Najee Harris (© Greg Powers)

Army Day 1: West Recap

The Michigan Insider recaps the first day of Army Bowl practices with news from West targets for Michigan.

Story by Eugene Hankerson

The TMI team spoke to Chuck Filiaga, who had some interesting things to say on and off camera.  The offensive lineman has a good sense of humor, but has really begun to settle in on the most important factors in his recruitment.  Filiaga had a productive first day of practice, working almost strictly at right tackle.  The four star offensive tackle told TMI, “I’m working out the kinks and adjusting to the speed, I like playing left tackle.”  He has all the tools to be a good one at the next level. The first thing that stood out was how massive of a kid he is.  He lined up versus five-star defensive end and UCLA commit Jaelan Phillips for several reps, winning only twice.  Phillips is a monster, and beat Filiaga with his speed.  Our scouts are bullish in their opinions that Filiaga is a great run blocker (mauler), but suggest his technique needs to improve as a pass blocker.  Now don't get things twisted, he dominated in all his other reps. Again, it’s just a matter of him learning to play with consistent technique.  The coaches had Filiaga pulling and trapping, so that kind of gives you an indication that he moves well.  It will be interesting to see how quickly he responds to coaching, and how quickly he adjusts to the speed of the game throughout the week.  I like this kid a lot and the Wolverines are trending up with Filiaga who will announce his college choice during the US Army All American game on Saturday.  After struggling to secure the services of a elite offensive tackle prospect last week, I believe Michigan lands their target this time.  It doesn’t hurt that Filiaga appears to have some chemistry with Najee Harris.

One of the performers of the day had to be Jay Tufele.  The four star defensive tackle was a menace, just bullying his way through the A and B gaps.  Tufele is not the biggest kid despite being listed at 6’3”, but he overcomes any issues of length with quickness and the ability to consistently shed blocks.  Has been really disruptive thus far, just refused to be blocked during 1-on-1's.  He looks every bit like one of the top players in the country.  On the recruiting front he is firm on his recently named top five and Michigan is obviously one of them.  He spoke glowingly about the Wolverines despite the loss of Tony Tuioti. Said Tufele, “Even with Coach (Tony) Tuoti gone, I know Michigan needs defensive tackles so they've been going hard on me." The big question for the Wolverines is how successful they have been in winning over his family and bridging the distance gap. We’ll speak more with him about that throughout the week.

Trending Up?

Speaking of trending up, the odds of Michigan landing Najee Harris have surpassed 50/50 in my opinion.  Scouts #1 ranked prospect in the country is not doing interviews at this moment, but I have seen and heard enough evidence to understand why the folks in Schembechler Hall would be brimming with optimism.  What I don’t know is whether or not he has done the same thing lately with Alabama’s staff. When it comes to his game, the five-star running back is impressive on the hoof, and showed good hands catching the ball out of the backfield. 

You might also like:

- Handicapping the race for Najee Harris (Army Edition)

- The Michigan Insider's best guess projection of Michigan's 2017 recruiting class

There has been some chatter this week about the Wolverines and five star offensive tackle Austin Jackson.  After speaking with the youngster on Monday, we can confirm there are some legs to those rumors.  However, the Wolverines are on the outside looking in, and will only become a legit factor in Jackson’s recruitment if decides to schedule his final official visit to Ann Arbor.  Physically, he’s one of the most athletic players in the country, but needs time to add strength.  The youngster’s upside has been compared to that of current Dallas Cowboy star Tyron Smith.

Michigan quarterback commit Dylan McCaffrey was not at practice today.  He was given an award at the Denver Broncos game Sunday afternoon, and has yet to arrive in San Antonio. 

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