this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
2012 recruiting profiles
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Blake Bars, OL leKyle Kalis, TE AJ Williams, TE Devin Funchess, WR Jehu Chesson, WR Amara Darboh, and FB Sione Houma.
|Detroit, MI – 5'7", 161|
|Scout||4*, #19 RB, #163 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #5 APB, #6 MI, #236 overall|
|ESPN||3*, #80 RB, #26 MI|
|24/7||4*, #7 APB, #4 MI, #169 overall|
|Other Suitors||Cinci, MSU, Pitt, Tennessee|
|YMRMFSPA||Darren Sproles, or what you always hoped Vincent Smith would be|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from me(!).|
|Notes||IS NOT NAMED DENNIS "NORTHFLEET" LET'S NOT WOLFORK THIS OKAY|
I got way behind on these thanks to book stuff and knee stuff, so I apologize that this is going to sound like a broken record a day after I mentioned Michigan's acquisition of offensive weapons in all shapes and sizes for the third time in little over a week. But…
Dennis Norfleet is another guy who Michigan can plug into their offense to jar opponents out of comfort zones and exploit weaknesses. Whipsaw, Swiss army knife, etc., the null offense, whatever you want to call it, Norfleet is a guy who fulfills a role. He is a specialist.
That specialty is being in space, where the bugger is impossible to catch. Norfleet rose to prominence as a wildly productive midget RB as a sophomore but really caught recruiting services' eyes when he annihilated a swathe of 7-on-7 competitions last summer. He was the MVP of the IMG Madden tourney and the NLA tourney, both attended by legions of top recruits. How does a 5'6" guy do that($)?
There are a select few players who can make defenders in position totally whiff in one-hand touch, 7-on-7 football. There may be only one Dennis Norfleet who seems to make a play or two like that every game. On one particular play, Norfleet put a move on two defenders at one time, splitting the pair and taking the ball in for a touchdown. He is electric with the football in his hands.
By splitting defenders in one-hand touch.
If 7 on 7 was football, Norfleet would have been the top prospect in the country. I've waded through rapturous report after rapturous report to assemble this post. A sampling:
- "…so explosive, incredibly elusive and runs with an energy that you don’t often see. Even in the one-hand-touch setting, Norfleet was making multiple players grasp at air, sometimes many in the same play."
- "…just keeps showing up at events and making people take notice. He is without a doubt one of the most exciting players in this 2012 class."
- "…in 100-degree plus weather, he never subbed out on offense and defense. He demanded the ball on offense on every snap. He has a relentless motor."
- The NLA MVP "really wasn’t even a difficult call" because Norfleet "was demanding the football on offense, was nearly uncoverable in man-to-man and then wouldn’t miss a beat as a lock-down cornerback on defense."
- "…a natural leader and showed great energy when everyone else was exhausted."
- "…is actually an outstanding receiver, and defensive backs could not hang with his speed. After creating separation, Norfleet also displays excellent hands to finish the play."
- "…Norfleet and Morris [yes that Morris] were running neck and neck for the MVP for the tournament, but Norfleet separated himself from his teammate after elevating for a pass that was well over thrown and landing on a brick lined sidewalk with an audible thud.
Comparisons abound, from Sproles to Jock Sanders (WVU's all-purpose slotback) to Danny Woodhead (the ridiculously productive DII dwarf now with the Patriots) to Jacquizz Rogers. The recipe is simple: get him in space and get the popcorn.
[after THE JUMP: "that guy can do anything" & ESPN poops the party. PLUS LINK TO RIHANNA SONG.]
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Blake Bars, OL Kyle Kalis, TE AJ Williams, TE Devin Funchess, WR Jehu Chesson, and WR Amara Darboh.
|Salt Lake City, UT – 6'0", 227|
|Scout||3*, #5 FB|
|Rivals||3*, #5 FB|
|ESPN||2*, #4 FB|
|24/7||3*, #6 FB|
|Other Suitors||Utah, Washington|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. JeepinBen writes on the new role of fullbacks, comparing Houma's future role to that of Jacob "Not Devin" Hester.|
|Notes||Tongan, not Samoan. Plays the ukelele(!)|
Sione Houma was pigeonholed as a fullback and came out of lightly-recruited Utah, so there isn't much out there about him aside from the occasional basic scouting report and one pretty fanciful comparison($) to Stanley Havili, the former USC fullback who specialized in turning basic wheel routes into touchdowns in the era when Trojan opponents were going 11-on-1 versus Reggie Bush. That:
…reminds me of former USC fullback Stanley Havili, who also is from the Salt Lake City, Utah, area. Houma has great hands catching passes out of the backfield and enough speed to get the corner. He has a great frame to add weight to as well.
Havili had offers from USC, Oregon, Nebraska, and others, a four-star ranking from most places, and was universally the top guy in Utah that year. Houma's down the list, and didn't have any other offers from power-type programs. So probably not Havili.
That's not to say Houma is just another roughneck who moves like a dump truck when he gets the ball. His high school team ran a flexbone triple option in which Houma was the A-back—the guy who plunges up the middle over and over again. He got the plurality of carries in that offense, and he has the potential to be a ball carrier if things break that way. Hey, let's hear from Fred Jackson!
"He is the real deal. He can run the football. He is powerful. He is going to be a very good football player. he is very physical for a guy his size," Jackson said. "And you know he is around 220 (pounds). He is a very physical and has great skill. He is really a half-back on film, but he will play fullback."
"…and he can transform into a Dairy Queen."
ESPN does think he's got the ability to pick up those little chunks of yards($) as long as he's not asked to dodge someone:
Houma is a tweener fullback/tailback prospect …durable and tough but will need to add bulk to adjust if recruited to play fullback. Has better burst than top-end speed but is just fast enough at the high school level to not get caught from behind on long runs. … lacks great cutback vision and patience. … Quickly gains north-south momentum through the hole; little hesitation. … Physical downhill runner with good lower-body power and balance. Breaks through consistent first contact. …Minimal elusiveness in the openfield. … Will not be a perimeter threat at the major college level. …brings valued versatility to a two-back offense.
His coach is more positive, as is the way of things. He also makes Houma out to be a potentially useful ballcarrier:
"Just from what I have seen from last year to this year, he's got some speed, quickness and niftiness to him that it would not surprise me to see him in a bigger tailback spot where maybe they need to pound a little bit. I think he could fit that role as well."
"I think he could be 235 in a heartbeat and still retain a lot of that speed and quickness," Benson said. "I've seen him increase [his speed] just over the past year and he's gained 10-12 pounds in that time."
Elsewhere his coach notes "great hands" and the fact that he's a "good blocker" before mentioning this:
"Like when he runs, he keeps his feet moving, and that's always key; he lowers his pad level and will really hit you."
His coach told Sam Webb something similar:
"…a real nifty runner as far as being as big as he is, but he can also just lower his shoulder and run right over the top of you. He has got some power, some agility, definitely got some quickness and speed to him.
…what makes him so tough in our offense is that he does hit north and south and once he gets his shoulders turned, people have a hard time stopping him.”
Offer: explained. Rawls may have that sort of pile-pushing, leg churning short-yardage power but no one else on the roster is that kind of burrower and Michigan would like a guy that can do that and block and catch besides.
I'm serious about this Whipsaw Offense stuff. Houma is another piece, and one that Borges has proven he'll use in the past if it seems like a good idea($):
The fullback in Borges' previous offense at San Diego State accounted for the most fourth rushing yards and third most receiving yards on the team in 2010.
And that was the good SDSU year under Hoke, so that wasn't an "oh crap toss it short" thing. A guy like Houma is a viable target when you're flippin' your jibbers. TTB strikes on his real appeal to the coaches:
He's not huge and he's not particularly fast, but he's got a little bit of this and a little bit of that. He shows an ability to adjust to the ball in the air on short passes, he has a little bit of vision, he breaks away for an occasional long run, and he breaks some tackles in the process. …runs with a great forward lean when going through traffic. Since he's not particularly tall, that means anybody who hits him in the shoulder pads is bound to go backwards. …probably doesn't have the speed to break 50-yard runs or receptions, but he does have the ability to outrun linebackers and turn a 4-yard swing pass into a 10- or 15-yard swing passes.
Each of these guys covered in the big athlete category is a slightly different big athlete doing slightly different things, and we're about to hit Dennis Norfleet, who is by no means a "big athlete" but also promises to be a guy who does slightly different things than anyone else on the roster. Then next year you've got Butt and Hill coming in to add to the fun. Whipsaw, yo.
Etc.: Trades spring break time for service. Random quote:
"I just said thank you for your service. I think that is the ultimate sacrifice," said senior Izzy Washburn. "I also drew a giraffe. Everybody likes giraffes."
Houma, resembles a muscle car: It gains momentum as it accelerates, but with handling capable of diverting contact and racing to the end zone.
Why Matt Asiata? I don't keep a close eye on fullbacks around the world and there is no real comparable I can think of at Michigan. He's not at all BJ Askew-sized, he should be more than a Dudley-esque thumper, he's more likely to beat a linebacker on a wheel than Hopkins, and Aaron Shea is all wrong, too. (Also I'm saving Shea for Khalid Hill.) I thought about Brandon Minor, who's about the same size, but "great forward lean" and Brandon Minor are diametrically opposed concepts.
I do remember a squat, thick dude who went up the middle over and over again at Michigan Stadium a few years back… it's just that he was playing for Utah. Matt Asiata was a crunching FB/RB for the Utes and gashed Michigan for almost six yards a carry in that 2008 game just by running through tackles. I thought it was a little dubious to pull him up since I remember him being enormous, but apparently he was 5'11", 220. If Houma ends up contributing at a max level for M it'll be as a short-yardage, grinding change of pace back and thumping blocker, like Asiata.
If we really want to get crazy with the whole Whipsaw Offense thing, Asiata saw a ton of his carries as a wildcat QB.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Agreement, but fullback from Utah.
Variance: Moderate. Realistically will be a role player, but has pretty-important-role-player upside.
Ceiling: Low-plus. Role player of some variety, possibly important
General Excitement Level: Low-plus. Fullback, but a guy who they recruited to do more than dump truck people. While I generally hate fullback offers I can understand this one as part of Michigan assembling a Swiss Army Knife roster for Borges to do diabolical things with.
Projection: With Hopkins and redshirt freshman Joe Kerridge around, a redshirt beckons. After that it's another year behind Hopkins before sort of battling for the job as a redshirt sophomore. I say "sort of" because there's probably two slightly different roles for fullbacks in the new Michigan offense, one a traditional walk-on cruncher who leaves "two inches shorter than they came in" as Brady Hoke requested on Signing Day, the other more of a Shea/Havili/Asiata versatile H-back type who can take on a linebacker in the hole or flare out, etc. He's likely to play 15-30% of Michigan's snaps for his final three years, may end up a short yardage back, and will be a redzone option on play action.
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Blake Bars, OL Kyle Kalis, TE AJ Williams, TE Devin Funchess, and WR Jehu Chesson.
|Des Moines, IA – 6'2", 220|
|Scout||4*, #32 WR, #205 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #30 WR, #215 overall, #1 IA|
|ESPN||3*, #82 WR, #1 IA|
|24/7||4*, #26 WR, #199 overall, #1 IA|
|Other Suitors||Florida, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan State, Okie State|
|YMRMFSPA||Aw, hell, Jason Avant|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim.|
|Notes||Born in Sierra Leone.|
Amara Darboh is prime Rinaldi tear-jerkin' steak #2, a refugee who landed in Iowa and grew into a college-level wide receiver. He comes to Michigan with more recruiting hype, muscle, and sweet offers than Chesson, but lacks the lanky leaping ability that could turn Chesson into a premiere downfield threat if Michigan gets lucky. Darboh is less of a wildcard… but that doesn't mean he can't be a high quality option.
Here again we have some conflicting opinions. Unusually, it's his high school coach who's saying the things that are not rapturous($):
"He runs 4.42 but I wouldn't say that he's a burner by any stretch of the imagination," said Wilson. "He's a reliable guy that can make the tough catches for you. … he's a bigger physical presence. He's not a make you miss kinda guy."
That a kid can run a low 4.4 according to his coach and get called "not a burner by any stretch of the imagination" by his coach shows you the tao of FAKE 40 times. On the high school level these guys usually are burners, and coaches call 'em that, and call 'em that even if they aren't burners. Allen Trieu is also in the anti-Trogdor camp, or is he?
Body Control / Elusiveness with Catch / Hands and Concentration
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Above average size and speed ratio. Maybe not a burner, but has solid deep speed. Excellent hands, ball skills, and ability to go up and get the ball in traffic. He tracks the ball well and has good body control. After the catch he has good ability and is a pretty strong kid that can break tackles in the open field.
Speed is a negative, deep speed is "solid." Searching for negatives is a good sign, or just a confusing one.
A couple of other recruiting guys give the impression that Darboh could be one of those weapon things. Irish Illustrated's Tim Prister got hyped($) after ND's extremely early($)—like October of his junior year early—offer:
Excellent size and length help accentuate his deer-like athleticism with the football in the air. Shows nice balance maintaining his feet and running after catches for which he leaves the ground to make. Very fast - probably in the low-to-mid 4.4s - with an effortless running motion. Shows a consistent ability to run away from the crowd in pursuit.
We seem to be in disagreement about whether 4.4 is fast (hell yes unless you're hand timing Denard to run 3.8).
And Rivals's Josh Helmholdt provides the most singularly useless comparison ever($)
I loved Darboh's highlight film the first time I saw it. He is big, he is fast and he is a playmaker. Unfortunately film is the only thing I have seen on Darboh. …
Who does he remind me of? I'll go with a poorer man's version of Fred Rouse circa 2005. Both good-sized receivers with that wiggle to turn a screen pass into a big gainer. Let's hope Darboh has a better head on his shoulders.
Rouse was a five star who flamed out before ever seeing the field, so exactly no one has any idea what that's supposed to mean. But it's good, right? Five star.
247's Clint Brewster says "burner for his size," FWIW
Darboh shows exceptional speed as a bigger receiver and has another gear once he gets free from a defensive back. Quickness is another aspect that separates Darboh from his competition, as he consistently picks up big gains from short screens or pass patterns. Darboh shows excellent strength and athleticism by breaking tackles from smaller corners and staying up-right.
ESPN is also a little uncertain about whether he's a possession guy or something more, calling him "part playmaker and part possession player($)"
…combination of strength and quickness as a big receiver with a sturdy build, long arms and nice height… will be at his best working against zone and soft-man coverage. Is adept at finding soft spots in zone and creating passing windows for his quarterback when working out of the slot. Not afraid to go over the middle and will make the tough catch in traffic. …does an excellent job of adjusting to the poorly thrown ball …Has some wiggle in the open field …real upside as a red area target on slants and fades as he knows how to position himself and use his size. We are somewhat concerned about Darboh's top end speed.
They also knock his route-running skills; Brewster did the same. That flaw is easily explainable. According to his coach he came to his high school program a blank slate:
“He was very raw,” Wilson said. “He could run and catch the ball, but he didn’t know anything about running routes or blocking. He had little knowledge of football. We got the chance to teach him from ground zero, and that might have worked to our benefit.”
It certainly benefited Darboh.
“He didn’t have any habits,” Wilson continued. “He was like a sponge. He would take in everything and he wanted to learn and become better. He never shied away from the work.”
Darboh was focused on soccer until high school, FWIW.
Like Chesson, Darboh comes to Michigan with a horde of people chasing after him saying great things about his work ethic, character, and academics, and thus seems like a good bet to stick and a good bet to become whatever his potential will allow him to be. Like Chesson, Darboh picked up football late and has some work to do before he has the little things positions coaches obsess over. Also: refugee.
Unlike Chesson, Darboh is approximately the size the coaches want him to be already, which will ease his glide path onto the field. Both guys will be primarily outside receivers, with Chesson more likely to end up on the backside of a play running those one-on-one cuts that Junior Hemingway went deep on this year. Darboh will be the guy running square-ins under him, for the most part.
“I think he’s a passionate kid that’s working to become the best he can be,” Wilson said. “I think he’s willing to push himself. I know the coaches are going to push to make Amara the best player he can be, and the best person he can be. Amara takes a lot of pride in what he does, and I know he’s not going to settle in doing anything less than his best.”
As a senior Darboh brought in 48 passes for 765 yards and 11 touchdowns in just seven games (a dislocated shoulder cost him four), which is high-quality production, albeit against Iowa competition.
Why Jason Avant? I know, I know: I drag out the Jason Avant comparison and nobody ever ends up much like him. It is impossible to project those hands onto anyone else. But Amara Darboh is a bulky four-star type with good not great speed and a reputation for going over the middle. He is not regarded as the ultimate jump ball artist, he is well-regarded despite that, and he seems to have the sort of A+ character that Avant had.
It's either Avant or Greg Mathews, but it's hard to know how well Mathews would have done if he had real quarterbacks. His coach has another suggestion:
"He's a big, physical player," Dowling coach Tom Wilson said of his 6-2, 200-pounder. "I've seen him compared to Roddy White of the Falcons — a bigger guy that can run very well."
Roddy White's actually a couple inches shorter than Darboh and smaller as an NFL player, FWIW. Another comparison that seems plausible: recently departed Iowa WR Marvin McNutt, a 6'3", 220 pound guy who was killer on slants, generally unjammable, and a bit of a late bloomer after coming to Iowa at QB.
Guru Reliability: Moderate-plus. They're all in agreement except for ESPN's off-the-wall GTFO that I don't care about because this is the geographical area ESPN couldn't give two craps about. OTOH, no camps, it appears, and no All Star appearance, plus an injury his senior year.
Variance: Low-plus. Already college-sized, character is sterling. Does need to learn the craft; seems like the kind of kid where that's just a matter of time.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. "Not a burner," but looks like a high quality #2 in an ideal situation.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. If I could guarantee those Avant hands it would be MASSIVE, but those have proven elusive.
Projection: Getting some early practice buzz and likely to play with the uncertain state of the WR corps. Sounds like he'll have to work his way into the lineup with better routes and blocking, but has a reasonable shot at displacing second-string guys for playing time at midseason.
In 2013 will fight with Jeremy Jackson and Ricardo Miller for the move-the-chains spot. I don't think Miller will be much of a threat given his interlude at TE, and Darboh has a huge advantage in athleticism. I'd give him the edge.
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DETom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OLBen Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Blake Bars, OL Kyle Kalis, TE AJ Williams, and TE Devin Funchess.
|St. Louis, MO – 6'3", 183|
|Scout||3*, #82 WR|
|Rivals||3*, #91 WR, #11 MO|
|ESPN||3*, #58 WR, #7 MO|
|24/7||3*, #56 WR, #8 MO|
|Other Suitors||Missouri, Okie State, Iowa, UCLA, Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Sneezes when he runs hurdles.|
Prepare yourself. "Michigan receivers are refugees from war-torn African countries" is going to be a local "did you know Tom Zbikowski is a boxer?" for the next four years. Up-next Amara Darboh is a guy whose twitter handle references his hometown in Sierra Leone. This post covers Jehu Chesson, whose family fled Liberia when he was a kid. They plan on rooming together, and are guaranteed to be featured in at least one sepia-toned Tom Rinaldi segment.
Chesson first got on Michigan's radar during the End Times of the Rodriguez era when he hit up Michigan's 2010 summer camp($). Even if all non-Fred Jacksons were swept out several months later, he guaranteed himself an offer when Sam Webb asked him to give a self-scouting report and he gave Sam the football coach equivalent of blue sky meth($):
Sam Webb: Pretend you’re a coach for a second… give me a little scouting report on your game.
Jehu Chesson: “First off, if I was the coach, I would look at the little details that he would do when he goes to the huddle… like what’s he doing? Is he paying attention? Does he walk to the line of scrimmage, which I do not walk because we’re disciplined like you have to run up to the line of scrimmage. Then getting off the ball, your first three steps have to always look like a fade unless you doing a one step plant. Then does he stalk block and how well does he block? I would say that he blocks pretty well. When he drops a pass, what does he do after? Does he come back and does he put his head down? Because for me it is not just in football, when something goes bad you got to keep your head up and everything. As far as what he does, like what the corner, whatever the corner like man, cover-1 or cover-2. You have to make sure what the outside backer is doing if you run a slant… does he handle that well? Does he find the open zone where he can run like a post or like a dig? He does do that. It is just like a little checklist that I have to keep to myself.”
Holy crap. Jehu Chesson is 1000 years old. For the next four years he will take over for Jeff Hecklinski as the WR coach so Hecklinski can pursue his childhood dream of owning an ice cream shop. In a past life he is still Jehu Chesson, because he is 1000 years old.
I mean, the guy's talking to Kyle Meinke about stuff and references the placebo effect and calculus. I've seen a lot of high school football players tell a lot of reporters a lot of things and that is a first. I just…
"There are some things I haven’t seen before, but it's not anything I can’t learn if I really put my mind to it," Chesson said. "It's kind of like calculus, in that way. You just got to work at it. Just have to get used to the language."
…I'm just not expecting that. Nor am I expecting someone to declare his "pregame planning($)" his biggest strength.
He told his coach his goal for his senior year was to block as well as a recently-departed WR($):
"He really loves the physical game. He doesn't just want to be a guy that runs his route and catches a few passes. He wants to be involved in every play because he wants to be a great teammate.
"Sometimes those kind of intangibles get lost or overlooked by people that rank kids, but if you talk to coaches, they want those kids that believe they are one of 11 with a job to do, whether running a route, being a decoy, blocking downfield or at the point of attack. Jehu is that kind of selfless kid dedicated completely to the team."
247's Todd Worley pretty much called him the best dude ever:
Can't say enough good things about Jehu as a person. He's extremely humble, and has an insane work ethic. He's in all AP and Honors classes, and barely ever sleeps because he's always studying. For a football recruit like him, he doesn't need to do that at all. But he's just all about excellence, and he's a winner. I think he'll be a heck of a player for the Wolverines, but if for some reason he isn't, he'll still make Michigan fans proud of what he does off the field.
Jehu Chesson is 600 years old and the opposite of Terrelle Pryor.
I'm just, like… okay. Breathe. The catch is he is slow. Right? He's slow.
Michigan football commit Jehu Chesson ran a 10.7-second 100-meter dash over the weekend, which was fast enough to win him a Missouri Class 4 track and field state championship.
He did it only 15 minutes after placing runner-up in the 110-meter hurdles (14.15 seconds). He also added a state title in the 300-meter hurdles (37.77 seconds).
Er. For comparison, Denard ran a 10.44 100 in high school, and didn't do it 15 minutes after running a 110M hurdles final.
And it's not like Chesson is a Bolt-like long strider who doesn't have good explosion. When he showed up at the Army Combine just after his junior year he bashed out a 4.56, good for eighth among wide receivers and almost two tenths better than Stephon Diggs's 4.75. Chesson's vertical leap was also good for eighth amongst WRs and tied with Diggs and Davonte Neal, but Diggs is three inches and Neal five inches shorter than Chesson. Amongst players who ended up at big schools Chesson's Army combine was the best. A few months later he put up a 4.54 at Florida, causing a few Gator sites to buzz about a potential offer.
Maybe he doesn't look cool when running?
There goes that idea. I don't know, man. I look at his video above and it's not like he seems slow.
If production is the catch, I'm not seeing that either. Chesson caught 53 balls for 605 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior and the same number for 757 yards and six touchdowns as a senior. In run-heavy high school football that is more than solid.
There are some repeated, not-directly-contradicted-by-numbers concerns. More than one scouting report mentions that he's pretty raw at the moment, which will happen when you play three sports. You can read it between the lines($) of some of his coach's comments…
"I think the big upside that I've talked the most with people about is his overall understanding of route running," said Tarpey. "You can have all the ability in the world, but if you don't have a feel for that, you're only going to be so good. I think that's something that will come with him, because he's extremely coachable."
…or get it direct from his coach's comments…
"His upside is not unlike a lot of high school players that didn't grow up on football," Tarpey said. "He hasn't been playing it since he was five or six, so he's only at the beginning stages of understanding and learning the game. And because of his personality, his coachability, his physical tools, he will excel. He's a true sleeper.
"He could easily be a 6-4, 215-pound guy someday that is just a nightmare to match up with. Will that happen? It's up to him, but I'd expect it because Jehu is a hard worker. Academics don't come easy to him yet he gets good grades. Getting bigger is a struggle, but he's added muscle and weight every year with us. He's the kind of kid that always applies himself, so the sky is the limit."
Competitiveness / Hands and Concentration / Toughness
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Elusiveness with Catch / Strength
Tall, lanky receiver who can go up and get the ball. Snatches it easily out of the air, but lets too many underneath passes get into his body. Great natural athlete with good leaping ability and straight line speed, but is not an elusive guy after the catch. Must add some bulk and strength, but is tough and willing to go over the middle and make catches.
Trieu mentions the beanpole thing, which was the main complaint after Chesson put his name on the map($) at the Miami Nike camp:
STRENGTHS: Chesson made a splash Sunday in Coral Gables by running crisp routes and catching seemingly every pass thrown in his vicinity. He's tall and lean, was quicker than most receivers on hand, and got in and out of his breaks quite well. A hurdler in high school, his leaping ability showed up often during position drills.
WEAKNESSES: Because Chesson is a bit wiry, getting stronger is a must so college corners can't push him around at the line of scrimmage.
That evaluation was echoed by Barry Every($) at the same event. Chesson himself told Touch The Banner that he was 185 after running track and that Michigan wants to see him 30 pounds heavier. So he's got a ways to go there.
Once he gets there, he seems like he'll be at least Junior Hemingway. "Tall" and "rangy" are near-requirements in any Chesson scouting report; most mention his long arms, huge catching radius, and ability to go and get the ball. This coach quote($) is archetypical:
"…before you even line up, he creates some matchup problems because of his height and length," Tarpey said. "He's got real long arms, he does a great job of catching the ball away from his body."
…tall, rangy wide receiver who shows a unique ability to be nimble on his feet and can definitely make moves in the open field. His speed is deceptive, because he is the type of guy that just seems to glide all over the field… makes good adjustments to the ball in the air and will be the perfect guy to match-up one one with defensive backs in the red-zone.
…and ESPN disagreeing($)…
…comes off the ball with explosion and a nice stride. Gets into routes quickly and can eat up cushion with an imposing charge upfield. He has some value as a vertical target due to his frame/speed combination, but we are not convinced he is a great speed guy…can really elevate and adjust to the jump ball. Positions himself nicely and will high point the ball with good extension. …consistently catches the ball well and wastes little time getting upfield to make things happen. …a big target and wide catch radius. …some wiggle to not only make you miss, but also stiff arm and lower his shoulder to power through would be tacklers. He is not a huge homerun threat in space, but given his size he is pretty nifty and can gain valuable YAC and move the chains.
…while of course talking about his tallness and ranginess. Tom Lemming loves the guy, FWIW:
He is one of the hardest working WR's I've seen in getting off the line, finding the open seam, and catching everything within reach. He has tremendous work ethic and is not satisfied with being just a good player. Like the above mentioned receivers, he's a tall, athletic, and agile WR with soft, natural hands. He catches the ball away from his body and normally in full stride, adjusts well to poorly thrown balls, and catches the ball in traffic on a regular basis.
Chesson may not be a finished product, but it seems like A) he is extremely likely to become one due to being 1000 years old and B) once that happens Michigan has a 6'3", 215-pound leaper who will be some kind of cross between Adrian Arrington, Braylon Edwards, and Junior Hemingway.
Etc.: Allen Trieu in a Santa hat($):
Chesson asked the Michigan players why Brady Hoke has been more successful thus far than Rich Rodriguez was, and liked their response.
“They said it’s what (Hoke) stands for,” Chesson said. “With Coach Rodriguez, they felt like they were playing for his job. With Coach Hoke, it feels like they’re playing for Michigan.”
Why Adrian Arrington? Okay, he can't be that fast or the recruiting sites would have noticed. Probably, anyway. He still seems pretty fast, and lanky, and able to be that intermediate threat with a side of goin' deep that Adrian Arrington came into late in his career. Size is about right, down to the height and somewhat distressing lack of mass.
I also considered Braylon, because no one thought he was that good coming out of high school and he's exactly the right frame. But Braylon put up a 4.38 at his Michigan pro day. Chesson is most likely a step or two down from that kind of speed.
Guru Reliability: Low. I DON'T UNDERSTAND YOU RECRUITING SITES.
Variance: Low. Barring injury, Chesson will asymptotically approach his ceiling. That ceiling is something of a question because he has to add weight.
Ceiling: High. Probably lacks the elite speed or change of direction to be the third pick in the NFL draft. Can easily become a 70-80 catch intermediate to long security blanket.
General Excitement Level: High. Yeah… I know I already gave this out but screw it, I forgot just how old Chesson was: co-MGoBlog sleeper of the year right here.
Projection: Both freshman wideouts have a good shot at the field play. There's enough of a need at the spot that Devin Gardner is going to see a good chunk of time there and if you squint the right way, Michigan's going to lose their top three guys (Roundtree, Gallon, and Gardner) after the season, two to graduation and the other to quarterback. Darboh and Chesson will need to be ready to go next year… if not this year.
Darboh is a lock to play, and Chesson is 50/50 depending on how Jerald Robinson comes through and how prepared he is right now. Either way Chesson doesn't figure to make much impact in year one. In year two, nights in the film room and weight room and days with Hecklinski should make him a lot better. If he can run—and I think he can do so well enough to be a downfield threat—he is in line for a three-year starting run as a major target.
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Blake Bars, OL Kyle Kalis, and TE AJ Williams.
|Farmington Hills, MI – 6'5", 229|
|Scout||4*, #8 TE, #221 overall|
|Rivals||3*, #14 TE, #9 MI|
|ESPN||4*, #5 TE, #3 MI|
|24/7||4*, #10 TE, #8 MI|
|Other Suitors||Michigan State, Nebraska, Missouri, Virginia, Illinois|
|YMRMFSPA||A less existentially depressed Jake Stoneburner, or Kevin Koger|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Ace scouts Harrison against Brother Rice and Cass Tech.|
|Notes||Farmington Hills Harrison(Ojemudia)|
All kind of highlights from all the years:
He's also in the Cass Tech vs Farmington footage Ace got:
Has a hudl page.
Michigan's other tight end in the class of 2012 is as much of an outlier as their first—quasi-OL AJ Williams—but in the opposite direction. Farmington Hills Harrison's Devin Funchess is essentially a large wide receiver right now, a 6'5", 230 pounder who needs to fill out before he'll be able to block anybody but promises to outmatch any linebacker who is unfortunate enough to be put in one-on-one coverage with him.
To give you an idea of the kind of player we're talking about here:
- Touch The Banner compares him to Ben Troupe, the former Florida TE who received his way to All-American status as a "wide receiver with a tight end frame."
- TTB then follows that up with a "Carson Butler but sane" comparison, which is kind of like comparing someone to "Vincent Smith but tall."
- 247 goes with former Texas ball-vacuum Jermichael Finley, who entered the draft after his redshirt sophomore year and put up a 4.6 at 242 pounds.
He's a flex TE, a standup outside guy who can jump-ball a corner or outrun a linebacker or flip sides of the line and gamely fend off a linebacker maybe (but probably not yet).
The trick with these guys is having them get up to a weight where they can block a linebacker while still being faster than that guy, and that's hard to predict. Funchess has a shot at it, though. Multiple scouting reports project that he will easily hit the 240-250 pound range that most of the splashy NFL tight ends mentioned above end up at. Josh Helmholdt:
…has a frame that will easily allow him to play at 240 pounds - or heavier - in college without losing any of his speed or athleticism. He has an impressive presence running down the middle of the field and is a big, inviting target for his quarterback. A long and rangy athlete, Funchess is very fluid in his movements and has great ball skills.
"I think Devin Funchess is going to be a star. When they put weight on him, he is a long 6-5 guy, but he's just a boy. They'll put 40 pounds of muscle on him. He has great hands, runs great. He had a great attitude. He's going to be a great player - not just a good player, a great player."
"He looks like a wide out. He runs great. For a tight end, he has tremendous speed," Specht said. "The thing that really impressed me about Devin is how much bigger he's going to get. I said something to him when we were in Austin. I said, 'In a few years, when you get that weight on you, you're going to be special.' "
…and then mentioned that Funchess weighed all of 210—eight pounds less than WR Amara Darboh—at the game. He's listed at 229 on Michigan's roster, which seems like one of the more dubious weights available this time around.
ESPN liked him a lot, placing him just outside their top 150($):
…a kid who will contribute best as a pass catcher. He has very good hands and consistently uses those long arms to extend and pluck the ball out of the air. He displays very good body control and concentration to be able to adjust to the ball and make the catch in traffic. His height makes him a nice sized target, but he will also go up and high-point the ball which can make him a tough match-up for smaller defenders and potentially a nice target in the red-zone. He is not a kid that displays elite top end speed to run away from defenders and is a kid who seems to need to build speed, but he does have long strides and can cover some ground when runs and can help stretch the middle of the field.
He's an athlete who can get up. I mean…
…if NFL tight ends are now 6'5" Brent Petways, check. When Rivals caught him at the Midwest Showcase, the power forward reference came out:
The football does not melt into Funchess' hands quite the way it does for [Ron] Thompson, but the Farmington Hills Harrison product showed an unmatched level of athleticism. His background in basketball is apparent, especially when he is battling defenders for jump balls. Funchess goes up for a pass like a power forward pulling down a rebound, and at 6-4 with an impressive vertical, there are few defensive backs who will challenge him.
A couple of Funchess's catches from the International Bowl were balls that would have been filed "Tacopants" if thrown to a Martavious Odoms or even a Roy Roundtree. Check out 1:20 below for a McGuffie attempt that gets major air, and 2:00 for back-to-back catches that demonstrate how big of a target the kids is:
Funchess impressed Ace in limited opportunities to make a catch:
Funchess displayed great hands and concentration, making his first reception on a tipped pass… ran a great route up the seam, plucked the ball out of the air, and showed nice speed getting into the end zone on the 31-yard scoring play. His other catch also came when he found a hole in the middle of the defense – from limited viewing, I like what I see in his route-running, hands, and athleticism.
At worst he'll be a hell of a security blanket. He could be a guy announcers call a "weapon."
Funchess might be as different from AJ Williams as it is possible for one tight end to be from another, but together they further reinforce two themes, one a flipping obvious Brady Hoke goal, the other an admittedly speculative but exciting guess at how Al Borges sees his offense in three or four years.
The flipping obvious bit: Michigan is going to be big. They're going to be big on the line, they're going to be big at tight end and have a number of tight ends, they're going to have big wide receivers. While Funchess is not big for a tight end, as a second tight end or a spread TE he makes Michigan's formations big.
The admittedly speculative bit is something first broached in the Williams piece: having guys like Funchess and Williams and Jake Butt and Khalid Hill plus fullbacks and spread backs like Justice Hayes and Dennis Norfleet allows you to whipsaw defenses back and forth between radically different formations, to poke at defensive weaknesses, to give your offense the sort of unpredictable variety that's made Boise State and Stanford so difficult to defend in recent years. Funchess makes you versatile($)…
… a kid that lines up at tight end, he lines up in the slot, he lines up at wide receiver… He does a lot of motion. He does a lot of things offensively, but also plays defense - kind of a defensive end/outside linebacker. He's very versatile, does a lot of things and is very athletic. He's got great size. He's a nice young man to have on your football team."
…and Michigan wants to use that($):
"Michigan told me today that they were talking just last night about different formations they could put me in," Funchess said. "When I came up there today, they were telling me how they could spread me out and use me as a stand-up receiver."
Increasingly, the meaning of "pro-style" offense is "whatever works against you (except running the quarterback)." See Tom Brady's shotgun-mad Patriots offense morphing into Tom Brady's dual-TE Patriots offense, or Drew Brees hitting Darren Sproles in space, or the Detroit Lions saying "huh, Megatron." Funchess is a key part of that kind of approach.
I involuntarily wince when I hear Michigan coaches talk about a pro-style offense because the last time that was in place around here the offensive coordinator literally ran the same #$*@ing play at the beginning of every game, but watching old SDSU tapes reassures.
Etc.: Thirty Devins agree: "we love bucket hats." Fun with chess! Someone once called him "The Funchise." I'm not sure if that's awful or something we should steal so hard. Tremendous interview. Drew Henson($) says "wow, first impression, looks like the real deal" and "will be an instant mismatch on LBs," whether underneath or vertically.
Why a less existentially depressed Jake Stoneburner or Kevin Koger? Why tight ends went to Ohio State under Jim Tressel was unclear. Well, not that unclear: they went to win, and to block. And do nothing at all else. Stoneburner is the most recent example of a lanky, leaping tight end in the league, even if he is an amazingly underused weapon half of his 14 catches last year—more impressive when you consider that tied him for #1 amongst OSU receivers last year—went for touchdowns.
As for Koger, Funchess comes in with about the same hype and athleticism—Koger speared a couple of incredible catches in his time. Funchess will hopefully be less prone to dropping the easy ones.
The NFL guys listed above are also pretty good comparables but Michigan has not had a guy with his combination of receiving skills and athleticism in a long time. Maybe Jerame Tuman, maybe Bennie Jopppru but neither of those guys seemed to have the leaping; Koger didn't have the catching skills; Massaquoi didn't have the athleticism. Funchess could turn into any of those, really, but I don't think Michigan will be as crappy at throwing productive bulk onto big athletes these days as they were in the mid-aughts.
Guru Reliability: High. They all basically say the same thing.
Variance: Moderate. Going from 210-229 to a rippling 240-250 is always a process that leaves some exciting high school athletes plodding shells of their former selves. Other than that, seems good to go.
Ceiling: High. NFL potential is clear.
General Excitement Level: High. Poised to be Michigan's most productive TE since the waggle days, not only because of the shift in offense but because of his flexibility. He can play in big sets, spread sets, regular sets, etc. A ton of playing time beckons from day one.
Projection: The idea of a TE redshirt is fanciful, especially with Michigan hurting for receiving depth. He'll play. At first that will probably be in the redzone, where big sets are common and his length and leaping ability will make him an attractive target in crowded goal-line endzones. Will also feature as a Koger-esque H-back between the 20s.
Likely to be a four-year starter, or starter-ish type player in the vein of Courtney Avery, who may not "start" but plays just as much as anyone else on the defense not named Kovacs. I wouldn't put it past him to challenge Jim Mandich's all time TE receiving yardage (1489) given the situation he finds himself in.
[Ed-Ace: Brian is out of pocket for the day, so you're stuck with me. Friday Recruitin' is coming this afternoon. If you're looking for updates on Ondre Pipkins, you can find those here.]
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, OL Erik Magnuson, OL Blake Bars, and OL Kyle Kalis.
|Cincinnati, OH – 6'6", 283|
|Scout||4*, #27 OT(!), #225 overall|
|Rivals||3*, #22 TE, #26 OH|
|ESPN||3*, #36 TE, #38 OH|
|24/7||3*, #24 TE,#36 OH|
|Other Suitors||Arkansas, Illinois, MSU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim.|
Sycamore’s Williams an expert on holes
- So, AJ Williams. The first thing you should know about AJ Williams is that the "holes" thing is about noodling:
Q: I heard you used the term, “noodling.” I’ve been watching this show “Hillbilly Hand Fishin’”….
A: “Hillbilly Hand Fishin’”! (says simultaneously)
Q: I’d like to see A.J. Williams on that show doing that.
A: It’s always been a dream of mine to go noodling. I can’t wait to do it. I have family down in Whitesville, Ga. We’ve got some pretty nice lakes down there. Hopefully, I can go down there and get some noodling done.
The second thing you should know is that noodling is sticking your hands into dank watery holes in the ground in search of catfish.
- The third thing you should know is that AJ Williams is an improbably-sized tight end, one who arrives in Ann Arbor the same height and two pounds lighter than tackle recruit Erik Magnuson, one who played right tackle for his high school team last year and did so well at it that Scout bumped him into their top 300 based on his potential there. He's here to block you, weakside defensive end who he has motioned over to. No, it doesn't seem fair, does it? Get used to it. It's called life.
Anyway, Williams's size makes him an awkward fit for TE at the services who continued to rank him there and his (still hypothetical but highly, highly probable) inability to scream down the seam for big yardage makes him a generic three star. But like a Matt Godin or a Martavious Odoms, just because you're not an NFL prototype doesn't mean you don't fill an important role.
- At Michigan, that role is obvious. His ESPN profile($) is almost exclusively about his blocking:
Williams is a big in-line tight end. He possesses good size for a high school tight end and is/can be big enough to be like an extra lineman on the field. … He is not the dominating drive blocker that his size might suggest… He is more a positional stick-and-stay type blocker. … You would like to see him throw his size around a little more and deliver more of an initial pop and better create push off the ball in the run game. He is adequate working up to second level and getting a piece of moving targets and needs to do a better job of utilizing angles.
And they're kind of meh about it, which fair enough. Scout's positive take is based on more recent data, though:
Power And Strength
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Williams showed as a senior that he is capable of being a high level offensive tackle. He could potentially stay at tight end, but we like his upside more if he were to stay at tackle. He's a strong kid who keeps his feet nicely and finishes his blocks. He does well when asked to move, pull, and work in the second level. He will have to continue to refine his technique and playing with better pad level.
Again you notice nothing about this "passing" business. This is because his high school team all but refused to do it. In 2010 Sycamore passed for 489 yards. In 2011 that fell to 300-some. Williams had two catches as a junior, and none as a senior (because he was an offensive lineman). So about the only thing we know about AJ Williams is how he is as a run blocker.
That is pretty good. He was first team All Ohio in the biggest division. Trieu said he had "rare physical tools" when Scout moved him up midseason, and an opposing coach talks about his prolific ability($) in two sports:
"The obvious thing that sticks out is it is so rare to be that big and be that athletic," Commins said. "A testament to his athletic ability is he was one of the leading scorers and rebounders in our conference during the basketball season and he just has terrific feet around the basket that are on display on the football field too.
"He's strong and powerful. I've seen him collapse an entire side of the defensive line, sealing off the outside running lane without any help from the tackle or guard on that side. He's a special talent."
Still, when TE coach Dan Ferrigno talks about him like so($)…
“He played tackle this year in an offense that runs the ball 97% of the time about so he wasn’t going to catch any balls but he’s a skilled athlete,” said Ferrigno. “You watch him, like I have, run up and down the basketball court and he is a skilled guy. Now, is he going to run like a wide receiver? No, but he’s got a role on our football team. He’s going to run well enough to do the things that we need to do in the passing game.”
…the three-star rankings make all the sense in the world. He'll have a role, he'll fill it ably, he will not ever garner any hype unless it's that of the "unsung hero" variety.
The tackle-or-TE question isn't much of one. Michigan's coaches have been adamant he is a tight end…
AJ Williams. He is listed as a TE and I wondered about the “talk” that he will end up at tackle. I asked Funk. He was definitive. “He’s a tight end.” Funk said “he can catch the ball, but we really need help at the point of attack at the TE spot and he’s a guy who might have some opportunity to play right away.” The message was clear (a) we need help at TE now, especially in the run game, (b) we sure as hell hope this kid can step up there soon and (c) no, we don’t have any thought of moving him away from the TE spot.
…and the depth chart is even steelier with its assertions. Fifth-year senior Brandon Moore is the only scholarship TE on the roster other than the freshmen and Jordan Paskorz, who just flipped from defense. Classmate Devin Funchess is about sixty pounds lighter than Williams.
He has a role at TE that is obvious and will persist through his career. He may have one at tackle, too—it's just that the need is far more obvious further outside. Michigan is about to be flush with highly-rated tackles. If Williams ends up competing there it is because an unexpectedly high number of them washed out. It's a backup plan for the program.
“I’ll catch some passes at Michigan,” Williams said. “I’ve got 4.8 or 4.9 speed in the 40.”
Why Reid Fragel? Fragel came out of Michigan when Rodriguez was running things; Michigan offered him as an OL and was told to talk to the hand. Now listed at 6'8", 298, OSU's moved him to tackle largely because they have no other options. He's played in every OSU game since his redshirt came off and has a total of 14 catches, about one every three games. Fragel is a lot taller (6'8") but, yeah, Reid Fragel.
Guru Reliability: Low. Healthy, but no one really has any idea how he'll do at TE and only Scout seemed to pay attention to his senior year.
Variance: Low. Seems like a lock for major playing time and will dutifully block guys trying to do things and catch a ball about every third game.
Ceiling: Low-plus. Is not Gronkowski. Maybe has some upside to surprise since he's been playing on a team that runs 97% of the time, though.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. I am very even keeled about this dude. He seems like a nice piece to have in the redzone and on short yardage. Very hard to see him ending up the sort of multi-level threat you'd like out of your hybrid offensive players, but can be a key bit of one of those multiple pro-style offenses that whipsaw you from GRAAAGGHHG 3TE SMASH to wispy three and four wide shotgun eeeeee. You know, like Stanford last year or SDSU under Borges.
Having that extra tackle TE gives you options; I remember OSU just saying "screw it" and lining up with literally an extra tackle for the large bulk of one of their streak games, and that going poorly for M. If he gives Michigan that option and provides a steady stream of quotes about noodling he'll be well worth the roster slot.
Projection: Won't redshirt. Will probably start the year behind Brandon Moore, but could pass him by midseason given how much Moore has played so far in his career. Will be used as an inline blocker and won't be catching much other than play action flares and short stuff, at least at first.
As his career develops it will be much the same thing. He'll be on the line, doing stuff and running outlet routes. There's a slight possibility he would move to tackle eventually, but unlike Fragel he's on a team that has been recruiting their pants off at that position and there probably won't be any need.