Sponsor note! If you're coming into town with a big group for, say, the Notre Dame game, your options are limited. You can drive a while, you can pay out the nose, or you can rent a whole dang house for about what it would cost for four to six hotel rooms at Gameday Housing. Hotel rooms don't come with yards to tailgate in and aren't within walking distance of the stadium, and they're all booked anyway.
Roy Manning is with it. Vine is the greatest.
Connolly on M. SBN's resident numbers-massager Bill Connolly has dropped ten items about Michigan's upcoming season. A Connolly post is always worth your time; he's very good at explaining what his numbers mean and is happy to deviate from them if he feels they're not capturing something. Michigan's not looking too good right now because of recent program history and that ugly recruiting gap that's coming home to roost right about now, but Connolly's like "eh":
That the Wolverines held steady at 20th overall last year is a positive sign, and I do think that there is some addition-by-subtraction going on in substituting a little explosiveness for a lot of efficiency on offense. They are still a few ifs away from a truly elite season, but I like their chances of getting to 10 wins overall, much more than the numbers do, anyway.
An interesting bit on the receivers:
Roy Roundtree and the receiver Devin Gardner combined for a rather awful 49 percent catch rate. Roundtree was all-or-nothing for his entire career, and Gardner was far too raw to make a significantly positive impact, and while the big-play ability could be missed (the two combined to average 18.0 yards per catch last year), the explosiveness-for-efficiency tradeoff could be welcome. Big plays are still a grave necessity, but Michigan still has Jeremy Gallon (16.9 yards per catch, 62 percent catch rate) and Drew Dileo (16.6, 67 percent) for that. To be sure, there will be bombs. They're built into the system. But Roundtree's and Gardner's catch rates were just too low; that Michigan ranked 21st in overall Success Rate+ despite the low completion rates is an incredibly encouraging sign of what may be to come.
Throw it to Dileo. Whole thing recommended.
(Not our) Kickstarter update. Pahokee and Michigan alums Martavious Odoms and Vincent Smith are featured in the Palm Beach Post:
Odoms met with Roger Horne, the director of food security initiatives at nonprofit Urban GreenWorks, and studied GreenWorks’ five urban gardens in Miami. Urban GreenWorks sells some of its urban-garden products to local vendors, something H.O.P.E. would like to do, too.
They’re hoping to build the garden just off 4th Street in Pahokee, between Barfield Highway and Lake Avenue.
“We want it to be in a place where people can see it,” Smith said.
(The article is a little old but I hadn't seen it yet.)
(Not our) walk-on down. Michigan State loses wide receiver AJ Troup for the season. While Troup didn't play last year, he was getting some hype as a potentially useful piece in State's Burbridge-and-the-handsless receiving corps after a 46-yard touchdown in the spring game.
Nope not getting excited. Nope. Okay a little. Jerry Meyer on WI PF Kevon Looney:
"Some pretty reliable local word in Milwaukee is Duke or Michigan for Kevon Looney,"247sports.com's Jerry Meyer tweeted last week. "Just what I'm hearing."
If Glenn Robinson blows up like he says he will that'll help quite a bit, as the guy wants to be in the NBA and likely will be sooner rather than later.
In other basketball recruiting news that I'll probably repeat in a week or two when there's enough stuff in the slow-moving barge to assemble into a post, California wing Kameron Chatman says he will "probably" return to Ann Arbor for an official visit.
Six more years. John Beilein says he wants to be around for a while longer:
"My plan was to at least coach six more years," he said. "So that the 2015 class, that's the class we're recruiting now -- along with the 2014s -- I wanted to coach all those guys.
"That was sort of the plan we put in mind. Obviously you had to dot some 'I's' and cross some 'T's' and there was no rush, but I was really pleased we were able to work it out."
He'll be 66 when his new contract extension expires, FWIW, and will evaluate his status then. If Alexander and/or Jordan are still around then I'd expect an internal transition.
Saban talks actual football on ESPN. Nick Saban breaks down a few plays from the title game blowout for ESPN, and Smart Football translates. Instructive for Michigan fans since Michigan is moving to an Alabama-style offense.
This in particular reminded me of something Michigan got caught in:
S: “We picked up on the fact that they weren’t real sound in coverage here. Their inside linebacker has to flow over and take the tight-end but he actually has a run/pass conflict when we fake the ball at him.” — Translation: Notre Dame has eight defenders lined up with their hand in the ground on the goal line, with only three players at the second level, including Manti Te’o, the “inside linebacker” Saban refers to. At its simplest, the purpose of the play was to pull Te’o up with a run fake and then throw behind him. Saban makes clear that it was the coverage scheme that was an issue as much with Te’o's play here — it’s just a tough assignment — and he says that when they face play-action teams they try not to put their linebackers in positions like this. He then gets a little more specific about specifically how they attacked Te’o.
Michigan put itself in the same situation against Air Force by using Jordan Kovacs as a single high safety who both had to cover one of AF's wing backs out of the backfield and clean up the pitch man on the option.
As soon as Kovacs started getting aggressive enough to beat the wingback to the outside and clean up before the play picked up ten yards, Air Force burned him over the top and would have had a 62-yard touchdown except the receiver fell down after about 30. Option football is mean, and Michigan probably shouldn't sign up to play an option team right after Alabama again, not that they'll play Alabama on purpose any time in the near future.
Paging Tom Rinaldi. Kid who named his tumor "Michigan" 1) needs a snappier name and 2) will be going to the Michigan-OSU game thanks to Brady Hoke, who hopes to make him miserable at it. Uncomfortable thought about that South Park episode in which Stan coaches a youth hockey team happening… now. Okay, now it's over.
Tweaking Ohio. Dropping the "State" from "Ohio State" makes a move to Florida:
Then, after Muschamp referred to Ohio State as “Ohio,” Muschamp deadpanned: “I’ve always been a Brady Hoke fan.”
If "Ohio" becomes, like, a nationwide thing people use to tweak The Ohio State University I think we need a parade for Hoke.
The worst scouting report ever. I don't know who Aaron Schatz is talking about here, but it's not Mike Martin:
Martin, a third-round pick in the 2012 draft, led all Titans defensive tackles last year with 8.5 hurries. That's surprising considering he's more of a classic nose tackle rather than a penetrating three-technique. Scouts considered Martin a blue-collar grinder whose best strength was his solid base. But in his first year in Tennessee, he was faster than advertised and showed a variety of pass-rush moves. Martin was considered a possible first-round pick until he really struggled during his senior year at Michigan. That was partly due to a scheme change, although oddly, the new scheme he struggled in was actually more similar to what he's playing now in Tennessee. He should be in line for a jump in playing time despite the signing of Sammie Lee Hill.
All of those bolded things are the opposite of true. The third bolded thing may be accurate if you only look at stats… for a nose tackle, which… who does that? And wait a minute right here.
Wait a minute.
This is a NOSE TACKLE who finished fourth on his team in tackles with 64. That is an incredible stat. He did this on a defense that had no high draft picks and completed an insane one-year turnaround. Nothing about this makes sense.
no tackles for this
This is the worst paragraph ever written. Not this one. That one. In the block quote. That one that asserts Mike Martin is a blue-collar guy whose main strength is holding up offensive linemen and that he was not an all-crushing force of nature as a senior who was hurt in the NFL draft by the fact that Michigan played him out of position out of necessity. "Really struggled." Okay guy.
Etc.: NCAA is trying to prevent for-profit schools from joining it, which makes my irony meters tingle all over. Wetzel on Buckeye arrest blitz. Bob Stoops encourages Oklahoma fans to tweet recruits. DO NOT TWEET RECRUITS. Shouldn't it be "Division Zero"?
Orange indeed. (Title ref)
Every week we take this opportunity to do a roundtable obsessing about something, usually quarterback, center, non-Gallon receivers, and non-Gordon safety. This week we obsess about all those things.
The Depth Chart:
Center of everything: Brian Cook
Wide retweeter: Blue in South Bend
Fiddycentback: Seth Fisher
Left guardian of the database: Mathlete
Weaksnide lifehacker: Ace Anbender
Five-technical questions for you: Heiko Yang
And the question:
What position on each side will be most critical to the 2013 team's success?
Seth: We took this to mean the spot you're most focusing on with this team, not which is most important in general (otherwise everyone would say quarterback and associate editor/business manager). Also to avoid obvious things that are obvious, it is stipulated that all are agreed Gardner hurting ouches are the very worst things.
Brian: Even without the possibility of injury this is Gardner by a mile. On one hand, here's a guy who got moved to wide receiver last year and has five games under his belt. He was recruited as a dual threat guy and won't really be one.
On a couple others, dude would have had a top ten passer efficiency mark last year if he'd had enough attempts, and without any cupcakes padding out his stats. Except Iowa. He's spent the offseason hanging out with QB gurus from coast to coast, impressing NFL scouts as a top junior QB, not getting kicked out for boozing, that sort of thing.
Blue in South Bend: Outside of Devin Gardner (who remains the correct answer no matter how you phrase the question), I'm keeping an eye on the tight ends. The depth chart is really thin with the departures of Mike Kwiatkowski and Brandon Moore. They don't really have a game-ready "U" TE, and AJ Williams is the only guy on the roster who has shown the ability to kinda sorta sustain a block (and even that is... yeah). Michigan ran more 2+ TE sets and almost no 0 TE sets with Denard completely out of the lineup last year, and the odds are pretty good that Borges wants to get back to that this year.
|But can he kinda-sorta catch? (Fuller)
P.S. What do you think of my new caption macro? Captions!
He may either have to get creative (such as putting Dennis Norfleet on Terry Richardson's shoulders under a large trenchcoat jersey) or abandon some aspects of the playbook before even taking them for a test-drive. I think we'll see some position switching to deepen the ranks, and we'll see a guy or two (cough cough Wyatt Shallman cough) moved to a U-TE/H-back role to give them some more flexibility.
On the defensive side, the answer is Devin Gardner. Beyond that, strong safety is worth watching. I really like Jarrod Wilson, and he looks good in the back end, but I don't know whether he can fill Jordan Kovacs' slack in run support. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks he's more of a free safety. If you re-watch the spring game, you'll notice that Wilson made exactly one tackle, and it was him hopping on Funchess' back until the whistle blew. Neither his recruiting profile nor his 2012 play screams "omnipresent tackling machine." If it becomes a problem, will it force Mattison to run more 'even' coverage schemes (cover-2 or quarters)? Will Thomas Gordon's nose for the football be enough to compensate? Or will we just return to the days where 40 yard running plays are a thing that happen sometimes? SO MANY QUESTIONS AND ITS STILL JULY.
But seriously... Devin Gardner.
Seth: Yes, Gardner Gardner Gardevinygardner has to work out but I don't know what you guys are so worried about that occurring. Most fears have been answered. Why was he moved to receiver? Because they wanted his athleticism on the field, and you know he was taking QB reps all that time. What about the awful spring games? He had a good one. No experience? He started last year against four groups of relatively competent human beings plus Iowa and put up a 160 QB rating. Can he match Denard's production? In five starts against better competition last year his metrics were better than Robinson's. Can his superior passing ability make up for Denard's effect on the running game? In the three games Brian bothered to UFR the running plays with Devin at QB indeed weren't as effective but the passing made up the difference and then some:
[Hit the jump for the table, Mathlete, Heiko and Ace]
UPDATE: Hoke confirms that Poole is done-done.
Maybe? Antonio Poole is off the Michigan roster:
The redshirt sophomore is not on the Wolverines' roster that was released Wednesday at the Big Ten media days in Chicago, but has not left the team, according to a program spokesman. Coach Brady Hoke is expected to address the linebacker's status later Wednesday.
I believe that means he's destined for a medical scholarship, but Meinke says he's just off the roster for "this season." The door seems open to a return.
Unofficial word is that Poole's torn pectoral never really healed; I'd heard this (as well as) Kaleb Ringer's also injury-related departure) was coming last fall. Michigan's linebacker recruiting is now explained, yes?
Poole's issues won't affect the two-deep, which has James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone at WLB. If Poole does end up not coming back it would open up another slot for this year's recruiting class, which would stands at 15 kids plus any further attrition. Given the way Michigan is recruiting it appears they are planning on a class of 18-20.
I wasn't fortunate enough to be alive when Anthony Carter donned a Michigan uniform. In fact, my existence wasn't even a thought — his collegiate career ended in 1982, five years before I was born. I spent my formative years watching Toomer and Hayes, Terrell and Walker, Avant and Breaston and Edwards, remarkable talents all. The last among those, Braylon, had me convinced that no Wolverine before him could possibly have played the receiver position with more skill, impact, and style. In my youthful ignorance, Carter was simply one half of Wangler-to-Carter, playing a supporting role for Bob Ufer's ebullience.
Then came 2009, the midst of a dark age for both the program and its tradition of NFL-caliber receivers. The esteemed WolverineHistorian uploaded ten minutes of AC highlights — a reel even more impressive when considering that, before 1984, college football teams were limited to no more than six televised games in a given three-year span. Many of the clips below are from non-televised footage taken from the press box; I assume some of Carter's greatest exploits weren't captured on video at all:
Watching that video, I felt the same anticipative stirring of the Michigan Stadium crowd — or, on the road, the same petrified silence — when AC touched the ball that I've only experienced at Michigan with Denard Robinson; there's greatness, and then there's pure electricity, and each had them in abundance. That feeling alone captures more than numbers are capable, but the numbers still speak volumes:
- In Carter's final three seasons, Michigan completed 366 passes as a team for 5,383 yards. Carter caught 124 of them, covering 2,219 yards. Of the Wolverines's 51 passing touchdowns in that span, Carter hauled in 26, more than half of the team's total. He was an All-American in each of those seasons.
- Despite playing in a remarkably different era from those around him in the Michigan record book, Carter still ranks fourth in school history in receptions and second in both receiving yards and touchdowns. Of the top five players on each of those lists, only one played any part of his career before the 1990s: Desmond Howard, a freshman in 1989.
- He also ranks as Michigan's second-most prolific kickoff and punt returner, trailing only Steve Breaston in both categories.
- Carter recorded 14 100-yard receiving games in his career, a mark surpassed only by Braylon Edwards. Jack Clancy, the previous record-holder, set the mark in 1966 — at four.
- AC still — still — holds the NCAA career record for average all-purpose yards gained per play: 17.4, with 5,197 career yards on 298 touches.
I could go on. Needless to say, my opinion on Michigan's greatest receiver has changed. From a pure football perspective, there's so much about his game to love, from his ability to reverse field in an instant... [click the still to open the GIF]
...to his fearlessness over the middle...
...to his Braylon-esque (or should I reverse that?) jump ball skills...
...to the way his speed took the top off even the best defenses...
...to his remarkable hand-eye coordination...
...and, of course, the fact that he could run a 15-yard post route in a tie game, with time expiring, and dance his way into the end zone.
Football exploits aside, even as someone who never experienced watching him live, it's easy to see why AC was — and is — so beloved; his effortless cool oozes from every pore, whether he's crossing the goal line with his signature high-kneed half step or casually flipping the ball to an official. I couldn't help but put together a supercut GIF of Carter's various, sometimes understated, occasionally exuberant, and forever imitable touchdown celebrations:
The next Michigan receiver to do the Carter high-step into the end zone will forever have a fan in me, even (especially?) if he draws a flag in doing so. Long live the definitive #1.
left: Monumental's* iPad app. right: Swag Mattison. *yes the wallpaper guy.
Brian forwarded a mailbag question I hoped to answer with the UFR database:
I recently re-watched the 2011 vs. Nebraska game, which was quite a defensive performance on Michigan's part. Several times Mattison employed the always-entertaining Okie Package, often times with very good results (sack, QB hurry, etc.). Anecdotally it seemed like we used that a lot less in 2012, in spite of the fact that we still had no natural four-man pass rush. Any ideas as to why we went away from this? It seemed like easy money to generate a pass rush and potential for turnovers. If anything I would have thought we would have been more prepared to use exotic blitz packages as our guys were 1 year more advanced in Mattison's system. The only explanations I can think of are either we expected teams to be used to seeing it and adjust, or we did use it a lot last year and for some reason I didn't notice.
Was it Used Less?
For our purposes I also categorized "Nickel eff it" from the Notre Dame 2011 UFR (picture-paged) as an Okie, since it was clearly the forerunner to Mattison's particular way of using the package.
Yeah, Shafer's defense is in there; GERG ran an Okie just once in '09-'10. Unfortunately I don't have data from Ohio State and the bowl game for 2012 because when Michigan loses those somebody (not saying who) can't bring himself to UFR them. Anyway I don't see a difference in Okie deployment last year. The tables agree:
|Def Formation||2008||2009||2010||2011||2012||Mattison Avg|
|4-4, 5-3, Bear, etc.||2.1%||18.4%||9.8%||6.4%||13.0%||9.7%|
Big shifts: Mattison deployed the nickel less often last year and built even fronts into the defense. I thought the former was a result of fewer spread teams charted in 2012 but my data say Michigan faced MORE receivers in the formation (2.87 per play, 2.78 on 1st downs in 2012, versus 2.74 per play and 2.65 on 1st downs in 2011). The latter is an interesting wrinkle. Anyhoo the Okie he didn't seem to touch.
Since it's a situational package, we can see if it's being used less in those situations. By down:
The big difference seems to be 4th down but that's small sample: I charted 12 attempts on 4th down against Michigan in 2011, and 14 in 2012, so there were just two 4th down deployments: one against SDSU and one versus Ohio State. It's meant to be a surprise. What about by distance?
|| Total attempts||| % Okie Deployed|
So a little less often on 3rd and long.
Maybe it wasn't as effective last year minus Martin/RVB? Well I tracked its deployment on long situations (6 or more yards), and called it a "success" if it prevented the 1st down on 3rd or 4th down, or prevented 1/2 of the yards necessary to move the chains on 1st or 2nd down. Success?
|1st||100% (3/3)||83.3% (5/6)|
|2nd||83.3% (10/12)||100% (13/13)|
|3rd||96.7% (29/30)||100% (21/21)|
|All downs||93.5% (43/46)||97.5% (39/40)|
Success! Even with a tiny window for improvement, they found it.
ALL THE SWAG MATTISONS
Why Not Use it More?
The Okie package became a favored topic of discussion after it did mean things in the Illinois game:
Here's that play as drawn up on MonuMental's app, which is my new favorite toy:
Red=LB, green=DB, black=DL
Brian would come to call this "Okie one" for the number of safeties back in the formation. Michigan showed seven guys on the line of scrimmage but rushed just four. The right tackle and right guard were basically left alone while the rushers stunted around the guys on the left side and Illinois ended up blocking almost nobody.
Here a variation from 2012 used on 2nd and 12 on Minnesota's first drive:
Mattison senses this is an opportunity to kill the Gophers' opening drive. Here it's the 6th play of the drive and Michigan has already begun rotating the DL: the 5-tech is Heitzman, having come in for Roh on the 4th play of the drive, and Pipkins has just come in for Black. Michigan comes out in an Okie two, rushes five and drops to a Cover 2.
It turned out to be a run; Ryan managed to change course and hinder the RB in time for the Will (Desmond Morgan) to shut it down for a short gain, setting up a 3rd and 9. On the ensuing play Mattison dialed up another Okie:
Not 100% on the coverage. I think it's Cover 4 but the corners may be in man; Floyd is definitely giving his guy a tough release but Taylor is playing a Cov4. Crowd?
That's Avery (at nickel) playing back at the 1st down marker, and Thomas Gordon is also deep and went with that tight end when he motioned to the left side. Roh's back in for Heitzman and Black has come in for Washington (ALL THE pass rush!). In the diabolical world of Mattison's Okie package this is a Balrog with wings. Michigan lines up all over the tackles, and this time comes from the (offense's) left side. The two LBs on the weakside drop into short zones, as does the "nose" Black. Roh shoots past both the LG and LT to get into the center, and Morgan and Kovacs attack outside. The result:
Black seems to be in the wrong zone (he winds up all up in Demens's stuff), and that means the TE in the flat will be wide open on the sideline as soon as Taylor carries the X receiver's deep route:
That never happens; the QB has just enough time to see the slot's in-route has been disemboweled by Jake Ryan before the left side of his line not blocking anybody becomes his primary concern. The running back gets a delaying chip on Morgan and Kovacs gets a free shot and a forced fumble (which Minnesota recovered). You see there's weakness: Mattison's asking his nominal nose tackle to cover a deep zone when the receiver started 8 yards outside of him. But because the offensive line couldn't figure out who to block that never has time to develop. That's why the Okie is a changeup: the more Michigan uses it the more opposing coaches are going to prepare for it and the less valuable it can be as a situational ace in the hole.
One more from 2012. This is on 3rd and 8 from Michigan's 34 early in the 4th quarter and the Wolverines are down 9-16. Nebraska's kicker is Brett Maher, so every yard is a big deal for preventing the Huskers from going up by two scores.
Again, excuse me if I screwed up the coverage; here I'm guessing Gordon and Taylor were playing a read: they're both watching the inside receiver and break when he does. Nebraska's linemen mostly did their jobs here, though the guard (All-B1G Spencer Long) let himself get pushed really far backwards and that made room for Ryan to get into the center. Morgan took a few steps into a pass rush before backing into his zone but the RG and RT are not confused by this and do fine fending Heitzman off. The nickel blitz is unexpected but the left tackle did a good job adjusting and riding Avery behind the pocket. But for reasons passing understanding the tight end let Roh (playing WDE) past him and right into the RB. Ameer Abdullah can be little more than a piece of flotsam in the pile of mass about to descend on Martinez. It is beautiful.
You get a glimpse of Demens's coverage too as he got from the line to his zone in time to have pretty decent coverage on that slot receiver, not an easy thing. Anyway you can see how the Okie uses confusion to create a lot of places where things can go wrong for the offense, and if just one does you're out of FG range and punting in a one-score game. Of course the offense was Denardless that day and couldn't capitalize.
Still, as fun as these things are to watch you see each time Mattison was attacking from different angles and by the end of last year there were only one or two blocks the offense didn't pick up. If that diminishes to zero blocks, you give up six. Conclusion: the Okie was used just as often and incrementally more effectively last year as it was in 2011. However it's meant to be a changeup package; if opponents are sitting on it you'll get knocked out of the park. As something to pull out 7 percent of plays you're forcing opposing coaches to prepare for eight different attacks of which they're likely to see one or two, or giving yourself a situational out pitch when you're in a jam.
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton,DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OLLogan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch, OL Chris Fox, OL Dan Samuelson, TE Jake Butt, TE Khalid Hill.
|Novi, MI – 6'3, 250|
4*, NR overall
4*, NR overall
3*, NR overall
4*, NR overall
OSU, MSU, Cinci, Syr
or Mike Alstott
or Tim Jamison
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post. Ace interview. Ace scouts CC vs OLSM.|
|Notes||Detroit CC (Mike Martin). Twitter.|
There is also a sophomore reel.
Wyatt Shallman is the weirdest multipurpose offensive tool Michigan acquired in this class, mostly because it took everyone—including me—about six months to believe he was an offensive tool at all. The recruiting sites considered him a defensive end before he committed. When 247 debuted its 2013 rankings, Shallman was #149 as a DE. On Rivals, he was in the same range at the same spot.
Shallman is at his best running North-South, and while he doesn't have top-flight speed, he does get to the second level of defenders in a hurry. When he reaches the back seven, he has a tendency to put his head down and try to bowl defenders over, which often works but also limits his big plays—to his credit, however, there wasn't a single run in which Shallman didn't fall forward for at least an extra yard or two.
I was impressed … with Shallman's agility. He's not going to utilize a lot of fancy jukes or spin moves, but his go-to move—the quick jump-cut as he approaches an oncoming defender—worked really well for him. Shallman isn't going to make a lot of guys completely whiff at the next level, but he's shifty enough to get defenders off-balance, and with his power that's enough to shed tackles—Inkster defenders were bouncing off of him all night.
…because guys who are near top-100 players at defensive end play defensive end, end of story. Catholic Central coaches had to make some hard decisions about Shallman when he spent most of his junior and senior years battling hamstring injuries; they used him mostly as a defensive end, exclusively so for a large chunk of his senior year. Tim Sullivan caught CC's game against Brother Rice and saw zero snaps for Shallman on offense. When ESPN noted him as a standout from the road last year, it was after a two-sack game on defense.
But Michigan isn't totally crazy here. Ace caught games from Shallman as a junior and senior and though he made a lot of progress as a DE, Ace still thinks he's best on offense. When OSU offered him, it was as an H-back. His trainer is Mike Barwis, and Barwis makes it sound like he's got potential:
"Physically, he's impressive," Barwis said of Shallman. "Kids his size tend to be sluggish and lumber, but he is very explosive. That isn't common." …
"If someone is looking for a big power back and they want to slam it down their throat, he can do that," Barwis said. "He's going to be a big, explosive, fast, power back. We did that with Owen Schmitt at West Virginia.
"You have your stealth speed back like Steve Slaton, and the next thing you know you give the ball to this tank and he's running a 4.6, hits you in the mouth, and he's gone."
In Michigan's case, they'll have Power A and Power B (and Power C, probably), but you get the idea.
ESPN went back and redid Shallman's profile last February, focusing almost exclusively on offense—and probably going off junior tape:
Has great size and athleticism for the fullback position at the major level of competition; in fact we definitely see tight end potential. … Shows good flexibility, agility and balance as a ball carrier; for his size, he displays good vision and quickness getting up into the line from a regular fullback alignment; can pick and slide while continually gaining ground up to the second level; flashes the wiggle to make first tacklers miss in space however he lacks the burst or second gear needed to clear traffic and break into open space. This guy is a tough between the tackles, power runner capable of moving the pile and shortening the game in the fourth quarter. Does a good job blocking off the edge; brings his feet, rolls his hips and blocks through opponents.
Receiving is the main area for improvement.
Shallman's coach echoes the ESPN eval:
"As a running back, he's got very good speed," Mach said. "He's powerful. He's got the ability to break tackles, not go down on the first hit and get the extra yard. I think he'll be a tough running back."
And Scout does as well:
Scout.com Player Evaluation:
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Light on his feet for a big man, Shallman projects as a big tailback at times and a fullback at others. Is a good athlete who catches the ball out of the backfield well. Good lateral quickness and agility for a kid who's 245-lbs. Will need to continue to learn and improve as a blocker, but does a solid job in that department as well. Has dealt with some injuries in his career.
Michigan may actually be a little crazy, actually, because their pitch to Shallman was running back, emphasis on "run":
"A lot of these teams were saying H-back or possibly even tight end," Shallman said. "So when he said, 'We want you at running back, we want you at tailback,' that really struck home."
One thing the Michigan coaches really like about Shallman is his size. Jackson told Shallman that it was rare to find someone with a body like Shallman's who is as explosive as he is.
Later Shallman would slighly clarify that running back would be amongst a number of positions he would feature at:
What the coaches have told him about when/where he'll be playing: Running back, U-back position where I can play tight end, fullback, running back.
Months of Shallman insisting Michigan saw him as a running back eventually caused three of the four sites to rank him as one of the top fullbacks in the nation; Rivals, the holdout, tossed him in the ATH pile. He held on to a fourth star because of his potential as a pure athlete, and ended up the top fullback because nobody saw him as a tailback and fullbacks don't get four stars. It's a little incoherent, but I feel for the sites on this one.
So… defense. When Shallman committed Michigan was yet to acquire the services of DeVeon Smith and Derrick Green, two highly-rated tailbacks who figure to push piles about as well as Shallman while bringing more big play potential to the table. Meanwhile, fullback/H-back is plenty crowded with Houma, Kerridge, and Hill currently also underclassmen.
Since the rest of those guys seem exclusively RB/FB types, it would not surprise to see Shallman move to the defensive end spot a lot of sites had him ticketed for before his commitment. There, he is probably the best fit at WDE. Notre Dame was recruiting him as a "CAT" linebacker, their equivalent in a nominally 3-4 system:
“They like me at the CAT linebacker position – which is kind of a linebacker/defensive end hybrid and a pass rushing specialist in their defense,” Shallman said. “They think my size and athleticism really translates well to that position.”
I'll spare you the digression on how ND's 3-4 isn't really that far from Michigan's 4-3 under down to the LB/DE hybrid, as that's beyond the scope of this post. SAM and SDE are also possibilities, with SAM more likely than SDE, where Shallman will always be undersized.
On defense, he's got pass-rush upside. Barwis shouldn't have dragged this guy out, but Barwis did so Barwis:
"The thing that makes him a unique prospect is that he's extremely quick twitch and explosive," he said. "Brandon Graham is a freak athlete, but Brandon is extremely quick twitch. This kid has that as well. Not to the degree that Brandon did when he went to the NFL, but I didn't see him when he was 15, either."
Josh Helmholdt caught DCC's 2011 opener (ie, Shallman's junior year) against Fordson, in which he impressed:
At times he looked to be protecting the leg, but mostly he went all out and looked sharp. His athleticism for a big prospect is outstanding and his speed is well above average for the defensive end position. We're still not sure if tailback is an option in college, but Shallman is definitely a high-end defensive prospect with a great motor.
Ace caught the OLSM game and came away with a glimpse at a mini-RVB:
Shallman is quick off the snap and plays much lower than he did last year, and he did an impressive job of getting leverage on his blocker and using his hands to break free; I didn't see him get pushed back more than once or twice on Friday. …
Perhaps most impressive was Shallman's ability to fight off blocks, as St. Mary's tried to cut him all night. He displayed great balance in fighting off low blocks; I don't remember him getting cut to the turf once.
Sullivan caught a game against an all-run Brother Rice offense:
Shallman had the strength to bull through offensive linemen - impressive for a guy who is probably not a lineman in college - and was able to two-gap his blocker on several occasions, maintaining leverage for runs that went to either side of him. On the pass rush, he was quick off the ball, and though he didn't have a wide range of moves to get by his blocker, he was able to harass the passer, even if it only resulted in one sack.
That' doesn't mean Shallman was perfect. … he was sometimes lackadaisical in pursuit down the field, and didn't show off a high motor. He also displayed only flashes of a killer instinct and defensive mentality.
Not sure if that's the persistent injury. Both of the other evaluations praise Shallman's motor.
The injury thing is a thing: after two solid years of hamstring issues you have to worry if that might become a chronic issue. Michigan might do well to give the guy a bit of an easier year just so he can get totally recovered before throwing him in the fire.
“I like anything that big, that strong, that fast,” Jackson said of Shallman. “I talk to a few people where he worked out and they said he is the most powerful guy that they have ever seen at that young age.”
This man must be a running back.
Why Aaron Shea? Well, yeah:
Hoke compared Shallman (who measures at a whopping 6-foot-3, 245 pounds) to Aaron Shea, a former Michigan fullback and tight end who went on to play in the NFL. The Wolverines like his ability to be multidimensional on the field -- someone who will be effective in multiple facets such as knocking people off the ball, catching out of the backfield and usage as a single back.
A (slightly) converted tight end, Shea was more on the Khalid Hill end of things, though. Shallman may find a niche as a pounding even-more-thunder back a la Mike Alstott or Owen Schmitt. Dare we say Toby Gerhardt?
Guru Reliability: Low. Most are in the same range but it's clear they've punted on actually ranking him by thrusting him into the FB spot like they did Brandon Minor. Meanwhile, extensive injury and a total lack of camps mean I don't put much stock in their rankings even if they do like the guy.
Variance: Very high. Could be anything from Mike Alstott to Owen Schmitt (minus the self-helmet bashing, probably) to Aaron Shea to Tim Jamison to Guy Who Doesn't Play At All.
Ceiling: Moderate? Doesn't seem to have out-and-out star potential anywhere, but could develop into a fringe All Big Ten player on either side of the ball.
General Excitement Level: Moderate? I punt. Likely to be a contributor somewhere, though.
Projection: I'd imagine a redshirt is likely what with the multiple injuries and lack of offensive snaps as a senior. He is in the range of guys who get drafted on to special teams, though.
After a presumed redshirt year, your guess is as good as mine. WDE appears to be in good hands for the next few years, but so does RB/FB. Is he going to take carries away from Derrick Green? Is he going to take U-back snaps from a considerably more advanced receiver in Khalid Hill? Given Shallman's athleticism the answers there are "maybe situationally." His best bet early is proving himself more of a dual threat than his challengers at U-back—ie, Kerridge can't be a threat as a receiver, Hill can't block, Shallman is less of a tipoff when he's in. Or playing defensive end. Or, I don't know, making omelets at Bursley. Multifunctional.