Hobbled Lewan would be very bad: Andy Morrison|Toledo Blade
Any team that remains relatively healthy for an entire season is going to be doggone good, and doggoner lucky. Until the Sugar Bowl, when Heininger went out and Molk would have been sidelined if he was anybody but David Molk in his last game at Michigan, Team 132's most significant injury losses were Odoms, the sum total of various dings that kept Woolfolk from being as T-Wolf-ian as he used to be, and Barnum missing extensive time. All were replaced by more than competent backups, respectively Gallon, T.Gordon, and Schofield. Depth at the positions of ding-itude (and relative health elsewhere) was an understated but important part of the strong second half and thin margin by which Hoke's first team ended up winning a BCS bowl.
If 2012 proves an underwhelming sequel, the most likely culprit will be injuries at certain positions where they can be ill afforded. Since so much of this year's ultimate preview is bound to be extraordinarily rah-rah, here I'll try to temper those expectations a bit by predicting what the drop-off might be if we lose any given starter. If negative hypotheticals tend to make rain clouds appear over your head, well, either you're closing your eyes to a situation you do not wish to acknowledge or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community.
Quickly. 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: Devin Gardner was a 5-star recruit at the most important and most scouted position in football, has played relatively extensively for a backup, and has athletic powers not quite Denard-level but still far beyond mortal Division I signal callers. The drop-off from Denard to the Devin from practice chatter is measurable but not dire; the fall from Denard to the Devin we've seen in limited action so far is precipitous.
If the inconceivable is conceived, the offense could be simplified and lean far more on Toussaint, both to make things easier on Gardner and because if he gets hurt we're down to Bellomy and walk-ons. How unready Gardner is can be overstated; he's either a redshirt sophomore or a junior depending on how recently Gordon Gee bought your NCAA contact a beer, and this is plenty old enough to have a feel for the offense. Then again, when he's been in… Ultimately Michigan can win 8 games with Gardner; with Denard the upside on the season is roses.
In case of dire emergency: Bellomy looked cool in the Spring Game, but I wouldn't expect more than 2008 Threet out of him at this point in his career. Spread outfits like Northwestern and Purdue have made it work with such guys before, so it's not DEATH. It's hard to see him beating the tougher parts of the schedule.
In case of emergency: The emergence of Fitz last year finally broke Michigan out of a three-year period of carries by broken bits of Minor or guys who could do one thing very well and all other things okay well. Previous the-guys like Hart/Perry/A-Train could get more yards than the defense's execution gave them by having multiple strengths. In Fitz's case those X-factors are Perry-like vision, Carlos Brown-level breakaway speed, plus the Hart-like quality Brian historically refers to as "juking a guy in a phone booth." If he could truck he'd a Heisman candidate. As it is he gives defenses another guy they have to "cheat" around by scheme/alignment/personnel at the cost of weakening something else.
Losing Fitz means going back to a committee of guys who do one or two things well. A passing spread could be just fine with Smith, who's the best blocker among the backs, is dangerous as a screen/catching target, and has some of those Pahokee jackrabbit genes that magnify his effectiveness as space increases. So long as Borges can resist the urge to ISOs with him the offense can still be the best in the conference, if not Oregon-good. Remember 2009 with Brown and Minor? That plus a senior QB. And that wasn't so terrible. Since Smith will get in anyway, the primary beneficiary of an injury to Toussaint is Justice Hayes. Hayes (right) has already outgrown his Breaston-skinny recruiting profile and flashed Toussaint-like skills. In high school he was a good enough receiver that people thought his future was at slot. If he can block too Michigan might have something here.
The Minor in this equation is either Rawls or Hopkins. Rawls we've seen in spring and limited carries last year and seems as advertised: a trunk-legged trucker. All said, the drop from The Guy™ to the guys is a star-and-a-half but the committee is strong enough that the sum difference will probably be one or two of Purdue-Illinois-Northwestern-Iowa getting closer than they would have.
In case of dire emergency: We have two freshmen. If Norfleet isn't returning this year I'd like to see him get the Breaston redshirt to put on some muscle; Drake Johnson could rotate into garbage time now. Hopkins can be dragooned from fullback if we lose Rawls.
In case of emergency: Hopkins seems to have fallen out of the RB conversation since moving to fullback—equal parts Rawls' emergence and fumblitis—but when I look at him I see a young Leroy Hoard, and when I look at the TE depth chart I see plenty of two-RB sets no matter who the feature back is; with Toussaint hurt Hopkins could get Hoard-like usage. There isn't another guy on the roster like Hopkins, but Kerridge is by accounts a decent fullbackian fullback, and if he isn't there's 5th year senior Paul Gyarmati and 3-star fullbackian recruit Sione Houma's redshirt to burn before we run out of noses to stuff into linebackers. I do believe the position will be featured more than in recent memory, but I think if Hopkins goes down it will be less so since he's the only real running threat among the group. So far as I know none of them are the Aaron Shea/Brian Thompson kind of receiving threat; for that Michigan will probably use a U-back, currently Ricardo Miller and Jordan Paskorz.
In case of emergency: The good news: the fall from Michigan's 5th year returning starter to his backups doesn't look too bad. The bad news: the drop-off from the 2nd team to random walk-ons is barely different. Of the group Moore had a good TE's recruiting profile though he's flashed neither Martell Webb's blocking ability nor Koger's receiving skills. In a typical Hoke year you'll see two TE starters but we're not there yet.
Ricardo Miller is the next guy in, but is a vastly different guy. As a junior in high school Miller was one of the top recruits in Florida, the star of power program Dr. Phillips, a National Honor Society member, and an early commit who gave us dreams of the next #1. His senior year he moved to Ann Arbor and ended up a stiff TE in Pioneer's option offense, pushing his rating to MSU-ish 3-star. There's still three years of eligibility for him to turn into Tim Massaquoi, and that seems like the path he's on, though the dearth of practice hype to that effect and equal reps for so many other guys makes the murmurs deafening. The opposite side of the coin from Miller is A.J. Williams, a true freshman who played OT and can therefore block a defensive end, which makes him useful now at the Y, especially when Michigan goes to (it's not dead yet) tight formations. Anything happens to Moore and Williams/Miller are probably trading off based on situation.
A few more common Spring tea leaves for a position in trouble are a sudden burst of hype for a senior walk-on, and position switchers climbing the depth chart. We have that in Mike Kwiatkowski and Jordan Paskorz. All told my guess is Michigan will play one tight end some of the time, two tight ends rarely, and if injury strikes Moore we'll see Miller and a lot more fullback sets.
In case of emergency: Like tight end, the backups here are not a huge drop-off but there's simply not enough dudes with experience to fill the depth chart. Unlike tight end there's a lot of talent and reason for hope. While Tree and Gallon are established as what they are, and Jeremy Jackson is probably not much more than a possession change-of-pace, there's some wideout wild cards in Jerald Robinson and two good freshmen, either of whom could be a starter by the start of the conference season.
Borges does prefer to have a prototype split end and flanker (and a slot), but both guys at the top of the depth chart are spread slots. Gallon is best in the slot, and more so than fullback the tight end situation benefits the existence of a third receiver most plays. Roundtree is now at Hemingway's old position, the flanker, which starts in the backfield and gets to run plays designed to get him open. Who wins the split end position out of J-Rob and the freshmen will mean much for how the unit develops. Since there's seven guys for what should be three positions, nobody is really out of the rotation unless one freshman is significantly ahead of the other.
If Gallon gets hurt, Dileo is a similar type of player and can be used in the same role—he should rotate in plenty as it is. If Roundtree is lost for an extensive time, you may get a long look at Jerome Jackson in that role, something that would signify the corps as a whole will have limitations. The hope here is that the receivers won't have to face super-tough coverage while defenses react to Denard and Fitz, but it's hard to call the difference because the starters and the depth are largely different types of players.
In case of dire emergency: A scenario that sees Roundtree and Gallon hurt (and/or somebody getting very serious about damage to parking gates) probably sees Michigan go "big" (think 2001 with Walker) with routes designed to get whoever Denard feels the most comfort with mismatched against smaller DBs.
Heiko took these. The one at right was accidentally not credited in HTTV.
In case of emergency: It's Jack Miller, who has some Molkian qualities about him but is a redshirt freshman, still gaining muscle, and liable to be thrown around like a ragdoll by the Ogbu's of the world as Molk was. The non-feasibility of Miller starting was underlined when Barnum was announced early in Spring as the center. This depleted the guards but at least there's a live body to snap it if Barnum gets hurt.
Spring proved that gap is wider than we thought, as Barnum established himself as clearly the best interior offensive lineman and tailor-made center for the transitional year's offense. Meanwhile we've heard little from Miller. He wasn't highly recruited but centers rarely are, especially spread centers. The caveat for this is until you see them play you have little else to go on. If Barnum gets hurt, the interior line is probably a team weakness, and teams with immobile DTs will probably bog Michigan's offense down by making it tough to run to the interior. But then if he can reach block like Molk it won't matter so much who's taking up space behind the play.
In case of emergency: By "emergency" you mean anything happening to the starters, which would almost certainly see a true freshman drawn in. The true freshman in question is a 5-star and the most college-ready linemen we've recruited since that's been something we can qualify, but a freshman nonetheless, and one whose brightest future is probably at guard, possibly immediately since Elliot Mealer and a walk-on seem to be the competition for the left guard spot. Mealer was beaten rather badly by Minnesota on a day Minnesota was doing half of the blocking on Minnesota in his one garbage time moonlight on the outside, and I'd rather never see that happen again. So even if the true freshman wins a starting job this fall, an injury to Lewan or Schofield sees Mealer slide back to guard and Kalis is the guy, despite the fact he probably hasn't even figured out the Tisch-to-Mason cut through yet.
We'll get a tiny feel for just how much of a drop-off this is when the squishy part of the schedule yields opportunity to rotate the starters out and let Kalis get some seasoning, but such situations are doubtful to yield much in the way of passing plays against blitzes and hell-bent rush ends. If the unthinkable happens, however, you'll see an appreciable difference in Michigan's passing game, especially early, as they try to lean on whichever RS junior is left standing. Rollouts, runs to the other side, shorter routes, that sort of thing. One thing he'll have going for him is ends don't want to risk losing contain on Denard, so Kalis would not be forced to block a full-on pass rush very often.
Even as he settles in, this is making a position of strength into a weakness, in the case of Lewan like going from Verlander right now to Jacob Turner (for you baseball fans). I would also guess Schofield slides to left to cover Denard's backside.
In case of dire emergency: If any two of the above-mentioned go down I think Ben Braden is the next of the freshmen closest to being ready to play, even if Magnuson probably has a higher ceiling. It's possible Omameh could shift outside too—he's not big but he's quick enough to be a spread tackle and played there before—if one of the existing interior options proves to be a better option.
In case of really dire emergency: It's Gunderson, who looked exactly awful in the Spring Game even when the defense went to playing soft so that Gardner could do something other than get chased by the guy Gunderson was blocking. Or Magnuson. Or Chaucer. Rabelais. Balzac!
In case of emergency: Burzynski got the start in the Spring Game and looked good for a guy not much bigger than my brother. This bodes unwell for nominal starter Elliott Mealer, the last man standing from Carrs 2008 offensive line recruits now that Khoury has moved on. That Bryant is behind both of them says he still hasn't gotten into playing shape, although the redshirt freshman may be closer to that by fall. Anyway if he's not needed as the only breathing tackle Kyle Kalis has as good a shot as anyone at starting left guard this fall.
Omameh is the O-line's longest tenured starter and was brilliant as a spread guard who gets to the 2nd level, something he didn't get to do much of last year. His upside as Destroyer of Teo's makes the relative value of losing him a variable, but large any way you calculate it. Any of the freshmen named earlier, plus Blake Bars, might be cast into a guard role this year. Fortunately there's a lot of O-line recruits on their way in case we burn a lot of redhsirts in 2012, but a quick glance at the depth chart by class reveals a fist-shaking inattention to the O-line.
I imagine by later this year Bryant is closer to being ready to contribute. He was a planetary object brought into to be stripped apart and rebuilt; enough pieces have been reattached at this point that he managed to show some life in Spring. He's a year away from being a ready asset.
In case of dire emergency: Q-Wash might be moved back in a pinch. Anyway, two injuries anywhere on the O-line and I'm writing a Decimated Offense article. Spoiler: it will say Rodriguez expected to recruit a huge O-line class in 2011 in order to have lots of RS freshmen ready to stand behind the 2012 upperclassmen, but because linemen commit early and prefer stability (remember: usually three years before they see the field) and with much of 2010 was poisoned this plan backfired. None of this will be solace to you if the O-line falls apart this year. I'm more worried now than I was before, and I was really worried before.
All told, this is a thinner offense than it was a year ago. The difference between the starters and their backups is two
stars Saturn-Punting Zoltans or more at five positions, six if you think Fitz Toussaint is All Big Ten. Nowhere on the offense is there a ready guy like 2011 Schofield or T.Gordon burning a hole in the depth chart, unless one of the freshman tight ends or receivers move into open starting roles.
|Cincinnati, OH – 6'3", 230|
|Scout||4*, #4 OLB, #69 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #7 OLB, #111 overall, #5 OH|
|ESPN||4*, #5 MLB, #5 OH, #142 overall|
|24/7||4*, #3 ILB, #2 OH, #58 overall|
|Other Suitors||Penn State, UNC, Stanford|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Insane comedy post featuring Mark Smith's terror at technology.|
|Notes||Cinci Colerain (Mister Simpson, Cobrani Mixon, BJ Askew). Early enrollee.|
UA game clips:
And some high school ones:
BEHOLD THE JOE BOLDEN HAIR PROGRESSION
Like Sampson, Bolden's reputation has grown with his locks. When he committed to Michigan last April he was on the outer reaches of four-star consideration, but after a strong senior season and star turn at the Under Armor all-star game practices he finds himself about the 5th best linebacker prospect in the country, give or take a spot. Expectations ratcheted up further after Bolden's arrival on campus in January as coach raves gradually filtered their way out to the public and Bolden took a turn as the starting MLB after Kenny Demens injured his hand. By the end of spring practice, Bolden was locked in as Kenny Demens's heir apparent. By 2013 Bolden's hair will hit the middle of his back and the hype will be intolerable.
This goes here.
The hype may already be thus. ESPN's($) evaluation covers all the bases:
Bolden is a tough, instinctive football player with a knack for getting to the football and making big plays. … Demonstrates the good flexibility, balance and agility required to play in space; does a very good job with key and diagnosis skills against the run and pass; is quick to react to the inside run, demonstrating the ability to play downhill while attacking and defeating blockers at the point of attack. This prospect also displays the quickness necessary to avoid contact when moving through traffic; is quick to the edge and does a good job maintaining leverage when pursuing the football from the backside; doesn't overrun plays. We like his proper angles and effort in long pursuit. We see very good coverage production from this athlete; displays the ability to drop and get into throwing lanes; shows good route awareness; does a nice job looking up inside receivers while managing to get his eyes on the quarterback; shows the ability to plant and break on underneath throws. His excellent awareness in space is responsible for quite a few pass breakups while also demonstrating good ball skills.
That is… everything. Save mentioning him as a blitz terror, I guess. Everything else you could want in a middle linebacker save "is Ray Lewis" is there. Here's Rivals's Chris Nee confirming:
"Bolden is everything that you want at the linebacker position," Nee said. "He has good athleticism to cover a good area of space but is a great tackler one-on-one in space. He does a great job of putting himself in position to make plays whether the ball stays inside the tackles or goes outside. He is extremely physical at the point of contact."
That kicks off three consistent themes in Joe Bolden evaluation:
- S-M-R-T smart.
- Gets sideline to sideline.
- Relentless tackling machine.
Now to the blockquotes. Scout's Scott Kennedy named him his team's defensive MVP($) at the UA game:
With the offensive line occupied by the defensive line, the linebackers were free to roam uninhibited. No one took advantage of the room to run better than Michigancommitment Joe Bolden. Bolden was popping pads during walk-thrus, and he continued to seek and destroy when the tempo was moved to full speed. Bolden doesn't do anything half-speed. He showed he was capable of dropping into coverage as well as attacking the line of scrimmage.
The Michigan commit was impressive all week in practice, and quickly caught all the coaches attention at Under Armour. He is a guy that certainly really impressed with his football IQ. Not just that, but his ability to move laterally, and his general ability to play his assignments and to not take false steps. He reads the play and is more athletic than people give him credit for, and is one of those guys that if you go to a camp or see him at a 7-on-7, maybe he is not as high on your list, but you put him in pads and you can really see this guy having a great college career and playing a lot in the National Football League.
His coach at that event:
Linebackers coach Joey McGuire of Cedar Hill High in the Dallas area loves what he has seen from the future Big Ten player.
“I love the Bolden kid,” McGuire said. “He’s one of the most instinctive kids I have seen. He’s similar to the Spence kid (Sean Spence at Miami) from the first Under Armour game in that he is so instinctive on the field. He just finds the football.”
FWIW, Spence started eight games as a freshman, was All-ACC and a Butkus semifinalists as a senior, and was drafted in the third round by the Steelers. Bolden is four inches taller than him.
Other UA game evaluations mention his instincts($) ("among the best on Team Highlight, regardless of position") and name him the best tackler at the game ("showed great technique on a pair of one-on-one tackles").
If we're looking for catches, athleticism seems to be de-emphasized above. That's contested by evaluations from Josh Helmholdt—who said "his combination of size, athleticism, and speed has been unmatched so far this year" after taking in a high school game of his—and Allen Trieu, who lists "speed" as one of his main assets.
Scout.com Player Evaluation:
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Underrated athlete who can really run sideline to sideline and arrives at ball carriers with bad intentions. He's a great tackler and a big hitter that likes contact. He'll have to adjust to taking on bigger, stronger blockers at the college level, but he's a tough kid that won't shy away from it. In coverage, he does a nice job and made a number of plays dropping into zones and showing good ball skills in high school.
Elsewhere in futile attempts to find chinks in the armor, Bolden is not a coach's son but is a coach's nephew—his uncle Tom is Colerain's head coach. He is, in fact, an athletic director's son. His work ethic is strong, his background is advanced, and he's got a leadership edge to him:
“To me he plays the game the way it is supposed to be played,” said Bolden. “He runs fast and he plays with reckless abandon. I’ve had college coaches refer to him as an athletic throwback. Hopefully his little brothers and my boys, his nephews, will play the same way. That is all you can ask for. He’s been the vocal and emotional leader with these kids by his effort. He’s a 1000 miles per hour in practice all the time, the same way he is in a game and hopefully it’s taught these young kids how to prepare.”
Elsewhere, Tom Bolden told Sam Webb that "when he tackles kids, they stay tackled," mentioned his 3.9 GPA, and added the usual bits about range and smarts. Trieu added that he is both a "classic, throwback-type linebacker" and an "every-down linebacker" at a good school, from a good family, who comes with a free beach towel.
Again: everything. Plus a towel.
After that hype as a recruit, Bolden arrived on campus and started turning heads there as well. He showed up from time to time in the "let's overreact to" spring scrimmage video series:
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 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 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.
And then again:
Poole gets on the wrong side of a pulling Barnum, which prevents Bolden from making a tackle. Then a safety I can't identify whiffs as he tries to fill. Bryant doesn't actually end up blocking anyone. Bolden's reaction time was impressive there: if Poole knows what he's doing that's going to be a thump for Bolden at or near the LOS.
Then I managed to write a billion-word-long spring game post without once mentioning Bolden. I have no idea how that happened. He did play, there are pictures and everything. The insider buzz was all positive; we'll see it on the field this fall. Even with the hype, he's still a freshman.
Why David Harris? Yes, going there. The two main weapons in Harris's arsenal were an ability to diagnose plays very early and sideline-to-sideline tackling rage. Basically every evaluation above mentions those as Bolden's primary assets. Size-wise it's pretty close: Harris topped out at 6'2", 250. Bolden will reach that latter number easily and is an inch taller.
Bolden is of course more touted than sleeper Harris. Also he does not look as much like Worf, but you can't have everything.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Bolden was healthy, played at power Colerain, made an all star game appearance, and has gone through spring practice with flying colors.
Variance: Low. On campus, already pushing Demens from behind.
Ceiling: High. Has the frame, athleticism, background, and pedigree to be an all-conference performer.
General Excitement Level: MASSIVE! WOO!
Projection: Will not redshirt, as he's already got a spring practice under his belt and Michigan will want to blood him in preparation for 2013, when he's going to be the leading candidate to replace Demens. Should see extensive special teams time, garbage time, and the occasional Demens-spelling drive when he needs a breather.
After this year, the path is clear for Bolden to be a three-year starter.
Today's recruiting roundup discusses The Opening, the David Dawson thing that's no longer a thing, the latest on Laquon Treadwell, and more.
Ask And Ye Shall Receive Some Answers, Hopefully
Before I get into the events of the weekend, we're introducing a new feature: the recruiting mailbag (witty title pending witty thought). If you've got any recruiting-related questions—whether about Michigan, the Big Ten, or a more general query—send them to me via email or on Twitter and I'll do my best to provide an informed answer.
Author Gloating Section
So, remember this? You should, since I posted it on Friday:
Speaking of nothing to see here, David Dawson caused a stir yesterday when he tweeted that his Michigan teammates had "left [him]" while at The Opening, then saying he was chilling with a group of Florida commits. Dawson has recently discussed camping at Florida, so we now have a new panic about a possible decommitment. I'll only say this on the matter: STOP hanging onto every word a recruit says on Twitter. In fact, I'll reiterate that you should probably stop following recruits entirely, especially if you're the type to worry about stuff like Dawson's tweet. It's just not worth it. It's the job of people like myself, TomVH, Tim Sullivan, and Steve Lorenz to follow these recruits and pass along any information that's actually pertinent. If anything newsworthy arises out of the Dawson situation—and hanging out with Florida commits is beyond not newsworthy—we'll keep you posted.
Let's move on, shall we?
Cloudy With A Chance Of Ground Beef
As far as I'm concerned, the most important thing to come out of The Opening was this headline from Scout for a three-picture slideshow of Taco Charlton jumping over a tackling dummy:
The Opening: Taco Skies
Mmmmmmmmmm, Taco skies:
Setting aside food-related fantasies, Charlton appears to be a freak athlete for a defensive end, a feeling backed up by his impressive 100.29 SPARQ score, best among Michigan commits and 50th overall among The Opening participants.
Since there was an unprecedented amount of coverage for a high school camp, I'm breaking up the remaining news from The Opening by player. Here's the lowdown on the performance of Michigan's seven commits in attendance plus another prospect who could join that number soon:
QB SHANE MORRIS
Morris had a typically outstanding weekend, and even with a couple rough patches he stood out as one of two top-tier quarterbacks at the event along with USC commit Max Browne. CBSSports's Bryan Fischer on Morris's overall performance:
It is pretty easy to pencil in Morris as the second-best quarterback at The Opening because there was a significant drop off after him to the other four QB's. We've seen him in action a few times this year and we can't help but notice that his arm is much stronger than it was this time last year. He was the top guy during pool play but was hot and cold during the tournament go around, tossing a few interceptions and sailing the ball high at times. He did a good job of getting the ball out quickly but when he had to move on to other reads, that's when he started to struggle. There were some grumbles that Morris was the reason his team didn't win the championship but, frankly, they wouldn't have even been in a position to play for it if it were not for the five-star's precision passing most of the weekend.
247 listed Morris behind Browne among their top performers and praised his arm strength, while SBNation mentioned his "quick and decisive" reads in the 7-on-7 portion. He also did a pretty spot-on imitation of Mark Dantonio for ESPN—though as Sean Yuille points out, nothing compares to Ondre Pipkins's Brady Hoke—and was the subject of an ESPN feature article on the stories behind his many bracelets.
TE JAKE BUTT
8. TE Jake Butt, Pickerington (Ohio) North: Butt has been overshadowed a bit by [Alabama TE commit O.J.] Howard, but who wouldn't be? He was a very reliable target for his team and the guy Tyrone Swoopes relied on in the short and intermediate passing game. He sits down well in spots, presents a good target and has reliable hands. He doesn't do anything great but he does everything well.
He isn't noted as a player who will beat you based on pure athleticism, but his well-rounded game should make him an early contributor given Michigan's weak depth at tight end.
OL DAVID DAWSON
Most of the news on Dawson from the weekend focused on the canceled Florida trip, but he did manage to earn mention from Farrell for his performance on Saturday ($):
12. OL David Dawson, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech: Dawson has become more patient in two short weeks. A couple weeks ago at the Rivals100 Five Star Challenge he would punch out of his stance and if he connected he would win and if he didn't he was easy to pass. On Saturday he showed the ability to get out, move his feet, keep his arms extended and not rely on a big punch off the snap. This allowed him to effectively ride defenders outside the target area and let him use his long arms much more effectively.
Dawson weighed in at 6'3.5", 282 pounds, further cementing the opinion that he's destined for guard. His advanced technique should offset any concerns about lack of size, especially considering he's got over a year before he suits up for Michigan.
OL KYLE BOSCH
Unfortunately, Bosch was ill during the event and flew home early, so there's nothing on him from the drills. Bosch did measure in at 6'5", 311 pounds; he's got the size to play guard or tackle at the next level.
DE TACO CHARLTON
Although OHSAA rules prevented Charlton from competing in pads, he still managed to stand out due to his 6'6", 249-pound frame and athletic potential. Scout's Chad Simmons listed him as the #4 defensive end after Saturday's session ($):
Charlton is without question one of the best athletes in this group. He looks the part, he was very fluid during the drills, and although he couldn't compete in pads (State of Ohio rule), he showed enough to make Scout think he could end up being one of Michigan's top recruits in 2013. He is still raw and he needs to get stronger, but he is athletic, he is very quick, he has good length, and a lot of potential.
247 also listed Charlton as a day one standout. Charlton is a raw prospect, and one whose game lends itself to standout camp performances that may not be entirely indicative of his true football ability. His potential is tantalizing, however, and he's already close to the size desired in a weakside DE. If Charlton progresses significantly against the run this fall, he's poised to make a big rise in the rankings.
LB MIKE MCCRAY
McCray managed to make it through The Opening without being mentioned in any of the scouting articles I can find. His strengths—read-and-react against the run and utilizing his size—don't translate very well to a camp setting, especially in 7-on-7 play, so it's not particularly surprising that he didn't stand out.
CB JOURDAN LEWIS
Like Butt, Lewis made the All-Tournament squad in 7-on-7 play. Lewis measured in at just 5'10", 159 pounds, but that didn't stop him from standing his ground against the country's top receivers:
"He made a lot of flash plays, a couple of interceptions -- including one he returned for a touchdown," [Scout's Allen] Trieu said. "He’s probably got the toughest job, too, as a corner. You’re going up against some of these top-end receivers in seven-on-sevens, and that’s not an easy task they gave him."
"When you got him going against 6-5, 6-4 receivers who are nationally recruited guys, the worry is whether he’s going to get out-jumped, out-physicaled, kind of out-manned by some of these bigger receivers. And that has not happened. He came out here and really held his own against some mammoth receivers."
Lewis also made SBNation's list of defensive standouts. While size is certainly a concern, his coverage skills are at a level that should allow him to compete for early playing time.
WR LAQUON TREADWELL
247 placed Treadwell among the weekend's top offensive players:
Treadwell, who is considered a heavy lean to Michigan over Oklahoma State, USC and Michigan State, proved to be the quickest off the line of scrimmage of all the taller receivers on hand, as well as showing the ability to high-point the ball with ideal timing and body control.
He also made SBNation's list:
Laquon Treadwell, Monee (IL) -- A major collision over the middle sidelined Treadwell for part of a game early on Sunday, which only served to illustrated how valuable he was to his team. With a frame like a smaller [Texas commit Ricky] Seals-Jones, Treadwell has remarkable quickness for his size, which allowed him to get in and out his breaks.
More on Treadwell's weekend coming in the next section.
In non-Opening news, Logan Tuley-Tillman and Team USA earned a silver medal in the U-19 World Championships, falling to Canada in the final*. Tuley-Tillman, who turned down an invitation to The Opening to represent his country, made first-team all-tournament alongside Notre Dame commit Hunter Bivin.
NC CB commit Channing Stribling unleashed his junior highlight tape on Twitter. I haven't had a chance to really break it down, so I'll save comment for a later date.
*Before you chalk this up as an upset that shakes the very core of America, note that the U.S. fields a team of 16- and 17-year-olds while the other countries put 19-year-olds on the field.
Obligatory Treadwell Section
The big news before The Opening was Laquon Treadwell changing his tune on a commitment timetable, saying he could drop at any time. Treadwell didn't commit, but the weekend was by no means a loss for Michigan; he was photographed throwing up the 'M' for Shane Morris and wouldn't deny the consensus opinion that he'll inevitably pledge to the Wolverines. The only question is about timing: Treadwell told ESPN that he doesn't have a timetable($) and will decide on a "random day," and he told Scout's Allen Trieu($) that taking official visits "will probably happen."
Treadwell obviously feels very strongly about Michigan, but at the same time he still feels a (justifiable) pull to do his due diligence and check out some other schools. It would be a shock at this point if he didn't end up in the class, and Treadwell deserves credit for putting aside his emotions, ignoring outside pressure, and making sure he's 100% sure of his decision before he makes a choice. If Treadwell follows through on his plan to take visits, expect him to go see Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame.
Treadwell wasn't the only big-time Michigan target in attendance. VA RB Derrick Green told CBSSports that he's keeping his 13 finalists on a level playing field for now. He also mentions excitement at the prospect of speaking with Brady Hoke in person for the first time when he heads to Michigan for the July 29th BBQ at the Big House.
AZ WR Devon Allen will make it to Ann Arbor after all, telling Tremendous that he's ticketed to visit on July 28th. It would be great if Allen could move that trip back a day so he can interact with the recruits at the BBQ, but we'll see if he can work that into a busy Midwest visit schedule.
MD WR Paul Harris, who previously had Michigan is his top four, has now narrowed his field to USC and Tennessee. Happy trails also go out to PA LB Alex Anzalone, who committed to Notre Dame at The Opening.
Michigan offered NJ ATH Kiy Hester, who said he'll visit Ann Arbor within the next couple weeks, according to Mike Farrell ($). Hester also holds offers from Miami (YTM), Michigan State, Pitt, Syracuse, Maryland, Rutgers, Boston College, and Connecticut.
NY OL/DL Jay Hayes will visit Michigan on July 31st, according to 247's Clint Brewster ($).
FL OL K.C. McDermott hopes to visit sometime shortly after the BBQ, which he can't attend, via 247's Todd Worly ($).
Cass Tech corner Damon Webb will be in attendance at the BBQ, via Scout's Josh Newkirk ($).
Iowa fans: tweet your penitence to @AIRBHG.
Our God is an angry God / He rains destruction on running backs from heaven above. In case you missed it, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God struck four times over the offseason:
- Marcus Coker, Iowa's starting tailback in 2011, is suspended for the Insight Bowl; transfers to Stony Brook in January.
- Backup Mika'il McCall endures a season in which he breaks an ankle, fumbles on his second carry back from injury, gets benched, and then gets suspended; transfers to Southern Illinois in January.
- Backup Jordan Canzeri suffers a torn ACL during spring practice; will likely miss the entirety of 2012.
- Incoming four-star recruit Greg Garmon is booked for weed possession after getting pulled over for an expired registration; status is up in the air, but the outlook is grim.
Iowa's tailback roster is currently decimated to the point where incoming three-star recruit Barkley Hill might get the starting nod on Sept. 1. If he's wise, he'll have asked to switch to linebacker by then.
So yeah, this sounds an awful lot like Michigan's secondary circa 2010, but the wrath of AIRBHG predates AMSHG by almost a decade. A Hawkeyenation.com post chronicles the smitten, beginning with Ladell Betts in 2001. AIRBHG's appetite for sacrifice is insatiable. By my count, no fewer than 27 Hawkeyes running backs come to judgment in the time since. Only Fred Russell made it through "unscathed" by leaving early for the NFL in 2003. He went undrafted.
The actual preview part
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Head coach Kirk Ferentz is in his 14th year at Iowa and has led his team to nine winning seasons, two shared B1G championships, and two BCS bowls. Since the miraculous 2009 season in which the Hawkeyes went 11-2 and won the Orange Bowl, however, Iowa has been cruising back to average. There's a real potential for the Hawkeyes to be below average this season.
Ferentz's $3.65 million contract goes through 2020. At the age of 56 (57 on Aug. 1 for those of you into sending e-cards), Ferentz will probably see his contract through before kicking the coaching bucket. But there's a chance he might not make it to then. No one wants a lame duck coach, and if Iowa doesn't start trending up within the next season or two it would be hard for him to avoid that label.
2012 might not save him. The schedule is on the favorable side and Iowa returns a quarterback who's had a year's worth of starting experience, but with a roster that returns just 11 starters (6 offense, 5 defense, 96th nationally) from units that were both pretty mediocre last year, along with the running back issues as mentioned above and a transition at both coordinator positions, it's hard to see the Hawkeyes being consistent enough to do much more than break even.
Still, nobody predicted Michigan to do as well as it did last season. If Ferentz is truly the coach he's reputed to be and his coaching hires prove to be the hires the program has needed, there may be some fight left in Iowa yet.
- Sept. 1, Northern Illinois
- Sept. 8, Iowa State
- Sept. 15, Northern Iowa
- Sept. 22, Central Michigan
- Sept. 29, Minnesota
- Oct. 6, WIFEDAY
- Oct. 13, @ Michigan State
- Oct. 20, Penn State
- Oct. 27, @ Northwestern
- Nov. 3, @ Indiana
- Nov. 10, Purdue
- Nov. 17, @ Michigan
- Nov. 23, Nebraska
At first look this schedule is relatively soft. Eight home games, no marquee non-conference opponents, just two tough road games, and no Wisconsin or Ohio State. Upon closer examination it's littered with trap games and underestimated obstacles.
Iowa opens at home against Northern Illinois, a MAC team that went 11-3 last season. Definitely not a gimme. Iowa State visits next, i.e. Steele Jantz returns to repeat his demolition of Iowa's defense. Northern Iowa is another team that finished at the top of a lesser conference (MVC) so again not a guaranteed win. Central Michigan is perhaps the only team that Iowa should comfortably beat at this point.
As far as B1G goes, Indiana is the only team that doesn't have a real shot at taking down the Hawkeyes. Minnesota beat them last year (A fluke? Maybe.) and should be better this year. Northwestern has made a habit of beating teams strongly associated with corn in recent years and has an offense that Iowa has a hard time dealing with. So does Purdue to a lesser extent, and Purdue should have a much better defense than many give them credit for.
Iowa might be able to squeeze a win or two out of the heavyweights, but it's not looking likely at this point.
This schedule is as favorable as: Vanilla paste.
X's and O's, Jimmys and Joes
I wonder if Adam Jacobi still thinks this is a thing. #ALLLOOKTHESAME
Style: MANBALL (with some no-huddle stuff that doesn't work very well) and PUNTOSAUR (except against Michigan).
Key losses: RB Marcus Coker (1384 yards, 4.9 ypc, 15 TD), RB Jordan Canzeri (114 yards, 3.7 ypc), WR Marvin McNutt (82 rec, 1315 yards, 12 TD), LT Riley Reiff, RG Adam Gettis
Top returners: QB James Vandenberg (58.7%, 3022 yards, 25 TD, 7 INT), WR Keenan Davis (50 rec, 713 yards, 4 TD), TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (16 rec, 167 yards, 3 TD), C James Ferentz
The biggest news for Iowa's offense not related to AIRBHG was the hire of Greg Davis from Texas to replace Ken O'Keefe, who left to coach wide receivers for the Miami Dolphins. Davis served as OC for the Longhorns during the Vince Young and Colt McCoy eras, but he is generally regarded as having as much to do with their success as Jim Bollman had to do with Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor's success.
Yes, Iowa has hired Jim Bollman, basically.
This development doesn't contrast that much with what Iowa already had going on, so we'll pretend nothing has changed. Vanilla Hawkeyes offense is vanilla.
Iowa's passing game shouldn't suffer too much this season despite losing about half of its receiver production from 2011. James Vandenberg returns a year wiser and a year more ready to deal with having no time to throw because his offensive line has occasionally forgets how to pass protect. Vandenberg was incredibly efficient last season as a first year starter, and there's no reason to believe he won't follow it up with at least a similar performance.
Except for one thing: the biggest weakness in this offense is at the running back position, as already discussed at length. The Hawkeyes run the offense Brady Hoke talks about fondly whenever Denard's not in the room, and having a bruising tailback to run between the tackles is critical for their success. Not having one is a problem. If Iowa can't threaten the run, Vandenberg might get into a lot of trouble when his receivers get locked down in coverage on every down.
Something tells me however that Ferentz will find a way to get production out of whatever guy is in the backfield. Coaching the offensive line is his thing, and they've paved the way for guys like Adam Robinson (transferred to Minnesota-Duluth after 2010), a two star out of high school, to become All-Conference performers very early in their careers.
One more thing -- there's been a lot of buzz about C.J. Fiedorowicz lately, a.k.a. the "next great Iowa tight end." Maybe he is, maybe he isn't, but he is worth keeping an eye on.
Fear level = 4.
Hands go above the waist.
Style: 4-3, Cover 2. Always.
Key losses: DT Mike Daniels (49.5 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 9 sacks), DE Broderick Binns (46.0 tackles, 12 TFL, 5 sacks), OLB Tyler Nielsen (53.5 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack), CB Shaun Prater (42 tackles, 3 PBU, 1 INT)
Top returners: MLB James Morris (81 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT), OLB Christian Kirksey (86 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT), CB Micah Hyde (60.5 tackles, 8 PBU, 3 INT), S Tanner Miller (64 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 PBU)
Coordinator change -- Norm Parker retired and got replaced by Phil Parker (no relation), who was defensive backs coach for the former Parker at Iowa. It's a significant loss, since Parker had been around for forever, but hiring someone internally means the philosophy won't change much, if at all. We'll see whether the level playcalling takes a hit.
On the player side of things, the Hawkeyes lose all of its significant production from its defensive line (sound familiar?), which bodes poorly for 2011's 62nd-ranked rush defense. Micah Hyde returns as the lone star in the secondary, and he'll certainly have his work cut out for him if Iowa hopes to improve from what their 58th-ranked pass defense from a year ago.
I don't have much else to say about the Hawkeye defense. They play cover-2 a lot. They don't often blitz (except against Michigan). They like taking two-star guys and milking every last drop of talent from them.
Yeah. Vanilla Iowa defense is vanilla.
Fear level = 4.
K Mike Meyer (14/20 FG) returns. Woo. I don't know why I still have this section. I think Iowa is replacing last year's punter with a dude from Australia, and I could not be bothered to look up who either of them are right now.
Record: Here's how it breaks down, I think.
- Likely wins: Central Michigan, Indiana;
- Close, but cigar: Northern Illinois, Northern Iowa, Minnesota;
- Close, but no cigar: Iowa State, Northwestern, Purdue;
- Likely losses: Michigan State, Penn State, Michigan, Nebraska
That comes out to about 6-6 overall, 3-5 B1G.
Against Michigan: Michigan's offense had an ill-advised game plan for Iowa last year and executed it horribly during Midwest Windstorm Part II. Things will be better offensively this year, as it will be in the Big House and Al Borges has resigned himself to zone running from shotgun at least for the time being. Michigan will have to be disciplined in the trenches on both sides of the ball as Iowa won a majority of those battles last year, and Michigan's front seven will have to get pressure on Vandenberg early. If Michigan gets to him their entire offensive plan is kaputt, but if Vandenberg gets in a rhythm, he and his receivers have the potential to take over the game.
I say Michigan ends its three-year drought against the Hawkeyes and wins 35-14.
Their chances of winning the B1G are as good as: KYRU... I BERIEVE IN YOUUUUU.
RIP Charles Drake. I was on the road when news of Charles Drake's untimely death hit the internet. Drake was one of a legion of mid-90s players brought in at running back who eventually found their way to the field at another position. If Ian Gold was the most prominent, Drake was second, moving to free safety after finding running back crowded.
Free safeties who aren't once-in-a-generation good are kind of like longsnappers in that you're usually not happy when their name is splashed across your television. In the safety's case it means they're chasing someone else. The lack of a visceral "oh, THAT play" emotion when his name comes up speaks well to his play. He was a low-event guy in an era when safeties often weren't. Condolences to his family and teammates.
Holdin' The Rope has a perspective piece worth your time.
In other sunny news. ESPN reports that this consulting firm Penn State has hired is "expected to be tough on" one Joe Paterno:
"Much of the focus will be on the culture of the football program, with findings that go back more than a decade," said a Penn State official briefed on the inquiry, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It's going to be very tough on Joe (Paterno)."
The long-awaited report, compiled by Freeh Group International Solutions, the consulting firm led by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, is the culmination of an eight-month investigation that examined whether university policies and culture were contributing factors to a lack of reports and action about abuse that occurred on campus. Investigators interviewed more than 400 people, including Penn State administrators, faculty members, trustees and former coaches, players and staff from Penn State's football team.
At this point it would be more of a surprise to find out that Paterno would come out of things looking okay. In retrospect that mid-aughts run of arrests that Paterno had little control over and seemed disinclined to care about seems symptomatic of the greater attitude that led to the decade-long Sandusky cover-up. History will not treat the "Grand Experiment" well.
Square hats and blasphemy. Jalen Rose, on the left, in his younger years:
Rose should show up in a Michigan-themed version something similar the next time he's on ESPN. I would pay a dollar for that.
Probably the final number. The number of current or former Michigan athletes who will be competing in the London Olympics: 18. And then there's Michael Phelps, who may not have actually attended Michigan but it something of an Ann Arbor institution if you've ever been in one of the diners he shoveled calories into himself at.
Points for sentiment. Not so much execution. From a reader, here is a tattoo:
This is not quite up to Lamarr Woodley standards.
The new guy. The News interviews Erik Bakich, Michigan's new baseball coach. There's not much that's not boilerplate, but I liked this:
When you're building a program based on pitching you need to have strong frontline pitching.
We'll see how it works out. Bakich has a thin track record but did relatively well at a tough place to win, is young, and has recruited well both as a head coach and an assistant. It's a reality check as to where Michigan's program stands.
Keith Jackson. The 1985 South Carolina game featured Jamie Morris hammering the Gamecocks and SC's "wide open, gambling offense" scoring three points:
Chesson hype: incremented. Sam Webb reports that Jehu Cheson ran a 4.4 40 at Michigan offseason workouts. If fast, will be intimidating.
CEASE PANIC. Our annual Cass Tech Commit Considers Taking Visits But Decides Not To After Panicking The Internet event has transpired:
Michigan football commit David Dawson turned some heads Friday when his plans to camp at Florida were revealed.
A day later, the trip is no more.
After speaking to Michigan coaches, the Detroit Cass Tech offensive lineman -- ranked by ESPN as the country's top guard -- no longer will attend the Gators' Friday Night Lights camp, according to GoBlueWolverine.com's Sam Webb.
Twitter warriors can stand down. Those inspirational quotes about loyalty can be re-directed to your significant others. I've found that condescending public tweets are what make a relationship go in this modern age of ours.
Extremely important abbreviation UPDATE! If you see "FINAO" on a football recruit's twitter, it stands for "failure is not an option." Thus sayeth Heiko in an act of investigative journalism unparalleled in the history of the site. You may all resume your day to day lives.
This is a man to have a drink with. Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson proposed a four-league, 33-team superconference combining CUSA, the Sun Belt, the WAC, and Mountain West. The slide on which this proposal was tendered was labeled "Makes Too Much Sense." Someone should get Karl Benson drunk and have him opine on the other conference commissioners.
Next year's defection worries. A couple of Michigan's 2013 hockey commits made the "A-list" of big time prospects the CSB puts out around this time every year. C JT Compher (expected) and D Michael Downing (maybe a bit of a surprise) are two of the five college-bound guys on that list. That generally means they're expected to go in the first couple rounds.
Big Ten hockey expansion: seeking 100 million or bust. New PSU coach Guy Gadowsky was interviewed by The Pipeline show and PSU hockey blog Thank You Terry transcribed interesting bits. From the non-PSU perspective, this is the most interesting bit:
Speaking of the Big Ten...
"I know for sure there’s been three other Big Ten schools that have contacted our administration and are very curious as to how [the transition to NCAA hockey] happened and what they needed to do. The reality is that the prerequisite to that is that you get a Mr. Pegula or Pegula family that’s going to give 100-odd million dollars. Those guys aren’t hanging off trees. So that’s the prerequisite and that’s hard to find. But I do think there’s a lot of interest – if they can get it done, I know there are Big Ten schools that would love to be a part of it."
Don't expect the Big Ten to get up to eight teams unless magic fairies with money bags descend on the right schools.
Etc.: Ace will no doubt cover LaQuon Treadwell's not-quite-itchy-enough trigger finger extensively in Tuesday Recruitin', but what you need to know now is he didn't commit and now plans to do so on a "random day($)," probably by rolling a d100 until it comes up 1. Yes, highly touted receivers have d100s. Loads of them.
Alex Anzalone has decided to avoid creeper-associated universities and will go to Notre Dame. Beilein is not calling recruits at midnight. Burke and Hardaway are among the 20 players at the Lebron Skills Academy.
Not a lot of action in the rankings this week, as Indiana(!) is your most active school of the past seven days with two commits. Nebraska and Wisconsin each add a headliner to their class and Brisly Estime ends one of the shortest commitments on record. Changes since the last rankings:
6-29-12: Brisly Estime decommits from Purdue.
7-2-12: Nebraska picks up Marcus Newby.
7-3-12: Wisconsin picks up Darius Latham. Indiana picks up Evan Jansen.
7-7-12: Indiana picks up Patrick Dougherty.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Avg||Scout Avg||24/7 Avg||ESPN Avg||Avg Avg^|
^The average of the average rankings of the four recruiting services (the previous four columns). The figure is calculated based on the raw numbers and then rounded, so the numbers above may not average out exactly.
NOTE: Unranked recruits are counted as two-star players.
On to the full data after the jump.