The Wolverine

February 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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48 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2021   MICHIGAN RECRUITING NATIONAL ANALYST ON MICHIGAN'S IN-STATE RECRUITING EFFORTS While Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has beefed up his staff with young, hungry recruiters, the perception of in-state recruiting re- mains the same. The newcomers will try to change that notion, along with former West Bloomfield (Mich.) High head coach Ron Bellamy, who has numerous ties within Michigan high school football and takes over as U- M's wide receivers coach. The Wolverines landed just two of the top six prospects in their own state this cycle — Rivals100 West Bloom- field (Mich.) High running back Don- ovan Edwards and Rivals100 Sterling Heights (Mich.) Stevenson offensive lineman Giovanni El-Hadi. Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt still believes there is a bit of a rift between Michigan and in-state high school coaches and figureheads. "I can tell you that from talking with coaches and important movers and shakers within the state, they do not feel that the talent is respected by Michigan as much as it used to be, say back in the Lloyd Carr era, where many of these coaches originate from," he said. "But also, it's what they are seeing in the intensity of re- cruiting from the out-of-state schools. "What I hear a lot is Michigan and Michigan State spoken in the same breath in terms of the in-state schools not having the respect for the in-state talent like many feel they should." So what's the solution? "The most oft-repeated solution that I hear from coaches and others in the state is having someone from the Detroit-area on staff or someone that has Detroit connections," Helm- holdt said. "[Former U-M recruiting coordinator] Chris Singletary was the guy back in the day that everyone felt connected to. Now, they don't have that kind of connection. [Penn State assistant and Detroit native] Tim Banks would have been a huge move for Michigan. "That's the No. 1 thing — just hav- ing someone that is from the area, knows the area and has connections to the area. People want to go some- where where people understand them. That's an area that's been fo- cused on by many people." Bellamy, a former Wolverine who led the program at West Bloomfield the last 11 seasons, should provide a boost in that area. Additionally, Michigan is already off to a nice start with in-state recruiting in the 2022 cycle. The Wolverines hold commitments from Rivals250 Essex- ville (Mich.) Garber defensive tackle Alex VanSumeren, the No. 10 defen- sive tackle and No. 182 overall pros- pect nationally per; and three-star River Rouge (Mich.) High defensive lineman Davonte Miles. "When I first saw Alex, he was just piss and vinegar," Helmholdt said. "He was just a freshman and fought like he was a freshman going against seniors every time he stepped on the field. "His brother [U-M linebacker Ben] was a freaky athlete. You didn't see that with Alex. He was just more driven. As he's gotten older, he's put the work into his game. He's filling out his frame. He looks like what you want out of a defensive tackle pros- pect. But he's also increased his quick- ness, his lateral agility and just his all- around athleticism has improved as he's gotten older. That, to go along with a motor that doesn't stop, is valu- able at a position that's very difficult to recruit, especially in the Midwest. "Miles is more of a risk-reward type than VanSumeren. With VanSu- meren, he may not have a super high ceiling, but he has a really high floor. You know what you're going to get out of VanSumeren. "With Miles, if you can polish off the edges, there is some ability there. It's just going to take a while to get it out of him. His ceiling and floor are much further apart. He could be a boom, or he could be a bust. It's just too early to say which way that's ultimately going to go." 2022 COMMIT CONNOR JONES COULD BE A 'SPECIAL PLAYER' Michigan scored a commitment from three-star 2022 Monument (Colo.) Palmer Ridge offensive tackle Connor Jones in December. While not a high-profile recruit, Jones is a legitimate 6-7, 285 pounds and brings a ton of upside to the table. Jones should only keep getting bet- ter with time. When not with his high school team, Jones works out privately with former NFL offensive lineman Matt McChesney, who trains some of the best prospects in Colorado. "He's a grinder," McChesney said. "We try to expose the kid or the cow- ard. One of the two comes out. Either the coward, and they quit, or the kid, and we turn him into a man. He has conquered each and every challenge I've thrown at him. "He's done nothing but get bet- ter, better and better. I anticipate him to keep doing things the way we've been doing them. He's going to get to Michigan and be ready to go." Jones projects as a left tackle at the next level thanks to his height, length and frame. But Jones has been con- tinuing to add strength and aggres- sion to his game. Overall, McChesney believes Jones has the skill set and work ethic to outplay his ranking. "He's really good in space," McChesney said. "He uses his length well rather than just having it. There is a huge difference. He's really con- sistent on that and playing on the inside of his feet rather than on his toes or his heels. "He's far from perfect, but the thing that separates Connor is he's a natural leader. He's very vocal. I harp on my guys about doing that all the time. They understand actions will allow you to talk. That's what he's done since he was 15. "Now, going into his senior year committed to Michigan, he's achieved his goals. There are a lot of guys that hang up their cleats and turn into the senior messing around and being relaxed. But I can't keep him out of the room. Connor has all the tools to be a special player." Jones committed to Michigan over offers from Colorado State, Indiana, New Mexico, Northwestern, Oregon State, Virginia and West Virginia. ❑ lists U-M commit Connor Jones as just a three-star prospect, but former NFL offensive lineman Matt McChesney believes the 6-7, 285-pounder has a ton of upside. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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