The real start of football season is just around the corner and, with that, the virtual end of the summer’s recruiting season.
Jim Harbaugh and Michigan are going to take one last big swing on the recruiting trail though, as they welcome in a handful of the country’s best prospects regardless of recruiting class, for the 2016 iteration of the “BBQ at the Big House.”
The event, held on the field at Michigan Stadium, is a way to bring together the Wolverines biggest targets in a fun-filled, relaxed environment that features food, competition – in a variety of games, not a camp setting like Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights – and more importantly, highly-ranked football players from all corners of the country. Expect a big weekend that’s going to be full of interesting sights and sounds, according to 247Sports.com analyst Steve Lorenz, who covers the Wolverines.
“Michigan is expected to run it somewhat like they did last year, with a scavenger hunt type beginning and then the actual BBQ portion of the event at the end,” Lorenz shared with Landof10. “The scavenger hunt splits the recruits up into teams and sends them all across Michigan’s campus in search of random stuff. It’s mostly about team-building and also getting the kids as familiar as possible with the campus. After that, the BBQ part is pretty standard — one-on-one time with the recruits and their families. It’s a casual setting for recruits and parents to ask questions to the coaching staff and to get the answers they’re looking for from Michigan specifically.”
Who are the players expected in Ann Arbor this weekend? Let’s start at the top with the key names in the 2017 recruiting class, including three of the country’s top 11 prospects.
Najee Harris • Running back • Antioch (Ca.) • National Rank: 1 • Committed to Alabama
The country’s top-ranked player, Najee Harris has been committed to Alabama for almost 16 months now and there’s not a lot of reason to think that will change but Michigan is absolutely going all in for the 6-foot-3, 226-pound running back. He’s a next-level-ready player already and Jim Harbaugh’s connections in Northern California certainly don’t hurt. The real interesting thing about this visit? Harris, whose mother will accompany him to Michigan, could have taken an official visit to Ann Arbor one month from today and had the Wolverines pay for it, but now there’s a pretty good chance he’ll see the school twice before the end of the college football season.
Darnay Holmes • Defensive back • Calabasas (Ca.) • National Rank: 10 • Uncommitted
There’s been a lot of flirting between the country’s second-ranked cornerback and Michigan – thanks in part to his best friend, current Wolverines freshman David Long – and now the Maize and Blue will get a real shot to swing the pendulum in their direction. UCLA, Nebraska, and Ohio State are in the mix though Stanford continues to the real favorite but questions about early-enrollment keep them a little on the periphery. Michigan’s academic prowess, football tradition and close relationships with Holmes make them an interesting team to watch in this 5-star defensive back’s recruitment moving forward.
Donovan Peoples-Jones • Wide receiver • Cass Tech (Detroit) • National Rank: 11 • Uncommitted
The “must get” of the 2017 recruiting class for Michigan, the country’s top-ranked wide receiver will make the short trip to Ann Arbor for the weekend. The visit will give the Wolverines coaching staff and wide receivers coach Jedd Fisch another chance to show him why he should stay at home for college. The 6-foot-2, 192-pound 5-star prospect is widely considered a Michigan “lean” despite heavily considering Florida, USC, Ohio State and Florida State and this is another opportunity to tighten the bonds between the two sides.
Micah Parsons • Defensive end • Central Dauphin (Harrisburg, Pa.) • National Rank: 3 (2018) • Committed to Penn State
The country’s third-ranked 2018 prospect committed to Penn State this past February but things are hardly “solid” between Parson and the Nittany Lions. The Wolverines are one school that could make a big move, especially if this weekend’s visit is better than his last trip to Ann Arbor; he visited for last November’s game against Ohio State and reportedly didn’t get the attention he was looking for from the Michigan staff as they prepared for the Buckeyes and hosted dozens of 2016 and 2017 recruits. Now, as Don Brown and the Wolverines begin to make him a priority, this trip becomes a big one for a player that many believe will re-open his recruitment sometime in the near future.
Isaiah Wilson • Offensive line • Poly Prep (Brooklyn) • National Rank: 32 • Uncommitted
At one time Michigan was considered the favorite to land 4-star offensive lineman Isaiah Wilson and this weekend’s trip to Ann Arbor will give the Wolverines a chance to regain the momentum that has seemed to turn in Alabama’s direction as of late. Michigan has three offensive linemen committed – and their close to a commitment from another lineman (more on that later) this weekend – but none are as coveted as the 6-foot-7, 350-pound Wilson is. With spots narrowing in their class, the Wolverines are likely to put a little press on Wilson to get in the class now if he wants in at all.
Nico Collins • Wide receiver • Clay-Chalkville (Pinson, Ala.) • National Rank: 81 • Uncommitted
Outside of the aforementioned Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins – who has Michigan as the leader in his recruitment – has certainly been the top name on the wide receivers list for the Wolverines this cycle. The country’s 13th-ranked wideout, Collins is the top-ranked player in Alabama and landing him would be a major shot across the bow of the Good Ship Saban and the Crimson Tide. 6-foot-5 and 195-pounds, Collins is a major priority for the Wolverines and is a player that could pop for Michigan this weekend.
More Top 2017 targets to watch: Iowa 4-star wide receiver Oliver Martin, Connecticut 4-star wide receiver Tarik Black, Texas 3-star tight end Major Tennison, 3-star Alabama offensive lineman Toryque Bateman, 4-star Washington offensive tackle Henry Bainivalu, 4-star California offensive lineman Aaron Banks, 4-star defensive ends James Hudson (Toledo, Ohio) and Michigan’s Deron Irving-Bey, 4-star linebacker Jordan Anthony, 4-star Alabama linebacker Will Ignont, 4-star Michigan defensive backs Ambry Thomas and Jaylen Kelly-Powell
Top 2018 target to watch: 4-star Michigan offensive lineman Devontae Dobbs, 4-star Michigan offensive lineman Logan Brown
There are a few players that could pull the trigger for the Wolverines this weekend that are worth watching a bit closer than others.
Who are the guys closest to making the move to Michigan?
As we established, there is some speculation that wide receiver Nico Collins ends his recruitment this weekend, but there’s a better chance that another Alabama prospect – lineman Toryque Bateman – does. The country’s 43rd offensive tackle, a 6-foot-8, 305-pounder from Gadsden, has the Wolverines as his leader and there’s a lot of discussion that this weekend (if he’s able to do so) will end it for him.
Central Catholic (Toledo, Ohio) defensive end James Hudson will make a college decision very soon and it’s reportedly down to Michigan and Michigan State and a good weekend in Ann Arbor could push the Wolverines over the edge. Saturday could definitely seal the deal for him and he’s a take for the Wolverines staff according to Lorenz.
A trio of Michigan defensive backs – 2017 prospects Jaylen Kelly-Powell and Ambry Thomas and 2018 4-star Kalon Gervin – have been discussed as future Wolverines for a long time now and while no commitment is imminent for any, it wouldn’t be a surprise for any, either. Kelly-Powell seems to have put that possibility to bed with a tweet today, but he’s a long-time Michigan fan and they’re still near the top of his list.
Michigan legacy Kolin Demens, a 2018 linebacker out of Detroit’s Country Day School, has a Wolverines offer and is expected to commit to Michigan eventually. He’s the younger brother of former Wolverines standout linebacker Kenny Demens and it wouldn’t be shocking if he makes the call this weekend at the BBQ.