you can't have one without the other without this one
Image credit: Brendan Hall/ESPN.com
As anticipated, Westwood (MA) Xavarian Brothers DT Maurice Hurst Jr. has committed to Michigan while visiting campus today, according to a report by 247's Todd Worly ($). Hurst is the son of former New England Patriots cornerback Maurice Hurst and is also a cousin of former St. Louis Rams superstar tailback Marshall Faulk. He becomes Michigan's 19th commit in the class of 2013 and the first at defensive tackle, perhaps the biggest position of need remaining in the class.
4*, #23 DT,
|3*, #30 DT||3*, 77, #32 DT||4*, 90, #19 DT|
Hurst's rankings are split between Scout and 247, which see him as a four-star and around the #20 defensive tackle in the country, and Rivals and ESPN, which have him as a three-star and in the area of #30 at his position. All four sites list Hurst at 6'2", with his weight ranging from 275 (Scout/ESPN) to 290 (247). WolverineNation's Chantel Jennings wrote a recent feature on Hurst detailing his rise from a "pudgy" 5'9" freshman to a 6'2" BCS prospect and pegged his current weight at 290 pounds ($).
Hurst first started emerging on the scene around this time last year, impressing Rivals.com's Mike Farrell at the Northeast Five-Star Showdown ($):
Hurst is the son of the former New England Patriots cornerback of the same name and you can tell he has athletic genes. He has a nice frame that can still add weight but what really stands out about him is his quickness off the ball and his light feet. Hurst beat most of his opponents with his first step and he was able to win the leverage game most of the time as well. At times he can be too upright and present too much of a target. His footwork is excellent and he has natural balance, and he is very good at responding quickly to the initial punch of offensive linemen. He also showed a good motor.
Impressive athleticism is a common thread throughout Hurst's evaluations—as you'll see in his highlights, he's nimble enough to line up at running back in high school. ESPN's evaluation highlights his explosiveness while pointing out a few areas for improvement mostly pertaining to his technique ($):
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. He does display some rigidness and while he can get penetration he displays adequate ability to quickly change direction. He gives good effort and stays after the play showing the ability to take proper angles in pursuit. Displays solid long speed. He will try and wrap-up as a tackler and displays strong hands for drag down types. As a pass rusher he is capable of getting a quick hard charge up-field to get pressure. Will flash the ability to try and work some moves to help work past, but needs to continue to develop in this area to help when he can't just quickly blow past blockers.
As is evident on his tape, Hurst is a very disruptive presence on the interior of the line, a guy who uses his leverage and quickness—a la Mike Martin—to work his way into the backfield with regularity. In November of last year, Scout's Bob Lichtenfels tabbed Hurst as the top prospect in the East region who hadn't yet earned recognition as a top 100 player, comparing him to another collegiate standout ($):
Westwood (Mass.) Xaverian defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr., I hate comparing players to kids we've seen in the past, but watching Hurst reminds me of watching Marvin Austin. Kids who are 6-2/275 are not supposed to be able to move the way he does. Not too mention when he isn't wreaking havoc in the other teams backfield he is playing in his own backfield. Not many kids that size can pull that off.
Hurst has an invite to the Army All-American Game, a potential sign that his rankings will be on the rise in the future. His combination of size and athleticism is sure to turn some heads.
Hurst chose Michigan over fellow finalist Virginia, and he also held offers from Michigan State (where he visited yesterday), Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio State, Boston College, UConn, Duke, Maryland, Mizzou, N.C. State, Purdue, Rutgers, Temple, Vanderbilt, and others.
Hurst tallied 61 tackles, 13.5 TFL, nine sacks, and four forced fumbles as a junior en route to being named first-team all-state.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists Hurst with a 4.88, while his highlight tape credits him with a 4.92. Both seem pretty reasonable for a tackle noted for his athleticism; I'll give those a two FAKEs out of five.
Pretty epic fat guy touchdown at the :25 mark.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Hurst is reportedly being recruited as a three-tech DT, though he has the size to potentially play the nose down the road if needed—that may depend on who else Michigan adds to the class. If he ends up at three-tech, Hurst should get a redshirt year since Michigan brought in Willie Henry, Matt Godin, and potentially Chris Wormley at the position in the 2012 class. After that redshirt year, he'll be in position for fight for time against those three and a senior Kenny Wilkins; given that he's got a higher recruiting profile than all the '12 recruits save Wormley, he's got a good shot at contributing as a redshirt freshman.
If, say, Michigan brings in MD DT Henry Poggi as a three-tech and slides Hurst over to the nose, he'd be right in the mix to back up Ondre Pipkins from the moment he arrives on campus.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Hurst fills a huge need along the defensive line, but the coaches will likely bring in another defensive tackle, with the top target being Poggi. TX DT Hardreck Walker, who just got bumped up to four stars on Rivals, is another possibility.
The remaining needs are another wide receiver—that spot is currently being held for IL WR Laquon Treadwell—as well as potential depth at strongside DE and in the defensive backfield. For the most part, Michigan can continue to target the best players available. The pace of recruiting should slow considerably with the Wolverines already having filled 19 spots in what should be a 23-24 player class.
|Orchard Lake, MI – 6'0", 209|
|Scout||4*, #7 OLB, #83 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #14 OLB, #172 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #8 ILB|
|24/7||4*, 95, #6 ILB, #116 overall|
|Other Suitors||OSU, PSU, Notre Dame, USC, Nebraska|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Tim interviews him at SMSB. Ace checks out OLSM games against De La Salle and UD-Jesuit.|
|Notes||OLSM (Chris McLaurin, Jermaine Gonzalez). Army All-American.|
James Ross is the second of three highly-touted Westside Cubs who will arrive at Michigan at the fall. Terry Richardson was the first, and Ross is an awful lot like a linebacker version of Richardson. He's four of four on Midwest power offers, four of four when it comes to recruiting site hype, and got a bid to one of the all-star games.
Like Richardson, the scouting reports are a series of good things… after they get in a shot at his size. Random example($):
Ross made plays in high school thanks to his instincts and quickness, rather than his size. He'll get the chance to show that being slightly undersized won't hurt him at the next level when he faces off against the all-star cast from the East.
They're not wrong. Six-foot-ish is a bit wee when it comes to linebacking, and edging just over 200 pounds is something that may prevent him from seeing the field immediately. FWIW, he says he's put on more weight:
"I'm 6'1'' and 225 lbs. right now, and a lot of criticism I get is because of my size. But I always like to throw this out there: my favorite two linebackers, Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis, are only 6'1". I guess this sport has come down to where it's all about size, but I feel that at the end of the day, that doesn't matter. "
But the instincts bit is promising. Think of various weakside linebackers past—just about any will do—and imagine the exact opposite of their relationship with your frustration, and that is James Ross's rep. His coach sums it up best($):
"He's one of the best instinctive players I've ever coached," Porritt insisted. "He reads plays so fast, and his first step is so explosive. He's physical, too, but it's his uncanny ability to read and get after the football that is his greatest asset. He's a great young man who works hard and is very humble."
This will of course be tested when he hits the field at the next level. Please do not refer back to this post in the event he turns out to also take the wrong side of the fullback 800% of the time. Please do in the event his instincts lead to a lot of plays like this:
The instincts bit is repeated in other scouting reports. Ace:
I'll reiterate what I said when I saw Ross earlier this season—he's the most polished, college-ready prospect I've seen play this season with the possible exceptions of Aaron Burbridge and Matt Godin (to clarify, I'm not necessarily saying the most talented, but the players who are the most fundamentally sound and impactful right now). …
Once again, Ross's ability to tackle in the open field really impressed me—he has great tackling form, and his superior range allows him to be in the best possible position to stop the ballcarrier. He diagnosed plays quickly and never seemed out of position, and his ability to make quick reads allowed him to shoot past blockers before they could even touch him, resulting in multiple tackles for loss. Ross isn't afraid to take on a block and does a good job of shedding after initial contact without losing his angle on the ballcarrier….
After seeing Ross in two games, one against a weak Inkster team and the other against a much stronger De La Salle squad, I'm convinced he'll be a multi-year starter at middle linebacker and a player in the David Harris mold.
Although we detect some hip tightness when in coverage his balance and agility along with the ability to quickly key and diagnosis running plays allows him to be a dominant run stopper. We like his instincts and quick downhill play; can beat blockers to the point of attack with good playing speed or take on and defeat them with his upper body playing strength. This guy is a tough customer who has no problem stepping into the line and mixing it up with big offensive linemen; does a great job moving through traffic, showing excellent pursuit habits and recovery speed.
They do knock his current weight and express doubts about his ability to cover receivers in man; they praise his zone instincts. Trieu:
Smart, instinctive backer who does a great job of taking plays head on, getting rid of blockers and finding the ball. Measureables are not super, but football smarts, toughness and fundamentals are. Does a solid job in coverage, and is physical when asked to cover backs and tight ends. More of a finished product, than an upside guy, but a kid who has always been productive and should continue to be so in college.
24/7's Barton Simmons:
Though he's not a kid with great size, Ross is a kid with great instincts, awareness, and desire to get to the football. When he gets there he's physical and in the pass game, he's comfortable catching the football and finding throwing lanes. Ross is very similar in skill set to Oklahoma State's Shaun Lewis who made an instant impact on the college level.
Simmons again, this time from the OSU NFTC last year:
Headlining the group in Columbus was Michigan commit James Ross out of West Bloomfield (Mich.) St. Mary’s Prep. Sporting a Michigan hat on the Ohio State practice fields, Ross already looked ready to strap on the pads and head into Ohio Stadium. At 6-1, Ross is not an overpowering presence but his feet, balance, athleticism and activity in space were all unique. Ross was nearly unblockable in the pass rush drill and he also has the ability to run and cover in the pass game.
You get the idea. He is a ball-locator and tackler. He is not a five-star athlete.
As mentioned in a UV posted a couple weeks ago, Ross credits his time as a hockey player for his ability to diagnose plays:
“I actually think hockey is what separates me from most linebackers,” Ross said. “I think it helped me with that first quick step and getting to the ball as fast as you can, because hockey, once you see it you have to go. There is no delayed step into it. That’s definitely something that separates me.”
Despite Ross's friendship with Richardson and Royce Jenkins-Stone, the third Westside Cub in the class, it was actually Ohio State who seemed like the leader out of the gate. From a now-vaporized Sam Webb article in the News:
Ross Jr. might have been more taken aback by his impression of Michigan. Not because it was better, but because it so utterly different from what he expected.
"I really did not like Michigan like that," Ross admitted. "I was always an Ohio State guy. I kept it to myself. It really wasn't that big of a deal. My family always gets mad when I bring up Ohio State. They just say that I do not understand the success that Michigan has had."
Ross was just a sophomore when that article was published, but he'd picked up Michigan and MSU offers super early, something that was notable, uh, two years ago. Not so much now.
Whatever Ross's feelings about OSU were, his recruitment was effectively over when Michigan hired Greg Mattison. From an old Tom weekly roundup post:
He fell in love with coach Mattison. I never paid attention early on to coordinators that much, but that guy was great. He was kinda funny too. He and coach Hoke broke it all open for him. We were there close to three hours just talking about football with Mattison, and more conversation with Hoke. Hoke's like a good ole boy, it was refreshing.
That was at the end of Febuary; it took a couple more months to come to a decision but that was basically it. (The commit turned this Buckeye Planet thread into an excellent schadenfreude repository, FWIW.)
With the burden of Ross's decision off his shoulders, OLSM shot to a state title. Ross championed the defense, tackling everything that moves. He racked up a ridiculous 151 tackles and 13.5 TFLs along the way. Rivals named him to their "RivalsHigh 2011 All-American Team" as a result. His recruiting rankings didn't shift much; his performance was about what people expected.
At Michigan Ross is ticketed for the weakside, though this is where I say the usual bits about how there are only minor differences between the MLB and the WLB in Mattison's system. The WLB has to be a little better down the seam and gets a little more protection from lead blockers, but it's mostly the same gig as MLB.
"He never wants to be the guy who someone sees at a game and says, 'This guy's supposed to be all that? He's kinda crappy' " Ross, Sr. said. "He never wants to be that guy, so he strives to give everyone what they expect and more. He's looking to go bananas this year."
Why Ian Gold? As an inside linebacker who topped out around 6'0" and 225 but made it work with great instincts and an ability to cut through traffic, Ian Gold is a tight fit as a YMRMFSPA. His career was before I watched every game in extreme detail, though.
Gold came to Michigan as a tailback but was moved quickly; Ross has an edge when it comes to experience. He'll do very well to match Gold's productivity and NFL pedigree—a second rounder with almost 500 career tackles.
If you want a guy of more recent vintage, the Mini David Harris suggestion offered by Ace above is a good one.
Guru Reliability: High. General consensus, healthy, multi-year starter, well-known kid who showed at an all-star game.
Variance: Low. Projects to (basically) same position in college, lots of experience, ahead of the curve mentally.
Ceiling: Moderate. Size will be an issue and the scouting reports don't mention the sort of "wow" athleticism that could make up for that.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Seems like he'll be the platonic opposite of Jonas Mouton, the Janus of weakside linebackers. Mouton alternated ridiculously good and ridiculously bad plays. Ross probably won't turn in as many of either. A solidly above-average Big Ten linebacker who is short of national stardom seems like the most likely outcome.
Projection: Ross's lack of size and a healthy depth chart at WLB (which returns rising sophomore Desmond Morgan, senior Brandin Hawthorne, and adds redshirt freshman Antonio Poole) suggest a redshirt. Like Richardson, it seems smart to get him a second year of separation from guy who started as a freshman. Unlike Richardson, there's a lot of room on special teams for linebackery tackling types, so he may get drafted into coverage teams for one of those Argh Wasted Redshirt wasted redshirts.
Either way, there's a clear path to the two-deep in his second year. Hawthorne and Demens will graduate. The former opens up the backup WLB spot and there's a chance the latter will drag Morgan to MLB, which seems like a more natural position for him. Even if that doesn't happen, Ross will be fighting with Poole for a good chunk of playing time behind Morgan. I wouldn't put it past Ross to win the job outright at some point, either. If he gets the redshirt dollars to donuts he's at least a two-year starter.
Today's recruiting roundup discusses (sigh) the Tuley-Tillman fallout, updated Rivals250, Derrick Green, and a group of new 2014 offers.
The aftermath of the Logan Tuley-Tillman letter-burning continues to get ugly. These are things 17-year-olds should simply never have to deal with:
"I got threats coming at me from everywhere -- death threats," [Tuley-Tillman] said by phone Tuesday. "I got somebody telling me he wants me to burn in hell. I got somebody talking about the Holocaust.
"Why, 'cause I burned your team's envelope? Stuff like that I don’t understand. I’m only 17. It takes a lot of emotion for someone to do that, just over an affiliation to a school.
"But you know what? God bless 'em. I'm moving on."
That's as reasonable a reaction as you could ever expect from anyone, let alone a high school student who's still amazed that their personal Twitter posting could ever possibly go viral. My 17-year-old self would've reacted much differently; namely, how Kyle Bosch reacted:
Before I comment on the tweet, here's Bosch's clarification of the above, via Tremendous:
On the comment: "I'm just trying to defend my teammate and my friend. Logan is like a brother to me and when somebody threatens his life and his family's life, I am going to come to his defense. The gun comment has been taken out of context. I'm only saying that if you're going to threaten my friend and brother that you better bring a gun because if you're truly threatening his life, you'll have to take mine too. I should have realized that it may have been misinterpreted, but it's hard not to be angry when he and his mother have gone through so much".
Bosch's explanation is admirable, in that slightly misguided and naïve high school way of showing true loyalty; his friend came under siege, and he responded in kind. I largely agree with what Adam Jacobi has to say on the whole matter, with one point of contention:
That's what this all comes down to in the long run—idiots. Most college football fans aren't idiots. Most Ohio State fans aren't idiots. Idiots have a way of dominating the conversation, though—particularly online—and as such it's always important to keep one thing in mind before you express yourself online: "How would an idiot respond to this?"
By dealing in death threats, intimidation and casual classlessness, Tuley-Tillman, Bosch and however many Ohio State fans were involved all brought themselves down to the levels of idiots.
What Tuley-Tillman did was not idiotic, it was juvenile, and at the age of 17 he has every excuse to be a little juvenile; his action in and of itself did no harm. The response, of course, was idiotic. Bosch's reaction was less excusable than Tuley-Tillman's initial action, but again, we're talking about kids in high school here; his intentions were good—defending a teammate whose life had been threatened—but the consequences weren't properly considered.
Should Tuley-Tillman and Bosch be more careful about what they post online, considering their new-found status as minor celebrities? Absolutely. But missteps by high school students are very understandable. It's what is being directed at these guys from fans that is truly idiotic. This isn't so much a problem with recruits these days—remember, Devin Gardner did the exact same thing as LTT, but in the pre-Twitter era faced little-to-no backlash—but the level of access fans have to recruits and their misguided* impression that social media affords fans an open forum for hatred without consequence.
Is there a solution for this? Right now, not really: the current state of unregulation makes it difficult for much to be done beyond exposing the idiots. It might not be a bad idea for the coaching staff to step in, talk with the commits about proper social media protocol, and ensure that enough is being done from that end that these situations can be avoided as much as possible.
* Though, admittedly, that impression would be far more misguided if people were actually charged for the laws they break via social media. I'd love to see some of these internet tough guys dragged to court for the threats they make to people who would snap them in half if they ever met in real life.
Rivals250 Released, Bosch Feature, Etc.
After releasing an updated top 100 on Tuesday, Rivals has continued updating their rankings, and now we have current commit movement for the top 250:
- Shane Morris drops from #16 to #22 (still a four-star)
- Mike McCray drops from #44 to #55
- Chris Fox drops from #46 to #57
- Patrick Kugler drops from #54 to #73
- Kyle Bosch drops from #60 to #77
- Dymonte Thomas drops from #77 to #95
- Jake Butt drops from #96 to #118
- Jourdan Lewis jumps from #167 to #147
- David Dawson jumps from #199 to #171
- Wyatt Shallman drops from #160 to #182
- Logan Tuley-Tillman drops from #109 to #235
- Ben Gedeon drops from #226 to #237
Obviously, the big change here is Tuley-Tillman falling over 100 spots, though this isn't a huge surprise considering his recent camp struggles, which can be at least partially explained by a nagging shoulder injury. Otherwise, the movement is pretty minor. For what it's worth, Morris features as one of the recruits on the cusp of five stars.
Conveniently heading off any complaints—Rivals hates us now, Pawwwwwl—Rivals also released their initial team rankings. Michigan is a strong #1, posting 2,301 points, which would've been good for the #5 class in the country in 2012 at the end of the recruiting cycle. The Wolverines are nearly 300 points clear of second-ranked Texas. Other notables include Ohio State (#7), Notre Dame (#9), Penn State (#16), Nebraska (#20), Illinois (#21), Michigan State (#24), Iowa (#31), and Wisconsin (#33).
Interesting side-note: CBSSports's Brian Fischer points out that this year's class has far more consensus about the top players among the various recruiting services than any other in recent memory. As sites like YouTube, Hudl, ScoutingOhio, and others continue to make creating and sharing film a simple proposition, I think rankings will trend in this direction; the more common information, the greater the consensus.
Bleacher Report released a video feature on Kyle Bosch in which he breaks down why he committed to Michigan, his favorite play to run, and his dream prom date:
Brendan Gibbons applauds the selection of two brunettes, but how does this affect the status of Kate Upton, matron saint of Michigan commits?
Derrick Green: Two More Visits?
VA RB Derrick Green, the newly-anointed Rivals #1 running back, remains in close contact with Michigan. According to his interview with Tremendous, Green plans to make not just one, but two trips to Ann Arbor before wrapping up his recruitment:
"I'll definitely be taking an official to Michigan. No question. I'll be up there this summer as well to talk with Coach Hoke since I haven't gotten to talk with him personally yet and then I want to make it out for a game as well".
Sam Webb reportedly had good things to say about Michigan's chances with Green on his radio show yesterday, and this is another very positive sign.
Things could move quickly at defensive tackle for the Wolverines, starting with MA DT Maurice Hurst Jr.'s visit this weekend, one that could quite possibly produce a commitment (remember to practice proper vehicle safety, recruitniks). MD DT Henry Poggi has long been thought to have a summer commitment timetable, and the same appears to be the case for recently-offered TX DT Hardreck Walker, who told GBW's Kyle Bogenshutz that he'll announce before his senior season ($, info in header). Walker is trying to set up a summer visit, though nothing is set in stone, and he has Michigan in his top six schools; we'll see if there's a spot left to take when he's ready to decide, though we'll have to see if he visits before getting hopes up for a commitment.
Quickly: MI K/P J.J. McGrath will camp in the hopes of earning a scholarship offer ($), though it's highly unlikely that Michigan will use a spot on a specialist in this class. TTB scouts AZ WR Devon Allen. Happy trails to IL OL Ethan Pocic, who committed to LSU.
Sam Webb's latest at the Detroit News covers TX CB Nick Watkins, the son of former Detroit Lions defensive back Bobby Watkins. At 6'1", 180 pounds, Watkins has great size for a cornerback, and his coach has high praise for his skill and athleticism:
"The thing about it is you have a corner that is 6-foot-plus that has speed, has great hips, and great ball skills," Bishop Dunne coach Michael Johnson told Scout.com. "I mean, the kid's got arms down to his ankles almost. He's smooth. He's the type of player that makes it look effortless. Him being great off the field in the classroom just makes him that much more marketable. He's the total package."
Watkins tells Webb that he's currently favoring Alabama, Michigan, Arkansas, and Ohio State, with Texas also in the mix, but he's still "keeping it wide open" and won't be making an early commitment.
Michigan sent out a few new sophomore offers recently:
- Four-star TN RB Jalen Hurd added Michigan($) to an offer list that already includes Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio State, and Nebraska. He tells 247's Clint Brewster that he's "definitely going to see Michigan," though nothing is set up yet, and that 'Bama, UT, and OSU are the three schools standing out to him right now.
- IL WR Nic Weishar has picked up offers from a good chunk of the Big Ten recently, and Michigan joined the fray on Wednesday ($). Weishar also holds offers from Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Northwestern, and others.
- SC DT Dexter Wideman has a fitting name considering his 6'4", 275-pound stature. He also now has a Wolverine offer($) to go along with ones from Clemson and South Carolina.
Quickly: Cleveland St. Ignatius OT Jimmy Byrne will visit campus on Sunday. Four-star GA S Nick Glass has set up a visit for June 25th ($). FL WR Austin Roberts will visit in July ($). AL ATH Bo Scarbrough has Michigan in his top four($) along with Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.
I'm back. To all three of you who missed the weekly user content post thank you for your patience as we got HTTV shipped, and then I unplugged and spent five days in the Canadian wilderness. There were loons, a bear, a moose and a bazillion bitemes, then I spent the ride home with a Space Coyote. This diarist of the week issued Part the Third of his awesome series on DG's spring game performance. A sample:
Play 13 - 4:50
Slants with a play action fake to get the LBs to clear out from the underneath zones. Very simple play…
The backside is actually more open on this play, but DG can’t know that because he is accurately going through his progression, which reads that the first man is open (which he is for a TD, good read). On the field side, the slot is more or less intended to clear out that underneath zone from the nickel back/ LBs/ safety by running an initial slant. He doesn’t run a great route but it isn’t too important. The outside WR then runs behind that to a news vacated area, which is also wide open.
These seem to be developing a theme: defense has the 3rd read wide open and gets pressure but the play never goes to the open guy because something short with a small window but higher in the progression order opens up first. I wonder if this is an effect of the defense knowing the offense, or an effect of Gardner's progression being slow, or as the OP seems to suggest, just one of those things. Coyote goes easy on Devin for doing what he's coached to do but I wonder if a senior with a lot of game experience will be more apt to go off the page and punish the defense for catching tendencies. It's may be irrelevant since our senior QB is a sophomore in West Coast passing schemes, but as Space Coyote notes a sophomore Henne once threw to the 2nd read on a very similar play to cap a last-play comeback win against Penn State.
Oy Boy! Last time saveferris penned a roll back the clock I asked for more, and we received. This time the quantum accelerator put us in the pads of Bill Taylor, c. 1971, when Michigan conquered space and Ohio State but couldn't defeat Stanford in the Rose Bowl. As could only happen here, there's an argument in the comments between a historian armed with knowledge of the weather that week and a member of the band who was on the field that day about the grass conditions in Pasadena. Upon further review:
Looks pretty dry guys. How the hell did you remember that? My mom was a junior at Michigan that year and swears she can't remember anything except studying and getting good grades (and how cheap coffee was at Blimpy's). Also trying to imagine MMB choosing a selection with such strong political overtones today.
A second leap was made by Blazefire to 2007 so he could warn us to not get too confident over last year's leap, but Henne/Hart injuries didn't make the defense give up 36 points to an I-AA team man.
In other postseasons that Michigan can get screwed in/out of, Stephenrjking and oakapple are playoff wranglin'. The former is a worth-reading discussion on poll bias and how any system that leaves the least up to human pollsters is probably the best for determining a champion. The latter also discusses qualification models like polls, a selection committee, and autobids, and makes a good point about this being a very different animal from basketball's selection committee, which has never seen a champion from the lower 50% of seeds.
Getting crowded down there. Our resident UMgradMSUdad says Nebraska recruiting is starting to shift from Texas (17 players in Pelini's first two seasons, 7 in the last two full classes) to Ohio with the move to the B1G. Since it's mostly 3-stars they're going after, long-term this probably affects Michigan State, which under Dantonio took a lot of the guys Ohio State passed on and fought Nebraska the most in this study, more than Michigan, which is competing more directly with the in-state juggernaut. It helps them that Pelini's from Cardinal-Mooney (Ray Vinopal) in Youngstown, which in my study last year came out very Penn State-ish. This was bound to happen to some degree by letting them in. Nebraska is a traditional powerhouse from a state that doesn't produce a lot of talent, so they're going to pull more from their conference footprint than contribute to it. If the net result is it hastens the Spartans' inevitable return to Spartiocrity I'm okay with it, but the Cornhuskers have traditionally built from the Big XII's footprint; if these players are more and more coming from the Midwest it's going to thin the ranks of the Big Ten. File under obvious.
Etc. The Blockhams is tackling the dog. Soon the dog will be killed by the baby tackler's perfect Kovacsian form and replaced with a shaggy dog named Brian who is working on his blog all the time (MAKE THIS HAPPEN!). Space wallpaper (of Space!).
Best of the Board
FAMOUS PEOPLE SIGHTED, INDUCED TO SAY STUFF
We had a few people attend the myriad traveling events football players and coaches do during offseason and come back reporting on the proceedings.
- Hoke at Agonis. Correspondent hart20 recorded Hoke's comments to a group of people in Dayton, Ohio, mostly on things from in and around Dayton, Ohio, that people from Dayton, Ohio, care about, like Ball State, Kaleb Ringer, and Roy Roundtree, but also the Gentleman's agreement (something about golf) and conference realignment.
- Woodson at Sunda. Reporting not-live from Chicago, we go to samsoccer7 and coverage of Charles Woodson's new wine. This was originally published on the boards on May 18 but I re-set the clock so it can get its time as a deserved diary. Some good stuff in there, my favorite being why he didn't do the Heisman after the punt return v. Ohio State. Sorry grapenuts, nothing about the wine.
- Steve Everitt at Golf Tournament. Brady Hoke's Pet Viking (glad I contributed at least one MGoMeme around here) in an MGoShirt: Ja!
- WHENCE THE DUAL-THREATS OF YESTERYEAR?
Whatever happened to all the 2009 (Class of 2010) Elite 11 QBs? Leaders And Best tracked them down and found way more washouts and transfers than projected starters. Devin Gardner is second only to Tennessee's Tyler Bray in guys on this list you'd want to have at this point.
FIFTH IN HEAPING PILES OF SCRATCH
This year's athletic department budgets as reported on their Title IX forms. I think the "subsidies" in there relate mostly to major stadium improvements. Anyway Michigan raked in over $122 million in revenue and spent about $112 million. Alms for the band indeed.
Join the following discussion points. My two cents added here as examples, and because I can get away with it!
- What the hell is Devin Gardner's number now?
Seriously, is it 12 or was that just a very mean joke to play on someone who has to pay per page edits to a printed preview book? I've heard Funchess is 19 too. People with information, please inform
- What would you do if you were Brian for a day?
Bring back negging so I could neg-bang everybody who complains about the lack of neg-banging.
- Which Big Ten team are you really glad you're not a fan of today?
MSU – Too good to not care, always knowing you weren't good
- What was your most memorable Big House experience like?
Imagine if you could wrap all that is Desmond Howard and being 11 years old into one afternoon.
- (It's too late but…) Think of funny names for the sponsor levels
Come for the humor. Leave for the lack of relevance to your life.
- Six funny press conferences
I approved this guy's concept for a daily board post even though the first was very Bleacher Report-y, figuring he had the drive to keep improving. Then it ended after two I guess. The first, eh, forget about it. The second: Tune in, if only for the chance to remember John L. Smith's pouty face. Every time I watch that I see my little brother, age 8, staring straight ahead, explaining how he's pressing the right buttons but the Nintendo's screwing it all up!
FINAL SOFTBALL UPDATE
The season ended against Alabama in the NCAA Super Regional (i.e. Round 2). But this is a game where pitchers dominate and we had two dominant freshmen. Memories: Everybody dancing to Amanda Chidester's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" coming-to-bat song, Caitlin Blanchard getting hit by a pitch to beat Louisville in the regional, going perfect on the season against OSU/ND/MSU, including a weekend shutout over Michigan State, and this:
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN
(warning: may cause you to become trapped in amaranthine contemplation of Les Miles. HT: Orson)
Purdue Errata. Several MGoUsers, including one (TMill) whom I suspect is Travis Miller of Hammerandrails.com, pointed out last week that Ralph Bolden tore his ACL for the third time during the Indiana game. He's probably not going to be playing much football for the Boilermakers this season.
That pink thing in the middle = why the Boilermakers can't have nice things.
Also, Sean Robinson moved to linebacker, which brings Purdue's QB count down to a whimpy nine.
Standin' arrow straight.
Not that talented. HailtotheOrange.com recently wrote a post to dispel the myth that Ron Zook was a great recruiter who was otherwise a horrible coach. They go through the recruiting rankings during Zook's tenure and find that it started off strong before tapering off after 2008.
I don't know what he was pitching to kids when his team was in the gutter the first few seasons, but the 2006 class ranked 30th in the nation and 4th in the Big Ten.
2006, 2007, and 2008 were similar, and those were the years that gave them four-/five-star players like Martez Wilson, Arrelious Benn, Corey Liuget, and Graham Pocic (older brother of super 2013 LSU LT commit Ethan), not to mention some under-the-radar types like Whitney Mercilus and Mikel Leshoure.
2009 gave the them a bunch of guys who ended up transferring. Illinois spent 2010 at a three-star resort, which caused them to them dip below Tim Beckman's Toledo in recruiting class rankings (70th and 68th, respectively).
Conclusion? Whatever positive effects of the Beckman hire on the coaching and decision-making side of things may be mitigated by an impending "empty cupboard" syndrome.
But still pretty talented for now. ALionEye.com lays out the NFL draft stock of last year's defensive starters. Five returning players have strong draft potential.
Completely unrelated. ALionEye's list of top-five QB recruits in recent memory from Illinois includes one Jeff Hecklinski (emphasis theirs -- Aaron Bailey is their most recent QB commit):
In the last 30 years, I think the order of “top-5 Illini QB recruits” goes like this:
1. Jeff George
2. Juice Williams
3. Aaron Bailey
4. Nathan Scheelhaase
5. Jeff Hecklinski
Yes, our Jeff Hecklinski!
He ended up choosing Western Illinois State over the Illini, and there he became the second QB in school history to throw for more than 5,000 yards.
The actual preview part
Illinois's 2011 campaign began with so much promise. At one point the Illini were bowl eligible and 6-0 along with conference champ Wisconsin and Sugar Bowl champ Michigan. Ron Zook, who job had been under intense scrutiny for some time, was saved.
But then Illinois's offense stopped scoring, and the team stopped winning. They remained bowl eligible but fell to 6-6 and ended the regular season in disgrace after getting curbstomped 27-7 by a 3-9 Minnesota team. Zook fired; Beckman hired.
Beckman wasn't received by a whole lot of enthusiasm. Other names mentioned during the coaching search included Kevin Sumlin and Butch Jones; Beckman was not the sexiest of the bunch.
HailtotheOrange called him the "MAC coach du jour," which he was. Personally I don't think there's anything wrong with hiring former MAC coaches.
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW sonofabitch headset's not working again.
Beckman's 2011 Toledo team was one bad read away from upsetting Ohio State in the Horseshoe and ended the season tied at the top of the MAC-West standings.
Much like how the feelings of uncertainty following Brady Hoke's hire at Michigan subsided to cautious optimism, at least the blogosophere seems to have gradually warmed up to Beckman. He's off to a good start in recruiting, garnerning 10 recruits thus far including the aforementioned third-best Illinois QB recruit over the last 30 years. While recruiting success doesn't always translate to on-the-field success (see Zook, Ron (and yes, I will continue to stick to the idea that Ron Zook recruited well)), his track record indicates that he can coach.
Also, having 13 returning starters in 2012 including RS junior QB Nathan Scheelhaase certainly won't hurt his chances. Their B1G schedule sort of sucks, though.
- Sept 1, Western Michigan
- Sept 8, @ Arizona State
- Sept 15, Charleston Southern (this is a school?)
- Sept 22, Louisiana Tech
- Sept 29, Penn State
- Oct 6, @ Wisconsin
- Oct 13, @ Michigan
- Oct 20, BYE
- Oct 27, Indiana
- Nov 3, @ Ohio State
- Nov 10, Minnesota
- Nov 17, Purdue
- Nov 24, @ Northwestern
With seven home games, it's not the worst schedule ever, but visiting Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio State on the road within a month can't be that fun.
Illinois looks to have one loss from the non-conference schedule and about three from its B1G road games. It has a shot at beating either Penn State or Purdue at home but probably not both. Minnesota is an enigma. Indiana will be a great midseason morale boost.
Illinois's schedule is as favorable as: A sunny day to a ginger.
X's and O's / Jimmies and Joes
Illinois ran a manbearspread during the Zook era with a mobile quarterback handing off to thumping tailbacks. Passing wasn't a huge emphasis, but when they had the talent, the Illini liked to go vertical.
Beckman probably won't change things up much on offense. He ran the spread at Toledo because that's what all the Davids do. I don't think he'll shy away from some of the manball things that he'll be able to do now that he's coaching somewhat of a Goliath.
At quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase (63.2 pct, 2110 yards, 13 TD, 8 INT) returns for his third year as starting QB. He's fairly mobile (624 yards, 3.3 ypc sacks included) and has an accurate arm. Not that I know a whole lot about quarterbacking, but my criticism of him has always been his inability to use his dual-threat abilities to his advantage. In all the games I watched of him last year, he was either obviously passing or obviously running. Unlike Denard or Braxton Miller, he wasn't very good at threatening one while doing the other.
Reilly O'Toole (59.7 pct, 270 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT) will be Scheelhaase's backup. While his numbers aren't impressive since he had only spot duty for most of the season, O'Toole proved himself a worthy second string at the end of the season when Scheelhaase struggled.
The Illini lose starters Jason Ford and Troy Pollard at running back, but I don't think Illinois fans were particularly happy with either of the two last season. In their stead Donovonn Young (451 yards, 5.2 ypc) will carry the mantle. At 6-1, 215 lbs, he fits the mold of his more productive predecessors.
Like at nearly every other B1G school, things get hazy at receiver. ALionEye is really high on sophomore Darius Millines (218 yards, 11.5 ypc, 1 TD) who sat out most of last season due to injury. Beyond him there's just a bunch of guys you'd give smack on the "possession" label if you were being polite. None of them really impressed during the spring game.
Offensive line is the real question for the Illini, though. A dysfunctional offensive line in 2011 was primarily to blame for their six-game losing streak, and they're not getting much help in 2012 with a couple departures and the returners unsure about their ideal position.
So there you have it. Terrifying offense? Hardly. By not being coached by Zook, however, they have the potential to be average.
This offense is as frightening as: A small rock. Fear level = 3. (1 = Threetsheridammit; 10 = Oregon/USC/Wisconsin Frankenoffense)
Chargin' from the gate.
Illinois has one thing going for it. It's called Chicago.
I'm being facetious again.
Also, defense. Against teams not made out of tiny track stars coated in butter, Illinois's defense has been pretty terrifying for the past couple years after a rennaissance under defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. It has been one of the best in the country in statistical categories like sacks and TFLs thanks to a ferocious defensive line that had first-round NFL draft picks with sweet names like Corey Liuget and Whitney Mercilus.
Unfortunately for the Illini Koenning is gone. Beckman offered him to stay, but he declined and instead left to become co-defensive coordinator at UNC, a position vacated oddly enough by new Ohio State DC Everitt Withers.
But that's neither here nor there. In comes new DC Tim Banks. While Banks doesn't have the greatest pedigree (2010-2011 Cincinnati was his most prominent stop), I am going to judge him only by whether he takes Koenning's system and ... leaves it the hell alone.
Also by whether this defense is any good in two years after all the current stars leave.
Michael Buchanan, on left
Defensive line will be anchored by DE Michael Buchanan (62 tackles, 8 sacks), who impressed during the spring game, and DT Akeem Spence (69 tackles, 2 sacks). It will be very good, and both are likely to be drafted at some point in the near future.
As an aside, ALionEye wants defensive line to be Illinois's thing:
I’ve always wanted us to have a thing. Wisconsin has a thing. Penn State has a thing. We need a thing.
But you already have a thing.
What is Michigan's thing, by the way? Oh right. The Team.
At linebacker Jonathan Brown (108 tackles, 8 sacks, 1 INT) will quarterback the defense from his station in the middle. Last year he and his fellow backers were a superaggressive unit, which probably explains why a middle linebacker has 8 sacks and 1 (knee to the nut-) sack. This made them prone to misdirection.
Maybe not so much on that second play, but nearly every other big Fitz gainer happened because of linebacker confusion or overpursuit.
Unless the Illini linebackers are getting coached differently this season, Borges would do well to use the same game plan with lots of spread and read option concepts.
Finally, the secondary returns both cornerbacks -- Terry Hawthorne and Justin Green -- despite losing all-purpose secondary player Tavon Wilson to the NFL. These guys were fourth in the nation pass defense last year, so even a modest dropoff in production would still make them very good.
This defense is as frightening as: A large rock. Fear level = 8. (1 = GERG 2010; 10 = Greg Mattison 2010)
Carryin' the weight.
K Derek Dimke (8/9) graduated. He missed once all season (42 yarder @ Penn State to tie the game), but it was the 42 yarder at Penn State to tie the game.
Otherwise Illinois was really bad on special teams last year. They had no return game, and they punted exclusively at inopportune times.
Yeah, that's how we all feel.
Overall record: 6-6 overall, 3-5 B1G ... maybe 7-5, 4-4.
Against Michigan: 23-10 Michigan. Don't ask me how, but it's probably going to be ugly.
Their chances of winning the B1G are as good as: A ginger trying to get a tan.
WHICH ONE OF THESE MEN IS WILL CAMPBELL? TRICK QUESTION
He is not correct. The result:
According to Ann Arbor police, Campbell was arrested after attempting to slide across the hood of a vehicle at 2 a.m. on April 7 in the 600 block of Church Street. An officer in the area could hear the sheet metal on the hood of the car buckle under Campbell’s weight — he’s listed at 322 pounds — and arrested the senior, police stated.
Campbell was intoxicated, according to police.
I'd hope so.
He's got a felony and a misdemeanor coming, which will obviously be pled down to some community service and a fine and Brady Hoke doghouse time. Will it affect his availability for Alabama? I'd say probably not, but we'll see.