Michigan Wolverines: Football Recruiting

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Defensive end Keisean Lucier-South planned to trim his considerable list of scholarship offers to a final five schools in early August, but just like he is on the field, the nation's No. 28 prospect was quick off the line, announcing his top five on Monday.

Five-stars Hilliard, Cornell to announce

July, 2, 2014
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Five-star recruits Justin Hilliard (No. 13 in the ESPN 300) and Jashon Cornell (No. 16) will be making their college announcements live on ESPN.com at 10 a.m. ET. Tune in to see where these program-changing prospects will end up.

The Big Ten’s top freshmen will soon run on to their teams’ practice fields for the first time with the hope of making names for themselves. Nearly all of them have reported, so what is their mindset? And what do they think about their respective teams?

Before they reported, ESPN.com caught up with a handful of the conference’s elite freshmen – all were ranked within the ESPN 300 or earned an invite to the Under Armour Game – and asked them several questions to get a better idea of where they stand.

The participants were Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson, the No. 7 quarterback in the 2014 class; Penn State WR Chris Godwin, the top player in his state; Michigan LB Jared Wangler, one of 90 players selected to the UA Game; Iowa WR Jay Scheel, the headliner of the Hawkeyes’ class; and Maryland LB Jesse Aniebonam, the No. 98 player in the ESPN 300.

Part 2 with those same players will run on Tuesday. Here’s what they had to say in this first installment:

What game are you most looking forward to this season?

[+] EnlargeClayton Thorson
Tom Hauck for Student SportsNorthwestern signee Clayton Thorson is looking forward to the Wildcats' game at Notre Dame.
Thorson: Obviously, every game is important, so you can’t overlook any team. But I’d say the game I’m looking forward to is Notre Dame. That’ll just be a cool environment to play in. You see everything about how great their program and history are, so it’ll be fun to be inside the stadium and play on the field. It’ll be a cool experience.

Godwin: Honestly, right now, I’m looking forward to the UCF game because it’ll be my first game, and I don’t really want to look too far into the future. I just want to take everything one day at a time.

Wangler: To me, Michigan State kind of stands out the most. It’s an in-state rivalry, and last year we didn’t do well against them – and I feel like, this year, we have a lot to prove against them. I feel like Ohio State is the token answer, and I feel like that’s a big game. But, Michigan State, that’s an in-state game and they’ve been beating us the last few years. That’s not acceptable.

Scheel: I’m really just looking forward to the first game and heading out of Kinnick. I’m really looking forward to just experiencing it for the first time, because a lot of players have told me how special it was for them. So that’s something I’m really looking forward to, with the fan base and everything.

Aniebonam: That would be between Penn State and Ohio State, our conference home opener. Back in the day, I dreamed about playing against Penn State -- maybe even, back in the day, playing for them. But I’m looking forward to playing against them. I followed them, as well as Maryland, and it just seems like it would be a really exciting event, a game full of energy. We’re playing them up there, and I think it’s going to be a really close game. And Ohio State, that’s our first home game in the Big Ten. And that’ll really set the tone. So, those two are going to be really exciting.

Who’s one under-the-radar freshman -- outside of the ESPN 300 -- in your team’s class that we should be watching?

Thorson: I’d definitely say Justin Jackson, no question. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Illinois two years in a row, rushed for like 6,000 or 7,000 yards in his career, and he’s a great guy. Obviously, the recruiting sites put up their view on what a guy is, and a lot said he wasn’t top-tier -- but he is. He’s the real deal. I think that’s one guy that will surprise people.

Godwin: If I had to pick one, it would be Troy Apke. I feel like he’s a guy that people aren’t really talking about but could really help us out a lot as a group of wide receivers.

Wangler: Freddy Canteen. I think he’ll be an immediate impact guy. I know he enrolled early, and he’s already turning heads. So Freddy Canteen. Everyone should keep an eye on him.

Scheel: The one guy I played against was Parker Hesse. He played both ways, at quarterback and linebacker, and they were a really good team. His legs are big, and he’s so fast and big that it was hard to bring him down. I think he’s going to be good for Iowa.

Aniebonam: I would say Will Ulmer. He was (Washington, D.C.) Saint John’s quarterback this year, and I believe he’s one of those underrated players that once people give him a chance – once he steps in – that he’ll show he’s an amazing athlete and an amazing player. I had the privilege of playing against him -- we butted heads for all four years -- and it was great to find out we were going to Maryland with each other. He’s going to surprise people.

If you could change one rule with the recruiting process, what would it be?

Thorson: The recruiting process comes so fast now, and guys don’t have a chance to grow into themselves. So I think one thing I would change is that the recruiting process would start a little later -- I would say coaches wouldn’t be allowed to contact guys until you’re going into your junior year of high school. I think that’s when you could make calls and stuff and talk to these coaches because guys are getting scholarships and letters when they’re in eighth grade. That’s crazy.

Godwin: Probably making official visits sooner, so that players don’t have to squeeze all of their visits in during the season.

Wangler: I think there should be an earlier signing day -- like maybe they should have two signing days. Just because it gets everything set in stone quicker because I know, when it gets closer to signing day, a lot of schools are pressuring kids and putting a lot of stress on them, and it’s kind of unfair to the kid. I feel if they really want to go somewhere, they should be able to.

Scheel: My recruiting process went pretty smoothly, so I don’t know if I would change anything about it. I guess, maybe being able to sign earlier -- just because you’re committed doesn’t mean that you’re really locked in to there. You need to sign. So if you want to sign right away, I think you should be able to do that.

Aniebonam: If I could change a rule -- I’m pretty sure you’re only allowed to take five officials -- I would change that. I know it’s probably a money thing because those cost money for the schools, but I don’t know where that rule came from. If you could take more visits than that, you’d get a better feel for more schools. I honestly don’t think anyone would need to take more than 10. But a lot of guys, those four- and five-stars, have a lot of options and they may be interested in a lot of schools. So, if they can get a few more solid official visits, that could make the difference.

Notebook: IMG 7v7 Championship 

June, 23, 2014
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The IMG 7v7 National Championship held at IMG Academy over the weekend featured some of the top 7-on-7 teams from all over the country and even a few teams from Canada. The event, which included 12 prospects ranked in the top 50 of the ESPN 300, showcased some of the best talent you will find in a single tournament. Led by Alabama verbal commits Calvin Ridley and Shawn Burgess-Becker, the Florida Fire from South Florida defeated Tampa’s Unsigned Preps 20-18 in the championship game to take home the title.

Quarterbacks shine

There were several high-profile quarterbacks in attendance, and they lived up to the hype for the most part. Deondre Francois, who recently transferred to IMG Academy, made numerous impressive throws. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound signal-caller has a top three of Oregon, Auburn and Florida State and is planning to make his decision at the end of July.


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Michigan has another commitment as Under Armour All-American tight end Chris Clark announced for the Wolverines on Thursday. Here's how Clark fits into Michigan's talented group of young tight ends:


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College coaches and recruits are always quick to proclaim their school as the best at developing certain positions. Whether it’s DBU or Linebacker U, recruits have a definite perception of which school stands out at their position.

Prospects from across the country were polled on which school has been the best at developing each position over the past 10 years. Did your school make the list?


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: There are rivalries, and then there is The Big Game. Michigan and Ohio State are bitter competitors on the football field and also on the recruiting front. So it’s no surprise to see Michigan and Ohio State prospects taking pot shots at each other all the time on social media, and a Michigan Class of 2014 signee was rather talkative over the weekend after earning MVP honors in an all-star game. But it was Ohio State that created one of the biggest recruiting headlines this past weekend.

Future Wolverine fuels rivalry


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The Sound Mind Sound Body camp was full of top prospects from all over the country. The recruits, ranging from the 2015 to 2017 classes, came in for a two-day camp with on-the-field instruction and off-the-field speakers.

College coaches from nearly every Big Ten team, Stanford, Notre Dame and MAC schools were on hand to take in the event, and some were given the opportunity to speak to the prospects.

The coaches took advantage of the face time by spending time with top targets, including defensive end Jashon Cornell, running back Jacques Patrick, wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and others.

Given the nature of the camp there was plenty of recruiting news and visit updates from those top recruits.

Patrick takes in Michigan
Michigan is still in pursuit of a top running back after losing Damien Harris to a decommitment earlier in the year. Mike Weber and Jacques Patrick have been two big targets, along with Harris, and Patrick made his annual trip up to Michigan to see the campus and take in the camp.


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video Michigan has picked up its first commitment in the month of June with the addition of ESPN 300 offensive tackle Grant Newsome.

Here's what Newsome's decision means for the Wolverines:


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Jabrill Peppers can fly

June, 3, 2014
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Michigan signee Jabrill Peppers ran the 100 meter dash in 10.52 seconds at his state track meet last week. That time would have put him in the top 20 of the NCAA East preliminary round that also took place this past weekend.



The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Peppers beat out 2015 Alabama commit Minkah Fitzpatrick in the race, and he was flying.

Michigan fans are excited to see that kind of speed and size combination in the defensive backfield when Peppers gets to campus in a few weeks. He should be an early contributor, as he is coming in as the No. 2-ranked prospect in the country.

Getting to know: CeCe Jefferson 

June, 2, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — CeCe Jefferson is one of the top defensive ends in the country, ranked No. 9 in the ESPN 300. Yet the 6-foot-3, 248-pound, five-star prospect found himself playing middle linebacker, defensive end and even fullback in his team's spring football game.

That’s exactly how Jefferson likes it.

"I like moving around because it shows the coaches at the next level that I’m versatile enough to do it,” Jefferson said. "I don’t mind playing multiple positions in college. Linebacker is probably what I’m going to be because I’m not really that big to play defensive end against 300-pounders all night. So moving around is definitely not a problem to me. I feel like I’m versatile enough to do it, so if a coach asks me to do it, I’m going to do it.”

It’s Jefferson’s versatility and ability to cause so much disruption for opposing offenses that has college coaches from across the country flocking to Glen St. Mary, Florida, to try to land the talented defender from Baker County High School.


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Notebook: Columbus NFTC 

June, 1, 2014
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The top prospects from all over the Midwest came out to perform at the Columbus NFTC. When you gather that much talent in one place, it’s only natural that a lot of recruiting news will follow.

ESPN 300 linebacker Justin Hilliard was one of five prospects who earned an invitation to The Opening, and Hilliard discussed whether or not he has narrowed his top-five down even further.

He was one of many uncommitted recruits who made news on the day, as did running back Mike Weber, defensive end Jashon Cornell and offensive lineman Matt Burrell.

Those prospects became targets at the camp for some of the committed recruits on hand. One of the main targets was No. 1-ranked running back Damien Harris, who will soon have news of his own.

List to narrow for Harris


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Top five recruiting jobs: Big Ten 

May, 21, 2014
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The Big Ten has some excellent individual recruiters within the conference, but individual efforts are only as good as the program as a whole. So which are the top five best recruiting jobs in the Big Ten?

Here is a look at the list, and why each team ranks where they do.

1. Ohio State

Proximity to out-of-state talent: Geographically, Ohio State is in a good spot. It’s only a few hours from Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. It also isn’t too far from Illinois, so the campus is easily accessible for most Midwest prospects. That doesn’t always matter with Ohio State, though, as the Buckeyes typically have a lot of in-state talent and are recruiting the South heavily.


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Hail to the Grammar Police

May, 21, 2014
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More and more schools have stepped up their game with the mail they send to prospects. Plain ol’ notes on a school letterhead are so 10 years ago. Top programs have hired graphic artists to create some stunning designs and unique recruiting pitches to help standout from the crowd.

But in the case of the University of Michigan, maybe they should also hire a copy editor.

Mike Weber, the nation’s No. 152 prospect and a highly coveted in-state prospect, said he received the above note from Michigan. The design, a replication of ESPN The Magazine, definitely is eye-catching, but so is the typo advertising Weber as Michigan’s “All-Amercian RB.”

Despite the error, the Wolverines remain very much in contention for Weber, the No. 2 player in Michigan. Weber also lists Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Tennessee as his top teams.
Penn State's blistering start to 2015 recruiting under new coach James Franklin has a familiar feel for Michigan fans.

In recent years Michigan has been the Big Ten school to get a jump on the upcoming class, racking up verbal commitments well before its conference brethren. Coach Brady Hoke's first full recruiting class in 2012 had 11 players committed by the end of May and 20 commits before the 2011 season kicked off. It was much of the same for both the 2013 class (14 commits by mid-March 2012, 21 before the end of August) and the 2014 class (15 of 16 recruits committed before the 2013 season).

Michigan had established itself as the Big Ten's fast-starter in recruiting.

That title, at least for now, belongs to Penn State, which has 16 verbal commitments for 2015, tied with Clemson for the most nationally. Of the Lions' pledges, eight rank in the ESPN 300, and Penn State is second behind Alabama in 2015 class rankings.

Michigan, meanwhile, has seven commitments, including four in the ESPN 300. The Wolverines picked up a big addition this past weekend in linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr.

The quality is there, but Michigan's recruiting pace is a bit slower this year, as four Big Ten schools -- Penn State, Nebraska, Northwestern and Iowa -- have more pledges. And that's just fine with Hoke.

"It's not a big class, that's one reason," Hoke told ESPN.com on Tuesday. "We haven't been as quick to offer, been as quick on trying to find the right fit. That's a big part of it. When you have 25 or 28 [scholarships], you also need to offer more guys.

"But at the same time, we're real happy with the guys who have made those commitments."

Michigan signed 25 players in 2012 and 27 in 2013. Last year's class was smaller, and Hoke expects Michigan to sign 15 or 16 players in February 2015.

The reduced scholarship pool allows Michigan coaches more opportunities to evaluate prospects they aren't completely sure about. Hoke said his assistants are traveling to states that have high school spring football to scout recruits.

"Trying to make sure that fit is right from an academic, social and athletic standpoint, that's a reason why you want to get as much information as you can," Hoke said.

Michigan's 2015 recruiting pace is a bit slower than in past years, but Hoke is speaking out about his support for an early signing period and earlier official visits. He would like to see an Aug. 1 signing date and official visits allowed in late May and early to mid June. Hoke thinks prospects and their families shouldn't have to shoulder the financial burden of getting to campuses in the spring of the players' junior year.

CBSsports.com reported Tuesday that more than half of the Big Ten recruits in the 2014 class come from areas outside the league's current footprint (Maryland and New Jersey not included).

"It would help everybody," Hoke said. "The other conferences aren't just staying in their region, either. They're all spreading out through the country.

"You've got guys on unofficials and families spending a lot of money. What can we do to help them and help their families?"

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