that is nice bonus change
First, Al Borges:
And then Greg Mattison:
Brink of the Brink. I jumped the gun yesterday by retweeting the Blade's Ryan Autullo, who reported Nathan Brink was hanging out on the first-team defensive line yesterday, and claiming this should deflate the Will Campbell hype balloon. It turns out reporters got to see a lot of stretching and not much else; the units out there were not exactly 20 minutes of solid evidence.
"I hate to ever talk about a young man because I think every time I do that they go right down in the tubes," Mattison said after yesterday's practice. "He has come out every day as tough as he can. He listens to [defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery] on every word. When he tells him to step a certain way, he tries to step a certain way. And he's really, really physical." …
"In the spring it was mentioned a number of times because his toughness stuck out like crazy," Mattison said.
The word of the day is always "physical" except when it's "toughness." It's a good sign for you when the coaches are describing you with the attributes they've been preaching nonstop since their arrival.
Is it good for Michigan? If you were under the impression Michigan wouldn't be rotating through walk-ons on its DL, no. That's been unlikely since those dual DT decommits on Signing Day two years ago, though.
Now you should brace for zing:
"Everybody's a scholarship football player to us," Mattison said. "The best 11, the best 12, the best 17, those guys are going to play."
This walk-on may be on the brink of doing that.
The other change. Is it alarming that Jibreel Black, who the coaches have been displeased with, was the other surprise first-team-ish player on the line yesterday? Probably not. An emailer relates that Craig Roh is sick. Not good but not a major problem unless it's mono.
Don't be mono, k thx.
might not be much bench time for this pair. via GBMW
Insidery scuttlebutt. Fall camps are full of temporary surprise starters as coaches test new things or dole out rewards and reprimands, so reading too much into any particular lineup is a constant threat. That said, a couple folk close to the program say Hawthorne has been playing well enough to warrant his shot at the first team. Consistency remains an issue. If Michigan can get production out of him that will be a bonus.
Other insidery nuggets: Demens has MLB locked down and is playing as well at that spot as anyone has in a while; Cam Gordon should hold off Jake Ryan for the SLB spot; Marell Evans has been a bit of disappointment.
Position switches. As media day content continues to trickle out information missed by folks moving to and fro amongst the panoply of assistants and players comes out. For example, there's a new contender at Safety Who Isn't Kovacs. Curt Mallory:
"Thomas has been playing nickel and also been playing safety. We're moving him around," Mallory said. "They will eventually [be interchangeable]. We went into it playing sides, and now as they've learned it, you can play your next best safety rather than next best strong or free. As we get closer to it we'll hone it in a bit and get guys where they best fit the defense. …
"No one's hiding. They all want to be out there, involved, competing. That's probably the most encouraging thing. If Thomas Gordon could, he'd be out there the whole time, and he's not the only one. That's good. They all want to be out there—it's a healthy thing because they are all helping one another."
I liked Gordon last year in the limited role (and limited time) he was allowed. He's dropped some weight and I'd be surprised if he wasn't the fastest guy competing to start at safety. (Furman is probably faster but no one mentions him as a threat to start this year.)
Mallory mentioned Countess, Taylor and Hollowell first amongst the freshmen corners, FWIW.
Rivals also has an article on Brennen Beyer's move to SLB. He won't be required to play this year and that sounds like a good thing:
It's a change because I haven't really played that before, but it's fun trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can," Beyer said. … "Pass dropping, for one. I've never done that before," he said. "Playing while standing up—that's a little different."
Anyone nervous? I'm nervous. Jeff Hecklinski on the receivers:
"It was such a drastic change offensively that it really hasn't been aided [by their experience]," Hecklinski said. "We have to understand the intricacies that go along with the pro-style offense and the throwing game like we have.
"But, to their credit, they've worked hard throughout the summer. You can see a lot of good things throughout the summer. They came through and did the 7-on-7s and now we get a chance to look at them, you can see they've started to develop that timing and put things together. Now, we need to build on it, and we can hone it down to every little detail."
Practice buzz has been extremely happy with the unit as a whole despite the change; I'm guessing we see a preponderance of three-wide sets this fall. Four is a thing of the past but SDSU ran a lot of three-wide last year. With little established behind Koger at TE their other option is all I-Form.
Gallon is getting talked up, which is surprising. He was an impressive player in the Army Bowl as a recruit but couldn't find the field in an offense perhaps better suited for his talents—he mostly spent his time screwing up painfully on special teams. If he gets his act together he'd bring a YAC aspect Michigan's receivers are currently lacking. I'd bet this is more like Johnny Sears hype, though: encouragement more than accurate reporting.
Standard. More Fred Jackson: "I’ve very, very confident [in the future] because those two freshmen are good players. They are better than good. Both of them.”
Summer recruiting has wound down with the arrival of fall camp, especially for teams with a commit list as close to full as Michigan's. There's still information to go around, but unofficial/official visits (starting with the Western Michigan game) should see the return of action.
IA WR Amara Darboh (pictured at right) will be visiting Ann Arbor for the Western Michigan game, after a strong visit a couple weeks ago.
CA WR Jordan Payton will be in attendance for the Notre Dame game.
IL OL Jordan Diamond is in no hurry to commit, so it's possible that Michigan's class fills up before he wants to commit. There's only one spot available along the offensive line, and WA OLs Josh Garnett and Zach Banner are planning early-season visits. Garnett is trying to arrange his Michigan visit for the Notre Dame game, the same as Banner.
For all the talk of those other linemen, don't forget about PA OL Adam Bisnowaty, who is still considering Michigan. He's the other primary option for that final OL spot in the 2012 crop.
Saginaw fluff on expatriate MO DT Commit Ondre Pipkins, who grew up in the area:
In the end, it was one of those Saginaw High connections that helped cement Ondre Pipkins’ commitment to Michigan. [Roy] Manning, the former Saginaw High star who played at Michigan before a three-year NFL career, is back in Ann Arbor as a first-year graduate assistant on Hoke’s staff.
Manning is friends with Ondre's dad Al, who still lives in Saginaw.
Pipkins's commitment left MI DT Danny O'Brien wondering where he stands with the Wolverines. He planned to call Michigan's coaches on Monday, but no word on how it went.
IL CB Anthony Standifer is solid in his commitment, in case you were worried about his status.
ESPN Rise has released their All-Midwest team, and though I'm more apt to ignore a squad with three(!!!) first-team QBs, it's kind to Michigan, so linky, here we go. Commits in bold; other targets in regular.
- OH RB (OSU Commit) Bri'onte Dunn
- OH WR Dwayne Stanford
- OH OL Commit Kyle Kalis
- IL OL Jordan Diamond
- OH DE Adolphus Washington
- MI LB Commit Royce Jenkins-Stone
- MI LB Commit James Ross
- OH S Bam Bradley
- MI CB Commit Terry Richardson
- IL CB Commit Anthony Standifer
- OH WR Monty Madaris
- MI DT Danny O'Brien
- MI DE Commit Mario Ojemudia
- OH DE/DT Commit Chris Wormley
- OH LB Commit Joe Bolden
- OH S Commit Jarrod Wilson
Happy Trails, MA CB Armani Reeves, who picked Penn State. That brings Michigan's DB hotboard back down to one uncommitted prospect, NJ CB Yuri Wright.
With the 2012 class mostly complete, it's no surprise that focus shifts more heavily to rising juniors.
MI OL Cameron Dillard may receive a Michigan offer after sending coaches early-season junior film.
MI OL Steven Elmer has set up a few visits this fall, including two to Notre Dame (and one to Michigan for the Notre Dame contest). It seems like the Irish are going to be one of the strongest contenders for his services.
Tom talked with MD DT/DE Henry Poggi following a visit to Ann Arbor last week:
I've taken a few visits down south and decided to go to Ann Arbor before camp starts for us... I would say Michigan is up there, I really like the people down there and the education they have.
I would rather not prolong my commitment. I don't know the exact date, but I'd like to take a couple official visits. If I know before I can take visits then I would just commit, I don't really have to take the officials.
Poggi's offer list already includes the likes of Alabama and Ohio State, so building a favorable impression of Michigan early is a strong start with one of 2013's top prospects.
Keep an eye on IL DE Devante Lee ($, info in header). He's a teammate of IL OL Jordan Diamond (and former teammate of Wolverine freshman Chris Bryant).
Michigan is "turning up the heat" on MI DE/LB Luke MacLean.
Sam Webb's Detroit News column this week focuses on OH LB Ben Gedeon, primarily explaining why he's called "the freak":
"I was just always a little bit bigger than everybody, so my family called me that."
That's... not as interesting as I was expecting. Gedeon does a little bit of everything on both sides of the ball in high school, and Allen Trieu talks about his physical skills:
"He was excellent when we saw him in camp settings and his film verified what we had seen in shorts and T-shirts," Scout.com midwest regional manager Allen Trieu said. "He is a well built kid at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and moves very well at that size."
Gedeon says Michigan is currently atop his list, but he plans to evaluate all of his options before making a decision. He attended the BBQ at the Big House, where he connected with Michigan commits like James Ross and Kyle Kalis. He tells Tom that Michigan was his first offer - a big deal - and he'll try to visit campus for the Notre Dame game this fall.
GA CB Shaquille Wiggins is trying to visit Michigan for an early-season game.
UPDATE: Fear The Hat adds SI and USA Today and deliciously points out that the Miami story isn't even on the front page of their college football section. Despite the name, FTH does not appear to be Les Miles fan blog.
It's about 2 AM after Charles Robinson reduced the already fairly smouldering ruins of Miami football to a radioactive field of glass. Let's check national sports websites to see what they think is important!
Yahoo Sports won't be a surprise but here it is:
What does ESPN think is important at this moment? Do you think it's something other than an earth-shaking, NCAA-threatening, death-penalty-warranting annihilation of a major college football program? Surely. Surely they have passed it over in favor of someone who plays baseball in the Northeast, because they suck that hard, you say?
That guy totally plays regular season baseball… in Atlanta.
Goddammit, ESPN. Sometimes you do suck just as hard as everyone says you do. #freebruce #dontcallitashapiroback
startled Borges is startled, from file
Does he still draw up plays? - "I'm always. I'm obsessive... I just, I like that part of the game. I like the tactics. I like to scribble." Denard's talent poses some interesting options in terms of new plays. The defensive-oriented head coaches tend to give the OC a little bit more freedom. "Brady know what we're doing, understands what we're doing, and monitors everything."
"There's so many frustrations out there" because guys aren't consistently performing perfectly yet. "It's just the way it is this time of year."
On Denard - "He's playing good. He's kind of a kick to coach. He's upbeat all the time." He's been receptive to every bit of coaching since he's been here. Timing is getting better in the passing game every day. The guys worked in the offseason, but there was room for improvement. "It's not there yet, but it's showing some promise."
On the tailbacks - "We still don't have a starting running back, but we've got a nice field to work from. Getting a little closer to that, I think." They'll cut down the running back competition when they start game-planning, instead of just going through camp.
There are nice inside and outside runners. "Michael Shaw, Stephen Hopkins, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michael Cox, all of them have just shown some great flashes. ... Cox and Shaw are very similar in that they've got some home run threat to them. Toussaint's a tough kid that makes no concessions to the defense. He to has a nice burst and he can go. Vincent's as diverse as any of them." Thomas Rawls is a tough inside guy, like Hopkins, and Justice Hayes has good cuts.
3rd-down role - Vincent Smith - "He's certainly a candidate." Not big, but can block and pass. He's in the running for starting RB too, because he's so dynamic. Need an RB who can test out a nickel back in passing situations. "You've gotta run tight routes and catch it when they throw it to you."
If it takes multiple games to find a starting running back, so be it. "This is a collaborative effort." Hoke, Borges, Jackson - everybody will have a say in it.
The biggest issue with young RBs is protecting the QB. They can see running lanes pretty well, but there are so many things defenses will do that figuring out who to block is the hardest part.
"We're moving some folks around" to figure out some of the fullback race - they're keeping it under wraps for now who is moving and from where. John McColgan is the primary guy.
On Wideouts - "We've got some guys that are playing well out there. Some of the guys played some last year. Jeremy Gallon, Kelvin Grady has done a nice job. Jerald Robinson who didn't play much, but he seems like he's got a future here. Drew Dileo, all those guys have worked their buns off." Receivers need to be able to play special teams to make travel squads. They've gotta block on the outside, as well.
"You always like to have a few rangy guys" at wideout, but any size is OK. "We would take a smaller, faster guy" at previous stops, because you get 6 points for a TD no matter how tall you are.
On the OL competition - With 5 top guys, "it kinda is what it is right now." There's a chemistry that's important to line play. You'd like to find five guys who can get used to each other. Michael Schofield will be a contributor, it's just a question of when.
Guys are demonstrating the want-to. They understand that they need to get to the level of Michigan expectations. "You never know when it's going to happen. The guys are consciously trying to work to get there. Whether that work is good enough right now? I can't say yes to that." Need to see more guys getting over "the hump."
Playing with great technique, playing with tremendous effort, and being very physical are the three most important factors. "We do those three things, now we're playing Michigan defense."
On Tackling - "It's always something that we have to work on." Had a couple disappointing reps on the goal-line drills today. Were just one wrapped tackle away from making some stops. Safeties, corners, etc. understanding to not give up big plays.
On playing rotations - the coaches need to determine throughout camp how many consecutive plays guys can play at their top level. "When they're tired, somebody else will come in for you. Get your rest, you're not demoted." Specifically along D-line. At Florida, had 6 guys who were worthy of being called starters, even though 4 played at a time. Helped to have a good rotation.
Defensive linemen need to be consistent. "We have to be a defense that you play with great technique on every player. Unless you are a dominant athlete."
On Mike Martin - "I think he's working hard, and I say this about every player on our team: they can work harder and they will work harder." Won't say anybody has "elite talent" until they prove it in games. "I don't know if we have any, and I don't know if we don't have any."
On Will Heininger - "I think he's much stronger. He's shown some signs of being very physical and strong at times." Like everybody else, he needs to develop consistency.
On Nathan Brink - "Played like a Michigan football player... This guy here has come out every day as tough as he can." He hit his weight goal of 260 by coming into camp at 264. "In the spring, it was mentioned a number of times, because his toughness showed up. He was only 250 at the time."
On walk-ons like Nathan Brink and Tony Anderson - "Everybody's a scholarship football player to us. The best 11, the best 12, the best 13, best 17 - those guys are gonna play." Doesn't matter if a guy is a walk-on or a 5th-year guy, they'll play.
On WLB - "That position - and again I hate to ever say anything positive - I love how those guys are playing at times. At times they're playing with such energy, such speed, and such explosiveness." That's a battle.
On Cam Gordon - "He's working really really hard at the physical part of playing SAM backer." He's working hard to meet the standards.
On the secondary - Safeties play a number of coverages, but priority is always to keep the ball inside and in front of him. Jordan Kovacs comes to work every day ready to do things the right way. All of the other safeties show flashes, but lose concentration at times. They need to improve their consistency.
Courtney Avery comes out trying to get better every day. "When he makes a mistake, it bothers him, and he tries even harder next time." Guys are learning that they need to have great technique.
Position changes - "Not drastic. We'll look at an outside linebacker who's kinda a hybrid to the rush backer, and we might switch those guys at times." There are no big, permanent changes.
Freshman contributors. "We've got some pretty good freshmen. Some of them have caught your eye," but they also make big freshman mistakes. They need to show consistent great talent to get on the field as soon as possible. "Frank Clark is a very talented... freshman." like all freshmen, he needs to do it right on every play.
Martavious Odoms still has a cast on his left arm, although it's coming off in the next week.
Vincent Smith, Terrence Robinson, Justice Hayes, Kelvin Grady, Thomas Rawls, Je'Ron Stokes, and Jerald Robinson were the players taking reps catching "kicks" from the jug machine. Fred Jackson made them all run through a couple different variations on the drill (turning around as the ball is launched, running five yards then turning around, etc.)
The defensive backs were working on proper alignments with coach Curt Mallory. He was running a group of DBs through their responsibilities as far as alignment, adjusting that alignment to motion and different offensive formations, and then their responsibilities depending on what certain offensive players would do. It was a very detail-oriented instruction.
During stretching (woo stretching!), one of the strength coaches reminded the players that they needed to take it upon themselves to have a good practice, saying "You don't have a great day by accident, you have it on purpose."
Also during stretching time, Brady Hoke was making his rounds and talking to a few players. He stopped and gave Stephen Hopkins a pat on the helmet and had a short conversation with him.
During the few plays of offense v. defense, it seemed there was a mixed group of starters and backups on the defensive side of the ball. Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen were flanked by Jibreel Black and Nathan Brink on the DL (Will Heininger rotated in as well), with Jake Ryan and Brandin Hawthorne in at LB with Kenny Demens. Jordan Kovacs and Thomas Gordon (deep - Carvin Johnson also rotated in) were the safeties, with Troy Woolfolk and Courtney Avery at corner. A few expected starters rotated in with the other group, including Craig Roh.
Offensively, it seemed the units were a little more in line with expectations of a first and second unit. Fitz Toussaint and Michael Shaw got the first-team reps at RB. There were a couple plays of I-form, some shotgun, and a mix between run and pass as well.
On the "second" units, Michael Cox, Jeremy Jackson, and Tony Anderson were among the notable players. Shaw got a couple reps with Gardner's offense as well.
Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark,
LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, OL Jack Miller, OL Tony Posada.
FWIW: I didn't forget Bryant, I just ended writing up Rawls first.
|Flint, MI - 5'10" 210|
|Scout||3*, #77 RB|
|Rivals||3*, NR RB, #19 MI|
|ESPN||3*, 76, #84 RB|
|Other Suitors||CMU, Cincinnati, Iowa (sort of)|
|YMRMFSPA||Mark Ingram… with more speed! Or Kevin Grady.|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim.|
|Notes||Head coach is Fred Jackson, son of Fred Jackson|
If you've hung around here for the last six months you've heard of, and probably participated in, the gentle mocking of various people named Fred Jackson for their opinion of Thomas Rawls. You see, Rudy, people named Fred Jackson are all football coaches who redefine hyperbole when talking about running backs. Rawls's high school coach and college position coach are both named Fred Jackson because they are father and son.
The result of this unholy hyperbole combo follows. Go action son!
“Honestly, I did get a chance to watch Mark Ingram a few times,” Jackson said. “Mark is probably one of the best guys ever to come through here. Mark was great, but there’s something about this kid Thomas. If I was to compare them as high school backs, give me Thomas Rawls.”
“Thomas Rawls can lift you - I call it the ‘hit and lift’ - and keep on going,” Jackson said. “That, to me, is a special talent. Chris Perry had that. Chris Perry had the ability to hit you and keep on moving, and this kid can move the pile.” …
“I know Mark [Ingram, again] and I know Thomas [Rawls],” the Michigan running backs coach said. “They’re a lot a like. … My son is telling me he’s O.J. Simpson. He’s not that, but he’s the real deal.”
I'm sorry if your clocks/pets exploded once you read that last bit. I'm even more sorry if the entrails combined with the gears to form a mouth that moaned "too… much… hyperbole" before collapsing in a pool of gore. But it had to be related. It's like the Ring.
OJ Ingram did rush for 396(!!!) yards against Bay City Central, breaking Plain Old Heisman Ingram's city record of 377 set against Bay City Western. (Bay City high schools, it's time to fire Greg Robinson.) He also put up an astounding 1585 yards on 150 carries in just six games before injury felled him. He probably would have stomped Ingram's records to dust if he hadn't picked up the dread high ankle sprain.
But come on, Fred Jacksons. We've heard this before, albeit in mono. Surely no one not named Fred Jackson would make the same assertion—
"He's a great back," Trieu said. "He is one of the toughest runners I've seen. He's very compact -- a bowling ball kind of kid who can break tackles and has a good burst. While most people see him as just an inside battering ram, I think he proved to me over the summer and the course of this year that he has legit breakaway speed. He's also very underrated as a receiver out of the backfield. He might not be the tallest back, but I think we've seen recently that's an overrated quality for a running back." …
"I think Rawls compares favorably to Ingram," Trieu said. "They both have similar builds and running styles. I think Ingram picks his way and is more of a slasher, whereas Rawls really sees a crease and hits it. I don't think you want to say Thomas Rawls will win a Heisman, but coming out of high school there are definite similarities there."
Son of a bitch.
It's time to check the film because everyone is lying. Film says… he does have a few plays on his highlight reel where defenders ping off of his squat physique after grabbing and finding nothing but thigh. They're buried after the touchdowns where he takes off untouched, but they're there. 5:36:
So why did OJ Ingram have one BCS offer, that from Cincinnati, and nothing from Michigan until January 28th? Why does everyone rate him a generic three star?
"Grades" are the usual answer. In this case it's not entirely fanciful. Scout's Allen Trieu directly stated that Rawls's grades kept his rankings low:
"We rate guys conservatively who have not fully qualified yet," said Trieu. "So he's about ranked 13th in the state and a three-star. I think he could be higher, but our national rule across the board is we wait until they've qualified. Purely on the merits of his talent and what he's done throughout his career though, I think he's a top-10 player in the state and borderline four-star-type kid. He's had a fantastic senior season."
Everyone from Demar Dorsey to Justin Turner to Aaron Burbridge puts the lie to that, though. Recruiting services continually rank academic risks much higher than Rawls. And there are plenty of schools who don't care if you've got two axons to rub not-quite-together if you can play football. For one: where is the ubiquitous WVU offer?
Lack of good film and injury are more plausible explanations. Rawls got a new coach when Flint Central closed and Fred Jackson moved to Northern. This got him away from a wing-T Rawls was not a fan of:
My old coach ran the wing-T,” Rawls said. “I just didn’t like it. It didn’t fit me. He always had me at linebacker, and I did succeed there. When Central closed, the coach they brought over had a new game plan, a new formation which was the spread and the I-formation. I just worked hard, adjusted to the new formations and just blew up after that.”
Rawls had "good" junior film but it was the senior stuff Scout's Allen Trieu found "outstanding." That outstanding blow up lasted six games and Rawls got injured, potentially terminating interest from teams around the region. Trieu believed Wisconsin and Iowa would be "real options" down the line just before his injury.
Interest from elsewhere or no, he ended up at Michigan. Let's see what we've won. ESPN($):
… physically imposing back with good downhill attributes. Hits the hole with authority and flashes good downhill burst and momentum. Quick to see and hit the cutback. A decisive and aggressive runner who is constantly heading North with square shoulder pads and good lean. … Does not have real loose hips but can redirect sharply and jump-cut the first defender through the hole. … . Runs low to the ground and dips the shoulder through traffic making it difficult to get clean shot on him. Shows an extra gear and when he breaks free into the second level to separate initially but does not project to have ideal long-speed or great elusiveness as a major college back. Breaks consistent first contact but did not see the pile pushing power we were expecting.
They say he "can contribute" and slap a decided meh on his rating. Touch the Banner:
… big kid with thick legs, built powerfully and low to the ground. He has patience and allows blocks to develop in front of him, which also shows good vision to see cutbacks and running lanes. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him as a high school runner is the way he keeps his shoulders facing north and south when he makes his cuts; this allows him to break some tackles that other running backs wouldn't.
…Michigan fans might not like me for saying this, but Rawls reminds me of Kevin Grady. … Perhaps Rawls can contribute at fullback or in goal line situations at Michigan, but I'm not expecting Rawls to be a star for the Wolverines.
Finally, Trieu has been Rawls's biggest advocate($):
Analysis: Rawls just looks like a running back. He's stocky, has a low center of gravity and he runs powerfully. He breaks arm tackles, has good balance and a north-south style where he does not waste a lot of time going laterally. He's able to make cuts and bounce off defenders at full speed and get himself going back towards pay-dirt. He has good speed and can break the long runs and also shows good hands in the passing game. …
Verdict: Michigan, I think, got a steal here. You watch the film and it's hard not to be impressed. He's a tough kid with speed and he's underrated as a receiver. It will be tough to keep him off the field for long.
I'm going to start calling him Allen Fred Trieu-Jackson if he keeps this up.
It seems like Michigan coaches are on Trieu's side. Rawls has been informed he will not redshirt and Jackson spent most of his time at media day talking up his freshmen. That's kind of a giveaway, though, since they'd had the pads on for like a day at that point and Justice Hayes is a spread guy no one expects to play much. Motivation there, and then the general unreliability of Fred Jackson assessments. I wouldn't read too much into that, or expect Rawls to see much playing time this year. Down the road it will depend on just how many tackles he breaks.
Etc.: Unanimous all state; Flint POY. Commitment presser photos. Thomas Rawls recruitment is serious business. Fred Jackson says he has more speed than Mike Hart, which Rawls takes as a "huge complement." If Mike Hart was fast he'd be the best running back ever. In case there was any question, he did qualify($) in June.
Probably some other Thomas Rawls:
"We're a group of people who get together to watch a movie, with a common interest in all things Star Trek," said Thomas Rawls Jr., vice president of the local fan club, which split from the Peninsula- based USS Jamestown club several years ago to cut down on the tunnel travel. "We're an informal group of people who enjoy Star Trek."
Is "all dog."
Why Mark Ingram… with more speed? My name is not Fred Jackson.
Okay. Why Kevin Grady? Grady was a squat 215 pound high school kid who racked up tons of yards in high school by running untouched through poor competition and running over 150-pound kids. In college his lack of elusiveness or overwhelming size made him a mediocre straight-ahead runner who was a decent short yardage back and fullback but not a feature guy.
Rawls's film doesn't show a guy who's going to get outside often, he won't have elite breakaway speed in college, and his wiggle ain't wigglin'. His path to production is grinding through the tackles like the ball of knives Grady was always supposed to be.
If he's Kevin Grady in a downhill manball offense that might be a different thing entirely. Michigan switched to an all-zone all-the-time offense in 2006; Grady redshirted the next year due to injury and then stuck it out in the spread 'n' shred. It's possible he would have been a much more useful back if he was asked to run power. Also, Grady's personal issues hindered his development. Rawls is likely to be a better version of his predecessor.
Guru Reliability: Low. Analyst scouting reports vary extensively, and it sounds like the ratings would if not for the grades or the injury. Rawls is also a late riser who didn't make a big splash until he was a senior and was immediately injured afterwards.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Running backs aren't that hard to rank, and I'm in agreement with the above guys who say he lacks the elite athleticism to be a force in college. He's a smaller version of Hopkins. If he does run as hard as his advocates, say, though…
Rawls is the biggest wildcard in this class. Could be nothing, could be OJ Ingram.
Projection: Has been told he'll play this year; I think he'll get a few carries here and there but generally be lost in the shuffle behind Shaw, Smith, and Hopkins. Next year Shaw is gone and he'll have the pass protection down; he could push to start then.
This is a personnel-oriented look at the season's opponents. The game-week previews will be more matchup based. Last year's stats are presented with projected starters in bold and departed players in italics.
|Minnesota Offense 2010|
|Yards Per Game||361.33||77|
|Points Per Game||23.17||89|
|Yards Per Play||5.26||78|
|Yards Per Pass||7.18||54|
|Yards Per Rush||3.63||92|
|Playcall Distribution||1.18 Rush:Pass|
We're going to see plenty of change here. Offense (along with "everything") is one of the areas of football that Tim Brewster was pretty bad at coaching, and it's reflected in the numbers for the Gophers. Brewster seemingly changed his scheme every year, with run-heavy and pass-heavy schemes, pro and spread sets, and a general GERG-like vibe of "can't make up our mind on what to do."
New Gopher coach Jerry Kill believes in his heart that running the ball is important to the people of Minnesota (seriously), so expect a slant toward the run, even more than we started to see last year, when the spread-to-pass basically died for the Gophers (less sacks, they still called 1.09 rushes for every pass).
Tim Brewster's coaching reign lived and died a horrible, fiery death by the arm of Adam Weber even when the Gophers started to balance their offense a little more. With Minnesota's all-time leading passer out the door, it's probably the MarQueis Gray show in Minneapolis. Gopher fans are hailing him as Denard Robinson except impervious to inury, even though Gray spent much of last year playing wide receiver. Behind him, there are only redshirt freshmen Tom Parish and Moses Alipate, so the depth is scary thin.
|Minnesota QBs 2010|
|Minnesota QBs Rushing 2010|
Grade: 1/5. MarQueis Gray hasn't proven anything as a quarterback, aside from decent running ability (he was 6/15 passing in 2009). With no proven backups, it's going to be tough to run the ball with the signal-caller much, and his arm hasn't done anything yet to put fear into defenses. That said, he was a highly-rated recruit, so maybe the right coaching can flip the switch for him.
The Gophers had issues with banged-up runners over the past couple of years, and last season was no different, as Donnell Kirkwood went down after four games.
I think 5th-year Duane Bennett will get the starting nod over DeLeon Eskridge, as he was more effective despite fewer carries, and should be fully healthy after a couple years recovering from knee surgery. [Ed-M: some updates since Tim put this in the hopper: Eskridge has left the team, but Kirkwood received a medical hardship and basically gets to restart a promising career as a Stephen Hopkins-like (5'10, 215 lbs.) downhill ball. Bennett meanwhile seems to have won the slot receiver sweepstakes, so...Kirkwood]. Phil Steele is really high on redshirt frosh Lamonte Edwards. With a shift to more run-heavy schemes, the Gophers are short a fullback, as Jon Hoese is out the door.
|Minnesota RBs 2010|
|Jon Hoese (FB)||19||53||2.79||3|
|Minnesota RBs Receiving 2009|
|Jon Hoese (FB)||12||97||8.08||0|
Grade: 3/5. It's hard to pin the lack of production on the running backs themselves, because Minnesota's offensive line hasn't done them any favors in the recent past. If everyone can stay healthy, look for improvement here.
Senior Da'Jon McKnight would be the Gophers' unquestioned number one this fall... if he wasn't coming off spring knee surgery. With the Gophers' #2 receiver from last year now plying his trade at quarterback, and just about everybody else graduating, it's McKnight-or-bust until some young guns emerge. Junior Brandon Green redshirted last season, and is expected to start as well. Everything else is up for grabs. At tight end, Eric Lair is a solid returning starter.
|Minnesota Receivers 2010|
|Eric Lair (TE)||39||526||13.49||2|
|Troy Stoudermire (CB)||6||114||19.00||1|
|Tiree Eure (TE)||3||47||15.67||1|
|Minnesota WRs Rushing 2009|
|Eric Lair (TE)||1||9||9.00||0|
Grade: 1/5. The above was Minnesota's wideout production under the following circumstances: 1) The most prolific QB in school history was tossing them the ball 2) The top two targets were not coming off knee injuries 3) The head coach was not a Gopher-looking man who feels in his heart that he needs to run the ball. With all three of those factors dropping off and the second-best receiver now playing quarterback (poorly, if history is any indication), this should be a scary year for the Gophers' receiving corps. McKnight is a Phil Steele 3rd-Team All-Big Ten projection.
The Gophers lose two guys on the offensive line who started every single game last season in right tackle Jeff Wills and center DJ Burris, along with another guy who started in 10 contests, right guard Matt Carufel. For good measure, Dom Alford, who started most of 2009 but only a couple games in 2010, also departs the Twin Cities. That means a big shakeup for an offensive line that already wasn't very good. Redshirt sophomore Ed Olson should start at left tackle after holding down that position most of last year, and fifth-year Chris Bunders will return at left guard. From there, it's all newbies with Ryan Wynn at center (he was a starter at tackle back in 2008), Ryan Orton at right guard, and redshirt freshman Jimmy Gjere starting at right tackle.
Grade: 2/5. Minnesota's line was actually pretty good at keeping Adam Weber upright last year, allowing only 17 sacks the entire season. However, part of that is due to scheme (quick passing, an insistence on pounding the rock down several scores against USC) more than anything. Considering the Gophers were downright terrible at rushing the ball, this was a bad unit last year. With several losses along the front, they shouldn't improve their performance, though I expect Jerry Kill's coaching staff will do a better job coaching them up.
|Minnesota Defense 2010|
|Yards Per Game||392.17||76|
|Points Per Game||33.00||98|
|Yards Per Play||6.57||115|
|Pass Yards Per Game||200.75||33|
|Yards Per Pass||8.60||113|
|Sacks Per Game||0.67||120|
|Rush Yards Per Game||191.42||98|
|Yards Per Rush||5.27||114|
Oh. Oh my. I'll say it: this defense was the worst in the Big Ten last year--and possibly by a wide margin. As horrific as the GERG-era Michigan defenses were, this was something special even without as many injuries all over the lineup. If they had faced the same number of plays as Michigan's defense, they would have given up well over 6300 yards (Minnesota fans are thanking their lucky stars for a positive turnover margin... now).
The Gophers couldn't stop the run, giving up nearly a yard more than Michigan on each carry(!), and couldn't stop the pass, although teams rarely needed to throw the ball to beat the Gophers. Michigan probably could have scored 100 on these guys had the two teams met last year.
Jerry Kill, then, is in charge of leading a massive defensive renaissance, not unlike Michigan's own Brady Hoke. There is probably less overall talent on Minnesota's roster, but much more experience among the Gopher players.
The good news for Minnesota is that they return nearly every contributor save defensive end Jewhan Edwards. The bad news is that their defensive line was terrible last year, generating the worst pass rush in the country, and one of the worst yards-per-rush numbers. Redshirt sophomore Matt Garin will step in to replace Edwards, with redshirt junior D.L. (Major Major) Wilhite -- a promising freshman in '09 who regressed last season -- returning as the other bookend. The tackles are both returning starters in seniors Brandon Kirksey and Anthony Jacobs. The experienced depth is very light, so look for the Gophers to get a few more players into the rotation than they did last year.
|Minnesota Defensive Line 2010|
Grade: 1/5. This unit was so unbelievably bad last year. Like, Eastern Michigan bad. The only hope is for addition by subtraction (of the previous coaching staff). The best pass-rusher is out the door on the worst pass-rushing defense in America, and it's going to take a miracle for anything better than mere incompetence here. There's some hope in that the starters all have experience and Wilhite's sophomore slump may have been a schematic issue, but these guys as a group were just plain bad last year. Plugging in a bit of new blood should help Jerry Kill and Co. build toward the future, at the very least.
All three of last year's starters return, with Honorable Mention All-Conference selection Gary Tinsley - pictured at right - the headliner at SLB. Redshirt juniors Mike Rallis (middle) and Keanon Cooper (weakside) are also returning starters, with starting experience sprinkled in among the backups as well. Spencer Reeves and Ryan Grant also got some serious time with the ones last season. The X-factor is Florida transfer Brendan Beal, who has the ability to play any of the starting positions.
|Minnesota Linebackers 2010|
Grade: 3/5. This unit was nowhere near as bad as the defensive line last year - though they're obviously not blameless for the terrible run defense and pass rush. With everybody back (including Phil Steele 3rd-Team All-Conference projection Tinsley), and the addition of a former 4-star talent in Beal, this unit should be able to improve. If the defensive line isn't as inept as last year, I dare say the linebackers have a chance to be pretty good.
Though the Gophers lose their two starting safeties from last year, it's not as bad as it seems, as 2009 starter Kim Royston missed the 2010 season with injury, and should return to the free safety position in 2011. Troy Stoudermire switched to CB during last season, and should solidify the position this year. The other two starters are question marks, but James Manuel is a good bet at strong safety, and Michael Carter was a better ballhawk than kyle Henderson last year, though he didn't make as many tackles.
|Minnesota Defensive Backs 2010|
|Troy Stoudermire (CB)||37||2||1|
|James Manuel (SS)||29||0||1|
|Michael Carter (CB)||24||1||2|
Grade: 2/5. If the pass defense wasn't quite so horrible last year, I might upgrade this to 3/5, but in fact it was. The loss of two safeties is never a good thing, but Royston would have started last season anyway, so he should be a better-than-adequate replacement at one of the safety spots.
Dan Orseske had a rocky freshman campaign as a punter, but he's back in 2011 to try to improve his performance. The kicking situation should be quite sketchy, with Eric Ellestad - no shining star himself - out the door. NC State transfer Chris Hawthorne is Phil Steele's prediction to be the starter.
|Minnesota Kicking 2010|
|Minnesota Punting 2010|
Grade: 2/5. The punting was awful last year (Minnesota was last in the Big Ten), and though there should be some improvement, there's a long way to go to mere competence. The Gophers' kicking was the worst in the Big Ten this side of Michigan, so unless Hawthorne is an unexpected shot in the arm, this unit should remain a big liability.