this may be of some local interest
Jim Harbaugh, Picky Shopper
Maize n Brew's Brandon Justice penned an article on four-star CA C Brett Neilon for the Detroit News that contains what I believe is the first food-related Harbaughism that isn't about red meat:
A conversation Neilon had with Harbaugh earlier this month may have placed Michigan at the top of Neilon’s list among schools he is considering.
The topic: blueberries.
“He told me, if you buy a pack of 30 blueberries and one is moldy, it will affect the others, and that’s why he doesn’t recruit moldy blueberries,” Neilon said, laughing, recalling his talk with Harbaugh. “(Harbaugh) thinks I will fit perfectly at Michigan.”
While Neilon won't cop to having a leader, he acknowledged Michigan is recruiting him harder than any other school. USC and Washington are M's primary competition. Notably, the California native says distance from home won't play a factor.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
|Camden, NJ – 6'4", 230|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||4*, NR overall
#20 DE, #8 NJ
|ESPN||4*, #109 overall
#15 DE, #4 NJ
|24/7||4*, #239 overall
#18 WDE, #6 NJ
|Other Suitors||PSU, UO, ND, OSU, Bama|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Son of former Badger Ronald Johnson. Teammate of Brad Hawkins.|
Our grueling Signing Day podcast finished with a Lightning Round(!). 247's Steve Lorenz was the victim. Our last question was "recruit Michigan fans have forgotten about." Lorenz said "Ron Johnson… that's an easy one." And so it is. After an early commit and little subsequent drama—a Kentucky visit is not much drama—Johnson is just another mid-four-star Jersey guy to a lot of folks, including your author. But he's an excellent prospect—albeit a divisive one.
I am similarly divided. Many of the things that are written about him are very encouraging, but the Semper Fi game at which Khaleke Hudson became a fave-rave also featured Johnson. He mostly got hung up on blocking. Impactful he was not. While you never want to read too much into a half-game of snaps in an All-Star situation, it is data. That data wasn't great.
Oddly, the rest of the data from that game was. 247 paid it the most attention, and was consistently wowed by his performance in practices. On day two they named him the "Alpha Dog":
…easily the most dominating player on the second day of practice. The four-star Michigan commitment could not be blocked at the line of scrimmage, firing off the ball and using his raw strength to explode on contact. At 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, Johnson is lean, but on Thursday he showed the upper body strength is already there to throw blockers to the wayside. …. Coaches were raving about his performance on Day two, and rightfully so.
The day before he narrowly missed the same designation because he "displayed three great qualities of a productive pass rusher"—tenacity, violent hands, and flying to the football. The day after he narrowly missed the same designation because he was "tenacious" and had "speed to get to the football that cannot be coached." The practices hold more weight than the actual game when it comes to rankings and 247 bumped him into their top X list afterwards.
Other reports are mixed. One thing everyone seems to agree on is Johnson’s athleticism, which is Grade A.
Rivals: “pure edge rusher with great explosiveness off the line of scrimmage.”
- 247: “physically gifted defensive end with great explosiveness and power.”
- ESPN: “Demonstrates excellent raw strength … brings some excellent physical tools.”
- Scout: “Johnson has an excellent motor and also plenty of athleticism.
That’s everyone, then. Despite this there is a big spread in opinion on Johnson running from fringe top 100 guy to generic three star. Most of the disagreement appears to be about how heavily to weight his upside versus where he is right now, or at least where he’s been for much of high high school career.
Despite being the most optimistic service, ESPN offers up a lot of what skeptics are seeing. This is another report where their ranking doesn’t entirely match up with the contents. This time the scouting report is a little lukewarm for a prospect on the fringe of their top 100:
Needs to watch pad level, but displays ability to stay low and has the strength and length to set the edge when he keeps pads down. … Lateral agility is adequate and displays inconsistent recognition skills. … nice upside [as pass rusher] with length and ability to quickly get off the ball. …doesn't have great bend, but displays ability to work tight path. … Can rely on size and strength some and needs to be more consistent with technique.
That sounds more like a four star outside their top 300, but it’s possible his ranking got bumped at some point without an update to the report. Rivals originally had Johnson at the tail end of their top 100 before a big drop just preceding his senior year, one that was based on size concerns:
"…if the offensive tackle can get his hands on Johnson, the New Jersey native has a hard time recovering. Size and strength are a bit of a concern as a defensive end, but his athleticism can't be denied.”
A contemporary evaluation compared Johnson to PSU commit and composite top 50 player Shane Simmons, justifying Rivals drops for both since they are undersized players with little recourse if an opposing OL can match their outside rush.
Meanwhile, the “mixed” comes into play heavily in Scout’s assessment, which directly contradicts ESPN’s in a couple places and itself once:
Johnson has an excellent motor and also plenty of athleticism. He gets up the field in a hurry, but also uses technique, including a nice swim move. He stays low at the snap and can dip his shoulder to get around the edge… He needs to work a bit on his change of direction, which is good for a kid his size.
“Hand quickness,” an item ESPN says he needs to work on, is a strength. Change of direction, which is good, is bad. Despite saying he’s good at things ESPN thinks he’s not good at, Scout ranks him 32 slots lower at DE than the next most skeptical service. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
That is literally the only text content from Scout that, you know, scouts Johnson. There are a couple of their horrible talking-heads-standing-outside-in-the-wind recaps elsewhere because someone high up at Scout thinks videos that should absolutely not be videos are the company’s salvation… I am digressing.
Brian Dohn did offer up a highlights-plus-talking item when he committed, praising his ability to pursue—always a backhanded compliment—and saying he needs to do better at disengaging from blockers and is liable to go blow a guy up even if that guy doesn’t have the ball. The latter echoes one of the criticisms ESPN had for him, and is in direct contrast to recently-covered Josh Uche. That’s an important flaw, albeit a fixable one.
His video also has a number of those high school tackles on which the D-I prospect hurls himself wildly at a future accountant. The accountant goes backwards five yards, the recruit flexes, and coaches wince. Johnson’s not exactly refined.
If you’re noticing that a lot of reports say that he’s crazy strong and a lot of reports say he’s too small… yeah. Here’s a canonical one:
While he does not have developed technique, he is incredibly strong and uses his hands violently. At Michigan, expect Johnson to be coached up for a year or two while he adds size to his frame, which appears like it could easily hold 30 or 40 more pounds.
Those would seem to be traits in direct opposition to each other. An attempt to interpret this: “crazy strong” reports are more about Johnson impacting OL violently with that explosion and knocking them off balance. “Needs to get bigger” reports are more about what happens when the OL can cope and gets locked on. Clint Brewster has some more detail:
…gets off blocks with an aggressive swim move and has the strength to shrug them off as well. He has the core-strength and ability to beat offensive tackles inside to make plays in the running game or the quickness and speed to beat them outside. He works hard to stand his ground against the run and has power in his upper body to punch and dispatch blockers.
That eval is directly contradicted by various other reports, FWIW. I’m just trying to resolve the distinction.
A lot of WDE types will garner similar evaluations. Johnson is a common prospect: athletic LB/DE type who’s going to eat like The Rock for a couple years and end up a much different player. Sometimes that’s an eh guy who loses his quick-twitch and ends up being a backup SDE or something. Sometimes it’s the high school prospect plus 40 pounds of anger. Roll them dice. Johnson is starting with a +1 or +2 modifier to your roll.
Etc.: Dang hard to Google.
Why Frank Clark? Clark was an explosive, high-impact WDE who needed to add a bunch of weight and technique before he became effective. Early in his career Clark was horrible at diagnosing zone read and would often vacate his rush lane; late he was a strapping 270-pound athletic player whose production outstripped his stats.
Johnson isn’t as far away from playing weight as Clark—who was 210 coming out of high school—and has correspondingly higher rankings. He’s also got a couple inches on Clark, so hitting that 270 or even 280 that Clark did is within reach. The upsides are similar.
Johnson is also similar to Lawrence Marshall as a recruit, but we haven’t seen how Marshall’s game translates to college. That could also be Johnson’s fate. He’s not a slam dunk by any means.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Healthy, All Star appearance, but big split. More or less agree on what kind of player Johnson is and radically disagree on how valuable that is.
Variance: High. Low technique, high athleticism DE with a big ceiling and a long way to go.
Ceiling: High. See Clark, Frank.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Boom or bust guy. Semper Fi performance leans towards “boom.”
Projection: Redshirt should be coming with Michigan’s depth on the DL and Johnson’s rawness. He will probably have to cool his heels a bit longer if Winovich sticks and Marshall comes through. This is completely fine. Unless he is tracking way ahead of schedule 2018 is the first you’ll hear from him.
In 2018 and beyond he could be anything from a ghost to Clark 2.0. Your guess will suffice.
Even with McCaffery behind him and plenty ahead, we're still seeing Brandon Peters in our futures. After a shirt. [Upchurch]
Who redshirts from the 2016 class? Which of those has the biggest impact down the road?*
Ace: Michigan is finally in a position where they can default to redshirting freshmen unless they’re too talented not to see the field (Rashan Gary), happen to fit at one of the couple positions in serious need of depth (Devin Bush), or auditioning for a starting job next year (David Long, LaVert Hill). As such, the list of players I expect to redshirt is long, especially on offense.
OFFENSE: QB Brandon Peters, RB Kingston Davis, RB/SLOT Chris Evans, WR Brad Hawkins, WR Eddie McDoom, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Mike Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, K Quinn Nordin
DEFENSE: DT Michael Dwumfour, DE Carlo Kemp, DE Ron Johnson, DE Josh Uche, LB Devin Gil, S Josh Metellus
A few of those guys might end up seeing spot snaps or special teams duty, and I guessed a bit with the receivers; Dylan Crawford, Nate Johnson, and Ahmir Mitchell aren’t locks to play, either, but it’s probably safe to assume the coaches won’t keep all six receiver-types in the same class. Even Devin Asiasi, who’d see the field right away under normal circumstances, might sit a year given TJ Wheatley’s emergence and the overall depth at tight end.
As for which redshirting freshman I expect to have the biggest impact, those who listen to the podcast probably won’t be surprised that I’m going with Brandon Peters, even with a few really talented linemen on this list. Peters was lights-out as a senior and is an ideal fit in Harbaugh’s offense. Even with Dylan McCaffrey coming in a year behind him, I have a really difficult time not seeing Peters as a very successful multi-year starter.
[After THE JUMP we tweak Ace's answer]
[Bryan Fuller. They all are. Also he bugged us all to get this done.]
A Fast Start That Felt Slow. Michigan softball came into the 2016 season riding a tremendous wave of momentum from their phenomenal 2015 performance that saw them fall just one game short of reaching the sport’s highest glory. The newfound momentum was a mixed blessing however, as it brought with it raised expectations and the pressure that comes hand in hand with success. The 2015 team was able to play free and have fun at every stage, in large part because they were supposed to be good, but not that kind of good. Their record-shattering performances were as much of a surprise to the players as to the fans, and we all went on the crazy ride together. In 2016, by contrast, Michigan came in bearing all the pressure that comes with a #2 pre-season ranking.
Even with all the pressure, if you focus on the win/loss column, Michigan blazed through the non-conference schedule with scarcely a bump in the road. Losses to #1 Florida and to then-top-ten Washington (now #13) are simply things that happen, while the Wolverines piled up plenty of signature Ws, including a pair at the home turf of a now-top-ten Florida State squad and a 16-9 slugfest triumph over Oklahoma that doubled as a Romero-family grudge match. An 8-6 thriller on the home turf of UCLA, the ultimate softball blue-blood, and a merciless 13-0 blasting of Missouri rounded out Michigan’s marquee victories.
Despite the glittering 22-2 record and persistent #2 national ranking, the mood in the softball fanbase was tending towards the restless side. The offense was effective, but had not been able to recapture the free-wheeling, long-bombing swagger of 2015’s “Year of the Pizza” unit. Meanwhile, injuries and official “points of emphasis” combined to hamper Michigan’s top two pitchers. Unquestioned ace Megan Betsa has always been queen of the rise ball, but a renewed emphasis on call high rises balls sent her walks through the roof early on, while Sara Driesenga took some time to get back up to speed after missing almost all of 2015 due to injury. Even more concerning was the fact that the loss to Florida was not just a loss, but an 8-0 5 inning mercy-rule shellacking that left many Wolverine fans questioning whether the Maize & Blue would ever be able to challenge the Gators’ national dominance. Worries persisted even into the early stages of the Big Ten season, as the Wolverines opened Big Ten play with a dismal defensive performance, dropping a 13-12 contest to a solid but unremarkable Northwestern squad.
In addition to the quantifiable problems, there was an intangible sense that the 2016 team hadn’t really come together quite yet. Hutch talked in interviews about how the team wasn’t responding well at the beginning of spring practice, and only locked in over time. The pizza-making passion of 2015 had not yet been replaced by any new charming quirks or wacky antics. Even many of the wins felt simply dutiful, rather than joyful. A 3-1 W over a mediocre Virginia Tech team or a 1-0 squeaker over an Illinois State team that would go on to post a losing record in the Missouri Valley Conference felt more ho-hum than hail, hail. The team were still strong favorites to win the Big Ten and even to retain a super-regional (top-8) seed, but there was a clear need for something more.
[Hit THE JUMP for The Team The Team The Team, The Enemy, The Enemy, The Enemy, and The Hutch The Hutch The Hutch.]
When Beilein was hired about a decade ago, he had the reputation of being able to attract European recruits – after the Robin Benzing situation fell through early on in his tenure, that reputation sort of faded. I guess those connections never really went away, because Beilein recently pursued another German big man and this time, Moritz Wagner cleared all the hurdles on the path to becoming a Wolverine. Even though he’d actually seen the floor in an exhibition against the then-defending champion San Antonio Spurs, Wagner spent most of his time with the Alba Berlin B team, playing against more age-appropriate opponents. Predicting how well he’d adjust to the increased level of athleticism and physicality in college basketball was a fool’s errand, but it was clear from watching his film that Wagner had an unusual combination of size, handle, and fluidity and that he could potentially grow into an impact player at the college level in time.
Even though a player with his profile (essentially a wing transitioning to being a post player, a la DJ Wilson) would typically redshirt, Wagner did not; whether it was because he’s a Euro prospect – who are far likelier to leave college early than their American counterparts – or because the coaching staff thought he could contribute valuable minutes, I’m not sure, but either way, Wagner saw the floor last year. In the fifth game of the season, Moritz dominated a weak Charlotte team to the tune of 19 points on just 9 shot equivalents in 16 minutes(!) of playing time. He followed that up with 41 combined minutes in Michigan’s next two games (both against high-major opponents) and at the time, it seemed as if he was quickly becoming the Wolverines’ best option at the five.
It didn’t work out that way. Even before Mark Donnal emerged as a feasible starter with starter minutes, Wagner’s minutes evaporated: on the floor, he was turnover-prone (a casualty of his playmaking instincts, but an issue nonetheless), couldn’t avoid getting himself into foul trouble (7.3 fouls per 40 minutes on the year) and particularly struggled with defending and rebounding. A quote from a Brendan Quinn piece after his early-season breakout is instructive: "I've never been a natural rebounder, I guess. I think it (takes) a lot of experience to know when to watch the ball, how to box out your opponent and how to be in the right place. I think it comes with time." Once Big Ten play rolled around, Wagner became an afterthought in Beilein’s rotation, only totaling 55 minutes over 18 games.
[Hit the JUMP for more on Moritz]
it’s back [Bryan Fuller]
Single digits. Via the twitters,various numbers for incoming freshman are now known. The most significant development for Michigan numerologists: Crawford and EMB are both getting the #1. This is good; the number had gotten too bound up in its history to actually get used most of the time. I’m willing to give it to a guy who isn’t AC yet just to get it out of mothballs. Issuing it to a defender too is an interesting twist, especially a linebacker.
Other numbers: Devin Asiasi and Lavert Hill are both #2—no pressure, Lavert—and Rashan Gary will retain his #3 from high school—no pressure, #3.
[UPDATE: Seth relates that some of these numbers are just sticky notes, not plates, and that those are not official. Never mind some of this, then.]
Goodbye, ESPN. The last guy left in Bristol who can call college football is Joe Tessitore. All games this fall will be called by him or the army of Pam Ward clones currently being decanted in the basement:
- Mike Tirico left for NBC,which caused the accursed NFL to yoink Sean McDonough for Monday Night Football.
- McDonough’s broadcast partner Chris Spielman left for FOX, where he, too, will call f-ing NFL games.
- There are plenty of rumors that Brad Nessler is leaving for CBS, which seem to be backed by the fact that Tessitore got promoted to Saturday nights.
- Brent Musberger is still in SEC Network purgatory.
Tessitore is fine, and Fowler is fine. It sucks to lose McDonough, Spielman, and Nessler, all of whom are great.
Not that it matters so much to the Big Ten. They must have had a teleconference, because various reporters are now quoting ADs and Delany about the second half of the Big Ten’s rights package. Is the following real or posturing for a better deal from suddenly-miserly ESPN?
“No one has amnesia about the relationship we have had with ESPN. John Skipper and that group, they have been a wonderful partner. But we’re at a different place and I think they’re at a different place in 2016 than we were in the last round (of negotiations). That doesn’t mean we can’t get to the altar together and get married again. But we’re at the dating stage right now. And that’s a process.”
Whenever this comes up you hear that coaches are loathe to not have a relationship with the gorilla in the sports media ecosystem…
“I believe the Big Ten schools are, at a certain point, going to demand from their leadership, ‘We have to be on ESPN, for recruiting and for publicity. We can’t give that partnership up, it’s too valuable for us in in terms of our conference competing against other conferences for high school players,’” Deitsch said on his podcast. “I’m going to bet, in the end, there’s a deal there.”
…but I’ll believe a college athletics conglomerate is willing to leave money on the table when I see it.
Departing ESPN wholesale for (probably) FOX would be interesting. Right now the Big Ten gets a ton of viewership—would that move tank it? Or would the prospect of having an army of Pam Ward clones do every game at ESPN do so?
On that Tunsil lawsuit. Tunsil’s stepfather is on the stepfather is on the warpath:
Miller met with an NCAA investigator in July and told him about other possible improprieties he had witnessed dating back to Tunsil’s high school recruitment, when Tunsil turned down Nick Saban at Alabama and Mark Richt at Georgia to sign with Hugh Freeze at Mississippi.
Miller claims Tunsil’s academic records were altered. He said Polingo used to receive Western Union deliveries of money from Barney Farrar, Ole Miss assistant athletic director for high school and junior college relations. An apparent reference to Farrar was made in the year-old text messages on draft night; when Tunsil asked the Ole Miss administrator for money, he responds, “See Barney next week.” Farrar has denied giving money to or being asked for money by Tunsil, Ole Miss is investigating and Farese predicts it will turn out to be “much ado about nothing.”
Some of that has already been accounted for in the allegations the NCAA has investigated. This lawsuit promises to uncover further things, because it looks like Ole Miss got caught giving him a bunch of different piddly stuff:
The NCAA said Tunsil was not initially honest but that five rules violations were confirmed: Tunsil improperly used three loaner cars without paying during a six-month period; received two nights’ lodging at a local home; accepted a free airline ticket; used a rental car for one day for free, and received an interest-free four-month loan to make a $3,000 down payment on a used car.
That’s not a one time thing, that is five different incidents of giving the guy cash, directly or not, and looks like the tip of the iceberg. What are the chances that this pattern is not repeated with other players? What are the chances that these are the only five things Tunsil was provided? Zero and zero.
Old school items. Via Dr. Sap:
I don’t know why people suspected Caris was soft. He has a broken foot:
LeVert revealed here this week that his injury -- the nature of which was kept under wraps during the season -- is a Jones fracture to the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. The injury, he said, is similar to the one he suffered earlier in his career.
He hoped the fracture would heal on its own, but when that process was slow-going, he opted instead to have surgery after the season by Dr. Martin O'Malley.
LeVert was still on crutches this week in Chicago, and said he will need to wear a boot on his left foot for another four weeks. That means he won't be doing any predraft workouts with teams.
The idea that Levert would try to avoid playing time this year was always goofy. Nobody wants to enter the NBA draft after two years mostly lost to injury. Even if he was only thinking of his draft stock, he would have played if at all possible. But rabblers gonna rabble.
Inevitable comparison. Beilein is going to go there with Xavier Simpson. He’s going with Trey Burke:
"I do," Michigan coach John Beilein was saying recently, asked if he sees significant comparisons between the two, other than they're both from Ohio.
"I see the dog in him, and I mean that in a positive. He goes out there and guards people and plays and he's a high competitor.
"This guy might be a guy that comes in the door with those competitive instincts."
A step towards sanity. The Big Ten will start using campus sites for hockey playoffs once ND joins, with a single week of best two-of-three games before a single elimination final four at an as of yet undisclosed location that I hope is the league winner’s home ice. The winner gets a bye, you see, and it would be weird if their reward was not playing any games at home.
John Gasaway compiles a list of the top shooting performances in the Kenpom era that surprisingly does not include a Stauskas or Burke team; it does include last year’s MSU game, with Michigan on the “whoops” side.