Michigan's added Greg Frey as an OL/TE/run game coach, as you probably heard about. Michigan valued his addition enough to move Jay Harbaugh into a somewhat awkward spot as the RB coach, and his track record makes it obvious why.
Michigan, Part I
Rich Rodriguez and Frey walked into a disaster zone in 2008. After Corey Zirbel was forced to retire with an injury, Michigan had something like 7 or 8 scholarship offensive linemen. Things did not go well.
By year three, Frey's last in Ann Arbor, Michigan had a first-choice lineup of:
- LT Taylor Lewan
- LG Stephen Schilling
- C David Molk
- RG Patrick Omameh
- RT Perry Dorrestein
Four of those guys would go on to NFL careers of at least a few years in length, with Lewan and Omameh still in the league. Lewan and Omameh were Frey recruits. Lewan was a fast-rising prospect who Frey IDed first and got in the door for before he rose to the mid-to-high four star status he ended the cycle with; Omameh was a late poach from Cincinnati. Molk, who Frey inherited as a redshirt freshman, won the Rimington as a senior.
2010 and 2011 stand out as the zenith of Michigan offensive line play over the past... God, probably 15 years. 2011 had Lewan, Molk, and Omameh back; Frey recruit and future NFLer Michael Schofield drew into the lineup along with Mark Huyge. Lewan, Omameh, and Schofield returned in 2012 but the two new guys (Ricky Barnum and Elliott Mealer) were major steps back, and from there it was disaster time.
This is a painful recent memory for Michigan fans; it is also a best-case scenario for anyone attempting to suss out the ability of a position coach. Michigan was bad when Frey arrived; they were good when he left; the air went out of the balloon over the next few years.
Frey landed in Bloomington after his brief strange trip under RichRod and was the OL coach for Kevin Wilson until Wilson was booted a couple months ago. How much of Indiana's improvement was Wilson and how much was Frey is impossible to determine, but the combination took IU's offense to heights not since since the days of Antwan Randle-El.
This season the vagaries of recruiting Indiana and a series of injuries forced multiple young players onto the field, with predictable results; despite that Frey's track record is very strong:
...his work in Bloomington has been outstanding. Jason Spriggs is in the NFL. Dan Feeney is a potential first-round pick and probably the best guard in this year's draft. Even less heralded players, like Collin Rahrig and Jake Reed (and probably Dimitric Camiel soon to join them) have spent time on NFL rosters.
And all of that was done without the benefit of the kinds of highly regarded players Michigan would be more likely to attract than IU. When they committed, neither Feeney nor Camiel were considered among even the top 900 prospects in the 2012 class, according to the 247Sports Composite, while Spriggs was listed as a tight end.
Michigan fans no doubt remember 2015's mashing at the hands of Frey. That year's line was 8th in adjusted sack rate and 35th in adjusted line yards; the previous year's was 27th and 86th. Run efficiency took a big hit this year but IU popped back up in sacks allowed.
Frey made a ton of chicken salad in Bloomington and both close observers of Indiana...
sorry to ruin your morning but michigan just hired greg frey and, um, that’s bad for indiana https://t.co/yV50f2BnCz
— CRIMSON QUARRY (@crimsonquarry) January 25, 2017
...and national analysts...
— Steve Wiltfong (@SWiltfong247) January 25, 2017
...think Michigan just scored a coup.
But what about crootin?
A conveniently-timed article from the Tampa Bay Times:
Indiana-Tampa Bay recruiting pipeline outperforms state schools
This is largely attributable to Frey.
"The reason Indiana is having so much success in the area is all because of Greg Frey," Largo football coach Marcus Paschal said. "I have a great relationship with him that goes back a long way. He knows Rick Rodriguez, who I played for. Frey even recruited me when I played at Largo and he was an assistant at USF."
Indiana has five commits from the Tampa area in this recruiting class, including a four-star kid they flipped from USC. Frey also recruits Cincinnati for the Hoosiers with good success. He should be an asset.
But what about manball?
You'll note that for the last decade Frey has been coaching spread OLs that run a ton of inside and outside zone and not much gap stuff. (If you remember gap stuff from Indiana in the last couple years you're probably thinking about the pin and pull sweeps that are a staple of most offenses these days.) The transition from hyperspace IU chaosteam football to Michigan's manball is a large one.
This is probably more asset than drawback. Michigan has not run outside zone with any effectiveness the past couple years; Frey promises to help fix that. That should help diversify Michigan's run game. Michigan has a large portion of the manball specialists in college football already while Frey has been on the cutting edge of high-tempo spread for a decade. It's reasonable to expect some profit as those two systems exchange DNA.
Finally, Frey was the right hand man of Ohio State's new offensive coordinator for six years. If anyone has insight into Kevin Wilson's tendencies it's him.
But what about the media?
You may remember Frey's, er, enthusiastic coaching being a major point of contention during Michael Rosenberg's crusade against Rodriguez. That was more about one man's quest to dethrone Michigan's coach than anything rational, as Frey's successful tenure at IU demonstrates. When you're winning (relatively so, in Indiana's case) and producing draft picks this is how the articles go:
“See the defense!” he shouts.
For the record, we have left out the helpful adjective.
And then, again in family friendly form:
“See what’s going on!”
“Find the ball!”
You coach in the take-no-prisoners Big Ten and it’s no time for hugs and sweet words of gentle persuasion. Not in this practice moment, anyway. Frey’s message is as clear as a sledgehammer, and you’d better believe it works. He has built one of the conference’s best offensive lines, meaning it’s one of the best in the nation, and he hasn’t done it with five-star recruits.
I predict a notable silence.
If you had Teddy Greenstein in the Brings Up Erik Swenson Next pool, collect your winnings. I get annoyed at Greenstein because he puts up a front of objectivity while putting out article after article designed to put Harbaugh in a bad light. See the recent article on refereeing where he asked the Big Ten's head of officials if he was bad at his job, got a "no," and said "well, I guess that wraps it all up, folks!"
Anyway. This one was somewhat spoiled by Harbaugh explaining the situation from his perspective...
"There's a camp in June, and we really want you to come so we can see you.' It ended up, after a couple of conversations, that he wasn't going to come to camp.
"I said: 'We're going to be in Indianapolis in the beginning of June for a satellite camp. It's closer to your home.' He said no. I said, 'We really need to see you for ourselves.' He said, 'Just evaluate my senior tape.' 'OK, that's what we will do.'"
...but Greenstein does his best to frame it anyway.
What happened to Swenson is exceedingly rare: a high school player in good academic standing, who remains loyal to the school to which he verbally committed, getting dumped within weeks of signing day.
There is a term for a school dispatching a player it no longer wants: "processing."
Connecticut coach Randy Edsall got crushed last week by national media figures Paul Finebaum ("total disgrace"), Mike Greenberg ("How you go to sleep at night, I have no idea") and the Washington Post's Sally Jenkins ("No one is more committed to Randy Edsall than Randy Edsall") after his scurrilous actions regarding a high school linebacker from New Jersey named Ryan Dickens.
Contrary to pearl-clutchers in the media, "processing" kids before they can sign is a common practice getting ever more common. That's why there's a term for it. Most of these situations go uncommented upon because the kid and coaches know the score and are just looking for a landing spot. The rare thing is a kid getting pissed off about it in the media.
I think we can safely assume that someone moving down from a Power 5 program to a lower level has been processed, and there have been a number of these this year: CB Nick Roberts and QB Todd Centeio went from P5 programs to the AAC. S Ahman Ross is trying to find a landing spot at Appalachian State or Colorado State. RB Bentavious Thompson looks likely to end up at UCF. FIU is the crystal ball favorite for WR Kevaughn Dingle.
That's five guys not from all of the Power 5 or one P5 conference but one recruiting class: Miami's. Every collection of team-specific recruitniks in America has a subliminal list of a few guys who are technically committed but won't actually be in the class. For Michigan this year they were Carter Dunaway and Chase Lasater; for Ohio State they were Danny Clark, Bruce Judson, and Todd Sibley.
The 24/7 decommitment tracker is missing a pager so it only goes back three days. In those three days (three days!) there are four recruitments that look like processing of some variety:
- WR Warren Jackson decommitted from Arizona and fielded a couple of quick CSU picks.
- LB DeMarco Artis decommitted from FSU and told 247 that it was "unfortunate."
- LB Jabreel Stephens decommitted from Louisville and looks set to pick USF.
- LB Jaquan Henderson flipped from Tennessee to Georgia Tech.
It is exactly one week from signing day.
Even if not all of these are genuine processings that should be sufficient to demonstrate that the practice is not rare, or anything close to it. If Greenstein had done 15 minutes of research he would have reached the same conclusion. You have to wonder why he would not take such a basic step before making an easily-disproved factual assertion.
DJ Versatile, Part One
Illinois couldn't keep DJ Wilson off the glass. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
In Michigan's seven conference games, DJ Wilson is second on the team in scoring, first in rebounding, third in assists, and first in blocks. The efficiency numbers look even better than the counting stats: Wilson leads the Big Ten in O-Rating, ranks third in 2P%, 3P%, and eFG%, has the second-lowest turnover rate, and is top-25 in offensive rebound and block rates. Over the course of the season, he's gone from being most notable for his short shorts to being the most important—and perhaps outright best—player on the Wolverines.
Wilson bounced back from a scoreless foul-out against Wisconsin with a complete, dominant outing against Illinois: 19 points (6/8 2P, 1/2 3P, 4/6 FT), six rebounds (five offensive), five assists, no turnovers, a block, and two fouls in 39 minutes. Illini coach John Groce was duly impressed:
“I thought they beat us up on the glass, and obviously DJ Wilson spearheaded that. I thought he was absolutely terrific today. To be honest with you, he was pretty good in game one, too, when you look at his stat line. Today, he hurt us on the glass. Assuming that none of his five assists contributed to threes, he basically produced 29 points minimum for their team with his assists and his scoring.* That’s right at probably half of their production. That’s his energy level on the backboard, his willingness to make the extra pass, make his team better. I just thought he was absolutely terrific in the game. Thought he was a real, real difference.”
Let's start with Wilson's work on the boards. He grabbed six offensive rebounds for the second time this season (Iowa); excluding those two games, however, he hadn't surpassed two since the second game of the season. After the game, John Beilein mentioned he's been hammering home a specific coaching point with Wilson:
He can really shoot, but he’s got to understand, if we’re going to win, if he wants to play at another level, he’s got to mix it up inside. And he’s very receptive to that coaching, but the habit is to drift out. And getting in there, that’s where he gets stuff.
Wilson played with more aggression against Illinois and reaped the rewards. Incidentally, the threat of his outside shot is part of what makes him such a dangerous offensive rebounder. Take his first-half tip-slam, for example. Wilson is parked in the near-side corner while Zak Irvin and Moe Wagner run a high pick-and-roll. With Irvin a legitimate threat to drive and Wilson a legitimate threat on a catch-and-shoot, Wilson's defender, Leron Black—who's Illinois' best rebounder—ends up stuck in no-man's land. Black keeps his eyes on Irvin while shuffling back towards Wilson, except Wilson recognizes the opportunity and sneaks down the baseline:
That wasn't the only time Illinois had trouble picking up Wilson when he crashed from the perimeter:
If you feel like you've seen this before, Glenn Robinson III's putbacks came in similar fashion. Wilson is much bigger; he's also a better outside shooter. After this performance, he should be the second man hitting the boards much more often.
*Two of Wilson's assists did, in fact, contribute to three-pointers, so you can increment that up to 31 points produced.
[Hit THE JUMP for more DJ, a surprising Zak Irvin stat, and more.]
[UM Bentley Library]
Via Sam Webb, one of Michigan’s most successful assistants is returning to Ann Arbor:
@SamWebb77 reports Greg Frey has officially been hired as Michigan's OT/TE Coach (formerly Indiana's O-lin coach/Co-Offensive Coordinator)
— The Michigan Insider (@michiganinsider) January 25, 2017
Frey is one of the few things about the Rodriguez era that everyone would be elated to have back. In his short time here he recruited and developed 3/5ths (Omameh, Schofield and Lewan) of Michigan offensive lineman currently in the NFL, as well as Ricky Barnum. When Rodriguez was let go Frey was instantly snatched up by Indiana, where he developed Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney. He also ran a lot more power at Indiana than under Rodriguez, if you’re worried about zone versus gap-style. I was worried when Ohio State hired (lately Indiana HC) Kevin Wilson that Frey might come with him. Bringing Frey back to Michigan might not have just given us another all-star assistant; it also possibly just deprived Urban Meyer of one.
It does mean a few shifted jobs on the current staff. Drevno will apparently now be focusing on the interior OL, while Frey takes the tackles and tight ends. With the youngest OL group since we have data—and Michigan likely to start a true freshman at one or both tackle spots—putting some extra coaching resources there makes a lot of sense. Several readers pointed out today that move also sets them up to transition smoothly if Drevno ever takes a head coaching position. A solid recruiter, Frey may also help Michigan close on a few of their tackle prospects.
That appears to mean Jay Harbaugh shifts to running backs for now. That could be for good, or they could wait and see if that extra full-time assistant rule passes and bring in someone for RBs while finding other duties for Jay.
UPDATE: JayBaugh to RBs official:
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) January 25, 2017
Martin cuts the brakes on his recruitment, leaps from van soon
IA WR Oliver Martin did not make a visit to Ohio State last weekend; he's got a couple visits left but people think he's just taking the one this weekend. "Flight issues" were cited, as they usually are; we'll see if that's accurate or not when Martin ends up on someone's campus this weekend. OSU, Auburn, Florida, and Michigan are all vying for that visit. If it's Michigan that would be a very good sign since he's already been on campus. Somewhere else would not be the death knell.
FWIW, Lorenz reports that Martin's recruitment has evolved into quite the wildcard:
Based on who I've talked to, there are three different coaching staffs who believe they are going to sign Martin in Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State.
Michigan State thinks a lot of things, I'm sure. It's a luxury to be (mostly) competing with teams that went 4-8 and 3-9 this fall, which Notre Dame and Michigan State did. Go 4-8 and 3-9. Those were their records. That they had. This year.
Losing both Martin and GA WR Nico Collins (who has gone radio silent) would be a bummer, but one that takes an A+ class down to an A-.
Gay still fairly mysterious
Relatively good news in the recruitment of MS LB Willie Gay: after his LSU visit there is still uncertainty about where he'll end up. As per usual, Team X Is Confident:
"I think the coaches at LSU feel great about landing him but no one seems to truly know what he's going to do," Scarborough explained.
LSU is battling local Mississippi State and Michigan for the Starkville (Miss.) High standout, and while Tigers sources feel good here, no question this one could still go a few different directions.
Lorenz reports that "multiple members" of Gay's camp are in Michigan's corner, however, and Michigan can really hammer home the certainty they provide when Harbaugh goes in home. Gay knows he'll play early at Michigan. He knows the defense has a spot that is perfect for him. He knows that Don Brown and his five-year contract will be there for the duration of his career. By God, if Michigan can't get Willie Gay out of Mississippi they'll never get anyone.
Becton VT trend?
A bunch of crystal balls for VA OL Mekhi Becton to Virginia Tech came in after his official visit. Tim Sullivan:
"Virginia Tech made a huge move," Sullivan said. "He's not going to commit soon but confidence is very high in Blacksburg."
As mentioned in the previous recruitin' roundup, Becton has people all over the place as they try to project where he might end up. The sudden VT interest isn't good for Michigan's chances, but this is another one of those recruitments that is low on certainty. Harbaugh is going in-home today, so expect some pictures of him hitting some dingers with a baby strapped to him.
Inevitable decommit happens, less inevitable one probably doesn't
FL OL Kai-Leon Herbert made the obvious official by decommitting, throwing off some slightly upset comments as he did so. Given Herbert's previous quotes about how there was opportunity at Miami and/or Florida while he'd have to compete for time at Michigan, it sounds like some assistant got in his ear.
In happier news, NM RB O'Maury Samuels's visit did in fact happen and went well. Any concerns about in-class competition should be mitigated by Najee Harris and AJ Dillon heading elsewhere; Arizona is the only competition. That would be a stunner, to say the least.
While we're on the subject, some brief rumbles about CT OL Andrew Stueber possibly flipping to BC are unfounded.
Weird guy watch
Michigan's been casting around for a fifth DB in the class and may have struck upon their guy: MA S Ifeatu Melifonwu, a Syracuse commit. Per Sam, Melifonwu is in town currently and is staying through Thursday. The vibe is that an offer will be followed by a flip.
Melifonwu is a deep cut New England recruit who is no doubt directly attributable to Don Brown's connections in the area. Specifically, Brown recruited Melifonwu's brother Obi to UConn. Ifeautu was a who-dat two star until recently, when 24/7 took a new look at his tape and bumped him into the low-to-mid three star range. (He's #874 if you want to get specific.) He's a true sleeper with a max of four articles on any of the sites, none of which scout him. Mostly they say "this person committed to Syracuse" in slightly different ways.
ESPNBoston comes in with the save:
Melifonwu ran a 4.58 in the 40 last year, so he has legitimate Division 1 speed. He plays even faster than that on tape. He moves well in space and he gets in and out of cuts with ease. Melifonwu is a long strider and he can accelerate quickly when running with or without the ball.
Melifonwu is also a receiver, so the ball skills are evident on both sides of the ball. He can high point the ball one on one in coverage and he's strong with the ball in his hands. Melifonwu has long arms and a wide catch radius which enables him to win jump ball situations.
Melifonwu has the size and the athleticism to be a productive press corner at the next level. Teams at the NFL and college level want corners with length that can jam and re-route receivers out of Cover 2. Melifonwu can do that and effectively support the run. The 40 time might not be ideal, but Melifonwu plays faster than his time and his athleticism is evident on tape. There no question that Melifonwu has the physical tools to be a multi-year starter at Syracuse.
If Melifonwu is anything like his brother he'll be a steal. Obi redshirted and then was a four year starter at UConn, earning All AAC honors this year. He's set to get drafted, possibly very high:
Executive 2: UConn safety Obi Melifonwu
"The UConn safety is really intriguing. He's freaky athletic and he's going to put up big-time testing numbers. He'll run low 4.4s (in the 40-yard dash) and jump over 40 inches. He can play in the slot as well. Huge upside."
While everyone prefers bigger names with more proven ability, Melifonwu is deep in Don Brown's wheelhouse. I'll ride with him.
No other fringe names appear likely to surprise at this juncture. PA OL CJ Thorpe's visit to Ann Arbor was as pointless as it looked; he immediately reaffirmed to PSU. Lorenz reports that VA LB Ellis Brooks didn't get an in-home and Michigan isn't actively recruiting him.
The thing about fringe names is that you don't often know them until things suddenly happen; 50/50 another guy comes out of nowhere if Michigan has a spot late—and it looks like they will, especially since Jeremy Clark got screwed.
Ryan Bartow recently told the USC board he's still sticking with his Michigan pick for GA DT Aubrey Solomon.
[Rich Barnes – USA Today]
Michigan 64 - Wisconsin 68
Illinois 68 - Purdue 91
Indiana 78 - Penn State 75
Ohio State 67 - Nebraska 66
Maryland 84 - Iowa 76
Penn State 52 - Purdue 77
Nebraska 64 - Rutgers 65
Illinois 57 - Michigan 66
Michigan State 75 - Indiana 82
Wisconsin 78 - Minnesota 76 (OT)
Northwestern 74 - Ohio State 72
T-1. Maryland (5-1)
T-1. Wisconsin (5-1)
T-3. Northwestern (5-2)
T-3. Purdue (5-2)
T-5. Indiana (4-3)
T-5. Michigan State (4-3)
T-7. Iowa (3-4)
T-7. Michigan (3-4)
T-7. Minnesota (3-4)
T-7. Nebraska (3-4)
T-7. Penn State (3-4)
T-12. Ohio State (2-5)
T-12. Illinois (2-5)
14. Rutgers (1-6)
Northwestern is Actually Good
With Rutgers now permanently affixed to the last-place spot in the conference, it’s easy to forget that Northwestern used to be that bad – and that they were that bad for a really long time. Everybody knows that Northwestern hasn’t ever made it to the NCAA Tournament, but it’s hard to overstate exactly how overmatched the Wildcats were for most of their history. They were Rutgers before Rutgers somehow got a bid to the Big Ten and became Rutgers. They aren’t that anymore.
Right now, Northwestern is 5-2 in Big Ten play despite having already played five conference games on the road. They’re a half-game out of first place. They’re 16-4 overall, and their worst loss came on the road to Michigan State. Right now, 77 of the 78 mock brackets in the Bracket Matrix have NU in the NCAA Tournament – and many of them fall into the 7-10 seed range, a fairly comfortable position. Kenpom projects the Wildcats to finish 23-8 (12-6 in the Big Ten), which would certainly lock them into a spot in March Madness for the first time. At the risk of jinxing things, Northwestern should feel pretty good about their chances.
This past weekend, Northwestern won in Columbus for the first time since the 70’s, and it didn’t even feel like a surprise. Kenpom had favored them – slightly – to win; Ohio State is one of the worst non-Rutgers teams in the Big Ten; Northwestern has been having their best season ever. Still, it was surreal to watch the Wildcats, who were led by scoring two-guard Scottie Lindsey, emerge with a win over Thad Matta on the road – especially because of some excruciating losses NU had suffered to the Buckeyes in recent years. They benefited from 11 missed OSU free throws and won by two in a tightly-contested game.
Right now, Northwestern’s in the top half of the conference in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Some outstanding rim protection (and three-point defense, which is largely random) anchors their defense, which ranks in the top ten of eFG% allowed by opponents. With Dererk Pardon back from injury, they have the size in the frontcourt to give most teams a lot of problems up front. With the emergence of Lindsey and Vic Law as perimeter scoring threats, NU has enough firepower outside to complement Bryant McIntosh (who’s regressed some this season). This isn’t a typical Northwestern team, to say the least. Barring an unexpected implosion, they’ll be a tough out for someone in the tournament come March.
[More after the JUMP]