i refuse to even consider this a possibility
2011 recruiting profiles
|Cincinnati, OH - 6'2" 210|
|Scout||4*, #13 OLB, #227 overall|
|Rivals||3*, #26 OLB, #20 OH|
|ESPN||3*, 78, #41 OLB|
|Others||4*, 91 to 247.|
|Other Suitors||Pitt, MSU, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Miami (that Miami)|
|YMRMFSPA||Chris Graham plus three points of tackling|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post. Tom talked to him prior to the Big 33.|
Antonio Poole's recruiting script is similar Raymon Taylor, the most recent profile in this series: it seemed like he really wanted to go to Michigan, but Rodriguez's staff showed tepid interest. When Brady Hoke arrived an offer did soon after, and at that point an announcement for Michigan seemed inevitable.
Unlike Taylor's recruitment, Michigan ignoring a well-regarded local-ish WLB product who seemed like he wanted to end up at M never made any sense. Michigan had a bunch of corners they were after, but few linebackers.
Woods was a high profile guy early with offers on or around Signing Day from a dozen schools; his best were lower-echelon Big Ten offers from Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan State. He started off in Scout's top ten OLBs and just outside their top 100. Interest didn't get much heavier than that over the summer. His rankings started to decline a bit and in August he narrowed his list to a top six of UC, Purdue, MSU, Wake Forest, Kentucky, and Lousiville—not exactly a murderers row.
Some more impressive schools got in late: he visited Miami and Nebraska in January, though it's unclear whether either offered. Then Mattison got hired, visited in-home, and Poole's recruitment was over the next day.
Also like Taylor, Poole is a kid on whom the scouting services are in riotous disagreement. In this case his main advocate is Scout, which places him in their top 300; Rivals and ESPN are all like not so much.
The main issue with Poole appears to be his size. He is either a "rugged, 6'2", 225 pound" monster-in-waiting or a 6-foot, 195 pound guy who should pretty obviously be a three star. Or he's somewhere in between. Welcome to recruiting heights and weights.
It's safe to assume the 6'2", 225, is an exaggeration. Touch The Banner's nearest comparable is former Michigan linebacker Chris Graham, who was almost certainly under six feet tall:
Poole reminds me a bit of Chris Graham in body stature, who played weakside linebacker for Michigan a few years ago. The thing I like most about him is that he's a very physical tackler. Graham had a couple de-cleaters as a Wolverine, but he was never a standout. … Unlike Graham, however, Poole plays downhill and seems to diagnose quickly.
I think Poole could play either weakside linebacker or middle linebacker. He's an excellent tackler and wades through the trash well. Much like Graham, it seems like Poole would fit best as a good two-down weakside 'backer. He blitzes well and he's a good run stopper, but I expect Mattison to use nickel corners (a position that disappeared the last few seasons) in obvious passing situations, and Poole might be lifted when offenses try to spread the field.
If unblocked, Graham was really good at spearing the dickens out of anyone who showed up in the hole. He was not often unblocked, though, and his little T-Rex arms left him unable to get off blocks. When not placing a facemask in the chest he often missed tackles.
Meanwhile, the most recent report that offers a height and weight is at the low end of the scale. It's an O-Zone Big 33 recap:
Antonio Poole, LB Cincinnati Winton Woods 6'0” 195 (Michigan)
I think Poole may have been the most impressive defensive player on the field. He's only listed at 6'0” 195 pounds, but he sticks ball-carriers right between the numbers and they stay stuck. When he's in pursuit, he looks much bigger than he is. He certainly hits much bigger than he is. He may not be big enough to play linebacker in the Big Ten right now, but the Wolverines may not be able to wait.
Smallish, quick, good in pursuit, but it remains a question whether or not he can maintain that level of play when the offensive linemen get bigger and more vice-clampy. At least it seems Poole has one thing on Graham: the ability to tackle. ESPN specifically praises it in their evaluation:
Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. His strong wrap tackling ability should serve him well as a special teams player. Shows very good flexibility, balance and agility; does a very good job with K&D recognition skills against the pass and run. We like his instincts and downhill approach when playing the run; demonstrates good timing when filling gaps, showing the quickness to beat blockers to the point of attack. Displays the playing strength to take on and defeat blockers when moving through traffic to the ball; comes off the edge with very good acceleration and leverage. This prospect displays very good pursuit habits.
No downsides are mentioned and yet he gets a decided yawn when rankings hit the road. This is not unusual with ESPN rankings, but Poole is an extreme case. They even say he's got the size to play OLB.
They also mention the athleticism, which others do as well:
"Antonio Poole is a speed linebacker with great range, meaning he can get to places on the field most other players can't," said Mark Porter, director of ScoutingOhio.com. "At times he can dominate the game with unique play-making ability. With the speed and agility of a safety he is also very stout at the point of attack taking on blockers."
So he's fast and big enough and good at tackling and Greg Robinson ignored him—which is probably the nicest thing anyone can say about a defensive prospect these days. He also got no offers more impressive than Pitt and a desperate Michigan. Something doesn't add up. Either a bunch of people mis-evaluated Poole or that size is going to be an issue.
That doesn't mean Michigan can wait. The WLB situation is grim. Poole has a better profile than Mike Jones, who is essentially the only competition unless Jake Ryan grabs the strongside job and frees Cam Gordon up for yet another position switch. Jones does have two years on Poole but missed all of last year injured—he will be in a war to start from day one. This is good for Poole, but maybe not so much for Michigan's defense.
Etc.: Facebook profile lists employment as "hurting people and winning national championships." At one point Kentucky and Illinois were Poole's top two, prompting one Kentucky(!) fan to say "there is no way we should ever lose a recruit to Illinois." Honorable mention in a Korean Essay Contest as a freshman. Video of his commitment hat dance. Commit gallery. Can't decide whether this is the best or worst recruiting headline ever: "More swimmers aware of talent Poole."($) 11 TFLs, 4 sacks as a junior; 22 TFLs as a senior.
Why Chris Graham plus three points of tackling? Graham was smallish weakside linebacker who could bring the lumber but wasn't that good despite his long-time starting spot. The above reports on Poole specifically praise his ability to get guys to the ground, which would clear up one of the major holes in Graham's game. Whether he'll be able to work through the trash better than Graham remains in question.
Guru Reliability: Medium-low. Massive spread in rankings and it appears Poole did not hit any camps, but was healthy at high-profile school.
General Excitement Level: Measure the length of his arms and I'll tell you if it's moderate or high. We'll go with moderately high: his offers side with the more skeptical set of evaluations, and while he was productive in high school a lack of height may prove a long term issues. On the other hand, scouting reports have a decided lack of negatives and production in the Big 33 game is a positive.
Projection: With almost literally no depth at WLB and a horde of linebackers in the 2012 class, Poole is highly unlikely to redshirt. Mike Jones does have two years on him and should keep him restricted to a backup role at first, but it's not out of the question that Poole emerges as a starter at some point this year. A good starter? Probably not as a freshman.
|Highland Park, MI - 5'10" 175|
|Scout||3*, #49 CB|
|Rivals||4*, #14 ATH, #6 MI|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #95 ATH|
|Others||3*, 88, to 247.|
|Other Suitors||Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana|
|YMRMFSPA||shorter Troy Woolfolk|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
There are also some seven on seven highlights out there.
Bear with me here: Raymon Taylor is a reasonably-sized local cornerback who made it clear Michigan his his dream school from day one. An example from June($), five months before he'd actually get a Michigan offer:
“Whoo… (Laughing)… yeah, Michigan. That’s probably one of the biggest the schools. That’s my favorite pick if I ever had an offer. So I would definitely enjoy going there."
Martavious Odoms, meanwhile, is a diminutive wide receiver from Florida who had probably never thought about Michigan before Rich Rodriguez was hired. Despite this, they're analogous recruits.
Both got a fourth star from one, but only one, recruiting service. Both got a smattering of decent but not-that-impressive offers. Both were amongst the first recruits to sign on after a coaching transition and are therefore good gets in context, but not quite thrilling in the wider view.
If Taylor contributes at the level Odoms has it will be a win from multiple perspectives: Michigan will have a member of the secondary and they will have other members of the secondary, which is incomprehensible but sounds pretty cool.
Taylor's recruiting saga was an odd one if only because committing to Indiana and Michigan in the same recruiting cycle is a rare trick indeed (though Jibreel Black just made a similar switch last year). Once it seemed like no Michigan offer was en route, Taylor leapt on the Hoosier offer despite the fact it was far from his best: Wisconsin, Illinois, and Cincinnati all offered a chance to do something other than lose miserably for his college career*. Taylor chose the ineffable lightness of Bill Lynch.
After Lynch got axed, Taylor maintained he was committed but started looking around a bit. Michigan renewed its interest and Taylor prepared to commit just in time for Rich Rodriguez to meet his own demise. Undeterred, Taylor hung around for Hoke to get his bearings, figuring the first order of business would be "oh God, the secondary." It was. He got an offer and jumped on it. Word got out quickly:
"I went to the (Briarwood) mall and a guy already knew about it," Taylor said. "He was working at a store and me, Devin (Gardner) and Denard (Robinson) walked in and he said something. It was a Foot Locker shoe store. It's great, like an hour after it happened. It was real time."
Before that his renewed final five was Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and… uh… Toledo. With the by-that-point-withdrawn Wisconsin offer that's a solid list worthy of a guy somewhere between Rivals' rating ("basically Blake Countess") and those of Scout and ESPN ("bler").
As far as what sort of player Taylor is, change of direction appears to be an issue. At least, I imagine so if this is the top of the head comparison from Touch The Banner:
He reminds me of outgoing senior cornerback James Rogers. Rogers was a standout receiver/running back with great speed in high school, but he wasn't all that sudden of a player. Much like Rogers, Taylor doesn't exactly make quick cuts but catches the ball well and can run away from opponents. One thing Taylor has on Rogers, though, is that he's a little more physical.
No offense to a guy who stuck out the last five years and probably that many position changes, but James Rogers is not a very hopeful comparison, especially when Taylor is a couple inches shorter than Rogers.
ESPN rates him as an athlete but says in their scouting report he has the most upside as a "fiesty, tough" corner:
Is slightly undersized, but plays big. Likes to get up in the face of the DB and alter routes and releases. He has adequate hips, can mirror most receivers on double moves and shows good body control and balance. Can turn and run with speedy receivers. Shows burst out of his back pedal and shows very good closing quickness when driving on the ball in front of him. Has sound catch up speed and shows good acceleration when the ball is in the air. Has good leaping ability which helps compensate for his lack of ideal height, adjusts well to the ball in the air and has excellent ball skills.
They praise his open-field tackling and willingness to get after larger ball-carriers while complaining a bit about "stiffness," albeit mostly on offense. It a positive review but when it comes down to the numbers, #95 ATH is kind of not so much.
Scout's Allen Trieu scouted him($) when he was an Indiana commit; he didn't get much action on defense aside from laying a couple of "big hits in run support"; on offense he showed the ability to pull away from the pack:
… he made several big runs and he proved he had the one thing people questioned: speed. He can definitely run, as he pulled away from a fast Tigers team.
Hoke echoes the stuff about hitting dudes:
Hoke signed five defensive backs, including four-star recruit Raymon Taylor, who, as Hoke as said, can “line somebody up and go through the middle of them, like you’re supposed to play the game.”
There is another non-Manball aspect to Taylor's game, and it's the reason a number of sites rated him as an athlete even as they projected him to corner:
"He's real versatile, an athletic kid; he played running back, played receiver," Highland Park coach Cedric Dortch said. "He played quarterback, returned kicks, did some of everything for us. It looks like he'll be playing cornerback there. He was willing to do whatever. But that's his mainstay, when he can sit down and challenge the top receiver.
In college that's going to amount to a shot at returning kicks and punts.
Another coach quote:
“Automatically, even as a freshman you could tell he had a special athleticism," Dertch said. "Then, the past couple of years, he’s put the work in.”
That work eventually got him to Michigan even if he let the veil drop early; hopefully Michigan coming around will make for a productive relationship.
*[In Illinois's case any period of not losing miserably would be followed by a 1-11 crater, but by God they'd lose that BCS game like a fortunate-to-be-there co-champion first.]
Etc.: Trieu, who rates recruits, says he's "underrated," presumably by the Scout hive mind and not Trieu himself. Rivals named him second-team at the Army Combine. Head to head with Arnett at the Michigan Showcase:
Highland Park, Mich., athlete Raymon Taylor, who just added offers from Wisconsin and Indiana, also had a fair bit of success guarding Arnett. The 5-11, 170-pound Taylor could legitimately be either a wide receiver or cornerback on the next level, and he worked both sides on Sunday. Against Arnett he opted to play bump coverage at the line of scrimmage, which worked well on some reps and not so well on others.
Another way in which he's analogous to Odoms:
“My dad and uncle always say, ‘You gotta get out the 'hood’…Some guys on the street come up and they’ll put their arm around you and say, ‘Don’t do what I did.’ I just always looked at it like I don’t want to be one of those guys on the street,” Taylor said.
Why shorter Troy Woolfolk? Corners are always hard for me because so many are off limits: I'm not comparing anyone to Woodson or Todd Howard because either is unfair. Meanwhile, most people including myself don't really remember how corners play because they're not involved that often unless they've screwed up, etc. I find myself going back to the Grant Mason well time and again whenever there's a shortish guy with decent upside.
I grab Woolfolk here because Taylor is a guy who's basically a three star with decent offers and good straight line speed with some questions about his ability to change direction. Woolfolk's got a couple inches on Taylor, but Taylor sounds like a better tackler.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Healthy player who hit a fair number of camps and got senior-year scouting, but a large gap in evaluations across services.
General Excitement Level: Odoms-esque: moderate. Taylor seems to lack the physical ability to be a star but has enough to contribute as a third corner, possibly early, and should get a shot at returning kicks.
Projection: Will get an opportunity to play this year depending on how he does in fall against Countess and Brown; two of those three play as dime backs and special-teamers in preparation for the 2012 battle over Woolfolk's starting spot. The other redshirts. Long term he probably loses that battle because of numbers and Countess, but he's another reasonable bullet in the chamber at a position of great need.
|Detroit, MI - 5'8" 162|
|Scout||3*, #40 CB|
|Rivals||3*, #25 CB, #7 MI|
|ESPN||4*, 79, #15 CB|
|Others||3* to 247.|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Cass Tech (Campbell, Jones, Gordon, etc.)|
Delonte Hollowell is archetypical in many ways. He committed to Michigan before anyone else in his class (doing so before the previous signing day), he's a cornerback best described as "beyond tiny," and he comes from Thomas Wilcher's Cass Tech program. He is the median Cass Tech recruit.
This time around the recruiting sites were less enthusiastic, at least eventually. Though Hollowell started off in the Rivals 250 by the end of the season he'd dropped to a three star everywhere save ESPN, which tends to rate 'em and forget 'em unless you show up at the Under Armor game.
It's hard to fault that assessment. Hollowell really is tiny—he measured in at 5'8.3" at the Army combine a year and a half ago—and of late Cass Tech recruits have proven a bit overrated. Since his early commitment prevented everyone save Central Michigan from offering we don't have much to dispute those fairly mediocre rankings. What's more, the Army combine performance that landed him on the All-Combine team and got him an early fourth star was frankly underwhelming. While he benched a lot of weight and jumped high he also ran a 4.88 40, which tied for 40th amongst participants. (If that sounds awful, the top time was a 4.55. Subtract at least two tenths to get a FAKE equivalent.) His shuttle was in the same range. Those seem like more important indicators than a bench press for a high school corner.
It's not all bad, though. Though Rivals dropped him to a three star it was by the smallest possible margin. The guy one slot ahead of him got that star. ESPN did think well enough of him to give him a fourth star. And it seems like he's got the intangibles down:
During his presentation, Rodriguez told the story of deciding which of two unnamed prospects to offer last year.
“I said, 'I want to take him,'” Rodriguez said. “The coaches said, 'Why do you want him?' I said, 'I was at the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp and I watched the one-on-ones and that guy was trying to get in the front of the line and that guy was trying to hide in the back.' I want the guy that wants to take every rep against every guy, who’s not afraid to compete.
“So we took that guy, and I’m glad we did because he’s going to be a great player.”
Hollowell was at the SMSB camp last year, and those who know him say that sounds like him.
Of course, Justin Feagin also had the intangibles down, caveats, etc., etc. An assessment of that camp says Hollowell "regularly stepped up" to battle eventual Vol DeAnthony Arnett but did not come out on top often.
The median Hollowell scouting report reads "Despite his size, Delonte Hollowell's size despite should be taller his size Y U NO taller despite his size." Delonte Hollowell is not a large person. Examples from Rivals($)…
"Delonte Hollowell has a lot of upside and athleticism despite being small for a cornerback."
…from the Army Combine…
Delonte Hollowell may have not been the biggest corner, but he was one of the strongest competitors. Hollowell benched more than his body weight 19 times, while posting a 33 inch vertical.
And from ESPN($):
Has a well-defined, deceptively strong body but does have marginal height and could struggle to defend the jump-ball versus today's taller college receivers.
You get the idea.
At this point we've got a very small corner who's not that fast or quick at this one combine and you might be wondering WTF. Well, maybe that combine was a bad day or something because every subjective assessment says he's not quite as quick as Dior Mathis but there's no shame in that. Rivals scouted a game of his and came away calling him a "taller, thicker" version of the even more diminutive Mathis..
When not talking about his height ESPN sounds generally impressed($):
If Hollowell had a bit more size he would likely be considered a top national cornerback prospect. ... Has a tight, fluid pedal and transitions smoothly in and out. Sharp and direct out of his breaks with good burst; can decrease receiver separation quickly. Does a good job reading the quarterback and jumping routes in zone schemes and can mirror tightly with his fluid hips and turns in off-man coverages. Very effective in press and bump-and-run coverages as well.
A lack of top-end speed is their other main complaint; they figure that combined with his height limits him to a nickelback and underneath corner. That assessment was echoed by Sam Webb($) when he saw Hollowell at the Army combine:
This aggressive youngster is at his best when he can get his hands on receivers. … At this stage of development he isn’t as adept at playing off of receivers as he is up on them. A few times he stayed in his back pedal too long, giving the receivers too much of an advantage. By the time he decided to turn and run the receiver had achieved far too much separation for him to make up. As a mid 4.5 to 4.6 guy he won’t make a living hawking guys down from behind. That said, when he could get up on guys and bump them a bit, he had no problem staying with virtually everyone he covered.
Similarly, Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher praises his jam:
"He's a good pressure cornerback," coach Thomas Wilcher said. "He has good feet and hands, and he jams the receiver."
Touch The Banner also knocks Hollowell's lack of "elite athleticism and speed" but likes his hands and adjustments when the ball is in the air. The chorus is in harmony.
Etc.: Photo gallery. Rivals checked him out as a junior($) they said he does "a good job of turning and running with receivers down the field, and appears to be an aggressive tackler." Another Wilcher quote: "He's aggressive, tough. He's smart, good head on his shoulders."
Why Brandon Harrison? Like Hollowell, Harrison was a super-quick, tougher-than-you-think 5'8" guy who lived on the 3-4 star borderline as a recruit. If you ignore the Army combine numbers in favor of the scouting assessments, Hollowell is also that guy.
Why not Cissoko? Hope about his situation, mostly. There are small cornerbacks and then there are the Cissokos and Harrisons and Hollowells of the world. By the time Cissoko saw the field it was clear that whatever his recruiting rankings were they were too high—put him up against a 6'3" guy and he might as well not be on the field. Harrison, on the other hand, had the luxury of playing inside as a nickelback. This largely protected him from downfield doom against the Michael Floyds of the world.
With three other cornerbacks in his recruiting class, two in front of him, and a couple more guys coming in next year Michigan should be able to protect Hollowell from a Cissoko-like fate. Michigan has also moved back to a 4-3 under with a dedicated nickelback for spread teams and passing downs—they've revived the Brandon Harrison spot just in time for this YMRMFSPA.
Guru Reliability: High-ish. Heavily scouted player who attended a bunch of camps and was healthy. Only "-ish" because of a significant spread in rankings.
General Excitement Level: Meh. I can't get over Hollowell's obvious physical limitations and the parade of Cass Tech guys who need a ton of coaching before they can be effective in college, if they ever get there. He's got a role, but it will be a limited one achieved only after a few years in the program.
Projection: Almost certain to redshirt and will probably sit on the bench for another couple years as Avery and Countess and maybe a couple other guys suck up the available snaps at corner. As a significantly more polished but probably no taller upperclassmen his best bet is to replace fellow Cass alum Thomas Gordon as the nickelback three years from now.
|Olney, MD - 5'9" 174|
|Scout||4*, #20 CB, #213 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #10 CB, #133 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #14 CB|
|Others||247: 4*, #15 CB, #166 overall|
|Other Suitors||Penn State, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Maryland|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Good Counsel is massive talent repository. Army AA.|
More video than you can shake a stick at. Here's a highlight package from the beginning of his senior year:
You can see individual clips of Countess taking a punt return the distance, doing the same on more than one kickoff, separating a receiver from the ball, catching touchdowns, and so forth and so on. Seems like a really nice kid in this Post interview.
Blake Countess was sure he wanted to go to Michigan. He committed on December 17th of last year, when Rich Rodriguez was hanging by a thread, and hardly wavered after some guy he'd probably never heard of was installed in the aftermath of the bowl debacle. So maybe it's not a surprise that when he does an interview he seems like a kid who Has The Proverbial "It" Together. For example:
Countess on his decision:
“Nobody really knows if [Rodriguez is] going to be there next year or not,” Countess said. “But going into this process, [I knew] college football coaches come and go. That's just how it works. My dad told me whenever I got a new offer that I should pick a school based on where I'd want to be if I wasn't playing football. [He said], ‘That's where you're going to be happiest.' With Michigan, I'm hoping Coach Rod is going to be there. If not, I picked a school that I like no matter what.”
Raise your hand if you sounded that mature at 17. Right, that's a small slice of the women and only the women. Default coach quote:
"He's worked really, really hard for it," said Milloy who also recognized Countess for his academic achievement and strong character.
"He's a great kid, he's a good student, he's a gentleman," said Milloy. … "He's just a really nice kid, he's fun to be around and I've never heard anybody, teacher, player, opposition ever say anything bad about him."
In addition to being the opposite of a flake, Countess is a heavily scouted, fairly OMG shirtless cornerback who played the position for the duration of his career. The rankings you see above have a little wobble but not much in the grand scheme of things: Countess is somewhere between tenth and twentieth amongst cornerbacks nationally and somewhere in the 150-250 range overall according to all four (yes, there are now four) services.
Countess is small. He checked in at 5'9" and 166 pounds at the UA combine he attended and any randomly selected scouting report on him will mention it: "despite his size," "physical player for his size," "an inch or so smaller than you'd like," etc, etc, etc. He'll probably hit the field at Michigan ten or so pounds heavier—he'll have had a year to add some muscle—but that height isn't going anywhere even when the roster declares him a 6'9" power forward.
However, that might be his only drawback. We've established he's a solid dude, and all those scouting reports that mention his size as a drawback spend the rest of their reports going "dang." He ripped the turf up at that UA combine, drawing a headline on ESPN:
If his performance during Friday's National Under Armour All-American Combine is any indication, cornerback Blake Countess could very well emerge as one of the top prospects at his position on the East Coast during the 2011 recruiting cycle.
Countess was outstanding in all phases of the combine, which included testing, position drills and 7-on-7 work for the skill position prospects at the event. He ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the event (4.54 seconds), ran blistering times in the short shuttle (3.94 seconds) and L-cone (6.5), had a 36.5-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 185 pounds 10 times. Countess also was very smooth during position drills and was good in coverage during 7-on-7 work.
At the time he only had offers from Maryland and Wisconsin, but after that performance he picked up another dozen, most prominently from Penn State, Tennessee, and Arkansas. That list is short of all-conquering but is impressive. ESPN reiterated their impression after he showed at a Nike camp in May:
Another corner who came in to the camp with a big reputation and definitely lived up to it was Blake Countess. Countess was very active during the 7-on-7 session and took as many reps as any of the defensive backs. His ability to break on the ball and his quickness in exploding out of his backpedal were very impressive.
That camp included Michigan target and eventual Alabama commit Hasean Clinton-Dix and Army AA teammate Jonathan Rose.
Moar camps. After that, or before that, or possibly during that, Countess went to more camps. Then after, during, or before more camps, he went to more more camps. He attended everything he could reasonably get to and caused scouting report after scouting report to drop from the heavens.
Countess attended an "FBU" camp, where he was the "best defensive back on the day":
The 5-foot-10, 171-pounder was all over the field, jumping routes and showing good instincts. Countess is very low in his backpedal, changes direction quickly and is aggressive. He can play off coverage as well as tight but his strength is in zone coverage.
Another eval praises his hips, recovery speed and ball skills while claiming he needs to be lower in his backpedal—uh, but the other guy nevermind—and complains about his height; a third says "it's his confidence and short-term memory that sets him apart from the average college prospect."
Countess attended an "MD Elite Showcase," where he ran a similarly blazing shuttle and did his best Shakira impression (non-making-out-with-Pique edition):
Countess had the best testing day of anyone, running a low 4.5 40-yard dash and posting an amazing 3.95-second shuttle. In the one-on-ones he was physical off the line, flipped his hips well and showed good hops and ball skills. Although he's not the biggest cornerback, he plays bigger receivers well and is adept at playing the ball in the air and timing his jumps.
Someone randomly reported an ND offer at that time, FWIW. Countess attended a "Premier" showcase that may actually be the "Elite" showcase and, well, you know: ball skills, "top notch" acceleration, "smothered" receivers. Finally, there's a reference to a DFW-esque "New Level Athletic Event" at Rutgers during which he "shut down some of the best talent on the East Coast."
After his senior season Countess was an Army All American and came in for the usual round of scouting that implies, and by now it's just the same: hips on a swivel, physical, ultra-competitive, short. The only variation from the usual is concern about "faster, quicker receivers looking to take him deep"—in the Army setting his recovery speed seemed lacking. Former UNC ball magnet Dre Bly was still proffered as a comparison. On the other hand, a second evaluation says he has "no problem" running with the fastest receivers there and praises him for jumping a slant(!) for an INT. There is the usual stuff about how he's small and light.
All of these camps saw Countess rise in the rankings. In June he was hanging on at the bottom of the Rivals 250; as you can see above he moved up more than 100 spots in the final rankings. The biggest leap came midway through Countess's senior season when Rivals slid him up from 245 to 156:
"Countess showed real physical toughness and a willingness to come up and hit in game action, something we questioned based on his size," Farrell said. "He's as fluid as we thought, very smooth and an all-around terrific cornerback."
Any concerns from the Army appearance didn't appear impact his stock.
The universal chorus on Countess has been established: "prototypical cover corner" who lacks the ability to thump running backs at the LOS a la Marlin Jackson and will make fade routes scary but does everything else.
Etc.: Army presser gallery. Come on Twitter background. His sophomore highlights come with FLAMES. Touch The Banner suggests Ty Law as a comparable, while acknowledging Law got to be a pretty big dude later in college and in the NFL. Even more scouting reports are superfluous, but:
- "really jumps out at you with his ability to change directions and close on the football."
- "a classic overachiever that should outperform and outwork his opponents."
- "reads routes and quarterbacks well, can be difficult to create separation on as he is very quick and has a good recovery burst."
- "steady and heady cornerback prospect with natural cover corner skills."
Why Courtney Avery++? As a recruit Avery was far less hyped but he's had a year to defy those rankings. Those ended up pessimistic because he was more of a quarterback than a defensive back in high school. Last year he showed those proverbial hips on a swivel as he established himself the best of last year's defensive back crop. He's in line to be a three-year starter.
Avery is an inch or two shorter than you'd like but he's not preposterously small a la Boubacar Cissoko. Though willing, he probably needs a year or two to get the strength necessary to tackle collegians. He has a knack for staying close to opposing receivers and playing the ball while it's in the air.
As far as the increment, Countess will enter college with a lot more polish and should press for playing time even without someone's ankle exploding. I think we might have more information on Countess than we do on Avery even after the latter's been on campus a year.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Countess was healthy, attended every camp he could, was an Army AA, and played at one of the most heavily scouted high schools in the country. He's also a cornerback, where athleticism rules all. If they're going to be right about anyone it's Countess.
General Excitement Level: High. There are a couple settings above high—very high and vast, FWIW. Countess seems like as close to a sure thing as you can find: good student, good kid, good player who's had every pore analyzed by a half dozen scouts. He's got a ceiling a 6'0" version of himself wouldn't have; barring injury he seems like he will scrape that ceiling.
Projection: His height will always be a hindrance but if I had to bet he starts for three years and ends up an All Big Ten sort of player. Will not redshirt since he's polished and will probably be better than anyone behind the starters on day one; solid favorite to take over for Woolfolk next year.
Previously: CB Greg Brown.
|Pickerington, OH - 6'0" 175|
||Scout||3*, #103 CB|
|Rivals||3*, NR, #60 OH|
|ESPN||2*, 74, #154 ATH|
|Other Suitors||Minnesota, Iowa, Stanford, Arizona|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Yes, that Pickerington: Went to school with an accursed Boren. Central's entire secondary went D-I.|
There are also junior highlights.
When Tamani Carter committed out of nowhere in late January Michigan fans scrambled to find out who the hell he was. The answer, oddly: a guy who had committed to Minnesota less than two weeks before. It's not hard to envision Hoke and company arriving at Michigan, surveying their secondary, and going "oh shiiiiiiiiii." Carter looked like a vaguely plausible guy so plunk went the offer gun.
But despite an extremely plausible story—and the fact that he signed up to play for Minnesota's perpetually beleaguered secondary—that implies Carter is just a random guy destined for special teams duty, he did have a decent offer list. Arizona was after him so hard they're still breathless about their not-very-narrow miss months later (they "made a huge run at him"). He made multiple visits to Stanford and seemingly had an Iowa offer. Those three schools seemed to constitute a top three through his senior season. Snagging a kid away from those three and Minnesota is considerably more encouraging than "best case: Gopher starter."
Of course, you're very cynical so you're asking yourself why on earth anyone with those offers would end up at Minnesota. While he did have an offer from the Hawkeyes at some point, he went from planning an official to Iowa City($) in October to not taking an officials other than one to Arizona, so it seems likely Iowa withdrew that sometime during the middle of the season. The same presumably goes for Stanford. So he wasn't an enormous priority for either. When you're adrift in a post-Process January, though, anyone who could play at Iowa or Harbaugh-era Stanford starts looking pretty good.
This goes double when he is actually a terminator sent from the future with an audacious mission:
"Make all interceptions. Recover all fumbles," explained Carter.
Scouting type stuff. Carter's consistently listed at 6'0" or—at worst 5'11"—so it's odd that his size is consistently criticized. If he's fibbing surely he's not fibbing any more extensively than the vast populace of "5'9"" corners littering rosters across college football. Despite that a scouting article at… um… Scout published after Carter's Michigan commit features three separate guys worrying about it($). Allen Trieu:
My one knock would be size, and he's not very tall or thick at all. He will need time in the weight room before he's able to cover bigger, physical wide receivers.
First off, he's not very tall, but he's a nice, little athlete. It seems a little surprising for Michigan to go after him, because I would think they would be going after bigger defensive backs. He is a good player, and has skills, and the only real question would be his height. He's under 6-foot tall, and that will always be a challenge, covering the taller wideouts.
Assuming he overcomes his height limitations, and there are players that can do that, his speed and athleticism will get him on the field at Michigan, along with his intelligence.
ESPN($), meanwhile isn't too worried about height, but the other bit:
Has more than adequate height but his leaner frame and lack of great strength are concerns when projecting for the college level.
I was going to point out how weird Berk's assertion that Michigan wouldn't recruit Carter because of his size was by pointing to Michigan's roster, but it turns out that roster has dispensed with any pretense of reality by listing both Courtney Avery and Terrance Talbott at 5'11", which I'll eat my hat. Greg Brown is a mere 5'10", so he's probably just suffered a horrendous accident that leaves him without knees.
The point of all this is you will never get a truthful answer about any corner's height and if Carter can plausibly (or even laughably) claim to be six foot that makes him bigger than most of the guys already on the roster and probably as big as anyone else in the recruiting class.
So if Carter was crazy athletic that might not be a problem. That's up for debate. All the Scout guys were impressed ("light on his feet and has great quickness," "possibly sub 4.5," "moves really well"), but ESPN not so much:
Turns into a receiver in one-on-one coverage demonstrating great ball skills and body control. Has good extension, timing and leaping skills making him a very effective defender on the jump-ball. While fluid with good footwork, we do feel like he will be challenged in man-to-man coverage at the major college level. Appears quicker than fast and lacks great explosiveness and top-end speed needed to recover vertically. … Does not show great vertical speed or an extra though to project as a true difference-maker at the major college level.
Touch The Banner gives him an all-around "eh… okay": decent size, decent speed, nothing stands out.
FWIW, his coach echoes some other compliments about Carter's knack for big plays:
"Tamani had a very special season," said Central coach Jay Sharrett to ThisWeek last fall. "When we needed a pivotal play, he was always there for us. Whether we needed a big reception, interception or fumble recovery. Tamani was the guy who made plays that won games for us."
He also praises Carter's willingness to get in the opponent's face:
"He's a corner that doesn't, he kind of enjoys the physical part of the game," Sharrett said. "He's a good, solid tackler and when it comes time to drive his shoulder pads, he'll do that.
Whether he'll have the athleticism to pull that off in college is a question. TTB mentions he'd like Carter more if he was going to be "playing a Cover 2 defense and sitting in the flat most of the day." It might not matter since a quick glance of at the roster shows someone has to move to safety. Greg Brown didn't and it doesn't seem like the other freshmen are suited to it, so Carter is the obvious candidate.
Etc.: Carter's got his own website. Photo gallery from Central's playoff loss to Davidson, DE commit Keith Heitzman's school. Five INTs as a junior. Interview after his Herbstreit Classic game; 95-yard INT return included (unfortunately, INT went right to him). Gallery. Stats: 43 tackles, six PBUs, 3 INTs, and 21 catches on offense. Carter on his decision to decommit.
Why Markus Curry? Not a great comparison because Michigan hasn't recruited a whole lot of guys like Carter in the past, but Curry was a bit shorter than six foot, not heavily recruited, and seriously vulnerable to the deep ball because he didn't quite have the athleticism to keep up with college wideouts.
Guru Reliability: No reason evaluators would have anything wrong here: he was healthy and playing at a heavily scouted school. High.
General Excitement Level: The usual level of disclaimer applies but: low.
Projection: More of a lock to redshirt than anyone other than Russell Bellomy. There are three other corners in the class, all either more hyped or ahead of the curve after enrolling early, and three or four corners already on campus who will probably be ahead of him on the depth chart. Long term, someone's moving to safety and it's probably not Countess or Hollowell—the bet here is he moves to FS soon after arrival and ends up backing up Carvin Johnson for a while, possibly emerging as an upperclassman.
Previously: none this year, but this is an annual series. Check out last year's.
|Fremont, OH - 5'10" 180|
|Scout||3*, #50 CB|
|Rivals||3*, NR, #54 OH|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #35 CB|
|Other Suitors||Michigan State|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post. FNL video and scouting.|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Same HS as one Charles Woodson.|
(Brown stuff at the two minute mark.) Scouting Ohio has junior film.
Greg Brown committed to Michigan a long, long time ago. This site's "Hello" post dates back to September of 2009, mere days after new Hurricane Tate Forcier had made his debut at Michigan. At the time we had little to go on except Jim Stefani's comprehensive database ("very quick, speedy, athletic, great body control, fine ball skills and has fluid hips… impressive at the 2008 Michigan summer camp and was rated by some onlookers as the second best CB at the camp as a mere freshman") and some message board post wherein Brown is declared Fremont's "next big professional athlete" by someone who is probably not an NFL scout. The mere fact he had a committable Michigan offer—and reported another one from Michigan State—before his junior year even started was the most powerful evidence we had at the time that he was going to be some variety of Big Time.
It didn't really work out like that. He never even looked like emerging from the Pit of Generic Three Stars, spent most of his senior year playing linebacker, and seemed like yet another questionable move by Rich Rodriguez when it came to defensive recruiting. Rivals doesn't even bother to rank him outside of "you'll get three stars and like it." When he had a brief flirtation with Syracuse at the tail end of 2010 that seemed like a development that would inevitably lead to Brown and Michigan parting ways like various other "whoops, you committed" players(e.g., Dewayne Peace, Jordan Barnes) had under Rodriguez.
He stuck, though, and was the only member of this recruiting class to enroll early. No one expected much from him, but there he was in the spring game…
…giving up a touchdown, sure. But giving up a touchdown that seemed like offensive pass interference after being close enough to be shoved by the wide receiver. I don't have to remind Michigan fans about what happened last year and how being in the same timezone as a wide receiver is an improvement.
This would be a hilarious reach but for Brown getting consistent praise in the spring. It's still a bit of a stretch but three things make a trend, right? (1) Hoke after spring:
"He has improved every week," Hoke said of Brown, from Fremont (Ohio) Ross. "I think he's got a great future. Sometimes when there's an opportunity and a guy comes in there and competes, he might just win (the job).
(2) Hoke two weeks earlier:
Freshmen contributing this fall: "Really haven't thought about it much yet." Depth concern at OL and DL might provide some opportunities, but it's too early to say. Corner? "Maybe. We'll see. Greg Brown's really, in the last week and a half he's really stepped up." Courtney Avery has stepped up as well.
(3) Craig Ross was also pleasantly surprised:
In a huge surprise to me, I saw some really good play from Greg Brown—at corner—in the last Saturday scrimmage [ed: ie, the Saturday before the spring game]. This was mentioned by the coaches, so it is not a secret or my insanity.
That sort of praise did not pop up about the departed Cullen Christian, for one. So it means something. How much it means is something we'll have to wait four years to find out, but at the very least it suggests Brown has a chance to be someone other than Darnell Hood.
As for what kind of player he is, the scouting reports read like the opposite of the ones we got for Avery and Talbott last year. Those praised the kids' athleticism and worried about their smurfiness; Brown's think he's got good enough size but don't know about those hips. ESPN($):
Has average height with good overall body length; should continue to fill out well. Plays bigger and taller on film than listed measurables. A bit high and rigid in pedal and opening and turning but uses his hands well and can stick to receivers in man-to-man without giving up much separation. Looks to be a better zone and underneath corner. Closes with above average speed and quickness. Displays more-than-adequate change-of-direction skill and overall footwork. … Very effective in deep coverage as well and defends the jump-ball well with his good leaping and high-point skills. Comfortable around the football and his polished receiving skills show. However, we do question his transitional skills and ability to flip his hips fluidly when matched up versus fast major college wideouts; not real explosive as a runner and speed could get challenged vertically as well.
When Tim covered the playoff game between Brown and OL commit Jack Miller he found Brown playing linebacker(!):
He's a bit stocky, and played exclusively outside linebacker on defense for Fremont Ross. Even at a position closer to the ball, he rarely seemed to be in on any plays, despite having a chance on some of them. As a linebacker, he only covered tight ends from the slot in pass coverage and did an adequate job staying with a guy half a foot taller than him. … His speed wasn't that impressive.
Those reports are in opposition Allen Trieu's, but Trieu caught him right at the start of his junior year—Tim saw him in his last HS game. Trieu($):
The report I had read coming into the game was that he did not have great timed speed, but watching him, I saw that he played fast. He also plays with a lot of aggressiveness and attitude and that showed in run support. He isn't afraid to come up and make tackles. He isn't a particularly powerful tackler, but he went low and got the job done. As a receiver and return man, he showed his quickness and open field elusiveness.
Areas for Improvement: Brown plays bigger than his size, but he is undersized.More Trieu($):
FWIW, local Ohio observers had a slightly higher opinion than Tim or the rankings at large. Ohio Varsity made him the #5 DB in the state, ahead of OSU commit and high three-star Dejuan Gambrell.
Why Grant Mason? Mason was around 5'11" and was not athletic enough to get an NFL sniff, but he was a useful piece as an upperclassman after his transfer from Stanford and started as a senior. Like Mason, Brown is a good student (3.5 GPA) and projects as a guy to develop in the hopes he ends up a useful piece behind a star.
Guru Reliability: You'd think high since he's been fairly high profile—evaluators had two years of games to check him out in the full knowledge he was a Michigan commit. The spring stuff might bring that into question.
General Excitement Level: If you asked me on Signing Day I was going to politely suggest that not everyone can be a starter and Brown was probably going to be Darnell Hood, but one spring ball later Brown looks like a viable threat to crack the two deep and is 50-50 to be a starter at some point. A bit below moderate, then.
Projection: also 50-50 to redshirt. Michigan's starters should be Woolfolk and Avery and they are apparently going with Thomas Gordon, not a corner, as a dedicated nickelback. So it's JT Floyd, Terrance Talbott, and the three freshmen competing to be the two guys who rotate in. I'm guessing only one freshman plays—Brown may not have the hype but he showed up early.
As far as the future goes, he'll be in a war to replace Woolfolk next year. He probably loses that to someone, at which point he'll have to wait for Avery to graduate before he gets a shot.