The recent spate of instate commits and the buzz that Michigan has two or three more likely on the way in the near future caused me to wonder if Michigan hypothetically pulling eight of the top ten players in the state was unprecedented in the star era of recruiting. As almost always happens when I do something like this it got long, then got longer, and then I split it into two parts. This part covers the late Carr period from 2003 to 2008*; tomorrow's bit will cover what happened under Rodriguez and how Hoke appears to be doing so far.
*[By the time Carr announced his retirement in late 2007 Michigan had acquired all the instate prospects they were going to. Rodriguez didn't lose any, so there aren't any ambiguities there.]
2003-2004: The Old Boss Is The Old Boss
Lamarr Woodley, Jake Long, Will Johnson (with hair!)
|Touted Recruits||Head To Head||Signee Rankings|
|2003||4||0||3||5||0||1, 3, 6, 7, 8||13, 17|
|2004||3||2||1||4||1||1, 2, 3, 7, 8||4, 5, 10, 13-16, 25|
(MSU H2H win: TE Kellen Freeman-Davis.)
Yea, the long long ago when Michigan had a half-dozen four stars on an annual basis and Michigan picked who they wanted unless they were a bit weird. In 2003 Michigan locked down the top eight with the exceptions of Illinois-bound Lonnie Hurst and Purdue-bound Doug Van Dyke and Garret Bushong. Bushong would later find fame as the "'we run this place" [Ed-M: link was broken, hope I got it right] guy; Van Dyke would have some sort of freakout and leave school to work construction; Hurst had three career catches after a nice freshman year. Meanwhile, Michigan State's haul consisted of Kaleb Thornhill, Derek Outlaw, and a couple of guys who didn't make the top 25. (One, Will Cooper, was a former Michigan commit who didn't qualify.)
The next year was much the same. Michigan got five of the top eight. The escapees did not have Michigan offers and didn't do much in college. Carl Grimes had seven career catches; Justin Hoskins transferred to CMU from Notre Dame; Dwayne Holmes bounced from TE to DE and finished his career with a 14-tackle season.
This year did see instate #10 Kellen Freeman-Davis pick MSU over a Michigan offer; in college he dropped the "Freeman" and was honorable mention All Big Ten as a senior. You may remember him as a two-way player—he was a pass-rush specialist DE, too. Michigan's main whiff in this class, though, was physical freak Vernon Gholston. Michigan was tardy with an offer and lost him to Ohio State, whereupon he turned into a monster until people started testing him for steroids.
This period and the many years before it in which recruiting rankings weren't as codified represent Michigan fans' opinion of The Natural Way Of Things. Michigan gets who they want. When they pass over a four star sort they're generally right about it. Every once in a while something slips through their fingers, but that's life.
2005-2006: The Great Wasteland
Brandon Graham, Patrick Rigan, Antonio Bass
|Touted Recruits||Head To Head||Signee Rankings|
|2005||3||0||0||1||0||1, 2, 3, 7, 12||4, 5, 8, 11, 13|
|2006||1||3||1||2||0||1, 6, 11, 12||2, 3, 4, 15|
This period of relative fecundity was followed by a couple years in which no one wanted anyone. In 2005 only three players picked up four stars and it's not like the offers defy that. #4 Ryan Allison had a smattering of mid-level BCS offers of which MSU, BC, and Wisconsin were the best; #5 Andrew Hawken had only MSU, Wisconsin, and Indiana; #6 Evan Sharpley ended up at Notre Dame, but this was during the Great Willinghamming when a Notre Dame offer was more indicative your ability to caddy than anything else. The rankings were largely borne out—thanks to Antonio Bass's mysterious leg explosion only #3 Terrance Taylor and #11 Otis Wiley were all-conference-ish players.
2006 was probably worse. After Brandon Graham the top three players in the state were Charlie Gantt, Eric Gordon, and Patrick Rigan. All went to Michigan State. Michigan didn't offer any, and neither did anyone else. Gordon had one other BCS offer, that from Missouri. Rigan had one from Indiana. Gantt had Duke and UNC. While Michigan screwed up their talent evaluation by taking Obi Ezeh and Quintin Patilla over Gordon, it's not like there were a bunch of other schools who were vying to prove Michigan wrong. Talent evaluators were again validated: other than Graham, Gantt, and Gordon the only player to start in at a BCS school was Ezeh, and we know all about him.
These years sucked, but Michigan got everyone they wanted and picked off a few sleepers here and there. That their sleepers were not useful may have been the first sign of the degradation the program was to endure over the next half-decade. "Trust the coaches" was no longer in effect. The Natural Way Of Things seemed to be, however.
Ronald Johnson, Dionte Allen, Joseph Barksdale
|Touted Recruits||Head To Head||Signee Rankings|
|2007||2||1||10||2||0||10, 12, 19, 23, 25||7, 21, 24, 27|
The next year Michigan rebounded massively with 13 four-star-or-better guys. Michigan got all of two: #10 Ryan Van Bergen and #12 Martell Webb. Michigan State did worse with one. While both would eventually reclaim four-star QB prospects from the class when Keith Nichol and Steven Threet transferred home, Nichol eventually ended up a WR and Threet a Sun Devil. Everyone else was all like "I'm GTFO."
Michigan botched the recruitments of Joseph Barksdale, Mark Dell (who didn't even get offered because Michigan was after Zion Babb and Toney Clemons, although FWIW Clemons was highly ranked), Ronald Johnson, Dionte Allen, and Chris Colasanti. They wisely avoided Taurian Washington and Cedric Everson and never really had a shot at Nichol, who didn't fit Carr's offense, or Darris Sawtelle, a third generation Vol. They filled in their class with sleepers who did not pan out. Meanwhile, Michigan State grabbed #27-ranked Kirk Cousins.
The end result for Michigan was the infamous class that's been dissected ever since. Four years later it's clear this was the moment when Wile E. Coyote ran off the cliff. While the legs still pumped a while longer, inexorable gravity was now in control.
Fred Smith, Mike Martin, Nick Perry
|Touted Recruits||Head To Head||Signee Rankings|
|2008||4||1||3||3||2||1, 2, 7, 8, 11||5, 9, 10, 12, 14, 17-20, 25, 26|
(MSU H2H wins: Fred Smith and Tyler Hoover, though Hoover is disputed.)
Michigan maintained most of its gains in the evaluators' eyes the next year with seven four-stars and a number of additional guys with solid BCS offers. Michigan grabbed their usual number of four stars. They passed on Jonas Gray in favor of Mike Cox, lost Nick Perry to USC, and lost Southeastern WR Fred Smith in a "shocker"—yes, people can be surprised by high schoolers with hats on the table—that was the first indication Detroit Southeastern had been colonized by Spartans.
When Rodriguez came aboard he had to re-recruit Mike Martin; everyone else stuck around. Gray is in about the same place on Notre Dame's depth chart as Cox is on Michigan's. Smith decided he liked ham more than football and is now a fullback or something. Perry was a freshman All-American but has only played part-time since because of concerns about his size.
While Perry represented the continuing bleed of talent outside state borders and Smith was a harbinger of things to come, this wasn't too far off the early years. The problem was that instead of getting great players at the top Michigan's guys blew up: Boubacar Cissoko hates cabbies and Dann O'Neill was massively overrated and transferred to WMU. Meanwhile, Michigan ignored Mark Ingram and Keshawn Martin, and probably passed on Hoover. Michigan was got no one of note from the bowels of the Michigan rankings except for the occasional interior OL.
But whatever combination of bad luck, bad scouting, and bad recruiting affected Michigan in 2007 and 2008 was nothing with the rain of hellfire* Michigan would experience in 2009.
*[I believe this is called "the hard sell."]
Save us, Germany. While not getting that third year from Darius Morris (now an official thing with an official press release you can see at right in the diaries) that would allow Michigan to bridge from him to the Brundidge/Burke era confidently sucks out loud, Michigan might have a pretty good backup plan. Remember that German kid whose last name sort of implied he had a bushy mustache and favored soft zones when protecting a narrow lead?
Yeah, Patrick Heckmann. Heckmann is visiting colleges stateside after averaging 12.3 PPG in the third level of German basketball—not bad for a 17-year-old. He's hit San Diego and Boston College and plans one more trip—Michigan has been rumored as one of his top choices for a while. Get him on campus, take him to the Heidelberg, and bam:
Also here are terrifying German mascots!
Also also how can you not want this guy:
Patrick Heckmann was the lone bright spot in the short and grim German campaign to glory. A frightfully athletic wing player with a creative feel to his game emerged as a top-shelf prospect only in Lithuania averaging 12.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists in the tournament, twice the production comparing to the U16 European Championship in Czech Republic two years ago.
The lone bright spot in short and grim campaign to glory: he is German basketball Denard Robinson.
Additional salve: Glen Robinson III's early AAU performances see him move into the Scout top 100 at #90.
Not so fast on your not so fast. Adam Rittenberg follows up on a Journal-Sentinel article that quotes Barry Alvarez saying a nine game schedule is not a priority and can't happen until 2017(!) at the earliest:
after checking with the Big Ten, I've learned the nine-game discussion will continue May 17-18 at the league's spring meetings of coaches and athletic directors in Chicago. Big Ten senior associate commissioner for television administration Mark Rudner, who puts together the league schedules, will talk with the ADs about whether to implement a nine-game schedule or remain at eight.
Rudner told me in an email message that the athletic directors want to see a financial analysis of schedules with nine league games versus eight league games.
The calculus that provides a ninth conference game: extra value of conference game for BTN + extra pricing leverage when you have a better schedule > 1/2 average stadium take – 2 * average guarantee. That seems like a hard thing to figure out.
I'm annoyed that athletic departments have now built in seven home football games as part of their revenue projections because it makes me feel like a cow being milked. Oh, Mr. Trump, be gentle!
Wha? The Pac-10… er, Pac-12's new television contract is very large. It is stupidly large, $2.7 billion over 12 years, or nearly $19 million per school. This crushes the ACC's recent contract, which would be no surprise except the ACC includes a bunch of basketball, and that contract saw "back and forth bidding" drive the ACC's annual cost from $120 million to $155.
One wonders what Big Ten rights would fetch if tossed on an open market in which Comcast is trying to get a slice of the pie for itself. At least the BTN provides steady revenue escalation as it increases its leverage in the footprint and gets more tasty ROTEL ads. The SEC's massive deal now seems eh… not so massive:
Does anyone know if SEC has an out in its current TV deal? Because if not, it's gonna be fun getting paid 2009 prices in 2023 #goodworkSlive
The Big Ten signed a ten-year contract in 2006, so they'll be on the market again in five years.
Brabbs baby is metal. Brabbs baby:
At least someone will enjoy it when Special K plays Saliva this fall. Also Brabbs is maintaining good numbers when it comes to his myeloma.
Joe Bolden says things. They are pretty inflammatory things:
"Being told I am too small," Bolden admitted, "when I have never heard that before, it was an eye opener. Notre Dame told me they wanted a 6-foot-4 linebacker and that I am 'not their guy.' I'm not upset if I don't fit your profile, I was just surprised it was about height, because I have always believed that it's not the size of the dog, but it's the dogs bite." …
"It will be good to walk over and shake the Notre Dame coaches' hands and say thank you for giving me the drive to be even better," Bolden said.
Actually… so… not that Notre Dame is anything other than a wretched hive of scum and villany, but they do run a 3-4, and in a 3-4 the OLBs are ideally even bigger than the fairly big Bolden because they're quasi-DEs. It's not you, it's them.
/ducks Bolden thunder-fist of words
Etc.: 1990 Iowa at Michigan on the intertubes. Since that was a heartbreaking one-point loss this may be of more interest to Iowa fans. Fascinating Slate article on a company that breaks down meaningless press conference jibber-jabber in an attempt to project players for the NFL draft. Michigan's last three-and-out coach.
Joe Bolden and James Ross Go Blue
Tom broke the news of Bolden's commitment last week, then caught up with Joe for a quick interview:
I wanted to [commit] in person because it shows more respect when you say it in person and look someone in the eyes to tell them you're coming to their school...
I'm very solid on it. I wouldn't have made the decision if I wasn't. There were a lot of factors that played into it, and there were some factors on why I did it so early. I thought why wait if it's the right school, with the right people, and I don't see any better opportunity to play college football and get an education.
While he's not exactly a quick-twitch athlete, he has above average coverage skills because of his instincts and awareness. Bolden also seems to have a top-quality motor with the willingness to chug back into plays that others would give up on. He flies to the football, makes solid contact, and wraps up ballcarriers.
Jack Slice on The Wolverine Blog:
His hips aren’t stiff and he can drop into coverage well, he’s got good coverage awareness. He reads the QB’s eyes at all times. Bolden probably plays smarter than either of the other two LBs we have committed.
There's essentially nothing to dislike about Ross as a prospect. Even though he's not lightning fast in a straight line, he's a true "quick twitch" athlete. Watching his feet and hips move, he has the agility of a safety. But the most impressive thing about Ross is how quickly he diagnoses plays. I'm not sure that I've seen a high school player - and certainly not a Michigan recruit - make quicker decisions and find the ball faster than Ross does.
As for past commits, MI TE Devin Funchess got a writeup in the Oakland Observer.
Last week, it seemed like Gunner Kiel was a longshot for Michigan, so I only spent a little bit of time discussing him, but he's since visited Ann Arbor, so an ESPN profile suddenly becomes much more interesting.
"I still need to be more vocal and be the person that people can rely on. I try to be upbeat about everything -- workouts, conditioning, studying the playbook... I'm a great competitor, I hate to lose," Kiel said. "I'm going to work as hard as possible and try to make the other players on the team better every single day. Hopefully I can be the consummate teammate."
Making said article even more interesting is that the author included Michigan among his four favorites:
Michigan: "They have a new coaching staff and they are bringing a new offense on the table that's going to feature the passing game a lot. It's going to be a good system and they will be successful."
Meanwhioe, here are some Tyler O'Connor Highlights:
($) Maybe got offered.
OH QB Austin Appleby talks about coming back from a knee injury last fall:
Appleby searched every nook and cranny he could for rehab edges. He found a a device called an ARPwave. It is similar to electro-stimulus muscle training, only amped up. It can be painful. Dwight Freeney used it to recover from an ankle injury during Super Bowl week and play in the game in 2010.
“It is the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Appleby said. “But I am so much stronger because of it. They would stick it to my quads and hamstrings, jack it up, and I would have to hold squats and lunges. The first month or so, I couldn’t make it up my stairs.”
His recruitment is blowing up, and many analysts say it will get even bigger once he proves he's healthy.
Happy Trails to WA QB Jeff Lindquist, who committed to Washington.
A couple more prospects are expected to make decisions soon. MI DE/DT Matt Godin will announce on May 12th (that's next Thursday) and MI TE Ron Thompson has been planning to announce soon, but may push that back:
I'm just not ready, it's too much. I think I'm far from a decision to be honest. There was a team that was looking good, but now there are others that have come aboard and I'm not sure if I'm ready.
Godin is choosing between Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. Tom says that Thompson may still announce on the 11th, but it's no longer a certainty. "There was a team that was looking good" definitely seems like it should be followed by "and then they got two tight ends committed."
MI DE Mario Ojemudia (a teammate of Michigan commit TE Devin Funchess) has been making noises on twitter about making a commitment this month, so keep an eye out for him. [ed: As mentioned on the sidebar yesterday, rumblings out of Harrison suggest Ojemudia will end up at M. The main competition conceding is about as good of a sign as you can get.]
“I am still committed to Ohio State,” said Dunn, who rushed for 2,030 yards last season and scored 22 touchdowns. “I have been visiting other schools. I was basically trying to tell (the writer for the recruiting site) I’m still committed to Ohio State, but I’m going to visit other schools to keep my options open if anything happens to Ohio State. Who knows what’s going to happen.”
Dunn's father repeated that position to Tom, though they are considering a visit to Ann Arbor. "I am committed to School X but still taking visits," as former Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez would tell you, is secret code for "I am not committed to anybody, but School X is my strong leader." Since the chances of anything happening to Ohio State are 100%, keep an eye on Bri'onte.
Tom spoke with MO DT Ondre Pipkins about when he'll be making a decision:
Yeah, I'll narrow it down to a top five in June sometime... and I'll probably make my decision after my season. I don't mind waiting that long, it doesn't get annoying if you can manage it and prioritize things the right way.
Michigan appears to be in strong position.
Tom spoke with OH DE Adolphus Washington,
We're open to everybody. We like Ohio State because we grew up fans of Ohio State, but we're giving everyone a chance. Michigan is recruiting me very hard. A lot of people say that I'm an Ohio State lean, but Michigan is still recruiting me hard and I like that. That says a lot about them that they're still coming after me like that. Their program was down last year but I think they're an up and coming program and they'll be back.
His high school Athletic Director played for Michigan's linebackers coach, Mark Smith, at Indiana, a potentially helpful connection. He also described his game:
I'm 6-foot-4, 258-pounds right now. I think my strengths are rushing the quarterback and being the first to the quarterback. I think I need to learn how to use my hands more, to use my hands better. That's something that I work on.
The Wolverines could certainly use an elite edge rusher.
NY CB/S Wayne Morgan told 24/7 Sports that he's most interested in Rutgers, Syracuse, and UConn, though they must have omitted the part where he said "and least interested in winning football games" (glass houses and all that, but whateva). Michigan dropped in on him last week.
Michigan is "still in the mix" for AZ OL Andrus Peat.
Lifelong Buckeyes fan Tom Strobel is "warming up to Michigan" ($, info in header).
OH OL Kyle Dodson is "still high on Michigan" ($, info in header).
Michigan has boosted its position ($, info in header) with OH WR Dwayne Stanford.
PA OL Tyler Alt was the O-Line MVP at the Penn State Nike Camp. Michigan coaches want him to camp in order to earn an offer.
Michigan is in a top-5-ish substance for MD DT Ryan Watson. He's a teammate of 2011 signee Blake Countess.
Alabama offers MI DT Danny O'Brien.
According to Sam Webb, OH S Bam Bradley favors Pitt and MSU.
Michigan has offered MO WR Durron Neal.
Michigan has offered AZ CB/WR DJ Foster.
Happy Trails, CA DT Aziz Shittu. He committed to Stanford, which is no surprise.
Happy Trails, OH OL Benny McGowan. The teammate of DE Ifeadi Odenigbo committed to Michigan State.
Michigan is showing interest in Detroit Catholic Central lineman Wyatt Shallman (a teammate of Matt Godin).
OH RB Dymonte Thomas visited Ann Arbor on his way home from Michigan State's spring game. He's openly an Ohio State fan, but says he'll give every program a chance.
Recruiting guru Jim Stefani runs down some prospects of interest to Michigan in the 2013 and 2014(!) classes.
Since I'm out in Arizona I have been saying Saguaro ATH DJ Foster (5'10", 180 lbs) was more than worthy of an offer for some time. He finally got a Michigan offer Monday, and I caught up with him to talk about it. Here's a look at his defensive film and what he had to say.
TOM: I know Michigan offered today, but who came out to see you?
DJ: Coach Ferrigno stopped by school today. I couldn't really talk much, you know how that goes. Today was the first day of spring ball though so he watched a little bit of our defensive practice. After that he said that I had an offer from Michigan. Auburn was out today, they didn't offer but they told my coach that they might be offering pretty soon.
TOM: I know your coach, Coach Sanders, has been saying Michigan should have offered you for awhile now. Where is your interest level at with Michigan?
DJ: My interest is pretty high. When Cyrus [Hobbi] took his visit last year to Michigan he said it was hands down the best campus he had ever seen. That stuck with me, so I hope I can get out there to see it. Plus all the tradition and history they have, and I know a few guys out there like Taylor [Lewan].
TOM: I'm assuming when you say you want to get out there that it would be for an official visit, and not an unofficial visit?
DJ: Yeah, I plan on taking all five of my official visits. I'm definitely going to try to use them on schools that I can't really see on unofficials. I would love to use one of them on Michigan.
TOM: I know Michigan is kind of late to the party here, but do you have a top group yet?
DJ: As of now I kind of have a top five, but schools keep offering so it keeps changing. Right now it's USC, ASU, Oregon, Stanford, and Cal. That changes all the time though, like when schools like Michigan offer. My top three is probably USC, ASU, and Oregon for now.
TOM: To jump back to Michigan, have the coaches told you what they're recruiting you as? You're so versatile you can probably play anywhere.
DJ: Michigan is recruiting me as a defensive back. I'm fine with that, I like either side of the ball.
TOM: Speaking of your versatility, can you describe your game to people that haven't seen you play?
DJ: I can adapt to anything. If they want me to play receiver or cornerback, I'll work hard no matter what. I have some size and power, and I have very good vision. I don't really know if I'm better on offense or defense, I like both sides. I have people tell me both, some people say they see me as a defensive back in college so I don't know.
TOM: Since the Michigan attention is coming late, is there still a chance for them? I know you said your interest is high, but what does that mean?
DJ: Definitely, I like Coach Ferrigno, so they definitely have a chance. That's going to be big for me is the relationship with the coaches, and my parents are going to have a say in it. I'm not going to rush into anything, and like I said I'm going to take all my official visits.
|Olney, MD - 5'9" 174|
|Scout||4*, #20 CB, #213 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #10 CB, #133 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #14 CB|
|Others||247: 4*, #15 CB, #166 overall|
|Other Suitors||Penn State, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Maryland|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Good Counsel is massive talent repository. Army AA.|
More video than you can shake a stick at. Here's a highlight package from the beginning of his senior year:
You can see individual clips of Countess taking a punt return the distance, doing the same on more than one kickoff, separating a receiver from the ball, catching touchdowns, and so forth and so on. Seems like a really nice kid in this Post interview.
Blake Countess was sure he wanted to go to Michigan. He committed on December 17th of last year, when Rich Rodriguez was hanging by a thread, and hardly wavered after some guy he'd probably never heard of was installed in the aftermath of the bowl debacle. So maybe it's not a surprise that when he does an interview he seems like a kid who Has The Proverbial "It" Together. For example:
Countess on his decision:
“Nobody really knows if [Rodriguez is] going to be there next year or not,” Countess said. “But going into this process, [I knew] college football coaches come and go. That's just how it works. My dad told me whenever I got a new offer that I should pick a school based on where I'd want to be if I wasn't playing football. [He said], ‘That's where you're going to be happiest.' With Michigan, I'm hoping Coach Rod is going to be there. If not, I picked a school that I like no matter what.”
Raise your hand if you sounded that mature at 17. Right, that's a small slice of the women and only the women. Default coach quote:
"He's worked really, really hard for it," said Milloy who also recognized Countess for his academic achievement and strong character.
"He's a great kid, he's a good student, he's a gentleman," said Milloy. … "He's just a really nice kid, he's fun to be around and I've never heard anybody, teacher, player, opposition ever say anything bad about him."
In addition to being the opposite of a flake, Countess is a heavily scouted, fairly OMG shirtless cornerback who played the position for the duration of his career. The rankings you see above have a little wobble but not much in the grand scheme of things: Countess is somewhere between tenth and twentieth amongst cornerbacks nationally and somewhere in the 150-250 range overall according to all four (yes, there are now four) services.
Countess is small. He checked in at 5'9" and 166 pounds at the UA combine he attended and any randomly selected scouting report on him will mention it: "despite his size," "physical player for his size," "an inch or so smaller than you'd like," etc, etc, etc. He'll probably hit the field at Michigan ten or so pounds heavier—he'll have had a year to add some muscle—but that height isn't going anywhere even when the roster declares him a 6'9" power forward.
However, that might be his only drawback. We've established he's a solid dude, and all those scouting reports that mention his size as a drawback spend the rest of their reports going "dang." He ripped the turf up at that UA combine, drawing a headline on ESPN:
If his performance during Friday's National Under Armour All-American Combine is any indication, cornerback Blake Countess could very well emerge as one of the top prospects at his position on the East Coast during the 2011 recruiting cycle.
Countess was outstanding in all phases of the combine, which included testing, position drills and 7-on-7 work for the skill position prospects at the event. He ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the event (4.54 seconds), ran blistering times in the short shuttle (3.94 seconds) and L-cone (6.5), had a 36.5-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 185 pounds 10 times. Countess also was very smooth during position drills and was good in coverage during 7-on-7 work.
At the time he only had offers from Maryland and Wisconsin, but after that performance he picked up another dozen, most prominently from Penn State, Tennessee, and Arkansas. That list is short of all-conquering but is impressive. ESPN reiterated their impression after he showed at a Nike camp in May:
Another corner who came in to the camp with a big reputation and definitely lived up to it was Blake Countess. Countess was very active during the 7-on-7 session and took as many reps as any of the defensive backs. His ability to break on the ball and his quickness in exploding out of his backpedal were very impressive.
That camp included Michigan target and eventual Alabama commit Hasean Clinton-Dix and Army AA teammate Jonathan Rose.
Moar camps. After that, or before that, or possibly during that, Countess went to more camps. Then after, during, or before more camps, he went to more more camps. He attended everything he could reasonably get to and caused scouting report after scouting report to drop from the heavens.
Countess attended an "FBU" camp, where he was the "best defensive back on the day":
The 5-foot-10, 171-pounder was all over the field, jumping routes and showing good instincts. Countess is very low in his backpedal, changes direction quickly and is aggressive. He can play off coverage as well as tight but his strength is in zone coverage.
Another eval praises his hips, recovery speed and ball skills while claiming he needs to be lower in his backpedal—uh, but the other guy nevermind—and complains about his height; a third says "it's his confidence and short-term memory that sets him apart from the average college prospect."
Countess attended an "MD Elite Showcase," where he ran a similarly blazing shuttle and did his best Shakira impression (non-making-out-with-Pique edition):
Countess had the best testing day of anyone, running a low 4.5 40-yard dash and posting an amazing 3.95-second shuttle. In the one-on-ones he was physical off the line, flipped his hips well and showed good hops and ball skills. Although he's not the biggest cornerback, he plays bigger receivers well and is adept at playing the ball in the air and timing his jumps.
Someone randomly reported an ND offer at that time, FWIW. Countess attended a "Premier" showcase that may actually be the "Elite" showcase and, well, you know: ball skills, "top notch" acceleration, "smothered" receivers. Finally, there's a reference to a DFW-esque "New Level Athletic Event" at Rutgers during which he "shut down some of the best talent on the East Coast."
After his senior season Countess was an Army All American and came in for the usual round of scouting that implies, and by now it's just the same: hips on a swivel, physical, ultra-competitive, short. The only variation from the usual is concern about "faster, quicker receivers looking to take him deep"—in the Army setting his recovery speed seemed lacking. Former UNC ball magnet Dre Bly was still proffered as a comparison. On the other hand, a second evaluation says he has "no problem" running with the fastest receivers there and praises him for jumping a slant(!) for an INT. There is the usual stuff about how he's small and light.
All of these camps saw Countess rise in the rankings. In June he was hanging on at the bottom of the Rivals 250; as you can see above he moved up more than 100 spots in the final rankings. The biggest leap came midway through Countess's senior season when Rivals slid him up from 245 to 156:
"Countess showed real physical toughness and a willingness to come up and hit in game action, something we questioned based on his size," Farrell said. "He's as fluid as we thought, very smooth and an all-around terrific cornerback."
Any concerns from the Army appearance didn't appear impact his stock.
The universal chorus on Countess has been established: "prototypical cover corner" who lacks the ability to thump running backs at the LOS a la Marlin Jackson and will make fade routes scary but does everything else.
Etc.: Army presser gallery. Come on Twitter background. His sophomore highlights come with FLAMES. Touch The Banner suggests Ty Law as a comparable, while acknowledging Law got to be a pretty big dude later in college and in the NFL. Even more scouting reports are superfluous, but:
- "really jumps out at you with his ability to change directions and close on the football."
- "a classic overachiever that should outperform and outwork his opponents."
- "reads routes and quarterbacks well, can be difficult to create separation on as he is very quick and has a good recovery burst."
- "steady and heady cornerback prospect with natural cover corner skills."
Why Courtney Avery++? As a recruit Avery was far less hyped but he's had a year to defy those rankings. Those ended up pessimistic because he was more of a quarterback than a defensive back in high school. Last year he showed those proverbial hips on a swivel as he established himself the best of last year's defensive back crop. He's in line to be a three-year starter.
Avery is an inch or two shorter than you'd like but he's not preposterously small a la Boubacar Cissoko. Though willing, he probably needs a year or two to get the strength necessary to tackle collegians. He has a knack for staying close to opposing receivers and playing the ball while it's in the air.
As far as the increment, Countess will enter college with a lot more polish and should press for playing time even without someone's ankle exploding. I think we might have more information on Countess than we do on Avery even after the latter's been on campus a year.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Countess was healthy, attended every camp he could, was an Army AA, and played at one of the most heavily scouted high schools in the country. He's also a cornerback, where athleticism rules all. If they're going to be right about anyone it's Countess.
General Excitement Level: High. There are a couple settings above high—very high and vast, FWIW. Countess seems like as close to a sure thing as you can find: good student, good kid, good player who's had every pore analyzed by a half dozen scouts. He's got a ceiling a 6'0" version of himself wouldn't have; barring injury he seems like he will scrape that ceiling.
Projection: His height will always be a hindrance but if I had to bet he starts for three years and ends up an All Big Ten sort of player. Will not redshirt since he's polished and will probably be better than anyone behind the starters on day one; solid favorite to take over for Woolfolk next year.