Tufele, Gay Headline Weekend Visitors
One of Michigan's most anticipated official visits occurs this weekend with the arrival of four-star UT DT Jay Tufele. Michigan, Ohio State, and Utah have long been considered the main contenders for Tufele; Washington and USC have also been mentioned among his top schools of late. Tufele talked up all five programs to 247's Steve Wiltfong and previewed his visit:
“I watched their game two weeks ago, it was amazing,” Tufele said of the 78-0 dusting of Rutgers in Piscataway. “I’m really looking forward to this weekend. Coach (Greg) Mattison came down to our game last week. He’s pumped. I’m so excited to be down there and see life in Ann Arbor and everything, and get to know all the players and get to know the coaches as well and see what happens from there.”
While Tufele has high praise for all of his top schools, Michigan insiders—namely Sam Webb and Steve Lorenz—have been optimistic about M's chances. Tufele has repeatedly mentioned Tony Tuioti and the Polynesian players on the team when discussing what the Wolverines bring to the table; their presence could help M vault into the lead on this visit.
A player we haven't discussed much here, four-star MS OLB Willie Gay, will also take an official visit this weekend. Gay is an Ole Miss commit, but he told The Wolverine's Brandon Brown this week that a different school is on top of his list:
Having been committed to the Rebels since June 16, Gay seems like a solid pledge but things aren't always as they seem. The 6-1, 203-pounder actually claims another school as his favorite.
"Michigan is my No. 1 school right now," Gay said despite being committed to Ole Miss. "It's crazy right now."
That is quite a crootin twist. 247's Steve Lorenz mentioned the reason that could really be the case: Gay "is currently a non-qualifier" by Michigan's standards, and Lorenz expects off-field hurdles will be too high for Michigan to overtake Ole Miss even if Gay qualifies.
Four-star PA DT Donovan Jeter decommitted from Notre Dame last week. Not long after, he set up a Michigan visit for this weekend. Jeter's post-decommitment quotes indicate he's looking for more than the Irish can offer right now:
“I don’t want to play for a mediocre school,” he said. “I don’t want to play for a team that goes like 7-6. I want to go to a school that plays in the big bowl games or plays in the College Football Playoff. I don’t want to go to an average school because I don’t think I’m an average player. I want to make big time plays on a big time stage.”
That whole article is worth a read; Jeter also mentions that a phone call with Greg Mattison was part of the impetus for him looking around. He felt he was hasty in his initial decision, so I wouldn't expect a committment soon—he plans to choose in December before enrolling early—but Michigan is right in the thick of things, and as long as they keep winning they should stay there.
Lorenz added another name to the weekend visit list in his insider post a couple days ago: three-star TX CB Matt Hankins, an Iowa commit. Michigan offered last month, and Lorenz says Hankins is indeed a take for the staff, though he may not be easy to pull from the Hawkeyes—"as of now" his family wants him to stick with his commitment.
Three-star FL DE Robert Porcher IV is also expected on campus, per TMI. Porcher, the son of the former Detroit Lions DE, is currently committed to Nebraska.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Five-Star RBs To Take OVs
There's growing sentiment that Michigan has a real shot at the nation's #1 recruit, Najee Harris. Apparel-watching is always a silly endeavor, but it's still worth noting that Harris snapchatted a picture of himself decked out in Michigan gear this week. More importantly, Sam Webb posted a thread saying Harris will indeed take an official visit to Ann Arbor, and he'll be accompanied by a mentor who Webb says has a lot of influence.
In a more surprising move, five-star MS RB Cam Akers set an official visit for the Indiana game, per Webb. Akers is a five-star from Mississippi, and therefore a major long-shot, but getting him on campus is a good start.
M Leading For Wills?
Four-star OT Jedrick Wills looked like an Alabama lock a month ago. A recent Michigan official visit changed that outlook, and Sam Webb said on his WTKA recruiting roundup that he believes the Wolverines have even taken the lead. SECCountry's Chris Kirschner provides a reason why Michigan has potentially leapfrogged the Tide:
Wills is fresh off an official visit to Michigan a few weeks ago, and the Wolverines have some momentum. It’s the only official visit Wills has taken so far. An official visit to Alabama has not been scheduled at this time, but Shaw believes Wills is still interested in the Tide.
“I’m still sure Alabama is high on his list,” Shaw said.
Another source close to Wills’ recruitment believes Alabama is not going to be the school for the nation’s No. 10 offensive tackle because of the position the Tide want him to play. Alabama is recruiting him at guard, and Wills wants to play tackle in college.
Based on the optimism from M's side of things and the above, we've put in a Crystal Ball pick for Wills to Michigan. An official visit to Tuscaloosa could change a lot, but so far Wills hasn't scheduled one.
Wills's recruitment could take on greater importance as Michigan's two O-line targets at American Heritage, four-star OT commit Kai-Leon Herbert and five-star OG TJ Slaton, look more and more likely to stay close to home. 247's Miami outlet posted updates on both prospects; Slaton has taken two recent visits to Miami games, while the Hurricans are currently pushing harder than Florida to flip Herbert.
Herbert is taking his official visit to Michigan this weekend, which should help clarify M's standing with him. Slaton's situation is murkier; Webb removed him—in favor of Wills—from TMI's best guess list, noting that Michigan is "monitoring [Slaton's] progress in [the] classroom," and they may not be the favorite to land him any longer.
The staff is going to take a bunch of top-level prospects on the O-line and let things settle out from there. Slaton doesn't look like a likely candidate to fit into the class any more, and Herbert looks as likely to bail as anyone if more linemen join the fold.
Hawkins Back In The Fold?
I think most of us wrote off the chances of Brad Hawkins ending up in a Michigan uniform when he wound up at a prep school this fall instead of Ann Arbor. That doesn't look to be the case any longer. Webb added Hawkins to his projected class after this article from Scout's Brian Dohn came out:
Hawkins, a receiver who can also play safety, is at Suffield (Conn.) Academy, and he considers himself a Michigan commit after assistant coach Don Brown stopped by the school last week.
"They were saying they are still very interested in me, they love me, and they'd love to have me," Hawkins said. "I'm still committed there. I'm loyal to the University of Michigan. Things are going good on that end. I'm just worried about prep school, and doing things right here so I can move on to Michigan next year."
Hawkins could round out what's projected to be a heck of a receiver haul, or he could wind up bolstering a currently thin group at safety.
Quick Hoops Note
Michigan will host one of four 2018 prospects holding an offer from them this weekend. Brendan Quinn reports four-star MA SG Cormac Ryan will visit campus. John Beilein offered Ryan while he was on a visit in August; since then, Notre Dame and Villanova have also offered him, and he also holds notable offers from Florida, Indiana, and Stanford.
Three-star RI DE Kwity Paye, fresh off his Michigan official, will visit the school he's currently committed to, Boston College, this weekend. Paye told Scout's Brian Dohn this weekend's visit will be his first for a BC game, and it will "kind of make my decision while I am there on what I want to do." It sounds like he's just making sure he should flip his commitment to Michigan.
Three-star WI DT Juan Harris, he of the four decommitments, plans to visit Michigan on November 5th. He's also working to set up visits to Alabama, Minnesota, and Ohio State.
Dylan McCaffrey and Phil Paea will play in the inaugural Polynesian Bowl, per MLive.