will be michigan's highest pick in a while
Michigan's athletic department has made a few changes regarding media access for the upcoming season:
- Players' family members cannot be interviewed without permission from the athletic department.
- Freshmen will be withheld from media day.
- Practice will be closed to all media.
This is just a heads up. Shutting off practice is the only item that affects MGoBlog directly, but it's not a huge loss. Last year I attended a few Tuesday practices and took a couple photos, but I didn't see anything other than stretching and a hand-off. If they're going to do things like throw a Jordan Kovacs jersey on Matt Cavanaugh anyway, nothing is left to be gained. No complaints from me.
The other two items, however, will significantly affect the MSM (main stream media for those new to this blog). Enterprising features about David Molk's mother, Kovacs's journey as a walk-on, and Denard Robinson's humble beginnings will be harder to come by, as I predict that access will be granted sparingly and only to preferred media outlets. I doubt we'll see any freshmen this season, and relationships with their family members formed during the recruiting process will no longer be viable sources. Hail to the VictorsTM.
BREAKING, RELATED: Will Campbell dropped the F-bomb today (transcript tomorrow), so here's to never hearing from him again.
News bullets and other important items:
- Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark did not practice today; judgment has not yet been passed.
- Jerald Robinson did practice.
- Antonio Poole is out with a pec injury.
- Ricardo Miller is playing both U-back TE and receiver.
- Devin Gardner is taking reps at receiver.
I feel like there's something between us.
“Ready to go? All right. Thanks for coming out. For us, it was the first day back out there with a new football team. It’s always fun. There’s a lot of questions out there that we’ll continue to have as we go through this fall camp. I thought there’s some excitement, some chippyness, which is always good because there’s some competition. And that’s an important part of every day. We’re going to manufacture that as much as we can and put stress on our players and get them out of their comfort zone so that Saturdays are easy. That’s part of what the plan has always been. I thought we had a pretty good day. We got some good work as a team. Obviously when you’re going out there without pads on, helmets on, it can be deceiving at times, but I liked how we practiced with only helmets on. I thought they did a nice job with that. Thought the seniors and the guys who have played a lot of football at Michigan -- they’ve really taken an accountability, so that part of it is exciting and it was a good first day.”
Did Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark participate?
“They did not participate.”
“I don’t know that.”
When will you make a decision on that?
“When I make it, I guess. When? I don’t know.”
What’s your hope and expectation for Schofield at tackle?
“What I like about him is that he has some good game experience from a year ago being at guard. I think his athleticism, I think his maturity -- when you look at the group as a whole, genetically I think we look better from what we did physically during the summer. He’s one of those guys who’s stronger. He’s one of those guys who I think the maturity level -- everyone’s a little different, but I think he’s pretty serious about it.”
With Frank Clark out, who will compete with Brennen Beyer, and how will he respond to the competition?
“I think when you talk about him responding, he’s always responded. He’s a competitive kid. He loves to play. I think he’s done a tremendous job. Mario Ojemudia is a guy we can play at that position. We can put Jake Ryan back down there and play him there and move Cam Gordon up and rotate some linebackers around if we had to. So when you look at it, there’s some freshmen who are going to get some looks obviously throughout our football team, depthwise. I’m not too worried about it.”
Jake Ryan’s been a playmaker without a whole lot of technique. How do you refine that technique?
“I think through the spring he got better. Greg did a nice job coaching him every day. I think Jake probably became [a] more focused and intense football player, so his fundamentals would improve, his technique would improve. You still like some of the natural things that he does instinctively best that he does at times.”
Given that the entire staff is back, is there some continuity?
“I think there is. I think there is from the standpoint that -- and I know Kovacs said this in Chicago. They [have] the same coaches, and they [have] the same playbook and the same terminology. So I think all those things are a big part of it, which help it.”
What does a “good practice” mean on day 1?
“Well we lined up right. We didn’t have too many balls on the ground. Didn’t have a whole lot of penalties. Personally I like it when it’s a little chippy. Come out with an attitude to compete with each other.”
“Well I think it would help our team an awful lot. He’s got a great atittude. He’s really become a tremendous leader of our football team in a lot of ways. He’s worked his tail off during the summer from everything I’ve heard from players on this team. He really was a guy who led by example and then when he had to get after somebody, he’s not afraid to do that.”
Is it uplifting when that kind of thing comes from the players?
“No question. If we have to lead -- if I have to lead or the coaches have to lead the team, we aren’t going to be any good.”
Is that why you think Campbell’s going to be better?
“I’d be surprised if he didn’t because of his work ethic and his toughness and his leadership.”
Is lack of playing time a factor in his development?
“Well I think that’s part of it and when you play a couple different positions a couple different times around -- you’ve been in three different defenses when you did play defense, I think there’s a continuity level that you like to have.”
How do you know that a guy is going to be good before Sept. 1?
“I don’t know that you do. Some guys get in front of those big crowds and they just don’t quite play as well maybe as they practice. I just like his work ethic and what he’s done and not just physically but the mental part of playing the game of football.”
What about Ricky Barnum makes you think he’ll be ready?
“I think again there’s a guy who’s played some snaps. His work ethic, I mean, his leadership, you know I think Ricky’s got a really good quickness. I think that’s one of the pluses of a center that he has. Plays with pretty good leverage. I just like him.”
How is his chemistry with Denard?
“Well we’ve only had one day, but it was pretty good today. What I’ve seen of it. Now again, we’re out there in shorts. It’s a little different.”
Have you seen Denard be more of a vocal leader?
“Well I’ve seen that from him probably since the end of spring and through the end of summer. I think his maturity for the position and at the position has been really good. I thought today, again, we’re one day in. I thought he did a nice job of getting the offense where they needed to be from place to place and from practice. Talking with his receivers whether it was skelly or one-on-one and just how he runs the huddle.”
How different is that from how he was the first day of practice last year?
“Oh I don’t know. If I had to measure it, I couldn’t tell you that. I think what we observe, I think it’s there.”
What’s the goal of practices without pads?
“Well there’s a lot of installation obviously. The veterans are pretty clued into most of it. You always maybe tweak some things on either side of the ball during the course of spring and summer a little bit. You look at opponents, maybe somebody’s doing [something] that fits your scheme. There’s those kinds of things. I think it really is trying to establish the physicalness that we’re trying to play with.”
Have you decided how you’ll split Devin Gardner’s reps?
“Not yet. Again, it’s one day.”
Did Jerald Robinson practice?
Is his punishment effectively over?
How long does it take before you make decisions regarding position battles?
“We evaluate it every day. We evaluate the kids we’ll meet here in about an hour as a staff, and we’ll go through practice and talk about it. The coaches right now, they’re already into the tape, so they’re looking at it, so when we meet we’ll talk about them. From what we did in the special teams today and the different things we did there to how they [did in] the seven-on-seven, how the nine-on-seven went, the full line stuff. And trying to do a good job of talking about where everybody is as a staff. We’ve got walkthroughs in the morning, and we’ll meet before that and talk about it, then we’ll talk about it afterwards.”
Stephen Hopkins looks more like a fullback now with his weight gain. What will be his role?
“I think Steph is one of those guys who has good understanding and has accepted that role in a real positive way. I think he’s grown a lot maturity wise. I can just tell you from 18 months or however long it’s been we’ve been here, I think it’s really for the position. I think he’s become a teammate. So his role will depend on the game plan and what we want to do. I think he fits a great role for us.”
Has Al Borges used a fullback extensively before? Catching the ball, running the ball …
“Oh yeah. A whole lot.”
Did everybody show up?
“He’s the only one.”
“Well, his pec.”
You were pushing Kenny Demens pretty hard in the spring. How has he done so far?
“I think he’s done a good job. I think Kenny is, again -- these guys who are getting ready to play their last year, they finally realize that you tell them for three or four years it doesn’t last forever. I think those guys, there’s always a little difference in their approach in a positive way, and Kenny’s one of those guys.”
Overall, are you happy with the condition of the players?
“Oh yeah. I’m very happy with it. And they do a nice job. They’ve done a nice job and they had a little time off. The guys who have finished with school were able to go home for five, six days before we came back. I think they came back ready to go.”
How has Kovacs changed over the past year?
“I don’t know if he has. I think Kovacs has always been a guy who’s had a lot of passion and love for the game of football. He’s a guy that’s very instinctive. He’s smart. He’s got a love for Michigan, and if anywhere he probably feels a little more comfortable and confident talking when he needs to say something.”
Is that steadiness part of who he is, and do you think others feed off it?
“I think they do. I do think it makes him who he is.”
Ricardo Miller was a tight end last fall, a wide receiver in the spring, and yesterday he was a tight end again.
“Well he’s playing both. I think from a weight standpoint and everything he’s still going to be an edge guy, U-back guy, wide receiver guy. So he’s working them both.”
What do you most want to see from the team to know that you’re ready to go?
“Well, I really hope we’re a tough football team. And a physical football team. We have the mental toughness in how we prepare, to prepare at a high level, to play fast as a team, which means you’re confident and you’re knowing what you’re doing. There’s a physicalness to that because there’s an intensity to it. I think that’s what we would like to see.”
Is Miller back going back to tight end due a depth problem?
“Well you got some death issues -- uh death, DEPTH -- depth issues, that’s part of it. You have some depth that you want to look at at wide receiver, too. Right now he’s kind of a guy who can be a swing U-back for you and play wide receiver.”
Any freshmen who have impressed you?
“Some of those guys -- most of them, they’re finishing classes so they’re kind of running in and out. So to be honest with you, no.”
What did you think about Denard’s speech at the B1G luncheon?
“I think he did an amazing job. I thought he really told a story and did it how Denard would do it. And I think that’s what you want out of your players. Just like your captains. You want them to be who they are.”
Do you know when you’ll choose your captains?
“No that’s not for a couple more weeks. Usually we do it the Saturday or Sunday before game week.”
Rawls runs angry, mean, and fast. Is that how you would describe him? Also, re: Devin. Did he take snaps at receiver today?
“Yeah. And Rawls is angry.”
“He just runs hard. He runs hard, he’s hard to tackle, he’s physical, he’s got pretty good balance. Between Justice Hayes and Thomas and Vince, they all got carries.”
Did Jibreel Black show up with a good weight on him?
“He did. He’s not near as big as his brother who plays at Indiana. I don’t know if his body can be that, but he did a good job of working hard to put some weight on him. He and Craig both did a tremendous job. I think how he is able to keep it during camp, and I don’t know what the weather is going to be. I’m hoping it’s hot like it had been for at least 10 days, because that’s good for us. You know, I sweat a little more, maybe lose a pound. You know, that’s always good. But I just think how he manages that …”
How’s the punting battle shaping up?
“It’s a heck of a battle.”
This goes out to all those young linebackers out there who have given me your letters of intent:
♪ There was Bell, and a Hill, but I never saw them playing
No I never saw depth at all, 'till there was you.
There were safeties who gained weight, and a JUCO straight from Butler
But they were no Obianna Ezeh, 'till there was you.
Oh there were walk-ons, and converted fullbacks, they tell me,
And sweet freshman "Spinners," and Roh at "Quick"…
There was Ken-ny Demens, and a plush-toy Castor face-wash,
But no other linebackers at all, 'till there was you.
Till there was you! ♫
Linebacker depth: EXTANT!
This is Part III of the thing where I go over the depth chart and predict what will happen if the starter at any given position is hurt for an extended period of time in 2012: Who goes in?, What's the dropoff?, How do things shuffle?
And this time, there's goods here. There's depth in the SAMs and the WILLs and the MIKEs and the macks and the rovers. Whatayatalk whatayatalk: Where'd-we-get-it? With a Greg who knows the territory! With the jacks from the buckeyes, and the bucks from the mitten, and ROLBs from the overlooked, redshirted, 3-star, buck- and spart-passed over huckleberry bin. Whatayatalk, whatayatalk. Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker ya can talk, ya can bicker, bicker, bicker, ya can talk all ya want, but it's different than it was!
Quickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.
SAM (Strongside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Jake was a revelation last year as a redshirt freshman who as the season progressed kept giving the coaches less and less excuse to yank him. The nature of his position, which rotates often, and the nature of his cavalier game make it hard to quantify the effective difference of an injury here. By design he's the most replaceable guy on the defense; by the magnitude of his effect when he's in the game, there are few, if any, guys on the team who you'd less like to lose. He was far from perfect—his problems holding the edge led to some ugly things in the Northwestern-Michigan State part of the year—however there were also those times when a "running" quarterback would see this crazy freshman coming inside the edge blocker and think to himself "oh I'm so going around that idiot," only to end up flat on his back 20 yards in the backfield. Nothing was more satisfying to a fan base recovering from Passive 3-3-5 syndrome than seeing this crazed high-necked Viking bellowing something unintelligible at fast-retreating Logan Thomas.
Heiko took this
Cam Gordon is the nominal backup, and since the freshman who played ahead of him last year (Beyer) has made the move to WDE, you would imagine the onetime receiver, onetime epitome of ethereal spring optimism at free safety, and onetime 3-3-5 spinner will have finally settled into a useful something. He spent most of last year with a back injury that gives us precious little information on what he might become. So is C.Gordon a junior stunted by position switches, bad fundamental coaching and injury who's now ready to erupt, or a guy with bad fundamentals doomed to be remembered for that one time he was badly cast in the hero role of a box office flop?
What you want are his credentials for a position that rotates like a train of traveling salesmen; what I've got for you is a barbershop quartet of coaches singing songs about him. One thing they don't say is "platoon." Despite his safety pedigree and safety frame versus Jake Ryan's oft hand-down deployment, the coaches haven't indicated Gordon is a situational backup. The SLB in this defense is supposed to be more like a WDE than the other two linebacker spots, and Cam is not that. On the other hand he seems tailor-made for the side-job of the SLB: covering the guy in the slot.
So I'm saying if Ryan goes down, Michigan probably goes with Gordon and eases off the gas a bit, leaning less on pressure and more on coverage from the position. The real drop-off won't be too severe, as there are other guys who can blitz if the SLB becomes more coverage-oriented, and there are rush options extant. The apparent drop-off will feel like when we lost Marcus Ray—the defense is still the defense but that sense that somebody's about to lose an important body organ will be appreciably depreciated. You'll see Gordon plenty either way.
In case of dire emergency: Well like I said this position rotates. Don't know what will happen with Clark, but if he's in at WDE that means Brennan Beyer can easily reprise his 2011 role over here. Mario Ojemudia could be pressed into service. And any of the freshmen linebackers could end up here. Of the four, I picked Royce Jenkins-Stone as the SAM since Bolden already seems to be the two-deep man at Mike, and Ringer was here for spring practice at Mike, and scouting reports say Ross is a coverage-y WLB-type, while RJS has been described as a raw, blitz-loving knife. That's an SLB. It'd be best if he redshirts to learn how to be the second-most aggressive guy on the defense (WDE is the first) while holding the edge.
MIKE (Middle Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Responding to my size chart in last week's article, TSS started a thread about how Demens, who's listed at 248 on the spring roster (which is a copy of last fall's), has significantly more beef than the rest of the linebacking crew. The image above seems to reject the notion that he's the Carl Diggs among the Brackinses; the variability charts for the 2012 linebackers say he's huge (right, via TSS). So I checked the average listed size for a Michigan contributing linebacker since 1993, and it says he made big:
|2nd (Sophomore or RS Fr)||236||228|
|3rd (Junior or RS Soph)||246||232|
|4th (Senior or RS Junior)||248||233|
|5th year Senior||252||238|
Most of our starters played over 240 in their 4th or 5th years. Over 230 is where it seems the contributors need to be. And when you look at the depth chart for 2012 there are exactly three dudes who seem likely to fit that description:
|Kenny Demens||248||Jake Ryan||230||Desmond Morgan||220|
|Joe Bolden||230||Cam Gordon||222||Brandin Hawthorne||214|
|Mike Jones||224||Royce Jenkins-Stone||215||Antonio Poole||212|
|Kaleb Ringer||219||James Ross||209|
Knock-knock … Orange … yada yada … you have Joe Bolden, the 2012 recruit I am most giggity about, and for good reason. He had the kind of performance as the starter (Demens was wearing that club you see above) in the spring game that makes even the cautious prognosticators say "I think we have something here." Then they pull out the David Harris comparisons.
There's nothing I can really add to the recruiting profile or the lofty expectations except to focus on what he brings to the table right now. That is a guy with freshman-grade Kovacsian play-diagnosis skills that must be tempered by "is a true freshman," plus a lot of range and athleticism that must be tempered by "is probably not strong enough yet to get off blocks." I don't think Demens should be worried about losing his job this year unless he's banged up, however in that eventuality Michigan has something between what Desmond Morgan was last year and a freshman Manti Te'o on hand, and should be just fine. Orange you glad!
In case of dire emergency: The phrase "Who? MIKE JONES!" had a very short meme life on the MGoBoards, and it is the considered hope of every Michigan fan that it should never become the headline of an MGoInjury Roundup or uttered without irony inside Michigan Stadium ever. Before the injury that ruined his 2009 coaches were suggesting he might displace Mouton; alas that seems to have been motivational spring hokum. More hype/hokum was Mattison saying he's an unstoppable speed rusher. We saw Jones a bit while Michigan was killing clock against Minnesota and he looked, um, safety-ish. There is a job for a safety-ish linebacker in this defense—the Will—but there are so many other slight LBs on this roster that tripping the 220-something wire puts you into the mix at middle. I would think before we see Jones start, Morgan would slide down to MLB and Hawthorne become the full-time WLB. While time is running out for Jones, he's not ignorable.
WILL (Weakside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: You can argue about the stars being low for a sophomore whom I already said was at 3 stars when starting as a true freshman—that was at the end of last year and I expect Des should still be improving exponentially as this season goes on. I also predict this year you'll start seeing more Jake Ryan in him, since everyone from recruiting analysts to coaches have raved about grittiness, something we haven't had the opportunity to see much of just yet. If our next Eckstein McGritsalot loses that opportunity, the safety net is the the safety-like Brandin Hawthorne.
If you have the opportunity to give the coaches one suggestion for 2012, please join the MGoCrusade to have Hawthorne deployed as the WLB when Michigan goes to nickel. Until Morgan emerged in the second half of last year, Hawthorne had lain tenuous claim to defense's most open position. Brandon Herron, the beefy Yang to Brandin's Yin, dropped out of the race after the double-fumble touchdown rally and has graduated. Hawthorne was excellent in coverage, knifed into the backfield for a key stop against Notre Dame, and displayed Pahokeeian speed to all parts of the field … except when a blocker came near.
For you Tiger fans, Hawthorne is the Ramon Santiago of this defense. He is great at what he does, but playing him every down is going to expose his weakness against the run. So what does happen if Des goes down? It's probably Joe Bolden, but with more Hawthorne appearances.
In case of dire emergency: Trouble with capital T, rhymes with P, stands for…oh actually we don't know what we have in Antonio Poole except his name lends itself well to the Music Man theme. Really he's a redshirt freshman who was ignored by Rodriguez but picked up quickly by Hoke. His recruiting profile lists abilities of play diagnosis, tackling, and translating of the Facebook pages of CRex's in-laws. Third on the depth chart is where you'd want a redshirt freshman to be. Anyway if you see Poole that means he's better than expected, or that "dire emergency" includes the MLB depth chart too. Same goes for James Ross, who was at one point the highest rated linebacker of the 2012 uber-haul, and may yet have a long career beside Bolden (Orange!), however he's listed in the vicinity of 200 lbs. and would probably benefit from a redshirt more than Ringer, who was here for Spring ball. Since redshirting a consensus high 4-star is a luxury we haven't had around the linebacking parts in some time, I suggest we take advantage of it.
Items of admittedly flimsy substance:
Lots of Rawls. Thomas Rawls is the tailback in most of these sets; Hayes does not appear and Toussaint only gets buried on a flare screen. Rawls mostly gets buried himself. Maybe he's just an excellent vehicle via which to express defensive competence.
Morgan is all over the place. He goes sideline to sideline to thump Rawls on one moderately successful run and generally looks like Michigan's best linebacker. Again, it's one thing to go sideline to sideline against Rawls and another on Toussaint or Smith. Morgan still brings the wood.
Line bits. You can see Chris Bryant acting as the RG on a play where Miller is snapping to Gardner: second unit. Hypothesis: Michigan thinks Mealer can really hack it all of a sudden and is placing the usual pressure on Omameh's job. Either that or they're just getting Bryant some snaps at both guard spots so he's comfortable at either one in case of an injury. There has been a little buzz about Graham Glasgow, the second-team left guard, as well—unrelated to a tandem bike, even.
Also, your second string NT is currently Richard Ash. Not much of a surprise, sure.
Edge defenders. On the play where Gardner escapes Frank Clark pressure to bomb a pass to Jeremy Jackson in the back of the endzone it's the second team OTs—walk-ons—getting smoked. The player coming in from the bottom is redshirt freshman Antonio Poole, which strikes me as odd. He's presumed to be playing WLB, so if he's coming at the left tackle he's either engaged on a seriously long journey from blitz to the quarterback or he's practicing at MLB. (Or SLB, I guess, but I doubt it.)
Adding to the oddness of that play: it really looks like the guy trying to recover on Jackson is #35… Joe Bolden. I am confused about that defense.
Slant. Dime? Denard throws a slant to Gallon immediately in front of Terrence Talbott, who's on the field with Kovacs, Avery, and Countess. People have been talking Talbott up in the recent insidery posts across the web, and that is first-team run he's getting. Michigan seems to have enough depth at corner to consider some dime packages in third and long.
BUBBLE?!?! IS THIS A BUBBLE SCREEN TO DILEO?
AL BORGES IS CAPTURED AND HIDDEN SOMEWHERE IN THE MOUNTAINS OF AFGHANISTAN. WE LAUNCH OUR RESCUE AT 0600 SATURDAY.
Black appearance. Looks like Morgan and Black blow up the next play, one of those spring counters Michigan busted out against Minnesota for an unknown reason. Omameh gets beat, which I'd look at as a good sign since we know Omameh is a pretty good Big Ten player, one who has more trouble with strength than quickness. Black's being talked up as a quick penetrator.
Vincent Smith iso from the I. Zero yards. #sameasever. We get a glimpse of Cam Gordon rotating in with the ones on this play, which is good to see after he vanished last year. Smith does dance into the endzone a couple plays later on a power from the gun with #99 blocking—yeah, Michigan's rotating in a fullback wearing 99 now. Meet Paul Gyarmati.
On that play the second team is in. Poole gets on the wrong side of a pulling Barnum, which prevents Bolden from making a tackle. Then a safety I can't identify whiffs as he tries to fill. Bryant doesn't actually end up blocking anyone. Bolden's reaction time was impressive there: if Poole knows what he's doing that's going to be a thump for Bolden at or near the LOS.
Mmmm Denard. Next play is a QB power on which Barnum pulls. The TV always tells me that's a rare thing that can be of great utility to an offense. Barnum gets well downfield and crushes Morgan to the inside, opening up a lane Denard hits for six. Not Morgan's fault. I wish we'd see Demens doing some of the stuff Morgan is in these clips.
…and Morgan gets beat easily on the next play for a Vincent Smith dumpoff TD.
BONUS TAKE: From Maize 'n' Blue Nation.
Presenting weight changes that are all positive. I bolded things I find interesting:
|Player||2009||2010||2011||09 to 10||10 to 11|
|Player||2009||2010||2011||09 to 10||10 to 11|
|Player||2009||2010||2011||09 to 10||10 to 11|
|Player||2009||2010||2011||09 to 10||10 to 11|
|Player||2009||2010||2011||09 to 10||10 to 11|
|Player||2009||2010||2011||09 to 10||10 to 11|
|Ryan Van Bergen||271||283||288||12||5|
|Player||2009||2010||2011||09 to 10||10 to 11|
|Player||2009||2010||2011||09 to 10||10 to 11|
|Player||2009||2010||2011||09 to 10||10 to 11|
- Where is the addition of beef? I highlighted the starting offensive line above. They gained a total of 11 pounds between them, or one pound more than David Molk did last year, when he was the least inflated OL on the team. If Michigan's running power with these guys it might not go so well.
- Where is the addition of beef: answer. It's in the outside-linebackery parts of the defense. Craig Roh's added 18 additional pounds; now up 31 from his arrival at Michigan he is legitimately DL sized. The projected starters at SLB and WLB both put on around 15 pound.
- The subtraction of beef. Is where you'd expect it: the tubby tubs on the interior of the DL. Will Campbell, Quinton Washington, and Richard Ash are all relatively svelte now.
- Maybe Wilkins is eventually plausible. I was shocked to see Wilkins came in at 270 and is now 280. He got blown up in the Spring Game but in a couple years he could be a reasonable option at three-tech.
- All weight gain is good! Michael Shaw is eight pounds heavier and better able to take the pounding of the Big Ten.
- All weight loss is good! Vincent Smith lost eight pounds and will return to the jackrabbit ways he flashed as a freshman.
- BEEFCAKE. I hope Ricardo Miller loves protein shakes, because he's added 17 pounds and is still ridiculously small at tight end.
- Tony Posada and Chris Bryant. Good lord: both enter at essentially 340. They should form a tag team themed around natural disasters. Neither can be in any shape to play right now and unless Posada sheds a ton of weight he is a guard all the way at 6'4". Also monstrous: walk-on Gary Yerden at 6'5", 333.
- Antonio Poole. With Kellen Jones gone he's got a major opportunity to play right away and at 212 he's not much slimmer than Jones. Big difference between that and the 195 he was reputed to be.
- Greg Brown. While the rest of the freshman defensive backs enter at a willowy 176 or less Brown is packing 192. Good or bad… eh, probably not so good. But he did play well in spring.
- Chris Rock. Enters at 267. Will be a three-tech by WMU.
- Chris Barnett. Enters at 278. Redshirt coming with the knee and all; will be interesting to see if that goes down next year.
- Thomas Rawls. 5'10", 219 is pretty compact. Hayes is listed at the same height and a cornerback-like 176.
Weight gains or losses are the key to domination. We has them. Get out of our ways.
|Cincinnati, OH - 6'2" 210|
|Scout||4*, #13 OLB, #227 overall|
|Rivals||3*, #26 OLB, #20 OH|
|ESPN||3*, 78, #41 OLB|
|Others||4*, 91 to 247.|
|Other Suitors||Pitt, MSU, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Miami (that Miami)|
|YMRMFSPA||Chris Graham plus three points of tackling|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post. Tom talked to him prior to the Big 33.|
Antonio Poole's recruiting script is similar Raymon Taylor, the most recent profile in this series: it seemed like he really wanted to go to Michigan, but Rodriguez's staff showed tepid interest. When Brady Hoke arrived an offer did soon after, and at that point an announcement for Michigan seemed inevitable.
Unlike Taylor's recruitment, Michigan ignoring a well-regarded local-ish WLB product who seemed like he wanted to end up at M never made any sense. Michigan had a bunch of corners they were after, but few linebackers.
Woods was a high profile guy early with offers on or around Signing Day from a dozen schools; his best were lower-echelon Big Ten offers from Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan State. He started off in Scout's top ten OLBs and just outside their top 100. Interest didn't get much heavier than that over the summer. His rankings started to decline a bit and in August he narrowed his list to a top six of UC, Purdue, MSU, Wake Forest, Kentucky, and Lousiville—not exactly a murderers row.
Some more impressive schools got in late: he visited Miami and Nebraska in January, though it's unclear whether either offered. Then Mattison got hired, visited in-home, and Poole's recruitment was over the next day.
Also like Taylor, Poole is a kid on whom the scouting services are in riotous disagreement. In this case his main advocate is Scout, which places him in their top 300; Rivals and ESPN are all like not so much.
The main issue with Poole appears to be his size. He is either a "rugged, 6'2", 225 pound" monster-in-waiting or a 6-foot, 195 pound guy who should pretty obviously be a three star. Or he's somewhere in between. Welcome to recruiting heights and weights.
It's safe to assume the 6'2", 225, is an exaggeration. Touch The Banner's nearest comparable is former Michigan linebacker Chris Graham, who was almost certainly under six feet tall:
Poole reminds me a bit of Chris Graham in body stature, who played weakside linebacker for Michigan a few years ago. The thing I like most about him is that he's a very physical tackler. Graham had a couple de-cleaters as a Wolverine, but he was never a standout. … Unlike Graham, however, Poole plays downhill and seems to diagnose quickly.
I think Poole could play either weakside linebacker or middle linebacker. He's an excellent tackler and wades through the trash well. Much like Graham, it seems like Poole would fit best as a good two-down weakside 'backer. He blitzes well and he's a good run stopper, but I expect Mattison to use nickel corners (a position that disappeared the last few seasons) in obvious passing situations, and Poole might be lifted when offenses try to spread the field.
If unblocked, Graham was really good at spearing the dickens out of anyone who showed up in the hole. He was not often unblocked, though, and his little T-Rex arms left him unable to get off blocks. When not placing a facemask in the chest he often missed tackles.
Meanwhile, the most recent report that offers a height and weight is at the low end of the scale. It's an O-Zone Big 33 recap:
Antonio Poole, LB Cincinnati Winton Woods 6'0” 195 (Michigan)
I think Poole may have been the most impressive defensive player on the field. He's only listed at 6'0” 195 pounds, but he sticks ball-carriers right between the numbers and they stay stuck. When he's in pursuit, he looks much bigger than he is. He certainly hits much bigger than he is. He may not be big enough to play linebacker in the Big Ten right now, but the Wolverines may not be able to wait.
Smallish, quick, good in pursuit, but it remains a question whether or not he can maintain that level of play when the offensive linemen get bigger and more vice-clampy. At least it seems Poole has one thing on Graham: the ability to tackle. ESPN specifically praises it in their evaluation:
Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. His strong wrap tackling ability should serve him well as a special teams player. Shows very good flexibility, balance and agility; does a very good job with K&D recognition skills against the pass and run. We like his instincts and downhill approach when playing the run; demonstrates good timing when filling gaps, showing the quickness to beat blockers to the point of attack. Displays the playing strength to take on and defeat blockers when moving through traffic to the ball; comes off the edge with very good acceleration and leverage. This prospect displays very good pursuit habits.
No downsides are mentioned and yet he gets a decided yawn when rankings hit the road. This is not unusual with ESPN rankings, but Poole is an extreme case. They even say he's got the size to play OLB.
They also mention the athleticism, which others do as well:
"Antonio Poole is a speed linebacker with great range, meaning he can get to places on the field most other players can't," said Mark Porter, director of ScoutingOhio.com. "At times he can dominate the game with unique play-making ability. With the speed and agility of a safety he is also very stout at the point of attack taking on blockers."
So he's fast and big enough and good at tackling and Greg Robinson ignored him—which is probably the nicest thing anyone can say about a defensive prospect these days. He also got no offers more impressive than Pitt and a desperate Michigan. Something doesn't add up. Either a bunch of people mis-evaluated Poole or that size is going to be an issue.
That doesn't mean Michigan can wait. The WLB situation is grim. Poole has a better profile than Mike Jones, who is essentially the only competition unless Jake Ryan grabs the strongside job and frees Cam Gordon up for yet another position switch. Jones does have two years on Poole but missed all of last year injured—he will be in a war to start from day one. This is good for Poole, but maybe not so much for Michigan's defense.
Etc.: Facebook profile lists employment as "hurting people and winning national championships." At one point Kentucky and Illinois were Poole's top two, prompting one Kentucky(!) fan to say "there is no way we should ever lose a recruit to Illinois." Honorable mention in a Korean Essay Contest as a freshman. Video of his commitment hat dance. Commit gallery. Can't decide whether this is the best or worst recruiting headline ever: "More swimmers aware of talent Poole."($) 11 TFLs, 4 sacks as a junior; 22 TFLs as a senior.
Why Chris Graham plus three points of tackling? Graham was smallish weakside linebacker who could bring the lumber but wasn't that good despite his long-time starting spot. The above reports on Poole specifically praise his ability to get guys to the ground, which would clear up one of the major holes in Graham's game. Whether he'll be able to work through the trash better than Graham remains in question.
Guru Reliability: Medium-low. Massive spread in rankings and it appears Poole did not hit any camps, but was healthy at high-profile school.
General Excitement Level: Measure the length of his arms and I'll tell you if it's moderate or high. We'll go with moderately high: his offers side with the more skeptical set of evaluations, and while he was productive in high school a lack of height may prove a long term issues. On the other hand, scouting reports have a decided lack of negatives and production in the Big 33 game is a positive.
Projection: With almost literally no depth at WLB and a horde of linebackers in the 2012 class, Poole is highly unlikely to redshirt. Mike Jones does have two years on him and should keep him restricted to a backup role at first, but it's not out of the question that Poole emerges as a starter at some point this year. A good starter? Probably not as a freshman.
Though the senior season for Michigan's 2011 signees is long-gone, and we've moved our recruiting focus to 2012 (and even 2013), A few of Michigan's incoming freshmen participated in their last games as high schoolers over the past two weekends.
Three Michigan commits played in this game - all on the Ohio side, so you should be (kinda) glad to see that Team Ohio won by a lopsided 50-14 score.
According to Eugene Hankerson of GoBlueWolverine, LB Antonio Poole finished with 6 tackles and a sack, DE Keith Heitzman had 3 tackles and a sack, and DE/LB Frank Clark made 2 tackles (though the highlights embedded below certainly show Clark with a big sack at 4:40, and Heitzman scoring a rushing touchdown, so don't take Gene's numbers as gospel truth).
Keith Heitzman fluff.
Heitzman helped set the tone early as his pressure on Pennsylvania quarterback Matt Johnson led to Gabe Gilbert's interception on the game's first possession. Heitzman sacked Johnson in the second quarter, leading to a Pennsylvania punt from its end zone.
"Playing against the best I'm hoping will prepare me a little bit more for what's to come at (the University of) Michigan," Heitzman said.
Duane Long talks Big 33, and no surprise, he spends much of the time fawning over Ohio State commits (both because he's a slappy, and because OSU's players played very well in the game). However, he did manage to mention a couple future Wolverines:
A couple of Michigan kids were outstanding last night. Antonio Poole was the best linebacker in the game. He is a great fit for the hybrid position. Late offer Keith Heitzman from Hilliard Davidson was a major problem off the edge. If [OSU's Steve] Miller didn't have the quarterback dialed in, Heitzman did. It is hard to pick a best lineman in the game out of this lot. You could have picked Miller, [future Kent State running back Trayion] Durham or Heitzman.
Thanks to Eastern PA Football, we have highlights on the internet. You're looking at #2 (Heitzman), #15 (Cark), and #18 (Poole) in red.
There are a couple plays with a better view in this highlight as well.
MHSFCA All-Star Game
This is an East v. West battle in the state of Michigan, and this year, East reigned supreme by a 30-13 score.
LB Desmond Morgan (#48 for the West) was the only Michigan signee who participated, but a few former targets, including Penn State signee Anthony Zettel, also took part. Following the game, Morgan talked to the press:
“Overall, I thought we played pretty solid,” Morgan said. “We came in with a lot of heart and we held that up. We had three or four breakdowns on long balls and that hurt us. There are a lot of great players out here, and it was fun to play with them.”
The game aired on Detroit Public TV (and was streamed online), so video of it may turn up on the internet sometime soon, but I haven't found any yet.