, scoop, and could really forge a relationship with prospects and their coaches. It made it a lot of fun. Nowadays, with the sheer number of recruiting-focused Web sites and blogs, this kids are inundated with phone calls and rarely do you find the kid that wants to talk for more than a few minutes. It\’s also so much harder to get a hold of kids because of the volume of interviews they\’re subjected to.

@CoachBrown3: Two things immediately come to mind. The first is the fact that I don\’t live in Michigan. I actually live in Clemson, South Carolina so it\’s tough not being able to go to combines, practices, games, etc. of most of the recruits that I cover. Michigan obviously focuses heavily on they midwest recruits, and they are simply out of my range. The other thing that is tricky is just turning off my fandom. I am a die hard Michigan fan, born and raised, but I make sure I don\’t convey that when I\’m talking to recruits. They know that I work for an all-Michigan site, but I make sure to have a \”just the facts\” approach.

@DavidMormino: The hardest thing about the job, to me, is separating news from nonsense. There will be hundreds of tweets or reports about a player, or team, doing something one day, and then a completely different report the next day. \”Sources\” sometimes aren\’t real, so when information is passed along, be sure it\’s what\’s correct, not \”You heard it here first,\” that could get you in trouble. Just because it was heard first, doesn\’t mean it was reported correctly. In short, know what\’s good information, and what isn\’t.

@anthonytboome: The hardest thing is staying current. Recruiting is such a fluid process with things changing seemingly every day.

@MGoFish: What is your favorite part about the job?

@TremendousUM: You get to meet a lot of cool people. One major perception about covering a team, especially as an alum, is that other fan bases (and some within Michigan) believe you are actively rooting for kids to end up playing for that school. This couldn\’t be further from the truth. Two of my favorite players ever to cover and keep in contact with will play for Ohio State (Kyle Berger) and Michigan State (Enoch Smith Jr.), and that\’s just a couple. You really meet a lot of unique coaches, parents and players, and sometimes some of those people end up becoming friends to an extent. That\’s what I like most about it.

@JoshuaHenschke: My favorite part of the job is to hear the genuine excitement in the kids voice as he talks about his recruitment and what he can offer to a program. Especially the lesser covered athletes. When they would text me to let me know a school offered, it was great seeing them grow and seeing excitement when another school took interest.

@Spath_Wolverine: After they commit. Generally speaking a kid in the fold for a particular school is much more accessible, much more friendly, and you can really engage them for some interesting stories. I look at all the stuff Jabrill Peppers has done in the last few months, and it\’s great entertainment. I also enjoy watching film and projecting how a recruit could fit into the short- and long-term plans of a particular school. I know a lot of recruiting writers enjoy the chase – the moment a kid is identified until the moment he commits, and all the twists and turns involved – but for a guy like me whose primary responsibility is covering the actual college team, the excitement comes once a recruit is pledged (and ideally signed).

@CoachBrown3: I am a teacher and a coach for my career so I have a lot of experience dealing with students and student athletes of all levels. I have a knack for connecting with them and relating to them which makes talking to recruits very easy for me. I love all sports, especially football, so watching film, evaluating talent, and getting to know potential future college or even NFL players is really cool. Everything to do with covering recruiting is enjoyable, it really doesn\’t feel like a job to me.

@DavidMormino: My favorite part about the job is the interaction that I\’ve had with so many people in a short time. I\’ve met some pretty cool people through the years, and I hope to continue to build relationships with great people throughout my career. The fans, writers and recruits have all been good to me, and I want to repay them with hard work, dedication, and some conversation.

@anthonytboome: The best part is following a player\’s journey from a high school player to becoming a man, and in some cases, realizing their dream of becoming an NFL player. It\’s another chapter in the story of a career that is cool to watch unfold.

@MGoFish: How many calls/texts to and from recruits do you deal with on a normal basis?

@TremendousUM: This varies wildly depending on the time of the year. The winter/spring visitation periods for the coaches are among the busiest because new names enter the conversation and you have five coaches visiting multiple schools and prospects for weeks at a time. I can\’t really put a number on it, but it\’s probably a lot more than people would think.

@JoshuaHenschke: Now, none. I am strictly focusing on the Michigan beat and rarely handle recruiting duties save for a few commit/decommit posts here and there.

@Spath_Wolverine: Not many. Probably three or less per week because most of that is handled by Sullivan or Balas.

@CoachBrown3: It depends. I only cover recruiting part-time so during the school year when I\’m working it\’s not quite as intense, but when the summer hits or I\’m on a break from school it\’s pretty constant. Whenever I\’m trying to put together a visitor list or a list of combine participants or something, the numbers are in the hundreds per day sometimes. It\’s hard to even throw a ballpark number out there but there are texts, direct messages on Twitter, or FaceBook messages between me and either players, coaches, or parents every single day at all times because of all the different schedules that everyone has.

@DavidMormino: I don\’t really try and contact recruits, oddly enough. I feel like they have enough on their plates already with their process, so I try and stay out of their hair. But when I was writing for my previous website, I\’d say probably have a talk with a recruit once or twice a week. Nothing crazy or convincing them to go to Michigan, but just to see where they stood in their recruitment. There\’s a fine line between getting some information regarding recruitment, and being a creep. No need to make a choice for these kids, they\’ve got it covered.

@anthonytboome: Some weeks its more than others. There are a few that I stay in contact with consistently.

@MGoFish: Who was the best Michigan recruit/commit you\’ve ever seen?

@TremendousUM: My job is to report the news, so I\’m not technically an analyst, although I am capable of it. Because of that, I don\’t travel to a ton of camps and see a lot of players, especially with pads on. Given that, I was always impressed with what Jourdan Lewis would bring to the table in an actual game situation. He\’s not the biggest player, but he\’s always been incredibly athletic and has a knack for making the big play. It\’s no surprise that he is pushing the veterans for playing time at corner.

Film-wise, it\’s an easy one with Jabrill Peppers. I strongly thought he should have been the #1 overall player in his class because of his ability to be a game-changing player in all three major facets of the game. The Big North United league is one of the strongest conferences in high school football with DePaul Catholic, Bergen Catholic, Don Bosco Prep and St. Joseph\’s Regional along with Peppers\’ Paramus Catholic all putting out multiple Division 1 players every year. He dominated that league while winning four state championships. He\’s Michigan\’s best recruit in at least 15 years, and he\’ll show it on the field.

@JoshuaHenschke: Bryan Mone, hands down. It\’s funny. He\’s an absolute monster on the field but outside he is one of the nicest kids I have ever spoken with. I only spoke with him a handful of times, but every time I did I came away feeling like Mone was a fantastic human being off the football field. It\’s makes conversations much easier and it helped me understand how much recruiting impacts a kid positively (in most cases).

@Spath_Wolverine: In-person is a different question than on film. I think on film Mike Hart\’s video remains one of those that you have to see to believe. I understand he\’s playing in New York against lesser competition than what you\’d see in Texas, but defenders were running into each other just trying to tackle him. I\’ve been to a county festival where I\’ve watched grown men trying to capture an oiled pig and it\’s next to impossible, and that\’s what it was like watching Hart just shake and deke his way through an entire defense. On his most infamous run — the Barry Sanders highlight — I think he makes all 11 defensive players miss at some point. Incredible.

In-person, I went to one of Tim Jamison\’s games back in 2003 because Michigan was at Northwestern that year, and Jamison had one of those senior seasons that defies belief. I think he had close to 25 sacks and 40 tackles for loss as a senior. On the first play of the game, he goes right around his man for a sack. On the second play, they slid a tight end over to help the tackle, and he splits them and then bulldozes a running back and sacks the QB again. He had four sacks and eight tackles for loss in the game I saw, and I\’ll never forget it. I thought he was going to be the best pass rusher U-M has ever had.

@CoachBrown3: If we are talking in person then it\’s Elijah Hood. He\’s from North Carolina so I was able to see him in person at the Charlotte NFTC a couple years ago. He just looked like he was in a different league compared to the other running backs that were there. If we are talking about on TV or online then it\’s Jabrill Peppers and I don\’t think it\’s close. That\’s not a knock on the other guys Michigan has recruited, it\’s just a testament to how special Jabrill is. That kid is a generational talent and should do big things for Michigan.

@DavidMormino: I\’ll go old school for my first choice and say Sam McGuffie. He was a RB from Texas who transferred from UM to Rice, but he was a freak athlete. Cool guy. But recently it has to be Jabrill Peppers, almost without question. He\’s had a pretty impressive road to Ann Arbor, so we\’ll see what his next chapter brings.

@anthonytboome: My sophomore year of high school, our football team played Inkster in the playoffs when Devin Gardner was a junior. Gardner was throwing bombs 60 yards downfield into 40 mph wind gusts. Our team was obliterated.

A current recruit I saw last summer at a camp was 2015 tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. He may have been the most physically imposing junior in high school I\’ve ever seen. He should be a good player in time.

@MGoFish: What\’s your prediction for Team 135?

@TremendousUM: It\’s a difficult question to really tackle at this point. On paper, this should be Coach Hoke\’s best team at every position except for probably offensive line, which is the last spot you want to be struggling at. I do think they\’re being slept on a bit nationally, as the Doug Nussmeier hire will make the offense more consistent and allow the talent up front to shine more than it has in the past. I also think the defense will be excellent, particularly in the back seven.

That being said, they\’re being dealt a tough hand this year with all three of their rivalry games being on the road (first time in school history). I\’m guessing they end the regular season with three losses, but will beat one of either Michigan State or Ohio State. I\’m not sure who though.

@JoshuaHenschke: I\’m coming into this season where I\’m not sure what to expect for Team 135. As far as a record, I\’m going to hold off because I honestly have no idea what type of team Michigan is going to field this season.

However, I think the biggest thing I expect from Michigan this season is improvement. Improvement doesn\’t necessarily mean major strides over last year (though that would certainly help) but they will have to prove to me that they are capable of being successful under Brady Hoke.

@Spath_Wolverine: 8-4. Until I see them win a tough road game, I have them losing their three hardest to Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State, and I\’d be leery of both Rutgers (because it\’s a night game and that crowd will be jacked) and Northwestern too because the Wildcats are due. For that fourth loss, my feeling is it will come from one of Minnesota, Northwestern or Maryland.

@CoachBrown3: I think it\’s 9-3 but unfortunately with losses to all three rivals on the road. It is really tough to ask a still young team, with a new offensive coordinator to go get wins in South Bend, East Lansing, and Columbus. If they can get one of those three, I\’d be pretty happy. On paper they should win every other game but we all know the games aren\’t played on paper.

@DavidMormino: Looking at the schedule I want to say 9-3. The team is a good team, and the schedule doesn\’t really do them any favors. Playing OSU, MSU, and ND will always be a \”50-50\” game and it could go either way. I\’ll stick with 9-3 and say Hoke keeps his job.

@anthonytboome: I have the Wolverines at 8-4 this season. I think they\’ll be able to do enough to buy this staff another year and inspire confidence heading into 2015.

Here is our Team 135 Prediction

So, there you have it. These are the guys who go out and make the Michigan football recruiting world a possibility, and now you get to see how they all have their own unique story, experiences, and perspective on the world of recruiting and the Michigan football program.

I just wanted to thank all of these guys for doing the interview and helping out. As always, Go Blue.