|Pittsburgh, PA - 6'1" 180
||Scout||4*, #3 CB, #56 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #8 CB, #99 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 79, #18 CB|
|Others||#41 to TAKKLE, #75 to TSN, #92 to Lemming.|
|Other Suitors||UCLA, Pitt, WVU, Ohio State, Alabama(?), Florida(?)|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
Cullen Christian was the first of two highly-touted corner recruits to commit to Michigan at excruciatingly long press conferences. But where Demar Dorsey's announcement came with a considerable amount of suspense, Christian had proclaimed Michigan his leader from his first appearance on recruitniks' radar and entered his marathon press conference capable of surprising no one. The result was zazzle snark:
Christian's most attractive asset is his size. At 6'1" he has four or five fade-swatting inches on the less hyped corners already profiled in this series. He adds an ability to sky to that size. Here's the Pittsburgh Sports Report running down the top 25 players in PA last year:
7. Cullen Christian, Penn Hills HS (Pittsburgh) CB- A former track performer who is relatively new to playing cornerback. He’s excellent corner size at 6'0" and 180 pounds, but does need to add some muscle. Christian has long arms to go along with his good speed and excellent athleticism. Has had a combine measured vertical jump of over 39". He plays tough and aggressive. … Bottom line- His height, long arms, athleticism, and aggressiveness can't be taught. Once he gets more muscle and experience, he could be a big time lockdown corner.
With Justin Turner struggling to get past JT Floyd because he has "outgrown the position" according to some observers (although not the recently graduated punter/space emperor), the average Michigan fan is probably fretting about the same sort of thing happening to Christian. Take whatever solace you can in SPARQ numbers, as Christian is the sort of kid who shows up at combines and takes home plaques:
One of the top names heading into the event was Penn Hills cornerback Cullen Christian, who is already approaching 10 scholarship offers and did nothing to diminish his rising star Saturday. He posted outstanding marks of 39.3 inches in the vertical jump and 4.25 seconds in the shuttle on the way to a 102.57 SPARQ rating.
That shuttle is just a tenth worse than Terrence Talbott's standout number despite Christian's extra four inches and twenty pounds. A second ESPN article from the same combine echoes the above numbers and praises his ability to "run, change direction, and jump."
There is one consistent flaw cited by scout assessing Christian's ability: raw speed. Rivals' Mike Farrell after Christian took home DB MVP honors at the Penn State NIKE camp:
“He's not a burner but he can turn and run, has nice hips and is physical,” Farrell said. “His size allows him to match up well with big receivers and he gets his head around to play the ball.”
Meanwhile, ESPN's evaluation($) starts by saying "The only asset Christian is missing is great speed" and Rivals' Barry Every says his main "area for improvement" is… yes… speed. So he's not Denard Robinson.
Despite that commonly-cited flaw, Christian graded out extremely well because of his size, length, technique, and leaping ability. A portion of the assets ESPN believes he possesses:
He has coveted size, quickness, fluidity and savvy as a D-I corner prospect. Utilizes his long arms and frame well jamming and pressing receivers off the line. Consistently forces receivers to the outside in zone, Cover 2 schemes and takes away inside leverage when locked up in press-man. Displays a fluid pedal and good sink for a taller corner. Hips and turns are smooth and he has good change of direction quickness mirroring in off-man. … Closes fast and covers a lot of area in underneath zone schemes. Has good range on both run and pass support. Very difficult matchup on the jump-ball with his good height, long arms and understanding of body positioning and adjustment. … Christian will enter college ahead of the curve in terms of technique, understanding of coverages and size.
That assessment is echoed by Every ("hips on a swivel, excellent ball skills and the ability to steer receivers off their intended route by using his long arms as weapons … long arms also allow him to reach around receivers and bat down balls that smaller corners couldn't even reach") and Athlon("outstanding hips and can get into and out of his pedal quickly … excellent ball skills … tough to beat in one-on-one situations"). Scout's Bob Lichtenfels goes for seemingly inaccurate cliches about a "very physical football player" that we'll see are fiction even in Christian's eyes.
The fiction: according to Magnus/Thunder, Christian's tackling needs plenty of work:
My biggest reservation about playing him at safety is that he doesn't seem to be a very good tackler. He has decent size at 6' and 180 pounds, but on his highlight films - which are supposed to be his best plays, naturally - his "highlight" tackles are of him diving at the feet of ballcarriers. Even when he has the opportunity for a solid tackle, he goes low.
This is something Christian himself recognizes is a flaw in his game:
“I want to improve my speed,” Christian said. “That’s the main thing and I also want to make more of an impact when I hit. I need to be more physical when I tackle.”
It's possible that Christian has absorbed the 'not a blazer' meme from the gurus and is parroting it back, but the tackling criticism is not something I came across anywhere else. That's something coaches have told him. On the plus side, Touch The Banner echoes the other praise of Christian and says that speed thing may be overrated as a concern, providing a solid thumbs-up. His coach also eschews the conventional wisdom when it comes to his speed…
He’s a very gifted corner,” Penn Hills coach Ron Graham said. “He’s explosive to the ball, he has all the tools of quickness, speed, ball reaction, vertical. Very quick feet."
…but high school coaches are always super-enthusiastic about their players.
All that added up to a ton of offers, with Christian claiming Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, and a host of others on signing day. Whether that's true only Christian and those schools know. I admit to being slightly skeptical since Christian's final list was Michigan, Pitt, West Virginia, Maryland, and UCLA. It is possible his very public Michigan lead submarined his recruitment by schools who can move on to the next touted 6'1" corner prospect when they feel someone's not seriously interested, I suppose. It does appear that an Ohio State offer was on the table for a while before the two parties unceremoniously parted ways just before Christian was supposed to take an official visit.
Michigan commit Cullen Christian had his best practice. He had two very noticeable plays one when he leaped up and batted a ball away from Christian Green. The second play Christian came up and pressed Kyle Prater and put the nation's No. 2 wide receiver on the ground.
And he's coming to play:
"The opportunity up there's great," Christian said. "I’m going to come up there and I’m going to start. They told me I got an opportunity to come up and play, but I’m going to come up there, I'm going to start. I'm going to come up there and work hard, do whatever I got to do to get on the field and I'm going to help Michigan out."
Why Marlin Jackson? Michigan hasn't had a lot of press-happy 6'1" corners in recent history, so Jackson is the closest approximation of Christian's size, speed, length, and recruiting hype. The comparison falls flat when it comes to tackling, where it seems that Christian is indifferent at best coming into college and Jackson was the best run support corner I've seen at Michigan. Christian seems capable of repeating that crazy game against Washington where Jackson was in Reggie Williams's grill from the first snap and set an all-time Michigan record for most PBUs in a game, though, and that's not something you can say about an Avery or a Talbott.
FWIW, GMBW compares Christian to Jeremy LeSueur.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Lots of combines, high profile school, no health issues, exactingly consistent descriptions of Christian's assets and flaws. Main disagreement seems to be how much his lack of blazing speed will hurt him.
General Excitement Level: High but not electric. Lack of blazing speed is kind of a scary issue in a corner; everything else sounds outstanding. Will be an interesting test case for the Cult of Barwis. Can he actually improve his "explosion"?
Projection: Least outlandish "I will start from day one" semi-prediction in a long time. He might not start but given his advanced understanding of zones—which Michigan is set to play a ton of—and physical talent the chance of a redshirt is zero. He will be on the two-deep as soon as he hits campus and should press JT Floyd and Justin Turner in the battle to start opposite Woolfolk. I think he's at least on even footing with them even as a true freshman.
Former Michigan offensive lineman Jon Runyan, a 14-year veteran of the NFL, is running for congress in the state of New Jersey. Though mgoblog doesn't endorse or un-endorse any political candidate or ideal, we had the opportunity to ask Jon a few questions about his football career, Rich Rodriguez, and his upcoming congressional race.
Michigan and Football
Growing up in Filnt, were you always a Michigan guy or did you like the Spartans growing up?
I was and always will always be a Michigan Man.
You racked up a number of awards during your college career (most notably All-Big Ten in your final season), but was it a hard decision to leave early for the draft?
It was hard, but the fact that I got injured the year before and missed the Bowl game was a huge factor in my decision to leave. It was a calculated risk, but looking back on it, it all worked out for the best.
How often to you manage to catch Michigan games, either in person or on TV?
I have not been back to any games. I have a very young and active family, therefore most of my free time in the fall is spent on the youth soccer/football fields.
Going on to your NFL career, you played primarily for a couple teams, the Oilers/Titans and the Eagles. When you think about your football career on the whole, which team do you identify more with? Why?
I have to say the Eagles, I feel that I had a bigger role in making that team into how everyone knows it. In my early years (Oilers/Titans) I was young and looking for direction. I learned that from a great group of guys and took that knowledge to Philly.
With the Eagles, Brian Westbrook credited you with the idea to take knee at the one yard line going in a couple years ago. Was that the Michigan education shining through?
We can say that. Also it has a lot to do with confidence and understanding of the people and situations around you!
What is your opinion of the first couple years of Rich Rodriguez in Ann Arbor?
It takes time. When you bring in a new system and coaches, you have to get the current players to buy in and at the same time recruit players that may fit your system better. But that's the challenge of being a college coach.
Have you talked to Coach Rodriguez at all, worked out on campus, etc.?
I have introduced myself once, the only time I have been back to A2 since he was hired.
You experienced a coaching change during your Michigan career. What was it like to go from Moeller to Carr? I assume the transition wasn't quite as rough as the one Michigan's going through now.
It was not as rough as the current change. I was lucky to be recruited by coach Carr out of high school, and it was't as big of a transition. There also wasn't a huge changeover in assistant coaches (lot of friends in the room).
Moving on, what made you decide to go into politics following your NFL career?
I have been very active in my community dating all the way back to my trips to Motts Children's Hospital and this is the next step in my community service. Although it is a big one, I know it is the right one.
To learn more about my campaign, please visit my website at www.runyanforcongress.com.
Site stuff. I fixed a few performance issues* and have convinced myself the site is noticeably snappier afterwards. At this point I've knocked out almost all of the low-hanging fruit and am down to things like "serve static content from a cookieless domain" that 1) WTF and 2) don't promise much more than a few percentage points here and there. So… yeah.
Moving on in annual Brian Beats On The Site stuff: I'm also working on—and at this point it's far enough along that I think I can announce it because it will happen—a searchable UFR database. If you want to see all the video I clipped in which Tate Forcier throws the ball on third down, that can happen. Etc. Content over the next few weeks might be a little sparse as I attempt to beat that into submission.
I am still planning a spring game UFR, which is about half done. I totally forgot about converting the file into something I can clip—which is a day-long process, basically—and then converted the wrong file entirely. I am not in midseason form.
Right and just forever. "We Are ND" was begging for this but I didn't realize it until someone put it on the youtubes:
Tying that in with Brady Quinn for Heisman and Jimmy Clausen For Heisman: perfect. Also reason to go back and revisit "we have not said one word about Michigan. We have not talked about their players; we have not talked about their coaches. We'll talk tomorrow." I miss Charlie Weis intensely already.
MGObama. Yes, I just did that. Obama descended upon commencement this weekend and many people were very excited. I wasn't except insofar as being the sort of university where the sitting president drops by to give a commencement speech might help with offensive linemen in the 2011 class. (Priorities, people.) Even so, I did watch the thing so I caught what I'm pretty sure was an MGoBlog reference in the student speaker's address:
As a nation, we have found that changes can bring us together, but they can also tear us apart. We can see our ambivalence in that change here on campus as well. After the horror of a certain football game played here a few years ago, many were thrilled when Michigan hired a coach who would bring a new energy and style of football to our school. But after two seasons, change has been slow [audience laughter] and full of growing pains. [more audience laughter] Today, we must re-examine our views toward change.
Gotta be, right? Alex Marston gets 100 mgopoints.
OHL Draft. It was mostly good news from the annual exercise in subterfuge that is the OHL draft. Michigan's two 2012 commits, Boo Nieves and Connor Carrick, both went in the late rounds to teams that don't have a reputation for attracting high-end talent not already headed for the OHL. Those are pure flier picks, and we should expect to see both at Michigan in a couple years.
Other players of interest:
- Matia Marcantuoni, who supposedly had a deal with Oshawa, fell to 18th after telling OHL teams he would not sign. Kitchener picked him, though, and Kitchener is one of those teams that games the draft all the time. Marcantuoni subsequently announced he would report. It would have been nice to grab the kid, but no one was banking on it.
- D Grant Webermin, who had been talking up Michigan, went to Windsor at the end of the first, and everyone expects he'll report. Webermin was ranked in the 70s by scouting services, so this was the opposite of a reach: guy will sign.
- Kitchener also took D Jacob Trouba in the third round. Trouba has already committed to the NTDP and the third round is late enough to suggest that Trouba—a universally acclaimed top-ten talent—will be a tough sign for Kitchener. I think at this point there's a substantial financial penalty if Trouba were to defect, and if he's going to be in the NTDP for a couple years why bother with the OHL after?
- G Dalton Izyk, a Nieves teammate and high profile 2012 goalie prospect, went in the 11th as well and should be headed to college.
In other hockey recruiting news, ISS's latest top 30 has Merrill just outside the top ten and features him as a "rising" prospect:
Jon Merrill, LD -- USA Under 18
Regarded as one of the best defenseman prospects coming out of the US this year, Merrill looks to have leapfrogged his competition and could be debated as being one of the top three best defensive prospects in the entire draft. Merrill was simply dominant in Belarus and his ability to play in all situations, including running the power play, certainly makes him all the more valuable. Merrill is explosive, gets the puck on net and creates lanes all over the ice. He is effective and reliable defensively and proves to be very difficult to win space against. Scouts are salivating at the chance to add Merrill to their rosters, as he is already a dominant player but still has a lot of room for improvement. This kid is for real.
His coach echoes the praise:
"Merrill was never under the radar. Everyone knows how good of a player Jon Merrill is," Kleinendorst said. "But he really stepped his game up. He probably helped himself more than anybody over there as far as what he did, how he played. He went out and controlled every moment, whether it was with the puck or without it. He saved his best hockey for Belarus, no question. It was almost like he was just waiting for that tournament to start. So what you got to see was what his true potential really was. He contributed as much as anybody."
If he lives up to that hype, Michigan shouldn't experience any dropoff on the blueline despite losing Summers and Kampfer. Still nothing on Moffatt, unfortunately.
Just one more year of this. Donovan Warren, of course, did not get drafted after putting his name in early. This requires damage control from the folks around him who thought entering early was a good idea:
“Every decision is a gamble,” said Warren’s godfather, Mark Carrier, who was hired as the Jets’ defensive line coach this offseason. “I don’t think he regretted it. Obviously, I think he wished things worked out a little bit different for him. But . . . the Michigan he went to wasn’t there anymore. For him to go back, was that going to be more of a burden?”
Maybe this is true. Maybe it is not true. I would just like to reach the point where that is no longer an excuse for anyone, where people leave the program and don't have an easy, program-bashing excuse as to why they didn't get drafted. At some point it's on you, right?
APR, now with slight teeth. The NCAA just officially enacted a few rules changes. Foremost among them is a move to a 68 team tournament, but there are changes of slight interest when it comes to college football academics:
- Endorsed a recommendation that will require football players to complete a minimum of nine credit hours during the fall semester to remain academically eligible for the following season. The board said studies show players who complete at least nine hours in the fall are more likely to be academically eligible in the spring. Players who fail to meet the requirement would have to sit out four games, but could reduce the penalty to two games if they complete 27 credit hours by the end of the next summer session.
- Endorsed a recommendation from the Committee on Academic Performance to eliminate waivers for penalties assessed to Football Bowl Subdivision schools that have players leave school after completing their eligibility and are not academically eligible. That's a problem for players who leave school to attend pre-NFL combine workouts. The board agreed that eliminating the waivers would be an incentive to improve retention and eligibility issues.
There are APR waivers for players who don't graduate after finishing their playing career? Yeesh. I've praised the APR for bringing some accountability to schools but there's still a long way to go. For example, the Bylaw Blog sort of fisked one of the annual "grraaaah NCAA" columns that fruit like morels every March. Point 1 from graaah MSM columnist:
Kentucky’s graduation rate scorecard for its black players for the last six years reads like this: 18, 17, 9, 17, 17, zero. Over the last 10 years, its black player graduation rate has never risen above 29 percent. Its overall graduation rate passed 50 percent only once, in 2001.
I thought this might be cherry-picking the federal graduation rate, which counts eligible transfers against you, but Kentucky's most recent graduation success rate is 31%. More like graduation FAIL rate, amirite? (BONUS: Kentucky's team GPA of just above two is a seven year low.)
Point 2 from Compliance Guy:
Kentucky’s most recent multiyear APR for men’s basketball is 979. That puts them within the top 10% of all Division I basketball programs and above the median for all Division I sports. So by the measure the NCAA uses to determine penalties, Kentucky basketball is not just getting by, rather it is thriving.
WTF? 979? Waivers are making a mockery of the APR. A 925 is supposed to represent a 60% graduation rate. Kentucky is barely clearing half that and they have a 979! While the thing isn't totally toothless—Indiana, Purdue, and Ohio State have all seen their basketball programs lose scholarships—any system that can produce that kind of divergence is broken. Hit that Bylaw Blog post for all the waivers that have been instituted; they make my persistent concern that Michigan might find itself in the redzone laughable.
Tangent: Notice that the two changes above are football programs getting tougher on themselves. Basketball couldn't care less, evidently. The Bylaw Blog gets ornery about that, too.
Etc.: Misopogon's Decimated D Diaries get a shout-out on ESPN. Remember the epic ESPN/SEC deal that would CHANGE COLLEGE SPORTS FOREVER? Yeah, it's basically just a TV deal, one that gives the SEC the same amount of money for the next 15 years, in which time the BTN will grow until it is the size of Cleveland. You don't need me to tell you that Jeff Defran is an idiot and WTKA should can his ass, but Bruce Madej will explain it to you if you want. Michigan will wear throwbacks at the Big Chill.
With a thrilling comeback win over Michigan State yesterday, the Wolverine lacrosse team once again captured the CCLA Conference Championship and the #1 overall seed in the MCLA National Tournament.
Those who follow me on Twitter already know how frustrated I was during the CCLA championship game yesterday. Michigan was committing awful turnovers, the Spartans were getting easy chances (and converting some that weren't so easy), and it was a generally dismal game. Halfway through the third quarter, I didn't think Michigan had a chance to win.
Something funny happened, though: Michigan started playing like, well, Michigan. A three-goal deficit late in the third turned into a big Michigan rally. The momentum carried the team through the final quarter on the way to a 13-11 victory.
Tournament Offensive MVP Trevor Yealy notched three goals and freshman Thomas Paras (who I thought should have won the MVP award, given his two goals yesterday and eight-point effort against Miami) put in a pair, while Clark McIntyre had two goals with an assist. Both goaltenders played a half, with Mark Stone struggling through the first, and Andrew Fowler making a couple key saves to spark the team in the second half.
Credit goes to Michigan State as well. Their goalie, Dean Hall, was named the tournament's Defensive MVP, and deservedly so. When Michigan threatened throughout the first half, Hal managed to keep them off the board more often than not. He gave his team a chance to win, just as he did when Michigan and MIchigan State faced off just over a week ago.
Michigan State proved, if nothing else, that they belong on the same field with Michigan, which is good for Michigan in the long run. The Spartans absolutely deserved to make the MCLA Tournament field. Which brings me to...
At the conclusion of all the conference tournaments yesterday, the MCLA selection committee hammered out the field for the tournament to determine the national champion. I unfortunately didn't manage to get one last bracketology post up before the real bracket came out, but them's the ropes. Your field:
- Michigan (CCLA Champ)
- Colorado State (RMLC Champ)
- Arizona State (SLC Champ)
- Chapman (SLC)
- Minnesota-Duluth (UMLL Champ)
- Oregon (PNCLL Champ)
- Florida State (SELC)
- Brigham Young (RMLC)
- MIchigan State (CCLA)
- Simon Fraser (PNCLL)
- Colorado (RMLC)
- Florida (SELC Champ)
- Illinois (RMLC Champ)
- Cal Poly (WCLL Champ)
- Boston College (PCLL Champ)
- Texas State (LSA Champ)
Michigan is the #1 overall seed for the third consecutive year. They'll face off against #16-seed Texas State in the first round on Tuesday, May 11th in Denver, CO. Should they be fortunate enough to win that game, a second-round matchup against BYU or Michigan State (two of the Wolverines' biggest rivals) awaits. If they get through that game, which is no guarantee given the hard-fought nature of the wins over Michigan State this year, the semi-final and final games will be televised(!) on Fox College Sports.
I'll have a thorough preview of the Texas State Bobcats in the days leading up to the first-round game. Congratulations to the team on its conference championship, and Go Blue!
Michigan beat Ohio State on Friday and Sunday to secure one of the more exciting series wins in Ann Arbor in quite some times. This series saw surprises abound: a first round draft pick get scratched from the starting lineup with an injury, nearly every pitcher in this series pitched to or beyond their potential, great defense, and most importantly, the good guys coming out on top.
For full recap, follow the jump:
Michigan (25-14, 7-5)
Ohio State(23-13, 7-5)
|Friday 6:35pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|TBA||vs||Alex Wimmers (9-0, 1.61 ERA)|
|Notes: Michigan is 157-89-1 all time, Last year: 1-2 series loss.|
|Saturday, 6pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|TBA||vs||Drew Rucinski (3-2, 4.34 ERA)|
|Notes: Barry Larkin jersey retirement starts at 5:45p|
|Sunday 1:05pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|TBA||vs||Dean Wolosiansky (3-5, 5.95 ERA)|
The Buckeyes come to Ann Arbor this weekend with the rivals tied for first place in the Big Ten. The stakes are huge. The winner is in the driver's seat for the regular season championship and a number one seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The loser could conceivably fall as far back as a tie for 7th place if the cards fall the wrong way.
As an added bonus, Michigan will be celebrating the career of Barry Larkin. His #16 jersey will be added to the walls of the Fish, where it shall remain forever retired into Michigan lore.
Final notes and thoughts after the jump: