"This is really important to be here," Lewan said. "I'm here to give back and help out my teammate."
The Ballad of Boubacar is brief and unfortunate
This is the second part of an in-depth look at the 2008 recruiting class, and more specifically Brian's recruiting profiles for that class. You can find part one, covering the offense, here. If you'd like to peruse the recruiting profiles yourself—a highly recommended time-waster—you can find links to each position group here. Without further ado, let's look back at the eight-member defensive class of 2008. This one's not for the squeamish.
Mike Martin Wrestles Not Mike Martin, Which Goes As Expected
Let's start with the good, yes? Mike Martin not only stands as the clear-cut best player in the class, but outside of two-star Patrick Omameh may very well be the only player to surpass expectations from when he hit campus. Those expectations, at least from Brian, were pretty high:
Guru Reliability: High.
General Excitement Level: High. The highlight reel is totally impressive, there are zero questions about work ethic or how in shape he is, and he's got pretty good guru rankings.
Projection: Will play in the DT rotation immediately, and will probably leap past Ferrara, Kates (if Kates remains on the team), et al to claim a starting spot once Taylor and Johnson graduate.
The remarkable strength that helped Martin excel for four years at Michigan was also on full display during his high school wrestling career, and fortunately there is video evidence of a young Martin perfecting his Hulk Smash. A Simmons-style running diary follows:
0:00 — Martin and his opponent—"Mo" is his name, judging by the cheers from people around the cameraman—jog onto the mat.
0:07 — Mo removes what appears to be an ankle tether, so maybe this is just an elaborate criminal punishment that almost certainly violates the 8th Amendment.
0:14 — Martin shakes Mo's hand. Martin releases his grip and Mo's hand goes limp, never again to function properly.
0:16 — The match begins. Martin begins stalking his prey, who ignores his coach's cries to "circle, circle!" and instead backpedals furiously to avoid Martin's grasp. Within seconds, Mo finds himself out of bounds.
0:36 — At the restart, Mo goes for an ill-timed high-five. Martin ignores this desperate plea for peace and immediately dives for a single-leg takedown.
0:44 — Mo manages to ward off the takedown, but once again backs himself out of the ring. When facing Mike Martin, this is not cowardice, but simply a display of proper survival instincts.
0:56 — On the second restart, Mo lightly pats Martin on the head. If you consult page 56 of your Worst Case Scenario handbook, you know this is the last thing you want to do when encountering a Mike Martin in the wild.
1:12 — Martin gets his hands on the back of Mo's head then explodes for a takedown, knocking Mo to the very edge of the mat. Mo sees an opportunity for escape and frantically crawls for the exits. Mike Martin is having none of that:
1:20 — As Mo's compatriots cackle at his misfortune, Martin assumes control and pins his convulsing opponent, ending this match with relative humanity.
1:50 — The two shake hands as Martin is declared the winner. Martin goes on to star at Michigan. Mo reattaches his ankle tether, vows to straighten his life out, and hastily seeks both physical and emotional therapy.
This Did Not Go As Planned, Part I
The first, and highest-ranked, of the Cass Tech Lollipop Guild line of cornerbacks was Boubacar Cissoko, a top-50 overall recruit to every site save ESPN, where he was outrageously(!) pegged as the nation's #28 corner. Regrettable statement goes here:
Guru Reliability: Maximal. The unified chorus: this is a perfect cornerback except he's 5'8".
General Excitement Level: High. Obvious physical limitation aside, the perfect corner.
Projection: Plays as a freshman and is starting next to Warren by his sophomore year.
Cissoko flashed promise as a freshman in 2008, even starting two contests. Then Michael Floyd and Golden Tate lit him up again and again in 2009 before Cissoko went on a crime spree that quickly found him off the team and then incarcerated. While Cissoko obviously never reached anything close to the potential that had Brian so excited, his recruiting profile did feature one bit of eerie foreshadowing [emphasis mine]:
A couple years ago, I watched [current Detroit Lions CB Chris] Houston and Arkansas play South Carolina. Redshirt sophomore Sidney Rice was the Gamecock's big star and Houston lined up nose-to-nose with Rice in eff-you press man on every single play. Spurrier went after him again and again; sometimes he won and sometimes he lost, but usually because Rice reeled in a perfectly-thrown fade. It was a fantastic individual battle and I came away impressed with both players. So did the NFL: Houston went with the eighth pick in the second round; Rice went just four picks later.
Maybe this isn't the most reassuring comparison, as Rice did end up with 7 catches for 128 yards and Arkansas lost, but... hey... free second round pick!
Michael Floyd vs. Michigan, 2009: 7 catches, 131 yards, and a touchdown. Somehow, the Wolverines won anyway.
Instead of 3-4 years of Cissoko stardom, this was the guy who ended up as a multi-year starter at cornerback:
Guru Reliability: High. No reason he'd be under the radar; offers about commensurate with ranking.
General Excitement Level: Meh.
Projection: Though he's being brought in as a corner a move to safety is likely given the above, where he'll probably end up buried behind Stevie Brown, Artis Chambers, Stewart, and maybe Brandon Smith until his junior year, at which point he might develop into a contributor.
If you read that and went "sounds like J.T. Floyd," give yourself a cookie. At least, "meh" was most everyone's general impression of Floyd until last year's Illinois game; his emergence as a reliable starting corner means he's surpassed most reasonable expectations for his career.
The final secondary recruit was safety Brandon Smith, whose guru ratings took a Marvin Robinson-like dive for very similar reasons:
Smith looks like a prototypical collegian at a strapping 6'2", 210, but the lack of big time offers is telling. It's easy to believe Smith could lure the gurus in with his impressive frame at various combines and inflate his ranking while leaving college coaches relatively unmoved.
Excitement level was only "moderate" and a move to outside linebacker predicted. Smith moved to linebacker, then announced his intention to transfer before the end of the 2009 season. He landed at Temple and is not listed on the 2012 spring roster.
This Did Not Go As Planned, Part II
Michigan's recruiting haul included four linebackers rated as four-stars by Rivals, providing promise of much-needed depth and versatility for the position group going forward. The class included New Jersey's Marcus Witherspoon (Spoon!)...
An explosive edge rusher who's probably too small to be a fulltime defensive end in college? Add four inches and some chicken legs and that sounds like Shawn Crable, who actually spent quite a bit of time as a defensive end anyway.
...as well as Youngstown product Taylor Hill:
What does Michigan have in Hill? The comparison above, Larry Foote, is a strong one. Like Foote, Hill is an undersized WLB who played his high school ball as a defensive end and specialized in getting into the backfield.
As you know, the Wolverines did not end up with new versions of Crable and Foote. Instead, Witherspoon hit a snag with the NCAA Clearinghouse and eventually signed with Rutgers, while Hill was on the team for all of one game before transferring to Youngstown State.
Fellow linebacker recruit J.B. Fitzgerald—"a good bet to be a multi-year starter"—also joined the ranks of the disappointing. Kenny Demens is the only class of 2008 linebacker to make a significant impact despite being pegged as a "low upside sort" and getting a less-than-complimentary player comparison:
Chris Graham may not be the most appealing comparison, but the elements are all there: a little undersized (I am of the belief the 6'1" frequently thrown around as his height is overstated), has difficulting getting through traffic, praised for his short range burst and thumping tackling. Graham never figured out how to play in control or get to the right place at the right time and was thus a disappointing starter; if Demens can play smarter he could be anything from a decent starter to a borderline all Big Ten pick.
Admittedly, that's a pretty accurate assessment. Now let's try to forget about the carnage of this class, which featured the legal adventures of Justin Feagin and Cissoko, not nearly enough Sam McGuffie YouTube magic, transfers from several critical commits, the hope that Witherspoon could mitigate the loss of Nick Perry to USC, and no Terrelle Pryor. Though, on second thought, that last bit turned out just fine.
Laser third downs and such. Wolverine Historian pays tribute to John Navarre, and even manages to get a still of the Buffalo Stampede selected as the introductory picture:
That's some youtube wizardry there.
Congrats on Olympic trials… and not dying. Michigan men's gymnast Sam Mikulak finished third in the men's gymnastics senior nationals and will appear at the Olympic trials as a result. He escaped a scary situation to do so:
Determined to make a good impression this weekend in St. Louis after missing last year's U.S. gymnastics championships with two broken ankles, Mikulak didn't flinch when he realized the parallel bars were loose.
After he had already started his routine.
"I thought the bar was going to fall and I was going to die," Mikulak conceded.
This comes a year after Mikulak managed to break those ankles on the floor exercise. Mikulak taped his ankles up and finished the meet because he only thought he'd badly bruised himself. The Olympic trials are in three weeks. USA Today has more on Mikulak's story.
Camp, basketball version. Michigan's Elite Camp was over the weekend, and while the effects were significantly less dramatic than last year's when the entire 2013 recruiting class was gathered, one Keita Bates-Diop was in attendance. Joe Stapleton on his appearance:
Keita Bates-Diop (2014, Wing, Illinois Wolves)
Keita was probably the only player in attendance who is a “lock” for a Michigan offer on June 15th. He didn’t appear to be in his element during the 5-on-5 scrimmages but his skillset was more than evident in the drill portion of camp. Everything he was asked to do he did easily. His concentration and coordination was on display and it separated him from his peers. During the 5-on-5 scrimmages Keita didn’t exactly stand out but did what his team needed from him in this guard-filled camp: he rebounded the ball well, finished in the post, and played smart defense. Bates-Diop’s performance jives with what we’ve seen this spring: he has all of the tools but needs to become one or two notches more aggressive within a game setting. Still, he was solid and definitely the best player in attendance.
As the blockquote says, Beilein only offers after that's officially allowed in four days. At that point you'll see Bates-Diop and a few others like Devin Booker get them. It doesn't seem like anyone will drop right away, but I don't think anyone other than maybe the coaches was expecting to get four commitments last June.
There was one surprise 2013 name to watch, a kid named Vitto Brown out of Bowling Green, Ohio who you may remember being the one tall guy in that video where Mark Donnal goes bonkers. He was impressive but remains a 6'7" post player. I'd guess Michigan keeps him on the radar in case they get more attrition than they expect. Right now they're full.
Camp, fantasy version. Both the Women's Football Academy and the Men's Football Experience also happened recently. Fluff video ho:
Also there is one for the men. The big news resulting is Devin Gardner switching to #12 and Drew Dileo possibly switching to #9. Angelique Chengelis participated. Money was raised. I have no comment about this.
Brady Hoke is irascibly old-fashioned about something. He's like that about everything, yes. Here's a specific instance:
"You can take all these stars and the way all these guys are rated and all that, and that's great for the fan base and the public," Hoke told reporters last week. "But we've had some pretty good players here that probably would have been two-star guys.
"Tom Brady probably would have been a two-star guy. He turned out OK, I think."
Could have gone better. Michigan lost to Army 27-6 in 1954. Newsreel footage of that:
That bomb is totally offensive pass interference.
This game would be Michgian's last loss against Army. Michigan won the next two years and then a couple times in the sixties; the two teams haven't played since 1962.
Lines. Some real actual lines from Vegas:
- +12 vs Alabama
- +1 at Notre Dame
- -6 vs Michigan State
- -2 at Nebraska
- -2 at Oho State
That Alabama line has gotten a little less depressing after periods where it was supposedly +14.5, though I'm not sure you could have gotten a bet on that in an actual casino at any point.
Most of these lines are in the "I don't have any idea" range. When team X is favored by less than a field goal that's basically a coinflip. Could be a nervous fall.
What's wrong with Fielding? Peregrine falcons have been named inconsistently:
After receiving hundreds of submissions through the university's Facebook page, four peregrine falcon chicks that recently hatched in a nesting box atop University Hospital have been named Bo, Fritz, Lloyd and Yost.
The university selected the winning names after inviting the community to participate an online naming contest. The names reference former head football coaches Bo Schembechler, Herbert (Fritz) Crisler, Lloyd Carr and Fielding Yost.
This drives me crazy.
Etc.: Caris LeVert signs a thing, is now official. Hockey will play Cornell at MSG on November 24th, the day of the OSU game. Glenn Robinson continues to throw down dunks. 2011 four-star C Brian Bobek leaves the OSU team after plunging down the depth chart. Red Hot Chili Peppers troll Columbus.
Michigan picks up a commitment and there's a change at the two-spot in this week's recruiting rankings. To answer your question, no, Indiana still doesn't have a commit. Yes, I'm pretty sure they still have a football program. Changes since the last rankings:
6-4-12: Penn State picks up Neiko Robinson.
6-6-12: Michigan picks up Scott Sypniewski. Penn State picks up William Fuller.
6-7-12: Notre Dame picks up Isaac Rochell.
6-8-12: Northwestern picks up Tyler Lancaster, Brad North, and Macan Wilson.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||ESPN Avg||Avg Avg^|
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as two-star players.
On to the full data after the jump.
|Detroit, MI – 6'2", 215|
|Scout||4*, #2 MLB, #111 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #9 ILB, #4 MI, #184 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #9 ILB, #2 MI, #113 overall|
|24/7||4*, #25 OLB, #209 overall, #5 MI|
|Other Suitors||Alabama, Florida, Miami(that Miami), Oklahoma, MSU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Ace scouts Cass games versus De La Salle, Cody, and Harrison. Ace interviews him.|
|Notes||Cass Tech (everyone). Army All-American.|
Michigan's third Westside Cub in the 2012 class, Royce Jenkins-Stone is also the second consensus four-star linebacker and second Cass Tech kid covered in this series. As a recruit he's a lot different than his Police Athletic League compatriots, though: where both James Ross and Terry Richardson are praised for advanced skillsets and knocked for their size, Jenkins-Stone is an A-level athlete who needs some molding.
Jenkins-Stone's name first started popping up when he was a rising junior hitting the camp circuit all Cass Tech kids hit hard. Barry Every came back with this evaluation($) from the 2010 Columbus NTFC:
Royce Jenkins-Stone, 6-2/216, OLB, Detroit Cass Tech (2012 class)
Has quick feet, long arms and a great frame for adding more muscle mass. … Displayed tremendous lateral movement during the 10-yard boundary drill, basically taking away any chance of a running back just trying to hit the sideline.
CONCLUSION: Detroit Cass Tech has another future star in the making. He has the size and speed to become not only one of the top prospects in Michigan next year, but a national recruit.
That was borne out as Jenkins-Stone went on to a productive, aggressive junior year. He racked up 90 tackles and a handful of sacks as he spearheaded the Technicians' defense. When the recruiting sites started releasing rankings, he was first or second in the state; Rivals had him the only Michigan kid in their top 100. ESPN's evaluation($) was last updated in June of 2011 and serves as a snapshot of where his star was before his senior year:
Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. This guy is a strong knock'em back tackler who will punish ball carriers when the opportunity presents itself; should be very productive early as a special teams player. … Although we detect some hip tightness we see the flexibility, balance and agility necessary to play in space; does a very good job getting a jump on the ball; is quick to key and read, displaying a tough downhill attacking style vs. inside and edge running plays. Shows the playing strength necessary to shed blockers while moving through traffic; keeps leverage on the ball showing good change of direction skills. … Does a great job with run and pass blitz timing; has the explosive playing strength to beat blockers through gaps and put immediate pressure on the quarterback; is responsible for quite a few sacks and hurries. This guy has very good instincts; plays with the intensity and toughness necessary to create havoc anywhere on the field.
Allen Trieu's assessment is similar, listing aggressiveness, athleticism, and toughness as assets and discipline as a drawback:
Has solid size and good speed and athleticism. An aggressive player who is best when in attack mode and shooting gaps. Good ability in coverage, as he has good ball skills and length. Improved as a junior in reading plays, but can still have a tendency to over run some plays. Often times, he is beating blocks with speed and sheer aggressiveness, so he will have to learn to take on and shed blockers at the college level.
Unfortunately, since then his star has waned a bit. Cass got annihilated in their season opener against Harrison and Jenkins-Stone did not have an impact. Josh Helmholdt($) on that:
With a Rivals100 ranking, more was expected of Jenkins-Stone in his senior season opener, but the 6-2, 215-pound prospect did not disappear completely. He registered a couple tackles for loss and showed off great speed, but got bottled up too often and had trouble picking his way through traffic. Jenkins-Stone moves well in space and when he hits you, you're going down. He made a great play ripping the ball from a Harrison back to force a fumble in the second quarter. The awesome physical tools were still recognizable, but this was certainly not Jenkins-Stone's best performance.
Helmholdt followed that up with some commentary on why Jenkins-Stone dropped like a jenkins-stone in Rivals's postseason rankings revamp:
"As a junior, Jenkins-Stone played an aggressive, downhill style of football player and was all over the field. We saw him live in two and a half games as a senior, though, and he had lost that aggressive style and was playing back on his heels. Jenkins-Stone has also grown very little since we saw him the first time as a sophomore and that raises questions about his ability to add the necessary strength and bulk to play inside in college."
Much like the last time I saw him play, there was a concerted effort by his opponent to run away from him, but I must admit I was still disappointed by his performance overall. RJS has all the physical tools you'd like to see in a BCS-caliber linebacker, but it appeared either his effort or instincts were lacking at times (my, er, instinct is that the latter is more the issue, since RJS appears to be very into the game emotionally at all times)—this is no more apparent than in the third clip from the video, in which he bites hard on an end-around fake and leaves a huge gap for the quarterback to take off up the middle.
This is not to say that I don't think Jenkins-Stone is a good player—when he's aggressive, he does a good job of finding a way to the ball and either making a play or forcing the ballcarrier into the rest of the defense. I like the way he's able to shed blocks to get to where he wants to go, and his athleticism and size combine to be a huge asset, and if anything, he's just got to harness that athleticism and play more under-control.
A later game against De La Salle was better; Ace pointed out that RJS also got 22 carries as a meat-grinding tailback and that Cass Tech's reliance on him on both sides of the ball suggests his motor is excellent. Cass did claim a whopping 145 tackles for him as a senior. I'm a little skeptical of that since his numbers in the three games that were heavily scouted add up to maybe 15 tackles.
After his somewhat disappointing senior year, Jenkins-Stone fell out of top 100s everywhere but retained his guy-we-rank-and-give-four-stars status. ESPN and Scout continued to list him just outside of their top 100s, but ESPN still has a fire-and-forget tendency.
You may note the weird offer list, with huge national names but no Penn State, Notre Dame, or Ohio State. (MSU did offer, but they're going to offer any four-star prospect in the state every year.) That's probably the local powers wanting Cass kids to actually show up on campus before they seriously pursue yet another player headed to Michigan. The recruiting articles on Jenkins-Stone mention a planned Notre Dame trip, but are silent about the result of it—it probably never happened. The powers halfway across the country were tossing the offer out as a way to get interest.
The local heavies hesitancy was well-founded. RJS was the first Cub to commit, taking himself off the market in mid-April($) right after Kaleb Ringer. Like Richardson, he flirted with visits to some of the power offers he picked up but ended up backing off after getting a stern phone call about the consequences of doing so.
At Michigan he'll start out as part of the MLB/WLB battle royale. However, the depth chart suggests someone is moving to the strongside. With Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark poised to duke it out at WDE, Jake Ryan's only backup is actually older than him. Michigan is going to have to slide someone down.
With Joe Bolden looking like the heir apparent at MLB and James Ross too small, the prime candidates are Jenkins-Stone and Ringer… except Ringer is listed at 6'0" most places and is not regarded as a vertical attacking threat in the same way RJS is. Michigan had already moved Beyer when Ringer showed for spring practice and he was still playing on the inside.
If Michigan wants to start grooming a Jake Ryan replacement this fall, RJS is the guy. While most of the sites list him as an inside linebacker, various analysts note the possibility he'll move outside. More Trieu:
He is truly has the physical presence to play inside, and the athleticism to move outside depending upon where Michigan needs him and has the potential to compete early. An aggressive player who is best when in attack mode and shooting gaps.
From both a roster standpoint and a player fit standpoint, that seems like the move. Most of the evaluations above hint that he's better as an athlete who can operate in space instead of a play-reading, traffic-evading inside linebacker. SLB is the land of insane athletes who can terrorize quarterbacks and take on tight ends without having to worry about guards or seam routes, and that sounds like Jenkins-Stone.
“They’re getting a kid that is athletic,” Wilcher said. “A kid that has great hands, catches the ball well. Good feet. Strong and has great speed for the linebacker position. One that can cover backs coming out of the backfield. Michigan runs the same style of defense we run, so I think hell fit right in. He’ll know all the calls and all the gaps, and I think he'll adjust quickly.”
An old old Webb News article.
Why Jake Ryan? Ryan is an often-irresponsible (but getting better) vertical attacker around 6'2" who has filled out into the 230-240 pound range and spent his high school career terrorizing backfields as a blitzer.
It's not a fantastic fit because the recruiting services missed on Ryan thanks to his late emergence and he played as an OLB in a 3-3-5; RJS was an inside linebacker in a 3-4. It's still pretty good. If you were going to list three assets and a drawback for Ryan you'd be hard-pressed to deviate from Trieu's formulation of RJS above: aggressive, athletic, tough… and a bit undisciplined.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Healthy, heavily scouted, same (or very similar) college position, and an All-Star appearance.
Variance: Moderate. Does need to put on some weight, may end up a bit of a tweener between the inside and outside, and has some boom/bust potential.
Ceiling: High. Seems a notch below the nutso athleticism that would get him a "very high" but easy to see him topping out at an all-conference level.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. A little leery of the senior-year backslide a lot of responsibility on offense may have had something to do with that. Probably needs to make an adjustment to a position he hasn't played before. Doesn't seem as likely to hit his ceiling as Ross or Bolden, but still nice bullet to have in the chamber.
Projection: Jenkins-Stone is the most likely of the four incoming linebackers to redshirt. Bolden and Ringer came in for spring practice and Ross has a reputation as a guy who sees the game ahead of his years. Even if he makes the move to SLB Michigan has two solid options in front of him. Given the evaluations above, burning a redshirt for special teams activity seems highly inadvisable.
After a hypothetical redshirt year, RJS will find the linebacker depth chart largely in place. Only Kenny Demens departs after this year; with everyone else back it'll be tough to fight past Bolden, Morgan, Ryan, Gordon, et al, to find the field. He should get plenty of time on special teams and some garbage time drives. He'll probably find his way onto the two-deep as a redshirt sophomore and will be a prime candidate along with Mike McCray to replace Ryan in three years.
Yes. Michigan has a touted guy they shouldn't have to unearth until he's a redshirt junior. On defense and everything.
Loves him that blitz. Recently Seth had the pleasure of spending some time at an airport with Michigan State LB Chris Norman. Norman, like any other high-profile athlete at a D-1 school, was well versed in giving vanilla answers to most questions about his experience as a football player, mostly some variation of "I'm just grateful for the opportunity, you know?"
No one had taught him how to respond to questions about the double A-gap blitz, though.
"Oh yeah, coach loves him that blitz!"
Two years ago it didn't appear much until the second half of the game. Aside from the two endzone interceptions, Michigan was having relative success moving the ball with quick passes and Denard being Denard. As soon as the Wolverines sputtered and fell behind and Denard got more and more beat up, however, Narduzzi got aggressive. He used the double A-gap blitz to disrupt the running game as well as prevent Denard from getting into a rhythm with longer downfield passes, and it was particularly effective because Michigan's receivers were dropping balls like pubescent boys late in the game, so they couldn't use quick passes to get around it.
Last year the Spartans applied the blitz early and often. They knew that Denard was still having issues with the pro-style passing schemes, and they knew Borges sure as hell wasn't going to be doing anything like throw a screen pass. The blitz stifled Michigan's ground game and forced Denard to throw downfield in the blustery trash tornado, which resulted in a stat line that was something like 9/21 for one miserable TD and 2 bona fide INTs (the easy one got dropped). It gave Rimington Trophy winner David Molk the worst game of his career.
Water is wet. Since Narduzzi loves him that blitz so much, a dollar says Michigan will see it again. Obvious conclusion: Borges should design some plays to neutralize it. Please design some plays to neutralize it. Also, the offense should seriously spend some time changing up the snap count.
The sun is bright. CB Johnny Adams has some serious 'tude. Dude gets pissy every time he gets blocked by Roy Roundtree.
I am a jelly donut. Just wanted to reiterate what Brian said about Gholston not being that much of a factor in rushing the passer. Most of the time Gholston runs into Lewan and then makes a lackadaisical attempt to get around him. Maybe he was told to just contain Denard? Either way, hopefully this continues. His impact has been overstated by things he did after the whistle.
Surriously. Breaking news: Hoke takes the rivalry surriously.
The actual preview part.
Dear Trey Burke,
Michigan State has enjoyed a renaissance under Mark Dantonio with back-to-back 10-win seasons. With most of the starters returning from the B1G's most dominant defense, a lot of people have the Spartans pegged to beat Michigan for the fifth year in a row and win a B1G championship.
Can they? Michigan State has a lot of figuring out to do on offense if it wants to accomplish these goals. While talent may not necessarily be an issue, experience certainly will be as the Spartans break in a new quarterback and receiving corps. But questions on offense apply to every other B1G team in contention for the title, so while the Spartans don't possess an advantage, they aren't any worse off.
- Aug 31 (Friday), Boise State
- Sept 8, @ Central Michigan
- Sept 15, Notre Dame
- Sept 22, Eastern Michigan
- Sept 29, Ohio State
- Oct 6, @ Indiana
- Oct 13, Iowa
- Oct 20, @ Michigan
- Oct 27, @ Wisconsin
- Nov 3, Nebraska
- Nov 10, WifeDay
- Nov 17, Northwestern
- Nov 24, @ Minnesota
One noteworthy thing about Michigan State's schedule is that their bye won't be doing them any favors. They'll have made it through most of their B1G schedule before the break, and afterwards they'll be facing (just) Northwestern and Minnesota. This is important because the Spartans generally make pretty good use of their off week. Last year they were able to rebuild their offensive line in time to beat Michigan.
The Spartans have tough nonconference opponents in Boise and Notre Dame but benefit from facing them at home, where they've been undefeated for two seasons. Their only significant road games are at Michigan and Wisconsin, so despite a nonexistent bye, Michigan State will enjoy the benefits of facing most of the tougher opponents in East Lansing.
Their schedule is as favorable as: Sitting in I-94 traffic two exits from the nearest bathroom. It's okay, the only thing you had to drink was ... that 20 oz bottle of Mountain Dew half an hour ago. Uh oh.
X's and O's, Jimmys and Toms
If Dayne Crist and Dan Persa had a baby together.
QB Andrew Maxwell takes over for the recently drafted Kirk Cousins. Maxwell has been in East Lansing for a while -- he's a redshirt junior -- but no one really knows anything about him. He appeared exclusively in garbage time last season (18/26, 171 yards, 1 TD) and was held out of Michigan State's spring game due to injury. The general opinion on him is that he has a better arm than Cousins, but it remains to be seen whether he has the same leadership skills and "intangibles." For what it's worth, he was a four-star to rivals back in the day.
At running back the Spartans return LeVeon Bell (948 yards, 5.2 ypc, 13 TDs) but lost Edwin Baker to the NFL. Bell's the tall one (6-2, 237 lbs) in case you get your Michigan State running backs confused like I do all the time. He's not as wiggly as Baker was, but he's a big homerun threat. Behind him is Larry Caper (116 yards, 3.9 ypc, 1 TD). While Caper's carries were limited last season with Bell and Baker splitting most of the work, he's a guy to keep an eye on. You can watch Troy Woolfolk bounce off him in 2009 if you're into reliving the worst moments of the RR era.
The Spartans ground game lives and dies by its offensive line no matter who's carrying the ball, and last season it wasn't very good. They averaged 3.9 ypc, which was 77th nationally and worse than Illinois, who also had O-line issues. Michigan State returns most of its linemen this season, so the unit should improve, though the ceiling may be somewhat limited. Tom Dienhart from the B1G Network seems to think they're the best in the conference. That probably says more about the conference than it does about the Spartans.
And finally the receivers. They could be the most talented group of receivers in the B1G, but they're also the most inexperienced, since they're all either freshmen (Aaron Burbridge, Monty Madaris), transfers (DeAnthony Arnett), coming back from injury (Bennie Fowler, TE Dion Sims), or had four catches all last season (Tony Lippett).
Their offense is as terrifying as: A six-pack of expensive craft beer that has been discovered sitting in the garage for an unknown period of time. Fear level = 5 +/-3.
White pants after labor day was a bad choice.
Michigan State lost Worthy and S Trenton Robinson but return nearly everyone else on what was already one of the B1G's best defenses in 2011.
Formation notes: State plays a pretty standard 4-3 with a "star" LB/S hybrid position.
On the defensive line the Spartans return DE William Gholston (67 tackles, 16 TFL, 5 sacks) and DE Marcus Rush (55 tackles, 12 TFL, 4 sacks). Both are coming off breakout seasons and there's no reason to believe they won't continue to run up their stats. DT Anthony Rashad White (25 tackles, 4 TFL) will play nose, and at 6-2, 320 lbs, White will be a force in the middle. DT Tyler Hoover will fill in at the 3-tech. He's the only question mark on the D-line since he's a converted defensive end and missed most of last season due to a fractured rib.
The real strength of this defense is in the linebacking unit, where Michigan State returns all three starters from last season: Denicos Allen (83 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 11 sacks) at SAM, All-B1G Max Bullough (89 tackles, 7 TFL, 3.5 sacks) at MIKE and Chris Norman (76 tackles, 6.5 TFL) at the WILL or "star." These guys are used very aggressively and account for most of the bad things that happen in the backfield.
The Spartans secondary should also be the best in the B1G this season with CB Darqueze Dennard (42 tackles, 3 PBU, 3 INT) and All-B1G CB Johnny Adams (51 tackles, 6 PBU, 3 INT) and All-B1G S Isaiah Lewis (74 tackles, 3 PBU, 4 INT). The loss of Trenton Robinson could be significant, however, since he was reputedly a Kovacs-type leader for the secondary.
Their defense is as terrifying as: Blue Cheese that has been sitting in the garage for an unknown amount of time and is now mostly green. Fear level = 9.
K Dan Conroy (17/23) returns for his redshirt senior year as one of the best kickers in the B1G.
Record: 9-3 overall, 6-2 B1G. There are a bunch of tossups, but I feel like they'll split Boise/ND, Michigan/Wisconsin, and Ohio State/Nebraska.
Against Michigan: If Maxwell and the receivers pan out, Michigan will be in for a rough game. I don't think anyone really thinks any of the O-line and D-line matchups go in Michigan's favor. There is also that silly stat that people say every year about "whoever gets the most yards on the ground in this rivalry will win," which, if you buy that sort of thing, doesn't bode well for Michigan either. It is at home, so the Spartans won't be able to get away with too many shenanigans, but that's little consolation when you wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat because you were having nightmares about little green men piling on top of Denard and twisting his head off.
Recruiting, though. Man I love me that recruiting.
Their chances of winning the B1G are as good as: Making it to that bathroom before you piss yourself.
Today's recruiting roundup discusses the commitment of Scott Sypniewski, the new ESPN rankings, the status of Jordan Wilkins, and much more.
Hello: Scott Sypniewski
Edited but probably NSFW, because Lil Jon
As you know by now, Michigan offered and accepted a commitment from Ottawa (IL) long snapper Scott Sypniewski on Wednesday, sparking a rather mixed reaction followed by a reaction to the reaction, if you follow. Like Brian*, you can put me down for "thoroughly perplexed," especially given the timing of the offer—even if there's a potentially pressing need for a long snapper, wouldn't that be determined in the fall (especially given the presence of 2012 preferred walk-on Tyler Tokarsky) as opposed to June?
That said, Sypniewski at least represents one of the top players nationwide at the position, which has seen an increase in scholarship offers recently according to this Rivals article from May:
At least 25 of the 121 non-academies in the FBS ranks have long snappers who were awarded scholarships directly out of high school or junior college. Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell estimates that represents about a 20 percent increase over the last five or six years.
So, at least Michigan isn't alone; the article claims that students of long-snapping guru Chris Rubio earned scholarships to LSU, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Arizona State, and Michigan State (that would be one-time Michigan walk-on pledge Taybor Pepper) last year.
While I'm still not sure it was the wisest move to take a specialist at this juncture, there's one argument against taking Sypniewski that I'll address here: the cries that taking him precluded Michigan from bringing on Laquon Treadwell, Derrick Green or Jordan Wilkins, Kendall Fuller or Leon McQuay, and Joe Mathis. Like, four of those guys.
While Michigan is in great shape for Treadwell, he's the only player among that group that I'd say has a better than 33% chance of becoming a Wolverine, and that figure might be generous for most of those guys. Green keeps popping up in articles that don't mention Michigan($), Wilkins appears to be a strong Auburn lean (more on him later), Fuller has strong ties to Virginia Tech and Clemson, McQuay is a top-flight Florida recruit, and Mathis changes his favorite every time he visits a new school. Not trying to sound overly negative here, just trying to be realistic: getting any two of those players would be fantastic. There's no way in hell Michigan was getting four no matter how the numbers worked out.
In other current commit news, ESPN updated their top 150, introduced the ESPN300, and released their team rankings for the class of 2013. Unsurprisingly, Michigan tops the team rankings; the full list is here, but paywalled, while TomVH's analysis of the team rankings is free, which totally makes sense. Other Big Ten+ teams in the top 25: Ohio State (7), Notre Dame (10), Penn State (14), and Michigan State (22).
As for changes to the individual player rankings, TTB has the full breakdown, as usual. The big movers were Jourdan Lewis, who rose 15 spots and into the top 100, Mike McCray, who fell 29 spots, and Patrick Kugler, who jumped from #123 to #112. In all, Michigan has 15 players in the ESPN300, including 11 in the ESPN150. Shane Morris is the top-ranked commit at #32, which represented a five-spot rise for him.
Also releasing rankings was OhioPreps.com, the Rivals outlet focused on, um, Ohio. Michigan's Ohio commitments stand out among their position rankings for the class of 2013:
- DeVeon Smith is the #1 running back
- Jaron Dukes is the #3 wide receiver
- Jake Butt is the #1 tight end
- Taco Charlton is the #1 defensive end
- Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon are the #1 and #2 linebackers, respectively
- Gareon Conley is the #3 cornerback
- Dymonte Thomas is the #1 safety
Call me crazy, but I think the Wolverines are having a good deal of success in Ohio this year. Next thing you know, jerseys will be selling like hotcakes down there.
Quickly: Haven't had your fill of special teams highlight tapes? Good! Here's 2012 walk-on K/P Kenny Allen drilling a bunch of field goals. Jake Butt is invited to The Opening. Shane Morris earns an invite to ESPN's Champion Gridiron Kings event. Matt Pargoff, like Seth on Wednesday, ranks Michigan's top recruiting classes of the last 20 years.
*MGoHiveMind! Conspiracy! Dey took our jobz!
Change Of Plans For Wilkins
So, yeah, about TN RB Jordan Wilkins—the four-star back was initially slated to visit Ann Arbor on Saturday, but he'll have to reschedule after realizing that he has to take the ACT that day ($). Wilkins maintains that he wants to see all of his final four schools—Auburn, Michigan, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee—before making a commitment, but this still doesn't bode well. Sam Webb profiled Wilkins in the Detroit News, and Wilkins reiterated that he very nearly committed to Auburn on Monday. Message board rumors also have Wilkins maybe not liking Michigan's depth chart so much, which means this is ominous:
So what are major factors?
"Early playing time and coaches," said Wilkins. "I know I want to play with guys I get along with — that I can come and talk to about anything. I like coaches that I can talk to about anything because my high school coaches right now are like my second parents. I've always been close with my coaches, so that's another big thing.["]
Wilkins would like to have his decision made before his football season starts. My guess is that decision won't be Michigan.
The Wolverines somewhat surprisingly showed up on PA WR Robert Foster's top seven yesterday, joining Alabama, Pitt, Ohio State, Michigan State, Oregon, and USC. According to Foster's assistant coach, via an article by 247's Steve Wiltfong($), he's planning to visit Michigan and MSU this month. Foster also plans to take all of his official visits before deciding, so even if there's mutual interest here, it may be tough for Foster to find a spot in the class. One receiver who may move a little faster is MD WR Paul Harris, who will visit on June 19, according to Tremendous. He's one to keep an eye on.
Tim Sullivan reports that TX DT Hardreck Walker plans to make a decision by the end of the summer, but will continue taking visits, and he plans on taking an official to Michigan ($, info in header). We'll see how this one plays out, since the Wolverines are no longer really in need of a DT unless they decide that Henry Poggi fits best at strongside DE. Even then, shoehorning another defensive lineman in the class could prove difficult.
Quickly: Steve Wiltfong reports that Michigan offered CA ATH Darren Carrington, but there isn't an article to go with the tweet, so for now that's all the info we've got regarding any potential interest or visits. Michigan made the top five for AZ CB Cole Luke along with Notre Dame, Texas, Nebraska, and Cal. Happy trails to Su'a Cravens, who shocked the world by committing to USC. Cravens says he still plans to visit Michigan and his other finalists, but I wouldn't hold out hope for a switch. Don't do this, people.
Quick 2014 Updates
Not as much action as recent weeks on the 2014 front, but IL CB Parrker Westphal did visit campus on Tuesday and came away mighty impressed. He told Tremendous that Michigan is now the school by which he'll measure all of his other visits and he plans on being in Ann Arbor again for the BBQ at the Big House. Westphal is coached by former Michigan CB Todd Howard, who will likely accompany Westphal on his next trip.
Michigan is in line to get a very big visit, and visitor, in GA OL Orlando Brown, son of the late NFL lineman of the same name. Brown told 247's Clint Brewster that he'll visit Michigan on July 14th ($). Brown, who stands at 6'9"(!!), 360 pounds(!!!), projects to be one of the top tackles in the 2014 class.
The Wolverines will also get summer visits from a pair of quarterbacks. IN QB Brent Lyles will camp at Michigan on June 20th($), while OH QB DeShone Kizer plans to check out Ann Arbor again on either the 17th or 21st of this month ($). Kizer is one of two 2014 quarterbacks, along with MI QB Chance Stewart, getting a strong look at an early offer, while Lyles is hoping to break into that group.