chance of bowl: 13.6%
Remember, all-time updates can be found on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. If you have any recruiting tips or questions, you can e-mail them to me at email@example.com or tweet @varsityblue. For game updates on Wolverine commits, check out the F riday Night Lights series.
This week, Wednesday Recruitin' goes overview. This isn't a comprehensive list of prospects that are considering Michigan, but a look at several of the more likely guys to end up in the Wolverines' class. Tom published a Best Guess list last weekend, as well.
UMGoBlog has an interesting interview with FL QB Commit Kevin Sousa (at right), in which he says he's not hearing from Michigan as much as he'd like:
He'll visit Middle Tennessee State this weekend [10/24]. He will also visit Louisville and Wake Forest later in the season and hopes to get two more officials planned soon.
"My commitment to Michigan is the same as their commitment to me. I want to be their guy but I was also told that they are going after another quarterback. "
That quarterback is obviously NC QB Marquise Williams, who visited for the Michigan State game (and is up for the National Player of the Year award). Williams is committed to North Carolina, but one must assume he's not particularly excited about suffering through 3-4 years of severe NCAA sanctions, so that commitment is soft.
Whichever guy Michigan ends up with, it's likely there will only be one quarterback in this class when all is said and done.
FL RB Demetrius Hart is committed, but Michigan is still pursuing a couple guys who could play running back or slot receiver.
NJ Slot Miles Shuler is still considering Michigan, and was recently named to the Army All-American game.
With OH WR AJ Jordan coming off the board to Wisconsin and VA WR Quinta Funderburke headed to Arkansas, there are dwindling options at outside wide receiver in this class. It appears the Wolverines want another wideout only if it's a top guy, but definitely want to take a tight end.
FL WR Chris Gallon (at right) has started picking up interest from some of college football's big boys, including the Wolverines:
"I'm considering all schools that have offered right now [Colorado State, Memphis, FAU, BGSU]," said Gallon, who visited Florida Atlantic last season. "My cousin (DeAndre Williams) plays at FAU and he likes it a lot and we both pretty much like the same thing."
Michigan, Nebraska, USF, Miami and Iowa State have also shown an increased interest in Gallon, who leads the Panthers with 317 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns on 15 catches.
Gallon is yet another member of the Dr. Phillips group, and if Michigan continues to pick up interest, Dee Hart could help secure his commitment. Gallon is a tall wideout, listed between 6-4 and 6-5, and he could end up as a tight end if he lands with Michigan.
Fluff on FL WR Sammy Watkins, including the tidbit that Michigan sent coaches to watch his game on Friday (teammate Dallas Crawford is mentioned below).
There are a few more tight end prospects considering Michigan, such as recent visitor Drew Owens, but it seems like the Wolverines will have to wait to see how it all shakes out.
The Wolverines are stockpiling linemen in this class, with Jack Miller, Tony Posada, and Jake Fisher already committed, and a couple more realistic prospects out there. Only one or two more will probably land in this class.
IL OL Chris Bryant has scheduled his Michigan official visit ($, info in header) for December 10th.
Michigan may be in dire need of a defensive tackle or two in the class, and they're going hard after a few guys.
FL DT Tim Jernigan, who visited a couple weeks ago, has dropped Florida - who many presumed to be his favorite - from his tops schools list, and now has a top four of Michigan, LSU, Florida State, and Alabama.
The Wolverines are getting renewed interest from DC DT Kevin McReynolds.
Though the Wolverines already have OH DE Chris Rock and MI DE/LB Brennen Beyer committed, they're going after other defensive ends (which could mean Rock ends up at defensive tackle).
Freep fluff on MI DE/OL Anthony Zettel, whom Josh Helmholdt calls "arguably the top prospect on left on [sic] their board." He keeps pushing back his decision timeframe:
He expects to start taking official visits once his senior season is complete and decide following those trips. Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Iowa and USC appear the most likely at this time to receive official visits.
It seems as though the Wolverines still lead, and as long as they're able to win a few more games this year, things look pretty good for Zettel.
Serious fluff on GA DE Ray Drew. He's a much more likely option if his buddy, GA S Avery Walls, picks the Wolverines.
PA DE Deion Barnes will visit after the season, and won't decide before January.
TX LB Kellen Jones and OH/VA LB Antonio Kinard are both in Michigan's class already, but the Wolverines are still in need of some LB talent.
NC LB/WR Kris Frost has a top four of Auburn, Michigan, Florida, UCLA, and Cal
OH LB Sean Duggan has Michigan in his final four, but has put the recruiting process on hold until after his season.
He also has a mid-season highlight reel that can only be watched on Youtube. Morgan is currently a 3-star prospect with offers from a few MAC schools and Boston College.
VA LB Travis Hughes has eliminated Michigan.
Michigan is looking for at least one true safety in this class, and maybe more.
GA S Avery Walls and FL S Wayne Lyons are two prime candidates to fill that spot, with Walls receiving a recent visit from Greg Robinson.
FL S HaSean Clinton-Dix and Karlos Williams are both committed to elsewhere, but will consider Michigan (unlikely though it may be that they actually switch commitments).
Local fluff on LA CB Daren Kitchen and his buddy Jermaine Johnson, a Memphis commit. The article says that schools are waiting to evaluate Kitchen against better competition, which is an accurate assessment, methinks.
Michigan is no longer on the list for VA CB Demetrious Nicholson.
Josh Helmholdt talks early offers in the Free Press, and concludes that the (idiotic) change in NCAA rules hasn't slowed that process down.
Michigan has only offered a couple quarterbacks in the class of 2012, but it seems that one of them, FL QB Bennie Coney, can't seem to keep himself out of trouble. With the negative PR swirling around Ann Arbor, I doubt Rich Rodriguez would be able to take a chance on this kid.
I talked about OH QB/Ath Demitrious Davis last week, and his teammate William Mahone is looking at Michigan as well ($, info in header).
Fluff on IL OL Dan Voltz. With a commitment coming at the end of his junior season, the lack of a Michigan mention probably means the Wolverines don't stand much of a chance.
PA OL Tyler Alt will visit Penn State for the Michigan game this weekend. He's already been to Ann Arbor this fall, and is very interested in the Wolverines.
OH DE Chris Wormley (at right) is the subject of last week's Sam Webb column in the Detroit News:
"It is Michigan and Ohio State at the top," stated Wormley matter-of-factly. "I don't really have them one-two right now, but they are definitely at the top."
At this early stage in his recruitment Wormley remains wide open to overtures from any schools. However, it is abundantly clear the Wolverines and Buckeyes have a few built-in advantages that will make them major players in his recruitment until the very end.
As you may recall, Wormley received his Michigan offer at the Iowa game a week ago, and conventional wisdom - even among Buckeye fans - has him eventually landing with the Wolverines.
One topic that was brought up during your WTKA segment today regarding special teams was, "what happened to the kickoff return game?' You never addressed it during the segment, so I thought I would throw this at you.
I haven't done my Mgoresearch, but wasn't there a rule change regarding kickoff return team blocking? IIRC, the NCAA has limited the number of return team players allowed in a blocking wedge or wall.
I would have to look up video from previous seasons, but I believe U of M utilized a 3 man wall in front of the returners with Kevin Grady and others.
David is correct: the NCAA banned wedge blocking this offseason, which at least partially explains how an effective kick return game has disintegrated. If Michigan was really good at the wedge and now it's gone they're starting over. That doesn't explain why they're really bad, but does get you to average.
That lack of effectiveness and Darryl Stonum's increased importance to the offense make his removal from kick returns less annoying than it was earlier in the year. With Odoms out there's not much depth on the outside and Stonum wasn't getting any returns; it's possible that one-cut-and-go type stuff is less effective and kick returners should be shiftier guys closer to punt returners.
What do you think of Devin Gardner's expected plea for a medical redshirt? It's suspicious he's only played 1/3rd of the season and is eligible for the redshirt. If this is RichRod bending redshirt rules for an extra year of eligibility from Devin, isn't this a bad thing, like Saban's redshirts? We're not gaming the system for more scholarships, but we are gaming it for a competitive advantage, right?
The difference is that I'm sure Devin Gardner is 100% on board with getting a fifth year of eligibility. The Alabama players "encouraged" to take a medical scholarship would like to keep playing football and are being presented with an involuntary choice: transfer or medical, take your pick. I'm not too concerned about skating the edges of NCAA rules when it doesn't have a negative impact on the student-athlete the entire enterprise is supposed to support.
The timing is convenient but unless Michigan has an inordinate number of medical redshirts per year I'm not sure the NCAA would even bat an eye at a documented injury. Like, say, this:
That looks like exploitation. Michigan's pattern probably isn't that blatant, so what can you do when they say he was hurt?
Finally, concerns about looking bad to the NCAA are overblown. The worst thing that can possibly happen is the NCAA says no.
The future of defense. Many questions answered piecemeal:
One of the potential "benefits" of having so much youth on defense is that they could potentially lock down their positions for years. If that happens in any cases, can you explain whether there is any positional flexibility with this 3-3-5 alignment we're using?
Could Carvin move to FS?
Doubtful. His strengths and weaknesses make him an excellent fit for the spot he's at right now and not so much of an excellent fit at FS, where speed and raw athleticism are more important. Not that our current FS has those in buckets, but moving Johnson doesn't really solve that issue.
How is Marvin going to see the field if he's behind Kovacs? (who expected us to say something like that?)
Possibly by trying out free safety? This is the weird thing called "depth."
Could Furman or Hawthorne see the field anywhere?
Hawthorne is the third team spur behind two guys younger than him. The most likely career outcome there is special teams only. Furman is likely to move to OLB, where he'll need another year or two of seasoning before breaking through. Remember he was super raw out of HS.
Would Roh move to a true DE in this scheme or stay in this hybrid LB situation?
He's already a DE (mostly) against conventional teams. Michigan is a 4-3 or 3-4 base against conventional pro-style sets and Roh puts his hand down more often than not. So the question is really "will Roh play DE against spread teams next year?" That depends on how Jibreel Black, JB Fitzgerald, Brandon Herron, and other OLB/DEs (Wilkins, Paskorz, Furman) develop. I think the ideal situation sees Roh add another 10-15 pounds over the offseason to hit 265—he's listed at 6'5"—and becoming a full-time DE. Before Herron went down Michigan was using him as a 3-3-5 DE to good effect against Notre Dame, and we've all seen him struggle in space against Indiana.
Roh will probably remain a hybrid against pro-style teams, playing clunky LB when Michigan drops into the 3-3-5.
Could Cam Gordon move down to another spot?
If you can find a suitable replacement at free safety, but who's that? Kovacs? No. Floyd? Really bad tackler. Vinopal's made a lot of hay out of one play against Bowling Green but remains a true freshman as well. Ideally he'd move down to spur or bandit (or even OLB) but unless Michigan snags someone ready to start at FS from day one it's hard to see him relocate.
That's why the recruit I'd most like to get in February is JUCO safety Byron Moore, who qualified out of high school and transferred away from USC after a redshirt season to get playing time and scout out a new destination not being cratered by NCAA sanctions. As a big time recruit two years removed from high school with a year of PT under his belt, Moore is the closest thing to a quick fix at FS Michigan will ever have.
But wait, there's Woolfolk, right? Well a bit more on him later.
How do you see the open positions being filled in 2011 on defense to see if there's hope? I assume Jones and Demens will be the LB (backed up by Ryan, Bell, and any freshmen)
Yes, though Jones might field a challenge from parts unknown. It's hard to see anyone displacing Demens if only because there almost literally isn't anyone behind him on the depth chart at the moment.
I assume Black will be the DE (backed up by Heninger and the RS-Freshmen)
Yes, unless they go with Roh there—Black will find plenty of PT platooning—and Herron/Fitzgerald at the other OLB spot. With the lack of depth at DT that might be a way to spot Martin with RVB from time to time, as well.
Does Woolfolk automatically go back to corner or deep safety? I assume corner, but with the time Avery and Talbott are getting could he be better served protecting the deep ball?
Up in the air, something that will be decided based on the potential acquisition of Moore, Gordon's play the rest of the season, and how things work out in spring. Right now I'd say corner since Michigan plays a ton of cover three and none of the freshmen looks like they should be starting next year. Even if one of them develops quickly you'd like to have some depth at corner for nickel and dime packages.
And then there's this:
I liken the "Angry M hating God" to Yukon Cornelius and Hermey Scrivello from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
For instance, the M defense is the Bumble, ready to devour talking reindeer and #1 wide receivers accross the land. Then Yukon and Hermey show up unexpectedly and ruin everything. They rip out your teeth (Woolfolk) and force you to do stupid shit like hang Christmas ornaments or run only zone because you have lost the only thing that instilled fear in your opponent.
Our defense is the Bumble without teeth. Right now our pass defense is being shoved off a cliff every week until we grow new teeth or we realize we have claws to gouge the eyes of our opponent. I'm just sayin'.
I have nothing to add.
For live updates of the games I'm attending, follow me on Twitter @varsityblue. If you can help out finding articles on any of the commits, @reply me on Twitter or e-mail me, and I'll try to include your contribution.
MI DE/LB Brennen Beyer
Last week: Plymouth defeated Adrian 48-7. I was there, so enjoy some MGoBlog original video:
Beyer had 2 catches for 50 yards (and another 29-yarder, a would-be touchdown, called back on an illegal formation penalty). Defensively, he had 3 QB hurries, 3 tackles (1 for loss), and a pass deflection.
For scouting purposes, the video is only semi-useful. Adrian mostly stayed away from Beyer defensively until the game was out of reach, running to the opposite side of the field and rolling their quarterback out in that direction. On the other side of the ball, Plymouth was having no problem moving on the ground, so they didn't pass a whole lot.
The effort shown in the video is sometimes underwhelming, but the vast majority of the clips are from when the game was already in hand, so Beyer was taking it a little easier to avoid injury.
One thing that I noticed in this game (that I hadn't noticed last time I saw Brennen play) is that he has a pretty odd physique, with short legs but a very long torso. I'm no scout, so I can't tell you how that translates to defensive end at the next level (I would guess it's a good thing), but it does make him look a little funny running routes as a WR.
This week: The 7-2 Wildcats host Saline in Round 1 of the State Playoffs on Saturday at 1pm.
FL RB Demetrius Hart
Last Week: Dr Phillips beats Oak Ridge 56-28.
Dee Hart scored four touchdowns for the Panthers (7-0, 3-0 in 6A, Dist. 6) and Nick Patti threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. Hart finished with 120 yards on 20 carries.
That rushing performance takes Hart over 1,000 yards on the year. The article also included video:
Stats below from the Dr. Phillips website.
|Demetrius Hart 2010|
|Cypress Creek||W 52-0||14||168||4||12.00||1||7||0||7.00||3||24||0||8.00|
|Oak Ridge||W 56-28||21||126||3||6.00||4||37||1||9.25||1||5||0||5.00|
This week: Dr. Phillips travels to Gateway on Friday at 7:30.
MI WR Shawn Conway
Last Week: In the season finale, Seaholm defeated rival Groves 21-7.
No mention of Conway in the game article, and Misopogon reported that Seaholm didn't even throw his way. [Ed-M: In the first half, during plays when a gaggle of teeny boppers weren't trying to shove past each other in front of me -- I missed plenty of plays]
|Shawn Conway 2010|
|N Farmington||W 26-6||4||32||8.00||1||3||137||45.67|
|Country Day||L 21-28||3||62||20.67||0||3||32||10.67|
|Hazel Park||L 10-30||2||7||3.50||0|
This week: Seaholm's season is over, with a 4-5 record. Conway finished the year with about 22 catches for 375 yards, and 11 kick/punt returns for 393 yards.
OH OL Jack Miller
Last week: St. John's defeated Toledo Waite 42-6.
This week: 8-1 St. John's travels to Toledo Central Catholic on Friday at 7.
FL OL Tony Posada
Last week: Plant defeated Alonso 34-7.
Plant offensive tackle Tony Posada sat for the first quarter on what Weiner termed a "coach's decision," and then was pulled from the game at halftime for precautionary reasons after tweaking the MCL in the right knee he recently came back from.
No word on the nature of the "coach's decision," but from the sounds of things it may have been injury-related.
This week: 6-2 Plant has a bye week. They'll face Chamberlain in a couple weeks.
MI OL Jake Fisher
Last week: In the regular season finale, TC West bested rival TC Central 51-42.
"What a redemption," defensive end Jake Fisher said. "It feels really good."
This week: 6-3 Traverse City West travels to (heavy favorite) Rockford in Round 1 of the State Playoffs on Friday at 7pm.
OH DE Chris Rock
In the first half, DeSales leaned on its special teams. Midway through the first quarter, Chris Rock blocked a LaSalle punt, giving DeSales the ball on the 11-yard line
This week: 5-5 DeSales travels to Cleveland Benedictine on Saturday at 7pm.
TX LB Kellen Jones
Last week: St. Pius X beat Kelly 35-7 in a rematch of a game from earlier this year. Jones had 9 tackles, 2 for loss, and a sack, his coach tells Tom. Kellen's dad also e-mailed Tom a local news feature from earlier this season:
|Kellen Jones 2010|
|Trinity Christian||W 33-7||11||5||1||0|
|Worthing||W 20-12||DNP - ankle|
|St. Thomas||W 28-10||11||3||1||0|
|Houston Christian||W 37-13||9||3||1||0|
This week: St. Pius rematches Houston Christian on Friday at 7:30.
OH CB/S Greg Brown
Last week: Fremont Ross defeated Lima Senior 28-3. Brown caught a touchdown:
Ross would get the ball back once again, as Kori Campbell would recover a fumble, and the Little Giants would cap the scoring with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Wolf to Greg Brown to put the game away.
The Fremont Ross Forum Blog has no mention of Brown.
This week: Ross hosts Sandusky Friday at 7:30.
MI CB Delonte Hollowell
Crockett (8-1) threw a scare into Cass on its first play when it completed a double pass for 59 yards. Defensive back Delonte Hollowell, who committed to Michigan, caught receiver James White from behind.
“We had to ball up after that,” Hollowell said. “We were expecting them to give us competition but we came back hard.”
Next Week: The Technicians host Detroit Southeastern in Round 1 of the State Playoffs on Friday at 5. Cass Tech won the teams' previous meeting this season 42-0.
FL QB Kevin Sousa
Last week: Lake Nona had a bye week.
|Kevin Sousa 2010|
|Oak Ridge||L 0-48||6||13||46.15||34||2.62||0||1||7||31||4.43||0|
|Lake Wales||L 6-42||14||21||66.67||199||9.48||0||1||13||64||4.92||1|
This week: Lake Nona visits Tenoroc on Friday at 7:00.
Wait just a second. Yesterday it looked like Bolden would play this weekend, but today JoePa says he probably won't:
He was tested for concussion symptoms Sunday, Paterno said, and "still had some memory problems." He is scheduled for further testing Wednesday.
"If I had to make a guess, I’d guess he’s not gonna make it," Paterno said. "But that does not mean that I know what I’m talking about."
I did not add that last bit in for the lulz, Paterno really said it. Or the Centre Daily Times put in for the luz. One of the two. Without Bolden Penn State reverts to their summer depth chart:
In this case it appears that starting Sheridan is the right move. McGloin is walk-on Forcier; Newsome is slow Justin Feagin. If Bolden does not play, the Penn State game goes to 100% must win for Rodriguez. Also my sanity.
Law those suits up yo. This is the best lawsuit against the NCAA ever:
A class-action lawsuit was filed against the NCAA in an effort to change the policy that places a one-year limit on athletic scholarships and subjects them to an annual review.
The plaintiff hails from an unlikely place for a pissed-off cut player to come from: Rice. Joseph Agnew was a defensive back who claims his scholarship was "cancelled" but he was allowed to maintain it one more year after appealing.
His suit challenges not only the one-year limit on scholarship commitments but the whole 85-scholarship cap. I'm wildly in favor of changing the former and allowing NCAA programs to offer 2, 3, and 4-year commitments that only the player can voluntarily terminate. Putting the level of a school's commitment in writing would go a long way towards preventing Saban-like overstocking; what remained would at least be explicit and less surprising. I'm less enthused about getting rid of scholarship caps but wouldn't mind too much since the end result would be more money headed towards players instead of coaches.
This is the NCAA's goofy defense of itself:
"However, it should be noted that the award of athletic scholarships on a one-year, renewable basis is the more typical approach taken within higher education for talent-based and academic scholarships in general."
While this may be true, no one's running around prohibiting people from offering longer commitments.
Speaking of Alabama. This guy has nothing to do with anything and would have been in TWIS if the MZone had run across him yesterday but they did not:
Sometimes the combination of cheap video cameras, college football, and youtube is… well… it's something.
Burke workin'. 2011 PG commit Trey Burke is playing well enough to get hype on the internet:
Burke continues to deliver and proves to be not just the best guard in Central Ohio, but the best player. He impacts every game in a significant manner, but in most cases, he impacts every possession. Burke knocked down big shots, scored driving to the basket, and even rebounded the ball very well from his guard spot. It seems like every event or game we cover of Burke’s the Michigan commit knocks down a big shot.
Those guys even "coin Burke as 'Baby Big Shot'," which verb noun object.
Missing on Dom Pointer leaves a nasty hole in that class but the two guys Beilein locked down seem well above the standard set by his first class. If there's some hope on the court this fall Michigan should be on a steady upward trajectory the next few years. Which is kind of a crappy spot to be in going into year four but there it is.
The shirt. Tim put this up in the press conference recaps, but to re-iterate:
"He's doing well. His back has been a little sore, so he's been a little limited." RR couldn't answer whether he'll try to earn a medical redshirt this season, and be a redshirt freshman next year.
I will answer this: Gardner will try to get a medical redshirt like whoah. The rule is 30% of the season rounded up, which is four games in football; Gardner did not play after the BGSU game. This is simultaneously tragic and wonderful, since 2014 should feature redshirt senior Devin Gardner instead of anyone else. The Year of Incessant Pleas/Complaints About Devin Gardner's Redshirt is now mercifully over, NCAA permitting.
Meanwhile, Ricardo Miller is probably laid up with a back injury or tendinitis or flying monkey syndrome since he inexplicably appeared on kickoff coverage against UMass and hasn't seen the light of day since. I assume Michigan will ask for a medical redshirt for him as well.
Let’s start with a piped-in, pre-play musical montage of AC/DC, Moby, and various Euro-trash Trans music that was combination of minor league hockey meets random Greg Davis play-calling. Marching bands are college football, leave that two turn table and a microphone bulls-- to glowstick infected raves and HenryJames wedding receptions.
…to the inexorable march of time and disintegration of all things, but mostly college football programs. That last link tries to figure out whether Mack Brown is John Cooper or Jim Tressel and settles on "both."
Taking stock during the bye week. Previously: secondary.
Following straight on the heels of the secondary preview, the linebacker preview caused more stomach-twisting agony at projected incompetence. Craig Roh was covered as a defensive lineman, leaving Mouton, Ezeh/Walk-on, and Freshman Spur Rotation the guys covered here.
Mouton and Ezeh were lumped together as close to interchangeable backers and given a two, except it was actually Mouton and Moundros evaluated as starters. Doom was projected at MLB:
…"sparsely deployed walk-on fullback to starting middle linebacker" is as much of a flashing sign that says DOOM as anything I've ever seen.
On the other hand, during the Illinois game last year Ezeh actually ran out of a hole Juice Williams was about to enter with the ball so he could chase after a running back. It looked insane, causing me to dig out the "run away" bit of "Janie's Got A Gun" and the fake Magic card you see at right. By the end of the year whatever hope remained for Ezeh was vestigial indeed; merely having options other than him could maybe possibly hopefully slightly improve matters?
All that was offered in hope was "Ezeh won't get worse and if he's replaced the guy doing the replacing will be better than him." When it came to address the backups, I was expecting "some" improvement from Ezeh thanks to the exit of Jay Hopson and the usual leveling up that comes through experience. The Enigmatic Kenny Demens was indeed dubbed The Enigmatic Kenny Demens; the tea leaves were not encouraging on him because he'd gone from pushing for a job in spring to all but absent in fall.
Mouton was declared a wildly inconsistent guy hopped up on bad angles but theoretically capable of becoming a "ruthless Crable-like playmaker." That was just a theory, though:
Unlike the situation at middle linebacker, it seems within the realm of possibility Mouton's light goes on and the talent he's flashed the past couple years turns into an All Big Ten kind of season. To deploy a cliche, he is the X factor, the guy with the greatest possible variance in his play on the defense. I'd settle for a return to his 2008 level; he is capable of more. There's a 25% chance he's awesome, a 50% chance he's okay, and a 25% chance he gets benched.
Mike Jones came in for the most pub as a backup.
His [Johnson's] recruiting profile picked him out as a true sleeper likely to exceed his relatively modest rankings based on local praise and late SEC offers, and while my usual heuristics lead me to be skeptical about a true freshman beating out a redshirt freshman with nary a fourth star to be seen, I've just got that feeling—what's it called—you know—optimism. Optimism enough to throw this position a 2, anyway. While two less-than-touted freshmen are not likely to be average Big Ten players in year one, I don't think we'll be looking back at 2010 and saying "oh God, what about that mess at spur."
Fast forward to NOW!
Mouton has settled into the broad 50% level where he is okay, in no danger of getting benched or making an All Big Ten team at year's end. He's come in for clucking on two separate Picture Pages wherein tailbacks got outside of him despite having a clear mandate to maintain contain. Despite this, he's been in the black most of the year on the UFR chart and has turned in some huge positive plays:
Mouton leads the team in tackles and is in a big pack of guys with around 5 TFLs. Though he hasn't made the senior leap he was capable of he is appreciably better than last year and is going to get some NFL team to take a swing at him in the draft.
Ezeh managed to hold off the challenge from Moundros largely because when Moundros came in he looked exactly like you'd expect a fullback to look at linebacker. The problem was that Ezeh looked like a fullback, too:
At this point it's almost hopeless. What are the chances Obi Ezeh learns how to be a linebacker in the last ten games of his career if he's still making incredibly basic mistakes like that after starting for three years? This has nothing to do with scheme. This is basic play recognition/ability to remember how to make your legs go. … The ugly fate foretold by the "Mark Moundros could start" preseason meme appears to be coming true.
That was after Ezeh scored a –8 against a I-AA team. That may have been harsh but if you're arguing that a –8 against UMass for a senior middle linebacker is really a –4 you're really just arguing about how obvious his future benching is. Frustratingly obvious, or eye-bleedingly obvious?
It was apparently the former. Ezeh hung onto his job until the Michigan State game, when a bizarre scheme that saw him fly out of the center of the defense on two long MSU touchdown runs was replaced by the usual thing where he was asked to read and react and did only the first:
The MSU game was finally enough. Michigan turned to The Enigmatic Kenny Demens, who'd been enigmatically buried on the depth chart. Placed on the field he hit the right gaps, made a number of tackles at or near the line of scrimmage, and could not be fingered for anything particularly negative that went on. Contrast the above clip with this:
I've got plenty more of the first clip to prove the trend. Demens hasn't seen enough time to prove anything but at the very least he's suggested he's already an upgrade as a sophomore. It wouldn't have taken much.
At spur it has been super boring. Johnson got knocked out of the UConn game and missed the next few weeks. He's reclaimed the starting spot after healing but he and Gordon alternate so much that it's hard to tell who is who. It doesn't help that neither of them has done much of anything good or bad. The hope was that maybe Cam Gordon would be able to pull the Brandent Englemon 1-0-1 this year. He hasn't come anywhere close, but the spurs are doing almost exactly that. Between them they have 25 tackles, 3.5 for loss and the one impressive sack of Dayne Crist.
Is that good? On this defense it qualifies. A couple freshmen are not huge issues. The 2 they were handed in the preview seems about right.
Fast forward to LATER!
Mouton is what he is at this point. He'll use his combo of size and speed to nail down a fair share of impressive plays; his iffy angles and pursuit will open up the outside and cutbacks. His pass drops have gotten much better. He's probably going to end the year as Michigan's leading tackler and have maybe 10 TFLs. He's not a star. He's not a liability. Except he's both. It all averages out to an average-ish Big Ten linebacker.
Rotating Spur Freshman should improve as the season progresses and the collective's eyes get less wide, but it's hard to see a lot of plays from Johnson and Gordon until 2011 when one of them can get a solid grip on the job and can focus on doing a bit more than not screwing up. But they're not screwing up—or at least not screwing up much compared to other spots. One negative: they must be iffy in pass coverage in practice if the exploitable nickel package has persisted this far into its erratic 2010.
The upside in the unit comes in the form of The Enigmatic Kenny Demens, who turned in a legitimately good—not good-for-being-not-Ezeh—game against Iowa. It is highly likely he is better than Ezeh right now. It is unlikely he is as good as he showed against an Iowa team that IIRC did not run a counter or anything other than straight zone blocking all day. Where he falls in that continuum from Linebackers Obviously Better Than Ezeh to Legitimately Good will have a huge impact on Michigan's rushing defense the rest of the way.
Prediction accuracy to date: Pretty good, though the preview punted on making a call on Mouton and was taken in by whatever it was that caused Demens to plummet down the depth chart.
Level of play relative to prediction: Slightly optimistic, as Ezeh didn't seem to be any better this year than last.
Expected level of play for remainder of season: Somewhere between slightly and considerably better than predicted depending on how sustainable Demens's play is and how much of an upgrade Carvin Johnson is over Thomas Gordon. The guesses here: 70% sustainable and not much of an upgrade.
Ready to get back on the field. Had a week off to relax. "I don't know if I can wait. I'd rather play right now. We'll see on Saturday how we come out."
"I can't put nothing on nothing. I was out there playing so I can't blame it on my shoulder." The injury can't be blamed for any of his interceptions.
"We've been treating it every single day so I feel 100% better. Ready to rock." Doesn't care if he gets held out of games if the team's winning. Trainers kept him out against Iowa in the second half.
Will Campbell: "He's gonna be nice, he's gonna be nice at offensive guard."
On helmet-to-helmet hits: "I think we should just go out there and play football." Don't limit the physical play too much. "I just try to avoid them, I guess."
The coaches told him to improve his decision making in the bye week. "Not rushing it, just calm down." Ran too hesitant in the past couple games. "Making the read faster."
Team's coming together a little bit more in the bye week. "We train harder, we practice harder, we play harder. More as a team and a family than last year."
"We could have prevented all of those turnovers. Just simple mistakes. You live and you learn, you can't make the same mistakes twice."
"I don't like talking at all. I love to lead in examples." Would rather show than speak up.
"Cam Newton, I mean he played a great game." Doesn't know him personally.
Didn't watch much football for enjoyment during the bye Saturday - just a bit of future opponents to get some info on them.
Health and attitude can be improved during the bye week. "Very excited. This bye week pretty much got us back on track." Mentally and physically, the team is better ready to go. "Just being more hungry."
Hopkins is different than Smith or Shaw: "Inside. He's a better downhill runner."
Fewer mistakes coming up? "Yes, obviously. This bye week helped us look at all the mistakes we had, and correct them." Worked on small things this week, which they may have been overlooking in the week-to-week grind of the past few games.
Slot WR? "I like being in space, out in wideout, at running back, any way for me to get the ball and I'm free in space."
100% over his knee injury.
The night game is "Taking me back to my high school games when I always played on Friday nights, so I'm pretty excited about it."
Campbell and Washington "We always joke about those two switching them back and forth." He played DT kind of like an offensive lineman. "He can be a really really good offensive lineman. He's athletic, he's big, he's strong." Washington is a big hitter, so "I'm pretty excited to see what he can do against some other teams."
Team's leaders didn't address the team specifically in the bye week. The team just worked on fundamentals. "It was good to get a little rest this weekend... kinda recharge the battery and get ready to go."
Jibreel Black and Taylor Lewan are some young guys who are impressive. Lewan - "You just got to try to calm him down." Was a little too fired up against Iowa. "He has energy which is good, he's just gotta learn to control it and use it between the whistles."
Schilling only has 5 games left to finish his Michigan career. Wants to complete it the right way.
On Penn State: "It's a fun place to play, that's for sure." The night atmosphere is a bit different. "It's loud in there, it's hard to hear." The no-huddle might not be quite as affected with signaling.
Fun game in a great place to play. Feed off the increased excitement of the crowd at night games. Excited to get back out there. Watched PSU play on Saturday. Nice to see the tempo of the game. "I get more out of watching film, but I do get something out of watching the live games."
"Every team in the NCAA has bumps and bruises. A week to heal them is great." Feels very refreshed after the bye week. Points of emphasis during bye week: fundamentals, making the right reads.
"Obviously on Saturday we can prepare a little bit more because it's a bit later of a game."
"We've been making steps this whole season." May not correlate on the field yet, but they're making improvements on D. "You can definitely see things that we're doing better now that we didn't do at the beginning of the season." Reading keys, breaking faster on the ball. The team has guys who want to be good, and are willing to put in the time, which will prevent another collapse like last year.
Quinton Washington - "I thought that Quinton should be playing defense about a month ago. He's got that aggressive manner that's good for defense." It's going to take some time for him to get comfortable there.
Kenny Demens: "great athlete, great build. I think he's doing great with the opportunities he's getting."
Mike Martin is an amazing athlete, can fight through double- and triple-teams.
"We just keep looking forward, looking ahead. We try not to think to much about the past. Just try to stay positive and always have a good attitude."