— Matt Falcon (@mfalcon21) April 8, 2015
Southfield (MI) RB Matt Falcon committed to Michigan tonight. Falcon had named Tennessee as his leader as recently as a couple weeks ago, but he's visited campus several times since Jim Harbaugh was hired, and with Kingston Davis committing over the weekend time was of the essence if he wanted to secure a spot in the class. Falcon is Michigan's sixth commitment of the 2016 class.
Michigan may not be done with commitments in the near future, either. Scout's Allen Trieu put us on commit watch this afternoon, and he posted on The Victors Board that he wasn't referring to Falcon.
4*, #8 RB,
|4*, #13 RB||3*, NR RB||
4*, 90, #10 RB,
4*, #13 RB,
Every recruiting outlet save ESPN—which hasn't updated Falcon's evaluation since the summer before his junior season—considers Falcon a solid four-star; Rivals has him just a hair outside their top 250, as their #12 RB is #220 overall. Scout is especially bullish on him.
At 6'1", and listed between 200-215 pounds, Falcon has nice size for a high school back and the frame to add plenty of weight.
Falcon turned heads on the camp circuit in 2013 before suffering a torn ACL prior to his sophomore season. It didn't take him long to reestablish himself as a top prospect, as he stood out to Scout's Allen Trieu at Ohio State's camp last June ($):
Southfield High's Matt Falcon is an extremely impressive prospect. He has good size and excellent shiftiness and burst for a kid of that size. He also caught the ball very naturally out of the backfield. The question on him was the health of his knee which was injured last year but he looked to be 100% at camp and he has a chance to be a very highly recruited national prospect.
Shortly thereafter, Falcon made a significant move up the Scout rankings, with Trieu citing his "immense physical talent."
Falcon's Southfield squad hosted a four-team scrimmage with Ann Arbor Skyline, Cass Tech, and East English Village prior to the 2014 season; with several Division I prospects on the field, Falcon had the best performance, per The Wolverine's Brandon Brown ($):
Falcon was the star of the day among all four squads. The No. 21 running back in the country and No. 7 player in the state of Michigan is entering his junior season after missing his entire sophomore campaign with a torn ACL. He appears to be in top form and didn't show any signs of physical ailment from the injury. Falcon showed great speed, terrific balance, and power behind his pads on every run. He scampered for a touchdown of more than 40 yards against Cass Tech's No. 1's twice. He also punched in a short touchdown run later in the day.
I caught Southfield's matchup with Orchard Lake St. Mary's at the season-opening Prep Kickoff Classic; while Falcon was limited by his team's overmatched blockers and a balky ankle, his physical talent was evident:
After missing all of his sophomore year with a knee injury, Falcon didn't get many opportunities to show off his ability, due to both the failings of his offensive line and a dinged-up ankle that held him out of a large chunk of the game. He finished with five yards on five carries—and that could've been worse considering the blocking—while doing most of his damage on swing passes, catching four for 29 yards.
Even though Falcon had no room to run, I thought he looked quite impressive, with nice speed and agility for a 6'1", 215-pound back. On those swing passes, he planted hard and got upfield in a hurry, and once he got a head of steam it wasn't easy to bring him down. He managed to get out of the backfield on one run (1:01 mark in the video), making a couple very nice cuts to make two men miss, then powering forward for some decent YAC. The next two plays on the reel are very representative of the blocking he got on Friday; on the second, he still manages to elude two free hitters in the backfield, then impressively bowl over another before the cavalry arrived. Whether on runs or receptions, Falcon finished with power; he refused to go down at first contact and made sure he fell forward.
That ankle would cause Falcon to miss part of his junior season, though I think worries about his injury history are overblown; he hasn't suffered multiple knee injuries or anything like that. Rivals moved him up to a four-star following the season:
Falcon missed part of the season with injury, but in the games he did play, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound back showed unusual speed and agility for a running back his size. Falcon can be a 20-25-carry back in college and wear down a defense between the tackles, but he also is quick to the edge and can be an asset in the passing game. We'll see if injuries continue to be an issue, but from a talent standpoint, he is one of the best backs in the Midwest. -- Helmholdt
In February, 247's Clint Brewster broke down his junior film ($):
Falcon is a bigger/stronger running back that can put his foot in the ground and get north. He an explosive back that can run through defenders and has good downfield speed once he gets going. He can cover ground as a long stride type of running back. He's got a high ceiling because of his size mixed with his speed. Falcon's got raw strength to pick up the tough yards. He's a downhill runner. Falcon displays an excellent stiff arm and the ability to get past defenders. He's got a strong plant foot to burst through creases. Tough to bring down once he's got a head of steam. Falcon is a running back that can play all three downs and block or catch passes out of the backfield.
If Falcon gets through his senior season healthy, he's a good bet to move up in the rankings; trepidation about his injury history seems to be the main thing holding him back. Otherwise, he's got a great size/speed combo with plenty of power and versatility.
The injuries haven't scared off top programs. Falcon named a top five of Michigan, Tennessee (his leader as recently as late March), Oregon, Arkansas, and Arizona State recently, and he also held offers from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, NC State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, and West Virginia, among others.
Southfield hadn't been a major talent producer during the Rivals era (2002-) until it's recent run of Big Ten signees, including Michigan DE Lawrence Marshall, MSU DT Malik McDowell, and Minnesota athletes Dior Johnson and Ray Buford, all of whom came from the 2014 or 2015 classes.
According to his Rivals profile, Falcon rushed for 1109 yards and seven TDs in just six games during his junior season.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the four sites lists a 40 time.
There are no sophomore highlights for what should be obvious reasons.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Since it's been all of two days since I wrote up the running back situation, I can safely copy-and-paste this from Kingston Davis' commitment post, with a couple minor alterations:
Michigan doesn't have any senior running backs on the roster, so unless [Falcon] proves he's better than much more experienced players, he should take a redshirt in 2016, even though he's got college-ready size. After that, he'll compete with Ty Isaac, Karan Higdon, and [Kingston Davis] for carries.
Falcon's ability to make an impact in the passing game could get him on the field earlier, either as the every-down back or in a situational role. There's some serious thunder-and-lightning-with-a-side-of-thunder potential with Davis and Falcon in the same class, and each has an obvious situational role if they're getting the lion's share of the carries—short-yardage back (Davis) and third-down back (Falcon). I really like this pickup; Falcon's injury concerns are mitigated by the presence of another back in the class, and if he fulfills his physical potential he's going to be really good.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan should be set at running back with two in the class plus a potential fullback in Farmington FB/ILB David Reese. There are now six total members of the 2016 class, which we have projected to 14, a number that will surely rise before the end of the cycle. Michigan still has needs to fill pretty much everywhere except the offensive backfield.
Falcon's commitment also adds to the optimism Michigan can clean up on the in-state recruiting trail. Reese is already in the fold, and the Wolverines are right in the mix for Farmington WR Des Fitzpatrick, Farmington Hills Harrison DE Khalid Kareem, Detroit King WR Donnie Corley, Plymouth OT Michael Jordan, and Cass Tech OG/DT Michael Onwenu; all but Fitzpatrick, who's just off the pace, are considered composite four-star prospects.
I say we call him "Quick Burst, Mo Hurts." Nobody is on board with me on this. [Fuller]
- The Question:
- Seth: After the spring game which player are you bullish on, and which are you hedging?
Ace: Brian and I did a segment on this during the podcast, so I'll keep this relatively brief. (That's called a teaser, folks.)
MAURICE HURST had arguably the best performance of anyone during the spring game, lining up at multiple spots and blowing up plays at all of them. His first step, which was his greatest strength coming out of high school, is still very quick after adding weight, and he looks very ready to see a significant role this fall.
Given that some practice reports had him as a potential starter, it's hard not to be a little disappointed in Logan Tuley-Tillman's showing, which featured three flags and a couple olés. He was a major project coming of high school, to the point that this year was the earliest he could feasibly see the field, so it's not a devastating blow that he doesn't look ready yet. He has so much upside, though, that it would've been really encouraging to see him push into that starting five.
Adam Schnepp: I was looking for a weakness. There had to be one; the practice reports had practically reached tall-tale status, but now I see why. It almost feels like I need to pick someone else because this is too easy, but I'm bullish on JABRILL PEPPERS. I know that we've been bullish on him since last August, but now it's like Raging Bull(ishness). Except not about boxing. Or self-destruction. I was really just going for the bull imagery here.
As a hybrid space player, Peppers is going to have to read run/pass and react immediately. On the Blue offense's first play Peppers peers into the backfield, reads the handoff from Morris, and comes off the edge to take out Shallman, limiting him to a one-yard gain.
While his run stopping was adequate for an HSP, I was more impressed with Peppers' coverage skills. He played almost exclusively with a seven-yard cushion and not only was able to jam guys who had already built up a head of steam but consistently re-routed them to the side he had a help defender. I can't find a good example of this on the video thanks to BTN's zoom-o-matic cameras, but Ace can confirm that if I tweeted the above as many times as I said it to him you'd all either unfollow me or think I accidentally set up a scheduled tweet.
I'm hedging on BRIAN COLE. It's important, however, to delineate "hedging" as separate from "disappointed with." It's hard to judge a receiver when they aren't targeted often, and doubly so as the offense's predilection for two- and three-wide sets often left Cole on the sideline. I expected him to compete for time with the known commodities; I did not expect him to have the same number of receptions and receiving yards as 5-9 walk-on fullback Joe Beneducci. I wouldn't rule him out as a contributor in the fall*, but I expected the ball to be thrown his way more often last Saturday.
*(I don't think any of the receivers have locked down a spot with the exception of maybe Darboh, who was lined up against a dude who'd been a corner for maybe four practices.)
[Jump for the defensive backs are gonna be good, even if the passing game makes them look so.]
Bryan Fuller / MGoBlog
Michigan entered the season with an ostensibly high-powered “Big Three” – Caris LeVert had superstar potential and a dazzling arsenal of offensive skills; Derrick Walton was an aggressive, tough, and relentlessly driving point guard; Zak Irvin was a reliable artillery piece with plenty of room to grow. In hindsight, all fell short of expectations in their own way: Caris suffered under the burden of being an alpha dog, Derrick was perpetually nagged by a toe injury, and Zak’s shot abandoned him without an offsetting improvement elsewhere.
Eventually, injuries whittled the Wolverines down to just one of their three musketeers – Irvin. With all three, Zak often took an overly deferential role; without his running mates beside him and with Michigan’s season locked in firmly as a disappointment, he thrived and expanded his game, finding success with the ball in his hands and providing one of the brightest spots of a largely wasted year.
* * *
A Rocky Position Switch
Judging Zak by his aggregate body of work as a sophomore provides a much different picture than evaluating his strengths near the end of the year. On the whole, he averaged 14.4 points, 1.5 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting 45 / 35 / 69 (2P% / 3P% / FT%) – solid, albeit inefficient numbers. With his move from the four to the three, he assumed a much larger responsibility in Michigan’s offense: operating from the left side of the floor opened up dribble handoffs into the middle of the lane (as well as other opportunities driving with his dominant right hand) and offered a bigger role than the one he occupied in end-of-the-rotation minutes as a freshman.
He didn’t adjust well, especially at first. More so than most former threes in Beilein’s system, he still remained one-dimensional much like he was two years ago – though considerably less efficient. His playmaking – which was missing for the first several months of the season – was sorely needed after turf toe sapped Derrick Walton’s explosiveness and Michigan’s offense eventually contorted to put a nearly impossible amount of pressure on Caris LeVert to generate quality looks. Between uncertainty at the four and five spots (Kam Chatman, while playing, utterly wrecked Michigan’s spacing and the cast of inexperienced posts struggled to replicate Jordan Morgan’s pick-and-roll prowess), it was a mess – a stark departure from the two seasons prior.
Here’s how Zak compared to all of Michigan’s other starting three men (starting after Beilein’s messy first year):
Though it’s tough to compare a sophomore to some of Michigan’s better players in recent memory, Irvin was a five-star and did have an impressive and encouraging freshman season – one that suggested a possible breakout season as a sophomore. It didn’t happen. The two things that stand out most are his low assist rate and free throw rate (and percentage).
2011 Tim Hardaway and 2013 Nik Stauskas weren’t relied on to create offense because of the excellent passing of Darius Morris and Trey Burke, respectively – Zak wasn’t able to provide his teammates with enough quality looks and Michigan desperately needed that. Irvin’s low free throw rate is disappointing for a different reason: after a freshman year as Just a Shooter™, a natural development track and much more playing time might have made Irvin into a player who could attack the basket. Like his passing, his ability to drive and score improved over the course of the season, but on the whole, it was lacking. Because of his less effective outside shooting, a reliable way to score – from the free throw stripe – would have been ideal, but Irvin only averaged 2.4 free throw attempts in 36.2 minutes per game.
Even with the late surge, Irvin was too one-dimensional. In hindsight, expecting a Stauskasesque leap from spot-up shooter to all-around offensive menace was probably too much. Fortunately Zak did diversify his game and flashed signs of a well-rounded game on the offensive end, but Michigan’s season was effectively over at that point.
[Hit the JUMP for the rest of the analysis]
Not literally a comic book. 28 minutes of Charles Woodson highlights from high school do not quite feature him bounding over a tall building:
Full go minus one decision. John Beilein doesn't see anyone transferring this offseason:
"Everybody seems to be all onboard 100 percent," Beilein said Monday after attending a USBWA Final Four luncheon honoring freshman Austin Hatch. "Obviously, we're not with them 24 hours a day, but I love their attitude right now."
That does not include Caris LeVert, who is deciding on the NBA draft. It seems that people around the program are cautiously optimistic he will stay for his senior year, but we won't have certainty until the early entry deadline, April 26th.
That would leave Michigan with zero scholarships this year and two plus any attrition after next season in 2016. Unless Hatch goes on a medical scholarship that would cut out Mike Edwards, the various transfers looking at Michigan, and Jaylen Brown.
In related news, it looks like Max Bielfeldt will spend his grad transfer year at Bradley.
Meanwhile, another one bites the dust at Indiana. The Hoosiers get a commitment from prep post Thomas Bryant, bringing the number of Indiana players guaranteed to get run off this offseason to three. Someone please fire Tom Crean.
Spike surgery. Spike Albrecht will have surgery on both hips to eliminate the pain he played through this season. His projected return is in four or five months, which cuts him out of all the summer stuff but should have him back on the court a couple months before the season. That should be enough time to knock off the rust.
Soon, a fully healthy Spike will also be dunking on fools.
Out go the successories posters. Harbaugh on the weight room:
"It was shiny, like somebody from Chicago came in [from a ] P.R. firm," Harbaugh said. ""This isn't a slide show.
"This is work."
Don't get a DUI and then fail your probation. Harbaugh on Glasgow:
"The legal system has got as much hanging over his head as anybody else could possibly put on him," Harbaugh said. "There's nothing more that I, or the football program or the university could have on Graham right now than what (the courts) have.
"This is somebody who is taking a breathalyzer every morning and every night. He's got to be clean, 100 percent clean, not a drop of alcohol. And he'll either do it, or he won't. I believe in him, I believe he will. But we'll all know, there will be no secrets on that. Whether he does it or he doesn't, it'll be for public consumption."
He will have to do this through January, so he will either be clean as a whistle or you'll know he wasn't.
This is a lovely shot chart. Aubrey Dawkins did two things last year:
Threes and throwdowns. He was excellent at the threes, average at the throwdowns, which still means he was extremely efficient. Next year's project is getting some of those hexagons to be larger without changing their distribution. Oh, and doing the defense and rebounding stuff.
Adjusting for the matchups and expected points in each game, scoring in the smaller tournaments has been about 5.6 ppg more than the NCAA tournament. This is 2.4 ppg higher than the typical difference in these events. That's not something that will transform the game, but if you assume that boost applies to the entire 2015-16 season, it would take the sport to scoring levels not seen since 2003. (That statement excludes last season, when scoring increased dramatically, partly because a bunch of fouls were called.)
Not surprisingly, most of the scoring increase can be attributed to an increase in pace. Accounting for the teams involved and the increase in tempo normally seen in lower-level events, there have been two additional possessions per 40 minutes than we'd expect under normal rules. This is a more modest change compared to scoring and only turns the clock back to 2011 in terms of pace. This suggests simply reducing the shot clock to 30 won't produce significantly more up-and-down basketball. A surprising finding here is that slow-paced teams were affected as much as fast-paced teams were.
One of the concerns of the 30-second clock is that it may make offenses less efficient, but the postseason experiment isn't providing much evidence of that. Accounting for the quality of the teams and the usual increase in efficiency seen in the lower-level events, efficiency was actually up, though by a miniscule 0.6 points per 100 possessions.
The efficiency thing is almost certainly noise, but it looks like any effects are going to be minimal in that department. I don't think there's much wrong with college basketball other than the fact that block/charge is impossible to call and the refs are hilariously bad in general—but that's not something you can wave a wand and fix.
Final CSS rankings out. Minor movement for most players. Zach Werenski is 9th, down from 6th. Kyle Connor moves up a spot to 13th. 2016 recruit Cooper Marody moves up ten spots to 53rd. There were some more significant moves:
NTDP forward Brendan Warren dropped from 34th to 66th, which is an early third round pick to the fifth or sixth. He had an okay year only with the U18s.
Incoming defenders Joe Cecconi and Nick Boka went in opposite directions; Cecconi dropped from 70 to 88 and Boka shot up from 176 to 117.
Given Michigan's needs next year I'm happy that Boka's stock has apparently surged, even if Warren is less of a prospect than you think he might be. I wonder if Michigan will try to bring Marody or another 2016 recruit in now given Copp's departure.
The Hockey Writers have an extensive breakdown of Werenski that compares him to Trouba. I know I'm seeing Werenski a year younger, but he is not Trouba. Trouba was a commanding defenseman at both ends of the ice. Werenski really came on in the offensive zone late in the year but was a significant source of defensive problems.
Etc.: 1914 All-American ring for "Maully," which is either John Maulbetsch's nickname or a cartoon hammer. Bacari Alexander is up for the UW-Green Bay job, which is a pretty good mid-major posting. Various OMG Harbaugh stories on spring from ESPN, MLive, MVictors, etc.
Spike Albrecht gutted out this season through two bum hips. [Fuller]
The basketball program announced today that Spike Albrecht underwent surgery on his right hip, and still could undergo a similar procedure on his left hip this offseason. He'll recover for 4-5 months, so while he'll miss much of offseason conditioning, he shouldn't sit out any games in 2015-16. From the official release:
"There is no player tougher than Spike Albrecht," said Beilein. "He proved that this season playing through injury and continual pain in both hips. He never used it as an excuse and I will always admire him for that. We have some of the world's best doctors at the University of Michigan and we are confident he will only get better following this surgery and his summer of rehabilitation. I am not expecting Spike to dunk anytime soon, but we do expect a full recovery by the start of our September workouts. We just want Spike to be at his best for his senior year at Michigan."
"This is something I knew I would have to do and now is the right time," said Albrecht. "I am so appreciative of all the support I have received from the U-M medical doctors and staff, the U-M coaching staff, my teammates and especially all the Wolverine fans. I cannot wait to get back to the floor playing pain free."
"I am not expecting Spike to dunk anytime soon," is a gem of a press release quote. Here's hoping for a swift and full recovery; it's remarkable Albrecht was able to play as well as he did while dealing with that level of pain.
That is a man who realizes he's home, at long last. The score may only be 7-0 in the waning moments of the game, the stadium may only be half-full, this whole thing may only be an exhibition, but it's impossible to repress that smile.
[Hit THE JUMP for the spring game in GIFs, and, yes, more Harbaugh.]