TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
NJ DT Rashan Gary may be M's most important target in the 2016 class.
Although the Roquan Smith decision looms, the recruiting focus has almost entirely turned to the 2016 class, one that comes with significant expectations for Jim Harbaugh. While there wasn't nearly enough time in the 2015 cycle for Harbaugh to make a huge splash, 2016 should be the class in which the results start meeting the hype.
With Michigan handing out a rash of new offers in the last couple weeks, this seemed like a good time to take some of your questions.
Biggest Positions Of Need
What do you see as the biggest position of need, outside of possibly quarterback? Our lack of weapons at WR, especially when compared to the elite teams last year, has me leaning that way.
While Michigan will certainly take a receiver or two—with a focus on pulling in a top-flight talent like Dylan Crawford—I don't see that group as the most pressing need in this class. There's plenty of talent on the depth chart left over from last year, and you shouldn't sleep on redshirt freshmen Drake Harris and Moe Ways; both have big-time ability.
Three position groups come to mind immediately. On offense, the O-line is in need of sheer numbers after Michigan took just five total in the last two classes—one of whom, Mason Cole, didn't redshirt and therefore may as well be regarded as a 2013 recruit. The Hoke regime provided Harbaugh with a decent start here; 2016 commit Erik Swenson is a borderline top-100 prospect. Expect Michigan to add at least two more on the line, and preferably more. Given Harbaugh's offense, adding a high-level tight end or two is also a priority.
The biggest need on the team is at defensive tackle. Michigan didn't take one in 2015, and six of the nine DTs on the current roster are in their final two seasons of eligibility—the only exceptions are sophomores Maurice Hurst Jr. and Bryan Mone and redshirt freshman Brady Pallante. While Hurst and Mone have already started contributing, Pallante was an undersized prospect who was initially offered as a grayshirt before Hoke missed out on several D-line targets.
Given how long it usually takes for DTs to develop, landing two recruits there at a minimum is a must. Luckily, Michigan is off to a strong start in the recruitment of Paramus (NJ) Catholic's Rashan Gary, the #2 overall prospect on the 247 Composite.
[Hit THE JUMP for questions on the quarterback outlook, California recruiting, fullbacks(!), and reasonable expectations for the class.]
This has been the worst-kept secret in Michigan football for a month or two now, but I think this from Rivals is the first official confirmation that Michigan is indeed bringing in Stanford defensive back Wayne Lyons as a graduate transfer this fall:
Lyons confirmed his plans to transfer to Michigan.
"Midterms have my attention, but yes, there is some truth to the rumors," Lyons said via text Feb. 9, adding he planned to report June after graduation. "I'm looking into taking a visit before then."
I'm going to ignore the "some truth" bit since everyone's been discussing it sotto voce for a month and his mom got hired and he's planning to report in June.
Lyons was a touted recruit out of Fort Lauderdale, a top 100 player on the composite and the #4 safety in the country. He broke his foot two games into his freshman year and has been a contributor since as a cornerback. He moved into the starting lineup as a junior, finishing fifth on the team in tackles and picking off Notre Dame twice. He was less involved last year, and Stanford fans are kind of eh about him:
He's a decent corner. I've heard that he'd be better as a safety (or maybe nickel corner, which is how we used him a lot this year), and supposedly we wanted to move him that way.
I think the consensus would be that he never quite played up to his expectations, but I'd be sad to see him go.
With Jabrill Peppers moving to safety, Michigan has more of a need at corner. Michigan lost Raymon Taylor and returns Blake Countess and Jourdan Lewis; there is an opportunity to be a nickel corner or to beat out Countess, who had a shaky junior year.
Michigan's walk-on situation makes it difficult to determine exactly how many scholarships are available. Lyons's arrival would hypothetically deprive Kerridge or maybe Kenny Allen of a scholarship, but in all likelihood someone leaves before September. In practice, it's moot. FYI: Michigan has filled 16 slots with their recruiting class and the transfers of O'Korn and Lyons, which is approximately the number they had to give.
UPDATE: there's an excellent diary from alum96 with more background on Lyons. It doesn't sound like he's a world-beater, but sometimes kids get a lot better as seniors. And the alternative here is leaving a scholarship open.
all these people would have fit in Yost [Patrick Barron]
After a near-fiasco with the ice at Soldier Field that caused Michigan and Michigan State to drop the puck at 9:40 PM Eastern, scattered pockets of people and eighty thousand empty seats took in an ugly hockey game marred by ice closer to a dirt road than a smooth sheet.
And with that Michigan's participation in outdoor college hockey should be over, with a single exception.
Yeah, there's no much you can do if your opponent decides to move one of their home games, as Ohio State did a couple years back for a slightly better-attended outing in Cleveland's baseball stadium. There's no much you can do if the GLI is outside in conjunction with the Winter Classic. But Michigan can look at this fiasco of an event and choose to never do it again.
The lone exception should be occasional reprises of The Cold War and Big Chill*. Both were great events featuring packed houses, and will be again if they are sufficiently rare. What's sufficiently rare? I'd say one game at Spartan Stadium or Michigan Stadium every four years. You can tell each recruiting class that if you stay for four years you will play a packed outdoor game, and you are doing it rarely enough that the "packed" part of that proposition is likely to remain true.
Other than that, let's drop it. Outdoor hockey is
- COLD. Obviously.
- BAD HOCKEY. Strange lighting and bad ice make these games hard to watch. Pucks bounce over sticks. Skill's importance is muted in favor of luck.
- LITERALLY HARD TO WATCH. You're far away and the sightlines make no sense. (Any modern NHL building goes up as vertically as possible; most football stadiums are much less steeply pitched.)
Those are not fixable. Taking two teams from Michigan and having them play in Illinois is, but I'm just over it. I would rather watch an outdoor game on TV these days because the environment is the definition of antiseptic and I'll have a much better grasp on what's going on if I don't have to squint from a half-mile away.
I mean, it was cool. It will remain cool if it's rare enough. Remember when the television people were trying to expand the NCAA tournament to 128 teams because they're willing to wreck anything if they can point to a bigger number in the spreadsheet they're responsible for? College hockey is in the process of doing this to outdoor games. Outdoor games should be magnificent events. These days they're too often ghost towns full of monuments to hubris instead of people.
Meanwhile, even the watered-down modern-day Yost is one of the best environments college sports has to offer. Taking a game out of there to play in front of approximately as many people outdoors is the definition of madness. We can be done with that; we fired that guy.
*[they should drop the Big Chill nomenclature and just go with Cold War [roman numeral], in my opinion]
Michigan's offense this year is facing the mother of all X factors in its quarterback situation. Brady Hoke left the rest of the team in relatively great shape, but its most important position in a Shane-or-die position.
Hoke and his staff recruited just Russell Bellomy (a last-minute flier stolen from Purdue) in the hybrid 2011 class, and skipped a quarterback altogether in 2012 because they already had a commitment from Morris in 2013. This was a bad idea then, and worked out awfully for Michigan. Bellomy's injury ruined any chance of a badly needed redshirt for Shane, so even if Morris worked out he'd be gone after 2016. And if he didn't work out: Michigan was going into this year hoping to catch lightning in a freshman from either lone 2014 recruit Wilton Speight, or early enrollee Alex Malzone.
From left: Morris, Speight, Malzone, Gentry, O'Korn. O'Korn won't be eligible in 2015 due to transfer rules but gives Michigan a guy they didn't have between Morris Speight.
This won't happen under Harbaugh. The former Michigan and NFL star likes lots of bullets and lots of competition at his old position, which he personally coaches. Harbaugh has already added the high-ceilinged Zach Gentry, a perfect complement to the high-floor Malzone. By this time next year (unless there's attrition), Michigan should have the above plus two years of eligibility remaining on Houston transfer John O'Korn, and likely one or two of the nation's best freshmen.
What I'd like to do, then, is go back through Harbaugh's quarterbacks—the starters and the recruits—to see if we can find any common threads in the type of guy he adds to the pile, and the type of guy who emerges from it.
|Jim used his Orlando offseason home as a base from which to recruit the talent-rich region for WKU. [USA Today]|
Recruiting assistant, 1994-2001
Bo's former defensive backs coach Jack Harbaugh was coaching at Western Kentucky, and struggling through his first few years, when the school decided it would cut two assistant coaching positions and a handful of scholarships (they already put very little toward equipment). His sons offered to do some scouting and recruiting for him—John from Cincinnati and Jim from his house in Orlando—and the harvest from those recruits was an WKU's rise to a I-AA national championship in 2002 and eventual reclassification into Division I-A.
The Jim-John co-op (John was doing much of the scouting, passing on guys Indiana couldn't recruit) was personally credited with 17 players on the national championship team. Nick Baumgardner got the story of Jim's first quarterback recruit, Willie Taggart:
Harbaugh explained he was trying to round up some talent for his dad's program. He told Taggart that he and his father were watching tape of Manatee and asked, "Who is that little skinny guy?" Jim said he thought he should play quarterback in college and he'd come by the school on Tuesday at lunch to discuss it further.
Taggart hung up and assumed it was a prank or something. "I called my high school coach and he checked on it and said, 'Yeah, Jim is Jack Harbaugh's son.'
Manatee was a Tampa area powerhouse back then, so Taggart's a guy who absolutely would have shown up on recruiting radars today, and had FBS programs looking at him then. He became the best QB in school history, improving a 2-8 team in in 1995 to 7-4 in '96 and 10-2 in '97. Taggart is now USF's head coach, and was an assistant for Jim at Stanford.
Taggart returned to WKU in 2000 and ran an option offense that rotated between three candidates. The original winner was Jason Johnson. They got the 6'3/200 Johnson out of Palmetto, but with the limited scholarships they couldn't offer him one out of high school. Johnson went to a military college for a few years before being re-recruited:
It was during that second season that Johnson had to renter the recruiting game. He was in contact with a number of Division programs, including Clemson, South Carolina, Kansas State and Indiana, but in the end Western won out.
Donte Pimpleton was the second, a local-ish dual-threat kid who wound up playing receiver—there isn't anything on the internet connecting his recruitment to the brothers. The third candidate, and the starter of the 2002 championship team, was Jason Michael, another local recruit, onetime Jim Harbaugh assistant in SF and now the OC of the Tennessee Titans,
Jim did recruit Alan Ogletree, an overlooked athlete from Atlanta who ended up starting at every position in the defensive and offensive backfield for the Hilltoppers (QB, RB, FB, WR, CB, SS, FS, K, P).
[After the jump: Raiders and San Diego]
Roquan Smith, trend-setter?
Though most players don’t realize it, they do not have to sign the NLI to receive a scholarship. They need only sign a financial aid agreement at their chosen school. The financial aid paperwork provides (almost) the same guarantee of a scholarship as the NLI, but unlike the NLI, it doesn’t strip the player of the only leverage he’ll have until he graduates from college.
Why is the NLI the worst contract in American sports? It requires players to sign away their right to be recruited by other schools. If they don’t enroll at the school with which they signed, they forfeit a year of eligibility. Not a redshirt year, but one of their four years to play. In return, the NLI guarantees the player nothing.
That's right: nothing. If you don't get in, which certain massively oversigned teams will massage from time to time, you can be forced out. And even if you do and have been on campus for summer semester, you can still get the boot. The NLI gives you nothing. If you're big time, there's no reason to sign it.
Get The Picture has the view from the Georgia side of things.
More on Gwendolyn Bush. Staples also has an excellent anecdote on Bush's qualifications for her new job:
…if anyone is qualified for this job, it’s Bush. At most large programs, player development personnel work in a mentoring role for current players and serve as contact points for recruits and their parents when they seek info about the program and school.
Bush is perfect for this job because she knows exactly what parents will ask. When Lyons was being recruited the first time around, she asked pretty much every question. It was Bush who designed the in-depth questionnaire Lyons sent to every school that offered him a scholarship. The 50 questions covered everything from insurance coverage to graduation rates to the distance to the nearest department store.
Jim Harbaugh's Stanford was the winner in that recruitment. Bush evidently impressed Harbaugh sufficiently to circle back around to her when he needed a liaison between departments and parents.
A parent who managed her kid's recruitment methodically has a deep knowledge of the relevant issues. The fact that her kid might transfer to Michigan for one year when Michigan returns three starters in the secondary plus Jabrill Peppers plays little to no role in her hire.
Another hire. Michigan's hired Matt Doherty from Miami. Doherty was "director of player personnel" at Miami, and the guy at 247 reporting his hire says he's in a similar role at Michigan. It's not the same role, as Chris Singletary has that title.
Doherty's title is "Recruiting Coordinator" on the directory, FWIW, so this kind of seems like not even a lateral move for him. Michigan's getting serious about support staff.
Illinois: still Illinois. I know the prequels were confusing, but the Stormtroopers were the bad guys.
— SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) February 9, 2015
YOU'RE NEXT… time to get shot in massive numbers by our story's heroes. Points for honesty, at least. No points for football. Just for honesty.
This one is totally random and not at all my fault. A few weeks after implying that Caris LeVert's foot issue was the result of working too hard, Izzo is down one weird guy:
The problem that will be tougher to solve is the fact freshman Javon Bess might out for the rest of the season with an injured right foot.
"Javon might be done for the year," Izzo said Monday at his weekly news conference. "I don't like where it's headed, but he'll definitely be out for a couple of weeks."
Maybe he should have just had his team practice free throws.
Cord cutting continues apace. It was kind of a big deal when Dish offered a 20 dollar monthly package with ESPN and ESPN2 on it, but now they've announced there's an add-on sports pack with yet more coverage:
Sports Extra ($5/mo):
ESPN News, ESPN U, SEC ESPN Network, ESPN Buzzer Beater, Universal Sports, Bein Sports
That just about covers anything an SEC fan would need. If that package somehow added BTN, the only Michigan basketball and football games that wouldn't be on the service would be the occasional road game (or preseason tournament) against a team in the Pac-12 or Mountain West that would end up on the Fox networks.
It's just a matter of time. That amount of time: however long it takes Google to inflict real competition on enough prime markets to hit the cheap gigabit tipping point. That's maybe ten years off; we'll be stuck with Rutgers forever. At least going to a game that far away is more plausible when you can sleep overnight in your self-driving car?
It's going to be okay man. Michigan is 21st in the Power Rank's four-year recruiting rankings, and 17th via SB Nation's methodology. That includes Michigan's extremely weak Hoke-Rodriguez transition class and generally doesn't account for Michigan's extremely low attrition. A big time class like everyone expects would replace the transition guys in the stats, leaving Michigan with a talent base you can do lots of stuff with—kind of like that year when that awful APR fell off the stats and Michigan shot up.
Etc.: Hyman third in the Hobey Watch. Going to be tough to catch Jack Eichel. Dan Dakich twitter fight? Don't mind if I do. Oregon state senator mad that Oregon didn't take any Oregonians in their most recent recruiting class. Lax kicks off the season with a win.
UM 1 MSU 0 EV 01:43 Downing (5) from Calderone (6) and Nieves (14)
Tony Calderone gets the puck via a stretch pass Boo Nieves makes from along the boards in Michigan’s defensive zone. The pass comes from the same spot Nieves wasn’t able to gain control of the puck last Friday (which subsequently led to a Spartans goal), so it’s nice to see him seal the puck and get it out of the zone this weekend. Calderone skates to the red line before walking it back up the boards in an effort to avoid the MSU defender.
Michigan State’s defenders have collapsed around the net, which is typical of their style. That’s not really a criticism; if you’re going to give up shots from the point and your goaltender is Jake Hildebrand you’re probably going to do alright. Calderone passes to the blur at the top of the screen cap. That blur is Downing, and it’s easy to see how much he’s able to put on the shot from the camera’s inability to focus on him.
It looks to me like the puck goes under the defenseman’s stick and beats Hildebrand on his blocker side in the little green square I’ve drawn on the screen cap. This isn’t a good goal for him to give up; despite having a defenseman in front of him in the screen cap he was able to track the puck and squared himself to the shot. That d-man in his view came in after the pass had been made to Downing and Hildebrand was starting to butterfly.
[After THE JUMP: Darth Vader makes an appearance, and it’s not in discussing MSU or Dave Brandon]