Trieu: Michigan makes strong early impression on super soph J.C. Latham
The merits of what a prospective recruit chooses to wear during games or to schools in terms of analyzing where they will commit to is often debated upon among college football fans.
Malik McDowell wore Michigan shorts to a camp only to end up at Michigan State, but Kareem Walker sported a Michigan towel in a game prior to his commitment to the Wolverines.
So Wolverine faithful should take it with a grain of salt that J.C. Latham, a sophomore from Waukesha (Wis.) Catholic Memorial already pegged as an elite recruit in that class, sported a Michigan arm sleeve and gloves during his team’s game last Friday.
But regardless of his choice of accessories, Michigan will have a chance with Latham. The Wolverines last went into Wisconsin and won a recruiting battle with then-four-star offensive lineman Ben Bredeson, now a starter in Ann Arbor.
Latham has an offer from Michigan. Defensive line coach Greg Mattison, a Wisconsin native who serves as area recruiter, already made his way to Catholic Memorial during one of the evaluation periods and, subsequently, the Wolverines offered. Then Latham came to Ann Arbor for camp, where his father says Mattison provided them with drills to work on back in Wisconsin.
That early contact has put Michigan as one of the early schools to watch here, but this recruitment is sure to go national. Latham is a no-brainer, 6-foot-6, and after playing as a freshman at 235 pounds, is now 280 pounds and moving better than ever.
"I actually feel faster than last year," Latham admitted. "I also feel stronger. I was lifting all through the offseason. I felt working with our team, everything felt better. I could move quicker, was stronger and I felt like it would be a really good year for us this year."
Notre Dame noticed that improvement and offered a scholarship when Latham visited for a game. That was the most recent offer, but Latham has been receiving scholarships since his freshman year. Iowa offered toward the end of last fall, and Iowa State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and others have since joined.
Latham last visited Michigan for the BBQ at the Big House and might return for the Wolverines’ home game Nov. 3 against Penn State.
"My coaches are telling me to enjoy the process," Latham said. "(Michigan has) an outstanding campus, football program is extremely good, the coaches have really good connections."
Last Saturday, Latham visited Iowa, which was the first school to offer him. He might visit Wisconsin again, and potentially Michigan State as well.
With more than two years left of recruiting, there is no need for him to rush, and between the coaches at Catholic Memorial, who have had many college recruits come through their program, and his father Jerome, who has accompanied him on each of his college visits, Latham will have plenty of help in recruiting.
"At the end of the day, I just want him to be happy," his father said. "I told him a while ago, back in seventh grade, I got it from Cris Carter because his older brother said to him, pick five schools you want to go to and maybe two or three of those schools, or maybe all five, they might change, but take all five and hang them in your room and that will be your goal.
"Now to see it, I just want him to make sure that he's happy and he has a chance to be successful. That's all I want for my boys. I'll support him no matter what decision he makes. Now, if he wants to pick a school that's a little shaky and I know some history it, I'll say let's sit down and talk about this."
"I think it will be a tough decision," the younger Latham said, "but we have a lot of really good seniors this year and some last year like Luke Hubley and C.J. (Goetz) that all help me out a lot. They help me out with which schools to talk to and which schools to pick.
"C.J. is at Wisconsin obviously, but I know they want what's best for me because they are good dudes and good role models. I get my teammates' input and my family's input so maybe it won't be as hard as you might think with the support of my teammates and family."
Latham is already ranked by 247Sports as the No. 8 prospect in the country in his class.
Allen Trieu covers Midwest football recruiting for 247Sports. 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 detroitnews.com.