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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Harbaugh’

Predicting Michigan 2016: The quarterbacks

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016


Predicting Michgian 2016-Quarterbacks
John O'Korn
(Melanie Maxwell, MLive.com)

The 2015 offseason turned over a new page for Michigan quarterbacks as a talented coaching staff came in and the team moved on from embattled signal caller Devin Gardner.

Most of last year’s candidates were relative unknowns. Shane Morris hadn’t shown much promise in his limited reps as a sophomore and Jake Rudock hadn’t arrived in Ann Arbor for the spring game. Fans really didn’t know what to expect.

It didn’t start off well. Rudock won the job late in the summer and made an awful first impression in Utah. He threw three interceptions — including a pick-six — in an opener that the Wolverines otherwise might have won. It was a rough start to the Jim Harbaugh era, but it didn’t last long.

By the end of the year, Rudock was one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Just months after Iowa had tossed him in the recycling bin, Rudock heard his name called in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.

That’s what Harbaugh can do with a little bit of talent. This offseason, he has a wealth of it.

Starting candidates
Wilton Speight

(Jesse Johnson, USA Today Sports)

While Michigan’s roster holds several capable players under center, there are only two serious candidates to start the season atop the depth chart. Heading into July, the frontrunner appears to be redshirt sophomore Wilton Speight (6-6, 239).

Speight served as Rudock’s backup in 2015, a role that turned out to be extremely important to Michigan’s season. On Halloween in Minnesota, with Rudock sidelined by injury, Speight inherited a five-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter. He looked shaky during his first few drives, but on Michigan’s last possession of the game, Speight completed all three of his passes for 29 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown.

Speight’s contribution wasn’t entirely out of the blue. The former three-star prospect flashed great arm talent during the Elite 11 camp in San Francisco. His size and arm strength were, and still are, his primary calling cards. He wouldn’t be the frontrunner this late in the process without big time ability.

The other starting candidate is Houston transfer John O’Korn (6-4, 209), who announced his commitment to the Wolverines shortly after Harbaugh became head coach. O’Korn dazzled during his freshman campaign at Houston, throwing for over 3,000 yards, completing 58.1 percent of his passes and tossing 28 touchdowns compared to 10 picks.

But the sophomore slump hit O’Korn hard. He lost his starting job to Greg Ward Jr. just five games into the 2014 season after throwing eight interceptions and completing only 52 percent of his passes.

How could O’Korn save his career? He went to Harbaugh.

The redshirt junior impressed fans at the spring game on April Fool’s Day. He completed only six of 14 pass attempts, but showcased his downfield arm strength for a pair of big completions and finished with 93 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball exceptionally well on broken plays, scrambling seven times for 28 yards.

Who has the edge to start against Hawaii on Sept. 3? For now, I’ll go with O’Korn. Though he’s only thrown one live pass in the last 20 months, O’Korn appears to fit Michigan’s 2016 roster perfectly. He can throw the ball downfield to playmakers like Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Jake Butt and he adds an extra dimension to the offense with his legs.

Speight has also proven his ability to jump in off the bench and help in a backup role, which might factor into the decision.

At this point in the summer, the battle appears to be neck and neck. No matter what happens, fans can be sure that Harbaugh will have both guys ready to go when September rolls around.

Projected Stats – O’Korn
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
2,500 22 10 59.5% 200 2
Career Stats
2014 951 6 8 52.0% 18 1
2013 3,117 28 10 58.1% 104 1
Totals 4,068 32 18 56.4% 122 2
*All at Houston
Projected Stats – Speight
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
500 3 1 62.0% 175 2
Career Stats
2015 73 1 1 65.7% 2 0
2014 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Totals 73 1 1 65.7% 2 0
Potential contributors

Below the top dogs on the depth chart, Michigan has a pair of quarterbacks who were once considered excellent prospects, but who have taken a back seat on the hype train since arriving in Ann Arbor.

(Christian Peterson, Getty Images)

(Christian Peterson, Getty Images)

The first, and most obvious, example is Shane Morris (6-3, 208), who defines the term ‘roller coaster career.’

Once an elite five-star prospect, Morris’ arrival at Michigan was somewhat dampened when he missed his senior season at De La Salle due to a battle with mononucleosis. From there, Morris played a reserve role behind Gardner until the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings bowl. The freshman started the bowl game and fared pretty well, completing 24 of 38 passes for 196 yards and an interception. Though offensive coordinator Al Borges didn’t really unleash Morris during the game, his arm strength shone through.

Unfortunately, 2014 was a disaster for Michigan and Morris. Not only did the sophomore complete just 14 of 40 passes for three picks and no touchdowns, he also found himself smack dab in the middle of a concussion protocol controversy when Brady Hoke left him in after a hard hit against Minnesota.

Since that game, Morris has thrown just one pass for the Wolverines. Harbaugh decided to redshirt the junior last season.

Morris frequently lined up at wide receiver in the spring game, and Michigan has shown a growing tendency to move players around and tinker with special packages. Guys like Jabrill Peppers have been used in unconventional roles and former quarterback recruit Zach Gentry has already made a switch to tight end.

Morris’ future will be one to watch closely.

Alex Malzone (6-1, 222) has similarly seen his stock fall since the beginning of his college career.

The former four-star recruit jumped right into the action last offseason, starting for the Maize Team in the 2015 spring game. Malzone completed 15 of 27 passes, but threw for only 95 yards and two picks in the 7-0 loss.

The redshirt freshman has recently been in the spotlight off the field for allegedly altering his driver’s license, an issue Harbaugh promised would be addressed.

Morris and Malzone are both very talented players, but Harbaugh is accruing an embarrassment of riches at the quarterback position. The current plan doesn’t appear to have a major role in store for this duo. But if the injury bug hits hard, or something unforeseen pops up, Michigan has serviceable options lurking on the sideline.

Projected Stats – Morris
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
100 1 0 55.5% 12 0
Career Stats
2015 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
2014 128 0 3 35.0% 28 0
2013 261 0 2 61.7% 40 0
Totals 389 0 5 49.4% 68 0
Projected Stats – Malzone
Passing Yards Pass TD INT Comp % Rush Yards Rush TD
0 0 0 N/A 0 0
Career Stats
Redshirted in 2015
Newcomer

Michigan did bring in one quarterback recruit this offseason, and it’s one that fans should be extremely excited about: Brandon Peters (6-5, 205).

Peters has the highest upside of any quarterback on the roster despite never having taken a college snap.

A four-star recruit and one of the top five quarterbacks in his class, Peters committed to Harbaugh in April of 2015 and never wavered. The 6-foot-4 Avon, Ind. product is athletic and has a quick release, but his accuracy and arm strength stole the show at the spring game.

Peters didn’t look like a freshman during his reps, staying in the pocket and making accurate throws around the field. Two passes that really stood out were a 19-yard dart to Gentry over the middle and a rollout play in which he hit Grant Perry while on the run.

Harbaugh has the luxury of redshirting Peters this season, which will give him a year of tutelage and strength building. I think that’s the preferred plan for 2016. But by 2017, even with O’Korn and Speight returning and current commit Dylan McCaffrey likely joining the mix, look for Peters to have a say in the battle for the starting job.

Projected Stats – Peters
Redshirt
Meet the Rest

Garret Moores: Senior, 6-3, 214, from Northville, Mich. (Detroit Central Catholic). No career stats

New in Blue: 2017 DT Aubrey Solomon & 2018 S Otis Reese

Monday, June 20th, 2016


Aubrey Solomon(Chris Kirschner, AJC)

Aubrey Solomon – DT | 6-3, 305 | Leesburg, Ga. (Lee County)
ESPN4-star, #6 DT Rivals: 4-star, #4 DT 247: 4-star, #14 DT Scout: 4-star, #9 DT
247 Composite: 4-star #6 DT
Other top offers: Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Florida State, Georgia, Florida, UNC

Michigan picked up a pair of surprise commitments from SEC country over the weekend in the form of 2017 defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon and 2018 linebacker Otis Reese. Both were in attendance for Jim Harbaugh’s satellite camp at their high school in Leesburg, Ga. on June 2, and were also in Ann Arbor this weekend for Michigan’s annual summer football camp.

Solomon has long been considered a Georgia or Alabama lean as he lives less than 200 miles from Athens and 250 miles from Tuscaloosa, but the 6-foot-3, 305-pound senior-to-be decided to head north instead.

“I was in love with the football aspect of Georgia,” Solomon said. “I was cool with players there, but at the end of the day, it comes down to what will help me 10 years, 20 years after football and Michigan provides the best opportunities for me.”

Solomon is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. Rivals ranks him the highest as the fourth-best defensive tackle in the 2017 class, while ESPN ranks him sixth, Scout ninth, and 247 14th. Nationally, ESPN has him the highest as the 61st-best recruit in the class. Rivals lists him 91st, Scout 127th, and 247 207th. The 247 Composite has Solomon 94th overall and sixth-best defensive tackle.

Scout lists his strengths as athleticism, lateral range, quickness off ball, and suddenness, while listing his area to improve as pad level. They elaborate on that as well.

“An athletic defensive lineman who knows how to get off the ball. He is most effective with his quickness. He has good anticipation and he reacts quickly in the trenches. Really gets up the field. Can make plays in the backfield. Gets consistent penetration. Can use his hands, but needs to improve that, and his moves to counter offensive linemen. When he struggles, he tends to play high, so he can work on bettering his pad level. Just a quick defensive lineman who can make plays. Plays hard and plays fast for a guy his size.”

Solomon boasted offers from most of the major powers in the south, including Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Florida State, Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and more. He’s the second defensive tackle in the class, joining Phillip Paea, and the 15th commitment overall.

Otis Reese(Scout)

Otis Reese – S | 6-2, 195 | Leesburg, Ga. (Lee County)
ESPN: N/A RivalsN/A 247: 4-star, #11 S Scout: 4-star, N/A
247 Composite: N/A
Other top offers: LSU, UCLA, Louisville

Reese is Solomon’s teammate at Lee County High School in Leesburg, Ga., but is a year behind and will be entering his junior year this fall. He attended Michigan’s summer football camp over the weekend with Solomon.

Reese is a four-star recruit according to the only two recruiting services who have rated the 2018 class thus far, Scout and 247. Only 247 has ranked position groups and they have Reese as the 11th-best safety and the 117th-best overall player in the class.

Scout compliments Reese’s blitzing ability, closing speed, frame, size, and tackling ability while noting his areas to improve as backpedal quickness and hip flexibility. They expanded on that with a sophomore evaluation.

“Reese is a physical football player. He played varsity as a freshman and has improved regularly since. His size has stood out from the beginning, and by the time he reaches college, he may be playing inside the box on a regular basis as a linebacker. He is a real field general and he is used in coverage, in run support, and he blitzes off the edge as well. He is a little tight in the hips and he can improve in coverage. At his best when coming down hill in attack mode. He can close well and he makes solid tackles.”

Reese only shows offers from LSU, UCLA, Louisville, Troy, and Central Michigan at this time, but with two years of high school ball left to play he was surely on track to earn many more.

Michigan now has four members of its 2018 class, including fellow Georgian offensive guard Jalil Irvin and Springfield, Ohio teammates Leonard Taylor (DE/TE) and Antwuan Johnson (LB).

New in Blue: 2017 DE Luiji Vilain

Sunday, June 12th, 2016


Luiji Vilain(247 Sports)

Luiji Vilain – DE | 6-4, 240 | Alexandria, Va. (Episcopal)
ESPN4-star, #11 DE Rivals: 4-star, #10 WDE 247: 4-star, #5 WDE Scout: 4-star, #10 DE
247 Composite: 4-star #8 WDE
Other top offers: Alabama, OSU, MSU, Ole Miss, USC, Georgia, Florida, UCLA, UNC, Tennessee

Just 10 days after landing four-star defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher, Jim Harbaugh’s staff has secured a commitment from another one, this time Alexandria, Va. product Luiji Vilain. He announced his commitment to the Wolverines on Twitter via Sunday afternoon.

Vilain is a consensus four-star recruit in the 2017 class according to the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks him the highest as the fifth-best weakside defensive end in the class. Rivals ranks him as the 10th-best, while Scout lists him as the 10th-best defensive end and ESPN as the 11th. Nationally, 247 and ESPN both have him inside their top 100 at 94th and 95th, respectively. Scout ranks him 138th and Rivals 180th. According to the 247 Sports Composite, Vilain is the eighth-best weakside end and 102nd-best player in the class.

Scout lists Vilain’s strengths as athleticism, speed, and strength — all of which are extremely desirable for a pass rusher — while noting his areas to improve as techniques and moves, which can be taught at the college level. Scout’s analysis will have Michigan fans salivating for his arrival on campus.

“Vilain is explosive off the edge. He’s extremely athletic and very strong. Vilian changes directions well, has great speed and is good in pursuit. He is very good against the run and the pass. Vilain also has a high motor and plays very hard. He needs to continue to work on his technique and develop some moves, but he has a very high ceiling and the potential to become a dominant player at the collegiate level.”

Vilain chose Michigan over USC and Virginia Tech, but he also held offers from most of the other major programs in the country including Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Georgia, and UCLA, to name a few. Originally from Canada, Vilain moved to Virginia prior to last season where he exploded onto the scene. He visited Michigan almost a year ago to the day while he was in town for Sound Mind Sound Body, and received an official offer this past March. He visited Ann Arbor again on May 21 and it was enough to solidify his decision to commit.

Vilain is the 14th member of the 2017 class, joining Malone-Hatcher, quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, running backs Kurt Taylor, O’Maury Samuels, A.J. Dillon, and Chase Lasater, tight end Carter Dunaway, offensive tackle JaRaymond Hall, defensive tackle Phillip Paea, linebacker Ben Mason, and defensive backs Benjamin St-Juste and J’Marick Woods. Vilain is the second-highest rated player in the class behind McCaffrey and his commitment vaults Michigan from seventh in the 247 Sports team rankings to fourth behind only Ohio State, Alabama, and Oklahoma.

New in Blue: 2017 DE Corey Malone-Hatcher

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016


Corey Malone-Hatcher(247 Sports)

Corey Malone-Hatcher – DE | 6-3, 246 | St. Joseph’s, Mich. (St. Joseph’s)
ESPN4-star, #20 DE Rivals: 4-star, #13 SDE 247: 4-star, #12 WDE Scout: 4-star, #24 DE
247 Composite: 4-star #16 WDE
Other top offers: Alabama, OSU, MSU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Tennessee, UCLA, Iowa, Wisconsin

Jim Harbaugh’s summer satellite camp tour just started, but he has already picked up a commitment. Rather than coming as a result of a camp, it came from his own backyard in the form of St. Joseph’s, Mich. defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher. The 6-foot-3, 246-pound senior-to-be announced his commitment on Thursday afternoon.

Malone-Hatcher is a consensus four-star recruit accoridng to the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks him the highest at his position as the 12th-best weakside defensive end, while Rivals has him as the 13th-best strongside end. ESPN and Scout list him 20th and 24th, respectively. Nationally, 247 has him the highest as the 169th-best overall player in the 2017 class. ESPN ranks him 254th, Scout 287th, and Rivals doesn’t have him in their top 300. According to the 247 Composite, he’s the 247th-best player, 16th-best weakside end, and sixth-best player in the state of Michigan.

Scout lists Malone-Hatcher’s strengths as backside pursuit, pass rushing skills, and techniques and moves, while noting his area to improve as injury history. A foot injury — and ultimately surgery — ended his junior season last fall. Scout expanded on their analysis.

“Great pass rusher who can dip his shoulders, bend the corner and get around offensive tackle. Agile kid who does a good job with his hands as well. Closes on quarterbacks quickly and has improved on his ability in coverage but can continue to work in that department. Main concern are a couple of injuries the last few years, but when he’s been on the field, he’s made an impact.”

Malone-Hatcher chose Michigan over a top ten that he released on Sunday that also included Ohio State, Michigan State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Tennessee, UCLA, Wisconsin, and Penn State. According to the 247 Crystal Ball, Michigan has always been the favorite, while Alabama had a few votes. But since he tweeted out his top ten, 10 crystal balls were given in Michigan’s favor and by Wednesday night the Wolverines were the 100 percent favorite.

Michigan already has two of the state of Michigan’s top six — offensive tackle JaRaymond Hall (third) and inside linebacker Josh Ross (fourth) — and Malone-Hatcher’s commitment would give them a third. The biggest prize, receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who ranks sixth nationally, is considered a Michigan lean, but the Wolverines still have to fight off Ohio State and Michigan State for his commitment.

Malone-Hatcher is the 13th commitment in the class, joining Hall, Ross, quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, running backs Kurt Taylor, O’Maury Samuels, A.J. Dillon, and Chase Lasater, tight end Carter Dunaway, defensive tackle Phillip Paea, linebacker Ben Mason, and defensive backs Benjamin St-Juste and J’Marick Woods.

42 years later: Steve Strinko recaps graduation, recalls 12-year old Harbaugh, and looks forward to helping others

Friday, May 13th, 2016


Strinko and Harbaugh

Forty-two years after leaving Michigan for the National Football League, Steve Strinko can finally call himself a Michigan graduate. On April 29, Strinko donned his cap and gown and joined current U of M seniors in receiving a diploma. But he looked a little bit different than the other 110 student-athletes that walked with him.

“I got this wild idea on Wednesday because I don’t use a walker that often — only when I’m traveling and might walk a long distance,” Strinko said. “I got this idea to paint it maize and blue. Then I found a way to stencil an M on the seat. So as I walked across the stage I was pushing my Michigan walker along.”

Strinko with his Michigan walker

Strinko with his Michigan walker

While the age difference — and the toll it has taken on his body — set him apart, the 1974 Michigan football most valuable player was welcomed with open arms by the current team.

“Jehu Chesson came over and tapped me on the shoulder while all the seniors were getting to their seats and said ‘hey man, did you play football?'” Strikno recalled. “I said yeah, and he said we’ve got a spot over here with the team. So I went over there and sat with him and his roommate (fullback Sione Houma, who recently signed an undrafted free agent contract with the New Orleans Saints). He’s Tongan and had a leather skirt underneath his gown, which I thought was hilarious. I said ‘you’ve got to be pretty confident about your sexuality to wear a dress around’ and he started laughing and said ‘yeah, I’m pretty confident.'”

Strinko relished the comradre he shared with the current players who were joining him in graduation on a weekend in which he also reunited with some of his former teammates.

I was humbled with the number of people that showed up. Both of my roommates from college were there. Dave Metz was my roommate the first two years and he played guard. Mark Elzinga was a backup quarterback; he was my roommate for my junior and senior year.”

After receiving his degree, Strinko, who once watched a Super Bowl in Woody Hayes’ living room, was courted by Bear Bryant, and played for Bo Schembechler, was greeted by current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.

“I went up to him and he said ‘Strinko, congratulations.’ And I said ‘better late than never. It only took me 42 years.'”

Strinko recalled his fondness of the Harbaughs, which spans nearly a half century. In 1969, Jim’s dad, Jack, tried to recruit Strinko to Bowling Green and was the first college coach to shake his hand and tell him he wanted him to come play for him. Strinko, of course, signed with Schembechler, and Harbaugh told him “you’re going to get lost in the shuffle because it’s such a huge school, such a big program.”

“The funny thing is in 1973, he shows up as an assistant,” Strinko said. “I will never forget going up to him and saying ‘coach, aren’t you afraid you’re going to get lost in the shuffle here?'”

As for Jim, Strinko remembers him as being a “12-year old kid bouncing off the walls when I played.”

“Jimmy was somewhat of a pest — he and his brother, both. I remember on several occasions when they duck-taped Jimmy to a locker just to curb his enthusiasm,” Strikno recalled, laughing. “It was clearly obvious at that age that he was passionate about the game. It was incredible.”

And here they are, decades later, at different stages in life, but both having returned to Ann Arbor. While Harbaugh is hard at work trying to bring Michigan back from years of malaise, Strinko can afford to pat himself on the back for overcoming hardship and achieving his degree.

Strinko and his brother, Greg, with Jehu Chesson

Strinko and his brother, Greg, with Jehu Chesson

“All my life, with what I had gone through with getting addicted to substances, it was a big deal for me to start at point A and have a point B out there somewhere in the future and actually get to that point. It gave me confidence that there may be some value to this old fart after all.”

Taking after Harbaugh’s enthusiasm unknown to mankind, Strinko isn’t stopping at just a Bachelor’s degree. He’s currently working on his Master’s degree via online courses through Liberty University. He admitted part of the reason for continuing his education was that he took so many classes that he wanted to make absolutely certain that he had enough credits to graduate from Michigan.

Strinko also looks forward to trying to help other former Michigan football players overcome the same types of struggles that tripped him up after his football career. His Foundation for Athletes in Need is in the process of obtaining 501c3 status in Missouri, where he currently lives, and he’s also in talks with fellow U-M football alum Jim Betts about pairing with the Michigan Football Alumni Network’s Team Big House, which Betts, Jim Brandstatter, and John Wanlger are organizing.

“I know we’ve got guys out there who are hurting,” Strikno said. “I know we’ve got guys out there addicted to Oxytoxins. I think it would be naive to think that kind of stuff isn’t happening on a regular basis, and if it’s happening with guys at Michigan that are former football players, then obviously it’s happening elsewhere.

“We want to create something at Michigan where we can have an organization that we get together when home games are in town and provide one free ticket to home games for all former players for the rest of their life and we step up to help when they’re struggling financially or otherwise.”

It has been a long and bumpy road for Strinko, but like the hard-hitting linebacker he once was, he prefers to charge ahead rather than dwell on the past. Now he can do so as a University of Michigan graduate.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Click to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the backstory.

New in Blue: 2017 LB Ben Mason

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016


Ben Mason(H John Voorhees III, Hearst Connecticut Media)

Ben Mason – LB | 6-2, 247 | Sandy Hook, Conn. (Newtown)
ESPNN/A Rivals: 3-star, N/A 247: 3-star, #28 ILB Scout: 3-star, #32 ILB
247 Composite: 3-star #35 ILB
Other top offers: Wisconsin, Cal, Pittsburgh, Duke, Syracuse, Navy, Uconn, Boston College, Temple

Michigan picked up a 12th member of its 2017 recruiting class on Tuesday evening when Sandy Hook, Conn. linebacker Ben Mason picked the Wolverines during a ceremony at Newtown High School.

Mason is a three-star recruit according to 247, Rivals, and Scout, and the 247 Composite. ESPN hasn’t ranked him yet. 247 ranks him as the 28th-best inside linebacker in the class, while Scout ranks him 32nd. ESPN and Rivals haven’t released their position rankings to date.

Mason holds offers from Wisconsin, California, Pittsburgh, Duke, and Navy, to name a few, and feigned picking a Cal hat before he selected the Michigan one during the ceremony. He said he could play either linebacker or fullback for the Wolverines. He joins fellow linebackers Josh Ross and Chase Laseter in the class.

The 6-foot-2, 247-pounder recorded 113 tackles, 11 for loss, four sacks, and four interceptions last season. As a sophomore in 2014, he tallied 110 tackles, six for loss, 5.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and a pick. Adding in his freshman season, Mason has already amassed 290 tackles and could surpass 400 with another similar season this fall before moving to Ann Arbor.

Satellite camp ban shines light on SEC’s, NCAA’s self-serving interests

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016


Mark Emmert(LM Otero, AP)

Last fall, I posted up in the Starbucks on State and Liberty for a full day of interviews. In search of new writers for Maize and Go Blue I spoke with several current Michigan students — aspiring journalists with The Michigan Daily and engineering majors who enjoy writing alike — and alums interested in voicing their opinion on Michigan athletics.

I did the same in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York, and when all was said and done I brought three new writers aboard. I considered it a success. Not only did I improve my team, but I also gave three college students a chance to cover their favorite team. A chance that comes with media credentials and insider access only a small percentage get.

As I was planning to make this fall’s hiring trip bigger and better, the fat cats at MGoBlog petitioned the World Wide Web to ban blogs from doing so. MGoBlog, of course, can sit back and wait for great writers to approach them, while blogs like us, Maize ‘n Brew, Maize ‘n Blue Nation, and Maize and Blue News have to get creative in order to find good writers. They reasoned that they shouldn’t have to work harder to draw elite writers from their own territory of students and alums.

On Friday, the WWW approved a proposal that would require blogs to “hire only via the comments section on their own website or on websites normally used for blog hiring (Craigslist).”

The above scenario sounds completely absurd, doesn’t it? And while it’s completely fictitious, it’s exactly what happened with the NCAA’s banning of satellite camps last Friday. It’s not a perfect analogy given that student-athletes and prospective student-athletes aren’t employees. But that’s where the NCAA’s ruling is even more absurd than the fictitious blog scenario above.

The NCAA’s stated description is “a member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletics.” One of the NCAA’s seven core values is “an inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.” One of the main pillars of the NCAA’s web page is opportunity, with a description that reads, in part, “More than 1,100 member schools are united around one goal: creating opportunities for college athletes.”

Every one of the items listed above is a direct contradiction to the NCAA’s ruling to ban satellite camps. Rather than inclusive, opportunity-creating camps that help the pave the way for student-athlete well-being and lifelong success, the NCAA issued a self-serving, opportunity-limiting decree inclusive of only a select few.

The outcry from both high school and college athletes since Friday describing the opportunities that satellite camps created for them to be seen by a wider audience of coaches, and thus, broaden their opportunities has been backed by other college coaches as well.

“Those are the only two reasons, to selfishly guard your recruiting base — and that’s the major motive — or laziness,” said Washington State head coach Mike Leach. “OK, so we’re going to elevate those over the interests of, in particular, low-income student-athletes and providing them an opportunity? It’s by far one of the most absurd things ever. If we’re even close to who we say we are, this idealistic sport, student-athlete, college football — if we’re even remotely close to what we say we are, that needs to be overturned immediately.”

Leach also questioned the supposed vote that saw his conference, the Pac-12, along with the SEC, Big 12, ACC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt, approve of the ban. According to Leach, “the vast majority of the schools in our conference were in favor of the satellite camps.”

Jim Harbaugh, whose publicity of his own satellite camps led to the ban, has yet to publicly comment about the vote. But rest assured he has something up his sleeve to counter it.

“In my America, you’re allowed to cross the state borders. That’s the America I know,” Harbaugh said last June amid criticism of his Summer Swarm satellite camp tour.

The fact that a select few can get a rule changed simply because someone else’s ingenuity was threatening their cozy spot atop the landscape is deeply troubling. But even more so due to the fact that it flies in the face of what their profession pretends to serve. And it shines a large spotlight on what NCAA president Mark Emmert, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, ACC commissioner John Swofford, and others truly serve: themselves.

New in Blue: 2017 RB O’Maury Samuels

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016


O'Maury Samuels(247 Sports)

O’Maury Samuels – RB | 5-11, 190 | Los Lunas, N.M. (Los Lunas)
ESPNN/A RivalsN/A 247: 3-star, #25 RB Scout: 4-star, #23 RB
247 Composite: 4-star #21 RB
Other top offers: TCU, Arizona, California, New Mexico, New Mexico State

Jim Harbaugh landed a commitment for the third straight day and the fifth time in the past week when Los Lunas, N.M. running back O’Maury Samuels pledged his verbal to the Wolverines on Sunday afternoon. He announced his decision on Twitter.

Samuels is a four-star according to Scout and a three-star per 247. Rivals and ESPN have yet to rank him. Scout lists him as the 23rd-best running back in the 2017 class, while 247 ranks him as the 25th-best running back and 338th nationally.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound running back rushed for 1,306 yards for Los Lunas High School as a junior last fall, earning all-state honors. He then made his mark on The Opening Dallas regional last month, recording a 4.58 40-yard dash, 44.5-inch vertical, 4.14-second shuffle, and 43-foot power ball toss to post the nation’s highest SPARQ score, 138.30. That earned him an offer from Harbaugh — his only other offers at the time were in-state schools, New Mexico and New Mexico State — and also an invite to The Opening at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon.

When Michigan offered after his performance in Dallas, he was excited to get a big-time offer from a school like Michigan.

“I was very happy when Mr. Harbaugh offered me,” Samuels said. “Coach Tyrone Wheatley said I am a freak and I have a lot of great attributes. They said I would fit into their program. I was so happy because Michigan is a great program with some great coaches.”

Although California, Arizona, and TCU have offered since then, a visit to Ann Arbor for the spring game on Friday was enough to convince Samuels to go blue. He’s the 11th member of the 2017 class and joins fellow running backs Kurt Taylor and A.J. Dillon in the class.

New in Blue: 2017 DT Phillip Paea

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016


Phillip Paea(247 Sports)

Phillip Paea – DT | 6-4, 285 | Berrien Springs, Mich. (Berrien Springs)
ESPNN/A Rivals3-star #13 OG 247: 3-star, #25 DT Scout: 3-star, #26 DT
247 Composite: 3-star #32 DT
Other top offers: Oregon, USC, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Utah, BYU, Arizona

Michigan’s hot spring continued on Saturday afternoon with a commitment from Berrien Springs, Mich. defensive tackle Phillip Paea. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder posted a succinct and pointed tweet to announce his commitment.

Paea is a three-star recruit according to Rivals, 247, and Scout, while ESPN hasn’t ranked him yet. Ravals ranks him as the 13th-best offensive guard in the 2017 class, while 247 ranks him as the 25th-best defensive tackle, and Scout as the 26th-best defensive tackle.

While his rankings don’t stand out just yet, his offer sheet does. Oregon, USC, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Miami, to name a few, have offered him. Paea visited Michigan on March 24 and again for the spring game on Friday before committing the next day.

Paea is the 10th member of the 2017 class, joining quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, running backs A.J. Dillon and Kurt Taylor, tight end Carter Dunaway, offensive lineman Ja’Raymond Hall, fullback Chase Lasater, linebacker Joshua Ross, and defensive backs J’Marick Woods and Benjamin St-Juste.

New in Blue: 2018 TE/DL Leonard Taylor

Friday, April 1st, 2016


Leonard Taylor(247 Sports)

Leonard Taylor – TE/DT | 6-6, 258 | Springfield, Ohio (Springfield)
ESPNN/A RivalsN/A 2474-star, #3 DT Scout: 4-star, N/A
247 Composite: N/A
Other top offers: Ohio State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Nebraska, Louisville, Penn State

Less than two weeks after landing a commitment from 2018 linebacker Antwuan Johnson, Michigan picked up his teammate, Leonard Taylor. The Springfield, Ohio tight end/defensive end pledged his commitment to Jim Harbaugh following Friday night’s spring game.

Taylor is rated as a four star according to 247 and Scout, the only of the four major recruiting services to have released their 2018 ratings to date. 247 ranks Taylor as the third-best defensive tackle in the class and the 22nd-best overall player in the class. No other site has ranked the 2018 class yet.

As mentioned in Johnson’s New in Blue post, Taylor plays for former NFL safety Maurice Douglass, who sent Roy Roundtree, Michael Shaw, Brandon Moore, Mike McCray, and Reon Dawson to Ann Arbor while at Trotwood High School. However, given that Johnson and Taylor are among the best 2018 players in the state of Ohio, Harbaugh will have to fight to keep them away from Urban Meyer over the next 22 months. Still, it’s great early momentum, and Harbaugh can build on that with a great season this fall.