Michigan has been working hard to fortify its presence in a number of talent hotbeds outside of the Midwest. They haven’t been more active in any place than they have been in Texas. A day after a number of the Wolverines prime Lone Star State targets came out to their Houston satellite camp, even more came out in Dallas.
The first two prospects we noticed chatting it up with Michigan headman Jim Harbaugh were 2016 Sachse CB Jared Mayden and 2017 South Grand Prairie athlete Jeffrey Okudah. Both opted to not work out, but they still got their money’s worth by observing the drills of and interacting with the coaches whenever possible. By the end of the day each of them had gotten a better feel for the staff. They also mentioned being even more convinced that Michigan figured prominently in their respective recruitments.
In Mayden’s case the news of Michigan’s standing is surprising considering his plan to announce his commitment at The Opening next month. Despite that he insisted that he will be using one of his official visits on Michigan.
Okudah is also looking to visit Ann Arbor, possibly this summer. That would aid Michigan’s chances significantly in the race for one of the most heavily pursued players in the 2017 class. His presence at the satellite camp certainly seemed to improve his already favorable view of the Michigan coaching staff. He was impacted particularly by his time with Jim Harbaugh.
“He’s fired up,” Okudah said regarding Michigan’s headman. “He is everything I thought he would be. He is a great coach. I can tell he is going to turn Michigan around for sure.”
Another prospect equally impressed with Harbaugh & company was 2016 Waco (Tex.) cornerback Eric Cuffee. He wasn’t ready to narrow down his list, but like Mayden he is certain he will be taking one of his official visits Michigan. Cuffee reiterated his affinity for the coaching staff over and over again. That is the biggest reason why the Wolverines appear to be a safe bet to make his yet-to-be-released list of favorites.
A youngster that didn’t mince words about the Wolverines being atop his leaderboard was 2016 Killeen (Tex.) Shoemaker LB/DE Rahssan Thornton. The 6-4, 225-pounder is still a bit of secret nationally, but definitely isn’t one to Michigan. The Wolverines extended him his third offer, but he said it was his “first big one.” That made a distinct impression. So too has his frequent contact with Michigan Director of Player Personnel and Recruiting, Chris Partridge. The rapport established by Partridge not only with Thornton, but also with his mother has helped keep the Wolverines in the catbird seat. LSU currently joins Michigan atop Thornton’s leaderboard, but the Tigers have a prior visit to Baton Rouge helping buoy their standing. The Wolverines have no such visit, and yet are where they are. Athletically Thornton will remind Michigan fans of Josh King. He has the same explosiveness, and is equally raw. How he is still under the radar is a mystery, but word will get out at some point. When it does expect the number of contenders for him to rise significantly.
Another pass rusher that turned heads was 2016 Coppell (Tex.) defensive end Solomon Wise. The 6-4, 220-pounder mentioned Illinois State, Missouri State, and SMU, but if he has more summer of camp performances like the one he turned in in Dallas, expect his to be another recruitment that receives a boost. That seems likely considering Wise’s pedigree. He comes from a football family with his dad having played in the NFL and his brothers Deatrich and Daniel playing for Arkansas and Kanas respectively. Now the youngest Wise just needs to get bigger and stronger. What he currently lacks in strength he makes up for with length, athleticism, and attitude. He plays with edge that could almost be called nasty (in a good way). It certainly got Greg Mattison’s attention. Even offensive line coach Tim Drevno pulled him to the side to see who he was. He has interest in Michigan, but how strong it becomes will be solely a function of how much interest the Wolverines show him.
That leads us to the youngster that may have been the man of the hour – 2016 Mesquite (Tex.) offensive tackle Jean Delance. The moment he arrived Partridge, Harbaugh, and then Drevno immediately took notice. Obviously the coach that watched and spoke with most intently was Drevno. The four-star lineman definitely seemed to like what he saw.
“Hard coaching,” Drevno said describing Drevno’s style. “I like that personally. He’s a hard coaching coach that will get you to where you want to be and get you to the next level.”
Harbaugh struck the same chord. By the end of the day the Wolverines had sent their message loud and clear.
“They want me badly,” Delance stated. “I’m one of the (top guys) they want at tackle.”
Notes for Scout.com Texas Analyst Gabe Brooks
-- One of the camp's most impressive players, regardless of position or classification, was 2018 offensive tackle Darrell Simpson of Justin (Texas) Northwest. Simpson said he's 6-foot-7, 310 pounds and he wasn't exaggerating. He was clearly larger than 2016 four-star tackle Jean Delance (6-5, 275), who showed up later during the camp and watched linemen 1-on-1's. Kansas recently became Simpson's first offer.
Sam Webb’s take: A case could be made for this youngster to be named the caps top performer. It’s not just that he’s huge, it’s that he moves so well at that size. He is a natural bender and has really good feet and quickness. His fluid kick step allowed him to get out on pass rushers, but he played with great balance and never left himself susceptible to counter moves by over-setting. This kid will be offered by all the big timers before all is said and done.
-- Shawn Robinson, simply, was Shawn Robinson. The 2017 five-star prospect showed the best velocity of any quarterback we watched and was as technically sound as you could expect a 2017 kid to be. But another young quarterback to keep an eye on: 2018 prospect Marcellus Rivers of Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian Academy. He possesses a great frame at 6-foot-4, 208 pounds and he threw on the run well.
-- Josiah Washington entered the Michigan camp with only an Illinois State offer, but left with the attention of Michigan's coaches. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive tackle from perennial Texas power DeSoto (just south of Dallas) is one of double-digit FBS prospects for DHS. Michigan's staff seemed to spend extra time coaching him up during 1-on-1's and Jim Harbaugh even pulled him over to the side at one point.
Sam Webb’s take: After Simpson, no one improved his stock more than Washington. He was just as impressive as Simpson in pass pro drills. He just isn’t as big as the 2018 upstart. The offer list isn’t going to elicit much excitement currently, but that didn’t seem the faze Michigan one bit during the camp. Look for this kid to be on Michigan’s radar now with a chance to move up the list if some of the known targets fall off the board.
-- Other guys who we saw bits and pieces during drills, but liked what we saw.
2017 RB Eno Benjamin -- Wylie (Texas) East
2016 OT Grant Hermanns -- Rio Rancho (N.M.)
2017 WR Joshua Jackson -- Little Rock (Ark.) Central Arkansas Christian
2016 DE/OLB Solomon Wise -- Coppell (Texas)
2017 QB/ATH Tracin Wallace -- Fort Worth (Texas) South Hills