Mike Weber: '(Michigan made the cut) because of (Doug) Nussmeier. He has been to Alabama and he has coached a lot of great backs.' (Photo by Josh Newkirk / Scout.com)
During last football season, Detroit Cass Tech running back Mike Weber contemplated bringing his recruitment to an end before the New Year. That time frame has since come and gone, and now the four-star standout plans to wait well into his senior year to reach a decision.
“Really, the only thing that is holding me back from my commitment is how I picture myself doing it,” said Weber. “I’ve always wanted to do it on TV with my family – to pick my hat.”
Turns out that he’ll have that opportunity.
Ranked the country’s No. 15 running back and the No. 101 prospect overall by Scout.com, Weber will be among the participants in 2015 Army All American game in San Antonio, Texas, next January. The honor is the culmination of an impressive two-year run during which he amassed more than 3,000 yards and over 40 touchdowns.
The national showcase will provide him the announcement platform he has long dreamed of, but it also elongates his timetable. That creates an opportunity for many suitors to gain traction in a recruitment that had on the surface appeared to be leaning toward Michigan State. For his part, Weber has consistently shied away publicly anointing a leader. However, he has been forthright about his strong interest in a top five that currently consists of Tennessee, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.
Tennessee sticks out among that quintet not only as the only non-Big Ten school, but also as one of the two spread teams in the group.
“They run the ball,” Weber said regarding the Volunteers. “It is the SEC. It is a different type of football. They are in a rebuilding process. It is away from home and I believe they will give me a good opportunity and it is a good environment.”
Ohio State is the other program on the list that plays a different type of football, but Weber finds them nonetheless intriguing. The presence of Cass Tech teammate Damon Webb in Columbus and the tireless recruiting efforts of Buckeye assistant Kerry Coombs have both commanded his attention, but so too has the lack of numbers at the running back position.
“It’s a national team and not too far away from home,” he said. They run the ball good. They’ve got the spread offense, which is, you know -- but I can live with it. They don’t really have many backs there the last time I looked at the depth chart. That’s something I look at too -- the depth chart.
'I prefer pro-style'
Both Ohio State and Tennessee have been effective in painting for Weber a picture of how he could achieve extreme success in their respective offenses. Even so, it’s clear that scheme could still wind up being one of the characteristics that swings the recruiting pendulum in the direction of his other three suitors.
“Really I prefer pro-style because that is a lot of teams in the NFL,” Weber explained. “I think it will get me ready for the NFL, so I prefer pro style.”
That is music to the ears of the coaches at Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Weber hasn’t even seen the Badger program in person yet, but its reputation for fielding a dominant pro-style attack has been enough to keep them near the front of the race.
“I will visit there actually (this weekend),” he said. “Really with Wisconsin, it is ‘Running Back University.’ They put a lot of backs in the league and they feed you the ball. That’s why I look at it a lot.”
For Michigan and Michigan State, visits from Weber are common. As a result, his familiarity with both programs far surpasses that which he has with the other programs in contention. The Spartans boast the added advantage of his close connection with their Director of College Advancement and Performance, Curtis Blackwell.
“Really, Blackwell has been in my corner since I don’t know when,” Weber said of the former Sound Mind Sound Body camp director. “He used to come get me and we would go to a football trainer and I was 6 or 7 years old. That’s real big to have somebody like that, that has been with me that long, to be on the college level and looking out for me and making sure that I’m straight and making the right decisions and (who is) standing on my head. So it is real cool to have a guy like that at college. So that would be one of the factors if I was to choose Michigan State.
“They run the ball, they’re winning a lot now, they’re getting a lot of good linemen there, and it is home.”
The Nussmeier factor
Michigan is home too, but its running game is a work in progress. The man in charge of reviving that ground attack is also the man that has made it a point to convince Weber of the vital role he could play in help make it happen.
“(Michigan made the cut) because of (Doug) Nussmeier,” Weber said, referring to Michigan’s new offensive coordinator. “He is a good guy. He has been to Alabama and he has coached a lot of great backs. He’s bringing in a new offense and rebuilding a lot of stuff on offense, and that made (me) have a lot of interest back in Michigan. All they have to do is just keep doing what they’re doing, and maybe good things will happen.
“He showed me a video of Alabama running backs and how they run the ball, my highlights and how I run the ball, and they really were similar. That really opened my eyes to how they are looking to running the ball and how they are going to do it. I fit in there real good. That was real sweet.”
Nussmeier managed to speed up the bond-building process with Weber thanks to numerous visits over the last few months, the most recent of which was last Saturday. Not to be outdone, Michigan State hosted him in East Lansing Thursday. Those frequent trips to the campuses of his in-state suitors might make it seem like he’s a lock to attend to attend one of them, but Weber warns against jumping to such conclusions.
“I don’t really know what I’m going to do right now,” he said. “Anything could happen. Alabama could roll in, LSU could roll in -- Florida, Florida State -- they could all roll in and a lot of things could change. That is a big period of time from now until (the Army All American game), so I can’t really tell what is going to happen. I’m open right now.”
What he can tell at the moment is what it’s going to take for one school to prove it is the best fit.
“Really just the environment, opportunities, not really the depth chart, but I look at that too,” he said. “(Also) the academic side and do I want to go there. Do I see myself there without football? When football season is over with do I see myself there? I’ll just sit down with my parents and look it over.”
For now the majority of his focus is on taking his game to the next level. Already renowned for the burst and power he runs with at 5-10, 205 pounds, he plans to be even more explosive next year.
Said Weber, “The last time I ran a 40 (it was in) 4.52 I believe. I am going to run track again. The 100 and 200. Hopefully I’ll get down to a 4.4 by the time the season starts.”
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.