The internet is truly a wild place. It is a place where you can find databases filled with some of the greatest intellectual work ever produced, and it is also a place where we photoshop ‘crying Jordan face’ onto Tom Izzo after being bounced in the first round by MTSU. Basically, you can find anything on the internet.
In 2001, Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization out of California, launched the Wayback Machine. This tool allows anyone to take a full snapshot of a webpage as it is in a given time, and upload it to the Wayback Machine where it will be kept forever, and for all to see. I know what you’re thinking, you were finally about to get some work done, and now you’re going to be procrastinating on the Wayback Machine for hours. I feel you, though. I have plenty of term papers due in an alarmingly short amount of days, and instead I’m doing this. I have but myself to blame for that snafu.
Anyhow, I have come to inform you all that my musings on the Wayback Machine were not futile. After spending what was probably hours searching things like what ESPN.com’s CFB page would have looked like on April, 22nd 1999 (headline on that day: Notre Dame’s Tony Driver and Indiana’s Antwaan Randle-El are switching positions), I had the idea to have a gander at what the members of Michigan’s class of 2016 signees’ 247sports.com pages looked like months or even years before their signing days. The results showed that Michigan played from behind in lots of recruitments, and it also showed that many of Michigan’s commits significantly improved over their senior seasons.
For our purposes, we’ll focus on the snapshot closest to NSD 2015 and start off by taking a look at the offense:
Going in order, as the players appear on the 247sports.com site, we start with Peters. The closest recorded snapshot to NSD 2015 for Peters came on February 11, 2015.
- Peters barely had a composite 4-star rating (0.8968) and was rated a 90 by 247sports.com. He was the 302nd ranked player in the country, the 11th ranked pro-style QB and the 5th ranked player in the state of Indiana, according to the composite rankings.
- Where was he ranked by the end of the cycle? A high 4-star grade of 0.9674, good for the 61st ranked player in the country, 6th ranked pro-style QB and the top player in Indiana, according to the composite.
Peters’ timeline and interests are also interesting. Two days after Michigan offered, they were listed as “Warm,” along with Indiana, Virginia Tech and Michigan State, who hadn’t yet offered and never ended up offering. His timeline noted two upcoming visits for Peters, one to Vanderbilt on April 18th and one to Michigan on April the 4th for their spring game. He would never make it to Vanderbilt, as he committed to Michigan the day before his visit to Ann Arbor.
Michigan did not necessarily play from behind in this one, but what was interesting was that he was already listed as warm, just two days after being offered. Garrett Fishaw’s BGRC for February of 2015 was published on February 1st, 2015, 9 days before Peters got his offer. The projected QB? KJ Costello, with Shea Patterson, Jacob Eason, Messiah DeWeaver and Dwayne Haskins as the other options. Safe to say, Peters came out of nowhere, and turned into an absolute stud as a recruit. Here’s to hoping that’ll translate into success at Michigan.
Next is former #1 overall running back, Mr. Walker.
- On February the 7th, 2015, Walker was a 5-star, the 9th overall player in the country, the #1 back and the second ranked player in New Jersey, according to the composite. He had committed to Ohio State during the national championship game a little over a month prior, so most of the featured stories linked to his page were OSU related.
- Even more curious, however, was his crystal ball. At that time, it read 75% to Alabama, 12% to Penn State and 12% to Rutgers. NEVER TAKE THE CRYSTAL BALL TOO SERIOUSLY, FOLKS.
Kareem’s recruitment took several interesting turns throughout the summer and fall. Obviously, the biggest development was flipping to OSU’s arch rival. Glancing at his profile as it appeared in February of 2015, there would have been absolutely no indication of him flipping to anyone, and certainly not to Michigan. Whether OSU wanted him by the end of the cycle or not, Michigan had to work very hard to get Walker.
Next up is spring ball standout, Ahmir Mitchell.
- As of February 10th, Mitchell was ranked 89th overall in the country, he was the 5th ranked athlete and the 3rd overall player in the state of New Jersey. He had three crystal balls in, two for Rutgers and one for Ohio State.
- Mitchell already had an offer from Michigan, and according to his timeline, this might just have been the time where the new staff had begun to identify him as a target.
Everyone knows how that recruitment played out; he was down to Michigan and OSU. OSU did not have the space for him, so he chose Michigan. What his profile from February of 2015 shows is that he was a priority for Michigan fairly early on, and that his hands cost him in the rankings.
Next on the list is satellite camp star and Prattville standout, Kingston Davis.
- As of February, the 8th 2015, Davis was unranked by 247sports and by the 247sports composite. Despite that, he already held offers from Georgia Southern, Louisville, Mississippi State, Southern Miss and, curiously, Michigan.
- His timeline was completely empty, but his offer did come in on February the 3rd, according to Garrett Fishaw. News of his offer likely went under the radar, but the obvious link between Michigan and Kingston Davis at that point would have been from scouting 2015 CB commit, Keith Washington.
What this reveals is that Michigan is extremely quick at identifying talent, and is not shy to offer as soon as they find someone they like. Another thing it reveals is that he improved a great deal over his senior season and the summer leading into it. It looks like Davis might be a gem of a recruit.
TE Sean McKeon
Next is the early enrollee and “smartest player in the class”, Sean McKeon.
- The first recorded snapshot of Mckeon’s 247sports page comes on May, 14th 2015. At that time, he was close to receiving what were his two biggest offers, Michigan on June 1st, and Virginia Tech on June 13th. He had received an offer from his home state Boston College Eagles just a few days before the snapshot was taken, on May 8th.
- As of May 14th, Sean had a composite grade of 0.8111, making him a low 3-star prospect. He was the 58th ranked tight end nationally, and was the 5th ranked player in the state of Massachusetts. Let me remind you, being ranked 5th in Massachusetts is VERY different from being ranked fifth in Florida, or even in Michigan.
Michigan had McKeon high on their tight end board. They even wanted to get him on campus early to move things along, which they did. Sean’s rankings improved since May of 2015, ending the cycle with a composite grade of 0.8493, and was the second ranked player in the state. He is a very physically impressive prospect, and if it weren’t for Michigan’s numbers at the position, he might see the field early in 2016.
As for his final rating, the level of competition he faced in Massachusetts is probably what cost him the most. Mckeon also held offers from Columbia, Harvard and Yale, which might give you another indication as to why Michigan liked him so much.
OL Ben Bredeson
Up next is fan favorite and very possible early contributor, Mason Co…I mean Ben Bredeson. Ben is that guy that every Michigan fan thinks should be a 5-star and will fight anyone who says their school’s top 2016 OL recruit is better than Ben. That being said, Ben is better than your best OL recruit.
Luckily, to help my argument, Ben Bredeson has always been an elite recruit.
- As of February the 8th, 2015, Ben was a composite 5-star, ranked 30th overall in the country, 5th best offensive tackle in the class and the top player in Wisconsin. And there was never much fluctuation in that ranking.
- The schools listed as “warm” at that time were Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
- His crystal ball had 17 predictions – an unusually high number of entries so early in the prospect, especially one from Wisconsin. For someone to have 17 entries in a year before their signing day, it probably means that several experts believed him to be a lock somewhere.
- Ben’s crystal ball read 88% to Wisconsin and 12% to Michigan. Whoops.
The fact that he committed to Michigan’s new staff – not the staff that helped generate the crystal balls that were in by February of 2015 – just a few months later, is impressive. And that is still despite Greg Mattison staying on as Bredeson’s primary recruiter through the coaching change.
Michigan fans are very excited about Bredeson, as they ought to be. He could end up being a star in the maize and blue.
TE Devin Asiasi
Up next comes TE Devin Asiasi, who had one of the most interesting recruitments in the 2016 cycle.
- A snapshot taken on February 8th, 2015 shows that Asiasi was still rated as a weak-side defensive end at that time.
- Another snapshot taken on March the 8th of 2015 had him rated as a jumbo athlete.
- In February 2015, Asiasi had a grade of 0.9339 in the composite, the 148th ranked player in the country, the 10th best WDE and the 23rd overall player out of California. Michigan and USC were listed as warm, and he had three crystal ball predictions in for Southern Cal. They had him listed at 6-5, 230lbs at that time.
- A snapshot taken on August 10th, shows a rankings bump, a weight bump and a different top group. Alabama, Oregon, USC and Washington were listed as warm. Some crystal balls were put in for Washington. And then (finally some consistency) a snapshot taken a month later shows the same exact thing.
Here’s where it gets interesting; Devin’s first crystal ball pick for Michigan came on January, 27th 2016. Less than a week before signing day. Michigan pulled this physically impressive and nationally ballyhooed prospect from the other side of the country at the end of the 4th quarter. The fact that they had to beat local, as well as national powers to do it makes it all the more impressive.
Not long before signing day, nobody thought Devin would pick Michigan, besides Fishaw who luckily added him to his BGRC in March of 2015. Such a lucky guess.
Big Mike is another fan favorite and player that could/should contribute early on in his career.
- A snapshot from February 8th, 2015, shows Onwenu with a composite grade of 0.9253, ranked 179th in the country, the 5th guard nationally and the 3rd overall recruit in Michigan. Ohio State was listed as “warmer” on his list of interests and held all seven crystal balls that were put in for him.
- Welp, Onwenu committed to Michigan on June 2nd of 2015. He never really thought twice about that either, aside from his “official” commitment late in January…whatever that was.
He was a high priority for the Michigan staff, and looks to be just the road grating lineman that this staff will continue to target in future classes.
Dylan, or Kekoa, was the highest rated amongst a large haul of receivers in 2016.
- A snapshot of his 247sports profile from the 10th of February of 2015 shows that he was rated even higher a year before signing day. Crawford was a near composite 5-star at that time, with a grade of 0.9739.
- He was the 47th ranked player in the country, the 6th ranked receiver and the 6th ranked prospect in California, according to the composite. 7 crystal balls had been in for him by then, 71% for USC and 29% for Arizona State. ASU, Michigan, UCLA and USC were listed as “warm.”
We all know what happened with Crawford; he wanted to go to Oregon, but they did not offer until late. They did end up offering, but it was too little too late. Crawford liked Michigan, and they were the eventual choice. Michigan had to fend off three PAC-12 schools that wanted him, and another one that would have likely had him had they offered early on.
The UM staff stayed on him all year, and it paid off. Look for Crawford to be a very productive receiver at Michigan in a year or two as he brings something to the roster that it’s been missing for quite sometime.
WR Brad Hawkins
Next up is another receiver, in Camden’s Hawkins. The versatile athlete was offered by the previous staff in the spring of 2014, and there was never another reported offer from Michigan after that. So, at some point, a member of the new staff must have told him that his offer still stood with them. Very few prospects had that same treatment, which goes to show how badly they did want him.
- A snapshot taken on February 11th, 2015 shows Hawkins with a higher rating than he finished with. He had a composite grade of 0.9333, was the 150th ranked player in the country, the 37th ranked receiver and the 7th overall prospect in New Jersey. He had 6 crystal ball predictions in; 3 from South Carolina, and Ohio State, Temple and Rutgers each had one apiece.
- Interestingly enough, 247sports believed his top group to be South Carolina (listed as “warmer”), Florida, Michigan and Pitt, who were all listed as “warm.”
Hawkins’ recruitment was not a very difficult one for the staff. He committed to Michigan on July the 3rd, at which point they held 84% of his crystal ball reads, to USC’s 16%. It took them a while to get the pledge, but once the staff turned up the pressure, there wasn’t much doubt.
From the time the snapshot was taken to his commitment to Michigan, he only visited two other schools besides Michigan. He visited nearby Rutgers twice, previous leader South Carolina once and Michigan once. With one visit, Hawkins fell in love with Michigan and it appears that the love was mutual.
ATH Chris Evans
Indiana’s Mr. Everything might be one of the most underrated players in the class.
- A snapshot taken on May 16th, 2015 shows Evans with a low 4-star composite grade of 0.8948, good for the 293rd best prospect in the country, 5th ranked all-purpose back and the 4th ranked prospect in Indiana.
- Surprisingly, Michigan State was listed as “warmer,” with 7 of his 7 crystal balls recorded for the Spartans. Michigan wasn’t even listed amongst his interests.
- May 16th is by no means late in the process, but for a guy that seems to have been committed to Michigan forever, one would think Michigan would appear in some capacity on his page. Yet, they did’t.
- The first mention of Michigan on his timeline is an unofficial visit on May 30th. Michigan would offer Evans on that visit. One week later, he was committed to the UM.
After his commitment, he visited a few other midwest schools, but no one ever thought he’d flip anywhere. Not even a late offer from Ohio State swayed the perception of his recruitment, and perhaps more importantly, it didn’t sway Evans. He would end the cycle with almost the same composite grade, but saw a slight bump from 247sports, moving him from an 89 to a 90.
TE Nick Eubanks
The third tight end on the list is the late add out of Florida.
- A snapshot of his 247sports page taken on February 14th, 2015 shows Eubanks with a composite grade of 0.8889, making him a three star prospect. He was ranked as the 12th best tight end in the country, and the 43rd best prospect in Florida.
- At that point, there were 3 crystal ball predictions in for Eubanks. Two predictions for Alabama and one in for Miami (FL). Alabama was listed as “warmer” with LSU and South Carolina listed as “warm.”
- For a late add, the staff offered pretty early on as Eubanks received his offer from Michigan on March 7th.
- The first mention of Michigan on Eubanks’ timeline was an in-home visit conducted by Jay Harbaugh on December the 7th which helped the staff land an official visit on January 27th. A day later, he committed to the Wolverines.
- The other two schools that were after him at that time? Alabama and Florida, the two teams that squared off in the 2015 SEC championship game.
By the end of the cycle, there were 14 predictions in on Eubanks’ crystal ball. Alabama was still the leader, with Florida, Miami and Baylor also getting some predictions.
It was rumored that Eubanks’ preference was not to play in the SEC, which may be why he chose Michigan. But, Michigan did pull him away from some heavy hitters late in the cycle. They got him because out of all his choices, UM did the most with the tight end. Come to think of it, Eubanks and Michigan seems like a no-brainer. Even if they only picked up their interest later on in the cycle.
WR Eddie McDoom
Up next is everybody’s favorite recruit name ever, Eddie McDoom. This evil hamburger sounding wide receiver was one of the most underrated recruits in the entire 2016 class and should show it during his time in Ann Arbor.
- A snapshot of his 247sports page from February 19th of 2015 shows him with a low 4-star composite grade of 0.8915. He was the 323rd ranked prospect in the country, the 54th ranked receiver and the 43rd ranked player in Florida.
- Clemson and Ohio State listed as “warmer” with Kentucky, Louisville and South Carolina listed as “warm.” Oddly enough, despite having 2 schools listed as warmer and 3 listed as warm, there were no predictions on McDoom’s crystal ball. So, either he was just as mysterious as his name is awesome, or his list fluctuated so much that no one ever got a read on him.
- Michigan did not offer McDoom until October 27th of 2015, and was briefly committed to Oregon later on in the calendar year. He visited Michigan on January 27th, just days after decommitting from the Ducks, and committed to UM a few days later.
By the end of the cycle, he had 23 predictions on his crystal ball. Michigan, Kentucky, Florida and Oregon all had picks in their favor. McDoom held offers from schools in every major conference, and was from SEC territory. Michigan entered the race for McDoom late, and won out in the end. This was a really nice win for the coaching staff.
WR Nate Johnson
The last wide receiver on the list might actually end up being the best of the bunch. Johnson is, what Michigan DC Don Brown would call, a “dude.” He just makes plays, man.
Nate Johnson is a classic late bloomer.
- A snapshot of his 247sports profile taken on March the 1st of 2015 shows Johnson hold zero offers, and rated an 0.83 on the composite.
- Over the spring of 2015, Johnson picked up a bunch of FCS offers. His first FBS offer came from Purdue, on June 25th. He committed to the Boilermakers 2 days later.
- As summer turned to fall, Johnson started to generate some interest from bigger programs. In November alone, Johnson got offers from Vanderbilt, Miami (FL), Temple, Northwestern and South Carolina. In December; Penn State, Tennessee and Michigan. In January; Virginia Tech and Notre Dame joined the fold as well.
- Schools took notice of Johnson’s impressive senior tape, and picked up some major offers as a result. However, he committed to Michigan on December the 12th which was the 2nd day of his official visit and just 3 days after receiving his offer from UM.
Other programs were close to prying him away from the Wolverines, but he ended up signing with Michigan on signing day. Also, he ended up with a 4-star grade according to 247sports’ rankings.
What Johnson’s recruitment shows is that Michigan can identify talent quickly. Based off the fact that he committed to Michigan 3 days after receiving his offer, it also shows that they can wrap up a recruitment in a hurry. Even if they had to fend off the likes of Tennessee, South Carolina and Penn State to do it. A lower ranked recruitment, but an impressive win one nonetheless.
The last offensive player in the class is the Maryland mauler. After missing out on Jean Delance and the Swenson saga, Michigan was scrambling to add another offensive lineman to the fold. Michigan’s previous regime had offered Spanellis, but it came too shortly before the end of their era.
- A snapshot of Spanellis’ 247sports profile from March 23rd of 2015 shows Spanellis have a composite ranking 0.8537, good for 688th in the country.
- He committed to Virginia on June 30th and there was no known interest from Michigan at that time.
Spanellis’ recruitment was the only late lower ranked pull for Michigan in 2016. But there was definitely more to it than that.
Coach Drevno told me one of his concerns about my film last year was he thought I fell down too much, my balance wasn’t good. He said looking at my film this year, he was really impressed about how I stayed on my feet when I went up to the second level or if I went out on screen passes. I think just in general, I looked like I had improved my strength, my balance, pretty much everything I could have improved in a year.”
Clearly, Michigan always had their eyes on Spanellis, but just had higher targets on their list. The statement he gave to the Baltimore Sun should make all Michigan fans very confident about his ability to improve and grow. This helped the staff feel comfortable taking Spanellis late.
In terms of rankings, he definitely was a reach, but a calculated one.
The Wayback Machine don’t lie. What has it told us this time? Michigan has found some key pieces for their future offenses. In a lot of cases, they did it the hard way.
For those of you who hadn’t heard of the Wayback Machine before, all I can say is happy procrastinating!
Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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