Michigan Wolverines: Maurice Ways

With the graduation of Jeremy Gallon alone, Michigan lost nearly 43 percent of its receiving yardage and 27 percent of its receptions. Add Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson and Joe Reynolds’ contributions to those statistics and the Wolverines are looking to replace more than half of their receiving yardage from last season.

That’s no small feat and that means several reps and opportunities are open for younger guys to step up. Devin Funchess and Jake Butt return at tight end and will be targeted more as they gain chemistry with Devin Gardner and Shane Morris.

But as far as pure wide receivers go, the Wolverines are going to have to reach into the freshmen and sophomore classes next season as they look for production.

And wide receiver coach Jeff Hecklinski may not need to look any further than the 2014 class, which signed one receiver on Wednesday and had two early enroll in January.

Both Drake Harris and Freddy Canteen are on campus and will participate in spring practices. Maurice Ways, who signed his letter of intent on Wednesday, will enroll this fall.

Hecklinski said he sees a lot of athletic ability in all three wide receivers in the 2014 class. Specifically, Hecklinski pointed out Harris’ ball skills, which were helped by his basketball background. Harris had initially wanted to play both basketball and football in college, committing to Michigan State in June 2013 to do so. He later backed off that commitment, deciding to focus on football. Michigan believes it can use Harris as an X-receiver in a similar way that the Wolverines used Gallon this past season.

Canteen has a lot of speed in the open field and quickness off the ball. Because of his versatility, coaches believe they could use him at the Z-receiver, X-receiver or slot. And Ways, who comes in with a chip on his shoulder after being under-recruited, has a lot of size. At 6-foot-4, 193 pounds, Ways is the biggest WR in the 2014 class and because of his vertical-threat ability he’s projected as a Z-receiver.

It was the second consecutive class with three wide receiver signees. In the 2013 class the Wolverines signed Jaron Dukes, Da’Mario Jones and Csont’e York.

Jones played on special teams and York played in one game as a backup wide receiver, so they will both be sophomores during the 2014-15 season. Dukes redshirted and will still have four years of eligibility remaining.

“I think when you look at last year’s class and the three we added and you look at this year’s class and the three that we added, they’re different,” Hecklinski said. “You don’t want carbon copies of each other out there because then you get tied in to having just one guy.”

While those six will definitely be in the running for playing time, the two who seem to have the biggest jump will be Amara Darboh, who’s coming off a foot injury, and Jehu Chesson, who caught 15 passes this season for 221 yards and a touchdown.

Regardless, there are a lot of catches that are up for grabs and with two early enrollees in the 2014 class and one of the biggest wide receivers on the entire roster enrolling this fall, there’s a decent chance a true freshman receiver could hit the field.

“I think all three complement [one another],” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “And I know that all three of them, we were very excited to have.”

2014 Michigan signing day primer

February, 4, 2014
Brady Hoke will sign his fourth Michigan recruiting class Wednesday. Currently, the class sits at 16 commitments and the only real question mark still out there is defensive end Malik McDowell, who will chose between Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Florida State.

Hoke will address the media at 2 p.m. Wednesday, the first time he’ll be able to discuss these players publicly. Follow along on Twitter for updates throughout the day. Until then, here’s a primer to tide you over in your day-before-signing-day wait.


Current ranking: No. 12 (16 commits)
Big Ten teams ahead of Michigan: Ohio State (No. 6, 22 commits)
Big Ten teams in the top 40: Penn State (No. 22, 24 commits), Wisconsin (No. 31, 27 commits), Northwestern (No. 35, 15 commits), Michigan State (No. 39, 20 commits)

Commits by position:

Quarterback: 1 | Wilton Speight*
Running back: 0
Wide receiver: 3 | Drake Harris*, Maurice Ways, Freddy Canteen*
Tight end: 1 | Ian Bunting
Offensive line: 2 | Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Mason Cole*
Defensive line: 3 | Bryan Mone*, Lawrence Marshall, Brady Pallante
Linebacker: 4 | Michael Ferns*, Noah Furbush, Chase Winovich, Jared Wangler
Defensive back: 2 | Jabrill Peppers, Brandon Watson
*denotes early enrollee, already signed letter of intent


[+] EnlargeJabrill Peppers
Miller Safrit/ESPNThe Wolverines have been able to hang on to top cornerback Jabrill Peppers, which is no easy feat.
Dry spell: Michigan hasn’t received a commitment since Aug. 8, 2013 (Wangler). At that point, the Wolverines recruiting class was ranked No. 6 in the Recruiting Nation rankings. Between the on-field play during a 7-6 season and other teams stepping up their recruiting games, the Wolverines missed out on several top targets.

No. 1 at one time: Last April, when the 2014 class rankings debuted, the Wolverines were ranked No. 6. In May, Michigan climbed to No. 1. At that point, Michigan had nine commits, eight of whom were ranked in the top 150. Since that point, several Wolverines commits dropped in the rankings, and now they have nine commits in the ESPN 300. And when Michigan was the No. 1 class, the Wolverines were still in on several top recruits in the 2014 class. Of those big-name prospects, the only one to commit to the Wolverines was Peppers, the No. 1 cornerback in the country.

The players who chose other schools over Michigan were defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), wide receiver Corey Holmes (Notre Dame), Alex Bars (Notre Dame), wide receiver Artavis Scott (Clemson) and defensive back Parrker Westphal (Northwestern). The most troubling part of that is how the Wolverines had personal connections with so many of those players. Holmes grew up a die-hard Michigan fan. Bars’ older brother is on the Michigan roster. Scott is best friends with Cole. Westphal’s high school position coach played at Michigan. And yet, the Wolverines missed on all of them.

Top commit: Peppers. Not only is he the most important commit from an on-field standpoint -- he should be an immediate contributor for a struggling secondary -- but the fact that a 7-6 Michigan team could keep the commitment from the No. 1 cornerback in the nation says a lot about the relationships that were formed. He had offers from Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and almost everywhere else. He could have left for any school. But the fact that the Michigan coaches were able to keep Peppers during a tumultuous season can be considered more of a coup than getting Peppers committed in the first place.

Lineage: Wangler. The name should sound familiar to most Michigan fans. John Wangler was a quarterback for Michigan (1977-80) and is most remembered for his 45-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Carter that gave the Wolverines a victory over Indiana in 1979. Jared’s older brother Jack, a walk-on wide receiver on Michigan’s roster, will be a sophomore when Jared enrolls.

More and more depth: Linebackers. It looks as though the Michigan linebackers group is going to get stronger. This season, that group was the most consistent defensive position group for the Wolverines, and now they’ll add four more quality players. Among Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan, James Ross, Joe Bolden and Ben Gedeon, there won’t be much playing time for the taking, which means these players are going to be able to learn behind some very talented guys while also competing against them in workouts. Greg Mattison just keeps adding talent to the well he already has at linebacker, so look for this group to continue being the most consistent for the Wolverines in seasons to come.

[+] EnlargeBryan Mone
Courtesy of IntersportBy enrolling early, defensive tackle Bryan Mone could be in line for early playing time.
Early enrollees: 6. This is the second season in a row that Hoke has had six early enrollees. Last season, offensive lineman Kyle Bosch, offensive lineman Logan Tuley-Tillman, tight end Jake Butt, defensive end Taco Charlton, defensive back Ross Douglas and defensive back Dymonte Thomas enrolled early. Of those six, three were big contributors this past season, which bodes well for the six who came in early this year. Speight adds solid depth at quarterback, but he likely won’t need to contribute next season. Cole and Ferns are in similar positions in that they’re both talented, but because of the depth in front of them, it could take them longer to earn playing time. The two guys who could be the quickest to see playing time would be Harris or Mone, as both come in at positions that could use more bodies and talent. Both will have extra time with their position coaches and with the playbook.

No commits: Running back. The fact that the Wolverines aren’t bringing in a running back in this class isn’t a huge concern. Between Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith (and Drake Johnson, assuming he recovers well), the Wolverines are in good hands for the next few seasons. However, after losing the commitment of running back Damien Harris, the No. 1 running back in the 2015 class, there's a bit of a concern considering he was going to provide depth. Including Harris, Michigan has offered scholarships to three running backs in the 2015 class.
Michigan fired offensive coordinator Al Borges on Wednesday, which came as a surprise to fans and recruits alike. Wide receiver commit Maurice Ways (Beverly Hills, Mich./Country Day) didn’t know that Borges was fired until it happened and was shocked by the move.

“Wow, first off I’m surprised. It doesn’t really affect my recruiting,” he said. “I still think they’re going to hire someone that will fit my game and the offense, but I’m just in shock right now. I’ll have to wait and see who they hire, but Coach [Jeff] Hecklinski is still there and that’s who I’ll mainly be working with anyway.”

Michigan hosts big visitor weekend 

December, 16, 2013
Michigan held a big visitor weekend just before the end of the contact period. Hosting most of the 2014 commitments, there were some big questions coming into the weekend.

The biggest came with defensive back commit Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) who caused an uproar when he tweeted that he would take official visits to other schools after his season.

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Best Big Ten classes by position 

September, 10, 2013

Each class within the Big Ten has its strengths and weaknesses, but there is a lot of talent joining the conference. Here is a look at the top classes in the Big Ten by position.

Strongest class: Penn State

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There are still big holes to fill in recruiting for the 2014 class and top targets still on the board. A lot of position groups are being addressed in recruiting, but not many have been completely filled.

Big Ten recruiting writers Tom VanHaaren and Brad Bournival take a look at the most important position for each Big Ten team in the 2014 class.

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The state of Ohio, on the heels of exiting the annual Big 33 all-star game with Pennsylvania, has invited the state of Michigan to a new high school all-star game.

The Ohio–Michigan Border Classic will feature high school senior football players from Ohio and Michigan and will put the best 40 prospects from each state against the other. The inaugural game will take place on June 14, 2014, which will allow prospects from the 2014 class to participate in the event.

Larry Merx is the Executive director for the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association and says that they felt this was a great opportunity for their state.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Ways
Tom VanHaaren/ESPN.comBeverly Hills, Mich., wide receiver Maurice Ways is excited about the opportunity to play an all-star game against top Ohio prospects.
“We were invited by Ohio to participate in it, and the thought process was that it’s exciting. It’s a chance to get our best players involved with a game that we think there will be a lot of interest in,” Merx said. “When Pennsylvania withdrew (from the Big 33) it left Ohio high and dry. Ohio was looking around and said we have a natural rivalry and they invited us, so we thought it sounded pretty good.”

The game will also replace Michigan’s East-West all-star game that took place every year featuring some of the top high school talent in Michigan. That game featured 88 players that were nominated by the coaches to play in the game, something that will change with the Border Classic.

“We’re going to first select six coaches for the game. Our regional directors will nominate coaches, the all-star committee will meet and select the six coaches that will participate in early December,” he said. “Then the coaches will go about recruiting players. The all-star coaches will go out and get the best players in the state and get them in the game.”

From an Ohio standpoint, the Border Classic is one prospective players are looking forward to. Some standouts such as Kyle Berger (Cleveland/St. Ignatius) and Sam Hubbard (Cincinnati/Moeller) already play a few schools in Michigan, but the majority do not, and that has a wave of excitement running through the state.

ESPN 300 cornerback Darius West (Lima, Ohio/Central Catholic) lives 90 minutes from the Michigan border and was recruited by the Buckeyes and Wolverines.

The Kentucky commit sees it as much more than bragging rights at the next level, however, as Ohio and Michigan have always measured themselves up against the other.

“It would be pretty fun,” West said. “There are a lot of people that think Michigan football is better than Ohio and that Ohio is better than Michigan.

“This would prove which is better. It would be a real good game between two great states. We’re right by each other and Michigan and Ohio already have a rivalry.”

Hubbard, whose team won both games against schools from Michigan last season, sees the game as an extension of what is already a heated battle.

He also sees it as a way to play some of the best competition in the nation.

“We’re obviously already rivals,” Hubbard said. “There’s always talk on Twitter about who is better, so it should be fun.

“Obviously the game doesn’t mean anything, but it is bragging rights. It’s something people can get into. It will give you a leg up in confidence when the real games come around. We played Detroit Central Catholic and Grand Rapids Christian last season, so we played against Drake Harris. That was intense. I think it’s a great thing to switch over to Michigan. It’s one of the greatest rivalries in college football.”

That view is no different in the state of Michigan. The Michigan prospects are excited about the idea of being able to compete against some of the top prospects, but they know there is a bigger picture to this game.

Michigan wide receiver commit Maurice Ways (Beverly Hills, Mich./Country Day) says it would be an honor to represent his state, but this wouldn’t be an ordinary all-star game.

“Both states are going to select the best and top players from their state to make sure they win. This won’t be just a friendly all-star game, it will be serious and a big deal,” Ways said. “Neither states like each other and I’m sure you’ll have a guy going to Michigan and a guy going to Ohio (State) so the hate will already be in the air. It’s going to be taken seriously and I’m sure it would be an exciting game.”

ESPN 300 targets: Michigan 

June, 18, 2013
With the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country, Michigan still has some big targets left on the board. There are approximately five to seven spots left in the Wolverines' class, so here is a look at Michigan's top 10 targets ranked in the likelihood that they pick Michigan.

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How U-M ascended class rankings 

May, 17, 2013
The Wolverines have climbed the ESPN class rankings all the way to the No. 1 spot. The 2014 class for Michigan is off to a stellar start, but a lot will need to happen for the maize and blue to keep their position atop the rankings.

Here is a look at a timeline of the ascent to the top and what the coaching staff will need to do to stay there.

Michigan class rankings

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With seven commitments in the ESPN 150, Michigan has been on a roll in the 2014 class. That continued Saturday as the Wolverines picked up their eighth ESPN 150 prospect.

Defensive end Lawrence Marshall (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) confirmed in a text message that he committed to Michigan while on a visit Saturday.

The No. 107 ranked player in the country originally made his pledge to Ohio State in February, but that only lasted a few days. Marshall decommitted from Ohio State after visiting Michigan and Michigan State and since then mainly focused on the in-state schools.

Many believed that the Spartans held the upper hand with Marshall, but Michigan had a secret weapon on its side. Wide receiver commit Maurice Ways (Beverly Hills, Mich./Country Day) has been friends with Marshall since middle school and put in some extra work to recruit his longtime friend to Michigan. Ways said at a recent camp that he believed his recruiting pitch to Marshall was working, and it turns out he was right.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound prospect is likely a weakside defensive end at the next level. He has added good weight in recent months while maintaining his quickness off the line. He will add size and speed to Michigan's pass rush.

Marshall's commitment gives Michigan nine total commitments and two defensive line commits to go along with defensive tackle Bryan Mone (Salt Lake City/Highland). Michigan is being considered by some other top-ranked defensive line prospects and Marshall's commitment likely won't deter those efforts.

The overall No. 4-ranked prospect, Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), still holds Michigan in his top group and is probably best suited at strong-side defensive end in college. His recruitment shouldn't be impacted by Marshall. The same goes for defensive tackle target Malik McDowell (Detroit/Loyola), who also holds Michigan very high on his list.

Ways and Harris bond at NFTC 

May, 9, 2013
On Sunday at the Chicago NFTC, wide receivers Maurice Ways (Beverly Hills, Mich./Detroit Country Day) and Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) got a little taste of what it will be like to be teammates.

The two Michigan commits seemed inseparable at the event, running drills next to each other and getting reps in passing drills while running routes side by side.

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As if landing one commit in one week was enough for Michigan, the Wolverines have added another prospect to the 2014 class.

Wide receiver Maurice "Moe" Ways (Beverly Hills, Mich./Country Day) committed to Michigan while on a visit on Thursday. The 6-foot-3 prospect confirmed his commitment via text, and is now the second wide receiver in this class.

Ways grew up a Michigan fan and was recently offered after wide receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski evaluated him in person during the evaluation period. A prospect who was sure to rise up the ranks and continue to add to his offer list, Ways is an excellent addition to fellow receiver commit Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian).

With a good combination of size, hands and speed, Ways will be versatile in what he will be able to do in Michigan's offense once he gets to Ann Arbor. Likely slated for the outside, he will be a guy who can stretch the field or go up and get the jump ball, which is exactly what Michigan wants.

Despite having two receivers committed now, Michigan would still take another wideout in this class. Prospects including Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake), K.J. Williams (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty) and Corey Holmes (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas) are all still options.

Ways is the No. 7 commitment in Michigan's 2014 class, and there are approximately nine remaining spots.

The Weekly Update: Recruiting Notes 

April, 25, 2013
The Weekly Update is a look into Michigan recruiting:


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WolverineNation Mailbag 

April, 17, 2013
Malik McDowellTom Hauck for ESPN.comESPN Watch List defensive end Malik McDowell doesn't exactly have to worry about losing a potential spot in Michigan's 2014 class.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The weather is warming up in Michigan, which means a few things: basketball is over, spring football is most definitely over, and camps and combines are right around the corner. So, since recruiting is going to dominate the airwaves for the next few months as Brady Hoke puts this next class together, I decided to dedicate most of today’s mailbag to questions about the 2014 class.

Next week Mike is taking care of this, so get your questions to him (michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or @MikeRothstein). Now, on to this week’s questions...

1) Micah Nuechterlein via Twitter: If Lawrence Marshall (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) were to commit, would they still take Malik McDowell (Detroit/Loyola) and Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) in this class? A: I really don’t see that happening. But, if it did (and crazier things have happened), then yes, I do think that they would take all three. Because you just don't pass on a Da'Shawn Hand or Malik McDowell. They are all different players along the line, so as long as the numbers work the coaches wouldn't pass on any of them. That might not matter, though, because they all seem to have different timelines to make their decision. The coaches are aware of where they stand with each guy and how many spots they have left, so I wouldn't worry too much about this scenario.

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2014 Michigan WR targets 

February, 20, 2013
The past two recruiting classes Michigan has brought in bigger receivers, none under 6-foot-2. The coaching staff has been unable to reel in the elite receiver they have been after though, and are hoping to do so in the 2014 class.

Here is a look at some of the wide receiver targets for 2014:

Offered Targets:

Drake Harris
Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian

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Harbaugh: Split With 49ers Not Mutual
ESPN NFL nation reporter Nick Wagoner discusses Jim Harbaugh's comments on "The TK Show," saying that the split between Harbaugh and San Francisco wasn't mutual.