Michigan Vaults into Contention for Winfree

When U-M offered Englewood (NJ) Dwight Morrow High WR/DB Juwann Winfree on signing day it went from being a program on the periphery to one under major consideration. GoBlueWolverine caught with the c/o 2014 standout to get the latest on his recruitment, his thoughts on Michigan, his leaderboard, decision timeline, and much much more.

Juwann Winfree has seen his recruitment pick up steam in recent weeks.  Upon arriving home from the Army junior combine last month he noticed new suitors suddenly showing interest.  It was a welcome surprise for a youngster that wasn’t totally satisfied with his productivity during his junior campaign.

“Things went pretty well,” said Winfree.  “I play for a run first team, so I didn’t get as many plays as I wanted.  But I still managed score six touchdowns receiving, one rushing touchdown, two kick returns,  and I had two interceptions, a few pass break ups, and like 30 tackles.  So I did okay, but I think I can do much better.”

While he may not have demonstrated his talent as often as he would have liked, he definitely did so enough to catch the attention of numerous BCS programs including Michigan.  One of his most obvious attributes is his versatility.  The 6-1, 185-pounder lined up at wide receiver, cornerback, safety, returned kicks, and will add punt return duties to his repertoire as a senior.  Though open to playing any of those roles once he gets to college, there is one that he prefers above all the rest.

“I like receiver better because you ban make more plays, but a lot of people say I’m (better on defense) because of my size and my athleticism,” Winfree stated.  “I like receiver better, but it depends on what school I’m going to.”

Thus far about half of his suitors are courting him as a defensive back, while the other half is recruiting him at wideout.  When Michigan assistant Curt Mallory made his way to the Garden State a few weeks ago he indicated that the Wolverines were interested in utilizing Winfree’s skills on the defense.

“I believe its corner,” Winfree told GoBlueWolverine late last month. “(Coach Mallory) said he couldn’t really speak to me (in the school) because of the rules, but he let my coach know that he is very interested in me and he wants to get me on the campus.  I’ve been speaking with him weekly on Facebook, so he has in (frequent) contact with me.”

When Mallory traveled back to Ann Arbor and met with the rest of the staff, the extent of Michigan’s interest came into focus.  Not only did the Wolverines extend him a scholarship offer on signing day, they made clear their desire to put his 4.5 speed to use on offense.

“I got an offer from Vanderbilt the same day…  I didn’t even know that Michigan offered me,” Winfree recalled.  “I spoke to my head coach and then he told me.  It actually caught me by surprise because they first started being interested me at the beginning of January.  Then for them to offer me like a month later and that was surprising to me.”

“The next day when I went to school I talked on the phone to the head coach, the offensive coordinator, the wide receiver coach, and the recruiting coordinator.  They want me at receiver now. They said they need some playmakers and that’s where I fit better.  It was exciting because the way they talked about me.  They said I’m amazing, that they haven’t seen many receivers like me, and that I’m right at the top of the list.  To hear that from the head coach and the offensive coordinator was just crazy.”

Winfree now lists seven scholarships on an offer list that also Maine, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Old Dominion.  The offer from Michigan effectively thrust the Maize & Blue into firm contention despite his lack of familiarity with the program.

“I don’t know much about the school, but I know it has great history,” he said.  “There are a lot of superstars that have come out of the school, so it has a huge history.  I always liked Michigan as a school.  I was interested in them, but I didn’t think they were interested in me.  But now that I see they are, my interest is even (greater).”

“They’re top ten right now, but I don’t have any order or anything.  I (also) like Rutgers, Pittsburgh, West Virginia… I really like West Virginia…  Maryland, Georgia, Vandy, and Florida.”

Order won’t be brought to that list until he can make his way out to more campuses.  To date he has only visited Rutgers Maryland, Temple, and Pitt.  One of the factors that could weed out some of the contenders before he hits the visit trail is proximity to home.

“I don't want to go too far,” Winfree admitted.  “I want it to be within driving distance… at the most 10-12 hours.  I’m also going to look at the team itself… how they’re doing (record) wise.  Also do they have my major, which is engineering.”

Winfree insists he will assess how well Michigan meets those criteria by traveling to Ann Arbor.

“I don’t think I’m going to take an unofficial visit, but I definitely plan on most likely taking an official visit,” he said.

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