"This is really important to be here," Lewan said. "I'm here to give back and help out my teammate."
TOM: So, you made your college decision, which is....
KEN: Michigan. I chose Michigan today.
TOM: Ok, congratulations. The decision was between Michigan and Pitt right?
KEN: Yea, it was between Michigan and Pittsburgh. It just came down to how I felt last Saturday at the barbecue, so I went with them.
TOM: What was really the difference maker between Michigan and Pitt?
KEN: Just the way that Michigan is going to be on the rise, and I want to be a part of something special. Michigan was my favorite team growing up, which also had something to do with it.
TOM: Was that one of the messages that the coaches spread at the barbecue? We're on the rise, and get on board now.
KEN: Yea, they said it's a great time to be a Michigan Wolverine, and jump on board. I feel the coaches are going to do something special there, and I wanted to be a part of it.
TOM: What coach did you bond with the most?
KEN: Coach Gibson, I built a good relationship with him and Coach Tall.
TOM: So aside from the coaches, when you were at the BBQ, did you get a chance to meet with any of the other commits or recruits?
KEN: I got a chance to talk to Jordan Paskorz. I've known him for awhile, since he's from the PA area, and we go to a lot of the same camps. I also got to meet Kyle Prater, which was pretty good. It was pretty cool to meet some of those guys, and see what they're thinking about.
TOM: You thought you felt comfortable around them too?
KEN: Oh yea, I felt very comfortable.
TOM: Have you talked to Greg Robinson at all?
KEN: Yeah, I talked to him before the barbecue started, and we sat down and watched Denver Broncos film from when he was there. We talked about some of the stuff he wants to do with me when I'm up there. He said I can drop back, line up inside, outside; a lot of versatility stuff that a lot of other guys can't do. He sees that with me, for the quick position.
TOM: So, your recruitment is over and done. Congratulations.
KEN: Yea, man, I'm completely sold on Michigan. This is the school I'll be attending for the next 4 years. I'm going to start trying to recruit some kids now like Cullen Christian and Brandon Ifill. I know they've got interest in Michigan, and I met them at the Scout combine, so I'll try to get them up there.
The week-to-week minutiae of recruiting can sometimes obscure the larger picture.From time to time this here blog likes to provide a 1,000 foot view so people can have context going forward. Details below are designed to be sparse.
Michigan is about halfway to a full recruiting class, and will probably sign somewhere between 22 and 25. The details:
- Eleven players see their eligibility expire.
- Michigan entered the year with three unused slots.
- Transfers from Wermers, Threet, and Clemons minus the transfer-type action of Kelvin Grady brings Michigan up to 16 slots.
- There are two players on the team—David Cone and Bryan Wright—highly unlikely to get a fifth year.
- Dann O'Neill's departure is not yet official but is highly likely.
So without further attrition Michigan has about 19 slots—depending on the statuses of Sheridan, Morales, and the younger Grady—to provide, but there will be further attrition. There always is.
Needs: Almost as severe as they were last year. Michigan has two realistic scholarship options and would like at least two this year with possibly a third guy who will "get a shot" before getting moved to somewhere else.
Commitments: MI QB Devin Gardner (right), Michigan's top target and a guy who's around the Scout top 50 and Lemming top 10, has hopped aboard.
Realistic Future Options: There's not much green left on the recruiting board here: just SC QB Cornelius Jones, LA QB Munchie Legaux, and FL QB Stephen Morris. Morris doesn't have an offer, and Legaux has gone from declaring Michigan a provisional leader to only mentioning M intermittently—that smilin' green guy is probably outdated. So you've got Jones, which I guess would be okay.
Level of PANIC: 1/5. Gardner was clearly the #1 priority of the coaching staff and is in the boat; the lack of attractive second options is a minor concern.
Needs: They took three last year but lose three this offseason and had two transfers. In 2010 they'll have a junior Mike Shaw and four underclassmen (Smith, Toussaint, Jones, and Cox). That's is pretty light for a team that would like to run the ball lots, especially since Jones might be pirated away by the receiving corps and Toussaint remains a question-mark to qualify.
Realistic Future Options: Tate Forcier is still exhorting Michigan fans to keep hope for the pendulum that is CA RB Brennan Clay alive—he committed to Oklahoma over the weekend—but even if he's still in play he's declared Oklahoma a strong leader and will be difficult to pry away.
That leaves MI RB Austin White as Michigan's top remaining target, surprisingly. White has two brothers at State but the vibe on him has been strongly Michigan for the last month or two. While White's not the universal blue-chip Clay is he does have an LSU offer and a couple of four-star rankings.
There are also a dozen other kids with offers out there, with the top names to watch FL RB Cassius McDowell, a teammate of Michigan's Deerfield Beach duo on both the football team and the Florida state championship 4x100m, and CA RB Dietrich Riley, a hotly-pursued athlete who could play on either side of the ball.
Level of PANIC: 2/5. If Rodriguez gets a pass anywhere for recruiting random guys it's running backs, but Michigan's persistent inability to land a blue-chip guy despite Rodriguez's pedigree is slightly annoying. White's sort of close to that level, though, and if they bring him in that's a solid class.
Needs: Whatever they were they've been met.
Commitments: Michigan picked up early-early commits from FL WR Ricardo Miller and MI WR Jeremy Jackson, then followed that up with Ohioans Jerald Robinson and DJ Williamson, and the entire state of North Dakota.
Miller is a four-star to everyone but the other guys are in the generic three-star range, with Robinson the closest to four-star status. Jackson did claim offers from Texas and Florida, FWIW, and Williamson just won the state championship in the 100 meter dash.
Realistic Future Options: Unsurprisingly, there aren't many. IL WR Kyle Prater showed at the BBQ and a recent combine event that Gardner also attended; the two have hit it off and Prater's had some recent positive mentions of M. He's also declared a top three of USC, Oklahoma, and Illinois, though, so keep your hopes in check.
Other than that the only guy reporting an offer who seems interested is PA WR Andrew Carswell, who may or may not be able to commit if he so desires.
Level of PANIC: 2/5. I'd rather Michigan had picked up some higher-rated kids with better offers. IIRC, neither Robinson or Williamson had any other offers period, let alone something comparable to the Michigan offer, and neither is getting the sort of guru accolades that might offset that. Williamson is something of a mystery man, though: Rivals just got his film.
Needs: I have no idea, really. Is Teric Jones a slot receiver? What about Tony Drake? Is Kelvin Grady a realistic option? Will Jeremy Gallon qualify? Does Je'Ron Stokes end up playing inside? If the answers are all "yes," then the need here is minimal. If they're all "no," the need here is considerable.
Commitments: LA WR Drew Dileo committed to Michigan over an array of schools that are really good at school a few weeks ago.
Realistic Future Options: Again, it's not a surprise that there aren't a whole lot of options on the board here. FL WR OJ Ross has an offer and has been very impressive this spring at a variety of combines and his high school's spring game; he's about the only guy on the radar here.
Level of PANIC: 3/5. Dileo seems like one of those guys you wait on. Just my e-pinion.
Needs: Rodriguez never used tight ends at West Virginia unless it was Owen Schmitt lining up somewhere funny, but has apparently cottoned onto the idea at Michigan once he talked with good friend Bob Stoops and got a view of Kevin Koger's talents, so they're recruiting a few guys.
Realistic Future Options: Cincinnati commitment Alex Smith took a visit for the BBQ and now features in articles where he talks about a variety of trips he'll take. That commit is soft, then. He's the only guy on the board.
Level of PANIC: 0/5. If they find a guy they like here, fine. If they don't, fine.
Needs: Suddenly a little more needy with the departures of Kurt Wermers and (again, very probably) Dann O'Neill. Michigan is now recruiting to a class of four redshirt freshmen backed by a class of three true freshmen and should be taking another three or four players.
Commitments: OH interior lineman Christian Pace committed about a week ago.
Realistic Future Options: There is, of course, MN OL Seantrel Henderson, the nation's top recruit and a guy Michigan is in a tentative top two for along with Minnesota. He's not going to decide until February, though, so any lead here is tenuous. Much more likely to hew to his recent proclamations of a Michigan lead is FL OL Torrian Wilson, who's still got Michigan on top and would like to decide within a month.
Besides those two Michigan is in on a couple of Ohioans, Skyler Schofner and Andrew Donnall, plus some other guys. They'll probably have to find another half-dozen guys to offer to get up to four.
Level of PANIC: 1/5. Though the recruiting board has dwindled a bit, offensive line is a spot at which you get a lot of late-developing talents and the recruiting ratings aren't that accurate anyway. Pace is a good pickup to start.
Yeah, Michigan has expended a lot of scholarship slots on guys you'd like to see them wait on as Plan B type recruits to be reeled in after you are told to talk to the hand by big-time guys. By the end of the year only Gardner, Miller, and maybe one other committed player (Pace or Robinson, probably) are likely to pick up four stars, which is well below average.
The counter-argument to this basically goes "Pat White and Steve Slaton," and I hear you, but even Rodriguez's first full class at Michigan—which was loaded with four-star recruits—puts the lie to the idea it's not preferable to lock down guys who many people think will be good players instead of just you. At the halfway point it's looking like this will be class that ranks lower than normal.
That's not too alarming. Teams that have ugly years just about always experience a significant dropoff the year after, and Michigan is going through its own version. This is more likely to be a result of 3-9 than anything else, and 3-9 isn't an event that will repeat, knock on wood.
Rich text editing, yo. After far too long wandering in the wilderness on this, I've finally restored the rich text editing that was intermittently available in the early days of MGoBlog 3.0. If you're posting a diary you've now got convenient options to create headers, bold and italic text, links, blockquotes, and display offsite images. I'm still tinkering with allowing users to upload images to the MGoServer. In an attempt not to slow down other pages I've omitted it from comments and message board posts.
Social media, yo. I've also restored easy access to various ways to propagate the MGoGospel throughout the internet in the form of a "ShareThis" button. I killed the last iteration because it was cluttery; this one is one button and a nice popup.
It also has reporting, so I can see if anyone's using it. If it's not getting any use after a couple months I'll kill it again.
Caption this baby. Caption contests are sometimes compulsory. This is one of those times.
Have at it. Side note: could those two guys look more like Notre Dame graduates? I submit they could not.
Walking on? I had been under the assumption that Kelvin Grady was going to be on scholarship with the football team, but this AA News article suggests otherwise:
Grady met recently with Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez and received permission to try and walk on with the Wolverines, a university spokesman said Wednesday.
So… Grady might not occupy a scholarship slot. This isn't relevant this year—when he's likely to pick a scholarship up anyway because of low numbers—but provides some additional flexibility in future years. I would assume if Grady becomes a contributor he'll get a scholarship.
How likely is that? Well, his high school coach thinks it's a possibility:
“He’s been training at a very high level in basketball,” Stuursma said. “He has the ability to catch a ball, and learning to run routes comes in a very short time. He is a student of the game and has a very high level of intelligence.” …
“Kelvin on the football field is one of those guys where you kind of hold your breath,” said Stuursma, who also watched Grady change games with explosive kick returns. “He has the opportunity to take it to the house at any time. He’s electrifying and can take over the game with one play, a natural ability you can’t coach.”
Michigan's offense is well suited for zippy small guys, and with Terrance Robinson having some issues catching the ball there's an opportunity for playing time there. His hands must be good, right? And when he fumbles kickoffs he'll be really good at fielding them on the bounce.
Wait… what? After a brief period of about three posts where Adam Rittenberg, ESPN's Big Ten quasi-blogger, linked out to non-mainstream content, he settled down into a familiar pattern: newspaper person links only to newspaper stuff. I don't really blame him, what with corporate monolith considerations and all that. That's just life. But why has he broken this policy to link to an inane list of the "most overrated coaches" at Heisman Pundit?
That content has literally zero value. It could have been farted out by a monkey. Sample insight on Tressel, citing his conservative offensive tendencies: "It's almost as if he is satisfied to lose, as long as it is his way." Did I merely imagine Troy Smith throwing 30 touchdowns and winning the Heisman in 2006? Because if I did, that would be awesome. I pray someone is about to smack me into consciousness on the morning of the 2006 Ohio State game with Tressel poised to run 70% of the time.
There's a ton of funny or interesting content that actually takes time and research being published in the blogosphere. Here's some great stuff on underdog strategies from Smart Football. Here's an in-depth look at Rodriguez offenses past and what makes them good from When Carcajous Attack(!). Here's MVictors talking with Minnesota's AD about whether a 2010 Michigan-Minnesota nonconference game was actually a possibility. All contain far more value than yet another offseason list put together by some guy BRINGING IT STRONG.
There's a disconnect here, isn't there? I actually feel bad for Rittenberg, who has to put out a mountain of ephemeral content like "Top 30 Players In The Big Ten" that serves no other purpose than to generate a tiny burst of link traffic instead of getting to concentrate on pieces with lasting value. But he shouldn't mistake the insistent demands of the page view god for quality content elsewhere.
Speaking of all those posts. Yes, MVictors got the scoop on this weird possibility of a Michigan-Minnesota nonconference game. It won't happen, but it was discussed:
MVictors: Were you interested?
Maturi: There are different kinds of scheduling. When you’re Minnesota and you’re trying to improve your program and to be successful, I’m really thankful to coach Brewster for his willingness to play a tougher schedule. Saying that, we had already scheduled Southern Cal for next year . I’m not a real brilliant guy, but I’m not so sure it’s in the best interest of Minnesota football to play Southern Cal and Michigan in back-to-back weeks. Non-conference, so-to-speak. As a result, if we had not scheduled Southern Cal I would have been very interested.
That's sort of encouraging, I guess, for folks who would like to see another interesting 2010 nonconference game—ie, everyone—but discouraging if an oddity like that is Michigan's best hope. More over there, including Bill Martin writing a check to Minnesota for a new stadium in a huff.
Meanwhile, this When Carcajous Attack(!) post is extensive and hard to really blockquote from, so let's just hit the outline:
Under what circumstances does Rodriguez’s spread-option offense really start hitting on all cylinders?
When certain key ingredients were present and well-mixed into the offensive game plan, Rodriguez showed a tremendous yield of both offensive firepower (yards gained, points scored) and victories. All of Rich Rodriguez’s most powerful offensive units featured three key components.
I.) Quarterbacks With Wheels
II.) Tailback Tandems from Hell
III.) Slot Machines (and Quarterbacks That Crank The Handle)
There are many examples of Rodriguez's past combined with Michigan's; take a gander.
(Sidenote II: hey, kids and doctors! I see you taking your tables and posting them in image format, which is subpar because 1) the google can't see you, 2) the page loads slower, and 3) no one can C&P your work easily and build on it. Instead of screen-grabbing your spreadsheet program, try Tableizer.)
Save the MSU game, the Wolverines beat the opponent’s average in each game over the second half of the season.
It's true: Michigan was an outstanding rush offense in three games, average in two others, and poor against MSU. That replicated over the course of the season would shoot Michigan into territory not quite as lofty as that experienced by Rodriguez at West Virginia, but close. And if you remember Michigan State's snap-jumping excess in last year's game…
As we now know, there weren't really variable pauses between the hand clap and the snap, which allowed Michigan State to jump the snap count time and again to mostly good effect. They picked up a few offsides calls, but they also got incompletions, stuffed runs, and sacks because their guys were moving before Michigan's OL could even get out of their stances.
…you know that there was a significant mitigating factor in Michigan's single subpar rushing effort in the season's second half, one that's unlikely to be repeated with a more experienced center and line.
And what's more, Michigan returns literally everyone relevant to that performance with another year of experience and Barwis under their belts. This is your major reason for hope in 2009.
Loeffler Jr.? Loeffler on his younger doppelganger:
Q:Was it exciting to see Nick Sheridan get playing time last fall?
A:Nick Sheridan, I love like a son. He loves Michigan and is going to do everything that's asked of his coaches and is an impeccable young man, and one day he'll be one heck of a football coach.
This first started with a message board post around these parts, and now we've confirmed it with two additional sources close to the situation: freshman offensive tackle Dann O'Neill has left the team. It's unclear whether he's transferring or giving up football.
Now… as we learned to our collective terror during the McGuffie transfer wobbling, these things aren't official until they are official. This appears to be a done deal, however, and has passed the threshold of likelihood where it's worth reporting. Thus: this post.
The departure shouldn't affect Michigan's 2009 season, as O'Neill wasn't on the two-deep and had never been mentioned as a threat to find playing time. Most of what we'd heard on him was along the lines of "great frame but needs a ton of work with both technique and strength." But he was a big-time recruit in the hybrid Carr/Rodriguez class, and his washout is disappointing. With Kurt Wermers' departure that six-member line class is now down to four; further departures will start cutting into players earmarked as future starters.
The good news is that Barnum, Khoury, and Omameh have all positioned themselves as future starters, possibly as early as this year, and are unlikely to depart. Elliot Mealer's recovery from his shoulder injury makes him something of a wild-card, but he's also been the subject of scattered positive reports.
This takes Michigan to approximately 21 scholarships in the 2010 class, but Michigan is probably going to have to fill O'Neill's spot with another offensive lineman; expect four to sign up, with OH guard/center Christian Pace already in the fold.
Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, OL Michael Schofield, OL Taylor Lewan, OL Quinton Washington, WR Cameron Gordon, WR Je'Ron Stokes, WR Jeremy Gallon, and RB Teric Jones.
|Pahokee, Florida - 5'6" 159
|Scout||3*, #102 RB|
|Rivals||3*, #36 RB|
|ESPN||77, #60 RB|
|Other Suitors||Tennessee, Wisconsin, Minnesota|
|Hello: Vincent Smith|
From Pahokee (Odoms, Hawthorne); early enrollee.
Life is rough in Pahokee, Florida, a place more swamp than land where the kids chase rabbits for something to do. Ask Vincent Smith:
"Life is a struggle," said former Pahokee running back Vincent Smith, now playing at Michigan. "It's a learning experience because you have to be able to adapt quickly or you can easily get into trouble. Playing sports helped put me on the outside of some of the circumstances and struggles in the town."
But not all of them. Smith's teammate and friend Norman Griffith was shot in the head on September 27th. Pahokee went out and lost its annual rivalry game against Glades Central, then ran off a series of victories that ended in a third consecutive state championship. Smith was the star of the game with 22 carries for 137 yards. Somewhere along the way, he committed to a Michigan program that had seen fit to offer him in February.
When he committed, I wasn't that enthused about a 5'6" low-three star who hadn't been the star of his offense as a junior. By signing day, though, Smith's zippy, productive senior year (2,119 yards on 248 carries with 20 touchdowns) had produced a steady climb up the Rivals rankings. Though he never escaped the three-star ghetto, he went from around the #65 RB to around the #30 RB. Then a couple folk who are employed to observe these kids emailed me saying that if Smith was three inches taller he'd be king of the universe. One did this apropos of nothing. And in retrospect, Smith's other offers—Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Minnesota—came from a weird melange of teams that, though different in philosophy, know ground-pounding when they see it.
(On the height, make no mistake: though he'll be listed at 5'9" or whatever on the roster, the height above is much closer to accurate. Varsity Blue attended the spring press conference and reported back thusly:
Smith was at the press conference, and he is tiny. I’ve talked with Odoms face to face, and I’m pretty sure Odoms has 2-3″ on Smith. He’s listed 5′6″; I’m pretty sure there are rides at Cedar Point he can’t get on, but he can apparently run the ball really well.
Anyway, by signing day I had come around on Smith, repeatedly going back to little darting Blue Devil with dreads when pinged for a sleeper in the class. (Here's the CIL archive.)
Not to be That Guy, but, uh:
Smith enrolled early and was the non-Forcier buzz of spring practice. Despite having three or four viable options in front of him at running back, he's not going to redshirt:
Rodriguez said Thursday he does not foresee red-shirting Smith, a 5-foot-6, 158-pound back from Pahokee, Fla.
"He's really come along," Rodriguez said. "He's still confused sometimes as all the freshmen would be, but he showed some flashes in the last practice, and he's probably going to play some this year as a true freshman."
"He's a pretty quick learner on the field, and he's got some natural ability."
Though his slight frame, general youth, and Brandon Minor should keep him from serious time as a freshman, if you were to poll the vast universe of people with an opinion of Michigan's 2010 running back situation, he would probably be at least neck-and-neck with Michael Shaw.
So he's passed the first major hurdle by arriving on campus and seeming like a viable future option. Plenty of recruits higher-ranked than he don't manage that (think Cobrani Mixon). So the following scouting reports are possibly a little pessimistic. Anyway…
ESPN says Smith lacks size "on paper"—which uh what about real life too—and says he runs "low to the ground," as if he has a choice. They also note his ability to pick through the traffic inside:
Very slippery to wrap up as an in-line runner and utilizes smaller body structure to his advantage. Picks and slides through the initial traffic with great shiftiness and vision. Shows good suddenness hitting the cutback lane and small run creases. Runs low to the ground with great balance and body control; rarely gives defenders a clean shot to hit.
So that's nice, but the evaluation comes back to his size and declares him a "good prospect" and one who will be a "nice change of pace back" in the spread.
Since he's a tiny spread back it's not surprising that he's lethal in 7-on-7:
I thought the second most impressive back was Pahokee's Vincent Smith [Ronnie Wingo was #1, FWIW]. Playing on the championship team, Smith was dynamite all day with his speed and explosiveness.
"That running back really hurt us in the final game," said South Florida Express coach Brett Goetz. "He's a great player and really hurt us coming out of the backfield. We didn't do a good enough job against him."
Goetz and his team wasn't the only one. Smith made plays all afternoon and showed why he's considered one of the most explosive players in the state this year.
That event also featured Ohio State commit Jamaal Berry, FWIW. Since the spread can be looked at as an attempt to turn 11-on-11 into 7-on-7, it's not surprising that it fits Smith like a glove:
And then there's his build, which Thompson simply called "that spread-offense body.''
Small but powerful, Smith projects as the prototypical player for the offensive system that has grown from obscurity into a flat-out trend. … ''He can do a lot,'' Pahokee quarterback-to-be Nu'Keese Richardson said, ``as far as catching it out [of] the backfield, making guys miss and stuff like that.''
Added coach Blaze Thompson: "When he goes to camps, he'll go from wide receiver to running back, wide receiver to running back. "He runs great routes, and he's powerful. … If somebody puts him in the spread offense, he'll be successful.''
After his senior season he was named the small-schools offensive player of the year—which Justin Feagin reeled in last year. This generated a number of coach quotes:
"He hit the scene confident and motivated," Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson said. "His maturity outside the football field has been measurable. He's just a great kid. Everyone just looks at him and says, 'I hope he succeeds. I hope he's successful' and everything's coming together for him."
And, hell, since he's a tailback I bothered to watch his highlight video and saw a one-cut-and-go player who picked a hole and zipped through it, capable of making the tiny lateral adjustments that get players past linebackers on the second level. He's not going to break many tackles in college but has the vision and quickness to burst into creases Brandon Minor perceives as defenders to maim. You can make a similar assessment while listening to the dulcet tones of Pat Summerall:
That's junior film, man.
Why Darren Sproles? He's five foot six! Virtually all 5'6" guys in college football are basically the same. Sproles is probably optimistic, since Smith would have to have spectacular numbers and deadly return skills to indicate the sort of game-breaking talent Sproles was.
Guru Reliability: Low. Huge spread, and Scout and ESPN didn't move him an inch after his senior season. They also aren't accounting for Smith's fit in Michigan's offense, and obviously didn't take his spring into account.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Though he's sort of proven himself already, there's a big difference between Michigan's second string and Big Ten first stringers. There's still a chance his size will be a significant hindrance.
Projection: Sees maybe 30 carries as one of Minor and Brown's caddies, then finds himself in a serious war to replace them next year.