Michigan Wolverines: Leonard Fournette

Ultimate ESPN 300: Future members 

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
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It’s never too early to look ahead to next year. Here are five current prospects in the 2014 class we feel could make their mark in future editions of the Ultimate ESPN 300.

RB Leonard Fournette (LSU): It’s not just based on the fact that he’s the top-rated player in the ESPN 300, but rather the perfect blend of talent, need and fit that awaits him at LSU. Fournette is an ideal downhill back for LSU's system. He is physically ready to carry the load and should have an immediate chance to make an impression with the Tigers' lack of depth in the backfield.


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UA Game notebook: RBs make noise

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
5:31
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The second day of practice at the Under Armour All-America Game is in the books. The players are getting more familiar with the play calls and each other, which means there were some big plays and friendly trash talking between teams.

Options at RB


Team Nitro has three unique weapons at running back with Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central), Isaiah McKenzie (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) and Jeff Jones (Minneapolis/Washburn), and the coaches plan on using their skill sets in a number of different ways.

Cook, the No. 4 running back in the ESPN 300, likely will get the bulk of carries and is the most well-rounded back on the roster. Cook is committed to Florida but has said he will make a final decision this week between the Gators, Florida State and Miami. He was used in Monday’s practices to run between the tackles and also catch the ball out of the backfield.

[+] EnlargeDalvin Cook
Miller Safrit/ESPNDalvin Cook has impressed on the field and kept fans guessing off of it.
"I think I create some matchup problems because of my speed and the ability to run people over," Cook said. "The coaches said they think I’m the every-down type of back."

Jones, a Minnesota commitment who ranks as the No. 14 running back, came into the game with a résumé that didn’t quite stack up with some of the others, but his stock is quickly rising after two strong practices. He’s played very much like a top-five back so far and schools have noticed.

"Florida called me yesterday on the way to the Orlando Magic game," Jones said. "Their running backs coach, Brian White, called me and said he liked my film and liked what they saw on tape. He wanted me to come take an official visit and I agreed. I know they are a great team, they are a pretty good school and they do well in the SEC every year."

In addition to Florida, Michigan State has also showed interest in the talented back. Jones is planning to take a visit to East Lansing, Mich., but does not have a specific date set up yet.

"I like the University of Minnesota," Jones said. "I can see myself there, but I’m just making sure I’m not missing out on any other opportunities that could be good for my future. I mean the distance matters some, but at the same time, if you have to travel some for your future to be set, then so be it."

McKenzie is the X factor for Nitro. Originally listed as a receiver, McKenzie has been given opportunities to touch the ball on traditional runs, reverses, screen passes, passes while lined up in the slot, and he even took snaps while lined up in the Wildcat.

"I think we complement each other really well," said McKenzie, who will likely end up at Notre Dame if he can qualify academically. (("Jeff Jones is our power back. He gets up the field and gets us those tough yards we need. He's always pushing the pile forward. And then Dalvin has blazing speed. With the way I complement Dalvin, it's kind of like him in high school with his teammate [four-star running back] Joseph Yearby. I'm his Joseph Yearby in this game with how they’re using me all over the place."

Peppers stands out

[+] EnlargeJabrill Peppers
Miller Safrit/ESPNJabrill Peppers took flight during Monday's practice at the Under Armour All-America Game.
Former NFL coach Herm Edwards, who has been a head coach for the Under Armour All-America Game the past three years, said he hasn’t had a better defensive back in this game than Michigan commit Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic). That is high praise for the No. 2-ranked prospect in the country, but Edwards, a former defensive back himself, believes Peppers will be a star. "It’s not even close. He’s the best one I’ve coached. I called Deion [Sanders] over and said look at that guy, and Deion saw the same thing," Edwards said. "[Robert] Nkemdiche was really good last year, he was a big guy who could run and [Peppers] is comparable to that as far as skill level at the position he’s playing. I played that position and coached that position for a long time and he’s a special talent." Edwards noted that Peppers loves to practice, which can be rare for such a highly ranked prospect. Peppers knows he’s going to be a good player, but still has humility about himself and his game. There is potential for Peppers to contribute on offense and defense at Michigan. "He’s going to play on offense here. We have some plays for him here; he’s going to touch the ball," Edwards said. "One thing smart coaches do is get the players that make plays and get them the ball. I promise you, the first big hit, No. 5 will be involved in it. I’d be shocked if he’s not."

Conference allies


With so many players committed to different conferences, it’s only natural for players committed to the same conference to show some solidarity during practice. With 35 prospects committed to the SEC, the players have a reason to stick together.

"You know in the SEC, we are pretty much the most dominant right now and we are trying to stay like that," Florida commit Quincy Wilson (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School of Nova South) said. "If I go against someone in the ACC or Big Ten, I’m just trying to kill ‘em. We keep that going. The SEC is the place to be at."

The Big Ten has far fewer with 16 commitments, and those prospects feel they have something to prove. Since the SEC gets most of the attention, Michigan quarterback commit Wilton Speight (Richmond, Va./Collegiate School) said he wants to make sure his future conference is represented well.

"As far as the SEC versus the Big Ten, I think they do have the right to come in here and think they’re the top dog. Looking at the past 10 years they have dominated," Speight said. "I think the guys coming into my recruiting class are annoyed with that and ready to do something about that. We’re going to go in and do our best to make our team and conference the top dog."

Bates impresses

[+] EnlargeDillon Bates
Miller Safrit/ESPNDillon Bates impressed with his ability to shed blocks and find the ball carrier.
After an up-and-down first day, Monday was a different story for the Team Nitro linebackers, especially Tennessee commit Dillon Bates (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla./Ponte Vedra Beach). Bates, the No. 4 outside linebacker in the ESPN 300, made would-be blockers look silly with his ability to shed blocks and find the ball carrier. And when he found the running backs, he made sure they were aware he was there. ((

"The first day was all install, and we were just trying to get everything set for the week and just trying to get our mind ready for the week," Bates said. "We really were more in reaction mode versus attack mode. This morning we had a really great meeting, ran through some things we weren't getting yesterday, made some changes to things and it just really clicked for everybody. It just felt kind of natural for me."

Ohio State linebacker commit Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County) was a force again, but Bates believes all of his team's linebackers are capable of big things and will get even better as the week moves on.((

"All of us are definitely very fast, and you have a bunch of guys like McMillan who can plug holes," Bates said. "We are all-around sound. With the great coaches we have, we'll definitely be making plays."

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Alabama wide receiver commit Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish) has been one of the top receivers in practice so far. He has a big body with long arms, and has been able to make some big catches.

Offensive lineman Braden Smith (Olathe, Kan./Olathe South) doesn’t say much to the media, but he made a big statement on the field Monday.

 

An SEC battle took place between Texas A&M commit Myles Garrett (Arlington, Texas/James Martin) and Alabama offensive line commit Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe) in practice.
Offensive lineman Garrett Brumfield (Baton Rouge, La./University Laboratory) was practicing at left tackle despite being recruited as an interior lineman. The four-star prospect held his own on the outside, though, and showed off his talent.

 

Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine), the No. 1-ranked prospect in the country, has received plenty of attention so far during practice. All eyes have been on Fournette and fellow Louisiana native Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) as two top uncommitted prospects in the game.

 

Jeremy Crabtree and Derek Tyson contributed to this report.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: After missing out on Da'Shawn Hand, Michigan didn’t waste time trying to fill its need at defensive end; can Texas become a factor for the nation’s No. 1 prospect?, and how many elite players are still up for grabs?

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The latest version of the ESPN class rankings are out, and there are seven Big Ten teams within the top 40 classes.

With movement happening across the board, there are trends and stories developing, so Big Ten recruiting writers Brad Bournival and Tom VanHaaren give you a look at what to watch within the conference:

Trending up:

Tom VanHaaren: The number of ESPN 300 prospects committing to Big Ten schools. The number hasn’t started to increase yet, but there is a good chance it will. As it currently stands the Big Ten has 25 ESPN 300 commitments within its teams. That number is low compared to the 77 committed to SEC schools and 35 to ACC programs. However, there are roughly 18 ESPN 300 prospects still listing Big Ten programs, including No. 4 ranked Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) with Michigan, No. 1 inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield), Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway) and more.


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation senior analyst Tom Luginbill a question about your team? Tweet it to @TomLuginbill using the hashtag #AskLoogs.



We are always very, very cautious to heap too much praise on any one prospect. With that being said, there are very few deficiencies with Leonard Fournette. We have never had a pure running back as the No. 1 overall player. Trent Richardson in 2009 was the best we had seen and he was No. 6 overall. There are lots of great backs in different sizes and styles, but few possess every quality you want. When Fournette wants to play big, he can. When he wants to be small and explosive, he can. He’s part scatback, part bruising short-yardage back. If he played defense full-time, he would likely be one of the top, if not the top, OLB prospects in this class. We feel he is a feature player with not only the physical makeup, but the competitive temperament and mental edge to be an every down back and game breaker each time he touches the football. I’m not sure there is a current back in college that you could compare him to. Johnathan Gray at Texas and T.J. Yeldon at Alabama are about as close as you can get.
With Michigan's annual barbecue being held on Saturday and Sunday, WolverineNation gives you a quick primer for the event.

The history of it: It’s one of the few carryovers from the Rich Rodriguez era, and it has been a successful event in the past for the current Michigan coaching staff. We’re seeing more and more college coaches present these laid-back events in order to give recruits a different feel for a visit.


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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The summer camp season proved to be exciting, as it always is. Here are 10 things we learned through this summer.

1. Camp will always be a proving ground

The 2014 class will only have about 18 members, so when Michigan headed into this summer’s camp with 10 commitments, it was unsure how many camp offers would really exist (especially considering how many highly-ranked guys had, and still have, interest in Michigan). But for guys like Brandon Watson (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy) and Freddy Canteen (Elkton, Md./Eastern Christian Academy), camp was all they needed. Their performances there were enough to garner offers. Sooner rather than later, those two turned those offers into commitments. And it wasn’t just true in the 2014 class. Offensive lineman Jon Runyan Jr. (Philadelphia/St. Joseph’s Prep) became the Wolverines' third commitment in the 2015 class after he proved himself at camp and picked up and offer.

2. The barbecue in the Big House is still … big


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Michigan is hosting its annual barbecue on Saturday and Sunday, and there are some top targets expected to make it in town. While there are a few that are still unsure if the visit will happen, Michigan will have the chance to sway some of the top prospects.

No. 1 running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/St. Augustine) is planning to make the trip, and he would be the top prospect on hand, of course.

Aside from Fournette, here is a look at five more important prospects visiting this weekend:

2015 DB Shaun Crawford (Lakewood, Ohio/St. Edward)
5-9, 168 pounds
ESPN Junior 300 Rank: No. 49


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WolverineNation Mailbag 

June, 25, 2013
6/25/13
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It’s almost July, which means you only have about a month until Michigan starts fall camp and Brady Hoke can tell you (via us) every week that players are competing, football is being played and that Michigan, fergodsakes, is Michigan. Regardless, there are still questions, which is why I’m here.

Mike will be taking care of the mailbag next week so send your questions to him (michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com, @mikerothstein). Now, on to this week’s questions…

1. Spenser Williams, Ann Arbor: Michigan and Ohio State are tearing it up on the recruiting trail, but what can the rest of the Big Ten do to catch up to them and make the Big Ten an elite conference?


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Since Michigan is tearing up the recruiting trail, it’s only natural to think that some of the commitments and targets will have the opportunity to play early. Top ranked prospects want to get on the field as soon as possible, and some of them might have that chance.

Here is a look at 10 commits and targets for the Wolverines who could see the field early if they sign with Michigan.

1. Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic)

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The Opening, presented by Nike, will feature 162 of the best high school football players in the country. The event, which will include linemen, 7-on-7 and SPARQ testing competitions, is set to run from June 30 to July 3 at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

The following events from The Opening will be televised on ESPNU:

July 1: SPARQ Rating National Championship, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. ET

July 2: 7-on-7 Pool Play, 9 p.m.-11:30 p.m. ET

July 3: Linemen Challenge Finals and 7-on-7 semifinal and championship games, 9 p.m.-midnight ET

The players will be divided in to six teams -- Alpha Pro, Apocalypse, Field Generals, Land Sharks, Super Bad and Vapor Carbon. Here is a closer look at how the teams match up.

Team: Alpha Pro
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Jordan Palmer, defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson

The Alpha Pro team will have plenty of targets to spread the ball around. Ermon Lane and Tyler Luatua, the No. 1-ranked receiver and tight end in the country respectively, bring size and playmaking ability to the passing game. ESPN 300 athletes Corey Holmes, Jalen Hurd, John "JuJu" Smith, Ja'Von Harrison, and Derrell Scott are all explosive offensive weapons.

Defensively Alpha Pro is led by Andrew Brown, the No. 1-ranked defensive tackle in the country, ESPN 150 cornerback Damon Webb, defensive end Andrew Williams, Ohio State linebacker commit Dante Booker and LSU cornerback commit Chris Hardeman.

Complete Alpha Pro roster.

Team: Apocalypse
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Adam Tafralis, defensive coordinator Donovin Darius

The first thing that jumps out about team Apocalypse is the talent in the defensive front seven. Team Apocalypse will be led by five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan. Hand, from Woodbridge, Va., is the No. 4-ranked player in the country, while McMillan was recently bumped up to a five-star linebacker. Joining Hand and McMillan along the front seven are ESPN 300 defensive linemen Anthony Moten and Ainuu Taua, and linebackers D.J. Calhoun and Rashaan Evans.

Offensively, team Apocalypse has no shortage of playmakers. ESPN 300 wide receivers Artavis Scott, K.D. Cannon and Michiah Quick will provide explosiveness in the passing game, while athletic running backs Joe Mixon and Royce Freeman will provide athletic and reliable targets out of the backfield.

Complete Apocalypse roster.

Team: Field Generals
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Charlie Frye, defensive coordinator Michael Fletcher

Seven-on-seven events are always geared towards the offense, but with five-star defensive back Adoree' Jackson, No. 3-ranked safety Jamal Adams, and ESPN 300 cornerback Adarius Pickett in the secondary, the Field Generals should more than hold their own. New Ohio State defensive end commit Jalyn Holmes and the No. 6-ranked defensive end in the country, Solomon Thomas, will be two to watch along the defensive line.

Offensively, the Field Generals are led by ESPN 300 offensive guard Damien Mama, ESPN 300 wide receivers Austin Roberts and Thaddeus Snodgrass and explosive Notre Dame running back commit Elijah Hood.

Complete Field Generals roster.

Team: Landsharks
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Craig Nall, defensive coordinator Keith Bulluck

The Landsharks have some big-time talent along each line of scrimmage. Led by five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, the Landsharks also feature ESPN 300 offensive guard Corey Martinez. ESPN 300 defensive linemen Gerald Willis III and Thomas Holley, as well as ESPN 300 defensive end Chad Thomas, will form a very physical and athletic defensive line.

In the secondary, the Landsharks will have three defensive backs -- Arrion Springs, Chris Lammons and Tony Brown -- that are ranked among the top 85 players in the country. The defense also features ESPN 150 linebacker Nyles Morgan.

Offensively, explosive running backs Dalvin Cook, a Florida commit, and Racean Thomas form a dangerous tandem out of the backfield, and wide receivers Travis Rudolph and Jalen Harvey are solid receiving threats.

Complete Landsharks roster.

Team: Superbad
Coaches: Offensive coordinator Dennis Gile, defensive coordinator Harold Nash Jr.

The Superbad defense line is led by five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter and ESPN 150 defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson. The linebacking corp is stacked with three ESPN 300 members, including Clifton Garrett, Christian Miller and Edwin Freeman. Cornerback Jalen Tabor is the No. 19-ranked player in the country.

Offensively, Superbad has a huge advantage with the No. 1-ranked prospect in the country, running back Leonard Fournette. This team is loaded on offense, with wide receivers Drake Harris, Josh Malone and Speedy Noil all in the mix.

Complete Superbad roster.

Team: Vapor Carbon
Coaches: Offensive coordinator George Whitfield, defensive coordinator Chris Gizzi.

Vapor Carbon will be tough to throw against with defensive backs Quin Blanding, Naijiel Hale and Ed Paris roaming the field. The linebacker group is just as impressive, with Ohio State commit Kyle Berger, Kain Daub and Dillon Bates all leading the way.

The offense for Vapor Carbon could be lethal with running back Joseph Yearby and Nick Chubb in the backfield. Spreading out wide receivers T.V. Williams, Justin Brent and tight end Ian Bunting on the outside could prove to be an awesome combination for this squad.

Team Vapor Carbon has a lot of pieces to make a long run in the 7-on-7 tournament, but then again, every team is stacked in this competition.

Complete Vapor Carbon roster.

Podcast: Verbal Commitment 

June, 20, 2013
6/20/13
11:59
AM ET
Senior national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill breaks down the initial ESPN 300 rankings, top-five recruits Adoree' Jackson and Leonard Fournette update their recruitment, and WolverineNation’s Chantel Jennings on Michigan’s top-ranked 2014 class all can be heard here.

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It’s never a surprise to see Alabama football near the top of any ratings. Nick Saban has a proven track record on the field. That has translated to the recruiting trail as he has pulled in top classes year in and year out, finishing in the top three in recruiting in each of the past five years. He's had the top class for the past two seasons.


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When the updated ESPN 150 and the new ESPN 300 rankings came out Monday, Alabama climbed all the way up to No. 2 in the class rankings. The only school currently standing between them and a third consecutive No. 1 recruiting class is Michigan, the same Michigan program that was dominated by the Crimson Tide last September in the season opener.


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WolverineNation Roundtable 

May, 9, 2013
5/09/13
10:05
AM ET
Every Thursday our writers sit down to chat about Michigan sports. Today they’re talking Big Ten (football and basketball) and hypothetical 7-on-7 drafts.

1) Where do you see Michigan finishing in the Big Ten this season?


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