When Luiji Vilain first set foot on Michigan's campus two years ago he was an unknown prospect sophomore-to-be from Canada that had turned the heads of the Wolverine coaching staff at the Sound Mind Sound Body Camp in Detroit that summer. Talk of a scholarship offer was premature at that point. He was young, raw and his only exposure to American football at that point was that camp. The Wolverine brass told him they would watch his development in the coming years.
And develop he has.
His transfer to Alexandria (Va.) Episcopal last year increased both his level of competition and exposure. That resulted in a slew of offers from Power 5 schools like Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, USC, and Michigan to name a few. Visits to a number of those schools set the bar for Michigan to impress him much higher when he made his way to campus for the second time Saturday. Turns out they were up to the task.
“I came in with high expectations, but I was still pretty blown away,” said Vilain. “It was really good. Everything was different. The vibe as soon as I get there, I felt that it was different. There’s change. I guess that’s the Harbaugh effect.”
Harbaugh, though, was just part of the visit’s appeal. His staff made its presence felt also. One of his most memorable interactions with new defensive coordinator Don Brown.
“I was in Coach Brown’s office watching film and he told me where I would play and what I would be doing,” Vilain recalled. “He is really good. He is a really high energy coach… a smart coach that knows what he’s talking about. I could see myself playing in his defense.”
That then set the table for the phase of the visit that made the biggest impact of all.
“I got to spend a lot of time with (Greg Mattison) and his wife yesterday,” Vilain said. I got to know him and what his plans are for me if I was to go there. It was really good getting to know him. And his wife… she is so nice. I love her to be honest. She was there the whole time. I was asking her questions, she was asking me questions, and she even spoke to my mom on the phone.”
All told the Wolverines fortified their position in the four-star defender’s recruitment, and not a moment too soon. With a decision timeframe fast approaching it was important for them to match the visit showings of USC and Virginia Tech… the two other schools in his newly minted top three.
Said Vilain, “over spring break I visited (USC). It was really good. I got a chance to sit down with Coach (Kenechi Udeze), the d-line coach and I really liked him a lot. I liked the vibe I got from the school, and I liked Cali. It was a good experience.”
“At Virginia Tech I love the coaching staff. They’re really good guys and they can develop me as well.”
With his latest trip to Ann Arbor now out of the way Vilain insists says he doesn’t need to visit anymore schools. He is now focused selecting the victor from those three.
“I really want to do it as soon as I get home, but it’s kind of tough because Coach Vic (his trainer) is going to be at camps all week when I get back,” Vilain explained. “I’ll have to talk to him about it… maybe do it during the week. Most likely (an announcement will come) that week, then the next.”
Vilain will head home to Canada June 4th. Once there he plans to get input from his parents before revealing his choice. They too have grown in their knowledge about football and recruiting.
“(When the process first started) they weren’t really that involved,” he said. “They were going to let me do my own thing. Now they want me to go to a school that’s really good academically and has a really good location. Also coaches that will take care of me. Someone they can trust when I’m not around.”
“(It will come down to) location, academics, and how I would fit in with the team. (Also) the coaching staff and how I like them, and how my parents like them.”