the season has truly begun now
“You guys get me McGary yet?”
Isn’t that your job?
“Heh, no. I’m done with recruiting.”
How consistent was your four-man rush this spring and what’s the potential?
“Well we worked very very hard on it. We made a definite [goal]: ‘We’re going to do that.’ We worked hard all spring on it. The thing about pass rush that makes it something that you can achieve is that’s a phase of football you can work on all summer. That’s something like catching passes, like throwing passes. You can’t go out and hit a guy one on one, you can’t do all that in a summer, but you can improve pass rush technique better than anything else. And with our belief of that being important and our kids believing that, I think that’s something we’ll just continue. They did show some signs in there, but they also showed why you have to be a technician when you do it, and everybody’s got to be on the same page. We’re kind of in the growing stages of it, but we’re growing in the right direction.”
The early enrollees to catch my eye were Dymonte Thomas, Jake Butt and Taco Charlton. Thomas played exclusively at the nickel spot; with Countess still not taking contact Avery mostly played outside. Anyway, Thomas's presence at the nickel is not unprecedented. They've wanted bigger guys there for a while, it seems. Michigan wanted to go with Thomas Gordon there before they determined he was needed at safety; Ohio State actually calls the spot their "star" linebacker, and it's usually featured safety-sized clubbers. Their current guy, Christian Bryant, may not wrap up but he will thump you if he gets a chance.
It seems like it would be hard to replace a long-term starter like Courtney Avery. In this situation, rumors that Avery is dogged by a chronic injury lend it some plausibility. Nickel is a spot at which freshman screwups are usually first downs, not touchdowns.
As everyone's already said, Charlton looks the part and then some. He was struggling in a drill before the scrimmage where half the OL would play half the DL on zone running, getting blown out of his assigned lane; once he got some time against the backup OL he dominated. Unless Cam Gordon's really good, he and Ojemudia will duke it out for the nickel DE spot Ryan's injury has vacated.
Butt looks like Funchess, except not quite as long. A redshirt would be ideal.
Here's some credence for Jake Ryan's mid-October recovery timeline: Chris Wormley tore his ACL in mid-August. Eight months later he took a bunch of contact snaps in the spring game. Mid-October is 7 months from Ryan's ACL tear.
Jibreel Black looked bigger than 276 pounds, frankly not far off Quinton Washington's girth. Michigan likes stunting him a lot, which is partially a way to take advantage of his quickness and partially a way to mitigate his lack of size. A stunt got that safety on the second play, as Clark and Black swapped. Both got past their guys, with Ross finishing up. Black's pressure helped force the near-INT from Morgan, too; he got a sack by shooting past Ben Braden.
Frank Clark and Taco Charlton had a hard time against Lewan and Schofield—no shame in that—and then started crubberating the backups. Since most of those backups are freshmen or walk-ons it's hard to get a read on how they'll do against mortal starters. Clark had a big cast on one hand, so increment your opinion of his performance.
Richard Ash made a couple plays, swimming past Glasgow on a Rawls run that broke outside because of poor contain; Keith Heitzman was able to beat the walk-ons but didn't do much against the starters. Matt Godin looked the part but has a ways to go. The SDE spot looks a little weak.
I didn't notice much from the nose tackles. I assume Washington is fine; Pipkins has another year apprenticing.
Linebacker Skynet is online?
That James Ross stick on Drake Harris mentioned in the previous post is becoming the most-discussed play from the spring game. It's as surprised as any of you are. MGoUser Michael Scarn picture-paged it, making the same assumption I did when I saw it: the linebackers are headed to the line of scrimmage as quickly as they are because this is a blitz.
[1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: according to mattison that wasn't an A-gap blitz
[1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: is that plausible?
[1:07 PM] Brian Cook: what was it?
[1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: he said that was just them reading and reacting
[1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: they're that good
[1:07 PM] Brian Cook: that's like skynet coming online
I don't think it's quite that. The blocking on this play is majorly screwed up. He's a screenshot from Mr. Scarn:
Jack Miller is in space, blocking no one. AJ Williams, at the bottom of the shot, isn't really blocking anyone either. He's moving past Ojemudia and only decides to block him once he sees air in front of him. Ojemudia should have to account for the QB if unblocked, so I think there's a reasonable case that you have two extra guys on the backside who should not be there, which then gets you the two extra unblocked linebacker sorts.
Trying to figure out what's going on with the defense is hard, then, because the play they're up against is a debacle. Yes, that's a little ominous. Let's ignore it!
It is nice that Ross reacts basically the instant Kalis tilts to pull. If this isn't a blitz, it is a killer read.
Whether this is over-aggression or Ross having magical pattern recognition is yet to be determined. What we've seen of him so far indicates the second.
Many eyes were on Gordon, including mine. I thought he did fine. In that aforementioned zone drill he was consistently getting the right amount of penetration into the backfield, holding the edge without opening up a crease inside of him. That ability to get the edge flashed on the negative Norfleet run. When deployed as a pass rusher, he was effective; nothing seemed to be on his head. Michigan will be fine at SAM.
FWIW, Brennen Beyer actually started. Gordon looked like a much better option, which isn't surprising since Beyer just got yanked back to SAM in the aftermath of the Ryan injury.
The safeties were not important. They got beat on the long Funchess catch (against Jeremy Clark, FWIW) and the Butt TD; most of the rest of the gains were to the outside. As we enter the post-Kovacs era that's a good sign. Jarrod Wilson is your tentative leader at the vacated safety spot. You might want to make that "heavy"—it seemed like they were running him out all the time in an effort to prep him for fall. Clark got more PT than Furman or Robinson, it seemed.
On the outside, Raymon Taylor gave way early after playing well. Usually the early hook is a sign of confidence in your abilities, so mark his starting spot in pen. Avery, Hollowell, Richardson, and freshman Douglas were the guys getting tested. Courtney Avery got beat on the opening play. That was admittedly a perfect throw that he could do nothing about once he had failed to get Darboh close enough to the sideline to cut off that space. That's a size mismatch. A little less salutary is getting beat by Jackson a couple times on comebacks and such. One of the memorable plays from last year's spring game was Countess having Jackson in his pocket for an interception; Avery was some distance from a not particularly fleet receiver. He did get a PBU on a bad Gardner throw underneath. That appears to be his comfort zone.
I was surprised at how well Delonte Hollowell showed. He broke on a lot of balls, getting some breakups, and he stuck pretty close to the shifty Gallon. I'm not sure how much that means when Michigan was dead set against playing him in the bowl game. Gallon is the perfect matchup for the tiny Hollowell. Bigger receivers will cause issues, and it's clear what kind of corners the new staff is after: big ones.
Terry Richardson got run over by Rawls. Hard to see him getting PT outside of passing downs, and it looks like Avery and Thomas are ahead of him on the nickelback depth chart.
Ross Douglas didn't stand out to me. During the anthem he was next to Taylor and seemed to be exactly the same height, FWIW.
Nothing much to note except that redshirt freshman punter Kenny Allen looked pretty good. I've heard he's been impressive in practice, as well. I'd imagine Matt Wile will keep the job since he has been a B, B+ option; if Allen takes it that's a good sign. Michigan looks set at that spot for a while.
Rittenberg notes that the fireworks were not on display:
Michigan fans didn't learn a ton about the 2013 team as the offense, as expected, was "very vanilla, very basic," as starting quarterback Devin Gardner put it.
If you're pining for the pistol, don't give up hope.
Also, Lewan noted some improvement from the line:
"We moved and established the line of scrimmage today, and I think that is one thing that we haven't seen in a while," senior left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "But what we do in the summer and do in fall camp is really going to define us as an offensive line."
Toussaint is still the leader at RB according to Borges:
"We went through half the year (in 2011), and we said, 'We're going through this doggone running back by committee deal.' And we finally decided, Let's put him in there, leave him in there and let's go,'" offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "Fitz came to the surface, and I think he will again (this year) before it's all said and done.
"He's certainly going to get a chance to prove it. I'll say that."
The starters were Brennen Beyer at SAM, Desmond Morgan at MIKE, and James Ross at WILL. I don't think Beyer is a starter-quality linebacker, and he didn't really make any plays. Morgan dropped an interception and failed to get depth on Jake Butt's touchdown catch, but he did look solid against the run. Ross looked fantastic at weakside linebacker, chasing down plays near the sideline and hitting running backs at the line of scrimmage. Cam Gordon looked like the superior player at SAM, made a nice tackle for loss on Dennis Norfleet, and blew up Butt on a Power. Joe Bolden looked solid at MIKE, but I'm concerned about the backup WILL position.
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.]