Trieu: Michigan builds on close relationship with Antjuan Simmons

Allen Trieu
Special to The Detroit News
Antjuan Simmons

Last March, Ann Arbor Pioneer's Antjuan Simmons received an offer from Miami (Ohio), his first of the recruiting process. When he started his junior season, he had eight. Then, in October, Notre Dame offered. The Fighting Irish were the second Power Five school to offer after Illinois.

That offer began a month long span where Simmons, in the midst of an outstanding season at both linebacker and running back, received new offers each week and from many of the nation's top programs -- Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State, LSU and more. During that time, Michigan fans consistently wondered when the Wolverines would follow suit on the local star.

What many did not know is that the Wolverines had a long-standing relationship with Simmons. The same weekend he accepted the job at Michigan, Wolverines running back coach Tyrone Wheatley toured Simmons and teammate Derrick Hubbard through the school. That was just one of the connections that laid the foundation for a Wolverine offer that eventually came earlier in the month.

Two of Wheatley's sons, Terius and Tyrique, enrolled at Pioneer, allowing him to get first-hand looks at Simmons as well.

"It was unique having both of Coach Wheatley's kids in the program," Pioneer head coach Jari Brown said, "so unlike a lot of schools, he was able to see Antjuan in person and they did their homework and took their time before they offered. But they had known about him and were on him and were recruiting him for a long time."

Despite being an Ann Arbor native, Simmons says he did not grow up a Michigan fan. However, he made it clear he was honored by the offer and that UM would be one of the many schools he took a closer look at this offseason. The location of the school will obviously help him make that happen.

"The morning that it happened, Coach Wheatley had texted me and told me the offer was coming," Brown said, "so it was cool for Antjuan to be able to basically drive across the street and sit down with them and talk about it."

Simmons visited earlier this season and noted the improvement the 2015 Wolverines have shown under coach Jim Harbaugh.

"It's definitely the start of something special," Simmons said. "The players bought into Harbaugh's coaching and it's showing on the field. They will definitely be one of the best teams in college football in a year or so from now, but even now they're still really good."

Then there is the question of what Simmons will play in college. He had a big year on both sides of the ball. Some schools are recruiting him as an athlete, Brown says, some like him as an outside linebacker and others as a running back. He did a little bit of everything this season for Pioneer and his success at being a jack of all trades who rarely left the field was not an accident.

"He really dedicated himself this offseason to getting in shape," Brown said. "He did some training with Daryl Graham and really worked very hard at making sure he would be ready because he knew he would be carrying the load on offense and also playing on defense for us. He dropped some weight and got in great shape and that was through a lot of hard work in the offseason."

Now into the offseason, Simmons plans to continue getting bigger, stronger and faster, and it is likely that this run of offers will not end anytime soon either.

Gary to take return visit?

According to The Michigan Insider's Sam Webb, the nation's top prospect, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic defensive tackle Rashan Gary is "tentatively scheduled to come back to Ann Arbor in January for another visit." Webb also noted that Gary is likely to take visits to Auburn and Ole Miss, as well.

Wolverines offer USC commit

Michigan offered Saraland (Ala.) wide receiver Velus Jones last week. The 6-foot-0, 180-pound Jones is committed to Southern Cal, but has said recently that he will visit Mississippi State and Florida. He is ranked as the nation's No. 74 wide receiver by Scout.

More information

Antjuan Simmons profile

Rashan Gary profile

Velus Jones profile

Allen Trieu began covering the state of Michigan for in 2005 and began managing the entire Midwest in 2009. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at