I did not make this headline up
The following article is a little old but I ripped it out of an Unverified Voracity a little ways back because Steve Sharik posted an excellent diary on what we can expect from the defense this fall and it felt like it would be a standalone post. (BTW: Sharik has posted another diary about the triple option, which Markus from Carcajous(!) has followed up on.)
So the quick/spinner lingo that we've been using ever since Greg Robinson was hired, confusion over which led to commenters on this here blog to coin the term "deathbacker" has been clarified. One term does not exist, and the other one has been superseded:
There’s not much hybrid about the linebacker-safety position Stevie Brown will play this year. Robinson said he doesn’t call the position “spinner” or anything else. “He’s our SAM,” or strong-side linebacker, Robinson said.
There is, however, new terminology for the defensive line. Robinson calls those positions the quick, power, nose and tackle. The “quick” is the hybrid linebacker-end you’ve heard about (Brandon Herron); the “power” is an old-school defensive end (Brandon Graham); the “nose” is your typical nosetackle (Mike Martin); and the “tackle” can sometimes flex out and play end in four-man fronts (Ryan Van Bergen).
Wait, so Stevie Brown is a strongside linebacker? Um. I had assumed he was the weakside linebacker, who is a protected player in a 4-3 under and gets "his meat cooked." (That's how Jeff Casteel described the weakside LB/S in the 3-3-5 DVD I purchased when I thought Casteel was going to be the DC around these parts. The strongside linebacker "got his meat raw," which meant he usually had to deal with a blocker. Those terms have been rattling around in my head for two years now, and now they'll be rattling around in yours. Mwa ha ha.)
A protected player doesn't usually have to take on blockers and can just run to the ball and (hopefully) make a tackle. This fits in well with a converted safety at linebacker, but I'm (and we are, right?) pretty leery about Brown even if he's not taking on blockers every play. This won't make much difference against spread teams—it'll be worlds better than pretending Johnny Thompson can cover anyone—but if Wisconsin and Michigan State don't suck I can see him getting run over consistently. That's assuming they don't make a change for power-running teams, which was an excellent assumption under Shafer (Johnny Thompson third and long what?) but hopefully won't be one under Robinson.
Sharik talks about what he expects the defense to be in the diaries, and it's not a 4-3 under. It's kind of a 4-3 under, actually, but it's flipped:
I assume that Graham will most often be the weakside 5 technique. Not only that, he'll probably be a "wide" 5, meaning he'll line up a yard outside the tackle, angled in at the tackle's nose. This means two things: one, he won't be inside (generally) and therefore two, it will be virtually impossible to double him in run situations. (He'll probably be doubled in pass situations, but that's likely to happen regardless of his alignment. This tends to happen when you are a freak of nature and can make QB's look like Beetle Bailey after an angry Sarge has gotten hold of him.)
Mike Martin will play a weakside shade or 1 technique (usually), meaning those two beasts will be on the same side of the DL most of the time. I would think opponents would run away from those two, which is where Michigan will have a numbers advantage. So, the offense will have to chose between:
A: running at two future NFL 1st round draft picks at DL, backed up by a potential 1st team all B10 middle LB (Obi Ezeh) and a former 5-star recruit at weakside OLB (Mouton)
B: running where the defense has superior numbers
Michigan showed this formation for most of the spring game… sort of. Van Bergen went out early and Graham played sparingly.
Ezeh as a potential first team all-conference player is a considerable stretch, but the rest of it sounds good. In a 4-3 under the deathbacker sits even farther outside the tackle and is used as a freelance sower of chaos a la Shawn Crable; this is something I assume you'll see on passing plays. Having all the hybrids around allows Michigan to flip which side of the line those guys show up on without revealing a personnel change:
The "quick" can play strong side or weak; so can the "spinner." The "quick" can play w/hand down or not. The "spinner" can play on the LOS, at LB depth, or even in the secondary. The "quick" can play on the LOS or at LB depth.
This jives with comments from Van Bergen that he's usually going to be a three-technique defensive tackle but will move out to a five-technique defensive end from time to time when Michigan either goes with a two-gap look (infrequently, IME) or flips the deathbacker to the other side of the formation.
It certainly sounds good. Sharik details the various packages his high school team ran last year, which are customized to the opponent's strength and provided considerable flexibility. I'll be terribly pleased to see a defensive back-type object heading out into the slot against spread sets instead of Johnny Thompson. And opposing teams are going to have to prepare for a multitude of looks. In theory, it's a defensive equivalent of Michigan's offense and when it's had talent in the past it's been excellent.
Whether or not the Michigan defense has "talent" in the overarching sense is yet to be determined.
BONUS HYPE: I've been talking up incoming freshman Craig Roh for a while now, saying that despite his wiry frame Michigan will be virtually forced to use him because of a lack of deathbacker depth. And lo, it is so. Rodriguez on the crab man:
"It’s only been one week, but he’s got some natural ability, pass-rush wise, and we’re teaching him some different things in the scheme of our defense. But I think he could help us at least in a pass-rush mode and then as he continues to learn the defense he’ll do more and more of it."
Van Bergen, meanwhile, says he's "raw" but is a "really skilled" pass rusher. It might take him a couple games but I'd be surprised if he's not a part of the nickel package, and soon. If he's not that means Brandon Herron is way better than he has any right to be.
There's a lot of news after an important official visit weekend, so it's back to Monday for the recruiting roundup.
Update 1/12: Linked articles on OH CB Mike Edwards (mention of OH OL Chris Freeman), SC OL Quinton Washington, FL CB Adrian Witty, MI DT Will Campbell, AZ DE Craig Roh, SC OL Quinton Washington, SC DE Sam Montgomery (two, three), OH LB Isaiah Bell, LA DT DeQuinta Jones, OH CB Mike Edwards (again), PA WR Je'Ron Stokes, PA LB Dan Mason, AL LB Tana Patrick, LA LB Barkevious Mingo, video of MI WR Cam Gordon.
Removed MD RB Tavon Austin (WVU), FL CB Mywan Jackson (UNC). Removed WR commit Dewayne Peace. Added OH WR Terence Davis.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
Big official visit weekend coincided with 8-12 inches of snow and, perhaps fortuitously, one of Michigan's traditions most likely to appeal to muscle-bound 17 year olds: a bigass snowball fight. Various posters participated; there's an MGoBoard thread. (Poster MGoAndy took one for the team in a delicate area, which sucks for him but hopefully means good things for the baseball team.) Barkevious Mingo was also spotted at the Saturday hockey game.
Anyway, on with the show.
What say you, VA QB Tajh Boyd?
“They said they really need a quarterback and that I’d fit in really well and could play early,” he said. “I know it’s a big program, but I haven’t been looking into them much and don’t really know a lot about them or coach Rich Rodriguez. I’m really not considering them right now.”
Ah. You say "no." Moving on, then…
With rumors of a Eugene Smith visit proving unfounded the last real quarterback prospect Michigan has a shot at is FL QB/CB/WR Denard Robinson, who visited this weekend with teammate and FL CB Adrian Witty. Witty's got an offer now, and the hope is Michigan can sell the duo on a package deal:
“That’s a real good thing too, if we were both to go there, at least we’d know each other. We wouldn’t feel left out.”
Given the number of open scholarships available and the situation at both QB and corner I'd take Robinson even if he cost two scholarships; getting a potentially useful guy at a position of need is a bonus.
SC DE Sam Montgomery is one crazy cat, man. As of a couple weeks ago Michigan was a solid fifth on an ordered list of favorites. Last week, Michigan was even-ish with LSU and North Carolina. This week:
Michigan will play host to Under Armour All-American defensive end Sam Montgomery (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood) for an official visit this week and Montgomery said on Wednesday night that the Wolverines may have pulled ahead a little.
"I am really liking (Michigan) right now," Montgomery said. "But LSU is in there as well."
Wha? Time for party hats? NSFMF!
Montgomery said right now LSU and Tennessee are tied as his favorites.
Okay, no quote, but that's from Phil Kornblut, who's pretty reliable about these things over at PalmettoSports.com.
But wait! There's more confusion! Kornblut strikes again!
"I was impressed by the bond of the players. They were all family. I loved them to death. There's no selfishness. They are all on the same page. They are ready to win some games. And playing opportunity is there. I'm high on Michigan right now. They are two steps ahead of everybody. But I'll wait and make my decision after all the visits."
You're going to love my nuts!!! Head asplode!
Okay. Okay. Okay. WTF? Let's attempt to synthesize this:
- Montgomery says random things. Every year there are a few guys who either change their mind every two days or just enjoy the chaos they can cause with a quote; Montgomery is one of those guys. Michigan fans were introduced to him when he said something like "I'm from Detroit! I love Detroit!" in a recruiting article; his mom would later laugh that off with something like "that boy ain't from Detroit."
Some crotchety folk might disdain this sort of showmanship, but I look on any Michigan recruit who might 1) be awesome and 2) give ridiculous, Irons-brothers-like quotes as a must-get. If his name lent itself to Mingo-stole-my-baby jokes I would cry if he went anywhere else.
But the downside (given the very latest on his recruitment): any sort of lead Michigan might have is ephemeral.
- One thing that does help is the uncertainty at LSU. Though DL coach Earl Lane isn't officially out the door, LSU sort of hired a guy to do his job. It would be awkward if Lane didn't, you know, do something else. And The Valley Shook is already talking like Lane is gone. There were a couple of damage control articles at LSU sites over the past few days in which Montgomery said more Things, but losing your recruiter is never a positive. All that stuff about LSU leading is at least doubtful.
- That is a really unambiguously "schwing" quote.
So. I think Montgomery is still more likely to end up at LSU or Tennessee or somewhere in the south than Michigan. If he gets through the next week without naming someone else his leader I'll feel much better; if he gets through an official visit without dropping a similarly schwing quote on another school I'll feel better still.
Jones on the roam
Elsewhere in uncertainty, LA DT DeQuinta Jones took a visit to Arkansas this weekend and offered up this less than reassuring quote:
"I'm still with [Michigan] right now, but I've been talking to my family," Jones said. "They've told me to make the best decision I can make for myself."
There is also this:
While Jones said distance to Ann Arbor, Mich., wouldn't be a factor in his decision, he said playing at Arkansas and in the SEC would allow his family to see him play more often and could factor into his decision.
As suggested earlier, Jones' commit is pretty soft.
Still more scouting
Last week's mondo scouting dump from the All-American games missed a couple stragglers. I thought OH LB Isaiah Bell wasn't going to get any traction from his showing at the UA bowl, but this may indicate otherwise:
After struggling through the first practice and temporarily moving to linebacker, Bell found his rhythm starting on Day Two. A big safety, he was able to come up to the line of scrimmage and stop the run as well as cover the inside receivers. Though he could add some bulk and be a very good outside linebacker at Michigan, he has the instincts of a safety in the passing game. Sunday's game proved that as he finished second on the team with five tackles and also added a pass breakup. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Rivals rated him the #8 player on his team at the UA bowl, one spot ahead of ninja quarterback Russell Shepard(!). ESPN already liked him, and the UA game didn't change things. They said Bell "opened up everyone's eyes with his coverage ability." While there's no chance Bell passes Shepard in the actual rankings, it sound like he's due for another star.
Meanwhile, more praise for AZ DE Craig Roh, who Rivals named the #5 player on his team:
After a somewhat slow start to the week, the future Michigan Wolverine really turned things up. He is the definition of a pass-rushing defensive end. He was able to use his athleticism and quickness against the much larger offensive linemen throughout the week's practices and did not give the quarterbacks much time to throw. Roh also showed a bit of surprising strength in being able to bullrush the offensive tackles at times. He had one sack and three hurries in Sunday's game.
ESPN was impressed enough to move him into their top 50:
Michigan commit Craig Roh (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) had a great week in Orlando and proved to be a dangerous pass-rusher. He is smart and possesses a wonderful motor. He will need to add bulk to his frame once he hits Ann Arbor, but he is still tough versus the run. He is very good with his hands, and his spin and counter moves will make him a handful as a pass-rusher. Roh rose from No. 87 to No. 48.
With ESPN's inexplicable disses of Justin Turner and Will Cambpell, Roh's the highest-ranked Michigan commit to them. (It's clear ESPN had no one at the Army game, as every big mover in their top 150 attended the UA game. Cutting off their nose to spite their face there.)
AZ OL Taylor Lewan also rose in ESPN's rankings, ending up at the fringe of the top 150 (link ibid):
A late bloomer at the offensive tackle position this season is converted defensive lineman Taylor Lewan (Scottsdale, Ariz/Chaparral). Lewan, who wasn't initially on the radar, debuted in the ESPNU 150 at No. 147 thanks to his raw athletic talent and consistency in winning the vast majority of individual battles. He should be a very productive offensive lineman as he matures and his fundamentals sharpen.
Corners: yes-no-maybe, no (probably)
OH CB Mike Edwards named Tennessee his leader last week. This week, he claimed no leader…
"It looks like it will be Tennessee, Michigan or Cincinnati. I don't have a favorite. I've only visited Cincinnati."
…and then claimed Tennessee leader once more:
Tennessee solidified its standing as the top team on Mike Edwards’ list during an in-home visit from coach Lane Kiffin and running backs coach Stan Drayton on Thursday.
Or did he? That article contains no quote from Edwards to that effect, just a lot of boilerplate responses to stock questions. So, eh… eh? Eh. I call him mini-Montgomery.
Edwards will visit Michigan this weekend, at which point we'll have a much better feel for M's chances; at this point the declared Tennessee lead, even if it's been backed off on, seems convincing enough to me. And then there's the Glenville stuff. I'm slightly pessimistic here.
Meanwhile, this on FL CB Jayron Hosley is bad:
Jayron Knows Where He's Going
It is bad because Hosley just visited South Florida and that article comes from USFNation.com. The inescapable conclusion is that Hosley's headed to USF. He will still take the Michigan trip he has scheduled for next week. That's even more obviously a longshot than it was a few days ago.
It's even more likely now that Michigan takes a last-second flier on a corner with pretty meh offers.
Offensive linemen, once again
Everyone was very excited about man-mountain Chris Freeman earlier in the year, and since three of Michigan's teammates had just migrated from Trotwood-Madison to Michigan it looked like M had a pretty good shot. Then went months and months without much, if any, news on Freeman and now it looks like he and Michigan have parted ways:
"I know I want to go to Wisconsin, Missouri and Tennessee," Freeman said. "I'd like to get at least three visits in, but I don't know for sure. My favorite would be between Wisconsin and Tennessee."
That leaves Michigan with three shots at another OL in the class. One of them is SC OL Quinton Washington, who'll take a few visits and then decide:
Other programs have been working hard to establish similar relationships. They've also focused a great deal of effort on securing one of his remaining official visits. Three are now finalized -- Clemson this weekend, South Carolina on Jan. 17 and Tennessee on Jan. 24. According to Craig [Washington, Quinton's father], Michigan has set the visit-bar very high for those schools.
"I think for Michigan, being first was great," he said. "I am going to have schools that are going to have a lot of stuff to live up to. I don't know if anyone can do that. Honestly, I think Michigan has got just as good a chance as anybody right now."
Hard to parse that last quote: "I don't know if anyone can live up to his Michigan visit… they've got, eh, a chance." My general impression of the internet's general impression is that South Carolina is a slight favorite, but the internet isn't sure about that.
NC OL Travis Bond keeps waiting, but other schools aren't. Our semi-regular source on North Carolina recruiting chips in with this:
NC State is done with OL recruiting. They're out. Source said that Bond had been a silent commitment to UNC for a couple of weeks and would make it official after his 1/16 visit.
How in the hell UNC plans on fitting all these guys on campus, let alone in this recruiting class, remains unknown, but I'm sure it's totally on the up-and-up.
Finally, I have a well-elucidated stance on OH OL Marcus Hall: I will believe he is at Michigan when he is a redshirt sophomore living on Geddes. But I will point out that he did in fact take an official to Michigan and there is now a GBW article up from them asking "is there a new #1 for Hall?" and the answer to these questions is always yes. And then I'll point out that PA CB Corey Brown called Michigan his leader and then visited OSU and committed, surprising no one. Recruits will often shade their answers to please the person interviewing them. It's human nature.
But Bill Kurelic is a major Ohio State booster and, well:
Earlier today I posted the information about Marcus Hall after his visit to Michigan. Hall said the Wolverines may have pulled into a slight lead over Ohio State with Miami next.
Could this be something here? I'm not getting my hopes up but it's taking a bit more effort than it used to. One of the BuckeyePlanet mods says "think Campbell," FWIW, clearly implying that the shift in favorites is for drama only.
(Kurelic on a couple more visitors:
DE Sam Montgomery (S.C) told me Michigan is now in the race after his visit to Michigan, but he still has trips set to North Carolina, LSU and Tennessee.
QB Denard Robinson (Fla.) was impressed with Michigan, but did not commit. He says he is considering Michigan, Florida, Georgia and Kansas State.
Is that bad news on Montgomery since it's not as positive? Eh, maybe not, since the really good quote from Montgomery was given to a local reporter. It could be a representation of how negative Kurelic tends to be about Michigan and that means we're definitely getting Hall(!). Or it could just be way, way too much read into a random statement. (Hint: the latter.))
I just talked to Travante Stallworth, and he was very excited about the visit. Terrence Robinson was his host, and thought he was a cool guy. Travante has seen snow before, and watched the snowball fight. He said the best part for him was how family oriented everyone was, especially the coaches. He felt very comfortable with all the players, and more importantly the coaches. …
He said that all the recruits that were there were all excited to be there, and they all had an awesome time. He said, "We all talked among ourselves about a few things," and he felt like the vibe was good.
I've been optimistic about Stallworth since Tom's interview earlier, but Auburn hired Gus Malzahn in the meantime—defying Chizik's previous claim to be a "smashmouth" devotee—and is a more serious threat than they were before.
Stokes will make official visits to Michigan the weekend of Jan. 16 and Illinois the weekend of Jan. 23.
“I’m going to try and squeeze in Penn State,” Stokes said. “I won’t take more than four visits. The other school is Georgia, but right now it looks like Penn State will be the fourth visit if I take a fourth one.”
On the other hand, that does sound pretty good for Michigan. Stokes seems leery of Tennessee now they've dumped both their quarterback recruits—and have no one in last year's class to boot—which would leave Illinois as the only real competition if Stokes doesn't take a fourth visit.
Etc.: Yet another Campbell commit article. PA LB Dan Mason (no offer) "pretty much down to Pitt and West Virginia". No mention of M in this article on AL LB Tana Patrick. LA LB Barkevious Mingo has a coach; said coach believes he's going to LSU.
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.
Update 9/1: Linked to articles on MI WR Dion Sims, NJ DE Anthony LaLota, CA QB Tate Forcier (second), FL LB Brandin Hawthorne, SC DE Chris Bonds, FL CB Mywan Jackson, SC DE Sam Montgomery, AZ DE Craig Roh, CA OL Michael Philipp, TN CB Marsalis Teague, MI WR Cameron Gordon, video of OH RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, picture I am going to use whenever MI DT Will Campbell is mentioned. Moved FL LB Brandin Hawthorne and FL RB Vincent Smith to committed. Moved CA QB Tate Forcier to committed. Some links from Varsity Blue.
Do we really have an offer out to this guy?
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. I’ll cover the commitments in separate googlestalking posts over the next few days. As far as the guys who are uncommitted or already in the fold…
This is the most important thing you’ll see in this post:
That’s wholly shirtless DT commit Will Campbell dressed up like Thor. I wish I could say this was some sort of surprise, but prep photographers get super bored from time to time and take the opportunity to make athletic guys who get all the girls dress up like goofs.
Meanwhile, my optimism re: MA OL Brennan Williams was ill-founded as he’s dropped M and plans to stay on the east coast—Varsity Blue wins this round. That’s a damaging blow for Michigan’s hopes for another high profile offensive lineman in the class; at the moment there is no one on the board that seems particularly likely to end up at Michigan. Michigan’s not graduating any OL this year and just took six, so the need is not critical; another decent prospect would be nice.
Elsewhere, there’s been some movement on the defensive ends we all crave. CA DE Craig Roh made an official visit for the Utah game and now Scout has an article indicating in the header that his decision will be coming shortly($). He likes Barwis, as all defensive ends should:
"He's out-of-this-world good," Roh said of Michigan's new conditioning guru. "He was the most impressive strength and conditioning coach I've seen. He's very outside the box. They don't just do ordinary lifting, and that really impressed me."
Roh explained the strength gains of one of Michigan's defensive ends.
"He weighed like 280 and benched like 300," Roh said. "(Barwis) stripped him down to 240 and built him up back to 270. Then he could bench 400 or something like that. That was just in five months! If you make those kinds of gains you are obviously doing something right."
Roh’s taken a second visit and is now accelerating his timetable, which either indicates 1) Michigan is it or 2) Michigan was the only school that might hypothetically snatch him from USC’s clutches and they didn’t quite get it done. They’re definitely in his top two. The premium sites have differing levels of optimism here; we’ll see.
Meanwhile, NJ DE Anthony LaLota was impressed by his visit and has decided to push out his commitment timeline until he takes in some official visits. Previously, he was planning to commit immediately after his unofficial to Michigan. Thoughts on his trip:
"It's a great place," he said of Ann Arbor. "The Big House is great and the atmosphere there is a lot of fun. I also love their tradition and history of winning.
"They are known for winning and I think they'll be great under coach Rich Rodriguez," LaLota said. "He's been a very successful coach and did great at West Virginia and I think he'll continue at Michigan. I don't think they'll have a bad season."
LaLota also plays on the offensive line, but says the Wolverines and others are recruiting him for defensive end. "They said that I need to come prepared because there's a good chance I could play early there," he said. "I really like how they always seem to prepare their players well for the next level."
Elsewhere in that article he has nice things to say about Rutgers and Notre Dame; Boston College, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Penn State are noted as the best campuses he’s been to; previous Virginia was thought to be in strong position for him. Add it up and LaLota’s future destination remains extremely murky.
SC DE Sam Montgomery is close to narrowing down his favorites and Michigan didn’t get a mention in the Kornblut article detailing his process. But hey, he likes Yankee talkin’:
I like to keep you guys guessing," he said. He did say that he is getting a better idea of where he plans to take his official visits and that South Carolinians may be pleased with his choices. This summer, Montgomery visited UNC and NC State. He liked both schools. "North Carolina is a great school. They really impressed me. They have a great atmosphere and I fell in love with John Blake." He also spoke highly of NC State. "I liked their coaches and their accents. They talk like people from up north. They acted like really want to win." Sam says he still wants to visit LSU and Miami but has not decided if these will be official or unofficial visits.
Paging Scott Shafer’s Midwestern brogue on line one. Montgomery’s previously claimed Michigan was an official visit on the docket. Optimism here is low; he appears ticketed for somewhere closer to home even with the weird affection for northern non-accents.
Fellow SC DE Chris Bonds has Michigan in his top six along with USC, the other USC, ND, Alabama, and Tennessee and looks upon Michigan junior Adam Patterson as something of a role model:
Bonds remembers watching Patterson choose Michigan over South Carolina in January 2006.
“Adam, he was a cool dude,” Bonds said. “I was a young guy. He was an old guy. Good role model. Adam would always tell me, ‘Just don’t let it get to you. No matter where you go, if it’s here or its Alaska or Hawaii, just don’t let it get to you.’ “
That list looks set up for a full slate of official visits plus some unofficial ones to the local school; Bonds has yet to tip his hand about where he’s leaning. He’s also got former teammates at Notre Dame and South Carolina.
Meanwhile, FL CB Mywan Jackson seemed on the verge of a commitment before a visit to Auburn with teammates gave him pause. He now plans a full slate of official visits; Michigan appears to be the team to beat:
Jackson took unofficial visits to all of his finalists except Illinois and South Carolina this summer. His trip to Michigan is the one that stood out. Jackson described the school as being "a wonderful place."
A versatile talent, Jackson (6-foot, 178 pounds) said Auburn and Michigan have told him they would give him a shot to play quarterback. His other finalists have him projected to play cornerback. Either scenario is fine with Jackson.
"I'd give (QB) up," he said. "I just want to get on the field."
UNC and Louisville are the other two finalists along with M, Auburn, Illinois, and the Other USC.
Video! Plenty of highlights from the first week of high school action. Liberty crushed Niles behind impressive performances from Fitzgerald Toussaint and Isaiah Bell:
FL WR Jeremy Gallon went flapjack nuts against a Seabreeze team that was 12-1 last year and features Michigan safety prospect Jonathan Scott, though Scott didn’t play, running for 304 yards and four touchdowns in Apopka’s blowout opening night win. (Video.)
There’s also this fluffy bit on GA LB Devekeyan “DeDe” Lattimore:
I think Michigan will fade for Lattimore, as they already have 3 or 4 linebacker commits in the class with the recent addition of Brandin Hawthorne and the potential moves of either or both of their safety commits.
Etc.: Michigan and MI LB/WR Cameron Gordon appear to have little mutual interest. MI TE Dion Sims is still leaning towards college basketball; he just tore his ACL and is done for the year.