...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Wide receiver gets even more frightening next year:
Michigan junior receiver Je'Ron Stokes is no longer with the program, athletic department officials confirmed today.
Stokes was a touted recruit out of Philadelphia who decommitted from Tennessee in favor of Michigan after Phil Fulmer got axed, but he hardly played in his tenure. He would have been a senior next year.
Speaking of next year, here's the WR depth chart:
- Darryl Stonum
- Roy Roundtree
- Jeremy Jackson
- Jerald Robinson
- Jeremy Gallon
- Drew Dileo
Actually, that's not too bad. Michigan was probably going to grab two wide receivers in this class anyway but now they absolutely have to.
Meanwhile, remember those concerns Michigan might have to push some guys out after the season to make room for the horde of new recruits? Yeah… never mind. Michigan's at 23 open slots right now with a few fifth years who are obvious candidates not to return. At this point 27 or 28 is more likely than 26.
|Darryl Stonum||Jr.||Martavious Odoms||Jr.||Roy Roundtree||So.*||Kevin Koger||Jr.|
|Junior Hemingway||Jr.*||Je'Ron Stokes||So.||Kelvin Grady||Jr.*||Martell Webb||Sr.|
|Jeremy Jackson||Fr.||Jerald Robinson||Fr.||Terrance Robinson||So.*||Brandon Moore||So.*|
The situation here is similar to tailback, where Michigan doesn't exactly have a proven star but they do have a ton of options. Outside, Darryl Stonum could blow up, Junior Hemingway could stay healthy, and Martavious Odoms could be a quick blockin' bugger that springs other guys to big gains. In the slot, Roy Roundtree will act as team safety blanket and any of the three guys behind him could provide the woop-gone YAC Darius Reynaud gave West Virginia. At tight end, if Kevin Koger can catch the easy ones he'll be a lethal complement to the zone read.
The bottom here isn't bad, as it consists of a ton of throws to Roundtree and decent contributions all around. The top is enticing, with silly yards per catch possible on the outside and chain-moving consistency on the inside.
Greg Mathews has graduated, a couple kids left the program over the past couple years, and Junior Hemingway is destined to be hit by a meteor in week three, so Michigan's getting creative at outside receiver by moving slot-sized slot Martavious Odoms outside. Despite Odoms' diminutive stature, this makes sense given the situation. Below you can see Odoms doing some catching and all that, but you can also see him chop much bigger guys to the ground time and again. When my Florida recruiting source said Odoms was a "tough SOB" he was not kidding:
|WILL HEADBUTT YOU|
|a precious thing forever|
|fantastic block on the nickelback|
|NOT BREASTON BUT WHO IS|
|squeezes up the sideline|
|avoids the tackle|
|digs this out w/ guy on his back|
|lays it in there|
|lays it in beautifully|
|Odoms reels it in|
Last year everyone was down on Odoms despite his productive freshman year (he was Michigan's leading receiver) because of a series of fumbles late, when it was cold and he was wondering how many limbs he had because he certainly couldn't feel more than two. There was a pretty terrible diary around these parts that met with a strong response. People got strained. Futures were question. It was tense.
For my part, I was "skeptical any slot would beat him out" and "bet on a lot of hurried backtracking" after the year; one half out of two ain't bad. Odoms didn't exactly get beat out but no one's wresting Roy Roundtree's job from him after he blew up in the last third of the year, and while people claiming Odoms sucks are thin on the ground these days any backtracking was steady, possibly even languorous. Fumbles were reduced but not erased as Odoms lost his punt return job to Junior Hemingway. He faded into Bolivian at the end of the year.
So he's at a crossroads. The question is how effective will Odoms be on the outside. No one really knows since all we have to go on are some vanilla scrimmages from spring and fall during which deep passes were anomalies. Things we do know:
- Odoms was 16/17 on easy catches last year (presumably these were a lot of bubble screens), 4/6 on moderately tough ones, and 1/3 on very tough ones.
- He was a receiver for five(!) years at Pahokee after signing up in eighth grade and has played inside and out since.
- He is really short.
We don't have a lot of information about his routes, but he did smoke Indiana safety Nick Polk on that game-winning touchdown. Limited touches after were probably not his fault. He certainly had decent enough hands, though a double-clutch here and there led to frustrating incompletions on the wheel routes he ran frequently.
By moving outside, Odoms has ceded most of the screens to Kelvin Grady and Roy Roundtree and will see his per-game production drop. He'll still be involved, though how much depends more on Roundtree, Stonum, the tight ends, and the tailbacks, all of whom seem to offer either more big-play ability or reliability than a 5'8" outside receiver. Odoms is likely to finish in the middle of the Michigan receiver pack with between 20 and 30 catches.
|in between levels in the zone|
|bursts open 20 yards downfield|
|Mike Floyd catches this, right?|
Darryl Stonum has been something of a disappointment his first couple years. Last year the conversation in re: Stonum was largely about pages and the benefits of getting on the same one with the coaches. When it wasn't, it was about dropped balls. When the season rolled around Stonum started every game but came up with such a paucity of highlights that I've got more on Patrick Omameh, an offensive lineman who played in three games, than him. HIs stats boggle the mind: 13 catches for 199 yards, one fewer catch than he managed as a freshman. End of stats.
As a result, Stonum came up for repeated psychoanalysis in UFR, most of it focusing on his inability to adjust to balls thrown downfield. Against Eastern this happened:
This occasioned a long section about how Forcier left this short but this was the week after ND, when 1) Stonum turned a very makeable deep catch into something almost impossible by turning inside when he had five yards of room to the sideline and 2) Mike Floyd turned Michigan cornerbacks into roadkill. The resulting consternation:
I'm grabbing this just so people can maybe talk about Stonum's adjustment to this. I think it's poor. He misjudges the ball and doesn't slow up enough and turn, which would probably have led to the DB running him over and a PI call. Mike Floyd [or Braylon Edwards] catches this, right?
This persisted; after the Wisconsin game I launched the "same old complaint" when Stonum failed to adjust to a poorly-thrown deep ball and allowed it to get intercepted when he really should have been able to at least bat it down.
Receivers often take time to break out, but the really amazing ones often get there their sophomore years (Braylon, Manningham, and Howard all blew up in year two), so expectations were busily being scaled back when… my gawd, that's Rick Vaughn's music!
Yes, for the second consecutive year Michigan has discovered one of their wideout needs glasses. You'd think that after the coaches discovered one of their wideouts was secretly blind as a bat they would have declared mandatory eye exams for all, but they didn't, so the above clips happened and everyone was very sad. Now? Well, Stonum's reportedly had an outstanding fall camp:
"This is the most consistent we've had Darryl on a day-to-day basis. He's going to be a big factor for us. He's a very talented guy that has a renewed sense of hunger."
As his recruiting profile suggested and kick returns showed, he has electric speed. The coaches seem to be on the same page with him. The quarterbacks are not going to be freshmen. He can now see the damn ball. He could totally blow up, or he could rack up 20 catches and have a version of that year Steve Breaston had after Edwards graduated where it became clear to all that he just didn't have it downfield. I have no idea what it will be, which makes Stonum the offense's #1 X factor going into the season. He can swing games by himself if he lives up to the chatter. A real live deep threat in an offense helmed by Denard Robinson can be preposterous: Chris Henry averaged 25 yards a catch(!!!) his freshman year at West Virginia.
That's Stonum's best case: not that many catches, but a lot of long ones and some game-swinging touchdowns. The worst case is more of the same.
|other end of Forcier improv|
|one little shimmy and is then by|
|caught from behind on bomb|
|big punt return.|
|leaping catch in traffic|
Odoms's move outside pushes Angry Michigan BLANK Hating God's favorite target to the bench, at least nominally. After Junior Hemingway missed spring ball to go along with missing most of 2008 and spending 2009 at half-speed with an array of Minor-like injuries that were just tolerable enough for him to play, it seems like the Michigan coaches finally decided they couldn't rely on him to be around long term and placed him on the bench. Since receiver's a spot at which rotation is incessant he'll get his share of time, leaving the move mostly symbolic, but it is a symbol.
Surprisingly for a guy who barely outpaced Stonum last year with 16 catches, he's got a substantial highlight reel you can see at right. He was also named "first among equals" after the Western game. It's mostly deep stuff: burning Western Michigan, exploiting Illinois over-reacting to a play, burning Illinois and then getting caught from behind, etc. As recruit his rep was an explosive leaper who lacked top-end speed—I compared him to Marquise Walker—and that has been borne out. It's tough to tell if his meh career to date is underperformance or just three years of terrible luck. If he can stay on the field he should be a solid, useful addition to the receiving corps. He's 225 pounds, which makes him a slant threat not duplicated elsewhere on the roster, and last year he was 10/10 on easy catches and 2/3 on moderate ones. His hands are good.
He should have a role and improve on his 16 catches of a year ago, although possibly not by much.
The single other outside wide receiver with any experience is sophomore Je'Ron Stokes, a six-foot guy with excellent athleticism who could have played in the slot if that wasn't already being fought over by four or five guys. Stokes was just outside of top 100 lists as a recruit. Michigan snatched him away from Tennessee after their coach implosion. The takeaway from the recruiting profile:
An electrifying game breaker with excellent speed, Stokes could use more size on his current 6’1” and 180 pound frame. He has great hands, knows how to get open, makes a lot of acrobatic catches and is terrific after the catch.
He's got a bit more size now, checking in at 193 at last report. He was another guy who blew his redshirt last year; his single highlight last year was digging out a low ball dubbed CONESTRAVAGANZA I in the late stages of the Baby Seal U game. He was injured in the spring and only came on late, but he was also pretty much absent from the fall scrimmage; another year mostly on the bench seems likely.
The third string is all freshmen. The only one to appear on the official fall depth chart was Jeremy Jackson (profile), the "lumbering" son of running backs coach Fred Jackson. Lumbering he may be but he's also the son of a coach and has the route running skills and hands you'd expect from such a gritty gritterson of a player. He'll play, likely sparingly. That should mean that classmates Ricardo Miller (profile) and Jerald Robinson (profile) are headed for redshirts.
Roy Roundtree's second catch as a Michigan Wolverine was a game-tying touchdown in the pouring rain against Michigan State. This was a good omen. Over the next few games his playing time increased, though his catches remained infrequent because he was seemingly targeted only when it was a terrible idea to do so. Then Odoms got injured. Roundtree announced his presence with that 77-yard catch-and-run against Illinois about which we will speak no more, then showed Purdue the true power of snake oil:
A good day from the receivers, and by "receivers" we mean "Roy Roundtree." The one drop didn't hurt much since it was on a screen that was going to get blown up anyway. Minor could have helped out by pulling in a low throw by Forcier, too. Other than that: Roundtree, Roundtree, Roundtree. The 1 he pulled in prevented an interception on Michigan's first drive of the day, converted a first down, and lead to a touchdown.
Plus he did this:
Martavious Odoms just saw his job come under howitzer fire. Odoms has been valuable, too, so he won't just go away, but Kelvin Grady's time just got eaten up and I think Roundtree is the starter even when Odoms is healthy. This might also presage some dual-slot formations that have been absent so far in Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan. Kid's pretty good, and quicker than you'd think given the Hawthorne incident last week.
|catching in the rain|
|trucks a safety|
|great, great block|
|inverting an interception|
|20-yard dart downfield|
|pitch and catch|
|dig it out, dig it out|
Did I mention that Roundtree was last year's Rick Vaughn? All hail occasionally checking your receivers' vision. Someone check Denard Robinson right freakin' now.
Roundtree continued his rampage over the last two weeks of the season against Wisconsin and Ohio State, yielding this season breakdown:
- First eight games: two catches, 44 yards.
- Last four games: 30 catches, 390 yards.
Project the last four games over the course of a season and you get 90 catches, 1200 yards, and a season second only to Braylon Edwards's 2004 campaign in the annals of Michigan lore. So… yeah. That's probably not going to happen. But it would be pretty cool i it did, huh? More realistically, Roundtree should double his output from last year, ending up Michigan's leading receiver with 700-800 yards.
For the record, last year Roundtree was 16/16 on easy catches, 4/8 on moderately difficult ones, and brought in his only super-tough attempt of the year by wresting away a sure interception from a Purdue linebacker. He's not that big. He's pretty fast but not that fast. He's not that shifty after the catch. But he's open and he's where he's supposed to be, which is right in front of the quarterback, and he'll catch the ball. So they throw it, and he catches it, and yeah he's basically the apotheosis of the Purdue receiver.
EXCESSIVELY DRAMATIC KELVIN GRADY WALLPAPER FTW
Basketball refugee Kelvin Grady's found himself in an impressive position on the depth chart by warranting an OR with Roundtree. This represents progress; Grady's 2009 was cut short by frequent dropped balls. By Iowa one was enough to yank him or the game. Late in the year UFR noted that nine of the twelve flat drops on the year had been turned in by the tight ends and Grady. After the Illinois game, Roundtree was contrasted with Grady because when Roundtree "is thrown a ball that hits him in the hands it does not fall to the ground." You get the idea: hands not so good.
That's perhaps understandable after Grady thought he'd left football behind for good when he signed up to play point guard for Tommy Amaker. After two years on the basketball team he found himself behind walk-on, read the writing on the wall, and picked up the cleats again. The rust was evident.
But Grady just keeps making plays in practice. That was the reason he was given the opportunity to drop those balls early in the year even with Odoms in front of him and Roundtree nipping at his heels, and the reason he's listed as a co-starter on the depth chart despite Roundtree's stunning end of year breakout. He featured in more "Countdown to Kickoff" highlights than any other non-quarterback; in the fall scrimmage he certainly looked like a top-level option, once taking a reverse from Robinson to score on a one-play, 30-yard drive. A review of his high school highlights reveals the sort of explosive agility that Michigan's other slots seem to lack:
As a bonus, since he was a high school running back he'll be better suited to those spread 'n' shred plays where a slot receiver motions into the backfield to become a second running back. It's hard to imagine Roy Roundtree doing that, so adding Grady to the rotation adds pages to the playbook. He'll see time, and could even supplant Roundtree as the preferred destination for quick screens… if the hands come around.
The backup story remains the same, except older. Terrence Robinson's first two seasons at Michigan have resulted in an injury redshirt and one catch for 13 yards against Baby Seal U. He was fairly prominent in spring and fall, though not nearly as much as Grady was, and is in competition for the punt return job. His problem has always been hands—he was mostly a QB/RB in high school—and that's prevented him from seeing the field. With two guys in front of him it seems like it will be another season spent watching. He'll probably get some real playing time when Grady is tired and Michigan is looking for their slot to be one of those RB/WR flex guys in the mold of Dorrell Jalloh.
Freshman Jeremy Gallon (profile) took a redshirt last year after arriving late because of some academic issues. He should find the field some this year but reports from practice suggest that Gallon did not put in the same sort work some of the other wideouts did and that this will hamper his playing time. Also an issue is a foot issue that isn't severe enough to keep him out of practice but does warrant walking around campus in a boot.
Gallon was a (figuratively) big recruit from a couple years ago, a one-time member of the Rivals 100 and solid performer at the Army Bowl who is by far the most guru-approved of any Michigan slot receiver. With two older and more established options in front of him, his best chance for playing time will be taking return duties away from Odoms.
Also, here is your annual reminder that he is a dead ringer for Snoop from The Wire:
Finally, freshman Drew Dileo (profile) looked pretty smooth this fall but is a very tiny true freshman. If he finds a role this fall it will be on punt returns.
Kevin Koger started the year off in Braylon Edwards fashion by reeling in 3/4 passes rated 2 (difficult but makeable) and 3/4 rated 1 (great googly moogly). He then finished the year off in Braylon Edwards fashion by dropping every routine ball that came his way. The result was schizophrenic: by the end of the year Koger was 7/10 on tough catches… and 7/11 on easy ones. Matters came to a head against Penn State:
Koger's great start came to a clunky halt with an 0/3 day, and no one really helped out except for the running backs. Forcier's day wasn't good, but it wasn't as bad as the numbers suggest.
He added another "bad drop" against Illinois. That and backup Martell Webb's similarly frustrating hands is part of the reason Roy Roundtree blew up in the last three games.
Koger did not exactly bounce back from this over the offseason, dropping a couple passes in the fall scrimmage and being conspicuously absent from offseason chatter both above- and underground. With depth at slot looking healthy, the entire tight end position could see itself minimized if they don't perform.
There's a good chance they will, though, with all three players returning. Koger himself is entering his true junior season; as a highly sought recruit with a year and a half of starting experience under his belt he should improve considerably. The downers from last season do consist of four dropped passes, after all. Two fewer and everyone's talking about how it will be pick your poison underneath. Small sample size disclaimers apply. When you look at the stuff at right it's hard to envision a guy with that much talent finding himself minimized, especially when Denard-related freakouts see him hand-wavingly wide open frequently.
|Webb's great block|
|picks the playside DT up|
|crushing downfield block|
|Kicks out LB|
|in a sea of green wondering where everyone else is.|
Senior Martell Webb has seen the most playing time to date. He was an infrequent target a year ago. The quarterbacks threw him six passes, one of which was uncatchable and the rest routine. He was only 3/5 on those routine balls, possibly explaining why he wasn't targeted on them more often. He put on 12 pounds from last fall to spring, then took a couple off during the summer and is now a solid 255.
Koger's blocking has been iffy, and while Webb didn't stick out in my memory as a crusher all but one of the clips at left are positive run blocks: he's likely to be the choice when Michigan goes to its I package. Unless he has an epiphany about having the ball in his hands (and Koger doesn't) his receiving stats are going to look a lot like they did last year. Throwing it to him is plan G when you've got three receivers, guys like Vincent Smith coming out of the backfield, and a considerably more dynamic starter at tight end. Webb's a fullback, basically.
The third and final scholarship tight end on the roster is redshirt sophomore Brandon Moore. He was a highly touted recruit with loads of offers when he committed to Michigan early in the hybrid Carr/Rodriguez class, but then dropped off with an indifferent senior year. Since his arrival he's been locked behind Koger and Webb—the only clip I have of him is a catch against Baby Seal U. Without any buzz otherwise, that will likely continue this year.
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I noticed a few people in the comments helping others out with the program by recommending adblock, which is fine by me; I use adblock. Just one tiny ripple-of-guilt note: last I checked, about 20% of expected ad revenue gets eaten up by it. If you'd like to avoid that feeling of regret and horror currently racing through your body, you can either turn off adblock for this site or chuck ten or so dollars at the beveled guilt donation button.
WTKA-in'. My appearance on WTKA in one section thanks to Paul. John U Bacon is the host, as he often is, and the third guy in the booth is Wayne Drehs of ESPN.com, who's in town for the year on a Knight-Wallace fellowship. You should skip to six minutes in because the first caller goes forever.
Bonus: I'll be on WJR today at 5:15 with Mitch Albom.
I'm also scheduled for a Thursday appearance on WRIF, a Saturday morning appearance on WJR, and I will be rocking it at WCBN on a regular basis this fall.
For the record. You could attempt to deal with the specific points and accusations leveled by this here blog, or you could try to paint the author here as an anonymous internet nutjob and avoid any substantive discussion. The Free Press chooses Door Number B, link omitted for obvious reasons:
Twitter is also being used to pass links to the petition as well as share links to mgoblog.com, which has emerged as a go-to place for displaced U-M fans who have given up on the Free Press.
In a blog post on Monday, the site said traffic was temporarily crashing the server.
The Michigan fan blog has branded its coverage of the Free Press report as "Jihad the second," alluding to a holy war on the behalf of Islam.
Most of the posts are written by someone who identifies himself as Brian.
No contact information is given.
I don't know, guys… is the link that says "contact" on top of the blog too obscure? I know it's not huge and red and blinking. For the record, I identify myself as "Brian" because that is my name. My last name is Cook. I even have a bunch of biographical details up. My email address—which plenty of people seem able to find—is email@example.com. If you click the link, it will email me.
There's even a picture at right which was good enough to get into the second round, but no further, of some ridiculous good-lookin' blogger competition that turned into a total fiasco.
I hope this suffices to identify me. I have slightly less hair now, for the record. And I don't always give things a thumbs-up. Sometimes… eh… thumbs in the middle.
Dude… what? Carson Butler, what say you?
"It was just a different structure," Butler said.
Butler said it didn't seem as if the players were forced to spend excessive time training and practicing.
"I don't know all of the exact rules, but I don't remember anything that seemed like it was too much," Butler said. "If the weight room was open, you went. If there was a run, you went. It's just what you do to be a better football player."
I… you… how? What? I can't comprehend this. If Carson Butler, who was basically told to enter the NFL draft because he was not welcome back, has Rodriguez's back here, I need to find anyone who will take bets on Michigan picking up a major violation and put the farm on "nay."
Guess who's pissed off? If you said the family of Je'ron Stokes, you win.
"My wife [Juanita] and I talk to Je'Ron every day. We follow him through the internet, by phone, and we've been up there on a couple of occasions," he said. "We spent an entire Thursday through Monday up there, and I'd see guys voluntarily go into that weight room on Sunday and Saturday and put in extra work.
"I know [the allegations] are not true, because I know how [strength coach] Mike Barwis cares for these kids. He's taken my son to bible study and to church. These are the kinds of things that impress us about the program and Rich Rod and his staff. They are good people, and I hate the fact that every negative thing put out there brings the wrong perception to the Michigan program.
University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez is being sued for defaulting on a real-estate loan to build high-end condominiums in the shadows of Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium.
Rodriguez's financial advisor says he's the "victim of a real-estate Ponzi scheme," FWIW.
Recycle. I'm sure Tim will cover this in Tuesday Recruitin' but it's worth a mention here, too: Devin Gardner's bounced up to the #53 player in the Rivals 100, which makes him the #1 QB in the country of any variety. This is where I remind you that MGoBlog got swank HD video of Gardner from Saturday's Inkster-Pioneer game. Yes, we are going to link this until everyone who reads this blog watches the video.
Back and forth. I never actually got around to addressing the ethics of the whole Rodriguez thing, instead choosing to focus on the potential penalties and overall picture, and now I don't have to because the WLA has a couple of articles on the thing that cover it. CFaller's is required reading:
Workouts are voluntary, but so is playing time” is not, in my e-pinion, a wink and a nod to the NCAA rules, but an actual credo embraced by most of these kids. The way I see it the coaches don’t say this as a way to force kids into “volunteering” for workout, but rather to remind them of the environment they are part of.
dex also has an extended post.
Etc.: Smart Football tackles the zone read and the scrape exchange.
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, and WR Cameron Gordon.
|Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - 6'1" 180
|Scout||4*, #17 WR, #169 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #14 WR, #104 overall|
|ESPN||82, #8 WR, #69 overall|
|Others||#60 to TAKKLE, #53 on the Athlon consensus list, #40 to TSN.|
|Other Suitors||Georgia, Penn State, Tennessee, Illinois|
|TomVH interviews Stokes.|
|Notes||Tennessee decommit; Army AA; brother is 2010 QB|
When Je'Ron Stokes committed to Michigan I was in an airport about to board a plane for Egypt by way of Germany, and as soon as he did I logged off and forgot all about him. Ever since when something reminds me of that commitment, it's like a weird bonus: oh, yeah, that universally-praised wide receiver in the class I never remember. He's like a ghost recruit.
So it's ironic that Stokes is one of the best-scouted and most-well-known players in the class. He first burst onto the scene as a sophomore, when he started hitting camps and killing them:
Stokes, 6-foot-1 and 171-pounds, was named the MVP, with a 28-inch vertical, 8’8” broad, 4.49 shuttle, 4.62 40, 21 reps at 150-pounds, and a number of circus catches during 1-on-1’s.
From appearances he went to virtually every camp within reasonable driving distance of Philadelphia, establishing his athletic bonafides time and again. It's gotten to the point where people in Pennsylvania name-check Stokes when they're trying to hype up their own kids:
Harrigan said of Jackson: "…for my money, not even that kid from Northeast [Tennessee-commit Je'Ron Stokes] has anything on Malik when it comes to athleticism."
This familiarity led to an avalanche of early offers. By the time he committed to Tennessee he had a boatload of major ones:
Stokes had offers from all over the map, including UCLA, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, N.C. State, Oklahoma and Rutgers.
Penn State and Notre Dame were also on that list; later Georgia would try to get involved. Oddly, Rich Rodriguez's offer gun would skip Stokes until a few days after his commitment. This would become relevant when Phil Fulmer went out the door, Lane Kiffin entered, and Tajh Boyd got cut loose. Understandably leery of Tennessee's quarterback situation, Stokes re-opened his recruiting, focused on Penn State, Michigan, Illinois, and picked Michigan on signing day. Divers alarums.
Ghost recruit can play. ESPN was extremely enthused, saying he's a "really good football player, no matter how you slice it" and ranking him well within their top 100. Details:
He's a high-motor player who is aggressive in everything he does. Always seems to be going full speed. Has very good height and a wiry build that can take on additional bulk and get stronger. Has exceptional foot quickness and appears faster than he is. He's sudden, shifty and explosive. May not be a true burner, but his long speed is very good. Can line up outside or in the slot, where he shows very good zone awareness. Knows how to find open holes, settle in soft spots and work the intermediate zones. Has the quickness and acceleration to separate from man-to-man coverage. He's very explosive out of the break. Shows soft hands and plucks with ease on the run. He's a very good leaper who can elevate to high-point the ball and make difficult catches in traffic. Has the ability to threaten defenses vertically because he reaches his top speed so quickly. Works the middle of the field a lot as a slot receiver and shows some toughness.
ESPN does provide some notes of caution about route-running, but yow! The Pittsburgh Sports Report echoes:
An electrifying game breaker with excellent speed, Stokes could use more size on his current 6’1” and 180 pound frame. He has great hands, knows how to get open, makes a lot of acrobatic catches and is terrific after the catch.
"Great hands" was a descriptor I came across with regularity during this googlestalk. Another example, this from a major combine where Stokes took home the offensive MVP:
Stokes, from Philadelphia (Pa.) Northeast, was dominant in the one-on-one drills, showing off his excellent route-running, quickness in and out of his cuts and great hands en route to his award. It didn't matter what route he ran, he was smooth, got separation and caught any ball within reach.
Aaand how about one more from Athlon:
When the ball is in the air he has what scouts like to call ownership of the ball. It is his and his alone. He uses solid leaping abiliy, good hands and tremendous body control to make tough catches in traffic.
Though Stokes is slightly less well-regarded on the other major sites, he started off around the same level on Scout, where he was a five-star at one point, and Rivals, where he was in the top 50, before a steady drop over the course of his senior season. Why? I couldn't find any explanations, except a mention in that Athlon article about Stokes playing mostly defense towards the end of the year.
I did get an email from a reader who had corresponded with a local preps guy not fond of the shift key who was not a fan, claiming his average per catch—around 10—to be lowest among city leaders and citing a lack of willingness to go over the middle. The guy's opinion seemed heavily biased by dislike of the family, though, and I don't put much stock into the scouting prowess of one bitter guy with no track record versus, you know, everyone else.
Where will he play? Maybe the slot. Maybe on the outside. In this AMP video prompted by Stokes' early commit to Tennessee, Rivals' Mike Farrell projects him as a slot receiver and has high praise for his abilities:
Stokes is a guy capable of turning the short gain into a big play. His lateral quickness and good feet give him great change-of-direction. He also possesses excellent speed. When he makes the first defender miss and gets a seam, he can take it the distance.
And now, here's Pat Summerall not being even slightly hyperbolic:
HE'S TAKING OVER THE CITY. HE RUNS A 4.3. SEND IN MOTHRA.
Why Mario Manningham? Stokes ended up a bit lower on Scout and Rivals but ESPN and a wide array of ancillary ratings ranked Stokes around where Manningham was. Stokes is about the same size and is praised for his ability to make catches in traffic, plus his athleticism. What about that slot stuff? Well, remember that Citrus Bowl when Michigan came out in the spread and Manningham jetted all over the field taking handoffs and darting from place to place? Yeah. Manningham could have been a slot in this offense, too.
Guru Reliability: High. Stokes participated in every camp he possibly could and made an All-Star game appearance. If there's anyone in the class the recruiting services are intimately familiar with it's him.
General Excitement Level: High. Stokes has the offers, the ratings, and the praise. Also, the scratchy voice seems like rich material for RBUAS, should Johnny emerge from hibernation.
Projection: Where he starts will depend more on Jeremy Gallon's SAT score—about which I know nothing, to forestall the inevitable questions—than anything Stokes does. If Gallon makes it, Stokes will probably slide outside and fight for a spot on the second unit behind Mathews and Hemingway or Stonum. If he doesn't, he'll probably shoot it out with the slots. Either way, a redshirt is a 50-50 proposition:
"They never promised him that he would start or anything," Ronald Stokes said. "But they said that if he came in and did the things that he's capable of doing, there would be a good shot that he would not be redshirted the first year.
The last couple days have been a weird rollercoaster for Michigan fans debased enough to get really into recruiting like yrs truly. Denard Robinson, Adrian Witty, and Je'Ron Stokes were supposed to be in the bag; the defensive tackle recruits were anyone's guess, Quinton Washington was probably staying home, and Sam Montgomery was a longshot.
Then yesterday Stokes and Robinson were thrown into considerable doubt, Montgomery cut us, the defensive tackle recruits seemed gone, and everyone wanted to slit their wrists—which is completely ridiculous, I know, but it's not like I was immune. It made me morose; I concentrated on other things, like who you should root for down the stretch in college hockey. Recruiting: it's like herpes for your brain.
Today, Washington overturns the conventional wisdom and picks Michigan, both defensive tackle recruits seemed likely to stay—until recently, about which more in a bit—and what tide you can pick out in the chaos of information on Stokes and Robinson now appears to be trending positive. I've scoured message boards of a half-dozen teams, assimilated all the conflicting information flying around, and if you put a gun to my head and made me predict what was going to happen tomorrow it would look like this:
- Pearlie Graves: Michigan
- Adrian Witty: Michigan
- Denard Robinson: Michigan
- DeQuinta Jones: Arkansas
- Je'Ron Stokes: Michigan
Awesome! Oh no… what's that? It's horrible! It's orange! It reminds me of a phallus!
Not so fast, my friend! My confidence level in all those predictions save the one on Adrian Witty, about whom there appears to be little controversy, is incredibly low. Each of the four-stars have, intentionally or not, created a perfect aura of uncertainty about them. At some point in the last couple days I would have predicted every one of them to Not Michigan. The god of recruiting is Loki, and these men are his perfect minions. Should be a fun day tomorrow.
DeQuinta Jones. Eh, not coming:
“I could change my mind, but I’m leaning towards Arkansas. I’ll make a final decision (Wednesday),” said Jones, who took an official visit to Auburn in addition to Arkansas, Tennessee and Michigan. “Basically, I like everything about Arkansas. I really like the coaching staff.”
If Jones has an 11th-hour change of heart, Tennessee would appear to have the inside track. “I want to play SEC ball,” Jones said. “That’s what I grew up watching.”
So, yeah, that's not good. Also, if you think Rueben Randle was close with Ramgod you have to check this out:
Mark of the beast! Mark of the beast!
Denard Robinson. Robinson saw a huge surge in Florida optimism that ended with Florida, apparently, getting the boot. Luke Stampini of soflafootball.com thinks it's M:
Denard Robinson Deerfield Beach: Looks to be down to Michigan, Florida, and Kansas State. I think he chooses the Wolverines, but the Gators’ odds seem to be improving as time goes by.
Given the massive Florida surge followed by the implosion that's not the latest and greatest info, but it's still pretty recent. Most indicators here have returned to good. (HT: VB.)
Je'Ron Stokes. Well… let's just say the impression I've got is that when Stokes hung out with Will Campbell at the AA game they swapped ideas on how to cause the most heart attacks amongst internet nerds. Mission accomplished, gentlemen.
Tank? Illinois commitment Tank Carradine, the OH DE with the most kickass nickname of anyone in this recruiting class, is now former Illinois commitment Tank Carradine. Academics are the issue:
"He's going to sign with somebody," Martin said. "We knew some of the these issues going in and I was told that there's a possibility they could hold a scholarship for him once everything got straightened out. Now, everything's changing."
Michigan, Cinci, Kentucky, and NC State now comprise Carradine's short list. If Illinois cut him loose because they didn't think he could make the grade it seems doubtful Michigan will leap on him*, but if he's sitting out there after signing day—which looks likely—and Michigan's sitting around with an unused scholarship or two—which also looks likely—Michigan could sign him in the hopes he makes it in. They could use another DE in the class.
*(No slight to Illinois intended; Big Ten minimums are Big Ten minimums, is all.)
It's near signing day so the news is a bit more likely to expire before I can throw it at you so how about a special pre-weekend recruitin' blast? We established baseline expectations going into the final week of recruiting on Monday, so consider any unmentioned recruit to be status quo.
I've ceased updating the board, as it will be obsolete in under a week. Anyway, the changes:
The vibes on PA WR Je'Ron Stokes continue to be very good. The latest bit of public information comes from Bill Kurelic:
Stokes says he will decide between Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois and Georgia, but speculation has him changing his commitment from the Volunteers to the Wolverines when he announces his final decision next week.
Stokes may take a visit to Georgia this weekend but that's up in the air. Penn State is out, leaving Michigan geographically best situated; Tennessee's quarterback situation also has Stokes a bit leery. There have been a lot of favorable indicators here, like Tennessee message boards basically writing him off. Signs point to huzzah.
The status of the Deerfield Beach duo of FL QB Denard Robinson and FL CB Adrian Witty is also nearing consensus. The Wolverine's Josh Helmholdt:
Robinson, a quarterback, and Witty, a cornerback, are good friends off the field and want to attend the same school together. Only Michigan and Kansas State have offered both. Florida is also a contender for Robinson, but this one looks like it will go in Michigan’s favor.
The local paper echoes, saying it looks "more and more likely" Robinson picks M, which would naturally bring Witty along. Scout's Allen Wallace says Kansas State is "the major competition for Michigan here." Even Florida sites are down on their chances:
[Robinson] is a game changer who will be a big-time player (although maybe not at the QB position) on the next level. While Florida is still in play here, I feel like it is more likely that Robinson will end up at Kansas State or Michigan on National Signing Day.
At this point it's fair to say that Robinson and Witty going somewhere else would be something of a shock. Not quite as much as "Beaver to Conference USA," but, hey, whatever.
(There is one dissenter, but given the tidal wave of opinion going against this guy I bet dollars to donuts that he's just out of the loop.)
SC OL Quinton Washington has cut a couple schools. Michigan is left standing in good position:
Washington has cut Clemson and Tennessee and will make his decision from USC, Michigan and Miami. USC and Michigan are the top two but he will visit Miami this weekend.
His coach seems to think it's tight:
"Michigan and South Carolina have done an outstanding job recruiting him. I wouldn't want to be him right now."
South Carolina message boards are considerably more chipper about Washington than UT boards are about Stokes, FWIW. (For perspective: "OMG he's ours" is the standard position of all message boards and should be taken as an absence of good news rather than a presence of bad news.)
Stock Stubbornly Immobile, Like Gene Keady's Hair
LA DT DeQuinta Jones took his official and, like many southern kids, was surprised he was not eaten by a polar bear:
“Snow was piled up everywhere,” said Jones, who verbally committed to the Wolverines over the summer. “But it really wasn’t that cold to me.”
One of the highlights of the trip for the handful of recruits was getting to pay a visit to coach Rich Rodriguez’s home. “We went to coach Rodriguez’s house and played pool,” Jones said. “It’s a three-story mansion.”Overall, Jones says his visit, “went real good.”
Prognosis remains the same here: likely but not definitely Michigan.
SC DE Sam Montgomery has cut Oregon from his list but the buzz on this one is pointing to North Carolina, they of the overflowing class and few spots. ESPN's JC Shurburtt says Michigan also trails another school:
While it's still a situation where anything could happen, several reliable sources have said that the recruitment of Under Armour All-American defensive end Sam Montgomery (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood) focuses on three programs: North Carolina, LSU and Michigan. Most believe the Tar Heels and Tigers to be the frontrunners.
There's still a chance here but it's a slim one unless UNC DL coach John Blake gets hired by the Jets. Blake has just shot down those rumors.
LA LB Barkevious Mingo is taking a visit to… uh… UConn this weekend. That's probably not relevant. Also probably not relevant: Michigan in Mingo's recruitment. OH OL Marcus Hall has basically dropped Michigan, as expected.
LA WR Travante Stallworth reconfirmed his commitment to Auburn; he's out. LA DE Benny Logan got his LSU offer and committed.
A 2010 Item
Lest you think that FL WR commit Ricardo Miller is not big time:
This morning, Miller picked up a scholarship offer from LSU. This afternoon, Alabama faxed a written scholarship offer to his school. He is firm to the Wolverines.
That's pre-signing day offers from Alabama, LSU, Florida, and, of course, Michigan. Ricardo Miller is big time.
For the first time in more than 20 years, Michigan State could have a recruiting class better than Michigan's.
Scout ranks Michigan's class #16; State is sitting at #35. Rivals ranks Michigan's class #7 and State's #15. As mentioned above, Michigan looks to add three or four highly rated players before signing day. State is basically done. In no way is this assertion accurate except in the mind of Tom Lemming, who is creepy.