well that's just, like, your opinion, man
The #32 overall prospect in the 2017 class, behemoth Ft. Lauderdale (FL) American Heritage OT Tedarrell Slaton, unexpectedly named Michigan his leader last week to 247's Ryan Bartow. Steve Lorenz caught up with Slaton this week to get some more detail ($):
"Michigan is at the top," he said. "I had some interest in Michigan originally, but when they hired Coach Harbaugh, it went to a different level. I want to play for a coach like him who knows how to win not just in college, but in the pros. How much better prepared can you get than to play for someone who knows what it takes at all levels of the game? They have a lot of NFL experience on their staff overall and Coach Harbaugh was one of my favorite NFL coaches to begin with because I've always liked the 49ers."
Slaton is looking to visit for a game this fall along with fellow 2017 Heritage OT Kai-Leon Herbert, who also holds a Michigan offer. There's a long way to go, but since Slaton already holds offers from the likes of Florida State, Florida, LSU, and Alabama, it's encouraging to hear Michigan is in contention at this juncture, let alone out in front.
The Wolverines have also taken the lead for three-star 2017 GA RB Kurt Taylor, who visited earlier this month, picked up an offer, and gave his reaction to Scout's Chad Simmons:
"Michigan is definitely No. 1 so far," Taylor said shortly after he got the offer. "I loved it [at Michigan] and coach [Jim] Harbaugh spent a lot of time with me."
Harbaugh told Taylor that he reminded him of Frank Gore and Walter Payton.
Fred Jackson may no longer be on the staff, but his spirit remains.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Fuller – MGoBlog
For all intents and purposes, last season was pretty much a disaster. Following the back-to-back upsets at the hands of NJIT and Eastern Michigan, the team went into free fall: starting with that first shocking upset (by what turned out to be a surprisingly adequate NJIT team), the Wolverines finished the year with a 10-15 record, recorded only one Top 50 win, and didn’t even make the NIT.
After the mercurial highs of a two-year run that will go down as one of Michigan’s best ever, this was a sobering crash back to earth. While the disappointment of the season was mitigated somewhat by a feisty group of underdogs who usually acquitted themselves well, even in defeat, against a brutal Big Ten schedule, the absence of the Wolverines’ star – preseason All-America Caris LeVert – loomed large.
Right or wrong, the focus usually falls on the star player when a team underachieves (or, in football, the quarterback is often credited with success or failure regardless of any other variables). Naturally, LeVert received plenty of blame for Michigan’s struggles before his injury, and even though there really aren’t very many useful data points – 18 games, some of which were against cupcakes – he really didn’t play too badly: 14.9 points, 3.7 assists, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. That he had an offensive rating of 101.1 was disappointing in the context of his 111.7 number as a sophomore, though his usage jumped from 21.4% to 25.9%.
* * *
Two games before LeVert was sidelined for the season, I basically wrote a Leave Caris Alone post (and fully expected him to leave for the NBA at the time):
To state the obvious, this season has been a disappointment. Michigan’s customarily blistering offense has looked stagnant and has been prone to bouts of cold shooting; Kam Chatman hasn’t been able to fill Glenn Robinson’s vacancy at the four; Michigan’s corps of big men have been underwhelming as a whole (even if Ricky Doyle has shown good things); Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton have been injured and Michigan’s struggled to get consistent production from the point guard spot.
In all fairness, Caris has contributed to the disappointment as well – although, notably, he still leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. Against NJIT, he put the team on his back to the tune of 32 points (on just 18 FGA) and Michigan still lost; but in other losses against Eastern Michigan, Arizona, SMU, and Purdue, he scored ten points or fewer, often inefficiently. It’s too reductive to place those losses squarely on Caris, but still, better performances (particularly against Eastern and SMU) might have made all the difference.
With what we know now, there were some little things from Caris that led to Michigan’s struggles. He too frequently locked in to one-on-one matchups and though he’s an elite isolation player, his ball-stopping tendencies were noticeable and detrimental. He shot far too much from the mid-range at a poor percentage (33%) as Michigan’s late shot clock offense far too frequently devolved into “Caris, go do something” and the something was often a tough shot off the dribble. It’s not easy to suss out blame for Michigan’s pick-and-roll struggles, but Caris wasn’t successful in what became Michigan’s bread-and-butter with Burke and Stauskas. Passivity was often a fair criticism, as LeVert shot the ball 12 or fewer times in six of Michigan’s seven losses. All of that’s fair, and it’s safe to say that we all expected more out of the Wolverines – and, by extension, LeVert – than what we saw.
[AFTER THE JUMP: nice(r) things!]
Previously: Last year's profiles, S Tyree Kinnel, CB Keith Washington, DE Shelton Johnson, DE Reuben Jones, OL Nolan Ulizio, OL Grant Newsome, OL Jon Runyan Jr., TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., WR Brian Cole, WR Grant Perry.
|Sarasota, FL – 5'10", 190|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#45 RB, #77 FL
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#70 RB, #108 FL
|24/7||4*, NR overall
#29 RB, #43 FL
|Other Suitors||Iowa, Arizona, Ark, Tenn, MD|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Higdon's coach gave us the lowdown on how his flip went down.|
|Notes||Decommitted from both USF and Iowa.|
Also junior highlights.
Karan Higdon was part of the Mike Weber signing day chaos. With Weber's decision balanced on a molecule-wide knife edge, Higdon's signing day flip from Iowa pushed him over to the dark side, until he went back to the light side, until he went back to the dark side, and so forth and so on. That doesn't have anything to do with him as a prospect, but you can be sure the two guys will be compared to each other by Michigan fans for the duration of their careers.
As far as Hidgon himself goes, he is a compact, darting runner with a smooth jump cut. Running back highlight tape is the most useful of all highlight tapes because it gives you a pretty good sense of what Back X is like when he's running good, and Higdon is somewhat reminiscent of Fitzgerald Toussaint—sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint, before he was Poor Damn Toussaint and then Pass Blocking Double Agent Toussaint. He also gives off a bit of a Mike Hart aura, though I hesitate to invoke him in comparisons because Hart was sui generis.
But Hart must be mentioned when a 5'10" guy under 200 pounds is so frequently described as a power back. Scout Florida guy Corey Bender:
“Karan Higdon is more your North and South type runner. He's not a home run hitter. He’s well put together."
…sturdy and durable. Shows above average speed in the second level but not elite … wastes little time getting North and hitting the downhill seam. Shows better than adequate vision to stretch and cut back in the second level. … Shows good feet in the hole to jump-cut and make the first defender miss. … Hits the hole with authority and runs hard North-South. Does a good job lowering his pads on contact, absorbing the hit and continuing his forward progress. …productive inside runner with the burst to open up the run game outside but we do not see a big-play element at this stage.
"Better than adequate" is ESPN's funny way of saying "good."
Scout's Jamie Newberg:
…runs hard and is decisive. He’s not a dancer and you won’t see him going east-west but north-south … has good feet, quick feet. Higdon has a strong lower body and runs with deceptive power. … I also like his vision. Higdon possesses good speed and quickness. He can also make defenders miss. … not an explosive, home run hitter.
Higdon is a between-the-tackles hard nosed running back with excellent vision. He waits patiently on the hole and plants and drives upfield with good toughness. Higdon should fit well in Harbaugh's ground and pound running game, with his tough and rugged style. Higdon shows good lateral movement through the hole and a good quick twitch once he gets out in the open, although he's not a back with long speed.
Tim Drevno pretty much agrees:
"Karan is a power back, a physical runner -- he's got great instinct and football awareness with real good vision. He does a great job of lowering his pads especially when he's entering the goal line area. He is a real smart young man who had a 4.0 in high school."
These all say the same very positive things; like Grant Perry the ensuing rankings are underwhelming largely because of a lack of wow experience in his physical package. Running backs Higdon's size are almost always placed in the meh bin unless they have the game-breaking ability each one of these scouting reports strives to point out he does not.
The exception is 247, which had him a four star. Josh Newberg, who works for the USF 247 site, gives an indication as to why when Higdon was a Bulls commit:
5. Every class seems to come down to a few make-or-break kids… Who are those kids for the Bulls…?
USF has an incredible player committed to them in Karan Higdon. He's a running back that could make an even bigger impact than Marlon Mack has. Higdon is explosive, strong and has the ability to score from anywhere on the field. He also has excellent hands and could even be a slot receiver if he wanted to.
Right now there isn't a more talented player that USF is recruiting.
Steve Lorenz also named him the toughest incoming recruit to keep off the field—a statement that means something when Michigan has lots of options in front of him.
Though it may be odd for a guy everyone just described as a power back, I wouldn't be surprised to see Higdon get a serious look as a third down back as early as next year. Squat guys with good short-area burst are often the best pass blockers, as they can get to the spot they need to get and then undercut the blitzer they've been tasked with picking up. Vincent Smith and Mike Hart, Michigan's best blitz pickup guys in recent memory, both fit that mold.
Even when he was committed to USF, Higdon praised the Iowa program. Now that he's officially committed to the Hawkeyes though, you really can't ask for a better spokesperson.
Higdon watches every game and he always has something good to say, even when Iowa loses. He believes in the program and he believes in what he can do with the Hawkeyes. In fact, he has so much faith in Iowa that he's already creating some lofty goals for himself. … He's clearly all-in with the Hawkeyes, and that's not something you see out of recruits all that often.
Why Mike Hart? Mostly explained above. Higdon is a compact, shifty gentleman with uncanny power for a player his size. If he never fumbles, always squeezes out two more yards than is reasonable, ruthlessly destroys blitzing linebackers, and recovers Ryan Mallett fumbles for first downs, then he can be Mike Hart.
Fitzgerald Toussaint is also a reasonable comparable. Toussaint was a one-cut zone back with an explosive burst. Higdon sounds less likely to break a long one and more likely to squeeze out an extra yard or two after contact.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. No projection but big spread here from four star to "not even in the top 100 in Florida."
Variance: Low. Projects to HS position, reportedly has excellent vision already, healthy.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Not a gamebreaker, quoth everyone. Still could end up a highly efficient Harbaugh back.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Like Perry, seems like a good bet to be a contributor for an extended period of time. Good late pickup in the situation M found themselves in because he gives a relatively high floor at the position going forward.
Projection: With four backs in front of him, none of whom are seniors, you'd have to think a redshirt is an option. Excellent backs can bust through legions of upperclassmen, though, and it's not like anyone currently on the roster has established much of a claim on the job. If he impresses in fall camp could definitely get a 100 or so carries… and signal that the RB spot is going to experience some attrition.
James Ross III should find more playing time in 2015 as an inside and outside linebacker as opposed to 2014, when he was almost exclusively a SAM. He talked about this as well as what else we can expect from the defense this fall in our one-on-one interview.
First of all, what were you working on this summer?
“Well, we did a lot of individual practice as far as with the linebackers and then 7-on-7, stuff like that. Just more understanding of the defense, understanding my role and what I’m going to be playing, and how to attack that.”
And what do you know about your role going into fall camp? How is it different and how is it similar?
“Last year I was pretty much just at one area. I was playing SAM and I didn’t play much more than that, so this year I will be playing inside and outside because my freshman and sophomore year that’s what I was more accustomed to is inside. So I will be playing both this year.”
Is that just going to depend on the personnel you’re facing week-to-week or is that intended to mix looks on defense and keep your opponent guessing?
“We’ve got a lot of stuff going on as far as our defense. We run multiple so we’ve got a couple different defenses we can throw at them. Also, just like you say personnel and things of that nature.”
When you say run multiple, what are some of the things that we can expect to see this season?
“You know, I’m pretty sure Coach Durkin’s talked about running 3-4 and things like that. Just running multiple defenses, different looks, things like that. Different ways of attacking things and making it tough for opposing offenses to play us.”
Who is someone who you’ve seen in practice who you think could have a breakout year this year?
“It’s tough to say. All I know is in the spring and the offseason a lot of people were putting in a lot of work. I feel like as a team as a whole everybody’s made a significant jump in what they can do and that’s why I’m excited for the first practice tomorrow to see how what we did helped us and contributed.”
I know you’ve only had spring ball and still have all of fall camp ahead, but how have the practices been different since Coach Harbaugh got here?
“Practice when we had Coach Hoke was just real intense, but you feel like when we have Coach Harbaugh it’s- it’s just structured…even though with Coach Hoke everything was structured- periods, squads, everything like that. In the spring one thing is we just had longer practices and it made us pay attention to finishing practice. That was the most important factor. So that’s what we’re planning on doing in these upcoming practices because that was our biggest problem last year was finishing games.”
The flow is strong with this one. [Upchurch]
Versatile redshirt sophomore Wyatt Shallman has garnered attention for both his potential fit in Harbaugh's offense and his unusual taste in pets. We covered both topics in a one-on-one from last week's Media Day.
What are you playing this year?
I’m playing running back.
How comfortable are you at the position and how do you feel you fit in with the offense this year?
I feel I fit in great. You need a stable of running backs and can fit in that stable real well. I’m real comfortable with it. They lay out the offense pretty well for us so it’s easy to learn, easy to understand, so you’ve just gotta make sure you’re paying attention when you’re in meetings and stuff.
Word is practice is pretty intense. How would you compare the style from this spring to previous years?
Football is football, so it’s not too different. Obviously every coach is going to have a different format, but we got out there and competed this spring, and it’s the same with other coaching staffs around college, you just get out there and compete and play football.
What would you say is the biggest shift for you guys so far from an offensive philosophy standpoint? Is there anything that’s markedly different with the offense right now?
There’s going to be [a] difference as soon as you get a new coach. We’re really priding ourselves on running the ball, we did a lot of that this spring. Our fullbacks and our other running backs, they pride themselves on getting yardage. That’s kind of our mindset, just getting those yards and getting the yards after contact, too.
It’s the first year in forever that Fred Jackson isn’t the running backs coach. How’s the transition going from him to Tyrone Wheatley?
It’s been great. Coach Jackson was a great coach. I’m going to miss him. He’s a great man too, he taught me a lot. Coach Wheatley, he’s a great coach, and I’m not taking anything away from Coach J but he brings his own little style, and it’s fun to learn everyone else’s little style.
Has he been showing you guys his highlights?
Not really, but he still lets us know that he can play. His cuts… he likes to get into drills and do a little bit of showing the drills fast, so he still shows us a little bit of that, that he can still move the way he does.
So he can still move pretty well?
What was stranger: having the police show up at your front door about a wallaby or seeing your head coach shirtless at a camp in Prattville?
Probably the shirtless head coach. I got a couple other housemates that might be more at fault about the wallaby, so that wasn’t that crazy of a situation. But, yeah, seeing Coach Harbaugh shirtless was kinda wild.
As a team, how do you guys react to seeing a coach that’s way more in the news than Hoke ever was?
It’s just interesting. The personality that you see outside of everything here is the personality we see all day, so he’s not putting on a show. Coach Harbaugh is who he is. He’s an interesting dude. He’s intense.
I’ve gotta bring it back to the wallaby. You guys have a real live Australian now on your football team. What was Blake’s reaction to that whole thing?
He basically said wallabies are like varmint in Australia, pretty comparable to squirrels, so I don’t know why everyone was freaking out about that. People like to get any story they can have and hold onto it so how about a couple college kids with a wallaby. It was not even smart to have everyone freaking out about that. It wasn’t a big deal.
What’s the goal for the team this year, and for you personally, what’s your mindset heading into the season?
Personally it’s just to help the team any way I can. I think that’s everyone’s mindset. If you’ve got everyone working towards the same goal you’re more likely to achieve it. So we’re just working to get better and to get this team better, just doing the things we need to do.
For a time he danced.
But he will not return.
As previously reported, Norfleet is gone-gone. Despite him telling his former teammates he'll miss them on Instagram and every insider-y thing saying it was already a foregone conclusion, some of us held out hope for as long as it took the coaches to say it was official. Michigan posting a fall roster without him on it was more confirmation. Tuskegee publishing a roster with him on it means it's time to give up the ghost.
Michigan enters fall camp with 2 or 3 open scholarships for this year, depending on whether you count the long snapper. Norfleet would not have affected next year's numbers.
I am sad.