gambling establishment etc
A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Brennen Beyer||Sr.||Ryan Glasgow||So.*#||Willie Henry||So.*||Frank Clark||Sr.|
|Taco Charlton||So.||Ondre Pipkins||Jr.||Chris Wormley||So.*||Mario Ojemudia||Jr.|
|Henry Poggi||Fr.*||Maurice Hurst||Fr.*||Matt Godin||So.*||Lawrence Marshall||Fr.|
Depth chart shows everybody just because.
What looked like a sure strength at the beginning of the season degraded gradually and then suddenly; by the end a 285-pound Jibreel Black was trying to hold up against the best rushing attack in the country in the Ohio State game. That could have gone better.
With both projected interior starters gone, that might be time to panic, but actually… Michigan has options here, and talent. Injury and and inexplicable absence contributed heavily to the issues last year. Ondre Pipkins suffered a midseason ACL tear; Quinton Washington was left on the bench for most of the after a breakout turn his junior year, and then didn't play well when he was in the game. Thus the amount of talent they actually have on the field is just about what they had last year plus a year of experience for everyone and the additions of Pipkins and early-enrolling freshman Bryan Mone.
NOSE TACKLE: HOUSE OF GLASGOWS
Glasgow (left) and Mone, one of the many men chasing him.
I'm not exactly sure what we expected at this position. I can guarantee it was not RYAN GLASGOW, he of the rootinest, tootinest clan of walk-ons to ever wander onto Michigan's roster and lock down starting spots down the spine of the team as sophomores. Yes, Glasgow is related to Glasgow and has essentially the same origin story: they were enormous dudes who didn't play football until their last year of high school, and now they're starters.
In Ryan's case this may be nominal and temporary. Nose tackle sees a ton of rotation even in adverse circumstances, and as we're about to detail there are a pile of guys pushing from behind here. And then there is the Pipkins thing: Glasgow may be in front of Pipkins only because it takes a long time for big guys to recover from major injuries.
But he's here. And… uh… he is here. There is obviously no recruiting profile for him. And Glasgow only got sparing snaps a year ago as a redshirt freshman. He didn't do much in those snaps; the only clips I got for him were a couple of times when he got blown up a bit, once dropping to a knee against Akron, once taking the brunt of a Notre Dame double team.
Now, this is not actually out of nowhere. Two years ago this preview specifically noted Glasgow's existence:
And here's a weird one: I've heard that Michigan thinks they have something in walk-on Ryan Glasgow. … It would be a longshot for him to see the field this year, obviously, but he's listed at 294 already and is a guy to keep an eye out for in case that pans out.
As his brother's proven, these guys come with the requisite size and strength for the major level of competition. Meanwhile Glasgow is ahead of a ravenous pack behind. (One that could also include Willie Henry if the coaches were uncertain about nose tackle—Chris Wormley would cope just fine as a starter.) This is a situation in which having the walk-on on top of the depth chart is probably fine. Onfield issues last year don't mean much more than he was a freshman DT. Even the most highly touted guys often struggle their first couple years as their conditioning and technique catch up.
Also positive Sam Webb talked with Mark Smith, his position coach, and Smith went out of his way to bring Glasgow up:
During one interview he interjected with a mention of Glasgow’s name. At the end he said, "(Glasgow) had an outstanding spring and will compete for a lot of time."
Well Glasgow has continued that strong play from what I hear. He is without question one of the strongest players in the program (I believe only Pipkins tested out stronger during the spring), he’s huge, Smith described him as a technician, and he has a non-stop motor. Don’t confuse this with the Nate Brink talk of a few years ago.
Webb's not going to prompt a guy to talk about a walk-on; that's something a coach has to know and think about and make an effort to bring up. Mattison did something similar last year:
Who's pushing Jibreel Black and Quinton Washington?
"Watching the tape, and you look, and all of a sudden Ryan Glasgow, from the three-technique position, makes two tackles on the line of scrimmage all the way down the line the other way. When we stopped it and showed our guys and said, 'Look, this is Glasgow making this play. This is a heck of a job.'"
Webb did mention that part of the reason Glasgow is in front is because Michigan is making every effort to be careful with Pipkins as he returns from ACL surgery, so it may not last. Playing time will; nose has two starters essentially.
So it's fine. If he doesn't perform, he will get yanked. Michigan has…
[After THE JUMP: everybody into the pile! Pipkins deployment, MEAAAAT, OGRE, and more pile.]
|Salt Lake City, UT – 6'4", 315|
||Scout||4*, #88 overall
#6 DT, #1 Utah
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#23 DT, #4 Utah
|ESPN||4*, #91 overall
#7 DT, #1 Utah
|24/7||4*, #83 overall
#9 DT, #1 Utah
|Other Suitors||BYU, Wisconsin, Utah, UCLA|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Ace breaks down a Mone game. Hello post. Brief interview.|
|Notes||Highland (Sione Houma). Believe it is pronounced mon-AY|
The guy profiled most recently in this series may have a problem becoming big enough to contribute in college. Bryan Mone will not have this problem. Mone's final couple years of high school saw him go from an almost slender kid sites projected as an SDE to a monster suited for the middle. One reason why: MEAAAAAAAAAAAT.
Coach Hoke had a nice feast with the Mone family last night for his in-home visit. pic.twitter.com/DaKu7m8S0q
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) December 4, 2013
MEAT. Also meat.
Mone went from 245 to over 300 in a couple years, and then kept going. At some point he went too far, with 247 listing him at a whopping 338 up until Signing Day, though that was probably outdated. When Mone committed he told Sam Webb that he was at 340 with a goal of getting down to 315, and after his early enrollment that's the weight he is listed at on Michigan's roster.
So while he's still got a ways to go before he's a Mike-Martin-esque slab of beef, he's on his way. When he gets there he should be a quality player, if you're not Rivals. Scout's Brandon Huffman:
Mone is exactly how you draw it up when you're looking for an impact college tackle. He has a great frame, plays with good pad level, has plus level quickness and is relentless in pursuit. He does a great job getting off blocks, uses his hands very well and plays with a motor. He has the ability to fit in with a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme and could see the field early in college.
This probably isn't the first time I've ever seen a high school defensive lineman praised for his pad level, but it feels like it. Colleague Scott Kennedy is probably the most positive of anyone:
Huge, active defensive line prospect who is incredibly quick for his size. Actually played some defensive end in his high school's 3-4 formation at well over 300 pounds. Uses a club-like rip and swim move to knock tackles off balance. Wicked punch off snap. Changes directions well in space to adjust to backs trying to avoid him in the backfield. Gets tremendous leverage even though he's taller than most high school linemen he faced.
…very athletic for his size. Mone is very quick off the ball and can use his athleticism to swim around offensive lineman or use his size to bull-rush. One of Mone’s biggest assets is his hands. On film, Mone shows violent hands and uses them to gain proper leverage in the trenches. …nimble on his feet for a 300-pound athlete, showing great change of direction and the ability to avoid lineman when needed.
They list pad level as an improvement, because of course they do. Pad level. Meat.
ESPN is a little more reticent, but still positive:
…flashes of a very good initial burst off the ball but you would like to see little more consistency from him there. …when he fires out low, brings his hands and uncoils at contact he is more than capable of putting a blocker on his heels and holding his ground. When he brings his hands he displays the upper-body and hand strength to extend and shed, but he needs to be more consistent with his pad level and hand usage. …needs to more consistently utilize his size and power. … Has good lateral mobility.
They also mention that his violent hands give him some upside as an interior pass rusher.
"He uses his hands very well and he has real good feet for a big guy. He changes directions really well. "
The overall picture here is that Mone is a big, explosive guy with hands that are either great or in need of improvement, depending on your point of view and whether you're comparing him to the average high schooler or a finished product.
And then there's Rivals. Rivals was always down on Mone for whatever reason—he was 180th there despite being 76th on the 247 composite in September—and took the opportunity presented by the UA game to club him down to the generic three star range. No one else did. Most thought he basically justified his rating. 247:
… stout at the line of scrimmage and couldn’t be moved around by opposing offensive lineman. Mone has violent hands and good swim move, with the ability to play multiple shades along the defensive front. Mone was in on several tackles behind the line of scrimmage and looks college-ready from a physical standpoint.
Rivals's Mike Farrell seems to be the main skeptic, listing Mone amongst droppers:
… lacked the athleticism and quickness at the snap needed to be the No. 185 player in the country. He struggled more than any other defensive tackle short of three-star Lamont Gaillard and three-star O.J. Smith.
Nothing else suggests a major drop on their site. But then a Rivals guy who was more focused on the Michigan guys provides a potential explanation:
…Mone's main drawback at this time is in his conditioning and body composition. On some days at practice, Mone looked unbelievable for several reps before starting to run out of gas. While those were his better days (on others, he was having trouble adjusting to the quality of competition), the fact that his better performances featured an obvious weak point is a negative. Fortunately, he shone on gameday.
Hell, Rivals even named him one of his team's top performers:
10. DT BRYAN MONE, SALT LAKE CITY (UTAH) HIGHLAND
Mone was very active during the third practice. The Michigan commit was quicker off the ball today and more aggressive with his arms. When he combined those violent arms and his great lower body strength, Mone was able to generate a lot of push in the middle on the defensive line. During pass-rushing drills, Mone was able to make the offensive guards open their hips and finish where the quarterback would be.
With Mone's quick emergence this seems more like an overreaction to limited reps by a guy who doesn't really know much about the prospect. It's Junior Hemingway again. Hemingway is now an NFL wide receiver; Rivals bashed him down to three stars because someone saw him bad at an all star game. Farrell gonna Farrell.
Mone enrolled early and this has paid off for him. He emerged as contender on the line. While he has the potential to be a nose tackle at his size, Michigan sees him as a three tech:
The 3-tech is where Michigan will play the Salt Lake City (UT) Highland native next season.
"That's where they want me to play," he said. "I can use my power, which is what I am best at. Michigan wants me to get down to somewhere a little over 300 pounds, so I have some work to do there, but I can get it."
That was at the UA game, where he said he was 326. Michigan played him at the three this spring; he and Maurice Hurst Jr were both impressive enough to blast Willie Henry, who flashed buckets of promise during the second half of last year, down to third string. Motivational or not (clearly motivational), that's a good sign. Collectively the freshmen seemed to have cleaned out the three-tech depth chart. In the spring pratice thing he "flashed into the backfield regularly," sayeth this site.
Mone should be able to hit his weight goal by fall, as his balloon period was more a function of a lack of experience being huge than anything to do with his work ethic. Coach quote:
“The kid never comes off the field. To be 300 lbs. and yet be able to do that, it says a lot about him as a player and his work ethic. He works his guts out in the weight room and does a real good job for us. He is big, strong, powerful, and tenacious. He flat gets after it."
Why Alan Branch? Branch was another guy who was unnaturally agile for a guy his size; like Mone he was able to get into the backfield with regularity from a three-tech spot. Branch's height seemed like it might be a problem for the ol' pad level but in practice he was just too enormously strong for it to make much difference.
Bonuses: Branch was ranked in approximately the same place by most services, and came from a relatively obscure Western state (in his case, New Mexico).
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Near consensus except for Rivals, All Star appearance. Weight fluctuation makes things a bit difficult and Farrell gonna Farrell.
Variance: Low. Already college-sized and pushing for playing time, Mone's floor is a legit four-year contributor.
Ceiling: High. Easy to see him going high in the NFL draft as a 315 pound guy who can run.
General Excitement Level: High. Serious breakout potential either this year or next. College sized already, great work ethic and smarts, just needs to reshape his body a little bit and then it's time to come out and play.
Projection: Will play this year, and I won't even complain. Will be part of the three-tech rotation with Hurst and Wormley unless he gets sucked over to nose tackle. That's unlikely unless Pipkins does not recover well from his injury.
Longer term, Mone and Hurst should combine to shove Wormley over to SDE next year, especially if Michigan does go back to the under. Those two will fight tooth and nail for the starting three-tech job for the next four years—whoever comes out on top is likely to be real good. And substituted frequently.
The spring game-type-substance maintained its downward importance trajectory, but as it's the last glimpse of one of the big three sports we'll have until fall we'll talk about it all the same. This year's edition further expanded the punting-drills-and-standing-around section of the practice, so observations are necessarily light on the ground.
It's bad when Doug Karsch can't keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
This video is in Michigan's traditional zoom-o-vision, so you can't actually tell what Lewis did to get in the position he's in for the first interception.
The tone. Last year's "I like this team" has been replaced.
“We’re doing a lot of good things, but we’re not near good enough as a team to win games in the fourth quarter, which we didn’t do (last season), and play on the road,” said Hoke, entering his fourth season. “We’re a long way from being any good."
That reflects the reality of the program.
Depth chart grain of salt reminder. Spring is a season for motivational devices and experiments and therefore places on the depth chart should be regarded as vague indicators more than anything else. Case in point: Graham Glasgow was your second-team right tackle.
Lewis is in your grill yo [Bryan Fuller]
Very aggressive /teddyKGB. Every offseason for a team without an elite defense features coaches promising increased aggression, whereupon most of them quietly drop that promise when the season rolls around and it turns out that for Defense X being super aggressive is a good way to give up quick touchdowns. The cycle repeats the next offseason.
Michigan is promising aggression, and Mattison is putting his cornerbacks where his mouth is. Lewis:
“It’s huge, just getting hands on guys and trying to intimidate them," Lewis said. "That’s our key point right there -- being physical. That’s what (defensive coordinator Greg) Mattison is always talking about, being a physical defense.”
They spent most of the scrimmage session in the grills of Michigan wide receivers, playing MSU-style bump and clutch and grab and run. Word from the coaching clinic is that Michigan is adjusting to the way the game has been called of late. Lewis again:
“He said ‘be physical’,” Lewis said. “But he doesn’t care if it’s great defense and we get a penalty.”
This was highly effective when not drawing two flags on Lewis—the second a dubious one—or that one time the offense got Freddy Canteen lost on a deep corner route. Everything else was contested, and when the ball got to the receiver the corners were making a play on it.
Lewis looked terrific after a spring in which inside practice buzz has heralded him as a major comer; hell, he looked terrific most of last year except for the bit where the opposing quarterback regularly put the ball in the six-inch window perfect coverage provides. In this game he had two interceptions and two flags along with other instances where his presence forced drops or tough catches. The first interception came on the first play of the scrimmage (0:45 above).
The video doesn't do it justice since it kind of looks like Lewis is coming over from a zone. That was pure press man coverage on which he did the one thing the gypsy promised him he'd never do: make a play on the ball after achieving his position.
Is he supplanting? I don't know, man. Usually two returning starters who had the number of excellent interceptions Taylor and Countess did have impregnable positions on the depth chart. This situation is not usual, though, as those guys didn't have impregnable positions even as they were doing that—Taylor was yanked from the starting lineup briefly, even. And the last impression Michigan's coaches have is both guys getting smoked by Tyler Lockett, an impression that Countess might have reinforced when Canteen beat him over the top Manningham-style. (Gardner left the throw short and Countess recovered.)
At the very least the competition here is a real one, unlike, say, quarterback. And corner is a position at which a lot of players will see the field. Lewis has at least claimed a spot in Michigan's nickel package, which is half your snaps these days. Even when not in nickel, Michigan rotated last year and they'll rotate this year. It's likely that Lewis gets as many snaps as the starters whether he is one on paper or not, and then you've got Stribling and Peppers. Delonte Hollowell is hanging around, delivering the occasional hard shot on the unsuspecting.
If the spring game indicates one thing, it's that cornerback is better-stocked than it's been in a long-time. Michigan doesn't have a Woodson (at least until fall, anyway), but I can say without hesitation that I'm more comfortable with Michigan's fifth corner than I usually am with their third. Remember Football Armageddon, when Michigan decided covering a first-round NFL draft pick with Chris Graham was their best option? Yeah. Not so much this year.
Wilson got over the top on a late throw [Bryan Fuller]
Aaaand safety. Much less clarity there, and very little to go on from the game-type section. Michigan spent much of the day rolling whoever wasn't Jarrod Wilson to the line of scrimmage to further their aggression goals, whereupon he would cover a fullback or something or watch as a run play did not get to him.
Wilson did have one nice PBU on a looping ball over the top. The ball was late thanks to some pressure that forced Gardner to roll around in the pocket, but that's the kind of ball a safety can make a play on and the play was made.
As far as depth chart stuff goes there was zero clarity. If you put a gun to my head I'd say Delano Hill was slightly preferred. And then I would say "but…" and you would shoot me. Let's not do this gun to the head thing when talking about Michigan's safeties.
The Jake Ryan experiment. First off, the admittedly not-particularly-meaningful spring depth chart gives me the willies. Ryan at MLB, Morgan second-string behind him, Bolden starting, Ross running on the second team at new tinySAM. I am full of the willies.
It's hard to tell much about linebackers in spring, harder yet when the offensive line they're up against is barely releasing to the second level*. On plays where I watched Jake Ryan he looked okay. He's kind of a long, upright guy, so when blockers get into him he tends to let them under him. On the edge he would just juke a guy and explode past him; in the middle you have to take the block on because picking the wrong side of the guy means you just blew your run fit.
I'm not sure where he fits in an over defense, though, so if you're going to make a shift he has to go somewhere.
Meanwhile, Joe Bolden's ample playing time has been mysterious to me. Linebacker remains the hardest position for me to have a Serious Opinion about because there's just so much that goes into it, but the things that Bolden seemed to be screwing up were really obvious things like not being anywhere near your pass drop. Meanwhile when it comes to hitting people in the face and making them stop going forward there is no comparison between Bolden, who has been a drag-you-down tackler to date, and Desmond Morgan, who thumps you and then you stop moving. Michigan's head coach says "toughness" every other word, and Morgan is much closer to that on the field than Bolden.
As a result I've promised to eat a lemon on the internet if Bolden starts the opener over Morgan. The rules: Morgan has to be healthy, Bolden has to start, and Morgan cannot start.
*[Michigan had a great deal of uninspiring runs of 1-3 yards but few TFLs except that one time they put Henry in against the third team OL. This was in large part because the offensive line was doing its damndest to not repeat the mistakes of last year. Instead of popping off opposing DL immediately, they were maintaining doubles longer than you really should. This made life at LB relatively easy and thus many plays where a tailback crosses the line of scrimmage and encounters a pile of men.]
Poggi SDE, Hurst 3-tech, Henry nose on a second or third unit
Line ups and downs. Here the limitations of spring practice overwhelm. Michigan's first-team offensive line read Cole-Bosch-Miller-Kalis-Braden; the second team featured a left tackle with an enormous cast on his hand. Grain of salt, grain of salt, grain of salt.
Anyway, Michigan had a few guys that looked impressive: Bryan Mone entered the backfield with regularity and Maurice Hurst Jr flashed the first step that was the bulk of his recruiting profile. That they've pushed Henry down the depth chart is an excellent sign even if that particular arrangement is clearly motivational after Henry established himself a legit Big Ten player a year ago. Brennen Beyer displayed an excellent ability to discard… uh… true freshman Mason Cole on a number of snaps. Beyer has always been an active hands guy; the question with him is his ability to hold up against 330 pound trucks. A matchup with Cole is not going to answer that.
Michigan got push up the middle of the pocket for large chunks of the scrimmages and while they weren't penetrating on run plays with regularity, see the aside above. When Michigan's options were limited in the half-line drills, they ended up in the backfield more often than not. It seemed like 80% of those runs cut back behind the center, which is a win for the DL in that drill.
As for guys who had bad snaps we will extrapolate much more from than is reasonable: at 2:55 in the video above Derrick Green gets one of Michigan's better runs on the day by bouncing outside; that is there because Glasgow locked up with and drove Henry Poggi well off the ball. Tom Strobel got easily handled on a successful Hayes power play at 2:25; a linebacker wearing a number in the 40s also picked the wrong hole. Also… does anyone know where Chris Wormley was? I don't recall seeing him; I googled to see if anyone had mentioned anything was up with him and came up empty, so I assume he was there but rather anonymous.
I have to punt on other defensive end observations, as I was focusing on the linebackers and secondary for much of the day.
- They're trying to make good on the promise to be aggressive.
- The cornerback depth is terrific and the top end should be quite good.
- Michigan has a solid young core at DT; DE is more uncertain.
- Linebackers… ask again later.
OR: JABRILL PEPPERS AND COMFORTING UNCERTAINTY
Three receivers make this post. This guy isn't one of them.
For the first time in years, Michigan's depth chart isn't patched together with duct tape and hope, so the incoming freshmen of 2014 don't have as many opportunities for early playing time as past classes. This is worth celebrating, especially when one particular freshman is poised to make a big impact at a position with some experienced depth anyway.
After Jabrill Peppers, there isn't a clear role for any of the incoming freshmen, and getting this list up to five involved a few reach picks. Again, this is good. Without further ado, here's the list.
1. JABRILL PEPPERS, CB/KR/PR (6'1, 210; 5*, 247 Composite #1 ATH/CB)
Surprise! Despite the presence of four older cornerbacks with significant game experience (Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Jourdan Lewis, and Channing Stribling), Peppers is simply too talented to keep off the field. He should see immediate time in Michigan's nickel package, either as the nickelback or playing on the outside with Countess in the slot, and as the season progresses he'll challenge Taylor for a starting spot—with his size, athleticism, and ability in run support, Peppers is an ideal fit on the boundary.
With apologies to Fearless Leader, I believe Peppers will make an instant impact in the return game, as well. While Dennis Norfleet consistently threatened to break long returns, they rarely materialized last year. Michigan had just one kickoff return of 40+ yards (T-89th nationally) and none of 50+; just two punt returns went for 20+ (T-58th), one 30+, and zero 40+. Averages were middling at best: 49th in kickoff returns and 91st in punt returns. Fielding kickoff returns, at the very least, would be a great way to get Peppers the ball without overwhelming him with too much responsibility. If he has a role on offense this year, it'll likely be limited to just a handful of plays.
2. FREDDY CANTEEN, SLOT (6'1, 170; 4*, #41 WR)
Canteen is the player going solo/the one with insanely quick feet
Slot receiver is one of a small number of spots with total uncertainly on the depth chart. Just two players return there: Norfleet (six career "catches" that were actually end-arounds) and sophomore Da'Mario Jones, who only saw time on special teams last year. While Doug Nussmeier may have a different outlook, thus far the coaches have been hesitant to give Norfleet a significant role. A relative unknown committed to Central Michigan before Michigan came calling, Jones never rose above middling three-star even after flipping his commitment. This spot is wide open.
Enter Freddy Canteen, who went from completely off the radar when his high school didn't play actual games in 2012 to a hot camp commodity with ever-rising rankings in 2013. At 6'1, he's got the size this coaching staff covets, and his route-running is very advanced for an incoming freshman. On top of that, he's got speed to burn and a phenomenal name. What more can one ask for? It wouldn't surprise me at all if Canteen, an early enrollee, is the starter in the slot from day one.
3. IAN BUNTING, TE/FUNCHESS (6'7, 233; 4*, #11 TE)
Photo credit: J. Geil/Chicago Sun-Times
Bunting wouldn't have cracked this list a couple weeks ago; then Jake Butt went down with a torn ACL. Now Michigan is down to one tight end that actually catches passes, and that's only if you believe Devin Funchess is still a tight end. AJ Williams is almost exclusively a blocker (and he's still working on that), while Jordan Paskorz is a former linebacker without a catch to his name. Khalid Hill comes off a redshirt and could factor in as an H-back, but that's about it as far as tight end depth goes. There's room for another pass-catcher.
The question is whether or not Bunting will be at all ready to put his hand in the dirt; even in high school, he did most of his damage split out wide. At 233 pounds (on a 6'7 frame), he needs to bulk up significantly to be able to hold his own as a blocker. As an enormous receiver with great hands, however, he can at least see the field as a third-down/red-zone specialist; putting him on the field with Funchess poses major matchup problems for opposing defenses.
4. BRYAN MONE, NT (6'4, 328; 4*, #8 DT)
Another player on the list due to injury on the current roster, Mone could be forced into duty at nose tackle if Ondre Pipkins is limited in his return from a torn ACL. The only other true NT on the roster is redshirt freshman Maurice Hurst, who was listed at 270 pounds on last year's roster.
Mone's stock fell from near-consensus top-50 player to borderline top-100 prospect (or, in Rivals' case, flat-out three-star) after he looked overweight and out of shape at the Under Armour game. Mone put on a ton of weight in a short period of time before his senior season and it clearly affected his conditioning. Luckily for Michigan, he's enrolled early, so efforts to turn bad weight into good are already underway. It's highly unlikely Mone is ready to play a major role, but Michigan might need him to hold his own in sporadic rotation snaps and short-yardage situations.
5. MICHAEL FERNS, ILB (6'3, 235; 4*, #6 ILB)
Another early enrollee, Ferns isn't likely to see much early action on defense. James Ross and Desmond Morgan have the two ILB spots locked down, and both have viable backups with playing experience in Ben Gedeon and Joe Bolden. If there's an injury, however, Ferns is the incoming linebacker best suited to see the field with his size and status as an EE.
Ferns also fits right in on special teams—with his athleticism, he could make an immediate impact on coverage units. This will be a frustrating way to burn a redshirt if Ferns doesn't get some in-game experience at linebacker, but it's inevitable that the coaches will burn a linebacker's redshirt for special teams, and it may as well be the one most ready to see the field.
HONORABLE MENTION: WRs DRAKE HARRIS & MOE WAYS
Both Harris and Ways look like college-ready receivers; Harris benefits from enrolling early, while Ways has the bulk and blocking ability to see the field as a freshman. They'd be higher on the list if playing time on the outside wasn't so hard to come by. Funchess and Jehu Chesson should lock down the starting spots, Amara Darboh is another starting candidate now that he's healthy, and two other options come off redshirts in Jaron Dukes and Csont'e York.
Harris is coming off a hamstring injury that cost him his entire senior season. Ways made great strides from his junior to senior seasons but could still use some, er, seasoning. It'd be great if Michigan was able to redshirt both of these guys, especially if Canteen can also contribute on the outside.
Damien Harris Fallout: Back In It For Mike Weber?
2015 five-star RB Damien Harris decommitted from Michigan this week. After Al Borges—his primary recruiter—was fired, Harris decided he needed to take a step back and explore his options, though his mother says Michigan is still on top, per Sam Webb ($):
“The reason he came to this decision is he felt like when he committed, at the time, we felt like it was the right decision even though it was early,” she explained. “Months later he has been thinking and thinking, ‘I didn’t really go and look at other places probably like I should have. I didn’t consider other places like I should have.’ Even though Michigan is #1, and that hasn’t changed, he just wants to make sure he doesn’t have any regrets when he gets ready to enroll. He just wants to make sure that he didn’t leave any stone unturned and wants to make sure he didn’t miss out on anything, even though he knows Michigan is still his #1. That’s all. He is just making sure that if he was to visit other places, he wasn’t going to regret not taking the full experience.”
Meanwhile, a certain despicable portion of the fanbase* isn't helping Michigan's cause. Harris has taken a lot of heat on Twitter for his decommitment and his coach told TomVH that could be a factor in his ultimate decision ($):
“People need to back off of him [on Twitter]. He’s a 16-year-old kid. People are attacking him on there,” [Madison Southern coach Jon] Clark said. “You have grown men who are way out of line, and Michigan fans better ease up or they’re going to push him away from Michigan. The coaches aren’t; the fans are.
“The only impact a fan ever has on a kid is a negative one; that’s it. There’s not a fan out there that has a positive impact on this kid.”
To state the blitheringly obvious: DON'T DO THIS. I realize/hope this doesn't apply to 99% of you, but nothing you're going to do as a fan—positive or negative, in person or on social media—is going to make a positive difference in a prospect's recruitment. Leave the recruiting to the coaches and, as a general life rule, leave harassing high school students to... nobody. Nobody should do that.
Anyway, with Harris opening up his recruitment, Michigan has rekindled their interest in 2015 four-star Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, per GBW's Josh Newkirk ($):
“I talked with (Nussmeier) for a half-hour on the phone. He is real excited about recruiting me,” Weber told GoBlueWolverine. “He told me it was crazy that Michigan stopped recruiting me. So when he got there he was telling me how he really wanted me (at Michigan). It made me open my eyes back up to Michigan.
“Michigan is back on the radar.”
Weber named a top five of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Tennessee (in no particular order); the Spartans and Vols have been the presumed favorites for a while now, though the renewed Michigan interest could change that. It didn't take long for Weber to recipricate that interest, too—he was the only prospect in attendance at last night's Iowa game, which he seemed to appreciate. Whether or not things work out with Harris, Weber would be a great addition to the class; he's been very productive against solid competition for the last two years and looks great on film.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, new 2015 offers—including a long-awaited one to a California DE—the final Rivals250, and more.]
I Have To Praise You Like I Should
High School All-American week is officially over. Jabrill Peppers unofficially won the week. Just ask ESPN's Tom Luginbill, who wrote this in response to a question about the most impressive Under Armour practice performer [emphasis mine]:
[Peppers] is more than capable of playing both ways if needed, but as far as cover corners go, he is a more explosive version of Dee Milliner, and we love that he welcomes contact too. He is mature and knows that there are high expectations for him to perform.
Or ask his Team Nitro coach, former NFL head coach and defensive back Herm Edwards—and his friend, some guy named Deion:
"It’s not even close. He’s the best [UA All-American defensive back] I’ve coached. I called Deion [Sanders] over and said look at that guy, and Deion saw the same thing," Edwards said. "[Robert] Nkemdiche was really good last year, he was a big guy who could run and [Peppers] is comparable to that as far as skill level at the position he’s playing. I played that position and coached that position for a long time and he’s a special talent."
Or ask Scout, which named Peppers the top practice performer of the week on either team while noting that this year's crop of defensive backs was particularly strong.
Rivals stands as the least bullish outlet on Peppers after the UA game, and all they did was name him Sunday's #3 performer, Monday's #1 performer, and Tuesday's #5 performer, and the actual game's #9 performer for Team Nitro before giving him the third spot overall for Team Nitro on the week behind Da'Shawn Hand and Ermon Lane ($):
Playing in his first national-level event, Peppers was surrounded by intrigue from the moment he arrived in Florida. As it turned out, it didn't take him long to live up to his billing. Peppers, the No. 2 overall prospect in his class, was dominant in every practice and was as aggressive and spirited as any player on the field. He struggled a bit in Thursday's game but didn't allow a big play all week. Peppers also blocked a field goal that was ultimately negated because of an all-star-game specific rule.
In addition to the negated blocked field goal (above)—illegal because rushers on kicks weren't allowed to go inside their man in the UA Game, which... okay—Peppers had a couple passes defended, returned two kickoffs for 65 yards (one a 41-yard burst to midfield), and took a few snaps as a wildcat quarterback, though he couldn't break anything big offensively in a pretty ugly game overall, as high school all-star games tend to be.
Interestingly, Scout omitted both Hand and Lane from their top ten overall list, with neither cracking the top two of their respective position groups. It's safe to say Peppers made a strong argument that he deserves consideration for the top overall spot in the 2014 class.
[Hit THE JUMP for a whole lot of content from the All-American games, Michigan's latest 2014 offer, an update on George Campbell, a potential second quarterback in the '14 class, and more.]