As first impressions go, Michigan couldn’t have made a better one on Lakewood (WA) Lakes OT, Zach Banner. The five-star lineman had for months been looking forward to experiencing personally the program that he had heard so much about. The problem with second-hand descriptions and perceptions based television portrayals is that they often paint a romanticized picture that the real thing can’t possibly live up to. That, however, was not an issue for the Maize & Blue last Saturday.
“That atmosphere was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” Banner exclaimed. “It is almost like the game was just icing on everything. From the minute I got there, the hype there was just crazy. The fans kept saying, ‘Zach go to Michigan! Zach go to Michigan!’ It was good to be supported there and wanted. It was just a crazy experience. They showed us around the facilities, the indoor, the weight room… all that stuff. It was amazing! (My mom) liked it a lot too. She definitely liked the academic part of it.”
And that was just day one. On day two of the visit the Michigan coaching staff had an opportunity for more face time with the talented youngster. They made sure at that point to reiterate a not so subtle message.
“They told me they could see me coming in and playing my freshman year,” reported Banner. “They’re talking about playing the right tackle first. Right now they just want me to come in and play. That’s the biggest thing for them right now.”
For Banner, a big thing is the opportunity to also play basketball in college. Brady Hoke & company were aided by the Michigan basketball staff in elucidating the presence of that option in Ann Arbor.
“Coach Beilein came to see me in my hotel,” recalled the Lakes high standout. “He said that he is going to see how I play in my senior year, but he said it definitely sounds good to him about me playing both. I also talked to (Bacari Alexander). He said he definitely liked my film too. It’s all looking good.”
The lone downer on the trip could have been the long plane ride, but even that received a satisfactory mark.
“It was cool,” said Banner of the cross country flight. “The plane ride back home showed that because we went in the middle of the day. I got in (to Ann Arbor Saturday morning) at 6:30. I took the redeye. The redeye anywhere is going to be horrible, but the plane ride home was cool. It wasn’t even that long.”
What has lingered, though, is the buzz stemming from a visit that is now days in his rearview.
“It was more than I expected, to be real with you,” admitted Banner. “It was a lot more than I expected. It was really good.”
Does that mean Michigan has moved up his leaderboard?
“I haven’t really decided about (favorites) yet,” he said. “I just know I like the family love and the family spirit that they showed (at Michigan). They definitely welcomed me with open arms there… the fans, the coaches… everyone. I just liked it there.”