Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
You Know The Drill
Michigan's latest 2014 offer, Warren De La Salle linebacker and current Penn State commit Jared Wangler, will visit campus today along with his father, former Michigan quarterback John Wangler, per Jared's Twitter. Wangler plans to decide between sticking with PSU and flipping to Michigan before the start of football season, and while many expect him to choose the Wolverines today, that's not coming from Wangler — he told Scout's Allen Trieu($) that he's "not planning on committing today," and you can read into that however you like.
I think Wangler will end up at Michigan, but it's certainly not guaranteed; don't count out the fact that Penn State was the first major program to offer him. He even passed up an offer from LSU that came in a couple weeks after his initial commitment. That said, his father and brother didn't play for the Tigers, and the Wanglers being something of a Michigan institution should factor heavily into his final decision.
A 150+ Comment Thread Suggests I Should Talk About This
Michigan State's hiring of Curtis Blackwell as their de facto recruiting coordinator paid immediate dividends yesterday when 2015 Cass Tech quarterback Jayru Campbell committed to the Spartans. Campbell was one of several top in-state juniors in East Lansing yesterday — Technician teammates Mike Weber and Josh Alabi, Saginaw athlete Brian Cole, Oak Park athlete John Kelly, and Saint Clair Shores lineman Kyonta Stallworth (who may or may not have committed, and almost certainly will eventually) were also present. Getting that many key local targets on campus — and pulling in commitments from two of them, most likely — is a big step for State, and the credit should rightfully go to Blackwell, who has a relationship with all of these players from his time running Sound Mind Sound Body and coaching the Maximum Exposure 7-on-7 squad.
HOWEVA, the consternation among Michigan fans in the wake of Campbell's commitment is unnecessary for a couple of reasons:
- Campbell, in all likelihood, was never going to get a Michigan offer. CA five-star Josh Rosen is the only 2015 QB with an offer, and I don't believe Campbell was even in the next group of signal-callers being considered by the Wolverines. Having watched Campbell play many times over the course of the last two years, I don't think he has the pure arm strength — especially on short-to-intermediate routes — that this coaching staff wants in a quarterback. You can watch the tape and judge for yourself.
- Michigan's projected to take a very small class in 2015, and so far they're pursuing elite national prospects to fill those coveted spots. Weber's potential place in the class was taken by Damien Harris, a higher-ranked running back; Kelly wasn't under serious consideration for an early offer; and the Wolverines may only take two offensive linemen — with Jon Runyan Jr. already in the fold and Michigan looking good for PA four-star tackle Sterling Jenkins, I don't think Stallworth was going to get one, either. Cole and Alabi are the only two guys among yesterday's MSU visitors who could be counted as real head-to-head losses for Michigan, and neither is guaranteed to end up at State by any means.
Is Campbell a solid pickup for State? Certainly. He's made great strides as a passer in the last two years while quarterbacking CT to back-to-back state titles and he gives MSU a commitment from the state's best talent factory.
Is this a major blow to Michigan? Nope. The Wolverines could strike out on every top in-state junior and still put together one of the best classes in the country; in case anyone has forgotten, they're already off to a very good start in that regard.
[Hit THE JUMP for perhaps the worst recruiting pitch ever, the latest on Malik McDowell's transfer to Southfield, and more.]
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton,DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch, OL Chris Fox, OL Dan Samuelson, TE Jake Butt, TE Khalid Hill, HB Wyatt Shallman, WR Da'Mario Jones, WR Csont'e York, WR Jaron Dukes, RB Derrick Green, QB Shane Morris.
This marks the completion of the 2013 recruiting profiles.
|Warren, OH – 5'11", 224|
4*, #62 overall
3*, NR overall
4*, NR overall
4*, #218 overall
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Older brother Lance was at Wisconsin for a time. Howland, his HS, has sent kids to MSU and PSU recently but no Michigan players.|
Brady Hoke's recruiting in a nutshell: a near-consensus four star with a crazy fun highlight tape who Michigan won in a head to head battle with Ohio State has been almost lost in the shuffle. De'Veon Smith may not have the avalanche of hype Derrick Green does, but he's pretty damn good in his own right, a pounding ball of legs with a big-time stiffarm and excellent balance. If he was fast, he'd be Mike Hart but fast, but people say he's not that fast, so maybe he's just Mike Hart. (This comparison is about to get run into the ground. Gird thyself.)
This lost in the shuffle thing is something we need to correct, M internet. If we don't, Smith's coach Dick Angle—who is awesome—is going to find us. This comes from the beginning of Smith's junior year:
“I don’t think there’s a hell of a lot of difference between 4.6 and 4.5, especially when you’re 215 pounds and you’re running the football and you never fumble it and you always end up in the end zone,” Angle said. “So they can have their 4.3 guys and 4.4 guys and I’ll take Smith, even if he was 5-flat, which he isn’t. He runs a 4.5-forty consistently and all he does is score touchdowns, run for first downs, catch passes and wins.”
…quite surprisingly, despite all the high accolades from his coach, Smith is still without any scholarship offers. So what exactly is the reason for that?
“Because there’s a lot of stupid coaches out there and that’s why they get fired,” Angle said. “They take 4.3 guys that can’t read, write, block, tackle, hold the ball or win. That’s the bottom line.”
"Because Stone Cold Dick Angle said so" is implied.
I'm seriously about the Mike Hart comparison on this one. For one, the first words out of his loquacious coach's mouth in another article:
"He does not fumble," said Angle. "He had one at the beginning of the year, and one in the playoffs, but that's it."
For two, Smith's low-cut, compact package of balance, vision and agility leads to a lot of Hart-like runs in which he hugs his blocking until it's time to burst upfield, at which point he often deploys Hart's patented hop-cut in the hole to evade most of tackler and bundle forward breaking infinite arm tackles. ESPN's evaluation is… is just Mike Hart:
…strong, sturdy frame that can withstand punishment … powerfully built low to the ground and it helps his impressive balance. He has good, not great, speed …runs with good vision and is quick to attack the hole. He makes subtle cuts through traffic and is able to burst through tight seams with his quickness. He runs with good lean, behind his pads … also an effective stretch and plant cutter. … He breaks through first contact on a regular basis, runs hard and generates great downhill power and momentum. He keeps his legs and body churning on contact, frequently bouncing off tackles while retaining his balance and forward drive. … can struggle to make second level defenders miss to spring long runs.
Smith isn't quite the wizard at avoiding backfield contact that Hart was, but he compensates by bringing more power to his game… actually nevermind that. Smith does seem a bit faster in the open field. (If there was a stat for "most times caught from behind against one team," Mike Hart versus Michigan State would be your far and away record-holder.)
Scout's Allen Trieu amps the Hart comparison up by noting his "uncanny balance and ability to break arm tackles":
The kid is strong and runs with a refusal to be tackled. His ability to keep his feet while making cuts, breaking tackles and shoving would-be tacklers into the ground, is outstanding. He may not be a 4.4 guy, but we really like him.
Smith may not have breakaway speed, but he displays everything else you'd like to see when running the football: great initial burst, good vision through the hole, legs that don't stop moving upon contact, and the power to punish defenders for attempts to arm-tackle.
I mean… if you watch his junior highlights above they are littered with plays in which Smith bounces off arm tackles, nearly falls over, keeps his feet, breaks a couple more tackles, gets swarmed by three guys, and then drives the ever-agglomerating mass of humanity a couple more yards before everyone falls over. Like this:
Via Ace, obviously
The run before this and after this on his tape (starting around 3:30) are basically the same thing, as are many others.
That is something you can't teach. De'Veon Smith is good. I mean, this is two games from his junior year. Try and count the broken tackles:
While he's not going to bounce off four guys on many plays in college, frankly his highlight reel is more impressive than Derrick Green's. Green brings an elite level of size and speed that Smith doesn't quite, but I give the edge in high school faces crushed to Smith.
Smith was not a camp guy or a look-at-all-my-offers guy. As a result Rivals, the low outlier in his rankings, has frustratingly little to say about him that doesn't come from Tim Sullivan, who doesn't have a say in the rankings. I'm not sure their Ohio guy does either, but here's his take anyway:
"He's the classic Ohio power back," Givler said. "He's strong, runs with a lower center of gravity, with good pad level. He's not overly fast but he gets through the hole, and you don't always have to be a 4.4 guy to be a success. Look at this rivalry - Maurice Clarett and Mike Hart weren't the fastest guys but both were great players.
"The thing I like about Smith is that he's one of those guys that will be better with his 22nd carry than his sixth. He's a north-south runner that gets stronger as the game unfolds."
Ah, look, Mike Hart again.
Meanwhile in an evaluation that praises Smith for "being such a well-rounded back"—ie, everything—247's Todd Worly raves about his "explosive burst, footwork, and change of direction," pointing out that while Smith does lack pure straight line speed his short-area explosion is outstanding. (You can see this in his defensive highlights as well, as when he sticks a guy he goes backwards.) Worly also puts the ball security in context:
For a big play back that is regularly breaking tackles, it is very impressive that he has only fumbled twice in three years.
It's relatively easy for Carlos Brown to not fumble because strong winds will knock him over. For a guy constantly fighting for extra yardage to have that ball security is… well… it's a lot like Mike Hart.
And, of course, the pattern is fulfilled here as well. His coach:
"Probably his greatest asset - by far - is non-measureable: it's his presence," said Angle. "He has an aura about him. He's a team player, and when you're around him he just picks you up. He's never moody, and he's always got a smile on his face. That's his greatest asset, he just radiates confidence in the people that are around him, and he has it in himself in a very humble and unique way."
Is his coach done? Nope. Obviously not. This is Dick Angle, who should be interviewed all the time whether he has a player going to Michigan or not.
“To me he’s the perfect player. And he’s got an attitude that makes his work ethic outstanding,” Angle said. “He’s very humble and he’s probably the most likeable kid in our school let alone on our football team. And he’s a great team player and he’s a great motivator through his hard work.”
Sing Dick Angle, sing!
"He works on the things that he knows he might have slipped up on the week before, or he hasn't been working on, He's relentless in the weight room, he's relentless on the practice field, so he doesn't have to be told very much what needs to be done."
This is where the comparisons to Clarett stop.
Etc.: Your last piece of laughable Bucknuts homerism for the year is Smith's drop from #5 in the state to #14 after winning the DII offensive player of the year. BONUS Bucknuts commenter a couple years ago:
I'd take him and Derrick Green for the 2013 class of running backs and call it a day.
Sounds like a plan.
“I’ll tell you what I like about DeVeon, he gets angry when you hit him. It pisses him off when you hit him. He just runs harder and harder after he gets hit. He is a contact kind of guy."
Why Mike Hart? The post has addressed this in depth.
Guru Reliability: Low-plus. Wide spread in the rankings, no camps, no All Star game, but was a healthy, known quantity.
Variance: Low. Already at excellent playing weight, fumbles not an issue, not a product of those high school teams where no one ever touches you en route to the endzone (see: Ty Isaac).
Ceiling: High-minus. Pure long speed seemingly the only issue, and while that's a big one there are a lot of excellent qualities Smith brings.
General Excitement Level: High. I like him, a lot, especially in the tight spaces Michigan will give him to work in.
Projection: Everyone expects a redshirt and one really makes sense here with Fitz a senior, good depth, Green in the same class, and Michigan apparently content to swing for the Fournette fences in this recruiting class. I bet he's at worst the third-most talented back on the roster right now, but Michigan can get away with an older guy picking up those snaps.
After a redshirt year (or frustrating non-redshirt year with spare playing time), Smith should emerge into Derrick Green's backup or platoon-mate, depending on how good Smith and Green actually are. I wouldn't be surprised if he got 30% of the carries as a redshirt freshman unless Green is unbelievable. Smith should split carries with Green for the next two or three years before emerging into the starter as a junior or senior, whereupon Damien Harris will play platoon-mate/backup.
"First one of the year, huh? Here we go."
Here we go.
"Well it seems like we've been practicing for two months already and we've only had three. I don't know if that's a sign of old age or just the intensity of how we're going, but it's really good to be out here. It's good to be practicing again."
There hasn't been a whole lot of yelling. It's a lot more instructing. Do the kids seem to be on message?
"Well our style of coaching is teaching. And I think if you compare our staff -- I don't think a lot of times you have to do a lot of yelling. This team that we have right now is trying to do it right in every way. When a team's trying to do that, whether they're really young or making mistakes because they're young, as long as they're showing the effort that they are, there's really no reason to yell at them. You just have to correct them. When you have a young team, you have to be a great teacher. That's what our staff is really working hard to do."
So the effort is there?
"Yes. I've been really pleased. Now we don't have pads on yet obviously, and a lot of times what happens with programs, when pads come on, sometimes some programs slow down. I don't think that's going to happen with this team. This team seems to really really embrace and has bought into 'we must play as hard as we can on every play, and we have to get 11 bodies to the football.' When you watch practice with not pads on, we're getting 11 bodies to the football. We're getting really really good effort, so that's been positive."
<No pads. Nothing to see after the jump.>
"Is that salmon?"
"Canteloupe? We use that as an audible color. How you guys doing?"
"It's been a while. Can't tell you how much I've missed you. You guys kind of sensed a hint of sarcasm, didn't you? Heiko! I made you a hero. Unbelievable."
Thoughts on Devin's maturity?
"Yeah, he's doing a nice job. When you know that you've done it so long -- he's always been a pretty confident kid anyway, but now that he has a chance to kind of be the guy, I think he's taken the next step."
What's it like having two experienced tackles?
"Yeah, you know, when Taylor said he was coming back, that was a great, great day for Michigan and for our offense because breaking in a new left tackle is never fun. I don't care what level it is. But Mike Schofield, who doesn't get talked about as much but is really a good athlete. He can move. He was a hurdler in high school. He's got a lot of talent. Mike's played a lot. He's played guard, he's played tackle. I think he's kind of fit into a comfort zone a little bit with tackle, not to where he's complacent, but he's comfortable in the position now. He kind of had to relearn the position a little bit. He's been in the offense. He's been pretty consistent the first couple days and in the spring."
<Falsehoods galore after the jump>
UPDATE: NOW WITH 100% MORE BRANDON BROWN ANSWERS
It's that freshman you've all be waiting for. Michigan's new 5-star back was the highlight of this week's padless practice video. There are plenty more exciting carries to come, but just how many this year, and what's the expectation for sharing with the current starter? We try to tackle that. The backfield:
- Brian "Mike Hart except tall and hairy and into emo" Cook
- Seth "Anthony Thomas except more like a high-speed monorail" Fisher
- Ace "Tim Biakabutuka except better against Ohio State" Anbender
- Heiko "Dennis Norfleet except more Norfleet" Yang
- Blue "Brandon Minor in an alternate universe where he was forced to kick his way out of Charlie Weis's stomach" in South Bend
- Math- "Tom Harmon except more perspicacious" –lete , and introducing:
- Brandon "Like Jamie Morris if interviewed the linebackers as he ran by them" Brown
And the question:
Let's all make stupid predictions about running back carries this year. How many are there to go around? How many go to Toussaint, Green, guys down the batting order? Base expectations for YPC? Anybody cracking 1,000 yards this year? How about 10 TDs?
Seth: I believe Toussaint and the coaches that the senior RB who's proven he can torch defenses when given a reasonable amount of blocking will get the majority of carries this season. If I put us on a crappy graph (how do I make non-crappy graphs?) I'd be near the bullish Toussaint extreme and bearish on Green's yardage totals:
|Safe Prediction: Brian's YMRMFSPA for
Deveon Smith will be Brandon Minor
|2013 Seth's prediction:|
If the Green prediction in the above sound familiar you've been getting into the Chris Perry's freshman stats again. That year A-Train had a ludicrous 319 carries for 1733 yards and 18 TDs and Perry came on in the second half of the season as Thomas's No. 2 guy. They both got 5.4 YPC behind the best offensive line of my lifetime. No, this line won't be anywhere near that good; at best they're the 2000 line in 1997. That'll mean less to the No. 2 guy who gets the benefit of a softened defense and more trash time.
Regardless I'm going for a yard per carry better than last year thanks in part to more forgiving defenses, and a lot more attempts as QB carries (218 for 1455 yards with sacks removed last year) are halved in the world after Denard. When it's done Toussaint will emerge with a small majority of RB carries as he did last year, and increase his YPC to something under 5 but not that much.
I think Green will get more carries as the year progresses and he's worked into more two-back sets. In fact given the tight ends are still a developing thing, and Green's already 240 with reportedly advanced blocking techniques, and the fullbacks aren't anything special, why not make two-RB sets a regular feature in the Great Borgesian formation extravaganza? I was predicting something like that before Stephen Hopkins decided to
transfer [edit: give up football] and it didn't look so bad when it happened. I digress.
Green will severely eat into Rawls's opportunities, and unless they plan to redshirt Deveon Smith, last year's No. 2 back will have a tough battle to repeat half of last year's 57 carries. I'm of the mind that running backs don't change all that much (compared to other positions) over years in the program, and that Rawls won't suddenly develop the vision he didn't have last year. He remains what he is: Kevin Grady 2.0, albeit minus two stars of hype and any whiff of misbehavior. Having seen what we have in him, I'd like to see Smith pass him, since that would say nice things about Smith and set Michigan up nicely for the future.
I expect Justice Hayes will move into that 3rd down back role evacuated by Vincent Smith's graduation, and act as designated recipient of those fun throwback screens Borges loves. Obligatory Drake Johnson is on the roster note goes here. Maybe one of you guys know different but exactly zero hype on him from this spring made it my ears to corroborate the pre-bowl practice murmurs. Until I hear otherwise I'm figuring him for a non-factor.
Brian: Dennis Norfleet 500 carries for 5000 yards.
[After the jump: RB opinions from people like bloggers except more interesting]
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton,DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch, OL Chris Fox, OL Dan Samuelson, TE Jake Butt, TE Khalid Hill, HB Wyatt Shallman, WR Da'Mario Jones, WR Csont'e York, WR Jaron Dukes, RB Derrick Green.
My editor ate DeVeon Smith, so this is out of order. No need for panic.
|Warren, MI – 6'3, 200|
|Scout||5*, #40 overall
#3 QB, #1 MI
|Rivals||4*, #81 overall
#4 pro-style QB, #2 MI
|ESPN||4*, #127 overall
#8 pocket passer, #3 MI
|24/7||4*, #81 overall
#4 pro-style QB, #2 MI
|Other Suitors||Alabama, MSU, Syracuse|
|YMRMFSPA||Shorter, nicer Ryan Mallett or A Better Son/Daughter: Quarterback Edition|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post is like over two years ago. Ace scouts De La Salle against Pioneer. Presented without comment. Ace interviews him.|
|Notes||Under Armour AA.|
Single game highlights from Stephen Nesbitt in Morris's senior opener:
Morris is kind of the reason these posts exist. When he committed over two years ago he hadn't been rated by any recruiting service, and while Ace has diligently tracked his progress in post after post (MGoBlog has 14 pages of posts tagged "shane morris"), nowhere do we have a unified dossier of what kind of player he might be. This endeavors to be it.
When not acting as Michigan's de facto recruiting coordinator or posing for ridiculous student ID photos, Morris moonlights as a tall left-handed QB with a monster arm and accuracy issues. These issues were compounded by a senior-year bout of mono that caused him to miss a large portion of his senior year. His junior year was unimpressive statistically on a poor De La Salle team, reputedly because he got no protection and no one on his team could catch.
So his lofty rankings were a result of camp after camp, as Morris seemingly took in every 7-on-7 on offer with the travelling MaxEx team you may be familiar with as the summer home of Dennis Norfleet, Csont'e York, and Khalid Hill. A scouting sampler from those outings:
247 at the Ohio E11 regional camp: "Morris is at seemingly every event he can get to, eager to prove himself. On Friday he did just. He can put loads of velocity on the ball without digging deep, he showed great accuracy throughout the day and he has a smooth and natural composure in the pocket."
Scout at IMG/Madden: "He is the prototypical gunslinger. He has a quick delivery and a strong arm. He doesn't need to set his feet to generate velocity on his throws and can whip the ball from several arm angles. Like most gunslingers, Morris isn't afraid to take chances with the ball. Most of the time that works to his advantage, but at times he takes unnecessary chances throwing into traffic."
Rivals at an NLA event in Pittsburgh when it was really coming down: "Morris continued to throw darts despite the slick conditions. He was not throwing 100 miles per hour on every pass as he will do in camp settings, but he would let one rip if he needed to fit it into a tight window. For most of the day he varied his speed and trajectory appropriately and threw a number of great passes."
247 at SMSB: "Morris dropped jaws with his impeccable footwork and ultra-quick release. Morris is so smooth and sound in his mechanics and can effortlessly fire the ball down field with just a quick flick of his wrist. Morris has also bulked up to over 200 pounds of solid muscle."
Rivals at SMSB: "clearly stood out as the top player at his position. The Rivals100 prospect is really in control of his game right now, and his passes are coming out of his hand beautifully with velocity and accuracy. He was told by Michigan quarterbacks coach Al Borges, who was working the event, to throttle it back some on day one, but overall Morris varied his speeds well during the event."
Ace: "The first thing that stands out about Morris is his arm strength—the ball explodes out of his hand with seemingly little effort. When he's on, it's a sight to behold. The problem—and ultimately why he dropped in the rankings—is that he's yet to show consistency; he still needs work reading defenses and relies too heavily on his arm strength to fit the ball into windows that sometimes aren't there."
In literally every superlatives article I have come across, Morris is the guy designated "Strongest Arm" or "Howitzer" or "Hosiest Hose For Hosing" or "Most Likely To Bomb Berlin With Only His Arm," usually with an accompanying note stating "this was an easy choice." Sometimes they tell you that he can throw harder than everybody ever, like this eval from the Elite 11:
There shouldn't be much question of who has the strongest arm any more. Including the college players acting as counselors, the strongest arm at the Elite 11 Finals belongs to Morris. When push comes to shove, Morris has a laser-like focus on the left side of the field. That's a habit he'll need to outgrow.
This is the upside. Morris has a huge arm and a ton of great tools for a quarterback. ESPN's evaluation loves every part of him save one, which we'll get to later. I'll skip the stuff about the arm strength and just note the QB stuff:
He possesses terrific feet, pocket movement, awareness and can buy time with good overall athleticism for the position. … He works through progressions nicely, can check down and work from the first option to the next. … He rarely takes his eyes down within the pocket and scans the field under pressure and will plant and throw in face of the rush. He side-steps and resets with balance and is ready to get the ball out even under duress…. He shows a consistent and quick stroke over-the-top, which is tough to find with lefties, and can beat the rush with his release consistently. He shows good ability changing ball speeds and displays touch and timing on fade and corner routes. That may be best trait Morris possesses.
Well, the downside is that most evaluations come with a caution about consistency. ESPN flat-out states that Morris's completion percentage is "nowhere near where it should be given his tools and this is an area in need of significant improvement." Scout's eval is another example:
Scout.com Player Evaluation:
Arm Strength / Pocket Awareness / Poise and Leadership
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Accuracy / Consistency / Decision-making
A better than advertised athlete who does a good job of escaping the rush and can make plays with his feet and throw on the run. … Downfield passes do not hang up and he has great placement on his deep balls. Great leader with a lot of intangibles. Sometimes trusts his arm and throws into traffic. - Allen Trieu
Morris had an up-and-down day, but when he hit his stride he made some incredible throws. He regularly displayed his ability to go vertical and make the big throw down the field. He also made some excellent throws underneath and into tight windows. He has a cannon for an arm and showed the ability to thread the needle at times. He battled some inconsistency and his accuracy was on and off, but still had numerous flashes of why he was so sought after.
Morris is a bit of a slow starter. A lot of evaluations say "started rough, but then warmed up," whether it's on day two of an event or just later in a competition day.
He had a stronger, more consistent day on Sunday than he did on Saturday. He has great arm strength and throws a tight spiral to all levels. He showed the ability to utilize touch and lay balls over the defense in the middle of the field. It was evident that Morris was missing some upper-tier wide receivers at the event as he was let down at times by the inability of his receivers to win well-placed balls.
…That tendency can be seen in that Pioneer game above: Morris tosses an ugly interception on his first throw of the season, misses a few guys, has another couple passes broken up, and then heats up even though his receivers generally do their best impression of Michigan State 2012.
Morris's evident upside was enough for the sites to rank him highly out of the gate, and after he was excellent at the Opening—which came right on the heels of the 7 on 7 just mentioned in which he had a he had a poor first day before leading his team to the Championship Game—he was proclaimed a five star by most sites. Then he went to the Elite 11.
On the Elite Eleven. The once-prestigious quarterback camp has descended into reality-TV farce. Now crammed full with 25 prospects—most local camps will have half of that and give a large number of reps to the few true D-I prospects—the competition consists of around eight throws per day, frustrating scouts in attendance:
With trips to the beach for a Navy-Seal style bootcamp workout at 4 A.M. and chalk talk sessions behind closed doors, the final television product for ESPN should look spectacular when it airs in early August, but the on-field action was limited. … Ranking players off of 30 throws at a shorts and t-shirt event after having seen these players for over a year is for entertainment purposes only. Don't expect players to jump up in down in the actual Scout rankings after 30 throws.
You can see the inconsistency in the rankings: Scout named Morris the #1 guy there ("capable of making throws that only a few in his class can hope to match"), Rivals said he was #4 ("at the top because of his high ceiling"), as did 247 ("could at times approach the college counselors in terms of driving the ball down the field"), but the camp coaches left him off the "Elite 11" list that is the only semblance of the old camp.
I don't care. Both Scout and Rivals ranked all 25 QBs, placing the #1 and #2 "Elite 11" guys in their bottom five. One of those guys ended up at Fresno State and had one other offer from Mississippi State; the other is headed to Nebraska to be Taylor Martinez 2.0. People call him "Johnny Tebow" because he is a horse who can't throw. Those rankings are so intentionally bad that they may as well not exist. End Dilferrant.
Wait, more Dilferrant! AND we're talking about eight throws a day for a guy who clearly takes a little time to get in a rhythm anyway.
Anyway. Camp season wound down, Morris had a pretty damn good opening game against Pioneer. Ace:
The rough start for Morris stemmed from a combination of rushing his throws and trying to force the action too much…. throws either led receivers right into big hits or were overly ambitious tosses into small windows. …
Then Morris started to roll, reminding everyone why he was so highly touted in the first place. He showed improved touch on short and intermediate routes, as well as the ability to make an accurate throw across his body (see 3:10 mark above). He also toned down the happy feet; at 4:06, he steps up and makes an impressive throw while facing heavy pressure.
A big criticism of Morris last year focused on his often laser-like focus on the left side of the field; he'd stare down his top read and often force it there even if covered. While the pass fell incomplete, you can see the strides he's made in that regard at the 4:33 mark, as he looks off the coverage to the right, then moves on to his second read down the left sideline. That's a big advancement from last year and proof that Morris is picking up a lot from his myriad camp appearances.
And then he slowly unraveled with mono. When he came back it was not under ideal conditions. Tim Sullivan:
There was only one bad throw by Morris on which he was not being buried under pressure - the second interception. He unleashed the arm strength on that one, hoping velocity would make up for throwing it into coverage. On other throws, he was either crushed by a defensive lineman, a pass was straight-up dropped, or it was close enough that there's nothing to worry about.
He warmed up a little after those events, but by the an already-shaky De La Salle team had lost all hope of the playoffs and the season just kind of sputtered out.
Recruiting sites generally held Morris steady through his mono, but when he showed at the UA game his extremely erratic throwing (he was two of ten in the game) forced large moves down on most sites. Rivals mentioned he "did not look like himself" early. In 247's final update, Morris dropped from #19 to #81:
[Morris] continues to struggle with the accuracy aspect of being a passer, and this was especially evident the week of the Under Armour All-America game. With that being said, Morris still has plenty of potential and will likely start making gains in the accuracy department as he works to get more compact in his motion.
Morris took a similar plunge on Rivals for similar reasons:
It was a tough week for the five-star quarterback who never found his rhythm. Morris is coming off an upper respiratory illness that caused him to miss most of his senior season. His rust showed during practice and during the game. … No one can discount his arm strength, but he needs to become more consistent on his progressions and taking what the defense gives him.
ESPN had already started the process of moving Morris down when he got sick and went farther than any other site by the end of the year, likely influenced by the Elite 11 guys.
Given Morris's tendency to start slow, this is not a surprise, nor will it be when you hear practice reports saying he's struggling early. Morris needs time to get revved up, and time to fix the mechanical regression he experienced due to his mono layoff. If Michigan has to turn to him this year, only bad things will happen; given a year or two—please be two—he has the potential to be anything he wants to be other than Denard Robinson.
Why Shorter, Nicer Ryan Mallett? Mallett was the hosingest hoser of them all as a five star out of Texas, but immediately alienated the entire team and Lloyd Carr in his single year at Michigan. After his transfer to Arkansas he displayed his talent for fitting balls into windows so tight they barely existed, throwing NFL lasers off his back foot, wearing backwards baseball caps, throwing arrogant interceptions, and occasionally lasering a five-yard pass into an incompletion. The end result was very Mallett: his completion percentage rose from 43% to 56% to 65% over three years in college and his YPA hit nearly 10 as a senior.
Morris is basically the same guy without the attitude and three inches of height. His challenges will be the same: throwing accurately, taking heat off the ball when he has to, and not thinking "I can make it!" when he patently cannot, at least not too often.
Why A Better Son/Daughter, Quarterback Edition? Sometimes when you're on, man.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. All the camps, but limited high school data and the great mono question about whether everyone is overreacting to a bad UA game that may be easily explainable.
Variance: High. Limited high school success and time, consistent questions about consistency, and that drop mean Morris has a high bust factor. On the other hand…
Ceiling: High. Guy could obviously be a top-level NFL prospect.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. I believe Morris will round into a good player, but it's easy to see him being a pretty frustrating starter who whips in too many amazing interceptions. Variance is large. Borges's QB coaching skills will be under the spotlight here.
Projection: Redshirt all but impossible given the depth chart and the nonzero (even if slim) chance Gardner is out the door after one year as the starter. Will be the #2 this year, hopefully given over to backup duty only.
If Gardner goes, he's pretty much the starter by default with only Bellomy and a true freshman Wilton Speight for competition. If Gardner stays, Speight will be on a much more level playing field and that competition will have some doubt in it, plus there is a strong likelihood Michigan brings in a hotshot 2015 guy who would like to play Henne in a three-way artillery piece battle.