This weekend was a huge success for Michigan, not only with the three commitments from K Matt Wile, DB Raymon Taylor, and DE Keith Heitzman, but with the other visitors as well. Here's what some of them had to say.
5'11", 170 lbs.
The interest from McClure came from his relationship with Brady Hoke at San Diego State. Now that Hoke was at a bigger program like Michigan, McClure was interested.
It was a great time. We met with all the coaches, saw the stadium, and hung out with the players. My host was Denard Robinson, which was pretty cool. He's like a celebrity there. Walking through the Big House was pretty cool, too.
Michigan's new defensive coordinator, Greg Mattison, has only been on campus for one weekend, but he's already polished off his recruiting tricks.
I talked with the defensive coordinator quite a bit. We talked scheme, and he knows his x's and o's. It was pretty cool to be able to talk with him. I also talked to coach Hoke about the school, tradition, and the opportunity to play early there.
Stefan has said he will decide and announce sometime this week. I would imagine distance might be a factor with him, and I wouldn't get too excited. While I think he had a good time, it's hard to pull kids out of California. I would guess he'll stay home and go with someone like Cal.
6'2", 240 lbs
Willingham is a four star that had been committed to Texas A&M, and decided recently to take a trip out to Michigan. Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, he took a recent visit to Colorado the same weekend as current Michigan commit Kellen Jones. Kellen had an opportunity to tell Leilon why he chose Michigan, and what he liked about it. This weekend he got to see it for himself.
We got a chance to talk to all the coaches, and it was pretty cool to sit down with the defensive coordinator. Ray Lewis is my idol, so that was like a dream. They were just telling me how they would use me up there, ether inside or outside. I really liked it up there. I mean, the Big House speaks for itself, everything was great. We hung out with all the other recruits, and everybody was just having a good time.
Willingham does have one more visit scheduled to UCF, and says that he will announce on signing day.
The (Michigan) coaches know I'm going out to Central Florida, so that's fine. I'm decommitted from Texas A&M, too, so I'm not with them anymore.
However, don't be surprised if he decides to "come public" with his choice earlier than that. This visit put Michigan in the driver's seat, and then some.
6'2", 210 lbs.
Although he's from Glenville, Clark has always maintained that Michigan is high on his list. Before this visit Michigan was in his top three with MSU and UNC. I spoke to him briefly after his visit, and Michigan has definitely helped themselves with Clark.
He described the visit as, "excellent" and said that he will be announcing his decision on Friday the 28th. Clark is in the same category as Willingham right now. He will make his choice public soon, but Michigan has put themselves in the driver's seat with this visit.
- OL Chris Bryant is announcing on Friday. Likely between Michigan, Arizona, and Pitt. I like Michigan's chances.
- TE/LB Frank Clark is announcing Friday. Between Michigan, UNC, and MSU. I like Michigan's chances.
- LB Leilon Willingham may announce this week, but could wait until signing day. I like Michigan's chances.
- 4 Star TE Chris Barnett is visiting this weekend, the 28th.
- 4 Star DB Floyd Raven may visit Alabama this weekend instead of Michigan. We'll see what happens.
- RB Thomas Rawls may visit this weekend, and is announcing on the 31st. If he's qualified, I like Michigan's chances.
- DB Blake Countess may come back up for an unofficial visit to meet the new DC, and potentially the new DB coach if they have one in place.
- OL commit Tony Posada was in Ann Arbor this weekend, and the visit reassured him of his commitment to Michigan. Nothing to worry about there.
- DT Darian Cooper just got done with an official to Iowa. He tweeted that Michigan's new DC Greg Mattison promptly called him, and said he was, "very interesting." That could be something to watch if they go after him hard.
New Michigan commit(s), and this bad boy hits the front page. There's been tooooons of action since last rankings:
1-15-11 Michigan loses commitment from Jake Fisher. Illinois loses commitment from Carl Williams.
1-16-11 Indiana gains commitment from Bernard Taylor. Indiana loses commitment from Shafer Johnson.
1-17-11 Ohio State gains commitment from Ejuan Price. Notre Dame gains commitment from Chase Hounshell. Penn State gains commitment from Bill Belton. Illinois gains commitment from Eaton Spence.
1-18-11 Notre Dame loses commitment from Stephon Tuitt. Minnesota gains commitment from Steven Montgomery.
1-19-11 Notre Dame gains commitment from Stephon Tuitt. Michigan State gains commitment from Matthew Ramondo.
1-20-11 Penn State gains commitment from Deion Barnes. Minnesota loses commitment from Tamani Carter. Michigan gains commitment from Tamani Carter. Minnesota gains commitment from Joe Bjorklund. Nebraska gains commitment from Ameer Abdullah.
1-21-11 Indiana loses commitment from Jalen Schlachter. Michigan State gains commitment from Juwan Caesar.
1-22-11 Michigan gains commitments from Keith Heitzman, Raymon Taylor, and Matt Wile. Purdue gains commitment from Frankie Williams. Northwestern gains commitment from Jordan Perkins.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings are on the "RR" scale, which is on a scale from about 5 to about 6.1. Unrated prospects are given a 5.1 rating, on par with the worst of any Big Ten commit last year. Scout is on the 5-star system (unranked players earn 1 star), and ESPN uses grades out of 100 (unranked is 40 or 45, except JuCo players, who aren't included in the average).
Full data after the jump.
Extremely positive articles over the past week leave this as no surprise, but Michigan has gained a commitment from CA K Matt Wile following his official visit to Ann Arbor.
|NR K||2*, 5.3, NR K||2*, 73, #44 K|
Wile is a bit more under-the-radar than Michigan's previous few options at kicker; ESPN calls him the #44 kicker in the nation, while the other two services place him outside their "top kickers" rankings (Rivals ranks 20 and Scout only 11). ESPN on his game:
He has a field goal approach that is repeatable. The ball jumps off his foot and he has a smooth rhythm. He does need to finish down field more on his FG at times. There are times where he pivots and comes across his body slightly. His kick offs are solid for a high school kicker. He generally drives the ball into the endzone and gives his team good hang-time to run underneath his kicks... Matt should be able compete early in college.
So: reasonably strong leg, needs to refine technique to make sure his kicks are accurate. With excellent size (6-2, 200) he is also a big, athletic prospect who played several sports growing up. His coach talked up that leg strength to Sam Webb:
"I think he went to Northwestern camp this past summer and hit a 63 (-yarder) off the ground, and he did it again in San Antonio for the Army All American game just this two weeks ago. He hit a 58 off the ground. I've got some film of him putting kickoffs through the goalposts from the 40 off a 1-inch tee when he was a sophomore in high school."
He's been training in field goals without a tee (college-style) for the past two or three years, so the transition will hopefully be a smooth one. Wile kicked in the Army All-American Game, so he has been recognized by at least somebody as a top prospect:
Wile is a versatile player who could kick or punt equally well in college. He could see the field as a freshman due to his strong leg on kickoffs. Wile’s mechanics on field goals are picture-perfect, leading to consistent results.
All services mention that he's a candidate to punt at the next level as well (which is what he did in the Army Game), so as a senior or redshirt junior, he could replace Will Hagerup.
Rivals lists offers from Air Force, San Diego State, and Washington in addition to Michigan. Michigan's current staff offered him at SDSU, which makes sense as he's a local recruit for them. He also has a greyshirt offer from Washington.
He was planning to visit Nebraska next weekend ($, info in header), and he was likely to be offered by the Huskers at that time. However, the opportunity to be a 5th-generation(!) Michigan student was too much to pass up - although he hadn't planned to commit on the visit.
The Army website has junior stats:
Wile’s kickoffs ended in touchbacks an astounding 89 percent of the time in 2009, including four that went through the uprights. He also converted on 9 of his 12 field goal attempts, with a long of 48 yards. Wile also serves as his school’s punter, showing good consistency while averaging 42 yards per punt.
So there's that.
FAKE 40 TIME
Matt is a kicker, and therefore 40 times are irrelevant. I couldn't find one online anyway, though ESPN hints that he's good covering kickoffs. I give five FAKEs out of five.
Highlights (yes, kickers with highlight videos -- this is our world):
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Michigan's pursuit of Wile shows that the coaching staff is not confident in Brendan Gibbons and Seth Broekhuizen going forward. This means that Wile is likely to start as a true freshman, and probably to be a four-year starter. However, if he can't beat out Gibbons or Broekhuizen as a freshman, he could redshirt then start for the following four years.
As a capable punter (mentioned above), he could also punt once Will Hagerup graduates. That means there's a possibility he punts as a senior or a redshirt junior.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
The kicker is here! Since this was a position of need, the spot was almost certain to be filled, so it's already been accounted for in the commitment breakdown. Michigan still needs a defensive tackle, a safety, and a quarterback.
Any unused spots will either go to newly emerging prospects, or be banked for the excellent midwest class of 2012.
Highland Park's Raymon Taylor made no secret early in the process that he was a Michigan fan, but when an offer from the Wolverines never materialized, he committed to Indiana. He received a Michigan offer in December, and on his official visit this weekend, committed to the Wolverines (per fellow commit Justice Hayes), for the third commitment in the last three days.
|3*, #49 CB||4*, 5.8, #14 Ath||3*, 77, #93 Ath|
The big recruiting sites have a wide, wide range of opinion on how good a player Taylor is, and even what position he'll play. The consensus had been that he's a corner, but running back is an option as well. With Michigan's options at slot receiver, I doubt that's where he's been recruited.
Rivals and ESPN say he's 5-10, while Scout gives him the extra inch at 5-11. They're pretty much in agreement on his weight, ranging from 167 to 175, so I'd say he's right in the 170-pound ballpark. Rivals's numbers (5-10, 167) are over a year old - from last year's Army Combine - so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he's grown a bit.
We'll start the evaluations with ESPN:
He is a feisty, tough prospect that we feel has the most upside to be a cornerback at the next level with experience as a return specialist as well. Is slightly undersized, but plays big. Likes to get up in the face of the DB [sic: they mean WR] and alter routes and releases. He has adequate hips, can mirror most receivers on double moves and shows good body control and balance. Can turn and run with speedy receivers. Shows burst out of his back pedal and shows very good closing quickness when driving on the ball in front of him. Has sound catch up speed and shows good acceleration when the ball is in the air. Has good leaping ability which helps compensate for his lack of ideal height, adjusts well to the ball in the air and has excellent ball skills. Is a playmaker with the ball in his hands and will get his fair share of picks and pass break-ups. Plays with a mean streak and great enthusiasm and is surprisingly effective in run support considering his size. Attacks the line when he reads run, generally wraps up when tackling and rarely misses open field tackles he should make. Has shown he will mix it up. Plays with a good motor and always seems to be around the ball. He shows a little stiffness through the hips when on offense more so that on defense. His size may limit his effectiveness to match-up versus bigger, stronger wide receivers. Taylor is a good prospect overall and his versatility provides value.
Scout gets information from the horse's mouth:
“I’m very aggressive and have great ball skills. I make plays and change games. But I want to get bigger and add more bulk and muscle.”
Despite his lack of size, he's described as a physical player with excellent ability to play the ball in the air. That could mean that bulking up a bit and playing free safety is an option.
As an Indiana decommit, he held a Hoosier offer - and in fact was one of the headliners of their class. According to Scout, he also held offers from Illinois, Pitt, and Iowa - where under-the-radar DBs become All-Americans.
An early commitment prevented him from racking up a huge offer list, but Rivals also credits him with a Wisconsin offer, in addition to Cincinnati and Toledo.
Scout lists his senior stats:
Raymon Taylor finished his senior season (4-3) with 48 tackles and five interceptions. He also played running back and wide receiver had around 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns on offense.
ESPN also has junior and senior stats:
2010: Rushed for 879 yards and 13 touchdowns. Intercepted five passes. Division IV All-State selection... 2009: Caught 50 passes for 600 yards and six touchdowns. Intercepted seven passes (two returned for touchdowns)...
Yay for Raymon.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout is the only recruiting site listing a 40 time for Taylor, crediting him with a 4.43. Although he's known as a very athletic defensive back, that's a truly elite time. I'll give it three FAKEs out of five. He's a sprinter as well, with a 6.94 60m dash.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
It's hard to even project a position for Taylor, much less how he'll perform once he gets on the field. With Michigan's recent avalanche of defensive backs, I think there's a good chance he ends up playing safety.
Since that's the case, a redshirt is mandatory, as he's pretty slight no matter what position he'll play, and Michigan now has enough players available to have the luxury of redshirting freshmen in the defensive backfield. After his redshirt year, he'll have a couple years to work into the lineup on special teams - including as a return man, where ESPN notes he has great ability.
By the time he leaves Ann Arbor, Taylor has the athleticism to be an NFL Draft pick and an All-Big Ten player if he's developed properly.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan needs MOAR DBs apparently. As noted above, I think Taylor could end up playing safety, which is a position of need for the class.
Since the class of 2011 is unlikely to completely fill up, Taylor's commitment isn't going to put a serious crunch on remaining players available. The only focus is filling the remaining positions of need, including the defensive line, quarterback, tight end, and linebacker.
OH TE/DE Keith Keitzman received an offer from Brady Hoke's staff last night, and wasted no time in committing to be the 12th member of Michigan's class of 2011. He is a Vanderbilt decommit.
|3*, #63 TE||3*, 5.5, NR DE||3*, 75, #152 DE|
The recruiting sites list him between 6-2 and 6-3, and between 220 and 237 pounds. I would guess that's 6-3 (the majority vote) and somewhere around 225 pounds. He was listed as big as 6-4, 240 in high school, but that's probably exaggeration. Let's get started with ESPN's evaluation:
Heitzman possesses solid size for a high school defensive end and should be able to add more good bulk as he physically develops and gets into a college weight program. He gets off the ball well. He can be a physical kid at the point of attack, but needs to be more consistent especially with his hands. He displays the ability to maintain some leverage and hold his ground... Needs to keep working on his recognition skills. As a pass rusher he displays the ability to get into the blocker with some leverage and create pressure with a bull rush. Needs to be more active with his weapons, develop his pass rush arsenal, and not attack the whole man. Heitzman is a solid defender who will flash some tools to be tough versus the run and pass.
That has the ring of a project recruit who has good potential, but needs to develop both physically and skill-wise before he'll be able to make a big impact on the field. As you can see in the picture below, he's still very skinny for a defensive lineman.
Opposing coaches gameplanned around him:
"Opposing coaches have told me that he has such a huge impact on both sides of the ball that they have game-planned around him," Davidson coach Brian White said.
Heitzman decommitted from Vanderbilt (he'd been wavering since Robbie Cladwell was fired), so obviously had an offer from the Commodores. His other offers are a host of MAC schools (Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Kent State, Miami (NTM), Ohio, and Toledo, and a few low-range Big Ten teams in Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana. One of the reasons he chose Vandy was an emphasis on academics, so Michigan makes sense for the kid.
At this time, allow to express a slight fear of a second-straight commit with a meager offer sheet. Say what you will about Rich Rodriguez's on-field product, but he generally recruited very well, with only a couple prospects per year worthy of the "sleeper" label. So far, Hoke's staff is 2-for-2 among commitments, with a few higher-rated commits jumping ship so far.
With the timeline they're working on, it's not a scary pattern quite yet, but keep an eye on this going forward.
There is precious little out there about Heitzman's exploits on the field, but he did well enough to be named 1st-Team All-State in Ohio's largest division at defensive end, ahead of a pair of Ohio State commits and Wisconsin-bound Jesse Hayes. All-Columbus Defensive Player of the Year honors.
He also played tight end in high school, and ran for a 2-point conversion in Hilliard-Davidson's state championship as a junior. He was the Central District's Defensive Player of the Year. [Ed-M: DGDestroys says we are bringing him in as a tight end.]
I'll try to dig up more stats on Heitzman for Fridan Night Lights.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists him at 4.9, a realistic time for a player of his size. None of the other sites list times, that I could find.
ScoutingOhio provides the highlights:
I couldn't find senior film.
PROJECTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Well, this is a guy who's probably a very long way from seeing the field as a defensive end. I wonder whether he might be brought in as a tight end, one of his high school positions and a major need for this class. On the other hand, Scout's position ranking could just be crazy.
For a guy his size, if he's a DE, a redshirt is guaranteed, especially given Michigan's depth (Van Bergen, Roh, Black, et al) at defensive end. In fact, I doubt he sees the field in any meaningful capacity - aside from an appearance or two on special teams - until his redshirt sophomore year, when Craig Roh ships off to the NFL. At that point, he'll shuffle into the rotation, but not challenge for a starting position until he's a redshirt junior, I think. First-Team All-Conference accolades are probably out of the question unless Michigan has discovered an extreme sleeper.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is loading up on defensive ends in this class, but as they're unlikely to run up against the scholarship limit, new players aren't taking spots away from anyone for the remainder of the class.
Michigan's coaches will continue to focus on defensive tackle, safety, quarterback, and tight end to finish out the class.
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO
|WHAT||Alaska @ Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||7:35 PM Fri/Sat|
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday: FSD Plus
(ie, not TV)
Record. 10-8-4, 7-7-4 CCHA. The Nanooks have won two of their four shootouts and are one of a remarkable four teams sitting on a .500 conference record, give or take some shootout points. They're tied for fifth in the league with those teams, a tiny bit behind WMU.
In terms of goal differential, Alaska is +4 on the season and +1 against their CCHA schedule.
Previous meetings. Michigan split a pair in Fairbanks, losing 3-0 on Friday before rebounding with a 5-2 win on Saturday.
Dangermen. Goals have been hard to come by for Alaska. They're languishing at 50th (of 58) in scoring.
Andy Taranto, last year's CCHA freshman of the year, leads the team with seven goals. Four others follow with six. Freshman forward Cody Kunyk and junior defenseman Joe Sova lead the team with 16 points—0.72 per game. No one puts the fear of God into you, but a half-dozen players are at least okay at putting the puck into the net.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. The only entity to have seen time other than junior Scott Greenham has been Open Net. In 22 games Greenham's racked up a .926 save percentage and a 1.98 GAA—he, and the Nanook defense, are your answers to the question "how can a team scoring two goals a game be .500?"
Alaska is fifth in scoring defense at 2.14 goals allowed per game. Possibly heartening item: Ferris State was second before last weekend's series and Michigan doubled up their averages. They're now sixth.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.6||4.5|
|PP Ag / G||4.6||4.7|
Michigan lags ever so slightly. As to what happens when the specialty units get on the ice, Michigan's power play is mediocre (19.6%, 20th) but Alaska's is worse (15.8%, 38th). Michigan's penalty kill has been terrible (80.3%, 41st) and Alaska's mediocre (84%, 18th). This is a push.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Scoring first highly recommended. It is always highly recommended but is even more so when you're playing a team with the profile of Alaska. This is also an opportunity for Michigan to jump on an opponent on Friday night—Alaska has traditionally been jet-lagged and horrible on Fridays, but much more competitive the next night.
Don't give up anything cheap. A team with issues scoring like Alaska is going to have a tough time against Michigan's deep and solid D corps/Hagelin unless there's a parade to the box or some of the guys in the bottom six/third pairing are turnover machines. Issue: turnover machines exist on those lines. Lee Moffie's +/- will be a bellwether.
Fire them from many places. Open shots from the point should come paired with traffic and should just be taken. Alaska's good defensively and any opportunity to chuck it at the net is a good one, especially when you've got the shooters at the point Michigan does.
The Big Picture
It's still too early to start poking the PWR in earnest, but that didn't stop the NCAA committee from making it slightly worse by going back to an old definition of what a "team under consideration" is. A few years ago it was anyone with an RPI of .500 or better. It was changed to the top 25 in RPI for a few years and now it's suddenly back to the old style, for whatever reason.
This ups the number of TUCs from 25 to 34 and slightly increases the stupidity of that category since now games against #1 are equivalent to games against #34. Before you had to be 25th to get that equality. Also it's ridiculous that six teams with an under .500 record are "under consideration" when the NCAA banned under .500 teams from getting at-large bids after Wisconsin managed that trick one year.
At this instant the change is a slight help to Michigan since it includes Michigan's 5-1-1 record against Ferris and MSU; they move up one slot to fifth in the revised rankings. Unfortunately, a quick glance at the individual comparisons suggests this is about as far as Michigan can move up. The PWR has morphed into a system that slightly alters RPI. Michigan is sixth but manages to make up a big difference in RPI with BC for stupid reasons; those may correct. Meanwhile, the top four all have massive advantages in that category that will be tough to overcome unless Michigan tears through the back half of its schedule. Even then it may take a collapse from teams at the top to snag a top seed.
It's much easier to envision a scenario where Michigan falls down the rankings; they're at the top of a tightly packed bunch. The difference between Michigan and #4 Denver is equal to the difference between Michigan and #16 RPI. Stumbles will see them give ground quickly.
Bonus: Michigan picked up another 2011 commit, a Travis Lynch from the USHL. He's got 13 points in 33 games and sounds like he's going to be a checker and penalty killer a la Scooter. If they can find one more scoring line type that would just about finish the class.