hi bennie! /Upchurch
It's an annual rite of fan dorkiness each year to try to be the first to guess which numbers the incoming freshmen will be given by obsessively google stalking them. Sometimes I have some inside knowledge from a recruit who was promised his digit, or tweeted his preferences or something. Here's how I did last year:
|Name||Pos.||# in HS||2012 Guess||Actual|
|Allen Gant||S||7 and 14||14||12|
|Chris Wormley||DE||47||84 or 68||43|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB/KR||21||21 if available, or 31||26|
|Devin Funchess||TE||5 and 15||85||19|
|Drake Johnson||RB||2 and 18||32 or 6 or 23||29|
|Sione Houma||FB||35||41 or 32||39|
|Terry Richardson||CB||3 and 6 and 9||9||13|
|Tom Strobel||DE||36||63 or 93 or 86||50|
|Willie Henry||DT||74||74 or 68||69|
Four out of 22 ain't…well yes it is. It was bad. This article is useless. Let's continue it anyway; I swear to do better.
Getting to know you. Each coach has his own tendencies with this so we'll get better at it in time. With Hoke, he seems to like having consecutive numbers in the same position group, perhaps for mentoring purposes because they sit next to each other in the locker room. It's far from a rule, but it's a trend. Carr rarely let a player share a specialist's digit, but Hoke doesn't seem to have a problem with it, for example Wormley and Hagerup share a number, and walk-on tight end Alex Mitropoulus-Rundus (I'm gonna just start calling him "Alex M-R") has the same digit as backup punter Kenny Allen. Rich Rodriguez was far more apt to share numbers, and the single digits were nearly always doubled up; Hoke has said in the past that he doesn't like doing that, and the practice has been limited—as of spring just 5, 12 and 34 had scholarship recruits in both numbers, adding 54 and 56 to those double-occupied by players on the two-deep.
The roster lies. The official MGoBlue.com roster still doesn't have DeAnthony Hardison, that nifty RB you saw in the Spring Game. He's #18. Also a practice insider told me Anthony Capatina is playing slot receiver, not "DB" as he's listed on the depth chart. Also weirdly missing from that roster is #79 right tackle Dan Gibbs (a Seaholm Mape!!!), a 2012 preferred walk-on whose twitter profile pic is him riding an oliphant:
Legends/Special #s: 1 because Braylon's scholarship killed the fun, unless Gallon gets it. It won't come as much of a surprise to you that 2 will probably be entering the Legends program this season. There will also be some push for 16, and I doubt it'll be assigned to an offensive player immediately. 11 for the Wisterts, 21 for Desmond, and 87 for Ron Kramer are currently open; it is likely they'll be assigned to veterans whose digits might then be made available if it happens before the season. Bennie's 47 and Jerry's 48 remain occupied by current players and there's no way a second guy will get them. And I've been told they're still working on the Harmon family with 98. Anyway they won't go to freshmen.
Already worn on both sides: 5 (Courtney Avery and Justice Hayes), 6 (Raymon Taylor and Brian Cleary), 12 (Gardner and Allen Gant), 13 (Terry Richardson and Alex Swieca), 15 (James Ross and Shaun Austin), 34 (Jeremy Clark and Brendan Gibbons), 43 (Chris Wormley and Will Hagerup), 54 (Richard Ash and Jareth Glanda), 56 (Ondre Pipkins and Joey Burzynski), 69 (Willie Henry and Erik Gunderson), and 95 (Anthony Capatina and Michael Jocz).
Available on offense only: 4, 7, 14, 18, 22, 24, 25, 30, 33, 35, 40, 50, 52, 53, 55, 57, 59, 66, 76, 92, 96, 97, 99
Available on defense only: 3, 8, 9, 10, 17, 19, 26, 27, 28, 29, 38, 39, 42, 45, 46, 49, 51, 58, 60, 61, 62, 63, 65, 67, 70, 71, 72, 75, 77, 78, 82, 84, 85, 86, 88, 94
Walk-ons with soft claims: Every year there's a Jon Keizer on the roster who thinks his number is safe, then some top running back recruit in the country (right: from Scout) runs him over with star power (dadada, didda-da diddadidda…). Scout teamers without scholarships often have their numbers taken, for example Charlie Zeller was 19 on the 2012 spring roster and Paul Gyarmati was sitting on 99, but Devin Funchess and Matt Godin nabbed those digits last fall. This year they are 15 (Shaun Austin—note that Ross has it on D), 18 (DeAnthony Hardison—note that Countess has it on D), 27 (Jon Keizer), 36 (AJ Pearson—note that Kerridge has it on O), 42 (Dylan Esterline), 46 (Clark Grace), 49 (Brad Anlauf), 51 (Bobby Henderson), 59 (Mark Lawson), 63 (Ben Pliska), 66 (Dan Liesman), 70 (Kris Mateus), 79 (Dan Gibbs), (91 (Alex M-R, though Kenny Allen wears it too), and 95 (Anthony Capatina and Mike Jocz). The other walk-ons I didn't mention (Dever, Cleary, Glanda, Burzynski, Reynolds, Allen, Gunderson, Jocz and the Glasgows) are either on the two-deep already or in the mix.
Currently unused: 20, 23, 31, 32, 37, 41, 44, 64, 68, 73, 74, 80, 81, 83, 89, 90, 93, π
You just said Pi. We're Michigan fergodsakes. All the constants—φ, ζ(3), α and δ, Euler's e, γ, λ, K, r, and Ω—ought to be fair game, and if someone takes √-1 and uses the nickname "Impossible" he will be my favorite for ever and ever.
EVERYBODY LET'S ALL BE #7!!!
|Name||Pos.||HS #||Tea Leaves||Best Guess|
|David Dawson||OG||71||Wore 55 in Under Armour game, 33 in Army AA game.||55* - His Twitter acct is David Dawson 5⃣5⃣|
|Reon Dawson||BCB||1||Wore 13, 24 and 1 in high school.||31 - seems to fit.|
|Jaron Dukes||WR||8||Twitter handle is @Jaron_Dukes8||83*
|Chris Fox||OL||73||Wore #13 (?) at Army AA game and #33 at Rivals 5-star challenge||73* - Guy likes #3|
|Greg Froelich||OG||77||Wore that and 75 in high school (preferred walk-on)||76 - Not exactly Steve Hutchinson.|
|Ben Gedeon||MLB||15||James Ross is already James Ross.||45 - David Harris's # but precludes punt coverage.|
|Derrick Green||RB||27||Wore 27 in Army AA game.||27* - call it a hunch. Sorry Keizer.|
|Delano Hill||Nk/FS||11||Looks like he's 40.||32 (Kovacs's other #) or 23|
|Khalid Hill||FB/TE||32||Very Kevin Dudley of him.||32 or 23|
|Maurice Hurst||NT||50||Wore #11 in Semper Fi Bowl.||68 - Mike Martin's #|
|Da'Mario Jones||WR||11||Wore #7 in that photo of recruits in white M jerseys. #15 at MSU camp. Same school as Tony Boles, who wore 42 at Michigan but had 18 touchdowns so...||14*
|Patrick Kugler||OC||57||Wore 57 at UA game. Dad and bro wore 57.||57 - O'KUGLER RULES!|
|Jourdan Lewis||CB||1||Also wore #17 at Cass Tech, #27 at Army AA game.||17 or 3 or 37.|
|Mike McCray||SAM||9||Wore #9 at UA game. Father wore 99 at OSU||9* - He and Dileo both likely to be on special teams, but not the same groups.|
|J.J. McGrath||K||13||preferred walk-on||35 - Or some kicker number.|
|Shane Morris||QB||12||Gardner switched, so...||7 - he already tweeted it.|
|Henry Poggi||3T||7||Wore 17 at UA game. Was given #7 locker in May. Plays jazz flute.||70 - Ross Douglass already took 7.|
|Dan Samuelson||OG||74||Photo out there of him wearing a Nebraska 74 jersey. Twitter handle is @dansamuelson74.||74 - it's available.|
|Wyatt Shallman||FB||49||49 is available on defense.||33* for his DCC teammate who passed away.
|Deveon Smith||RB||4||Is a 4-star?||4 - It's open.|
|Blaise Stearns||WR||1||Townie: Can't find what he wore at Huron before transferred. Preferred walk-on||89 - Doesn't exactly get 1st pick.|
|Channing Stribling||FS||8||#22 commit to the class.||8* - It's open|
|Scott Sypniewski||LS||56||Wore #45 at his long-snapper camp.||41 - Who cares.|
|Jack Wangler||WR||21||Dad wore #5 at Mich (preferred walk-on)||16*
|Csont'e York||WR||1||Was #667 at NFTC||81 - With an eye toward dropping the 8.|
Go ahead and make your guesses. We'll have our answers in a few weeks.
* UPDATE: After I posted this Magnus alerted me to his post of numbers that have already been revealed. I had some good guesses. I crossed out my comments if the guess was wrong.
You may be aware that the Big Ten has not been too good at football of late. You are probably also aware that Ohio State and Michigan are locked in a titanic struggle for the sexiest recruiting class, one featuring players like Jabrill Peppers, Vonn Bell, Derrick Green, and Jalin Marshall. The opposing sides in The Game had top five recruiting classes last year according to the 247 composite rankings, with OSU second and Michigan fifth. So far this year Michigan is first and Ohio State ninth.
Meanwhile, the rest of the league is flailing. The next Big Ten team on the list was #22 Nebraska; #30 Penn State—NCAA-crippled Penn State—followed. That concludes our list of Big Ten teams with better-than average recruiting classes amongst the 60 or so BCS teams.
Here is a team that finished higher than all but the mentioned Big Ten teams.
Kentucky. A team that stopped releasing attendance numbers. Mississippi State, Vandy, Baylor, and Virginia beat all these teams plus Penn State out. It was not so good out there last year.
Surely that's a flu…
Kentucky has six OH commits. Non-MI/OSU B10 combined: 7.
…mother of God. Everyone on that list has a Big Ten offer from a school that has been something other than a depressing blight on the idea of sport during the last ten years. (Ok, it depends on how you classify Illinois. They went to a Rose Bowl, but also: Illinois.) What's more, Tennessee has gotten in on the raiding, snatching three kids out of the Midwest.
What follows is a brief survey of the Big Ten's footprint recruiting areas. Prepare for carnage. Before we start, I should mention that despite being under extraordinarily punitive NCAA sanctions, Penn State has four-star recruits from Delaware and North Carolina and is currently holding on to a top 20 spot in the rankings. They'll slide back down to where they were last year before things are said and done because they will have a tiny class, but Penn State is retaining its recruiting cachet as well as—probably better than—they could have hoped. Once they're out from under the yoke they should quickly excise themselves from Little X talk.
Nebraska, too, consistently recruits at a level above most of the rest of the league even if they're off to a poor start this year. This is more about the conference's traditional middle class.
DeShone Kizer's top three is Alabama, LSU, and Tennessee. He has an offer from only the latter.
Ohio State is going for half of the 16 consensus four-stars, with six already in the boat and the probable acquisition of the two main Glenville kids this year. Michigan has one, Michael Ferns. Northwestern has one, Dariean Watkins. The four other guys are probably headed to Alabama or OSU (Derek Kief), ND or Kentucky (Darius West), Louisville (Daniel Cage), and somewhere in the SEC (DeShone Kizer).
Yes. There is one four-star in Ohio who will head to a Big Ten program not named Michigan or Ohio State.
It gets worse. One of the next nine guys (QB Chris Durkin, MSU) is committed to a Big Ten school. Three are headed to Kentucky or Tennessee. None of the other five have publicly stated a leader but Kentucky and Louisville are involved with three and two more are up in the air.
It is likely that only two or three of the top 25 guys in Ohio end up in the rest of the league.
TOP 25, APPROX. NUMBER OF RECRUITS HEADING TO VARIOUS PLACES:
- OSU/M: 10
- L12: 3
- GTFO: 12
top 100 linebacker Nyles Morgan favors… Vanderbilt
Illinois is going to be chaos and depression for the middle class of the Big Ten. The top ten kids are either headed to the Big Two (Bunting, Westphal, and Jamarco Jones), committed to another conference (Watson, Helm, Wilbon), or headed that direction (Clifton Garrett, Nyles Morgan, and Dewayne Hendrix are all headed south). Northwestern is the only L12 team to pick off a four-star kid from Illinois.
It's a little less grim as you head down to 25. Northwestern and MSU have five of those guys, OSU has one, and it looks like a few more will end up in the league. The top is just a disaster, though.
- OSU/M: 3
- L12: 10, 1 of them in the top ten
- GTFO: 12
Three of the four consensus four stars are off the board to M/OSU with Malik McDowell strongly expected to join the club. Michigan also has #10 Moe Ways. The Big Ten held on to most of the other guys in State except Chance Stewart, who bizarrely decommitted from Wisconsin and chose WMU shortly thereafter.
- M/OSU: 5
- L12: 4
- GTFO: 1
Michigan remains loyal, if a little talent-sparse.
Dominique Booth's top four: Tennessee, FSU, Vandy, Alabama.
The top player in the state has no Big Ten teams in his top four; OSU is the only one on the list of #2. ND and OSU have 3 and 5 committed, respectively. Louisville and Kentucky are heavily involved with #4. The next five guys are still fuzzy, with Purdue favored for a couple, if only because they seem interested while others are not.
- OSU/M: 2
- L12: 2
- GTFO: 6
if Dravon Henry stays in the B10 it will be at OSU or PSU
Pennsylvania has always been more up for grabs because anyone from the Eastern part of the state doesn't think of the Big Ten as local, so it's less of a surprise when things have a more national feel. Even so, only Penn State has made any headway in PA. They have 3 of the top 20. Michigan has one, and then Temple, BC, WVU and FSU also have one. The rest of the Big Ten? Zero. 247 projects that number will stay at zero, with Pitt, OSU, and Michigan cleaning up.
- OSU/M: 4
- L12: 8, almost all of them to Penn State
- GTFO: 8
WISCONSIN AND SMALL STATES
The top five players in Wisconsin are committed to the Badgers. Good job, Wisconsin. Here are some cheese curds for you.
Iowa is doing similarly well in Iowa, with three of the six guys 247 rates committed, and a fourth probably on the way.
Nebraska has a commit from one of the two guys they've offered in-state and should get the second.
Minnesota has a soft verbal from the top kid in the state and may lose the second; everyone else is not the kind of recruit that would make Minnesota anything other than Minnesota.
THE NEW FOOTPRINT
Big Ten schools not named Michigan and Rutgers have zero of the top 20 in NJ. Penn State has the #5 kid in Maryland, and that's the only B10 commit in that State. Maryland is supposed to get a couple, and PSU may get a couple more.
This is where I mention that recruiting is not destiny. Wisconsin has never been particularly good at it in the eyes of the gurus but has turned themselves into a major program by keeping everyone they have for five years—Bielema just had a class of 13 guys, because Wisconsin only had room for 13 guys—and hewing to a system that works for the kind of players they can access. It remains to be seen whether they can keep that going without a hand-picked transition like Alvarez-to-Bielema. Similarly, Michigan State's classes have been almost devoid of attrition and they have locked into a stable defensive style that has produced.
Recruiting is kind of destiny, though: Wisconsin has reached the last three Rose Bowls. It has lost all of them. Witness any Big Ten program against Alabama. Football is random and rankings are not perfect, but if you're at the bottom any success you have is pushing uphill.
The slope of that hill is about to become alarming. It bodes unwell for the Big Ten's middle class that the gap between themselves and the heavyweights is growing, especially when it comes not only from the two at the top improving on historically good classes but from the meat-and-potatoes kids they've relied on for so long opting to leave the conference. Every kid in Ohio who opts for Kentucky or Tennessee or Louisville is virtually irreplaceable for programs whose recruiting reach outside the Midwest is limited to scrabbling for guys without Vandy offers.
Northwestern is the exception. With their committed niche offense and recent success they'll be a thorn in the side of anyone whose defense can't handle the spread. If they can just get their defense to middling, it's on in the West.
Michael Ferns, Da'Shawn Hand, and Ian Bunting at last weekend's Columbus NFTC (via)
[Reads Between Lines] [Tries To Hold It Together] [Fails]
So... this quote [emphasis mine]:
"Bud Foster is my favorite coach, but I haven't talked with him in a while," [Da'Shawn] Hand said.
"But my favorite coaching staff is Michigan," Hand said. "With Michigan, what you see if what you get. It's professional. With some, you feel like when you get to college it might, change, but with Michigan, everyone says they're straight.
According to the author of the article, SBNation's Bud Elliott, Michigan and Virginia Tech are "running neck and neck" for the lead in Hand's recruitment. Hand refuses to acknowledge even that much—he's says he enjoys the suspense—and he does have an unofficial visit set up to Alabama in July and is looking at trips to Florida, LSU, and USC, per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($). That said, his only planned official visit thus far is to Michigan, for the Notre Dame Game (a trip he recently locked in), and of the previously listed schools only Alabama appears to be a serious threat to his presumed top two.
One school we know for sure won't be pushing for his commitment is Ohio State, despite a campus visit last weekend that went better than his first trip to Columbus:
With the NFTC on the Ohio State campus, Hand took the opportunity and made an unofficial visit to the Buckeyes, along with friend Tim Settle, one of the top players in the class of 2015.
'It was straight, we talked," Hand said. "But I was with Tim, and he's a beast, and it was kind of his visit. Everyone knows that my first visit wasn't all that, but this visit was better. Still, I don't want to get anyone's hopes up."
Meanwhile, Hand revealed in an interview with Bruce Feldman that he's being recruited by at least one insane person:
Q: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you since you've been named the nation's No. 1 recruit?
Hand: Well, I ain't gonna say any names, but one coach told me that since I'm the No. 1 player, I'm gonna get to meet Michael Jackson. I said, "Isn't he already dead?" The coach goes, "Well, all right, you can meet Tito." I was like, all right. OK, I'm done.
It was crazy, but it is what it is.
all hypothetical internet dollars entire real-life savings account on Les Miles]
In the SBNation article, Hand said he's unsure of his timeline for a commitment. Regardless of when that comes, he told Feldman the announcement will be low-key:
I don't want to be like everybody else and be all flashy and do this and play around with people. For my commitment day, I just want to have it at my school. I'm not going to have three hats. I'm going to have one hat. I'm gonna call the coaches the night before. Tell them what school I'm going to and that's it.
At this point, it's looking more and more likely that hat will have a block 'M' on it. Which, uh, would be pretty nice.
[Hit THE JUMP for more on newest commit Chase Winovich, the latest on Artavis Scott and Adoree' Jackson, a Michigan commit earning an invite to The Opening, and more.]
The Omen. Trey Burke had a crazy-good final high school season, and so did Derrick Walton. Then Trey Burke started putting videos of his summer workout regime on youtube. Derrick Walton's doing that too:
That step-back makes 'em say uhn. Michigan's going to be just fine at the point this year.
Reiterating. Brady Hoke was on Rich Eisen's podcast, wherein he reiterated Jake Ryan's timetable and said some other things:
On incoming freshman tailback Derrick Green being in the mix this fall: "Oh, he'll be in the mix, and Fitz (Toussaint) is healthy now. (Toussaint) is unbelievable how he works (coming off a broken leg). We'll find out (about Green). Like Michigan, you earn it, you earn it every day. You're evaluated every day. We're excited about Derrick, we're excited about that whole class."
Hoke says there won't be another Ten Year War, which lies. Also, only incompetent germans:
On some good things coming out of Ohio: "There's a guy named Schembechler who was from Ohio. We have Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard from Ohio, and the head football coach at Michigan is from Ohio."
We're #1, locally. Nebraska paper averages everyone's finish in Big Ten sports, comes out with Michigan on top by a significant margin:
If there is a Big Ten sport, Michigan has a team for it.
And it's likely a pretty good team.
The Wolverines' average Big Ten finish for 2012-13, among their 25 men's and women's teams, was 4.04, tops in the conference.
Nebraska's 21 teams had an average finish of 5.57, good for sixth place -- the same spot the Huskers occupied in 2011-12.
Minnesota was second with 4.43, Ohio State third. MSU was 10th, Iowa last.
Surprise. The 2015 Big Ten schedule is an inverse of the 2014 one, except I guess in terms of order. Michigan's docket:
- OCTOBER 3: @ Maryland
- OCTOBER 10: Northwestern
- OCTOBER 17: MSU
- OCTOBER 31: @ Minnesota
- NOVEMBER 7: Rutgers
- NOVEMBER 14: @ Indiana
- NOVEMBER 21: @ PSU
- NOVEMBER 28: OSU
Unfortunate bye timing. Not too worried about that @ PSU/OSU double bill since Penn State will still be in the meat of their sanctions at that point.
Peppers peppers peppers peppers peppers. If Jabrill Peppers's last name was Buffalo, that would be a sentence. Instead it is just a lead-in to Sam Webb profiling Mr. Peppers in the Detroit News. Peppers had a rough background—as you probably know, his dad has been in prison for going on ten years—and came through it:
"My brother (Don Curtis) was actually in (the street life), but that was the main person who sheltered me from it," Peppers explained. "He was my role model even though he was not doing what he was supposed to do. He kept me from doing the things that he was doing. I actually wanted to be out there with him. I didn't have a male role model in my life, so he was the closest thing to one. I was looking up to him so I was fighting every day, but every time he saw me out there in the street he would tighten me up and tell me to go home. He would tell me, 'This is not how (you're) going to do it! This is not how (you're) going to live (your) life.'"
His brother was murdered in 2010. The whole piece is highly recommended; it's going to be easy to root for him. Not that I have problems rooting for bionic supermen anyway.
Hello Hopkins. The Big Ten adds Johns Hopkins, which conveniently gets them to six lacrosse teams (M, OSU, PSU plus the two new additions). That's the minimum for an autobid and, like hockey, lacrosse is a minor but burgeoning sport that can fill airtime on the BTN. Hopkins is one of the sport's all-time great powers with a ludicrous 44 national titles, but once they missed the tourney this year for the first time since 1971 they decided something needed to change.
Hopkins is an academic powerhouse, of course, and since its only DI sport is lacrosse their addition doesn't do anything except set the Big Ten up as a power conference. The Big Ten wanted JHU pretty badly, as they allowed them to keep their current deal with ESPNU.
Hope. Brian Kelly on the M-ND series:
"We'd like to play each other," Kelly said. "I don't think it's ending. Give us some time to make it work."
I have my doubts since Notre Dame is stuck with five ACC games year—but they're not in a conference—and now that Michigan has MSU and OSU on the road at the same time they no longer want but in fact desperately need a sexy nonconference game in even years, when ND is away to USC and would prefer a home game against a marquee opponent themselves.
The dumbest thing Gordon Gee said. I know, I know, but where does your head have to be at when Rutgers is doing what Rutgers does right now and you drop this:
The blocking strategy is that we simply have now put the ACC in an almost no-win position. So who do they immediately go to? Louisville.
Yes. A no-win position in which they bring in the defending national champions in basketball and a BCS-bowl-winning football team with a fevered fanbase. Calling Bret Bielema a thug who was going to get fired after three straight Rose Bowl appearances is a strong #2, I'll grant.
Etc.: Yes in fact the Denard injury does hurt your heart. Indiana game at 3:30. The CJHL is coming down hard on teams in their purview that damage the NCAA eligibility of their players. Denard in Jacksonville. Free shirts for everyone. Scouting Tim Hardaway in preparation for the NBA draft. Lol rutgers.
Jefferson Hills (PA) Thomas Jefferson linebacker Chase Winovich got his first offer from Pitt, and his home-state school appeared to hold the early edge in his recruitment ($):
Thomas Jefferson has sent four players to Pitt since the recruiting class of 2007, and Winovich knows about that pipeline. In fact, it's not hard for him to imagine himself joining it.
"I see the talent they have produced; my neighbors are the Nix brothers, and I watched them and the DeCicco's play at Pitt," he said. "Personally, I love Pitt. I love the coaching staff, I love Pittsburgh, I'm a hometown guy. I want to keep my options open but I can't really find too many flaws in Pitt. I'm looking at them a lot."
Childhood favorite Ohio State offered in early April and immediately vaulted to the top of his list ($):
"This really changes things for me, and I have to say it's a dream come true since I'm an Ohio State fan," he admitted. "I'm not ready to commit right now to anyone, but Ohio State is in my top-three. I can't deny that I love it, and it's going to be tough to find a school that will top Ohio State."
"Pittsburgh was the first school to offer me and they're right in my backyard, so they're a favorite of mine," Winovich added. "I'm still looking for that third school and I'm not shutting anybody out right now."
A short time later, Michigan came through with an offer, and after two visits to Ann Arbor—the second for the Spring Game—the Wolverines made a serious move of their own ($):
“Michigan is definitely in my top three,” he said. “The only reason they really weren’t before was because they (hadn’t) offered. It would have been them above Ohio State, but obviously they hadn’t offered me at that point. It hurt that they didn’t offer before Ohio State got involved, but I’m just happy they’re in now and they’re definitely in my top three. I’m excited about them.”
At various points over the last month—heck, the last week—insiders from all three schools have been confident that Winovich was leaning towards their program, despite him never publicly naming a leader. Today the speculation ended as Winovich announced his commitment to Michigan, according to multiple outlets.
|3*, #28 OLB||3*, #29 OLB||3*, 78, #30 OLB||3*, 87, #49 OLB||
3*, #41 OLB,
The scouting services are almost eerily in lockstep when it comes to Winovich; 247 is a slightly low outlier, and otherwise Winovich is placed just inside the top 30 outside linebackers in the class. Going by position rankings, Winovich is four spots away from a fourth star on Scout and ESPN, nine spots away on Rivals, and 21 on 247.
The services have a general consensus on Winovich's measurables, pegging him at 6'4" and around 215 pounds; his own highlight tape lists an updated weight of 218 as of last month. The Wolverines recruited Winovich as a strongside linebacker, and that frame fits the mold for the position.
In-person scouting of Winovich is pretty scant at this point; if he hit the camp circuit before his junior season, nobody wrote about it, and in the lone camp he's been to this spring—the Rivals Camp Series event in Pittsburgh—he and fellow commit Michael Ferns were overshadowed by less-heralded prospects ($):
The biggest names at the linebacker position coming into the Pittsburgh Rivals Camp were four-star Michael Ferns and three-star Chase Winovich. While both prospects had solid performances, they were outdone by lesser-known linebackers during Sunday's competition.
Neither future Wolverine made the top ten defensive performers list, so no further details are provided on what constituted a "solid" showing.
ESPN sees Winovich as an outside linebacker all the way, praising his "long, sturdy frame," sideline-to-sideline range, and tackling ability. They also like his instincts...
Quick off the mark showing outstanding downhill ability vs. the inside run. Maintains good leverage on the ball and isn't fooled by misdirection. Although he needs to become a more physical take-on guy, his quick hands allow him to shed and get off blocks. Demonstrates the quickness, balance and agility needed to avoid blockers and make plays in tight spaces. Moves through traffic very well, showing excellent sideline-to-sideline range. Has the playing speed needed to chase down ball carriers when in long pursuit.
...and ability to drop into coverage or come on the blitz in third-down situations:
Shows the ability to open his hips, turn and run. Demonstrates good underneath route awareness with a closing break on underneath throws and screens. Will need to gain experience as a coverage defender. His ability to run and make tight turns indicates potential as a man coverage defender. Displays very good blitz timing with a burst to the quarterback. Developing a repertoire of moves is a must.
Areas for improvement are the usual: add muscle, refine technique. After an almost entirely positive rundown of Winovich's game, ESPN says he has "very good potential" ... as a special teams player, though they do note the possibility of early situational playing time.
247's Clint Brewster took a look at Winovich's junior film and came away very impressed, listing only bulk and pad level—natch—as areas for improvement; the rest sounds quite good ($):
[H]as an instinctive first step and blows plays up before they even happen. Winovich plays with outstanding aggression and is very explosive. He has excellent speed and can make plays from sideline to sideline. Winovich has enough speed to chase down running backs far down field. He does a nice job of using his hands to shed blockers and scraping to get to the ball carrier. Winovich is really long at 6-foot-4 and can really get in between passing lanes. He is excellent when dropping into coverage. Winovich can be a force coming off the edge as an outside linebacker and can really close on the quarterback. He is very good at finishing off his opponent when he tackles. Winovich has great form tackling.
Caveats about scouting based only on film go here—they're called "highlights" for a reason—but after looking at individual game cut-ups from Winovich's Hudl page, I see a lot of the same positives that Brewster does.
The coaches have made it clear to Winovich that they like him on the strong side, going so far as to show his film side-by-side with Michigan's current standout at the position ($):
“Coach Hoke wasn’t there (last time),” Winovich said noting the difference between visits. “The environment was a lot different. All the players were there this time, I got to sit in with the coaches and really discuss everything about me and my future there, and they seemed more excited about me this time around. Kurt Mattes the film guy there he put together a (video) at the request of Coach Mattison. It’s this film of me one play and then Jake Ryan the next play, and then it goes back and forth every other play. It showed how comparable we are. (Ryan) would do one play and then it’d be the exact same play or scenario (with me) on the other side. It was really cool seeing the comparison.”
Winovich has a very similar frame to Ryan—who was listed at 6'3", 220 lbs. as a recruit—and displays a lot of the same athletic traits, especially in his ability to explode off the snap. Whether he can maintain that athleticism while adding 25-or-so pounds (Ryan is now listed at 241), not to mention develop Ryan's maniacal playmaking ability, is a question that won't be answered until he's on campus for a couple years.
As for the "would you let him date your daughter?" test, here's an excerpt from a Chantel Jennings article($) on Chase's relationship with his older brother, Peter, who played for Bowling Green from 2004-2008:
But there were similarities for many years. Peter took up baseball, so Chase did, too. Peter took up basketball, so Chase did, too.
But Chase went on to become student body president. Peter never did that. And Chase decided to start taking piano lessons last year. Peter never did that, either.
“As much as I like him following in my footsteps, he has definitely always done his own thing,” Peter said. “With football I think there was a lot of pressure on Chase … and he has been able to do it and do even more in his own way, so that has been awesome.”
Winovich's offer sheet included Arkansas, Florida State, Michigan State, Mizzou, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pitt, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. That's a pretty impressive list for a consensus three-star; it will be interesting to see if Winovich moves up the recruiting rankings during his senior season, as college coaches seem to be seeing something that the recruiting services aren't at this point.
Thomas Jefferson High School boasts five WPIAL (Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League) Class AAA titles, including three straight from 2006-08, as well as state championships in 2004, 2007, and 2008. The Jaguars have produced six recruits rated three-stars or higher in the Rivals era; four of those players went to Pitt, including four-star prospect and current Oakland Raiders guard Lucas Nix.
Via Scout ($):
This past season, Winovich helped his team to a 11-1 record, another conference title and an appearance in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals. He earned first-team all-conference honors, finished with 69 tackles, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
FAKE 40 TIME
247 lists a 40 time of 4.65, which appears pretty reasonable when you watch Winovich's film—he's got great straight-line speed for a linebacker prospect. I'll give it two FAKEs out of five.
Winovich's first step, play diagnosis, movement in traffic, and tackling ability all stand out on tape; you can see that linear speed at the :29 mark when he chases down a perfectly set-up slip screen from behind to save a touchdown.
Again, you can see much more of Winovich on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Winovich is destined for the strongside linebacker spot; when he gets to campus, the only returning players at the position will be a senior Jake Ryan and a redshirt freshman or sophomore Mike McCray. While Winovich appears likely to need a redshirt year to add weight and learn Greg Mattison's defense, he should be in the mix for playing time as early as his redshirt freshman season, and at the very least should contribute on special teams.
I've had Michael Ferns projected as a strongside 'backer in this space before, but my guess is he'll come to campus as an inside linebacker with Winovich in the fold; Ferns has the versatility to play inside or outside, while Winovich is more of a pure outside type.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan now has 11 commits in the class of 2014 and should be finished recruiting linebackers with Ferns and Winovich in the fold. The Wolverines currently have room to take ~15 players in the class, though that number should swell to around 20 when all is said and done. The main targets moving forward are SDE Da'Shawn Hand, 3-tech/SDE Malik McDowell, slot receiver Artavis Scott, and a trio of highly-ranked defensive backs: CA ATH Juju Smith, CA CB Adoree' Jackson, and IL CB Parrker Westphal, with the latter the most likely to end up in the class. They'll also likely take one more offensive lineman, though the top candidate for that spot is less clear—IL OL Jamarco Jones is the highest-rated target and has Michigan among his favorites, but Ohio State is presumed to hold the edge in his recruitment.
The NCAA repealed a longstanding prohibition on multi-year scholarships a couple years back. Uptake has been surprisingly slow, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette details:
…nearly two years after that legislation, multiyear scholarships are rare, not publicized by universities and largely unknown by the athletes. According to data of 82 universities at the Division I-A level obtained by the Post-Gazette through open records requests, only 16 have offered more than 10 multiyear scholarships. Thirty-two of the universities have offered between one and 10, and thirty-four have not offered any.
Ryan Squire, the associate athletics director for compliance at Illinois, remembers that when the legislation was passed in 2011 many schools "were all calling around saying, 'What are you going to do, what are you going to do?' And they said, 'We're kind of going to hope other schools aren't doing it.'"
Ryan Squire can get away with saying that because Illinois is an exception to the rule, giving a "majority" of its athletes four-year deals. Fresno State has gone all-in. Michigan State has gone four-year-exclusive in football. Most everyone else has tried to avoid the topic altogether.
This is an issue that shouldn't exist at all anymore. Schools should no longer have a total limit of scholarship athletes in any sport, but rather yearly caps that encourage retention instead of summary execution. In an environment where every stakeholder with an ounce of power is busy holding down costs that aren't administrator salaries, that's never going to happen.
There is a point in time during which the students have the power: when they're being recruited. If Jabrill Peppers wants a four-year deal at Michigan, or anywhere else, Michigan will trip over itself to get him the proper paperwork. If a marginal recruit isn't offered one, he knows the deal. The common theme in these stories, however, is that players—and I imagine by extension their parents—are at best vaguely aware of the terms of their scholarship:
"The multiyear, the first one, I think," said Boyd, a Clairton High School student who signed with the Panthers in February.
He thought about it for a moment longer. He then asked his coach, Tom Nola. Boyd reconsidered. In fact, he thought, his scholarship lasted for only one year with a renewal option.
"I've never had a parent bring it up to me and I'm around a lot of people," says Montour High School football coach Lou Cerro. "I'm not sure why the NCAA and the coaches are keeping this a secret. It doesn't make any sense."
"I'm not sure," tight end Brent Wilkerson said. "I hope I'm on scholarship for four years."
Penn State safety Malcolm Willis said he was on a renewable scholarship and preferred it this way, saying, "you have to earn your scholarship."
“The bigger failure is not that the school isn’t adopting” multiyear aid, John Infante, a former compliance officer at Colorado State University, told us, “but that we’re not seeing this market develop where kids know there is the potential for multiyear scholarships and negotiating for that.”
So what to do?
Well, isn't this somewhat on recruiting reporters? Recruiting reporters are the number one avenue that recruits have to express themselves in the media; I'd guess the ratio of reporter contact to coach contact most recruits have is 10:1. Coaches are obviously loathe to mention the possibility of multi-year aid; reporters shouldn't be.
But I have literally never seen an article in which the reporter asked whether Recruit X is seeking a multiyear scholarship and which schools are amenable to that request. Not only is that information interesting, but by asking the kids you get the kids to ask the schools and hopefully chip away at the gap between the rules and recruits' knowledge of them. This goes triple for anyone covering Michigan State or Illinois or Fresno State (if recruiting reporters covering Fresno State exist), schools that will look on that sort of question as beneficial to their interests.
Ask the kids about which schools are offering them four-year rides, and the mystery of slow uptake will resolve itself either way.