rundown of Michigan's riser
So I subscribe to the RSS feed of Scout but do not subscribe to Scout. This little gem of a headline trickled across Bloglines mere moments ago:
Legion Transfers, Re-Opens Commitment
Legion = Alex Legion, 2007 shooting guard and one of the top 20 players in his class at this juncture. Transfer = consummation of previous assertion that he's going to transfer from Detroit Country Day to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.
Re-Opens Commitment... well, that doesn't sound good, does it? If I hadn't had my basketball will to live beaten out of me already, this would probably spur some "aaargh." As it is: looks like Crawford/Horford redux.
Update 4/5: Added OLs Lee Ziemba (AR) and Jaivorio Burkes (AZ). Linked to article on Brandon Saine's track exploits. Linked to Scout article on IN RB Darren Evans that claims a leader... Mississippi State? Uh, okay. Michigan still in it; no offer. Linked to note on SC LB Scotty Cooper that says he is going to make an unofficial visit to Michigan over spring break and brief Scout article on IN WR Adrien Robinson. Moved Ryan VanBergen to committed.
Editorial Opinion: Ziemba and Burkes both have offers but haven't had much written on them to this point.
Brandon Saine is fast. Like, very very fast:
Saine is a throwback to the days when it wasn't unusual for sprinters to focus on all three races. And at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, he sheds the rail-thin sprinter image. He's getting faster, stronger (a 285-pound bench press and 415-pound squat) and bigger (by one inch and 10 pounds from '05).
"In 27 years, I've not seen anybody close to him," said longtime Piqua coach Ron Pearson. "The irony is, I don't think he realizes just how good he can be."
Saine's 2005 bests were impressive: a 10.69 in the 100 (at Wayne), 21.64 in the 200 (at Wittenberg) and 47.68 in the 400 (at state). ... He recently won the 60 meters at the National Scholastic Indoor Championship in New York City (6.79). ...
Saine seems equally strong at every distance. The 60 meters is little more than a great start. He won that title by a body, which in the world of fractions of seconds is like a weekend. His finishes in the 200 and 400 are even more remarkable because the distance he puts on the field is so much greater.
That? Fast. Especially at 215 -- none of this "I'm 156 pounds yayyayyayyyyy" stuff. If Saine's vision and cutting are up to... er... speed, look out.
Saine's strong resemblance to a jet engine with a helmet and his lifelong Michigan fandom are probably among the reasons that Michigan hasn't offered Indiana running back Darren Evans. Saine, Chicago's Robert Hughes, and possibly Wisconsin's John Clay appear to be Michigan's main targets at running back. Evans has an array of offers from mid-level BCS schools but is still listing non-offerers OSU, Michigan, and Iowa amongst his favorites. Evans' teammate Adrien Robinson does not have an offer, probably because he had all of 11 catches in Warren Central's 90% run offense. He'll probably have to come to camp to get one.
Scotty Cooper's intention to take an unofficial over spring break indicates serious interest, but it's hard to get kids from the south, etc, etc, etc.
And now we return to football recruits who are actually going to be on scholarship: Michigan has picked up its third commitment from Whitehall, Michigan TE/DE Ryan VanBergen. Given the recent luck of Michigan DEs with a "Van" in their name, let's hope he's a TE.
Unfortunately, the Internet turns up little on Van Bergen save the world's most unflattering photo of him:
Yeesh. Must... not... make... Special Olympics jokes... SPOCK. There is one article from the White Lake Beacon on his performance at last year's Michigan camp:
VanBergen is an imposing 6'5", 238 pounder who played outside linebacker and tight end last year as a sophomore and will be switching to defensive end this season. ...
Cannon and VanBergen each received plaques for being in the top 10 players in their position. That's impressive considering they were competing against 360 top athletes from around the country at their position.
In addition, VanBergen was moved up to the senior linemen age group despite learning a new position, and he won the "Smokehouse" trophy for running the fastest indoor 40 yard dash in his position.
He's ranked #15 on The Wolverine's preliminary instate top 25; normally that would be three stars all the way but with the surfeit of talent in Michigan this year and the fairly impressive early offers from a variety of Big Ten schools chances are he gets a four-star rating from Rivals when evaluated. The top 25 also gives some indication of what position he's being brought in to play:
Like him as a defensive end, but love him at tight end. Really looks like a wide receiver running routes, but is so much bigger than everyone else.
I'll file under TE. It would probably be wrong of me to point out that I kind of sort of predicted an offer mere days ago, but apparently I just did it anyway.
Well, at least there's a policy. Ohio State sophomore Alex Boone, the projected starter at LT, was arrested for DUI on Wednesday. Of note is the Buckeyes strict discliplinary policy in these matters:
In accordance with departmental policy, Boone, a first-time offender, is not subject to any loss of practice or playing time.
Weasel to the extreme! DUI is a serious offense that would result in a practice suspension at the very least at most schools, but not at OSU. Okay. Different strokes for mercenary folks. That's cool. What grates is the crap about a "departmental policy" that removes the decision-making process from Tressell's hands, leaving the impression that even if Tressel wanted to spank Boone for being very, very naughty the athletic department would stay his hand. Duke should have thought of this.
"The last thing we told the team after practice yesterday morning was to set their clocks ahead an hour when they went to bed at 10 o'clock last night. I am disappointed that message did not get through to everyone."
What, the mighty force of no punishment whatsoever didn't drive your message home? Aaargh!
Idaho goes potato for Gutz. The Poctello Idaho State Journal is all over new starting quarterback Matt Guttierez and his Zeus-ian thunderbolt of an arm:
What impact will Matt Gutierrez have on ISU's offensive strategy and play-calling?
For people hoping ISU would go to a fun-n-gun, spread offense that throws 60 times a game, think again. Yes, Gutierrez' right arm appears to have been blessed by one of Zeus' thunderbolts, but don't forget the Bengals return the running back tandem of Josh Barnett and Ken Cornist.... Gutierrez' maturity and arm strength will allow more freedom with the play-calling as well as the return of audibling at the line of scrimmage - something that was basically nonexistent last season.
"The passing game we had with Doug Baughman (2001-02), that's what you're going to see more of," Lewis said. "There is going to be more variation of what we can do with our passing attack. I think it will only make our running game even better."
That means the return of the deep out that Baughman loved to throw. It's a throw Gutierrez seems to make with ease.
Maybe more vital is the confidence offensive coordinator Bruce Barnum has in Gutierrez. ISU won't have to rely exclusively on quick-hitting pass plays. Barnum can now employ five-step drop pass plays that have ISU's bevy of receivers running deeper patterns, leading to more bigger gains.
One aspect that must change is turnovers. ISU committed a ghastly 28 turnovers last year.
"Last year we wanted to manage the game, but we didn't do it," Lewis said. "We had 28 turnovers with most of them coming from the quarterback position. That has to change."
Lewis believes Gutierrez can, and will, make that change, leading an offensive unit that returns everyone but Shedrack Okoebor from a year ago.
"The only position we are upgrading is at quarterback," Lewis said. "That's the only unknown, and we feel pretty good about that situation."
The most critical piece of information in this article? There exists a person named "Shedrack Okoebor."
Elsewhere in preferred walk-on land: a helpful emailer indicates that Michigan has also gained the services of one Jeff Ziegler from Dexter. Ziegler still isn't Griese -- who turned down some other legitimate D-I offers -- as an exhaustive search turns up only an offer from D-II Grand Valley and a quasi-greyshirt offer from Akron (sort of like what they do with kickers: come in for a year and then we'll give you a scholarship), but there was at least some level of interest in him out there. Said helpful emailer -- whose actual email I've lost, so if you're out there and would like your shout-out drop me another line -- says
He had been looking at a few other Big Ten schools Iowa, MSU, and Purdue. Extremely raw and can throw the ball a mile. Was named to the 2006 All Star Roster for Michigan, and was 2005 All-State Honorable Mention. He's also a very good basketball player, leading his team into the regional finals at Dexter.
Craig Wind of MichiganPreps.com summed Ziegler up($) like so:
Ziegler would be a really terrific GLIAC quarterback. He would be a pretty good MAC quarterback.
Grand Valley is a GLIAC and D-II power, so that seems to be a fairly accurate assessement. Google turned up this encouraging snippet from a Dexter Leader article:
In Dreadnaught varsity football news, senior-to-be quarterback Jeff Ziegler (6-foot-5, 205) received an award as one of the top signal callers at the five-day University of Michigan camp last month.
"There were 265 quarterbacks at the camp," Barbieri said. "He was in the top 10."
Ziegler is being recruited by numerous Division I schools, including the Big Ten's Purdue University.
On June 18, Dexter participated in a 7-on-7 passing camp at Michigan State University. The Dreadnaughts won all four of their games at the 30-team camp.
The Leader also has a story on a wild Arenaball victory -- final score 45-41 -- for Dexter over Saline.
In sum: if Lee Mondol got filed under Jeff Kastl, file Ziegler under Spencer Brinton.
PS: Was there some Kids In The Hall-related Ziegler hilarity? Or am I hallucinating things?
We are all susceptible to offseason glazomania, even kids who are too cool for conventional sportswriting-school like moi. At least this one will be backed by paragraphs instead of inane one-sentence trash-talking.
The Criteria: Massive year-to-year roster turnover, somewhere between 30 and 40 major contributors per team, and the every-game-a-playoff regular season conspire to make the beginning of a college football season a uniquely stressful event for the fan. Across the nation, the mental well-being of slightly unbalanced folk depends on an array of unknown players like That Guy Wearing #21, Wait, That's Not Jason Avant, and Number 65 Is A Bit Of A Fatty, Isn't He(?). Every team has an set of unseen players suddenly thrust into the spotlight due to the graduation (or, in the case of Tennessee, arrest) of seniors that have gone before them. Some have more thrust upon them than others.
What follows are the five guys who I will identify via the program during warmups before the Vanderbilt game and watch intently, scanning for signs of future greatness, hoping that one day I'll repeat this process, thinking to myself "Wait, That's Not That Guy Who Wasn't Jason Avant." Or something. If you got through that sentence without a double-take I owe you a cookie.
In general, these players are
- at a position of need either this year or next,
- inexperienced, and
- hyped up by either recruiting services or the offseason insider brigade.
This isn't really a list of future stars in a predictive sense -- I make no guarantees, having seen about as much of the following players as you have -- but it is one in a hopeful sense. The overall tenor here is captured well by the pictures below: Taylor and Jamison are featured crushing the offensive linemen of... Eastern Michigan.
Anyway, on with the show:
5. DT Terrance Taylor, sophomore
Will probably play mini-Gabe Watson this year as the Michigan defensive tackles go from rather deep to rather thin. Alan Branch is a lock to start, then come Taylor and fellow sophomore Will Johnson. After that is your proverbial question mark.
Taylor and Johnson will probably see almost equal amounts of time; what gives Taylor the nod here are the Buynanesque tall tales that follow in his wake. He was a three-time state powerlifting champ. He was the best heavyweight wrestler in the state. There are 1,291 objects in this room that Taylor can digest, including the room. &c. He'll have to take a major step forward from his freshman season, in which he occasionally held the point of attack admirably but made no plays behind the line, to become an impact player, but first offseason in a college program, Steve Stripling is a coaching God, Alan Branch, etc.: he's got a shot.
4. WR Adrian Arrington, redshirt sophomore
This probably would have been Antonio Bass were it not for Bass's severe knee injury. Bass was a tantalizing novelty act a year ago who looked to get involved as an actual wide receiver in '06. Unfortunately, he's shelved indefinitely with some sort of nasty knee injury.
As such the spotlight shifts to redshirt sophomore Adrian Arrington, a willow-thin recruit from Iowa who spent much of last year either hurt or suspended (he did not make the bowl trip). Before his injury Arrington was on the fast track, seeing token time as Michigan's traditional Future Star Wideout Wasting His Redshirt Year in '04 and generating extensive practice buzz before his nasty ankle sprain on the eve of the '05 season. Arrington has resumed his buzz-generating ways this spring, at times looking like the defacto #1 wide receiver. He certainly has the rep as a Rivals 100 selection from an oft-ignored slice of the country. With Avant gone and Breaston looking unlikely to ever become a primary weapon, the opportunity is there.
3. DE Tim Jamison, redshirt sophomore
Dios mio, man.
The 2006 equivalent of Pat Massey playing over Branch or Watson would be Rondell Biggs or Jeremy Van Alstyne -- hell, anyone -- usurping Tim Jamison's position opposite Lamarr Woodley. No offense to Biggs or Van Alstyne, but Jamison proved last year that he is a wild talent capable of bending space and time to suit his violently disruptive needs.
...okay, he proved exactly none of that. That's how hype trains get out of control. Jamison was a bit player who was probably down the depth chart for a good reason (though the Massey thing does throw the decision-making ability of those in charge of defensive personnel into question, granted). A sure thing he is not. But he turned in enough plays to make one wonder who that #91 dude was, and those plays seem more sustainable than those turned in by Shawn Crable from the standup DT spot. More than once the seemingly undersized Jamison burst into offensive tackles so quickly they were on their heels before they knew exactly what hit them and why it was trying to gnaw their face off.
The knock on Jamison is consistent play against the run, but he did not seem out of place a year ago when run at; chances are he starts.
2. TE Carson Butler, redshirt freshman
Antonio Gates created a new in-crowd for tight ends: undersized-but-athletic power forwards. Butler was an undersized-but-athletic power forward at Detroit Renaissance who didn't play football until his senior year of high school. When he did he ended up a hilariously oversized (6'6", 240) wide receiver crushing terrified 5'8" white guys in Detroit's PSL.
We've heard this story before: late-offered, raw as hell instate sleeper with ridiculous athleticism. Take Braylon Edwards, add two inches and 30 pounds, and move him to tight end. That's Carson Butler, except this Braylon is the one who walked onto the field as a sophomore, untested but damn impressive lookin'. Whether that translates into production is anyone's guess. Butler is still sushi-grade raw and had a rep for slacking in high school. With Tyler Ecker and Mike Massey in front of him, Butler may not see a ton of time, but he has a higher ceiling than just about anyone on the team.
1. CB Johnny Sears, redshirt freshman
Another OMG sleeper from the class of 2004, Sears was a Michigan commitment before playing a single varsity football game for Fresno Edison in California. (A junior-year transfer forced him to play JV.) Then-defensive backs coach Ron English stumbled upon him whilst recruiting in California, saw him practice, and offered on the spot. We are, indeed, talking about practice. Sears accepted soon after, but was largely an afterthought as Michigan chased highly-touted recruits like Justin King and Victor Harris. King went to Penn State just in time to get ownzored by Mario Manningham. Harris stayed home and went to VT. Okay, no problem, we'll just recruit Darrin Walls and Jai Eugene in... er. Right.
Walls went to ND; Eugene committed but then made a last-second switch to LSU. As a result, visions of Todd Howard now dance in the heads of forward-looking, paranoid Michigan fans. Michigan's total failure to recruit a cornerback last year leaves the defensive backfield looking like so past projected starters Leon Hall and Morgan Trent:
- Redshirt sophomore Charles Stewart, a low-four star recruit from 2003 who saw not one meaningful snap a year ago despite Michigan clearly requiring more DB depth than the starters plus nickel-back Trent.
- Redshirt freshman Chris Richards, who may or may not weigh more than Alyssa Milano.
Yikes. With Hall a senior, Michigan is going to start one of those three or a tr
ue freshman in '07. Stewart's lack of playing time is an indicator that he is not likely to contribute outside of special teams*. Richards is a project. What's left is Sears, who is reputed to be a freaky stud freak.
So he's it for now: invisible but jet-fast Sears is going to be the most critical new face you see next year. He will see much time against the suddenly spread-happy Big Ten, and if he does not perform, Michigan's secondary will be an achilles heel in Henne and Hart's senior year. That would not be good eats.
*(This may no longer be true, as helpful email indicates Stewart may be able to hack it at corner. I'm still suspicious.)
Omissions: Zoltan Mesko (Ross Ryan has the punting on lockdown, IMO), Mario Manningham (has already demonstrated his talent), Justin Boren, Steve Schilling, and Alex Mitchell (maybe next year), Carlos Brown (third string at best this year), John Thompson (tough one, but Taylor has a clearer path to PT), Brandon Graham (ditto).
Next year's projected top five:
5. Zoltan Mesko
4. Ron Johnson/Dionte Allen (that's good, Brian, start anticipating the play of uncommitted recruits. Extreme sanity there. No need for pills of some sort. No way. Nope.)
3. Justin Boren
2. Antonio Bass
1. Brandon Graham