A Wall Worth Building
Michigan hosted a huge group of official visitors for the win over Wisconsin, and coming out of the weekend it sounds like they've made some serious progress recruiting for the offensive line.
The visitor most expected to eventually end up in the class was four-star IMG OC Cesar Ruiz. That impression didn't change a bit after the visit. Ruiz told The Wolverine's Brandon Brown that getting to spend time with a few recruits he's befriended during the process—Jedrick Wills, Alex Leatherwood, and Baron Browning—as well as the crew of fellow New Jersey natives on the team put Michigan in a different league from his other recent official visit:
"That made the visit ten times better for me," he said. "That’s what really separated it from my North Carolina visit last week. Jonah Melton is a really cool dude but I didn’t know him previously. Since I knew all of these dudes at Michigan previously we just decided to go have fun. We really enjoyed our time."
Florida and Oklahoma are the two official visits left on his itinerary. He made it sound like the Wolverines will be hard to catch:
"Michigan is in a good spot," he said with a chuckle. "We are going to leave it at that but yes, Michigan is in a good spot right now."
While Ruiz's warm reception to M's recruiting pitch didn't come as a surprise, the reaction five-star FL OT Alex Leatherwood, an Alabama commit, gave to TomVH was an eye-opener:
Leatherwood is still committed to Alabama but is exploring his options. His time spent in Ann Arbor seemed to have a big impact on his recruitment.
"Phenomenal, unreal atmosphere," Leatherwood said. "Changed [my recruitment] big time. My dad loves it here."
Leatherwood had similar comments to Scout's SEC-country analyst, Chad Simmons:
"To be honest, Michigan is making me think about my commitment to Alabama. My dad even likes them a lot. We're gonna do some very deep thinking on this.
"I can't really explain the feeling I have at Michigan -- I just like it a lot."
Sam Webb mentioned Leatherwood's father had been skeptical about the program entering the trip and ended up wearing Michigan gear on the visit; the repeated mentions that he enjoyed his time there could be as meaningful as the impression made on his son.
247's Steve Wiltfong got a quick visit reaction from four-star TX OT Chuck Filiaga:
"It was a great visit," Filiaga told 247Sports. "From the game, the crowd, the coaches, the players, they all make it something special! Michigan truly does have a great set up for its program."
Finally, four-star KY OT Jedrick Wills hasn't gone on the record about his visit yet, but a look at his Twitter page indicates it went quite well, too.
Michigan in in the driver's seat for Ruiz and may have moved to the top of the list for Filiaga, as well. Leatherwood and Wills are probably longer shots—especially Wills, who's expected to end up at Alabama—but it's clear the Wolverines made a strong impression on both of them.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
10/1/2016 – Michigan 14, Wisconsin 7 – 5-0, 2-0 Big Ten
I was scared once.
Let's dispense with the I ain't scurrred talk: football is terrifying and brings you to your knees and you can either admit this to yourself or embark on a life of chest-puffing Brandon stuff. Michigan hadn't won a game against a top ten team in 12 tries. When they're tied deep into the second half after spurning a pile of opportunities to make it a contest that's only kinda-sorta competitive you're goddamn right the idea they'd lose a game to a team that might as well have started drives on third and eight was bowel-shaking.
Anyway. Channing Stribling fell over and Alex Hornibrook heaved the ball at his receiver. It seemed long from the get go and turned out to be long, but you never know. As that mortar arched back towards earth my annoyance momentarily morphed into terror, because this was the kind of game where 7-7 is a war and 14-7 is a surrender. That ball clanged harmlessly to the turf. Wilton Speight's deep shot to Amara Darboh did not.
Hornibrook negotiated terms shortly thereafter, and hello it is October and it's hard to see a loss on Michigan's schedule until what's looking a lot like Football Armageddon II. Bill Connelly's fancystats have Michigan a two-touchdown favorite in every game before The Game, and it's not hard to see Vegas issuing double-digit spreads until then. This is the elite team it is supposed to be, even if someone needs to hit the field goal kickers with a frying pan until they remember to put it through the uprights.
This is because of the defense. Many expectations were piled upon it this offseason, and all have thus far been redeemed. You've seen it with your personal sensory organs. I have as well. I have seen other defenses, many of them, and the sense of serene calm when Michigan punts has only been matched by 1997 and 2006 in my experience. Michigan passes the eye test. They pass the scouting test. PFF has seven different Michigan DL with 100 snaps charted and a grade of 75 or above, which is bonkers.
And they pass the computer test. As of today Michigan is the #1 defense in S&P+ by a furlong and a half:
The gap between them and #2 Florida is bigger than the gap between Florida and #10 Washington. They are first or second in any capacity you'd like to name, and complaints about schedule strength start to ring hollow when Colorado is lighting up everyone they come across with a backup quarterback who netted –4 yards against Michigan and Wisconsin ends up with half the yards they did against LSU or MSU.
Michigan's supposed weakness on defense isn't one, and everything else is coming in at or above expectations. People used to say things like "punting is winning" and mean them as something other than shots at Kirk Ferentz. That's because football used to look a lot like Saturday's game: trench warfare punctuated with one or two seismic moments. I have an old feeling, and a good feeling, about this football team.
With Iowa playing competitive games against Rutgers and Indiana going toe-to-toe with Michigan State, thoughts inevitably turn to the roadblock at the end of the season. The team has to take things one game at a time. I don't. I can take them six or twenty at a time. I can know the names of a couple of large men in the 2019 class at Belleville, because it's never too early to think about 2023.
So. This defense and the great roadblock. One of those previous defenses had a fatal flaw. One did not. The 2006 defense had one and a half excellent cornerbacks and no nickel package. Leon Hall would go on to a long NFL career. Morgan Trent had a cup of coffee in the league. Michigan went up against an OSU spread offense with Chris Graham as their spacebacker. This was part poor roster construction and part horrendous gameplanning; Michigan was put to the sword by Troy Smith.
You'd think that's in the past now, but just last year a good, if depleted, Michigan defense entered the OSU game with a plan to do the exact same thing they'd done the rest of the year and got ripped for 300 yards on the ground, yet again. The failures linger and give you pause when you project down the road, especially since this does not seem like a rebuilding year for the Great Satan. Worry, worry, worry.
Still, Jabrill Peppers is not Chris Graham. Michigan just crushed a manball team without taking their 210 pound linebacker-type substance off the field. They are not running a defense that tells you which guy is not going to play the run presnap. They have survived the first five games with a just couple of injury scares on the defensive line. I am thinking Michigan might be able to punt a lot and win, even down in Columbus.
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Ryan Glasgow forced Channing Stribling's second interception by hitting Hornibrook as he threw and spent the rest of the day tossing UW's poor center to the ground, whether it was run or pass. He didn't rack up many counting stats because of the nature of the Badger offense but he's in line for a big-ass UFR grade.
#2 Kyle Kalis was a pile-mover in a game that needed to move many piles. Michigan's run game was decidedly right-handed in this one, and Kalis didn't have the protection issues Magnuson did. The repeated zone reads with Peppers were an impressive demonstration of Michigan's ability to shoot a very good defense off the ball.
#3 Jourdan Lewis was only targeted twice. One was incomplete. One has been photoshopped into a nouveau Jumpman logo. In addition to those two incidents, Lewis had two excellent plays in run defense that shut down Wisconsin attempts to get to the edge.
Honorable mention: uh, everyone on defense. Amara Darboh was the main target on Michigan's second touchdown drive.
5: Jabrill Peppers(T2, Hawaii; #3 UCF, #1 Colorado), Ryan Glasgow(#2 UCF, #1 UW).
3: Mike McCray(#1, Hawaii), Wilton Speight (#1 UCF).
2: Jake Butt(#2 Colorado), Ben Gedeon(#3 Colorado, #3 PSU), Kyle Kalis (#2 UW).
1: Delano Hill (T2, Hawaii), Chris Evans (T3, Hawaii, four-way T2, PSU), Chris Wormley (three-way T1, PSU), Maurice Hurst (three-way T1, PSU), Taco Charlton(three-way T1, PSU), Jourdan Lewis (#3 UW).
0.5: Mason Cole(T3, Hawaii), De'Veon Smith (four-way T2, PSU), Ty Isaac (four-way T2, PSU), Karan Higdon(four-way T2, PSU).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
This week's best thing ever.
Speight bombs one over the top to Darboh for the winning points.
Honorable mention: The Lewis interception.
Hawaii: Laughter-inducing Peppers punt return.
UCF: Speight opens his Rex Grossman account.
Colorado: Peppers cashes it in.
PSU: Wormley's sack establishes a theme.
UW: Darboh puts Michigan ahead for good.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
This week's worst thing ever.
For the second consecutive week this is a key piece being knocked out, probably for the season. Grant Newsome took a cut from a defensive back that resulted in a knee injury "as serious as a knee injury can be" and Michigan has to find out what they've got behind him now.
Honorable mention: Wisconsin scores an actual touchdown; any of three different makeable field goals go awry; Speight gets picked off; Michigan takes 34 consecutive penalties on special teams.
PREVIOUS EPIC DOUBLE BIRDs
Hawaii: Not Mone again.
UCF: Uh, Dymonte, you may want to either tackle or at least lightly brush that guy.
Colorado: Speight blindsided.
PSU: Clark's noncontact ACL injury.
UW: Newsome joins the ranks of the injured.
[After THE JUMP: one bushel of beets please]
Ryan Glasgow and Amara Darboh
Can you talk about how the defensive performance today gave you the opportunity as an offense, particularly, to provide the end result?
AD: “Yeah, from the offensive standpoint, the defense kept getting three and outs and then kept helping us stay in the game. They didn’t let them score all half, so that gave us the opportunity to make a play at the end.”
Talk about the placement on the long touchdown pass.
AD: “Oh yeah, it was perfect. It was one-on-one coverage out there. The safety was in the middle, then I got inside my guy and Wilton put a perfect ball and I just had to run underneath it.”
This was your guys’ first true test of the season; this was the first time you guys played an opponent many people considered a contender in the Big Ten and also nationally. What does this win mean for you personally moving forward? How does your team improve from here?
AD: “I think it says a lot about our team. Wisconsin’s a very tough football team—very good defense, very good offense—and I think us beating this team says a lot about our character. It says a lot about the players on our team, but we need to focus on the games ahead, because this win doesn’t define our season.”
Ryan, it seemed like they were playing to get the ball back to the defense to win it. Was that kind of the message, it was your guys’ time to win the game?
“Regardless of what the offense does, we don’t want any other offense we’re playing to get a yard, get a first down, get a touchdown. So, regardless of what the offense does, we expect to win every game. We had a seven-point lead, which we think that’s enough for us to win a game on defense. Regardless of how many points they score, we feel like should win the game on defense.”
[Hit THE JUMP for more]
1 hour 22 minutes
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starts at 1:00
Offensive line was okay at running, JBB holding his own against monsters is a particularly nice surprise. Three yards a carry is misleadingly good against this D. Speight’s actual interception was not a bother but some of the plays under pressure were not great bob.
starts at 22:46
DUDE. PFF, which gives a 50 to a player who’s basically replacement level, gave #1 offensive tackle in the country a 49, and that’s the best offensive line performance from Wisconsin of the game. Glasgow doing Glasgow things because he can; too dominate to find snaps for Rashan Gary. Good Don Brown stuff. Jourdan Lewis…DUDE.
Special Teams and Game Theory
starts at 40:15
Don’t get Kenny Allen—mechanics of kickoffs and punting are apparently very different, Ace learned from watching warmups. False start penalties—Harbaugh was demanding a disconcerting signals call.
Talking Big Ten with Jamie Mac
starts at 49:53
JamieMac’s sports bigamy had a good weekend. Open up the dusty rolls of Sparty No! Western Kentucky is adopted. Indiana’s defense ranked ahead of their defense—is this a fluke? MSU’s offensive line hitting the panic button. Iowa is broken; Cole Croston is not working out. Can Purdue recall a quarterback? Penn State’s “fingerprint win”, Armstrong’s weapons are breaking.
“Hear My Train A Comin'”—Jimi Hendrix
“You Got Me Floatin’”—Jimi Hendrix
“House Burning Down”—Jimi Hendrix
“Across 110th Street”
THE USUAL LINKS
No caption needed (Patrick Barron/MGoBlog)
A blur of maize and blue (Patrick Barron/MGoBlog)
The Train (Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog)
You're not getting out of this one (Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog)
Holding was not called (Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog)
Darboh TD (Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog)
Ekiyor at yesterday's game. [Isaiah Hole/247Sports]
As first reported by Sam Webb, 2018 four-star Indianapolis (IN) Cathedral OG Emil Ekiyor committed to Michigan this afternoon. Michigan was the first program to offer Ekiyor, who has since compiled an impressive offer sheet, and they also got to evaluate him in person at both the Indianapolis satellite camp and Sound Mind Sound Body this summer.
Ekiyor is Michigan's second commit in the 2018 class, joining four-star GA OLB Otis Reese.
4*, #3 OG,
4*, #4 OG,
4*, 81, #4 OG,
4*, 92, #5 OG,
4*, #4 OG,
Ekiyor's rankings are in a remarkably tight grouping; the "spread" of a whopping seven places in the overall rankings is the smallest I can remember. As a result of his rankings being so consistently high, his composite ranking outstrips any of his rankings from the four recruiting services.
All four sites consider Ekiyor a guard, and he's very much built like one. He's listed between 6'2" and 6'4" and in the range of 315 to 349(!) pounds, with camp reports listing him on the shorter and stouter end. He looks like an interior mauler all the way.
Scout's short, free evaluation screams interior lineman:
EvaluationBig, powerful lineman who is light on his feet and finishes his blocks. Can still improve overall pass pro technique.Strengths
- Drive Blocking Skills
- Power And Strength
- SizeAreas to Improve
- Pass Protection
Despite only being partway through his junior season, Ekiyor has been on the recruiting radar for quite a while. He's started since his freshman year at Cathedral, a powerhouse program in Indiana's biggest divison, and Michigan's offer came way back in March of 2015. That summer, Tim Sullivan evaluated Ekiyor's performance at OSU's Friday Night Lights camp:
Ekiyor picked up his first offer from Michigan back in March, and he's added a few more since then. He has the mass to be a bullying offensive guard, and his feet move very quickly as well. He has a bit of a "chopped off" look, so unless he hits a growth spurt (always possible with young men who haven't yet started their sophomore year of high school), it seems he's bound for the interior line. He moved very fluidly through the day, and showed off some good power, as well.
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt listed him among the top performers at the Cincinnati Crosstown Showdown a month later:
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Ekiyor does not look like a high school offensive line prospect, let alone one who is just starting his sophomore year. The Indianapolis native is built like a brick house and physically overwhelms opponents, but he is also light on his feet and can locate in space. Cathedral plays Ekiyor at right tackle, but his future will be on the interior of the offensive line where his wide frame and outstanding power will provide for a dominant drive blocker in college.
After helping Cathedral to a state championship appearance in his sophomore season, Ekiyor impressed Scout's Allen Trieu at this May's Chicago Opening regional:
Strong, powerful kid. Very wide base and when he got his hands solidly on guys, he won. Looks like a power guard at the next level.
Irish247's Tom Loy was also in attendance and came away with a different take:
It wasn't a strong performance for the Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral four-star offensive guard from the class of 2018. Notre Dame hasn't offered yet and I see why there is some hesitation. Despite his massive 6-3, 350-pound size, Ekiyor got moved around by smaller defensive linemen. He wasn't physically dominant even though it's expected when looking at his size. He needs to continue working hard in the weight room and drop some bad weight. He has time to do that when working with a proper trainer and nutritionist. Ekiyor still possesses a ton of upside and potential. If he puts in a lot of hard work, he'll have the chance to be very good down the road.
Few high school prospects carry 350 good pounds; Ekiyor almost certainly has some bad weight to shed before he can make an impact at the college level.
247's Steve Wiltfong named Ekiyor one of the top performers at M's Indianapolis satellite camp even though he wasn't fully healthy:
Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral Top247 2018 offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor is still trying to get right coming off an injury, but the wide interior body with good feet and strength showed flashes of his great potential. Ekiyor said he’s transitioning to center this fall.
Ekiyor is a wider guy than most centers, but if he's closer to the 6'2" end of his height range than that could be a possibility. Wiltfong also mentioned Ekiyor among the standout offensive linemen at SMSB.
ESPN's evaluation doesn't put forth much criticism beyond Ekiyor's lack of height and need to shed some weight:
STRENGTHS: Possesses excellent bulk and moves very well for his size. Gains an immediate advantage with a good first step. Has quick feet and great strength. Fluid and flexible athlete who is comfortable playing in space. Mirrors effectively in pass pro and can anchor against the bull rush. ... AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: On the shorter side and lacks length. Would benefit from shedding a few lbs and redistributing his weight better. Leans forward too much at times. ... BOTTOM LINE: Ekiyor is a big man with deceptive athleticism. He has the strength to dominate in the run game as well as the quick feet to play in space in pass pro. Overall, he's a very good offensive line prospect.
So long as Ekiyor keeps his weight under control, he sounds like an excellent guard prospect for a power running team.
Ekiyor had Tennessee tied atop his list with Michigan until this weekend. He also holds offers from Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Penn State, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Cal, Cincinnati, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mizzou, NC State, Syracuse, Toledo, USF, Vanderbilt, and Virginia. Notably, Notre Dame and Ohio State have not come through with offers.
Cathedral made the state championship game last year after moving up to Indiana's biggest division. Michigan has an offer and strong interest in Ekiyor's friend and teammate Markese Stepp, a four-star 2018 running back committed to Notre Dame. Stepp accompanied Ekiyor on his visit yesterday, per 247's Steve Lorenz. Given how ND's season has gone thus far, his recruitment is one to keep a close eye on.
OL, no stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
ESPN lists a combine 40 time of 5.44 seconds, which gets zero FAKEs.
Mid-season junior highlights:
Full sophomore highlights:
Freshman highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Ekiyor will definitely wind up on the interior of the offensive line. With his wide frame and quick feet, the guess here is he plays guard. Even Michigan is far from done recruiting the 2017 offensive line class, Ekiyor could have the chance to see the field relatively early; among players on the current roster, only Michael Onwenu, Stephen Spanellis, Jon Runyan Jr., and perhaps Ben Bredeson (if he's not needed at tackle) project to play guard. In all likelihood, though, Ekiyor will marinate for a couple years while doing plenty of strength and conditioning work—with a major emphasis on the conditioning bit.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It'll probably have Emil Ekiyor in it.