Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
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.
Note: the confusion about if Michigan is actually running a 3-3-5 this fall or if it's more of the 4-3 with deathbacker hybrid, or if it's "multiple" or whatever leaves the previewer at a loss when attempting to slot players into familiar roles. I've decided to take Greg Robinson and Rich Rodriguez at their word and will treat Craig Roh like a defensive lineman who frequently fakes playing linebacker and occasionally (or more than occassionally) does. This may be off.
|Craig Roh||So.||Mike Martin||Jr.||Greg Banks||Sr.*||Ryan Van Bergen||Jr.*|
|Brandon Herron||Jr.*||Will Campbell||So.||Renaldo Sagesse||Sr.*||Jibreel Black||Fr.|
|JB Fitzgerald||Jr.*||Richard Ash||Fr.||Terry Talbott||Fr.||Anthony LaLota||Fr.*|
|GET IN THE CAR|
|splits a double team|
|blows past the down-block attempt|
|zips around the center|
|SLASHING PAST OL|
|deep into the backfield|
|darts past attempted down-block|
|does attack on this one|
|drives blockers backwards|
|drives the opposing center back|
Martin blew up against Wisconsin, not that it ended up mattering.
Mike Martin was a promising freshman backup and promising sophomore starter. Now entering his true junior season, it's time for Martin to shed the promise and become the beast he has to be if Michigan's defense is going to tread water this season. With a position switch starter behind him at linebacker and Brandon Graham elsewhere, he goes from sidekick to superhero.
As you can see at right, Mike Martin is at his best using his agility and strength to zip past opposing offensive linemen and do mean things to ballcarriers in the backfield. The clips have a distinct lack of Watson-esque offensive lineman crushing; similarly, much of Martin's high school highlight video features him zipping around, not through overmatched kids. Though he can fight through opposition blockers from time to time and doesn't get blown back often, deploying him as a one-technique nose tackle exposes him to a ton of double teams—most of the highlights above feature him splitting two guys trying to zone him—and limits what he's able to accomplish. A switch to more of a 3-3-5, if that actually happens, will either mitigate this or provide outside linebackers windows to exploit; Martin's iron grip on the NT job is an indication that could be the plan. (More scheme discussion will take place later in the week.)
A quick survey of his UFR results from last year shows a guy who doesn't often end up in the minus column but also doesn't consistently produce like the star he has to be if Michigan's defensive line is going to maintain their productivity of a year ago:
|WMU||5.5||1||4.5||Two great pass rush moves on the interior are most of those points.|
|Notre Dame||2.5||-||2.5||Decent tracking down the run but zero pass rush.|
|EMU||7||1.5||5.5||Much better job getting off blocks this week and more active; this is probably because of the competition. Still, he's promising. Probably needs another year before he's truly an anchor.|
|Indiana||4.5||-||4.5||Indiana could not move him.|
|Michigan State||7||5.5||1.5||Mental issues on the Cousins run and the final Caper run.|
|Iowa||9||4.5||4.5||Demonstrated great agility several times and had a couple good pass rush moves but got crushed off the ball four times, too.|
|Penn State||2.5||2.5||0||Off day.|
|Illinois||7||1||6||No frontside creases all day; too bad about the linebackers.|
|Purdue||4.5||0.5||4||Relatively quiet; not getting much pass rush this year.|
|Wisconsin||12.5||2||10.5||Huge day, especially early.|
This, and the brief snippets of talent from Martin's freshman year when he was a backup to Will Johnson (after he snuffed out Wisconsin's second two-point attempt in 2008 I said he was "already kind of great" as a pass rusher), has seen this blog suggest/push/plead for Martin to slide to the three-tech spot made famous by Warren Sapp and occupied by backfield inhabitants Ryan Van Bergen and Alan Branch recently. In his third year in a college program, Martin has the potential to put up serious numbers if he can find himself one-on-one with sluggish guards. This requires a move away from the nose. It's also not going to happen, so you can put away your fancy dreams about Martin going all Babineaux on the Big Ten and dropping 28 TFLs.
Even so, it's time for Martin to make the same leap Brandon Graham did between his junior and senior years. I can't offer anything more powerful than this wonderfully ungrammatical assessment from Jibreel Black:
You look at the rest of this defensive line and there’s a lot of talent there, but is there anyone in particular that you look at and say, ‘wow man this dude is better than I thought he was? ‘
“Not necessarily better than I thought he was, because I know all of them are good, but when I see some plays that Mike (Martin) makes in practice, I be like dang. His explosiveness, his technique that he uses. You can tell the work that he put in with it.”
I hope to be like dang for large sections of the season.
Martin's reached the point where he's being held out of hitting because he's Mike Martin…
“Defensively, Mike Martin has had a tremendous camp. We limited him yesterday because we know what he can. He has been really good and probably our most consistent defensive player since camp started.”
…he's in good enough shape to crush the rest of his position group when Michigan does post-practice runs, he's an upperclassman with a year of starting experience under his belt… now is the time. I'm not sure if Martin will be on All Big Ten teams after the year, especially at a position at which statistics don't always tell the tale, but I'm confident in asserting he should be on them.
Banks left; Sagesse right
|burst past blockers|
|knifed through the line|
|cuts under his blocker|
The other tackle spot will be manned by the two seniors. Michigan lists Greg Banks first on its UConn depth chart but moved 289-pound Renaldo Sagesse away from the nose tackle spot he played decently at a year ago to back him up; to me this signals an intent to wear Martin out and keep the three-tech/DE spot fresh with constant platooning. We'll address the two as co-starters.
Sagesse and Banks are like senior versions of the two 5'10 freshman corners. They were middling recruits; they've established themselves solid but uninspiring Big Ten players. The closest comparison I can think of in the recent history of Michigan linemen is Rondell Biggs, the other guy on the ridiculous 2006 line.
|blasts the LT back|
|forcing a cutback|
|shoots past the center's block|
|both blow into the backfield|
Last year Sagesse was a "mysterious entity locked on the bench" after arriving at Michigan from the wild hinterlands of Quebec pegged to provide "functional depth." He actually did a bit better than that, as the clip reel shows: nothing negative enough to be worthy of pulling off, a few impressive plays, albeit against lower-level competition. The worst thing I've seen Sagesse do to date is get sealed and pancaked by Patrick Omameh in the spring game but we'll just chalk that up to Omameh being wicked sweet.
I was openly campaigning for Sagesse to get more playing time:
So this Sagesse guy is okay?
He hasn't seen much time but I have him down for +5 in that time with no minuses. Given the depth situation at DE and RVB's seeming inability to hold up—not surprising at 6'5" 270 something—doesn't it make sense to try Sagesse out as a starting NT and slide Martin over to the 3-tech? RVB can then back up the 3-tech and Graham. The line adds 30-40 pounds and doesn't have to roll out a walk-on when Graham needs a blow.
Van Bergen found his footing on the interior and that never came to fruition, but I remained on Sagesse's side to the point where I was campaigning for him to start this year, again so Martin could slide out.
Last year both started out well, with Sagesse picking up a total of 9.5 to the good against just one minus in the three nonconference games before Indiana; Banks had plus 6.5 and minus 0.5 in the same timespan. But from there both went radio silent, playing regularly but getting little in the way of up or down recognition. Sample reactions from the Big Ten schedule: "quiet," "meh," "played little," "also played little," and "one nice play for naught."
This isn't a terrible thing for a sparely-used defensive tackle, especially the nose spot Sagesse was at. Ideally you'd like some plays from the interior, but if Mike Martin is going to provide those you can deal with the other spot being functional. On the '06 Line of Doom, sophomore Terrance Taylor wasn't a star and that worked out okay. It is concerning that I didn't see either play in the Purdue game and Sagesse remained totally absent for Wisconsin.
Michigan's formations will go some way to determining which player gets more time. In three-man lines Sagesse is clearly going to be a pass-rush liability as a defensive end, but when Michigan goes to four (or brings in the "double eagle" package with the DEs lined up over the opposition guards) Sagesse's got more heft. I wouldn't be surprised to see both lifted for Jibreel Black or maybe Craig Roh on passing downs.
Take your pick of adjectives: workmanlike, yeoman, gritty, etc. Expect something okay here; the upside is low, but so is the downside.
And now everyone's worried about Will Campbell since his '09 cameos were unimpressive and he's stuck behind Adam Patterson on the depth chart. He's back on the upswing with his weight after losing a ton between the end of his senior year and fall camp, adding 15 pounds from '09 to '10. He now checks in at 333, the heaviest guy on the roster.
That could be good as Michigan starts putting good weight back on Campbell after his freshman year slim-down. It could be bad. Rodriguez complained about the conditioning of a "small handful," and Campbell seemed like an obvious candidate for the wingless doghouse. He wasn't in it, but that doesn't mean Rodriguez is pleased with his conditioning:
"He got a lot of reps in the spring with Mike Martin [out], and I think he got better. he's still got some things to work on, but he's a big, strong guy. Depending on what kind of shape he's in when we start will determine how quickly he can battle for that job.
"If he's in great shape when we come in, he can battle to start. If he's not, he'll struggle until he gets in shape."
On the field, Campbell lived up to his reputation as a very large guy in need of serious technique work. I've seen a lot of zone stretches by now and rarely has a nose tackle eaten it like he did against Iowa:
I'm not at the point where I can tell you the ten different things Campbell did to get blown four yards downfield, but I can blather on about pad level: man, pad level. Am I right?
That happened about midway through the year and Campbell virtually disappeared after it; the only other clip I've got on him is what seems in retrospect to be an excessively harsh evaluation of a big Baby Seal U run on which Vlad Emilien got pancaked and Kevin Leach blasted out of the play, too. But even so he did get sealed by the BSU center all too easily. There wasn't a lot of buzz about Campbell coming out of spring, and he failed to live up to this blog's expectation of a regular job in the rotation with an "an eye on maybe starting when Michigan goes bulky for games against ground-pounders like Michigan State and Wisconsin." As the Iowa cameo showed, that would have been a bad idea.
HOWEVA, planet-spanning defensive tackles take time, as West Texas Blue demonstrated in a diary running down the fates of Campbell's DT classmates. None of them did anything save OU's Jamarcus McFarland and (sigh) Arkansas's Dequinta Jones. Most redshirted, like Campbell should have. Since he's third team right now don't expect much more than short-yardage duty early in the year, with the hope being he can emerge into a competent Martin backup by midseason,
Meanwhile, Adam Patterson's odd Michigan career has taken another turn in his fifth and final year: he's now a nose tackle. An easy top-100 recruit out of South Carolina whose selection of Michigan was almost as surprising as Carlos Brown's, Patterson's been locked on the bench his entire career. My assumption was that the nose move ended any chance he had at regular playing time, but he's now second on the depth chart at a position that sees a lot of rotation. He'll play; I don't think he'll be much good. The dropoff after Martin will be similar to that Michigan experienced when Graham came off the field, though less severe since Martin won't be Graham and the backup is at least a senior.
There are a couple freshmen, about whom we know nothing that hasn't been covered by their recruiting profiles. Pahokee native Richard Ash went from 263 pounds about a year ago to 320 on the fall roster; with concerns about his fitness and drive dogging his recruitment he is a guaranteed redshirt as Barwis attempts to whittle him down to something approximating the player who briefly had Florida and USC offers before the weight got too sloppy. Everything the blog compiled on Ash is located at his recruiting profile.
Finally, Terry Talbott is a three-tech in the making. He's got the inverse issue: listed at 248 on Michigan's roster, he'll need a year and 20 pounds before he's viable. Neither appeared on the UConn depth chart; redshirts beckon.
Strongside Defensive End
RYAN VAN BERGEN
|DRIVING BACK OTHERS|
|blows the RG back,|
|gets under Stewart|
|gets playside of his guy|
|tearing around the corner|
|drives LG three yards back|
|blows into the RG|
|blasts into the backfield|
|CRUSHED BACK HIMSELF|
|drives RVB out of the hole|
|Tackle blocks down on RVB|
|Ezeh(?!?!) follows him|
|trouble holding up|
|AGILITY FOR DE? POSSIBLE|
|deep into the backfield|
|slices through two blockers|
|again through the line|
|splits a double team|
|gets playside of his guy|
|tackling(+1) at the LOS|
Brandon Graham is currently racking up defensive rookie of the year hype in Philadelphia, but the position is seemingly in good hands. Redshirt junior Ryan Van Bergen slides outside after a year starting at the three-tech defensive tackle spot. He was productive there, acquiring 40 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, and five sacks in his first year as a starter. He even tacked on four pass breakups, presumably on bat-downs at the line of scrimmage.
His season in UFR was okay for a DT:
|WMU||5||0.5||4.5||More effective on review; did not give ground, albeit against a MAC team.|
|Notre Dame||2.5||3||-0.5||Looked a lot like an out of position DE.|
|EMU||1||2.5||-1.5||Not holding up very well against doubles.|
|Indiana||8||1||7||Did virtually nothing until the 85-yard run, then single-handedly killed the next drive.|
|Michigan State||9||4.5||4.5||Great day against an MSU OL that planned to turn him into dust and could not, but irresponsible pass rushing cost Michigan more than once.|
|Iowa||5||-||5||Very competent against a day of single blocking, which got him a lot of half points.|
|Penn State||4||3||1||Also not a great day.|
|Illinois||2||-||2||Not a major factor. [here this just becomes true so i say it again]|
|Purdue||2||2||0||Not a major factor.|
|Wisconsin||1||1||0||Not a major factor.|
Disclaimers about UFR being a DL-friendly grading system apply; even so, that's pretty good for a redshirt sophomore entering the lineup for the first time. The drive after Indiana's "doomed from the start" 85-yard touchdown you may have seen on the sidebar when Jordan Kovacs or JT Floyd was discussed was probably my favorite series in last year's UFR process. Michigan desperately needed a stop and RVB provided:
Do you know what I did when Indiana had that 85 yard run?
I thought to myself "I bet Ryan Van Bergen missed a check and will spend the rest of the game personally destroying the Indiana offense."
No. I threw the cat at the TV and vowed to find Jim Herrmann and find a way to blame it on him.
His hulk up after that play continued through Michigan State (when he was "going from a non-entity to a guy who's making plays") and Iowa, when he "only got a +5" because of an array of half-points. Unfortunatley it evaporated on a meh day against Penn State and for the rest of the year Van Bergen was hovering around the zero that is not a good day for a DL. I think some of that has to do with the rest of the defense: Illinois just kept going outside and Wisconsin passing over the middle, leaving few opportunities for him to make plays.
The move outside is a complicating factor, though it remains to be seen just how much of one it is. In the clips at left there's a section in which RVB gets MASSEY'D back; understandable since at 6'6", 271 there's only so much you can do to avoid getting blown back on every play. The ratio of good to bad there is encouraging, but more encouraging for his future as a defensive end is the section on agility and those five sacks. As a bonus, before he slid into the starting lineup he was Graham's backup.
Van Bergen knows the position, was recruited to play it, and is entering his fourth year on campus with a season as a solid starter under his belt. Least useful phrase ever: he's not going to be Brandon Graham. Mitigating phrase: but he should be solid. At a spot more amenable to pass rush and with more experience, RVB should brush up against double-digit sacks and see his UFRs climb into the consistently good realm inhabited by, say, Tim Jamison as a senior.
Here's a change: instead of massive attrition and injury bringing a walk-on into play, at this spot a walk-on's unavailability is a problem. Will Heininger tore his knee up in spring practice and will miss the season, leaving Van Bergen backed up by… some guys… I guess.
The guy who most prominent in the fall practice was true freshman Jibreel Black, a stocky 6'1" 262 pound pass-rush specialist who was issued the just-vacated 55 and has a special section in his recruiting profile in which people either say things that sound like Brandon Graham or just flat-out compare him to probably the best defensive end ever to play at Michigan. Here's Rodriguez:
“He wears No. 55 and looks a little like BG at times. But he’s got a burst and some natural athletic ability. I’ve been really pleased with his progress.”
No pressure, kid.
Rodriguez further called out Black as "the freshman lineman most likely to have a chance to play." Black won't be much of a factor as a true freshman; hope for a year in which he holds his own when RVB needs a breather and maybe makes a couple of MAC offensive tackles look silly.
Redshirt freshman Anthony LaLota is also in the mix for playing time behind Van Bergen; he was a high four-star to the recruiting sites (recruiting profile) before a disappointing week at the Army game saw his rankings take a significant hit. He still checked in as a Rivals 250 guy and was just outside the Scout 100, so it wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, his height and weight were significantly overstated by the same sites and when he hit campus two inches and 30 pounds short of expectations, he was destined for a redshirt. He got that redshirt, got up to 256 by fall of last year, and is now listed at 270—possibly time to play, possibly in need of another 15 pounds since he's a couple inches taller than Black. The coaches have been radio silent on LaLota (a Google news search turns up zero, whereas Black is getting some pub), so it might be the latter.
Former tight end Steve Watson is also here, but he's pretty much David Cone on defense. I imagine if push comes to shove LaLota will see the field before he does despite the initial depth chart. That seems like a nod to seniority.
|IRRESPONSIBLE BUT EFFECTIVE|
|blows up WMU draw|
|making an ankle tackle|
|JUST THE FORMER|
|dropping into coverage|
|spinning inside of the OT|
|Incredibly open dig/seam|
|hit Cousins as he throws|
|excellent on the stunt here|
|murders this dead|
|reads the pull|
|gets outside and avoids a cut|
|two guys double Roh|
Roh against Purdue.
Craig Roh is the Denard Robinson of the defense: a highly touted recruit that should have spent his freshman year redshirting and sucking up Breaston-level practice hype before debuting as a promising but still so raw redshirt freshman in 2010. Since it's the Age of Doom, Roh had to start as a 225 pound defensive end in the Big Ten.
The results were mixed, trending towards negative. When opponents got a solid block on him he was done, something Michigan tried to prevent by slanting him extensively. That worked well enough, but since there's only so much you can do with a defensive end that small his pass rush repertoire shrunk from the Swiss Army Knife set that saw Roh rise to become a top 50 prospect on at least one site to the hope he could run around guys.
There was one major positive the clips at right don't show: he was seemingly better in coverage than Michigan veteran linebackers, able to track tight ends up to 20 yards downfield and surprisingly capable of doing something about it if and when the ball arrived. The hope at linebacker is that Roh's advanced coverage skills were Greg Robinson's doing.
But without further adieu, Roh's '09 numbers, keeping in mind that UFRs are slanted towards defensive ends and getting a small positive is treading water there:
|WMU||5.5||1||4.5||Pretty good debut; showed a variety of pass-rush moves including a sick spin.|
|Notre Dame||2||3||-1||Drew a key hold but mostly neutralized. Looked like a freshman.|
|EMU||6.5||3||3.5||A couple of nice plays when EMU put him on the edge and tried to fool or read him. Athleticism should be an asset against zone read teams.|
|Indiana||3||1||2||Not really in on much.|
|Michigan State||4.5||0.5||4||Not getting as much pressure as you'd like, though.|
|Iowa||5.5||1||4.5||Had a couple hurries, used his athleticism well from the backside on a couple runs.|
|Penn State||4||1||3||Got a sack against the real side of the PSU D.|
|Illinois||7||2.5||4.5||Effective slanting all day; not great in pass rush yet.|
|Purdue||6||4.5||1.5||Extensive discussion below.|
|Wisconsin||4||6||-2||Wisconsin was always going to be the team to own him.|
The Purdue game exposed Roh's limitations more obviously than any other. The Boilers lined up in an array of 3x1 sets and got big gains by running right at Roh when he lined up to the open side of the field:
Michigan flipped Graham to that side of the field and Purdue started rolling away from him to the receiver-heavy side of the field, completing a bunch of wide open passes. Michigan flipped back and Roh was again unable to fight through blockers to maintain his edge:
As the UFR made clear, there are a lot of reasons Michigan's defense was so porous last year but running out a freshman defensive end was one of them. The end result:
Roh did some good stuff on slants and was responsible when he had an opportunity to overrun plays, which gives him that modest positive score above, but big minuses in pressure fall mostly on the shoulders of the DEs and when one of the DEs is Brandon Graham they fall mostly on the shoulders of the DE who isn't Brandon Graham. So if you apply a chunk of that pressure metric to Roh, you get a solidly negative day.
This year Roh is better prepared for the rigors of the Big Ten. Rodriguez:
“He played last year at about 225 as a true freshman and did a good job. Now, he is probably closer to 240 to 245 and running just as well if not better. I think that and the experience that he has been out there before, you can see. He’s guy that we want to move around a little bit. Craig is a very active, high-motor player and being able 245-250 pounds is going to let him hold up…especially with those big physical team, starting with the first game.”
Going from 225 to 245 and from freshman to sophomore means Roh should make a greater leap than anyone else on the defense. He came to Michigan with a mountain of recruiting hype based on his diabolical array of pass rush moves and dominating Under Armor Game performance. He's got the hype; he's got the weight; he's got the experience…
Sort of! The catch in the Craig Roh explosion is this niggling move to the 3-3-5, where he's a strongside linebacker:
As Michigan's defense worked more in the 3-3-5 set during spring ball, Roh divided his time between linebacker and defensive line.
"There’s some changes," he said. "I’ve never been in a linebacker [position], second-level, setting up there. Some guys are playing basically the same position they played last year. For me, this is something new and different.
"[Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson] is helping me a lot with the learning curve."
No one's sure how much Michigan will be running a three man line this fall but it will be some, which will give Roh the ability to attack from surprising angles and use his vertical speed to get into the backfield. It will also expose him to play action, counters, and other plays he's not used to dealing with much that can take advantage of the inability to change direction that had everyone projecting him as a defensive end despite being linebacker size. Now, you could just say he'll blitz all the time but that would get predictable; it would also impinge on Jonas Mouton's ability to do the same thing, and Mouton's a guy who has the exact same strengths Roh does. They'll have to split the fun bits where they tear into the backfield.
All this makes it difficult to project what Roh will do this season. A guess: doubling his 7.5 TFLs and significantly adding to his two sacks is a good bet. I don't think he'll be a crazy star just yet, but I expect to be saying the same things about him next year that I'm saying about Mike Martin this year.
It's here more than anywhere else that confusion about exactly how "multiple" the defense is going to be wreaks havoc with position projections. One man's guess at the setup here: Roh will be able to flip from linebacker to defensive end with some aplomb, but his backups are likely to be one or the other.
The defensive-end-ish backup will probably be redshirt junior Brandon Herron, Roh's backup last year. Though he lost his job to the touted freshman he got a regular shift like Sagesse or Banks; unlike Sagesse or Banks his performance didn't register even the brief slices of notability the aforementioned seniors managed. The only clip I got that involves him is a single passing play against Indiana on which he successfully walls off a TE seam, and his UFR notes read "did make one good tackle," "eh," "some good run defense," "nonfactor," "meh," and "eh, ok." You get the idea.
That's not good because of Herron's position, which is supposed to be a source of big plays. As long as a guy like Sagesse holds the fort at his position things are pretty much good. If Herron does nothing positive or negative that's a much greater opportunity spurned. Gradual improvement is likely; Herron will remain a guy Michigan kills time with until Roh can get back in there.
While Herron was out in spring and Michigan was running something approximating a 3-3-5, JB Fitzgerald acted as Roh's backup. The linebacker preview already addressed his shaky '09 performance. As a backup here I imagine Michigan will always be in a three-man line so Fitzgerald can play linebacker; he's never played DE. His best shot at playing time is if Michigan has a passing-down package that sees Roh put his hand down.
|Princeton, New Jersey - 6'6" 260
|Scout||4*, #15 DE, #116 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #11 SDE, #215 overall|
|ESPN||80, #13 DE|
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, Penn State, Florida, Stanford|
|YMRMFSPA||Alain Kashama… except good!|
|AA game roundup. Hello: Anthony Lalota.|
|Notes||Early enrollment. Teammate (Tyler Stockton) committed to ND.|
Anthony LaLota came to the attention of college recruiters via a very strange and nasal route: Terry Bowden. Bowden met LaLota's father at some corporate event, got LaLota's film, and then devoted one of his columns to the kid and his upside. Key graf that's not getting ahead of ourselves at all:
I've broadcasted several University of Virginia football games over the last couple of years and he reminds me very much of Howie Long's son, Chris.
Yes, Chris Long as in the guy taken right after Jake Long in last year's NFL draft. Schwing.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. LaLota may have Chris Long upside, but his rep was that he was big and raw. Then he showed up at 230 pounds—which you'll note is a full 30 pounds less than the number above, which was harvested from dozens of internet links and Michigan's official site—and started practicing at Greg Robinson's DE/LB hybrid spot. He could probably snap 90% of this blog's readership in half, but he's not so big in context.
He's raw, at least. Notre Dame Scout.com guy Mike Frank:
"When you watch him, he's just an extremely athletic kid that just runs real well, plays aggressively, pretty big kid that just plays very well," he said. …
"I think he's one of those 'projectable guys,' a guy who's not ready to play from day one because I think he might need a little work on technique. But he's a guy that's got so much athletic ability that you think that it'll be a short time before you see him on the field," Frank said.
Frank also called LaLota "an ideal candidate defensively."
LaLota's coach echoed the sentiments about his athleticism:
“Just an endless amount of potential. Runs like a deer; doesn’t get tired. He’s relentless just keeps going after the ball. Could play offensive or defensive tackle. Ton of potential. Only played 12 games of football in his entire life. He continues to learn, and a kid that has Ivy League grades, as well.”
His position coach agrees:
"His upside is just absolutely out of sight," adds Law, who played at Rutgers. "Right now he's still learning, but he's learning fast. He has all the natural skills to be a big-time player in college."
When LaLota showed up at the Army game, he showed off his potential… and how far he has to go. He went mostly unmentioned, but Rivals' Barry Every filed this report:
ASSETS: Excellent height, great frame and long arms.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Really needs to work on pad level at the point of attack. He cannot get by on size and strength alone against this level of competition.
WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE IN PRACTICE: Seems to be a high-effort guy that really wants to get better as a defensive end.
CONCLUSION: Most likely a redshirt candidate next season as he continues to learn his position and acclimate to playing against stiffer competition. His excellent frame is meant for long-term success.
LaLota was the only Michigan commitment of the eight who attended an All America game to not impress. Rivals chucked him down 90 spots and Scout took back their fifth star after he struggled with more experienced opposition. He remains in the 100-200 range on all three sites, so that's not a disaster.
Obviously, the Anthony LaLota word of the day is "potential." Of this he has a ton. Despite having only a single year of college football under his belt, by March schools from every BCS conference had offered, including Penn State, LSU, West Virginia, and Boston College. By June, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Florida had added their names to the list. Yow.
Michigan will have to wait and see whether he's the guy who got all those offers or the guy who couldn't quite hack it at the all star game. Though his stock has dipped of late, LaLota's inexperiece means he's barely scratching the surface of his ability. Think of him as a 6'4", 230 version of Press Your Luck. No whammies.
Why Alain Kashama? Kashama, a Canadian, was also a very large, extremely athletic defensive end with little experience. He did exactly nothing in his Michigan career until the very end of it, when he owned Florida in the Outback Bowl, but his athleticism took him on a five-year tour of NFL practice squads. LaLota projects better because he's better scouted and had a boatload of offers.
Guru Reliability: High. All Star appearance.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Though the guru reliability is "high," they all say LaLota is a boom-or-bust sort. We won't know what Michigan will get out of him for at least a couple years.
Projection: LaLota showing up 30 pounds light might actually be a boon for his chances at early playing time, as he's slotted into this spinner position and, given his athleticism, seems like an excellent fit for the spot. Still, he's so new to the game a redshirt seems likely, and preferable.
Prepare to be ensmitened by links!
Update 1/5: In an effort to cut down on the size of the board, I've excised the list of changes that lurk at the bottom. All relevant articles are linked, and if you want to see each change as it happens you can check the revisions tab at the top.
Linked to articles on TX CB Demontre Hurst, FL CB Jayron Hosley, OH CB Justin Turner (and FL WR Jeremy Gallon), FL RB commit Vincent Smith (another one), SC DE Sam Montgomery (second), MI DT Will Campbell, SC OL Quinton Washington, FL LB Brandin Hawthorne, LA DT Dequinta Jones, OH CB Mike Edwards, FL CB Mywan Jackson, OH OL Henry Conway. Added OH CB Dale Peterman, FL CB Adrian Witty. Moved MI DT Will Campbell to committed. More on Campbell.
Removed GA S Darren Myles (dropped us), CA OL Michael Phillip (no mention of he and M for a long time).
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
William Campbell AKA The Otter AKA Thor AKA MI12 is was covered yesterday. Now onto other folk.
Interviews with people who are hopefully not vampires
A lot of GBW interviews with the Michigan commits at the Army bowl showed up on the Myspace recently. There are too many to embed them all but summaries of anything noteworthy follow:
NJ DE Anthony Lalota: didn't mention OL when asked about position versatility; did say he might slide inside on passing downs. Sounds like he doesn't expect to redshirt.
FL WR Jeremy Gallon: not much of note, but he seems like a really good kid.
OH CB Justin Turner: wants to play corner at Michigan and Michigan wants him at corner; after his performance that's likely to be his spot. Turner knew what Campbell was going to do.
FL K Brendan Gibbons: he's never kicked off the ground before, which may have contributed to his missed FG. Recruited Campbell pretty heavily. He did mention he'd been talking to VA QB Tajh Boyd—one of the game MVPs—and that Boyd was "interested." That's the first indication Michigan had been conversing with Boyd.
There's also an interview with on-again, off-again Michigan prospect OH OT Marcus Hall, the highly-rated Glenville tackle. He did confirm his Michigan official coming up this weekend, and cited Campbell as a friend and Michigan recruiter. If he "had to pick today" it would be Ohio State, but that's because it's the only place he's been.
As mentioned previously, I'll believe Hall is a Michigan commit when he's a redshirt sophomore living on Geddes and no sooner, but a visit raises the chances from zero to something that's not zero. Hall's teammate and OH CB Mike Edwards, about whom more later, is also supposed to be in this weekend.
Corners in(?), corners out.
The defensive coordinator change has given TX CB Demontre Hurst pause:
Although Hurst was scheduled to visit Michigan on Jan. 9, he says that trip is unlikely to occur. "I'm not sure about that one anymore," he said. "I know they just lost their defensive coordinator (Scott Shafer), so I'm holding off.
"I talked to (linebackers) coach Jay Hopson about it and he said they'll get someone great," he said. "But I don't want to take a visit there if they don't have a defensive coordinator yet."
I've left him on the board for now; he's unlikely to end up at M, obviously.
Also looking like a longer shot is the aforementioned Edwards, who picked up a Tennessee offer. Sayeth Edwards:
“Tennessee definitely has the edge right now."
If he doesn't come out of his visit this weekend with Michigan at least equal with UT you can cross him off the list.
FL CB Mywan Jackson would like to decide soon:
"My mind's not made up yet, but I should know by next week," Jackson said. "Definitely next week. It'll be exciting to get it over with and let everyone known where I'm going."
Jackson has UL, UNC, and Michigan on his list; that article says Jackson claimed all three of the schools were even but said UNC "might have the inside track" because his teammate and friend Angelo Hadley is committed to the Heels. Jackson took an unofficial to Michigan in the summer and had an official scheduled for the 23rd; if he decides before he takes it the end result is very probably UNC. Update: announcement scheduled for Thursday, and the article comes from the UNC scout site. Meanwhile, no Michigan site has gotten hold of Jackson in a long time. All signs point to UNC.
With these guys all looking like longshots it's no surprise there are some new guys on the radar. One might commit soon, if he gets offered.:
Only one player, Ursuline's Dale Peterman, who is expected to announce early next week that he will be attending the University of Michigan to play football, fouled out.
That's OH CB Dale Peterman, to be specific. When it comes to recruiting, you take random one-liners in local newspapers seriously at your peril, but Rivals put out a followup article($) so there are some legs to this one. Peterman had grade issues that held his recruitment up but does have South Carolina and Wisconsin offers, so at least a couple other schools think he's a BCS-level talent. He's rated a meh three star by Rivals, a 73 (meh three star) by ESPN, and is currently unrated at Scout. IMO, Michigan is considering an offer only if guys like Jackson and Jayron Hosley go elsewhere. Which, yeah… well.
The other new name is FL CB Adrian Witty, a teammate of quarterback recruit Denard Robinson. Both Robinson and Witty will be up this weekend; Witty lacks an offer but "feels" he'll get one on the visit. Even if he does it might be hard to convince him to like snow:
Kansas State and FIU are the only two in that list to officially offer the 5-foot-10, 160-pound cornerback yet. FIU being the local school may have an advantage.
“If I have to leave the state I do, but I’d like to stay in state,” said Witty.
Yeah, Kansas State and FIU offers don't scream super-stud, but a knee injury that robbed him of much of his senior year has something to do with that. Witty is unranked by Rivals and Scout. Let's not mince words: he's a complete wildcard and would be an Englemon-type late offer, a backup plan. But Englemon turned out okay.
Back to Hosley, Luke Stampini updates his status:
The Michigan staff better have a hill and a sled for Jayron when he visits Ann Arbor Jan 16. He heard about the snow Michigan received a week or so ago and is not feeling that. “I heard they got a bunch of snow and some people even lost power, I don’t want that [laughing].” Michigan seems to be behind the 8 ball now, but like I always said, sell him early playing time. The early playing time, showing him snow actually can be fun [sledding is fun for all ages], and see where it gets you. …
Jayron is still being coy about naming a leader with his usual “I’ll know more following the visits”, but just me reading between the lines, I say the Hokies lead.
Columbus and Blacksburg aren't exactly Florida, either, so I don't know if the cold will be a determining factor. Visits, obviously, will be important.
Ain't gonna lie: at this point it looks like Michigan will be taking a suboptimal flier on a second cornerback unless they pull a rabbit out of their hat.
I'm a get you
Pahokee LB Brandin Hawthorne is the Palm Beach Post's small schools defensive player of the year and gets the requisite fluffy article to accompany the award. This one's got a hell of a quote*:
Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson has a nickname for senior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne.
It's "psycho." But he means that in the nicest way.
"He says that because there's nothing I fear," Hawthorne said. "I don't care how big you are, I'm a get you."
Hawthorne has an "audio slideshow" up, too.
*(I mean this sincerely, btw, not in any sort of mocking fashion. Sometimes on the internet it's tough to tell.)
He a get you, too
The Post's small schools offensive player of the year is none other than Pahokee RB Vincent Smith. His article starts off with a flagrant lie about his height and a nice quote from his coach:
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Smith never disappointed and eclipsed 2,000 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns his senior season, earning him the Palm Beach Post's Small Schools Offensive Player of the Year.
"He hit the scene confident and motivated," Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson said. "His maturity outside the football field has been measurable. He's just a great kid. Everyone just looks at him and says, 'I hope he succeeds. I hope he's successful' and everything's coming together for him."
This is the second consecutive year a Michigan recruit has captured this award; last year it was Justin Feagin. Smith also reeled in the Sun-Sentinel's area POY award.
Smith has his own slideshow up, BTW.
DeQuinta Jones' Status
I think this contains a typo, but this comes from a paper covering Oklahoma State:
Bastrop, La., defensive tackle DeQuinta Jones has set up a Jan. 13 [sic?] visit date, according to Scout.com. Currently committed to Michigan, Jones is also planning to visit Arkansas this month, as well as take an official visit to Michigan.
That's probably a January 23rd visit, as midweek visits are unusual what with the whole "I am nominally supposed to be in school" thing. In any case, Jones earlier listed Oklahoma and Alabama as potential visit destinations, and there's no mention of either here. Oversight or change in plans? Eh… don't know. I do know I feel much better about Jones sticking if Alabama and Oklahoma aren't two of the competitors.
Rounding out the line
Michigan would like to pick up another offensive lineman or two and the highest-rated guy left on their board is SC OL Quinton Washington. He's been quiet of late, so information about his preferences is scarce. Michigan and South Carolina are kind of sort of believed to be a tenuous top two.
Washington still hasn't taken any visits except the one he took to M in the fall, but Tennessee would like to change that. They've hired away one of South Carolina's top recruiters and have Washington scheduled for an official on the weekend of the 23rd. South Carolina will get their shot on the 17th, and no one really knows where he's leaning now:
No announcement is pending.
“I really couldn’t tell you,” the standout from St. Stephen High School in Timberland, S.C., said. “I might make it the day after my final visit. I might make it on Signing Day. I might make it a few days after. I really don’t know.”
Washington said distance from home won’t be a factor in his decision. As for playing in cold weather, he said, “I’ll get used to it.”
Having Michigan's chief rival for Washington's signature see the guy who was recruiting him switch has to be a benefit.
One indirectly encouraging indicator comes from OH OL Henry Conway. Conway was planning on coming up this weekend but has canceled that trip:
Scout.com’s No. 85 offensive tackle was originally supposed to visit the Wolverines on Jan. 9, but says he will likely not take the trip to Ann Arbor. “I’m not gonna take a visit there unless they offer me,” Conway said.
“They’ve made a lot of early offers and don’t have any scholarships left,” he said of the Wolverines. “So unless someone commits somewhere else or tells them ‘no’ there won’t be an offer to open up.”
Conway's a decent recruit with offers from State, BC, and Illinois amongst others so Michigan must be confident they'll pull in Washington, Hall, or NC OL Travis Bond.
As recently as a few days ago the status quo with Sam Montgomery held: LSU leads, Michigan trails but will get a visit, longshot. But ESPN's JC Shurbutt got a sunnier vibe from the UA practices than you might expect:
Everyone who spoke with uncommitted defensive end Sam Montgomery (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood) got a LSU-North Carolina-Michigan feeling from him. That makes sense as Montgomery has named the Tigers his leader in multiple news articles during recent weeks, citing his relationship with defensive line coach Earl Land [sic; his name is Lane] Also, North Carolina defensive line coach John Blake has made a huge impact on his recruitment and Michigan is working him hard as well (fellow defensive end Craig Roh, a Wolverines commit, has struck up a friendship with Montgomery this week).
Okay, so, that's better. There were heavy rumors that Lane was about to be LSU's ex-defensive line coach and that this would blow that LSU lead into tiny bits. Hopefully this happens posthaste.
(Sidenote from the above ESPN article on 2010 WR Kenny Shaw: "word is he could be a player whose stock really rises once schools find out about him." Shaw is FL WR commit Ricardo Miller's teammate.)
Oh my God. Three things combined to make this past week the most frenetic in MGoBlog recruit-trackin' history: Will Campbell, the rise of the UA game as a thing you have to pay attention to, and a flood of articles released for free on both games. Today I'm going to dump about 5k words on recruiting on you; I've split things up into two groups.
This is group one: scouting reports and impressions from the seven committed recruits who participated in All-American festivities over the past week. (There were actually eight but the Will Campbell stuff went in the Will Campbell post.) Group two is a standard, if mondo, version of Tuesday Recruitin'. That's later today.
OL Taylor Lewan
Rivals' Barton Simmons on AZ OL Taylor Lewan:
Lewan's body is still developing but it looks like he has the ability to really be a great offensive tackle. He is lean right now but is extremely long and looks like he has the ability to add weight. Lewan uses his hands well, stays back in his pass set and has the feet for tackle. Lewan will have an extremely high ceiling as he gets stronger and bigger in a college weight program.
Another take from the same guy:
It's hard not to like Lewan's potential at tackle. He is light in the pants right now and he's going to need a couple of years to develop in a college weight program but once he does, he has shown that he has some terrific tools to utilize. Lewan is an athletic tackle with a long frame who looks to be every bit of 6-7. He has good feet and balance and as he gets more weight behind him to allow him to handle power moves, he will be a tough matchup for any pass rusher.
Barry Every's (very similar) take:
ASSETS: Excellent height, long arms, and really athletic feet.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Needs to gain at least 25 to 30 pounds in order to become an effective run blocker.
WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE IN PRACTICE: His lateral movement and natural knee bend was probably the best of all the linemen on the White team.
CONCLUSION: Lewan has the ideal frame for the strength coaches at Michigan to work with. Lewan is almost definitely redshirt material, but after that watch out. The sky is the limit for this long armed mauler.
This is a consistent chorus: needs a redshirt and might need two years—when he's a redshirt freshman Schilling and Dorrestein will be seniors anyway—but has major upside.
Scout's Brandon Huffman:
"The first person that I saw that really stood out to me was Taylor Lewan," said Scout.com West Coast Regional Manager Brandon Huffman. "You look at him and you see a guy that is really reminiscent of Jake Long. He's ridiculously athletic. I saw him for the first time at a combine back in May. Physically he is as impressive an offensive lineman as you'll see in the country."
ESPN noted a practice battle between Lewan and Oklahoma commit Justin Chaisson, who had two sacks in the game itself:
It was an athletic draw between White offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) and White defensive end Justin Chaisson (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) during one-on-one pass rushing drills, as both players showed great feet and quickness.
On the downside, Lewan's inexperience and lack of size were occasionally mentioned:
First-year offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) has exciting upside. Still, his limited experience -- he played D-line for most of his prep career -- is being exposed at times against this level of competition.
All told, it sounds like Lewan was better than expected and should be moving up somewhat in revised rankings.
DE Craig Roh
ASSETS: High energy guy that plays with passion. He also has incredibly low pad level at the point of attack.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Needs to add at least 25 more pounds to be an effective run stopper in the Big Ten.
WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE IN PRACTICE: Roh was really quick off the edge and took advantage of the fact that there was no real left offensive tackle on the White team.
CONCLUSION: Roh has a lot of upside but is most likely a redshirt candidate that needs to get bigger and stronger in the Wolverine weight room in 2009.
Some practice notes from ESPN have an approving mention:
Playing next to Brown, Craig Roh (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) has been very disruptive this week with his inside spin move. The heady defensive end showed a nice counter of that by coming back to the outside and having good success against offensive tackle Stavion Lowe (Brownwood, Texas).
Roh then went out and was perhaps the most impressive player in the UA game not named Matt Barkley:
TEAM WHITE: Craig Roh – The Michigan commit was constantly pressuring the quarterback. He is great off the edge, he has a big time spin move, and he never slows down until the play is officially dead. He will need to add weight and strength to become better against the run, but he is a pass rush specialist that could make an early impact in Ann Arbor.
Rivals' Jamie Newberg echoed those sentiments:
Roh got better as the week of practice progressed. He had a big first half. Once he gains some size to his frame, watch out.
And the Texas bloggers at Barking Carnival had no reason to mention a kid from Arizona going to Michigan but did anyway:
Craig Roh DE (Michigan)
Straight baller that showed a Dwight Freeney spin on Kelley for a sack and sacked/tackled Russel Shepard in space. Had a handful of QB pressures over the course of the game. Rich Rod got himself a good one.
Roh's pad level was repeatedly mentioned, as he has a unique stance in which he set himself up at nearly the offensive lineman's knees and shoots forward at the snap, which sets up his spin move as OLs are terrified of letting Roh outside of him.
Overall: sounds like a major leap forward for Roh, possibly into the latter half of top-100 lists that he's not too far outside of now.
DE Anthony LaLota
ASSETS: Excellent height, great frame and long arms.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Really needs to work on pad level at the point of attack. He cannot get by on size and strength alone against this level of competition.
WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE IN PRACTICE: Seems to be a high-effort guy that really wants to get better as a defensive end.
CONCLUSION: Most likely a redshirt candidate next season as he continues to learn his position and acclimate to playing against stiffer competition. His excellent frame is meant for long-term success.
…and that's all, really. LaLota didn't do much in the Army game, and while that's nothing approaching definitive not standing out means he's probably ranked a little high. There was a Lichtenfels mention that he was a "stock down" guy, but that's behind a paywall.
Lalota may slip some in the revised rankings but shouldn't see his fourth star threatened.
WR Jeremy Gallon
Gallon had a very good week despite being the leetlest man in all the land.
Gallon's coach this week is Terry Smith, who you may remember from the Justin King recruiting saga, and he's big (ha!) on Gallon:
At wide receiver, Michigan commit Jeremy Gallon has been far and away the most productive receiver. He has touchdowns catches in each of the practices and has a knack for getting open and sneaking behind the defense. At 5 feet 8, Gallon is small enough to creep through openings and then pop open for the pass.
"He's a pleasant surprise," Smith said. "We knew he was a good athlete but making the adjustment to receiver was always a big question mark. He's scored touchdowns in every practice and he seems to have the knack to get open and make the play."
When Gallon committed out of nowhere he was in the Rivals 100 because one particular analyst (Barry Every) was over the moon about him. He dropped out soon after for good reasons—he's a smurf and he projects to a position he didn't really play in college—but maybe his strong performance in the slot this week sees him re-enter; he's definitely due for a jump up the Scout rankings, where he's a three-star.
Scout's Bob Lichtenfels' take (warning: "stud" deployment):
"I think Gallon is a stud," Lichtenfels said of the 5-9, 175-pound pass-catcher from Apopka, Fla. "I think for Rich Rodriguez, that's the next Darius Reynaud. He doesn't have elite speed, but his quickness and shiftiness is just out of sight."
Gallon was the star of practices all week and was effective in the scrimmage and during the game itself. He is tiny but he has great quickness and he is smart. He knows how to find space between the cornerback and the safety and catches almost everything thrown his way. He'll be a slot receiver at the next level and will be hard to cover, using his lack of size to his advantage.
Gallon's height will always give people an easy out when it comes time to rank someone else ahead of him, but he answered a lot of questions about his ability to play receiver over the week and should be seeing a bump.
CB Justin Turner
Perhaps the weekend's most encouraging development outside of William Campbell's commitment was the excellent play of OH CB Justin Turner. Though Turner got beat by Pat Patterson for a touchdown, he followed that up with a spectacular diving interception at the sideline. More importantly, during the practices he established himself as one of the best corners at the game. That's important, as if Turner struggled and looked like a future safety Michigan would currently have zero committed corners in a year they need two and would probably take three if they can find enough guys they like.
Rivals put him on his team's "hot 11" for his performance during the game:
Turner is a big corner who can move and support the run and he was all over the field in the game. He led the East with seven tackles, had a big interception and helped keep the ever-dangerous Rueben Randle from breaking any big gains. He's a rarity with his combination of size, speed and ball skills at his position.
"He's a guy from day one that I lobbied for as one of the top four or five safeties in the nation. I actually think after watching him this week that he can play corner. His skill set is just (unique). He can play safety, he's great in coverage, and he'll come up and he'll hit you. He could play cover corner in the Big Ten easily. Every coach in the country wants a guy that's 6-2 and can cover."
Turner was named the #8 player on his team by Rivals:
Turner is a big kid who was forced into playing cornerback for the East and did a very solid job all week. In the game itself he showed off his tackling ability and ball skills and showed he's either going to be a rare corner who supports the run well or a ball-hawking safety who isn't afraid to come up and hit. Either way Michigan gets a steal.
I don't know about "steal," since Turner had offers from Ohio State and many others early, but I'll take a good player. He was also named the #2 tackler at the entire Army Bowl by Rivals.
K Brendan Gibbons
Gibbons was 3/4 on extra points, with the miss a blocked one due to a combination of a poor hold (from Jeremy Gallon of all people) and a missed assignment, and 1/2 on field goals from 35 (the make) and 46. His kickoffs were long, though.
Kickers don't get much attention, but Gibbons did get a scouting report from an unusual source: NJ OL Eric Shrive, a Penn State commit and Army teammate:
Michigan lost kicker Anthony Fera when he decommitted and signed with Penn State a few months back. But Shrive says the Wolverines landed on their feet in the kicking department. Brendan Gibbons is the East kicker, and Shrive said he was teeing the ball up at the opposite 45-yard line and booting the thing through the uprights and onto the running track beyond the field. That's a 65-yarder with some distance to spare.
"Our kicker is nasty," Shrive raved.
Kickers remain a crapshoot; at the very least Gibbons looked the part.
OLB Isaiah Bell
ESPN is much higher on Bell than either Rivals or Scout and they were the only service to mention Bell this week. Here's a small bit from the UA practices:
With the employment of a lot of Cover 3, this week's practice has showcased several safeties playing down in the box over slots -- and looking impressive. Black's Isaiah Bell (Youngstown, Ohio/Liberty) came into this game with a reputation for his great run-stopping skills, but he has surprised me with his ability to open his hips and turn and run with faster slots.
Put thoughts of safety from your mind, as Bell showed up at 205 and should push 220 by his sophomore year: dude is a linebacker. But he may be one of a new breed of S/LB hybrid sorts that alternate between run-stuffing and covering slots and so forth.
My guess as to the relative stock levels of the guys performing:
- STOCK UP: Lewan, Gallon, Turner, Roh
- STEADY: Campbell, Bell, Gibbons
- STOCK DOWN: LaLota
If the impressions gleaned here are accurate, that's a net uptick in Michigan's recruits with impressive performances from Turner, Roh, and Gallon outweighing the slight disappointment from LaLota. That goes double because LaLota's relatively new to football and most pundits still said he had excellent upside. We'll see when the rating services release their final revamp for the class of 2009 in a couple weeks.
Update 9/8: Linked to articles on NC OL Travis Bond, MD LB Jelani Jenkins, SC DE Sam Montgomery, OH RB commit Fitzgerald Toussaint, NC LB Hawatha Bell, NJ DE Anthony LaLota, CA QB commit Tate Forcier, FL S Jonathan Scott, VA OL Morgan Moses, NJ WR Nyshier Olivier, FL WR Jeremy Gallon, MD DE Jason Ankrah, MI S Thomas Gordon. Moved MI DT Will Campbell from committed.
Removed SC RB David Sims(Kentucky), AR CB Darius Winston(dropped us).
Some links from Varsity Blue.
RUN FOR YOUR LIVES. Chaos briefly erupted in the streets when OMG shirtless defensive tackle recruit Will Campbell announced he would decommit. Shades of Newsome without the almost-equally-appealing backup plan, cue the rending of garments and curses lodged at a God who isn’t listening, &c.
Listen to me now and believe me later: I don’t think this is a huge deal, as Campbell has been in touch with the Michigan recruiting sites in the aftermath—Newsome, on the other hand, was totally unreachable—and currently has Michigan in a top three($, IIH) that includes two schools—LSU and Miami or USC—he’s never been to. He visited for Michigan’s game against Miami and said this:
"I'm still looking at Michigan," he said. "I'm just opening up all my options right now, looking around. … I’m still strong with Michigan," he added.
The situation as it stands is obviously less desirable than it was a week ago; Michigan still sounds like the solid leader.
Meanwhile, Campbell’s Cass Tech teammate Thomas Gordon has been impressive in his first couple games this fall. Gordon plays quarterback for the Technicians* but projects to safety in college; schools have been waiting to see him in game action. Michigan State just dropped an offer on him; so has Michigan. Gordon will probably take a week or two to render a final decision; that decision is very likely to be Michigan. Humorous side note: Rodriguez apparently nicknamed Gordon “prison abs” during his time at Michigan’s camp.
*(Yes, the Cass Tech Technicians is kind of a Troy Trojans of Troy (We’re From Troy!) sort of nickname, but… hey, football team named “Technicians.”)
Back in the game. A number of ex-Michigan recruits return to the board and make me question the whole idea of removing commitments elsewhere because now I’ve lost all the stuff on them. They are:
- OK RB David Oku got sick of waiting around for Florida State, dropped them, and added Michigan back in. His other finalists are Louisville, Tennessee, and Nebraska. He’ll officially visit for the Illinois game.
- TX S Craig Loston and NC S Devontae Holloman are both Clemson commits who are taking official visits elsewhere; Michigan is on their itineraries. I don’t have great hopes either will get lured in by snake-oil, but if Bowden really implodes this could be it for him and Holloman, at least, had Michigan in a group of two or three before he committed to Clemson. Meanwhile, Mike Farrell notes an unofficial to A&M last week and says “The chance he remains a commitment to Tommy Bowden and his staff become slimmer and slimmer each week.” Farrell’s list of officials doesn’t include Michigan but that appears to be old info.
- MD CB Travis Hawkins had dropped Michigan but now plans to visit with his teammate, MD DE Jason Ankrah.
Defensive end panic has short shelf life. Ankrah, meanwhile, was seduced by whatever weird mojo Penn State has over kids from Maryland, but his love is unrequited:
Last week I mentioned that Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard defensive end Jason Ankrah wanted to commit to Penn State but that the Nittany Lions might have other fish to fry. As of this writing, Ankrah still hasn't talked with Penn State assistant Larry Johnson, and if PSU balks on taking his commitment, Michigan and Tennessee will get official visits and be the teams to beat. Ankrah has talked to coaches Rich Rodriguez of Michigan and Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee, but hasn't talked with Joe Paterno, another potential indication that Penn State has other defensive ends higher on its board.
Penn State already has a four-star kid from, yes, Maryland committed and is also hot on the trail of NJ DE Anthony LaLota. I’m not sure how reliable this is—newspapers are rarely accurate sources of information on where a recruit is leaning—but FWIW, this is encouraging news on him:
LaLota is expected to make his college intentions clear in the coming weeks, with Michigan and Penn State believed to be his current top two choices.
Meanwhile, the buzz that AZ DE Craig Roh is basically down to Michigan and USC continues; he should decide in the next couple weeks. Roh on his Michigan trip:
"It went well. I saw what I needed to see," Roh said. "What I really came here to see is the game-day environment and if I could fit in with the crowd at Michigan. The crowd was electric. That was my first big college game and it was amazing. It was a little bit better than I expected. I really didn't know what to expect, but I was blown away."
There are a lot of positive vibes out there on Roh; I am cautiously optimistic.
Meanwhile, Michigan will get an official from SC DE Sam Montgomery:
Montgomery's scholarship tally exploded to more than 40 offers this summer, but he recently anointed a top list of programs in his recruitment. Earlier this week he touched base with Michigan assistants Tony Gibson and Scott Shafer to inform them that the Maize and Blue had made the cut.
"I'm taking an official (visit to Michigan)," Montgomery reported. "I'm also going to Miami, Southern California and LSU. The other one (his fifth and final official visit) is free."
Local schools Clemson, South Carolina, and North Carolina remain in the game and have gotten unofficials, so there are seven or eight teams still in the running. A long way to go here and most expect him to stay in the south but get ‘em on campus and bler bler bler.
And, finally, if you want to squint hard you could interpret this as a sign Michigan is in a good position with VA DE Will Hill:
"I think I could still put on 10 to 15 pounds and still play on the end. That's my position. … You always have to be working to get faster, stronger, and quicker off the ball. You have to or you'll be left behind." Hill does not have any favorites but says academics is important to his decision. He would also like to go to a school that has a diverse student body. Hill mentioned that he was impressed with Maryland's diversity. He likes Michigan and their academics.
Hill visited unofficially earlier this year; he also has offers from Penn State and Tennessee amongst others.
Ideally, Michigan will pick up two of these three guys soon and then everyone can breathe easier at the position.
Miscellaneous. FL S Jonathan Scott has talked about how fun it would be to go up against his brother, an Ohio State corner, at some point in the future. This now seems unlikely to happen for two reasons. One: his brother is no longer at Ohio State. Two: he’s not favoring Michigan.
Safety Jonathan Scott considers Florida State his favorite, ESPN's JC Shurburtt reports. In addition to the Seminoles, Scott would like to officially visit LSU, Michigan and South Carolina.
Scott previously stated he'd cooled on the Seminoles, who already accepted multiple commitments from safeties. However, it appears now that Florida State views Scott as a weakside outside linebacker target instead.
NC LB Hawatha Bell has Michigan on his short list:
Bell, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior, is ranked No. 15 nationally as a middle linebacker prospect by Scout.com, a national recruiting Web site. Bell says he has narrowed his college choices to North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois and Michigan. He's a high-profile recruit, and opposing teams are gearing up this season to keep him as frustrated as he was Friday.
I believe IN LB Jordan Barnes projects as an MLB but with the unexpected losses of Taylor Hill and Marcus Witherspoon, Michigan could take up to five linebackers in this class; they have between two and four depending on what you think of the two safety commits.
Etc.: VA OL Morgan Moses favors prep school over not qualifying. FL WR commit Jeremy Gallon is going nuts. So is OH RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Michigan is in on this NJ WR Nyshier Olivier kid along with ND; don’t know if they’ll have a scholarship for another wideout who isn’t CA WR Shaquelle Evans. CA QB Tate Forcier committed, obviously. MD LB Jelani Jenkins is fluffed; so is NC OL Travis Bond.