"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
David Guralnick/The Detroit News
Continuing my theme of getting super-meta this offseason, I decided to take a look back at the MGoBlog recruiting recaps from the class of 2008—hello, blogspot!—and see how they stand up now that those players have either moved on from the program or are fifth-year seniors. 2008, of course, was the franken-class of Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez recruits, a bizarre blend of pro-style plodders and size-challenged spread speedsters. While it boasted 17 four-stars among 24 commits, finishing a very respectable tenth in the Rivals team rankings, the class would prove to be an unmitigated disaster, ravaged by attrition and marked with disappointment.
So, let's go back to a time when Michigan fans still held out hope for landing Terrelle Pryor—when these were written, still
holding out for a better contract mulling his decision a month after signing day—to spearhead this newfangled spread offense. Today, I'll take a look at Brian's offensive evaluations, and the defense will be covered next week. For reference, links to the original posts: Quarterback and Running Back, Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Line. If you're anything like me, perusing those is a remarkably fun way to waste time.
Easy Joke Is Easy
With a major change in offensive scheme, Michigan was in desperate need of a dual-threat quarterback. Pryor was the ultimate prize, and Rodriguez was forced to hedge his bets with Justin Feagin, an under-the-radar athlete from Florida whose best offers were to play wide receiver at LSU or defensive back at Miami (YTM).
Projection: Someone's going to play Tebow to Threet's Chris Leak this fall; unless Carlos Brown locks that down, it'll be Feagin. I have no idea what to expect, but think his future is probably somewhere other than quarterback.
Namely, the inside of a courtroom. ZING! (Really, when it comes to the 2008 quarterback situation, dark humor is the only option lest you want to break down in tears.)
Ironically, it was his off-field actions that made Feagin one of the recruits Brian was "baselessly excited about in defiance of recruiting rankings and reason," due to late-night workouts and multiple quotes expressing no concern about potentially having to compete with Pryor for the starting job. It was noted that Feagin required "a ton of developing to be a legitimate quarterback," which was readily apparent during his brief appearances as a freshman. Then came the cocaine stuff and subsequent boot, so we'll never know whether Feagin could've turned into a passable receiver.
I started following recruiting seriously when a friend showed me Noel Devine's highlight tape during my senior year of high school. Since I had little understanding at the time about how recruiting actually worked, I was bitterly disappointed when Devine seemingly had zero interest in Michigan (and vice versa), eventually ending up at West Virginia. I swore never to get my hopes up about highlight tape heroes again.
So the next year, when another atom-sized running back took the YouTubes by storm, I had little hope that this Texan doing heel-clicks on the backs of linebackers would even consider donning the Maize and Blue. Even so, I'd watch his tape on repeat, sharing it with friends whenever the opportunity arose; seeing their eyes bug while asking what in the hell they just watched never got old. This is what they saw [NSFW audio warning]:
Then, of course, the impossible occurred: Sam McGuffie signed with Michigan, though not before nearly shattering our dreams during a signing day flirtation with Cal. Brian, however, was nonplussed, proferring this muted reaction to McGuffie's inclusion in the class:
General Excitement Level: AAAAIIEEEE! Man... this offense is McGuffie's jam, man, and the Church Of Barwis will excommunicate anyone who doubts his his's ability to get up to 200-some pounds without compromising his lightning quicks. Steve Slaton says what.
Projection: He's the man, man. Will battle Brown and Grady for carries at first; probably a Noel Devine role his first year.
Oh. Unfortunately, you all know how this one went. McGuffie showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman in 2008, but also the durability of a paper bag. After finishing the season as the team's second-leading rusher, he decided to transfer closer to home, ending up at Rice, where he'll be a redshirt senior in 2012. Not exactly what we'd all envisioned when the guy who frontflipped over J.B. Shugarts at the Army Game hit campus.
McGuffie wasn't the only back in the class, however, as he was joined by two other intriguing prospects. Rich Rodriguez earned the "snake-oil salesman" moniker for snatching Roy Roundtree from Purdue (more on him later), but his other signing day surprise was pulling Trotwood-Madison RB Michael Shaw away from Penn State. You'll never guess what Brian noticed on his film [emphasis mine]:
I am not a scout, but in the Shaw video at Scouting Ohio I saw a guy with a knack for catching the flare, good speed, and exactly one move: an upfield cut followed by a bounce-out that got him outside high school defenders with regularity.
And thus we find the origins of bouncebouncebouncebounce.
The final back in the class was a relative unknown from the football hotbed of Avon, Connecticut. Mike Cox's name required a disclaimer in the notes section of his profile—"Degree of difficulty applies on all jokes about his name. (IE: please no "Mike Cox is huge" jokes.)"—while his school's sporting pedigree invited a healthy dose of skepticism:
There's almost zero reliable data on Cox. His high school conference is well known for hockey -- read full of rich white guys named "Higginbotham" (no, literally) -- and is awful at football.
Until reading the profile, I had completely forgotten that Michigan took Cox over four-star Detroit Country Day product and eventual Notre Dame commit Jonas Gray. In retrospect, I think it's safe to say that was a mistake, even though Gray wasn't a major contributor until his senior season. At least we got four years of stale dick jokes, though.
NEVER FORGET, Part Deux
Rodriguez's hire brought to Michigan the era of the waterbug slot guy, which promised to be great fun for a fanbase used to watching tiny track-star guys tear it up only for opponents. The recruit expected to come in and make a big splash early was four-star Terrence Robinson out of Klein, Texas, and all it took was one physics-defying play to see why:
Commits pulling Hakeem Olajuwon post moves at warp speed during a football game understandably cause a fair amount of excitement. Brian busted out the obligatory Breaston comparison and projected him to be in the mix at both returner and slot receiver. Robinson finished his Michigan career with one catch, two kickoff returns, and one punt return for a grand total of 94 all-purpose yards.
Michigan's other slot ninja was Pahokee's Martavious Odoms, whose profile contains endless testimonials about his rabbit-chasing speed. Brian's comparison is Devin Hester and also a version of Steve Breaston that actually catches the bombs:
General Excitement Level: Moderate++. He's never going to be Braylon Edwards but if he's as fast as his reputation he could be a dynamite returner and even a deep threat: remember Steve Breaston's ill-fated career as the target of bombs? Well, he was open by yards time and again because opposing players got smoked by his moves and always dropped the ball. Odoms looks like he's pretty good at hauling in deep balls.
Projection: Will press for time as a returner immediately and is 50-50 to be the designated bubble screen guy, with Terrance Robinson the other option. Starts off with an advantage on Robinson because he's spent the last four years as a receiver.
Evaluation severely lacking in mountain goat blocking praise.
Despite the excitement over the tiny slot guys, the biggest expectations were reserved for consensus top-100 receiver Darryl Stonum, who chose Michigan over Florida, Alabama, USC, and Florida State. Breathless hype part one:
Natural change of direction? Fluid hips? Comes down with jump balls? A mix of Braylon Edwards and Mario Manningham... which, like, dude.
And part two:
General Excitement Level: Maximal. The second most likely kid in the class to have a long, productive career at Michigan, IMO, behind Dann O'Neill.
Stonum's production disappointed, even after it was discovered that he'd been playing half-blind and needed contacts, and his career came to an untimely end after a string of alcohol- and driving-related arrests.
The last of the four receiver recruits was Roy Roundtree, another Trotwood-Madison star whose projection was the closest to the eventual reality:
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Never going to be a gamebreaker, but a likely contributor. Has to add a lot of weight to be an effective player.
Projection: Redshirts, plays sparingly his second year, and is 50-50 to emerge into Michigan's #2 WR.
Roundtree redshirted, then led the team in catches in each of the next two seasons, though this was more the product of the offense—Roundtree was the main beneficiary of QB Oh Noes—than him being a true #1 receiver, though he may be forced into that role this season.
The 2008 class also featured two four-star tight end recruits, though both came with significant question marks. For Brandon Moore, the third of the Trotwood trio, the question was whether he was the future star who earned top-100 rankings and big-time offers after a standout junior season or the potential bust whose stock slipped significantly during a disappointing senior year. Scout actually started out with Moore as their #98 overall prospect before dropping him all the way to three stars and the #43(!) tight end. The verdict:
General Excitement Level: High, with caveats. Moore is a boom-or-bust guy with much potential but a long way to go.
Projection: Great success, great failure, or somewhere in between. Specific cat is specific.
Barring an out-of-nowhere breakout season in 2012, bust it is.
Meanwhile, Michigan took a head-to-head battle with Ohio State for Toledo Whitmer's Kevin Koger, but it was unclear whether he'd stick at tight end or eventually make a move to defensive end:
It must be said: Koger is widely regarded a prospect of equal or greater merit at defensive end, and with Nick Perry's escape to Southern Cal Michigan finds themselves with one defensive end recruit across two classes. Though it's possible one of the linebackers -- most likely Marcus Witherspoon -- could end up with his hand down, Michigan is critically short there.
A down-the-line move was projected, but that was largely based on the assumption that Moore would pan out. Instead, it was Koger who'd get the lion's share of the snaps at tight end for the next four years.
Brian's O-line Knowledge Has Come A Long Way
One of the staples of the recruiting recaps is the "YMRMFSPA" section, in which Brian compares the recruit's style of play to a notable former player (usually a Wolverine, but not always, as evidenced by the Hester comparison for Odoms). With Michigan pulling in six offensive linemen in 2008, coming up with the proper approximation got a little difficult:
Dann O'Neill: YMRMFSPA Jake Long. No pressure.
Kurt Wermers: YMRMFSPA Matt Lentz?
Elliott Mealer: YMRMFSPA Matt Stenavich(?)
Rocko Khoury: YMRMFSPA Uh, that other un-touted guard person.
Ricky Barnum: YMRMFSPA Rod Payne?
Patrick Omameh: YMRMFSPA ????
Dave Petruziello and Leo Henige feel very neglected, man.
As you can see above, before Taylor Lewan was the Next Jake Long, that distinction went to Dann O'Neill, a top 100 recruit from Grand Haven. Not only was O'Neill quite a talent, his services were desperately needed along a thin offensive line:
Dann O'Neill might be Michigan's most critical recruit. The only tackles in the last two recruiting classes are incumbent RT Steve Schilling, three-star Perry Dorrestein, and two-star sleeper (as in "only had offers from MAC schools" sleeper) Mark Huyge. Finding two starting tackles from that group once the Zirbel-Ortmann class graduates in two years was looking very risky.
Brian projected O'Neill to start "at some point, hopefully later (say, as a redshirt sophomore) rather than sooner (say, this fall)." Instead, he never played a down as a Wolverine, transferring to Western Michigan after his freshman year. He would eventually earn a start at Michigan Stadium in 2011, but as a member of the Broncos.
The other future washout on the line was Indiana guard Kurt Wermers, whose off-field hobbies were not exactly typical of a football player [emphasis Brian's]:
Wermers was also named to the stupidly named "Offense-Defense Bowl" in Miami. The OD bowl appears to be a sort of second-tier all star game. Big whoop, except for the press release announcing the selection:
"Wermers, a veritable renaissance man whose hobbies include weightlifting, playing guitar, singing, and reading, also enjoys spending time on the virtual field of battle in the wildly popular massively multiplayer role-playing game World of Warcraft when not battling in the trenches on the football field."
This dovetails with information from May about Wermer's participation in... an a capella group:
"I love it," Wermers said of singing. "It gives me a chance to get away from big jocky athletic guys and hang out with a different group of people."
I don't think we'll be having any discipline issues with young Mr. Wermers. It's just a feeling.
Wermers left the team before the 2009 season, saying he decided to transfer because Rodriguez was "bringing in a lot of different kids that were not my kind of crowd," and running the team like a business (Wermers signed when Carr was the coach, but obviously never played under him). It was later revealed that Wermers was academically ineligible when he announced his transfer, probably because he was playing WoW instead of going to class. Discipline issues: check.
The player who's actually panned out was the lowest-ranked among the six, Patrick Omameh, a two-star DE to Rivals and the #87 OT to Scout. There wasn't much comment on Omameh beyond addressing his sleeper status; speculation about his future position turned out to go 0-for-2:
There are conflicting reports as to whether Omameh was recruited as a center (where his intelligence would help with the line calls) or tackle; that will get sorted out somewhere down the line.
As you know, Omameh is entering his third year as the full-time starter at... right guard.
Finally, Ricky Barnum peered into the future and got a serious head start on his future team's biggest rivalry:
Various people are probably irritated with Ricky Barnum: Urban Meyer, for one. Also OH OL Zebrie Sanders, who tried to commit to Florida but was told to talk to the hand because Barnum and another player had filled Florida's OL quotient for the year. Sanders, also rejected by Georgia for the same reason, ended up at Florida State and Urban ended up short one highly recruited interior lineman. Not that anyone will ever shed a tear for Urban Meyer.
Well done, Ricky.
O'Neill, a Grand Haven product and the younger brother of current Bronco tight end James O'Neill, said Saturday that he's been granted his release to WMU and will join the football program this August.
There are quotes about O'Neill thinking he fits better at Western and all that. From what'd I'd heard (repeatedly and well in advance of O'Neill's transfer) it wasn't so much an issue of fit but one of technique and talent.
Eyeing talent. John Beilein swooped in on Evan Smotrycz ten seconds before he blew up, and there have been some scouting reports on Tim Hardaway Jr in a similar vein. The Chicago Sun-Times reports back from a local AAU tourney:
Speaking of the Mac Irvin Fire, the Hoops Report continues to be impressed with Tim Hardaway, Jr. The Class of 2010 2-guard out of Miami will be a perfect fit at Michigan. If Hardaway were in the state of Illinois he would certainly be one of the top five prospects in the senior class and probably check in at No. 3 overall behind Richmond and Leonard.
That's quite a statement. Illinois has nine kids in the Rivals 150, and if they happened to agree with the Sun-Times guys' assessment they'd have to slot Hardaway somewhere between #61, where Leonard sits, and #86, where the next Illinois player—PG Crandall Head—is ranked.
"He's done the unexpected, and he's really turned it up a notch," Daniels said. "At some big-time events, he proved himself against top competition. His performance at the NBPA camp was tremendous, and he showed parts of his game I didn't know he had."
Smotrycz's ability to handle the ball in the open floor and his passing ability was especially surprising.
"People are starting to catch on with him," said Daniels, who reiterated that Smotrycz is still solid with the Wolverines. "I'm sure some college coaches are sorry they missed out on him."
More of the same: skilled 6-9 forward who can handle, pass, and shoot.
Inflate, calculate. 1) Patrick Omameh is in engineering. 2) He is now much huger:
"I feel I play a whole lot stronger than when I came in, and I've put on about 30 pounds," Omameh said. "I weighed about 250-251 coming in, and the heaviest I've been since I've been here is 287. I still move as well as I ever did. ... I feel I'm ready to (compete for a starting job). Competition is always good."
Zounds. It says a lot about both Omameh and the shocking lack of depth on last year's offensive line that Omameh was on the travel team at whatever his weight was mid-season last year, which was not 287, or probably anywhere particularly close.
Boise? We will know about Boise State as the 2010 opener soon:
Boise State is close to finalizing a deal to fill the final slot in its 2010 nonconference schedule, and all signs point toward it not being UC Davis. With the Broncos already full up with nonconference games in weeks two through four, the thinking is that Boise State will be scheduling its big-time opponent for opening week, September 4, 2010.
The announcement should be sometime this week. Though Michigan, as discussed earlier, would make sense as an opponent I haven't heard anything specific in this instance. There have been general rumblings that Michigan is looking to upgrade the nonconference schedule a little bit with respectable-not-enormous opponents to go with ND and the usual rotation of MAC opponents and whatnot.
Assessed. Michigan has come in for evaluation by the good Doctor, and the upshot is pretty much what everyone's upshot is: eh, 7-5 and an uninspiring bowl game against an ACC also-also-ran. There's not a whole lot to disagree with, but I do think this is an excessively pessimistic take on the offensive line:
The '08 offensive line was an unmitigated, all-hands-on-deck disaster that sent the offense spiraling into one of the deepest, darkest holes in the universe -- last in the conference in passing, pass efficiency, scoring and total offense, and truly among the worst overall units in the country. So this is one area where returning seven different players who started multiple games last year -- four of whom began the season as backups, including one who entered fall camp as a defensive tackle -- is equal parts blessing and burden.
It may be some comfort that this isn't a young group: Six of the seven returnees, all but redshirt sophomore center Dave Molk, are in their fourth or fifth years, and should be further whittled into the nimble zone blockers Rodriguez's scheme requires, as opposed to the steamrolling grinders they were recruited to be.
This has been asserted before: there was a major difference between the all-and-by-all-we-mean-desperately-few-hands-on-deck disaster that the offensive line certainly was early in the season and rather non-disastrous performance of the offensive line the second half of the season. The tackles' pass protection and guards' second-level blocking remained issues, but those issues should both be mitigated by Steve Schilling's move inside. And to those seven returners Michigan adds five able bodies (the four redshirt freshmen and injury-stricken Mark Huyge), amongst them the two tackles who allowed Michigan to move Schilling inside and salve the most consistently irritating rash of a position.
I use the same heuristic DocSat does here—large numbers of returning starters are not necessarily good when they are upperclassmen who have proven extremely poor—in season previews, but usually reserve it for the Indianas for the world. I don't think it applies here. Michigan doesn't just return a bunch of sucky players, it adds significant depth and enters its second year in a new system on and off the field. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future performance.
"Confirmation." Rodriguez was pinged at last weekend's Women's Football Academy about Dann O'Neill. The Free Press reports back:
Rodriguez confirmed that offensive lineman Dann O’Neill has left the program, but he wasn’t sure whether O’Neill will transfer to another school.
So… confirmed, eh? Which sort of implies the existence of a report that O'Neill has departed, eh? Where might this report be? I'm curious as to when a newspaper will credit something other than another newspaper for breaking a story.
- If the elder Grady gets his probation together and so forth and so on he'll remain on the team:
“He’s still working out with the guys,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve gotten the details from him and researched it a little bit . Kevin has taken care of some of (those) responsibilities, and the rest of that is up to him. If he does everything, come Aug. 9, when we start camp, he’ll rejoin us.”
FWIW, Grady's father went on WTKA and asserted that the newspaper reports of what, exactly, he didn't complete were erroneous and the slip-up was considerably more minor. I don't have strong feelings one way or the other about Grady staying on the team.
- Rodriguez said there was only one freshman in danger of not qualifying. Sam Webb asserted that Fitzgerald Toussaint was good to go, which leaves Jeremy Gallon squarely in the crosshairs of that comment. (There were rumors that Adrian Witty was also a potential casualty, but since we know Gallon has a point or two to get it's easy to infer Witty has cleared the bar. Justin Turner's situation is apparently not a big deal.)
Speaking of that Women's Academy, while it didn't turn up anything equivalent to last year's legendary squat 'n' scream…
…Rivals does have some entertaining pictures. Here's Greg Robinson not getting the spirit of the thing:
YAAAAAARGH GET WITH THE PROGRAM 70 YEAR OLD 110 POUND RETIREE. There is also this woman wearing a shirt that appears to say "SQUIRELS [sic] GONE WILD" which WTF. And yes, insane all caps man, this girl is hot. I assume she's a cheerleader given the outfit.
Busts past. I was reading the good Doctor's Auburn preview when I ran across a name from the past:
As bad as those two [Kodi Burns and Chris Todd] were, career backup Neil Caudle only got on the field for five snaps against Tennessee-Martin -- yet he left the spring in a virtual dead heat with Burns to be No. 1. If we also assume Rollison can run, his arm might be worth a flier in case of another slow start.
Caudle was at Michigan's camp at the same time as David Cone, who apparently outperformed him and another high-profile quarterback. At the time this was encouraging; now it's apparent it said more about Caudle than Cone. Take it from a guy who witnessed Todd's painfully looping throws in the flesh: if you couldn't get on the field for Auburn last year, you were bad.
Also, that Rollison guy is Tyrik, who hardcore recruitniks may remember as the guy who played opposite Shavodrick Beaver in a game televised by ESPN. He had virtually no offers—Baylor might have been his best—until very, very late, when Auburn took a flier and got a commitment. This obviously meant JUCO, but somehow the guy qualified. Many teams will be kicking themselves if Rollison lives up to the hype. And manages to stay in school.
Yes, fair enough. Conversations about Rodriguez's recruiting this year usually go something like this:
Person One: I am concerned the class is filling up with players with low ratings and unimpressive offers.
Person Two: But Rodriguez dominated doofuses in the Big East with crappy classes!
That's an expletive, ad-hominem free version of events but you get the idea. The WLA takes issue with that latter hypothesis, because it is their job to find any optimism related to Michigan football and stamp it out:
Let’s look at how WVU recruited compared to their primary competition: fellow teams in the Big East:
2002: #2 class in the Big East (includes Miami, VT, and BC)
Looking at those results, it’s difficult to argue that West Virginia suffered any tangible talent deficit to it’s fellow Big East teams. … while WVU’s classes full of two andthree-star talent seems poor when put into the context of major college football, it was actually an above-average result when put into the context of their conference.
Okay, point taken, but counterpoints: West Virginia was most certainly at a huge talent deficit relative to Georgia and Oklahoma, and once you start getting into the area where you're pulling hairs between the #27 and #37 classes the gradation is way flatter than it is at the tippy top; West Virginia dominated a conference in which they had virtually equal talent to everyone else, and even if Michigan's class comes in a little disappointing this year it's still virtually guaranteed to be third at worst. This is coming off a horrendous year and should improve in the future. The argument that Rodriguez can take his and beat yours, then take yours and beat his, is one with significant data backing it up.
This first started with a message board post around these parts, and now we've confirmed it with two additional sources close to the situation: freshman offensive tackle Dann O'Neill has left the team. It's unclear whether he's transferring or giving up football.
Now… as we learned to our collective terror during the McGuffie transfer wobbling, these things aren't official until they are official. This appears to be a done deal, however, and has passed the threshold of likelihood where it's worth reporting. Thus: this post.
The departure shouldn't affect Michigan's 2009 season, as O'Neill wasn't on the two-deep and had never been mentioned as a threat to find playing time. Most of what we'd heard on him was along the lines of "great frame but needs a ton of work with both technique and strength." But he was a big-time recruit in the hybrid Carr/Rodriguez class, and his washout is disappointing. With Kurt Wermers' departure that six-member line class is now down to four; further departures will start cutting into players earmarked as future starters.
The good news is that Barnum, Khoury, and Omameh have all positioned themselves as future starters, possibly as early as this year, and are unlikely to depart. Elliot Mealer's recovery from his shoulder injury makes him something of a wild-card, but he's also been the subject of scattered positive reports.
This takes Michigan to approximately 21 scholarships in the 2010 class, but Michigan is probably going to have to fill O'Neill's spot with another offensive lineman; expect four to sign up, with OH guard/center Christian Pace already in the fold.