"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
The series continues with a look back at the defensive prospects in Michigan's 2010 recruiting class. Rich Rodriguez took 16 defenders in the class; more of them failed to make it to the opening kickoff of their freshman year (four) than advanced all the way to Senior Day (three).
I apologize in advance.
Those Who Stayed
Especially in retrospect, Jake Ryan's recruitment was bizarre. Ryan was the most productive defender on a state-title-winning Cleveland St. Ignatius squad that got plenty of exposure; he played next to Ohio State commit Scott McVey; his highlight tape provided more than a glimpse of what he'd become at Michigan. He looked a whole lot like Jake MF Ryan, minus the flowing locks.
Yet Ryan went unranked for much of the process, and even after a strong senior season only earned middling three-star rankings. Michigan didn't offer Ryan until he took an official visit a couple weeks before Signing Day. Ryan, holding only MAC offers, committed the next day. Reading his profile today makes me wonder if I unwittingly ingested all of the drugs:
Why Obi Ezeh? Ryan is a big, slightly clunky middle linebacker who will easily reach Ezeh's current 245 pounds and may outgrow the position entirely. As a recruit Ezeh was an anonymous three-star in about the same range Ryan is; he was also a sleeper-type pickup who had not been on anyone's radar before Michigan grabbed him. Ryan is praised for his vertical attacking and dogged for his ability to cut through the trash sideline-to-sideline or effectively cover zones; Ezeh's career is ably summed up by those critiques.
Ryan has some assets Ezeh doesn't: a high school career at linebacker (Ezeh was mostly a running back), a head start on the system he'll be playing in, and Greg Robinson as a position coach. Hopefully he'll have some consistency in coaching as well.
Notably, Greg Robinson as a position coach was listed as a positive. Greg Robinson as a defensive coordinator was... not.
Jibreel Black's profile spent a lot of time hoping he'd become at least a poor man's Brandon Graham. While Black didn't come close to Graham's heights, he was a solid contributor his last three years, and he could've been more productive if Michigan's issues with D-line depth didn't force him into a role as a 275-pound nose tackle for much of his senior season. Black is one of many players from the Rodriguez/Hoke era whose career would've benefited from a redshirt year he wasn't afforded.
The career of Courtney Avery saw him go from promising freshman corner to clearly undersized spot starter to senior utility man—he'd finish his time at Michigan with 19 starts, five of them at safety in 2013. Avery was also a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, which shouldn't come as a surprise since he flipped his commitment from Stanford to Michigan; his high school coach thought very highly of him:
“He’s the type of kid that if he wants to be president of the United States one day, he will be. I got two compliments I could give him. That’s the first, and the second is if my daughter was 18, she could date him."
"Thanks, Coach. I'm deeply uncomfortable."
[Hit THE JUMP, if you dare.]
It's happening. Hail To The Victors is fully funded with two weeks left to go. I credit Harbaugh more than anything else. Thanks all the same; we will still be taking pre-orders through Kickstarter through the 18th.
Hail to the king. Oh nothing just Harbaugh hanging out with the first lady and Ciara.
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) May 1, 2015
Soon he will start appearing in historically significant photos and no one will remember that he was not, in fact, present.
Also sick beatz yo
— Coach Erik Campbell (@ErikCampbell) May 1, 2015
Seriously. I want to know what a Jim Harbaugh stadium playlist sounds like. Other than silence and the sound of manliness.
Hutch points with the best of 'em [Paul Sherman]
Hail to the queens. Softball locks down its eighth-straight Big Ten title:
On Sunday, No. 3 Michigan softball won the conference's top spot outright, beating Penn State 9-2 to improve to 48-6. It was the program's eighth-straight championship and 19th all-time.
Christner hit a walk-off, RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning to score Sierra Romero from second and end the game via the run-rule. Christner finished the day 2-for-2 with three RBI, and 8-for-9 in the series.
They will host the Big Ten championship and should get a home regional.
It could be happening? Michigan rattles its defection sabers in an interesting direction:
Michigan's process of figuring out whether or not it'll stick with Adidas or sign with a new apparel provider is ongoing. And this week, Michigan athletic department officials saw a pitch from Under Armour at its headquarters in Baltimore, a university spokesman confirmed.
A meeting is just a meeting and could be held for reasons other than "we are seriously considering Under Armour." I wouldn't read anything in particular into that. It is a move that implies Michigan is seriously considering a change despite having a contract that gives them Most Favored Nation status.
As for UA's pull, they just signed Wisconsin and their Notre Dame contract is rumored to be very big:
Under Armour has proven it can pay big money, too, though, as the supplier reportedly signed Notre Dame to a 10-year, $90 million contract in 2014. Though Notre Dame has never publicly confirmed those figures.
If money is the only factor it won't be Nike, which tops out at about half that. And if we're talking about Adidas versus UA my preference is for the latter.
Congrats draftees. Devin Funchess and Frank Clark went in the second round; Jake Ryan went in the fourth. Seems about right for Funchess and Ryan. Clark's spot is interesting for multiple reasons.
He got booted for a domestic violence charge, then failed to follow the contrition playbook in the aftermath. If you thought this might make the NFL wary you may have also had hopes the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight was going to be interesting. Nope.
The other interesting bit: that Clark got drafted in the second round, period. He was always a pretty good player who flashed high-level talent; he was not the kind of consistent threat I'd think is mandatory for anyone to be drafted as a DE in the first two rounds. I mean, Alan Branch went in the second round. I didn't think Clark was anywhere near his level in college. The Seahawks evidently did.
It sounds like they did do their homework. Nick Baumgardner has an extensive article on Clark's draft spot:
He said Michigan's staff and personnel were "shocked" by the arrest, and maintained that the team got enough information from U-M's staff to allow the team to feel confident in taking a chance on Clark in the second round. He also explained how there were a number of teams who were prepared to take Clark on Friday night, possibly early in the third round.
"It was a process," he said. "I was there two days after it happened. Our area (scout) went through there twice. Our regional scout went through there twice. We spent several days there. The easy thing to do was to dismiss this. But, over time and I don't want to get into specifics of it, things became clearer and clearer in the evaluation process.
"We brought him out here, he met with our sports psychologist. But to be there at the time, to see the secretary's reaction ... it was, like 'wow.' ... You get a really, really good feel for the individual (in doing that)."
As I said before, Clark's got an opportunity for a second chance that not a lot of people get. I hope he makes the most of it.
Etc.: MLive has video from a recent AAU tournament featuring commit Austin Davis and target Brian Bowen. Gardner pre-draft interview. He landed with Tom Brady, which is not a bad place to land. The NCAA's mission is disavowed by the NCAA.
Previously: Devin Funchess
We've reached the second day of the NFL Draft, and at least one former Wolverine—Devin Funchess—should hear his name called relatively soon when the second and third rounds begin this evening. Another Michigan player with some positional uncertainty is the next up in our draft profiles: Jake Ryan, who could find a home at either inside or outside linebacker in the NFL as a projected 4-5 round pick.
By The Numbers
Height/Weight: 6'2", 240
40 Time: 4.65 (combine)
Senior stats: 112 tackles (67 solo), 14.0 TFL, 2 sacks, 5 FF, 1 INT, 3 PBU
Junior stats: 30 tackles (23 solo), 4.5 TFL, 1 PBU (8 games, coming off ACL injury)
Sophomore stats: 88 tackles (57 solo), 16.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 5 FF, 3 PBU
By the end of his college career, Ryan proved very productive at two different positions, terrorizing backfields as a sophomore SAM and leading the team in tackles as a senior MIKE. He could end up at either of those spots in the NFL, and his versatility should help him secure a roster spot and make him a valuable backup regardless of his team's scheme.
While Ryan's combine numbers are merely average, his athleticism is more impressive on the football field. He closes quickly on the football and covers the field sideline-to-sideline, and when he's confident in his assignment he's very quick off the snap. Add in a relentless motor and good things happen when Ryan blitzes, whether off the edge or up the gut:
Ryan is usually a good tackler, though the above play does feature a weakness in that regard—he'll occasionally come in too fast and fail to break down in time to wrap up.
Ryan improved over the course of his career at diagnosing plays—something he had to re-learn a bit when he transitioned to the middle—and staying in his lane. He reliably set the edge as an outside linebacker, and in the middle he wasn't the type to jump over a gap and open up a cutback lane.
I'm no coach, but even I could see some of the ways Ryan worked around blocks—especially early in his career—and tell you he needs to work on his technique; Ryan takes the occasional false step, and while he got away with that a lot at Michigan, it'll be harder to cover at the NFL level.
I also have my doubts about Ryan's ability to play in the middle. While he had excellent performances his senior year against the likes of Indiana and Penn State, flawed and therefore predictable offenses, he struggled against more well-rounded teams. When offenses kept Ryan guessing, he was slower to diagnose plays, which mitigated his explosiveness off the snap; that often resulted in Ryan catching a blocker without the momentum to do anything about it:
While opponents had a very difficult time keeping Ryan blocked during his sophomore season, when he came off the edge, they had an easier time controlling him when he lined up in the middle. He's not always as physical as he needs to be when taking a block head-on, making it difficult to shed and make a play.
Ryan also had his issues in coverage, mostly with putting himself in the right spot in zone coverage. Given those problems, I think he fits better as a SAM.
Ryan's stock could be a whole lot higher if he hadn't essentially lost a year to a torn ACL before switching positions. Instead of establishing himself as an elite SAM or having a year of playing the MIKE under his belt, he spent much of his senior season still learning the finer points of playing in the middle.
On the plus side, his experience at multiple spots gives him versatility that's very coveted at the NFL level; anyone who can fill multiple roles while taking up just one roster spot is quite valuable. Ryan has the opportunity to add to that by being a special teams demon; he seems well-suited for that role.
Ryan has the size and physical tools to be an NFL starter. Whether or not he gets there depends on how quickly he can improve his technique and instincts.
News bullets and other items:
Hoke has spoken with Frank Clark since Monday
The team practiced inside yesterday, except for the special teams unit; they wanted them working in the wind
Ty Isaac has dropped some weight and impressed in the intrasquad scrimmage last week
Hoke said the problems in the passing game seem to change from game to game
Hoke and his staff turned down Jake Ryan when they were at SDSU after watching his recruiting tape
"Thanks for coming. Yesterday we had a very productive practice as far as both execution and the intensity of it and the finish, and that's one of the things we talk about all the time but the consistency of the finish we want to do every play and I think we accomplished a lot of those things yesterday. We went inside. A little surprising to some of you. Mr. Glick might be upset if we didn't go inside but we did punt and snap and catch punts outside for about 12 to 15 minutes. We usually always go outside for that specialist [portion] and it just helps those guys fielding the punts in the wind yesterday. The other problem that you have, and it's not a problem, but your filmers, your student filmers being up in those towers [where] the wind gusts can get pretty good and we don't want to take any chances with that.
"As far as- you always track the weather and you want to try and be ahead of it. It does reflect sometimes on if you want to have two returners on a punt [or] if you want to have three returners on the punt back and because of the weather and what the wind can do to the football. Doesn't affect a lot in the passing game unless it's just unbelievably from the side especially if you're doing a great job of spirals with the ball.
"The one thing we've talked about is there's 12 seniors that are going to play their last football game in Michigan Stadium, and I think that's important. You try and remind guys that they're going to be seniors soon, those young guys, and we talk about that constantly and I think some of them you've had an opportunity to talk to this week because we're trying to give the seniors time with you. It can be emotional for some of them and some guys will be emotional but it won't hit until after the game has been played."
/someone opens door, noise from a snowblower fills the room
"SO WE HOPE AND WE ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO COME OUT AS WE HONOR THEM AND WE RECOGNIZE THEM AND WE'RE EXCITED ABOUT THAT."
"And we're blowing snow."
You don't face a lot of three man fronts. Appalachian State was one, but this one's a little bit different from Appalachian State because they're a lot more up front, a lot more aggressive. Does it present some different challenges than what you face in a normal week?
"Well, it does in some areas, and they'll kick it to be an under or an over front depending on where the tight end's lined up or what they feel is a receiver strength or just formational strength, but the present some thing because they've got really good quickness. [They] present some problems because of the quickness they have as a team, and I think they have pretty good team speed. They're not the biggest guys up front, but I think they do a nice job of what they're trying to get done when you look at gap integrity in the run game and then obviously we want to stay out of those third downs that can be a problem because whoever you play there's only so many things that you can do."
You talked about him a lot early on in terms of eligibility, but what have you seen from Ty Isaac on the practice field to make you feel that he is what you thought he was?
"Yeah, yeah. A couple things. Number one, I think Ty from a standpoint of where he is getting at now physically from when he got here- you know, he was in Chicago in the summer taking classes, doing those things so didn't have an opportunity really to work out with our guys at all in the summer so he did a nice job and he's continued to do that. His weight's down. When we had the scrimmage the other day he was one of the guys [I forgot]; I said there'd be guys I forgot to mention. He ran the ball pretty daggone well."
[After THE JUMP: Hoke talks about Hagerup's improvement after dropping an old-school technique. Yes, that happened. Yes, in the punting game. Why would you accuse me of making that up?]
Jake Ryan and Devin Gardner
Coach Hoke said that he addresses your team in regards to domestic violence. What has he said and what has the team taken from those presentations?
JR: "You know, a lot. He stresses every single day that he has expectations for everyone on this team and if you don't follow them and rules are broken then stuff will happen. He has talked about domestic violence with us and that's one of the things you can't do. It's just unfortunate."
When you see Northwestern roll up 40 points on Notre Dame does that make you feel better about your effort at Northwestern, knowing that you held them in like you did?
JR: "Yeah, I'm proud of this defense and it just shows what we can accomplish as a defense and we had a great game and need to keep moving forward."
For Devin: it's still a few days away put your last game in Michigan Stadium is on Saturday. Any idea what kind of emotions will be swirling through your head then?
DG: "I'm just really excited. There's a lot more at stake than just my last game at Michigan. It's never been about me and it's not going to be about me on Saturday. I'm just going to go out and give it everything I have, like I've always given, to try and get a win for the team."
Did the bye week help you at all with the ankle or whatever ailments you might have?
DG: "Yeah, I've gotten healthier through the bye week."
[After THE JUMP: senior day, adversity, and Devin's thoughts on what it means to be a citizen of the world]
[I forgot to turn my recorder on right away because I’m a doofus but the question was about Northwestern]
“I was very, very pleased with our players in that game and I have been for a while, and you know that. Our kids, they went out and they executed the gameplan and they played extremely hard. Didn’t matter where. They had their backs to the wall and they stayed in there strong, and that’s just kind of how they’ve been and i was just really happy for them because they really believe, they really want to be good and they’re starting to get some reward from it.”
When did you hear about Frank’s arrest and what was your reaction to it?
“Well, I heard about it I guess yesterday but Brady handles all that. And my reaction is always when a young man that is in your program that you’re very, very close to when something happens like this you feel very, very disappointed and you feel sad for the people that are involved and that’s about it.”
Brady was just talking about all the adversity you guys have gone through this year and how maybe he’s grown a little bit and learned from it as a coach. You’ve known him for 30 years. Have you seen it affect him, or how has he grown from this season?
“You know, I mentioned it before and that’s a great question. When you believe so much in a program like he does and like our staff does and you give everything you have to the program like he does, when things don’t go exactly like you want them to that’s hard. That’s hard, man. And I haven’t seen him- he never wavers. He’s the same guy every morning when he comes in. He’s the same guy when he dresses the players. Like I said before, I think he's done a tremendous job as the head football coach with some of the things that have happened."
Jake's [Ryan] preparation is evident when you see him on the field. I understand that you guys watch a lot of film together. Talk about how you've watched him grow as a student of the game and talk about how he goes about that [preparation].
"Well, I was fortunate enough. I think the first year I was here I had Jake, and he met in our staff room together and I said, 'Okay, let's go ahead and sit down and we'll start on film' and I looked and he was sitting in Brady's chair and I said, 'What are you doing!? You can't sit in that chair!' Well from that day on he's always sat in that chair. And Jake Ryan is a pleasure to coach, just like Joe Bolden is, just like- I could name a lot of guys in all they years I've coached. When you have guys who come to work every day like they do, and they come in those meeting rooms and you start showing film and you start talking about your opponent and they react and they study and they start taking notes like our guys do; then you feel really good about coaching. Jake's just one of those guys that you think about it [and] outside linebacker, that's all he'd ever played and we talked about it and said, 'Hey, listen. We're going to put you in the middle because we want you around the football a lot more. We want you to make sure that you're involved in it; that they can't run away from you' and in his senior year he does it. And he plays hard and unselfish and does everything you ask him to do and that's Michigan. That's what we hope this program's all about and we think there's a lot of players like that in this program."
[After THE JUMP: Thoughts on Maryland and the defensive line]