"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
NEWS ITEM: Brady Hoke announced at Media Day that redshirt freshman Tamani Carter has left the program. Carter had obviously not seen the field. He was the first guy to ever commit to Brady Hoke, signing up as part of Michigan's late "oh crap we have a month before Signing Day and need ten guys" blitz. Michigan actually snatched him from Minnesota a mere eleven days after he'd committed to the Gophers. He also claimed Iowa and Stanford offers, though it seemed like they went off the board midway through his senior season.
No idea why the guy left yet but if I had to guess it's that he saw the writing on the wall about playing time. He was a non-entity in the spring when Allen Gant and Josh Furman weren't around and may have slipped further down the depth chart after their arrival/reinstatement.
Carter's departure takes Michigan down to 76 scholarship players this year and takes the open spots for the class of 2013 up to 22 plus any fifth years who don't return, though there are a couple of walk-ons (Burzynski and Brink) who might make a case for themselves as scholarship guys a la Kovacs. Sam Webb has been saying that Michigan is planning a class of 25 on WTKA; by my figuring Michigan is still two players over once fifth year decisions are factored in. That's not much of a concern six months from Signing Day, since things like injuries and depth charts and allegations happen to football players.
OTHER NEWS ITEMS: Clark and Toussaint will return to practice on Monday; no decision has yet been made about suspensions. Roy Roundtree had his knee scoped and will be out two weeks.
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, and DT Willie Henry.
|Kansas City, MO – 6'3", 336|
|Scout||4*, #7 DT, #65 overall|
|Rivals||5*, #3 DT, #2 MO, #14 overall|
|ESPN||4*, #16 DT, #5 MO|
|24/7||4*, #6 DT, #2 MO, #51 overall|
|Other Suitors||Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, MSU|
|YMRMFSPA||Gabe Watson, but fast!|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. I talk about how Pipkins might see Michigan move to a hybrid defense where he two-gaps while others one-gap.|
|Notes||Originally from Saginaw.|
Army Bowl stuffs:
And the already-legendary Hoke impression:
Also there is an hour of stuff on hudl.
The only thing larger than Ondre Pipkins himself may be his personality. I mean, the Hoke impression. It's right above these words. Click it. Again, if necessary. There's that, and then there's Pipkins running his mouth about OSU commit Tommy Schutt…
"Tommy Schutt ate turf," Pipkins said. "He ate turf the whole time."
…OSU commit Kyle Dodson…
"I gave a little bit to what's his name, Dodson," Pipkins said. "He ran away from me. That's what they do. They run their mouth, and then when they meet up with the belly of the beast -- I call myself that because I am -- then they run away. When it comes to reality, they want to run away."
…and OSU itself:
"Are you talking about those people down south? I don't want to give them the time of day."
He also opened up an interview with Mike Farrell by eating an ice cream cone symbolizing Ohio State or something. Hopefully you've got your fill of Pipkins wackiness, because now that he's on campus he'll be kept as far away from microphones as Brady Hoke can manage.
The reason Pipkins gets to demonstrate that personality at place like the Army All-American game is that a person his size should not be able to move in the way that he does. One of many scouting reports emphasizing this, this one from Allen Trieu:
"Pipkins is a big-bodied space-eater that can command double teams, but he's quick enough and light enough on his feet to penetrate and disrupt," said Trieu. "Once he learns to really use his hands and consistently play under people, he's going to be an even tougher guy to move and block. Right now he's rated the No. 16 defensive tackle nationally, but he does have a chance to move up higher. Big kids like him that are 320 pounds and move the way he does are very rare."
A little later in that Sam Webb article, Pipkins says Michigan State was recruiting him for three tech. Yeah.
Appropriately, then, Pipkins's main highlights in the Army game were a pair of sideline-to-sideline track-and-tackles, one of them on five star jitterbug WR Stephon Diggs. While those were aided by a goofy defensive scheme that saw Pipkins looping outside the tackle on almost every play, his ability to trundle at speed made him probably the breakout star in San Antonio. Everyone raved.
Incoming maize boxes. A practice report from Rivals($):
…continually drew praise from the coaching staff and was able to split double teams in line drills. He has a great combination of strength and speed and proved very tough to block.
Guy was compared to a couple of guys who went top ten in the NFL Draft after the first day:
1. ONDRE PIPKINS, DT, KANSAS CITY (MO.) PARK HILL
Pipkins is a monster physically - he already looks like B.J. Raji or Vince Wilfork. He is one of the most physically imposing defensive tackles we have seen in awhile. At the point of attack, he is impossible to get on his heels and he penetrates quickly and athletically for a big man. Pipkins is going to be a load for the East offensive line to handle; he was simply dominating a good group of West lineman in the early session of practice.
Further Rivals reports note that he "moves much, much better than a player his size should," noted his "nonstop motor," and named him the #1 riser from the game. They followed that up by putting him in the top 20.
Pipkins also stood out to a couple of 247 analysts…
…Pipkins had the best case for top performer honors. He is a wide-bodied, stout defensive lineman that is much more than a bull-rusher or space eater. When engaged with offensive linemen, Pipkins usually dictates the movement. He also beats interior linemen with his quickness on plenty of occasions.
… Pipkins was as disruptive as anybody in his ability to get in the backfield and blowup blockers and diagnose plays. Physically he's a very stout defender and he uses that frame to take up a lot of space while still showing quickness that is really rare in interior guys. He is a tough kid to block.
“The Ondre Pipkins kid in the middle has really been impressive but all of those kids have really done a good job of reading blocks and picking up what we’re trying to do. He’s the one guy that I think has been the most impressive of the group.”
That's unprompted, and suggests that Pipkins is The Ondre Pipkins. As in, there are no more Ondre Pipkinses around here. There is The Ondre. There are no other Ondres.
After all that, 247 and the rest of the services slid him up significantly. ESPN didn't bother because ESPN is a fire-and-forget service unless you go to the UA game; in situations where a kid surges on all the other sites I tend to ignore the static evaluation provided by the WWL. ESPN did bump him a bit; when he committed he was a generic three star to them.
There's a ton of additional stuff out there from the various camps Pipkins hit up before his senior year, all of it in the same vein as the stuff above:
- "power and quickness creates nearly unstoppable upfield momentum"
- "when he decided it was time to get upfield, no offensive lineman showed the ability to stop him."
- "…wide and powerful and he will demand multiple blockers and free up his linebackers behind him. On Saturday, Pipkins used that powerful frame and added good explosiveness, agility and power."
- "Ondre is strong and quick off the ball, and when he can latch onto an opponent and stay low, he can take care of some gaps for sure."
Ondre heard it himself:
Pipkins on what college coaches are telling him: "At 320 (pounds) you move. What I've been told is, 'I've never seen a kid who is 320 pounds move like you do.' I run a 5.1 (seconds) 40 (yard dash) and I bench 360 pounds. That's rare for a defensive tackle in his junior year. I'm very strong, very explosive and I have a lot of quickness and speed. It all ties into me being an athlete in the offseason and me working hard."
- You get the idea, and hope it will fling opposing guards backwards for four years.
So what's the catch? There must be a catch. Even the bluest of blue chips flame out regularly. I think you might find it between the lines of this high praise from an opposing coach:
"That kid has great explosion and punch off the ball. When he's tuned into the flow of the game, it's impressive the plays he makes. He'll chase players from gap to gap. He had a nice play on Evan - here's this 300-pounder chasing down a 160-pound running back, diving for him, getting him by the back of his jersey and throwing him to the ground.
"There are times where he chooses to go, go go and he's pretty destructive in the middle of the field. Almost unblockable, even with two or three kids. I can understand why everybody in the country is so enamored with him."
- I closed out one of my many many Ondre Pipkins tabs in a fit of "argh so much" that I wish I could locate again in which Pipkins's coach talks about how he had some frustrating times with the kid trying to get him to show effort.
- That's the best I've got, and it goes hand in hand with the fact he's a massive defensive tackle. It is, however, something that I think all Michigan fans were frustrated with during the above-mentioned Watson's career. He was really good, but when he decided to be great, he was great. And that wasn't often enough to be GREAT.
If Pipkins ends up in the same fan memory bin as Watson, the ability to give effort on every play will be the main reason… and he'll probably still be a multiple-time All Conference performer.
Tremendous (sort of interrupting): Michigan State is pretty close to home too though, right?
Ondre: I grew up a Michigan fan. They are not Michigan over there.
Pipkins features in the closest thing to Catlab that is not Catlab. Preps KC documents his nomadic high school life. Signing Day article from the KC Star. Long freebie sample of GBW magazine features Pipkins. AnnArbor.com profile notes the weirdest thing he heard during his recruitment:
"I like big, angry black guys on my D-line."
Two out of three, I guess?
Why Gabe Watson? Michigan nose tackles have not often been the run-clobbering battleship sorts who hover around 330 pounds and can play effectively at that weight. Gabe Watson is the only guy in program history who has. Terrance Taylor was a shorter fireplug sort, Alan Branch a 6'5" penetrator, Mike Martin a slab of quick-twitch muscle. Guys before Watson were never that big, either. He stands alone as a Michigan comparable.
People remember Watson as a disappointment but if he was one it wasn't much of one after being named first-team All Big Ten twice and getting drafted in the fourth round. His specialty was taking one on one blocks and depositing them on their ass many yards upfield, and that's what Pipkins will do if successful.
If you want to add a dash of Alan Branch, okay, since it seems Pipkins is a little smaller and more athletic than Watson.
Guru Reliability: High. All Star appearance.
Variance: Low-plus. With guys the size of Pipkins there's always a chance weight becomes a persistent issue. If that isn't a problem it's hard to see him not being a very good starter.
Ceiling: As massive as Pipkins himself. Potential NFL first rounder.
General Excitement Level: Very high. Obvs.
Projection: Won't redshirt with very little behind Campbell and Pipkins seemingly the obvious choice to replace him next year. Probably starts off a little slow due to conditioning issues and general freshmanhood, starts coming on midway through the year, and does some stuff towards the end of his freshman season that get everyone revved up about year two.
From there he's likely a three-year starter somewhere between pretty dang good and All-American.
Today's recruiting roundup discusses the Michael Ferns commitment, recruiting in Ohio, SEC sketchiness (surprise!), and more.
You Keep Toledo, We'll Just Take These Four-Stars, Thanks
The big news of the day is obviously the commitment of OH LB Michael Ferns, and the full Hello treatment went up this morning. If you were lurking on the board last night, you witnessed historic levels of excitement, at least if duplicate posts are any indicator:
(Screenshot via MGoUser a2_electricboogaloo)
Maybe it's best to sit the next couple plays out, kaykay. As for Professor X, well, no words do this justice.
Anyway, Sam Webb caught up to Ferns in the aftermath of his commitment, and the newest Wolverine explained his thought process in making an early decision:
“I think when I went back (to Ann Arbor) the second time for the barbecue, I felt good about making the decision,” Ferns admitted. “After that you just kind of look out for the academic stuff focusing on fixing my junior schedule up to graduate early my senior year. After that I was ready to go.”
“Michigan just stuck out to me. After that second visit up there it kind of really stuck out more. I felt good the whole time I was there. I felt great and I knew it was time to make the decision.”
Ferns is all set to enroll early, so he'll be on campus in... 16 months. Criminy.
Michigan's first 2014 commit doesn't just represent a four-star from Ohio, but a four-star from Ohio with an Ohio State offer. It's always great to see The Other Brian surface over at Genuinely Sarcastic, and he emerged last night to detail Brady Hoke's remarkable recruiting run:
Since June 10, 2011, basically 14 months, Brady Hoke has landed eight (8) players from the state of Ohio who held Ohio State offers:
- 2012 DE Tom Strobel
- 2012 OL Kyle Kalis
- 2012 DE Chris Wormley
- 2013 S Dymonte Thomas
- 2013 LB Mike McCray
- 2013 RB Deveon Smith
- 2013 LB Ben Gedeon
- 2014 LB Michael Ferns
In the previous TEN classes COMBINED, from 2002 to 2011, Michigan landed seven (7) players from Ohio with OSU offers:
- 2003 LB/DE Shawn Crable
- 2003 S/LB Prescott Burgess
- 2004 DE/TE Mike Massey
- 2005 WR Mario Manningham
- 2006 OL Justin Boren
- 2008 TE Kevin Koger
- 2009 DB Justin Turner
Well, then. Buckeye fans can somewhat justifiably point to Tressel's firing to explain the 2012 class, but with Urban Meyer fully in place by the time the 2013 cycle started, that line of reasoning only goes so far. There's no question Hoke is doing a better job on the recruiting trail than RichRod could manage at Michigan, and he's also in the process of blowing Lloyd Carr's classes out of the water, largely because of his unprecedented success in Ohio.
In a nice coincidence, Rivals released an article today breaking down which states do the best job of holding onto their five-star talent. When it comes to Rivals five-stars, Michigan is #2 in the country—behind only the black hole that is Mississippi—at keeping them in-state for college, with only Ronald Johnson (USC) escaping among the seven five-stars since 2002. Will Gholston was the only in-state five-star to head to MSU, so the Wolverines have historically done a stellar job of locking up the best local talent. When the list expands to include all Rivals100 recruits, Michigan (as a state, so including MSU) is fifth in the country at retention rate, behind Alabama, Louisiana, California, and Mississippi.
By comparison, Ohio has produced more than twice as many five-stars—17 compared to Michigan's seven—but have only held on to nine of those players, all of whom ended up in a Buckeye uniform. Of the eight that left the state, two—Prescott Burgess and Kyle Kalis—landed in Ann Arbor. Of course, a state that produces more high-end talent will naturally have more competition for those players, so the results of this study aren't exactly a surprise.
Nope, Nothing To See Here
This all sounds very legitimate indeed:
The Darius Paige case has entered the wait-and-see phase.
Paige, a senior defensive tackle who has verbally committed to play football at the University of Alabama, transferred to Foley High School in Alabama on Tuesday amid allegations that Crimson Tide assistant coach Jeremy Pruitt recommended he go to Foley because they could “take care of him academically.”
Paige was ineligible for spring ball at Washington High School in Penascola, Florida, and unless this is all just a remarkable coincidence it appears Alabama's coaches have encouraged him to transfer to a high school that gives him a better chance of qualifying. Alabama, of course, has no comment. Odds of the NCAA looking into this: slim. Blergh.
All I Need Is One Throw
MGoVideo has helpfully compiled all the Shane Morris bits from ESPNU's coverage of the Elite11 finals, which so far has focused on the first day of camp. Watch to see Trent Dilfer make Morris wait for the single throw that will determine the entire course of the rest of his career, or something:
Seriously, these guys make, like, 30 throws all camp. The relative rankings significance of an Elite11 throw versus a throw in a regular high school game is astronomically high, which is probably kinda dumb.
In other commit news, Gareon Conley and his Massilon squad scrimmaged against fellow Ohio power St. Edward (home of Kyle Kalis), and Scout's Bill Greene came away impressed:
Gareon Conley (Michigan commit) had opportunities to make big plays offensively, and just missed connecting with Kempt on several long throws. Defensively, Conley had great success locking up multiple offer wide receiver Anthony Young. Conley will play cornerback for the Wolverines, and could be ready to play early.
One of the most interesting recruits to watch this fall will be Conley, whose spot at #61 overall in the ESPN150 is far higher than at any of the other recruiting services; if his other rankings start to fall in line with ESPN, it'll be a great sign.
Not a whole lot of action on the recruiting trail this week, so this will be short and sweet.
The headline is more positive than the actual quote, but GBW reports that 2013 AZ WR Devon Allen is considering an official visit to Michigan ($). Allen was on campus the day before the BBQ and enjoyed his visit. While his father says they'd like to come up to Ann Arbor again in the fall, he also mentions the difficulty in arranging a flight that fits with Allen's schedule. We'll see where it goes from here.
2014 OH OL Jimmy Byrne told Tremendous's Mark that he has a top three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, in no particular order. Byrne is #3, one spot behind Ferns, on OhioPreps's top 25 prospects in the state of Ohio.
Two 2014 recruits have expressed interest in visiting for a game this fall: four-star OH ATH Dareian Watkins, a high school QB who could play either WR or DB in college($), and IN WR Dominique Booth, who camped at Michigan in June ($). Both players are hoping to earn an offer.
I'm not exactly sure why this is news as opposed to a foregone conclusion from birth.
News bullets and other important things:
- No word on Toussaint or Clark yet
- Full pads today
- Full scrimmage next week
“You know, fourth day, two days in shoulder pads and helmets, we have a lot of work to do. Tomorrow we get full pads, which we’ll obviously look forward to. We still have some guys, the freshmen with the bridge program coming in and out a little bit finishing up some classwork. I was happy with how we came out today. I thought we were pretty spirited and pretty physical, but when you look at the tape, you go back and you can tell it’s the fourth day in pads. Fundamentals are still a little rusty to some degree. We have to do a better job playing with leverage at the line of scrimmage. But the effort’s out there and the effort’s good.”
Toussaint and Clark?
“They’re still not practicing with the team.”
Are they at practice?
“They’re not at our practice, no.”
Are the in this building?
“I don’t know. Are they?”
I’m asking you. You would know better than I would.
Any better idea on a timetable?
Do you need five guys on the offensive line to gel or can you rotate a little bit?
“I think you can at times. You’d rather have five guys who understand each other and do a nice job with kind of that sixth sense that you have and how long he’s going to post a power scoop, those kinds of things. That’s part of it. But at the same time, ideally you’d like to have 8-9 guys that are pretty good football players for you.”
Is there any urgency to decide on the left guard position?
“You know, I don’t think so. I think Joey [Burzynski] has done a nice job, Elliott has done some pretty good things. I’d say it’d be urgent 10 days from now. ”
Is Chris Bryant still on the right side?
“Yeah. You know, Chris has done a nice job. He’s improved since last spring. I think he’s physically a little better off than he was before from a endurance, conditioning, weight, and all those things. He’s a guy that’s come along.”
How does Patrick Omameh look?
“Good. I’m happy with how Patrick has -- Patrick has changed his body a lot in my opinion. He’s one of the guys that you say, man he looks a little bigger, a little stronger.”
How are Craig Roh and Jibreel Black looking with the added weight?
“You know, pretty good. I think both of them, they’re pretty quick twitch guys, which helps, and it’s going to help them inside playing. They’re pretty athletic guys, probably more suited athleticism for playing inside, so I think both of them are doing real well.”
Does Jibreel have the ability to be a run stuffer?
“Well, we hope. We hope that becomes he has some athleticism and quickness that we have a chance to move him a little bit.”
How much have you worked on special teams, i.e. in the return game?
“We’ve worked hard. We always work hard on the punt team. That’s the most important play in football because the momentum shifts, the field positions and different things we believe can happen. So we’ve worked punting hard, and we’ve worked a little bit of punt return, and a lot of that is just getting some new guys accustomed to what you’re doing as far as your fundamentals. We’ve done some with our kickoff team.”
Have you identified a core group?
“It’s early still. I think Dan said there’s eight out of 11 a year ago on the punt team who are back. So you have to fill those holes, but you also have to have good depth, and that’s a big part of it.”
Have you noticed any of the seniors coaching up the freshmen during down time?
“Yeah. I think the seniors have really taken an active role in the young kids. We’ve got seniors living with freshmen at the hotel. We’ve got seniors who have mentored some, and juniors who have played a lot. I can specifically, because I work with Will Campbell -- how he goes about coaching those guys up and helping them out, has done a good job with it, but you see it all over the place.”
How much improvement have you seen from Denard?
“I think there’s a marketable [Ed: marked] improvement from the football standpoint, but probably as much as anything in my opinion is his leadership. I think that’s where he’s really taken a hold of it, and he’s playing a lot of snaps here. He’s been in a lot of games, a lot of big games, and I think the way he’s gone about his business, because he’s not one of those rah-rah guys. He’s got a lead in skin, but I think he’s done a nice job with it.”
How do you feel about your tight ends right now?
“Brandon [Moore] -- did some good things physically today. That’s one of the big things with Brandon that probably was his biggest weakness, was being physical all the time. I think he did that today pretty consistently. Kwiatkowski -- Mike is a guy who we can use a little bit as a second tight end. I think he’s better. There’s the two young guys who are getting some looks as much as we can right now. A.J. [Williams] is a 280-pound tight end. For 280 pounds, he does pretty well. A lot of people think we’re going to make him a tackle, but he can run. Funchess is a very athletic guy.”
Is 280 too big for a tight end?
“Depends on what you want him to do. And he runs well enough. I shouldn’t say surprisingly because we recruited him. We must have thought he ran well enough. But for moving that big body around, he’s not bad.”
Is that a place where a freshman might have to play due to your numbers?
“I think it depends personnel-group wise, because we can do a lot what we do with two backs and one tight end in the game, which is what we do with two tight ends in the game. Obviously in your short yardage and your heavier packages, you’d like to have two bigger guys. So it could be.”
Is there anyone who you’ve seen improve significantly from spring?
“I think Blake Countess continues to take a lot of pride in how he plays. He works awfully hard at it. There probably is more guys out there, but I get a little tunnel vision sometimes with the front, because that’s where the game’s played. I can see Patrick. I can see him. I can see Ricky. I think Will Campbell. I think Craig. I think Rich Ash has improved some. There’s multiple guys. Heitzman, who we redshirted, is playing a physical brand of football.”
Is that an attitude thing or a physical thing?
“I think it’s both. I think it all starts with attitude. In my opinion Blake is one of those guys who’s driven. He has a lot to prove yet. But he wants to be as good as he can be.”
How high are the expectations for the secondary with all four starters coming back, and where do they have to make the biggest improvement?
“Well I think we need to play tighter coverage when we’re playing coverage, whether it’d be playing zones in the different zones that we’ll play or when we’re playing man coverage. I thought at times we got too loose, especially on money downs -- third and four, third and five. The ball has to come out quick at times, depending on what you’re running defensively and understanding that part of it. I think Courtney being in there as a nickel, making sure we have enough depth there -- we have some guys who are back, but we need more depth.”
What have the seniors told you about their first couple years here?
“Really nothing much. I don’t ask. We don’t live in the past. We live in the future. So the only thing I really care about is what we’re doing daily.”
What kinds of transformations have you seen from Kenny Demens on and off the field?
“I think Kenny is a guy who’s probably more committed. Probably understands a little bit more about the team and accountability. I think he’s playing a little more consistently than he did. I know it’s only four days, but just from what I’ve seen.”
Is it a maturity thing with him?
“It always is. It is for all of them. Some guys, after a year, kind of get it and mature. Some guys it takes three years. Some guys it takes four years.”
What helped spur that change with Kenny?
“Well I think when you may be playing the last games of football that you ever play, I think that always affects a senior. So I think that’s part of it.”
How important is Kenny’s progress to the younger linebackers?
“I think from a leadership standpoint I think it’s awfully important. It’s nice to have a guy like Desmond back who’s played a lot of snaps. We don’t look at him as being a young guy. I think that helps. Hawthorne has made some plays in the past. I think that helps. And Joe Bolden coming in January. Because he’s a good football player. He’ll put some pressure on guys. ”
Is Demens understanding personnel formations better?
“I think they all do. A year ago, they’d line up early in the year where they probably wouldn’t understand where the strength of the defense was or the weakness of the defense and what you’re trying to accomplish. From a conceptual point, they understand better the concepts of why you call certain things defensively and why you align leverage-wise and those things.”
How important is it for Brennen Beyer to win the WDE spot outright so that you don’t have to put Jake Ryan there?
“I think it’d be great. I think it is important. Brennen’s doing a nice job. He’s changed his body dramatically since he arrived here. So I think that’s always a big part of it, but we’ll play Jake a lot in our sub packages … there’s a lot of similarities between them.”
How has the linebackers’ coverage improved since the spring?
“From four days into it, we thought the first three days, we thought they were doing a better job at the zone concepts we were using and breaking on the ball and getting themselves a little tighter to receivers.”
What do you want to see from your team tomorrow (full pads)?
“Well you always look forward to it. I want to hear football. I think that’s important because then the guys up front are getting off the ball and getting after each other, either creating some space for the back or we’re doing a good job of fitting the run. That part of it, and their attitude and how they come out and want to play for each other.”
Do you have a scrimmage situation tomorrow?
“I’m trying to think of the schedule. We probably have some situation. I don’t know which one it’ll be. But we’ll always have some situation. Look, these guys, the one thing they’ve learned is in no pads, they’ve learned to get after each other. They’re pretty physical. That’s a good thing.”
Do you know when your first full scrimmage will be?
“Probably not until middle of next week.”
Do you get a sense of a personality emerging in this team?
“I don’t know. That’s a good question. I haven’t looked at it that way. I believe that you find out probably sometime in camp. I can tell you last year’s team, when they really finally got it, in my opinion, was the week of the Illinois game. We had Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio. We were going to Champaign. [Illinois] had been playing pretty well. Lost a couple in a row before we got to them. I was going to take the pads off [the players] on Wednesday, and right before practice or before we meet, four of the seniors came up and said, ‘We practice in pads at Michigan.’ Once they said that, I knew we were going to be a physical football team the last three games.”
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, and DT Matt Godin.
|Cleveland, OH– 6'2",
|Scout||3*, #38 DT|
|Rivals||3*, NR DT, #59 OH|
|ESPN||3*, #97 DT|
|24/7||3*, #74 DT, #54 OH|
|Other Suitors||Illinois, Pitt, Syracuse|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace|
|Notes||Cleveland Glenville (Pierre Woods, Frank Clark)|
He also has a junior reel.
Willie Henry was probably the second-happiest guy in the world that Michigan struck out with its A-list targets down the stretch, with fellow late pickup Dennis Norfleet #1. Both guys got offers out of nowhere and are now at Michigan. But while Norfleet was on Michigan fans' radar as a guy everyone wished would get an offer, Henry was no more than a name when he popped up.
Recruiting sites weren't much more up on Henry than Michigan fans if the massive discrepancy between the weights they had for him (around 270 pounds) and the number he popped up on the roster with (302, then 314). Rankings and scouting reports are similarly sparse. ESPN's evaluation($) was chucked up at the end of November and lists him at 265(!) pounds:
…at times he shows a nice burst at other times he can be a beat late and needs strive to be more consistent in his get-off. He can tend to play high and needs to work to keep his pad level down. When he does work to stay low he can get overextended and needs to do a better job of playing with better bend and generating more power from his lower body when he engages blockers. … Displays marginal short-area change-of-direction skills. Henry shows flashes of being able to occupy blocks and at times be disruptive and we also would not be surprised to see him land on the offensive line in college, but either way he needs to keep improving and developing his technique to allow him to get the most out of his abilities.
They also really do not like him. The ellipses up there are constantly repeated questions about whether the guy knows how to play football. I think coaching types make way too big a deal about a player's technique in high school, especially at a place like Glenville that specializes in winning by massive talent acquisition, but the concerns expressed in that report are above and beyond the usual.
Meanwhile, Trieu knocks Henry's size and praises his quickness and skills…
Pass Rushing Skills
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Henry is an athletic player who is light on his feet, has good coordination and closing speed. He is disruptive and gets good penetration because he has good get off. He shows a good motor and foot speed in pursuit. He has to add some bulk and strength to be able to anchor against the run, but he flashes, makes some big plays in the backfield and is a good interior pass rusher.
…and I'm just like "what's going on, man?"
It's possible ESPN was working off of junior film, when he wasn't doing that well:
"You watch his film and you go, 'why isn't he ranked higher?'" Trieu said. "You also go, 'Wow, why didn't he have a ton more offers?'" …
"He just didn’t play much, didn’t really make an impact as a junior, and that happens at talented schools like Glenville," Trieu added. "He was a kid who just completely stayed off the radar until late. But, once you saw him play, you could tell he can really play.
"Michigan's getting a very good player, even if he isn't ranked like it."
But since there apparently isn't much junior film, this may be just differing opinions about how much technique matters. It's worth noting that Scout was the highest on Henry by a large margin, too.
Other analysts agree with Trieu's take on Henry as a guy with some penetrating upside. Helmholdt:
“He’s a kid who can play the three-technique on U-M’s defensive line, and that’s important in their scheme,” rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt said. “They need to add depth there, with Mike Martin leaving and no clear heir apparent. [ed: obviously Martin was not a 3T] He’s from a great program at Cleveland Glenville and shows good potential with a quick first step. That’s the first thing you notice. If he’s as big as he’s listed, he’d be plenty big enough. It’s just whether he can add strength and bulk. [ed: bulk is checked off] But from everything I see on film, he could be really solid.”
The quick defensive tackle boasts a 4.78 forty yard dash, and that is indeed his biggest strength - speed. I'm particularly impressed with how quickly Henry gets off the ball and penetrates into the backfield. There are multiple highlights where he sprints downfield when blocking. Not only does that show his speed, but it also shows effort. You can't teach speed, and when you combine that with desire, it's hard to stop. I like how hard he works and the way he celebrates after making good plays. It's pure excitement, but not the "look at me" variety.
The downside is the technique again—"very raw"—and a lack of recognition. Local scouting service MRS Ohio echoes:
Listed at 6'3-270, he uses his athleticism and quickness to beat offensive linemen. Really like the way he uses his hands to separate. Plays pad under pad. Needs to improve his change of direction, but his closing speed on his pass rush is excellent. He agrees that his quickness is his strength. A weakness is that he feels that he must play hard every down. Going both ways on a high level program is hard. He wants to play hard every play. Conditioning and pacing himself is important. Honestly, evaluating him, he does not take many plays "off."
Again we get some conflicting information about technique, but eh… it's technique. Finally, here's a random OSU fan:
I've seen Willie Henry play. He can be really really quick off the snap of the ball. He can penetrate into the backfield and be disruptive. He would not be good if you want him to just stand up and tie up blockers. A DC must allow him to penetrate and get into the backfield since that is his strength as a DT.
Excellent quickness and very very good speed for a DT. He also has a good motor.
You get the idea.
Henry entered the year with a smattering of Big East offers of which Pitt was the most impressive and added an Illinois offer during his senior year when he got a lot better. Steve Wiltfong noted Henry was Glenville's "most dominant" DL at the Herbstreit thing last year as he notched nine tackles, two behind the line, and said OSU was "monitoring him." Nothing came of that thanks to Penn State imploding and the incredible bounty of DL in Ohio last year.
When Henry committed people assumed he'd be a three-technique since he seemed to be around 270 and had a reputation as a penetrator. That assumption changed when he was listed on the roster 45 pounds heavier than anyone expected. At this point he's probably going to lose weight over the rest of his career, maybe to the point where he will be a viable three-tech. But the roster almost demands he plays at the nose.
There is Pipkins, of course, but the only other nose tackle on the roster next year will be Richard Ash, a guy who hasn't seen more than a handful of snaps yet and may never. Quinton Washington might slide down if he gets a fifth year, and Maurice Hurst might end up at nose tackle. Even if all those things happen, the roster makes more sense with Henry at NT than fighting Heitzman/Wormley/Strobel/Godin/Poggi/Brink/Wilkins for one of the two fairly interchangeable SDE/3T spots.
"Henry is a five-star player. But the three-star thing is somebody else's opinion of the kid. He was a five-star player for me for three years. Nothing kept him under the radar for me as a coach. To me, he was rated just as high as [four-star Ohio State wide receiver commit] De'Van Bogard. The recruiting thing is somebody else's opinion, and that's not the opinion that I had here."
Uh… but you didn't play him?
"Well the thing is we were looking at our numbers . We would like to have another defensive lineman and we watched the tape on him. This guy right here is a young man that really developed. His film jumped off the screen to us. This is a guy we want. "
Uh… but you thought Tommy Schutt was awful or something?
Not relevant but weird: if you do a Google Image Search for "Willie Henry" you get a lot of mugshots. Like… an unbelievable number of mugshots. Enough mugshots to make me want to start a "name with the greatest percentage of GIS results that are mugshots" competition.
Why Rob Renes? Renes was a nose tackle who made a living off of his ability to penetrate with a quick first step but was never the kind of annihilating force Mike Martin got to—at least probably not, I have not UFRed his career—and that's the prototype for a guy like Henry, who's not a battleship but seems suited for the nose more than the three-tech spot.
Martin is another comparable, but he came into Michigan a slab of muscle and exited looking like the Hulk. Henry isn't that sort of freaky wrestler guy. Another guy who he might remind you of if he hits the tippy top of his potential: Jerel Worthy.
Guru Reliability: Low. Henry had no profile before his senior year and emerged late. Apparently no camps.
Variance: High. The recruiting sites don't seem to have a good grip on him, the weight is variable, and Ohio State fans have noticed that Glenville kids frequently flame out or dance on the edge of doing so. Michigan's had a similar experience with Pierre Woods, who barely held onto his scholarship after a standout sophomore year, and Frank Clark, who's currently in alleged limbo. While not fate, it's a trend that can't be ignored.
Ceiling: Moderate. Sounds like he's got more penetrating upside than a Godin, and he's more naturally suited to a position as a squat 310-pounder. Not impossible to see him hitting an all conference level if Michigan rolls a natural 20.
General Excitement Level: Low-plus. Clear plan B recruit, comes from a place with a poor record of preparing kids for the rigors of college, and the extra weight is probably not a good sign. "Plus" since it does seem like he's an athlete and Michigan might be able to morph anyone into a pretty good DL these days.
Projection: Should redshirt. It's unlikely much of that 50 pounds is good weight, and there are a couple freshmen who should be ahead of him on the freshmen playing time pecking order. Past that, he's got a tough road. It's hard to see him surpassing Pipkins at the nose, but it's hard to see him starting elsewhere because Michigan really needs someone to rotate in for Pipkins when he tires, and he's the only other underclassman on the roster who seems to fit a nose tackle profile.
That's not all bad, since it seems likely he'll be a rotation guy. 2013 commit Maurice Hurst may end up at nose but seems more like a three-tech right now, which would leave Henry as clearly the best option for times when Pipkins is huffing on the sideline. Henry's not likely to start until he's a senior, but he's got a good shot at being the second guy in for a big chunk of his career.
As first reported by TomVH, St. Clairsville (OH) linebacker Michael Ferns committed to Michigan on Wednesday, becoming their first commit in the class of 2014. Ferns had recently named a top three that also included Notre Dame and Penn State, and a very positive unofficial visit for the BBQ at the Big House likely pushed him to make a pledge.
|NR MLB||NR ILB||NR ILB||
4*, 93, #5 ILB,
Only 247Sports has released rankings for the class of 2014, so our lone national data point for Ferns has him pegged inside the top 100 prospects overall and top five at his position. All save ESPN list him at 6'3", 235 pounds—ESPN has him 20 pounds lighter, likely an outdated figure—which has him easily on track to be a college-sized strongside linebacker by the time he hits campus.
While the national services aside from 247 have not released rankings, OhioPreps already has a top 25 list for the class of 2014. Ferns is second, behind only fellow linebacker Dante Booker, and Marc Givler suggests that those two have separated themselves from the rest of the class.
Other information on Ferns is scarce, as he hasn't hit the camp circuit and St. Clairsville is a small school that hasn't produced much in the way of D-I talent*. We do get one player comparison courtesy of Scout's Dave Berk ($):
Standing 6-foot-3, 235-pounds, Ferns reminds some of current Irish inside linebacker Jarrett Grace, at least in terms of his physical stature. However, Ferns shows a unique skill set for a player of his size.
While St. Clairsville High School is far from one of Ohio’s top big-school programs, Ferns athletic ability could easily transfer to a bigger program as he shows on film the ability to play several positions on both sides of the ball.
Grace was a 2011 recruit on the 3/4-star borderline; at 6'3", 240 lbs., he's very comparable in terms of size. Grace's ESPN scouting report($) praised his athleticism and play recognition, and as you'll see in his film those are also two areas of Ferns's game that stand out.
Besides the above, most of the articles on Ferns focus on his intelligence both on and off the field. He's made it clear from the beginning of his recruitment that academics are the top priority—which he backed up with a top three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State, as well as an offer from Stanford—and he plans to study pre-med. 247's Steve Wiltfong details this side of Ferns in an article rather unfortunately titled "Ferns Is Freaky On & Off Field"($):
Growing up, Ferns always saw his parents on the computer messing around with this new sensation known as the internet. The two-year old didn’t want to be left out.
“He wanted to play on the computer so bad, and he’d keep asking us what words were,” the elder Ferns said. “It just got to the point where he taught himself how to read so he didn’t keep asking us. He was in diapers. We bought him reading programs for kids ages 4-5, and it wasn’t three weeks later we were buying the programs for ages 6-8. Over the course of a month, he was on the internet. At that time it was dial up, but he wanted to do it so bad.”
“I was always a little ahead of the time,” Ferns added. “I remember being in diapers on the computer. I’d say I was a little advanced back in day.”
Ferns has grown a bit since then, and now his intellect is paying dividends on the football field [emphasis mine]:
“He’s 6-3, 230-pounds and runs like a deer,” McClean said.
“Besides just his size advantage, he can do a lot of different things. We lined him up at three different positions on offense. On defense he’s an intellectual person, he can handle things a lot of people couldn’t do. He’s like a coach on the field from his linebacker spot.”
That astute play, when combined with impressive athleticism, could make Ferns a candidate for early playing time. According to Scout's Allen Trieu, who posted a scouting report on Ferns after his commitment, the only thing stopping Ferns could be Michigan's depth chart ($):
Upshot: He's going to come in college ready in terms of size and speed. If he adjusts to the speed of the game and learns the defense, he has the tools to play early. Not sure if the depth chart will allow that because there are so many linebackers, but he has what you look for in an early impact guy.
Trieu compares Ferns to freshman Joe Bolden, a 2012 Under Armour All-American who's already pushing for playing time at WLB, and says he's a "pretty safe bet" for four stars.
Magnus broke down Ferns's sophomore film and came away impressed:
I really like what I see on Ferns's film. He plays both ways for his high school team, although keep in mind as you watch that St. Clairsville is a small school with fewer than 700 students enrolled; the competition is not excellent. Ferns plays some fullback, tight end, wide receiver, and linebacker. He shows very good instincts as a linebacker. Ferns the younger plays downhill nicely, showing quick initial reads and stepping up into holes that open. He keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and is a very solid tackler. He also does a nice job of side-stepping blockers and using his hands to shed when necessary. His change-of-direction skills are also apparent as an offensive player, where he swivels his hips pretty well to slither past defenders.
So, while scouting on Ferns is still limited, what we see suggests he's got the size, athleticism, and instincts to excel at the collegiate level.
*The only other St. Clairsville player in the Rivals database (dating back to 2002) is 2013 3-star WR Dan Monteroso, a Boston College commit.
Ferns built up an impressive offer list for a junior-to-be, choosing Michigan over Notre Dame, Penn State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Stanford, Virginia, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and a handful of MAC offers.
Ferns tallied 136 tackles as a sophomore while also chipping in 441 yards on 31(!) rushes and 301 yards on 15(!) catches. He had 88 tackles as a freshman in 2010.
FAKE 40 TIME
No 40 time is listed for Ferns on any of the four recruiting sites.
As you can see, there's little not to like in the film, though the lack of high-end competition is apparent.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
While Michigan has recruited extremely well at linebacker over the last couple classes, Ferns could have a relatively clear path to the two-deep if he lands at strongside linebacker. That spot is currently manned by Jake Ryan and Cam Gordon, and Ryan will be a senior (I know, right?) when Ferns steps on campus. Unless Royce Jenkins-Stone bulks up significantly, at that point Mike McCray will be the only player standing between Ferns and a spot in the rotation.
It's also possible that Ferns ends up at middle linebacker, a position where he can better show off his instincts. While Joe Bolden and potentially Jenkins-Stone stand in the way there, Ferns could get a three-year separation from those two if he takes a redshirt year (assuming Bolden and RJS play this year, a much safer assumption for the former).
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
At this early juncture, it looks like Michigan is in line for a relatively small class in 2014, but with a year-and-a-half before signing day a great deal can change. One thing we're pretty sure of is that the Wolverines can afford, once again, to be picky at linebacker; unless there's unexpected attrition, Ferns will likely be joined by one other linebacker recruit, likely a guy who projects to the middle.