Trieu: Michigan enjoys big recruiting weekend, led by Ekiyor

Allen Trieu
Special to The Detroit News
Emil Ekiyor Jr.

Michigan’s recruiting weekend was big in every sense of the word. The list of recruits in attendance was large. Figuratively, it was a big recruiting event because of the importance of the visitors on campus, many of them nationally-rated recruits coveted by the best programs in the country.

Then there was the actual size of the recruits.

The Wolverines hosted many top offensive linemen around the country, and that group looked like one a Big Ten team could put out on the field right now and not have them look out of place.

The reviews from the visits have been good. Five-star Floridian Alex Leatherwood tweeted that it was “by far the best visit I’ve been on,” and said he would be back to Michigan at some point, a significant development because he is currently committed to Alabama.

Jedrick Wills, a four-star Kentucky native, posted a similar reaction on Twitter, saying he “loved the place and city.” These two, along with Chuck Filiaga and Cesar Ruiz, two other four-star offensive linemen, could make this an extra special class on the offensive line.

While all of those players reported having strong visits, the big man who was compelled enough to commit this weekend was a junior, Indianapolis Cathedral’s Emil Ekiyor Jr., a 6-foot-3, 315-pounder ranked as the nation’s No. 3 guard on Scout.

“It was a great visit all together,” Ekiyor Jr. said. “The moment I stepped on campus, I had a great vibe there and it just felt like home. The whole coaching staff was familiar with me and they were my first offer, so that meant something special that they believed in me. They were the first people to believe in me and that all played a role into it. You can’t go wrong with Michigan with the great education, great football. The whole environment just fits me.”

Ekiyor has played on Cathedral’s varsity since his freshman season. That is not common at a program that is one of the best in the Midwest and consistently has college recruits on the roster. But it was apparent nearly immediately to head coach Rick Streiff and his staff that they had a special player.

“When we do our summer workouts, we’re allowed to put helmets and pads on in the summer,” Streiff said, “and the first day of summer workouts, the way we do it, the freshmen drill right next to the varsity kids. We were running a drill, he was with the freshmen kids, and he took a pretty good-sized freshman and rolled him up with ease. Our offensive line coach looked at me and I went, ‘Yeah,’ and he said, ‘Listen, Emil, go over to this line.’ So his first day, first drill, he was with the varsity kids.”

Since then, Ekiyor’s work ethic has allowed him to take that flash the Cathedral staff saw on day one and develop into a heavily-recruited player who had offers from Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and more. Having coached him, Streiff is confident Michigan is getting a kid who will continue to improve.

“He’s a great young man. He’s your typical offensive lineman in that he wants to make sure he does things right. He’s a pleaser. Most offensive linemen I’ve had over the years are those kind of guys. He wants to make everybody happy, he works hard and does things he needs to do to help the team.

“That’s from the mental side of it. On the physical side, they’re getting a young man with very good feet, runs well for a guy his size. He’s one of those guys, you look from a distance and think he’s 5-foot-11, but he’s 6-foot-3. He’s a wide-bodied kid who moves incredibly well and that’s the lure that he had with some of these big schools.”

He could have waited longer, but Ekiyor Jr. found what he wanted in Michigan.

“We haven’t talked much about it,” Streiff said, “but my guess is, being a Midwest kid, he wanted to play in the Midwest, a place where he had a chance to play at the highest level of college football and Michigan is in that ballpark and close to home. I think that was the criteria, and then on top of it, an incredible academic school.”

And one that may be adding more big bodies to the roster in the near future.

Top target sets official visit

South Jordan (Utah) Bingham defensive tackle Jay Tufele, one of Michigan’s top recruits, will be taking an official visit to Ann Arbor on Oct. 22 when the Wolverines host Illinois for homecoming.

The Wolverines are battling Ohio State, Washington, Utah, BYU, UCLA and USC for him.

Defensive tackle is a key position for the Wolverines in the wake of Aubrey Solomon’s decommitment.

More information

Emil Ekiyor profile

Alex Leatherwood profile

Jedrick Wills profile

Allen Trieu began covering the state of Michigan for Scout.com in 2005 and began managing the entire Midwest in 2009. 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.