Orlando, Fla. — Six months ago, Justin Rogers’ eventual matriculation to Ohio State appeared all but certain. The Buckeyes were heavy favorites for the Oak Park (Mich.) star, and their advantage seem to grow larger with every visit to Columbus. Then suddenly he altered course. No longer was he looking to get his recruitment out of the way early. Instead, he wanted to experience the entire recruiting process.
“People were just telling me, ‘oh, he’s going to Ohio State, he’s going to Ohio State’… but I had to tell people I’m not really going to Ohio State,” Rogers told The Michigan Insider. “I was just telling people I’m making my own decision.”
That opened his eyes wider to other suitors, especially those in the south. At one point Georgia looked to be the team to beat. The Bulldogs remain high on his list, but now another southern power looks to be sitting on that perch.
“I would say Alabama,” Rogers replied when asked if any programs were sticking out. “They’ve got a winning program and they are about to get that national championship. That’s the main thing right there.”
That’s one of many factors that the talented youngster plans to use to evaluate his suitors.
“Really just a winning program, start as a true freshman, (and) academics,” Rogers said, explaining his decision criteria. “(Academics are) no. 1 on my list. Do I fit into the environment with the players? Do I fit in with the players? So, a whole lot of stuff.”
“I’m just trying to start as a true freshman,” he later reiterated. “I’m trying to do the three or four years and be gone.”
Among the schools working to move up his list is the University of Michigan. The Wolverines have surged in recent months thanks to Ed Warinner’s persistence.
“It is because I got to build a relationship with the new offensive line coach,” Rogers said regarding his renewed appreciation for Michigan. “I know (Tim) Drevno is out there at USC, so I just had to build a relationship and get comfortable with the new offensive line coach.”
“(Michigan’s improved standing) was just really (Warinner), for real. I’m cool with him. I’m really cool with everybody up there. I really know half the whole team. They’ve got Big Mike (Onwenu), Lavert (Hill), Ambry Thomas, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Tarik Black.”
The recruiting objective for Warinner in the coming months is to continue to grow a relationship that is obviously off to a good start.
“(Warinner) is a great coach,” said Rogers. “We are still bonding. He’s definitely a nice person to talk to. He knows his football very well.”
“He’s definitely a good guy,” he later added. “We talk about football and he talks about what I can do to get better.”
Rogers plans to make his way back to Ann Arbor again in the near future. While he admits to leaning south at the moment, the Wolverines, Spartans, and Buckeyes are keeping alive the thought of playing closer to home.
“I’m actually supposed to be going up to Michigan after this dead period to talk to Coach Harbaugh,” Rogers told 247Sports. “I didn’t say (they’re one of the favorites), but they’re still in my back pocket. And I’m still talking to schools up there like Michigan State, and I have a good relationship with Coach Day. We talk a lot. And I’m still talking to both state schools.”