Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford.
|Indianapolis, IN – 5'11", 186|
|Scout||4*, #190 overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#32 ATH, #7 INL
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#69 RB, #8 IN
|24/7||4*, #305 overall
#7 APB, #4 IN
|Other Suitors||OSU, MSU, Indiana, Purdue|
|YMRMFSPA||Dennis Norfleet or
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Future Blue Originals vs Brandon Peters.|
Ace and Dave got single-game film from that FBO:
Chris Evans is one of the most unpredictable recruits in Michigan's class. One site likes him a lot, another likes him just fine, and a couple are meh. He listed at three different spots by those sites and could be any of four different things in Ann Arbor:
"[I’ll play] either defensive back, slot, running back."
At Ben Davis, Evans was a heavily utilized all-purpose offensive threat who rushed for over 2300 yards and caught 91 passes for over 1000 yards in his final two years, one of which ended in a state championship. His highlights see him line up in the backfield, in the slot, and on the outside. Meanwhile his seven-on-seven team used him as a defensive back frequently:
…definitely looked the most natural playing cornerback … started his day by making a big interception down the field and then came back with several pass break-ups. …outstanding top-end speed
entered camp wanting to work on his DB skills and did just that. … improved the most out of every position, playing both CB and FS. His vision of the field continued to get better as he intercepted a great deal of passes during 7v7.
Pick an outcome, any outcome. Yes, that is a reasonable outcome.
While a lot about Evans remains uncertain, one thing that's not is his speed. A 4.4-ish 40 at the Army Combine just after his junior year is legit. Last March Steve Wiltfong noted that Evans has run a "4.4 hand-held every time" he lays down a 40 yard dash. At Best of the Midwest he ran a 4.37 40, and while that's solidly in the realm of combine fiction Evans's track career was impressive. Tracking Football places him in the 87th percentile of RBs based on his lycra exploits, which include a state championship in the 100 meter relay and a narrow defeat in the regular 100 meter state finals. And caveat-ridden, "quicker than fast"-deploying ESPN finally admits a person can run good:
…versatile athlete. … catches the ball without effort. …speed is better than anyone else on the field. … Displays a feel for finding an opening and then accelerating through it. He is slow to the hole and then displays a burst to slide through it. … Exhibits good feet and an ability to avoid direct hits. Can slide laterally and avoid a shot.
When Ace checked out the Avon-Ben Davis game featuring Evans and Brandon Peters last fall, Evans was largely bottled up until a 52-yard screen touchdown that is the last play on the FBO video above, but he did demonstrate that speed:
We got an early glimpse at how fast Evans is when his teammate returned a kickoff to the house (0:30 mark) and Evans, who lined up as the other return man, went from nearly a dead stop ten yards behind the play to a dead sprint, getting out in front to wall off the final defender who could've made a tackle.
…excellent downfield speed and is a long strider. …excellent explosive quickness coming out of his breaks. …. mismatch on third down coming out of the backfield matched up against a linebacker. … Nice agility and plus balance. Feet keep moving in tight spaces.
Evans can go. Full stop, no caveat, Chris Evans is going to be one of the fastest players in the Big Ten as soon as this fall.
Evans isn't just fast in a straight line, with many evaluations focusing on his fluidity and change of direction.
Chris Evans is elusive!! Best rep in this drill so far: pic.twitter.com/2XJao1xvGc
— Allen Trieu (@AllenTrieu) May 31, 2015
ESPN praises him as a "smooth, balanced, athletic player." He showed at Michigan's Indianapolis satellite camp last year and wowed onlookers. Wiltfong:
Evans has speed … but it’s how fluid he is that impresses. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound Evans is so smooth changing direction. … a cut above the rest [in] running back agility drills and in 1-on-1s it was easy for him to abuse the linebackers on the field. He’s sure-handed.
Scout compared him to five-star OSU commit Demario McCall (who you will not like very much over the next few years) because they were similar dudes:
…elusive and fluid …juked some guys out of their socks and as usual, caught the football well.
Excellent hands and pass-catching ability. Very comfortable running routes. A smooth kid who glides through traffic. Has good, maybe not elite speed and can make cuts and moves while going full speed. He's elusive and does a great job of finding running lanes.
Wiltfong again, at another camp:
… from the moment drills started he was on another level, showcasing the speed, balance and agility that will eventually make him a sought-after prospect. … Evans could not be checked during the competition portion, as there wasn’t a running back or corner that could match up athletically.
Evans showed his quickness, fluidity and pass catching skills at the Core 6 Showcase yesterday.
Those pass catching skills pop up a lot. Evans isn't a running back who has to move to receiver in college because he's small. He's already advanced in that department.
… can catch the ball, and not just the easy ones, and has good quickness and route running skills as well.
…runs routes and catches the football with his hands like a wide receiver.
…seemed to make a catch on every other play. A one-handed grab while staying in bounds on a downfield pass was perhaps the play of the day.
Evans is a guy with nearly 400 rushes who also keeps pace with many D-I high school wide receivers downfield. He'd be brutal to defend in a spread offense. He came to Michigan.
I think Evans ends up playing safety in Ann Arbor. This goes against the grain. While many people mention his potential at DB nobody outright projects him there; ESPN evaluates as a running back and the other sites keep bringing up his hands and routes. This isn't limited to analysts. In early January, Steve Lorenz relayed some information from the staff:
Michigan coaches were happy to hear that Chris Evans will not take any more official visits as they view him as a potential playmaker on the offensive side of the ball. … From what we're told, he could see carries directly out of the backfield or get touches at the slot wide receiver position.
There have been a few major changes since then. NJ WR Brad Hawkins—a player many were projecting to safety—looks unlikely to make it to campus. NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell, another potential safety, nearly transferred. And Don Brown replaced DJ Durkin at defensive coordinator.
The current situation:
- Michigan has an ungodly pile of tight ends to suck up skill position snaps.
- They bring back sophomore Grant Perry and brought in 1-3 other players who can play in the slot.
- The safety depth chart yawns like a crevasse.
- David Long and Lavert Hill exist.
- Michigan's new defensive coordinator built the nation's best defense with two converted corners with great range at safety.
Evans has the best chance to be an impact guy at safety. Even if he's the best slot, he's probably the best slot by an inch. He might be the best safety option by a mile. Brown runs a lot of cover two and blitzes a ton; he needs guys who can eat up ground and prevent his aggressive ways from resulting in quick touchdowns. Evans promises to be that kind of guy… eventually.
There are some external indicators that Evans is best suited for the defensive backfield. His camp performances indicated potential:
…began his day playing cornerback where he was able to keep in check the best receivers at the camp with his lateral quickness and ability to turn and run.
Ohio State's late offer was sincere and a tad insulting, as late offers always are; it was as a defensive back. When Evans committed he said Michigan wanted him in the slot or at DB and that he had a preference:
"I want to play defensive back. I think that's the best spot for my future."
Soon after that preference was replaced with the usual "I'll play anywhere" quote, but I think that's illuminating all the same. A few months later he mentioned that Michigan was talking to him about corner and slot, but mostly they just wanted him because he was very fast.
Evans can probably get to a weight where he won't be a liability as a tackler. He's already put on around about 20 pounds…
As a sophomore, Evans weighed just 167 pounds. … “My sophomore year (Lawrence Central’s) Darrin Kirkland hit me and I felt like I’d go back 10 feet,” he said. “This year when we encountered, I didn’t feel like a toy getting thrown around.”
…to get to 185 or 190 depending on who you listen to; Wiltfong believes he can "easily add 20 pounds and be just as dynamic." When Tim Sullivan caught him in person he was impressed with his lower half:
…isn't very big but he's extremely well put together and chiseled. His lower body is very thick and allows him to be quick, fast, sudden, and also quite powerful.
And he seems to have the mental wherewithal that is a main asset for the last line of defense:
"I think I'm a good student of the game so I know where things are supposed to hit and what happens when this happens. I'm a student of the game and I work hard at it and my vision helps me on the field."
See also the upcoming "nah" quote about that OSU offer. He can hack safety, probably, and Michigan needs those. But if you told me he was anything else I'd believe you, too.
Etc: I submit to you the greatest quote in the history of rejecting late recruiting offers:
“It's like there's two girls and one girl is Beyonce, which is Ohio State. I’m like, dang, I want Beyonce because she looks good and has everything, so I want her. However, she is like 'nah' and I’m going to hold back. I don’t know if I want to go out with you right now. I’m like alright cool, then I will just hold back and do whatever I can and just chill. Then Halle Berry comes in and is like, hey Chris, what’s up and I like you. I’m like okay cool, so I am going to go with Halle Berry and have been going out with her since June. However, Beyonce pops back up and is like, hey babe, what’s up and remember me? We can go out if you want to? I’m like I got Halle Berry and I’m happy with her. That is what I want. I tried to get with you, but you didn’t want it, so I chose otherwise. Now that you want to jump back in, I got nothing for you.”
"If you're going to write anything on me," says Evans, a star running back at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, "you've got to mention all of my offensive linemen, too, by name."
A quick, talented and rather humble young man, Evans knows his potentially bright football future might not be as shiny without the help of his five super-sized Ben Davis pals.
Jalil Brewer, Dylan Runyon, Pompey Coleman, Ahmad Malone and Quinton Tyler.
"That's the best O-line in the state," Evans says with pride.
Was considered a "heavy Michigan State lean" on March 23rd, visited Ann Arbor a week later, and then it was all over but the shouting.
Why Dennis Norfleet or Dymonte Thomas? Norfleet was a very good high school running back with the ability to pop it between the tackles and juke in tight spaces. Michigan moved him to slot receiver, where he was little more than a predictable jet sweep threat, and eventually to cornerback. Evans is considerably bigger than the 5'8" Norfleet but they're ranked around the same place and Michigan hasn't had another spread H-back type guy recently. I have similar fears that if Evans ends up being that slot/RB hybrid guy he'll be similarly lost. I have a hard time envisioning that as a major role under Harbaugh.
Thomas is a reasonable comparison if Evans ends up on defense. Thomas is taller, at 6'2", but even now he's listed on the roster at 195, a number Evans can hit as early as next year. Both dudes are super fast. Thomas was a high school running back first and foremost; he also played OLB. Evans shades more towards the corner side of the hybrid safety continuum, but as a terrific athlete with a lot of positional uncertainty and probable eventual destination as a cover-oriented safety Thomas is a kindred spirit, down to the length of time it'll take before he's ready to go.
Guru Reliability: Low. Big split, Indiana doesn't get a lot of focus, positional uncertainty, no All Star game.
Variance: High. For the same reasons listed above, more or less. Also my bet that he's a safety brings questions about tackling to the forefront.
Ceiling: High-minus. Evans's speed and intelligence could make him into a very good safety, but he's not 6'2" and also a bolt.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Very fast gentleman with a lot of question marks.
Projection: Redshirt. I expect his position will remain a question mark through most of fall camp and possibly through much of his freshman year; the guess here is that he ends up a DB by spring practice, either safety or corner. If so he'll be thrown into a melee as Michigan loses its top five defensive backs after the season.
He's not likely to win that melee at corner. He's not likely to beat out Tyree Kinnel at safety. That fourth spot, though, is wide open if Khaleke Hudson is indeed the Peppers heir apparent. If it's Evans that's almost certainly going to be painful in the short term. In year three and beyond I'd be pretty comfortable with Evans out there as a super fast safety who can turn and run when the opposition attempts to go over his head.
When Ace was scouting Kai-Leon Herbert, the offensive tackle prospect who announced his commitment to Michigan this week, we took note of the big disagreement in his rankings:
4*, #22 OT,
4*, #10 OT,
4*, 83, #15 OT,
3*, 86, #72 OT,
4*, #22 OT,
Some variation for a project recruit with big upside isn't that weird, but one site having him threatening the top 50 while another has him barely among the top 700 is some serious disparity. BiSB even wondered aloud if big disagreements like that portend anything for a guy. And well, I have a database. Let's see.
I'm going back to my STARs ratings, which are a composite of the four main recruiting sites' scoring systems/stars/rankings normalized to a sliding scale of five stars. I cut out specialists, then used only players for whom we have at least three rankings to go from, and ran a standard deviation.
So What Happens When They Agree?
This wasn't very useful because most of the guys with high agreement were very well scouted (duh) and a few were like the toppomost of the tippytop. There were 12 guys who sparked almost total agreement (ordered by rating):
Teric Jones, Christian Pace, and Chris Fox lost their careers to injury, but after that only Marcus Witherspoon (for off-field reasons) didn't end up a regular starter, pending the careers of Bredeson (who may be the first tackle in this year) and Rashan Gary (who may be the greatest tackle in years).
So What Happens If They Disagree?
Here's the 15 biggest disparities. I've highlighted the biggest outliers.
*247 hasn't ranked Lasater yet
Big winners on there are Koger, Hemingway, and Huyge, though BWC turned out okay once Hoke got his hands on him. FWIW the one guy Scout and Rivals really disagreed on before ESPN entered the ring was Alex Mitchell. Meanwhile I had to go back to the blogspot page to find Brian's take on the huge disparity over Junior Hemingway:
So, yeah... those numbers above disagree fiercely. Hemingway is either in the top 10, 20, 30, or 40 receivers in the country, depending on who you listen to. Rivals went so far as to downgrade him to a three-star after season's end for reasons unknown (read: plain old provincialism on the part of that particular region's rankings guru). Meanwhile, ESPN is freakin' out over here. Scout and Creepy Tom Lemming split the difference.
Ironically he turned out exactly as advertised:
Leaving aside his exact proportions of shirtlessness for the moment, Hemingway is a leaper capable of ridiculous grabs. His overall athleticism has been questioned by those skeptical of his talent, but no one debates his body control, leaping ability, and hands.
The most noticeable thing other than how many of those guys didn't pan out was that ESPN was usually the oddball.
How Do the Sites Compare?
Was ESPN always so odd? They ranked Koger as a DE (Brian did posit at the time that a move to DE was likely, since Michigan had few), while Rivals and Scout had him the #4 or #6 tight end. But it came up enough I had to look at them versus the average to see if that was normal:
(click makes big)
Mathematically (by deviation of squares) they were by far the most likely to disagree with their peers:
If they were highly accurate that would be interesting, but as you see by the outliers, only one of the dudes they seemed super-way-excited about even started (though Metellus has time).
It was also interesting to see which players each site was most panting/skeptical about. I'll highlight if they got it right:
WHEN THE SITES ARE BEARISH:
|Nolan Ulizio (-0.5)||Jason Kates (-0.9)||John Ferrara (-1)||Austin White (-1.3)|
|Bryan Mone (-0.5)||Brandon Moore (-0.7)||Kevin Koger (-0.8)||Conelius Jones (-0.9)|
|Jr Hemingway (-0.5)||D.J. Williamson (-0.6)||Brandon Smith (-0.7)||Jake Butt (-0.5)|
|Chris Wormley (-0.5)||Davion Rogers (-0.6)||Will Campbell (-0.7)||Jourdan Lewis (-0.4)|
|Patrick Omameh (-0.4)||Reuben Jones (-0.5)||Rocko Khoury (-0.7)||Devin Asiasi (-0.4)|
Some of those guys it's too early to tell. But I might be a bit more leery of Rivals skepticism and hoping Reuben Jones proves Scout can be wrong.
Meanwhile in high expectations, here are the guys certain sites thought would outperform the consensus of their peers:
WHEN THE SITES ARE BULLISH:
|Jason Kates (+0.9)||Austin White (+0.9)||Jr Hemingway (+0.7)||Chris Wormley (+0.6)|
|Mark Huyge (+0.7)||P.Omameh (+0.6)||Isaiah Bell (+0.7)||Nate Johnson (+0.5)|
|John Ferrara (+0.6)||Josh Furman (+0.5)||Brandon Moore (+0.5)||Dennis Norfleet (+0.4)|
|Greg Mathews (+0.5)||Sam McGuffie (+0.5)||Q.Washington (+0.5)||Erik Magnuson (+0.4)|
|Conelius Jones (+0.5)||(tie* +0.5)||Conelius Jones (+0.5)||Mason Cole (+0.4)|
* Marrell Evans, Brandon Smith, Tom Strobel, De'Veon Smith, and John Ferrara.
Some of the guys I didn't highlight were fine but only insomuch as they met their recruiting expectations. At least Rivals knew before everyone else that Huyge was unkillable but otherwise woooooof. Meanwhile Scout got burned by some major athletes (Furman and McGuffie at least wound up starting elsewhere), but the only real diamond they pointed out was Omameh; the five-way tie varied from slightly too positive (D.Smith, Ferrara) to vastly overrating (Evans, Strobel, B.Smith).
Of course these are just small sample sizes—useful for gauging extreme outliers but little else. So I used scatter charts to see if there was a major difference in the aggregate, tracking all their recruiting ratings by deviation from the mean and their starts/eligible seasons. The best scouting site would have the most bubbles very high and to the right, and fewest bubbles high and to the left (guys they were skeptical about who got a lot of starts).
A few major outliers got cut out but a picture has emerged. When Scout says a guy is good you should probably pay attention. Rivals has a low batting average but will connect as often as they whiff. ESPN appears to lose track of guys who aren't ranked at the very top, so their outliers may be more cautionary than anything. 247 plays it mostly safe but once in awhile takes a calculated risk that usually pays off.
Or that they're huge Norfleet fans. One understands.
What does that mean for Herbert and the OL this year?
We haven't seen this kind of distribution before, honestly. These rankings could change so much before February however that I wouldn't put much stock in them anyway. The Herbert disagreement doesn't look so bad in the STARs. With nothing else to go on, I'd say keep an eye on 247's rating to see if that jumps after the Opening, and otherwise trust that Scout has him pegged.
Home/road imbalance be damned, Michigan-Notre Dame is back, and that is cause for raising your arms in triumph like you're Jim Harbaugh beating the Irish in 1985. Before the 2013 game, I put together a GIFs post of the best moments of the rivalry (from a Michigan perspective, at least), and today marks a great time to update and revisit it.
[For many more GIFs from Notre Dame games of the past, hit THE JUMP.]
The Michigan-Notre Dame football series will resume on Sept. 1, 2018, when the Irish host the Wolverines in the season opener before a Oct. 26, 2019, date at Michigan Stadium.
As the previous post notes I'm surprised that it's at ND in 2018, from the perspective of both teams. I'd rather have ND on the schedule than Arkansas no matter which team gets a home date. Meanwhile having the ND game 2019 in the meat of the conference schedule is odd. Michigan has Penn State before that game and Maryland after.
The first person to reply to this post with "to hell with Notre Dame" or anything close to it will be banned. [Eric Upchurch]
The AP is now confirming that Michigan and Notre Dame will resume playing football against each other in the near future, as first reported by this dude:
Michigan-Notre Dame football series is set to resume in 2018, per source. Official announcement expected tomorrow around noon.
— Ryan Krasnoo (@RyanKras) July 7, 2016
Krasnoo says Michigan will eat a two million dollar buyout of "the Arkansas game", which I take to mean the entire 2018/2019 series since cancelling just the 2018 game at home seems super super unlikely.
The AP report says that the 2018 game will be played in South Bend, which would be crazy for Michigan and pretty odd for Notre Dame. Thanks to Good Ol' Dave Brandon even years going forward feature MSU/OSU on the road. Replacing a home game against an SEC team with another road game against a tough opponent doesn't make a ton of sense. Also thanks to the contract Brandon was blindsided with, ND got the final game before the series hiatus.
Meanwhile Notre Dame already has season-ticket tentpole games in 2018, when both Stanford and Florida State travel to South Bend. They've got USC at home in 2019; their second best home game is against Virginia Tech and third best is either Virginia or BC. It doesn't make sense for either program to have the series start in South Bend. We'll see, apparently soon.
Two more gentlemen are good. PFF extended its list of the top X players in the country by ten and hit on another two Wolverines. Taco Charlton:
- Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
The Wolverines’ defensive line is absolutely loaded for 2016. Taco Charlton provides them with pass rush production from either defensive end position. Charlton generated 41 total pressures on 213 snaps in 2015 and his 15.1 pass rushing productivity rating ranks No. 1 among all returning FBS 4-3 defensive ends.
I did not realize Charlton's snap count was that limited. I mean, I knew it was limited because of Wormley, but that count is barely more than a third of Wormley's snap count, half of Hurst's, and about 33% lower than Glasgow, who got knocked out for the year against Rutgers. If Charlton 1) gets a bunch more snaps, 2) gets even a little better, and 3) gets most of his snaps at the WDE spot that is the glory position for most 4-3 defenses, he's going to blow up.
Butt is one of the premier pass-catching tight ends in college football. Butt showed in 2015 that he could line up in the backfield, in the slot or in-line and still get open. Butt’s +10.1 receiving grade ranks No.1 among returning FBS tight ends.
You'll note the lack of mention of Butt's blocking prowess. IIRC he came out negatively for the year, albeit slightly. I don't expect that to improve much since adding much more weight to his frame will detract from his killer receiving ability.
Meanwhile PFF surveys the state of Big Ten quarterbacking:
- C.J. Beathard, Iowa
C.J. Beathard is the only returning Big Ten signal-caller with a positive passing grade from last season.
Woooooooooof. Wes Lunt and Mitch Leidner are #4 and #5 on this list. Michigan's quarterback situation is already better than the vast majority of the league simply by virtue of having Jim Harbaugh.
It does look like Charlton will flip back to the weakside. Baumgardner profiles Charlton and gets some interesting quotes about this year's defense versus last year's:
"Last year we played in the 3-4 and (I was at a) tackle-type position. Now I'm back outside in a 4-3 defense doing what I'm more comfortable doing. Now I can get back to rushing that passer on the outside and using my speed a little bit more."
That doesn't fit with what my conception of a 3-4 is but whatever. Here Charlton seems to confirm the Sam Webb report that Michigan's starting DL is likely to read Gary/Glasgow/Wormley/Charlton from strongside end to weak; Charlton spent the spring at SDE with Chase Winovich trying to display his qualities on the weakside.
More defensive line praise. Bruce Feldman kicks off a list of the country's top DLs and leads it off with Michigan. Ryan Glasgow comes in for some praise, described as "pretty salty" by a Big Ten OL coach, and the addition of Don Brown veritably looms:
"What he does from a schematic standpoint because he's so outside the box with the way that he packages his pressures where they're bringing five, six every snap trying to get ready for all that stuff in one week's time is a bitch," one veteran offensive line coach said. "The scheme will definitely help their production."
OSU comes in tenth despite some questions at DT; MSU is an honorable mention largely because of Malik McDowell.
This bad thing is actually a good thing probably, but the good thing is a bad thing maybe. ESPN evaluates reasons Michigan will make the playoff, and I'm a little dubious about where a couple of them are classified. Michigan's schedule is not particularly hard:
Easier path to the playoff: Based on FPI, Michigan has the second-easiest schedule of any Power-5 team. (Oklahoma has the easiest.) The Wolverines will leave the state only once prior to Nov. 6, and that’s to take on Rutgers in New Jersey. Their three non-conference opponents -- Hawaii, UCF, Colorado -- went a combined 7-31 last season. That’s not to say the schedule is without challenges, but those challenges appear to be the exception. That’s why Michigan is expected to have some of the most blowout wins in the country based on ESPN analytics.
This is judged a good thing, and it is for Michigan's chances of getting through the season undefeated. It's not a good thing once the hairs start to get split amongst one-loss teams. It's not hard to see one-loss teams from virtually every other conference jumping Michigan in the queue if M is 12-1.
Meanwhile this bad thing is not necessarily a bad thing:
Wrong side of the turnover battle: Last season, only Notre Dame fared worse than Michigan in the turnover battle while still pulling off double-digit wins. Neither team was very good in that department. On offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over 16 times -- but the defense forced just 12 turnovers. Michigan ranked No. 92 nationally in turnover differential (minus-4) and ranked No. 117 in turnovers gained. Defensive coordinator Don Brown is banking on a more aggressive unit to increase those numbers, but a new quarterback also has the potential to cancel out any defensive gain. At any rate, it’s rare for a playoff team to wind up on the wrong side of the turnover battle. That’s something Michigan needs to correct.
Michigan's lack of turnovers was freakish for a defense as proficient as the 2015 unit. Michigan only forced five fumbles all of last year, 123rd nationally, despite finishing well above average in sacks. (They recovered two.) Judging from PFF's take on Michigan's DL they were probably even better at getting pressures. QB pressure is the single most important factor in forcing turnovers. Sacked QBs fumble; pressured QBs throw passes where they shouldn't. Michigan should be quite good at getting to the QB again, and should do much better in TOs acquired.
Going from DJ Durkin to Don Brown is promising as well. Durkin was content throwing an absolute buttload of man coverage at opponents. Brown will mix that up with various zones that have the potential to put people in places the QB does not expect them to go, and blitzes that promise to up the chaos factor even further.
This is so dumb but it might help recruiting. Every year there is a new batch of articles featuring NFL coaches complaining about spread offenses. SI has one as part of a series on developing quarterbacks. Its lead example? Marcus Mariota:
…in the months leading up to the draft, Mariota faced questions over his viability as a pro passer. The main gripe—from the perspective of TV analyst X, anonymous scout Y and a parade of others weighing in on that year's collection of quarterbacks—was that Mariota may have difficulty transitioning to the NFL because of his history playing in Oregon's spread offense as opposed to a pro-style attack. The criticism didn't just obscure Mariota's illustrious college track record, but the top-line speed and improvisational playmaking that made him such a highly regarded prospect.
All of it must have felt like a wake-up call for the growing number of college coaches who hope to attract elite high school quarterbacks to run their spread offenses.
Mariota evaporates from the article at this point, which is a shame because the skepticism directed his way was a perfect example of how overblown this chatter is. Mariota completed 62% of his passes for 7.6 YPA as a rookie. His QBR was 61, indicating he was an above-average NFL QB as a rookie coming out of a the most spread system in the land.
A lot of quarterbacks bust for a lot of reasons. NFL people say it's college's fault because their jobs are at stake, but there's little relation to reality there. Even so their complaining helps places like Michigan, Stanford, and Georgia:
Clemson co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Jeff Scott, who helped lead the Tigers to the national title game last season, says he has heard a similar line trotted out. "Just guys that say, 'You don't want to go play in that offense because it's a spread, gimmick offense, and it's not going to prepare you for the NFL.'"
There are increasingly few programs that can sell NFL-shaped QBs that they are the best place for them. Michigan is one of them. They're already two thirds of the way through a QB recruiting triptych matched only once in the star era of recruiting. Michigan pulled in Clayton Richard, Matt Gutierrez, and Chad Henne back to back to back in the early aughts. If Michigan grabs one of the guys they're in on early in the 2018 class they'll match that, and then they'll probably continue going. Lloyd Carr did not: his next two QBs after those three were Jason Forcier and David Cone.