On Saturday the Michigan football team had it's annual media day. Bryan Fuller and I (Eric Upchurch) had the privilege of attending. Here are some photos and galleries from the event.
Yes indeed Taylor..
Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson
Big Jon Falk
Here is a combined gallery of selected photos from Saturday.
Here are links to our individual galleries if you would like to see all of the photos that we shot.
Green redshirt? Er?
one dude is not enough
I was wondering what your take on Green getting a redshirt would be.
I know it's an unusual concept to redshirt a blue chip running back, or
an uncommon practice. But with Fitz Tousaint at 100%, who has proven his
abilities as a top tier back, and Michigan having a fully loaded stable of
RB's, is it a better practice to allow a player that is already this good
another year to develop before he is unleashed on the world for mayhem and destruction?
Is Michigan in THAT much need of another RB that Green should play immediately, or is offering him the redshirt the way to go? Will
offering him a redshirt cause atrophy in the competition between the backs
for the starting spot? Also, would Derrick Green transfer if he was
redshirted? Any insight you could give would be appreciated.
Even if Fitzgerald Toussaint is 100% healthy, someone else is going to get a lot of carries. Michigan ran 502 times last year, and even carry-magnet LeVeon Bell only scooped up 382 for Michigan State. Meanwhile, Toussaint has 130 and 187 carries the last two years. There are going to be 200 to 300 carries, minimum, handed out to other players, and with the situation at quarterback only a handful will be Devin Gardner's.
So someone's got to play. If Green is the second-best back on the roster it should be him, because:
- Michigan has a very legit shot to win their division
- Green is likely to start next year if he is the #2 back on the roster
- blue-chip freshman like to go places they play early
- with De'Veon Smith and Damien Harris waiting in the wings Michigan won't miss a hypothetical fifth year from Green much, and…
- if Green ends up being of interest to the NFL he will almost certainly not be around for year #5. Tailbacks have short shelf lives, especially when they're moosebacks.
Add in the uncertainty generated by Toussaint's miserable year and injury and there is absolutely no case to redshirt Derrick Green unless De'Veon Smith is obviously better.
What goes down at running back generally?
With all of the weapons that Hoke is stockpiling, I was wondering if you guys know the plan going forward at the running back position.
Running back seems the most interesting to me with Borges' pro style making a big return. That said, how will the staff balance Fitz and Derrick Green? Has Rawls proven to the staff he can be a 3rd down bruiser that can get the 1 yard when we need it? Are there roles for Justice Hayes, Drake Johnson, and Norfleet in the backfield this season? With the full stable back there is there any chance any of them convert to other positions?
I've been dying to know anything about the running backs and would love some insight.
These are many questions. The last one is the easiest: yes. Dennis Norfleet has apparently already been moved to slot receiver, which is fine by me as long as they use him.
Hayes, too, is likely to end up in the slot at some point. That's not insider information, it's just a guy looking at the depth chart, thinking about what Michigan clearly wants to do, and extrapolating. Hayes was regarded a guy who could move to wideout coming out of high school, and Michigan is about to be short on slots. Johnson is pretty much RB-or-bust; he'll stay where he is.
Answering the last question answers the second to last: not really. Hayes was nominally at the top of the depth chart after spring and Johnson was getting some practice hype, but I expect both to be marginalized. Third down back is up for grabs—my advice to those guys is to get really good at pass blocking.
Apparently I'm going backwards: no, Rawls has not proven he can be a third down bruiser. If anything he's proven the opposite, repeatedly going down on contact on short yardage plays. It's likely that not only Derrick Green but De'Veon Smith, Wyatt Shallman, and Sione Houma are better options for short yardage this season.
The first question is pretty much the thing. I expect Green to immediately take over short yardage duties, where his power is welcome and his potentially iffy pass blocking (freshman) is not relevant. Fitz should be fully healthy and he is a damn good back when he gets a little blocking, so the bet here is he starts the year getting the plurality of the carries. As things move along Green should come more and more into the offense, like TJ Yeldon last year, until they're about splitting carries evenly.
Making elite players elite… uh… players?
Graham and Martin were indisputably elite.
I was wondering about Michigan and player development. I completely understand the Heininger Certainty Principle, and how Mattison can take a average player and make him good. I also know that they can take a good player and make him great.
However, with getting Peppers and the possibility of getting Hand, is there any recent evidence from Mattison or Hoke that they can mold elite recruits into elite players. Or should I change my definition of elite from first round draft and successful NFL career.
That's a pretty high bar to clear. Mike Martin was indisputably elite in his senior season but does not meet the criteria as a third round pick. After one year he's being touted as a potential breakout player by people who have obviously never seen Martin play. But is it on Mattison and Hoke that NFL teams are sometimes dumb? I say it is not.
The thing about evidence that Hoke and Mattison can take a guy like Hand and make him into an elite player is that I know for a fact Hoke has never had a Hand-level guy to mold. Mattison did have a number of five stars to deal with at Florida, and we'll get into that.
First, Hoke. He was Michigan's defensive line coach from 1995 to 2002. During that period Michigan had the following players drafted from the DL:
- Will Carr (7th round, 1997)
- Glen Steele (4th round, 1998)
- Rob Renes (7th round, 2000)
- Josh Williams (4th round, 2000)
That, uh, isn't great. But how much of that was on Hoke and how much was on the fact that Michigan was recruiting and playing guys like Dan Rumishek, Norman Heuer, and Shawn Lazarus in 2001? While those guys were all quality pluggers, Hoke wasn't exactly working with Brandon Graham and Lamarr Woodley there.
Michigan's defensive philosophy in the late 90s and early aughts was to hold up offensive linemen with RVB types and let their athletic linebackers wreak havoc. They recruited NFL linebackers and put many of them in the league for long periods of time: Dhani Jones, Ian Gold, Larry Foote, and Victor Hobson all launched long NFL careers in a four-year span in the early aughts. They recruited blue-collar guys out of the Midwest on the line without regard to their rush abilities or hugeness: all three of the DL mentioned above were 6'4" and around 290. No matter how technically adept they were, the NFL wasn't going to be interested because they don't fit anywhere in an NFL 4-3 under.
The much-traveled Greg Mattison had a similar track record until he tapped into a geyser of talent:
- Renaldo Wynn (1st round, 1997, ND)
- Anthony Weaver (2nd round, 2002, ND)
- Justin Tuck (3rd round, 2005, which was the year Mattison left for Florida but he's worth mentioning.)
- Joe Cohen (4th round, 2007, Florida)
- Marcus Thomas (4th round, 2007, Florida)
- Ray McDonald (3rd round, 2007, Florida)
- Jarvis Moss (1st round, 2007, Florida)
- Derrick Harvey (1st round, 2008, again Mattison had departed)
At Florida it went: nothing, nothing, entire defensive line off the board before the fourth round ended. That tells you that the level of talent he was working with took off—he's pretty much the same coach at that point. Instead of coaching up blue-collar pluggers he was teaching explosive large versions of same to do the same things the blue collar guys did. And lo, they wrecked things.
Despite the rankings, Michigan has very rarely brought in the kind of top-tier guys they have lined up the next couple years, and when they did sometimes they were crazy. The touted Germany/McKinney/Slocum/Taylor recruiting class turned out to have three guys in it that couldn't stay enrolled for whatever reason. But other than that, Michigan's track record with five-star-ish defensive linemen has been good: Woodley, Graham, Branch, and Taylor were all quality college players and high NFL draft picks. Gabe Watson, popularly derided a guy as who never lived up to the hype, was still two-time All Big Ten and a mid-round pick. Pure talent busts are limited to Will Campbell, who should have been an offensive lineman all along… and still got drafted.
Player development is inherently difficult. Every year half of the first round of the NFL draft is comprised of relatively unheralded players. Busts are inevitable, talent is talent, and you just have to get piles of it to have a Florida-type DL. Michigan is going to approach that level of talent in the next few years.
Derrick Green is a large man.
As per the title. This year's batch of impressions is pretty interesting. As always, organized by topic and translated from the twitterese. Standard disclaimer: this is one practice that's not even in pads, so a lot of position groups are basically impossible to evaluate. In particular I'd take the OL stuff with a grain of salt.
Dienhart has a full article on the experience; it doesn't appear that Howard Griffith was there this year, and he gave an interesting glimpse into the depth chart:
Here is who was running with the “ones” on defense today: Line, Tom Strobel; Chris Wormley (who is a specimen); Quinton Washington; Frank Clark. Linebackers, Joe Bolden; James Ross; Secondary, Blake Countess; Thomas Gordon; Jarrod Wilson; Courtney Avery; Raymon Taylor.
So 1), that's a nickel package, 2) Dymonte Thomas wasn't at the top of the depth chart, 3) Strobel and Wormley were your Day X starters at SDE and three-tech, respectively, and 4) Bolden was ahead of Morgan. That's so many changes from expectation that I'm betting that rotation is more experiment than depth chart indicator.
Even so you do get an indicator of who is not being challenged for a starting spot at present: Clark, Washington, Ross, the safeties, and Countess. Anyway, more things:
Devin Gardner looked great - in total command of the offense. He needs to stay healthy more than any player in B1G - Morris struggled a bit. Morris has a live arm and runs well too - just seemed a step behind - late on a number of throws. Will be very, very good in time. –Dave Revsine [part 2]
As mentioned in Morris's recruiting profile, early struggles are expected.
Al Borges told me Devin Gardner loves to study film more than Denard Robinson did. Borges says Gardner is more athletic than Jason Campbell. –Dienhart
Was Denard a noted film guy? I don't recall that being part of the things people said about him except when he was being compared to Tate. The Campbell thing is obvious. Campbell could move around a little bit but was almost strictly a pocket passer. Rushing yards by year at Auburn: 72, 206, 1, 30.
Derrick Green was dressed but not taking reps, FWIW.
Borges also said he needs a "war daddy" at RB, given that the run game now features the TB rather than QB. Not clear he has one yet. –Revsine
Fitz Toussaint showed no effects from his injury. Great burst through the line. –Revsine
Wyatt Shallman also got a lot of carries as a TB. Unclear if that's because Green wasn't involved in the reps. –Revsine
Heyward got huge in the NFL—like, may have pushed 300 pounds—but in college he was 240-260 and quite good at running: 1800 yards and a Heisman finalists from Pitt as a junior and a departure to the first round of the NFL draft.
Darboh impressed in a major way.
Da'Mario Jones had a nice one-handed catch as well. Lots of good young WR talent. Darboh has taken a particularly large leap. –Revsine
WR Amara Darboh looks primed for a breakout. Big, fast and physical –Dienhart
Funchess is fantastic - serious match-up issue. They will use him well. –Revsine
Q: Who do you think will be the number one receiver for Gardner?
A: Gallon - but Darboh & Funchess right there. –Revsine
As mentioned, a grain of salt here. There were no warning flags from this visit last year.
Little bit of a battle going on at C. Always give the caveat of it was just 1 practice on 1 day - but Glasgow delivered first snap. –Revsine
I asked Brady Hoke about interior of o-line; he told me all spots are still open. Lots of bodies. I have to think Kalis will get one spot. –Dienhart
Lewan is a very clear leader. Most of his leadership 2day was keeping young guys focused and loose. I observed a good exhange with DeVeon Smith –Revsine
Q: Does the interior of the OL look more athletic? Will the Gs be able to pull efficiently? [ed: almost certainly an mgoreader, right?]
A: Yes - OL looked good. –Revsine
Taylor Lewan is really fun to be around - one of my favorite B1G interviews. He said Frank Clark reminds him of Clowney. As in Jadeveon. –Revsine
Fun to see Brady interact with DL (for me - not necessarily for DL) - really worked Ondre Pipkins hard. Clear they are counting on him. –Revsine
Q: Frank Clark warrant the off season hype?
A: Hard to say - they weren't in full pads. Teammates were raving, though. –Revsine
If there is a more impressive true freshman DE in the nation than Taco Charlton, I want to see him. Can't wait to see him in a year. –Dienhart
Chris Kiffin, the brother of Lane and Ole Miss defensive line coach/booster payment organizer, upheld the family honor by responding to this tweet with "Lol."
Nothing of note. Linebacker is another spot where no-pads means evaluation is hard, if not impossible. Bolden nominally running with the ones is interesting, but unless he's made a lot of progress at hitting people I don't think he's going to displace Morgan. Spell him for a few drives a game, sure. Start, no.
Mattison mentioned that Thomas Gordon has really emerged as a leader in the absence of Kovacs. –Revsine
Defensive team can really run. I would say the validity of recruiting rankings was alive and well in AA today. –DiNardo
One of the most interesting things about the Chicago panel with myself, Sam Webb, and DiNardo was how DiNardo dismissed the usual coachspeak muttering about recruiting rankings. Instead he emphasized their importance and how the Big Ten's lag in that department was reflected on the field.
I love this coaching staff. There is a ton of teaching that goes on at their practices - giving constructive feedback after nearly ever rep. –Revsine
Assistant coaches do as good a job as anyone teaching technique. No music constantly playing helps staff teach. –DiNardo
Once again got to watch one the the best D Line drills in college football. –DiNardo
I don't think he's referring to this one, but he might be?
Greg Mattison is really pleased with his defensive depth. Said there are several positions where he feels good going three deep. –Revsine
Um… WDE, SDE, CB(ish), maybe if you look at ILBs jointly.
Much like Ohio State, many of Michigan's freshmen look physically ready to play right now. Taco Charlton would be Exhibit A. Other true freshmen that stood out - De'Veon Smith, Dymonte Thomas, and Jourdan Lewis. Thomas had a nice diving pick, Lewis good PBU in the endzone. –Revsine. [Part 2]
I asked Hoke after practice which true freshmen who weren’t here in the spring who could impact. He mentioned Delano Hill and Jourdan Lewis in the secondary; Patrick Kugler on the o-line; Maurice Hurst on the d-line; Mike McCray at linebacker, among others. –Dienhart.
A little surprised it wasn't all-lifting, all-running Ben Gedeon that got a mention there instead of McCray. Also, Hurst is a bit of a surprise given how his weight has fluctuated (at least on paper): if he's really 270 instead of 302 I find it hard to believe he's going to push through to see playing time.
Q: The way UM/OSU have recruited, are you seeing a separation in talent?
A: Need to see everyone - but trending that way. –Revsine
Ed-Ace: Brian is out of pocket for the weekend and left this to post for today; it's worth adding that the athletic department announced that radio play-by-play broadcaster Frank Beckmann will retire following the 2013 season — full release can be found here. It contains quotes from the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics AND the VP of Audio for IMG College, but not Beckmann himself, strangely. (Beckmann has since given quotes to Angelique Chengelis, FWIW.)
The Michigan offer letter. From Michael Ferns:
No mention of four years, one erroneously capitalized "Championship."
Read this now. Smart Football breaks down Jason Witten, and there's a reason to read the article other than a desire to weep about that Citrus Bowl in dickety-six: Chris Brown talks in-depth about the "option" route that is a staple of the Dallas offense… and will hopefully be a staple of Michigan's soon.
At its base, the option route is "go get open underneath" for inside receivers—usually tight ends—who run out to 8 or 10 yards and then either break outside, break inside, or sit down depending on what the coverage is and where the defender is relative to him. Witten's quite good at this, to the tune of 110(!) catches a year ago.
The option route is one of six core elements of the Michigan passing offense and the thing should emerge into a weapon as long as someone can run it. Devin Funchess is obviously the best bet, but don't sleep on Khalid Hill, all 258 pounds of him.
Gardner hype. Warning: Fall Out Boy may cause allergic reaction in haterz.
(This may be Wiz Khalifa?)
A STRANGE MAN DOES NON THINGS ON THE INTERNET. Pretty sure this is Wiz Khalifa.
PROTIP: MAKE SURE YOU SPELL THAT WITH TWO Ps
He reminds me of Ed McCaffery and Wes Welker. Jon Kolesar gets the Wolverine Historian tribute:
Probably not Wiz Khalifa.
Anonymous and false boilerplate. You know, when Joe Tiller was around your anonymous quotes from Big Ten coaches features would have a heavy dose of bitchiness, thus making them interesting. These days no dice, as the opinions proffered are largely milquetoasty and sometimes flat out false:
"Their offensive line is very good, much like Ohio State and Wisconsin. Very physical up front, great defensive scheme. For two years, they were confusing us a little bit."
This is the most interesting thing:
"They have a great package defensively. Their third down package — (defensive coordinator) Greg Mattison gives the illusion of pressure every time. You never know when they are really coming or not coming. It’s the different stuff that he does." … -
"Nebraska is Nebraska — with people wearing those stupid hats."
Yes, I hope that is Brady. Very much.
Bring me a chicken, hold the dry white toast. Mike Rothstein has an interesting article on Taylor Lewan's nutrition reform:
“It sucks. It’s awful. The diet is rough,” Lewan said. “When you go out with your friends and they order pizzas and wings, I look at that and I’m salivating. I’m looking at it and am excited about it.
“I go to Buffalo Wild Wings and order a salad and five chicken breasts. I swear that’s what I do. They are like, ‘I don’t think we can do that.’ I’m like, ‘No, if you go to menu, there’s a button that says chicken breast.’ I found that out somehow.”
Lewan's dropped five percent body fat since last season and is doing complicated physical things at elite levels.
Etc.: Oh man, Michigan Hockey Net just put up the 2001 M-MSU hockey game at the Joe, an all time classic. Very good dude Bruce Madej to retire. Andrew Copp talks football. Congrats to Phil Brabbs, who's made it five years since his cancer diagnosis. CTK gets to Drew Dileo, and Dileo talks Norfleet(!). Desmond Howard considers joining the O'Bannon suit. MVictors has shots from practice.
Commitment Vine (that's a first) via Scout's Josh Newkirk
After talking matters over with his (Maize-and-Blue-blooded) family, Warren (MI) De La Salle linebacker Jared Wangler announced on Twitter that he's chosen to switch his commitment from Penn State to Michigan today after unexpectedly receiving a Wolverine offer last week. Wangler, the son of former Michigan quarterback John and brother of 2013 preferred walk-on receiver Jack, becomes the fourth linebacker in the 2014 class and the 15th commitment overall.
|3*, #53 OLB||2*, NR OLB||3*, 77, #63 OLB||3*, 88, #38 S||
3*, #69 S,
Wangler has a pretty bizarre recruiting profile in that, despite the middling rankings above, he earned offers from Penn State (Linebacker U, remember), LSU, and Michigan, not to mention an invite to the Under Armour All-American Game. This may have to do with his status as a tweener — he's transitioning from safety to outside linebacker, and at 6'1", ~215 lbs. (the general consensus of his size from the four services) might be a little undersized as a linebacker.
As for what linebacker position Wangler will play, that's yet to be determined; he told Steve Lorenz that Michigan is looking at him at two different spots after his visit yesterday ($):
"Coach Hoke, Coach Manning, Coach Mattison and Coach Mallory all were talking with us," he said. Wangler's dad made the trip as well. "They like me at both SAM and WILL linebacker and showed me the depth chart at linebacker for the future. It was something I had questions on going into the visit and I didn't realize that the opportunity for playing time at Michigan may be there for me earlier than I thought. We went over my film (a lot of it from his 7v7 work this off-season) and they talked about how they would like to use me and that they like my versatility. It answered a lot of the questions I had."
Given his skill set, I think Wangler makes more sense at WILL, but where he ends up may be determined by how Michigan's linebackers develop in the classes ahead of him.
As a safety-turned-linebacker, Wangler is pretty athletic for his position and well ahead of the game when it comes to his coverage skills; he's also a very willing and impactful hitter, which is good to see considering the concerns about his size. Scout's Allen Trieu lists those three areas as Wangler's positives on his free profile, with block shedding as the only negative, and provides this take on his game:
Former safety who has transitioned his athletic tools into the linebacker position. Is able to play over the slot and does a nice job in coverage, both in man to man and dropping into zones. Has good closing speed to the football and is a good striker who explodes into his tackles. Having just transitioned into playing in the box, he simply has to continue to get stronger and work on getting off blocks. Likely a WILL in college. - Allen Trieu
ESPN is a little more bullish on Wangler's ability to shed blocks, though with the (relatively safe) assumption that he'll continue to add strength:
Reacts quickly to the run and pass demonstrating the agility and balance needed to move through traffic and play downhill to the football. Fashes [sic] the ability to shiver, shed and keep his feet free when working in traffic. Added bulk with improved playing strength will accelerate his take-on and shed skill. Displays the foot quickness needed to avoid blockers and make plays in tight spaces.
The WWL is also very high on Wangler's pass coverage and tackling ability, citing his "relentless desire to chase down the football" as a means to get on the field as a special teams demon. With a redshirt year to add bulk, ESPN thinks he's got the frame and athleticism to be a productive outside linebacker. It's a very positive scouting report overall, and it should come as little surprise that ESPN televises the Under Armour game — though it is surprising, given all of the above, that Wangler isn't rated higher on ESPN. Fire and forget, I guess.
Penn State's 247 outlet had SpartanTailgate's Sean Scherer provide his scouting report on Wangler after his initial commitment, and once again his coverage skills come in for high praise ($):
"Wangler is a very versatile linebacker that will be effective in both the passing game and running game. I expect him to play outside backer, which will allow him to cover tight end, running back, fullback or even a slot receiver but also be effective in stopping the run. Wangler already does an excellent job of keeping his opponent in front of him and uses outside shoulder to help contain his target. By always chopping his feet, he's in constant motion, which allows him to create great angles and make a play."
Wangler participated in various camps and 7-on-7 tournaments over the last couple summers, and while he usually gets just a passing mention, the same couple positives keep popping up. Here's Trieu again after this year's Columbus NFTC ($):
Penn State commit Jared Wangler is another who may not be quite as big as some of the aforementioned guys, but is a smart kid, who, as a former safety, can run well.
247's JC Shurburtt, at the same event:
Penn State commit Jared Wangler (Warren, Mich./De La Salle) continues to add bulk and plays well in space. He also displays a high football IQ.
247's Steve Wiltfong from the Adidas Showcase at Grand Valley State:
Warren (Mich.) De La Salle linebacker Jared Wangler was one of the more fluid and athletic linebackers on site.
Wiltfong again from this year's Sound Mind Sound Body camp:
Penn State linebacker commit Jared Wangler showed good speed and strong cover ability against the running backs in 1-on-1s.
I think it's safe to say Wangler is athletic for a linebacker and solid in coverage. When asked to do a self-evaluation in the wake of his Penn State commitment, Wangler's report echoed those of the experts, along with a promising tidbit about his work ethic ($):
"The position I'm going to play is a lot like Mike Hull, number 43. They like my versatility, that's big for them. Right now, I weigh about 218 and have ran a 4.6 forty, so they think I have quick feet and play well in space. They also like my hands, They see me as someone that will most likely cover tight ends, maybe slot receivers. They also think I can grow into the type of player that can be physical enough to play in the box and make a tackle. Versatility is big, they feel like they can mold me into whatever they need, I just have to do my part and learn from the coaching, which I will. I know I won't have any problems with weight lifting. I love that and Coach Fitzgerald is the man. He'll have us all in shape."
Later in that article, Wangler mentions block shedding as the area he most wants to improve; he also says he currently maxes out at 325 pounds on the bench, with the hopes of getting that up to 350 before this season, so he's not joking when he says he loves the weight room.
Wangler's marquee offers came from LSU, Michigan, and Penn State; he also held offers from Bowling Green, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan, and Yale. That last offer is a pretty solid indication that Wangler won't have any academic issues.
Warren De La Salle, as you probably well know, is the school that produced current freshman quarterback Shane Morris, as well as walk-on receiver Jack Wangler. They play in the Catholic League, so Wangler faces some of the strongest competition that one can find in Michigan.
Per 247, Wangler recorded 76 tackles, 15 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, and an interception (which he returned for a touchdown) as a junior.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the recruiting sites list a 40 time, so all we have to go on is Wangler's self-reported 4.6 from the interview with PSU's Rivals outlet. That's really impressive for a linebacker, so despite Wangler's excellent athleticism, without any confirmation I'm giving that a solid three FAKEs out of five.
Junior highlights ahoy:
Wangler also posted some 7-on-7 highlights from this summer that feature a some very impressive catches on both sides of the ball:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Given Wangler's coverage ability, athleticism, and size (a little short for the strong side), I expect he'll end up at WILL when he gets to Michigan; that means Michigan has all their linebacker spots covered in this class with Michael Ferns at MIKE, Chase Winovich at SLB, and Noah Furbush potentially able to plug in at any of the three.
When Wangler gets to campus, James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone will both be juniors; the only other player on the roster currently projected to WILL is Ben Gedeon, who'll be either a redshirt freshman or true sophomore (likely the former) in 2014. Assuming Wangler takes a redshirt year, he'll compete for Ross's open spot as a redshirt freshman and go from there. If he ends up at SLB, he'll be working for a spot on the two-deep along with Mike McCray and Winovich; that seems like the tougher path for him to get on the field.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is very much done at linebacker now, which means CA four-star Dwight Williams is now out of the picture. The focus for the rest of the class will turn to reeling in the big fish: VA DE Da'Shawn Hand, MI DT Malik McDowell, and PA S Montae Nicholson are the most likely guys to end up in Ann Arbor.
Yes, I've left IL CB/S Parrker Westphal out of that for now, and you may have noticed that my Crystal Ball prediction for him has changed to Northwestern; that's not going on anything concrete (I was torn between predicting Northwestern and Vanderbilt), but it's looking more and more like Michigan may not have room in the class for Westphal, since they're done at corner and seem to like Nicholson more as a safety prospect.
Michigan will also continue to recruit CA ATH JuJu Smith and Glenville teammates ATH Marshon Lattimore and S Erick Smith; at the moment, those guys appear to be longshots, though it'll be interesting to see what happens with Erick Smith if Ohio State is indeed full at safety for the 2014 class.
Michigan’s 2014 class only has about 3 or 4 spots remaining and one of them figures to go to a member of the secondary. There are still several uncommitted defensive back prospects on Michigan’s board, but only a few of them look like realistic options at this point. Perhaps the most realistic option is S Montae Nicholson. Nicholson is a consensus 4-star prospect out of Pennsylvania and he recently cut his list of schools down to 12, a list that includes the Wolverines. I talked with Nicholson and he may have been the most impressive young man I’ve spoken with to date.
What has your summer been like? Have you participated in many camps?
Not a lot. I was at the Rivals 100 and The Opening. I obviously went to the camps to get to both of those camps. I went to the Columbus NFTC and I went to the Rivals camp while they were on tour over here.
Speaking of the two main attraction camps, the Rivals 100 and The Opening, how do you feel like you performed among some of the best prospects in the country?
Honestly the Rivals 100 wasn’t my best camp. I mean I did alright but it was definitely not my best showing. At The Opening I definitely feel like I performed well for as many times as I got the ball. I had a couple of interceptions and a few touchdowns. I think what really set the tone for those camps was just how I was feeling and the amount of fun I was having. Honestly I didn’t know the guys out at the Rivals camp, but a lot of those same guys were at The Opening and when I started talking to them more and having a little more fun, I think that really elevated my play.
Cool, that actually leads me into my next question, you seem like a pretty quiet kid. Obviously you are highly ranked and coveted by a lot of schools, but you seem to stay out of the spotlight. Is that part of your personality and by design?
It is both actually. I’m not really on social media, I don’t like it much. I’m not really that kind of guy that’s just out there all the time. I have a few friends, I don’t really go everywhere, I don’t need to do all of that, I just stay to myself.
A lot less stress that way huh?
Oh yeah, definitely.
Well I know you’ve been busy with a few camps and you told me earlier that you’ve been working this summer too, what’s that all about, what do you do for work?
I teach little kids how to fence. (Laughs)
Yes. It’s a little summer camp thing. They would be there all day and I would just come for my sessions and I would teach them how to fence. They would have little tournaments. It was a program called Summer Dreamers. You know how they preach, like, kids lose a lot over the summer? I was part of a program where the kids would do some work and whatever they did work-wise, they got to choose whatever they wanted to do as a reward. There was fencing, there was a group called Club Adventure, Imagination Exploration. So I was part of the fencing group and the kids would fence each other and then at the end we chose two to fence in front of the whole camp and they went at it! (Laughs) It was fun, some of the kids really loved it.
That is really unique and interesting, I did not know that about you.
Well with your football camps and teaching fencing to kids, how has your recruitment been going this summer? Any time for it?
It’s going pretty smoothly. There’s nothing really big happening, just pretty much taking things as they come. I haven’t really been anywhere because of my busy schedule, so recruiting-wise it’s been a really easy summer.
We talked about this a little before but discuss your top group again.
Yeah I recently cut my list down to 12. There’s Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Florida State, West Virginia, Penn State, Pitt, Temple, Oregon, Stanford, Miami, Michigan, and Michigan State.
I’m not trying to get you to rank those or anything but out of those 12 who do you think you hear from the most, or do you have the most contact with?
Well I’m in contact with all of the schools constantly over Facebook, but mail-wise would be Penn State, Pitt, West Virginia, Florida State, and Michigan, and The U, they probably send me the most mail. I mean the other schools all send me mail too on a day-to-day basis, but the other schools I just named, they send me like piles and piles of mail. (Laughs)
Yeah, I’ve seen pictures on Twitter and stuff that recruits post showing off the heaps of mail from schools, it’s pretty crazy.
(Laughs) Yeah, like I said I’m not really that guy to do all of that, but if I did it would probably cover the floor of my game room and it’s a pretty large room.
Well being a Pennsylvania kid, you mentioned Pitt and Penn State in that persistent group, is there any pressure to choose one of those in-state schools?
I mean there is pressure, but not from anybody close to me. Not from my mom, my teammates, my coach. But you know, like the public there is kind of that pressure to stay home, and “be the hometown hero” and stuff like that. It doesn’t really affect me or anything, but it’s there. At the end of the day I’m going to choose the best fit for me.
Let me shift over to Michigan a little bit. You listed them in your top 12, they contact you a lot via mail. What do you like about Michigan, how much do you like them?
Oh, very much actually. You know they were one of my earlier offers and that’s one of the reasons they are in that top 12, it just shows me how much I mean to them and how much they want me to come play for them. I really do appreciate that, it just shows me that if I was to go there it wouldn’t be just because everybody else wants me, it shows me that they were interested in me early, which proves that I would mean something to them.
I know you’ve been to Michigan, but how many times and for what events?
Yeah, I’ve been there 3 times actually. I was there for the BBQ, for the game against Michigan State, and for camp.
Is another visit this fall for an official something you’ve thought about?
Hopefully. I’m not really sure right now, I have to look at my schedule and their schedule to see how things matchup.
So you’ve got your top 12, are you planning on cutting that down again anytime soon and will that next group be the schools you take official visits to?
Yeah, hopefully I can get it cut down before my officials, but that is going to be a very difficult task. I’d probably like to get my list down to 5 or 6 with those officials in mind. I don’t really know when that might happen, I have to sit down with my mom and talk about it and then go from there.
Once that part of the process happens, and you’ve got your top 5-6, you’ve got some officials lined up or possibly taken, when does a decision come for you? Obviously you can take until February if you want to, but how do you plan on handling that as you think about it right now?
I mean probably towards the end of my season if not after. It really all depends on how our season goes.
When I look at your top group, you have a pretty wide range of schools when it comes to style of play, distance from home, you have some very high-level academic schools in there. What is going to make School A better than School B once you start thinking about a commitment?
Well when I cut it down to 12 it was pretty much the schools that I kept in contact with the most. There were other schools in there that offered me early that just really didn’t talk to me too much anymore, and there was no point in keeping those schools in there just to say I have so many offers. That doesn’t really matter to me, I just wanted to cut it down and figure out what I really need. As far as how I’m going to cut it down after 12…ugh, it’s going to be really, really difficult. It’s just got to be the best fit for me. It could really come down to something very simple because all of these schools are great schools and they’ve all been in contact so much that it really could just come down to something very simple.
Montae finished our conversation by congratulating me on my engagement, as we had been trying to get this interview lined up for a few days but our schedules weren’t cooperating. He was mature beyond his years, well-spoken, very level-headed, and seemed to understand the opportunity he has earned. He talked about how difficult it was going to be to choose just one school and I felt that indecision in his answers.
He is taking his time, weighing his options, and figuring out what the best situation is for himself. I believe Michigan will make his next cut since as the Wolverines they showed early interest, which Montae seems to value a lot.