- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- For a few years, quarterback Denard Robinson has been the face of the Michigan football program. But with him sitting out the past few games, recruits have had a chance to see what the future of the Wolverines looks like. And while it's never good to have a team’s starter out, it's not the worst thing in the world for future players.
For prospects such as 2014 wide receiver recruit Derek Kief (Cincinnati/LaSalle), watching Devin Gardner quarterback the Michigan football team gives him a better idea of what the identity of this team will become in the next few years. And while the Wolverines haven't offered Kief, he does has five offers to date and has been pursued by Michigan. His visit to campus last weekend was his second with the Wolverines.
His first unofficial was last summer, but coming to a game was a completely different experience for the 6-foot-5, 180-pound receiver. And knowing that Gardner possibly getting his medical redshirt approved would mean Kief could play with him or against him some day was quite surreal, he said.
"It's crazy looking at it that way, because you never think about that stuff coming into [your recruitment]," Kief said. "It's definitely nice to see young quarterbacks in the game."
Kief said this process kind of jumped up at him because he has watched college football all of his life, but now he's watching players and coaches who could be part of a team with him, rather than just being a fan of those people.
"Growing up I never would've thought about playing at that level because it seemed so far away," Kief said. "But now it's here and it's almost overwhelming. It's crazy."
Kief visited Ann Arbor with two high school teammates -- 2013 defensive back Jaleel Hytchye and 2015 defensive back Cameron Bolden. All three players enjoyed the experience.
Kief had been in the Big House this summer when he visited, but he said that didn’t come close to what it was like to see 110,000-plus fans in an overtime matchup played right in front of the student section, where many of the recruits sit.
"Just seeing the size is pretty impressive," Kief said of Michigan Stadium. "But when you get in there and big plays are happening, then when the crowd explodes, that's crazy."
And there were plenty of big plays for Kief to enjoy. Senior wide receiver Roy Roundtree's 53-yard catch stood out the most, and Kief was impressed with Roundtree's speed and athleticism.
"It was definitely pretty exciting," Kief said. "[Roundtree] is explosive and I like that. I like how [Gardner] throws the ball, so that's definitely a plus."
The three LaSalle players spoke with Michigan linebackers coach Mark Smith, who recruits the Cincinnati area for the Wolverines.
"It was a really good game," Kief said. "It was definitely very exciting. I really liked the atmosphere of the Big House."
Kief's size is attractive and, looking ahead, fits the mold for Michigan. He had 65 receptions for 910 yards and 9 touchdowns this season.
He knows if he wants to play at the next level there are parts of his game that he needs to improve, and he plans to do everything he can so that he plays like the college players he enjoys watching so much.
"I liked the pace of the game and the intensity," Kief said. "It keeps me on my toes the whole time."
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