Like this, but in a suit. And at a podium. And with other Big Ten coaches and players as well. So basically not like this at all. Sorry.
Since yours truly will be at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday and Friday, time to crowdsource some questions. Those of Michigan players (Denard Robinson, Kevin Koger, and Mike Martin), and coach Brady Hoke are most likely to be asked, but if you have things for other players/coaches that are interesting enough, I may get a chance to ask them at Friday's roundtables.
So, if you have a pressing question (WHEN U SCORED TOUCHDOWN HOW U FEEL?), drop it in the comments here, and I'll ask some of the best ones. You have a couple days to give it your best shot.
This weekend will be a big event for Michigan with the BBQ, but there will be a big time visitor before the cook out as well. With limited spots left prospects could start to make decisions depending on what their peers decide to do themselves, so every spot left is on watch. Here's a look at what happened this week and what's happening in the future. As always you can follow me on Twitter @TomVH and email me with any tips at [email protected].
6'2", 190 lbs.
West Des Moines, Iowa
Darboh is a four star receiver that has shown interest in Michigan for quite some time, bnut has been unable to make it up to Ann Arbor. That's about to change, as he has finally set up a visit to take in the campus and environment.
I'm going up to Michigan tomorrow [Monday the 25th]. Me and my basketball coach are going. He's a Michigan fan and he was able to give me a ride, so he wanted to go. We're taking off here at 8am on Monday, staying all day Monday, all day Tuesday, and then we might be back for a little bit on Wednesday too.
This is a big visit for both parties since Michigan is currently looking for wide receivers and Darboh hasn't been able to meet most of the coaching staff.
I have met Coach Mallory, but I haven't been up there yet. I'm excited, I don't have any questions right now but I'm sure once I get there I'll have some. I'm just excited to see everything. I've heard a lot of good things from my coaches. I've talked to the Michigan coaches over the phone, but I want to meet them and hopefully meet some of the players too.
As far as where his recruitment stands Darboh says he will likely narrow his list down by the time his season starts.
I thought I'd have a top list already but I'm not going to have it until my season starts. Hopefully when my season starts I'll have it narrowed down to a top five and then just go from there. If I take an official visit somewhere and I feel comfortable and it feels right then I'll just commit there. Right now everything changes every now and then because I haven't seen everywhere yet. I don't want to name a list until I finalize it, but I think Michigan has a good chance to be in the top five. I'll know more about them after my visit.
Amara also holds offers from Florida, Iowa, Iowa State, MSU, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin among others.
6'7", 320 lbs.
Braden has been committed to Michigan since March, though it seems much longer with all the other commitments Michigan has reeled in since. At the time, little was known about him, but since then Braden made quite a bit of noise at Michigan's camp with his size and performance.
I went up against a lot of good defensive linemen. Towards the end of the camp we were given the option to switch to defense, so I tried that out too. I did get to meet some of the other prospects and we were all kind of getting to know each other more than anything. Right now my height is 6-foot-7 and my weight is 320-pounds. I'm not really focused on a certain weight, just getting stronger and faster and better. That helped this year at the camp, but I still have some things I'm trying to improve on.
Ben is starting to realize that his last year of high school football is upon him, but is just trying to focus on one step at a time.
It's all starting to set in with all the seniors, but I'm just trying to worry about the season. With Michigan my family and I are going to try to get up for a few games. I do want to get up to the night game against Notre Dame.
There have been fans that are concerned with what the final product will look like for Michigan on the field in 2011. They've been wondering how that translates to the recruits, and what their perspective is on how well Michigan does this coming season.
Just from meeting the coaching staff I'm very comfortable with their methods and how they teach technique. The biggest thing that I really love and a huge key to why I committed is the family atmosphere. With Brady Hoke and all the coaches I think this season is going to be great, it's going to be huge. I know that they're going to do great. With recruiting I think it's cool that we have a lot of good athletes that are committing to my class. I know we're all excited to interact and build friendships too.
Braden's size and performance at Michigan's camp, in my mind, don't match up with how he's rated on the recruiting sites. As Tim speculated in last week's Friday Night Lights primer, he should have a shot to move up.
6'2", 186 lbs.
Powe is a four-star receiver that has recently come to the attention of Michigan fans. He has shown interest in Michigan, and says the Wolverines are among his top group.
I'm trying to visit Michigan. I've been talking to Coach Heck about when I should come out there. [In order] Oregon State, Michigan, UCLA, Miami, and Cal are on top right now. I'm trying to wait everything out to see all my choices and narrow everything down.
Powe's teammate and fellow wide receiver Malik Gilmore is currently committed to Oregon State, but also had interest in Michigan at one point. It will be interesting to see how Powe's recruitment plays out. He says that he's a fearless playmaker that isn't scared to go across the middle of the field to make a play.
I posted today that 2011 OL Graham Glasgow switched his preferred walk on commitment from Ohio State to Michigan in mid June. He's a 6'7", 295 lb tackle that has been showing some potential so far. Another walk on OL that seems to be holding his own is Gary Yerden from from Parchment, Michigan. Others have pointed out on the board that Yerden was formerly a weight lifter and broke the dead lift record in high school.
If you somehow missed the visitor list for the Big House BBQ this weekend you can find it here. This should be a big deal for Michigan; there are a few uncommitted prospects at the event and there might be potential for a few things to keep an eye on. We'll see.
2013 QB Shane Morris, 2012 DB Terry Richardson, and TE Ron Thompson are all at the Gridiron Kings event in Florida this week. If you've missed coverage of it you have not been on the internet because it's everywhere. Just in case, here's a link to an article. In that article Tom Luginbill says that if Shane Morris were in the 2012 class he would a top five or six guy in the country.
The 2011 Football Media Guide is out, and you know of course what that means: OBSESSIVE ATTENTION TO ROSTER NUMBERS HO!
Kellen Jones is not on it: There are plenty of rumors on [pick your favorite message board] as to why, but I've heard there's a high probability those rumors were made up to fill the great big "I dunno." I have a query in with Brandon's office.
Christian Pace is not on it: Medical rumors seem to be true, at least for this year. Shattered dreams of Molk 2.0.
Darryl Stonum is on it: If this means anything, horray. If not, horray.
Your Football Freshmen, Now With Digits:
# = walk-on
|Name||Pos.||Was||Now||This is not the reason:|
|Josh Furman||S||6||14||Stokes may line up on defense maybe?|
|Jack Kennedy||QB||25||14||Walk-ons don't count.|
|J.T. Floyd||CB||12||18||Secret plan to make me think we still have James Rogers next year|
|Thomas Gordon||S||15||30||Doubled the abs|
|Isaiah Bell||LB||26||34||Isaiah 26 is 'A Song of Praise'; Isaiah 34 is 'Judgment Against the Nations.' This is a bad sign for…someone.|
|Terrence Talbott||CB||22||37||Weird: Jake Ryan is 37 too. Maybe there's a plot to make the DBs and LBs look interchangeable to confuse opponents or something?|
|Marell Evans||LB||9||51||Those who stay can keep their number.|
|Ricky Barnum||OL||56||52||Joey Burzynski (2010 walk-on OL) called it|
|Brandon Moore||TE||88||89||Because he and Craig Roh are listed as 6'2"/250 and this was really freaking Funk out.|
|Teric Jones||RB||14||--||Maybe you need a position first|
Yes, I too was totally thinking of that Seinfeld episode after Susan died. Best as I can guess here is Lloyd and Bo liked to keep one guy to a number and some of them were repeats on the other side of the ball (RR was a proponent of that long before EA Sports let you do it). Or maybe some of the 2012 commits have been promised digits?
Counting Things on Scholarship
15! Fifteen scholarship seniors on the roster, ah ah ah! Also 18 juniors, 20 sophomores, and 27 guys with freshman eligibility.
42! Forty-two scholarship players not from one of the last two ('10 or '11) classes, ah ah ah! Up from 36 last year.
80! Eighty guys on scholarship, ah ah ah, counting Kovacs, Grady and Evans but not the missing fellows. Up from 76 at this time last year.
15! Fifteen scholarship players at defensive back, ah ah ah! Five of those are redshirt sophomores or older (two each from '08 and '09, and Woolfolk). Last year was 15 guys, but 7 of them freshmen. Now we have five freshmen and five sophomores, which, better?
15! Fifteen guys on the 2010 roster not on the 2011 one. That's 9 graduations, 2 non-renewed, four transfer/booted (Forcier, Cullen, Vinopal and D.J. Williamson) and one we're guessing medical. Strangely only Vinopal, the 2-star who became a freshman starter, seems to be a coaching transition loss.
12! Twelve guys pictured in the Media Guide with dreads: Richard Ash, Chris Eddins, Josh Furman, J.T. Floyd, Jeremy Gallon, Junior (Not a Junior) Hemingway, Stephen Hopkins, Martavious Odoms, Denard Robinson, Vincent Smith, Je'Ron Stokes.
Photo day!: From his picture I think Devin Gardner is going to end up being CEO of something. Will Campbell wins the "Fell for the old 'hey everybody let's all look like we're really tough in our photos' shtick" award. Meanwhile Klingons are attempting to steal Denard's smile because it has the power create habitable, lush new planets all by itself.
Non-renewed 5ths: Michael Williams, John Ferrara, Zac Ciullo, and Kevin Leach might have had another year of eligibility, but are gone. All were expected. Sad that Mike Williams's career ends with his pre-2010 concussion. I've been hard on his play but we'll never know if he might have put it together for his last two years.
Weight Gain 2011: The player weights are unchanged from Spring but some of the freshmen are a little off from their high school weights. Of those, Tony Posada is up 15 lbs. (to 330…um), Delonte Hollowell is up to 170 (from 162), and Thomas Rawls is listed at 220 (from 214). Standard operating procedure is to consider all weight gains and losses as good things.
Gentlemen, start your dynasties.
|Houston, TX - 6'1" 210|
|Scout||4*, #12 MLB|
|Rivals||3*, #29 ILB, #69 TX|
|ESPN||3*, 79, #35 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Arkansas, Texas A&M, Stanford|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim. Tom interviews him and gets some commit quotes. User tomcat sits next to him on a plane and is impressed.|
|Notes||Also a small white dude drafted by the Oilers.|
Those are senior highlights; there is also a junior reel.
Occasionally, Spartan taunting will cause the message board to recycle a discussion about whether non-alum Michigan fans are real Michigan fans and how the core, I-know-what-Great-Books-is folk should react to them. Kellen Jones's dad Sean is the answer to this question.
The elder Jones grew up wanting to play for Michigan but didn't end up a D-I prospect, but a decade or two after his playing career at Morehead State ended, his influence saw a kid from Houston want nothing more than to don a winged helmet:
Q: How did you end up at Michigan?
A: It was a dream offer from the get-go. My dad’s dream was to go there, and he passed it on to me. It’s Michigan — Big House football. It’s a great academic school with history and tradition, the winningest program in college football, so it’s an all-purpose fit.
Q: So you’re going to be living your dad’s dream. How thrilled is he?
(Dad Sean Jones played at Morehouse College, Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater.)
A: He’s so excited. I think he might be more excited than I am. He sings Hail to the Victors. He’s looking up the videos and all types of stuff.
The answer: come one and all, especially if you are a large and mean.
The Jones family's Michigan fandom saw Kellen select Michigan over a wide array of mid-level BCS offers of which Arkansas, Texas A&M, Stanford, and Missouri were the most impressive. Jones made a little bit of noise about opening his recruitment back up when Rodriguez was fired but a couple of phone calls from Hoke and Mattison and he was solid again.
As a result, Michigan has a slashing blitzer on the three/four star borderline who is badly needed. Like Morgan, scouting reports focus on his intelligence. Unlike Morgan, they also praise explosive athleticism. (Morgan's edge is two inches and twenty pounds.)
The best parts of Jones' game are his intelligence and instincts. He has a knack for finding the ball even if he has to wade through the trash. Furthermore, as a high school middle linebacker, he has experience playing the position, which ought to enhance the speed with which he picks up the college game. Once he finds the ball, he's a solid tackler who could be a devastating hitter once he puts on the necessary weight and refines some tackling technique issues.
His highlight film above helps confirm. It features a large number of plays on which Jones has to pick through trash or defeat blocks to get to the ballcarrier. This may be because of its extensive length—a lot of shorter videos leave out scraping plays because they don't often result in HERE COMES THE BOOM—but it may also be because a lot of high school linebackers don't do that kind of thing very often.
That's not to say he doesn't bring the boom:
“He’s just a violent football player. He’s going to leave his mark when he makes contact with you,” Kimball said of Jones …
[Kimball] describes a play not on the highlight film: “…the guy’s momentum stopped going forward instantly. It was amazing that they were both conscious after that hit,” Kimball said. “I don’t know how both of them got up and walked off the field. It was one of those types of collisions that looked like two diesel trucks running into each other.
“Poor running back, he didn’t see it coming, barely.”
“I love to hit, I love to hit,” Jones said laughing. “When the season starts everyone is excited. You hear the fans, the crowd and I love to make contact and knock somebody into the dirt.”
“As a linebacker, I’m very instinctive,” said Jones, who has a 3.4 grade-point average and plans to major in mathematics and engineering. “I’m very good on the blitz. I’m aggressive to the ball and I’m a great pass rusher. I’m very passionate about the game.”
Did you have a tingle thinking about a linebacker who understands what a tangent is? I did. This is a signal you have Asperger's disease even if it doesn't exist anymore.
… excellent athlete … Has the size for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. We like this guy's flexibility, balance and agility; does a good job with K&D run recognition skills however his strength is the ability to avoid contact and beat blockers to the point of attack with quickness. Moves through traffic very well with good change of direction ability; is able to keep leverage on the ball and is seldom out of position. Flashes downhill ability vs. the inside run but not the big tough inside linebacker type who consistently stacks at the point. … capable of creating havoc in the backfield against the run and pass. Is productive blitzing up the middle or off the edge; shows good timing with quite a few sacks and hurries. … The intense motor this player brings to the field results in big momentum changing plays.
Scout more than echoes the section on his effectiveness as a blitzer:
Amazing on the blitz, he is as instinctual as you can find. He has a feel for getting through blocking and getting in to attack the quarterback, also good at blocking kicks. His size is okay but it is not above average. Good speed he uses it to his advantage on blitzes and coverage. Does a great job of working through blocks.
All things being equal, Jones might be destined for MLB. Things are not equal, though. Michigan has two more years of Kenny Demens in the middle, a potentially solid backup in Marell Evans, and fellow freshman Desmond Morgan. On the weakside there's just Mike Jones and Antonio Poole. While Poole is about the same level of recruit Jones is he's probably 15-20 pounds lighter. Jones could—probably should—be on the two-deep at WLB the day he steps on campus. His long term future could be in the middle, but until Demens departs he's needed on the outside. His coach echoes($) that evaluation:
"I don't think he is going to be there yet to play inside linebacker as an incoming freshman - that's a pretty tall task for any freshman - but at outside linebacker I think he has the ability to come in and play pretty soon," Kimball said. "On the perimeter I think he can make a pretty good impact with what they are doing out there, and over time, as he develops the college bulk to him, I think he can progress into the middle."
That versatility will make it easy for Jones to be on the field early and often even if Brady Hoke is dead set on filling a four-deep at LB.
Etc.: Hanging out with Ray Lewis. Hanging out with… um… Rich Rodriguez. Watch him sign a piece of paper. Played in that "USA vs the World" game. Player of the Week feature from the local Fox affiliate. Extensive interview with The Victors Voice.
One more fawning coach quote($) for the road:
"I don't see how he could be close to maxed out, not because of his physical abilities, but because of his work ethic," Kimball said. "He's almost a straight A student and the strongest guy on the team, but he puts those types of standards on himself... he's really focused for a young man. He does not do anything half throttle, whether that is in the classroom, the weight room or on the practice field. He has a relentless pursuit of perfection."
Aw, hell, here's another:
“We’ve got some great coaches here, but it’s (Jones’) aggressiveness that’s really made him the player he is,” Kimball said. “We spend actually more time at practice telling him to chalk it back a little bit. … We had to tell him, ‘Hey, man, look, we’re just trying to get a look here, you’re running scout team defense of whatever can you maybe give us a better look, because we’re not going to face a guy like you the whole season.’”
Why Larry Foote? Foote was a slightly undersized linebacker (6-0.5, 240-ish as a senior at Michigan) with good athleticism who could get to the sideline and was at his best when sent on the blitz. He bounced between MLB and WLB; as a senior he annihilated all comers with 23.5 TFLs.
Here's an old scouting report($) from Scout leading up to his NFL draft year:
THE GOOD: Quick, athletic linebacker that flies around the football. Explosive first step moving to action, scrapes well laterally and pursues the ball carrier with speed. Effectively redirects to the ball carrier, displays a quick and fluid change of direction and shows excellent range in pass coverage. Gets depth on his drops, adequate footwork covering backs or tight ends off the line of scrimmage and can play in space. Works hard, plays with reckless abandon and goes sideline to sideline for 60 minutes.
THE BAD: Small, slow shedding blocks or rather easily moved out of his angle of attack. Lacks body control and may not have the flat out speed to be considered at strong safety.
Jones seems to have all of the good bits above and sheds better than Foote—at least against high school competition.
Guru Reliability: Fairly high. Spread in rankings is pretty large, but was healthy at a big school in Houston. Scouting reports are consistent; differences in opinion appear to be due to varying opinion on how well he'll be able to overcome a lack of size.
General Excitement Level: Slightly under high. Size is a limitation, though it shouldn't be a huge one if he doesn't end up in the middle. The experience, athleticism, intelligence, and desire to plant his face into your pancreas at speed all appear to be there.
Projection: Moved to WLB in his first week on campus and probably on the two-deep against Western. No reason to redshirt him with the linebacker flood behind him and Michigan will need him unless Mike Jones is unreasonably good for a meh recruit who missed last year with an injury. Will probably spend the first half of the season spotting Jones—remember that Thomas Gordon will see significant rotation as the nickelback—and then it's 50-50 he takes over the starting job a la Demens.
Long term I think he sticks at WLB since he'll be established there and some combo of Morgan/Bolden/RJS/Ross will turn into a productive middle linebacker. A potential four-year starter.
This is a personnel-oriented look at the season's opponents. The game-week previews will be more matchup based. Last year's stats are presented with projected starters in bold and departed players in italics.
|Notre Dame Offense 2010|
|Yards Per Game||379.69||61|
|Points Per Game||26.31||67|
|Yards Per Play||5.52||63|
|Yards Per Pass||6.84||75|
|Yards Per Rush||3.98||77|
|Playcall Distribution||1.16 Pass:Rush|
Notre Dame replaced an offensive genius in Charlie Weis with... another one in Brian Kelly. With a really young lineup, including a rotating cast of quarterbacks, the offense struggled. It wasn't particularly pass-happy either, as even adjusted for sacks, they only threw it 1.27 times for every rush.
Part of that is the quarterback issue. Three quarterbacks played for the Irish last year, including significant reps for a true freshman. With more experience at the position, the entire offense should improve, because all things considered, it was actually quite bad last year. The Irish only broke 40 points in one game, against Western Michigan.
Dayne Crist started the year at the helm for the Irish, but mediocrity and injury combined to give plenty of playing time to Tommy Rees, with a few reps for Nate "yes that" Montana. None of them performed particularly well, which generally spells doom for a Brian Kelly offense.
Rees seems like a better long-term fit for the system (and is obviously a couple years younger), so although Crist will probably still start, expect to see him Rees in the lineup from time-to-time. There are also a few viable backups, with redshirt freshman Andrew Hendrix joined by true freshman (and early enrollee) Everett Golson, a very good athlete who needs some seasoning as a QB.
|Notre Dame QBs 2010|
|Notre Dame QBs Rushing 2010|
Grade: 4/5. Based on past performance, this might be a serious overrating of the unit. However, Crist came out of high school with all the accolades, and as a redshirt junior, he should be rounding into form. Given Brian Kelly's track record with quarterbacks, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and there is some material to work with on the roster.
Cierre Wood led the team in rushing last year, though he was part of a two-headed attack with Armando Allen (pictured at right), who completed his 12th and final year of eligibility last season. Pounder Robert Hughes, the team's third-leading rusher, also departs from last year's roster. That leaves Notre Dame with two options: either feed Wood the ball a ton, or hope another rusher emerges. With Theo Riddick finding a full-time gig at wideout, that means former Detroit Country Day (classmate of Kenny Demens) standout Jonas Gray is the best bet, or it will be a completely green player.
|Notre Dame RBs 2010|
|Notre Dame RBs Receiving 2010|
Grade: 2/5. Wood is a decent starter. Gray had some national recruiting hype but is still inexplicably waiting for his Michigan offer. He could be good, but the Irish lose too much here to predict that everything will be sunshine and lollipops [Ed-M: Unless you're a Notre Dame fan, in which case Wood will win the Heisman next year, unless Crist does]. There's a serious - nay, dire - lack of experienced depth, and if anything happens to Wood, there's a precipitous dropoff.
Do you mean with or without Michael Floyd? This is perhaps the biggest question for Notre Dame this season. The Irish's best offensive player by a country mile, Floyd has been oft-injured throughout his career, and is currently in limbo after a suspension for several alcohol-related arrests.
The other starting spots aren't in question. Theo Riddick is a 5-11 guy who can play outside or in the slot, TJ Jones is a similar player (though less explosive), and Tyler Eifert hopes to step up at tight end following Kyle Rudolph's early entry to the NFL. Eifert started about half of last season after Rudolph tore his hamstring. The only wideout the Irish lose is Duval Kamara, who didn't produce last year (despite being a starter) because he was so frequently injured.
|Notre Dame Receivers 2010|
|Kyle Rudolph (TE)||28||328||11.71||3|
|Tyler Eifert (TE)||27||352||13.04||2|
|John Goodman (TE)||15||146||9.73||0|
|Mike Ragone (TE)||3||32||10.67||0|
|Notre Dame WRs Rushing 2009|
|Bennett Jackson (CB)||1||20||20.00||0|
Grade Without Floyd: 2/5. Grade With Floyd: 4/5. I was tempted to raise the with-Floyd grade even more, because he's that talented (a 2nd-Team All-American projection by Phil Steele), but one man does not a receiving corps make. The other players in the Irish's stable haven't done a whole lot, and what they have done was accomplished with Floyd drawing attention away from them. If he's not on the field to do that, it could spell trouble - though improved QB play would help them out. If Floyd is on the field, expect improvement at every position, because the Irish had a young group last year, and they should progress normally.
If the Irish are to improve offensively this season, it will likely be along the offensive line. The one consistently meh part of Charlie Weis's offenses is looking to make a leap in year two under Brian Kelly after losing only one starter. That starter, Chris Stewart, was in the lineup for three years, but he'll be replaced with a former 5-star prospect in Chris Watt, a redshirt sophomore. The other starters remain unchanged, with redshirt sophomore Zack Martin at left tackle, Watt or true senior Trevor Robinson at left guard, redshirt junior Braxston Cave at center, Watt or Robinson at right guard, and 5th-year senior Taylor Dever at right tackle.
Grade: 4/5. The Irish weren't a great running team last year (in fact they were pretty bad), despite a slant toward the pass in playcalling. They were, however, pretty good in pass protection, finishing in the top 40 in sacks allowed despite their slight slant toward the pass. Replacing Stewart (who went undrafted and unnoticed by the NFL) with a very highly touted player in his third year of college should see no dropoff, and in some likelihood major improvement.
|Notre Dame Defense 2009|
|Yards Per Game||357.23||50|
|Points Per Game||20.23||23|
|Yards Per Play||5.13||37|
|Pass Yards Per Game||215.08||54|
|Yards Per Pass||6.35||28|
|Sacks Per Game||2.08||54|
|Rush Yards Per Game||142.15||50|
|Yards Per Rush||3.97||53|
So if the offense didn't improve by replacing one offensive guru with another, why did the Irish have reason for optimism this offseason? A defense that finally seems to have found its way after 5 poor years under Charlie Weis.
Brian Kelly brought along a switch to the 3-4 base defense, and with it a bounce back toward the middle of the pack. The pressure up front wasn't great against the pass or the run, with teams having average-ish success in moving the ball on the ground and not getting sacked. It was in the secondary that ND's defense really improved.
With another year in the system, and plenty of returning talent (who had the recruiting stars on their side, at the very least, coming out of high school), the Irish are looking to take another step forward on the defensive side of the ball this season.
Notre Dame's 3-man front returns both defensive ends, so the only question mark is at nose tackle. Ian Williams was a hot-and-cold starter who performed decently against Michigan last year, and Sean Cwynar will step in to fill his shoes. The depth is light, as redshirt frosh Louis Nix will be expected to step in and contribute immediately, and ND didn't pick up any DTs at all in the 2011 class. The Irish will have much better depth on the edges this year - though young - as they signed approximately every defensive end in the nation last year, including a few highly-recruied ones. Aaron Lynch enrolled early from that group, and impressed this spring.
|Notre Dame Defensive Line 2010|
Grade: 3/5. If the incoming freshmen weren't, well, freshmen, I'd rate this group much more highly. It's a crapshoot as to whether they'll be able to step in and contribute immediately, so they can't be relied upon this fall. Defensive tackle is a very sketchy point. Although Sean Cwynar had nearly as many tackles as Ian Williams last year despite much less playing time, the depth is unproven and/or non-existent, with Irish kicking specialists having nearly as many tackles last year as returning backup DTs.
The Irish are all set on the inside. Star MLB Manti Te'o (pictured making a great tackle at right) enters his junior year with two seasons as a starter already under his belt, and his compatriot Carlo Calabrese will be a second-year starter himself. Darius Fleming, the team's most explosive edge-rusher, also returns, leaving only one open slot at the the outside linebacker position. Dan Fox and Prince Shembo will battle for that position, but I'm guessing the more physically gifted Shembo will take the starting spot (their stats were similar last year but Shembo brought much more pass rush, and is the younger player), and Fox will be a valuable backup. Steve Filer will also see increased backup duty on the outside, but depth on the inside is weak, as McDonald and Posluszny have been special teams players to date in their careers.
|Notre Dame Linebackers 2010|
Grade: 5/5. As Michigan fans saw in last year's game, when not being ridden into members of his own secondary by Patrick Omameh on spinach, Manti Te'o is one of the best defensive players in the country (a 2nd-Team All-American projection by Phil Steele). Carlo Calabrese is a returning starter who racked up some decent stats last year despite playing alongside Te'o, and Darius Fleming is also a returning starter who led the team in TFLs in 2010. That means the only possible question marks are the other outside linebacker slot, which seems to have two viable candidates, including one who was a great edge-rusher in backup duty last year, and depth, which seems very good on the outside, but limited on the inside. With the strength of Notre Dame's top three options, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Notre Dame's secondary is led by three-time Zibikowski Memorial White Notre Dame Safety Award winner Harrison Smith, who was the Irish's second-leading tackler last season. He's joined by two other returning starters in Zeke Motta and Gary Gray. Robert Blanton wasn't a starter last year, but he got plenty of snaps on both special teams and defense, so he should be ready to step in for Darrin Walls. Nearly every other defensive back returns for the Irish, so this should be an area of strength.
|Notre Dame Defensive Backs 2010|
|Harrison Smith (SS)||91||9||1||2|
|Gary Gray (CB)||66||1||0||5|
|Robert Blanton (CB)||53||1.5||0||5|
|Zeke Motta (FS)||50||1||0||0|
Grade: 4/5. As mentioned above, Notre Dame was actually pretty good against the pass last year. They also lose practically nobody off that unit - Walls was only an OK player, and Blanton should be adequate or an upgrade - and gain a lot of experience, especially since it's just their second year in this system. Phil Steele projects Smith to be a 4th-Team All-American.
Both Irish specialists return from last year. David Ruffer will continue the kicks (he was very solid on FGs but weirdly mediocre on extra points) and Ben Turk is the punter.
|Notre Dame Kicking 2010|
|Notre Dame Punting 2010|
Grade: 3/5. Ruffer is a 4th-Team All-American projection by Phil Steele, but Turk is mediocre at best. The Irish were below average in net punting last year despite playing several teams that were pretty damn bad on returns last year.
I, for one, welcome our Nike overlords. After two straight years of using The Game to prove even Ohio State can look more ridiculous, Nike will strike again this fall, outfitting Michigan State in their Pro Combat line of jerseys for the October 15th tilt against the Wolverines. (Yeah yeah, those in glass houses and whatnot).
In fairness, going to Pro Combat might be an improvement from the OMG MODERN FONT look straight out of Any Given Sunday that Michigan State switched to last year:
...as opposed to going away from the classic look of Ohio State's traditional jerseys (/immediately feels dirty, showers).
We live in an age where the apparel companies are going to do what they do in search of the almighty dollar. Methinks it's best to just to just accept it and move along. It certainly doesn't hurt that I'm not nearly as "get off my lawn" about Michigan's night game jerseys as is Brian. We'll see if Adidas plans to make frequent use of cash-grab alternates, like Nike is doing.
[Ed-M: As Michigan fans, however many headaches we've had to suffer thanks to Adidas's neon-ish idea of "maize" is made worth it when we see our rivals come to school looking like their colorblind mothers got lost in the kids section at Target.
For those wondering why they don't just go with the classic 1960s thing, MSU's official site rules out the obvious Duffy-era look because they rocked that for ND in 2006 -- not that anyone noticed. You can't really do too much damage with MSU since they've had 9 significant uniform changes since 1993, but they already have a home alternate, so either they're scrapping that, or State will play just three games all year in their "home" jerseys. Oregon indeed.
Futzing with Ohio State's
classic helmet disco ball covered in bird poop for Michigan week is the kind of thing that can make the football gods remove their favors.]
Speaking of ill-advised Spartan doings. Justin Abdelkader jokes that he wishes to bomb Michigan Stadium:
This is INCONTROVERTIBLE PROOF that all Spartans are terrorists. Look it up.
Barbecue snobs are certain to clarify this is merely a "cookout." As you've likely noticed, Wednesday Recruitin' has been a little calm over the past two weeks, after a whirlwind late spring/early summer parade of commitments to Ann Arbor. A slow period should transition immediately into another action-packed (though not necessarily commitment-packed) period coming up soon, with next weekend's "Barbecue at the Big House" recruiting event.
Much more about it in next week's Recruitin' post, but if you need your fix now, Tom has an ever-evolving list of visitors up in the Diary section. Those not already committed to Michigan are of the greatest interest to us because, you know, they could commit. All this and MUCH MORE next Wednesday (they call that a tease, kids).
Why would anyone want to leave that state? Also regarding the barbecue, Eleven Warriors calls Kyle Kalis and Tom Strobel "Ann Arbor's new favorite couple," but it is not supposed to be a gay joke - except there's no other way for it to realistically be intended. They could be Purdue commits for all I care, but what century are we living in where "hurr hurr u r gay" is still an OK insult?
If you Google "Kyle Kalis ACL," the first infinity results are of Ohio State message boarders wishing injury on a 16-17 year-old kid. Kalis has gone into (mostly) radio silence since his commitment, for fear of backlash. Ohio State fans bashing him for "poor morals" because he decommitted from a school that's about to get hammered for lying to the NCAA? Irony reading: high.
I'm not trying to pick a fight with Eleven Warriors here, but come on dudes, hold yourselves to a higher standard - which, to be fair, they usually do.
Godzillatron will be ours. Updates on the scoreboards? Updates on the scoreboards. Pictures can be seen at Michigan Stadium Aerials (also with updated photos of the hoops Player Development Center), and if you're into the "paint drying" thing, you can watch the assembly live on the internet at MGoBlue.
OK, so it's not quite as impressive as the mega-boards at places like Texas and... Minnesota... but it's certainly an upgrade over the recent past.
The QB my friends, is blowin' in the wind. Tate Forcier was told "thanks but no thanks" by Hawaii, of all schools, because his transcript is really that bad. The official mgoblog position is "hope he gets his life in order," but uh, is anyone still second-guessing David Brandon's alleged refusal to schedule a meeting with QB5?:
"I needed a certain amount of credits. The incompletes, I took care of those. Dave Brandon still wouldn't let me stay. He refused to even meet with us."
If Hawaii isn't even going to meet with you, Dave Brandon proooooobably wasn't in the wrong here. It sounds like you have more than "a few incompletes" to take care of.
Etc. The Big Ten goes in the wrong direction by going from 3 to zero teams on its preseason media ballot. Men's lacrosse picks up a top offensive coordinator - and tons of solid 2012 commits - including a football teammate of Erik Magnuson. Big Ten schools gettin' that paper, yo. Rest in peace, Jimmy Maddock.