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6/18/2010 – USA 2, Slovenia 2 – 0-0-2, 3 GF 3 GA, in with a chance
Since college football happens on Saturday and people read the internet at work, I usually have the luxury of taking a day or two to compose my thoughts on an emotionally wrenching event before pouring them out into this space. No such luxury after a 10 AM game on Friday.
It doesn't matter in this case since I won't know how to feel until the US plays Algeria. Go through, and the second half was Yes We Can We Are Amurrica It Is Morning And Let's Roll Up Our Sleeves And Get Out Of This Recession. Fall short and it's time to bomb Mali. That would be unfortunate since some 13 years ago I was sitting on the internet playing checkers at 3 AM after a night of Jedi Knight and my opponent said "hello from Mali." We had a nice conversation. I explained what "doh!" meant and he told me he was using the only computer in his village of 300 to play checkers at 10 AM. Erroll77 is now 29. If I was him I would find a TV and root like hell for the USA against Algeria. The USA didn't bomb Germany after that mad dentist conjured a penalty out of nothing in the Ghana game, but they're in NATO. We do what we must.
I digress. What just happened is Schrödinger's Cat: World Cup Edition. At halftime I left the noisy bar and thought dark thoughts about how the US has largely moved away from MLS players but remains addicted to MLS managers. Jose Torres was brought on and the first half was spent seeing Slovenia cover passing lanes until one of the center-backs aimlessly booted a ball upfield that Robbie Findley might run onto, for whatever good that might do. The US had conceded a goal built from sheer lazy marking from Bocanegra, who allowed Walter Birsa to tuck inside totally unmarked and launch a shot Howard, off his line, had no chance at. The second goal was a World Cup-crushing gut punch that followed a sequence in which the US was one wrong touch or Donovan sliding tackle away from equalizing.
Then something decayed. At halftime I was busy composing a rant about how the loss had nothing to do with the USA's inability to play above the level of their competition and everything to do with their inability to do anything except on the counter and the unfamiliarity with defending it. The US then got a couple goals off hoofed long balls and managed to avoid further crippling goals on the counter. Why is unclear.
It wasn't the substitutions, neither of whom had anything to do with either US goal allowed to stand. Before he got on the end of the Donovan service Edu was frankly bad, and Feilhaber's contribution was limited to a couple of ambitious passes that didn't come off. It wasn't the run of play, which was the same as it was in the first half, with the teams splitting possession and the US having slightly more edge in the final third. It just went differently for no immediately understandable reason. It just happened.
They're still in it, though, and since I'm at a loss as to what, exactly, to think I will default to my mode of operation in 2002, when I was in a Galway pub and Niall Quinn knocked down a header for Robbie Keane to blast past Oliver Khan:
The situation then is creepily close to what the USA just faced down. Ireland had drawn their first game 1-1. The last game of the group was against a team from the Arab world widely regarded a minnow (in their case, Saudi Arabia), and a draw was required if they were going to have a chance to advance. The goal is a carbon-copy.
Keane scored deep into stoppage time, so Ireland didn't have time to punch in the winner and see it set on fire. The country decided to take the rest of the day off and drink by the river. I've still got to watch the England game, but in many things the Irish approach to life is the wise course. For now, a stirring comeback that leaves the USA's fate almost entirely in their hands, and a reason to keep faith even when the weight of history tells you to go home and sulk.
While it's up:
But first! The Run of Play wins twitter in the aftermath. Read from the bottom:
- Jozy's finest game in the US uniform and not even close. Consistently dangerous, drawing a bunch of free kicks around the area, one of which resulted in the Edu goal-type substance, and knocked down the long ball perfectly for Bradley. Had a couple of those thrilling runs that are becoming a regular occurrence, too.
- Torres didn't do much and got pulled at halftime, but I'm not sure how much was even his fault since there didn't seem to be any passing lanes available.
- In retrospect, the horrendous Edu call was coming. In the first minute of the game Dempsey should have gotten yellow for an elbow to the head, then Findley got a yellow for handling the ball with his face. Other than Jorge Larrionda (surprise!) making a hash of whichever game he did a couple days ago, we haven't seen that many bad calls in a game, let alone a half.
- Speaking of Findley: anyone else actually happy he has to sit for the Algeria game? Pace is nice but it's almost sad to see Findley run a ball down. What's he going to do with it? Boot it directly out of bounds? Ah, yes.
- Feilhaber instead of Holden was weird, right? I guess the former might be more likely to spring a guy with a throughball through a crowded defense.
- The US had to make the balls-out switch to Gomez but, man, having Edu in the back in a World Cup game was terrifying.
- It's too bad the US doesn't have a true destroyer they can rely on because allowing Bradley to go box-to-box makes the US attack considerably more dynamic. His late runs into the box find him open all the time. This time, unlike Australia, he shot.
- The outcome of the Algeria-England game does not matter much for the US. As discussed in the preview, the only way an Algeria win does not put the US through is if 1) the ENG-SLV game is a draw, 2) that draw sees Slovenia score two more goals than the US does against Algeria. That's a highly unlikely outcome. Anything other than an England win means the US just goes through if it wins, so root for Algeria, but it's not likely to matter either way.
- Germany outcome removes any incentive to finish first. You'd like to avoid the Germans since they only lost because of a questionable red card to Klose (like Eddie Pope's sending off in 2006 the first yellow was a "huh" moment), a saved penalty, and some heroic goalkeeping by the opposition even after Germany went down to ten. But you have no idea where they will finish in the group.
Ed: Tom scored an interview with Ryan LaMarre, the recently-departed star of the baseball team. LaMarre was drafted in the second round by the Reds and just signed, giving up his senior year of eligibility. In his first game in the minors he stole three bases(!).
TOM: Let’s go back to high school to start. What sports did you play, and when did you know that baseball was the sport you’d go with?
RYAN: I played baseball, football, and hockey for Lumen Christi in Jackson. Probably at the end of my sophomore year of baseball is when I knew. I took an unofficial visit to Michigan at the end of that year. That was really when it started clicking that I would have to seriously start playing summer baseball, and try to get to that next level.
TOM: What made you decide on Michigan? I’m assuming there were other schools calling.
RYAN: It was probably coach Maloney, first and foremost. I had a couple other schools lined up that I wanted to look at. I actually had an official visit scheduled to North Carolina the week before my senior season started. Coach Maloney found that out, and he came in on an in home visit. He told me where he saw me fitting in, and sold the program really well. I never ended up taking the visit to North Carolina, and committed to Michigan.
TOM: Did you have a particular game that stood out to you at Michigan?
RYAN: Coming into this year, it was hosting the regional; the game against Arizona. The atmosphere, and the importance of the game, it was a pretty cool experience. The last couple years haven’t been as successful as we would’ve liked. The northwestern game, though, when we cam back from 13 runs. That was the most exciting game I’ve ever been a part of.
TOM: There were rumors from the start that you maybe had a plan of playing at Michigan for three years, then leaving. Is that true?
RYAN: I had heard that I had a chance to get picked up out of high school, and once I committed to Michigan I told everyone that’s what I wanted to do. It’s definitely something that I worked on everyday, because it was a dream for me to play in the majors. IF I had to stay at Michigan another year, there wouldn’t have been a problem either. It was a tough decision, leaving those guys, that was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make. The Reds made an offer that I couldn’t really turn down. I’m happy with how things have turned out.
[Ed: remainder after the jump.]
There are varying opinions on whether the Slovenia game is a must-win or must-tie; I'm in the tie camp. If the US ties and England beats Algeria as expected, the final matchday will see Slovenia and England enter with four points and the US two. The US would go through if they win against Algeria and…
- England wins
- Slovenia wins
- there's a draw and the US wins by two
- there's a draw and either Slovenia or England scores fewer total goals than the US.
That is almost all possibilities that include a win over Algeria. So they can't lose. But a tie is far from tragic.
On the other hand, a win gives them more leeway against Algeria and could see them escape the knockout game against Germany everyone would dearly like to after the machine mistook Australia for Austria and acquired plenty of lebensraum. Winning is good.
Unfortunately, the US is not going to have a couple of pieces of key information before they go into Friday's matchup against Slovenia: what happened in the England-Algeria game, and if Germany as terrifying as it seemed or if Australia just a team that can give up four goals to anyone. If they knew these key bits of information they would know whether they should attempt to win by a lot or just win.
Without that information and given the situation in the group, the right answer appears to be "just win." This, I'm sad to say, may see Ricardo Clark start again.
Slovenia, as you might expect given their population is approximately equivalent to Iowa, is a boring defensive team. They do have a few talented attacking players but their overall lack of talent sees them play a traditional 4-4-2 that you could call a 4-4-1-1- if you wanted, or a 4-2-2-2, or… well, a lot of different things. A 4-4-1-1 plays pretty similarly to what England does with Rooney and Heskey—Rooney comes deep for the ball, Heskey presses up the pitch—and so you could see some situations similar to the ugly breakdown that led to the England goal, hopefully minus the ugly breakdowns.
Here's my Torres pitch: I think this actually is an argument for Dollar Store Xavi. Torres operates best as a deep-lying playmaker who does not get dragged up the pitch much. Though he's not exactly spectacular in the tackle, the Slovenia attack is not athletic enough to punish him the way he would have been against England and his presence at the back will be more consistent than Clark—who tends to get dragged out of position—and Bradley—who also tends to get dragged out of position, but at least with him there's usually a point. The US defense is less likely to get pulled out of shape when he's around and more likely to spring quick attacks that bypass the Slovenian's compact discipline as much as that is possible. Clark's positioning has been erratic at best over the last month.
SI's Jonathan Wilson describes the Slovenes as essentially identical to the US, with their best and most creative players operating as tucked-in wingers:
Slovenia's only real creativity comes from the wide midfielders, Valter Birsa and Andraz Kirm. Both tend to tuck in when Slovenia is out of possession, pulling wider when the ball is won, while still looking to cut in on the diagonal -- just as Donovan and Dempsey do. They also tend to switch during games, occasionally playing as orthodox wide men and looking to swing in crosses, but more usually playing as inside-out wingers.
The back four and the two central midfielders are defensive players first, and the central defenders are good but not great. With Slovenia set to sit back and look for the counter themselves, opportunities to break will be minimal and this might be a game for Edson Buddle and his recent run of finishing instead of a Robbie Findley more likely to waste possession and biff open nets. Buddle's also a much greater threat in the air. With a lot of the USA's offense likely to come from overlapping fullback crosses, aerial power seems preferable to speed. Also, if you're bringing in Torres you might want a little more size elsewhere for set pieces for and against.
Slovenia's goalie, unfortunately, is damn good.
I've already brought this up in the previous sections: if I was Bob Bradley I'd swap Torres for Clark and Buddle for Findley, expecting that Torres would be sufficient defensively against a side lacking the sort of middle-of-the-park power England has and more likely to hold possession and unlock the Slovenian defense. Buddle, meanwhile, is more likely to get on the end of a cross or set piece and more likely to finish any opportunity that happens to come his way.
Will Bradley actually do this? I don't know. I think you might see Clark or Edu in the first half with Torres a halftime sub if the US needs a goal. Findley… well, I reviewed the England game and he was a much better hold-up forward than Altidore, consistently bringing down long balls and getting the midfield involved in pressure situations. That more than his speed was his contribution. Against a very different opponent I'd rather have a guy to get on the end of things.
The other option is bringing on Holden, which would probably see Dempsey move up top. That's an attractive option too since Slovenia is set up to give up space on the wings and Holden is probably the USA's best winger. The USA as set up against England is exceptionally unlikely to get in a good cross. This game seems to call for more width, and Holden's about the only guy who provides that unless you want to pretend it's 2006 and DaMarcus Beasley is a good option.
Everyone except Clark and Findley is a sure starter. Those nine plus tactical whateva should be enough to get a result, but Spain-Switzerland and whatnot, and we are not Spain.
It's a doubleheader Saturday for Michigan's Class of 2010. The Big 33 All-Star game takes place in Hershey, PA with Michigan's Talbott brothers playing for the Ohio Team. Taking place in East Lansing is the Michigan High School Football Coaches' Association All-Star game at 3:30PM. (The game will be aired on TV on Comcast 900 on Monday at 7PM and Tuesday at 8:30AM.)
Though Michigan doesn't have any scholarship players participating in the game, a number of other Big Ten schools do (Ohio State, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Indiana). Michigan's sole player in the game is preferred walkon Baquer Sayed. I caught up with him and East coach Jim Sparks at media day for the game.
Tim: When are you getting up to Michigan?
Baquer: I'm moving up there in like two weeks.
Tim: Why did you pass up scholarship offers from MAC schools to walk on at Michigan?
Baquer: Family-wise [the media guide says Sayed is one of 9(!) kids in his family], and school, and degree, and everything. It's made up for by the school. If the NFL doesn't work, Michigan's better than all those offers I got in the MAC.
Tim: How would you describe your game?
Baquer: Speedy, long-ball quickness.
Tim: What can we look forward to seeing from you on the field Saturday?
Baquer: Just getting the ball and going in a scoring. Catching the fades over the corners, that's what I like to do.
East Head Coach Jim Sparks (Clawson High School).
Tim: You're running a spread offense on Saturday. Is it more run-focused or pass-focused?
Sparks: What kind of coach would I be if I told you what we're going to do? I'm just gonna say "yes."
Tim: Am I gonna see Baquer Sayed catch some passes though?
Sparks: Yeah, I would expect him to. He's a tremendous athlete, and that's why we run the offense that we do. We have so many athletes that the trick to the spread is just get those kids the ball in space and let them do their thing.
Tim: He told me he likes to go up and get the fade. Is that what you see in him?
Sparks: It's a huge part of his game. He's serious. I told him after you interviewed him that I've never seen a kid that has the ability to adjust to the ball and go up, and play that deep ball the way he does.
Thanks to Baquer Sayed and Coach Sparks for taking the time to talk to me. Here's Baquer's highlight video, for a taste of what to look forward to on Saturday:
Note: with Antonio Kinard's qualification status in doubt I'm going to hold off on him until we get an answer either way.
|Millersville, MD - 6'2" 195|
|Scout||4*, #7 S, #1 MD, #96 overall|
|Rivals||3*, #38 ATH, #10 MD|
|ESPN||3*, 78, #38 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Maryland|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post|
Furman on defense as a junior:
And this is from one game, Furman's ridiculous 414 yards against state #1 Arundel in the quarterfinals:
Thanks to youtube user fslade1267, you can check Furman highlights—mostly long runs—from virtually all games during his senior season.
The first thing on the Furman resume is ridiculous speed. Literally: the first Scout article written on him mentions "gaudy athleticism" in the headline. He clocked an electronic 4.36 at a Pittsburgh combine, causing Scout to declare his athleticism "off the charts"($) and ESPN to claim that his "elite testing marks … should help his recruiting stock continue to soar." The Washington Post cited another 4.36 from 2008, when Furman was just entering his junior year. He has the fakest 40 of anyone in this recruiting class by a mile.
More from ESPN on his ridiculous combine showing:
From a pure measurement standpoint, Josh Furman may have had the single best outing out of any prospect on this year's Under Armour combine tour. He posted a wind-aided 4.39 40-yard dash, a 42 inch vertical jump, a 4.12 short shuttle and a modest broad jump of 9 feet, 8 inches. His 16 reps of 185 pounds were also very impressive and a bit surprising given his longer, rangier frame (6-foot-2, 192 pounds). While he did look a bit lean, his great wingspan and overall body length suggest continued physical development. We believe he will eventually have a well-developed frame that will tip the scales in the 225-pound range while he'll maintain the great quick-twitch burst and speed we saw Friday night.
Hello, nurse. Quick-twitch 225 on a rangy frame is upside piled upon upside. Given the context, this quote from his coach seems more justified than most in its rapturous tone:
“The explosion and power this kid has, it’s phenomenal. I’ve seen kids with almost the same amount of speed like 5-10, 5-11. But being 6-2, 6-3, being able to run … I’ve never seen anything like him. He’s definitely a freak. Definitely a freak.”
Elsewhere his coach describes him as "lights out fast," as does the coach he victimized in the state semifinal, about which more later. For its part, Rivals echoed that assessment after he attended their Five Star Showdown, where he played offense:
His speed and burst jump out at you. He's fast and looks effortless when running. He's also very athletic and versatile, able to play many positions at the next level. … His effortless, galloping running style that simply outdistanced everyone who tried to cover him. You can't teach his combination of size and speed and he runs low despite being a bit tall for a tailback -- a good habit.
That athleticism bore itself out on the field, most spectacularly in a state quarterfinal game against #1 Arundel in which he ran for 414—not a typo—yards in a 58-55 double overtime win. The video is embedded above. He was as stunned as anyone about his stats at the end of that game:
“The only time you can run for that many yards is when you are playing the easy level on Madden,” he said referring to the popular video game. “Can you repeat my stats again? Did you say 414 yards and six touchdowns? I can’t even imagine doing that.”
In the aftermath his coach said Old Mill would "just keep feeding the beast" and the next week he ran for 201 yards, punching in the winning score with under a minute left in the state semifinal. He suffered a minor knee injury after just six carries in the state final but his team managed its first-ever state championship in a 17-16 thriller (highlights). By year's end he'd racked up 2,283 yards and 36 touchdowns, narrowly missing a state yardage record because of the knee injury. He was the local paper's blindingly obvious selection as the local athlete of the year.
With that combine pop and production it's a little surprising to see that two of the three services give him just three stars. ESPN rates him lower than Davion Rogers at OLB (though they end up with the same 78 grade). Their scouting($):
Furman is a big, rangy and physical football player with good vertical speed for such a lengthy athlete. Tall and physically intimidating as an outside linebacker. This guy is a real threat rushing from the outside. Has enough quickness to accelerate by an offensive tackle setting back to pass protect. Most running backs do no not want to take him on due to his size and strength. A very disruptive perimeter defender. Shows the speed and closing burst to run a ball carrier or quarterback down from the backside when rushing off the edge. … Furman is a very good football player that has size and quickness. The only area of physical concern may be flexibility in the lower body. A guy with a ton of upside and physical development left.
It's the "upside" bit that sees him rank lower than you might expect. In the same combine evaluation above, ESPN diplomatically says his performance was "a bit less extraordinary" when it came to football skills and that he was "a bit straight-lined" at times, displaying "some stiffness and inflexibility." Their prescription was for more bulk and improved technique. Touch The Banner has some specifics on those technique issues:
Tends to be undisciplined regarding his gap responsibility . . . Does a poor job of using his hands to disengage from blockers . . . Not a big hitter, more of a grabber . . . Does not bring his feet with him when he tackles
Rivals is basically in the same boat, naming him the #38 athlete—three spots off four stars.
On the other hand, Scout sneaks him in at the tail end of their top 100, and when Tom interviewed MaxPreps's Stephen Spiewak he cited Furman as possibly the second-best recruit in the class:
TOM: Besides Gardner, is there anyone in this class that you look at and say, Michigan really needed to get him, or they're going to be excited about him?
STEPHEN: I really, really like Josh Furman. I think he'd be able to contribute on offense, but I think he'll be a big boost to the linebacking unit. I have heard about Furman for a few years, and this year he really put it together and was flat out dominant. I know some people think he has NFL potential.
Opinion is decidedly split.
As far as offers go, West Virginia and Maryland were the first entrants. As early as signing day, Furman was being pursued by Clemson, Florida, FSU, Michigan, OSU, Tennessee and Virginia Tech and had a Pitt offer. By March, Virginia Tech had offered; they were followed shortly by Oklahoma and Michigan. The latter two made the unusual move of offering on nothing more than a highlight tape. Other prominent offers came from North Carolina, Rutgers, Illinois, Purdue, and Miami (That Miami). Florida was interested enough to have him visit but never offered($), and frankly that Oklahoma offer is a little dubious given the fact he never visited and Oklahoma fans never really heard of him. It's in the Post, though:
Furman's first major offer from a school outside of the region set off a frenzy. Oklahoma requested Furman's highlight tape. The school received it on a Saturday, and Furman had an offer from the Sooners three days later.
Furman's offers are encouraging but not quite the sort that demand four stars. I'll take any linebacker sort that Virginia Tech is after, though.
Early in Furman's recruiting Michigan was behind his father's alma mater, but after visits to all of his suitors, Michigan was far and away the choice. Prepare for a double-helping of the most common cliché in recruiting from Papa Furman:
"My mind was made up that he was going to Maryland and follow in my footsteps," Tyler Furman said. "When we went to Michigan, I was blown away by the coaching staff and the facilities. I was blown away by everything they had to offer."
Furman delayed his announcement so he could do it at the Maryland Crab Bowl, but as soon as he left Michigan's campus his recruitment was over. His reasons why:
“Going through the recruiting process I came to realize that this is a business and I think out of all 13 scholarships I had, Michigan, the coaching staff and the recruiters were the most honest and realistic with me,” Furman said. “I went up there for the Michigan-Notre Dame game, I just loved the atmosphere. It just had so many positives toward the college. I know they had two bad season, but if you really look at it they’re not a bad team at all, and I think they’re going to be a good team for the next four or five years.”
Here's hoping that's true.
In Ann Arbor, Furman is ticketed for the spur/spinner slot occupied by Stevie Brown last year and tentatively assigned to redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon for 2010. This is, apropos of nothing but a West Virginia offer Furman didn't seem that interested in, the exact position Scout analyst Matt Alkire suggested would be his home:
Having watched his film personally, one position he could fit very well in is the “spur” safety position Rich Rodriguez used in his 3-3-5 at West Virginia. Mike Lorello was an excellent player for the Mountaineers in it and Furman has the range to cover the field and the power to hammer people as well.
ESPN concurs, saying he "projects best in a heavy-pressure defense in which he can attack vertically" similar to his high school defense… which is (surprise!) a 3-3-5:
"We play a 3-5 defense just like West Virginia and Coach Casteel could see me fitting into it. That's where they offered me," said Furman.
Interestingly enough, West Virginia's early interest was for outside linebacker, and Touch the Banner suggests that Furman's natural position is weakside linebacker, comparing him to Shawn Crable.
Why Stevie Brown? I already used Crable, who seems like a pretty good comparison, and Furman has the combination of athleticism and linebacker-tweener size that Brown did. Brown also took to the spur spot like John L. Smith to Michigan's recent repeal of an anti-dueling law. Brown, unfortunately, also had major tackling and coverage issues that were only mitigated by his senior-year move.
Etc.: Scout interview before his official. Early Scout article. Forcing a fumble. A Washington Post video feature that describes his six-sack half(!!!) as a freshman defensive end and features Ecstasy of Gold. Worth watching if only to see him make up 15 yards on some kid on a kickoff return tacle.
Guru Reliability: High despite the difference in opinion. Furman went to combines, suffered no injuries, and embarked on a crushing campaign that resulted in a state championship, and you can't poke an analyst about him without getting the "crazy athletic and raw" refrain. Look at the ranking difference as a reflection of his variability: he could be an All-American, or he could be a frustrating loose cannon who never develops.
General Excitement Level: Daddy needs a new pair of shoes. Roll them dice and hope Greg Robinson and Adam Braithwaite are the savants they're reputed to be. I will say that some of the skepticism at ESPN and Rivals appears to be based on questions about his fit in a 4-3 system and I lean towards the positive side since he'll be walking into (but not on to) a defense that plays to his strengths.
Projection: Man… I don't know. With Michigan currently running out a walk-on on the two deep at his position it's hard to imagine him redshirting, but it's also hard to project him contributing much as a true freshman given his offensive focus in high school, need to add weight, and technique deficiencies.
It's a good thing we have an almost direct comparable, down to the dreads: Furman is Denard Robinson on defense. Expect a mostly wince-worthy but occasionally tantalizing freshman year followed by a mountain of hype going into 2011. From there? Ask again later.
With camps and unofficial visits in full swing, news is coming in fast and furious. Check out the all-time updates on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board.
KY LB Lamar Dawson (at right) plans to visit Michigan this summer, he told ThaRinger.com:
Dawson has a few visits scheduled this summer and will also showcase his skills on the national stage in July. “I’m just going to visit a couple places. I’m gonna go to Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois and I might go to Arkansas. I got invited to this Gridiron Kings by ESPN. That’s in July, it’s a 7-on-7 camp.”
Michigan is currently outside his top four, which consists of Kentucky, USC, Louisville, and Florida. However, the Wolverines have a chance to make up ground when he hits campus. Box of M.E.S.S. also talked to Dawson, and he's not down on Michigan for the subpar record the past couple years:
Michigan was overall 5-7-0 and 1-7-0 in their conference, could last years record affect your decision or will you give them an opportunity no matter what?
Dawson: I’m going to give them a chance because they have the most wins in NCAA history so they know how to win all they need is the right players to do it.
Vaught's Views also provides some recruiting fluff on Dawson, mostly related to Kentucky's attempts to keep him in-state.
VA LB Curtis Grant plans to visit Michigan in August. He also gives Tom a brief rundown of his game:
"I'm going to try to work on everything as a player. One of my strengths is being able to read and attack. I also think I need to be the leader on the field. I call the plays, and keep the team motivated, so that's important. I really see myself as that kind of player at the next level, too. I like being the leader," he told me.
He's a highly-regarded prospect, and a visit is a good sign.
OH LB Sean Duggan visited Ann Arbor recently, and he came away enthused, as he tells Tom. Michigan is now in his top 3.
Michigan makes the top 5 of VA LB/DE Corey Marshall, but Tennessee and Virginia Tech seem to have the edge.
PA LB Armstead Williams holds a Michigan offer and plans to visit at the end of this month.
There Shall Be Only One (Quarterback)
It seems as though this is starting to become a weekly feature, at least until Michigan lands their quarterback in the class of 2011. With only one spot available at the position, and very few offers out, it's worth keeping an eye on.
A couple shakeups in the past week then, as we bid Happy Trails to FL QB Jerrard Randall, who has committed to Oregon. No word on whether teammates and fellow Michigan offerees FL S Jonathan Aiken and FL WR Curt Evans are likely to follow.
I was going to write a long segment about how Randall's commitment could have a positive effect on Michigan's recruitment of AZ QB Brett Hundley—who had been favoring the Ducks—but he eliminated Michigan yesterday.
VA QB Marquise Williams has accelerated his decision timetable ($, info in header). Since he won't get the chance to visit Michigan before that commitment, it looks like the Wolverines may be on the outside looking in.
So where are we now? OH QB Cardale Jones is the only quarterback prospect still out there who is holding an offer. This makes it much more likely that FL QB Kevin Sousa (seen at right) eventually lands that coveted letter from Rich Rodriguez. In fact, I suspect the coaching staff may be holding off because they think he'd immediately jump on it, leaving them out of luck with the prospects they like a little more. He continues to rack up mid-level offers, and Colorado State is the latest. His skill set sounds very good for Michigan's system. Though he's a project, Michigan has time to let him develop behind Forcier, Robinson, and Gardner.
Additional Happy Trails-ing.
FL WR Ja'Juan Story, who had previously seemed pretty enthusiastic about Michigan, has eliminated the Wolverines in his most recent cut.
SC WR Charone Peake committed to Clemson.
Happy Trails to NJ OL Shane Mertz, who committed to Northwestern.
Happy Trails, WI DT Donte Phillips. Committed to Indiana. He was squarely in the "sad josh" category, so his coming off the board is not a big negative.
Happy Trails, FL S Jabari Gorman. He has narrowed his list to a final three: Alabama, Miami, and Ohio State ($, info in header).
OH WR Devin Smith recently picked up an Ohio State offer, so we could be bidding him adieu soon. For now, he remains on the board.
New Offers, Enthusiastic Recruits
OH DE/DT/OL Jack Miller visited Michigan a couple days ago, and managed to head out of Ann Arbor with an offer in hand ($, info in header). Michigan likes him on offensive line, which is where I'd had him projected on the recruiting board. His offer list is actually much more impressive than you'd expect, given his rankings:
Miller estimates his scholarship offer total to stand at between 20 and 25. His list includes Michigan State, Boston College, Illinois, Northwestern, Pitt, North Carolina, West Virginia, Stanford, Louisville and Syracuse.
Big East and ACC aren't exactly SEC, Big... uh... 10 or Pac... 11, but significantly more impressive than MAC. Jamie Mac of Just Cover turned me on to Miller a while back, including some Toledo INSIDERZ information:
I am sure you are on top of things, but the Toledo grapevine is buzzing that Jake Miller, a OT/DE recruit from Toledo St John's will be getting a Michigan offer pretty much any day now. He'll probably get an OSU offer shortly thereafter.
I have no idea if he's leaning in any direction, but he [has said] that a Michigan offer would be a game changer for him in the recruiting process.
Should we be on commitment watch? Tom also interviewed Miller:
JACK: [I]t's safe to say that Michigan and Boston College are my top two... I have the offers I want, so it's time to decide. I'm really going to thin it out this week, and I'll hopefully have the decision made by the end of the week.
Commitment watch indeed. Miller should either be a Wolverine or an Eagle by the end of the week. There's also more in Tom's post about his connection to another Wolverine target from Ohio.
In other "Recently Offered and Michigan Probably Holds a Healthy Lead" news, MI LB Ed Davis heard the good news from Rich Rodriguez over the weekend ($, info in header), and he has Michigan atop his list. He may not commit immediately, but conventional wisdom has him joining the Maize and Blue. He was one of the more impressive prospects at the Michigan Football Showcase.
[Ed: Davis attends Detroit Southeastern, a school that Michigan has had extreme difficulty recruiting of late. With the departure of Archie Collins to be a Michigan State video coordinator, Southeastern looks like it will be friendlier in the future.]
Michigan has offered IN OL Nick Martin ($, info in header).
Chris Rock (Still) Goes Blue
The Columbus media has finally gotten around to covering OH DE Chris Rock's commitment to Michigan:
"Chris is excited," Stallions coach Ryan Wiggins said. "He ended up with 20-plus BCS offers and he just felt very comfortable with Michigan. We have a player there and our football community is pretty tight-knit, so I think Patrick helped recruit him there."
Wiggins also talked briefly about what Chris brings to the team:
Rock has impressed as a defensive end and a tight end in his time at DeSales but may bulk up to the point where he could see time on the interior of the D-line at the collegiate level.
"I think he's a versatile enough kid that he can do a lot of things," Wiggins explained. "That's one of the reasons he's so good. I think the question will be how much bigger he'll get. That'll be up to the guys at the next level." ...
"He's big and he's very athletic for his size," Wiggins said of the 6-foot-5 Rock. "That's the biggest thing. I think he's a fast learner, too. He plays fundamentally sound and he's coachable."
If Rock is healthy this season, he could rocket up the rankings.
The recruitment of FL RB Demetrius Hart takes another turn, as he now plans to wait until January to make a commitment.
A couple different sources evaluate FL WR Curt "Spiffy" Evans. First, the Miami Herald:
From the first time he handled the ball at the youth football level at Northeast Hollywood, there was little doubt that this was going to be a future standout on the gridiron.
Speed, athletic ability and a knack of reading defenses has provided this quality football player an opportunity to get noticed.
After starting his career at Hollywood South Broward, his decision to attend Chaminade-Madonna has worked out as college coaches have had the chance to watch him catch balls and lead the team on offense, and now as he heads toward his final year, look for him to play defensive back and fill a void at running back.
...and newly-formed Minnesota blog I'm In Love With A Fringe Bowl Team:
Curt can make cuts on a dime and showcases outstanding body control to not only make difficult catches in traffic, diving and stretching for poorly thrown balls, but he also makes lethal jump cuts that make him a nightmare to bring down in the open field...
In route running, Evans closes the gap on the zone defender quickly and makes a fast, fluid break to get open. Gets up the seam in a hurry and makes the tough over-the-shoulder catch look easy.
As noted above, his teammate Jerrard Randall committed to Oregon, so the package deal is off the table. He won't be at Michigan's camp, but hopes to visit at some point this summer.
MI WR Jermal Hosley, a prospect at the slot position has received his first offer, from Ball State (free on Scout). He's hoping to re-schedule a camp visit to Michigan.
IL OL Rafe Kiely attended Michigan's Elite Camp, and followed it up with an impressive performance at a Chicago Under Armour Combine:
"I thought I did extremely well at Michigan and that carried over today," said Kiely, who carries a 4.2 GPA. "There's a lot of competition out there for scholarships and I'm looking to prove myself worthy this summer by attending the camps and combines."
"I really liked Rafe Kiely," [Under Armour O-line Coach Mike] Barry said. "He's got what it takes to be a solid guard at the D-I level. Rafe moves well, he competes his tail off and he's extremely coachable."
He hasn't been offered yet, but keep an eye out for him.
IL DE James Adeyanju holds a Michigan offer, but he currently favors Illinois, Arizona, Boston College, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.
PA CB Kyshoen Jarrett finally got the Penn State offer he was waiting for, but that doesn't mean he's going to commit to the Nittany Lions any time soon:
There won't a be rush to make a decision. Jarrett plans on taking his allotment of five official visits and going from there.
"I've been hearing a lot of people who are very protective, a lot of guidance, saying commit before the season," Jarrett said. "I do want to take my officials though out of the top five that I have by then and honestly I'm just going to pray on it. Hopefully whatever happens happens and I get my answer."
I get the strong vibe that whatever happens will indeed happen, so Jarrett will get his wish.
Tom interviewed MD ATH Brandon Phelps:
TOM: You said most schools are recruiting you for defense. Which schools are recruiting you the hardest right now?
BRANDON: Probably UCLA, Virginia, Michigan, Maryland, and Penn State...
TOM: Where does Michigan fit into that? Are they getting a visit?
BRANDON: Oh yeah, I'm definitely going to try to get up there; they're on my list. Growing up I really liked Braylon Edwards, and I watched them on TV, so I've been following ever since. My coach said the Big House is unbelievable, because he's been there for a game. He told me that whenever I visit, he's coming with me.
Michigan is looking at Phelps as a safety or slot receiver.
For updates on NC LB Kris Frost (camping this weekend), FL OL James Elliott, and FL Slot Prince Holloway, check out Tom's Monday update. If you want a full list of visitors to this weekend's camp, Tom has that covered as well.
One 2012 note: keep an eye on MI OL Kevin Darcy. The teammate of Wolverine freshman Austin White impressed at a Chicago combine.