Niko Porikos grew up in an NTDP billet home. Cool story.
YMRMFSPA: [404 File Not Found]
The recruiting news isn't coming as fast and furious as earlier this summer, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to discuss. This week's Recruitin' Mailbag covers the biggest needs in the 2014 class, the 2013 recruit with the best player comparison, potential switches in the 2012 class, and why Shane Morris's high school stats don't match the hype. If you'd like to ask a question for the next mailbag, email me or tag your question with #mgomailbag on Twitter.
What are the three biggest priorities for the 2014 class in terms of positions? — @browngalaga
Two position groups immediately stand out to me as top priorities for the 2014 class: quarterback and running back. While Michigan appears to have their quarterback of the future in Shane Morris, they didn't take a QB in 2012; if Devin Gardner doesn't get his medical redshirt, Morris and Russell Bellomy will be the only scholarship QBs on the roster in 2014. With Morris in the fold, it's not imperative that Michigan takes a top-100 type, but they'll need a solid prospect who's a good bet to start as an upperclassman.
At running back, Michigan isn't lacking in pure numbers—barring attrition, six scholarship RBs will be around in 2014, plus fullback Sione Houma—but they're still missing that workhorse, every-down back that Wolverine fans are accustomed to seeing. Instead, there's currently a variety of situational backs—Hayes and Norfleet as slot types, Rawls and Shallman as battering rams—plus DeVeon Smith and Drake Johnson. I don't see Johnson as a threat to crack the two-deep at running back, putting a lot of pressure on Smith to pan out. If Michigan whiffs on Derrick Green, they'll need a big-time prospect to come through in 2014.
As for the third position of need, that's a little tougher to pick, which says a lot about the job Hoke and Co. have done filling the holes in the roster. I'd go with nose tackle; unless Willie Henry and Maurice Hurst Jr. both land there and develop into rotation guys, there will be a huge need for depth behind Ondre Pipkins. At a position where you need a solid rotation of players to keep everyone fresh, getting at least one guy who can clog the middle certainly wouldn't hurt.
[HIT THE JUMP FOR DYMONTE THOMAS YMRMFSPA AND MORE]
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, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Blake Bars, OL Kyle Kalis, TE AJ Williams, TE Devin Funchess, WR Jehu Chesson, and WR Amara Darboh.
|Salt Lake City, UT – 6'0", 227|
|Scout||3*, #5 FB|
|Rivals||3*, #5 FB|
|ESPN||2*, #4 FB|
|24/7||3*, #6 FB|
|Other Suitors||Utah, Washington|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. JeepinBen writes on the new role of fullbacks, comparing Houma's future role to that of Jacob "Not Devin" Hester.|
|Notes||Tongan, not Samoan. Plays the ukelele(!)|
Sione Houma was pigeonholed as a fullback and came out of lightly-recruited Utah, so there isn't much out there about him aside from the occasional basic scouting report and one pretty fanciful comparison($) to Stanley Havili, the former USC fullback who specialized in turning basic wheel routes into touchdowns in the era when Trojan opponents were going 11-on-1 versus Reggie Bush. That:
…reminds me of former USC fullback Stanley Havili, who also is from the Salt Lake City, Utah, area. Houma has great hands catching passes out of the backfield and enough speed to get the corner. He has a great frame to add weight to as well.
Havili had offers from USC, Oregon, Nebraska, and others, a four-star ranking from most places, and was universally the top guy in Utah that year. Houma's down the list, and didn't have any other offers from power-type programs. So probably not Havili.
That's not to say Houma is just another roughneck who moves like a dump truck when he gets the ball. His high school team ran a flexbone triple option in which Houma was the A-back—the guy who plunges up the middle over and over again. He got the plurality of carries in that offense, and he has the potential to be a ball carrier if things break that way. Hey, let's hear from Fred Jackson!
"He is the real deal. He can run the football. He is powerful. He is going to be a very good football player. he is very physical for a guy his size," Jackson said. "And you know he is around 220 (pounds). He is a very physical and has great skill. He is really a half-back on film, but he will play fullback."
"…and he can transform into a Dairy Queen."
ESPN does think he's got the ability to pick up those little chunks of yards($) as long as he's not asked to dodge someone:
Houma is a tweener fullback/tailback prospect …durable and tough but will need to add bulk to adjust if recruited to play fullback. Has better burst than top-end speed but is just fast enough at the high school level to not get caught from behind on long runs. … lacks great cutback vision and patience. … Quickly gains north-south momentum through the hole; little hesitation. … Physical downhill runner with good lower-body power and balance. Breaks through consistent first contact. …Minimal elusiveness in the openfield. … Will not be a perimeter threat at the major college level. …brings valued versatility to a two-back offense.
His coach is more positive, as is the way of things. He also makes Houma out to be a potentially useful ballcarrier:
"Just from what I have seen from last year to this year, he's got some speed, quickness and niftiness to him that it would not surprise me to see him in a bigger tailback spot where maybe they need to pound a little bit. I think he could fit that role as well."
"I think he could be 235 in a heartbeat and still retain a lot of that speed and quickness," Benson said. "I've seen him increase [his speed] just over the past year and he's gained 10-12 pounds in that time."
Elsewhere his coach notes "great hands" and the fact that he's a "good blocker" before mentioning this:
"Like when he runs, he keeps his feet moving, and that's always key; he lowers his pad level and will really hit you."
His coach told Sam Webb something similar:
"…a real nifty runner as far as being as big as he is, but he can also just lower his shoulder and run right over the top of you. He has got some power, some agility, definitely got some quickness and speed to him.
…what makes him so tough in our offense is that he does hit north and south and once he gets his shoulders turned, people have a hard time stopping him.”
Offer: explained. Rawls may have that sort of pile-pushing, leg churning short-yardage power but no one else on the roster is that kind of burrower and Michigan would like a guy that can do that and block and catch besides.
I'm serious about this Whipsaw Offense stuff. Houma is another piece, and one that Borges has proven he'll use in the past if it seems like a good idea($):
The fullback in Borges' previous offense at San Diego State accounted for the most fourth rushing yards and third most receiving yards on the team in 2010.
And that was the good SDSU year under Hoke, so that wasn't an "oh crap toss it short" thing. A guy like Houma is a viable target when you're flippin' your jibbers. TTB strikes on his real appeal to the coaches:
He's not huge and he's not particularly fast, but he's got a little bit of this and a little bit of that. He shows an ability to adjust to the ball in the air on short passes, he has a little bit of vision, he breaks away for an occasional long run, and he breaks some tackles in the process. …runs with a great forward lean when going through traffic. Since he's not particularly tall, that means anybody who hits him in the shoulder pads is bound to go backwards. …probably doesn't have the speed to break 50-yard runs or receptions, but he does have the ability to outrun linebackers and turn a 4-yard swing pass into a 10- or 15-yard swing passes.
Each of these guys covered in the big athlete category is a slightly different big athlete doing slightly different things, and we're about to hit Dennis Norfleet, who is by no means a "big athlete" but also promises to be a guy who does slightly different things than anyone else on the roster. Then next year you've got Butt and Hill coming in to add to the fun. Whipsaw, yo.
Etc.: Trades spring break time for service. Random quote:
"I just said thank you for your service. I think that is the ultimate sacrifice," said senior Izzy Washburn. "I also drew a giraffe. Everybody likes giraffes."
Houma, resembles a muscle car: It gains momentum as it accelerates, but with handling capable of diverting contact and racing to the end zone.
Why Matt Asiata? I don't keep a close eye on fullbacks around the world and there is no real comparable I can think of at Michigan. He's not at all BJ Askew-sized, he should be more than a Dudley-esque thumper, he's more likely to beat a linebacker on a wheel than Hopkins, and Aaron Shea is all wrong, too. (Also I'm saving Shea for Khalid Hill.) I thought about Brandon Minor, who's about the same size, but "great forward lean" and Brandon Minor are diametrically opposed concepts.
I do remember a squat, thick dude who went up the middle over and over again at Michigan Stadium a few years back… it's just that he was playing for Utah. Matt Asiata was a crunching FB/RB for the Utes and gashed Michigan for almost six yards a carry in that 2008 game just by running through tackles. I thought it was a little dubious to pull him up since I remember him being enormous, but apparently he was 5'11", 220. If Houma ends up contributing at a max level for M it'll be as a short-yardage, grinding change of pace back and thumping blocker, like Asiata.
If we really want to get crazy with the whole Whipsaw Offense thing, Asiata saw a ton of his carries as a wildcat QB.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Agreement, but fullback from Utah.
Variance: Moderate. Realistically will be a role player, but has pretty-important-role-player upside.
Ceiling: Low-plus. Role player of some variety, possibly important
General Excitement Level: Low-plus. Fullback, but a guy who they recruited to do more than dump truck people. While I generally hate fullback offers I can understand this one as part of Michigan assembling a Swiss Army Knife roster for Borges to do diabolical things with.
Projection: With Hopkins and redshirt freshman Joe Kerridge around, a redshirt beckons. After that it's another year behind Hopkins before sort of battling for the job as a redshirt sophomore. I say "sort of" because there's probably two slightly different roles for fullbacks in the new Michigan offense, one a traditional walk-on cruncher who leaves "two inches shorter than they came in" as Brady Hoke requested on Signing Day, the other more of a Shea/Havili/Asiata versatile H-back type who can take on a linebacker in the hole or flare out, etc. He's likely to play 15-30% of Michigan's snaps for his final three years, may end up a short yardage back, and will be a redzone option on play action.
One I’m buying in 2012, the other I’m selling
After digesting a couple dozen previews, preseason rankings and countless team articles, there are still a handful of teams that my numbers just don’t mesh with the hive mind. For an overview of my numbers used to predict team success, open up your HTTV to the Technical Dossier (no, not about Cass Tech recruiting). The overview is that factors such as returning experience, returning coaching and level of recruits still on the roster are all weighted based on historical significance. The formula is driven by which factors have been most important over the years, not which ones best suit a given (Michigan) team.
CLICK THROUGH for the Mathlete's post.
PREVIOUSLY ON "MGOBLOG WRITERS DRAFT BIG TEN TEAMS IN AN EFFORT TO IMPRESS ONLOOKERS IN THE WORLD'S LEAST EFFECTIVE MATING RITUAL"…
PICKS were made to start, and
PICKS were made to continue, and
PICKS were made to continue continuing, and
We join our COURAGEOUS DRAFTERS on the VOYAGER II SPACECRAFT at THE EDGE OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM. HEIKO is on the clock for the second pick of round WHATEVER.
We put a JUMP in this one because we probably should have been doing that all along.
CURRENT O: Braxton Miller (QB, OSU), Taylor Martinez (QB/RB, UNL), Patrick Omameh (OG, UM), Fou Fonoti (OT, Michigan State), Kyle Prater (WR, NW), Devin Gardner (QB/WR, UM), DeAnthony Arnett (WR, MSU)
CURRENT D: Michael Buchanan (DE, ILL), Jordan Hill(DT, PSU), Baker Steinkuhler (DT, UNL), Craig Roh (DE, UM), Max Bullough (LB, MSU), Kenny Demens (LB, UM), Ryan Shazier (LB, OSU), J.T. Floyd (CB, UM), Isaiah Lewis (FS, MSU), C.J. Barnett (SS, OSU)
KICKER(S): Brett Maher, K/P, Nebraska
BRIEF EXPLANATION: He had 31 knockdowns, 10 dominators, and allowed zero sacks last season as Michigan State's starting right tackle. I have no idea what some of those things mean, but they all seem like good things.
SNARK: "... poised to blow up in the mold of previous Michigan cornerbacks like Woodson, Hall, and Jackson." Who are you, Angelique Chengelis?
CURRENT O: Montee Ball (RB, UW), James Vandenberg (QB, IA), Ricky Wagner (OT, UW), Keenan Davis (WR, IA), Travis Frederick (C, UW), Spencer Long (G, NEB), Jake Stoneburner (TE, OSU), Brian Mulroe (G, NW)
CURRENT D: Chris Borland (LB, UW), William Gholston (DE, MSU), Johnny Adams (CB, MSU), Mike Taylor (LB, UW), Ricardo Allen (CB, PUR), Ibraheim Campbell (S, NW), Will Campbell (DT, MICH), Ondre Pipkins (NT, MICH)
BRIEF EXPLANATION: I won't pretend to know a ton about Northwestern's offensive line, so I'll trust Phil Steele (Mulroe: preseason second-team All-B1G), the coaches and media (honorable mention All-B1G in 2011), and the NFL draft boards (CBSSports has Mulrue as NW's top draft prospect) in making this selection. Mulroe has solid size at 6'4", 295, and he's lauded for his athleticism; he'll be the guy pulling when I run POWER. With this pick, I've locked up the clear-cut best interior line in our draft, and it might not be particularly close.
SNARK: See, Heiko, the interior line is the part of your offensive line that... oh, I give up.
CURRENT O: Denard Robinson (QB, M), Rex Burkhead (RB, Neb), Jeremy Gallon (Slot, M), Kofi Hughes (WR, Ind), Kenny Bell (WR, Neb), Jacob Pedersen (TE, Wis), Michael Schofield (OT, M), Graham Pocic (OL, Ill), Ricky Barnum (OG, MICH), James Ferentz (C, Iowa)
CURRENT D: John Hankins (NT, OSU), Kawaan Short (3T, Pur), Marcus Rush (DE, MSU), Jon Brown (MLB, Ill), Gerald Hodges (OLB, PSU), Jordan Kovacs (SS, M), Thomas Gordon (FS, M), Micah Hyde (CB, Iowa), Josh Johnson (CB, Pur)
EXPLANATION: Michigan goes into 2012 with its best safety tandem since...? If you can answer that question, you get to be there next time we're trying to figure that out for Hail to the Victors. Anyway I've got both, meaning I have complete and utter immunity from big plays, and now I also get to smugly stand by as Brian tries to explain why my ludicrous fumble recovery rate is all luck, dammit. Gordon isn't the flashiest of free safeties but even if he's Brandent Englemon, with this defense he too can spend most plays reading Infinite Jest.
He gets some help in that endeavor from Johnson, who the Mathlete says was the Big Ten's best cornerback last year. Hammer & Rails is of course biased but..
After having a season where he recorded 64 total tackles, 2 interceptions, and broke up nine passes, Johnson showed us that he is perfectly capable of hanging with the top receivers in the Big Ten.
He's right-sized for the position, can tackle, and his coverage, while knocked because he was operating with no safety help, is no worse than any of the guys taken above, especially the Michigan duo who just went off the board.
SNARK: MarQueis Gray was up to 6'4-250 last I checked. You haven't even drafted Keith Nichol; you've got Andy Mignery.
[ED: After the jump, everyone drafts more quarterbacks. Seriously.]
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, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Blake Bars, OL Kyle Kalis, TE AJ Williams, TE Devin Funchess, and WR Jehu Chesson.
|Des Moines, IA – 6'2", 220|
|Scout||4*, #32 WR, #205 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #30 WR, #215 overall, #1 IA|
|ESPN||3*, #82 WR, #1 IA|
|24/7||4*, #26 WR, #199 overall, #1 IA|
|Other Suitors||Florida, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State, Okie State|
|YMRMFSPA||Aw, hell, Jason Avant|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim.|
|Notes||Born in Sierra Leone.|
Amara Darboh is prime Rinaldi tear-jerkin' steak #2, a refugee who landed in Iowa and grew into a college-level wide receiver. He comes to Michigan with more recruiting hype, muscle, and sweet offers than Chesson, but lacks the lanky leaping ability that could turn Chesson into a premiere downfield threat if Michigan gets lucky. Darboh is less of a wildcard… but that doesn't mean he can't be a high quality option.
Here again we have some conflicting opinions. Unusually, it's his high school coach who's saying the things that are not rapturous($):
"He runs 4.42 but I wouldn't say that he's a burner by any stretch of the imagination," said Wilson. "He's a reliable guy that can make the tough catches for you. … he's a bigger physical presence. He's not a make you miss kinda guy."
That a kid can run a low 4.4 according to his coach and get called "not a burner by any stretch of the imagination" by his coach shows you the tao of FAKE 40 times. On the high school level these guys usually are burners, and coaches call 'em that, and call 'em that even if they aren't burners. Allen Trieu is also in the anti-Trogdor camp, or is he?
Body Control / Elusiveness with Catch / Hands and Concentration
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Above average size and speed ratio. Maybe not a burner, but has solid deep speed. Excellent hands, ball skills, and ability to go up and get the ball in traffic. He tracks the ball well and has good body control. After the catch he has good ability and is a pretty strong kid that can break tackles in the open field.
Speed is a negative, deep speed is "solid." Searching for negatives is a good sign, or just a confusing one.
A couple of other recruiting guys give the impression that Darboh could be one of those weapon things. Irish Illustrated's Tim Prister got hyped($) after ND's extremely early($)—like October of his junior year early—offer:
Excellent size and length help accentuate his deer-like athleticism with the football in the air. Shows nice balance maintaining his feet and running after catches for which he leaves the ground to make. Very fast - probably in the low-to-mid 4.4s - with an effortless running motion. Shows a consistent ability to run away from the crowd in pursuit.
We seem to be in disagreement about whether 4.4 is fast (hell yes unless you're hand timing Denard to run 3.8).
And Rivals's Josh Helmholdt provides the most singularly useless comparison ever($)
I loved Darboh's highlight film the first time I saw it. He is big, he is fast and he is a playmaker. Unfortunately film is the only thing I have seen on Darboh. …
Who does he remind me of? I'll go with a poorer man's version of Fred Rouse circa 2005. Both good-sized receivers with that wiggle to turn a screen pass into a big gainer. Let's hope Darboh has a better head on his shoulders.
Rouse was a five star who flamed out before ever seeing the field, so exactly no one has any idea what that's supposed to mean. But it's good, right? Five star.
247's Clint Brewster says "burner for his size," FWIW
Darboh shows exceptional speed as a bigger receiver and has another gear once he gets free from a defensive back. Quickness is another aspect that separates Darboh from his competition, as he consistently picks up big gains from short screens or pass patterns. Darboh shows excellent strength and athleticism by breaking tackles from smaller corners and staying up-right.
ESPN is also a little uncertain about whether he's a possession guy or something more, calling him "part playmaker and part possession player($)"
…combination of strength and quickness as a big receiver with a sturdy build, long arms and nice height… will be at his best working against zone and soft-man coverage. Is adept at finding soft spots in zone and creating passing windows for his quarterback when working out of the slot. Not afraid to go over the middle and will make the tough catch in traffic. …does an excellent job of adjusting to the poorly thrown ball …Has some wiggle in the open field …real upside as a red area target on slants and fades as he knows how to position himself and use his size. We are somewhat concerned about Darboh's top end speed.
They also knock his route-running skills; Brewster did the same. That flaw is easily explainable. According to his coach he came to his high school program a blank slate:
“He was very raw,” Wilson said. “He could run and catch the ball, but he didn’t know anything about running routes or blocking. He had little knowledge of football. We got the chance to teach him from ground zero, and that might have worked to our benefit.”
It certainly benefited Darboh.
“He didn’t have any habits,” Wilson continued. “He was like a sponge. He would take in everything and he wanted to learn and become better. He never shied away from the work.”
Darboh was focused on soccer until high school, FWIW.
Like Chesson, Darboh comes to Michigan with a horde of people chasing after him saying great things about his work ethic, character, and academics, and thus seems like a good bet to stick and a good bet to become whatever his potential will allow him to be. Like Chesson, Darboh picked up football late and has some work to do before he has the little things positions coaches obsess over. Also: refugee.
Unlike Chesson, Darboh is approximately the size the coaches want him to be already, which will ease his glide path onto the field. Both guys will be primarily outside receivers, with Chesson more likely to end up on the backside of a play running those one-on-one cuts that Junior Hemingway went deep on this year. Darboh will be the guy running square-ins under him, for the most part.
“I think he’s a passionate kid that’s working to become the best he can be,” Wilson said. “I think he’s willing to push himself. I know the coaches are going to push to make Amara the best player he can be, and the best person he can be. Amara takes a lot of pride in what he does, and I know he’s not going to settle in doing anything less than his best.”
As a senior Darboh brought in 48 passes for 765 yards and 11 touchdowns in just seven games (a dislocated shoulder cost him four), which is high-quality production, albeit against Iowa competition.
Why Jason Avant? I know, I know: I drag out the Jason Avant comparison and nobody ever ends up much like him. It is impossible to project those hands onto anyone else. But Amara Darboh is a bulky four-star type with good not great speed and a reputation for going over the middle. He is not regarded as the ultimate jump ball artist, he is well-regarded despite that, and he seems to have the sort of A+ character that Avant had.
It's either Avant or Greg Mathews, but it's hard to know how well Mathews would have done if he had real quarterbacks. His coach has another suggestion:
"He's a big, physical player," Dowling coach Tom Wilson said of his 6-2, 200-pounder. "I've seen him compared to Roddy White of the Falcons — a bigger guy that can run very well."
Roddy White's actually a couple inches shorter than Darboh and smaller as an NFL player, FWIW. Another comparison that seems plausible: recently departed Iowa WR Marvin McNutt, a 6'3", 220 pound guy who was killer on slants, generally unjammable, and a bit of a late bloomer after coming to Iowa at QB.
Guru Reliability: Moderate-plus. They're all in agreement except for ESPN's off-the-wall GTFO that I don't care about because this is the geographical area ESPN couldn't give two craps about. OTOH, no camps, it appears, and no All Star appearance, plus an injury his senior year.
Variance: Low-plus. Already college-sized, character is sterling. Does need to learn the craft; seems like the kind of kid where that's just a matter of time.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. "Not a burner," but looks like a high quality #2 in an ideal situation.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. If I could guarantee those Avant hands it would be MASSIVE, but those have proven elusive.
Projection: Getting some early practice buzz and likely to play with the uncertain state of the WR corps. Sounds like he'll have to work his way into the lineup with better routes and blocking, but has a reasonable shot at displacing second-string guys for playing time at midseason.
In 2013 will fight with Jeremy Jackson and Ricardo Miller for the move-the-chains spot. I don't think Miller will be much of a threat given his interlude at TE, and Darboh has a huge advantage in athleticism. I'd give him the edge.
Several weeks ago Brian sent me an e-mail to say we're going to have a fantasy draft of Big Ten players called "The Draft Where Whoever Picks Denard Wins," and that I was on the clock. (Parts II, III, and IV)
People of the Earth: this is how you recruit for a fantasy league. Actually this is how if you're a college sports site editor you motivate your hypercompetitive (Michigan grads, remember?) staff to become insane experts on the rest of the conference right before football season begins. For that reason, despite quarterbacks chosen out of position and so so much snark, right now we feel as competent as anyone at putting out one of those All-Such-and-Such list things.
The draft is still going on and some of the picks we've made have yet to be revealed, however we have tagged enough positions at this point to post an official-ish pre-season All Big Ten team. There's a few specialists I'll include but won't reveal who drafted them. I'll also follow up either next week or later on this week with a "what we learned about the Big Ten" post that breaks down all the picks by team. This one's about the best by position.
Site note: We're bringing back jumps again so we can fit more content on the front page for you during the season. You see the "Read more" thing below this? CLICK THAT to get to the good stuff.