Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
Podcast? Yes. We couldn't record it yesterday because of Easter obligations. We will tape it this evening. It should go up tomorrow.
Missed it? It's on the tubes.
Ours got more attention than normal because it was so early.
The Michigan offense in one picture [Patrick Barron]
Rome was not rebuilt from atomized dust in a day. It was not good, obviously. People will tell you that the defense is supposed to be in front of the offense at this juncture… but not that far in front. When they say that they mean something like "it was a little ugly and they only ran for like three yards a carry." They mean that the final score was 17-10 or thereabouts.
They do not mean that the only offense of the day will be Amara Darboh catching fades against Poor Damn Dennis Norfleet, a 5'7" guy who hadn't played defense in college until being tested there this spring. The overall feel was reminiscent of the legendarily terrible 2008 spring game, which I didn't even go to because it was held at a high school to facilitate Michigan Stadium's renovations and still remember as the first "oh shiiiii" moment in the Rodriguez era.
To some extent this was all expected. Michigan fans have been debating between a true freshman, a guy who had 3.2 YPA last year, and a redshirt freshman who did not play. They were going up against a defense that has been pretty good the last couple years (until collapsing in exhaustion at the end of games). It was never going to be pretty.
But did it have to be that ugly? Bler!
Quarterbacks: come on down Joliet Jake. Morris was anointed the #1 QB coming out of spring by none other than Harbaugh himself, and that seemed about right after the spring game. That it did so after Morris went 11 of 24 for 5.6 YPA would have me purchasing bags of dehydrated food, water purifiers, and shotguns if not for the 99% official transfer of Iowa starter Jake Rudock to Michigan. Rudock may not be a conquering hero… but he will probably feel like one.
Malzone, the great (if vague) hope going into spring, did not look ready to challenge for the throne. I'm not on board with the arm strength complaints just yet, as those seemed to be generated by a wide receiver screen Lewis tried to jump but did not, giving up a first down on 2nd and 19 (in this game the equivalent of 2nd and Canada).
I may come around in the near future. The constant short stuff was disappointing: even his attempt at a game-saving two minute drill featured five yard hitch after five yard hitch. He did have one nice dart downfield that Chase Winovich dropped…
a linebacker linebacks even when he tight ends [Bryan Fuller]
…but that stands out as just about the only attempt Malzone made to get the ball down the field. There were a lot of doomed WR screens in there. And that two minute drill… oy. They got about 20 yards before time ran out. This is a tradition I would like to leave in the past.
One thing I'll say in Morris's favor. He's got that fade down pat. One got intercepted because Darboh didn't wall off and extend away from a defensive back and a couple more got dropped; the rest save one were completions, and I think Morris ended up leaving that one short because he got hit. The rest were on the money, in that space outside the numbers and inside the sideline where the receiver has space to play with and can detach from the DB.
That's a good location to have down, by the way. It's tough to throw and thus tough to get to for a lot of defenses. Deep outs, smash routes, corners, and those fades all end up in that general area. It's the location on the field that is the reason NFL teams go cuckoo for cocoa puffs when they find a Mallett type. Morris can buy himself a lot of leeway if that throw is as consistently accurate as it felt like on Saturday.
a lot of this [Eric Upchurch]
Run game: I don't know. Ty Isaac was all but out (he's credited for one carry I don't remember), so the Malzone team's tailback was Wyatt Shallman (12 carries, 22 yards) with spot duty from Ross Taylor-Douglas*. Shallman is more of an H-back in college and it showed.
Meanwhile, both Ace and I assumed that Derrick Green had been mostly held out with an injury of his own only to find out that he and De'Veon Smith apparently split carries down the middle. It's just that Green's 7 went for 8 yards and Smith's 7 went for 50.
Smith had a sequence early in the second half where he ran tough and his offense started getting some actual time on the field. That ended with a fumbled exchange, because of course it did. Smith never fumbled in high school and hasn't done so in college yet so that issue is probably a freshman-QB thing more than anything Smith did wrong.
If Michigan knew Isaac was going to be limited they should have swapped Green over to the Blue team to get a better feel for the competition between those guys. Either way it was a good day for Drake Johnson.
*[who has now completed his tour of all the positions you can play on a football field and can turn in his punch card for a free bag of Combos.]
The one good run. Cole gets a good push on Henry, Kugler seals away, RJS and AJ Williams battle to a stalemate, Cole gets to the second level, and Smith makes a nice out-in cut to put the other linebacker on the wrong side of the hole:
gif via Ace
If Michigan develops holes on the regular I think Smith has an advantage because his ability to grind out another two or three yards will be valuable in the Harbaughffense.
L to R: back, under threat, trying out [Bryan Fuller]
OL depth chart hints. Glasgow was back and playing center as if he had not violated his probation; the program said he'd gotten through whatever punishment the program had deployed for him. If he keeps his nose clean that should clear him to resume playing center this fall.
Meanwhile Michigan tried out Logan Tuley-Tillman as the left tackle on the blue team, bumping Ben Braden inside to guard. LTT picked up three legit holding calls; even so that implies that he's getting a serious look and Braden may move or lose his job. Erik Magnuson playing right tackle for the Maize team is another indication that the tackle jobs are not secure.
A scholarship guy who might be looking at some writing on the wall is Dan Samuelson, who was healthy enough to make the roster but IIRC did not play much, if at all. With a couple walk-ons seemingly ahead of them they might be down for the count. Bars (who I omitted from the rosters post by accident did play, at guard:
He is 62 next to Kugler [Fuller]
If you made me guess right now I'd say that Erik Magnuson is Michigan's starting right tackle this fall and that guard slot opened up by the various line shifts is the most heated competition out there. But that's firmly in wild guess territory.
Wide receivers: do we have a problem? There were a number of ugly drops, none more so than Jaron Dukes batting a ball in his facemask directly skyward for an interception. Morris zinged it with unnecessary force, yes. That's still a worst case scenario for a receiver. Dukes had another sorta drop later and doesn't seem like he'll be pushing past the established guys this year.
Elsewhere: Darboh had a drop and a fade wrested away from him but recovered late to be the Blue team offense. Going up against Dennis Norfleet significantly compromises that accomplishment, especially since most of the plays were "throw it over that guy's head," but Darboh did display strong hands and an ability to track the ball in flight in a difficult situation. Some people can do that (Junior Hemingway), and some cannot (Darryl Stonum). Darboh is in the former category. Can he get separation from the likes of Jourdan Lewis? I don't know—one downside of this format.
Receivers other than Dukes and Darboh were playing with Malzone and barely got targeted on anything notable. This year's spring hype machine, Brian Cole, was not a factor until deep into the second half; Freddy Canteen made a couple of nice catches on balls outside the frame of his body. There was not a whole lot else to talk about.
There was a notable lack of separation for receivers going up against actual defensive backs. That could be bad; it could be an indicator that the secondary is going to be as lights out as we all hope. As per usual, we'll find out abruptly in fall.
Poor Damn Norfleet. In the aftermath Harbaugh talked Norfleet up as a guy who could contribute in all three phases. Nope. The act of moving a guy his size to cornerback is waving a white flag on his career.
I mean… maybe not. Harbaugh is weird and one of the specific ways in which he is weird is his predilection for flipping guys from one side of the ball to the other. This could be a Harbaugh whim that doesn't mean much about playing time down the line. But it probably means that Norfleet is kaput. We'll always have that
punt return touchdown to seal the Maryland game inane irrelevant block in the back by someone far away from you.
BEARD. This is not Elliott, right? This is some other spectacular beard just hanging out on the sideline?
This is one Brady Hoke tradition I'm glad we're keeping.
Tips? Hesitant about getting bombed on the message board? Email me.
The Harbaugh era seems considerably less paranoid than the previous regime. Practice reports are coming in from a lot more sources than they used to; no doubt this is partially because excitement sees a lot more people on the sideline. I do hear that they're less concerned about "X looks good, tempo is fast" reports getting out.
Tempo is fast, by the way. Harbaugh has brought a high-rep style to practices in an effort to get everything he can out of every countable hour. It is not exactly Oregon hyper-speed where all coaching is done after, in film. It's a lot closer to that than the Hoke-era practices were. A recruit's parent took in a practice and posted about it to a Facebook group, and his impressions match some others I've been sent:
1. Tempo of practice and the philosophy. Very different from last year. 2 sets of scrimmages per field. A play is being ran an avg of 25 to 35 secs. If they went two groups, they would alternate but each group ran a play every 25secs. So ... Coaches saw 2 plays every 30 secs. Ton of reps. Very different from last year. Coaches are coaching very quick between plays. Emphasis on getting the reps in during practice and correcting mistakes in film. Practice was very similar to how Saban runs his practices.
2. There really is competition at EVERYTHING. I saw several of these "competitions." A couple examples ... QBs did a "fastest release/ball speed" comp. On command, they had to throw a bullet pass 20yds. Malzone looked good. Several races took place today as well but most know about those.
Those were vintage 1990s; these are a lot closer to modern speeds. Michigan is running multiple reps at a time on opposite ends of the field with first and second teams.
(Aside: I can't help but draw a line between Hoke's deliberate practice pace and his program's inability to operate at any other speed.)
Practices have also been extremely long. How one practice can be longer than another when NCAA maximums are mandated for everyone is unclear; possible that Hoke was spending some of his countable hours in other ways? That seems highly improbable, but so do Michigan's results the past couple years.
Harbaugh bein' Harbaugh
When practice was over Harbaugh brought the team around him and awarded the day to the defense. As a reward he told them they had to run while the offense watched because “here, the winners are the ones that earn the opportunity to get better.”
Quarterback Battle Royale
Whether it's the WWE kind or the Quentin-Tarantino-porn that is way better than the Hunger Games, what Michigan has on its hands qualifies as such. Jedd Fisch was carefully neutral during his press conference yesterday, as coaches are. He asserted that everyone was even and getting even reps, as coaches do.
But allow your author to read into things some. Fisch on Malzone:
"He's got a lot going on. But he's handled it unbelievably well. He's unbelievable in terms of his ability to not let things bother him. To be consistent and play the game. If a play doesn't go right, he's right back in there for the next one. A short-term memory is phenomenal for a quarterback."
Wilton is a very large man, he's a big guy (at 6-foot-6). He can see everything. He's a pretty good athlete and he throws the ball well. He doesn't seem to have had a ton of experience.
"Shane has a very strong arm, as everybody knows, he spins it well and he just has to understand that, really, that's not the most important thing. If you have a really strong arm, then you have a really strong arm. That's what you have. Now, it's a matter of 'what can you do with it?' How do you utilize it? His skill set and his arm strength are tremendous and he's very comfortable. It's fun to watch him in the huddle, he has a really good command of what we're asking him to do."
The tweets that captured small sections of the fuller quotes came off more negative towards Morris, highlighting "unbelievable" for Malzone and "throw it at the person" for Morris. It was more neutral than that. Via Maize and Blue News:
Even so, the overall vibe from that presser seemed to confirm reports floating around at Scout, Rivals, and in my inbox: there's considerable debate about who looks better between Malzone and Speight… and there ends the debate. Scout's observers tend to like Malzone. Rivals's like Speight. Malzone is reportedly adjusting to the size of the players in front of him; Speight doesn't have that issue and is a year ahead of Malzone in terms of college prep.
Early days obviously, but it feels like the QB race is two horses with Morris lagging behind. Gentry and maybe Rudock are yet to enter.
Tailback Battle Royale
See above in re: term. Tyrone Wheatley has a lot of options here and is doing a lot of correcting in drills. Will be interesting to see if there's a performance differential there. The latest practice video from the department features Wheatley heavily if you'd like to hear him talk some.
Most of these guys look like they've looked. Johnson's out; Smith may be a hair faster; it's tough to tell if Green's vision problems are any better in this context. (Most people observing practice do so from the sideline, where holes are not always visible.)
There is the new guy, of course. Ty Isaac is "huge" and "could be a linebacker." He injured a finger somewhat badly in one practice but shrugged it off to continue with drills. This undoubtedly earned him some Harbaugh toughness brownie points. (He did sit out some on subsequent days.)
Chase Winovich is at least practicing there…
Rt when you see it pic.twitter.com/1FfBEqacoI
— Chase Winovich (@CCWino58) March 11, 2015
…and while Harbaugh seemed pretty dismissive about supposed position moves earlier this spring, they are looking at him there. When I fretted that this didn't make a lot of sense given the seeming surplus at H-back, Ace reminded me that Harbaugh switched guys around like mad at Stanford. Doug Baldwin played both ways; Owen Marecic played both ways. Harbaugh loves to experiment, and when he finds a Football Player that guy tends to Play A Lot Of Football. Possibly the same dynamic here.
Because man does Michigan need something above and beyond Butt/Bunting/Hill/Shallman/Houma? And Pallante? And apparently Henry Poggi?
Is it possible Winovich is getting a legit look at tailback? I doubt it but it's not like Michigan's not looking for options there.
It seems clear that Michigan has a relatively set front seven with a lot of depth at three-tech and some at linebacker. So they're taking the opportunity to test out anyone who may be an effective manballer.
FWIW, Ian Bunting looks promising but could still use some more weight on his frame if he's going to be a true dual-threat at the TE spot. When asked to catch the ball he looks "terrific," with the kind of wingspan that will remind you of Funchess "plus a couple inches." Hands are reputed to be excellent. Sam cited him as a potential breakout player.
Sione Houma has been held out with an injury, FWIW.
Receiver Battle… somewhat Royale
Drake Harris exists! He is full go in practice after like two straight years of hamstring doom. Reports alternate between impressive play and extreme skinniness. I believe both; this year will likely be a learning/glaring at hamstring owlishly/getting bigger campaign for him. 247:
There's no doubt about one thing: Harris is going to have to gain some weight in the next six months if he wants to see the field this season. However, the early impressions of him are twofold. One, he's finally 100% healthy and is a full-go at wide receiver. Two, he's been very impressive off the edge and has been a favorite target for a couple of the quarterbacks in early drills.
Harris was kind of a big deal before his leg acted up on him, remember. He was a top-50 prospect who Michigan had to fend off Alabama for after a 2,000 yard junior season.
Other reports are so scattered it's tough to draw conclusions from them. There are a lot of receivers, there are a lot of reps, an observer can easily sink into confirmation bias. At various time's I've heard good things about Ways, Chesson, Norfleet, and Bunting. Darboh's been absent so far and Canteen may still be too small to get off jams; I wouldn't read a whole lot into the former since Darboh is a known quantity.
OL Somewhat Settled(?) Royale
There's significant rotation along the offensive line, as you might expect. Other than the returning starters the biggest threats for playing time are Patrick Kugler, David Dawson, and Logan Tuley-Tillman. Miller and Braden are the returning starters under the most threat.
It is impossible to tell anything about these guys yet, as this is the point in the year when they're at the greatest disadvantage. Having eight real options is excellent, at least.
Chris Fox is still injured. You may remember that he came in after suffering a severe knee injury in his senior year of high school, ballooned up into the 350 range, and hasn't been talked about much subsequently. At least early this spring he was still on crutches. We are rapidly approaching the point where a medical scholarship is the most likely outcome.
News bullets and important items:
Ondre Pipkins should be back this week. Sounds like he was injured last week.
The coaches want the running game to be filtered through the running backs because they don’t want the quarterback to get hurt
Maurice Ways and Chase Winovich are two younger guys who have garnered attention from the coaches
Mo Hurst was a running back in high school and has good vision; hence his use in goal line situations
Jabrill Peppers is not out for the season
“Thanks for coming out today. Yesterday, again, the consistency of having good practices continued. They went out and it was spirited. It was tough. Obviously they want to win. They want to play better. They want to compete better, and I think they’ve done that throughout so that’s been focusing on improving at each position and what we can do to play better, coach better, the whole deal. You know Penn State has a very good defense. Very salty, very good defensive front. I think Hackenberg is as talented as a quarterback as you’re going to find. I remember talking to Bill O’Brien about him and I know what Bill thinks of him as a quarterback and I can tell you we share those sentiments. We’re excited to get back out on Saturday. I think that’s the great part about football; you get another opportunity. We’ve got to take advantage of it. It’ll be a historic night, obviously, with the first Big Ten night game in Michigan Stadium. The atmosphere the night games have created the last two years have been something that has been very exciting for our players, so we’re excited about that.”
Coach, Ondre Pipkins didn’t travel with you. Where is he in the mix on the defensive side?
“He’ll be back with us this week.”
So you’re not talking about injuries, but-
With the running backs, do you move [Ross] Douglas back there or do you do anything else to get more depth, because you were kind of thin there anyway?
“You know, Ross is playing a little bit of the slot. He’s helping us there a little bit. Haven’t moved him full-time back. The good thing is he’s had some snaps there but right now we feel pretty confident with DeVeon and Justice and Drake Johnson. In some personnel and situation things Joe Kerridge being back there is a possibility.”
Is Wyatt Shallman playing there?
“Well, he- a little bit, yeah. He does some things for us.”
We’ve talked about this all the years with Denard and now Devin but the balance between letting them run, which was obviously successful the other day, and then now the injury factor; how do you balance that?
“Well, I think with two good athletes like that who from an instinctive point of view maybe run the ball a little bit more than you want depending on what they see down the field in those passing situations, but I think there is a balance. I think we would like to keep creating the runs from the tailback position as much as possible so that we don’t have to put him in harm’s way.”
How much of it is Devin initiating it and how much of it is directed from Doug [Nussmeier]?
“Well, I think he initiates some of it. He has a feel for it, and instinct for it but obviously there were some designed runs that were in there.”
[After THE JUMP: Get out your Ouija board, because we’re (barely) talking injuries]
|Jefferson Hills, PA - 6'4", 215|
Winovich is already Adam Jacboi's least favorite player
|Scout||4*, #281 overall
4*, NR overall
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#48 OLB, #13 PA
|24/7||4*, NR overall
#25 OLB, #7 PA
|Other Suitors||OSU, Pitt, MSU, Stanford, FSU, Miami, Oregon, VT|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
Eighty yard touchdown run on third and 25:
Senior year stuff is on HUDL.
It was pretty easy to project Chase Winovich's future until a few months ago. Winovich comes with the violent upfield acceleration that Jake Ryan does, so redshirt him, pack some pounds on him, and unleash once properly marinated to be Ryan 2.0.
Then Ryan got moved to MLB and Michigan decided they were going to be more of an over outfit and things got murky. Winovich is tall and fast and has played his share of high school MLB, so the obvious thing is to do the bit in the previous paragraph and hope it all works out. And it might. It's just less obvious that it will.
Nonetheless, Winovich has a number of arrows pointing in the right direction. He chose Michigan in a heated battle with OSU and had a smattering of other A-level offers. After he committed he had an outstanding two-way senior season that saw three of the four services offer up a fourth star to him.
Let's see what we've won. Scout's Brian Dohn:
He runs like a receiver and is flexible. He has a very good feel for the game, anticipates well, has speed and burst and plays a physical style. … explosion in two or three steps is outstanding. He closes quickly and gets to the quarterback to make the play.
…patient as he watches the play develop. There is no guessing on what is happening. When it sees it, he plants his left foot in the ground and explodes to the right to make a tackle and shut down what looked like a big running lane.
…instinctive first step and blows plays up before they even happen. Winovich plays with outstanding aggression and is very explosive. He has excellent speed and can make plays from sideline to sideline. Winovich has enough speed to chase down running backs far down field. He does a nice job of using his hands to shed blockers and scraping to get to the ball carrier…. a force coming off the edge as an outside linebacker and can really close on the quarterback. … great fit as an outside linebacker in college, where Michigan is recruiting him at.
"He's an all-out kid that's always playing at full speed, he's big, he can run, he just finds the ball and closes. He's a guy who is going to do whatever it takes to win, whatever he has to do. He's all about winning.
"We had him play on special teams, he played running back, he played quarterback -- whatever he asked him to do, he did it."
"A great family, wonderful family. Chase is going to remind a lot of people of Jake Ryan. Fun-loving, great to be around, great smile, great teammate."
Alright then. I concur; watching Winovich's tape was like seeing skinny Jake Ryan ripping around.
So that's the vertical attacking bit. How much he gets to do that is unknown; Michigan could flip back to an under next year; he could maybe get large enough to play nickel DE; etc. If he does end up on the interior long term, middle linebacker is something that he is at least a decent fit for. Multiple scouting reports praise his sideline-to-sideline range, coverage potential and tackling…
- Brewster: excellent pursuit speed and angles, as well as being able to drop into coverage and get in passing lanes. Winovich runs through ball-carriers instead of catching or meeting them.
- Kyle Bogenschutz: Winovich's athleticism and ability to run sideline to sideline stands out. In 1-on-1's, Winovich ran step for step with a wide receiver down the sideline and into the corner of the endzone before making a leaping and juggling one handed interception,
Finally, his ability to pick through traffic is also an oft-repeated asset. ESPN:
Maintains good leverage on the ball and isn't fooled by misdirection. Although he needs to become a more physical take-on guy, his quick hands allow him to shed and get off blocks. Demonstrates the quickness, balance and agility needed to avoid blockers and make plays in tight spaces. Moves through traffic very well, showing excellent sideline-to-sideline range.
… changes direction well and has very good feet, which allows him to navigate through congestion and avoid blocks. … Winovich shows his ability to run to the sideline and make the play. Again, he tracks it well and gets to the ball carrier quickly. He is also able to get through the traffic to make a tough play look simple and natural.
The MLB thing is actually rather plausible as long as he gets big and can shed guards.
Negatives are not mentioned much; when they are it is the obvious thing: he is 215 pounds. Brewster also mentions that he could "do a better job of getting his pad level down to take on contact" as a 6'4" LB, which is also something that shows up on film. Winovich tackles a lot of guys high. In HS this allows him to run through guys and flex afterwards; against guys his weight but squatter it might not work out so well. ESPN also mentions that he's inexperienced in coverage.
If you're thinking all this sounds pretty good for a guy who didn't crack anyone's top 250, well… yeah. The OSU battle even though OSU was already in possession of a couple of OLB types is also another positive sign. Even though Winovich got bumped by the recruiting sites out of sleeper of the year territory, it seems like he's still underrated.
As far as next year goes, a redshirt seems certain. Bogenschutz reported that Winovich was down to 208 by the time the O-D Bowl came around. That is well short of what he'd need to see the field at 6'4" even if he was at SAM, or WILL, or whatever the light, tight-end-tracking linebacker is going to be this year. Winovich doesn't appear to be the kind of guy who demands/asks to be on the field immediately; he told Nick Baumgardner that "my goal isn't necessarily to play as early as I can, it's to be the best player and contributor I can be for Michigan."
Etc.: Man, you could do a lot with high schools named these things:
The Thomas Jefferson football team shut down rival Elizabeth Forward last week in a sterling defensive performance.
"NOT SO FAST, FORWARD" SAYS JEFFERSON
ELIZABETH LEAVES THOMAS JEFFERSON ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD WITHOUT A CAR OR A GIRLFRIEND NOT THAT I'M BITTER THAT HAPPENED TO ME, THE HEADLINE WRITER
Also from that article, we may have a replacement for Jordan Morgan as far as trolling goes:
Q: Given the pre-game hype, do you consider the 42-0 win against Elizabeth Forward as a statement game for the TJ football team?
A: I think our true statement will come once we win the WPIAL championship, but beating Elizabeth Forward is simply a tradition to us at this point.
"I had Ohio State jerseys, I had Ohio State buckeyes in my room, I had the Ohio State flag in my room," Winovich recalls. "I even had an Ohio State-themed credit card."
Why Jake Ryan? Same frame, same five-yard explosion that makes Ryan so adept at finishing plays in the backfield. Ryan was bigger coming out of high school; Winovich sounds like he's less of a wildman—for both good and bad. Ryan was a true sleeper, but obviously an underrated player.
Guru Reliability: High-ish. Healthy, played for PA powerhouse, little projection in terms of position. Some disagreement, though an understandable one since ESPN is way more fire-and-forget with their rankings than others.
Variance: Moderate-plus. Has to add a lot of weight, and there is some positional uncertainty.
Ceiling: High. Small area burst like that is very appealing. If he works out can be the sort of LB who racks up 15-20 TFLs and gets confetti thrown at him in postseason awards and whatnot.
General Excitement Level: High. Variance is variable. But dat burst yo.
Projection: As mentioned above, redshirt should be a lock. Afterwards it depends on whether Michigan sticks with the over or goes back; if they go back he is a natural fit at SAM and will contribute immediately, fighting with McCray and lighter guys to start. The over is trickier; he'd probably be at WLB in that setup, as Bolden/Ferns/Gedeon are a bit shorter and stouter. That would allow Michigan to flip their setup, as well.
So it's a bit fuzzy. Winovich is likely to find some sort of role because of his ability to go from point A to point B in a flash.
Schembechler Hall will be buzzing all morning as National Letter’s of Intent arrive in the football offices via fax machine. Team 135 plans to add nine new members as the remaining verbal commits make it official and put pen to paper.
We checked in with each of them last night:
CB Jabrill Peppers – Paramus Catholic High School – Paramus, NJ
With coaches trying to persuade Peppers away from the Wolverines into the eve of National Signing Day I wasn’t surprised that Jabrill didn’t respond to me, but I think his tweet was enough to put Wolverine fans at ease about his final decision.
Y'all know what I say!! #GoBlizzyBlueManeeee
— Breez (@JabrillPeppers) February 5, 2014
Paramus Catholic is closed due to heavy snowfall but according to TomVH, Jabrill plans to sign his letter of intent anyway with the actual celebratory ceremony being moved to Thursday.
DE Lawrence Marshall – Southfield High School – Southfield, MI
Marshall’s recruitment was one of the more eventful processes in the class with an initial commitment to the Buckeyes followed by a decommitment and then a presumed new commitment to Michigan State which never happened, only to actually wind up a Wolverine.
Marshall had a simple yet heartfelt message about tomorrow, “Man, I just can’t wait to be a Wolverine.” Marshall will sign his letter of intent at Southfield High School at 9:30 a.m., followed by a 3 o’clock interview with Sam Webb, and finally another commitment ceremony at 6 p.m.
LB Chase Winovich – Thomas Jefferson High School – Clairton, PA
Long thought to be a Buckeye lean, Winovich decided to pledge to the Wolverines on the first day of June last summer. Last night Winovich sent some people into a frenzy when he cryptically tweeted, “Decisions, decisions, decisions.”
I asked Chase about that and he said with a laugh, “That was just to rouse everyone out. Figured I’d have some fun with a situation that is obviously very serious.” He confirmed that he was all Michigan shortly after that. “Just need to let the committee of sleep do the rest of the shoring up tonight.” Winovich is a different kind of cat and his comments didn’t change that perception.
TE Ian Bunting – Hinsdale Central High School – Hinsdale, IL
A lot of people are enamored with a 6’7” tight end who played mostly wide receiver in high school. Ian Bunting is just that and will be another big target for future Michigan quarterbacks to throw to. Ian could barely contain his excitement about tomorrow.
“I can’t wait! Today went by really slowly. I’m excited to start this new chapter and I’m proud to be a part of the Michigan family and Team 135.”
Bunting will sign his letter of intent at 7:15 a.m. and the plan is to fax them immediately after. Once the paperwork is done Bunting knows that he’s still several months away from being in Ann Arbor. “I plan to do a lot of lifting and yoga. I’m going to start lifting a lot once basketball is over and doing a lot of yoga to get in tip-top shape. Other than that, I’m just going to enjoy the rest of my senior year with all of my friends and family.”
OL Juwann Bushell-Beatty – Paramus Catholic High School – Paramus, NJ
While maybe not as famous as his Paramus teammate Jabrill Peppers, Juwann Bushell-Beatty reeled in some very solid offers before committing to Michigan almost a year ago. JBB expressed his readiness for National Signing Day.
“I’m excited! It’s been almost a year now waiting for this day. Being able to finally solidify this is going to be great. It just motivates me more to be great.” Juwann was actually the one who told me of Paramus being out of school due to the snowstorm and the rescheduling of his signing ceremony. Even with school being cancelled Juwann plans to sign his letter early and get it sent in around 8 or 9.
WR Moe Ways – Detroit Country Day School – Franklin, MI
Out of all of the prospects I’ve ever talked to, Moe Ways might’ve been the one who seemed to want to be a Michigan Man more than anyone else. He reinforced that notion when I asked him about signing his letter. “Man I’m just so blessed and excited to make everything official and officially become a Michigan Man and Wolverine.” Moe will sign his letter around noon and then will celebrate the rest of the day with his family.
LB Noah Furbush – Kenton High School – Kenton, OH
Furbush is one of the very few recruits I’ve never had any actual contact with. He has managed to stay under the radar and out of the spotlight throughout his entire recruitment and even when he committed there weren’t many fireworks involved. He comes in at almost 250 lbs. and people who have seen him play in person and know his body type suspect he’ll play with his hand in the dirt at some point in college.
S Jared Wangler – De La Salle Collegiate – Warren, MI
Son of legendary Michigan quarterback Johnny Wangler, Jared Wangler was once committed to Penn State but once the Wolverines came a’callin’ it was inevitable that he’d be part of this class. As you’d expect his final decision is one that holds a special place in his heart for obvious reasons. “It’s an indescribable feeling. It’s been my dream since I was a little kid. I’m excited to officially become a Michigan Wolverine.”
Wangler actually has a busy morning scheduled before his letter will be signed. He’s got a 5 a.m. wake-up planned in order to play in his intramural basketball game at 6 a.m. at DLS. After hoopin’ he’ll head home to clean up and prepare for his 9 a.m. signing ceremony. I asked Jared if anything noteworthy happened during his recruitment from other coaching staffs and he had a rather interesting reply. “It was pretty funny that Bill O’Brien swore to me that he’d be at Penn State for all of my four years.” Yeah…about that.
DT Brady Pallante – Barron Collier High School – Naples, FL
Not everyone was a fan of the Brady Pallante commitment, but when a guy is almost a clone size and story-wise of Mike Martin, I’d say let’s at least give him a chance first. Given the fact that Pallante was first thought of as a greyshirt commit, his emotion toward tomorrow was easily detected. “I’m truly blessed to have this opportunity. Not many people can say they’re going to college on a full ride. Honestly, I’m still amazed at the opportunity I was given.” Pallante will sign his letter first thing in the morning and plans to have it faxed by 7:30 a.m.
Of course the elephant in the room is the decision of DL Malik McDowell. I personally don’t think he’s choosing Michigan and I haven’t in a long time. It’s been made pretty clear that Malik himself wants to go to Michigan State, but his parents don’t want him in East Lansing. Does that mean they’ll keep him in-state and he’ll go Blue? I don’t think so, but I honestly don’t know. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised by him choosing any of his four finalists. McDowell will be a Wolverine, a Spartan, a Seminole, or a Buckeye and at this point your guess is as good as anyone’s.
Finally, will there be any Norfleet-like surprises on signing day this year? I haven’t heard anything but when I asked that exact question to one of the coaches, he replied with “You never know.” Coach speak? Really not knowing? Hoping? We shall see.
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.]