"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Left: Walsh. Right: Wormley by Upchurch
A few weeks ago I stumbled onto a 1997 article by Bill Walsh where he explained how he evaluates talent at each position. I then applied those evaluations to Michigan’s offensive personnel, because Borges is supposedly transitioning us to Walsh’s WCO. People requested a defensive version so here you go.
It’s probably not as useful because the closest NFL comparison to the Mattison ideal is the Greg Mattison Ravens. But then when you read about the history of Mattison’s 4-3 under defense, you find (49ers DC under Walsh) George Seifert’s ideas peppered all over. And there’s a reason for that:
Offensive evolution doesn’t matter so much when you’re talking about going back to the offense that dominated 1997. The 4-3 under defense—or whatever you call what Michigan does by shifting the line toward the nearest sideline—is more akin to a 3-4 than the 46 defense Walsh used to deploy against the run-heavy offenses of his day, or the Tampa 2 stuff that owned the period which that article was written.
Walsh’s defensive opinions are geared toward a 3-4, and that’s perfect for our purposes, since the 4-3 under is similar in personnel. When you see it you can see why:
So in we go again. I'm moving right now so I can't do it all in one again. Here's the interior DL and I'll cover linebackers and defensive backs in later weeks.
Dana Stubblefield / Rob Renes / Pipkins via Upchurch
Walsh Says: 6’2, 290. As discussed in the article when I made all the DL recruits into Wii avatars, the NT should have his mass low; a pyramid is more difficult to move than a cube. Like Mattison, Walsh puts the hands at the very top:
Quick, strong hands to grab and pull are critical. This is common with the great tackles. The hands, the arms, the upper body strength and then the quick feet to take advantage of a moving man, just getting him off balance.
The Walsh ideal doesn’t necessarily have to take on doubles. What he looks for is the strength to not get knocked backwards, and the ability to move laterally without giving ground. The best can burrow forward and push a guard into the pocket.
Note that Walsh is inadvertently describing a 4-3 DT more than a 3-4 NT—he’s not asking for a two-gapper who sucks up doubles but a one-gapper who can’t be budged. However the first step to beating spread teams is an NT who requires doubles, since the spread 'n shred's base dive play is most dangerous when an interior OL is releasing into the linebackers.
Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Rob Renes. NFL scouts want everyone to be Wilfork, but active, stout, and sound come first.
What to look for in a Scouting Report: "Crab person" a la Mike Martin, i.e. he plays low and with great leverage. Strength—opponents can't move him. “Has excellent hands.” Athleticism: Walsh didn’t mention this but guys who are ranked basketball recruits as well seem to have a high success rate; that's obviously a mark of quickness/agility being important.
What you can learn on film: Nose tackle recruits are often so much bigger than the competition that they can terrify offenses without technique. You can learn more from the plays where he flows down the line of scrimmage then makes the play. Leverage. Hands maybe but this seems to be something most will learn in college. It's paywalled (and there's a lot that's 3-techy about him) but if you have a Rivals account go watch Ndamukong Suh's high school film and how he uses his arms to dominate guys off the ball.
What could signal bust potential: We’ve seen our share of planetary objects who get lots of hype because they’re 320-pound creatures who pop average teen OL like so many zits. This is an effort position that scales dramatically with the transition from high school to Big Ten. An athletic man-child has a massive ceiling but is as likely to follow the career path of Richard Ash as that of Johnathan Hankins.
How our guys compare: The expectation here is for Quinton Washington (above-right/Upchurch) to reprise his role at Nose with Ondre Pipkins figuring in as a rotation starter and making appearances at the 3-tech spot as well. Q came to Michigan as a spread-style offensive guard highly sought after by all the right people. His switch to the defensive line was initially a swap with Will Campbell, except Washington stuck with it. It was a painful year and change waiting for him to catch up, made worth it last year when he was a pleasant surprise at nose. Listed at 6'4-300 he's on the plus side of the size curve but not to the degree Campbell was (Suh as a senior was listed at the same size). Where this project is concerned, Hoke seems to have had success in every facet except his stated goal of making Quinton two inches shorter; I like to mention that one of my favorite DTs to watch is Kawaan Short, who was listed at 6'5 as a recruit and 6'3 as a draft prospect. That upper body strength that Walsh covets in his NTs is what made Washington stand out as a recruit and contributes to the success he's had across the line.
left: Q.Wash's UFR totals for 2012. right: Pipkins's. Clicking bigs them.
Ondre Pipkins arrived looking pretty much exactly like an NFL nose tackle—6'3-340—and played pretty much exactly like a true freshman, as you can make out from the UFR chart above. That's technique (i.e. hands) talking—he got minuses for getting scooped and buried and eating doubles, and plus'ed for flashes of mobility.
Richard Ash has two years of eligibility left so you can't write him off yet but he came in a non-mobile planet and had to lose a lot of weight to uncover his playing body. The Walsh measureables are not favorable, at least not yet. The freshman pegged for NT (though either could play either) is probably Maurice Hurst, since he checks nearly every one of Bill's boxes, right down to a listed height-weight of 6'2-290. Mike Farrell on Hurst:
"He has a nice frame that can still add weight but what really stands out about him is his quickness off the ball and his light feet. Hurst beat most of his opponents with his first step and he was able to win the leverage game most of the time as well."
Watching his film you can see the hands (start at 0:48). The knocks are he needs to get lower (on film you immediately see that butt sticking out) and I don't see strength mentioned much. He played running back for his high school and wasn't so big that he could get by on size so Hurst probably appreciates technique. I would guess he needs some time to put on muscle before he can contribute.
[After the jump, moving down the line]
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 welcomes Jack Wangler, previews Michigan's signing day (spoiler: there's not much to preview), covers the latest in the 2014 class, and more.
Hello: Jack Wangler
Over the weekend, Michigan picked up a preferred walk-on in Warren (MI) De La Salle WR Jack Wangler, son of former Wolverine QB John Wangler and high school teammate of Shane Morris. Wangler didn't have any major college offers but did hold interest from a handful of MAC and Ivy League schools—the lure of following in his father's footsteps won out in the end:
"I can't wait to carry on the Wangler name at Michigan," he said. "Before I made it public, I was sure to call my dad and let him know what I had decided to do. He was definitely excited. Being around Michigan my entire life and experiencing it so much the past couple seasons really made it an easy choice. My dad said my years at Michigan will end up being the best four or five years of my life. I know they were for him."
While Wangler isn't a high-profile recruit—he's only ranked on Scout, where he's a two-star—he's impressed on the camp scene. Scout's Allen Trieu named him one of the emerging prospects at last April's Adidas Invitational:
Wangler had a good showing, first running a 4.58 in the forty yard dash and then catching everything thrown at him for the rest of the day. He has good ball skills and went up over top of a couple defenders to grab some passes and he's a kid who knows how to create separation.
Rivals's Josh Helmholdt called him one of the sleepers of last June's Sound Mind Sound Body camp:
Wangler has put a lot of work in this off-season with his Maximum Exposure teams, going head-to-head against some of the top defensive backs in the country. Wangler is always going to be a possession receiver; but his speed is coming along, and he has been timed as low as the 4.5 range for the 40-yard dash. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Wangler is a physical receiver and a technician when it comes to route-running.
As a guy who won't take up a scholarship slot, Wangler has some upside—he's got decent size, route-running, and hands, not to mention strong familiarity with Michigan's quarterback of the future. If there's a position group where a walk-on with a niche—in this case, sure-handed possession receiver—could work their way onto the field in the next few years, it's at receiver.
[Hit THE JUMP for your very brief signing day primer, news on the 2014 QB situation, new offers, and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup revels in the wake of Derrick Green's commitment and has the latest updates on Denzel Ward, Henry Poggi, and more.
Hello: Derrick Green
In case the rock you live under still isn't wi-fi capable, I have good news: Derrick Green, the nation's top-ranked running back, committed to Michigan on Saturday. He gets the full "Hello" treatment here, and below is local news coverage featuring video of his announcement:
Green's remarkable physical transformation—he entered high school at 268 pounds—is recounted in Sam Webb's latest DetNews article, which also gives a look into Green's recruitment. Green calls Fred Jackson "a father figure," and Brady Hoke managed to have a huge impact before ever meeting him in person [emphasis mine]:
With those bonds fortified there was one important connection left to be made — the one with Hoke. Even in his absence Michigan's head coach managed to begin that process with a gesture that resonates with his prized recruit to this day.
Said [Green's mother, Fran] Knight, "When we went (on the March 18 visit), he wasn't there. His dad had just passed, but I was amazed how even though he was going through the situation with his father passing, he still took the time out to call Derrick and let him know that he really wanted him there, he really wanted to be there, (and) he was looking forward to meeting him. That spoke volumes to me about the type of person he was."
If you'd like to see more scouting on Green, the DetNews also has blurbs from several Scout analysts.
In other current commit news, 247 named David Dawson and Patrick Kugler to their All-American first team for the class of 2013. Kyle Bosch and Henry Poggi earned second-team nods.
Speaking of Poggi, multiple outlets have confirmed that he did visit Alabama last weekend, and the Tide are actively recruiting him. While the exact nature of the visit is unclear—some say it was a visit to a friend on the team while others say that he took an official, and the Poggis are staying quiet—the general sense from insiders is that he'll still end up at Michigan in the end.
After a move to Florida—one that reportedly came as a surprise to the coaches—a parting of the ways between Michigan and 2014 commit Denzel Ward seemed inevitable. Today, it came to pass:
I am no longer a commit to the University of Michigan, I really appreciare the love from there but I just want to make the best decision.
— Denzel Ward (@DW75_) January 29, 2013
Michigan Leads For Doles
In-state 2014 OL Tommy Doles was on campus again last weekend, this time to check out the academic side of things, and per GBW's Kyle Bogenshutz the trip cemented Michigan at the top of his list ($):
“It helped a lot,” said Doles. “I can say Michigan is the frontrunner now. I wasn’t ready to make a commitment or anything – I think I still want to see what the options are. I think I’m just not quite ready to make a decision yet, but Michigan is a good option at this point."
Doles may take his time and check out some other options, but at this point it's tough to see him winding up anywhere but Michigan.
Per multiple sources, including 247's Clint Brewster($), Michigan offered 2014 five-star GA DE Lorenzo Carter. Carter holds one of the most impressive offer sheets in the country—pulling a five-star deep out of SEC country is a tall task, so until further notice don't get expectations too high for him.
The Best Kind Of Touchdowns
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.]