"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
Previously: Last year's profiles, S Tyree Kinnel, CB Keith Washington, DE Shelton Johnson, DE Reuben Jones, OL Nolan Ulizio, OL Grant Newsome, OL Jon Runyan Jr., TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., WR Brian Cole, WR Grant Perry.
|Sarasota, FL – 5'10", 190|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#45 RB, #77 FL
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#70 RB, #108 FL
|24/7||4*, NR overall
#29 RB, #43 FL
|Other Suitors||Iowa, Arizona, Ark, Tenn, MD|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Higdon's coach gave us the lowdown on how his flip went down.|
|Notes||Decommitted from both USF and Iowa.|
Also junior highlights.
Karan Higdon was part of the Mike Weber signing day chaos. With Weber's decision balanced on a molecule-wide knife edge, Higdon's signing day flip from Iowa pushed him over to the dark side, until he went back to the light side, until he went back to the dark side, and so forth and so on. That doesn't have anything to do with him as a prospect, but you can be sure the two guys will be compared to each other by Michigan fans for the duration of their careers.
As far as Hidgon himself goes, he is a compact, darting runner with a smooth jump cut. Running back highlight tape is the most useful of all highlight tapes because it gives you a pretty good sense of what Back X is like when he's running good, and Higdon is somewhat reminiscent of Fitzgerald Toussaint—sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint, before he was Poor Damn Toussaint and then Pass Blocking Double Agent Toussaint. He also gives off a bit of a Mike Hart aura, though I hesitate to invoke him in comparisons because Hart was sui generis.
But Hart must be mentioned when a 5'10" guy under 200 pounds is so frequently described as a power back. Scout Florida guy Corey Bender:
“Karan Higdon is more your North and South type runner. He's not a home run hitter. He’s well put together."
…sturdy and durable. Shows above average speed in the second level but not elite … wastes little time getting North and hitting the downhill seam. Shows better than adequate vision to stretch and cut back in the second level. … Shows good feet in the hole to jump-cut and make the first defender miss. … Hits the hole with authority and runs hard North-South. Does a good job lowering his pads on contact, absorbing the hit and continuing his forward progress. …productive inside runner with the burst to open up the run game outside but we do not see a big-play element at this stage.
"Better than adequate" is ESPN's funny way of saying "good."
Scout's Jamie Newberg:
…runs hard and is decisive. He’s not a dancer and you won’t see him going east-west but north-south … has good feet, quick feet. Higdon has a strong lower body and runs with deceptive power. … I also like his vision. Higdon possesses good speed and quickness. He can also make defenders miss. … not an explosive, home run hitter.
Higdon is a between-the-tackles hard nosed running back with excellent vision. He waits patiently on the hole and plants and drives upfield with good toughness. Higdon should fit well in Harbaugh's ground and pound running game, with his tough and rugged style. Higdon shows good lateral movement through the hole and a good quick twitch once he gets out in the open, although he's not a back with long speed.
Tim Drevno pretty much agrees:
"Karan is a power back, a physical runner -- he's got great instinct and football awareness with real good vision. He does a great job of lowering his pads especially when he's entering the goal line area. He is a real smart young man who had a 4.0 in high school."
These all say the same very positive things; like Grant Perry the ensuing rankings are underwhelming largely because of a lack of wow experience in his physical package. Running backs Higdon's size are almost always placed in the meh bin unless they have the game-breaking ability each one of these scouting reports strives to point out he does not.
The exception is 247, which had him a four star. Josh Newberg, who works for the USF 247 site, gives an indication as to why when Higdon was a Bulls commit:
5. Every class seems to come down to a few make-or-break kids… Who are those kids for the Bulls…?
USF has an incredible player committed to them in Karan Higdon. He's a running back that could make an even bigger impact than Marlon Mack has. Higdon is explosive, strong and has the ability to score from anywhere on the field. He also has excellent hands and could even be a slot receiver if he wanted to.
Right now there isn't a more talented player that USF is recruiting.
Steve Lorenz also named him the toughest incoming recruit to keep off the field—a statement that means something when Michigan has lots of options in front of him.
Though it may be odd for a guy everyone just described as a power back, I wouldn't be surprised to see Higdon get a serious look as a third down back as early as next year. Squat guys with good short-area burst are often the best pass blockers, as they can get to the spot they need to get and then undercut the blitzer they've been tasked with picking up. Vincent Smith and Mike Hart, Michigan's best blitz pickup guys in recent memory, both fit that mold.
Even when he was committed to USF, Higdon praised the Iowa program. Now that he's officially committed to the Hawkeyes though, you really can't ask for a better spokesperson.
Higdon watches every game and he always has something good to say, even when Iowa loses. He believes in the program and he believes in what he can do with the Hawkeyes. In fact, he has so much faith in Iowa that he's already creating some lofty goals for himself. … He's clearly all-in with the Hawkeyes, and that's not something you see out of recruits all that often.
Why Mike Hart? Mostly explained above. Higdon is a compact, shifty gentleman with uncanny power for a player his size. If he never fumbles, always squeezes out two more yards than is reasonable, ruthlessly destroys blitzing linebackers, and recovers Ryan Mallett fumbles for first downs, then he can be Mike Hart.
Fitzgerald Toussaint is also a reasonable comparable. Toussaint was a one-cut zone back with an explosive burst. Higdon sounds less likely to break a long one and more likely to squeeze out an extra yard or two after contact.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. No projection but big spread here from four star to "not even in the top 100 in Florida."
Variance: Low. Projects to HS position, reportedly has excellent vision already, healthy.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Not a gamebreaker, quoth everyone. Still could end up a highly efficient Harbaugh back.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Like Perry, seems like a good bet to be a contributor for an extended period of time. Good late pickup in the situation M found themselves in because he gives a relatively high floor at the position going forward.
Projection: With four backs in front of him, none of whom are seniors, you'd have to think a redshirt is an option. Excellent backs can bust through legions of upperclassmen, though, and it's not like anyone currently on the roster has established much of a claim on the job. If he impresses in fall camp could definitely get a 100 or so carries… and signal that the RB spot is going to experience some attrition.
James Ross III should find more playing time in 2015 as an inside and outside linebacker as opposed to 2014, when he was almost exclusively a SAM. He talked about this as well as what else we can expect from the defense this fall in our one-on-one interview.
First of all, what were you working on this summer?
“Well, we did a lot of individual practice as far as with the linebackers and then 7-on-7, stuff like that. Just more understanding of the defense, understanding my role and what I’m going to be playing, and how to attack that.”
And what do you know about your role going into fall camp? How is it different and how is it similar?
“Last year I was pretty much just at one area. I was playing SAM and I didn’t play much more than that, so this year I will be playing inside and outside because my freshman and sophomore year that’s what I was more accustomed to is inside. So I will be playing both this year.”
Is that just going to depend on the personnel you’re facing week-to-week or is that intended to mix looks on defense and keep your opponent guessing?
“We’ve got a lot of stuff going on as far as our defense. We run multiple so we’ve got a couple different defenses we can throw at them. Also, just like you say personnel and things of that nature.”
When you say run multiple, what are some of the things that we can expect to see this season?
“You know, I’m pretty sure Coach Durkin’s talked about running 3-4 and things like that. Just running multiple defenses, different looks, things like that. Different ways of attacking things and making it tough for opposing offenses to play us.”
Who is someone who you’ve seen in practice who you think could have a breakout year this year?
“It’s tough to say. All I know is in the spring and the offseason a lot of people were putting in a lot of work. I feel like as a team as a whole everybody’s made a significant jump in what they can do and that’s why I’m excited for the first practice tomorrow to see how what we did helped us and contributed.”
I know you’ve only had spring ball and still have all of fall camp ahead, but how have the practices been different since Coach Harbaugh got here?
“Practice when we had Coach Hoke was just real intense, but you feel like when we have Coach Harbaugh it’s- it’s just structured…even though with Coach Hoke everything was structured- periods, squads, everything like that. In the spring one thing is we just had longer practices and it made us pay attention to finishing practice. That was the most important factor. So that’s what we’re planning on doing in these upcoming practices because that was our biggest problem last year was finishing games.”
The flow is strong with this one. [Upchurch]
Versatile redshirt sophomore Wyatt Shallman has garnered attention for both his potential fit in Harbaugh's offense and his unusual taste in pets. We covered both topics in a one-on-one from last week's Media Day.
What are you playing this year?
I’m playing running back.
How comfortable are you at the position and how do you feel you fit in with the offense this year?
I feel I fit in great. You need a stable of running backs and can fit in that stable real well. I’m real comfortable with it. They lay out the offense pretty well for us so it’s easy to learn, easy to understand, so you’ve just gotta make sure you’re paying attention when you’re in meetings and stuff.
Word is practice is pretty intense. How would you compare the style from this spring to previous years?
Football is football, so it’s not too different. Obviously every coach is going to have a different format, but we got out there and competed this spring, and it’s the same with other coaching staffs around college, you just get out there and compete and play football.
What would you say is the biggest shift for you guys so far from an offensive philosophy standpoint? Is there anything that’s markedly different with the offense right now?
There’s going to be [a] difference as soon as you get a new coach. We’re really priding ourselves on running the ball, we did a lot of that this spring. Our fullbacks and our other running backs, they pride themselves on getting yardage. That’s kind of our mindset, just getting those yards and getting the yards after contact, too.
It’s the first year in forever that Fred Jackson isn’t the running backs coach. How’s the transition going from him to Tyrone Wheatley?
It’s been great. Coach Jackson was a great coach. I’m going to miss him. He’s a great man too, he taught me a lot. Coach Wheatley, he’s a great coach, and I’m not taking anything away from Coach J but he brings his own little style, and it’s fun to learn everyone else’s little style.
Has he been showing you guys his highlights?
Not really, but he still lets us know that he can play. His cuts… he likes to get into drills and do a little bit of showing the drills fast, so he still shows us a little bit of that, that he can still move the way he does.
So he can still move pretty well?
What was stranger: having the police show up at your front door about a wallaby or seeing your head coach shirtless at a camp in Prattville?
Probably the shirtless head coach. I got a couple other housemates that might be more at fault about the wallaby, so that wasn’t that crazy of a situation. But, yeah, seeing Coach Harbaugh shirtless was kinda wild.
As a team, how do you guys react to seeing a coach that’s way more in the news than Hoke ever was?
It’s just interesting. The personality that you see outside of everything here is the personality we see all day, so he’s not putting on a show. Coach Harbaugh is who he is. He’s an interesting dude. He’s intense.
I’ve gotta bring it back to the wallaby. You guys have a real live Australian now on your football team. What was Blake’s reaction to that whole thing?
He basically said wallabies are like varmint in Australia, pretty comparable to squirrels, so I don’t know why everyone was freaking out about that. People like to get any story they can have and hold onto it so how about a couple college kids with a wallaby. It was not even smart to have everyone freaking out about that. It wasn’t a big deal.
What’s the goal for the team this year, and for you personally, what’s your mindset heading into the season?
Personally it’s just to help the team any way I can. I think that’s everyone’s mindset. If you’ve got everyone working towards the same goal you’re more likely to achieve it. So we’re just working to get better and to get this team better, just doing the things we need to do.
For a time he danced.
But he will not return.
As previously reported, Norfleet is gone-gone. Despite him telling his former teammates he'll miss them on Instagram and every insider-y thing saying it was already a foregone conclusion, some of us held out hope for as long as it took the coaches to say it was official. Michigan posting a fall roster without him on it was more confirmation. Tuskegee publishing a roster with him on it means it's time to give up the ghost.
Michigan enters fall camp with 2 or 3 open scholarships for this year, depending on whether you count the long snapper. Norfleet would not have affected next year's numbers.
I am sad.
Jourdan Lewis emerged as Michigan’s best corner in 2014, demonstrating that he was well-suited to the man press style they wanted to play. That same style is back in 2015, and Lewis talked about that as well as the difference in the defense’s mindset, Wayne Lyons joining the secondary, and Jabrill. This was part of a scrum; my questions are marked.
Most of you guys grew up together and kind of emerged together, then Wayne [Lyons] just sort of gets dropped in your lap. What’s it like when someone has experience but at the same time is trying to compete with you?
“You’ve got to bring him in. You’ve got to bring him in just like one of our brothers. He is one of our brothers now and we’ve just got to bring him in and come together and compete. That’s what’s going to make a great defense.”
When someone comes from a different program they have done things before. Did he have anything or did you say, ‘This is the way we did it here’?
“No, he came in and he wanted to listen. He wanted to learn. That was great. He wanted to learn from us and we wanted to learn from what he had. We learned some things from him and he learned some things from us.”
“Yeah. It was just a collaboration between both of us. It wasn’t ever ‘This is how we do things.’ It wasn’t ever- it was all love as soon as he got here.”
There’s a lot of attention on Jabrill, as there always is. Do you see strides in him even though he’s at a different position than last year? Have you seen him make a lot of progress this summer?
“He’s going to compete and he’s going to be aggressive and he’s going to make plays, always. That’s always Jabrill’s mindset and I love it. That’s what’s going to make us a great defense is just his mindset and his enthusiasm and him flying around, so he’s just always the same Jabrill.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Previously: Last year's profiles, S Tyree Kinnel, CB Keith Washington, DE Shelton Johnson, DE Reuben Jones, OL Nolan Ulizio, OL Grant Newsome, OL Jon Runyan Jr., TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., WR Brian Cole.
|Bloomfield, MI – 5'11", 185|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#80 WR, #12 MI
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#128 WR, #9 MI
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#132 WR, #13 MI
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Ace in-person scout.|
|Notes||Twitter. HS teammate of Alex Malzone.|
As a prospect, Grant Perry is the exact opposite of the two guys we just covered. Tyrone Wheatley and Brian Cole are physical marvels with little production; Grant Perry is an average-sized guy with a ten-minute highlight reel as a high school wide receiver—a ten minute highlight reel that isn't padded out with blocking or replays. There are only two screens!
As Michigan-bound Alex Malzone's favorite target, Perry was targeted about every seven seconds at Brother Rice. He made the most of those opportunities with 105(!!!) catches for 1727 yards. That is a state of Michigan all-time, any-class record for catches and a four-year career for a lot of high school wideouts. His prolific senior season landed him on a Scout All-American list mostly populated with OMG shirtless types. Experience: he has it.
Ace saw it in person, well before Michigan offered:
Perry had an outstanding game, hauling in seven of his nine targets; one of those incompletions was uncatchable, while the second would've required a difficult one-handed catch. He and Malzone are clearly very comfortable playing with each other—they connected on several timing routes and when Malzone was in trouble, Perry was often the receiver working his way back to the ball to bail him out.
Perry runs precise routes and plucks the ball out of the air; he showed off soft hands. While he's not a gamebreaking athlete, he gets separation on defensive backs with sharp cuts and does a nice job getting upfield after the catch; he doesn't look like a major threat to juke a safety, but he finds a way to get solid yardage after the catch.
Allen Trieu after his Northwestern commitment:
…a technician who runs great routes and has sure hands. I've often said, I think you could put him on just about any team in America and he will find a way to contribute because he knows how to get open, catches everything and is a competitive kid. He catches the ball naturally away from his hands, is crisp in his routes and quick out of his breaks.
A college coach at Sound Mind, Sound Body, as related by Steve Lorenz:
After Perry dominated the 1v1 session at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp last year, one college assistant said he was the "most technically sound" receiver he had seen at the high school level. A high school coach from a top program says Michigan should have been on him from the beginning.
"Perry is the type of player Michigan needs more of," he said. "He would run through a wall to put on the winged helmet."
247's Clint Brewster:
…He’s an absolute technician with his routes, getting in and out of breaks with smooth and sharp cuts and cat-like quickness. He’s got the balance, body control, and agility to change directions and turn his body. …He’s got great field sense and awareness to get to his landmarks in the passing game and finds a way for his quarterback to see him. … start and stop ability make his extremely tough to cover, and he’s got a good hesitation move on longer routes. … Perry can change gears and accelerate to top speed in flash.
You get the idea. Grant Perry has had the sandpaper and finish applied already. There will be an adjustment period, as there always is, but that's mostly about learning the playbook and acquiring whatever slight refinements his WR coach would like him to absorb. The amount of projection here, especially compared to a guy like Cole, is minimal. This is why Scout named him one of the ten most likely recruits to have an "instant impact" back when he was a Northwestern recruit.
That's the good news. The bad news is that until Northwestern came forth with an offer late in his senior year, no Power 5 school saw fit to give him an opportunity to play for them. That's remarkable. Perry had zero off-field red flags, was very, very productive, and was a standout at the massive SMSB camp:
There were a plethora of big names on offense at the Adidas Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy on Thursday, when talking running backs, receivers and offensive line, however it was an unheralded in-state receiver that put on a show at Chandler Park Academy.
Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Brother Rice 2015 receiver Grant Perry gets the game ball from 247Sports for his phenomenal showing in 1-on-1s. …
Perry gets separation, he’s strong for a slender senior-to-be, he fights jams and has natural hands. Had a couple major highlight reel catches, but he was open most of the time.
Schools like Northwestern and Indiana and Purdue and, hell, Iowa should have been in this guy's grill long before the Wildcats stepped to the plate.
A lot of recruiting analysts found this inexplicable…
247Sports recruiting insider Steve Wiltfong said "Northwestern made one of the smartest moves in the country" by offering Perry when it did.
Northwestern offered Grant Perry, an outstanding player with great hands, route-running skills and all around football ability. This is his first Big Ten offer, as some questioned his size and speed, but he answered those questions and then-some this season.
…but it remains a thing that is true.
The only conclusions is that Perry did not wow coaches with his physical package—he has literally everything else. ESPN addressed those weaknesses more thoroughly than most others:
Is quicker than fast, but also very shifty. … A very nuanced route runner that is quick in and out of break…. Hand-eye coordination and body control as a pass catcher are very good. Makes the over-the-shoulder grab and difficult catch look easy and he is a natural plucker. … could struggle to excel as a vertical threat and after the catch at the power five conference level.
And even that sounds like an excellent evaluation until the end when they say he is a "tweener Power 5/Group of 5 prospect." I feel that this set of evaluations is somewhat lacking in Real Talk.
We are forced to read between the lines, then: coaches, and to some extent recruiting analysts, don't think Perry is going to be able to get away from defenders at the next level. The lack of high level offers says that pretty emphatically.
Unless it doesn't. Tim Sullivan caught Perry a few times as a senior and consistently reported a significant uptick in his big play ability:
What Perry continues to show this season is an explosive burst after the catch, allowing him to get downfield in a hurry and pick up yardage. For a 6-0, 185-pounder, that quickness and ability to gain yards with the ball in his hands will be important. … His punt return touchdown showed off his awareness of the blocking developing around him, as well as the speed up the sideline, to make big plays happen.
That is an outlying report in a sea of "not the biggest or the fastest but just MAKES PLAYS" and should be taken as such, but it is possible a lot of people made up their minds about him too early.
In any case, for the role Michigan needs him for I'm not sure how much the size and speed matter. In Ann Arbor, Perry is destined for the slot:
"They said they see me at the Z position. Z is more of a slot, I think what Dennis Norfleet is playing. They said they don't have many Z guys and need more to fill that."
As mentioned in the Brian Cole piece, that creates some overlap between the two receivers in this class. That's an overlap that will likely be resolved by Cole moving outside in a year or two; Perry is going to be a long-term resident.
As people watching MSU against actual offenses discovered last year, it is quite nice to have slot receivers that can blaze down the middle past your safeties. Perry apparently does not bring that. But as a guy who gets matched up against a linebacker or a nickelback (non-Peppers version) or goes hunting for holes in a zone, his athleticism will be good enough as long as those routes are as on point as they suggest. Drew Dileo was ample evidence of that. Here is the canonical Drew Dileo video.
Anyone who can wrong-foot a defender's got a chance, and it sounds and looks like Perry is a guy who can do that. His coach:
“Grant always could catch well, but I think his route running and ability to find the open areas are what separate him from most good receivers,” Sofran said. “He seems able, as he’s watched film and developed, to understand the game (thoroughly).”
Here's to moaning "throw it to PERRY" after a failed third and medium conversion. Unless there aren't any third and mediums because HARBAUGH.
"I grew up watching Michigan play," Perry said. "I remember being on the field, watching Chad Henne's TD pass to Mario Manningham on the final play to beat Penn State (27-25, Oct. 15, 2005). Now, I'm going to be playing at Michigan. I'm thrilled all the hard work has paid off and my dream has come true."
Why Drew Dileo? The sticky-fingered Louisiana gnome was the perfect slot receiver on third and six and in the redzone, capable of shaking most defensive backs with his craft and utterly reliable once the ball arrived. Dileo was also a generic three star recruit and his playing time and stats didn't defy that much—his efficiency, however, did. That is why I spent multiple years complaining about his underutilization.
Perry is a couple inches taller than Dileo; otherwise this looks like a pretty tight fit, even down to the fact that I might complain he is underutilized what with all the tight ends.
Guru Reliability: High. They may have seen him catch a ball or two.
Variance: Low. Very polished already, doesn't appear to have huge upside.
Ceiling: Moderate. Not likely to be on NFL draft boards. Could develop into a highly reliable #2 WR.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Doubt he will ever be a star but seems like a very good bet to be a guy who helps you out for multiple years. He is this year's Sleeper of The Year.
Projection: Likely to play as a freshman given the state of the WR corps and his advanced skillset. Some overlap with Cole in terms of (short term) position, but they fill different kinds of roles from the slot, and Michigan distinctly lacks a chain-mover there right now.
Cole will probably move outside after this year, leaving Perry the leading contender for the bulk of the slot snaps—however many of those there are. Those are likely to be concentrated on third and five or more, leaving Perry a not-quite-starter for the bulk of his career.