alternate headline: man does job
back back back back not back (but there's another guy also back) [Bryan Fuller]
|Mason Cole||So.||Ben Braden||Jr.*||Graham Glasgow||Sr.*||Kyle Kalis||Jr.*||Erik Magnuson||Jr.*|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||So.*||David Dawson||So.*||Patrick Kugler||So.*||Blake Bars||Jr.*||Juwann Bushell-Beatty||Fr.*|
It got better. It really did. The OL nadir is in the past. We can come out of the bunker and rebuild society now.
By any reasonable metric it in fact got a lot better. Michigan's YPC leapt 1.3 yards, going from 11th in a 12-team league to 8th in a 14-team one. If you only look at Big Ten stats Michigan is still 8th, and that's in the division that had the MSU, OSU, and PSU defenses. Sacks allowed had a near-identical improvement, going from barely better than Purdue to a spot in the respectable midsection of the conference. Advanced stats saw something similar. Michigan finished 50th in adjusted line yards*, 32nd in power success rate, and 72nd in adjusted sack rate. And that's with the running backs going the wrong direction constantly.
None of these numbers stand out, but neither do they linger in the seedy parts of the list next to Temple and Penn State and Louisiana-Monroe. They were average-ish. Most of the time they felt average-ish.
That's not a bad place to be with zero seniors and just two upperclassmen. While the unexpected departure of Jack Miller puts a small dent in the front's depth, his likely replacement, Erik Magnuson, is a redshirt junior who came in as a touted recruit and has a season's worth of starts to his name already. If you're willing to fudge a bit, Michigan has five starters back from that okay line. They've replaced Brady Hoke with Jim Harbaugh and Darrell Funk with Tim Drevno.
Could they be… good?
*[A stat that weighs the first few yards you get heavily and discounts long runs in an attempt to get a feel for how the line is doing.]
Cole coped [Eric Upchurch]
Rating: 3 of 5
Last year I gave this a 1 because Michigan was staring down a starting lineup consisting of a true freshman and a third-year guy who didn't even get a sniff during the chaos of 2013. They seemed to acquire these positions almost by default since the only other tackles on the roster were freshmen (redshirt or true) regarded as huge projects. Or they were starting at guard.
The 2014 edition of this post took a quick gander at what happened when football teams started freshman tackles. It was almost universally ugly. The best case scenario was Ole Miss, which deployed ultra-blue-chip Laremy Tunsil as a true freshman and was middling in both YPC and sacks allowed. All others trundled their way to seasons that were more or less disastrous.
Michigan was not disastrous last year. In what is certainly a first for offensive line projections in recent history, that prediction was pessimistic. MASON COLE, the true freshman, just about hit the top end of reasonable projections, those being:
The occasional freshman tackle can cope. I think Cole is one of those guys. But is he going to blow a guy off the ball and provide a big ol' lane at 292 pounds? Probably not. Our hope here is that Cole is a solid, agile pass protector in year one who is a meh run blocker.
Mason Cole coped. This is what that looks like in the run game according to UFR:
|App St||9.5||2||7.5||A fine debut|
|Notre Dame||4||2||2||Didn't seem overwhelmed at all.|
|Miami||8||5||3||Okay; also had one very bad pass pro.|
|Utah||3||2.5||0.5||Nice seal block ignored.|
|Rutgers||5||5||0||I'll take it.|
|Penn State||1.5||5||-3.5||Hull and Zettel bad matchup.|
|Minnesota||4.5||2.5||2||Overpowered a little but still okay day.|
|Indiana||3||0.5||2.5||Didn't mess anything up.|
It was rougher in pass protection, where I have had him for 16 protection minuses in 8 games. Those are worth about half a QB pressure/sack each. Otherwise things were pretty okay against non-elite defenses. Cole's debut season was… eh.
When it didn't go well, the usual reason was that Cole got blown backwards because he was a true freshman. These were the kind of things that were happening against Zettel and company:
This was a game in which Cole's inexperience and lack of big skrongness really hurt. Here Butt gets an excellent shoulder spear on Zettel, knocking him off balance. This should provide ample opportunity for Cole to step around and wall Zettel off, creating a crease Smith will hit trying to beat a safety for a big gainer. Instead Zettel comprehensively wins:
Cole got whipped on the Norfleet catch that put Michigan in position for the winning field goal; Michigan was fortunate that ball went to the WR instead of getting knocked anywhere.
Ennui prevented me from charting him against Joey Bosa, but I've gone back and rewatched the OSU game. Cole was okay. By the second half of The Game Ohio State decided that they should either blitz outside of Bosa and send him against the interior line (which only kind of worked) or have him go at Ben Braden (which very much worked). Don't get me wrong, Cole did get beat. It was a struggle; it was not one in which he was completely overwhelmed.
All of that is terrific for a true freshman. Cole grabbed the job, held the job all season, and played reasonably well. There has been not a whisper that he would go anywhere except for a blip during spring practice when he was playing center, that because Glasgow was suspended and Michigan was figuring out if he could play there a la Barrett Jones. All practice reports have held that he is a sure thing, greatly improved, etc. 247 heard this from multiple people in a 24-hour window:
Mason Cole has unsurprisingly established himself as a rock at the left tackle spot, and is primed to be the next great four-year starter to play the position.
Cole's added 13 pounds and should make a major leap in year two, what with the rare true-freshman-to-true-sophomore OL transition coupled with the general HARBAUGH.
That will probably still leave him short of dominant. Michigan's most recent really good left tackle, Taylor Lewan, took off in his third year. In year two Cole should slash the protection issues considerably and do okay against the better defensive ends in the league. A year like early Graham Glasgow—reliable, somewhat short on raw power—would set Cole up to be excellent as an upperclassman.
[After THE JUMP: four-ish additional returning starters who happen to be upperclassmen already]
this does not seem functional for several reasons I will now elucidate
For a while there it looked like Harbaugh had taken the Big Ten Network guys' phones and given them the Tom Brady treatment, but Dave Revsine must have a backup, because he's providing a rare glimpse inside Blue October.
In past years this has been something more than a post-length manual retweet of one guy; Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith also gave their thoughts. So far this is the only thing we've gotten from them:
— Derek Shaw (@Derek_Shaw) August 19, 2015
[Graham] Glasgow also told me he is living with his grandmother for the semester. A good way to focus.
That is one way to make sure you don't trip up on your probation.
Following blockquotes are from Revsine's twitter feed unless otherwise noted. BTN will broadcast their react from Michigan practice at 6 PM.
Tom Dienhart had some general thoughts on twitter:
A very business-like practice at Michigan today. No music blared. A classroom environment with lots of teaching. Nobody walked or lingered.
Dressed in his uniform of a blue “M” cap, long-sleeve shirt and—what else?—khakis, Harbaugh spent most of time with QBs. Always instructing.
Staffers describe the Michigan camp as a “submarine.” It is all business with no distractions.
Glad to hear they got rid of the lingering. Hate lingering. Almost as bad as loitering. By the way, if you want to find lingerers and loiterers just check the replies to any Dienhart tweet.
Some non-position-specific stuff from Revsine:
Harbaugh is incredibly involved in the passing game at practice - gives a lot of feedback - very hands-on with that group
It's obvious they're really, really well coached. Practice was all business, drills were efficient, feedback was great
Much like in the past few years team has more talent than most B1G teams they play except for the 2 best.
As always starts w O/D lines no lack of talent in either area They've recruited well in both areas & r good enough
I would not be surprised if both QB played in opener against Utah. Game play sometimes is best way to decide
Defense very solid good depth & has good young players that will have time 2 develop. Off needs more dynamic skill
QB - Morris consistently took 1st snap in drills - but no idea if that means anything - it does at some places, it doesn't at others
QB - if I had to guess, I'd say both Morris and Rudock would play against Utah - not sure there's clear separation
It's tough to say - both had their moments. Morris has a great arm. Rudock doesn't make many mistakes. Tough call
Asked about Morris:
His arm - he can really spin it. Issue will obviously be TO's - have to be dramatically better there as a team
Dienhart was more decisive about the QB battle:
1. Jake Rudock figures to win the quarterback spot. The Iowa senior transfer is the one signal-caller who gives Michigan the best chance to win out of the gate. … Rudock threw the ball well today and worked with the top units along with junior lefty Shane Morris. Rudock is a savvy vet with lots of starting experience.
FWIW. I'm betting that the quarterback battle will legitimately go until the day before the Utah game and that Rudock wins it decisively.
Zach Gentry looked "tall"; a fan asking about him was advised that this was a two-man race.
Other obvious trouble spot LY was OL. I think that group will be vastly improved.They have always had talent there - evident again 2day
No real surprises on OL - looked like Cole, Braden, Glasgow, Kalis, Magnuson. Drevno singled Blake Bars out as having had good camp
Even if we're nervous about Braden at guard, I'd be more nervous about guys flipping everywhere like we've seen the last few years.
They are really well coached on the OL - constant constructive feedback. Would be shocked if they're not better
Easy call to make with 5-ish returning starters and Tim Drevno running the show.
Dienhart noted the second team line:
The second unit had junior Logan Tuley-Tillman at left tackle; junior David Dawson at left guard; junior Patrick Kugler at center; sophomore Juwann Bushell-Beatty at right guard; senior Blake Bars at right tackle.
That's as expected until you get to JBB at guard and Bars at tackle.
On the starter:
Hard to tell - I did notice Smith a few times. Guess would be by committee at 1st & see if someone emerges
RB - lots of good well-known options here - again, I think difference in OL will help immensely.
Big - man he has great size for a RB. Because of the structure of practice, I didn't come away w great feel for RBs
Dienhart gave Smith the slight edge; Ross Taylor-Douglass is apparently a tailback this week.
WIDE RECEIVER & TIGHT END
Revsine literally shouted out everyone on the roster who was practicing at TE.
TE could be a real area of strength - obviously we know about Jake Butt, but Poggi, Winovich, Williams (nice TD grab) all look solid
Did I mention Hill and Bunting? They're good too. Lot of interesting options there.
Wheatley is probably on the shelf for a bit, so that's everybody. Apparently Hill is back at it?
I still think big-play explosiveness will be an issue for this team - no one totally jumps out on that front
Yeah. That contradicts this…
WR looks to be about what it was a year ago - issue will be whether a deep threat can emerge. Better OL play could obviously help there
…because last year they had one Devin Funchess, for all the good that did them. Remember when they just punted it to Funchess like six times a game because their offense was real bad and that was a good idea? I don't either.
The Grant Perry hype train continues unabated:
I'd be surprised if Grant Perry doesn't contribute some at WR. Tough to tell on Brian Cole - kind of up and down
Some nice options at wideout, with senior Jehu Chesson and senior Amara Darboh. Freshman Brian Cole was running with the second unit. I like the kid. Sophomore Maurice Ways also saw lots of action. Grant Perry was another freshman who was active.
Drake Harris was a "young guy who could help"; Peppers did not get snaps on offense, but as Revsine points out that's a thing they would likely keep under wraps when BTN visits.
DEFENSE & SPECIAL TEAMS
Relatively little here. On the DL:
Good group - rotated a lot of guys through. I think they'll once again have a very solid defense
On the secondary:
A lot of known commodities, obviously, on defense. Looks like Lyons will definitely help in secondary.
DE Taco Charlton was leading post-practice sprint drills among linemen. He is an impressive specimen.
Dienhart also provided looks at the two deep at linebacker…
The linebackers look good. One unit had senior James Ross; senior Desmond Morgan; senior Joe Bolden. Another had junior Ben Gedeon; sophomore Jared Wangler; senior Allen Gant.
One front lined up thusly today: Wormley at end; senior Ryan Glasgow at tackle; senior Willie Henry at tackle; Ojemudia at end. The other unit combo was Charlton at end; senior Tom Strobel; junior Maurice Hurst; senior Royce Jenkins-Stone, listed as a LB on the roster.
So Charlton is an SDE, which makes sense since all the other candidates to back up Wormley got moved to TE. Strobel lining up at nose(?!) would be a very, very strange thing. Would expect Godin to be the #4 DT without Mone. No mention of Marshall is odd.
Meanwhile, the secondary:
Stanford grad transfer Wayne Lyons could be a proverbial “cut-above.” The top unit today was Lewis and Clark on the edges with Peppers and Wilson at safety. The other unit had junior Channing Stribling and freshman Tyree Kinnel on the corners with junior Dymonte Thomas and Lyons at safety.
No Delano Hill or Watson mentioned; Clark pushing for the boundary spot will give me the heebie-jeebies until it doesn't.
Potential punt returners and some Peppers hype:
PR looks like it'll be Peppers and Chesson. Peppers looked great overall today and DJ Durkin said he's had an outstanding camp
PK remains up in the air - still doesn't look like an area of strength. Aussie P Blake O'Neill got off some boomers – impressive
This from Dienhart on the three PK options:
Three kickers took turns at the uprights: freshman Andrew David; sophomore Kyle Seychel; senior Kenneth Allen.
Yes. Fun. Annual best CTK is just four minutes of the Michigan drill:
- Lewan buries Keith Heitzman on the first rep; Heitzman comes back and does much better against Schofield on the next one. Not entirely unexpected.
- Rawls absolutely runs over Ross Douglas on a rep, causing both guys to pop up and jut chests at each other threateningly.
- Washington looks good on both his reps, though he gave some ground on #1.
- Ross sheds very well on his single rep, as does Jarrod Wilson. Wormley does not and immediately gets a coach in his face repeating "escape, escape, escape" to him.
- A rather large-looking Mike McCray has interesting reps separated by 30 seconds or so. On the first one, Kyle Bosch drives him way out of the frame. On the second, he dumps Blake Bars to the ground and makes a tackle.
- Taco stands up Jake Butt, RB darts by, Mattison exclaims "HE WENT OUTSIDE THE CONE" in an effort to claim that one for the D.
- Strobel does a good job against walk-on Erik Gunderson.
- Jeremy Jackson locks up Richardson and waltzes him downfeld. Not a huge surprise, but an indicator as to why it's going to be hard for Richardson to get on the field this year.
- Pipkins wins a rep against Glasgow with authority.
Omar comin'? Frank Clark gets the CTK treatment:
Clark says he'd be competitive with Devin Gardner in a 40 yard dash… but not Denard. He says he 268, not 277, but a CTK a few days later they say he's 274. I dunno, pick one.
Also available: Aaron Wellman may get results, but does he sound like a gravel truck? Maybe a little. Jeremy Jackson's Day 18 is mostly a look into weirdass Navy Seal exercises like "kick a pole and wiggle forward on your butt" and "rub sand on your head." Jake Ryan is running and whatnot.
Hail Brady. Oh man Michigan's head coach has the same opinion on uniformz as sane people do:
"(The uniform issue is) bigger than it should be," Hoke said Monday during a radio interview with FoxSports' Jay Mohr. "But we’re traditional, and we have such a great tradition and legacies, we’re going to be staying pretty much standard.” …
“We had one uniform we wore once that we won’t wear again,” he said. "It’s something that you’re always trying to have that excitement with your kids, and that’s part of it."
Is that the ghost number outfit, the No Rain bumblebee one, or… actually the Sugar Bowl uniforms were hardly different from the usual and fine.
The times, they have changed. Ohio State picks up a 2015 PG commit from AJ Harris, a 5'8" kid who I'd never heard of. A quick check of the UMHoops page for him reveals nothing but a lot of scouting from various AAU tournaments, so that's why: no one had mentioned him in connection with a Michigan offer. This is interesting for a couple reasons:
- It likely removes OSU from the Jalen Brunson chase, but Harris is a AAU teammate of Luke Kennard.
- Harris's commitment was "shocking" because as of two weeks ago he said Michigan was at the top and he wanted to be Trey Burke.
Harris told Eleven Warriors that "it's true, I did want to hear from Michigan," but Michigan is focused on a half-dozen high profile targets. So… Ohio point guard picks Ohio State because Michigan showed no interest. Remember when the basketball program was 1-6 in the Big Ten? No? I don't either.
Meanwhile in silly things said on the internet:
What could make it sweeter? Beating out Michigan for a prospect that two weeks ago wanted to emulate Trey Burke.
To beat the man, the man has to be in the ring, or at least cognizant of the fact there is a ring.
Booker and Johnson do things. Elsewhere in basketball recruiting news—we are downshifting from occasional roundups as football season starts—Devin Booker releases a top five of Michigan, Kentucky, Michigan State, Missouri, and Florida. The latter two are not reputed to be strong contenders, especially Florida. Booker told Scout that he's set up officials with the other four schools and pull the trigger "whenever I feel whatever schools is right for me" and that he's not even sure he'll visit Florida.
You are rooting for Indiana decommit (and Kentucky legacy) James Blackmon to pick the Wildcats, as they seem to be the biggest threat at the moment. Indiana blog Inside The Hall thinks Blackmon is all but locked up for the Wildcats, so we've got that going for us. The primary way things could go pear-shaped if Blackmon takes Kentucky off the table is if Michigan gets a commit from Trevon Bluiett and Booker looks at Stauskas/Irvin/LeVert/Bluiett as a higher hill to climb than Michigan State's roster.
Also, Ypsi PF Jaylen Johnson, who recently took a visit to Michigan, is profiled by the Louisville paper:
“I love his activity,” Meyer said. “He’s athletic, he’s long, and he’s so active. He’s such an aggressive rebounder, one of those who is always fighting for position early. I love his feel for the game as a rebounder.”
Meyer thinks Johnson will end up at Louisville, so expect him to cut Louisville from his list immediately. YES I AM STILL BITTER.
Finally, touted 2015 PF Carlton Bragg plans a visit:
We talked about it a little,” Graves said. “I think Carlton would be a three, stretch four because he has the jumper to be 6-9 just like a forward that runs the floor, like a hybrid. We haven’t talked x’s and o’s but they can see him in their system, especially with the three’s that they shoot.”
Bragg is open at the moment; Ohio State will be a major player.
They were almost ready to throw in the towel last year. On the OL, that is. Apparently the debate as to whether to redshirt Kyle Kalis was being had within the walls of Schembechler Hall as well as without:
"It sucked," the redshirt freshman offensive lineman said Sunday. "It sucked. So many times, I was close to going in, but they didn't want to burn my redshirt.
"Everyone wants to play, and it sucks (when you don't get to). And I was mad about it."
So many times I was like "why aren't they playing Kalis." At least we know now there was much debate about it.
Prepare for WJC departures. The United States of Hockey handicaps the National Junior Evaluation Camp field, which includes four Michigan forwards. Chris Peters projects that Compher ("One of the better centers for most of the camp… really strong when playing a bottom-six role and playing an aggressive, grinding two-way style") and Copp ("A prime candidate to play the fourth-line shutdown role the U.S. will so badly need to succeed") will make the roster, while Motte and Nieves are question marks. Nieves's evaluation is pretty much the thing:
Nieves is one of those guys where if he finds that missing piece to his game, he could be really good. With size, speed and some truly remarkable puck skills, he’s got a lot of the tools going for him. He just couldn’t seem to finish the play out with the right decision or buy himself time when he needed it. That led to poor shots or turnovers and that’s going to be tough to do at the WJC level. The speed and skills are there, but I think he needs some more work.
Right now he's Milan Gajic, a guy who looks like he's got every skill you could want but doesn't put it together to blow up. He's got some more time to break out of that rut.
Meanwhile, Motte is sounding like something not very much like the midget puck wizard I'd assumed he would be:
Motte showed good quickness and some skill in a solid camp performance. He had some good two-way play and worked really well when playing with Compher and Fasching in the middle parts of the camp.
He might grab a lower-rung spot, especially if the brass thinks his long familiarity with Compher would make a good pairing.
Are they related to Wiz Khalifa? I don't know what this means.
For Gallon, there’s an added bonus there: He and Gardner are extremely tight. “Closer than Phineas and Ferb,” as Gallon puts it.
I am old.
Etc.: Big Ten building spree reaches 1.5 billion dollars. No M-OSU night games on the docket according to Jim Delany. Chengelis wants to futz with the tunnel. Michael Bradley profiled. Penn State fans no likey Hoke after the Wangler decommitment. Moeller and Lou Holtz break down The Catch.
|Taylor Lewan||Jr.*||Elliott Mealer||Sr.*||Ricky Barnum||Sr.*||Patrick Omameh||Sr.*||Michael Schofield||Jr.*|
|Erik Magnuson||Fr.||Joey Burzynski||So.*||Jack Miller||Fr.*||Kyle Kalis||Fr.||Ben Braden||Fr.|
This again. One year after Michigan's offensive line looked pretty shiny as long as you did not consider the cliff after guy #6, Michigan's offensive line looks really shiny… as long as you don't consider the cliff after guy #5. Or maybe guy #4. In a best case scenario, still guy #6.
Last year, Michigan had Michael Schofield to step into the lineup, and needed him to. This year any injury will see a walk-on or freshman—probably a true freshman—hit the field. Yipes.
But let's not think about that. As long as the starting five stays intact, the line should be quality. Taylor Lewan is projected as a first-round NFL draft pick, Patrick Omameh is in his fourth year as a starter, Michael Schofield started most of last year and moves to a more natural position, and the other two guys are redshirt seniors. Michigan should have a better line this year even without David Molk.
That first step's a doozy, though.
Rating: 5 of 5, not considering depth
Guralnick/Greilick, Detroit News
At this point, "Taylor Lewan is the next Jake Long" is not hope or hype or projection but just a (pretty much) true thing. Lewan may not go first overall in the NFL draft but he's already being projected in the top half of the first round next year, should he choose to depart.
After a promising but penalty-filled freshman year, Lewan cut out the holding calls and stoned opposing pass rushers, snap in, snap out. The primary reason ultra-hyped MSU DE Will Gholston started playing judo chop with various Lewan limbs was that he had no hope of impacting the game in any other fashion:
|AGILITY TO PULL|
|gets outside on p&p|
|another sprint counter|
|donkey some guy|
|nice seal on Worthy|
|stands up Binns|
|gets Toussaint edge|
|fails to cut on screen|
In a game where the Michigan OL was overwhelmed, blitz or not (Mark Huyge got 7 protection minuses), Lewan had a measly +1. Across twelve games of fending off the opposition's best pass rusher he racked up a total of four protection minuses. Two of those were for not cutting a guy on a screen; a third was not getting out on a corner on an attempted double pass. The fourth is somewhere in that video above, and I'm not even sure what that was. Even counting that there was literally one QB hurry going one-on-one with Lewan last year, to say nothing of actual sacks. There is a reason he is getting the NFL hype.
(Note that when blitzes cause confusion not localizable to one or two players that sends in free rushers I file that under "team." Lewan's no doubt responsible for some of those. When he identifies a guy to block, it's over.)
The black lining in our silver cloud was Lewan's lack of impact in the run game. He started off well, with three games around +10 in the UFR run chart and a 7-3-+4 against ND in limited opportunities—Michigan did jack before eviscerating Gary Gray in the fourth quarter. This was noted.
how often have you thought about Taylor Lewan this year? Not often, right? Mostly when he takes some donkey and punches it so hard in the nose shards of cartilage come out the back of its donkeyhelmet, right? (In a non-personal-foul acquiring way, of course.)
After that, he struggled to register on the run chart until late. His Big Ten season:
|5||MINN||5.5||6||-0.5||Yeah, surprised me too: had a couple busts and one bad whiff.|
|6||NW||4.5||2||2.5||Why so low, numbers? Discussion later.|
|7||MSU||6||5||1||Lucky to have both arms in his shoulder sockets.|
|8||PU||7||1||6||Would like to see him more involved somehow.|
|10||Illinois||8||5||3||Had some mistakes in space.|
|11||Nebraska||9||-||9||Finally some productive donkey hatred. Belly helps him produce; also got Toussaint the edge on a play that would have gone badly otherwise.|
|12||OSU||9.5||1||8||Effective against DTs, mostly, also getting to the second level.|
There's a certain amount of busting plays that is part and parcel of being an offensive lineman, especially one learning a new offense. That doesn't bother me. What does is the overall lack of positives until the tail end of the season. Heavily involved linemen will be putting up twice the positives and negatives as the above—Omameh had eight games where his positives were above ten and five where they were 13 or greater. Lewan didn't get there, and I think this was because of Omameh, ironically:
What is with those Lewan numbers?
The system doesn't try to judge blocks that are far away from the play and often declares an easy thing done okay to be a zero, so backside tackles and down-blocking guys a gap away from the play rarely register. Lewan rarely registered and this week's picture pages were examples of Schofield pulling, Schofield pulling, and Schofield pulling. Why is Michigan pulling the converted tackle backup and running away from their donkey-hating first round tackle?
The only conclusion that makes sense is they hate pulling Omameh. When they did pull left, they pulled Molk or Schofield and Molk, only rarely trying Omameh.
We'll talk about that when we get to the right guard, but Omameh came on in those last three games in which Lewan finally got some traction. Once they could pull the right guard, the left tackle got to express his donkey hatred.
With Omameh figuring it out and another year of experience for both, Michigan figures to be more left-handed on the ground; combine that with the pass blocking mentioned above and factor the injuries Lewan dragged around all year and the projections for his 2012 should be sky-high. He should be an All-American, or at least play like one.
[hit THE JUMP to find out about the other starters, but probably not the backups.]
Previously: S Jeremy Clark, S Allen Gant, S Jarrod Wilson, CB Terry Richardson, LB James Ross, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, LB Kaleb Ringer, LB Joe Bolden, DE Chris Wormley, DE Tom Strobel, DE Mario Ojemudia, DT Matt Godin, DT Willie Henry, DT Ondre Pipkins, OL Ben Braden, and OL Erik Magnuson.
|Nashville, TN – 6'5", 291|
|Scout||3*, #58 OT|
|Rivals||4*, #32 OT, #9 TN|
|ESPN||3*, #54 OT, #8 TN|
|24/7||3*, #66 OT, #18 TN|
|Other Suitors||Penn State, Florida, LSU, BC, Virginia, Vandy|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. TomVH interview. Look Up See Blue meets the elder Bars.|
|Notes||Brother at Penn State, another one coming up next year (2014). Dad played for ND. Has 'Bama bangs.|
Also has some junior clips.
Blake Bars takes the title for greatest discrepancy between recruiting rankings and offer list in the class. One of the four sites thought he warranted four stars; Michigan, LSU, Florida, and a pre-crater Penn State thought he warranted an offer. That's weird. It's less weird because Bars is an offensive lineman with a golden bloodline, but it's still a little weird. What did Les Miles and Will Muschamp see in the guy that the recruiting sites mostly didn't? No idea. Why would in-state Tennessee ignore the guy? No idea. These things happen from time to time, I guess.
Compounding the confusion is a lack of scouting out there. In comparison to a guy like Magnuson—who hit every camp he possibly could and had me deleting thousands of words of scouting reports just because they were repetitive—Bars was a recluse. He didn't appear to hit any camps at all and he even turned down the Army game($) when they approached him late. (He'd already scheduled an in-home with Michigan coaches that day, FWIW.) His low profile most places didn't help: he didn't warrant one of those Scout breakdowns that go on their player pages, and Rivals didn't report on him in their "From The Road" segments. So there's not a ton out there.
What is out there is what you'd expect for a guy with Bars's rankings. ESPN's evaluation reads positive for most of it before dropping the "too small" item:
…although we don't see overwhelming playing strength, this prospect consistently gets movement as a result of his blocking base and good leg drive. Does a good job handling quickness and is a very effective as a down and double team blocker. … We see the athleticism to reach and gain leverage on shaded defenders showing the quickness necessary to consistently get a hat on active 1st and 2nd level defenders. Although we see the need for refinement in all areas of pass protection this guy possesses the long arms and nimble feet which should be assets… Bars doesn't appear to be an early starter at the major level of competition however his athleticism is a real positive. Once body mass is added to his frame he should have a long and productive career.
That makes Bars sound like a guy Rich Rodriguez would have chased all over the country to play guard, except he's already 290 pounds.
I see the word "reach" and I think Molk, of course, and Scout's Chad Simmons did broach the idea of center:
…not as tall as some of the other UM commits and could possibly end up on the interior, or with lack of depth at center at UM he could find a home there. He shows excellent balance, punch in his blocking, and the athleticism in run blocking. He plays with excellent knee-bend and keeps his pads low because he understands his position and trench war execution. … plays with that nasty streak that you like to see.
Darryl Funk told reporters on Signing Day that they didn't see anyone in the class as a center, but if they're going to change their mind on that it will be Bars who does it. He's got the intelligence—football family, Vandy, BC, Virginia offers to go with M—and Michigan's center is going to be 6'5" once the Hoke generation of lineman ascends into the starting lineup. Any leverage issues you might bring forward would be shared with his competitors. It's a viable plan B or C.
His toity prep school brought NFL lineman Kevin Mawae around to help coach linemen, and Rivals talked to him about Bars's strengths and weaknesses. Mawae started off by implying he was a bit of a project($)…
"He's going to have to work on his pass blocking technique. It's easy to beat guys when you're 6-6, 280 or whatever … the higher level you go, the more technique's going to be a bigger issue as far as pass protection and stuff like that. All in all, Blake did okay this year, but I thought he could have been even better. He relied a lot on size as opposed to just learning and understanding the technique, which is probably indicative of a lot of high school kids."
..and called him "definitely an outside guy" at 6'5" or 6'6" unless you've got one of those toolsy 6'7" guys, in which case he would be a viable option on the inside. Left tackle is a stretch since he's "not as athletic as you'd want your left tackles to be"… from an NFL perspective. Touch The Banner returned with a similar assessment, and his head coach also projected a move to right tackle or inside($).
Bars's head coach also struck upon something Funk has emphasized as one of the most impressive things about the class($) as a whole:
"He's extremely athletic for his size, with really good feet, and maybe the thing that goes unnoticed but I can tell you is he has flexibility - he bends really well for a kid that size."
The elusive "bend" is a priority for all linemen as it allows them to get pad level, and pad level is the most important thing ever. When you don't have bend, you are "stiff" and transfer to Western Michigan after a year like Dann O'Neill (and then carve out a pretty good career for yourself anyway). Funk likes the bend of the class as a whole.
Aaand the final piece of Bars scouting is the proverbial mean streak. Barton Simmons($):
What stands out as much as anything when watching Bars is his tenacity. He likes to get after, he plays until the whistle blows, and he looks complete each block. He plays with that nasty streak that you like to see in offensive linemen. He has the frame you like as well.
This also makes a move to guard more likely, as they get to deploy the proverbial mean streak more liberally in the run game than tackles. If it matters that much. I mean… these "mean streak" assessments are about blocking a guy even more after you've already blocked him. Blocking him first seems to be 95% of offensive linesmanship, but everyone focuses on the proverbial mean streak. It's a meme and therefore unkillable. I wonder if Funk gives two dangs about it.
We've come to the time on Sprockets were we evaluated the guardiness of the offensive lineman, and Bars is guardy. The evaluations call him a tackle, the recruiting services rank him at tackle, but by virtue of not being 6'7" and not being a universal blue chip, Bars is more likely to slide inside than either of the OL previously covered in this series.
Yeah, Funk told him left tackle($)…
"Michigan wants me to play left tackle," said Bars. "That’s where they said they’d start me out at and go from there. I’m willing to play wherever on the line for a chance to get in."
…and there's no doubt Michigan will evaluate everyone they brought in for that spot. Chances are someone else is a better fit and Bars will be placed in the guard repechage.
Etc.: Empty. This used to happen a lot when these reports focused on guys like DJ Williamson. Not so much now. The googling, oh the googling.
Why Patrick Omameh? Omameh was initially supposed to be a tackle prospect before being moved inside, whereupon he was a second-level-reaching Te'o destroyer before the power-blocking Hoke revamp made him a fish out of water. He got better towards the end of last year and enters his senior year at around 305, still ready to be mobile at you.
Omameh came in with less recruiting hype but a much more plausible claim to being a sleeper after a late growth spurt took him from Big East TE recruit to Big Ten OL recruit. Bars is bigger coming in.
Guru Reliability: Low. OL, no camps, offers defy ranking.
Variance: Medium. Character related issues seem a very remote possibility and he's pretty close to playing weight already. Still needs to develop. Is OL.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Athletic, good frame, seems like he could be a high quality guard playing at 310. Probably doesn't have the sheer length to be an elite tackle.
General Excitement Level:. Moderate-plus. The least hyped of the OL but he has great bloodlines and offers and despite the ratings the scouting reports are pretty good.
Projection: Redshirt. Then… whoah, has a very good shot at starting as a redshirt freshman. Even if you assume Kyle Kalis grabs one of the interior spots, Omameh, Mealer, and Barnum will be gone, leaving Jack Miller and Chris Bryant as the only other experienced scholarship interior linemen on the team.
Now that you're done shaking your fist at Rodriguez's one-man OL class from a few years back, Bars just has to be a better idea than one of those two guys to start in 2013. That's a 50-50 shot, more if Bryant doesn't lose enough weight to be effective. If he does grab that spot he'll have heat from behind as he tries to hold it; still, four years starting is not a remote possibility at all. Year one and two might be a little shaky.
'Friday Night Lights' is now 'Weekday Warriors', and every week I'll be updating you on the latest performances from Michigan commits as they play our their high school seasons. If you see anything missing or can find an article on a game, please feel free to contact me via Twitter or email.
TN OL Blake Bars
Montgomery Bell Academy dropped to 1-1 on the season with a blowout loss to Louisville (KY) Trinity. Since Bars is an offensive linemen, there are no stats to report.
This week: The Big Red hope to move back above .500 at home against Brentwood Academy on Friday.
OH LB Joe Bolden
Bolden's Colerain squad won a nationally-televised matchup with last year's Florida 2A state champion, Cocoa, by a score of 17-7, snapping Cocoa's 38-game winning streak. Bolden did a little bit of everything, tallying eight tackles, tipping a pass that led to an interception, and completing a 36-yard pass on a fake punt (yes, Bolden serves as Colerain's punter). The win extended Colarain's home winning streak to a remarkable 60 games. ESPN's highlights of the contest prominently feature the future Wolverine, though also unfortunately Pam Ward. I can't embed the video without an ad autoplaying (seriously, WTF, ESPN), so you'll have to hit the link to see the highlights.
This week: Colarain looks to continue their home dominance on Friday against Ryle at 7:30.
MI OL Ben Braden
In a matchup of western (Michigan) powers, Rockford fell in their opener at Lowell, 28-7. Despite the loss, Braden came in for praise from Lowell's coach, Noel Dean:
"I'm not sure we'll see a team anywhere near that big," he said. "Their front seven on defense is as big as I've ever seen. And their front seven on offense -- I've never seen a human being move as well as that Ben Braden at this level. I was standing on that field, and I didn't feel good about putting my kids in front of him. He's huge, and he's a really good player."
This week: Rockford looks to right the ship in their home opener against Holt on Thursday at 7.
OH DE Pharaoh Brown
Brush fell to Eastlake North 51-20 in their opening game of the season. Though the Brush defense didn't perform, Brown reported to me on Twitter that he recorded three sacks, four tackles, and caught three passes for 86 yards, despite the fact that, according to him, Eastlake North widened the splits in their line to keep him from getting to the quarterback and refused to run in his direction.
This week: Brush hits the road on Friday at 7 to face Madison.
MI TE Devin Funchess, DE Mario Ojemudia, LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, and CB Terry Richardson
As you all know, these four faced off in the Big Day Showdown at Eastern Michigan, with Farmington Hills Harrison (Funchess and Ojemudia) blowing out Cass Tech (RJS and Terry Richardson) 43-7. Funchess recorded three receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown, as well as tallying an interception while playing safety. Ojemudia dominated at defensive end, finishing with four tackles, three for a loss, 1/2 sack, six QB hurries, and a fumble recovery on a blocked punt, while also playing offensive tackle for most of the game. Jenkins-Stone had four tackles and a forced fumble (in a bizarre twist, that came on offense after an interception) and also caught two passes and carried the ball five times for a total of seven yards. Richardson finished with a pass breakup – in the end zone against State commit Aaron Burbridge, no less – three kick returns for 70 yards, and one catch for 13 yards. The game was the subject of this week's Creeper Van Originals, and the highlights are below:
This week: Harrison plays at Southfield on Thursday at 7, while Cass Tech hopes to bounce back on Friday at 3 on the road at Detroit Central.
OH S Allen Gant
Gant played on both sides of the ball for Southview in their 23-21 season-opening victory over St. Francis de Sales. According to an intrepid MGoPoster who was taking down stats for de Sales, Gant played receiver and finished with one catch for five yards and took a jet sweep for seven yards – there are no defensive stats to be found, though apparently Gant did not record an interception, in case you were wondering.
This week: Southview travels to Toledo Rogers on Friday at 7.
MI DT Matt Godin
According to Andrew at Touch the Banner, Godin recorded two tackles in the first half before sitting out the second with an apparent concussion in Detroit Catholic Central's 42-0 trouncing of Dearborn Fortson.
This week: DCC heads to Ohio to take on Delphos St. John's on Friday at 7:30. Let's hope Godin's injury isn't too serious.
UT FB Sione Houma
This week: The 2-0 Rams have their home opener against Provo at 7 on Friday night.
OH OL Kyle Kalis
Lakewood St. Edward defeated Glenville 17-14 in their season opener, but did so without Kalis, who was sidelined with an injury:
Michigan recruit and offensive tackle Kyle Kalis was in street clothes on the St. Edward sideline with a dislocated kneecap. Finotti said he's "day to day." He could return as early as next week or in two to three weeks.
This week: St. Edward travels to Pittsburgh to take on Penn Hills on Friday. We'll see if Kalis is able to suit up.
CA OL Erik Magnuson
Magnuson did not play last week, as La Costa Canyon begins its season on Friday against Marina.
MO DT Ondre Pipkins
This week: On Friday at 7, Park Hill has its home opener against Ruskin.
OH LB Kaleb Ringer
Northmont dropped its opener to Hamilton, 28-14, as Ringer sat out the game with a broken hand suffered in the previous week's scrimmage. Ringer said on Twitter that the injury might require surgery, but he's hoping to get back on the field in a soft cast next week.
This week: Northmont plays at Princeton on Friday at 7:30.
MI LB James Ross
Orchard Lake St. Mary's dominated their first game against Grand Rapids West Catholic, finishing with a 35-0 shutout. The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan (another name you might recognize) was at the game ($), and reported that Ross tallied three solo tackles (two for loss) and four assists.
This week: The Eaglets host Toledo (OH) St. John's Jesuit on Friday at 7.
OH OL Caleb Stacey
Oak Hills fell to La Salle in their opener, 42-21. No stats (obviously) or mention of Stacey in the game article.
This week: The Highlanders will try to pick up their first win of the year at Harrison on Friday at 7:30.
IL CB Anthony Standifer
Crete-Monee defeated Thornton Fractional South by a score of 32-8 in their opener. Standifer reported to me on Twitter that he finished with eight tackles, making sure to mention that Thornton didn't throw his way during the game.
This week: The Warriors head to Lincoln-Way West on Friday at 7:30.
OH DE Tom Strobel
Mentor defeated Euclid 49-21 in their first game of the season. No stats were readily available for Strobel, so this is the part where I remind you to contact me if you come across these kinds of things. Thanks.
This week: The Cardinals host Ursuline on Friday at 7.
OH TE A.J. Williams
Sycamore beat Withrow, 38-24, to open the season. Williams didn't record a catch, though his quarterback ran the ball 16 times for four touchdowns, so I'm guessing he didn't have many opportunities to do so.
This week: The Aviators, whose mascot is not a pair of cool sunglasses, bro, have their home opener against Springboro on Friday at 7:30.
OH S Jarrod Wilson
Buchtel's matchup with Ohio powerhouse Massillon Washington was featured in a Rivals AMP video, and Wilson was credited with 6 1/2 tackles, though his team ultimately fell by a score of 31-6. Highlights, including a couple nice tackles by the future Wolverine:
This week: The Griffins hope to notch their first win of the year on the road at Steubenville on Friday at 7.
OH DE Chris Wormley
Toledo Whitmer blew out Start, 42-6, and TomVH once again comes through with the stats – two tackles, one QB hurry, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery for Wormley. The Whitmer defense held Start to just 108 yards of total offense.
This week: The Panthers host some of our neighbors to the north as London (Ontario) Lucas travels to Toledo for a Friday night game at 7. I'll be filming this one for next week's Creeper Van Original.
KY S Jeremy Clark
North Hopkins went on the road to defeat Graves County, 42-13, and Clark had quite the game, finishing with 12 tackles, an interception, and capping off the scoring with an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown, according to TomVH. It's great to see Clark do so well, but this is the point where I start to get nervous that a big-time program might offer him more than a grayshirt and he could jump ship.
This week: The Maroons look to improve to 2-1 when they host North Hardin on Friday at 8.
MI QB Shane Morris
Morris and his Warren De La Salle squad dominated my alma mater, Ann Arbor Pioneer, 43-28. Morris completed 12 of 15 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown, and Fox 2 has a brief highlight clip from the game:
This week: De La Salle plays Carmen-Ainsworth at Lake Shore on Friday at 7.