Sorry to bump down Hutchinson but this is bigger news.
This one hurts. After rumors he hadn’t returned all semester, and that Michigan was apparently doing everything short of moving California to get him back, sophomore tight end Devin Asiasi is transferring to a school closer to home for personal reasons. Apparently now it’s official, via Harbaugh, via Baumgardner.
Harbaugh says Devin Asiasi is transferring.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) February 22, 2017
As just a true freshman Asiasi was one of the best blocking tight ends at Michigan in recent memory, and showed plenty of receiving ability to make him a major dual threat. There are plenty of other tight ends on the roster, and RS sophomore TJ Wheatley can fulfill much the same role. Still, this is still a major, major bummer. This is a player on the verge of stardom who was a perfect fit for the Michigan offense, and given the youth all over that side of the ball we were really looking forward to having at least this weapon at Harbaugh’s disposal.
As an additional knife, likely destinations for Asiasi include UCLA, where he would rejoin Jedd Fisch and best friend Boss Tagaloa (Jim Mora Jr.’s program has been a weird thorn in Michigan’s side lately despite going 8-5 and 4-8 the last two seasons). Asiasi also could wind up at USC, Cal, Stanford, or anywhere else that’s not here.
Senior OG Dave Dawson announced today on Twitter that he does not plan on returning for his grad year:
I will forever be thankful, GO BLUE pic.twitter.com/WK02dhbwAb
— BIG DAVE (@DaveDawson_) January 1, 2017
Despite a relatively soft depth chart and high rankings as a recruit (the sites rated him around the same spot as they did fellow Technician Michael Onwenu) the big Cass Tech product struggled to crack the lineup in four years. Offensive line recruits are notoriously late to develop and hard to predict, however the more time spent behind some below-average starters the less likely it seemed that Dawson would meet the expectations of a top-150ish prospect.
The closest Dawson came to starting was in the 2015 offseason, when classmate Patrick Kugler was hurt, Dawson returned from the offseason 20 pounds heavier, and practice rumors suggested he was pressing Braden at left guard. This site held out hope that Harbaugh and Drevno would manage to tap the potential of a guy Joe Mathis described as “one mean cuss” coming out of high school.
Dawson was running with the ones while starting right guard Kalis was nursing something just last August, but remained buried all season despite plenty of opportunities for OL to crack the lineup. Kugler earned an early start at left guard in place of Braden, and true freshman Ben Bredeson passed both RS juniors to start the remainder of the season at left guard once Newsome went down and Braden shifted out to left tackle. Onwenu, also a true freshman, siphoned seasoning snaps at right guard during this year’s garbage time, but Dawson played some right tackle against Illinois and even a little defensive tackle in the Rutgers blowout.
Just sticking around even this long was remarkable within the context of his class. In 2013 Brady Hoke brought in six offensive linemen rated 3 stars or above on the 247 composite, not counting the scholarship long-snapper. OT Chris Fox lost his career to a knee injury before he got to college and late offer OG Dan Samuelson retired from football before ever threatening a depth chart. OT Logan Tuley-Tillman was kicked off the team for some very bad behavior, tried and failed to transfer to Wazzu a year ago, and wound up at Akron, where he started 12 games at left tackle. The only significant contributor was OG Kyle Bosch, who transferred due to some personal issues when Harbaugh arrived, and wound up starting the last two years at West Virginia, earning all-Big XII this year. Kugler, the only one rated higher than Dawson, should have his chance to salvage the class of 2013 this spring.
With Kalis and Braden graduating, Bredeson expected to kick out to RT in place of Magnuson, and left tackle an open question thanks to Newsome’s injury, playing time on the offensive line was wide open for Dawson. Even a position switch to DT was an outside possibility given Michigan’s needs. If Dawson still didn’t like his chances to pass Onwenu and the other underclassmen, it’s probably best for for him that he use his grad year to go somewhere he can play. Meanwhile Michigan loses another bullet in a rather bare chamber for upperclassmen OL:
Via that depth chart Michigan now has 61 scholarships committed to currently returning players (including Peppers) and 26 commits, putting them 2 over the 85 they need to be at by the start of next season. Expected attrition from here gets that class to about 30 with room for some walk-ons to earn scholarships.
Floating away [photo: Eric Upchurch|MGoBlog]
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) January 28, 2016
We had heard persistent rumors all season that Cole was on thin ice after mounting violations of a thing that probably wouldn't have been a thing if it happened just once. Or twice. Insiders last summer thought he was already on the rails but around bowl practices it seemed he'd finally put that behind him. Apparently it happened again after/during the bowl trip, and Cole got the Kelly Baraka boot sometime before last week.
Cole saw a little bit of action early on as a special teamer, and some snaps at slot receiver after Grant Perry had a bad first outing. After that he was either injured (Scout, 247) or deep in the doghouse (Rivals) depending on what service you subscribed to. Then around bowl season it seemed he was in the clear and practicing at safety according to comments by Royce Jenkins-Stone. It seems Rivals (and maybe all of them) got this one right.
Damage: The move to safety made plenty of sense; his elite athleticism was badly needed given Michigan's depth chart after next year reads Tyree Kinnel and whatever they get out of this year's haul. Plan on seeing at least one and probably two of the freshmen on the field as everyone tries out for the post-Dymonte/Hill era. And unless some players emerge there I wouldn't be surprised if the coaches were shopping the grad transfer ranks once they've seen the position shake out next spring.
Michigan now has 23 scholarships available. With three special teamers/former walk-ons they don't have to count until fall and seven in the 2016 class enrolled and back-dateable they're not going to have any trouble signing all the guys they want on Wednesday. Expected and the usual unexpected losses should make that a whopping 31(!) available spots for new guys before you have to worry if guys are going to be cut.
[UPDATE: Michigan has 24 spots right now with two to four fifth years who might go through spring trying to earn a spot. We expect 2-4 additional departures if Michigan does go to the 30 number that's been tossed around. -BC]
Attrition incoming. Harbaugh minced no words in the press conference after the Citrus Bowl:
Harbaugh said 10-11 guys won't be back but "for the rest of the guys, like De'Veon and me, onward"
— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) January 1, 2016
Michigan no doubt has a very good idea of who those guys are already and is recruiting to match. Rivals has a rundown of the general situation that lists a number of names, most of them obvious.
Potential fifth years who have not seen the field much are not likely to return. That's a group that includes Terry Richardson, Blake Bars, Tom Strobel and maybe Allen Gant. Drake Johnson was a maybe due to playing time, something I'd also heard, but now looks set to come back. Matt Godin is mentioned as a possibility, but that seems far-fetched since he saw a ton of snaps this year. He's not a great fit as a DT, but move him to a plugger DE spot and he can be useful taking on tight ends on the like.
Rivals also suggests that a current offensive line starter might move on, which sounds absolutely ridiculous. Even if a guy might get beat out that guy would almost certainly be your #6, and asking that guy to transfer is not something any program is likely to do. File that under "motivational ploy" or "drunken telephone".
Aside from the fifth year guys, space will come from a couple places. One are Michigan's specialists. We currently count them against the cap but their situation is probably more fluid than that since I assume a couple of them are on "you get the first available slot in fall" kind of deals. Those slots are near-certain to open up by fall; I don't know if Michigan has to account for them on Signing Day.
Then there are plain old transfers. Derrick Green disappeared in the second half of the season and didn't make the bowl trip; I have heard that he is very likely to transfer. You have to figure that players passed by freshmen are going to be inclined to look around. There are few WR/DB types that applies to, and then at least one quarterback is going to look at the guys around him and say NOOOPE. It sounds like Harbaugh is already aware of who those guys are.
Ty Isaac doesn't seem like one of them. With virtually zero playing time after a couple of mid-year fumbles Isaac would be a guy to keep an eye on even though he's already lost a year of eligibility by departing USC. But Isaac says he's going to stay and scrap:
"I didn't play as well as I needed to, and I obviously had some things come up," Isaac said last week in Orlando. "But I still feel the same way. Anything the coaches want me to do I'll do, and I want to do.
"It didn't go my way, but the team overall's had a successful year and I'm happy to be a part of that."
I'd heard that he was very prominent in practices late, but that clearly did not translate into enough trust to put him on the field. He'll work on rebuilding that this offseason.
Early entries. It's departure season, as the deadline to declare for the NFL draft is the 15th. Michigan seems to be getting everyone other than maybe Willie Henry back; others have not been so fortunate:
- Penn State: QB Christian Hackenberg and DT Austin Johnson have declared. Neither is much of a surprise.
- Indiana: RB Jordan Howard declared, and Michigan fans quietly high-fived. So did DT Darius Latham, who was their most talented defender.
- Nebraska: DT Maliek Collins declared. Michigan doesn't play Nebraska next year.
- Maryland: DE Yannick Ngakoue declared.
- Rutgers: LB Steve Longa is gone, but Seth will still draft him anyway next year.
- Ohio State: DE Joey Bosa, RB Ezekiel Elliott, S Tyvis Powell, QB Cardale Jones, WR Michael Thomas, CB Eli Apple and LB Darron Lee have all declared. S Vonn Bell is widely expected to go as well.
Iowa is getting CB Desmond King back, so that's good for them. Everyone else of note is out.
Ratings! I don't care about ratings. A lot of people seem very mad that the playoff semifinals dropped a third of their viewership after moving to New Year's Eve. I don't care that much about other people setting money on fire, but yeah it was bad:
Per Sports Business Journal's Jon Ourand, overnight numbers for the Oklahoma-Clemson Orange Bowl and Alabama-Michigan State Cotton Bowl were 9.7 and 9.9, respectively (about 15.6 million viewers for the Orange Bowl and about 18.6 million for the Cotton, per Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch).
Last year's Rose and Sugar semis got 15.5 and 15.3 (about 28 million viewers apiece, per The Washington Post).
That's more than a third fewer viewers for the sport's biggest games of the year.
Two games that didn't exactly come down to the wire—MSU-Alabama was particularly uncompetitive—didn't help. The idea that college football would change the country's New Year's Eve paradigm was massive hubris, but this is an organization that kept Bill Hancock as their main mouthpiece even after they'd decided everything that came out of his mouth for a decade was complete bollocks. Hubris should be expected.
Let's see what Bill Hancock has to say now, I bet it's reasonable and logic—
"That decline, frankly, is not much of a surprise and it's modest."
Hancock's business card reads "will lie but seem respectable for money."
Wisconsin down one Dave Aranda. LSU hires him away for a reported 1.3 million a year. That is bad for Wisconsin, which seems to be clearly handicapped by their administration at this point. Gary Andersen fled to one of the worst jobs in the Pac-12 rather than stick around; Bo Ryan retired midseason to spite people who would not give the job to his primary assistant; they lose their DC and Barry Alvarez cries poverty afterward.
I'm sure they'll maintain competitiveness but it feels like their golden age is coming to an end here.
Mone ready to go. Bryan Mone tells Scout he's completely recovered from his injury and raring to go:
"I used (the injury) as motivation to be honest with you," Mone said. "Just motivation. Watching the guys practice and play got me excited to work out and not only that but in the classroom, too... I feel pretty good body-wise. I was at 330 when I got hurt, I'm at 309 now. My expectations are just to get better with my technique football-wise."
He also says "everybody is coming back," which predated reports about Willie Henry exploring his options but is still an enouraging sign for how he thinks that decision will go.
Partridge on departing. DJ Durkin made a run at Chris Partridge after he was hired at Maryland, but Partridge decided to stay. It sounds like that's not a short-term decision:
“My future is whatever Jim Harbaugh thinks my future is,” said Partridge, with his mother, Bonnie, and father, Rick, nearby. “My number will be called and I know that, and for now I’m trying to be the best in the country in whatever role my team needs me, whatever I’m asked to do. My loyalty is with Jim Harbaugh — who I consider the best coach in the country — and my heart is with the University of Michigan. I’m just part of a team trying to do my part to help us win Big Ten and national championships.”
Partridge coached linebackers in the bowl game and is probably in line for a full assistant spot in the relatively near future, possibly when Mattison retires.
Etc.: Get The Picture on the epidemic of QB transfers. Harbaugh gonna Harbaugh. Citrus Bowl widely watched despite blowout. Holdin' The Rope on said blowout. Things that predict future shooting performance. Jake Rudock on his final year. The evolution of Michigan football.
Fitz Toussaint will start for the Steelers in the playoffs. /throws dart at Fred Jackson picture
According to a very brief release from the athletic department, redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Logan Tuley-Tillman is no longer a member of the football program.
Statement from Jim Harbaugh, J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach:
“Logan Tuley-Tillman has been dismissed from the football team for conduct unacceptable for a Michigan student athlete."
Tuley-Tillman saw some action as a sixth lineman in the Utah game, so something must have transpired since then. His departure means Michigan's depth on the line is worrisome both this year and moving forward. Unless a guard slides out to tackle, the only backup tackles are now freshmen: redshirt freshman Juwann Bushell-Beatty and true freshmen Grant Newsome and Nolan Ulizio. Graham Glasgow and Ben Braden could each move to right tackle, allowing David Dawson or Patrick Kugler (when he's healthy) to slide into the lineup if need be. Michigan can stand pat for now, but if there's an injury on the line things get dicey in a hurry.
Expect Michigan to make a big push for another tackle in the 2016 class. Meanwhile, the heralded 2013 O-line haul is looking like a disaster. Kugler and Dawson still have plenty of time to contribute, but Chris Fox's career is over due to medical issues, Kyle Bosch transferred to West Virginia, Dan Samuelsen couldn't crack the two-deep and transferred, and now Tuley-Tillman is off the team.
thumbs up [Bryan Fuller]
Class size: fishy?
Since the 2016 Michigan recruiting class has already grown beyond the 14 scholarships that are known to be available, do you have a take or any insight as to how far Coach Harbaugh is willing to go with regards to oversigning? Is it simply a matter of players not being offered a 5th year or could we actually see Michigan take a step toward opening the Harbaugh wing of St. Saban's Memorial Hospital?
I have a hard time believing that we could get that draconian with recruiting, but is there a danger that we step too close to the line that coaches like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban crossed a long time ago?
A quick glance at the Depth Chart By Class shows a large number of redshirt juniors who are not currently contributors. At this point many aren't expected to be. Those guys can graduate and either take a fifth year elsewhere or head to the real world without anything about their departure being shady. There are between four and six candidates for the firm handshake on the roster.
Also, I've heard that there were a couple guys who were likely to take medical redshirts of the legit variety. I'm surprised we haven't heard any announcements about that yet—maybe there's enough room for the players in question to see if they can get back to where they need to be this year.
Add those two things together and you have 20 or so spots right now. It's reasonable to expect playing time and other attrition to get Michigan to the 25 they seem to be planning on—most teams in year one of a new coach see attrition like that.
I don't expect this to be a long term trend. Harbaugh's classes at Stanford ended up with 19, 17, 22, and 22 kids. That is a mere 80 in four years. (The transition class between Harbaugh and Shaw was 19, FWIW.) Harbaugh is clearly alarmed at the state of the roster and is trying to get in guys who he thinks are a good fit as quickly as reasonably possible.
It is possible it'll seem shady in February. Right now it looks like a reasonable approach.
Cat fight fix, more attrition stuff.
Ace's Stanford recruiting diagnosis reminded me of JH's public cat fight with Mike Hart and Jamie Morris. I did some digging yesterday on whether those fences were mended and found general statements from Morris about Jim being the right guy for the job before his hire in Dec/Jan, but nothing direct. This scuffle was a huge deal at the time and many wrote off Harbaugh for good. Do you know if this was all swept under the rug or if we've kissed an made up?
I'm not sure if Mike Hart buried the hatchet with Harbaugh. I didn't hear anything about it during the search, and it is possible that he was omitted from the "everyone call Jim Harbaugh" list, whether by accident or on purpose.
I have heard that Harbaugh and Carr had a conversation about a lot of things that did directly address those comments to the satisfaction of both men. Thus Carr's public advocacy of hiring Harbaugh even before that was accomplished. From my impressions of both men I'm guessing they're never going to be best buds; Carr was clearly practical enough to identify the best option for Michigan's coaching search.
Also in regards to Ace's post, it seems like this year will serve as a decent case study for how JH will handle 'crootin. We are taking guys at an astonishing pace this summer, and a class that is estimated to be near the 28 man limit is already filling up. Like most, I found that a bit unsettling and hope the additional public attention at UM curbs this activity (especially if Jimmy's going to cast stones at OSU 'crootin).
As I mentioned above, Harbaugh history in terms of attrition is very conservative. Some of the decommits Ace detailed aren't how I'd want Michigan's coach to go about things, but at least those guys were able to get the picture relatively early and find places.
[After THE JUMP: "his guys," speed, Harbaugh counterfactuals.]