July 16, 2009 at 7:47 am

Sam Webb: Recruiting

U-M will be 'tough to beat' in recruitment of Florida CB Tony Grimes

Tony Grimes has been recruited by Iowa, Maryland, Oklahoma State, Miami, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State. (Scout.com)

Back in late February, recruiting seemed so simple to Hollywood, Fla., cornerback Tony Grimes. The 6-foot, 185-pounder didn't have much of a profile outside of South Florida, nor did he have the offers he desperately coveted from in-state powers Miami, Florida and Florida State. Changing that equation was merely a matter of putting in some work. Every 7-on-7 event would be his proving ground and every opponent would be another stepping stone. Five months and a number of impressive showings later, Grimes has ascended higher than many expected.

"He is considered by some to be (Florida's) most physical corner," said Scout.com Florida analyst Geoff Vogt. "He will beat receivers up mentally and physically, and he does not get beat one-on-one. He has the ability to mirror receivers all over the field and he will come up in the run game and make his presence felt. He doesn't have lights-out speed, but he is physical, and his competitiveness just can't be taught."

In a nutshell, Grimes has the quintessential corner's mentality -- swagger and confidence. Those traits were apparent during his prime-time winter matchups with some of the top wideouts in the country. During a February camp on Miami Beach he squared off against four-star wideout Michalee Harris and more than held his own. In a follow-up camp in Tampa the next month he faced a number of other outstanding receiving talents, including Michigan commitment Ricardo Miller. Once again, Grimes was up to the task.

"Ricardo is a good receiver, I'm a good cornerback, and I came to play," Grimes told Scout.com afterward. "I had my game face on all game, and I was ready."

Georgia also might have chance

In the weeks following those camps, Iowa, Maryland, Oklahoma State, Miami, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, and a host of others began recruiting Grimes.

"As it got further in recruiting, I started thinking it doesn't even matter where I go to play ball," said Grimes, rated Scout.com's No. 5 cornerback. "As long as I go to the school that's right for me, I'm willing to go as far away as possible."

That open-mindedness was all the encouragement Grimes' out-of-state suitors needed to intensify their pursuit. Georgia rose to particular prominence after a memorable visit to Athens in mid May. Recruiting pundits speculated the Bulldogs had suddenly become the team to beat. If that was the case, the SEC power didn't sit alone atop that perch for very long. Keyed by the efforts of assistant Jay Hopson, Michigan also carved out a strong niche in Grimes' recruitment.

"Coach Hopson said I had the ability to come in as a true freshman and go out there and compete for a starting spot," Grimes said. "That's really big to me. That's just a really big offer. For me to already have a good connection with Coach Hopson is a big plus."

As vital as that relationship has been to Grimes' positive view of Michigan, it was his May visit to Ann Arbor and the Big House that allowed the Wolverines to gain the most traction.

"Man, there ain't nothing like the Big House -- let me say that right now," Grimes said. "It was even bigger than I thought it would be."

Grimes will visit Michigan again

The stadium proved to be an impressive backdrop for what Grimes said was an impressive event.

"I spoke with Coach Rodriguez," Grimes said. "I'm familiar with him from when he was at West Virginia. He is a cool guy. As a matter of fact, the whole coaching staff is cool. What separates them from most college coaches is they aren't going to just tell you what you want to hear. They'll be real with you."

"They're low on DBs right now. They've got six on scholarship and that's counting three corners. What they told me was that if there is any time to step in as a true freshman and get some playing time, now is the time."

Grimes also received a seal of approval from an old friend, who also is a Wolverine.

"I was with Vladimir (Emilien)," Grimes said of his time in Ann Arbor. "That's my boy. He told me one difference (at Michigan) is once you get there, you are not just a piece of meat, you are a part of the family. That's something I can believe because he didn't play none of his senior year after he tore his ACL, but they didn't just cut him off. They kept his offer and he committed there. "

Grimes hasn't named a lead school or even narrowed his list, but he did offer a preview of where Michigan stands.

"Michigan is going to be tough to beat," he said. "It's a great program. The networking is on point at Michigan and the alumni system is amazing. The coaching staff is building something great over there."

To date, Grimes has scheduled only one of his five official visits. He plans to return to Ann Arbor for the Sept. 12 matchup against Notre Dame. The remainder of his itinerary is a work in progress.

"I'm going to wait it out all of the way until the end (to pick a school)," Grimes said. "Nobody will know what I'm going to do until the national signing day."

Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine magazine and GoBlueWolverine.com, and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His column appears every Thursday.

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