Michigan gets in early on ferocious hitter Michael Hutchings
For decades, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle has been widely regarded as one of the country's preeminent high school football programs — and as such, it has churned out its fair share of marquee talent. Among the most decorated of its athletes was a pair of standout linebackers in the late 1990s. Denver Broncos veteran D.J. Williams and Dallas Cowboys talent scout Kevin Simon were both five-star prospects at De La Salle before going on to star at Miami and Tennessee, respectively. Now, more than 10 years after they wreaked havoc on their overmatched high school opponents, a talented junior linebacker named Michael Hutchings is following impressively in their footsteps.
"Hutchings is well put together and has nice long arms with a good base," said Scout.com West regional manager Brandon Huffman. "He can take on linemen and usually makes short work of backs trying to block him. He can also slip his blockers because he moves so well laterally. His hits are big and they almost always end up in a ball carrier or receiver on the ground because he runs through them. Hutchings also excels in coverage and does a great job on his pass drops. He's got tremendous instincts. The big key is that he does it against arguably the toughest schedule of any program in the West, so he's dominant against elite programs."
Said Hutchings: "I would say I am athletic. I can go out and cover. I'm athletic, versatile, and explosive on impact when I hit. On plays that are going away from me I need to kind of just show a little bit more of a motor, but I would say I bring a lot of aggression to the game."
That, my friends, is the epitome of an understatement. Simply put, Michael Hutchings is one of the most ferocious hitters in the country regardless of class. Scout.com's team of analysts wasted little time anointing the 6-1, 210-pounder a five-star prospect. Meanwhile, BCS programs such as California, Miami, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, Oklahoma and Michigan moved just as quickly in extending him scholarships. The class of 2013 standout's offer tally currently stands at 11, but the competition will certainly get much thicker in the coming months. When it does, the schools that were first to the party could hold a slight advantage.
"Michigan was early in the game," Hutchings said. "I've been watching them and Notre Dame a lot lately because they've had exciting games. But Michigan was early — the third offer, I think. It went Cal, USC and then Michigan."
The emphasis on the timing of offers isn't merely a fortuitous bounce for the Maize and Blue. The importance of that consideration was actually conveyed to the young phenom by a De La Salle alum that went on to star for Michigan.
"I know Amani Toomer," Hutchings said. "He is a guy that I talked to about the recruiting process. He didn't try to sell me on Michigan or anything like that. He just gave me some straight-up advice. He said Michigan was a great fit for him education-wise. It was somewhere he felt comfortable and where it felt like the coaches cared. He said that as I start getting deeper into the recruiting process, that some schools may just jump on the bandwagon. He said those first few offers are the ones I want to look at heavily. Michigan was No. 3."
In the not too distant future, Hutchings plans on seeking out advice from yet another De La Salle / Michigan alum.
"I haven't talked to Matt Gutierrez about Michigan yet, but I actually throw with Matt sometimes," he said regarding the former Wolverine signal caller. "I should have asked him last week because Matt just comes out and throws to some guys. I actually talk to Matt quite often — once or twice a month. I'll definitely talk to Matt about (recruiting)."
While that may seem like a huge advantage for Brady Hoke, it really isn't. Hutchings enjoys similar connections to Notre Dame (Derek Landri and Aaron Taylor), Miami (D.J. Williams), Tennessee (Kevin Simon), UCLA (Maurice Jones-Drew) and a host of others.
"Definitely having a pipeline out of De La Salle and the wide variety of alums and colleges, you can hear the pros and cons of each school, and how they handle things," Hutchings told Scout.com.
"Oregon State is starting to become a pipeline. They have our running backs, Tyler Anderson and Terron Ward, and then (former De La Salle defensive end) Dylan Wynn signed there. So it gives me an inside source.
"One of our coaches played at UCLA and Maurice Jones-Drew came up here a lot because of the lockout. He's always talking about UCLA and wearing UCLA gear.
"Cal is right in my back yard. (Current De La Salle linebacker) Michael Barton already committed there and that's definitely a school that is going to be up there for the education aspect. They have the new stadium coming, new facilities, and I'll have Barton there as an inside source."
"Colorado coach (Jon) Embree recruited Maurice (Jones-Drew) to UCLA. Coach Embree offered me as soon as he talked to me because Maurice kind of put in a good word for me.
"I actually want to get a chance to talk to D.J. I've talked to Kevin Simon, who went to Tennessee. We've got deep alumni that I can ask any kind of questions to just to find out the inside of what goes on in college and how programs are run."
With each conversation, Hutchings will move that much closer to establishing the formula for his ideal program. At the moment he has just a very general idea of what he is looking for.
"I don't think location (is going to be a factor) because I know I'm looking at SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten — I'm all over the place," Hutchings said. "Definitely education is going to go into that decision. Conference may play a part. I know these super conferences and stuff are going to be starting up. But education is going to be first thing, (second will be) where I feel comfortable at, then just the competition and the level of play."
How schools measure up won't really be determined until visits take place. Until then Hutchings plans to keep all of his suitors on equal footing.
"Some days I may wake up and feel, 'OK, I like this school and maybe I'll commit here,'" he told Scout.com. "Another day I may wake up and say, 'I'm not sure.' I am all over the place right now. I feel like I will definitely make a decision before my senior year. I would rather go into my senior year a little more comfortable and have the weight lifted off my shoulders.
"I know I'll visit UCLA and USC. I'm going to visit Notre Dame and Michigan. Those two are actually fighting each right now for that Big Ten area that I'm giving a look. I'll visit a lot of schools. Right now we just talk about (recruiting) in little spurts here and there. After the season we'll sit down and we'll get a group of schools that we definitely want to visit."