"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
Four-star cornerback Garrett Taylor became the second 2014 recruit to decommit from Michigan during this football season, following the lead of now-NC State commit Darian Roseboro. Taylor announced his decision this afternoon on his Twitter account:
I have de committed from the University of Michigan. Thank you to the Michigan coaching staff for the opportunity they gave me.
— Garrett Taylor (@gtaychillin) October 27, 2014
Taylor had previously revealed plans to officially visit Ohio State and Penn State later this season, so this comes as little surprise. The Wolverines now have nine commits remaining in the 2014 class, and further attrition is expected. With no cornerbacks left in the class, Steve Lorenz believes that Oak Park (MI) ATH John Kelly and Saline (MI) CB Tyrone Miller could see increased interest from Michigan as they try to fill that need.
In related news, four-star TE commit Chris Clark set official visits to UNC and Texas, per Lorenz; he looks like the next one to go. A full recruiting roundup will go up tomorrow; for sanity's sake, I'm writing about basketball today.
Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson, CB Jabrill Peppers, LB Jared Wangler, LB Chase Winovich, LB Noah Furbush, LB Michael Ferns, DL Brady Pallante, DL Bryan Mone, DL Lawrence Marshall, OL Mason Cole, OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty, WR Moe Ways, WR Freddy Canteen.
|Grand Rapids, MI – 6'4", 176|
|Scout||4*, #52 overall
|Rivals||4*, #115 overall
#14 WR, #3 MI
|ESPN||4*, #85 overall
#10 WR, #3 MI
|24/7||4*, #88 overall
#12 WR, #3 MI
|Other Suitors||Bama, FSU, Georgia, UF, MSU, Neb, OSU, ND, Oregon, PSU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||UA game, but did not play. Twitter.|
He's also got a hudl page.
Hey, remember Drake Harris? He's kind of a big deal. He committed to Michigan State very early as a dual-sport guy who thought he was mostly going to be a basketball player. He re-opened his recruitment when everyone figured out he was an elite football prospect and only a good basketball one.
Not coincidentally, this occurred shortly after his Looney Tunes junior year: 91 catches, 2,016 yards, 23 TDs. It ended with a 243-yard explosion in the state title game against two defensive backs that ended up at Michigan State. It did not matter what OLSM tried:
…even with two guys bracketing him on almost every play, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Harris just came up with outstanding catch after outstanding catch.
That is a star-making performance, and lo, stars were made. By the time he committed to Michigan in April, Harris was the #2 WR on the 247 composite and had the offers to reflect it.
Harris chose Michigan over offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Michigan State.
Then his hamstrings imploded. He missed his entire senior year thanks to issues that were perpetually one or two weeks away from ending; he missed a chunk spring ball thanks to those same issues, and he is now having a problem with the other hamstring that is supposedly minor. At this point, it seems like this is something more than bad luck. But more about that later.
[After THE JUMP: "Randy Moss-like vertical leap." Hello!]
Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson, CB Jabrill Peppers, LB Jared Wangler, LB Chase Winovich, LB Noah Furbush, LB Michael Ferns, DL Brady Pallante, DL Bryan Mone, DL Lawrence Marshall.
|Tarpon Springs, FL – 6'5", 275|
|Scout||4*, #253 overall
|Rivals||4*, #92 overall
#6 OT, #12 FL
|ESPN||4*, #165 overall
#10 OG, #28 FL
|24/7||4*, #86 overall
#4 OG, #12 FL
|Other Suitors||ND, USC, OSU, Alabama, Stanford, UF, FSU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Army game selection. Twitter.|
He also has a hudl page.
It's weird, but Mason Cole was kind of a forgotten recruit despite being a consensus four star with every offer under the sun. As I was collecting this post I ended up thinking "oh, right, this guy is seriously touted." Early commit, OL, Artavis Scott drama: whatever it was, I kind of forgot that Cole was one of those rare offensive linemen who everyone thinks just has it.
And I do mean everyone:
Analysis: Mason Cole is a great win for Michigan on the recruiting trail because the Wolverines beat out several elite teams closer to home and around the country like Ohio State, Florida, Florida State, USC, Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame, and Stanford.
That is more of an offer dump truck than an offer list, and the names don't stop there. They just get gradually less impressive. Everyone offered him, and they did so early.
In Cole's case it's because he's put together and very agile for his improbable size:
"The key word that everyone uses with him is how athletic he is for a big guy," said Hudson. "He has extremely good feet, good bend, and very really do you see him on the ground so the athleticism that he has is real strong for someone his size."
SBNation's Bud Elliott echoes that bend bit:
Cole has an elite offer list for a reason. Many reasons, actually.
He is very athletic and plays with a lot of energy. Cole is able to bend and play low, giving him the leverage advantage over most opponents, though he needs to do so more consistently.
Cole is quick out of his stance and climbs to the second level using good angles. His feet allow him to play with good balance, which helps him not overextend for defenders. … His upside is that of a high-level BCS starter, and I do think he can stay at tackle in the right system.
And Clint Brewster:
Cole is a flexible, athletic guard that can really move well. … Cole moves great laterally, as rush defensive ends struggle to get around him and he has the size/strength to take on a bull rush. The 6-4, 285-pound Cole really fires off the ball and plays with a mean streak when run blocking, allowing him to really move people. He shows outstanding technique and hand placement as well.
Cole impressed at the Army game. Rivals to moved him up about 40 spots afterwards, and 247 was also impressed. Their evaluation touches on the main Cole dilemma:
…it was clear that the Michigan commit was one of the most polished and skilled offensive line prospects on the East squad. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Cole projects as an offensive guard long-term, but we aren’t so sure he could not be an excellent tackle in Ann Arbor during his college career. That’s really the only question (other than the normal fill out your frame type stuff that’s imperative for offensive line prospects) surrounding his game at this time- which position on the line will he play?
Downsides are the usual ones you'd expect from a guy listed at 275*. He is not exactly blowing donkeys off the ball, at least not when they're college-level guys. Elliott says drive blocking and bull rush defense are "obvious area[s] for improvement" due to a lack of bulk; Brewster says he "isn't the biggest/strongest ever"; Jamie Newberg says he's a "solid" run blocker who is "more finesse than sheer power."
ESPN does offer some technique critiques that the other sites don't. Again, this is always tough to judge since these things are all undoubtedly true and all undoubtedly true for all but the super-elite, grown-in-a-tank prospects:
good hip and ankle flexion to work out of stance and play in space. … would like to see more consistent knee bend, but has nimble feet and can stay square and mirror well. Does need to do a better job of consistently setting quicker…
Will show flashes, but needs to show better and more consistent initial quicks. …. Needs to watch his pad level, but he drives his knees and plays with good balance and can stay on his feet, sustain a block and create some push. Does a nice job of climbing to second level and utilizing good angles to get a hat on moving targets.
FWIW. The impression the rest of the evaluations provided was that he is ahead of the game as a high school player. Also some of them say he is blowing donkeys off the ball. Sometimes I wonder if people are just making stuff up when it comes to the arcane wonder that is the OL.
*[Note: I took Cole's weight from spring for this post since that seems more in line with the other recruits. Their weights are approximately what they weighed on signing day, so should Cole's; the evaluations are about the recruit a year ago, not now. FWIW, he is now listed at 292 on the fall roster.]
The main question: guard or tackle? Rivals and Scout rank him as a tackle; 247 and ESPN rank him as a guard. At the Army game he bounced between both spots, effectively. Barton Simmons:
4. Mason Cole, OG, Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake
Cole was just solid and consistent all day long. He had his moments at offensive guard and right tackle but among a beat up offensive line, he is clearly the top athlete of the group. In the run game, Cole was also very good opening up holes, using leverage and power.
He in fact bounced between left guard and right tackle, virtually mandating the Michael Schofield comparison coming later in this piece. In a later article Simmons would claim that Cole is probably a guard in college but has "the athleticism to play in space at tackle in this setting."
Rivals' Josh Helmholdt was in the same boat but it seems like after watching him over the course of the week he came around to his ability outside, and not just "in this setting." At first glance:
He does not look quite his listed 6-foot-5, and does appear to be a future interior offensive lineman. At tackle he showed the ability to kick out and handle the speed rush, and at guard he was one of only a couple that got the best of standout defensive tackle Travonte Valentine each of the first two days. Cole combines excellent technique with above average athleticism.
After the game, though, Helmholdt named him one of the top players on his team and had gotten over the height issue:
…kept defenders in front of him all day and pancaked several to the ground. He has shown all week that he has the foot speed and agility to handle speed rushers off the edge, while being stout enough to battle with interior defensive linemen. It will be interesting to see where Michigan plays him next fall.
One thing that helps him is that his arms are tackle-issue. Rivals FL guy Kynon Codrington:
"One thing we noticed was his long arms. Once he gets his hands on opposing defenders, he makes it hard for them to get around him. He has great initial punch. And excellent footwork for a guy his size."
Everyone wants to push Cole inside because he doesn't look like a tackle, and then they get their hands on him and they eventually shrug and put him at tackle. "Eventually" in this case means "after a few days."
Versatile is the watchword. ESPN concludes their evaluation by asserting that he is a guy who could potentially play anywhere:
…very good natural ability and potentially very good versatility. A high school tackle who could very well transition to the next level at that position, but we wouldn't be surprised to see him slide inside and with some development could offer five-position ability.
Guard or tackle? Yes.
Cole's performance this spring was good for him and worrying for Michigan. Erik Magnuson was sidelined with an injury, leaving the left tackle spot up in the air. It was Cole who fought through the other contenders to be the Please Stay Healthy Erik Magnuson And Nicki J Harris Family Spring Game-Type Substance Left Tackle. (To be fair to Logan Tuley-Tillman, he was also dealing with an injury.)
The prospect of a true freshman left tackle who's short for the position is terrifying, of course, but in a post narrowly focused on how Mason Cole's career is going to go that's a good thing. There were plenty of other options to test drive at that spot; Cole eased past David Dawson, Ben Braden, the suddenly mobile Graham Glasgow, and passed Chris Fox and Logan Tuley-Tillman.
His teammates noticed. Frank Clark:
"Mason Cole, he's developed faster than I've seen a kid develop at 18. He had a great spring. He did what he had to do on and off the field."
"That kid's working hard."
His coaches noticed. Darrell Funk:
"The guy that's come in, and he's a guy who should be getting ready for prom here in a few weeks, is Mason Cole -- who has done a tremendous job at left tackle. We knew he was an excellent player, he's very athletic and he'll get bigger and stronger.
"But he's been as pleasant a surprise as anyone. ... He's come in, and I don't want to say effortlessly, but between academics, the football, the weights, he's done everything we've asked. He's right in the mix."
Cole's crested the first hurdle, one that has hewed down highly-touted prospects before. To be where he is on the depth chart after one spring practice erases many of the doubts that come with all OL, and make Cole a relatively sure thing.
In a perfect world, Cole is a guard. In this one he could fit at any of the five positions reasonably well. Sullivan put it well when Cole committed:
Cole has the long arms and athleticism to play tackle, but a more natural guard build.
The run-out at left tackle is a real thing. If Magnuson locks that position down like everyone hopes, he'll start hunting elsewhere. Here's a metric for the fall: wherever Cole is lining up is the position the coaches are shakiest on. Again, that's great for the future. At the moment you're hoping Cole doesn't quite poke through.
Etc.: Aaand pattern:
"I was talking to other coaches and it was very rare when you get a kid like Mason that I'm having to tell him not to work so much. Between our workouts and the personal trainers, speed trainer, I don't want him to overdo it. He's just that guy that you always want."
Why Mike Schofield? Schofield was a high school hurdler who happened to be enormous. He needed to add weight; he wasn't much of a drive blocker; he was more than capable of mirroring defensive ends any which way. Schofield added the weight and eventually the pile pushing (he really came around as a senior, not that you could tell with the rest of the line doing what it does) en route to becoming a third round pick.
Cole is a couple inches shorter and thus shades more towards guard but is evidently tackle material, whether it's right or left. He has the same agility and need to add weight (though the just-released fall roster has him at 292, which means he doesn't need to add too much more).
Recruiting services ranked both similarly, and Schofield even picked Michigan over ND. This one's tight. I also like Touch The Banner's Steve Schilling comparison.
Guru Reliability: High-minus. Heavily scouted player from a high school that had (and has) a pile of talent. Healthy, not a whole lot of projection except for the fact that he's an OL and therefore there is always projection.
Variance: Low? I almost never issue "low" here for OL. Cole is an exception because of the above reliability and his early, impactful enrollment.
Ceiling: High-minus. Does not have the frame to be a shut down, top-ten-pick left tackle. Has plenty of upside in all other ways and could be a high pick anywhere else on the line.
General Excitement Level: High-minus. If he had those three inches I'd be going full Lewan here; even without 'em he's an exciting prospect.
Projection: Despite Cole's prominence in spring, he should redshirt unless injury hits the OL. He is a true freshman. Yes even if he enrolled early. Michigan's had two offensive lines that had to resort to true freshmen in the past ten years: last year's and Lloyd Carr's final season. Yeah. So let's not do that.
Playing time as a redshirt freshman is complicated by the thing about the OL that's real bad for this year but quite good for the next couple: there are no seniors. While you can't rule Cole pushing an existing player out of the starting lineup, the guys in question are a year and a half ahead of him. If he does knock someone out of the lineup it'll probably be Kalis or Braden, FWIW.
As a sophomore he'll be fighting over whichever spot Glasgow vacates. His flexibility will aid him there, and given his prominence this spring he has to be considered the frontrunner. Best bet now is a three year starter, wherever that happens to be, and potential time before that as the OL's sixth or seventh man.
|Naples, FL – 6'1", 255|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||2*, NR overall
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#117 DT, #270 FL
|24/7||2*, NR overall
#127 DT, #299 FL
|Other Suitors||Appalachian State|
|YMRMFSPA||I call him mini-Mike Martin|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||I am note-free.|
Most Michigan fans were hoping that Brady Pallante wouldn't be in this class. That's no knock on Pallante, necessarily: it's just that Michigan was dreaming of a class with Malik McDowell and DaShawn Hand in it. Once the season progressed as shambolically as it did and both of those top-end stars drifted away from the unpleasant odor of tackles for loss wafting out of Ann Arbor, Michigan found itself with open scholarships and limited options.
Enter Pallante, who committed as a nearly-unheard of nose tackle out of Florida just after the previous year's signing day. The catch then is that Pallante was recruited as a grayshirt who would come in-mid-year (IE, six months from now) and be a part of the 2015 class. When recruiting ended with a thud, he was moved up.
So here he is, and we know… not much. Two-star guys who commit super early are not well-scouted as a rule, and Pallante is one of those even if he's gotten the three-star courtesy bump from a couple of sites. (It makes you wonder how deep ESPN's three star rankings go if the #270 guy in Florida gets one.)
What we do have makes him sound like mini-Mike Martin. Pallante is a penetrator who uses his relative lack of height to his advantage; like Martin (and Terrance Taylor), when not spending time on football he is tossing panicky high schoolers around en route to state championships as a heavyweight wrestler. This is in fact a comparison the coaches have made directly:
“The coaches up at Michigan said I remind them a lot of Mike Martin,” said Pallante. “Coach Hoke just sat down with me and said, ‘we’re looking for a guy who can replace Mike Martin at nose guard and a guy that works hard and is a tough kid’.”
"Wrestling has helped with everything, between balance, coordination, hands," he said. "When you're fighting to get inside control on the wrestling mat, it's the same thing when you're coming off the ball because at the snap you're trying to get inside the man across from you to gain the advantage.
"My footwork is better. Staying low. Learning how to use leverage. There are a lot of things that have transferred over from wrestling to football that have helped my game, and vice versa."
There are three actual scouting reports out there, from ESPN, 247's Clint Brewster, and Rivals's Tim Sullivan. All say he's small ("marginal size"; "undersized"; "undersized", respectively) and that this will be his main issue going forward. Weights for Pallante ranged from 245(!) to 280 on recruiting sites; we're going with Michigan's own listing on their signing day page, which is a relatively measly 255.
They differ in their evaluations of how promising he is as an interior disruptor, with ESPN tending towards the meh:
…adequate-to-good first-step quickness. While he's not a disruptive penetrating presence he is capable of getting off the ball quickly enough to consistently get good initial position and, at times, knock blockers back. Can fire out low and consistently gain physical leverage with his compact frame …. A bit limited as a pass rusher. …battles and gives good effort.
The other two guys may just be trying to be nice, but their evaluations are more hopeful. Brewster:
… undersized but very skilled defensive tackle. … very quick off the ball and has a number of moves in his arsenal to beat an offensive lineman. He has a brawlers mentality in the trenches and can stand his ground against the run. Pallante is athletic enough to get to the quarterback … He has the skill-set to win against much bigger opponents.
…opened things up for his teammates, enduring multiple blockers on most every play, and often enduring cut blocks … has a build that allows him to play with excellent leverage … Most impressive was Pallante's overall technique. He made excellent use of his hands to defeat various types of blocks, and combined hand technique with quickness to knife into the backfield repeatedly. He was disciplined in executing his assignments, holding the edge, and chasing down quarterbacks and running backs in the backfield. He arrived with violence each time.
A gradient on a theme. Pallante will go as far as his hands can take him. If that's the backfield, he'll see time. If that's still-in-front-of-this-double team, he won't.
One point in his favor: Michigan jumped on him so early after seeing him extensively at their summer camp the year before. Michigan has done well with random camp commits under Hoke. (Probably, anyway—they're mostly still to young to have a definitive answer there.)
Etc.: The twist: Magnus likes him better than other people.
Why mini-Mike Martin? Well, if the coaches are saying it I will too. Martin was obviously a much bigger recruit, and bigger dude in general. If Pallante works out it'll be as a version of Martin: get in the backfield over and over again so it doesn't matter if someone tries to double you because you've gone between them.
Guru Reliability: Low. Virtually unscouted by anyone except Sullivan.
Variance: Moderate. Size questions may prevent him from seeing the field; technique seems advanced.
Ceiling: Low. Needs 30 pounds to be the same weight as Jibreel Black was last year, when he was unable to hold up to doubles at all. If he is actually 280 now and can get to 300-ish, I'll revise that upward. In my head.
General Excitement Level: Low. Well… I mean… I don't like being super-negative here when these guys are all lottery tickets and may or may not work out. CMU OT goes #1 in NFL draft, etc. But Pallante seems to have a hard cap on his ability to hold up to doubles.
Projection: Redshirt, then probably another year of anonymity as Michigan returns all of their nose tackles next year. First opportunity to get in the rotation will be as a redshirt sophomore. He'll probably end up a guy behind the guy for the duration of his career, which is useful at NT.
Malik McDowell will play for MSU after all. [Fuller]
Finally, the book is closed on the 2014 recruiting class:
The recruiting saga of Malik McDowell is over.
The No. 5-rated defensive tackle in the Class of 2014 delivered a signed letter of intent Wednesday to Michigan State, the school to which he committed on signing day amid a flurry of confusion.
I think everyone is happy to move on at this point, and it's nice to see that Malik ultimately got his wish—this was, after all, his decision.
Spring Game Visitors: A Legacy On Campus?
Scout's Allen Trieu caught up with Tyrone Wheatley to discuss the recruitment of his son, 2015 TE/DE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., and the elder Wheatley revealed a visit to Ann Arbor could happen this weekend ($):
"There is a good chance we might hit the Michigan spring game this weekend and this summer, we're going to go to Miami (Fla.), Florida and we will try to catch Auburn. Coming up on spring break, we're going on a West Coast trip. We're going to go out to see UCLA and USC."
Wheatley is still considering many options, and it appears his recruitment won't end for a while; Michigan is the presumed favorite, however, and could cement that status with a good visit should Wheatley make it into town for the spring game.
Tim Sullivan posted a list of other weekend visitors ($). They include:
- Four-star 2015 IL WR Miles Boykin (unoffered)
- Four-star 2015 MO TE Hale Hentges (offered)
- Three-star 2015 Northville OL David Moorman (unoffered)
- 2016 OH LB Brendan Ferns (unoffered, brother of Michael Ferns)
- 2016 Orchard Lake St. Mary's LB Daelin Hayes (offered, cousin of Justice Hayes)
- 2016 Cass Tech DB Lavert Hill (unoffered, brother of Delano Hill)
- 2017 OLSM LB Joshua Ross (offered, brother of James Ross)
It'll be interesting to see if any of the unoffered prospects picks one up this weekend. Boykin holds offers from Notre Dame, Michigan State, and in-state Illinois, among several others; at 6'5", 208 pounds, he's the type of big wideout Michigan covets. Meanwhile, Brendan Ferns recently pulled in offers from Cincinnati, Kentucky, and West Virginia; if Michigan wants to get in on him early, now would be the time.
Four-star FL OT Jake Fruhmorgen visited Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State last weekend, and his father told 247's Steve Lorenz that the trip to Ann Arbor impressed his son the most ($):
"Michigan was definitely his favorite visit of the three schools he saw this weekend. I think they're in it still for sure; I haven't gotten to talk to him in-depth about it because he had to get back to school today after getting home late last night. I know he really liked the Michigan coaching staff and got along with the players really well too. Of course, the Big House was impressive too."
Before the visit, insiders expected Fruhmorgen to pick Clemson, and soon; it'll be good news if he decides to wait on making a decision.
Four-star FL RB Jacques Patrick will announce his decision on October 27th, per Scout's Jamie Newberg, and Michigan is still in the running:
“I like about ten schools,” Patrick said. “My favorites are Miami, FSU, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio State, UCF, Notre Dame, Auburn and Alabama. I want to go visit Auburn, Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and all the in-state schools this spring and summer.”
Florida State and Florida are the schools to beat right now; the planned spring/summer visit will be huge if Michigan wants to have a real shot here.
One option that can be taken off the board is four-star Texas RB Ronald Jones II, who narrowed his list to five schools and didn't include Michigan ($).
Either Mark Richt is spending a significant amount of time hand-drawing recruits or, well, somebody in Georgia's athletic department is, and either way it's in that gray area between impressive and creepy that recruitniks know all too well.
OR: JABRILL PEPPERS AND COMFORTING UNCERTAINTY
Three receivers make this post. This guy isn't one of them.
For the first time in years, Michigan's depth chart isn't patched together with duct tape and hope, so the incoming freshmen of 2014 don't have as many opportunities for early playing time as past classes. This is worth celebrating, especially when one particular freshman is poised to make a big impact at a position with some experienced depth anyway.
After Jabrill Peppers, there isn't a clear role for any of the incoming freshmen, and getting this list up to five involved a few reach picks. Again, this is good. Without further ado, here's the list.
1. JABRILL PEPPERS, CB/KR/PR (6'1, 210; 5*, 247 Composite #1 ATH/CB)
Surprise! Despite the presence of four older cornerbacks with significant game experience (Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Jourdan Lewis, and Channing Stribling), Peppers is simply too talented to keep off the field. He should see immediate time in Michigan's nickel package, either as the nickelback or playing on the outside with Countess in the slot, and as the season progresses he'll challenge Taylor for a starting spot—with his size, athleticism, and ability in run support, Peppers is an ideal fit on the boundary.
With apologies to Fearless Leader, I believe Peppers will make an instant impact in the return game, as well. While Dennis Norfleet consistently threatened to break long returns, they rarely materialized last year. Michigan had just one kickoff return of 40+ yards (T-89th nationally) and none of 50+; just two punt returns went for 20+ (T-58th), one 30+, and zero 40+. Averages were middling at best: 49th in kickoff returns and 91st in punt returns. Fielding kickoff returns, at the very least, would be a great way to get Peppers the ball without overwhelming him with too much responsibility. If he has a role on offense this year, it'll likely be limited to just a handful of plays.
2. FREDDY CANTEEN, SLOT (6'1, 170; 4*, #41 WR)
Canteen is the player going solo/the one with insanely quick feet
Slot receiver is one of a small number of spots with total uncertainly on the depth chart. Just two players return there: Norfleet (six career "catches" that were actually end-arounds) and sophomore Da'Mario Jones, who only saw time on special teams last year. While Doug Nussmeier may have a different outlook, thus far the coaches have been hesitant to give Norfleet a significant role. A relative unknown committed to Central Michigan before Michigan came calling, Jones never rose above middling three-star even after flipping his commitment. This spot is wide open.
Enter Freddy Canteen, who went from completely off the radar when his high school didn't play actual games in 2012 to a hot camp commodity with ever-rising rankings in 2013. At 6'1, he's got the size this coaching staff covets, and his route-running is very advanced for an incoming freshman. On top of that, he's got speed to burn and a phenomenal name. What more can one ask for? It wouldn't surprise me at all if Canteen, an early enrollee, is the starter in the slot from day one.
3. IAN BUNTING, TE/FUNCHESS (6'7, 233; 4*, #11 TE)
Photo credit: J. Geil/Chicago Sun-Times
Bunting wouldn't have cracked this list a couple weeks ago; then Jake Butt went down with a torn ACL. Now Michigan is down to one tight end that actually catches passes, and that's only if you believe Devin Funchess is still a tight end. AJ Williams is almost exclusively a blocker (and he's still working on that), while Jordan Paskorz is a former linebacker without a catch to his name. Khalid Hill comes off a redshirt and could factor in as an H-back, but that's about it as far as tight end depth goes. There's room for another pass-catcher.
The question is whether or not Bunting will be at all ready to put his hand in the dirt; even in high school, he did most of his damage split out wide. At 233 pounds (on a 6'7 frame), he needs to bulk up significantly to be able to hold his own as a blocker. As an enormous receiver with great hands, however, he can at least see the field as a third-down/red-zone specialist; putting him on the field with Funchess poses major matchup problems for opposing defenses.
4. BRYAN MONE, NT (6'4, 328; 4*, #8 DT)
Another player on the list due to injury on the current roster, Mone could be forced into duty at nose tackle if Ondre Pipkins is limited in his return from a torn ACL. The only other true NT on the roster is redshirt freshman Maurice Hurst, who was listed at 270 pounds on last year's roster.
Mone's stock fell from near-consensus top-50 player to borderline top-100 prospect (or, in Rivals' case, flat-out three-star) after he looked overweight and out of shape at the Under Armour game. Mone put on a ton of weight in a short period of time before his senior season and it clearly affected his conditioning. Luckily for Michigan, he's enrolled early, so efforts to turn bad weight into good are already underway. It's highly unlikely Mone is ready to play a major role, but Michigan might need him to hold his own in sporadic rotation snaps and short-yardage situations.
5. MICHAEL FERNS, ILB (6'3, 235; 4*, #6 ILB)
Another early enrollee, Ferns isn't likely to see much early action on defense. James Ross and Desmond Morgan have the two ILB spots locked down, and both have viable backups with playing experience in Ben Gedeon and Joe Bolden. If there's an injury, however, Ferns is the incoming linebacker best suited to see the field with his size and status as an EE.
Ferns also fits right in on special teams—with his athleticism, he could make an immediate impact on coverage units. This will be a frustrating way to burn a redshirt if Ferns doesn't get some in-game experience at linebacker, but it's inevitable that the coaches will burn a linebacker's redshirt for special teams, and it may as well be the one most ready to see the field.
HONORABLE MENTION: WRs DRAKE HARRIS & MOE WAYS
Both Harris and Ways look like college-ready receivers; Harris benefits from enrolling early, while Ways has the bulk and blocking ability to see the field as a freshman. They'd be higher on the list if playing time on the outside wasn't so hard to come by. Funchess and Jehu Chesson should lock down the starting spots, Amara Darboh is another starting candidate now that he's healthy, and two other options come off redshirts in Jaron Dukes and Csont'e York.
Harris is coming off a hamstring injury that cost him his entire senior season. Ways made great strides from his junior to senior seasons but could still use some, er, seasoning. It'd be great if Michigan was able to redshirt both of these guys, especially if Canteen can also contribute on the outside.