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Saturday, January 07, 2006

That's Jai Eugene. You recognize the hat, I'm sure. Mr. Eugene is a Louisiana cornerback who everyone thinks is totally excellent (Scout #30, Rivals 250)... the first really high profile corner recruit Michigan has latched on to since Marlin Jackson. Informative update coming; until then Scout has a bunch of pictures and stuff; Rivals has an article.

Also, the basketball team managed to squeak by Purdue 68-65... less than inspiring but better than a loss. Mas later.

Update: There's clearly a strong difference of opinion between Scout and Rivals in this case. ESPN sides with Scout's "yowza!" take, giving him a grade of 7.9 and ranking him #15 overall and the #1 corner:
Eugene has all the tools to develop into a special player at the next level. ... has cover corner written all over him. He is the definition of a fluid football player.
They also chip in some caveats about experience, since Eugene is such a freaky athlete he ended up playing mostly quarterback--much like Antonio Bass. An article announcing his selection to the Army All-American team has a couple additional quotes on his ability (warning! Lemming alert!):
"A quarterback first in high school, Jai has tremendous athleticism. He sees the game extremely well, and has the physical tools to star at corner on the college level," says

"Jai shows big-time speed, instincts, and always gets a good break on the ball," says Lemming. "He takes good angles to the ball and shows tremendous range."

...and finally, this article has a quote from Eugene's coach:
...School's best prospect since safety Ed Reed, an All-American at Miami and first-round pick of the Ravens. "Everybody is looking for cornerbacks with the speed and physical ability to shut down the passing games in college," Destrehan coach Steve Robicheaux said. "Jai will fit the bill."
A selection of local news articles were also located: 13 completions for 276 yards(!); uh... yeah, this guy is a lot like Antonio Bass:
Destrehan quarterback Jai Eugene already had thrown five interceptions, including picks on the previous four possessions. But when it mattered most, Eugene lofted a pass to Joshua Martin at the 25-yard line, and Martin broke away from the St. James defense to sprint into the end zone for the winning touchdown.
; track supahstar.... as a sophomore.

Tennessee was also recruiting Eugene heavily, thus a series of articles concerning him from orange-clad parts. Here's an extensive one from April concerning him and his infant son (Google cache link; here's the original with Annoying Reg) with some quotes that if I had seen earlier I may have considered Eugene a strong possibility:
"That's [LSU's proximity to home] the only reason I'd stay here for school," Eugene said. "I like LSU a lot because my family can see me. I'd be here more. LSU is great. They have great fans. If I went there, I'd be able to see my son and my family. I'd say I'm 75-80 percent sure I'll go out of state, though.

"...I'll go to whichever college I need to, which one fits me best."
For extra bonus creepiness, check the comments out and revel in Tennessee eating it at the hands of, um, everyone this year. Actual quote: "God does not condone fornication." Yeah, well God doesn't condone Tennessee, either. You can tell because of the smiting. You can check out this video interview and see for yourself that Jai's a personable young man.

Insightful Editorial Summary: OMG YAY. This is the year of defying the curse of the south and picking up really fast dudes. Given Michigan's persistent whiffery on Darrin Walls, Justin King, Victor Harris, and every other major corner target Michigan set its sights on over the past couple years, Eugene's commitment is a unexpected, important bonus going forward. I would not expect him to redshirt, as his combination of freaky athleticism and financial need means that he will probably enter the NFL draft as soon as it makes sense.

Also, this is the second improbable commit who has been eerily projected by anonymous commenter "Matt," in case you're wandering around said comments wondering who to take seriously.

The Larger Picture: A second southern heist of one of the country's best athletes changes the perception of this recruiting class drastically. Michigan still needs an offensive tackle badly, but every other major need Michigan entered the year with has been met. An edge rusher, a second safety, and a tight end would all be nice, but if all of Michigan's commitments stick and reasonably good players fill out the rest of the class at a minimum it will grade out as a B, which isn't bad at all given the down year in-state, the excitement of new coaches at Pitt and ND, and the dismal on-field results.