March 7, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Sam Webb

Big-armed 4-star Brandon Wimbush among Michigan's 2015 QB targets

Brandon Wimbush on Michigan: 'I think they will come up in the springtime and watch me throw live. Depending on how I do, I guess they might extend an offer.' (Photo courtesy of Scout.com)

Michigan’s 2015 recruiting board finally has some definition thanks to the numerous offers that have gone out in recent weeks. The position for which recruiting has remained somewhat nebulous, though, is quarterback. But that too may soon change.

Shortly after arriving in Ann Arbor to take over the offensive coordinator and quarterback coaching duties, Doug Nussmeier courted four signal callers: Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure five-star Ricky Town (Scout.com’s No. 1 QB), Bellflower (Calif.) Don Bosco five-star Josh Rosen (Scout.com’s No. 2 QB), Stephenville (Texas) four-star Jarret Stidham (Scout.com’s No. 4 QB), and Corona (Calif.) Santiago four-star Blake Barnett (Scout.com’s No. 6 QB). Unfortunately for Michigan those efforts aren’t likely bear any fruit.

Despite a strong prior connection with Nussmeier, Town flipped his commitment from Alabama to USC in late January. Meanwhile, many expect Rosen to commit to UCLA later this month, Barnett is a solid commitment to Notre Dame, and there hasn’t been enough reciprocity on Stidham’s part to suggest the Wolverines’ will be major players in his recruitment. That has caused the Wolverines to work diligently to deepen their pool of targets.

One that appears to be becoming an increasingly viable option is Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peters standout Brandon Wimbush. Ranked a four-star prospect and the No. 14 quarterback in the country by Scout.com, the 6-2, 205-pound signal caller currently holds offers from Ohio State, Penn State, Miami, Virginia Tech, Michigan State, and a host of others.

“Wimbush has a big-time arm and showed it his junior season, which was his first as a starter,” Scout.com East Regional Manager Brian Dohn said. “He has huge hands, spins the ball well, can throw the 15-yard out on a line, and throws a nice deep ball. He is also a threat running and can make defenders miss. He needs to improve his intermediate throws and his accuracy, but could become a program-building quarterback.”

Wimbush’s skill-set would fit well in a spread-option attack, which in part explains why many pundits believed him at one point to be leaning heavily to Ohio State over Penn State, Miami and Vanderbilt. However, as time has gone on, the Buckeyes’ once-perceived advantage has appears to have lessened somewhat.

“I was planning on making a decision early last month, but I recently pushed that back to later this month,” said Wimbush. “I think after the live period and other schools came in to play, I am going to continue to push it back (even more) to give myself more time and make a better decision for myself.”

Waller also a four-star

James Franklin’s move from Vanderbilt to Penn State has helped the Nittany Lions emerge as a bigger factor. Michigan, despite the lack of an offer, is also among the programs that have risen to the fore.

“Coach (Roy) Manning has come up plenty of times for Jabrill Peppers,” Wimbush said. “They’ve talked to me and they said they liked (my) film. They got a new OC, so they introduced me to their new OC, which happened to be Coach Nussmeier. He has had plenty of experience and he ended up liking my film. I think they will come up in the springtime and watch me throw live. Depending on how I do, I guess they might extend an offer.”

A similar circumstance exists for Anaheim (Calif.) Servite quarterback Travis Waller. Also ranked a four-star prospect, the 6-4 190-pounder threw for 1,700 yards and rushed for 1,200 in his first year as the full-time starter.

“Waller can beat you with his arm or his legs and is just scratching the surface of how good he’ll be down the road,” Scout.com West Coast recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said. “He has a lot of physical tools, including a live, accurate arm, accuracy on the deep ball, and the mobility to extend plays or run for first-down yardage. He’s also very calm in the pocket, never looks rattled and shows great poise for a young quarterback. He has good size and will have no problem filling out down the road.”

That potential has garnered attention from programs across the country. Thus far Arizona, Washington, Colorado and BYU are the only ones that have stepped forward with offers, but that list will surely add more members in the coming months. Michigan just might be among them.

“(Michigan) came out about a month ago and then I talked to Coach Nuss on Twitter,” Waller said. “I gave him a call and we talked about how definitely I can fit into their program and make things happen – (how) I can help make them become a winning football team. (We talked about) how I bring my athleticism to the table, extend plays, and do the spread offense. He also told me, ‘We’re not just spread. We also do under center, single back -- that type of stuff.’ I was actually excited to hear that. I actually do like to drop back. Being in shotgun is fun, but I also like to go under center. So that’s what I like to hear. Coach Nuss said we’re going to get this thing started.

“A lot of schools don’t offer quarterbacks until they’ve seen them throw. He wanted to offer me, but until he sees me throw he is going to hold that offer. Hopefully when he sees me throw I’ll get an offer and I’ll be good. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Birmingham Brother Rice quarterback Alex Malzone has the same hope. Though technically not a dual-threat triggerman like the aforementioned two, he isn’t a stick in the mud either. After having a direct hand in two of Brother Rice’s three consecutive state titles, Malzone believes what he is as a player can be summed up in one word: winner.

“I’m definitely a pass-first type of quarterback,” Malzone said. “A lot of guys like to say I’m a pocket passer, but my highlights this year or even if you watch me in a game -- I think I proved that if I need to pick up some yards on the ground, I can do that. That’s what a lot of coaches said that they see in my film and it’s something that they like. Obviously we had a great year this going 14-0. We had a lot of close game victories and beat a lot of great teams.

“My biggest games were the first game versus powerhouse Cleveland St. Ignatius and then the state championship game versus Muskegon. I’m a big-game type of guy. I like playing in those big games and stepping up for my team. I’ve always been a leader since I was younger. I’m not a big shouting or rah-rah guy. I kind of lead by example. Other guys see that and respect that. That’s just how I’ve been. I work hard and I’m going to produce.”

The 6-2 190-pounder is starting to gain more believers. Wake Forest jumped in with his first major conference offer a few weeks back, while others including Michigan are displaying greater interest. As a matter of fact, the Wolverines hosted the four-star talent on a visit last Saturday.

“When I got there Coach Heck told me that Coach Nuss was down in Florida because they have spring break this week. He is down there with his family,” Malzone said. “(Jeff Hecklinski) had me call Coach Nuss on his cell phone when I got there. Coach Nuss just said that they’re interested in me and they want me to come back up for a spring practice real soon. When the dead period is over April 15th they’re going to come see me throw. He said just to stay in contact on Twitter and to call him every week or few weeks.”

Both Malzone and Waller plan to take Michigan up on its spring practice invites, while Wimbush plans to wait to see if an offer is extended before he schedules his first trip to the Great Lakes State.

Sills holds offer

Beyond those three, the target receiving the most Maize and Blue interest is the only one on the Wolverines’ still-evolving quarterback board with an offer -- Elkton (Md.) Christian Academy standout David Sills. The former teammate of current Michigan freshmen Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson is slated to visit Ann Arbor next Thursday.

Also dual-threat signal caller, Sills first achieved national recognition when he committed to USC in February 2010 as a seventh grader. That pledge remains intact, but the coaching change in the Land of Troy has caused the three-star prospect to at least consider other options. Michigan became one of the possibilities when Brady Hoke extended him a scholarship offer last December.

“I would say (the Sills’) are honored to have gotten that offer,” said famed quarterback instructor and Sills’ private coach, Steve Clarkson. “Brady Hoke and his staff have made it known that David is somebody that is not a gimmick for them -- that they really think he can help their program.”

While that offer still stands, Nussmeier’s assessment will determine where Sills fits on the target hierarchy moving forward. According to Clarkson it will be awfully hard for anyone that watches his 6-4, 200-pound protégé in action to not be impressed with the youngster’s playmaking ability.

“There is a film on him (where) you see him jumping into three tractor tires, which I think is the equivalent of six feet,” Clarkson stated. “Standing still he jumps in the middle of them. You are talking about a superior athlete with a vertical leap of some 35 inches, a standing broad jump of almost 12 feet, and you are talking about a guy who runs the 40-yard dash electronically at a 4.63. Hand timed that is going to be low 4.5 / high 4.4. That is incredible for a kid that is still a junior this year and will be a senior next year. You are talking about a guy with so much upside.

“You have to remember, he plays under a bubble. People heard about him forever and expectations for him have been very, very high. It is always tough to please everybody, but he has managed to do that. The schools that they’ve played (at Eastern Christian Academy) have been some of the best schools in the country and they are a fairly young school. When you look at what he brings to the table, he obviously has that ‘it’ factor. His ability to lead and his understanding of the game are really quite superior.

“I will tell you, if you like Johnny Manziel, he is a taller version of that without the off-the-field stuff.”

Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His Michigan recruiting column appears every week at detroitnews.com. For more on U-M recruiting, visit michigan.scout.com.