That didn't last long:
All love for the people of Michigan and U of M pic.twitter.com/dATIELCJQe
— Ahmir_SoDevoted (@TheDeuce_2_Nice) August 24, 2016
Mitchell got in serious trouble over the summer that warranted what was probably going to be a year-long suspension. He was also apparently in the habit of posting images of him partying at various late-night hours on Snapchat. By all reports he was not a good fit for the program.
Privately we were expecting this, and I tried to gesture that direction in his recruiting profile:
General Excitement Level: Moderate-minus. Washout potential is high. Pure athlete at the moment.
And lo, it has come to pass. Dude could have sped it up a bit so that I didn't have to write that profile.
Even though he was nominally a receiver, Mitchell's departure is mostly a hit to the safety depth chart. Michigan really likes the McDoom/Crawford/Johnson trio and with Brad Hawkins an academic casualty both WR recruits who could play S have burned out before they could even get started.
That brings Michigan to 23 scholarships in a class we expect to reach 30.
You mentioned at media day that year two makes things so much easier—or more familiar, I should say. How’s it feeling?
“No, not easier. But feeling good right now. Coming off of a very good practice today, so feel good about the way our guys are working. Feel really good about the way we practiced today. There was quite a bit of good scrimmaging. Feel like our team is building a callus now that bodes very well for us. I mean, it was not. It was a little more [purulent] than about a week ago, but now it’s starting to harden. Feel good about that.”
Your quarterbacks now compared to a year ago: do you feel like they’re about where they were or in the system for a year, does that help them?
“Definitely has helped them. Right now we’re—I hate to compare—but we’re better. We’re better at that position than we were eight, nine days into camp last year.”
Have you narrowed it down? Is it down to two guys? Have a rank order?
“Yeah, not just two. I mean, Shane Morris is doing good, having a good camp. Wilton Speight’s having an outstanding camp. John O’Korn’s having a very good camp. The quarterback play’s been really good in camp, right from the first day. Been very pleased with that. They’ve…they’re completing balls, they’re running the team, they know what they’re doing. They’re competing at a good, high level. It’s been good. Yeah.
“I’m trying to think through different camps. I’ve said it to myself: this group of quarterbacks is playing really well. Better than most camps that I’ve seen from the start. Sometimes they struggle with their accuracy and struggle with different things, communicating, fumbled snaps on the ground. We haven’t been seeing that. We’ve been seeing solid play that’s improving, too. It started good and it’s getting better every day. Hope we’ll be better tomorrow than we were today, but we had a good day today.”
Are there any other positions where you’re seeing as fierce a competitive battle as you are at quarterback?
“Uh, there’s…there’s some good play. Some good—young guys are playing very well. Devin Asiasi had a heck of a day today. Michael Onwenu is somebody I’m—you know, he’s one of my favorites. Doing a heck of a good job. Ben Bredeson is doing an outstanding job. Rashan Gary is a really good football player. The young linebackers are playing really well. The young receivers are doing a heck of a good job. Chris Evans is maybe one of the most outstanding of them all. Khaleke Hudson’s doing an outstanding job. Dylan Crawford’s doing a good job. So, yeah, it’s been good. Quinn Nordin’s doing an outstanding job. Those guys, some really good players in that class have heated some of the competitive waters at multiple positions. It’s a good thing.”
How many freshmen do you expect to play this year?
“Right now it’s competitive and I don’t see any of our older guys just giving their jobs away. Don’t see that happening. Not through the nine practices. Not saying that for one minute, so it’s still to be determined. There’s some competitive, heated-up waters. More than you see on really probably any team I’ve ever been on where a group of new guys…they’re showing that they’re on track to be either starters or backup players. It’s still to be determined.
“They’ve got to do it over the course of the next couple weeks, but it’ll be exciting to watch. Some of them will, some of them won’t. The best players are going to play, regardless of class year that they’re in. As I’ve said, we’ve got a lot of veteran players who like their starting jobs. It’ll be a battle.”
Last year you waited until the first snap at Utah to reveal the starting lineup. Do you imagine that’ll be the same this season, too, with the quarterbacks and rest of the roster?
“I haven’t decided yet.”
[After THE JUMP: I guess you could say this press conference was…[/puts on sunglasses] suspended.]
let me show you how we handle punks in the district, punk [Patrick Barron]
Everywhere I turn this offseason, it seems someone is writing another article lauding the aggression, complexity, blitzes, and disguises built into Don Brown's defense. These attributes have obvious upside, but are we overlooking what could be a very steep learning curve for this defense? Can we really expect these guys to flawlessly execute such a reportedly complex defense within the first year?
There will be transition costs; there always are. When you're real good and have real good players those can be overcome. Last year's offense had a bunch of transition costs and still rocketed from 82nd in S&P+ to 30th; in FEI they went from 100th(!) to 33rd. This leap occurred despite weekly UFR diatribes about how various people on Michigan's offense still didn't really know what they were doing.
It going to be tougher for the defense to have anything similar since they were already very good. It's hard to improve much from 20th (FEI) or 2nd (S&P+). The leap from DJ Durkin to Don Brown is probably extant; it is certainly less grand than the leap from Brady Hoke to Jim Harbaugh. Meanwhile Brown's defenses have tended to tread water in year one:
There's a ton of noise in that data since we're not accounting for returning starters and the like. It still suggests that a great leap forward should not be expected.
On the other hand, Don Brown has never been handed even half of the talent he's got this year and it's almost all very experienced. Michigan's starting D consists of eight seniors, a redshirt junior, Jabrill Peppers, and Rashan Gary. While these guys haven't worked on certain things Brown does, they've at least encountered them from time to time; they can also spend the bulk of their offseason working on that stuff since you can take it as read that they've got man free coverages down.
It is a concern, but the schedule is reassuring. I'll take a series of early biffs against teams Michigan beats by 21 instead of 28 if the payoff is a defense that is finally, finally, finally equipped with the state of the art in shutting down a spread n shred. The talent available should mitigate some of those hiccups—a coverage bust doesn't hurt you if the QB is running for his life—and once those get smoothed over, Michigan's ceiling is higher.
Let's go moo
In my travels throughout the internet I came a cross a rather unique rendition of 'Let's Go Blue' that I thought should be shared. There is a man named Farmer Derek, a high level Bard no doubt, who serenades his cattle and posts the songs on YouTube. At the end of his version of Royals by Lorde he goes into Let's Go Blue and the cattle respond in kind. I don't know what should be done with this video, if anything, but I believe it should be shared and thought you should be notified. Cheers.
Sincerely yours in football,
This is a great service to the fandom, Pinball Pete:
[After THE JUMP: not cows responding to Let's Go Blue so why even bother]
Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford, WR Chris Evans,
WR Brad Hawkins.
|Egg Harbor, NJ – 6'3", 205|
|Scout||4*, #131 overall
|Rivals||4*, #139 overall
#26 WR, #4 NJ
|ESPN||4*, #216 overall
#33 WR, #7 NJ
|24/7||4*, #324 overall
#17 ATH, #8 NJ
|Other Suitors||OSU, MSU, ND, FSU|
|YMRMFSPA||Greg Mathews or
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Twitter. Early enrollee.|
Like Chris Evans, Ahmir Mitchell might not actually be a wide receiver. He is one now and so here he goes, but all you have to do is look at the 2017 safety depth chart—Tyree Kinnel, a Khaleke Hudson who really needs to be taking over for Peppers at SAM, a couple question marks, and tumbleweeds—and then plug available safety-shaped objects in that hole. Meanwhile, Mitchell's stock as a wide receiver has been on a steady slide over the past year and a half. His rankings dropped from top 100, near top 50 in some cases, to outside of the top 100; 247's dramatic revision of his ranking saw him barely hold on to four-star status.
Mitchell is a safety-shaped object, and an intimidating one. Hypothetically. This post won't talk about that much because nobody evaluated him as a defensive player past brief mentions that his athleticism could lend itself to a switch. Don't rule out linebacker, either.
Let's start with the good bits. Mitchell's a grown-ass man already. His high school coach says he has an "NFL body right now and you can say he comes from special genetics"; Nick Baumgardner noted that Mitchell "looks nothing like a prospect who should still be in high school" after Michigan's trip to IMG this spring. ESPN's evaluation leads with Mitchell's impressive physical package:
Thickly built and sturdy with good height ... Moves and looks like a tall tailback. Displays power as a runner and top end speed is very competitive. May not be a jet or overly fluid speed guy, but he can accelerate on a straight-line.
Mitchell attended various Rivals camps:
…every wide receiver at Sunday's camp was tall and fast, but even in a physically impressive crowd like that, Mitchell stood out. With that physique, it should be no surprise that the 6-foot-2, 197-pound Mitchell has a powerful stride and he pops in and out of his breaks. Defensive backs that try to press him are going to lose either the strength or the quickness battle, but Mitchell even exploits off coverage with his ability to create separation in his routes and by using his body to shield defenders from the football.
Reports about Mitchell's speed vary. Some say it's "good for his size". 247:
…very impressive specimen and will arrive ready to play … Runs well for a young man his size (4.67 laser-timed 40-yard dash), Mitchell is a physical football player, catches the ball well and is another that could project at other positions including safety.
Rivals repeatedly praised his ability to move to the moon: "athleticism jumps off the page": "athleticism and potential is off the charts"; "one of the best athletes in the country"; "athleticism, explosiveness, strength and speed make Mitchell one of the top wide receivers in the country"; "very explosive." Meanwhile ESPN praises his "imposing get off," which arises from a combination of strength and speed—Mitchell can blow through most attempts to press him.
When Mitchell was trying to get an OSU offer at one of their camps, Bucknuts pinged someone "inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center" for their opinion:
"I really like him as a player,” the source said. “He's big, he's strong, and he can move for a guy who's already 215 (pounds). That said, I know we're looking at him and asking if he'll grow out of wide receiver."
His physical ability lends itself to the strongest part of Mitchell's game: YAC. He is equipped with a nasty stiffarm and once he finds himself in space with the ball he's got enough wiggle to turn opposition tackle attempts into arm tackles, which he is strong enough to blow through. Touch The Banner:
…ability to run after the catch is probably his strongest attribute. He frequently uses his long wingspan and a stiff-arm to brush away smaller defenders.
…rugged wide receiver that is at his best running after the catch. like a running back after the catch … [picks] up tough yardage with his strength and explosiveness. He’s got strong hands and the ability to out-muscle defensive backs on jump balls or in close coverage. Mitchell… size, strength, toughness, and quick-twitch make him a coveted player. …thrives catching short passes underneath, as well as smoke-screens.
ESPN calls him a "power runner" and says he "makes most of his big plays … because he is so difficult to tackle in the open field":
he makes things happen with the ball in his hands especially when he can quickly transition after the catch as he is a one-cut, slashing type of runner. He is far more elusive that he is sudden, fluid or laterally agile. He builds to top end speed and when you think he's going to get walked down, he will somehow pull away. He's as fast as he needs to be.
He’s physically ready to play college football right now. … decent change of direction skills, but his straight line speed is the differentiator for him. His ability to accelerate and hit another gear is outstanding. …dynamic after the catch. …strength to run through tackles … really makes him great. He has a good stiff arm that compliments and his size and power. He looks very much like a running back after the catch.
There's not much question that Mitchell is an NFL athlete. There are some scattered concerns that he got too big as a senior and lost the necessary quicks to play wide receiver, but he's listed on Michigan's roster at 205. That should be fine even if he adds the usual 15-30 pounds players usually do once they hit college. Mitchell's game is never going to be separation. If he's going to stick at wide receiver and perform it's going to be as a guy who goes up and gets contested balls.
Reports about his ability to, you know, receive things are varied. Mitchell was a big-deal top 100 prospect to just about everyone when he went to that OSU camp and dropped a bunch of passes:
"The performance at Ohio State really killed him rankings-wise," Farrell said. "That was his first appearance where he was consistently dropping passes. I wasn't at Ohio State but there's video out there, and Josh Helmholdt was there, and he just had a lot of drops. That scared the heck out of some because wide receivers need to catch the ball."
"His hands are not a concern for me. They're really not," Farrell said. "I saw him at the Rivals Camp in New Jersey and he was very good."
While dropping a guy 50 spots based on one camp when he did this…
…really stood out during the drill portion of camp, separating himself with explosive speed and he made a bunch of tough one-handed catches. He is a big receiver with a lot of ranginess and he can create space against most defensive backs. Mitchell was a little too quiet during the one-on-one session.
…size, explosiveness, competitiveness and reliable hands were on full display on Saturday. Cornerbacks that tried to jam him at the line of scrimmage were quickly dispatched and errant passes were hauled in with ease. There was one pass that Mitchell hauled in with one hand between two defenders. He had to pin it against his body because the defender was holding onto his other arm.
…at various preceding ones is a bit of a hair trigger reaction, Mitchell didn't provide a counterpoint. He came off a reasonably productive junior year (47 catches, 872 yards) with a bunch of hype, and then his stats fell off a cliff. As of mid-November Mitchell had just 13 catches. Per MGoBlue he finished with 30; I'm guessing most of those were within five yards of the LOS. He averaged barely ten yards a catch, and his highlights have a ton of YAC in them. The half-season senior highlights above consist of a lot of handoffs on which he gains five yards and tackles made while he plays corner. While that's not necessarily Mitchell's fault—his QB manages to wobble a two-yard crossing route in that video—recruiting sites can only go on what they see, and they didn't have much data to go on after that camp.
Mitchell's overall polish and routes are also frequently questioned. Brewster notes he's a "raw player" and "still learning from a technical standpoint"; Son of a Coach says he's "not a sharp route runner at this time". After watching his highlights I have to agree. Mitchell appeared to run three routes in high school: bubble screens, crosses, and fades—mostly the former two. The fades that should be his bread and butter don't even see him leap most of the time. He doesn't high-point the ball, and there are only a couple of catches that are contested.
As a result I don't necessarily trust a lot of the praise in Mitchell's scouting reports. Given available evidence much of it reads like "here is a trope about a big receiver". Scout:
… good hands and knows how to use his body to gain position against smaller defensive backs. He comes out of breaks well but needs to be a bit more precise in his route running. He is a tremendous competitor, and it shows when the ball is in the air. He high-points the ball, and doesn't mind going over the middle.
Former ND QB Evan Sharpley praised Mitchell's "exceptional ball skills"; BGI says the same thing. I guess this could be something he showed in camps. There's nothing in any of his highlight tapes to confirm or deny such a thing.
Mitchell enrolled early, but didn't leave much of an impression. When I saw him at Ford Field I thought he looked like a "big time athlete, very unpolished". He dropped a couple of quick passes. Meanwhile Michigan's official twitter feed tweeted out a video in which Mitchell loses a slant route to Reon Dawson because he misses his attempt to paw him away on his cut:
Good battle between Ahmir Mitchell and Reon Dawson pic.twitter.com/4oOrV8h8DE
— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) March 1, 2016
Despite a dearth of options that saw Shane Morris pressed into duty as a slot receiver, Mitchell wasn't targeted much in the spring game. That's not a ton of data, freshmen wide receivers are often behind, etc. Still some data, none of it pointing the right direction.
Compounding some iffy returns from Mitchell's first spring practice is an off-field incident that all the insiders have muttered about but nobody has detailed. Per Scout's Brian Dohn, Mitchell nearly decided to transfer afterwards. Some variety of suspension may be forthcoming. Whatever the issue was it was serious enough to imperil Mitchell's career at Michigan before it even started. That greatly increases the chance he ends up washing out for reasons other than his talent.
Major battle in the #WarOnRutgers:
Why Greg Mathews or Jonas Mouton? Mathews was a tall, relatively burly mid-four star guy a while back. He was reasonably fast but didn't get a ton of separation; his hands were okay, but not great. He played early largely because Michigan didn't have a lot of other options shaped like him and topped out as a 30-catch receiver as a junior and senior. Mitchell is much more of a wild card than Mathews, who seemed boring and okay from the drop. Mitchell could be anything at all.
Other comparables include Junior Hemingway, a jump-ball maestro who played at 230 pounds one year, and—if Michigan gets very lucky—former Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd. BGI brought the latter comparison up in their film evaluation, so don't blame me for that one. Floyd ran a 4.4 40 at the NFL combine and Mitchell is unlikely to match that, but speed wasn't really Floyd's game in college.
As a safety, Mitchell's physical package is similar to Jarrod Wilson, who ran probably-generous 4.5s at Michigan's pro day at 6'1", 205… but Mitchell is already that size now. Jonas Mouton is a better fit. He entered a college a 210-pound safety and exited it a 240-pound WLB who alternated terrible plays with excellent ones for the duration of his career.
Guru Reliability: Low. Mitchell's high school is very small and their QB very limited; really no idea what he looks like in a college context. Many scouting reports seem arbitrary.
Variance: Very high. Lack of production, potential position switch, raw even at his main high school position, had early off-field incident of some variety.
Ceiling: High. NFL player lurking in there somewhere.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-minus. Washout potential is high. Pure athlete at the moment.
Projection: I'd redshirt the guy for the same reason we're all mad that neither starting safety redshirted: his ability to contribute this year is minimal and he's got a ton of upside. His early enrollment might complicate that; he would be a frustrating burned redshirt.
Either way this year is likely to be a learning experience for Mitchell at wide receiver, and then they'll poke around with him on defense during the bowl practices. Since I can read a depth chart and am high on the rest of this WR class and Moe Ways, I expect Mitchell to flip to defense at that point. There's another year of apprenticeship in there, and then maybe Mitchell can break through in year three or beyond as either a safety or linebacker.
Even with McCaffery behind him and plenty ahead, we're still seeing Brandon Peters in our futures. After a shirt. [Upchurch]
Who redshirts from the 2016 class? Which of those has the biggest impact down the road?*
Ace: Michigan is finally in a position where they can default to redshirting freshmen unless they’re too talented not to see the field (Rashan Gary), happen to fit at one of the couple positions in serious need of depth (Devin Bush), or auditioning for a starting job next year (David Long, LaVert Hill). As such, the list of players I expect to redshirt is long, especially on offense.
OFFENSE: QB Brandon Peters, RB Kingston Davis, RB/SLOT Chris Evans, WR Brad Hawkins, WR Eddie McDoom, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Mike Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, K Quinn Nordin
DEFENSE: DT Michael Dwumfour, DE Carlo Kemp, DE Ron Johnson, DE Josh Uche, LB Devin Gil, S Josh Metellus
A few of those guys might end up seeing spot snaps or special teams duty, and I guessed a bit with the receivers; Dylan Crawford, Nate Johnson, and Ahmir Mitchell aren’t locks to play, either, but it’s probably safe to assume the coaches won’t keep all six receiver-types in the same class. Even Devin Asiasi, who’d see the field right away under normal circumstances, might sit a year given TJ Wheatley’s emergence and the overall depth at tight end.
As for which redshirting freshman I expect to have the biggest impact, those who listen to the podcast probably won’t be surprised that I’m going with Brandon Peters, even with a few really talented linemen on this list. Peters was lights-out as a senior and is an ideal fit in Harbaugh’s offense. Even with Dylan McCaffrey coming in a year behind him, I have a really difficult time not seeing Peters as a very successful multi-year starter.
[After THE JUMP we tweak Ace's answer]
Where have you seen the biggest growth in your offense over the last couple of weeks?
“I just think that people understand the concepts. Really the passing game’s come along with the precision and timing. You know, making corrections. People understand what you’re trying to correct and they’re fixing it the next day you come out.”
Coach Harbaugh said that his quarterbacks were making ‘one big mistake’ per day right now. Is that still—I mean, what do you need to see from them this week and then going through the summer?
“I think just, you know, in terms of where they need to go with the ball, the progressions of their reads, when there’s no play to be made make a play. And that goes for any type of quarterback in any system. That’s not just this particular system here. That’s what you’re looking for.”
Have you seen a difference between John [O’Korn] being in his first year being in a competitive situation and the other two guys, Shane [Morris] and Wilton [Speight]?
“I think John’s a real competitor. I don’t think if he’s a redshirt it doesn’t matter to him. He’s a guy who comes out, wants to compete every day, and wants to be at his best.”
How do you distinguish between making a play when there isn’t one and trying to do too much? Where’s the line that gets drawn between those two?
“I think those guys just kind of naturally have it. They know when to make a play. They know when to step up and find a spot in the pocket. They know when to scramble. They know when to get rid of the ball not to take a sack. You know, I think it’s just kind of part of their DNA. It’s in there, you’ve just got to get it out of them.”
Was moving Mason [Cole] more about the importance of that center position or just getting the top five on the field?
“You know, you just really want to get the top five in however you do that. We’re still evaluating if that’s the best position for him. He’s done a very, very nice job this spring. That’s a hard thing to do is stand there with the ball in your hand and you’ve got a 300-pound guy breathing down your neck and you’ve got to snap it, you know. He’s really handled it beautifully. He’s done a really, really nice job with it.”
Do you guys feel like Newsome’s ready to start if need be?
“Yeah! When we played him last year as a true freshman we believed that he’s ready to do that if that’s how it all pans out.”
What’s different about him? You’ve talked about football lenses opening. Was his already a little more open than most?
“He’s very intelligent. He gets it. He can make a correction once [and] he can fix it. He understands what you’re talking about when you talk to him in the room. The screen doesn’t got fuzzy with him. He stays with you in a conversation.”
[After THE JUMP: Others in the OL rotation, Ty Isaac’s spring, and what Don Brown’s scheme does for the O-line]