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Posts Tagged ‘Michigan Football’

Signing of the Stars shines spotlight on Michigan football

Thursday, February 4th, 2016


Signing of the Stars(MGoBlue.com)

Dense fog blanketing Interstate-94 from Chicago to Ann Arbor in the wee hours of Wednesday morning provided an apt metaphor for the current state of Michigan football. I knew the destination was ahead, but could only see a few feet at a time. As long as I stayed the course I would get to where I was going, despite the vast unseen in between.

By Wednesday afternoon, a good portion of the fog separating the Michigan program from where it stands now to where it wants to be had been lifted as Jim Harbaugh polished off a top-five recruiting class in style with a star-studded event in Hill Auditorium. The one-of-a-kind Signing of the Stars event was streamed live via The Players’ Tribune, drawing a large audience and making Michigan the talk of the college football world on National Signing Day.

During the two hour event seven early-enrollees were introduced by duos of celebrities, resembling an awards show like the ESPYs or the Oscars. Each player walked up onto the stage to applause from the audience, similar to NFL Draft day. Their highlight reels were then broken down by a panel of experts made up of ESPN analyst Todd McShay, former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz, and former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.

“That was originally Harbaugh’s idea,” said Matthew Mills, the founder and executive producer of Spacestation, the New York-based production agency that produced the event. “We were told that they wanted something that felt like a combination of NFL Draft day, College GameDay, and an awards show. And I think we delivered that.”

The members of the 2016 recruiting class that were on hand to be celebrated for the night agreed.

Carlo Kemp(MGoBlue.com)

“It felt like NFL Draft day, sitting in your seat and waiting to hear your name called to go say your two lines and stand up there with Coach Harbaugh,” said defensive end Carlo Kemp, who enrolled a month ago. “It was like waiting to get drafted.”

Former Michigan quarterback and current Jacksonville Jaguars running back Denard Robinson, who along with fellow former Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock, was among the day’s presenters, echoed that sentiment.

“It was crazy because during the pre-runs for the whole thing it was kind of funny looking and you’re like ‘how’s this going to set up, how’s it going to be?’ and now you see it and it’s like ‘wow!’ It’s a great idea,” Robinson said. “It’s almost like draft day. You’ve got guys announcing you, you’ve got guys breaking down your highlights, it’s like getting drafted. You come to Michigan for things like this and to get drafted because a lot of people get drafted from this school.”

Per Mills, as Michigan worked to confirm celebrity attendees, who ranged from Tom Brady and Derek Jeter to Josh Gracin and Migos, other celebrities were “coming out of the woodwork” to ask to participate. So much so that Mills and Michigan couldn’t fit them all into the program. Instead, they filmed video montages of Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Robert Patrick, Dick Enberg, Verne Troyer and many more congratulating the recruiting class.

“Usually (coaches) sit by the fax machine and the coach stands up and talks and usually says the same kind of things, so I wanted to do something different, wanted to do something awesome,” Harbaugh said after the event.

SotS(MGoBlue.com)

Although he was traveling across the country, climbing trees, sleeping at recruits’ homes, and attending classes with them, Harbaugh was involved with the planning throughout the process, said Mills.

“He contributed a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We took our cue from him in that regard. He said ‘make this bold and give people something unique’, and I think we gave them that. He was very involved in the process and the creative process. We were giving him briefs about ‘we’d like to do this, we’d like to do that’ and he would say yea or nay or he would amplify something. He was very collaborative and we just had a blast working with him.”

It was a grand spectacle that provided water cooler talk in offices nationwide, some good and some who thought it was over the top. But those who will take notice the most are still in high school and Harbaugh will be battling for their commitments in the years to come.

“Sixteen and 17 year old kids are going to love this,” Kemp said. “I mean, if I knew this was going to happen I probably would have committed even earlier. It’s awesome, it was great. I’m glad to be a part of it and I’ll remember February 3, 2016 for the rest of my life.”

Robinson, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, concurred.

“I think it’s a big deal. It’s going to put us back on the map a little bit. This was a great idea to have guys come out like this. We’ve had so many celebrities come out, actually announcing these guys, so it’s big. I mean as an 18-year old you’ve got Derek Jeter announcing you, Tom Brady announcing you, Ric Flair, Desmond Howard. They get to announce you when you’re 18 years old. It means everything and coming to Michigan is going to be a great opportunity.”

But in addition to celebrating a top five recruiting class, the purpose of the event was to raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer, an issue that has gripped the Michigan family since last year. Chad Carr, the grandson of former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr passed away on Nov. 23 after a battle with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma (DIPG).

Harbaugh-Chad Carr

While Harbaugh’s recruiting tactics have drawn criticism from rival coaches, players, and fans, there was no more telling moment than shortly after 1pm. As the nation’s consensus top recruit, Rashan Gary, whom Harbaugh and his staff had been courting for over a year, was announcing his commitment to Michigan over Clemson live on ESPNU, Harbaugh wasn’t glued to a television set or a smartphone. He wasn’t backstage working the phones. He wasn’t eagerly awaiting a text message or a call or a tweet.

No, he was standing on stage, flanked by his wife Sarah to his right and Tammi Carr to his left. He was telling the 3,500 fans in attendance and the rest of the country watching the live stream the importance of a five year old kid, urging them to visit ChadToug.org and donate to help fund research that may someday save other kids like Chad who suffer from DIPG.

Word of Gary’s commitment spread through the Hill Auditorium crowd as they wiped their damp eyes — a poignant reminder of what matters most.

New in Blue: 2016 TE Devin Asiasi

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016


Devin Asiasi(Isaiah Hole, 247 Sports)

Devin Asiasi – TE | 6-3, 270 | Concord, Calif. – De La Salle
ESPN: 4-star, #3 TE Rivals: 4-star, #2 TE 247: 4-star, #8 TE Scout: 4-star, #4 TE
Other top offers: USC, UCLA, Alabama, Auburn, Oregon, Tennessee, Miami, Nebraska, ND

Michigan’s big National Signing Day haul concluded with a commitment from Concord, Calif. tight end Devin Asiasi. The De La Salle product chose the Wolverines over his home-state schools, USC and UCLA.

Asiasi is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. Rivals ranks him the highest as the second-best tight end in the class, and 46th-best overall player in the class. ESPN ranks him as the third-best tight end and 44th overall, while Scout has him fourth and 67th, and 247 has him eighth and 218th. Per the 247 Composite, Asiasi is the nation’s third-best tight end and 74th-best overall player in the class.

Scout is very complimentary of the big tight end, listing his strengths as ability to beat jams, frame, and hands and concentration. They note his area to improve as elusiveness with catch. At 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, he has good size to be a complete tight end, both catching and blocking. Scout expands on their analysis.

“Asiasi is a huge tight end target who could honestly have even more upside as a defensive end down the road. He’s pushing 270 pounds and will have no problem stepping in to a college offense and being physically able to handle those battles in the trenches. Where he surprises people is with his ability to run and catch. He’s a very coordinated athlete for his size and can get down the field. He also has very soft hands and will be that reliable 3rd down pass catcher every quarterback loves to have. He’s a tremendous blocker and comes from a system at De La Salle where you learn to block early on or you won’t play. As long as he can keep his weight down, Asiasi should be a tremendous tight end at the next level with Sunday potential.”

After Michigan missed out on Isaac Nauta, who chose to remain home and attend Georgia last month, Harbaugh turned his attention to Asiasi, drawing him to campus two weekends ago and ultimately, landing his commitment. Asiasi joins Sean McKeon and Nick Eubanks as tight ends in the class. Harbaugh’s affinity for using tight ends has been a major draw, and with Jake Butt graduating following next season, the spot is wide open beginning in 2017.

New in Blue: 2016 DT Rashan Gary

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016


Rashan Gary(David Lake, 247 Sports)

Rashan Gary – DT | 6-5, 293 | Paramus, N.J. – Paramus Catholic
ESPN: 5-star, #1 DT Rivals: 5-star, #1 DT 247: 5-star, #1 DT Scout: 5-star, #1 DT
Other top offers: Everybody

Michigan fans had to sweat it out until the very end, but the wait was worth it when the nation’s top recruit, defensive tackle Rashan Gary announced his commitment to the Wolverines on National Signing Day. He announced his decision live on ESPNU, choosing Michigan over Clemson, and there was an audible exhaling among those in attendance at Michigan’s Signing of the Stars event when word got out to those following along on their phones.

He followed it up with a tweet.

Gary is the consensus No. 1 player in the class by all four major recruiting services and among the best players in the recruiting services era. Despite a late push by the two schools that competed for the national championship last month, it was the consistency of Michigan that made the difference.

“I’ve been there three times and the rest of the schools I’ve only been there two times,” Gary said. “I’m happy, my mom is happy and my family is happy.”

Scout compliments his athleticism, explosion, and speed while listing his areas to improve as disengaging skills and techniques and moves. The good news is the strengths are unique attributes for a man his size, while the areas to improve are coachable skills that he will learn at the next level. Scout’s Brian Dohn raves about Gary.

“Gary is a mix of power, speed, athleticism and explosion. He has great speed and his ability to chase a play down are exceptional. He ran a 4.74 in the 40-yard dash at The Opening in July, and he plays fast. He can use his strength to overpower an offensive lineman, he has a tremendous change of direction and his explosion is off the charts.”

At 6-foot-5, 293 pounds he has not only the frame but the athleticism to come in and play right away. Michigan already has a deep and talented defensive line, but Gary will be too good to keep off the field right away. He should crack the rotation from the start and add athleticism to the group.

The highest-ranked commitment Michigan has ever landed helped the program make a huge splash on National Signing Day, coupled with the Signing of the Stars event that was streamed live on The Players’ Tribune.

New in Blue: 2016 K Quinn Nordin

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016


Quinn Nordin(Taylor Ballek, MLive.com)

Quinn Nordin – K | 6-1, 200 | Rockford, Mich – Rockford
ESPN: 3-star, #9 K Rivals: 3-star, #1 K 247: 3-star, #1 K Scout: 4-star, #1 K
Other top offers: Penn State, USC, Baylor, Arizona State, Michigan State, Georgia, Iowa, Pittsburgh

He’s not the flashiest commitment in Michigan’s class, but Rockford, Mich. kicker Quinn Nordin pledged his commitment to the Wolverines on Wednesday morning, continuing Jim Harbaugh’s nice start to National Signing Day. And while he won’t draw the most headlines on this day, he’s an important piece of the puzzle.

Nordin is a three-star according to ESPN, Rivals, and 247, and a four-star per Scout. While Scout, Rivals, and 247 rank him as the top kicker in the class, ESPN has him much lower at ninth.

Nordin originally committed to Penn State last July, just before the Nittany Lions’ summer camp, but visited Michigan for back to back weeks during the season. When the recruiting dead period ended on January 15, Harbaugh made national headlines by showing up at Nordin’s house just after midnight and holding a sleepover with the kicker. Nordin decommitted from Penn State last Wednesday and visited USC over the weekend. But the Trojans accepted a commitment from Temecula, Calif. kicker Michael Brown, signaling Nordin’s commitment to Michigan.

This fall, Michigan returns fifth-year senior kicker Kenny Allen, who was a model of consistency, connecting on 18 of 22 field goal attempts with a long of 47. Sophomore-to-be Andrew David is the only other true kicker on the roster, so Nordin will battle with David and walk-ons for the kicking spot in 2017.

New in Blue: 2016 CB LaVert Hill

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016


LaVert Hill(247 Sports)

LaVert Hill – CB | 5-10, 176 | Detroit, Mich – Martin Luther King
ESPN: 4-star, #21 CB Rivals: 4-star, #14 CB 247: 4-star, #6 CB Scout: 4-star, #7 CB
Other top offers: Michigan State, Clemson, Tennessee, USC, UCLA, Ohio State, Georgia, Miami

One of the more dramatic recruiting stories for Michigan’s class has ended in Michigan’s favor with a commitment from Detroit King cornerback LaVert Hill. The younger brother of current Michigan safety Delano Hill chose the Wolverines over Penn State and rival Michigan State.

Hill is a consensus four-star recruit according to the four major recruiting services. 247 Sports ranks him the highest as the sixth-best cornerback in the class and 88th-best overall player in the class. Scout ranks him seventh at his position and 97th overall. Rivals has him 14th and 176th, while ESPN ranks him the lowest as the 21st-best corner in the class and 278th-best overall.

Scout likes his coverage awareness, hands, and instincts, but thinks he needs to improve his size. At 5-foot-10 and 176 pounds he’s the exact same size Jourdan Lewis was listed at on this season’s roster. Lewis, of course, was a first team All-American and semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe and Chuck Bednarik awards. Scout expands on their analysis of Hill.

“Has a natural knack for reading and jumping routes. Good, quick feet and ability to change directions. Technically sound and smooth in his backpedal and transition. Has the closing speed to makeup ground and break on passes. Must add size and strength. Solid wrap-up tackler, but must get stronger to improve in this area.”

Hill joins David Long to give Michigan a pair of highly-rated cornerbacks in addition to Devin Gil and Josh Metellus, who will likely wind up at safety or linebacker. At least one of the committed receivers may wind up in the secondary as well.

Hill is an excellent pickup for Harbaugh, not only for the talent he brings to Ann Arbor but because he’s a head-to-head recruiting win for a Detroit kid against bitter in-state rival Michigan State. During Michigan’s downturn the past few years, the Spartans took hold of most of the state’s best players, but Harbaugh is working to put an end to that with Hill, who is ranked fifth in the state, and offensive tackle Michael Onwenu, the top player in the state.

Hill is the second commitment of the day for Michigan, following receiver Nate Johnson’s commitment earlier this morning. Stay tuned for more commitment news and coverage from Signing of the Stars.

Jim Harbaugh’s party guests, ranked

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016


Harbaugh(Getty Images)

Jim Harbaugh sure knows how to throw a party.

Whether it’s a sleepover on the floor of a high school senior’s bedroom, an appearance on Judge Judy, or a National Signing Day celebration, Harbaugh only knows how to do it one way.

He does it BIG.

On Wednesday, Harbaugh will return from a fortnight of country-wide tree climbing and birthday cake baking to officially welcome his first full recruiting class to the halls of the Maize and Blue. But he won’t be sitting beside the fax machine, chewing his fingernails in anticipation of LOIs from high school players.

Instead, Jim Harbaugh will be hosting a few special guests.

What kind of guests? I’m glad you asked.

From current NFL stars to pop culture idols to chain-smoking former MLB managers, this party is sure to have it all. Naturally, I’m going to put these guests into a special edition of the M&GB power rankings (we’ll be sure to update this list as soon as Donald Trump and Bruce Jenner RSVP).

20. Todd McShay
Todd McShay

It’s only fitting that our list kicks off with a savvy little under-the-radar invite from Harbaugh. Although McShay isn’t exactly an American household name, he fits two of the major criteria that 21st Century recruits crave: national television and the NFL.

What better way for Harbaugh to compliment his NFL pedigree than bringing in half of ESPN’s draft debating duo? McShay is an immediate reminder that playing for Harbaugh means a chance to move on to the next level — just ask Jake Rudock.

19. Lou Holtz
Lou Holtz

Thpeaking of sporth broadcathterth, Lou Holth ith altho heading to Ann Arbor. Holtz adds something even Harbaugh doesn’t have to the party: A college football national championship.

If you can look past his “Notre Dame is still 1940s dominant” mentality and the fact that he once compared Rich Rodriguez to Adolph Hitler on national television, Holtz is actually a pretty nice addition.

Just don’t ask him to blow out the candles on the cake.

18. Derek Holland

Derek Holland(AP)

For the non-baseball fanatics, Holland is one of the hidden gems on this guest list. Sure, a simple ESPN search will tell you he’s a soft-throwing, oft-injured southpaw with mediocre career stats. But off the field, Holland has the social arsenal to be the life of the party.

As the five-star recruits pour in from all over the country, Holland can christen their unity with Ann Arbor in the soothing drawl of Harry Caray or the dulcet tones of Tim Kurkjian. Holland’s impression game is so strong, he even does impressions of celebrities doing impressions of other celebrities.

How did this unlikely union between Holland and Harbaugh come to be? It all started on a fateful August evening in downtown Detroit. Harbaugh was set to throw out the first pitch at a Tigers game, and Holland was in right field wearing a Winged Helmet. The rest is a story for another time.

17. Jack Kennedy
Jack Kennedy

No, not THAT Jack Kennedy.

Among the Michigan football alums returning for this remarkable gathering is one of the most efficient passers in the school’s history. Kennedy finished his Michigan career with a perfect completion percentage and an average of six yards per rush.

Even more impressively, the quarterback-turned-rapper opened for Lil’ Wayne back in June when Weezy came to Joe Louis Arena. If he can rock the “Big Show at the Joe,” he can probably handle Hill Auditorium.

16. Randy Sklar
Randy Sklar

Randy Sklar enters the party as a rare five-tool social talent. He went to Michigan, joined a frat, worked for ESPN, became a professional comedian, and appeared on several huge T.V. shows. Harbaugh just couldn’t pass on such a well-rounded talent.

Sklar appeared on shows like CSI, Law & Order, Entourage, Grey’s Anatomy, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He’ll be asked to play the charismatic Michigan-salesman on this episode of Signing of the Stars.

15. Jim Leyland

Jim Leyland(Ronald Martinez)

Ah yes, the Skipper. Can you imagine a conversation between these two Jims? Harbaugh would put so much effort into understanding Leyland’s mumbling and bumbling that he’d probably blow a gasket. Harbaugh’s post-talk slap on the back would send the former Tigers manager to his knees.

Luckily, Hill Auditorium has exits to the left, right, and center of the main entrance, so Leyland can avoid most of the young’uns and take plenty of smoke breaks.

14. Jon Jansen
Jon Jansen(Taylor Baucom, The Players’ Tribune)

Jansen is valuable in that he brings an almost Harbaugh-level enthusiasm for Michigan football. As emcee of the Michigan Football Bust last year, he brought an enthusiasm unknown to mankind in his sendoff for Coach Brady Hoke.

Jansen adds to the NFL experience in the room. He was drafted in the second round in 1999 and played 137 games on the offensive line.

13. Jessica Szohr
Jessica Szohr

If you were starting to think, ‘Wow, there are a lot of dudes going to this party,’ fear not, because Jessica Szohr will also make an appearance.

I won’t even pretend that I know how Harbaugh managed to bring Szohr to Ann Arbor for this event. Maybe she’s an undercover hardcore football fan? Or simply couldn’t say no to Harbaugh’s boyish charm?

Either way, Szohr has some impressive credentials. Her biggest role was Vanessa Abrams — which I think will especially appeal to Gossip Girl diehards like Rashan Gary — and even guest starred in an episode of Drake and Josh, which takes the cake for me.

12. Mayer Hawthorne
mayer-hawthorne

Now that I’ve done a little research and confirmed that Mayer Hawthorne isn’t actually a mayor, I think he’s a strong addition to Harbaugh’s party list.

Lame jokes aside, this guy is all over the music industry. He’s a singer, songwriter, producer, rapper, and DJ and he plays a ton of instruments. I’m not sure how Harbaugh got in touch with the Mayer, but it’s another notch on his popularity belt.

11. Josh Gracin
Josh Gracin

Let’s face it, country music has made a huge comeback over the last several years and it’s not going away.

Not only is Josh Gracin a product of Westland, Michigan, but he also went to school at Western before joining the Marine Corps. He’s a big-name musician in his prime and that’s a major plus on National Signing Day.

Oh yeah, and he picked up bonus points for being on American Idol way back when it was cool. There’s no shame in losing to the likes of Clay Aiken.

10. Phil Hellmuth
Phil Hellmuth

It’s almost like Harbaugh is trying to collect the best of the best in every sport (or activity). Hellmuth has a record 14 World Series of Poker bracelets and won the Main Event in 1989 and the World Series of Poker Europe in 2012.

The Poker Brat might just sit at a table in the corner with his sunglasses on, staring menacingly at the rest of the room with his fingers interlocked, but anyone who musters up the courage to start a conversation with him will surely learn a lot about overreaction and intimidation.

9. David Portnoy
Milton, MA 022511 Dave Portnoy (cq) is the publisher of Barstool Sports empire which he puts out his Milton office. He and his blogger / vlogger Jenna Mourey (cq) were photographed at his office on February 25, 2011. (Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff)/ MET

This is one of the unbelievably amazing names that might be unappreciated on the list. El Presidente did the entire world a huge favor when he started Barstool Sports and he’s one of the best follows on Twitter.

Portney will be an easier guy to approach at the party, but I think a conversation with him will be the most entertaining on campus. This’ll also be a bit of a reunion for Portney, who went to high school with McShay in Massachusetts.

8. Denard Robinson

(Daniel Brenner, AnnArbor.com)

He may not be the biggest name on this list, but there’s no way Shoelace wasn’t making my top 10.

Denard Robinson was the single player who made watching Michigan football bearable from 2009-2012. In an offensive era defined by terrible coaching and broken plays, Denard turned bad snaps and missed blocks into 60-yard touchdown runs. He was the best athlete every time he took the field, and didn’t make a peep when he lost his starting job due to injury.

And in a world of domestic violence, drunk driving, and banned substance abuse, it’s refreshing to remember a character like Denard Robinson.

7. Migos
Migos

All you need to know about this hip hop trio is they call themselves Migos and their names are Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff. They work under the former manager for Gucci Mane, which I think makes them pretty cool, and I’m sure Harbaugh heard their name on the recruiting trail a few times.

Hey, they’re no 2 Chainz, but they’ll have to do.

6. Brad Keselowski
Brad Keselowski(Geoff Burke, Getty Images)

I’m certainly not much of a NASCAR expert, but a quick Google search told me Keselowski finished seventh in the Sprint Cup standings last season.

If top 10 is good enough for Harbaugh, it’ll be good enough for the recruits. Keselowski has won at some of the biggest racetracks in the country and even has a Sprint Cup championship under his belt. As NASCAR’s biggest Michigan football fan, he’ll fit right in.

5. Mike Shanahan
Mike Shanahan(Getty Images)

We’re getting down into elite territory now, and my top 5 will start with the most accomplished coach attending the event.

Shanahan has been out of the NFL for a few years now, but his nearly two decades of head coaching experience is highlighted by three Super Bowl championships and 178 career wins.

In a building full of football fanatics, Shanahan’s three rings will shine even brighter than Quavo’s chains.

4. Desmond Howard
Desmond Howard

This was probably the easiest sell of the year for Harbaugh, but that doesn’t take away from how valuable Howard’s presence will be.

Howard is one of the greatest players in Michigan history as a Heisman Trophy winner and author of one of the program’s most memorable moments. He’s an unabashed homer for the Wolverines on the most popular football pregame show in the world and won’t hesitate to do whatever he can to help Harbaugh in his pursuit of the best players in the country.

Des will give new Michigan players an early taste of what Ann Arbor love really looks like.

3. Ric Flair
Ric Flair

Ever since Harbaugh said he would love to host WrestleMania at the Big House, he’s been a popular guy in professional wrestling circles. He specifically said he wanted to referee a bout between Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan, which likely kicked off the relationship that brought the former wrestler onto this list.

Wrestling isn’t as popular as it used to be, but Harbaugh’s sudden in with pro wrestlers is one of the things that is so Harbaugh you can’t help but admire it. Flair, like Keselowski and Holland, demonstrates another corner of the sporting world Harbaugh has taken over.

2. Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter

Every fanbase has its crowned jewels, and Derek Jeter is one Michigan fans hold close to their hearts. When Jeter shows his support for the Wolverines, Michigan football gains even more credibility.

It couldn’t have been difficult to get Jeter to Ann Arbor for this party after he spent a full night partying at Rick’s in the fall. The Captain also came to the Big House for a game this season and stood on the Michigan sideline. It’s obvious that Harbaugh is working to keep Michigan’s most famous fans in the loop.

1. Tom Brady
Tom Brady(AP)

Nobody on this list even comes close to matching Tom Brady. Even though he only started for two seasons at Michigan and fell to the 6th round of the NFL draft, Brady is one of the greatest players to ever step on the field.

When Brady walks into the hall with his four Super Bowl rings, two MVP awards, 11 Pro Bowls, and nearly 60,000 career passing yards, he’ll be the absolute center of attention. Brady alone has turned half the state of Michigan into devoted Patriots fans and when his face pops up on the Big House scoreboard, the responding cheer is unmatched.

Brady is probably the most loved Michigan player of all time, and might retire as the greatest football player in history, so he grabs the top spot on this star-studded list.

While the event is drawing big names from all corners of the sports and entertainment world, I would be remiss not to mention the ChadTough Foundation, which will be the biggest beneficiary of the event. Proceeds from tickets sold to the event will go to the foundation, and Michigan donor Ira Harris announced that he will match any donation at the event up to $50,000. Whether you’re going to the event, following The Players’ Tribune’s live stream, or stuck at work, head on over to the foundation’s website and make a donation to help fight DIPG.

Wednesday is sure to be a big day for Michigan football, wrapping up one of the top recruiting classes in the country with a party full of stars on hand and all benefiting a great cause.

Who’s got it better than us?

No-body!

New in Blue: 2016 TE Nick Eubanks

Thursday, January 28th, 2016


Nick Eubanks(Scout.com)

Nick Eubanks – TE | 6-6, 230 | Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – American Heritage
ESPN: 4-star, #2 TE-H Rivals: 4-star, #9 TE 247: 4-star, #11 TE Scout: 3-star, #29 TE
Other top offers: Alabama, LSU, USC, Georgia, Oregon, Florida, Auburn, Texas, Miami, Nebraska

A day after landing Winter Garden, Fla. receiver Eddie McDoom and McKeesport, Pa. athlete Khaleke Hudson, Michigan’s recruiting class grew again with a somewhat unexpected commitment from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. tight end Nick Eubanks. The American Heritage product tweeted his commitment just before 5pm Eastern time.

Eubanks is a four-star according to ESPN, Rivals, and 247, but just a three-star according to Scout. ESPN ranks him the highest as the second-best tight end/H-back and 258th-best overall product. 247 ranks him as the 11th-best tight end and 269th-best player in the class, while Rivals has him ninth-best, but not ranked nationally. Scout is the outlier, listing him as the 29th-best tight end.

Scout lists his strengths as red zone weapon, running ability, and size, while listing his areas to improve as blocking ability and hands and concentration. As of now at least Scout’s analysis sounds quite a bit like Devin Funchess:

“A tight end with a great frame and the ability to play on the line or to be flexed out. Has great length, he knows how to extend for the football, and he can use that to his advantage. He will fill out, add weight, and get stronger. Solid blocker, but can get better at the point of attack. More comfortable now flexed as a big wide receiver going out for passes. Has good athleticism. Solid hands, but he can be more consistent there.”

Eubanks caught 23 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns during his senior year at American Heritage this past fall. The year before, he caught 26 for 408 and four scores.

Prior to his commitment, Eubanks was projected to go to Alabama, which had 57 percent of his crystal balls on 247. Florida had 29 percent, Baylor nine percent, and Miami the remaining seven. But he visited Michigan on Wednesday and committed to the Wolverines based on the way Jim Harbaugh told him he would be used, per 247’s Steve Lorenz.

“I chose Michigan because it’s a better fit for me,” Eubanks said. “I can play right away as a true freshman. It’s best for my future and for my work ethic. Plus coach Harbaugh coached Vernon Davis so I know he knows how to use the tight end. Michigan showed me stuff I’ve never seen before. Not at Florida or at Alabama. How they throw the ball to their tight end. How they flex the tight end out and use the position as a hybrid. No other school I was considering does that. That shocked me and shook my mind.”

Harbaugh has been targeting a second tight end in the class to join Sean McKeon, and after top target Isaac Nauta chose to stay in his home state of Georgia, attention turned to Eubanks, Concord, Ca. native Devin Asiasi, and Nixa, Mo. native Chase Allen. The latter is expected to announce between Michigan, Nebraska, and Iowa State on Friday, but Eubanks preempted it with his own commitment to the Wolverines. Asiasi will announce his decision on National Signing Day next Wednesday along with defensive tackle teammate Boss Tagaloa.

Eubanks will join a talented pass tight end crew in Ann Arbor, led by senior Jake Butt, who was named the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year this past season after catching 51 passes for 654 yards and three touchdowns. However, after Butt, the tight end who caught the second-most passes last season, A.J. Williams (12 for 129 yards), is out of eligibility, leaving senior Khalid Hill (four for 71), junior Ian Bunting (five for 72), senior Henry Poggi (one for two), and sophomore Tyrone Wheatley. Since he’s not an early-enrollee, it will be hard for Eubanks to grab a lot of time in the regular rotation this fall, but if he can prove he can catch he will at least get a chance to contribute before stepping into a bigger role in 2017 and beyond.

New in Blue: 2016 ATH/S Khaleke Hudson

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016


Khaleke Hudson(Justin K. Aller, Post-Gazette)

Khaleke Hudson – ATH | 5-11, 205 | McKeesport, Pa. – McKeesport
ESPN: 3-star, #86 S Rivals: 3-star, #26 ATH 247: 4-star, #15 S Scout: 4-star, #24 ATH
Other top offers: UCLA, Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Penn State, UNC, WVU

Just hours after picking up a commitment from receiver Eddie McDoom, and just a week before National Signing Day, Jim Harbaugh added to his impressive 2016 recruiting class with a commitment from McKeesport, Pa. star Khaleke Hudson. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound safety/athlete chose Michigan over Penn State and West Virginia and announced it via Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.

Hudson is a three-star recruit according to ESPN and Rivals, but 247 and Scout gave him the extra fourth star. ESPN and 247 both rank him as a safety, while Rivals and Scout rank him as an athlete. ESPN ranks him the 86th-best safety in the class, but 247 is much higher at 15th. Meanwhile, Scout lists him as the 24th-best athlete and Rivals as the 26th-best. Scout and 247 are the only services that have Hudson ranked nationally. Scout has him 274th and 247 has him 318th.

After an impressive senior season, Michigan offered Hudson on Nov. 2, and then he had a standout performance at the Semper Fidelis Bowl in early January, according to 247 Sports analyst Alex Gleitman.

“The McKeesport product had a very solid game and even played both ways for the East team,” he said. “Defense is where he did most of his damage, though, recording 7 tackles, including 2 tackles for loss, as well as 1 forced fumble and 4 pass break-ups. He was very active throughout the game and looked good both in pursuit of the ball carrier and dropping back in coverage.”

Hudson officially visited Michigan the weekend of January 15 where he made up his mind to spend the next few years in Ann Arbor. In addition to Penn State and West Virginia, Hudson held offers from UCLA, Michigan State, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina, among others.

Scout lists Hudson’s strengths as body control, closing speed, and durability, while noting his areas to improve as hip flexibility and jamming ability. Scout’s Brian Dohn expands on that.

“Hudson is being recruited as a running back and/or safety, and it is easy to see why schools are split. He has good burst and covers 10 yards in a flash. As a running back, he gets through the hole quickly. As a safety, he closes quickly. In both instances, he is physical and loves to put his shoulder into the play. He has good speed and instincts, but needs to add some flexibility.”

With such athleticism, Hudson could play any number of positions at Michigan, including safety, linebacker, or even running back, playing the Jabrill Peppers role. If he indeed sticks at safety, he fits the mold of a Harbaugh and Don Brown defense with his athleticism and physicality.

New in Blue: 2016 WR Eddie McDoom

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016


Eddie McDoom(247 Sports)

Eddie McDoom – WR | 5-11, 170 | Winter Garden, Fla. – West Orange
ESPN: 4-star, #23 WR Rivals: 3-star, #75 WR 247: 3-star, #67 WR Scout: 3-star, #68 WR
Other top offers: Oregon, Clemson, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida, Tennessee, Texas

Michigan added a piece to its all-name team — and also its 2016 recruiting class — with a commitment from Winter Garden, Fla. receiver Eddie McDoom on Wednesday morning. McDoom committed to Oregon on December 13, however, the Ducks pulled his scholarship on Jan. 17 when he told them he wanted to visit Michigan. He came to Ann Arbor this past weekend and didn’t wait long to pledge his commitment to Harbaugh’s Wolverines.

McDoom is an interesting prospect as he’s not rated very highly, but has an impressive list of offers. ESPN is the only recruiting service that has him listed as a four-star, their 23rd-best receiver and 184th-best player in the class. Scout, 247, and Rivals all rank McDoom as a three-star and the 68th, 67th, and 75th-best receiver, respectively. However, McDoom holds offers from the likes of Clemson, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi State, Miami, and South Carolina, in addition to Michigan and Oregon.

Michigan reportedly didn’t stop recruiting McDoom even after his commitment to Oregon and that paid off, according to Brice Marich of The Michigan Insider.

“The opportunity is there and is greater for me than Oregon,” McDoom told Marich. “They weren’t too confident about me and I feel comfortable with Michigan. I had an in-home visit with Michigan earlier this week. It was with (pass game coordinator / receivers) Coach (Jedd) Fisch and it went great, which is when we scheduled the official visit for this weekend.”

During his junior season at West Orange High School, McDoom caught 47 passes for 854 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass in the Under Armour All-American Game on Jan. 2.

Scout says McDoom can make an impact both at receiver and in the return game and compliments his crisp route-running and running ability after the catch. His main knock at this point is his hands, but that’s something he can improve on.

McDoom joins an impressive wide receiver haul in Harbaugh’s first full recruiting class — Dylan Crawford, Brad Hawkins, Ahmir Mitchell, and Nate Johnson. — though they all likely won’t end up at receiver in Ann Arbor.

New in Blue: 2016 DT Michael Dwumfour

Monday, January 25th, 2016


Michael Dwumfour(Rivals)

Michael Dwumfour – DT | 6-2, 286| Wayne, N.J. – DePaul Catholic
ESPN: 3-star, #48 DT Rivals: 3-star, NR 247: 3-star, #75 DT Scout: 3-star, #68 DT
Other top offers: Penn State, Iowa, West Virginia, Boston College, Temple, Wake Forest

After a big recruiting weekend that gained commitments from defensive end Josh Uche and linebacker Elysee Mbem-Bosse, Michigan’s recruiting class continued to gain steam on Monday by flipping defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour from Penn State. The Wayne, N.J. native tweeted his decision just after noon Eastern, shortly after announcing his decommitment from the Nittany Lions.

Like Uchce, Dwumfour is a consensus three-star by the four major recruiting services. ESPN ranks him the highest as the 48th-best defensive tackle in the class. Scout has him at 68th and 247 at 75th, while Rivals does not have him ranked.

Scout lists Dwumfour’s strengths as body control and balance, change of direction, and hand quickness, while listing his areas to improve as backside pursuit and size. Scout’s Brian Dohn gives an explanation.

“Dwumfour disengages well and he is quick with his hands. He has explosion, but has a tendency to stand up quickly before accelerating forward. Once he explodes forward at the snap, he will become even more effective. Dwumfour has good strength and he plays with a low center of gravity, and he keeps his pad level low. He changes direction well and can make plays in space. At 6-foot-1, some schools make be hesitant to offer.”

Dwumfour committed to Penn State after attending their camp last June, but after visiting Michigan the weekend of Jan. 15, the 6-foot-2, 286-pounder decided to follow his New Jersey friends to Ann Arbor. He was a high school teammate of running back commitment — and early enrollee — Karim Walker and is also good friends with No. 1 recruit and fellow defensive tackle Rashan Gary, who Michigan hopes to land on National Signing Day.

His commitment may precede a decommitment from tackle Jordan Elliott, who officially visited Texas over the weekend and appears to be ready to stay in his home state. At the moment, Dwumfour is the 25th member of the class, but there will be more additions and subtractions in the next nine days.

With a stacked defensive line in 2016, Dwumfour will undoubtedly redshirt to bulk up. Once Ryan Glasgow graduates, he’ll have a chance to work his way into the rotation.