Mike Lantry, 1972
PREVIOUSLY: The Offense
Following up yesterday's breakdown of the 2013 recruits on offense, here's a look at Michigan's defensive class—click each player's name to see their original commitment post:
|Maurice Hurst Jr.||DT||MA||3||4||4||3|
And now, some superlatives:
BEST POSITION GROUP: Linebacker
This class is pretty evenly spread across the position groups—an argument could be made for pretty much any group on the field. In an effort to avoid giving all of the awards to Dymonte Thomas, I'll go with the linebackers here. After 2012's big haul, Michigan only needed a couple of linebackers in the class, and they filled their two spots with a pair of very solid prospects in Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon.
The lone linebacker spot the 2012 class didn't cover was on the strong side, and McCray's size (6'4", 230 lbs.) and athleticism make him an ideal fit there. Gedeon, meanwhile, is a stellar athlete—he also starred at running back for Hudson—who should be able to cover the field sideline-to-sideline from the weakside linebacker position.
Honorable Mention: Safety, Cornerback
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Strongside DE
There isn't one, and that's the only hole in this class on the defensive side of the ball. After Michigan brought in three SDE-types in 2012—Matt Godin, Tom Strobel, and Chris Wormley—there wasn't a major need, especially with in-state standout Malik McDowell firmly in their sights for the 2014 class.
MOST LIKELY TO START FROM DAY ONE: Dymonte Thomas
Defensive highlights start at the 4:22 mark.*
It's distinctly possible that no member of the 2013 class starts on defense next season, and that's a very good thing for Michigan. If one will, however, it's safety Dymonte Thomas, a dominant force in the state of Ohio at both running back and safety for the last three seasons. Michigan has to replace Jordan Kovacs, and if Jarrod Wilson isn't ready to step in at free safety, it's likely that Thomas Gordon will play there while Thomas slides in at strong safety.
Thomas may be the best pure athlete in the class—if he wanted, he could've easily been a four-star running back recruit—and he brings a very physical presence to the secondary. He should be an asset in run support off the bat and he has all the tools necessary to be solid in coverage, as well. Down the road, I think Thomas will be an all-conference—or even All-American—player, and it may be tough to keep him off the field this fall.
Honorable Mention: The only other play I see having a shot to start this year is Taco Charlton—he's an impressive player and the weakside DE spot is open to competition. That said, I don't see that happening unless Michigan gets hit by the injury bug.
*Also of note: those are junior highlights. His senior reel is well worth a look.
SUREST THING: Dymonte Thomas
See above. Frankly, I'm surprised Scout was the only service to rank him as a five-star.
Honorable Mention: Henry Poggi. Poggi may not be a superstar—he doesn't always explode off the ball on film—but he seems like a guy who should at least be a solid starter down the road.
BOOM OR BUST: Jourdan Lewis
I've seen cornerback Jourdan Lewis play in either a game or camp setting over a half-dozen times at this point, and he's an outstanding athlete who could conceivably contribute in the return game or even at receiver. When he played across from current Wolverine Terry Richardson as a junior, I thought Lewis was flat-out the better player—he's a little taller and is extremely good at making a play on the ball. After giving him a closer look this year, however, I noticed a couple holes in his game:
There are a couple major concerns I have with Lewis, however, that were on display on Friday night. He does rely on that recovery speed far too much in man coverage—if OLSM's quarterback had thrown that hitch on time, for example, I don't think Lewis would've been able to break up the pass. Then there's run support, where Lewis is very limited by his small frame; at his size, he has to be completely committed to throwing his weight around and tackling with proper technique, and I don't see that at this point. He tends to dive for an ankle-tackle and shies away from major contact—there's a stark contrast between him and Webb, who's both bigger and more willing to lay a hit.
Lewis has all the athleticism necessary to be a very good cover corner, but he's going to need to add some weight, embrace the physicality of the run game, and refine his coverage skills if he wants to be a major contributor at cornerback. If that doesn't work out, he could flip to offense and be a playmaker in the slot, so his versatility gives him a lesser chance of flaming out, but there's no guarantee he'd stick there, either. I think Lewis is a prospect with a high ceiling, but he's going to have to work to get there.
Honorable Mention: Maurice Hurst Jr.—the athletic big man could wreak havoc on the interior, but he's got to learn to play low.
MGOSCOUTED STAMP OF APPROVAL: Taco Charlton
When I drove down to Pickerington to see defensive end Taco Charlton's Central squad take on crosstown rival North (and fellow commit Jake Butt), I expected to see a raw pass-rushing specialist. Instead, I saw him play an instrumental role in keeping North running back Godwin Igwebuike (Northwestern commit) well below his usual numbers, sacrificing his personal stats to key on the run—and he still came up with 1.5 sacks:
Despite having a reputation as a pass-rush specialist, Charlton was instrumental in limiting Igwebuike on the ground, finishing with ten tackles and 1.5 sacks. He was largely tasked with keeping contain, and I don't recall a single instance where a running play got outside of him if it went to his side. While he sometimes allows offensive linemen to get their hands into his chest off the snap, he did a solid job of engaging and using his hands to shed blocks. He played a very disciplined game against the run, showed off a very high motor—especially impressive since he also moonlighted at tight end and on special teams—and always seemed to end up around the football.
As a pass-rusher, Charlton showed off more of a power game than what I've seen from him on camp film, getting his hands inside the blocker and bull-rushing to great effect. He still has that impressive speed around the edge and got pressure on a couple of speed-rushes, but for the most part he went right at his blocker—likely due to his contain responsibilities against the run.
Charlton has also really begun to fill out; Michigan lists him at 6'6", 249 pounds after he enrolled early, and he's got the frame to easily get up to the 270-pound range without losing his impressive quickness. I think he could factor into the weakside DE rotation as soon as this fall, and down the road he could be the edge-rushing threat that Michigan has lacked at DE for some time.
Honorable Mention: Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill. I've covered Lewis; Hill wasn't a guy I really focused on while watching Cass Tech since he was a long-time Iowa commit and there were so many D-I prospects on the field, but it wasn't hard to notice him anyway—he always seemed to find his way to the football and was a solid tackler once he got there.
SLEEPER: Channing Stribling
When cornerback Channing Stribling earned an offer—and subsequently committed—at Michigan's camp over some more highly-touted prospects (including eventual teammate Reon Dawson), he was a complete unknown despite coming from a football powerhouse at Matthews (NC) Butler. He was immediately pegged as an underrated sleeper, and after a senior season spent making big play after big play, it seemed like he was on the verge of making a huge leap in the recruiting rankings.
That never quite happened—Stribling ended up as a three-star across the board, so the sleeper label still fits. At 6'2", 170 pounds, he's very tall for a cornerback, and his playmaking skills were on display all year—in one game last fall, he had two receiving touchdowns, a defensive touchdown, and a kickoff return for a touchdown. If Stribling can fill out his frame and refine his coverage skills, he could be a very good corner; he's also extremely raw, and maintaining the quickness to cover college receivers at that height is no easy task.
Honorable Mention: Delano Hill
Today's recruiting roundup covers last weekend's All-American games, high profile names emerging (or re-emerging) as targets, and a potentially wavering 2014 commit.
Spill The Beans, Green
Five-star linebacker Reuben Foster: visit on tap?
Michigan didn't land one of their remaining high-profile targets over the weekend when FL S Leon McQuay III committed to USC. They appear poised to get better news regarding VA RB Derrick Green, however—the nation's top running back has maintained Michigan as his leader in recent weeks and told Rivals($) after the Army All-American Game, "I know where I'm going." Green plans to announce sometime this month and it's safe to expect good news barring a sudden change of heart.
While USC snagged a Michigan target, it's possible the Wolverines return the favor after CA WR Sebastian LaRue decommitted from the Trojans; the four-star told 247's Clint Brewster that he plans to talk to Coach Ferrigno about a potential visit to Ann Arbor ($). LaRue currently has a visit to Notre Dame scheduled and is also looking at Miami, Arkansas, and Texas A&M.
The Wolverines may also have suddenly found themselves in the mix for the nation's top linebacker recruit, Alabama prospect Reuben Foster, after he connected with commit Henry Poggi at the Under Armour game. Poggi reportedly alerted Foster to Michigan's potential interest and convinced him to get in touch with the coaches, and Foster looks to be following through, per Sam Webb ($):
Once Foster and Michigan begin having more conversations, the 6'1, 240 pounder says it’s likely he'll get up to Ann Arbor for a visit at some point before signing day.
"I don't know but the odds are pretty darn good cause I'm cool with [Poggi's] dad that I just met this week --- very cool with him," said Foster.
With a month to go until signing day, it's very late in the game to enter into the recruitment of such a high-profile player, but the former Auburn commit seems to have genuine interest. It's early yet to harbor serious hopes of a commitment, but if a visit materializes it would obviously be fantastic news for Michigan.
A more likely candidate for one of the final few spots is CA OL Cameron Hunt, who spent time with Michigan's contingent of commitments at the UA game. Hunt will take his official to Michigan next weekend, followed by visits to Oregon and Cal, and he told Sam Webb that those three schools comprise his leading trio ($).
[After THE JUMP, video and evaluations of Michigan's All-Americans, the latest on Denzel Ward, and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers the various All-American bowl practices, the latest on Derrick Green, and (debunked) rumors about a commit taking visits.
L to R: Jourdan Lewis, Dymonte Thomas, Derrick Green, Jake Butt, Chris Fox
Michigan has four commits at the Army All-American Game and many are wondering if they'll soon have a fifth after VA RB Derrick Green jumped into a picture with them (above, via). Green conducted a live chat on Rivals yesterday, reiterating that Michigan is his top school, holding a "small" lead over the field—Auburn, Tennessee, Miami, Florida State, and USC. He also got the Fred Jackson Seal of Approval for this quote:
Comment From Guest
Who would you compare your running style to?
Derrick Green: I compare my running style to a combination of Bo Jackson, Herschel Walker and Trent Richardson
Green mentioned the possibility of committing within the next week or so—though not at the Army game itself—but also stated a desire to take his two remaining official visits even after he commits; if his choice is Michigan, he'd obviously have to talk that out with the coaches.
FL S Leon McQuay III is set to announce on Friday and the sense from insiders is that Florida State—the presumed pick—and USC both hold an edge on Michigan, and quite possibly Vanderbilt does as well. If he holds off on making a decision, which Sam Webb has mentioned as a slight possibility, then the Wolverines could have hope; as it stands, not so much.
Matters are looking better for CA OL Cameron Hunt, at least if Patrick Kugler is to be believed:
— Patrick Kugler (@Kugleybear57) January 3, 2013
Hunt will take his official visit to Ann Arbor on January 11th.
Michigan is out of the running for for Wisconsin commit Marcus Ball, according to 247's Evan Flood. The Wolverines were pursuing Ball as a linebacker.
[For practice reports on the commits and more, hit THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup surveys the landscape as several coaches are fired and the rest prepare for in-home visits, recaps Michigan commits in their state playoffs, and more.
One Final Note From The Game
Massillon Washington DB/WR Gareon Conley was in Columbus for #THEGAME today, we are being told
— 11W Recruiting (@11WRecruiting) November 25, 2012
There's no official word on Conley's status, but don't expect him to be considered a commit for much longer. The question of whether or not he could find himself back in the class eventually is more difficult to answer; his situation isn't the same as David Dawson's or Pharaoh Brown's—Conley was up-front with the coaches about his desire to take visits. We'll have to wait and see if the coaches decide to treat his case differently.
And Now Let's Never Talk About The Game Again
In-home visits with recruits begin this week, and some very interesting names have emerged as players who will host Michigan coaches, including one we haven't seen in a while:
How bout this for blast from the past? Hearing #Michigan will drop in on Joliet (IL) RB Ty Isaac this week
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) November 26, 2012
Yes, that Ty Isaac, one-time top running back target and current USC commit. While there's no indication that he's wavering on his commitment, Lane Kiffin's job security has come under fire—especially in the wake of a derp-tacular finish to the Notre Dame game—and it's worth noting that recruits must approve of a visit before a coach can drop by; Isaac is at least willing to listen to Michigan's latest pitch.
Does that mean anything in regards to VA RB Derrick Green? I doubt it. Green's other presumed top choices, Auburn and Tennessee, have now both fired their head coaches—in Auburn's case, they just cleaned out the entire staff. That leaves Oregon, Miami, and Ole Miss as Michigan's top competition. Oregon doesn't fit Green's stated desire to play in a pro-style offense and Miami has the Nevin Shapiro cloud looming over their program. It's possible Green chooses Ole Miss out of a desire to play in the South, but that's a major step down in program quality compared to Michigan.
[For more planned in-home visits, a wrapup of last weekend's playoff action, and more, hit THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers Michigan commits as they progress through high school playoff season, USC's latest decommitment and its possible impact on Leon McQuay III, an emerging name along the offensive line, and more.
Jake Butt: TE/DE/OC?
Michigan commits and cross-town rivals faced off for the second time this season as Jake Butt's Pickerington North squad took on Taco Charlton and Pickerington Central in the first round of Ohio's Division I playoffs on Saturday; the result was similar to their first meeting of the year, as North once again shut out Central, this time 24-0, to advance to the next round. Butt was the star for North, even calling his own number to tally a 29-yard score:
“It’s called a hitch-and-go, and he threw me the perfect pass,” said Butt, who had five catches for 122 yards. “I’d been seeing that the play was open throughout the entire game.”
“Jake Butt called that play,” North coach Tom Phillips said. “He saw it and I said, ‘Just be patient.’”
The future Wolverine tight end also tallied a tackle for loss on defense as North held Central to a paltry 93 yards of total offense.
Elsewhere in Ohio's opening playoff round, cornerback commit Ross Douglas rushed for 262 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries, with 212 of those yards coming in the second half, as Avon pulled out a 28-11 victory over Perrysburg. Ben Gedeon carried the ball 18 times for 104 yards and two scores to lead Hudson to an upset over three-seed Canton GlenOak. Gareon Conley—yes, still a commit at this moment—had TD catches of 28 yards and one yard and also scored on a reverse as Massillon defeated Nordonia 63-34.
In Division II action, both Mike McCray (36-yard TD, video here) and Jaron Dukes (5 catches, 66 yards, 1 TD) recorded touchdown receptions as both Trotwood-Madison and Marion-Franklin moved on to the second round with blowout victories. Junior commit Michael Ferns caught touchdowns of 14 and 35 yards for St. Clairsville, which defeated Harrison Central 41-6 in the first round of the Division IV playoffs.
Seasons ended for a pair of Ohio commits, unfortunately, as a banged-up Dymonte Thomas was limited to 79 rushing yards in a 38-0 loss to Poland, while DeVeon Smith's 147 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries weren't enough to overcome Chardon in a 42-16 first-round defeat.
Cass Tech's Jourdan Lewis hauled in a 43-yard touchdown catch in a 42-23 district final win over Dearborn more noteworthy for the work of two running backs—junior Gary Hosey had 143 yards and two scores on 15 carries, while sophomore Mike Weber toted the rock 20 times for 178 yards and a TD. In another Division I district final, Wyatt Shallman had nine tackles, three TFLs, three sacks, and several QB hurries from his defensive end spot in a 45-17 win over Walled Lake Northern, according to his father.
Tim Sullivan caught Malik McDowell in action as Detroit Loyola defeated University Liggett, 50-7, last weekend, and he has free video and a scouting report available over at The Wolverine. McDowell tallied four sacks, all in the first half.
[For the rest of the roundup, including the latest on Leon McQuay III, hit THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers last weekend's high school action, the latest on Leon McQuay III, the 2014 ESPN 300 Watch List, and more.
Butt Turns Tables, Defeats Taco
Remember the picture of former Michigan safety Carvin Johnson as the saddest of sad pandas after losing the state title game? Taco Charlton also hates losing, and after his Pickerington Central squad fell 37-0 to Pickerington North—the first time in six tries that North defeated their crosstown rivals—he's the next in line for Agony of Defeat Photo of the Year:
Much like Johnson in that state title game, Charlton was phenomenal in a losing effort, recording ten tackles and 1.5 sacks while playing on offense, defense, and special teams for the Tigers. In the end, though, it was fellow Michigan commit Jake Butt, who finished with nine catches for 92 yards and a TD as well as a crucial fourth-down sack, celebrating a rivalry win on Central's home turf. I'll have much more on this game, including more photos and video highlights, in tomorrow's Future Blue Originals.
Speaking of outstanding two-way efforts, Dymonte Thomas led Marlington to a 34-14 victory with 249 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries and also recorded an interception—all after suffering an ankle injury that forced him out of the first offensive series. Thomas also threw an eight-yard touchdown pass. You can see highlights from the game at the 4:30 mark of this video.
Channing Stribling continued to show why he's regarded as a fast-rising prospect, returning an interception 25 yards for a touchdown for Matthews Butler. According to TomVH, Stribling now has five interceptions in six games on the season as well as a kickoff return for a TD and a receiving TD.
We haven't heard much from Wyatt Shallman, who's been battling injuries, thus far this season, but he had a breakout performance on Friday. Playing defensive tackle, Shallman finished with six tackles, four hurries, a sack, and an interception (returned for 20 yards), via TomVH.
DeVeon Smith rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns on only 12 carries in a 37-14 victory for Warren Howland. Several other commits found paydirt over the weekend, including Mike McCray (77 yard TD catch along with five solo tackles), Gareon Conley (TD catches of 58 and three yards), Ross Douglas (13-yard TD run), Ben Gedeon (71 rush yards and two TDs), and JaRon Dukes, whose 10-yard TD reception provided the winning points in a 7-6 victory.
In other commit news, David Dawson announced on Twitter that he's been invited to represent Team USA in the International Bowl. Also, Magnus has an interesting discussion about Wyatt Shallman's college position over at TTB; I agree with him that Shallman stands out much more on offense, and I believe he'll stick at running back.
[The latest on McQuay's visit plans and more after THE JUMP.]