“On the offense last year, they had great spacing. That’s what I remember. Great spacing, great shooters, like Nik Stauskas, who’s not there right now. But they always have someone to fill the roles. They have a cutting offense, kind of hard to guard.”
2011 recruiting profiles
Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark,
LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, and DE Chris Rock.
|Plymouth, MI - 6'4" 220|
|Scout||4*, #12 DE, #76 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #16 SDE(?), #5 MI, #201 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 79, #24 DE|
|Others||247: 4*, #11 OLB, #6 MI, #208 overall|
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, MSU, UCLA, NW|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim. FNL video as well.|
|Notes||Has a twitter.|
Brennen Beyer is a throwback to the Natural Way of Things in-state as established by Bo and Mo and Carr before the cliff Michigan recruiting went off. He's a universal four star from Michigan, he wanted to go to Michigan, he got the offer, committed, and never wavered. Bully for Beyer and the Natural Way.
All four recruiting services have him a four-star player and Scout had him in their top 100. It's easy to see why if you hit up the senior-year footage above, which features a lot of Beyer taking on and defeating blocks en route to making plays. That's a changeup from highlight reels that feature the star swooshing past confused linemen en route to killing some poor 5'10" sophomore. (See: Brown, Pharaoh and Ryan, Jake, not that there's anything wrong with killing sophomores.)
Beyer gets past people even when they try to do something about it:
Beyer overwhelms offensive linemen with his initial burst off the ball and his hands are so quick, it must appear to the linemen that there's simply a flurry of movement in his face. Beyer has a terrific frame and sometimes seems to be made of elastic as he's able to lay out and contort his body to get a ball carrier trying to elude him. Simply needs to add weight and continue to get stronger to be a dominant defender - Scott Kennedy, Scout.com
Tim reported back that Beyer has an odd build with a long torso, long arms, and short legs but didn't know what to make of that, good or bad.
The scouting reports think the bit about the arms is good, anyway. A coach quote:
“I saw him do a 330-pound power clean. For a high school kid? Wow! His arms are so long, too. He’s got really long arms and knows how to use them. But he’s just so strong.” …
“You can’t block him one on one as a defensive end,” Sawchuk said. “He had those sacks against Rockford, and that’s a well-coached team.”
Sawchuk returns to those arms in a freebie interview with Sam Webb:
Sam Webb: From a skill set standpoint; what does he do well, what are the strengths of his game?
Mike Sawchuk: “He has got a motor that does not quit. He just keeps on coming at you. He has got great arm length. He’s really worked on his explosiveness in the weight room with power cleans and the parallel squat and all the stuff we do in the weight room. Probably his greatest thing is his quickness and his motor.” …
people look at the way he uses his hands and gets separation and he’s got those long limbs and his motor and they just love it."
Beyer also draws praise for his lateral quickness and corner-turning first step. A report from the Michigan Elite camp($), which was the only one he attended:
There may not have been a more impressive prospect at the camp … Beyer's first step was unmatched and there was not an offensive lineman in the camp that could keep him from turning the corner. With 4.5 speed and tremendous lateral quickness, Beyer could be a standout at either DE or LB.
All this and he's an excellent student (3.9 GPA, pursuit by Northwestern and Stanford) and citizen. A bit more from Sawchuk and Webb:
Sam Webb: In your experience with Brennen (Beyer) as a player over the years, just what [do] you think of him as a player?
Mike Sawchuk: “Obviously since he’s been in our program he’s done nothing but work his tail off. He’s one of those kids that worked his tail off, not only on the football field and in the offseason and that, but in the classroom as well. He also works at being a great citizen, good character kid. He really has no weaknesses in my eyes.”
That's probably why he was the center of an "epic" M-ND battle that thankfully didn't turn out to be at all epic.
Downsides? There must be downsides since he's not rated higher. All right, yes, there is some disagreement about just how advanced Beyer's technique is. ESPN—the least enthusiastic of the services by a good distance—put out a report that's only middling($):
… He gets off the ball well. While he can tend to lose them at times for the most part he uses his hands well to take on blockers. He needs to watch his pad level, but flashes the ability to keep leverage and be tough at the point of attack. Displays the ability to shoot his hands and create some separation, bend at the knees, generate power from his lower body, and hold his ground. Does a good job of being able to stay square and work along the line of scrimmage. … He is a productive pass rusher. He will use his hands to punch and try and knock blockers out of their cylinder. Displays the ability to try and work to the shoulder and use a move to clear from the blocker.
That's a lot of "flashes," "can," and "displays." It's pretty positive overall but the implication is clear. TTB echoes:
Has a tendency to turn his shoulders, allowing blockers to get into his chest. He does not drive his feet when making contact with the ballcarrier; stronger runners will gain extra yards after contact. He needs to refine his pass rushing moves, because he uses virtually no technique aside from his speed. Beyer rarely uses his strength to overpower blockers or deliver a strong initial blow.
Don't let me take Magnus out of context here—that's just one part of the "weaknesses" section in a scouting report that praises his hands, agility, and dedication ("the definition of a high-motor player") before making the inevitable comparison to Roh. It's just that we're in the weaknesses bit of the profile.
There's also the usual bit about how high school player Brennen Beyer is in high school, which is not college, and if Brennen Beyer would like to play in college he should become college-sized. Everyone (ESPN, coach, TTB, Scout) says this shouldn't be a problem since he, like Chris Rock, has giant meaty bones on which to hang sheets of muscle.
So let's and then see what happens in two years. Hopefully something that sounds disgustingly like celery when we watch the replays of it twenty times.
LANSING -- The cheers and screaming fell silent in a matter of seconds for the Rockford football team and its fans.
Tears of joy quickly became tears of sorrow. A return trip to Ford Field and a chance at another Division 1 state championship was denied when Plymouth senior end Brennen Beyer made a game-winning touchdown catch with two Ram defenders in tight coverage in the back corner of the end zone with 4.5 seconds remaining. …
"(Beyer) is a great kid, and he just keeps playing," Plymouth coach Mike Sawchuk said. "As a coach, obviously, you have doubt (when they score that touchdown with just over a minute to play), but these kids never quit."
registered 65 tackles and 12 sacks at defensive end as a senior year... caught 31 passes for 10 TDs as a senior ... compiled 45 tackles, nine tackles for loss and nine sacks during his junior season ...
Teammate and future ND (boo) K Kyle Brindiza on Beyer:
The skills he possesses are crazy," Brindza said of Beyer. "On defense, he comes off the ball so well and he's super-fast, so he's able to get to the quarterback quickly. On offense, he's a big, fast target with great hands. He can outjump a lot of defensive backs, which makes him hard to stop."
Why Craig Roh? Again, take it from the horse's mouth:
"He said they could see me playing a defensive end-linebacker hybrid position like Craig Roh's playing now for them. It's been exciting."
That was the Rodriguez crew, but there's no indication Hoke and company think any different. (Except for that linebacker business. Screw that in the ear.) They're recruiting Craig Roh WDE types in Mario Ojemudia and Pharoah Brown, so that spot will exist.
Roh, meanwhile, was a too-light 6'5"-ish pass rusher who high school offensive tackles thought had super powers. He had a bigger profile thanks to a standout performance at the UA game [Ed-M: and a bit more technical praise -- see: "crab people" meme)], but in all other ways Beyer is Roh-like.
Guru Reliability: Not quite high. Would have been nice to see Beyer go up against elite folk at an all-star game, as those are often illuminating when it comes to the best of the best. As it is there's a not-insignificant spread in his rankings from all-conference sort to good starter.
General Excitement Level: High. Near universal acclaim, impeccable academics, effort level widely praised, high level of athleticism, and good size. If there are any red flags for Beyer they are hard to make out. He'll need some time to get big, I guess.
Projection: Weakside DE is one spot where Michigan is fairly well stocked. Roh and Jibreel Black (and maybe Brandon Herron?) make for an enticing rotation, one that hopefully allows Beyer to redshirt. If Ryan Van Bergen's graduation forces Black to flip to the strongside—and it probably will since the other options are Rock, Heitzman, or a true freshman—Beyer will see plenty of time spelling Roh as a redshirt freshman in 2012. The starting spot will be his to lose in 2013.
|Columbus, OH - 6'5" 250|
|Scout||3*, #70 DE|
|Rivals||3*, #50 SDE, #38 OH|
|ESPN||3*, 78, #34 DE|
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Nebraska, MSU, Illinois, Pitt, Cincinnati|
|YMRMFSPA||A poor man's Ryan Van Bergen|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim. He caught Rock's game against OLSM.|
|Notes||Columbus DeSales (Patrick Omameh).|
When Chris Rock's parents named their baby boy they could not anticipate the electric success of another guy named Chris Rock or the tortured googling that bloggers would be forced into as a result. Blogs didn't exist and the other Chris Rock was probably ten. But here we are.
The other Chris Rock, the one who committed to Michigan last May, is a DE/DT whose impressive size and strength saw him named the #4 player in Ohio in January of 2010 by Bucknuts, likely off a huge game in the state semi where he had three sacks. Before that Duane Long ranked him #4 as well, in front of uber-LB Trey DePriest. One of the "most heavily recruited players in the state," he picked up a Notre Dame offer and ended up on ESPN's top 150 watchlist; when he committed to Michigan he was consensus four-star.
Unfortunately, since then his star has been on the wane. Notre Dame's offer went yoink after they pulled in their epic DE class and each rankings revision seemed to knock Rock down a few more pegs until he ended up the consensus meh three star you see above. People started knocking the strength that was an early asset. In his senior year he "struggled to make an impact" as teams went away from him. While that's understandable, a high level D-I prospect should be a terror against D-III high school kids.
The drop came because he just didn't play very well. When Tim caught a DeSales game he came back with a blunt assessment:
I was not impressed with Rock's play. It's possible he was just having a bad night, but there have been reports from this entire season that suggest Rock is "just a guy" out there. Though St. Mary's gameplanned a bit to keep him out of the game (running away from him, double-teaming him, etc.), that's not the only reason he wasn't a factor.
He was routinely stoned by St. Mary's tackle #72, and it's not like that guy's going to go on to play Division-1 football. For being the biggest (not fattest) guy out there, Rock's strength seemed to be seriously lacking, and his movement skills left something to be desired.
Touch The Banner was similarly unenthused:
To be honest, I'm not enamored with Rock. A large part of that is due to the fact that his highlight film is full of offensive linemen completely forgetting to block him. I find it difficult to get excited about a player who accrues a bunch of sacks while barreling unimpeded into the offensive backfield.
… My biggest issue with Rock is that he stands straight up on the snap. He's able to push around weaker players when playing so high, but if he tried to push around a 310 lb. Big Ten tackle like that, Rock would get tossed around like a rag doll. He doesn't use his hands well to shed blocks, and he also finds himself losing contain a little too frequently. He has decent speed for a 250-pounder, so he can make up for his poor fundamentals at times. But some of his habits are less than ideal.
… He could be a decent college starter, but he doesn't have the instincts or athleticism to be an elite player for Michigan.
TTB suggests a move to three-tech is in the offing, something that's echoed by Scout's strengths and weaknesses:
Body Control and Balance
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Rock had another fine season at DeSales. He plays defensive end and tight end currently, but could possibly be a defensive tackle at the next level. Needs to continue to add strength, but has good size and plays with intensity.
While ESPN is a little more enthusiastic than the other two scouting services, they echo many of TTB's criticisms($). They're a bit less straightforward about it: Rock "can be active with his hands," "needs to watch his pad level," "needs to develop his pass rush arsenal," and "can seem a little rigid in his overall movement." His main asset is "very good" size and a frame that will allow him to pack on the pounds; they also mention the possibility he will end up at defensive tackle.
So there's that. On the good side of the ledger we have frame and size and size and frame, plus intelligence—he might actually execute his plan to major in business and Northwestern and Stanford were also after him—and coachability. One of the guys who worked the OSU Nike camp last year interacted with him and posted about it on Buckeye Planet:
Just worked with the kid this weekend at the Nike Camp, wonderful kid, very coachable, had good dialect with him, had a good concept of how to set up the offensive linemen, and had good hands.
And when Rivals talked to his coach they got a lot of frame stuff($):
"First of all, he's big - he's got a big frame and a long body … He's very athletic for his size. He's a tough kid. He's made a lot of plays. He's led our team in sacks for two years, so he does a nice job of rushing the passer. I think when you get a kid with that size that has that kind of athletic ability and quickness, with even more potential to grow, they become pretty attractive."
"He's pretty athletic, and you're talking about a kid that wears a size 17 shoe, so there's a lot of potential for even more growth," said the DeSales head coach. "I've only seen him at D-end, but I've heard others speculate he could play elsewhere. Depending on how much weight they can put on him, I think he could play on the interior as well."
The consensus: Rock is a smart but weak guy who's an iffy athlete… with giant meaty bones you can hang a lot of muscle on. Sometimes these things work out:
left: high school Will Johnson.
right: terrifying bald fifth-year-senior and good starter Will Johnson
That frame and his early potential netted him a total of 25 BCS offers, including Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. His senior year was a step back but the frame had lots of people thinking they could build Rock into something. Michigan's got three DL coaches, by the way.
If they can slap a redshirt on Rock that would be great, and if they've really moved Kenny Wilkins inside he'll probably be better than Rock as a freshman—he's a guy you'd like to see take a fifth year.
Etc.: 15 sacks and 10 PBUs as a sophomore. First job was at Abercrombie & Fitch. Also he bites his nails. This week in groan-worthy recruiting site headlines($): "Bearcats hope to roll with Chris Rock." Shot of him getting told to get that weak stuff out of here. If you can get this to work, here's a video of Rock tipping and intercepting a pass to clinch a tight game.
Rock on the other Rock:
"Ever since I was little kid, ever since Chris Rock became famous as a comedian," Rock said. "My mom always says I was named before he was famous."
But the question remains: Is Rock humorous?
"Sometimes I can be," he said. "I like to lighten the mood."
Rock on his decision:
“When I think about it and just think about what Michigan has to offer, really they were the only school that offered me that had the total package,” Rock explained. “It has the academic side, the athletic side, and the biggest stadium in the country. I liked the campus a lot when I visited there. I liked the teammates. I know Patrick Omameh. He went to my high school and he is a good kid. If he likes it there I knew I would like it there too. It was really everything.”
Why a poor man's Ryan Van Bergen? For one, that's what the coaching staff told him:
U-M is expected to use Rock in much the same way they use defensive end Ryan VanBergen. During his visit to U-M in March, the coaching staff told Rock they felt he brought similar strengths to the defense as VanBergen.
Van Bergen, like Rock, is a 6'5" SDE/three-tech tweener with decent pass rush skills who doesn't appear to excel at any one thing. Van Bergen was a consensus four star a lot closer to his ceiling upon entering college, though. Rock's contributions seem considerably farther off—or at least they would if Michigan had anything other than panic behind the starters at DT.
Guru Reliability: High. DeSales pumps out D-I players every year and Rock played every game of his career. If the flu excuse is legit he could be more like the player he was hyped up to be in the immediate aftermath of his junior season, but he's probably well pegged.
General Excitement Level: Okay. Seems like a good program kid who will scrape the ceiling of his potential in three or even four years. His potential isn't off the charts, but if Wisconsin and Nebraska were interested I'll take my chances.
Projection: The apparent lack of explosion probably takes DE off the table, so expect Rock to start off at three-tech DT. Without Terry Talbott he may be forced into action early, which he probably won't do well with. He could develop into one of those slightly-above-average pluggers that littered Michigan lines in the mid-aughts; there is a possibility his giant meaty bones eventually allow him to be a bit more.
|Hilliard, OH - 6'3" 240|
|Scout||3*, #63 TE|
|Rivals||3*, 5.5, NR SDE|
|ESPN||3*, 75, #157 DE|
|Others||247: 3*, 83, NR|
|Other Suitors||Vandy, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim|
Keith Heitzman is probably the only player in the history of either program to decommit from Vanderbilt in favor of Michigan, so even if he gets buried on the depth chart and emerges from his eligibility totally anonymous but well-educated he'll always have a special place in the hearts of recruitniks everywhere.
Can he be more than an answer on Extreme Sports Nerd Jeopardy? Well… probably not. Disclaimers about star rankings and Jerry Rice apply, but the odds are the odds even if the occasional player beats them. The odds are stacked against Heitzman.
Scouting reports and rankings make this clear. ESPN($) breaks out "adequate" like a seriously depressed Lloyd Carr:
He gets off the ball well. He can be a physical kid at the point of attack, but needs to be more consistent especially with his hands. He displays the ability to maintain some leverage and hold his ground. Will flash the ability to shoot his hands and create separation, but needs to be more active with his hands and use them to not only protect his legs…. Displays adequate speed in pursuit and needs to be sure to utilize good angles and also secure when tackling. Does an adequate job of taking on pulling lineman. Needs to keep working on his recognition skills…. Needs to be more active with his weapons, develop his pass rush arsenal, and not attack the whole man. Heitzman is a solid defender who will flash some tools to be tough versus the run and pass.
This is the same scouting service that said Isaiah Bell stands for BIG PLAYMAKER, or something. They really loved them some Isaiah Bell. Here they very politely say "MAC." Touch the Banner is in the same boat:
Heitzman has some physical skills, including a willingness to hit and some pretty quick feet. But his footwork as a blocker and a defensive end are suspect. He gets by on having superior athleticism and size, but those advantages will disappear somewhat at the next level.
… Defensively, Michigan has a fair number of options at end, all of whom have superior size and equal athleticism. Even if the Wolverines suffer an injury or two at DE, Heitzman should rest easily on the sideline for a year or two.
Even the normally fawning coach quotes are muted:
“Keith is a special kid,” he said. “Obviously, I’m a little biased, but he’s got terrific durability. He’s started every one of those (41) games. He’s never missed a game. I don’t recall him ever missing a practice.”
That is a good attribute to have, but when you read everything every high school coach says about his Michigan-bound players ("turns offensive linemen into tacos… the most delicious tacos you've ever had!"), "he was there" falls a little flat.
Scout is slightly more encouraging:
An excellent athlete, Heitzman lines up full time at defensive end and part time at tight end. He gets a nice jump off the line and has quick hands. He needs to get bigger and stronger in the weight room if he's going to play either tight end or defensive end on the next level. He's a good run after the catch player because of his athleticism and does a good job with a speed rush at end.
Offers and ratings concur; Heitzman is just hanging on to his third stars at every site. His other offers were the dregs of the Big Ten and SEC. Late involvement from Illinois, a team that recruits decently and has actually seen a bowl game in the last decade, is encouraging in context.
HOWEVA, our most recent data points are encouraging ones. He was unanimously voted his district's defensive player of the year:
Lineman, KEITH HEITZMAN (Hilliard Davidson) 6-4, 250, sr. A unanimous choice as the Central District Division I Defensive Player of the Year, Heitzman used his brute strength and athleticism to overwhelm opponents. He also was one of Davidson's top blockers at tight end. "He was a game-changer on both sides of the ball," White said.
Then Heitzman was a standout on the Ohio Big 33 team that laid waste to Pennsylvania:
While Teague, Ohio's Mr. Football, was grabbing the attention on one side of the ball, it was Hilliard Davidson grad and University of Michigan-bound defensive end Keith Heitzman that set the tone for the Ohio defense.
His combination of quickness and power was too much for Pennsylvania, as he spent most of the game in the opposing backfield.
The other starters on the Ohio line were OSU commit Steve Miller and a pair of guys headed to Michigan State, FWIW. Heitzman collected a sack or two sacks or an interception or maybe all of the above; he definitely forced an interception on Pennsylvania's first drive of the day. He even finished the Ohio scoring with a one-yard TD run.
His performance($) defied the expectations set above:
He’s been consistent, giving great effort on every snap of the ball. When talking with Ohio coaches about Heitzman they mention the word “motor”. It’s his motor that has caused him to be so disruptive coming off the edge although he’s also done some damage working inside out. He uses his hands well, and has surprising strength at the point attack.
That's from Michigan's Scout site and is probably biased, but local observers were also impressed. As a bonus, Heitzman claimed to be up to 250 pounds at the event.
That's hopeful in the same way Greg Brown's strong spring performance was. It gives a prospect most people had written off as a backup or special teamer some new life. Heitzman's new upside seems to be an avearge-ish starter, but here's hoping we read one of those articles about "shutting up the critics (and by critics, we mean people who think critically)" in a few years' time.
Etc.: Davidson beat Glenville for the state championship in 2009. Enjoying his new status as a hater:
“I grew up an Ohio State fan, but I wasn't a die hard or anything, but I’m gladly hating them right now. It’s been mainly joking around. Everyone is pretty proud, and it’s just that it’s going to a big time school and things like that.”
Heitzman's coach on his recruitment:
"Coach Rodriguez had begun recruiting Keith in late December, about a week or two before he got fired," Davidson coach Brian White said. "He left behind all the phone numbers of the players he was looking at. Coach Hoke, who I have known for a long time, got back with me as a courtesy, and I encouraged him to keep Keith on his list and sent along some film."
Eventually, the combination of Michigan's football and academics won over Heitzman and his mother, both of whom, according to White, "were gung-ho about Vanderbilt and the prestige of education there."
Why Jake Frysinger? Heitzman's reasonable long term upside is as a rotation SDE or three-tech who gives the starters a blow and contributes here and there by not getting run over. Frysinger, who appeared in 44 games while starting two, is the quintessential Michigan rotation DE. He may have been a bit taller and was definitely a bigger recruit, FWIW.
Guru Reliability: High. Healthy player at a high profile school; recruiting services are in agreement.
General Excitement Level: Meh. Would be "low" but the flicker of hope provided by the Big 33 performance raises it a bit.
Projection: Obvious redshirt and unlikely to work his way past the competition in the race to replace Ryan Van Bergen next year. May emerge into a depth defender in a few years.
|Houston, TX - 6'1" 210|
|Scout||4*, #12 MLB|
|Rivals||3*, #29 ILB, #69 TX|
|ESPN||3*, 79, #35 OLB|
|Other Suitors||Arkansas, Texas A&M, Stanford|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim. Tom interviews him and gets some commit quotes. User tomcat sits next to him on a plane and is impressed.|
|Notes||Also a small white dude drafted by the Oilers.|
Those are senior highlights; there is also a junior reel.
Occasionally, Spartan taunting will cause the message board to recycle a discussion about whether non-alum Michigan fans are real Michigan fans and how the core, I-know-what-Great-Books-is folk should react to them. Kellen Jones's dad Sean is the answer to this question.
The elder Jones grew up wanting to play for Michigan but didn't end up a D-I prospect, but a decade or two after his playing career at Morehead State ended, his influence saw a kid from Houston want nothing more than to don a winged helmet:
Q: How did you end up at Michigan?
A: It was a dream offer from the get-go. My dad’s dream was to go there, and he passed it on to me. It’s Michigan — Big House football. It’s a great academic school with history and tradition, the winningest program in college football, so it’s an all-purpose fit.
Q: So you’re going to be living your dad’s dream. How thrilled is he?
(Dad Sean Jones played at Morehouse College, Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater.)
A: He’s so excited. I think he might be more excited than I am. He sings Hail to the Victors. He’s looking up the videos and all types of stuff.
The answer: come one and all, especially if you are a large and mean.
The Jones family's Michigan fandom saw Kellen select Michigan over a wide array of mid-level BCS offers of which Arkansas, Texas A&M, Stanford, and Missouri were the most impressive. Jones made a little bit of noise about opening his recruitment back up when Rodriguez was fired but a couple of phone calls from Hoke and Mattison and he was solid again.
As a result, Michigan has a slashing blitzer on the three/four star borderline who is badly needed. Like Morgan, scouting reports focus on his intelligence. Unlike Morgan, they also praise explosive athleticism. (Morgan's edge is two inches and twenty pounds.)
The best parts of Jones' game are his intelligence and instincts. He has a knack for finding the ball even if he has to wade through the trash. Furthermore, as a high school middle linebacker, he has experience playing the position, which ought to enhance the speed with which he picks up the college game. Once he finds the ball, he's a solid tackler who could be a devastating hitter once he puts on the necessary weight and refines some tackling technique issues.
His highlight film above helps confirm. It features a large number of plays on which Jones has to pick through trash or defeat blocks to get to the ballcarrier. This may be because of its extensive length—a lot of shorter videos leave out scraping plays because they don't often result in HERE COMES THE BOOM—but it may also be because a lot of high school linebackers don't do that kind of thing very often.
That's not to say he doesn't bring the boom:
“He’s just a violent football player. He’s going to leave his mark when he makes contact with you,” Kimball said of Jones …
[Kimball] describes a play not on the highlight film: “…the guy’s momentum stopped going forward instantly. It was amazing that they were both conscious after that hit,” Kimball said. “I don’t know how both of them got up and walked off the field. It was one of those types of collisions that looked like two diesel trucks running into each other.
“Poor running back, he didn’t see it coming, barely.”
“I love to hit, I love to hit,” Jones said laughing. “When the season starts everyone is excited. You hear the fans, the crowd and I love to make contact and knock somebody into the dirt.”
“As a linebacker, I’m very instinctive,” said Jones, who has a 3.4 grade-point average and plans to major in mathematics and engineering. “I’m very good on the blitz. I’m aggressive to the ball and I’m a great pass rusher. I’m very passionate about the game.”
Did you have a tingle thinking about a linebacker who understands what a tangent is? I did. This is a signal you have Asperger's disease even if it doesn't exist anymore.
… excellent athlete … Has the size for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. We like this guy's flexibility, balance and agility; does a good job with K&D run recognition skills however his strength is the ability to avoid contact and beat blockers to the point of attack with quickness. Moves through traffic very well with good change of direction ability; is able to keep leverage on the ball and is seldom out of position. Flashes downhill ability vs. the inside run but not the big tough inside linebacker type who consistently stacks at the point. … capable of creating havoc in the backfield against the run and pass. Is productive blitzing up the middle or off the edge; shows good timing with quite a few sacks and hurries. … The intense motor this player brings to the field results in big momentum changing plays.
Scout more than echoes the section on his effectiveness as a blitzer:
Amazing on the blitz, he is as instinctual as you can find. He has a feel for getting through blocking and getting in to attack the quarterback, also good at blocking kicks. His size is okay but it is not above average. Good speed he uses it to his advantage on blitzes and coverage. Does a great job of working through blocks.
All things being equal, Jones might be destined for MLB. Things are not equal, though. Michigan has two more years of Kenny Demens in the middle, a potentially solid backup in Marell Evans, and fellow freshman Desmond Morgan. On the weakside there's just Mike Jones and Antonio Poole. While Poole is about the same level of recruit Jones is he's probably 15-20 pounds lighter. Jones could—probably should—be on the two-deep at WLB the day he steps on campus. His long term future could be in the middle, but until Demens departs he's needed on the outside. His coach echoes($) that evaluation:
"I don't think he is going to be there yet to play inside linebacker as an incoming freshman - that's a pretty tall task for any freshman - but at outside linebacker I think he has the ability to come in and play pretty soon," Kimball said. "On the perimeter I think he can make a pretty good impact with what they are doing out there, and over time, as he develops the college bulk to him, I think he can progress into the middle."
That versatility will make it easy for Jones to be on the field early and often even if Brady Hoke is dead set on filling a four-deep at LB.
Etc.: Hanging out with Ray Lewis. Hanging out with… um… Rich Rodriguez. Watch him sign a piece of paper. Played in that "USA vs the World" game. Player of the Week feature from the local Fox affiliate. Extensive interview with The Victors Voice.
One more fawning coach quote($) for the road:
"I don't see how he could be close to maxed out, not because of his physical abilities, but because of his work ethic," Kimball said. "He's almost a straight A student and the strongest guy on the team, but he puts those types of standards on himself... he's really focused for a young man. He does not do anything half throttle, whether that is in the classroom, the weight room or on the practice field. He has a relentless pursuit of perfection."
Aw, hell, here's another:
“We’ve got some great coaches here, but it’s (Jones’) aggressiveness that’s really made him the player he is,” Kimball said. “We spend actually more time at practice telling him to chalk it back a little bit. … We had to tell him, ‘Hey, man, look, we’re just trying to get a look here, you’re running scout team defense of whatever can you maybe give us a better look, because we’re not going to face a guy like you the whole season.’”
Why Larry Foote? Foote was a slightly undersized linebacker (6-0.5, 240-ish as a senior at Michigan) with good athleticism who could get to the sideline and was at his best when sent on the blitz. He bounced between MLB and WLB; as a senior he annihilated all comers with 23.5 TFLs.
Here's an old scouting report($) from Scout leading up to his NFL draft year:
THE GOOD: Quick, athletic linebacker that flies around the football. Explosive first step moving to action, scrapes well laterally and pursues the ball carrier with speed. Effectively redirects to the ball carrier, displays a quick and fluid change of direction and shows excellent range in pass coverage. Gets depth on his drops, adequate footwork covering backs or tight ends off the line of scrimmage and can play in space. Works hard, plays with reckless abandon and goes sideline to sideline for 60 minutes.
THE BAD: Small, slow shedding blocks or rather easily moved out of his angle of attack. Lacks body control and may not have the flat out speed to be considered at strong safety.
Jones seems to have all of the good bits above and sheds better than Foote—at least against high school competition.
Guru Reliability: Fairly high. Spread in rankings is pretty large, but was healthy at a big school in Houston. Scouting reports are consistent; differences in opinion appear to be due to varying opinion on how well he'll be able to overcome a lack of size.
General Excitement Level: Slightly under high. Size is a limitation, though it shouldn't be a huge one if he doesn't end up in the middle. The experience, athleticism, intelligence, and desire to plant his face into your pancreas at speed all appear to be there.
Projection: Moved to WLB in his first week on campus and probably on the two-deep against Western. No reason to redshirt him with the linebacker flood behind him and Michigan will need him unless Mike Jones is unreasonably good for a meh recruit who missed last year with an injury. Will probably spend the first half of the season spotting Jones—remember that Thomas Gordon will see significant rotation as the nickelback—and then it's 50-50 he takes over the starting job a la Demens.
Long term I think he sticks at WLB since he'll be established there and some combo of Morgan/Bolden/RJS/Ross will turn into a productive middle linebacker. A potential four-year starter.
|Cleveland, OH - 6'2" 210|
|Scout||3*, #33 TE|
|Rivals||3*, 5.6, #52 OH, NR OLB|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #83 DE|
|Others||247: 3*, 83, NR|
|Other Suitors||Michigan State, Penn State, North Carolina, Cal|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim.|
|Notes||Cleveland Glenville (Pierre Woods)|
Miraculously, a D-I football prospect managed to get through his recruiting year without accumulating embeddable video—or even unembeddable video. Here's this instead:
Michigan has had no luck at all at Glenville High School, the magnet school coached by Ted Ginn Sr., since Pierre Woods finished his Michigan career rotting on the bench behind nonentities (except for that Iowa game he saved because Woodley was out). Whether that was a convenient excuse or real grudge held will never be known, but no Glenville kid has signed a Michigan LOI since Woods did.
That streak ended in February when Glenville LB/TE Frank Clark put pen to paper for Brady Hoke. Clark didn't have an Ohio State offer, but he had a significant number of other Big Ten options. Anything other than the MAC has been good enough for Glenville kids to spurn Michigan since Woods, so snagging Clark has a bit more significance than your average generic three-star might. At least it does off the field.
On the field, no one can figure out where he's going to play. As you can see above, the three main recruiting sites all list him at different positions—linebacker, TE, and DE. This Bill Kurelic post on his commitment says he'll be a "hybrid linebacker/safety"; safety is where he worked out at the Big 33 game before the coaches there asked Michigan for help finding a place for this guy…
Frank Clark SS/LB Glenville HS
… In the two live practices Clark participated in, he really got after it, wreaking havoc in every way possible. After working out at safety for awhile, the Ohio coaches made a phone call to Michigan to see where Clark fits best. Because of his size/speed combo, expect to see him roaming the field as a defensive end and line linebacker.
…which is a weird group of people to ask because they dunno…
Clark could play on either side of the football for the Wolverines, and was recruited as a linebacker, tight end or wide receiver.
"I'm not sure what position I will play, to be honest," he stated. "I will play wherever they want me to, and a couple different coaches have told me they want me in their position group. I'm just so happy to have this opportunity with Michigan, and my position doesn't matter to me."
…and you'll notice that with the addition of wide receiver we've reached five different positions Frank Clark almost but does not quite fit in.
Let's beat this into the ground. Rivals($):
Defensively he's a bit of a tweener between defensive end and linebacker, and he looks like he may be a bit bulky and stiff for wide receiver. -B.S.
He is a bit of a defensive end / outside linebacker 'tweener at this point and has a some experience at both spots … There is some possibility that Clark could be looked at as a tight end.
To be honest, I can't really project Clark anywhere.
So he's Epic Tweener. But he did have a decently impressive selection of offers before settling on Michigan. What do people see in him? Athleticism, mostly:
Clark has a great football body. He looks bigger than his listed 6-2 and he is well-built. He has a lot of versatility and though he looks like his best position may be on defense, he actually wants to play wide receiver and is getting recruited as such. Defensively, Clark showed a really good motor, strength at the point of attack, and strong hands and instincts.
“He said he watched five seconds of my highlights and was blown away,” Clark said. “He said I’m just a pure athlete and he is waiting for me to get to Michigan and see what it’s all about.”
“Frank, in a lot of ways Frank, and I don’t want to put this pressure on him, reminds me of Pierre (Woods),” Hoke said. “If you look at (Clark’s) length and the way he runs, he’s going to be a big ol’ guy for us as a football player and a destructive guy.”
Folks other than Hoke are a little less enthused. TTB bluntly states that while he is a decent athlete he's "about as raw and can be," getting his shoulders turned regularly and failing to wrap up. ESPN's often lurid scouting reports are reserved when they come to Clark:
He needs to add bulk, but looks to have good length and a nice reach and a frame to develop and add more size to. He displays good explosiveness. He looks to need to become more comfortable at using his hands, but he can be active with them when taking on blockers. He displays the ability to be able to play with good pad level and leverage. … He will attack half-a-man and while he needs to develop his pass rush arsenal he can be active with his weapons and can turn the corner well to get to the quarterback.
This reads like "we have seen him do these things occasionally, but not consistently" and stands in marked contrast to their evaluations of guys like Desmond Morgan. FWIW, they believe his length and frame will lead him to defensive end.
On the other hand, when Allen Trieu and Bill Greene caught him at the Michigan they both evaluated him as a WR/TE($), and pretty well. Trieu:
He's a big bodied kid who has a good sense of how to create separation. He's going up against speedy cover corners and he's still able to get open because he runs great routes. When the ball's in the air, it's his. He goes up and positions himself well. To me, the only drawback with him right now is that he's a tweener, but I think he'll grow into a pass catching tight end. I'd like to see how he blocks in the future.
…which implies that how he blocks now is "not entirely unlike Carson Butler."
It's inescapable: Frank Clark is a project. Whether he ends up at LB, DE, or even TE is unknown, and the possibility he plays Anton Hood's favorite position—guy who plays a lot of special teams—is strong. He needs to add weight, find a position, learn that position, and keep his athleticism if he's going to become a starter. That's a long road to productivity.
Etc.: Biggest fear is "not being able to provide for his family," which is… definitely not a white whine. Say it is "unfortunate" OSU didn't offer him. Scout commit article. MLive commit article. The Asheville Citizen-Times interviews him. Clark does win high school high jump competitions, so he's got that going for him.
Awesome sequence of articles from Rivals:
Glenville LB close to being a Spartan? (money quote: "As many Spartan fans know, head coach Mark Dantonio does not push or pressure kids to make a commitment on their official visit.")
Save that face, yo.
Why Larry Stevens? Stevens was a high school safety/linebacker/touchdown machine who ended up moving to defensive end at Michigan. While he was a mainstay for the defense during his time, he was a very boring mainstay: in 44 games he managed 12 sacks. Stevens's touted athleticism took a hit as he bulked up his 6'2" frame to 240 pounds to play on the line; he never developed the technique to excel. The end result was the most definitively average defensive end in the last decade of Michigan football.
Like Stevens, Clark is a man without a position who will be a big LB or small DE. Stevens was considerably more hyped, FWIW, and Clark will probably take a longer time to see the field.
Guru Reliability: High-ish. Everyone says the same thing and Glenville is amongst the most heavily scouted schools in the country. The positional confusion does obfuscate things somewhat, but everyone says "project," so he's a project.
General Excitement Level: Meh. Without a position, electric athleticism, or much in the way of technique, Clark is just a big, moderately fast dude to put in the S&C program.
Projection: I'm guessing Clark is initially slotted at SLB since there are two MLBs, at least two WDEs, and a WLB in his class. There he's got a long wait behind redshirt sophomore Cam Gordon and redshirt freshman Jake Ryan, which is just as well because tweener without technique etc. It's possible he ends up putting his hand down and joins burgeoning numbers at WDE; either way expect a redshirt and at least one more year of special teams duty before he might see the field.
|Ottawa, MI - 6'1" 225|
|Scout||3*, #42 MLB|
|Rivals||3*, #25 MI|
|ESPN||3*, 78, #24 MLB|
|Others||247: 3*, 83, NR|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Tom interviews him. Commitment post from Tim.|
|Notes||If he tells you you should claim $10.5 M US dollars, don't do it. OMG shirtless.|
Preseason interview featuring HALFSHIRT in which he kicks the crap out of practice equipment. He was interviewed after the local All-Star game by some guy who didn't know he had a scholarship and didn't thonk him on the head.
Desmond Morgan joins the legion of Michigan defensive players who were high school quarterbacks. When Pharaoh Brown arrives next year Michigan will have former QBs at DE (Brown), LB (Morgan), and DB (Courtney Avery). Missing on "Big Tex" Beachum is the only thing between Michigan and a full set of QB-on-D-Pokemon.
As a result, Morgan's highlights are a little weird, alternating thumping tackles from a linebacker with thumping stiffarms from a linebacker who happens to be taking snaps from center. They're weird, but not exactly bad—while taking highlight video at face value is silly, man does Morgan light some dudes up. When Desmond Morgan impacts a high school football player that player suddenly starts going in the same direction Morgan is.
“I don’t remember a time I haven’t watched Michigan football,” said Morgan, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound defensive standout. “I always idolized them as a kid. I’ve had the dream of playing in front of 112,000 fans on a Saturday afternoon.”
…and committed soon after. This prompted the recruiting sites to find out who the heck this guy was and offer the usual generic three stars provided most random sleepers who commit to a big school. Before that he had an offer from Northwestern and a few MAC schools. He has the profile of just a guy…
…but the scouting reports are kind of awesome. Scout's profile declares his positives to be "instincts," "hitting ability," and "lateral movement"—yes please—while knocking his size:
Smart, instinctive linebacker who fills gaps and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Has good lateral movement, solid foot speed, and has shown he can play sideline to sideline. Gets good depth in his drops in coverage and makes receivers think twice before coming across the middle. Good pop as a tackler, hits low and drives. Will need to add some weight when he gets to the next level. - Allen Trieu
I'm not sure about that downside. Morgan may not be 6'3" but he is a thick, punishing dude on both sides of the ball. Virtually all freshman have to put on weight; Morgan has to put on a lot less than, say, Antonio Poole and his 195-ish pounds.
Touch The Banner is also positive but isn't clamoring for extra stars:
… I fully expect Morgan to play middle linebacker at the next level. He has the prototypical body type for the position. He flows well to the ball and keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage. And when he hits, he puts some force behind it. You can tell by the way he runs the ball and the way he tackles that he understands leverage and getting underneath his opponent. He also times his blitzes well and stays under control when attacking.
I understand why he's a 3-star kid. He's not a quick-twitch athlete. He looks like the type of player who will fill out to be about 245 lbs., plug his gap, make a bunch of tackles, contribute as a blocker or wedge buster on special teams, and just be a solid overall player.
ESPN($) liked him more than anyone else, rating him the #9 player in the state and the #24 MLB. Their evaluation reflects that:
Morgan is a very tough run stopper; displays dominant playing strength at the point of attack. Has the size and athleticism for the inside linebacker position at the major level of competition. His tough knock'em back tackling ability suggests very good potential as a special team's coverage player…. This prospect does a very good job with K&D recognition skills against the run; gets a good jump on the play, demonstrating tough, downhill stacking ability against the inside run. We like his hand use, showing the physical playing strength to take on and defeat blockers at the point; demonstrates the ability to play low and keep his feet free when moving laterally vs. the outside run. Flashes good underneath screen recognition ability however all area of coverage will need refinement; man coverage assignments must be carefully evaluated. This guy plays with the intensity and motor we look for when evaluating the ILB position; his tough tackling ability makes runners pay the price.
Other scouting reports are much in the same vein. Allen Trieu calls him a "throwback($)" who "will fill gaps and strike ballcarriers with bad intentions" while remaining coachable. He got his Michigan offer by proving his ability to pursue and get to the sideline as a senior:
Morgan has had a fantastic senior year. We knew coming into the year that he was a physical player with good instincts, toughness and tackling technique. The rise in the ranking is due to him showing the athleticism he has throughout the year. At quarterback, his agility and speed have proven to us that he can be an every down, sideline to sideline linebacker. Even though it was his offensive highlights that we saw this on, he has raised his game on defense as well, making play after play against the state's best teams.
The concern with linebacker highlights is they might obscure a large number of brainfarts where the guy ends up on the other side of the field from the ball, but the scouting reports—and Morgan's 4.0 GPA and 27 ACT, he probably could have gotten in without football—specifically praise his smarts. It's obvious why. Listen to either of the interviews above and compare to yourself at 17, and then there's this from a Touch The Banner interview:
"What are my greatest weaknesses? I'll be honest; I have quite a few of them. I'd say my biggest one would be my pass coverage and recognizing when two receivers are crossing, which one is the biggest threat, and [recognizing] which DB needs the most help picking up a guy coming across, things like that. So I'm working on that, getting depth and recognizing the different routes and being able to get underneath, making a play on the ball. In high school, we didn't have to do that as much, especially with all of the man coverage that we ran. And with line backing, I'd say we were usually more focused on the run. So the biggest thing I'm working on is helping my pass coverage game out."
Um… so… that's extremely specific and encouraging in a Zen sense. Desmond Morgan, like Brady Hoke, appears to know what he does not know. That has a lot to do with his dad, a longtime high school coach who taught him much of what he knows:
It was [father] Scott who helped teach the game to Desmond from his experience of playing and coaching at Ferris State University, followed by many years in the High School coaching ranks. Mr. Morgan still helps his son break down film at home and provides another set of eyes through which to see the opposition. It was clear how much Desmond has learned and appreciates from his father, “Everything I’ve learned has been from my Dad, he’s had a great impact on my life, as well as the rest of my family,” Morgan said. “Going off to college it will be different because you won’t have that guy to lean on anymore, that guy to point out stuff when you might not see it.”
[note: above article comes from a site called "West Michigan All Star" that kicks out a ton of excellent content if you're into preps and whatnot on that side of the state.]
His senior stats (72 tackles, 4 FF) were a little depressed by a shoulder injury that kept him out of one game and forced him to only play QB in a couple others. That doesn't make him injury prone—he only missed three games in four years on varsity, and as a senior he played both ways most of the time. When healthy and exclusively a defender, Morgan made 120 tackles as a junior.
And now for the parade of fawning quotes. His athletic director:
“His work ethic is second to none,” Marsman said. “He’s a very, very hard worker and an excellent leader. He’s a great kid, very humble and not cocky at all, but confident. And he’s a great student (4.0 GPA, 27 ACT). He takes his academics very seriously.”
“He knows where everybody is supposed to be. He makes the calls on defense and just his presence out there makes other guys around him better as well,” Caserta said. “… When you gameplan against us, you have to put at least a couple guys on him, and it makes the guys around him better.”
An opposing coach (link ibid):
“Desmond Morgan playing sideline to sideline, that kid can play at any college right now and I’ve admired that kid,” Fairfield said after his team won 28-14. “That kid has inspired our defense, just watching him on film. “He comes out here and runs like he’s Ironman. I’m glad our linebackers had a chance to play against him, because he made us grow up and realize how to play linebacker.”
And Brady Hoke dropping not one but two instances of "tremendous":
“I mentioned how tailbacks usually are the best athletes on the team. Well in this sense, he was a quarterback and a linebacker and a tremendous athlete,” Hoke said about Morgan on the first day coaches are allowed by the NCAA to comment on the year’s recruiting class. “A lot of things they did offensively with the ball in his hands, decision making, all those things, and then how he liked to attack the line of scrimmage from a defensive perspective is something that got us excited, and he’s a tremendous young man, and we’re excited about him.”
Why Carl Diggs? If you disqualify David Harris on the grounds that it's unreasonable to expect a random three-star to turn into one of the best MLBs in the NFL you have to go back a ways to find a Michigan middle linebacker who made a habit of thumping, evil tackles. You have to go all the way back to Diggs.
Diggs didn't quite have the athleticism to be a star and wasn't a great cover guy but he was a three-year starter who was a fringe All Big Ten sort and a captain as a senior. Random scouting report($) on Diggs from a Bears site:
Pos: Tough, versatile linebacker best in the box. Quickly diagnoses the action, knifes up the field and forceful making in run defense. Breaks down well, strong at the point of attack and wraps the ball handler. Goes sideline-to-sideline, displays an adequate change of direction and gets depth on drops in zone coverage.
Neg: Lacks overall instincts in pass defense and skill in man coverage. Does not always play under great control and takes himself from the action at times
That is almost a replica of the ESPN report above.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Fairly large spread, but a sleeper sort who improved a lot as a senior and isn't from the most heavily scouted area of the world. Seeming disconnect between scouting reports and rankings, though ESPN does that all the time.
General Excitement Level: Irrationally high. Most of the time I try to stick to offers and scouting reports and rankings when formulating this section but sometimes random three stars get me pumped up. Here we've got a punishing 225-pound coach's kid with excellent intelligence and enough athleticism to play quarterback. Everyone already moving him to fullback (as the emailer does, not Magnus) is doing him a disservice. Desmond Morgan is this year's MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year.
Projection: Kenny Demens presumably has MLB locked down the next two years; Morgan should redshirt, apprentice, and then battle for the job as a redshirt sophomore. Unless Jake Ryan moves to the middle because he's too good to keep off the field he's as good a bet as anyone to win that competition. Classmate Kellen Jones and this year's linebacker flood will be the main competition.