"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
Overall rating: 3.
|Punter||Yr.||Kicker||Yr.||Punt Return||Yr.||Kick Return||Yr.|
|Will Hagerup||Fr.||Brendan Gibbons||Fr.*||Martavious Odoms||Jr.||Darryl Stonum||Jr.|
|Seth Broekhuizen||Fr.*||Justin Meram||Jr.*||Drew Dileo||Fr.||Martavious Odoms||Jr.|
|--||--||Seth Broekhuizen||Fr.*||Terrance Robinson||So.*||Mike Shaw||Jr.|
Just don't fumble and we're good. Unless kicker is a black hole, but what's the worst that could happen?
After a spring in which the motley collection of walk-ons assembled to punt managed to keep just one of their attempts on the field of play, it was a relief to see Will Hagerup launch Zoltan-like bombs in the fall scrimmage. While he's likely to go through some growing pains as he adjusts to college, mgouser Wonk put together a diary demonstrating that punter is a spot at which you can throw in a true freshman without much worry. A three-year study of freshman punters sees them land around 73rd nationally—just a smidgen below average—with a 39.3 net.
So your average freshman punter checks in just below average, and Hagerup is not your average freshman punter. He got the rare third star from Rivals and is their #1 true punter after a senior year in which he actually bettered Zoltan's numbers:
As a senior, Hagerup punted 22 times, landing seven within the opponent's 20-yard line, and averaging 42.9 yards per attempt. By comparison, Mesko had a career average of 42.5. In a statistic suggesting Hagerup applies adequate hang time to be a factor at the college level, opponents averaged just three yards per return against him.
No word on awesome high-stepping fakes, or disastrous mind-meltdown ones. Rodriguez called Hagerup "a real talent" this fall, then repeated it for emphasis. I'm not saying he's the Space Emperor of Space or anything, but while no one can replace Zoltan in our hearts Hagerup probably won't be far off on the field.
As per tradition when this site attempts to project a kicker it's never seen play, we punt. (HA!) Projecting kickers remains a rube's game. For example, last year this preview expressed "disquiet" because projected starter Jason Olesnavage couldn't beat out mediocre competition in '08, sucked in the spring game, and wasn't the touted freshman Brendan Gibbons. Olesnavage proceeded to go 11 of 15, a 73% strike rate. So we won't really have a grasp on what's going on here until midseason.
Right now the tea leaves are grim things scattered everywhere except the center of the cup, however. Rodriguez has been openly fretting about the situation since spring. An example from Big Ten media days—here Rodriguez is asked what's his biggest concern:
"Probably the kicking game, particularly field goals."
Troy Woolfolk's ankle had not yet been smitten, but even at that point being more concerned with anything other than the secondary (which thankfully finished second) sets off alarm klaxons. More go off when AnnArbor.com quotes Rodriguez saying "guh," which is my line.
But I was pretty guh last year, too, and that worked out okay. Hopefully Gibbons can find the accuracy to live up to his scholarship status; if he can't the silver lining is that Michigan might be forced into correct fourth-down strategy. That's the ticket!
Michigan found its best kickoff returner since Steve Breaston in the form of blazing fast Darryl Stonum last year. Stonum ripped off this critical touchdown against Notre Dame…
…and took enough other kicks out to midfield to see Michigan into the top 25 nationally at #23. Stonum himself was actually better than that; his 25.7 yard average would have been good for 4th if he took back all of Michigan's returns.
Touchdowns are outliers and we should expect Stonum's production to fall back to earth a little bit this year; hopefully Michigan has a better second option and can maintain their above-average production here.
When it comes to punts,
HOLD ON TO THE GODDAMN BALL
was the directive last year. It was not followed very well. This was actually an improvement on 2008, when kickoffs were also 50-50 to be horrible turnovers, but it wasn't very fun. A rotating array of jelly-fingered receivers toured the position last year, with Junior Hemingway's 10 returns for 86 yards and Martavious Odoms's 6 for 54 leading the returning players. (Brandon Graham's punt blocks actually made him Michigan's best punt returner: two for 36 yards and a TD.)
This year it looks like Hemingway has been relieved of duties. The four guys in contention this fall are Odoms, Terrence Robinson, Jeremy Gallon, and Drew Dileo. Gallon reputedly did not seize his opportunity to perform over the summer* and then suffered an ankle injury in fall, Robinson's hands have plagued him since his arrival in Ann Arbor (he was the only player to fumble a punt in the fall scrimmage), and Dileo is a true freshman. Your punt returner by default is Odoms until such time as one of the guys who isn't a fumble-prone starting receiver steps up and takes it from him.
Will that happen? It's 50-50. If it does I wouldn't put it past Dileo to step forth and claim the job. The man himself said he was recruited primarily to return punts, and reports from the fall scrimmage said that he looked extremely smooth doing that. If Odoms makes some bad decisions it won't take Michigan long to yank him.
I suppose here's where we should make mention of Michigan's coverage units. A combination of Zoltan and the spread punt formation made the punt cover guys highly effective, with opponents managing just 5.6 yards a return. I put together a little stat that measures how many yards a team gives back on average (so a punt without a return is zero) and Michigan finished 28th last year despite Zoltan finishing 9th in gross average. That's pretty good; Michigan can probably expect similar.
On kick returns, opponents averaged 22.3 per, which was slightly below average. Stonum's Beanie Bowl-opening KOR TD and some disturbing half-speed practice returns in the fall scrimmage have people worried, but that's scant evidence to suggest last year's kickoff team, which returns largely intact, is going to fall off a cliff.
*(Mmmm David Brandon euphemism.)
Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.
Overall rating: 4.
|Zoltan Mesko||Sr.*||Jason Olesnavage||Sr.*||Martavious Odoms||So.||Boubacar Cissoko||So.|
|Bryan Wright||Jr.*||Brendan Gibbons||Fr.||Greg Mathews||Sr.||Martavious Odoms||So.|
|--||-||Bryan Wright||Jr.*||Terrance Robinson||Fr.*||Carlos Brown||Sr.|
One of my slides when I went out to New York to talk to the alumni club there was titled "I Love Rugby Punting And So Do You," and this command now extends to the entire readership. Michigan's punt game in 2007 and 2008:
|Awesome Highstepping Fakes||0||2|
Michigan increased the average distance of their punts and still managed to reduce returns by 40%. Across the 83 (ugh) punts Michigan launched last year, the increase in average was worth 282 yards. That's a huge source of hidden yards. And also awesome highstepping fakes.
And though the average doesn't actually show it, I'm of the opinion that the rugby punting significantly reduced the chances of an opponent breaking a big return. The delay allowed by the rollout coupled with the spread formation allows players to get free releases once the punt is off instead of worrying about blocking a guy and then releasing. Guys get downfield quicker, and there more of them.
All this resulted in Michigan's punt game finishing #5 nationally. Zoltan returns and should at least replicate last year's feats, perhaps with a side of curing cancer. If he does, this blog is going to try to get him a Heisman vote. Just one.
Projecting kickers you've never seen before is a rube's game, so this will be brief. But I have some disquiet for these reasons:
- Olesnavage couldn't beat out the walk-ons who preceded him; Kickin' Competency Lopata was pretty erratic last year.
- Olesnavage was the guy in the spring game; the kicking demonstration early was sort of a fiasco.
- I'd rather see the touted freshman win the job because I assume he's got higher upside than the fifth-year walkon.
Jason Olesnavage is the first one out of the gate right now. He has kicked pretty well, pretty consistent. Some days have been better than others. Brendan Gibbons, Bryan Wright and Kris Pauloski are the other three in camp and they’ve all had their moments. That’s an area that again none of them have kicked in a game quality kicks yet. We are going to try and put them under pressure the next few days and see if there is anybody else emerges or who kind of takes control of it.”
I'm slightly mollified by the idea that if Olesnavage is about equal with Gibbons, you might as well redshirt your freshman.
I don't know what happens here; I'll be happy with consistency from 40 and in.
HOLD ON TO THE GODDAMN BALL
End preview section.
No, not really. Okay. Okay, so if you ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the room, Michigan's returns last year were okay. Both units finished in the middle of the pack nationally and Martavious Odoms ripped off a punt return touchdown. Both primary returners—Cissoko took control of the kick returns by midseason—were freshmen and return, so you'd expect some improvement there, primarily in their effort to
HOLD ON TO THE GODDAMN BALL
One concern: Michigan's operating considerably shorthanded this year, which might cause the special teams to get filled out with walk-ons and whatnot instead of backup scholarship players. This might be a slight drag on Michigan's ability to block dudes.
Another note: Michigan's a lot deeper in little dodgy guys this year and so if Odoms can't
HOLD ON TO THE GODDAMN BALL
he'll get a quick hook, at which point it sounds like you might see Terrance Robinson:
On punt returns, Donovan Warren, Terrence Robinson, Martavious Odoms and Greg Mathews all worked on returns. In semi-live punt returning, Robinson made a couple of tough reads and catches. Granted, it's a small, small subset of what really goes on, but he seems to be separating himself a little bit.
I'd like to avoid whatever small possibility there is that Donovan Warren gets pwned on a return. It would be one thing if he'd shown any ability to actually return a punt; he hasn't. Throwing an average returner out there who happens to be one of your most critical players on a thin, thin defense doesn't make much sense.
I do assume that the fumbles will come down to a reasonable level; Michigan projects to be average here.
Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, OL Michael Schofield, OL Taylor Lewan, OL Quinton Washington, WR Cameron Gordon, WR Je'Ron Stokes, WR Jeremy Gallon, RB Teric Jones, RB Vincent Smith, RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, and QB Denard Robinson.
|West Palm Beach, Florida - 6'0" 202
|Scout||3*, #11 K|
|Rivals||2*, #8 K|
|ESPN||77, #16 K|
|Others||#1 K to Lemming|
|YMRMFSPA||Kickers of Christmas Past|
Brendan Gibbons was Michigan's second choice at kicker after Penn State (and onetime Michigan) commit Anthony Fera. Fera may be rated higher, but has he ever smoked some fool?
Eh… maybe. Fera's a pretty big dude for a kicker. But it's not on the internet so screw that guy in the ear.
Kickers, who tend to melt down at the slightest provocation, are almost fruitless to project but Michigan might be better at picking out their guys than most since former M kicker Brandon Kornblue has begun carving a career for himself as a guru in the field. Kornblue held a bunch of camps and reported back positively on Gibbons:
For the first time this summer, the Kornblue Kicking School, run by former U-M kicker Brandon Kornblue, was Michigan’s primary camp for evaluating kicker prospects. The camp attracted some of the nation’s elite prospects. The top performer at the June 29-30 camp, according to Kornblue, was West Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinal Neumann’s Brendan Gibbons.
Michigan duly offered and, as is usual when it comes to specialists, the offer was quickly accepted.
Gibbons's got a bigger leg than Michigan kickers of the recent past, having hit a 52-yarder in high school. Rivals says he possesses the third-strongest leg in the class. And though kicking guru Chris Sailer has a vested interest in pumping up one of his proteges, he echoes the big leg stuff:
He has a huge leg and gets the ball up well. Kicks off the ground for FG's and off the 1" for kickoffs. One of the strongest legs in the nation.
ESPN says… well… you see… he's a kicker:
He gets into his field goals quickly and has smooth tempo. Powerful leg and has kicked several field goals over 40 yards including a 52 yarder. Kickoffs average about 5 yards deep with good hang of about 4.0 seconds.
And though he didn't get a lot of work as a senior, when called upon he was accurate:
The 6-1, 205-pound Gibbons has had a strong senior season, converting 10 of 12 field goals with a long of 52 yards. He also has hit 93 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks, and most go out the back of the end zone. Gibbons leg strength is one of his best assets and he expects he'll be able to show it off early at Michigan.
"I hope I can start right away; that's my goal," he said. "I'm pretty sure both their kickers are seniors and that's what they want me to do, so I'll do it. Coach Rodriguez said I might have a shot at punting too."
That 93% touchback number is based on a higher tee and kicks from the 40, so don't expect that to be replicated at Michigan.
He at one point noted Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the MVP of last year’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl who had a drawn-out recruiting process that ultimately came down to the Buckeyes and Wolverines, “should be wearing blue.”
Gibbons isn’t just all show, though. He was consistently booming the ball on field goals and kickoffs during practice.
Even Penn State signee Eric Shrive took note of the leg:
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.
So: Gibbons can kick it far indeed, and has at least two folks very much in his corner—you'll note Tom Lemming's ranking above. Michigan clearly preferred Fera, though, and so there were probably some consistency issues Gibbons had that Fera lacked. Either way he should be better than the dual-headed walk-ons of the past couple years. Or maybe not. This is a kicker, after all.
Guru Reliability: Low. Is kicker.
General Excitement Level: Is kicker.
Projection: Is kicker. And starts this year… how well I can't tell you.
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.