Brandon Graham (2009) & Lamarr Woodley (2006)
Slam dunk locks and mirror images, Brandon Graham and Lamarr Woodley set the standard for Michigan quarterback terror in the aughts. Wildly hyped in-state recruits and five stars, both spent a couple of years as underclassmen playing here and there and making people wonder if and when they would live up to their billings; both did so emphatically as juniors and then managed to top those performances as seniors. A large portion of last year's defensive UFRs not given over to rending of garments was spent wondering whether Brandon Graham was actually better than Woodley.
Survey says: yes, amazingly.
There was a mailbag question that explicitly addressed it:
I think Graham is better. I haven't gone over the UFR numbers yet—slightly busy this time of year—but I know Graham set a record against Michigan State earlier this year and has been owning offensive tackles all year. Woodley set standards by being consistently around +8 or +9 with forays up to 12; Graham's baseline is around 12 and ranges up to 18.
Though he didn't win the Lombardi like Woodley did his senior year, Graham led the nation in TFLs and was drafted about a full round higher by the NFL. While Woodley was more heralded in the award department, that had a lot to do with the other guys on defense. Woodley's compatriots will pepper the rest of this list. Graham's not so much. Woodley lined up next to Alan Branch, Terrance Taylor, and a senior Rondell Biggs; Graham's bookend was a true freshman and his other linemates were just sophomores.
Lamarr Woodley, meanwhile, did with the Lombardi in 2006, the first and to-date last time a Michigan player has won it. His season was statistically frustrating since, like Graham, he was close to a dozen additional sacks that a competent secondary would have seen him put up truly ludicrous numbers. Even so he had 12 sacks and 4 forced fumbles; outside TFLs were low (just three) but that can be chalked up to the rest of the defense taking up that burden. As mentioned above, he was the original gangsta of the UFR, averaging close to double-digit plus ratings on a weekly basis.
But all that pales in comparison to the play that finished the "Oh Wide Open" game in which Michigan established itself a contender. By scooping up an unforced Brady Quinn fumble and fending off ND tight end John Carlson all the way to the endzone, Woodley inaugurated the Yakety Sax era:
I just watched that three more times.
Second Team: Dan Rumishek (2001), Tim Jamison (2007 or 2008, take your pick)
It gets muddy past the slam dunks. Michigan's quasi 3-4 from the beginning of the decade makes decisions difficult, as does that one year Michigan switched to an actual 3-4. In 2001, Dan Rumishek was on the All Big Ten team with just 22 tackles. Seven were sacks, but man. That same year Shantee Orr managed 35 tackles with six sacks and 10 TFLs, but didn't show up on all conference teams. Later editions of defensive ends would have almost identical big play numbers but way more tackles. Tim Jamison had 10 TFLs and 5.5 sacks as a junior and senior but had 52 and 50 tackles.
Past Rumishek, Orr, and Jamison pickings are slim. Rondell Biggs was the unheralded guy on the 2006 line, a decent plugger but nothing special. A post-career steroid bust also gives his career an unpleasant sheen. Larry Stevens's career was very long but largely anonymous. He's best remembered for being hog-tied on the Spartan Bob play.
We'll go with Dan Rumishek, the only other Michigan DE to get on an All Big Ten team this decade, and one of Tim Jamison's upperclass seasons. Which is entirely up to the reader since they are essentially identical; I lean towards '07 because Graham was not yet a beast and Jamison saw more attention.
Alan Branch (2006) & Gabe Watson (2005)
That will do.
His statistics were not ridiculous (25 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 sacks in '06) but when he left for the NFL draft I thought to myself "this is a logical thing because he will go in the top five." Surprisingly he did not, falling to the top of the second round, but when you are primarily responsible for opponents going six of eighteen on third and one you get dropped onto the All Decade Team no questions asked.
Watson will be a more controversial choice but the guy was a two-time All Big Ten selection and is currently an NFL player. At Michigan he never quite lived up to his copious recruiting hype but he did have some pretty nice statistics for a nose tackle: 40 tackles, 6 TFLs, and 2 sacks as a senior with almost identical numbers from the year before. The primary issue with Michigan's run defense in '05 was that Watson would drive his guy yards into the backfield, forcing the tailback to cut upfield into the gaping hole left because Pat Massey was 6'8" and therefore getting crushed backwards as far as the guy futilely attempting to contain Watson.
The year before Michigan had their one-off experiment with the 3-4, leaving Watson all alone in the middle, where he dominated. In the aftermath of Watson's one-game suspension for being approximately spherical to start the '05 season, I attempted to adjust for Michigan's tendency to give up a lot of nothing and then a lot of huge runs in the spirit of Football Outsider's "adjusted line yards" and came up with the number 2.5, which was better than anyone in the NFL by three tenths of a yard. (Schedules are much more balanced there, FWIW.) Watson may have been an overrated recruit, but his Michigan career has been underrated.
Second Team: Terrance Taylor(2007), Grant Bowman (2003)
This is actually Taylor's junior season, when he lined up next to Will Johnson, a sophomore Brandon Graham, and Tim Jamison and managed impressive-for-a-DT numbers: 55 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks. He'd drop off considerably in his doomed senior year; whether that was a falloff in play or just collateral damage from the wholesale implosion around him is in the eye of the beholder. My opinion is the latter since Taylor tended to beat a lot of blocks only to see poor linebacker play rob him of opportunities in the run game; he was never much of a pass rusher.
We'll go with Taylor's statistically productive 2007 over 2008 because he was just about as good via the eyeball then and had more to show for it. Either way he is an easy pick.
The last spot is not easy. Early in the decade, Michigan defensive tackles were excruciatingly bored guys who spent football games blocking offensive lineman and letting linebackers take all the glory. In 2001 Shawn Lazarus started 12 games and managed 16 tackles. In the absence of accolades, statistics, or personal remembrances I can't put Lazarus or Eric Wilson or Norman Heuer in here even though I couldn't tell you whether or not those guys were even good. The guys not on the list who I do have personal remembrances of were not very good or are still on the team.
It's a debate between Grant Bowman, who I don't remember much about other than his mother was attacked by the usual band of Columbus idiots one year, and… yeah, Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. Bowman's 2003 featured 36 tackles, 8 TFLs, and 3 sacks; Van Bergen had 40, 6, and 5; Martin 51, 8.5, and two sacks. Bowman's defense was infinitely better (22nd nationally in rush defense) than either Martin's or Van Bergen's but without the UFRs sitting around it's hard to tell how much of that had to do with Bowman and how much was the contributions of Pierre Woods, Carl Diggs, Lawrence Reid, and the profusion of non walk—ons in the secondary.
The tentative nod goes to Bowman if only because the rest of the line that year was Heuer, Massey, and someone the Bentley doesn't even bother to list but is surely Larry Stevens. Even if he had more help behind him, being the best player on a line that did pretty well against the run is a tiebreaker here.
David Harris (2006), Larry Foote (2001), Victor Hobson (2002)
A couple years ago I was editing a Hail to the Victors article about the considerable difference between David Harris and Obi Ezeh that referenced a couple plays from the '06 season. The diagrams, as diagrams are often wont to be, were confusing so I set about looking at the play myself so I could break the diagram out into three or four separate ones that would explain things in a more leisurely fashion. This was the result:
I swear to God I saw David Harris read not only the direction of a run play, the blocking scheme of that play, and which offensive lineman was assigned to him but modeled the lineman's brain and duped him into thinking the play had cut back. I found this terribly exciting.
That was just another boulder on the pile of reasons I love David Harris. He looks like Worf. He tackled everyone all the time and never did not tackle anyone. He was the first player I felt I was ahead of the curve on thanks to UFRing the games—like David Molk I think I was the first person in the media to recognize that this unheralded player was the balls, which made me feel like Dr. Z. And he kept tackling people. At some point in 2006 the Greek gods descended from the clouds and borrowed him for a while because the eagle that eats Prometheus's liver was on strike.
Then the Lions passed on him and Lamarr Woodley to take Drew Stanton, guaranteeing that the pair would instantly become two of the best defensive players in the league. Yeah. David Harris. I miss him so much.
Larry Foote had a less tangential connection to the worst franchise in sports, but outside of that one-off decision his career has been a good one. As an upperclassman he was an all-around terror, notching 19 TFLs in 2000 and 26 in 2001 at the same time as he picked up a total of 16 PBUs. In 2000 he actually had more of the latter than Todd Howard, and Todd Howard got some of his when the ball deflected off the back of his helmet. Foote was what Jonas Mouton was supposed to be.
We'll go with Foote's senior year when his sack total leapt from one to six and he was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year en route to a smattering of All-American honors. A fourth-round pick of the Steelers, Foote's NFL career has been long and productive; he gets a small dollop of bonus points for being one of the current NFL crew frequently seen hanging out with Barwis.
The final member of the first team had to beat out stiff competition but Victor Hobson gets the nod because he was by far the best player on his front seven (Rumishek, Bowman, Lazarus, Stevens, Orr, Diggs, and Zach Kaufman(!) were the other major conributors) in 2002 and racked up the best all-around numbers of any linebacker under consideration: 99 tackles, 13 for loss, 5.5 sacks, and two interceptions. One of those was the Outback-sealing reverse pass interception. Hobson was deservedly All Big Ten on a team that finished 9th in the final rankings and 31st in rushing defense despite having zero future NFL players other than Hobson and an injury-stricken Orr.
Second Team: Pierre Woods(2003), Shawn Crable(2007), Lawrence Reid(2004)
Pierre Woods did something almost but not quite bad enough to get booted off the team after his breakout sophomore season (68 tackles, 14 TFL, 7 sacks) and spent the rest of his career playing sparingly—probably the only thing that has infuriated both Ted Ginn Sr and myself—until injury forced Michigan to deploy him extensively in the '05 Iowa game, whereupon he totally saved Michigan's bacon. Though he'd moved to defensive end by then, his bust-out year was at linebacker so here he goes.
Poor star-crossed Shawn Crable will go down in history as the best player to ever put on a winged helmet who Michigan fans have exclusively terrible memories of. In the span of three games at the end of the 2006 season and beginning of 2007, Crable delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit on a scrambling Troy Smith that turned a fourth-down punt into first down and eventually the winning points for OSU and failed to execute a simple blocking assignment on the field goal that could have turned The Horror into the worst win ever.
When he wasn't doing either of those things, though, he was a unique weapon. He is the current holder of Michigan's TFL record and spent his college days bouncing from linebacker to defensive end to crazy 6'6" chicken-legged defensive tackle in certain spread packages, finding ways into the backfield wherever he lined up. He also was the Ryan Mallett of defense as an underclassman, overran a bunch of plays even after he got his head on straight, and appears twice on the upcoming Worst Moments Of The Decade list. That disqualifies him from the first team, but not the second.
Finally, Lawrence Reid saw his career end prematurely as his back went out; late in the 2004 season it was clear he was laboring. Despite that he finished with 70 tackles, 12 for loss, 3 sacks, and an interception. Without the injury his senior season could have made it on to the first team… and seriously aided the 2005 team's efforts to not play the unready Shawn Crable.
Marlin Jackson(2002), Leon Hall(2006)
Leon Hall was sneaky great, one of the few players that the NFL ended up drafting well before I expected them to. Before Hall went halfway through the first round I'd pegged him as another LeSueur sort who'd go in the second and have a decent career; instead he's kind of ridiculously good. Hall leapt into the starting lineup midway through his freshman year an continued improving until he was a hidden beast on the '06 team. Hall's tackles declined from 61 to 45 as teams targeted neophyte Morgan Trent and whichever slot receiver Chris Graham had no hope of covering. At the same time his PBUs leapt from 5 to 15(!). That's impressive. Hall was a deserved Thorpe finalist.
Jackson, meanwhile, has the rare privilege of being the only sophomore to feature in the All-Decade first team. His opening-day matchup against Reggie Williams, Washington's star receiver and a player who had seriously considered Michigan before choosing to stay home, was electric. Jackson got in Williams's grill all day and the Huskies would not back off; by the third quarter he'd set an all-time Michigan record for pass breakups.
By the end of the year he was a second-team All-American to the AP, third team to Sporting News, and (whoopee!) first team to College Football News. He would spent his junior year at safety, battling injury, and though a return to corner as a senior found him on All-America teams again, Jackson never quite recaptured that sophomore magic.
Second team: Jeremy LeSueur (2003), Donovan Warren (2009)
LeSueur was a true rarity on the Michigan roster: a kid who managed to escape the state of Mississippi's immense gravitational pull. He started off slightly wonky—it was his face-mask penalty on Charles Rogers that extended Michigan State's final drive in 2001, setting up both the Spartan Bob play and Lloyd Carr's public dressing-down of Drew Sharp—but finally developed into the guy I thought Leon Hall was: an All-Big Ten type of player destined for a solid NFL career. That wasn't quite the case—LeSueur is currently playing for Bon Jovi, but no one else from the decade comes close.
The final spot is a tossup between Morgan Trent in the one year he wasn't clueless or unmotivated (2007), Donovan Warren this year, Grant Mason's year that exemplifies totally average play, and the nine starts James Whitley made in 2000 before succumbing to his personal demons. The vote here is for Warren, who I actually thought was good, over Trent, who I thought was okay trending towards good.
SAFETY… SORT OF
Jamar Adams (2007), Julius Curry (2000)
Michigan fans will be unsurprised to find a wasteland here after nine defensive positions occupied by world-wrecking All-Americans who have embarked on long NFL careers—everyone on the first team to this point is still in the NFL and almost all will start this year. Safety? Well, Cato June is still kicking around as a linebacker, but at Michigan he was a wreck thanks to an ACL tear that took years for him to fully recover from. And that's almost it.
The almost: Jamar Adams, bless his heart, was the closest thing to a star safety Michigan had in the aughts. He was actually good. Not good enough to get on the All Big Ten first team or get drafted, but good enough to be on the second team two years running and stick with the Seahawks long enough to actually get on the field in six games last year. This makes him a slam-dunk lock as the best safety in the last ten years of Michigan football.
And now: guh. After Adams it's a choice between the most massively overrated Michigan player of the decade—Ernest Shazor—or the guys towards the beginning of the aughts that no one remembers being specifically terrible. You can feel free to disagree but there is no way I'm putting Shazor here. While he did decapitate Dorien Bryant in that one Purdue game, his Michigan career ceased there unbeknownst to the coaches and most of the fans. He was about 80% of the reason Braylon Edwards had to hulk up and smash Michigan State in the Braylonfest game and when he entered the NFL draft he went from a projected second-round pick to totally undrafted, but not before various organizations made him a first-team All American. I will exercise my Minute Observer of Michigan Football privileges and say this: ha, ha, ha.
The problem then is that as I went through the names that vaguely occupied the safety spots for Michigan over the last decade I thought to myself "I should probably write down Willis Barringer and Brandent Englemon." Sadly, I cannot vouch for two guys who couldn't stay healthy or maintain their starting jobs, nor can I seriously support anyone I've seen take the field in the UFR era. So let's reach back into the long, long ago when memories are fuzzy and haul out easily the most unlikely member of the All Aughts: Julius Curry.
I can't tell you that I have detailed knowledge of Curry's play anymore, but I do remember liking the guy a lot and being seriously disappointed when his junior and senior years were wrecked by injury. As a sophomore in 2000, he put up an impressive collection of statistics: 59 tackles, 5 TFLs, 5 PBUs, and 3 forced fumbles, plus two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown against Ohio State in a 38-26 win. Michigan managed to scrape out the 49th-best pass efficiency defense despite deploying Todd Howard and a very confused James Whitley—this was the heart of the "suspects" era—thanks to Curry's unregarded efforts. Maybe he never decapitated anyone, but by God he definitely would have tackled DeAndra Cobb by the second time.
Patmon was the second member of the safety unit I remember not being specifically terrified about; Shazor was discussed above. He does deserve to be here because even if he gave up a ton of big plays he made more big plays in Michigan's favor than the other safeties kicking around this decade, and those guys gave up about as many plays.
Garrett Rivas (2006)
Rivas never had a huge leg but he was good out to 47-48 yards and stands as the most accurate kicker of the decade, hitting 64 of 82 in his four years as Michigan's kicker. That's a 78% strike rate; in 2006 he checked in at 85%. He was reliable, and that's all you ask for in a college kicker.
Zoltan Mesko (2009)
Obviously. All hail Zoltan the Inconceivable.
To the front page, since Michigan got a commit.
Action since last rankings:
7-18-10 Michigan gains commitment from Jake Fisher. Iowa gains commitment from Mike Orloff. Purdue gains commitment from Taylor Richards.
7-21-10 Illinois gains commitment from Tony Durkin. Northwestern gains commitment from Jack Konopka.
7-22-10 Illinois gains commitment from Josh Ferguson.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||ESPN Avg|
Rivals rankings have been converted to their "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, and ESPN uses grades out of 100.
|#1 Ohio State - 17 Commits|
No change for the Buckeyes.
|#2 Notre Dame - 12 Commits|
Long time, no commits for the Irish.
|#3 Nebraska - 13 Commits|
The Huskers are still awaiting rankings for a couple guys. I imagine all the kickers will be ranked at once in the next updates on the major site, but I'm not sure Stafford will ever be ranked by ESPN, since they list JuCo guys separately.
|#4 Michigan - 8 Commits|
Michigan picks up Jake Fisher. He had a strong camp season, so we'll see if he gets a rankings bump.
|#5 Michigan State - 9 Commits|
No change for MSU.
|#6 Indiana - 20 Commits|
Hoosiers quietly putting together a solid class. Will it be poached like last year's? The Hoosiers stand to fall and fall hard once some other schools reach comparable commit numbers.
|#7 Northwestern - 11 Commits|
The Wildcats pass the Hawkeyes with the same number of commits, and better average rankings on all but Rivals. Iowa stands to regain the lead, since they have more unranked guys at this time.
|#8 Iowa - 11 Commits|
Mike Orloff becomes the Hawkeye's lowest-rated recruit on Rivals and ESPN. Scout hasn't looked at him yet.
|#9 Minnesota - 11 Commits|
Devin Craford-Tufts grabs a 74 rating from ESPN. The Gophers pass up Purdue on the basis of similar-or-better average rankings and a much higher number of commits.
|#10 Wisconsin - 6 Commits|
Wisconsin passes Purdue on the basis of (much) higher averages from Rivals and ESPN with the same number of commits. Plus their class is funny because it only has two positions in it.
|#11 Purdue - 6 Commits|
Taylor Richards joins Purdue. ESPN really likes him, but Rivals hasn't even ranked the guy.
|#12 Illinois - 9 Commits|
Illini pick up a couple new prospects, pulling up their averages. They're close to passing Purdue because they have more commits with similar overall averages.
|#13 Penn State - 3 Commits|
I am not a man. I began as one, but now I am becoming more than a man, as you will witness.
– Francis Dolarhyde, Red Dragon
After the Iowa game last year, my nervous system instantaneously rushed to the precipice of meltdown every time Denard Robinson stepped onto the field. Mixing equal parts of anxiety and exhilaration yields a volatile cocktail. There were times when I couldn’t stand up because I was so nervous; only once or twice but, regardless of frequency, that ain’t right. Trembling calves, bated breath, dilated pupils, thumping heart. Then, a money Chewbacca impression; happy or sad, the reaction was the same. I can’t have been the only one.
There was good reason for such a strong pavlovian response. It seemed as though the outcome of a play with Robinson under center was the random result of the flip of a coin—tails: utter disaster, heads: spectacular success, on edge: just another play. Denard threw interceptions at a nauseating 13% rate on 31 passes. However, he also scored touchdowns 7% of the time on 100 total touches. Forcier only produced TDs a little over 3% of the time. Think about that for a second, Forcier had 399 touches last year and scored 13 TDs…Denard, theoretically, could’ve had 28. Those numbers are ridiculous to quote because Denard touched the ball so infrequently last year, but it isn’t fair to quote his turnovers without also quoting his TDs.
Anyway, eight months later we are faced with another batch of the cocktail, this time with a twist. A full offseason and a spring practice session have apparently yielded a thrilling prospect, Denard can throw. Maybe we can actually stomach the elixir and keep it down. That prospect sparks at least two questions. The first, how much could he have realistically improved? I mean, there’s improvement, and then there’s being good; the latter is not guaranteed. The second question is, who do you play, Tate or Denard? In this diary I hope to rigorously estimate an answer to the first question and hopelessly flail at the second.
Agentzzz. Does the SEC's reaction to predatory agents seem, oh I don't know, slightly self-serving? On one level I don't actually disagree with the idea that maybe having a registered NFL agent represent a kid and possibly throw him some dollars isn't the worst way to bridge some of the gap between the amount of money players make for their schools and the amount of money they make for themselves. That would conveniently pay the players likely to be worth the most to their schools without actually acting as a drain on athletic department budgets.
But maybe the time to suggest something like this…
The SEC commissioner says the current rules "may be as much part of the problem as they are the solution."
…is before half the schools in your league are under investigation and likely to lose key players. Watching the local journalists scramble to think outside the bun when their precious local programs come under threat is annoying when no one has a troubling word to say about the NCAA and their pursuit of Reggie Bush. You had five years to cluck about agents before the knocking got local. Doing it now is pure hackery. I can only imagine what the Free Press would write if Michigan had anyone involved in this. Probably not "we need a whole new way of thinking about agents."
Meanwhile, hearing Nick Saban position himself as the great and good friend of college athlete's eligibility is the sort of spectacularly brazen thing that is totally expected from Nick Saban. Seriously:
"I have no respect for people who do that to young people, none," Saban said. "I mean, none. How would you feel if they did it to your child?"
Do what, exactly? Oversign the hell out of them and then either end their careers with dubious medical scholarships or spawn a "voluntary" transfer? No. Give them money they shouldn't have because the NCAA says so. All right then.
Stupidzzz. So some guy outed the author of the Bylaw Blog. As a result, the Bylaw Blog is going on hiatus as the man behind it tries to clear it with his athletic department, which is Loyola Marymount's. Hopefully they take a look at the content on the blog and see it as a positive for their profile, which it certainly is, and let Compliance Guy continue being exceptionally useful.
As for guy who outs exceptionally useful guy: congratulations. You dug up a piece of information of no value to anyone and possibly/probably cut off the only insight into the increasingly important world of compliance that anyone had. You have committed an act of anti-journalism. Here, the truth makes us all dumber. I hope someone runs your foot over with a lawnmower.
Also then afterwards these gentlemen stop by and bend metal threateningly. Via Rittenberg comes this little bit of Barwis hype. On Mike Martin:
Bench-presses 505 pounds, squats 700 pounds … Power cleans 430 pounds, hang cleans 475 pounds …Runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds
Strength coach Mike Barwis says: "Mike is an absolute warrior. He has a never quit attitude and is a natural born leader. He is one of the most impressive physical specimens I have ever seen."
And on David Molk:
Bench-presses 490 pounds, squats 660 pounds … Power cleans 420 pounds, hang cleans 440 pounds … Runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds
Strength coach Mike Barwis says: "Dave is an outstanding worker and a natural athlete. He is one of the most naturally explosive linemen I have ever trained."
Whatever Fred Jackson's got, it's catching.
Martin totally pwns Northwestern DT Corbin Bryant, who squats like my grandmother (a mere 600 pounds) and is essentially on par with OSU DL John Simon; no comparables were available for offensive linemen.
Clean. We leave the fresh for the rest of the conference. Dana O'Neil has a remarkable article in which she anonymously surveys D-I basketball coaches and comes out with quotes like "If the NCAA was serious, they'd hire someone who knew what they were doing, not these women out here trying to get a husband.''
"These women"—referred to elsewhere as "gestapettes"—are the NCAA enforcement people tasked with wandering around summer recruiting events attempting to make sure everything is on the up and up. If only Bobby Knight was still coaching we'd have a likely candidate for that Mad Men-era quote; as it is it could be anyone.
Anyway, here's a feather in the cap combined with a shot at Tommy Amaker:
Which league is the cleanest? The dirtiest?
Congratulations, Jim Delany. Your league wins in a landslide. Of the 20 coaches surveyed, 11 said the Big Ten was the cleanest in the country. Three others cited the land where time stood still, also known as the scholarship-less Ivy League. (Although even the Ancient Eight earned one disparaging nod: "The Ivy League,'' one coach said before pausing to add, "I mean the Ivy League a couple of years ago, before all of that stuff at Harvard.")
But coaches cited the Big Ten's perceived willingness to police itself and rosters that "made sense," in which players traditionally come from the footprint of the schools they choose to attend.
Tommy Amaker got dirty enough to mention when he left Michigan for Harvard. Michigan is bringing a fork to a gun fight in basketball recruiting.
Some nice things were said about Michigan State that we will elide before getting to the next shocker:
…the Southeastern Conference was perceived as the worst, with three coaches partnering the SEC with the Big East and another tossing in the Big 12 (one coach went league-by-league, counting up schools). All in all, the SEC was named by 14 of the coaches.
"Oh no, it's not just a myth,'' one coach said about the SEC. "It's the truth.''
Maybe we need to rethink the way we perceive rampant cheating in college basketball?
Etc.: The WLA quibbles with the Offense of the Decade, suggesting that Drew Henson's abbreviated season as the starter should have won at QB. The numbers (61.6% completion, 14.7 yards per completion, 9.1 yards per attempt, and an 18/4 TD/INT ratio) are pretty compelling; I left him off because he only played about 75% of the season but… yeah. It depends on how heavily you want to weight that.
They also suggest Askew instead of Dudley but I did not really consider Askew a fullback since he spent most of his time as the deep back in a single-RB formation, IIRC, and anyway if I was putting together a team I'd rather have Dudley for short yardage than an okay tailback who can block.
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, and WR Drew Dileo.
|Washington, PA - 6'3" 240|
|Scout||3*, #63 DE|
|Rivals||4*, #15 WDE, #9 PA|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #42 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pitt, West Virginia|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post. Tom's interview with Wilkins, and one after he committed.|
I managed to forget about Kenny Wilkins, who should have shown up sometime before Christian Pace signaled a shift of this series to the offensive side of the ball, but that doesn't mean you should in your fevered explanations of how this recruiting class is not a defense-free debacle that will inevitably doom Rich Rodriguez. Kenny Wilkins exists and should be heeded.
Here's as good a reason as any why, a quote from his coach:
"He is an unbelievable physical talent," Dalton said. "And he is only going to get better. I have had some great players here, but nothing like Ken physically. I am not saying he is going to be better than [Mike] Yancich and [Andrew] Sweat, but he is the most physically talented player I've had."
With Yancich and Sweat waiting in the wings at Penn State and Ohio State, respectively, that is praise with some heft behind it. Here's some more for good measure:
"The sky is the limit for him," Dalton said of Wilkins. "He's one of the most phenomenal, naturally gifted athletes I've ever been around. He was born with gifts that a lot of people couldn't imagine having." …
"His only downside is his consistency," Dalton said. "He has to push himself to a higher level. He has a great motor but he needs to go at full speed every play and he knows that."
The picture painted is clear: freakish physical talent that needs serious molding.
Also, like many of Michigan's DL recruits this year, Wilkins is a guy with an uncertain position. Wilkins is listed at anywhere from 220 to 250 pounds by the articles on Gooogle, and that's not necessarily time-lapse stuff. The above article with the coach raves says he's "6-4, 245 pounds" despite only being a junior, but ESPN's positive combine report ("striking … physically one of the most impressive-looking athletes … definitely passes the eyeball test") lists him at 220 despite occurring a couple months later. The Pittsburgh Sports Report listed him at 225 twice, though they did say he had "the frame to add a lot of good weight." This profile goes with the official site's numbers, which are 6'3" and 240.
Whatever he is now, he will be large in the future. Multiple reports that evaluate him as a linebacker complain about "stiffness." Scout's Bob Lichtenfels says he's excellent going North and South but needs to be "more athletic when changing directions." Here's PSR again:
Lean, 6'3" 225 pounder with a good physique, though he will need to get even stronger at the next level. He has good speed and athleticism. Many schools are looking at him as a linebacker, but he may ultimately be too stiff there, so there's a good chance that if he can gain the weight, he will eventually end up at end. … Looks better in combines than on film, but he is a good athlete that could prosper in the right conditions.
Their other evaluation describes him as a "rangy and productive end who plays sideline to sideline," invoking Jeff Casteel's magic word ("rangy") when it comes to what West Virginia looks for in their defensive ends.
ESPN, meanwhile, evaluates him mostly as a linebacker($), causing those complaints to pop up again:
Not real fluid overall as a defensive prospect, but doesn't stay blocked for long when scraping and supporting the outside run. Loses some in transition opening to turn and run but flashes good range and acceleration making plays sideline-to-sideline which sometimes surprises you with his stout frame and good physicality he shows on the line of scrimmage. However, he is susceptible to getting sealed off on the edge; is not real reactive or quick/agile pursuing laterally. Opens his whole body up to the cutoff block and while he has the strength to consistently shed at the high school level, he could potentially get engulfed at the major college level. Coverage skills and overall hip-fluidity when needing to breakdown and mirror in space are marginal and do not project well if asked to play in space. … Stock would be higher if had better hips and change-of-direction skill.
This is a bizarre place to evaluate him given his strengths:
At his best playing in a phone booth; demonstrates good short-area power and burst as well as strong hand technique locking out blockers and shedding quickly and violently. Really uses his hands well at the point of attack and is difficult to turn out of the hole with his strong base and above average leverage. Strong tackler who shows good explosiveness from his hips and equally impressive upper-body strength tossing down backs for minimal second efforts. Very active and disruptive as a vertical attacker. Has deceptive quickness off the ball and utilize his long arms and hand strong hand technique to work the edge.
Sounds like a DE to me, especially since they mention he has "a lot of experience playing on the line of scrimmage" and that his "tall, well-built frame" has room to pack on more pounds. Theory: the evaluation was written after the combine at which he weighed in at 220, causing the evaluator to dismiss the possibility he'd play DE despite it being totally obvious given the evaluations. At least ESPN can take solace in the fact that they weren't the service with the most peculiar projection for Wilkins's position: Tom Lemming evaluated him mostly as a tight end, though he did say he "shows great burst and closing speed" as a DE.
All that was enough for virtually every BCS school within 1000 miles to offer. He got quick ones from Pitt, Maryland, Illinois, and similar schools, and by the time of his commitment he'd just picked up #27 from UConn to go with WVU, Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, NC State, and others. Ohio State was continually on the verge of an offer, but never actually came through with one. Penn State found itself in a similar situation. Once Michigan came in, though, Wilkins was ready to get things over with, committing before his senior season started.
Finally, what does Kenny Wilkins have in common with a sorority girl? Lots.
"I get paranoid if I do miss a single workout," Wilkins said. "I'm in the gym three or four times a week, sometimes five." …
"He's an unbelievable physical talent," Trinity coach Ed Dalton said. "He's very muscular, and he has a 28-inch waist. He looks like an NFL player today. He's not going to take a year in college to get that physical look. He already has it. He's blessed physically."
Why Tim Jamison? Jamison had a considerably higher recruiting profile than Wilkins did after an explosive senior year saw him leap from so-so to top 100 lists, but other than that the fit is pretty tight. Jamison was listed at 6'3", 240 as a recruit, eventually getting to 270 by the end of his career. He was something of a LB/DE tweener with explosive athleticism rushing the passer but never really reached the potential implied by his rankings because his play remained inconsistent, just like Wilkins's coach warns above. By the end of his career he was a solid Big Ten DE (ten TFLs, 5.5 sacks) but not a star.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. They got to see him in person and ranked him as they will, but the split in opinion is considerable and the confusion about his position brings the ESPN evaluation into serious question.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. It will take a lot of development to get Wilkins up to a playing weight, and his lack of technique could hold him back. He's a boom or bust (or meh) sort of guy.
Projection: Should redshirt as Anthony LaLota and Jibreel Black are more ready to play than he is amongst the new crop of defensive ends. With the DE positions set for 2011, too, he'll probably be a backup until 2012, at which point he will be in a battle to establish himself.
Remember, for past updates, you can check out the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board any time. It will be updated with information form this post later today.
Jake Fisher Goes Blue
On Fisher's first visit to Ann Arbor, he met a number of former U-M standouts and current NFL players. Then on his second trip, he and Wooer also got a campus tour with Rodriguez on a golf cart during the visit.
"It was after I left I thought 'that's it,'" said Fisher of when he realized he'd be going to Michigan. "I just didn't want to blow off everything else in case something happened."
One of our outstanding mgoboard members, 913Vaughn, dug up junior year stats for Jake Fisher at tight end. He had 10 receptions for 185 yards and a TD on an offense that only had 38 completed passes the whole season. A free Rivals story shows his potential as a college tight end... and beyond:
Michigan State initially recruited Fisher as a tight end, where he'll see plenty of time this fall (while switching to offensive tackle during spread situations and seeing extensive time on defense, as well). With Fisher's decision looming, MSU coaches broke down film for the standout and told him they'd bring him in as a tackle, too, unless he kept his weight down enough to play tight end. "That wasn't likely to happen," Fisher noted...
Fisher's admittedly made huge strides in the weight room, spending three days a week on heavy lifting and conditioning with a full body workout. He's packed on 24 pounds since the end of basketball season and is carrying the weight well, maintaining his quickness. His athleticism was on display at the Michigan summer camp when he went up (and held his own) against some of the top defensive ends in the Midwest, including U-M commitment Brennen Beyer.
OH OL Ryan Kelly committed to Alabama. The writing was on the wall for this one as soon as Michigan picked up Jack Miller as a center.
PA CB Dondi Kirby has narrowed his list to a top 7 that does not include Michigan.
Visits! With Decisions!
MI RB Justice Hayes (at right) visited Ann Arbor last weekend, and will now push his decision forward ($, info in header). He'll officially announce his decision on July 30th (next Friday) at 11am. Michigan and Notre Dame appear to be a strong top two for him, but - unless Fred Jackson worked magic on last week's visit - I'd be surprised if his choice was something other than Notre Dame. UMGoBlog says this is bad news, but you only have 25 scholarships each year (significantly fewer this year). You can't take every kid, and you can't beat yourself up when one of them picks another school.
FL RB Demetrius Hart has been on campus plenty of times before, and his most recent trek was another positive experience:
Demetrius: It went real well. I've been up there plenty of times now, and every time I go up there I just like it that much more. The changes they're making, and the things they're going are really good. I really liked it.
Demetrius also managed to take a potshot at the press for their artistic license on reality, and said he'll be back in town for the UConn game. A commitment could come that weekend, but don't be surprised if takes takes a couple other visits first.
Nobody is expected to visit this weekend unless IL OL Chris Bryant makes it in. The next big visit planned is the 29th, when TX LB Kellen Jones hits campus.
FL OL Tony Posada plans to decide soon, possibly at a ceremony with fellow Plant Panthers QB Phillip Ely and RB/DE James Wilder. If Florida doesn't offer, there's a good chance he ends up in the winged helmet.
MI LB Ed Davis has reached a soft decision ($, info in header), and he's set to announce it at the end of August. Michigan was his first offer, and led for him earlier in the process, but that may no longer be the case. Iowa, Michigan State, and Cincinnati are the other finalists.
FL QB Commit Kevin Sousa is named Central Florida's 2nd-best signal-caller, behind UF commit Jeff Driskel. With a productive season, Sousa could be a 4-star prospect by Signing Day.
Is Michigan soon to offer OH TE Frank Clark? ($, info in header). They seem to be set on taking a tight end in this class, and Clark reportedly impressed at Michigan's summer camp. He's a product of Cleveland Glenville, and Rodriguez has been trying to get back into that school ever since he's been in Ann Arbor.
MI OL/DE Anthony Zettel is down to 247 pounds. That's making the defensive end talk sound much more realistic, though he doesn't care which side of the ball colleges want him to play. Since he hasn't said otherwise, I assume Michigan still leads for him.
Phil Kornblut's latest recruiting column contains a couple tidbits of interest to Michigan: The Wolverines are showing in interest in NJ Ath Sheldon Royster (and have extended an offer?) and TN DT Terry Redden. They're also still on the list of SC DE Gerald Dixon. I've added the first pair to the board, and have updated Dixon's section.
PA RB Collin Hegarty is also hearing from Michigan, but he doesn't have any offers yet, and it sounds like he's a longshot for one from the Wolverines.
On Dee Hart's visit (more detail above), 2012 FL QB Nick Patti, a teammate at Orlando Dr. Phillips, tagged along. Tom caught up with Patti, who liked what he saw:
NICK: You meet the coaches, and you meet Rich Rodriguez, and when ever you meet a head coach you're meeting an important person. But, he's so down to earth. You can talk to him about anything. With Coach Smith it was all about business, but you still feel really comfortable. It's really easy to be around all of them.
Patti compared his game to Tate Forcier's, and you can see for yourself as his sophomore highlights are embedded in Tom's post.
Update from last week's post, which brought up MO WR Dorial Green-Beckham (OMG shirtless at right). Tom pointed out a fluff article from MaxPreps that discusses Dorial on the field, on the basketball court, and in life.
Green-Beckham grew up the son of a single mother with a history of substance abuse problems. He bounced around a lot as a child, through his early high school career. This winter, his high school coach adopted Dorial and his brothers, and hopefully it's the stability he needs to excel on the field and in the classroom.
As one of the top prospects in the 2012 class, Michigan will have a ton of competition if they hope to land this guy. He's the type of kid that you'll root for at the next level, wherever he ends up.
MI WR David Perkins, who was going to be one of the state's top prospects next year, has moved to Indiana.
Michigan is "very interested" in 2012 PA OL/DE Tyler Alt. He's a high school defensive end who will likely play offense in college.
Believe it or not, I've had my eye on a number of 2012 prospects already, and I'm going to start putting 2012 notes in the Thursday Recruitin' posts more regularly. A 2012 Michigan Football Recruiting Board will likely not be unveiled until Michigan gets their first commit in the class.