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September 27, 2013Travel has been a nearly constant companion for the staff of The Wolverine this fall. Not only did our writers follow the team to last weekend's game against UConn, we've seen high school games in New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois less than a month into the year.
The Michigan coaching staff, on the other hand, has been a little too busy to get out and see recruits. That will change this weekend with a long-awaited bye. While for their players that means a chance to see mom and dad (and get some home cooking), for the staff it means time away from family, checking out some top recruits around the region and the country.
It's not just about evaluating in-person - though that's an important factor as well. The coaches stop into schools to meet with high school coaches, check on academics, and learn more about prospects. They also walk through the halls sporting the Block-M logo, free advertising at its finest. Spreading the Maize and Blue gospel in communities across the country is a big part of the visit trail.
Sitting down to watch a game, however, is where the real value lies. Evaluating film is always an important phase of recruitment, but seeing a player in person - whether it's at summer camp, simply on an unofficial visit, or this weekend's game bonanza - can tell quite a bit for the coaches (and it's why our staff values it so much for ourselves). Is a prospect's height and weight accurate as listed? Is he as fast in-person as he looked on film? What is the level of competition like? Does he have any under-the-radar teammates or opponents to watch?
All questions that can best be answered by seeing them live.
Where We'll BeOur staff kicked off the weekend early with a game between Warren Michigan Collegiate and Detroit University Prep last night. We were most interested to see 2015 RB/DB Myrick El of Michigan Collegiate. He didn't disappoint athletically, showing vision and shiftiness in the backfield - and raw speed on a 90-yard touchdown sprint. However, he's small - about 5-9, 170 pounds - and didn't distinguish himself on the other side of the ball. It's unlikely that Michigan shows much further interest.
University Prep had a couple interesting athletes - including a 6-6 senior quarterback with a nice arm - but nobody who jumped off the page as a future Division I player.
This afternoon, a couple of the usual suspects are on the docket. Detroit Cass Tech takes on Detroit Central - a game in which the Technicians should overmatch the Trailblazers, and it's perhaps most interesting to see Cass head coach Thomas Wilcher and defensive coordinator Jermain Crowell decide whether to take it easy on their alma mater. Cass boasts a dozen current and future Michigan targets, including offered juniors Mike Weber and Joshua Alabi.
After that, it's a short jaunt up the road to Southfield High, where the Blue Jays will take on Farmington Hills Harrison. Two of Oakland County's strongest teams will duke it out, with U-M commit Lawrence Marshall and top target Malik McDowell dominating the D-line for Southfield.
There are dozens of evening options in the area, and it's too early to decide just yet on which ones we'll be seeing. St. Clair Shore South Lake, with star 2016 running back Martell Pettaway, is one intriguing option, and U-M commit Jared Wangler leads Warren De La Salle against Orchard Lake St. Mary's on the opposite end of Detroit's Northern suburbs.
The highlight of the weekend, however, is tomorrow afternoon's clash between Paramus (N.J.) Catholic and Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius. Paramus' duo of Michigan commitments, five-star cornerback Jabrill Peppers and three-star offensive lineman Juwann Bushell-Beatty, could be enough to lead the Paladins past an Ignatius squad decimated by injury. Both teams are home to multiple underclassman prospects as well, and it should make for some premier viewing.
Also in Cleveland, 2015 U-M commit Shaun Crawford will try to continue putting up huge numbers, with Erie (Pa.) McDowell this weekend's test. Both Crawford's Lakewood St. Edward team and Erie McDowell are consistent producers of talent.
Stay tuned to TheWolverine.com all weekend as we bring you the most high school football action we can.