The meaningless expectations of SIDs picking team names at random as long as they're from the SEC has landed. The top ten:
- Florida State
- South Carolina
Wisconsin is 12, MSU 13, Nebraska 16. ND is 24. Ohio State is ineligible due to bowl ban. So is Penn State but… yeah, probably not relevant there.
I'd say Michigan is too high but Arkansas. Seriously: Arkansas. The team coached by a raving duck-man is tenth. So I guess we're good. It doesn't take long for expectations to rebound to the usual when you are a college football blue-blood.
BONUS DISPUTE: VT is heinously under-ranked at 20. Logan Thomas is going to blow up this year. They crushed #8 Michigan everywhere but the scoreboard in the Sugar Bowl, and IIRC their defense was flush with sophomores last year. They have to replace almost everyone other than Thomas on O, but it won't matter that much early.
OH LB Michael Ferns is one of a handful of early 2014 targets from the Midwest (photo via DetNews)
It's time for another edition of the Recruitin' Mailbag. Today, much of the focus is on the 2014 class, though of course there's a Laquon Treadwell question for those of you not ready to look that far ahead yet. You can ask a question for the next mailbag via email or with the hashtag #mgomailbag on Twitter.
Huge fan, you do an outstanding job. My recruiting question for you is, with so many scholarships given out to the 2014 class I've noticed that there has been a "lack of interest" so far with student athletes from the Midwest. My meaning of "lack of interest" doesn't mean they don't have kids from that area on their recruiting board. I'm wondering if the reason for that is because there is a lack of talent for the 2014 class in the Midwest compared to this 2013 class. Thank you for reading and answering my email. Take Care!
Going by Touch The Banner's 2014 offer board (and adding in OH RB L.J. Scott, who picked up an offer last week), Michigan has sent out 52 offers in the class, but only 13 have gone to prospects within the Big Ten footprint. A quick glance at 247's early 2014 rankings, however, should tell you what this staff is thinking: the Wolverines have offered six of the top ten players in the country and ten of the top 20.
This early in the cycle, the emphasis has been on gauging the interest of the blue-chip national prospects; with that level of prospect, it's often the case of getting in early or not getting in at all. They're also the players who need the least amount of evaluation to determine if they're worthy of an offer. It's not like the Midwest isn't represented, either, and offers have gone out to in-state standouts Malik McDowell, Damon Webb, and Tommy Doles; I don't believe this is an issue of lack of local talent, even though we may not see Illinois produce the same level of prospects that they have in 2013.
I'd expect you'll see many more offers go out to Midwest prospects when the fall rolls around and the coaches have some junior-year film to evaluate. With a year-and-a-half until 2014 signing day, there's still a lot of time before we can begin to question the talent level in the area.
Is there any indication that Hoke & staff prefer to have the class wrapped up early? What I mean is, do they put pressure on the kids (saying "hey, we're not going to hold a scholarship and we're recruiting others for your position") and that's part of the reason some guys (i.e. LTT, Treadwell's possible earlier decision) commit early?
The Wolverine asked Brady Hoke about the trend of early commitments in recruiting at Big Ten media days, and while Hoke said he's unsure if he liked sending out offers so early, he may not have much of a choice:
If they didn't take kids early, he added, they'd be in danger of falling behind.
"If we didn't, somebody else would," he said. "We're going to be aggressive in what we do. You can't sit back, or somebody's going to pass you, but I don't know what they're going to do [to slow it], or who's going to handle it["]
As for pressuring players to commit, several recruits have noted that the coaching staff has done no such thing; they want recruits to commit only if they're ready to do so. That said, the coaches are very open with recruits about the current scholarship situation and whether other recruits are poised to commit—see: the staff informing Leon McQuay III before Ross Douglas committed—with the implication that time may be running out to secure a spot in the class. They're not going to give a player an ultimatum; at the same time, they're not going to put the class on hold to wait on one prospect.
How much of an impact is the "no other visits" rule having on early commits for '14? — @Bry_Mac
Well, hey there, Blue in South Bend. I think the rule is absolutely having an impact at this stage, and that's a good thing; it's quite possible that without the rule in place a guy like Damon Webb would have committed by now, even though he's still getting offers from schools like LSU that would understandably make him think twice about that commitment. At this stage, the 2014 prospects haven't had much of a chance to see schools outside of their immediate area, and asking them to make an ill-informed decision is begging for some decommitment drama down the road.
Once some of the local prospects take a few visits to check out other schools, I think you'll start seeing the commitments trickle in; I'd be surprised if Michigan entered the 2012 season without at least one junior committed. They're in great position with a few prospects—especially OH LB Michael Ferns—and should get off to a strong start when the time comes. That time just might not be now.
How much does HS coaching (or lack thereof) shade our views of recruits? Can a great coach oversell a meh talent? — @hooverstreet
At a certain level, possibly, though that would be limited to positions like quarterback where the system really has a big impact, and usually you're able to tell regardless of stats whether a QB has the frame and arm strength to make it at the collegiate level.
I actually think that playing for a poorly-coached team can have a strange way of benefiting certain players; if a physically impressive prospect plays in a system not tailored to their game, the hype can build around untapped potential. To take an example—and I'm by no means saying he'll be a bust—Taco Charlton is now a four-star on the basis of his athletic ability, frame, and camp performances, but so far in high school he's been a situational pass-rusher. If he was out there every down and we got to see how he stood up against the run, it's quite possible that he wouldn't be as highly regarded.
For the most part, with all the camps and 24/7 recruiting coverage, I think it's difficult at this point for a recruit to get too overrated due to the high school system they play in; eventually, they either have to match up with other top prospects or they'll get dinged for shying away from top competition. That's a big reason why camps have taken on such a life of their own; in this day and age, it's all about seeing how top prospects handle playing against other top prospects.
why the sudden interest in Florida, lsu, auburn from QuonT. Is he cooling on mich? — @natebburn
It's important to note that this "sudden interest" in Laquon Treadwell from SEC schools is still coming six months before signing day; even last year this wouldn't be considered getting into the race late. As for Treadwell's interest in Michigan, I'll believe he's "cooling" on the Wolverines when he says so himself, and he's said nothing to indicate that they're anything but his clear-cut top school.
Just because the trend has gone towards early commitments doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with taking your time, checking out as many schools as possible, and waiting until you're 100% ready before making a commitment. Give Treadwell a chance to do his due diligence; I'd expect that whenever he's ready, you'll be happy with his decision.
Events! Two preseason events are booked for yours truly:
- I'll be in New York on August 15th with the Alumni Club of NYC. 7 PM, Professor Thom's.
- I'll be a part of the UM Club of Greater Detroit's kickoff dinner panel with Angelique Chengelis of the News and Greg Dooley of MVictors. Details here.
Yes, lol. Here's Todd Graham's motivational tactic at Arizona State:
This is lol. It is even more lol when you bring last year's edition into play:
Yes: I AM HERE TO THE END. I get that Graham is Todd Graham. What I can't understand is what the hell Arizona State's athletic director was thinking when he decided to grab a guy who already had a reputation as a job-hopper after one 6-6 year in the Big East. That's like hiring Brady Hoke… if Brady Hoke had no connection with your university and was widely regarded as not the best dude ever.
Oh, right, that. The Devin Gardner cat was released from the bag but never mentioned in this space. Here is the cat:
How much will backup quarterback Devin Gardner play at receiver this fall?
"I'll think we'll have a chance to get Devin on the field some at receiver," Hoke said.
But, legitimately, how much?
"We'll see," Hoke said, smirking. "I'm being coy, but we'll see as fall camp goes through what he can handle, ball security after the catch, all kinds of things like that."
Go for broke, man.
Does a quarter of the MSU football team have an alibi? Star Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball was the victim of an "unprovoked attack" last night:
Ball suffered head injuries after being attacked by five men near Wisconsin's campus around 2:15 a.m. Wednesday. Witnesses told police the men knocked Ball to the ground and began kicking him. Ball, a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist, was taken to a hospital and released later Wednesday morning.
You'd think shouting "I RAN FOR 1,923 YARDS LAST YEAR" would be an excellent way to get people to stop kicking you in the head. Or "my best friends are 6'6", 320 pounds." But these guys are probably hopped up on PCP.
Bullet: dodged. Remember when Zeke Pike was probably going to be in Michigan's most recent recruiting class and was supposed to be really good at football? He's taken quite a dive since:
Freshman quarterback Zeke Pike is not expected to be part of the Auburn football team that opens preseason practice on Wednesday afternoon, but knowledgeable sources say the possibility remains that he could rejoin the team, perhaps after the 2012 season. …
Pike was sent home after his arrest on a public intoxication charge in June.
That's after a series of camp performances that saw his stock dip from top-100 type to generic three star.
New era: nevermind. UCF's athletic director got a show cause for working with a street agent, the NCAA concluded thusly…
The NCAA Committee on Infractions ruled that Central Florida officials, including former athletics director Keith Tribble, had knowledge of the involvement of Ken Caldwell, a Chicago man with ties to a sports agency, and his associate Brandon Bender, to recruit players. The NCAA said both men used cash inducements in an effort to steer nearly a dozen football and men's basketball prospects to Central Florida.
…and the Golden Knights got a one-year postseason ban that they have the chutzpah to appeal. (Because they sucked at cheating.) Tentative conclusion: Penn State was an aberration and PSU fans should probably be mad and stuff.
I guess the UCF punishment had been in the works long before Penn State got the instant banhammer and the two things have little to do with each other. But… seriously, what does it take short of enabling a pedophile to get seriously hammered? Head coach knows stuff, does nothing: one year postseason ban and flimsy scholarship penalties. Athletic director pays street agent to acquire recruits: one year postseason ban and flimsy scholarship penalties. The equation seems heavily stacked in favor of rolling the dice.
Lewan was even asked if he was sad that Gholston wasn't part of the Michigan State contingent at the Big Ten's media days.
"I don't know," Lewan said bluntly. "That's kind of an odd question to ask."
Lewan repeatedly deflected specific questions about Gholston and Michigan State throughout his two hour roundtable session, but did admit to one thing.
Gholston is one heck of a player, and regardless of what happened last season, Lewan certainly respects his talent on the field.
"Will's a good player," Lewan said. "He's been very successful since he's been at Michigan State, and it's going to be exciting to play against him."
What's the point? Maybe the first question, sure, but once Lewan has revealed he is going to give you the boilerplate, move on.
Side note: Gholston hype is out of all proportion to reality, man. Marcus Rush is the better MSU DE, but Gholston and his five sacks are… uh, tall. And good when not blocked.
Air Force 1,000 foot view. Via Pre-Snap Read, a fine preview of the Falcons:
It could be worse: Air Force’s offense could have to replace nine starters, as on defense, instead of just eight starters. Then again, it’s probably fair to make one point in regards to the Falcons’ overwhelming lack of experience heading into September: Air Force is not like other programs in the country. Elsewhere, you see five returning starters and point towards a downturn; Air Force, like its fellow service academies, deals with roster overturn every season – perhaps not to this degree, but without redshirt seasons and with most teams very senior-heavy, this sort of retooling is not new to Calhoun and this staff.
The Falcons also return just two starters on defense; the "dream season" section still includes a loss in Ann Arbor.
Etc.: Merrill named Devils' top prospect by NHL.com. Burlon third after spending entirety of last year in AHL. Argh. Alabama concern-type substances. Online poker to return soon? Meinke compiles Will Campbell hype. Chengelis does the same for Kovacs. Restoring the Old Man.
Sometimes I make my girlfriend read me MGoblog articles while I'm doing something else. That way, she learns a little more about football, and I get to multitask.
Today when she was reading to me the Hello: Ross Douglas post, she came up with a pretty good question. She wanted to know: does Douglas project to nickle-corner, vs. boundary or field-corner only because of his size? Her rationale was that with gurus praising his technique and reliability, but not labeling him a star because of his lack of big play risk-taking, wouldn't it serve better to put a CB who is more of a gunslinger risk-taker in the nickel role where he has safety help at all times, and line Douglas up outside at either field or boundary corner?
Don't worry, I know I have a keeper on my hands if she was able to come up with a question like that. :)
Size is a suggestive but not determining factor. When we do these things we're peering at the roster and seeing where player X fits in and trying to figure out how the coaches see their players, but often the coaches are surprised when the kid shows up and they figure out what they actually have. If Douglas is the best guy to play on the outside, he'll play on the outside.
With bigger and more touted corners in the same class it would be an upset if he's the guy tasked with running down the Michael Floyds of the world. Insert mental image of Boubacar Cissoko trying to do that here. Sometimes this happens: Desmond Morgan isn't the ideal size for WLB, Craig Roh is probably going to be a little light for SDE, etc. In an ideal world it seems like Michigan wants six-foot-plus guys on the outside.
That's easier said than done. Michigan is swinging for the fences with Conley and Stribling, hoping they can be 6'2" cover corners the NFL has a riot about. If that doesn't work out, Lewis and Douglas are less risky prospects with lower upside.
In re: wanting more of a gambler underneath with the solid and unspectacular guys outside: I don't think defensive coaches think like that. They give you an assignment and they want you to execute it, and not executing it is always very bad. If player X comes to college doing this thing a coach doesn't want, the coach will try to stop it. In Douglas's case that may be taking advantage of his athleticism and being more aggressive. In hypothetical gambler's case that would be not giving up big plays. Whether a corner is on the inside or outside, I bet they prefer the former.
I'm watching the a rerun of Under the Lights game on ESPN and watching some highlights of the 97 defense on my computer…
…and I can't stop thinking about what would happen in a matchup between Floyd and Woodson. Woodson has the speed and size to keep up with Floyd but then again Floyd looks so much bigger and stronger than CW. I know it's a huge hypothetical but what do you think would happen there?
And what size should we be looking for at corner to stop big receivers like Floyd in the future?
Also, I notice Mattison has a tendency to slant the DL pretty often in the 97 highlights and honestly, it's working. Is this the style of slants Mattison we should expect to see this season?
Thanks for the time and Go Blue!
- AJ, UM 2014
Woodson took on a huge, elite outside receiver in 1997: David Boston. He is 6'2" and went 8th overall in the next NFL draft. Floyd is 6'3" and went 13th overall. Boston had a body-building/roid freakout at the next level, but in college he was at Floyd's level. What happened in the 1997 game between the two was one Woodson slip and fall leading to an OSU touchdown and nothing else. Michigan won with 189 yards of offense.
Woodson's gone on to prove himself an NFL hall of famer (7 times all pro). Let's not forget how ridiculously good he was and is. Woodson probably would have fared a little worse than he did in 1997 since the personnel surrounding him wouldn't have been as good, but you can pick a college receiver in the past 20 years and I'm taking Woodson and the points.
In re: cornerback size, see above. Woodson is listed at 6'1", and Michigan is hoping to put out a steady stream of 6-foot-ish cover corners. Again, easier said than done.
In re: DL slants. Yeah, one of the advantages of the under is that you can have the line go one way, drop the WDE into coverage, and send the SLB. By doing this you've flipped your defense at the snap, and this is often confusing to opposing OL. I don't think it'll be much of a problem for Bama and its veteran, All-American-laden line; others may have a bear of a time trying to figure out exactly who they're supposed to block on any given play.
The upside of having a couple of undersized guys at the five and three is that Michigan will be much better able to play games that shoot guys into the backfield unblocked. The downside is when that doesn't work and someone gets manhandled one-on-one. The linebackers are going to have to take on a lot of blocks this year.
I spotted this graffiti on the back of a stop sign near my office in Los Angeles. Could Taco Pants be considering a transfer to USC?
A "these are my readers" moment.
A little something I made for you guys
Made it for my dad, who lurks on your blog. Thought I would share. You can use it if you like. There are definitely bronies reading the blog.
I have no idea.
Starting to look more and more like Sgt. Pepper's. Less depressing now. Legend*
♪ Oho a good secondary is a-comin' down the street
Oh please let it be for real
Oho the best safety tandem since like '80-something!
I wish I wish I knew that it could be.
I've got an FS and two tiny backs from Cass Tech
I've got safety-like safeties from Ohio
I've even got a two-deep filled with juniors!
And Curtice Clay out near Toledo sent a bona fide star!
Oho a good defensive backfield is a-comin' down the street
Don't look now but "shut-down" might apply to our J.T.!
Oho a good secondary is a-comin' down the street
And M-Robinson might finally be ready!
I'm particularly excited for Blake Countess
He's everything a sophomore phenom ought to be.
When minus every Gibson from this unit,
Well they could be (yes they could be) yes you're right they surely could be…
Something special (not a Woodson, but perhaps Leon-like special)
Yes we could have… something special… at D.B.!!! ♫
Also: Do do do do do do do do the worst is over.
This is Part IV of the thing predicting the reaction and drop-off if any 2012 starter goes down. Actually I wasn't sure I wanted to complete this series. I did the offense and Toussaint got a DUI; I did the DEs and Frank Clark got charged for stealing a laptop; I did the linebackers and it leaked that Antonio Poole's injury is at least Fall Camp-missing worthy. And well, before I could nix the series and wipe it from the interwebs Terrence Talbott preemptively took the bullet for the DBs, so I guess we can have that now. But if you folks want special teams I'm going to need written confirmation that Hagerup/Gibbons/Wile have come nowhere near the M on the Diag.
These days it's best to think of defensive back as five positions. To demonstrate, here's a preview chart from a Museday in the works (click enhances largetation):
To coaches this is "duh" but the more receivers the offense puts out there, the more DBs the defense counters with. While I mean to eventually include how teams played Michigan as well, and I won't make the mistake of treating anything GERG did as canon unless it involves hair product, the preliminary chart meshes with what coaches tell me about matching personnel. The Shafer line suggests heavy nickel use is more the norm while the outlier of 2009 stands as a reminder of what happens to those who mock the need for corner depth. This is important to us because the teams we play use 3-receiver sets more often than they used to, and this chart (made from UFRs so it's not perfect) says Mattison's defense used almost exactly as many five-DB sets as the 2010 defense, a base 3-3-5! Typical shotgun personnel is RB, 1TE, and 3WR; that is the formation we will face the most vs. every team but Air Force (Triple-Option) and Iowa (the I is for ISO).
Quickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.
In case of emergency: Was it only a few years ago we were really down about having an emergency redshirt freshman with questionable athleticism thrust into the starting lineup? I re-watched what portions of the Indiana 2009 game are left on the youtubes yesterday to confirm he wasn't a guy you'd think would be getting five Saturn-punting Zoltans; those Zoltans now come confirmed by opponents. To imagine where we might be without him means figuring out what we have now in Marvin Robinson. He was one of those recruits who blew up early in his high school career thanks to an early growth spurt then fell down the rankings as other kids his age caught up. Frankly after similar tweeners like Burgess/Mouton/S. Brown/I. Bell became various types of linebacker I'm excited to see one of these dudes actually stick at safety.
M-Rob probably won't hit his half-SHIRTLESS recruiting expectations, but half-way through his Michigan career the possibility is at least still intact. It's weird to still be relying on his recruiting profile this far into a high-interest career; the off-campus incident may at least alleviate questions of whether the talent was overvalued. Technical problems evident in previous springs were still present but much reduced over a strong spring, and after several years of tutelage under the best, what we probably have is something between the anti-Kovacs and Ernest Shazor. He's a perfect "bandit" safety in a 3-3-5, and that's kind of what we've been doing with Kovacs. Lacking Kovacsian instincts he'll be a downgrade, but he'll make up parts of that with superior athleticism.
In case of dire emergency: Allen Gant may be as ready to go later this year as anyone else of his class, including Kalis. He's a big guy for a freshman, comes with as many work ethic and weight room credentials as Mike Martin did, and has the bloodlines. You'd usually redshirt a guy like this since safety is a tough position to learn, but there are two other safeties in his class and Dymonte Thomas is on the way. Then again he may not bring any more right now than 5th year senior Floyd Simmons, a former walk-on who has been on special teams a lot. He has never made it higher than the two-deep even when a hater god put most of that depth chart on the Never Forget banner. That might be because he was a Spinner (backing up Stevie Brown) at the time. You should also know he has three forced fumbles on kickoffs, suggesting he shares some of T.Gordon's weird fumble-causing voodoo. He's the same size as Kovacs (we have multiple pics of them standing together) and foremost a run defender—his route to regular playing time would be in a platoon situation with M-Rob or one of the free safety types.
Since the likely backups at free safety are pretty much free safeties (Furman's calling card is speed; Jarrod Wilson is the proverbial "rangy" player), a disaster at strong safety is as likely to make one of them a starter as Gant. In such a scenario Thomas Gordon takes on more of the run stopping duties and Furman/Wilson drawn in as an entirely nominal "strong" safety.
Safety: home of the scrumptious abdomen HT M&B
In case of emergency: This is where things get more interesting. After letting us spend years praying for the next Ed Reed to appear as a 5-star Campbellian Hero with angel wings (and trying to believe the other Gordon was that) Thomas Gordon spent 2011 doing his best impersonation of Brandent Englemon. It was like coming back from trying to sleep around New York and finding the girl next door, if the girl next door was once called "Prison Abs" and had a weird (spectacular) ability to cause game-changing turnovers by waving his hands at people.
If we lose him, we hope this has all been some giant lead-up to the Superhero reveal scene. Potential heroes begin with Josh Furman. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a … dammit I just looked up at the damn picture again. Due to a spurious arrest over the summer (he was innocent, the result of a misunderstanding, but suspended while it got sorted out) Furman missed precious practice time. At last sight he still needed to leap a few levels in a single bound to be ready for Big Ten play. The beneficiary of Furman's misfortune was early enrollee Jarrod Wilson, who is safety-shaped and safety-like and is actually a safety, which I realize is kind of a novelty around here since Jamar Adams graduated. He made some freshman mistakes along with mostly solid play and is probably the first to see playing time among his classmates, especially early.
In case of dire emergency: The position that inspired the BLANK-Hating God meme was free safety. This was in 2005 when Michigan was forced to burn the redshirt of Brandon Harrison (and in turn burn down a good part of the 2009 secondary).
Today there's at least Furman/Wilson, one or both of whom should be plausible by mid-season. The other freshman is Jeremy Clark, a big guy whose grayshirt was upgraded to full-ride as his star rose, but who probably needs some time to develop. Clark's future is at strong safety, but he's a tweener. While the talent atop the depth chart is mostly specialized, Mattison does want the safeties to eventually be interchangeable (the better to screw up quarterback reads my dear) and an injury plague at one safety spot might trigger that.
Center: from the Ernie Harwell Sports Collection, courtesy of the Freep
In case of emergency: The depth recovery program managed to get a bunch of little corners, however since Michigan makes a distinction between "Field" and "Boundary" we may as well try to see where the early returns fit. The former can supposedly sacrifice some size for coverage ability/athleticism. The latter has less area to cover, is more involved in run support since he's generally on the weak side of the formation (offenses typically align to the field since it gives them more room to string out the run defense), and ends up matched with other teams' big receivers on an island. At this last year Floyd was spectacular. A list of guys he covered who are now in the NFL:
Receiver 2011 Team NFL Team Rnd-Overall Catches Yards TDs Michael Floyd ND Cardinals 1-13 13 159 0 A.J. Jenkins Illini 49ers 1-30 4 103 0 DeVier Posey OSU Texans 5-68 3 58 1 B.J. Cunningham MSU Dolphins 6-183 4 39 0 Marvin McNutt Iowa Eagles 6-194 9 101 0 Jeremy Ebert NW Patriots 7-235 11 86 0 Jordan White WMU Jets 7-244 12 119 0 *******Total******* - - 56 665 1 *****Average****** - - 8.0 95.0 0.1
*VT's Danny Coale and MSU's Keyshawn Martin were also drafted this year, but Floyd was primarily covering Jarrett Boykin and BJ Cunningham, respectively, in those games. Boykin had 4 catches for 30 yards and 0 TD; he went undrafted and unsigned.
The lack of touchdowns from seven leaping touchdown machines earns Floyd that 4th star. DeVier Posey did demonstrate the hole in Floyd's game—he can't keep up with the elite athletes—and better passes from Braxton Miller easily could have added two TDs and 120 yards to DeVier's single day of 2011 eligibility. That guy, at least, is gone, as are the rest of the Big Ten's 2011 embarrassment of WR riches. Of those who remain on our schedule, Keenan Davis (Iowa) might be a Posey-like (read: bad) matchup, however I would trust him against Northwestern's (now-eligible) Kyle Prater.
Which brings me to the point: there isn't another Floyd on the roster. Even in the hilariously height-overestimating world of college football rosters, J.T. is the only CB who the FAKErs thought could even plausibly be listed at 6'0.
Talbott was the guy making noise to be the #1 backup to Floyd during spring ball, but since he's gone that means a ding to J.T. puts us back in the midget bucket. I think what happens is Courtney Avery reprises his role as starting corner, which this being his junior year I think we can now get past the original excitement of his one good game and the bitterness of that tackle he missed against Iowa, and remember he ended the Ohio State counter. Avery has been ahead of Talbott his whole career thus far, despite being a quarterback until fall practice of his freshman year, so while Floyd to Avery is a downgrade, I don't think the effect of losing the second Talbott will be felt unless we get to…
In case of dire emergency: This is still a work in progress. Of last year's freshmen Tamani Carter is the biggest—that's why he was listed with the safeties in the first place. He's been hanging out on safety depth charts due to hips that do not fluid swivel or whatever they call a cornerback nowadays who's not twitchy enough, and his forte is supposedly the jump-ball. This is why I've mentally moved Carter to boundary since Talbott's departure. Magnus says he likes Carter in a role where he sits out in the flat, and he missed spring practices, so you're hoping he can just be a nickel back and not have to play significant snaps on the island. Then there's Ramon Taylor. He dreamed of going to Michigan, and that came true when Hoke was putting together a last-minute class and wondered, as we all had, what Indiana was doing with a 4-star...yoink. He's another mite who is listed now at 183 (up from 167 last year), a plausible weight for a Big Ten cornerback. He's also listed at 5'10 which he's not. But he likes to hit and also doesn't have Robot Hips. As a recruit he drew a comparison to a shorter James Rogers; make of that what you will but I say it suggests he fits into Rogers's position. Taylor played early last year (that photo's from EMU), mostly at nickel, and I think he too is destined to be that more than either outer corner spot.
Blake Countess isn't huge, and you want your better guy at the field, but this distinction can be overstated. In the event of an Avery-Floyd injury combo, Michigan will probably lean on Countess to cover the other team's best receiver and whichever mini Cass Tech kid is most ready will be in a better position to start than either of the young nickelbacks. Next year the cavalry arrives.
In case of emergency: This spot is young. They're also not-big. What they lack in being young and non-big however, they make up for by being "good" and "extant." That begins with Countess, whom I gave 4 stars because that was the level he was playing at (about equal with Floyd) by the end of last year. The upside is tantalizing for us now, though it remains upside. Making Woolfolk obsolete last year was one hell of a statement, and it's because of that entrance that I'm more filled with trepidation over losing Blake than I reasonably should be.
The reason not to be in total fear is the little we've seen and heard about the other remaining corners from his class (Greg Brown has joined the banner on top of this post) is that they're good, in the way little mite corners are supposedly good everywhere else but here because seriously we have been burned on this so many times.
Every year I involuntarily pick a guy on the team nobody's talking about to get overly excited about for no reason, and this year that somebody is Delonte Hollowell. That's him in the Nebraska photo above and the reason he was playing on special teams against Nebraska when we had all sorts of other corners eating eligibility is he played his way out of a redshirt. I don't yet know what's Hoke's baseline for doing such a thing, however either the coaches are so sure they will be able to find plenty of great CBs to fill the 2015 depth chart (which their 2013 class seems to suggest they were right), or more likely, Hollowell met some standard of what he needs to do to play.
That standard can be few other things than "is 2nd on the depth chart" and there my reasoning stands. Courtney Avery would be here if something happens early I guess. I think you'll be seeing Hollowell spelling Countess either way.
In case of dire emergency: Terry Richardson is the mite-iest Cass Tech dust mite yet. He has the power to shrink to the size of a neutrino and hide out among the other atoms that make up a receiver's garments, reappearing in time to make a crucial interception. However being only a handful of planks has its drawbacks, like accidentally passing through the Earth's gravitational field, and Whitley/Howard syndrome. The true freshman comes with high recruiting bona fides, so if you see him jumping up the depth chart we may have another Countess here.
In case of emergency: For most teams the nickel corner will replace the SLB (Jake Ryan), though in Michigan's case we seem to pull the Will (Desmond Morgan) just as often. Later in the year that became more usual as Michigan went with an aggressive nickel package featuring a nickelback and Ryan/Beyer/Clark with a hand down (a 5-1-5 look with 4-2-5 personnel that we called Michigan's "Okie."). The nickel will cover the slot, usually has help over the top, and must be there to tackle in space when spread outfits isolate him against the slot or RB. Michigan played a lot of nickel in 2003 (Leon Hall) and 2006 (Brandon Harrison), and it led to some 38-0 scores against various Indiana teams. You'll remember we came out in mostly 4-2-5 personnel against Northwestern last year, but it didn't work; in the second half Jake Ryan was inserted and allowed to terrorize (at this point he dished it out equally to friend and foe). Early in the season T.Gordon and Avery split duties at nickel, and Carvin Johnson was the free safety. This year Avery is again the designated nickel guy, however expect others from the safety and CB corps to rotate in there.
The nominal "other" is Raymon Taylor (see above), who played a good bit last year at this spot. He is small but so was Harrison. You also might as well pencil in RS Freshman Tamani Carter here since his long-term future is at nickel.
In case of dire emergency: Nickel draws from the CB depth charts (and can from the safety ones as well) so if Avery and a backup are hurt there's an endless parade of other guys. You'll see moonlights of most of the backups here regardless, as it's a way to get a young cornerback playing time and tackling experience without exposing to deep responsibility. If The Dude in Section 2 Eating Fat Free Pretzels is tapped, well, so long as the pretzels are fat free and he stayed in a Holiday Inn Express and whatnot. The 2009 depth chart across the secondary really was unprecedented; if it happens again then it is 2009 and we can all go punch each other in the dong.
* Never Forget Legend (years in parentheses are the last season the guy would have helped had he not left/gone down/whatever).
TOP ROW: T-Wolf (2010), Mike Williams (2011), Boubacar Cissoko (2011), Adrian Witty (2011), Vladimir Emilien (2013), Jared Van Slyke (2011).
SECOND ROW: J.T. Turner (2013), Terrence Talbott (2013), Carvin Johnson (2013), Cullen Christian (2013), Demar Dorsey (2013), Ray Vinopal (2013).
BOTTOM ROW: Greg Brown (2014 or '15), Crying Biff the Wolverine, Donovan Warren (2010), Never Forget Guy.
The B1G Media Days Experience
Allow me take you on a journey. It begins in Ann Arbor and proceeds west via I-94, past the forested hills of Battle Creek, the lakeside vistas of Benton Harbor, and -- what's that smell? Ace, did you fart? You did, didn't you. Oh, my bad. That's just the natural smell emanating from the greater Gary, Indiana area. And we're not on I-94 anymore. And we have to pay a toll. And another one. We just paid a toll for a mile's worth of highway because in the greater Gary, Indiana area, they pump sulphur into the air and stir gold into the asphalt.
The skyscrapers and highrises of Chicago loom. They are glimmering beacons of Midwest culture thrusting out of a flat and fertile land of corn fields and cattle farms. Batman was filmed here, did you know? Those batmobile scenes took place right where Siri is telling us to go. Our blue dot freezes as we are swallowed by the vast labyrinth of tunnels and underpasses.
We are lost.
Not to fear! Our superior instincts tell us we're somewhere right below the Hyatt Regency, host to the 2012 B1G Media Days extravanganza. We emerge from the depths of the city 30 minutes later and arrive, frazzled but totally exhilarated, in the lobby. Well done, B1G, what a posh venue. So posh I have momentarily forgotten the correct number of syllables in "concierge". Too posh. Its well-to-do clientele don't seem to acknowledge that a high profile football event is taking place ... somewhere in here. Look at them with their boring black attire and pompous black suitcases and stupid blackberry devices. Don't they know that very famous people -- Denard Robinson fergodsakes! -- are currently inside the double doors of this, this ... completely empty ballroom.
"Excuse me, ma'am. We're here for the Big Ten Media Days. Says here it's in Ballroom AB."
"This is Ballroom AB."
"But there's no one in there..."
"This is the Hyatt Regency Chicago."
"You want to be at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place."
And that is the story of how Ace and I barely made it to Brady Hoke's speech last Thursday.
(more after the jump)