Mount St. Mary's hired a private equity CEO to be their president. You'll never guess what happened next.
This is my final post on mgoblog (aside from the remaining opponent previews, which are already written and should be published in the next week or so), so I'd like to thank everyone for reading, and of course Brian for the great opportunity over the past couple years. Congratulations and good luck to Ace and Heiko.
On to the recruiting...
We already knew that Michigan was likely to take two wideouts in the 2012 class. The departure of Je'Ron Stokes changes that to a certainty, and even opens the door to taking a third.
Who are the main prospects on the board?
IA WR Amara Darboh finally has a highlight video on Youtube, thanks to 24/7 Sports:
Darboh has narrowed to a final five ($, info in header). Given that he's visiting Michigan for the season opener against Western, it's safe to say the Wolverines are in good position for him.
For those who were expecting a commitment from OH WR Monty Madaris at the BBQ and dismayed he didn't make it in, fear not, as Michigan's "stock is on the rise" ($, info in header) with him.
OH WR Dwayne Stanford participated in a chat with Rivals readers last week, and had a few things to say about Michigan:
Q: Will you take an official to Michigan?
Stanford: I don't know if Michigan will be one of my officials yet ... I only know Alabama and LSU so far.
Q: Since LSU isn't recruiting Adolphus does that move Michigan high on your list?
Stanford: Yes, it does ... it's something we've talked about ever since I started getting recruited. Michigan does have a chance .... especially with me and Adolphus both liking them. They made the short list. They're right there in the mix
Q: Has Michigan's 2012 recruiting class caught your attention?
Stanford: Yes, it has ....
Q: How important are academics to your decision, and do Michigan's strong academics help them?
Stanford: 1. They're important but college is what you make of it
2. Yes, it does ... I know they're a great academic school
Q: What was your favorite school as a kid?
Stanford: I would say it was Miami & Michigan when I was a kid ...
Conventional wisdom has Michigan outside his top group right now, but if the staff can get him on campus, they stand a chance. Stanford has eliminated Miami (YTM) thanks to their impending doom.
CA WR Jordan Payton is the other hot name on Michigan's board right now, and he'll visit Ann Arbor for the night game against Notre Dame.
IL OL Jordan Diamond is sticking to his plan of waiting until after his senior season to commit:
Diamond simply will not allow college recruiting to interfere with a high school season in which he hopes the Wolverines [ed: not those Wolverines] "finish the job" with a state title. "I'm not going to bring recruiting here to Simeon," Diamond said. "I'm not going to use that as a distraction to my teammates. I'm not even going to deal with it during the season, it's going to be after the season."
Though Michigan's coaches would love to have him, if the class fills up before he's ready to commit, Michigan won't be the choice. He's OK with missing out on opportunities by waiting:
Diamond doesn’t fear schools will rescind his scholarship offers as time passes. If some do, that’s fine with him. “Whoever wants me at the end,” Diamond said. “It’s going to be a dog fight. Anything is possible. The main thing is holding out and seeing where the real coaches are. The real coaches who stick there with you. That’s what I’m looking for.”
With Michigan's loss of Tony Posada, they may be more willing to wait on an elite lineman like Diamond. It probably means they'll take at least one more lineman.
Speaking of the offensive line, Duane Long ranks OH OL Commit Caleb Stacey as the #48 overall prospect in the Buckeye State:
The most underrated offensive lineman in Ohio. This kid is just a solid football player who has been well schooled. Ohio players get so much more exposure if the Buckeyes showed interest but Stacey is a guard, a very good guard. The Buckeyes have been offering tackles this year. I am sure we will see him in the Michigan starting lineup in three years time.
Go Caleb, go. Long's employer, Bucknuts, has ranked Caleb's fellow Michigan commit, OH DE Chris Wormley, as the top prospect in the Buckeye State.
Michigan is still on MI TE Ron Thompson's list, though it's unlikely that he could join Michigan's class.
CA S Shaq Thompson doesn't include Michigan in his top 5, the schools to which he'll take official visits.
24/7 Sports throws down the gauntlet in the race to be the first service to rate prospects, with their initial 5-stars for 2013, along with the Top247 prospects in the class. Of note, MI OL Steve Elmer was one of the prospects close to 5-star status.
Last week's Sam Webb recruiting column in the Detroit News covered MI LB Jon Reschke. He sounds just about as Green-and-White as they come, but Michigan is making a move:
A return trip to Ann Arbor a month later for the "Barbecue at the Big House" also earned significant praise. "I went down there with my good friends Shane Morris and Wyatt Shallman," Reschke said. "It was great. We got to see the whole campus, the whole Big House, the locker room — everything. It definitely made me want to go to Michigan a little bit more."
He says Michigan coaches are waiting to see film of him playing linebacker (he was a defensive end for Brother Rice last year) before they'll extend an offer. He wants to make a commitment prior to his senior season.
Duane Long continues to wonder why Ohio State hasn't offered OH S/RB Dymonte Thomas:
His offer list is better than most seniors to be and he has not even stepped on the field as a junior. His grades are outstanding. He is know to be a high character kid. His measurables are legit. The argument that the Buckeyes are so deep at running back carries no weight. Thomas may be a better safety than he is a running back. I think he is, and he could not care less which position he plays. Baffling non-offer.
He seems like a Michigan lean, and the longer it takes for OSU to offer, the more the Wolverines can build that lead. Additionally, if it takes the Buckeyes too long to offer, Thomas could help sway his cousin, 2012 OH RB Bri'Onte Dunn, to Michigan.
Duane Long runs through some more 2013 prospects of interest.
photo from file
Captains will be voted on Sunday.
Practice #20 done. Eleven days out from the first game [Ed-M: eeee foootbawwww!]. Starting scout team work for Western tomorrow. "I thought we moved the dial in every area." Need to improve consistency in competitive drills. Defense good one day, the next day it's the offense. You're neutral as head coach, but you want to see the consistency.
On the scrimmage: "Saturday, I thought we were physical. You could hear football being played." Great competition still going on. Saturday standouts: "I thought Troy played pretty well... Brandon Herron showed some signs that were real positive. Offensively, I thought Fitz [Toussaint] carried the ball well, Vince Smith carried the ball well, Michael Shaw has carried the ball well." It was a 120ish-play scrimmage.
Team needs to work on finishing, but goal line and 2-minutes drill had pretty good tempo and intensity.
On the two deep: Players will become aware of the 2-deep soon, but spots aren't locked in. "You can lose that [spot] pretty easily, because we're playing guys who can represent Michigan... They have to meet the expectations for that position every day."
On expectations: "We have high expectations. I really don't care what anybody else thinks." They want to help the kids succeed, both on and off the field. He doesn't worry about managing expectations. Gauging toughness starts during winter conditioning. Build mental toughness by making sure the locker room is disciplined, "mentally being tough enough to take care of that locker room."
"I think the jury's still out" on whether the team will be able to run the ball and stop the run to his satisfaction. They have some physical practices upcoming, but will taper that back as the season approaches.
Are they going to play a second QB in early games? "We haven't really talked about that yet." They may get Devin into early games, to get him experience. It also builds morale to get more guys in earlier.
On running back: Right now, Mike Shaw would be the starter. Toussaint has done good things, Hopkins was better today. "Vincent is a guy on third downs who can do an awful lot. He is a tough, tough guy." Shaw: "He's been more consistent on a daily basis. That's what he really shows the most."
Impressive position groups: The first five on the OL have good chemistry, and they play with good tempo.
Wide receivers: "Our wide receivers, I think they keep... [Ed-M: ?] Jeremy Gallon's a guy we think has done a pretty good job."
On OL depth: "Darrell's got six guys right now that can roll through, I think we're building the seventh." You want five top guys, then develop the young guys behind them as fast as you can. "I think Friday we'll get after it pretty good scrimmage-wise," putting together a couple different lineups.
On Brink: "If we play tomorrow, he'd be the starting 5-technique defensive end." He has great technique, and has to be because he's a little small. "You feel him a lot out on the field."
On the rest of the DL: "Will [Campbell] can play both the three and the 1, Heininger can play all three, and has." You want guys to settle into a comfortable position, but you also want versatility in their positions, so you have flexibility. "Will [Heininger] has the intelligence to do that, because of those different things."
On linebackers: "I think Desmond Morgan's a guy who we think is gonna play football for us. Mike Jones has played a little bit at MIKE and a little bit at WILL. I would say Kenny right now has a pretty solid lock on the MIKE linebacker. Cam is doing a good job. Jake Ryan and Brennen Beyer... All three of those guys are getting snaps." Desmond Morgan was limited today, but will be good. Brandin Hawthorne will be a good player.
On the secondary: "I can tell you that between Troy, JT Floyd, and Courtney Avery, there's tremendous competition." JT and Avery competing at one corner. "I think Thomas Gordan has had a really good camp... I think Kovacs has done a really nice job." He's smart, understands the concepts, can be a QB of the D. Carvin Johnson also good. "Three safeties and three corners right now that we have good competition with." Those guys are all on the field in the dime package.
On Matt Wile: "I think right now we're looking really at between him and Seth punting, and him doing the kickoffs, and between him and Brendan handling the field goals." They'll kick in the stadium Friday, Saturday, and know what they want by Sunday. Brendan Gibbons is kicking the best overall from distance.
On attrition: "It was the right thing for them and what they felt... Sometimes, kids move on for different reasons. Homesick, or whatever it might be." Too early to think if it will affect 2012 recruiting class.
Terry Foy, the Managing Editor for Inside Lacrosse Magazine, was kind enough to answer a few questions about Michigan's entry into the world of Division-1, based on conversations he's had with people in Michigan's program, and in others around the country.
1. The main question on everyone's mind: exactly how good can this Michigan team be in their first year on the field? Do they have a chance to make any national noise within 3-5 years?
I haven't seen their completed schedule, so how Coach Paul rounds out their ECAC slate and their known out-of-conference opponents will go a long way toward determining Michigan's record.
Heading into their inaugural season, I see Michigan fairly falling in the mid-50s (out of 61 varsity programs). That ranking might seem exceptionally low to Wolverine fans, but it's higher than any other new program has been ranked heading into its maiden season. By year's end, I could see Michigan climbing into the mid-30s if they play somewhere near .500-ball, and about 10-15 spots lower if they're around the .333 mark.
I think their success can be largely depend on the type of early season success they see. I think Jacksonville's 6-7 record in 2010 (the Dolphins' first season) can largely be attributed to the momentum gained from their big early season win over Denver, a Bill Tierney-coached team that went on to make the NCAA Tournament.
I think within five years, Michigan should challenge for an ECAC title. The Pioneers have asserted control over the league the last two seasons, but I think it's reasonable that along with Loyola, the Wolverines can emerge as the primary challengers. Ohio State, Fairfield and Hobart are the stiffest competition for the remaining spots, but each have their own stumbling blocks to consistently being able to compete to win the league.
2. Among the guys who will play for Michigan this spring (i.e. the club roster, plus 2011 recruits and transfers), who are some standouts? Did some the club guys slip through the cracks as recruits, even though they could have played at a high D-1 level?
The Wolverines' starting point is a good one — talent at attack. Trevor Yealy and Thomas Paras were MCLA All-American/Player of the Year types. However, most NCAA coaches I've spoken to about those two guys in particular have said they didn't project to being DI stars, and without much dispute they're two of the best players on the team.
Michigan didn't make any major splashes in the transfer market (picking up a guy like Jack McBride, who went from Princeton to North Carolina; though there's still some chance that opportunity could present itself) or any surprising de-commits (the most notable being defenseman Ryan Breen from the Taft School, who was originally committed to Lafayette).
In short, while I think Michigan will win games, I don't think it'll be because of their starpower.
3. How long will it take for Michigan to start pulling in elite recruits (if they can at all)? Is it possible for them to have an elite recruiting class in the near future?
Two coaches I spoke with said their 2012s are on par with a top 15-35 class, and the player each liked the most is Evan Glaser from McDonogh, a two-handed polished attackman, and Will Perkins from St. Mark's. However, neither of those guys is someone that other coaches are saying “I can't believe they got him,” the way Florida did when Mandee O'Leary started the women's program and picked up no less than five recruits in the top 25 for the Gators' first season.
That could happen in the class of 2013, but it hasn't yet, and with the number of commits off the board already, it doesn't appear they're going to land a top five class. To me, that means their future recruiting fortunes (2014 and beyond) are tied to their on-field performance, starting this spring.
As one coach put it, “they can dip (academically) for the guys that aren't great students, and they can make the academic sell to the best kids.” [Many of the other schools in D-1, aside from say, Virginia and North Carolina, are great academic schools that can still make admissions exceptions for athletics].
4. On the same note, does Michigan have the potential to become a power in the sport down the road? Teams from non-hotbed areas (Denver) have done it, but there's still the small issue of "winning the whole thing" that nobody's done outside of the traditional powers.
Winning a national championship is a very difficult thing — Cornell fans can tell you very easily the slim margin of victory as they try to forget the ’09 title. Duke fans can tell you how long you have to knock on the door before anyone answers. In some ways, maybe that's a semblance of fairness in lacrosse — only Princeton broke through to the ranks of champion without toiling for a number of years with quarterfinal and final four losses.
Can Michigan win a national championship? Yes, but that's nowhere near a guarantee that they will. I think a much better use of time is define the word “power” in this sport. Eight programs have won titles in the tournament that's been played since 1971. Navy, Georgetown, UMass, Notre Dame, Hofstra and Loyola are some of the teams that haven't won a title, but have experienced extended league or NCAA Tournament success that could allow them to approach being called a “power.”
In the burgeoning NCAA lacrosse scene, I think consistently making the tournament (six times in a decade) and avoiding a sub-.500 season should be enough to be called a "power" ... I think between years 5-15, [barring major changes in the NCAA lacrosse scene] it's not unreasonable to imagine Michigan attaining that standard.
5. There's been a bit of debate over the head coaching hire. Of course John Paul was going to get first crack at it, because he's brought the program to a point where varsity lacrosse was possible, but is he a long-term solution? What's his overall reputation in the lacrosse world?
As a John Paul proponent, I think he's a viable long-term solution because he's shown himself to be smart and adaptable to this point in his career as a college lacrosse coach. Without having faced the challenge of coaching against a DI schedule with a DI team, it's impossible to say with any certainty how he and his staff will fare record-wise, and there's an argument that their MCLA success isn't the best predictor. However, it's my opinion that winning lacrosse games is easier than taking an MCLA team at an FBS school to the varsity level in this fiscal and political climate, so if the skillset that allowed him to do that translates even halfway to on-field motivation and strategy, he's more than capable of producing the type of results I laid out above.
As for his reputation in the DI coaching community, my sense is he's viewed as a very respectable, meticulous and organized leader with the backing of a formidable athletic department that has shown a strong willingness to learn and get to know people around the coaching ranks. I think his tactics [have overshadowed] his capacity to prepare his teams. That said, most coaches haven't had to concern themselves with Michigan, so I think there's a lot of mystery to the team they're going to put on the field.
6. Is it possible that Michigan is just the first domino to tip in a wave of D-1 growth? Do you think it's possible we see a Big Ten Lacrosse Conference 5 or 10 years down the road?
It's possible that Michigan is the tip of the DI expansion iceberg, however, there's a danger in getting caught up in the size of Michigan's profile. [There has been] 12.5% growth over seven years — Michigan is a huge part of that, but don't overlook how significant the inclusion of Bryant, Detroit, Jacksonville, Mercer, High Point and Marquette are, particularly because those are the types of schools that'll be adding men's lacrosse in greater numbers than Big 10 schools over the next decade.
As for the prospects of a Big 10 conference that has at least six teams — that's the question that's most outside my purview. I don't have any ins at athletic departments that don't have lacrosse, so while I'd love to say Northwestern is going to add a men's team and Michigan State's going to reinstate their program, you know as well as I do.
Thanks to Terry for taking the time to answer my questions. If you care waaay more about lacrosse than you probably should, you can follow along at GreatLaxstate.com.
Wide receiver gets even more frightening next year:
Michigan junior receiver Je'Ron Stokes is no longer with the program, athletic department officials confirmed today.
Stokes was a touted recruit out of Philadelphia who decommitted from Tennessee in favor of Michigan after Phil Fulmer got axed, but he hardly played in his tenure. He would have been a senior next year.
Speaking of next year, here's the WR depth chart:
- Darryl Stonum
- Roy Roundtree
- Jeremy Jackson
- Jerald Robinson
- Jeremy Gallon
- Drew Dileo
Actually, that's not too bad. Michigan was probably going to grab two wide receivers in this class anyway but now they absolutely have to.
Meanwhile, remember those concerns Michigan might have to push some guys out after the season to make room for the horde of new recruits? Yeah… never mind. Michigan's at 23 open slots right now with a few fifth years who are obvious candidates not to return. At this point 27 or 28 is more likely than 26.
Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark,
LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, OL Jack Miller, OL Tony Posada, OL Chris Bryant, RB Justice Hayes, and RB Thomas Rawls.
|Arlington, TX - 6'3" 190|
um… that number's taken, Russell
|Scout||3*, #39 QB|
|ESPN||3*, 78, #35 QB, #87 TX|
247: 3*, 85, NR
DMN: #61 in TX
|Other Suitors||Purdue, Boise State, USF, Minnesota, Michigan State|
|YMRMFSPA||Pick a Forcier|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim.|
|Notes||Has a twitter. LIKES MATH!|
Russell Bellomy continues Michigan's newest tradition: yoinking a Purdue commit whenever they change coaches. Bellomy isn't quite as touted as Roy Roundtree, who grabbed a fourth star here and there, but that didn't stop Brady Hoke from channeling his inner Nutt:
"He was away recruiting when I was up there, but when I called him and committed he took the phone away from his mouth and let out a 'yee haw,'" Bellomy said. "He was fired up."
Both Michigan and Purdue fans are hoping this is the last time this particular meme gets dug up for a while.
So what have they won? A developmental prospect. Bellomy's a bit like Justice Hayes in that he seems like a better fit for the offense Michigan just dumped. That might not be a big deal long term—unlike Hayes, Michigan actually got interested in Bellomy after the transition—but Bellomy is not Chad Henne. He's described as an "efficient spread offense QB" and completed only 58% of his passes on a run-heavy team. He rarely broke the 20 attempt barrier. Opposing coaches($) say stuff like "he was much more effective in the pocket than we expected" and "you have to respect his passing ability as well." He needs work.
But he's got excellent size and athleticism and Michigan has the luxury of turning his next two years into a montage video. This is what happens at programs that are not whipsawing from one thing to another in the midst of an epic recruiting funk.
Bellomy's recruitment started with a half-dozen okay BCS offers highlighted by Michigan State, Purdue, USF, and Boise State before camp season began in earnest. When Bellomy hit those up he consistently featured in the recap sections. Not so consistent were his evaluations. When he camped at his local Elite 11 feeder they said he was a bomber($) who needed to work on his throwing on the run:
DQB, Arlington (Texas) Martin
This tall, lean, athletic quarterback displayed a live arm and quick release. He will need to add some muscle mass and work on squaring up his shoulders while throwing on the run. Bellomy actually looked better throwing deep out routes than he did shorter passes. He has the height and the tools but needs to be more consistent with his mechanics. You can definitely see why interest in him is starting to pick up.
Later that summer he hit up that 7 on 7 competition during which we were all panting for Demetrius Hart. There they said he could really throw on the run but needed to work on his deep ball($):
… maybe the most exciting player to watch on that team was quarterback Russell Bellomy, a Purdue commit, who made the short and long throws and also threw well on the run but sometimes struggled with his consistency on the deep passes.
So there you go.
When Rivals tracked him down during the season($) they praised his touch ("often placing the ball over the shoulder of the receiver") and height while criticizing his mechanics and sackalicious pocket presence.
ESPN($) says he's "much better on tape" than in camp settings:
… gangly frame that has a ton of room to fill out and develop strength. While his mechanics can be a bit wild and inconsistent, Bellomy displays toughness, grit [ed: yessss] and a competitive demeanor. Is a riverboat gambler that looks like a pocket passer, but is a deceptively good overall athlete with good foot speed and quickness for the position. Gets the ball out quickly and with good zip to short and intermediate areas of the field. Gets set quickly, shows very good feet in his drop and can anticipate routes and throws to a spot very well. … a very good runner and improviser. Shows quickness, elusiveness and top end speed to be a guy that you have to contend with as a runner on the perimeter or the zone-read keep…. delivery can be long and awkward at times. He has a good arm, but not great power or the ability to consistently stretch the field vertically.
Like the man said: developmental. Bellomy has a great athletic and academic package and just needs time to see whether or not he can fix his whack mechanics. Speaking of whack mechanics, here's a Cade McNown reference from Touch The Banner:
Bellomy has some serious wheels and escapability. … Interestingly, Bellomy is a bit like offensive coordinator Al Borges' old protege, Cade McNown. Bellomy is a little bit taller than McNown, but he's mobile, has somewhat erratic mechanics, and lacks great arm strength. He shares those qualities with McNown, although the former UCLA quarterback also lacked some leadership qualities. Judging by a couple interviews I've seen of Bellomy, he seems to be a very grounded, respectful, humble young man.
Bellomy has numbers to back those interview impressions up, namely a 4.0 GPA and a decent SAT. Coach quote:
“Anytime you’re talking about a student who’s a 4.0 GPA, and I think the best indicator of that is the past couple of years, just throwing the ball, he’s upwards of 30 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He takes care of the ball and has a great understanding of not only what he’s doing but what everyone else is doing around him.
"Should that all break down he has the athleticism to not only outrun you, but also the ability to make you miss. Especially at 6’4”, he’s surprisingly elusive and you have that aspect from an athletic standpoint. ... Early on in his career he was predominantly under center in two and three back sets. I think that created a toughness in Russell so he’s just as happy to throw a block as he is a touchdown.”
That last bit isn't just hype. I know, you don't believe me. I didn't believe me. When you're scouring for Bellomy information and you come across his coach saying…
"We give a hammer award after games that we win, a brand new sledgehammer, for the game's hardest hit," Martin coach Bob Wager said Wednesday. "Russell won it twice -- from the quarterback position. He's not afraid to throw his body around. He enjoys the physical aspect of the game."
…you file it under Rapturous Coach Quote and forget about it until Bellomy pops up and says this:
"The QB position at Martin High School was not the average QB position. I was used as a blocker a lot in the wildcat. I'd be in the slot as a QB, and I'm not going to block the person in front of me. I look for the hammer shot." ... I have two videos on my phone. That's what I like to brag about.
Russell Bellomy has forked over precious phone space for two videos of himself crushing an unsuspecting high school kid. That rapturous coach quote is on the money. Bellomy's the only quarterback I've ever come across who brags on his blocking. Hoke brought this up in a press conference: "toughness" (of course) was a major draw when Michigan was figuring out which quarterback to go after. He's got that in spades.
Now he just has to figure out when he's going to get sacked and how to throw the ball consistently. We need a montage.
Etc.: Boiled Sports was not so happy about the decommit. I love the guy in the comments who says Bellomy bailed because he "wasn't seeing the field until about 2013" if he became a Boiler. Also love this ND fan who thinks his commit is a "signal to Denard Robinson." Andrew interviews him on TTB. Went viral when he committed to M. Interviewed by some extra from Twilight.
Why Pick a Forcier? It's not a particularly tight comparison but one of the Forciers is the best Michigan comparable in recent history. Jason never played so we'll stick with Tate. Both are mobile quarterbacks with good athletic ability who no one will confuse with Denard; neither has NFL-level arm strength. When ESPN describes someone as a "riverboat gambler," visions of Tate Forcier wheeling around doing something you're either going to love or hate dance around your head like sugarplums.
Differences: Forcier was vastly more polished than Bellomy is coming out of high school. Bellomy spent his summers playing baseball; Forcier spent his hanging with Marv Marinovich. At 6'3" Bellomy has more long term upside; he's also more likely to hit that upside because he is not an ultra-flake.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Except for that flip on whether it's his deep ball or his short stuff that needs work the assessments are all in line both in terms of rating and subjective attributes.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-minus. Bellomy is a boom or bust sort who could completely wash out because he never improves his accuracy or could get it and then become a legit pro-style quarterback with Henson-level wheels. He's got a tough route to playing time; if he gets it he'll be close to the latter.
Projection: Obvious redshirt unless there is an injury calamity. Will compete with Shane Morris and Devin Gardner to replace Robinson in 2013. Probably will not win the job. Gardner has a year on him and brings a lot more recruiting oomph. Never know, though.
If Bellomy doesn't start and Shane Morris passes him for the backup spot we could see him move to tight end, wide receiver, or even linebacker. He's got the frame to get up to 230 or more and enough athletic ability to give it a shot.
Photo from Media Day 2010 by Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com.
LtoR: Phil Monolo, Stephen Hopkins, Michael Shaw, Fred Jackson, Fitgerald Toussaint, John McColgan, Vincent Smith. Not pictured: Cox.
Scheduling note: I'm gonna start separating the Dear Diary and rambling musings/studies/logorrhea stuff into two separate weekly posts. DD is moving to Friday to service your weekend reading demands, with the other stuff (name suggestions?) on Tuesdays. Also I'm going to try to make these ramblings less wordy, starting…uh, next time.
By now you know the meme: Fred Jackson likes to hyperbolize his running backs. This being the most active position battle, I figured a review of Jackson's current stud stable of studly running studs, half-studs and tail-studs might be in order.
Close your eyes, think of your favorite Michigan back of all time, and then imagine he's FASTER:
Mike Hart/Jamie Morris, Except Faster and More Agile!
Alias: #2 Vincent Smith (Jr/Jr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
This is not the greatest song in the world; this is just a tribute.
Omameh and Molk do the hard stuff but watch Smith do a Hart-y shoulder thing then almost get caught by a Hoosier DB.
Style: Pahokeean scat-back who can catch. Vincent is small, like Hart, and plays with ♥, like Hart, but when Smith tries to burrow the pile forward like Hart he looks like a 6-year-old trying with all his might to batter 10-year-olds, ie he ends up earning more respect than yards. And there's this:
* Yeah right.
Darren Sproles would be more accurate. I just can't think of another jackrabbit, and honestly I think he's more Hart than Jamie, except Hart is more like Jamie than Smith. Before his injury Smith was a vintage spread scatty RB who could also be a devastating receiver in the flat. He can jump out of a run into a big lateral juke and accelerate faster than any other back from a dead stop.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: It's 3rd and 8, and that nickel back needs some strong incentive to keep him from blitzing or dropping back to help cover the slant.
Is he THE ONE? Smith's nominally the returning starter and also the leader in rushes, career yards, and receptions/rec yards among the RBs. But probably not, since he's leeeetle, and physics. If the Spring Game is any evidence I-form man-ball means sending the RB into the 2nd level with Force, which is acceleration times something Smith lacks. Jackson says he's chosen a 3rd down back and inference leads to obviously Smith, therefore Smith's not the every-down back.
Mike Hart, Except Faster, and Bigger, and like Chris Perry…
Or Lawrence Ricks. Except Faster.
Alias: #28 Fitzgerald Toussaint (So/Jr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
Just a freshman…
Having trouble with time stamps. There's a good one of Ricks at 38 seconds, but the whole day's basically Ricks rushes broken up by great defense and AC highlights so deal.
FWIW that BG defensive back is actually pretty fast.
"Michael Hart ability with speed. The kind of guy that can do Michael's cuts, he can sit down, sink his hips and explode by making steps. He's faster than Mike and a very, very tough guy, like Mike was. He's very similar to Mike. He's not the type of inside runner Mike was -- but he's going to get there."
"He's got great feet, acceleration, strength, power," Jackson said. "I can compare him to somebody -- he's like a fast Chris Perry. He's going to be very good."
Style: I keep hearing people say Hart and I see it in that Fitz has those same thick, powerful legs that put his center of gravity lower than Pat Massey can bend. But Hart was sly with subtle plants that threw off tackle attempts. Fitz's highlight reel is full of knee-poppers and sideways slides he used to make lower-division Ohio high schoolers look like fools the way Barry Sanders made NFL players look like fools. Makes great moves and great cuts. Vision is unknown – he ran and reacted in high school. Then he goes to plaid.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: The practice hype (it started swelling last year at this time as well) turns into Fitz Toussaint atop the roster.
Is he THE ONE? The shift to I-formations and man blocking seems to favor him over Brown or Smith, but he's still a guy made for picking through zone, not taking on linebackers with his face.
Carlos Brown, Except Faster
Alias: #20 Michael Shaw (Sr/Sr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
Style: Glider who runs upright and a little leaned back, waiting to unleash a ridiculous gashing move from which he accelerates like an overused metaphor at the Woodward Dream Cruise. The move can be used to clear traffic or cutback, but with Shaw, like Brown, you only get to press the juke button once, and then you're mashing speed boost. Track star speed plus that move make him murder on bad teams.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: The playside hole is blocked perfectly and the backside DE for whatever reason (out of position, MACrificial) might not get there in time to fill before it's open green to the end zone.
Is he THE ONE? Probably not, but when you say "change of pace" back, Shaw is exactly what you're talking about. The kill-shot or bust nature of the slasher means they usually come paired with a softening agent: Carlos Brown & Brandon Minor, Tony Boles & Leroy Hoard (& Morris), Butch Woolfolk & Stan Edwards, Woody Allen & Bette Midler. Shaw will push a pile a bit and isn't as shoelace trippy as Brown was, but other guys can do much more with less. My sense is he's best deployed when the defense is way overmatched against Michigan's blocking, either because they're exhausted from chasing Smith/Toussaint and being battered by Hopkins, or because they aren't so good to begin with.
Jerome Bettis/Leroy Hoard, Except Faster
Alias: #33 Stephen Hopkins (So/So)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
FF to 1:28 for Hoard. Optional: stand out in the middle of U.S. 23.
Where's Keith Jackson with his rising"He's a HOSS!" when you need him?
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when:
Also when the offensive line has done its job, but so has the defense, and that means there's a linebacker headed for the same, only hole the running back can go through, and physics takes over.
Is he THE ONE? Well he might not be available early, and in a crowd that could hurt. Hopkins earned more carries as his freshman season went on. The offense seems to 'liek mudkipz' (I have no idea if I got this reference right). Count me among those holding back on visions of Wheatley (who was a bona fide track star as well as bruiser) or A-Train, who ran high and fell forward for those extra yards. Hoard but faster could be accurate, and not at all a bad thing.
Tshimanga Biakabutuka & Chris Perry, Except Faster & Stronger
Alias: #15 Michael Cox (Jr/Sr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
You knew this was coming.
Just flip to a random spot, it's probably Perry running for 8 yards.
Somebody's been messing with the sliders on Junior Varsity mode.
Style: Like Shaw/Brown he waits for the opponent to make a mistake he can exploit before hitting the gas pedal (Perry would just go). But Cox is built much thicker than the pure speed guys, and while he can burn in his way, he can also use his thick build for power. His main asset is great balance, which makes him hard to take down without crazy moves, and that's where the Biakabutuka reference comes in. Plus I wanted to link that video of him tearing apart Ohio State again because I was 15 when that happened and not yet sure if it's okay to develop strong feelings for people who dismantle Ohio State. I am pretty sure it's not okay to do so for people who dismantle Delaware State.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: You're drafting your 3-on-3 basketball team.
Is he THE ONE? Practice word since freshman year is he's the most naturally gifted, but practice hype from teammates et al. is refuted by observer reports mentioning Cox running the wrong direction, and missing his lanes. Latest is he's learning the playbook and might challenge later on. OTOH the guy does have ridiculous balance, and has broken a long one in every game he's appeared. On the other-other hand, most of his career yards were gained with Cone in at QB making DO throws to LaTerryal Savoy and Anthony Reyes. Unless he makes his move this year, this former camp offer from nowhere likely ends up a running back Notorious C.O.N.E.
Mark Ingram, Except Faster
Alias: #38 Thomas Rawls (Fr/Fr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
Look how slow highlight reels were before high school coaches learned about 1.2x playback.
Hurray for "Higlights!"
Style: He's 5'10 and almost 230 lbs. as a freshman. That means lots of mass relatively low to the ground. He makes that lower, giving Rawls the same P.J. Hill-ishness that makes guys bounce off him.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: This guy was born to run between the tackles.
Is he THE ONE? Thickly built backs like him tend to be early-playable since their game is pretty straightforward. Watch Ingram's highlight reel – or Clarett's – as underclassmen. Such men are immune to arm tackling. To anyone not from Flint or with the last name Jackson, Rawls is almost certainly a lite version of those guys. How lite will determine how useful he is this year, and down the line.
Bobby 'Bomber' Nussbaumer, Except Faster
Alias: #5 Justice Hayes (Fr/Fr)
Evidence of reincarnation:
Actually in Nussbaumer's day bloggers got our video feeds from buying packs of chewing gum with cardboard prints of badly-colored newspaper clippings. Then we swished the cards around so it looked like their subjects were moving…
Reverse from 1948 card:
Halfback – Washington Redskins
Weight—170 lbs. Age—24
…Set all-time Redskin pass-catching record, finishing 2nd in league play to Bud Keane of Bears with 47 passes good for 597 yards. Named All-Big Ten halfback in 1945 while starring for Michigan. Is all-around athlete. Plays baseball, basketball and participates in track.
Style: Kind of like a less hyped McGuffie, no? And like McGuff, he hurdled some fool, and lost most of his senior year to injury.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: It's January 2014, Heisman-winning QB Devin Gardner takes the snap and suddenly Tennesse's defense is through the line and coming toward him – but WAIT, it's a screen to Michigan's playmaker Justice Mercury Willie Mays Hayes. He's loose in the open field with just one man – 7'2 safety JAWS – to beat…Hayes leaps OVER him. Touchdown Michigan! Michigan has put this game out of reach and barring a miracle Gardner and Hayes and the Wolverines are going to be your 2013 season National Champions! Hi dad!
Is he THE ONE? As in can he lead us to victory over the machines and free us from the Matrix? Yes. As in will he claim the job in 2011? No. But next year Shaw's gone and then Smith's gone, and Hayes should be a more filled out sophomore.
The smart money says all of these guys except Hayes will probably touch the ball this year. So if you really want to know what Michigan's backs will look like this year, put this on fast forward..
…or watch lots of games from 1980: