Michigan's recruiting strategy goes international thanks to new DL coach Mike Elston

On3 imageby:EJ Holland07/10/22


Michigan is truly going international on the recruiting trail.

Athletes from across Europe are quickly becoming highly touted recruits on the football field and have caught the attention of U-M and several other Power Five programs, thanks in large part to Brandon Collier.

A former CFL defensive lineman, Collier founded PPI Recruits in 2016 as a way to get international prospects more exposure. Fast forward six years, and PPI Recruits has become a phenomenon as more than 100 of Collier’s pupils have received opportunities to play at the next level.

One of Collier’s first big names was German defensive lineman Julius Welschoff, who signed with Michigan as part of the 2018 recruiting class. A big reason the Wolverines were able to land Welschoff was through Collier’s connection with former U-M defensive coordinator Don Brown — Collier played for Brown at UMass.

Michigan parted ways with Brown in 2020 after a lackluster season, and Michigan’s contact with Collier fell off. However, that all changed this offseason with the hiring of new defensive line coach Mike Elston.

After all, Elston landed a couple of recruits through PPI during his time at Notre Dame and hosted Collier and his summer Dreamchasers tour in South Bend just before the global pandemic. As soon as Elston arrived at Michigan, the bridge to Collier and Europe opened right back up.

“My relationship with Michigan started back when Don Brown first got to Michigan,” Collier said. “Julius helped grow that relationship. It’s been a couple of years, but I’m excited Michigan is offering our kids again. Coach Elston helped out a lot. I had a great relationship with him at Notre Dame, and he recruited our kids a lot. He’s a great coach and always keeps in contact.”  

Elston’s relationship with Collier has allowed Michigan to surge in the recruitment of 2023 EDGE Koumba Aymeric. The French prospect impressed Elston at a satellite camp and on-campus camp this summer and has quickly emerged as a top priority this cycle.

While still a bit of sleeper, Collier believes Aymeric could be a steal.

“Koumba can fill a similar role as David Ojabo and Aidan (Hutchinson),” Collier said. “Michigan would be a great fit for him with what they do with guys like him. He’s 6-foot-5, 230 pounds with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. He’s a really impressive pass rusher. If he were in America, he would probably be a four-star prospect. Elston has recruiting him hard, and Michigan is up there for him.”

Michigan also appears to be trending in the right direction for rising 2024 German defensive lineman Manuel Beigel.

The 6-foot-5, 282-pounder impressed Elston and the Michigan staff at one of its on-campus camps this summer and is set to play his junior season at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. While it’s still early, Michigan is already considered the heavy leader in his recruitment.

“Manuel has played soccer for most of his life, so he has really good feet,” Collier said. “He’s right at about 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, so he’s a big kid that can move around. He’s really athletic and ran a 4.9 40 this summer. It’ll be exciting to see what he’s going to become in two years. Michigan was that first big offer, and I know they’re up there with him, too.”

Michigan also offered another 2024 PPI prospect in fast-rising German linebacker Justin Okoronkwo, who measured in at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds and clocked a 4.49 40 at one of U-M’s on-campus summer camps.

“I don’t think there is a 2024 linebacker that’s better than him,” Collier said. “He’s another kid that would be a four-star prospect if he was playing in America. He put up really impressive testing numbers at camps this summer and is going to have a lot of offers soon. Coach Elston and Coach (George) Helow really liked him at the camp.”

With Collier finding more and more talented prospects overseas, Michigan’s relationship with PPI Recruits will become increasingly important over the next few years.

Elston has reopened the door and if the Wolverines are able to close with the aforementioned Aymeric, there is no reason Michigan shouldn’t be able to stay ahead of the curve and land the very best out of Europe.

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