ESPN Recruiting Insider TomVH Breaks Down The Opening with WolverinesWire

ESPN Recruiting Insider TomVH Breaks Down The Opening with WolverinesWire

Football

ESPN Recruiting Insider TomVH Breaks Down The Opening with WolverinesWire


ESPN recruiting insider Tom VanHaaren shared with WolverinesWire how Michigan commits, targets and other recruits fared at The Opening this past week.


ESPN Recruiting Insider TomVH Breaks Down The Opening with WolverinesWire

Michigan didn’t have a huge contingent at The Opening, but one that grew as the week went on.

The Wolverines grabbed commitments from four-star APB Eric Gray and three-star S Quinten Johnson, to go along with QB Cade McNamara, DE Stephen Herron Jr. and CB DJ Turner II to go along with targets Daxton Hill, Giles Jackson, Zach Harrison, Kyle Ford, Cornelius Johnson and multiple others.

WolverinesWire spoke to ESPN recruiting analyst Tom VanHaaren, who was on the ground in Frisco, Texas, to discuss what he saw from Michigan’s commits, targets and who made the best general impressions overall.

There were a bunch of Michigan commits there at The Opening. Numerous guys. What did you see from Michigan’s commitments in the 2019 class – how they performed? Especially with Cade?

I thought Cade McNamara performed really well. Sometimes it’s tough for quarterbacks to come in to this type of situation, because it’s new receivers, you’re trying to learn plays, you’re trying to adjust to everything, you’re trying to get – build chemistry with guys you’ve never played with before. I actually spoke to Cade a little bit – and asked him how he thought he did. He kind of alluded to that – that it took him a little of an adjustment period to get used to everything. The install, getting the offense right. He even said he thought he had a little up-and-down, but overall, he thought he did really well, and I’d agree with that. He did really well.

He wasn’t the top quarterback there, but I thought he showed a lot of what Michigan has saw in him. He’s an accurate guy, he threw the ball really well. Once he settled in, I think once he settled down and get things going, he seemed to show a lot and he seemed to really connect with his receivers. I thought Cade did really well. I think he’d probably tell you the same, that he did really well, but probably left a little bit out there. I know he was disappointed his team got eliminated in the 7-on-7 tournament. Being a competitive guy, he was pretty bummed about that. Overall, I think he did well. I think it was a good showing for him, given the circumstances of what that is for some of these quarterbacks to come in and try to adjust and try to learn all that on the fly. I thought he did pretty well.

He was on the same team with Michigan commit Stephen Herron Jr. and target Giles Jackson. What did you see out of both of those guys?

Giles Jackson I think is one of those guys – every year, there’s a couple guys who perform really well at this event and end up getting a couple offers right afterwards. They start to get more attention from some other coaches that maybe weren’t in on them. And I think Giles Jackson is one of those guys. This kind of event for him was beneficial for what he can do. He’s really, really athletic. He was able to showcase what he can do. A lot of times running backs – it’s not a great showcase for running backs, but because of his athleticism and what he can do – he’s more of an all-purpose back – he helped himself and helped his recruitment in terms of who’s going to be interested. I think, just his overall stock, he showed really, really well at The Opening.

You look at what’s going to come of this, he’s probably going to add some offers out of this, because he showed his athleticism. He’s not the biggest guy in the world – I think he’s only like 5-8 – but for what he can do, he can catch the ball, he can run the ball, he’s an explosive guy. He’s gonna come away from this with a lot more schools after him.

And then Stephen Herron – Stephen Herron was interesting for me to watch, because the linemen tend to stay with each other. Even though they’re on the same team as some of the other guys, they’re off in their own little world. They work with each other. The defensive linemen work in drills with other defensive linemen, and then they’ll go one-on-one with the offensive linemen as well. So you’re talking about, these are the top guys in the country that are here. The top offensive linemen. We saw some really, really good performances from offensive linemen. Especially where Stephen Herron is going to be at along the edge, there were some really, really good offensive tackles there.

I don’t know that the expectations were really high for Stephen coming in. He’s a guy with some upside, he’s a guy that still needs to work on some things. He had a good performance, but I wouldn’t say he was one of the standout defensive ends. And he’s not the biggest guy, 6-foot-3, I think he’s around 240-pounds, or something around there. I think the competition that was there, some of the other defensive ends that were there, you have someone who looks like Zach Harrison, who’s 6-6, 6-7 – whose arms are unbelievably long, he’s built physically well. I think some of those guys stood out. Kayvon Thibodeaux – he showed his speed. There was a play where Kayvon Thibodeaux, off the snap, was already behind the offensive tackle before the offensive tackle even got out of his stance, which was incredible. Nolan Smith, another defensive end – we’ve got him ranked No. 2 overall – he showed what he could do and why everybody’s got him so highly ranked. So, the competition out there was really, really tough. I thought Stephen Herron did okay, he did well. But there were probably other defensive ends out there who had better performances.

A few Michigan guys committed over the past few days. What did you see from Eric Gray?

It was funny – Eric Gray‘s dad, after Eric committed, Eric Gray’s dad showed up to The Opening in a Michigan hat and a Michigan t-shirt. And I talked to him, and I said, “You’ve got all the gear on. How does it feel (now that) you can be out in the open?” He gave a sigh of relief, and was like, “Man, we’ve been trying to keep this thing a secret for a week now! That was probably the hardest part was keeping it a secret and keeping it away from everybody.” It seemed like he was relieved that he could now show his Michigan spirit, I guess! He talked a little bit about that, too, that it’s a great fit for them. When they visited, it showed everything that Michigan had to offer. His dad was pretty excited to be able to show off that his son is going to Michigan now. So that was pretty cool.

Eric Gray, like I said with Giles Jackson, running backs, sometimes it’s tough for these guys at this even to show what they can do, just because it’s not a showcase for running backs. You get the cat-and-mouse drill, where the running backs and linebackers go one-on-one in this alleyway, where the running back tries to juke out the linebacker. If you can catch out of the backfield, then you can get involved in 7-on-7 stuff, because you really don’t run the ball. But, that being said, I thought Eric Gray stood out at this event, still. I think he’s someone who people were still talking about. Again, it’s all-purpose back, so it’s a guy that can do a little bit of everything. I think that he was able to show that he’s versatile in what he can do. He’s not just a guy that you’re going to hand the ball off to, and that’s all he’s gonna do. He’s got some quickness, he’s got some athleticism to him. He was versatile enough that he stood out at this type of event, which I think says a lot. Because, really, if you go back and look at the coverage, you rarely hear about running backs. And I think Eric Gray was probably included in a lot of people’s coverage, because even in that cat-and-mouse drill, there was a couple drills where he showed his elusiveness and his agility to be able to juke out linebackers in a tight space. Coming away from this event, I think Michigan fans should be pretty excited about what he can bring and what he can do. Like I said, if you’re a running back, and you stand out at that event, I think that says a lot about you.

Looking overall at the roster at The Opening, who are five or six guys – not specific to Michigan – that impressed you, whether you weren’t expecting it, or were just flat-out, standout guys that were impossible to deny on the field?

I think, one of the bigger names, that actually is a Michigan target, that stood out, was wide receiver Kyle Ford. I think everybody was talking about Kyle after this, because it was just so impressive what he did. We talk about running backs not being able to show what they can do at this event, wide receivers, obviously, are the opposite. They’ve got a chance to really show what they can do in a 7-on-7 environment. I think he exceeded a lot of expectations going into this event. Everybody’s got him ranked highly, but seeing him in person, he was really impressive. Physically, looking at him, I tweeted this out, he looks like, the way that he looks physically, it looks like he’s going to have minimal adjustment to the college game. Right now, it seems like it’s going to be hard for defensive backs to jam him at the line. He’s so strong and he’s so well put together. It doesn’t take away from his speed or athleticism, either, how big he is. He was probably one of the main guys for me that stood out. And Michigan is after him. He told me that Michigan is one of the schools he’s considering. He’s from California, so I think he might end up staying out west, but he’s still very much open, and he’s probably a guy that’s gonna have some other schools coming after him after this event.

Kayvon Thibodeaux, I know he’s all everything for everybody. We have him ranked number one overall. But he’s not really a consensus, like a Rashan Gary, who everybody had as this is the number one guy, this can’t miss guy. I think there’s – I don’t want to say questions about what he has done, but I think he maybe had something to prove to maybe get back into that consensus number one spot, Kayvon Thibodeaux did. For what he showed this week, I was really, really impressed. I really thought he took this seriously, he came in, and knew it was going to be against top competition and that everybody was going to be watching him. Some of the stuff he did in the one-on-ones was really, really impressive. His speed off the edge, especially, is what stood out. I mentioned there was a play where he was in the backfield before the offensive lineman got out of his stance. It seemed like he really took to the coaching well, too, where he wasn’t just using his speed, he was using his hands well. He was using his brain to get around some of the offensive linemen, in terms of using technique, rather than full on speed, speed, speed. If somebody stopped him in one of the plays, he would go back and figure out what to do differently and get around him with a different move, and then get around him. That was really impressive in terms of I think he probably solidified himself as the top guy or one of the top guys in this class after that.

Another guy that’s somewhat Michigan-related, in terms of future opponents – offensive lineman Harry Miller stood out to me. He’s committed to Ohio State. He played center, mainly. He’s an interior lineman. He was impossible to stop. He doesn’t look like the biggest guy out there, but not a lot of guys got past him. Not a lot of defensive linemen got past him. He was really stout up front. He stood some guys up. I thought he did really, really well. Especially with some of the defensive tackles he had to go against. There was some big, big dudes there, and he held his own. I think he made the top five for offensive linemen. I came away really impressed with him.

Another offensive lineman that I hadn’t seen in person yet was Wanya Morris. He’s committed to Tennessee. First of all, he’s named after Wanya Morris from Boyz II Men, which is outstanding! He gets points in my book for that, to start. But then you look at him in person – and like I said, I had never seen him in person – but he’s got a really, really big base. He moves so well for how big he is. I think he’s 6-6. He consistently throughout the week, I think, was one of the best offensive linemen that I saw, because he was able to take on some of those guys like Kayvon Thibodeaux or Zach Harrison. Some of the really good defensive ends that were there. I don’t know. I came away really, really impressed with him.

To go away a little bit from the linemen, the quarterback group, I thought there were a couple of really good quarterbacks. Spencer Rattler, the Oklahoma commit, he got better throughout the week and kinda took it up and picked it up. That was something we mentioned with Cade McNamara a little bit, where it might take a minute to adjust to everything. You could kind of see it throughout the week, that Spencer Rattler was building chemistry with his teammates and wide receivers. They ended up winning the 7-on-7 tournament. He’s committed to Oklahoma, so I think Sooners fans should be excited about him. To go along with him, I was really impressed with Ryan Hilinski, the South Carolina quarterback commit. He had a consistent week as well. He made very few mistakes really up until the last day, when the competition really got important and got heated. He really made few mistakes and I thought his accuracy, his decision-making – he did really well.

Another guy – another running back – again, some of the running backs had really good weeks, despite what I talked about, that it’s hard for them to showcase. John Emery Jr. is a guy that I think is going to probably move up the rankings if people don’t already have him highly ranked. He’s a running back – it was incredible. He can catch the ball, he can run. It seemed like every time he got the ball, it was a really impactful play or a really big play. He made something out of nothing. He’s from Louisiana. I know a lot of top schools are already after him, a lot of big programs are already after him, but that was the guy for me – I had not seen him in person yet, and I was excited to see him. I thought he stood out, too.

One more that stood out that I was surprised by was Jacob Bandes, a defensive tackle. He wasn’t the biggest guy out there. He said he measured in at 6-foot-3, 305-pounds – which I know that’s ridiculous to say he wasn’t the biggest guy out there. But he stood out to me, and I was surprised by that. I know a lot of people have him ranked pretty highly, but I think some of the other defensive linemen coming in probably may have stolen the spotlight from him, but he stole it back with his play on the field. As an interior lineman, he had to go up against some really, really good offensive linemen. Kardell Thomas was there, I mentioned Harry Miller. There was some really, really good offensive linemen on the interior, and it just seemed like Jacob was in the backfield on every single play in the one-on-ones. I don’t know if he made the top five or not for them, but he was someone I know everybody was talking about. I talked to Craig Haubert about him and his performance there. He’s a stout kid and he’s thick. But he moves really, really well. It was really strange. He could get into the backfield really quickly. He got off the ball really well. He’s another guy that some schools, after looking at the performances, I think maybe he might get a little more attention. He felt the same way after talking to him, too. I asked him what he thought. He said he’s kind of taking everything slow, because he doesn’t know who else is going to come in after this. So he’s a guy I would include in there as well.

Follow Tom’s work at ESPN.com or on Twitter at @TomVH.

Contact/Follow @WolverinesWire@isaiahhole

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