Orchard Lake St. Mary's linebacker Josh Ross followed in his brother James' footsteps when he announced his commitment to Michigan yesterday morning. The younger Ross showed strong interest in the Wolverines since he emerged as a freshman starter at OLSM; such strong interest, in fact, that according to Steve Lorenz other coaches saw his commitment as a foregone conclusion:
Well over two seasons ago, a coach on another staff offered Ross. When I asked them about their belief in their chances, the answer was pretty simple.
"He's going to Michigan," they said. "We just really like him and his family, so we offered so I could keep in contact with them."
With Ross, it was never really a matter of who he was going to choose, it was when.
In spite of this, Ross put together one of the more impressive offer sheets in the Midwest. He's Michigan's sixth commit in the 2017 class, the first at linebacker, and the third from in-state, joining Oak Park OT JaRaymond Hall and Brother Rice TE Carter Dunaway.
4*, #10 ILB,
4*, #9 OLB,
4*, 81, #11 OLB,
4*, 92, #6 ILB,
4*, #7 ILB,
While the four sites are split as to whether Ross is an inside or outside linebacker, they're generally in concordance on his ability—all have him in the 150-250 range overall. Ross is a good prospect who's not quite in the elite tier.
There's most disparity regarding his size. Rivals lists him at 6'0", 219 pounds; ESPN at 6'1", 220; Scout and 247 at 6'2, 225.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the post.]
[Huge thanks to Steve Sharik for getting a lot of this for me]
He's got nickel down. Also Sam, Rover, Money, Jaguar, Tractor, Dog, Pup, Cat, Bandit, Greyhound, and Aardvark. Read on to find out which two of those are not actually Don Brown positions that Peppers will play. [Bryan Fuller]
We had some bona fide MGoDudes attend the coaching clinic and the open practice in Florida, and they've reported back with a wealth of information about the new Michigan defense.
Coach Steve Sharik is writing up a full feature on it for HTTV, and in the course of editing that we went through all of the standard (and some of the non-standard) positions and terminology. I thought that would be extremely valuable to those of us trying to parse the coachspeak all spring, and figure out exactly what position various Guys and Dudes and whatnot are playing.
This week I thought I'd tackle the 4-man fronts that Michigan will run as their base defense. Brown also has myriad 3-man fronts (whence Winovich) that I'll get into next week.
Here are the two basic 4-man, or as Brown calls 'em, "70" fronts: 71 and 72.
These two alignments we'll see most of the time on standard downs, with personnel changing based on what the offense has in there. If you didn't spot the difference between 71 and 72, it's how the nose and end are aligned. In the first the nose is over the center (a 1-technique) and the end is in a 5-technique off the weakside OT. In 72 those guys have shifted over some, putting the nose over the guard (2-technique) so the end can split out wider. The first is stronger against inside runs, the second gives the end an easier path to pass rush or play a zone read.
And here are the base positions:
Let's meet them.
[After the jump: What's an "A", what's the difference between a Sam, a Jaguar, and a Money, and what the hell is Peppers?]
So Jay, how’s your new house? I saw you bought a house on Twitter.
“Uh, I have no heat. Gas got shut off even though I tried to not have it shut off, so I haven’t slept there yet. No heat. It’s about 35 degrees in there. Not great.”
MGoQuestion: Are you guys still going to use the shield punt formation this year?
“We’re going to have a bunch of different things. Shield will be one of the things that we do. I think we’re going to be kind of hybrid—a little bit of everything.”
MGoFollowUp: What led to that decision?
“To basically change it up?”
MGoWe’reOnTheSamePage: To switch it up, yeah.
“I think when you look at what teams are doing nationally I think out of 120 teams probably 75 or so, maybe 65-75 that are some variation of hybrid, meaning they’re not really pro-style, they’re not really shield, they kind of go back and forth; it’s a little harder to identify. Those are the teams that generally have the most success, so probably go that route.”
We saw a lot of Wheatley working with Butt and that first group when we were in Florida. How has that evolved? Is he still among those fighting for that other spot?
“Yeah. I mean, we traveled six guys to all the games so there’s really no other spot to be won. There’s certain jobs to be won, maybe, in terms of, ‘Hey, you’re going to do this role on this play’ but I wouldn’t think of it like that in terms of ‘Hey, this guy’s fighting for that third tight end spot.’
“We want to put guys in positions to do things that they’re good at anyway, but he is doing well and he’s one of that group of guys that kind of rotates with the ones. There’s really four or five of them, though.”
With a guy like Jake, as good as he is and experienced, how much of a comfort is he for whoever emerges at quarterback to know that Jake’s probably going to be open and he’s probably going to catch the ball?
“I would imagine it’s pretty nice. I don’t know for sure but I’d imagine that’s a pretty great thing to have him and Amara and then eventually Jehu out there. That’s got to make you feel really good throwing the ball.”
Can Kenny [Allen] punt and kick field goals if needed?
“Certainly. Yeah, Kenny’s very good and he has a very good sense of how much he can handle physically and he’s not going to wear himself out, so he can certainly do it all.”
Doesn’t seem like an ideal situation though, is it?
“Mm, no. Ideally yeah, you’d have a different person for everything but the really ideal thing is to have the best guy at each spot. If he happens to be the best guy at each spot then we’re good with that, but there’s still a long ways to go. And those guys, that’s one position where you can really develop quite a bit in the offseason more so than some other spots where it’s more just strength and conditioning. Specialists can actually improve their craft more than some other spots, I think.”
Have you had a chance to do many returns yet, and are there any different guys mixing in than what we saw last fall?
“I wouldn’t say different expect for new guys like Kareem [Walker]. But Jehu and Jourdan Lewis, Jabrill, Dymonte [Thomas], Kareem. I mean, I think that group as a whole is really, really good. I’d be surprised if there’s a better group as a whole in the country. All those guys are pretty dangerous.”
You mentioned four or five other tight ends. Who’s in that group, and is it a little deeper than it was last year, would you say?
“Umm, it probably is. I mean, at one point or another this spring we’ve had Jake [Butt], Ian [Bunting], TJ [Wheatley], and Sean McKeon and Gentry with the ones obviously doing different things. I’d like to put everyone in a position to succeed. TJ can do things different than Gentry; just naturally they’re very different body types and they have different strengths and weaknesses at this point. But yeah, at one point or another each of those guys has been with the ones.”
[After THE JUMP: Jake Butt, best tight end in America; recruiting a dominant trait; why Gentry moved to TE; Ol’ Skillet Hands hype]
Donovan Peoples-Jones is ridiculous
Love the guy in the background who loses it:
— Chris Huff (@Performance80FS) March 21, 2016
Yes, that is Devin Gardner in the background, and he has some box jumping skill himself:
— Donovan P. Jones (@dpeoplesjones) March 22, 2016
No update on his recruitment but hanging out with Gardner can't hurt now that Al Borges is gone.
— Zach Shaw (@_ZachShaw) March 22, 2016
Michigan picked up commits from MI LB Josh Ross and 2018 OH LB Antwaun Johnson over the past couple days; Johnson's hello post was updated earlier today; Ross gets his turn tomorrow. Both are four-star types. Ross cited Don Brown's defense as a major attraction:
“Just based on what he showed me with that defense, it fits me perfectly. I just can’t pass the opportunity up. I just had to take it. He really blitzes his linebackers. I know last year there was a couple of plays where I got right through on blitzes, and I’m getting better and better at blitzing. That’s a lot of what he does and I can see myself in his system.”
Older brother James was born four years too early. Would have been a Don Brown dude for sure.
The potato door opens in 2018
Ross was always likely to follow his brother to Ann Arbor, but Johnson is an alpaca out of nowhere. His commit is a significant one for Michigan since Jim Harbaugh hadn't exactly emphasized a nearby state with a lot of talent (and Michigan's main rival) in it. Since Harbaugh's arrival only Nolan Ulizio, a late flier Michigan flipped from UConn, has fled the potato state for the friendly confines of Ann Arbor.
So. Johnson is not only a very good player in his own right but also a thorn in OSU's side. He is also the teammate of OH DE/DT Leonard Taylor, an early five-star in the 2018 class. Taylor visited along with Johnson and came back making positive noises:
"It was an A+ visit," he said. "Definitely an A+. It was really an eye-opening visit for me to see Michigan in person. It definitely had an at-home feeling to it. I didn't feel out of place there."
More significantly, he immediately scheduled a return trip for the Spring Game. Two visits in a month and a teammate committed should give Michigan a very real shot at landing Taylor. Lorenz has a "hunch" that Taylor pulls the trigger in the near future in Michigan's favor, which is… rather something, that.
every recruit gets their Peppers photo, including Jaelen Gill.
In addition to the Springfield duo, Michigan also hosted 247's early #1 in the state, OH RB Jaelen Gill. He returned from that visit downright effusive:
"Academics, the atmosphere, the campus life, and great football," he said of the Wolverines. "The people at Michigan are wonderful."
That's a really short article but there are a couple more very encouraging quotes in it all the same. Lorenz followed up with an Inside Michigan Recruiting in which he states the visit "couldn't have gone much better"… but that he's still guessing OSU. Even so the vibe is great, man.
Per a guy on Bucknuts, Gill is not a native Ohioan and is in fact from New Jersey originally. So… all of a sudden it's not too far fetched that Michigan gets three of the top five in the 2018 Ohio class. Harbaugh? Harbaugh.
AJ Harris may or may not be on commit watch
AL S AJ Harris also came up for a visit and was momentarily expected to commit yesterday. That did not happen, obviously. Harris remains very high on Michigan, naming them his outright leader after the visit:
“They are my top school,” said Harris. “They are just from the academic standpoint. One of the best out of any school I have visited and by far the best coaching staff that you will get at the college level."
Lorenz fired off a crystal ball, and it sounds like Harris is just letting things marinate before pulling the trigger. If there is a complication it would be on Michigan's end, as they have guys like MI S Jaylen Kelly-Powell high on their board.
Hansard announces announcement
— Fred Hansard (@Fred_Hansard56) March 18, 2016
NJ DT Fred Hansard will announce his destination on May 14th, his birthday. Michigan is amongst his seven finalists and his destination is very much am mystery. His crystal ball has a couple Rutgers picks from Guys Who Hilariously Pick Rutgers For Every High Profile NJ Recruit, a couple Penn State picks from Guy Who Fires Off A Guess At Every Recruit In The Country, and then the Temple 247 guy goes with M.
Bill Kurelic notes that in his tweet he "appears to be wearing an Ohio State helmet" and let's see if there might be a reason for that…
Sullivan thinks it's Penn State, FWIW.
Spring practice visitors
AJ Dillon, a LB/RB out of Massachusetts, is on campus right now. Early yet; Michigan is in a top five with Wisconsin, ND, FSU, and Virginia. Meanwhile Sam Webb reports a bunch of guys came in for practice on Monday. One, Ross, already committed, and AJ Harris may be next.
Another interesting name is PA OL CJ Thorpe, who told Brice March that he is "extremely interested" and will pare his list down after a couple more unofficials. Thorpe told Lorenz he had a "sense of comfort" in Ann Arbor and that he would like to return for a fuller experience. This one would be a brutal blow to Penn State if Michigan can pull it off… he's a legacy.
Top X lists, tentative visits, you know the drill
- PA RB D'Andre Swift has Michigan amongst a long list of schools that he intends to visit. That list includes anyone who's anyone. Also Penn State. He does not tip his hand in any particular direction in the above article.
- AL WR Nico Collins doesn't have a top four but his top four is Michigan, Georgia, Bama, and Clemson. Bud Elliott also lists his height at a Funchess-esque 6'5". Collins just impressed at a regional Opening camp ("precise in his routes, caught everything with his hands and did it all on a 200-plus pound frame") and will visit for the Spring Game.
- CN by way of FL WR Josh Palmer got his first offer from Michigan and has been on campus; he tells Tim Sullivan that he wants to see a few other Big Ten schools like Illinois and Maryland and sure let's just put Syracuse in the Big Ten because they're a mediocre program that might have some television subscribers attached. Uh. Then he will fire off a commit after spring. Michigan could be the choice but I'd be surprised if they took a three-star early when they aren't going to have big numbers at the spot and they are after Collins and Peoples-Jones.
- Three star NJ OL Joshua Fedd-Jackson has a top three of UNC, Rutgers, and Michigan. He plans an early April visit to M… but probably not for the spring game since he'll be at UNC that weekend.
- Three star CA WR/TE Grant Calcaterra will drop by Michigan on a seven-school Midwest tour. Calcaterra is a former teammate of 2016 signee Dylan Crawford and his list is academically-oriented, so if Michigan decides they've got room for him they'll likely be in it to the end.
- Michigan offered TX CB Kary Vincent Jr, wants to visit, no definite plan, no top list. "Loves" Harbaugh, FWIW.
- NV CB Alex Perry didn't want to leave the West before a Michigan offer came in; now he wants to get out for Unspecified Visit. He's got an odd list for a four star guy: he decommitted from Arizona State, visited TCU, and talks up Colorado some. As always, wait to see if he actually sets foot on campus.
- FL CB Randall Haynie has a top five of M, Duke, Vandy, Wisconsin, and WVU. Grew up watching Denard, knows O'Korn, academic-oriented top five… if Michigan pursues they'll be in it.
Grudging 2018 mentions of the week
— Brice Marich (@BriceMarich) March 21, 2016
NV QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson visited and put Michigan high on his list, as you can see above. He seems, uh, enthused:
— DorianThompsonRob... (@DoriansTweets) March 21, 2016
Thompson-Robinson has that Harbaugh Let's Capitalize Every Word thing going on, and his twitter handle was carefully curated by Jon Bois.
Significantly, that tweet follows visits to Florida State, Michigan State and Ohio State. He hasn't gotten a flood of offers yet; if Michigan does send one out he's likely to be in the 2018 class.
IN LB Pete Werner fired off a commitment to ND shortly after visiting both ND and Michigan. Indiana Catholic school kid was always an uphill battle. Lorenz notes that KS TE Trevor Kent is trending to Oklahoma on the crystal ball and could commit this weekend on a trip to Norman.
Saturday, March 19, 2016
#20 Minnesota 3, #7 Michigan 5
MOTTE GOAL, MICHIGAN
MINN 0 MICH 1 PPG 09:33 Assists: Connor & Werenski
Werenski moves the puck to Connor as the rest of Michigan's power play works to establish position.
Connor holds the puck and the defenders all look like they're infested with lice, moving and twitching and adjusting and readjusting while Connor just holds and holds and holds a little longer. The defenders, especially the one nearest Connor in the faceoff circle, seem very worried about the cross-ice one timer to the opposite wing.
That works to Michigan's advantage, as everybody just forgot about Motte in front of the net. Connor passes and Motte spins in a circle and shoots. Schierhorn stops the first shot, but Motte flips his own rebound into the top corner; he regularly puts the puck top shelf from angles that seem like it should be impossible to lift the puck.
COMPHER GOAL, MICHIGAN
MINN 0 MICH 2 PPG 01:31 Assists: Werenski & Connor
Werenski's pass for Connor hops over his stick and goes to the corner, but the puck's eventually reversed back to Werenski. He sees how bunched up and shifted the defense is and how open Compher is on the other side of the ice and makes the easy pass.
When Compher receives the pass he has a wide open half of the net, but he can't settle it and doesn't regain control until where he is in the screen shot below. He throws a backhander on net that Schierhorn stops.
Compher manages to stop quickly and chop at the puck, which is sitting in front of Schierhorn's pad. One of Compher's hacks lifts the puck up enough to get over his pad.
[After THE JUMP: a comeback, an undressing, a tournament championship]
This post has been informatively updated.
— Antwuan Johnson (@Antwuan21) March 22, 2016
Michigan may not have added any prospects from Ohio in their 2016 class, but that's clearly not a trend we should expect to continue. Springfield (OH) ILB Antwuan Johnson, the #82 overall prospect on 247's early class of 2018 rankings, announced his commitment to Michigan yesterday after visiting campus last weekend with a couple fellow Ohio players, including potential five-star DE and Springfield teammate Leonard Taylor.
Johnson is the program's first 2018 commit. While a highly rated Ohio prospect committing early before receiving an Ohio State offer is often reason for trepidation, Johnson assured The Wolverine's Brandon Brown that Michigan's offer was the only one he needed to make this decision:
It's no secret that big-time prospects from Ohio usually go to Ohio State. Johnson is well aware of that but says that no matter what happens, he's 100% content with his decision.
"There’s really not a lot to say about that to be honest," he said. "It’s not a touchy situation with me. There isn’t any offer that would’ve changed my mind. When I went up to Michigan I had my mind set on it. No Ohio State offer or anything could’ve changed my mind.
Johnson added that he wants to lead the charge in recruiting several other Buckeye State prospects to Ann Arbor. It's early yet, but his commitment sounds quite firm.
|NR MLB||NR ILB||NR ILB||
4*, 91, #3 ILB,
247 is the only scouting service that's released 2018 rankings so far. They regard Johnson as the #3 inside linebacker in the country and the #4 prospect in the state of Ohio.
Scout, Rivals, and 247 all list Johnson at 6'1", 210 pounds; ESPN has him at 6'0", 213. That's impressively stout for a rising junior and recent reports suggest he's a good deal bigger than his listings—possibly in the 6'2", 230-pound range. Johnson has more than enough size to play inside linebacker in Don Brown's system.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the post.]