The Michigan Wolverines were the decided underdog in the race for the services of five-star corner prospect Donovan Warren, but they managed to do the unexpected when they beat out long favored USC to earn to secure his verbal commitment.
"I ultimately chose Michigan because it's just a great situation as far as me coming in with the cornerback situation there," a thrilled Warren told GoBlueWolverine early Thursday morning. "With them being a big time program and a contender on the national scene every year, I just couldn't go wrong."
After hearing the news, Warren's future coached could hardly contain their excitement.
"Man, Coach English was fired up," Warren said laughingly. "He was telling me we were going to take this defensive backfield and make it one of the best in the nation and win some national championships. He was just screaming in my ear! (Laughing). Coach Carr is mellow, so once he went crazy I was like wow! (Laughing) He was on the phone screaming too. He was real excited. Him and Coach English are about neck and neck."
The news may come as a shock to those that thought the talented Long Beach Poly standout was signed sealed and delivered for one of the West Coast schools, but in Warren's mind, the Wolverines had drawn even with the in-state contenders as far back as the Army All-American game. Recently, though, the Maize & Blue was able to surge past the competition thanks to the one-on-one interaction the youngster had with English and Carr at his in-home visit last week.
"(The in-home visit) really pushed them over the top," Warren said. "They were looking good before that. I was kind of feeling Michigan already, but that in-home visit really put it down. Coach Carr coming out here and being honest with me was big. I had some in-home visits before, and some of the coaches talked bad about other schools and stuff like that. When (Michigan) came in for their in-home visit, they were straight up with me. They had nothing bad to say about other schools. They just laid it all out there."
The most significant factor in Warren's final decision was the presence of defensive coordinator Ron English. Now in his second year overseeing the entire unit, he is slated to take control of the corners again as well. The tutelage Warren anticipates receiving and the relationship he has forged with the energetic coach was too much for the other schools to overcome.
"I love Coach English," Warren said matter-of-factly. "He's an aggressive type of guy. He's an in-your-face type dude. I like that mentality of getting better each day in practice. I just like the way he coaches. His development of players shows in the guys he has had. I play corner and his philosophies and the way he teaches the position are going to really help me. I just told him he can't go anywhere for the next four years!"
The biggest obstacle in the way of Warren's decision to don the winged helmet was clearly distance. However, thanks to the encouragement of his mother and sage advice from a few Michigan players, the youngster decided it was as important of an issue as others were making it out to be.
"My mom wanted me to stay close to home, but when it all came down to it, she just wanted to do what's best for me," Warren explained. "The distance for me was a little factor because I'm from Cali, but regardless, later on down the line you're going to have to get used to it sometime. You never know where you're going to go in the future."
"I talked Leon Hall, Jamar Adams, Jonas Mouton…all of those guys," he continued. "When I talked Leon, I was really looking at what he had to say as a corner. He has played some big time ball and he is about to get drafted. Being that he is from California too, I was trying to really connect with him and really listen to him. He was telling me how at first being away from home is going to hit you, but that it's just something you've got to deal with and stick through. At the end of the day it's all going to pay off. Look at where he is at. He was put in a great situation even though he was far away from home. He told me to just go out there, listen to the coaches, and work hard. At the end of the day it will pay off."
Another pro-Michigan voice came from a youngster that had already utilized his recruiting touch on a number of other prospects previously. Ryan Mallett first started making his pitch back in the fall when the two future Wolverines were on their official visits to Ann Arbor. It picked up a few months later in San Antonio and hasn't stopped since.
"Ryan has always been hitting me up since the Army game," Warren said laughing. "He told me he knew SC was on me, but that he still had faith and that he knew I could do it. He said, 'I need you over there on defense.' I'm going to tell him that I'm going to be picking him off in practice everyday!"
With his decision now behind him Warren is focused on school and gearing up for track. He also plans to make his way to the Midwest a number of times in the coming months in preparation for his first fall as a Wolverine.
"I'm going to try to get down there (to Ann Arbor) as soon as possible," he said. "I have to get with someone that is good at finding good prices on plane tickets because I want to get down there as much as possible to get ready for the coming season. I want to be ready when the fall comes as far as knowing the defense and stuff like that."