this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
John Beilein landed his third commit of the 2016 class this afternoon when Pickerington (OH) Central swingman Ibi Watson tweeted his decision to join the program. Watson blew up during the latest evaluation period, earning offers from Indiana and Michigan in the process. He joins big men Jon Teske and Austin Davis in the class.
|3* SF||NR SG||3*, 79, #41 SG||
3*, 87, #41 SG,
3*, #39 SG,
Watson is a low three-star or unranked on the recruiting services, though we'll see if that holds up when the rankings are updated to reflect his spring and summer performances; as you'll see, he's been very good of late.
Rivals, ESPN, and 247 all list Watson at 6'4", 180 pounds. Scout has him an inch taller and ten pounds lighter. He's got the look of a two-guard who could play the three if he fills out.
There was pretty much nothing out there on Watson until the spring. The only report I can find on him from before the most recent evaluation period is at Land Grant Holy Land. They caught him last spring's Spiece Run-n-Slam, where he made a sigificant impact off the bench:
On a team full of superstars, Athens sophomore wing guard Ibi Watson can fly under the radar with King James Shooting Stars. After an impressive showing all weekend long in Fort Wayne, Watson should not be overlooked much longer. Averaging 7.8 points per game for the tournament (second on the team), all while coming off the bench, Watson showed an increased ability to finish strongly at the rim, while also continuing to be a confident perimeter shooter.
One thing about Watson's game that I was consistently impressed with was the 6-foot-4 guard's increased athleticism and decision-making. King James' highest IQ wing, Watson rarely turned the ball over, while refusing to settle for low-percentage shots. Helping lead the King James rally late in Sunday's championship game, Watson made several key plays on both ends of the floor, showing the confidence that King James' coaching staff has in the rising-junior combo-guard.
This May, Watson led the All Ohio Red AAU squad to a tournament win in the All-Ohio Nike Super 16 with a 41-point onslaught in the title game. As he garnered increased recruiting attention, he stood out at Michigan's College Practice Camp, per Dylan from UMHoops:
The Pickerington native had a great camp. He’s a smooth and explosive wing who plays for All-Ohio Red and was part of the reason that John Beilein gave out a shout out to the Columbus players in attendance. Watson can hit the triple or attack off the bounce and played well throughout the camp.
Watson earned MVP honors at the Best of the South tournament in June over his more heralded teammates, per HoopSeen:
Ibi Watson, 2016 SG, All-Ohio Red: From Wednesday to Sunday, Watson may have been the most consistent player throughout the entire tournament, ending in him being awarded the 17U MVP. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard was a threat from behind the three-point line with his shooting ability, but he showed spurts of his sneaky athleticism with some plays at the rim. He consistently hit shots and made smart plays for his teammates. Watson’s MVP award speaks volumes about his play over the course of the week, as he plays alongside Michigan State commit Nick Ward and Dayton commit Trey Landers.
He was also All-Ohio Red's top performer at the NY2LA Sports Summer Jam, where they took home the tournament title:
Watson lifted All-Ohio Red to the 17U finals with an 18-point performance during a semifinal win over Playground Elite. Watson was also instrumental in the title game victory over Boise Hoop Dreams. Scoring 12 points, Watson also turned the game with a couple of back-breaking baskets to end scoring droughts and put a stop to two large Boise Hoop Dream runs. Watson was also active defensively, blocking and altering shots and getting on the glass.
As the EYBL season got under way recently, Watson continued to pick up steam while playing in front of coaches from Michigan and Indiana, per Rivals' Sean Williams ($):
Wisconsin Playground Elite controlled much of the first half and held a 28-22 lead at the half, but that's when All-Ohio Red came storming back with the help of shooting guard Ibi Watson, who dropped 17 points as his team lit up the second half and secured a 69-58 victory.
The 6-foot-4 Watson showed off his full arsenal of talents by dropping three 3-point field goals, driving to the basket and creating, being active on the glass, and using his length to be a disruptor on defense by blocking a couple of shots and forcing a couple of steals.
Watson is a shooter first and foremost, but he's shown recently that he can contribute in several facets of the game.
Watson holds offers from Akron, Dayton, Indiana, UMass, Miami (OH), Ohio, Toledo, and Western Kentucky. Before anyone complains about that offer sheet, consider last under-the-radar Pickerington Central prospect to make his way to Michigan: Caris LeVert.
Junior highlights are at the top of the post. Here's that 41-point title game performance:
And here's a single-game reel from a matchup against four-star wing Seth Towns:
Dude can shoot.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
With Caris LeVert gone after this upcoming season, Watson is in line to see some early playing time if he's ready; when he gets to campus in 2016, Zak Irvin, Aubrey Dawkins, and MAAR will be the only true wings on the squad, and that's assuming Irvin is back. If Watson doesn't crack the rotation as a freshman, he should as a sophomore after Irvin graduates.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is technically full for the 2016 class but they're not finished recruiting. Point guard has been a priority from the beginning, with four-star in-stater Cassius Winston—whose recruitment should come down to M and MSU—as the top target on the board. If attrition doesn't create room for a point guard, there's a possibility Austin Davis reclassifies to the 2017 class.
Photo: Danny Wild/USA Today
FBSchedules.com reported this afternoon that Michigan will face Army in the 2019 home opener:
Michigan will host Army at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Sept. 7, 2019, according to a copy of the game contract obtained from the Army Athletic Association under a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Wolverines will pay the Black Knights a $1.5 million guarantee for the game, which will be the 10th overall meeting between the two schools. Army leads the series 5-4 and has won the last four meetings, the last coming in 1962.
While Army does hold a 5-4 edge in the series, it's Michigan that has won the last four. All nine games took place between 1945 and 1962, when Army was still a football power.
This is probably Michigan's replacement for what would usually be a MAC game. M opens the 2019 season at Arkansas, the latter half of a home-and-home series, and hasn't yet filled the other open non-conference spot. Starting in 2016, the Big Ten moves to a nine-game conference schedule, which leaves room for three non-conference games.
The University of Michigan Athletic Department announced today (Wednesday, July 28) plans to take the jerseys associated with the Michigan Football Legends back off the field. Gerald Ford (#48), Tom Harmon (#98), Desmond Howard (#21), Ron Kramer (#87), Bennie Oosterbaan (#47) and the Wistert brothers (#11) -- Albert, Alvin and Whitey -- will have their jerseys retired in a ceremony against Ohio State on Nov. 28.
This means that Desmond Howard's jersey, previously available, will now be consigned to history. I liked the legends jersey concept, if not the execution, for both practical and sentimental reasons.
There are a lot of players, and they need a lot of numbers, and having them on the field was a reminder of Michigan's history. It didn't work out the way we hoped, but having 98 on QB was cool and distinctly Michigan.
The patches were too prominent and the frequent number switches annoying; I still liked the idea of having 98 and 47 and etc out there. Not having 21 is kind of sad, isn't it?
The first rule of Draftageddon is "you must complain about Draftageddon." The second is "the four people drafting assemble teams of Big Ten players in an effort to seem the best at drafting."
THAT WHICH HAS COME BEFORE
Previously on Draftageddon:
- Adam takes a guy with a ~33% chance to start first overall! Joey Bosa lasts until pick 3! Seth is generally sensible! For him that counts as Heiko-ing, I think!
- Brian takes back to back QBs! Several additional Ohio State players go off the board! 24-12!
THAT WHICH IS THE CURRENT SITUATION
ACE: Round 8, Pick 2: Braxton Miller, QB/?, Ohio State
OFFENSE: QB Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Michael Thomas (OSU), WR DaeSean Hamilton (PSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU)
DEFENSE: DE Joey Bosa (OSU), DT Darius Hamilton (RU), NT Austin Johnson (PSU), OLB Darron Lee (OSU)
The rules dictate I take a quarterback here, and I'll abide by those rules. For the most part.
Braxton Miller isn't the favorite to win the job at Ohio State. He's coming off a lost season after his surgically repaired throwing shoulder fell apart in fall camp. JT Barrett stepped in and nearly won the Heisman; Cardale Jones relieved Barrett and won the national title. Miller may have the least amount of pro potential of the three, at least at quarterback.
Health permitting, however, Miller may be the best college quarterback. It's not a stretch to say he's already a legendary Big Ten QB. He's one of four players in the history of the conference to win two Big Ten MVP awards. In his most recent season, he passed for 2094 yards on 8.2 YPA and rushed for 1068 on 6.2 YPC; he accounted for 36 touchdowns and threw only seven interceptions. The list of national, Big Ten, and school records he owns or has in his sights is too long to list here. He may not be the most polished passer, but he is a breathtaking runner:
While Miller's injury is a downside the other two Buckeye QBs don't have, his running ability provides an upside his competition lacks. If Miller doesn't win the job, it's in everyone's best interest for him to play running back or H-back (Meyer's Percy Harvin position). He probably wouldn't start with Ezekiel Elliott and Jalin Marshall, respectively, holding those two spots, but it'd be hard to keep him off the field as long as he stays healthy.
If I'm lucky, I just snagged a #1-pick value in the eighth round. If I'm not, I still think Miller will contribute in some form, and I can grab one of the middle-tier quarterbacks later as insurance.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Soon after Ace made this pick it was announced that Miller would be playing H-back/Harvin guy. The commissioner decided that Ace had to take an actual QB with his next pick, which is in the next post, and had the option of keeping Miller or throwing him back in the pool and taking a supplemental pick immediately. Ace chose to keep Miller, because duh.]
SETH: Round 8, Pick 3: Michael Caputo, strong safety, Wisconsin
OFFENSE: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Corey Clement (WIS), WR Leonte Carroo (Rut), OC Jack Allen (MSU), OG Pat Elflein (OSU)
DEFENSE: HSP Jabrill Peppers (Mich), DB Jordan Lucas (PSU), S Michael Caputo (Wis)
After 30 picks you don't expect to find a second-team All-American still on the board, especially not when he's a linebacker-sized ballhawk who led Wisconsin in tackles last year as a safety, and outshone Chris Borland in 2013 from F linebacker (hybrid space player).
As you might have guessed, I'm picking for either a 3-3-5 or a 4-2-5 defense with hybrids to either side. Since the conference's elite pass rushers went off the board quickly, my strategy for kicking ass will have to include a lot of blitzing, which means having the dudes who can do that or cover a lot of ground behind it. Basically it's the anti-spread modern version of the 46 defense. And it just so happens the reincarnation of #46 (Doug Plank) himself plays in the Big Ten.
If we're assigning roles between this trio, Caputo is the two-parts-linebacker/meat-raw safety who takes the side of the tight end. From Madison.com:
Michael Caputo was 2 years old when he hopped on his toy articulated vehicle, a load of dirt in the back, and pedaled down the 125-foot long driveway at the family’s home near Pittsburgh. The boy picked up speed along the way crashing into a concrete wall.
He thought it was so much fun that he did it over and over.
Go ahead and save that for the next time someone asks you to describe Wisconsin in so many words. After cement walls, Caputo finds Big Ten tight ends remarkably pliable, if less fun. Popping bubble screens is just easy. Last year when I stole him in round 21 I quoted DC Dave Arranda on how his then-sophomore was the only guy who could make the schematic adjustments that made Wisconsin's run defense work. Here's safeties coach Bill Busch one year later:
“He’s the true captain of the ship back there with all the adjustments that he makes,” Busch said of Caputo, who plays alongside true freshman Lubern Figaro. “A lot of times we put him in the position that requires the most thinking.”
The Kovacs is strong in this one. If Kovacs was the size of a linebacker, hit like a truck, and fell one spot shy of a Bednarik semifinalist last year.
ADAM: Round 8, Pick 4: Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota
Round 9, Pick 1: Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
OFFENSE: QB J.T. Barrett (OSU), WR Jordan Westerkamp (Neb), OT Jason Spriggs, (IU), TE Jake Butt (UM)
DEFENSE: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU), DT Adolphus Washington (OSU), S Vonn Bell (OSU), CB Eric Murray (Minn), LB Raekwon McMillan (OSU)
The Big Ten may have an abundance of talent at corner this fall, but I couldn't let Murray sit on the board any longer. He has a two-year track record as one of the best cover corners in college football, lining up so close he can tell you what the opposing receiver had for their pregame meal while possessing the rare ability to jam and turn and run and actually stay with guys for more than 10 yards.
He's not going to post eye-popping interception totals (he has one career pick, and that came last season against San Jose State), but his 17 PBUs and 75% of tackles being of the solo variety over the past two years show what he can do in coverage and in run support. Defensive backs coach Jay Sawvel agrees:
"He's a good tackler, he's a great blitzer, he's a tremendous special-teams player, he's very, very good in press coverage to the point where a lot of times a play will just break down."
The conference has Michael Thomas, Leonte Carroo, and Dudes Who Sometimes Catch Things. I think Murray will be just fine.
Sticking with defense, I've decided to start building my linebacking corps in the middle, which is probably the conference's weakest spot. You can't say I didn't try to make this draft entertaining.
McMillan takes over for the departed (and oft-criticized) Curtis Grant, whose playing time McMillan already started leeching last fall. McMillan finished the season with 54 total tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 interception, and 1 PBU, playing in every game except the season opener against Navy and the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.
He's not the fastest, but he has good size (6-2, 240) and the kind of instincts that are so often discussed they fill many pages when you Google him. He's also adapted nicely to calling the defense. Per DC Luke Fickell:
"That's the thing that you saw early on. There's some guys who have intelligence and some that aren't football smart, then some who are and don't really work at it. He's got an incredible combination of all of it."
McMillan will benefit from playing next to WLB/Heart and Soul Guy/Gritty Gritster Josh Perry and SLB/hybrid space destroyer/stat sheet filler Darron Lee, but the former top-50 recruit should be able to hold his own against the Big Ten's terrifying stable of offensive weapons.
[After THE JUMP: WE ARE CERTAINLY OUT OF BUCKEYES THIS TIME]
Mitchell Deciding Soon, Will Be Back For BBQ
Four-star NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell visited Ohio State for their Friday Night Lights camp and Michigan on Saturday. Buckeye insiders on both Rivals (Marc Givler) and Scout (Bill Greene) sounded the commitment alarm Saturday afternoon, expecting Mitchell to wind up in Michigan's class as soon as... well, Saturday, and while it didn't happen that quickly things still look very good. Mitchell told The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan the two rivals are running even atop his list ($):
"I love Ohio State; it is a great place," he said. "Them and Michigan are neck-and-neck at one. I am going to compare [the two visits] and sit down with my mom. These two visits are mainly mom visits. I already have a good (feel) for both of them, so after I sit down with my mom afterwards that is what's going to be the big difference-maker between the two."
That said, Michigan looks to have the edge. Mitchell has already set a return trip. He wants to make a decision in August after talking things over with his mom, who accompanied him on both visits. Ohio State is rumored to have a couple receivers—Donnie Corley and Binjimen Victor—above Mitchell on their board with limited spots remaining. Unless the Buckeyes make a serious late push, which still might not be enough to overcome the Jersey-to-Michigan draw, Mitchell should wind up in the class relatively soon.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
One conference. Sixty-one teams. All the football.
Is realignment done? The Big XII is bouncing around the idea of making their conference even more mid-major than it stands now. Meanwhile the Big Ten's TV deals are all up very soon, so there's a chance to lock in oodles and oodles of money that won't come again. Why not go on one last expansion binge now to really set the market and ensure our conference's survival and fan interest in an uncertain future?
Here's my suggestion:
1. Rename. We're not 10 schools anymore, and this is confusing. I suggest the Big Ten rebrand as THE BIG SIX. The six shall refer to the six divisions, many of which have "Big" in their titles. Also since anything more than 11 teams is really a league not a conference, we'll call this the BIG SIX LEAGUE and the divisions can be called "conferences."
2. Expand. Here are the teams I'd add to the
conference league, and how I'd break them up into divisions conferences of 10 or 11 teams based on shared geography, program culture, and history:
Midwest Conference ("The Big Ten"): Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota
Northeast Conference ("The Big East"): Penn State, Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Maryland
Atlantic Coast Conference ("The ACC"): Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, NC State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, South Carolina, Miami (YTM), Louisville
Southeast Conference ("The SEC")*: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Arkansas, Kentucky
The Plains Conference ("The Big XII"): Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas, Nebraska, Mizzou, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Colorado
- Pacific Conference ("The Pac Ten"): Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, Oregon, Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State
*The SEC is the only 11-team conference to start
These divisions can have nicknames like "Big Ten" or "Big East." To ensure no more crazy realignment, every team must affirm a six-year commitment at the beginning of every season (i.e. there's a six-year waiting period if you want to leave). No conference can expand past 11; any joining school must get a 2/3rds majority of votes from the league, and unanimous support from its conference.
3. The Schedule. Every school plays all of its division opponents plus three from the other five conferences (scheduled as two-year home and homes), for 12 games total (since the SEC has 11 teams they play just two non-conference opponents). Six must be at home and six away, and no more than five conference games can be home. Cross-conference schools may contract with each other to schedule these in advance, with any holes filled in by the league two years prior.
Every team is allowed to schedule one pre-season exhibition (the Rich Rod plan), but it will not count toward that team's record for determining final postseason ranking. Every league game (not just division record) however will count toward winning your division. League play begins the week after Labor Day, and must conclude by the last Saturday of November.
4. Conference Championship Playoff. I would replace the conference championship game with a six-team conference playoff between the division winners.
The first round is played at the home of the higher-ranked (determined by committee) school in early December, with the two top teams getting a bye.
The second round is played Christmas Day at the Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl, with the two winners of the first round versus two teams that earned byes (highest overall seed selects its venue).
The championship is played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on January 1. The third place game is played at the Fiesta Bowl. Any school eliminated from the Final Four is free to play in any bowl game against any opponent (in or out of the league), regardless of final record.
5. Make Appropriate Hand Gestures Toward NCAA. The league shall declare its own rules superior to any made by the NCAA, and choose to ignore any NCAA rule. The league will make its own rules, specifically regarding appropriate compensation for its athletes (for example lifetime medical benefits, performance bonuses, league-approved player agents, and pay), and recruiting rules. Member schools will no longer be directly responsible to NCAA enforcement. The commissioner of this league shall be selected by the athletes, and will hold veto power.
6. What I did there. You see it. Good.