I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Here's the pics I could assemble from 2013 signing day, because the most exciting thing that happened today was 18-year-olds signing pieces of paper and standing by fax machines. If you've got others post 'em below with attribution and I'll add.
To begin, here's ESPN's lead photo with Shane Morris and Wyatt Shallman in a DeLorean, because if you're going to take the Michigan program Back to the Future why not do it with some style. Also the stainless steel construction… stand back.
The rest via the jump.
It is Signing Day 2013, and if you weren't aware, Michigan has a pretty, pretty good class. With this post—and its accompanying defense post (coming tomorrow)—I'll attempt to give you a solid overview of the class, its strengths and weaknesses, and hand out a few superlatives. Let's start with a look at the offensive class as a whole and their final rankings from the recruiting services—click on each player's name to see their commitment post:
And now, some specifics:
BEST POSITION GROUP: Offensive Line.
This offensive line class is arguably the best in the country, finding strength both in numbers (six) and quality (five of the six are consensus four-stars or above and made All-American teams). As Michigan continues to fill in the holes left by some disastrous offensive line recruiting under Rich Rodriguez, this couldn't have come at a better time.
Among the group, guard Kyle Bosch is the most likely to crack the two-deep early; he's on campus early and has college-ready size—Michigan lists him at 6'5", 311 lbs.—to go with a polished set of skills. He won't start right away (let's hope) but could factor in as a backup. Center Patrick Kugler—the son of longtime NFL OL coach and current UTEP head coach Sean Kugler—might be the best of the bunch, though. He'll hit campus as the most physically gifted Wolverine at the position, and while he shouldn't be forced to play right away, he should be a multi-year starter down the road.
Honorable Mention: Running Back, Quarterback.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: No elite receiver
Yes, this class lacks a blue-chip wideout. Csont'e York and Jaron Dukes are both big targets who can go up and get the ball, while Da'Mario Jones could be a playmaker in the slot, but none are can't-miss prospects. This issue is mitigated somewhat by Michigan's strong recruiting at tight end—get a couple playmakers there and the pressure comes off the receivers in the passing game—but you'd still like to see a top-flight guy on the outside.
Honorable Mention: The only other issue with the offensive side of the class is the lack of a second quarterback for depth purposes, something the coaches decided wasn't necessary. Otherwise, every need was filled.
MOST LIKELY TO START FROM DAY ONE: Derrick Green
Not only is Green the top-ranked recruit in the class, but he comes in at a position of great uncertainty and, as of late, middling production. He's got the body of an NFL running back as a high school senior and is a perfect fit for Al Borges's ideal offense. It's unknown whether Fitz Toussaint will be ready to start the season after his ugly leg injury and his production was lacking in 2012 anyway; Thomas Rawls failed to impress in his stead. Green's toughest competition for the bulk of the carries may even come from fellow 2013 commit DeVeon Smith, arguably the best back in the state of Ohio. Either way, expect a freshman (or two) to make a big impact in the backfield next season.
Honorable Mention: DeVeon Smith, Jake Butt
SUREST THING: Patrick Kugler
Covered in part above, Kugler is as close as you'll get to a can't-miss offensive line recruit. At 6'5", 280 lbs. before setting foot on campus, he's got better size than any Michigan center of recent vintage. His father spent nine years coaching offensive line in the NFL, and Patrick's film makes it apparent that he's absorbed a lot of his father's teaching—from a technical standpoint, he's very advanced for his age. He participated in the Under Armour AA Game and held up very well against some of the best defensive linemen in the country.
Kugler's only competition at center right now is Jack Miller, who's been groomed to take over the position for a couple years but was too undersized to see the field as a redshirt freshman in 2012. Miller should step in and start in 2013—it's unrealistic to expect Kugler to have enough command of the offense to make the O-line calls after a few weeks on campus—but it's going to be hard to keep Kugler off the field in 2014 and beyond.
Honorable Mention: Derrick Green, Kyle Bosch
BOOM OR BUST: Logan Tuley-Tillman
Offensive lineman Logan Tuley-Tillman has the prototypical left tackle frame at 6'7", 307 pounds. He's also a relative newcomer to the game of football and spent his high school days overpowering opponents with sheer size and strength—as a result, he's got a long way to go from a technical standpoint. At last summer's Sound Mind Sound Body camp, Tuley-Tillman and David Dawson both got extensive work in with Michigan OL coach Darrell Funk—Funk used Dawson as an example for how to execute certain technical aspects of line play, then spent a good deal of time trying to get Tuley-Tillman to that level.
If Tuley-Tillman can put it all together, he's the future at left tackle and could even develop into an NFL prospect. With so much ground to cover, however, he could also get buried on the depth chart by more polished players. It should help that Tuley-Tillman is already on campus—with a redshirt year all but guaranteed, he'll have plenty of time to work on the fundamentals before worrying about seeing the field.
Honorable Mention: Shane Morris, Chris Fox
MGOSCOUTED STAMP OF APPROVAL: Jake Butt
Among the players I checked out last fall—on offense: Morris, Shallman, York, Dawson, Butt, and Hill—tight end Jake Butt really stood out with his performance on the field. Playing against cross-town rival Pickerington Central—featuring fellow Wolverine Taco Charlton—he hauled in nine catches for 93 yards and a TD while also making an impact at defensive end. Some of my impressions from that game:
Butt did a great job of snatching the ball away from his body and caught everything thrown his way. While he could be a little sharper out of his breaks, he runs crisp routes and positions his body well to give his quarterback a big target while warding off the defender. He was able to find space up the seam on multiple occasions but was also comfortable working on the perimeter, at one point catching back-to-back out routes when Central cheated to the inside in coverage. He's not going to juke past too many defenders after the catch, but he usually finds a way to fall forward for extra yardage.
At 6'6", 235 lbs., Butt has an ideal frame for the position, and his blocking really impressed me as well. He's another early enrollee, and I'd be surprised if he took a redshirt—he may not start from day one, but he's a better blocker than Devin Funchess and could give Michigan a scary one-two combo at tight end/H-back.
Honorable Mention: David Dawson, Shane Morris
THE SHANE MORRIS CATEGORY: Shane Morris
An overview of Michigan's 2013 class is incomplete without mentioning the team's quarterback of the future. Morris dropped from five-star status on Rivals and 247 after a senior season marred by mono and an uneven performance at the Under Armour AA Game, but he still has the highest ceiling of any of Michigan's commits.
The first thing that stands out about Morris is his arm strength—the ball explodes out of his hand with seemingly little effort. When he's on, it's a sight to behold. The problem—and ultimately why he dropped in the rankings—is that he's yet to show consistency; he still needs work reading defenses and relies too heavily on his arm strength to fit the ball into windows that sometimes aren't there.
Those expecting Morris to come in and take the starting job need to temper their expectations severely—the job is Devin Gardner's, and barring injury it'll stay that way. Morris could very well come in and earn the backup job over Russell Bellomy, however, and with a couple years of development he could be special.
Honorable Mention: Shane Morris
SLEEPER: Da'Mario Jones
Michigan snatched WR Da'Mario Jones, a Westland John Glenn product, away from Central Michigan, so he certainly flew under the radar for the bulk of the recruiting cycle. That may have been the product of playing in a league that doesn't get much exposure, however—Allen Trieu reported($) that UCLA, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, and Georgia all came to see him last week, though no offers came when he made it clear he was ticketed for Ann Arbor.
While the other two receivers in the class, Csont'e York and Jaron Dukes, are big guys who were on the receiving end of a lot of jump balls in high school, Jones is a guy who's shown his ability to work underneath and break big plays after the catch. With Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon back in 2013, he may not see the field right away, but down the road there's a clear role he can fill in the slot—a position that, granted, may be marginalized by the increased emphasis on tight ends—and nobody else on the roster who fits that mold after next season.
Honorable Mention: Wyatt Shallman, Khalid Hill
National Signing Day still ongoing, but we already have a pretty good idea how things are going to play out.
6:00 a.m. - The sun has yet to rise in College Station, Texas. A lonely fax machine sits in Kevin Sumlin's office. There is no way for it to know the hell it is about to experience. It can't comprehend such things. It is just a machine.
7:10 a.m. - Brian Kelly receives his 100th Letter of Intent for 'Lennay Kekua,' to go along with 37 for 'Manti Te'o's Fake Girlfriend' and 6 for 'That Catfish chick.' "Very original, jackass," he thinks to himself. Kelly looks in his mini-fridge, but finds it empty. He calls up Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, and threatens to leave for the NFL if Notre Dame doesn't pony up breakfast.
7:13 a.m. - An out-of-breath Swarbrick arrives with an Egg McMuffin. Kelly grunts a half-hearted, "okay I'll stay."
Om nom nom
7:44 a.m. - Out of absolutely nowhere, damn near every five-star recruit in the country commits to Ole Miss. Yep. Ole Miss. This is in no way suspicious. Stuff like this happens occasionally; the best players in the country will sometimes all decide, basically at the same time, to attend the same school, even if that school hasn’t won its conference since the Kennedy Administration. Why are you so suspicious of this? Just because Ole Miss is 13-24 (and 4-21 in conference) over the last three seasons? Or because Ole Miss has never been ranked higher than 15th in Rivals’ rankings? Or because one of their five-star recruits tweeted out a picture of a pile of cash recently? That’s all just circumstantial evidence, man.
8:02 a.m. - Michigan blog circles awaken, but unlike most are unconcerned with the events of this day. For you see, Michigan is different than the other schools, who view the purpose of recruiting as stockpiling talent and accumulating star ratings. Michigan is not concerned with such things. Michigan attempts to accumulate Michigan Men. Men who think only of the team. The team, the team, the team. And though they are few in number, their moral standing and forthright character will make them superior athletes, scholars, and gentlemen at the end of the day. Some players may be more highly ranked than these Michigan Men, but those rankings do not capture the essence of teamsmanship and sportitude that make these Michigan Men special. And though those more highly ranked players may choose other schools, in doing so they demonstrate that they are, in fact, not Michigan Men, and were therefore unworthy to don the winged helmet. Those who stay, gentlemen. Those who stay.
8:12 a.m. - Word hits Michigan blog circles that Derrick Green has submitted his LOI. Michigan fans respond with a "WOOOOOOO FIVE STAR RUNNING BACKS BABY!!! OUR CLASS KICKS YOUR CLASS'S THREE-STAR ASS. SUCK IT, DANTONIO. NUMBER ONE!!!"
8:54 a.m. - A kid with discernable football talent sends his paperwork to Colorado. All are confused.
Did… did you watch the last few years?
9:10 a.m. - ..."What is this madness?" wonders the poor fax machine. He has not stopped churning for a moment. He is on his third drum of toner and sixth ream of paper, and there seems to be no end in sight. There is no time to contemplate the greater meaning, however, as another fax is coming in...
9:36 a.m. - A bright-eyed and talented young running back from Iowa beams ear-to-ear as he hands his paperwork to his high school athletic director. "Send this to the attention of Kirk Ferentz at this number, please," he says. As the fax machine starts to whir, the young man feels a strange twinge in his right knee, and he suddenly senses that someone, or something, is behind him. He turns, but nothing is there. He shrugs and laughs it off. Alas, it is too late for him already.
10:01 a.m. - Urban Meyer enters his office to gaze upon the hundreds and hundreds of LOIs on his desk. Seemingly every major recruit in the country, including those who already enrolled early at other schools, has sent their pledge to Ohio State. Meyer feels a touch of guilt for having not explained better to all of these young men that most of their offers were not "committable." Meyer sifts through the pile for the letters from the 21 kids he really wanted, and places the rest of them in the recycling bin.
11:53 p.m. - Mark Dantonio picks up... you know what? No one really cares.
File Photo. I think. I didn’t look very hard.
12:01 p.m. - Brian Kelly calls Jack Swarbrick and and informs him that he is considering leaving to coach the Baltimore Orioles, and that he is rather hungry.
12:07 p.m. - Swarbrick arrives with a chicken carbonara sandwich from Quiznos. Kelly reaffirms that he is still completely devoted to Notre Dame.
12:47 p.m. - Bo Pelini receives a letter of intent from a highly touted defensive lineman. Pelini immediately calls the young man and berates him for 20 minutes for his inexcusable penmanship.
YOUR Fs LOOK LIKE F***ING Ts. AND HOW THE HELL IS THAT A D?
2:17 p.m. - In Tuscaloosa, a dozen non-contributing underclassmen and a handful of oft-injured juniors are asked to load all of their equipment onto a truck as part of a "new drill." They don't suspect anything, despite the fact that their first task upon arriving at Alabama had been to unload about a dozen sets of football pads and other equipment from a truck very much like this one.
2:58 p.m. - A Tennessee commit tells local reporters how excited he is to compete for an SEC Championship. No one has the heart to tell him.
3:39 p.m. - ... Too much. This is simply too much. His motherboard smoking, his outer shell warped from the heat, the poor fax machine longs for the sweet release of death. They are coming slower now, but the short break between letters only offers cruel hope that maybe, just maybe, the the previous letter will have been the last. And yet, each respite is interrupted by OH COME ON, WHO THE HELL NEEDS THIS MANY WIDE RECEIVERS?
4:11 p.m. - In West Lafayette, Darrell Hazell hears the knock on his office door that he has been dreading. Brady Hoke enters, walks to Hazell's desk, and picks up Hazell's pile of LOIs. Hoke thumbs through them slowly, removes one from the pile, folds it neatly, and places it in his pocket. Hazell starts to protest, but realizes the futility. Danny Hope had explained to him about the natural order of things. Hoke adjusts his wizard hat and leaves without a word. Hazell vows revenge, but deep down he fears he may just be fooling himself.
6:41 p.m. - Gus Malzahn once again checks the connection on his fax machine. Had he given his recruits the wrong fax number? I mean, he DID have some commitments, right?
Three products of the Detroit suburbs. Watson & Trent: MGoBlue archives; Ojemudia by Eric Upchurch
In most states, the conversation on National Signing Day is about how awesome the kids are at football. Everybody looks at the rankings, those at the top have their little ceremonies around fax machines, and then everybody hits a lot of refresh to see whether mortgaging all of your elementary schools was enough to lure that top talent to your favorite team.
Well let me explain some tings about da Great Lakes State. First of all, people in the lower p like to explain tings. The second thing you should know is we got Sparties. Holy wah do we got Sparties. And the ting about Sparties is dere everywhere, and you're not allowed to shoot 'em.
Already by this point the scripts for tomorrow are written: State can't compete with Michigan for the guys Michigan wants. Michigan wins in February, State wins in October (one time in three). Detroit has the 5-stars but Grand Rapids has the players. Hoke has changed the dynamics in the rivalry. No, services just overrate his guys. Fewer people in the state means recruiting has suffered. Mom, Michigan's making fun of me. Are we at the Zilwaukee Bridge yet? I can't answer every great question in the Great Lakes State, but I figured I might tackle a few of the factoids that float around the peninsulas every year around this time.
Did the Talent Leave with the People?
The state indeed has been losing people, although most of the people who fled Detroit didn't make it past Oakland County. Estimated population in 2012 was 9,883,360, while the 2000 census read 9,938,444. We lost like a half a percent. If you look at it against U.S. growth as a whole, Michigan's population was 3.53% of the country and now it's 3.15%, an effective drop of 11% if the shift proportionally affects people who graduated after 2001 who have football talent and the opportunity to develop football skills. If that's had an effect it's not noticeable in the small sample:
I'm not letting population shift or Rivals off the hook for no in-state 5-stars in three years; I'm saying there's more evidence that mononucleosis is to blame. And anyway can you blame them now for not giving one to Lawrence Thomas last year? What's weirder is the last three (Will Gholston, Campbell and Ronald Johnson) all turned out to be somewhat below those expectations.
Does MSU recruit just as well in-state as Michigan?
Does the East Get Overrated Compared to the West?
This is a thing coaches sometimes still say, and was repeated often enough by my west side friends as truth in my college days. I don't know if it's still even said—maybe it was just the typical whining that always comes from the direction Brian Kelly is in. But we can test it a little anyway. Here's how I split up the map:
Apologies for the greenness of the blue state; the relative partiality to one school or another is another thing we ought to test. Now here's how recruits were spread across it over this period, next to the spread of games played in the NFL by players from whichever region:
The West's distribution isn't any different than its recruit contribution. Once in awhile a 2-star at a Grand Rapids-ish school may get overlooked, come to Michigan, and end up earning $12 million/year in the NFL, but most of the time those 2-stars are Obi Ezeh.
The thing that's off here—by a lot—seems to where I'm sitting…
[After the jump, something stinks in Oakland County. Other than the author I mean.]
Today's recruiting roundup welcomes Jack Wangler, previews Michigan's signing day (spoiler: there's not much to preview), covers the latest in the 2014 class, and more.
Hello: Jack Wangler
Over the weekend, Michigan picked up a preferred walk-on in Warren (MI) De La Salle WR Jack Wangler, son of former Wolverine QB John Wangler and high school teammate of Shane Morris. Wangler didn't have any major college offers but did hold interest from a handful of MAC and Ivy League schools—the lure of following in his father's footsteps won out in the end:
"I can't wait to carry on the Wangler name at Michigan," he said. "Before I made it public, I was sure to call my dad and let him know what I had decided to do. He was definitely excited. Being around Michigan my entire life and experiencing it so much the past couple seasons really made it an easy choice. My dad said my years at Michigan will end up being the best four or five years of my life. I know they were for him."
While Wangler isn't a high-profile recruit—he's only ranked on Scout, where he's a two-star—he's impressed on the camp scene. Scout's Allen Trieu named him one of the emerging prospects at last April's Adidas Invitational:
Wangler had a good showing, first running a 4.58 in the forty yard dash and then catching everything thrown at him for the rest of the day. He has good ball skills and went up over top of a couple defenders to grab some passes and he's a kid who knows how to create separation.
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt called him one of the sleepers of last June's Sound Mind Sound Body camp:
Wangler has put a lot of work in this off-season with his Maximum Exposure teams, going head-to-head against some of the top defensive backs in the country. Wangler is always going to be a possession receiver; but his speed is coming along, and he has been timed as low as the 4.5 range for the 40-yard dash. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Wangler is a physical receiver and a technician when it comes to route-running.
As a guy who won't take up a scholarship slot, Wangler has some upside—he's got decent size, route-running, and hands, not to mention strong familiarity with Michigan's quarterback of the future. If there's a position group where a walk-on with a niche—in this case, sure-handed possession receiver—could work their way onto the field in the next few years, it's at receiver.
[Hit THE JUMP for your very brief signing day primer, news on the 2014 QB situation, new offers, and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup revels in the wake of Derrick Green's commitment and has the latest updates on Denzel Ward, Henry Poggi, and more.
Hello: Derrick Green
In case the rock you live under still isn't wi-fi capable, I have good news: Derrick Green, the nation's top-ranked running back, committed to Michigan on Saturday. He gets the full "Hello" treatment here, and below is local news coverage featuring video of his announcement:
Green's remarkable physical transformation—he entered high school at 268 pounds—is recounted in Sam Webb's latest DetNews article, which also gives a look into Green's recruitment. Green calls Fred Jackson "a father figure," and Brady Hoke managed to have a huge impact before ever meeting him in person [emphasis mine]:
With those bonds fortified there was one important connection left to be made — the one with Hoke. Even in his absence Michigan's head coach managed to begin that process with a gesture that resonates with his prized recruit to this day.
Said [Green's mother, Fran] Knight, "When we went (on the March 18 visit), he wasn't there. His dad had just passed, but I was amazed how even though he was going through the situation with his father passing, he still took the time out to call Derrick and let him know that he really wanted him there, he really wanted to be there, (and) he was looking forward to meeting him. That spoke volumes to me about the type of person he was."
If you'd like to see more scouting on Green, the DetNews also has blurbs from several Scout analysts.
In other current commit news, 247 named David Dawson and Patrick Kugler to their All-American first team for the class of 2013. Kyle Bosch and Henry Poggi earned second-team nods.
Speaking of Poggi, multiple outlets have confirmed that he did visit Alabama last weekend, and the Tide are actively recruiting him. While the exact nature of the visit is unclear—some say it was a visit to a friend on the team while others say that he took an official, and the Poggis are staying quiet—the general sense from insiders is that he'll still end up at Michigan in the end.
After a move to Florida—one that reportedly came as a surprise to the coaches—a parting of the ways between Michigan and 2014 commit Denzel Ward seemed inevitable. Today, it came to pass:
I am no longer a commit to the University of Michigan, I really appreciare the love from there but I just want to make the best decision.
— Denzel Ward (@DW75_) January 29, 2013
Michigan Leads For Doles
In-state 2014 OL Tommy Doles was on campus again last weekend, this time to check out the academic side of things, and per GBW's Kyle Bogenshutz the trip cemented Michigan at the top of his list ($):
“It helped a lot,” said Doles. “I can say Michigan is the frontrunner now. I wasn’t ready to make a commitment or anything – I think I still want to see what the options are. I think I’m just not quite ready to make a decision yet, but Michigan is a good option at this point."
Doles may take his time and check out some other options, but at this point it's tough to see him winding up anywhere but Michigan.
Per multiple sources, including 247's Clint Brewster($), Michigan offered 2014 five-star GA DE Lorenzo Carter. Carter holds one of the most impressive offer sheets in the country—pulling a five-star deep out of SEC country is a tall task, so until further notice don't get expectations too high for him.