The Wolverine

September 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 59 of 83

60 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2016 BY BRANDON BROWN M ichigan's "BBQ at The Big House" has become one of the more anticipated recruiting events of the summer for fans, coaches, players and prospective players of the Maize and Blue. Started by Rich Rodriguez, and surviving through the Brady Hoke era and into the Jim Harbaugh regime, the BBQ is now a well-oiled machine. Harbaugh and his army of staffers have turned the recruiting cookout into a full-blown extravaganza. The entire event oozes greatness. Harbaugh himself, the red-carpet rollout for such an event, the produc- tion value, the organization and time spent to make it run smoothly, and the overall vibe surrounding the program make invited prospects feel like a part of something special. Throw in the fact that the Jordan Jumpman now adorns all of Michi- gan's football apparel and it just feels like a great time to be a Wolverine. First-time visitors were blown away and returners felt something different at the event now that Nike is back in Ann Arbor. ELITE MEMBERS OF 2017 CLASS There was a quintet of five-star prospects on campus for the BBQ and Michigan seems to have a legitimate shot with all of them. Pinson (Ala.) Clay wide receiver Nico Collins has now been to Ann Arbor three times on his own dime, and is growing closer and closer to Michigan quarterback commit Dylan McCaffrey of High- lands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian. The 6-5, 193-pounder is the No. 4 wide receiver and No. 21 overall prospect in the country according to Landing Collins would be a big deal based on his talent alone, and when you factor in where he's from the im- pact would be significant. The Yellow- hammer State native holds offers from both Alabama and Auburn, along with virtually every other program in the SEC. Another player of concern to the Crimson Tide is Antioch (Calif.) High five-star ball carrier Najee Harris. The nation's top running back and No. 2 overall player in the country is com- mitted to Alabama, but he showed up in Ann Arbor for the BBQ with his mother — who rarely travels — and bonded well with tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh. The 6-2, 222-pounder looks like a can't-miss type of back, and the staff at U-M would love for him to someday sport the winged helmet. It'll be dif- ficult to pry him away from the Tide, and some of the West Coast schools like UCLA, USC and Cal could ulti- mately factor in as well. Last year, Michigan landed Los An- geles Loyola four-star cornerback Da- vid Long and Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita Catholic four- star wide receiver Kekoa (formerly Dylan) Crawford, and that bodes well for U-M's chances with Calabasas (Ca- lif.) High cornerback Darnay Holmes. The 5-11, 185-pounder grew up with both Long and Crawford and is sin- cerely considering playing with his Cali buddies in college. In a tradition at U-M, Holmes signed the wall of the tunnel inside The Big House and it read, "Pasadena's Finest — D. Long and D. Craw — See y'all at the top!" The time spent with both of his friends left a lasting impression, and the No. 3 cornerback and No. 15 over- all player in the country plans to return this fall for an official visit. Detroit Cass Tech wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones was perhaps the most important five-star prospect at the BBQ. He's one of the most tal- ented pass catchers in the nation, and he's also an in-state recruit. Cass Tech used to send blue chip- pers almost exclusively to Ann Arbor, but that trend has changed in recent years. Convincing Peoples-Jones that Michigan is the place for him would be huge because of how good he is and also because it could tip things back in U-M's favor at Cass Tech. As the No. 2 wide receiver and No. 11 overall player in the country, Peoples-Jones is wanted by Alabama, Clemson, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA and USC, among others. If Peoples-Jones wasn't priority No. 1 at the BBQ, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Poly Prep offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson might've been. The 6-6, 330-pound monster is that nation's top tackle and No. 5 overall prospect in the country. He's also giving Alabama a hard look, but has been high on Michigan more than anyone else throughout his process. Michigan's need for true tack- les makes Wilson a huge priority. COMMITS BECOME RECRUITERS Michigan had 19 commitments in the 2017 class as of Aug. 15, and all but seven were in Ann Arbor for the BBQ. Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic strong- side defensive end James Hudson wasn't committed on the day of the BBQ. However, he ended up pledging to the Wolverines just two days later. Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage offensive tackle Kai-Leon Herbert, Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian fullback Chase Lasater, Florence (Ala.) High safety J'Marick Woods, Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, Montreal (Quebec) Vieux cornerback Benjamin St-Juste and Oak Park (Mich.) High offensive   FOOTBALL RECRUITING Michigan Hosts Some Of The Nation's Top Talent At The Big House BBQ Calabasas (Calif.) High five- star Darnay Holmes — the nation's No. 3 cornerback and No. 15 overall prospect — plans to return to Ann Arbor for an official visit this fall after time spent at the BBQ at The Big House made a good impression on him. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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