At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
My Bad, Everyone
The roundtable that went up today featured a writeup on top-100 KS DE Xavier Kelly in which I mentioned Alabama and Michigan were reportedly the two schools standing out to him. I wrote my portion of that post last week. Over the weekend, Kelly visited Georgia for the second time. Michigan's standing isn't as strong in the aftermath, per 247's Kipp Adams ($):
While Kelly feels each of the schools in his top eight have their own unique advantages, he did name a few that are standing out right now.
"I think the three would be Clemson, Georgia, and maybe Michigan," Kelly said. "Alabama is up there too. Nothing is official though."
This could be reading too much into one word, but that "maybe" is ominous.
Dave's roundtable choice is looking much better. Four-star PA TE Naseir Upshur is focused on two schools, according to a source who passed info along to 247's Clint Brewster ($):
"Michigan or Florida State," the source told Wolverine247. "Alabama and Miami are really involved and could make a run but Michigan and Florida State have the best shot. I expect him to be at one of those two schools."
When it comes to FSU-related recruiting news, Brewster's going to get some solid intel; his father, former Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster, is the Noles' O-line coach and recruiting coordinator. In a potentially promising turn of events, Upshur wasn't able to make a previously scheduled visit to Tallahassee last weekend. He's scheduled to visit Ann Arbor for the BBQ on August 2nd with a decision date set for August 8th, though he's waffled a bit on that timeline in recent weeks. If Upshur sticks to that schedule, Michigan is in very good shape.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Ace: Recruit still on the board you’d most like Michigan to land, not named Rashan Gary?
Ace: I’ll go with four-star KS DE Xavier Kelly. Michigan could use an edge-rushing terror, and while the film (http://www.hudl.com/v/Br2Pb) reveals Kelly will need to develop—he gets by largely on athleticism—it also shows a really impressive athlete; within the first couple minutes, you see a reverse dunk on the hardwood and a downfield catch as a receiver. Scout’s evaluation calls him “a prototype pass-rushing defensive end” and “a freakish athlete with high upside.”
Michigan and Alabama are reportedly the two programs that appear to have the best shot at him right now; several other top programs, including Florida State, Clemson, Oregon, and TCU, are in hot pursuit. While I like commit Ron Johnson’s potential quite a bit, I think he ends up as a strongside DE; Kelly gives Michigan their best shot at landing an elite weakside end, and those two could develop into a pair of very disruptive bookends.
[Jump for ballists]
|West Chester, OH – 6'6" 280|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#68 OT, #25 OH
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#128 OT, #47 OH
|Other Suitors||UConn, Cinci, Kentucky, Pitt|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
Nolan Ulizio was a bit of a weird pickup even in the context that Michigan acquired him in. That context was a pre-Signing Day scramble after a coach was hired in late December. While that situation often provides opportunities for sleepers, a four star guy had just decommitted from Wisconsin and was all but banging the door down for a Michigan offer; Michigan said nah and swooped in on a guy who was committed to UConn… and also considering Kentucky. Sam Madden ended up at Georgia. Nolan Ulizio is the focus of this post.
That is not a complaint. Far be it from me or anyone short of Steve Hutchinson to question the offensive line bonafides of Jim Harbaugh and Tim Drevno. According to his coach, Drevno likes:
“D.J. called me this morning and said the offensive line coach really, really liked what he saw on film of Nolan and said he fits his scheme. He said he’s really aggressive and plays with a nasty attitude and conceptualizes the game really well.”
His coach's personal take is similar:
"The great part about Nolan is he's a very physical, aggressive player," said Cox. "He plays with a nasty attitude and enjoys being an offensive lineman. … He plays with a chip on his shoulder, he plays to the whistle, and he finishes really really well. Secondly, I think Nolan does a great job of conceptualizing what you're trying to do offensively. He can think on his feet, with the defense a moving object that he reacts to quickly."
When Michigan fans scrambled to Hudl in an effort to see what the coaches saw they saw a guy who put together a nice tape in the top division of Ohio football. I normally dismiss highlight tapes for OL, but you may as well watch this one. There's not a whole lot of scouting on him, and almost all of it was after the fact of his Michigan commitment. On the tape, Ulizio looks mean and agile.
That tape and a major senior-year improvement were enough for a couple of the sites to bump him into quality three-star range. He's only a few slots away from a fourth star on Scout; ESPN has him farther down but still in the "he's got a shot" range. Rivals and 247 not so much.
Some of the disparity comes from the late improvement. Ulizio was not on D-I radars until late in his senior year, when UConn stepped in. Kentucky, Pitt, and Michigan followed relatively quickly afterwards.
Scout was the only site that seemed to think this was coming. They'd already ranked him a high three star by the time of his commitment; other sites' evaluations consisted of shruggie emoticons across the board. Scout's Dave Berk on why they were relatively high on him:
One of the more improved prospects from junior to senior year. Ulizio is a strong drive blocker with above average feet and the strength to compete early. Must work on overall flexibility, but showed great improvement in past year. Plays tackle in high school but projects as a guard with the ability to pull or a power tackle. Must get lower to get more power out of his hips.
ESPN gave him a courtesy bump and a decent evaluation($):
Possesses very good overall size and may even be little bigger than what is listed. Demonstrates excellent playing strength. … needs to watch pad level as he can set high … Big, physical kid that can deliver a good initial pop and demonstrating a very good lower body strength and knee drive can generate good push. … Can be inconsistent and a beat slow off the ball, but does demonstrate he can use angles well to help him get into position and get the job done. …better football player then he is overall athlete and ceiling may not be real high.
247 with a similar bump:
… good looking frame for an offensive tackle, with solid arm length and wingspan. He shows fluid movement getting out of his stance and displays a natural lateral shuffle to stay in front of defenders. Ulizio has the tenacity and aggressiveness you like to see on the offensive line, driving defenders back and putting them on skates. He does a great job on his drive blocks, getting underneath opponents and pushing them back.
Rivals did not move him and had another of their unfortunate articles where they ask Josh Helmholdt about his negative evaluation and Helmholdt spends paragraphs dumping on the kid in defense of his ranking($):
"Honestly I didn't see anything there that would have predicted the offers he's received in the last month or so, from the likes of Michigan and Kentucky. … I have seen his senior film and there are some good plays on there and that's what senior film is supposed to be, it's supposed to be your best plays. When I saw him in a full game setting and the camp setting against other Division I prospects, what we saw out of him was a 2-star level prospect."
Etc., etc. The courtesy bump thing is partially CYA on the part of recruiting services, but it's also partially taking new information into account and reconsidering. Helmholdt does not play that game, for better or worse.
A lack of athleticism is consistently mentioned in the negative areas of Ulizio's scouting reports. I wonder what that even means in the context of an offensive lineman, where functional speed is dictated almost entirely by technique except in rare cases like getting out on screens. If Michigan was going to be outside zone heavy that might be a problem. Since they're not going to be, eh.
Ulizio is a guard or a right tackle down the road, depending on whose take on his feet is correct and how much development Harbaugh and Drevno can drag out of him. This was a guy Michigan chose over not only Madden but in-state three/four star borderline OL David Moorman, so Michigan thinks there's something there even if the recruiting sites are generally skeptical.
Given the track records here, you would be justified to deploy Trust The Coaches. Reading all these exhortations for Ulizio to get lower reminded me of Dann O'Neill, a massively hyped in-state prospect who transferred almost immediately because he was reportedly just about unable to bend his legs. He was an All-MAC player at WMU and had a cup of coffee in the NFL, which just goes to show that nobody ever knows anything about OL. Except maybe Tim Drevno.
Etc.: His commitment announcement is now slightly awkward.
Why Reuben Riley? Riley was a big thumping right tackle with pass protection issues who may have been better off at guard. Riley was considerably more touted out of high school than Ulizio is, but underperformed expectations and was just all right as a college player.
Guru Reliability: Low. Nobody was paying attention to him before the flurry of offers except Scout.
Variance: High. Is OL. Is sleeper OL.
Ceiling: Moderate. I don't know. He's certainly big enough to play. There are many people with reservations. He is OL.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. I like him better than his rankings and offers because of that context he was acquired in, and I like his tape. I wouldn't go so far as to say THESE RANKINGS ARE CRAZY, but when guys rise late as seniors they are often undervalued.
Projection: Is OL and is not Mason Cole, so redshirt. After, could compete at either guard slot or RT. Is OL. Nobody knows.
META: HTTV Stuff
You should have books now. Some of you got more books than you paid for. Many of you waiting on signed copies emailed me asking when that and the t-shirt are coming. Many more have asked how to buy it. I've updated the FAQ.
MADE OF HONOR
Erik_in_Dayton wins Diarist of the Week for nailing the state of Michigan basketball recruiting:
“When you look at what they’ve done with guys like Trey Burke, Darius Morris, and Tim Hardaway, you know this is the place you want to very nearly go to school,” said point guard Trevon Duval of Newark, New Jersey. “I mean, in theory, they could take a guy like me and make me a top five pick.”
Never the bride.
IN A TIME BEFORE TIME HARBAUGH RECRUITED…
Taysom Hill, now BYU Heisman candidate. Alum96 previews the Cougars as a bellwether for the 2015 season.
A TIME WHEN MICHIGAN RAN, AND WE THREW.
Okay, I'm now old enough that people old enough to be classified as adults ask questions about history that I was a part of. This one wanted to know why we threw white goods.
These things were separate, non-overlapping traditions. I was too young to throw a toilet paper roll before they banned that, but was old enough to see it happen and want to try it SOOO BAD. The TP was because touchdowns were rare and worthy of an ad-hoc ticker-tape celebration; the ban was probably wise since cleaning it up, especially on wetter days, led to long, boring delays.
The marshmallows were nicked from other stadiums c.1989, and were still a big thing when I was a student in 98-'01. We mostly threw them at each other, but there were mini-games like trying to get one in opponent bands' sousaphones or the TV crews' parabolic microphones, or lobbing one right in front of their cameras.
There's your act of rebellion if you're looking for one. Remember, even into the 1980s a lot of games weren't televised. Michigan was proud to be on TV way more than most, but every concession made to commercials was resented in the stadium.
But really there was no good reason for the mallows except they're soft and throwable and students like to act goofy. When they installed the field turf in 2003 Lloyd personally asked the students to stop and that was their end. Traditions give college football its all-important flavor, but these traditions were probably not worth the pain they caused for the stadium crews.
I told you: I don't take vacations. Now show me where you keep these fullbacks they say can also play a 4-4 defense?
Etc. What would you do with a very large bowl? Art Vuolo: y'all should know, though. GR360. A guy who does strength coaching on Drake Johnson's ACL. David Brandon was (gasp) wrong about what students want at a football game (hint: it's not better cell coverage).
Your Moment of Zen:
Keep watching and the Glee Club of '84 sings an interesting rendition of Ohio State's alma mater.
Ondre Pipkins already announced he was out, but with Harbaugh asserting he was still on scholarship and would be this fall there was some uncertainty about what would happen. No longer:
Former Michigan DL Ondre Pipkins said he’ll transfer to Texas Tech, sit out this season and play in 2016.
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) July 17, 2015
Michigan now has another slot to give a walk-on this fall, or they could bring in at fifth-year wide receiver. The latter seems a little far fetched this deep into the offseason.
|Lakeland, FL – 6'3", 225|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#27 SDE, #69 FL
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#58 DE, #106 FL
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#66 SDE, #187 FL
|Other Suitors||Nebraska, MSU, UL, Iowa|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Invented a sandwich. Thinks you should call Tyree Kinnel CHOPMAN.|
The other Florida defensive end in this recruiting class is a trivia answer now and endeavors to become something more than that: Reuben Jones was the First Harbaugh Commit.
It's rash to project program qualities from one coach's take on one recruit, but let's do it anyway. Jones is the kind of guy Harbaugh's going after, because this Rivals article with his coach reveals that…
"Sometimes his desire to be challenged drove me crazy as a football coach. There were some classes that he was taking and he was so locked into his honors classes and AP courses that he'd stay up to 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning to take care of homework and deal with everything in his life. Some of the AP classes were really kicking his butt but he would never get out of them.
"We talked to his mom and he was adamant that he was going to stay in those classes. Once his senior year rolled around he got out of the AP classes and hung in there with the honors classes to make it a little easier on him. His big thing is that he just loves a challenge. He wants to be challenged in everything he does. You can't tell Reuben that he can't do something. He will work hard enough to make sure to show you that he can do it."
…Jones is crazy like Harbaugh. Like Keith Washington, this is a recruit who does not have fancy stars. He does have the approval of Bo Pelini, Mark Dantonio, and Jim Harbaugh—all guys who know a defensive end when they see one. The scouting below is not going to be enthralling, but keep that in mind before you get too down.
Jones burst on to the scene through sheer chance. He grabbed a Rivals camp invite because it was going on at his high school and made the most of his opportunity, blowing through every offensive lineman put opposite him. Rivals ranked him just below five star Byron Cowart on the day and he nailed down his first offers. Analyst Woody Womack on his performance:
"We really liked him, especially in a camp setting because he's so fast off the ball. He's long and lean, and really gives bigger slower guys a hard time with explosion off the edge. In a camp setting, he doesn't lose many reps at all."
That made him into a high major recruit, albeit not a highly touted one. He did lock down two offers from teams you may be familiar with, eventually committing to Nebraska over Michigan State in November. That was just two weeks before Bo Pelini was controversially axed. He was not shy when asked to react:
"I've called players on the team, I've called recruits and we're all talking about what we're going to do," he said. "A lot of guys are saying they want to open up their recruitment. Nebraska is probably going to lose this class because they don't know what they're doing."
He put himself back on the market shortly thereafter, coming up with the most reasonable "committed but looking" explanation in the history of the genre:
Jones was asked if he still wants to be listed as a commitment to Nebraska and he replied: "Yeah, as of right now. Because I don't want to de-commit and be looking crazy if I end up going to Nebraska."
Michigan got in touch through DJ Durkin, he visited, he flipped, and Harbaugh had his first commit.
In Jones, Michigan has acquired another defensive end they'll have to put a bunch of weight on and then see what they've got. Usually such prospects come with universal praise about their explosiveness because that's what gets an undersized guy major college looks. In Jones's case the scouting is more mixed. On the one hand, here's a scouting report from a Nebraska site after his commit:
Jones off of the edge can just get up the field faster than the offensive tackle can kickstep and just runs around the lineman. You see the speed when he shoots the C gap and again when he lines up at the three and basically comes free (running back tries to pick him up).
And ESPN's evaluation is one of those that strenuously disagrees with its ranking of "generic three star":
We see a prospect with tight space and change of direction mobility; does an outstanding job of pursuing the football. … can play with strength at the point of attack, shedding blockers, fighting pressure and working back to the football; this guy doesn't get stuck on blocks. … dominant pass rusher with the explosive first step needed to get even and blow pass offensive tackles; plays with a low center of gravity which allows him to squeeze the top of the pocket. Displays the straight on power needed to knock blockers back on their heels; combines active feet and hand quickness to change up and work back to the inside when seemingly stymied.
On the other, 247's Clint Brewster:
Not the most fleet-footed but Jones has solid straight-line speed down the field. …not much finesse in his game or pure athleticism or lateral agility. More of a heavy-footed guy. … Very solid burst off the ball and can explode through the quarterback or ball carriers. Excellent tenacity. … plays with outstanding toughness and finds a way to win against the offensive tackle.
I am not a scout but I watched the Hudl film in an effort to have an opinion on this divide. I come down on the more reserved end of the spectrum. Jones does have some burst, but even in the highlights it seems like the tackle has coped with it and will push Jones wide of the pocket. His hits and sacks off the edge rush usually come in situations where his pursuit and motor become relevant.
Jones does have a surprising ability to hold up in the run game, something that an opposing coach highlighted in a Tim Sullivan article:
"He was very, very physical at defensive end. He plays the run very well but he has the great speed off the edge. A lot of times we'd double-team him with a tight end or an h-back.
"He doesn't get blown off the ball. He's very explosive and very strong even when getting double teamed. He's going to hold his ground on the line of scrimmage and you are going to have to try and get around him but that's where his quickness comes in. He's tough to handle."
It was odd watching a 220 pound DE prospect and being considerably more impressed by his work as a DT, but here we are.
Jones is going to be an excellent early indicator of Harbaugh's ability to find and develop talent. This is a thing he is excellent at doing, and other than the AP classes the most impressive thing on his resume is the attention he drew from guys who have made three-star DEs into killers.
Reuben Jones is one of those guys that you'll be watching on Saturday and the announcer says, "wonder how this guy got out of Florida".
— Josh Newberg (@joshnewberg247) January 24, 2015
There's work to do here, as Jones told Sam Webb that he's currently 225 and that:
"I’m not looking to try to get a lot bigger, just trying to get a lot faster while I’m here, get a lot quicker. I’m probably going to be at 230 or 232 something like that. Right now, they say I have a great possibility of playing early. ”
That is what they tell all the girls who want to play DL at 230. It's going to be some time before we see what the finished product here is; Jones and Harbaugh and Mattison should combine to make it whatever the best finished product can be.
"He kind of reminds me of Mike Martin. Not like his body-type or anything, but he reminds me so much of him in terms of his motor and work ethic. He's the kind of kid that every coach should have."
Jones recorded 71 tackles and 10 sacks last season as a senior at Lake Gibson, and finished with 27 1/2 sacks during his varsity career.
Why Mario Ojemudia? Explosive but undersized defensive end who needs to add a lot of weight to be plausible and may top out around 250. Jones, like Ojemudia, spent a significant amount of time in high school playing a DT spot. Both were ranked as three stars because of questions about their size. Ojemudia's high school film was a lot more impressive, but Jones is probably playing against better players.
Craig Roh is another potential comparable. Roh was a much bigger recruit but did not live up to that hype. After he stopped bouncing around to linebacker—which was depressing for him and us—and found a place on the defensive line he rounded into a solid run-stopping end. Heady and high motor are two attributes you could apply to both players.
Guru Reliability: High-minus. Healthy guy playing approximately his spot. Didn't go to camps much and will have to put on some weight.
Variance: Moderate. He'll probably work out in some form; he probably won't be an electric star.
Ceiling: Moderate. Size will be an issue and doesn't seem to have the kind of explosiveness that would help mitigate that.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Jones seems like a good bet to be a contributor and maybe a starter. Hard to see a star, but Harbaugh's made hay with these kinds of dudes before.
Projection: I keep saying redshirt redshirt redshirt and Jones is another guy you'd figure is in line for one at 225 or 230. After either a redshirt or sparing time this year, Jones will be in the mixer at WDE (or "buck") and maybe SAM if he ends up Jake Ryan-ish. With Lawrence Marshall and probably Taco Charlton in front of him it'll be year three before Michigan will be banking of Jones to deliver.