Story by Brice Marich
Interview by Sam Webb
The month of December was very kind to Michigan on the recruiting front. The Wolverines added seven commits to their 2017 recruiting class, and every one of them was a member of the Scout 300. One of those pledges came from Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy 2017 four-star center Cesar Ruiz. That development didn’t come as much of a surprise to those that have followed his recruitment. The Camden, New Jersey native has never been shy about sharing his affinity for the Maize & Blue.
“After my last official visit, I just knew,” Ruiz told The Michigan Insider. “Actually, on my official visit, I knew, but I just wanted to see what else I had and my other options. Michigan has always been my top school throughout my entire recruitment. It was around that time and it was getting close to crunch time knowing I was going to be an early enrollee, so on my visit it just made a lot of things clear to me and I just felt it. I was like, yeah, this is where I want to be.”
The 6-foot-3, 320-pounder Ruiz was one of the most consistent performers during the week of practice leading up to Sunday’s Under Armour All-American Game. Twice he was recognized by Scout.com analysts as one of the top five performers on his time. -- (Day 2 standouts / Day 3 standouts) -- It was just the latest example of why many feel has the potential to compete for a spot in Michigan’s offensive line rotation next season
“Mason (Cole) is coming back this year, but they said they still want me to play center,” said Ruiz. “They said I will be running with the ones and twos, but I got to work for my spot because they don’t hand things to you over there on the next level. They just want me to come in and work hard and compete, so I can be part of the rotation if they need me to play, then I can play. If I’m fortunate enough to end up in the starting line up, then they will want me to go out there and play.”
The flexibility of other players up front could go a long way toward determining where Ruiz contributes should he earn a spot in the rotation. Ben Bredeson could play guard or tackle and Cole could line up wherever he is needed up front. That, though, is something that will be determined by competition in the spring and fall.
“(Where he’ll line up as a freshman) hasn’t been in the conversation yet, but I know Coach Drevno since I’m coming there early (he reports in Ann Arbor today) and we got spring ball that Coach Drevno is probably going to move some guys around to see how everyone fits,” said Ruiz. “We never talk specifically about anyone moving around positions or anyone like that.”
One thing that is already clear is Ruiz’s commitment to the Wolverines only strengthens the New Jersey connection to Ann Arbor. Several players from the Garden State have decided to play for Jim Harbaugh since he’s taken over. That will just make it easier for any future Jersey prospects to follow in their footsteps.
“We got me and Drew (Singleton), Ron (Johnson), Rashan (Gary), Brad (Hawkins), Kareem (Walker), Jabrill (Peppers) and Mike (Dwumfour),” said Ruiz. “I’m forgetting names because of how many we have. That is just the place to be honestly. If you are from Jersey, then all your people are up there and you are definitely really comfortable up there. You don’t (have) to adjust to making new friends because you are already comfortable going into the situation.”
Ruiz will be one of the prime advocates in its ongoing assault on the Garden State. The coaching staff utilize him in much the same way in it offensive line recruiting efforts this year. When Ruiz made his official visit to Michigan back in October, he wasn’t the only big-time offensive lineman on campus. The Wolverine coaching staff put together an interesting recruiting pitch to those top line recruits and dubbed them the “Fab 5.” Now, though, Ruiz now sits as the only member of the “Fab 5” committed to Michigan. Three committed elsewhere, but he hopes to help lure the last uncommitted one… in Aledo (Tex.) four-star offensive tackle Chuck Filiag… into the fold.
“I haven’t talked to Chuck since my official visit and really I have been meaning to talk to certain people, but it’s just I forget sometimes,” said Ruiz. “I got to put on my agenda get him because Chuck is a dog. We definitely want him over here and need him over here, so I'm going to be working on Chuck and a couple other dudes they want me to work on.”
One of the “Fab 5” members that decided to go elsewhere was Brooklyn (NY.) Poly Prep 2017 mammoth offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson. He chose Georgia over Michigan late last month. So, does Ruiz have any plans on possibly trying to get him to reconsider the Maize & Blue again?
“Me and Isaiah are real close,” said Ruiz. “That is my dog. You know, I wouldn’t want no one coming at me trying to flip me from Michigan. He’s solid with Georgia and is happy with where he’s at, so I’m going to let him be happy and that’s what he wants to do.”