to play football, not to play trumpet
|Avon, OH – 5'10", 180|
|Scout||3*, #55 CB|
4*, #241 overall
#22 CB, #14 OH
|ESPN||4*, #33 CB, #22 OH|
|24/7||4*, #23 CB, #16 OH|
|Other Suitors||PSU, Nebraska, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Northwestern|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from yrs truly|
|Notes||PSU decommit. Early enrollee. Semper Fidelis game.|
Hey, look, it's a corner-sized corner. Ross Douglas is about the same size as Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor, ie not huge, but not tiny. Along with Jourdan Lewis, Douglas comprises the (relatively) low upside, low downside section of the corner class. Unlike Reon Dawson and Channing Stribling, who could be anything from awesome to perpetual special teamers, Douglas is likely to be a contributor but not an out-and-out star.
That's not to sell the kid short. He has physical skills. Douglas first popped up on radars when he showed out as a 5'8" rising freshman(!)—ie, basically an eighth grader—and put up a 4.54 40 at a Rivals camp geared towards underclass kids. A few months later he replicated the 40($) en route to being named "combine king" at a similar event. A year later he'd picked up that Tennessee offer($) and was running 40s a tenth faster. He picked Penn State($) almost a year before signing day, decommitting when the NCAA broke out the flamethrower. 24 hours later he'd picked Michigan.
Michigan has acquired a slightly bigger and more advanced version of Courtney Avery. (Both were mostly offensive players. Douglas got two years as a defensive back while Avery barely played defense in high school.) Almost everyone describes him as a quick, hip-flipping fiend, with a couple guys making explicit comparisons to Avery. Scout's Bill Greene does as part of an extensive scouting report($):
WHAT TO LIKE: …pure speed athlete … He can run and jump with the best of Ohio's top defensive backs… skill set is more than adequate, and all he lacks is game experience at the position
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS: At 5-foot-10, or 5-foot-11, Douglas is what he is. He is not a long-armed, tall cornerback. …
WHAT ARE THE INTANGIBLES? … I feel safe in saying there are zero character concerns with Ross Douglas. He comes from a great family, with his father being a retired air traffic controller, while his mother is an associate dean of students at Case Western. An older brother is currently enrolled in medical school. … I don't know what the ceiling is for Ross Douglas a player, but I suspect it is pretty high. I do feel comfortable saying he is going to do everything he can to reach that ceiling, and he should be a player Michigan fans can be very proud of.
He showed out at a lot of camps, drawing praise for his "ability to cover in the slot", and "effortless" hip-flip. At something called "HSPD" he was a "pass breakup machine"; at a Nike camp Mark Givler said it is "fun to watch" Douglas do drills because "his backpedal is outstanding and he flips his hips as well as any DB in the state."
At that Nike camp he drew strong praise($) from Josh Helmholdt:
8. CB ROSS DOUGLAS, AVON, OHIO
Douglas is so consistently clean in coverage that you almost forget he is out there. … The 5-10, 175-pound prospect is not a flashy player. He stays in great position in relation to the wide receiver throughout routes and makes throwing the ball in his direction very unappealing. Douglas has all the speed he needs to stay with receivers and his technique is near flawless.
With that take it's no surprise Rivals is the most bullish on him. 247 was also impressed that day:
On this day, Penn State commit Ross Douglas was our pick for the top player of the talented group. He doesn’t have the height and length that is ideal in a corner prospect but he was the most fluid and natural defender in coverage at the event.
Douglas has great feet, flips his hips with ease and he also has some make-up speed to recover in tight spaces. The only thing he seems to be missing is that prototype height.
ESPN is a dissenter here:
He plays and pursues fast, but lacks ideal top-end speed and does not project to be a lockdown cover corner in college you want to leave on an island. He shows a good nose for the ball and is at his best playing the pass in front of him. He displays good footwork and balance as well as a good closing burst. He lacks a tight, fluid waist and doesn't always look smooth in transition when locked down in man, but he can recover with burst and proper inside positioning to make a play on the ball. He does a good job using his hands and leverage in tight coverage. He's aggressive and effective in press. He will reroute and take away the inside release. He competes for the jump ball when challenged deep in one-on-one coverage but can struggle versus taller receivers. We didn't see great leaping or ball skills.
Scout is kind of in the same boat. There's a lot of "good" in their profile:
Change of Direction
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Good athlete with good feet and quickness. Good speed and ability to run downfield with receivers. At his size, bigger receivers may give him trouble. He will have to get stronger in college. Played more offense than defense in high school, so he will have a learning curve for corner, but is a smart, coachable kid with the athletic tools you need in coverage. - Allen Trieu
Ah, the always-funny "size" area for improvement. No one should ever give me access to Scout's database, because I'll immediately add things like "number of arms" to everyone's "areas for improvement."
It was more of the same at the Semper Fi game. Semper Fi is Yet Another High School All Star game. While no one's really sure if the Army game or UA game is #1, Semper Fi is definitively #3. It does represent a higher level of competition for everyone who shows up, though, and is the most recent scouting we've got for Douglas. That scouting is MOTS, for the most part:
Scout: "…made it hard for any ball thrown his way to make it to the receiver. He never lost sight of the ball or his man. … physical at the line of scrimmage and also [able to] flip his hips and run in coverage. …showed speed to make up ground late on a deep ball.
247: "Douglas does not have outstanding size, but he’s got good hips and feet, can change direction well and has excellent recovery speed."
Rivals: "…downright giddy over the chance to compete with top-level competition. When he was forced to rotate out of drills, he immediately begged to get back to the action. He was fundamentally sound and had his moments of greatest [sic, no idea], but his spirit and competitiveness helped him stand out.
The idea. You have it.
But wait, there's more: in addition to Douglas's physical skills, you have that "is an awesome dude" statement from Greene above. His coach strongly backs that POV:
"… I promised [Hoke] one thing that Ross Douglas will never do: he'll never embarrass Michigan's football program, ever. He's a top-notch athlete and he's got great character and he comes from a tremendous family. … In addition to that, he's worked extremely hard on his technique. He works on his craft harder than anybody probably I've ever coached."
Helmholdt chimes in($) by calling him "very smart" and "very instinctual," so the above the neck stuff all seems to be there. The Rodriguez-mentioning moratorium is temporarily lifted so we can compare the 2010 class—down to ten guys of 27—to these Hoke classes in which everyone shows up and stays around unless they get injured.
Etc.: Like dang near every other DB in the class, he's been told that nickelback is where he'll get his first swing($)—in this case where he got his first swing since Douglas enrolled early. He has apparently lost that battle to the six-foot-plus thumper Dymonte Thomas.
Coach Hoke told me all the defensive staff raves about me," Douglas said. "They are bringing in four corners this class and they brought in four [defensive backs] last class, so they just want me to compete. They said there is a lot of opportunity at Michigan."
Why Courtney Avery? Smallish cover-oriented nickelback from Ohio who mostly played offense in high school.
Douglas has several things on Avery, though: an inch or two, two years of experience, three quarters of a star (Avery was a consensus three-star), and a number of good-but-not-elite offers. While Avery has struggled whenever he's been asked to move outside, Douglas has enough upside to project him as a potential field corner.
You could go Blake Countess here if you're being optimistic, but the scouting reports on Countess were rapture. Douglas's are a couple notches down from that. Maybe split the difference between Countess and Avery?
Guru Reliability: Exacting. Camps, healthy, played the position for a couple years, All Star appearance, basic agreement save ESPN's fire-and-forget take.
Variance: Low-plus. A slight amount of uncertainty about his experience at corner, but two years as a starter there is barely less than a full-timer would have at this point. Has whatever the opposite of character issues is.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Is never going to be tall or Charles Woodson. Has enough skill to be a solid contributor.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Should be a contributor and will at least be solid depth. Could be a fine starting option; seems unlikely to be a war daddy.
Projection: Despite the early enrollment a redshirt could beckon. Douglas seemed behind not only the starters but a couple vets in spring at both field corner (boundary seems out of the question for him as a freshman) and nickel. More likely, Douglas gets special teams time and the occasional snap on defense this year.
Next year it's probably more of the same. Michigan loses only Courtney Avery. Competition for playing time will be fierce. The best bet for PT in year two is for Douglas to become a preferred option to Dymonte Thomas on third and long. Tough road, that. It is totally great that a guy like Douglas is the option off the bench in case someone goes down. That's a luxury right there.
Given the emergence of Thomas and Countess having the field corner spot on lockdown for the next year or two, that redshirt looks pretty tempting.
Before we get to this, if you haven't yet go down to Heiko's Exclusive Interview with Borges. It is penetrating, and excellent, and kind of a coup that we got it.
I know what you were thinking. When spring practices meant there was actual FOOTBALL to pay attention to for a moment, you immediately sought the defensive back depth chart because:
- You are aware that the original X-hating god resides in our backfield
- You are aware that Jordan Kovacs isn't back there being your banky anymore
- You remember how you felt about things before Kovacs became your banky
- You remember we recruited a 5-star (to at least one service) this year and that he's enrolling early.
- You can't really name all the various Cass Tech dudes so you kinda have to check in every once in awhile to figure out which you actually have to learn.
This is likely when you discovered the aforementioned 5-star was at nickelback and you did a double-take because you read Dymonte's scouting report, and "is a cornerback" wasn't in it. I am supposing further that you think "nickelback" equals "cornerback" because by golly you've played that game with Woodson or Desmond or Denard or a handful of less important schmucks on the cover, and know that nickelback is the guy you put third on the cornerback depth chart who comes in on passing downs. Right Inigo?
Back when your grandpa was playing NCAA '06 or whatever, base defenses were 4-3 or 3-4, backfields had four dudes, and teams would cordially run on 1st and 2nd down and if it was still long on 3rd down they'd put another receiver on the field, you'd put another cornerback on the field, and because this was a 5th defensive back you called him the "nickel" and everything was nice and sense-y-make-y.
Then everything changed.
[Jump to understand]
[Finally: A one-on-one chat with Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges that has been eight months in the making. In part 1, Borges describes a typical game week, talks about game planning, and shows me what his call sheet looks like.]
“Heiko, what’s up?”
Not much, how are you?
“Just wonderful. How are you?”
Good. It’s good to see you.
How’s the offseason?
“What offseason? I’m not seeing it.”
Oh yeah, you have recruiting stuff.
“It’s always the onseason.”
*BREAKING* 6'6", 230-Pound Quarterback Has Strong Arm After All
Michigan quarterback commit Wilton Speight flew across the country to compete in the Elite 11 San Francisco regional camp last weekend. Despite a field featuring several of the top prospects in the country,—including #1 pro-style QB Keller Chryst and Oregon commit Morgan Mahalak—nobody at the camp earned an invite to the Elite 11 finals; Speight showed off a strong arm and high ceiling but struggled a bit with his mechanics, as you can see in the above video (he's the one with the Michigan shorts, natch). The Elite 11's resident coach, former NFL QB Trent Dilfer, gave his thoughts on Speight to 247's Barton Simmons:
One of the longest commutes to compete at the event came from Richmond, Va. native Wilton Speight. The Michigan commit was also one of the biggest prospects in attendance with regard to his physical stature and Dilfer noted that his size is both his strength and his weakness at this point.
Dilfer on Speight: “He had a nice day. He’s obviously a very physical kid, tall, strong. I think he’s got to get more organized. Everything’s just got to get more organized for him to be consistent. That’s typical for a lot of linear guys. There’s a lot of moving parts.”
Scout's crew of experts all had Speight outside the top five performers, but national analyst Greg Biggins—as well as Speight himself—still had a largely positive review of his play ($) [emphasis mine]:
The biggest quarterback in the camp was easily Richmond (Va.) Collegiate School’s Wilton Speight. The Michigan commit looks all of 6-6, 230 pounds and he had a solid camp. He was able to make all the throws showing off a strong arm and actually looked better than expected when he had to throw on the run.
Speight is a pure drop back quarterback who throws a tight ball and can get the ball down the field. He threw some of the best deep balls in the camp and makes it look easy and effortless.
“I was happy with my performance, I wasn’t overly thrilled with all my throws but overall, I thought I had a good day,” Speight said. “There’s always a couple of throws you want back but the beauty of this is there’s still 13 spots left for the final Elite 11. No one got the invite today so you just have to stay patient and let the process play itself out.”
As Speight said above, he'll still have a chance to earn his way into the finals later this spring; he won't be the only one from the SF regional with something to prove, as five-star Chryst reportedly (and by his own admission) struggled mightily.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest visit plans of five-star DT Andrew Brown, Michigan commits in the updated Rivals100 and Top247, and more.]
Best ever. Wolverine Historian assembles 15 minutes of Keith Jackson clips, and it's as glorious as you'd think.
"my spine is still tingling" -Ace
WH's magnum opus? To date.
Get the brooms. Congrats to the softball team, which swept through their regional in three straight games. Michigan opened the weekend with a 5-0 shutout of Valpo, did the exact same thing to Cal the next day, and took out the Bears again to close out their 16th regional title.
Michigan gets Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend at Alumni for the right to go to the WCWS after the Ragin' Cajuns upset LSU. Michigan beat ULL earlier this season in Florida 3-1. That was ace vs ace as Driesenga faced off against ULL's Jordan Wallace, who was 31-7 this season with a 1.73 ERA and four Ks to every walk issued. A two run Ashley Lane homer was the difference.
ULL proceeded to stomp through the Sun Belt before falling into the elimination bracket early in their conference tourney; though they pushed through and took WKU to a winner-take-all final they could not get the job done in that. That didn't seem to affect them, as they also swept through their regional without giving up so much as a run.
Michigan should be favored, I'd guess.
Notable things said during the takeover. WTKA's annual Mott Takeover was Friday and raised almost 100k for the eponymous children's hospital. It also was an opportunity for people to say notable things on the radio. The reddest of the red meat came from Steve Everitt. Brady Hoke's pet viking took the opportunity to blast Kirk Cousins for something innocuous he said two years ago and dump on "Notre Shame," no doubt causing a tweed-jacketed Notre Dame alum driving through town to bite down so hard on his pipe that it cracked. Meat for the meat god!
In news-ish substances, Roy Manning reiterated that Jake Ryan was on track for a midseason recovery and talked up his potential replacements. On Beyer:
"He's done a great job, he really has," Manning said of Beyer. "The transition was seamless for him. He did the things that made him successful in the past. That kid really is a sharp kid. Probably one of the hardest working kids -- I think most people on the team -- hardest working kids on the entire team."
Curt Mallory noted that statements around here that nickel is really a 12th starting spot are neither balderdash nor horsehockey:
“He got the majority of the reps at the nickel back,” Mallory said of Thomas on Friday during the Mott Takeover on WTKA-AM (1050). “That position has been played in the past by not only Courtney, but also Thomas Gordon. That really is a position that’s a starting position. Our first year, I believe Courtney played 400-some snaps at that position alone.
"(Thomas is) going to be a contributor -- we’re expecting him to be a major contributor, more so at the nickel back position and we’ll see where he goes from there.”
Also, yeah, Thomas has already locked down a starting job. Borges talked up Kyle Kalis and did vaguely imply that Glasgow had a slight edge for the LG job:
"The depth chart is still in pencil there, but one guy who took the next step was Kyle Kalis," Borges said. "When he came in, he was just not ready to play yet. It was overwhelming from the systematic perspective. Not so much physically. Kyle from the first day to the last day (of spring practice) really improved his game. He's a powerful kid who can run-block and is learning the techniques better in the passing game.
"And Jack Miller, our center, did a really nice job. He's in a competitive battle with Graham Glasgow, but he kind of answered the call, so I think he's going to be a factor. Left guard, Graham Glasgow, will be part of the mix there, coupled with Ben Braden, who's as talented a lineman as we have."
Chances Michigan brings in a transfer QB are dim, so it's on Shane Morris and the other guys coaching him up:
"You can't coach him -- that's your problem, is you can't coach him," offensive coordinator Al Borges said last week. "But our kids can coach him. So if he goes out there in some offseason workouts, there's no rule against Devin Gardner showing Shane Morris what to do.
"He'll have to get it through osmosis a little bit."
This is kind of a strange thing, to think a Cass Tech player is underrated. If you'd like some confirmation that Delano Hill is pretty dang fast, he ran a 10.8 100 meter at state regionals a few days ago while also anchoring Cass's 4x100m and 4x200m relays, both of which finished first.
That is not quite Denard's 10.44 from his high school days, but it's not bad for a guy who's nearly 200 pounds and is likely to play safety. Add it to the pile of reasons to think the guy is being sold a little short.
The other ball and stick game. Baseball squeezed into the Big Ten tournament as the sixth seed, not a bad accomplishment for Erik Bakich's first year. Michigan takes on Nebraska at 3:30 Wednesday (BTN) just a few days after taking two of three from the Huskers to close out the regular season.
After all, what can go wrong with drafting a touted point guard out of your home state? In news not at all likely to make me start watching the Pistons regularly for the first time since they traded Chauncey Billups—which still kills me, I mean broke-ass inefficient Allen Iverson cumong man—the Pistons have not even talked to Trey Burke:
Later Thursday, Burke is slated for at least six more interviews with pro squads.
Does he have one with the Detroit Pistons?
"No, I don't," Burke said Thursday. "I was actually surprised. But talking to my father (and agent, Benji Burke), he said some teams do that just to not let other teams know that they're interested (in a player).
"I don't know. I don't think they're going to bring me in for an interview."
Burke measured at 6'1" at the combine, which is a couple inches taller than I thought he would. That further bolsters his case to go near the top of the draft, so the Pistons potential lack of interest is likely moot anyway. Instead, Joe Dumars will pick the guy with the fewest eyebrows.
Etc.: home video of Michigan folks stopping in at Mott. Peyton Siva tells Burke the best block ever was in fact a block and not a foul. Jeff Withey changes his tune on Mitch McGary. Michigan won't break its Adidas contract. Well… yeah.
You Know The Drill
TRUE FACT: TomVH used to say "buckle up" all the time. You should remind him of this frequently.
On Wednesday morning, TomVH broke the news that five-star NJ CB Jabrill Peppers will announce his college decision live on ESPNU on May 26th*, when he'll choose between finalists LSU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, and Stanford. Peppers
has a visit set to Penn State for tomorrow, and could make one more "surprise" visit—presumably Rutgers—before making his announcement.
[UPDATE: Scout's Brian Dohn just posted on the GBW message board that a source tells him Peppers has cancelled his Penn State visit ($).]
As for any concerns that those final visits could sway Peppers from a presumed pledge to Michigan—let's just say it doesn't sound likely, given this quote to a local paper:
“I know and feel very confident in the decision I’m going to make,” said Peppers.
Michigan commits feel very confident in that decision being for—you guessed it—Michigan:
— Drake Harris™ (@drizzygetbusy01) May 15, 2013
(If you're wondering why Speight and Harris will be in San Diego, quarterback guru George Whitfield—the guy with the broom who's worked with Devin Gardner—is hosting a camp that weekend.)
You have nine days until following proper safety protocol is strongly advised. I have eight days to decide whether pre-writing a post is worth the jinx-bait.
BONUS: In the wake of the MSU-Jay Harris mutual** parting of the ways so Harris can pursue a rap career, Peppers weighed in on his USA Today blog [emphasis mine]:
Peppers, who will choose between Michigan, Stanford, Penn State, Notre Dame, LSU and Rutgers on May 26, said that each school is well aware of his current rap career and long-term aspirations.
"They ask me about it all the time," Peppers said. "They're OK with it because my raps are clean. I just think if he (Harris) really wanted to pursue rap he could've gone about it a better way. I don't think anyone in their right mind would turn down a free education to a prestigious university to play football. It could only help your career."
Peppers said from broadening your vocabulary, to overwhelming exposure, to having an established fan base, "whether you're nice with your rap skills or not," college has "unlimited benefits" to boosting a career in the booth.
One key difference between Peppers and Harris, aside from the blunt-smoking and bailing on a free education: Peppers is nice on the mic, Harris... well, you've probably seen the video by now. I'm legitimately disappointed Leon McQuay III didn't sign on this year, both for the obvious reason—he's pretty good at football—and so he and Peppers could potentially form the elite defensive back version of JDK & Rey.
BONUS BONUS: Speaking of good defensive back recruits, IL CB Parrker Westphal could be approaching a commitment, per TomVH ($):
After his visit to Arizona State [this weekend] Westphal says he might take a trip to Tennessee, but nothing is set in stone. From there he will only focus on those schools on his list and continue to visit and evaluate what those programs have to offer. Westphal still says he is in no hurry to make a decision, but would like to get it done sooner than later.
“I want to make it before the season,” he said. “Games don’t start until August, but practice is in a few weeks so we’ll see when it happens.”
Michigan is "still the school he uses to compare other visits," and Westphal noted that his recent Florida visit went well... with the caveat that Michigan offers better academics. If he sticks to a summer decision timeline, it's hard to see him ending up elsewhere.
*Now a banner day for fans of Michigan football and Arrested Development. Peppers' announcement will hopefully ensure that I don't attempt to watch the entire fourth season in one sitting. (I probably will anyway.)
**Since Harris had signed a LOI, it's my understanding that State could not legally revoke his scholarship without consent, though the looming prospect of getting through admissions means Harris still didn't have much of a choice, in all likelihood.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the linebacker situation, new offers, Michigan visiting the son of rap royalty, and more.]