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 ($):
With academics played a huge part in his decision, Michigan went the extra mile to show Hamilton everything at its disposal.
"I met a professor from the business school," he said. "He was very open and inviting. He seemed like a nice person. I also talked to a pediatric oncologist at their hospital. He was very friendly. Both of them made sure that, if I was interested in going into either one of those fields, Michigan had the resources to point me in the right direction."
I think we've retired "The Pattern™" as a thing, but if we're still using it, Hamilton fits the bill.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Photo via 247
While Khalid Kareem's announcement earlier this afternoon didn't go Michigan's way, that didn't stop Jim Harbaugh from adding a four-star lineman to the 2016 class today. Baltimore (MD) Gilman OT Devery Hamilton chose Michigan over Stanford and Maryland this afternoon. Hamilton is the 18th commit in the class—potentially 19th, depending on when Benjamin St-Juste enrolls—and the fourth on the offensive line, joining Ben Bredeson, Michael Onwenu, and Erik Swenson, all four-stars themselves.
4*, #13 OT,
|4*, #26 OT||3*, 79, #33 OT||
4*, 92, #24 OT,
4*, #23 OT,
Every site but ESPN considers Hamilton a four-star prospect, with Scout the most bullish on his potential. ESPN isn't even as much of an outlier as they appear at first glance; Hamilton is just three spots away in the position rankings from being a four-star there, too.
Hamilton has the size of a left tackle, listed at either 6'6" or 6'7". There's some discrepancy about his weight, with Scout and Rivals listing him in the 270-pound range and the other two pegging him around 290. It looks like the latter figure is more up-to-date.
Hamilton is an interesting case. He was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States with his family at the age of nine, per TomVH ($). At the beginning of his high school career, he focused mostly on playing defense, and when he lined up on offense he often did so as a tight end. Last season was the first time Hamilton focused mostly on offensive tackle, and since then his recruitment has blown up.
Scout's Brian Dohn sees Hamilton as a prospect on either side of the ball, noting that on offense he's got that classic left tackle frame:
Hamilton can play offensive tackle or on the defensive line in college. He has the size and length to be a left tackle. He is aggressive and is able to disengage as a defensive lineman, and as an offensive lineman shoots his hands out is able to lock onto blocks and finish them. No matter the side of the ball, Hamilton plays hard and to the whistle. He chases plays down the field on defense, and gets to the second level on offense. -- Brian Dohn
ESPN's evaluation essentially boils down to "great physical tools, very raw." While they note a lot of technical areas in need of work, including hand usage and pad level, they like his long-term potential on offense ($):
Hamilton has experience on both sides of the ball and could receive interest and very well land on the defensive side of the ball where he could be a stout run defender. While defense could get him on the field a little sooner we feel in the long term he could make a bigger contribution as an OL. Would at this stage need a good deal of development leading to at least a red-shirt, but down the road could a good, productive starting Power-5 OL
While the technique isn't all the way there yet—and it never is with high school linemen, but that's probably more the case with a recent O-line convert like Hamilton—the physical ability is apparent. 247's Barton Simmons didn't even need to see Hamilton play offensive line to notice his potential as a future tackle at a scrimmage last September:
Over the weekend in a matchup against Ohio power Lakewood, Hamilton was lining up at both defensive end and tight end. Today Hamilton has been graded as a four-star on 247Sports with an 91 grade as an offensive tackle.
At 6-6, 270 pounds, Hamilton showed good feet and quickness with the ability to catch the ball as a tight end but his frame and his ability to hold the point of attack gives him the look of a future blue chip at offensive tackle.
Yes, we can dream of FAT GUY TOUCHDOWNS with this commitment, as well.
The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan stopped by a Gilman practice last October and praised Hamilton's athleticism ($):
Hamilton was the most impressive trench player for the Greyhounds. He needs to bulk up in the weight room, but as things stand, he's a long, lean offensive tackle with the frame to be a blindside player. He's also a very good natural athlete, able to get out and run to the edge and block for screens. He wasn't used as a pulling lineman, but could prove capable there, too. The 6-6, 270-pounder has plenty of potential.
The most detailed scouting report comes from Scout's Dave Lomonico, who took in Gilman's exhibition against Washington DC St. John's last August ($):
He has a wide frame and a good base, to go along with long arms and big, strong hands. Hamilton comes off the ball well, gets good extension and has a potent punch at the point of attack. He’s surprisingly agile for a big man, shifting his feet well to readjust to edge rushers, while also showing the ability to block in space. Hamilton also possesses that “grinders” mentality, mauling his man when running plays go over his side. Hamilton does need to work on his leverage and, as a pass blocker, become more effective as an anchor with control, hand placement and footwork. And while he can push to the second level and finish blocks, Hamilton can become an even more consistent punisher.
The reports are pretty dang consistent: Hamilton has a lot of raw potential as a left tackle prospect, with a heavy emphasis on both the "raw" and "potential" aspects until he gets more experience playing the position.
In addition to Hamilton's final three, he held offers from Clemson, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, South Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. That's a pretty impressive list from both a football and academic perspective.
Gilman is one of the East Coast's most consistent producers of football talent. Michigan fans are familiar with current defensive lineman Henry Poggi. Alabama corner Cyrus Jones, Virginia Tech linebacker Melvin Keihn, former Virginia wideout Darius Jennings, and 2015 Texas signee Kai Locksley are the other four-star prospects to come out of Gilman since 2002, according to the Rivals database.
Offensive lineman, no stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Hamilton is a prospect in clear need of development, and he should be afforded plenty of time to come into his own at Michigan. After an almost certain redshirt year, he'll compete at tackle with Mason Cole, Logan Tuley-Tillman, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Grant Newsome, and Nolan Ulizio for a spot on the two-deep. In all likelihood, it'll take him a few years of development before he sees the field; after the last several years, it's worth reminding Michigan fans that this is optimal for an offensive lineman. When Hamilton does compete for a spot, he should slot in at left tackle.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is up to 18 commits for the 2016 class, 19 if you include St-Juste, who could come in as early as this fall or as late as 2017. The mailbag I've promised in which I'll take a much closer look at the scholarship numbers will come on Friday, before I take a much-needed week off. (Barring new commitments this week, which I can't rule out, in which case I'll address the scholarship situation when I'm back in July.)
One thing is certain: Michigan is assembling a heck of an offensive line class. Swenson and Hamilton are ideal tackle prospects, Bredeson can play either tackle or guard, and Onwenu is a pure guard. Michigan also leads for four-star guard Terrance Davis, and they'll still accept his commitment if he wants to be a part of the class; the Wolverines would be set with that group of five.
Dodgeball got heated. Denard and Devin talk to Isaiah Hole at the A4 camp:
Battle status. Still no commitment, apparently planning on taking what would be his final official visit to either UConn or Kentucky, door with Michigan may remain open. Jarron Cumberland's visit did not result in a commit($) and there is no public mention of an offer, but Sam Webb says that things went very well and that you shouldn't read much into that.
Meanwhile, Syracuse blog Nunes Magician* has some insider info:
NunesMagician.com was told earlier today that the official visit went "very well," but Jim Boeheim did not receive a commitment. …
As each day goes by, Syracuse fans should feel less optimistic. The staff has been on the 5-star New Jersey native since his freshman year. He has visited the campus multiple times, but is still tentative to pull the trigger.
This is kind of how I feel about Jonathan Jones, the Florida linebacker who seems like he's been on the verge of a commit for months now.
In any case, Duke is not getting involved again, Syracuse doesn't seem like a particularly appealing destination for Battle for whatever reason (a good one: they are down a quarter of their scholarships for as long as Battle will be in college), and UConn is currently in the American. If he does visit Kentucky that blows up the "distance is the main factor" thing.
Maybe the door is still open? If not it sounds like Cumberland will be in the class pretty soon.
*[The name of this is a long story involving a bad quarterback.]
Bonjour pronto. That's French, right? Alpaca-outta-nowhere commit Benjamin St-Juste is Canadian, and if we've learned anything from South Park it's that Canada's a little bit different than the United States. One of the differences is that Canadian high school is apparently as long as you want it to be.
People were talking about St-Juste as 2016 or 2017 commit yesterday; today Tim Sullivan notes that there's a chance he could come in this fall($), as he's around 18—the usual age you enter college. I think there will be room, and the corner depth is going to be iffy after this year so you may as well.
Unnecessary dumping on Java aside. Summer Swarm commit Rashad Weaver sounds like an exceptional student:
An accomplished student throughout his high school career at Cooper City High School outside Fort Lauderdale, Florida, most of Weaver's courses are of the advanced-placement or honors variety. Meaning his grade-point average can soar above the customary 4.0, if he's able to push it that high.
During his sophomore year, he had it up to a 4.6. But as a junior, a simple misdirection had him aggravated.
Weaver enrolled in an AP computer science class as a junior. He knew it'd be a challenge, but figured he'd be able to hang. And then things got started.
"It turned out to be a class that was basically for kids who did Java coding at home for fun," Weaver chuckles. "So, yeah, it was tough."
Mr. Weaver, this is my advice to you: if you ever see "LISP" on a course description, run like hell. This is my advice to all people. Emeril! Run like hell if you ever see this:
Now there will be a computer science hipster in the comments talking about how LISP is really elegant because of closures. I apologize in advance.
Anyway, you probably don't come here so I can dump on obscure programming languages. A little more on Weaver:
he appeared at Michigan's satellite camp stop in south Florida with some hope and not much else. At best, Weaver figured he could catch the attention of a Big Ten school. At worst, he knew he'd leave the event a better football player.
It was a win-win, he figured.
And, as is often the case in the classroom, he was right.
"The main reason I went to the camp was because I saw Michigan coaches would be there. I saw it as an opportunity, figured I'd do my best to put my best foot forward and do everything I could to get noticed," Weaver says. "I figured at least it'd be something where I could get better. I was going to go out there and do my best. If I showed well, then they'd notice me. If not, then maybe it wasn't meant to be.
"But I went knowing I'd get better one way or another. And it all worked out."
At 6'5", 245, Weaver is one of the infinite DE/TE prospects Michigan will bring in as long as Harbaugh's around. We probably won't know where he sticks until he's a junior.
Next year will not be the year. Northwestern's never been to the NCAA tournament. This is their nonconference schedule:
A tourney, road games against VT and DePaul, and then garbage.
They do get two of UNC/KState/Mizzou in their tourney. If that even helps much:
Last year's RPI of Northwestern's 2015-16 OOC slate: Two of 11, 100 & 218. Also: 196, 197, 228, 243, 265, 270, 292, 299, 326, 333, 345,
— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) June 24, 2015
Brutal. And this is a team that returns everyone except oft-injured senior JerShon Cobb and little-used Dave Sobolewski; they've got a senior version of Alex Olah and Tre Demps. This is the kind of Northwestern team that could possibly maybe put themselves on the bubble. But if they are, they're going to be crushed by their own schedule.
Etc.: The Puff Daddy thing is the weirdest. Zach Werenski profiled for the draft. A4 camp report. O'Bannon "one of the most significant antitrust cases of this era," says judge. Carr speaks at a Big Brothers, Big Sisters event.Take a picture: this UV has no mention of a weird thing Harbaugh did.
Even by Jim Harbaugh standards, Michigan's latest commitment is an obscure one. TMI's Brice Marich broke the news this afternoon that Canadian CB Benjamin St-Juste, who camped at Michigan last week, has pledged to the Wolverines:
— Brice Marich (@BriceMarich) June 23, 2015
St-Juste's enrollment situation is unclear at this point. If he comes in with the 2016 class, he'll be the 18th total commit and the second at cornerback, joining Antwaine Richardson. If he's in the 2017 class, he'll be their second commit, joining Brother Rice TE Carter Dunaway.
|NR CB||NR CB||NR CB||NR CB||NR CB|
St-Juste doesn't have a recruiting profile on any of the sites. His Hudl page lists him at 6'3", 170, which would be an intriguingly lanky frame for a corner. He looks pretty tall for the position on film, though I won't venture a guess as to how accurate that 6'3" figure is.
Despite his complete lack of a recruiting profile, St-Juste has a couple evaluations out there, both from Michigan's "Exposure U" camp last week. Scout's Allen Trieu placed him 14th among the top performers, though St. Juste was so under-the-radar at the time that he didn't get his name right ($):
14. Benjamin St. John - 2016 CB, Old Montreal (Canada)
A big corner, he turned heads. There may not be room at the inn as far as Michigan's concern, but the staff showed him a lot of attention and he's a name to keep in mind depending on what happens with some other targets I think.
Apparently, there's room. The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan and Brandon Brown added a little bit more detail in their rundown of days two and three of the camp ($):
Montreal (Que.) CAL 2016 cornerback Benjamin St.-Juste is a tall, long-armed cornerback at about 6-3, but he still has the hips to turn and run with receivers - something that's less common in players his height. St.-Juste impressed the U-M position coaches, and had an extended opportunity to work out in front of both of Michigan's defensive backs coaches, and even headman Jim Harbaugh.
St.-Juste might be one of the top players in all the camp when it comes to approaching a Michigan offer.
His film, embedded at the top of this post, is unfortunately hard to follow—much of it is filmed in pore-o-vision. He looks to have decent athleticism and ball skills, and he plays with a physical edge. His technique, as you might expect, looks pretty raw.
Without a recruiting profile, it's unclear if St. Juste had other offers.
Is in Canada.
UPDATE: Thanks to @robphillips1979 for pointing out some recent camp footage of St-Juste on YouTube:
FAKE 40 TIME
None listed on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
I'll wait until we know when St-Juste will enroll before taking a guess. He looks like another guy with potential upside due to his size and athleticism who will take some serious molding before he's able to see the field.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Which class? We'll see.