"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
Michigan offered Elkton (MD) Eastern Christian Academy teammates Freddy Canteen (WR/SLOT) and Brandon Watson (CB) during their technique camp a couple weeks ago, and this morning the duo decided to accept, becoming the 12th and 13th commits in the 2014 class.
We'll start with Canteen, whose commitment—and, in retrospect, original offer—signals bad news for anyone holding out hope of Michigan landing Top-100 FL WR Artavis Scott, who announces this week at The Opening (likely for Clemson). While losing out on Scott would obviously be bad news, Canteen is not some cheap consolation prize — as you'll see below, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that he's poised for a leap up the rankings.
I'm moving this section up to the top because it'll help explain everything below. I'll also be lazy and blockquote what I posted in a previous recruiting roundup:
Both prospects attend Elkton (MD) Eastern Christian Academy, which is essentially this sport's answer to hoops factory Oak Hill Academy—the academy itself is built entirely around the football program and attendees take their coursework through a larger online program. Their quarterback is David Sills, whom you may remember as the (then-)13-year-old who committed to USC, and now you exactly why USC offered such a player so early: his father, David Sills IV, is the founder of ECA. The program only played three games in 2012, as five opponents cancelled planned matchups, so what you see above—serious technique work (that's Canteen talking at the start of the video)—is what largely constituted their season, and now they're hitting the camp circuit very hard.
As ECA coach Dwayne Thomas explained to ESPN's Chantel Jennings after his players' commitments this morning, their under-the-radar status can be attributed to factors even beyond the lack of a real season last year:
So while the headquarters for Eastern Christian Academy is in Maryland, the two boys are actually from Delaware, which has been a reason why the two prospects haven’t had a ton of attention, according to their coach.
“Being that we’re from Delaware, a lot of coaches don’t get a chance to see them in the spring because there is no spring football,” Thomas said. “So as they get out and get to camps, schools get a chance to see what their talent is.”
Camps have been the only real chance these players have had to get themselves noticed, what with the mostly-cancelled season and no spring ball.
|Scout||Rivals||ESPN||247 Sports||247 Comp.|
|3*, #80 WR||4*, #43 WR||NR WR||3*, 86, #103 WR||
3*, #69 WR,
The rankings for Canteen are all over the place for now. Rivals has him just within four-star range (the #48 WR, PSU commit Chris Godwin, is the last four-star at the position). Scout and 247 have him well outside of four-star range, while ESPN hasn't got around to ranking him yet.
There's also disparity regarding Canteen's height: Rivals lists him at 6'3", while the other three services peg him at 6'0" or 6'1", with all four listing him around 170-175 pounds. Reports out of Michigan's camp suggest Rivals may be giving him a couple extra inches — onlookers posited that he's in the 6'0" range.
What do you do when your team doesn't really play a season? If you're ECA, apparently work on technique. A lot. The captivating video of ECA players going through footwork drills has made the rounds in this space; here's a sampling (Canteen is the guy going through on his own):
Once you've broken out of your trance, you may go "wow, that guy has really quick feet," and you would be right. It's near-impossible to come across an evaluation of Canteen that doesn't mention his excellent route-running. Here's Adam Friedman on Canteen's performance at an April Rivals camp in New Jersey ($):
There may not have been a better route-runner on the field than Canteen. If he gets a clean release from the line, the defensive backs were rarely able to catch up and make a play on the ball. One of the things that stood out about Canteen was his explosiveness out of his breaks. One multiple occasions, Canteen fooled the defensive back with a hitch-and-go route and ending up with a wide open touchdown catch. Two things Canteen can work on are breaking press coverage and getting stronger so that he doesn't get bumped off his route.
247's Tom Loy from a Pennsylvania 7-on-7 tourney, also in April of this year ($):
Sills and Canteen connected often during this weekend. The 6-foot-0, 175-pound receiver was very difficult to defend and his routes were some of the best out of the entire camp. Canteen did plenty of talking on both days, but he backed it up every time.
Unnamed Rivals evaluator from the same tournament ($):
Canteen got the job done on both sides of the ball during the tournament. During the first day, he was one of the defensive leaders as his Flash Training squad did not allow a score. On Day 2 during the playoffs, Canteen excelled in finding openings across the middle and his impressive route running was highlighted by a few double moves that led to easy scores.
Canteen's high school coach:
“Freddy Canteen is, in my opinion, the best route runner in the country. I think every camp that he goes to, people get a chance to find that out,” Thomas said.
I think you get the picture. Canteen's slight frame means he has trouble getting off the line against more physical corners—adding strength, as with all recruits, is a big priority—but if he gets into his route cleanly, it's very difficult to stick to him in the open field.
While his route-running gets most of the attention, Canteen reportedly has a good pair of hands, too. Scout's Brian Dohn praised his catching at the NLA 7-on-7 tourney in April ($)...
Canteen is smooth and quick, and he got out of breaks quickly. ECA is usually a well-drilled 7-on-7 squad, so the ball is shared a lot. But when Canteen was given a chance, he got open and made several nice catches, including a beautiful one in the corner of the end zone in which he was pushed and still got his foot down and secured the catch. If ECA’s season didn’t end in the first month last year, Canteen would easily be a double-digit offer player.
...and again at last month's IMG 7-on-7 regional ($):
Canteen, who said Rutgers is his leader, may have been hurt more than anyone by ECA’s season being suspended last year after three games because he would likely be sitting on a ton of offers. Canteen is smooth, and comes out of breaks well. He also showed good hands once again.
Note that Dohn is very much among those saying Canteen should have a higher recruiting profile — that may signal a future jump in his ranking on Scout.
As for Canteen's speed, Rutgers' Rivals outlet was very impressed with that facet of his game after the aforementioned New Jersey camp ($):
Freddy Canteen - Eastern Christian Academy (Md.)
Canteen may be a little slight of build but he makes up for it in speed. He can cover a lot of ground in a hurry and had no trouble getting separation on deep routes. Canteen is a definite home run threat, who proved he could go deep on the best defensive backs at the camp.
Canteen also showed he takes well to coaching at Michigan's camp, according to GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
Still developing from a technique standpoint with his hands, something that can be said for all high school wide outs, Canteen took some coaching and implemented it right away in the top group for the afternoon 1-on-1’s, blowing by corners attempting to press, sprinting across the field on quick slants. Canteen is around 6-0 and has the frame to add some muscle but maintain that speed of his, undoubtedly earning his Michigan offer and one of the true highlights on day three at camp.
Finally, 247's Clint Brewster evaluated some of Canteen's film and came away with a couple areas for improvement ($):
Canteen has excellent footwork at the line of scrimmage and can get past bump-and-run coverage. He has very good body control and does a nice job of adjusting to the ball when it’s in the air. Canteen isn’t afraid to go over the middle on square-ins or drag patterns. After the catch, Canteen shows he can make defenders miss and get positive yards. Canteen shows great effort to block in the run game, but it is not a strongpoint for him. Canteen has good short area quickness but not great overall speed.
It's not a surprise to see Canteen's blocking isn't at a high level given his frame; the comment about his speed is in direct conflict with other reports, worth noting considering the lack of exposure and extensive game film. Given that Brewster's evaluation is based on a short video clip, while the others are in-person reports, in my (admittedly biased) mind the reports that he has impressive speed carry more weight.
At worst, Michigan appears to have a very solid slot candidate — with his route-running acumen, Canteen is an ideal type of receiver to have operating in the middle of the field. If he's a home run threat on top of that, he could be very productive. Strength, obviously, is something he'll have to work on.
Michigan was Canteen's most prestigious offer; he also held offers from UConn, Hawaii, Maryland, Rutgers, Temple, and Tennessee. The Vols, like the Wolverines, offered Canteen after seeing him camp at their school, so Michigan's coaches weren't the only high-profile staff impressed by his talent in person.
According to his Scout profile, Canteen caught six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in ECA's three games last fall.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists a 4.43-second 40 time, which is elite-level speed if that's an electronic time. I can't find the source of that time on Google; while it sounds like Canteen is quite fast indeed, that time gets three FAKEs out of five.
As you can imagine, there isn't much video out there on Canteen. Here's an interview with a few clips from a NUC camp back in 2011:
And I can't resist posting the entrancing footwork video again:
There are also a couple short cut-ups from 2011 on Canteen's Hudl page. Here's hoping ECA plays a full season this fall so he can put together a real highlight video.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Canteen is going to have a real chance to see the field early. When he gets to campus, only 2013 signee Da'Mario Jones is projected to be on the roster at slot receiver, and those two should battle it out to replace Drew Dileo in 2014.
It's impossible to make any sort of prediction about Canteen's potential impact without relying entirely on camp reports and the like, so I won't bother. If he's the speedy technician he's made out to be above, however, then I think the Wolverines got a major steal here.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
As I said in the intro, Canteen's commitment is another sign that Michigan won't be landing Artavis Scott this week; given Scott's accelerated timeline after visiting Clemson, this was assumed anyway. The Wolverines could be done at receiver, especially with four-star K.J. Williams leaning towards Syracuse, or they may add one more if the numbers allow.
Needs in the class going forward include one more offensive lineman (probably a tackle), a couple defensive linemen (you all know the main targets there), another linebacker, and safety.
The narrative so far:
- Aug. 31: Moments prior to kickoff, Brian Cook tweets. I predict he uses the words “student” and “section.”
- Sept. 7: A million years from now, astronomers will observe the sudden appearance of a football in a void. They will have only milliseconds to identify it as the one last seen leaving Tommy Rees’s hands in the year 2013 before it explodes.
- Sept. 14: I am strongly reminded of my lab work, the part where I rip testicles out of fruit flies.
- Sept. 21: Michigan’s steady run offense wins the game in the same manner that a steady drip of water wears through rock.
- Sept. 28: BYE.
- Oct. 5: Michigan debuts the pistol formation and wastes the surprise on Minnesota.
Raise your hand if you thought Penn State was going to miss their bowl game after starting the 2012 season 0-2, losing to Ohio and Virginia.
Do you see what I did there?
Sorry. Horrible, horrible, I know. For real, though, raise your hand if you thought Penn State was going to recover from those losses and end up 8-4 with an OT victory over Wisconsin. Yeah, that’s nobody. The Nittany Lions’ quick turnaround was pretty impressive considering all the negativity from the Worst Offseason Ever. And they did it the old-fashioned way, by playing smart and efficient football and by developing and motivating players to replace the ones who jumped ship.
Unfortunately, while a winning season and a degree of recruiting success marked a promising start to the Bill O'Brien era, nothing will change the fact that Winter Is Coming.
That actually makes Penn State a really intriguing team to follow over the next few years. No major college team has been struck down this heavily by sanctions while still being allowed to play football. What’s the protocol for recruiting, developing players, and game planning when figuratively you’re going to be short a pint of blood at every phase compared with your competition? I’m kind of curious to see whether this kind of stress will force that staff to invent new strategies that could potentially revolutionize how a college football program is run.
Either way, if Bill O’Brien sticks out his tenure in Happy Valley -- not a given, since he interviewed with NFL teams after last season and declined their offers only because he didn’t want to be “one-and-done” kind of guy -- and has decent success, i.e. a winning record in conference games, Penn State will be back by the end of the decade and in much better shape than it was before the “penn state awful thing” tag was ever created.
O'Brien / Brady.
If you want to know how much better Penn State’s passing offense was after O’Brien started coaching, you only need to take a look at Matt McGloin’s 2012 stat line:
That’s a former walk-on going ham after his team got scuttled by mass transfers following the NCAA penalties.
Compare that to how Tom Brady did in 2011 when O’Brien was New England’s offensive coordinator:
Great. Given the admittedly short but nonetheless impressive track record of turning a so-so passer into one performing on the level of a three-time Superbowl-winning QB (okay maybe not that dramatic, but still pretty good), I think it’s pretty safe to expect that whoever takes the reins of the Nittany Lions offense this season will do pretty well. Eventually, at least.
That guy will probably be incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg, who was ranked the top pro-style passer in his class above Michigan’s Shane Morris. If he doesn’t win the job immediately, he’ll at least be seeing the field by the end of season and fighting for playing time with JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson, who has gotten only lukewarm reviews so far.
The QB battle will be interesting to watch, but I don't think Michigan needs to worry much. The Mathlete has already reassured us that true freshmen generally suck, and it won’t help that O’Brien’s system is reportedly so complex a caveman couldn’t do it. Ferguson has been on campus for a semester and is still struggling, so I wouldn’t expect either to dazzle anyone until late in the season, if at all.
Let's hope I'm right, because aside from the QB the rest of the offense is pretty loaded. WR Allen Robinson, who led the Big Ten in receiving yards last year (77 rec, 1013 yards, 11 TDs), will be a nice, experienced target to throw to. At 6-3, 200-lbs with decent speed, he’s a guy Borges would want wearing a winged helmet.
And he’s not the only downfield weapon Penn State has in the passing game, nor the most terrifying. While the other wideouts are pretty so-so, the tight ends will be a unit to watch out for, particularly with O’Brien, famous for the two-TE monstrosity he perfected at New England, calling plays. Sophomore TE Jesse James exploded towards the end of his freshman campaign with 15 catches for 276 yards and five touchdowns. The former 19th century train robber is a lot like Devin Funchess, except two inches taller (6-7) and 30 pounds heavier (260 lbs). Okay so he’s nothing like Funchess. Let’s call him “Gronk.”
To complement him, the Lions have a slightly smaller guy in Junior TE Kyle “Aaron Hernandez minus the murder” Carter, who was the team’s second-leading pass catcher with 36 receptions for 453 yards and 2 TDs before missing the last four games of the season with a wrist injury.
I’m a scurred, but not because the guy I compared you to has been killing dudes, allegedly.
The passing game has a lot of potential, but realizing it will depend on how quickly the QB can learn the system. That guy will probably have plenty of time to take chances, get messy, and make mistakes without too much detriment, though, because hey, look, a running game.
If you ignore the shuffling, the offensive line basically returns everyone except for center. They weren’t great last year (not that I watched them a whole lot, but there were grumblings about their run blocking ability), but continuity is never a bad thing.
So we can probably expect a lot of production from their running backs. Junior Zach Zwinak was a nice surprise after the Silas Redd transfer -- he averaged 4.9 yards a carry and broke 1000 yards, ain’t no thang -- and makes me wonder why Michigan can’t have nice things when teams that shouldn’t be able to have nice things have them. At 6-1, 240 pounds, Zwinak makes Brady Hoke wonder the same thing.
As a bigger dude, Zwinak is fairly similar to Iowa’s Mark Weisman, who converted from fullback, was really hard to bring down -- just ask James Ross -- and had surprising speed. Unlike Iowa, however, Penn State also has a couple smaller, shiftier backs that may see signifcant playing time this year. No, they are not like Danny Woodhead.
Outrunning Penn State linebackers is probably the better way to go.
Coaching-wise, I don’t know. John Butler was promoted to defensive coordinator over the offseason after Ted Roof left for Georgia Tech. Previously he coached DBs, and before that he was doing a lot of special teams all over the place.
Butler doesn't have many laurels to rest on, so consider this season to be somewhat of an extended job interview for him. It won’t help that all the stars from last year are gone: LBs Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, and DT Jordan Hill. They led the team emotionally and in tackles. Hill in particular was instrumental (12 tackles, 2 sacks) in their OT win against Wisconsin to end the season.
That’s not to say the cupboard is bare, though. Plenty of starters return, and the recruiting implosion from the sanctions is only just beginning to nip at the Lions' depth. If Butler can coach, the Penn State defense shouldn’t backslide too dramatically. If he can’t … kerplunk.
The guy who will anchor the defensive effort and be a huge pain in the backfield will probably be LB Glenn Carson. At 6-3, 235 lbs, he played SAM next to Mauti and Hodges last year. This year he’ll probably slide inside. He was an active presence (85 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 sack) last year and is relatively unknown only because he was overshadowed by his more decorated cohorts.
At the WILL, the Nittany Lions will probably go with 6-0, 225-lb Mike Hull (58 tackles, 5 TFLs, 4 sacks), who got a lot playing time back up Mauti and getting some starts after Mauti’s injury. A redshirt freshman and a sophomore, both undersized, will probably duke it out for SAM. I’m guessing that’s going to be a soft spot for Linebacker U.
The defensive line will be comprised mostly new starters, and none that you’ll recognize unless you’ve been actively following Penn State football, in which case good for you. Wait -- here’s a name you might recognize, and not in the good way: Anthony Zettel. Remember him? Well, he’s not starting, but he’ll be backing up fellow sophomore DE Deion Barnes, who for all intents and purposes has that spot locked down with a 2012 stat line of 25 tackles, 10 TFLs, and 6 sacks. Zettel collected 15 tackles and 4 sacks of his own last season as a situational guy, but is on the outside looking in and probably will stay that way unless he switches positions. Penn Shtaaate.
On the interior, The Nittany Lions have converted DaQuan Jones, a 6-3, 330-lb former offensive lineman, to play tackle (probably nose) and Austin Johnson, a 6-4 310-lb former offensive lineman, to play the other tackle position. Sweet. C.J. Olaniyan (15 tackles, 1 sack) is the other defensive end. Nothing to see here. Move along.
The secondary returns three starters. They were okay last year and look to continue to be okay this year. Behind them are a bunch of guys that decommitted and went to Ohio State or Michigan instead. Secondarymaggedon, man. Never forget.
This team is kind of like: A blinking fuel light 100 miles from the nearest gas station.
Vs. Michigan: Well. A lot of things can happen between now and Oct. 12. I know that’s a stupid thing to say, but here’s what I mean: both teams are evenly matched now, but it’s a very unstable equilibrium.
While both teams meet at roughly the same place in terms of overall talent and depth, Michigan is on the upswing from its own tumultuous coaching changes. Penn State is dropping. Michigan has a lot more potential to develop in its young, inexperienced players. We’re waiting to see if any of the rookies or players returning from injury can exceed expectations: Derrick Green, the sophomore receivers, the interior O-line, Blake Countess, Jake Ryan’s replacement, Jake Ryan when he returns … Penn State needs to milk every last ounce of production from its veterans because Winter Is Coming and won’t be bringing in a whole lot of warm bodies. My feeling is that they aren’t waiting for guys to blow up so much as just praying that they’re viable.
Yes, that’s just a circuitous way to say I’m going to punt on any sort of prediction.
Due to conflicting allegiances, I don't know how to feel about this photo.
What will be exciting about this game is the O’Brien vs. Mattison matchup. As you may know, O’Brien was hired by the Patriots around the same time Mattison went to Baltimore. While O’Brien wasn’t officially New England’s offensive coordinator until 2011, after Mattison came to Michigan, he was Tom Brady’s QB coach as well as official “play-caller,” whatever that means.
Over the three year stretch that both were at their respective NFL teams, the Patriots and Ravens split pretty evenly in the win-loss category. Interestingly, the box scores suggest that the New England O vs. Baltimore D battle usually ended in Baltimore’s favor. Specifically, the Pats were nowhere near as prolific as they were against other teams and often struggled horrifically on third down.
I’m sure that’s usually what happens when Ray Lewis is on your team, but it’s a promising sign.
- Aug. 31, Syracuse
- Sept. 7, EMU
- Sept. 14, UCF
- Sept. 21, Kent State
- Sept. 28, BYE
- Oct. 5, @ Indiana
- Oct. 12, Michigan
- Oct. 19, BYE
- Oct. 26, @OSU
- Nov. 2, Illinois
- Nov. 9, @Minnesota
- Nov. 16, Purdue
- Nov. 23, Nebraska
- Nov. 30, @Wisconsin
Wins: Syracuse, EMU, UCF, Kent State, @Indiana, Illinois, @Minnesota, Purdue
Flip of a biased coin: Michigan, Nebraska, @Wisconsin
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch.
|Parker, CO – 6'6", 297|
4*, #118 overall
4*, #142 overall
4*, #134 overall
4*, #137 overall
OSU, FSU, MSU, Iowa, Mizzou
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post.|
Army game, but did not play due to ACL tear. Twitter.
At this point you can probably recite this bit with your eyes closed: OFFENSIVE LINEMAN SIGNEE X is huge, agile, and one mean sumbitch on the field, whereas off the field he rescues kittens from nefarious, head-tilting Ohio State fans; he got four stars from every recruiting service as a result; Michigan got him over an Ohio State or Alabama offer; he's about 6'5" and could play inside or out because he has the feet of a tackle and a guard's hatred of anything in pads.
What can I say? Chris Fox fits the mold. He says so himself.
“I am the meanest player you will ever meet” Fox said confidently. “That’s the way I play. I just play mean. You go into beast mode with good technique—you’re dominant.”
Everyone agreed to the point where his ratings are downright creepily in sync: all four services ranked him in a range from 118 to 142nd nationally. He was considerably higher to start, but kids in Colorado kind of get lost in the shuffle and Fox blew out his knee late in his high school season, so he couldn't get in any face time in front of scouts at the All Star things. The drop is both reasonable and perhaps not indicative of Fox's talent level.
Meanwhile, I should take quotes from all these articles and see if anyone can figure out who they're talking about other than Logan Tuley-Tillman. Cue coach:
"When he's out there, he really wants to dominate. I mean dominate," Murphy said. "So, if he can put you on your back and make sure you know who put you there, that's what he's going to do. And he does it a lot. We're talking pancake blocks. I wouldn't want to be a defensive lineman, man, I really would not.”
"The thing that most people have told me that stands out the most is how physical he is," Huff said. "He really is trying to destroy people when he hits them. He's not just a big body. He's a real football player for sure."
Scout's Brandon Huffman:
“…once he puts those pads on, he transforms into this angry guy. He is very nasty. He is a real physical kid. He won’t play after the whistle but will play up until that whistle stops blowing. He’s got more of that guard mentality. He would much rather scrape it up with defensive tackle then a speed guy on the edge. He’s also very technically sound. He’s very fundamentally sound. He has great bend. He’s got great hand placement."
…physical and aggressive O-line prospect … He has good height, looks to have a solidly built frame and displays very good upper and lower body strength. He displays the ability to quickly get out of his stance and into defenders, and can deliver a good initial pop on contact. Flashes the ability to engage with good hip roll and drive defenders off the ball with sustained leg drive. … Displays good feet and can react to and handle quick movement. ... A tenacious blocker who looks to finish and bury opponents. In pass protection, he uses hands well and can deliver a good punch. He is able to maintain a good base and shadow rushers.
Pad level tut-tutting is present, as always. They project him to right tackle with possibilities at guard.
Unlike Bosch, Fox showed out at a number of camps as a rising senior. At the Top Gun thingy he was a cut above the rest of the OL along with ND commits John Montelus and Steve Elmer, a "very solid all-around prospect" who settled in at right tackle:
…Fox worked almost exclusively at right tackle on Friday, and looked comfortable in that spot. He could also be of service at the guard position in college, but right tackle appears to be his best position. Fox used his strength to dominate most defensive ends he went against on Friday, but he also showed quick feet in handling speed rushers. The only times he got caught was when a rush end would make a second move across his face, but after getting beat early he corrected that and never let it happen the rest of the day.
…a massive player with a solid base, and despite that mass, he moves very well. He's already built like a college lineman, and has time to add strength before contributing in college - even though he probably doesn't need to. Fox was one of the few players to win a rep against 2014's top player, Da'Shawn Hand, and was not soundly beat on any rep.
Rivals put him on their "All Lobby Team," noting his massiveness again and calling him a 300-pounder with little bad weight. Also, uh:
There seems to be toughness inherent in the way he's built physically.
I'm not sure how that works but okay.
Fox was an excellent example of what camps are useful for these days. Michigan actually offered him at the 2011 edition of the same—ie, basically at the same point they offered John Runyan Jr.—and impressed him enough that he pulled the trigger on last year's Ace-murdering Commitmas. By the time his recruiting year rolled around Michigan had already done the work to snatch him away from OSU.
One reason Michigan could do that is Fox was already enormous as a sophomore, when a CU evaluator called him "just huge" and projected he would play at a "darn good 330" en route to rapture and an eyebrow-cocking comparison:
… an athlete for a big man his age and his size--moves well, flexible, is a big time knee bender, and he is a mauler - loves contact - not afraid to mix it up but athletic enough to shut down Stephen Gibson when he tried some moves and speed rushes at CU's camp. Fox plays with a level of violence and passion you don't see very often in high school offensive linemen. It's a beautiful thing to watch. …
Most like: Jake Long
Fox doesn't seem to have added any height since then, which makes him a bit less of a Long comparable. As mentioned above, he's being projected at right tackle with sprinklings of guard:
…we think he projects best on the interior of the line. He’s a physical and nasty player who moves well in space. He’s very athletic for a big man, has a great frame, plays with a motor and has a great upside to him.
Michigan will throw Bosch, Dawson, and Fox into a blender; all will work at both tackle and guard and a couple will end up being designated sixth and seventh OLs no matter who goes down. Versatility is a theme here: other than Tuley-Tillman, everyone profiled so far has the ability to play inside and out. Think of the OL roster going forward as centers (Miller, Kugler, probably Bars), left tackles (LTT, Braden, Magnuson), and other.
Also as mentioned, Fox tore his ACL and missed his All-Star game appearance. He should be rehabbed for fall practice, not that it will matter for a guy almost certain to redshirt. For what it's worth, the ACL issue was not as clean as, say, mine:
“I have a torn ACL and a double torn meniscus on my left knee,” Fox said. “It was the last game of the season. We were up by big. I was just running down field blocking a kid. I just twisted up on it weird and heard it pop three times. That’s it.”
Google says that adding torn menisci to an ACL issue is fairly common in contact sports and not an enormous extra burden on the injured player. A lot of OL retire with knee issues, though, and when you're as massive as Fox is the stress on that joint is severe. It'll be something to watch going forward.
Etc.: Will look like UltraPicard by his senior year.
"He's pretty much a puppy dog off the field," said Mark Murphy, Ponderosa's offensive coordinator. “He really is, which is cool.”
Coach, tell me about the pattern:
"He has a lot of compassion for people and he has a heart bigger than his body," Huff said. "He really is a great person and I think that comes from mom and dad. Once you get to know them they really are special people. You just don't see it very often.
"His athletic ability, his size and strength and his passion from snap to whistle is pretty impressive, too."
Why John Runyan? Runyan is the prototypical grinding, driving Michigan right tackle. Runyan has an inch or two on Fox—listed at 6'7" most places—but Fox should get up into his weight range if the evaluators are correct. Runyan is also from a time before recruiting rankings were a thing.
Downside here is a Rueben Riley type of tackle that's more a guard out of position, but if that's the case he'll just play guard because someone else will be a better fit outside.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Consensus, some camps, but hard to judge against Colorado competition. Late injury both adds variance and prevented evaluators from adding an All Star appearance to their opinions.
Variance: High. While he doesn't have that much weight to add, his high school competition wasn't great and the ACL tear is a potential setback. It should be fine, sure, but should does not equal "will."
Ceiling: High-minus. It seems like Fox is the other designated tackle in the class; it also seems like he is not a prospective LT and may be a better fit at guard. Otherwise, hoorah.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Unlike a couple other guys in the class who seem like exceptions to the "OL are hard to project" meme, Fox is right in the heart of big guys with potential who may never be heard from again. See "variance." Still, when Chris Fox is the guy you're fifth-most excited about in a recruiting class, yeah buddy.
Projection: Is OL, redshirt.
After, MEAT FOR THE MEAT GOD. I don't favor him to win the coming tackle battle since Magnuson will have a year on him and Tuley-Tillman six months plus however much weight room stuff the ligament tear is going to force Fox to miss, but yadda yadda OL are weird anything can happen multiple huge angry mean streak bullets equals pretty damn good line by 2015 at the latest. Meat for the meat god.
I'm beginning this draft on Thursday morning, and four-star IL OL Jamarco Jones is scheduled to choose between Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State at 2 pm. It doesn't seem like any insiders have a great feel for his destination, but the general consensus is that it's unlikely to be Michigan. This means a head-to-head loss against either MSU or OSU; you can decide for yourselves which one of those is the least undesirable scenario.
PRE-POST UPDATE: It's Ohio State, as most everyone predicted. This is certainly a tough loss for Michigan, though it's worse for MSU, which needs more depth—not to mention high-end talent—on the offensive line. If you still need to feel better (and you might before the end of this section), there's always being Not Illinois:
BREAKING: A top recruit in the state of Illinois commits to a school outside the state of Illinois
— TheChampaignRoom.com (@Champaign_Room) June 27, 2013
[insert Tim Beckman derp face here]
Meanwhile, the tide appears to have shifted dramatically in the recruitment of FL WR Artavis Scott, who said this after a return visit to Clemson last weekend, per Rivals ($)...
So, which school is recruiting him the hardest to ensure they get an official visit?
"Clemson. I'm building a great relationship with Coach [Tony] Elliott and Coach [Jeff] Scott. When I'm there I talk to Coach [Dabo] Swinney and guys like Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. They tell me how it is and my bond is growing with Clemson," stated Scott.
...then promptly moved up his decision timeline:
— Brian Stumpf (@Stumpf_Brian) June 26, 2013
The Opening starts on Sunday, though Scott's announcement will likely come later in the event, which runs through next Wednesday. Regardless of when he makes the call, it's a bad sign that Scott suddenly decided to announce (1) on the heels of a Clemson visit and (2) before a planned trip to the BBQ at the Big House. For his part, though, Scott is at least keeping up the appearance of being undecided:
This is probably the hardest decision I've ever had to make
— DÂ_GRËÂT7 (@tayscott7) June 27, 2013
It should come down to Michigan and Clemson; the Tigers appear to have the edge.
Scott's five-star 2015 teammate, ATH George Campbell, told Scout's Amy Campbell that he still wants to visit for the BBQ with Scott and commit Mason Cole, but he's unsure it it'll happen—though it appears this depends more on Cole's plans than Scott's ($). Campbell also mentions plans for a return trip to Clemson, saying "it's basically family," so... crap. Projections have quickly shifted from Michigan potentially getting all three of the East Lake trio to just the one they have in hand.
To keep the good vibes going, Tim Sullivan caught up with CA CB Adoree' Jackson; recent buzz surrounding Jackson and Michigan has been quite positive, but this is a cold dose of reality ($):
"That's going to be the main factor," [Jackson] said of a school's track program. "That's the biggest. It's probably one of my biggest things right up there with education."
Michigan's standing in his recruitment may suffer from Jackson's intense focus on track. The Wolverines are currently without a track coach following the retirement of longtime coach Fred LaPlante, and U-M's program has not been on the national stage in quite some time - the last national title came in 1923.
Jackson still plans to spend part of the summer in his native state of Illinois, but told Tim that he's "not really worried about" taking the time to head up to Michigan's BBQ. The Wolverines are still slated to get an offical visit, per Scout's Greg Biggins($), but at this point they're a heavy underdog against the likes of USC, UCLA, Florida, and LSU.
So, not a good week for pipe dream class projections, then. Please don't shoot the messenger.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup. I swear there's good news in there.]
Flippin' the line: feasible?
Schofield moved all over
How hard is it in mid game or mid season to change from a right handed to a left handed qb? Does the OL switch the guards and tackles etc.?
Not particularly hard, because the offense will almost certainly ignore the change and operate just like it was before. If there is a change, it will be flipping the tackles, something that teams occasionally do when guys go down injured. Either of these things are suboptimal, but if we are, say, talking about a potential Devin Gardner injury forcing Shane Morris onto the field, that righty-lefty switch is maybe 5% of the hit.
It might be more when there's a significant pass protection gap between your tackles. I'm projecting 6'7" Michael Schofield to be very good at that, so any blindside/non-blindside pass rush tradeoffs are minor. The run game shouldn't be affected, as QBs have to hand off to both sides of their body on the regular.
A couple years down the road when Morris is the projected starter it'll make sense to flip the right and left tackles over the offseason to give Morris better protection from behind, but that's a minor change when you've been given that much time. Schofield slid from left guard to right tackle, a much more drastic move, with not much ill effect.
Why you gotta be huge to play left tackle?
Quick question that may be obvious: why is height such an important asset in a left (or blindside) tackle? I've always taken it as a given but I'm not sure I've ever heard an explanation. Off the top of my head, I would guess it has to do with arm length and the ability to be massive yet retain a lean and athletic body (i.e. Schofield is 303 lbs but is quite a bit more lean and athletic than Ondre Pipkins).
OT Adam Terry (Baltimore Ravens) and OT Marcus McNeill (San Diego Chargers) are both former second round picks (Terry in 2005, McNeill in 2006) who both weighed in during their Combine appearances at 6-8 and around 330 pounds. However, the key difference during each player’s weigh-in was the dramatic discrepancy in the length of the two player’s reaches. McNeill measured in at 35½ inches and Terry posted a reach of 32 ¼ inches. Therefore, we have two men who are roughly the exact same size, however, McNeill has the length to match and maximize his 6-8 frame, while Terry’s length forces him to play like a tackle closer to 6-3.
There are other variables that go into a comparison like this, however, the facts are that McNeill has been the Chargers starting left tackle for each of the past five years, while Terry is considered now as nothing more than an NFL journeyman.
The same guy had an article the previous year on the same topic and a notable name jumped out at me: Robert Gallery, former Iowa superstar, top-five pick, and colossal bust. He also has T-Rex arms.
HOWEVA, Iowa pro-bowler Marshall Yanda's arms are 33.5 inches long, famous left tackle prototype Michael Oher the same. Joe Thomas is at 32.5, Jake Long 33. Arm length is marginal at best… at least when we're talking about guys in a narrow range from enormous to slightly less enormous.
Meanwhile, height is sometimes a… drawback? Again, talking on an NFL level where you can pick the top 1% of players, yeah. After Jake Long in 2008, the NFL didn't take a tackle taller than 6'6" until the 2011 draft, when it was so odd that there were so many huge guys that Mike Tanier wrote an article about it:
One scout I spoke to in Indianapolis said that diminishing returns kick in once an offensive lineman reaches the dimensions of an NBA power forward. “They have to keep working to bend at the knees, to not pop up at the snap,” he said. “They can’t ever let up on their technique.” …
Several of this year’s tall tackles are not just long, but lean. Castonzo has a classic lineman’s build, with a lot of mass in his thighs and butt, but Carimi and Solder have relatively narrow trunks. Their “high cut” bodies create even more leverage issues. Carimi, in particular, gets too narrow when run blocking: defenders can turn him sideways and slide around him. Carimi is so strong and athletic that teams will be willing to work with him to perfect his technique, but his size may never convert to NFL strength.
Giants Nate Solder (Colorado), Anthony Castonzo (Boston College), and Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) all went in the first round, but so did three 6'5" guys. You'll note that Michigan's recruiting is heavily biased towards 6'5" high school tackles who have half the scouts pegging at tackle, half at guard.
Tanier does note that super long arms are, in general, a help, and that blocking techniques are designed with the assumption you're going up against a guy a couple inches shorter than you.
Here's my take on it: in general, bigger people are just harder to get around. A wider stance and longer arms gives a left tackle a bigger catching radius, as it were, to intercept pass rushers. When it turned out NFL teams were sending players of size X at quarterbacks, most of those guys turned out to be 6'3" or 6'4" and after some experimentation it was determined that guys a couple inches taller than those guys combined catching radius with balance. Balance is absolutely the most important thing for offensive linemen. Bigger guys with traditional lineman builds (ie, bottom heavy) take more force to get off balance than smaller ones, but only as long as they can keep a leverage advantage on their opponents.
Who takes the shot against Kansas and such, other than nobody?
With Trey & Tim leaving, who takes the end of shot clock and end of game shots for us next year?
I think McGary would be the obvious choice, but that can be pretty tough for a big man to create shots outside of the offensive flow. And it could pull him away from the basket and rebound opportunities. GRIII hasn't shown a lot in a way of creating his own shot. Walton would be an obvious choice, but he's a freshmen. Maybe some end of shot clock looks, but at the end of a close game? Same goes for Irvin. That leaves the other options as Stauskas (maybe?), Levert (supposedly a terror 1-on-1 in practice, but late game experience?) and Spike (not as terrifying as I thought a few months ago).
Who do you think becomes the regular closer out of that group?
Uh… I think they might go closer by committee?
There is no obvious answer there. McGary's usage shot up in the tournament but very little of that was McGary actually creating a shot—basically some jumpers from the elbow, a couple of sweet short-corner turnarounds, and his once-per-game two-dribbles-to-a-layup. Michigan never, ever posts guys up, and I don't think that's going to change. Meanwhile the other returning star had a usage rate of 13% and got virtually all of his baskets from Burke or off rebounds. Neither is a good candidate for late-game or late-clock hero duties.
With Michigan's emphasis on the pick and roll, it'll probably fall onto the point guard again. Derrick Walton isn't going to take step-back jumpers that somehow fall quite a bit; he's more distribution-oriented. Teams overplaying his penetration will find him kicking to Stauskas or Irvin or dishing to Robinson or McGary.
I can see three other guys possibly taking up the banner:
- STAUSKAS. Showed pretty good ability on the pick and roll, where he showed hints of a Darius Morris-like ability to find passing angles with his length. And you of course cannot go under unless you want punishment. Would take some development both on the bounce and as a distributor, but that's what freshmen do.
- IRVIN. 6'7" to 6'8" guy with an advanced pull up game already. By midseason will be able to get a midrange jumper whenever he wants. Prefer Michigan to try something else always, but late when refs are clenching their bowels and swallowing the whistle the midrange game is the part of your offense least affected by hacks.
- LEVERT. Yes, a stretch given his rough numbers and brief tourney cameos where he was unready for the moment. Seemed to be able to get where he wanted most of the year, small sample size, freshman improvement, and he should have buckets since he was both young and skinny.
This question is a "what we do without Burke" Q writ small, and the answer is "I don't know, but spread it around."