in town for free camps
It's apparently that arbitrary down time in the offseason when I take a look back at Brian's recruiting profiles for the class that just finished their time at Michigan. In this case, that class is the infamous 2010 group, the last full class brought in by Rich Rodriguez during his time at Michigan.
So, uh, you've been forewarned.
I'll start with the nine offensive players in the class, five of whom were wide receivers. If that sounds like a strange and dangerous way to contruct a roster, you may be a longtime reader of this here blog. Or maybe you just watched the offensive line the last few years. Either/or, really.
We're Really Sorry About The Coaching Thing
As a Pioneer grad, I have no idea how Pioneer won this game.
By the time Brian wrote up Devin Gardner's profile, he'd already enrolled at Michigan and participated in the spring game. The comparison that came up the most in his profile—and, really, the most reasonable one to make at the time—is a pretty good indication of the level of expectation for Gardner's college career:
Why Vince Young? The combination of size, speed, a wonky throwing motion, and the multiple comparisons from gurus tips the balance over to Young, who redshirted despite being the top prospect in the country and didn't come into his own as a passer until he played Michigan in the Rose Bowl—awesome timing!
Guru Reliability: High. Ton of exposure to him. Elite 11 camp, UA game, all that stuff.
General Excitement Level: Towering. Vast. Expansive.
Gardner, of course, stayed on track—except for the cameo at wide receiver—by looking like a future star when he took the reins after Denard Robinson's injury in 2012, and while he had some disappointing outings in 2013, those were largely chalked up to the O-line and playcalling. It came off the rails last year for a host of reasons covered so thoroughly they're not worth bringing up again. Needless to say, reading through his profile leaves one with serious what-could've-been feels.
[Hit THE JUMP for Dramatic Cupcake Hopkins and, well, mostly disappointment.]
COACH BA TWEET. If you are not following basketball assistant Bacari Alexander on Twitter, you are doing yourself a disservice. Yesterday's gem:
The iPad by far is the biggest tool used by coaches on the road. It has saved cell phone battery life.
Love the information in the second sentence. So matter-of-fact. Love that guy.
I have to think the Alliance is going to frown on this. As covered by Misopogon last night, a couple Wolverines (including an incoming freshman) have disappeared from Michigan's roster [Ed-M:
I'm still waiting for confirmation but other media outlets are reporting It's confirmed: Terry (the Elder) Talbott is medicaled too], ever-so-conveniently opening up a couple roster spots for class of 2012 commits (of which Brady Hoke has said to expect 23-26, and we're currently up to 22 openings).
This disappearing act is sure to draw the ire of Brian, the resident oversigning watchdog (that post is his "final" word on the topic... from more than three years ago). The point is that when signing a big class - or in this case, aiming to sign one - you're actively hoping some guys currently on your roster will not make it through their four years. That puts you in a sketchy-feeling gray area at best.
Of course, there have been hints going back to Rodriguez that Christian Pace's injuries could be career-threatening (and Teric Jones's knee injury did indeed look terrible, etc.), so maybe we're confusing the cause and effect in Hoke's statements about signing a full class? Pace, at the very least, seemed like he would be a contributor if healthy, so there's far less motive to push him out.
Fairly or not, it still gives off the feeling that Michigan is striding away from its moral high ground on the issue. Brian is certain to feel much more strongly about this, so brace yourselves for his wrath when he returns.
Other things that are certain to thrill Brian. Say goodbye to non-conference away games, according to David Brandon. The original tweet from Mark Snyder didn't seem to doom us to a purgatory of Notre Dame and the Directionals as non-conference opponents, but the full quote from Brandon is not so promising:
"I don't believe we can or should go on the road for nonconference games when we can put 113,000 people in our stadium. It's, financially, the right thing to do. It's the right thing to do for our fans, in terms of their ticket packages. And we're going to alternate with Notre Dame, so we're going to have one game on the road every other year. So the rest of those games, I would like to have at Michigan Stadium."
I was hopeful that it would mean the years Notre Dame plays in Ann Arbor would bring Bama-in-Dallas events at the very least, but Brandon's quote seems clear: No games outside of Ann Arbor or South Bend.
Taking the easy money is Brandon's vision of "creating the future," for better or for worse. With a four-year warning in place to opt out of the Notre Dame series occasionally, the chances will be few and far between to play anyone else, if they exist at all.
Upside? One potential reason for the reduction in worthwhile non-conference games, however, could be looked at as a good thing. Purdue revealed that the Big Ten asked it to re-work some non-conference games for the 2017 season and beyond, possibly indicating a nine-game conference schedule coming soon to a stadium near you.
Though it reduces non-conference opportunities, Brandon has made it clear that he wanted to do that anyway, so I'd rather face Wisconsin or Penn State than Akron or Kent State, right?
Off the hook? I'm not going to touch the topic of Ohio State getting off with what seems to be minimal punishment, but I assure you Brian will cover it in extreme depth upon his return, as well.
Etc. Hammer and Rails profiles former Boiler Glenn Robinson Jr., who you may recognize as the father of hoops commit Glenn Robinson III. Duane Long says OH OL Kyle Kalis isn't solidly committed to Michigan and Kalis basically responds "hey leave me alone please." Much more on recruiting tomorrow, per the usual weekly schedule. Michigan is named fourth in the Legends Division by a media poll.
Yesterday's release of the 2011 media guide brought up a few questions about some guys not on the roster. I just got my answers from Athletic Dept. spokesman David Ablauf and they're un-good:
"Kellen Jones is no longer an enrolled student at the University."
Reason was neither asked for nor given. This is the end. One of you who doesn't like me gets to be the one to tell Brian we chose to post his 2011 Recruiting Profile right before some of the rumors hit the Twitters.
Impact: Kellen was considered one of the few 2011 recruits who might contribute immediately, and was expected to challenge for a spot on the two-deep at WLB. Short-term this will mean one of the other freshmen linebackers has a shot to play early. MLB/WLB depth chart currently reads Demens and ???s. Down the road it shouldn't matter so much once the 2012 class of Ross, Jenkins-Stone, Bolden and Ringer arrive.
As for some other roster incongruities, why was Christian Pace left off the roster, and did Teric Jones get listed with no number while two other guys switched to his 14? Because the gods hath no mercy:
"Christian Pace was medicaled; meaning his playing career is over due to an injury ... [answers other questions] ... Teric is also medicaled."
Impact of Losing Teric: Minimal. Jones is a 2009 scat-back who came in behind several guys in the '08 and '09 classes. He was part of the Cass Tech clan who re-established that pipeline. Teric did what he could to help, bouncing to DB when warm bodies were needed, but he made only a Darnell Hood-ian impact and moved back to RB, where he was a spare part behind 6-7 other guys. Teric lost the end of the 2010 season to a knee injury against Illinois.*
Impact Christian: Bloody Argh. Pace was the only OL recruit of the 2010 class, and those of us in bloggerland were ludicrously excited about him because he was an under the radar recruit whom smart coaches were hard after. Also he's as much of a David Molk clone as Taylor Lewan was a Jake Long clone coming out of high school. There's a huge difference between proto-Molk and Molk, but Pace's high school tape (as in just watch every play) is a series of the ball being snapped followed by something being shot out of a cannon and ending 4 yards downfield on top of a pitiable fool. He was perfect for the spread 'n shred, which suggests he's not perfect for non-spread-and-shred. I still had unreasonable hope, but even general hope for Pace in a Hoke Manball offense was pretty high. This year he was behind Molk and Khoury, who has been serviceable. Down the line this opens the path for Miller, or else one of the big guards-like objects from 2011 and 2012. Further injuries to the undermanned OL will result in wanton trotting out of an Angry-[Position]-Hating God tag.
Last piece of info, which isn't any info.
No change on Darryl Stonum's status.
I'll let Tim follow up with specifics since everyone I would call will be at his presser anyway.
* I hate to throw this into a post about one of Michigan's best academic performers and team players losing the 2nd half of his career, but considering the staff plans to sign the full 26 in 2012, this feels a little…convenient. #oversigning fears. EDIT: This is NOT an accusation and as posters have pointed out it would be a bad idea for the coaches to pull a "convenient" move with a kid from our biggest in-state pipeline. It bears mentioning only because it would arch an eyebrow at another school, and because this space has been critical of those other schools when there's even a whiff. Discussion cont'd in the comments.
Losing Pace and Jones is decidedly inconvenient.
The 2011 Football Media Guide is out, and you know of course what that means: OBSESSIVE ATTENTION TO ROSTER NUMBERS HO!
Kellen Jones is not on it: There are plenty of rumors on [pick your favorite message board] as to why, but I've heard there's a high probability those rumors were made up to fill the great big "I dunno." I have a query in with Brandon's office.
Christian Pace is not on it: Medical rumors seem to be true, at least for this year. Shattered dreams of Molk 2.0.
Darryl Stonum is on it: If this means anything, horray. If not, horray.
Your Football Freshmen, Now With Digits:
# = walk-on
|Name||Pos.||Was||Now||This is not the reason:|
|Josh Furman||S||6||14||Stokes may line up on defense maybe?|
|Jack Kennedy||QB||25||14||Walk-ons don't count.|
|J.T. Floyd||CB||12||18||Secret plan to make me think we still have James Rogers next year|
|Thomas Gordon||S||15||30||Doubled the abs|
|Isaiah Bell||LB||26||34||Isaiah 26 is 'A Song of Praise'; Isaiah 34 is 'Judgment Against the Nations.' This is a bad sign for…someone.|
|Terrence Talbott||CB||22||37||Weird: Jake Ryan is 37 too. Maybe there's a plot to make the DBs and LBs look interchangeable to confuse opponents or something?|
|Marell Evans||LB||9||51||Those who stay can keep their number.|
|Ricky Barnum||OL||56||52||Joey Burzynski (2010 walk-on OL) called it|
|Brandon Moore||TE||88||89||Because he and Craig Roh are listed as 6'2"/250 and this was really freaking Funk out.|
|Teric Jones||RB||14||--||Maybe you need a position first|
Yes, I too was totally thinking of that Seinfeld episode after Susan died. Best as I can guess here is Lloyd and Bo liked to keep one guy to a number and some of them were repeats on the other side of the ball (RR was a proponent of that long before EA Sports let you do it). Or maybe some of the 2012 commits have been promised digits?
Counting Things on Scholarship
15! Fifteen scholarship seniors on the roster, ah ah ah! Also 18 juniors, 20 sophomores, and 27 guys with freshman eligibility.
42! Forty-two scholarship players not from one of the last two ('10 or '11) classes, ah ah ah! Up from 36 last year.
80! Eighty guys on scholarship, ah ah ah, counting Kovacs, Grady and Evans but not the missing fellows. Up from 76 at this time last year.
15! Fifteen scholarship players at defensive back, ah ah ah! Five of those are redshirt sophomores or older (two each from '08 and '09, and Woolfolk). Last year was 15 guys, but 7 of them freshmen. Now we have five freshmen and five sophomores, which, better?
15! Fifteen guys on the 2010 roster not on the 2011 one. That's 9 graduations, 2 non-renewed, four transfer/booted (Forcier, Cullen, Vinopal and D.J. Williamson) and one we're guessing medical. Strangely only Vinopal, the 2-star who became a freshman starter, seems to be a coaching transition loss.
12! Twelve guys pictured in the Media Guide with dreads: Richard Ash, Chris Eddins, Josh Furman, J.T. Floyd, Jeremy Gallon, Junior (Not a Junior) Hemingway, Stephen Hopkins, Martavious Odoms, Denard Robinson, Vincent Smith, Je'Ron Stokes.
Photo day!: From his picture I think Devin Gardner is going to end up being CEO of something. Will Campbell wins the "Fell for the old 'hey everybody let's all look like we're really tough in our photos' shtick" award. Meanwhile Klingons are attempting to steal Denard's smile because it has the power create habitable, lush new planets all by itself.
Non-renewed 5ths: Michael Williams, John Ferrara, Zac Ciullo, and Kevin Leach might have had another year of eligibility, but are gone. All were expected. Sad that Mike Williams's career ends with his pre-2010 concussion. I've been hard on his play but we'll never know if he might have put it together for his last two years.
Weight Gain 2011: The player weights are unchanged from Spring but some of the freshmen are a little off from their high school weights. Of those, Tony Posada is up 15 lbs. (to 330…um), Delonte Hollowell is up to 170 (from 162), and Thomas Rawls is listed at 220 (from 214). Standard operating procedure is to consider all weight gains and losses as good things.
Gentlemen, start your dynasties.
Rating: 4 of 5.
|Mark Huyge||Jr.*||Steve Schilling||Sr.*||David Molk||Jr.*||Patrick Omameh||So.*||Perry Dorrestein||Sr.*|
|Taylor Lewan||Fr.*||Ricky Barnum||So.*||Rocko Khoury||So.*||Quinton Washington||Fr.*||Michael Schofield||Fr.*|
|--||--||Elliott Mealer||So.*||Christian Pace||Fr.||John Ferrara||Sr.*||--||--|
Last year the big stat was Michigan's rushing game over the second half of the season, which went from turrible to solidly above average and hypothetically would have been 30th nationally if they hadn't been flailing around the first half of the season. A 3.5 was offered here after the previous seasons oh-so-warranted 1, and that seemed slightly pessimistic as Michigan firebombed its first four opponents on the ground (sacks, kneeldowns, and bad snaps obscured a 222 yard day against Indiana in game four).
Unfortunately, once the opposition got serious the loss of David Molk for all but three snaps of the Big Ten schedule could not be overcome. The right side of the line resembled Drew Palmisano during the Epic Karma series (hey-o!), David Moosman was not as agile as Molk and had a nasty tendency to chuck snaps anywhere but the quarterback's chest, and snap counts got predictable enough for Michigan State players to commit what seemed like five or so uncalled offsides penalties.
The result was a gradual decline, probably an extra loss or two—it's not hard to see Molk's presence swing at least one of the Iowa, Purdue, or Michigan State games, especially since half of Michigan's negatives in the MSU game were attributed to his absence—and the team's failure to lock down this blog's giddy projections of Michigan's BEST RUSH OFFENSE EVER (since 2000) after the first third of the schedule. The resulting absence from a bowl game has us where we are now, on a rickety boat approaching Niagara Falls.
But, hey, silver lining: Molk's absence last year means everyone this year started at least three games and could be regarded a returning starter if you want to squint at it. Sure, the two guys who tried right tackle last year were wonky enough to provide a redshirt freshman his starts, but… hey… like… whatever. Compared to last year, there's a ton of depth and experience. Compared to 2008, there is a Weisload. (Miss you, big guy xoxo.) Ask Rodriguez:
“Two years ago, it’s not even close,” Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said. “… Now, we have four or five guys that have started, guys that have redshirted in (Taylor) Lewan and (Michael) Schofield and Quinton Washington that are now ready to play.
“We still have not as quite as talented in the ones and twos as we’d like to be, but we’ll have seven or eight guys when we’re done with camp in a week or two that we’ll feel comfortable playing.”
The interior line looks killer if Patrick Omameh can live up to the cascades of hype he's receiving, and the tackles… well… like… whatever?
Rating: 3 of 5.
After a spring in which already-hyped Taylor Lewan found himself starting at left tackle thanks to Perry Dorrestein's back injury—thus picking up an extra, even shinier layer of hype—you couldn't find a Michigan fan who would have projected him to start the year on the bench. But that's apparently the case, as the two veterans who made the right side such a mess last year have held onto their starting spots by the skin of their teeth. Rodriguez says this is due to considerable improvement…
“Yeah, the upper classman are battling to keep it. (Mark) Huyge and (Perry) Dorrestein have really done a good job in camp. The two young tackles (Michael) Schofield and (Taylor) Lewan have been pretty solid. They’re bigger, stronger and I think that competition has been pretty good. I’ve been really pleased they way Perry and Mark have responded to the challenge and really have their best camps since I’ve been here the last two years."
…but it is hard to imagine him saying anything else. I believe him, but like a lot of spots on the team the returning starters have a long way to go.
|huge whiff on LB|
|fails to cut LB|
|springs Minor TD|
|GOOD TACKLE STUFF|
|on his way to six points|
|huge cutback lane|
|blocking the backside DE|
|BAD TACKLE STUFF|
Your tentative starting left tackle is redshirt junior Mark Huyge. His issues in pass protection started as early as the Notre Dame game, when a Moosman injury forced Michigan to shuffle him inside. He picked up –6 points after being "driven back on multiple plays" on Forcier's game-winning drive and was so shaky against Michigan State that he was pulled for third-stringer John Ferrara; Ferrara "immediately gave up a crushing sack." This caused "So the right side of the line just can't block?" to become a UFR question and kicked off a stretch of ugly protection numbers that would span most of the rest of the season, with Illinois and Wisconsin standing out as late, hopeful exceptions.
By the Purdue game, Huyge's pass protection issues were "the usual" as he racked up a –5 on a day when the offensive line pulled a very poor 14/29 in the protection metric. He did manage to avoid any minuses on an "extremely shaky" performance against Penn State (Dorrestein got a –2). The clips at right are mixed, but since twenty-yard runs always get clipped and zero-yard runs are only taken out when they are important or seem emblematic of something, a 50-50 mix is not a great ratio.
So he wasn't very good last year. There's reason to expect a significant step forward, though. He enters the year at tackle and won't get bounced back and forth between different positions. He, along with the rest of the offensive line, got swoll in the offseason. After going into 2009 at 288, Huyge is now a strapping 306 pounds, and as a who-dat recruit on the offensive line you can expect a bigger leap forward between redshirt sophomore and junior years than, say, a tailback. And perhaps most importantly, he's held off the charging Lewan.
Perry Dorrestein: GOOD AT HUGZ
Right tackle Perry Dorrestein, meanwhile, started the year off as Huyge's backup and only drew into the lineup when injury forced him to, first temporarily against ND and then permanently for the Big Ten schedule. His first extended action came against Indiana and their surprisingly talented defensive ends. He did not fare well:
PROTECTION METRIC: 22/32, Koger –1, Brown –2, Team –2, Dorrestein –5.
That is not good. That is bad, and all of it save the "team" category came when Indiana defensive ends pwned the opposition. That might be understandable when you're a pass-catching tight end or a tailback, but Dorrestein was responsible for a lot of the Forcier chaos and didn't do much to justify Mark Huyge's move inside. Huyge's struggled in pass protection himself; unless Patrick Omameh surges into the starting position he lost in spring—not likely at this point—it's going to be those guys the rest of the way and the protection will be dodgy.
He picked up a –4 in the ugly Michigan State game, coming in for the same "right side of OL? More like the right side of oh noes!" criticism Huyge did. He was strictly a tackle, never moving inside.
|authoritatively pancakes him.|
|seals the playside DE|
|gets off the ball|
Dorrestein, like Huyge, threw on a bunch of weight in the offseason, but since he's going from 306 to 321 that's less obviously positive. He wasn't the guy struggling at the back of the OL group in the fall scrimmage—that would be Quinton Washington—but 321 seems a little hefty for Rodriguez's offensive style. It's not nearly as important for tackles to have the crazy agility the interior line needs, but those backside DTs need to be chopped down by backside tackles if cutback lanes are going to open up. I thought this might signal an end to the tackle competition before it began, but this is obviously not the case.
For what it's worth, the tackles had good days against Illinois and Wisconsin, the latter against an intimidating defensive line. This was a significant factor in Forcier's excellent passing day against the Badgers; it could have been better but Forcier still had to "get used to the idea" that the pass protection could be, like, good. It was hard to tell who was at fault in the Iowa game, when Iowa stunts consistently fooled the Michigan OL.
So that's all kind of scary, but it's worth noting that last year I was full of consternation about Mark Ortmann, whose junior year saw stuff like this go down in a single game…
Ortmann(-2) totally smoked by a blindside rusher… Ortmann(-2) took a poor angle downfield, though, and the MLB beats him, prompting Threet to pitch it despite a State LB having decent contain. … Ortmann and McAvoy just run by an MSU linebacker … A three-man rush; Ortmann's guy spins inside of him and dives at Threet's feet [to sack] … Ortmann(-2) beaten pretty badly [on a sack].
…and left me asserting "I'd be surprised to see Ortmann keep his job." Ortmann not only hung on to it, he played well the whole year, hitting the preview's projected upside of Adam Stenavich. If Michigan had been good and stuff he might have made an all-conference team (second team, but still). The moral is that linemen can develop at any point and that old ones are usually good ideas.
This year will be a big test for Greg Frey, who's generally well-regarded by the fanbase and can now show his mettle by improving the returning veterans in the same way he turned Ortmann into a pretty good Big Ten player.
Lewan left, Schofield right
Taylor Lewan is currently a backup but it wouldn't be surprising to see him supplant someone for one of the starting tackle jobs during the season. He's one of those guys who had an avalanche of recruiting hype actually followed up by at-practice hype—far from a given for offensive linemen—and, as mentioned above, he was sufficiently impressive in spring for visions of freshman starter Jake Long to dance in Michigan fans' heads. This site's take from spring;
On the outside there's been some shuffling with Dorrestein and Huyge flopping left to right at times. This may be due to Taylor Lewan's (right) quick emergence. He's been called an "obvious future star" and "reminiscent of Jake Long." Reports are still conflicting on his readiness but all agree that his upside is as rapturous as the recruiting gurus promised; it seems like it's matter of time before he claims the left tackle spot. That timeframe may be September or it may be next year. The most recent move suggests the move may come sooner rather than later. Flipping Huyge to the right seems to be an effort to get Michigan's best five on the field. If I had to bet, I'd go with Lewan as the starting LT against UConn.
The timeline is going to be at least a little less aggressive than that, but he's also got Jibreel Black's vote:
“The best pass blocker I went against is probably Taylor Lewan, most definitely. Running wise, I would have to say (Steve) Schilling.
Lewan's recruiting profile constantly references Jake Long—constantly sees other people reference Jake Long, that is—and sooner or later it seems likely he'll be a star. Since he isn't actually Jake Long a more realistic timeframe may be the Omameh one where the redshirt freshman year sees some sporadic playing time and starts when needed due to veterans getting injured or not performing, leaving the breakout for next year.
Lewan's classmate Michael Schofield is the backup right tackle (though either tackle going down will see Lewan enter the lineup). A well-regarded and athletic but relatively slight four-star prospect coming out of high school, Schofield's put on 25 pounds over the last year and now stands at 293—his father posts enthusiastically on Scout about how none of his clothes fit any more. Despite that gain, Schofield is probably another year or two away from playing time. In the fall scrimmage he was one of the few linemen to draw Rodriguez's ire (pad level, naturally).
Somewhat frighteningly, there are no other scholarship backups, not even true freshmen. In the event Angry Michigan Secondary-Hating God gets bored and starts picking off tackles like it's going out of style, the last-ditch option is either moving Omameh outside or bringing in Ricky Barnum, who's practiced everywhere his first two years at Michigan.
Rating: 4 of 5.
|seals Ethan Johnson|
|kicks out DT|
|executes tough reach|
|excellent scoop block|
|gets a cutback lane|
|cuts the living hell out of LB|
|blocks no one|
|shoots upfield immediately|
|slanting DT into backfield|
Steve Schilling, now a candidate for the Brooks Bollinger Memorial Eighth-Year Senior Award, returns for a fourth year as a starter. Unfortunately, none of those years have been super awesome. Persistent pass-protection issues at right tackle (perhaps understandable since Schilling's high school team almost literally never threw the ball) forced him to move inside last year, where his pass-protection issues were mitigated… but not exactly quashed. He came in for some worry after the Purdue game:
… man, the pass protection issues are not letting up and the second-most vulnerable guy other than whoever the right tackle is has been Schilling, which isn't good. You can sort of understand why a two-star sophomore who had only MAC offers is struggling at tackle. Schilling's at an easier spot and is a five-star junior. At this point he's probably not going to live up to the hype. That's not to say he's bad, but pass protection breakdowns from the LG spot are really frustrating, especially when there are many incidents where Schilling doesn't lose his guy but gets shoved so far back in the pocket that Forcier has nowhere to go when someone comes tearing around the right tackle.
Schilling did do well in Genuinely Sarcastic's run charting last year and get Black's vote for best run blocker, so he's not exactly bad. He's just not what people expected when he was the hotness picking Michigan over USC out of Bellvue, Washington.
He should take another step forward as a senior, obviously, and finish out his career a solid player. Reasonable expectations are being able to hold up against bull-rushes better and pick up more stunts, though that latter issue could be due to the problems at center once Molk went down.
|you go to ground now|
|sees it and jets|
|on his way to six points|
|gets outside the tackle|
David Molk didn't play in spring and had a green jersey through part of fall camp, so the question foremost in your mind is about his health. The good news is that he's basically Mike Martin when it comes to holding a guy out:
Is David Molk healthy now?
Coach Rodriguez: “Yeah. He scrimmaged yesterday a little bit. We didn’t have him go the whole time for precautionary reasons, but he got a few good series in and did pretty well.”
Hallelujah. Since he missed most of last year there's not a lot more to go on than this site's assessment of his redshirt freshman season, which was rapturous after the Penn State game:
He got dinged later in the year for being small, but in a system like this where he's reach-blocking all day his agility is an asset. Time and again against Penn State he successful executed these blocks, springing people into the secondary. Against Notre Dame he did the same thing.
The issues are obvious, though: too many missed blocks, and too many blocks where he's just not strong enough to deal with his man. But he's a redshirt freshman; strength should come.
As far as last year goes, he did pick up a couple of holding penalties against Western, resulting in a small cluck. The response of Rodriguez, who called him "one of the team's best players," and the offense when he went out with an injury indicates just how important he was to the team.
Healthy, back in shape, and ten pounds heavier than he was going into last year—twenty pounds heavier than he was the last time he got a lot of playing time against quality opponents—Molk should be the team's best lineman and in the conversation for All Big Ten at the end of the season, with a Rimington finalist kind of year his max upside.
Last but probably not least when it comes to the starters, redshirt sophomore Patrick Omameh is set to bust out. He was the Lewan of last year, the recipient of a torrent of practice hype who fans were surprised to see on the bench, even more surprised to see him still on the bench when Molk went out, and further surprised still when he danced his way into the starting lineup as a guard when he'd been hyped up as the next great Michigan tackle for going on two years. As late as February I was saying things like "Omameh has always been regarded a left tackle prospect."
This wasn't actually wrong:
But following weeks of pats on the back from his coaches, Omameh, in part of a widespread shift along the line, got the start at right guard in UM's third-to-final game of the year. Not only was it his first game action at the position, Omameh had never even worked at right guard in practice.
Why would Michigan make such a weird move? And then why would they stick with it? Well:
Yuck. Is there any hope for the OL going forward?
Well, Omameh had a very good day, and not just for a redshirt freshman. His agility is as advertised:
He was sealing DTs with Moosman all day; he seemed to have a grasp on pass protection, too. He was so obviously good that he's now your starter at RG, no questions asked, as Huyge and Dorrestein fight it out at right tackle. That's an important step forward for him. If he's languished on the bench as Ferrara got the start the hype on him would be heading towards Grady Brooks territory; as it is he's beaten out some more experienced options and played well as a redshirt freshman. You can now put him in pen somewhere on next year's line.
|great, Hart-like run|
|out on the MLB.|
|kicks the DL down the line by himself|
|pulls Omameh around|
In Michigan's offense the guys who can get 15 yards downfield and put a hat on a guy need to be guards. I can't tell you how many times I've UFRed a play where Michigan has creased the opponent's line and looks set up for a big play only for the guard releasing downfield to do an ole and for Michigan to get three yards. (Here's a Picture Pages from '08 that provides an example.) Last year when Huyge was forced inside his strike rate was iffy, as you can see in his "downfield no" section. Omameh and Schilling provide the potential for Michigan to have two guys who can get blocks downfield, sometimes way downfield, and turn those 3, 4, and 5 yard runs into 10, 15, 20, or more. That's why Omameh's inside.
There he's been getting buckets and buckets of hype, from here and anywhere else you want to look. Like most of the other guys on the line he's packed on the muscle, now checking in at 299 after last year's 276. The thing I remember most from the spring game was Omameh not only sealing but pancaking Renaldo Sagesse, a senior and decent Big Ten player, on one particular zone stretch. If this is true…
"The only way I can tell I'm heavier is by stepping on the scale," Omameh said. "I still feel like, and move like, the way I did when I came in. The strength is evident when I play."
This will be fairly brief since no one on the interior has seen game time. At center the primary backup is Rocko Khoury, a middling three-star recruit who was passed over last year in favor of the crazy shuffling. Since he was a redshirt freshman that's not a huge black mark. The ease with which Mike Martin was crushing him in the fall practice is slightly concerning, but hopefully Martin will be doing that to all manner of opponents.
At guard, redshirt sophomores Ricky Barnum and Elliott Mealer plus redshirt freshman Quinton Washington are the primary backups, with Barnum and Washington the top two guys on the depth chart. All came in fairly highly touted and have enough experience that seeing one on the field—probably Barnum—won't be cause for too much alarm.
Senior John Ferrara has fallen to third-string and will probably be limited to special teams; solitary freshman Christian Pace is guaranteed to redshirt.
Previously: S Carvin Johnson, S Ray Vinopal, S Marvin Robinson, CB Courtney Avery, CB Terrence Talbott, CB Cullen Christian, CB Demar Dorsey, LB Jake Ryan, LB Davion Rogers, LB Josh Furman, DE Jordan Paskorz, DE Jibreel Black, DT Terry Talbott, and DT Richard Ash.
|Avon Lake, OH - 6'3" 263|
|Scout||3*, #11 C|
|Rivals||3*, #7 C|
|ESPN||3*, 79, #13 OG|
|Other Suitors||Florida State, Iowa, Stanford, Pitt, Michigan State, Northwestern, South Carolina|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Probably could have gotten into Michigan if he was 5'6".|
Christian Pace is the entire 2010 Michigan offensive line recruiting class. Those of you with fingers will be able to calculate the number of offensive linemen who play at the same time, note the number of people one person is (it is one), and grimace meaningfully at the lack of people just one person is. But that's another show. This one is about the one person.
Fortunately for your fingers and what they abstract, Pace seems like as close to a can't-miss sort of prospect you can get in a three-star. I usually don't advocate watching highlights but this exceptionally useful and interesting AMP piece on Pace is an exception:
If you're still allergic to video (or at work or something), Rivals's Greg Ladky says the following things:
Pace has perhaps the best tape—not highlights, tape—in the Midwest.
He's a perfect fit for Michigan's offense, which prizes agility over massive size.
He doesn't have that size, is therefore a serious longshot as far as the NFL goes, and this is an explicit factor in Rivals's rankings.
Those opinions add up to the most concrete reason to be more excited about a prospect's potential impact at Michigan than his rankings would suggest than has ever been ventured. They're also shared by many according to his high school coach.
"I’ve had coaches tell me that (Pace’s highlight tape) is the best they’ve ever seen, bar none, coaches throughout the country," he said.
And more detail yet:
“I had a number of college scouts tell me that might be the best senior lineman tape in the whole United States, it was that good,” Dlugosz said. “He’s a very, very physical player. He’s an individual that has tremendous footwork and he’s very agile. He loves the physical part of the game and he knows how to finish blocks.”
Interestingly, one of those coaches was very likely Rick Trickett, the Florida State offensive line coach/Full Metal Jacket devotee who was Rodriguez's OL coach at West Virginia before FSU flashed its thigh. The guys from Tomahawk Nation follow Florida State recruiting closely and mentioned to me after Pace committed that Rick Trickett was grumbling about letting him get away and how he could have turned that kid into a Rimington winner. Here's the version of those events from Bucknuts:
Pace didn't get four stars from anyone for a pretty good reason: dude is small. But the constant refrain from people who watched his film was that he was a nasty, agile center perfect for Michigan's zone read running game. A Florida State blogger I keep in contact with reported back that FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett, formerly on Rodriguez's West Virginia staff, groused that he could have turned the kid into a Rimington winner if he'd grabbed him.
Add that to the pile of reasons to file Pace as Molk 2.0: an undersized, feisty center who is a crucial starter but doomed when it comes to the NFL.
Rimington winners don't play tackle, but as per usual with D-I line prospects, Pace was a tackle in high school. Due to his Molkian stature he'll move inside in college. Michigan is going to put him and his enormous brain at center, where it will be best put to use:
"He finishes blocks really well, he’s also an intelligent football player," Dlugosz said.
"Christian understands concepts, when you tell him ‘we’re running this blocking scheme,’ he will be able to visualize who everybody is supposed to block and how he fits into that scheme. So he ends up being like a coach on the field. He understands those things really well."
Continuing the theme from earlier where the coach says something and then says pretty much the same thing:
“He’s very intelligent,” Shoremen coach Dave Dlugosz said. “Some players understand: I’ve got to block this player on this play. Christian can look at the defense and he understands the concept of the play, and he’s capable of making adjustments not only for himself but for the rest of the team as well.
“He plays tackle for us, but Michigan is going to move him to center, where he’ll be responsible for making most of the blocking calls.”
Another AMP video featuring a Pace interview confirms:
Also though Pace picked up 25 offers from various mid-level programs plus Florida State before his commitment, his final three were Michigan, Northwestern and Stanford. This was not a guy admissions cocked an eyebrow at.
At center, Pace will have plenty of opportunities to pass off a guy to one of the guards next to him and wall off a linebacker with his agility. As a high schooler he displays A+ mobility. ESPN's evaluation is a technical version of the above praise:
Pace is a very proficient run blocking offensive lineman. He is undersized a little in terms of height but is extremely strong and powerful. Comes off the ball like a locomotive and derails the defensive lineman on run blocks. Really dominates the defender on base and drive blocks. Fires out low and hard with a flat back and strikes the defensive lineman across with a jarring first punch. Follows the initial blow delivery with great leg drive; churns legs like pistons. Impressive reach and zone blocker; uses excellent footwork in gaining position on the edge defender. Runs his legs and keeps the opponent locked in; really works hard to finish and sustain the block. Very solid combination blocker that drives defensive lineman into the lap of the linebacker. Pulls and traps with authority; turns upfield and seeks out defenders in the openfield. … He has the aggressiveness and nastiness coaches look for in a lineman.
Similarly, Ohio Varsity calls him a "fantastic interior line prospect":
His agility is what sets him apart from most linemen, as he has the ability to get out in space and execute blocks against smaller, faster defenders. Pace thrives as a pulling guard and his film features numerous plays where he rockets out of his stance and immediately becomes a dangerous 265-pound lead blocker. Where he really impresses, however, is that he sees the field and when pulling he has a proper feel on when to trap/kick out the blocker and when to pull around and seal the edge.
I’ve said it on reviews of other linemen and I’ll say it again: I want to see elite prospects putting defenders on their back on a regular basis. If you have a 6-foot-3, 260-plus pound offensive lineman playing at the high school level, pancake blocks should be a regular occurrence. For Pace, it is. And I love it.
Both evaluations mention some potential dodginess in pass protection, which Pace doesn't do much of, with OV smartly noting that the transition from a tackle who never pass blocks to an interior lineman is a tough one that requires the ability to pick up all manner of stunts. Pace's intelligence should help him with that, and he won't have to play until his third year at center anyway.
Other than that probably-minor issue, the only thing that hold Pace back is his size. That issue kept Pace from the rankings those evaluations—heavy breathing even for recruiting fluff—suggest he should get. (Scout unhelpfully lists as it an "area for improvement.") Pace is optimistically listed at 6'4", 270 in several newspaper articles, but the official site has something closer to the truth: 6'2", 259. Even those tend to be burnished, which means Pace could be 6'1". That could be a problem when Michigan's offense isn't busy running away from behemoth nose tackles, which is infrequent but not unheard of. Pace's ability to pull might mitigate that, though; Michigan might be able to go power off tackle, using him as a 270 pound fullback instead of an overmatched center going up against someone 30-40 pounds heavier.
If he doesn't make it, his (very) relative shrimpiness will be the reason. But many, many people think that's a problem that will be overcome.
Etc.: Interview from after his enrollment. Commitment article with plenty of quotes but nothing hard. Want to wonder what you're doing with your life? Watch this video of Pace working out at a Pitt combine. Second-team All-Ohio in his division as a junior and made Ohio Varsity's all-division first team as a senior.
"It’s going to be an interesting transition with snapping and everything, but I’ll play wherever they want me to," Pace said. "The center makes all the line calls and reads the defense and gives the O-line all the calls it needs but other than that, I’m basically coming in fresh to the position."
Why David Molk? Obvious. Extraordinarily tight comparison here. Same sort of recruiting profile if you give Pace the benefit of the doubt implied by the AMP video above, same size, same position.
Guru Reliability: Low? Don't get me wrong, the consistency of the evaluations and Pace's profile indicate strong reliability but when you've got Rivals guys stating that he's a great fit for Michigan but too small for the NFL as part of their evals… well, I don't care about that last bit. I care about the first bit.
General Excitement Level: High. People are talking up Rocko Khoury a bit these days but he'll have a hell of a time holding off Pace after two years of schooling and weights.
Projection: Likely starter as a redshirt sophomore after Molk graduates.