...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
♪ Well a whole season played with the first string guy is usually quite lucky.
And a squad who plays with the second team out can be anything but fussy.
But a team whose seen an important guy down—head concussed, knee on the ground!
If they ain't got depth around, then all goes to poopie.
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but depth is hard to get!
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but we can get there yet! /♫
This is a continuation from last week when I went through the expected offensive depth chart and tried to predict what would happen—what's the dropoff? how do we react?—if each starter is injured for an extended time. Now, I'm not here trying to roll into town and stir up trouble, see? I'm a purveyor of portents and hedger of predictions only. What I seek to do is prepare us for any one of these dings, so that if one occurs we can say something intelligent like "it hurts to lose Roh but Black is probably the less replaceable!"
Why not all defense? Things slow down from here because the defense has a lot of intermeshing parts, and because there actually is depth in places to speak of.
Mattison's er Michigan's defense has been characterized by interchangeable positions but really each spot is more of a sliding scale from NT to field corner where each one overlaps the things on either side of it. The listed spring/recruiting weights play this out (click e-bigitates):
Quickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.
Nose Tackle (Avengers)
Geeks / O. Ryan Hussain|TheWolverine / 247 Sports
In case of emergency: I'll be honest; this one is impossible to call straight. The 4-3 under is like the 3-4 in that it leans on the nose to suck up double teams and create mismatches elsewhere. The ideal is a superhero, and for the last few years we've had one of the best (by Ghost of Bo).
Hulk is gone but the franchise must go on, and for now that means we are 100% committed to making Thor work.
If the old 5-star takes up the hammer he's the pivot point of a great defense. If he doesn't then one of two mystery men could be anything from serviceable to disasters, and most things in between.
The upside on all three of Michigan's nose tackles is mighty. Weirdly, we think we know more about the true freshman, Ondre Pipkins, than the redshirt sophomore. Pipkins was a 4 or 5 star whose huge, squat, Tongan frame and jovial, Hoke-impersonating character made him and Michigan's need for nose tackle a cosmic destiny. If he's got the goods we'll see Pipkins early in spells of Campbell. True freshmen (Martin, Gabe Watson) of his caliber have fared well enough in rotational duty. The later this season goes, the more comfortable you can feel about Pipkins when he's called upon. Caveat: until he's called upon you have no idea if he can hack it, and for every huge dude you can name who could play right away (Marcus Thomas, Suh, Ngata, [sigh] Johnathan Hankins, DeQuinta Jones) there's 30 who need to spend a year as Ben Grimm before being The Thing. /metaphor used up.
In case of dire emergency: …break glass on Richard Ash. Nobody knows on this guy, who was recruited by Rodriguez as the last Pahokeeian project for Barwis to tear down and rebuild. The tear-down went unnoticed through 2010 and '11 and we caught a glimpse of possible rebuild when, 20 lbs. svelter, he made a few plays nice in the backfield. Ash could be anything from ahead of Pipkins to Adam Patterson. If that's where we are I could see Quinton Washington sliding down.
Rush Tackle (3-Tech)
Right: Dell Callihan|UMGoBlog
In case of emergency: The coaches have made it clear that Jibreel Black can play, and moving him two slots down the size/speed slide chart of defensive positions means they want him on the field, and that they want 5-tech-ish skills at the 3-tech. This being a swing position means the backups could be different things.
Quinton Washington is a big dude who was an offensive guard until he and Will Campbell were swapped for each other in that experiment. He still looks like a guard, and has yet show much at tackle besides easily dismissible coach hokum right after the move in 2010 so it wouldn't look like Rodriguez was throwing substances at surfaces to see what sticks.
Q stuck although the OL he left is now about as leaky as the DL he came to save. That the coaches moved Roh and Black down the line tells you something about their faith that Washington is ready, and going into his redshirt junior year that might mean he'll never be. He's seen time on goal line situations and is likely to again. Early in the year I wouldn't be surprised if he or Ash—whichever wins—is backing up both interior line spots, and that later on we see some Pipkins and Campbell together time.
In case of dire emergency: Ken Wilkins has been absent enough from chatter that people email me asking if he's still on team. Yes he is on the damn team, and he's still just a RS sophomore, but yeah, there's room for true freshmen on the three deep. Those two seem to be Godin and Henry, the lesser heralded of the heralded class, both of whom would benefit from redshirts. Henry is the larger. Chris Wormley, whom I rate at 5-tech, seems a more likely backup.
Strongside End (5-Tech)
In case of emergency: Craig Roh has to be the hardest four-year starter to project in history, thanks to many different careers as too-small WDE in a 4-3, a miscast OLB in the 3-3-5, then as the edge rushing WDE in Mattison's 4-3 under. Now he moves to RVB's old spot.
The backup here is almost assuredly Nate Brink, whom the coaches love but the fans hardly know because he's been hurt (he missed Spring because of it). When the coaches talk about the one-time walk-on they make sure to hit all of the Ecksteinian points: "coachable", "hard worker", "toughness", "great technique", "great motor." To that I might add he's 6'5 and 263, which is normal for the position. He's not Heininger (who as a sophomore backed up Brandon Graham), except in that he's some of the things you wrongly thought about Heininger. Then again I remember Brady Hoke making all sorts of guys into effect tech linemen.
If you'd rather see stars, Keith Heitzman is your guy. The beneficiary of the spring time Brink missed, the redshirt fresham was rated higher at tight end out of high school yet apparently good enough at SDE that the coaches moved Jordan Paskorz instead of him. Either this was a promise made at the time of his last-minute recruitment—likely since Tim reacted strongly when I say him and the TE depth chart together—or an endorsement by Hoke that he can play, or both. Best guess is it's both.
In case of dire emergency: Any of the freshmen linemen but Pipkins and Ojemudia are ready built for 5-tech. Of these Chris Wormley was a longtime high school star, which tells me he is probably physically ahead of the other guys right now. Tom Strobel is the other proto-RVB here. One day I expect we'll see the two of them playing next to each other at 3- and 5- respectively.
Backups: Mario Ojemudia ???, plus 5-techs
In case of emergency: Well if one goes down the other starts. Following a trend, both Clark and Beyer were OLBs last season, while this spot was rotated between Black and Roh. Though technically a unit change, the job they did last year—outside rusher—and what they'll be called on to do this year are not all that dissimilar. It speaks well to both that they played as true freshmen ahead of once-touted Cam Gordon. Read less into that, since Gordon was hurt to give them the opening and their skillsets are different from his.
They're also different from each other. Beyer was the more highly regarded and will get called "solid" more often because he's less eventful than Clark. Clark has the greater athleticism (see: interception in Sugar Bowl) though has been convicted of multiple accounts of giving up the edge, a freshman mistake repeated in spring. The rest of the D-line by design is meant to free these guys up for sacks, thus I see both rotating. If one goes down we lose the rotation.
The only other designated WDE is freshman Ojemudia, who is about 200 lbs. right now and would be 2009 Craig Roh'ed by most of the OTs and TEs on our schedule. Far more likely, in the event we lose one of the sophomores, we'll see one of the 5-techs or SLBs move in before the shirt is lifted from Mario. Craig Roh has played WDE more than any other spot, and Brink has the coaches' trust to fill in at 5-tech.
In case of dire emergency: Packaging still covers but there's Ojemudia if you need him. Packaging means in pass situations you just put Jake Ryan here and have Cam Gordon or Brandin Hawthorne or a nickel corner come in; otherwise go "big" (for a certain definition of such) with Roh back to wide and whichever backup DT/SDE in the game instead.
Elvis says: don't do drugs. Because you'll totally overthrow Desmond Howard if you do.
One offs FTW. That Colorado game has no return date scheduled according to CU's official site:
Colorado and Michigan will renew their short but exciting rivalry with a single game in Ann Arbor on Sept. 17, 2016. While not officially part of the Pac-12/Big Ten schedule series set to commence in 2017, it will mark the fifth time the schools will play, the first since 1997.
And neither does the Oregon State official site mention a return game:
The Oregon State University football team will travel to the University of Michigan to play during the 2015 season, Beaver Director of Athletics Bob De Carolis announced Wednesday. …
“This is an exciting opportunity for our student-athletes, staff and fans to visit not only one of the great venues in college football but all of sports,” De Carolis said. “But make no mistake, we will make this trip with the goal of winning a football game.”
So… that ND gap can be filled by a marquee opponent instead of road games against middling to not so good Pac-12 teams. Take a picture: GOOD JOB DAVE BRANDON WOOO! Also good job Bill Martin for having luxury suites that make it important to not have home schedules like this year.
Now, about canceling the Horror II and pretending that never happened…
Notre Dame hiatus just that. Whenever Michigan and Notre Dame take a break in their series there's a small cadre of folks suspicious that it's a front for an end to the whole thing. This does not appear to be the case, tinfoil hat folk. From the Tribune:
"This was either in place when I got here or it was a request that came shortly after I got here," Swarbrick said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I didn't even know it wasn't known, frankly. It had been cooked into our scheduling model for at least three years.
"I don’t think somehow (Michigan athletic director) Dave (Brandon) had been informed when he came aboard. When he called and we started talking about dates, I said, 'You know Dave, we had this bye built in and I scheduled games.' He was great. We just made it work.
"We're going to keep playing each other. It's important to both schools. This initiated with a request from up there years ago, and we said OK."
Since this is Notre Dame there is the slight but real chance Swarbrick means "heaven" by "up there." In any case, ND is coming back after the break. On the schedule. Not to the realm of teams that win a lot of football games.
And then he gave you the finger guns. Brandon on the ND hole:
But what does Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon intend to do with those two open dates on the schedule?
"Stay tuned," he told AnnArbor.com by phone on Wednesday.
You're too small. This is something that is true about Chris Wormley and Tom Strobel despite being people of this size:
Football is weird.
BONUS: Well done, photobomber who must be Wormley's younger brother or something.
ZomBCS lurches on, makes more sense. There will remain some semblance of the red carpet bowl tier that fans have gotten used to over the past decade or so, as Stewart Mandel reports that the as yet undefined selection committee will also hand-craft the four bowls that are super special but not hosting playoff semifinals. The top twelve get in, no exceptions—you're still not in the top 12, Michigan State, go away—and there will be some restrictions due to Rose/"Champions" bowl business. As a bonus, they've also decided to un-screw the bowl schedule by playing all six of the red carpet bowls on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
That's good. Less good is that the selection committee will start issuing a top 20 at midseason:
"We didn't want the top four teams to just come out of the blue at the end of the season," Swarbrick said.
This is to provide some transparency, I guess, but if they are prioritizing conference champs that's data you don't get until the season's over, making the previous polls a pointless exercise. I'd rather do away with the whole poll mentality in case some of the dumb from previous systems leaks into the new one.
Budget bits. Michigan's released its 2012 athletic department budget, which is the usual: about 10-12 million in the black with 4-5 of that set aside for a capital reinvestment fund. Things that jump out:
- Michigan is budgeting $2.4 million for "hosting, food, and special events" in the 2013 FY, a threefold increase on FY12. Alabama game effect?
- Premium seating is sold out for football and "essentially sold out" for basketball. Someone high five Brady Hoke and John Beilein.
- Despite having two fewer football games, "spectator admissions" are projected to drop only slightly, from 43 million to 39 million. Ticket price increase is a part of that and they must be including their 4.7 million from the Alabama game in that item.
- They made $3.9 million more than they expected last year.
More OHL rumblings. It's the incredibly annoying part of the year where OHL teams try to swoop in on committed players just for the hell of it. Plymouth traded for incoming defenseman Connor Carrick's rights, and then signed him. (Apparently. I can't find anything other than the link-free MHN article.)
Carrick committed to Michigan as a sophomore in high school and as a small defenseman who was a mid-round draft pick he's the archetypical guy who should play in college, so the only way this makes any sense at all is if Carrick was concerned about playing time. Michigan does return six guys who had a regular-ish shift last year and adds Trouba. But this isn't John Gibson bugging out at the idea of backing up Hunwick—Carrick only has to beat out one of Chiasson, Serville, or Clare to get PT. Stupid move for a guy who has about a 12% chance of playing 200 NHL games.
Meanwhile, an OHL source telling Matt Slovin that Jacob Trouba is 50/50 to be in Kitchener this fall is something to mention, but my initial reaction to that is eyerolling given anonymous OHL sources' tendency to play up their chances at everyone. Trouba has been more insistent that he'd be at Michigan than anyone save Jack Johnson. If he backs out that would be an all-timer. I need a sufficiently condescending youtube video to embed in these situations.
As far as Phil Di Giuseppe goes, Rivals' Michael Spath seems to be a little more optimistic as of yesterday's Inside the Fort post.
It doubles as a tombstone. The CCHA's final year will be commemorated by patches.
I'll be vaguely sad about the lost tradition until I see some good old fashioned CCHA reffing in November. Or remember Shawn Hunwick, second-team all-conference.
Mikulak killing it. Michigan's men's gymnastics Olympic hopeful is crushing the trials:
So much for the U.S. men's gymnastics team being a two-man show.
Sam Mikulak was impressive during the first day of the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials Thursday, threatening to break up the grip national champion John Orozco and Danell Leyva have on the role of top Americans heading into the London Olympics.
Looking as relaxed as if he was competing in a college dual meet for Michigan, the 2011 NCAA champion posted an all-around score of 91.80, the best on a day many of the other contenders to make the five-man Olympic team faltered.
Leyva moved past Orozco into first place in the overall standings, which combine scores from nationals and trials, but couldn't top Mikulak, at least for a couple of hours. Mikulak remained third in the overall standings but drew closer to the top two heading into the finals Saturday.
Mikulak was also interviewed by espnW. If he makes the team he is a lock to have an NBC equivalent of Tom Rinaldi narrate a sepia-toned profile, what with the broken legs == broken dreams angle.
Etc.: John Bacon on the recently departed Bob Chappius. The Ex-Peach Bowl wants to be the #6 bowl in this new rotation they've got going. Indianapolis, you're our only hope. TOC's Chris Vannini on Detroit FC. Shut up, I like it. UConn joins Hockey East, prompting BC blogs to advocate secession into a new six-team conference styled on the Big Ten. New BHGP podcast intro song.
Lloyd meets the peregrine falcon named after him, asks "why is that one not named Fielding?" He does not actually ask that.
Today's recruiting roundup recaps Shane Morris's Elite11 regional camp appearance, talks Ty Isaac (what else is new?), and goes over past and future visits.
Shane's Bad Day > Your Bad Day
Shane Morris attended the Dallas Elite11 regional camp last weekend, getting tips from guys like Trent Dilfer and Tony Romo while hoping to lock up one of the coveted invitations to the Elite11 finals. Review of Morris were mixed but mostly positive, and this clearly wasn't good enough for Michigan's quarterback commit, who told ESPN he needs to work on "everything" (also, any idea why Morris is randomly wearing stunner shades for the second throw in this clip?):
While Morris was disappointed to not earn the finals invitation (more quotes in a free ESPN article here), he'll get another crack in Columbus on May 4th, and he still flashed the ability that has made him a potential five-star. Rivals.com's Brian Perroni listed Morris at #5 among his top performers, noting arm strength as his biggest positive ($):
The Michigan pledge made his presence known early by coming in decked out in Wolverine gear. There was a lot of anticipation as people wanted to see the nation's No. 16 overall prospect in person after he traveled a long way to compete. A lefty, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Morris had the best velocity on his ball of any quarterback in attendance and made some very good deep throws as well. His accuracy was a bit off at times but nothing too concerning.
Scout's Greg Powers had a similar take, saying Morris had some great throws and not-so-great throws but "definitely [had] his wow moments," in turning in a "very solid showing" ($). Morris was disappointed, yes, but he also has very high standards for himself. That's by no means a bad thing.
Morris didn't provide the only recruiting action of the weekend, as Michigan hosted several prospects for unofficial visits. The top 2013 target on campus was Washington (DC) Gonzaga CB Devin Butler, who's in the midst of a long string of Midwest visits but took the time to tell 247 that Michigan "seemed like a great place to be as a football player, as a student and a young man" ($). Several Cass Tech targets spanning three classes also made the trip. '13 DT Kenton Gibbs caught up with Will Campbell and also said that Michigan's coaches want to see him at their summer camp before extending an offer ($). '14 LB William White was impressed by what he saw from the linebackers in spring drills ($), while '14 RB/DB Johnny Miggins and '15 QB Jayru Campbell also enjoyed the visit ($). '14 WR Damon Webb was also on campus along with several other Cass Tech players.
Isaac Watch, Future Visits, Etc.
Ty Isaac has returned from his trip to USC, the school that poses perhaps the biggest threat to Michigan in his recruitment, so it's time to read far too much into some post-trip quotes. They are... meh ($):
"There were really no set expectations, it was just a good visit," Isaac said. "It was nothing that I wasn't expecting. I got to see things and talk to coaches."
"I got to see things," is my new favorite non-answer from a recruit. It certainly doesn't sound like Isaac, who was accompanied by his father, was blown away by the trip. He says he's now going to "chill for awhile" before making any kind of decision about his future, and he's not tipping his hand, though he said his top schools "know who they are."
Phoenix (AZ) Brophy Prep WR Devon Allen is one of the top receivers on the board for Michigan, and his recent athletic exploits reveal a major reason why that is the case: Allen just broke a 32-year-old Arizona state record in the 110-meter hurdles, running a 13.62 to edge out the old mark by .07 seconds. He was also just three-hundreths of a second from breaking the 300-meter hurdles state record, as well. Allen starts his spring break next week, and he plans on taking a trip to the Midwest, where Michigan is one of several schools in the running for a visit ($).
One player taking a visit this weekend is Solon (OH) CB Darian Hicks, who already holds 11 offers but is hoping to add Michigan to the list when he comes to campus on Friday ($). Brookfield (WI) Central DE Chikwe Obasih will swing by Ann Arbor between April 12th and 14th—he'll also visit MSU and Illinois during those days, and hasn't set the order yet ($).
Two players have stated their intention to take one of their official visits to Ann Arbor. Petaluma (CA) Casa Grande ATH Elijah Qualls—at 6'5", 265 lbs., likely a DT/SDE recruit for Michigan—is one, having built a strong relationship with coach Dan Ferrigno ($). The other is Dadeville (AL) DT Rod Crayton, whose coach says Michigan "might be recruiting Rod the hardest out of anyone" ($). Crayton plans to take a second unofficial visit for a game this fall, then use an official visit after his season.
Happy trails to two offensive linemen, Colin McGovern and Hunter Bivin, who both committed to Notre Dame over the weekend. Both held Michigan offers but were told, like all uncommitted OL, that the Wolverines are full along the O-line.
Quickly: Taco Charlton's Pickerington Central squad defeated Chris Wormley and Toledo Whitmer, 45-40, in the Ohio Division I basketball state title game. Chantel Jennings gives a progress report on the 2013 class, including quotes from current commits on what the coaches like about them ($).
In case you missed the announcement on Tuesday, recruiting roundup posts are now a twice-a-week affair. Today, Josh Garnett's commitment to Stanford is discussed, as are updates on the status of the remaining 2012 targets and new offers to members of the class of 2013.
Garnett to Stanford (Sad Trombone)
As I'm sure you are well aware of if you're the type to be reading this post, blue-chip OL Josh Garnett chose Stanford over Michigan last night. Beyond losing out on a potential All-American guard, this isn't a huge blow to Michigan's recruiting class—the team is still in good shape with Jordan Diamond and Alex Kozan, for starters—but it's disappointing nonetheless. I asked the Twitter world last night if any Stanford bloggers would like a detailed commitment post, and the general response was, "LOL Stanford football bloggers?" which, like, good point.
How will Garnett's decision impact Michigan? Well, the Wolverines can still fill a spot along the interior of the line if Kozan goes blue when he announces on Sunday ($, info in header). Kozan has narrowed his choices to Michigan, Iowa, and Auburn—I've said this before, but Kozan might actually be the most important recruit left on the board, as he's the only lineman among M's commits and targets who projects to center, where the Wolverines have major depth issues. Kozan hasn't given any indication about holding a favorite, so we'll just have to wait and see who he chooses.
Jordan Diamond, meanwhile, will announce on February 3rd, and the big tackle has reportedly cut down his choices to three schools, one of which is Auburn ($), but he won't reveal the other two at the moment. It appears that Ohio State is out of the picture, and a Brian-approved insider posted on the MGoBoard yesterday that Diamond is really down to Michigan and Arkansas. His recruitment has taken so many twists and turns that I won't bother to throw out a guess.
One other O-lineman has entered the picture in Rutgers commit Chris Muller, a four-star tackle who holds a Wolverine offer. According to Rivals national analyst Mike Farrell, Muller was contacted by Michigan—along with several other schools—yesterday in the wake of the breaking news that Rutgers coach Greg Schiano had taken the head coaching job for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We'll see if Muller's reported interest culminates in a visit.
Armani Reeves Update; Sam Grant Non-Update
Sam Webb caught up with Armani Reeves's godfather, Brent Williams (father of best friend and Ohio State commit Camren Williams), for a two-part interview last night. In part one ($) Williams discussed the in-home visits of Brady Hoke, Curt Mallory, and Greg Mattison—they went well—and debunked the rumor that Urban Meyer showed up late for OSU's in-home visit. He also soundly denies that Reeves and Camren Williams are a package deal, which is obviously good news for Michigan. Part two ($) has the most relevant info, as Sam asked Williams about a a possible decision date for Reeves:
Brent Williams: “Well, I’m not saying that there’s a date. I would say he’s going to have some time… a lot of time… this weekend to think it through. He has a pretty good game on Friday. After that I think he’ll have Saturday and Sunday to kind of think things through. We’ll sit down over the weekend and kind of talk about the pros and cons of both situations and go from there. We’re not doing a hat; we’re not doing a press conference. Call the coach, and tell him you’re coming… then call the other coach, and tell him you’re not. It’s pretty simple. At this point the whole mystery behind pulling hats and whatever tricks you got… we’re just not really focused on that. We’re just trying to find the right school that is going to help him going forward.”
It sounds like we're unlikely to hear about a decision until Sunday at the earliest and the process could possibly stretch into next week. Every indication is that Reeves is still undecided.
As for Michigan's other prominent target, tight end Sam Grant, he was visited at home by Brady Hoke last night, but there hasn't been any word about a possible commitment. The consensus is that Michigan leads, however, and we could hear his final decision at any time—Grant has talked about wrapping up his recruitment quickly since December, but new offers threw a wrench into those plans. Now that he's got everything laid out in front of him, I don't think we'll have to wait too long for an announcement.
Chris Wormley's Interesting Choice in Pre-Game Music
Tremendous caught up with Chris Wormley this week to talk about his recruitment as well as his pre-game ritual. The latter line of questioning is where things got interesting:
Tremendous: So before you get on the field, who are you listening to in order to get you amped up?
Chris: Usually Lil' Wayne, Drake or Adele.
Tremendous: One of those is not like the other.
Chris (laughs): I like listening to Adele. She calms me down. People laugh when I say that I listen to her.
Tremendous: How does it pump you up though? It's Adele!
Chris: With Adele, I just like listening to her because she sounds good. It doesn't really pump me up or calm me down.
Tremendous: I like Lady Gaga, Chris. It's alright.
Chris: Eh, she's a little weird for me.
Tremendous: Thanks dude.
I don't mind Adele, so I can't hate. Lady Gaga, well, I'll just leave that one alone. I'll also save you the rant about how current popular hip hop is a steaming pile of hot garbage. ANYWAYS, Tremendous also interviewed Mario Ojemudia, who's already starting the trash talk about the Michigan-MSU rivalry:
Tremendous: I asked Devin [Funchess] the same thing: What's it going to be like to play against [MSU commit and high school teammate] Aaron [Burbridge] for four years?
Mario: It would have been nice to play together, but I always figured we'd end up at different schools. It's going to be fun beating him for four years though.
Well played, Mario.
Quickly: The Detroit News profiled Ben Braden in their ongoing Blue Chip series, but it's a rehashing of the "hey, this big guy played hockey in high school" story that's already been beaten into the ground months before he's even on campus.
247Sports released their Class of 2013 All-American team, and it's littered with Michigan targets. The Wolverines have offered or shown strong interest in RB Ty Isaac, WR James Quick, WR MarQuez North, TE Adam Breneman, OL Laremy Tunsil, OL Steven Elmer (ND commit), OL Ethan Pocic, OL Jake Raulerson, DE Jonathan Allen, LB Su'a Cravens, LB E.J. Levenberry, and ATH Jalin Marshall.
Running through news on the current juniors, there are a couple of new offers to report: Wexford (PA) North Allegheny OL Patrick Kugler ($, info in header), a four-star to 24/7, and Phoenix (AZ) Brophy Prep WR Devon Allen ($, info in header). Michigan is offering a ton of receivers in the junior class—it's clear that getting a couple big-time playmakers at the position is a huge priority.
Quickly: Michigan also appears close to offering four-star Washington D.C. lineman Derwin Gray ($, info in header); Avon (OH) cornerback Ross Douglas will take an unofficial visit on February 3rd ($, info in header)—he believes he's close to an offer, as well; Cleveland (OH) Shaker Heights DE/DT/OT Donovan Munger is in regular contact with Greg Mattison, and he would favor Michigan and Ohio State if he was offered ($); Magnus scouts Wheaton (IL) St. Francis OL Kyle Bosch, one of Michigan's top targets along the offensive line.
This week on
Thursday Friday Recruitin' I resist the urge to type "Beat Ohio" over and over again (and fail), good news rolls in on the Bri'onte Dunn front, Pharaoh Brown clarifies his stance on Michigan, and Billy Price looks to form a blue-chip D-line. Usual request: Please let me know if you have any comments, criticism, suggestions, etc.—as always, I'll be reading the comments, and you can also reach me on Twitter or via email, where I'll also encourage you to send any recruiting articles of interest that you think I should include for the next week's edition.
Bri'onte Dunn Chooses the Correct Sideline, Beat Ohio
Last week, blue-chip running back and Ohio State commit Bri'onte Dunn visited Michigan to witness the Wolverines thrash Nebraska while being heavily recruited by commits like Shane Morris and his cousin Dymonte Thomas—witness the photo on the right as proof. That was a good sign in and of itself, and then Dunn came through with a major announcement trifecta—he'll be back to visit Michigan again for the Ohio State game, he once again plans on graduating early, and he plans to take an official visit to Michigan after the season with (soon to be fellow?) commit and Buckeye defector Kyle Kalis. Couple this with the almost-certain assumption that Urban Meyer will be the next Ohio State coach, and we've got a situation here:
I don't know if [Dunn] realizes how symbolic [this weekend's visit] is. To me it's very symbolic when you're visiting a rival school when they're playing the school you're committed to and you're sitting on the rival sideline. To me, that is huge. It's very symbolic. This is trending Michigan's way.
The current news is that Urban Meyer will be possibly the next head coach at Ohio State — and I think he will be — I think that also pushes Brionte Dunn a little towards Michigan because when he was a younger player, Florida tried to recruit him under Urban Meyer. (Dunn) wanted no part of the Urban Meyer offense. So while Meyer to Ohio State will really affect Ohio State positively in most recruiting cases, in this case, I think it's not positive at all.
Like I said, if you put it together in your head, you'd say Michigan's sitting in pretty good shape here with Brionte Dunn. You never know, but it sure seems to be trending their way.
That's Scout analyst Bill Greene from Sam Webb's latest DetNews piece, an info-packed Q&A in which Greene and Allen Trieu pretty much do everything except proclaim the Wolverines as an outright leader for Dunn, but it's nearly impossible not to read between the lines on this one. I mean, he's going to be on Michigan's sideline when they play Ohio State. I'm not sure I need to say much more.
Meanwhile, Michigan could get a boost in their offensive line recruiting thanks to two five-stars (depending on the service you're using) taking in visits this weekend, as Chicago Simeon's Jordan Diamond announced via Twitter last night that he was en route to Ann Arbor, and Puyallup (WA) OL Josh Garnett will be at the game as well ($, info in header). Diamond's visit comes as a surprise—he's been pretty quiet lately and some assumed he had fallen off Michigan's radar or taken greater interest in other schools, but it appears he's just taking things slow, and an impromptu appearance in Ann Arbor is a good sign that Michigan is still very much in the mix for him. You could say the same about Garnett, though it still appears like it will be difficult to pry him from the West Coast—Stanford has made a strong push of late, and he's already been admitted there.
If you were hoping for a quick end to Oaks Christian (CA) WR Jordan Payton's recruitment, despite him pushing back his announcement well beyond his original date, well, don't hold your breath ($):
A one time, and early commit, to USC, Payton is now in no rush to make a choice.
“Honestly, I won’t commit this time until I feel right about a school,” said Payton. “It could be at any time and it could be a while. It’s whenever I talk about it with my family and we just feel like it’s ready. I’m going to take the Cal visit, though, so I won’t be deciding before then.”
A U.S. Army All-American, Payton said he isn’t sure if he’ll have a decision by the time he makes it to San Antonio, but he doesn’t plan to announce then.
It's tough to blame Payton for taking his time after already committing to USC and then re-evaluating—he wants to make sure he makes the right decision and sticks to it this time around. After Michigan appeared to be the clear leader recently, however, that may change the longer he plays out his recruitment if it didn't already after his Notre Dame visit. We'll just have to wait and see.
Quickly: Abandon hope, ye who covet Shaq Thompson—he has scrapped a planned December official to Michigan in favor of one to Utah, and it's pretty clear he'll be staying out west (Cal looks to be the favorite, as they've been the constant in an ever-changing list of leaders); the Wolverines are firmly in Wes Brown's top five, and he has high praise for the coaching staff and a good connection with Blake Countess, but weather may factor into his decision, which probably wouldn't bode well for M; Stefon Diggs is featured as the Recruit of the Week on Rivals, though Michigan is strangely not mentioned (by Mike Farrell, not Diggs) when discussing the several potential landing spots for the five-star wideout; could Michigan be looking at a JuCo (and Wolverine legacy) in quarterback Turner Baty? ($, info in header); happy trails to Adolphus Washington (Ohio State and Dwayne Stanford (Oregon)—neither showed much interest in Michigan lately, but Washington will not be fun to play against in upcoming years.
Pharaoh Brown Clarifies, Beat Ohio
For everybody who wants to know I never de-committed from michigan. They said they don't consider me a commit b/c my OV that's their policyYes I am changing my position and will be weighing all my options
This has been discussed ad nauseam on the board this week, but I'd be surprised if Brown ends up back in this class—Michigan is still after several big-name recruits, and four-star TE Taylor McNamara is considering taking an official visit next month, plus Brown would have to mend some fences with the coaches before regaining their trust. If he makes it back in the fold, great, and if not, best of luck to him wherever he ends up.
GBW released a series of free articles of Michigan commits reacting to last week's win. Here's Mario Ojemudia, who's a big fan of the defensive changes and also has his own gut feeling about Dunn:
The question on every mind of a person who follows Michigan recruiting, is what will happen with Bri’onte Dunn, and Ojemudia has his own thoughts on the five star running back.
“I didn’t even get to talk to him yesterday, but I have before a few times. I think he really likes it here, and I think he wants to come here but there are just a few things he’s got to work out.”
Ojemudia will be back in Ann Arbor this weekend. Joe Bolden also did a little recruiting of Dunn, and he confirmed he'll be enrolling early and discussed his plans for when he hits campus:
“I’m going to use every opportunity I can to get on the field. I’m a guy who hates standing on the sideline. For instance this year, I hated seeing my offense on the field because I wanted to be on the field and I feel that I can help the team. I think getting up there early will help me with school and getting me positioned and orientated with everything going on there and how to balance school and football as well as getting the playbook. I don’t want to miss a beat with spring practice.”
Allen Gant, who like Ojemudia will take a return visit for The Game, talked to Greg Mattison and Curt Mallory about how he'll be used as a Wolverine:
“Before the game I talked to the coaches and they talk to the recruits and I talked to Coach Mattison and Coach Mallory. Coach Mattison has said that he’s excited about me playing that strong safety and see’s [sic] me being a blitzing safety and Coach Mallory is really excited about getting me up there. Overall we’ve just kind of been talking about my football season and their football season.”
Considering Gant was playing a lot of linebacker when I saw him this season, blitzing strong safety seems to fit his game well.
After tallying 85 tackles (24 TFLs) and 13 sacks so far this season, Chris Wormley was named the Toledo Blade's player of the year, and they wrote up a long feature on the defensive end commit, which included some high praise from opposing coaches:
Greg Dempsey, Central Catholic: "Chris obviously has great natural ability and he's a great player. His motor is relentless, he's great against the run, he's great at the point of attack, he's great chasing down the run, and he's obviously a great pass rusher. He's one of the biggest guys we've ever had to deal with, and he makes the guys along the line better because he's so good. He's just a game changer.
"This kid's ready to step in and play [at Michigan] right now. He's probably the most college-ready guy we've gone against."
It's interesting that two of the three coaches cited Wormley's motor as a strong positive, as that has been an area of concern among recruiting analysts.
Quickly: Kyle Kalis is one of 16 finalists for the 2012 U.S. Army Player of the Year, alongside such big names as Dorial Green-Beckham, Diggs, Gunner Kiel, Thompson, and Washington; Chantel Jennings writes that Kalis is firm in his Michigan commitment, and wouldn't be swayed by an Urban Meyer hire in Columbus ($, info in header); Eric Magnuson was named to the Army All-American Bowl, and while USC and other school have been making a run at him, he's steadfast in his pledge to the Wolverines, saying "I'm committed to Michigan and that's where I'm going."
Jalin Marshall to Visit, Beat Ohio
2013 Middletown (OH) five-star QB/ATH Jalin Marshall will visit Ann Arbor this weekend ($, info in header), though he's already visited Ohio State on multiple occasions and it's apparent that the Buckeyes will be the team to beat. He could fill a big need at receiver if he decides not to try his hand at QB in college, and he appears open to other positions—making a strong impression on Saturday might be Michigan's best chance of earning a real shot at landing him.
Four-star defensive tackle Billy Price, another visitor for The Game, was profiled by Sam Webb, and the Wolverines appear to have a great shot at pulling in the 6'4", 295-pound junior. He's camped with Ondre Pipkins, saying that the 2012 commit is "everything that you're supposed to be on the D-line," and he can see himself forming a dynamite line with the players from Michigan's current class:
The Michigan coaching staff has already begun trying to capitalize on that admiration [for Pipkins] by painting for Price a picture of a defensive front that features him and Pipkins as the anchors in the middle.
"They actually are going to move me down to a three technique playing next to Ondre Pipkins," Price explained. "Kick out Chris Wormley and Tom Strobel at the ends and just tell them to go get guys. I would love to play next Ondre."
Michigan State will also factor in to his recruitment, as will powerhouses from around the country, and Price doesn't plan on making a decision until after his senior season, but the Wolverines look to be in a strong position right now.
Quickly: Wheaton (IL) St. Francis four-star OL Kyle Bosch was very impressed after visiting for the Nebraska game ($, info in header); Peoria (IL) Manuel OL Logan Luley-Tillman also visited for Nebraska and is a player to watch in the junior class ($, info in header); Grand Blanc DE Luke MacLean also was in Ann Arbor last weekend, and was duly impressed by the defensive effort ($, info in header); and Michigan legacy Brandon Bean is a junior receiver from Southfield who could also end up with an offer—he also was here last week, and has strong interest in both in-state schools ($, info in header). He'll be here this weekend as well.
The first time The Van made a trip down to Toledo to see Chris Wormley, Whitmer played an overmatched, undersized, and generally overwhelmed team of Canadians, making it somewhat difficult for your intrepid recruiting analyst to really get a decent scouting report on Wormley. So on Friday I returned to Whitmer once again to see the undefeated Panthers take on rival Central Catholic—who were 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference—with the chance to win the TRAC title outright. Whitmer didn't disappoint their home crowd, who packed the house and saw the Panthers jump out to a 31-7 lead en route to a 38-21 victory, capping off a perfect 10-0 regular season.
Wormley's physical talents were on display, but he had his ups and downs and didn't have a spectacular game statistically, recording two solo tackles (one TFL), three assists, and a couple QB hurries. CC did their best to avoid his side of the field when running, and their quick passing game didn't allow many pass rushing opportunities. Here's the highlight reel, set to the theme song from Halloween, which Whitmer's PA guy awesomely played before critical defensive plays (you can hear the tail end of just that on the very first clip):
Chris Wormley: The knock on Wormley has been his lack of a consistent motor, but that wasn't at all an issue in this game—he was quick off the line and very aggressive in pursuit (sometimes too much so). While this was promising from an effort standpoint, it did bring up some issues, mainly in identifying plays. I had a quick, mid-game Twitter conversation at halftime with Rivals midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt, who was also at the game, and we agreed that Wormley has to do a better job diagnosing plays—there were several instances in which he beat his blocker and went tearing after the running back or quarterback, only to realize that the ball was in another place entirely. Part of this may have been coaching, as it looked like he was supposed to crash down the line on zone reads, with the linebacker scraping over the top, but there were too many instances in which CC took advantage of Wormley's aggressiveness—utilizing misdirection runs, QB keepers, and screens/shovel passes—for it to be just a coaching issue.
That said, Wormley's physical abilities make him a tantalizing prospect, and I can't shake the notion that with some coaching up on technique he could be a real force. His size and strength are obvious (just take a look at the film, most notably at the 1:54 mark, when he makes his TFL by essentially suplexing the running back), and he had enough good plays from an assignment standpoint—holding contain on the running back, for example—that I think his impact would greatly increase just by virtue of the transition to being coached by Brady Hoke, Greg Mattison, and Jerry Montgomery.
Wormley's best way to get penetration was to simply run right around his blocker, and while this was nice to see in terms of evaluating his quickness, it brings up another point of concern—how is a 6'6", 270-pound Michigan-bound DE not completely flattening the 6'2", 225-pound offensive tackle across from him with malicious regularity? Again, motor wasn't the issue, but instead pad level; Wormley can get low on occasion, but several times he stood right up off the snap and let the tackle get right into him, turning him into a non-factor. This is more disconcerting to me than the questions about his motor, especially if Wormley ends up moving inside at the next level. Anyone who's watched Will Campbell knows the importance of pad level, and also how difficult it can be for a big, tall lineman to correct that issue.
I don't want to sound down on Wormley, as I really think he could turn into a star if he fixes his pad level and improves on his technique (the play diagnosis I think comes down to coaching—Chris is a bright kid), but I'm not sure he'll be able to come in and be a big contributor right off the bat, as many have hoped. I think it's more realistic to expect Wormley to take a year or two to work his way into the rotation as he learns to get low and figures out where he best fits along the defensive line. From there, just about anything can happen—Wormley looks like a boom-or-bust type, and I honestly can't say which way I think it'll go. If I had to choose, I'd say he'll end up being quite good, simply because it's rare for a player to have his frame and physical talents out of high school while also having so much room to add pounds and get even stronger.
I also had the chance to catch up with Chris and interview him after the game, though unfortunately there's no transcript, as the audio on my recorder was rendered unlistenable thanks to the RAWK blaring over the speakers where we were talking (I'd say Special K has a side job, but this guy had much better taste in music). Wormley slightly tweaked his ankle and calf on the aforementioned suplex, but continued to play (and play pretty well) afterwards and said he'll be fine for next week when the OHSAA playoffs begin. He was extremely happy with his team's performance for both the game and the season, and he also mentioned that he keeps in contact with several other commits, mostly over Twitter during the season. This Whitmer team may be the best in the state, and it's clear that nothing less than the state title will satisfy Wormley or his team.
Jayme Thompson: I wanted to quickly note the play of Central Catholic junior safety Jayme Thompson, who visited Ann Arbor for Saturday's game ($, info in header) and has a good shot at earning a scholarship offer. The CC roster listed him at 6'1", 180 pounds, which looked about right to me, and he's got very good speed and fluid movement for a safety at his size. I didn't get a chance to focus on him too much in coverage, though he looked solid in that regard, but what I was most impressed with was his run support—he came up and laid a couple big hits in the open field, the type that elicit that instinctual "ooooooohh" from the crowd. Thompson definitely has BCS-level talent, and it'll be interesting to see if Michigan likes him enough to extend an offer to another safety considering Dymonte Thomas's early commitment and the small number of spots expected for the 2013 class.
I haven't had a chance to look at the playoff matchups this week, so right now I have no clue where I'll be going on Friday. I would make up for missing Kyle Kalis's game two weekends ago, but he's playing on Saturday night and driving to Cleveland would cause me to miss at least a large chunk of the Michigan game, which isn't an option. If you see a matchup you'd like for me to head to, chime in with a comment below.