Hockey pet peeve: "when a teammate tips a puck in on you, which is exactly how my first collegiate goal against happened. Thanks, Copper."
Michigan finally has a wide receiver in the class, as West Des Moines (IA) Dowling Catholic's Amara Darboh committed to the Wolverines today. He becomes the first of what should be two receivers in the 2012 class, and is Michigan's 24th commitment overall.
Amara Darboh (Photo credit: Public Paul & Media)
4*, #33 WR,
4*, #31 WR,
4*, 93, #19 WR,
The four services essentially agree on Darboh's size, listing him at 6'2" and between 190 and 205 pounds—he's got solid size for a receiver. Scout, Rivals, and 24/7 are eerily close in their evaluation of his talents, all ranking him as a four-star and right around the #200 player in the country, though 24/7 has him well higher than Scout or Rivals in their positional rankings. ESPN is the outlier, and a significant one, rating him as a middling three-star and the #77 receiver in the nation, 44 spots below any other recruiting outlet. Boo, WWL. Boo.
We'll start with the most critical evaluation, from ESPN ($):
Darboh is a combination of strength and quickness as a big receiver with a sturdy build, long arms and nice height. He is part playmaker and part possession player and against this level of competition he can really stand out. He can be an imposing player off the line and shows some physicality when pressed at the line ... Not afraid to go over the middle and will make the tough catch in traffic. Shows good leaping ability and can catch the ball thrown over his head. Tracks the ball well, and does an excellent job of adjusting to the poorly thrown ball or ball thrown to his opposite shoulder on down field throws along the sideline. Can be a body catcher at times, but secures the ball consistently. Has some wiggle in the open field after the catch for a bigger player and displays some natural open field run skills ... We are somewhat concerned about Darboh's top end speed. He does not play as fast as his listed forty times would indicate nor does he possess sudden change-of-direction after the catch.
Sounds like a solid possession receiver without game-breaking athleticism. Also, a decent ability to make big plays despite not being a major deep threat. What say you, Tim Prister of IrishIllustrated ($)?
Excellent size and length help accentuate his deer-like athleticism with the football in the air. Shows nice balance maintaining his feet and running after catches for which he leaves the ground to make. Very fast - probably in the low-to-mid 4.4s - with an effortless running motion. Shows a consistent ability to run away from the crowd in pursuit.
So Prister says he has great speed, and meanwhile lists vision when running after the catch as an area for improvement. It doesn't even sound like ESPN and Prister are scouting the same player, let alone individual game. Can I get some sort of tiebreaker, Clint Brewster of 247Sports ($)?
Darboh shows exceptional speed as a bigger receiver and has another gear once he gets free from a defensive back. Quickness is another aspect that separates Darboh from his competition, as he consistently picks up big gains from short screens or pass patterns. Darboh shows excellent strength and athleticism by breaking tackles from smaller corners and staying up-right. Darboh has a natural feel for the game already by knowing where to sit in zone coverage and also working with his quarterback to find open space when he scrambles. One thing Darboh caught on to quickly was the importance of blocking at the position as he relentlessly blocks until the whistle.
Athleticism: Yes? Yes. Meanwhile, blocking comes up in multiple evaluations as being a strength, while Darboh's route-running and stance—he seems to stand a little high off the snap, leaving himself susceptible to getting jammed—are cited by multiple outlets as relative weaknesses.
Finally, here's his own high school coach on what Darboh brings to the team:
"He's a big, physical player," Dowling coach Tom Wilson said of his 6-2, 200-pounder. "I've seen him compared to Roddy White of the Falcons — a bigger guy that can run very well. He ran 4.42. He's a kid that's had an awful lot of big plays for us in his three years as a starter, and we don't have many three-year starters here. Amara is a special talent."
Roddy White, you say? Why yes, I'd like one of those.
Darboh had a lengthy offer list, with finalists Notre Dame, Florida, Iowa, and Wisconsin joined by Iowa State, Kansas State, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Vanderbilt. Rivals also shows interest but no offer from Oregon and USC. Not bad for a player who missed a large portion of his senior season with a shoulder injury.
Despite playing in only seven games this season, Darboh amassed 48 catches for 765 yards and 11 touchdowns. As a junior, he had 49 receptions for 646 yards and 6 TDs, and in his sophomore year he posted 25 for 371 and a TD.
FAKE 40 TIME
Darboh ran a hand-timed 4.42 40 at an Iowa State camp last summer. There are some questions about Darboh's top-end speed, and you usually need to mentally add on a couple tenths of a second for any hand-timed run, so I'll give this one three FAKEs out of five.
Junior year highlights:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Darboh is going to get a shot at immediate playing time thanks to Michigan's severe lack of depth at receiver. Junior Hemingway and Martavious Odoms graduate after this season, leaving a solid starting trio of Darryl Stonum—assuming his return after an indefinite suspension due to off-field issues—Roy Roundtree, and Jeremy Gallon. Beyond those three, there isn't a proven wideout on the roster: remaining receivers Jeremy Jackson, Drew Dileo, and Jerald Robinson have a combined 17 career receptions (this is assuming that Terrence Robinson doesn't get a fifth year, but even if he does, he hasn't been a factor as a WR).
Could Darboh come in and play right away? Absolutely, given his great natural size and athleticism, but it's also possible that there's just enough depth on the squad for him to take his time and develop during a redshirt year—it's going to be a question of whether or not Darboh is a clear upgrade from any of the backup options. After 2012, regardless of his role as a true freshman, Darboh should compete for a starting spot, and he's got a chance to be a multi-year starter with all-conference upside.
No matter what, Darboh should be a great person to have on the team. The original Des Moines Register story is now stuck behind an archive paywall, but here's a sample of what Darboh went through just to survive a turbulent childhood and make it to America, via The Survivors Club:
The civil unrest that erupted in the Republic of Sierra Leone in 1991 initiated the near eleven year war that swept through the country, threatening the lives of residents. In the capital, Freetown, Amara Darboh was just 2-years-old when his father and mother, Solimon and Kadita, were killed during a surge of violence. His father was a member in the military and after his parents’ deaths, he had few options.
Left in the care of surviving family members, their only choice was to flee. Amara spent the next several years living in Gambia and Senegal as a refugee. Life looked bleak for little Amara who had lost his parents and was unable to return home because of the ongoing civil war. Where was he to go if not back home?
The first seven years of his life were spent surviving life and death situations, education seemed impossible, and the hope for a better future was non-existent.
But when Amara was 7-years-old, an unexpected and seemingly impossible event happened. “It was a refugee program. We randomly got picked to come to Des Moines,” he told the Des Moines Register.
Darboh ended up in the care of Dan and Mary Schaefer, whose son Max introduced him to the sport of football. You're strongly encouraged to read the whole article—Darboh is clearly mature beyond his years, and he should be a great presence in the locker room regardless of on-field impact.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is now down to four remaining open spots in the 2012 class, and besides a definite need for one more receiver—with Jehu Chesson being the most likely to end up in the class at this point—things are up in the air. Offensive linemen like Josh Garnett, Zach Banner, and Jordan Diamond all have Michigan very much in the mix, and it looks probable that the Wolverines will add one last lineman. Cornerback Yuri Wright has listed Michigan in his top group for a long time, but still needs to make it onto campus. The coaching staff may look to add a tight end to replace Pharaoh Brown, with Taylor McNamara and J.P. Holtz both getting in-home visits in recent days. And of course, there's running back Bri'onte Dunn, who the Wolverines are still trying to wrest from the grasp of Ohio State.
If you asked me right now to predict the final four spots, in order of confidence, I'd say Chesson, Dunn, Wright, and Diamond, but past Dunn there's not a prospect on the board where Michigan looks to have better than a 50-50 shot. That's not to say Michigan won't finish out the class strong—I'd expect they fill it with at least three four-star players when all is said and done—just that it's difficult to project who will jump on those final few open spots at this moment.
According to Sam Webb ($, info in header), Josh Helmholdt ($), and also Drake Johnson himself, the Ann Arbor Pioneer running back was just offered by Michigan and committed this morning. Johnson becomes the 24th member of the class of 2012, leaving four spots left in what's expected to be a 28-man class.
Photo credit: Angela J. Cesere, AnnArbor.com
|2*, #133 RB||NR RB||2*, #153 RB||NR RB|
As you can see, Johnson is very much an under-the-radar prospect, garnering two-star ratings from Scout and ESPN while not being ranked at all by Rivals or 24/7. The consensus on his size is about 6'1", 205, though when I saw him last weekend (more on that later), I thought he looked a little shorter and a bit under 200 pounds, but that's one man's impressions from the bleachers.
There's not a whole lot out there on Johnson, as one might expect for a sleeper prospect, but ESPN has a full evaluation ($):
This is a productive guy with good inside and outside running skills; we see the ability to shed and pull through tackles; is productive returning punts; flashes good underneath coverage skills as an outside linebacker and should be an effective special team's player. From a deep alignment this prospect displays good vision; is quick locating and getting into creases showing the elusiveness needed to make first tacklers miss in space. His quick feet and balance allow him to get outside where he does most of his damage; runs with and over the pads, downhill, slashing style; we see a short burst when in traffic with the deceptive long speed needed to outrun opponents at his present level of competition. Appears to have natural hands; is productive running the shuttle pass and seam route from a slot alignment; can catch in traffic while demonstrating the ability to adjust to throws out of his frame. This guy flashes the toughness needed to be an every down back, capable of staying on the field in long yardage situations.
One thing I certainly agree with here is Johnson's ability to play every down—he is essentially Pioneer's entire offense, regularly toting the rock 30+ times a game. His speed is also without question a strength, as Johnson is the two-time defending state champ in the 110-meter hurdles. In an article by Mick McCabe, Johnson says his track conditioning plays a big part in his ability to be a workhorse back:
In the past three games, he has gained 1,074 yards, and he has scored at least four touchdowns in each of the past four games.
This kid shouldn't be able to get out of bed the morning after games.
"I guess it's conditioning to get ready for it," Johnson said. "I did a lot more running because I run track, too. I spent an extra amount of time this summer just doing track workouts so I would be ready to carry the ball a bunch of times, because Coach had told me I was going to be carrying the rock a lot."
In a complete stroke of luck, I watched Johnson play in the district final against Temperance Bedford last week, and my prediction that he'd be a preferred walk-on at best clearly missed the mark. Here were my impressions of his game:
As a Pioneer grad, I hate to say this, but Johnson looked to me like a track athlete playing football, and not a player who should garner a BCS-level scholarship offer. His straight-ahead speed is very good, and that's all he needed against Bedford, but Johnson practically has to stop running entirely to make a cut—he really doesn't have any juke moves, instead choosing to bounce outside and run as fast as he can—and he also fumbled the ball three times (losing one) despite not taking any huge hits.
While Johnson usually fell forward, he also tended to go down on first contact, and instead of taking on hits he'd try to spin off contact, even against smaller defenders. The only time he really fought for extra yards, he ended up fumbling—he often carries the ball away from his body and seems to forget about ball security when he's in traffic. Pioneer listed him at 6'1", 215, and Scout has him in that same range, but he looked closer to 5'11", 190 to me (comparing him to his teammates and using the same roster, so take that with a grain of salt). Johnson is a heck of a high school player, and he's tasked with being the entirety of the Pioneer offense, but I see him as a preferred walk-on at best for Michigan.
I stand by my scouting report, and you can judge for yourself in the highlight video below. He's got the frame and the speed to be a BCS-caliber back, but I'm not sure I see the tools for success—namely in agility, power running, and ball security—necessary to deliver on that potential. Obviously, I'd love to be wrong here, especially when talking about a fellow Pioneer.
Before Michigan swooped in today, Johnson held just one scholarship offer for football (he's also a highly-sought track prospect), and that was from Eastern Michigan. Rivals lists interest but no offer from Army, Syracuse, and Toledo. One thing to note is that Johnson did not go to any football camps ($) after his junior year because of track, which could help explain the lack of evaluations/ratings/offers.
Johnson has put up some ridiculous numbers for Pioneer, rushing for 2757 yards and 37 TDs (plus one receiving) so far this season, which leaves him just 133 yards shy of the single-season state rushing record with an upcoming regional final against Detroit Catholic Central this weekend. As a junior, Johnson rushed for 2200 yards, according to Allen Trieu ($). Part of the numbers can be attributed to his huge workload—last weekend, he rushed 36 times for 348 yards and four touchdowns, and carried the ball on all but five or six of Pioneer's snaps—but his elite speed helps him break off huge runs with regularity—he also had a 95-yard touchdown run against Bedford.
FAKE 40 TIME
Since Johnson hasn't attended football camps, there's no 40 time reported on any of the four recruiting services, so no FAKEs to hand out. There are, however, very real numbers from his track career, and they are impressive:
55m hurdles - 7.76, set AAU Indoor National Record.
60m hurdles - 8.09, ranked in top ten in the country, indoor 2010
110m hurdles - 14.16, fastest freshman time run in the country. Placed 3rd at MHSAA Outdoor State Championships. Highest place for freshman hurdler in Michigan ever.
He's fast, yo.
Highlights from the first nine games of this season:
A combo video of sophomore and junior highlights lives here. You can also see his victory in the Division 1 110-meter hurdles state final (he's in white with the purple stripe, and also the guy running faster than everyone).
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
You've seen my thoughts on Johnson—I'm surprised he a got a scholarship offer at this point in the process—and I think he'll be a depth and special teams player for Michigan. His lack of agility and real power is disconcerting if the Wolverines expect him to become a feature back, though his speed and size make him an intruiging prospect regardless—he could find a home as a returner or special teams demon while trying to work his way up the depth chart at running back.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is now down to four remaining open spots in the 2012 class, and there's still a very definite need for two receivers, with Michigan still very much in the mix for Jordan Payton, Amara Darboh, Monty Madaris, Jehu Chesson, and even Stefon Diggs. The question will be how they use their remaining two spots. Sam Webb said on WTKA this morning that he doesn't expect Johnson's commitment to affect how Michigan will pursue Bri'onte Dunn, and that makes sense to me—I'd be surprised if the coaching staff felt settled at running back with just Johnson in the fold.
If Michigan misses on Dunn, there are still two spots for another offensive lineman and a defensive back. If they don't, it'll be a tough decision for the coaches to figure out which position they prioritize higher (I'd guess O-line, but it would be difficult—and potentially impossible—to turn down Yuri Wright or Shaq Thompson if they were ready to commit and a spot was open). This almost surely rules out the possibility of the Wolverines taking two more offensive linemen in the class.
I will keep my composure. I will keep my composure. I will keep my composure.
Well, I tried, but when Michigan hauls in their biggest basketball recruit since either LaVell Blanchard (1999) or Jerod Ward (1994) it's time to get excited. Mitch McGary chose the Wolverines today over Duke and Florida live on ESPNU, and lo, there is much rejoicing in Ann Arbor.
5*, #1 C,
5*, #1 C,
#3 C, #5 Ovr
All four services are in agreement that McGary is 6'10" and around 250 pounds (except ESPN, which has him at 225, which seems implausible), and all are in agreement that he's really, really good at basketball.
How good? Let's get to the evaluations, starting with ESPN:
McGary is a physically imposing presence in the paint with good size, tremendous upper body strength, and limitless energy and physicality. He is proactive seeking out contact inside, a consistent finisher, and high volume two way rebounder. He is incredibly active with a terrific motor and great toughness. The lefty is skilled enough to stretch the defense to 18 feet, has the dexterity to dunk with both hands in congestion, and sets big screens both on and off the ball. He runs well in straight lines and has pretty soft hands around the basket.
That's their "strengths" blurb, while areas to work on include developing a more polished post game, using his right hand more (he's a lefty), and his basketball I.Q.—they cite that he plays with "blind aggression," which seems to make sense when you're a 6'10" NBA prospect with outstanding mobility and finishing ability, but that's just me.
UMHoops caught McGary—as well as his AAU teammate and best friend, now-fellow 2012 commit Glenn Robinson III—at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest this spring:
McGary’s uncanny combination of size, strength, athleticism and coordination is extremely impressive because it allows him to do so much on the court. He loves to rebound the ball and push it up the court himself. He attacks the basket with a nice face-up game, although it’d be nice to see him play more with his back to the basket.
His decision making needs work as he often tries to do far too much before turning the ball over.He also tends to float to the perimeter a bit too much and loves to settle for jump shots despite having the tools to get a much better look at the basket. Overall, McGary was extremely impressive and he is on the verge of blowing up if he hasn’t already. The lefty’s flaws are correctable and easily outweighed by his size and talent.
I love imagining a 6'10" power forward leading the fast break, and now I don't have to, because he'll be doing it for Michigan and you can see him run the break in the highlights below. Also taking note of his precocious athletic talents was Eric Bossi of Rivals, who saw McGary at the NY2LA Summer Jam in July:
What a total animal this guy played like on Friday. First, the five-star big man broke Texas PRO in the first half with his ill-tempered length-of-the-court drives and rebounding, and he was able to rest himself for the championship after racking up 14 points and 16 boards. Then, looking as fresh as he would if he was playing his first game of the summer, he went out and dominated the paint in SYF's win over Dream Vision in the championship game. Bottom line, McGary is a competitor with a non-stop motor, great hands, great skill and even greater will.
ESPN's Paul Biancardi liked McGary's motor enough to deem it the best in the 2012 ESPN100, and also noted McGary's Novakian enthusiasm even when he's on the sideline:
It is difficult to find players who bring all-out effort and energy on a consistent basis, but McGary does it better than anyone. Not only does he bring energy to his own game, he gives it to his teammates. His motor never stops as he constantly works the backboard, runs the floor and dives on the floor for loose balls. His enthusiasm even carries over when he's on the bench as he cheers on his teammates and remains vocal. McGary has talent and physical tools, but his motor makes him special and will make him money one day.
Maybe the gritty grit grit stuff isn't coincidence, as McGary hails from Chesterton, Indiana, home of—you guessed it—Zack Novak, who hosted McGary on his official visit. McGary transferred after his junior season from Chesterton High School to Brewster Academy, a powerhouse school in New Hampshire, but I'm now strongly suspecting there's something in the water in Chesterton.
More scout drooling—plus a very interesting comparison—from Coast 2 Coast Recruiting:
When watching Mitch McGary play, it’s easy to envision a young David Lee. Whether he is effortlessly running the floor, shooting left-handed fadeaways, abusing the rim with powerful dunks, or blocking shots into next Wednesday, all punctuated by electric yells, it’s a beautiful sight to any basketball fan. The newly sculpted 6’10 250 pound power forward/center started tearing through the basketball world in the past three months at the NY2LA Swish ‘N Dish, The Adidas May Classic, The Pittsburgh Jam Fest, the Jayhawk Invitational, and most recently, the NBPA Top 100 camp.
I'm totally fine with the Lee comparison as long as it's related to offense—Lee was a McDonald's All-American in 2001 (and the slam dunk contest champ that year) who went to Florida and was drafted in the first round (30th overall) by the Knicks, and he became a 20-10 guy for them, but his lack of ability on the defensive end played a role in him getting shipped to basketball purgatory at Golden State last season. On the offensive end, Lee is a 6'9" PF/C with great athleticism for his size, a decent mid-range jumper, and he's an absolute demon on the boards.
Finally, I had to end with this quote by Scout's Brian Snow from today's timely Sam Webb article [emphasis mine]:
"To put it bluntly — (at Michigan) he'd be the starting center and the best player on the team the moment he walks on campus," Snow said emphatically. "I really don't see a scenario in which that isn't the case. He is probably the hardest playing kid in the country. There's absolutely no prima donna to him at all. He'll run through a wall for you, he'll dive on the floor. Then he is a pretty good athlete. He can really face the rim and handle the ball, especially against centers. He also scores down low, blocks shots, and he is one of the better rebounders in the country.
"We're talking about a kid that can do it all from the low post," said Daniels. "He can run, he has good hands, he plays hard and with energy, he rebounds, blocks shots, and he can score. Whatever school gets Mitch is getting a heck of a player and a major impact-type guy as soon as he sets foot on campus."
Dylan also posted UMHoops's final scouting impressions of McGary and several other scouting reports (a couple of which appear above) yesterday in anticipation of Mitch McGary Day. It's well worth a read, and since I got half these links from Dylan, you should feel obligated to click over and give his fantastic site a read, especially on a day like today.
McGary boasted six offers, and they're from a who's who of basketball powerhouses: Aside from Michigan, he had scholarship offers from Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, and North Carolina. I suspect that offer list would've been much larger had McGary not reclassified from a 2011 to a 2012 recruit—transferring from his hometown of Chesterton to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire in the process—and blowing up relatively late by basketball recruiting standards.
Dylan posted an extensive video archive with a solid ten videos. Lots of good stuff there, and here's one of my favorites:
Yes, he ole'd a defender with an around-the-back dribble on the break and finished with a two-handed dunk from halfway to the free throw line. That was not a hallucination, unless I am also hallucinating, which hopefully is not the case.
Also, obligatory video of McGary shattering a backboard and then revealing his incredible nickname, "White Thunder":
/BOOM Tractor Traylor'd (RIP)
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
He's gonna start. I know, I'm going way out on a limb there. Here's what Michigan's lineup will likely look like for the 2012-13 season (McGary's freshman year), with the not-entirely-safe-but-certainly-not-crazy assumption that Tim Hardaway Jr. sticks around for his junior season:
PG: Trey Burke (backup: Carlton Brundidge)
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr. (Matt Vogrich/Nick Stauskas)
SF: Evan Smotrycz (Glenn Robinson III)
PF: Mitch McGary (Evan Smotrycz/Jon Horford)
C: Jordan Morgan (Jon Horford)
That's, well, a really good team. Big Ten contender, dangerous in the NCAA tournament good. And if you believe Brian Snow, McGary will be the best player on a team featuring a junior Tim Hardaway Jr.—you have permission to get hype, people. McGary should be contending for all-conference honors as soon as he steps on campus, and has the potential to do even more than that.
As for whether or not McGary will stick around beyond his freshman season, that's certainly in question. From Nick Baumgardner at AnnArbor.com:
[McGary] would provide instant impact. For how long? That remains unclear. Plenty of national analysts have pegged McGary as a potential "one-and-done" prospect, though [ESPN recruiting analyst Dave] Telep said, "I don't think it's unrealistic to say he could be (in college) for two years."
I'll take two years of McGary in a heartbeat, obviously. It's easy to accept these things if a player is likely going to have a huge impact right away, especially when it means Michigan will likely be on the radar of future top recruits in a way they haven't been in over a decade.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
McGary joins forward Glenn Robinson III (Rivals's #34 overall prospect) and guard Nick Stauskas (#79) in the class of 2012, and that will wrap things up with a dramatic flourish for that year's group. The Wolverines are already full for the class of 2013, with four-stars Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin and three-stars Mark Donnal and Austin Hatch (although Hatch's status as a 2013 recruit is in doubt after the tragic plane crash—he will likely reclassify as a 2014 player if he can continue his basketball career) already in the fold.
Yes, Michigan is already moving on to the 2014 class. Beilein Uber Alles. Really, the job the Beilein and assistant Bacari Alexander did with this recruitment was phenomenal by all accounts. I had to pull another quote from Sam Webb's article, because it should get you extremely excited for the future of the program (as if you're not already):
"What I really like about Michigan is its coaching staff, especially Bacari Alexander," said McGary in his ESPN blog Wednesday. "He's probably one of the most underrated coaches in the country. He really knows what he's doing with the big men. I just like that I can trust the coaches there, and I actually like that they're not on the biggest stage yet. That gives me the opportunity to go there and make a huge impact from day one."
Cue the Muppets, if Brian hasn't posted them already.
Michigan bolstered their special teams depth and added a scholarship-level punter on the cheap yesterday when Fenton (MI) punter Kenny Allen agreed to join the team in 2012 as a preferred walk-on. Allen should provide quality insurance in case Will Hagerup gets the proverbial third strike and could easily be a multi-year starter once (well, I guess if) Hagerup graduates.
|NR P||2*, #13 K||2*, #33 K||NR P|
Unfortunately, none of the recruiting websites that have Allen ranked evaluate him as a punter, but they do have a couple evaluations available, though they all agree that he's in the 6'3", 190-pound range, for whatever that's worth. Scout has this report from kicking guru Chris Sailer:
Kenny is a great combo prospect (K/P). A good athlete that shows great potential in all areas. Has the skills to be one of the very best. A hard worker, that will only continue to improve. Kenny is big, tall, strong, and athletic. A great combo prospect. Punts for great distance and shows nice consistency. Definite D1A prospect.
ESPN has this to add ($):
Kenny is a very good kicker/punter. His strength right now is his punting. He showed very well at a Kohl's training camp and will be a very good college punter. His frame and overall leg speed make him an attractive punting candidate. The ball jumps off his foot and he does a good job of presenting a consistent target to hit with his drop. Kenny is a college level punter from a talent perspective.
Sailer has a website with his own independent recruiting rankings, and he has Allen as 4.5-star prospect (five being a Division I prospect, four being Division II, and so on), and ranks him as the #10 specialist overall and #2 combo prospect (there are also two other punters ahead of him) in the high school ranks in 2011. Sailer's latest evaluation of Allen:
Kenny is a very talented young punter. He has the size and athleticism to dominate in this area. Can hit a huge ball. Also a great kicker. A top combo prosepect [sic] in the Class of 2012. Will be a scholarship pick!
Allen also came in for praise in February at Jamie Kohl's Midwest kicking camp:
Three punters that impressed were Kenny Allen, a 2012 punter from Fenton High School in Michigan, R.J. Bain, a 2012 punter from Michigan and Sean Decloux from Canada. Allen's smooth mechanics and long frame should draw college interest in the years to come.
Finally, a couple of self-evaluations from Allen himself, the first from the Flint Journal...
The right-footed kicker indicated that he has been booting field goals in the 50-yard range during the Tigers' practices this summer.
"I feel I contribute a lot," Allen said. "I've been growing, getting a lot stronger with my legs. "I've been fixing my mechanics and working out the errors.I've kicked thousands of footballs. It's like muscle memory."
...and then this fantastic quote from a paywalled article on 247Sports [emphasis mine]:
“My strength is consistency,” Allen said. “On my bad ones, it’s still good.”
So, Kenny Allen turns bad into good. I like this.
Allen held a scholarship offer from Oregon State, and Rivals reports he had interest from Alabama, Iowa, LSU, Miami (YTM), and a host of MAC schools.
Sailer reports that through the first few weeks of this season, Allen averaged 43.0 yards per punt.
Junior stats via the Flint Journal:
Allen averaged 39.1 yards per punt as a junior, with his longest effort being 71 yards against Walled Lake Central on Nov. 12, 2010.
He was 3-of-5 on field goal attempts and had 37 touchbacks. He was an unanimous All-Metro League first-team pick as a punter while earning honorable mention honors as a kicker.
71 yards? Yes, please.
FAKE 40 TIME
He's a punter.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Don't let the walk-on tag fool you—Allen is a scholarship-level punter, as the Oregon State offer
belies shows. Allen will arrive on campus when Hagerup is a junior and—barring any further off-field shenanigans from Hagerup—he should be able to redshirt in his first year on campus. That'll leave him with another year as Hagerup's apprentice, then he'll compete with Matt Wile (who has struggled thus far with his punting and could just stick to kicking) for the starting job as a redshirt sophomore. From the looks of it, Allen should help Michigan have a seamless transition after Hagerup graduates, and provide quality depth at the position in case of injury/suspension.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Since Allen is a walk-on, even turning down at least one scholarship opportunity to play for his home-state team, he won't factor in to the oncoming numbers crunch as the Wolverines finish out the 2012 class. The needs continue to be at wide receiver, defensive tackle, offensive tackle, and perhaps running back.
In the aftermath of yesterday's absurd, mind-blowing, incredible victory, it appeared inevitable that one of the several uncommitted recruits in attendance would get caught up in the excitement and commit to Michigan. That recruit turned out to be 2013 athlete Dymonte Thomas, who hails from Alliance (OH) Marlington and happens to be cousins with one Bri'onte Dunn. Thomas joins Shane Morris in Michigan's class of 2013.
|NR S||NR S||
NR S, ESPN U
Player rankings for the 2013 class have yet to be released, but Thomas looks like he'll be at least a four-star when they are, and he's on early watch lists by both ESPN and 247Sports.
Thomas excels on both sides of the ball for Marlington, but it appears he'll be a safety at the next level—Scout, Rivals, and ESPN all list him there, while 24/7 has him as a RB/S prospect. There's a fair amount of disparity in terms of his measurables, where he's listed as big as 6'1", 180 pounds (Scout), and as small as 5'11", 167 (Rivals), with the two other services falling in between, though somewhat closer to the former numbers. At that size, he seems to project better as a safety to me.
Sam Webb talked to his high school coach for a Detroit News article in June, and he had this to say about his junior athlete:
"The thing about Dymonte is that he has two more seasons of high school left," Marlington head coach Ed Miley told Scout.com. "If he keeps on going the way he has so far, he could end up as both the leading rusher and tackler in Stark County history. Dymonte does great in the classroom and is very popular with his teammates. I see him as a safety at the next level, but he could do about anything really. (During the spring) he ran a 4.57 electronic 40-yard dash at the Nike Combine in Pittsburgh, so that tells you about his speed. He is a very physical player and a leader on this team."
Thomas not only plays running back and safety at Marlington, but linebacker, defensive end, and even nose tackle(!). This article from Friday Night Ohio highlights his love of defense:
“(Dymonte) is pretty special,” Miley said. “What’s different about him for a skilled kid is how physical he is. People see him and they expect a speed guy. They expect a finesse guy. That’s not him.”
Thomas gets noticed on offense because once he gets into the open field, he’s capable of taking it to the end zone every time. It’s opposing running backs and quarterbacks who should be taking notice.
There may not be a harder hitter in Stark County. If he had to pick one side of the ball to play, and only one, Thomas wouldn’t be a star scoring touchdowns.
“I love defense,” he said. “I just like going out there and hitting people. You see people on ESPN getting hit real hard. Those plays make the highlights. I’d like to be on ESPN one day hitting somebody.”
Meanwhile, Ohio State partisan Duane Long just couldn't figure out in August why Ohio State hadn't extended an offer (and never did, as it turns out):
There is a great deal of talk about the 2013 class. I thought I would get out a few more names and I want to do it by position. I just happened to notice a couple of running backs so I decided to look at them first. Who is number one is pretty obvious. Dymonte Thomas is the number one back in the class. He is also the number one safety in the class. I have said this before and I will say it again, the most puzzling lack of an offer out there is Dymonte Thomas. Look at this film and tell me what I am missing that makes Thomas a player who does not have an early offer.
His offer list is better than most seniors to be and he has not even stepped on the field as a junior. His grades are outstanding. He is know to be a high character kid. His measurables are legit. The argument that the Buckeyes are so deep at running back carries no weight. Thomas may be a better safety than he is a running back. I think he is, and he could not care less which position he plays. Baffling non-offer.
When discussing potential 2013 five-star recruits, Scout's Allen Trieu described Thomas as "a big hitter who can cover as well."
So, the consensus on Thomas is that he's a fantastic athlete with great speed who can also bring the wood. Who wants that as a safety? Everyone. He's a big-time prospect who should garner consideration for five-star status, and when you look at the stats and the highlights below, it'll be pretty clear why.
Michigan was joined by Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Pitt, Tennessee, UCLA, and West Virginia in offering Thomas early. He also had interest, but no offer, from Ohio State (much to the chagrin of Duane Long), Alabama, Florida, Cincinnati, and Northwestern. That's an extremely impressive list this early on in the process. The lack of a Buckeye offer is puzzling, and would be mildly disconcerting if Ohio State recruiting gurus weren't baffled by the lack of an offer.
Prepare to be thorougly impressed. As a freshman, Thomas rushed for 801 yards and eight touchdowns on 91 carries (8.8 yards per carry) while amassing 56 tackles, three sacks, and two fumble recoveries. That earned him first-team All-Stark County and all-district honorable mention honors. In 2010, as a sophomore, he broke out with 186 rushes for 1,641 yards and 17 touchdowns as well as 132 tackles, six sacks, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery. He was again named first-team all-county, and added second-team All-Ohio Associated Press Division III, All-Northeast Inland first-team, and All-NBC first-team honors. Not bad. Not bad at all.
FAKE 40 TIME
Thomas has been electronically timed running a 4.57 at the Nike Combine in Pittsburgh, and he looks every bit that fast on film (plus, you know, that's an electronic time, which is obviously far more accurate than your trigger-happy scout with a stopwatch). One FAKE out of five. ESPN also lists Thomas with a 4.47 shuttle time and a 29.5-inch vertical leap.
ScoutingOhio has extensive highlights from Thomas's sophomore season, featuring him playing both offense and defense:
There's also a shorter set of highlights from both his sophomore and freshman seasons. A mute is recommended for each of those videos. Also: Watch him run a very long way in a very short period of time as some unnamed female fan screams, "That's my man, baby."
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
I'm going to go ahead and discuss Thomas's prospects as a safety, because it appears at this point that he's a better player at that position and he really likes hitting people. Marvin Robinson, Thomas Gordon, and Carvin Johnson will all be seniors when Thomas begins his freshman season, and Josh Furman (redshirt junior), Tamani Carter (junior/redshirt sophomore), and Jarrod Wilson and Allen Gant (2012 commits) will be on the roster as well, so there isn't a need for Thomas to immediately step in and contribute.
The next year, however, he should be right in the thick of things when it comes to a starting job—Furman has yet to show anything in his career, while Carter and Gant were both three-star-level recruits. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see Wilson and Thomas as Michigan's two starting safeties come 2014. Thomas has all the physical tools to be an all-conference safety and more, and I expect the recruiting rankings, when released, will back that up.
If Thomas were to play running back, his path to early playing time could be even more clear. Unless Michigan picks up a running back commit in 2012 (perhaps Dymonte's cousin?), only Fitzgerald Toussaint, Stephen Hopkins, Thomas Rawls, and Justice Hayes will be on the roster as scholarship tailbacks. Toussaint has shown the most promise, but is also made of glass. Hopkins is fumble-prone and has been in and out of two different coaching staffs's doghouses. Rawls is an interesting prospect, but was a middling three-star recruit, while Hayes seems like a better fit at slot receiver or as a third-down specialist than an every-down back. If he plays running back, Thomas could see the field as early as his true freshman season, and he's got the same high-ceiling potential there as he does at safety.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It's far too early to discuss the ramifications for the class of 2013, but the elephant in the room is the potential impact on recruits in Thomas's own family. From Webb's DetNews article:
One way that comfort could be enhanced is if Thomas' cousin, Canton Glen Oak five-star senior tailback Brionte Dunn, winds up at the school he picks.
"We talk about it a lot — going to the same school," said Thomas. "We thought it would be pretty cool to go to the same school and play with each other like we used to when we were young."
Though Dunn has remained steadfast in his Ohio State commitment, he's still taking visits, taking one to Penn State for their loss to Alabama yesterday. In Webb's commitment post from last night ($), Thomas says he believes that he'll convince his cousin to join him in Ann Arbor. We'll have to wait and see how that shakes out, as Dunn has played things close to the vest so far, but Thomas committing can only help Michigan's cause in trying to pull in the four-star running back.
Weeeee, defensive tackles. MO DT Ondre "Pee-Wee" Pipkins has pledged to Michigan's 2012 class.
4*, #12 DT,
4*, 5.8, #19 DT
#4 Missouri, #246 Ovr
|3*, 78, #45 DT||
4*, 94, #16 DT,
#3 Missouri, #149 Ovr
The best three sites that have rated Pipkins place him in about the same place within his position group. The primary disagreement is where that 16th-18th DT fits in the grand scheme of things, with 24/7 Sports the most optimistic, and Rivals barely slotting him into their Top 250. ESPN, clearly, is without a clue. As you'll see, he's been dominant ever since the Army Combine.
ESPN (per typical) is the odd service out on his height, calling Ondre merely 6-2, while the other three sites agree that he's 6-3. 24/7 Sports is the outlier on weight, crediting him at "merely" 305 pounds, while the others all put him in the 320-325 range. 6-3, 320 seems to be your consensus weight.
He was the subject of a Sam Webb article back in April:
"Pipkins is a big-bodied space-eater that can command double teams, but he's quick enough and light enough on his feet to penetrate and disrupt," said Trieu. "Once he learns to really use his hands and consistently play under people, he's going to be an even tougher guy to move and block. Right now he's rated the No. 16 defensive tackle nationally, but he does have a chance to move up higher. Big kids like him that are 320 pounds and move the way he does are very rare."
His coach agrees with Allen's assessment:
"Ondre is strong and quick off the ball, and when he can latch onto an opponent and stay low, he can take care of some gaps for sure," Reynolds told Scout.com. "He gets double-, sometimes triple-teamed, which allows our linebackers to flow freely. He plays with a good motor. His job is to draw the double- and triple-team, but he is very disruptive in the backfield. We're going to do some things next year to try to open things up for him."
He even told Sam how Michigan plans to use him:
"(Michigan assistant) Coach (Greg) Mattison said I'd have the chance to play right off the bat because I'm the kind of defensive tackle that can move around and play multiple positions. They're only taking one nose guard and I can be that nose guard and come in and play for four years. That's mainly what they tell me -- that I can just come in and play nose for a straight four years, graduate, and take a chance of getting to the NFL."
Last spring, he impressed at the National Underclassmen Combine in Kansas City:
Ondre Pipkins (Park Hill) is a physically imposing 6'2 319 lb d-lineman with the skills to pay the bills. He has great quickness for somebody his size, good lateral movement and strength (bench pressing 185 lbs 21times). Pipkins was a force to be reckoned with and is worth looking out for.
He won the defensive line MVP at that event. Pipkins was a "star" at the Army Combine ($, info in header).
Tom Lemming likes his game:
“He’s one of the two best players in Kansas City,” said Lemming, who has covered the national recruiting scene for more than 30 years. “He can play both sides of the ball. I think he could an All American guard on offense or a very steady defensive tackle.”
Considering the #1 player in Kansas City is also supposed to be the best player in the nation (WR Dorial Green-Beckham), that's high praise. Ondre has been firmly stock-on-rise for a long time, so this commitment is big for Michigan.
Ondre's a Saginaw native, who went to school in Rochester Hills his sophomore season. That explains Michigan and Michigan State interest. Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio State... need I go on? He has a huge offer list.
UPDATE: Hey, those were the stats for long-lost recruit Wayne Morgan. Hooray for copying and pasting!
I couldn't find easily-available junior stats on Pipkins.
FAKE 40 TIME
Rivals lists a 5.15 time for his 40-yard dash, something totally reasonable for a guy his size whose athleticism is one of his strengths. A mere one FAKE out of five.
Oddly for a high-ish profile guy, there's very little on him. This video, entitled "Ondre Pipkins Highlights" doesn't seem to be him at all.
He's featured in the first 7 or so reps in Rivals's OL v. DL Army Combine highlights, but other than that, I can't find a whole lot of freely available stuff.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Pipkins is a much-needed piece of this class, and he'll have a chance to contribute almost immediately as a member of the DL rotation in 2012, with a good chance to take over a starting position upon Will Campbell's graduation following that season.
If he's as good as the combines would lead us to believe, he has definite NFL potential, and a good chance to make All-Big Ten teams as an upperclassman.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Finally comes the DT. Michigan's needs are filled - aside from at least one wideout - and can focus on just taking top-top prospects for the remainder of the class, regardless of position.