I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Watch the birdie.
In my day freshmen appeared on the scene knocking down Bobby Hoying passes, shutting down Terry Glenn, and cleaving Eddie George. Then they'd switch to offense and fold Mike Vrabel in twain. What's the matter with kids today? The cast today:
- Ann-Margret as Brian Cook
- Dick Van Dyke as Seth Fisher
- Bobby Rydell as Ace Anbender
- Jesse Pearson as Brandon "Birdie" Brown
|Of the young linebackers, we've seen a lot of Bolden but not much from him. [Upchurch]|
It's an expectation (or a conceit) at Michigan that recruits follow a "track" of progression that should see them all-conference and worth drafting after four years in the program. Of the 2012 class and the few '13 guys who've seen action, who do you see as ahead of schedule, or worryingly behind?
Ace: I'm not even going to bother with the 2013 class because it's beyond too early to discuss their progression versus expectations; frankly, that's the case for the 2012 class as well, but they at least have a handful of guys who have broken through and seen extensive time.
Three players who are clearly ahead of schedule are Devin Funchess, James Ross, and Willie Henry. Funchess has gone from dangerous-but-terrible-at-blocking tight end to dangerous-and-oh-god-so-dangerous wide receiver, and he's got an NFL future even if his blocking never develops as much as we'd hope. Ross has had an up-and-down year but still has a stranglehold on the weakside LB starting job; he's a future all-conference player once he adds a little more weight to take on blocks—his instincts are already there. Henry's initial expectations weren't as high as the other two, nor has he played at their level consistently, but he's easily exceeded expectations for a late three-star pickup just by seeing the field and holding his own.
[Jump like a Funchess]
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman.
|Wheaton, IL – 6'5", 307|
4*, #49 overall
4*, #104 overall
4*, #157 overall
4*, #103 overall
Bama, ND, Stanford, Miami, MSU, Nebraska
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from a simpler time when Ace had fingers, not PTSD.|
Early enrollee. Twitter
Senior highlights from… Michigan's official site?
Odd. They rank high on the entertainment scale for OL highlights, assuming you like huge guys caving in not so huge guys.
This is going to sound really familiar. Kyle Bosch is basically David Dawson give or take an inch and a ton of recruiting drama. He's a rather large guard who could kick out to right tackle if necessary, he is an advanced technician for his age, he has the hatred of all other living beings in pads necessary to get a scholarship offer from Michigan, he is a consensus four star just outside of most top 100s with one enthusiastic site depositing him around 50th.
The biggest difference for the purposes of this post is camps. Dawson went to all of them. Bosch mostly ignored them. He did get an Opening invite and showed up, but he came down with something nasty and had to leave just a day in. The only other mention of a camp I can find was an observation-only visit to SMSB. So there's significantly less scouting out there.
What exists is Dawson-esque. The themes that emerge with both guys: a love of contact, an ability to get downfield, and a defender on the ground. A Notre Dame evaluator took a look at Bosch back when it was assumed he would end up in the blue and gold:
For me, his two best traits are the nastiness with which he plays the game and the swagger he has on the field. Many offensive linemen play with attitude and confidence, traits that Bosch also possesses. What Bosch seems to have on film is a swagger that is often displayed by skill players or linebackers.
Bosch is also "physical and aggressive," has "good agility and good foot quickness" and gets off the line quickly; main downside was a bit of hip stiffness that might make it unwise to put him on the edge against a quality rusher—apparently that means you can't change direction as effectively in a pass set.
His coach makes him sound like a defensive lineman what with references to motor and intensity:
"I think the biggest thing is that he has such a high motor. He's a very intense football player, and I think a lot of times, bigger kids like that take a while to develop that. But he has an intensity level that I've never seen in a big guy. He loves contact."
Steve Wiltfong emphasized his strength and meanosity:
“He’s a guy who looks to fight on every snap. He is super strong with over a 400-pound bench press. He is a good athlete. He is an interior guy who will go after people.”
And Allen Trieu called him($) "a tough, rugged kid," a technician, and that if you put a guy in front of him "that' guy's ending up on the ground."
There is some dispute about his technique at the moment. His coach thinks it's quality:
"His ability to finish blocks is pretty special, I think," Horeni said. "A lot of linemen his size just want to lean on people, but he rolls his hips, which is something you see at the next level. He explodes on contact and drives through the person.
"There's countless times this year when the guy he's going against gets a little bit off the ground and then (Bosch) buries him into the ground. It's something special."
Similarly, Kyle Turley thought that Bosch was closer to the field than a few of the other early OL commits:
…shows the ability to be able to get to that next level really quick. His explosive nature really stands out on film. His strength, size and punch off the line gives him a chance to have an instant impact. Like the others, he is a finisher. He naturally finishes his block, has great drive and gets to the next level. … has less to work on than the other guys.
On the other hand, ESPN knocks his ability to drive guys($):
Bosch is a physical and aggressive line prospect. … good first-step quickness to get into the defender. He uses angles well and is at his best when he can block down or work in tandem. He flashes the ability to come with a lot of force and deliver a big pop when he gets an angle and has the upper body strength to knock defenders to the ground. He does display some tightness in his lower body and is not as strong at this stage as a drive blocker… will be physical and fight, but doesn't create the type of push that his size or aggressiveness would suggest he could. At this stage, he is more of a wall off blocker. He does an solid job of working up to second level, adjusting on the move and getting a hat on active defenders.
And Scout's profile disagrees with everyone, lists technique as a negative, and praising his ability to drive guys:
Scout.com Player Evaluation:
Aggresiveness / Tenacity
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
A left tackle for his St. Francis team, Bosch is usually the biggest and strongest player on the field, and he plays like he wants everyone to know it. He is big and athletic and takes pride in finishing his blocks and stacking up pancakes. He has good flexibility and leg drive as he excels in run blocking. He'll gain strength and leverage as he continues to fill out his frame and refine his technique.
So there's that. I wonder if "technique" is just a thing they throw up there for anyone without an obvious drawback. Every high school player ever needs to work on his technique. With Bosch ranked in Scout's top 50 that's a possibility.
The sites are split down the middle on whether he's a guard or a tackle, and Michigan told Bosch pretty much the same thing($):
"They told me they project me playing as a guard or a tackle," he said. "They said they love my footwork and they love my athleticism, and they could see me playing both positions. But I'm learning to snap and I'm getting better. I could be a triple-threat and be ready to contribute as early as possible. I've been busting my butt in the weight room and watching film, and I'm getting to become a Swiss army knife at the next level."
The lack of ideal height likely rules out left tackle, but if he's one of the five best he could play on the right.
In spring they played him at guard, so assume that is preferred. Most of the evaluations say he is better there, sometimes explicitly, sometimes by mentioning an exceptional ability to get to the second level, which is more important on the interior. An example from pain-loving anonymous Rivals evaluator:
He comes off the ball quickly and runs well in open space. He plays with a high level of aggression and does well to position himself for knockout blows on linebackers. He shows good lateral mobility when he attacks the second level.
Perhaps his best strength is his ability to not slow down on impact, and yet he stays under control with good pressure on the defender. He does not slow his feet or hesitate with his hands when he engages his opponent. Most importantly, he is on the attack on every play and looks to finish his block by planting his opponent into the turf.
This is a guy you want to pull, pull, pull, pull. That indicates guard. Also potentially indicating guard is a twitter conversation from May between Shane Morris and David Dawson I stumbled across. I will translate from the twitterese:
DAWSON: For every retweet I do 10 push ups and 10 curls, GO!
DAWSON: Shane Morris, I'd advise you to be extra nice to YOUR LINEMAN
MORRIS: dat bull 4 lyfe
DAWSON: and I'm your right tackle you better be EXTRA nice
I don't really know why Morris is referencing DatBull unless he, like myself, is operating under the assumption that there is no bad time for a DatBull reference.
Anyway, I place about 10% weight on a position declaration made before arrival on campus and assume that whoever is on Morris's blindside should he ascend to the starting job will be a natural left tackle. Still, if one of the 6'5" guard types is going to pop outside it seems it'll be Dawson. I expect both eventually find homes on the interior.
Etc.: Bosch's high school has identity issues($):
On his high school mascot being a Spartan: I think I'll be able to get over it pretty quickly and embrace the Wolverine. Our motto is actually "Go Blue!" because we're the Blue Spartans, so we're kind of an oxymoron.
Why Maurice Williams? A 6'5", 302-pound swing player between guard and right tackle, Williams took some time to round into a starter, but once he did he was a second-round NFL draft pick and stuck around the NFL for about a decade before a series of injuries did his career in.
Williams was recruited before the era when people tried to rank these folks, and I can't find anything on the internet that might indicate hype level. Oh well. Bosch is actually heavier than the NFL-vet version of Williams right now and may end up pushing 320.
Guru Reliability: High. Consensus, healthy player, low amount of projection, but basically no camps.
Variance: Low-plus. Again, no low for OL. But Bosch, like Dawson, doesn't have as far to go as many. He's already at a good 307 and may or may not have good technique. The hip-rolling thing is a hurdle cleared that can hamper people's careers.
Ceiling: High. Has the size and disposition to be an NFL player.
General Excitement Level: High. This is a recording.
Projection: Is OL, redshirt.
Afterwards it's the same thing you heard after the Dawson/Kugler/LTT posts: a war beckons on the interior. Next year two spots open, and whether one of them is on the interior or not, Michigan is going to play its best four guys and a center. Bosch and Dawson are your frontrunners on the interior.
Again, predicting a winner there is a foolhardy exercise, but projecting the guy who emerges from the melee with a machete in his teeth to be pretty friggin' good at football is obvious. One or two or three of these guys is going to get injured or lost in the shuffle and not work out; Michigan will be able to weather those hits without problem.
hi bennie! /Upchurch
It's an annual rite of fan dorkiness each year to try to be the first to guess which numbers the incoming freshmen will be given by obsessively google stalking them. Sometimes I have some inside knowledge from a recruit who was promised his digit, or tweeted his preferences or something. Here's how I did last year:
|Name||Pos.||# in HS||2012 Guess||Actual|
|Allen Gant||S||7 and 14||14||12|
|Chris Wormley||DE||47||84 or 68||43|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB/KR||21||21 if available, or 31||26|
|Devin Funchess||TE||5 and 15||85||19|
|Drake Johnson||RB||2 and 18||32 or 6 or 23||29|
|Sione Houma||FB||35||41 or 32||39|
|Terry Richardson||CB||3 and 6 and 9||9||13|
|Tom Strobel||DE||36||63 or 93 or 86||50|
|Willie Henry||DT||74||74 or 68||69|
Four out of 22 ain't…well yes it is. It was bad. This article is useless. Let's continue it anyway; I swear to do better.
Getting to know you. Each coach has his own tendencies with this so we'll get better at it in time. With Hoke, he seems to like having consecutive numbers in the same position group, perhaps for mentoring purposes because they sit next to each other in the locker room. It's far from a rule, but it's a trend. Carr rarely let a player share a specialist's digit, but Hoke doesn't seem to have a problem with it, for example Wormley and Hagerup share a number, and walk-on tight end Alex Mitropoulus-Rundus (I'm gonna just start calling him "Alex M-R") has the same digit as backup punter Kenny Allen. Rich Rodriguez was far more apt to share numbers, and the single digits were nearly always doubled up; Hoke has said in the past that he doesn't like doing that, and the practice has been limited—as of spring just 5, 12 and 34 had scholarship recruits in both numbers, adding 54 and 56 to those double-occupied by players on the two-deep.
The roster lies. The official MGoBlue.com roster still doesn't have DeAnthony Hardison, that nifty RB you saw in the Spring Game. He's #18. Also a practice insider told me Anthony Capatina is playing slot receiver, not "DB" as he's listed on the depth chart. Also weirdly missing from that roster is #79 right tackle Dan Gibbs (a Seaholm Mape!!!), a 2012 preferred walk-on whose twitter profile pic is him riding an oliphant:
Legends/Special #s: 1 because Braylon's scholarship killed the fun, unless Gallon gets it. It won't come as much of a surprise to you that 2 will probably be entering the Legends program this season. There will also be some push for 16, and I doubt it'll be assigned to an offensive player immediately. 11 for the Wisterts, 21 for Desmond, and 87 for Ron Kramer are currently open; it is likely they'll be assigned to veterans whose digits might then be made available if it happens before the season. Bennie's 47 and Jerry's 48 remain occupied by current players and there's no way a second guy will get them. And I've been told they're still working on the Harmon family with 98. Anyway they won't go to freshmen.
Already worn on both sides: 5 (Courtney Avery and Justice Hayes), 6 (Raymon Taylor and Brian Cleary), 12 (Gardner and Allen Gant), 13 (Terry Richardson and Alex Swieca), 15 (James Ross and Shaun Austin), 34 (Jeremy Clark and Brendan Gibbons), 43 (Chris Wormley and Will Hagerup), 54 (Richard Ash and Jareth Glanda), 56 (Ondre Pipkins and Joey Burzynski), 69 (Willie Henry and Erik Gunderson), and 95 (Anthony Capatina and Michael Jocz).
Available on offense only: 4, 7, 14, 18, 22, 24, 25, 30, 33, 35, 40, 50, 52, 53, 55, 57, 59, 66, 76, 92, 96, 97, 99
Available on defense only: 3, 8, 9, 10, 17, 19, 26, 27, 28, 29, 38, 39, 42, 45, 46, 49, 51, 58, 60, 61, 62, 63, 65, 67, 70, 71, 72, 75, 77, 78, 82, 84, 85, 86, 88, 94
Walk-ons with soft claims: Every year there's a Jon Keizer on the roster who thinks his number is safe, then some top running back recruit in the country (right: from Scout) runs him over with star power (dadada, didda-da diddadidda…). Scout teamers without scholarships often have their numbers taken, for example Charlie Zeller was 19 on the 2012 spring roster and Paul Gyarmati was sitting on 99, but Devin Funchess and Matt Godin nabbed those digits last fall. This year they are 15 (Shaun Austin—note that Ross has it on D), 18 (DeAnthony Hardison—note that Countess has it on D), 27 (Jon Keizer), 36 (AJ Pearson—note that Kerridge has it on O), 42 (Dylan Esterline), 46 (Clark Grace), 49 (Brad Anlauf), 51 (Bobby Henderson), 59 (Mark Lawson), 63 (Ben Pliska), 66 (Dan Liesman), 70 (Kris Mateus), 79 (Dan Gibbs), (91 (Alex M-R, though Kenny Allen wears it too), and 95 (Anthony Capatina and Mike Jocz). The other walk-ons I didn't mention (Dever, Cleary, Glanda, Burzynski, Reynolds, Allen, Gunderson, Jocz and the Glasgows) are either on the two-deep already or in the mix.
Currently unused: 20, 23, 31, 32, 37, 41, 44, 64, 68, 73, 74, 80, 81, 83, 89, 90, 93, π
You just said Pi. We're Michigan fergodsakes. All the constants—φ, ζ(3), α and δ, Euler's e, γ, λ, K, r, and Ω—ought to be fair game, and if someone takes √-1 and uses the nickname "Impossible" he will be my favorite for ever and ever.
EVERYBODY LET'S ALL BE #7!!!
|Name||Pos.||HS #||Tea Leaves||Best Guess|
|David Dawson||OG||71||Wore 55 in Under Armour game, 33 in Army AA game.||55* - His Twitter acct is David Dawson 5⃣5⃣|
|Reon Dawson||BCB||1||Wore 13, 24 and 1 in high school.||31 - seems to fit.|
|Jaron Dukes||WR||8||Twitter handle is @Jaron_Dukes8||83*
|Chris Fox||OL||73||Wore #13 (?) at Army AA game and #33 at Rivals 5-star challenge||73* - Guy likes #3|
|Greg Froelich||OG||77||Wore that and 75 in high school (preferred walk-on)||76 - Not exactly Steve Hutchinson.|
|Ben Gedeon||MLB||15||James Ross is already James Ross.||45 - David Harris's # but precludes punt coverage.|
|Derrick Green||RB||27||Wore 27 in Army AA game.||27* - call it a hunch. Sorry Keizer.|
|Delano Hill||Nk/FS||11||Looks like he's 40.||32 (Kovacs's other #) or 23|
|Khalid Hill||FB/TE||32||Very Kevin Dudley of him.||32 or 23|
|Maurice Hurst||NT||50||Wore #11 in Semper Fi Bowl.||68 - Mike Martin's #|
|Da'Mario Jones||WR||11||Wore #7 in that photo of recruits in white M jerseys. #15 at MSU camp. Same school as Tony Boles, who wore 42 at Michigan but had 18 touchdowns so...||14*
|Patrick Kugler||OC||57||Wore 57 at UA game. Dad and bro wore 57.||57 - O'KUGLER RULES!|
|Jourdan Lewis||CB||1||Also wore #17 at Cass Tech, #27 at Army AA game.||17 or 3 or 37.|
|Mike McCray||SAM||9||Wore #9 at UA game. Father wore 99 at OSU||9* - He and Dileo both likely to be on special teams, but not the same groups.|
|J.J. McGrath||K||13||preferred walk-on||35 - Or some kicker number.|
|Shane Morris||QB||12||Gardner switched, so...||7 - he already tweeted it.|
|Henry Poggi||3T||7||Wore 17 at UA game. Was given #7 locker in May. Plays jazz flute.||70 - Ross Douglass already took 7.|
|Dan Samuelson||OG||74||Photo out there of him wearing a Nebraska 74 jersey. Twitter handle is @dansamuelson74.||74 - it's available.|
|Wyatt Shallman||FB||49||49 is available on defense.||33* for his DCC teammate who passed away.
|Deveon Smith||RB||4||Is a 4-star?||4 - It's open.|
|Blaise Stearns||WR||1||Townie: Can't find what he wore at Huron before transferred. Preferred walk-on||89 - Doesn't exactly get 1st pick.|
|Channing Stribling||FS||8||#22 commit to the class.||8* - It's open|
|Scott Sypniewski||LS||56||Wore #45 at his long-snapper camp.||41 - Who cares.|
|Jack Wangler||WR||21||Dad wore #5 at Mich (preferred walk-on)||16*
|Csont'e York||WR||1||Was #667 at NFTC||81 - With an eye toward dropping the 8.|
Go ahead and make your guesses. We'll have our answers in a few weeks.
* UPDATE: After I posted this Magnus alerted me to his post of numbers that have already been revealed. I had some good guesses. I crossed out my comments if the guess was wrong.
Why yes there is a story behind this photo:
"I took this picture at the pre-Super Bowl NFL Tailgate Party last week of my brother and Urban Meyer. My brother's hat was backwards but he twisted it around as I set up for the pic. Thought you might enjoy."
--Jared of Sports Power Weekends
As you may have heard on National Signing Day Urban Meyer inked a lot of five-stars (and poached as many three-stars from his conference rivals), then rounded on the rest of the B1G for not faring so well. MaizeNBlueInDC took to the Scout rankings to confirm, compiling the recruits by state to demonstrate how each conference was doing versus its footprint. He starts with a chart that seems to suggest the Big Ten recruited just like every other major conference except the SEC which I graph:
The parts I faded are the top two teams from each conference according to Scout's team rankings, respectively Bama/Texas A&M, UCLA/Wash(!), Mich/OSU, Okla/Texas, Clemson/FSU, and Rutgers/Cincy. That's what Urbz is whining about; he and we finished with the 1 and 2 teams to Scout, and the fourth Big Ten team doesn't appear until two spots above Kentucky. Course I'm not sure what Meyer expects to say at the coaches meeting except "Stop being MAC coaches promoted to your Peter Principle limit." For QED purposes, a reminder of Big Ten coaching hires since 2007:
- 2007: Saban/Tressel acolyte who turned Cincy into a BCS team, LSU's DC, Mack Brown's recruiting guy, Indiana's OC who coached Ball State before Hoke.
- 2008: WVU's head coach who invented the spread 'n shred
- 2009: Eastern Kentucky's head coach (hired in '08 under grooming plan)
- 2010: Bob Stoop's longtime OC
- 2011: SDSU's head coach, NIU's head coach
- 2012: Two-time national championship winner at Florida, Toledo's head coach (CBs under Tressel), a Belichick assistant
- 2013: Utah State's head coach, Kent State's head coach (WRs under Tressel)
Recently the SEC has taken to hiring rising star high school coaches who spend a year at Arkansas State, but they've also pilfered Bielema and hired a string of successful coordinators and guys who turned mid-majors into Top 10 teams, and, you know, former national championship winners who tried the NFL because their NCAA dynasties were no longer challenging.
Returning to the Diary of the Week at hand, the rest of the charts use the state data to show things like the SEC has a third of the nation's talent while Big Ten states accounted for a sixth—every other conference is less than us. In the comments turd furguson charted where the schools line up in ranking vs avg prospect rank to see if they're just hauling in more kids period. That also makes for easy graphing and general usefulness so:
In other takes on meeting Meyer's standards, here's EGD with a list of Urban-approved, non-"Don't be a Peters'd MAC coach" tips for Big Ten coaches heading out on the recruiting trail.
Basketball, the What's Leftening: Two of the three remaining tough games for basketball were just played. Our Big Ten opponents all have enough rough stuff still to play that everyone's expected to end up 14-4.
Etc. A better-late-than-never wrap-up of things Brian said on the D.C. trip—if you ask your local alumni chapter nicely (and you don't live in a crappy, unvisitable place like Dallas) you too can get a visit. The weekly LSAClassof2000 stats thing is a Geographic survey of freshmen in the Bentley database that's mostly useless if you don't take out the walk-ons—I had a hell of a time with that same problem when I did the historical team makeup from Ohio (the yellow part) graph for 2011 HTTV. Free throw attempts = EFFORT (and refs but mostly EFFORT!) A made-up backstory for rapture guy (the guy who reached ecstasy in that one gif); the real story will be on these pages soon courtesy of Ace. Lacrosse opponents primer. Please give details. Blockhams was pretty funny.
Requested: A diary on Michigan's ski team, which is club but I'm told is pretty good this year and has Bob Thomas's son on it (and competes in a division called "Michigan Men").
[After the jump: the winner of last week's "Find me a Game…Stauskus lookalike from the Fab Five" contest, and some stuff from the board.]
It is a day after National Signing Day and the Big Ten has inked yet another lackluster group of mostly 3-star recruits. Fearing a further drift toward mediocrity, representatives from each relevant school have secretly gathered together. Their goal: rescuing the competitive future of their once mighty conference!
A prayer is offered to AIRBHG and thanks given unto BHGP for allowing me to rip off their format.
Scene: A little-used back room of the Palmer House in Chicago, its walls lined with trophies honoring the conference's academic achievements, and tasteful sweaters. A group of men and a duck mill about, most huddled around a smartphone showing walrus porn. One is eyeing the gilded stand lamps, apparently wondering if they're bolted down. They are watched by a shadowy figure in a ski mask. JIM DELANEY enters…
: It's the…no, Brady we're not doing the thing.
[More. Oh so much more, after the JUMP!]
PREVIOUSLY: The Offense
Following up yesterday's breakdown of the 2013 recruits on offense, here's a look at Michigan's defensive class—click each player's name to see their original commitment post:
|Maurice Hurst Jr.||DT||MA||3||4||4||3|
And now, some superlatives:
BEST POSITION GROUP: Linebacker
This class is pretty evenly spread across the position groups—an argument could be made for pretty much any group on the field. In an effort to avoid giving all of the awards to Dymonte Thomas, I'll go with the linebackers here. After 2012's big haul, Michigan only needed a couple of linebackers in the class, and they filled their two spots with a pair of very solid prospects in Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon.
The lone linebacker spot the 2012 class didn't cover was on the strong side, and McCray's size (6'4", 230 lbs.) and athleticism make him an ideal fit there. Gedeon, meanwhile, is a stellar athlete—he also starred at running back for Hudson—who should be able to cover the field sideline-to-sideline from the weakside linebacker position.
Honorable Mention: Safety, Cornerback
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Strongside DE
There isn't one, and that's the only hole in this class on the defensive side of the ball. After Michigan brought in three SDE-types in 2012—Matt Godin, Tom Strobel, and Chris Wormley—there wasn't a major need, especially with in-state standout Malik McDowell firmly in their sights for the 2014 class.
MOST LIKELY TO START FROM DAY ONE: Dymonte Thomas
Defensive highlights start at the 4:22 mark.*
It's distinctly possible that no member of the 2013 class starts on defense next season, and that's a very good thing for Michigan. If one will, however, it's safety Dymonte Thomas, a dominant force in the state of Ohio at both running back and safety for the last three seasons. Michigan has to replace Jordan Kovacs, and if Jarrod Wilson isn't ready to step in at free safety, it's likely that Thomas Gordon will play there while Thomas slides in at strong safety.
Thomas may be the best pure athlete in the class—if he wanted, he could've easily been a four-star running back recruit—and he brings a very physical presence to the secondary. He should be an asset in run support off the bat and he has all the tools necessary to be solid in coverage, as well. Down the road, I think Thomas will be an all-conference—or even All-American—player, and it may be tough to keep him off the field this fall.
Honorable Mention: The only other play I see having a shot to start this year is Taco Charlton—he's an impressive player and the weakside DE spot is open to competition. That said, I don't see that happening unless Michigan gets hit by the injury bug.
*Also of note: those are junior highlights. His senior reel is well worth a look.
SUREST THING: Dymonte Thomas
See above. Frankly, I'm surprised Scout was the only service to rank him as a five-star.
Honorable Mention: Henry Poggi. Poggi may not be a superstar—he doesn't always explode off the ball on film—but he seems like a guy who should at least be a solid starter down the road.
BOOM OR BUST: Jourdan Lewis
I've seen cornerback Jourdan Lewis play in either a game or camp setting over a half-dozen times at this point, and he's an outstanding athlete who could conceivably contribute in the return game or even at receiver. When he played across from current Wolverine Terry Richardson as a junior, I thought Lewis was flat-out the better player—he's a little taller and is extremely good at making a play on the ball. After giving him a closer look this year, however, I noticed a couple holes in his game:
There are a couple major concerns I have with Lewis, however, that were on display on Friday night. He does rely on that recovery speed far too much in man coverage—if OLSM's quarterback had thrown that hitch on time, for example, I don't think Lewis would've been able to break up the pass. Then there's run support, where Lewis is very limited by his small frame; at his size, he has to be completely committed to throwing his weight around and tackling with proper technique, and I don't see that at this point. He tends to dive for an ankle-tackle and shies away from major contact—there's a stark contrast between him and Webb, who's both bigger and more willing to lay a hit.
Lewis has all the athleticism necessary to be a very good cover corner, but he's going to need to add some weight, embrace the physicality of the run game, and refine his coverage skills if he wants to be a major contributor at cornerback. If that doesn't work out, he could flip to offense and be a playmaker in the slot, so his versatility gives him a lesser chance of flaming out, but there's no guarantee he'd stick there, either. I think Lewis is a prospect with a high ceiling, but he's going to have to work to get there.
Honorable Mention: Maurice Hurst Jr.—the athletic big man could wreak havoc on the interior, but he's got to learn to play low.
MGOSCOUTED STAMP OF APPROVAL: Taco Charlton
When I drove down to Pickerington to see defensive end Taco Charlton's Central squad take on crosstown rival North (and fellow commit Jake Butt), I expected to see a raw pass-rushing specialist. Instead, I saw him play an instrumental role in keeping North running back Godwin Igwebuike (Northwestern commit) well below his usual numbers, sacrificing his personal stats to key on the run—and he still came up with 1.5 sacks:
Despite having a reputation as a pass-rush specialist, Charlton was instrumental in limiting Igwebuike on the ground, finishing with ten tackles and 1.5 sacks. He was largely tasked with keeping contain, and I don't recall a single instance where a running play got outside of him if it went to his side. While he sometimes allows offensive linemen to get their hands into his chest off the snap, he did a solid job of engaging and using his hands to shed blocks. He played a very disciplined game against the run, showed off a very high motor—especially impressive since he also moonlighted at tight end and on special teams—and always seemed to end up around the football.
As a pass-rusher, Charlton showed off more of a power game than what I've seen from him on camp film, getting his hands inside the blocker and bull-rushing to great effect. He still has that impressive speed around the edge and got pressure on a couple of speed-rushes, but for the most part he went right at his blocker—likely due to his contain responsibilities against the run.
Charlton has also really begun to fill out; Michigan lists him at 6'6", 249 pounds after he enrolled early, and he's got the frame to easily get up to the 270-pound range without losing his impressive quickness. I think he could factor into the weakside DE rotation as soon as this fall, and down the road he could be the edge-rushing threat that Michigan has lacked at DE for some time.
Honorable Mention: Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill. I've covered Lewis; Hill wasn't a guy I really focused on while watching Cass Tech since he was a long-time Iowa commit and there were so many D-I prospects on the field, but it wasn't hard to notice him anyway—he always seemed to find his way to the football and was a solid tackler once he got there.
SLEEPER: Channing Stribling
When cornerback Channing Stribling earned an offer—and subsequently committed—at Michigan's camp over some more highly-touted prospects (including eventual teammate Reon Dawson), he was a complete unknown despite coming from a football powerhouse at Matthews (NC) Butler. He was immediately pegged as an underrated sleeper, and after a senior season spent making big play after big play, it seemed like he was on the verge of making a huge leap in the recruiting rankings.
That never quite happened—Stribling ended up as a three-star across the board, so the sleeper label still fits. At 6'2", 170 pounds, he's very tall for a cornerback, and his playmaking skills were on display all year—in one game last fall, he had two receiving touchdowns, a defensive touchdown, and a kickoff return for a touchdown. If Stribling can fill out his frame and refine his coverage skills, he could be a very good corner; he's also extremely raw, and maintaining the quickness to cover college receivers at that height is no easy task.
Honorable Mention: Delano Hill