When Brandon Watson and Freddy Canteen received scholarship offers from Michigan after standout camp performances a few weeks back, Eastern Christian Academy coach Dwayne Thomas had a feeling that it was just a matter of time before they accepted them.
“Those kids go out they go to camps, they’ve been to a lot of places, they’ve gotten offers and they’ve heard a lot of pitches, but at the end of the day I think they just thought Michigan was the best place,” Thomas stated. “They've done their due diligence and decided at the end of the day that Michigan is the place they want to be. You know I can’t argue with that. So they called Coach Hoke this morning and gave their commitment.”
That this talented tandem committed to Michigan isn’t necessarily surprising. Only the timing is. They’d previously mentioned their desire to return to Ann Arbor so their parents could soak in the Maize & Blue experience before reaching any conclusions. That decision prerequisite was ultimately deemed unnecessary.
“Being that I’m a former college coach I know what it’s like to try to hold a university at bay,” said Thomas. “You (i.e. the recruit) have an offer and they’re waiting to hear what you want to do, and that’s also holding up the process of other kids. I’ve always been sensitive to that. I don’t want my kids to do things like that. They had already identified the end of June as the time they wanted to make decisions. So I said to them, ‘at the beginning of the year we said that June was going to be the time. If you’ve seen all you need to see, then you should have enough information to do what you need to do.’ They agreed. They’re very mature individuals that their parents respect the decision they made. They’re going to come up to the big barbecue. The barbecue visit will be for their family and their parents.”
For Watson and Canteen the trip will be their first real opportunity to mingle with their future teammates. Thomas is certain his stars will fit in perfectly both on and off the field.
“The first thing is Michigan is getting is two great kids,” he said proudly. “They’re kids that you’re never going to read about in the paper in a negative way. They’re kids that are not going to miss class. Kids that are not going to be a disruption to any program. Kids that are extremely positive and extremely focused on being the best that they could possibly be in every aspect of their life. Kids that I would let date my daughter if she was of age. So you’re getting high quality individuals with extremely extremely high work ethic.”
“Freddy Canteen I think is the best receiver in the country. I know how (the recruiting services) operate. You have fit the measurable as far as size is concerned for them to give you a five-star rating. But if there is a better route runner in the country than Freddy Canteen, tell me who he is. I don’t think there is one. I think the expertise on the staff at Michigan allowed them to spot that rather quickly.”
“In Brandon Watson you get this extremely extremely gifted athlete who can run and is physical. He can run with the quickest receivers and can be physical and bump it up with the big receivers. He did well at the USC camp. Coach (Clancy) Pendergast told me that he was going to offer Brandon this week. They were going to have a meeting sometime this week to evaluate the talent from the camp and they were going to offer him, but as we were riding back Brandon said, ‘I think I just like Michigan better.’"
“So (the Wolverines) are getting to very gifted players that are going to work as hard as the hardest worker anywhere in the country.”
With Canteen and Watson now in the fold Michigan has a foot in the door at one of the most talent rich programs in the country. Their presence in Ann Arbor could serve as a lure for the youngster Thomas insists is on track to be the best player he has ever coached… 2016 LB De'le Harding. Michigan is keenly aware of Harding after his impressive showing at their camp a few weeks back. He followed that up with a stellar performance at USC’s camp last week. The 6-1.5, 220-pounder will likely have over two dozen offers by the end of his sophomore campaign. That said, the situation at Michigan is one that he could find particularly appealing.
“De'le is a Hollywood dude (laughter), but (Michigan) definitely could (be enticing to him),” said Thomas. “I’ll tell you what was impressive for De'le. We go to a lot of camps, and Michigan’s coaches were just phenomenal. They showed those guys major love.”
“Now, I have two (former ECA players) at USC and one committed to USC already. Obviously they’ll be working their angles. Freddy and Brandon will be working their angles as well, so we’ll see how it goes (laughter).”