Ann Arbor – Less than a year ago, Alaric (A.J.) Jackson had never put on pads or wore a helmet to play organized football.
Now, heading into his senior year, Jackson has 15 Division 1 offers and will be playing with confidence, actually having a better understanding of what he's doing the second time around.
Jackson's first love was hoops, not football, and on Saturday he attended the University of Michigan basketball camp with Detroit Renaissance teammates.
Jackson, at 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds, looked lean and in great shape. College football coaches know his upside is high, being just 16, big, athletic, and so new to the sport.
"All the camps keep me in shape," said Jackson, who said he has lost 30 pounds, down from 305. "Working out with the basketball and football teams, two-a-days, I've lost 30 pounds. I'm 275 now and I'll add on some weight just before football."
Jackson decided on going out for football for the first time last year. Now, Scout.com has him rated a three-star recruit and the No. 2 offensive tackle in Michigan in the 2016 class.
"Well, I didn't play because my mom was scared for me to play because I might get hurt," said Jackson, who has gotten stronger, bench pressing 300 pounds compared to 205 a year ago. "I'm so big now and can make my own choices.
"I feel my first year went pretty good. I learned a lot, worked on my footwork. I liked it and got a lot of interest. My confidence will go up 100 percent because everyone knows my name now."
Already Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Illinois, Kentucky, Purdue and Cincinnati are among the schools to extend offers.
"I wasn't expecting it because I hadn't really played a lot of football," said Jackson of the MSU offer. "I was pretty excited about it because it's such a big school, won the Cotton Bowl and Rose Bowl before that."
Jackson, who has a 3.4 grade-point average, won't decide on a college until after the season.
Lattimore a recruiter
Cedrick Lattimore of Detroit East English was also at the Crisler Center with his teammates Saturday.
Lattimore (6-4, 250) didn't play football his sophomore year, concentrating on basketball. He decided to come back and play football last fall, and had a strong season at tight end and defensive end.
Lattimore now has 10 Division 1 offers, is rated as a three-star recruit by Scout.com and recently committed to Iowa to play defensive end. He hopes Jackson joins him there.
"I committed to Iowa last month," Lattimore said. "I recently received offers from Minnesota and Cincinnati too."
Lattimore, who has a 3.5 GPA, was impressed when he played Jackson and Renaissance in football.
"I lined up against A.J. last year and it was good going up against him," Lattimore said. "He's tough and has a lot of potential. I'm trying to get him to come with me to Iowa."
Kithier gets Beilein's attention
Thomas Kithier had an impressive freshman season for Macomb Dakota, averaging nearly a double-double to help his team win 22 straight before falling to Clarkston in the Class A regional championship game.
Kithier, a 6-8 center, grabbed the attention of Michigan coach John Beilein, prompting him to get up during one of Dakota's games Saturday and ask his assistant to find out more about Kithier.
Kithier showed his outstanding passing ability while also getting a slam dunk in traffic.