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January 26, 2011

Michigan rolling under Hoke's leadership

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New Michigan coach Brady Hoke is making is presence known immediately in the recruiting world.

Two weeks ago, Hoke was named Michigan's head coach after the firing of Rich Rodriguez. And now, with National Signing Day - the first day for high school senior football players to sign with their future college - just one week away, Hoke is rolling.

The biggest moment to date came Tuesday night, when four-star cornerback Blake Countess of Olney (Md.) Good Counsel chose Michigan over Penn State. Other recent wins for Hoke: Convincing three-star Arlington (Texas) Martin QB Russell Bellomy to switch his commitment from Purdue to the Wolverines, and getting three-star Cincinnati (Ohio) Winton Woods linebacker Antonio Poole.

Countess, the headliner, had decided to take an official visit to Penn State following Michigan's coaching change. After long deliberations, the four-star cornerback came to a final decision.

"(I) just sat down with Blake and the family and we decided that Blake is 100 percent Michigan," his father reported Tuesday night. "Blake said it is a done deal."

Countess and his family hosted assistant coaches from both schools in the last couple weeks. Hoke was in-home with the four-star prospect last week. As early as Tuesday, Countess' father said his son was torn between the Wolverines and Nittany Lions, but Tuesday night's family meeting appears to have broken the stalemate.

Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison went in-home with Countess and his family earlier on Tuesday. Following Hoke's hiring of Mattison last week, Wendell Countess said that move really impressed the nation's No. 10 cornerback prospect.

"That was a top of the food chain hire for Michigan as well as Blake," Wendell Countess said. "He said, 'What could be better than being coached by a guy who has been there?' "

Poole, meanwhile, announced that he would be signing with Michigan on Feb. 2 during halftime of his basketball game Tuesday night.

"He picked the Michigan Wolverines," Poole's father reported. "He announced his decision at halftime here. It was a real nice ceremony they did here."

"It feels pretty good now that it is all over with," Poole added.

The 6-2, 210-pound linebacker chose the Wolverines over Cincinnati, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Illinois, Kansas, Louisville and Minnesota.

A Monday night in-home visit from Mattison and linebackers coach Mark Smith appears to have been the catalyst for Poole's decision. He originally planned to take one more official visit the weekend of Jan. 28 and announce his decision on signing day, but moved the announcement up to Tuesday evening shortly after meeting with Mattison and Smith.

For Michigan, Poole is the sixth public commitment since Hoke took over as head coach.

Latest on Raven

The drama surrounding Reserve (La.) East St. John cornerback Floyd Raven gets more interesting by the day. After de-committing from Ole Miss a few weeks ago, the Rivals250 cornerback had apparently committed to Texas A&M on Monday, at least according to his head coach and teammates.

However, the four-star prospect refuted those notions on Tuesday. He sent texts to several Rivals.com writers that read, "I never committed to Texas A&M."

Raven then said he planned to officially visit Michigan this weekend and decide between the Wolverines, A&M and Ole Miss on signing day. The Wolverines cancelled the visit, however, and Raven decided to recommit to Ole Miss on Tuesday evening.

The story on Story

Rivals.com four-star wide receiver Ja'Juan Story left Florida to spend some time in the snow visiting Columbus, Ohio, last weekend. But unlike most Floridians, Brooksville's 6-foot-4, 192-pound standout doesn't seem opposed to the snowy climate.

"It was really fun, the snow was fun, the school was good, and the people were good too," said Story. "They bond really well up there, you follow them around and they seem like they've known each other forever but they've only known each other a couple weeks. They get along real well."

Story said he liked the coaches, his host Braxton Miller and all of the Ohio State facilities. He rated his visit as a 10.

"There was nothing I didn't like," he said.

Following the Under Armour All-American game, Story seemed more at ease with his commitment to Florida, but still wanted to explore his options, entertaining offers from Ohio State, North Carolina, Georgia and interest from Oregon.

Today, though, he has narrowed his options to a final two.

"I like both (Florida and Ohio State)," he said. "They've got good people who make good decisions. I've narrowed it down to just those two. It will be hard for me to make my decision.

McClure ready for decision

Stefan McClure, the four-star cornerback from Vista (Calif), has set a press conference for 8 a.m. Thursday at his high school to make his commitment. Michigan, UCLA, California, Boise State and Oregon State are the final five for the U.S. Army All-American.

McClure visited Michigan last weekend and liked a lot about the Wolverines - the one exception was the bitter cold temperatures in Ann Arbor - and Hoke had an in-home visit with the 5-foot-11, 170-pound prospect on Monday night.

At the Army game, McClure said Cal and Boise State had emerged as favorites but that was before Michigan got heavily involved in his recruitment. McClure has known Hoke since his days at San Diego State and whether that plays a factor or not might be determined at Thursday's announcement.

UCLA also has to be considered a frontrunner. Throughout his recruitment, McClure has stayed in touch with coach Rick Neuheisel and his staff, and there is an appeal that the campus is only a couple hours away from home.

McClure has done a good job not tipping his hand on where he's headed so a lot of people will be interested in following what happens early Thursday.

More recruiting notes

Baltimore (Md.) Gilman athlete Darius Jennings is down to three finalists and has taken his official visits to Virginia, Ohio State and Wake Forest. Now it's time for a few more coaching visits and a decision. Jennings met with OSU head coach Jim Tressel on Monday night, the first time his mother was able to meet with the head coach. Jennings will make his decision Feb. 2 at his school. OSU wants him as a wide receiver or cornerback, Virginia as a wide receiver and Wake Forest as a quarterback, running back, wide receiver or defensive back.

Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep running back Savon Huggins is no closer to a decision even though his decision date of Friday is looming large. Huggins has been on official visits to Notre Dame, North Carolina, Auburn, Michigan State and Rutgers, and will announce his decision at 5 p.m. EST on Friday. Most feel that Rutgers and North Carolina are the teams to beat, with the Scarlet Knights holding the edge.

Fresh off the heels of Countess re-affirming his commitment to Michigan, Penn State offered three-star defensive back Adrian Amos from Towson (Md.) Calvert Hall. Amos was excited about the offer but said it also added a bit of confusion into the process. Amos officially visited West Virginia over the weekend and the trip went very well. He feels like he would be a great fit in the 3-3-5 defense, and the playing time is there. He's still planning on visiting Vanderbilt this weekend. Penn State and Connecticut are also in the mix, as Amos was once a UConn commit and has always been interested in the Nittany Lions. He wants to talk things over with his family as soon as he can.

Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger running back Remound Wright has been committed to Stanford since June and took an official visit to Palo Alto a few weekends back, but there is still apparently some doubt left in his mind. Wright will take an official visit to Iowa this weekend and the Hawkeyes will be the one team with a chance to change his mind. Wright's father confirmed the visit but Remound did not want to comment.

Amarillo (Texas) defensive tackle James Castleman had been committed to Texas Tech since last April. However, Oklahoma State recently began to put the full-court press on the 6-foot-4, 255-pound defender and he officially visited Stillwater last weekend. Despite having his final visit set to Texas Tech this weekend, Castleman decided to make the switch to Oklahoma State on Tuesday.

Brenham (Texas) defensive end Brandon Alexander is the lone uncommitted prospect in the Rivals.com Postseason Texas Top 100. He's a 6-foot-6, 230-pound defender and does not like doing interviews so much of the information about him has come from other sources close to him.

On Tuesday night, people familiar with Alexander said that he had decided to commit to Texas. He had officially visited Texas over the weekend after previous trips to Texas A&M and TCU. Nobody has been able to confirm with Alexander or his coach and he was set to host the A&M coaches on Tuesday night. Another person familiar with the situation said he would be surprised if Alexander had committed already. Though he says the trip to Texas went very well, the three-star defender was pretty adamant that he wanted to take an official visit to Arkansas this weekend.

Dallas (Texas) Lincoln cornerback Lloyd Carrington has seen his stock shoot through the roof since the end of the season. This was the 6-foot, 182-pound defensive back's first year to play football. However, 15 schools have already offered with Minnesota and Pittsburgh being the most recent.

Carrington leaves on Wednesday to officially visit Minnesota and will fly from there to Pittsburgh on Friday for another official. Both schools would be considered his top two but he admits Pitt has the edge at the moment. He plans to commit soon after returning to Texas on Sunday.

Marcus Martin has been committed to USC since the middle of June but the Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw offensive guard visited Arizona last weekend, will be at Colorado this weekend and said he'll make his final decision on National Signing Day.

The three-star prospect isn't giving any hints away. A lot of people think he will stick with his USC pledge but the Wildcats and Buffaloes are not out of the picture yet. Teammate De'Anthony Thomas is sticking with the Trojans and that could play a role in Martin's decision.

It's another busy week for Devin Lucien as the four-star wide receiver from Encino (Calif.) Crespi tries to figure out which program is best for him. Utah is the latest school to offer and the Utes have a chance since Norm Chow was just hired as offensive coordinator. Chow, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and possibly others will have an in-home visit with Lucien later this week.

Lucien is expected to visit Miami this weekend as well before making his decision. He just came back from an official visit to Colorado last weekend which went incredibly well. UCLA, long considered one of his favorites, and Arizona State are also in the mix.

Lauderdale Lakes (Fla.) linebacker Kent Turene, a Southern Cal commitment, officially visited Georgia last weekend, which was met by rumors of a commitment to the Bulldogs as early as Saturday. While Turene denied making any commitment to Georgia, it appears the process continues with one more official visit scheduled Jan. 28.

Oakland Park (Fla.) Northeast defensive end Bryant Dubose is visiting Miami this weekend. A decision is likely to come on Sunday, after his trip has wrapped up, and Dubose has indicated the final decision will likely be between Louisville and Miami.

Miami (Fla.) Coral Park linebacker Arrington Jenkins fulfilled a dream and became a Florida State Seminole. He selected the in-state school over heavy interest from Illinois.



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