The Wolverine

August 2022*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 38 of 59

AUGUST 2022 THE WOLVERINE 39   MICHIGAN RECRUITING MICHIGAN DIPPING INTO EUROPE FOR TALENT Michigan is truly going international on the recruiting trail. Athletes from across Europe are quickly becoming highly touted recruits on the football field and have caught the atten- tion of U-M and several other Power Five programs, thanks in large part to Brandon Collier. In the span of two days in mid-July, Michigan collected commitments from two budding stars from Europe — one apiece for its 2023 and 2024 classes. A former CFL defensive lineman, Col- lier founded PPI Recruits in 2016 as a way to get international prospects more expo- sure. Fast forward six years, and PPI Re- cruits has become a phenomenon. More than 100 of Collier's pupils have received opportunities to play at the next level. One of Collier's first big names was German defensive lineman Julius Wel- schof, who signed with Michigan as part of the 2018 recruiting class. A big reason the Wolverines were able to land Wel- schof was through Collier's connection with former U-M defensive coordinator Don Brown — Collier played for Brown at UMass. Michigan parted ways with Brown in 2020 after a lackluster season, and Mich- igan's contact with Collier fell off. How- ever, that all changed this offseason with the hiring of new defensive line coach Mike Elston. Elston previously had landed a couple of recruits through PPI during his time at Notre Dame, and he hosted Collier and his summer DreamChasers tour in South Bend just before the global pandemic. As soon as Elston arrived at Michigan, the bridge to Collier and Europe opened right back up. "My relationship with Michigan started back when Don Brown first got to Michi- gan," Collier said. "Julius helped grow that relationship. It's been a couple of years, but I'm excited Michigan is offering our kids again. "Coach Elston helped out a lot. I had a great relationship with him at Notre Dame, and he recruited our kids a lot. He's a great coach and always keeps in contact." Elston's relationship with Collier al- lowed Michigan to surge in the recruit- ment of 2023 edge Aymeric Koumba, who committed July 15. The French pros- pect impressed Elston at a satellite camp and on-campus camp this summer, and quickly emerged as a top priority this cycle. On3 rated him as a three-star player, but he was still a bit of sleeper, and Collier believes Koumba could be a steal. "Koumba can fill a similar role as Da- vid Ojabo and Aidan Hutchinson," Col- lier said immediately prior to Koumba's commitment. "Michigan would be a great fit for him with what they do with guys like him. He's 6-foot-4, 230 pounds with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. He's a really impressive pass rusher. If he were in America, he would probably be a four-star prospect." Michigan also was trending in the right direction for rising 2024 German defen- sive lineman Manuel Beigel and received his pledge on July 16. He becomes the sec- ond player in U-M's 2024 class, joining Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth linebacker Mason Curtis, who committed June 27. The 6-foot-5, 282-pound Beigel im- pressed Elston and the Michigan staff at one of its on-campus camps this summer, and he is set to play his junior season at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. "Manuel has played soccer for most of his life, so he has really good feet," Col- lier said prior to Beigel's commitment an- nouncement on social media. " He's a big kid that can move around. He's really athletic and ran a 4.9 40 this summer. It'll be exciting to see what he's going to become in two years." Michigan also offered another 2024 PPI prospect in fast-rising German linebacker Justin Okoronkwo, who measured in at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and clocked a 4.49 40 at one of U-M's on-campus summer camps. "I don't think there is a 2024 linebacker that's better than him," Collier said. "He's another kid that would be a four-star prospect if he was playing in America. "He put up really impressive testing numbers at camps this summer and is going to have a lot of offers soon. Coach Elston and Coach [George] Helow really liked him at the camp." With Collier finding more and more talented prospects overseas, Michigan's relationship with PPI Recruits will be- come increasingly important over the next few years. Elston has reopened the door, and now that the Wolverines have closed with Koumba and Beigel, there is no reason Michigan shouldn't be able to land the very best players from Europe going for- ward. MICHIGAN LOSES TOP LINEBACKER RAYLEN WILSON Michigan recruiting took a hit in late June when Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln four-star linebacker Raylen Wilson an- nounced his decommitment from the Wolverines. "I love Coach [George] Helow," Wil- son said. "I have always trusted him. We have a great relationship, and he is a great coach. It was hard, but I decided to de- commit from Michigan and open things back up." Wilson was the highest ranked player in the 2023 class for U-M prior to the decision and left the Wolverines with no commits at the position. Just one week later, Michigan picked up a commitment from On3 Consensus four-star line- backer Semaj Bridgeman. Wilson committed to Michigan back in December 2021. However, he took of- ficial visits to Georgia and Florida this summer, and it became evident that he was wavering. Wilson pledged to Georgia soon after backing away from his commitment to the Wolverines. Michigan has 12 commitments in its 2023 recruiting class, which is ranked No. 24 nationally as of July 18. ❏ Defensive line coach Mike Elston has been pursuing European prospects since he was at Notre Dame and is now using his con- tacts overseas to help Michigan expand its recruiting footprint. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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