Wyoming (Mich.) Godwin Heights never has had a Division 1 football signee before, but that changed last year when defensive end Marshawn Kneeland signed with Western Michigan.
The program is looking to reach another recruiting milestone as they never have had a Power 5 or Big Ten football signee, but junior Ru’Quan Buckley is well on his way to changing that. A 6-foot-6, 260-pound offensive tackle and defensive end, Buckley holds several high-major offers, including Michigan, who offered a scholarship on Saturday when he came to Ann Arbor for the Wolverines’ clash with Michigan State.
“The biggest thing they saw was the growth he made from sophomore year to junior year,” Godwin Heights head coach Brandon Kimble said. “They told us the biggest thing was seeing his size and growth to 260 pounds. From last year to now, he has gained 30 to 35 pounds. He isn’t just physically bigger than everybody, they are also seeing his game evolving. So the growth on the field and seeing his body physically grow were the main things that made them jump in.”
Along with the strength came additional confidence and dominance.
“We were laughing because we said every time somebody got injured in practice, it was because of him.” Kimble said. “In certain sessions, we had to pull him out. We said everybody go 100% except for him because he was that much more physically dominant.”
Kimble took over the program in 2018 when Buckley was going into his sophomore year. His goal was to take the athleticism in the halls which made Godwin Heights a strong basketball school, and develop that in football. At the time, Buckley, a sophomore, looked like a basketball forward.
“When I first took over the job, we started going through some of the offseason drill work to see what we had and he walks in the room and physically, you see he is somebody who has the potential,” Kimble said. “He was 6-foot-5, 225-ish and you say, man, this kid is only a sophomore and he is already this big, and then once you start to spend some time with Ru, you see how much he loves football and his character — we never have any problems with him, and he’s a kid you don’t have to prod and poke to show up — we saw a kid that could play on the next level.”
The next challenge was to continue developing Buckley while getting recruiters to stop by a school that few had heard of. Buckley’s sophomore film helped that. It was good enough that Central Michigan offered a scholarship, his first. Buckley also went out to several events like Grand Valley State’s Best of the Midwest, where Michigan, Ohio State and other programs got a first-hand look at him.
By that time, Nebraska, Kentucky and Iowa State all had offered.
“He just wanted to be good in football for personal reasons,” Kimble said. “He loved the game. He hadn’t thought about it long-term yet. When he got Central Michigan, it was a confidence builder for him. He could say ‘I’m good enough to do this.’ That put a fire underneath him in the classroom and the weight room. He said he wanted to be the best player to come out of Godwin.”
Buckley started to become more accustomed to the offers and schools coming his way. Michigan was different, though. He had grown up watching the Wolverines and said he has family members who are Michigan fans. He also wears a winged helmet on Friday nights as Godwin Heights’ mascot is also a Wolverine.
“When he picked up Michigan, it turned back more into shock,” Kimble explained. “Here in Michigan, no disrespect to any other school, but it is different. He is a Michigan kid. We are the Wolverines and we call ourselves ‘Little Michigan,’ so it was shocking.”
The offer was shocking to Buckley and Kimble and might also be shocking to any outside observer who has not noticed that Godwin Heights is emphasizing football more. Kneeland’s signing a year ago and Buckley’s rise through the recruiting ranks are indicators they are going in the right direction.
“This offer is big-time for us as a staff,” Kimble said. “We always said if we can do it in basketball, we can also do it in football and to have a school like Michigan coming around, it lets people know we are a serious program on the rise. It helps us to get kids to come out and play and in talking to the parents, when they see a kid in our program with not only the ability, but also see people looking at him, that goes a long way.”
Buckley plans to return to Michigan on Nov. 30 for the Wolverines’ game against Ohio State.
Another new in-state offer
Southfield A&T offensive tackle Caleb Banks, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound junior, also was offered by Michigan on Saturday during his visit.
Banks holds offers from Maryland, Iowa State, Kentucky, Rutgers, Louisville, Washington State and more.
He visited with his teammate Rae’Quin Lee, a junior running back who holds a handful of FBS offers.
Pittsburgh commit offered
Frederick (Md.) Tuscarora wide receiver Jordan Addison, who is committed to Pittsburgh, reported an offer from Michigan this week.
The 5-foot-11, 161-pound Addison is rated a four-star prospect by 247Sports and has been committed to the Panthers since June.
Notre Dame, Virginia, South Carolina and others had offered prior to his verbal to the Panthers.
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.