Four-star center Cesar Ruiz has Michigan atop his list of schools, and one reason why is the Wolverines’ presence in his home state of New Jersey.
In the 2014 class, the big name recruit for Michigan was Jabrill Peppers, a five-star prospect out of Paramus, N.J. One year later, it was 4-star offensive tackle Grant Newsome from Lawrenceville, N.J.
The 2015 class resulted with the No. 1 overall recruit, Rashan Gary, who just so happened to attend Paramus Catholic High School as well.
Gary wasn’t alone. Four-star running back Kareem Walker, 4-star wide receivers Ahmir Mitchell and Brad Hawkins, 3-star defensive end Ron Johnson Jr. and 3-star defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour all signed with the Wolverines. All are from New Jersey.
Michigan’s presence in the Garden State is a big reason why 4-star center Cesar Ruiz has the Wolverines as the No. 1 team on his list of schools.
Ruiz, who transferred to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. before his junior season, is originally from Camden, N.J. and is coming off a positive visit with Jim Harbaugh and his staff.
“It was great — another great trip to Ann Arbor,” Ruiz told Campus Insiders. “I have two former teammates [Hawkins and Johnson] committed to Michigan. Every New Jersey kid that’s committed to Michigan, I’m really good friends with, so I had a really good time when I was up there.”
The signs are tough to ignore. With friends having signed on, as well as other big-name recruits from New Jersey already on the team, the traction Harbaugh has already found. Michigan seems to be an ideal fit for Ruiz.
The Wolverines and North Carolina are the two teams showing him the most love, after all. But that won’t stop him from exploring his options.
When Ruiz released his top 12 in April, it looked like this:
3. North Carolina
5. Ole Miss
Oklahoma and Clemson also offer him the chance to play with a friendly face, though to a lesser extent than Michigan.
Ruiz’s good friend JohnCarlo Valentin, a 3-star offensive guard, signed with the Sooners in the 2016 cycle.
Valentin and a solid track record have Bob Stoops and his staff in the running for Ruiz.
“I love the tradition at Oklahoma. They do a lot of great things with offensive linemen. I have a great relationship with Coach Bedenbaugh. He doesn’t talk only about football and recruiting. He sees how I’m doing and asks how my grades are. One time he asked me what I had for dinner. You know, it’s good conversation and good vibes when it comes to him.”
As for Clemson, the Tigers’ can offer Ruiz a chance to reunite with another friend, former teammate Rahshaun Smith.
Smith was a 4-star inside linebacker out of the IMG Academy in the 2016 class. After originally committing to Clemson, Smith wavered on his commitment before eventually signing back on to play for 2016 College Football Playoff runner-up.
“Clemson’s one of my favorite schools. It’s an offer I really wanted for a long time. Rashaun Smith is an old teammate that goes there. When I first met him, I made a connection with him. I look at him like a big brother now. At the time he was committed to Clemson before he decommitted. As he was decommitted, he was still telling me good things about Clemson.”
Ruiz was supposed to visit Clemson on March 23, but he had to reschedule and is looking forward to meeting Swinney. In spite of the fact his relationship with offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell took a step backward, he and Caldwell have been “building that relationship back up.”
Of course, the equation changed when a new variable was introduced last week.
Ruiz was one of 18 IMG Academy players to receive a scholarship offer from Kirby Smart and Georgia.
He doesn’t know much about the Bulldogs, and he hasn’t had contact with their coaching staff. This despite his best efforts to find a UGA coach to speak with on Twitter.
But the Georgia offer meant a lot, and it could certainly modify his list of top schools.
“[UGA’s] building a relationship with the [IMG] coaches. My list is definitely going to change. Of course, I’m not set to commit for a long, long time, so my list is going to change a lot throughout the recruiting process. So, they definitely have a chance to make it on that list — whether that’s a top five, top 10 or whatever I release next.”
Whoever makes that next list should consider adding more of Ruiz’s friends.
He and teammate Robert Hainsey, a 4-star offensive tackle, have joked around about the idea of playing together. But unranked cornerback Elvis Hines is the one Ruiz can realistically see himself playing with at the next level.
They’re roommates at the IMG Academy, and Hines, who is from Haddonfield, N.J., only has three offers from Buffalo, Temple and Old Dominion at the moment.
Ruiz is trying to change that.
“My plan is to really get him on board and go to school with him. We’re like brothers. We take care of each other. It would be good to go to school with him again.”
Michigan may have multiple players from New Jersey. Clemson and Oklahoma may each have a friend of Ruiz, and Georgia might be the hottest name.
But it seems as though Ruiz’s commitment could be heavily influenced by Hines landing an offer from a school Ruiz is already interested in.
They’re like brothers. It only makes sense for them to want to stay together.
Note: Scout rankings and ratings used in this article.
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