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Monday, September 17, 2007

ND column coming noon-ish or one-ish.

Update 9/3... er 9/17: Linked to articles on PA WR/RB/KR Cameron Saddler, PA HB commit Christian Wilson, DC DT Reggie Ellis, PA WR Jonathan Baldwin, MN WR Mike Floyd, OH TE commit Kevin Koger. Also one that mentions both Saddler and Hale, and this on NJ S Brandon Smith.

Potentially dubious: There is also Bill Kurelic speculation on PA DE Shayne Hale and an article on the top 25 players in Pennsylvania. Hey: the top 50(!) players in Pennsylvania... M/Pitt lead for Baldwin suggested. Recruiting Planet says JB Fitzgerald is committing to M this weekend. Moved NJ LB JB Fitzgerald to committed.

More articles: PA LB Shayne Hale, LA CB Robby Green, PA WR Vaughn Carraway. Removed PA DT Reggie Ellis(dropped us), TX WR Jeff Fuller (Ok). More articles: PA TE Mark Wedderburn, TX S Keanon Cooper, NJ S Brandon Smith, TN CB JT Floyd, MI CB Boubacar Cissoko (and others), PA HB Christian Wilson, PA LB JB Fitzgerald. Also a general article on recruits not getting spooked.

Editorial Opinion: Sorry for the hiatus; recruiting coverage will be sparser during the season what with all the Actual Events going on but I'll endeavor to make this at least a biweekly thing.

Anyway, question #1 on everyone's mind: will this thus-far strong recruiting class decommit en masse to play for Appalachian State? A brief overview of the flight risks follows.

As Solid As Verbal Commitments Get
The Free Press got in touch with the four instate commitments. Boubacar Cissoko:
"I still love Michigan. I still want to go there."
The other three guys:

All three linemen said they would remain committed to U-M even if Lloyd Carr isn't the coach next season.

"I haven't even considered switching," O'Neill said. "Coach Carr obviously had a lot to do with my commitment. But I didn't commit to Michigan just because of Lloyd Carr. If he isn't there, so be it. I chose Michigan because year in and year out they produce some of the best offensive linemen in the country. I think they have the most offensive linemen in the pros."

Cissoko, Rocko Khoury, Dann O'Neill, and Mike Martin are all 95% to end up at Michigan no matter what.

Darryl Stonum also fits in this category; he recently reaffirmed his commitment after his official visit. One of the primary motivations for his commit was and is the presence of former teammates Troy Woolfolk and Brandon Herron at Michigan; this will not change.
No Reason For Serious Worry
Tight ends Kevin Koger and Brandon Moore were also contacted by the Free Press and said they were not considering other schools or even visits; they slot in this category only because there was no specific mention of what would happen in the event of a coaching search.

Christian Wilson said he's not wavering... yet:
Wilson said he is solid with his commitment to Michigan, but added, "If their coaching staff goes, I'll have to see what's going on."
Given the extremely positive comments from Wilson's mother on SackCarr's message board before his commitment, I think Wilson is a good bet to stick even in the event of a coaching switch; obviously he is less solid than the instaters.

OH OL Elliot Mealer grew up a big Ohio State fan but never received an offer. If he were to get one he would be a major flight risk, but the usually reliable insiders at Buckeye Planet think that is not likely:
I know for a fact the staff is not and never was very interested in Mealer. If they had been they would have asked him to hold off on a decision to see where some other chips fell. The staff made no such effort and were content to let him accept the offer UM made without pushing. If they missed on every OL target on their board Mealer would still not get an offer because he was never on the staff's board.
That post was in June, but it seems believable. If Mealer was really that big an OSU fan the logical thing would be to drag his recruitment out (like, say, Thaddeus Gibson did); OSU probably cut him loose. That might not say great things about OSU's opinion of his talent but it also means Michigan is likely to hold on to him: sometimes going to Michigan is sort of a screw-you-OSU thing.
The Unknown
No one on the list looks like a grade-A flight risk but a few players haven't said anything and don't have any magical ties to Michigan that would make them stay in the aftermath of a coaching change. New Jersey linebackers Marcus Witherspoon and JB Fitzgerald are in this category. Greg Schiano is following Fitzgerald around in a freakin' helicopter, which makes me uncomfortable. (At least it does not have hot chicks in it, like Don Johnson's helicopters. Presumably.) One thing that might help out here is the potential commitment of Brandon Smith, a fellow New Jersey-type person -- more on that potential later -- who has gotten tight with Fitzgerald. Smith has long maintained that he was a Michigan fan since childhood and would be one of those magical ties guys if he commits.

Sadly, Sam McGuffie may be the commit in greatest danger of fleeing. He is from Houston, has some reasons to stay local, and A&M was already proclaiming it was going to be on his butt until signing day even after his commitment. I wouldn't call it likely; wouldn't be totally surprised either.

IL QB John Wienke stuck to his commit in the face of Steven Threet's transfer but has not been pinged on this stuff; he might have options at Illinois or elsewhere. CT RB Mike Cox and IN OL Kurt Wermers haven't been in touch with anyone of late.

So... even if Michigan struggles through 2007 and Carr retires, it appears that most of the recruits are likely to stick. Ironically, all the speculation about Carr's retirement, now going strong into its third year, may help Michigan should the rumors finally come to fruition:
But considering the bad start and the speculation surrounding the future of U-M coach Lloyd Carr, you would think that recruits might start to shop around.

However, Carr's situation has been the subject of hearsay for some time. It is highly likely that Carr will not be around when the Class of 2008 is finishing up at U-M, so recruits' eyes are wide-open.

"A lot of those kids have been hearing for sometime that his tenure is near the end," said Allen Wallace, national recruiting editor for and publisher of SuperPrep magazine.

Wallace, who has been following recruiting for more than 20 years, says that fact is one reason why the two losses won't hurt Michigan.

"Kids tend to think the coaches are going to stay because it's easier for them," Wallace said. "In Carr's case, they are going in expecting a transition.

"They are choosing Michigan because of the other things the school offers."
A few may depart; the remainder would be a decent class at the very least. Losing McGuffie would suck, though.

Not so sunny is Michigan's situation with a few recruits. The always frank and funny PA WR/KR Cameron Saddler is expressing some reservations about Michigan given the potential turmoil:
"I pushed all of my official visits back, just because some of these situations are iffy," Saddler said. "Like Virginia. People aren't too happy down there. And you know people aren't too happy in Ann Arbor with Michigan. Plus, we want to make a championship run with our team, so I want to put all this recruiting stuff on the back burner."

Saddler said Michigan's 0-2 start definitely got him thinking.

"I don't know if I want to go to a school with a new coach," Saddler said.

"What if that new coach doesn't want a 5-foot-6 player like me. Wait. Let me correct that. I should've said a 5-9 player like me."
Saddler was visiting with five star DE Shayne Hale; Hale's visit also got canceled because he hasn't taken the SAT yet, which is, for some reason, a requirement if you're going to go on an official. We'll have to see how their recruitment plays out; as of now the longer it goes for the pair -- oft rumored as a package -- the better for Michigan. It sounds like they'll wait until their season is over, at which point all this turmoil will get resolved. So there's that at least.

TX S Keanon Cooper is also a little shaken:
"I'm still debating whether or not I want to go into a situation where a team is rebuilding.

That's the thing about Michigan right now," he said. "They are 0-2 and are really struggling on both offense and defense. It looks like they might be heading towards a rebuilding time. I want to see if they can bounce back. They are a program that is capable of finishing fast once they start clicking."
I think "rebuilding" is probably a bit harsh, especially since Cooper is comparing Michigan to freakin' Minnesota in this quote, but whatever. Cooper says Wisconsin leads over a set of chasers including Michigan.

Also, NJ S Brandon Smith is name dropped by Mike Farrell as a potential commit on his official visit for the Penn State game:
New Brunswick, N.J. athlete Brandon Smith, a top-100 recruit, could also commit on the weekend of Sept. 21. Smith and recent Michigan commitment J.B. Fitzgerald have become friends and have talked about playing in Ann Arbor together. They are scheduled to take their official visits the same weekend, so Fitzgerald may help recruit his friend while they are on campus. Fitzgerald is a linebacker from Princeton Junction (N.J.) West Windsor Plainsboro South.
Farrell is not the most reliable person in the world when it comes to these things, and there is this extensive interview with Smith and his mother from a local newspaper that contradicts him:
Q: When will you make your decision?

A: I've been nominated to play in the U.S. Army All-Star game in Texas, which is on national TV in January. If I'm chosen, I would like to do it there, like A.D. did. If not, I'll announce it on Feb. 6, which is the official commitment day.

It sounds like Rutgers is a real threat:
Q for Cheryl: Where would you like to see your son go?

A: My heart says Rutgers, but then I think sometimes it may be good for him to get away. From a recruiting standpoint, I love Rutgers, coach (Greg) Schiano and coach (Joe) Susan, the recruiting coordinator. I've been the most impressed with them.

...but optimism maybe?
Q: What schools do you plan to visit?

A: The only official visit I have set up is Michigan on Sept. 21. I don't know after that. One thing about Michigan, I love the cold weather. I think it gives me an advantage because I'll go 100 percent in the cold.

Take it for what you will; I've backed Smith off from blue to green.

Further bleah: LA CB Robby Green article without a Michigan mention.

Neutral items. Vaughn Carraway still maintains Michigan as leader and is close to setting up an official:
"I'm really close to setting up a visit with Michigan," Vaughn Carraway said. "I already talked with the coaches about it and it's going to be soon." Carraway, ranked the No. 48 wide receiver in the country by, says the Wolverines still lead slightly.
I kind of get the feeling Carraway's offer is valid only in the event a couple other players commit elsewhere.

TN CB JT Floyd was planning an official last weekend; he did not make it up because of weather, though.

Kenny Demens from the above-linked Cissoko article:
"It wasn't so good that they lost," said Demens, a four-year starter. "What I saw was an opportunity (to play). That's a plus for me. I talked with (linebackers) coach Steve Szabo for about an hour afterward and he told me, 'We need you. We need guys like you.'

"Sure, I've received some negative talk. I've received some messages saying Michigan is terrible. But for me, I should be concerned with a program that needs me, where I can be a benefit."

On Monday, Demens added another scholarship offer to his list -- Oregon.

He found that ironic.

"First they come here and beat Michigan," he said. "Then they want to come here and take one of their recruits away."

Demens said he won't commit until after the season. He intends to visit U-M, MSU, Nebraska and West Virginia.

The upshot: the recruits who have already committed to Michigan are likely to remain committed, but the early-season turmoil and the widespread speculation about a coaching change at the end of the season are hurting our chances with various uncommitted recruits. There does appear to be a real net effect; it looks small enough to be mostly harmless.