Ten days after Michigan added a major pass rushing piece to its 2017 recruiting puzzle (Corey Malone-Hatcher), it has officially added another. Moments ago Alexandria (Va.) Episcopal defensive end Luiji Vilain announced the commitment he made official to the Wolverines last month.
“(The decision was made) basically when I was talking to coach Mattison,” Vilain recalled. “I was talking to him a lot over twitter and stuff like that, and established a relationship with him. We got real close. And Coach Harbaugh too. I decided to finalize it… to make my mind up and commit. I took the visit (on May 21st) as reassurance and I was proven right.”
“Coach Harbaugh was stunned because it was out of nowhere. He really wanted to make sure he talked to my mom. Coach Mattison was fired up all the way (too). He was really fired up.”
Michigan’s venerable defensive line coach is well known for his recruiting prowess. As matter of fact when Urban Meyer was the head coach at Florida he once called Mattison the best recruiter in the country. While much of that reputation attributable to his own ability to connect with recruits, Mattison’s wife Ann has been instrumental in that success over the years. That was again the case with Vilain.
“She was really really nice,” he said. “She embraced me really good. When I came the visit she gave me a hug and let me know how much (Michigan) really wanted me… how much her and Coach Mattison want me.”
It was the culmination of a relationship building process that began when Mattison first saw Vilain at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp in Detroit the summer after his freshman year. That was the native Canadian’s first exposure to American football. In addition to his inexperience he was only 205 lbs., but even then Mattison saw the makings of a front line prospect. By the time he transferred stateside to Episcopal for his junior year the two had a connection.
“I just feel like they really got to know me… to know what kind of person I was and they got to know about my family and stuff like that,” said Vilain. “Also that was another factor. My mom… she really liked that coaching staff the most.”
And mom wasn’t the only one in his circle elated by the news. Vilain’s trainer Victor Tedondo – who has taken Vilain and countless other Canadians to American college camps for a number of years – was equally pleased.
“He was really cool because from the moment I told him (about the commitment) he thought it was the best situation for me,” Vilain stated. “He spoke to Coach Mattison and he told Coach Mattison this is where he would send his son if had the choice.”
With his decision now behind him Vilain has begun looking forward to how he’ll fit in on and off the field in Ann Arbor. He got great glimpse of that during his visit last month.
“Basically I’ll be playing the defensive end on the weak side or the open side,” Vilain explained. “Basically what Harold (Landry) did at Boston College for Coach Brown.”
Landry was a major edge presence for the Eagles last year, notching 60 tackles, including 37 solos, 15.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Vilain’s upside is even greater and he’ll have the benefit of playing next to more talented defensive linemen, like the one he became acquainted with on his visit.
“I got to meet Bryan Mone,” said Vilain. “He is a really cool guy. Coach Mattison told him that I committed and he was really fired up too. He gave me a hug and embraced me like I was one of his brothers.”
Vilain hopes to do the same to a few other prospects. The recently named Under Armour All American plans to put on his recruiting cap in hopes of helping lure a trio of targets into the fold.
“I really want to get Donovan People-Jones, Jaylen Kelly-Powell, and Ambry Thomas,” he said. “Those are three guys that I think would really benefit us.”
“I saw Ambry and Jaylen on my visit. They were there too. Pretty cool guys.”