this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
As I sit here watching Missouri and Auburn roll up and down the field, with the only defense being turnovers, I'm wondering what can be done to curtail the wave of offense in football so that defenses have a chance again. Maybe people are fine with all of the offense, but it seems like it is so tough to play defense (get held on nearly every play, called one in 30 times) that I would love to see something to help even things up without drastically changing the game (such as 3 downs instead of 4 or having to go 15 yards for a first down instead of 10, etc.). I think I figured out a simple change that may help: with offenses spread out to make one on one match-ups all over the place, what if there is a rule that all of the offensive players have to line up between the numbers? This wouldn't be such a drastic change and it would allow defenses to be a little less spread out at the snap.
What do you think?
A loyal reader,
Despite the attempt to not seem drastic, that seems kind of drastic. That would affect a lot of teams from spread to, uh, concentrate. And I'm not even sure what the impact would be. If teams just stack two guys up at the numbers is that better or worse? It doesn't seem to have a huge impact. Apologies, but thumbs down.
If we're going to change football to slow down the offenses, my suggestion is to simplify and liberalize pass interference by making it a (nearly) arms-only offense. I can't stand it when a defender gets nailed for the WR trying to run through him; some of these back shoulder things are basically prayer ducks relying on the fact that the DB isn't looking and hoping he'll run over the DB. In the hypothetical world where I am king, whiskey is free and pass interference is a thing that can only happen when a defensive back uses his arms in an unfair fashion or blows a guy up early. No more of this stuff where the DB is running in a direction and the WR changes his path such that the DB is now impeding the WR. You have a right to your momentum. In exchange, offenses can have full NFL penalties for flagrant you-tackled-that-guy offenses.
Not that any of this will do much to slow down Auburn, which just runs and runs and runs and runs. They beat Alabama and their QB threw for 97 yards. They got outgained by 100 yards, but they also ran for 5.7 yards a carry against Alabama. It boggles the mind.
Moving Willie Henry?
OK, there are many candidates to play the DT next year, but few candidates to play NT if Pipkins doesn't come back strong after injury. You and others are very high on Henry at DT, but I haven't seen him mentioned at a possible NT. His weight and height look fine, but is there something about his build that makes him not well suited to play the nose?
Henry is a very plausible NT with his size and strength. Michigan lists him at 6'2", 306, which is about ideal NT size, and we've seen him throw away more than one OL this year. In an ideal world, Pipkins is full-go by late spring and playing well in fall camp, allowing Henry to continue doing his thing at three-tech.
But if that's not happening I bet we do see Henry slide over to the nose. Michigan's other options there are Richard Ash and redshirt freshman Maurice Hurst Jr, which doesn't sound too appealing. At three tech, Strobel, Poggi, and Glasgow are returning and Michigan has the option of bumping either Godin or Wormley down from SDE with Beyer the projected starter there.
A Henry move is 50/50 right now.
[After the JUMP: Smith vs Green, annual #1 jersey speculation, and evaluating a potential onside kick in The Game.]
Green was getting more PT for a reason. Was that recruiting hype? [Fuller]
I write this column once a year to implore college football fans to use a standard, common, descriptive set of names for the bowl games. Try saying "Copper" instead of "Buffalo Wild Wings" for the next month, and just imagine the savings!!!
In the pantheon of annoyances, I admit that companies paying somebody to make you use their name out of context is far less destructive than, say, a university trading scholastic loans as private securities and then jacking up tuition so shareholders can make more money.
Still, it is annoying. The purpose of language is the communication of ideas, and elegance in this is a thing everybody should appreciate. Names are communicative tools that allow the listener to reference all information stored on that thing. When speaking to another college football fan, the name of the bowl ought to conjure up its history and location and place in the pantheon. A name sponsor is a jerk who butts into the middle of your conversation…
…and makes communication of the idea more difficult. Adding syllables (they couldn't call it the B-Dubs Bowl?) adds to the annoyance. It is cold here during bowl season, so I prefer to not expend what limited body heat I have in vocalizing "The Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office Or Mobile Bowl."*
What to Call Them?
Typically unless it's an older bowl just use the name of the city they play in, and if there are multiple bowls in a city start adding numbers (Tampa II, Cotton II, etc.) If everybody knows a bowl as something because it has been called that for decades, obviously use that.
After [the jump] I'll put up a handy chart of the current bowl slate, complete with sounds you can make to accurately relate meaning to another human, and commercial-free graphics that can do the same. You can keep that open as a tab on your phone or whatever as a reference this month.
Position: Linebacker/Tight End
Ht/Wt: 6'3" / 232 lbs.
Location: Jackson High School – Jackson, OH
Offers: Kent State, Ohio
Ranking: ★★★ .8599 (247 Composite)
Linebacker/Tight end prospect Reagan Williams was one of many recruits to attend The Game at The Big House a couple of weekends ago and I was able to chat with him about that a little bit. Williams is being recruited by most schools as a linebacker but the Michigan coaches appear to have a fondness for him at the tight end spot. Williams was a very nice kid to talk to and had some great things to say about his visit to Ann Arbor.
He was not shy at all about how much he enjoyed his visit to The Big House by saying, “It was awesome! One of my best visits yet.” He actually claimed it was a tie between Michigan and Michigan State. Not bad considering his other visits include trips to Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Cincinnati, and Louisville, among a few others.
The coaches in particular stuck out to Reagan while he was on his visit.
The coaching staff was very, very personable. I talked to every single position coach and they really made it feel like they have a family atmosphere with their players. The Big House was insane as well.
Reagan is an extremely intelligent kid, boasting a 4.0 GPA and a very respectable ACT score of 26, and that was easy to sense when I asked him if he had any type of affinity for his home-state Buckeyes. (Normally I wouldn’t post a test score like that but he’s proud of it and wants it to be public. It’s part of his profile on his HUDL link.)
I’m a big Buckeye fan. I have been since I was a little kid, but recruiting changes your outlook on a lot of things as far as seeing what every school has to offer. If Ohio State offered it would definitely be something that would be seriously considered. It hasn’t happened yet though so I can’t totally describe the emotions that would be involved.
I was surprised by how much he admitted to liking the Buckeyes, while at the same time ranking his Michigan visit above their rivals from Ohio.
Every visit has it’s pros and cons, but it seemed that the Michigan visit was VERY well organized.
As mentioned above the coaches have talked to Reagan about playing a fullback/h-back type of position because they really like how physical he is on both sides of the ball. Reagan says he doesn’t really have a preference he just wants to play wherever it helps his team the most.
When I asked him about his plans for his senior season, Williams said all of the right things about wanting to excel in the classroom, work toward a state championship, and develop a strong relationship with a coaching staff from a school that fits well for him. When it comes to fit, he said he must play for a coach and a team that has a strong tradition of defense and an emphasis on physicality. He doesn’t understand how the game can be played any other way. Pretty much the exact sentiment you’d expect from a fullback/linebacker.
With Michigan’s 2015 class being so limited on scholarships the staff has already informed Reagan that he is being evaluated but they have to be meticulous with who they offer. The coaches did say that they’d like to check Williams out in person sometime during the spring.
At the end of our conversation it came up that Williams is a die-hard Patriots and Tom Brady fan and that he was awestruck by Brady’s speech to Team 134 earlier this season. It’s pretty clear that the Michigan coaches have done well with Williams thus far, but if they and the Buckeyes get more involved in his recruitment, it sounds entirely realistic that the Wolverines could be on the outside looking in.
Michigan Offers Sills, Settle
Michigan offered two 2015 prospects over the weekend; one came as no surprise at all, while the other was somewhat unexpected.
The former is five-star VA DT Tim Settle, who had rave reviews of Michigan after he visited for the Notre Dame game; with Hjalte Froholdt going off the board to Arkansas last week, Settle was at the top of the board for available DTs. Settle will have his choice of just about any program in the country, and while the Wolverines made a strong early impression, they likely have some catching up to do now that the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and USC have come through with offers of their own.
The latter is Eastern Christian Academy QB David Sills, whose name should be familiar to you for two reasons: first, he notably committed to USC—then coached by Lane Kiffin—at the age of 13; second, he's teammates with U-M commits Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson at ECA, the football-centric school founded by Sills' father. TomVH notes that there's another Michigan connection here:
On the David Sills offer, he trains with Steve Clarkson who also trains Wilton Speight. Clarkson and Borges have known each other for years
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 6, 2013
Five-star CA prospect Josh Rosen is the only other 2015 quarterback with an offer; while he's recently expressed some interest in a visit to Ann Arbor after previously saying that wouldn't happen, he's very much a longshot. Although Sills hadn't been talked about as a prospect under serious consideration for the next offer, it's clear he's the #2 guy on the board, and per TomVH the coaches will have to wait and see if he's willing to open up his recruitment after the coaching change at USC ($):
According to his father, Sills wants to wait and talk with [USC head coach Steve] Sarkisian before making any decisions or commenting on his status. Sills' father believes it is too early to comment or respond to anything just yet without giving the new Trojans coaches an opportunity to speak with their son.
We'll see where this goes; there's little-to-no precedent for a prospect committing to a program before he's in high school, only for that program to fire the head coach he committed to when the prospect is in the midst of his junior year. Add in Michigan's multiple connections to Sills and this could get interesting.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on two cornerback commits and their potential visit plans, how Michigan's commits fared in the state playoffs, and more.]
Evaluating Michigan's bowl opponent.
So there's this guy. We can expect one of these.
Whoops! Game is at 10:15 PM Eastern, not 8:15. So… yeah. If you needed any reminders about what this season was like, playing at 10 PM on December 28th should suffice.
You've come a long way… a moderate way, baby. Remember when KSU kicked the season off with a 24-21 loss to I-AA North Dakota State? Yeah, in retrospect that may not have been that much of a surprise as the Bison are currently undefeated and in the second round of the I-AA playoffs.
K-State, meanwhile, went 5-4 in the Big Twelve, losing to who you'd expect they would (Okie State, Baylor, Oklahoma, and Texas) and beating who you'd expect they would. If you dismissed them after the opener, reconsider. Not only is NDSU rather good, KSU led Baylor, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State through three quarters. They were in every game this year save Greg Robinson's magnum opus. Football! Is ridiculous.
Kansas State hasn't really beaten anyone, but this is the Copper Bowl we're talking about. That was always going to be the case. On the whole, their season looks a good bit more impressive than Michigan's.
They gon' run. KSU had 286 passing attempts against 478 rushes, a 63% run rate.
The quarterbacks had multiple heads. Until sophomore Daniel Sams was relegated to the bench in the final two games of the year, he and junior Jake Waters had split time extensively. It took me a while to figure this out because a glance at the passing statistics makes it look like Sams is a garbage-time dude who picked up some attempts in the Oklahoma State game, presumably because of injury.
Nope! Sams is K-State's second leading rusher with almost 800 yards at 5.3 a pop. He's got monks and clouds and whatnot.
He is important.
K-State was on the verge of making him their full-time guy midseason when he rushed for 118 yards in the Oklahoma State game and completed 18 of 21 attempts. The problem: three of those were to Cowboys. That game was the only one in which Sams cracked ten passing attempts, but Bill Snyder has a knack for getting production out of broke-ass QBs. Sams was generally productive on the ground (West Virgnia of all teams was the only one to shut him down). He's between Gardner and Denard as a runner, more elusive in small spaces than Gardner but not goddamned incredible.
But Sams has been relegated, leaving Waters the presumed starter. Despite being the pocket passer (who is from Iowa) of the duo, K-State's by-any-means-necessary offense has seen him run over a hundred times this year, albeit with limited effectiveness. He's averaging under three yards an attempt on 106 carries, and while a good chunk of that is sacks it's impossible to figure out how much from box scores with Sams rotating in so much. His average game this year is about 10 carries for 30 yards. He's a keep-'em-honest guy on the ground.
In the air, dude wants to git it git it. His stats are quite close to Gardner's, but even more variable.
Waters was as INT prone as Gardner, though I'm not sure how many Waters got away with. I know Gardner got away with lots late in the season. Waters was also able to accumulate an even gaudier YPA, and while a 90 yarder against Oklahoma does distort things somewhat hacking that down to 50 doesn't move the needle much.
The picture is clear. K-State wants to run the ball; when they are not forced into long yardage situations they will be 70-30 run. When they are not running the ball, they are trying to score right now. A good chunk of the 30% passes will be attempts to tear Michigan's face off with deep balls.
AND THEN I WAS LIKE "WHAT DO YOU MEAN I'M A GUARD NOW" [Fuller]
Paging Frank Clark. Kansas State gives up a lot of sacks. Not as many as Michigan, which… oh God… was 116th in sack percentage allowed. Hi Kentucky! Florida! Rice! We're neighbors. Do you guys have two tackles who will be off the board by the end of the third round of the NFL draft? Probably not!
Anyway, they weren't much better at 90th. A chunk of this is the face-tearing thing. KSU spends a lot of time in the pocket working off play action with routes that take a long time to run. Like Michigan, if Michigan could run at all. The results are highly variable, like everything else about the K-State passing offense.
The other guy getting the many, many running opportunities. Virtually all K-State carries not allotted to one of the quarterbacks went to senior John Hubert, who had nearly 1000 yards on 182 carries, an impressive 5.3 YPC, especially for an offense that runs so much. His year was… variable. He busted Kansas for 220 last weekend; the previous two weeks he had a total of 15 carries for 42 yards against TCU and Oklahoma. He was effective in a midseason stretch; he got 12 carries for 41 yards against Texas and 7 for 30 against Oklahoma State.
Hubert's not overwhelming in his youtube clips, which also double as a quick look at the kind of things K-State does.
The Wildcat offense is misdirection running, misdirection running, misdirection running. Think Auburn or a super-sized high school.
As for Hubert, he's a little dude but he's got some Mike Hart in him.
Kansas State doesn't use him as a receiver much; he's averaging one catch per game.
Dangerman. When Kansas State does pass, most of the time they're looking for Tyler Lockett, who went Jeremy Gallon on Texas (237 yards) and Oklahoma (278). He did not have a similar impact in K-State other two conference losses only because he pulled up lame early in the Oklahoma State game and missed Baylor. He has returned to full health now, and Michigan will get a stiff test.
WRs Curry Sexton and Tramaine Thompson absorb most of the other completions. Thompson is as much of a deep threat as Lockett; as a team Kansas averages a healthy 15 yards a completion.
My name is Mueller. Prepare to die. Kansas State is middling at getting to the quarterback, with a sack percentage (ie, percentage of passing attempts ending in a sack) essentially equivalent to Michigan's. The teams are 70th (M) and 72nd. Unlike Michigan, KSU gets almost half their production from one guy. That is Ryan Mueller, a former walk-on out of Florida power St Thomas Aquinas who went from 14 tackles a year ago to 11.5 sacks this year.
Mueller is obviously a talented guy, but Michigan's tackles are quite good and have shut down just about anyone they've come across. At 6'2", 245, Mueller is strictly a DE/OLB type and could be vulnerable to donkeying by either tackle. In general a kickass DE does not bother me.
Meanwhile, Michigan has a bunch of bowl practices to familiarize themselves with the concept of a blitz pickup.
NAMES. Good gravy.
- Blake Slaughter. Countess's wrestling heel alter ego.
- Ajhane Brager
- Colborn Couchman
- Kip Daily
- Alauna Finau
- Kip Keely
- Charmeachealle Moore. Just stop naming your kid! It's over! You have used up all the letters you can for one name! No! I told you to stop! (Charmeachealle will have two more syllables by gametime.)
- Cre Moore. You can keep going.
- Curry Sexton. that's what she said
- Boston Stiverson
- Trent Tanking
- Kade True. He came from Salina, Kansas, with one mission: to stop Charmeachealle Moore's parents from giving their child a name so long it bankrupts the world economy. Can the power of earnestness overcome really long first names? QUEST FOR TRUETH. Summer 2014.
BONUS: In addition to two "Kips," K-State has two Dylans and a Dillon, a Tanner, four(!) Codys and a Kody, and two Travises.
Defense. K-State looks like a quality outfit, with a YPC allowed under 4 (sacks included) and a defense that's ceded just 6.3 yards per pass with more INTs (16) than TDs (13). But FEI hates 'em, ranking them 50th in a schedule adjusted system that puts them around the 25th percentile as far as BCS schools go. S/P+, which I don't like as much* but is another way to look at the data, puts K-State 53rd. The run defense is the issue, finishing 79th in S/P+.
And when you look at K-State's game by game, it does look pretty grim for them. NDSU blazed them for 215 in the opener; Texas went for 227; Oklahoma 301. In between those games are some better performances on the order of 30+ carries for 120, 130 yards against a bunch of passing-oriented Big 12 offenses. Is it good or bad when Texas Tech runs 27 times for 135 yards against you? Bad.
Who knows if Michigan's going to be able to do anything about this, but they have moved the ball on the ground reasonably well in two of their last three games.
*[I prefer drive-based systems because it feels weird to me that play systems look at 3 play, 90 yard drives differently than 11 play, 90 yard drives.]
Coach Hoke and his staff have made a habit out of filling recruiting classes up rather early with little to no defection. That trend has already started again in the 2016(!) class with the very early commitment of OL Erik Swenson. Swenson is just a sophomore but already stands at 6’7” and tips the scales at right around 300 lbs. His size, athleticism, and rather solid technique for a young player has earned him some big-time offers from the likes of in-state programs, Illinois and Northwestern, along with Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech. As soon as Michigan offered him he wasn’t shy about naming the Wolverines his leader and it was only a matter of time before he made it as official as he can for now.
As a sophomore what kind of a player is Erik Swenson right now? What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
I’ve already gotten a lot faster and stronger off the ball. I still want to develop my punch so I can really deliver a blow to somebody. My pass blocking is probably my biggest strength right now and I wouldn’t say I really have a weakness just some things to perfect.
When you arrive in Ann Arbor in a couple of years what kind of player do you want to be then? How would you like to be different from now?
I just need to be bigger, stronger, and faster. The rest of it will come with training and coaching.
I know you’ve been to Ann Arbor quite a few times. How many visits have you made and why do you like going there so much?
I’ve been there six times and they get better and better each time. The people, city itself, the coaches, the facilities, the restaurants. I just love it up there.
Liking it so much did you ever even think about anywhere else?
Northwestern was a little hard to say no to, but not that hard compared to Michigan. (Laughs)
You mentioned the coaches, tell me about your relationship with them.
They’re wonderful! Their wives act like they’ve known you for 20 years already. You can just tell that they all really care about you. The entire family feel is not forced at all. It’s very genuine.
So when did you definitely know that Michigan was going to be the place for you?
Right after the Notre Dame game. I wanted to wait until my season was over to announce it but I knew it after that game. I just knew I didn’t want to go anywhere else and no other college could compare to Michigan.
Tell me about how your commitment actually happened.
I called Coach Funk on Sunday night (11/24) telling him that I wanted to verbally commit and then on Saturday at the game I was able to shake all of the coaches hands and they just smiled and said welcome to the family.
The commits for Michigan are notorious for being close before they even arrive on campus. Has that started for you yet?
Yeah a little. Ian Bunting is probably #1 as far as who I’m closest with right now. All of the guys are friendly though. It was easy to see during my last visit.
I know there are only a few 2016 with offers from Michigan right now but are you eyeing anybody to recruit?
Not really yet. I tweeted at Issac Nauta soon after I committed. I’m definitely eyeing him for sure!
The number 77. What’s that mean to you and especially to you at Michigan?
Yeah man, I talked to Coach Hoke about that already. I just asked how do you get #77 and he said that he picks if you are worthy enough to wear it. That was pretty much it, but I know it’s a big deal.
Legends numbers, The Big House, the history. Tradition is obviously a big deal at Michigan. What does it mean to you to be a Michigan Man?
I think it is a great honor to be considered a Michigan Man. I can not wait to play on that field.
Erik Swenson is another great ambassador for the Wolverine football program. He was very polite and well spoken and his passion for Michigan is very clear and he will wear the uniform as proudly as anyone. He has a chance to be one of the highest rated offensive linemen in the midwest so nabbing him this early is a pretty big deal. He already has near prototypical size for a left tackle and he still has two more years of high school ball to hone his skills and grow. He could be an absolute monster by the time he gets to Ann Arbor. The number 77 has to be earned and after talking with him I think Swenson will earn it.