Gallon's levitation skills translated to the college game just fine.
Finishing out the series looking back on the 2009 recruiting class, here's a look at the non-quarterback offensive players, as described in Brian's recruiting posts of yore. But first...
My Bad, Cam
While I remembered to include then-OL, future-NT Quinton Washington on the defensive side of the ball, I forgot to do the same for Cam Gordon, the future defensive positional nomad who came to Michigan with most recruiting services considering him a wide receiver. As Gordon's recruitment wore on, it became more clear that his best spot may actually be in the defensive back seven, and thus we got one of the odder player comps I've seen:
Jason Avant, or maybe Prescott Burgess
Why Avant or Burgess? Bulky 6'2" wide receiver who will push 215 and lacks deep speed == Avant. Rangy linebacker who needs to put on 20 pounds, switch positions (sort of) and probably struggle with the mental part of being a college linebacker for a while == Burgess.
Free safety wasn't mentioned, because only an insane, desperate person would put a player matching that profile on the last line of defen--AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIGGGGHHHHHH. (Thank you, Denard, forever and always.)
Gordon ended his career as a backup outside linebacker and situational defensive end. Fire Tony Gibson again, just in case.
The Blue Darter
As for prospects who actually ended up at receiver, Michigan had two: consensus top-200 prospect Je'Ron Stokes, and a high school single-wing quarterback who—despite being an Army All-American—earned four-star status on just one site due to his diminutive stature.
PEAK MIXTAPE WEEZY WITH A KEVIN FEDERLINE REFERENCE.
HOW DID IT GET SO LATE SO SOON?
Though everyone pegged Jeremy Gallon as a pure slot ninja—he'd prove to be much more, obviously—the eye-opening highlights and strong Army week performance earned him plenty of hype:
Gallon is a Swiss Army knife of a player: pocket-sized, versatile, capable of surprising feats, and… uh… hard to tackle. (If you've ever tried to tackle a Swiss Army knife you know what I'm talking about. They're pointy.) It's hard to envision a scenario in which one of his diverse and sundry talents doesn't find him on the field, if not this fall than next.
Brian, I'd like to hear more about your past attempts to ... tackle ... pocket knives.
As for Stokes...
When Je'Ron Stokes committed to Michigan I was in an airport about to board a plane for Egypt by way of Germany, and as soon as he did I logged off and forgot all about him. Ever since when something reminds me of that commitment, it's like a weird bonus: oh, yeah, that universally-praised wide receiver in the class I never remember. He's like a ghost recruit.
Yeah, that was for the best.
Oh Damn, Fitz
From 2008-09, I worked as an intern at The Wolverine, and one of my primary tasks during football season was posting the stats of Michigan's commits each week. A back from Ohio's Division V Youngstown Liberty by the name of Fitzgerald Toussaint committed a few months before I got that job, so week after week that fall I'd look up his stats, bug out my eyes, and get incrementally more excited for him to see the field at U-M:
Fitzgerald Toussaint, Youngstown Liberty: Senior RB and Michigan recruit went over 250 yards for the seventh week in a row in a 33-28 win over Hubbard. After generating 16 yards on four carries in the first half, Toussaint erupted for 235 yards in the second half and scored two TDs. He has 1,950 yards in eight games.
He'd finish the season with over 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns. Between those numbers and his excellently soundtracked highlights, I thought he'd be the next great Michigan running back:
That wasn't to be, at least in large part for reasons outside his control, but when remembering where Toussaint came from...
It wasn't all flowers and 90-yard touchdowns for Toussaint, though. His dad—also named Fitzgerald Toussaint—ended up in jail after stabbing his ex-wife's boyfriend… at a football scrimmage. Nasty business.
...I'd say 32 career starts, graduating from U-M, and getting a shot to make an NFL roster constitutes a very successful college career.
Vincent Smith's profile started out with similar recounting of a tough upbringing in Pahokee, then mostly waffled between excitement about his highlights/fit in the scheme and trepidation about his size, which was the subject of an awkwardly written ESPN scouting report:
ESPN says Smith lacks size "on paper"—which uh what about real life too—and says he runs "low to the ground," as if he has a choice.
Michigan rounded out a three-man running back class with Cass Tech product Teric Jones, who recorded the fastest time at the Army combine after his junior year but didn't receive much at all in the way of recruiting hype. By the time he got to campus the coaches were already considering a position switch:
In fact, Michigan might be shooting Jones into lots of space as a slot receiver. Rodriguez said Jones was a slot receiver who "may also get reps at running back" at the signing day press conference, and Jones did have some nice receiving numbers as a junior: 24 catches for 306 yards.
Jones ended up playing special teams as a true freshman, bounced between running back and cornerback as the thin roster dictated need, then left the team and went on medical scholarship before the 2011 season after a sophomore-year knee injury.
If You Just Take Two Linemen...
...you might as well make them NFL linemen, and that's exactly what happened with U-M's 2009 O-line class of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. Lewan, especially, was quite the steal; he was a total unknown until moving from defensive line to offensive line before his senior season, then vaulted into the top 300 recruits on all three recruiting services and played in the Under Armour AA Game in his first year playing the position. Michigan had a nice in with Lewan—his teammate at Chaparral High, Craig Roh, had been committed to U-M for months when Lewan decided to also head to Ann Arbor.
While this usually doesn't happen, Lewan's high school coach ended up giving the most accurate forecast of his player's potential:
“Michigan is getting, in my opinion, the steal of this year's recruiting class in the country,” Ragle said. “I know that's a bold statement to make, (but) this kid’s ability on the field won't be questioned. He's as good an athlete on the offensive line as I've ever seen.”
"He's as good athletically as any guy I have ever coached," Ragle said. "The thing that makes him so special is his upside when you think he's only been coached at the position for about eight months. But the one intangible that's most impressive is his nastiness --Taylor wants to burry [sic] someone on every play, and you can't coach that."
On point, Coach Ragle.
Schofield's rankings were in a similar range as Lewan's after a strong senior season. What stood out about him most was his athleticism—which translated to the college game, as he seamlessly transition from being Michigan's best pulling guard to a nimble pass-protector at tackle—and considering he's now 6'7" and 300+ pounds this is rather astounding:
In his first two years at Sandburg, Schofield ran the 110 high hurdles for the Eagles’ track team, winning a conference title his freshman year and finishing second his sophomore season. He also moved up to the varsity team for the state tournament during his sophomore year, finishing sixth in sectionals.
Unfortunately, there's no video of this, as the age of someone-on-a-smartphone-will-film-literally-anything hadn't hit yet.
So, with that exercise out of the way, who's ready to go over the 2010 class?
On second thought, let's save that for next summer. Or perhaps never. Leaning towards never.
Note: With roundups of last weekend's Sound Mind Sound Body camp still being published, as well as various visit reactions from prospects currently on campus for Michigan's technique camp, I'm pushing back the recruiting roundup to tomorrow. Breathing into a paper bag in preparation for USA-Ghana may also have played a role here. Thankfully, I started writing this post last week.
I started writing up the 2009 offensive recruits as a whole, but I couldn't get past the first paragraph of Tate Forcier's profile before realizing the two quarterbacks in the class needed their own post. Hell, I couldn't get past the first sentence [emphasis mine]:
Tate Forcier is the one who didn't get away, the one who was planning on committing even when Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver hadn't twirled their mustaches in dastardly fashion and tied Michigan football's hopes to the train tracks before effecting their getaways. His brother is my favorite Michigan player of all time who never played. He is a relentlessly trained quarterback prodigy ready to step in on day one—which was a month ago—and challenge Steven Threet for the starting job. God help us if he flames out.
When this post was written, Forcier had already enrolled at Michigan and subsequently dominated the Spring Game—back when it actually resembled real football—in a fashion that caused junior-in-college me to make this video, and I'll admit it was no small thrill to see my name on this here site:
Then, of course, came spring:
I just watched that thing again and it's pure sport porn; I sort of wish Ace had left in Forcier's three incompletions—one bad read, one Stonum drop, and one overthrown screen—so it wasn't a just a possibly-misleading highlight reel but was instead the whole spring performance. My favorite part is that little swing pass to Moundros on the rollout: Forcier's getting pressure from a defender, calmly positions himself, and puts a perfectly-led ball right in Moundros' arms, allowing him to turn upfield against the chasing linebacker. That is the sort of precision Michigan's offense was lacking last year.
After a season of the Threetsheridammit offense, the fawning over Forcier's readily apparent potential was more than understandable. His accuracy and YPA for a high school quarterback were off the charts, as evidenced by... a (chart?) chart:
|So||157 / 221||1637||71.0%||7.4||10.4||17-4|
|Jr||164 / 213||2387||77.0%||11.2||14.6||21-5|
|Sr||208 / 326||3424||63.8%||10.5||16.5||23-15|
The disconcerting rise in interceptions and drop in completion percentage as a senior was chalked up to a heavily increased workload and a sieve-like offensive line, the latter quite apparent to those who watched him play that season. This brought forth a foreboding aspect to Brian's eerily on-the-money comparison to former Iowa QB Drew Tate:
Forcier was often reduced to scrambling around and chucking it hopefully, which obviously led to the interceptions. Here's another piece of the Drew Tate comparison I've been beating into the ground for months now: Tate (Iowa Version) also saw a senior-year spike in interceptions as Iowa's offensive line regressed (they gave up an extra half-sack per game when Tate was a senior) and Tate took matters into his own hands more often. This tendency can be either wildly good or wildly bad, and threatens to do so on consecutive plays this fall. Only experience will teach Forcier what he can and cannot do at this level.
As it turned out, we'd never learn if added experience would've reduced the considerable "no no no YES"/"no no no AAAAAARRRGGHHHHH" aspect of Forcier's game. As we all well know, he left school after being ruled academically ineligible for the 2010 Gator Bowl, by which time he'd lost his starting gig to Denard Robinson. A certain aspect of Forcier's schooling, at the time noted as a positive—his home-school setup enabled him to work with QB guru Marv Marinovich for hours upon hours—was probably not so positive:
On Fridays in the fall, Tate Forcier doesn't feel like going to school. The night's game is on his mind, and the quarterback for Scripps Ranch High in San Diego can't imagine studying a textbook rather than studying a defense.
No big deal.
"I'll tell my teacher, 'I have a game today,'" Forcier said. "He'll say, 'That's fine; you don't have to come.' And I'll go to my football school and watch film all day."
Ability to shred a cover zero or no, this doesn't really fly at U-M.
I swear I'll get to Denard soon, but first a couple more blockquotes. Marinovich's scouting report of his pupil was so oddly poetic Brian turned it into actual poetry:
"Tate springs off his feet. He bounds from side-to-side to avoid the rush and then accelerates. His peripheral vision is key allowing him stay focused and scan downfield. But really, his mental attitude toward the position along with quick feet and hand-eye coordination blended together is ridiculous."
A haiku version of this:
Tate springs off his feet
He bounds from side to side, and
Finally, Brian makes a most unfortunate typo:
Why Drew Tate? That's my go-to comparison and I'm sticking to it. Forcier is about 6', maybe 6'1". He's nimble and though he took off frequently in high school, in college he won't have as much of an athletic advantage and will mostly use his feet to buy time to throw downfield. He has the proverbial moxie, which occasionally gets him into trouble. The Tate comparison is eerily accurate, except maybe Forcier is better school and will be more accurate than the occasionally-erratic Tate.
With that out of the way, DENARD ROBINSON HIGH SCHOOL HIGHLIGHTS AHOY:
Oddly, Denard's otherworldly running abilty wasn't nearly as prominent in those clips as you'd expect. There isn't so much as a hint of a run until nearly the two-minute mark. In fact, there are only a couple plays in the whole reel that really show off what he was capable of doing, probably because his offensive coordinator ripped the "OBVIOUS ROLLOUTS" page from the Al Borges playbook and left the rest. Denard's highlights are way better in theory than they are in reality.
I'm not sure there's better evidence of how much football offense has evolved even in the last half-decade than Denard Effin' Robinson running every play on his high school highlight tape from under center. In 2008, this may have gone unquestioned. In 2014, there'd be a federal investigation.
Denard's passing stats fell well short of Forcier's, as would be expected. Less expected were the rushing stats:
Oddly, Robinson's rushing yards weren't spectacular. He had only 538, which was fewer than Forcier had, though Forcier wasn't going up against big schools in Florida at Scripps Ranch. Does this indicate a Drew Tate Forcier-like tendency to run around in the backfield and then launch it deep? A couple of throws above and that yards per completion number indicate "yes", but he also breaks contain several times and takes off and those are just highlights so maybe he got sacked a lot for ridiculous yardage after running around like a headless chicken and I guess what I'm trying to say is we just don't know, dude.
We just have to go on the universal heavy panting about this guy's ability to outrun a cheetah in a Porsche strapped to a jet engine and dropped out of a plane. Which, like, okay.
I'd say the first bit is explained by the highlight tape. About that last bit: Both the "cheetah in a Porsche..." and "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium" tags were fixtures on this site before Robinson ever got to campus. Even before he proved Mike Patrick's "broken plays are very dangerous" mantra in real time, this was totally justified.
Deerfield Beach's Denard Robinson got the near-perfect start he needed, motored down the straightaway and won the 100 meters in a personal-best 10.44 seconds at the BCAA Track Championships at Coral Springs on Saturday.
Robinson's personal-best … is the second-fastest high school time in the nation, according to Dyestat Elite 100 rankings.
Denard's reaction was even better:
''I was kind of disappointed in myself to run a 10.44, but I will accept that,'' Robinson said.
It comes as little surprise that a bolt of lightning recruited to play quarterback for Rich Rodriguez received comparisons to Pat White from everyone, Brian included. The excitement to see this athlete in that offense managed to rival the avalanche of Forcier hype even though Robinson didn't get the benefit of an early enrollment. Surely the blogger who set Sam McGuffie's general excitement level at "AAAAIIEEEE!" saw the nearly unlimited potential that would soon be realized in arguably the greatest QB rushing season ever:
General Excitement Level: Slightly under high.
We're no longer on speaking terms, boss.
A couple summers ago, I delved back into the blogspot days to look at Brian's 2008 recruiting posts and how well players lived up to expectations. There were high points, like Mike Martin wrestling Not Mike Martin. These were accompanied by lows such as "Dann O'Neill might be Michigan's most critical recruit." The McGuffie mixtape was rewatched, wistfully.
I forgot to continue the series last summer, so I'm picking it back up with the 2009 class; conveniently, all the players from that class have completed their time in the program, so it's easier to give a fair retrospective on their careers. If you want to go back and look though the old posts yourself, the Tate Forcier profile features links to every player.
While that last link is a nice teaser for the offense portion of this exercise, today I'll be looking at the 2009 defensive recruits. Brace yourselves.
I'm gonna go ahead and get the defensive back portion of this post over with, as the four commits in the secondary were Vlad Emilien, Thomas Gordon, Justin Turner, and Adrian Witty. Emilien's projection was a harbinger of doom for U-M's future situation at safety:
Projection: Either sparing special teams time as a freshman or (hopefully) a redshirt. In 2010 will be a major threat to start at strong safety, though he might have to fight Brandon Smith to get a job.
Brian, today, on this quote: "I was so innocent then."
Smith moved to outside linebacker, then announced his intention to transfer near the end of the 2009 season, ending up at Temple and never doing anything of consequence there. Emilien followed a similar path, playing a little special teams as a true freshman, then transferring after the first game in 2010 when Jordan Kovacs put a death grip on the strong safety spot. He ended up as, yup, an outside linebacker at Toledo, where he made 15 tackles as a senior last year.
|omg shirtless heroin-laced carrot|
Witty never actually made it onto the team due to academic issues, eventually landing at Cincinnati, where he's the top returner in the secondary this year. Not getting him through admissions may be viewed as a recruiting failure, but in context, it was totally worth it:
Adrian Witty, a teammate of Denard Robinson, is Denard Robinson's teammate. On this team, which they share, they play together. Also, Witty and Denard Robinson attended the same high school. At this high school, they played on a team which they shared and played together on: they were teammates.
That should be clear. Many, many folks regard Witty's offer as the heroin-laced carrot used to lure critical QB recruit Denard Robinson away from Urban Meyer's clutches and to Michigan's post-apocalyptic frozen wastes.
Even though Witty would've been, at worst, the second-best defensive back in this class for U-M, there are no hard feelings here. We salute you, heroin-laced carrot.
The most hyped recruit in the class was Massillon, Ohio's Justin Turner, a top-35 overall player to both Rivals and Scout.* It wasn't hard to see what all the excitement was about:
That excitement only grew after Turner tore it up at Army All-American Game, to the point that his recruitment post led off with a discussion of one of those B/R "[touted recruit] is [football titan]" posts:
If you're measuring by delusional expectations of internet denizens, Justin Turner may be the #1 recruit in the universe. You've got to have an avalanche of hype for some guy to write an article saying you're Charles Woodson and get this response:
"Good article, but i see justin turner being faster then charles woodson. I also see turner being a better saftey the woodson was but woodson will be a better return man."
IE: "Good article about some high school senior being the reincarnation of the only defensive player to ever win the Heisman, but don't you think you're selling him a little short? Also I have no recollection of Charles Woodson's return abilities, which were pretty much crap aside from one white hot moment." (Yes, this exchange happened on Bleacher Report. Where else could it?)
Brian took the conservative tack, comparing Turner to... Marlin Jackson. Let's just move along.
The one defensive back to actually make a positive impact on the field at U-M, Cass Tech's Thomas Gordon, came in as a relatively anonymous recruit. He got Brandent Englemon for his "YMRMFSPA" and this projection:
General Excitement Level: Well… he is the lowest-ranked non-kicker in the class, and that's probably for a reason.
Projection: Obvious redshirt and will likely require at least two years before he's ready to see the field on defense. The most likely (but by no means assured) outcome is that he doesn't contribute much.
Yes, it's possible for a Cass Tech recruit to exceed expectations.
[*ESPN was a skeptical outlier, listing him as their #21 athlete. Point, ESPN.]
|At least Mike Jones provided us this picture.|
General Excitement Level: Eh; I'm expecting one of the OLB recruts to pan out in a big way, one to be okay, and one to wash out.
I won't spend much time on these guys simply because there isn't a whole lot to talk about, but I will note that when a search for a player comparison goes like this, there's a pretty good chance you've got a serious tweener on your hands:
So he's just like Shawn Crable, if Crable was six to eight inches shorter. So he's just like Chris Graham, if Hawthorne was a stiff, clunky guy incapable of shedding blockers and not much for changing direction. He's not like either, actually. I mean, just look at the guy. Linebacker? In college? Er. There's a reason Hawthorne is well down in the rankings.
Brian suggested Hawthorne "may be better suited for a 3-3-5 than a more traditional D," and hoo boy did some bad memories just come flooding back. Quick, to the defensive line!
THORQWASH & The Crab Person
Between this and the legendary hood slide, we're all good, Big Will.
Justin Turner wasn't the only five-star recruit to the established recruiting sites to get some major skepticism from ESPN. Will Campbell's rankings went #35 overall (Scout), #26 overall (Rivals), and... #21 offensive tackle (ESPN). Another point for the Worldwide Leader. Like Turner, an outstanding Army game performance added to the hype, as did pictures like this...
...and, for entirely different reasons, this:
WE GOT THOR.
In retrospect, however, maybe we should've seen Campbell's future weight issues coming:
Campbell is one of the biggest players in the Army game, but he's apparently not ready for the roller coasters when the teams visit Six Flags on Tuesday night.
"There's a weight limit on those things," he said. "I might be on the tea cups."
Even though he didn't have the desired impact until a solid, though not five-star-caliber, senior season, Campbell always gave a hell of a quote. Brian's Gabe Watson comparison was pretty on point; though Big Will didn't come close to Watson's production, they were similar players—jovial, wildly talented, bull-strong, big fans of food—with similar hype coming to Ann Arbor.
|craaaaaaab people craaaaaab people|
Michigan landed two defensive ends in the top-100 range in the class: Craig Roh (right) and Anthony LaLota. While Roh never became an edge-rushing terror, he managed to consitently produce and improve despite boucing between positions—not to mention different defensive schemes that didn't necessarily fit his skill set—for his entire career due to factors outside his control. This comparison both worked and, well, didn't work:
Why Shawn Crable? Crable was a 6'6" athletic terror with chicken legs who spent his Michigan career bouncing from DE to OLB and would have been the perfect player to slot in this spinner spot. Crable was also rated right around where Roh is. The comparison here is very tight.
The tweener aspect of the comparison was spot-on, but Roh ended up being a very different player from Crable, more disciplined and able to hold the point of attack but far less explosive off the edge.
As for LaLota, he received one of the most random YMRMFSPA comps in this blog's history:
Alain Kashama… except good!
Kashama was a total project at Michigan, coming in with little football experience—as did LaLota, who played just 12 games of organized football before hitting campus—before settling in as a reserve pass-rushing specialist, eventually totaling six career sacks.
That ended up being six more career sacks than LaLota recorded, as he transferred back to home-state Rutgers two weeks into his sophomore season, where he quit football to focus on his education after a move to tight end saw him buried on the depth chart.
We end with the class curveball, Quinton Washington, whom everybody evaluated as an interior offensive lineman—with most saying he had a ton of potential there, this blog included:
General Excitement Level: High. It's clear the coaches were nuts about this guy and he's got the offers and recruiting mojo to back it up.
Projection: Though the coaches have suggested Washington might see the field this year—they think he's that ready—a redshirt makes more sense with Schilling's move inside solidifying the interior line. He'll have to fight Ricky Barnum to replace Moosman next year; if he loses that battle he'll be the odds on favorite to replace Schilling in 2011.
Steve Schilling, in fact, was his player comparison. Washington instead moved to nose tackle early in the 2010 season, worked his way into a starting role as a junior, earned the nickname QWASH, and gave the defense a proficient space-eater until his role mysteriously diminished last season.
The real answer is Roh, but one could make a reasonable argument that Michigan's most critical 2009 defensive recruit was a guy who never played a down for the Wolverines: heroin-laced carrot (seriously, Brian, how the hell do you come up with these things?) Adrian Witty.
Incompetence on a level that Michigan unlocked against Michigan State and Nebraska cannot be achieved by one man or even one team (MSU is good at defense, and hey, Nebraska did some good things). There's still the possibility that Borges and his charges are sabotaging themselves, but since that's impossible to prove let's permit that they do in fact wish to progress the ball forward, and parse out how much responsibility lies in the various inadvertent factors.
I thought I'd take us back through a timeline of the events that led to the state of the offensive roster, picking up blame on the way.
I wish we could blame this whole thing on the old coach. Wouldn't it be the most ironic thing if the great guru of offense was really at fault for Michigan's offensive woes? There are really three things I think we can lay at his feet, in order of importance:
- Hired DCs he couldn't work with and made them run defenses they didn't understand, thus dooming Michigan to another coaching transition.
- Recruited just one OL in the 2010 class.
- Didn't recruit a single tight end or fullback, nor a running back who can block except Smith, whom he didn't redshirt.
Michigan's 2009-2011 tight end recruits.
Tight End, Briefly
We've had #1 out, and #3 is debatable: Y U NO RECRUIT THE BREAD AND BUTTER OF BORGES'S OFFENSE, GUY WHO INVENTED THE OFFENSE THAT MADE BORGES'S OFFENSE OBSOLETE? I can't blame him for skipping fullbacks or running backs who can block since he had a track record of developing fullbacks from the walk-on program, while his backs, e.g. Toussaint, were recruited to operate in space. I wish he'd redshirted Vincent Smith, or gotten a medical for him.
But I do think he could have seen the need for tight ends even before the abilities of Koger and Webb opened his eyes to that. Rodriguez ignored the position for two years, and when he started looking again it was for the 2011 class that was devastated by Rosenberg and The Process: Hoke and Borges went on the hunt for last-minute TEs in 2011 and came back with Chris Barnett, a vagabond of the type that Michigan typically stays away from. Barnett transferred almost right away; I put that on having just a few weeks.
Tight end is another position that typically requires a lot of development, but Michigan knew by mid-2011 that its 2013 starters would be, at most, true sophomores, and knew a year later that neither of their 2012 recruits were much for blocking. At this point any sane human would not have made the ability of their tight ends to block a key component of their offense.
Offensive Line, Longly
|Rodriguez put all of his eggs in the 2011 OL recruiting basket, and Michigan ended up with all their eggs in a project recruit's basket.|
As for the OL, the failure to recruit just one offensive lineman in 2010 is the centerpiece of modern bitching. Is that fair? Here's a line from Brian in Mike Schofield's recruiting post, dated June 2009:
"Michigan didn't need a huge offensive line class one year after taking six big uglies and graduating zero, but you never want fewer than three and you always want quality."
So yes it is established MGoPrecedent that fewer than three OL in a class no matter how much meat you have stacked for the meat god is not cutting it.
Offensive line recruiting happens a bit earlier than most other positions. Since they're unlikely to be starting for several years (even redshirt freshmen are pretty rare) OL recruits rightly look for coaching stability more than early opportunity. The 2009 class was narrowing down their lists before the 2008 season, and so on. With that said here's a timeline of Michigan offensive line recruiting:
2009 (recruited in early 2008): Tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, and guard Quinton Washington. This despite a huge/mixed haul from 2008, when RR added Barnum and Omameh to Carr's class of O'Neill, Mealer, Wermers and Khoury. For the record O'Neill left the team in June 2009, and Wermers was gone in July (though his World of Warcraft account was presumably active), so the coaches wouldn't have adjusted to either of those departures at that time. Meat for 2013 Meat God: three redshirt seniors, one a potential Jake Long 2.0, can't do more because there's still six guys from the previous class.
[Fail leaps atop fail, after the jump]
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.
Cullen Christian Goes Blue
As everyone has been expecting for some time now, PA CB Cullen Christian picked the Wolverines yesterday, adding a much-needed defensive back to the class of 2010. The announcement itself had been planned for weeks, and although it took a little longer than expected, the result is unsurprising. Local article. (Christian image via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
For the record, The US Army All-American Bowl will select a player from Penn Hills next week. Christian and WR/S Brandon Ifill have both been nominated, and I'd imagine Christian is the choice as he is rated better by every recruiting service. And since there wasn't room for it yesterday, here's part 2 of Cullen's junior highlight video:
Who Will Fill the Class?
With Christian's commitment and the news that 2009 FL CB Adrian Witty will join the team this winter, there are only a few more spots available in the 2010 recruiting class. Next week's recruitin' update will be an overview-type post, but for now, let's look at a few of the guys who are still possibilities.
FL WR Kenny Shaw has narrowed his list to Michigan, Tennessee, Florida, and Florida State, with Georgia having an outside shot at him. He will announce his decision on Signing Day. [Source: ESPN, though they've apparently made it their corporate mission to not get a single inbound link, so whatever]. Florida State is still on top, but Michigan may have moved into second after an enjoyable visit ($, info in header/speculation).
CA WR Kenny Stills, one of the many visitors to the M/OSU game, will announce his final decision on December 1st. Michigan is probably on the outside in this one, but at least we'll know soon, right?
TX DT Jatashun Beachum enjoyed his Michigan visit, but it sounds as though he's unlikely to decommit from Arkansas. This is a disappointment, since it sounded before the Michigan visit like a decommitment from the Hogs was basically just a formality. Further updates coming as that situation develops.
MD LB Josh Furman has narrowed his list to two, with a decision date set ($, info in header). The narrowing is news, but he's been planning to announce at the Maryland Crab Bowl for some time, and there's been no indication of a change there. No word on the final two, but Michigan and Virginia Tech were announced as his leaders last week, so it's probably them... and Scout confirms all the information in one convenient header.
CA S Sean Parker told MGoBlog's own Tom VanHaaren that he plans to officially visit Michigan. Rivals confirms. Parker was supposed to be a heavy Notre Dame lean, but recent events are obviously concerning.
CA S/LB Tony Jefferson enjoyed his Michigan visit, but not even the afterglow is enough to move the Wolverines into his top 2. UCLA and Oklahoma are still on top for him, and he's going to "consider [Michigan] the rest of the way." Not the most promising update in the world. (Jefferson pictured at right via the Detroit News).
[Update: News article does say that "ESPN speculates he will choose the Wolverines," but that's contradicted by the direct quotes linked above and should be taken with a grain of salt.]
FL CB Tony Grimes and DE Clarence Murphy both enjoyed their visit to Ann Arbor, and I think the headline "Michigan on Top in Hollywood Hills" ($, info in header) is a pretty good indication of where the Wolverines stand with both prospects. Rivals confirms ($, info in header) for Murphy.
[your editor dips in for a moment…]
For what it's worth, on Monday's WTKA recruiting roundup, Sam Webb said he had a "gut feeling" on four players: Christian, Grimes, Murphy and Furman. For those unfamiliar, Webb's gut is the place he puts information about silent commitments. Christian has already dropped and Grimes and Murphy are a formality; if Webb is right about Furman and that potential rule change those four guys would close out the class.
Snake-Oiling The Irish?
The last time Notre Dame switched coaches, Michigan pirated away DE Jeremy Van Alstyne and CB/S Brandon Harrison from Ty Willingham's last class. Weis has been crushing Michigan's head in recruiting since he was hired. So can Michigan repeat the feat when Weis is fired two seconds after this weekend's game against Stanford ends?
Probably not. There are two kids in the class that Michigan finished second for, but FL CBs Lo Wood and Spencer Boyd are generic three-star sorts and Michigan isn't going to throw one of their generic three-star cornerbacks overboard, or pass up on Grimes, for them. Notre Dame's got a couple of good linebacker commits but they're both from North Carolina and had no interest in Michigan before they committed. Five-star CO DE Chris Martin has been a soft commitment for a while but he's had no interest in Michigan and Weis's firing isn't likely to sprout any. Michigan didn't make IN DE Blake Lueders's top five the first time he cut it down.
The only other player in Notre Dame's class who seems like even a slight possibility is IL OL Christian Lombard, but Lombard committed to Notre Dame at the Army Junior Combine and is likely a true believer who isn't even going to look around. (Side note: Lombard was a consensus five-star at that combine and Rivals now has him a meh three star. Ricardo Miller should have a "what happened to our recruiting rankings" pity party with him.)
In sum: Michigan and Notre Dame did not got head-to-head much this year and Michigan has better options at the spot where they did and ND won, so Weis's axing isn't going to be fruitful for the already-crammed recruiting class.
OH TE Alex Smith officially decommitted from Cincinnati last week, and Michigan was in the small group of schools he was still considering. Alas, he chose North Carolina yesterday, meaning his tenure on the recruiting board is over once and for all.
SC WR Nick Jones, who Michigan had offered, committed to South Carolina. Michigan was never hot on him, and I imagine he was mostly offered for leverage on Marcus Lattimore.
FL RB Demetrius Hart missed his playoff game last week because there was a controversy over whether he lived in the appropriate school district to attend Dr. Phillips.
John Magrino, Dr. Phillips athletic director, said OCPS determined Hart should sit until administrators can study allegations brought by Olympia that he lives in Pine Hills, not the DP school zone.
"He was assigned to our school from day one as a ninth grader and we’ve never had any reason to question that until today,” Magrino said.
Dr. Phillips managed to squeak out a 23-22 victory over Olympia without him, and he was cleared to hit the field against Apopka this weekend. Apparently, the mere challenge by Olympia's principal has been seen as a bush-league move. Hart is considered a heavy Michigan lean, although he wasn't able to make it to Ann Arbor for a visit last weekend.
ESPN's On The Trail (no link) reports that FL DT Tim Jernigan, who holds a Michigan offer, is only likely to consider Florida and Florida State.
Michigan has their eye on AZ QB/P Jordan Morgan. He's been invited to the Army All-American Combine in San Antonio.
Etc.: MI CB Dior Mathis is an Army All-American, along with MSU Commit Joe Boisture (which is odd, because he was so awful this year that his high school team benched him). That's an Army player each of the past four years for Cass Tech, with two picking the Wolverines (though Boubacar Cissoko didn't exactly turn out as expected). Fluff on the high school coach of GA DT Michael Thornton and LB Tyrone Cornileus. Michigan pipeline Pahokee faces an unceremonious exit from the state playoffs.