Leonard Fournette, 5-star running back, is one of the biggest recruits associated with the University of Michigan, and he's going to be in Ann Arbor for the annual "Barbecue at the Big House" event.
Ladies and gentlemen, all aboard the hype train...
All joking aside, the BBQ has become one of the most effective recruiting events in Michigan's repertoire, and Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports reports that Fournette will be in attendance:
The nation’s top overall prospect according to the 247Composite in running back Leonard Fournette. The New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine standout heads to Ann Arbor for the first time favoring LSU and Alabama, however his friendship with fellow five-star in Michigan commit Jabrill Peppers has helped put the Wolverines in the game.
As Witfong points out, Fournette is the top recruit, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, so he's obviously going to be a high priority for the Wolverines.
Fournette has game-changing potential, and one can only imagine the nightmares Big Ten defensive coordinators would have trying to stop a one-two combination of Fournette and 2013 5-star running back Derrick Green. Brady Hoke is trying to fully transition to the pro-style offense, and having those two running backs in the backfield would usher in the completion of that transition much sooner.
It's important to understand that winning over a recruit is a lot like a game of chess. You have to win the little battles to eventually win the whole game.
The first battle Michigan won was getting Fournette's interest, and Michigan fans can thank 5-star athlete and marquee commitment Jabrill Peppers for that. He's openly trying to recruit Fournette and No. 1 strong-side defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, and as Wiltfong suggested earlier, Fournette's friendship with Peppers could help the Wolverines out.
Michigan is in the process of winning the next battle, and that's getting Fournette on campus.
Ann Arbor is a great college town and the Big House is truly a sight to see for football players and fans alike. Having Fournette on campus and at the BBQ is a huge step in the right direction for Michigan.
Tim Sullivan of the Detroit Free Press chronicles some of the recent success Michigan has had at the event:
The 2012 edition contained a number of future Michigan commits and a few underclassmen prospects still on the table. 2013 signee Derrick Green – the jewel of U-M’s incoming class and the No. 6 player in the country – saw his interest in the Wolverines boosted by attending the event, and he built bonds there that helped him ultimately decide to choose U-M six months later on Jan. 26.
2014 St. Clairsville (Ohio) linebacker commit Michael Ferns didn’t wait nearly as long to pull the trigger after attending last year’s event. Within two weeks, he was a Wolverine.
This is a defining event on Michigan's recruiting schedule, so the importance of having Fournette there can't be overstated.
With all that in mind, it would be unwise to completely ignore the rest of Fournette's interest list. Alabama and LSU are listed as the teams on top of his 247Sports interest list, and even though Michigan has certainly come on as of late, those juggernauts have been the biggest players for the longest time in this race.
Alabama could offer him immediate championship aspirations, plus a well-documented history of recruiting and creating superstar running backs. The only downside is that many potential star backs are already on the Crimson Tide's depth chart.
LSU, on the other-hand, could use a running back like Fournette to take the next step towards a national championship, and the Tigers are in a position to put together a potential No. 1 class when all is said and done.
That, plus the fact that Fournette is from New Orleans, La. should make the Tigers a very interesting option for the top running back. That's not even considering the Tigers' power running attack or the draw of playing in the SEC, an advantage both Alabama and LSU have.
Will Michigan "win over" Fournette this weekend?
Frankly, the chances of that happening on Sunday seem small, if only because it's so early in the process.
There's still a long time to go until national signing day 2014, and there's a whole season in between then and now that has to play out. Can you imagine the draw Alabama would have if it won yet another national championship, or how appealing LSU would be if it lands a few more marquee recruits?
Michigan will have a chance to prove itself as well during the 2013 season, so it's not as if a longer decision-making process would necessarily hurt the Wolverines with Fournette.
The point here is, there's still plenty of time for things to shake out, and with a recruit as lauded as Fournette, the "smart money" would say that he waits a while before making a commitment.
Could Michigan start the process of winning over Fournette on Sunday? Certainly. In fact, it would be surprising if Fournette didn't come away from Ann Arbor impressed.
This just goes back to the chess analogy.
There's a good chance that this recruitment will be a long one, so expecting an immediate win may only lead to disappointment. Michigan will probably not win the Fournette sweepstakes this weekend.
It very well may win an important recruiting battle, though, and frankly, that's what matters the most at this juncture.