Athletic, great ball skills, but skinny.
That was the scouting report on Matthew Hibner early in his football career at Lake Braddock (Va.) High. Hibner committed to Michigan on Sunday following a whirlwind winter and spring where he transformed himself into a high-major football recruit.
As a sophomore, Hibner split time between the Lake Braddock junior varsity and varsity. He was described then as a “basketball player wearing football equipment” by head coach Mike Dougherty. As a junior, he made even more of an impact on varsity but was still 185 pounds. That was when tough decisions had to be made.
“I met with his family right as the season ended, right around Thanksgiving, or maybe a little earlier because it was before basketball season,” Dougherty said. “He is a really good basketball player. He said his goal was to get a scholarship offer in football and he weighed about 190 pounds.
"I said, ‘I’ll tell you something that contradicts my philosophy, because I want kids playing as many sports a possible, but they only way coaches are going to give you scholarship money is if we get you up around 215-220 pounds.’ His parents looked at me like, ‘How are we doing to that?’ I said, ‘Well, you’re not going to be able to play basketball.’”
Dougherty is leery of sending his kids to trainers outside the high school, but he had the man for the job to turn Hibner into a college prospect. That was Leonard Stephens, a former NFL tight end who does sports specific training at Perfect Performance.
“I know Leonard, I trust him to work with me on this and not fill Matt’s head with a bunch of stuff,” Dougherty said. “So the combination of quitting basketball, eating 7,000 calories a day, religiously working out — he was working out with our team and then with Leonard a weekly basis — we could see the change happen right in front of our eyes. He doesn’t have an ounce of fat on him. His weight room numbers went through the roof. We fed the machine at the perfect time.”
Once Hibner had the weight on him, Dougherty began reaching out. The local schools were first on the list. With his 4.3 GPA (Dougherty says Hibner has never gotten a B in his life) and 1400 on the SAT, Ivy League and other prestigious academic programs were also interested. Once spring came and colleges could go on the road and see Hibner run around and catch passes in person, his recruitment opened up even more. An actual Eagle Scout, the character boxes were also checked in addition to his athleticism and high academic profile.
Virginia Tech, Arizona State, Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt and others would offer.
Then, just as spring evaluation was about to end, a call came from Ann Arbor.
“(Assistant) Coach (Chris) Partridge cold-called our school,” Dougherty said. “It was towards the end of the open period and about 68 schools came through from April until the end of May and there were about four days left in the period and it was the week before Memorial Day.
"I didn’t learn of any of this until I talked to the (graduate assistants) on the visit, but one of the GAs is from Northern Virginia and Coach Partridge got assigned to the area and asked him which schools to hit because he didn’t know anything about Virginia. He said you better check out Lake Braddock and he named some other schools. So he comes in and I say, ‘Are you here to see Matt?’ And Coach says, ‘To be honest, I’m going to schools on the list, but I don’t know any of your guys.’”
Partridge watched the film with Dougherty. He liked what he saw, but the kid on the tape was skinny. When he saw the Hibner that walked through the door with 25 pounds more muscle on him, that changed the evaluation. Not long after that, the next step was taken, which was tight ends coach Sherrone Moore coming to see Hibner work out at the school. That session produced an offer.
With that, Hibner set up a visit with Michigan.
“I couldn’t have been more impressed with Michigan’s process,” Dougherty said. “I had two national kids before and I’ve been on a bunch of campuses, big-time campuses, and the day they planned for him and how they went about it, it was the best I’ve seen in 20 some years. The academic support they provide for athletes, which is a big deal for Matt and his family, it’s ridiculous the amount of support they have.
“We go in and meet with Coach (Jim) Harbaugh and about 30-45 minutes in, Matt literally jumps out of his chair and committed. He and his dad sort of whispered it between themselves earlier, so I wasn’t surprised, but you could not find a better fit than he found that day.”
Michigan has 10 commitments in its 2020 recruiting class.
In-state WR offered after camp
East Lansing class of 2021 wide receiver Andrel Anthony was offered by Michigan after camping with the staff on Sunday.
The 6-foot-2, 165-pound Anthony was also offered by Indiana after a recent camp session with them. Iowa State, Central Michigan and more had previously offered.
Anthony was first team All-Area and All-Conference as a sophomore.
UM offers young QB at camp
Another camp offer went out to Aurora (Colo.) Regis Jesuit quarterback Nicco Marchiol. Marchiol said current Wolverine quarterback Shea Patterson is a family friend of his.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Marchiol went to Jim Harbaugh’s office after camp where he was told of the offer.
Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Colorado State and Florida Atlantic have also offered.
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.