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July 10, 2014

Michigan Preview: Rivals250 Underclassmen Challenge 2014

The final stop on the 2014 Rivals Camp Series tour is this Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla. Over 250 of the nation's best underclassmen - who proved themselves at regional Rivals Camps, and in a few cases, the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge - will assemble at the Jacksonville Jaguars' Everbank Field for one last day of competition.

There are plenty of Michigan storylines to watch. One 2016 commit and more than a dozen offered players will be in attendance, along with several who should eventually garner some serious Michigan interest.


Michigan fans didn't know it at the time, but the inaugural Underclassmen Challenge in the Dallas area last year included an eventual Michigan commit in Avon (Conn.) Old Farms tight end Chris Clark. Now a four-star, Clark proved himself at that event, and has shown since that the Underclassmen Challenge is an outstanding way for bigtime players to put themselves on the map.

There will be no suspense in Jacksonville about whether or not any player in attendance will end up committed to Michigan, because Trotwood (Ohio) Madison quarterback Messiah DeWeaver has already broken the seal on the class. The 6-3, 198-pounder was one of the top quarterbacks at the Columbus regional stop on the RCS tour, earning his invite to this event.

There will be plenty of competition, with fellow 2016s Shea Patterson (Arizona commit with offers from U-M and several others), Dwayne Haskins Jr. (national offer list), Maciah Long (UCLA offer), Matt Dame (Miami offer), Augie DiBiase (Indiana and Virginia Tech offers), and Steven Frank (Illinois offer) among the others trying to make a name for themselves, plus several in the 2017 and even 2018 classes. If DeWeaver can stand out in that field, he's likely to start with a nice ranking in the 2016 group.


Several players who have already received invitations to play at Michigan will be at Everbank Field. If the Wolverines have a strong hit rate on their early targets, it's more-than likely that DeWeaver won't be the only future Wolverine in the house.

Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's 2016 linebacker Daelin Hayes is the main player to watch here. U-M was one of his early offers, and he nearly pulled the trigger for the Maize and Blue in April. The 6-3, 225-pounder isn't near a decision at this point, however, but he does have a chance to show that he's one of the best linebackers in the nation for 2016.

U-M tight end prospects will be well represented, with three of the five offered targets in attendance Saturday. Isaac Nauta of Buford (Ga.) High, Naseir Upshur from Philadelphia Imhotep Charter, and Kaden Smith from Flower Mound (Texas) Marcus will all try to vie for the title of 2016's best at the position.

Good athletes on the edge (or in the backfield) will show out, as well. Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy's T.J. Chase will show why he has one of the country's best early offer lists. Coconut Creek (Fla.) teammates Binjimen Victor and Malek Young - already both selected to the 2016 U.S. Army All-American Bowl - have U-M offers and will try to show why, as well. Woodland Hills (Pa.) running back Miles Sanders is a shifty 5-10, 192 pounds in space, and that's the format that should allow him to show out in Jacksonville.

Finally, the Michigan offers in the trenches are just as impressive. Woodberry Forest (Va.) offensive lineman Clark Yarbrough picked up a U-M offer on a visit in June, and looks like a top Wolverines prospect. Fellow offensive linemen Richard Merritt and Jauan Williams, both of Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga, will try to show why they're the most coveted teammate duo up front in the 2016 class. That group will try to hold off top defensive linemen, including Paramus (N.J.) Catholic's tackle Rashan Gary and Panama City (Fla.) Bay end Janarius Robinson.

Even a couple of the Wolverines' 2017 offers will be in the house. Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's linebacker Joshua Ross is a 6-1, 190-pounder and the younger brother of U-M junior James Ross. Lawrenceville (Ga.) Archer cornerback Jamyest Williams earned his Michigan offer with an outstanding performance at U-M camp in June.


While Hayes and Ross are known commodities in the Great Lakes State among Michigan fans, a few more will try to make a name for themselves to earn an offer from the Maize and Blue.

Detroit Cass Tech is represented by offensive/defensive lineman Michael Onwenu and cornerback LaVert Hill. Both hold multiple bigtime offers, and Hill is even a U-M legacy (older brother Delano will be a sophomore in Ann Arbor this fall). If they can show out, they inch closer to offers from the Wolverines.

Farmington High School boasts wide receiver Desmond Fitzpatrick and David Reese, both of whom will be in attendance. Fitzpatrick injured a hamstring at the Detroit RCS stop in April, so this will be his chance to make up for a lost competition opportunity. Reese attends nearly every event under the sun that he can, and typically impresses.

Although Saginaw isn't the hotbed for talent that it once was, the city still produces a couple bigtime prospects every now and then. Arthur Hill High School defensive end Lawrence Gordon will try to show that he's up next. He was banged up during his sophomore season, but has been a consistent presence on the camp circuit this summer. A strong performance will show that he's deserving of his first bigtime offer.

Bigtime wide receivers typically hail from California and Florida, but Michigan's 2016 and 2017 classes have some players with nice potential. Wyandotte Roosevelt's Donnie Corley is expected to transfer to Detroit King for the fall, and he might be the best pro-style receiver in the state. He's a big body with nice athleticism and hands. Across town, Detroit East English's Armani Posey has split his time between quarterback and wide receiver in high school, but will have the chance to show out at his more natural college position. Kalebb Perry out of Mount Pleasant is a downfield speedster. Even the 2017 class will be represented by diminutive (5-8, 145) but explosive Kahlee Hamler out of Orchard Lake St. Mary's.


Among players without U-M offers, there are still some that have connections to the Maize and Blue. Those connections make several of these guys worth watching, to see if U-M offers are coming down the road.

Naples (Fla.) Barron Collier tight end Matt Heuerman is the son of former U-M hooper Paul Heuerman, and the younger brother of tight ends who went on to Ohio State (Jeff, 2011) and Notre Dame (Mike, 2013). He is also a teammate of U-M freshman defensive tackle Brady Pallante.

Several players who have visited Ann Arbor in the past will be in attendance, too. Some of them could be on the verge of offers with strong performances in Jacksonville. 2016 Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary cornerback Tyrece Speaight was a strong performer at U-M camp this summer, and has been to campus multiple times. So too with the Huntersville (N.C.) Christian trio of 2016 running back Robert Washington, 2016 wideout Conner O'Donnell, and 2017 cornerback Aapri Washington, who camped last summer and returned for a visit in the fall.

Several other players who have camped or visited include Toledo (Ohio) St. John's Jesuit offensive lineman Sean Rattay, Lyndhurst (Ohio) Brush wide receiver Jordan Overton, and Olney (Md.) Good Counsel wideout Devin Judd.

Defensive tackle Sulaiman Kamara is a 2016 prospect out of Richmond (Va.) Hermitage. That's an area Michigan has recruited well in recent years, including sophomore running back Derrick Green from the very same school. Philadelphia St. Joseph's Prep running back D'Andre Swift is one of the top players at his position in the 2017 class, and attends the same school as 2015 pledge Jon Runyan Jr.

Other Elites

Even among players who don't have a strong U-M connection - yet - there are plenty to watch. Miami Gulliver Prep 2017 running back Robert Burns participated in the Rivals Five-Star Challenge in Baltimore earlier this summer, and 2016 Gardena (Calif.) Serra receiver Brandon Burton is nearing double-digit BCS offers.

Even a 2018 prospect could steal the show. You wouldn't guess that Tyreke Johnson just finished his eighth grade year based on his 6-1, 178-pound frame - and an offer list that already includes the likes of Florida State, Miami, Ohio State, UCLA, and Vanderbilt. He'll ply his trade at Jacksonville Trinity Christian this fall, and likely be one of the nation's best by the time Signing Day rolls around in nearly four years.

Stay tuned to TheWolverine.com all weekend for updates galore from the Underclassmen Challenge. We'll have interviews with dozens of top U-M targets, photos, and much, much more over the course of the weekend. There is no better time to join TheWolverine.com (see link below to join.

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