As the sun set on Memorial Day, many Michigan fans waited patiently for a softball game to wrap up on ESPNU. Jabrill Peppers, rated as one of the top players in the country by the four main recruiting sites, had long favored the Wolverines and made his commitment that evening.
The commitment vaulted Michigan to the top class, up to that point, on two of the major services. The impact of Peppers’ commitment is palpable considering it filled a severe position of need with one of the best athletes in the country.
The greater impact of Peppers’ commitment may still be in the works. Peppers, who labeled himself ‘The Commish’ after pledging to the Wolverines, immediately became the school’s biggest cheerleader and recruiter. You see, while it may be a violation for coaches to contact recruits or go above and beyond the normal call of duty in the recruiting process, it is not off limits to current high school students regardless of where they are pledged to play. They have not signed a letter of intent and are not officially tethered to a school. They’re just kids. The recruiting rules that inhibit coaches don’t apply here.
Peppers has made it no secret that he’s been heavily recruiting defensive end and top overall player Da’Shawn Hand. He’s also put in work recruiting another 5-star defensive back in Adoree Jackson and defensive end Malik McDowell.
Such is the new atmosphere of high school recruiting. Nowadays, high profile recruiting compete with each other to help their schools compete for the highest rated recruiting class. Last year it was Shane Morris putting in extra hours to help kids from around the country come to Michigan. This year it is Michael Ferns. Ferns started ‘Project 135’. Every time a player commits to Michigan, he sends them a ‘Project 135’ shirt.
When did this all begin? Who do we have to thank for these kids moxie in the recruiting arena? The answer leads back to the 2008 season and may not make many of you Michigan fans happy with the answer.
The first class to actively have a top player openly recruit was the 2008 Ohio State recruiting class when they received a pledge from a 5-star offensive lineman out of Orlando by the name of Michael Brewster. Brewster was the fifth player to pledge to Ohio State’s 08′ recruiting class and immediately got to work assembling his ‘Brew Crew’.
Yes, Michigan fans. I know it’s hard to swallow sometimes. But occasionally that school down south does have some intelligent players with great ideas. You could argue that Brewster was responsible for bringing an additional 5(!) 5-star players to the class that included No. 1 overall player Terrelle Pryor. Sound familiar? Well, it should. It’s the exact kind of class that Jabrill Peppers is trying to bring to Michigan if they were to land players like Hand, Jackson and McDowell.
That 2008 class, on paper, was very scary. That class went 3-1 against Michigan.
The ‘Brew Crew’ class all pledged together based on the friendships that were built between Mike Adams and Brewster. Adams was the first 5-star to commit to Ohio State that year. He wasn’t as active as a recruiter as Brewster, but it was his pledge and bond with Brewster that ultimately led to Brewster’s commitment. From there, things snowballed. Adams was a teammate of Jake Stoneburner. Brewster began texting and calling Stoneburner hoping to get his pledge to the Buckeyes. Stoneburner was good friends with another 5-star player named DeVier Posey. After Stoneburner committed, he began working hard on Posey. Later, through the camp circuit, Brewster was able to befriend J.B. Shugarts and Andrew Sweat. Those commitments fell like dominoes for the Buckeyes. Sweat and Brewster began putting in serious recruiting on the crown jewel of their class.
Sweat had been a longtime friend of another 5-star athlete by the name of Terrelle Pryor. Pryor, who at the time was labeled ‘The Next Vince Young’, would have a recruitment that lasted a month and a half after signing day. The battle was down to Ohio State and Michigan. Rich Rodriquez was offering the chance at instant playing time. Tressel and Company were offering a similar depth chart and the opportunity to play with the crew that he’d built such solid relationships. Pryor chose Ohio State and the rest is history.
While their legacies won’t be cemented in the same lore as Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team, the current trend in recruiting and the landscape of high school kids heavily recruiting other high school kids, can be tracked back to Brewster and his ‘Brew Crew’.
Jabrill Peppers, Ferns and fellow commit Wilton Speight have their sights set on the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. Over the next couple of months, we will see if ‘The Commish’ and company achieved their goal. But for this journey to even be possible, we have to thank our enemy for the blueprint of success.