Mike Lantry, 1972
Should we be depressed watching this draft seeing very limited Michigan players taken? I mean I know we haven't been a good football team lately, but I look at a guy like Donavan Warren. Couldn't SOMEBODY have told him he wasn't ready for the pros? Unless I'm way wrong and he is ready? I just wanted to get your thoughts on when it makes sense for a junior to declare early. It seems to me that if you aren't a lock in the first 3 rounds, it's just not worth it. I could be wrong on this, that's why I'm asking your opinion on it.
Chris: if you are surveying the recent history of Michigan football and deciding that this year's NFL draft is the reason to be depressed, you are the modern day equivalent of one of those guys on the cross singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."
As far as Warren goes, I touched on it briefly when Mark Carrier went to the well and declared the Michigan Warren signed up for "wasn't there anymore," but to expand on it: there were a lot of different factors that went into Warren's unwise decision to declare. Conventional wisdom held that Warren was looking at three years and out from the moment he stepped on campus. All the coaches he signed up to play for were broomed. Then he got a mid-round-at-worst grade from the NFL Advisory Committee—basically a "lock for the first three rounds." His decision was an expected outcome. The unexpected bit was not getting drafted.
FWIW, when all this was going down I did get the impression that Rodriguez thought Warren was not ready for the pros:
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said in a radio interview Monday he wishes cornerback Donovan Warren would have got more information before declaring for the NFL draft.
"I probably would have preferred to wait until I get the NFL advisory committee information back, which I have not gotten back yet," Rodriguez said on WDFN 1130-AM. "I don’t know if he talked to enough people yet or not, but he feels he has. I kind of wish he got a little bit more information so he would have been sure before he made his declaration."
He took off anyway. It happens from time to time—remember Shantee Orr?—but less frequently when you haven been placed in a situation someone else chose for you.
I had a discussion w/ Jon Chait about the 2 QB system. I personally feel that it is a bad idea but I don't necessarily always agree with the platitudes spun on ESPN ("if you have 2 QBs it means you have none"). Is there any evidence of a 2 QB system really being bad? Jon brought up the Leak/Tebow duo and the 1982 Miami Dolphins. Certainly 2 teams in 25 years is not much of a success rate but I was hoping you or Mathelete might have some more detailed data.
I could probably dig up some evidence that two QB systems are less effective than your average one QB system but that's a lot of effort to state something logically obvious: the chances of having one excellent quarterback are low. The chances of having two are vanishingly small. Therefore, playing two quarterbacks means you do not have an excellent quarterback. QED.
HOWEVA, this assumes that quarterback excellence comes in one shape, something that was 100% true for the duration of the Carr regime. The shape was a 6'5" fixed artillery piece 50% as white as We Are ND.
that's really, really white
When Carr experimented with his Henson-Brady platoon, that was something he'd promised Henson to prevent him from signing an enormous baseball contract. Even that petered out as Michigan began to realize what it had in Tom Brady. They were running the same stuff with both, so it made no sense to go with the guy who wasn't a crazy accurate cold-blooded senior.
The situation in 2010 is a lot closer to Leak/Tebow (minus the hellacious defense) than Brady/Henson. Michigan's two quarterbacks are radically different players. In that case it makes sense to use them in different situations. On third and one, Denard is a better option. On third and fifteen, Tate is. On first and ten it will depend on who the opponent is and how the quarterbacks are playing that day.
I have a feeling that by midseason it will be clear one or the other is the starter, but I also think both QBs will see snaps in every game this year.
I was wondering if you could help me understand something. How does this deal between ESPN and SEC affect the amount of Big 10 games that are televised on ABC/ESPN/ESPN2? In terms of football, is the SEC really getting that much more coverage on ESPN compared to the Big 10 on Saturdays (the Big 10 doesn't really play games any other day of the week too often)?
Up until now, I have been able to watch tons of Big 10 games on these channels (I live in Boston), but now I am afraid that they are going to be playing more SEC games and I will only get the 1 game at a time I get on the Big 10 Network. Everything I read makes it sound like ESPN bought the broadcasting rights to all these SEC football games and other athletic events and that they will be dominating the ESPN airwaves, but if it started last fall (2009), I sure didn't notice a difference because they still played pretty much every Big 10 game not on the Big 10 Network (Indiana vs. Minnesota aside).
Any ways, just wondering if you have any insight on this.
The SEC deal has no impact on the Big Ten/ABC contract. ABC always gets first choice of Big Ten games every weekend, then ESPN, ESPN 2, and the BTN have a complicated system in which they alternate the second pick. The BTN gets two or three opportunities to go second—which is how they scooped up the M-MSU game in year two of the network, causing mass panic at the prospect it might not be on television in the state.
In fact, the much-hyped SEC deal is now coming in for local criticism because MLS and women's basketball have more pull than SEC gymnastics. The net effect has been to move the crappy SEC games from Raycom syndication (the ironically beloved "three Daves" setup) to the obscurer reaches of the ESPN dial (U and Classic). Since Big Ten games were never played on those networks, the impact on the conference is nil. I don't think the SEC pact actually does much of anything for the league other than fill their pockets: ESPN isn't going to stop televising good Pac 10/ACC/Big 12 games.
The Big Ten's ABC/ESPN deal is even better than the SEC deal in one critical respect: it mandates that any regional broadcast is "reverse mirrored" on another channel. End result:
The Boilermakers appeared on National or National/Regional Television for every game (12) [ed: thanks for the game count protip, marketing droid!] during the 2009 season. Boiler Up!
11:20 AM May 5th via web
That's really cool for Purdue. It is also true for every Big Ten team, even Indiana. There is no such thing as a Big Ten football game you cannot get nationally. The genius of the Big Ten network is matched by the genius of the reverse mirror. Whoever got that inserted into the Big Ten TV contract earns his keep.
BONUS: how huge is the ESPN/SEC contract going to look in 15 years? Not very huge. The Big Ten is already matching or exceeding it and their deal with FOX includes profit-sharing that has already kicked in. When not speaking publicly, Jim Delany is a ninja.
Brian,It seems to me that if we are going to poach from the Big 12 -- it makes the most sense to make a play for Texas as taking 2 teams from the conference makes its demise all but certain and could push Texas into the SEC or Pac-10.If we are going to be Machiavellian a la Notre Dame, it makes no sense to pursue two decent Big 12 schools when doing so pushes the crown jewel (athletically, academically, and demographically) into a rival camp. Thoughts?Relatedly, what is the basis for the comments that the TX legislature would only permit that if the Big 10 took A&M too?Thanks for humoring me.-Name Withheld
Daddy, would you like some sausages?
I don't know what the basis for the TX legislature road block meme is Austin seem like the active sort and I buy it. Besides, A&M is a fine school in its own right.
Anyway: I'm with you. It's been universally agreed that Texas is the biggest fish in the pond. The problem with Texas is that it's geographically isolated from the Big Ten and beholden to a state legislature that somehow finagled perpetually useless Baylor into the Big 12. They've got power and they're nosy enough to use it.
But if this 16-team Big Ten is actually going to transpire, is that relevant? If the Big Ten grabs five teams they can lop off Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma in one enormous western surge. Big Ten Manifest Destiny seriously reduces the geographic implausibility and provides the Big Ten the most sheer intimidation possible. If we're putting the Big Cthulhu on the table, I don't see why the Big East has to be involved at all, or Notre Dame for that matter. It makes more sense to dismember one conference in its entirety.
I know that Oklahoma's academic standing has been widely declared a nonstarter for the Big Ten's ivory tower types. If that's the case, grabbing Colorado or Kansas has almost the same effect—Texas tentacles—with considerably less chewing tobacco at conference meetings.
Exactly what happens between now and August? I really mean EXACTLY, not just "they do some conditioning and stuff". Someone out there (football coaches or maybe former players) must know the answer.
I can't give you an all-caps EXACT answer, but I did ping Tyler Sellhorn for a moderately detailed one. Without further ado:
While school is still in session, the program can require attendance at conditioning. When school lets out the players voluntarily submit themselves to The Church of Barwis, take 4-6 credit hours of summer school (so that most players, i.e. general studies majors, can take a minimum full-time courseload during the year and still be on track to graduate), most student-athletes will spend a week at home, and then Fall camp starts in August. Also, the quarterbacks and defensive leaders are usually encouraged to organize skeleton passing sessions as well, but as we know too well now, coaches are not permitted to even witness said seven-on-seven sessions.
That is not an exactly, but a general overview that should answer less curious minds than Marc71.
Thanks to Mr. Sellhorn.
The 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board lives here. Remember, you may need to log in and/or refresh a few times for the latest updates because the technology has been pretty mischievous lately.
Giving Offers Out Like Candy
The spring evaluation period started a couple weeks ago, and that's seen Michigan's coaching staff hand out a number of new scholarship offers lately.
Johnson has over 26 offers now, and said that he might have to use an official visit if he wants to see Michigan in person. "If my dad isn't home, then I would probably use an official. If he's home, then I think we'd be able to make the drive," Mickey told me.
Johnson is a very, very strong tackle, with a state-record 450-lb bench press, and a 700-lb(!) mark on the squat rack. Tom's diary has both weight-lifting and football highlights.
OH LB Sean Duggan has received a Michigan offer. Tom speculates that he might make it to campus for the BBQ at the Big House, and shares his junior year highlight video:
Duggan has good size (6-4, 215), and MIchigan is in need of linebackers, so it could be a good fit.
The Wolverines have also offered a more highly-regarded linebacker, FL LB AJ Johnson. His offer list looks like a who's-who of bigtime programs, including most of the SEC and the USC Trojans. He has decommitted from Tennessee. It might be tough for the Wolverines to lure him north.
Michigan apparently has an offer out to FL LB Jermaine McKinney. He's not in the Rivals database, so Michigan is in on him early. His high school, Seffner Armwood, is the home of 2012 RB Matt Jones, who isexpected to be a top prospect.
Michigan has offered PA WR/LB Armstead Williams.
OH WR Darius Patton has received a Michigan offer, which he found "exciting ($, info in header).
Strengths: Great acceleration. Good mirroring instincts. High energy player. Seems to be one of team's emotional leaders. Solid tackler despite small stature. Squares up and wraps up ballcarrier. Great special teams player, Fearless in kick coverage. Has knack for blocking kicks and punts. Good running skills once ball is in his hands. Ability to change directions quickly. Excellent blitzer off the edge
Weaknesses: Does not run legs on contact. Leaves feet too often when making contact. Can be too aggressive at times without breaking down to tackle, leaving him open to missing tackles. Lacks ideal height. Good but not great speed, despite superb acceleration. Average ball skills when ball is in the air.
You can watch him block a bunch of kicks and get his blitz on here. His older brother plays for Central Florida, and the Knights have offered Jonathan.
This Is How You Eat A Rib
The ongoing saga of FL RB Dee Hart may just keep on going after the BBQ at the Big House, as Hart tells the Orlando Sentinel:
"I was thinking May 22, but that might not work out … so we'll just see where it goes. I'm not in any rush anyway. I'm graduating early, but I'm really not in a rush."
Is it just keeping the suspense up, or is there a chance he doesn't commit on the visit? I guess we'll find out in a couple weeks. Great graphic design by the Sentinel, by the way.
From Old Virginia speculates that it's likely VA DE Corey Marshall will visit for the Barbecue at the Big House, and could even be on commitment watch. Michigan and Virginia Tech lead a group of four. Marshall's in Rivals' initial 250 to watch and would give Michigan an excellent pair of bookends with the previous commitment of MI DE Brennen Beyer.
Michigan Sports Zone catches up with PA CB Dondi Kirby, who says he will visit for the BBQ at the Big House.
One thing that is for sure is Dondi is set on waiting until signing day to announce his decision. However, if signing day were to be in the next month there are some schools that stand out.
"Well definitely Michigan, Michigan, Maryland, Ohio State, Illinois and Iowa."
Dondi further narrowed his list down to three schools which are Michigan, Maryland and Ohio State and not in any particular order.
PennLive.com talks about not only Kirby, but a couple of his teammates at Gateway High School, a former Michigan stomping ground.
The Combine Circuit
OH QB Cardale Jones is the subject of this week's Detroit News profile by Sam Webb. First, what he's like on the field:
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Jones turned a lot of heads last season, using his rifle arm to account for more than 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns through the air. Meanwhile, he used his 4.55 40 speed to accumulate more than 500 yards and six touchdowns on the ground...
"I know I got a lot better over the past year, and I need to continue to get better. I want to work on my speed and I need to keep working on learning the game through film study. I need to get the ball out quicker and that will come through maturity and playing the position more. I think my accuracy during the offseason has gotten way better. I can remember this time last year, and the throws that I'm making now I couldn't make until the end of last season."
Since we've been following Jones for a while now, that info should come as no surprise, but it's nice to be able to put actual numbers to it. A now, for the recruiting information:
Jones hopes to make his way back to East Lansing in the summer months. The same goes for others on his offer list like West Virginia and Iowa. At the moment the only scheduled visit after this week's trip to Ohio State is to Michigan's "Barbecue at the Big House" on May 22. He insists that doesn't indicate the preferred status of either the Buckeyes or Wolverines -- only that he is focused on more pressing matters at moment.
He loves Ohio State, but it's unlikely that the Buckeyes offer - at least not before they lock down OH QB Braxton Miller. [Ed: I think that conventional wisdom may be shifting. There are a lot of rumors Jones may pick up an OSU offer soon.] That leaves the door open for various schools, including Michigan, to win him over. Jones also got some love from ESPN following the Elite 11 combine:
With Miller out of the line-up, Jones got an opportunity to showcase his raw, but very impressive physical tools. He looks like a taller version of another quality QB in this class Marquise Williams (Charlotte, N.C./Mallard Creek). Jones has a big arm, great size and a lot of physical tools to mold. He too must adjust to playing from under center and developing consistent footwork so that his accuracy can become more consistent. But there is no question he is capable of making all the throws.
Obviously if he attends Michigan, that whole "under center" thing becomes less of an issue.
FL QB Kevin Sousa continues to impress every scout he comes across:
Once again Kevin Sousa (Lake Nona, Fla./Lake Nona) shows up to an Elite 11 regional camp and each time he gets better. In fact, this was by far his best outing and he is starting to really iron out some kinks in his delivery and become more smooth and fluid as a passer. Athletically he is ultra impressive, but there were times on Friday when he got his feet, timing and delivery to sync up and for that moment, was the best guy in the camp.
Michigan is looking at Sousa, but he doesn't have an offer. Both he and his coach, however, think he'd be a great fit at Michigan, and are hoping Rich Rodriguez extends one soon. At this point he's the most likely candidate to be Michigan's lone QB recruit of 2011
MI WR DeAnthony Arnett was the wideout MVP at the Columbus Nike Combine. He's currently favoring Michigan State, Notre Dame, and USC, but a good season by the Wolverines would put him right back near the top for him. He actually showed up to Ohio State wearing Michigan gear, but Bill Kurelic (who has an erratic track record for such things), says Michigan is out of the running (Tom says don't worry about it just yet). Arnett has been nominated for the Army All-American Bowl. His recruitment is going to be a long and winding one.
Bill Kurelic also drops a bit of info about some other Michigan targets:
As good as Daniels was, Lamar Dawson (Danville, Ky./Boyle County) might have been even better. Dawson measured in at 6-2 and 232 pounds but looked even bigger. He certainly played big. Dawson took on blockers well, was able to track down running backs on the perimeter and made plays in coverage en route to the linebackers MVP award.
As noted above, Dawson recently received a Michigan offer. Also, on commit MI CB Delonte Hollowell:
Hollowell (Detroit/Cass Tech), as previously noted, was among a talented group of defensive backs. He made one of the best plays of the day with a spectacular one-handed interception on a long pass play.
Man, if only there was vide... oh. Video:
Lookin' good, son.
FL WR Sammy Watkins will be trimming his list to ten schools soon, and only Florida, Miami (Yes That Miami), and Michigan are locks to make it. That trio likely makes up a tentative top three. Watkins also excels on the track.
Michigan and USC are the co-leaders for AZ OL Andre Yruretagoyena, according to Duck Sports Authority's Tony Di Francisco. Should Oregon offer, they'll be in the mix.
Keep an eye on FL OL Errin Joe, who attends the same high school as current Wolverine Ricky Barnum. He's noted as a fast-rising prospect, and a certain Detroit newspaper of no repute says he's gotten an offer from the Wolverines.
The Distant Future. The Year 2012.
NJ LB/S Vin Ascolese (pictured at right) visited Michigan for the Spring Game, and came away impressed:
"Michigan was great. I had a lot of fun with all the other kids and had a great experience checking out all the facilities." Vin said about his his trip to Ann Arbor."
Vin may be unsure about the next time he is going to take a trip back to Ann Arbor but he insists Michigan is defiantly in the mix for his recruitment saying, "UM ranks top 5 in my list."
Don't get too excited, however, because he also took a liking to Penn State:
Vin summed up the impression that was left by saying, "PSU is easily in my top 3." "I am going up there again to camp and am looking forward to it!"
As Michigan Sports Zone notes, there's still a lot of time before this kid's recruitment is over, and the Wolverines will have a chance to work their way to the top.
NJ LB Jazzmar Clax also tell Michigan Sports Zone that he's hearing from Michigan.
IL OL/DL Jordan Diamond recently impressed at a National Underclassmen Combine in Chicago. He was also impressive at the Michigan Football Showcase, and is a guy to keep an eye on for the future.
Michigan is soon to offer AZ CB/Slot DJ Foster, and is also showing interest in his teammate, LB Brock Haman. They play on the same team as 2011 AZ OL Cyrus Hobbi.
Tom continues his position recruiting roundups with a look at the defensive line. Scout's Allen Trieu discusses Michigan's recruiting class with Dave Birkett of AnnArbor.com. He's higher on Beyer and Conway than the DBs. Michigan drops in on Black Righty Tebow, AR QB Kiehl Frazier. OH DT Michael Bennett has eliminated Michigan. LA OL Trai Turner is still liking Michigan. Florida has offered OH LB Trey DePriest. PA LB Quinton Alston's mom runs a blogspot page about the recruiting process, for those who are interested in the nitty-gritty.
UPDATE: ABORT. REPEAT: ABORT PANIC. RESUME YOUR DAY TO DAY LIVES. CEASE HOARDING CLIF BARS. REMOVE NEIGHBOR'S DOG FROM OVEN.
Finally something from twitter other than players complaining about how lame the party they're at is:
Presumably this means there will be new road jerseys because changing the home ones would cause frogs to rain from the sky and the Huron River to run red with blood. I can't wait for the piping/bib controversy that will engulf the month of July. What will it be this time?
- Numbers will be replaced with hieroglyphs depicting wolverines in various states of repose, anger, and triumph.
- The pants will contain a legend for the hieroglyphs…
- …and a treasure map!
- Bamboo socks.
- One shoulder will have epaulets.
I expect the paint crew will have mockups of potential new jerseys ("it's a cross between the Wild's third jerseys and Barcelona!") in short order. Then we have only to wait to see how tearfully accurate our sarcastic exaggerations are. Come, Armageddon, come.
Where the great plains begin. It will not be news to anyone that Ernie Harwell died yesterday. I'm sure most have youtubed a tribute or three in the aftermath; there are plenty. A year-long bout with cancer gives people time to prepare. I think the best, tribute, though, was an improptu one: Dan Dickerson relaying the news on the radio. Clearly heartbroken, Dickerson provides a few seconds of dead air, then gets out a few tear-stained words before managing to interject "Hudson takes a pitch high." Jim Price hops in at this point and the two talk about Harwell as Hudson takes a five-pitch walk. That's baseball.
Here's some of Harwell in his own words:
Chicago, my nemesis, we meet again. After standing outside Hugging Harold Reynold's room with a boombox for months they've finally relented and allowed me to be on one of the panels at Blogs With Balls 3.0. The title of our panel is "Democratizing Sports Media: How Blogging Players, Fans & Leagues Are Changing the Game," and like a good engineer I'll be frantically attempting to make that less vague over email in the next month. Joining me will be Henry Abbott of True Hoop fame, Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo's Big League Stew, Valli Hilaire of The Fast and The Fabulous, which is not New York's gay and lesbian bike club even if Google thinks it is but rather a NASCAR blog, and Robert Littal of Black Sports Online.
Some cursory googling reveals that Littal is an Ohio State grad and Kaduk went to Wisconsin and roots for Notre Dame, so if things get boring I we'll just have a triple threat match for bragging rights. If you want to witness rough country justice firsthand, you can get tickets. They're 50 bucks off until May 15th.
Zoltan, one last time. I read a lot of other college football blogs, so I state this with authority: we are living through a golden age in Michigan-football-related bizarre Youtube projects. There is not a school on the planet that can compete with Mike Cox getting it YGM style, Coner 2000 dropping mad rhymes (THAT'S FEBREZE PEOPLE) or killing some rich guy, Jack Kennedy auditioning for American Idol, O'Neill Depriest Swanson III pumping Vitamin Water, and Zoltan Mesko burning Meijer so hard:
Yea, truly we are the leaders and best.
JT Floyd would like to make cliches. Sometimes I feel deeply for beatwriters. This is one of those times:
J.T. Floyd’s motto as cornerback is simple.
“Make plays,” Floyd said last month after the Michigan football team's spring game. “That’s all you got to do to be successful out here.”
It's May. Football isn't until August. And you've got to publish something, so you grab an old quote in which a football player says "making plays" is the key to success. That article does have a couple encouraging quotes from teammates and coaches on Floyd, but… man. It's rough out there in May.
“It wasn’t my best year, obviously,” Ezeh said after the Wolverines’ April 17 spring game. “That’s in the past and try to move on and build a better future. I got to prove to people that last year was kind of a fluke and this is the (real) Obi.”
So there's that. Good luck in June, everyone.
Fightin' with facts. I don't believe I've mentioned the strange entity that is College Hockey, Inc. in this space, so here goes: USA Hockey finally got the same sort of giant developmental payment that the NHL has been forking over to the CHL for years. They spend some on the NTDP, some on the USHL, and some forming what can only be described as a propaganda organization called College Hockey, Inc. Its head is Paul Kelly and he's spent the year wandering around the country, advocating college hockey and pointing out that unless you're Patrick Kane the CHL is a rube's game. Kelly:
Our most important mission is to be an education and information resource to elite young players and their families on the many benefits of playing college hockey and why, if they're good enough and faced with the option to play for one of the junior teams in Canada or an NCAA Division I program, the option to play NCAA hockey is in most instances, the smarter and better course of action.
I love that there is an organization that causes CHL teams to complain about being "unfairly targeted" for pointing out relative graduation rates. Targeted, yes. Unfair… not so much.
Kelly also talks about future expansion of the USHL to a whopping 24 teams—Muskegon's picking one up this fall—and possible new markets for the college game. The great white sasquatch of the Big Ten is broached:
FTR: Penn State has been kicking that arena idea around for awhile now, and they also have a very good club program. Could they be next?
Kelly: They have been talking about the arena project and if you could ever get one other school from the Big Ten, you could create a Big Ten Hockey Conference. We'd have to shuffle the deck a bit, and reconfigure the WCHA and CCHA a bit.
I don't know how realistic any of these candidates are but if Penn State adds hockey I can't imagine it won't be at least revenue-neutral, especially if the Big Ten Network gets involved. Unfortunately, Title IX means a revenue-neutral men's sport can't be added without a women's sport that will be a money pit, and the economy and etc.
Kelly also suggests an Alaska-like exemption to keep Huntsville viable, something that I support.
Politics exception. There is one exception I will make to the otherwise iron-clad no politics law: copyright law is broken and stupid. Latest example is Google allowing the Downfall parodies to get yanked off Youtube when they could not be clearer instances of fair use. The precedent is worrying to me since I regularly post small snippets of a larger product I do not own for transformative purposes—ie, I employ fair use extensively. Here Google has failed to not be evil.
Etc.: I showed up on a podcast at Bucknuts. Warning: it looks like you have to register (but not subscribe) to get access to it. Also they make me state my opinion of Tressel, which I regret to inform you is respectful. Thus you are warned doubly. The hockey media's treatment of Alexander Ovechkin in the aftermath of the Caps' unceremonious first-round ouster is laughably inaccurate and totally predictable.
|Pittsburgh, PA - 6'1" 180
||Scout||4*, #3 CB, #56 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #8 CB, #99 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 79, #18 CB|
|Others||#41 to TAKKLE, #75 to TSN, #92 to Lemming.|
|Other Suitors||UCLA, Pitt, WVU, Ohio State, Alabama(?), Florida(?)|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
Cullen Christian was the first of two highly-touted corner recruits to commit to Michigan at excruciatingly long press conferences. But where Demar Dorsey's announcement came with a considerable amount of suspense, Christian had proclaimed Michigan his leader from his first appearance on recruitniks' radar and entered his marathon press conference capable of surprising no one. The result was zazzle snark:
Christian's most attractive asset is his size. At 6'1" he has four or five fade-swatting inches on the less hyped corners already profiled in this series. He adds an ability to sky to that size. Here's the Pittsburgh Sports Report running down the top 25 players in PA last year:
7. Cullen Christian, Penn Hills HS (Pittsburgh) CB- A former track performer who is relatively new to playing cornerback. He’s excellent corner size at 6'0" and 180 pounds, but does need to add some muscle. Christian has long arms to go along with his good speed and excellent athleticism. Has had a combine measured vertical jump of over 39". He plays tough and aggressive. … Bottom line- His height, long arms, athleticism, and aggressiveness can't be taught. Once he gets more muscle and experience, he could be a big time lockdown corner.
With Justin Turner struggling to get past JT Floyd because he has "outgrown the position" according to some observers (although not the recently graduated punter/space emperor), the average Michigan fan is probably fretting about the same sort of thing happening to Christian. Take whatever solace you can in SPARQ numbers, as Christian is the sort of kid who shows up at combines and takes home plaques:
One of the top names heading into the event was Penn Hills cornerback Cullen Christian, who is already approaching 10 scholarship offers and did nothing to diminish his rising star Saturday. He posted outstanding marks of 39.3 inches in the vertical jump and 4.25 seconds in the shuttle on the way to a 102.57 SPARQ rating.
That shuttle is just a tenth worse than Terrence Talbott's standout number despite Christian's extra four inches and twenty pounds. A second ESPN article from the same combine echoes the above numbers and praises his ability to "run, change direction, and jump."
There is one consistent flaw cited by scout assessing Christian's ability: raw speed. Rivals' Mike Farrell after Christian took home DB MVP honors at the Penn State NIKE camp:
“He's not a burner but he can turn and run, has nice hips and is physical,” Farrell said. “His size allows him to match up well with big receivers and he gets his head around to play the ball.”
Meanwhile, ESPN's evaluation($) starts by saying "The only asset Christian is missing is great speed" and Rivals' Barry Every says his main "area for improvement" is… yes… speed. So he's not Denard Robinson.
Despite that commonly-cited flaw, Christian graded out extremely well because of his size, length, technique, and leaping ability. A portion of the assets ESPN believes he possesses:
He has coveted size, quickness, fluidity and savvy as a D-I corner prospect. Utilizes his long arms and frame well jamming and pressing receivers off the line. Consistently forces receivers to the outside in zone, Cover 2 schemes and takes away inside leverage when locked up in press-man. Displays a fluid pedal and good sink for a taller corner. Hips and turns are smooth and he has good change of direction quickness mirroring in off-man. … Closes fast and covers a lot of area in underneath zone schemes. Has good range on both run and pass support. Very difficult matchup on the jump-ball with his good height, long arms and understanding of body positioning and adjustment. … Christian will enter college ahead of the curve in terms of technique, understanding of coverages and size.
That assessment is echoed by Every ("hips on a swivel, excellent ball skills and the ability to steer receivers off their intended route by using his long arms as weapons … long arms also allow him to reach around receivers and bat down balls that smaller corners couldn't even reach") and Athlon("outstanding hips and can get into and out of his pedal quickly … excellent ball skills … tough to beat in one-on-one situations"). Scout's Bob Lichtenfels goes for seemingly inaccurate cliches about a "very physical football player" that we'll see are fiction even in Christian's eyes.
The fiction: according to Magnus/Thunder, Christian's tackling needs plenty of work:
My biggest reservation about playing him at safety is that he doesn't seem to be a very good tackler. He has decent size at 6' and 180 pounds, but on his highlight films - which are supposed to be his best plays, naturally - his "highlight" tackles are of him diving at the feet of ballcarriers. Even when he has the opportunity for a solid tackle, he goes low.
This is something Christian himself recognizes is a flaw in his game:
“I want to improve my speed,” Christian said. “That’s the main thing and I also want to make more of an impact when I hit. I need to be more physical when I tackle.”
It's possible that Christian has absorbed the 'not a blazer' meme from the gurus and is parroting it back, but the tackling criticism is not something I came across anywhere else. That's something coaches have told him. On the plus side, Touch The Banner echoes the other praise of Christian and says that speed thing may be overrated as a concern, providing a solid thumbs-up. His coach also eschews the conventional wisdom when it comes to his speed…
He’s a very gifted corner,” Penn Hills coach Ron Graham said. “He’s explosive to the ball, he has all the tools of quickness, speed, ball reaction, vertical. Very quick feet."
…but high school coaches are always super-enthusiastic about their players.
All that added up to a ton of offers, with Christian claiming Florida, Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, and a host of others on signing day. Whether that's true only Christian and those schools know. I admit to being slightly skeptical since Christian's final list was Michigan, Pitt, West Virginia, Maryland, and UCLA. It is possible his very public Michigan lead submarined his recruitment by schools who can move on to the next touted 6'1" corner prospect when they feel someone's not seriously interested, I suppose. It does appear that an Ohio State offer was on the table for a while before the two parties unceremoniously parted ways just before Christian was supposed to take an official visit.
Michigan commit Cullen Christian had his best practice. He had two very noticeable plays one when he leaped up and batted a ball away from Christian Green. The second play Christian came up and pressed Kyle Prater and put the nation's No. 2 wide receiver on the ground.
And he's coming to play:
"The opportunity up there's great," Christian said. "I’m going to come up there and I’m going to start. They told me I got an opportunity to come up and play, but I’m going to come up there, I'm going to start. I'm going to come up there and work hard, do whatever I got to do to get on the field and I'm going to help Michigan out."
Why Marlin Jackson? Michigan hasn't had a lot of press-happy 6'1" corners in recent history, so Jackson is the closest approximation of Christian's size, speed, length, and recruiting hype. The comparison falls flat when it comes to tackling, where it seems that Christian is indifferent at best coming into college and Jackson was the best run support corner I've seen at Michigan. Christian seems capable of repeating that crazy game against Washington where Jackson was in Reggie Williams's grill from the first snap and set an all-time Michigan record for most PBUs in a game, though, and that's not something you can say about an Avery or a Talbott.
FWIW, GMBW compares Christian to Jeremy LeSueur.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Lots of combines, high profile school, no health issues, exactingly consistent descriptions of Christian's assets and flaws. Main disagreement seems to be how much his lack of blazing speed will hurt him.
General Excitement Level: High but not electric. Lack of blazing speed is kind of a scary issue in a corner; everything else sounds outstanding. Will be an interesting test case for the Cult of Barwis. Can he actually improve his "explosion"?
Projection: Least outlandish "I will start from day one" semi-prediction in a long time. He might not start but given his advanced understanding of zones—which Michigan is set to play a ton of—and physical talent the chance of a redshirt is zero. He will be on the two-deep as soon as he hits campus and should press JT Floyd and Justin Turner in the battle to start opposite Woolfolk. I think he's at least on even footing with them even as a true freshman.
Former Michigan offensive lineman Jon Runyan, a 14-year veteran of the NFL, is running for congress in the state of New Jersey. Though mgoblog doesn't endorse or un-endorse any political candidate or ideal, we had the opportunity to ask Jon a few questions about his football career, Rich Rodriguez, and his upcoming congressional race.
Michigan and Football
Growing up in Filnt, were you always a Michigan guy or did you like the Spartans growing up?
I was and always will always be a Michigan Man.
You racked up a number of awards during your college career (most notably All-Big Ten in your final season), but was it a hard decision to leave early for the draft?
It was hard, but the fact that I got injured the year before and missed the Bowl game was a huge factor in my decision to leave. It was a calculated risk, but looking back on it, it all worked out for the best.
How often to you manage to catch Michigan games, either in person or on TV?
I have not been back to any games. I have a very young and active family, therefore most of my free time in the fall is spent on the youth soccer/football fields.
Going on to your NFL career, you played primarily for a couple teams, the Oilers/Titans and the Eagles. When you think about your football career on the whole, which team do you identify more with? Why?
I have to say the Eagles, I feel that I had a bigger role in making that team into how everyone knows it. In my early years (Oilers/Titans) I was young and looking for direction. I learned that from a great group of guys and took that knowledge to Philly.
With the Eagles, Brian Westbrook credited you with the idea to take knee at the one yard line going in a couple years ago. Was that the Michigan education shining through?
We can say that. Also it has a lot to do with confidence and understanding of the people and situations around you!
What is your opinion of the first couple years of Rich Rodriguez in Ann Arbor?
It takes time. When you bring in a new system and coaches, you have to get the current players to buy in and at the same time recruit players that may fit your system better. But that's the challenge of being a college coach.
Have you talked to Coach Rodriguez at all, worked out on campus, etc.?
I have introduced myself once, the only time I have been back to A2 since he was hired.
You experienced a coaching change during your Michigan career. What was it like to go from Moeller to Carr? I assume the transition wasn't quite as rough as the one Michigan's going through now.
It was not as rough as the current change. I was lucky to be recruited by coach Carr out of high school, and it was't as big of a transition. There also wasn't a huge changeover in assistant coaches (lot of friends in the room).
Moving on, what made you decide to go into politics following your NFL career?
I have been very active in my community dating all the way back to my trips to Motts Children's Hospital and this is the next step in my community service. Although it is a big one, I know it is the right one.
To learn more about my campaign, please visit my website at www.runyanforcongress.com.