On Michael Weber

On Michael Weber


February 7, 2015

As most diehard Michigan fans know by now, Detroit (MI) Cass Tech running back Michael Weber signed his National Letter of Intent to Ohio State on Wednesday after an intense battle between the Buckeyes and Wolverines. Of course, his position coach and lead recruiter, Stan Drayton, publicly accepted the running backs coach job for the Chicago Bears the very next day. This has prompted a bit of an uproar in recruiting circles and from Cass Tech head coach Thomas Wilcher, a former Wolverine himself who went on the radio to vent about Urban Meyer’s disrespect toward Weber and Cass Tech.

The key point is that Weber was on the verge of choosing the Wolverines, and his relationship with Drayton was one of the things that sold him on Ohio State. The final nail in Michigan’s coffin was that they had accepted a commitment from Florida running back Karan Higdon, which was announced at 8:00 a.m., approximately 2.5 hours before Weber himself announced. Weber thought he was going to be the only running back in Michigan’s class. But if he had been made aware of Drayton’s impending departure, he almost certainly would have chosen Michigan.

The practice of coaches leaving immediately after National Signing Day without informing recruits is sneaky and slimy and dirty. It’s dishonest to recruit17- and 18-year-old kids – or even grownups – into a situation where the recruiter knows the dynamic will change 24 hours after the binding agreement is signed. Texas’s defensive line coach did it, UCLA’s defensive coordinator did it, and there have probably been more instances this season of which I’m unaware. Coaches spend as much time with these kids as anyone over the next four years and often make promises of helping them reach the next level. It’s one thing to take a promotion after a year or two or three, because the flow of life is inevitable. It’s quite another to voluntarily leave the next day.

Weber’s choices now include accepting his fate and sticking with Ohio State, where head coach Urban Meyer – who almost assuredly knew of Drayton’s future – obviously isn’t a straight shooter. Weber could also transfer schools, which would force him to sit out the 2015 season, accept a redshirt, and have four seasons to play four seasons at his chosen destination. The third most prominent option would be to fight the National Letter of Intent’s validity, legally proving that Ohio State knowingly misled him into his current situation. California defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes successfully pulled the third option a couple years ago, which got him away from Notre Dame and to UCLA, where he played as a true freshman in 2013.

For what it’s worth, I have heard through the grapevine that Weber wants out of his Ohio State deal, which is understandable considering the distrust he probably has for Meyer. Michigan and Wisconsin are both potential landing spots, as both recruited him hard, and with new staffs in place, everyone is almost 100% secure for the next year, at least. A Detroit-area lawyer has offered his services pro bono to Weber, who has a good case but might not want the headache of going through the legal process. It would be a difficult choice for a high school kid whether to prolong the recruiting shenanigans (Weber got tired of recruiting and does not bask in the attention) or start on the path to four years with an ethically questionable coach.

From Michigan’s end, Weber said on National Signing Day that he thought he was the only running back being recruited by the Wolverines. Perhaps there is some distrust there, or perhaps he simply thought Jim Harbaugh would wait for Weber’s decision before accepting another running back. Either way, it is a bit naive to think that Michigan – which did not take a running back in 2014 – would risk going a second straight year without a running back signee. If Weber had been given or accepted good advice, he should have reserved his spot with Michigan before Higdon even had a chance to flip. Programs can’t gamble like that if they want to find success consistently.

Michigan did something similar to Ohio State back in 2006 when offensive coordinator Terry Malone left for the New Orleans Saints a day after National Signing Day. Of the signees that year, Malone appears to have been the lead recruiter only for Obi Ezeh. While the situation is somewhat similar, Ezeh was a fullback/linebacker who ended up playing defense, and Michigan promoted special teams coach Mike Debord from within to take over offensive coordinator duties. Those facts are somewhat beside the point, but the negative repercussions seem pretty minimal.

As for Weber’s future, Ohio State has junior Ezekiel Elliott, sophomore Curtis Samuel, and redshirt junior Warren Ball ahead of him; they also have the nation’s #1 running back, Kareem Walker, committed in the 2016 class. They hired Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck to replace Tom Herman, but Beck helped launch the careers of Ameer Abdullah and Rex Burkhead, so that’s a positive if Weber ever earns the starting gig. Wisconsin’s new head coach, Paul Chryst, is known for a power running game and has sophomore Corey Clement taking over the starting role; they also have a highly touted running back for 2016 in the form of Antonio Williams. Michigan has a top-heavy backfield scheduled for 2015, with three juniors and a redshirt sophomore vying for the starting gig but no 2016 commits in the fold. Regardless of where Weber ends up or when, there’s going to be competition.

My guess is that Weber stays at Ohio State, where he would join rising sophomore cornerback Damon Webb and fellow 2015 signee Joshua Alabi, both of whom also went to Cass Tech. The allure of playing for the defending national champions and being “the next Ezekiel Elliott” is significant. The leading rumor right now for Drayton’s replacement appears to be Notre Dame’s Tony Alford.

If nothing else, this gives Weber an early introduction into the cold, cruel world of “business decisions.”

13 comments

  1. Comments: 21558
    Anonymous
    Feb 07, 2015 at 5:07 PM

    I feel very sorry for Weber, but as you point out, he put himself in this position. I know you won't like me saying this, but I would prefer him not to come to Michigan. He is a Detroit kid and, I believe, life-long Michigan fan. He committed to UM but jumped ship to our arch rival when it was obvious that we were down and they were up. That is, of course, his prerogative. But it is not the kind of attitude that makes for a great football program. Compare Weber to Christian Hackenburg, who was a much higher rated player who remained rock-solid to his PSU commitment when they were on the verge of utter ruin. Weber may be a nice young man and he is clearly a talent, but I don't think Bo would be impressed. The idea of him being offended because Harbaugh made an obvious move in ensuring that Michigan had a quality running back recruit is ludicrous, especially given the competition he will have at OSU. It seems likely to me that Urban played him on signing day. I am glad that you point out how scummy this is by Meyer and company. There is a very good chance that Weber goes the Brionte Dunn route and that Meyer's chief goal was simply keeping him from the Wolverines. If I were Weber's coach or parent, I would take this whole episode as a cause for reflection. To be sure, he is a young man learning these ropes. But I doubt he looks back years from now with much satisfaction of how this played out. I hope he does fight the LOI and then signs with Wisconsin. Unless he did some soul-searching and came to Harbaugh with a true mea culpa, he will have a hard time ever being a Michigan man.

  2. Comments: 21558
    Anonymous
    Feb 07, 2015 at 5:55 PM

    Another thing about Weber is that while I can understand the decommit when Hoke was being shown the door, why wouldn't he have come right back once Harbaugh was announced? It's not like the offense was going to change and he would be a player without a position. He could've simply decommited and waited for new coach to be announced and it's not like he didnt have other options. Instead he headed straight for OSU. Malzone put himself entirely at risk as a pro style QB who might have found himself in a spread offense depending on the new coach and Cole could've ended up with a coach who wanted him on the other side of the ball. While I dont wish Weber ill, it's tough for me garner a lot of sympathy esp when the source of his frustrations is an ethically challenged coach like Meyer

    • Comments: 21558
      Painter Smurf
      Feb 07, 2015 at 7:30 PM

      Let's not make light of how much pressure these kids are under. Weber had arguably the best CFB coach in the country in Meyer pursuing him like a hound dog. It's not easy to get excited about that whole scene, and then back out. We are talking about a 17 year old here.

      UM's deal with Weber was that he needed to flip the night before NSD. But then OSU locked him up on the phone all night with a continuing sales pitch. By NSD, Weber was of course in doubt for UM, so it made every bit of sense for UM to secure the Plan B RB.

      Weber really should not have opened his mouth about Harbaugh breaking some promise. If he bolts from OSU, my guess is he winds up at MSU or somewhere else.

  3. Comments: 21558
    Anonymous
    Feb 07, 2015 at 6:45 PM

    To anonymous: Your criticism of Webber is entirely to harsh. He's a 17 year old kid who struggled with the decision and ultimately chose the winner of the national championship who has produced several NFL caliber running backs over the past few years. The fact that michigan was still so close to being his destination shows how highly he regarded them. The michigan man thing is so so overblown and thinking that Bo would have been so small minded to want a 17 year old to grovel to get back into the fold is baseless. It's extremely tiring to watch grown men pick on children and their decisions.

    • Comments: 21558
      Anonymous
      Feb 08, 2015 at 1:35 AM

      my sentiments exactly.

      though i wouldve added further that those always pondering "what would bo do" when they consider michigan football related issues are becoming increasingly harder to tolerate.

      coach bo was great man and great coach who acted as father figure to many and not only taught harbaugh and many others football but life – bo influence helped jims parents lay the foundation for the man he is today and they likely share many of the same principles and core values, in addition to how to build and run a football program.

      but harbaugh is not bo – hes evolved into more modern 21st century coach. bo himself said in interviews before he died that he felt more distant to each successive waive or generation of kids, understanding modern student-athletes less and less, and rightfully so – what worked in 1970 with 125 schollies when youre 1 of like 8 programs on tv every week needs just a bit of tweaking to survive in the modern game played by current student-athletes.

      so if you absolutely insist on asking "what would bo do" when considering mich football (though i think everyone should stop) please know bo wouldve evolved as well or he would not have survived – someone as competitive as bo would never hold grudges in 2015 against detroit kids who just might want to play for mich, especially if by all accounts theyre great kids and great football players wholl only help the team

  4. Comments: 21558
    Anonymous
    Feb 07, 2015 at 8:20 PM

    Passing on one of the top recruits who has more motivation than anyone else to stick it to OSU unless he begs forgiveness for making the wrong choice as a 17 yr old kid is a little short sighted. Not sure we are going to get back to where we need to be if our coaches are as petty as you suggest.

  5. Comments: 21558
    Feb 07, 2015 at 8:51 PM

    Hopely Weber tries to get out of his commitment. There's a Detroit area lawyer who will do it pro-bono. It will be a circus and will damage Ohio State recruiting. I'd like to see it.

  6. Comments: 21558
    Anonymous
    Feb 07, 2015 at 9:11 PM

    Sorry, but you're wrong about Weber's options. If he were to transfer before his first season at OSU, not only would he have to sit out the 2015 season, but he would also lose a year of eligibility. I also don't believe challenging the LOI in court is a likely option. Meyer and OSU would not let it get that far. Playing hardball with Weber will likely cost them a lot more than they stand to gain. He'll either go to OSU or they'll let him out of his LOI after a cooling off period.

  7. Comments: 21558
    Anonymous
    Feb 07, 2015 at 11:07 PM

    "Weber thought he was going to be the only running back in this class"? The Wolverines had 2 quarterbacks signed up and were working on a transfer for the 3rd. WHY would they take a single running back? You make your decision Mike, now it will all play out on the football field.

  8. Comments: 21558
    Anonymous
    Feb 08, 2015 at 12:37 AM

    I appreciate the critical comments made about my opening comment above, i.e., that local players who jumped ship when our team was down may not be the kind of player we are looking for. One commenter expressed dismay over an adult "picking" on a child, etc. I was not aware that I was doing anything to Mike Weber. I would think by now that the whole thing with college sports is that we take a strange interest in young men and their athletic lives. Moreover, I really do not think of a 17 year old as a "child." My oldest son turns 17 this month and he is quite a mature young person who deserves the respect of being taken seriously for his actions and decisions. When I commanded units in the Army, we often put our lives in the hands of 18 and 19 year olds. So I think I actually show respect to a young man who is becoming of college age to think that his decisions are not those of a child. Rather, they are those of a young man who reveals his character by his actions. This is not to say that Weber is a bad character. But it does say that he seems more motivated by personal opportunity than by commitment to a team. I am quite sure that it would be a cold day in hell before either of my sons offered their services to Ohio State. Anyway, please don't think my comments reflect any animus or disrespect to Mike Weber, with whom I will never have personal contact in any way. But I think from a leadership and team character basis, the matters involved with his decision are quite relevant. Also, if you read anything about Bo, you would absolutely know that he did talk to 17 and 18 years in just this way. Bo would have been very bothered by this and he would have developed negative feelings toward a Detroit player who was committed to UM, but they jumped to OSU when it looked like a better opportunity. It reveals self-interest rather than commitment and firmness of resolve. Anyway, thanks for the feedback because it is good to know how you are coming across.

  9. Comments: 21558
    Anonymous
    Feb 08, 2015 at 5:41 PM

    Weber is in a tough position, but he is still the only RB at OSU and the coach coming from ND is a good one. I struggle with Weber's desire to have been the only RB signed by Michigan after he had already decommitted. My thought is the staff knew he had some risk (in terms of actually choosing M again) and they had a RB in their back pocket with Higdon. BTW shows that the staff wasn't going to say no to Higdon and leave him hanging which is a strong position to take.

  10. Comments: 21558
    Lanknows
    Feb 08, 2015 at 11:15 PM

    This is why savvy and astute recruits should not sign LOIs. Weber absolutely had enough leverage to pull this off. A recruit like Higdon or Perry would not, but he did. Now he has to face the consequences of a one-sided agreement, where programs can do whatever they want, but athletes can not.

    Michigan fans have to hope that the Cass pipeline that was diverted to Ohio is back in it's 'rightful' place.

    I don't understand people insulting and attacking a 17 year old, but my comments aren't going to change anyones mind…

  11. Comments: 21558
    Anonymous
    Feb 09, 2015 at 6:54 AM

    When you speak of slimy & sneaky & dirty, are you referring to kids decommiting on signing day after giving his word to another school?

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