West Branch (Mich.) Ogemaw Heights standout Anthony Zettel (6-4, 255, 4.95) is ranked as the No. 7 guard prospect in the country by Scout.com. (Allen Trieu)
In part one of this two-part "Ask the Expert" column with Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu, South regional manager Chad Simmons, and Florida analyst Geoff Vogt, the trio shares the latest recruiting buzz on a few of the most highly regarded players still on the board for Michigan and Michigan State.
Sam Webb: Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips RB Dee Hart (5-foot-9, 189 pounds, 4.5 40 speed) has one more visit left this weekend to Alabama and is slated to announce his decision next week. Based on what you guys have been hearing, where do you think he will end up?
Chad Simmons: "I like Michigan's chances here. I've talked to Dee a number of times and at one time last week he told me that he was going to commit this week. He moved it back and decided to go ahead and follow through with the Alabama official visit. The thing is that Bama is probably going to put him on defense if he goes there. He doesn't want to play defense and it is that simple. Michigan wants him on offense. Of course, Auburn is involved. He went to Arkansas, but Arkansas is not a player in this recruitment even though his teammate LaQuentin Smith is pretty much going to commit there sometime in the coming days. Again, I like Michigan's chances here. I think he fits in perfectly with what they are doing under Rich Rodriguez. He can give very solid play at running back, he can bounce out into the slot, and he can be a return guy for them. I've gone on record a couple of times in the past two weeks in different publications saying Michigan for Dee Hart. I would be a little surprised if he does not pick Michigan when he does decide to commit."
Geoff Vogt: "I definitely see Dee Hart going to Michigan. I think it is where he has always been most comfortable. He has made a number of unofficial visits to Michigan, he has friends that are on the team, he has other friends that are being recruited by Michigan, and I think his skill set fits best at Michigan. His major asset is definitely his versatility. He is a running back that can definitely catch the ball out of the backfield. Even though he is not the tallest guy, he's a great blocker and he is a terrific runner both inside and outside. It is just a perfect skill set for a spread type offense."
Webb: Allen, what are your thoughts on where West Branch (Mich.) Ogemaw Heights standout Anthony Zettel (6-4, 255, 4.95) ranks as a prospect, and how you think his recruitment is shaping up?
Allen Trieu: "We have him ranked as the No. 7 guard prospect in the country. I know he can play a couple of different positions, but we have him projected as a guard. On film and in person he's shown that he's one of the best in the country. He is in the top 150 overall prospects as well. What makes him special is his athleticism. He's fluid, explosive, and he plays with tenacity. All of those things make him an ideal guard for any system, but especially a spread that can use a guard that can move like he can. As far as his recruitment, I think he has been very smart about it and has taken his time. He doesn't want to rush into any decisions, but I have a hard time seeing him leave the state. I think Michigan and Michigan State are the frontrunners there, and I also think Iowa would be another school that would be in the mix. Still, I think it will come down to the in-state schools. Michigan was his first love and it's always tough to forget your first love. Michigan right now is the leader with a couple of schools following behind."
Webb: The biggest uncommitted name in the state of Michigan is Saginaw high wideout DeAnthony Arnett (6-0, 170, 4.5). Are the Spartans still in the driver's seat for DeAnthony?
Trieu: "I believe so and I don't think that is going to change too much. He was there for the Notre Dame victory, so he picked the right game to go to. He had an outstanding time. I think they've been in control for a while and what they've been able to do this year in front of him has done nothing to change that. I would be very surprised at this point if he doesn't go to Michigan State."
Webb: What do you make of the absolute tear that that Flint Northern tailback Thomas Rawls (5-10, 210, 4.5) is on? He rushed for 344 a couple of weeks ago against Saginaw Heritage and 396 yards last week against Bay City Central. He has almost 1,200 yards for the season.
Trieu: "It is incredible considering he plays in a pretty good league. When you play Flint Northern, you know that is the key to the game is stopping Thomas Rawls. Everybody is gearing up to stop him -- teams are going to load the box. For him to put up not just good numbers, but video game numbers -- I think he has been great. I think he has proven to himself as one of the state's best. We saw this summer that this guy is a major Division 1 prospect. Several factors have led to him not getting the attention that the other guys in the state have gotten up to this point. It is good to see him start to get some recognition. I still think he is underappreciated as a three-star and the No. 76 running back in the country, but I think if he keeps it up, by the end of the year everyone will know who is Thomas Rawls is."
Webb: How do you think Rawls' recruitment is shaping up?
Trieu: "I think he is in wait and see mode. It has been that way since the summer. He said, 'I know I've got some things to take care of academically.' He's got the two offers from Cincinnati and Central Michigan, but a bunch of schools have told him that once he gets his academics taken care of he will get offered. That will change the face of his recruitment so much that it is really hard for him to come to any decision right now. He does not know what is going to happen down the road. I do know that Michigan is very interested. The head coach at Northern is the son of Michigan running backs coach Fred Jackson. I think Michigan State has also shown some interest. They are going to pick it up with him. The Spartans have two running backs committed right now, so they are looking like much less of an option than they once did. On the other hand I think Iowa and Wisconsin are going to become real options as he gets his grades in."
Webb: South Ft. Myers (Fla.) High is home to two prospects that the Wolverines are courting heavily. Sammy Watkins (6-1, 180, 4.4) is a five-star receiver being courted by everyone, and Dallas Crawford (5-9, 180, 4.5) is a three corner/athlete with a long list of offers in his own right. I know they are not necessarily a package deal, but might these kids wind up at the same school?
Simmons: "There is no doubt that somebody that gets Dallas definitely has the edge with Sammy if is the right school. I could see like an LSU, like a Michigan, a Miami (landing them). (The Hurricanes) are recruiting him and they are kind of stringing him along, but I feel like Miami could be that team if they choose to go hard after Dallas. If they go hard they could very well get Dallas and that may lock up Sammy at the same time. I think if Sammy goes on his own, then I think Clemson is the team to beat right now. But Dallas plays a big part. He and Sammy are probably going to visit LSU together. Michigan is definitely involved as well. Dallas likes Iowa, but I don't think Sammy goes to Iowa. I think there are a few schools that if they treat Dallas right and they recruit him the right way, that gives them a definite leg up with Sammie Watkins."
Vogt: "I definitely think that with Dallas Crawford, Michigan would be in the top three and perhaps even leading at this point before the official visits actually take place. I think there is a pretty good chance that Dallas Crawford ends up wearing Maize & Blue. Sammy Watkins is different. Clemson is seemingly the clear leader right now and everybody else is playing catch up. Michigan is certainly one of the top three teams in that game though (with Clemson and Miami)."
Webb: Allen, Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary's corner Doran Grant (5-10, 177, 4.37) has strong family ties to Michigan State. His dad, Ted Jones, was a standout receiver for the Spartans in the late 70's/early 80's. Has he helped give the Green & White an edge?
Trieu: "It is going to be really interesting. I think it is down to Michigan State and Ohio State and I think those are the two schools that it has been all along. I think Ohio State has been the leader the whole time, but at this point I think Michigan State has been catching up. He is another kid that was at that MSU/Notre Dame game and you really cannot downplay the significance a win in a game like that can have for recruiting."
Check back next week for the analysts' take on the "Denard Robinson effect" on recruiting and much much more.