Peppers at 10, which seems low.
Jim Harbaugh is a man like any other. He wakes up in the morning and puts his pants on one leg at a time. Except once his pants are on, he walks walks outside and drops gold:
walking the Ann Arbor streets with coach Harbaugh 〽️〽️ pic.twitter.com/JcEfjI2my7
— Pop (@NaseirUpshur) June 25, 2015
Choosing a favorite still from this is like picking between children. Let's start with the first frame, where the whole family is together even if one of the boys is doing that "I don't want to be in this" facepalm:
That we think is 2017 center Cesar Ruiz. Your cameraman is Naseir Upshur. Let's meet the rest of the crew:
Ahmir Mitchell is gonna wait to give a reaction, and Cesar has moved the hand over his mouth to keep from committing right then and there. Ron Johnson Jr. has no such reservations, and it's hard to blame them because…
Yes, the board has photoshopped. More than one of us went immediately to Popeye:
What do you think of Harbaugh, Ahmir?
Guys we are not even half-way through this thing.
We pan back to our videographer because the whole family couldn't fit in one frame.
…and oh hi Drevno.
Show us your mean mug Drevno.
Drevno's mean mug says "Home Depot is having a sale on gardening supplies!" The pen in his polo is ready to take down window measurements or commitments at a moment's notice. Or to sign for a Pizza Bob's smoothie.
There you go, Alabama bloggers: maybe this is a secondary violation. As we conclude Ruiz says "yeah-oh," and the kid with a bowl cut…
…the luckiest kid in the universe nods along.
They don't know what kind of marsupial it is.
The internet helpfully pointed out that keeping wildlife, uh, a gravid marsupial, for uh, you know, domestic…
…ain't legal. Also, Mariaklots is correct. That thing is a wallaby. Shane Morris had zoobooks and knows.
— Shane Morris (@ShaneMorris_7) June 26, 2015
No word on the ferret, or which of the many splendiferous names I offered up was eventually chosen. (I have money on Ferret Bo Jackson.)
I have committed to The University of Michigan thanks to everyone who believed in me and gave me the opportunity!! pic.twitter.com/BNv5rljqR0
— Ron Johnson Jr (@RonJohn24) June 25, 2015
The first of what could be multiple New Jersey commits in the 2016 class went down this afternoon when four-star Camden DE Ron Johnson announced his commitment to Michigan on Twitter. Johnson is currently on campus along with fellow 2016 prospects Ahmir Mitchell and Naseir Upshur, both of whom held Michigan in high regard heading into the visit, and surely in even higher regard now that they've hit the streets of Ann Arbor with Jim Harbaugh.
Johnson is the 20th commit in the 2016 class, the 14th this month alone, and the second defensive end, joining Rashad Weaver.
|3*, #48 DE||
4*, #6 WDE,
4*, 83, #16 DE,
4*, 92, #17 WDE,
4*, #14 WDE,
Scout is the major outlier here, despite giving him a pretty solid evaluation. Otherwise, Johnson easily ranks as a four-star.
Johnson is listed at either 6'3" or 6'4" and somewhere between 220 and 240 pounds. He's got the frame to add a significant amount of bulk, which is good, since his game suggests he'll fit best as a strongside end.
For being the low outlier in the rankings, Scout sounds quite optimistic about Johnson's potential in their free evaluation:
EvaluationJohnson has an excellent motor and also plenty of athleticism. He gets up the field in a hurry, but also uses technique, including a nice swim move. He stays low at the snap and can dip his shoulder to get around the edge, and also can chase a play down from behind. He needs to work a bit on his change of direction, which is good for a kid his size. His speed off the edge is why colleges like him a lot. -- Brian Dohn
- Hand Quickness
Areas to Improve
- Change of Direction
ESPN's scouting report features a lot of talk about wanting to see Johnson be more consistent in various aspects of his game, but given their conclusion and his lofty ranking they're clearly high on his potential ($):
Johnson is a prospect that brings some excellent physical tools. Can rely on size and strength some and needs to be more consistent with technique, but defender that can be a well-rounded and at times punishing presence in the trenches.
While ESPN praises his "raw strength," it sounds like Johnson needs to get stronger and/or refine his technique so that becomes a more consistent asset for him on the field. Rivals' Adam Friedman listed him at #7 among defenders at the RCS New Jersey camp in April, praising his edge rushing while noting he has work to do on the interior ($):
Johnson is a very skilled edge rusher with good balance and great length. He is very explosive off the line of scrimmage and does a good job of lining up the offensive lineman and faking one way before going the other. Johnson is still working on his overall strength and that will really help him on his inside rushes.
Rivals moved Johnson into their top 100 in the spring, as he showed quite literal growth from last year ($):
Johnson has gotten a couple of inches taller since the beginning of last season and it will surely help his game. His strength at the point of attack is undeniable and he's able to shed blockers and make the play. As a pass rusher, he can go to the inside, outside or bull rush. As his repertoire expands, the Johnson could end up moving up the rankings.
When Johnson got to the Rivals Five-Star Challenge earlier this month, however, he didn't impress as much as Rivals expected, getting a "Bear Market" mention from Mike Farrell in the aftermath:
DE Ron Johnson is ranked a bit too high right outside the Rivals100 and was small in comparison to the rest of the group without flashing the needed speed.
The raised level of competition may have affected Johnson, who apparently doesn't play against a ton of top-end talent at Camden. 247's Rutgers outlet noted that when naming Johnson their #4 player in the state this spring ($):
At 6'4" and 240 pounds, Johnson is an explosive, athletic defensive end with great strength and a phenomenal motor. He uses his hands very well and has a great understanding of the game. One of his biggest strengths is his versatility, as he can line up anywhere along the [defensive] line and can use his speed and an explosive first step to create an instant advantage over the offensive linemen. Johnson does not face the greatest competition but he still projects as a player who can make an impact, at least from a pass rushing standpoint, as a true freshman.
Johnson's most recent camp appearance came at South Carolina, where he stood out to 247 national analyst JC Shurburtt ($):
Johnson was perhaps the quickest defensive lineman in the defensive line group during Saturday's Showcase. He is explosive and has a wide variety of pass rushing moves to get past blockers. Johnson impressed in the quickness drills and looks the part. Combine that with what you see on film and it's easy to see why he has a high offer count.
Johnson has a lot to work with from a pass-rushing standpoint, and his overall game should improve as he adds more strength and, eventually, gets pointed coaching at the next level. He might not possess the lateral mobility to play the hybrid BUCK position in DJ Durkin's defense, but he's plenty athletic for a guy who will have his hand in the dirt.
Johnson holds offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Boston College, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, Ole Miss, Mizzou, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Syracuse, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among a handful of others.
Johnson is the first Power 5 commit to come out of Camden since three-star WR Matt Marshall signed with Arkansas in 2009. They're more talented of late, however, as Johnson is joined on the team by four-star WR Brad Hawkins—who may announce later this month and could very well join Johnson in the class—and four-star 2017 C Cesar Ruiz, who's also on campus this week.
According to 247, Johnson recorded 84 tackles and ten sacks in his junior season.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout lists a verified 40 time of 4.60, but I don't see that figure anywhere else, including on ESPN's profile that contains other testing results but omits a 40 time. I'll give it three FAKEs out of five, but even if he's a little slower than listed, he's fast for a defensive lineman.
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Johnson has a chance to see the field pretty early in his career, provided he develops enough physically by the time he gets to campus. Chris Wormley, Henry Poggi, and Shelton Johnson should be his primary competition at strongside end when arrives in 2016, and I wouldn't rule out his ability to crack that depth chart as a true freshman. Even if he redshirts, he should be in line for playing time as soon as his second year on campus.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is up to 20 commits for the 2016 class, including Benjamin St-Juste (a potential 2017 enrollee). Johnson fills a significant need at defensive end. Michigan can now focus on adding prospects at wide receiver, tight end, defensive tackle, outside linebacker, and cornerback, as well as likely one more offensive lineman.
Johnson's commitment could help sway the New Jersey contingent of Hawkins and Mitchell, as well as PA TE Naseir Upshur, to join the class, as well as providing a strong early impression of Michigan for Ruiz. With five-star Paramus Catholic DT Rashan Gary also very much in the mix, it's doubtful Michigan is done pulling in prospects from the region in this class.
Noooobody expects a Drake Johnson! [Uphchurch]
Scheduling note: Yeah we had one on Monday; that was last week's, pushed back by all the commitments.
Seth: Every year there's at least one guy from down the depth chart who emerges as a major contributor even though we barely talk about him in the season previews. Who's the surprise guy this year?
Ace: Provided he's healthy when the season starts, and it appears he's on track, I'll go with Khalid Hill. Michigan is going to need a second tight end option after Jake Butt in Jim Harbaugh's offense, and Hill flashed potential last year before he tore his ACL in October. Known as a smooth route-runner with good hands coming out of high school, Hill showed off a somewhat unexpected aspect of his game—bowling over defenders in the running game:
Hill is limited by his size—he's a pure H-back at this point—but he should still prove quite useful as a reliable receiver and very willing blocker.
Alex: I would go with somebody on the defensive line. I'm not sure if Durkin will be as liberal with his defensive line rotations as Hoke/Mattison were (and I don't know if Mattison will be given the leeway to rotate again, which seems like a good bet) but if he is, I think that we could certainly have some breakthrough candidates on the defensive line. There's plenty of opportunity at the end spots—Ojemudia hasn't gotten big enough to be a consistent performer and Charlton still hasn't approached his level of recruiting hype (and potential, theoretically). Glasgow has one DT spot locked down, and Willie Henry seems to have a stranglehold on the other.
But if he can get on the field, my surprise performer is Maurice Hurst. He has a lightning-quick first step for a man his size and if we can get him to generate pass rush from the DT position, that will allay one of our biggest prospective weaknesses on that side of the ball. Mone, Wormley, and Poggi (who's a SDE) could all also be huge surprises as well.
Adam: I also think we're going to be surprised by one of the tight ends, but my choice is Ian Bunting. We know about Harbaugh's affinity for blocky/catchy guys, and Bunting's well on his way to being one. He put on 16 pounds over the winter, bringing him to a respectable (and much more in line with the rest of his position group) 243 pounds. At that weight he should be able to line up, put a hand in the dirt, and not tip off a pass play.
The catching part of being a blocky/catchy guy was never going to be a problem for a dude who has opposable skillets attached to his arms. Blocking was always going to be the issue for a nominal tight end who spent most of his high school career lining up outside, and even then it was simply a matter of size rather than willingness; Bunting posted separate highlight film of his blocking on his Hudl page. Now that he's in the range of plausible weights for a D-I tight end I'm expecting him to be the kind of matchup nightmare the Harbaughfense thrives on.
Seth: Brian wrote in HTTV that James Ross III had plateaued from the incisive freshman we were so excited about. One implication of being a base nickel with Peppers as a strongside slot space monster is that lifts a linebacker. Or did last year, cutting heavily into Ross's snaps. I find this sufficient underratement to justify defining him as a "surprise" star on this year's defense.
The loss of snaps to nickels may not be such a big deal this year, depending on how much of the Florida defense is ported to the new platform. There Durkin loved a lean, mean attack piece. His SAM last year was Neiron Ball, now with the Raiders. For Florida Ball was a Ross-like object consistently deployed as field side LB, whether that was technically MLB, or a nickel, a meat-raw version of the aggressive safety in the other slot. Given Michigan's uncertain DE depth, that surfeit of 30 (three DL) fronts would be a welcome wrinkle in Ann Arbor, drawing Ross back into the lineup instead of an end.
I also think he's still a better player than Bolden—that gap seems to narrow when Bolden faces Michigan's own offense because knowing the plays lets him match the effect of Ross's intuitiveness. Ross came on later last year as Michigan left him in as a hybrid spacebacker, and while that job is now Peppers's, any configuration that takes Ross off the field seems worse than the +Ross option. Add a bit of havoc from the aggressive stuff and sharing a side with Peppers and Taco, and there's plenty of opportunity for Ross to build his NFL highlight reel this year.
Brian: My surprise contributor this year is Dennis Norflee—dammit.
My surprise contributor this year is Delano Hill. He is officially a backup at safety, but in practice my hunch is that we see an awful lot of him. Jabrill Peppers is all-time nickel and he's going to be at or near the LOS at all times. Michigan faces a number of spread teams; Hill will be a de facto starter against them. He will also play extensively in regular manball games, because those also feature lots of passing downs—especially against a run defense that should be very good. He will play, a lot.
When he does Michigan will have a very fast, hopefully instinctive safety. Marcus Ray has been pumping him up as the best guy there, and he's a dude who knows safety play. I've been impressed in limited snippets so far as well; the bet here is that he eats into linebacker snaps on the regular.
thumbs up [Bryan Fuller]
Class size: fishy?
Since the 2016 Michigan recruiting class has already grown beyond the 14 scholarships that are known to be available, do you have a take or any insight as to how far Coach Harbaugh is willing to go with regards to oversigning? Is it simply a matter of players not being offered a 5th year or could we actually see Michigan take a step toward opening the Harbaugh wing of St. Saban's Memorial Hospital?
I have a hard time believing that we could get that draconian with recruiting, but is there a danger that we step too close to the line that coaches like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban crossed a long time ago?
A quick glance at the Depth Chart By Class shows a large number of redshirt juniors who are not currently contributors. At this point many aren't expected to be. Those guys can graduate and either take a fifth year elsewhere or head to the real world without anything about their departure being shady. There are between four and six candidates for the firm handshake on the roster.
Also, I've heard that there were a couple guys who were likely to take medical redshirts of the legit variety. I'm surprised we haven't heard any announcements about that yet—maybe there's enough room for the players in question to see if they can get back to where they need to be this year.
Add those two things together and you have 20 or so spots right now. It's reasonable to expect playing time and other attrition to get Michigan to the 25 they seem to be planning on—most teams in year one of a new coach see attrition like that.
I don't expect this to be a long term trend. Harbaugh's classes at Stanford ended up with 19, 17, 22, and 22 kids. That is a mere 80 in four years. (The transition class between Harbaugh and Shaw was 19, FWIW.) Harbaugh is clearly alarmed at the state of the roster and is trying to get in guys who he thinks are a good fit as quickly as reasonably possible.
It is possible it'll seem shady in February. Right now it looks like a reasonable approach.
Cat fight fix, more attrition stuff.
Ace's Stanford recruiting diagnosis reminded me of JH's public cat fight with Mike Hart and Jamie Morris. I did some digging yesterday on whether those fences were mended and found general statements from Morris about Jim being the right guy for the job before his hire in Dec/Jan, but nothing direct. This scuffle was a huge deal at the time and many wrote off Harbaugh for good. Do you know if this was all swept under the rug or if we've kissed an made up?
I'm not sure if Mike Hart buried the hatchet with Harbaugh. I didn't hear anything about it during the search, and it is possible that he was omitted from the "everyone call Jim Harbaugh" list, whether by accident or on purpose.
I have heard that Harbaugh and Carr had a conversation about a lot of things that did directly address those comments to the satisfaction of both men. Thus Carr's public advocacy of hiring Harbaugh even before that was accomplished. From my impressions of both men I'm guessing they're never going to be best buds; Carr was clearly practical enough to identify the best option for Michigan's coaching search.
Also in regards to Ace's post, it seems like this year will serve as a decent case study for how JH will handle 'crootin. We are taking guys at an astonishing pace this summer, and a class that is estimated to be near the 28 man limit is already filling up. Like most, I found that a bit unsettling and hope the additional public attention at UM curbs this activity (especially if Jimmy's going to cast stones at OSU 'crootin).
As I mentioned above, Harbaugh history in terms of attrition is very conservative. Some of the decommits Ace detailed aren't how I'd want Michigan's coach to go about things, but at least those guys were able to get the picture relatively early and find places.
[After THE JUMP: "his guys," speed, Harbaugh counterfactuals.]
Catching Up: St-Juste, Hamilton, Kareem
Benjamin St-Juste [photo via 247]
We're slowly getting more information on the unexpected commitment of Canadian cornerback Benjamin St-Juste. Tim Sullivan suggested earlier this week that St-Juste could come in as early as this fall. Based on what St-Juste told TMI's Brice Marich after his commitment, however, 2016 is the most likely option:
“I have already graduated high school in Canada because we graduate one year earlier than the U.S. and now I need to add the same courses they have in the U.S. to be eligible. It is not fair for Canadians. So I need to do extra courses to be eligible and do another year. As soon as I get that, then I will be leaving Canada to be playing at Michigan.”
This isn’t the first time the Maize & Blue have harvested talent from Vieux Montreal. St-Juste will be following in the footsteps of former Wolverines Renaldo Sagesse, Alain Kashama, Emmanuel Casseus and Deitan Dubuc. If all goes according to plan he will make his way to Ann Arbor as part of the 2016 class.
247 is the first to rank St-Juste, giving him three stars based on the admittedly scant information available. Steve Lorenz caught up with former Michigan CB and current Bolingbrook (IL) head coach Todd Howard, who helped coach the defensive backs at Michigan's camp, to get his thoughts on St-Juste:
"The first thing that stood out to me was his size," Howard said. "He's a legitimate 6'3" and with a helmet and cleats, he looks all of 6'4"-6'-5". The other thing that stood out immediately about him was that he is definitely a true cornerback. When we first started working, he asked if he should be working with the safeties. I don't think he even realized he has the athleticism and length to play the cornerback spot at a high level. He showed excellent footwork and played with a very low pad level for someone of his size as well. He was very impressive."
That's a tall corner. If St-Juste's feet are quick enough, there's a lot to work with.
There were two major announcement yesterday, one that went Michigan's way and one that didn't. Four-star Farmington Hills Harrison DE Khalid Kareem chose Alabama over Michigan, even though he came very close to ending up with the Wolverines, per MLive's Nick Baumgardner:
"At one point, yeah, I did think I'd end up at Michigan," Kareem said Wednesday. "But I really just had to think about what the best decision was for me and my family."
Kareem mentioned a particular recruiting factor that will work against Jim Harbaugh until he's had time to turn the program around:
The competition Alabama will face on the field in the Southeastern Conference and the competition Kareem will face in practice every day with the Crimson Tide's established roster were the tipping points.
Right now, Michigan's not on that level. Kareem said the chance to play for a national title right away was important to him. If Michigan were in that spot right now, would his decision be different?
"Yeah, it might've been another factor," he said. "I know they're going to get there. But (Alabama's there right now)."
Despite all that, Kareem didn't feel totally firm in his choice until yesterday morning. We'll see if the coaches continue pursuing him or if they move on to other targets.
On the flip side, four-star MD OT Devery Hamilton joined the class yesterday afternoon. He told Rivals' Adam Friedman that Michigan's academic presentation played a major role in his commitment ($):
With academics played a huge part in his decision, Michigan went the extra mile to show Hamilton everything at its disposal.
"I met a professor from the business school," he said. "He was very open and inviting. He seemed like a nice person. I also talked to a pediatric oncologist at their hospital. He was very friendly. Both of them made sure that, if I was interested in going into either one of those fields, Michigan had the resources to point me in the right direction."
I think we've retired "The Pattern™" as a thing, but if we're still using it, Hamilton fits the bill.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]