...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Michigan just let in all manner of heathens to observe a couple practices, ping various coaches for information, and take in a Saturday scrimmage; naturally, this has created a ton of internet chatter. Also naturally, large portions of it conflict with other portions of it. There's a faction of super insiders on Rivals declaring Denard Robinson to be a complete disaster and one focused here proclaiming him to be Pat White—except fast! Tate Forcier is either looking like a "walk-on" or the obvious starter, and Devin Gardner is either a total n00b or Vince Young—except fast!
So… yeah. I don't know. Here's my contribution to the melee. First, a non-crippling version of the latest Inside Michigan Football featuring all quarterbacks doing something awesome:
Whenever I hear one of the freshmen speak I get annoyed at all the Dorsey stuff. Yeah, Michigan is totally turning into Jimmy Johnson's Miami.
Anyway, in addition to the posters who got bumped to the front page over the weekend, MGoBlog had a couple of sources who took in the activity late last week. Observations gleaned:
Terminology, or: The Quick And The Dead
One of the toughest things to do as a guy who tries to figure out football and communicate it as a layman is figure out what to call something. Every time I decide to call something X, well meaning folk tell me it should be Y or Z. I tend to apologetically ignore them just so things are relatively clear for readers.
However, if the coaches are all calling something one thing and it's not counter-intuitive I'll go with it. So:
- Michigan is calling the dual SS in the 3-3-5 "spur" (strongside) and "bandit" (weakside). Some 3-3-5 teams make no distinction between these guys, but it appears that Michigan will flip these guys strong and weak. This leaves the bandit as the guy who will be tested in the occasional deep half, about which more later.
- The coaches were actually calling the deep safety "strong" for a while but they've reverted to calling him "free." There are good football-related reasons for that weird nomenclature but since they're gone, whatever. I'll return to calling Cam Gordon and other guys who line up there free safeties.
- The north-south MINOR RAGE run that Michigan's used to good effect the past couple years is something I've been calling "veer," which has been the nomenclature that's drawn the most protests. Michigan calls this their "belly" series.
Spinner: dead. Quick: dead. With this jargon we will ascend to the pillars of knowledge.
My initial reaction to the Denard Robinson hype was the same as Doctor Saturday, who has lumped Tate-Denard-Devin into a list of "specious spring quarterback controversies," but both observers gave tentative, caveat-laden nods to Robinson as the starting quarterback. The difference between last year and this year is vast. That falls just short of incredible since Robinson arrived without any ability to even run the zone read. Many of his plays were Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Zone Stretches run from an empty backfield. Robinson's high school coaching amounted to nil, so it's obvious that he would have a bigger leap forward than Forcier and his years of intensive training.
Robinson is still light years away from Forcier as a passer—his ability to "see and understand the field remains limited"—but in the open field he is ludicrous and now that he's gotten the hang of the zone read he gets in that space frequently. Craig Roh on Robinson:
"I hate Denard on the football field," Roh said. "I love him outside of football, but on the football field, he's just such a nuisance. The quarterbacks here are too fast, and Denard, I just can't catch him. It's ridiculous."
Observer A, a defensively oriented guy, said "as a coordinator you watch him come around the corner on the naked boot and you say uh-oh." Another high school coach told observer B that Denard "runs into traffic just to make defenders look silly." Robinson's athleticism will force defenses to overplay that threat and open up other opportunities.
Tate Forcier remains Tate. One of Michigan's coaches praised Tate's "great strides" in his understanding of the playbook, but what you see is what you get with Forcier: accurate on the run, good scrambler, shortish, meh arm strength. Meanwhile, the undercurrent of coaching discontent with his dedication as a freshman has added another pebble:
"Maybe some of the things that happened early in the season happened a little easier for him," Rodriguez said. "It kind of felt right to him. At the end of the year, he played more like a true freshman at times. And he got banged up a little bit and his concentration wasn't as sharp.
"As coaches, it's our job to make sure he maintains that focus."
The most worrisome thing I hear about Forcier is actually a positive thing related about Gardner. Gardner sets in the pocket and has less of a tendency to start running around than either of the other two quarterbacks, which allows him to go deep more regularly. The offense is a lot of broken plays with both of the short guys. While that's obvious with Robinson, I was hoping Forcier would get more comfortable throwing in the pocket.
Despite that, it will be all but impossible to pull Forcier in favor of Robinson full time when their skill sets are so divergent; a platoon beckons.
As for Devin Gardner, raves about his "incredible feel for the game" from QB coach Rod Smith were relayed via both observers. Other spring hype: "huge," "covers ground without seeming to move" like Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor, and… wait for it… "well ahead of both at this stage." Gardner is a "gym rat" who will happily spend all day watching film. However, he's "nowhere near" having a grasp of the offense and his throwing is erratic. When he's good, he can make deep throws with touch unlike either of the other two, but his overall accuracy lags because of the mechanical issues. His delivery isn't consistent yet. This will not be an enormous surprise to anyone who saw the difference between Camp Devin and Degraded Devin over the course of this high school football season.
This position remains a mess that will not be resolved until UConn, and frankly I'd be surprised to see a single game this year where Michigan goes exclusively with one quarterback. With two polar opposites at the spot, the nominal starter may depend on the relative strength of the opposing defense.
That's just this year. The vibe I got was that Gardner is the future of the position. Maybe not this year, but all bets are off in 2011. The position was described as "loaded," albeit young.
Running Back Battle
Zero clarity here as well. As mentioned earlier, Stephen Hopkins was impressive to Observer B; A was pretty noncommital about the tailbacks. Mike Cox has slipped for whatever reason. Observer B on Hopkins:
The guy is just a freaking monster and he breaks tackles. Now, I can’t say he can block, or knows the offense or can catch the ball. Plus, he fumbled twice (once he was hit at the handoff, on the other instance it might have been the QB’s issue). But man is he a tough tackle on the belly if he can get (even) a yard of momentum.
Shaw and Toussaint seemed like better runners than Cox, as well. This is another spot that will lack clarity until deep into fall unless Vincent Smith (who is jogging but limping badly) comes back fully healthy and establishes himself as the guy.
At fullback, Mark Moundros is playing mostly at linebacker, leaving McColgan the starting FB. He seems okay. Made a couple catches, made a couple blocks. Fullback isn't a huge priority.
Still hard to tell much of anything with two of the top three guys on the outside missing and Michigan focusing on the short stuff, but the freshman making the most of his spring is Jerald Robinson, who is "rangy" and "knows how to get his body in position." That's similar to assessments coming out of his strong summer camp performance.
Jeremy Jackson is also on par with expectations: smart, good routes, great hands, approximately as fast as a tight end. Could this be the guy who actually warrants the incessant Jason Avant comparisons I make? Miller didn't impress in the brief window provided.
Meanwhile, the guys in the slot are reputed to be extremely slippery. Terrance Robinson and Jeremy Gallon are described as "better than a pretty good Big Ten player" in Odoms as long as they're catching the ball. This is not assured: Robinson's hands were the main reason he didn't see the field last year and Observer B praised Odoms's hands while complaining about too many drops in the slot. Coaches were talking up Robinson as a potential contributor, FWIW.
Offensive line being an esoteric position, I don't have much other than the general positivity even absent David Molk. Taylor Lewan could use another 15 pounds but is still holding down left tackle. Perry Dorrestein is nicked up, which may explain the move. More than likely this is an opportunity Lewan won't pass up and Dorrestein is going to have to battle for the right tackle spot. Insert now-default Jake Long comparisons here. Lewan's not likely to be the #1 pick in the NF L draft but his career trajectory is zipping along at the most optimistic level possible.
The most encouraging thing on the line is the depth. Even with Washington and Dorrestein nicked up there's almost a solid two-deep of players who Michigan could throw on the field without panic:
Getting Molk back will give Michigan a buffer of three or four competent backup offensive linemen.
Remember last year's complaint about Michigan potentially tipping their run plays based on the position of the quarterback? This was the setup position on a zone stretch…
…and this was Michigan's belly (which this blog called "veer") series:
From the sideline shot it's pretty obvious what's going on here. QB in front of RB: north-south. QB behind RB: east-west. I'm not entirely sure a defense is going to be aware enough to make an adjustment based on this—it's a lot easier to tell when you're way far away on a sideline—but it can't help.
The coaches apparently have the same concern. They've moved away from this paradigm in favor of something they believe will disguise their intent better. What it is I don't know. It sounds like at the very least the QB is going to move late, like a split second before the snap, if not after. This strikes me as something that Debord would never do.
(FWIW: They did try to mix it up some after practicing for Illinois' zone read veer—which I think is, like, really a veer until someone corrects me on it in the next 60 seconds—but that wasn't successful and was abandoned. I wouldn't write it off entirely, FWIW. It's possible a newly capable Denard Robinson makes that crazy effective.)
"Confirmation." Rodriguez was pinged at last weekend's Women's Football Academy about Dann O'Neill. The Free Press reports back:
Rodriguez confirmed that offensive lineman Dann O’Neill has left the program, but he wasn’t sure whether O’Neill will transfer to another school.
So… confirmed, eh? Which sort of implies the existence of a report that O'Neill has departed, eh? Where might this report be? I'm curious as to when a newspaper will credit something other than another newspaper for breaking a story.
- If the elder Grady gets his probation together and so forth and so on he'll remain on the team:
“He’s still working out with the guys,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve gotten the details from him and researched it a little bit . Kevin has taken care of some of (those) responsibilities, and the rest of that is up to him. If he does everything, come Aug. 9, when we start camp, he’ll rejoin us.”
FWIW, Grady's father went on WTKA and asserted that the newspaper reports of what, exactly, he didn't complete were erroneous and the slip-up was considerably more minor. I don't have strong feelings one way or the other about Grady staying on the team.
- Rodriguez said there was only one freshman in danger of not qualifying. Sam Webb asserted that Fitzgerald Toussaint was good to go, which leaves Jeremy Gallon squarely in the crosshairs of that comment. (There were rumors that Adrian Witty was also a potential casualty, but since we know Gallon has a point or two to get it's easy to infer Witty has cleared the bar. Justin Turner's situation is apparently not a big deal.)
Speaking of that Women's Academy, while it didn't turn up anything equivalent to last year's legendary squat 'n' scream…
…Rivals does have some entertaining pictures. Here's Greg Robinson not getting the spirit of the thing:
YAAAAAARGH GET WITH THE PROGRAM 70 YEAR OLD 110 POUND RETIREE. There is also this woman wearing a shirt that appears to say "SQUIRELS [sic] GONE WILD" which WTF. And yes, insane all caps man, this girl is hot. I assume she's a cheerleader given the outfit.
Busts past. I was reading the good Doctor's Auburn preview when I ran across a name from the past:
As bad as those two [Kodi Burns and Chris Todd] were, career backup Neil Caudle only got on the field for five snaps against Tennessee-Martin -- yet he left the spring in a virtual dead heat with Burns to be No. 1. If we also assume Rollison can run, his arm might be worth a flier in case of another slow start.
Caudle was at Michigan's camp at the same time as David Cone, who apparently outperformed him and another high-profile quarterback. At the time this was encouraging; now it's apparent it said more about Caudle than Cone. Take it from a guy who witnessed Todd's painfully looping throws in the flesh: if you couldn't get on the field for Auburn last year, you were bad.
Also, that Rollison guy is Tyrik, who hardcore recruitniks may remember as the guy who played opposite Shavodrick Beaver in a game televised by ESPN. He had virtually no offers—Baylor might have been his best—until very, very late, when Auburn took a flier and got a commitment. This obviously meant JUCO, but somehow the guy qualified. Many teams will be kicking themselves if Rollison lives up to the hype. And manages to stay in school.
Yes, fair enough. Conversations about Rodriguez's recruiting this year usually go something like this:
Person One: I am concerned the class is filling up with players with low ratings and unimpressive offers.
Person Two: But Rodriguez dominated doofuses in the Big East with crappy classes!
That's an expletive, ad-hominem free version of events but you get the idea. The WLA takes issue with that latter hypothesis, because it is their job to find any optimism related to Michigan football and stamp it out:
Let’s look at how WVU recruited compared to their primary competition: fellow teams in the Big East:
2002: #2 class in the Big East (includes Miami, VT, and BC)
Looking at those results, it’s difficult to argue that West Virginia suffered any tangible talent deficit to it’s fellow Big East teams. … while WVU’s classes full of two andthree-star talent seems poor when put into the context of major college football, it was actually an above-average result when put into the context of their conference.
Okay, point taken, but counterpoints: West Virginia was most certainly at a huge talent deficit relative to Georgia and Oklahoma, and once you start getting into the area where you're pulling hairs between the #27 and #37 classes the gradation is way flatter than it is at the tippy top; West Virginia dominated a conference in which they had virtually equal talent to everyone else, and even if Michigan's class comes in a little disappointing this year it's still virtually guaranteed to be third at worst. This is coming off a horrendous year and should improve in the future. The argument that Rodriguez can take his and beat yours, then take yours and beat his, is one with significant data backing it up.
Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, OL Michael Schofield, OL Taylor Lewan, OL Quinton Washington, WR Cameron Gordon, and WR Je'Ron Stokes.
|Apopka, Florida - 5'8" 165
|Scout||3*, #45 WR|
|Rivals||4*, #11 ATH, #151 overall|
|ESPN||77, #80 ATH|
|Other Suitors||Auburn, Kansas, Iowa|
|Brief TomVH interview. UV embeds some videos Gallon recorded on his official, and asserts he looks like Snoop from the Wire.|
|Notes||Still attempting to qualify. Huge SI article on the single wing features Gallon.|
There is no more concise description of Jeremy Gallon than his high school's nickname wrought singular: "Blue Darter." Given the winged helmet you can see above, it seems like fate itself ordained Gallon to be a slot receiver at Michigan.
And lo, it has come to pass. Gallon's commitment to Michigan was, like that of DeQuinta Jones, sudden and based on nothing more than his relationship with Michigan's coaches. Unlike Jones, Gallon stuck with his commitment, possibly once you've worn a winged helmet nothing else compares.
At the time, Gallon was a 5'8" slot ninja playing quarterback and still managed to rank amongst the top 100 on Rivals. Though he dropped in a re-rank—probably because various Rivals folk did a double take, saying "he's how tall?!"—he clawed his way back up the lists after an impressive showing at the Army All American game, at which he was the only slot receiver. This is a perfect summary of Gallon's projected talents: he's absolutely a slot, which brings with it the sort of limited upside that causes only one of them to get invited to an all star game, but he may be the best in the country. After all, how many guys of any size can levitate?
In fact, a quick scan of Rivals' rankings turns up only one slot electron ranked higher than him: Pahokee star Nu'keese Richardson, a
Florida Tennessee commit. Everyone else on the list under six foot is a defensive back or running back. Though Gallon doesn't rate as highly at ESPN or Scout, everyone lists "size" is the major downer and is otherwise positive:
Has great feet and is really slippery as a runner-- is very tough to get a clean shot at. Runs low and gets lost behind his blockers, does a good job using his stature to his advantage and doesn't take many big hits as a result. He can really accelerate and shows explosive first step quickness as a back. Has good vision, can hit the cutback and he has the speed and second gear to hit the edge and turn the corner. Shows wiggle and the ability to make multiple defenders miss in space.
Scout's Bob Lichtenfels:
"I think Gallon is a stud. 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."
There's a disconnect here between the talking and the numbers, some of which can be attributed to the usual disconnect between talking—which is invariably to people who want you to say good things and therefore more positive—and the numbers. But not all of it, possibly not even most of it. This is one of those guys that, as the theory goes, is a three or four star to everyone else but a five star in Rodriguez's offense.
And just look at him go:
"His game is: he's fast. And he's elusive -- he's hard to get a handle on. He changes directions real well. And he's also very strong. He power cleans 310 pounds, which is the most on our team."
Rivals' summary of his Army game performance:
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.
The catching is a major point, since there's always that question with high school quarterbacks turned wide receivers. Take Steve Breaston's well-documented (and slightly overrated) tendency to drop slants, or Terrence Robinson's reported struggles this spring. So it's encouraging to hear items like this from Rivals' Adam Gorney:
“He’s obviously not the biggest guy, but he doesn’t need to be. He’s going to be able to get open, get the ball in his hands and do a lot of things with it. He had good hands today and every time the ball was thrown his way, he caught it. He looked like one of the best guys there.”
If Gallon's existence as a single-wing QB has a downside it also has an upside: Gallon's versatility will serve him well at Michigan. Lichtenfels' reference to Reynaud is on point: at West Virginia Reynaud* lined up in the backfield regularly and wasn't above taking a carry or an option pitch. Gallon's extensive experience in the backfield—he racked up over 3,500 rushing yards in two years as Apopka's single-wing star—should provide the offense with a flexibility in formation they lacked last year.
And, you know… these passing stats aren't half-bad for a wideout. His junior year:
He also completed 56 of 88 pass attempts for 1,071 yards and eight touchdowns and no interceptions.
I can't find solid senior year stats, but Varsity Blue made a game attempt to total up the incomplete information provided and got a partial season count that was 15 of 29 for 341 yards. These aren't dinks: single-wing passing is a go-deep-or-go-home sort of enterprise. Gallon's approximate YPC in his two years as a quarterback is a Yossarian-worthy 19.9. While Gallon isn't going to give Tate Forcier a run for his money, he's going to be a slot receiver who takes a lot of pitches and screens that defenses will be freaking out about. Could he be an Antwaan Randle-El trick play factory? Let's hope, as that would be awesome.
Gallon is a Swiss Army knife of a player: pocket-sized, versatile, capable of surprising feats, and… uh… hard to tackle. (If you've ever tried to tackle a Swiss Army knife you know what I'm talking about. They're pointy.) It's hard to envision a scenario in which one of his diverse and sundry talents doesn't find him on the field, if not this fall than next.
Actually… there is one scenario. Despite telling TomVH this in January…
I asked him about the rumor that he wouldn't qualify, and he told me, "No, that's not true. I'm on track, and will qualify to play."
…there remains a possibility he won't make it in. Gallon remains "on track," which is better than signing with a JUCO but not as good as qualified. Though the latest reports are trending positive, Gallon still has work to do.
Why Steve Breaston? In high school Breaston was an electric quarterback who spent his time running around making various people look silly indeed. At Michigan he settled into the nascent slot receiver spot, was the recipient of a ton of bubble screens, and was generally a YAC terror. Breaston is considerably taller, but everything else fits.
Etc.: There is an unbelievable amount of video out there on Gallon: Interview from the Army game; smokes ND commit Zeke Motta for a TD in this AA practice clip; video of six touchdowns in a playoff game; GBW interview from AA bowl.
Guru Reliability: Moderate to high. All Star appearance but a big spread in the rankings.
General Excitement Level: High. He's a slot who promises to be a multi-purpose threat, and there might be some awesome trick plays in there somewhere.
Projection: If he makes it—about which I know nothing—he'll have an opportunity to contribute immediately what with Terrance Robinson enduring a case of dropsies in spring and Roy Roundtree being a poor target for bubble screens. Even if playing time in the slot is not immediately available he could potentially return kicks. Versatility and his existence at a shallow position suggest a redshirt is unlikely.
*(Reynaud, by the way, has a fan way into the metric system. His wikipedia page has a variety of touchdowns scored or yards gained, every single one of which is annotated with a conversion from yards to meters. Por ejemplo:
When Slaton was injured against Louisville, Reynaud filled in for him at running back, contributing to Reynaud's 221 yards (202 m) rushing on 14 carries for the season. Reynaud had a career-best 110 yards (100 m) on 5 catches with a touchdown against ECU, when the run offense wasn't productive.
Amateur Barwis Porn. MGoBoard denizens are ahead of the curve on this, but Jeremy Gallon has a number of videos up that document parts of his Michigan official visit, and they're pretty cool. Here's the legendary "you can't do this" Barwis pushup we've heard so much about:
Not that you didn't know this already. Michael Spath talked to Red about the ficky-ficking against Ohio State on Saturday:
He also took about five minutes to rip the hell out of the replay system and the CCHA officials. He's very aware of what the two games (ND and OSU) could end up costing his team in the long run. But while he wants to see wholesale changes to the replay system he doesn't know that it will change because enough programs (ones that don't get TV often) probably wouldn't benefit from introducing new technology.
The other main topic of Red's press conference was the availability of Mark Mitera. Michigan's captain appears to be a go this weekend:
"I'm expecting that he'll play this weekend, but we're going to go day-to-day now that we're down to the last week," Berenson said after practice. "I'm looking at it as if he'll play. Gonna put him in a defensive rotation (Tuesday), and we'll see how he looks as the week goes on."
Also, Brian Lebler was injured Saturday—it's a shoulder thing—but is practicing and is day-to-day for the Ferris series.
A pairwise note. the Hoover Street Rag caught something I didn't when I surveyed the situation:
Miami has a better record, but since they haven't reached the 10-win threshold (when the head-to-head series is taken out) it isn't counted. This weekend, they play OSU. A team under consideration. If they sweep, they win the category and the comparison, even if we sweep Ferris State.
Michigan would have an opportunity to take the comparison back by doing better than Miami in the CCHA tournament, as unless Michigan and Miami are upset they're schedule to meet in the semifinal.
Er, really? The topic of a ninth Big Ten game will not die:
"That was a discussion that may move forward," Alvarez said. "We've discussed nine games. That will be something we'll probably take to the coaches."
The ADs are aware that 9 X 11 = 99 and 99 can't be divided by two; one team would only play eight Big Ten games. This would be absolute chaos if one of those teams was locked into the Big Ten title race, though. If one team is 8-0 and the other is 9-0, who's the champ? If one team is 8-1 and the other is 7-1, who's the champ? I just can't see that working out.
My best effort to a workable system: All league schedules are set just like they are now with the exception of one particular week. This week is kept clear until the previous season ends. The last place team in the league gets matched with a pre-arranged MAC opponent. They probably wouldn't mind, as they would have an easier path to bowl eligibility.
At this point you have ten teams in two groups:
- 2 teams not scheduled to play the last-place team.
- 8 teams with the last place team on the schedule.
The group of two have one and only one available option for their ninth game and get matched up with that option. The other six (or eight) teams get randomly matched up with one of the two teams they miss, with an emphasis on 1) variety and 2) fairly balancing home and away. I don't think it would work out exactly right every year, but the differences would be pretty small.
You are then hoping there are no worst-to-first miracle seasons, or you're putting in some sort of emergency championship game in the event that happens, or you're actually counting this MAC game in the conference standings, or you're just fine with making a mockery of the championship. I'd love to see a ninth conference game—I'd love to see anything other than Wisconsin-Cal Poly, really—but it just doesn't work.
Prepare to be ensmitened by links!
Update 1/5: In an effort to cut down on the size of the board, I've excised the list of changes that lurk at the bottom. All relevant articles are linked, and if you want to see each change as it happens you can check the revisions tab at the top.
Linked to articles on TX CB Demontre Hurst, FL CB Jayron Hosley, OH CB Justin Turner (and FL WR Jeremy Gallon), FL RB commit Vincent Smith (another one), SC DE Sam Montgomery (second), MI DT Will Campbell, SC OL Quinton Washington, FL LB Brandin Hawthorne, LA DT Dequinta Jones, OH CB Mike Edwards, FL CB Mywan Jackson, OH OL Henry Conway. Added OH CB Dale Peterman, FL CB Adrian Witty. Moved MI DT Will Campbell to committed. More on Campbell.
Removed GA S Darren Myles (dropped us), CA OL Michael Phillip (no mention of he and M for a long time).
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here.
William Campbell AKA The Otter AKA Thor AKA MI12 is was covered yesterday. Now onto other folk.
Interviews with people who are hopefully not vampires
A lot of GBW interviews with the Michigan commits at the Army bowl showed up on the Myspace recently. There are too many to embed them all but summaries of anything noteworthy follow:
NJ DE Anthony Lalota: didn't mention OL when asked about position versatility; did say he might slide inside on passing downs. Sounds like he doesn't expect to redshirt.
FL WR Jeremy Gallon: not much of note, but he seems like a really good kid.
OH CB Justin Turner: wants to play corner at Michigan and Michigan wants him at corner; after his performance that's likely to be his spot. Turner knew what Campbell was going to do.
FL K Brendan Gibbons: he's never kicked off the ground before, which may have contributed to his missed FG. Recruited Campbell pretty heavily. He did mention he'd been talking to VA QB Tajh Boyd—one of the game MVPs—and that Boyd was "interested." That's the first indication Michigan had been conversing with Boyd.
There's also an interview with on-again, off-again Michigan prospect OH OT Marcus Hall, the highly-rated Glenville tackle. He did confirm his Michigan official coming up this weekend, and cited Campbell as a friend and Michigan recruiter. If he "had to pick today" it would be Ohio State, but that's because it's the only place he's been.
As mentioned previously, I'll believe Hall is a Michigan commit when he's a redshirt sophomore living on Geddes and no sooner, but a visit raises the chances from zero to something that's not zero. Hall's teammate and OH CB Mike Edwards, about whom more later, is also supposed to be in this weekend.
Corners in(?), corners out.
The defensive coordinator change has given TX CB Demontre Hurst pause:
Although Hurst was scheduled to visit Michigan on Jan. 9, he says that trip is unlikely to occur. "I'm not sure about that one anymore," he said. "I know they just lost their defensive coordinator (Scott Shafer), so I'm holding off.
"I talked to (linebackers) coach Jay Hopson about it and he said they'll get someone great," he said. "But I don't want to take a visit there if they don't have a defensive coordinator yet."
I've left him on the board for now; he's unlikely to end up at M, obviously.
Also looking like a longer shot is the aforementioned Edwards, who picked up a Tennessee offer. Sayeth Edwards:
“Tennessee definitely has the edge right now."
If he doesn't come out of his visit this weekend with Michigan at least equal with UT you can cross him off the list.
FL CB Mywan Jackson would like to decide soon:
"My mind's not made up yet, but I should know by next week," Jackson said. "Definitely next week. It'll be exciting to get it over with and let everyone known where I'm going."
Jackson has UL, UNC, and Michigan on his list; that article says Jackson claimed all three of the schools were even but said UNC "might have the inside track" because his teammate and friend Angelo Hadley is committed to the Heels. Jackson took an unofficial to Michigan in the summer and had an official scheduled for the 23rd; if he decides before he takes it the end result is very probably UNC. Update: announcement scheduled for Thursday, and the article comes from the UNC scout site. Meanwhile, no Michigan site has gotten hold of Jackson in a long time. All signs point to UNC.
With these guys all looking like longshots it's no surprise there are some new guys on the radar. One might commit soon, if he gets offered.:
Only one player, Ursuline's Dale Peterman, who is expected to announce early next week that he will be attending the University of Michigan to play football, fouled out.
That's OH CB Dale Peterman, to be specific. When it comes to recruiting, you take random one-liners in local newspapers seriously at your peril, but Rivals put out a followup article($) so there are some legs to this one. Peterman had grade issues that held his recruitment up but does have South Carolina and Wisconsin offers, so at least a couple other schools think he's a BCS-level talent. He's rated a meh three star by Rivals, a 73 (meh three star) by ESPN, and is currently unrated at Scout. IMO, Michigan is considering an offer only if guys like Jackson and Jayron Hosley go elsewhere. Which, yeah… well.
The other new name is FL CB Adrian Witty, a teammate of quarterback recruit Denard Robinson. Both Robinson and Witty will be up this weekend; Witty lacks an offer but "feels" he'll get one on the visit. Even if he does it might be hard to convince him to like snow:
Kansas State and FIU are the only two in that list to officially offer the 5-foot-10, 160-pound cornerback yet. FIU being the local school may have an advantage.
“If I have to leave the state I do, but I’d like to stay in state,” said Witty.
Yeah, Kansas State and FIU offers don't scream super-stud, but a knee injury that robbed him of much of his senior year has something to do with that. Witty is unranked by Rivals and Scout. Let's not mince words: he's a complete wildcard and would be an Englemon-type late offer, a backup plan. But Englemon turned out okay.
Back to Hosley, Luke Stampini updates his status:
The Michigan staff better have a hill and a sled for Jayron when he visits Ann Arbor Jan 16. He heard about the snow Michigan received a week or so ago and is not feeling that. “I heard they got a bunch of snow and some people even lost power, I don’t want that [laughing].” Michigan seems to be behind the 8 ball now, but like I always said, sell him early playing time. The early playing time, showing him snow actually can be fun [sledding is fun for all ages], and see where it gets you. …
Jayron is still being coy about naming a leader with his usual “I’ll know more following the visits”, but just me reading between the lines, I say the Hokies lead.
Columbus and Blacksburg aren't exactly Florida, either, so I don't know if the cold will be a determining factor. Visits, obviously, will be important.
Ain't gonna lie: at this point it looks like Michigan will be taking a suboptimal flier on a second cornerback unless they pull a rabbit out of their hat.
I'm a get you
Pahokee LB Brandin Hawthorne is the Palm Beach Post's small schools defensive player of the year and gets the requisite fluffy article to accompany the award. This one's got a hell of a quote*:
Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson has a nickname for senior linebacker Brandin Hawthorne.
It's "psycho." But he means that in the nicest way.
"He says that because there's nothing I fear," Hawthorne said. "I don't care how big you are, I'm a get you."
Hawthorne has an "audio slideshow" up, too.
*(I mean this sincerely, btw, not in any sort of mocking fashion. Sometimes on the internet it's tough to tell.)
He a get you, too
The Post's small schools offensive player of the year is none other than Pahokee RB Vincent Smith. His article starts off with a flagrant lie about his height and a nice quote from his coach:
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Smith never disappointed and eclipsed 2,000 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns his senior season, earning him the Palm Beach Post's Small Schools Offensive Player of the Year.
"He hit the scene confident and motivated," Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson said. "His maturity outside the football field has been measurable. He's just a great kid. Everyone just looks at him and says, 'I hope he succeeds. I hope he's successful' and everything's coming together for him."
This is the second consecutive year a Michigan recruit has captured this award; last year it was Justin Feagin. Smith also reeled in the Sun-Sentinel's area POY award.
Smith has his own slideshow up, BTW.
DeQuinta Jones' Status
I think this contains a typo, but this comes from a paper covering Oklahoma State:
Bastrop, La., defensive tackle DeQuinta Jones has set up a Jan. 13 [sic?] visit date, according to Scout.com. Currently committed to Michigan, Jones is also planning to visit Arkansas this month, as well as take an official visit to Michigan.
That's probably a January 23rd visit, as midweek visits are unusual what with the whole "I am nominally supposed to be in school" thing. In any case, Jones earlier listed Oklahoma and Alabama as potential visit destinations, and there's no mention of either here. Oversight or change in plans? Eh… don't know. I do know I feel much better about Jones sticking if Alabama and Oklahoma aren't two of the competitors.
Rounding out the line
Michigan would like to pick up another offensive lineman or two and the highest-rated guy left on their board is SC OL Quinton Washington. He's been quiet of late, so information about his preferences is scarce. Michigan and South Carolina are kind of sort of believed to be a tenuous top two.
Washington still hasn't taken any visits except the one he took to M in the fall, but Tennessee would like to change that. They've hired away one of South Carolina's top recruiters and have Washington scheduled for an official on the weekend of the 23rd. South Carolina will get their shot on the 17th, and no one really knows where he's leaning now:
No announcement is pending.
“I really couldn’t tell you,” the standout from St. Stephen High School in Timberland, S.C., said. “I might make it the day after my final visit. I might make it on Signing Day. I might make it a few days after. I really don’t know.”
Washington said distance from home won’t be a factor in his decision. As for playing in cold weather, he said, “I’ll get used to it.”
Having Michigan's chief rival for Washington's signature see the guy who was recruiting him switch has to be a benefit.
One indirectly encouraging indicator comes from OH OL Henry Conway. Conway was planning on coming up this weekend but has canceled that trip:
Scout.com’s No. 85 offensive tackle was originally supposed to visit the Wolverines on Jan. 9, but says he will likely not take the trip to Ann Arbor. “I’m not gonna take a visit there unless they offer me,” Conway said.
“They’ve made a lot of early offers and don’t have any scholarships left,” he said of the Wolverines. “So unless someone commits somewhere else or tells them ‘no’ there won’t be an offer to open up.”
Conway's a decent recruit with offers from State, BC, and Illinois amongst others so Michigan must be confident they'll pull in Washington, Hall, or NC OL Travis Bond.
As recently as a few days ago the status quo with Sam Montgomery held: LSU leads, Michigan trails but will get a visit, longshot. But ESPN's JC Shurbutt got a sunnier vibe from the UA practices than you might expect:
Everyone who spoke with uncommitted defensive end Sam Montgomery (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood) got a LSU-North Carolina-Michigan feeling from him. That makes sense as Montgomery has named the Tigers his leader in multiple news articles during recent weeks, citing his relationship with defensive line coach Earl Land [sic; his name is Lane] Also, North Carolina defensive line coach John Blake has made a huge impact on his recruitment and Michigan is working him hard as well (fellow defensive end Craig Roh, a Wolverines commit, has struck up a friendship with Montgomery this week).
Okay, so, that's better. There were heavy rumors that Lane was about to be LSU's ex-defensive line coach and that this would blow that LSU lead into tiny bits. Hopefully this happens posthaste.
(Sidenote from the above ESPN article on 2010 WR Kenny Shaw: "word is he could be a player whose stock really rises once schools find out about him." Shaw is FL WR commit Ricardo Miller's teammate.)
Oh my God. Three things combined to make this past week the most frenetic in MGoBlog recruit-trackin' history: Will Campbell, the rise of the UA game as a thing you have to pay attention to, and a flood of articles released for free on both games. Today I'm going to dump about 5k words on recruiting on you; I've split things up into two groups.
This is group one: scouting reports and impressions from the seven committed recruits who participated in All-American festivities over the past week. (There were actually eight but the Will Campbell stuff went in the Will Campbell post.) Group two is a standard, if mondo, version of Tuesday Recruitin'. That's later today.
OL Taylor Lewan
Rivals' Barton Simmons on AZ OL Taylor Lewan:
Lewan's body is still developing but it looks like he has the ability to really be a great offensive tackle. He is lean right now but is extremely long and looks like he has the ability to add weight. Lewan uses his hands well, stays back in his pass set and has the feet for tackle. Lewan will have an extremely high ceiling as he gets stronger and bigger in a college weight program.
Another take from the same guy:
It's hard not to like Lewan's potential at tackle. He is light in the pants right now and he's going to need a couple of years to develop in a college weight program but once he does, he has shown that he has some terrific tools to utilize. Lewan is an athletic tackle with a long frame who looks to be every bit of 6-7. He has good feet and balance and as he gets more weight behind him to allow him to handle power moves, he will be a tough matchup for any pass rusher.
Barry Every's (very similar) take:
ASSETS: Excellent height, long arms, and really athletic feet.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Needs to gain at least 25 to 30 pounds in order to become an effective run blocker.
WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE IN PRACTICE: His lateral movement and natural knee bend was probably the best of all the linemen on the White team.
CONCLUSION: Lewan has the ideal frame for the strength coaches at Michigan to work with. Lewan is almost definitely redshirt material, but after that watch out. The sky is the limit for this long armed mauler.
This is a consistent chorus: needs a redshirt and might need two years—when he's a redshirt freshman Schilling and Dorrestein will be seniors anyway—but has major upside.
Scout's Brandon Huffman:
"The first person that I saw that really stood out to me was Taylor Lewan," said Scout.com West Coast Regional Manager Brandon Huffman. "You look at him and you see a guy that is really reminiscent of Jake Long. He's ridiculously athletic. I saw him for the first time at a combine back in May. Physically he is as impressive an offensive lineman as you'll see in the country."
ESPN noted a practice battle between Lewan and Oklahoma commit Justin Chaisson, who had two sacks in the game itself:
It was an athletic draw between White offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) and White defensive end Justin Chaisson (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) during one-on-one pass rushing drills, as both players showed great feet and quickness.
On the downside, Lewan's inexperience and lack of size were occasionally mentioned:
First-year offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) has exciting upside. Still, his limited experience -- he played D-line for most of his prep career -- is being exposed at times against this level of competition.
All told, it sounds like Lewan was better than expected and should be moving up somewhat in revised rankings.
DE Craig Roh
ASSETS: High energy guy that plays with passion. He also has incredibly low pad level at the point of attack.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Needs to add at least 25 more pounds to be an effective run stopper in the Big Ten.
WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE IN PRACTICE: Roh was really quick off the edge and took advantage of the fact that there was no real left offensive tackle on the White team.
CONCLUSION: Roh has a lot of upside but is most likely a redshirt candidate that needs to get bigger and stronger in the Wolverine weight room in 2009.
Some practice notes from ESPN have an approving mention:
Playing next to Brown, Craig Roh (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) has been very disruptive this week with his inside spin move. The heady defensive end showed a nice counter of that by coming back to the outside and having good success against offensive tackle Stavion Lowe (Brownwood, Texas).
Roh then went out and was perhaps the most impressive player in the UA game not named Matt Barkley:
TEAM WHITE: Craig Roh – The Michigan commit was constantly pressuring the quarterback. He is great off the edge, he has a big time spin move, and he never slows down until the play is officially dead. He will need to add weight and strength to become better against the run, but he is a pass rush specialist that could make an early impact in Ann Arbor.
Rivals' Jamie Newberg echoed those sentiments:
Roh got better as the week of practice progressed. He had a big first half. Once he gains some size to his frame, watch out.
And the Texas bloggers at Barking Carnival had no reason to mention a kid from Arizona going to Michigan but did anyway:
Craig Roh DE (Michigan)
Straight baller that showed a Dwight Freeney spin on Kelley for a sack and sacked/tackled Russel Shepard in space. Had a handful of QB pressures over the course of the game. Rich Rod got himself a good one.
Roh's pad level was repeatedly mentioned, as he has a unique stance in which he set himself up at nearly the offensive lineman's knees and shoots forward at the snap, which sets up his spin move as OLs are terrified of letting Roh outside of him.
Overall: sounds like a major leap forward for Roh, possibly into the latter half of top-100 lists that he's not too far outside of now.
DE Anthony LaLota
ASSETS: Excellent height, great frame and long arms.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT: Really needs to work on pad level at the point of attack. He cannot get by on size and strength alone against this level of competition.
WHAT WAS MOST IMPRESSIVE IN PRACTICE: Seems to be a high-effort guy that really wants to get better as a defensive end.
CONCLUSION: Most likely a redshirt candidate next season as he continues to learn his position and acclimate to playing against stiffer competition. His excellent frame is meant for long-term success.
…and that's all, really. LaLota didn't do much in the Army game, and while that's nothing approaching definitive not standing out means he's probably ranked a little high. There was a Lichtenfels mention that he was a "stock down" guy, but that's behind a paywall.
Lalota may slip some in the revised rankings but shouldn't see his fourth star threatened.
WR Jeremy Gallon
Gallon had a very good week despite being the leetlest man in all the land.
Gallon's coach this week is Terry Smith, who you may remember from the Justin King recruiting saga, and he's big (ha!) on Gallon:
At wide receiver, Michigan commit Jeremy Gallon has been far and away the most productive receiver. He has touchdowns catches in each of the practices and has a knack for getting open and sneaking behind the defense. At 5 feet 8, Gallon is small enough to creep through openings and then pop open for the pass.
"He's a pleasant surprise," Smith said. "We knew he was a good athlete but making the adjustment to receiver was always a big question mark. He's scored touchdowns in every practice and he seems to have the knack to get open and make the play."
When Gallon committed out of nowhere he was in the Rivals 100 because one particular analyst (Barry Every) was over the moon about him. He dropped out soon after for good reasons—he's a smurf and he projects to a position he didn't really play in college—but maybe his strong performance in the slot this week sees him re-enter; he's definitely due for a jump up the Scout rankings, where he's a three-star.
Scout's Bob Lichtenfels' take (warning: "stud" deployment):
"I think Gallon is a stud," Lichtenfels said of the 5-9, 175-pound pass-catcher from Apopka, Fla. "I think for Rich Rodriguez, that's the next Darius Reynaud. He doesn't have elite speed, but his quickness and shiftiness is just out of sight."
Gallon was the star of practices all week and was effective in the scrimmage and during the game itself. He is tiny but he has great quickness and he is smart. He knows how to find space between the cornerback and the safety and catches almost everything thrown his way. He'll be a slot receiver at the next level and will be hard to cover, using his lack of size to his advantage.
Gallon's height will always give people an easy out when it comes time to rank someone else ahead of him, but he answered a lot of questions about his ability to play receiver over the week and should be seeing a bump.
CB Justin Turner
Perhaps the weekend's most encouraging development outside of William Campbell's commitment was the excellent play of OH CB Justin Turner. Though Turner got beat by Pat Patterson for a touchdown, he followed that up with a spectacular diving interception at the sideline. More importantly, during the practices he established himself as one of the best corners at the game. That's important, as if Turner struggled and looked like a future safety Michigan would currently have zero committed corners in a year they need two and would probably take three if they can find enough guys they like.
Rivals put him on his team's "hot 11" for his performance during the game:
Turner is a big corner who can move and support the run and he was all over the field in the game. He led the East with seven tackles, had a big interception and helped keep the ever-dangerous Rueben Randle from breaking any big gains. He's a rarity with his combination of size, speed and ball skills at his position.
"He's a guy from day one that I lobbied for as one of the top four or five safeties in the nation. I actually think after watching him this week that he can play corner. His skill set is just (unique). He can play safety, he's great in coverage, and he'll come up and he'll hit you. He could play cover corner in the Big Ten easily. Every coach in the country wants a guy that's 6-2 and can cover."
Turner was named the #8 player on his team by Rivals:
Turner is a big kid who was forced into playing cornerback for the East and did a very solid job all week. In the game itself he showed off his tackling ability and ball skills and showed he's either going to be a rare corner who supports the run well or a ball-hawking safety who isn't afraid to come up and hit. Either way Michigan gets a steal.
I don't know about "steal," since Turner had offers from Ohio State and many others early, but I'll take a good player. He was also named the #2 tackler at the entire Army Bowl by Rivals.
K Brendan Gibbons
Gibbons was 3/4 on extra points, with the miss a blocked one due to a combination of a poor hold (from Jeremy Gallon of all people) and a missed assignment, and 1/2 on field goals from 35 (the make) and 46. His kickoffs were long, though.
Kickers don't get much attention, but Gibbons did get a scouting report from an unusual source: NJ OL Eric Shrive, a Penn State commit and Army teammate:
Michigan lost kicker Anthony Fera when he decommitted and signed with Penn State a few months back. But Shrive says the Wolverines landed on their feet in the kicking department. Brendan Gibbons is the East kicker, and Shrive said he was teeing the ball up at the opposite 45-yard line and booting the thing through the uprights and onto the running track beyond the field. That's a 65-yarder with some distance to spare.
"Our kicker is nasty," Shrive raved.
Kickers remain a crapshoot; at the very least Gibbons looked the part.
OLB Isaiah Bell
ESPN is much higher on Bell than either Rivals or Scout and they were the only service to mention Bell this week. Here's a small bit from the UA practices:
With the employment of a lot of Cover 3, this week's practice has showcased several safeties playing down in the box over slots -- and looking impressive. Black's Isaiah Bell (Youngstown, Ohio/Liberty) came into this game with a reputation for his great run-stopping skills, but he has surprised me with his ability to open his hips and turn and run with faster slots.
Put thoughts of safety from your mind, as Bell showed up at 205 and should push 220 by his sophomore year: dude is a linebacker. But he may be one of a new breed of S/LB hybrid sorts that alternate between run-stuffing and covering slots and so forth.
My guess as to the relative stock levels of the guys performing:
- STOCK UP: Lewan, Gallon, Turner, Roh
- STEADY: Campbell, Bell, Gibbons
- STOCK DOWN: LaLota
If the impressions gleaned here are accurate, that's a net uptick in Michigan's recruits with impressive performances from Turner, Roh, and Gallon outweighing the slight disappointment from LaLota. That goes double because LaLota's relatively new to football and most pundits still said he had excellent upside. We'll see when the rating services release their final revamp for the class of 2009 in a couple weeks.