I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
xkcd / Hoke pointing at xkcd / EDIT: which means you should click on it dammit so you will get the point!
This morning His Dudeness posted a throwaway discussion topic for the board comparing Rodriguez's 2009 recruiting to Hoke's 2012. This was taken by some as an attempt to reopen 2008-'10 wounds but really it's another "how many ways can we talk about how awesome our 2012 recruiting is going?" (So so awesome). Anyway this started as a
reply to fisk of that thread and ended up at 2,000 words plus charts. Hi, I'm Misopogon, have we met?
It's been almost 200 days since Hoke took the job. That's not much to go on when trying to judge a coach. Basically there's 1) his previous resume, 2) the process of how he was hired, 3) how he built his staff, 4) how he integrates into the program, and then 5) a few months of recruiting. I literally wrote up the first four then figured what the hell would we want to go over that again, so let's skip right to recruiting.
Finishing the Class of…
Rodriguez additions to Class of '08:
|Name||Pos||State||Stars||RR||Pos Rk||Nat Rk||State Rk||Rec'd By|
|Michael Shaw||RB||OH||4 stars||5.9||7||NR||6|
|Taylor Hill||LB||OH||4 stars||5.8||21||NR||16|
|Terrence Robinson||RB||TX||4 stars||5.8||9||NR||34|
|Ricky Barnum||OL||FL||4 stars||5.8||5||NR||37|
|Roy Roundtree||WR||OH||4 stars||5.8||44||NR||17||Bruce Tall|
|Justin Feagin||ATH||FL||3 stars||5.7||41||NR||71|
|Martavious Odoms||WR||FL||3 stars||5.7||71||NR||77||Rod Smith|
|Patrick Omameh||DE||OH||2 stars||5.1||NR||NR||NR||Bruce Tall|
Hoke additions to Class of '11:
|Name||Pos||State||Stars||RR||Pos Rk||Nat Rk||State Rk||Rec'd By|
|Chris Barnett||TE||TX||4 stars||5.8||14||NR||32||Jeff Hecklinski|
|Raymon Taylor||ATH||MI||4 stars||5.8||14||NR||6|
|Antonio Poole||LB||OH||3 stars||5.7||26||NR||20||Mark Smith|
|Frank Clark||LB||OH||3 stars||5.6||NR||NR||52|
|Thomas Rawls||RB||MI||3 stars||5.6||NR||NR||19||Fred Jackson|
|Russell Bellomy||QB||TX||3 stars||5.5||NR||NR||NR|
|Tamani Carter||DB||OH||3 stars||5.5||NR||NR||60||Mark Smith|
|Keith Heitzman||DE||OH||3 stars||5.5||NR||NR||NR||Greg Mattison, Mark Smith|
|Matt Wile||K||CA||2 stars||5.3||NR||NR||NR|
This is unfair to judge the coaches against each other. Rodriguez was hired in November and was taking over a Citrus-bound program with a retiring Hall of Fame coach, while Hoke was hired in the middle of January after a blowout Gator loss and following a fired guy. Rodriguez had less time than would have been optimal given the breadth of his transition, but it was no more of a transition than Hoke faces, and RR got a good two months, including the all-important December period, to bring the current class home.
The recruiting is reflected in that. Other than bringing Hill from W.Va., Rodriguez mostly grabbed guys to fit his offensive system. Shaw's a speed-back, T-Rob, Roundtree and Odoms were slot receivers, Barnum and Omameh were the kind of agile offensive linemen who fit best in zone blocking, and Feagin was a last-minute consolation prize when Pryor decided he'd get more out of attending Ohio State. Hoke on the other hand found a handful of Michigan and Ohio State Sad Joshes (Clark, Carter, Heitzman, Rawls, Poole, Bellomy and Taylor), at positions of great need, replaced the kicker lost in the transition, yanked the requisite Purdue recruit (Bellomy) to ensure Danny Hope stays petty, and pulled in a last-minute coup on a national tight end.
Both did okay, not fantastic. Hoke got a kicker back, which was a big deal, but needed to flip someone's 5.9+ OT and pick up another good-to-great linebacker to avoid scary depths at that positions starting in 2012; RR's failure to get more help at defensive back (Carr had Brandon Smith, J.T. Floyd, and Cissoko) would haunt him the rest of his Michigan career (nobody planned on losing 2/4 LBs by next summer). Oh, and, ahem, quarterback.
Recruiting the Class of…
Rodriguez 2009 recruits as of July 26, 2008:
|William Campbell||DT||MI||5 stars||6.1||Oct. 2007||5||26||1||(Carr's staff)|
|Justin Turner||DB||OH||4 stars||6.0||Mar 28||3||35||1||Bruce Tall|
|Bryce McNeal||WR||MN||4 stars||6.0||May 1||10||75||1||Tony Dews|
|Kevin Newsome||QB||VA||4 stars||5.9||Apr 24||4||163||9||Fred Jackson|
|Jeremy Gallon||ATH||FL||4 stars||5.9||Jun 05||11||NR||31||Rod Smith|
|DeQuinta Jones||DT||LA||4 stars||5.8||Jul 21||NR||NR||10||Jay Hopson|
|Shavodrick Beaver||QB||TX||4 stars||5.8||Apr 29||8||206||24||Rod Smith|
|Fitz Toussaint||RB||OH||4 stars||5.8||Apr 18||8||NR||14||Tony Gibson|
|Michael Schofield||OL||IL||4 stars||5.8||Jun 16||18||NR||6||Scott Shafer|
|Teric Jones||RB||MI||3 stars||5.7||Mar 29||37||NR||12||Tony Dews|
|Isaiah Bell||LB||OH||3 stars||5.7||Mar 31||26||NR||27||Tony Gibson|
Hoke 2012 recruits as of July 26, 2011:
|Kyle Kalis||OL||OH||4 stars||6.0||Jul 10||4||18||1||Greg Mattison|
|Royce Jenkins-Stone||LB||MI||4 stars||5.9||Apr 16||7||87||1||Fred Jackson|
|Erik Magnuson||OL||CA||4 stars||5.9||Jun 10||8||34||6||Dan Ferrigno|
|Blake Bars||OL||TN||4 stars||5.8||Jun 26||34||NR||6||Mark Smith|
|Joe Bolden||LB||OH||4 stars||5.8||Apr 29||16||NR||11||Greg Mattison|
|Pharaoh Brown||DE||OH||4 stars||5.8||May 07||20||NR||17||Greg Mattison|
|Terry Richardson||DB||MI||4 stars||5.8||May 19||18||NR||4||Greg Mattison|
|James Ross||LB||MI||4 stars||5.8||May 2||4||NR||3||Fred Jackson|
|Tom Strobel||DE||OH||4 stars||5.8||Jun 10||18||NR||14||Greg Mattison|
|Jarrod Wilson||DB||OH||4 stars||5.8||Jul 8||NR||NR||NR||Greg Mattison|
|Ben Braden||OL||MI||3 stars||5.7||Mar 24||59||NR||9||Greg Mattison|
|Devin Funchess||TE||MI||3 stars||5.7||Apr 22||17||NR||6||Fred Jackson|
|Allen Gant||DB||OH||3 stars||5.7||May 31||22||NR||29||Al Borges|
|Matthew Godin||DT||MI||3 stars||5.7||May 12||27||NR||7||Fred Jackson|
|Kaleb Ringer||LB||OH||3 stars||5.7||Apr 12||11||NR||25||Mark Smith|
|Caleb Stacey||OL||OH||3 stars||5.7||Mar 26||12||NR||22||Mark Smith|
|Anthony Standifer||DB||IL||3 stars||5.7||Jun 01||37||NR||14||Jeff Hecklinski|
|A.J. Williams||TE||OH||3 stars||5.7||Apr 22||16||NR||28||Mark Smith|
|Mario Ojemudia||DE||MI||3 stars||5.6||May 7||NR||NR||14||Fred Jackson|
|Jeremy Clark#||DB||KY||3 stars||5.5||Jun 24||NR||NR||6||(Camp offer)|
|Sione Houma||RB||UT||0 stars||NR||Jul 25||NR||NR||NR||Dan Ferrigno|
# = entering as grayshirt
By the way those are end-of-cycle rankings so it's not an exact match, e.g. Newsome was at one point rated the 20th player in the country by Rivals and was around 40-something by mid-summer. For our purposes it gets the point across: RR had some great gifts for the tree had they hung on, but still needed a lot of stocking stuffers.
Both coaches worked quickly to over-address positions of the greatest whiffs in years previous. Rodriguez got two of the top QBs in the country signed on, and had 5-stars or near enough at cornerback and DT. To the groans of smurf-haters everywhere, RR also had secured two more scat-backs and another (highly rated) slot receiver. Schofield was considered a good system OT; Isaiah Bell was a S/LB sleeper adored by one Ohio site but not the national scouts. Hoke meanwhile has killed, already having secured five OL commitments, three of whom are already past the "just a 4-star" threshold, and also swept the region in LB recruits, faring almost as well in DEs. Hoke's clearly got the advantage.
You'll note a lot of the 2008 haul never made it to campus. The 3-9 year was partly to blame of course, however as of late July 2008 many of RR's guys were soft. Will Campbell (right) committed to Carr in the middle of his junior (2007) year and remained a softie; he eventually de-committed in September only to re-up after a long and pulmonarily destructive flirtation with SEC schools. Bryce committed but looking around; he lost interest in October, presumably after many sleepless nights spent thinking of Nick Sheridan passing to him. Newsome was entertaining a camp visit at Virginia Tech this time three years ago, but turned it down and sounded like he was rock. He and Beaver gave up around the same time (right after you mentally gave up on the 2008 offense) and were immediately replaced by Tate and the hard pursuit of some supersonic kid in Florida who Urban wanted badly and nobody thought was a QB.
And then there's DeQuinta Jones, a 4-star DT from Louisiana who just kind of randomly pretended to commit to M without visiting, kind of the way that my buddy once announced that he was in love with the hottest girl in camp, whom we will call L.H.*, so that other girls in camp would take him more seriously. If this seems at all weird to you welcome to the wild and wacky world of Louisiana recruiting; bring a funny hat. The DeQuinta/LH gambit worked surprisingly well in both cases, except not for the faux commit-ee.
If you take away the guys who de-committed from RR's 2009 class it looks more like this…
…and it's Hoke like whoa. A bad year in 2011 and maybe his class starts falling apart as well, but it is important to note that nobody on that list above is considered soft except the grayshirted Jeremy Clark** if he gets something better than high-ish MAC offers, whereas that label applied to half of RR's first full class by July.
Stick their late additions to the hybrid class with their first-year recruiting by July and you get:
Not hugely dissimilar except that Hoke's got a lot more 3-stars and is missing four blue chips. In a worst case scenario the 2011 team starts losing a la 2008, while Ohio State's dancing along having gotten off virtually scot-free from the most obvious case of Failure to Monitor and Lack of Institutional Control I've ever witnessed in 20 years of college football fandom, and Hoke's Goodwill Ride of 2011 comes to a crashing, sudden stop, and then entire position groups are destroyed, and the 2012 guys start decomitting and the university hires Freakbass to rebrand us. If all those things don't happen, well, this probably turns out better than the last time.
Brian penned a State of Recruiting article in early August '08 that's worth a look-back so you can remember your comparable state of mind. How does that compare to now? And I didn't even make you compare "Denard: The Upperclassman Years" to "gee I hope this Sheridan guy really is a Basanez."
P.S. Don't miss the next exciting episode of 'Alphas' on Sci-Fi!
* Fellow period Tamakwans will agree that this wasn't debatable. Maaaybe a few votes for E.C. or
L.C. (EDIT: L.B.!!! HT Schram, Schram, Schneider, & Luria)
** He'll get a YMRMFSPA Charles Stewart if he makes it, but the Phillip Brackins comparison is so go, unless we decide you can all remember Eric Rosel.
COACH BA TWEET. If you are not following basketball assistant Bacari Alexander on Twitter, you are doing yourself a disservice. Yesterday's gem:
The iPad by far is the biggest tool used by coaches on the road. It has saved cell phone battery life.
Love the information in the second sentence. So matter-of-fact. Love that guy.
I have to think the Alliance is going to frown on this. As covered by Misopogon last night, a couple Wolverines (including an incoming freshman) have disappeared from Michigan's roster [Ed-M:
I'm still waiting for confirmation but other media outlets are reporting It's confirmed: Terry (the Elder) Talbott is medicaled too], ever-so-conveniently opening up a couple roster spots for class of 2012 commits (of which Brady Hoke has said to expect 23-26, and we're currently up to 22 openings).
This disappearing act is sure to draw the ire of Brian, the resident oversigning watchdog (that post is his "final" word on the topic... from more than three years ago). The point is that when signing a big class - or in this case, aiming to sign one - you're actively hoping some guys currently on your roster will not make it through their four years. That puts you in a sketchy-feeling gray area at best.
Of course, there have been hints going back to Rodriguez that Christian Pace's injuries could be career-threatening (and Teric Jones's knee injury did indeed look terrible, etc.), so maybe we're confusing the cause and effect in Hoke's statements about signing a full class? Pace, at the very least, seemed like he would be a contributor if healthy, so there's far less motive to push him out.
Fairly or not, it still gives off the feeling that Michigan is striding away from its moral high ground on the issue. Brian is certain to feel much more strongly about this, so brace yourselves for his wrath when he returns.
Other things that are certain to thrill Brian. Say goodbye to non-conference away games, according to David Brandon. The original tweet from Mark Snyder didn't seem to doom us to a purgatory of Notre Dame and the Directionals as non-conference opponents, but the full quote from Brandon is not so promising:
"I don't believe we can or should go on the road for nonconference games when we can put 113,000 people in our stadium. It's, financially, the right thing to do. It's the right thing to do for our fans, in terms of their ticket packages. And we're going to alternate with Notre Dame, so we're going to have one game on the road every other year. So the rest of those games, I would like to have at Michigan Stadium."
I was hopeful that it would mean the years Notre Dame plays in Ann Arbor would bring Bama-in-Dallas events at the very least, but Brandon's quote seems clear: No games outside of Ann Arbor or South Bend.
Taking the easy money is Brandon's vision of "creating the future," for better or for worse. With a four-year warning in place to opt out of the Notre Dame series occasionally, the chances will be few and far between to play anyone else, if they exist at all.
Upside? One potential reason for the reduction in worthwhile non-conference games, however, could be looked at as a good thing. Purdue revealed that the Big Ten asked it to re-work some non-conference games for the 2017 season and beyond, possibly indicating a nine-game conference schedule coming soon to a stadium near you.
Though it reduces non-conference opportunities, Brandon has made it clear that he wanted to do that anyway, so I'd rather face Wisconsin or Penn State than Akron or Kent State, right?
Off the hook? I'm not going to touch the topic of Ohio State getting off with what seems to be minimal punishment, but I assure you Brian will cover it in extreme depth upon his return, as well.
Etc. Hammer and Rails profiles former Boiler Glenn Robinson Jr., who you may recognize as the father of hoops commit Glenn Robinson III. Duane Long says OH OL Kyle Kalis isn't solidly committed to Michigan and Kalis basically responds "hey leave me alone please." Much more on recruiting tomorrow, per the usual weekly schedule. Michigan is named fourth in the Legends Division by a media poll.
|Hilliard, OH - 6'3" 240|
|Scout||3*, #63 TE|
|Rivals||3*, 5.5, NR SDE|
|ESPN||3*, 75, #157 DE|
|Others||247: 3*, 83, NR|
|Other Suitors||Vandy, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim|
Keith Heitzman is probably the only player in the history of either program to decommit from Vanderbilt in favor of Michigan, so even if he gets buried on the depth chart and emerges from his eligibility totally anonymous but well-educated he'll always have a special place in the hearts of recruitniks everywhere.
Can he be more than an answer on Extreme Sports Nerd Jeopardy? Well… probably not. Disclaimers about star rankings and Jerry Rice apply, but the odds are the odds even if the occasional player beats them. The odds are stacked against Heitzman.
Scouting reports and rankings make this clear. ESPN($) breaks out "adequate" like a seriously depressed Lloyd Carr:
He gets off the ball well. He can be a physical kid at the point of attack, but needs to be more consistent especially with his hands. He displays the ability to maintain some leverage and hold his ground. Will flash the ability to shoot his hands and create separation, but needs to be more active with his hands and use them to not only protect his legs…. Displays adequate speed in pursuit and needs to be sure to utilize good angles and also secure when tackling. Does an adequate job of taking on pulling lineman. Needs to keep working on his recognition skills…. Needs to be more active with his weapons, develop his pass rush arsenal, and not attack the whole man. Heitzman is a solid defender who will flash some tools to be tough versus the run and pass.
This is the same scouting service that said Isaiah Bell stands for BIG PLAYMAKER, or something. They really loved them some Isaiah Bell. Here they very politely say "MAC." Touch the Banner is in the same boat:
Heitzman has some physical skills, including a willingness to hit and some pretty quick feet. But his footwork as a blocker and a defensive end are suspect. He gets by on having superior athleticism and size, but those advantages will disappear somewhat at the next level.
… Defensively, Michigan has a fair number of options at end, all of whom have superior size and equal athleticism. Even if the Wolverines suffer an injury or two at DE, Heitzman should rest easily on the sideline for a year or two.
Even the normally fawning coach quotes are muted:
“Keith is a special kid,” he said. “Obviously, I’m a little biased, but he’s got terrific durability. He’s started every one of those (41) games. He’s never missed a game. I don’t recall him ever missing a practice.”
That is a good attribute to have, but when you read everything every high school coach says about his Michigan-bound players ("turns offensive linemen into tacos… the most delicious tacos you've ever had!"), "he was there" falls a little flat.
Scout is slightly more encouraging:
An excellent athlete, Heitzman lines up full time at defensive end and part time at tight end. He gets a nice jump off the line and has quick hands. He needs to get bigger and stronger in the weight room if he's going to play either tight end or defensive end on the next level. He's a good run after the catch player because of his athleticism and does a good job with a speed rush at end.
Offers and ratings concur; Heitzman is just hanging on to his third stars at every site. His other offers were the dregs of the Big Ten and SEC. Late involvement from Illinois, a team that recruits decently and has actually seen a bowl game in the last decade, is encouraging in context.
HOWEVA, our most recent data points are encouraging ones. He was unanimously voted his district's defensive player of the year:
Lineman, KEITH HEITZMAN (Hilliard Davidson) 6-4, 250, sr. A unanimous choice as the Central District Division I Defensive Player of the Year, Heitzman used his brute strength and athleticism to overwhelm opponents. He also was one of Davidson's top blockers at tight end. "He was a game-changer on both sides of the ball," White said.
Then Heitzman was a standout on the Ohio Big 33 team that laid waste to Pennsylvania:
While Teague, Ohio's Mr. Football, was grabbing the attention on one side of the ball, it was Hilliard Davidson grad and University of Michigan-bound defensive end Keith Heitzman that set the tone for the Ohio defense.
His combination of quickness and power was too much for Pennsylvania, as he spent most of the game in the opposing backfield.
The other starters on the Ohio line were OSU commit Steve Miller and a pair of guys headed to Michigan State, FWIW. Heitzman collected a sack or two sacks or an interception or maybe all of the above; he definitely forced an interception on Pennsylvania's first drive of the day. He even finished the Ohio scoring with a one-yard TD run.
His performance($) defied the expectations set above:
He’s been consistent, giving great effort on every snap of the ball. When talking with Ohio coaches about Heitzman they mention the word “motor”. It’s his motor that has caused him to be so disruptive coming off the edge although he’s also done some damage working inside out. He uses his hands well, and has surprising strength at the point attack.
That's from Michigan's Scout site and is probably biased, but local observers were also impressed. As a bonus, Heitzman claimed to be up to 250 pounds at the event.
That's hopeful in the same way Greg Brown's strong spring performance was. It gives a prospect most people had written off as a backup or special teamer some new life. Heitzman's new upside seems to be an avearge-ish starter, but here's hoping we read one of those articles about "shutting up the critics (and by critics, we mean people who think critically)" in a few years' time.
Etc.: Davidson beat Glenville for the state championship in 2009. Enjoying his new status as a hater:
“I grew up an Ohio State fan, but I wasn't a die hard or anything, but I’m gladly hating them right now. It’s been mainly joking around. Everyone is pretty proud, and it’s just that it’s going to a big time school and things like that.”
Heitzman's coach on his recruitment:
"Coach Rodriguez had begun recruiting Keith in late December, about a week or two before he got fired," Davidson coach Brian White said. "He left behind all the phone numbers of the players he was looking at. Coach Hoke, who I have known for a long time, got back with me as a courtesy, and I encouraged him to keep Keith on his list and sent along some film."
Eventually, the combination of Michigan's football and academics won over Heitzman and his mother, both of whom, according to White, "were gung-ho about Vanderbilt and the prestige of education there."
Why Jake Frysinger? Heitzman's reasonable long term upside is as a rotation SDE or three-tech who gives the starters a blow and contributes here and there by not getting run over. Frysinger, who appeared in 44 games while starting two, is the quintessential Michigan rotation DE. He may have been a bit taller and was definitely a bigger recruit, FWIW.
Guru Reliability: High. Healthy player at a high profile school; recruiting services are in agreement.
General Excitement Level: Meh. Would be "low" but the flicker of hope provided by the Big 33 performance raises it a bit.
Projection: Obvious redshirt and unlikely to work his way past the competition in the race to replace Ryan Van Bergen next year. May emerge into a depth defender in a few years.
Caution: this draft is from June, so some portions may be slightly out-of-date. If I see anything glaringly wrong or in need of update, I'll fix it.
UT FB Sione Houma committed to Michigan today, showing that Brady Hoke was VERY SERIOUS INDEED about landing a blocking back in this crop. That brings Michigan's commitment total for the 2012 class to 20, with a class of 23-26 on tap (though there aren't that many spots available yet).
|2*, NR RB||NR RB||NR RB||Not in Database|
So, uh, I think it's fair to say this kid is a bit under-the-radar, no? Oddly, it seems that Michigan is recruiting him strictly as a fullback, although all three sites that have heard of him list him as a running back. And, well, they might be onto something. He's listed at a consensus 6-0, 215ish, which is really small for a fullback, unless his frame is really underdeveloped. Considering Michigan has offered a 6-3, 245-lb kid as a tailback for next year's class, it is quite curious indeed.
As a high schooler, he's the A-back (dive man) in a wishbone offense. That may be why schools think he's capable of playing fullback, but it also means he hasn't done a whole lot of lead blocking at this point. His video shows exactly what you'd expect: a guy who gets the ball surrounded by defenders, and instead of trying to go around them, he just keeps his legs churning and grinds out tough yardage. He's not going to go down on first contact, but that's more a result of effort and power, rather than impressive balance.
What is impressive is his ability to pull away from defenders should he happen to get through the first line of defense cleanly. He also shows the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, an important skill in a West Coast(ish) offense.
Apart from Michigan, it was mostly local(ish) schools that had offered. Utah and Utah State were joined by PAC-12 member Washington as the other schools that had extended offers to Sione.
Georgia Tech (noted fullback-users) had also showed interest, but did not extend an offer.
Scout and Rivals have the exact same stats for him, so I'm guessing they come straight from his coach's mouth:
As a junior Houma rushed for 1,211 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Without knowing how many carries that spans, it's impressive, but we can't be sure quite how impressive it is (his highlight reel embedded below says only 1,064 yards and 7 TDs, for the record). He was named first-team all-state.
FAKE 40 TIME
Once again, Scout and Rivals have the exact same information, so it's likely to be straight from the source: 4.53 seconds. If Michigan is indeed looking at this kid as a fullback, I would guess it's because he isn't very fast (the competition in Utah probably isn't the greatest either, so take the highlights with a grain of salt), so... four FAKEs out of five.
For a kid that the recruiting sites know next-to-nothing about, there certainly is a lot of video available on him. Highlights:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Michigan has a couple fullback options in the class of 2011 (be they position-switchers or preferred walkons), which means they'll have at least a year in the system - and possibly a year on the field - on him by the time Sione enrolls next fall. That spells immediate redshirt, especially since he needs to bulk up to play fullback.
After that, however, your guess is as good as mine. A couple years on special teams (he would make a good coverage man with his toughness and surprising speed) are likely if he can't beat out those ahead of him. If he can, four years of starting is probably in the cards.
Fullback is not a glory position, and he's not going to be a Kevin Dudley-type masher, either. What he will bring is more ability with the ball in his hands, either running or catching it. That provides an offensive versatility, particularly because he could also be the lone back in sets where the running back motions, etc.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
The staff seemed intent on landing a fullback in this class, and they got one. Defensive tackle is still the biggest need for 2012, and other positions are rounding out nicely. Brady Hoke says this will be a nearly-full class of 23-26 kids, so the staff can fill a couple needs, while only worrying about elite prospects.
Yesterday's release of the 2011 media guide brought up a few questions about some guys not on the roster. I just got my answers from Athletic Dept. spokesman David Ablauf and they're un-good:
"Kellen Jones is no longer an enrolled student at the University."
Reason was neither asked for nor given. This is the end. One of you who doesn't like me gets to be the one to tell Brian we chose to post his 2011 Recruiting Profile right before some of the rumors hit the Twitters.
Impact: Kellen was considered one of the few 2011 recruits who might contribute immediately, and was expected to challenge for a spot on the two-deep at WLB. Short-term this will mean one of the other freshmen linebackers has a shot to play early. MLB/WLB depth chart currently reads Demens and ???s. Down the road it shouldn't matter so much once the 2012 class of Ross, Jenkins-Stone, Bolden and Ringer arrive.
As for some other roster incongruities, why was Christian Pace left off the roster, and did Teric Jones get listed with no number while two other guys switched to his 14? Because the gods hath no mercy:
"Christian Pace was medicaled; meaning his playing career is over due to an injury ... [answers other questions] ... Teric is also medicaled."
Impact of Losing Teric: Minimal. Jones is a 2009 scat-back who came in behind several guys in the '08 and '09 classes. He was part of the Cass Tech clan who re-established that pipeline. Teric did what he could to help, bouncing to DB when warm bodies were needed, but he made only a Darnell Hood-ian impact and moved back to RB, where he was a spare part behind 6-7 other guys. Teric lost the end of the 2010 season to a knee injury against Illinois.*
Impact Christian: Bloody Argh. Pace was the only OL recruit of the 2010 class, and those of us in bloggerland were ludicrously excited about him because he was an under the radar recruit whom smart coaches were hard after. Also he's as much of a David Molk clone as Taylor Lewan was a Jake Long clone coming out of high school. There's a huge difference between proto-Molk and Molk, but Pace's high school tape (as in just watch every play) is a series of the ball being snapped followed by something being shot out of a cannon and ending 4 yards downfield on top of a pitiable fool. He was perfect for the spread 'n shred, which suggests he's not perfect for non-spread-and-shred. I still had unreasonable hope, but even general hope for Pace in a Hoke Manball offense was pretty high. This year he was behind Molk and Khoury, who has been serviceable. Down the line this opens the path for Miller, or else one of the big guards-like objects from 2011 and 2012. Further injuries to the undermanned OL will result in wanton trotting out of an Angry-[Position]-Hating God tag.
Last piece of info, which isn't any info.
No change on Darryl Stonum's status.
I'll let Tim follow up with specifics since everyone I would call will be at his presser anyway.
* I hate to throw this into a post about one of Michigan's best academic performers and team players losing the 2nd half of his career, but considering the staff plans to sign the full 26 in 2012, this feels a little…convenient. #oversigning fears. EDIT: This is NOT an accusation and as posters have pointed out it would be a bad idea for the coaches to pull a "convenient" move with a kid from our biggest in-state pipeline. It bears mentioning only because it would arch an eyebrow at another school, and because this space has been critical of those other schools when there's even a whiff. Discussion cont'd in the comments.
Losing Pace and Jones is decidedly inconvenient.
Like this, but in a suit. And at a podium. And with other Big Ten coaches and players as well. So basically not like this at all. Sorry.
Since yours truly will be at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday and Friday, time to crowdsource some questions. Those of Michigan players (Denard Robinson, Kevin Koger, and Mike Martin), and coach Brady Hoke are most likely to be asked, but if you have things for other players/coaches that are interesting enough, I may get a chance to ask them at Friday's roundtables.
So, if you have a pressing question (WHEN U SCORED TOUCHDOWN HOW U FEEL?), drop it in the comments here, and I'll ask some of the best ones. You have a couple days to give it your best shot.
This weekend will be a big event for Michigan with the BBQ, but there will be a big time visitor before the cook out as well. With limited spots left prospects could start to make decisions depending on what their peers decide to do themselves, so every spot left is on watch. Here's a look at what happened this week and what's happening in the future. As always you can follow me on Twitter @TomVH and email me with any tips at TomVH@MGoBlog.com.
6'2", 190 lbs.
West Des Moines, Iowa
Darboh is a four star receiver that has shown interest in Michigan for quite some time, bnut has been unable to make it up to Ann Arbor. That's about to change, as he has finally set up a visit to take in the campus and environment.
I'm going up to Michigan tomorrow [Monday the 25th]. Me and my basketball coach are going. He's a Michigan fan and he was able to give me a ride, so he wanted to go. We're taking off here at 8am on Monday, staying all day Monday, all day Tuesday, and then we might be back for a little bit on Wednesday too.
This is a big visit for both parties since Michigan is currently looking for wide receivers and Darboh hasn't been able to meet most of the coaching staff.
I have met Coach Mallory, but I haven't been up there yet. I'm excited, I don't have any questions right now but I'm sure once I get there I'll have some. I'm just excited to see everything. I've heard a lot of good things from my coaches. I've talked to the Michigan coaches over the phone, but I want to meet them and hopefully meet some of the players too.
As far as where his recruitment stands Darboh says he will likely narrow his list down by the time his season starts.
I thought I'd have a top list already but I'm not going to have it until my season starts. Hopefully when my season starts I'll have it narrowed down to a top five and then just go from there. If I take an official visit somewhere and I feel comfortable and it feels right then I'll just commit there. Right now everything changes every now and then because I haven't seen everywhere yet. I don't want to name a list until I finalize it, but I think Michigan has a good chance to be in the top five. I'll know more about them after my visit.
Amara also holds offers from Florida, Iowa, Iowa State, MSU, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin among others.
6'7", 320 lbs.
Braden has been committed to Michigan since March, though it seems much longer with all the other commitments Michigan has reeled in since. At the time, little was known about him, but since then Braden made quite a bit of noise at Michigan's camp with his size and performance.
I went up against a lot of good defensive linemen. Towards the end of the camp we were given the option to switch to defense, so I tried that out too. I did get to meet some of the other prospects and we were all kind of getting to know each other more than anything. Right now my height is 6-foot-7 and my weight is 320-pounds. I'm not really focused on a certain weight, just getting stronger and faster and better. That helped this year at the camp, but I still have some things I'm trying to improve on.
Ben is starting to realize that his last year of high school football is upon him, but is just trying to focus on one step at a time.
It's all starting to set in with all the seniors, but I'm just trying to worry about the season. With Michigan my family and I are going to try to get up for a few games. I do want to get up to the night game against Notre Dame.
There have been fans that are concerned with what the final product will look like for Michigan on the field in 2011. They've been wondering how that translates to the recruits, and what their perspective is on how well Michigan does this coming season.
Just from meeting the coaching staff I'm very comfortable with their methods and how they teach technique. The biggest thing that I really love and a huge key to why I committed is the family atmosphere. With Brady Hoke and all the coaches I think this season is going to be great, it's going to be huge. I know that they're going to do great. With recruiting I think it's cool that we have a lot of good athletes that are committing to my class. I know we're all excited to interact and build friendships too.
Braden's size and performance at Michigan's camp, in my mind, don't match up with how he's rated on the recruiting sites. As Tim speculated in last week's Friday Night Lights primer, he should have a shot to move up.
6'2", 186 lbs.
Powe is a four-star receiver that has recently come to the attention of Michigan fans. He has shown interest in Michigan, and says the Wolverines are among his top group.
I'm trying to visit Michigan. I've been talking to Coach Heck about when I should come out there. [In order] Oregon State, Michigan, UCLA, Miami, and Cal are on top right now. I'm trying to wait everything out to see all my choices and narrow everything down.
Powe's teammate and fellow wide receiver Malik Gilmore is currently committed to Oregon State, but also had interest in Michigan at one point. It will be interesting to see how Powe's recruitment plays out. He says that he's a fearless playmaker that isn't scared to go across the middle of the field to make a play.
I posted today that 2011 OL Graham Glasgow switched his preferred walk on commitment from Ohio State to Michigan in mid June. He's a 6'7", 295 lb tackle that has been showing some potential so far. Another walk on OL that seems to be holding his own is Gary Yerden from from Parchment, Michigan. Others have pointed out on the board that Yerden was formerly a weight lifter and broke the dead lift record in high school.
If you somehow missed the visitor list for the Big House BBQ this weekend you can find it here. This should be a big deal for Michigan; there are a few uncommitted prospects at the event and there might be potential for a few things to keep an eye on. We'll see.
2013 QB Shane Morris, 2012 DB Terry Richardson, and TE Ron Thompson are all at the Gridiron Kings event in Florida this week. If you've missed coverage of it you have not been on the internet because it's everywhere. Just in case, here's a link to an article. In that article Tom Luginbill says that if Shane Morris were in the 2012 class he would a top five or six guy in the country.
The 2011 Football Media Guide is out, and you know of course what that means: OBSESSIVE ATTENTION TO ROSTER NUMBERS HO!
Kellen Jones is not on it: There are plenty of rumors on [pick your favorite message board] as to why, but I've heard there's a high probability those rumors were made up to fill the great big "I dunno." I have a query in with Brandon's office.
Christian Pace is not on it: Medical rumors seem to be true, at least for this year. Shattered dreams of Molk 2.0.
Darryl Stonum is on it: If this means anything, horray. If not, horray.
Your Football Freshmen, Now With Digits:
# = walk-on
|Name||Pos.||Was||Now||This is not the reason:|
|Josh Furman||S||6||14||Stokes may line up on defense maybe?|
|Jack Kennedy||QB||25||14||Walk-ons don't count.|
|J.T. Floyd||CB||12||18||Secret plan to make me think we still have James Rogers next year|
|Thomas Gordon||S||15||30||Doubled the abs|
|Isaiah Bell||LB||26||34||Isaiah 26 is 'A Song of Praise'; Isaiah 34 is 'Judgment Against the Nations.' This is a bad sign for…someone.|
|Terrence Talbott||CB||22||37||Weird: Jake Ryan is 37 too. Maybe there's a plot to make the DBs and LBs look interchangeable to confuse opponents or something?|
|Marell Evans||LB||9||51||Those who stay can keep their number.|
|Ricky Barnum||OL||56||52||Joey Burzynski (2010 walk-on OL) called it|
|Brandon Moore||TE||88||89||Because he and Craig Roh are listed as 6'2"/250 and this was really freaking Funk out.|
|Teric Jones||RB||14||--||Maybe you need a position first|
Yes, I too was totally thinking of that Seinfeld episode after Susan died. Best as I can guess here is Lloyd and Bo liked to keep one guy to a number and some of them were repeats on the other side of the ball (RR was a proponent of that long before EA Sports let you do it). Or maybe some of the 2012 commits have been promised digits?
Counting Things on Scholarship
15! Fifteen scholarship seniors on the roster, ah ah ah! Also 18 juniors, 20 sophomores, and 27 guys with freshman eligibility.
42! Forty-two scholarship players not from one of the last two ('10 or '11) classes, ah ah ah! Up from 36 last year.
80! Eighty guys on scholarship, ah ah ah, counting Kovacs, Grady and Evans but not the missing fellows. Up from 76 at this time last year.
15! Fifteen scholarship players at defensive back, ah ah ah! Five of those are redshirt sophomores or older (two each from '08 and '09, and Woolfolk). Last year was 15 guys, but 7 of them freshmen. Now we have five freshmen and five sophomores, which, better?
15! Fifteen guys on the 2010 roster not on the 2011 one. That's 9 graduations, 2 non-renewed, four transfer/booted (Forcier, Cullen, Vinopal and D.J. Williamson) and one we're guessing medical. Strangely only Vinopal, the 2-star who became a freshman starter, seems to be a coaching transition loss.
12! Twelve guys pictured in the Media Guide with dreads: Richard Ash, Chris Eddins, Josh Furman, J.T. Floyd, Jeremy Gallon, Junior (Not a Junior) Hemingway, Stephen Hopkins, Martavious Odoms, Denard Robinson, Vincent Smith, Je'Ron Stokes.
Photo day!: From his picture I think Devin Gardner is going to end up being CEO of something. Will Campbell wins the "Fell for the old 'hey everybody let's all look like we're really tough in our photos' shtick" award. Meanwhile Klingons are attempting to steal Denard's smile because it has the power create habitable, lush new planets all by itself.
Non-renewed 5ths: Michael Williams, John Ferrara, Zac Ciullo, and Kevin Leach might have had another year of eligibility, but are gone. All were expected. Sad that Mike Williams's career ends with his pre-2010 concussion. I've been hard on his play but we'll never know if he might have put it together for his last two years.
Weight Gain 2011: The player weights are unchanged from Spring but some of the freshmen are a little off from their high school weights. Of those, Tony Posada is up 15 lbs. (to 330…um), Delonte Hollowell is up to 170 (from 162), and Thomas Rawls is listed at 220 (from 214). Standard operating procedure is to consider all weight gains and losses as good things.
Gentlemen, start your dynasties.
|Houston, TX - 6'1" 210|
|Scout||4*, #12 MLB|
|Rivals||3*, #29 ILB, #69 TX|
|ESPN||3*, 79, #35 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Arkansas, Texas A&M, Stanford|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim. Tom interviews him and gets some commit quotes. User tomcat sits next to him on a plane and is impressed.|
|Notes||Also a small white dude drafted by the Oilers.|
Those are senior highlights; there is also a junior reel.
Occasionally, Spartan taunting will cause the message board to recycle a discussion about whether non-alum Michigan fans are real Michigan fans and how the core, I-know-what-Great-Books-is folk should react to them. Kellen Jones's dad Sean is the answer to this question.
The elder Jones grew up wanting to play for Michigan but didn't end up a D-I prospect, but a decade or two after his playing career at Morehead State ended, his influence saw a kid from Houston want nothing more than to don a winged helmet:
Q: How did you end up at Michigan?
A: It was a dream offer from the get-go. My dad’s dream was to go there, and he passed it on to me. It’s Michigan — Big House football. It’s a great academic school with history and tradition, the winningest program in college football, so it’s an all-purpose fit.
Q: So you’re going to be living your dad’s dream. How thrilled is he?
(Dad Sean Jones played at Morehouse College, Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater.)
A: He’s so excited. I think he might be more excited than I am. He sings Hail to the Victors. He’s looking up the videos and all types of stuff.
The answer: come one and all, especially if you are a large and mean.
The Jones family's Michigan fandom saw Kellen select Michigan over a wide array of mid-level BCS offers of which Arkansas, Texas A&M, Stanford, and Missouri were the most impressive. Jones made a little bit of noise about opening his recruitment back up when Rodriguez was fired but a couple of phone calls from Hoke and Mattison and he was solid again.
As a result, Michigan has a slashing blitzer on the three/four star borderline who is badly needed. Like Morgan, scouting reports focus on his intelligence. Unlike Morgan, they also praise explosive athleticism. (Morgan's edge is two inches and twenty pounds.)
The best parts of Jones' game are his intelligence and instincts. He has a knack for finding the ball even if he has to wade through the trash. Furthermore, as a high school middle linebacker, he has experience playing the position, which ought to enhance the speed with which he picks up the college game. Once he finds the ball, he's a solid tackler who could be a devastating hitter once he puts on the necessary weight and refines some tackling technique issues.
His highlight film above helps confirm. It features a large number of plays on which Jones has to pick through trash or defeat blocks to get to the ballcarrier. This may be because of its extensive length—a lot of shorter videos leave out scraping plays because they don't often result in HERE COMES THE BOOM—but it may also be because a lot of high school linebackers don't do that kind of thing very often.
That's not to say he doesn't bring the boom:
“He’s just a violent football player. He’s going to leave his mark when he makes contact with you,” Kimball said of Jones …
[Kimball] describes a play not on the highlight film: “…the guy’s momentum stopped going forward instantly. It was amazing that they were both conscious after that hit,” Kimball said. “I don’t know how both of them got up and walked off the field. It was one of those types of collisions that looked like two diesel trucks running into each other.
“Poor running back, he didn’t see it coming, barely.”
“I love to hit, I love to hit,” Jones said laughing. “When the season starts everyone is excited. You hear the fans, the crowd and I love to make contact and knock somebody into the dirt.”
“As a linebacker, I’m very instinctive,” said Jones, who has a 3.4 grade-point average and plans to major in mathematics and engineering. “I’m very good on the blitz. I’m aggressive to the ball and I’m a great pass rusher. I’m very passionate about the game.”
Did you have a tingle thinking about a linebacker who understands what a tangent is? I did. This is a signal you have Asperger's disease even if it doesn't exist anymore.
… excellent athlete … Has the size for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. We like this guy's flexibility, balance and agility; does a good job with K&D run recognition skills however his strength is the ability to avoid contact and beat blockers to the point of attack with quickness. Moves through traffic very well with good change of direction ability; is able to keep leverage on the ball and is seldom out of position. Flashes downhill ability vs. the inside run but not the big tough inside linebacker type who consistently stacks at the point. … capable of creating havoc in the backfield against the run and pass. Is productive blitzing up the middle or off the edge; shows good timing with quite a few sacks and hurries. … The intense motor this player brings to the field results in big momentum changing plays.
Scout more than echoes the section on his effectiveness as a blitzer:
Amazing on the blitz, he is as instinctual as you can find. He has a feel for getting through blocking and getting in to attack the quarterback, also good at blocking kicks. His size is okay but it is not above average. Good speed he uses it to his advantage on blitzes and coverage. Does a great job of working through blocks.
All things being equal, Jones might be destined for MLB. Things are not equal, though. Michigan has two more years of Kenny Demens in the middle, a potentially solid backup in Marell Evans, and fellow freshman Desmond Morgan. On the weakside there's just Mike Jones and Antonio Poole. While Poole is about the same level of recruit Jones is he's probably 15-20 pounds lighter. Jones could—probably should—be on the two-deep at WLB the day he steps on campus. His long term future could be in the middle, but until Demens departs he's needed on the outside. His coach echoes($) that evaluation:
"I don't think he is going to be there yet to play inside linebacker as an incoming freshman - that's a pretty tall task for any freshman - but at outside linebacker I think he has the ability to come in and play pretty soon," Kimball said. "On the perimeter I think he can make a pretty good impact with what they are doing out there, and over time, as he develops the college bulk to him, I think he can progress into the middle."
That versatility will make it easy for Jones to be on the field early and often even if Brady Hoke is dead set on filling a four-deep at LB.
Etc.: Hanging out with Ray Lewis. Hanging out with… um… Rich Rodriguez. Watch him sign a piece of paper. Played in that "USA vs the World" game. Player of the Week feature from the local Fox affiliate. Extensive interview with The Victors Voice.
One more fawning coach quote($) for the road:
"I don't see how he could be close to maxed out, not because of his physical abilities, but because of his work ethic," Kimball said. "He's almost a straight A student and the strongest guy on the team, but he puts those types of standards on himself... he's really focused for a young man. He does not do anything half throttle, whether that is in the classroom, the weight room or on the practice field. He has a relentless pursuit of perfection."
Aw, hell, here's another:
“We’ve got some great coaches here, but it’s (Jones’) aggressiveness that’s really made him the player he is,” Kimball said. “We spend actually more time at practice telling him to chalk it back a little bit. … We had to tell him, ‘Hey, man, look, we’re just trying to get a look here, you’re running scout team defense of whatever can you maybe give us a better look, because we’re not going to face a guy like you the whole season.’”
Why Larry Foote? Foote was a slightly undersized linebacker (6-0.5, 240-ish as a senior at Michigan) with good athleticism who could get to the sideline and was at his best when sent on the blitz. He bounced between MLB and WLB; as a senior he annihilated all comers with 23.5 TFLs.
Here's an old scouting report($) from Scout leading up to his NFL draft year:
THE GOOD: Quick, athletic linebacker that flies around the football. Explosive first step moving to action, scrapes well laterally and pursues the ball carrier with speed. Effectively redirects to the ball carrier, displays a quick and fluid change of direction and shows excellent range in pass coverage. Gets depth on his drops, adequate footwork covering backs or tight ends off the line of scrimmage and can play in space. Works hard, plays with reckless abandon and goes sideline to sideline for 60 minutes.
THE BAD: Small, slow shedding blocks or rather easily moved out of his angle of attack. Lacks body control and may not have the flat out speed to be considered at strong safety.
Jones seems to have all of the good bits above and sheds better than Foote—at least against high school competition.
Guru Reliability: Fairly high. Spread in rankings is pretty large, but was healthy at a big school in Houston. Scouting reports are consistent; differences in opinion appear to be due to varying opinion on how well he'll be able to overcome a lack of size.
General Excitement Level: Slightly under high. Size is a limitation, though it shouldn't be a huge one if he doesn't end up in the middle. The experience, athleticism, intelligence, and desire to plant his face into your pancreas at speed all appear to be there.
Projection: Moved to WLB in his first week on campus and probably on the two-deep against Western. No reason to redshirt him with the linebacker flood behind him and Michigan will need him unless Mike Jones is unreasonably good for a meh recruit who missed last year with an injury. Will probably spend the first half of the season spotting Jones—remember that Thomas Gordon will see significant rotation as the nickelback—and then it's 50-50 he takes over the starting job a la Demens.
Long term I think he sticks at WLB since he'll be established there and some combo of Morgan/Bolden/RJS/Ross will turn into a productive middle linebacker. A potential four-year starter.
This is a personnel-oriented look at the season's opponents. The game-week previews will be more matchup based. Last year's stats are presented with projected starters in bold and departed players in italics.
|Notre Dame Offense 2010|
|Yards Per Game||379.69||61|
|Points Per Game||26.31||67|
|Yards Per Play||5.52||63|
|Yards Per Pass||6.84||75|
|Yards Per Rush||3.98||77|
|Playcall Distribution||1.16 Pass:Rush|
Notre Dame replaced an offensive genius in Charlie Weis with... another one in Brian Kelly. With a really young lineup, including a rotating cast of quarterbacks, the offense struggled. It wasn't particularly pass-happy either, as even adjusted for sacks, they only threw it 1.27 times for every rush.
Part of that is the quarterback issue. Three quarterbacks played for the Irish last year, including significant reps for a true freshman. With more experience at the position, the entire offense should improve, because all things considered, it was actually quite bad last year. The Irish only broke 40 points in one game, against Western Michigan.
Dayne Crist started the year at the helm for the Irish, but mediocrity and injury combined to give plenty of playing time to Tommy Rees, with a few reps for Nate "yes that" Montana. None of them performed particularly well, which generally spells doom for a Brian Kelly offense.
Rees seems like a better long-term fit for the system (and is obviously a couple years younger), so although Crist will probably still start, expect to see him Rees in the lineup from time-to-time. There are also a few viable backups, with redshirt freshman Andrew Hendrix joined by true freshman (and early enrollee) Everett Golson, a very good athlete who needs some seasoning as a QB.
|Notre Dame QBs 2010|
|Notre Dame QBs Rushing 2010|
Grade: 4/5. Based on past performance, this might be a serious overrating of the unit. However, Crist came out of high school with all the accolades, and as a redshirt junior, he should be rounding into form. Given Brian Kelly's track record with quarterbacks, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and there is some material to work with on the roster.
Cierre Wood led the team in rushing last year, though he was part of a two-headed attack with Armando Allen (pictured at right), who completed his 12th and final year of eligibility last season. Pounder Robert Hughes, the team's third-leading rusher, also departs from last year's roster. That leaves Notre Dame with two options: either feed Wood the ball a ton, or hope another rusher emerges. With Theo Riddick finding a full-time gig at wideout, that means former Detroit Country Day (classmate of Kenny Demens) standout Jonas Gray is the best bet, or it will be a completely green player.
|Notre Dame RBs 2010|
|Notre Dame RBs Receiving 2010|
Grade: 2/5. Wood is a decent starter. Gray had some national recruiting hype but is still inexplicably waiting for his Michigan offer. He could be good, but the Irish lose too much here to predict that everything will be sunshine and lollipops [Ed-M: Unless you're a Notre Dame fan, in which case Wood will win the Heisman next year, unless Crist does]. There's a serious - nay, dire - lack of experienced depth, and if anything happens to Wood, there's a precipitous dropoff.
Do you mean with or without Michael Floyd? This is perhaps the biggest question for Notre Dame this season. The Irish's best offensive player by a country mile, Floyd has been oft-injured throughout his career, and is currently in limbo after a suspension for several alcohol-related arrests.
The other starting spots aren't in question. Theo Riddick is a 5-11 guy who can play outside or in the slot, TJ Jones is a similar player (though less explosive), and Tyler Eifert hopes to step up at tight end following Kyle Rudolph's early entry to the NFL. Eifert started about half of last season after Rudolph tore his hamstring. The only wideout the Irish lose is Duval Kamara, who didn't produce last year (despite being a starter) because he was so frequently injured.
|Notre Dame Receivers 2010|
|Kyle Rudolph (TE)||28||328||11.71||3|
|Tyler Eifert (TE)||27||352||13.04||2|
|John Goodman (TE)||15||146||9.73||0|
|Mike Ragone (TE)||3||32||10.67||0|
|Notre Dame WRs Rushing 2009|
|Bennett Jackson (CB)||1||20||20.00||0|
Grade Without Floyd: 2/5. Grade With Floyd: 4/5. I was tempted to raise the with-Floyd grade even more, because he's that talented (a 2nd-Team All-American projection by Phil Steele), but one man does not a receiving corps make. The other players in the Irish's stable haven't done a whole lot, and what they have done was accomplished with Floyd drawing attention away from them. If he's not on the field to do that, it could spell trouble - though improved QB play would help them out. If Floyd is on the field, expect improvement at every position, because the Irish had a young group last year, and they should progress normally.
If the Irish are to improve offensively this season, it will likely be along the offensive line. The one consistently meh part of Charlie Weis's offenses is looking to make a leap in year two under Brian Kelly after losing only one starter. That starter, Chris Stewart, was in the lineup for three years, but he'll be replaced with a former 5-star prospect in Chris Watt, a redshirt sophomore. The other starters remain unchanged, with redshirt sophomore Zack Martin at left tackle, Watt or true senior Trevor Robinson at left guard, redshirt junior Braxston Cave at center, Watt or Robinson at right guard, and 5th-year senior Taylor Dever at right tackle.
Grade: 4/5. The Irish weren't a great running team last year (in fact they were pretty bad), despite a slant toward the pass in playcalling. They were, however, pretty good in pass protection, finishing in the top 40 in sacks allowed despite their slight slant toward the pass. Replacing Stewart (who went undrafted and unnoticed by the NFL) with a very highly touted player in his third year of college should see no dropoff, and in some likelihood major improvement.
|Notre Dame Defense 2009|
|Yards Per Game||357.23||50|
|Points Per Game||20.23||23|
|Yards Per Play||5.13||37|
|Pass Yards Per Game||215.08||54|
|Yards Per Pass||6.35||28|
|Sacks Per Game||2.08||54|
|Rush Yards Per Game||142.15||50|
|Yards Per Rush||3.97||53|
So if the offense didn't improve by replacing one offensive guru with another, why did the Irish have reason for optimism this offseason? A defense that finally seems to have found its way after 5 poor years under Charlie Weis.
Brian Kelly brought along a switch to the 3-4 base defense, and with it a bounce back toward the middle of the pack. The pressure up front wasn't great against the pass or the run, with teams having average-ish success in moving the ball on the ground and not getting sacked. It was in the secondary that ND's defense really improved.
With another year in the system, and plenty of returning talent (who had the recruiting stars on their side, at the very least, coming out of high school), the Irish are looking to take another step forward on the defensive side of the ball this season.
Notre Dame's 3-man front returns both defensive ends, so the only question mark is at nose tackle. Ian Williams was a hot-and-cold starter who performed decently against Michigan last year, and Sean Cwynar will step in to fill his shoes. The depth is light, as redshirt frosh Louis Nix will be expected to step in and contribute immediately, and ND didn't pick up any DTs at all in the 2011 class. The Irish will have much better depth on the edges this year - though young - as they signed approximately every defensive end in the nation last year, including a few highly-recruied ones. Aaron Lynch enrolled early from that group, and impressed this spring.
|Notre Dame Defensive Line 2010|
Grade: 3/5. If the incoming freshmen weren't, well, freshmen, I'd rate this group much more highly. It's a crapshoot as to whether they'll be able to step in and contribute immediately, so they can't be relied upon this fall. Defensive tackle is a very sketchy point. Although Sean Cwynar had nearly as many tackles as Ian Williams last year despite much less playing time, the depth is unproven and/or non-existent, with Irish kicking specialists having nearly as many tackles last year as returning backup DTs.
The Irish are all set on the inside. Star MLB Manti Te'o (pictured making a great tackle at right) enters his junior year with two seasons as a starter already under his belt, and his compatriot Carlo Calabrese will be a second-year starter himself. Darius Fleming, the team's most explosive edge-rusher, also returns, leaving only one open slot at the the outside linebacker position. Dan Fox and Prince Shembo will battle for that position, but I'm guessing the more physically gifted Shembo will take the starting spot (their stats were similar last year but Shembo brought much more pass rush, and is the younger player), and Fox will be a valuable backup. Steve Filer will also see increased backup duty on the outside, but depth on the inside is weak, as McDonald and Posluszny have been special teams players to date in their careers.
|Notre Dame Linebackers 2010|
Grade: 5/5. As Michigan fans saw in last year's game, when not being ridden into members of his own secondary by Patrick Omameh on spinach, Manti Te'o is one of the best defensive players in the country (a 2nd-Team All-American projection by Phil Steele). Carlo Calabrese is a returning starter who racked up some decent stats last year despite playing alongside Te'o, and Darius Fleming is also a returning starter who led the team in TFLs in 2010. That means the only possible question marks are the other outside linebacker slot, which seems to have two viable candidates, including one who was a great edge-rusher in backup duty last year, and depth, which seems very good on the outside, but limited on the inside. With the strength of Notre Dame's top three options, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Notre Dame's secondary is led by three-time Zibikowski Memorial White Notre Dame Safety Award winner Harrison Smith, who was the Irish's second-leading tackler last season. He's joined by two other returning starters in Zeke Motta and Gary Gray. Robert Blanton wasn't a starter last year, but he got plenty of snaps on both special teams and defense, so he should be ready to step in for Darrin Walls. Nearly every other defensive back returns for the Irish, so this should be an area of strength.
|Notre Dame Defensive Backs 2010|
|Harrison Smith (SS)||91||9||1||2|
|Gary Gray (CB)||66||1||0||5|
|Robert Blanton (CB)||53||1.5||0||5|
|Zeke Motta (FS)||50||1||0||0|
Grade: 4/5. As mentioned above, Notre Dame was actually pretty good against the pass last year. They also lose practically nobody off that unit - Walls was only an OK player, and Blanton should be adequate or an upgrade - and gain a lot of experience, especially since it's just their second year in this system. Phil Steele projects Smith to be a 4th-Team All-American.
Both Irish specialists return from last year. David Ruffer will continue the kicks (he was very solid on FGs but weirdly mediocre on extra points) and Ben Turk is the punter.
|Notre Dame Kicking 2010|
|Notre Dame Punting 2010|
Grade: 3/5. Ruffer is a 4th-Team All-American projection by Phil Steele, but Turk is mediocre at best. The Irish were below average in net punting last year despite playing several teams that were pretty damn bad on returns last year.