Big 10

Cesar Ruiz, nation’s top-ranked center recruit, talks Michigan and his new approach

June 30, 2016

ANN ARBOR — For roughly a year, most recruiting experts were done asking the question if four-star center Cesar Ruiz would commit to Michigan.

As 2015 turned into 2016, the question was more about “when” Ruiz would commit to Michigan.

The No. 1-ranked center in 2017, Ruiz has had Michigan’s attention for some time now — as the New Jersey native started making trips to Ann Arbor last summer with a large contingent of 2016 prospects who ultimately ended up in the class.

Ruiz himself admitted earlier this year that Michigan was his leader.

But earlier this month, he forced himself to stop and slow down for a minute.

“I sat down, talked with a mentor who helps me (look at things) — I tell him what schools I like and he tells me what he knows about them and then he told me to do some research (on my own),” Ruiz — who currently preps at IMG Academy in Florida — said earlier this month. “So I started doing some research. I tried to put 12 in order, but after doing that research it was actually hard to put them in order.”

Ruiz (6-foot-3, 315) is one of the highest-recruited offensive linemen in America, as he currently holds offers from more than 30 schools.

Earlier this week he trimmed that list of 12 down to eight — LSU, Alabama, Michigan, Florida, Oklahoma, Florida State, North Carolina and Auburn.

But after forcing himself to re-examine things, Ruiz says he’s going to be careful with his recruitment. He doesn’t want to make a decision too soon. At this point, he wants to have five official visits determined by the fall and then, eventually, he says he’ll announce his decision next January at the Under Armour All-America Game in Florida.

“(I’m looking at) schools that fit well with (me academically), a school that fits with my life goals, playing time, I want to play early and I feel that I can play early,” Ruiz said. “How I feel with the coaching staff, things like that. (Scheme’s) not really (a factor for me). A pro-style offense would be nice, but I’ll play (in) whatever.”

Michigan will likely remain a major factor for Ruiz for at least the near future based on the number of relationships he has inside the program.

He’s close friends with current Michigan freshman defensive lineman Rashan Gary and he played high school football with current freshman defensive end Ron Johnson Jr. at Camden High School in New Jersey before leaving for Florida.

Michigan signed a total of five prospects from the state of New Jersey last season and still has a strong connection to the Garden State in the form of linebackers/special teams coach Chris Partridge.

Ruiz says he still hears from a number of Michigan’s New Jersey players on a regular basis. But those players are all quick to point out that they’re not trying to pressure anyone into doing something they don’t want to do.

“When it comes to making your own decision you have to make sure you and your family feel that the school is right for you,” Gary said. “I don’t push anything because I didn’t want to get pushed during my process.

“Just follow your heart and do what’s best for your family.”

As far as his current game is concerned, Ruiz says he’s gone from a 6-foot-2, 285-pound prospect to a 6-foot-3, 315-pound center in just one year at IMG.

He also preps at the high school where Michigan spent the first week of its spring practice earlier this March.

Asked if Michigan’s trip to IMG made any type of lasting impression on the gaggle of top-level recruits that play at the school, Ruiz said the players were more interested in having something to do on a Friday night.

“Not really, honestly it just gave us something to do that night,” he said. “Nothing was going on that night, Michigan was having a practice so we were there. There really wasn’t any recruiting advantage, though, because we didn’t talk to anyone on the staff. … The facilities are crazy there so I feel like that was a big reason why they came down there.”

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