rundown of Michigan's riser
Spring games don't lend themselves to narratives, so how about some bullet points? Bullet points.
Media explosion. If you missed it, there's a torrent. This would be a good moment to consider how vastly different the world is now than it was five years ago. There is a torrent of Michigan's spring game.
If you don't want to bother with that, four minutes of highlights from the Big Ten Network:
Also, Brandon Minor and his sweet beard talk to Shireen Saski: "that's like a real quarterback." Other interviews:
Photo galleries exist from the Free Press, Detroit News, Ann Arbor News, and various places on flickr: user dennisdolan3, the Daily's photostream, user snotzzz73, and Alex Karpowitsch. MVictors has photos of the locker room if you skipped the Line That Never Ends. Notice the U in "honour." Weird. Also from MVictors are alumni game photos.
Pleasantries dispensed, away we go:
Most encouraging development: The general existence of Tate Forcier. Forcier chucked one pass into a linebacker's pads but other than that was worlds better than anything Michigan's seen at quarterback since Lloyd Carr rode out of the Citrus Bowl on the shoulders of his team. Forcier was as advertised: quick and scrambly in the pocket, accurate on the run, worryingly small, &c.
He's not going to be great but his slipperiness and ability to operate out of a moving pocket—which should simplify reads, mitigate whatever issues his lack of height brings, and prevent his head from being taken off—should allow him to be effective without having total command of the playbook. Early competence beckons with the possibility for more down the road.
As always, you take intrasquad scrimmages seriously at your peril, but let's discount the effect of the defense and just look at the opportunities presented:
- Roy Roundtree bursts open deep and Forcier hits him between the numbers for a touchdown.
- Roundtree works free on a slant, upon which Forcier hits him between the numbers, on time.
- Forcier throws an okay fade to Mathews, which he brings down.
There was one overthrown screen and the shoulda-been interception, but other than that he was dead on. Unofficial stats had him 11/14 for 130 or so yards. That's worlds different from last year's spring game, in which both quarterbacks threw multiple interceptions to legends like Artis Chambers and everyone started panicking in earnest about what fall would bring. Forcier's first excursion as Michigan's quarterback could not have been more reassuring.
The final word goes to Greg Mathews:
"The fans were cheering his name before the game, and I said, 'Don't get nervous, Tate,' and he said, 'I'm not nervous. There's some times he gets confused out there, but he's a high school senior. But his poise is definitely what stands out about him. His command when we huddle up, or on the sideline, he's focused in practices instead of goofing around."
A close second most encouraging development: Insert praise about Lloyd Carr here but, man, am I glad Rodriguez has done a 180 on the spring game. That felt like an event. It was fun, and though the 50k reported seemed a little generous—I and most around me thought it was 40k—it was probably about four times the number who attended Carr's last spring game. The line to see the locker room snaked all the way around Crisler and might have impeded traffic on Main.
Least encouraging development: Stevie Brown put a stake through the now annual "this is Stevie's year!" meme by getting juked out his jock by the Coner. Coner has mad flow, and since he was a 6'5" option QB with all the mobility of John Navarre in high school he must have a wicked option fake, but… yeesh, man. At least we're going into the fall with our eyes open.
A close second least encouraging development: the second-team offense, led by the aforementioned Coner, drove the field for touchdowns a couple times despite Cone amply demonstrating why anyone who talks about him starts his paragraph with "Cone is a terrific human being." They did this against the first team defense. Yerk.
This isn't totally unexpected. When the second team running backs are Grady and Brown and Vincent Smith and the second team defensive line includes 5'7", 249 pound Dominic Ware, the talent is not exactly balanced. Once Van Bergen went out with a knee injury (it's minor; six weeks and he'll be fine) the first team defense was missing four sure starters to injury (RVB, Warren, Martin, and Mouton) and using another sparingly to prevent injury (Brandon Graham), putting further pressure on that lack of depth. Said lack of depth is severe, though, and Michigan looks like it will be facing huge dropoffs from the first to second team if they can't remain unusually healthy next year.
What it is. Staying with the defense, the projection about the new scheme was that it would look like a 4-3 with a standup defensive end, and this was for the most part true. Like the spread 'n' shred they're going to look pretty limited early, what with the lack of talent and the missing starters and the new alignment, but GSimmons picked out even, under, and 3-4 fronts even this early. Also picked out: very bad linebacker play from walk-ons.
Obviously. Martavious Odoms fumbled Michigan's first punt return attempt of 2009.
Ok, Carlos, now it's time to pull a hamstring. Tantalize us one last time, Carlos Brown. For old time's sake.
I was going to fret about the defense on this play and then I was like "oh those guys are all walk-ons." So, yeah, if walk-ons play they will not be good. This lesson you have already burned into your brain, so we'll skip the rehash.
A first depth chart bitch of the year. Junior Hemingway, stuck on the second team, had ample opportunity to prove he has nice body control and hands by flagging down a number of Coner ducks. Meanwhile, Darryl Stonum made one spectacular leaping grab… and dropped a screen right in his hands. I'm betting Hemingway emerges as the #2 outside receiver early.
As long as we're on receiver depth chart stuff: Terrance Robinson was also as advertised, quick but with a significant case of the dropsies. Odoms didn't feature much, leaving much of the work in the slot to Roy Roundtree, who looked excellent, sure handed and good with his routes. His rep is as a fearless possession receiver lacking in the speed, so I don't know if we'll see a whole lot of deep seams unless he has the good fortune to be going up against walk-ons in Big Ten play, but a reliable receiver is a reliable receiver.
Also, if Roundtree doesn't already have a nickname…
Roundtree had difficulty focusing on passes this Spring because he had trouble seeing the ball. The U-M staff ordered him contact lenses, which arrived just in time for the spring game. Roy put them in and then put on a show for the Michigan faithful, making big plays and catching a handful of touchdown passes, including a big 60-yard touchdown from Forcier.
"All Spring ball my coaches have been asking me when I'll get my contacts, when I'll get my contacts," laughed Roundtree. "I got my contacts today. I couldn't see the long balls in practice, but today I saw them just fine."
…he should be "Wild Thing". Rodriguez on this impossibility:
"In the first half of the spring, he was struggling catching some balls, and then we looked at him, and he'd squint at you," Rodriguez said Saturday.
"That was the first sign, 'You'd better get your eyes checked.' The doctor said he didn't know how he was walking a straight line."
How does a guy go an entire year at Michigan before anyone realizes he can't see? This is symptomatic of the chaos that went on last year. Deeply symptomatic.
Either that or Roundtree was afraid Carson Butler would give him a wedgie and leave him hanging on a bathroom hook.
Overly-optimistic post-spring chatter. (HT: Dr. Saturday.) I didn't watch Mark Huyge enough to confirm this for myself—and, honestly, I'm an amateur who needs to go over running plays a half-dozen times before I can form an opinion on who did what right—but the general opinion on his play was hugely (HA!) positive. Even without the benefit of tape review I can say this: if Huyge has surged in front of Perry Dorrestein, who was functional last year, and the much-hyped Patrick Omameh that bodes well for his future and for Michigan's line.
With the influx of the redshirt freshmen, maturation of John Ferrara, and healthy return of Huyge there are now a lot of lottery tickets on the line and chances are the guy who lays claim to the right tackle spot is going to be pretty good, at least eventually. This is a situation more akin to Chad Henne beating out Clayton Richard and Matt Gutierrez (sort of; labrum and all that) than Nick Sheridan beating out Steven Threet and No One.
Vincent Smith, on the other hand, was pretty easy to evaluate since he's a running back. He looked small and darty, tougher to tackle than you might imagine but not an instant impact sort. Smith has flashed Mike Hart's crazy ability to defy tackling in practice; too bad he didn't have some crazy spinning run for the crowd to ooh and aw at.
Vlad Emilien is the safety taking a poor angle and trailing Carlos Brown all the way to the endzone in the video above, but, again, people seem highly encouraged by his play. I've had Michigan safety skepticism beaten into me by Angry Michigan Safety Hating God and will remain skeptical until such time as I can't anymore.
Walk-on quarterback Jack Kennedy is so obscure that he sported a regular contact jersey and was used as cannon fodder repeatedly, but… uh… he looked way better than Cone.
The incoming and signed. Denard Robinson made his way up to check out the competition:
"I came up just for the spring game," Robinson said. "I wanted to see the game and the fans and stuff. It's good. It's got me speechless."
That article has an outstandingly FAKE 40 time for Robinson: 4.38. Justin Turner, Isaiah Bell, and Brendan Gibbons also stopped by to see the festivities.
The incoming but unsigned. This will get more coverage tomorrow in Tuesday Recruitin', but the recruiting weekend was a successful one. Thumping Texas back Stephen Hopkins committed. Four star Miami offensive lineman Torrian Wilson left saying Michigan was his leader. So did FL S Marvin Robinson. Unconfirmed chatter on MI CB Dior Mathis and—surprise!—presumed Spartan and MI RB Austin White was also highly positive.
Also hanging around was another Forcier: Jason, MGoBlog's favorite backup quarterback of all time. He's graduating from Stanford and plans to enroll in grad school at Michigan. Presumably he'll try to get on the football team, but he's only got one year of eligibility left and will have to jump through—or, more accurately, create—the proper NCAA hoops if he's going to be able to participate. If you recall Ryan Mundy's immediate playing time after his fifth-year transfer to West Virginia, also recall that the NCAA immediately repealed that rule after Florida pirated one of Utah's starting cornerbacks. He'll have to apply for some super secret waiver, which I don't think he'll get.
A disclaimer on the "You May Remember Me From Such Players As": YMRMFSPA is supposed to be a rough estimate of what kind of player the recruit could turn into if he pans out. It is not a projection. The players listed tend to be very good because no one knows what kind of player Doug Dutch is; we just know he can't get on the field. I am not saying that I expect Martavious Odoms to be Devin Hester, the best return man in the history of the NFL. I'm saying that Odoms is sort of like Devin Hester and if we roll a second critical hit on our critical hit roll he might be half as good.
End disclaimer. On with shew.
|Sugarland, Texas - 6'2" 180|
|Scout||4*, #12 WR, #73 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #7WR, #41 overall|
|ESPN||82, #14 WR, #71 overall|
|Other Suitors||Florida, Alabama, USC, FSU|
|Notes||Early enrollee. A couple highlights from Rivals; more, with bonus John Wienke footage for Iowa fans. An interview with GBW's Sam Webb. He's a funny guy. Pre-season interview with Stonum.|
Stonum is the second piece of Michigan's Houston-area skill position haul, a dynamic receiver who was universally acclaimed one of the country's top wideouts. Unfortunately, there's an odd paucity of data out there for such a highly-touted recruit; more on that later.
Stonum's commitment may have been locked up last February, when Michigan signed his Dulles High teammates Troy Woolfolk and Brandon Herron. Non-stop praise for the program from those two and soon-to-be Michigan commitment Sam McGuffie had the Wolverines atop Stonum's list consistently, though he would occasionally throw out scary quotes about everyone being even. These quotes were made doubly scary since the "everyone" included USC and Florida, both of whom offered and pursued Stonum heavily. When Stonum announced he'd be coming to Michigan over the summer, it was a relief.
Given the heavy interest from powerhouse programs and the universal top-100 rankings from four different sites, Stonum must be good. But there are no highlights floating around in the free areas of the web and no one willing to descend from the scouting mountain to tell us what to expect. There's this from veteran scout Randy Rogers:
Sugar Land Dulles's Darryl Stonum is a worthy apprentice for Michigan to plug in behind Biletnikoff Award finalist Mario Manningham.
"Stonum, I think, is special,'' Rodgers said. "He can also return punts, and he's 6-foot-2. He's just exactly like what Michigan's been playing with.''
This is good, but "special" does not constitute detail. We've got his height. All right, then. Maybe some highlights?
There are a couple more of better quality interspersed in this effusive interview with Stonum's coach:
(Side note: it appears these videos were uploaded by Stonum himself.) Though ESPN throws out weird evaluations with frequency, in this case they're the only game in town when it comes to a description of his game. Thus:
Stonum is one of the smoother players we have seen in this class and is a legit vertical threat. He is silky smooth for lack of a better term. He is very natural in terms of his change-of-direction skills and body control. Has fluid hips for a taller receiver and is a smooth route runner who doesn't have to gear down a lot when going into and coming out of his breaks. He is tall, has long arms and good leaping ability. Has shown the consistent ability to come down with the jump ball.
Natural change of direction? Fluid hips? Comes down with jump balls? A mix of Braylon Edwards and Mario Manningham... which, like, dude. Now if we can just get the ball to him...
Guru Reliability: Maximal. They're all in the same ballpark, and they all say he's gooood.
General Excitement Level: Maximal. The second most likely kid in the class to have a long, productive career at Michigan, IMO, behind Dann O'Neill.
Projection: If Carr was still in charge this would be easy: one season of blocking on telegraphed run plays followed by a breakout sophomore season. Under Rodriguez, Stonum will probably get more early looks, especially with only three other receivers on campus now. He'll play and may get up to around 20 catches.
|Klein, Texas - 5'9" 170|
|Scout||4*, #16 RB, #160 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #9 all-purpose|
|ESPN||80, #18 ATH|
|Other Suitors||BC, Wake Forest|
|Notes||Same city, but not the same school as OT Mark Ortmann.|
I have an inordinate fondness for players like Terrence Robinson. I was terribly excited about Marquis Maze, the small-school Alabama midget who temporarily a Michigan commitment last year and hoped that Pennsylvania midget Cameron Saddler would bring his kickoff-return exploits to Michigan. Though those hopes were both kiboshed, Rodriguez and company tracked down Terrence Robinson to fill the crazy-legged slot ninja spot vacant since Steve Breaston took his talents to the NFL.
I'm delighted. This is why:
There are other reasons, most detailed in the post that introduced Robinson to MGoBlog readers: he was named team MVP and MVP of the Klein area over teammate, top 100 prospect, and Texas commit Deshawn Hales. He outrushed Hales by some 1000 yards. He might be underrated because a transfer kept him out for his junior year.
So Breaston's up there as a comparison, and that seems close, especially because Breaston also had to make a transition from high school quarterback. Though Robinson will have an easier time in the spread 'n' shred, which will give him a lot of screens and carries from the backfield, there is the potential that Robinson is something less than a natural receiver. Fellow wonder midget Martavious Odoms might have an early edge on Robinson, about more which later, despite Robinson's higher rank in the eyes of the gurus.
Guru Reliability: High-ish. Only one year, but at a major school that got a lot of attention.
General Excitement Level: Moderate++. Like Martavious Odoms below, his size will likely prevent him from becoming an out-and-out star, but his impressive rise from unknown to four-star says he's talented.
Projection: Immediately in the mix as a returner and battles with Odoms to become the designated bubble screen and reverse guy.
|Pahokee, Florida - 5'8" 160|
|Scout||4*, #49 WR, #293 overall|
|Rivals||3*, #71 WR|
|ESPN||78, #56 WR|
|Other Suitors||WVU, USF, Miami|
|Notes||Pahokee's Big rivalry game is called "The Muck Bowl." State championship highlights. Why are they so fast? They chase rabbits. Literally.|
What is Martavious Odoms? Fast.
"Man, that number 83 (Martavious Odoms), they say he runs a 4.2 - I didn't expect him to be that fast," said Dion Lecorn, who lined up opposite Odoms much of the day. "I was playing both ways and I got tired and lost focus."
Lecorn played for Trinity Catholic, the team that beat Pahokee for the state championship in 2005. Odoms was a sophomore.
Odoms is also... fast. But with hands!
"You're talking about a kid who at the age of 14 caught a touchdown pass in the state championship game," Blustein said. "He owns three state championship rings and 60 percent of that offense Pahokee had this season was because of him. He demands double coverage. There's a lot of wide receivers out there bigger than him, but he's blazing fast. He's a jet with great hands. I remember seeing him make an over the shoulder catch against Glades Central that was just unbelievable. He'd be a solid No. 2 receiver for somebody."
This youngster can flat out scoot. Odoms accelerates as well, if not better, than any wide receiver/scatback we have seen in this class.
With that being said, he is more sudden and quick than he is fast in terms of top-end speed.
Shows good vision in the open field and displays excellent change-of-direction ability. Is shifty and elusive in space. Will consistently make the first defender miss. His ability to separate and explode off the cut or after the catch is awesome. Reaches top speed in a hurry and can stretch the field. He can also be dangerous on reverses. He has huge upside in the return game and gamebreaking open-field skills.
Ok. Quick. Jim Stefani:
An explosive and dangerous player who lacks great size but has everything else. He's quicker than a hiccup (4.12 shuttle as a soph), runs great routes, is strong for his size (14 bench reps as a soph), tough, athletic, goes vertical (34-inch vertical), blocks well and is a very hard worker. A real playmaker.
Fast! A contact very familiar with Florida high school football:
He's a tough SOB. Small cat, really tough, will remind you of Steve Smith. Very, very fast. I'm a huge Martavious Odoms fan, you'll love him.
You get the idea: Martavious Odoms is a tiny man capable of teleporting short distances. Highlights:
It's difficult to tell if this is a consistent thing, but Odoms appears to track the ball well on deep throws and has a knack for over-the-shoulder catches (this can be seen more clearly in the state championship game video linked above).
Odoms' Pahokee team competes in one of the smaller classes in Florida and dominates it. The 2005 championship for Trinity Catholic was preceded and followed by back-to-back Pahokee titles, the latest a 53-14 blowout in which Odoms had 5 catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. Over the course of his senior season he had 41 catches for 936 yards -- almost 23 per catch -- and 10 touchdowns.
At one point he had an impressive set of offers that belie his kinda-meh final choices. (The Miami offer was basically a grayshirt, as they offered him a track scholarship with the intention of bringing him to the football team after this season.) Notre Dame was the first in March; they were quickly followed by Iowa. South Carolina and Rutgers joined over the summer, and then the floodgates broke: LSU, Oregon, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, South Florida, and Auburn had offered by mid-October.
Oddly, Odoms seemed almost totally uninterested in recruiting until midway through his senior year, when he finally visited Auburn and started paring down his list. West Virginia, then the home of Rich Rodriguez, featured heavily (and, indeed, finished second for Odoms' services), as did USF and Miami. Odoms actually delayed his decision and joined Michigan's class a few days after signing day
Guru Reliability: High. Pahokee's a well-scouted Florida powerhouse with multiple D-I players and Odoms was well known from his freshman year.
General Excitement Level: Moderate++. He's never going to be Braylon Edwards but if he's as fast as his reputation he could be a dynamite returner and even a deep threat: remember Steve Breaston's ill-fated career as the target of bombs? Well, he was open by yards time and again because opposing players got smoked by his moves and always dropped the ball. Odoms looks like he's pretty good at hauling in deep balls.
Projection: Will press for time as a returner immediately and is 50-50 to be the designated bubble screen guy, with Terrance Robinson the other option. Starts off with an advantage on Robinson because he's spent the last four years as a receiver.
|Trotwood, Ohio - 6'2" 156|
|Scout||3*, #89 WR|
|Rivals||4*, #44 WR|
|ESPN||76, #103 WR|
|Other Suitors||Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska|
|YMRMFSPA||Jason Avant on a starvation diet|
|Notes||Very excited about the medicinal properties of his newly-acquired snake oil. Video interview; Purdue commit feature from Rivals. Low-quality highlights.|
The recruit that caused Joe Tiller to call Rich Rodriguez a "wizard-hat wearing snake-oil salesman," Roy Roundtree finds himself at the heart of a thunderous West Lafayette-based controversy. But we're not in West Lafayette or anywhere in Indiana (state motto: "Probably not Ohio"), for that matter, so we don't care.
We do care about Roundtree the player. This assessment of Roundtree after his performance in the Kirk Herbstreit challenge seems about right to me:
The player that personally impressed me the most is Roy Roundtree. He has really evolved as a receiver over the last year. He burst on the scene as a junior and made some amazing catches, and that allowed him to build confidence in his abilities. He is absolutely fearless coming over the middle to catch the ball. He may not run a 4.4 forty, but of the games that I saw he most likely had best hands of any receiver that took the field.
Another brief scouting report in that vein:
He catches everything and he is elusive in the open field. The most impressive aspect of his game was his fearlessness coming acrossed the middle of the field.
He is really effective out of the slot using his size, quickness and savvy to find soft spots and get down the seam. He is tough and will go up and fight for the ball in traffic and isn't afraid to make the clutch grab across the middle of the field. His hands are soft and he catches everything-- shows good focus and concentration to track the ball and haul it in.
His ScoutingOhio highlight video (from his junior year) had a number of diving catches and a pair of beauty one-handers but little in the way of explosive cuts or deep balls. Roundtree was committed to Purdue and he seemed like a quintessential Purdue receiver: lacking physically in some way but a sure-handed possession guy who runs nice routes and can slice apart a zone. No wonder Tiller was pissed.
Though Roundtree is being brought as a slot receiver like Robinson and Odoms, he's a different sort of slot receiver and, if he works out, will fill a different role on the team. He won't be the recipient of any bubble screens, but will camp out in holes in the zone and use his long arms and leaping ability to flag down eight-yard passes on third and seven.
At 150 or 160 pounds it's unlikely Roundtree sees the field as a freshman; as he brings something no one else in this class (or the class before it) does he's got a good shot at filling a #2 or #3 receiver role once he puts on enough weight to prevent being snapped in half.
Guru Reliability: High. No reason they'd misevaluate a kid at a high profile school like Trotwood-Madison and he went to a couple of different camps on top of that.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Never going to be a gamebreaker, but a likely contributor. Has to add a lot of weight to be an effective player.
Projection: Redshirts, plays sparingly his second year, and is 50-50 to emerge into Michigan's #2 WR.