this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
The worst-kept secret in college football recruiting went public this afternoon when the nation's top cornerback, Paramus (NJ) Catholic's Jabrill Peppers, committed to Michigan in a televised ceremony on ESPNU (well, eventually... but Peppers' own school just let the cat out of the bag). Peppers is the tenth commit in the Wolverines' 2014 class; as a consensus five-star, he's obviously the highest-ranked of the bunch.
Normally a commit's highlight video goes in a section near the bottom of these posts. In the case of Peppers, that would be a disservice. Lest the scouting portion read as unabashed hyperbole, please watch 12 jaw-dropping minutes highlighting Peppers' junior season:
This whole post will still read as unabashed hyperbole, sure, but now you see that's simply a result of play near-impossible to discuss in reasoned tones.
|Scout||Rivals||ESPN||247 Sports||247 Comp.|
5*, 6.1, #4 CB,
5*, #1 CB,
5*, 95, #1 CB,
5*, 99, #1 ATH,
5*, #1 ATH,
Among the four recruiting services, only Scout doesn't consider Peppers the top player at his position, and he would be the #1 corner on 247Composite if they ranked him there (instead, he's listed as an athlete/safety). Should his rankings hold, Peppers would be the highest-ranked Michigan commit on Rivals or ESPN in the history of those respective outlets—unless, say, the Wolverines signed a higher-rated prospect in this very class, but let's take it one step at a time here. Each site save Scout (6'0", 190) lists Peppers at 6'1" and 205-210 pounds, giving him an NFL frame for both cornerback and safety.
Let's start with the most negative scouting report, which comes from Peppers' Scout profile page:
STRENGTHS Backpedal Quickness Change of Direction Closing Speed
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT Blitzing Ability Hip Flexibility Tackling Ability
There's a reason Peppers is five-star recruit. He doesn't [sic] so many things well, and he is also a very good leader. He can stay tight on a receiver in press coverage and also breaks on a ball well when playing off a receiver. He has size, speed, loose hips, is a tough competitor and can be a standout at receiver, running back, safety and cornerback. He is the total package. --Brian Dohn
Yes, that's the negative one, because there are multiple weaknesses listed: namely, Peppers' ability to blitz and tackle, as well as his hip flexibility. Scout's own Stanford outlet disagrees vehemently with the blitzing and tackling bit ($):
Finally, Peppers shows on video to be a very tough player and a violent tackler. If he does, as most expect, end up on the defensive side of the ball, his reaction skills could place him in the role of a top-end cornerback. However, his willingness and ability to strike and his blitzing competence could make Peppers an excellent safety, given that he is already around six feet tall and 200 pounds, or a corner who could master the nickelback role when necessary. He closes well on run plays and does so with a purpose, making him an all-around football player well worthy of his gaudy offer list.
That nickelback part is important—given how Michigan is using similarly-elite young athlete Dymonte Thomas this year, there's a very good chance Peppers plays there as a freshman. For a third opinion on Peppers' run-support skills, here's his ESPN evaluation ($):
Takes a lot of snaps at safety and shows great range coming downhill to make run stops near the line of scrimmage. Can play physical when needed and is an aggressive football player on run support. Quick to read and react and come up for support. Takes sharp angles, closes strong with great burst and will wrap and pop as a tackler. Box run support is still an area that he could improve on, particularly if he ends up playing safety at the next level.
Michigan is recruiting Peppers as a cornerback—first and foremost, at least—so his work inside the tackle box isn't as great of a concern, especially since we're not entirely sure it's a huge concern in the first place. Here's ESPN again, this time on his coverage skills:
Has the cover corner movements and length to lock down in man-to-man. Transitions sharply with little wasted motion. A naturally fluid athlete who is smooth changing directions and shows ability to quickly flip hips to turn and run with receivers. Shines in tight coverage as well with loose, sudden movements to mirror and the hand strength and length to take away leverage and reroute. Hard to create separation on. Also flashes an extra gear to make up ground when caught in trail position. Turns and runs well to accelerate under the ball in deep coverage. Deep reactions and positioning are excellent but he also excels at closing the cushion in underneath zone schemes and limiting run after catch.
Um, NOT BAD, especially when his size is taken into account. If you're getting the sense that Peppers is the type of athlete who could pretty much play wherever he wanted... well, Scout's staff agrees with you ($):
Peppers would be a four-star running back, and a four-star receiver, but he is best in the secondary, where he would be a five-star safety if his best position was not cornerback. He is physical on the jam, has the acceleration to play off a receiver and then close quickly to break up a pass. He has loose hips and the ability to close, and he enjoys shedding blocks and making tackles.
Case in point—in February, Rivals did an overview of the top running backs of the 2014 class, and Mike Farrell's kicker quote puts Peppers in the same category as three five-star running backs ($):
"High school football is about keeping the ball in your best player's hands," he said. "We saw a time when that was guys like Percy Harvin and Derrick Williams and sometimes it is a dual-threat quarterback like Vince Young or Terrelle Pryor, but right now it is these guys.
"Players like (No. 2-ranked) Jabrill Peppers, [Jalen] Hurd, [Bo] Scarbrough, and [Leonard] Fournette are so talented that you want the ball in their hands 40 times a game if they can handle it. Their size makes them physically able to take it, and the physical gifts make them stand out for rankings purposes."
When doing a similar overview of this year's strong crop of cornerbacks—headline "The Year of the Cornerback ... again?"—Farrell again put Peppers in elite company; namely, saying he'd compete as a junior for the top spot in 2013's senior class, a highly lauded group themselves ($):
"Peppers' instincts, athleticism, speed and playmaking ability are very similar to former Florida All-American cornerback Joe Haden," Rivals.com Mid-Atlantic recruiting analyst Adam Friedman said. "He is the type of cornerback who can lock down one side of the field and is not afraid to come up hard to stop the run. Peppers is almost at that same level as Kendall Fuller and Vernon Hargreaves and would push for the top spot in the 2013 cornerback class. The three of them have a lot of the same qualities."
"Jabrill Peppers reminds me a little bit of Vernon Hargeaves III in build and ball skills, but Peppers is more explosive as an offensive player," Farrell said. "On defense, however, both are exceptional."
Rivals named Peppers as one of their initial 2014 five-stars (obviously, that opinion hasn't changed), and Adam Friedman cited a reason beyond his considerable physical talents ($):
Analyst's take: "Physical tools aside, Peppers' leadership qualities and toughness set him apart from other players with comparable measurables and should prove invaluable at the next level. Peppers has a variety of skills that make him an excellent all-around athlete. His toughness and aggressive mentality make him a shoe-in for the defensive side of the ball, most likely at cornerback. Peppers' technique and footwork make it extremely difficult for a receiver to get any separation, especially because Peppers has great closing speed. He is very physical when going in for a tackle and is always a threat when it comes to causing a turnover, whether he is picking off a pass or causing a fumble. He is even a disruptive force when rushing the passer because he disguises the blitz and has the speed and strength to beat the blocker." -- Adam Friedman, Mid-Atlantic Analyst, Rivals.com
This sentiment is very much shared by Peppers' high school coach:
His coach says: "Put aside the fact that he's 205 pounds and physical and extremely fast, his mentality and the mental aspects of his game, I think, make him what he is. He is so smart on and off the field and he really gets it. He understands the game. He feels it out and understands the schemes and what we are trying to do. His leadership is also great. He really is the total package. His work ethic is excellent. He is a competitor in everything he does. You can't ask for anything more and he's a leader and pushes his teammates. I can't predict the future but the sky is the limit for Jabrill. If he stays on this path, we're going to see some great things out of him. When he does move on, he's going to choose the right place and do some big things with his life." -- Paramus Catholic coach Chris Partridge
Partridge has good reason to be so laudatory—Peppers won him a state championship last season with a virtuoso performance in the title game:
CB/RB Jabrill Peppers
Paramus (N.J.) Paramus Catholic, 6-0, 185, Class of 2014
CONSIDERING: A top five of Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Stanford and USC.
PERFORMANCE: Primarily playing as a Wildcat quarterback, Peppers rushed for more than 200 yards and had touchdown runs of 81 and 53 yards, the latter coming on Paramus' first offensive play, in a 37-34 win over Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic in the Non-Public, Group 4 championship.
WHAT IMPRESSED: The physical gifts are obvious but most impressive is how Peppers handled himself this season in the face of criticism. Peppers left national power Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco for Paramus Catholic this season, and it ended with him winning a championship. -- Jared Shanker
Shanker mentions Peppers transferring from traditional powerhouse Don Bosco before his junior season. This was a big deal, as even in his freshman season Peppers had analysts trying to put his talent in a historical context—here's Farrell again ($):
Jabrill Peppers, Don Bosco, 5-9/150, CB, 2014 prospect
Peppers is a true freshman who is already the talk of the Bosco coaching staff. Are we looking at the next great Bosco player and how will he handle the pressure of starting for last year's No. 1 team? Is he the best cornerback at Bosco since Michael Ray Garvin or will he be even better?
1.) CB Jabrill Peppers, Paramus Catholic (N.J.) -- Peppers is, without question, the top prospect in New Jersey and may be the best from the Garden State in a few years. Already an impact player on three state-championship teams (at the highest level of competition), Peppers could be on his way to being one of the best players in the history of the state.
Peppers might very well turn out to be the best prospect ever to come out of the state of New Jersey. He could star as a defensive back for any program in the country and could also be just as effective as a running back. Peppers is currently the No.2 ranked prospect in the nation and there really doesn't seem to be much he can't do. He fled Don Bosco and it was no coincidence that after six straight Bosco state titles, Peppers and Paarmus Catholic took that state crown in 2012.
...well, you read the bolded text, presumably. Recent five-star New Jersey prospects include Florida S Will Hill, Florida State S Myron Rolle, and Virginia OT Eugene Monroe, who went eighth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. New Jersey may not have the talent of Texas or Florida, but it still produces plenty of top prospects, and Peppers ranks up there with any player to come out of the state—with his senior season still to play.
MARLIN JACKSON SCOUTING
I exchanged a few emails with former Michigan All-American defensive back and Super Bowl champion Marlin Jackson, who was kind enough to give his take on Peppers' film. Get ready for the comparison to beat all other comparisons, non-Fred Jackson division:
This young man is the total package at defensive back, he even has the skills to be a legitimate threat on offense, or in return game.
Top notch athleticism, speed, agility, and strength. Very, very instinctive player, anticipates snap count well when blitzing. He is more than a corner. This kid can be a lock-down corner and also slide inside and dominate at nickel back, covering and blitzing.
Closes on the ball extremely well, great ball skills, plays the ball well down field on receivers, goes up and makes plays. Exceptional tackler, closes ground fast and explodes on contact. My favorite thing about him is the passion and attitude he plays with, not cocky, but very, very confident, plays with swag and enthusiasm.
He will be a college football All-American, as long as he continues to work hard he should be a first-round draft pick, his talent is at that level. He's already built like a college corner, immediate starter from day one of stepping on a college campus.
Athleticism and skill of Patrick Peterson with overall football instincts of Charles Woodson.
Anyone and everyone, basically—here are the highlights: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Miami (YTM), Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Stanford, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, and West Virginia. Any major programs not on the list are missing for one of two reasons: they didn't have a chance and therefore didn't bother, or it reached the point where Peppers—like many top prospects making an early decision—stopped reporting each and every one of his offers.
From Juwann Bushell-Beatty's commitment post:
Led by Jabrill Peppers, Paramus Catholic won last year's state title in the New Jersey Non-Public Group 4 division, which includes football powerhouses like Don Bosco Prep. Despite their recent success, Paramus Catholic hasn't produced a ton in the way of BCS recruits—before this 2014 group, only 2011 four-star DT Marquise Wright (Rutgers) and 2010 three-star OL Dan Foose (Florida State) committed to BCS schools since 2002, per the Rivals recruiting database.
With all the talk of Peppers possibly being the best high school player in the history of New Jersey, it's safe to say he's the best prospect to ever come out of Paramus Catholic.
According to ESPN, Peppers rushed for 1,552 yards and 18 touchdowns on 172 carries (9.0 ypa), caught 20 passes for 337 yards (16.9 ypc) and five touchdowns, and recorded 77 tackles, two TFLs, a sack, and three interceptions as a junior. The tape also shows that Peppers was a terror in the return game and even completed a couple passes, so the above somehow fails to capture the entire impact of his performance.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a 40 time of 4.50 seconds, which is entirely believable and gets zero FAKEs because...
REAL 100/200 TIMES
"He could've just chilled..."
...Peppers has posted very real, very fast times on the track this year:
The Paramus Catholic junior speedster set a meet record as he blazed to a 10.83 clocking to win the 100-meter sprint at Thursday’s sixth annual Don Bosco Ironman Invitational at Ramapo College.
Peppers, who slightly strained his right groin at last week’s Penn Relays, beat the mark of 10.95 by Hackensack’s Conroy Walker in 2010.
"I didn’t want to aggravate it but I ran overall pretty well. I came out of the blocks quick and just kept in a natural rhythm," Peppers said. "I’ve done as well as 10.8 this year and my personal best is 10.77 last year, but I think I can get it down to 10.4 by the time the states come around. That’s my goal and I think I can achieve it."
Oh, and the 100 may not be his best event—Peppers believed he broke the state record in the 200-meter dash earlier this month, and while a review revealed a timekeeping error...
Fraulo said Peppers' time is 21.37.
"That stands as official,'' said Fraulo.
...yeah, still fast.
If 12 minutes of highlights is too much, here's a condensed version of his junior highlights with some different camera angles and lots of slow-mo:
MaxPreps picks out the top ten plays from his junior film, which couldn't have been easy:
247 has a short sophomore reel:
Some people get all the talent, so of course Jabrill Peppers has considerable skill with a mic in his hand, not to mention a great ear for beats:
The song has a stamp of approval from Vin Rock of 90's hip hop legends Naughty By Nature—Vin (real name: Vinnie Brown) grew up in the same East Orange, NJ, neighborhood as Jabrill's father, Terry Peppers, and reached out to Jabrill (stage name: J-Reall) after seeing the music video on Twitter, according to this article from TomVH:
Brown happened to be looking through his Twitter feed when an article came across his tweets that mentioned the younger Peppers, whose rap name is JReall, and his new song, “Don’t Take it Personal.” Brown read the article and watched the music video and couldn’t believe what he had seen.
“I would always hear about [Jabrill], and it was kind of like we let him do his thing and now he’s surfacing on his own. That was the first time I had heard him rap, I didn’t even know he had a crew like that,” he said. “I watched the video and listened to the song and it is really good. Jabrill’s song is like a throwback to ’90’s hip hop and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really impressed.’ ”
Peppers began making music at ten years old, using it as way to relax—and also deal with the absence of his father, who's been imprisoned since Jabrill was seven years old and will see him for the first time since when he's paroled in June (the two have kept in touch only by phone in the last ten years). If you need any further indication that Peppers is mature beyond his years, I strongly recommend reading that article.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
In case it isn't clear by this point, Peppers is going to get a chance to make an impact in all three phases of the game: while he projects best to cornerback, he could also line up at running back, wide receiver, wildcat quarterback, safety, and kickoff and punt returner. Yes, insert the Charles Woodson quote here:
"[Greg Mattison] compared me to (Woodson) a lot actually, but my goal is that I want to be better than Charles Woodson," Peppers said confidently. "I love the way Coach Greg Mattison uses his corners and his scheme. It absolutely fits into my style of play — aggressive (and) fearless. He wants his corners to be fearless. If he wants you to go lockup on an island, you had better lockup on that island. If he wants you to come off the edge, you better come off the edge ready to bring some pain."
(Woodson approves, by the way.) So, yeah, there's that.
In my opinion, Michigan is going to initially use Peppers much like they'll use Dymonte Thomas this fall—Thomas, who projects to safety down the road, has already locked down the starting nickelback job after enrolling early. Thomas should move to safety in 2014 when Thomas Gordon's spot will be available, leaving the nickel position available for Peppers to step in and make an early impact. I asked Marlin Jackson why it seems the Wolverines are putting their most physically talented freshmen defensive backs at the nickel spot before moving them to their natural position, and he provided this explanation—based in large part on his own experience at Michigan:
Nickel is just about raw athleticism, not as much about technique, more so about about natural football instincts and skills. This is why most schools put top incoming freshmen in this slot.
Nickel was my starting position and I was starting by Big Ten play. Allows you to get comfortable. When you have players like Jabrill, myself, and Dymonte, who are athletic, have good size and instincts along with a physical style of play, you have good candidate for nickelback.
After a freshman year at nickel, Peppers could either wrest the starting boundary corner spot away from Raymon Taylor or stay in the slot for a second year until Taylor graduates. By 2015, I'd expect to see him locking down that boundary spot, where his size and skill in run support make him an ideal fit. He could also end up as a jack-of-all-trades defensive back, lining up all over the field to keep offenses on their toes, and he'll almost certainly make an impact in the return game and see some snaps on offense.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Peppers accounts for one of what should be two cornerback spots in the 2014 class; at this point, it looks likely that Peppers will be joined by IL CB Parrker Westphal whenever the latter makes his decision, though the Wolverines will also pursue five-star CA CB Adoree' Jackson and four-star DC CB Jalen Tabor, among others. Other remaining needs include strongside linebacker, a third offensive lineman, and a couple of three-tech/SDE types.
The biggest upshot from Peppers' commitment, though, may be the impact it has on the decision of other top recruits—namely #1 overall prospect Da'Shawn Hand, whom Peppers has told his fellow Michigan commits is his top recruiting priority as a member of Team 135. There's no question that Michigan landing a prospect of Peppers' caliber will send waves through the recruiting community and catch the attention of top national prospects, and with the way Brady Hoke is recruiting that could be enough to vault the Wolverines into serious contention for the top recruiting class in 2014—the only mitigating factor may be the small projected size of the class (currently slated to be 15 players but likely to approach 20 when all is said and done).
Take it away, drum major:
I'm just interested in the shirt. Ondre Pipkins caught a no-doubt exhausted Frank Clark catching some uncomfortable-looking Zs at something or another. As a man who slept through most of AP Bio in high school I have no leg to stand on as far as criticism of that activity. I'm just interested in his shirt:
EARN THE RIGHT TO RUSH 4
That would be nice.
And the shoes. Dr. Sap puts together a history of Michigan's shoes.
It's more interesting than it sounds. Before Nike came in in 1983, Michigan had seven different suppliers!
It's halftime. Jabrill Peppers has 20 minutes. He's already fixed your car, dated your daughter respectfully, and optioned a screenplay, so it's time to get props from Naughty By Nature:
“I would always hear about [Jabrill], and it was kind of like we let him do his thing and now he’s surfacing on his own. That was the first time I had heard him rap, I didn’t even know he had a crew like that,” he said. “I watched the video and listened to the song and it is really good. Jabrill’s song is like a throwback to ’90’s hip hop and I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really impressed.’ ”
In the time it took you to read that blockquote, Jabrill Peppers made crostini, pulled invasive garlic mustard out of an acre of parkland, and charged your phone. No, he didn't plug it into the wall.
Stick ball sports. Baseball got swept out of the Big Ten tournament, completing a promising first season for Eric Bakich. Michigan was vastly young this year, with just four seniors on the team: three relievers and Eric Biondi. With most of the best players underclassmen and a strong recruiting class coming in, baseball should be on an upward swing. Unfortunately, they'll probably lose slugger Michael O'Neill, who's projected to go somewhere in the first four rounds.
As you may know from the wince-inducing, nonsensical, miserable puns in your inbox…
Alumni Field Will Be Ragin' (& Cajun) This Weekend - Time To BUY(OU) Tickets
We're Jumba-LAY-ing It On Thick - Don't Miss The SOUP-er Regional This Weekend
…softball takes on Louisiana-Lafayette starting… uh… in a couple hours. If you're around and free, tickets are reasonably priced. If you're not, it's on ESPNU. Tomorrow's game is at noon, on plain ol' ESPN, with an if-necessary third game scheduled for ESPN at 3. Winner hits the WCWS. In the face with a bat.
"No, WE'RE going to murder the language more." Fed up with recruits claiming to be committed to schools they have no chance of actually signing with, schools fire back with offers that aren't anything like offers:
Alabama’s scholarship offers at some positions, most notably quarterback, are non-committable and pending an evaluation at summer camp.
The non-committable offer. Everything is a lie. This is a society that takes true things, hits them in the head with shovels, buries them neck-deep in turds, and waits for the tide to come in. This is called right-shoveling. All of everything is false and wrong and a lie. These words are random assemblages of symbols that have no inherent meaning. I cannot communicate at all, there is no meaning, I am floating in that crazy sad void in that one Death Cab song on that album I can't listen to for reason of not wanting to kind of want to put my face in a bathtub of water.
This may be an overreaction.
IT WAS NOT AN OVERREACTION. Charlie Weis got bought out for 19 million dollars. Oh hai meaningless Death Cab void.
Carl Hagelin has powers. Spooky powers:
GOOD EFFORT TRY WIN FIGHT. MLive asks what trolling is, discovers it is trolling. Revelations!
For example, when MSU fans post things like "LOL Walmart Wolverine skunk weasels" or when U-M fans post things like "LOL little brother" nothing is added to the conversation.
They are counseling commenters to ignore people who bother them, which if followed will reduce comments to four per article, all of them from me fighting with myself.
Marlin scouting Gordon. Thomas, that is. And how:
"Thomas Gordon could be a really good player," Jackson said during a recent interview. "If you look at him physically, he's everything you could want in an NFL safety."
"But I would just like to see him become more aggressive, when he's coming to make plays on the football and closing on open-field tackles," Jackson said. "Little things, but big things."
Etc.: Iowa loses a Ufer-equivalent. White House gets down with voracity. Everything you need to know about the Champions League final and horses. Toussaint "fired up" to keep his job, maybe play behind a line that will get him more than two inches of space. Denard can run man. How the pants was he still available in the fifth round man.
Yay recruits! I have no idea who these people are! /Upchurch
It's ours again, the title they don't give you for having the best recruiting class three months before the previous season begins. Yes, other classes are going to finish strong once a lot of five-stars make their decisions, you know, eight months from now. But like Notre Dame's September Heismans and OSU's November national champs, being in the top spot is better than not being there.
You know those Big Ten recruiting roundups Ace does? EGD did the same for our non-conference opponents in the years to come. Hello again Notre Dame…
|247 Rk||Team||Guys||5*||4*||3*||Scout Avg.||Rivals Avg.||ESPN Avg.||247 Avg.||Overall Avg.|
He's keeping it updated. Make it a weekly, guy with the Hail to the Thief logo. No Virginia Tech because even if the 2014 guys redshirt they won't be around for 2020. Good to see Bielema is still recruiting the Wisconsin way despite the move to the SEC.
Blueheron took a look at recruiting over the back end, in how many NFL draft picks Michigan contributed over X period. This was always going to be the case once we went to a spread offense but yeah 2009-'13 wasn't our best period. Relatedly Chris Brown of Smart Football asked for crowd-sourced data on conference contribution to NFL rosters and whether there's a difference for guys in the league less than 5 years. I responded with a chart (click it for full size)…
…and put the Excel doc in the public realm for anyone whose idea of a relaxing Memorial Day weekend is pivot tables. Meantime I saved the Big Ten comparison just for you:
So we've got more old dudes (even with Hutchinson and Backus retiring) left from the middle Carr years, but since Rich Rod we've had a Sparty-like contribution. I expect this will change with the NFL types now working their way up the roster, and in five years you'll look at this chart and see Michigan next to OSU (with maybe a residually small yellow portion). Really, Michigan is the difference between the B1G being just as much an NFL factory as the SEC, and being something between that and the Pac12.
In other people who probably love Pivot Tables, The Mathlete looked into the recruiting of Maryland and Rutgers to see where they get their players and if getting into those markets might help Michigan and co., kinda like how we went into Pennsylvania in the '90s and snatched up Rob Swett, Damon Denson, Will Peterson, Dave Armstrong, Marlin Jackson*, Scott McClintock, Tim Massaqoui, Steve Breaston, Ryan Mundy, Chad Henne, Marques Slocum, and Marques Slocum's pet Fuck Lion.
*[Marlin could count for Ohio, since Sharon is just the Pennsylvania suburb of Youngstown, but then PSU still felt that one sharply. Speaking of PSU fans, if you know any tell them to get the Penn State version of HTTV (3 days left on the kickstarter).]
Getting Nebraska didn't come with the same windfall, rather the Huskers and their Ohioan of a coach are probably damaging Michigan State and Iowa and Illinois rather than opening up new territory. On the other hand D.C. and environs have a lot of talent which, unlike Nebraska, concentrates in a certain geographic area. Nudging Virginia Tech out of there would be nice. As a follow-up maizeonblueaction looked at how the SEC has fared in the Midlands since adding Texas and Missouri. Answer: very small uptick, but I disagree that you can tell from 2012 numbers since those kids were mostly at the "down to five schools" phase when A&M was announced. If there's an effect, it's probably the opportunity to play close to home sometimes, and to be on TV at home, which means kids in the Dallas region aren't going to go to Mississippi now because they'll get to travel to A&M, but Houston kids might.
And finally LSAClassof2000 downloaded the Rivals database and WENT. TO. TOWN. on charts of average star rating for B1G teams and comparisons to Michigan. I take two:
Arrested development. Speaking of recruits who didn't necessary pan out as well as we thought, hey did you see this year's hockey team? MGoBlueline did a comparison of the stats between the beloved 2011-'12 squad and the begrudged 2012-'13 guys. There's a mass exodus of defensemen from here and, guh, the streak. By the way his inspiration was Ron Utah's thing back in January that I know you didn't click on in January because I track those links – his does the same thing with the last two football teams.
And since the board's been pretty calm in these OT days, a quick…
Best of the Board
COMPANY CHEATS, GOOD GUY CHICKENS OUT, MUST BE TRESSEL-RELATED
yUP. mGrowOld had that dinner with Tressel he won for his company winning an award and him being a good employee who never posts pictures of his hot wife on the internet or spends time during the work day on message boards. But they pulled the bait 'n switch at the last minute and stuck the big sponsors instead of the promised winners at the keynote's table. GrowOld also chickened out about asking Tressel whether he was embarrassed, like at all, AND chickened out about the tie. Still a good read.
LIKE LITTLE YOU PEOPLE
MGoParents saw an opening when we didn't moderate an "OT: I Just had TWINS!" post and made an MGobaby thread, which became an all your kids thread. All the Aunt points in the world to julesh for crocheting a winged helmet for her brother's kid—you can tell your brother his laziness in not instantly getting a photo of the kid in the hat when duty called has cost his son a chance to be seen by thousands of strangers on the internet. Victor of the thread would still have gone to ems78, who produced* this:
Three weeks old and already has the song down.
* [Double entendre!]
ETC. Urban's secret: telling recruits he likes big butts, and he cannot lie—okay the other brothers are calling on the lying thing and say they deny—completely and utterly deny. And in the thread about the Penn State thing that SI was trying to make a thing but really wasn't a thing at all, this appeared and I wow'ed:
Origin? Previous thread? Did I miss a photoshop thread somewhere of Branch going on a destructive rampage of all sorts of famous photography? SIAP, but can we have one?
Your Moment of Zen:
Don't. Step. On. Our. Banner.
THE IMPORTANT THING: What Time Do I Need To Take A Break From Watching Arrested Development on Sunday?
Jabrill Peppers announces his college decision on Sunday at 5:15 pm ET on ESPNU. Everything we've seen and heard for the last several weeks—Gerry Hamilton's contrarianism notwithstanding—points to a Michigan commitment. While Peppers is declining to take interviews until his announcement, his coach is making the media rounds and claims that his star athlete isn't quite sure of his decision yet:
Representatives from the University of Michigan visited Paramus Catholic last week and spent much of the day there, inquiring about the Garden State's top athlete. The Wolverines are thought to take a commanding lead for his services into the weekend, although the star athlete has yet to officially solidify which school he will be selecting, Sunday.
"He doesn't know, just yet," [Paramus Catholic coach Chris] Partridge told NJ.com. "He's still visiting schools this week."
Although Partridge was reluctant to release the list of schools Peppers will be taking a look at during the final days of his recruiting process, there has been speculation that he will make a stop at Rutgers some time this week.
I'm not saying Peppers' coach is just doing his best to add some suspense—and there's nothing wrong with that—but I'll just leave this quote here:
“I know and feel very confident in the decision I’m going to make,” said Peppers.
Okay, I'm saying Peppers' coach is just doing his best to add some suspense. That's my last word on Peppers until Sunday, when there will either be many more words or we'll be attempting to salvage the flaming wreckage of the MGoBoard.
Chase Winovich Update: More Of The Same
PA LB Chase Winovich still has Michigan in his top three (with Ohio State and Pitt), is still contemplating visits (definitely to Pitt, unsure of others), and, yes, is still giving really confusing quotes to reporters, per Sam Webb ($):
That consistent focus that trio of favorites combined with his aforementioned decision timeline was fodder for speculation about a commitment being forthcoming. One recent report went a step beyond speculating and indicated that a decision next week was imminent, a claim that Winovich denies.
"I think the question (from the reporter) was 'is it possible that I could commit to a school after my Pitt visit?'," he recalled. "I think I said, 'yeah, anything is possible.' He said, 'could you let me know so I could put you on a commit watch?' So I said, 'yeah, anything is possible.'" (Laughter).
For the record, Winovich is still in deliberation mode with no definite decision date in sight.
I've said previously that I've heard optimism from both the Michigan and Ohio State sides regarding their chances with Winovich; the above may give a hint as to why. I claim no insider info here, but I switched my prediction for him from U-M to OSU yesterday, because it appears the Wolverines are picking up interest in other OLB prospects—something I doubt they would do if they were confident Winovich would take the final linebacker spot.
[Late-Breaking NOTE: Ohio State just added a commitment from linebacker Dante Booker, but according to 247's Steve Wiltfong the Buckeyes would still accept a commitment from Winovich($). Bad news for Michigan, good news for me not having to rewrite this entire section.]
After a period in which they'd fallen out of contact, Michigan and Crete (IL) Monee four-star LB Nyles Morgan have reconnected, and Morgan told GBW's Josh Newkirk that he's still interested in the Wolverines ($):
“Coach (Curt) Mallory came by,’ [Morgan] said. “I also talked with (defensive coordinator) Greg Mattison on the phone last week. He said he would be by this week.”
With the Wolverine coaching staff accelerating their efforts to connect with Morgan, he said he would like to build a better relationship with Mattison.
“I just want to have a good conversation with him,” he said. “I had previously good conversations with him before. At Michigan we had real good conversation. That was pretty nice, too. I just want to get to know him a little better and have him get to know me.”
Morgan mentioned the possibility of visiting either for July's BBQ at the Big House or a game this fall; he's not in any hurry to decide, so Michigan could still become a contender for his signature.
According to 247's Clint Brewster($), linebackers coach Roy Manning spent seven hours(!!) with Florida prospect Darrion Owens and claimed he is their "top target" at linebacker. Owens received an offer a month ago and—at 6'3", 225 pounds—has the frame to play on the strong side.
Four-star LA LB Kenny Young—who claims a very strong list of offers—hasn't been mentioned as a major possibility for the Wolverines, but he has them on a list of schools he'd like to see, per Rivals' Jason Howell ($):
What schools does he plan to check out?
"Like the Florida schools - Florida, Florida State, Miami," Young said. "Those three, I'll also try to visit Arkansas, Tennessee, Michigan… Arizona State."
Michigan still has a very real chance with Winovich; that said, it's clear that they're also exploring other options in case they need one.
[Hit THE JUMP for updates on four top 2014 targets—including one discussing a possible commitment—as well as news on Michigan's 2015 QB offeree and much more.]
|Detroit, MI – 5'10", 159|
|Scout||4*, #80 overall,
#9 CB, #3 MI
|Rivals||4*, #131 overall
#10 CB, #3 MI
|ESPN||4*, #88 overall
#13 CB, #1 MI
|24/7||4*, NR overall
#25 CB, #7 MI
|Other Suitors||Uh… Toledo?|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Ace interview.|
|Notes||Cass Tech (everyone). Listed as "Lewis Jordan" on Cass Tech roster for duration of his junior year. : /|
This camp video from Maize and Blue News is pretty useful:
Welcome to Annual Cass Tech Corner. This year's edition is named Jourdan Lewis and is a bit bigger than most—taller, anyway—and is also a pretty good wide receiver. In all other ways he's Cass Tech corner, what with the foregone commitment (a couple weeks after his offer in February, before anyone other than Toledo could pull the trigger) and the being less than six foot tall and being super quick and such.
Yeah, you're probably thinking about all the Annual Cass Tech corners that don't seem to be doing much. What can I say? I know. It's not your fault.
Anyway, all those Cass kids hit a ton of camps and give you a solid view of their talents. Examples follow. Like, say, from the Opening, where Scout named him one of the top ten defensive players in attendance($):
Lewis was one of the top cornerbacks at The Opening in 2012. He broke on the ball very well, he locked up his man much of the time, and he showed the ability to open up his hips and run with the wide receivers. He had some picks and those were nice, but his coverage stood out the most.
Assorted camp takes:
Columbus NTFC (247): "can run with any receiver in the country, and broke up several passes on Sunday … really good ball skills and was one of the quickest through cone drills."
IMG 7on7 (247): "a blanket on receivers throughout the two-day competition … played press coverage and lived in the back pocket of whoever he was checking. When needed, he also provided a boost offensively at receiver for the Maximum Exposure team."
Sound Mind, Sound Body (Scout): "one of the premier cover corners in the country … showed the Wolverine coaching staff what he could do and was even able to make believers out of the opposition. … With the Michigan coaching staff playfully fighting over which side of the ball he’ll play in Ann Arbor, Lewis was matched up with several of the camp’s top wide receivers/defensive backs. and more times than not was able to come up with a reception, deflection or interception."
Opening (Rivals): …has proven time and again that he is fast and instinctual and the Michigan commit proved it again Sunday when he stepped in front of another pass and picked it off and had a great pass breakup in the title game. … He takes chances sometimes too often but they usually work out and his closing speed is off the charts."
An Only Incompetent Germans Showcase (247): "outstanding at both wide receiver and defensive back at the combine. Lewis is a lot more physical than he gets credit for. At cornerback, Lewis does an fantastic job of reading wide receiver tendencies and jumping on a route. Lewis showed good physicality when playing up in bump-man coverage, re-routing receivers at the line of scrimmage and fighting for the ball in the air on deep patterns."
- He was also at the Army Bowl, where he was "very impressive($)" on the second day, where he "blanketed the big receivers deep and used his speed to keep up with the faster ones." Rivals's take:
Lewis is the smallest of the West cornerbacks, but he doesn't play like it. He has great hops, elevates well against bigger receivers and is very consistent getting his head around and playing the ball. His work against guys such as Seals-Jones and Derrick Griffin was especially impressive given how many inches he's giving away.
- /scratches Todd Howard off of potential YMRMFSPAs
Since Lewis was an early commit, Ace took in a number of his games. (He did the same with Delano Hill but since Hill was an Iowa commit he didn't pay close attention to him.) Lewis was named his "boom or bust" player of the year. Ace took in the Cass-OLSM showdown and came back with a mixed review:
On defense, he showed off his signature recovery skills in making a nice pass breakup on a deep hitch, and was only beaten once in man coverage all night.
There are a couple major concerns I have with Lewis, however, that were on display on Friday night. He does rely on that recovery speed far too much in man coverage … Then there's run support, where Lewis is very limited by his small frame; at his size, he has to be completely committed to throwing his weight around and tackling with proper technique, and I don't see that at this point. He tends to dive for an ankle-tackle and shies away from major contact—there's a stark contrast between him and [2013 OSU commit Damon] Webb, who's both bigger and more willing to lay a hit.
In an earlier game Ace caught against Renaissance Lewis mostly played wide receiver, and well. Other in-game takes echo that evaluation, with Scout's Allen Trieu praising Lewis's quickness, feet and ability to contest passes against a 6'3" guy while being polite about the hitting bit:
He did come up and get in on some tackles, but being physical and getting stronger are the parts of his game he needs to continue to improve on. As a pure cover guy though, he's very good and could pay slot receiver in college as well.
Non-camp-specific reports are Cass Tech Corner all the way. ESPN($)'s eval is generally positive before mentioning the run support:
Lean with more than adequate height and good arm length. … Flashes very good speed, but great recovery quickness. He shows good awareness and anticipation skills in coverage. Transitions with clean footwork and is crisp out of his breaks with good burst. He shows great timing and quickness jumping routes. Lewis has sudden change-of-direction skill to mirror receivers tightly off the line or out of their breaks. Flips his hips to run fluidly and retains proper inside positioning staying between the ball and receiver. Will go up and high-point the jump ball with great leaping skills and body control. He plucks it away from taller receivers. …will be challenged when trying to set the edge on run support and limit run after catch from bigger college receivers until he adds bulk, strength and physically develops.
Scout's profile lists body control, hands, and instincts as positives while noting his (all together now) size is an issue.
Great all around athlete who made plays at both corner and receiver. Excellent hands and ball skills, as well as playmaking instincts. Seems to have a knack for big plays. Size makes matchups with bigger receivers tough, but he has shown a willingness to come up and hit in run support.
They do have a point. This series just profiled Ross Douglas, who will compete with Lewis and others to back up Blake Countess. Douglas is 20 pounds heavier than Lewis, and the main issue people have with his ability is his size. Tim Sullivan just told it like it is($) after the Rivals Challenge last year: "Lewis is a tiny dude." (He still said his stock had gone up.)
So. Tackling is a major issue and this limits Lewis to field corner only. He's not going to take away a job from Dymonte Thomas at nickel and the boundary corner is always going to be a bigger guy. That restricts his potential impact, and may free him up for a jack of all trades role as he auditions for the punt return job—a consistent strength of his at Cass—and maybe tries his hand at wide receiver, where his frame doesn't matter much. I mean:
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Lewis is going to Michigan to play cornerback, but he is also a BCS-caliber wide receiver prospect. Lewis is so quick with his cuts that he creates instant separation from defensive backs, and he also has great hands.
It sounds like less of a backup plan and more of a 50/50 shot, especially since when Michigan was planning Jourdan Lewis's career at Michigan they didn't know it would (PROBABLY) overlap with that of Jabrill Peppers.
Why Terry Richardson? Richardson is a highly athletic cover corner who is extraordinarily slight and is still working through that as he tries to get on the field. Also is from Cass Tech, yeah.
Lewis is taller and gets praise for playing larger than he seems; I still suspect that as he moves up a level of competition the result when he tries to tackle a guy is going to look a lot like Courtney Avery as a freshman: dive and pray. If he can overcome that he can be a Countess heir apparent. This will take time and luck.
Guru Reliability: Exacting. Cass, healthy, on the radar forever, every possible camp.
Variance: High. Despite being high rated by just about everyone Lewis could bust if he never puts on weight and can't tackle anyone. Also, until a Cass corner actually plays well in a college football game that's skepticism-inducing.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Never going to be a thumper, a little size deficient, could be a really good cover guy.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. The variance is somewhat balanced by an apparent ability to play WR. He could put on enough weight to be an effective player in college, but whenever you're asking someone to do that you risk robbing them of their stand-out talent.
Projection: Redshirt. If Michigan wants to play Cass Tech Corner they have two other options who know the defense better and have put on some weight; in year one Lewis is likely to get bowled over by anyone who wanders in his direction.
Post redshirt he's in the same boat as Ross Douglas, biding time for (probably) two more years of Blake Countess and hoping for a break. If he stays at corner, waits until his redshirt junior year to seriously compete for a starting job, whereupon the other three corners in this class will provide competition along with anybody in the previous classes looking feisty.
Yeah, "if" he stays at corner. Michigan has an idea as to what they want at WR that does not include 5'10" guys but there's a reasonable chance the need is greater there than at corner and he slides over to play slot. If Michigan gets Peppers and both Stribling and Dawson work out, it would be a waste to let Lewis idle behind those guys.
Cracks in Fort Schembechler
This week we got a couple of very short glimpses into the otherwise locked-down existence of Michigan football. Normally under the current regime, we don't hear or see much of anything between the end of Spring ball and the beginning of fall practice unless a player is hit by a meteor (i.e. "suffered some off-season setbacks"), gets arrested ("has some learning to do"), or gets frozen in carbonite ("has struggled to get in game shape"). So when you get six seconds of live-action footage, YOU TAKE IT.
Enter: Devin Gardner's Vine account.
THINGS WE LEARNED:
- Fitz still has two legs. Those legs can support the weight of a human being as that human being does various physical activities. MEDICAL SCIENCE: HOW DOES IT WORK?
- Fitz has some dance moves. I have no idea what kind of moves, mind you... but they are moves nonetheless.
- Jeremy Gallon hates shirts
- Gallon's cloaking device still works, and is so now effective that the coaches have insisted that he carry a bell around with him so he can't sneak up on people anymore.
THINGS WE LEARNED:
- If you hang around on State Street long enough, Blake Countess and Devin Gardner will entertain you.
- Countess can do a standing back-handspring back-tuck.
- When Countess does a standing back-handspring back-tuck, I try to spot him through the computer screen so he won’t get hurt.
- Most urgently, the only logical explanation for this video is that the surgeons must have botched Blake Countess's surgery. It's kinda like Rookie of the Year, except instead of gaining a wicked fastball, Countess has lost the ability to backpedal. The only way he can move backwards is through some combination of back handsprings and back tucks. And sure, that might work on short and intermediate routes, but what of the deep ball? Even if he gets back there, he'll be too dizzy to make a play on the ball. No, no, no, this is all wrong.
[Side note: Countess is not the first Michigan football player with some gymnastics skillz. Brandon Graham was once a guest judge for the UofM Women's Gymnastics team's intra-squad scrimmage, and as part of that event he put together a video of himself doing some legitimate tumbling. If anyone has this video, you are needed at the Youtube. Also, it confirms Bo's lesser-known mantra that Those Who Do Gymnastics Will Be Really Good Defensive Players]
[ED: Ace has located additional backflip footage of Kenny Demens and Brandon Graham from Mock Rock 2009, starting at 2:00