Elkhart (Ind.) Central junior defensive end Rodney McGraw has 13 scholarship offers, including Michigan. The Wolverines, Penn State, Indiana and Purdue have offered in the Big Ten.
The Michigan offer came after McGraw took a visit to campus for the Wolvernies' win over Army.
“We went into Coach (Jim) Harbaugh’s office and he offered me,” McGraw said. “I was excited. It was a great experience. I liked (Harbaugh) a lot, very down to earth and high energy. He seems to really love the University of Michigan.”
McGraw visiting a major college at a game with 107,000 people and receiving a Big Ten scholarship is the fulfillment of talent his high school coaches saw almost from the instant he decided to take up football entering his freshman year.
Prior to that, he had never put on a football helmet. He played freshman football that first year, was pulled up to the varsity his sophomore year, and has taken his development to another level as he has gotten off to a dominant start in his junior season.
“He came to us as an incoming freshman and said he wanted to play,” Central head coach Josh Shattuck said. “As a freshman, he was really raw, but made a couple plays where he would run down the field and lay a kid out and it was freshman football, but we still said, when he learns to play, he will be special. Last year, he got up to about 205 pounds, sprouted up to 6-foot-5 and was an all-area and all-conference player. There was production there, but he wasn’t dominant week in and week out.
"This year, he’s put on weight. He’s 235 pounds and a nightmare in the run game and very difficult — basically impossible — to block at the high school level.”
The progress McGraw has made in a relatively short time has been due to the work he has put in with the staff, namely Shattuck and Cody French.
“He was so raw because he never played,” Shattuck explained, “but you flip that script and he was also a blank canvas with no bad habits. Everything he knows about football, he learned in the last two years, so he didn’t have to un-learn anything. Our defensive line coach (French) is also our defensive coordinator and is also our strength and conditioning guy here, so really the same guy helping him add muscle mass is the same guy in his ear about the defense as a whole and at the positional level, working with technique and position specific stuff. It is a testament to our defensive coordinator in that regard that he is not just a physical specimen for us on Friday nights.”
When McGraw really started to turn the corner before his sophomore season, the Elkhart Central staff felt as though they had a special player. Still, they did not want the bias of knowing McGraw so well to color their assessment. Still, they wondered, if this kid was not an FBS level defensive end recruit, then who was? Their question did not remain unanswered for long.
“We went to Grand Valley State University two years ago for camp and one of their coaches asked about him as an incoming sophomore,” Shattuck recalls. “He said, ‘That kid will play in the Big Ten.’ That was before he had played a down of varsity football. That spring it picked up for him. He got his first offer from Toledo, then Indiana and Purdue, and now it’s obviously picked up.”
The film from McGraw’s four-sack performance in Week 1 did not hurt that cause, neither did a return trip to Grand Valley State for their Best of the Midwest camp in June where Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and others were present.
The recruiting process is still something McGraw is learning about and taking in stride though.
“It’s exciting for him,” Shattuck said. “But he didn’t grow up in the football world. Growing up, I always knew Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, the blue bloods and I’d know Michigan State is up and coming. Rodney doesn’t have that. We joke that he doesn’t know the difference between Alma College and Michigan. He is not a fan of a specific school. He doesn’t have the biases or a dream school, he can truly experience it based on going on visits for himself.”
In that case, Michigan made a good first impression.
“He loved it. It was a great experience at Michigan,” Shattuck said. “He absolutely loved that. At the start of the day, he met Coach Harbaugh about an hour and a half before kickoff and that is when Coach Harbaugh offered officially. He loves (defensive line coach Shaun Nua). That was his second time there. He took him to the big man camp in June.”
Now that he has an offer from Michigan, he plans to return again on Sept. 28 for the Wolverines’ home game against Rutgers. He will aim to take a closer look at aspects he did not get an extended look at during his first visit.
He will also visit Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State this season.
Bye week offers
Michigan’s football staff used the bye week to get on the road and see some recruits play. They also extended new scholarship offers.
One of them was to Miami (Fla.) Northwestern junior linebacker Terrence Lewis, a five-star recruit per the 247Sports composite. A fast, aggressive 6-foot-1, 195-pound prospect, Lewis holds 35 scholarship offers including Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Miami (Fla.) and Oregon.
Philadelphia (Pa.) Northeast junior defensive end Elijah Jeudy also received a Michigan offer. The 6-foot-2, 229-pound Jeudy is known as one of the best pass-rushers in the northeast. He now has 19 offers with Florida, LSU, Nebraska, Michigan State and Penn State among them.
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.