John Baxter has returned to USC after one year as Michigan's special teams coach. This is not ideal. Despite some late hiccups, Baxter was a godsend for a special teams unit that was amongst the country's worst under Brady Hoke. Michigan went from 66th to 16th in special teams efficiency in a single year under Baxter. Since most of the hiccups were acts of God* rather than strategic or coaching errors he largely lived up to the hype even if Michigan didn't block a billion kicks.
In his absence, Michigan looks set to give Chris Partridge a full assistant job.
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) January 8, 2016
This is good for recruiting. What it means for special teams is unknown—Partridge is likely to come in as a linebackers coach. Jay Harbaugh will probably pick up some of the slack since TE/ST is a common combination, and then you might see Mike Zordich chip in since Michigan is splitting the secondary.
There will probably be a drop. Baxter is the best at what he does and there was a flood of fond goodbyes from Michigan players on twitter—he was well liked. As long as Michigan doesn't go back to NFL punting I'll be happy.
If Michigan does end up promoting Partridge they will need a new recruiting coordinator. Devin Bush Sr., who built Flanagan High into a power from very little, has been rumored to be a candidate for a job even if this hadn't happened. Now you might want to pencil him in. He's basically a Florida version of Partridge. Michigan will hope to make up for Baxter's loss with a crootin bump.
*[Dropped snaps, missed tackles, and ridiculously bad refereeing against MSU, Indiana, and Rutgers, respectively. Michigan got a punt blocked against Penn State that was due to bad tactics.]
See also: 2016 offense
DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.
- FS Jarrod Wilson. I have a terrible fear that one day I will run into Jarrod Wilson and he will know who I am and berate me for calling him "boring" for four years. I mean that as a compliment. I still have the Shazor burns, see? Forgive me, oh boring one. Yea, we give all praises unto you.
- LB Desmond Morgan. MGoBlog fave-rave. I will seriously fight you if you try to tell me that he was a detriment last year (except against Minnesota). Lunch-pail dude, thumper, not perfect or an NFL guy but a quality college player. Rocked back linemen consistently, mostly decent in coverage. (Except against Minnesota.)
- LB Joe Bolden. Frustrating player who killed it in spring practice and mostly got killed in live action. Bad at taking contact, tended to run around blocks, did make up for it with nice plays here and there, still fearful that his departure will be felt since LB is such a huge Q.
- WDE Mario Ojemudia. Only lower than the linebackers because he was knocked out of the lineup with an achilles injury the very instant he couldn't get a medical redshirt. Never a dynamic pass rusher but a quality run defender who was excellent when optioned.
- WDE Royce Jenkins-Stone. Converted LB did fine as Ojemudia's understudy, and then as his replacement. Like Ojemudia, not a dynamic player but a consistently positive impact.
- LB James Ross. Finally seemed to find his home just in time for Jabrill Peppers to legislate it out of the defense. When he did see the field tended to entertainingly obliterate lead blockers on the edge. That was infrequently.
- CB Jourdan Lewis. All American cornerback led nation in PBUs and was PFF fave-rave; also MGoBlog fave-rave. Lightning fast and agile, excellent at sneaky corner tricks, had epic battle with Aaron Burbridge, inexplicably left off Thorpe finalists list. Future first round pick.
- NT Ryan Glasgow. Went from "good for a walk-on" to Mike Martin reincarnated before an innocuous tackle against Rutgers knocked him out for the season, with devastating effect to the defense around him. Technician with violent hands will rip through you and follow you to the sideline. Pass rush a hair below Martin's but much improved; expecting monster senior season.
- NICKEL Jabrill Peppers. Fulfilled the hybrid space player prophecy by obliterating opponents' screen game to the point where they tried it once, if ever, and then gave up. Coverage was shaky early but improved considerably over the course of the year; still a work in progress. Don Brown promises to unleash him as a blitzer.
- SDE Chris Wormley. Had series of hilarious one-on-one matchups with tight ends that only ended one way. Major component of Michigan's stunt-focused pass rush, and a moderately successful rusher straight-up. A+ run defender, B rusher, should increment pleasingly in final season.
- 3TECH Willie Henry. Kind of had the breakout season we were all hoping for but had it overshadowed by the radical improvements Glasgow and Wormley made. Hulk strength was better paired with technique, leading Henry into a ton of opponent backfields. Area for improvement: did not do well avoiding cut blocks. NFL a possibility but currently expecting a return. If he does depart move him to #1 in the departing category.
- CB Jeremy Clark. Eased past Stribling midseason to be the primary starter opposite Lewis. Did well for the most part. Most completions on him were fluky or heavily contested with the exception of one deep-third bust against MSU. Combo of size and athleticism a bit like Richard Sherman.
- SS Delano Hill. Excellent open-field tackler had a number of hiccups last year that ceded big plays. Had a bad habit of trying to rake balls out from behind instead of just tackling guys, got replaced by Thomas briefly before injury put him right back in the lineup. Not as reliable as Wilson.
- FS Dymonte Thomas. Light seemed to go on midseason, after which Thomas finally put his explosive speed on display. Thomas was capable of getting over the top of deep ball on the sideline and sticking stride for stride with receivers. One on one coverage still a bit up and down, but moved from enigma to expected starter relatively smoothly.
- NT Maurice Hurst Jr. Quick-twitch nose tackle lived in opponent backfields for much of the year. Slightly exposed after Glasgow went out and his swashbuckling style was exploited by Indiana stretch plays; also lacks the pure bulk to stand up to double teams. Perhaps better suited as a three-tech, and with Bryan Mone returning don't be surprised if he gets the lion's share of his time there.
- SDE Taco Charlton. This space projects that Charlton will move to WDE next year, as there is a big hole at the spot. Charlton's 5.5 sacks and 8.5 TFLs are impressive given his relatively scant playing time, and he's almost certainly going to be a better run defender than the guy 40 pounds lighter than him who is the alternative.
- DT/DE Matt Godin. Had a lot of effective playing time early when he just about split time with the soon-to-be-dominant Wormley. Play and playing time suffered after Glasgow injury when he got sucked inside and had to take on double-teams he is ill-suited to combat. Will be an effective rotation guy at SDE if roster allows.
- CB Channing Stribling. Kept phasing out of reality at inopportune times, albeit less often than he did in 2014. Good enough to get significant snaps in most games and that should continue next year.
- LB Ben Gedeon. Only backup LB to get significant time, Gedeon seems a lot like Bolden.
WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY
whenever I see a picture of Don Brown I ask myself did this NO NONSENSE COP take things TOO FAR THIS TIME pic.twitter.com/eJLjXASQns
— mgoblog (@mgoblog) December 21, 2015
The defensive coordinator. Don Brown comes over from Boston College after leading the Eagles to an astounding season given their talent level and dire offense. He should have a successful tenure at Michigan based on a 4-3 and hyper-aggressiveness.
Given Michigan's personnel and Brown's predilection for small quick linebackers you can just about bank on a 4-2-5 with very similar personnel to this year's defense; Brown favors man press as well so the transition should be smooth.
All the linebackers including pretty much Gedeon. The projected 4-2-5 is a lifesaver here since there is one linebacker on the roster who's had a meaningful snap, and even he's a bit of a mystery.
We've seen a fair bit of Ben Gedeon in his first three years. He could never unseat Bolden despite Bolden's consistently disappointing play, and seemed kind of like him when he did get on the field. The meat of the bell curve here is another year of Bolden, which isn't great but could be way worse.
The other spot is completely up for grabs. Walk-on Dan Liesman appeared to be the #4 LB last year if you're going by pregame skeleton drills; he'll be a fifth year senior and might be an able stopgap. The other main contenders are Noah Furbush—who had a fine year on kick coverage and reportedly impressed the coaches—and true freshman Devin Bush Jr, who is on campus now and brings the kind of instinctive speed Don Brown wants from his linebackers. Michigan also moved Rueben Jones, a projected weakside end, to ILB in bowl practices.
A distinct lack of boring safety blanket. Neither projected starting safety is new, per se, but the lack of Boring Safety Jarrod Wilson, Esq., is. Both Hill and Thomas are no strangers to busted assignments, and while they performed well to close out the year I might be waiting for them to explode during the first few games before I exhale. Thomas at least promises the ability to make up for the occasional biff with a big play of his own.
Maybe the weakside end unless they just shove an old dude over. The bet here is that your starting WDE next year is Taco Charlton. As mentioned above, his production in limited time last year is impressive, and Charlton was always going to be one of those guys who took some time to develop his ridiculous athleticism. He can hack WDE, and since other options there include doghouse resident Lawrence Marshall and an anthropomorphic question mark, Taco is going to be the man.
Bryan Mone. Mone was gathering mass practice hype that, in retrospect, was ridiculous. Mone was never going to supplant Ryan Glasgow. That it was even vaguely possible given what we know about Glasgow now tantalizes. A fully healthy Mone says he's down to 309 and ready to rock; he should play and play very well.
Please please please Rashan Gary. Other than Bush and whatever linebackers join him in the class, the only freshman on defense that projects to make the two deep would be national #1 recruit Rashan Gary. Gary would move into the rotation at multiple spots, likely becoming the primary backup at both DE spots and maybe even 3TECH. Yes, Rashan Gary can play WDE. Anyway, he would get as many snaps as anyone else on the line immediately.
WHAT'S TRUE DETECTIVE SEASON ONE
The defensive line. Wormley/Glasgow/Henry/Charlton is a defensive line that consists entirely of battle-tested seniors who anchored one of the best units in the country a year ago. All those dudes will get drafted. That is a monster, monster unit.
The second defensive line. Unless PSU, MSU, and OSU all reload big-time, Godin/Mone/Hurst/Gary would be a top three defensive line in the Big Ten. For real. That is huge for reasons anyone who watched the Indiana game can tell you. Or an Alabama game. Alabama's dominance starts with the fact that they have two elite defensive lines at all times.
Man press machines. In Jeremy Clark and Jourdan Lewis Michigan has two elite man press corners. Clark is not a guy you ever want to see anywhere near the slot but if you line him up on the outside and give him inside leverage he can recover and defend fades all damn day. Lewis is an All-American who can cover anyone anywhere.
The hybrid space prophecy is fulfilled. Jabrill Peppers murder-death-killed opposition screen games all year. It got to the point where teams didn't even try. In coverage he started off shaky and improved greatly. He's still going to get shook from time to time; if his improvement trajectory remains steady he will be insane by year's end.
WHAT'S THE FACT THAT I WATCHED THE LAST EPISODE OF TRUE DETECTIVE FIRST BECAUSE HBO GO IS DESIGNED BY MORONS
Linebacker. Ben Gedeon is certain to start by default. Default is never good. The spot next to him is a massive question mark and yes, twitter egg, replacing Desmond Morgan is kind of a big deal. Maybe not as much of a big deal as it could be given the defensive line, but Michigan had no faith in anyone other than Gedeon to get snaps last year… this could be a wild and woolly ride.
Compounding matters here is the schedule. Michigan gets Wisconsin and Iowa from the other conference next year. Combined with Michigan State and possibly Ohio State* that means a significant chunk of the schedule, and most of the really important bits, may demand the insertion of a third linebacker.
Or maybe not. Brown loves small guys and blitzes so they could just roll with Jabrill.
*[OSU used a bunch of 2 TE sets against M this year that M failed to respond to.]
WHAT'S THE UNKNOWABLE NATURE OF MAN, MAN
How boring with the safeties be? The swift emergence of Dymonte Thomas over the second half of the season seriously mitigates what was looking like a trouble spot. It does not entirely remove the possibility that Michigan blows a bunch of big plays because their safeties are interesting, thus sabotaging the first defensive line and the second defensive line.
I don't think we can continue the Pax Kovacs/Wilson. Hopefully it won't be too much of a drop.
MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS
Take this year, add Bryan Mone and Ryan Glasgow and (please baby recruiting Jesus) Rashan Gary, remove the world's dumbest OSU gameplan, and see what you get. What you get is another top-five-ish defense.
That's the simple version. Without Caris LeVert in the lineup, Michigan took an early lead and remained in striking distance until late, but when the defense faltered the Wolverine offense couldn't keep pace against Purdue's top-ranked D.
Outside of Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who tallied a career-high 25 points on 10/16 FG, nobody could consistently get to the rim and finish against Purdue's front line; center AJ Hammons blocked four shots and altered several others. Michigan had to rely on their perimeter play, and with reigning Big Ten DPOY Rapheal Davis shadowing Duncan Robinson, open looks weren't easy to come by—M managed to reach 40% from three but only following a few makes after the game was decided. Purdue's defense lived up to its billing.
Purdue's offensive success, meanwhile, didn't come in the way most expected. Instead of playing volleyball on the glass, they mixed post touches with a drive-and-kick approach that generated both layups and open three-pointers—the Boilermakers, not a great outside shooting squad, went 9/18 from beyond the arc. With Hammons scoring 17 on ten shots, Michigan couldn't slow the Boilermakers inside or outside the paint.
Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin couldn't make up the difference. Walton needed 12 shot equivalents to net his 12 points; he had trouble dealing with Purdue's size at the rim, and he also strugged mightily on defense. Irvin had to expend a ton of energy guarding burly power forward Caleb Swanigan, and while he did well in that regard, it left him without much juice to carry the offense—he went 2/10 for seven points with three assists and four turnovers.
There were positives to take away here, especially the play of Rahkman and the team keeping the rebounding battle even; that latter part was a huge issue in their previous losses. Mark Donnal didn't turn out to be an instant solution at center, however, even if he looked the best of M's bigs tonight, and for this team to compete with the top-tier B1G squads they need a healthy LeVert.
Michigan (12-3, 2-0 B1G) at
Purdue (13-2, 1-1)
West Lafeyette, Indiana
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Thursday|
|LINE||Purdue -9 (KenPom)|
PBP: Adam Amin
Analyst: Craig Robinson
Right: Purdue Pete struggles to cope with 2013 Michigan's talent [Fuller].
Caris LeVert returned to practice yesterday after a one-game absence following his rolled ankle against Illinois. His pain level will determine if he's able to give it a go tonight:
“He’s been trying to do different things,” Beilein said. “Caris will be out there in practice today, and we’ll see how he does. If he is not able to do it without pain, he will not play. If he plays without pain, he’ll be in there.”
Beilein noted that LeVert will continue to try in practices until he’s healthy, including Thursday’s pregame shootaround in West Lafayette, and said that he will warm up tomorrow and see how he feels before a decision is made.
LeVert's presence is of paramount importance against the top-ranked defensive squad in the country.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations. The "Should I Be Mad If He Hits A Three" methodology: we're mad if a guy who's not good at shooting somehow hits one. Yes, you're still allowed to be unhappy if a proven shooter is left open. It's a free country.
|G||3||PJ Thompson||So.||5'10, 188||54||12||No|
|Low usage, decent outside shooter, solid assist:turnover ratio.|
|G||35||Rapheal Davis||Sr.||6'6, 217||48||18||No|
|Reigning B1G DPOY has developed into plus shooter. True lockdown guy.|
|F||12||Vince Edwards||So||6'8, 225||61||19||No|
|Inside-outside threat boasts team's highest assist rate.|
|F||50||Caleb Swanigan||Fr.||6'9, 250||68||24||Not really|
|Heralded freshman is beast on boards, still finding consistency on offense.|
|C||20||AJ Hammons||Sr.||7'0, 250||48||26||Very|
|Living up to his potential: monster rebounder and shot-blocker, shooting 62%.|
|C||44||Isaac Haas||So.||7'2, 282||42||29||Very|
|If Hammons was bigger and looked like Ivan Drago, he'd be Isaac Haas.|
|G||31||Dakota Mathias||So.||6'4, 200||48||14||No|
|Just A Shooter™, hits 35% of his threes.|
|G||1||Johnny Hill||Sr.||6'3, 187||45||17||Very|
|Strong finisher for a PG, but lost starting gig due to TOs and lack of 3P shot.|
|G||21||Kendall Stephens||Jr.||6'7, 205||42||22||Not really|
|High-volume gunner off the bench but only making 33% of threes.|
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
Ring the silent alarm
— Kyle (@grade_eh_tweets) January 6, 2016
IN QB commit Brandon Peters tells Sam Webb that Michigan has two silent commitments on the West squad at the Army game. "Silent commits" are always a dubious notion, but they do work out frequently—FL LB Devin Bush Jr was a silent for months—and if one of those guys is announcing at the game itself that would be a good indicator indeed.
FWIW, Michigan is involved with these uncommitted players on the West squad: CA WR Dylan Crawford, MI CB Lavert Hill, CA CB David Long, MI WR Donnie Corley, and CA TE Devin Asiasi. Michigan has always seemed to trail for Corley and isn't even certain to get a visit from Asiasi so it would have to be two of the former three. Crawford seems the most likely since he's announcing at the game, has only officially visited Michigan and Oregon, and the Ducks reportedly do not have room.
Things look good for the two defensive backs but neither feels entirely certain right now. Long is down to Michigan and Washington; a mid-January official to UW looms. Long says Michigan will have an in-home with him just before his decision and that might give them "a little edge" in an interview with Brandon Brown.
Steve Wiltfong thinks it's a bigger edge as he recently ballz'd Long to Michigan after Long told him that he's "going to follow through with my schedule… but my mind is kind of made up." Webb also believes Michigan is "in the driver's seat." Long goes way back with Crawford and a couple of different articles have mentioned the attraction of playing together; our expectation is that they do in Ann Arbor.
Meanwhile Hill is officially not announcing at the Army game and will take a series of official visits in January before announcing on Signing Day. On the other hand, Corley told Eugene Hankerson that Hill has already made up his mind. So… yeah. Optimism on Hill has been off the charts for months; his desire to see a bunch of places in January reduces that somewhat. Still seems highly likely that Harbaugh and brother win out eventually.
Hopes not so much up for this one
GA TE Isaac Nauta's decision has been made. Apparently it was difficult.
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) January 6, 2016
Hopefully the difficulty there is "disappointing people close to me" instead of "passing up an opportunity to be a Harbaugh tight end." But probably not. Webb has an interview in which Nauta says a lot of great things about Michigan; despite that I think literally everyone expects Georgia is the pick. He'll announce at the Army game.
Meanwhile, CA TE Devin Asiasi really wants to play on offense but didn't get to show much in that department for his high school team; he apparently Balled So Hard early at the Army game. Brandon Huffman was impressed:
Asiasi is a big tight end, 6-5, 265-ish, but can absolutely run and catch like a lighter tight end. He's a smooth pass-catcher with a big catch radius, has soft hands, runs tremendous routes and looks natural playing the position.
Asiasi still maintains he will visit three schools not named Michigan in January—M is trying to get a midweek visit. That doesn't sound good but if the guy wants to be a tight end there's no better place. If he does end up visiting I'd give Michigan a good chance.
Paging one more defensive end
There's probably one spot left for a defensive end and three main possibilities for the spot.
Onwuzurike Onwuzurike Onwuzurike
Depending on who you listen to, TX DE Levi Onwuzurike is either the top priority (247 and Scout) or an afterthought (Rivals). I'm fairly certain Onwuzurike is in fact the most wanted guy at the spot.
Webb gathers the opinions of a couple of Scout Texas guys, who both think Onwuzurike is a major talent (Scout has him ranked highest of any service) and think Onwuzurike is a Baylor-Michigan battle. This is good, because various other people think it's a Washington-Michigan battle, and when you're the one school amongst changing other schools you're in good shape.
If Onwuzurike does go with one of his other finalists Michigan will try to lock down either AZ DE Connor Murphy or FL DE Joshua Uche. Murphy is a Harbaugh guy after his brother made it to the NFL after passing through Harbaugh's Stanford program; Miami decommit Uche is a new offer made in the immediate aftermath of Don Brown's hire.
Murphy recently expressed frustration with a a bunch of coaching changes amongst the teams he's considering, which made it into an article at Oregon Live since the Ducks just demoted their DC back to LB coach and fired the LB coach—Murphy's primary recruiter—after blowing a 31-point lead in their bowl game.
Smh @CMurph_90 has journalists writing articles about his subtweets
— Hunter Parks (@HPonDaDiamond) January 5, 2016
And, well, yeah. Murphy's kind of a big deal. And the teams he's considering have been chaos on the defensive side. In addition to the Oregon moves, DJ Durkin left M, USC has no DC, and ASU is in flux after OC Mike Norvell became Memphis's head coach and started raiding the former staff.
Michigan at least has the Harbaugh connection and a settled staff, and the article asserts a thing I didn't know was a fact.
Arizona State, Michigan, Oregon, Stanford and USC could all still be in the mix for the dynamic defensive talent, although the Wolverines are seen as the leader given Murphy's strong family bond with Jim Harbaugh.
I put a ballz in for Murphy like a year ago but we've maintained it mostly because if we are right we get crazy points for it since it's so old—we have no real idea which way Murphy is leaning. Michigan does have a big advantage in coaching relationships despite the Durkin move. A 'Bama visit looms after Michigan's shot, though.
Not much is known about Uche's status. Miami apparently hasn't talked to him since Richt arrived and now he's uncertain if he's even on their board. He's got visits to Florida and Michigan scheduled and should be a Signing Day decision.
Elliott continues to impress
TX DT Jordan Elliott is consistently mentioned as one of the best players at the Army Bowl. Rivals:
From the beginning of the day, Elliott caught everyone's attention. His first step caused problems for interior linemen throughout the day. He was ready to play today and blew up play after play during team and inside drills. His lower body strength and quickness definitely stood out.
Elliott has stood out more consistently on the defensive side of the ball than any other front seven player. …has done pretty much whatever he's wanted. He's big, explosive, and has experience playing multiple positions, though he's at his best as an even-front 3-technique tackle.
Meanwhile Steve Wiltfong called Elliott "an elite talent":
The country’s No. 7 defensive tackle according to 247Sports took several dominant reps, shoots the gap quickly and is a strong pass rusher from the interior. One of the more physically impressive guys on the field, Elliott is also one of the better athletes in small space with his quick first step.
Wiltfong would be surprised if he wasn't in the two deep "right away," which would in fact surprise me given the depth Michigan has coming back. I'm guessing Wiltfong isn't considering what Michigan brings back when he makes that statement; all the same that's impressive praise.
FWIW, Elliott again repeatedly shot down the idea he was anything but 100% solid to Michigan. He must be wondering how many times he has to say it by now.
Michael Onwenu is a mutant
DT Jordan Elliott vs OL Michael Onwenu pic.twitter.com/ewnTdnMrR7
— Brian Perroni (@Perroni247) January 4, 2016
Onwenu was one of the few to stay in front of Elliott
People usually don't come shaped like MI OL Michael Onwenu, who could not be weighed at the Army Bowl because the scale only goes up to 350. Unsurprisingly, there's "no question he was the strongest offensive lineman" at the Army Bowl, but when you put "perhaps the quickest" on top of that, as Wiltfong did, that's an impressive prospect. As a bonus, despite being a 6'3" guard Onwenu comes with tackle-length arms:
[Onwenu] had the biggest hands (11 inches) and second longest arms (35 inches) of any prospect in attendance.
If Onwenu works out he could really, really work out. He did impressive work against the best DT at the game—Elliott. Webb:
No one got past him, as he consistently stonewalled defenders at the line of scrimmage. Onwenu won back to back reps versus Elliot, showing that once he gets his paws on a defender, they’re done.
"Paws" may be literal here.
Other Army Bowl reports
Reports are mixed for Michigan's other Army targets. Hill just missed ALPHA DOG status on day one according to 247. He's a "lockdown corner with elite feet, great speed and quicks," which makes him sound like a guy Hill talks to every day—Jourdan Lewis.
IN QB Brandon Peters seems to be a notch behind the five stars at the event. Wiltfong:
Michigan commit Brandon Peters has a live, accurate arm and he also showed nice touch. He’ll be fun to watch develop in Ann Arbor as the Avon (Ind.) High talent continues to work on his fundamentals.
Webb was higher on his performance:
On Monday, he looked the part. You could argue that no other quarterback was better than him. Peters was impressive, showing off arm strength and accuracy.
He doesn't have a say in the rankings, though.
Weeble wobblers are committed but visiting
Nate Johnson stiffarms the dictionary all day bruh
Behold the most crootin quote of all time (ALL TIME):
“I’m committed to Michigan right now, so everyone knows I’m going to Michigan. If nothing changes, like decommitting, which I’m probably not gonna do, but we’ll see. Everyone will know that. If I decommit from Michigan, which I won’t, I’ll definitely hold off all the way until signing day.”
-TN WR commit(?) Nate Johnson
So. Despite having 23 commits, Michigan's class is still in considerable flux. A number of recruits aren't hearing much from the staff, and a handful of other guys are doing the committed-but-visiting thing that sets your teeth to grating if you're the kind of person who occasionally screams "you mean FIGURATIVELY" at people saying they literally ate a horse. (Guilty.)
Anyway, those guys are:
- TN WR Nate Johnson, who is visiting Miami, Vanderbilt, and Penn State. He says he is 100% committed, but… you saw the quote. None of those teams seem like particularly large threats. Johnson recently got a Virginia Tech offer as well, and… I mean… you saw the quote.
- IN WR/DB Chris Evans got an Ohio State offer and will "official for sure" since OSU was the proverbial dream school. I bet a thousand dollars that if Evans flips Bill Kurelic compares him favorably to Kareem Walker even though they're completely different prospects.
- CA WR Dylan Crawford isn't even committed yet but we should throw him in this bin since he also plans January visits to Miami, Washington, and Georgia plus an unofficial to UCLA.
- FL DT Rashad Weaver has a Temple visit scheduled.
- IN ATH Kiante Enis visited Indiana and says he hadn't heard much from Michigan a couple weeks back.
- FL LB Devin Gil and FL S Josh Metellus took a trip to Colorado last month (so did Devin Bush, but he's already enrolled).
- NJ WR Brad Hawkins and NJ DE Ron Johnson may visit North Carolina, South Carolina, or neither.
There are a couple other guys who may leave the class as well; Michigan is probably going to have a significant shuffle in the next few weeks. One that won't involve Jordan Elliott.
Your 2016 early enrollees are…
These gentlemen have already arrived on campus or will as soon as they're done with the Army game:
- IN QB Brandon Peters
- NJ RB Kareem Walker
- AL RB Kingston Davis
- NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell
- MA TE Sean McKeon
- CO DE Carlo Kemp
- FL LB Devin Bush Jr.
All eyes will be on the tailbacks and Bush headed into the spring game.
- GA WR commit Jeremiah Holloman had a terrific Rising Stars camp: Jake Reuse, a Georgia reporter said he was "the most impressive offensive player at the practices," which included a lot of top 2017 kids in Georgia.
- MI CB Ambry Thomas tells Steve Lorenz that things are "going really well" with Michigan and that he's planning on deciding this spring after a swing through various SEC schools. MSU, the crystal ball favorite, doesn't draw much mention.
- MI S Jaylen Kelly-Powell is "slowing things down" and wants to visit Stanford, Duke, and UCLA; he was generally expected to drop for Michigan if he did indeed commit early. Michigan should still be in good shape since he goes to Cass and his parents are both alums. Given his list you know he's a high academic kid.
- MI LB Antjuan Simmons is just across the street from the Big House and has "really built a strong bond" with 2017 commit Ja'Raymond Hall. Simmons intends on making all his officials even so.
- MI WR KJ Hamler really wants an Oregon offer because he is small and fast as hell. He plans on camping there and it sounds like they're the real leader if they offer. Given what Ace saw this fall, I bet they do.
- FL CB Stanford Samuels III goes to Flanagan HS, which you may be familiar with since three commits in this class are Flanagan kids. That gives Michigan an in, but he's a national recruit—Scout has him #15 overall in 2017—and he'll be a tough pull.
- 2017 five-star TX S Jeffery Okudah put Michigan on his top ten list but says that Stanford and Ohio State are sticking out at the moment. He does plan a visit; early days for him.
NJ WR Donald Stewart is still planning a visit on the 22nd. He hasn't heard about Stanford admission yet, which is a major hitch for his presumed leader. No idea if Michigan will have room for him, but he remains an option.
Melanie Maxwell | The Ann Arbor News
Make an outlandish prediction for 2016.
Adam: De'Veon Smith will rush for 1,000+ yards with 5 yards per carry. Smith should have a little more room to run in 2016 thanks to John O'Korn's downfield aptitude, the development of Jehu Chesson from receiver with track speed to receiver with track speed and hands, and an offensive line that will have two years of getting Drevno'd under their belts.
Five YPC is a lofty estimate, but if Smith shows the kind of vision he did in the bowl game it's attainable; he rushed for 109 yards and 4.4 YPC against S&P+'s fifth-ranked run defense. Smith was injured most of the year, and his carries and yards/game dropped as a result. I think he would have gotten double-digit carries in every game had he not been hurt and expect him to in 2016. I also don't think there's another back on the roster who's likely to steal those extra carries. Sure, Kareem Walker will probably play, but I'd be surprised if he gets more than the 55 carries Drake Johnson got in 2015.
[Hit THE JUMP because someone makes a lemon bet on a linebacker]