ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh likes to say, “We’re miners panning for gold” when it comes to recruiting. The miners have found a new area to prospect.
Who’s the big kid?
Julius Welschof grew up playing the sports many in Germany play. That meant kicking a soccer ball, hitting tennis balls and, since he’s from Bavaria, racing down snowy mountain slopes on skis. It wasn’t until three years ago that Welschof started playing football.
“I was the best on my team,” Welschof said. “I played on the Bavarian all-star team two months after I started, so I felt it was kind of easy because I’ve got the size and speed.”
Brandon Collier saw that combination, too. Collier saw talent in Welschof that could translate, he believed, into being a Division I college football player. He believes Welschof can play at a Power 5 conference school if someone wants to take a chance on the 6-foot-6, 248-pound ex-skier. Welschof has the dream of playing at the highest level. J.J. Watt is his football idol.
“If this kid is out of Don Bosco or Bergen Catholic, he’s a 5-star recruit,” said Collier after last Saturday’s Super Skills position camp at Michigan.
— Premier Players INTL (@PPIRecruits) June 18, 2017
Welschof and other players Colliers has brought to the U.S. with his Premier Players International group have been turning college coaches heads the past two weeks as they’ve toured a litany of camps across the East and Midwest. Welschof was noticed enough that 247Sports scored him with a 4-star rating, but he’s not the only player in Collier’s group who has caught people’s attention.
Wide receiver Zavier Scott, whose father is in the Army based in Germany, has received offers from Ohio, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Syracuse. He won the 30-yard dash competition as well as the 60-yard shuttle race at Michigan. When Harbaugh announced Scott as the winner (mispronouncing his first name both times as “EX-zay-vee-er” instead of “ZAY-vee-er”) the crowd at Michigan Stadium was stunned to hear “Germany” after his name.
Scott mimicked the defensive back coaches as they went through drill instruction on various techniques, such as back-pedaling.
“[Coaches] like my speed and explosiveness,” Scott said. “And they liked my versatility. At Ohio State I played receiver and they told me to see what it’s like at DB. I went out there with no coaching. I had rarely played DB before, especially 1-on-1, and I went out there and they liked what they saw.”
The waiting game
Swedish running back Vilington Tengroth, who is nicknamed “Wheels”, picked up an offer from Massachusetts after running a 4.37 40-yard dash at the UMass camp this week. Collier said Swedish wide receiver Alexander Segerfeldt (6-foot, 190) has been timed sub-4.5. Offensive lineman Oskar Andersson was offered by Temple this week, bringing his number of DI offers to three. Andersson and Anton Oskarsson hail from the same town of Uppsala, Sweden. Oskarsson has received an offer from Eastern Michigan as a 2019 prospect.
— Oskar Andersson (@oskueeer) June 19, 2017
Temple gave Welschof an offer this week, as has Rutgers and UMass. Welschof previously received offers from Eastern Michigan, Towson and Old Dominion.
Collier said Power 5 conference schools California, Boston College, Arkansas, South Carolina and Penn State have shown interest in Welschof. There is a waiting game the players in the Premier Players International group must play as coaches evaluate them and assess if they can be a good fit for their programs.
“Brandon says you have to be patient because sometimes it’s a waiting game,” said Sverri Finsson, a 21-year-old defensive back from Denmark. “Sometimes it’s a numbers game. You might not like it but you have to be patient.”
Brandon Collier’s platform
Collier grew up on the west side of Cleveland. He played at UMass as a 6-1 defensive tackle from 2005-09. Current Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown was Collier’s defensive coordinator at UMass.
“He was probably this tall,” said Brown, holding his right hand up only so high. “Maybe he’s a little taller now. Ran an 11-flat 100 meters, so I signed him.”
Collier went to Austria to play after college. He got noticed by the Philadelphia Eagles, who gave him a tryout and took Collier to training camp in 2011. He was waived with an injury settlement, but played with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL in 2012 before injuries caught up to him again. Collier returned to Europe and played in the German Football League for a couple more seasons.
That’s when he realized something: There are plenty of talented players in Europe. So he started up Premier Players International.
“I started a platform where I can help these players,” Colliers said. “It’s basically a recruiting database. We’re showcasing all international talent, really focusing on Europe because there’s a lot of talent there that no one has seen.”
‘But no one saw them.’
Two of Colliers’ players are part of the 2017 class; defensive lineman Maxi Hradecny from Austria signed with Duquesne, while defensive lineman Tibo DeBaillie from Belgium is going to Towson.
“Both of those kids should’ve been Power 5 kids but no one saw them,” Collier said. “They didn’t do the camp circuit and no one saw them.”
Collier decided he was going to give this group of players the opportunity to be seen. He said he brought 14 players with him on a two-week tour of college camps.
The group went to camps at Ohio State, Old Dominion, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Wayne State, Eastern Michigan, Ball State and Towson, before showing up at Michigan last weekend. Some of the players flew back to Europe on Sunday, while Welschof, Scott and a couple others have gone on to Temple, Rutgers, UMass and Maryland this week.
“You’ve got to love guys like that because he’s trying to do something that’s so right for young people,” Brown said. “He’s done good job bringing these guys all over the place. That’s a beautiful thing.”
It’s a grind of a schedule that Collier and the players believe will pay off for them in the immediate future and for other European players down the road.
“They hear about the Europeans and every coach is like ‘come to our camp.’ Zavier has laser time and we’ve got a couple O-linemen,” Welschof said. “I think next year coach Collier won’t have to look for schools. They’re going to come to him.”