Trieu: For Michigan football, 'smaller' recruiting weekend appears to make big impact

By Allen Trieu
Special to The Detroit News

Even though National Signing Day is next Wednesday for the 2020 class, Michigan’s football staff, like many around the country, has used this January’s evaluation period to get ahead on the classes of 2021, 2022 and even 2023 in some cases.

The Wolverines had a home basketball against Illinois on Saturday and built a day around that for football recruits to visit campus. They toured campus, did a photo shoot, went to the game, spent time with the coaches, and had dinner.

Football recruiting targets Giovanni El-Hadi, Rocco Spindler, Garrett Dellinger, Donovan Edwards, and J.J. McCarthy attend Michigan's basketball game Saturday against Illinois.

Michigan’s two verbal commitments in the 2021 class, quarterback J.J. McCarthy and Sterling Heights Stevenson offensive lineman Giovanni El-Hadi came to help host.

McCarthy’s presence has certainly impacted the recruitment of Clarkston blue-chipper Rocco Spindler, a highly ranked offensive lineman the Wolverines are battling Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State and others for.

“J.J. McCarthy is who I think is the top guy in the 2021 class,” Spindler told The Michigan Insider’s Brice Marich. “He’s always respectful. He’s really humble. You never see him as the superstar quarterback, but I can really tell he truly cares for his offensive linemen and that’s a big piece in recruiting for me. I’m all into that brotherhood aspect. He really impacted my recruiting trip up there. He’s a great guy. He’s a great friend, and one heck of an athlete.”

“I think J.J. has made an impact on Spindler and how he looks at Michigan,” Marich added. “The two have really connected through the recruiting process on several trips, and this one was no different. Spindler actually noted he was one of the top reasons why he enjoyed his experience. It’s not all about recruiting as they talked about much more than football and the process. J.J. is a relatable, easygoing guy, but a leader and someone that will fight for his guys. He brings a sense of brotherhood to his teams, which one of the main factors Spindler is looking for in his future home.”

Spindler was joined by his teammate Garrett Dellinger, another nationally ranked and nationally recruited offensive lineman.

Dellinger is being courted by essentially the same schools as Spindler.

During the visit, younger brother Cole Dellinger, a freshman offensive lineman who played on the Wolves’ varsity in the fall, was offered a scholarship by Michigan. This is the first offer for the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Dellinger.

Neither Dellinger is ready to make a decision. Garrett is considering a May commitment while Cole still has a long way to go, but they would be interested in being together in college if recruiting works out that way.

“I would love to play with my brother,” the younger Dellinger said. “It’s great to have that opportunity. My family is excited also.”

Michigan continues to be a Crystal Ball leader for Belleville linebacker Jamari Buddin. He was able to spend time with not only the coaching staff, but also former teammate Andre Seldon, who is enrolled mid-year at Michigan after signing in December.

“(Seldon) said it’s going good,” Buddin said. “He is glad he early enrolled. He said it was probably the best decision the made to get up there as soon as possible. They gave him good reports, too. They said he’s doing good up there.”

Other top prospects who attended included Oak Park’s Rayshaun Benny, who has more than 30 scholarship offers, many as an offensive lineman, but Michigan is recruiting him more on the defensive side of the ball.

West Bloomfield running back Donovan Edwards also attended. Edwards already is a top regional recruit, but has gone national in the last two months as Alabama, Ole Miss, USC and others have offered him scholarships. Midwestern schools like Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame are all in contention as well.

Edwards also reported spending time with the early enrollees, which include Makari Paige, his teammate for three seasons at West Bloomfield.

Two more in-state offensive tackles with Michigan offers, Detroit Country Day’s Caleb Tiernan and Southfield A&T’s Caleb Banks, attended.

Other schools have done bigger junior days, but the smaller, more focused groups have worked well for Michigan.

“I certainly do feel these smaller groups are more effective for Michigan,” Marich said. “With less kids on campus, the coaching staff can spend more quality time with each prospect and really personalize the experience. They aren’t spread out as much to talk with everyone and can give way more attention. From the many prospects I talked with following the junior day, I would say it was a very smart move on Michigan’s end. I received lots of great reviews as the Wolverines certainly impressed.”

Tyler Morris, a sophomore and teammate of McCarthy’s, came with his quarterback. Morris, an early four-star on 247Sports, already has an offer from Michigan along with many other Power 5 programs.

Another class of 2022 prospect, Reading (Pa.) Governor Mifflin 2022 running back Nicholas Singleton, was offered during the visit.

More information

Rocco Spindler profile

Garrett Dellinger profile

Donovan Edwards profile

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