just what the Pistons need: a third string center. Joe Dumars was replaced by a mean ol' alien a few years back you guys.
Dr. Hamlet III is eating a carrot out of Kyle Kalis’ belly button. Your argument is invalid.
Returned to Sender
We all remember the last couple of years when Devin Gardner and Logan Tuley-Tillman burned their letter from Ohio State. A good guffaw was had in Ann Arbor, and "scUM-has-a-discipline-problem" faux outrage in Columbus. On Tuesday, Notre Dame commit Elijah Hood tried to show Alabama that compared to his school of choice, anyone else was number two... by flushing his recruiting letters from Alabama down the toilet. He has since deleted the Vine video, but the internet never forgets.
His original tweet included the hashtag #RollToilet. The correct hashtag would probably have been #ToiletPaperRollTide, but we'll give him credit for the effort.
As a lifelong user of toilets, though, I question the wisdom of this move. Either those things won't actually flush, and he'll have to fish them out by hand, and if they DO manage to flush them, that heavy card stock will clog that thing in a damn hurry.
This also represents a troubling escalation in the "get rid of other teams' recruiting materials" war. A few other recent examples:
- A hipster Cal commit created a performance art piece in which he sucked helium and performed a dramatic reading of a letter from Lane Kiffin while a bootlegged copy of Maid in Manhattan played in the background. No one really 'got it,' but from what people could tell this was bad for Lane Kiffin, so LULZ NICE JOB KID WAY TO GO.
- A recruit lit a letter from Texas A&M on fire, not knowing that the letter actually contained four GA's that Kevin Sumlin sent as a barbershop quartet. All were lost.
- A recruit hacked into Joker Phillips' instagram account and drew genitalia on all of his crazy-ass recruiting pictures. Joker took one look, shrugged, and asked himself, "why didn't I think of that?"
- The younger brother of a successful college player, stuck living in the shadow of said older brother and upset about his own lack of respect, attempted to dramatically throw a letter into the ocean. This proved to be a slightly more difficult gesture than he had anticipated.
Returning a letter from whence you came
[After the jump, Jim Tressel may need a little more Quiet Time]
|Canton, MA – 6'2", 295|
4*, #139 overall
3*, #32 DT, #2 MA
3*, 77 rating
4*, #190 overall
OSU, Nebraska, MSU, UVA, UNC, Vandy, Rutgers
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Son of longtime NFLer Maurice Hurst. Twitter.|
Techno remix senior highlights:
Also here's a lot of stuff from the Semper Fi game:
Junior highlights come highly recommended since they include a lot of Hurst being a terrifying/hilarious running back. Stay for the first TD run at 30 seconds.
I am trying to keep things reasonable around these parts, but I watched Maurice Hurst's highlight reel and now I'm impressed. You know those defensive line drills where you start out in a stance and then burst upwards into a fake opponent's chest? Maurice Hurst is going to be awesome at that. Also now I'm just going to grab that run and put it right here because it is delightful:
His coach on that:
"For a kid who's that big, to make that kind of athletic move, and to run as quickly as he did, was OK," Stevenson said.
It was actually that run that put Hurst on a lot of maps, including Michigan's.
“We tell all the college coaches he’s a defensive lineman and that’s what they’re recruiting him as, then all these defensive coordinators, this guy from Michigan, Billy McGovern from BC, they come in and sit down and they go, ‘Oh ya, that 75-yard touchdown was unbelievable.’
“Billy McGovern says he ran it back and asked all the guys in the room, ‘Do we have anyone who can do that?’ They go, ‘No.’ Well OK, we’re offering him.’’
Michigan fired out an offer to him as well and that was about that. Hurst is a high-academic kid who had an OSU offer but was looking for something else…
"Academics are my big priority. Football ends, so I want a degree that will last a lifetime, one that is more than a piece of paper. UVa and Michigan are tremendous schools and offer prestigious degrees."
…and cut his list to Michigan and Virginia—a pattern emerges—before a visit to Ann Arbor sealed the deal last June.
Michigan has won themselves a quick first step attached to a body. That body is not enormous like Ondre Pipkins's or a single pulsating muscle like Mike Martin's. Hurst does not pass the look test… until you snap the ball.
When Hurst was a freshman, the first thing Stevenson noticed wasn’t his size, his competitiveness, or his skills. It was his first step.
“I think probably the first indication to me was my defensive coordinator Al Fornaro said, ‘You’ve got to see this guy come off the ball.’ I looked and went yay. … I would compare his first step to a kid who played for us the late ’90s, Scott Bradley. Scott had a tremendous first step and that was the thing that sold all the coaches on Scotty, that first step. The difference between the two is that Scotty was 215 pounds, Mo is 295 pounds. If you’re 295 and can do what a 215-pounder does, you’re a good football player.’’
This is the first time in the history of this series it has caught a hard-nosed gravel-eating sonsabitch high school football coach describing something as "yay."
Hurst wasn't much of a camp guy, only appearing at one area event when he was a rising junior, but he left a similar impression.
… has a nice frame that can still add weight but what really stands out about him is his quickness off the ball and his light feet. Hurst beat most of his opponents with his first step and he was able to win the leverage game most of the time as well. At times he can be too upright and present too much of a target. His footwork is excellent and he has natural balance, and he is very good at responding quickly to the initial punch of offensive linemen. He also showed a good motor.
Every evaluation continues in a similar vein. Rivals praises his "great burst first step" in their Areas of Improvement(!) for him by mentioning he needs to use it more consistently. They're just going off his highlight film but they also like his technique:
Hurst uses his hands extremely well for a young player. On each play he is seen using his hands to control his opponent, quickly dismissing a block, or maintaining leverage as he pursues the ball carrier. Good balance is critical for interior line play and Hurst shows that with impressive body control.
In other news of a similar variety:
- Coach: "He's a great athlete…. His first step off the line of scrimmage is very strong, and he's very powerful."
- An opposing coach: "We tried to run away from him but sometimes that's worse because he's so quick."
- Scout's take: "Hurst is athletic, explosive, moves his feet well, has a few nice techniques he uses to get into the backfield and runs well for a defensive lineman."
On the downside, ESPN's evaluation is heavy on words like "capable," "flashes," "adequate," and "consistently." Unlike some ESPN profiles, the drapes do match the carpet here. It sounds like a three-star eval.
…capable of being disruptive. … You would like to see more consistency but displays a good first-step that can allow him to quickly get penetration. He is at his best when he can fire out and primarily be a penetrator that disrupts schemes. Flashes the ability to be tough when taking on blockers as he can quickly fire out low and gain leverage and with solid strength hold his ground. While he does possess a quick first-step he can at times almost as quickly pop up and play tall and needs to work to consistently keep his pads down. … Hurst is capable of quickly getting off the ball and being disruptive and if he can continue to maintain that while adding size and rounding out his game he can develop into a good and productive college defensive tackle.
Despite some impressive offers, Hurst's visibility was pretty low for much of his recruitment. The competition level in Massachusetts is… uh… not high, and after that one camp before his junior year Hurst ditched the camp scene.
Hurst's relative obscurity was somewhat lifted by his appearance at the Semper Fi game. While Semper Fi is clearly #3 in the All Star pecking order it's still a major step up in competition for everybody there, let alone a guy tossing around MA kids. Hurst did well, acquiring a sack on one of his first snaps in the game itself and impressing everyone in practice. 247 Pitt analyst Bob Lichtenfels is just answering Pitt questions here and drops in a Hurst mention:
Michigan pledge Maurice Hurst Jr. was a beast.
Hurst was beasting despite having strep throat.
“He struggled between plays,” said northeast recruiting analyst Brian Dohn. “It looked like he could barely move. Once the ball snapped, he was a complete animal. His explosion is terrific. His aggressiveness and ability to get underneath lineman is tremendous. And what impressed me the most about him, was beside his physical ability, was the toughness he showed in practicing for two days when he was just sick as a dog.”
247's Barton Simmons:
Hurst is the type of player that you don’t really notice when he’s standing in the huddle but as soon as the ball is snapped, he shows up quickly. His play on Wednesday was characterized by high effort, an intensity to get to the football, and quickness to get into the backfield. The Michigan commit has been one of the better practice players this week.
247 and Scout moved them into their top lists as a solid four star; Rivals barely covered Semper Fi, apparently sending one guy to cover 100 or so players. Hurst didn't get a mention in the one article about who might be good on his team.
Michigan projects Hurst will add a ton of weight, telling his coach they think he'll end up pushing 330 pounds. That would make him a nose all the way. That'll also take a bit of time. While he's bulking up he may find some time as a three-tech. He's got the burst to be effective there and is already larger than Jibreel Black; while I expect a redshirt since Michigan seems to have a solid two deep (or more) at both spots Hurst can play, playing time could come as early as next year if he has the versatility to play two spots.
Etc.: Hurst's senior year stats were eye-popping as you might expect from a kid headed to Michigan playing against Massachusetts folk: 23 TFLs and 11 sacks. At press time, Hurst's most recent tweet is "Need food" and his location is "A BACKFIELD NEAR YOU." Instagram is something. TTB interview. Tap dancing!
Tell us something that most people do not know about you?
MH: Most people do not know that when I was younger from first grade until about fifth grade I took tap dancing and I really believe that it helped me with my foot work on the football field.
On the difficulty of his decision: "Not that difficult. After coming in, there was just that feeling, 'What if I went somewhere else?' or 'What if I committed when I thought I could go to another school?' At first I thought I was gonna commit to BC, then I thought I was gonna go to Virginia. Then Michigan came along, and I knew this was the school I wanted to go to."
"He's a great kid," Stevenson said. "He's a captain for next year. He's a good worker in the weight room, he's a good leader for his teammates as far as his work ethic, and I've never heard anything negative from his teachers. He's done some community service helping with the elderly, helping at a shelter for abused women, and at a place where they provide help to feed the poor."
Why Mike Martin? Two words: snap explosion.
Martin was a bit higher rated—consensus four star outside the top 100, IIRC—and an ever-growing slab of pulsating muscle from day one. Hurst isn't going to be quite as ripped, but he is a kid who can get off the ball in a flash, bury himself in the chest of the opponent, and then rip through the dude before he knows what's going on.
Guru Reliability: Low. Significant disparity, Massachusetts is virtually ignored, apparently did not hit a single camp, though he did show for the Semper Fi game and impress.
Variance: Moderate. Another guy with the opposite of character issues. Coming from seriously weak high school competition, which makes for hilarious highlight reels but also uncertainty.
Ceiling: High-minus. Love, love his quickness and he has adequate size. Probably not a guy with first round upside, though.
General Excitement Level: High. I know, I know, I'm just a bubbly 14-year-old girl about this recruiting class, but what can I say? Hurst is a guy who has bloodlines, can make a reasonable case he was overlooked because of his state, stature and camp avoidance, and blew up at an All Star game that caused everyone who paid attention to shoot him up in the rankings. And if you're asking me the #1 thing I want to hear about a DT "explosive first step" is it.
Projection: Ondre Pipkins had better get on his horse because Willie Henry and Hurst are coming for him.
Hurst should be a redshirt lock with a solid three-deep in front of him. In year two the three guys mentioned will have a battle royale for the starting spot Quinton Washington vacates, with the runner-up also getting a significant amount of playing time. Pipkins is still the favorite, but I would not rule out Hurst becoming a productive backup as quickly as next year. Failing that he should emerge into a rotation nose tackle as a redshirt junior, if he is not the starter.
Hurst also has the potential to compete at three-tech with his explosion, and if things are going well at nose I expect he will be moved there and be a heavy rotation feature, whether that's behind or in front of Chris Wormley. He should be getting significant snaps by year three, if not earlier.
Trying a new feature on here, where we ask a question to the staff each week about whatever Michigan fans are obsessing about at that moment. It's kinda like a roundtable, but just one question. Please feel free to suggest future questions in the comments, and offer any other suggestions. Given the vagaries of our schedules you won't see responses from everyone every time, for example I kinda sprung this on everyone last night and anyone who keeps reasonable sleep hours probably hasn't seen the email yet.
Brian Cook: Editor, Lord Commander of the UFR, and Wielder of the Holy Stick of Snark
Ace Anbender: Recruiting Coordinator and Head of the Council on Rhymes
Seth Fisher: Associate Editor, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Handler of the Royal Pig
Heiko Yang: Press Coordinator and President of Al Borges Fan Club
Mathlete: Grand Maester of Charts and Keeper of the PAN
Blue in South Bend: Master of Twitter'ers and Vice President of Social Media Relations
And for this week's question I thought we'd go with a broad stroke:
What exactly is Hoke building here? Is there another program in modern history that it most closely resembles in expectations for annual competitiveness, ceiling, floor, and general makeup?
Brian: You ask as if we know, man. We've had two years of Brady Hoke, and still know little. He inherited a quarterback he would never have recruited, no linemen (okay, two linemen), a defense coming off a triple-digit GERG crater. We've had a Sugar Bowl winning year in which horseshoes flew out of everyone's butts and an 8-5 year that could have been a lot better if we hadn't volunteered to get rochambeaued by Alabama and Denard's elbow hadn't gone on the fritz.
You want to draw conclusions from this business? I have two:
1) Brady Hoke would win a poker tournament against the D-I coaching field with ease.
2) He could sell toilets to Ohio State fans.
This likely leads to satisfaction. But, like, am I to declare this to be something else already?
Mathlete: When Hoke came in I think the program really resembled where Nebraska was when Bo Pelini was hired. A program that was used to success and was coming off of a failed attempt to reinvent their identity. Hoke's recruiting the last 2.5 cycles have elevated the expectations beyond that level. If the on field results match the recruiting and those two continue to feed on themselves the best case scenario is a bizarro version of Pete Carroll's USC Trojans. Michigan would mirror USC with a strong program/school identity and coach that embodies it and its history. The definition of that culture will be 180 degrees different in Ann Arbor but the concept would be similar. This season will be critical in terms of timeline. I think the roster is still another year away but if the staff and team can generate a season similar to Hoke's first, the ceiling will be lifted from the program.
BiSB: In an ideal world, we're looking at the beginnings of 1990s Nebraska. The Huskers were built from the lines outward on both sides of the ball. They featured an aggressive, thumping defense with an all-consuming front seven, and an an offense that was exciting in its face-denting smashmouth boredom. Osborne's teams never lost more than three games, taking advantage of a low-variance formula and a massive home field advantage. Their prospects on any given year ranged from a mid-teens finish in the polls to a national championship. Of course, projecting anyone to become Lawrence Phillips and the Blackshirts (note to hipster alter-ego: this would be a great band name), or expecting Derrick Green to change his name to Ahman, is asking a lot.
A more realistic range would be the Red River Rivalry from the early-to-mid 2000's. Michigan and Ohio State will play the roles of Oklahoma and Texas, who dominated the Big 12 the entire decade both on the field and on the recruiting train. Their division (the South) was by far the more difficult, yet between the two of them they won every division title that decade (no one else even grabbed a co-championship between '00 and '07). They won eight of the ten Big 12 titles between them, and from '02-'10 only twice did anyone else finish among Rivals top two Big 12 recruiting classes. Each entered most years with national ambitions, with the Red River Shootout serving as an elimination game of sorts. Neither achieved dynasty status, probably because of the less-than-stellar perception of the rest of the Big 12 and the zero-sum nature of such rivalries, but both teams won national titles, and both hovered around the top 10 more often than not.
Seth: I'm not so sure the Big Two will be able to dominate so much. Consider: two weird losses in a season can make a team full of five stars seem to drop right back to the pack. In 2014 Michigan has to travel to all three rivals (THANKS BIG TEN!) in addition to facing Utah, Penn State, and Maryland at home. Three excusable losses there at the wrong time could drop Michigan well out of the race for the division and produce all sorts of Dynasty talk for Ohio State.
Hedging, I put us closer to Mark Richt's Georgia program, except with far less frequent misdemeanors and without Richt's pious sanctimony.
Hoke's first three classes are about even with Richt's in star power:
*Meyer's two OSU classes are extrapolated into three
Actually it's closer to Carroll's USC. However Carroll and Tressel kept themselves annually competitive by improving the lifestyles of their NFL flight risks. Georgia has been a (mostly) clean program in the Old West of the SEC, usually beating the softer SEC East teams they should and sometimes getting bitten by a pesky obsessive in-state rival. He even had Urban Meyer on his southern border for a time. They also proudly display their "Old Man Football" t-shirts when somebody makes fun of Pro Style offense. Over 12 seasons Richt has gone 118-40, 67-29 in the SEC, and played in three Sugar Bowls, winning one. Now imagine Georgia if Nick Saban wasn't in the same conference…
Ace: I'm late to the party and BiSB stole my answer, so this is off to a rollicking start...
I've been thinking about the basketball and football programs and their very different approaches in working to get to the top of the Big Ten. John Beilein has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to basketball strategy, and right now the hoops world at large is conforming to his style of basketball—less reliance on big men, more spreading the floor and creating layups or threes (anyone watching the NBA playoffs in the last couple years can see this is happening at all levels). Beilein is arguably better at identifying players that fit this system—and then coaching them up—than anybody in the country, and we all saw the benefits this spring.
Brady Hoke and his coaches, meanwhile, are sticking to a decidedly old-school style of football, especially on offense—this as the rest of the country trends towards high-tempo variations on the spread-and-shred. Like their hoops counterparts, the football coaches are adept at identifying and landing talent—obviously, recruiting is going pretty well lately—and like the basketball team they have a distinct system for which they're recruiting; Beilein's offense is now a Michigan signature, and smashmouth football on both sides is what the football team is hoping to make their hallmark.
Bryan brought up 1990's Nebraska, a program that stuck to an old-school style past its supposed expiration date and succeeded wildly by bringing in top talent—good lord, look at Tommie Frazier film sometime—and running the offense with masterful precision; and, of course, combining that with the famed Blackshirt defense. I think that's the peak we're talking about here, though Alabama has beaten Michigan to the punch when it comes to assembling this kind of team — national championships are still going to be remarkably difficult to win.
The floor? I think we saw it last year, though it could happen again — a key injury to a quarterback here, a couple high-profile busts there, and this team could easily underachieve, especially if Al Borges fails to adapt enough to today's game (with his increased recruiting of tights ends of all sizes, I'm optimistic this won't be the case).
Michigan's two recent pickups—including, y'know, a universal five-star, NBD—strengthen their position at the top of the Big Ten recruiting rankings. While the teams in the upper half of the conference are still adding commits at an acceptable rate, the bottom of the conference is, well, not.
But, hey, Indiana is on the board! Good for them.
Changes since last rankings:
5-15-13: Wisconsin picks up Billy Hirschfeld.
5-16-13: Northwestern picks up Blake Hance. Rutgers picks up Justin Herron. Wisconsin picks up Ula Tolutau.
5-23-13: Ohio State picks up Dante Booker. Rutgers picks up Kamren Lott.
5-26-13: Michigan picks up Jabrill Peppers.
5-28-13: Northwestern picks up Fred Wyatt.
6-1-13: Michigan picks up Chase Winovich. Penn State picks up Noah Beh.
6-2-13: Maryland picks up David Shaw.
6-3-13: Iowa picks up Omar Truitt.
|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^|
|2 (9)||Ohio State||9||0||7||2||3.56||3.67||3.89||3.56||3.67|
|3 (16) +1||Northwestern||11||0||2||9||3.27||3.00||3.36||2.73||3.09|
|4 (18) -1||Penn State||10||0||3||7||3.10||3.30||3.30||2.80||3.13|
|6 (27)||Michigan State||8||0||0||8||3.25||3.25||3.38||2.75||3.16|
*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.
Dr. Hamlet III, consensus 6 star recruit
For the 2013 signees, the average Michigan commitment occurred on April 16th. The only other years a program has bested that average was in the heyday of the Texas Junior Days. This year has been a bit slower than last but that was almost certain to happen. In fact, prior to last season, Michigan’s previous earliest average commitment was for the 2012 class when the median decision date was in mid-July.
Jabrill Peppers’ commitment brought the 2014 class up to ten commitments (excluding Brady Pallante from the 2014 numbers). Barring an unlikely wave of Rodriguez level attrition the 2014 class should be over half way to an 18-19 member class.
The Seasons of Recruiting
Over the last five years, here is how the top ~500 recruits for the class have committed by commitment month:
The recruiting cycle typically begins slowly in March, sees a bump in April (Spring Game commitments?) before dropping back in May. The start of the summer sees another increase as players are typically between school and fall camp. The activity really dies down through the heart of football season before ramping up over the final three months of the cycle. The median Top 500 recruit typically commits sometime in August.
Michigan is clearly still ahead of this cycle for the 2014 class, even if they are behind last season’s breakneck pace.
Comparing 10 commitments mid-cycle isn’t a truly valid comparison but just to see how this class has compared to Hoke’s other classes I did it anyway.
A consensus top 10(ish) and a consensus top 100 sure help out the curve. The top end of the 2014 Michigan recruiting class has already been established as the best during Hoke’s tenure in Ann Arbor. The rest of the group is a bit behind the last two years but that is mostly due to comparing a whole 10 member class to date versus the top 10 from prior seasons. The fact that the comparison holds up as well as it does speaks to the start the coaching staff have had to this cycle.
So where does this project out to? I projected an 18 player class with the following players adding their names to Project135.
Unknown Top 150 Defensive Back
Unknown Top 150 Wide Receiver
Unknown Top 500 Offensive Lineman
Unknown Top 500 Running Back
Unknown Top 500 Linebacker Chase Winovich
Wide receiver and defensive back both have several strong options still on the board and a top level rating was assumed. For linemen, linebacker and running back the options are bit less clear and I projected more of a 3/4 star borderline type of player. Westphal and McDowell are both consensus Michigan leans and Da’Shawn Hand is strong possibility and why not!
The top end of this potential class is a clear step above the 2013 class and equal in the middle. The drop at the tail end is a combination of small class effect and some conservative estimates on the remaining unfilled positions in the class. Continuing with the annual “Everything in the Offseason is a Positive Thing” theme, a minor lag in the tail end of the class isn’t a bad thing. To me it can be an indication that the staff is actually evaluating talent and looking for players they want as opposed to opening up the 247 composite rankings and offering down the list.
Top Class Potential
Not to be the burster of bubbles but it ain’t happening. This class will be too small to have a shot at the overall title. Over the last twelve cycles Rivals has only had 10 classes ranked in their Top 10 with fewer than 20 commitments. Only 2007 (2nd) and 2009 (4th) USC have managed to crack the top 5. To have any shot attrition will have to force the class size into the 20s and even then it will probably take 22-23 to make it happen.
Is this a negative thing? Not really. You sign the best players you can with the scholarships
taken from scrubs you have. When you look at the projected curve above, Michigan has a good chance to pull a better top 18 rated players this year than last. Rivals rated those 27 recruits #5 in the nation and this year’s might struggle to beat that rating with 18 players that are considerably better than the top 18 from last year’s #5 class. Michigan won’t win the top class ranking but that doesn’t mean they might not have the best class come February.
|Pickerington, OH – 6'6" 265|
|Scout||4*, #174 overall
|Rivals||4*, #237 overall
#10 WDE, #13 OH
|ESPN||4*, #116 overall
#9 DE, #7 OH
|24/7||4*, #108 overall
#3 WDE, #6 OH
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, Nebraska, UCLA, Iowa|
|YMRMFSPA||Will Gholston, but not a cannibal|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Ace hit up the Pick Central vs Pick North game. Hello post.|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Given first name is "Vidauntae." Twitter. Pickerington Central (Caris LeVert).|
Ace also caught a game of his:
Taco Charlton was the sixth guy to commit on that fabled Saturday last February when Ace filed a worker's comp claim because his fingers had been worn down to nubs. What an awesome day for everyone who isn't Ace. But I digress.
As a result of the timing of his commitment, Charlton may have been somewhat overshadowed by ALL THE OFFENSIVE LINEMEN. Is it just me, or was Charlton kind of an "oh and that guy is around too" kind of commit? In any case that oversight went a ways towards being corrected when Charlton, an early enrollee, was listed at a strapping 265 on the spring roster and started collecting more hype than anyone on the defense not named James Ross.
Why is obvious. I mean, here's Charlton next to Shane Morris, David Dawson, and Mike McCray after the Columbus NFTC:
on the right, obvs
There you have three highly-touted, consensus-four-star recruits and a guy who makes them look like dudes headed to EMU. No one in Michigan's class—and almost no one nationally—approaches Charlton's first-guy-off-the-bus factor. But don't take it from me:
Charlton is the type of player that you want coming off the bus first as a prospect with phenomenal length and athleticism. There may not have been a defensive end in attendance that has a better set of raw tools to work with than Charlton.
That was as a rising junior, when he was probably 20 pounds lighter than he is now.
Also here is Charlton jumping over a six-foot tackling dummy.
I know. I know that's how tall people are.
Charlton was unsurprisingly a camp fiend what with the hugeness and athleticism. A take from one of the two NTFC showings he made last summer:
… won every rep he took. Camp settings are a perfect showcase for Charlton's outstanding physical tools. Charlton showed he has the speed to beat linemen around the edge and also his the natural strength to power through the opposition.
Charlton also hit up the LA NFTC since he was in the area anyway. Scout:
Charlton set the tone on the first 1-on-1, by blowing by the tackle without being touched. He too only lost 1-on-1, and won every other. The future Michigan Wolverine is a nice long athlete who just needs to add some weight, but he's got the quickness off the edge to be a top-tier pass rusher.
ESPN was there as well, saying he "has a lighting quick step to complement his long stride, making him nearly impossible to block."
An example of the camp killer aspect from The Opening:
4. Taco Charlton – Charlton is always good in camp settings because he has elite athleticism and elite frame. Once again he looked very athletic rushing the edge and turning the corner on offensive tackles and he continues to show one of the best sets of tools in the nation at the defensive end position.
Scout's take from that weekend:
…without question one of the best athletes in this group. He looks the part, he was very fluid during the drills … showed enough to make Scout think he could end up being one of Michigan's top recruits in 2013. He is still raw and he needs to get stronger, but he is athletic, he is very quick, he has good length, and a lot of potential.
I mean, the picture above says it all. If it doesn't, take it from Duane Long, who said his "potential is unlimited" and called his physical tools "elite." Saying he has a high ceiling doesn't do it justice.
The catch is actually playing football. While the Buckeye urban legend that Charlton didn't even start for his high school team as a junior was overblown (he missed a couple series in a high profile game), he is the opposite of just-profiled Mike McCray in that regard. He's a camp standout who doesn't quite translate that potential to production, or at least didn't before his senior year.
Even with a productive senior year you can watch those highlights and the fact that the 6'6" guy stands straight up after every snap leaps out at you. ESPN mentions that and similar technique issues in their evaluation:
…possesses excellent size … not always consistent, but he has very good initial quickness. He can be a tough edge run defender, flashing the ability to keep his pads down and use his reach. When he does, he can quickly separate and shed. He is a tall kid who needs to watch his pad level, though, and be more consistent with his technique as he can stand up too much to look in the backfield and can rely too much on his athletic ability and the fact that he is much bigger and stronger than most of the people he goes up against…. changes directions well and displays good balance and body control. …has the potential to be handful as a pass rusher. … does need to learn to use his reach and hands more to his advantage, develop a pass rush arsenal and have a plan as he can attack the whole man and get caught up.
Raw. And raw. And raw.
This didn't prevent him from being an effective player even during his relatively raw phase. Helmholdt caught the state title game Charlton participated in then:
My appreciation for Charlton grows after each new evaluation. I thought he was OK at the Ohio State NIKE Camp back in May, thought he was better when I saw him on film early in the season and thought he was really solid in last weekend's Division I state title game. …was effective bull rushing offensive tackles. But Charlton also does a great job using his hands and releasing from blocks. He did not record a sack in Saturday's game, but hit the quarterback as he released the football on at least two occasions and got good pressure throughout the night.
But in that evaluation you can see hints of a guy who just wasn't doing much as a junior, something Scout just plain states in their profile for him:
Body Control and Balance
Pass Rushing Skills
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Great athlete with an excellent frame. He really stepped it up as a senior and made more plays. Has to add weight and strength to become a more complete player, but has the tools to be a situational pass rusher early in his career. The fact that he's still learning, still growing, and has good physical tools leads us to believe his best days are still ahead of him. - Allen Trieu
Part of that rawness is an Andrew Copp effect. Charlton spent so much time playing another sport that it may have slowed his development in his main gig. With Copp that was football; for Charlton it was basketball($):
Playing basketball nearly year-round has been one thing that's prevented Charlton from reaching his potential so far. He drops weight during the long season - one that included a state championship for Pick Central this winter - and doesn't have the time to focus on technique for the football field.
Charlton dropped basketball last fall and has added 15 pounds as a result.
So all of this sounds wonderful but wait! We have to talk about The Great Opening Hot Take Controversy. Charlton showed up at the Opening, as you saw above, and drew praise for his general Taco-ness from many people. A couple of those evaluations are linked above; I elided a couple more. Then Farrell dropped some truthiness on those evaluators by naming Charlton the worst guy there:
…looks the part, he really struggled. He has great size, long arms and he is very athletic. However, he is also very upright, only has an outside move and when coaches tried to teach him misdirection or crossover, he didn't grasp it well at all. He was beaten on almost every 1-on-1 rep he took.
This got a lot of heat from various quarters, spurring a protests-too-much defense ("simply struggled regardless of what others say") and eventually a tweet from Charlton himself showing him atop the leaderboard for 1-on-1 rep wins at said camp. Charlton would later provide some perspective on a bad day:
"Yeah well, I did real good the first two days," he said. "I actually ended up still tied with the most wins, but I was doing real good the first two days. The last day, I was sort of sick, and then a whole bunch of stuff went on and I just wasn't feeling too good. The Nike guys asked me to wait and compete later in the day, to hold off and see how I felt later. I still was feeling a little bit bad, but I chose to compete."
So there you go. The lovely thing about Mike Farrell is how he makes the kids look professional. Honest day's work, that. Anyway.
As an early enrollee we have a bit more information on Charlton yet, including those 15 pounds. Charlton is an easy guy to notice and folks around the program did, what with Mike Rothstein projecting him to contribute right away and into the the NFL. Mattison did sound a note of concern about his motor, albeit after calling him "the prototype":
Taco Charlton’s been mentioned a lot. You said he’s the prototype. What do you mean by that?
“Taco’s name comes up a lot because if you’re 6-6, 265 and should be going to your prom and you’re here practicing football at Michigan, you’re going to like that. You always want strong, tall, athletic guys. Well, he’s 6-6. He’s very strong for his age, and he was a great basketball player. Now you have to get the mental part. He’s one, for example, it’s very interesting -- he’s one of the guys that doesn’t understand that at Michigan we run to the ball hard every play. And he sometimes thinks he’s going hard, but that’s maybe hard for where he was last year, not hard for where we are in this program. And he’s getting better and better.”
I took a close look at him during an inside zone drill Michigan ran before the game-like section of the spring game:
As everyone's already said, Charlton looks the part and then some. He was struggling in a drill before the scrimmage where half the OL would play half the DL on zone running, getting blown out of his assigned lane; once he got some time against the backup OL he dominated. Unless Cam Gordon's really good, he and Ojemudia will duke it out for the nickel DE spot Ryan's injury has vacated.
During the game-like section, Charlton was neutralized by Lewan and Schofield, then obliterated a walk-on tackle to get a contact sack against a guy wearing a red jersey. Blood makes the grass grow.
Etc.: Oblig. coach rapture quote($):
"I'll never look at No. 33 the same," Laminico said. "I won't be able to do that. It'll be hard for someone else to wear that number and really fulfill it. ... There are few people that can wear that number next after he takes it off for the last time."
UPDATE: Wins this year's Carvin Johnson Award for hatred of losing.
Why Will Gholston? ESPN's evaluator actually made that comparison in their profile of him and that made a ton of sense to me. Both are enormous lanky weakside defensive ends who are not finished products. In Gholston's case that's after three years of futilely trying to get around Taylor Lewan and deciding to injure him instead; Charlton has some time yet.
Gholston was overrated as a recruit but not by a wide margin as a long-term starter and mid-round NFL draft pick, which is about Charlton's baseline as a guy just outside most top 100s. Gholston was listed at the same weight Charlton was as a recruit and eventually worked himself up to 280; Charlton is just 15 pounds away from that already and is a bit shorter, so the leverage issues you get with ends that size should be slightly less of an issue.
If you want a Michigan comp, Shawn Crable is it. Crable was a chicken-legged stick person, which Charlton isn't, and spent most of his career at linebacker, which Charlton won't. They are in the same mold of athletic knives to hurl through offensive lines.
Guru Reliability: High. Same range, same things said, lots of camps. Farrell's HOT TAKE from the AA game is disputed, though, bringing it down from exacting.
Variance: High. Charlton is probably going to be a useful player no matter what simply because of his size, but the upside makes the variance wide. Charlton could be a poor man's Gholston… or he could be Julius Peppers, another 6'6"-ish weakside end.
Ceiling: Vast. A 6'6", 265-pounds-and-counting weakside defensive end that pans out in a big way is destined for the top end of the NFL draft.
General Excitement Level: High. Ceiling is a great thing to have with this coaching staff. Lot of work ahead for Hoke and Mattison with this guy. Heininger Certainty Principle don't fail me now.
Projection: Needs a year to learn, maybe two. If Clark lives up to half the hype, Charlton won't be a major threat until he's gone. Then it'll be an Ojemudia/Charlton battle it seems impossible for Ojemudia to win what with probably being 30 pounds lighter and five inches shorter unless Charlton just busts completely. Two year starting run for Charlton should be in the cards, one that could be anything from Tim Jamison (decent) to Will Gholston (good but overhyped due to physical impressiveness) to a flaming morningstar of quarterback doom.
If you're making me pick, I say Gholston.