in town for free camps
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.”
OH LB Michael Ferns is one of a handful of early 2014 targets from the Midwest (photo via DetNews)
It's time for another edition of the Recruitin' Mailbag. Today, much of the focus is on the 2014 class, though of course there's a Laquon Treadwell question for those of you not ready to look that far ahead yet. You can ask a question for the next mailbag via email or with the hashtag #mgomailbag on Twitter.
Huge fan, you do an outstanding job. My recruiting question for you is, with so many scholarships given out to the 2014 class I've noticed that there has been a "lack of interest" so far with student athletes from the Midwest. My meaning of "lack of interest" doesn't mean they don't have kids from that area on their recruiting board. I'm wondering if the reason for that is because there is a lack of talent for the 2014 class in the Midwest compared to this 2013 class. Thank you for reading and answering my email. Take Care!
Going by Touch The Banner's 2014 offer board (and adding in OH RB L.J. Scott, who picked up an offer last week), Michigan has sent out 52 offers in the class, but only 13 have gone to prospects within the Big Ten footprint. A quick glance at 247's early 2014 rankings, however, should tell you what this staff is thinking: the Wolverines have offered six of the top ten players in the country and ten of the top 20.
This early in the cycle, the emphasis has been on gauging the interest of the blue-chip national prospects; with that level of prospect, it's often the case of getting in early or not getting in at all. They're also the players who need the least amount of evaluation to determine if they're worthy of an offer. It's not like the Midwest isn't represented, either, and offers have gone out to in-state standouts Malik McDowell, Damon Webb, and Tommy Doles; I don't believe this is an issue of lack of local talent, even though we may not see Illinois produce the same level of prospects that they have in 2013.
I'd expect you'll see many more offers go out to Midwest prospects when the fall rolls around and the coaches have some junior-year film to evaluate. With a year-and-a-half until 2014 signing day, there's still a lot of time before we can begin to question the talent level in the area.
Is there any indication that Hoke & staff prefer to have the class wrapped up early? What I mean is, do they put pressure on the kids (saying "hey, we're not going to hold a scholarship and we're recruiting others for your position") and that's part of the reason some guys (i.e. LTT, Treadwell's possible earlier decision) commit early?
The Wolverine asked Brady Hoke about the trend of early commitments in recruiting at Big Ten media days, and while Hoke said he's unsure if he liked sending out offers so early, he may not have much of a choice:
If they didn't take kids early, he added, they'd be in danger of falling behind.
"If we didn't, somebody else would," he said. "We're going to be aggressive in what we do. You can't sit back, or somebody's going to pass you, but I don't know what they're going to do [to slow it], or who's going to handle it["]
As for pressuring players to commit, several recruits have noted that the coaching staff has done no such thing; they want recruits to commit only if they're ready to do so. That said, the coaches are very open with recruits about the current scholarship situation and whether other recruits are poised to commit—see: the staff informing Leon McQuay III before Ross Douglas committed—with the implication that time may be running out to secure a spot in the class. They're not going to give a player an ultimatum; at the same time, they're not going to put the class on hold to wait on one prospect.
How much of an impact is the "no other visits" rule having on early commits for '14? — @Bry_Mac
Well, hey there, Blue in South Bend. I think the rule is absolutely having an impact at this stage, and that's a good thing; it's quite possible that without the rule in place a guy like Damon Webb would have committed by now, even though he's still getting offers from schools like LSU that would understandably make him think twice about that commitment. At this stage, the 2014 prospects haven't had much of a chance to see schools outside of their immediate area, and asking them to make an ill-informed decision is begging for some decommitment drama down the road.
Once some of the local prospects take a few visits to check out other schools, I think you'll start seeing the commitments trickle in; I'd be surprised if Michigan entered the 2012 season without at least one junior committed. They're in great position with a few prospects—especially OH LB Michael Ferns—and should get off to a strong start when the time comes. That time just might not be now.
How much does HS coaching (or lack thereof) shade our views of recruits? Can a great coach oversell a meh talent? — @hooverstreet
At a certain level, possibly, though that would be limited to positions like quarterback where the system really has a big impact, and usually you're able to tell regardless of stats whether a QB has the frame and arm strength to make it at the collegiate level.
I actually think that playing for a poorly-coached team can have a strange way of benefiting certain players; if a physically impressive prospect plays in a system not tailored to their game, the hype can build around untapped potential. To take an example—and I'm by no means saying he'll be a bust—Taco Charlton is now a four-star on the basis of his athletic ability, frame, and camp performances, but so far in high school he's been a situational pass-rusher. If he was out there every down and we got to see how he stood up against the run, it's quite possible that he wouldn't be as highly regarded.
For the most part, with all the camps and 24/7 recruiting coverage, I think it's difficult at this point for a recruit to get too overrated due to the high school system they play in; eventually, they either have to match up with other top prospects or they'll get dinged for shying away from top competition. That's a big reason why camps have taken on such a life of their own; in this day and age, it's all about seeing how top prospects handle playing against other top prospects.
why the sudden interest in Florida, lsu, auburn from QuonT. Is he cooling on mich? — @natebburn
It's important to note that this "sudden interest" in Laquon Treadwell from SEC schools is still coming six months before signing day; even last year this wouldn't be considered getting into the race late. As for Treadwell's interest in Michigan, I'll believe he's "cooling" on the Wolverines when he says so himself, and he's said nothing to indicate that they're anything but his clear-cut top school.
Just because the trend has gone towards early commitments doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with taking your time, checking out as many schools as possible, and waiting until you're 100% ready before making a commitment. Give Treadwell a chance to do his due diligence; I'd expect that whenever he's ready, you'll be happy with his decision.
The formal stuff was transcribed for us. The rest of it was not. So Ace and I will slowly but surely post transcripts from whatever audio we got from the coaches and players. Stay tuned. Also follow us on twitter for updates and witty commentary. (@AceAnbender and @Heiko25)
Brady Hoke's Small Group Session
The media have mastered the swarming technique.
You talked about the guys that are suspended. Will they be allowed to practice?
“I don't know yet.”
What do you think about having such a tough first game?
“I think it's great. To be able to play a team like Alabama, the reigning national champs, and focus on that—as you do every year—the first game, that's a great opportunity.”
Are the players excited as well?
“Well, I'd hope so. We'll find out better soon.”
What has Denard done this offseason to improve himself?
“Well, I think he's worked real hard on his fundamentals and mechanics and being a leader. His conditioning level is probably as high as it's been since he's been here. I just think he's doing what it takes to perform and compete.”
Expectations are high, higher than last year. How do these guys to live up to that?
“You go out every day, you work together, you prepare together, and make sure on those Saturdays that you're prepared to play your best.”
Because you've been limited in your contact with everyone, do you put that on your leadership that some of these guys have had these off-field transgressions?
“You always do. You always do. That's all part of it. It's a growing and an educational process that guys go through, and they're paying the price because there's consequences.”
Are you saying to your leaders, though, that you need to get your own guys in line?
“Oh, yeah. No doubt.”
You're not allowed to watch in the summer, obviously, but based on reports that you've got who are some of the guys who have had a good summer?
“I think Will Campbell has really had a great summer. From what I hear in talking to him and the seniors there are a lot of guys who have done a nice job. I think the one thing that's been good is we had 30 freshmen come in six weeks ago, they've had a little more time to be around those guys more than maybe in years past.”
When you talked about Penn State kids you said you'd keep your business your business. Does that mean you're not going to recruit them?
How quickly can that program bounce back?
“They'll do just great. They've got a great coach. I'll tell you, Bill is a good man. They'll do great things; they're a good university.”
Have you reached out to Bill?
“I've talked to him.”
There was nobody on that roster…
“No, there was nothing…”
If there was somebody that wanted to come, would you take them?
“You've got a team chemistry that you're worried about, and I think that's a big part of it.”
Can you give your thoughts on the rivalry with Ohio State and going head-to-head with Urban Meyer?
“It's not about coaches, it never is. It's about the players who are on the field, it's about two great schools.”
Is there anyone injury-wise who's in doubt for the start of camp?
“I don't think so. I'll get final word on that on Monday.”
Is [Toussaint's and Clark's status] something you're just going to think over the next week or two? What goes into all of that?
“It goes into if they're meeting the standards of being a Michigan football player. There's consequences that they'll be working through right now.”
When word came down on the sanctions from the NCAA to Penn State, what was your thought as a coach about the severity?
“There's so many victims involved here, for me to comment on it like I'm an authority on anything, which I'm not… it's sad in many ways.”
From a coach's perspective, how hard is the loss of scholarships, etc.
“Every school's different. I think that's such a great name in college football and such a great university, who knows? We'll just have to see what the future brings.”
This obviously isn't a typical opener. Do you split your practice time in the fall like you always would, or is there special attention paid to that first game?
“We'll do what we normally do. There's a lot from a offensive, defensive, kicking standpoint that we'll put in, and the fundamentals and techniques. As we get closer to game day we'll focus more in on what they do, which is pretty good for us anyway because there's a lot that we do that they do, so our offense and defense can gel against each other.”
Some schools wouldn't play a non-conference opponent like Alabama. What are the benefits from your perspective about why to play a game like that, especially in the last couple years with the BCS?
“What I think is you go to Michigan, you coach at Michigan to play the best. If you want to be the best you have to do that. For us it's a great opportunity. It's going to be a fun game, we'll learn a lot about us—win or lose—and I think that's a big benefit.”
Talk about the Michigan State game. Is that the biggest game as far as the Big Ten is concerned?
“For us that's always a big game because it's an in-state rival game. They've been kicking our butts pretty good lately, and that's something we don't like. That game and then obviously the Ohio game is as big a game as there is on the schedule.”
When will you choose about the legacy jerseys and who's going to wear which ones?
“Some time, in the future.”
Will that be before the season starts?
An open position like left guard that's still up in the air, at what point in the fall do you want that decided?
“I think it depends a little bit who it is, because of the continuity some of the older guys have. If it's a younger guy, so be it, there's no entitlement; we'll just go day-by-day with it and evaluate it day-by-day.”
When you bring in the freshmen on campus, how does it help in terms of acclimating and development of team chemistry?
“Number one, they get acclimated maybe a little bit to the academics. For some of them, like any of us, that's big. Their time management skills, all those things, that becomes important, then how we lift, how we run. There's a multitude of things. Then being able to get around your teammates and get to know the older guys. In the older days, you had three days with them, then the next day the veterans came in and it was kind of a culture shock. Now, with everybody being on campus all summer, the academic year has extended itself, I think it's great for them to have that opportunity.”
Do you have a preference in terms of eight games versus nine games in Big Ten conference play?
“I really don't. Whatever's best for the conference. I think we have a great conference and it's very competitive. You want to have the ability to play some of those Alabamas, those games too; whatever's best for the conference.”
Would it be strange, though, to play in a year where you play four home games and five road games in the Big Ten?
“Yeah. It'd be different. The good thing is everybody has to do it.”
Are those things you talk about in your meetings?
You always prepare for your season opener, of course, but have you prepared more for this game? More film viewing, more studying…
“I don't think so, to be honest.”
This is pretty meta.
File photo, since Heiko took pictures and then left the conference room to ask Hoke more questions
Heiko and I are in Chicago today and tomorrow for Big Ten Media Days. Here's the transcript from Brady Hoke's presser, with questions about the status of Fitzgerald Toussaint, Penn State transfers, Denard, and the non-conference schedule, as well as a little Sparty trolling at the end.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Head Coach Brady Hoke.
COACH HOKE: Number one, thanks to everybody here for coming and traveling and supporting the Big Ten Conference. I can't tell you how excited we are as a team to be representing such a great league and to represent the University of Michigan is something that's very special to all of us.
We're excited about the upcoming year. We're excited because of the hard work that our kids have put through since the end of the Sugar Bowl and the things that they've done as a team.
I think the leadership is really what's important for us. Last year we had a group of seniors that came together and did a tremendous job of leading the football team. And I think at the same time those guys who were juniors or those guys who played a lot of football understand now it's the expectations are in their hands.
And we're excited about that. We had a disappointing year a year ago when you do not win the Big Ten championship. And at Michigan we've not won that championship since 2004.
So we have direct goals ahead of us and what we want to do and we're excited about that. Our schedule is one that is a great opportunity and a great challenge for us. We played 10 out of 12 teams that are Bowl teams. We play five of those teams on the road.
And so for us it's going to be a great challenge and a great opportunity. Our focus and how we approach each day and how we as a team have the work ethic and the commitment and the accountability and respect and the trust for each other, that's what will make us successful.
But we're glad to be here. Glad to see you, kind of. But we're glad you're here. So thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. At least according to the media you're the favorite in the league after one year. You're perceived to be back. What do you think of that?
COACH HOKE: Not much, to be honest with you. I think we were picked fifth in our division a year ago. I think the 1997 team, I think pre-season was picked right inside the top 25 by a lot of people. And that ended up being a pretty good football team. We don't put too much stock in that. It's like anything in life, it's not where we start but where we finish.
Q. Leadership, who has stepped up so far at this point and who would you like to see step up a little bit more?
COACH HOKE: As a staff we don't have an opportunity to be with those guys all summer, because of the NCAA rules, and those kind of things. But I think you can see the three guys we brought are just a part of that with Denard and his development, and I think Jordan Kovacs is an amazing story, number one, but how his leadership has grown. And then Taylor Lewan, who is going to be a junior for us. But I think he's really taken a lot of responsibility.
Q. With two teams in the Leader's Division [not bowl eligible], possibility of Penn State taking a step back long term, is there a competitive balance issue, do you think, in the league? Is there a fairness issue consequently that needs to be rectified?
COACH HOKE: I think the only thing I can tell you is this is such an unbelievable circumstance. And I'm sure Commissioner Delany and everyone else, you wouldn't see this coming. But at the same time, life's not fair. And whether it's fair or not, it doesn't matter. We have a schedule to play. Our focus is on the University of Michigan, and that's what we're going to keep focused on.
Q. How have you and your staff reacted to the sudden availability of Penn State players?
COACH HOKE: To be honest with you, we kind of made a decision -- I'd be lying if I didn't say we didn't look at the roster to some degree -- but we've kind of made a decision that we're going to stay and recruit the guys and keep our business our business.
Q. Can you talk a little bit more about Jordan and what you expect of him in leading the defense coming up this season?
COACH HOKE: Well, you know, he's a guy who had to walk on twice to play at Michigan. And I think because of his love for his teammates, his love for the game of football, his intensity, how he approaches every day from a work ethic standpoint to being a great teammate, and that's what we talk about every day.
And he's truly one of those guys, terrific teammate, his development as a player, we're very fortunate, he's a very instinctive guy, a very smart football player, and I think his teammates see that.
Q. Have you made a determination as to whether Fitz Toussaint is going to play against Alabama or not?
COACH HOKE: No, both of those young men, they're-- obviously there's a standard of performance we expect at Michigan from an academic standpoint to a community standpoint and to an athletic, competition standpoint. And we have -- they're right now indefinitely suspended.
They're going to pay the price for poor judgments which a lot of 18 to 23-year-old kids make and then we'll make a decision down the road.
Q. What do you expect to see out of Denard Robinson this year?
COACH HOKE: I think when you look at it, and going through spring and just his overall concepts-wise when you look at the offense, I think that's much better. And from the point of our terminology and what we call things, and I think it's had an opportunity for Al Borges to maybe grow a little bit more within the offense. And I think from that point of it, and probably more specifically is how he has really become a guy you can count on when it comes to leadership and how his work ethic is and those things that he's done.
Q. You've spoken about this before but you decided to take your team or a good chunk of your team out to the West Coast to go through sort of a Navy Seals training session. What precipitated that decision? What did you see them get out of it?
COACH HOKE: Well, everybody wants to focus on that one four-day period or three-day period. That started in January. We do leadership seminars with our seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen. The seniors are a little more encompassing to some degree. And we did it at Ball State.
Our strength coach, Aaron Wellman, came to this after two years at Ball State and trying to grow our leadership and it's just part of that seminar or whatever you want to call it.
And with our guys it was something that they learned a lot about themselves, number one, individually, which is important. And, secondly, they learned about themselves as a senior class.
And when you talk about the team and the commitment to each other and the accountability, when they did the different things that the Seals put them through.
Q. We heard Urban Meyer say maybe the Big Ten lacks a little speed and athleticism in comparison to the SEC. I was curious, with Alabama on your schedule, what strengths do you think your team and maybe even the conference has on those top SEC teams?
COACH HOKE: I think it's a hard question, really, to even answer. Because I think everybody's different. I think when people make the mistake of lumping the conference in not having speed or whatever it might be. When we're playing the reigning national champion, they're a terrific football team and they've done terrific things. We're excited about the opportunity to go into a great venue, different venue, obviously, and go line up and see what happens.
Q. You mentioned Alabama. Talk a little bit more about your non-conference schedule?
COACH HOKE: I think obviously September 1st is a day that most people in this room understand that great game that we'll play down there and it's a real privilege to have Troy Calhoun and the Air Force Academy come into Ann Arbor because of the significance of those kids who are out there for Air Force and their duty to country.
I think UMASS is a moving up program and a new head coach and obviously the great national rivalry we have with Notre Dame playing them down in South Bend at night. So we're excited about the non-conference schedule.
Q. You were the beneficiary of the Bowl system last year; you didn't have to win the division to still go to a BCS Bowl. How would you feel if you were on the tail end of that at some point in time?
COACH HOKE: Probably not that good. But it was out of our control. We don't control that part of it. So I wouldn't feel very good about it.
2013 OL commits Logan Tuley-Tillman (left) and David Dawson
Yesterday's Adidas Sound Mind/Sound Body camp at Southfield High School featured some of the Midwest's best talent, including five of Michigan's 2013 commits (actually, six, but Csont'e York showed up late and I didn't get a good look at him). It also provided a rare chance for players to get instructed by coaches from Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, and several other schools; U-M, OSU, and MSU each sent their full staff, save Mark Dantonio, who had a speaking engagement.
This was my first camp experience, so I mostly focused on the Michigan commits; at these camps, there's so much going on that it's difficult to focus on more than a handful of players. Here are my impressions of the Wolverine commits as well as a couple other standouts:
I didn't spend a ton of time watching Morris in the passing drills, mostly because I was more focused on the receivers and defensive backs, but he was excellent as usual on Wednesday. Morris threw harder than anyone else there, displayed great accuracy, and could make all of the throws. He's also improved from what I saw of him last fall in terms of knowing when to change up speeds and when to just unleash.
As you can see above, Al Borges kept a very close eye on Morris. UAB head coach Garrick McGee was running quarterback drills, but Borges made it clear that he would be the one coaching Morris. As Brian pointed out in today's UV, the running theme of the camp was coaches in disbelief that this was all legal; it was, thanks to SMSB's status as a charitable event.
Dawson was easily the most impressive lineman present, both from a physical and technical standpoint. He looks like he's in the 280-290 pound range but doesn't appear to be carrying much bad weight at all. He shows an advanced understanding of technique for a high school player; Coach Funk was presiding over the offensive line drills, and when he needed to give an example of what he was looking for, he had Dawson give the demonstration. Dawson displayed very quick feet, shuffled well in pass protection while keeping a solid base, and showed a very strong initial punch.
In one-on-ones, Dawson excelled in a drill that gives a clear edge to the pass-rusher. He got great depth with his initial step and had three or four pancakes (not all of his reps are on my film above). When Dawson did get beat, it was usually when he let the defender get into his body instead of keeping the rusher at bay with his arm punch. The proverbial mean streak was also on full display. On one rep, Dawson got beat off the edge, and the defender went back to his side screaming "Let's go!" and "I'm hungry!"* Dawson didn't appreciate the woofing, asked for an immediate rematch, and buried the guy into the turf.
Dawson is expected to end up at guard in college and after seeing him yesterday I think that's the best place for him. While his strength allows him to dominate high school competition, he isn't the longest lineman out there, which makes it harder to keep edge-rushers at bay. As you can see above, when Dawson slid inside to take a rep at guard, he dispatched his man with ease.
Tuley-Tillman didn't quite perform at Dawson's level but still showed off the potential that earned him an offer in the first place. When I talked to Logan, he told me he weighs about 315 pounds, a 15-pound drop from where he was at the Columbus NFTC last month. He's still carrying bad weight, however, and is going to have to turn a significant amount of fat into muscle before he's ready to play at the next level.
I was initially down on Tuley-Tillman when watching the one-on-ones, but after watching the tape he did better than I thought. When he gets his hands on a guy it's tough to escape and he finishes his blocks with authority. He did struggle some against the speed rush; Funk pulled LTT aside during drills to work on getting better depth in his drop when pass blocking, and there's still work to be done there. When he got his footwork right, defenders had little chance of getting past him.
Despite the technique issues, Tuley-Tillman has great feet; when he's coached up, he should have every opportunity to play tackle at the Big Ten level. He's definitely got some conditioning work to do, though it sounds like he's on the right track. Multiple experts who saw Tuley-Tillman in Columbus, where he reportedly struggled significantly, said his performance yesterday was a vast improvement.
Lewis continues to look impressive on both sides of the ball. While I thought he looked better at corner when playing for Cass Tech last fall, there may be a battle royale between the offensive and defensive coaches over where he'll play at Michigan; the offensive coaches have made it clear that they covet Lewis as a wide receiver. They'll have to fight Greg Mattison for him, however, and that may be a losing battle.
Lewis is never going to wow you from a purely physical standpoint—he's 5'11" and pretty skinny—but his athleticism is just a notch below elite. He showed off great closing speed at cornerback, though he sometimes relies too much on his ability to recover; he's not quite at his 2012 teammate Terry Richardson's level when it comes to staying in a receiver's hip pocket. His ball skills, however, are exemplary; he tracks the ball in the air extremely well and knows exactly when to go for the catch. If a quarterback threw a 50-50 ball in his direction, whether on offense or defense, he came down with it or at least broke up the pass.
At receiver, Lewis put those ball skills to good use, coming up with a couple of spectacular catches including one diving effort against 2014 Cass Tech teammate Damon Webb (much more on him below). I still like Lewis's upside more at corner, where his size plays better, but he's convinced me that he could contribute on either side of the ball at the next level.
Hill looked very good in the reps I saw him taking, running crisp routes and catching almost everything thrown his way, including the pass pictured above. He nearly pulled in a ridiculous one-hander early in the morning session, but couldn't quite haul it on; otherwise, any pass in his direction resulted in a catch. Hill isn't the fastest tight end out there, nor the biggest, but he finds a way to get space from defenders and then shield them off with his body.
Given that he's being recruited for a very specific, not-always-used position—H-back—he's got a more limited ceiling than most of the commits; at around 6'2", he doesn't have the size to play much on the line. That said, if he can run routes and catch like he did yesterday, he could be a solid piece to the offensive puzzle.
DAMON WEBB (2014)
Webb turned heads a couple weeks ago when he blanketed Laquon Treadwell at the IMG 7-on-7 and he built on that with an MVP-worthy performance yesterday. Despite being a year younger, Webb has more bulk on his 5'11" frame than his teammate Jourdan Lewis, and like Lewis he's an outstanding athlete.
Also like Lewis, Webb can play either wide receiver or cornerback at the next level, though his size suggests that corner is his optimal position. He was fantastic playing corner in the one-on-one drills, staying step-for-step with Lewis—though Jourdan managed to bring in a diving catch—and 2013 Notre Dame commit James Onwualu, who was torching the less-heralded prospects. Webb faced Onwualu three times, and aside from slipping on a hitch route, he came out on top. Webb doesn't rely as much on recovery speed as Lewis, instead playing a more physical style; he's not at all afraid to come up and jam the receiver, and he flips his hips well when transitioning from his backpedal.
Allen Trieu reported this afternoon that Webb earned a Michigan offer, which comes as little surprise after he performed so well in front of the entire staff. While they're targeting him as an athlete for now, I'm guessing he'll be the next in a long line of Cass Tech corners to play at the BCS level. The Wolverines appear to be his clear leader at the moment and there's a chance his recruitment wraps up early. He'll be in Ann Arbor next week for Michigan's camp.
*"I'm hungry" guy was one of the highlights of the camp, as he repeatedly—and loudly—proclaimed his hunger after just about every rep. When Hoke spoke to the campers after the morning session, he singled the kid out for his enthusiasm, then had this exchange:
Hoke: "Did you have lunch yet?"
I'm Hungry Kid: "Yes, sir."
Hoke: "Well, I guess you're not hungry anymore."
- 2014 MI DE Malik McDowell wasn't listed on the roster—he wasn't alone in that regard—and only took a couple reps in the morning, so I didn't get a chance to evaluate him. I did head over to where the linemen were gathered in the afternoon, however, and I can say he certainly passes the eye test. That is one huge rising junior.
- Two other 2014 kids who caught my eye were Cass Tech linebackers William White and Gary Hosey, who both stood out physically among the linebackers. White appeared to have an inch or two on Hosey, but both looked solidly built with the frame to add more bulk. I was busy watching the linemen while they were going through drills, however, so I'll have to catch them play another time.
- A friend who was helping instuct the linebackers at the camp raved about Michigan State linebacker commit Jon Reschke. I thought Reschke was a no-brainer four-star when I saw him play against Farmington Hills Harrison in the playoffs last year; State got a good one there.
- Urban Meyer, from the morning presser: "The problem with intercollegiate athletics is that it's almost anti-student-athlete." All the coaches talked about how great it was to be able to instruct recruits at an event outside the usual team camps. There was also discussion about finding ways for recruits to be able to take visits to campus without the cost becoming prohibitive; there definitely seems to be support for summer official visits if the NCAA decides to look in that direction.
- Yes, Brady Hoke uttered the words "Ohio" and "State" in succession during an impromptu on-field Q&A session with reporters. Yes, there was a subsequent race between the Michigan beat reporters to tweet that bit of news. I believe the winner was AnnArbor.com's Nick Baumgartner.
- Terry Richardson, James Ross, and Oregon CB (and former Cass Tech Technician) Dior Mathis all were present. Richardson was walking around eating ribs while the Michigan coaches teased him about getting his weight up.
- After watching them in a camp setting, it's very easy to see why Michigan's coaching staff has so much success both on the field and in recruiting. I kept forgetting to film the OL/DL one-on-ones because I was so intent on listening to Coach Funk give technique pointers to individual guys after their reps; I learned more about blocking technique in five minutes of standing near him than I have in the rest of my life put together. They're all great with the players, as well; you could tell the kids were hanging on every word of instruction.
- Former Michigan lineman and current EMU OL coach Kurt Anderson, who was running drills with Funk: "You're protecting your family, your food, your quarterback." [via Mike Rothstein]
Pictured coaches, in order of appearance, are UAB HC Garrick McGee, OSU HC Urban Meyer, MSU DC Pat Narduzzi, EMU HC Ron English, Hoke, Mattison, EMU's Mike Hart, Syracuse's Tyrone Wheatley, and Michigan's Darrell Funk and Jeff Hecklinski.
Jayru Campbell's hair did not disappoint:
Neither did Shane Morris's afternoon attire:
That's all for now. Interviews with Morris, Dawson, and Tuley-Tillman coming later this afternoon.
Ribs. Meyer and Hoke ate them.
also via Mike Rothstein. For whatever reason, pictures of football coaches eating == MONEY
Those dudes look like they know what they're doing in re: making ribs. That's from the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp, which Ace attended and will have a report on later. One of the main themes of the day was "I can't believe this is legal":
Because the Sound Mind, Sound Body event is a charitable camp, college coaches are able to attend and provide instruction to the campers -- something that's outlawed at most public camps throughout the country.
As a result, Borges spent most the of the day giving pointers to Shane Morris. If that's legal, expect one of two things to happen: it's quickly outlawed or similar camps multiply like weeds.
Meanwhile, this seems cute given Michigan's lockdown on state of Michigan prospects whose fathers didn't play at State:
Michigan, especially under Hoke, has developed a reputation of having recruiting success in Ohio over the years. Now, Meyer says, it’s his aim to return the favor.
“I know this area real well," said Meyer, who once coached at nearby Bowling Green State University. "As for Ohio State ... we have some very good players from this area.
“If we have not, we will."
Not ribs. Via Blake Countess, poor Pee Wee and his grim salad of raw-looking broccoli and stuff:
It will all be worth it when you're ragdolling Alabama OL in fall. (Please.)
KYLE MEINKE IS GRIM. The AnnArbor.com reporter got screencapped by the youtubes looking like he's about to heroically tackle a terrorist or Mark Dantonio:
Cue the crack Free Press investigatory teams. Michigan has again claimed that unspecified academic performance is good and stuff:
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said last week the Wolverines registered the best "academic performance" in their history under first-year coach Brady Hoke last year. He didn't cite specific numbers.
The last time this happened the Free Press hammered at Michigan with FOIA requests until they scuttled the claim. Here's guessing that doesn't happen this time around.
UMass reinforced. You probably already know that Mike Cox transferred home to UMass for his final year. They've also added former touted ND recruits Deion Walker and Hafis Williams, a wideout and a DT. They still shouldn't be a problem now that Michigan has one of those defensive coordinator things.
Longsnapper rabble rabble 'Bama what? If you're still slightly peeved that Michigan expended a precious scholarship slot on a longsnapper this might make you feel better:
According to BamaOnline, Saban did something at last week's special teams camp in Tuscaloosa that he's never done in his 17-year career -- offered a scholarship to a long snapper.
"I snapped really good during the camp and Coach Saban told me in his office that they were going to offer a long snapper within the next two days after a staff meeting," Mazza told BamaOnline. "The next day I called him and he told me he was going to offer me."
I'm confused about how these guys are suddenly valuable enough to warrant scholarship slots, but apparently they are.
[HT: Holdin' the Rope.]
How can you do the divide. This from Orson's introductory course on bad sports rhetoric is a truly amazing screenshot from the World Wide Leader in having no idea what that slash thing under the question mark is for:
Cram the data into your meme. The data doesn't fit? Yes it does.
NFL draft stuff. Michigan recruits feature in the United States Of Hockey's American top ten. Defenseman Jacob Trouba:
Michigan-commit Jacob Trouba is a bruising defenseman who showed what he can do with his big frame at the National Team Development Program. He also proved he can play above his head by his performance at the World Junior Championship. Some are considered Trouba relies on his physicality too much and that there might not be much offensive upside. However, for a physical defenseman, Trouba can skate well and has good agility. His hockey sense has vastly improved, even though he’s still prone to the bad decision now and again.
Sounds more like a Komisarek type than another Merrill-style puck mover.
Forward Boo Nieves:
…a 13-game stint in the USHL confirmed some of the concerns that Nieves struggles with the physical aspects of the game. The thing is, he has some filthy puck skills and a really nice 6-2, 185 frame. Nieves could have calmed concerns in a long USHL playoff run, but he had to return to Kent to finish his schooling so he could get into Michigan for next year. Still, those puck skills allude to some nice potential, but he’s still a likely mid- to late-second round choice.
Michigan's going to need scoring punch from him right away; hopefully he can deliver despite his issues in a short USHL stint.
In other hockey recruiting news, Michigan picked up a 2014 commit from Dexter Dancs, a BCHL kid from the same team that provided Michigan with Brendan Morrison, amongst others. Michigan used to make a habit of grabbing high-scoring forwards out of that league but hasn't taken a BCHL player in a while. College Hockey Prospective got a quote out of his coach that provides some insight into what kind of player Michigan's getting:
“Dexter Dancs is a big, young, raw power forward with an excellent skating stride and an equally as good set of hands and shot,” said Hengen. “Dexter will as easily take the puck hard to the net, set up a play or drop his gloves to stand up for a teammate. Dexter will be another one of many Michigan Wolverines that they will develop to have a chance of playing pro hockey.”
Don't get too excited if Dancs puts up video game numbers next fall, as the BCHL is a notoriously high-scoring league.
Irish secondaries are thin. After recruiting defections and plenty of graduation, Notre Dame's secondary is a major concern this fall. It's one that just got more concern-y after Austin Collinsworth's availability next fall has resolved itself:
Notre Dame junior safety Austin Collinsworth has undergone shoulder surgery and is expected to miss a significant portion of -- if not the entire -- 2012 football season, ND director of football sports information Brian Hardin confirmed Wednesday.
Collinsworth suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder during ND’s wrap-up to spring practice, the Blue-Gold Game, on April 21. When the condition didn’t improve with rest, surgery was scheduled. Recovery time is projected to be four to six months.
Collinsworth was probably going to be the nickelback, possibly the starter if Jamoris Slaughter was forced to move to corner.
Etc.: MGoUser informs world that Michigan has acquired walk-on WR/TE Michael Jocz. Will Campbell takes the misdemeanor plea, obviously. Surprise: football recruit who commits without ever visiting is just using you as a placeholder. What everyone wants from a playoff.