"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
[NOTE! This section uses the UFR catch chart. Passes are rated on a three point scale for catchability. 3: routine. 2: moderate. 1: difficult. There's also a zero for times when the player was thrown to without any chance of a reception.]
|Amara Darboh||Jr.*||Jehu Chesson||Jr.*||Grant Perry||Fr.||Jake Butt||Jr.|
|Moe Ways||Fr.*||Drake Harris||Fr.*||Brian Cole||Fr.||Ian Bunting||Fr.*|
|Jaron Dukes||So.*||Da'Mario Jones||Jr.||Jabrill Peppers||Fr.*||Khalid Hill||So.*|
[NOTE: though flex tight ends are listed above since they will fill some of the WR snaps they are addressed in the TE & Friends post, not here.]
Last year's WR corps was a bit like the famous Braylon/Avant/Breaston trio if those guys had been coached by a potato and inserted into a disaster of an offense and gradually lost their will to live and halfway through the season they accidentally left Breaston in Piscataway and Breaston had to fend off a pair of cartoonishly dumb burglars with a series of elaborate traps.
artist's impression via Seth
This year's WR corps is down the Braylon and Breaston equivalent-type-substances, leaving only a substantially more unproven version of Avant, Jehu Chesson, and a bunch of guys who have seen maybe six snaps between them.
But Drake Harris maybe? Shh. You'll spook the hamstring. Let's be nice to the hamstring. Good hamstring. Does hamstring want a treat? Yes it does. Nice hamstring.
As soon as Devin Funchess declared for the NFL draft, AMARA DARBOH became this year's presumptive #1 wide receiver. Normally that would be met with mild optimism since Darboh is a touted recruit entering his redshirt junior year with decent production. Also he did this:
But in the crater left after last year's offense got done with our brains it's hard to be positive about anything in the micro. (The macro, of course: HARBAUGH.)
In the tortured analogy above, Darboh is our substantially more unproven Avant. Avant was of course a quality possession receiver and slant merchant who is not much of a threat to take the top off a defense. When Darboh had a catchable ball come his way, he looked fairly similar:
He is not likely to be as good as Avant because Avant is 100 out of 100 in certain skills. Darboh might be very good and still a standard deviation below that level of performance.
[After THE JUMP: DON'T ALARM THE HAMSTRING]
The first rule of Draftageddon is "you must complain about Draftageddon." The second is "the four people drafting assemble teams of Big Ten players in an effort to seem the best at drafting."
THAT WHICH HAS COME BEFORE
Previously on Draftageddon:
- Adam takes a guy with a ~33% chance to start first overall! Joey Bosa lasts until pick 3! Seth is generally sensible! For him that counts as Heiko-ing, I think!
- Brian takes back to back QBs! Several additional Ohio State players go off the board! 24-12!
- Ace takes Braxton Miller as a QB and then shrugs expansively when he ends up a terrifying H-back!
- Seth takes a one-down pass rush specialist! Brian takes a kicker! These are both totally defensible selections! Big Tennnnnnnn!
- A run on Michigan players! Maybe people will stop hating this!
THAT WHICH IS THE CURRENT SITUATION
THAT WHICH IS HAPPENING CURRENTLY
ACE: Round 22, Pick 2: RJ Williamson, safety, Michigan State
OFFENSE: QB Jake Rudock (U-M), RB Josh Ferguson (IL), OW Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Michael Thomas (OSU), WR DaeSean Hamilton (PSU), H-back Kyle Carter (PSU), TE Adam Breneman (PSU), OT Jack Conklin (MSU), OG Billy Price (OSU), OG Kyle Kalis (U-M), OC Dan Voltz (UW)
DEFENSE: WDE Joey Bosa (OSU), SDE Darius Hamilton (RU), NT Austin Johnson (PSU), DT Willie Henry (U-M), OLB Darron Lee (OSU), MLB Riley Bullough (MSU), OLB Joshua Perry (OSU), CB Eli Apple (OSU), CB Darius Hillary (UW), S Tyvis Powell (OSU), S RJ Williamson (MSU)
Michigan State's defense took a slight step back last year as a few teams cracked the code on beating Pat Narduzzi's aggressive Cover 4 scheme. While they remained generally stout against the pass (16th in S&P+, 9th in Success Rate), big plays were an issue, especially against Oregon, Ohio State, and Baylor. That's almost certainly what's scared us off from selecting Williamson so far.
I think we've overcorrected. The aggressive scheme put the safeties in unenviable positions once opponents figured out the best plan of attack was to send a guy like Devin Smith flying up the seam. The cornerback play across from Trae Waynes underwhelmed. Kurtis Drummond tried to do too much and ended up victimized on several long passes as a result. After some early season issues, I thought Williamson rebounded pretty well, and now he's the senior leader of MSU's secondary, taking over the free safety spot from Drummond.
Williamson is a proven playmaker. He has six career interceptions—including some spectacular grabs—despite playing spot duty until last season, when he had three picks and added five pass breakups. He should be solid as a senior, especially if MSU makes some minor tweaks to their defense so opponents don't take so many shots over the top.
SETH: Round 22, Pick 3: Rafael Gaglianone, kicker, Wisconsin
OFFENSE: QB Connor Cook (MSU), RB Corey Clement (WIS), WR Leonte Carroo (Rut), WR Geronimo Allison (ILL), Slot Jalin Marshall (OSU), OC Jack Allen (MSU), OG Pat Elflein (OSU), OT Alex Lewis (Neb), OT Mason Cole (Mich), OG Graham Glasgow
DEFENSE: NT Ryan Glasgow, 3T Malik McDowell (MSU), DE/DT Lawrence Thomas (MSU), DE/OLB Kemoko Turay (RU), SAM Joe Schobert (Wis), MLB Desmond Morgan (Mich), WLB Steve Longa (RU), HSP Jabrill Peppers (Mich), DB Jordan Lucas (PSU), S Michael Caputo (WI), CB Will Likely (MD)
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Rafael Gaglianone (Wis)
Two reasons I'm taking the Brazilian they call "Meatball." The first:
He's no Craddock, but the next guy to draft a kicker gets Paul Griggs or something.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison: proud, strong, prepared, dancing fat guys.
[After THE JUMP: MORE HEFTY KICKER.]
|Saginaw, MI – 6'2", 200|
|Scout||4*, #75 overall
#9 WR, #1 MI
|Rivals||4*, #101 overall
#4 ATH, #2 MI
|ESPN||4*, #148 overall
#11 ATH, #2 MI
|24/7||4*, #65 overall
#5 ATH, #1 MI
|Other Suitors||OSU, MSU, Neb, Wisconsin, Tenn|
|YMRMFSPA||Braxton Miller, WR Edition or… Braylon Edwards|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Live scouting from Ace an Dave. Ace caught him at Media Day as well.|
|Notes||UA game. Early enrollee. Twitter.|
Cole's Hudl film is kind of sparse, with nothing from this year. Here's the first four games of his junior year:
Still not bad, eh? Scouting film from Ace and Dave:
Here is why recruiting sites throw up their hands and give certain players the extremely non-informative "athlete" designation:
Cole is an incredibly versatile athlete who did just about everything but drive the team bus and cook the pregame meal at Saginaw Heritage. He played quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back and returned kicks. He was even a punter.
And he drove the bus and cooked the pregame meal.
In Brian Cole, Michigan has an… uh… well, an athlete. But more like an ATHLETE! Here are some people going "like wow dang":
- Bud Elliott, SBNation: "…absolutely fantastic athlete, easily one of the best in the country … deadly on the football field … quick-twitch to the max. His ability to stop, and then get right back up to top speed is excellent. He can sky to get the football as a receiver if any defender has managed to keep up with his top-end speed, and he snatches the football well with his hands, naturally."
- ESPN: "…really impressive on the hoof. Big, strong and fast. Good height, long arms and has huge upside for frame development over time. He is an explosive 0 to 60 player with great feet and a second gear. Possesses an ideal combination of physical prowess and speed with excellent agility on both sides of the football. … When he gets to the second level he can be a hold your breath type of guy."
- Josh Helmholdt, Rivals: "[has] a combination of great size - he's built like a guy who could grow into a linebacker - but he has the speed and athleticism of a top-end wide receiver … it's the run-after-catch ability. He'll be a threat with the football once he has it in his hands."
- Allen Trieu, Scout (evaluating a single game in which Cole was a tailback): "…[showed] good feet and elusiveness for a kid of his size. He can make people miss and cut back and change directions like a smaller player. Defensively, where he had 10 tackles, he showed excellent closing speed and a lot of effort in pursuit. That extra gear and acceleration was surprising and impressive."
And then there's 24/7's Clint Brewster, who has a bit of a self-contradictory scouting report. In it he gives Cole a 9 for "explosiveness" and then:
"Cole is a bigger/stronger wide receiver that is more in the possession type of receiver mold. He runs outstanding routes and has un-matched physicality and competitiveness catching the ball in traffic or in one-on-one coverage. … game at wide receiver really reminds me of the NFL’s Anquan Boldin"
I dunno man. There's always one evaluation that seems like it's of another player, even if it's generally positive.
One thing about that scouting report that is echoed by others is heavy praise for Cole's ball skills. Anquan Boldin is a human vacuum and may be taking things too far, but both ESPN…
…will high point the ball from his safety position, naturally plucks the ball in contested match-ups and is not a player that fights the football or allows it to get into his frame. Shows good hand-eye coordination to time jumps, elevate in a crowd and pull ball away from receivers. Shows very good body control in conjunction with his ball skills."
…and his current WR coach…
The guy should be a senior in high school and he goes out there and I told him, I said, ‘Your ball skills are unbelievable. When you actually know what you’re doing it’s going to be unreal,’ because he makes some plays that are just tremendous.
…are on board.
Of course, there is that catch in there: "when you actually know what you're doing." Cole's high school team had little passing game and he missed a couple games because he got ejected. When he was on the field, his team wasn't helping him much. That tape Dave got at the top of the post is the exact opposite of Ty Isaac's high school film: you can't tell anything because there are 11 guys around him instead of 0.
- So he's raw at whichever position you'd like to project him to, including wide receiver. Take it from a man named Brian Cole:
“To be honest, I’m not even the best route runner … I’ve progressed and gotten better at it. But I’m still not where I want to be.”
Helmholdt echoed that in his evaluation, saying "he gets by mostly on pure athleticism" and that "route-running is something [he wants] to see more of from him." When Ace and Dave scouted Cole in person, this was the extent of what they saw from him at his college position:
Cole was far and away the best athlete on the field, made a few spectacular plays, a couple poor ones, and couldn't find any space to maneuver against a defense hell-bent on containing him. Unfortunately, the only half-decent look we got of him as a receiver—he's expected to play the slot at Michigan—came when he torched a corner off the line, got over the top of the safety, and... that's it, because his quarterback couldn't get the ball to him.
His coach at the Under Armor game even suggested he would end up redshirting. That is both an uncommon opinion and one that's based on the coach's projection that he'd play safety. Which he probably will at some point, because HARBAUGH, but given Michigan's crying need at WR—crying need for anyone who can outrun a traffic cone on offense—this evaluation isn't going to consider that.
Despite that rawness, Cole immediately impressed upon his enrollment. While the universe waited to see Jabrill Peppers assume the Woodson mantle, Cole may have been the #2 guy Michigan fans wanted to see after a solid month of hype. Hype like Sam Webb and Marcus Ray talking about a particular play on which Cole outran Michigan's (projected) superman. This is Ray after being prompted by Webb:
"He defeated double coverage, caught the ball with both hands with no fear, came down with it, hit a burst, split the safeties, scored a touchdown and got up and celebrated with his teammates. That was one of those plays where if you’re a parent or a recruit standing there and you’re over there talking about whatever and (someone says), ‘did you guys just see that play?’ It got your attention. He’s going to be a difference maker."
"Cole looks like a natural out there," Swenson said. "He must have made about six or seven plays when I was watching practice. He's just really smooth in running his routes and the way he was playing the game. He's definitely the guy that stood out to me overall on offense. It was really impressive."
Hoke's staff planned on starting Cole off in the slot, and Harbaugh seemed to go along with that—probably because in the absence of Dennis Norfleet, the list of scholarship slot receivers this spring consisted of "maybe Freddy Canteen unless we need him on the outside" and walkons.
Cole certainly has the skillset to play on the outside eventually. 6'2" leaping athletes generally get stuck out there, and if Cole comes close to matching his hype he will be on the field with a lot of tight ends, thus making him an outside receiver by default.
As far as this year goes… well, there's freshman receiver hype and freshman receiver reality. Cole did little in the spring game. The most recent true freshman wideout to make any sort of impact was Mario Manningham. Manningham spent his high school career demolishing secondaries across Ohio and would develop into one of the smoothest, most natural wide receivers Michigan has ever had; he still did not crack 30 catches his first year. An athlete(!) like Cole, even one who comes with an exclamation point attached, will do well to see the field on actual passing plays.
I mean, remember last year and Freddy Canteen? Yeah. I'd be way less surprised if Canteen started delivering this year and people were momentarily disappointed in Cole. Momentarily.
Early in the first quarter – Cole who is also Heritage’s punter – botched a low snap, and then, well, he improvised. First he ran left, no room, so then he ran right and took his speed to a new level as he outran the entire Arthur Hill defense for an electrifying 59 yard touchdown run.
If we run out of Australians, worth a try.
Why Braxton Miller, WR Edition? Miller is a 6'2", 220-pound-ish freak of an athlete with full-throttle speed and agility he should not have. Also he has spent the bulk of his career in the backfield so no one knows if he can play wide receiver. I mean, you'd think… but Darryl Stonum never got the hang of it so clearly there are hurdles to overcome.
Miller was a bigger recruit than Cole, around 30th nationally, but not by that much and since he clearly projected to a college position and played tougher competition sites were more comfortable sliding him up the list. Athleticism may be (should be?)comparable.
Braylon? Not as tall, might be as fast, needs some work his freshman year, can go get the dang ball.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Mostly same thing, but ATH gonna ATH.
Variance: Very high. ATH gonna ATH and in this case you could see Cole never figuring out any position in particular and fading away or being ridiculous.
Ceiling: Huge. Clearly the guy with the most upside in this class unless Zach Gentry is 6'8" Denard.
General Excitement Level: High. Daddy needs a new pair of Braylons.
Projection: He's probably going to play, because Michigan needs something slot receiver-shaped. While Grant Perry may fit the bill in the Drew Dileo way, they need something more Breaston-esque with an offense that doesn't look like it has a lot of big play potential. I'm still skeptical he gets heavily involved just because of the precedents. Also I think Canteen will be pretty good.
With zero seniors in this year's receiving corps, Cole will face a slightly uphill battle for playing time in year two. It's not one he couldn't easily overcome if he hits the exponential section of his growth curve on the early side. 30/70 he passes someone to start; as a junior the depth chart will be open and the world will hopefully be his oyster.
Previously: Kyle Kalis
Brian Cole wants to see the field this year. [Fuller]
Next up for the Media Day interviews is slot receiver Brian Cole, one of a few freshmen who was available to speak to the media, presumably because he enrolled early and went through spring practice with the team. Cole has already undergone his first uniform change. While he wore #81 in the spring, he's now rocking #41, perhaps a sign that senior walk-on tight end Michael Jocz (now the only #81) is in line for some playing time.
A couple guys have said they didn't even know it was Media Day until they walked in. How has it been with Harbaugh keeping you guys on your toes?
Oh, yeah, it's blessing us though, I'll tell you that, because he's getting all of us ready for the league, NFL-ready. He's treating it like it's the NFL, so people are just getting a better understanding of what it's going to be like if you play in the NFL.
How big of a transition is it coming from high school to this type of environment? What's been the toughest part of that?
It's very overwhelming, to be honest. It's a lot of pressure. You have your highs and your lows. To be honest, it's been hard, but it's been a good experience.
What's he got you playing right now?
I'm playing slot receiver.
I know you played a lot of different spots in high school. How comfortable are you settling into that position?
I'm still getting used to it since I never really played receiver. So my footwork, stuff like that, I'm still working on it. I like it a lot, though. I want to score touchdowns, too, so that's always fun. Catching them isn't so bad, either. I'm just getting used to it.
You guys have Jedd Fisch as a receivers coach, another guy with NFL experience. How big of a help is it to have somebody who's been there?
It's great. The whole coaching staff, they know what it takes, and having Coach Fisch, that's my dawg, I love Coach Fisch. He's always helping me. He's always on top of me about everything, too.
With you in the slot, do you expect to be utilized as a runner as well as a receiver? How do you expect to be used out there?
To be honest, I don't know. I have no idea.
So they're keeping you in the dark about everything.
How easy has it been to pick up the playbook?
Not easy at all. (Laughs.) It's still coming along. It's just the fact that, coming from high school, our playbook looked nothing like that—like, it was numbers, and that was our play. Having all this extra stuff, audibles, all these extra signs we can do, it makes it a lot harder but you gotta learn it. If I want to play I gotta learn it, so that's what I'm trying to do.
Four hour practices, it sounds like the intensity is way up; how well do you think the team has adjusted to that?
Well. We grinding. We got better every day, so things are going good with those four-hour practices. It's not hurting us too bad.
What are your expectations for this year? Do you have anything laid out?
As far as team goals, I don't know. I know, even not talking to them, I know we want to win, like, every game, and that's what we plan to do. We're going to work, have fun, and just win.
And for you personally, what are your expectations for your play this year?
I just want to play. I just want to touch the field.
The program had its draft for the spring game over the weekend, right?
What kind of experience was it like for the coaches and the players seeing them all-
“Oh, it’s a great experience, yeah! It’s something that we’ve done in the past with coach Harbaugh so it’s an exciting time. You go through the roster and you pick out your strengths and weakness and you pick out your positions and you’re going through and strategizing as the draft goes on because you have to fill those positions and make sure you don’t lose out on somebody. Really as a coaching staff it makes you a better coach because you’re trying to build a team and build them to strength, so it was a fun time. Really fun.”
What was your draft strategy?
“Well, you’ll see that on Saturday.”
Is there going to be trash talk between you and DJ?
“No, we wouldn’t do that. Nah, we wouldn’t do that. DJ’s a good guy, but we’re competitive, which is fun.”
Where are you now with the offensive line, and Graham [Glasgow] is back practicing with the team?
“Yeah! Graham’s back, he’s back and glad he’s back, and the offensive line is- they’re doing good. They’ve taken another step forward, which we’ve foreseen them to do and they’re on track and I think finishing up the Thursday practice, Saturday practice, pushing into the strength and conditioning phase and then going into training camp, they’re right on track and they’re taking steps forward, which is really, really exciting.”
Did Graham missing time stunt the development there for those guys?
“No, it didn’t stunt [their growth]. If somebody’s not around somebody’s got to step in and that’s what we preach and it worked out just fine.”
Mason Cole was getting work at center-
“Yeah! We put Mason in there, which was good for Mason. He’s an athletic guy and did some really, really good things there so that’s good for Mason and it’s good for Michigan.”
[After THE JUMP: Jim Harbaugh, talent evaluator extraordinaire, and we circle back to the center]
“Everybody good? Yeah? Great. Who’s kicking us off?”
I’ll kick you off. It’s only been a couple of days but what have you seen out of your quarterbacks so far?
“Uh, well, right now we’re seeing progress. That’s, I think, the first thing we’re looking for is how they’ve picked up what we’ve asked them to do. We’ve seen them now- this is what, practice four? But it’s been 16 hours on the field so we’ve had a lot of repetitions and we’ve been able to do a ton of drill work with them and been able to watch them kind of pick up the system the best they can at this point. I think there’s some really good progress in terms of command at the line of scrimmage. I think there’s good progress in terms of understanding the offense. Now it’s a matter of slowing the game down for them, and that’s what our next step is.”
How do you slow it down?
“I would say that slowing it down comes from knowledge, number one. Number two, it comes from experience, and then three, it comes from some form of comfort level. Right now their knowledge in terms of what we’re asking them to do is still growing and it’s kind of not where we want it to be yet in terms of you’d love to always fast forward the process but right now the process is what it is. In terms of experience they have none in the system and the really don’t have much college football playing experience, but with us they’ve had four days of experience. And finally, as we continue to go through this process and give them opportunities I think we’ll see them continue to develop every day and that will slow the game down for them.”
You mentioned progress. How long of a road do they have to get where you want them to go?
“I think that we’re certainly in a situation where we don’t play for a while, so that’s good. We’ve got 11 more practices, so that’s really good, and then we’ve got a big summer where they can really grind themselves. I’m a huge believer in that philosophy of players coaching players. I think that it’s huge during this time of the summer when we’re not with them that they can really take what we’ve kind of coached them on and then help each other and really continue to develop one another. And then finally we have training camp and we have all of camp to get ready for opening day. So they’ve got some time and we’re going to use all of it, every second we can, to try and help them improve and be comfortable and then be able to go out there and put us in the best possible position to succeed.”
What are the differences you see in the three scholarship guys?
“Well, they certainly do have different skill sets. Wilton is a very large man He’s a big guy and he can see everything. He’s a pretty good athlete. Throws the ball well. He doesn’t seem to have had a ton of experience. I know Shane probably took more reps last year, I would guess, because he was probably the 2. I know he went in one game, two games, whatever and then played the year before also so he’s probably had some more practice reps than Wilt has but Wilt makes a lot of nice throws and is a good sized kid.
“Shane has a very strong arm, which everybody knows. He spins it well. He just has to understand that’s really not the most important thing. If you have a really strong arm you have a really strong arm. That’s what you have. So now it’s a matter of what can you do with it? How do you utilize it? So his skill set, you know, his arm strength is tremendous and he has really good- he’s very comfortable as a quarterback, so that’s fun to watch him in the huddle. He has really good command of what we’re asking him to do and Alex- Alex should be a senior in high school right now.
“I know my senior spring I wasn’t in college, so I know that he’s got a lot going on and he has handled it unbelievably well. He is like- he’s unbelievable in terms of his ability to not let things bother him, to be consistent, and to jump right back in and play the game. If a play doesn’t go right he’s right back in [and] ready for the next one. Short-term memory is phenomenal for a quarterback.”
[After THE JUMP: more honesty]