BECAUSE THREE LINEBACKERS SIMPLY ISN'T ENOUGH!!! MI LB James Ross has become Michigan's 8th commitment in the 2012 class, and the fourth linebacker. His announcement is happening live on WTKA as we speak (...er, I post?)
|4*, #2 MLB||250 Watchlist, NR LB||150 Watchlist, NR ILB||4*, 95, #2 ILB #84 Ovr|
The sites, they like this guy. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he's probably the consensus top recruit in Michigan's class right now - he and Royce Jenkins-Stone are typically listed right near each other in-state, but 24/7 Sports is much higher on Ross.
Scout and 24/7 say James is 6-1, but Rivals and ESPN say 6-0. Having seen the kid play in person several times, I would say 6-0 is more likely to be the accurate number. He's also listed between 209 (Rivals) and 217 (ESPN) pounds, with the middle votes cast at 215. Going with the majority, 215 seems to be the appropriate number.
Though none of the premium sites offer evaluations, Scout has a couple free articles talking about his game. The first:
Ross has been as dominant a PAL player the city has had in recent years. He is already pretty filled out for a kid as young as he is and his footwork in drills was quick and fluid.
That's prior to his sophomore year of high school. "As dominant as the city has seen in recent years" puts him on par with or more productive than recent #1s like William Campbell, Lawrence Thomas, and Will Gholston. The next breakdown puts him in the top five most-likely candidates to be the #1 recruit in Michigan's class of 2012:
He may not wow you with pads off like a Lawrence Thomas or Will Gholston, because he does not have the size of those guys, but you put the film on and Ross is arguably the best pure football player in the state. Toughness, big hits, excellent instincts and football smarts. He has all the intangible qualities you want in a middle backer.
That seems to be the book on James: not tall enough to be a true physical specimen, but he makes up for it with his football intelligence and willingness to lay the lumber. Sam Webb's weirdly-NCAA Tournament-themed recruiting column for the Detroit News listed Ross as a 1-seed:
He has all the top colleges looking at him and he is a guy that consistently, from game to game, plays the same way every single play. He fought through injuries in his junior season and demonstrated great toughness in the process. He's 6-1, 215, with good enough speed. His best attribute, though, is he is bona fide football player. This kid thinks the game as well as anyone.
Again with the football intelligence. For the record, Michigan has landed another "#1 seed" (Royce Jenkins-Stone) and a 2-seed (Devin Funchess).
This kid's offer list is something to get very excited about. We'll slowly build, starting with some of his less-notable BCS offers. Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Missouri, Pittsburgh, and Purdue are some of the middling programs that have offered this kid.
Then, there are the schools that have either had excellent success on the field or on the recruiting trail, specifically with linebackers: Arizona State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, and USC. The latter three all have legitimate claims to some sort of mythical "Linebacker U" distinction, and are keynote offers.
He also had interest but no offers from Alabama and LSU, which would have really sealed him as a top prospect.
Scout has numbers from his sophomore year (though they're listed with the wrong dates):
103 tackles, five sacks, five forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and an interception in his first year of high school football.
I haven't seen any more recent stats for him, but I'll be on the lookout.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the recruiting sites have listed a 40 time for James, so I get to give out my default five FAKEs out of five.
There's also a partial sophomore reel, completed in part 2. You can also catch some glimpses of him in last year's Friday Night Lights feature on Chris Rock. He's fullback/tight end/linebacker #6 in red.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
So Michigan has all these linebackers in the past couple classes, and though James seems to be one of the 2012 guys who's most ready to play immediately, all the new depth might mean he doesn't have to. If the coaches want to get the kid on the field, special teams and mop-up duty are an option.
Following a couple years of duty as a special teams and depth player, James should be able to work his way into the lineup as a junior (possibly a redshirt junior), and even have a star turn or two. By the time he leaves Ann Arbor, he could be a multi-year all-conference player. He has NFL potential, as long as teams aren't scared away by his lack of height.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
OK, now they really have to be done accepting commitments from linebackers, right? The position is filled with two exceptional recruiting classes over the past two years. Although, especially given the haul in 2012, some of last year's guys may be due for position switches.
After the coaching staff picks up a couple defensive linemen, another good offensive lineman or two, and a quarterback, they should have the luxury of being very picky about who they pursue, and only going hard after the top guys.
Here's people dressed in grad gowns dancing in the Diag to Rusted Root:
The cards at the end made me think it's an elaborate advertisement for the sponsor. But I have questions: did they use real grads? Did we go to blue gowns this year, or did they just figure we use Duke's tailor? All I can find out on the inter-webs is that musical theater major Erik Heitz was involved with it.
Anyway it's a nice segue into saying so long to last week's graduates. I thought I had it bad, showing up the year immediately following football and hockey national championships to have Brian Cook's class be all like "Ha Ha, You Missed It!"* Well these cats started classes the week of The Horror, and leave with the taste of the "okay now we have to fire him" blowout to Mississippi State. In the process they survived three losses to Michigan State, four losses to Ohio State, an Ultimate Test of Fandom Endurance, and the punch to the dong that turned Corey Liuget's life around.** However they did witness two comebacks versus Notre Dame, Illinois in OT, postseason runs from eminently likeable hockey and basketball squads, and apparently more flash mobs than any class in history.
So here's to the Class of 2011. You got pretty hosed seeing just the carcass of Bo's Empire, and then having to suffer three years of rebuilding just so we could knock down and declaim the whole damn edifice. Yet there you were, every week, boozed up in the student section with all the optimism of a Denard smile, and all the un-canned coordination of a flash mob. You should all get avatar badges or something.
* This was literally the front page headline of our Daily freshman orientation issue.
** Bonus: Article written by "Tim Sullivan" (NTTS).
Those Who Will Never See This Day
About a month ago I promised a Part II to revisiting the Decimated Defense series. I got all the research done, down to making images of the charts, and planned to get it out the following week. But then I got early winds of the Cullen transfer (and learned I was seriously depressing my only follower on Twitter), so I put it off, and put it off, and put it off. With some fallout coming down the line from Tat-gate, Michigan State's Third Annual Assault and Potluck, and whatever Saban has to do to get down to 85 again (they're at +11 according to oversigning.com), maybe it's best we wait 'till at least fall practice for the whole reveal.
Still, with sincere apologies to DosLeches, Cullen's transfer to Pitt leaves the pool of defensive backs in the same perilous state it's been in for Class of '11's entire collegiate career. Observe (UPDATE: sorted by position, and where you'd expect them to be on the depth chart given projection as recruit and time in program):
|Starred, left after Junior season for NFL, not drafted|
|Fell down depth chart, resisted move to FS, transferred before 2010 season|
|Played as fr and so, but got kicked off team during 2009 season|
|2007||Troy Woolfolk||5'11"||176||5.5||Injured for 2010 season, Medical redshirt, expected starter at CB in 2011|
|Played as freshman, transferred after 2011 Spring Game|
|2008||J.T. Floyd||6'0"||179||5.5||Injured during 2010 season, if recovered possible starter at CB in 2011|
|Not admitted to university|
|No redshirt, graduated after 2010 season|
|2010||Courtney Avery||5'10"||165||5.5||Played and started as Fr, projected starting CB in 2011|
|2010||Terrence Talbott||5'10"||172||5.5||Played and started as Fr, backup at CB|
|2011||Greg Brown||5'10"||180||5.5||Freshman EE|
|2011||Blake Countess||5'10"||171||5.8||Incoming Freshman|
|2011||Delonte Hollowell||5'8"||162||5.7||Incoming Freshman|
|Bust, head injury in 2010 effectively ended career|
|Moved to Spinner/LB, played sparingly as So., transferred late in 2009 season.|
|Not admitted to university|
|Held back by injuries in early career, transferred before 2010 season.|
|Transferred citing playing time (?!?!!!) before 2009 season|
|2010||Marvin Robinson||6'1"||190||5.8||Backup in 2010, projected backup at SS in 2011|
|Moved to LB, injured in 2010, possible starter at WLB in 2011|
|Moved to LB, fell down depth chart, bust.|
|Started at FS in 2010, moved to LB, projected starter at SLB in 2011|
|2010||Josh Furman||6'3"||194||5.7||Redshirted in 2010, 3rd on depth chart at SS|
|2010||Carvin Johnson||6'0"||185||5.7||Played SLB/Spinner as Fr, projected starting FS in 2011|
|2009||Thomas Gordon||5'11"||199||5.5||Played as freshman, projected backup at either S position in 2011|
|Was starting FS by end of fr year, transferred after coaching change in 2011|
|2011||Raymon Taylor||5'10"||167||5.8||Incoming Freshman|
|2011||Tamani Carter||6'0"||175||5.5||Incoming Freshman|
|2008||Jordan Kovacs||6'0||195||4.9||Student body walk-on, 3rd year starter at SS as RS Jr in 2011|
Here's the talent distribution versus the field, with incoming freshmen not counted because they're freshmen:
Take where you were right before Woolfolk went down last year, remove James Rogers, and add a year of experience to everybody, and that's Michigan's 2011 defensive backfield. As you can see the closest thing after Troy to an upperclassman with any kind of recruiting hype is Marvin Robinson, a true sophomore who doesn't seem likely to displace Kovacs and may move to linebacker in the future. Unless the new staff works miracles and/or some of these guys were very underrated, please keep expectations low. Best case scenario is nobody gets hurt, Carvin as a sophomore is the second competent free safety at Michigan since 1997, and the unit performs like a poor man's Notre Dame.
Sorry DosLeches. It depresses me too, but a Ngata/Mattison face-mash can always cheer me up.
There were two this week not counting TomVH and Tim (YTTS).
First, stubob put up Part II of his Gauging Team Effectiveness blog, this time with San Diego State broken down. It's not a very tight comparison since there's a huge difference in schedule strength but the results show some competency. Inspired by the exercise, the_white_tiger posted a long and detailed response on his blog Maize-Colored Glasses. Takeaway from the latter is that Hoke inherited a thing that was worse than we thought it was, and left it a thing better than we thought it was. There may be something to those uber alleles after all.
As for your Diarist of the Week, that goes to Captain, who ran with a theme from the alma mater to give us a fitting metaphor for the state of the program:
Although his success may still lurk in the realm of our collective optimism, Brady Hoke is already bringing something palpable to this team. It's light materialized into rote sound bytes about "toughness" and "fundamentals." It's identity. It's the dawn that ends the night.
It's morning in Michigan.
Yet another new Wolverine, and we're on the front page again. Action since last rankings:
4-27-11 Ohio State gains commitment from Frank Epitropoulos.
4-29-11 Michigan gains commitment from Joe Bolden.
4-30-11 Michigan State gains commitments from Benny McGowan, Zach Higgins, and Riley Bullough.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Watchlist||Scout Avg||ESPN Watchlist||24/7 Avg|
All rankings will be on the 5-star scale this year (when available) for easier comparing across services. Full data after the jump.
OH LB Joe Bolden has been openly favoring Michigan for a couple weeks, and talking about making a decision "at any time." Well, that time has come, and he is the newest member of Michigan's 2012 recruiting class. As he told Tom: "God told him in more than one way that Michigan was his home."
|4*, #27 OLB||NR OLB||NR ILB, 150 Watchlist||4*, 90, NR OLB|
Scout and 24/7 Sports both say the kid is 6-3, whereas Rivals and ESPN both think he's 6-2. Having seen the kid in person, I would guess that 6-3 is closer to the accurate number, despite my hesitance to trust Scout's measurement numbers. As for weight, Scout is the most optimistic at 230, 24/7 Sports says he's 220, and Rivals/ESPN split the difference at 225. We'll trust that average.
On to the evaluations. Starting with Scout, which asks Joe to describe his game:
“The linebacker is the quarterback of the defense. I think I’m a great leader and communicator. My voice is heard on the field and I play smart. I’m also a big hitter and when I make contact I drop and go through people. I can also move well sideline-to-sideline. My game is not perfect and I’m always trying to do things better and get better at everything.”
From the horse's mouth, he's a big hitter and speedy player. If that's not enough, we'll take his high school coach's word for it:
"Speaking as a head coach, he is a phenomenal player. He can play inside and he can play outside at the linebacker position. He covers a lot of ground, he is smart, and he can make the checks. He is a thumper. When he gets there he makes an impact. When he tackles kids, they stay tackled. Plus he carries a 3.9 GPA and is a great man off the field. I think all that makes him a great football player and a great young man."
Now, to be fair, said high school coach is also his uncle, Tom Bolden. However, he echoes the same things: vocal, speedy, big hitter. Scout's Allen Trieu also talks about Joe:
"He has very good size, and he's a tough, hard-nosed football player," Trieu stated. "He's a classic, throwback type linebacker, but he's not just a run stuffer. He runs well and shows good ability in coverage. I think he can be an every-down linebacker and that's why so many schools are after him... Put that all together and he has a shot at playing early and often."
That's a raving review for a guy that doesn't even make Scout's top 25 outside linebackers.
He's also a multi-sport athlete, as ESPN points out that he's a baseball player as well.
Joe has the offers of a mid-to-high BCS-caliber prospect. Arizona, Arkansas, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina, NC State, Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue, South Florida, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and West Virginia were his BCS conference offers.
So he doesn't exactly have offers from the Ohio States, Floridas, Alabamas, and USCs of the world, but "Penn State linebacker" is an offer with nearly as much cachet as "USC Pro-style QB" or "Wisconsin offensive lineman." This is a Big Get.
Scout has junior numbers :
Joe Bolden finished [with] 90 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions. He says he has a 32-inch vertical jump. Bolden may also play college baseball. He’s an outfielder (.300 batting average, three home runs).
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the premium sites have 40 times, which means an automatic five FAKEs out of five.
ScoutingOhio provides an abbreviated junior highlight:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Joe seems like a very good athlete, and one who is pretty polished as a high schooler. That may sound like a recipe for early playing time, but Michigan landed a big linebacker class in 2011, and already has 3 in this year's crop, so he might not be needed, unless he gets some special team time in the Brian Cook Memorial Wasted Redshirt Year. Let's hope that doesn't happen.
Following a redshirt season, he'll get that special teams time, and a little bit of time as a backup in the rotation. By the time he's a senior, I think Bolden could have All-League potential, and be a mid-round NFL Draft pick.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
That's 3 linebackers, after Michigan landed as many as 6 last year. Brady Hoke and company are probably going to have to start slowing down on linebackers and focus on other positions (or phrased a different way, they have the luxury to do so). They might be willing to take one more elite 'backer, pending the final positions for some of last year's guys, but it would have to be a truly top prospect.
As for the rest of the class, offensive and defensive lines are still priorities. A quarterback, wideout, and safety would be nice as well. After those needs are filled, they can really focus in on top-top talent regardless of position with the final scholarship slots.
A couple months ago everyone was comparing Tressel to Bruce Pearl but there's a big gap between what those two scofflaws did. In contrast Tressel's violations are almost precisely in line with McNair's. He was hit with The Dread Bylaw 10.1 and got a one-year show cause. His issues:
The assistant football coach had knowledge that student-athlete 1 and agency partners A and B likely were engaged in NCAA violations.
Tressel had similar knowledge.
He was not credible in his denials of knowing agency partner A or in his claimed failure to remember a telephone call between him and agency partner A.
No one is denying it, nor could they given the email trail.
The assistant football coach failed to report information to the compliance staff regarding potential NCAA violations related to the activities of agency partners A and B.
Tressel did this.
He also attested, falsely, that he had no knowledge of NCAA violations.
During the investigation that eventually led to OSU's five-game suspensions Tressel also did this.
His conduct impeded the institution from fulfilling its responsibilities under NCAA bylaws. His conduct also resulted in findings that he violated NCAA ethical conduct legislation by providing false and misleading information to the enforcement staff as described in Finding B-1-b and that he violated NCAA Bylaw 30.3.5 by signing a document attesting, falsely, that he had no knowledge of NCAA violations involving the institution.
Tressel also did this. The inescapable conclusion is Tressel will be hit with at least a one-year show-cause penalty, as McNair was.
Show-cause penalties are not all uniform, but McNair was totally prohibited from recruiting on- or off-campus—he was banned from so much as looking at teenagers who had put on shoulder pads—and had to attend a rules seminar. He wasn't totally banned, FWIW, and USC could have hypothetically kept employing him if they were in the business of carrying around RB coaches who couldn't recruit.
Show-cause penalties also don't necessarily mean the coach hit with one will be fired. Wikipedia helpfully points out the case of Rob Senderoff, one of Kelvin Sampson's assistants. Senderoff loved him some impermissible phone calls but by the time the NCAA hit him with a 30-month show-cause penalty he had already been hired at Kent State. Since he was already there KSU did not have to fire him; he's actually their head coach(!) after the current guy left for Bradley. If Tressel's penalty is analogous to McNair's OSU will probably suck it up and try to get through it.
Will it be? McNair's cover-up went on longer and featured a high-profile player but Tressel's eventually preserved the eligibility of six guys, not one, and if the COI is serious about "high profile compliance" being necessary for high profile violators the head coach of one of the most successful programs in the country brazenly flouting NCAA regulations is an acid test.
I won't venture a guess as to what the result of that test will be, but the next couple years will be time for Brady Hoke to make hay in Ohio.
Darius Morris and Jack Johnson
The Bylaw Blog has developed a recurring theme of late: by placing greater restrictions on the folk it has control over it cedes territory to people it doesn't. A prime example is when the NCAA banned college coaches from attending AAU events. AAU events didn't stop collecting players or happening, and coaches got more distant from the players they were trying to recruit. This provides greater influence for middlemen, and in college basketball these days lots of middlemen want to get paid, yo.
Here's another example, one year after ACC coaches successfully lobbied the NCAA to move the draft withdrawal date up 40 days:
A year later, here we are again. The ACC's coaches drafted a new proposal, one that moves the early-entry deadline all the way up to the day before the beginning of the spring signing period. In 2011, that date -- April 12 -- would have passed us by weeks ago. It would have given underclassman prospects exactly eight days after the national title game to decide whether they wanted to go pro or stay in school for another year. It would have -- I mean, it will; I'm still having trouble with the idea that this is actually happening -- forced players with millions of dollars on the line to make life-altering decisions in the matter of a few days with minimal information on which to make them.
Why move the date? April 10th is the day before basketball's late signing period. Now coaches will know how many spots they have open when that period opens. Except they wont. Bylaw Blog:
In attempting to control the draft process, college coaches have lost all control of the draft process to the NBA. Instead of an NCAA deadline of May 8, the new deadline is not April 10, but still April 24, the NBA's deadline.
The NBA's shown no interest in helping college basketball, so the chances the change actually has any positive effect are slim. The net effect is to prevent a bunch of players from declaring and returning to school. But at least there's an alternate universe in which college coaches are happier.
Why not revamp? I've been bothering the Bylaw Blog about this on twitter, and now I'm going to bother you: you could sidestep all these issues by dumping the current NBA draft structure and replacing it with something closer to the MLB/hockey model. In those sports everyone is automatically put into the draft and thus retains their eligibility. In baseball there is a narrow window in which you have to sign or the team loses rights to the player; hockey teams retain rights to the player until they graduate.
The Bylaw Blog keeps shooting down these proposals like so:
Short draft, limited roster spots, lack of minor league make MLB model less workable for basketball. NBA should adopt MLS approach*.
That was the same reasoning given to me when I bothered him about hockey, but I think he's conflating the two models. The MLB model does encourage a bunch of players to sign way before they're ready to enter the major leagues and implementing it in basketball could see a bunch of college stars toiling away in the D-League, something no one wants. (If the NBA had any designs on making people care about the D-League they wouldn't have started forcing players to go to college.)
The hockey model doesn't necessarily have this issue. Since teams retain rights they can leave kids in school until they determine whether or not they want to sign them. Players do tend to sign before they are NHL-ready but that's because there is a ready-made minor league with a higher level of play that acts as an intermediary between the NHL and the league. There isn't in basketball and the D-league is never going to be one, so teams would almost want to keep their players in college until they thought they were ready.
If I woke up tomorrow and was David Stern this is what I'd do:
- Change the draft so that every recruit who signs a LOI is automatically entered.
- Extend the draft to three rounds.
- Rookie contracts are at least one year longer than the amount of eligibility you're giving up. (IE, straight out of high school: five years, junior: two years, senior: one year, but in that case you don't have the sign the guy so this is essentially zero years.) That roster spot cannot be reclaimed by cutting the player; contracts are not 100% guaranteed but have some floor (probably the league minimum) that is.
- Allow unsigned, drafted players to play in the summer league.
And then if I woke up the next day as the president of the NCAA I'd:
- Fume at my lack of power.
But if I woke up the next day as an NCAA president who could force choke anyone who disagreed with me I'd:
- Allow pro teams to pay for their players to attend rookie camps and assorted "should we sign you" activities.
In the specific case of someone near and dear to us who seems to be making an odd decision because of the current NBA draft structure, Darius Morris would have been in the draft out of high school and after his freshman year, but would have been passed over each time. This year he'd be taken at some point, could work out with his team a bit as long as he paid his own way (about which don't get me started, see fuming above), and then it would be up to the team and Morris to decide whether or not he was ready to make the leap. If the NBA team signed Morris immediately they'd be committing to having him on the roster for the next three years, so they'd have to think about it.
In this specific case and a lot of others the player would be far less likely to make a bad decision because he'd be talking directly with the team who held his rights. Similarly, NBA teams who draft a college player only to find out he needs more seasoning than they thought could save the roster spot and cash for someone else as they wait to see which of their prospects develop. Everyone would have more information via which to make better decisions.
Unfortunately, this seems diametrically opposed to the way things are going. Like Brionte Dunn and showing up on campus, I'll start getting my hopes up when people talking sense about how basketball recruiting goes down pass a legislative proposal and no sooner.
*[The MLS approach is to sign the player and then find a home for him, which doesn't seem workable because the NBA is not a single entity, unlike MLS. MLS is competing with leagues around the world for players, so there's a point to negotiating a contract with a league. The NBA isn't competing against anyone for anyone other than Josh Childress, so I'm not sure what the advantage of their structure is for basketball.]