"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
Michigan (13-9, 6-4 B1G) vs
Iowa (13-8, 4-4)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|WHEN||7 pm ET, Thursday|
|LINE||Michigan -2 (KenPom)|
PBP: Rece Davis
Analyst: LaPhonso Ellis
Right: Last year was fun, unless you were Roy Devyn Marble. [Fuller]
Derrick Walton is out for a while, which Dylan points out robs Michigan of their best individual defender by Synergy's numbers. (Aubrey Dawkins grades out slightly better, but in a much smaller sample size.)
The dropoff is particularly large between Walton (93rd percentile in points per possession against) and Spike Albrecht (16th); expect Michigan to continue utilizing a liberal dosage of zone defense to compensate.
At this point, all home games are must-wins for those still holding out hope for an NCAA bid.
THE LINEUP CARD
Projected starters are in bold. Hover over headers for stat explanations; I've switched over to conference-only stats for %Min and %Poss now. 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||10||Mike Gesell||Jr.||6'2, 190||60||23||Yes|
|High assist rate offset by too many TOs. Solid inside arc, iffy outside shooter.|
|G||3||Peter Jok||So.||6'6, 200||53||22||Not really|
|Lanky, disruptive defender still developing offensive game.|
|F||20||Jarrod Uthoff||Jr.||6'9, 210||80||23||No|
|Solid outside shooter, rebounder, passer, and weakside shot-blocker.|
|F||30||Aaron White||Sr.||6'9, 228||74||22||Yes|
|Slasher who finishes well, gets a ton of points at the line. Good rebounder.|
|C||34||Adam Woodbury||Jr.||7'1, 240||50||21||Very|
|Very good rebounder. Not very skilled. Royal pain in the ass.|
|G||2||Josh Oglesby||Sr.||6'5, 200||56||9||Kinda|
|Tiny-usage three-point gunner who's been awful from field this season.|
|C||0||Gabriel Olaseni||Sr.||6'10, 237||49||26||Very|
|Athletic big. Great offensive rebounder. Solid shot-blocker. High FT rate.|
|G||5||Anthony Clemmons||Jr.||6'2, 195||46||15||No|
|Low-usage backup PG. Relatively low assist rate, somewhat turnover prone.|
The Hawkeyes have had an up-and-down year, and they're currently in a down period after blowouts at the hands on Wisconsin's unstoppable offense sandwiched a narrow loss at Purdue. Iowa boasts a road win over UNC and a season sweep against Ohio State; they've otherwise struggled against quality competition.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the preview.]
[Note: there were no microphones for media so I can’t get the questions verbatim from my recording. Instead I’ve gone with the gist of the question.]
“Thank you. Good to see everybody. Thanks for coming out today. Exciting day for us as a football program, for the families, and for the youngsters who work so hard to earn a football scholarship and to see that hard work come to fruition today is a very exciting day. We’re very pleased with our class. Very proud, really, and I think everybody that loves Michigan is going to be proud to call these youngsters their own.”
On how difficult it is to come in late in the recruiting process:
“It wasn’t difficult. It was a real joy. It was a real pleasure. Just the things that I learned about some of the players that were already committed under coach Hoke and his regime, and they did a tremendous job.
“You talk about some of those guys- Andrew Paul David. And his confirmation name is John, if you were wondering. Andrew Paul John David. You pretty much got the gospel covered right there. Grew up a Michigan fan. Great love of Michigan.
“Tyree Kinnel, somebody who was handed a Michigan football at birth, was committed here.
“Also, John Runyan Jr. I was told he wore a Michigan onesie when he was a year old.
“People have a love and passion for Michigan football. Grant Perry’s another who recently committed here and signed today. Grew up and Mark’s dad- Mark was a record-setting receiver in the state of Michigan. Over 13 records. But he grew up like me, Grant did. In the shadow of Michigan Stadium, getting autographs from football players and basketball players, dad was a coach. Mark was telling me that he’d bring Grant to practice and as a seven-year-old he always found a way to get a helmet, be running routes, [and] doing amazing things with the football at every practice that he went to. A winner. That’s what I’m really excited about in this class. Those two things; a lot of youngsters that have a real deep desire to be at Michigan and have won, and in Grant’s case he’s won at everything he’s ever done going back to little league baseball, basketball, and football, including three state championships at Brother Rice along with Alex Malzone, who’s also in our class.
“Did I tell you Andrew David was a really good short stop? Heck of a baseball player, too.”
[After THE JUMP: the pickle quote]
According to multiple outlets, Tyrone "TJ" Wheatley Jr. chose Michigan over UCLA this afternoon, and will join his legendary father—now the running backs coach—in Ann Arbor. Wheatley is regarded as an athlete who could play either tight end or defensive end; in this class, he'll most likely start out on offense. Wheatley is the 14th commit in the 2015 class and the first at tight end.
4*, #25 DE,
|4*, #13 TE||3*, 79, #12 TE-Y||4*, 90, #13 TE||
4*, #12 TE,
Only Scout evaluated Wheatley as a defensive end; perhaps not unrelated, they rank him the highest of the four services. The tight end disctinction appeared to hurt his ratings elsewhere. Wheatley was an early member of the Rivals250, but they only placed five TEs in their final rankings (as opposed to 17 SDEs). He came closer to the top list on 247—their top ten TEs made the Top247. Wheatley also made ESPN's Junior 300 back in July of 2013, then gradually slid back to a three-star—his underclassman evaluation focused much more on his potential as a defender than his final scouting report.
All four sites list him at 6'6" with a significant spread in weight: anywhere from 245 (Rivals) to 270 (Scout, which also gives him an extra half-inch of height). A recent quote from Wheatley Sr. pegs his son at 6'6", 255—he'd apparently reached 270 before cutting some weight.
I guess the lack of interest in New York high school football trumps the desire to evaluate a four-star prospect in person, as there's surprisingly little on Wheatley outside of camp and film evaluations. Luckily, most scouting reports focus on his prospects as a tight end, where he's expected to end up at Michigan.
ESPN likes his potential more on offense than defense; here's what they have to say about his ball skills and blocking ($):
Ball Skills: Displays good hands with the ability to extend and catch away from his frame. Displays ability to reach up and snag passes thrown above his head. Flashes adequate ability to adjust to throws off target, but displays some tightness and not always natural when having to open up frame and adjust.
Blocking: Flashes ability to deliver an initial pop and get good placement with his hands with enough strength to control defenders when he gets locked on. Needs to watch pad level and more consistently roll hips at contact. Displays adequate ability to adjust and get a hat on second-level targets.
Always with the pad level.
Wheatley worked out at tight end at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp way back in 2013, and he impressed GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
At 6-6, 240-pounds, Wheatley Jr. certainly isn’t a gentle giant and despite the non-padded drill work the tight ends did on Saturday, the son of former Michigan great Tyrone Wheatley was able to use his physicality and size to his advantage in the 1-on-1’s against linebackers. Wheatley Jr. already runs refined routes for such a young prospect, showing a nice resemblance of footwork passed down by his father.
Much more recently, Wheatley had a standout performance in the Semper Fi All-American Bowl practices, earning top performer honors on the third day from 247's Alex Gleitman...
Alpha Dog: Tyrone Wheatley Jr.
The 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end is one of the most physically imposing players on the East team, but it is his athleticism and soft hands at that size that make him the outstanding prospect that he is.
Wheatley had an outstanding today in general skeleton drills, as well as the scrimmaging and goal line sessions, flashing enough speed to get free from defenders, as well as using his strength and body size to get positioning in shorter yardage situations.
The chatter among onlookers at practice was that there was no question that Wheatley was the most impressive performer in today's practice session.
...and coming in second according to Rob Cassidy of Rivals ($):
Wheatley Jr. is a menace. He has a wide body and impressive strength. And while he usually shines as a blocker, he made his presence known in the passing attack on Friday. He didn't look pretty catching passes at all times. In fact, he fought the ball on occasions, but he always made the catch when targeted. He made a long list of plays throughout the afternoon and always seemed to find a way to get open in the flat.
Scout's free evaluation focuses on his ability on defense:
Wheatley plays tight end and defensive end, but he looks more comfortable and natural on defense. He gets off the ball quickly, but sometimes gets upright too quickly. Wheatley has the size to overpower an offensive tackle, and also can use his speed to get around the edge. In addition, he can run a play down from behind and is versatile enough to move inside and play defensive tackle if he adds the weight. -- Brian Dohn
That sounds pretty ideal for an SDE in Durkin's hybrid system. The other defense-focused evaluations come from 247's Clint Brewster in 2013, looking at Wheatley's sophomore film ($)...
As a defensive end, Wheatley is a destructive force with his size and strength. He is instinctive and can hold the edge in the run game or get after the quarterback with his extremely long wingspan. Wheatley Jr. has a pretty good motor and doesn’t quit, as he will make plays downfield or away from the line of scrimmage. He gets his hands up to deflect passes and gets in passing lanes.
...and a Rivals camp update from the following spring, when Adam Friedman named him the top performer at the NFL Prep 100 ($):
Wheatley was far and away the best player at the camp. The Rivals250 defensive end has added a lot of strength to his core and it helped him play with good leverage. Wheatley used that strength to help push offensive linemen out of the way en route to the quarterback. He also showed very good technique, beating offensive linemen inside and outside.
I'll give the final word to a man who's quite familiar with Wheatley—his father, who went into exacting detail on his son's game in a free interview with Sam Webb that's well worth your time:
Tyrone Wheatley, Sr.: “His route running, understanding leverage, understanding zone reads. I think that is the biggest improvement where he has blossomed, where last year he was just running to run. He was running routes. He didn’t understand coverage and how to set a route up, when the defense is in a zone or set man coverage up. Now there are certain routes that he likes and is he starting to (make more plays). He knows he is going to be doubled team or however they are going to play him. He sees that right off the bat. He understands the leverage and how to get open in those situations.”
The elder Wheatley noted yards after the catch and blocking technique as areas for improvement. Check out the full interview for his thoughts on TJ as a DE.
Wheatley held offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, UCLA, UNC, Washington, and Wisconsin, among others.
Wheatley is the first four-star prospect in the Rivals era (2002-) to come out of Canisius. In fact, the only three-star prospect they've produced is 2014 Pitt signee Qadree Ollison.
According to MaxPreps, Wheatley had 11 catches for 182 yards and two TDs in a run-heavy offense and 68 tackles, 24 TFLs, ten sacks, three pass deflections, four forced fumbles, and two blocked punts on defense en route to NYSSWA Player of the Year honors as a senior. The previous year, he recorded 16 catches for 190 yards and two TDs along with 41 tackles, 14 TFLs, two sacks, an interception, and four forced fumbles.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the four sites list a 40 time.
Senior highlights at tight end:
Junior offense highlights:
Junior defense highlights:
Single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page. Unfortunately, there's no available highlight tape of him on defense as a senior.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Wheatley could contribute on either side of the ball and fill a pretty big need; it appears he'll at least start his college career at tight end, where he could see the field immediately as a big blocker who can slip out into the flat and occasionally threaten up the seam. Whether he comes in on offense or defense, it's unlikely he'll take a redshirt—Michigan needs help at DE, as well.
While Wheatley's lack of top-end speed and post-catch elusiveness may limit his ceiling, he should be an important cog in Harbaugh's offense due to his ability to block and catch at his size. If he ends up on defense, he should provide depth and eventually make a bigger impact as a strongside DE.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Unless WR Van Jefferson pulls a surprise or Michigan sends out some late offers, Wheatley is almost undoubtedly the last commit in the class.
Delray Beach (FL) Atlantic DE Shelton Johnson announced a commitment to Michigan over fellow finalists Florida State and Miami in a ceremony at his school this afternoon. Johnson becomes the 13th commit in the 2015 class and fills a major need at defensive end. He joins Karan Higdon and Keith Washington among NSD commits for the Wolverines.
4*, #27 DE,
|3*, #37 WDE||3*, 79, #36 DE||4*, 91, #16 SDE||
3*, #20 SDE,
There's a split in Johnson's rankings—Scout and 247 both have him in the top-300 area, while Rivals and ESPN place him in the nondescript three-star category. All four sites list him at 6'5" and 220-225 pounds.
Scout's Jamie Newberg named Johnson the #4 defensive lineman in Florida—in a stacked class—heading into his senior season:
Johnson is not as highly touted as the others above here but this kid has a ton of talent. He looks terrific on film. Johnson can put his hand in the dirt or stand up. He can also slide inside. He has versatility and athleticism. Johnson gets off the ball well and can use his hands to shed blocks. He shows speed and lateral quickness.
ESPN likes his frame, though they point out he needs to weight and strength, and say that he's a good physical prospect in need of some refining ($):
Flashes ability to fire out and uncoil, but needs to continue add size to help him maintain and hold ground. Flashes active, violent hands, but needs to continue to develop hand usage. Displays enough range to be factor in backside pursuit.
Good burst and length can be assets in his development. Long and little straight line, but flashes ability to do decent job of dipping inside shoulder and turning the corner. Needs to learn to better utilize hands and reach. Flashes some ability to transfer speed-to-power and knock blockers back at times.
They add that he plays "with a physical and at times violent nature."
There's surprisingly little else out there on him. Johnson earned his FSU offer after an impressive camp performance last summer (video below) and got a late bump into the four-star range on 247 after his senior season.
Johnson held offers from Florida State, FAU, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami (YTM), Minnesota, Mississippi State, NC State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. He had interest, but no offer, from Florida, LSU, and Georgia.
Atlantic has produced a couple of very successful four-star prospects in 2009 CB Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech, now on the New York Giants) and 2006 OL Orlando Franklin (Miami, now on the Denver Broncos). There's also a Big Ten connection: Minnesota RB Donnell Kirkwood was a 2010 three-star.
Johnson's stats weren't readily available and are impossible to Google thanks to the existence of an NFL player of the same name.
FAKE 40 TIME
Partial senior highlights:
This performance at FSU's camp last summer earned him an offer from the Noles:
Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
There's not a ton to go on here, but Johnson is clearly in need of some seasoning before he's ready to see the field. Even with Michigan's thin depth chart, he should take a redshirt year unless he looks ready to contribute at the hybrid WDE/OLB position as a situational pass-rusher. For Michigan's purposes, it'd be ideal if he's able to bulk up and play SDE, which is quite plausible with his frame; that might take a year or two, however.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Johnson fills a significant need at DE. Michigan is now waiting on announcements from TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (any moment now) and CB Iman Marshall (4 pm). Wheatley is down to Michigan and UCLA, with the edge to the good guys, while Marshall is highly unlikely to end up in the class.
FL RB Karan Higdon: flips from Iowa to Michigan
CT TE Chris Clark: inexplicably chooses UCLA
AL CB/QB Keith Washington: flips from Cal to Michigan
MI RB Mike Weber: sticks with OSU
GA LB Roquan Smith: picks UCLA
TN WR Van Jefferson: 1:30? 3:45? Vision quest?
FL DE Shelton Johnson: 3 PM
NY TE/DE Ty Wheatley Jr: 3:15 PM
CA CB Iman Marshall: 4 PM
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Prattville (AL) three-star ATH Keith Washington announced his decision to flip from Cal to Michigan in a ceremony at his high school this morning, and immediately faxed in his LOI. Washington, who mostly played quarterback at Prattville, will suit up at cornerback for Michigan. He becomes the 12th commit of the 2015 class and the first at his position.
|3*, #147 CB||3*, #26 ATH||3*, 75, #117 ATH||3*, 82, #118 ATH||
3*, #76 ATH,
Rivals is much more bullish on Washington than the other three recruiting services, which all have him well down the position rankings. He's listed at around 6'2", 170—great size for a corner as soon as he adds a little bulk.
Due to Washington mostly playing quarterback in high school, there isn't a ton on him as a defensive back. TideSports ranked him the #30 player in Alabama heading into the 2014 season and had this to say about his potential ($):
A tremendous athlete with excellent speed. Washington is a natural playmaker. He is dangerous on the offensive side of the ball and should become a great defensive back at the next level.
ESPN's rather scant evaluation covers his ability as both a receiver and cornerback ($):
Plays any skilled position he is asked to. Runs with it, catches it and defends from either the safety or corner spot. Is gifted enough that he can be thought of as either a WR or DB.
Is light on his feet, has balance, and can run away from defenders thus is a threat from most anywhere on the field. Also demonstrated as a defender he can run down a ball carrier. He makes plays.
The most complete scouting report comes from GoldenBearReport, Cal's Rivals outlet, which posted one after his commitment there ($):
Physically, he's long and lean; and he really doesn't have a frame suited for some of the physicality required of a safety. He's strikingly similar to Malik Psalms, with a wiry frame and really long arms. I'd venture to say that while their top end speed may be similar, Washington looks smoother than Psalms and has great acceleration. His ability to turn and chase is impressive with his closing speed. His height and long arms help him in press coverage and playing the ball, and he's a willing though unpolished tackler. He comes high into contact and gets away with it at the high school level, but will definitely need to add strength and technique to not only effectively bring down bigger and more physical ballcarriers in college, but also to disengage from blocks on screens or runs to the outside. Still, his athleticism makes him a natural in pass coverage. With the desire to be aggressive in contact seemingly already within him, the technique to do it well and do it right can be coached.
Washington will take some molding before he's ready to contribute, especially given his inexperience at the position, but he appears to have a lot of potential—6'2" corners with fluid athleticism don't come around that often.
Washington held offers from Cal, Duke, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami (YTM), Mizzou, North Carolina, Northwestern, USF, and Wake Forest, among others.
Prattville has produced several FBS-caliber recruits in the Rivals era, most notably 2010 four-star Nick Perry, who started for the Tide at safety in 2014, and four-star 2012 athlete Justin Thomas, the starting quarterback in Georgia Tech's option offense.
Washington's stats mostly came on offense, where he passed for 1718 yards and 17 TDs and rushed for another 1201 yards and 20 TDs as a senior, per 247.
FAKE 40 TIME
Oddly, Washington participated in NFTC testing and did everything but the 40-yard dash. He did run an impressive 4.06 20-yard shuttle, indicating good acceleration and change of direction. His Scout spotlight lists a 4.3-flat, which gets four FAKEs out of five. He's fast, but that's elite NFL speed.
Defensive back highlights:
Full senior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Washington should redshirt while getting more acclimated to cornerback and add some strength. Only Blake Countess is set to depart after the 2015 season at corner, so it could take him a little while to work his way up the depth chart, though the move of Jabrill Peppers to safety opens up more of an opportunity. While there's not a lot to go on with Washington, he has all the physical tools to become an excellent player at the position.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is now up to 12 commits and could take another corner if they desired should Jarius Adams want to join up. Other candidates to fill the remaining open spots are ATH Tyrone Wheatley Jr., DE Shelton Johnson, RB Mike Weber (everything seems to be up in the air with him), WR Van Jefferson, CB Iman Marshall, and LB Roquan Smith—the last two are longshots at best.