landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
This poor kid. [Photo: Danbury News-Times]
In a ceremony where the decor took away what little suspense there may have been heading into the announcement, three-star Newtown (CT) Sandy Hook ILB/FB Ben Mason committed to Michigan. Mason picked up a scholarship offer while on an unofficial visit in April, and a subsequent offer from Wisconsin didn't sway him from the Wolverines.
Mason projects to either inside linebacker or fullback at the next level; after his Michigan visit, he told TMI's Brice Marich he was open to either:
“(My parents) loved the college town feel of Ann Arbor and impressed with the academics. They also loved the opportunity I have defensively at linebacker or offensively at fullback with Coach Wheatley. I just want to play football. I really don’t care what position.”
Mason and Chase Lasater give Michigan two ILB/FB types in the class. Of the pair, Mason seems more likely to stick on defense—it's worth noting Don Brown saw fit to offer him when Brown was at Boston College. Michigan now has 12 commits in the 2017 class, including another linebacker prospect in four-star Josh Ross.
|3*, #32 ILB||3* ILB||NR OLB||
3*, 85, #28 ILB,
3*, #35 ILB,
Mason is a middle-of-the-pack three-star to Scout and 247, while Rivals hasn't given him a position ranking and ESPN hasn't bothered to scout him at all. Mason plays two positions that don't generate many four-star prospects (ILB and FB) and he comes from a state that doesn't produce much in the way of football talent; he's likely to stay a three-star.
Mason's size has some suggesting he could grow into a defensive end role down the road. 247 has the most updated figures: Mason checked in a 6'2.5", 247 pounds at last weekend's Opening regional. That's big enough to step in immediately at either inside linebacker or fullback.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the commitment post.]
According to a report from ESPN's Jeff Goodman, junior forward Kam Chatman is expected to transfer out of the program.
Barring a last-minute change of heart, source told ESPN that Michigan sophomore Kameron Chatman will transfer.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) May 3, 2016
Chatman was ranked as a top-30 prospect coming out of high school, but other than that one moment of glory against Indiana, he never made the expected impact.
That doesn't mean Chatman's departure won't hurt, though. Michigan now has two open scholarship spots for 2016-17 and no obvious candidates among either grad transfers or late-rising 2016 recruits to fill them. Barring a late addition, this puts a lot of pressure on DJ Wilson to become a viable backup at the four, where Zak Irvin is once again going to have to log the vast majority of his minutes.
UPDATE 2: It's officially official.
"Kam is a wonderful young man with the potential to mature into a fine college player," said Beilein. "We have enjoyed coaching him over the past two years and wish him nothing but the best."
"I honestly don't think I could have had a more quality life experience than I did in Ann Arbor," said Chatman. "I am incredibly grateful for my two years at Michigan. I would like to thank Coach Beilein and his entire staff for taking a chance on a small town kid out of Portland. I know my experience has inspired others as I will take all of my lessons learned to continue my pursuit of becoming the best man and player I can. Go Blue!"
Spike to Purdue. The Boilermakers will not have to play the final ten minutes of an NCAA tournament game without a point guard next year:
Excited to announce that I'll be playing my 5th year for Purdue University!! #BoilerUp
— Spike Albrecht (@SpikeAlbrecht) May 3, 2016
Purdue was horrendous—horrendous!—at that spot a year ago so that's a move that makes sense. Spike's health is still in considerable doubt, so it makes sense for Michigan to move on with Walton and Xavier Simpson; for Purdue a crack at anything resembling a PG is a true wonder.
Obvious obvious whaaaa? PFF has a mock draft for next year largely based on their numbers. It features Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers at 19 and 22, which is more or less expected. #23 is out of left field for me:
Minnesota Vikings: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
The third Michigan defender in the last five picks, Hurst fires off the ball and his +38.0 overall grade ranks third among returning interior defensive linemen despite playing only 418 snaps in 2015. Hurst shows the power to push the pocket and disrupt in the backfield, though he does need to do a better job of handling double teams and finishing plays.
I like Hurst a lot but he's 282 on the most recent roster and got beat up by inside zone teams to end the year; I have a hard time seeing him go in the first round unless he adds 20 pounds and has a monster year. I'd guess Glasgow and Wormley both go ahead of him even if he does forgo his final year of eligibility.
No Arizona State for Big Ten hockey. CHN reports that ASU is close to joining the NCHC. That's the most logical place for them since that conference contains all the teams somewhat near them; thankfully this also means that the Big Ten will not add another potential RPI anchor nowhere near any of its current members. ASU brings the NCHC to nine programs, which is an awkward number.
I wouldn't assume that the ASU move means the Big Ten is going to poach an NCHC member. As I noted when the Big Ten added Notre Dame, seven teams in a league is slightly odd but workable. Eight starts forcing compromises on you pretty fast. If the Big Ten can add a North Dakota that's worth it. Western Michigan maybe not so much.
Baseball is back to being good. Baseball is projected as a two seed in latest Baseball America bracketology. They're in #4 overall seed FSU's region, so they're towards the bottom of the two-seeds. However, they might be in line to get the annual bone the NCAA committee throws half the country. BA projects Minnesota as a regional host right now, but:
With the dearth of hosting candidates in the West, the door is open for either Minnesota or Michigan to land a hosting spot out of the Big Ten. Right now, we’ll give the edge to the Gophers. … Michigan, by comparison, has a much more RPI-friendly schedule with all four of its remaining series against top 100 teams—granted that one of those opponents, Ohio State, is barely in the top 100 at No. 99. If the standings stay in the order they are but Minnesota can’t keep its RPI strong enough, then it’s more likely neither would host than a second-place Michigan team gets a bid over a team it both lost to and finished behind, regardless of its own RPI.
This is how ludicrously unbalanced college baseball is: the SEC and ACC are projected to acquire 19 bids between them. That's 17 at-large bids. The rest of the field has 16. Here is my default thing where I suggest the Big Ten leaves the current structure and plays through August with wood bats, like God intended.
Man its on and popping pic.twitter.com/wUOy3AJo4V
— Coach Smith CGHS (@headbcg) April 29, 2016
Satellite camp fallout. Harbaugh likes the decision, surprise. So does almost everyone else. He's also willing to let bygones be bygones with The Georgia Coach, as UGA will join Michigan at a camp in a few weeks. The Georgia Coach is past it, too, man:
Smart’s comments generated a stinging tweet by Harbaugh: “If the Georgia coach is implying any intent on our part to break rules, he is barking up the wrong tree.”
Last week in Dallas, Smart was asked about the situation.
“That whole thing got so overblown,” Smart said. “Because he and I, he and staff members from his staff had communicated. That’s a big deal to the media, big deal to you guys. But in the coaching profession we’re a bit more lighthearted about it.”
The end result of this sturm und drang is a whole bunch of nothing, but it's nice that Michigan gets another year in which Harbaugh's football mania can be deployed without restriction. Also, ban proponents come out of this looking like big dumb idiots. Dan Wolken:
“What we're talking about is recruiting tours,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told reporters last year when the issue first started to bubble. “So, let's just be clear about what we're really talking about here.”
The strategy, of course, was transparent: To turn recruiting into a dirty word, as if somehow the entire enterprise in which these people operate doesn’t revolve around the pristine pursuit of attracting athletes to their school.
“They're not satellite camps,” LSU athletics director Joe Alleva sneered, according to the The Advocate of Baton Rouge. “They’re purely and simply recruiting camps.”
Thank you, Mr. Wolken. That has been the most infuriating part of this whole process: SEC folks acting like there's any subterfuge in what Harbaugh and company are doing. References to the "scholastic environment" were also in that bin since satellite camps promote contact between players and college coaches; they are in fact a counterweight to the AAU-ish explosion in 7-on-7. But I already yelled about all this in a fisk post a few weeks back.
Etc.: Todd McShay calls out Laremy Tunsil for telling the truth. Connor Cook probably fell in the draft because he was helpful to the elderly. Why the Lions drafted Rudock. (No, not because they can continue to have Harbaugh coach him.) Ian Boyd on POWER. The Cowherd-Whitlock PTI ripoff will be horrible but at least it spawned this twitter thread. Andy Staples on Tunsil.
During Michigan’s rocky non-conference season, the weak link on the squad was fairly obvious: the big men, most of whom were still young and / or inexperienced, really struggled. The implications were far-ranging – not only was the Wolverine defense particularly porous inside, but the pick-and-roll game on offense was starkly stagnant. Between Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle, Moritz Wagner, and DJ Wilson, Michigan couldn’t cobble together more than a few consecutive solid shifts on the floor, let alone a strong 40 minutes of interior play. Needless to say, that – coupled with Michigan’s other early-season issues – led to blowout losses at the hands of some good teams. Watching Xavier’s front line feast in the Crisler Center early on was a sobering sign of how far the big men (and the team as a whole) had to come.
Then, in the first game of the Big Ten season, Mark Donnal discovered that he could dominate Illinois – a team with no inside presence whatsoever – to the tune of 26 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals. Caris LeVert was insistent on creating easy looks inside for Donnal and it worked; because fate is cruel, Caris went down with a foot injury late in that same game and couldn’t replicate that pick-and-roll chemistry again – which looked as good as it had in years for Michigan basketball. Still, even without LeVert, Donnal became much better at making himself available on the pick-and-roll and he became much more effective at converting the wide open looks that Michigan’s offense creates for its posts.
That wound up being his best game of the season – though a game at Maryland in which he scored 25 and had 5 blocks may have been close – but he still posted legitimately good numbers in the 18 games of Big Ten play:
3rd-best in the conference in Effective FG % and True Shooting %,
4th-best in 2-Point % (62.5)
8th-best in Offensive Rating (121.5)
8th-best in Offensive Rebounding Rate (11.7)
13th-best in Block Rate (4.9)
13th-best in Free Throw Rate (38.6)
Maybe most importantly, 63.3% of available minutes
Donnal was a quintessentially efficient Michigan big man once his feel around the rim improved, even though he wasn’t a particularly physical finisher. In fact, despite his good block rate, he wasn’t a rim protector as Michigan allowed a horrendous percentage on opponent shots around the rim. That lack of physicality led to some criticism, and indeed, Michigan didn’t have much strength in the post, from Donnal or from anyone else (it’s worth noting that Donnal’s low defensive rebounding rate is not too much of a concern with Michigan’s team-wide success in clearing the defensive glass).
All in all, Donnal was an effective post in Michigan’s offense and was noticeably better than the other options on the depth chart (although MGoFavorite Moritz Wagner outplayed him in the NCAA Tournament), and his ability to stay on the court was key. He has one year of eligibility and a potential grad year (here or elsewhere), and his midseason awakening was huge in Michigan’s effort to get into the NCAA Tournament.
[More after the JUMP]
Three-star CT ILB/FB Ben Mason, who picked up an offer while on an unofficial visit last month, will announce his college decision tomorrow evening:
I will be announcing my commitment on Tuesday May 3rd at 6:30 at Cover Two in sandy hook @Cover_Two_SH
— Ben Mason (@benmason41) April 29, 2016
Michigan is the prohibitive favorite; there were rumblings Mason might commit shortly after his offer came in, and all ten of his Crystal Ball selections are for the Wolverines. He's coming off a strong showing at the New Jersey Opening regional that earned him position MVP honors:
Sandy Hook (Conn.) Newton linebacker Ben Mason won MVP honors for his position group, doing well in drills, the Cat and Mouse setting and also moving well in coverage in 1-on-1s and 7-on-7s. It’s easy to call the 6-foot-2 ½, 247-pound Mason a throwback, and one wouldn’t think this would be a setting he’d shine in, but Mason did his thing and left with hardware.
Mason could be an inside linebacker, fullback, or even defensive end in college. If a commitment comes as expected, I'll have much more on him tomorrow.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
|Detroit, MI – 5'10", 172|
|Scout||4*, #97 overall
|Rivals||4*, #176 overall
#14 CB, #5 MI
|ESPN||4*, #278 overall
#21 CB, #7 MI
|24/7||4*, #88 overall
#6 CB, #2 MI
|Other Suitors||MSU, PSU, Tenn, Clemson, UGA, OSU, Texas, USC, UCLA|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Brother of Delano. Army AA. Also national DB of the year. Nicknamed "Ghost," which is a good nickname.|
Lavert Hill's recruitment ended the way you expect "younger brother of Michigan player" to end. Getting there was a bit odd. Hill fired off an early commitment to Penn State, but by the time last year's football season rolled around he was on Michigan's campus weekly and regarded as the biggest lock on the board… without actually decommitting. When he finally made the obvious official by declaring himself a free agent, Hill still managed to be the indirect cause of a ton of finger-pointing when Penn State brought him on the ice during a hockey game. For dessert there was a late, apparently unwarranted surge of optimism from Michigan State. (At his Signing Day announcement, his brother admitted he knew what the pick was for a "couple weeks.") Hill had a high-drama no-drama recruitment.
But all that's in the rear-view mirror now. Michigan did indeed acquire Delano Hill's younger brother, and in doing so they hope to set themselves up with a younger version of a guy currently on the roster: Jourdan Lewis. Former DB coach Greg Jackson's YMRMFSPA is also Jourdan Lewis, for one. The similarities are many, to the point where scouting reports could be about either guy. Scout's profile evaluation is a good example:
Has a natural knack for reading and jumping routes. Good, quick feet and ability to change directions. Technically sound and smooth in his backpedal and transition. Has the closing speed to makeup ground and break on passes. Must add size and strength. Solid wrap-up tackler, but must get stronger to improve in this area.
Or 247's take from the Army game:
…lockdown corner with elite feet, great speed and quicks. He competed on every rep giving the quarterback no option on his side of the field.
"Hill is a lockdown cover corner who has shown he can check the top wide receivers in the country," Helmholdt said. "He has a fluid turn, good top-end speed and an outstanding break on the football." … "The one thing he will have to work on when he gets to college is he tends to get a little handsy."
Or Sam Webb, also at the Army game:
…excellent press corner. … great speed, terrific hips, and cat-like quickness. All of those things aid him in sticking with receivers when he lines up in their faces. But he didn’t look as instinctive when playing off. I thought he lined up too far off the ball Monday, giving receivers too much freedom to get into their routes. He was much more aggressive and physical Tuesday and did a much better job of throwing off the QB-to-WR timing.
…Flashes very good recovery speed in the short-area and longer makeup speed if caught out of position vertically. … Smart, savvy and aware on the perimeter. Understands zone concepts and does a really good job reading the quarterback and feeling routes develop. … Shows good press-man technique jamming receivers with his length and retaining inside leverage . Will turn and run showing good speed and fluid hip turns. Mirrors with sharp footwork and balance; closes separation quickly out of breaks to undercut routes.
The scouting reports continue, and continue, and continue in this vein. Dude seemingly went to every camp out there for years, killing it at most of them. "In terms of instincts and man to man cover skills, you won't find many in the 2016 class better than LaVert Hill"; "fantastic as usual"; "won MVP at NIKE's The Opening regional with dazzling one-handed interceptions and lockdown cover skills." Etc.
Hill's speed is a major plus, with a 4.41 electronic 40 and a 4.10 shuttle at an Opening regional. He's not the biggest guy but has the ability to stay in anyone's back pocket; once there his timing and vertical allows him to make plays against strapping wideouts. Kind of like… yep. Even the drawbacks remind you of Lewis, who is at his best in press man and spent much of last year successfully toeing the line between legit coverage and interference.
Former Cass Tech coach Jermain Crowell directly compared the two when Hill committed:
“Vert is more athletic than JD [ed: Lewis's nickname]. He’s faster than JD with them being the same age coming out of high school. His vertical is better. But JD has always had that edge, he doesn’t care who you are, he’s coming at you. JD will line up against a seventh grader and treat him like he’s the best receiver in college.
“Lavert might not necessarily do that. He rises to the challenge. He wants to go against the best of the best to prove himself. You have to be more consistent. Once his consistency gets there he’s going to be unreal.”
Let's explore that latter bit, the main drawback people mention about Hill. He got beat with some frequency in high school. When Ace caught him at the beginning of his junior year, he was very up and down:
Hill had an up-and-down day, giving up a long touchdown when he got beat on a post route and compounded his error by diving for a pick, then bouncing back to make a couple very nice plays on the ball—he got hit with three pass interference calls on the night, but I thought two of them were highly questionable.
Cass played him off a lot, and Ace also noticed that he was often uncomfortable doing so. 247 took in the same game and came away with the same take: physically capable but beat too often, like Vernon Hargreaves against Jehu Chesson.
Touch The Banner mentions in its evaluation that his high school production was often called into question and that he made his name largely on camps. That appears to be a criticism Hill is leaving behind, however, as his senior year was extremely productive. King assistant Terel Patrick told Steve Lorenz that Hill developed a great deal from when Ace saw him above to a 12-interception(!), 24-PBU(!) senior season that ended in a state championship:
“His eyes are extremely disciplined from when you look earlier in high career. The athleticism has always been there, the playmaking ability has always been there, but honing in on the small things and working his craft and the eye discipline, and ability to stay locked in all four quarters is the biggest change I’ve seen in Lavert’s game from the start of his high school career to end of his high school career.”
Ace relates that Hill gives up long plays whenever he sees him play but that they were greatly reduced in frequency as a senior. Hill is no doubt still working towards the ideal here, but the trajectory of improvement is encouraging. Some struggles early are natural.
A second problem area is run defense. Per Ace, Hill "isn't much of a form tackler," and that's something ESPN mentioned in their evaluation:
Not a physical edge setter versus the run but will come quickly and make the low cut tackle. As a productive zone defender, he will need to continue physically develop to remain effective in those schemes at the college level.
Crappy tackling is to high school cornerbacks what pad level is to high school linemen, so it's not a death knell or anything. Hill's size and lack of experience in that phase of the game could be a hindrance to his playing time, especially in a Don Brown defense. Last year Michigan's corners were rarely—almost never—involved in run D; that will not be the case going forward.
Both of these drawbacks are fixable. Hill has already gone some way towards fixing the former. In contrast to David Long, the apprentice year Michigan can provide him is more necessity than luxury. Both guys have similar upsides and enticing futures.
He brings those intangibles that you can’t teach: instincts, quickness, transition in and out of breaks and reaction skills.
I will die fighting on this hill. Favorite phrase is "pretty good."
Why Jourdan Lewis? See above. This entire post is "why Lavert Hill is a lot like Jourdan Lewis." FWIW, Hill's rankings are eerily similar to Lewis's.
Guru Reliability: High. Only thing that keeps it from "exacting" is a sizeable split in the rankings. It's not a massive difference, though. Hill was at the Army game and the Opening amongst a ton of other camps and has been on the radar for years.
Variance: Moderate. There's always a little worry that a player Hill's size will find the college transition difficult, and he has work to do.
Ceiling: High. See also: Jourdan Lewis.
General Excitement Level: High. Sounds like a guy who would be up and down as a freshman and hopefully hit it big going forward. I do wonder if Don Brown's zone stuff and emphasis on run support from the corners might be a less than ideal fit for Hill (and Lewis), especially early on. I'll take it if it means Michigan can actually defend spread-to-run teams, especially You Know, That One.
Projection: Broken record time: Hill will play this year in preparation for a starting role in 2017. He's not likely to beat out the three seniors at corner; along with David Long he is a favorite to start as a true sophomore the year after. Hill does seem like less of a sure thing than Long, but I'll be surprised if anyone on the roster can displace him for a two or three year starting stint.