Signing day came and went, but Shelby, NC standout Larry Raper was one of the few scholarship-worthy players that had not signed a letter of intent. This blazingly fast prospect was at one point committed to Clemson. He first burst onto the national scene with an outstanding performance last summer at Scout.com's Charlotte combine. His 4.24 forty, 35.8-inch vertical, and 4.16 shuttle put him in an elite class of performers that day. It was inconceivable at that point to think he would go unsigned. In a conversation with GoBlueWolverine the day after signing day (Thursday, February 5th), Raper explained how and why it happened.
"When coach Bowden left, I thought to whole coaching staff was going to leave," he said. "I really didn't want to put up with any coaches I didn't know and that didn't know too much about me. I had talked to North Carolina a little earlier in the year but they were waiting on me to take the SAT again. I guess I got my scores back a little too late for them."
Left to explore seemingly fewer options at that point, Raper began strongly considering programs, but they too wanted to wait on his test scores. He then came to the conclusion that he'd have to consider programs below the high-major level.
"Right now I looking at ECU," Raper reported last week. "I just got off the phone with a guy from Coastal Carolina. I talked to somebody from South Carolina State too. I was up there at Toledo (on a visit). It was straight. Really I'm just a picky guy. They've got Under Armour. I don't even fool with that (laughing). It's got to be Nike… me and my Nike."
Around that time Raper began hearing scuttlebutt that Michigan might be interested. As a result, he quickly softened on his stance about the swoosh. The Wolverines' Adidas apparel doesn't pose any problem whatsoever.
"It's Michigan, and Toledo and Michigan are two different schools," Raper said matter-of-factly. "Adidas is cool too because I fool with Reggie Bush (laughing)."
All of that talk seemed premature, though, because there still had been no direct contact with the Maize & Blue. As a result, Raper went about scheduling a visit to South Carolina State. Then came a breakthrough. On February 11th, Scout.com's Allen Wallace broke the news that Michigan had officially inquired about the Tar Heel State standout.
"I know that Michigan has been talking to my coach a lot recently," said Raper to Wallace. "We sent them some tape and they are checking that out. I'm not sure how many offers they have left but they are recruiting me so they must be interested. If they offered me I'd sign right away."
The reason for the sudden change was the good news Raper received on the qualifying front.
"I was able to take the highest scores from my two tests, and when I did that I got a 900," he reported. I'm qualified. I've been talking to Coach Gibson. He said he was waiting on my scores to get back and then he was going to set up a visit for me. So I've got to talk to him again."
A review of Raper's game film may be all that stands between him and more intense interest from the Wolverines. Contrary to the aforementioned report, his tape hadn't been sent out just yet.
"My coach said he sent it out through Fed Ex (Thursday)," he said.
Raper is confident his new suitors will be impressed. He specialized in making big plays on offense, but he is open to playing elsewhere if that's what the staff in Ann Arbor wants.
"Put some blockers in front of me, let me get to the second level and, I can make something happen on offense," Raper said. "(Michigan) said they want me to play corner. I feel like I am an athlete. If they want me to play corner, I will. I feel like I can play any position."
Whether Michigan decides to move forward with Raper or not, don't expect his recruitment to drag out much longer. Consistent interest from ECU and an open invitation to attend South Carolina State should allow him to conclude things sooner rather than later.
"I'm trying to sign by the end of February," he stated.
GoBlueWolverine will have more on Raper in the coming days.