future blue originals
Livers has a smooth, consistent release. [Bryan Fuller]
My trip last Thursday to Kalamazoo didn't quite go as planned. 2017 hoops commit Isaiah Livers and Kalamazoo Central lost an overtime thriller to 2017 MSU commit Xavier Tillman and undefeated Grand Rapids Christian. I spent the game filming from the stands and planned to deliver a detailed scouting report once I had a chance to go back over the video; the bulk of the video got corrupted.
So this is going to be a little shorter and lighter on detail than I hoped. Maize & Go Blue's Sam Sedlecky, who was also in attendance, helpfully jotted down stats while I was too busy working the camera to take notes. Livers tallied 10 points (2/7 2P, 2/4 3P), 5 rebounds (with one impressive offensive board), 2 blocks, 3 steals, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, and 4 fouls.
Livers got off to a hot start, scoring seven points in the first quarter. He picked up his second and third fouls in quick succession in the second quarter, however, and never fully regained his rhythm in the second half.
It was still easy to see what John Beilein likes in Livers. He played within the confines of Central's offense; his one assist doesn't fairly represent his court vision and willingness to share the rock—if anything, he was too deferential at times. He displayed a fundamentally sound, consistent shooting form; his release is a touch long, but his size and elevation on his jumper helps cover for that, and he can shoot both spotting up or off the bounce.
Livers didn't get much going towards the basket in this game, likely due to his foul trouble and the interior presence of Tillman, who had five or six blocks and altered several other shots. While he's a good ballhandler for a 6'8" forward, he couldn't consistently get past opposing defenders off the dribble—he had the ball swiped away a couple times, including on a critical turnover in the late stages. He looks like he'll be a three-and-D player initially while he refines his offensive skill set.
His defense looked like a strength, especially in transition and on weakside help—those two situations are how he accrued his two blocks, one of which was an impressive chasedown on a fast break. He's got active hands, which had good and bad results in this game; he can be very disruptive but has to be better at picking his spots, especially once he has a foul or two. He showed the ability to stick with smaller players on the perimeter, which will be important—his best shot at contributing as a freshman is to show he can guard threes and stretch fours.
I'd like to see more of Livers before coming to a conclusion about his chances of cracking the rotation next year. Based on what I've seen of him so far, I like his chances of doing so. He looks like a natural spot-up shooter and he possesses the athleticism to develop into an excellent player on both ends. While he's not quite as big, he's got a similar skill set to DJ Wilson. Like Wilson, he's going to need to gain the strength to hold up inside and resist the temptation to float around the perimeter. Unlike Wilson, I think he can be a year-one contributor as a backup 3/4 so long as he shows some comfort in the offense.
If you read last week’s roundtable and you’re anything like me, you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about different line combinations and wondering who might be able to slide where and which guys are most ready to see the field right now. That’s where Youtube comes in.
Cesar Ruiz is purported to be one of the more college-ready linemen in the 2017 class, which is something of an OL luxury for Michigan if that does end up panning out. Ruiz earning the starting nod at center would allow them to move Mason Cole out to tackle if need be; yes, that’s putting the cart before the horse, but you wouldn’t be reading this site if you weren’t a cart-before-horse-putter now and then. Thankfully, Ruiz went to IMG Academy. IMG has a number of games on the youtubes, and a week without hockey to GBGA presents a perfect opportunity to take an every-snap look at the nation’s composite best overall center.
I couldn’t find a full game where Ruiz was lined up across from a DI nose tackle, but the Cetennial game cut-up below does feature a two-star 3-4 DE in BYU commit Seleti Fevaleaki. On top of that, the game itself was incredible. It was a true shootout, with the teams practically trading touchdowns and extra points until there were just 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter. IMG converted on 3rd-and-16 with a 38-yard heave into the end zone; they then decided to go for the two-point conversion (and likely win). They converted, Centennial’s Hail Marys fell short, and IMG held on in a fashion befitting the teams that would end the season ranked third (IMG) and eighth (Centennial) nationally in USA Today’s HS poll.
[Hit THE JUMP for the scouting report]
It felt inevitable that Cass and King would meet in the PSL Championship Game considering the perennial talent on the two squads; after all, they met in the PSL final just last year with King edging Cass, 27-25.
This year, Cass wasted no time getting on the board. Just minutes into the game Donovan Peoples-Jones hauled in a deep ball and outran Ambry Thomas to the end zone. From there, Cass built a 28-0 lead. King eventually found its offense thanks to Thomas, who looked excellent at receiver and finished the game with three touchdown catches. Thomas found himself matched up frequently against Jaylen Kelly-Powell; the two are cousins, and both have Michigan offers. King fought back in the second half, but Cass countered them each time and walked away with a 41-20 victory.
There was plenty to watch in this one what with all the Michigan offers on the field, and especially since they played head-to-head often. Cass beat King earlier in the season on a rain-soaked field; this matchup looked different, as playing in a dome let the players showcase just how talented they are.
[After THE JUMP: Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jaylen Kelly-Powell, and Ambry Thomas scouting reports and film]
Our intrepid scout/MGoUtilityMan David Nasternak made the trek to what might as well have been South Bend to take in Michigan commit Phil Paea’s serial tiny-right-tackle crunching. Paea’s an interesting prospect because he’s incredibly raw, yet somehow he passes the “could this guy play in college” eye test; he moves well and gives sideline-to-sideline effort, and when he stays low he moves the opposition. His Berrien Springs squad had to go to overtime to beat Buchanan, so we were able to get a fair amount of Paea film, which you can use to answer the burning question: 3-tech, SDE, or both?
[After THE JUMP: Phil Paea film and scouting report]
Apologies for skipping FBO last week, but there’s only so much time in a week and the hockey preview wasn’t going to write itself. (Someone on North Campus just read that sentence and scoffed; email me if you have robots that will help us divvy up our workload and dump some of it on automatons, Michigan Engineering students/professors.)
The night before the Wisconsin game was a miserably rainy one in southeastern Michigan, but that didn’t stop David and I from climbing on top of the Oak Park press box (with their permission, of course) to film 2017 commit Ja’Raymond Hall, 2018 target Marquan McCall, and 2019 QB D’wan Mathis. We ended up primarily scouting Hall, however, as McCall was injured and didn’t play and Mathis didn’t start (though he did rotate in fairly often, he fumbled early, got pulled, got put back in, and then got fewer and fewer snaps as the game went on).
Hall’s an interesting prospect. He was offered early in the process and his enthusiasm for Michigan was palpable; the first time I watched him was at the 2015 Sound Mind Sound Body camp, and he was decked out in Michigan gear. Take a look at his visit history and you can see that he’s long held a serious interest in the program, and has continued to stay connected after committing last December.
At one time he was a Top100 prospect on 247, but he tumbled more than 200 spots when 247 updated their rankings in July. He’s currently the #31 offensive tackle and ranked #312 nationally per the 247 composite; Hall is a four-star in the composite, but just a three-star to 247. Did we see what they must have seen? You’ll have to…
[Hit THE JUMP for Ja’Raymond Hall film and scouting report]
David and I traveled to the friendly confines of Wayne State’s Tom Adams Field last Friday to watch Orchard Lake St. Mary’s take on De La Salle. It was a beautiful game for a certain definition of the word; if you like heavy sets and spread-to-run offenses, then this was a game for you. It was also kind of ugly. Neither team had much of a passing game to speak of, and a fairly strong wind made punting an adventure, as one punt looked like it was going out of bounds before a gust sent it careening past the sidelines toward the stands. OLSM ended up eking out a 14-7 win while holding De La Salle to 63 yards passing and 81 yards rushing.
De La Salle’s offense may not have been able to get much going, but their zone read and jet sweep action made it an interesting game for linebackers. It just so happens that a linebacker is exactly who David and I were there to watch, as we wanted to get a look at how Michigan commit Josh Ross had developed halfway through his senior season.
[Video and scouting of Ross after THE JUMP]