The kids are in and the winter sports are slowly strangling whatever hopes you had, so the next major event you won't stare at a bottle of pills after is spring practice. Time for primers. Positions I'll be looking at hard in a month or two:
Fifth-year senior Mark Ortmann graduates. Ortmann was no Jake Long but by the end of his career at Michigan he was a solid pass protector and okay in the run game. If Michigan can get an equal performance from a freshman or sophomore that's a win.
The favorite is redshirt sophomore Patrick Omameh, who drew into the lineup late last year when David Molk went down with injury and the right guard spot became persistently unsettled after David Moosman slid over to center. Omameh made a few impressive plays downfield…
…and was generally functional. Though he ended up at guard last year that was an effort to get Michigan's best five linemen on the field more than anything else. Omameh has always been regarded a left tackle prospect.
Omameh's main competition will come from two redshirt freshman. Taylor Lewan was a late-blooming prospect from Arizona who got acres of hype—the Long comparisons were rife—and has an enormous ceiling. Omameh has experience on Lewan but if those two are far and away the top two candidates for starting jobs they might leave Omameh at guard and insert Lewan. Michael Schofield is another redshirt freshman who was well-regarded as a recruit and will have a shot at the job, but he may be better suited for right tackle.
Hoping for… Lewan. Jumping into the starting lineup as a freshman would be Long-like for a guy who has drawn Long comparisons, and it would presumably allow Omameh to slide over to right tackle to help lock down the area from which most of Tate Forcier's wild-ass scrambles were born.
Expecting… Omameh. With three starts to his name and no current starters a threat to move to left tackle, Omameh is a prohibitive favorite.
The aforementioned Moosman was Michigan's most consistent offensive lineman the last two years when not forced to play center due to Molk's injuries. Though he was consistent, he wasn't great; his prominence says more about the state of Michigan's line the last couple years than his future in the game. He wasn't invited to the NFL combine.
Since Moosman spent most of the year at center and his replacement was a combination of Huyge, Ferrara, and Omameh with the latter performing the best, Michigan should expect improved production here.
Assuming the tackles are not in such surplus that Michigan can toss them about the interior line willy-nilly, Michigan faces a choice between old and young. The old guy in the mix is fifth-year senior John Ferrara (right), a guy who was flipped from defensive tackle in Rodriguez's first year at Michigan and saw spot starts in 2008. He was supplanted last year by a couple of guys who displayed serious limitations, but he's more seasoned than the other options.
The other options are a pair of highly-touted southerners. Redshirt sophomore Ricky Barnum decommitted from Florida just before signing day and was actually the second-team left tackle last year. The assumption here is that Omameh was more ready to play and left tackle was not open, so the best backup lineman practiced at the most available spot—right guard after Molk went down—and the second best practiced at the toughest. That would be Barnum. He came highly touted and after two years prepping he's the most likely guy. If it's close, Michigan will probably go with the younger player.
The other prime candidates are Elliot Mealer, who saw a little time last year as a backup, and redshirt freshman Quinton Washington. The soft-spoken Washington picked Michigan over South Carolina late in last year's recruiting cycle and drew lavish praise from the coaches:
"To my understanding, he's their number one lineman they are going after in the nation. That's point blank what coach Rodriguez told me Friday night."
Washington is a rare combination of size and linebacker-erasing agility and could be a major star. His ceiling is very, very high. If he doesn't win a job this year he will be the heavy favorite to replace Steve Schilling in 2011.
Hoping for… Realistically, Barnum. He should be ahead of Washington at this point and Washington getting the nod over him would probably say more bad things about Barnum than good things about Washington. In fairy land where Michigan embarks on a four-year journey with Lewan as Jake Long 2.0 and Washington as Steve Hutchinson 2.0, Washington. No offense to Ferrara, but I'd take a starting spot for him as a very bad sign.
No one. Whoever's here this fall should be better, whether it's the same players with more experience or someone displacing them.
The reason this position is listed prominently is performance of the two semi-incumbents. Perry Dorrestein and Mark Huyge (right, holding the hell out of a Penn State lineman) were functional in the run game but revolving doors in pass protection. A not so random protection metric from last year:
PROTECTION METRIC: 14/29. Huyge –5, Schilling –3, Minor –2, Ortmann –1, Shaw –1, Koger –1, Moosman –1, Omameh –1.
That is by far the lowest percentage in UFR history. The culprits are the usual by now: Huyge on the edge, Schilling getting blasted back into the pocket, and several other folk having individual moments of struggle.
That happened to be a game that Huyge played right tackle; when Dorrestein got the start he was the guy leading the way with big minuses.
Michigan had little choice but to rotate those two last year. This year they have options. The aforementioned Lewan and Schofield come off redshirt years; Omameh will probably move back to tackle in spring, too. All these guys have been talked about already.
Hoping for… in the scenario where Lewan erupts, Omameh.
Expecting… early, a rotation similar to last year's. Huyge takes over late and his pass protection remains a major issue.
Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown were polar opposites in many ways but shared a knack for getting injured constantly. Despite having not one but two senior tailbacks, Michigan was forced to go to true freshman Vincent Smith late last year as both veterans looked on dourly from the sidelines holding various aching extremities.
Kevin Grady is also gone, though he was mostly a fullback last year.
Production should be about even; Brown and Minor were hardly at full speed last year.
They are diverse and sundry. With Vincent Smith out until fall with an ACL tear, five or six players will battle for carries. Mike Shaw is the one you've seen before. His freshman year was exciting, but his promise dipped as a sophomore. Shaw runs wildly. He's a zippy guy with the occasional fantastic move…
…but his vision is lacking and he's had fumble issues. This spring will be a turning point in his career. If he gets left in the wash by freshmen he's headed for kickoff return duties and not much else. Chances are he improves enough to be a part of the rotation; he has Brown-level speed.
Other folk are murkier. Mike Cox displayed impressive balance on a couple of garbage-time carries against weak opponents but has done nothing else so far and fell behind Smith almost as soon as he hit the practice field. He could find use as a short-yardage back or Soul Train extra. Cox is the only other player in the spring tailback derby to have seen a carry at Michigan.
The other three players are freshmen, be they redshirt or true. Fitzgerald Toussaint, the redshirt, is the most likely to have a breakout spring. He enrolled in fall—Smith got in early, giving us an early glimpse—and then broke his collarbone. That forced him out of a month of practice and relegated him to scout team duties, but before that he was a jump-cut maniac at Youngstown Liberty who racked up three or four 50+ yard touchdowns per game. When I profiled Toussaint prior to his enrollment, I was higher on him than Smith:
While I think Vincent Smith can be a good back in the Michigan offense, Toussaint has the bigger recruiting rep, better track numbers, and heart-stopping highlights; my bet is that he's the most successful tailback out of this class. I love the combination of moves, zone suitability, and flat-out speed cited by ESPN and demonstrated at track meets and football games.
And while Smith has outpaced even this site's positive take on him in year one, the main thing I'll be looking for this spring is Toussaint translating his sprinter's speed and audacious cuts to Michigan Stadium.
True freshmen Austin White and Stephen Hopkins have enrolled early and will get their shots as well. White is a slot/tailback who might be reminiscent of a Dorrell Jalloh or Darius Reynaud; he comes with less hype than Toussaint and I assume he will redshirt. Hopkins is the lowest-rated back of anyone on the roster but at 6-foot and 230-240 pounds there is a distinctly vacant role on the roster he might be the man to fill. Michigan needs a short-yardage moose.
Hoping for… Smith's healthy return and Toussaint living up to his crazy film.
Expecting… pretty much that, with Shaw factoring in as needed.
My assumption remains that Devin Gardner is headed for a redshirt. Still, getting a look at the future of Michigan's quarterback position will be a priority for many. Roy Roundtree and Martavious Odoms have a stranglehold on slot receiver, but an extended look at Jeremy Gallon with an eye towards "please God, send us a punt returner" will be welcome. On the outside, Junior Hemingway is a lock and it will take some doing to displace Darryl Stonum. With Ricardo Miller, Jeremy Jackson, and Jerald Robinson all in early there's a chance someone displays an ability to adjust to deep balls.
Finally, I wonder if any of the tight ends can catch now.
Boards of note:
Lots of changes on the defensive tackle recruiting front in the past couple days.
First things first, MI DT Johnathon Hankins picked Ohio State yesterday over the Wolverines. Allow me to editorialize for a moment here: This blog has a tag called "basketball recruiting is dirty like dirt in a dirt sandwich," but if half of the rumors about the Southeastern coaching staff's handling of Hankins's recruitment are true, we may need to expand that tag to football as well. Genuinely Sarcastic provides some angry detail.
FL DT Todd Chandler seems to be looking primarily at Louisville as an option outside of USF (where he is committed). Michigan might become a stronger option if his teammate, FL OL Torrian Wilson, visits Ann Arbor, but this one appears to be on the back-burner for now. Chandler's top schools have gone from the likes of Miami, Michigan, and Florida to Memphis, Louisville, and FIU, so he may have some issues—grades?—that are causing bigger schools to back off.
Wilson, by the way, is down to USF, Michigan, and Tennessee. Michigan could really use another offensive lineman in the class.
Cincinnati high school sports reporter Mike Dyer reports that Michigan visited OH DT/DE Jibreel Black both in-home and in-school on Monday. Black, who has been committed to Cincinnati, but is reconsidering after the Brian Kelly departure, will also visit Michigan sometime this month, probably the weekend of the 22nd. According to Dyer's full article, the Wolverines have replaced Louisville on his list.
Michigan has a couple defensive ends and a couple three-tech defensive tackles so all they need is a nose; if they pick up Black it's because they really like him.
More on his actual game performance in a delayed Friday Night Lights post next week, but MI QB Devin Gardner participated in the Under Armour All-American Bowl on Saturday. He impressed in practice:
"(Devin Gardner) really impressed me a lot," [Scout Florida expert Geoff] Vogt added. "He was bigger than I expected him to be. His arm was everything that people made it out to be. He was accurate... He clearly, in my opinion, is the top quarterback on that team... He'd be the No. 1 quarterback in Florida straight out this year and that's really saying something. I think he has a really bright future at Michigan."
Of course, being the clear #1 QB on the team got him by far the fewest snaps out of the 3 QBs, with Nick Montana and Phillip Sims getting more (the order was determined randomly, FWIW). That Webb article also says that Michigan is pursuing Tennessee commit LB Michael Taylor. I've added him to the board. Taylor remains a soft commit to the Vols.
FL CB Tony Grimes participated in last weekend's Offense-Defense Bowl, and MGoReader J. Lichty reports that opposing offenses mostly stayed away from him. He played both corner and safety. MGoBlog's own TomVH talked to Grimes last week, and he reiterated what we've been hearing for some time on both Grimes and his teammate, FL DE Clarence Murphy:
TOM: Are you and Clarence still planning on going to the same school?
TONY: As far as this point, yes that's the plan.
TOM: Is Michigan still on top for you?
The two still both favor Michigan, and plan to announce on Signing Day. Tony also said that he didn't know there was a dead period between college coaches and recruits, and was wondering why Michigan wasn't contacting him as much. Sounds like other schools haven't quite been following the rules. THE NCAA WILL BE ALL OVER THIS!
This upcoming weekend is a little more notable for Michigan fans: Commits WI P Will Hagerup and PA CB Cullen Christian will play in the US Army All-American Bowl, and CA S Sean Parker who is down to Michigan, Cal, and USC, will also participate.
The semester started today, so we should finally have a good idea of which 2010 Michigan commits were able to get in for the winter semester and spring practice.
MI QB Devin Gardner is still trying to enroll early, but Inkster's semester ends really late and there are some issues with getting him accelerated. Michigan should know by the end of the week whether he will or not. Stephen Hopkins, Jerald Robinson, Ricardo Miller, Christian Pace, Jeremy Jackson, and Austin White are all enrolling, though as of Wednesday morning Robinson and Miller did not have UMich directory entries. Marvin Robinson is also making an effort to enroll early:
Robinson, who took 3 classes over the summer in an attempt to graduate in December, said the holdup stems with 2 classes he took last semester.
"Most likely things are going to work out where I can go up there tomorrow," Robinson said.
Even if things don't, Robinson said he's firm in his commitment and will sign with Michigan in February.
I don't recall if the Athletic Department announced early-enrolling prospects last year until after Signing Day, but hopefully we'll have the final data by the end of this week.
Meanwhile, FL CB Adrian Witty was also supposed to be a midseason enroller after not qualifying for fall but is not in the Michigan directory. It's looking grimmer for Witty by the day; from the sounds of it he is qualified in the eyes of the NCAA; Michigan's admissions are the holdup. The most likely issue is a radically improved test score that got flagged.
Persistent rumors that TX RB/WR Tony Drake is so far from qualifying that he shouldn't even be considered part of the class any more get stronger by the day.
Maxpreps published its Junior All-American teams, with few prospect of interest for Michigan fans, outside of a couple pipe dreams. SoFlaFootball has also published its first 2011 top 75.
FL RB Demetrius Hart may not be the Michigan lock that we thought:
The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder has had the Wolverines out in front for some time and continues to do so, though he jokingly said that cold temperatures in the Orlando area recently may have him thinking a little.
So, yeah: That's not as negative as the headline "Florida Prospect Considers Local Programs" would make it seem. It would still be an upset for him to not land in Ann Arbor.
Michigan has offered a trio of prospects from Gardena Serra High School in California. WR George Farmer appears to be the headliner, holding offers from a who's-who of bigtime schools, including Florida and Oklahoma. DE Jason Gibson and S Marquise Lee have also received Michigan offers, along with scholarships from the likes of Miami (Yes That Miami), Oregon, and Washington.
Michigan commits Tony Drake and Austin White come in at #8 and #10, respectively on Sports Illustrated's top running backs of 2010.
This should be a mondo update, since there wasn't a true recruiting post last week. Brace yourself, and if you need some context, check out the 2010 Michigan Recruiting Board.
Get 'em Early
ESPN provides one of the fluffiest Devin Gardner articles humanly possible:
Putting a football in Devin Gardner's hands is like handing a master artist a paint brush and an empty canvas.
It's your standard "lots of words with no information"-type article, other than mentioning that Gardner intends to enroll early at Michigan. Devin's gone back-and-forth about whether he wants to come in for the winter semester, but it appears his on-again, off-again relationship with that plan is in the on-again phase.
Rich Rodriguez has mentioned that he doesn't want to see high schoolers miss out on their opportunity to play winter and spring sports in high school, but since Gardner is participating in the ESPNU/Under Armour All-American Bowl, a (terrible) MHSAA rule prevents him from playing sports afterward. He wouldn't be missing out on much other than the prom.
(Gardner photo by Tom Hauck for ESPN.com.)
In other potential early-enrolling athletes, I brought this up in yesterday's Friday Night Lights post, but TX RB Stephen Hopkins also plans to enroll early. That brings the unofficial list to the following:
- MI QB Devin Gardner
- TX RB Stephen Hopkins
- MI WR Ricardo Miller
- OH WR Jerald Robinson
- OH OL Christian Pace
- FL S Marvin Robinson
That's always subject to change. Back to Hopkins for a moment, though, as MGoReader Phil Sampson fills me in that the big game against Southlake Carroll should be available for listening on the internet at http://www.kkgmam.com/. The game takes place Friday at 7:30 CDT. Phil warns that if you tune in early, you'll be subjected to some bad music.
In the Army Now
MN OL Seantrel Henderson was officially selected to the Army All-American Bowl, which is probably the least shocking moment in human history. No mention of Michigan in the recruiting snippets, for what it's worth. That's a somewhat regular occurrence, though insider-y rumblings still say that he likes Michigan. For what it's worth, his friend MN Ath JD Pride committed to Minnesota, but says he won't pressure Seantrel to join him.
Elsewhere in Official Army Selections, WI P Commit Will Hagerup got the treatment on Thursday. Rivals AMP was there:
For the record, Hagerup mentions that he'll arrive in Ann Arbor over the summer, which is a good sign that he has no intention of enrolling early.
SO MUCH STUFF ABOUT VISITS
AZ S Marquis Flowers plans to visit Michigan "later this month." That will be for the Penn State game, obviously. More on Penn State visits in next week's recruiting update, of course.
CA S Sean Parker visited Cal for the USC game, and the only other visit he's sure about is Michigan. He's planning to wait out a decision, so if Michigan has a good season, there's definitely a chance to land him. Rivals insists that he has not committed to USC ($, info in header). "Hey, that thing that nobody believes? It's not true!"
Michigan continues to lead for PA CB/S Cullen Christian, despite his shiny new offer from Ohio State. He plans to visit Ann Arbor for the November 21st contest against the Buckeyes, and decide a couple days after. That timeline looks good for Michigan. JC Shurburtt has more:
"I am going to decide Nov. 24 during a press conference at my high school," Christian said. "Right now, my top two schools are Michigan and West Virginia. Every school has a shot, though, and things could change when I take my official visits."
"They were just my favorite team growing up as a kid," Christian said. "They gave me my first offer. They recruit me the hardest, and I just love Michigan."
Again, sounds like the Wolverines are entrenched as his leader. As for his teammate, PA S Brandon Ifill, things don't look nearly as rosy from a Michigan perspective. He favors Maryland and Pitt ($, info in header), and Rutgers is recruiting him the hardest. It's fair to say that Michigan would prefer to only get Christian out of this duo.
Most analysts assume that FL LB Christian Jones is a lock to Florida State, since he's a legacy and his brother plays there. Despite Michigan falling off his radar lately, the Wolverines are still in the mix for an official visit ($, info in header). ESPN confirms that Michigan is one of the contenders for an official visit. I'll believe it when I see it, since he's been completely forgotten about by Michigan fans.
FL CB Tony Grimes (who still favors Michigan, Ole Miss, and Wisconsin) will be taking his Michigan visit for the Ohio State game at the end of November. That's shaping up to be a blockbuster recruiting weekend, with CA RB/LB Anthony Barr visiting as well.
Michigan is "still alive" with GA DT Mike Thornton ($, info in header), and he's considering the Wolverines for one of his official visits ($, info in header). Sam Webb elaborates in the Detroit News:
Those skills caught the attention of Michigan assistant Jay Hopson last summer. The Wolverines' Peach State recruiter wasted little time making very clear the magnitude of his program's interest.
"He told me they were looking for a great defensive tackle and they found that in me," Thornton recalled. "They needed to see my academic work and they offered a day later, actually." ...
"I talked to coach Hopson last week," Thornton said. "I haven't watched them play yet, but I've been hearing good things about them. I'm still going to get up there (on a visit). I just don't know when yet. "
Talk about defensive tackles and whatnot.
PA DT Shariff Floyd probably won't visit North Carolina with one of his officials, and Michigan is one of the options to fill that slot, along with Ohio State. I would predict that Michigan gets that visit for the Ohio State game if the Wolverines continue their winning ways, and he hasn't decided on a school by that time. He remains a longshot.
MN DT Beau Allen is down to five finalists, all of whom will receive official visits. He's already been to Wisconsin, and he's still setting up trips to Notre Dame, Stanford, Minnesota, and Michigan.
It looks like Michigan is on the outside looking in for FL OT Tyler Moore. He planned to announce a decision "very soon," and made it in favor of Nebraska. Brian, his dad, points out that a verbal commitment might not be a final decision, so he might not drop completely off the radar when he commits to one of those schools.
Sam Webb's "Dandy Dozen" - the top twelve instate recruits in the 2011 class in no particular order - are presented for your perusal, with relevant recruiting comments from the article following each recruit.
DeAnthony Arnett, WR, Saginaw, 6-0, 170, 4.51 - Offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Central Michigan and Tennessee already have come through for the talented youngster. Aside from taking a few visits to some of aforementioned schools, Arnett has made recruiting a back-burner issue.
Arnett is widely considered to be a Michigan lean, though he doesn't have any public favorites. When I talked to him in August, he said he was going to take his time with the recruiting process.
Justice Hayes, RB, Grand Blanc, 5-11, 185, 4.5 - Allen Trieu: "He grew up a Michigan State fan, but Northwestern is recruiting him hard and his teammate Tony Jones is committed there. Then you have Michigan, who fits his style of play and he has had good visits to. He is wide open right now."
Talky. Hayes recently spoke to Rivals' MichiganPreps, where he gave a similar picture of his recruitment, adding that he has one offer, from Iowa. It also included video:
...and back to the Webb article:
Delonte Hollowell, CB, Detroit Cass Tech, 5-9, 165, 4.5 - "Central Michigan and Michigan offered me," added Hollowell. "Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State -- a lot of schools have been sending mail. I'm going to try to go to an Iowa game and maybe an Illinois and Michigan State game. Michigan State has sent mail and I talked to the defensive backs coach, Coach (Harlan) Barnett."
Don't be too frightened by that last comment. Michigan is the leader for Hollowell, though "because I don't have any other offers except for Central Michigan" doesn't imply that the Wolverines have an iron grip.
Lawrence Thomas, LB, Detroit Renaissance, 6-4, 237, 4.65 - Trieu: "Michigan State is the team to beat, but I get the feeling a lot of schools from all over are about to turn up the heat on him."
Michigan recently extended an offer to Thomas ($, info in header), but are definitely playing from behind.
Willie Beavers, OT, Southfield Lathrup, 6-5, 327, 5.1
Bryan Bell, OT, Walled Lake Central, 6-5, 290, 5.0
Ashton Gaines, WR, Detroit Crockett, 5-11, 170, 4.6
Jamal Hosley, WR, Highland Park, 5-9, 160, 4.4
Taiwan Jones, LB/WR, Anchor Bay, 6-4, 200, 4.7
Willie Snead, WR, Muskegon Heights, 6-0, 180, 4.5
Dwight Trammer, LB, Inkster, 6-1, 225, 4.7
Anthony Zettel, OG, West Branch Ogemaw Heights, 6-3, 255, 4.9
I believe Bell grew up a Michigan fan, though the early word is that he hasn't heard a whole lot from the Wolverines. Willie Snead plays quarterback in high school, but projects as a WR/DB. Trammer is a teammate of Devin Gardner, and likes Michigan (Michigan might like him, too: I overheard Wolverines QB coach Rod Smith asking what number he was at a recent Inkster game). Anthony Zettel is considered a mortal lock to the maize and blue if they see him worthy of an offer.
Now that I've given you most of the interesting information from the article, I feel obligated to encourage you to check it out. Seriously, it's really good stuff.
FL RB Demetrius Hart is going to be a top prospect in the Sunshine State next year, probably ringing in around 4 stars. He's also considered a Michigan lock, though I have no idea why:
"Of course, they are my top team," Hart said. "I don't think I will commit now, but I will commit later to Michigan."
Nope, I haven't the slightest clue. Hart took in a Michigan game last year, and has set a visit for this season as well. I'd bet one of my kidneys that it's for either the Penn State or the Ohio State game, both of which are shaping up to be blockbuster recruiting events. Win plz. Hart is also a candidate for Orlando Sentinel Offensive Player of the Year, probably because he does stuff like this.
Yeah, it's totally time for a 2011 recruiting board. Look for it next week.
As mentioned in last week's recruiting update, Michigan offered CA WR Kenny Stills. "Offered" DE RB Jamaal Jackson will decide after his senior season. CA CB Joshua Shaw will no longer visit Michigan. The Wolverines are pushing for a visit from SC CB John Fulton.
While Michigan fans can hope that current commits see their stock rise when Scout, Rivals, and ESPN update their rankings, players often stay stable or drop. In this look at Michigan's recruiting class, we'll see which guys have probably reached their maximum guru approval (or close to it).
MI/FL WR Ricardo Miller
|Ranking||WR #24||WR #19|
Why Here? When Michigan fans were told how good Miller was, it sounded like he was a shoe-in for 5-star status. Even the Florida rankings released by some sources prior to the release of Rivals' and Scout's official lists had him in the top 5 prospects in the state. However, when the major sites released their rankings he was a mid-4-star to both.
It's not from lack of exposure. Miller's situation (being a southeast player committed to a non-southeast school before the rankings came out) may have hurt him somewhat. Southeast recruiting analysts are likely to ding a prospect for being an early commit to a school from a different area of the country.
Prediction: Miller has moved to Michigan, so it will be an entire different set of eyeballs looking at him. If he blows up in the state of Michigan, it doesn't hold as much weight as if he had done so in Florida. Miller's move to Michigan probably helped him in terms of getting acquainted with the area, recruiting other prospects, and getting ready to enroll at the University. But it put something of a cap on his rankings. Miller will probably remain a 4-star.
FL S Marvin Robinson
|Ranking||OLB #11||S #10|
Why Here? Robinson has a lot in common with Ricardo Miller. Michigan fans have been hearing for years about how he would be a Locky McLockerson for both Michigan and 5-star status. He impressed at Michigan's summer camp as a rising sophomore, and ever since we've been hearing about how awesome he is. Eventually, the 2010 rankings came out... and Robinson was a medium-range 4-star. The only plausible explanation, given his apparent exposure, is that he just isn't quite as elite as we'd been hearing. If he isn't highly ranked by now, it's probably just not in the cards.
Prediction: He's listed at either OLB or safety, so if the premium sites can come to a consensus on his future position, it might help them figure out where he should be ranked. If he gets bigger, he could be an elite OLB prospect, but he has limited upside in the rankings at safety. Michigan has a perfect role for Robinson, either as a safety if he can keep his speed, a linebacker if he adds a bunch of weight, or as a hybrid if his physical development is complete. He doesn't have the speed that an elite safety his size would have (i.e. Taylor Mays). I think he'll top out near the higher range of 4-stars.
PA DE/LB Ken Wilkins
|Ranking||WDE #17||DE #31|
Why Here? Wilkins is much like Paskorz: a tweener that scouting services don't love. He's athletic and the services recognize at least that, giving him a 4-star ranking. His exposure should be pretty good at his school (trinity has produced a number of D-1 players over the years), so he is probably ranked where the services want him.
Prediction As a tweener, it's going to be tough for him to move up, despite the fact that his coach says he's more athletic than all of the D-1 prospects who have come through Trinity. Unless collects absurd statistics as a senior, Wilkins will probably stay right where he is: a low 4-star. The Quick DE position on Michigan's defense may be a more natural fit than conventional DE or LB spots. That should be encouraging to Michigan fans.
MI RB Austin White
|Ranking||APB #15||RB #17|
Why Here? White has torn through Michigan in the past couple years, but high school football in the state being what it is the competition has not been the best. Looking at Stevenson's results over the past couple years, it's not clear whether White's stats (which are very good) are a product of his team obliterating the competition or his exceptional talent.
Room to Grow? Literally, yes: White's a small guy who could use some time in the weight room. But he's also an established star at his school who's gotten a ton of combine exposure; there's no much secret about him.
Prediction: A good senior season can only do so much for White since he's smallish and proven. He may get looks at a RB/slot hybrid, and Rivals lists him as an all-purpose back, so showing off his receiving ability could give him a bump. But White actually moved down in the Rivals re-rank; not many do that and then bounce back up.
PA DE Jordan Paskorz
|Ranking||WDE #36||DE #59|
Why Here? Paskorz is something of a man without a position. Half lineman, half linebacker, he doesn't fit into lots of schools' lists of needed prospects. Still, Paskorz has some physical talent, enough that the recruiting services know about him. The bigger question is whether he performs on the field for his school.
Prediction Especially if he grows enough to become a true defensive end, and puts together a productive senior year, he can move up somewhat. The sites have pretty different opinions of him, so he's might move one way or the other. Scouting services will never really be enamored with players that don't have obvious NFL potential. Unless he gets more athletic or bigger in an obvious way during his senior year, he's stuck where he is.
TX RB Stephen Hopkins
|Ranking||RB #80||RB #57|
Why Here? Hopkins has been solid, but not great, against high-level Texas competition. He has led his team to successful playoff runs in the past couple years. However, he lacks that one attribute that really sets him apart. He runs tough, but doesn't truck the hell out of guys. He'll get to the second level, but not outrun everyone in the secondary. He'll put a move on you, but won't make most defenders go looking for their jockstraps.
Prediction: Since he plays good competition in Texas, if Hopkins has a big season of any sort he could move him up. But he has the exposure and body of work that comes with being a two-year-starter at a big Texas program and hasn't gotten more three stars from the recruiting sites. He might move up a little bit if he's able to put in the offseason work to increase his speed or toughness, but I'd be surprised if he gets to a fourth star. He should end up a high(er) 3-star, not far from his current ranking. Note that Hopkins disagrees with this assessment, stating he's been told a big year will get him a fourth star.
OH OL Christian Pace
|Ranking||OC #7||OG #36|
Why Here? Pace's film is impressive. He is an aggressive blocker who will drive defenders into the ground. However, he is limited from being ranked any more highly by his height. At only 6-3—which may be exaggerated—he does not have ideal size for a guard, nor does he excel in pass protection. Pace's team success may not have much bearing on his ranking, so even if they improve from last year's finish, he won't reap much benefit. He will probably not grow. That will always limit him in the eyes of the recruiting services, regardless of how impressive his film is.
Prediction Even though Rivals scouts drooled over his junior film, they actually moved him down in their recent re-rank. If Pace has a dominant year blocking (and his Scouting Ohio film certainly indicates that he's capable of that), he could move up to low 4-star status, but he had a dominant junior year and didn't go anywhere.
Pace seems a lot like current Michigan center David Molk, who is a short but effective center. In the Michigan system, slightly smaller but more athletic interior linemen can still have success (again, see Molk).
LA Slot Drew Dileo
|Ranking||ATH #58||WR #27|
Why Here? Dileo has been productive in his high school career, but perhaps his ranking is held down by a few factors: 1) His team is routinely a behemoth in its small-division Louisiana competition, so it's tough to gauge individual talents at times. 2) He is a 5-10 wide receiver. 3) He is a white wide receiver. None of these factors are likely to change this year, so look out. He has limited upward potential - but as with lots of little guys, that might not mean detrimental things about his career at Michigan.
Prediction Like I said, if the scouts don't already know about Dileo, it’s not because he hasn’t been exposed. He is likely stuck in neutral as far as his rankings go. The situation from last year won't change, and barring an absolutely transcendent performance (which doesn't seem likely), he'll stay where he is. Worse still, other players might be able to move up and pass him down the road, dropping his ranking even further than its current level.
Added FL CB Eric Mitchell($).
Editorial Opinion: Sort of a light week outside of the Elite 11. There was a Rivals revamp, I guess.
About the departed:
- IL WR Kyle Prater took a visit in the spring and mentioned Michigan high up immediately afterwards but once that faded it became clear he wasn't feeling it. Cramming him into this class would have been difficult in any case.
- FL LB Jeff Luc was a major longshot.
- MD OL Robbie Havenstein mentioned M like once and then went radio silent; I'm not sure how much mutual interest there was in the first place.
- FL CB Nickell Robey said he'd visit, but will not. Minor ding there but CB still looks strong.
- CA LB Tony Jefferson's sudden commit to UCLA robs Michigan of a touted prospect at an area of need; even if they weren't in the driver's seat a 20-ish percent chance of landing him is better than none.
And then there's TX DE Holmes Onwukaife, who tried to commit to Michigan earlier and was told by the coaches that Ken Wilkins and Jordan Paskorz had taken his spot. He was offered the chance to come in as a middle linebacker and turned it down, went to Florida State's camp as an outside linebacker, got offered, and committed. Swing and a miss by the coaching staff here; if Onwukaife pans out it's going to be painful.
Here's a direct example of Michigan's eagerness to accept commitments probably costing them a better class. I mean no offense to Antonio Kinard or Jordan Paskorz, but if I had to pick one guy from the three just based on offers, recruiting buzz, and whatnot, it would be Onwukaife. I know, I know: Rodriguez forges two-stars into firey death machines and so forth and so on. It'll be interesting to see how Kinard, Paskorz, and Onwukaife end up panning out.
Weekly Semi-Creepy Devin Gardner Update
No, it's not this week that sees the recruiting roundup go without mention of Devin Gardner, but I've got a good reason: Gardner just participated in the Elite 11 camp, where he won awards for Best Feet—no doy—and Best In The Classroom. From there it gets schizophrenic. Gardner did not finish in the top five in the "Overall MVP" voting, but did cause Rivals analysts Greg Biggins and Barry Every to swoon:
Rivals.com national analyst Barry Every ranked Gardner as the top overall quarterback at the camp based on long-term potential and the ability to win football games.
“I don’t think there’s any question, after having seen him for four days, how hard he competes and how hard he wants to be the best,” Every said.
Every and Biggins agreed Gardner compares favorably at the same stage of his career to players like Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Juice Williams and Dennis Dixon, all Elite 11 alumni.
Yow. That's a huge disagreement between the camp counselor voting—current college QBs—and the scouting professionals. I'm naturally inclined to take the word of the professionals. According to Every, Gardner is a lock to shoot into the top 100 when Rivals revamps its rankings again. (Odd that Rivals would re-do their rankings before the most important quarterback camp of the year, no?)
Every's other favorite QB there, by the way, was PSU commit and OLSM QB Robert Bolden; MSU commit Joe Boisture finished last. MSU's resident Guy Who Knows Guy Involved With Elite 11 was not pleased with what he heard from his guy.
Other opinions also exist, though they're necessarily less star-struck. Scout's Scott Kennedy:
"Gardner is a superior athlete who is handcuffed a bit by a passing camp that doesn't showcase his playmaking ability with his legs. However, as one might expect, Gardner was solid in the bootleg drills, and while struggling hitting the deep-out to live receivers, Gardner picked up his game in the target practice segment, showing off better accuracy than many of his Elite 11 teammates."
ESPN's evaluation intertwines Bolden and Gardner:
Robert Bolden (Orchard Lake, Mich./Saint Mary's) and Devin Gardner (Inkster, Mich.) could almost be considered identical. They are the same in height, weight, frame, athleticism, arm strength, dual-threat capabilities -- you name it and they are probably alike in it. It is hard to tell the two apart. Bolden surprised a bit with how compact, quick and capable he was of getting rid of the ball. At times, the ball jumps off his hand with tremendous zip and power. Gardner is mechanically more like Vince Young with a bit of a three-quarter release, but he has the same "pop" out of his arm as Bolden. As the week wears on, these two will likely see a big jump in overall, consistent accuracy. Bolden, a Penn State commit, and Gardner, a Michigan commit, are terrific fits for their respective programs from a scheme standpoint.
Aaand JC Shurburtt:
Michigan commit Devin Gardner (Inkster, Mich./Inkster) has also surprised many. His hustle, leadership and athleticism add up to a tremendous maturity that will help him compete early for playing time in Ann Arbor. He was a notch behind Bolden throwing it, but still has a strong arm and excellent size.
All told, a highly positive camp for Gardner and Michigan.
Rivals did rejigger its rankings. Plenty of folks moved around but only a few items seem worth mentioning:
- PA DE Ken Wilkins got a fourth star.
- OH OL Christian Pace did not, which is somewhat surprising given Mike Farrell's almost rapturous praise for his film. I don't care; I think he's perfect for Michigan, and so does Rick Trickett.
- MI RB Austin White dropped a decimal point and is now actually behind MSU commit Nick Hill, which makes no the sense given that Hill's BCS offers were Stanford and State and White was clearly preferred by both instate schools, Wisconsin, Illinois, and LSU. But whatever.
- PA CB Cullen Christian flew up from a three star to the #60 player.
- Various stragglers at the mysterious end of Michigan's class all got their requisite three stars.
Grimes, We Talk To You
Rivals AMP with FL CB Tony Grimes:
Elsewhere in secondary prospects, OH S Bobby Swigert has a Michigan offer, has visited, and says Michigan is in his top group:
“Michigan was amazing. I was impressed with everything I saw, like the facilities and the new indoor building … it was just amazing. Coach Rodriguez is one of the coolest coaches I’ve met. And the academic advisor (Shari Acho) explained everything really well.”
With such a glowing recollection, it’s no wonder the Wolverines are in such a strong standing with Swigert, even though he hasn’t officially narrowed down his list.
“If I was to narrow down my list, Michigan would be in there. They are definitely one of the top contenders.”
On the other hand, OH S Kurtis Drummond now has Michigan State in the lead ahead of Michigan. OH S Latwan Anderson has bumped around his list a ton, with the latest update omitting Michigan. We'll see if that sticks; some recent scuttlebutt says Michigan is still in the running but needs a real visit to stay there.
You are large, but hopefully not too large
With defensive tackles thin on the ground—or too fat and on the ground—Michigan needs to make OH DT Terry Talbott a priority. So hurrah: Tom VanHaaren reports that Talbott will come up for a visit tomorrow. He also snags a quote from his coach:
"As for Terry, his strength is his ability to use his explosiveness to get off the ball and change direction. He is very strong upper body and his core is strong. He, like a lot of High School players need to better define his technique. He has good technique now, but to play at the next level and be successful his technique must be great. He uses his hands well now, but needs to always work on using them better." - Jay Minton
Terry's brother Terrance, a cornerback, is also coming in.
Punters are punting in code
WI P Will Hagerup is apparently the #1 guy on Michigan's board—he's the only guy out there with an offer—and a decision is coming soon. Two schools are seemingly in prime position:
Hagerup mentioned that a commitment could come in the near future, "I will decide within another month for sure."
Before he announces, Hagerup would like the further investigate Ohio State and Michigan, "I'm going to visit Ohio State and Michigan for sure within a couple weeks. I'm going to see practices at both places and take another tour at each school."
If it comes down to playing time, Michigan should win. Hagerup would be able to start at Michigan immediately with Zoltan the Inconceivable scheduled to transubstantiate into pure energy after the season. At Ohio State, AJ Trapasso has just graduated. Redshirt junior John Thoma is atop the depth chart; scholarship incoming freshman Ben Buchanan, Rivals' #3 kicker last year, is listed second.
User Mscharbo15 talked with TX RB commit Stephen Hopkins recently and put up a quick summary on the message board:
- He's graduating in December and will be enrolling early.
- His HS has OSU colors and he "wears them with shame."
- He's excited about the possibility of a home-and-home with Oklahoma State, since the 2010 game would be his first as a Wolverine and the 2011 contest would be the closest thing to a homecoming for him (he's from Texas).
- Although being the one power back in the 2010 class, he claims to be getting faster and quicker (can't hurt).
- Had he waited another month to commit, he likely would have received offers from Oklahoma (!!!), Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Sparty and Arkansas.
- He's heard from somebody in the know that if he has a good senior season he'll vault up to a 4-star.
Ooh: early entrant tidbit. That brings Michigan up to six commits with tentative plans to enroll early (Miller, J. Robinson, M. Robinson, Pace, and Gardner are the others).
Caveat: Though I can't confirm the poster isn't having us on, he signed up 28 weeks ago. Unless he was planning an incredibly long-term hoax in which the payoff is "you suckers thought I talked to a running back commit and posted innocuous things about it MOOOHAHA!" it's legit. The troll probability here approaches zero.
Etc.: ESPN evaluates SC QB commit Cornelius Jones and OH WR commit DJ Williamson, giving them three-star-ish ratings. Williamson sounds like the outside burner who will be stupidly wide open when safeties freak out about Gardner. OH DE Marcus Rush was supposed to visit Michigan Thursday but this apparently did not come off; I think this will be where M and Rush part ways. MD OL Arie Kouandjio has two officials, neither of which are M.
The week-to-week minutiae of recruiting can sometimes obscure the larger picture.From time to time this here blog likes to provide a 1,000 foot view so people can have context going forward. Details below are designed to be sparse.
Michigan is about halfway to a full recruiting class, and will probably sign somewhere between 22 and 25. The details:
- Eleven players see their eligibility expire.
- Michigan entered the year with three unused slots.
- Transfers from Wermers, Threet, and Clemons minus the transfer-type action of Kelvin Grady brings Michigan up to 16 slots.
- There are two players on the team—David Cone and Bryan Wright—highly unlikely to get a fifth year.
- Dann O'Neill's departure is not yet official but is highly likely.
So without further attrition Michigan has about 19 slots—depending on the statuses of Sheridan, Morales, and the younger Grady—to provide, but there will be further attrition. There always is.
Needs: Almost as severe as they were last year. Michigan has two realistic scholarship options and would like at least two this year with possibly a third guy who will "get a shot" before getting moved to somewhere else.
Commitments: MI QB Devin Gardner (right), Michigan's top target and a guy who's around the Scout top 50 and Lemming top 10, has hopped aboard.
Realistic Future Options: There's not much green left on the recruiting board here: just SC QB Cornelius Jones, LA QB Munchie Legaux, and FL QB Stephen Morris. Morris doesn't have an offer, and Legaux has gone from declaring Michigan a provisional leader to only mentioning M intermittently—that smilin' green guy is probably outdated. So you've got Jones, which I guess would be okay.
Level of PANIC: 1/5. Gardner was clearly the #1 priority of the coaching staff and is in the boat; the lack of attractive second options is a minor concern.
Needs: They took three last year but lose three this offseason and had two transfers. In 2010 they'll have a junior Mike Shaw and four underclassmen (Smith, Toussaint, Jones, and Cox). That's is pretty light for a team that would like to run the ball lots, especially since Jones might be pirated away by the receiving corps and Toussaint remains a question-mark to qualify.
Realistic Future Options: Tate Forcier is still exhorting Michigan fans to keep hope for the pendulum that is CA RB Brennan Clay alive—he committed to Oklahoma over the weekend—but even if he's still in play he's declared Oklahoma a strong leader and will be difficult to pry away.
That leaves MI RB Austin White as Michigan's top remaining target, surprisingly. White has two brothers at State but the vibe on him has been strongly Michigan for the last month or two. While White's not the universal blue-chip Clay is he does have an LSU offer and a couple of four-star rankings.
There are also a dozen other kids with offers out there, with the top names to watch FL RB Cassius McDowell, a teammate of Michigan's Deerfield Beach duo on both the football team and the Florida state championship 4x100m, and CA RB Dietrich Riley, a hotly-pursued athlete who could play on either side of the ball.
Level of PANIC: 2/5. If Rodriguez gets a pass anywhere for recruiting random guys it's running backs, but Michigan's persistent inability to land a blue-chip guy despite Rodriguez's pedigree is slightly annoying. White's sort of close to that level, though, and if they bring him in that's a solid class.
Needs: Whatever they were they've been met.
Commitments: Michigan picked up early-early commits from FL WR Ricardo Miller and MI WR Jeremy Jackson, then followed that up with Ohioans Jerald Robinson and DJ Williamson, and the entire state of North Dakota.
Miller is a four-star to everyone but the other guys are in the generic three-star range, with Robinson the closest to four-star status. Jackson did claim offers from Texas and Florida, FWIW, and Williamson just won the state championship in the 100 meter dash.
Realistic Future Options: Unsurprisingly, there aren't many. IL WR Kyle Prater showed at the BBQ and a recent combine event that Gardner also attended; the two have hit it off and Prater's had some recent positive mentions of M. He's also declared a top three of USC, Oklahoma, and Illinois, though, so keep your hopes in check.
Other than that the only guy reporting an offer who seems interested is PA WR Andrew Carswell, who may or may not be able to commit if he so desires.
Level of PANIC: 2/5. I'd rather Michigan had picked up some higher-rated kids with better offers. IIRC, neither Robinson or Williamson had any other offers period, let alone something comparable to the Michigan offer, and neither is getting the sort of guru accolades that might offset that. Williamson is something of a mystery man, though: Rivals just got his film.
Needs: I have no idea, really. Is Teric Jones a slot receiver? What about Tony Drake? Is Kelvin Grady a realistic option? Will Jeremy Gallon qualify? Does Je'Ron Stokes end up playing inside? If the answers are all "yes," then the need here is minimal. If they're all "no," the need here is considerable.
Commitments: LA WR Drew Dileo committed to Michigan over an array of schools that are really good at school a few weeks ago.
Realistic Future Options: Again, it's not a surprise that there aren't a whole lot of options on the board here. FL WR OJ Ross has an offer and has been very impressive this spring at a variety of combines and his high school's spring game; he's about the only guy on the radar here.
Level of PANIC: 3/5. Dileo seems like one of those guys you wait on. Just my e-pinion.
Needs: Rodriguez never used tight ends at West Virginia unless it was Owen Schmitt lining up somewhere funny, but has apparently cottoned onto the idea at Michigan once he talked with good friend Bob Stoops and got a view of Kevin Koger's talents, so they're recruiting a few guys.
Realistic Future Options: Cincinnati commitment Alex Smith took a visit for the BBQ and now features in articles where he talks about a variety of trips he'll take. That commit is soft, then. He's the only guy on the board.
Level of PANIC: 0/5. If they find a guy they like here, fine. If they don't, fine.
Needs: Suddenly a little more needy with the departures of Kurt Wermers and (again, very probably) Dann O'Neill. Michigan is now recruiting to a class of four redshirt freshmen backed by a class of three true freshmen and should be taking another three or four players.
Commitments: OH interior lineman Christian Pace committed about a week ago.
Realistic Future Options: There is, of course, MN OL Seantrel Henderson, the nation's top recruit and a guy Michigan is in a tentative top two for along with Minnesota. He's not going to decide until February, though, so any lead here is tenuous. Much more likely to hew to his recent proclamations of a Michigan lead is FL OL Torrian Wilson, who's still got Michigan on top and would like to decide within a month.
Besides those two Michigan is in on a couple of Ohioans, Skyler Schofner and Andrew Donnall, plus some other guys. They'll probably have to find another half-dozen guys to offer to get up to four.
Level of PANIC: 1/5. Though the recruiting board has dwindled a bit, offensive line is a spot at which you get a lot of late-developing talents and the recruiting ratings aren't that accurate anyway. Pace is a good pickup to start.
Yeah, Michigan has expended a lot of scholarship slots on guys you'd like to see them wait on as Plan B type recruits to be reeled in after you are told to talk to the hand by big-time guys. By the end of the year only Gardner, Miller, and maybe one other committed player (Pace or Robinson, probably) are likely to pick up four stars, which is well below average.
The counter-argument to this basically goes "Pat White and Steve Slaton," and I hear you, but even Rodriguez's first full class at Michigan—which was loaded with four-star recruits—puts the lie to the idea it's not preferable to lock down guys who many people think will be good players instead of just you. At the halfway point it's looking like this will be class that ranks lower than normal.
That's not too alarming. Teams that have ugly years just about always experience a significant dropoff the year after, and Michigan is going through its own version. This is more likely to be a result of 3-9 than anything else, and 3-9 isn't an event that will repeat, knock on wood.