June 13, 2014 at 2:12 pm

Sam Webb

Michigan a good bet to make four-star running back's final cut

Tailback Jacques Patrick is ranked a four-star prospect and the No. 10 tailback in the country by Scout.com (Amy Campbell / Scout.com)

Michigan added a major piece to its backfield puzzle last week when former Joliet (Ill.) Catholic star Ty Isaac decided to transfer in from USC, but that did not spell the end of 2015 tailback recruiting for the Maize & Blue. That much was made clear when a few of their top remaining targets at the position visited campus after Isaac announced his plans.

One of those visitors was Orlando (Fla.) Timber Creek standout Jacques Patrick.

Ranked a four-star prospect and the No. 10 tailback in the country by Scout.com, Patrick burst onto the crowded Sunshine State scene three years ago as a freshman with 1,200 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. The following season he took his game to another level by piling up an additional 2,031 rushing yards and 30 more touchdowns. Then last year, with every defense he faced geared specifically to stop him, he turned in his best performance yet.

“(Patrick) is running back blessed with tremendous size, but he can be seen on Friday night running away from defenders proving that the speed is there as well,” Scout.com Florida analyst Geoff Vogt said. “Patrick torched central Florida defenses to the tune of 2,153 yards and 30 touchdowns as a junior. One thing Patrick does not get enough credit for is his vision. This is a player that finds daylight and hits a second gear.”

That’s the kind of assessment Patrick appreciates most because it highlights aspects of his skill-set he believes frequently go unnoticed.

“Obviously when you first come to my games you see a big back that can do the short-yardage stuff — run people over,” Patrick said. “There is more to my game than that. I think that is what makes me so valuable to these colleges. I can jump cut, my footwork is good, and I’ve got good speed. I can basically do everything that a small back can do in a 6-2, 230-pound frame. And I can catch the ball too.”

The short list

The 50-plus schools that have extended him scholarship offers clearly agree, even if most of them aren’t still being considered. Earlier this spring Patrick narrowed his list to a top ten consisting of Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Central Florida, Florida State, Miami and Florida. Those last three programs have long been regarded by many pundits as the prohibitive favorites, but he has always insisted his sincere interest would not be bound by proximity. Turns out that he has echoed that sentiment privately as well.

“He is not opposed to (to choosing a program far from home), but the situation is going to have to be right,” said Patrick’s cousin (and Detroit King assistant football coach) Terel Patrick. “The coaching staff and the relationship has to be right. He is definitely not opposed to it. Saying that someone who plays high school football in Florida is going to stay in Florida — it doesn’t take a genius to come out with that statement. There are great programs down there, but at the same time, if there was no genuine interest he wouldn’t continue to try to get up here and check these schools out.”

Wolverines, Jackson beckon

Michigan has hosted Jacques Patrick on two visits thus far, the first which came last summer. The second and more extensive visit took place during an overnight stay Monday and Tuesday of this week. On each occasion the experience earned rave reviews.

“Well his first thing he talked about was Coach (Fred) Jackson,” Terel Patrick said. “That was the first thing he mentioned. Not the Big House, not the tradition, not Bo (Schembechler), not Coach (Brady) Hoke -- the first thing he mentioned was Coach Jackson. He is such a highly recruited kid that he has pretty much heard every sales pitch in the country. It doesn’t take him long to recognize genuine people and he really thinks Coach Jackson is a genuine person. He noted the success that Coach Jackson had with bigger backs in the past. He had the 220-pounders, 225-pounders like (Tim) Biakabutuka, the 230-235 pound guys. (Jacques) wants to go somewhere where it is not frowned upon to be 235 pounds coming downhill.”

Both Jackson and new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier have assured the talented youngster that is the last thing he’d have to worry about in Ann Arbor, and Patrick believes them.

“Coach Jackson is a very impressive guy,” Patrick said. “Coach Jackson came down (to Orlando in mid-May). He told me that it was his first time in Florida in a long time. That meant a lot because he came down to see me. He doesn’t usually come down recruiting Florida. That was obviously big for him to come do that.”

“Coach Jackson told me I remind him of Biakabutuka,”

“Coach Nuss was at ‘bama, and ‘bama has been recruiting me since I was a freshman. So I know Coach Nuss. Alabama had that massive offensive line, and Michigan is going to have those guys, too. The running backs that he had there were all great and probably went in the first or second rounds.”

Lately Jackson and Nussmeier have been receiving the equivalent of recruiting assists from many current and future Wolverines. During Patrick’s time in Ann Arbor this week he forged bonds with quarterbacks Wilton Speight and Devin Gardner. He also heard words of encouragement from commitments Darrin Kirkland, Garret Taylor, Alex Malzone and incoming freshman Jabrill Peppers. All of those interactions helped cultivate the feeling of home he seeks on the college level. It’s a feeling that grew even stronger when he reached out to a Michigan legend.

“I saw Desmond Howard’s No. 21 in the locker room,” said Patrick. “I looked at the guy showing me around and was like, ‘I should go ahead and take a picture and tweet it at Desmond and see if he would tweet me back.’ And he did!”

All told, the Wolverines are in a very good place.

“(The visit) definitely improved their chances,” he said.

Word on just how much will come early next month when Patrick announces his five finalists at Nike’s The Opening in Beaverton, Ore. (July 7-10). His rapport with Michigan’s coaches, his cousin’s presence in Detroit, his brother Javonte Seabury’s presence at Western Michigan (where he will be a freshman wideout), and his best friend Stuckey Mosley’s presence at Toledo (where he will be a freshman shooting guard) combine to make the Wolverines a good bet to make the cut. Any talk of Isaac’s addition mitigating those advantages is misplaced.

“I’m not afraid competition,” Patrick said confidently. “I just don’t see him affecting my opinion of Michigan.”

Once his list is pared down, Patrick plans to take all five of his official visits before announcing his choice Oct. 27.

“That’s my little brother’s birthday,” Patrick said. “That’s when I plan to do it.

“(The decision will come down to) the coaching staff — the people you are going to be around every day — the strength coaches. Those are the people you are going to spend most of the time with and have that vibe. It is just human nature. If you don’t like the place you’re at, you’ll get that feeling. So those are going to be key factors.”

Besting the Florida schools for his pledge will undoubtedly be a difficult task, but it no longer appears to be an impossible one.

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 weekly at detroitnews.com. For more on U-M recruiting, visit michigan.scout.com.