"What (Michigan coaches) told me is that they're focusing on point guards right now, but if anything opens up, they'll definitely come back on and recruit me as hard as they were," said Towns
You've probably heard most of the details already - and if you want the full play-by-play, read through the end of yesterday's liveblog - but here are some greatest hits from Brady Hoke's Signing Day presser yesterday:
- All signed recruits are expected to qualify to play next year.
- Jack Miller was singled out as a center. Tamani Carter was listed as a safety. Chris Rock was listed as a defensive end, but Hoke mentioned that some defensive linemen in the class may end up moving inside.
- There is no update on Devin Gardner's redshirt status (so you can stop asking).
- Michigan will run a 4-3 defense next year, including under and over fronts.
And now, for the video I shot of Michigan's assistant coaches. What can you expect? Offensive line coach discusses the future positions of Michigan's three commits (it's still possible that Tony Posada plays tackle, and some current players may move positions as well), Fred Jackson breaks down the game of Justice Hayes and Thomas Rawls, offensive coordinator Al Borges discusses the skillset of QB commit Russell Bellomy and talks about adjusting his offense to take advantage of Denard's skillset, and recruiting coordinator Chris Singletary describes holding the class together during a coaching transition.
Be sure to pay attention at 2:35 for an EPIC FRED JACKSON, as he calls Thomas Rawls a faster version of Anthony Thomas and Chris Perry:
He is like the 2nd and 5th all-time Michigan rushing leaders...except faster!
One other quick note: Singletary told me off-camera that the coaching staff would solidify a couple dates for Junior Days in the next week. I would guess that February 12th and March 5th (home basketball weekends) are good guesses.
Michigan has gained a commitment from TX TE Chris Barnett.
Hat! Dyed Beard!
|3*, #16 TE||4*, 5.8, #14 TE, #224 Overall||3*, 78, #20 TE|
The premium sites can't agree on how tall he is, with Rivals and Scout saying 6-6, but ESPN going all the way down to 6-4. Despite that, all three list weights within a few pounds of each other, at about 247. ESPN's evaluation:
Barnett is a kid who as a tight end can present a big target with his long and lean frame. He has good height and while he needs to keep filling out he has plenty of room to add size. He has good hands and displays the ability to use that reach and extend and bring the ball in. He runs solid routes and does a good job of finding the soft spots in zone coverage and being able to settle and get open. He is a tall kid who appears to need to build speed and displays adequate acceleration whether getting into his route or after the catch. He displays adequate leaping ability, but will go up and get the ball and that coupled with his size can present a tough match-up and a nice target in the red-zone. He is a tough kid who will fight for yards after the catch. He is not very elusive, but will lower his shoulder and try and fight his way through tackles. While he needs to add bulk and may not physically look like a in-line blocker, he is productive. One thing he does well is he gets hands on and gets good placement. He needs to improve his overall technique as a blocker, but when he gets locked on he is tough to beat. Moves his feet, but needs to watch his pad level and you would like to see him consistently deliver a good initial pop and use his lower body strength more. Works to stay with blocks. Displays upside as player who can stay in and help as a pass blocker. Displays the ability to keep a solid base and move his feet and mirror, but does need to be sure to bend more at the knees. Barnett has good size and the ability to be productive as a both a receiver and blocker.
Scout's comments... well:
The phrase 'chillin, but my swag's on full attack' can definitely be applied to Barnett's game out on the field. He plays under a controlled tempo until it is time for him to explode out of a break or plant a defender into the turf on a block. It is a great year for the tight end nationally and with the proper development and focus Barnett could end up being one of if not the best by the time he leaves college. He has the size and the tools.
Were they drunk when they wrote that lede? I lean towards yes. They list blocking, competitiveness, and route-running as his strengths, while saying he needs to improve his body control and strength. Rivals also evaluates his game:
On the Hoof: Tall, long-armed athlete is a bit thin in the chest and thick through the midsection. Barnett has a nice powerbase to go with long, thick legs. His build is similar to Stanford redshirt freshman Levine Toilolo.
Needs Improvement: Needs to reshape some of his bad body weight and improve his overall speed. Added upper-body strength will also improve his run blocking ability.
Most Impressive: Has very soft hands for a huge tight end and is a mismatch for shorter defensive backs. He also runs precise routes and knows how to use his body to shield off defenders from making plays on the ball.
Conclusion: His size makes him a candidate for early playing time, especially on passing downs and in the red zone.
They love his size and ball skills, while saying his speed, strength, and agility are just good.
Barnett decommitted from Arkansas to join Michigan's class of 2011 (he had previously decommitted from Oklahoma to join Arkansas's class), and the Razorbacks know what a good tight end looks like. "Bobby Petrino tight end" is like "Wisconsin offensive lineman" or "USC pro-style quarterback" in terms of recruiting cachet from a single offer.
The rest of Barnett's offers, then, should follow suit. Miami (YTM), USC, Clemson, Florida State, Notre Dame, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Stanford, and Utah are just a few of his more notable names. Despite "meh" grades from the recruiting sites, the offers say this is a big time tight end prospect.
The recruiting sites only have estimates for his stats, with ESPN having sophomore numbers:
Caught 25 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Rushed for 150 yards. Registered 130 tackles and six sacks. Missed three games following knee surgery...
And Scout bringing the senior year:
As a senior Barnett racked up 300 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Not exceptional numbers, but as with most high school prospects, it's hard to determine the quality of his team and the opposition, as well as his team's offensive style. Especially since tight end isn't a "glory position," those stats are nothing to sneeze at.
FAKE 40 TIME
OK, if these numbers are legit, this dude is a beast. Scout lists him with a 4.55 40-yard dash time, and Rivals says 4.52. Those are very good numbers for a wide receiver prospect, and much more so for a 6-6 250-pound tight end. Since both sites have such specific times, and since they're so close, I'm inclined to believe they might be legitimate. Still, that only knocks it down one spot to four FAKEs out of five.
Junior year highlights from the YouTube:
I couldn't find senior highlights on Youtube.
OTHER PEOPLE NAMED CHRIS BARNETT
Apparently there's an MMA fighter named Chris Barnett. People REALLLLY like putting MMA videos on Youtube.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Though the Wolverines really needed a tight end in this class, that doesn't necessarily mean Barnett will get onto the field right away. Kevin Koger will be a senior this year, and if redshirt junior Brandon Moore can become a contributor, Michigan's top two TEs are locked down.
However, Barnett seems ready to play immediately, and though he can add a bit of strength and weight, he has the speed to make defenses pay for overplaying the run. I think he'll get a bit of playing time as a true freshman, splitting the #2 spot on the depth chart with Moore.
After Koger graduates, Barnett should see tons of playing time in Michigan's TE-heavy offense. By the time he's a junior, All-Big Ten honors are a strong possibility, and don't be surprised if he contends to be an All-American a a senior.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan has a true tight end in the class, leaving defensive tackle as the only strong need. Any prospects on top of that are icing on the cake, as Michigan has filled all of its other needs by now, and they're unlikely to run up against the scholarship limit. CO LB Leilon Willingham is the only known prospect left on the board.
Barnett is a great pull for this coaching staff, and they've gone well beyond showing they can recruit. With just a couple weeks of contact, they've reeled in a number of good prospects (Barnett, Antonio Poole, etc.) and continued the recruiting job Rich Rodriguez's staff did (Countess re-commitment, Taylor and Bryant commitments).
Getting started around 7AM. We'll be running most of the day, at least until after the 2PM press conference. We won't shut it down while there is a good possibility any prospects will pick Michigan today.
Over the course of the recruiting process, MI RB Thomas Rawls has made it no secret that he'd commit to Michigan if he had the chance. Michigan has offered, and according to the Detroit News, Rawls will be a Wolverine. Apparently his coach was unable to contain the excitement until Thomas's press conference, at which Rivals confirmed he committed to Michigan.
|3*, #77 RB, #15 Instate||3*, 5.6, #20 Instate||3*, 76, #81 RB|
The sites are in agreement: Thomas Rawls stands 5-10, and about 215 pounds. Their rankings of him aren't very high, but there are some reasons for that. Scout openly downgrades players for being academic risks (which is stupid, because it's easy for the layman to tell whether or not he ultimately enrolls at school - rankings should be about skill, not some abstract "value" parameter), and ESPN says that he deserves to see his stock higher than it is, apparently not realizing that they're the ones ranking these kids. More from ESPN:
He is a physically imposing back with good downhill attributes. Hits the hole with authority and flashes good downhill burst and momentum. Quick to see and hit the cutback. A decisive and aggressive runner who is constantly heading North with square shoulder pads and good lean. Displays good explosive out of his cuts and can change speeds to elude.
So far, so good. Weaknesses?
Breaks consistent first contact but did not see the pile pushing power we were expecting. Competition at times appears inferior.
So, uh "AWESOME, except he plays against crappy competition" means he's the 81st-best RB in the country? Color me skeptical on their methodology (more on it in the next section). They also say he has the speed to break big runs against high schoolers, but may not be able to continue at the next level - a more reasonable criticism.
If that's the extent of their criticisms, sign me up for a guy with the upside that a bowling ball-type guy with all the positive attributes listed in the top section.
Scout asks Rawls to talk about his own game:
“I’m a power back and a speed back. I’m also pretty elusive. I can break tackles and always find a crease.”
The elusiveness might be overstated, as that's one of ESPN's criticisms of Thomas, but the combo of speed and power seems to be right in line with scouting reports.
A lack of offers may have kept his overall rankings low, but somewhere in the 3-star range - just a bit higher in the pecking order - seems to be legit to me.
[Ed.: Touch The Banner may provide some insight into the rankings that ESPN's boosterism does not: "Many fans want to compare Rawls to Mark Ingram, the Flint product who won the Heisman for Alabama in 2009. Admittedly, Rawls and Ingram have some physical similarities. Both are approximately the same height and even have similar gaits. But Ingram (who was a 4-star recruit) is and was quicker than Rawls. Michigan fans might not like me for saying this, but Rawls reminds me of Kevin Grady."
OTOH, LeVeon Bell.]
Central Michigan was Rawls's only offer almost through the entire recruiting process. Though Michigan didn't offer until close to the end, they were always right there for him.
Why so few offers? His grades have been a question mark, and that scared away a lot of schools. He insists he'll qualify to play as a freshman, so hopefully it won't be an issue. The lack of offers is part of what kept his rankings low, so look at it with a critical eye.
Sophomore and junior stats from Scout:
Thoimas Rawls made All-State Honorable Mention, All-Conference and All-City for his sophomore and junior seasons. As a junior, he rushed for 1,056 yards and 16 TD's on 138 carries and recorded 101 tackles. He says he can bench 285-pounds, squats 405 and has a 34-inch vertical jump.
And as a senior:
1,585 yards rushing on 450 carries; 21 touchdowns
He broke the single-game rushing record that a guy named Mark Ingram held for the Flint area, running for 343 yards and 5 TDs.
FAKE 40 TIME
4.5, per the premium sites. That's pretty darn good for a running back with Rawls's size. Of course, his reputation is as a guy who's pretty fast for his size, so I guess it makes sense. Three FAKEs out of five.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Michigan is in need of a power back, especially with the move to a pro-style offense. Michael Cox has shown flashes, but those have only been against the worst competition on the schedule. The previous coaching staff didn't trust his blocking or hands enough to play him on any regular basis.
However, Stephen Hopkins may have a lock on the starting (power back) position, and as an academic risk, it's probably for the best that Rawls takes a redshirt year to focus on academics and adjust to college life. That will also give him the chance to undergo a year of college weight training, and get acclimated with the playbook before he's ever expected to do anything on the field.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan really needs a defensive tackle and a tight end, but everything else going forward is pretty much gravy. There are five prospects - Fisher, Clark, Willingham, Barnett, and Cooper - still out there (that we know of), and the Wolverines should have room in the class to take them all, should they be so lucky.
Let's cut to the chase: Tomorrow in this space, there shall be an all-day liveblog. We'll keep track of LOIs coming in, new commitments, and coverage in other media. It should be pretty easy for you to check in for a couple minutes at work to see what the latest news is.
I'll also be looking to deputize people to keep us filled in on ESPN's Signing Day coverage, in addition to the Big Ten Network's coverage, and even WTKA's Signing Day show (LIVE! From Banfield's Westside in Ann Arbor!). If you're interested in helping out, I'll take volunteers early in the morning.
or PM?) - MI OL Jake Fisher picks between Michigan and Oregon.
- Noon - MD DT Darian Cooper signs on ESPNU with Michigan, Georgia Tech, or Iowa.
- 7PM - CO LB Leilon Willingham announces from a top 5 of Michigan, Arizona State, Central Florida, Colorado, and Washington.
- OH TE/LB Frank Clark announces between Michigan and North Carolina at some point in the day.
All these times are subject to change, so keep an eye on the Latest Announcement Times forums thread for updates before tomorrow.
TX TE Chris Barnett will not pick between Arkansas and Michigan until later in the week. The Arkansas commit has targeted Saturday as a possible decision date. MI RB Thomas Rawls will commit later this afternoon (1:30pm) in a ceremony at his high school. Of course, The Detroit News's Tom Markowski already let the cat out of the bag. Hello: posts for all prospects who pick the Wolverines wll be linked in the liveblog.
And of course, we can't forget about all the prospects who have already made public commitments to the Wolverines:
- TX QB Russell Bellomy
- MI RB Justice Hayes
- OH OL Jack Miller
- IL OL Chris Bryant
- FL OL Tony Posada
- OH DT Chris Rock
- MI DE Brennen Beyer
- OH DE/TE Keith Heitzman
- TX LB Kellen Jones
- OH LB Antonio Poole
- MI LB Desmond Morgan
- MD CB Blake Countess
- MI CB Raymon Taylor
- MI CB Delonte Hollowell
- OH CB Tamani Carter
- CA K Matt Wile
As mentioned above, these prospects should be faxing in their Letters of Intent all morning, so we'll keep a running total of those received (and still pending) in the liveblog.
Other Items to Watch
The Michigan Athletic Department is holding a press conference at 2PM to discuss the new signees. The main portion should be available live online, but in past years, early enrollees and assistant coaches have been available to talk to the press after. I'll tweet updates from that portion of the day. Since there's only one prospect already enrolled (OH S Greg Brown), I'm not sure if they'll make him available.
And of course, we can't help but start looking forward to the next class. All this and your questions answered tomorrow on mgoblog!
At long last, IL OL Chris Bryant has committed to Michigan. Tom talked to Michigan's 17th commitment, and he had this to say:
"It was a tough choice, I put a lot of thought into it. I went through each school, and when I said that name I knew it was the school for me. I'm comfortable there, and I have a good relationship with the coaches. I want to compete and work towards a championship. I'll be down there in June and I'll be ready to play football."
On with the show.
|3*, #21 OG||4*, 5.8, #20 OT, #196 Overall||3*, 77, #37 OG|
Bryant's position in college is something of a question. He's a huge kid, listed at 6-5 and 330 pounds by his Rivals profile. He has the height to play tackle, but it seems Michigan is looking at him as a guard. He had previously only played guard in high school, but shifted to tackle this year. ESPN evaluates him, and we'll start with the positives:
Flashes good pull / trap ability; can kick out and seal up inside showing the ability to play on his feet in space. We see a player capable of making the necessary run blocks at the next level of play once his techniques improve. His nimble feet and arm length should be assets in pass protection; flashes short set ability however his bend and base need attention; is capable of sliding his feet and playing flat footed in a reduced area; demonstrates the upper body playing strength to control pass rushers however all areas of hand use need refinement. We like the aggressive finishing attitude this guy brings to the game, it's what we like to see from offensive linemen.
Unsurprisingly for a high school kid his size, conditioning is a key to his future improvement:
Has the size for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition however his body mass will need to be redistributed through off season conditioning... Can come off the ball low and hard but more often his initial fit and pad level are high; needs to improve his ability to play low coming off the ball... This player could have problems with active 1st and 2nd level defenders unless his initial quickness and pad level improve.
Initial quickness will be improved with conditioning, and turning his body into that of a high-caliber college offensive lineman. On his Scout profile, Bryant talks about his game:
“I’m big and quick. A lot of college coaches like that I can move. Also, I’m not a sloppy 330, I’m built. I have a real powerful punch too.
“But I’m trying to improve my footwork and my overall technique. I’m just trying to get it all down.”
ESPN would beg to differ with his assessment of his body build. The Scout profile also lists testing numbers of a 395 pound bench and 420 pound squat. That seems ridiculously top-heavy to me, going along with the idea that he needs to redistribute that weight. UMGoBlog's analysts both point out that his athleticism is amazing for his size:
“Unbelievable athletic ability for a man his size. He moves his feet as well as any 300+ pound player you'll find...a mammoth kid who despite his size, is a pretty good athlete.?"
Bryant held a number of BCS-level offers outside of the Michigan one that he ultimately accepted. Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, and Stanford were his flagships. That's no 5-star offer sheet, but nor is it like some of the others we've seen lately, with a couple Big Ten rejects and some Big East and MAC offers. Ohio State came in late, but did not offer.
The offers that Bryant holds confirm the recruiting services' rankings, on the border between a 3-star and a 4-star. His final group consisted of Arizona, Michigan, Illinois, and Pittsburgh.
Bryant is an offensive lineman, and therefore does not have stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout lists his 40 time at 5.30 seconds, which seems fairly realistic. We do have to take into account that the kid is THREE HUNDRED THIRTY POUNDS, however, and didn't get there via a college-level weight training program. I deem this time worthy of two FAKEs out of five.
Highlights from the Michigan Football Showcase, held in Glick Fieldhouse last winter. He looks surprisingly agile for a guy his size.
Junior highlights on both sides of the trenches:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
In case you haven't gotten the vibe quite yet, a year of redshirting to do some work in the gym is all but mandatory. He needs to turn some of his extra pounds into muscle, and also shed some serious poundage as well. I would guess a playing weight around 310 is a good goal.
One thing I worry about is his ability to get weight off, keep weight off, and stay in game shape. We saw Quinton Washington (who Rich Rodriguez's staff pegged as the #1 overall offensive line recruit in the class of 2008) struggle to crack the two-deep in his first couple years after redshirting, and eventually move to defensive tackle. It could take Bryant a little longer than expected to make his way into the lineup.
Michigan's current guards are Patrick Omameh and (probably) Ricky Barnum. Once they graduate, Bryant should be able to work into the starting lineup as a redshirt sophomore. If he can stay in shape through his entire career, All-Big Ten seasons are a definite possibility.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Every recruit for the rest of the class is an independent case, as it's unlikely Michigan will run up against the scholarship limit, and the needs are mostly filled - outside of tight end and defensive tackle. Even at those positions, Michigan will take who they can, and move along should they not land anybody.
OH TE/LB Frank Clark, CO LB Leilon Willingham, MI OL Jake Fisher, TX TE Chris Barnett, MD DT Darian Cooper, MI RB Thomas Rawls, and OH FB Trayion Durham are the main remaining targets.
Bryant is a teammate of 2012 IL OL Jordan Diamond, who likes Michigan early in the process, and 2012 QB Robert Gregory. Having the opportunity to join Bryant in Ann Arbor may help push them to the Maize and Blue.