When Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage standout Kai-Leon Herbert recently released a top six including Michigan there was something very conspicuous about the Wolverines’ presence on that list. Florida, Miami, Auburn, Tennessee and Mississippi State were the other finalists, thus rendering Michigan the only one north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The four-star lineman credited a factor much more important than distance as being responsible for that distinction.
"Basically it was the relationship I've developed with them,” Herbert explained. “Over the last couple of months we've been talking… talking to Coach (Devin) Bush, Coach (Tim) Drevno, Coach (Jedd) Fisch, Coach (Al) Netter, Coach (Jim) Harbaugh… so it's been really good to talk to them and see what they're about. I like what I'm hearing and it was a great opportunity for me at Michigan."
Herbert arrived at Nova Southeastern’s “University School” for last Friday’s satellite camp planning to speak further with the aforementioned coaches. To his chagrin, though, NCAA rules prohibited him from doing so because he didn’t participate in the camp. However, he was able to montior his would-be mentors very closely. Especially offensive line coach Tim Drevno.
"I'm trying to see how he coaches other people, how that would fit me and everything,” Herbert explained. “It's like I'm evaluating him."
That connection has been growing steadily in recent months. The same is true with Jim Harbaugh.
"We talk about once a month and he sends us motivational things and it's pretty good,” said Herbert. “He's a real cool guy. Everyone pretty much loves Coach Harbaugh."
The chance to actually interact with Harbaugh & company in the very near future. The timing is important because of the Sunshine State star’s plan to of stick to an early decision timeline.
"(I’m) not going to be a signing day guy,” said Herbert. “I'm probably going to end it sometime this summer."
"Most of (the top six) I've already seen. The only ones I haven't are Michigan and Mississippi State. I'm going to Michigan on June 17-18 for the big man camp (to) see what they're about up there."
How that visit goes will obviously be vital to Michigan’s chances in the race for his services. There are a number of criteria that he and his family will thoroughly evaluate. One of the most important will be his position coach.
"Really it'll be the relationship I can have with (the offensive line) coach,” he said. “Whether he is going to better me in life. I want someone that is going to mentor me on and off the field."
Another attribute will be overall feel.
"How the atmosphere fits me at whatever school I go to,” said Herbert. “The environment with the coaching staff, players that are there now, how I'll fit in with the teammates. The scheme, the relationship with the coaches, teammates and atmosphere and academics as well."
"Distance is not going to be a factor."
Time will tell how well Michigan stacks up to the competition. If the Maize & Blue happens to come out victorious it would undoubtedly help them in their pursuit of another highly regarded American Heritage lineman, five-star offensive guard Tedarrell Slaton.
"T.J. is one of the biggest guys around, as you can tell,” said Herbert. “For me to go to college with another tackle, a right tackle I've been playing with the last two years is going to be pretty good. If we do decide to team up we'll let you all know."
That begs an obvious question. Which contenders do the talented duo have in common?
Said Herbert, "two of the schools, Michigan and Florida, I know he's considering. Other than that I'm not sure."