Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary: Capable of dunking
Now that Trey Burke has announced his return to the Michigan basketball program, we can all emerge from our panic rooms and take a look at the roster for next year. Since the end of the season, Michigan has lost five scholarship players—Zack Novak and Stu Douglass to graduation; Evan Smotrycz, Colton Christian, and Carlton Brundidge to transfer—and pulled in a commitment from point guard Spike Albrecht. With today's news that the Wolverines are no longer pursuing combo guard Amadeo Della Valle, the roster is set barring a graduate-year transfer. Here's one man's guess at the 2012-13 depth chart:
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Trey Burke||Tim Hardaway Jr.||Glenn Robinson III||Mitch McGary||Jordan Morgan|
|Spike Albrecht||Nick Stauskas||Matt Vogrich||Max Bielfeldt||Jon Horford|
|Eso Akunne||-||-||-||Blake McLimans|
Schwing. That's a lineup featuring an All-American (honorable mention) point guard, an enigmatic but uber-talented shooting guard, two five-star freshmen at the 3 and 4, and a proven Big Ten center. It's also a lineup with a fair amount of versatility. If Michigan wants to go small, they can play GRIII at power forward and slide either Nick Stauskas or Matt Vogrich to the wing, adding some extra outside shooting. Going bigger is pretty unnecessary, since the presumed starters outside of Burke all have more than adequate size for their position—no more 6'4" guys in the post.
At point guard, once again it pretty much starts and ends with Trey Burke, but the pickup of Albrecht gives the team some options. Albrecht's main strengths are basketball savvy and passing ability; should he pick up on the offense quickly enough, he can provide Burke with a few minutes of rest without sacrificing much offensive flow. Nick Stauskas is a natural shooting guard, but he's a slick passer. If he can just be adequate at handling the basketball, he could also help ease the load on Burke. While Burke will undoubtedly play well over 30 minutes a game once again, there's hope that he won't be forced to log the 40 (or more) minute efforts he did as a freshman.
The key to a successful season—and next year, success means a Big Ten title and/or a deep run in the NCAA tournament—is the production of Tim Hardaway Jr. Can he improve his shot selection and return to the efficient scoring ways of his freshman campaign, or will he continue to be maddeningly inconsistent on both sides of the ball? Who knows, though I'd like to think he won't shoot 28% from downtown again. The good news is that with a four-star gunner in Stauskas and good secondary scoring options in GRIII and McGary, Michigan won't have to lean so heavily on Hardaway to carry the non-Burke scoring load. Stauskas hopefully will be the guy who finally lives up to his high school reputation as a deadly marksman; if he does, this team gets a whole lot more dangerous and versatile.
I'm guessing Glenn Robinson III steps right in and starts at small forward after surging to five-star status over the last several months. GRIII brings a level of athleticism on the wing that Michigan hasn't seen in a long time; the Burke-to-Robinson alley-oop combination should provide some Sportscenter Top 10 moments. Robinson should also be able to create his own shot heading towards the basket, something nobody outside of Hardaway could do with any consistency last season. Backing up GRIII will likely be Matt Vogrich, who will hopefully break through as an outside shooter while continuing to provide a surprising level of rebounding and defensive hustle.
The ballyhooed Mitch McGary should start right away at power forward with Smotrycz heading elsewhere. While his stock has dropped a bit since his commitment, McGary is still an instant-impact guy, and I'm very interested to see what he can bring to Beilein's burgeoning pick-and-roll game. McGary has the bounce necessary to take a quick pass off the roll and attack the basket with ferocity, something Jordan Morgan has struggled with in the past. With teams justifiably focused on stopping Burke, McGary could be the beneficiary of a lot of easy looks around the hoop. His high motor and effort should make him a force on the boards, as well. After redshirting last season, Max Bielfeldt has a chance to earn some PT at the four, being the guy who most fits the Beilein mold of a big who can stretch the floor. If he can hold his own defensively and on the glass, Bielfeldt could be a surprisingly solid weapon off the bench.
Jordan Morgan returns and should continue to provide high-percentage shooting, solid rebounding, and quality interior defense. While his ceiling doesn't appear to be especially high, Morgan has steadily improved in his Michigan career, and we'll likely see him take another step forward as a junior. If that step forward includes even a rudimentary post game (or at least better finishing on layup opportunities), the masses would be quite pleased. Morgan could be pushed for playing time by Jon Horford, who returns from a foot injury. Horford isn't as polished as Morgan, but he's more athletic and provides a better shot-blocking presence on defense. He should get at least 15 minutes a game next year, especially if Morgan's propensity for foul trouble continues to plague him. Blake McLimans may just be the odd man out with Michigan's new-found depth up front.
So, what's the outlook? While the Big Ten is loaded next year—the news that Christian Watford and Cody Zeller both return makes Indiana a potential national contender—Michigan is set to challenge for the conference crown and could be a Final Four team if a few things fall the right way. Getting Hardaway back on track is the key, assuming Robinson and McGary live up to their lofty recruiting rankings. While Michigan doesn't have a lineup loaded with shooters like Beilein's West Virginia squads, they have more athleticism and a dynamite point guard that the Mountaineers never had. Beilein's offense became more guard-centric the past two seasons with Darius Morris and Burke running the show, and that should continue next year. Expect to see more evolution from the offense as the coaches adjust to having a much bigger team, and possibly a shift back to more zone defense to better fit the personnel.
The expectations for next year are dramatically higher than they've been in Ann Arbor since the Fab Five era, and those expectations are justified. An experienced Burke coupled with a hopefully reinvigorated Hardaway should take this team a long way. If the freshmen produce as expected, Michigan will take the next (big) leap forward under John Beilein, going from Big Ten dark horse to national contender.
Little boxes on the grid-iron, little boxes made of football players, little boxes for positions, little boxes some the same. There's a tall one and a short one and strong one and speedy one and they’re all made out of ticky tacky and they all seem much the same.
Football positions are things that fans learn very young. Everyone knows who the quarterback and running back and linebackers etc. are. But then coaches start talking, and like any expert they designedly do so with such abstruse and recondite specificity as to elicit from the lay audience a greater appreciation for the mysteries of the speaker’s craft and complexities of the imbroglio of disagreements wherein than said audience might have been provisioned in elucidation—much like a writer who uses lots of SAT words to say "they’re being pretentious." Not that our coaches do this; Hoke’s staff is remarkably candid as coaches go.
Anyhoo, as with the penultimate sentence of the previous paragraph, more obscure lexemes, when understood, can communicate greater subtleties as well as pedantry. So that you too can cognize the nuances, or just sound like an insufferable know-it-all during the Spring Game (that’s what you're here for anyway right?), hither a glossary of Michigan’s various names, past and present, for eligible receivers; would that the Oxford was so concise.
Football allows four players of any type in the backfield ("backs") plus the two guys lined up on the extreme edges of the line ("ends") to be eligible receivers. A QB, RB, TB, HB, TB, WB, SB, FB, UB, YB, FL, Z, SR, or R is technically a back, while a TE, SE, X and Y are ends.
Quarterback (QB): Is an effin quarterback. Mr. Lewan would you kindly show the audience what this look li…
Ah. The first quarterback at Michigan was on Team 2 (1880): Edmund Barmore, though Elnathan Hathaway played some QB as well. Why "quarter?" When the game was young they played a lot like rugby, with rushers and a goalkeeper and innings and such. The recognizable part of this was that the rushers (blockers) were meant to plow the way forward, and a couple of ballcarriers stood half-way back from that. When the line of scrimmage and downs were established teams lined up in a diamond behind the line with a quarterback, two half-backs, and a full-back. Here's Stanford doing something like that under Harbaugh if you can imagine Luck is lining up in front of the 40 yard line:
The story is more complicated and took half a century but if you look at this you can see why the quarterback got the ball first. Now imagine the two halfbacks are receiving a lot of lateral handoffs and speeding for the edges more often, while the guy all the way back is set to plow straight forward.
Running Back (RB) is Michigan’s current preferred term for the traditional (first appeared in 1880) Halfback (HB), though RBs can often include fullbacks, e.g. Running Backs Coach Fred Jackson. Scatback or Powerback are unofficial labels that refer to skillsets, i.e. backs who, respectively, might run around or through attempted tackles. Tailback (TB) is slowly becoming an anachronism which seems to have made it into Michigan’s lexicon with Bo’s arrival and left shortly after the 1997 season; Manus Edwards in 1998 is the last player to be listed as "TB" in the Bentley database. That database phased out Halfback in the '60s.
Superback (SB) generally means an RB/WR hybrid. Rodriguez threw it around in 2009 to essentially mean Carlos Brown when Brandon Minor was in there too. It makes more sense the way Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern uses it to mean an RB who can split out to be a receiver, thus creating matchup problems for defensive coaches who prefer to match personnel (one LB per backfield member, one DB per receiver). All-Purpose Back is something I think Rivals.com made up.
Fullback (FB) is now the misnomered blocking back.
An H-Back is a fullback/tight end hybrid. An H-Back will line up behind or outside a tackle and usually goes in motion before the snap. A Wingback (WB)—on the far right of the pic at right—is another anachronism from when Single-Wing and Wing-T formations ruled the game and passing was for communists and differs from the H- in that he's lining up outside the ends. Michigan has WBs listed from '69 through '79. This differs from an H-Back in that he lines up outside the tight end—this is Pop Warner-style with no receivers remember. An A-Back is another term for this.
Hoke's staff has been recruiting a position they call the U Tight End or more often just "U" which is almost indistinguishable from H- or A-Backs except that it's much closer to a tight end in the hybridization scale. Calling him an "end" is a misnomer because he's not on the line, therefore he's not any kind of end.
You may remember the U from such Minnesota tight ends as those other Minnesota tight ends who were not Ben Utrecht or Matt Spaeth. Michigan did it too with Massaquoi and Ecker (right: from MGoBlue.com file, 2004). Nebraska has a U under Bo Pelini (Ben Cotton last year, Mike McNeill before) which he calls "The Adjuster" because he can be a FB, TE, or WR of the converted quarterback variety. Gruden calls this the "joker." In the play that had Greg Mattison cackling maniacally during the latest Spring Scrimmage overreaction you can see Ricardo Miller lined up as a U, which may be a nod toward more WR alleles this year, but Khalid Hill, a fullback-ian recruit, was offered at the 'U' and A.J. Williams came in as one too so Miller is not the coaches' ideal there.
Also Syracuse used this position under Doug Marrone, which I only know this from scouring 'Cuse articles during various GERG-related panics. The thing about the U is you don't know where he'll line up (backfield or as a true TE) until after he breaks from the huddle, so it's kind of a personnel gimmick.
Tight End (TE) is normally an end who lines up flush with the tackles. They used to be just called "ends" before a distinction needed to be made between them and wide receivers; the last ends on Michigan's rosters—OEs to the Bump Elliott era—were phased out in the middle of the 1960s. To Hoke the typical tight end spot is the Y. This is where I would expect Ricardo Miller to line up, and where The Funchess and other more receiverish TEs will end up, since he has a clearer release to receive, and because he can line up flush or as a receiver (ends can't move before the snap).
That label comes from receiver nomenclature: X, Y, and Z. The letters come from reading across the formation most typical when receivers began needing special designations:
Wide Receivers (WRs) are backs and ends lined up outside the box. Having the Y move to the right turns him into the slot receiver. Having him split all the way out makes him a wide receiver. He also would then be outside the Z and screw this up, but NFL players seem to be able to keep straight who's who:
"Some teams, mostly in collegiate and high school football, use route trees and route numbers for play calls. So you might hear a play such as "Spread right, Z zoom, 821 H-swing on two." Knowing what you know now, the play call should make a lot more sense. Spread right is the alignment, Z zoom is the motion, 821 are the pass routes in the order of "XYZ." So X runs an 8, Y runs a 2, and Z runs a 1. H-swing tells you what the H man runs (the running back or often the "H" back in two tight end sets) out of the backfield."
It seems Y and Z don't care who lines up outside; Z is the one that has to line up at least a yard off the line of scrimmage and who's counted as a back. If you turn the fullback into a slot receiver on the other side or bunch him up or whatever, that receiver is the R.
Split End (SE) is the X and was where you'd normally put the 'No. 1' receiver. The nomenclature appeared on Michigan rosters with Bo and lasted a year longer than his career; Greg McMurtry was one of the last listed starters at "SE" in Bentley, although my 2003 program has Braylon as it. Michigan didn't really have a Braylon or McMurtry last year so this fell to Roundtree. As an end the X needs to get out of bump coverage but doesn't go in motion. The Z last year was mostly Junior Hemingway. This is the Flanker (FL) position, and is typically the Jason Avant to the SE's Braylon. That's what Roundtree means by doing more movement before the play; he's kind of the possession guy now; he has moved from an end position to technically a back.
This is where it gets confusing, because the Flanker or the Y or the R can both be the Slot Receiver (SR) or Slot Back. This is because the slot comes from spread formations which differentiate from slot and wide. The slot refers to the area on either side of the line about mid-way between the wide receiver and the tackles. If the FL is inside the Y, he's the slot. If the Z is inside, he's the slot. SR as an official roster position came and went exactly as quickly as Rich Rod did; the leftover guys like Gallon and Dileo are now, with the rest of the receivers, listed as WR.
As Borges, a West Coast guy, well knows, where the slot lines up matters much to the receiver in his area, since they will run routes off of each other to flood a zone or clog the lane for man defenders.
Image via 247Sports
Michigan picked up their 17th commit of the class of 2013 tonight, as Hudson (OH) LB Ben Gedeon made his long-awaited pledge to the Wolverines:
"It’s awesome! I’ve kind of known throughout my whole recruitment that Michigan has been my #1 school. To finally get the commitment out of the way and saying I’m going to be a Michigan Man is just awesome."
Gedeon joins Mike McCray among linebacker commits in the class. Of the 17 Wolverine commits, 13 of them—including Gedeon—are on the ESPNU 150 Watch List.
4*, #13 OLB,
4*, #8 OLB,
4*, 90, #21 ATH,
Gedeon will be a four-star across the board as soon as ESPN comes out with an actual list,
and only 247 seems to think he doesn't crack the top ~250 players in the country [EDIT: Gedeon is listed at #255 overall on his 247 profile, so he's universally regarded as a top ~250 recruit]. His listed size ranges from 6'2", 200 lbs. (Scout) to 6'3", 220 (247), with recent articles pegging him at about 6'2, 215. Recruiting: Not the most exact science.
Gedeon is an extremely versatile athlete for Hudson, lining up all over the field for them on offense. His best position, of course, is linebacker, and he sounds like a player who will end up at the WILL for Michigan. First up with the evaluations is Mark Givler of Rivals ($):
At the college level, Gedeon will play linebacker and showed good instincts, toughness, and athleticism last Friday night. Gedeon's best position at the next level will probably be middle linebacker where he he has the toughness to fight through traffic and get to the ball carrier. Though getting sideline-to-sideline probably isn't his best strength, he does it well enough and covers well enough that he should be a well-rounded linebacker at the next level.
His size—and the glut of larger inside players in the class ahead of him—means Gedeon will probably end up on the weak side, where his athleticism and coverage ability will be a strength. Rivals's Josh Helmholdt broke down Gedeon's tape last September and saw improvement over his camp performances ($):
We saw Gedeon at two camps in the off-season. In early season film, though, he has looked even more athletic than when we saw him running around in just shorts and a t-shirt. At each new evaluation, Gedeon seems to have lost a little of the stiffness we saw out of him in our first evaluation. He may not quite be the 6-3, 215 pounds he is listed, and he does not blow running backs up, but Gedeon can run with backs and tight ends and will make for an athletic linebacker at the next level.
Again, athleticism and pass coverage are mentioned as positives; considering the WILL is occasionally tasked with sticking to a slot receiver, those skills are at a premium.
Gedeon has placed well in both initial state of Ohio rankings for the class of 2013. Scout has him at #11 in the state, one spot behind fellow commit Jake Butt. Here's Allen Trieu's take on their top-ranked linebacker:
Gedeon is a fantastic athlete as evidenced by what he's done all over the field from running back to receiver to linebacker. He can definitely run and play a sideline to sideline game. He may not play the same level of competition as some of the other top linebackers on the board, but we feel he has the most upside of the bunch.
Bucknuts has him all the way up at #7, and Mark Porter echoes the sentiment of every other evaluation we've seen ($):
“Overall, he is a great athlete. His junior highlights were outstanding. He makes plays all over the field. He’s almost a throwback type. He’s just a tough, hard-nosed football player.”
In case you didn't glean this from the above, Ben Gedeon is a very good athlete.
To go with his Michigan offer, Boston College, Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt, Purdue, Stanford, Tennessee, and Virginia extended scholarships to Gedeon.
Gedeon earned first-team all-state honors last season with 120 tackles to go along with over 1,400 rushing yards and 27 total touchdowns. As a sophomore, he was a third-team all-state member after amassing 105 tackles, five sacks, 500 rushing yards, 300 passing yards, and 300 receiving yards.
FAKE 40 TIME
I actually couldn't track down a 40 time for Gedeon. ALL OF THE FAKES, I guess.
There's also a sophomore highlight reel from 247Sports; though it doesn't have any defensive plays, you can see Gedeon lining up at tight end, H-back, wide receiver, kick returner, and even quarterback.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Gedeon doesn't have ideal size for the MIKE or SLB spots, but his athletic ability and coverage skills make him a perfect candidate for the WILL. He's a near-lock to redshirt given his need to put on weight and the fact that James Ross and Kaleb Ringer should end up on the weak side from the class of 2012. Desmond Morgan will be a returning starter as a true sophomore next season, and Ross is a future star, in my opinion.
Where Gedeon could make an early impact is special teams, where he can put that athleticism and versatility to good use. I expect he'll be a contributor in that area after a redshirt year, and from there he'll battle with Ross and Ringer for a spot in the rotation. As a redshirt junior, he should get a crack at the starting lineup.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan has now filled their two open spots at linebacker—the coaching staff was clearly confident they would take Gedeon, having told four-star LBs Alex Anzalone and Shane Jones they were full prior to his commitment—though all indications are that they're reserving a spot for E.J. Levenberry (likely a SLB), one of the best players on the board at any position.
As for the class in total, the Wolverines now have 17 players committed in what will likely be a 23-24 man class. The biggest needs are along the defensive line and at wide receiver, where Michigan will likely take two more prospects for each group.
You know the drill. Video via MGoVideo. Had to repackage the sound because the RAWK music got matched on Youtube.
Play 1: Fitz bursts off right tackle and picks up 8-10 before Raymon Taylor grabs him. Fitz then pushes Taylor five or so yards before the cavalry rallies. No idea what happened on the line but you can see Hopkins get a nice sealing block as Fitz hits the hole.
Raymon Taylor should probably not tackle high if a guy as slight as Fitz is going to bull him back.
Play 2: Inside zone (probably) to Justice Hayes is eaten up by Antonio Poole (#40) and an active Will Campbell. Looks like Poole was unblocked for whatever reason.
Play 3: Inside zone to Fitz. Blitzing Morgan is kicked past the play by Barnum; Fitz takes a stutter step to let that get past him and then flows up behind Barnum. Roh comes in from the right side of the frame to tackle near the LOS. Looks like a stunt blitz specifically designed to get this to happen. Mattison cackles in his laboratory.
Play 4: Joined in progress. Denard WOOPs around the backfield and slings a dart to… I think it's Miller but can't quite make out the number. Moore would be a bigger guy, though.
Play 5: Inside zone run with H-back (Miller) flaring weakside that we've seen for years now. Roh(+1) drives his man—probably Schofield—way down the line and Fitz decides to cut behind that mess. Bolden(+1) is there to clean up on the cutback at the LOS with help from Ryan. Miller's block on Ryan… eh… not so good.
Play 6: Play action from a zone read look; Roh smokes Omameh and gets pressure up the middle. Ryan and Bolden are coming free as well, so Denard can't do much except go down. Washington is in on this play.
Play 7: Gardner makes a read, doesn't like it, and takes off. Kaleb Ringer can't quite get off a block fast enough to bring Gardner down. Then Gardner jukes Mike Jones to the outside and picks up 15-20. Marvin Robinson runs him out.
Play 8: Rawls gets a belly handoff from Gardner and goes straight north and south, cutting to the backside of the line and running through an ankle tackle from Campbell and an arm tackle from Cam Gordon without slowing at all. Marvin Robinson fills pretty well. Best clip of Rawls we've seen. If he can shrug tackles off like that he's got a role.
Play 9: Rawls gets an iso from the I. He has to cut away from his lead blocker—something that has been very frequent when these clips show isos—and gets chopped down by Campbell.
Play 10: Zone read PA into a slant to Gallon; Countess is in Woodsonesque coverage and breaks it up. Cover +2.
Play 11: Inside zone to Fitz, who roars through a crease into the endzone from about 40. Someone blew that gap. No idea who without a wider view.
This does not end well for Jordan Paskorz
Play 12: Gardner hits Paskorz on a rollout; Paskorz double-catches the ball and gets crushed by Robinson.
Play 13: Gardner hits Jackson on a deep comeback in front of... I don't know. Lots of time to survey; this was his second read.
Play 14: Vincent Smith finds an inside zone gap and takes it into the endzone. The nose got crushed and allowed an easy combo block on Bolden, but I don't think it was Campbell since the guy looks white. Thomas Gordon could have done a better job filling near the LOS to hold it down.
Play 15: Russell Bellomy flings an out to Mike Kwiatkowski. Ball takes a long time to get there. Kwiatkowski then jukes Al Backey, which will no doubt be used to razz Backey forever and ever in film session.
Play 16: Denard hands off to Rawls on an under center stretch(?). Odd. Rawls finds a crease as Barnum, who's flowed well down the line, latches on to and eliminates Bolden. Gyarmati gets enough of a block on Morgan to get Rawls the edge and a nice gain.
Play 17: Hopkins FB dive from under center. Good push by Jack Miller on Ash and Hopkins makes a few extra yards by breaking tackles.
Play 18: Denard lofts a screen to Smith, who gets 8 or 10 before Jarrod Wilson comes in to tackle.
Play 19: Gardner waggle finds Joe Kerridge wide open for a touchdown.
Play 20: Short yardage Vincent Smith iso is… a touchdown? I don't want to talk about this. Bolden got rocked by Gyarmati, probably because he didn't read the play quick enough. That contact is not happening near the LOS and that's all she wrote.
Play 21: What looks like it might be an inverted veer by Bellomy ends abruptly when Cam Gordon roars in to sack.
Play 22: Smith iso w/ Bellomy in is swallowed by Campbell and Ash. Second team OL kind of got owned there.
Play 23: Denard surveys, comes off a first read, and zings it to Dileo for a touchdown in front of Avery. 10-15 yard slant.
Play 24: Rawls iso. Burzynski gets a good block on Morgan and Unidentified FB deals with Probably Bolden, no linebacker level. Kovacs is hovering around the LOS and makes contact to slow Rawls; Thomas Gordon finishes the play with a solid thump. Five or six.
Play 25: Kennedy hands off to Justice Hayes on a power with Mealer pulling. Hayes manages to dash through a small hole, run through an ankle tackle from Probably Safety, keep his feet, juke Wilson, and carry a pursuing Brandin Hawthorne into the endzone. Impressive.
Play 26: Wrinkle. Michigan runs the zone with pulling H-back thing; Denard pulls, probably on a called play. Miller hits a hole backside instead of flaring out and the net effect is a QB iso that looks like a zone read keeper. Miller blocks an unprepared Bolden and Denard glides into the endzone.
Takeaways? Barnum can move. In each one of these Michigan picks up a big gain because Barnum shows excellent agility and an ability to seal a guy on the move. Here it's a stretch play; other times it was a pull. I think we're going to be just fine at center.
Fitz is Fitz; in this one Hayes and Rawls showed a bit more than they have in previous editions of these tapes. The Rawls run right north-south was Minor-esque. The featured Hayes run was Fitz-esque.
Also both quarterbacks will be 100% accurate this year and there will be no turnovers.
Elsewhere: takes from Maize and Blue Nation.
Joe Mathis In Play
comes with your choice of hairstyles. gotta catch 'em all!
CA DE Joe Mathis (not that Joe Mathis) has long been presumed a USC lean, but after his on-again-off-again unofficial to Michigan actually came off on Friday he's talking very highly about the Wolverines. He went so far as to name Michigan his leader:
With a day to sleep on it, Joe Mathis tells me Michigan is his leader following yesterday's visit. Currently hanging out Khalid Hill and David Dawson.
Sam Webb [note all tweets have been translated from the twitterese as per usual]:
Joe Mathis said he got chills walking down the tunnel at Michigan Stadium yesterday. Mathis also said Michigan will be in his top 5 and he guaranteed an official visit to Ann Arbor in the fall.
Michigan OL commit David Dawson said he can't wait to get at Mathis on the field today, but will really recruit him off of it.
"It was beautiful. I really enjoyed myself since it was so nice," said Mathis. "I went down the tunnel (at the Big House) and got chills. It was crazy."
Though recruits typically are high on a school following a visit, there was no denying Mathis' enthusiasm for the program after getting to see it up close and personal. He did not commit over the weekend but certainly came close and had no trouble figuring out where the Wolverines fit into his list of top schools.
"I was going to (commit) but I said that would be selfish because I didn't see other schools," he said. "Michigan is number one on my list. I don't have a top five, it's Michigan and that's it. I did have a top five with USC but I was like, that's selfish of me because I didn't see other schools. Coming out here, my mom was saying it was going to be too cold out here but this is me. I love the coaches and this is me out here."
Mathis added that the visit was much better than recent unofficial trips to USC and UCLA as well.
Usual disclaimers about a long way to go apply. Mathis might be one of those kids who gets excited about everybody—he's already committed to and decommitted from($) Washington. Mathis is likely to back off in a couple weeks when USC/whoever guys get ahold of him and maintain neutrality into the fall. He's already told GBW($) that he doesn't have a top five yet but that when he names one Michigan will be on it, which is a bit less thrilling.
If Mathis continues to state Michigan as his leader over the next month, that is legit and it's time to get excited. He would be an excellent pickup as an SDE/three-tech—Mattison told him he'd be Michigan's Terrell Suggs—and could help corral five star safety/athlete Su'a Cravens, his cousin. Mathis and Cravens have already announced they will take a joint official visit to Michigan this fall.
Shane Morris and Jourdan Lewis via TomVH.
Lewis, Dawson Stock: Rising
Ann Arbor's Concordia College hosted the Adidas Invitational (formerly known as Best of the Midwest, FWIW) over the weekend. Every recruiting service was there, as were a ton of Michigan commits and targets: Shane Morris, David Dawson, Joe Mathis, Malik McDowell, Kyle Bosch (just observing), and a bunch of rising juniors trying to get pub for 2014.
Aside from the Mathis stuff, the most notable developments over the weekened were strong performances from MI OL commit David Dawson and MI CB commit Jourdan Lewis. Dawson impressed with his weight—he's down to a svelte 280—and strength:
Michigan Top247 commit David Dawson dominates Joe Mathis in tire tug a war. Strong legs. Powerful. Dawson proved it was no fluke dominating Mathis again.
Mathis got the better of Dawson in a 1 v 1 later, FWIW. Since he's ticketed for guard I'll take that tradeoff. BONUS DAWSON-MATHIS TUG OF WAR TANTALIZING TIDBIT:
Joe Mathis and David Dawson just did a tug of war that Dawson won. One of the kids here said "you're gonna be on the same team anyway"
That's from Allen Trieu.
Lewis was even more impressive on both sides of the ball, blanketing a couple of high level receivers—ND commit James Onwualu and Big Ten-bound Kevin Gladney most prominently—at cornerback while impressing at receiver himself. Bryan Fischer:
Detroit (Mich.) cornerback Jourdan Lewis was Morris' favorite target as the versatile athlete played running back, wide receiver and defensive back in an impressive showing. He showed enough to be one of the top offensive and defensive players after several nifty catches on both sides of the ball, including a very nice snag along the sidelines with a defender draped all over him while running a route.
When Onwualu managed to beat Lewis deep it was enough of a rarity to draw comment. That's a good weekend. Multiple observers named Lewis one of the top two performers at the camp along with IN LB Jaylon Smith, who Michigan is unfortunately going to have to face at either OSU or ND. Josh Helmholdt didn't do so explicitly but in Rivals' (free) recap of the Invitational it's again Smith and Lewis getting top billing.
Lewis seems in line for a bump to consensus-four-star territory. Dawson should maintain his current rankings, but it seems like recruiting sites are now looking at him as a guard. That will hamper moves further upward.
Malik McDowell Eager To Commit To… Someone
Everyone's after 2014 MI DE Malik McDowell early and for good reason: he is a 6'6", 260-275 pound monster with Michigan and Ohio State offers already and his plan is to make a decision during his junior year. Get to it or miss out. Here's McDowell talking to ESPN's Chantel Jennings:
I'm surprised they can get Jennings in the same frame with that guy.
Anyway, the key passage in that video comes after Jennings asks McDowell why he'd like to get the decision out of the way so early:
MCDOWELL: It's really my dad, he said that he can't commit until my junior year.
JENNINGS: If it was up to you, you'd commit earlier?
MCDOWELL: Yeah, to a school that I would really like to go to.
JENNINGS: Any idea what that school would be?
MCDOWELL: Um… no.
Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more. McDowell grew up a Michigan fan and an early decision usually goes in favor of the team he's most comfortable with. AFAIK he's only taken unofficials to Michigan so far. He does plan on taking in spring games at Michigan and Michigan State.
Miscellaneous Invitation Bits
MI QB Shane Morris showed up and was Shane Morris:
The 6-3, 190-pound lefty ... bounced back from an up-and-down performance at the Dallas Elite 11 tryout in a big way. His arm strength is well-known, but his accuracy was picture-perfect the entire afternoon, and he showed more ability to put touch on passes than he has at times in the past. Although it seems unlikely, Morris might have raised his stock even higher than it already was.
The accuracy issues that Morris dealt with at the Dallas Elite 11 camp did not recur.
The top 2013 sleeper($) to come out of the camp was OH LB Jerome Lane, a 6'3", 217 pound kid out of Akron who seems destined for outside linebacker in college. He clocked an impressive 4.47 and caught everyone's eye. He's planning to hit up a bunch of school camps over the summer and see what happens. If things fall through with EJ Levenberry (about whom more below) he could be a guy to keep an eye on.
Meanwhile, Dawson said he thought IL OL commit Logan Tuley-Tillman was a "done deal" to transfer to Cass Tech but Cass HC Thomas Wilcher threw cold water on that by saying he is "not optimistic." Cass is a magnet school but they can only recruit within the Detroit school system, so if Tuley-Tillman moves closer to Ann Arbor the Technicians won't be an option.
In news about uncommitted guys, Shane Morris said his "top recruiting priority" is IL RB Ty Isaac and "he thinks things are going well."
Morris and Dawson finished 1-2 on Helmholdt's list of top offensive performers($) at Adidas. 2015 Cass QB Jayru Campbell was 8th, "one of the most consistently accurate" passers on the day and better than 2014 Chance Stewart, 10th. Lewis is second on his defensive list with Mathis 4th, McDowell 5th, and Cass DT Kenton Gibbs 7th. Smith took top honors and a sleeper CB out of Fort Wayne named Tyvel Jemison was the interloper at third. Gibbs seems to be making a move($):
This was the best single performance we have seen from Gibbs in more than a half dozen times seeing him. The 6-3, 285-pound defensive tackle was quick and powerful in the one-on-ones and played with more discipline than we had seen from him in the past. He found it easy going in the one-on-ones, handing offensive lineman after offensive lineman defeats. Gibbs has always had the potential, and he now appears closer to realizing it.
He'll be the number one guy to watch for an offer at Michigan's summer camp.
And an important update on a 2015 recruit from TomVH($):
QB Jay'ru Campbell's hair is feathered and lethal.
Devon Allen: Fast
Zoom! Note that he is finishing in front of a dude with dreadlocks.
AZ WR Devon Allen is a name that keeps popping up, and for good reason:
Devon Allen of Brophy College Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) is Superman.
What else can you call the junior who dazzled the standing room only crowd at the 45th Arcadia Invitational after he won a total of five gold medals — four in a four-hour span Saturday night?
All he did was set state records in winning the 110-meter high hurdles in 13.52 seconds and the 300-meter intermediates in 36.39, capture the 200 dash by the slimmest of margins at 21.10 — all this after warming up by running a leg on the Broncos' 4x100 relay team that clocked a glittering 41.15.
Those hurdles numbers are second nationally this year. The last guy to win three events at the Arcadia Invitational—described by ESPN as "the country's biggest in-season high school track meet"—was Xavier Carter, who you may remember as a five-star LSU recruit who ditched football to run track professionally. Devon Allen is fast.
Michigan has an offer out to him as a receiver. If he commits prepare for the perpetual, not-very-accurate Ed McCaffery comparisons.
Not In The Barn Yet
Michigan fans have been expecting a commit from EJ Levenberry for a while now, with his visit to this weekend's spring game the expected point in time. Get out your Lee Corso head because not so fast, my friend($):
Virginia linebacker E.J. Levenberry Jr. spent a week in Tallahassee to learn more about Florida State.
Even if that was a spring break diversion, I don't think I've ever heard of a week-long visit. In that article Levenberry says his time down there "helped FSU a lot" and that they're now tied with Michigan at the top of his leaderboard. That actually seems good since the full-court press with FSU couldn't vault them into the lead.
Levenberry's still coming up this weekend and has no set decision date. According to the article, it "may happen in the summer." If Levenberry escapes Ann Arbor without making a commitment it's time to consider him a guy who Michigan may get instead of will get.
Ohio State is backing off PA WR Robert Foster, one of the top ten kids in the country, for off-field reasons. This should clear up why Michigan didn't so much as bat its eyes at a five star at a position of need inside the footprint. OSU insider types are also not very confident about their chances with MD DT Henry Poggi, which would leave Michigan alone atop his leaderboard if accurate.
NJ DT Greg Webb commits to Penn State, another good get for BOB and another step away from the Ten Year War II meme—PSU is just about keeping pace with Michigan and OSU so far. That one hurts Michigan because he seemed like their best shot at a highly-rated NT. At least he went to PSU instead of OSU. Kenton Gibbs is happy with that development. He'll camp in an effort to get that NT scholarship.
2014 MO OL Andy Bauer is Michigan's first miss in that recruiting class. He's off the board to Missouri. I suspect Michigan will survive.
OH WR Kevin Gladney was calling Michigan a slight leader a month or so ago but omitted all mention of Michigan($) in a recent a interview with Trieu. He does mention visits to Nebraska and MSU plus interest in OSU despite a lack of interest. Writing is on the wall there.
Michigan was never after MI OL Cameron Dillard but since he just committed to Florida now seems like a good time to note that there must be a dearth of linemen in the South for Michigan to be going up against Alabama so often for their OL and for Florida(!) to offer MI OL/DL Poet Thomas before anyone other than EMU and pick up Dillard… who didn't even have an MSU offer. Instead MSU grabbed a guy from Texas. Very strange.
Dillard is the first Michigan player to leave the state for an SEC power without even token resistance from the in-state schools… ever? It might be ever. Certainly since I've been following recruiting.
Finally, DC CB Devin Butler committed to ND over PSU and M. I'm not sure Michigan has room (or need) for a third corner in the class anyway.
Michigan offers HI DT Scott Pagano, who wants to decide by August 10th. That's a hell of an unofficial visit schedule if true.
Ed-Ace: Michigan handed out two other offers recently. OH CB Ross Douglas, a Penn State commit who previously visited Ann Arbor without an offer, now has one in hand. With Butler and Tre Bell committing elsewhere, it's possible the Douglas offer is a sign that the coaches still want a third corner in the class if there's room. The coaches also offered 2014 NC OL Bentley Spain, joining North Carolina, N.C. State, and South Carolina.
Tom Lemming also released his initial 2013 top 100, and Magnus has the full breakdown over at TTB.
[Ed-Ace: Brian (knee) is day-to-day, though he did prepare some content that will be posted this afternoon. Post-Burke-return hoops stuff and a Spring Game primer will appear later this week. In the meantime, enjoy some Mike Hart.]
In honor of Michigan’s all-time leading rusher’s birthday yesterday, a look at one of the unique careers in college football.
Since the 2011 season completed, I have been re-loading 9 seasons worth of games (6,063 to be exact) to update my database to include 2011’s new feature of Win Percent Added. In doing so, something immediately popped out at me. No running back added more wins to their team than Mike Hart did for Michigan.
Sometimes when you are looking at advanced stats you are surprised by how counter-intuitive results can be and sometimes you are surprised how well the data fits the existing narrative. Mike was the back who wouldn’t go down, always got the extra yard, killed the clock and never fumbled. Those are all the things that factor highly in Win Percent Added, especially the 4th quarter capabilities. Burning the clock in the fourth quarter is a key requirement of a successful running back. Especially a Michigan running back. No one did it better than Mike.
For his career, Mike Hart was responsible for 4.4 Wins running the ball. Reggie Bush edges him out if you count receiving WPA, as well, but those are tainted wins. It’s not just longevity and playing time that pushed him to the top. His per game average of 0.11 is fifth, behind two players with only a single season in the database and two more with two seasons at non-BCS level schools.
At this point, writing about Mike Hart is a daunting task. What is left to write that hasn’t been written? He joined the team in the 2004 class as a 3 star recruit. He nearly set the national high school rushing record but wasn’t even the highest ranked running back in Michigan’s class. He would have been the fifth highest rated running back in Miami’s (YTM’s) recruiting class. He saw his first quality action in his second game of his career against Notre Dame in the second week of the season. By week three he was over 100 yards and posting a +5 EV+ and a crucial .36 WPA as Michigan held on for a 24-21 win over San Diego St.
Hart would go on to string together three straight 200 yards games in Big Ten play, including a 0.26 WPA in the Braylon Edwards game. His EV+ was always strong for a running back but where his EV+ was strong, his WPA was Herculean. Mike Hart made all the plays to win the game but none of them to lose them. By the end of the 2004 season true freshman Mike Hart had gone from anonymous three star to posting a per game WPA of 0.15, still my best recorded number in the Big Ten.
Injuries killed a large portion of the 2005 season. Kevin Grady, Max Martin, Antonio Bass and Jerome Jackson all took carries but none could come close to the production from Mike Hart. Kevin Grady was the only one to surpass a +1 EV+ in his absence, and that was mostly unnecessary against Indiana. Jerome Jackson did have a solid 0.14 WPA on 11 carries in an overtime win against Iowa, but that was limit of the success when Hart was out. In five full games of action Hart averaged 0.23 WPA which if replicated across an entire season would have given him the second highest (Reggie Bush, 2005) WPA average in a season for any running back since 2003.
It’s hard to think about what could have been with a healthy Mike Hart. Three carries in a seven point loss to Notre Dame, a DNP in a three point loss to Wisconsin eight ineffective carries in a four point loss to Ohio. There’s a very real chance he swings those three games and Michigan shares a Big Ten title with Penn State and spends its holiday taking on Florida State in the Orange Bowl rather than getting screwed over by the refs in the Alamo Bowl.
With fewer games coming down to key fourth quarter possessions in 2006, Michigan didn’t need the fourth quarter machine Mike Hart. He finished the season with a profile almost exactly like Chris Perry’s 2003 season. With not much in the way of close games, he didn’t have any massive, WPA pushing games like he had in his first two years, but 10 of 13 games would finish at .07 or better. For the year Hart ended at .09 WPA/game, his third top 20 Big Ten WPA year in as many tries. John Clay is the only player to have even 2 top 20 finishes.
For the second time in his career, injuries would derail an outstanding Mike Hart season. After surviving The Horror and somehow managing a strong WPA in the follow-up beating by Oregon, Hart was on track for a season to along side his junior year. An ankle injury in mid-season cost him a couple games of action and a couple more of effectiveness. 2007 would be his lowest rated season but still crack the Big Ten top 50. He would finish the year with enough quality carries to become Michigan’s all-time leading rusher and set the then non-existent WPA record.
When I talk to people about how much more valuable quarterbacks are than running backs they usually point to running out the clock in the fourth as the unquantifiable equalizer between the two. When I first developed the Win Percent Added I was anxious to see how true it was. If you properly value the ability for a running back to keep the clock running and close out a game, what happens to the value relationship between quarterback and running back. After I crunched the numbers I found that the fourth quarter benefit was largely overstated. Until I looked at Mike Hart. There are very few running backs whose value is truly magnified by the little things like the narrative claims.
Mike Hart is the narrative.
Mike Hart, Seasons
Mike Hart, Games
|Year||Week||Vs||EV+||WPA||Rush EV+||Rush Att||Yards|
|2004||3||San Diego St||5||0.36||5||25||121|