Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark,
LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, OL Jack Miller, OL Tony Posada, and RB Thomas Rawls.
|Chicago, IL - 6'4" 340|
|Scout||3*, #21 OG|
|Rivals||4*, #203 overall, #19 OT|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #37 OG|
|Others||247: 3*, 89, NR|
|Other Suitors||Illinois, Stanford, Arizona, Ohio State(-ish)|
|YMRMFSPA||Also Alex Mitchell|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim. Tom interviewed him in January, again just before his commitment, and just before his arrival in June,|
|Notes||Former teammate of 2012 OT target Jordan Diamond|
Chris Bryant is the second mauling, pile-pushing guard Rich Rodriguez acquired just in time for Brady Hoke to clap his hands together and go "wheee" at the prospect of turning opposing linemen into damp smears. Okay, Rodriguez didn't quite seal the deal, but this was a JT Floyd situation: by the time the new guy had set up digs Michigan had been the heavy leader for so long that the actual commitment was a foregone conclusion.
I was under the impression Bryant was a better-regarded recruit than he actually ended up. This is probably because of my bias towards Rivals's software (this year conclusively demonstrates that Scout's rankings are superior). Rivals has him a member of their top 250; other sites offer just three stars. His offers were similarly kind of eh: despite a number of camp performances his best other offers were from Illinois and Arizona. Ohio State was on the verge of offering for seemingly half the recruiting year but never did end up pulling the trigger.
That's not too surprising given the scouting reports. They paint a picture of an enormous, enormously strong guy with questionable technique and a bit of a weight issue. Bryant's ceiling is high, but his risk of flaming out is similarly high. Specifics from ESPN($):
Bryant is a raw talent with very good upper body playing strength, flashing the ability to dominate defenders. Has the size for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition however his body mass will need to be redistributed through off season conditioning. … Can come off the ball low and hard but more often his initial fit and pad level are high; needs to improve his ability to play low coming off the ball however once he gets his hands on defenders the results can result in pancake blocks. This player could have problems with active 1st and 2nd level defenders unless his initial quickness and pad level improve. ... We like the aggressive finishing attitude this guy brings to the game, it's what we like to see from offensive linemen.
Scout echoes, with an addendum that they believe he's coachable:
Power And Strength
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Big bodied lineman who can move well for a kid his size. Smart, and takes to coaching quickly. Has great power and strength. When he gets his hands on someone, he usually wins. He has exceptional punch and can knock defenders off balance easily. He still is somewhat raw with his hand placement and technique, and is a tad top heavy, but has a ton of raw ability, and the type of aggressive, hard working attitude you want in a lineman. - Allen Trieu
Elsewhere Trieu says he's "very strong, but raw" and "picked up techniques quickly" at camps. After improving "each and every time out" over the summer he was a candidate to move up to four stars. Obviously, he didn't.
The Michigan Showcase was one of those camps, and Scout came back with an epic amount of scouting. Here's a freebie from a couple of their Ohio guys:
He moves well for a kid his size. He's athletic, has good feet and what I really liked was that he took to the coaching and worked hard from start to finish. The coaches were really getting on him to use his punch and after that, that's when we saw his power and ability to just stone defensive linemen. He still needs more of that technical work, but he picks it all up really fast and when combined with his physical tools, he has a chance to be a really good college lineman.
Again there are some technique and weight concerns. Trieu much the same in a News article with some extra emphasis on his coachability.
A couple months later he hit up another camp that Sam Webb reported back from, saying it looked like he'd taken off a few pounds and that he'd gotten a lot better($) since the last time people had seen him:
It was his pass blocking that scouts wanted to see improve. It’s easy to see that it has. Bryant showed better lateral quickness, was more adept at opening his hips in order to prevent rushers from getting around the edge, and possesses a devastating punch. He still lunges at times and can get caught off balance, but his technique is clearly improving.
Touch The Banner says the usual bit about his weight and then gets into a couple of important positives:
The bottom line is that Bryant is a very powerful kid. … When you watch Bryant's film, it's evident that he plows over defensive linemen. He's the type of lineman that demoralizes you by blocking you into the ground and then hitting you again and again when you try to get up. Eventually players just bide their time until the whistle blows. He's not quite to the level of Taylor Lewan in nastiness, but he's pretty close.
The thing I like most about Bryant, though, is his footwork. For such a big kid, he moves his feet superbly. Unlike fellow class of 2011 behemoth Aundrey Walker, Bryant keeps his feet moving throughout the play. Whereas Walker gives opponents a shove or two and expects them to give up, which they often do, Bryant drives his man or keeps his feet moving laterally in short, choppy steps. (Bonus: I ranked Bryant just ahead of Walker and just behind recent USC commit Cyrus Hobbi back in January.) His excellent footwork and potentially overwhelming size and strength should turn him into an excellent offensive lineman at Michigan.
There are always injury and motivation risks when talking about a guy Bryant's size but the good camp performances and consistent reports he is a high character, coachable kid mitigate those. He should spend the next couple years slimming down and getting that power even more powerful before debuting as the first of a generation of pulling road graders in two years. Hopefully this coach quote…
“He was incredible in the things he was doing out there,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said of his Bryant’s season. “He was dominant out there.”
…will be something we're saying by that point. Hoke will say he needs work.
6-5 330lbs.? Wow, what are they putting in the Chicago water supply?
Visited for the Big Chill.
Why also Alex Mitchell? Bryant isn't Posada but they are the same genre of player: 6'4" monster guards. Mitchell is the recent Michigan prototype for those guys, displaying both the promise—he started early and played pretty well—and danger—left the team out of shape—of those sorts. Hoke's Michigan won't beg him back if he won't put the effort in, at least.
I like Bryant better than Posada because his agility is reputed to be better, he's the size everyone expected he'd be, and his recruiting rankings are significantly better.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Guy was healthy but there's a mismatch between the scouting reports and ratings; there's also a wide spread in the ratings themselves.
General Excitement Level: High. Bryant is the same weight as Posada but escapes the ding because everyone knew that going in. He's going to be in an offense that suits his talents and just needs to work on his technique and endurance; he's already got the strength. TTB's two main assets—nastiness and feet—are especially encouraging.
Projection: While Michigan's lack of depth on the line might force Bryant to forgo a redshirt, they've still got two or three options (Schofield, Khoury, Mealer) before they'd be forced into that. Severe injury issues on the interior will see Huyge move inside so it will take at least two and probably three injuries before they take the redshirt off.
If that doesn't happen, he gets the redshirt. The following year will be status quo minus Khoury, the presumed starting center. In 2013 he'll be a considerable favorite to win a starting job once Omameh and Barnum graduate.
First, Al Borges:
And then Greg Mattison:
Brink of the Brink. I jumped the gun yesterday by retweeting the Blade's Ryan Autullo, who reported Nathan Brink was hanging out on the first-team defensive line yesterday, and claiming this should deflate the Will Campbell hype balloon. It turns out reporters got to see a lot of stretching and not much else; the units out there were not exactly 20 minutes of solid evidence.
"I hate to ever talk about a young man because I think every time I do that they go right down in the tubes," Mattison said after yesterday's practice. "He has come out every day as tough as he can. He listens to [defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery] on every word. When he tells him to step a certain way, he tries to step a certain way. And he's really, really physical." …
"In the spring it was mentioned a number of times because his toughness stuck out like crazy," Mattison said.
The word of the day is always "physical" except when it's "toughness." It's a good sign for you when the coaches are describing you with the attributes they've been preaching nonstop since their arrival.
Is it good for Michigan? If you were under the impression Michigan wouldn't be rotating through walk-ons on its DL, no. That's been unlikely since those dual DT decommits on Signing Day two years ago, though.
Now you should brace for zing:
"Everybody's a scholarship football player to us," Mattison said. "The best 11, the best 12, the best 17, those guys are going to play."
This walk-on may be on the brink of doing that.
The other change. Is it alarming that Jibreel Black, who the coaches have been displeased with, was the other surprise first-team-ish player on the line yesterday? Probably not. An emailer relates that Craig Roh is sick. Not good but not a major problem unless it's mono.
Don't be mono, k thx.
might not be much bench time for this pair. via GBMW
Insidery scuttlebutt. Fall camps are full of temporary surprise starters as coaches test new things or dole out rewards and reprimands, so reading too much into any particular lineup is a constant threat. That said, a couple folk close to the program say Hawthorne has been playing well enough to warrant his shot at the first team. Consistency remains an issue. If Michigan can get production out of him that will be a bonus.
Other insidery nuggets: Demens has MLB locked down and is playing as well at that spot as anyone has in a while; Cam Gordon should hold off Jake Ryan for the SLB spot; Marell Evans has been a bit of disappointment.
Position switches. As media day content continues to trickle out information missed by folks moving to and fro amongst the panoply of assistants and players comes out. For example, there's a new contender at Safety Who Isn't Kovacs. Curt Mallory:
"Thomas has been playing nickel and also been playing safety. We're moving him around," Mallory said. "They will eventually [be interchangeable]. We went into it playing sides, and now as they've learned it, you can play your next best safety rather than next best strong or free. As we get closer to it we'll hone it in a bit and get guys where they best fit the defense. …
"No one's hiding. They all want to be out there, involved, competing. That's probably the most encouraging thing. If Thomas Gordon could, he'd be out there the whole time, and he's not the only one. That's good. They all want to be out there—it's a healthy thing because they are all helping one another."
I liked Gordon last year in the limited role (and limited time) he was allowed. He's dropped some weight and I'd be surprised if he wasn't the fastest guy competing to start at safety. (Furman is probably faster but no one mentions him as a threat to start this year.)
Mallory mentioned Countess, Taylor and Hollowell first amongst the freshmen corners, FWIW.
Rivals also has an article on Brennen Beyer's move to SLB. He won't be required to play this year and that sounds like a good thing:
It's a change because I haven't really played that before, but it's fun trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can," Beyer said. … "Pass dropping, for one. I've never done that before," he said. "Playing while standing up—that's a little different."
Anyone nervous? I'm nervous. Jeff Hecklinski on the receivers:
"It was such a drastic change offensively that it really hasn't been aided [by their experience]," Hecklinski said. "We have to understand the intricacies that go along with the pro-style offense and the throwing game like we have.
"But, to their credit, they've worked hard throughout the summer. You can see a lot of good things throughout the summer. They came through and did the 7-on-7s and now we get a chance to look at them, you can see they've started to develop that timing and put things together. Now, we need to build on it, and we can hone it down to every little detail."
Practice buzz has been extremely happy with the unit as a whole despite the change; I'm guessing we see a preponderance of three-wide sets this fall. Four is a thing of the past but SDSU ran a lot of three-wide last year. With little established behind Koger at TE their other option is all I-Form.
Gallon is getting talked up, which is surprising. He was an impressive player in the Army Bowl as a recruit but couldn't find the field in an offense perhaps better suited for his talents—he mostly spent his time screwing up painfully on special teams. If he gets his act together he'd bring a YAC aspect Michigan's receivers are currently lacking. I'd bet this is more like Johnny Sears hype, though: encouragement more than accurate reporting.
Standard. More Fred Jackson: "I’ve very, very confident [in the future] because those two freshmen are good players. They are better than good. Both of them.”
Summer recruiting has wound down with the arrival of fall camp, especially for teams with a commit list as close to full as Michigan's. There's still information to go around, but unofficial/official visits (starting with the Western Michigan game) should see the return of action.
IA WR Amara Darboh (pictured at right) will be visiting Ann Arbor for the Western Michigan game, after a strong visit a couple weeks ago.
CA WR Jordan Payton will be in attendance for the Notre Dame game.
IL OL Jordan Diamond is in no hurry to commit, so it's possible that Michigan's class fills up before he wants to commit. There's only one spot available along the offensive line, and WA OLs Josh Garnett and Zach Banner are planning early-season visits. Garnett is trying to arrange his Michigan visit for the Notre Dame game, the same as Banner.
For all the talk of those other linemen, don't forget about PA OL Adam Bisnowaty, who is still considering Michigan. He's the other primary option for that final OL spot in the 2012 crop.
Saginaw fluff on expatriate MO DT Commit Ondre Pipkins, who grew up in the area:
In the end, it was one of those Saginaw High connections that helped cement Ondre Pipkins’ commitment to Michigan. [Roy] Manning, the former Saginaw High star who played at Michigan before a three-year NFL career, is back in Ann Arbor as a first-year graduate assistant on Hoke’s staff.
Manning is friends with Ondre's dad Al, who still lives in Saginaw.
Pipkins's commitment left MI DT Danny O'Brien wondering where he stands with the Wolverines. He planned to call Michigan's coaches on Monday, but no word on how it went.
IL CB Anthony Standifer is solid in his commitment, in case you were worried about his status.
ESPN Rise has released their All-Midwest team, and though I'm more apt to ignore a squad with three(!!!) first-team QBs, it's kind to Michigan, so linky, here we go. Commits in bold; other targets in regular.
- OH RB (OSU Commit) Bri'onte Dunn
- OH WR Dwayne Stanford
- OH OL Commit Kyle Kalis
- IL OL Jordan Diamond
- OH DE Adolphus Washington
- MI LB Commit Royce Jenkins-Stone
- MI LB Commit James Ross
- OH S Bam Bradley
- MI CB Commit Terry Richardson
- IL CB Commit Anthony Standifer
- OH WR Monty Madaris
- MI DT Danny O'Brien
- MI DE Commit Mario Ojemudia
- OH DE/DT Commit Chris Wormley
- OH LB Commit Joe Bolden
- OH S Commit Jarrod Wilson
Happy Trails, MA CB Armani Reeves, who picked Penn State. That brings Michigan's DB hotboard back down to one uncommitted prospect, NJ CB Yuri Wright.
With the 2012 class mostly complete, it's no surprise that focus shifts more heavily to rising juniors.
MI OL Cameron Dillard may receive a Michigan offer after sending coaches early-season junior film.
MI OL Steven Elmer has set up a few visits this fall, including two to Notre Dame (and one to Michigan for the Notre Dame contest). It seems like the Irish are going to be one of the strongest contenders for his services.
Tom talked with MD DT/DE Henry Poggi following a visit to Ann Arbor last week:
I've taken a few visits down south and decided to go to Ann Arbor before camp starts for us... I would say Michigan is up there, I really like the people down there and the education they have.
I would rather not prolong my commitment. I don't know the exact date, but I'd like to take a couple official visits. If I know before I can take visits then I would just commit, I don't really have to take the officials.
Poggi's offer list already includes the likes of Alabama and Ohio State, so building a favorable impression of Michigan early is a strong start with one of 2013's top prospects.
Keep an eye on IL DE Devante Lee ($, info in header). He's a teammate of IL OL Jordan Diamond (and former teammate of Wolverine freshman Chris Bryant).
Michigan is "turning up the heat" on MI DE/LB Luke MacLean.
Sam Webb's Detroit News column this week focuses on OH LB Ben Gedeon, primarily explaining why he's called "the freak":
"I was just always a little bit bigger than everybody, so my family called me that."
That's... not as interesting as I was expecting. Gedeon does a little bit of everything on both sides of the ball in high school, and Allen Trieu talks about his physical skills:
"He was excellent when we saw him in camp settings and his film verified what we had seen in shorts and T-shirts," Scout.com midwest regional manager Allen Trieu said. "He is a well built kid at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and moves very well at that size."
Gedeon says Michigan is currently atop his list, but he plans to evaluate all of his options before making a decision. He attended the BBQ at the Big House, where he connected with Michigan commits like James Ross and Kyle Kalis. He tells Tom that Michigan was his first offer - a big deal - and he'll try to visit campus for the Notre Dame game this fall.
GA CB Shaquille Wiggins is trying to visit Michigan for an early-season game.
UPDATE: Fear The Hat adds SI and USA Today and deliciously points out that the Miami story isn't even on the front page of their college football section. Despite the name, FTH does not appear to be Les Miles fan blog.
It's about 2 AM after Charles Robinson reduced the already fairly smouldering ruins of Miami football to a radioactive field of glass. Let's check national sports websites to see what they think is important!
Yahoo Sports won't be a surprise but here it is:
What does ESPN think is important at this moment? Do you think it's something other than an earth-shaking, NCAA-threatening, death-penalty-warranting annihilation of a major college football program? Surely. Surely they have passed it over in favor of someone who plays baseball in the Northeast, because they suck that hard, you say?
That guy totally plays regular season baseball… in Atlanta.
Goddammit, ESPN. Sometimes you do suck just as hard as everyone says you do. #freebruce #dontcallitashapiroback
startled Borges is startled, from file
Does he still draw up plays? - "I'm always. I'm obsessive... I just, I like that part of the game. I like the tactics. I like to scribble." Denard's talent poses some interesting options in terms of new plays. The defensive-oriented head coaches tend to give the OC a little bit more freedom. "Brady know what we're doing, understands what we're doing, and monitors everything."
"There's so many frustrations out there" because guys aren't consistently performing perfectly yet. "It's just the way it is this time of year."
On Denard - "He's playing good. He's kind of a kick to coach. He's upbeat all the time." He's been receptive to every bit of coaching since he's been here. Timing is getting better in the passing game every day. The guys worked in the offseason, but there was room for improvement. "It's not there yet, but it's showing some promise."
On the tailbacks - "We still don't have a starting running back, but we've got a nice field to work from. Getting a little closer to that, I think." They'll cut down the running back competition when they start game-planning, instead of just going through camp.
There are nice inside and outside runners. "Michael Shaw, Stephen Hopkins, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michael Cox, all of them have just shown some great flashes. ... Cox and Shaw are very similar in that they've got some home run threat to them. Toussaint's a tough kid that makes no concessions to the defense. He to has a nice burst and he can go. Vincent's as diverse as any of them." Thomas Rawls is a tough inside guy, like Hopkins, and Justice Hayes has good cuts.
3rd-down role - Vincent Smith - "He's certainly a candidate." Not big, but can block and pass. He's in the running for starting RB too, because he's so dynamic. Need an RB who can test out a nickel back in passing situations. "You've gotta run tight routes and catch it when they throw it to you."
If it takes multiple games to find a starting running back, so be it. "This is a collaborative effort." Hoke, Borges, Jackson - everybody will have a say in it.
The biggest issue with young RBs is protecting the QB. They can see running lanes pretty well, but there are so many things defenses will do that figuring out who to block is the hardest part.
"We're moving some folks around" to figure out some of the fullback race - they're keeping it under wraps for now who is moving and from where. John McColgan is the primary guy.
On Wideouts - "We've got some guys that are playing well out there. Some of the guys played some last year. Jeremy Gallon, Kelvin Grady has done a nice job. Jerald Robinson who didn't play much, but he seems like he's got a future here. Drew Dileo, all those guys have worked their buns off." Receivers need to be able to play special teams to make travel squads. They've gotta block on the outside, as well.
"You always like to have a few rangy guys" at wideout, but any size is OK. "We would take a smaller, faster guy" at previous stops, because you get 6 points for a TD no matter how tall you are.
On the OL competition - With 5 top guys, "it kinda is what it is right now." There's a chemistry that's important to line play. You'd like to find five guys who can get used to each other. Michael Schofield will be a contributor, it's just a question of when.
Guys are demonstrating the want-to. They understand that they need to get to the level of Michigan expectations. "You never know when it's going to happen. The guys are consciously trying to work to get there. Whether that work is good enough right now? I can't say yes to that." Need to see more guys getting over "the hump."
Playing with great technique, playing with tremendous effort, and being very physical are the three most important factors. "We do those three things, now we're playing Michigan defense."
On Tackling - "It's always something that we have to work on." Had a couple disappointing reps on the goal-line drills today. Were just one wrapped tackle away from making some stops. Safeties, corners, etc. understanding to not give up big plays.
On playing rotations - the coaches need to determine throughout camp how many consecutive plays guys can play at their top level. "When they're tired, somebody else will come in for you. Get your rest, you're not demoted." Specifically along D-line. At Florida, had 6 guys who were worthy of being called starters, even though 4 played at a time. Helped to have a good rotation.
Defensive linemen need to be consistent. "We have to be a defense that you play with great technique on every player. Unless you are a dominant athlete."
On Mike Martin - "I think he's working hard, and I say this about every player on our team: they can work harder and they will work harder." Won't say anybody has "elite talent" until they prove it in games. "I don't know if we have any, and I don't know if we don't have any."
On Will Heininger - "I think he's much stronger. He's shown some signs of being very physical and strong at times." Like everybody else, he needs to develop consistency.
On Nathan Brink - "Played like a Michigan football player... This guy here has come out every day as tough as he can." He hit his weight goal of 260 by coming into camp at 264. "In the spring, it was mentioned a number of times, because his toughness showed up. He was only 250 at the time."
On walk-ons like Nathan Brink and Tony Anderson - "Everybody's a scholarship football player to us. The best 11, the best 12, the best 13, best 17 - those guys are gonna play." Doesn't matter if a guy is a walk-on or a 5th-year guy, they'll play.
On WLB - "That position - and again I hate to ever say anything positive - I love how those guys are playing at times. At times they're playing with such energy, such speed, and such explosiveness." That's a battle.
On Cam Gordon - "He's working really really hard at the physical part of playing SAM backer." He's working hard to meet the standards.
On the secondary - Safeties play a number of coverages, but priority is always to keep the ball inside and in front of him. Jordan Kovacs comes to work every day ready to do things the right way. All of the other safeties show flashes, but lose concentration at times. They need to improve their consistency.
Courtney Avery comes out trying to get better every day. "When he makes a mistake, it bothers him, and he tries even harder next time." Guys are learning that they need to have great technique.
Position changes - "Not drastic. We'll look at an outside linebacker who's kinda a hybrid to the rush backer, and we might switch those guys at times." There are no big, permanent changes.
Freshman contributors. "We've got some pretty good freshmen. Some of them have caught your eye," but they also make big freshman mistakes. They need to show consistent great talent to get on the field as soon as possible. "Frank Clark is a very talented... freshman." like all freshmen, he needs to do it right on every play.
Martavious Odoms still has a cast on his left arm, although it's coming off in the next week.
Vincent Smith, Terrence Robinson, Justice Hayes, Kelvin Grady, Thomas Rawls, Je'Ron Stokes, and Jerald Robinson were the players taking reps catching "kicks" from the jug machine. Fred Jackson made them all run through a couple different variations on the drill (turning around as the ball is launched, running five yards then turning around, etc.)
The defensive backs were working on proper alignments with coach Curt Mallory. He was running a group of DBs through their responsibilities as far as alignment, adjusting that alignment to motion and different offensive formations, and then their responsibilities depending on what certain offensive players would do. It was a very detail-oriented instruction.
During stretching (woo stretching!), one of the strength coaches reminded the players that they needed to take it upon themselves to have a good practice, saying "You don't have a great day by accident, you have it on purpose."
Also during stretching time, Brady Hoke was making his rounds and talking to a few players. He stopped and gave Stephen Hopkins a pat on the helmet and had a short conversation with him.
During the few plays of offense v. defense, it seemed there was a mixed group of starters and backups on the defensive side of the ball. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen were flanked by Jibreel Black and Nathan Brink on the DL (Will Heininger rotated in as well), with Jake Ryan and Brandin Hawthorne in at LB with Kenny Demens. Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon (deep - Carvin Johnson also rotated in) were the safeties, with Troy Woolfolk and Courtney Avery at corner. A few expected starters rotated in with the other group, including Craig Roh.
Offensively, it seemed the units were a little more in line with expectations of a first and second unit. Fitz Toussaint and Michael Shaw got the first-team reps at RB. There were a couple plays of I-form, some shotgun, and a mix between run and pass as well.
On the "second" units, Michael Cox, Jeremy Jackson, and Tony Anderson were among the notable players. Shaw got a couple reps with Gardner's offense as well.
Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark,
LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, OL Jack Miller, OL Tony Posada.
FWIW: I didn't forget Bryant, I just ended writing up Rawls first.
|Flint, MI - 5'10" 210|
|Scout||3*, #77 RB|
|Rivals||3*, NR RB, #19 MI|
|ESPN||3*, 76, #84 RB|
|Other Suitors||CMU, Cincinnati, Iowa (sort of)|
|YMRMFSPA||Mark Ingram… with more speed! Or Kevin Grady.|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim.|
|Notes||Head coach is Fred Jackson, son of Fred Jackson|
If you've hung around here for the last six months you've heard of, and probably participated in, the gentle mocking of various people named Fred Jackson for their opinion of Thomas Rawls. You see, Rudy, people named Fred Jackson are all football coaches who redefine hyperbole when talking about running backs. Rawls's high school coach and college position coach are both named Fred Jackson because they are father and son.
The result of this unholy hyperbole combo follows. Go action son!
“Honestly, I did get a chance to watch Mark Ingram a few times,” Jackson said. “Mark is probably one of the best guys ever to come through here. Mark was great, but there’s something about this kid Thomas. If I was to compare them as high school backs, give me Thomas Rawls.”
“Thomas Rawls can lift you - I call it the ‘hit and lift’ - and keep on going,” Jackson said. “That, to me, is a special talent. Chris Perry had that. Chris Perry had the ability to hit you and keep on moving, and this kid can move the pile.” …
“I know Mark [Ingram, again] and I know Thomas [Rawls],” the Michigan running backs coach said. “They’re a lot a like. … My son is telling me he’s O.J. Simpson. He’s not that, but he’s the real deal.”
I'm sorry if your clocks/pets exploded once you read that last bit. I'm even more sorry if the entrails combined with the gears to form a mouth that moaned "too… much… hyperbole" before collapsing in a pool of gore. But it had to be related. It's like the Ring.
OJ Ingram did rush for 396(!!!) yards against Bay City Central, breaking Plain Old Heisman Ingram's city record of 377 set against Bay City Western. (Bay City high schools, it's time to fire Greg Robinson.) He also put up an astounding 1585 yards on 150 carries in just six games before injury felled him. He probably would have stomped Ingram's records to dust if he hadn't picked up the dread high ankle sprain.
But come on, Fred Jacksons. We've heard this before, albeit in mono. Surely no one not named Fred Jackson would make the same assertion—
"He's a great back," Trieu said. "He is one of the toughest runners I've seen. He's very compact -- a bowling ball kind of kid who can break tackles and has a good burst. While most people see him as just an inside battering ram, I think he proved to me over the summer and the course of this year that he has legit breakaway speed. He's also very underrated as a receiver out of the backfield. He might not be the tallest back, but I think we've seen recently that's an overrated quality for a running back." …
"I think Rawls compares favorably to Ingram," Trieu said. "They both have similar builds and running styles. I think Ingram picks his way and is more of a slasher, whereas Rawls really sees a crease and hits it. I don't think you want to say Thomas Rawls will win a Heisman, but coming out of high school there are definite similarities there."
Son of a bitch.
It's time to check the film because everyone is lying. Film says… he does have a few plays on his highlight reel where defenders ping off of his squat physique after grabbing and finding nothing but thigh. They're buried after the touchdowns where he takes off untouched, but they're there. 5:36:
So why did OJ Ingram have one BCS offer, that from Cincinnati, and nothing from Michigan until January 28th? Why does everyone rate him a generic three star?
"Grades" are the usual answer. In this case it's not entirely fanciful. Scout's Allen Trieu directly stated that Rawls's grades kept his rankings low:
"We rate guys conservatively who have not fully qualified yet," said Trieu. "So he's about ranked 13th in the state and a three-star. I think he could be higher, but our national rule across the board is we wait until they've qualified. Purely on the merits of his talent and what he's done throughout his career though, I think he's a top-10 player in the state and borderline four-star-type kid. He's had a fantastic senior season."
Everyone from Demar Dorsey to Justin Turner to Aaron Burbridge puts the lie to that, though. Recruiting services continually rank academic risks much higher than Rawls. And there are plenty of schools who don't care if you've got two axons to rub not-quite-together if you can play football. For one: where is the ubiquitous WVU offer?
Lack of good film and injury are more plausible explanations. Rawls got a new coach when Flint Central closed and Fred Jackson moved to Northern. This got him away from a wing-T Rawls was not a fan of:
My old coach ran the wing-T,” Rawls said. “I just didn’t like it. It didn’t fit me. He always had me at linebacker, and I did succeed there. When Central closed, the coach they brought over had a new game plan, a new formation which was the spread and the I-formation. I just worked hard, adjusted to the new formations and just blew up after that.”
Rawls had "good" junior film but it was the senior stuff Scout's Allen Trieu found "outstanding." That outstanding blow up lasted six games and Rawls got injured, potentially terminating interest from teams around the region. Trieu believed Wisconsin and Iowa would be "real options" down the line just before his injury.
Interest from elsewhere or no, he ended up at Michigan. Let's see what we've won. ESPN($):
… physically imposing back with good downhill attributes. Hits the hole with authority and flashes good downhill burst and momentum. Quick to see and hit the cutback. A decisive and aggressive runner who is constantly heading North with square shoulder pads and good lean. … Does not have real loose hips but can redirect sharply and jump-cut the first defender through the hole. … . Runs low to the ground and dips the shoulder through traffic making it difficult to get clean shot on him. Shows an extra gear and when he breaks free into the second level to separate initially but does not project to have ideal long-speed or great elusiveness as a major college back. Breaks consistent first contact but did not see the pile pushing power we were expecting.
They say he "can contribute" and slap a decided meh on his rating. Touch the Banner:
… big kid with thick legs, built powerfully and low to the ground. He has patience and allows blocks to develop in front of him, which also shows good vision to see cutbacks and running lanes. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him as a high school runner is the way he keeps his shoulders facing north and south when he makes his cuts; this allows him to break some tackles that other running backs wouldn't.
…Michigan fans might not like me for saying this, but Rawls reminds me of Kevin Grady. … Perhaps Rawls can contribute at fullback or in goal line situations at Michigan, but I'm not expecting Rawls to be a star for the Wolverines.
Finally, Trieu has been Rawls's biggest advocate($):
Analysis: Rawls just looks like a running back. He's stocky, has a low center of gravity and he runs powerfully. He breaks arm tackles, has good balance and a north-south style where he does not waste a lot of time going laterally. He's able to make cuts and bounce off defenders at full speed and get himself going back towards pay-dirt. He has good speed and can break the long runs and also shows good hands in the passing game. …
Verdict: Michigan, I think, got a steal here. You watch the film and it's hard not to be impressed. He's a tough kid with speed and he's underrated as a receiver. It will be tough to keep him off the field for long.
I'm going to start calling him Allen Fred Trieu-Jackson if he keeps this up.
It seems like Michigan coaches are on Trieu's side. Rawls has been informed he will not redshirt and Jackson spent most of his time at media day talking up his freshmen. That's kind of a giveaway, though, since they'd had the pads on for like a day at that point and Justice Hayes is a spread guy no one expects to play much. Motivation there, and then the general unreliability of Fred Jackson assessments. I wouldn't read too much into that, or expect Rawls to see much playing time this year. Down the road it will depend on just how many tackles he breaks.
Etc.: Unanimous all state; Flint POY. Commitment presser photos. Thomas Rawls recruitment is serious business. Fred Jackson says he has more speed than Mike Hart, which Rawls takes as a "huge complement." If Mike Hart was fast he'd be the best running back ever. In case there was any question, he did qualify($) in June.
Probably some other Thomas Rawls:
"We're a group of people who get together to watch a movie, with a common interest in all things Star Trek," said Thomas Rawls Jr., vice president of the local fan club, which split from the Peninsula- based USS Jamestown club several years ago to cut down on the tunnel travel. "We're an informal group of people who enjoy Star Trek."
Is "all dog."
Why Mark Ingram… with more speed? My name is not Fred Jackson.
Okay. Why Kevin Grady? Grady was a squat 215 pound high school kid who racked up tons of yards in high school by running untouched through poor competition and running over 150-pound kids. In college his lack of elusiveness or overwhelming size made him a mediocre straight-ahead runner who was a decent short yardage back and fullback but not a feature guy.
Rawls's film doesn't show a guy who's going to get outside often, he won't have elite breakaway speed in college, and his wiggle ain't wigglin'. His path to production is grinding through the tackles like the ball of knives Grady was always supposed to be.
If he's Kevin Grady in a downhill manball offense that might be a different thing entirely. Michigan switched to an all-zone all-the-time offense in 2006; Grady redshirted the next year due to injury and then stuck it out in the spread 'n' shred. It's possible he would have been a much more useful back if he was asked to run power. Also, Grady's personal issues hindered his development. Rawls is likely to be a better version of his predecessor.
Guru Reliability: Low. Analyst scouting reports vary extensively, and it sounds like the ratings would if not for the grades or the injury. Rawls is also a late riser who didn't make a big splash until he was a senior and was immediately injured afterwards.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Running backs aren't that hard to rank, and I'm in agreement with the above guys who say he lacks the elite athleticism to be a force in college. He's a smaller version of Hopkins. If he does run as hard as his advocates, say, though…
Rawls is the biggest wildcard in this class. Could be nothing, could be OJ Ingram.
Projection: Has been told he'll play this year; I think he'll get a few carries here and there but generally be lost in the shuffle behind Shaw, Smith, and Hopkins. Next year Shaw is gone and he'll have the pass protection down; he could push to start then.