I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
rumormongering is what the internets are for
Life After Hand
It goes on, believe it or not. Michigan responded to missing out on Da'Shawn Hand by immediately offering Berrian Springs (MI) DE Jhonny Williams, a Missouri commit since September, and judging by his comments to Brandon he's taking his new opportunity very seriously:
Williams wasn’t shy about being excited to hear from Michigan for the first time just recently when we first spoke. After receiving his offer, Jhonny texted me last night with a very respectful message as he sorts through his options.
"I’m not ready to comment on the recent events. I’ll let you know my thoughts when I gather them. I need time. Thank you."
He didn’t hide the fact that he’s juggling some thoughts now that Michigan has offered and I expect the Wolverines to get some consideration.
Williams is a three-star, #42 strongside DE, and #15 prospect in the state according to the 247 Composite; while the rankings are middling, interest in him has picked up of late, as Notre Dame offered him last week. He looks impressive, albeit against relatively low-level competition, in his senior highlights on Hudl.
Shooting Down ALL THE RUMORS
Lose out on a top prospect in the midst of a very ugly stretch for the football team and now even the most outwardly faithful commits have to deny rumors of jumping ship. Rivals posted clickbait so obviously clickbait that I refuse to link it in which they suggest that Jabrill Peppers could join Hand at Alabama despite acknowledging in the very same article that Peppers hasn't spoken with the Tide in months. It even features speculation by a certain national analyst with the quote "I have nothing to back that up."
Meanwhile, Scout's Brian Dohn actually talked to Jabrill Peppers—a novel concept—and Peppers shot down the notion that he's looking around at all ($):
“I’m going to try to go out there for the game against that down south team,” Peppers said. “Everybody is worried about all of the recruits because of the losses, but that is why it’s called rebuilding. We have a new coach (Brady Hoke). He’s bringing in the talent.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to make sure we bring Michigan back to the Michigan we knew before.”
Not only is Peppers remaining a part of the class, he's planning to head to Ann Arbor for The Game. He's even giving quotes to the Daily about his future role on the team:
“I love (playing both ways),” Peppers said. “I love being able to have as many big-impact plays on the game as I possibly can. I definitely would love doing that, but first I want make sure that I’m fully committed and understand the defense and what coach Mattison is trying to do before they start moving me around to the offensive side of the ball.
“I’m all for it and want to do it and try to make as many plays as I possibly can.”
Decommitment pending, I'm sure.
As for Mason Cole and George Campbell, Sam Webb caught up with them after their regular season finale a week ago; they seem solid, as well ($):
Before departing the field both future Wolverines posed for photos that demonstrated their Maize & Blue pride in the form of Michigan caps and ‘M’ gestures with their hands. Upon putting on his hat, Campbell offered up an emphatic ‘Go Blue!’ When asked if that meant his commitment is solid, he didn’t hesitate.
“Yes,” he responded. “I am not listening to the calls (from other schools).”
Another "Go Blue", this time in tandem with Cole, hammered that point home.
Various tweets from other commits over the past couple weeks have driven this point home—the 2014 class is remaining firm in their commitments, at least for the time being, and there's nothing but pure speculation to suggest otherwise.
[Hit THE JUMP for a roundup of commit performances from last weekend.]
Meijer can make advanced analysis Michigan jokes, a made up Les Miles rumor, and what happens when you add Dakich to Jose Canseco...
Meijer Plus All the Points. Plus three. Twitter is like an echo chamber from Jerry Seinfeld's fondest dream. People make pithy, somewhat amusing observations about the news of the moment, and others respond in kind. If you follow the right people, it's worth a few chuckles every day, but rarely much more. But every now and then someone ties together the disparate strands of your universe and reminds you why you got into the game in the first place.
First, a little back-story. I was at Meijer this week, and when I reached into the dairy cooler, my hand made contact with the hand of a Meijer employee who was restocking the cooler. [Side note: I learned in that moment that I would not survive a horror movie. The hero who survives in a slasher flick is the one with the steely nerves and the cat-like reflexes. A masked psychopath bursts out of the Christmas tree, and our hero is setting him ablaze with a homemade flamethrower within a few seconds. I brushed another human being unexpectedly and it nearly cost me a pair of boxers.] I mentioned this encounter on Twitter, and had a couple of exchanges with people about the horror of this incident (insert #FirstWorldProblems here).
Now, to the main event. I was having a conversation with @cjane87 (who, FWIW, is a highly recommended follow for Michigan fans) about the generally terrifying nature of Jadeveon Clowney, when this happened:
That is Meijer's official Twitter account. That is Meijer's official Twitter account making a Michigan football reference. That is Meijer's official Twitter account making a Michigan football reference that accurately recounts the details of a SPECIFIC LINE CALL FROM TWO MONTHS AGO. It continues, because somewhere in a past life I held the door open for someone or something.
A little birdie informs me that the individual who runs the @Meijer feed is a former writer from a well-known Michigan athletics blog (not this one), which makes sense, because (a) Meijer is a Michigan-based company, and (b) holy crap read that thing, that HAS to be a Michigan blogger.
ATTENTION CORPORATE TYPES: THIS is how you do "that viral social media relations thing the kids are talking about." Meijer's handle wasn't linked in any of these tweets, yet within five minutes they had responded in the most amazing and appropriate way imaginable. We don't need Harlem Shake videos. Your jingles are annoying. No one cares about your hashtag. Just find this dude and hire him. Unless you're Meijer, in which case you already hired him, but probably for way too little money. PAY THIS MAN.
[JUMP here. But not early Taylor Lewan vs. Iowa in 2010 --@Meijer]
A couple of good sources have passed along information about Michigan's hot topics du jour.
On Trey Burke. This should not be a scenario like Harris or Morris where the player leaves for dim draft prospects. In Harris's case he wanted out no matter what; Morris had people in his inner circle pushing him into the draft.
Burke is not either of those guys. If the NBA does not tell him he is a first round lock, he'll be back. Since that doesn't seem in the cards—name the last one-and-done under six feet tall—Michigan should avoid the terrifying prospect of entering next year with no point guard at all.
On Devin Gardner. Someone who's seen Gardner at all of Michigan's practices so far says he's "instantly Michigan's best receiver and adds a new dimension to the offense." He's "crazy athletic" with "surprisingly great hands." The one complication for Gardner-to-WR is the situation at quarterback, where he's still the clear #2 option. Gardner is still taking all the second team QB reps.
/end inside info, begin speculation
A lot of people have been mentioning Woodson when talking about this when trying to guess how much playing time is reasonable for a guy who's still full time at a second position. He got 10-15 snaps a game on offense back in '97. Gardner may start at that level, but if it's crunch time and he's 6'5" with a city block catching radius…
A couple of not-very-important bits of information I've gotten from sources I consider reliable follow.
the last one ended well
Night night night night. I'm hearing next year's game at Notre Dame will be at night. Given Michigan's stated desire for a night game per year and the Big Ten's prohibition against having them in November, we could see a large number of M-ND matchups from here on out in primetime.
Maize is not BRIGHT BRIGHT yellow.
An increased focus on making things look reasonable. A reader who would know and I trust when talking about these matters tells me the athletic department is placing an increased focus on making maize actually, you know, maize.
This comes after years of increasing highlighter-yellow creep. Anyone who's surveyed a student section and been able to pick out the 10% who still wear shirts that would not blind a donkey knows how alarming the color drift has become in recent years.
This will "take years to happen." Even so, it's a welcome development. Uniform guru Steve Sapardanis liked the brighter yellow last August, FWIW. I prefer the darker shade.
BONUS: If you care and know what the Pantone colors are, they are Blue 282 and Maize 116. If someone can convert those into hexadecimal I will move the primary colors here to Officially Official colors until such point as copyright-drunk lawyers sue me. I confess that I eyeballed them way back when.
[Note for superheroes with the power of pedantry: there will have to be a few different shades of whatever I use for internet purposes.]
Michigan had their first scrimmage over the weekend, and the internet was alive with reports. I've gotten a couple emails and the board had a few things I'm attempting to follow up on to determine if they're independent reports or just regurgitation. For now, a few items that seem to be reliable across the spectrum.
Will Campbell is not happening. The Nathan Brink hype was an early indication of that and reports from the scrimmage talk about him more than Campbell. It seems highly likely Ryan Van Bergen starts the year at three tech with Brink the starting SDE. According to one source Campbell is "barely playing with the twos." Maybe Rodriguez and company weren't wrong to move Campbell to offensive line last year.
Obviously, that's bad. The DL was paper thin even when Campbell was supposed to start. Now you've got a walk-on in the starting lineup and Campbell may not even be a plausible backup. At least Van Bergen is somewhere around 290—just fine for three-tech—and Brink is a redshirt sophomore. At 265 he's light for a strongside DE and as a walk-on he's probably not going to do much, but for now we can close our eyes real tight and imagine JJ Watt in a winged helmet.
Yeah… that's the stuff.
Brink appears to have beaten out a healthy, senior Will Heininger, so he's got that going for him. Van Bergen, meanwhile, often spent entire games on the field last year. He's going to have to play ironman again this year.
Fitzgerald Toussaint might be happening. The constant refrain from all practices until the Saturday scrimmage was "there is no running back, Shaw by default, Smith on third downs." Saturday the internet lit up with Toussaint-related exclamation marks.
Could this be a real thing? I think so. Toussaint had a pretty good recruiting rep and his struggles so far have been injury-related. It would be one thing if he was just buried on the depth chart behind meh competition. It's not. Even skeptics have to admit Tousssaint's high school highlights are pretty sweet:
Though his competition level was not good he has the track chops to prove that speed you see is not an illusion. He was the 60M Ohio state champ as senior in high school and put up a 10.59 100 meter. The guy can go.
He's more of a slashing zone runner than a horse to run power with, but I don't see any horses to run power with who aren't conspicuously omitted from all reports except dark mutterings about being in the doghouse and missing the WMU game via suspension. If Toussaint is the guy Borges might shrug and run a crapton of zone—it's not like the media will notice.
Roh skepticism ominous. I hope Craig Roh's sickness is the main reason he's come in for a round of "is that all there is?" from the internet, because Michigan needs him. There was one weird report that Roh was playing a three-tech in certain situations—passing downs, I'd hope. That might have been a bit garbled—possibly a three-man front with a very technical linebacker for deployment against the spread.
That's something I am 100% in favor of, BTW. Michigan never got a handle on spread teams under Herrmann and it might be a little worrying if Mattison wasn't reacting to the great trend in college football lo these many years.
Hype magnets. Freshman and new faces getting buzz include:
- WDE Frank Clark, who has been getting some first-team snaps in the passing down package. Seems like he'll be deployed as a situational rusher this year.
- WLBs Brandin Hawthorne and Desmond Morgan(?!). Hawthorne's been running with the ones in practice glimpses and there are scattered reports Morgan is also getting time there. If those are accurate, just moving Morgan to WLB when he seems much better suited for the middle is an indication neither Mike Jones or Brandon Herron is impressing and they are scrambling to fill the spot with someone, anyone. Aaigh Kellen Jones.
- WR Jeremy Gallon has made a move. I'm not sure how much room there is for him at WR since there are already two 5'9" guys ahead of him on the depth chart, though. And putting him back to return punts seems like asking for it after whatever that was last year.
- More Kenny Demens.
- Michigan's using Steve Watson as an H-back.
- Thomas Rawls has a shoulder injury.
- Courtney Avery seems to be maintaining his lead in the race to start opposite Woolfolk.
- I haven't been able to confirm this so no names, but a linebacker is reportedly not in camp and hasn't been all fall. That might be a prelude to a departure
Insider scuttlebutt espectacular scheduled Saturday. They'll have another one this weekend. This one is open to Motts donors and premium seat holders, which I'm sure Hoke loathes but sometimes dollah dollah bill y'all works in the fan's favor.
If last year is any indication there will be a flood of often-contradictory reports here and elsewhere; I'll pick through them and add impressions from the email.
First, Al Borges:
And then Greg Mattison:
Brink of the Brink. I jumped the gun yesterday by retweeting the Blade's Ryan Autullo, who reported Nathan Brink was hanging out on the first-team defensive line yesterday, and claiming this should deflate the Will Campbell hype balloon. It turns out reporters got to see a lot of stretching and not much else; the units out there were not exactly 20 minutes of solid evidence.
"I hate to ever talk about a young man because I think every time I do that they go right down in the tubes," Mattison said after yesterday's practice. "He has come out every day as tough as he can. He listens to [defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery] on every word. When he tells him to step a certain way, he tries to step a certain way. And he's really, really physical." …
"In the spring it was mentioned a number of times because his toughness stuck out like crazy," Mattison said.
The word of the day is always "physical" except when it's "toughness." It's a good sign for you when the coaches are describing you with the attributes they've been preaching nonstop since their arrival.
Is it good for Michigan? If you were under the impression Michigan wouldn't be rotating through walk-ons on its DL, no. That's been unlikely since those dual DT decommits on Signing Day two years ago, though.
Now you should brace for zing:
"Everybody's a scholarship football player to us," Mattison said. "The best 11, the best 12, the best 17, those guys are going to play."
This walk-on may be on the brink of doing that.
The other change. Is it alarming that Jibreel Black, who the coaches have been displeased with, was the other surprise first-team-ish player on the line yesterday? Probably not. An emailer relates that Craig Roh is sick. Not good but not a major problem unless it's mono.
Don't be mono, k thx.
might not be much bench time for this pair. via GBMW
Insidery scuttlebutt. Fall camps are full of temporary surprise starters as coaches test new things or dole out rewards and reprimands, so reading too much into any particular lineup is a constant threat. That said, a couple folk close to the program say Hawthorne has been playing well enough to warrant his shot at the first team. Consistency remains an issue. If Michigan can get production out of him that will be a bonus.
Other insidery nuggets: Demens has MLB locked down and is playing as well at that spot as anyone has in a while; Cam Gordon should hold off Jake Ryan for the SLB spot; Marell Evans has been a bit of disappointment.
Position switches. As media day content continues to trickle out information missed by folks moving to and fro amongst the panoply of assistants and players comes out. For example, there's a new contender at Safety Who Isn't Kovacs. Curt Mallory:
"Thomas has been playing nickel and also been playing safety. We're moving him around," Mallory said. "They will eventually [be interchangeable]. We went into it playing sides, and now as they've learned it, you can play your next best safety rather than next best strong or free. As we get closer to it we'll hone it in a bit and get guys where they best fit the defense. …
"No one's hiding. They all want to be out there, involved, competing. That's probably the most encouraging thing. If Thomas Gordon could, he'd be out there the whole time, and he's not the only one. That's good. They all want to be out there—it's a healthy thing because they are all helping one another."
I liked Gordon last year in the limited role (and limited time) he was allowed. He's dropped some weight and I'd be surprised if he wasn't the fastest guy competing to start at safety. (Furman is probably faster but no one mentions him as a threat to start this year.)
Mallory mentioned Countess, Taylor and Hollowell first amongst the freshmen corners, FWIW.
Rivals also has an article on Brennen Beyer's move to SLB. He won't be required to play this year and that sounds like a good thing:
It's a change because I haven't really played that before, but it's fun trying to learn as much as I can as fast as I can," Beyer said. … "Pass dropping, for one. I've never done that before," he said. "Playing while standing up—that's a little different."
Anyone nervous? I'm nervous. Jeff Hecklinski on the receivers:
"It was such a drastic change offensively that it really hasn't been aided [by their experience]," Hecklinski said. "We have to understand the intricacies that go along with the pro-style offense and the throwing game like we have.
"But, to their credit, they've worked hard throughout the summer. You can see a lot of good things throughout the summer. They came through and did the 7-on-7s and now we get a chance to look at them, you can see they've started to develop that timing and put things together. Now, we need to build on it, and we can hone it down to every little detail."
Practice buzz has been extremely happy with the unit as a whole despite the change; I'm guessing we see a preponderance of three-wide sets this fall. Four is a thing of the past but SDSU ran a lot of three-wide last year. With little established behind Koger at TE their other option is all I-Form.
Gallon is getting talked up, which is surprising. He was an impressive player in the Army Bowl as a recruit but couldn't find the field in an offense perhaps better suited for his talents—he mostly spent his time screwing up painfully on special teams. If he gets his act together he'd bring a YAC aspect Michigan's receivers are currently lacking. I'd bet this is more like Johnny Sears hype, though: encouragement more than accurate reporting.
Standard. More Fred Jackson: "I’ve very, very confident [in the future] because those two freshmen are good players. They are better than good. Both of them.”