Many of Michigan’s most prominent targets were on hand for the annual Barbecue at the Big House Sunday, but none traveled farther than Kaplan (La.) OLB Jalen Bates. With his decision date closing in it was a make or break opportunity for the Wolverines. By the time his trip concluded it was clear they had made the most of it.
“(Michigan is in) the top five right now for sure,“ said Bates. “(The barbecue) was fun. It was one of the (most fun) times I’ve had. They treated me like family. All the coaches, they all treated me like they have been recruiting all their life. They all kind of flocked to me and they treated me like I was a celebrity. I liked the way they treated my family -- all the coaches’ wives and their kids.”
“(Michigan assistant Fred Jackson) was like one of my uncles. It was like he missed me. We hung out almost the whole time. It was like I was out here visiting family and I haven’t even met some of these people. It was cool.”
Bates found himself particularly impressed with Michigan headman Brady Hoke.
“The thing that stood out about him (was) he wasn’t like other coaches,” the Bayou State star said. “I’m not dissing the other coaches, but (Hoke) was like high school coaches almost… like really really into the game and not all about business all the time. Most head coaches that call me are like businessmen, not just like (regular guys). With Coach Hoke I can just chill and talk football.”
The rave reviews didn’t stop there. He was similarly awestruck by the campus itself.
“It was cool,” he said. “I liked the facilities and the stadium. The biggest part was everything was original and historic and that was the best point for me. Overall it was one of my best experiences ever. It was almost like going to a historical place. You can’t beat that.”
“The tradition (was impressive). It gave me chills every time I had seen that big M, because I grew up watching Michigan. My cousin played there. I grew up watching Michigan.”
The cousin in question is former Wolverine standout Jonas Mouton. Bates actually heard from Mouton while on the visit and received a familiar message.
“He says it is one of the best places on earth,” said Bates.
After seeing it himself three-star prospect better understood that endorsement. Even so, the Wolverines still have ground to make up on his list. They along with Arizona State are chasing Louisiana Lafayette, Texas Tech, and Mississippi State. That said, they are far from out of the race despite rumors to the contrary.
“No I didn’t say Michigan is off my list,” Bates referencing a recent interview. “Michigan is in my top five. I said I have a top three. If you have a top five then there’s obviously a top three. Michigan isn’t in my top three because I haven’t gotten to know my position coach there as well. But Michigan is definitely still in the game. I’m going to try my best to make it up there (for an official visit).”