Ron Tanner(video) is a junior safety prospect from Columbus, Ohio (I know). Tanner is participating in the US Army All American Junior Combine this week. The combine for juniors starts tomorrow, and Ron will be running a 40, shuttle, vertical jump, and doing some one on one drills. I caught up with him after the check in, and here's what he had to say.
TOM: You’re at the Army combine, did you just check in today?
RON: Yes sir, we checked in tonight, and our performance is tomorrow. We checked in today, and had to fill out a sheet with our top ranked schools on it. I ranked Michigan number one right now, then Northwestern, WVU, Pitt, Ohio State, Miami, and I didn’t put them on there, but Alabama is up there, too.
TOM: So, Michigan is number one for you right now?
RON: Yes, sir.
TOM: What about Michigan makes them number one?
RON: I feel like I could get good playing time up there, and Rich Rodriguez is an excellent coach. He’s rebuilding the program, and I see that. Being at West Virginia, it took him a couple years there to build it up, too. Now he’s recruiting the way he wants to, and they’ll be back at the top. Also, academically, they are at the top.
TOM: A recruit from Columbus always makes Michigan fans nervous. Is Ohio State going to be in the picture soon?
RON: I was a fan of Ohio State growing up as a kid, but I can’t look at my recruitment as a fan. I have to put all that aside, and choose what’s best for me. I really want to look at all the schools, and see where I feel the best, no matter where it is.
TOM: Who’s recruiting you the hardest right now, and how do you see your recruitment playing out?
RON: Northwestern is probably coming at me the hardest right now, but Michigan and West Virginia are showing a lot of interest, a long with Ohio State. I’m going to try to take some visits early on. If I feel comfortable with a decision, I’ll end it, but it could drag out a bit. I’m just going to play it by ear.
A special, oddly timed recruiting bit.
So Michigan is or was in on a few highly rated California prospects, most of whom seem ticketed elsewhere at the moment. The biggest one given Michigan's immediate need at safety was CA C Sean Parker, though, and plenty of grim resignation that he was headed to USC has given way to a strange new dawn where Parker says stuff like this*:
"I'm done with visits, it's USC, Michigan and Notre Dame right now," Parker said. "My plan is still the same as it has been the whole year, wait until Signing Day and then announce. I loved my visits to Michigan and Notre Dame and I've been to USC a number of times so I don't think I need to take another visit there.
"Michigan is recruiting me the hardest right now. That was also my favorite trip and I'm very high on them. I haven't talked to Brian Kelly at Notre Dame yet but he did leave me a message and I need to call him back.
A quick Google scour turns up some Irish fans having a mild freakout about a text eliminating ND and adding Cal sent to Irish Sports Daily shortly after that. Usually a late add like Cal is not a major factor, which leaves Michigan going head to head with USC.
Normally this would be bad, but USC has commits from Robert Woods, an "athlete" who projects to safety and is the #3 player in the country, Dion Bailey, the #7 safety according to Rivals, and pulled in a full class of four and five star defensive backs last year. So their depth chart is a tiny bit more crowded than Michigan's.
So… what I'm saying is that Sean Parker looks like an increasingly strong possibility in this class. Both premium sites have recently had an uptick in their optimism about his recruitment and I got a solid-seeming (but unconfirmed!) tip that Michigan was in excellent position.
That pickup would obviously be huge. Parker is a consensus four star at a position of extreme need, top 100 to Scout and the #26 player in the country to ESPN. But please don't break out the torches and pitchforks if this optimism doesn't come to fruition. The whims of high schoolers are fickle things.
*(This article is a free ESPN Insider preview at the moment, FWIW.)
So… yeah: someone in Michigan's compliance department got the idea that there had been a rule change and that Michigan would not be able to cram more than the NCAA-mandated maximum of 25 players into this recruiting class, and from this person the idea spread to Sam Webb and Rivals and Tom VanHaaren, all of whom talked to similar folk in compliance and got the same answer: rule change, 25 is a hard maximum, no funny stuff with the early enrollers.
This made no sense when combined with recent events. Michigan offered sleeper safety Ray Vinopal and instate NT Jonathan Hankins and got back involved with a half-dozen other prospects, including Pahokee DT Richard Ash and a bunch of Californians. The numbers weren't going to add up.
Further probing has finally revealed the hypothetical rule change to be inaccurate. Probably. An email from the Big Ten's director of compliance indicates there has been no rule change. A small snippet of a longer reply from this official posted on the Rivals premium board:
Nothing has changed, although you’ve never been able to “backdate” and count a student-athlete (SA) in a year in which they weren’t in attendance. What I suspect you’re thinking of is the fact that mid-year enrollees (except SAs receiving aid under the “mid-year replacement” rule?described below) count against the overall limit of 85, but may count against the initial limit of 25 in either the year of initial enrollment (if there’s room) or in the year immediately following.
I guess there's some chance that this is not definitive, but it is this guy's job to know these things and he has explicitly shot down the idea that anything has changed. And it was always very strange that this fairly important change to recruiting rules would go without a single mention in a newspaper, or get brought up by any other fanbase. I'm guessing a few people got confused in compliance for some reason and started this whole thing. It's the simplest explanation.
Anyway: since the Big Ten is not imposing a 25-per-class limit—Penn State enrolled 27 freshmen last year—Michigan should be able to go to 28. This makes Michigan's recruiting binge of late seem much saner from the outside. With Donovan Warren probably off to the NFL and Brandon Smith probably off to some other school, Michigan is obviously planning to take a full 28.
Take the current commits, add in expected commits from MD LB Josh Furman, FL CB Tony Grimes, and FL DE Clarence Murphy, and plan for an inevitable decommit or guy who doesn't look like he'll qualify and finds his offer withdrawn*, and you're looking at two or three more guys in this class. If Michigan can go to 28, that works out just fine. If they can't, Michigan's already at –1 slots and is steaming full speed ahead into an uncomfortable first couple months of 2009. Occam's Razor says it's 28, and Michigan intends to get there.
*(Which, BTW, seems okay by me. If a player isn't eligible by the time his first-semester senior grades are in I think a school is within its rights to say "sorry, but we can't take the chance." I'd rather not see Michigan in a spot where they took a marginal guy with marginal grades, but offers are contingent on grades.)
A few days ago, Chris Brown of Smart Football posted an anonymous high school coach's negative opinion on Charlie Weis's recruiting mojo. It's interesting, if slightly preposterous from the Michigan fan's perspective. Weis spent his first three recruiting classes punching Lloyd Carr in the face, beating Michigan for large sections of his team en route to racking up the highly-rated recruiting classes that had Notre Dame fans making giddy little charts about how much they would own once the stench of Willingham passed.
When Rodriguez came in, Michigan's recruiting moved away from Weis's in geographical, cultural, and tiny-bastard terms, but what head-to-head battles did go down were still slanted in Notre Dame's favor. This year, Michigan lost out on cornerbacks Lo Wood—once a heavy Michigan lean—and Spencer Boyd. There were no other head-to-head battles. Last year Michigan managed to pick up OT Michael Schofield, but a variety of other recruiting battles went Notre Dame's way. Weis consistently recruited out of all proportion to his achievements.
So this seems a little funky…
Notre Dame has officially offered one of my linebackers, but no one from Notre Dame has ever spoken to the kid nor has anyone from Notre Dame ever returned any of my calls. …. Geewhiz Charlie, that’s not exactly the way to get a kid to choose ND over other BCS schools — and then you offer him blind without so much as making contact with any coach? No. That’s not the way to go about the business.
…and then Rich Rodriguez gets thrown in at the end…
Ohio State, Alabama, Virginia Tech, and others all recruit about the same way as Cincinnati. Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Michigan . . . they recruit like Notre Dame.
…and everybody gets ornery.
I don't know about the interpersonal relationships Rich Rodriguez has with every coach from sea to shining sea. I do know that Rodriguez reeled in a class that was nearly top five after his first year at Michigan and a number of parents from that class have taken to the internets to defend the beleaguered coach from accusations that he makes his players work too hard. I also know that Rodriguez and company fired off a thousand "offers" this spring, and those offers may or may not mean anything.
These things are in the eye of the beholder. I'm guessing the coaches at Trotwood-Madison and Chaparral don't share that opinion. And I know "Coach Ox," the Louisiana high school coach who emailed the blog in the aftermath of Carvin Johnson's commitment to tell us that we had a good player on our hands, sent another email about Rodriguez, unprompted. Here it is:
My feelings for RRod are exactly the same as Carvin's coach said on Rivals - if you are a real high school coach (i.e. you know football) from a real program (i.e. you coach players who will go on to college) and you need help or anything, RRod will bend over backwards for you. Not everybody likes HOW he coaches, but he loves coaches who coach HOW he does.
And here's Carvin Johnson's coach from that Rivals thread Ox references:
The thing I like most about him is him as a person. When other coaches and myself made the trips to WVU in the past to see them practice, etc. he treated everyone of us with nothing but respect. This is rare in big time college football.
So… some coaches like other coaches, and some don't. It's about the numbers. I wouldn't take an anecdotal aside too seriously. Michigan pays attention to the players they are seriously interested in, and offers a bunch more beside. The results were fine when Michigan wasn't dealing with the aftermath of a 3-9 season and a whole lot else besides.
Michigan brought in a ton of kids this weekend there are solid rumors that a number of the committed but are waiting to announce. The issue: Michigan is currently sitting at 22 commitments after FL CB Adrian Witty officially qualified and PA CB Cullen Christian committed. In addition, the entire planet expects FL DE Clarence Murphy and FL CB Tony Grimes' signing day announcement to be a mere formality. That would leave one spot before Michigan runs up against the NCAA-mandated 25-per-class maximum.
Teams have been getting around this for years by enrolling a few kids early and counting them against the last class, something the NCAA rulebook specifically provides for. Diarist Umhero has pored through the 2009-2010 NCAA manual and finds the bylaw that governs early enrollment:
184.108.40.206.2 Recruited Student-Athlete Entering after Fall Term, Aided in First Year. [FBS/FCS] A student-athlete recruited by the awarding institution who enters after the first term of the academic year and immediately receives institutional financial aid (based in any degree on athletics ability) shall be an initial counter for either the current academic year (if the institution’s annual limit has not been reached) or the next academic year. The student-athlete shall be included in the institution’s total counter limit during the academic year in which the aid was first received.
This is part of this year's NCAA manual and is unchanged from last year.
The reason Umhero went over all this is that GBW recruiting guru Sam Webb has repeatedly stated on WTKA that this rule has been changed and backdating is no longer allowed. This would be bad. If Michigan experiences any attrition between now and February, they will be going into the fall down scholarships because the 25 limit tripped them up.
FWIW, I asked SID Bruce Madej about it and he said he believed that was the case; when I pinged back with that bylaw he said he had to talk to compliance.
Before Witty qualified and Christian committed, poster cypress put in a useful comment that counts up all the guys on scholarship next year and the recruits currently committed and came up with three open slots in a recruiting class of 23. I don't think his count is 100% correct. It includes Cone, who indicated his departure by walking on senior day. Other assumptions made:
- Sheridan is listed, who is going to be fourth-string at best and is the son of the Giants' defensive coordinator. Chances are that family can swing tuition.
- Kelvin Grady may or may not be guaranteed a scholarship down the road. Earlier in the year it seemed like Grady was technically a walk-on who would get scholarships if they became available.
- It does have Kovacs.
- It does not have Morales, Leach, or Moundros. Morales is a safe omission since he is not the starting long-snapper. The other two might be first in line if scholarships are available.
- It assumes all fifth-years return. This is potentially dodgy in the cases of Adam Patterson and Bryan Wright.
- It assumes no attrition before signing day.
Some or all of these may be incorrect.
Michigan is at 22 recruits and have at least three more slots with Cone's departure and the assumption that Sheridan is not on scholarship.
If the back-dating rule has not changed I think they can bring in a full 28. There are two obvious fifth-year seniors who may not be invited back if Michigan latches onto a recruit they think that can help them, and unless Michigan gets lucky there is probably going to be some attrition between now and Signing Day. If they can bring in 28 without hijinks they can take their 25 now and sit around on Signing Day attempting to snake-oil big names; if they can't they might have to…
Pull The South Carolina
If Webb is right, and he's probably getting his information from someone in the department whose job is to know these things, then Michigan is probably almost full right now and any pleasant surprises like CA RB Dillon Baxter or FL WR Kenny Shaw would necessitate someone getting put on a slow boat to either another school or a grayshirt.
Michigan did this with a couple of recruits last year. It's kind of a nasty move but the guys Michigan gave a nudge to ended up at Oklahoma State and Kansas, so they landed on their feet. I feel for Dewayne Peace, who's probably been told that his mother died because she was so disappointed in him, but "mutually parting ways" before signing day is a venial sin compared to the Alabama method.
I don't think that will or want that to happen; as you'll see in Wednesday Recruitin' a lot of the "we're totally in it for this guy from really far away!" has melted away into Michigan explicitly trailing other schools that have yet to receive officials, a situation that virtually never results in a good result. The most likely outcome for the recruiting class is that it adds Grimes and Murphy plus one other defender—Webb has a "gut feeling" on Josh Furman, FWIW—and ceases there as everyone grumbles about two more slot receivers.
Right. Michigan gains commitment from defensive back. There was much rejoicing? We'll find out after the informative update.
OK, now that I've had time to collect my thoughts, Michigan has gained a commitment from Louisiana Safety Carvin Johnson. Time for the...
Yes, informative update. I thought Brian was the only one around here with a bolded alter ego though.
Uh, OK. On to the update.
|NR S||NR DB||Not in Database|
As you can see, Johnson is a COMPLETE STUD that the recruiting services ABSOLUTELY LOVE and have even HEARD OF. One of the few snippets out there on him comes from his coach, as shared by Josh Helmholdt in the Free Press:
Johnson is not even ranked on Rivals.com and his film has not made its way around the nation. Rummel coach Jay Roth said Johnson is a player who is effective in both pass coverage and run support.
“He’s a 6-1, 195-pound safety who is very aggressive and physical,” Roth said.
You could say that about pretty much any safety, even guys that have profiles on all three recruiting services! On a more serious note, he's NewOrleans.com's #48 player in the state of Louisiana (Drew Dileo is #46).
Johnson is a two-sport starter, serving as an outfielder on the Raiders baseball team. Football is clearly his best sport. "He's a fierce hitter. He has great hands and good instincts for the ball," said Rummel Head Coach Jay Roth.
Nice backhanded complement about the kid's baseball ability. I can just tell we all need more Jay Roth in our lives:
The Raider defense, led by defensive lineman Myles O' Brien, linebackers Chris Randle and Phil Helmstetter and safety Carvin Johnson, has been superb, according to Roth. "Our defense is the reason we are 5-0. The defensive coaches and players carry a certain swagger. They practice hard, study film and they are experienced."
Hooray. He was also the single reason NewOrleans.com saw fit to rank his school in its preseason top 10.
10) RUMMEL--Carvin Johnson is a stud on defense and on punt returns
So, yeah, he's probably the most important player on a good team (9-0 on the season, only allowing 8.3 points per game to opponents). That probably means at least 3 stars when the dust settles.
The Helmholdt article again comes in handy:
Michigan was one of the first to recognize Johnson’s talents. “It was early on in the spring that they offered me,” Johnson reported. “They say I fit pretty well in their defense. If I were to go there, I would get a chance to play early on..." Besides U-M, Johnson has received scholarship offers from Minnesota, Utah, Tulane and Tulsa.
The timing on the Michigan offer is odd, considering most had never heard of the guy until his official visit for the Penn State game. He may be a true sleeper, since the Wolverines thought him offer-worthy so long ago, but no other suitors have come a-callin'. For the record, his Rivals profile also lists offers from Louisiana Tech and Northern Illinois.
Recruits with no profiles are typically pretty difficult to find stats on. However, Coach Roth comes through for us again:
Carvin Johnson has done everything we could possibly ask for--help at wide receiver on offense, stars at defensive back and has returned three punts for touchdowns.
The rest of the information comes in snippets like this...
After a Carvin Johnson interception,
...from various game stories. His full season stats should take a while to dig up and compile, but he has at least 3 interceptions on the year, as well.
FAKE 40 TIME
The NewOrleans.com article pegs him at 4.68, which doesn't sound fake at all for a BCS-caliber safety. In fact, I give it negative one FAKE out of three.
Players without recruiting profiles do not have highlight videos available on the internet. That's just the way it is. Hopefully, there will be some freely-available video sometime soon.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Flimsy evidence ranges from "We are recruiting sites and we have never heard of this kid" to "we cover high school football in the area, and this guy is the Tim Tebow of defense." Wide ranging indeed. I would tend to believe a little bit of both. When recruiting sites haven't heard of a guy despite his BCS offers, there's a reason for that. When his high school is ranked in the preseason, and the only reason given by a local media outlet is his mere presence on the team, there's also a reason for that.
His interceptions and punt returns speak to both his athleticism and ball skills. His defense's performance against some pretty good talent in New Orleans area, with him as the star of said defense, speaks to the fact that he could probably start for Michigan Saturday if he showed up in Ann Arbor tomorrow.
With a dearth of quality bodies (...or any bodies) at safety for Michigan right now, any defensive back is a good defensive back. The staff clearly loves him and thinks they've uncovered a sleeper, given the early offer. He'll probably be a special-teamer in year 1 (or after a redshirt), and work his way into the defensive rotation by his third year on campus.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
None. Michigan still needs a million more defensive backs of all varieties. A prospect like this certainly won't do anything to scare away more highly-rated guys, and if he does, the Michigan coaches need merely pop in a lowlight tape from this year's defense. He does potentially help out down the road, without scaring anyone away.
You'd like to see the remainder of Michigan's defensive back pickups be of the 4/5-star type, but given the early offer, this is a "trust the coaches" pickup.
Etc. Shoutout to mgouser umhero for making my Googlestalk slightly easier. Posbang this post, folks.