"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Anyways, you've mentioned several times that you have season tix—do you also attend all road games? I suppose Sparty is probably a given, but have you traveled to, say, Kinnick or Camp Randall? My goal is to visit all the B10 stadiums (been to 5 so far - MSU, PU, PSU, NW & UM obvs), and I was wondering if you had a favorite road venue or notable road game that sticks out to you (07 MSU for me). This season I'll be going to State for the 2nd time as well as Illinois Memorial for the first time.
Once again, many thanks for the excellence of the blog.
P.S. Autodesk sucks. I hate them.
P.P.S. M-Den is full of win.
I don't go to all the road games but I usually hit 1-3 per year depending on how the team is doing and where the road games are. I've been to Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, and Northwestern, with a first trip to Iowa on the docket this year. (I'm also going to Madison, but in February for an outdoor hockey game.) To your questions: Northwestern is my favorite road venue, if only because it's a road venue in little but name and it's situated next to Lake Michigan and there's always some place to crash because if you went to Michigan and don't know anyone who lives in Chicago you probably lived in Baits all four years and never left your room. Also no one attempts to throttle you. I'm annoyed when NU isn't on the schedule.
Favorite game: also '07 MSU for multiple reasons. There was, of course, the lead up to the game with Dantonio and "moment of silence" and "we won two games today" and Mike Hart etc etc etc. I ended up in the Michigan student section, which was a jolt after a few years away from that scene in one of the real blue-hair sections of Michigan Stadium. And two minutes before the opening kickoff an idiot state fan chewing on an unlit cigar accused me of sitting in his seat. I wasn't, but the State fan insisted to the point where he got the ushers, who were all prepared to do some bootin' until they saw I was actually in my seat. It turned out that the guy had the seat next to mine. He eventually swapped with some Michigan students who were three rows below us. It was weird.
Anyway, all that meant I was pretty fired up. And then the way the game turned, with Michigan jumping out to a significant halftime lead and State coming back to lead by 3 and then 10 and then someone whacking Chad Henne's shoddy Southeast Asian motherboard in just the right spot, followed by robot Henne enacting a mini version of Braylonfest… well, it was extremely satisfying afterwards.
PS: Hey, Autodesk provided yrs truly with the nest egg via which the blog's first couple of years as a job—in the same way Walmart greeter is a job—were tolerable. Also I still have some stock of theirs. So go Autodesk.
PPS: Yes, now that you mention it, the M-Den is full of win. Also when you do not mention it.
I noticed during the game and again in your UFR that Will Campbell got zero playing time against ND. This was especially evident in the 2nd half when it seemed that the dline was rotating new guys in on every play with WC not one of them. I also recall he only played in scrub time against Western. With a dline sorely lacking depth, is Campbell in the doghouse? Is he not as good as we thought? Or is this more a case of a freshman just being behind veterans on the depth chart. For a dline sorely lacking depth, it seems hard to believe a highly recruited player cant crack this rotation, even as a freshman.
Thanks, and Go Blue!
(This email was sent before the EMU game, but remains relevant now because Campbell saw a couple of goal line plays and little else.) Dude: I don't know. I'm seriously bothered by the prevalence of walk-ons in the two-deep and the lack of mega-recruits. Justin Turner didn't see the field at all against Eastern—even Teric Jones did—and now looks like a certain redshirt. Demens, Fitzgerald, and Smith are all apparently behind walk-on Kevin Leach at linebacker. And erstwhile spring starter Vlad Emilien is behind Kovacs and possibly Van Slyke at safety.
At least Campbell has an excuse that's a bit better than those guys: Renaldo Sagesse is about the only legitimate depth player on the entire defense and has turned in a fair number of plays in limited time spelling Mike Martin. He's getting about the same amount of time you'd expect a third-string freshman to get, no matter how hyped.
I'd like to see Michigan try running Martin and Sagesse out there at the same time, like everyone else; if that happens with some consistency against big beef machine teams then Campbell will see more extensive time.
During Rich Rod's first summer, we were looking forward to bringing in Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver at QB. Both guys were relatively unpolished but with high upside. Not the type of guys that you would be comfortable with to start as freshmen to say the least. Do you think that RR anticipated a rocky first year and the need to win early in year two, and possibly directed Michigan's recruiting more toward QBs able to come in and play right away? Would you even go so far to say that Michigan may have cooled on Newsome and Beaver at the chance they land Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson. Regardless, as a trade, we got the better end of the deal.
I have no idea what happened with Michigan's quarterback recruiting but have heard from a couple reliable sources that Kevin Newsome's commitment was always as solid as paper tissue and that was one reason Michigan continued to pursue Tate Forcier heavily despite having two guys nominally in the fold. (The other reason: duh.) I mentioned this at the time and will restate it now: while Kevin Newsome seemed to have excellent upside he was not a great fit for what Michigan needed this year. They needed Tate Forcier, a guy who'd been relentlessly drilled to be a quarterback from the womb and would be polished (and foolhardy) enough to step into the starting lineup fresh out of high school. Newsome, who's looked inept so far in spring and limited garbage time, was not that guy. Was that motivation to get rid of Newsome? Probably not. I think Michigan would have taken three quarterbacks last year if they could have latched onto that many.
Beaver I don't know about. He was a well-regarded recruit who supposedly picked up an offer from Texas to play wide receiver, so you'd think Michigan would try to hold onto him even if they were gaga about Denard Robinson (which, again: duh), too. I don't think either decommit was a Jordan Barnes sort.
I have a question re: the defensive alignments. In the Notre Dame Defensive UFR, you commented a couple of times on the fact that Michigan's pre-snap alignments made no sense. Who's responsibility is it for the way the defense aligns? The coaches obviously put in the personnel package as far as a 4-3-4, 4-2-5, but they cannot know until the offense lines up what type of look they are going to get. Does a player (I'm assuming it'd be Obi since he's the MLB and they are traditionally the "quarterback of the offense") set up the defense or do the players look to the sideline for direction from their coaches? Thanks in advance.
The only presnap alignments that I found bizarre were the ones in which Obi Ezeh aligned at safety depth a few times on obvious passing downs. That was indeed strange. The only thing I can figure is that it was a version of the Tampa two defense that's popular in the NFL. Tampa two allows you to bracket both outside receivers without giving up the deep middle—an excellent idea against Notre Dame's terrors on the outside, but maybe not so much when ND also has a great pass-receiving tight end. And when Michigan did line up in their weird Ezeh-as-safety formation, ND hit Kyle Rudolph on a simple slant that went for big yardage.
I've seen Michigan roll out the same formation once so far against EMU, so it might be something we see occasionally down the road. I've yet to determine what the point of it is.
No Q Just A
On to some emails that are more helpful than anything else.
Just wanted to add some more evidence re: your post on the noise level at the new stadium. Yes, it is absolutely, positively louder. Carl Grapentine, long-time voice of the MMB and now the PA guy, too, wrote me this after the game this weekend:
It was as loud as I've ever heard it at Michigan Stadium. Those two new massive structures on either side of the field are like giant resonators.
Keep in mind this is Carl's 40th year doing games from the press box; that's a pretty significant body of work from which to make that statement. Didn't want to post this in the public comments, though.
I have the same beef with the MMB as you; I was in section 13 at the WMU game and we could hardly hear the band. Thought it might just be the placement, but think your analysis is right. Needs more horns, less winds.
BTW, love the blog; it's part of my daily must-reads.
UM class of '87
Johnathan Chapman-Rienstra (JCR)
FWIW. More fuel for the luxury box fire.
No A Just Q
Questions I can't answer:
I was at the Eastern/UM game Saturday and noticed the student section doing a chant where they extend their arms at the opposing team and wiggle their fingers... sort of like they're "jinxing" them. It sounds like the students are saying, "boo" or "ooh." At first I thought it was the "key play" chant where they shake their keys, but there were no keys in their hands. Can you enlighten me?
Um… I have no idea what this email refers to. Any help?
I'm pretty sure your tickets aren't near mine. I sit in section 19, row 76.
As long as I've been in these seats, and my old seats in section 17, fifteen years or so, there's been an old guy with a knit cap that sits near the very front of (I think) section 18. After every Michigan TD, he would go down to the front row, stand up, face the crowd, and get the crowd involved in a cheer where he (and the fans) would spell out M-I-C-H-I-G-A-N with his arms.
After sitting through every minute (!) of every home game, AND the ND game at ND last year, I did not make it to the ND game this year. (I know, I know...) However, I was at Western and Eastern. And Old Michigan Spelling Guy (i don't know anything better to call him) wasn't at EITHER game. My wife and I are very concerned.
The guy I call "Superfan" (wears the cape, helmet pattern do-rag, glasses, plays cowbell, gets on TV at a lot of away games) also sits near the front and has taken over the M-I-C-H-I-G-A-N spelling. I love "Superfan" and his mad-crazy cowbell skills, but it isn't the same for the M-I-C-H-I-G-A-N. And beyond just football games, I really do care about Old Michigan Spelling Guy.
Do you know, or can you ask your vast readership if anyone knows, the fate of Old Michigan Spelling Guy? Hopefully, he's just evangelizing in another part of the stadium.
I am nowhere near this guy but I have seen him from across the stadium and envied those sections for being near a guy doing the Michigan locomotive cheer because some old guy demanded they do it. Anyone have an answer for this emailer?
Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.
A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year, even more so than the offense did, because 1) there are actual returning players and 2) there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|Brandon Herron||So.*||Mike Martin||So.||Ryan Van Bergen||So.*||Brandon Graham||Sr.|
|Craig Roh||Fr.||Renaldo Sagesse||Jr.||Greg Banks||Jr.*||Adam Patterson||Jr.*|
|Steve Watson||Fr.*||Will Campbell||Fr.||--||--||Anthony LaLota||Fr.|
Three starters depart but the big guy is back: Brandon Graham returns as Michigan's best player and a serious candidate for post-season honors. Joining him is a wildly unbalanced collection of players. At nose tackle there are two hugely promising underclassmen. At defensive tackle there's a potentially solid starter and then Some Guy. And at a new position no one knows what to call, what it does, or who plays there there's virtually nothing.
With the changes, this preview is going to treat the defensive ends as separate entities. Defensive tackles remain bunched.
|Sam-owns against UW|
|Saves UW game|
|"Big time from frosh"|
Last year, Mike Martin had the luxury of playing behind two productive veterans. In his limited time, he impressed. Everyone expects he will be the breakout star on defense this year; expectations are higher for him than they are for even Mouton. But… well. Here's a bunch of praise and some trepidation wrapped into one package. It's from the Wisconsin game:
Man, Mike Martin is kind of sweet.
Yeah, man, he's kind of great as an interior pass-rusher already. I'm a little leery that he's going to be a true sophomore starter on the line next year just because he came in so in-shape that he's probably not going to improve drastically, and therefore his sophomore year will seem disappointing, but the kid should be gangbusters (yea, see?) as an upperclassman. Now about the other guys at DT…
Martin might slightly disappoint people who expect him to be 100% awesome right now, but people pegging him at 80% are probably going to see their expectations met.
As a recruit, Mike Martin was a slightly smaller version of immovable fireplug Terrance Taylor. Both were state champions in wrestling and powerlifting. Both were in-state. Both were defensive tackles at or near the tail end of top 100 lists. HOWEVA, on the field the two played very differently. Taylor is a bull of a defensive tackle who will get under your pads and shove you backwards; Martin is more of a penetrator. His high school highlights often saw him slice through the line and tackle like a linebacker, and last year much of his deployment was as part of Michigan's three-man line pass rush Okie package. You can see the penetration in the highlights at right, and that sort of activity was the reason Martin picked up a steady stream of 3-0-3 lines in UFR.
This is why I'm a mite concerned, though:
|Penn State||1.5||4||-2.5||A lot of negatives late when he was in as a 4-3 DT; unsurprising he took a beating from Shipley & Co; he's just a freshman.|
That was Martin's longest exposure as a true 4-3 DT and he suffered at the hands of Penn State's excellent, veteran line. This could be a blip that has no impact going forward. Martin was, after all, a freshman going up against fifth-year seniors, and good ones. And there could be considerable difference between the role he was asked to play in that game—absorb two blocks—and the one he'll be asked to play in the light, quick, slashing defense Greg Robinson has apparently installed.
This year, Martin will be the only true defensive tackle in the lineup and is backed up by a to-date anonymous Canadian and a true freshman. Even if that true freshman may be enormous and highly touted, Martin's responsibility takes a more severe uptick than anyone else's this year. He might struggle a bit early; by the end of the year he should be very good.
At the other spot, redshirt sophomore Ryan Van Bergen enters the starting lineup. Van Bergen was a moderately shirtless recruit—he was ranked at about the same level Will Johnson was—who spent his first couple years backing up Brandon Graham at strongside defensive end. Michigan's moved him to their three-technique defensive tackle, a position that's traditionally been occupied by the nimble penetrating sort of defensive tackle instead of lumbering goo-beasts.
So he might to be too out of position at his new spot; he was something of a DE/DT tweener as a recruit. He still is at 6'5", 275. And he'll be one on the field: multiple people from the coaches who pop up from time to time on this site to the Michigan coaches to Van Bergen himself have noted that RVB will flare out from time to time and act as a five-tech defensive end, either on passing downs or when Michigan flips the deathbacker to Brandon Graham's side of the field.
There's not a whole lot of data on RVB to be had, unfortunately, and he seems a little tall and light for the spot he's at. With few reasonable backups, chances are production here isn't much better than okay.
Backups and Whatnot
Unlike… uh… everywhere else on the defensive line, there are a couple reasonable backups here. True freshman Will Campbell is the one with the recruiting hype, and lord almighty:
Dude put in work after enrolling early. His rep is enormous, agile, and strong—he's not a five star for nothing—but deficient in technique in all the ways that 350-pound men who can hurl high school offensive linemen into low Earth orbit usually are. In short: he needs to learn how to play low. He'll get that opportunity, as he should rotate in for Martin frequently with an eye on maybe starting when Michigan goes bulky for games against ground-pounders like Michigan State and Wisconsin. (The assumption in this case is that Martin slides over to DT and Michigan goes with a more conventional 4-3 look.) His recruiting profile also exists if you want to hear an awful lot about a large man.
Campbell will probably have a freshman year much like Mike Martin's, where he rotates in frequently and mostly does well with the occasional "yep, that's a freshman" play mixed in.
Meanwhile, junior Renaldo Sagesse remains a mysterious entity locked on the bench his first few years after coming to Michigan out of Quebec. Yes, that Quebec. In Canada. He probably doesn't have much upside but there's no shame in behind behind Taylor, Johnson, and Martin and should provide functional depth.
Redshirt junior Greg Banks backs up Van Bergen; Banks has seen the occasional snap as part of the rotation but hasn't done much with them. If he can give RVB breathers without drawing attention to himself, that's a win.
Strongside Defensive End
|Snuffing a draw|
|Sack wsgs Mouton, Brown|
|Beats double to sack|
|Sack wsg Mouton|
|frowns: not infallible|
|Sack +3 Pressure +2|
The most striking thing from my tour of last year's defensive UFR was how preposterous Brandon Graham was. Here's his Big Ten season minus Ohio State (which did not get UFRed for obvious reasons):
|Wisconsin||10.5||1||9.5||+6 of this comes from two sacks late when he got to the QB on three-man rushes, killing one drive and damaging another.|
|Illinois||7||4||3||More effective in the run game than others, but was exploited a couple times.|
|Penn State||9||4.5||4.5||Best player on defense without question.|
|Michigan State||12||1||11||He backed up his prediction as much as he could.|
|Purdue||9.5||2||7.5||Would have had some sacks if anyone was ever covered.|
The note above points out that defensive linemen tend to do better than the back seven in UFR ratings but once you start getting into the 7.5, 8, 9.5, 10.5, 11(!) range that is elite, elite production. Graham's impressive statistics—10 sacks, 20 TFLs—back that up. Graham is an unquestioned star, a lock for All Big Ten, a probable first round NFL draft pick, and the team's best player.
What's more, Graham's production took a major step forward last year. As a sophomore, Graham was impressive but mostly as a pass rusher. He had 8.5 sacks but just one other tackle for loss and 15 tackles outside of that. Last year a newly slimmed Graham added 36 tackles on people other than the quarterback, fully ten of them behind the line of scrimmage.
The best way to see Graham's transformation into a complete terror is to compare Michigan State games. In '07 Michigan State turned its run game around by attacking a tired Graham in the second half, and he came in for some clucking:
He's got a -2 up there, by far his worst total of his career, and it was largely because he got booted out of the line by double teams frequently.
In '08 Graham unwisely guaranteed victory and then went about attempting to make that happen singlehandedly. An abridged run-game-only Michigan State UFR:
Graham crashes inside in an attempt to jam the play up and force it to bounce outside but ends up shoved past the play, opening up a small hole Ringer can squeeze through. … Graham(-1) needs to shoot inside on this to take out the pulling guard and the fullback, which would delay Ringer and force him to bounce it into unblocked players; instead he stays outside and the resulting carry goes for six yards.
That's it in a game where Javon Ringer ran 37 times. The rest of the UFR that isn't "oh look it's another mass of bodies play for 2-4 yards" is Michigan State running at Tim Jamison over and over and over and over. Michigan State had seen the film, and they didn't even bother with that side of the line.
As far as the passing game, just look at the numbers and the highlights to your right. Brandon Graham is a bad man.
Backups and Whatnot
There are none. The opening depth chart has walk-on Will Heininger actually ahead of redshirt junior Adam Patterson, which… wow. Patterson was a top 100 recruit in this day and is currently behind a walk-on who's younger than him. Michigan acquired an injury redshirt for Patterson after he missed most of last year, but will they actually offer a fifth year to him?
When that's the relevant question instead of "can he reasonably replace the best player on the team?" it's time to light a candle for Graham's various ligaments, tendons, bones, and so forth and so on.
|Ryan Van Bergen|
|Easy PSU sack|
AKA "quick" or "elephant" or any number of other things, the deathbacker and what he is has been discussed ad nauseum throughout the offseason. One final recap: the deathbacker is half man, half machine, half defensive end, half linebacker, and 200% awesome. Robinson's defense has the flexibility to flip him from weakside—where he operates as an out-wide dispenser of havoc with a practiced sack dance—to the strong, where he becomes a human shield for an undersized strong-side linebacker and general threat to penetrate into a running play. In spring practice, Michigan mostly used him as the latter in order to better single up terror defensive end Brandon Graham.
Your one and only option at this spot is redshirt sophomore Brandon Herron, who has not been heard nor seen from except on special teams so far. Herron was only a middling recruit—Nebraska was his best other offer—and wandered around a man without a position his first couple years. He, along with linebacker Marell Evans and tight end Steve Watson, were thrown in at the position during spring practice. Evans transferred and Watson's initial buzz gave way to the sort of radio silence that sees you drop behind a true freshman, about whom more later, leaving Herron the starter by default.
As you can tell by the decidedly non-action photo above, Herron hasn't seen much time on the field. The only pictures in Mike DeSimone's insanely comprehensive Michigan picture database that feature Herron on the field are fuzzy shots of the field goal block team. So… yeah. I've never seen the player in question play. I've never seen Michigan deploy the position in question. There's considerable debate as to what, exactly, this position is even going to entail when it hits the field. Any projection here is the purest guesswork.
Here's my guesswork: Herron hasn't seen action despite Michigan's paper-thin depth chart at linebacker the last couple years and has the position by virtual default. He wasn't a big recruit. He's getting talked up, but that talk has the distinct whiff of Johnny Sears. Remember that brief window before The Horror when Only Reasonable Corner Option Johnny Sears was getting talked up left and right? Yeah… about that.
Herron does have one thing going for him: his teammates were throwing around ridiculous numbers about weights lifted and pounds (235) and 40 times (4.4). You take FAKE physical attributes at your peril, though.
Backups and Whatnot
Good thing this positional preview is the last one to drop: this site's message board has an unconfirmed report that true freshman Craig Roh is actually going to get the start tomorrow. This would be bad, as it would thrust a true freshman who's been called "wiry" so many times that he bristled at it when someone dropped it at Media Day into the starting lineup, but it might not be that bad. Roh was a big-time recruit who picked Michigan over USC and many others, and I was ape about him when it came time to hit up his recruiting profile:
He should get immediate use as a situational pass rusher and could move into the starting line up by midseason. It might take longer but I don't think Evans, Watson, or Herron is going to keep him off the field for much more than a year.
Craig Roh DE (Michigan)
Straight baller that showed a Dwight Freeney spin on Kelley for a sack and sacked/tackled Russel Shepard in space. Had a handful of QB pressures over the course of the game. Rich Rod got himself a good one.
When Rodriguez started talking about how Roh will play immediately upon his arrival, the general tone of it was "…as a situational pass rusher." That's definitely in the cards, but I've been advocating the idea Roh will end up something more, and soon… I wouldn't be surprised if the unconfirmed report was true.
There is also redshirt freshman Steve Watson, who moved from tight end after it became clear his lack of athleticism would see him permanently buried behind Koger, Webb, and Moore on offense at a position that's strictly optional in the spread 'n' shred. As mentioned, there were some positive notes coming out of spring practice about him, but Roh quickly passed him. Watson's career arc looks like Coner on defense.
Note: MGoBlog did not manage to get on the right lists in time to be notified what was going down with the first practice and presser and whatnot and thus missed it. We should be set now and better able to act as a primary source on these things. For now we round up what other people saw.
I can haz secondary? Three items of personnel interest:
- Jason Forcier has a locker but didn't practice. Michigan kind of thinks he might be eligible, then. He's not on the roster, though.
- Marell Evans did practice. There were rumors he was briefly off the roster and may be flirting with a departure
- Justin Turner and Adrian Witty did not practice, but remain on the roster and have lockers. Rodriguez thinks both will get cleared:
Still, Rodriguez remains hopeful both will be cleared to practice soon. He kept spots open for both on Michigan’s 105-man reporting roster, and both have stalls waiting in Michigan’s new locker room.
“I’m pretty optimistic and hopefully (Turner’s) will be quicker,” Rodriguez said. “But wait and see.”
Speaking of said lockers, the Daily has a photoset from the day featuring Michigan's swanky new digs. But, uh, what doesn't belong in this picture?
Flat screen TV… beautiful wood paneling… futuristic labels… chairs you wouldn't seat your grandmother on even if you didn't like her, you cad. Someone get some Aeron in there.
Throwin'. AnnArbor.com got some footage of the QBs throwing, though it was apparently taken by Michael J Fox:
Forcier's throws, unsurprisingly, look the sharpest. Despite that, uh, this was written by the Daily's Ryan Kartje:
-Nick Sheridan probably looked the most comfortable and well-refined on the field, compared to Denard and Tate. But no one is matching Tate's enthusiasm which had him jumping up and down for a good portion of the drills.
Dude, man, even if that's true I want you to lie to me. This is what I want to hear:
I won’t make any bold predictions one practice into fall camp, but after watching Michigan work out for about an hour Monday without pads, I’d give Tate Forcier the easy edge in the battle to become the Wolverines starting quarterback.
The media was allowed to watch five periods of individual work Monday, and Forcier was much crisper in passing drills than fellow freshman Denard Robinson.
Kartje also reports that Robinson is fast but rusty and tends to throw screens way too high; Birkett says the quarterbacks are small, which uh yeah they are.
Eeeeeeee. Will Campbell at the Army game…
…Will Campbell in spring…
…and Will Campbell minus an average-sized fifth grader at practice:
Campbell has taken step one away from Gabe Watson-style disappointment*.
*(Not that Watson was exactly a disappointment: two-time All Conference and a solid NFL player. But he could have been All-American.)
Er? Is there a name in the wrong spot on this list?
The rough Day 1 depth chart at receiver: Greg Matthews went ahead of Junior Hemmingway in drills at one outside spot, and LaTerryal Savoy drilled ahead of James Rogers and Darryl Stonum at the other. At the slot, Martavious Odoms was first up in drills followed by Roy Roundtree and Terrence Robinson.
"Laterryal Savoy drilled ahead of Darryl Stonum" is only explicable if they did the order by numbers of Rs, Ys, and Ls in your first name. Other reports had Stonum dropping a lot of balls, which is not good if Michigan is going to have a deep threat this year.
They're going down in a blaze of glory. Michael Rothstein's come over to AnnArbor.com from his beat covering Notre Dame football at the Fort Wayne Gazette, so his viewpoint of the two programs will be an interesting one. Like for instance here:
At Notre Dame, the only music I ever remember hearing was on Thursdays, and that was a Charlie Weis-inspired playlist of Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen with a little bit of Crank Me Up worked in last year. At Michigan, music was going throughout a bunch of the practice that the media observed, everything from Soulja Boy to some old school rock. Definitely a variety for both the players and coaches.
No wonder ND can't run the ball.
|Detroit, Michigan - 6'5" 317|
|Scout||5*, #6 DT, #35 overall|
|Rivals||5*, #5 DT, #26 overall|
|ESPN||79, #21 OT|
|Other Suitors||Miami, LSU, Alabama, Florida|
|Chaos. Otters. Hello.|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Cass Tech.|
Will Campbell is an extremely large, extremely nerve-wracking person in an extremely silly getup above. (He's "Thor"; there was some photoshoot with Michigan high school players themed to be comic book heroes. Which, guy who came up with that idea: thank you.) Here is a silly dance:
That is the Will Campbell commit dance, which he only executed after arriving at the Army All-American game and declaring Michigan to be off his list and LSU his leader. Let's just get it out of the way: yes, it is a little annoying that Campbell decided he needed to give me and a lot of other people a heart attack for purposes of self-glorification. Kids these days, lawn, baggy pants and the goo-goo eyeball glasses drinking their milkshakes and bler bler bler. If it makes you feel any better, Campbell seems like a lighthearted giant a la Terrance Taylor, not a raging narcissist. Or at least no more of a raging narcissist than the average enormous muscle-bound 18-year-old who is 100% sure he's going to the NFL.
Also something that should make you feel better are salivating reports like so from the Army All-American game:
6-0/310, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech
He is a full grown man out on the gridiron even when compared to some of the nation's best offensive and defensive linemen. Most of the centers really struggled with the snap for two reasons - one they are new at it and two Campbell was bringing the most powerful bull rush they have ever seen. Just ask Nick Alajajian what it feels like to keep this future college star from getting into the backfield.
Campbell actually played both ways in that game:
"He's enormous, he's explosive and he's really athletic for a big guy," Smith said. "He's a fast learner. He's a fun-spirited kid who loves the game and that's why we're able to move him on both sides of the ball because he can pick it up. He just enjoys playing the game."
Though he avoided some things:
Campbell is one of the biggest players in the Army game, but he's apparently not ready for the roller coasters when the teams visit Six Flags on Tuesday night.
"There's a weight limit on those things," he said. "I might be on the tea cups."
When it was over, Rivals named him the second-strongest DT in the country and the top run-stuffer. It's hard for defensive tackles to make a big impact at the Army game itself, but Campbell did swallow a couple guys whole. More from his Army AA coach:
"Campbell is a true Warren Sapp kind of athlete," Smith said. "I saw him out there catching punts, catching passes and then he's making all those tackles on the defensive line. He's fast, he's strong, athletic and he's big."
Ok, scouts and a particular high school coach think he's a beast. That's nice. Now add the rest of college football to the list:
DT William Campbell, Detroit Cass Tech: LSU and Miami are getting official visits, but USC seemingly has this one right. The Trojans aren't pushing hard for Campbell despite his talent because they seem to be hearing what I am hearing: Campbell will end up at Michigan in the end.
A stat update from halfway through the season has some eyepopping numbers:
The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder anchors both lines for the Technicians and has proven unbeatable in one-on-one situations. That's why teams have consistently double-, and at times triple-teamed him. Despite all of that attention, he has managed to rack up 25 tackles, including 12 for loss and nine sacks, while also forcing two fumbles. He has been the engine for a defense that has pitched three shutouts in five games and given up only 13 points all year.
Campbell ended up tacking on officials to Florida and Alabama. Let's play Jeopardy(!). LSU, Florida, Miami, USC, and Alabama. What are five schools that desperately wanted to add Campbell to their class? Correct. We would also have accepted "a short list of the top five recruiting schools in the country." Everyone wanted the guy. (Perhaps the scariest mind-juju yet in USC recruiting was their decision to avoid Campbell simply because they didn't think there was much chance to land him. 1) Prescient. 2) Who does that? USC does.)
It is worth noting the dissenting vote from ESPN, which said he was a pretty good prospect but not the budding superstar the other two sites did:
We recognize he has plenty of talent, but he fell short of a 150 grade at this time. We also feel he is not a defensive lineman at the college level -- he will be a better fit on offense. He reminds us of former Cass Tech prospect Joseph Barksdale, a defensive tackle prospect who will be playing offensive tackle this year for LSU. Campbell may enter college as a defensive tackle, but we think, much like Barksdale, he will end up on offense. Campbell is a big, but raw prospect who needs to keep developing his game.
I've said this before, but a recap: the difference between Barksdale and Campbell is that a lot of colleges, including Michigan, were recruiting Barksdale as a tackle—that was part of the rift between he and Michigan—while Campbell was recruited almost exclusively as a defensive tackle. Also, while ESPN ended up right about Barksdale's collegiate position they were still wrong to rank him so low: Barksdale became LSU's starting right tackle as a true sophomore and is on track to be an excellent three-year starter.
Also detrimental to ESPN's cause here is their directive to totally ignore the Army game (which also them to underrate Justin Turner after his dynamite performance there). Campbell showed and impressed, as noted above, and justified his position high atop the Scout and Rivals lists.
Ironically, it was ESPN that provided the picture that had everyone thinking "schwing" or "oh god if he goes to LSU I'm going to shoot myself"; let it stand as Will Campbell's image until such time as it's replaced by one with a winged helmet:
Okay, so: five-star recruit with offers from everyone at a position where there is one obvious starter—sophomore Mike Martin—and then a Canadian who didn't see much time at all last year and people switching positions from defensive end or even fullback. Also the above picture. Initiate the Thor era now?
Eh… sort of. As is often the case with enormous manbeasts that you could slice open with a light saber and use as an emergency tent without them so much as noticing, Campbell has some weight issues. And running issues:
"The hardest part is the running," he said. "The first day, we ran like eight gassers and like eight 40's. That just killed me. That was the hardest."
Campbell, who is listed by Michigan at 6 feet, 5 inches and 317 pounds, said he actually weighs 335 pounds, thanks to too much eating and inactivity before arriving in Ann Arbor. Besides shedding 20 pounds, Campbell wants to put himself in position to be a starter this season.
But he's gon' work:
"I'm going to work hard, there's no doubt about that," Campbell said. "If I work hard enough, most likely I will be starting."
Concerns about raw technique are almost definitely legit, as Campbell could throw anyone in the PSL into the ballcarrier without learning about leverage. His early enrollment will help with both that and his conditioning; chances are he is not NFL ready just yet. A year of promise beckons; it's just too bad there's no one in front of him to take the tough minutes.
Etc.: He wants #73 and knows who Zoltan is.
Why Gabe Watson? Watson was an in-state man-mountain rated about where Campbell is; Watson also had some weight issues and nice-guy issues, and a lot of people thought he didn't quite live up to his rating, which is a little silly since he was two-time all Big Ten and is an NFL starter. Also, Campbell appears to be an enormous two-gap space-eater, who's not going to get after the passer much, which makes him more in the Watson mold than the Branch mold.
Guru Reliability: Well, outside of ESPN: high. All-star game and multiple combine appearances, and offers up the wazoo.
General Excitement Level: Very high. Ratings + offers = very high likelihood to be a multi-year starter and NFL draft pick.
Projection: Immediately into the defensive tackle rotation, probably behind Sagesse to start. Potentially works his way into a starting job by the end of the year; sophomore through senior year he should be somewhere between Watson and what Watson could have been if he was mean.
MI DT Will Campbell recommitted on Saturday. The dossier:
GURU RATINGS & CHATTER
|5*, #4 DT||5*, #4 DT, #25 overall||79, #22 OT|
Will Campbell first became known to Michigan fans when he committed at Michigan's summer camp a year and a half ago, when he was a rising junior. An early commit like that presaged big things—offers, rankings—and when Scout and Rivals started publishing lists of these things Campbell was indeed awarded the coveted fifth star and took his spot as the top recruit in Michigan's class. Then he decommitted, took a bunch of visits, scared the crap out of everyone, and eventually rejoined the fold. Relief goes here.
Campbell's guru ratings are reminiscent of those given to a Cass Tech defensive tackle from a couple years ago who considered Michigan and LSU but came up with the wrong answer: Joseph Barksdale. Michigan told Barksdale he'd be best as an offensive lineman, which he didn't want to hear, causing a rift. Meanwhile, both Scout and Rivals ranked him as a five star DT; ESPN said "no!" and declared him a good, not great, offensive tackle prospect.
Who was right? Eh, both, sort of. Barksdale came to LSU a defensive tackle and instantly ended up on the other side of the ball—ESPN was right—but then established himself an immediate, excellent starter as a redshirt freshman—ESPN was wrong. That latter accuracy is likely to repeat; on one side you've got two sets of recruiting analysts and virtually every program in the country. On the other you've got a few guys with a track record of goofily leaving off one or two guys every year.
A position switch a la Barksdale is not likely for Campbell, even if he played both ways at the Army All-American game, for one glaring reason: Michigan's depth chart. Michigan returns every offensive lineman on the roster and adds two highly-rated tackle prospects this year. On the other side of the ball, though, Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson exit and the candidates to start next to Mike Martin are a Canadian (Renaldo Sagesse) who saw little time a year ago and a converted fullback (Vince Helmuth) who saw none. Yikes. At a position that usually sees at least three players contributing, that's a scary depth chart.
Campbell's been the subject of dozens of articles since his decommitment, but virtually all of them are like "eeee where's he going." Not many were useful after that became clear, but a few remain relevant. The first came around this time a year ago, when Campbell smoked a wide array of the country's top talent at the Army combine:
Campbell, who is ranked as the nation's No. 55 player for 2009, wanted to show he deserves a much loftier ranking than what he's at currently. He set out to destroy every offensive linemen that was in his path. He did that and more. Using an array of spin moves, bull rushes and pure agility, Campbell couldn't be blocked.
Player after player wanted to test their ability against him, but it didn't matter.
"I want to be an All-American," Campbell said. "I want to be a five-star. That's basically why I came down to San Antonio. I wanted to show that I'm the best defensive tackle in the nation."
He might have just done that.
"He's got great size and great power," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every said. "I'd like to see him trim up in the belly area a little bit, but he's got it everywhere else. I can't wait to see what he looks like on game tape. He's got the potential to be a five-star guy."
This time around, Campbell was the only player at the Army game to play both ways. His coach (Terry Smith of Gateway High in Pennsylvania, who you may remember from the Justin King recruitment) was very positive about him:
"Campbell is a true Warren Sapp kind of athlete," Smith said. "I saw him out there catching punts, catching passes and then he's making all those tackles on the defensive line. He's fast, he's strong, athletic and he's big."
He's the East team's best defensive lineman according to most. (He was also ranked #12 in the state by SpartanMag.com. ROR.)
More from Smith:
Massive Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech lineman William Campbell has been working with both the offensive and defensive lines during practice, and Smith said the 6-5, 317-pounder will probably go both ways.
"He's enormous, he's explosive and he's really athletic for a big guy," Smith said. "He's a fast learner. He's a fun-spirited kid who loves the game and that's why we're able to move him on both sides of the ball because he can pick it up. He just enjoys playing the game."
In the game, Campbell consistently drove back double teams and flowed down the line to make a couple tackles, but appeared to take a few plays off. He might have been spying on the QB, or just tired since he was also playing offensive line as well.
Cass Tech coach (and Michigan alum) Thomas Wilcher on his charge:
"I think he's had perseverance," noted Wilcher. "He went through his career here and kept up great academics. He kept up all his schoolwork. He worked out hard every year and he did whatever it took to become the best athlete. No matter what you asked, no matter what you told him, he always achieved that level."
Everyone except USC, and USC seemed leery not because they were skeptical of his talent but because they didn't think he would seriously consider leaving. The finalists other than Michigan were Miami, LSU, Alabama and Florida.
I couldn't dig up any, unfortunately.
FAKE 40 TIME
Nor could I find a 40 time
Eeeeee he commits eeee:
And here's an interview from Scout:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Every signing day or thereabouts I run down the recruiting class in detail and provide a "YMRFSPA"—you may remember me from such players as—comparison. Sometimes these are a little flimsy. Jason Avant gets mentioned entirely too much. But here we have a rock-solid comparison: Gabe Watson. Watson was also a simply ginormous five-star defensive tackle recruit some thought would be better on offense. Watson also had rumored motivational issues, as is usual when you're talking about men with their own gravitational pull.
Watson was a slight disappointment during his Michigan career, but only a slight one. Instead of an All-American performer, he was an all-conference one—twice. He's currently contributing to an NFL playoff team.
Campbell's something of a goof but he's less of a softy than the legendarily nice Watson, and Watson's motivational issues were so extreme that he was benched in favor of Pat Massey for the first couple games of his senior year. He was close to the bad end of the effort continuum; Campbell is likely to be less frustrating.
Campbell's got some technique and Barwis issues to deal with, but is coming in early, which should mitigate his freshman unpreparedness considerably; with the depth chart looking like it does Campbell is at least 50-50 to start immediately and is a lock for considerable playing time as a freshman.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Well, if the other two DT recruits stick they're done at a postion of great need, and with great success. Unfortunately, it sounds like it's going to be a battle for both guys until signing day. OK DT Pearlie Graves has talked about a visit to Oklahoma for a while now. Recent scuttlebutt has been most positive, though. The commitment of Jamarkus "Texas Coke Orgy" McFarland helps, and may end Oklahoma's recruitment of Graves. It seems likely he sticks.
LA DT DeQuinta Jones, on the other hand, seems considerably more open. Keep in mind he's never actually been to Michigan's campus, committing unexpectedly after he figured out LSU probably wasn't going offer. That was seemingly because Jay Hopson is one suave dude. Hopson remains a suave dude, but Jones plans visits to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State prior to his Michigan visit.
Though the board doesn't reflect this, my current view of the situation: Graves and Campbell are commits; Jones is open but is probably going to Michigan. With no other recruits on the radar, his decision will determine whether M ends up with two or three DTs in the class.
Update 9/15: Linked to articles on FL S Angelo Hadley, MN WR commit Bryce McNeal, VA DE Will Hill, OK RB David Oku (second, third, fourth, fifth), MI DT Will Campbell (second), MI S Thomas Gordon, MS S Dennis Thames, SC S Devontae Holloman, NJ WR Nyshier Olivier, SC DE Sam Montgomery. Moved NJ DE Anthony Lalota to committed.
Added FL QB Denard Robinson, FL LB Mike Marry, OH CB Mike Edwards, LA WR Rueben Randle. Re-added MA OL Brennan Williams, SC OL Quinton Washington.
Dropped VA QB Kevin Newsome, TN LB Greg King, AL CB Dre Kirkpatrick, IN OL Kyle Kohene, CA OL Everett Benyard.
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. Programming note: going forward, the recruiting posts will be on Tuesday, since Monday already has a game column and a presser bits recap as anchor content.
What has ESPN reduced us to?
The Beav was on the teevee on Thursday. If you missed it to do something more socially respectable like drink a fifth of Wild Turkey and throw up on a clown, Varsity Blue has your back:
Aren’t those otters, by the way? I’m pretty sure they’re otters.
Beaver’s final numbers were impressive: 21 for 33 for 249 yards and two touchdowns plus 18 carries for 84 yards; the rushing average goes up significantly if you cut out the sacks. There was a bad interception and a back-breaking fumble late when Beaver attempted to do too much with the ball.
The overall opinion on Beaver from people in the chat was positive with some reservations. Beaver showed excellent touch on his short passes and kept his eyes downfield while scrambling around, sometimes with spectacular results. His running between effective and dynamic. There were a couple Favre-ian moments where he ran around and threw a ball that looked like a terrible idea only to see it hauled in by an open receiver. The reservations: dude is a bit of a toothpick, he occasionally loops a pass he should rifle in, and general high-school-kid-doing-too-much stuff. He outplayed the Sulfur Springs quarterback, a top 100 player to Rivals.
Come home, prodigal Thor.
Everyone’s still a little freaked out about MI DT Will Campbell’s decommitment but I am telling you not to fret. So is Campbell’s mom:
"He's still basically committed to U-M, but I said there is nothing wrong with going to visit a few schools. There is nothing wrong with that."
Also, Mike Farrell says this:
Sources close to Campbell say that while he's going to enjoy the process, take his official visits and see some other programs, he is inclined to re-commit to Michigan in the end unless he's absolutely blown away by someone else. Michigan already has a commitment from Cass Tech running back Teric Jones and expects to add Cass Tech athlete Thomas Gordon soon, and you can bet both will be working on Campbell to stay home.
Insert default language about bler bler nothing’s settled until he’s signed a piece of paper in February; given this and other chatter from and about the Cass Tech guys I’ma keeping Campbell blue.
Other bits from that Farrell piece:
- MD DE Jason Ankrah tried to commit to PSU but got rebuffed and is now listing M, Tennessee, and VT. Ankrah and MD CB Travis Hawkins, his teammate, will be in for officials October third.
- Michigan is “making a push” for FL CB Josh Robinson but the “smart money” is on UCF or USF unless one of the instate big three gets involved. Sounds like the kid wants to stay home. He will take an official.
Dude: Fitzgerald Toussaint. Toussaint has been bludgeoning people. Killing them. Hopping up and down on his vanquished foes drinking mead out of their skulls and ravishing their women. And running. For touchdowns. Rivals’ All The Way To Friday featured Liberty last week; Toussaint went for 261 yards and four touchdowns. You can check out video here; you might have to find the Liberty game underneath the main window. It’s worth it: Toussaint hurdles a guy a la McGuffie and just generally looks sweet.
On Friday, Toussaint did this in a 32-14 win:
Toussaint opened the scoring with a 72-yard scamper in the first quarter, scored a second-quarter touchdown from 35 yards out, and added scoring runs of 57 and 37 yards in the second half.
The University of Michigan recruit carried the ball 19 times for 258 yard, boosting his rushing total to 843 yards after only four games.
Toussaint is averaging 13.5 YPC. Here come the fawning quotes:
Toussaint “ran hard, he ran through some tacklers,” Liberty coach Jeff Whittaker said. “He’s got great speed, great acceleration.” …
Toussaint “runs angry,” [Struthers coach Dallas] Saunders said. “He’s not brought down by first contact. Even when we were on him, he made things happen.”
A couple Rivals observers reported being very impressed; he’s one to watch for a possible flight up the rankings.
Update: highlights from that Struthers game:
With NJ DE Anthony Lalota in the fold, Michigan finally has a shiny defensive end prospect to show all the cool kids and is up to 17 commitments.
Up next on the watch list are MI S Thomas “Prison Abs” Gordon, who plans to decide between Michigan and Michigan State on the 26th, and AZ DE Craig Roh, who’s changed his visit plans up a bit and plans to decide sometime in the next few weeks. Michigan is believed to be in strong position for both.
Meanwhile, OK RB David Oku dropped Michigan, then re-added them, then said he would announce Wednesday and everyone said it was Tennessee, then publicly disavowed Tennessee, then moved his date back to October. OMG. Drama.
All of this is probably moot for Michigan fans, as M got the boot once before and seems to be on the list as an afterthought. Also: Michigan has two or three RBs already in the class, depending on whether or not Smith and Jones end up in the slot. Also also:
"I want an offense that I like and fits my style. Other than that I really don't care about anything else."
So what kind of offense is Oku looking for? "I really like the west coast offense," he admitted. "I think that suits me the best. I'm actually not too big a fan of the spread offense though."
Oku is not coming to Michigan unless he does a sudden 180. Given the events of the past week this will happen Thursday and he will commit. On Sunday he will decommit and announce he’s headed to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi; next Tuesday he will exclaim “too much nitrogen!” and commit to the moon.
A number of additions to the board: FL LB Mike Marry is a high three-star sort who claims to have picked up a Michigan offer. Meanwhile, LA WR Rueben Randle has long listed Michigan but I never bothered to put him on the board because I naturally assumed he would stay south. This remains the general feeling but he is planning an official, so on the board he goes. OH CB Mike Edwards picked up an offer.He goes to Glenville, which is normally a dead zone for Michigan recruiting, but Ohio State is full up on defensive backs and won’t be leaping in with an offer.
Two OL show back up because M recruiting sites put out articles on them, but we’re still a longshot for MA OL Brennan Williams and no one knows much about where SC OL Quinton Washington might like to go to school. FWIW.
Finally, FL QB Denard Robinson says Michigan’s recruiting him as a quarterback-plus-other-options. He seems like a longshot, too.
Etc. MS S Dennis Thames is kind of noncommital about schools; Michigan may be fading. Sounds like he really wants to go to LSU but isn’t likely to pick up an offer. SC S and Clemson soft commit Devontae Holloman says he’s “really only looking at SEC schools” for his visits; this conflicts with previous information indicating he would trip to M. MN WR commit Bryce McNeal comes in for some fluff.