2010 recruiting profiles
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DE Kenny Wilkins, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, WR Drew Dileo, WR Jerald Robinson, WR DJ Williamson, WR Jeremy Jackson, WR Ricardo Miller, and RB Stephen Hopkins.
|Detroit, MI - 6'4" 195|
|Scout||5*, #5 QB, #43 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #1 DTQB, #132 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #5 QB, #128 overall|
|Others||#9 overall to Lemming|
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, LSU, Ohio State(-ish), Florida|
|YMRMFSPA||Going there: Vince Young|
|Previously On MGoBlog||One metric buttload. Elite 11 wrap. Commitment post. TomVH interview. Tim interview. Friday Night Lights caught him against Southgate, Highland Park, and Pioneer.|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Descended from the heavens on a cloud 17 years ago.|
There are a million billion different to choose from but the most relevant is probably the one you've already seen:
And here's a rush mix for fun:
This might be totally unnecessary. Devin Gardner already has eight pages of posts in the MGoArchives and has been fawned over just about weekly since his March commitment to Michigan. You've seen him in the spring game. You've heard quotes about him from everyone from Tom Lemming to Rich Rodriguez, and if you've been on the site the past year you've seen ridiculous HD clips of him going up against half the schedule. The best this post can do is remind you. But by God, the tabs are open so here it is.
This is what you need to know:
Putting a football in Devin Gardner's hands is like handing a master artist a paint brush and an empty canvas. Within seconds, an array of possibilities present themselves as creativity begins to give way to a breathtaking masterpiece.
Seriously. This is going to happen. At some point in his career Devin Gardner is going to become Football Michelangelo, and Michigan fans will leave the stadium confused because they've obviously been raptured up and Heaven looks just like Ann Arbor. (Attention postcard companies: copyrighted, bitches!) I am not kidding you.
"He had a great junior year and has simply built upon that," said Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu. "He is considered one of the top handful of quarterbacks in the country and is firmly entrenched as a five-star prospect. As far as upside goes, I don't see many quarterbacks that have his potential."
Seriously, he's pretty much Vince Young…
On tape the Michigan native resembles Vince Young, starting from the No. 10 jersey he wears and extending all the way through his three-quarters release and sneaky, elusive, long-striding ability to make big plays with the ball in his hands.
…except better! Seriously:
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.
Holy crap! Whoever put this article together decided to put Vince Young, Tim Tebow, and Dennis Dixon in the same sentence with Juice Williams! Also that stuff about Gardner "comparing favorably" to three spine-tinglingly awesome quarterbacks! And Juice Williams! He's also an "advanced version" of Terrelle Pryor!
Obviously this is true and the rankings above, which are extremely friendly but not exactly better than Vince Young (#1 overall), Terrelle Pryor (#1 overall), and Tim Tebow (top 5) are lies. But what gives? The theory promulgated by this site goes as follows:
- Junior Devin Gardner is an enormously raw QB prospect in serious need of coaching and development. His throwing motion is the dreaded "shot put." When ESPN wrote him up as a promising Elite 11 ball boy, even Gardner acknowledged it:
- Over the summer, Gardner hits every camp imaginable to improve his throwing mechanics and general quarterback things. Gardner is wildly coachable and makes great strides, culminating in the Elite 11 camp where Rivals goes ga-ga over him—for a while he was a top 50 prospect and the #1 QB in their rankings—and everyone else slides him up into that five star area. At that camp he wins "best feet" and "best in the classroom". Allen Trieu gets the pithy quote, this evaluating his performance at the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp two summers ago:
- Over the course of Gardner's senior season his mechanical improvement slowly fades as he goes back to what he knows. This is his Flowers for Algernon period. Sites notice this over the course of the year and especially at the Under Armor game and slide him down, saying things like "after watching him in Orlando, I think he needs a redshirt." Rivals sends his ranking back down; Scout sticks to its guns but doesn't move him any higher after he settled in around #40.
After watching him during the week, Gardner will have to learn to be tall in the pocket and take advantage of his height. He says his biggest weakness is his accuracy, which is a direct result of arm placement and how the ball is released. He has a real bad habit of dropping his release point when throwing, as well as sinking his hips and knees when throwing. This happens more when throwing shorter routes, as he tries to guide the ball.
"We all know he's a great athlete and he showed that by doing very well at receiver in addition to quarterback. What has impressed me the most recently, though, is how much he has improved as a passer. His mechanics are like night and day from this time last year and his passes have much more zip. The work he has put in as a passer has paid off."
Thanks to Tim you can see evidence of this slide with your own eyes. The pushing motion was evident in the state championship game. It was also very prominent in the Friday Night Lights-caught Highland Park game (stick around to 3:50 for a sick back juke, though). When he opened the season against Pioneer it was absent.
That's the theory, and it was borne out by Gardner's performance after he enrolled early. In both the spring game and semi-public fall scrimmage he threw ugly interceptions and struggled to deal with pressure. Your author's impression from the game:
Meanwhile, Devin Gardner looked raw as hell, fumbling snaps, scrambling into trouble, and reverting to that ugly shotput motion whenever he was forced to throw on the run. He looked like a freshman, which is okay because he is a freshman. However, the torrent of spring hype that suggested Gardner would probably not redshirt because he would be Michigan's best quarterback by UConn… eh, not so much. Maybe it was just a bad day. Even if it was an off day, Robinson showed enough to relegate Gardner to the bench for the first couple games and hopefully his whole freshman year.
Gardner did show the his deep touch on a third and long seam to Odoms that was laid in perfectly. Odoms dropped it.
In another spring bits post, Gardner was said to "look like a freshman" and be "clearly behind the two sophomores."
On the other hand, when a couple of trusted observers took in the coaches clinic and the scrimmage associated with that they both reported back about the coaching staff's raves:
As for Devin Gardner, raves about his "incredible feel for the game" from QB coach Rod Smith were relayed via both observers. Other spring hype: "huge," "covers ground without seeming to move" like Vince Young and Terrelle Pryor, and… wait for it… "well ahead of both at this stage." Gardner is a "gym rat" who will happily spend all day watching film. However, he's "nowhere near" having a grasp of the offense and his throwing is erratic. When he's good, he can make deep throws with touch unlike either of the other two, but his overall accuracy lags because of the mechanical issues. His delivery isn't consistent yet. This will not be an enormous surprise to anyone who saw the difference between Camp Devin and Degraded Devin over the course of this high school football season.
That's what we've seen at Michigan. We have some idea what his scouting report looks like, but here's a bunch of tantalizing quotes anyway. Rivals:
Has excellent height, thick neck and shoulders and long arms. His lower half is built like a two-guard and his overall body structure looks line an athletic outside linebacker. He is built similar to a young Jason Campbell when at Auburn. … Definitely needs that redshirt year in order to hone his skills and learn the offense. His potential is almost limitless and he could be a major terror for defensive coordinators at the next level. Gardner should be a two- to three-year starter with all-conference and NFL potential.
More from Trieu:
Athletic quarterback with innate ability to feel pressure and elude defenders. Has good change of direction and is very elusive. Has a nice arm and can make all the throws. Needs work mechanically, but shows good touch on his passes, particularly the deep ball. Is a very smart and poised player who is cool under pressure and in the clutch. Shows good command of the offense and understanding of the game.
"(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."
Scout also says he's a "superior athlete," something backed up by his performance at that SMSB camp, where he finished third in the 60 meters at that camp behind two 5'10"-ish defensive backs. When he showed at a Scout combine he clocked a 4.57 40—impressive for a guy his size—and won the combine MVP.
And then there's the Graham thing. Gardner has it. After he realized he couldn't get by on sheer athleticism any more, Brandon Graham was indefatigable, constantly working, never depressed, always progressing towards his ultimate destination, and impervious to all the crap Michigan football's been caught up in the last few years. There's a rare resiliency in that kind of work ethic, and it's something Gardner seems to share. The Elite 11 classroom award, the constant drive to make himself better, the early enrollment despite obstacles: these are all indications.
There are also testimonials. 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.
“One thing we have seen every day, he loves to compete,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a very conscientious guy, he’s a very, very quick learner and he’s shown a few things. He’s got a long way to go as you can imagine any true freshmen would, especially at quarterback, but he’s gotten better each and every day.”
Rivals says he's "very motivated to be the best" and a "high effort guy."
Gardner and his team also gutted out an appearance in the state playoffs by ending the season on a tear. Because their conference disbanded suddenly and they were left in the cold, Inkster played a brutal schedule with eight road games, three of them against Ohio powers. They barely scraped into the playoffs at 5-3 thanks to a road win over Steubenville (OH) and their 68-game home win streak.
Once in the playoffs and then proceeded to blow doors off. Tim took in a 35-7 beating of Southgate; Inkster proceeded to roll to the state championship game, beating their first three opponents by a total of 136-54 with Gardner pouring in eleven touchdowns. Everything fell apart in the state title game, but just getting there was a testament to Devin Gardner's ability.
So now he's here and we'll see how it works out. Every indication is that Gardner will, sooner or later, be the centerpiece of an assault on defenses across the Big Ten. The only thing we don't know is when it starts.
Etc.: "Face in the crowd" on SI. Talks nonsense with baby. Trieu interviews him. Played WR some at the SMSB camp and we should give serious thought to teach him how to run the fade on the goal line. Has an impressive wikipedia page, too. Burned OSU offer.
Why Vince Young? The combination of size, speed, a wonky throwing motion, and the multiple comparisons from gurus tips the balance over to Young, who redshirted despite being the top prospect in the country and didn't come into his own as a passer until he played Michigan in the Rose Bowl—awesome timing!
Guru Reliability: High. Ton of exposure to him. Elite 11 camp, UA game, all that stuff.
General Excitement Level: Towering. Vast. Expansive.
Projection: Should have the luxury of redshirting with Denard's emergence into a viable option. Given Rodriguez's statements on the matter…
There is also freshman Devin Gardner, but Rodriguez said he wouldn't burn Gardner's redshirt if it was for a couple of plays a game.
…you'll probably see him on the bench unless both sophomores struggle. After that it's kind of hard to see him unseating an established junior, but they'll mix him in when given the opportunity; a lot of people have claimed he's going to be the starter as early as 2011, but I think he'll have to wait until he's a redshirt junior, at which point he should be Awesome Devin through and through.
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DE Kenny Wilkins, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, WR Drew Dileo, WR Jerald Robinson, WR DJ Williamson, WR Jeremy Jackson, and WR Ricardo Miller.
|Flower Mound, TX - 6'0" 229|
mgouser Drake painted the ugly off
|Scout||3*, #52 RB|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #50 RB|
|Others||Consensus #76 player in Texas|
|Other Suitors||Texas A&M, Arkansas, Kansas, Kansas State|
|YMRMFSPA||Leroy Hoard or Brandon Minor|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Tom interviews Hopkins. Dramatic Cupcake Hopkins. Commitment post.|
|Notes||Early enrollee. From the same town as hockey forward Chris Brown.|
If you liked Brandon Minor but thought he was too tall, too fast, and insufficiently bowling-ball shaped, you'll love Stephen Hopkins. ABC should bring Keith Jackson out of mothballs just so he can call Hopkins a "hoss" enough for the descriptor to be dubbed over every subsequent run in his career, NCAA XX style ("He used POWER").
Calling him a workhorse is almost insufficient: as a sophomore, Hopkins ran 322 times for Marcus. (They managed to cut him back to 275 as a junior.) People still do, though, with the Dallas Morning News going so far as to call him "the definition of a workhorse" as they named him the area's top back for 2010. He says the things that workhorses say, too:
"We ended up pounding the ball and pounding the ball," Hopkins said. "That was a great team we beat, so it's really satisfying".
All those carries added up to a grinding mountain of stats: 1,663 yards and 16 touchdowns as a sophomore, 1,689 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior. In his senior year Marcus finally found a couple guys to share the load and Hopkins got a less frenetic workload, but still put up 1282 yards on just over 200 carries. As I was saying: hoss.
Stephen Hopkins is Brandon Minor, but moreso. ESPN doesn't use the word "Minor" but just about says so($):
Hopkins has big-back size with deceptively good feet and lateral agility. … Hits the hole fast and does a job getting north quickly; does not take a lot of wasted lateral steps but shows he can bounce it outside to daylight without losing a lot in transition. At his best when he plants and accelerates downhill behind his pads. … Difficult for smaller defensive backs to arm-tackle when he gains momentum through the second level. However, his high running style hinders his balance, often chopped down low, and yards after contact production. Opens his body to direct shots, which is concern in a high carry role at the next level. Can see and hit the cutback creases, but is not a natural pick and slide zone runner and may be limited to more downhill schemes in college. Shows good initial quicks through the hole but lacks great top-end speed when breaks free in the second level and an extra gear to separate.
Could you craft a better Brandon Minor scouting report than that? No. Also, Michigan's coaches, by way of Hopkins himself, say so:
"They told me I'm a lot like Brandon Minor and the other big backs they've played in their system."
And Hopkins says so too:
“I think I’m a pretty strong runner just like Brandon Minor is,” Hopkins said. “I’m a little bit bigger than he is, but I think I have a lot of the same attributes he does running the ball. He gets tough yardage, breaks first contact, gets a lot of yards after contact. I think I’m a lot like that.”
Jordan Kovacs woozily concurs after getting trucked twice in a row in the spring game. Also he probably says "momma."
We have established the equality of Brandon Minor and Stephen Hopkins, but there's more stuff too, stuff that makes Hopkins seem ever so slightly distinct. One: he's slower. More Hopkins on Hopkins:
Yea, it kind of gives me a disadvantage though too. Sometimes there’s a stereotype that I can’t run fast, but I’m going to improve on that. I recently ran a 4.6 40, so I want to try to get that down to a 4.5. I like that I’m bigger, and don’t want to lose that, but I want to get faster too.
Two: he has even more RAGE. An observer of the coaches' clinic scrimmage:
The guy is just a freaking monster and he breaks tackles. Now, I can’t say he can block, or knows the offense or can catch the ball. Plus, he fumbled twice (once he was hit at the handoff, on the other instance it might have been the QB’s issue). But man is he a tough tackle on the belly if he can get (even) a yard of momentum.
In several different reports, Rivals calls him($) "a physical, punishing back" who "never hesitates" and "goes for positive yardage on practically every carry," praises his($) "tremendous overall size" and ability to "always … fall forward after being tackled," and says almost the exact same things($) in a third game report. (A caveat: report two says "he would have to be a short-yardage and goal-line back in the spread offense run at Michigan" and says he'll probably be a middle linebacker, two things that betray a scant knowledge of both Michigan's roster and the blood-strewn area on the backside of the Michigan offensive line that appeared whenever Brandon Minor had fewer than six broken bits.) Minor was pretty good at getting forward but he was taller and skinnier and more prone to get lit up for running too high. It sounds like you'd pick Hopkins if you had fourth and one.
As a potential bonus, his coach claims he's good out of the backfield and with the blocking and whatnot:
"He's one of those classic downhill runners that gets stronger as the game wears on," Marcus coach Bryan Erwin said. "But at the same time, he does all the other things that you need from an every-down back. He can block. He can catch passes. Whatever you need him to do, he can do it."
A year later, Erwin would say he's "great" at both blocking and receiving and the "most complete back that I've ever coached." He also knocked down that criticism from Rivals above:
"He's a great inside zone runner, which in that scheme, he should do well," noted the Marcus head coach. "When they do get in the I-formation, he's going to be fantastic. He does both those things for us. We still run a lot of I-formation and he's tremendous on tall sweeps and off-tackle plays."
The locals were also impressed. A message board focused on 5A Texas football has a thread in which the denizens say these things:
He is a very impressive player. His size is rare with RBs today. He can run for speed and power. … Physically, he is ahead of the game for his age.
When we played them in 2007 we got the ball first and went 3 and out, or close to that. They then ran about 9 minutes off the clock and scored. Pretty much every series was like that. When the other team has the ball for 9 minutes of every 12 minute quarter scoring chances are few.
The guys is IMO the best back in the DFW area. … The off-season between his sophomore and junior year saw him put on some size and gain in speed. He has developed into a very patient runner that will wait for the hole to develop and then explodes. His power is unmatched by any back I saw last year. … Marcus added a inside/outside running game last year and was able to do that with Hopkins. The year before he was limited to getting his yards between the tackles due to not having the game breaking speed, last year that changed and Marcus was able to break the big one on sweeps, off tackles and power plays. One of his strengths is his ability to hold onto the football too.
With the crying need for a hippopotamus back on the roster and Rodriguez's RAGE-friendly belly schemes, Hopkins is going to be a tailback at Michigan all the way. In the I-formation he'll line up behind the fullback and iso like mad. In the spread 'n' shred he'll be the Owen Schmitt (who ran the ball some 57 times as a senior) to someone else's Steve Slaton. The coaches have told him he's not a fullback. He won't be. He will be a horse.
Etc.: With Hopkins looking like a four-year contributor, get used to this:
As a junior, went Biakabutuka (313 yards) in a heartbreaking loss to Southlake Carroll. There is a petition for one Stephen Hopkins to be signed to "Sporting Hinton" permanently. Doctor Saturday as emirate? Random quote:
"If you need me to pick up a first down in a short-yardage situation, I'm your man, but I don't want to be just a power back," Hopkins said.
Hopkins made the All State team in the largest Texas division… second team… and they put four running backs on each team. Everything's bigger in Texas.
Other guy named Stephen Hopkins: Guys named Stephen Hopkins have a rich history in American… uh… history. One of them was on the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact; another was one of Rhode Island's signatories on the Declaration of Independence. Hopkins beats Jeremy Jackson hands down.
Why Leroy Hoard or Brandon Minor? Minor is obvious. As for Hoard: take it from the guy who is cited above as Practice Observer, who was talking with a guy who played with Leroy Hoard, knows Leroy Hoard, watched Hopkins practice, and said "that's Leroy Hoard."
Guru Reliability: High, I guess. No reason a four-year starter at a major Dallas school wouldn't get the crap scouted out of him. Everyone thought Minor was going to be a fullback, too, though, and none of them seem to realize that Michigan has run plays that people other than Steve Slaton can run.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Obvious, immediate contributor that fills a hole on the roster but unlikely to be a big star.
Projection: Fills a niche in the Michigan backfield that needs filling (see: worst play of the Decade #4) and will play this year. His worst case is the short yardage and goal-line back; his best case is Runaway Beer Truck next to a Vincent Smith.
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB
Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DE Kenny Wilkins, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, WR Drew Dileo, WR Jerald Robinson, WR DJ Williamson, and WR Jeremy Jackson.
|Ann Arbor, MI - 6'3" 215|
|Scout||4*, #27 WR, #167 overall|
|Rivals||3*, #66 WR, #12 MI|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #27 WR|
|Others||#89 to Sporting News|
|Other Suitors||Tennessee, Florida|
|YMRMFSPA||Braylon Edwards/Jason Avant platypus|
|Previously On MGoBlog||A nearly two-year-old commitment post. Friday Night Lights took in Miller's games against Inkster, Saginaw, and Chelsea, and Tom talked to him after the WMU game.|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Good friend of 2011 RB Demetrius Hart.|
There's also sophomore film.
It's not quite right to say Ricardo Miller had the biggest disconnect between early hype and late rankings in the Rivals era of recruiting, but that's only because fellow Floridian and mega-offer-toting sophomore Marvin Robinson experienced a decline from probable five star to "you'll take a low four and like it." But it's not far off either.
A couple years ago I was answering some questions after my now-annual trip to New York to tell the local alumni club wildly incorrect things about Michigan's upcoming football season (bowl predictions the last two years: Alamo and Insight) and someone was concerned about Michigan's future wide receiver recruiting in the spread 'n' shred, and I described Ricardo Miller as a "lock" and a high school version of Terrell Owens, except nice. The first bit was accurate—Miller's commitment post above is almost two years old, as he dropped 18 months before Signing Day. The jury is very much out on the second.
It's worth noting the early hype was not limited to Michigan circles that could be prone to overrating a guy presumed to be a lock. He was ranked the #11 player in Florida($) by Scout at one point…
11. Ricardo Miller, WR, 6-2, 200, Orlando (Dr. Phillips)
The Skinny: Physical specimen who is still a little raw. Has great speed at his size and projects to be a #1 WR type who is a go to guy. Has size to make tough catches over the middle. Has great hands, needs to work on his concentration. Very good blocker. Can get down the field and be a deep threat. Played at Dr. Phillips in Orlando as a junior. A player who has the tools to play on Sunday.
…and that wasn't even his high water mark. Florida Football Magazine had him #2 in the state:
Big, strong, and fast, Miller could be playing for a major college right now but he's only a junior. He was the star of many off-season 7-on-7 tournaments.
Top two in the state of Florida should come with some impressive offers and it seemingly did, with Florida and Tennessee cited by multiple sources at the time of his commitment. One article specifically mentioned the magic word "written." In contrast to the skepticism about Jeremy Jackson laundry list of mega-offers, given the surrounding hype I tend to believe that Florida and Tennessee would have happily accepted a commit from Miller. Later claims at Alabama, Notre Dame, and LSU offers are a bit more suspect.
There are no rankings out on either Scout or Rivals for the 2010 class yet, but the buzz about Miller is substantial. Most have him pegged for the Darryl Stonum type range on Rivals, a high 4-star guy hovering around the top 50 overall.
Naturally, OUTRAGE resulted when Miller debuted at 139, which the math inclined will note is outside the Rivals 100. Speculation centered on how long it would take Rivals to fire the waste of space who made that decision and correct the grievous error. Rivals, naturally, dropped him to a meh three star in their next revamp and finished the year by declaring Miller the #66 wide receiver in the country, a couple spots behind Northwestern commit Rashad Lawrence. Lawrence claims other BCS offers from Duke, Stanford, and Purdue. Vanderbilt stands aloof on his schools list, present but decidedly sans the check mark representing an offer. Miller's fall was precipitous.
What was this based on? The only scouting content($) I can find in Miller's profile:
PERFORMANCE: Led Pioneer in a six-team scrimmage, recording a leaping touchdown grab and a couple of other catches in traffic.
STRENGTHS: Big, strong kid, especially in the lower body. His frame forces one to wonder if he will outgrow receiver spot and play another position, like outside linebacker or strong safety. Great attitude and very intelligent. WEAKNESSES: Struggles getting in and out of breaks. Does not move as well as other top-rated receivers. Had a lapse of concentration by dropping a touchdown pass late in the scrimmage. - G.L.
Just a few months earlier he was second team All Army Combine, but that somewhat lackluster performance in a scrimmage was apparently enough to turn Miller from a four star guy with "huge upside" into just another generic three star. The natural tendency is to scoff.
Evaluations from ESPN and Scout aid in this task. ESPN has him one of the highest ranked players in the class($) and just outside their top 150:
…essentially a wide receiver with H-back size and toughness. He could easily develop into a 225-pound hybrid player with a ton of versatility. … His willingness and ability to come up with big plays over the middle of the field is one of his most impressive traits. What he might lack in great speed, he makes up for in overall talent. He possesses big, reliable, soft hands with very few body catches. Most of his receptions come with great hand positioning and concentration. … He makes great adjustments to the ball, while it's in the air -- especially on over-the-shoulder grabs. What really stands out is his ability to make plays on the jump ball, balls thrown in traffic and adjustments to poorly-thrown balls. Comes off the ball quickly and reaches top speed rapidly for a player of his size.
Concerns are the usual for wide receivers in this class over six foot: raw speed. "Lumbering" makes a repeat appearance, though in Miller case he just does it "a bit."
That evaluation might be a bit generous about the hands, however. Scout's take lists "hands and concentration" as his negative and mentions it in the brief scouting report on his profile:
Is a big bodied, physical wide receiver with good speed for a kid with his size. He can take short passes, break tackles and get into the open field. He has big, strong hands and can snatch passes out of the air, but needs to work on his consistency with catching the ball and will sometimes let passes get into his body. Is a good blocker and a tough, hard working kid.
In addition, Miller's performance at the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp drew some criticism($) in the same area:
Two things were obvious… he could get deep or go up over anyone in attendance. He was too strong for most DBs he faced, and the speed he possesses at his size made it unfair at times. Hicks was the only DB that experienced his fair share of success in one-on-ones. Miller’s biggest enemy on the day was the dropsies. The short to intermediate passes…i.e. those with some steam on them… weren’t always handled cleanly.
And a little more form Allen Trieu:
According to Scout.com, Miller is a four-star wide receiver who possesses an unbelievable physical package for a high school athlete.
“He has great size and has worked hard in the weight room. He is stronger and physically ahead of where a high school senior entering college should be. For someone with his size, he has good straight line speed and shows the ability to snatch the ball out of the air.”
“He is a great kid who will be a good ambassador for a program and an excellent recruiting host,” Trieu said of Miller.
Despite the somewhat backhanded compliments for his speed (always "for a guy his size") and occasional issues with dropped balls, Scout places him exactly where ESPN does, the #27 WR nationally. That's considerably higher potential than Rivals (OUTRAGE!) suggests.
Whatever Miller's potential is, he seems highly likely to reach it. Take whatever star-crossed Michigan talent who suffered from a poor home environment and seem to waste his God-given gifts you like and imagine the exact opposite of that. That's Ricardo Miller:
“He’s always in overdrive, always giving 110 percent,” Reagor-Miller said. “I’ve never had to make him do things because he takes the initiative to do it himself. Hard work and commitment pays off, and now he’s learning that.”
Apparently, Miller has an affinity for sit-ups. His mother said they can’t watch a television program together without him throwing himself to the floor during every commercial break from some crunches. Coach Salapa also recalled Miller’s many impromptu sit-up sessions before, during and after practices.
“Sometimes, we have to keep him from working too hard,” Salapa said. “He does everything to the max.”
Ron English will be pleased to know that Miller's parents are still together, and as a bonus are both ex-military. An EMU scholarship offer is in the mail!
Part of Miller's decline can probably be explained by his move from Florida to Michigan. After he committed he knew he'd be enrolling early and decided he'd start the Michigan bit of his life even earlier than that:
"It's basically the fact that it was closer to my school and my mom wanted to move up during this time to be closer to her dad," Miller told SN Today. "It will be a lot easier to have access to Michigan and to help recruit in Michigan. And now all my family will be close by and be able to see me play. That was another big part of it."
Recruiting sites are gaga about Florida and might have looked at whatever scrimmage Miller was at in a more positive light if it was taking place down there. Also, Pioneer's quarterback was not a guy who's going to play in college. Tim after one of Miller's games:
This was the first time I'd seen Miller look truly dominant against high school competition, though he's looked semi-dominant before, he just never gets the damn ball. His quarterback doesn't have the confidence in his own arm to hit Miller on the always-wide-open deep posts (or deep crosses - look how open he is nearly every time he runs a route, but the QB is too scared to throw it), otherwise Miller would have finished with 200+ receiving yards in every single game of his I've attended.
His final numbers were indicative of that: just 31 catches but at almost 20 yards each and ten touchdowns amongst them. In the game against Inkster I saw the Pioneer QB preferred the diminutive outside receivers (Pioneer used Miller as a tight end much of the time) to chancing a safety picking him off. This was actually a slight decrease from his junior numbers 34 catches and 615 yards), but if we've learned anything through this five-receiver recruiting profile journey it's that high school quarterbacking makes receiver stats almost useless for projection.
Why a Braylon Edwards/Jason Avant platypus? Braylon was not a big time guy as a recruit, so this is just a comparison based on playing styles. Miller's a big strapping guy who can go up and get jump balls but might have some hands issues. Michigan's listing him at either 6'2", 208 (upon his commitment), or 6'4", 215 (now). Splitting the difference there yields 6'3" and around 210; Braylon is 6'3" and around 215.
Miller doesn't seem to have the same deep speed Braylon does, nor does he seem likely to be a guy who is "not on the same page" as the coach. He is an extreme character guy and program ambassador who should be able to crush guys on slants, make catches with guys on his hip, and generally be a guy who uses muscle and positioning to get open instead of raw speed. This is all Jason Avant.
Now, can you combine those assets of Avant and Edwards and get a great player?
Guru Reliability: Low. Major spread in the numbers, wide receiver with ugly quarterback situation, transfer, early commit, disagreement on a key attribute (hands), uncertainty as to what his best position is.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Seems to have a cap on his upside since he's already so physically developed—also potentially a reason his stock fell as others improved and he leveled off—but still a guy who seems like he'll have above-average physicality even as a collegian. Slightly worried that a possession receiver with eh hands or a long bomb guy with eh speed makes the guy a WR tweener, but it seems like if there's any way he can improve either he'll work on it until it's better.
Projection: Will probably play this year as Michigan tries to get some outside WR depth; could redshirt if Stokes shows well and Robinson plain beats him out but it will probably be close enough that he gets some time. Not likely to see much in the way of passes while he's in. A Lloyd Carr Memorial Redshirt-Burning WR Blocking Seminar beckons.
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DE Kenny Wilkins, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, WR Drew Dileo, and WR Jerald Robinson, and WR DJ Williamson.
|Ann Arbor, MI - 6'4" 195|
|Scout||3*, #79 WR|
|Rivals||3*, #22 MI|
|ESPN||4*, 79, #39 WR|
|Other Suitors||Florida? Texas? LSU? Tennessee?|
|YMRMFSPA||Greg Mathews or Tyrece Butler|
|Previously On MGoBlog||TomVH interviews Jackson. Friday Night Lights took in one of his games.|
|Notes||Son of RB coach Fred Jackson. Early enrollee.|
Of all the fine players Fred Jackson has coached in his tenure, he's the most excited about his son, Jeremy, who shoots lasers out of his eyes and reminds him of a Braylon Edwards, except fast and with giant hands made of glue. And when Jackson committed to Michigan months before the previous class even signed it seemed like this was a widely-held opinion. Every article about it mentioned hot-damn offers:
When high school senior Jeremy Jackson looks through the family mail, he commonly sees what every high school student athlete dreams of — full ride scholarships to the colleges of his choice.
Jackson cites offers from four of the top 10 football college in the land, including Florida, Louisiana State and Texas.
Michigan wasn't the only major program to offer Jackson a scholarship. Florida, Texas, Nebraska, Iowa and North Carolina all came calling, too, and Jeremy seriously considered signing with LSU.
In addition to Michigan, Jackson had scholarship offers from Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and North Carolina.
ESPN confirms as well. There are a bunch of Scout articles with those claims that also add Louisville and Stanford to the docket. Tennessee even came in months after his commitment with an offer. Texas was on him "hardest." As Christopher Walken might say about hot dogs: wow.
HOWEVA: not to suggest that a member of the Jackson family might be given to exaggeration, but given the way the Jeremy Jackson story played out it's more likely that the offer-type substances listed above were "verbal" offers that, like a Les Miles letter of intent, evaporate when someone attempts to use them. When it came time to rank the kids, Jackson's offers from the best schools in the country amounted to a generic three star rating from the drop. Even Ricardo Miller, about whom more in the near future, started off with a ranking slightly proportional to the hype. Jackson checked in at Anonymous Three Star and stayed there for the duration. Rankings systems aren't infallible but when a player actually has the offers Jackson claims he did six months before the previous class signs he at least starts off a four-star.
Jackson didn't, and even ESPN—by far the most enthusiastic service in re: his talents—put out an evaluation that uses the word "lumbering" in the first sentence($):
Jackson is a big, lumbering wide receiver prospect with great size and a thick build. He is strong and knows how to use his size. He has a nice combination of size and athleticism. Possesses long arms and a wide catching radius. Comes off the ball hard and will push defensive backs off him. Looks a bit like an H-back type. He is versatile and can be effective both inside and outside. He has good hands, plucks on the run and uses his body very well to shield defenders from the ball. If it's reachable, he will make the effort and display excellent focus.
The rest of it is more of the same: "lacks great burst," "may struggle to create separation," "mismatch in the red zone," "reliable," "excels in a crowd," etc. He gets a lot of Eckstein adjectives; the evaluation screams "son of coach"; in no way does it make it seem likely that Florida and Texas offered a kid in Michigan before his junior year is over.
That book on Jackson is consistent. The Rivals evaluation:
STRENGTHS: Jackson is a big target. He may actually be taller than his 6-3 listing in his profile. He has really soft hands. He catches the ball away from his body well, and makes it look easy. He is a better-than-average route runner as well. He will be a very reliable receiver at Michigan, and overall, was impressive on Friday.
WEAKNESSES: Jackson lacks top-end speed. It shows most in his inability to separate himself from defenders on deep routes. However, he does have pretty good body control and good hands. With some added strength, he will be able to make catches with defenders on his hip. - G.L.
Is a big bodied kid who uses his body well to out-position defenders. Has good ball skills and timing and is able to go up over the top of defensive backs to make tough catches. Has fantastic hands and makes grabs in traffic. Lacks top end speed and ability to stretch the field but should be a reliable possession receiver and red zone target.
"Hands," "size," and "red zone weapon" are his assets; "speed" and "downfield threat" the negatives. Everybody hold hands and sing in harmony: the scouting report on Jeremy Jackson is unanimous. Even Jeremy Jackson agrees when talking about things to improve on:
They haven’t talked about speed, but my Dad just told me to keep working hard every day. I ran a 4.58 at camp, and I’d like to get that down to a 4.4 or 4.5. I want to improve my weight, and I can’t really improve my height at all, so I’ll focus on those. I’m assuming they want me to gain weight, they haven’t mentioned it. Rich Rodriguez isn’t influencing me on my speed either; it’s just a goal of mine. My route running and catching ability are my strengths right now, which helps.
His coach is also on board:
“He is big and strong. He uses his body very well when playing against a (defensive back). He cuts very quickly and has great feet and hands,” Gildersleeve said.
“He is a good teammate. He does his job and works very hard,” Gildersleeve said. “The players on the team look for him to make big plays for us.”
Gildersleeve liked the "big and strong" part so well that he moved Jackson to tight end as he installed a veer offense; despite this he managed to call the kid's number enough for him to lead the county with 47 receptions (and 691 yards), an increase on his 42 catches (and 620 yards) as a junior. This came despite games in which he was targeted five times and had an opportunity to make a catch once.
Because his dad coached at Michigan his recruitment was extraordinarily brief and obvious save for the offers listed above, which we just covered. At Michigan he'll be a wide receiver unless he packs on a ton of weight and becomes a slight, but potentially dangerous, tight end. A side note on his potential usefulness: as a former high school TE and a gritty Gritstein of a player with excellent size and long arms, his ability to block on the edge could be a major asset in the ground/screen game.
"He brings a lot to a team," Huron coach Joel Przygodski said. "The most tangible aspect of his game can't be seen on film - he is so smart on the field. He's a very, very difficult player to game plan for. We just shake our heads at some of the things that young man has done."
Father son stuff gets weird:
When Jeremy emerged as one of Michigan’s top recruiting targets for 2010, Fred drew the role of lead recruiter. He wrote Jeremy a letter or two each week, as he did all of his prospects, explaining how much he wanted him and what Michigan had to offer. And he made regular trips to see Jeremy at Huron High School.
Other guy named Jeremy Jackson: David Hasselhoff's son on Baywatch, who put out a sex tape in 2008 and is now endorsing a product that prevents premature ejaculation, but only in Australia. AMBIGUOUS CLAUSE WOOT.
Why Greg Mathews or Tyrece Butler? Butler is probably the closer comparison since he was also around 6'4" and sticks in my memory as the Michigan WR most likely to get tagged with "lumbering," Listed at 6'3", 211, he was not a hyped recruit and ended up a bit player until his senior year, when he caught 21 passes as the #3 receiver. (Did he get injured or something? All of his passes were made in the first eight games; he registered nothing in the last five.)
Mathews, meanwhile, was considerably more hyped as a recruit—he squeaked into the tail end of the Rivals 100 on their last revamp his recruiting year—but turned out to be overrated because he couldn't really get separation from defensive backs. He did have some spectacular hands, though, and would have been a reliable underneath target if he'd had a non-freshman quarterback either of his upperclass years.
Guru Reliability: High. Yes, despite the spread between some on the rankings, when they all say the exact same things about a player there's no reason to expect anything different than the scouting reports.
General Excitement Level: The opposite kind of moderate that dropped on DJ Williamson. Williamson could be anything from Braylon/Mario III to Doug Dutch II; it seems obvious that Jackson will be a solid, unspectacular contributor who would ideally be the #2/#3 receiver on the team when he is an upperclassman.
Projection: Enrolled early and has a shot at playing time outside with the scant experience past the starters, but still likely to redshirt since it seems like Miller and Robinson are getting more early buzz. Probably won't see the field much until Stonum and Hemingway go; redshirt sophomore year is his first shot at playing time.
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DE Kenny Wilkins, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, WR Drew Dileo, and WR Jerald Robinson.
|Warren, OH - 6'1" 180|
|Scout||2*, #168 WR|
|Rivals||3*, #53 OH|
|ESPN||3*, 78, #54 WR|
|Other Suitors||"interest" from Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, other mid-level BCS schools|
|YMRMFSPA||Ted Ginn if Michigan rolls a double critical hit|
|Previously On MGoBlog||No commitment post? Sorry. MGoThread on his track exploits.|
|Notes||Harding has sent Prescott Burgess, Mario Manningham, and classmate Davion Rogers to M recently.|
If you are looking for information on Warren Harding wide receiver DeAver (or, more commonly, DJ) Williamson, the internet will readily tell you he is fast. Picking one of a dozen articles about this year's Ohio state track meet at random yields the following:
Warren Harding's DeAver Williamson might well have earned the title of fastest man at the meet. The senior repeated as state champion in the D-I 100 (10.64) and also won the 200 (21.46). He also ran legs on two Harding relays, which finished third in the 800 relay and sixth in the 400 relay.
One wonders what a kid has to do at a track meet for the uncertainty about whether he's the fastest guy there to evaporate. Not only did he win the events where being really fast is important, but his 10.64 100 would have been faster had he not gone Usain Bolt at the end of it:
Anyway, if you give DJ Williamson some lycra and maybe a baton and tell him to run in a straight line he's excellent at it. The internet shouts this on every Google results page.
When it comes to the other stuff with the helmets and the changing directions and possibly getting blasted by some other guy with a helmet, however, it's remarkably hard to find out anything. For example, Scout's got all of five articles and not even the cursory scouting report they give most players. I'm not saying that DJ Williamson's scholarship offer is part of a plot to graft his legs onto Michigan's other incoming wide receivers—to a man strapping, polished types recruiting sites say move like garbage trucks—but I'm not not saying it either. We have a Life Sciences Institute, after all.
If Williamson's recruitment was not a diabolical plot to create the planet's first GMO wideout, he's going to have to put in some work to see the field. He started off with a fair amount of hype, finding himself #10 on Ohio High's early 2008 top ten list for his class, but as you can see above that was by far the high water mark for his stock. He was the only recruit in this class to get just two stars from Scout; he checks in as a low three star (5.5) on Rivals and fails to make their list of the top 100 wide receivers nationally.
ESPN does like him a lot($), though, so they're obviously right about his potential. Their primary takeaway is not surprising:
Williamson's greatest asset is his top end speed. This kid can really go and stretch the field. He reaches top gear in a hurry and is capable of not only getting over the top of defenders, but also making that first stab after the catch and splitting the seam as a homerun threat. He is a slashing type runner, not a jitterbug. Wastes little time establishing his intentions. He has quality size and the frame to gain significant strength and bulk over time. … Stabs and cuts with precision and has big upside to become a dangerous route runner for the next level because of his speed and ability to create separation.
The only downside is a "lack of natural wiggle"; correspondingly they have him just outside the top 50 receivers nationally. That's not spectacular but it's a far cry from #168 or We Can't Be Bothered. Meanwhile, someone get Lemming a paper bag:
Here is another WR with All American potential. The brilliant speed and athletic ability has not yet translated to difference maker but that could happen as early as this fall.
He catches the ball away from his body, can turn up field quickly, and can create after the catch. Very fast, his hands have really improved over the past year and he certainly shows the athleticism to excel in the college ranks. His leaping ability and long arms allows him to get his hands on the ball before the defenders do.
That's about it as far as guru descriptions of his game go, and that latter is unreliable given Lemming's excitability. There is a Rivals piece from before his senior year says "speed will never be an issue" with him but that he's "still growing into a natural receiver," FWIW.
However, whenever there's a Warren Harding kid on the radar of D-I colleges Buckeye Planet gets frequent visits from Worm02, an established close observer of the school. I will make a brilliant deductive leap and hazard a guess that he graduated from WGH in 2002. Worm on Williamson's situation:
He hasn't been able to light up the stat sheet because Harding had an athlete at quarterback the last two years. His arm wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. Throw in scrambles, sacks, over/underthrows, etc., you have low production numbers. His film on Scouting Ohio is solid, but what you don't see is that in every game, even in Harding's big losses, Williamson got behind his defender the majority of the time. He's very difficulty to guard. Not as polished as Manningham, but he has a big upside.
[second post] D.J. has an awful lot of potential and yes, he does remind me of Manningham just a bit… D.J. has the tools to develop into a nice one, but at this stage in Manningham's career (5 years ago), not only did everybody in Ohio know who he was, but he already had the Ohio State's, Michigan's, & Florida's ready to offer him a scholarship.
… I'm not going to judge D.J. by what Mario accomplished, but I think that he (D.J.) can become an elite player sooner than later.
Worm does tend to look at the positives more than the negatives for Harding recruits so take it for what it's worth. One of the reasons Williamson's stock isn't high is that as a senior Harding picked up more of a pocket-passing quarterback and his production did not increase from the 36 catches and 376 yards as a junior.
He also brings up the obvious comparison when we're talking about a six-foot-ish lighting bolt of a receiver making the journey from Harding to Michigan: Mario Manningham. The YRMFSPA above goes for Ted Ginn instead of Manningham because Manningham was a brilliant technician of a receiver while Ginn, who was usually ranked as a corner and started out there at OSU, was and remains considerably rawer. Even so, Manningham is largely responsible for Williamson's instant commitment. Take it from the man himself:
He remembers vividly looking up to Manningham as a youth. “Growing up I wanted to be like him,” Williamson said. “But now since I’m there, I want to be better than him.”
In junior high, Williamson served as waterboy for the Harding football teams that Manningham starred on. “When they used to call timeout I used to always run to Mario first so he could grab my water,” Williamson said. “He was the star of the team. When he went to Michigan, that’s when I started watching college football a lot, and that’s when I really started liking football.”
Williamson's relationship with Manningham made Michigan his dream school, and not in the bastardized way people throw it around these days when they get friendly with a hostess on their official visit:
"I feel real good right now," Williamson said. "It's one thing to get your first offer, but this is a dream come true for me. I always wanted to go to Michigan, and now I'll have my chance."
“It came down to just always being a Michigan fan,” he added. “That’s what I always wanted to do… follow my dreams… follow my heart.”
At Michigan, Williamson will apparently start out as a slot receiver. That's what he told WTKA on Signing Day, anyway. That's a little odd to me since Michigan is well stocked there and Williamson is a 6'1" guy with blazing speed light on "wiggle," but his coach apparently thinks it's a fine idea($):
"He's a slasher. We used him a lot on bubble screens but he runs a 10.8 100-meter dash so he's some that we can use vertically too. He has great hands, is a good route runner and because he's a former tailback, he has outstanding vision and a real explosion once he gets the ball in his hands.
I really feel like he'll be a great matchup at the slot receiver position in Michigan's offense.That's the offense we're going to use this fall and we think he'll exploit linebackers and safeties that can't keep up with his speed."
Right: speed. Fast. Etc. DJ Williamson is fast.
Manningham, who currently plays for the New York Giants, plans to take full advantage of his role as Williamson's mentor. He didn't waste any time in doing so.
"I called D.J. shortly after he committed," Manningham said. "It feels good to know that I can have a positive effect on kids from my hometown, so I feel a responsibility to support them when they are doing good things. I'm very happy for D.J. and his family, and I'm going to make sure that I can give him any advice that I think that he needs in regards to Michigan."
Different side of a guy a lot of people didn't like much off the field. And game knows game:
The reigning 100-meter champ in the state of Ohio, D.J. Williamson couldn’t help but be impressed with Denard Robinson’s debut as a Michigan sprinter last week.
“He’s probably the fastest person I ever saw run,” Williamson said. … “He would beat me. I can’t even say he wouldn’t."
Why Ted Ginn? Ginn came in with epic recruiting hype, especially compared to Williamson, so a reminder about the nature of You May Remember Me From Such Players As is in order: this is just what sort of player we might expect if Williamson works out and not an attempt to equate the two.
Disclaimers done with, Ginn was a six-foot-ish track star who won state titles in the 100 and was a great college player mostly because he could run ridiculously fast in a straight line. His best high school mark was a 10.5, a tenth better than Williamson i he also spent the last ten meters doing elaborate shadow puppets. Williamson's 40 is also a tenth slower than Ginn's, but he's got a couple inches to the good.
Guru Reliability: Low. Major spread in the numbers, wide receiver with ugly quarterback situation, early commit who appears to have gone to zero-count-em-zero camps even as an underclassman.
General Excitement Level: Moderate? Has top-end savoriness but comes in with an impressive disconnect between his 40 time and his recruiting rankings that suggest Michigan either knows something others don't—or he couldn't be bothered to reciprocate interest because he wanted M so badly—or that Williamson is a serious project. Williamson will be an interesting referendum on Tony Dews.
Projection: If he's a slot, which I think is a weird spot for him to be, a holy lock to redshirt. Also pretty much a holy lock to redshirt if he ends up outside since there are three other freshmen who have been on campus since January. So: holy lock to redshirt. After that will start working in as an occasional deep threat as a freshman before the logjam clears for his redshirt sophomore season. At that point anything could happen.
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DE Kenny Wilkins, DT Terry Talbott, DT Richard Ash, C Christian Pace, and WR Drew Dileo.
|Canton, OH - 6'2" 185|
|Scout||4*, #40 WR|
|Rivals||3*, #48 WR|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #99 WR|
|Other Suitors||Committed too quick to have any, but Pittsburgh definitely and maybe Ohio State(?)|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post; Tom broke that commitment. Tim & Paul took in a Canton South game and came back with video, though Robinson didn't do anything in any of it.|
If you prefer your highlights with more METAL this is your best bet.
Jerald Robinson was another recruit who committed during Michigan's early flurry of wide receivers. He had been beaten to the punch by Ricardo Miller and Jeremy Jackson by the time he committed on February 9th. He, too, drew skepticism because of the lack of other offers but unlike Drew Dileo some encouraging early rankings and an impressive appearance at Michigan's summer camp muted those fairly quickly.
And that's about it as far as Robinson's recruiting story went. Saddled with a substandard quarterback, a team that graduated 20 starters, and a lingering injury, his senior season was statistically and visually unimpressive—when Tim and Paul went down to catch his season opener they came back with footage of one four-yard catch and a lot of disinterested ambling. Compounding his obscurity, he avoided the camp circuit:
''Jerald Robinson is an underrated player,'' said Steve Hare, a recruiting specialist for Rivals.com and the publisher of OhioVarsity.com. ''He committed early and didn't hit all the combines and camps like all the kids looking for scholarships. Michigan is certainly getting a steal.''
Robinson low profile saw him drop a bit in the rankings (he started out in the Rivals 250), and a lack of late drama like Terry Talbott's UNC flirtation leaves him a guy sort of off the radar screen.
That's not to say he lacks promise. ESPN's department of redundancy department take($) says he's "extremely athletic and fluid as an athlete" and talks up his skills:
Possesses a lean frame that should continue to fill out nicely and complement his big-catch ability in traffic. Robinson will attack the jump ball and plucks it effortlessly with his long arm extension, soft hands, timing and leaping skills. Shows good overall concentration in traffic and body control adjusting to the deep ball. He often comes down with the difficult receptions in a crowd. … Consistently gains proper body positioning on one-on-one matchups by shielding defenders and utilizing a subtle push off to create space. Snags the ball smoothly in stride, particularly on difficult over-the-shoulder grabs.
His main drawback is a lack of top-end speed; ESPN complains they "rarely see him run by defensive backs or separate in the open field." They call him "crafty," which is a superb backhanded compliment. The lack of speed sees ESPN chuck him well down their rankings. Meanwhile, Rivals and Scout are basically in agreement (and considerably more optimistic) despite the star difference; Robinson is the first three star in the Rivals WR rankings and one of the last four stars in Scout's.
ESPN's take, minus the downers about athleticism, is echoed all over the place. Here's an interesting take from Bobby Swigert, a fellow Ohio recruit who Michigan recruited for a while but eventually settled on Nebraska:
So this season, Robinson often has to fight through double and triple coverage, or outleap defenders to get the ball.
''He can jump, pretty much, over me,'' Swigert said. ''He almost picked off about five passes last year [on defense], so he has a great feel for the game and is just an awesome football player, and I have a lot of respect for him.''
This guy catches everything within reach and makes spectacular catches outside his frame. He runs precise routes, is a playmaker from the word go, shows good leaping ability, catches the ball at its highest point, and can create after the catch. … A very good all-around athlete, he may not have blazing speed but it is definitely workable speed, particularly when you throw in his great hands, concentration, and work ethic. He always snatches the ball out of the air instead of using his body to bring the ball in and is not afraid to go over the middle.
Meanwhile, his coach($) acknowledges that he might get caught from behind but when they chuck it 40 yards down the sideline he comes down with it "every time":
"He's such a natural at the receiver position," Daniska said. "He's got a basketball background – in fact I had to talk him into coming out for the team as a sophomore – and he can just leap out of the gym."
Robinson did hit the combine circuit as a sophomore, where he put himself on the map by making "incredibly acrobatic leaping catches" and catching "everything within reach." Soon after that Robinson found himself on Rivals's early watchlists, where he was declared "the most polished wide receiver" in the Ohio class of 2010. The usual praise for his hands and routes are offered. Devin Gardner's(!) assessment focuses on his ability to catch the ball: "when the ball’s in the air he attacks and doesn’t wait for it to get to him." Elsewhere, his coach praises his ability to "go up and fight for the ball." Some MGoSources who attended the Coaches' Clinic praised him as "rangy" and a guy who "knows how to get his body in position.
The evaluations here are all consistent, painting a picture of a guy like Marquise Walker or Junior Hemingway (if Hemingway could ever find himself on the field). He is a Leaping Twisting Jump Ball Guy; the level 60 version of Robinson is Larry Fitzgerald.
About that safety possibility: due to Robinson's widely quoted 4.59 40 (not even a little fake), the seven interceptions he had as a junior, his large frame, and the composition of Michigan's recruiting class people keep bringing it up. Lemming's breathlessness above continues by calling him a "potential All-American" at safety, and the opposing coach he victimized for three interceptions in a state playoff game reacted predictably in the aftermath:
"We throw the ball around pretty well, and I trust my quarterback completely, but in that first half, every time we threw to Robinson's side of the field we got burned," Ifft said. "At the half, I grabbed my quarterback and said, 'I know you've got pride on the line and so do I but we have to avoid this kid. You find No. 4 every time you drop back and you throw somewhere else.'
But he wants to play offense and when he showed at Michigan's camp most observers thought he was the most impressive kid($) around because of the hands and the leaping and you know by now. Afterwards, Michigan receivers coach Tony Dews told him he was playing offense($) "for sure." He's been on campus since January and has gotten more buzz than the other freshmen; with Michigan's two-deep at outside receiver guaranteed to have either a freshman or a slot playing slightly out of position Robinson's no farther from the field on offense than he is on defense. He's likely on offense to stay.
As far as offers go, Michigan was his first and his total disinterest in looking around…
"But I have no second thoughts. Coach Rodriguez said if I wasn't sure, I didn't have to decide now. He said there have been a lot of kids de-committing lately, and he didn't want me to make a commitment I wasn't ready to make. But I'm not that kind of person. I'm a Wolverine now and I'm going to be a Wolverine for the rest of my life."
…limits information about how college coaches regarded him. We do know that Pitt was after him…
"…the Pittsburgh coach called me after I told him I committed, he came to my school and I told him I committed. He told me that Michigan wasn’t the right place for me and that I could come there to get NFL ready."
…and there are a couple unverifiable claims out there about offers, including the Evil Empire. The article above in which Swigert talks about his ability to leap over high school kids in a single bound claims Robinson landed offers from "every Big Ten and Big East school," which latter okay believable, but the former? GBW's Signing Day capsule directly claims an OSU offer, and a couple of Robinson quotes suggest serious interest…
"Michigan offered me before Ohio State, and that showed me how much interest they had," Robinson told The Wolverine.com. "It's almost like Ohio State was waiting for something, and it's funny because I talked to my coach and he said the OSU coaches wanted to know if I was committing to Michigan because they were getting ready to offer."
…but I'm skeptical of an actual offer since there's an undercurrent of bitterness in his quotes. On the other hand, kid committed February 9th (and still managed to declare "Ohio State waited so long") so it's not like he was waiting for OSU with bated breath.
Why Marquise Walker? I've dragged Walker in previous years, as he's my default whenever there's a big leaping jump ball machine coming in, but this is a tight comparison. I mean…
Scouts for the professional football teams described Walker as a "Big physical receiver, who uses his size to muscle the ball away from defenders...Lacks explosive speed, but has exceptional body control and balance." In another scouting report he was described as a "Striding-type runner who is not quick or sudden. Dominates average defensive backs but has a hard time getting separation vs. a good corner."
…which are almost transcriptions of the above scouting reports for Robinson. Both are 6'2"; Robinson will probably exit Michigan around the 210 pounds Walker did.
There is a considerable difference in hype level, as Walker was part of the #1 overall Henson recruiting class and was rated the #2 receiver in the country—behind only future teammate David Terrell. His high school career numbers were ridiculous; Robinson's are meh. But if Robinson turns into a star player, he'll be a lot like Walker. One thing in Robinson's favor: Walker's hands weren't great after he took a hellacious shot from some safety or another, leading NFL teams to criticize his "double catching and body catching"; Robinson's evaluations make him out to be Avant on a pogo stick.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. They all say the same thing but Robinson was hidden in plain sight on Canton South, injured and saddled with a high school version of Sheridan and allergic to camps and combines after his sophomore year. The 4.59 commonly cited as his 40 is a two year old number; though the criticisms are being made on his tape
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Seems like the opposite of a boom-or-bust type. Very likely to be a reliable option as early as this year—either a freshman or a slot has to be on the two-deep—but a guy who will probably top out as a guy you'd really want to be your #2 receiver.
Projection: Plays this year, mostly on special teams, and racks up maybe 10 catches. Sees more action as a sophomore and has a good chance of starting in 2012 when Hemingway and Stonum move on.