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.
Jourdan Lewis emerged as Michigan’s best corner in 2014, demonstrating that he was well-suited to the man press style they wanted to play. That same style is back in 2015, and Lewis talked about that as well as the difference in the defense’s mindset, Wayne Lyons joining the secondary, and Jabrill. This was part of a scrum; my questions are marked.
Most of you guys grew up together and kind of emerged together, then Wayne [Lyons] just sort of gets dropped in your lap. What’s it like when someone has experience but at the same time is trying to compete with you?
“You’ve got to bring him in. You’ve got to bring him in just like one of our brothers. He is one of our brothers now and we’ve just got to bring him in and come together and compete. That’s what’s going to make a great defense.”
When someone comes from a different program they have done things before. Did he have anything or did you say, ‘This is the way we did it here’?
“No, he came in and he wanted to listen. He wanted to learn. That was great. He wanted to learn from us and we wanted to learn from what he had. We learned some things from him and he learned some things from us.”
“Yeah. It was just a collaboration between both of us. It wasn’t ever ‘This is how we do things.’ It wasn’t ever- it was all love as soon as he got here.”
There’s a lot of attention on Jabrill, as there always is. Do you see strides in him even though he’s at a different position than last year? Have you seen him make a lot of progress this summer?
“He’s going to compete and he’s going to be aggressive and he’s going to make plays, always. That’s always Jabrill’s mindset and I love it. That’s what’s going to make us a great defense is just his mindset and his enthusiasm and him flying around, so he’s just always the same Jabrill.”
[More after THE JUMP]
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.
|Bloomfield, MI – 5'11", 185|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#80 WR, #12 MI
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#128 WR, #9 MI
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#132 WR, #13 MI
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Ace in-person scout.|
|Notes||Twitter. HS teammate of Alex Malzone.|
As a prospect, Grant Perry is the exact opposite of the two guys we just covered. Tyrone Wheatley and Brian Cole are physical marvels with little production; Grant Perry is an average-sized guy with a ten-minute highlight reel as a high school wide receiver—a ten minute highlight reel that isn't padded out with blocking or replays. There are only two screens!
As Michigan-bound Alex Malzone's favorite target, Perry was targeted about every seven seconds at Brother Rice. He made the most of those opportunities with 105(!!!) catches for 1727 yards. That is a state of Michigan all-time, any-class record for catches and a four-year career for a lot of high school wideouts. His prolific senior season landed him on a Scout All-American list mostly populated with OMG shirtless types. Experience: he has it.
Ace saw it in person, well before Michigan offered:
Perry had an outstanding game, hauling in seven of his nine targets; one of those incompletions was uncatchable, while the second would've required a difficult one-handed catch. He and Malzone are clearly very comfortable playing with each other—they connected on several timing routes and when Malzone was in trouble, Perry was often the receiver working his way back to the ball to bail him out.
Perry runs precise routes and plucks the ball out of the air; he showed off soft hands. While he's not a gamebreaking athlete, he gets separation on defensive backs with sharp cuts and does a nice job getting upfield after the catch; he doesn't look like a major threat to juke a safety, but he finds a way to get solid yardage after the catch.
Allen Trieu after his Northwestern commitment:
…a technician who runs great routes and has sure hands. I've often said, I think you could put him on just about any team in America and he will find a way to contribute because he knows how to get open, catches everything and is a competitive kid. He catches the ball naturally away from his hands, is crisp in his routes and quick out of his breaks.
A college coach at Sound Mind, Sound Body, as related by Steve Lorenz:
After Perry dominated the 1v1 session at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp last year, one college assistant said he was the "most technically sound" receiver he had seen at the high school level. A high school coach from a top program says Michigan should have been on him from the beginning.
"Perry is the type of player Michigan needs more of," he said. "He would run through a wall to put on the winged helmet."
247's Clint Brewster:
…He’s an absolute technician with his routes, getting in and out of breaks with smooth and sharp cuts and cat-like quickness. He’s got the balance, body control, and agility to change directions and turn his body. …He’s got great field sense and awareness to get to his landmarks in the passing game and finds a way for his quarterback to see him. … start and stop ability make his extremely tough to cover, and he’s got a good hesitation move on longer routes. … Perry can change gears and accelerate to top speed in flash.
You get the idea. Grant Perry has had the sandpaper and finish applied already. There will be an adjustment period, as there always is, but that's mostly about learning the playbook and acquiring whatever slight refinements his WR coach would like him to absorb. The amount of projection here, especially compared to a guy like Cole, is minimal. This is why Scout named him one of the ten most likely recruits to have an "instant impact" back when he was a Northwestern recruit.
That's the good news. The bad news is that until Northwestern came forth with an offer late in his senior year, no Power 5 school saw fit to give him an opportunity to play for them. That's remarkable. Perry had zero off-field red flags, was very, very productive, and was a standout at the massive SMSB camp:
There were a plethora of big names on offense at the Adidas Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy on Thursday, when talking running backs, receivers and offensive line, however it was an unheralded in-state receiver that put on a show at Chandler Park Academy.
Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Brother Rice 2015 receiver Grant Perry gets the game ball from 247Sports for his phenomenal showing in 1-on-1s. …
Perry gets separation, he’s strong for a slender senior-to-be, he fights jams and has natural hands. Had a couple major highlight reel catches, but he was open most of the time.
Schools like Northwestern and Indiana and Purdue and, hell, Iowa should have been in this guy's grill long before the Wildcats stepped to the plate.
A lot of recruiting analysts found this inexplicable…
247Sports recruiting insider Steve Wiltfong said "Northwestern made one of the smartest moves in the country" by offering Perry when it did.
Northwestern offered Grant Perry, an outstanding player with great hands, route-running skills and all around football ability. This is his first Big Ten offer, as some questioned his size and speed, but he answered those questions and then-some this season.
…but it remains a thing that is true.
The only conclusions is that Perry did not wow coaches with his physical package—he has literally everything else. ESPN addressed those weaknesses more thoroughly than most others:
Is quicker than fast, but also very shifty. … A very nuanced route runner that is quick in and out of break…. Hand-eye coordination and body control as a pass catcher are very good. Makes the over-the-shoulder grab and difficult catch look easy and he is a natural plucker. … could struggle to excel as a vertical threat and after the catch at the power five conference level.
And even that sounds like an excellent evaluation until the end when they say he is a "tweener Power 5/Group of 5 prospect." I feel that this set of evaluations is somewhat lacking in Real Talk.
We are forced to read between the lines, then: coaches, and to some extent recruiting analysts, don't think Perry is going to be able to get away from defenders at the next level. The lack of high level offers says that pretty emphatically.
Unless it doesn't. Tim Sullivan caught Perry a few times as a senior and consistently reported a significant uptick in his big play ability:
What Perry continues to show this season is an explosive burst after the catch, allowing him to get downfield in a hurry and pick up yardage. For a 6-0, 185-pounder, that quickness and ability to gain yards with the ball in his hands will be important. … His punt return touchdown showed off his awareness of the blocking developing around him, as well as the speed up the sideline, to make big plays happen.
That is an outlying report in a sea of "not the biggest or the fastest but just MAKES PLAYS" and should be taken as such, but it is possible a lot of people made up their minds about him too early.
In any case, for the role Michigan needs him for I'm not sure how much the size and speed matter. In Ann Arbor, Perry is destined for the slot:
"They said they see me at the Z position. Z is more of a slot, I think what Dennis Norfleet is playing. They said they don't have many Z guys and need more to fill that."
As mentioned in the Brian Cole piece, that creates some overlap between the two receivers in this class. That's an overlap that will likely be resolved by Cole moving outside in a year or two; Perry is going to be a long-term resident.
As people watching MSU against actual offenses discovered last year, it is quite nice to have slot receivers that can blaze down the middle past your safeties. Perry apparently does not bring that. But as a guy who gets matched up against a linebacker or a nickelback (non-Peppers version) or goes hunting for holes in a zone, his athleticism will be good enough as long as those routes are as on point as they suggest. Drew Dileo was ample evidence of that. Here is the canonical Drew Dileo video.
Anyone who can wrong-foot a defender's got a chance, and it sounds and looks like Perry is a guy who can do that. His coach:
“Grant always could catch well, but I think his route running and ability to find the open areas are what separate him from most good receivers,” Sofran said. “He seems able, as he’s watched film and developed, to understand the game (thoroughly).”
Here's to moaning "throw it to PERRY" after a failed third and medium conversion. Unless there aren't any third and mediums because HARBAUGH.
"I grew up watching Michigan play," Perry said. "I remember being on the field, watching Chad Henne's TD pass to Mario Manningham on the final play to beat Penn State (27-25, Oct. 15, 2005). Now, I'm going to be playing at Michigan. I'm thrilled all the hard work has paid off and my dream has come true."
Why Drew Dileo? The sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome was the perfect slot receiver on third and six and in the redzone, capable of shaking most defensive backs with his craft and utterly reliable once the ball arrived. Dileo was also a generic three star recruit and his playing time and stats didn't defy that much—his efficiency, however, did. That is why I spent multiple years complaining about his underutilization.
Perry is a couple inches taller than Dileo; otherwise this looks like a pretty tight fit, even down to the fact that I might complain he is underutilized what with all the tight ends.
Guru Reliability: High. They may have seen him catch a ball or two.
Variance: Low. Very polished already, doesn't appear to have huge upside.
Ceiling: Moderate. Not likely to be on NFL draft boards. Could develop into a highly reliable #2 WR.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Doubt he will ever be a star but seems like a very good bet to be a guy who helps you out for multiple years. He is this year's Sleeper of The Year.
Projection: Likely to play as a freshman given the state of the WR corps and his advanced skillset. Some overlap with Cole in terms of (short term) position, but they fill different kinds of roles from the slot, and Michigan distinctly lacks a chain-mover there right now.
Cole will probably move outside after this year, leaving Perry the leading contender for the bulk of the slot snaps—however many of those there are. Those are likely to be concentrated on third and five or more, leaving Perry a not-quite-starter for the bulk of his career.
Got this idea from Ryan Nanni: name the rival player you don't actually hate.
1. Be very good, 2. Lose to Michigan.
David: I don't have a great answer for this question. At least in the last decade or so...most likely due to Michigan's lack of success against their chief rivals. I thought of Mike Conley—whom I do like and respect—but he was only in Columbus for a year. Or Manti Teo? But...his whole career ended super weird. Pass. Let's go back...how about: Eddie George.
George fits this really well, I think. I remember watching him during his final year in 1995, enough games, anyway. He had a fantastic Heisman Trophy-winning year but was unbelievably upstaged by Tim Biakabutuka in The Game that year. George was held under 100 yards, while Biakabutuka set records with his 313 yards, as Michigan derailed Ohio State's National Championship hopes.
In the NFL, Eddie George was very fun to support. On top of being a model NFL citizen, he was a consummate professional. Never missing a start in Tennessee ('96-'03), George rushed for 1,000 yards in every year except for 2001 (where he had 939). He also had 300+ carries every season as a Titan, including 403 (!!) in 2000. He was also a prolific pass catcher out of the backfield with 259 receptions for 2144 yards and 10 TDs over those same 8 seasons. After 2003, the Titans chose to cut him and he played in Dallas for a year, but he was pretty much done.
Unfortunately, as happens to too many athletes, George had an up-and-down time in his post-playing career; here's a really neat article about it. However, some highlights do include dabbling in multiple platforms in front of the camera, constructing a life-preparation class, and even getting his MBA from Northwestern, no easy feat.
Seth: I have two because the one isn't at all interesting or controversial. That no. 1 is Drew Stanton. I was supposed to hate him because in high school he was one of the kids who moved to Farmington Hills just to play for Coach Herrington—such athletes would come from all over the state then blow through D-III by an average score of 46-9. I knew some good men—future attorneys and financial advisers—who were in that D-III.
Stanton never beat Michigan. As Jeff "smoke green, snort white!" Smoker embodied the Saban-Williams program, Stanton was the JLS era: likeable football-loving dudes with hot piss who played spread 'n shred football with a heavy portion of Sparty No! Among these: Stanton ruined his knee on punt coverage, and initiated Braylonfest by getting knocked out of it.
Drew then had the incredible misfortune to be drafted in the 2nd round by Matt Millen for a Lions team that never had any intention of using him. I felt bad, more so because he was also the one local athlete celebrity you were most likely to see at a volunteer thing.
[After the jump: I am going to piss someone off.]
Willie Henry has always possessed incredible physical talent, but consistency issues have limited his playing time over the past two seasons. At Media Day he discussed taking stock of his strengths and weaknesses and what he chose to work on in the offseason. This was a one-on-one interview, so all questions below were asked by me.
What were your goals for the summer individually and as a defense?
“To be a better player than I was last year, of course. Get down, cut body fat. Come faster off the ball, quicker twitch, play-action reads so reacting to the play action fast than I did, which I feel like was a weakness of mine. Working on a lot of weaknesses and also sharpening the skills I thought I was good at, whether it was bench press or coming off the ball, explosion, stuff like that. So I tried to work on a little bit of everything this offseason.”
How do you go about working on things like play-action reads?
“Play action, a lot of times we’d do hand drills with each other. Timing with each other, work off a quick move or something like that off a quick set, or moves with the offensive line and how they come off the ball on play action. So a lot of times it’s like seeing something to get used to seeing and reacting to it. A lot of times we’d do reaction stuff to see and react to it, stuff like that.”
Going into fall camp, what goals do you have for yourself?
“One is to be as best as I can be to help the team be as best as we can be. Everybody wants to come out here and be a starter, so that’s the goal is to come out here game 1 and be a starter. So I go out here every day to compete and challenge and may the best man win. I’m quite sure everybody’s going to be out here giving it their all.”
You have a very deep defensive line. Do you see anybody who’s poised for a breakout year in that group?
“To be honest, everybody. Everybody’s been working their butts off this whole offseason. Everybody’s dedicated, everybody’s got a whole different mindset. Everybody’s been grinding. You know, a lot of people been in the weight room doing extra, on the field doing extra, doing extra stuff just so they can be the best that they can be so there’s a lot of people that’re going to come out here in fall camp and compete for a starting job. I’m not thinking that since I’ve been playing a lot it’s going to be handed to me because everybody out here wants to play. A lot of people competing for playing time with new coaches.”
We’ve heard a lot about multiple fronts with this defense. What positions have you been playing?
“Three [tech] and the end. I can play a little nose. I play a little bit of everything, to be honest, so it’s good to be versatile. I play a little bit of everything on the line.”
What are your team’s expectations for this season?
“To win every game. To be the best in the Big Ten and be the best in the country. That would be our goals.”
Next up in our series of Media Day interviews is Royce Jenkins-Stone, who talked about surviving four-hour practices, some operational differences between the last staff and this one, and being the Buck linebacker. This was a one-on-one, so all questions below were asked by me.
What were some of the things you worked on over the summer?
“Over the summer we were just working out. You know, getting bigger, getting stronger, getting faster. But spring ball was very interesting.”
In what way?
“Just different. I never had that type of practice. Four-hour practices can definitely take a toll on you. I’m just happy I made it out. Made it out in one piece!”
How have things changed since last year? We’ve heard about the four-hour practices, but what else is different?
“Really not too much is different. It’s still the same attitude toward winning and wanting the team to get better and wanting people to be more about the team and not about themselves. I feel like it’s getting better. Definitely getting better, especially after spring ball. Everybody endured thus far in practices and having a struggle between you and your team and knowing that ‘Hey, I went through the same things you went through’ is bringing everyone together and making people think about [things] more as a team and not about themselves.”
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]