mesmerism! presidential assassinations! circuses on fire!
Pickerington (OH) North TE Jake Butt visited Ann Arbor for the weekend to beat all other weekends, though he managed to resist making a commitment all the way until Sunday, thus becoming the seventh of the eight prospects to pledge over the weekend. I know, what a stick in the mud. I caught up with Jake last night to discuss his decision, the coaches, his bond with his future teammates, and more:
ACE: What made you decide that last weekend was the right time to commit?
JAKE: Oh, man. I've been trying to tell myself for the longest time that I was gonna wait, but I've been up to campus a few times, got to go there, see the campus, see the academic side, got to meet Shane Morris, saw Taco [Charlton] up there. It's the #14 university in the world and with all those commits I just wanted to go home, sleep on it, and just make sure I felt the same way the next morning that I did the night before. I woke up feeling so excited about the experience that I just had to hop on board with those guys.
ACE: Did it make a difference at all seeing six other guys commit during the same weekend?
JAKE: Of course. I think there's already eight guys committed in the [ESPN] top 150 in the nation. It's something crazy. You want to be a part of that. Earlier today we were on ESPNU's Recruiting Nation show; what recruit wouldn't want to be a part of that?
ACE: What else set Michigan apart from the other schools you were looking at?
JAKE: Academics and playing time. They're the #14 university in the world and also they're really low on tight ends right now, because they don't really use them that much in the offense they're running, but once Shane comes in and Denard leaves they're going to a more pro-style offense and they're going to need tight ends. There's really only the two that they have right now, then Khalid Hill and me coming in for our class, so if I keep working I expect to get significant playing time.
ACE: Did you talk to the coaches more on your visit about your role in the offense?
JAKE: Yeah. They've got two different tight ends, a 'Y' back and a 'U' back. A 'Y' back is a guy that's more on the line and a 'U' back is a guy that's off the line. As of right now they said I'm the only guy that can play both. They've got Khalid, who's going to be more of a 'U' back, they've got another guy [Devin Funchess] who's more of a 'U' back, and a guy [A.J. Williams] who's a 'Y' back; there no true fit, really, for both, and they said I'm that guy right now for them, and that's huge that I can play either/or.
ACE: You talked about being up there and being able to meet Shane and being up there with Taco, from the same hometown. How much of a factor is it that it looks like you guys as a group are already so tight?
JAKE: That's a huge factor. You want that with any type of team. Shane's a great guy, he's been recruiting all these guys and I expect him to land at least a couple more for us too. It's huge being able to know that your future teammates, you're already getting to start to build a relationship with them. Me and Khalid, we both being tight ends, I'm sure there's a little competition between us, but he's a real cool guy. Of course Shane is going to be my quarterback some day, so getting to know him is big too.
ACE: Now you have to turn around next season and play Central, Taco's squad. What's it going to be like playing against a future teammate?
JAKE: It's going to be a great experience. Taco's a great player, so getting up there and getting to size each other up, he's going to be playing D-end at Michigan, hopefully the coaches are able to come down and watch us a little bit. It should be a battle. His team's got us the last two years, though we had them this year, but next year I'm telling you we will pull that one out.
ACE: I'm sure you guys won't be talking smack or anything like that...
JAKE: Oh, you know we will, we will, though.
ACE: What set the coaching staff apart from the other coaches you came across during the recruiting process?
JAKE: They just got their stuff together, it's unbelievable. The attention that they manage to give you one-on-one during the whole entire visit, it's just unbelievable how they can do that. Spending a whole day, not only with Coach Ferrigno, but Coach Borges and Coach Hoke, too—I had about an hour-and-a-half meeting with each of them. Some of it's about football, some of it's about life, just getting to know me, getting to know my parents. They're all just great people. The way Coach Hoke coaches is the way anyone would want to be coached.
ACE: How is that specifically?
JAKE: I use the story... during the Ohio State-Michigan game—we actually asked them about this up there—when the punter muffed the snap and he came off to the sideline we saw [Coach Hoke] put his arm around the punter and he said something to him. Me and my dad didn't know what he said, but he actually told the punter, he said, "Now how many snaps have you taken in your career?" And [Will Hagerup] said, "I'd guess about 5,000." He's like, "And how many have you muffed?" The punter said, "None." And he said, "Have you ever been to Vegas?" The punter looked at him all weird and said, "No." "Well, in Vegas, it's all about probability, and I like my chances in a 1-in-5,000 chance. You've got 5,000 more snaps before you muff another punt." Some coaches would be really jawing at him or really angry at him for muffing it, but he just picked him up a little bit; [Hoke] said knew we were going to need him later in the game punting for us again. That attitude, you just have to respect it.
ACE: What about Coach Borges and Coach Ferrigno, what set those guys apart?
JAKE: Ferrigno is just a real calm guy, but he's a great guy at the same time. I got to meet his family and everything. Just the way he talks about me, he talks so highly about his program; they're also like a family. All the coaches and recruits are giving each other hugs and everything, so it just brings you closer to them. I spent about an hour-and-a-half talking with Ferrigno, and we talked about my film, he's just a real honest guy, and the same thing with Borges, too.
ACE: I'm sure it was probably a little tough not to just commit on the spot with all the other recruits committing there.
JAKE: Oh, yeah. (laughs) It was pretty tough.
ACE: If you had to boil down why you chose Michigan into a few words, what would they be?
JAKE: I'd say the better question is, why would you not choose Michigan?
On the right is something I made from this week's Blockham's by Six Zero.
The left is a screen-cap from the pinnacle of awesome. Threads existing in the shot are as follows: WOOOO-HOOOOO!; Hello: Chris Fox; MUPPETS!!!!!!!; Sullinger: post-game words to Burke; Hello: Taco Charlton; official greatest day of ever thread; Ozone: Meyer > Hoke on Recruiting Trail = Egg in Face; The Announcers; Brady Hoke; Senior Night Video?; Life, in General; What just happened???; and Super Saturday (2-18-2012) Recap. That last by YakAttack has the play-by-play for everything that went down but here's Saturday:
- 12:00 p.m. Football: Kyle Bosch commits
- 1:00 p.m. Lacrosse: Begins first-ever road game as varsity (would lose to PSU 16-9)
- 1:05 p.m. Football: Wyatt Shallman commits
- 1:55 p.m. Track & Field: Trio of Wolverines finish first at Silverston Invitational.
- 2:25 p.m. Football: Jourdan Lewis commits, whiddle-guy Cass Tech CB mantle deployed
- 2:25 p.m. Football: David Dawson commits.
- 3:36 p.m. Baseball: Logan McAnallen pitches 2 scoreless innings to preserve Bobby Brosnahan's gem (7.0 innings, 4 hits, 1 run), and Michigan beats Setaon Hall 2-1.
- 4:21 p.m. Softball: Freshman LHP Haylie Wagner completes shutout of No. 22 Kentucky
- 7:25 p.m. Hockey: A.J. Treais scores in OT to beat Northern Michigan and sweep weekend series.
- 9:20 p.m. M Gymnastics: Season-high 345.700 score hands Ohio State their first loss
- 9:39 p.m. Softball: Freshman RHP Sara Driesenga completes shutout of FAU
- 11:00 p.m. M Basketball: Michigan upsets No. 6 Ohio State 56-51
- 11:01 p.m. Kate Upton: Kate Upton is all Kate Upton.
- 11:05 p.m. Football: Chris Fox commits
- 11:30 p.m. Football: Taco Charlton commits.
- ~11:59 p.m. Jake Butt and Logan Tuley-Tillman enter REM sleep, where their dreams are invaded by GHOST OF NINJA RECRUITING SHANE MORRIS, who gives them helmets with wings and beckons they fly with him to the land of a thousand trees.
Tennis lost to Notre Dame (BlueDragon's comprehensive paume update) at some point in there, but you get the idea. Lets_Go_Blue put up an imaginative photo recap of the weekend in the diaries. Posbang thread? Posbang thread.
I'm So Softball Right Now You Guys! The shutout streak is now up to four games, thanks to Michigan's magnificent freshmen starters. I suddenly feel like doing lines!
Haylie is a clone of Jordan Taylor (even played for the same league in Orange County) and is the crafty lefty complement to Driesenga. As such Wagner wasn't supposed to have a lot of strikeouts but, uh, well look above. The other shutout was Junior Stephanie Speierman, who was 18-1 last year with a 1.88 ERA in 122 innings. I had to look at several other top teams to convince myself these rotational riches are as ridiculous as they look. They are.
The Quantum of Verisimilitude. After watching smart people commit to Hoke in droves over the weekend, Urban Meyer, Legendary Recruiter™ put up a sign so full of deceit people thought he was running for office (hyuk!). Accordingly, people who take twit pics of things made by twits at face value sent it around the internet. Enter Diarist of the Week Michael Scarn, who took the crucial step of, you know, a few cursory Googles to pull the real numbers from the teams' respective media guides.
Yes, our readers with
Office Space The Office joke names are better at research than whoever's doing the signs for Ohio State's head coach. I'm sure this has nothing to do with which school is a better research institution.
Which school is the better research institution? U.S. News & World Report has its new rankings for "Worlds Best Universities" and M is 14th in the world, 10th in the nation, and 2nd among FBS schools. Ohio State (111th in world, 35th in U.S.) isn't so hot, though they'd still be middle of the Pac 12, upper quarter of the ACC, and only behind Texas-Austin anywhere else. The Big Ten is back ahead of the Pac, more because of the Oregon schools than what they added. Other bits of interest I put in a table-tastic diary.
Every Goal Against Northern Michigan. This is
one of my favorite new regular column, a weekly picture-paging of M scoring by CenterIce. Since most of my hockey knowledge comes from watching Lidstrom, the one I was instantly nodding at was the scoring opportunity created by Merrill having an NHL head on his shoulders:
Head up the whole way Merrill gets the puck from Moffie and finds Deblois cutting through the middle.
The Northerners are all kinds of confused, obviously since the blueliner has closed his legs like he's in shot blocking position.
It's Aaaaaalive! The 2013 Offer List has been updated.
Etc. The Mathlete clarifies his maths, but this doesn't make sense unless you read Bill Connelly (of SBNation blog Football Study Hall)'s response to the Mathlete original. Video of last week's defeating of Ohio State, and the Sugar Bowl.
Best of the Board
GO SOUTH ON U.S. 23 AND LOOK FOR THE GIANT TOILET BOWL
Remember kids, helpful Google Maps reviewers should always get upvoted. Unfortunately this well-executed trolling has been found and restored back the THE College of Performing Bears.
When you search for directions to Ohio Stadium on Google Maps…oh I'll let you try it.
Etc. Salute to Percy Bates, retiring after more than two decades as the AD's faculty rep. HT Section 1.
Brief vacation note. I'll be limited Friday and Monday as I visit some friends. I don't think it'll be that noticeable Friday but it's likely there aren't going to be any major columns Monday or Tuesday. I won't be able to catch the hockey game since they're not on TV, but I will write something up on the Purdue game whenever I get a chance.
Northwestern. Via mgovideo:
Podcast. I guested on The Solid Verbal. They asked me if I could think of anything wrong with Brady Hoke and I came up empty. It's been a good 13 months.
Beilein recruiting vs. development. I'm not entirely clear on whether Dan Hanner's recruiting and coaching rankings have methodology gaps that would particularly affect John Beilien but the general idea is to evaluate a coach's recruiting on the ORtg of his freshmen and his development of players on the movement of that ORtg as the players age. Survey says:
|Thad Matta||Ohio St.||8||10||3rd||12th||2nd|
There are some obvious holes in the evaluations here since they only take offense into account, they assume a guy like Burke's performance is all recruiting and no development when he's had on average a half-year of development by the end of his freshman year, etc. But they do make the case that Beilein's recruiting at Michigan has been horrendously underrated, especially since the defense is more than holding its own in this year's Big Ten. Throw it on the pile of evidence indicating Beilein has a great eye for players.
See also: Trey Burke, nation's #3 freshman according to CBS.
It might behoove us to move to a less three-mad offense. Emphasis on "might"—obviously there is something going on with Beilein's offense that works. But in Ken Pomeroy's ongoing quest to discredit defensive three point efficiency, he's doing collateral damage to offensive three point efficiency:
Oh dear. The defensive plot is just a random scattering of data, as has been discussed previously, but the offensive version isn’t much better. If you shot 45% in the first half of the 2011 conference season, you’d be expected to shoot about 35% in the second half. If you shot 25% in the first half, you’d be expected to shoot 33% in the second half. A difference you couldn’t notice with your eyes. I don’t know exactly what implications this has on strategy, but when evenly-matched teams get together, action happening beyond the 3-point line is like a lottery. You take a shot and a third of the time you have success.
In contrast, two-point shooting correlates well. Pomeroy admits he doesn't know what the impact on strategy is, and neither do I. This could be an argument for Michigan to move its game inside the line, but it's not hard to see Michigan's #6 two-point shooting as a number that benefits greatly from Michigan's long-range bombing. As long as Michigan is going four-out, one-in they're going to have to take a lot of threes to stretch opponents into giving them decent opportunities from two.
Thirty-eight is way too many, though. Right now the Wildcats are obviously right with Michigan; in the future when McGary, Horford, Glenn Robinson, and Stauskas give M a huge size and athleticism advantage bombing it from the outside is asking to get upset. I wonder if we see Michigan cut back on the bombs in their new era of talent superiority.
Meet the new GERG? Iowa's new offensive coordinator:
If you were hoping that the Greg Davis rumors were nothing but smoke and disinformation, well, today is not your day. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, a gentleman who is about as well-connected to the Texas football program as Mack Brown himself, reported today that Greg Davis had accepted the Iowa offensive coordinator position.
Davis was run out of Texas on a rail after Colt McCoy graduated and the offense collapsed. Before that he'd told Vince Young to run around out there to good effect and transitioned to a pretty good McCoy-led passing spread, so this is not exactly hiring a guy whose only success in the past ten years was a one-year blip (Greg Robinson).
Still, a 61-year-old retread who cratered that much talent has Iowa fans shrugging. The consensus at BHGP is "decent"; if things go south this fall they'll turn quickly. Looks like Jacobi had to rewrite his headline after his initial take:
Also on the url of the above Prevail and Ride cartoon as uploaded to SBN:
Mattison is probably not quaking at the hire.
Elsewhere in Iowa blogging. The High Porch Picnic evaluates Michigan's recent recruiting from an Iowa POV and is a bit bothered that Hoke and Ferentz seem to have a lot more overlap than the Hawkeyes did with the previous Michigan regime. If I was Iowa I'd be more concerned with Michigan's sudden relevance in Illinois, a place they've struggled in for the past five years.
This reminds me to elaborate on something I mentioned in passing on the Solid Verbal: the current configuration of offenses in the Big Ten footprint is advantage Michigan recruiting. The two schools who do the best job of competing on the trail, Notre Dame and Ohio State, are now spread offenses. The second tier run pro-styles. Michigan looks like it's in a phase where it's rarely going to lose a battle against the second tier; meanwhile they should have an advantage with certain recruits in hostile territory simply because their opponents won't have a good place to put them.
Michigan's in a good position to starve Michigan State and, to a lesser extent, Iowa of offensive talent while bolstering their class with a guy like Jake Butt who Ohio State might have been pursuing hotly if they were still running a Tressel offense.
Side note: the impressive thing about Hoke's progress in Illinois is beating out ND. Remember when going up against Notre Dame was totally pointless, especially in Illinois? Yeah. We'll see what happens with Ty Isaac and LaQuon Treadwell; if Michigan lands them that will be a huge statement.
List o' jerkos. CBS's Eye on College Football lists the 30 BCS schools who voted to override the multi-year scholarship legislation and points out that their real desire is to avoid giving out multi-year scholarships themselves:
The motivation in Austin, Baton Rouge, Knoxville and Norman isn't that they can't hand out four-year scholarships, it's that they simply don't want to.
Of course, the legislation doesn't mean any school -- BCS, mid-major, or otherwise -- is required to offer multiple-year scholarships. But since that might put the schools that don't at a recruiting disadvantage against schools that do, the Texases (and USCs, and Alabamas) have tried to prevent anyone from offering them.
In short: because these schools don't want to promise their athletes a full four-year college education, they've decided the athletes at other schools shouldn't have the benefit of that promise, either.
But whatever, they failed. Wisconsin was the only Big Ten school to ask for an override. Their football team signed up with most of the rest of the conference in offering four-year rides, though, so why is unknown. IIRC, their hockey team has a bit of reputation for cutting kids loose. That might be it.
Now the Free Press won't exist for anyone else, either. Gannett hastens its own decline:
“We will begin to restrict some access to non-subscribers,” said Bob Dickey, [Gannett] president of community publishing. The model is similar to the metered system adopted by The New York Times a year ago, in which online readers are able to view a limited number of pages for free each month. That quota will be between five and 15 articles, depending on the paper, said Dickey. Six Gannett papers already have a digital pay regimen in place.
The Free Press is a Gannett paper, so to get your Drew Sharp fix you'll have to start kicking in subscription dollars. I'm sure the line will be lengthy: Gannett projects they'll increase subscription revenues by 25%—$100 million per year. Think of all the press conference rehashes, trolling, and Mitch Albom columns about angels you'll be missing out on.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I'm not going to steal Ace's recruiting roundup thunder entirely but just… holy hopping ham sandwiches:
The Levenberry family is looking for a paternal figure to guide son E.J.'s career. It's found him in Ann Arbor.
E.J. Levenberry Jr. said this week that Michigan is the lead school for his services. The ESPNU 150 Watch List linebacker prospect from Woodbridge (Va.) C.D. Hylton referenced Wolverines coach Brady Hoke as one of the primary reasons why.
"He kind of reminds me of my dad, the way he carries himself," Levenberry said.
Add Levenberry, Isaac, Treadwell, and O'Daniel—all players who Michigan reputedly leads for now—and that's nine Rivals 100 recruits, three guys who would be consensus five-stars if rankings hold, and a class that will compete for the best in the country. They'll probably lose at least one of those guys and rankings do not hold*; even so… good God.
*[Because there's not many places to go but down and as the year goes along recruiting analysts will turn up top flight talent they missed the first time around. See: Ondre Pipkins. Even if Rivals's opinion of Jake Butt doesn't change at all he's likely to slide 20-30 spots by Signing Day.]
Briefly. Ohio State fans are now the ones annoyed by the "spread can't work in B10 lol" meme propagated by hobos, people who think wrestling is real, and newspaper columnists—all the same people. They get bonus annoyance because Rich Rodriguez just "proved" this by having a quarterback run for 1700 yards. As I said: people who think wrestling is real.
So they're trying to dispel the Rodriguez stink:
Rodriguez largely failed to evolve his offense past the spread's origins. Chris Brown, for instance, prophetically predicated at the beginning of Rodriguez's Michigan tenure that Rodriguez's passing game lacked the conceptual nature necessary to succeed as teams adapted to the spread's basic tenets. Nor did Rodriguez (for the most part) diversiify his offense in the way an Oregon has to counteract things such as scrape exchanges. Michigan never embraced plays such as the midline option, inverted veer, power or counter trey like others. The upshot is that, while Michigan's offense was largely succesful once Denard Robinson was in place, it never hummed in the way Oregon's offense did (particularly against better teams) to overcome Michigan's defense or special team liabilities.
That's not really true. Rodriguez adapted his system to use Lloyd's collection of tight ends, burned many defenses with plays specifically designed to blow up scrape exchanges, and eventually shelved large sections of the old playbook in favor of having Denard Robinson run QB isos and stretches, pairing those with "aigh he's open" moments when a Robinson run turned out to be a pass. The reason 31 points against Penn State and 28 with a missed chip shot field goal against Wisconsin were bad performances didn't have much to do with the offense.
Rodriguez's offense never reached the high-pitched hum of Oregon's because he never had a returning starter at quarterback and the only non-freshman was a breathtakingly green Denard Robinson. Also his tailbacks were pretty bad. If OSU fans are looking for narratives to combat hobos, "we'll have an assload of talent relative to Rodriguez" is your best bet.
Etc.: Tremendous has an even more detailed breakdown of Hoke's appearance at the Glazier Clinic. Rodger Sherman narrowly survived the Michigan-Northwestern game but the prognosis is grim. Michigan's off to a healthy lead in the name-based recruiting class derby but there's a "Zanquanarious Washington" out there—they will not win. Blue wall! You've already seen Luke Winn's decision to put us in SI's "magic eight" teams from which a national champion will come. That seems like a bad bet to me, but whatever. TTB interviews Jehu Chesson, who I will probably call "Jehuu Caulcrick" at some point during his career.
Michigan hauled in their 12th commitment of the class of 2013 yesterday when Columbus (OH) Marion-Franklin WR Jaron Dukes pledged to the Wolverines. The 6'5", 200-pound receiver fills a position of huge need for Michigan, and the Wolverine lifer could barely contain his excitement about the commitment. I spoke to Jaron yesterday evening, just hours after he committed, and we talked about why he chose Michigan, how he feels being in Columbus as a Wolverine, his game against Cam Burrows, and more:
ACE: What made you decide that today was going to be the day to commit?
JARON: I don't know. It was more my coach's decision. He was like, "I can tell. You know what, I can see it in your heart, and I see it in your eyes, and I know that's where you want to go." My family, my mom, they said, "I think it's time, go ahead," and I was like "ahhhhhhh." Then I just went ahead and did it.
ACE: I know you had a great time on your visit a couple weeks ago. Has it pretty much been in your mind to commit since then and you were just waiting for the right time?
JARON: Yeah, I was just waiting on the right time. I was going to wait and do what my mother said, go see more colleges, get the full experience and everything. What nudged it on was a lot of the pressure, it's a lot of pressure.
ACE: Did the fact that Michigan got eight commits over the weekend have any effect at all? Did you take notice when that went down last weekend?
JARON: I heard, but I really wasn't hesitating much. I was talking to Taco [Charlton], he committed, and he was telling me it felt right for him. I've been talking to him a lot. Having somebody that I know that's going to be there made me even more comfortable about going there.
ACE: Have you been talking to any of the other guys who committed to Michigan?
JARON: The only people I've been talking to are Shane [Morris] and Taco.
ACE: What did Shane tell you?
JARON: He was telling me to just come join the family, that we're going to take the top. He was just telling me this and that. I could see that he had as much love for Michigan, as much as I did, maybe even more (laughs).
ACE: What set Michigan apart from the other schools you were considering?
JARON: They actually got my mom to be quiet, once (laughs). They answered all her questions, they answered all my questions, it was just the perfect place. It felt like it was built for me. It just felt right. It just felt like that was the place for me, and why wait?
ACE: What made the coaching staff different from the other coaching staffs that you were in contact with?
JARON: They wouldn't just all play. You know, "Hey, all right, how you doing, man? We're going to have a great time up here, you're going to do this, do that, we're going to be awesome." They sat me down and they were real with me. I felt a connection already. I've seen that they love their players, they love their family; actually, Michigan is their family. It just felt like a good vibe. They were real, they said we're going to work, but we're going to have fun at the same time, because you're going to love what you do. You're going to be proud waking up in the morning and putting on that Maize and Blue. I wanted to be a part of that.
ACE: Being from Columbus, do you feel safe down there being a Michigan commit right now?*
JARON: No (laughs). No I do not. I got messages in my inbox from fans going, "boo go away, y'all suck," when I committed. I'm not affected by it. I made my decision. I'm happy with my decision. People that support me, thank you, I won't let you down, and I won't let my teammates down. People who don't, I'm sorry, but this is my life, and I have to live it.
ACE: There's been a lot of attention, just in the hours since you committed, about you playing against Cam Burrows in the playoffs last year and putting up some pretty good numbers. Are you looking forward to matching up against him again in college?
JARON: Oh, yeah. I would love to keep going against him. He's a great guy. It's fun. After the game, and when I got hurt, he was cool; he came over and he was talking, we were having a good conversation and everything. I have nothing against him. He was a great person, so it's fun going against people you know and it's cool that you can just showcase your talent.
ACE: If you had to boil down why you chose Michigan into a few words, what would they be?
JARON: Family, love, dedication, hard work, honesty, and trust.
*Just to be clear, that question was entirely (okay, mostly) in jest, and Jaron took it that way, too.
A little over a week ago I surveyed the readers here about the Big Ten Division names in the aftermath of 1) the Big Ten declaring they found generally positive feedback and 2) the internet saying LOLWUT in response.
A non-random sampling of internet-savvy Michigan fans says:
That speaks for itself, I'd imagine.
Sam Webb just broke the news on Twitter; yes, Michigan has picked up another commit:
Columbus Marion-Franklin HS WR Jaron Dukes has pledged to #Michigan
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) February 22, 2012
LOL my life. Informative update forthcoming.
Informative Update: According to Michael Spath of The Wolverine, Dukes is the first-ever offensive skill position player from Columbus to commit to Michigan, which is pretty mind-boggling. Despite growing up in the heart of Buckeye country, Dukes actually is a lifelong Michigan fan, and he told me that he got emotional running onto the field at the Big House when he visited a couple weekends ago. Despite his trip going as well as it possibly could, he wanted to make sure he took the time to think things over and talk to his parents and coaches before coming to a decision; it appears he's thought things through.
|NR WR||NR WR||NR WR||3*, 87, #63 WR|
As you can see, Dukes is flying under the radar right now and has yet to be ranked by any of the recruiting services, though I expect that will change soon now that he's committed to Michigan [EDIT: Talk about your quickly-fulfilled predictions; 24/7 just gave Dukes a three-star rating]. Though Dukes is listed at anywhere between 6'2" and 6'5" in his recruiting profiles, recent observations peg him at a legit 6'5", 200 pounds; he's definitely the big type of wideout that Al Borges has been looking for.
Bucknuts listed Dukes as their #29 prospect in Ohio for the class of 2013, and their evaluation included this quote from scout Mark Porter ($):
“He’s the biggest wide receiver in the class. He’s not as big as TY Williams a couple of years ago. But he has great size and is useful down around the goal line. He had a nice game against Trotwood.”
In that game against Trotwood—playing against cornerback and consensus top player in Ohio, Buckeye commit Cam Burrows—Dukes tallied six catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Scout's Dave Berk was on hand for that game, and while there are questions surrounding Dukes's speed, he seems to think that won't be a big issue ($):
At 6-foot-5, 200-pounds, Dukes has the physical size Notre Dame coaches love from the wide receiver position. Besides his size, Dukes showed surprising speed during his six-catch, 173-yard two-touchdown performance.
On one of Duke’s [sic] two touchdowns, Burrows had the angle to make the stop, but Dukes showed a burst that sent him past the standout corner that already holds an early offer from the Irish.
A recent Tim Sullivan feature talked about the strength of Jaron's game—his ability to high-point the football, a la Junior Hemingway—and had a glowing quote from his head coach ($):
Whichever school he does ultimately pick will be getting a talented wideout. Standing 6-5 and weighing 197 pounds, he's a physically-imposing receiver who can use his mass to shield defenders - and make blocks on the edge. He also has the body control to high-point the ball once it's in the air, and a knack for making plays after the catch.
"He's 6-4 or 6-5 legit, 200 pounds, he runs a 4.6," said Coach Haffele. "He has great ball skills catching the ball. He's a pretty good blocker. All that god-given talent he has. And then, once you meet the kid and talk to him, that's the selling point. He's just such a great kid."
We'll see about that 4.6; Dukes himself knows that he has to work on his speed to take his game to the next level, and he told me as much when I first interviewed him before his visit:
JARON: My biggest strengths are being able to read the secondary, keeping a level head, going out there and having fun and being able to go out and catch, just catch the ball. I would love to get faster. They keep telling me speed kills, so I want to be the fastest one out there. I want to be the fastest one on the field.
As you'll see on film, Dukes is very reminiscent of Hemingway in his ability to go up and get the football. His speed doesn't stand out, though he's clearly working on changing that fact. Burner or no, he'll provide a big downfield target for Shane Morris and he should be a major weapon in the red zone.
Dukes also held offers from Illinois and Toledo while garnering interest from Cincinnati, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State; he visited OSU multiple times before reaching his decision, though he did not hold an offer.
Dukes told me he had 36 catches for 673 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists a 40 time of 4.6 seconds, the time his coach claims he ran. Seeing Dukes on tape, I have to give that a four FAKEs out of five; he's going to have to work on his speed, as has been said above, including by Jaron himself.
Junior highlights from ScoutingOhio:
It's difficult to get a read on his route-running from that short clip; hopefully more video surfaces in the near future, as there isn't even paywalled tape on Rivals right now.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
The evidence is flimsy indeed, but Dukes—like every receiver from the 2012 and 2013 class—is going to have every opportunity to compete for playing time right away. When Dukes arrives on campus, the Wolverines will have just six returning wideouts—Jeremy Jackson (SR), Jeremy Gallon (SR), Drew Dileo (SR), Jerald Robinson (JR), Amara Darboh (SO), and Jehu Chesson (SO)—and the only players with even comparable size are Jackson and Chesson, who both stand at 6'3".
That said, Dukes is a developmental prospect, and it seems likely he'll take a redshirt year as long as the Wolverines don't suffer attrition, especially if they can bring in a blue-chip prospect like Laquon Treadwell in the 2013 class. Dukes appears to be a late-bloomer—he told me his coaches said he "couldn't catch a cold" as a freshman—so there's a chance he makes a big leap up in the rankings and changes that opinion. With little film to go on, for now I see him as another Hemingway type; a big receiver who uses his body well and is a deep threat by virtue of his size and leaping ability, but not a burner who's going to be a steady possession receiver.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has 12 commits in the class of 2013, almost certainly more than half of what they'll take in a class projected to fill out at around 20-22 players. Dukes represents a player of major need at receiver, and the Wolverines will take at least one more player at the position; Treadwell seems to be the leader in the clubhouse for that spot, but Michigan has 14 other offers out to uncommitted prospects. Other positions of need include one more offensive lineman, an every-down running back, nose tackle, and depth in the back seven, specifically at linebacker (likely just one, and M can be picky) and cornerback.
Brady Hoke... I really just don't know what else there is to say about his—and his coaching staff's—effort on the recruiting trail. I've run out of platitudes, but this class is already on pace to be one of the top five—at least—in the country. It's still February. This is relatively unprecedented, but you know that already.