Michigan Steps up Interest in Star VA Sophs

Michigan headman Brady Hoke and assistant Jerry Montgomery logged a lot of miles during their recent trek through Virginia. One of their stops was Richmond St. Christopher's where they inquired about two of the top 2015 prospects in the east; LB Ricky DeBerry & CB Garrett Taylor. St. Christopher's coach Michael Tuner recently gave GBW the dish on their games, Michigan's interest, & much much more.

Sam Webb: We hear that Michigan made it down this week to check in on a few of your star sophomores… Ricky DeBerry and Garrett Taylor.  Before we start talking about recruiting tell us a little about their games starting with Ricky.

Michael Tuner: “Ricky DeBerry is phenomenally talented, absolutely loves the game, he’s a great competitor, he clearly has all the physical tools to be an impact player at the BCS level. But in terms of how that translated for us this year, I mean, he was a dominant force for us defensively.  On offense we didn’t put a lot of points on the board… we put some up… but we could certainly could play some defense, and a lot of that was because our front four included two division one guys; Ricky as well as Jack English, who is a senior going to Virginia next year. And so being able to put that significant pressure on quarterbacks and stuff the run pretty consistently kept us in a lot of games.  That was even against some serious competition.  We played against some spectacular quarterbacks, Christian Hackenberg we held to 63 yards passing, Wilton Speight from (Richmond) Collegiate, who many people regard as even better than Hackenberg, who is going to Penn State, coming out of Fork Union.  It’s a pretty high powered league in terms of quarterbacks, and we were able to compete successfully against a lot of those teams because of specifically what Ricky can do for us as an impact part of that front seven.”

Sam Webb: As far as his size, give me an idea of the height, weight, speed, that kind of thing.

Michael Tuner: “He lists at about 6’2, 230-lbs, and I think that’s pretty accurate, but as a sophomore, he looks like a puppy, so I’m sure he’s going to go up in both categories from there. Body type-wise, he’s clearly – I think just the way he moves, he’s clearly that edge defender kind of guy. We play a four man front, so for us he played defensive end.  He could play any position on the field in high school if he wanted, but for us that’s where it makes sense, but I think the next level, he could either be – if you have a 3-4, he’s that kind of outside linebacker, alley guy.  If you run a 4-3, he could be, depending on the scheme… either that kind of that weak side bandit type linebacker, or the rush end.”

Sam Webb: Tell me about Garret.

Michael Tuner: “Sure. First… Ricky started as a sophomore, but he actually played JV as a freshman, because he was new to St. Christopher - I’m telling you this just as background, because being new to St. Christopher, it’s a pretty academically competitive school, and it was important to the DeBerry family to give him the opportunity to – first semester on campus, just to get a feel for it academically, he played

Garrett Taylor
JV. By the end of the season it was kind of a joke (laughter), so we brought him up for the playoff run and he helped us make it to the state finals.  But Garret actually started as a true freshman for us on a team that went to the state finals and had an unbelievable year.  He returned two fumbles for a touchdown.  At the start of the season, teams started throwing at the freshman. By the end of the season they were throwing at the senior returning guy who was all-state, because clearly they had seen how talented (Taylor) was. This year, because of that, not that many balls were thrown his way because he was just a dominant cover corner.  At 6’1”, with great hips, that’s kind of the benchmark, as far as I can tell, for a BCS corner.  The hips are key, but with the size of wide receivers these days in big time college football, to have a kid who has both that kind of height, as well as that flexibility through his midsection, and can run, and is smart… he’s been at St. Christopher since first or second grade. Great student, great kid, like Ricky, but he’s – I think both these guys are going to kind of be, I would think, end up being kind of the media covered guys types, who are just good citizens, and good student athletes. So back to Garrett… with that height, and pretty good kind of pop when he comes up to stop the run, but also to be able to have the mobility through his hips to be able to flip and turn and run with a guy man to man… that’s not a quality a whole lot of kids have. “

Sam Webb: When it comes to recruiting, I know they aren’t even done with their sophomore seasons yet, but I imagine they have scholarship offers on the table. Do you know off the top of your head kind of how many they’re working with?

Michael Tuner: “Ricky had a little more publicity early on. He was actually one of the kids, when he first enrolled at St. Christopher’s, people were walking up to kids who went to school and saying ‘hey, does Ricky DeBerry go to St. Christopher’s?’  So he’s had a lot of notoriety kind of in the youth football circuit in this area, going back to his middle school years, so I think, from a name recognition standpoint, he was up there a little sooner, so he has offers. He has three and the three are Virginia, North Carolina, and Purdue.” (Edt Note: East Carolina offered subsequent to this interview)

Sam Webb: Ok, and for Garret?

Michael Tuner: “Garret, as I said, he’s a little bit behind in terms of the name recognition, but I think it will come. He has UNC, but I would not be surprised if those others come quickly as well.”

Sam Webb: Give me an idea of what Michigan had to say. They dropped by, so what did they say to you about their interest level, and a potential scholarship offer from them?

Michael Tuner: “Well, I don’t think you come all the way from Michigan just to kick the tires, and move on. Coach Montgomery was very complimentary of the boys in terms of the film that he had seen, and obviously had the opportunity to see the boys from afar. Coaches are very good at showing up at their lunchtime or while there’s workouts going on so they can see the kids in T-shirts instead of jeans (laughter).  So they had a chance to kind of see the guys and physically put eyes on them, and that was – obviously, that’s a big part of it.  In the case of Coach Hoke, he had never – Coach Montgomery had been on campus, but the head guy had never been here, and I think seeing the campus in terms of the academics, and getting to see one of our winter workouts I think that gave them a little bit of perspective in terms of the kind of training that we’re doing. Coach Montgomery  was very complimentary and said that was very helpful for him to get an understanding of the kind of preparation they’re getting.  And then you put that in the context with the level of competition… so you know you’re talking about playing schools like Fork Union, with two Heisman trophy winners, (Richmond) Collegiate, which produced Russell Wilson and has Wilton Speight now, and Woodberry Forest, who in the last few years has started to crank out some pretty significant recruits… they got a sense of the level of competition that these guys are playing.  It puts into context what they’re seeing on film, and the coaches were very complimentary and encouraged. I think the quote was ‘good looking kids’, you now, it was – rarely are coaches, in my experience, the first time laying eyes on the kid, physically going to make the offer right there, they want to see them and have a chance to regroup, but they were very encouraging.”

“We were honored that the Michigan coaches were there, and glad that they’re interested. The one question that Coach put to me was whether or not these guys would leave the state of Virginia. When you’re out of state recruiting, that’s a concern for all coaches.  You want to take care of your back door, and when you have schools like Virginia Tech and UVA in state, you wonder if these guys are going to venture outside, and I think given the – and the answer I gave was that given the reason that both of those boys and their families chose St. Christopher’s, in terms of their priority in terms of academics, I think they would leave the state for the right school. They’re not going to take a scholarship offer from a school across the country where they’re literally going to fly past two great institutions like Virginia Tech or UVA, or other close-by BCS schools unless… I think Michigan, because of the quality of the education, certainly is appealing to boys coming out of St. Christopher’s.  It matches the things that Michigan values.  Academics and athletics are the things that we value at St. Christopher’s, so that kind of fit makes sense. There are certainly other schools that fit that category, but I think (the Michigan coaches were encouraged to hear that.)”

Sam Webb: Likelihood of them, at some point, visiting Michigan?

Michael Tuner: “I would say it would be likely, because of the factors I just mentioned, in terms of the combination of the academics and athletics. I think that’s a good fit for Ricky and Garret, and for the kind of boys who choose to attend St. Christopher. We always talk about it being not about whether the offers come… it’s about what happens when you’re there, the education you get, and more importantly, what you do with that years down the road.  Michigan certainly fits that profile so I would characterize it as likely.”

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