Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton,DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch, OL Chris Fox, OL Dan Samuelson, TE Jake Butt, TE Khalid Hill, HB Wyatt Shallman, WR Da'Mario Jones, WR Csont'e York, WR Jaron Dukes.
|Richmond, VA – 6'0", 220|
|Scout||5*, #6 overall
#1 RB, #1 VA
|Rivals||5*, #8 overall
#1 RB, #1 VA
|ESPN||4*, #38 overall
#5 RB, #3 VA
|24/7||4*, #84 overall
#8 RB, #5 VA
|Other Suitors||Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, USC, Oklahoma, Miami, FSU, Oregon|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
If you watch only one play of this reel make it the run that starts at 10:20.
Army game (actual play starts at 1:30):
It's not that Derrick Green breaks arm tackles. It's that he doesn't notice them. Go ahead, watch the highlight reel. On the high school level, an arm tackle may as well be an invitation marked endzone, party of one. So, yeah, he's not that elusive, but he doesn't have to be, because he's elusive enough not to take a head on shot and anything short of that… no sale.
But don't take it from me, take it from everybody.
Brian Dohn, Scout: "Green is a durable, physical runner who doesn't have elite speed, but that really isn't needed to be success. Just think Emmitt Smith. … He is big, strong, accelerates well and has very good vision and balance. He is creative and he is difficult to bring down. He has quick feet, and his change of direction is very good. He can make subtle cuts and turn a 3-yard gain into an 8-yard gain in a flash."
Various Rivals Analysts: "You can't build a better-looking high school running back if you tried as Green already looks like he's in college." "Green is a bowling ball of a runner who is very strong North-South but has quick feet and good balance. Once he decides to hit a hole, and he is a decisive runner, he is a load to handle. It would have been nice to see some full contact because you could tell he would have shrugged off linebackers." "Green showed why he is the No. 1 running back in the country by hitting all the right holes, showing off great vision and flashing his trademark burst." "In practices and in the game, Green ran with toughness and speed, cut very well and showed he has the vision to make an early impact at the next level."
ESPN: "Green is a load and a strong, physically imposing runner ready to make the college jump…. Green is quick to get downhill and attack the hole and he gains momentum fast. … lacks fluidity through the hips as a lateral runner but shows sharp, subtle cutbacks and deceptive pick-and-slide ability at times. While he can sidestep and avoid tacklers, he is at his best when squared up and given a heavy dose of Iso and Power plays. … Displays very good power to break tackles. … drags tacklers and finishes runs falling forward. … likes contact. Has good speed for his size, but not a home run threat in college or a player who is going to make you miss with elusiveness."
247's Clint Brewster: "I compare Green to former Auburn tailback Ronnie Brown, who played under offensive coordinator Al Borges with the Tigers. Both Green and Brown are excellent catching the ball out of the backfield and are three-down running backs."
Green's combination of size, speed, and willingness to show out at camps saw him rise to the #1 RB spot on both Scout and Rivals; he wasn't far behind as a top 50 player and the #5 RB on ESPN, a decision that was apparently very narrow…
This is arguably the most talented running back class we have seen in recent memory. The discrepancy in talent from our top-rated back Kelvin Taylor to our fifth-rated back Derrick Green is minimal on film and from a grade standpoint.
…and while 247 is the resident skeptic they still rate him inside their top 100. And, like, compare him to a first-round NFL draft pick.
Yet more scouting reports say he's "a bowling ball style back with a low center of gravity" with "burst and explosiveness," a "powerful running back who can blow through arm tackles," a "downhill runner who is decisive finding and hitting the hole" with "deceptive quickness" and is "far from just a North-South power back." You get it.
The Green hype is to the point that FRED JACKSON, yes, that FRED JACKSON, can say things and your first inclination is not to LOL and rush to the Fred Jackson Hyperbole Tracker but rather to pull out a bubble pipe, put on a tweed jacket, and disclaim "indeed, verily":
“He’s the same type of guy as a Yeldon or a Lacy or an Ingram. He’s the same kind of guy, like those guys are. It’s just matter of everything working for you.“
“Derrick can roll for a big man, now. He had been clocked at 4.4 and 220 pounds. That’s pretty good. … I don’t want to compare him to anybody. I think he is different than Anthony Thomas. But he is built more like Chris Perry. His style reminds me of Anthony’s."
I… I just agree. I don't have snark about this. Fred Jackson, I agree. Fred Jackson, this is the sort of back who would hang out at Alabama, eating tackles for lunch and grinding out five yards on third and two. Yes.
Other comparisons on offer are LeVeon Bell…
While both are big, strong and proven load backs, the similarity that really strikes you when watching them both is their ability to withstand the first hit and keep downhill momentum. Both of these backs have very good balance, and while they can break initial contact with power through the hole, they also have enough agility and quickness to spin and slip their way out of tackles through tight seams.
…and Marshawn Lynch:
"Both are explosive and violent runners, so it is an easy comparison to make. What I think makes them so similar is the physicality in the hole and getting into the next level. Neither guy is really looking to shake tacklers rather than hitting them with a stiff arm or just straight running over them. It is a mean streak and an angry approach to carrying the football, and they both have it." -- Adam Friedman, Rivals.com Northeast analyst.
- So pick a large, mean future first- or second-round draft pick.
- Now, there is some disagreement on certain points. Some people think he has near-breakaway speed, some not so much. Some people think he's great out of the backfield, others not so much. But no one disagrees that this person is essentially two years into college, physically…
Green looks like a college freshman or sophomore running back already [ED: 2011, ie, before his junior year of high school] with a tremendous build and very powerful legs. He is built like a bowling ball and is simply a ball of muscle that explodes and gains speed after his first few strides. What was most surprising however was his ability to catch the ball with soft hands.
"Green looks physically like a college junior," Farrell said. "If you put him in any college uniform right now and told someone who had never seen him that he was a 1,500-yard rusher, they wouldn't blink an eye. Plus he's shown the ability to block and catch passes now, so he's gone from a two-down back to an every-down guy. He's the most physically impressive running back we've seen in awhile."
- …and ready to go. Right now.
If you put him in a Wisconsin uniform and helmet, you'd think he was a college senior coming off a 2,000-yard season. His legs are beyond strong and thick and he looks like a human bowling ball, ready to knock down pin after pin heading to the end zone.
The one minor note of disagreement comes from a review of the Opening from Scout, which worried that Green might turn into a fullback if he's not careful:
1. Derrick Green – There were some mixed reviews on Green among the staff. He is strikingly thick for a high school running back which can worry you some as to how he develops and projects but even at that size, he has outstanding feet. Because he is so quick with his cuts and so decisive, he has the skill set to really complement his size well.
That is rather positive for a negative take, since the 1 by his name signifies he was the best tailback at the first day of that camp. But it is a point to consider.
Sort of. Green entered high school with the opposite problem that most kids have: he needed to lose weight. That he's here is testament to his desire. He was actually a 268-pound freshman(!) who was told to play on the line because obviously but wanted to play tailback, so he dropped weight and dropped weight until he became the guy he is today, like Michelangelo carving David out of himself. Is that comparison overblown? Ask me in four years. (Ok, probably, shut up.)
But here is that pattern again, both in the work and the kind of person that Michigan is adding to the program.
Sam Webb: So you clearly know him better than most people here, most of the media. What should people know about Derrick Green that isn’t immediately obvious just by walking in and seeing him?
Domonique Hargrove: “One thing you have to know about him is, man, he definitely is a man of character, and he definitely keeps God first. … that’s what he kept saying, ‘I’m going to keep God first, he’s going to be one – Jesus is going to be the one to help me get to the top’, and hey, the proof is in the pudding, look at him here today, all his supporters, I love him, I love his mom and his dad, and I’m proud of him.”
Etc.: Star RB: OSU Will Always Be No. 1. Nope. Excellent profile article from 247 that's free. FWIW, Green ran a 4.56 forty to win a Fastest Man award as an underclassman despite being 230 at the time.
Why Beanie Wells? Yeldon and Lacy and This Year's Bama Back are also good comparisons but in terms of guys Michigan fans have seen an awful lot of, Wells is the best comparison available. He's a bit taller but about as heavy, was also the #1-ish tailback in his class, and combined enormous muscled pounding with quick feet and enough speed to make people pay for missed tackles.
After a debut season in which he split carries with Antonio Pittman, he took over the main job for his final two years, then bolted towards the tail end of the first round of the NFL draft. He averaged just under 6.0 YPC his two seasons as the starter. I mean:
Extraordinary combination of size and natural running ability. Downhill runner who attacks the line of scrimmage when running inside. Shows the patience to pick and slide laterally. Good burst to and through the hole. … Rare size and leg drive to move the pile. Rare vision and lateral quickness for a back of his size. Anticipates the cutback lanes before they appear and capitalizes on them. Surprising acceleration to break through the first wave of the defense and get to the second level. Brutal stiff-arm when in the open field to bat away defenders attempting to drag him down. Despite his size, shows good breakaway speed.
Hello, MY NAME IS Derrick Green.
BONUS: Wells was reputedly a Michigan fan growing up; Green was reputedly an OSU fan growing up.
Guru Reliability: Exacting. All the camps, All Star, heavily scouted top end prospect.
Variance: Low. Already college size, playing position, exacting guru reliability.
Ceiling: Vast. First round type back.
General Excitement Level: BOOM. Brady Hoke can't recruit skill positions, don't you know.
Projection: Beanie Wells comparisons don't stop at the talent's edge. Green, too, should split carries with a quality senior option as a senior before emerging into the starter for a two-year run that's appealing enough to the NFL that they snatch him up as soon as he's eligible.
This edition of the recruiting rankings features a change at the top of the board — one you probably won't like, obviously — as well as the debut of the NOTY Power Rankings, because players named J-Shun and Geronimo committed to Big Ten schools this month and this clearly requires action.
Changes since last rankings:
7-5-13: Jason Hall decommits from Nebraska (later commits to Texas). Nebraska picks up Larenzo Stewart.
7-8-13: Wisconsin picks up D.J. Gillins. Iowa picks up Mick Ellis. Purdue picks up Gelen Robinson.
7-9-13: Northwestern picks up Robert Westerfield. Illinois picks up Julian Hylton.
7-10-13: Indiana picks up J-Shun Harris.
7-15-13: Michigan State picks up Matt Morrissey.
7-16-13: Iowa picks up Terrence Harris.
7-19-13: Indiana picks up Nick Carovillano and Jermane Conyers.
7-20-13: Iowa picks up Ben Niemann. Minnesota picks up Andrew Stelter.
7-23-13: Purdue picks up Drue Tranquill.
7-24-13: Illinois picks up Tyrin Stone-Davis.
7-25-13: Illinois picks up Tyree Stone-Davis and Geronimo Allison.
7-28-13: Ohio State picks up Demetrious Knox.
7-29-13: Ohio State picks up Malik Hooker.
8-3-13: Michigan State picks up Robert Bowers.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|247 Comp. Rank* (Nat'l Rank)||School||# Commits||5*||4*||3*||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||247 Avg||ESPN Avg||Avg Avg^|
|1 (6) ↑1||Ohio State||16||0||10||6||3.38||3.63||3.79||3.65||3.61|
|2 (10) ↓1||Michigan||14||1||7||6||3.50||3.57||3.57||3.79||3.61|
|4 (24)||Penn State||13||0||4||9||3.23||3.31||3.31||3.38||3.31|
|5 (29)||Michigan State||14||0||0||14||3.07||3.14||3.36||3.21||3.20|
|8 (43) ↑1||Iowa||12||0||1||8||2.83||2.83||2.92||2.83||2.85|
|9 (49) ↓1||Nebraska||11||0||0||10||2.82||2.55||3.00||3.18||2.89|
|11 (69) ↑2||Indiana||10||0||0||7||2.50||2.50||2.60||2.80||2.60|
|12 (70) ↑2||Purdue||8||0||0||6||2.63||2.88||2.75||2.88||2.78|
|13 (76) ↓1||Minnesota||6||0||1||5||3.00||3.33||3.17||2.67||3.04|
|14 (79) ↓3||Maryland||8||0||0||6||2.75||2.50||2.75||3.00||2.75|
*Full rankings and explanation here.
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as two-star players.
On to the full data after the jump.
If nowhere else in the world, it is a well-established tenant on MGoBlog that forcing fumbles are mostly random and recovering them is almost more random. Historically, when I am evaluating an offense or a defense I exclude all fumble plays. They are huge swings in value for a game or player with very little correlation to the overall quality of the player or team. Some of what I found has caused to me reconsider the inclusion of certain fumble plays.
To look at how different types of plays contributed to fumble totals, I broke down the rate of lost fumbles (blue bar, left axis) and the odds of the defense recovering a fumble (yellow line, right axis) for six types of plays. Looking at over 700,000 plays from the last ten years, here is what I found.
Excluding sacks and punt returns, all other play types generate a lost fumble about 1% of the time. Punt returns are lost a little over 1 in 50 plays and sacks are the big defensive opportunity with 1 in 9 sacks causing a fumble and about 1 in 17 resulting in a turnover for the defense. What else is interesting is that the further you get away from the line of scrimmage, the more likely the defense is to recover a fumble. Completions and positive rushing plays are at the low end for lost fumbles but at the high end for defensive recoveries. As a defense, if you can generate fumbles down the field, there is a good chance for a turnover.
Based on this data, going forward I will be including plays where the defense recovers a fumble after a sack in my evaluations for team defense and offenses. Because of their increased incidence I felt like the generation of the swing play through a quality defensive play like a sack didn’t warrant the exclusion. All other plays where a fumble is lost will continue to be excluded as more luck than skill.
Keeping the Ball in the Offense’s Hands
For offenses crossing the line of scrimmage is about the best thing you can do to reduce your odds of losing the ball. In the above chart completions and rushes for positive yardage both generated the lowest total rate of lost fumbles. I broke those rushing plays down to see which position was the biggest culprit.
After crossing the line of scrimmage, quarterbacks are the most likely to lose a fumble on a running play. Fullbacks and running backs both fumble the ball on 1% of their positive rushes but fullbacks are specially trained fumble recovery machines as there is more than a 10 percentage point gap between the defense’s ability to recover a running back’s fumble as opposed to a fullback’s fumble.
The offset of this data is even more striking. Here is what fumble rates look like for running plays (not sacks) that never make it back to the line of scrimmage.
The data here is clearly overrun with bad snaps and failed handoffs. Quarterbacks lose a fumble on 1 in 15 non-sack rushing plays attributed to them behind the line of scrimmage. Running back and wide receiver rates are also much higher than on other plays.
A 7% fumble rate but a 35% defensive recovery means that quarterbacks are given responsibility for a fumble on more than 1 in 5 plays that don’t cross the line of scrimmage. Wide receiver rushes also have a better than average chance of recovering their own fumbles behind the line of scrimmage.
I looked at these behind the line of scrimmage numbers and ran them against whether a defensive player was credited for the forced fumble. On runs crossing the line of scrimmage a defensive player is credited with a forced fumble 80% of the time and that number is relatively consistent across all positions.
If you adjust the behind the line of scrimmage to say try and account for the non-forced fumbles (take the forced fumble numbers and assume they represent 80% of the total) the loss rates behind the line of scrimmage drop considerably. The rates are still higher than post line of scrimmage plays. QBs fall to 2.6%, WRs to 2.2% and RBs at 1.4%. When the fumble is forced by the defense behind the line of scrimmage, defenses recover nearly 70% of fumbles by backs and receivers but barely 50% of quarterbacks. In fact, of all forced fumbles on scrimmage plays, wide receivers and running backs lose the fumble 68% of the time, where quarterbacks only lose the ball 61% of the time. Not sure exactly what that is from but it’s a pretty stark difference and with thousands of plays for both running backs and quarterbacks, one relatively immune from sample size concerns.
Up All Night to Get Flucky*
Based on these numbers a couple things stood out to me:
- Sacks produce fumble at an obscene rate compared to any other play
- Don’t skimp on the fundamentals, poor snaps and hand-offs are a major source of fumbles
- Positive plays are good for the offense, getting past the line of scrimmage greatly reduces the chance that a fumble occurs, but increases the defense’s chances at a recovery if one is forced
- Hitting ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage is a good way for a defense to generate fumbles
- HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL! Punt returns are the most likely play to result in a lost fumble.
- Not all fumbles are created equally, defenses recover nearly 70% of fumbles that are forced and only 45% when they are not.
- Quarterbacks are fumble prone but their teams are better at recovering them than other players’ fumbles
*Sorry, my kid has been singing this song for weeks now, I had to work it in to this article somehow.
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch, OL Chris Fox, OL Dan Samuelson, TE Jake Butt, TE Khalid Hill, HB Wyatt Shallman, WR Da'Mario Jones, WR Csont'e York.
|Columbus, OH – 6'4", 200|
3*, NR overall
3*, NR overall
4*, #233 overall
3*, NR overall
|YMRMFSPA||Taller Junior Hemingway|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace; Ace interviews him, twice.|
Youtube also has video of Dukes brushing his teeth like a weirdo.
Michigan had brought in some large dudes the year before (Funchess, obviously, and both Darboh and Chesson hover around 6'2") but it was Jaron Dukes's commitment that truly inaugurated the era of enormous receivers at all costs at Michigan. Though he probably doesn't quite stand the 6'5" he was reputed to when he committed, it's clear that his size and body control are excellent while his speed is an Area For Improvement.
His coach is pretty blunt about it:
"He's realized he's at home on the field. He's a big 6'5, 200-lb receiver and he runs well. He's not a burner. He's a 4.6 guy, but he has tremendous, good hands. He has a great ceiling because he's only played football for three years …."
"He needs to work on overall size and speed. He needs to get to that 4.5 range to be legit in the Big Ten. In the Big Ten, the defensive backs are stronger, bigger, faster, so he has to get his body bigger, stronger, faster."
This was known from the beginning. His coming out party was as a junior in the state semi-finals, where he had six catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns against Cam Burrows and Trotwood-Madison. His first touchdown was a fade on which Dukes skied over Burrows and then ran through his tackle attempt for an 80-yarder. Separation achieved: zero. Separation needed: zero. Great success.
Dukes had a modicum of hype after that performance, but his total aversion to camps and lack of film out there—Scout posted some junior year stuff in December (ie, after his senior year), saying they'll "take what they can get" on Dukes—saw him remain in the three-star territory everywhere except ESPN, which is the least camp-oriented site. It didn't help that his production fell off, with just 31 catches for 553 yards and nine TDs as a senior. MGoUser Dubs took in a Dukes game and reported back a lot of that was due to his quarterback, who was a dual-threat sort, and in high school this often means "can't throw a lick."
They liked him enough to put him in their 300, because his speed is okay in their book given the rest of the package:
Dukes is a really good looking player with great size, length, wing span and deceptive elusiveness and top-end speed. He is a more agile, faster and physical version of 2012 prospect and Oregon WR Dwayne Stanford…. He has quick feet for a big guy and more than adequate speed. He is quick, fast, has a burst coming out of his cuts and can get good separation, but he is doing it on athleticism alone at this stage. He has good hands and very good ball skills. He can make the catch away from his body and is not shy about going over the middle. He possesses very good body control and change-of-direction skills, and he shows that he can turn a short gain into a big play. … He must learn how to become a good route runner through precision, tempo and spacing.
Others pretty much agree but chalk his lack of separation up to speed instead of much more fixable route-running issues. That scout eval mentioned above:
He's a big target, and uses it, as he does a nice job of going up and getting the ball and using his body to gain position on defensive backs. He's smooth, but not a speed demon, not a sudden guy, but he has shown that he can get into the open field and outrun guys in the open field. As he gets into a college weight program, he's going to get big. He has a great frame, and it wouldn't surprise us to see him as a 215-220-lb college receiver creating mismatches and being a red zone threat. We wouldn't even rule out some flex tight end.
Argh maybe should have saved BJ Cunningham for this guy. Anyway, Dukes's Scout profile's actual Areas For Improvement are "elusiveness with catch" and "quickness off line"; they like his blocking, ability to be a red zone weapon, and largeosity.
Kyle Bogenschutz caught a game of his as well:
Very impressed with his physical tools. …his attention to detail really jumps out. Dukes runs hard, crisp routes, specifically come back and curl routes that were very effective all night against a tough Pickerington Central defense. Dukes made a few people miss after the catch on a few occasions Friday night and dragged defenders with him to the ground after picking up an extra couple of yards. It appears Dukes can improve on locating the ball in the air and using proper timing to go up and get it.
So… the opposite of that ESPN evaluation. Back to Dubs:
As far as the eyeball test goes, Dukes did not seem to show a lot of explosiveness, either off the line or to create separation against the defenders (it was kind of a soggy/muggy night, so the field may have been less-than-pristine). There were many times in which the QB was scrambling and, rather than hit that extra gear, he seemed to simply jog. … he did look strong after the catch, breaking a few arm tackles and showing of a pretty solid stiff-arm.
And that's about it as far as scouting reports go. As mentioned, it seems like as soon as he got the Michigan offer he was content to focus on his game: no camps, no senior highlights, nothing. This partially explains the dearth of offers listed above: he may have got some additional ones, but Dukes doesn't give a dang about reporting them.
As you might imagine, a guy who cares not a whit about getting love from the recruiting services fits The Pattern. His coach:
"He's very coachable," Haffele said. "That's probably his biggest asset. When guys start getting recruited heavy, you get the 'me' thing and the 'I' thing, but you ask him to block, he will. He's an honest, coachable young man."
"He's a pretty good blocker. All that god-given talent he has. And then, once you meet the kid and talk to him, that's the selling point. He's just such a great kid."
Etc.: I've seen like four hook and ladders from his team just watching his film. Weird. He's the hook guy, FWIW.
Why Taller Junior Hemingway? Well, he's taller. He also promises to be a leaping downfield threat that goes up and high-points balls smaller defensive backs can't get to, the kind of guy that ends up on the end of a lot of "nonononono YESSSSS" balls. Hemingway was also a 3/4 star tweener, albeit one a bit more highly ranked than Dukes overall.
Dukes is going to be a big, thick kid, as well. Hopefully his blocking is better than Hemingway's, which was erratic at best.
Guru Reliability: Low. Guy was in stealth mode for much of his career.
Variance: Moderate. Top-end is not amazing; low end is Jeremy Jackson, a guy who just can't get out of the hip pocket of defensive backs.
Ceiling: Moderate. Is never going to be a guy who can crush you over the top, will have to work hard for most of the balls he brings in. A guy who gets more valuable as the field shrinks, though.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-minus. Again, seems like a useful piece instead of a potential #1. I think the class before this (Darboh, Chesson) and the two classes after (Ways, Canteen, Harris, Campbell) have about 4 candidates for the #1 jersey, though, so it's fine that this WR class will fill in the gaps.
Projection: One of the freshmen WR will play, and I couldn't tell you who. Whoever does will be mostly blocking, anyway. I'm guessing Dukes gets a redshirt because with Jeremy Gallon around Michigan doesn't need an endzone fade target.
Down the road, Dukes is in the same spot that his classmates are: looking up at the two guys from last year for the next couple years and watching tight end types eat into their playing time. Dukes's projected role as a sideline fade merchant will probably lock him in behind outside receivers until he's an upperclassman. Both York and Jones have attributes that project to the slot better.
Unless Dukes beats out one of the 2012 guys, when Darboh goes in three years Dukes will have his first major opportunity. By that point he'll have fierce competition from a third-year Drake Harris and second-year George Campbell. Michigan rotates their WRs to keep them fresh, so a role off the bench is not no role. I'm not sure Michigan's recruiting is going to allow Dukes a whole lot more unless Jehu Chesson doesn't work out (which he totally will) or injury strikes.
Dear Diary was going to be in this spot this morning, but the site was 504-ing and I couldn't get at all my precious tabs. So instead you get Esther McCleery.
My good friend Nate is certainly the most interesting person I've ever met. He's one of those diamonds from the middle of nowhere that the University of Michigan goes out of its way to collect, the nowhere in this case being Eastern Kentucky and the middle being a small town called Grayson. I'll save you his list of accomplishments because he'll be famous enough one day for all of them to end up in a book.
In a town like Grayson hoarding is one of the things that register on a list of pastimes. While sorting through one trove Nate found a stack of old copies of Life magazine and brought them with him to our college reunion last weekend. Inside he found and framed enough ads for bourbon to keep Kentucky bars well-tchotchke'd for a decade.
This he was doing at the breakfast table on Saturday morning while another friend and I were trying to justify to our wives why we're blowing what could have been a Europe trip on a few upcoming Saturdays.
That's when Nate serendipitously discovered an article on Homecoming in the November 1959 issue. Hey it's our band:
That's the only photo in the article that's pointed at the field. Life's photographer instead spent the 4th quarter with his camera turned toward Class of '34 alumna Esther McCleery. I'll reproduce that for you now:
HOMECOMING SPIRIT at game is shown in the mobile face of Mrs. Esther McCleery, class of '34 at Michigan. Above Mrs. McCleery screams, "Go, Team, Go, this is it!" as Michigan, behind 16-10 in final quarter, intercepts pass deep in Wisconsin territory. "All right, Blue," Mrs. McCleery bellows. "This is it, we've got 'em now."
But a moment later Michigan fumbles and Mrs. McCleery's face falls (below)
In the final minutes of the game, she dejectedly watches Wisconsin wrap it up with a field goal. "We've had it but good," she mutters.
But she brightened. "Next year we'll get 'em," she says.
Everyone ought to see Notre Dame du Paris (NOTE-rruh Dahm) one time in their life just to appreciate the feats of art and engineering that mankind can accomplish when we feel like it. To understand why we'd ever build such things, first you ought to experience something like Notre Dame at Michigan, since there are few other things in the world—other than gaining or losing another human being—that can make you truly appreciate the depths of emotions that make being a human animal quite worthwhile.
29 days, Esther.
For being arguably the top prospect in the country from the 2014 class, Da’Shawn Hand isn’t talked about a whole lot, and that’s exactly how he wants it. As Hand prepares for his senior season at Woodbridge Senior High School in Virginia, he has managed to lay low this summer despite being one of the most coveted prospects in the nation. I was lucky enough to catch up with Da’Shawn to ask him about his summer, visit plans, and timetable among other things.
So how has your summer been going? What camps have you attended and how do you think you performed at those camps?
I went to two camps this summer, I went to The Opening and the Rivals 5-Star Challenge in Chicago. I think I did pretty well man, it was a lot of fun. I went for the gear, for the experience, and just to meet a lot of people and make some good connections for a lifetime.
I read somewhere that you didn’t even lose a rep for a few days at the Rivals challenge?
Yeah, I didn’t! That was at the Rivals camp and I was ballin! (Laughs) When I went to The Opening, at first it was really cool, but I got a little camped-out and by the end of it I was definitely ready to just focus on my season.
With football being such a huge part of your life year-round, how has your summer been as far as non-related football activities goes?
It’s been good man, just been chillin’ with family, seeing my family, hanging out with my friends, and just traveling. Oh, and I’ve been…even though it has to do with football a little bit, I’ve been helping out and coaching kids in little kid camps.
When do you start practice for your senior year and what have you done to prepare yourself for a senior season that is going to be very closely watched by a lot of people?
We start practicing August 1st. You know it’s always possible to get better. I’ve been training like a dog. I’ve been doing cross-fit training, I’ve been doing yoga. I do a lot of running in a gas-mask, I’ve just been doing a lot of things to improve in as many areas as I can.
I talked with your coach about how you decided to lay low a little bit with the recruiting aspect and just focus on getting ready for your season. How come?
Yeah, and honestly I think that was the smartest decision I’ve made with my recruitment. I just wanted to lay low. I haven’t really talked to any coaches or anything, maybe once in a while I’ll call them but I have really been focusing on myself and just working.
With all the work you’ve put in what are your goals for your last year in high school, team-wise and individually?
Well of course team-wise I just want to get to the state championship and win it, I want a ring. I want to go out on top. My individual goals are, I want have over 100 tackles, 40 or more tackles for loss and 30 sacks.
Pretty lofty, you think you can get there?
You mentioned your recruitment a little bit but that you did take it off this summer, but how has that been going? Same top 3? Other coaches still hounding you? Just give me an insight as to how it goes for you.
Yeah my top 3 is still the same, Alabama, Florida, and Michigan. Other coaches still try to recruit me for sure, but I really don’t know about it. Me and Coach Harris, we have a system. When I was younger I would talk to all the college coaches as much as possible you know? I told a lot of coaches that I was interested and found out their interest and started to get offers. Then after that we started doing our research. Then after the research was done, he wouldn’t tell me to cut off any schools or anything, he would just say to start chopping my list down, take my time, give me advice. It was fun during my sophomore year, I got like 50 offers or something, it was crazy. The summer leading up to my junior year, that’s when it got like really hectic and it’s been pretty hectic ever since. That’s why I cut it down to three, it’s gotten easier and easier.
How much do you pay attention to the stuff that’s written about you? With all the articles, blogs, Twitter, rankings, videos, etc…how much do you pay attention to it and what is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen about yourself?
Honestly this year, I don’t really care about all of that stuff. When I was younger, like during my freshman and sophomore year it was really cool being told I was the #1 player in the nation and all that, but then during my junior year I really stopped paying attention to it because I mean everyone is good. I mean the top 100 kids in the nation are all top-notch athletes, I really don’t see a need to rank them and they are all going to play in college. As far as untrue stuff, all the time! (Laughs) I don’t really say anything about it, I just let them do them. That’s how they make their paycheck I guess, I don’t really care. One time when I went on a visit someone wrote that the school was now my top school and that they had nothing to worry about, that I was locked. I was like, I never said that? That doesn’t even sound like me. So yeah, there are always things about me that just aren’t true.
What have the Michigan coaches told you about a specific position? Have they discussed where and how they’d like to use you on defense?
Michigan has told me that they want me at end. That’s all, they didn’t really say what side. They like to mix it around and use different combinations. Alabama said they want me to be a JACK kind of like Courtney Upshaw was. Florida was like Michigan, they want me to play just the end since they’d like to mix it up a lot.
I remember watching a video interview you did where you seemed to get really excited about a certain professor at Michigan. Tell me what was so different, unique, or special about that professor to get a reaction like that from you.
That dude was amazing! (Laughs) Goodness, gracious! He just blew us away. I can’t pronounce his last name, (laughs) he has like a long last name, but he just….oh my goodness! Just the way he presented everything was amazing. He talked about what we’re going to learn, he told us that it’s not going to be easy. It even made my dad want to go back to school again, it was just wild, it was insane.
So as your season begins and fall is getting close, what are your plans for your official visits?
Right now I know for sure I’ll visit my top 3 schools but other than that I don’t really know.
Your official visit for Michigan is against Notre Dame for the Under the Lights II game. What are your expectations for the game itself?
I have never been to a game at Michigan so I just want to see how the crowd is, the whole atmosphere, how it feels on a gameday, what does the town do, you know those little things. I also want to see how the coaches face adversity.
So you’ve got your top 3, you have a basic idea about your official visits. What are going to be the deciding factors when you finally decide to commit?
Just my personal evaluation I guess, that’s all I can really tell you. There are so many things that I think about and I just keep that personal you know?
It’s been made public that you have a bit of a relationship with Jabrill Peppers, is that at all something that might factor in to your decision?
Oh, that’s my man! He’s cool, he’s cool people.
How about your decision timeline? Do you have an idea when you are going to commit?
Nothing has really changed. Whenever I feel like the time is right I am going to commit. I want to do it before December but whenever it feels right, it’s right.
Commitments these days can get pretty crazy. How do you plan on doing it? You seem pretty humble and don’t necessarily need the limelight, so how’s it going to go down?
I’m going to be at my school, in the auditorium or in the gym or wherever it needs to be. I’m just going to do it the classic way. I’m not going to have the three hats, I’m just going to have one hat and announce it, and that’s about it.
Talking with Da’Shawn was a pleasure and he’s another testament to the types of kids that Coach Hoke and staff are trying to recruit. Not only is he immensely talented but he genuinely cares about his education and was a really pleasant kid to talk to. He didn’t really dodge any questions which is refreshing, but he didn’t take the Jabrill question completely head-on. He perked up about him when I asked, but he didn’t mention at all if playing with Jabrill would factor into his decision. One thing I did notice, and I don’t know if it was a Freudian Slip or if it was nothing, but he spoke about the professor at Michigan as if he has already decided that he will be his teacher. The fact that a non-football related experience has made that much of an impact on him has got to be a great thing. I expect his official visit against Notre Dame to make a big impact on him and honestly wouldn’t be shocked if he thought about committing while in Ann Arbor for his first game at The Big House among that atmosphere and many other recruits and commits.