The Wolverine

March 2020 Issue

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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"If you're a running back and you have to run between those tackles, the first thing you do is you watch to see where Cornell Wheeler is," the coach advised. "And you're trying to run opposite of where he's going. "He's a playmaker, always around the ball. That's a gift that not every- one possesses defensively. He has a gift of finding out where the ball is, and when he gets there, he's violent on contact. He understands how to force turnovers." Those efforts didn't dissipate against top competition, either, ac- cording to Wheeler 's head coach. The West Bloomfield-Belleville show- down annually features some of the state's top talent, including several national recruits. When the competi- tion elevated, Bellamy said, so did his veteran linebacker. "There was one play where their quarterback was going outside — it was a botched play," Bellamy re- called. "Their receiver ran the wrong route, or we did a good job defen- sively. Anyway, their quarterback scrambles, and he's running out of bounds, and Cornell just lays him out, right before. "He gave him a love tap on the sideline. I remember the quarterback looking back. And on our sideline, Cornell says, 'It's going to be all day long.' Although they beat us, this quarterback was averaging 300 yards passing a game, and he only had like 120. He was rushing the ball for 50 yards a game, and he only had about 15, because Cornell set the tone as far as not allowing the quarterback to run the football." With Wheeler 's size, Bellamy ex- pects him to become an inside line- backer at Michigan. The coach leaves the how much, how soon decision for others, but he loves the rule allow- ing freshmen to see the field for four games and still retain a redshirt. "It gives kids the opportunity to play and, obviously, your team needs you that particular game," he said. "There's no experience that's greater than game experience." He'll be getting that experience for defensive coordinator Don Brown, who played no small role in bringing Wheeler to Ann Arbor. "He went to football camp, and Coach Brown showed him a ton of love," Bellamy said. "He coached him up. Coach Brown is energetic and fi- ery, much like our coaches are at West Bloomfield. He felt like it was family. "Also growing up a Michigan fan helped, and the proximity. He wants to be a kid who graduates from the Uni- versity of Michigan. He wants to be an All-Big Ten performer. He wants to win a national championship, and he felt like he could do that at Michigan." Bellamy describes Wheeler as a "fun kid," and a "funny guy." But he's all business on the field, some- one U-M fans will enjoy far more than opposing backs. "He's a great kid with a big heart," Bellamy assured. "I think Michigan fans are going to be excited to have Cornell as a Wolverine." ❑ West Bloomfield (Mich.) High head coach Ron Bellamy on Wheeler "He's a physical linebacker. He's a traditional Big Ten line- backer, a kid that's instinctive and loves the physicality part of football." Wheeler was a 2019 Detroit News Dream Team member and started on varsity all four years of high school. PHOTO BY EJ HOLLAND MARCH 2020 THE WOLVERINE 53 2020 Projection The hard-hitting Wheeler is a pro- totypical middle linebacker. While U-M is returning a lot of experience at the middle linebacker spot in redshirt sophomore Cameron Mc- Grone, redshirt junior Josh Ross and fifth-year senior Devin Gil, there will be room for Wheeler to move up the depth chart and compete for a start- ing job in his second and third years on campus. DID YOU KNOW? • Coached by former U-M wide receiver Ron Bellamy, and was the first Bellamy-coached player to commit to his alma mater. • Was selected as West Bloomfield's Most Valuable Player as a senior. • High school teammate Makari Paige is also a part of the U-M 2020 signing class. • Was a four-year varsity starter and two-time team captain. • Ran a 4.95-second shuttle run and notched a 36.20-inch vertical at Nike's The Opening Regional. THEY SAID IT • Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt: "He can play in space, but getting to see him play in a game, you see that he's a true middle linebacker that has the ability to step up against the run. He's very active, always around the football." • West Bloomfield head coach Ron Bellamy (to State - "He reminds me a lot of [former U-M and NFL linebacker Larry] Foote. He's not the fastest or most athletic guy, but what he does is he's super instinctive, he loves the game, and when he gets there, he's going to let you know he's there. … He's known for his high level of physicality." 2020 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE

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