Pickerington (OH) North junior DE Jake Butt is a member of the ESPNU 150 Watch List and has already earned a four-star rating from 247Sports. Though he grew up in Ohio State country and is a Buckeye fan, he's open to Michigan ($, info in header) and made it to campus for the Notre Dame game, which (as you'll read) made quite the impression.
Butt currently holds offers from Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Northwestern, Syracuse, Toledo, and UCLA, and has interest from Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and Indiana, among others. I caught up with Jake last night to discuss the early stages of his recruitment:
ACE: I know you got a couple offers in recently. How is your recruitment going right now, and which schools are showing the most interest in you?
JAKE: I just got offered by Northwestern and Syracuse. I've been getting a lot of letters from a bunch of different schools, all the way from USC and Oregon, up north to Syracuse, all the down to Miami, I've been getting letters all over the place. It's going pretty good right now, but I know I've got to work hard and try to get some more offers.
ACE: Of the teams that have been contacting you so far, do you have some early favorites, or is it too soon to say right now?
JAKE: It's too soon. I haven't got a chance to go check some of the campuses, go to a game, or go to a junior day or something—I'll go to a lot of those this year, and I'll probably be able to narrow it down based on the campuses and atmosphere.
ACE: I know you were up at Michigan for the Notre Dame game. What was that experience like for you, and what did you take away from that visit about Michigan?
JAKE: Going up there was just amazing. The game spoke for itself. We were part of a record attendance, 114,804 people, just a crazy atmosphere and the game comes down to the last play. It was just unbelievable being there. Michigan's campus is beautiful. We went with my dad and one of my friends, and he loves Michigan, so it was cool to take him up there too.
ACE: Have you been in contact with any of the coaches from Michigan specifically, and have they said what specific position they're looking at you for?
JAKE: I haven't been in contact—I'm hoping to get friend requests on Facebook or our team game tape site, hudl.com, so I'm hoping to get a friend request from Michigan. It's going pretty good, I'm just hoping to get that.
ACE: What are you looking for in a prospective school?
JAKE: Definitely a good football program with good tradition. Academics, of course, and then location—once I go up there to see what the different college are like I'll be able to narrow it down.
ACE: So would you say distance is a factor in your recruitment? Would you rather stay closer to home?
JAKE: That would be maybe the tie-breaking decision. If I get a good opportunity academic-wise and football-wise, I'll go there no matter how far it is. If it has to come down to it, it'll most likely be location.
ACE: For people that are unfamiliar with your game, how would you describe your strengths and weaknesses on the football field?
JAKE: I'm 6'6", 225 and I'm pretty athletic for my size, so I use my speed coming off the edge to get the quarterback and make plays for my team. Then on offense, my strength is probably my hands. I'm a big kid, and it helps that I have good hands. I go down the field, the quarterback throws me the ball, and as long as I can get my hands on it I've got a catch for him.
For my team, each week I find something that I did wrong in the previous game on film and I go work on that all week long. It just depends on the game, what I'm doing well and what I'm doing wrong at the time. I just talk to my coaches and work on it in practice.
ACE: I know your team got off to a strong start this season. How has the year gone for the team and for you personally?
JAKE: We're 5-1, and we were the first ever North team to start off 4-0, and almost pulled it off against Central, the closest we've been since our playoff run two years ago, so there's a lot of good going on with our team right now but we've got to work because we've got tough games the rest of the season if we're trying to finish off 9-1. Individually, I think I'm leading the team in touchdowns, receptions, and reception yards and I'm leading the team in sacks.
ACE: It seems like most schools are recruiting you as a defensive end. Is that where you think you project best at the next level?
JAKE: I really don't care what I play. I just love the sport of football. I play both sides of the ball, so wherever the school wants me, wherever they need me, I'll play anywhere.
ACE: Do you have any visits set up for the rest of the season?
JAKE: Yeah, I'm going to probably get up to the Northwestern-Penn State game and the Michigan State-Michigan game, maybe go to one other Penn State game or another Ohio State game.
The defenses are yelling spoon!
And the offenses are the little guy pleading "Not in the face! Not in the face!"
This was a fun game to watch if you don't like either of the teams. Both teams have pretty good defenses and horrible, horrible offenses. MSU's only threat is B.J. Cunningham and OSU's passing offense is reminiscent of 2008 Michigan (The wonderful Threet/Sheridan days). Both teams have major issues with their offensive lines. MSU's problems can be explained by a lack of experienced personnel, but this is a little surprising for OSU.
Luke Fickell will not be the head coach of OSU next year. The only question is whether or not his replacement gets hired before the end of the season.
Balls were slippery...
But before we get too giddy here, it should be noted that there was a misty rain and the ball was wet, so that accounts for a tiny bit of the Herpy-derpy-ness. Like this:
The punter actually recovered the ball and got off one of his ugly-ass rugby kicks.
Stanton Nichols Cousins doing his best Tommy Rees impression.
MSU on D:
When you don't respect the other team's passing, you can walk up your safeties and do a lot of run blitzing.
On this play, the short side safety walks up before the snap even though 2nd and 9 is often a passing down.
The flanker comes in motion which makes the other safety tip off that he's in cover 1. The CB is playing run support all the way. The safety is blitzing the C gap.
The OSU TE is oblivious to the blitz and 76 (the RT) is doubling down the DT for some reason. Notice how the MSU MLB is completely free to clean up the place. OSU's O-line had trouble getting to the LBs all day long. I don't know if they've had a major philosophy change, but it looks like their linemen are not getting the right assignments on the zone blocking scheme.
In Part I (MPP: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/moving-picture-pages-two-way-hopkins-i, PP:http://mgoblog.com/content/picture-pages-two-way-hopkins-i ), Stephen Hopkins shows his value as a blocker. Here, he builds on the 35-yard Toussaint run that was enabled in large part by his two-for-one block. The BTN announcers referred to this as a 'pop pass,' but I think 'Iso Oh Noes' has a much better ring to it.
Setup: Michigan has the ball back quickly after the previous drive (which contained the Toussaint long run). They line up in the same formation as that play, and Minnesota counters with their same formation, with two safeties up and the corners waaaay off.
Wha'hoppon: The play starts out looking like the Toussaint run. Most likely with their ears still burning from the chewing-out they got after that, one LB and one S fail to notice that Michigan's line is pass blocking rather than run blocking, and both move to fill the hole that Hopkins is heading into. Much to their chagrin, Hopkins heads straight out of the hole and has two steps on them before they can change direction. Denard's pass is on target, and the result is a 28-yard gain.
Full YouTube page is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cw05WqUONNk
Above: Camp highlights from Michigan, courtesy of Allen Trieu. His defensive highlight reel, which inexplicably cannot be embedded, is available here.
One of the fastest-rising prospects in the state of Ohio is 2013 Cleveland Shaker Heights athlete De'Niro Laster. Despite being a part-time JV player as a sophomore, he recorded 65 tackles and six sacks at linebacker and tallied over 600 yards and six touchdowns as a receiver in 2010, according to Scout, and he's off to a strong start to his junior season. At around 6'3", 215 pounds and still growing, I think Laster projects as either a linebacker or tight end at the next level, although all four recruiting services currently list him as a wide receiver.
De'Niro currently holds offers from Akron, Bowling Green, Duke, and Temple, and already has interest from schools such as Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oregon, Pitt, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and, of course, Michigan. I caught up with the rising junior last night for an interview, and he showed a lot of interest in the Wolverines:
ACE: How's your recruitment going so far? What teams have shown the most interest in you?
DE'NIRO: Everything is going really good. I've been getting a lot of interest from almost every school in the nation, and for different positions. I've been talking to a lot of coaches, a lot of coaches like me at linebacker now, outside linebacker, which I thought I could play at the next level. A lot of coaches still like me at receiver, but I play [well] at both, so I don't mind playing anywhere.
Some top programs that have been showing interest are Ohio State, Michigan is starting to show more interest, and I really like them, West Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, USC, Michigan State, it's really a lot. Notre Dame…
ACE: Do you have any early favorites out of that group?
DE'NIRO: I don't have a top [list], not in order. I like Michigan a lot. I've been trying to get in contact with them, but I know they're busy. The week of the Notre Dame game I talked to somebody and I was supposed to go up there for a game, and they wanted me to bring some film too from this year, but I wasn't able to make it. But I like Michigan, I like Ohio State, Indiana, West Virginia, [and] Tennessee, right now.
ACE: You mentioned trying to come and visit. Do you have any plans for visits this season, or are you just focusing on your season right now?
DE'NIRO: Our team isn't doing so well, so I'm just trying to finish up the season, but I do plan on making it up to the Ohio State-Michigan game. We play a lot on Saturday, so I haven't made it to any college games this year yet.
ACE: Which specific Michigan coaches have been in contact with you, and what position are the Wolverines recruiting you for?
DE'NIRO: I think [my Michigan recruitment] got started because I went to a camp, it was a Michigan camp, with Raw Talent, the people I work out with. I did really good, I shined there, I showed my talents up there. Coach Jeff [Hecklinski], he's the receivers coach, I talked to him once and I've been trying to contact him some more but he's been very busy. I don't know [regarding position]. They just want me to bring film up so they can decide. A lot of teams, they're recruiting me for different positions.
ACE: You've mentioned playing wide receiver and linebacker. Where do you think you'd fit best at the next level?
DE'NIRO: To be honest, at the next level, I think linebacker, just because I think I have a lot more to go. I'm 6'3", 215 right now, and I've been gaining 20 pounds every offseason, so I just think linebacker would be the best fit. I'm having a real good season at linebacker.
ACE: I know your team hasn't been doing too well, but how have you been doing personally this year?
DE'NIRO: On defense, I have 77 tackles so far and six sacks, and we've got four more games to play, so I've been doing real good as far as on defense. On offense, I'm versatile, I play anywhere my coaches want me to. They've moved me to receiver, then they moved me to tight end, run me some routes at tight end, so that's going good too. But our team hasn't been doing what we're capable of doing, so I haven't been able to really excel like I want to on the offensive side. I have three touchdowns, and somewhere around 25 to 30 catches, but I'm not sure exactly.
ACE: In terms of your game, what do you think are your biggest strengths, and what are you trying to work on before you get to the college level?
DE'NIRO: My biggest strengths, I know a lot about football, I think I have a high football IQ. I take pride in the game. I go study film by myself all the time, and I think that's been really helping me out a lot this season. As far as physically, I'm a lot stronger than a lot of people, so that makes a lot of stuff easier. During the offseason, I always work on speed and quickness, and I will always want to increase that some more. You can never not want to increase that.
ACE: Any idea when you'd want to start wrapping up your recruitment? Do you have a timeline in mind, or are things pretty open?
DE'NIRO: Things are pretty open. I wanted to, maybe if everything is going well, try to get it done before my senior year, but for right now everything is pretty much open.
Thanks to De'Niro for taking the time for the interview. One thing to keep an eye on in his recruitment is that he's teammates with highly-touted 2013 defensive tackle Donovan Munger, another recruit on Michigan's radar. There's been some talk the two could be a package deal, but it's very early on in the process and those things have a way of falling through pretty often. Ohio State is also going after Munger, so this could once again become a battle between the two fierce rivals, possibly for both Shaker Heights prospects.
I left a fair amount of Brian's analysis out of this MPP because it didn't translate particularly well to video. If you haven't read Brian's original PP, go do it now. If you have, go do it again.
Setup: Michigan has it first-and-ten on their own 38 on their first drive of the game. They come out in a 'power' shotgun (a 12-gauge, if you will) with two backs and a TE, and will run an iso to the right utilizing combo blocks on the NT and a lead blocker (Hopkins).
Wha'hoppon: Schofield and Molk plant the NT like he's a burlap-wrapped sapling. Omameh and Huyge single-block their men halfway to the bench, Denard freezes the backside DE with his ever-present run threat, and Hopkins roars into the hole. He gets his helmet across the LB and blasts him out of the hole, collecting a safety who really sucks at geometry in the process. This turns out to be key to the play, since it both completely opens the hole and eliminates the man-advantage Minnesota had by walking an extra safety down into the box. Toussaint flies through the hole untouched until he gets well into the secondary, and breaks an ankle-tackle on his way to a 35-yard gain.
Full YouTube link is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U0Wh_TNn5E
As I watched Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees @ Tigers the other day, a thought began to pour over me. It reached its peak at the conclusion of the 5th inning.
Superman was beating the tar out of Doomsday. One of the few adversaries with a good chance to fight back, and it was fast becoming a good old fashioned ass kicking. Blow after blow planted squarely and fiercely in the vulnerable midsection; too fast, too powerful, too perfect for even the faintest glimmer of hope to fight back. In just ten punches, the Man of Steel had defeated evil with grace, style, perfect technique and raw power seen only beneath blue moons and in the wildest of dreams. The MVP was king of the mound, high protector of Detroit and all that is good and right in the world. A man of inhuman power and ability. A banner for truth, justice and Victory. I swear that I saw his cape fluttering in the breeze as the crowd stood together to cheer their savior, dumbstruck but to awe his power. The only question was would Doomsday even bother to pick himself up and take the rest of the beating he so rightfully had coming to him?
Welcome, sports fan, to the rationality juncture. The rationality juncture permeates our lives nearly completely. Anywhere a conflict, struggle or challenge exists that we are party to, we often end up standing before the rationality juncture, forced to pick a route. You and I both know, rationally, that the big gainer stock won’t rise forever. Conversely, rationally, we know that the economy will not perpetually tank. We know if we keep driving too fast through the hairpins, we will skid out. We know if we stick to our diet and exercise, the pounds will start to come off. We knew, rationally, that Verlander was not going to strike out 12 more batters and that things would get tight in the game. We knew that Doomsday could punch back.
That night we stood at the rationality juncture with a decision to make. Do we turn down the rational path, applaud lightly, but expect change and thereby minimize disappointment? Or do we walk straight ahead, sucking great lung-fuls of air to scream out our hero’s name? Do we expect a fight back, or do we ready our cameras for the next superhuman volley? Do we accept the chance of failure or cheer the certainty of success?
Sports fans in Michigan have spent a lot of time becoming exceedingly familiar with the rationality juncture as of late. Its twists and bends, various and diverse ways it presents itself, and its ability to inflict massive pain or incredible pleasure, or both have become common to us. It can be lightning quick (Did that play just destroy all hope?) or season long (Will the Lions go undefeated to the Superbowl?). Should we be rational and accept that it was just one play, or should we start the pity party now? Do we want to remember that the Lions are still young and will lose, or do we want to ready our Superbowl party guest list?
U of M fans stand at a unique and far reaching juncture. We’ve been to this party before. And undefeated start against overmatched opponents with a bit of luck and a lot of Denard magic. The rationality juncture stands screaming before us.
“Don’t take that road! It leads to self-delusion and eventual heartache!”
Buckeye fans now understand. They stayed straight where the rationality juncture turned, and now they’re looking for someone (Jim Bollman?) to throw their disillusionment at every time Joe Bauserman throws a pass at air. It would have been much easier to begin with tempered expectations.
Our QB is magic. Our coordinators are the best money can buy. Our coach excretes precious metals.
Our QB is magic. Our coach is a true innovator. Our team is so fast and perfectly built for our offense.
Do you not see the rationality juncture crying out, “Stop This Insanity”?
I saw Verlander’s flowing red cape. I also saw 2 runs in the first and a murderous lineup. I saw what was rational. I still believed in the cape. For all the reasons, right and wrong, sensible and ridiculous, I believed in a superhero.
The contributors of this blog will give you the numbers. They are an interesting and fascinating way to get a handle on a game or a season. They, quite effectively, tell us why something happened. They’re getting better at projecting what will happen. They are giant road signs pointing down the turn-off at the rationality juncture. But they are not why we are sports fans.
We are fans because we believed that a five foot ninja could stop North Dakota. We are fans because we believed Darius Morris would shoot successfully. We are fans because we believed in 30 seconds.
Some of these beliefs left us overjoyed. Some left us heartbroken. The rationality juncture pointed us away from all of them. And nothing could be sadder than believing that D-Mo would find iron or the clock would run out.
The team is 5-0, again. The rationality juncture beckons you to turn. Go Straight.
Believe in Superheroes.