Today's recruiting roundup discusses the Michael Ferns commitment, recruiting in Ohio, SEC sketchiness (surprise!), and more.
You Keep Toledo, We'll Just Take These Four-Stars, Thanks
The big news of the day is obviously the commitment of OH LB Michael Ferns, and the full Hello treatment went up this morning. If you were lurking on the board last night, you witnessed historic levels of excitement, at least if duplicate posts are any indicator:
(Screenshot via MGoUser a2_electricboogaloo)
Maybe it's best to sit the next couple plays out, kaykay. As for Professor X, well, no words do this justice.
Anyway, Sam Webb caught up to Ferns in the aftermath of his commitment, and the newest Wolverine explained his thought process in making an early decision:
“I think when I went back (to Ann Arbor) the second time for the barbecue, I felt good about making the decision,” Ferns admitted. “After that you just kind of look out for the academic stuff focusing on fixing my junior schedule up to graduate early my senior year. After that I was ready to go.”
“Michigan just stuck out to me. After that second visit up there it kind of really stuck out more. I felt good the whole time I was there. I felt great and I knew it was time to make the decision.”
Ferns is all set to enroll early, so he'll be on campus in... 16 months. Criminy.
Michigan's first 2014 commit doesn't just represent a four-star from Ohio, but a four-star from Ohio with an Ohio State offer. It's always great to see The Other Brian surface over at Genuinely Sarcastic, and he emerged last night to detail Brady Hoke's remarkable recruiting run:
Since June 10, 2011, basically 14 months, Brady Hoke has landed eight (8) players from the state of Ohio who held Ohio State offers:
- 2012 DE Tom Strobel
- 2012 OL Kyle Kalis
- 2012 DE Chris Wormley
- 2013 S Dymonte Thomas
- 2013 LB Mike McCray
- 2013 RB Deveon Smith
- 2013 LB Ben Gedeon
- 2014 LB Michael Ferns
In the previous TEN classes COMBINED, from 2002 to 2011, Michigan landed seven (7) players from Ohio with OSU offers:
- 2003 LB/DE Shawn Crable
- 2003 S/LB Prescott Burgess
- 2004 DE/TE Mike Massey
- 2005 WR Mario Manningham
- 2006 OL Justin Boren
- 2008 TE Kevin Koger
- 2009 DB Justin Turner
Well, then. Buckeye fans can somewhat justifiably point to Tressel's firing to explain the 2012 class, but with Urban Meyer fully in place by the time the 2013 cycle started, that line of reasoning only goes so far. There's no question Hoke is doing a better job on the recruiting trail than RichRod could manage at Michigan, and he's also in the process of blowing Lloyd Carr's classes out of the water, largely because of his unprecedented success in Ohio.
In a nice coincidence, Rivals released an article today breaking down which states do the best job of holding onto their five-star talent. When it comes to Rivals five-stars, Michigan is #2 in the country—behind only the black hole that is Mississippi—at keeping them in-state for college, with only Ronald Johnson (USC) escaping among the seven five-stars since 2002. Will Gholston was the only in-state five-star to head to MSU, so the Wolverines have historically done a stellar job of locking up the best local talent. When the list expands to include all Rivals100 recruits, Michigan (as a state, so including MSU) is fifth in the country at retention rate, behind Alabama, Louisiana, California, and Mississippi.
By comparison, Ohio has produced more than twice as many five-stars—17 compared to Michigan's seven—but have only held on to nine of those players, all of whom ended up in a Buckeye uniform. Of the eight that left the state, two—Prescott Burgess and Kyle Kalis—landed in Ann Arbor. Of course, a state that produces more high-end talent will naturally have more competition for those players, so the results of this study aren't exactly a surprise.
Nope, Nothing To See Here
This all sounds very legitimate indeed:
The Darius Paige case has entered the wait-and-see phase.
Paige, a senior defensive tackle who has verbally committed to play football at the University of Alabama, transferred to Foley High School in Alabama on Tuesday amid allegations that Crimson Tide assistant coach Jeremy Pruitt recommended he go to Foley because they could “take care of him academically.”
Paige was ineligible for spring ball at Washington High School in Penascola, Florida, and unless this is all just a remarkable coincidence it appears Alabama's coaches have encouraged him to transfer to a high school that gives him a better chance of qualifying. Alabama, of course, has no comment. Odds of the NCAA looking into this: slim. Blergh.
All I Need Is One Throw
MGoVideo has helpfully compiled all the Shane Morris bits from ESPNU's coverage of the Elite11 finals, which so far has focused on the first day of camp. Watch to see Trent Dilfer make Morris wait for the single throw that will determine the entire course of the rest of his career, or something:
Seriously, these guys make, like, 30 throws all camp. The relative rankings significance of an Elite11 throw versus a throw in a regular high school game is astronomically high, which is probably kinda dumb.
In other commit news, Gareon Conley and his Massilon squad scrimmaged against fellow Ohio power St. Edward (home of Kyle Kalis), and Scout's Bill Greene came away impressed:
Gareon Conley (Michigan commit) had opportunities to make big plays offensively, and just missed connecting with Kempt on several long throws. Defensively, Conley had great success locking up multiple offer wide receiver Anthony Young. Conley will play cornerback for the Wolverines, and could be ready to play early.
One of the most interesting recruits to watch this fall will be Conley, whose spot at #61 overall in the ESPN150 is far higher than at any of the other recruiting services; if his other rankings start to fall in line with ESPN, it'll be a great sign.
Not a whole lot of action on the recruiting trail this week, so this will be short and sweet.
The headline is more positive than the actual quote, but GBW reports that 2013 AZ WR Devon Allen is considering an official visit to Michigan ($). Allen was on campus the day before the BBQ and enjoyed his visit. While his father says they'd like to come up to Ann Arbor again in the fall, he also mentions the difficulty in arranging a flight that fits with Allen's schedule. We'll see where it goes from here.
2014 OH OL Jimmy Byrne told Tremendous's Mark that he has a top three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, in no particular order. Byrne is #3, one spot behind Ferns, on OhioPreps's top 25 prospects in the state of Ohio.
Two 2014 recruits have expressed interest in visiting for a game this fall: four-star OH ATH Dareian Watkins, a high school QB who could play either WR or DB in college($), and IN WR Dominique Booth, who camped at Michigan in June ($). Both players are hoping to earn an offer.
I'm not exactly sure why this is news as opposed to a foregone conclusion from birth.
News bullets and other important things:
- No word on Toussaint or Clark yet
- Full pads today
- Full scrimmage next week
“You know, fourth day, two days in shoulder pads and helmets, we have a lot of work to do. Tomorrow we get full pads, which we’ll obviously look forward to. We still have some guys, the freshmen with the bridge program coming in and out a little bit finishing up some classwork. I was happy with how we came out today. I thought we were pretty spirited and pretty physical, but when you look at the tape, you go back and you can tell it’s the fourth day in pads. Fundamentals are still a little rusty to some degree. We have to do a better job playing with leverage at the line of scrimmage. But the effort’s out there and the effort’s good.”
Toussaint and Clark?
“They’re still not practicing with the team.”
Are they at practice?
“They’re not at our practice, no.”
Are the in this building?
“I don’t know. Are they?”
I’m asking you. You would know better than I would.
Any better idea on a timetable?
Do you need five guys on the offensive line to gel or can you rotate a little bit?
“I think you can at times. You’d rather have five guys who understand each other and do a nice job with kind of that sixth sense that you have and how long he’s going to post a power scoop, those kinds of things. That’s part of it. But at the same time, ideally you’d like to have 8-9 guys that are pretty good football players for you.”
Is there any urgency to decide on the left guard position?
“You know, I don’t think so. I think Joey [Burzynski] has done a nice job, Elliott has done some pretty good things. I’d say it’d be urgent 10 days from now. ”
Is Chris Bryant still on the right side?
“Yeah. You know, Chris has done a nice job. He’s improved since last spring. I think he’s physically a little better off than he was before from a endurance, conditioning, weight, and all those things. He’s a guy that’s come along.”
How does Patrick Omameh look?
“Good. I’m happy with how Patrick has -- Patrick has changed his body a lot in my opinion. He’s one of the guys that you say, man he looks a little bigger, a little stronger.”
How are Craig Roh and Jibreel Black looking with the added weight?
“You know, pretty good. I think both of them, they’re pretty quick twitch guys, which helps, and it’s going to help them inside playing. They’re pretty athletic guys, probably more suited athleticism for playing inside, so I think both of them are doing real well.”
Does Jibreel have the ability to be a run stuffer?
“Well, we hope. We hope that becomes he has some athleticism and quickness that we have a chance to move him a little bit.”
How much have you worked on special teams, i.e. in the return game?
“We’ve worked hard. We always work hard on the punt team. That’s the most important play in football because the momentum shifts, the field positions and different things we believe can happen. So we’ve worked punting hard, and we’ve worked a little bit of punt return, and a lot of that is just getting some new guys accustomed to what you’re doing as far as your fundamentals. We’ve done some with our kickoff team.”
Have you identified a core group?
“It’s early still. I think Dan said there’s eight out of 11 a year ago on the punt team who are back. So you have to fill those holes, but you also have to have good depth, and that’s a big part of it.”
Have you noticed any of the seniors coaching up the freshmen during down time?
“Yeah. I think the seniors have really taken an active role in the young kids. We’ve got seniors living with freshmen at the hotel. We’ve got seniors who have mentored some, and juniors who have played a lot. I can specifically, because I work with Will Campbell -- how he goes about coaching those guys up and helping them out, has done a good job with it, but you see it all over the place.”
How much improvement have you seen from Denard?
“I think there’s a marketable [Ed: marked] improvement from the football standpoint, but probably as much as anything in my opinion is his leadership. I think that’s where he’s really taken a hold of it, and he’s playing a lot of snaps here. He’s been in a lot of games, a lot of big games, and I think the way he’s gone about his business, because he’s not one of those rah-rah guys. He’s got a lead in skin, but I think he’s done a nice job with it.”
How do you feel about your tight ends right now?
“Brandon [Moore] -- did some good things physically today. That’s one of the big things with Brandon that probably was his biggest weakness, was being physical all the time. I think he did that today pretty consistently. Kwiatkowski -- Mike is a guy who we can use a little bit as a second tight end. I think he’s better. There’s the two young guys who are getting some looks as much as we can right now. A.J. [Williams] is a 280-pound tight end. For 280 pounds, he does pretty well. A lot of people think we’re going to make him a tackle, but he can run. Funchess is a very athletic guy.”
Is 280 too big for a tight end?
“Depends on what you want him to do. And he runs well enough. I shouldn’t say surprisingly because we recruited him. We must have thought he ran well enough. But for moving that big body around, he’s not bad.”
Is that a place where a freshman might have to play due to your numbers?
“I think it depends personnel-group wise, because we can do a lot what we do with two backs and one tight end in the game, which is what we do with two tight ends in the game. Obviously in your short yardage and your heavier packages, you’d like to have two bigger guys. So it could be.”
Is there anyone who you’ve seen improve significantly from spring?
“I think Blake Countess continues to take a lot of pride in how he plays. He works awfully hard at it. There probably is more guys out there, but I get a little tunnel vision sometimes with the front, because that’s where the game’s played. I can see Patrick. I can see him. I can see Ricky. I think Will Campbell. I think Craig. I think Rich Ash has improved some. There’s multiple guys. Heitzman, who we redshirted, is playing a physical brand of football.”
Is that an attitude thing or a physical thing?
“I think it’s both. I think it all starts with attitude. In my opinion Blake is one of those guys who’s driven. He has a lot to prove yet. But he wants to be as good as he can be.”
How high are the expectations for the secondary with all four starters coming back, and where do they have to make the biggest improvement?
“Well I think we need to play tighter coverage when we’re playing coverage, whether it’d be playing zones in the different zones that we’ll play or when we’re playing man coverage. I thought at times we got too loose, especially on money downs -- third and four, third and five. The ball has to come out quick at times, depending on what you’re running defensively and understanding that part of it. I think Courtney being in there as a nickel, making sure we have enough depth there -- we have some guys who are back, but we need more depth.”
What have the seniors told you about their first couple years here?
“Really nothing much. I don’t ask. We don’t live in the past. We live in the future. So the only thing I really care about is what we’re doing daily.”
What kinds of transformations have you seen from Kenny Demens on and off the field?
“I think Kenny is a guy who’s probably more committed. Probably understands a little bit more about the team and accountability. I think he’s playing a little more consistently than he did. I know it’s only four days, but just from what I’ve seen.”
Is it a maturity thing with him?
“It always is. It is for all of them. Some guys, after a year, kind of get it and mature. Some guys it takes three years. Some guys it takes four years.”
What helped spur that change with Kenny?
“Well I think when you may be playing the last games of football that you ever play, I think that always affects a senior. So I think that’s part of it.”
How important is Kenny’s progress to the younger linebackers?
“I think from a leadership standpoint I think it’s awfully important. It’s nice to have a guy like Desmond back who’s played a lot of snaps. We don’t look at him as being a young guy. I think that helps. Hawthorne has made some plays in the past. I think that helps. And Joe Bolden coming in January. Because he’s a good football player. He’ll put some pressure on guys. ”
Is Demens understanding personnel formations better?
“I think they all do. A year ago, they’d line up early in the year where they probably wouldn’t understand where the strength of the defense was or the weakness of the defense and what you’re trying to accomplish. From a conceptual point, they understand better the concepts of why you call certain things defensively and why you align leverage-wise and those things.”
How important is it for Brennen Beyer to win the WDE spot outright so that you don’t have to put Jake Ryan there?
“I think it’d be great. I think it is important. Brennen’s doing a nice job. He’s changed his body dramatically since he arrived here. So I think that’s always a big part of it, but we’ll play Jake a lot in our sub packages … there’s a lot of similarities between them.”
How has the linebackers’ coverage improved since the spring?
“From four days into it, we thought the first three days, we thought they were doing a better job at the zone concepts we were using and breaking on the ball and getting themselves a little tighter to receivers.”
What do you want to see from your team tomorrow (full pads)?
“Well you always look forward to it. I want to hear football. I think that’s important because then the guys up front are getting off the ball and getting after each other, either creating some space for the back or we’re doing a good job of fitting the run. That part of it, and their attitude and how they come out and want to play for each other.”
Do you have a scrimmage situation tomorrow?
“I’m trying to think of the schedule. We probably have some situation. I don’t know which one it’ll be. But we’ll always have some situation. Look, these guys, the one thing they’ve learned is in no pads, they’ve learned to get after each other. They’re pretty physical. That’s a good thing.”
Do you know when your first full scrimmage will be?
“Probably not until middle of next week.”
Do you get a sense of a personality emerging in this team?
“I don’t know. That’s a good question. I haven’t looked at it that way. I believe that you find out probably sometime in camp. I can tell you last year’s team, when they really finally got it, in my opinion, was the week of the Illinois game. We had Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio. We were going to Champaign. [Illinois] had been playing pretty well. Lost a couple in a row before we got to them. I was going to take the pads off [the players] on Wednesday, and right before practice or before we meet, four of the seniors came up and said, ‘We practice in pads at Michigan.’ Once they said that, I knew we were going to be a physical football team the last three games.”
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, and DT Matt Godin.
|Cleveland, OH– 6'2",
|Scout||3*, #38 DT|
|Rivals||3*, NR DT, #59 OH|
|ESPN||3*, #97 DT|
|24/7||3*, #74 DT, #54 OH|
|Other Suitors||Illinois, Pitt, Syracuse|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace|
|Notes||Cleveland Glenville (Pierre Woods, Frank Clark)|
He also has a junior reel.
Willie Henry was probably the second-happiest guy in the world that Michigan struck out with its A-list targets down the stretch, with fellow late pickup Dennis Norfleet #1. Both guys got offers out of nowhere and are now at Michigan. But while Norfleet was on Michigan fans' radar as a guy everyone wished would get an offer, Henry was no more than a name when he popped up.
Recruiting sites weren't much more up on Henry than Michigan fans if the massive discrepancy between the weights they had for him (around 270 pounds) and the number he popped up on the roster with (302, then 314). Rankings and scouting reports are similarly sparse. ESPN's evaluation($) was chucked up at the end of November and lists him at 265(!) pounds:
…at times he shows a nice burst at other times he can be a beat late and needs strive to be more consistent in his get-off. He can tend to play high and needs to work to keep his pad level down. When he does work to stay low he can get overextended and needs to do a better job of playing with better bend and generating more power from his lower body when he engages blockers. … Displays marginal short-area change-of-direction skills. Henry shows flashes of being able to occupy blocks and at times be disruptive and we also would not be surprised to see him land on the offensive line in college, but either way he needs to keep improving and developing his technique to allow him to get the most out of his abilities.
They also really do not like him. The ellipses up there are constantly repeated questions about whether the guy knows how to play football. I think coaching types make way too big a deal about a player's technique in high school, especially at a place like Glenville that specializes in winning by massive talent acquisition, but the concerns expressed in that report are above and beyond the usual.
Meanwhile, Trieu knocks Henry's size and praises his quickness and skills…
Pass Rushing Skills
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Henry is an athletic player who is light on his feet, has good coordination and closing speed. He is disruptive and gets good penetration because he has good get off. He shows a good motor and foot speed in pursuit. He has to add some bulk and strength to be able to anchor against the run, but he flashes, makes some big plays in the backfield and is a good interior pass rusher.
…and I'm just like "what's going on, man?"
It's possible ESPN was working off of junior film, when he wasn't doing that well:
"You watch his film and you go, 'why isn't he ranked higher?'" Trieu said. "You also go, 'Wow, why didn't he have a ton more offers?'" …
"He just didn’t play much, didn’t really make an impact as a junior, and that happens at talented schools like Glenville," Trieu added. "He was a kid who just completely stayed off the radar until late. But, once you saw him play, you could tell he can really play.
"Michigan's getting a very good player, even if he isn't ranked like it."
But since there apparently isn't much junior film, this may be just differing opinions about how much technique matters. It's worth noting that Scout was the highest on Henry by a large margin, too.
Other analysts agree with Trieu's take on Henry as a guy with some penetrating upside. Helmholdt:
“He’s a kid who can play the three-technique on U-M’s defensive line, and that’s important in their scheme,” rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt said. “They need to add depth there, with Mike Martin leaving and no clear heir apparent. [ed: obviously Martin was not a 3T] He’s from a great program at Cleveland Glenville and shows good potential with a quick first step. That’s the first thing you notice. If he’s as big as he’s listed, he’d be plenty big enough. It’s just whether he can add strength and bulk. [ed: bulk is checked off] But from everything I see on film, he could be really solid.”
The quick defensive tackle boasts a 4.78 forty yard dash, and that is indeed his biggest strength - speed. I'm particularly impressed with how quickly Henry gets off the ball and penetrates into the backfield. There are multiple highlights where he sprints downfield when blocking. Not only does that show his speed, but it also shows effort. You can't teach speed, and when you combine that with desire, it's hard to stop. I like how hard he works and the way he celebrates after making good plays. It's pure excitement, but not the "look at me" variety.
The downside is the technique again—"very raw"—and a lack of recognition. Local scouting service MRS Ohio echoes:
Listed at 6'3-270, he uses his athleticism and quickness to beat offensive linemen. Really like the way he uses his hands to separate. Plays pad under pad. Needs to improve his change of direction, but his closing speed on his pass rush is excellent. He agrees that his quickness is his strength. A weakness is that he feels that he must play hard every down. Going both ways on a high level program is hard. He wants to play hard every play. Conditioning and pacing himself is important. Honestly, evaluating him, he does not take many plays "off."
Again we get some conflicting information about technique, but eh… it's technique. Finally, here's a random OSU fan:
I've seen Willie Henry play. He can be really really quick off the snap of the ball. He can penetrate into the backfield and be disruptive. He would not be good if you want him to just stand up and tie up blockers. A DC must allow him to penetrate and get into the backfield since that is his strength as a DT.
Excellent quickness and very very good speed for a DT. He also has a good motor.
You get the idea.
Henry entered the year with a smattering of Big East offers of which Pitt was the most impressive and added an Illinois offer during his senior year when he got a lot better. Steve Wiltfong noted Henry was Glenville's "most dominant" DL at the Herbstreit thing last year as he notched nine tackles, two behind the line, and said OSU was "monitoring him." Nothing came of that thanks to Penn State imploding and the incredible bounty of DL in Ohio last year.
When Henry committed people assumed he'd be a three-technique since he seemed to be around 270 and had a reputation as a penetrator. That assumption changed when he was listed on the roster 45 pounds heavier than anyone expected. At this point he's probably going to lose weight over the rest of his career, maybe to the point where he will be a viable three-tech. But the roster almost demands he plays at the nose.
There is Pipkins, of course, but the only other nose tackle on the roster next year will be Richard Ash, a guy who hasn't seen more than a handful of snaps yet and may never. Quinton Washington might slide down if he gets a fifth year, and Maurice Hurst might end up at nose tackle. Even if all those things happen, the roster makes more sense with Henry at NT than fighting Heitzman/Wormley/Strobel/Godin/Poggi/Brink/Wilkins for one of the two fairly interchangeable SDE/3T spots.
"Henry is a five-star player. But the three-star thing is somebody else's opinion of the kid. He was a five-star player for me for three years. Nothing kept him under the radar for me as a coach. To me, he was rated just as high as [four-star Ohio State wide receiver commit] De'Van Bogard. The recruiting thing is somebody else's opinion, and that's not the opinion that I had here."
Uh… but you didn't play him?
"Well the thing is we were looking at our numbers . We would like to have another defensive lineman and we watched the tape on him. This guy right here is a young man that really developed. His film jumped off the screen to us. This is a guy we want. "
Uh… but you thought Tommy Schutt was awful or something?
Not relevant but weird: if you do a Google Image Search for "Willie Henry" you get a lot of mugshots. Like… an unbelievable number of mugshots. Enough mugshots to make me want to start a "name with the greatest percentage of GIS results that are mugshots" competition.
Why Rob Renes? Renes was a nose tackle who made a living off of his ability to penetrate with a quick first step but was never the kind of annihilating force Mike Martin got to—at least probably not, I have not UFRed his career—and that's the prototype for a guy like Henry, who's not a battleship but seems suited for the nose more than the three-tech spot.
Martin is another comparable, but he came into Michigan a slab of muscle and exited looking like the Hulk. Henry isn't that sort of freaky wrestler guy. Another guy who he might remind you of if he hits the tippy top of his potential: Jerel Worthy.
Guru Reliability: Low. Henry had no profile before his senior year and emerged late. Apparently no camps.
Variance: High. The recruiting sites don't seem to have a good grip on him, the weight is variable, and Ohio State fans have noticed that Glenville kids frequently flame out or dance on the edge of doing so. Michigan's had a similar experience with Pierre Woods, who barely held onto his scholarship after a standout sophomore year, and Frank Clark, who's currently in alleged limbo. While not fate, it's a trend that can't be ignored.
Ceiling: Moderate. Sounds like he's got more penetrating upside than a Godin, and he's more naturally suited to a position as a squat 310-pounder. Not impossible to see him hitting an all conference level if Michigan rolls a natural 20.
General Excitement Level: Low-plus. Clear plan B recruit, comes from a place with a poor record of preparing kids for the rigors of college, and the extra weight is probably not a good sign. "Plus" since it does seem like he's an athlete and Michigan might be able to morph anyone into a pretty good DL these days.
Projection: Should redshirt. It's unlikely much of that 50 pounds is good weight, and there are a couple freshmen who should be ahead of him on the freshmen playing time pecking order. Past that, he's got a tough road. It's hard to see him surpassing Pipkins at the nose, but it's hard to see him starting elsewhere because Michigan really needs someone to rotate in for Pipkins when he tires, and he's the only other underclassman on the roster who seems to fit a nose tackle profile.
That's not all bad, since it seems likely he'll be a rotation guy. 2013 commit Maurice Hurst may end up at nose but seems more like a three-tech right now, which would leave Henry as clearly the best option for times when Pipkins is huffing on the sideline. Henry's not likely to start until he's a senior, but he's got a good shot at being the second guy in for a big chunk of his career.
As first reported by TomVH, St. Clairsville (OH) linebacker Michael Ferns committed to Michigan on Wednesday, becoming their first commit in the class of 2014. Ferns had recently named a top three that also included Notre Dame and Penn State, and a very positive unofficial visit for the BBQ at the Big House likely pushed him to make a pledge.
|NR MLB||NR ILB||NR ILB||
4*, 93, #5 ILB,
Only 247Sports has released rankings for the class of 2014, so our lone national data point for Ferns has him pegged inside the top 100 prospects overall and top five at his position. All save ESPN list him at 6'3", 235 pounds—ESPN has him 20 pounds lighter, likely an outdated figure—which has him easily on track to be a college-sized strongside linebacker by the time he hits campus.
While the national services aside from 247 have not released rankings, OhioPreps already has a top 25 list for the class of 2014. Ferns is second, behind only fellow linebacker Dante Booker, and Marc Givler suggests that those two have separated themselves from the rest of the class.
Other information on Ferns is scarce, as he hasn't hit the camp circuit and St. Clairsville is a small school that hasn't produced much in the way of D-I talent*. We do get one player comparison courtesy of Scout's Dave Berk ($):
Standing 6-foot-3, 235-pounds, Ferns reminds some of current Irish inside linebacker Jarrett Grace, at least in terms of his physical stature. However, Ferns shows a unique skill set for a player of his size.
While St. Clairsville High School is far from one of Ohio’s top big-school programs, Ferns athletic ability could easily transfer to a bigger program as he shows on film the ability to play several positions on both sides of the ball.
Grace was a 2011 recruit on the 3/4-star borderline; at 6'3", 240 lbs., he's very comparable in terms of size. Grace's ESPN scouting report($) praised his athleticism and play recognition, and as you'll see in his film those are also two areas of Ferns's game that stand out.
Besides the above, most of the articles on Ferns focus on his intelligence both on and off the field. He's made it clear from the beginning of his recruitment that academics are the top priority—which he backed up with a top three of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State, as well as an offer from Stanford—and he plans to study pre-med. 247's Steve Wiltfong details this side of Ferns in an article rather unfortunately titled "Ferns Is Freaky On & Off Field"($):
Growing up, Ferns always saw his parents on the computer messing around with this new sensation known as the internet. The two-year old didn’t want to be left out.
“He wanted to play on the computer so bad, and he’d keep asking us what words were,” the elder Ferns said. “It just got to the point where he taught himself how to read so he didn’t keep asking us. He was in diapers. We bought him reading programs for kids ages 4-5, and it wasn’t three weeks later we were buying the programs for ages 6-8. Over the course of a month, he was on the internet. At that time it was dial up, but he wanted to do it so bad.”
“I was always a little ahead of the time,” Ferns added. “I remember being in diapers on the computer. I’d say I was a little advanced back in day.”
Ferns has grown a bit since then, and now his intellect is paying dividends on the football field [emphasis mine]:
“He’s 6-3, 230-pounds and runs like a deer,” McClean said.
“Besides just his size advantage, he can do a lot of different things. We lined him up at three different positions on offense. On defense he’s an intellectual person, he can handle things a lot of people couldn’t do. He’s like a coach on the field from his linebacker spot.”
That astute play, when combined with impressive athleticism, could make Ferns a candidate for early playing time. According to Scout's Allen Trieu, who posted a scouting report on Ferns after his commitment, the only thing stopping Ferns could be Michigan's depth chart ($):
Upshot: He's going to come in college ready in terms of size and speed. If he adjusts to the speed of the game and learns the defense, he has the tools to play early. Not sure if the depth chart will allow that because there are so many linebackers, but he has what you look for in an early impact guy.
Trieu compares Ferns to freshman Joe Bolden, a 2012 Under Armour All-American who's already pushing for playing time at WLB, and says he's a "pretty safe bet" for four stars.
Magnus broke down Ferns's sophomore film and came away impressed:
I really like what I see on Ferns's film. He plays both ways for his high school team, although keep in mind as you watch that St. Clairsville is a small school with fewer than 700 students enrolled; the competition is not excellent. Ferns plays some fullback, tight end, wide receiver, and linebacker. He shows very good instincts as a linebacker. Ferns the younger plays downhill nicely, showing quick initial reads and stepping up into holes that open. He keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and is a very solid tackler. He also does a nice job of side-stepping blockers and using his hands to shed when necessary. His change-of-direction skills are also apparent as an offensive player, where he swivels his hips pretty well to slither past defenders.
So, while scouting on Ferns is still limited, what we see suggests he's got the size, athleticism, and instincts to excel at the collegiate level.
*The only other St. Clairsville player in the Rivals database (dating back to 2002) is 2013 3-star WR Dan Monteroso, a Boston College commit.
Ferns built up an impressive offer list for a junior-to-be, choosing Michigan over Notre Dame, Penn State, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Stanford, Virginia, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and a handful of MAC offers.
Ferns tallied 136 tackles as a sophomore while also chipping in 441 yards on 31(!) rushes and 301 yards on 15(!) catches. He had 88 tackles as a freshman in 2010.
FAKE 40 TIME
No 40 time is listed for Ferns on any of the four recruiting sites.
As you can see, there's little not to like in the film, though the lack of high-end competition is apparent.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
While Michigan has recruited extremely well at linebacker over the last couple classes, Ferns could have a relatively clear path to the two-deep if he lands at strongside linebacker. That spot is currently manned by Jake Ryan and Cam Gordon, and Ryan will be a senior (I know, right?) when Ferns steps on campus. Unless Royce Jenkins-Stone bulks up significantly, at that point Mike McCray will be the only player standing between Ferns and a spot in the rotation.
It's also possible that Ferns ends up at middle linebacker, a position where he can better show off his instincts. While Joe Bolden and potentially Jenkins-Stone stand in the way there, Ferns could get a three-year separation from those two if he takes a redshirt year (assuming Bolden and RJS play this year, a much safer assumption for the former).
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
At this early juncture, it looks like Michigan is in line for a relatively small class in 2014, but with a year-and-a-half before signing day a great deal can change. One thing we're pretty sure of is that the Wolverines can afford, once again, to be picky at linebacker; unless there's unexpected attrition, Ferns will likely be joined by one other linebacker recruit, likely a guy who projects to the middle.
Nice try, Jean de Valk, making the blue of your background a greenish gray, as if we wouldn't recognize le drapeau tricolore as anything but a call to arms against the Bourbons of college football.
Didn't realize the French national anthem was a bloody minded board rant did you?
This plus a wallpaper about the cheat-sheet gloves are available in the thread. Allons enfants de la Michigan, le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Every Time Michigan Loses, George Lucas Writes a Love Scene. The annual if:then prediction thread by L'oeil du tigre gives six different scenarios for the 2012 season rated from Empire to Jar Jar. I'm in agreement on the order of quality, but not that an 8-4 season, even with a fifth loss to MSU, could be as painful as Attack of the Clones. Go with me here. I could see 700, maybe even 800 more Michigan games in my lifetime, yet in all of human history we've had six Star Wars movies. And to wait for two decades of hype to get that… Argh. Honestly, if I was told I had a chance to go back and fix Star Wars Episode I or change the outcome of Football Armageddon '06, I don't know man…
…but I co-sign SO HARD on this, especially Anakin being a teen and a Vader-Padme-Obi Wan love triangle. And Mace Windu…I digress.
What Shall We Do With Fullbacks? A short but potent message by Renault en Ben: We should all start thinking about Hopkins and Houma and future fullbacks recruited by this staff as less like Kevin Dudley and more like Aaron Shea because Al Borges is a West Coast guy and West Coast offenses use their fullbacks as passing options in the flat. Sometimes they can run block too. Short-term I think Hopkins doesn't have the hands or the hop to be a scary passing threat like some TE-ish fullbacks, however he does have a running back's rushing skillz, so they'll use those. As for the future: eventually we'll have a U-Back to be that. Borges and Hoke say they like a low-altitude kind of player who can pop a guy low and get North-South quickly on the FB dive. Watch Houma's highlights—the second half is almost entirely dive runs. That's not necessarily a Dudley, but it's more LeRoy Hoard than Aaron Shea. Hoard was 5'11, built like a tank, and accelerated like a 1970 Boss 302 Mustang V8.
The Defenses are Back. The series that won Monsieur Couer-Vingt a DotW (plus the inaugural "hero" points) continued this week with the Returning Defense of 2012 Opponents part the first and second. He used blanket stats, which I think makes bad defenses look like they're returning more (Purdue & Minnesota) because it doesn't check for how many plays faced. Helpful user euh-tay-ah mille-vingt-deux notes Phil Steele does a similar analysis.
There was also a nice little diary by the same on Bama, ND, and Ohio State, and recent updates on those teams. I'd like something like this—better formatted—to continue throughout the season. You know, like a weekly around the opponents news thing to round up what their blogs are saying about them. Again, monsiuer couerVingt is your Diarist of the Week.
Elsewheres in analysis LSA class de deux-mille is goofing around with a spreadsheet of Big Ten player weights and heights. Part two is by position and I'm just linking to that one because the first doesn't break it up by contributors and thus will just call whichever team with the most lineman walk-ons the biggest.
Where Legends' Jockstraps Lie.
Thanks to phjhu89 (I can't translate that!). That's locker #21 in wood panels and there's a close-up of it and more in the diary (bumped from a thread). The special locker makes it all but certain they're not giving Legends jerseys to young players but using them to reward old ones. I'm with the people against this, but I'm sure it will look less weird when 11 and 48 etc. are all teaked out as well and if it's good for recruiting…
Preseason Polls Have Been Meaningless Since the Time of Louis VII. In 1149, the Associated Scribes submitted a poll claiming the Glorious Franks* would sweep the next season's European battles. Then a coalition of kings released their own poll claiming that no, it was the Holy Notre Dame Empire that would prevail by winterfell. So began pre-season polls. Actually they go back to 1950 and usually rate Michigan too high. Thou hast perform'd well in gathering us this parchment good Sir Dévot du Loup Glouton.
Etc. The Twin City socks mentioned in Three &Out are comfy, but to be honest they're less comfortable than my ski socks. Anyway I don't think the socks in the Northwestern photo are the TCs, but horray to Section Une for finding M's on socks of M history. And in things less important than socks: two meta articles on an MGOpoints system that isn't used anymore, because there is no such thing as data that our readers won't put in a spreadsheet.
* Yes "Franks." Louis's son Phil was the one who started calling it France.
Best of the Board
AARON SHEA PLUS ALL THE POINTS. UMdad wanted to find video of this one play where Aaron Shea blocked three guys at once…you know, that one:
"… But that's my job, to go out there and block a linebacker, or, you know, all of them."
The hero of the day is helpful reader Carcajous, who found not just the Daily excerpt above but the video too. I highly recommend poking around in the video to relive the setup before the triple-block run and Clarence Williams at his Clarence Williamsiest. I don't recommend poking around in that issue of the Daily because I was 18 and had only recently discovered the long dash.
BETTER NOT TO SHOW THE OPPONENTS
That day once a year when your season tickets come, and you get really excited and put them out on the kitchen table to stare at them until you realize the last four are the only ones you really give a damn about. Sigh, even years.
HELLO: MICHAEL FERNS!! HELLO: MICHAEL FERNS!! HELLO: MICHAEL FERNS!! HELLO! Before he (I'm guessing accidentally) somehow turned his account into a function that auto-posted Hello: Michael Ferns posts to the board every few minutes, user kaykay put together a "Projected Depth Chart for 2015" thing every fan base puts together in the depths of the offseason when every incoming freshman and recruit is going to reach all of their potential. I rescued the thread from that smoldering account to save my response, a Projected Depth Chart for 2012, as we thought it would be in 2009.
ETC. Lacrosse rules seem to favor more offense and less standing around, which as a casual fan who knows nothing about the sport I say thee yea.
Your Moment of Zen:
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||RB||TE||WR||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O15||2||G||Offset I TE Twins||2||1||2||4-3-Over Plus||Run||Counter Sweep||Thomas||15|
|Badgers pressing with 3 LBs cheated to the eventual playside and a safety up for good measure. Michigan runs right into it (RPS -1). Line downblocks to seal three linemen while a double by Campbell and Jansen (+0.5 each) escorts the playside DE 5 yards downfield. However that safety plus three unblocked linebackers are set up and should have this play dead. The safety tries to leap into the backfield and gets helped by Hutchinson, leaving three LB versus Shea and Thomas. From here it's all Shea (+4) who reaches the first linebacker, then DETACHES TO TO BLOCK THE SECOND LB INTO THE 3RD!!!! (!!!!!) [breathe] (!!!!!!!!). Thomas walks into the end-zone wondering where everybody went. Barry Alvarez quits football.|
|RUN+: Campbell, Jansen (+0.5), Shea (+4)||RUN-:|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-7, 1 min 2nd Q. Since this is 1998 a 14-point lead means Wisconsin is cooked; everyone go back to reading the Kenneth Starr report.|
Sponsor note. You may have spotted the MGoPatio button on the left sidebar, and wondered "what is that"? If you're a guy with corporate events to plan or you want to host a killer personal event, it's a good idea. As you can see, it's located in the shadow of the Big House itself, and is fancy. The two-level space is heated/air conditioned, features a full bath, has multiple HDTV flat-screens and sound systems. It has grills, coolers, tables & chairs, and will let you store stuff the night before. It will impress people you want to impress, sometimes even before it exists. Sports Illustrated reserved it for the MSU game before it was even completed.
Get started on impressing people by:
- Hitting their Facebook page and liking MGoPatio, which 1) gets you $500 off a full rental and 2) lets you enter a sweepstakes to win one of two original 1927 California Redwood bench seats or one of two fiberglass bench covers from Michigan Stadium, added in 1965.
- Mentioning MGoBlog when enquiring at that Facebook page for $200 off a ground floor rental or $500 off a whole-site rental.
- Ask about the ticket option...but only if you want to sit on the 48-yard line with three friends.
- Contact MGoPatio through Facebook for reservation information.
The discounts expire next week, so reserve it fast. And invite me if you do book this thing. It sounds kind of awesome.
Four years. Phil Brabbs just celebrated four years of existence post-Multiple Myeloma. Here's to forty more.
New era: GTFO. UCF getting a single year of postseason ban for their lack of institution control was exhibit A, and now it seems like that the ever-expanding evidence that UNC football players were in fraudulent classes is not the NCAA's concern:
Going a step further, a report engineered by a faculty committee concluded -- though not yet fully endorsed by the university -- that academic counselors assigned to specific teams perhaps pushed athletes to those baloney classes.
And the NCAA apparently has no jurisdiction in this matter.
Which is why, dear folks in Indianapolis, people just don't get you sometimes.
It would seem to the layman that the intersection of athletics and academic dishonesty is exactly the right spot for the NCAA to step in.
Except, as of right now, there is no indication that the NCAA will revisit or re-examine the penalties it has already inflicted on UNC and its football team for violations related to improper benefits and academic misconduct involving a tutor.
This goes beyond clustering, but UNC is apparently not going to get anything tacked on to their now-standard single year of penance and slight hindrance in the future. Any hopes schools that egregiously break the rules would suffer consequences that would make them hesitate seems gone. Maybe when the new penalties come in, I guess.
Sirius bomb. SiriusXM was on campus a couple days ago and produced a bunch of podcasts for your delectation:
Rick Neuheisel asks some good questions, worth a listen.
Basketball preview things. Eamonn Brennan and Big Ten Wonk take to the pages of ESPN.com to say things about Big Ten basketball. Trey Burke (surprise!) is named Michigan's most important player. Brennan's worst case scenario is better than just about every team Michigan's fielded since the Fab Five:
Worst-case scenario: It's hard to see this team, which is indisputably more talented and almost certain to be more dynamic, somehow not being in Big Ten title contention by the end of next February. But if somehow the Wolverines are merely above average in 2012-13, it could be because they carry over last season's just-OK defensive effort (No. 60 in adjusted defensive efficiency). Or because they lack the breadth of reliable 3-point shooters (Evan Smotrycz transferred, while Zack Novak and Stu Douglass graduated) who have come to define coach John Beilein's two-guard front offense, which relies on 3-point shooting to stretch the floor. I think Beilein will make it work, and I think Michigan will be very tough to beat. But increased success is far from guaranteed.
Mr. Gasaway's bits are Insider'd Power Rankings($). Michigan checks in fourth behind the three teams you'd expect:
I may not be betting on a second consecutive Big Ten title for Michigan, but I love their chances to make it further in the NCAA tournament than they did last time around.
Hopefully that won't be hard. I think Gasaway is a little too down on Iowa, which adds a couple of touted freshmen to a solid core of White/Marble/Basabe and should find themselves breaking their NCAA tourney drought this year. He has them ninth; I'd put them sixth.
Oh, man. Fire Jerry Kill proposes more Penn State shirts produced by that awful "Smack" company responsible for the hur-hur-hur rivalry shirts favored by Larry the Cable Guy enthusiasts everywhere. This one may be based on actual threads from BWI:
I couldn't wear that ironically, but someone make this and I'll take a dozen:
Gendo is so getting sued by old Penn State lettermen.
BONUS: Gendo surveys the "#teamoutlaw" twitter phenomenon and comes up with ICP.
DOUBLE BONUS: are you in the market for some appalling comments about the various Penn State transfers? (The comments are in the comments.)
It was expensive while it lasted. Michigan announced a StubHub partnership last year to great fanfare; now, like the Pac 12-Big Ten scheduling accord, it appears we're never to speak of it again. Michigan's now showing up as a "past partner" on the hub:
Wonder what went wrong. I can't imagine the AD passing up a buck.
FWIW, the StubHub think always struck me as brilliantly nefarious. By giving you printed-out tickets that would invalidate the originally issued ones, they undermined all ticket markets that were not StubHub. If you bought a ticket you had no assurance it hadn't been sold already; if you sold a ticket you had no guarantee it wouldn't be resold twice and get you in hot water when someone complained and they traced it back to you, the person Michigan originally sold the ticket to. The only way to guarantee you got a valid ticket was to buy it off Stubhub. It was evil and brilliant and whoever came up with it got a promotion. Now: kaput. I wonder why.
"Zak was a hunter all summer long," Telep told AnnArbor.com via email Wednesday. "He looked fresh, hungry. He played to his size, looked like he improved his skill. Having said that, we've taken a flier on him.
"I don't think everyone would agree on him this high. We're rolling the dice and monitoring his senior year closely. Obviously we liked what we saw in the summer when compared to his peer group."
Derrick Walton made a smaller move from 40th to 32nd, but hopped over four point guards in the process. Mark Donnall slid but sticks in the top 100 at 97. Telep says Walton and Irvin are in the conversation to get in the McDonald's game.
That is all. Via EDSBS.
Orson on Wright Thompson on Meyer. Another part of the OSU PR offensive comes in an exclusive Wright Thompson sit-down with the Buckeyes' wooden but very, very successful head coach. Spencer Hall on that:
Wright Thompson got the full-access treatment to Urban Meyer, something he's never really granted anyone in a coaching situation, and pretty much nails the weirdass, ciphery personality of Meyer in his longform profile of him. One key point about Meyer is that he was never really likable as a head coach, so it's nice to see that Meyer doesn't even really seem to like himself a whole lot, and really never has.If that's a puff piece we disagree with your definition, but the last paragraph in particular is really, really interesting. <--arches eyebrows, invites literary discussion.
"He's gonna be different," Urban Meyer's wife says, and makes me preemptively sad for her.
Etc.: Michigan Stadium gets two and a half votes for "toughest place to play in the Big Ten." Beaver Stadium gets eight, so they'll be moving up in the 2016 version of this poll. Mark Mangino at OSU practice looks like just another OSU fan. Don't forget to tilt that head, though.
The Black and Blue producers tell the Willis Ward story in the News. The NCAA has to release financial documents to the Ed O'Bannon group. Maize and Go Blue looks at the freshmen numbers and their pasts. Part 1. Part 2.