also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
[The Mott practice this year was not a punting exhibition (at which my internal monologue went WOOOOOO) so there are a few things to discuss.]
The biggest takeaway. Devin Gardner took zero QB snaps and was on the first team as a WR. I think they moved him full-time. Swingin' for the fences.
Gardner didn't do anything spectacular in his limited opportunities, dropping one long ball and not quite bringing in a high hard one, but he certainly looks the part. Seeing him in 12 is still weird, and now Dileo is 9, and if I was Brady Hoke I'd be all like "you get one number and that is your number" but he might have different priorities. Maybe.
Devin Funchess. As first impressions go… wow. He is lanky and doesn't look like he'll be much use as a blocker early, but man is that guy a big target. Looks all of 6'5" and has freaky long arms. He was the only TE to get targeted in their kind-of-actually-playing segment; he caught a touchdown on a corner route (it got raked out but after the catch was secured) and was targeted on a late-release wheel route. If he can catch, he is going to crush Mandich's TE receiving record.
Not a whole lot to decide. I expected to have a blizzard of things to try and figure out but when the first team defense came out in a nickel package I was like "oh, right, they return basically everyone." Other than the line, there were zero surprises except for a couple of Mario Ojemudia WDE cameos.
On offense, it was "is Mealer starting" and "OMG Gardner"… and that was it. Consistency is good.
DL starting Washington? This is tentative, but the first DL set they ran out there was Roh-Washington-Campbell-Black. (IE: Washington at the nose, Campbell at the three-tech.) Beyer also showed up at WDE; Brink was the backup SDE.) Apparently Jerry Montgomery told someone that those guys were the starters as of this instant, but I can't find it. People are talking about it on message boards like it's a real thing, though.
Anyway: they showed the usual nickel package where they lifted the nose tackle types and moved the SAM down to DE and the heavy package where both SAM linebackers are in the game. All was as expected except for a couple snaps in a dime package that they didn't show at all last year.
[UPDATE: Ace points out that this comes from Tom Dienhart's BTN coverage.]
James Ross. Ross was your backup WLB, which isn't much of a surprise with Poole and Ringer hurt. He'll play.
Richard Ash. I kept an eye out for Ash as I'm hoping he can give Michigan some snaps as a rotation DT after he made a couple of nice plays in the spring game. He didn't get in much, if at all, but he certainly looks a lot better conditioned. He used to look like a battleship that had no chance of moving; now he looks relatively trim.
Mealer started. Your first team LG was Mealer.
Chris Wormley. Hasn't had surgery yet for whatever reason.
No Rawls. No idea why. They ran some passing stuff with Justice Hayes that seemed to work pretty well, and did the Vincent Smith throwback screen that always works.
It was good to see football. You're just sitting in the stadium and there's actual snaps being taken in front of you and your lizard brain is going FOOTBALL FOOTBALL FOOTBALL and you're like "I know exactly how you feel, lizard brain."
Heiko takes. Are on the board. FWIW, they ran that hook and ladder a dozen times last year. I think it's just for show.
This goes out to all those young linebackers out there who have given me your letters of intent:
♪ There was Bell, and a Hill, but I never saw them playing
No I never saw depth at all, 'till there was you.
There were safeties who gained weight, and a JUCO straight from Butler
But they were no Obianna Ezeh, 'till there was you.
Oh there were walk-ons, and converted fullbacks, they tell me,
And sweet freshman "Spinners," and Roh at "Quick"…
There was Ken-ny Demens, and a plush-toy Castor face-wash,
But no other linebackers at all, 'till there was you.
Till there was you! ♫
Linebacker depth: EXTANT!
This is Part III of the thing where I go over the depth chart and predict what will happen if the starter at any given position is hurt for an extended period of time in 2012: Who goes in?, What's the dropoff?, How do things shuffle?
And this time, there's goods here. There's depth in the SAMs and the WILLs and the MIKEs and the macks and the rovers. Whatayatalk whatayatalk: Where'd-we-get-it? With a Greg who knows the territory! With the jacks from the buckeyes, and the bucks from the mitten, and ROLBs from the overlooked, redshirted, 3-star, buck- and spart-passed over huckleberry bin. Whatayatalk, whatayatalk. Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker ya can talk, ya can bicker, bicker, bicker, ya can talk all ya want, but it's different than it was!
Quickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.
SAM (Strongside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Jake was a revelation last year as a redshirt freshman who as the season progressed kept giving the coaches less and less excuse to yank him. The nature of his position, which rotates often, and the nature of his cavalier game make it hard to quantify the effective difference of an injury here. By design he's the most replaceable guy on the defense; by the magnitude of his effect when he's in the game, there are few, if any, guys on the team who you'd less like to lose. He was far from perfect—his problems holding the edge led to some ugly things in the Northwestern-Michigan State part of the year—however there were also those times when a "running" quarterback would see this crazy freshman coming inside the edge blocker and think to himself "oh I'm so going around that idiot," only to end up flat on his back 20 yards in the backfield. Nothing was more satisfying to a fan base recovering from Passive 3-3-5 syndrome than seeing this crazed high-necked Viking bellowing something unintelligible at fast-retreating Logan Thomas.
Heiko took this
Cam Gordon is the nominal backup, and since the freshman who played ahead of him last year (Beyer) has made the move to WDE, you would imagine the onetime receiver, onetime epitome of ethereal spring optimism at free safety, and onetime 3-3-5 spinner will have finally settled into a useful something. He spent most of last year with a back injury that gives us precious little information on what he might become. So is C.Gordon a junior stunted by position switches, bad fundamental coaching and injury who's now ready to erupt, or a guy with bad fundamentals doomed to be remembered for that one time he was badly cast in the hero role of a box office flop?
What you want are his credentials for a position that rotates like a train of traveling salesmen; what I've got for you is a barbershop quartet of coaches singing songs about him. One thing they don't say is "platoon." Despite his safety pedigree and safety frame versus Jake Ryan's oft hand-down deployment, the coaches haven't indicated Gordon is a situational backup. The SLB in this defense is supposed to be more like a WDE than the other two linebacker spots, and Cam is not that. On the other hand he seems tailor-made for the side-job of the SLB: covering the guy in the slot.
So I'm saying if Ryan goes down, Michigan probably goes with Gordon and eases off the gas a bit, leaning less on pressure and more on coverage from the position. The real drop-off won't be too severe, as there are other guys who can blitz if the SLB becomes more coverage-oriented, and there are rush options extant. The apparent drop-off will feel like when we lost Marcus Ray—the defense is still the defense but that sense that somebody's about to lose an important body organ will be appreciably depreciated. You'll see Gordon plenty either way.
In case of dire emergency: Well like I said this position rotates. Don't know what will happen with Clark, but if he's in at WDE that means Brennan Beyer can easily reprise his 2011 role over here. Mario Ojemudia could be pressed into service. And any of the freshmen linebackers could end up here. Of the four, I picked Royce Jenkins-Stone as the SAM since Bolden already seems to be the two-deep man at Mike, and Ringer was here for spring practice at Mike, and scouting reports say Ross is a coverage-y WLB-type, while RJS has been described as a raw, blitz-loving knife. That's an SLB. It'd be best if he redshirts to learn how to be the second-most aggressive guy on the defense (WDE is the first) while holding the edge.
MIKE (Middle Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Responding to my size chart in last week's article, TSS started a thread about how Demens, who's listed at 248 on the spring roster (which is a copy of last fall's), has significantly more beef than the rest of the linebacking crew. The image above seems to reject the notion that he's the Carl Diggs among the Brackinses; the variability charts for the 2012 linebackers say he's huge (right, via TSS). So I checked the average listed size for a Michigan contributing linebacker since 1993, and it says he made big:
|2nd (Sophomore or RS Fr)||236||228|
|3rd (Junior or RS Soph)||246||232|
|4th (Senior or RS Junior)||248||233|
|5th year Senior||252||238|
Most of our starters played over 240 in their 4th or 5th years. Over 230 is where it seems the contributors need to be. And when you look at the depth chart for 2012 there are exactly three dudes who seem likely to fit that description:
|Kenny Demens||248||Jake Ryan||230||Desmond Morgan||220|
|Joe Bolden||230||Cam Gordon||222||Brandin Hawthorne||214|
|Mike Jones||224||Royce Jenkins-Stone||215||Antonio Poole||212|
|Kaleb Ringer||219||James Ross||209|
Knock-knock … Orange … yada yada … you have Joe Bolden, the 2012 recruit I am most giggity about, and for good reason. He had the kind of performance as the starter (Demens was wearing that club you see above) in the spring game that makes even the cautious prognosticators say "I think we have something here." Then they pull out the David Harris comparisons.
There's nothing I can really add to the recruiting profile or the lofty expectations except to focus on what he brings to the table right now. That is a guy with freshman-grade Kovacsian play-diagnosis skills that must be tempered by "is a true freshman," plus a lot of range and athleticism that must be tempered by "is probably not strong enough yet to get off blocks." I don't think Demens should be worried about losing his job this year unless he's banged up, however in that eventuality Michigan has something between what Desmond Morgan was last year and a freshman Manti Te'o on hand, and should be just fine. Orange you glad!
In case of dire emergency: The phrase "Who? MIKE JONES!" had a very short meme life on the MGoBoards, and it is the considered hope of every Michigan fan that it should never become the headline of an MGoInjury Roundup or uttered without irony inside Michigan Stadium ever. Before the injury that ruined his 2009 coaches were suggesting he might displace Mouton; alas that seems to have been motivational spring hokum. More hype/hokum was Mattison saying he's an unstoppable speed rusher. We saw Jones a bit while Michigan was killing clock against Minnesota and he looked, um, safety-ish. There is a job for a safety-ish linebacker in this defense—the Will—but there are so many other slight LBs on this roster that tripping the 220-something wire puts you into the mix at middle. I would think before we see Jones start, Morgan would slide down to MLB and Hawthorne become the full-time WLB. While time is running out for Jones, he's not ignorable.
WILL (Weakside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: You can argue about the stars being low for a sophomore whom I already said was at 3 stars when starting as a true freshman—that was at the end of last year and I expect Des should still be improving exponentially as this season goes on. I also predict this year you'll start seeing more Jake Ryan in him, since everyone from recruiting analysts to coaches have raved about grittiness, something we haven't had the opportunity to see much of just yet. If our next Eckstein McGritsalot loses that opportunity, the safety net is the the safety-like Brandin Hawthorne.
If you have the opportunity to give the coaches one suggestion for 2012, please join the MGoCrusade to have Hawthorne deployed as the WLB when Michigan goes to nickel. Until Morgan emerged in the second half of last year, Hawthorne had lain tenuous claim to defense's most open position. Brandon Herron, the beefy Yang to Brandin's Yin, dropped out of the race after the double-fumble touchdown rally and has graduated. Hawthorne was excellent in coverage, knifed into the backfield for a key stop against Notre Dame, and displayed Pahokeeian speed to all parts of the field … except when a blocker came near.
For you Tiger fans, Hawthorne is the Ramon Santiago of this defense. He is great at what he does, but playing him every down is going to expose his weakness against the run. So what does happen if Des goes down? It's probably Joe Bolden, but with more Hawthorne appearances.
In case of dire emergency: Trouble with capital T, rhymes with P, stands for…oh actually we don't know what we have in Antonio Poole except his name lends itself well to the Music Man theme. Really he's a redshirt freshman who was ignored by Rodriguez but picked up quickly by Hoke. His recruiting profile lists abilities of play diagnosis, tackling, and translating of the Facebook pages of CRex's in-laws. Third on the depth chart is where you'd want a redshirt freshman to be. Anyway if you see Poole that means he's better than expected, or that "dire emergency" includes the MLB depth chart too. Same goes for James Ross, who was at one point the highest rated linebacker of the 2012 uber-haul, and may yet have a long career beside Bolden (Orange!), however he's listed in the vicinity of 200 lbs. and would probably benefit from a redshirt more than Ringer, who was here for Spring ball. Since redshirting a consensus high 4-star is a luxury we haven't had around the linebacking parts in some time, I suggest we take advantage of it.
|Orchard Lake, MI – 6'0", 209|
|Scout||4*, #7 OLB, #83 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #14 OLB, #172 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #8 ILB|
|24/7||4*, 95, #6 ILB, #116 overall|
|Other Suitors||OSU, PSU, Notre Dame, USC, Nebraska|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Tim interviews him at SMSB. Ace checks out OLSM games against De La Salle and UD-Jesuit.|
|Notes||OLSM (Chris McLaurin, Jermaine Gonzalez). Army All-American.|
James Ross is the second of three highly-touted Westside Cubs who will arrive at Michigan at the fall. Terry Richardson was the first, and Ross is an awful lot like a linebacker version of Richardson. He's four of four on Midwest power offers, four of four when it comes to recruiting site hype, and got a bid to one of the all-star games.
Like Richardson, the scouting reports are a series of good things… after they get in a shot at his size. Random example($):
Ross made plays in high school thanks to his instincts and quickness, rather than his size. He'll get the chance to show that being slightly undersized won't hurt him at the next level when he faces off against the all-star cast from the East.
They're not wrong. Six-foot-ish is a bit wee when it comes to linebacking, and edging just over 200 pounds is something that may prevent him from seeing the field immediately. FWIW, he says he's put on more weight:
"I'm 6'1'' and 225 lbs. right now, and a lot of criticism I get is because of my size. But I always like to throw this out there: my favorite two linebackers, Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis, are only 6'1". I guess this sport has come down to where it's all about size, but I feel that at the end of the day, that doesn't matter. "
But the instincts bit is promising. Think of various weakside linebackers past—just about any will do—and imagine the exact opposite of their relationship with your frustration, and that is James Ross's rep. His coach sums it up best($):
"He's one of the best instinctive players I've ever coached," Porritt insisted. "He reads plays so fast, and his first step is so explosive. He's physical, too, but it's his uncanny ability to read and get after the football that is his greatest asset. He's a great young man who works hard and is very humble."
This will of course be tested when he hits the field at the next level. Please do not refer back to this post in the event he turns out to also take the wrong side of the fullback 800% of the time. Please do in the event his instincts lead to a lot of plays like this:
The instincts bit is repeated in other scouting reports. Ace:
I'll reiterate what I said when I saw Ross earlier this season—he's the most polished, college-ready prospect I've seen play this season with the possible exceptions of Aaron Burbridge and Matt Godin (to clarify, I'm not necessarily saying the most talented, but the players who are the most fundamentally sound and impactful right now). …
Once again, Ross's ability to tackle in the open field really impressed me—he has great tackling form, and his superior range allows him to be in the best possible position to stop the ballcarrier. He diagnosed plays quickly and never seemed out of position, and his ability to make quick reads allowed him to shoot past blockers before they could even touch him, resulting in multiple tackles for loss. Ross isn't afraid to take on a block and does a good job of shedding after initial contact without losing his angle on the ballcarrier….
After seeing Ross in two games, one against a weak Inkster team and the other against a much stronger De La Salle squad, I'm convinced he'll be a multi-year starter at middle linebacker and a player in the David Harris mold.
Although we detect some hip tightness when in coverage his balance and agility along with the ability to quickly key and diagnosis running plays allows him to be a dominant run stopper. We like his instincts and quick downhill play; can beat blockers to the point of attack with good playing speed or take on and defeat them with his upper body playing strength. This guy is a tough customer who has no problem stepping into the line and mixing it up with big offensive linemen; does a great job moving through traffic, showing excellent pursuit habits and recovery speed.
They do knock his current weight and express doubts about his ability to cover receivers in man; they praise his zone instincts. Trieu:
Smart, instinctive backer who does a great job of taking plays head on, getting rid of blockers and finding the ball. Measureables are not super, but football smarts, toughness and fundamentals are. Does a solid job in coverage, and is physical when asked to cover backs and tight ends. More of a finished product, than an upside guy, but a kid who has always been productive and should continue to be so in college.
24/7's Barton Simmons:
Though he's not a kid with great size, Ross is a kid with great instincts, awareness, and desire to get to the football. When he gets there he's physical and in the pass game, he's comfortable catching the football and finding throwing lanes. Ross is very similar in skill set to Oklahoma State's Shaun Lewis who made an instant impact on the college level.
Simmons again, this time from the OSU NFTC last year:
Headlining the group in Columbus was Michigan commit James Ross out of West Bloomfield (Mich.) St. Mary’s Prep. Sporting a Michigan hat on the Ohio State practice fields, Ross already looked ready to strap on the pads and head into Ohio Stadium. At 6-1, Ross is not an overpowering presence but his feet, balance, athleticism and activity in space were all unique. Ross was nearly unblockable in the pass rush drill and he also has the ability to run and cover in the pass game.
You get the idea. He is a ball-locator and tackler. He is not a five-star athlete.
As mentioned in a UV posted a couple weeks ago, Ross credits his time as a hockey player for his ability to diagnose plays:
“I actually think hockey is what separates me from most linebackers,” Ross said. “I think it helped me with that first quick step and getting to the ball as fast as you can, because hockey, once you see it you have to go. There is no delayed step into it. That’s definitely something that separates me.”
Despite Ross's friendship with Richardson and Royce Jenkins-Stone, the third Westside Cub in the class, it was actually Ohio State who seemed like the leader out of the gate. From a now-vaporized Sam Webb article in the News:
Ross Jr. might have been more taken aback by his impression of Michigan. Not because it was better, but because it so utterly different from what he expected.
"I really did not like Michigan like that," Ross admitted. "I was always an Ohio State guy. I kept it to myself. It really wasn't that big of a deal. My family always gets mad when I bring up Ohio State. They just say that I do not understand the success that Michigan has had."
Ross was just a sophomore when that article was published, but he'd picked up Michigan and MSU offers super early, something that was notable, uh, two years ago. Not so much now.
Whatever Ross's feelings about OSU were, his recruitment was effectively over when Michigan hired Greg Mattison. From an old Tom weekly roundup post:
He fell in love with coach Mattison. I never paid attention early on to coordinators that much, but that guy was great. He was kinda funny too. He and coach Hoke broke it all open for him. We were there close to three hours just talking about football with Mattison, and more conversation with Hoke. Hoke's like a good ole boy, it was refreshing.
That was at the end of Febuary; it took a couple more months to come to a decision but that was basically it. (The commit turned this Buckeye Planet thread into an excellent schadenfreude repository, FWIW.)
With the burden of Ross's decision off his shoulders, OLSM shot to a state title. Ross championed the defense, tackling everything that moves. He racked up a ridiculous 151 tackles and 13.5 TFLs along the way. Rivals named him to their "RivalsHigh 2011 All-American Team" as a result. His recruiting rankings didn't shift much; his performance was about what people expected.
At Michigan Ross is ticketed for the weakside, though this is where I say the usual bits about how there are only minor differences between the MLB and the WLB in Mattison's system. The WLB has to be a little better down the seam and gets a little more protection from lead blockers, but it's mostly the same gig as MLB.
"He never wants to be the guy who someone sees at a game and says, 'This guy's supposed to be all that? He's kinda crappy' " Ross, Sr. said. "He never wants to be that guy, so he strives to give everyone what they expect and more. He's looking to go bananas this year."
Why Ian Gold? As an inside linebacker who topped out around 6'0" and 225 but made it work with great instincts and an ability to cut through traffic, Ian Gold is a tight fit as a YMRMFSPA. His career was before I watched every game in extreme detail, though.
Gold came to Michigan as a tailback but was moved quickly; Ross has an edge when it comes to experience. He'll do very well to match Gold's productivity and NFL pedigree—a second rounder with almost 500 career tackles.
If you want a guy of more recent vintage, the Mini David Harris suggestion offered by Ace above is a good one.
Guru Reliability: High. General consensus, healthy, multi-year starter, well-known kid who showed at an all-star game.
Variance: Low. Projects to (basically) same position in college, lots of experience, ahead of the curve mentally.
Ceiling: Moderate. Size will be an issue and the scouting reports don't mention the sort of "wow" athleticism that could make up for that.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Seems like he'll be the platonic opposite of Jonas Mouton, the Janus of weakside linebackers. Mouton alternated ridiculously good and ridiculously bad plays. Ross probably won't turn in as many of either. A solidly above-average Big Ten linebacker who is short of national stardom seems like the most likely outcome.
Projection: Ross's lack of size and a healthy depth chart at WLB (which returns rising sophomore Desmond Morgan, senior Brandin Hawthorne, and adds redshirt freshman Antonio Poole) suggest a redshirt. Like Richardson, it seems smart to get him a second year of separation from guy who started as a freshman. Unlike Richardson, there's a lot of room on special teams for linebackery tackling types, so he may get drafted into coverage teams for one of those Argh Wasted Redshirt wasted redshirts.
Either way, there's a clear path to the two-deep in his second year. Hawthorne and Demens will graduate. The former opens up the backup WLB spot and there's a chance the latter will drag Morgan to MLB, which seems like a more natural position for him. Even if that doesn't happen, Ross will be fighting with Poole for a good chunk of playing time behind Morgan. I wouldn't put it past Ross to win the job outright at some point, either. If he gets the redshirt dollars to donuts he's at least a two-year starter.
Hi. I would have packed this into yesterday's UV but internet problems + rehab equaled no. So here's the other stuff.
Local news, 1986. Wolverine Historian digs up a gem:
Five dollar parking and the hair, man. The hair. Check out the defector at around 2 minutes. We need a clip of that guy.
Position clarity and dang. In an interview with Touch the Banner, James Ross says he'll start off at the weakside linebacker spot. With Bolden ticketed for the center, I'm guessing Royce Jenkins-Stone is eventually slid to SAM. Where Kaleb Ringer goes is also probably in the middle.
I played hockey for a long time, and just being in that fast-paced environment helped, being able to see things. Hockey is really fast; you have to be able to move, and I think that really translates well to the football field.
Ross is 6'1", 225, and fast. If he could skate at all he would have been a crunching bodycheck factory had he stuck with the hockey. Video at TTB suggests he could not skate much as of early high school, but leave me to my lethal bodycheck fantasies.
More playoff stuff. I can't find this [freep] anywhere else, nor does this have a direct quote, but um… as far as reason not to have campus playoffs go this is even better than Bill Hancock's:
[Dave] Brandon understands the advantage a Big Ten team would gain from a playoff game on its campus but also realizes it’s not fair for schools across the country to play in the cold weather. Brandon also said he polled U-M players, who said they like to go to warm-weather bowl sites.
It's not fair. My brain stopped working. This is where I say something snarky or something about how this is not a good argument. I can't. Logic has been suspended. Get The Picture:
And just to show you how absurd this gets, rather than stand his ground on the more fan-friendly on-campus sites, Michigan State’s athletic director hopes instead that the NCAA will help families pay for the travel expense of going to an additional postseason game.
I give up. The rest of this column will be written by my wife's cat.
THE LARGE HAIRY ONE SAYS THIS NEXT. You're probably expecting this to be in hilarious broken English lolcatese. Typical. I quit.
I do say this is next. Cats: cannot get them to do anything. Anyway, blogosphere old timers may remember Vijay, who ran one of the ur-blogs back in the day. He still hangs out on some message boards and put together a picture of the distance traveled by fans to get to bowl sites last year:
Avg distance traveled for the bowl
Big 10: 1261
Pac 10: 775
Big XII: 701
Big 10 travels MUCH further than anyone else. SEC travels much less. No surprise.
Avg miles differential (how far a team had to travel, compared to their opponent: + = traveling further)
Big 10: +812
Big XII: -137
Pac 10: -470
Big 10 is the only major conference that is generally playing further from home than their opponents.
# of games within 500 miles of home
Big 10: 1/10
Big XII: 3/8
Pac 10: 3/7
EVERY SINGLE SEC TEAM played within 500 miles of home.
Guess which SEC team was the only one to travel further for their bowl than their opponent. Answer below.
Meanwhile, every single Big 10 team traveled further than their opponent. Even Purdue, which got to play in Michigan, ended up playing Western Michigan.
Trivia answer: Alabama, who played LSU in New Orleans.
Use of the word fair in relation to this makes me want to wear around a horse. I'll say "I'm actually a slide rule, call me the King of Albania." I'll wear a sock on my hand I call Prince Knight who speaks only in riddles. His only riddle is "how are these people in charge?"
The cat does not find this amusing. I'm going to shake him until he does.
HELP I'M STUCK IN BLADERUNNER
ALSO BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS. Uniform hijinks are going to be an annual thing now From the above-linked article.
He discussed the heightened attention on U-M's jerseys, particularly in football. He said the school might have done too much with changing them last season and plans to quiet the speculation this fall by having a single rollout of all the game jerseys they’ll wear throughout the season. He said coaches, players and recruits enjoy variety.
"School" should be read as "Dave Brandon" and "speculation" should be read as "lack of speculation."
So at least there won't be any horrible, horrible surprises this year, and five different outfits seems off the table. Regular alternate whatnots are here to stay. Embrace it. I want wings on the pants. And the jerseys. I want a uniform that's just one giant wing. Like, when the offense lines up the unit should look like one winged helmet. With claws!
A note on something that happened last week. You know that child-porn-havin' OSU-recruit-creepin' twitter guy from last week? One: if you asked me to draw a composite of all OSU fans it would be him. Two: when you are in photos, keep your head straight.
WHY DOESN'T YOUR NECK WORK, MEDIAN OF ALL OHIO STATE FANS EMBODIED?
Seriously, you should get that checked out or something. Also, thank you for existing.
Better at being in photos than OSU median guy. Jehu Chesson on the track:
Head: straight up and down.
Chesson won the 300 M hurdles at a regionals meet and is working on his 110M skills.
With the Thursday Recruitin' posts getting lengthy and signing day just over a week away, we decided—with the help of some reader requests—that it would be best to do two recruiting roundups per week. So, welcome to Tuesday Recruitin', which should serve to wrap up the happenings of the previous weekend and set the table for the upcoming week. Thursday Recruitin' will now be moved to Friday and focus on any upcoming visits while catching up with the events of the week. This new setup allows me to get more recruiting information to you each week and should cut down on the total link overload that was quickly becoming an unwanted staple of my recruiting roundups. Anyways, there is much to discuss, so let's get this party started.
Caleb Stacey Decommits; How Will M Round Out The Class?
Caleb Stacey announced on Saturday that he was changing his commitment from Michigan to Cincinnati, citing a desire to stay close to home during college:
"When it came down to it, Caleb just wanted to stay closer to home," said Oak Hills assistant coach Kyle Ralph. "He's a Cincinnati kid, and as it came down to it, he was more comfortable staying home in Cincinnati."
In fact, Stacey actually got in touch with the Cincinnati coaching staff himself, as they had respected his pledge to Michigan and backed off from recruiting him. Stacey's decommitment leaves the Wolverines with 23 commits (four along the O-line) in the class of 2012, leaving up to five spots available. While Michigan looks to have a good shot with higher-ranked offensive linemen Josh Garnett, Jordan Diamond, and Alex Kozan, Stacey's absence will be felt—he was the only current commit projected to play center, a position of great need for the Wolverines, and only Kozan looks like he could fill that void.
This week will be huge for offensive line recruiting, starting with Josh Garnett's announcement on Thursday afternoon. Garnett has officially narrowed his choices to a final two of Michigan and Stanford ($, info in header), as expected. Michigan did get the last word, as Brady Hoke made the final in-home visit to Garnett on Sunday. I expect Garnett to end up as a Wolverine, though that's admittedly based on zero inside knowledge of his recruitment.
Hoke also has the final in-home visit with Kozan, who will choose between Michigan, Iowa, and Auburn. Kozan told GoBlueWolverine that he will announce his choice "right after the Coach Hoke visit," which is scheduled for this Friday ($). He claims no leader at this time, and Hoke has the chance to make a very strong pitch—with Stacey out of the class, Kozan could be the most important recruit left on the board due to his ability to play center.
Jordan Diamond, meanwhile, will announce his decision on February 3rd—two days after signing day—between Michigan, Ohio State, Arkansas, Auburn, and Wisconsin. Michigan coaches have an in-home visit with him today, and he also maintains there's no leader in his recruitment.
Moving on to other position groups, two major targets formally decommitted this week: cornerback Armani Reeves from Penn State (same as Diamond link) and tight end Sam Grant from Boston College ($, info in header). Both could make their decisions as soon as this week. Reeves is now down to Michigan and Ohio State, and hosted Brady Hoke on Saturday before welcoming Urban Meyer—along with OSU assistants Everett Withers and Mike Vrabel—to his home last night. While some Buckeye insiders anticipated a commitment, none has come, and Greg Mattison will see Reeves tonight for his final in-home visit. This looks like a 50/50 tossup.
Grant, meanwhile, will likely choose between Michigan, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
A few happy trails: Yuri Wright found a home at Colorado despite recently being kicked out of Don Bosco Prep for his controversial tweets; Monty Madaris will decide on Wednesday, and he appears to be down to Cincinnati and Michigan State; four-star OL and soft Wisconsin commit Kyle Dodson plans to announce his choice on Saturday between the Badgers, Ohio State, Michigan State, USC and Auburn ($).
Receiver Commits: Anything But Divas
You have likely read the story of receiver commit Amara Darboh, who lost his parents to the civil war in Sierra Leone when he was just two years old before finding his way to Des Moines, where he found a family and eventually became a four-star football recruit. Chantel Jennings profiled Michigan's other receiver commit, Jehu Chesson, on WolverineNation today, and the article is well worth the cost of ESPN Insider. I'll do my best to block-quote as little as possible, and encourage you to read the whole thing, which details Chesson's charity work—along with his knack for juggling—as well as his path to the United States ($):
In 1993 Chesson was born in war-torn Liberia in the middle of its first civil war. The country had broken into factions, and by the time the war was over in 1996, nearly 200,000 Liberians had died. Chesson moved from Liberia to the Ivory Coast, and from the Ivory Coast to St. Louis when he was 5.
He doesn't have many memories from that early in his life, but he saw on TV when Liberia fought its second civil war and the unrest that has come from it.
He could be angry. He still has family in Africa. His grandmother is there.
But Chesson said the kids have taught him how to forgive. He laughs when he talks about two young kids at the camp who fight and punch one another, but 10 minutes later they're playing with each other again.
He said that even though some of those kids have very little, they have the capacity to forgive, which some adults -- who've been tarnished by money or pessimism -- can't do.
"The best and worst part of it all is that I can ponder a question about why some are born into greatness and others never get a chance," Chesson said. "I'll probably never get an answer. But I can give of myself, which is sort of like working toward an answer."
The level of maturity shown by Chesson—as well as Darboh—would put many 30-year-olds to shame, and I'm very excited to see him don the winged helmet and, more importantly, get the opportunity to earn a degree from Michigan.
The Detroit News is rolling out daily profiles of the recruits on their Blue Chip list, and so far they've covered Terry Richardson, James Ross, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Matt Godin, and Devin Funchess. Most of it is fluff—Richardson discusses his spirituality, Ross—like Ben Braden—played hockey, RJS wants to be a chef, Godin wanted to play QB as a HS freshman, and Funchess plans to become a coach—but for those doubting Ross's size and ability to play inside, he has a message for you:
"I believe my size benefits me," he said. "I'm quick to the ball. When I was at the Army (All American) Game, I was able to get to the ball quickly. I'm able to get through the holes. I make the reads, and at the snap of the ball I can step into those holes. Can I get stronger? Sure I can. And I will."
Ross said the U-M coaches have no plans to move him to another position and that he is slated to play weak-side linebacker.
"I'll be the linebacker that checks the slot receiver or the running back out of the backfield," he said.
We'll see in the fall if Ross is really 6'1", 220 pounds, as the article claims, but even if he's a little smaller I think WLB is the best position for him.
Quick 2013 Hitters; New 2014 (!) Offer
A quick roundup of the news on current junior prospects:
- Woodbridge (VA) C.D. Hylton linebacker E.J. Levenberry, who visited Michigan last weekend and holds an early offer, has the Wolverines in his top three with Florida and FSU ($, info in header).
- Top-ranked tight end Adam Breneman revealed a list of upcoming visits on his Twitter; he plans to take a trip to Ann Arbor in March, and he's also got visits set for Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame. He's also looking at Miami and North Carolina for potential unofficials.
- In case you missed it, Michigan was one of several schools to recently offer Monaca (PA) Central Valley receiver Robert Foster, an early candidate for five-star status ($, info in header).
- Four-star Pickerington (OH) North TE/DE Jake Butt had the coaches drop by last week ($, info in header), and he says Michigan will be in the mix when it comes time to narrow down his list of schools.
- Cleveland (OH) Shaker Heights ATH De'Niro Laster told Greg Mattison he plans to take an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor the weekend after signing day ($, info in header).
- Somerville (NJ) Immaculata four-star DE Tashawn Bower expects a Michigan offer soon after talking with Coach Curt Mallory ($).
- Sam Webb's weekly DetNews piece is on Lemont (IL) OL Ethan Pocic, who recently earned top offensive lineman honors at the Core6 Showcase in Westmont, IL, which also featured top junior linemen like Logan Tuley-Tillman and Colin McGovern.
- Happy trails to Trotwood-Madison cornerback Cam Burrows, as one of the top players in Ohio pledged to Ohio State last week.
Finally, Michigan gave out its second verbal offer to a class of 2014 prospect. Woodbridge (VA) defensive end Da'Shawn Hand picked up his sixth offer as the Wolverines joined Boston College, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, N.C. State and Rutgers. Hand tallied 21 sacks as a sophomore and earned district Co-Defensive MVP honors. Michigan's other sophomore offeree is also a defensive lineman, Highland (UT) DT Bryan Mone, teammate of 2012 pledge Sione Houma.
This week's Thursday Recruitin' recaps the All-American games are takes a look at what could be a big visit weekend for the Wolverines. Usual request: please contact me via email or Twitter (or leave a comment) with any suggestions, tips, or links you think should show up in the next recruiting roundup.
Big Visit Weekend: Will Wright Make It?
The recruitment of four-star cornerback Yuri Wright took some bizarre twists and turns this week, as there remains disparate view between recruiting sites on whether or not he'll even be on campus this weekend for his previously-scheduled official visit. Sam Webb suggested on WTKA that, in essence, the staff has cooled on Wright and he's no longer among the list of visitors. Over at The Wolverine, Tim Sullivan talked with Wright and his coach and both were still under the impression that the visit was still on ($). I'm not sure what the situation is, though Wright looked very raw at corner during the Army All-America Game and the buzz is that he could project better as a free safety—the coaches want a true corner, so it's quite possible the staff have turned their attention to Armani Reeves.
Speaking of Reeves, the current Penn State commit, he will be in Ann Arbor for an official visit this weekend ($). He had played the waiting game while Penn State looked (and looked, and looked) for a new coach, and now that New England offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is in the fold there, Reeves was able to make his schedule. Since O'Brian is coaching in the NFL playoffs this weekend, Reeves will be at Michigan, and he'll visit Penn State with his last official. Ohio State has also emerged with some new-found interest, and it's likely Reeves will take a trip to Columbus next week.
In other DB recruiting news, four-star corner Kenny Crawley decommitted from Tennessee, and Michigan could be in the picture for him:
Crawley, a shutdown corner who notched 43 tackles and five interceptions last season, will take an official visit to Kansas next week with teammate John Walker, a senior defensive back, Johnson said.
Crawley is also considering Auburn, Georgia, Maryland and Connecticut. He is also going to re-consider Michigan, Johnson said. His remaining official visits will likely be to three of those five schools.
“We’re sitting down and considering [official visits] today,” Johnson said. “I think Georgia is playing a key role in there. Colorado is real high on his list. He liked the school and liked what they got.”
Considering the lack of any word on Crawley and Michigan since last Friday, when the above article was posted, and the lack of clarity on whether or not the coaching staff is even pursuing him, consider this a longshot prospect for now. It looks pretty clear that the staff is putting most of their efforts into trying to flip Reeves to Michigan, then be done with defensive back recruiting for the class.
Meanwhile, Jordan Diamond has narrowed his list to a final five, though it's not set in stone:
"I've got five but things could change," Diamond said. "With coaching staff changes going on, I'm definitely going to wait it out."
Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Auburn and Arkansas are the final five listed by the Maxpreps number seven offensive tackle in the class of 2012. He has officially visited all but the Wolverines so far and is looking for each program to match the criteria he's laid out.
Diamond will visit Michigan this weekend, Arkansas next weekend, and he's tentatively scheduled to head to Wisconsin the week after that ($).
Another prospect who has just been confirmed by Scout to be visiting on an unofficial this weekend ($) is tight end Sam Grant—teammate of Kyle Kalis—who has maintained since December that he would like to wrap up his recruitment in the near future. He reportedly had a great visit at Oklahoma last weekend, and they will be a major threat, but if Michigan can make a big impression this weekend we could be on commitment watch.
Happy trails to Monty Madaris, whose finalists are Cincinnati, Michigan State, and Kentucky (and Ohio State, if they offer), and David Perkins, who was considered by the Wolverines as a running back prospect but now has a final five of Mizzou, Ohio State, Oregon, Illinois, and Cal after things never really got off the ground with his Michigan recruitment ($).
Ondre Pipkins: Video Gold
First of all, if you somehow missed Ondre Pipkins's Brady Hoke impression, just click here right now. DO IT. Now you can watch his highlights from the Army Game, where he recorded two tackles and a forced fumble—take special note of his annihilation of a poor, unsuspecting QB at the 2:05 mark and him somehow chasing down Stefon Diggs and knocking the ball loose at 2:35:
The big man has some surprising wheels, looked fantastic in the game, and he drew a lot of praise for his work all week. He won Rivals.com's Mike Farrell's award for the prospect who improved his stock the most ($), and was named by Brian Perroni as the #6 performer overall for the West squad ($), taking both practices and the game into account:
The huge 6-foot-3, 330-pound defensive tackle moves much, much better than a player his size should. Pipkins proved to be a tough matchup for a very good offensive line all week in practice. In addition to his strength he has a motor that is nonstop. He had one of the most impressive plays of the game where he chased the opposing quarterback all the way to the sideline and made a huge hit that left the crowd in awe.
On top of that, Farrell cited Pipkins as the "War Room Favorite" for the player who hit it off the best with the reporters, and he did the Hoke walk after nailing Hoke's introductory press conference speech. Quite a week, that.
Also drawing major praise from the Army game was Kyle Kalis, who earned the #5 spot among the East's top performers on Rivals ($):
The 6-5, 305-pound Kalis was moved between tackle and guard most of the week in bowl practices and showed he could be effective against college-bound defensive linemen in either role. When game time rolled around Kalis was used exclusively at right guard and was solid in that role, despite spending his entire senior season at tackle. Throughout the week, Kalis proved to be the most consistent offensive line prospect on the East squad. He does not have the upside of a D.J. Humphries, but he has the size, strength and technique to step on the field early in his career.
Kalis actually matched up several times against Pipkins in the game, and they both won their fair share of battles—they'll likely reprise that matchup many more times in future Michigan practices, as Kalis certainly looked at home at guard.
For more from the Army Game, make sure to check out highlight videos of all the Michigan commits plus Yuri Wright over at MGoVideo.
In the Under Armour Game, early enrollee Joe Bolden was one of the top standouts of the week from any position group, tallying seven tackles during the game (highlights courtesy of MaizeNBlueJ):
24/7's J.C. Shurburtt was duly impressed by Bolden in this free article, which also covers his thoughts on Terry Richardson:
The Michigan commit was impressive all week in practice, and quickly caught all the coaches attention at Under Armour. He is a guy that certainly really impressed with his football IQ. Not just that, but his ability to move laterally, and his general ability to play his assignments and to not take false steps. He reads the play and is more athletic than people give him credit for, and is one of those guys that if you go to a camp or see him at a 7-on-7, maybe he is not as high on your list, but you put him in pads and you can really see this guy having a great college career and playing a lot in the National Football League.
Shurburtt noted that Richardson is not physically ready for the college game, which does not come as a surprise, but was very impressed with his athleticism. Bolden, meanwhile, was also named the week's Best Tackler by Rivals.com's Chris Nee ($). Sam Webb has a complete rundown on Bolden, Richardson, and Josh Garnett, plus early practice impressions of the Michigan commits in the Army Game, in his column last week in the Detroit News.
Not to be forgotten is Mario Ojemudia, who participated in last Tuesday's inaugural Semper Fidelis All-American Game. Though an ankle injury kept Ojemudia out of the second half of the game, Scout's Josh Newkirk still came away with a favorable impression ($):
Ojemudia only played the first half because of an ankle injury he sustained right before half time. It was nothing serious, but he sat out the second half for safety precaution. That said, in the time that Ojemudia did play, his presence was felt. He made two tackle on the afternoon and held contain pretty well. He did get caught up with bigger bodies at times, confirming his admitted need to add bulk to his frame. Other times he showed why even at his current weight he can be a handful and why he’ll be even scarier when he is heavier.
Ojemudia matched up once against Jordan Diamond and used his quickness to beat Diamond with an inside swim move. He really needs to put on weight—as I noted last week, he was often stonewalled at the line of scrimmage—but he's a heck of a pass-rush threat even at around 215 pounds.
Quickly: Chantel Jennings profiles early enrollee Kaleb Ringer, whose dad hit it off so well with Hoke that Michigan's coach almost forgot to extend Ringer an offer when he was on his official visit ($).
Two blue-chip juniors will be on campus for visits this weekend: Joliet (IL) Catholic RB Ty Isaac will be in Ann Arbor on Saturday ($, info in header), and Woodbridge (VA) C.D. Hylton LB E.J. Levenberry will also visit on Saturday ($, info in header). It's great to get two highly-touted prospects on campus this early, as both players project to be near the top of their position groups nationally in the 2013 class.
Michigan offered several prospects in the last week, highlighted by five-star receiver Robert Foster ($, info in header). Foster wasn't the only receiver to pull in an offer, as Michigan also extended one to Uriah LeMay, who I interviewed this week, and Wylie (TX) receiver Marcell Ateman ($). Louisville (KY) Trinity DE Jason Hatcher—whose teammate, junior receiver James Quick, was recently offered—also picked up an offer ($, info in header).
New blog on the scene Tremendous scored a chat with Logan Tuley-Tillman, who named a top five, in order, of Michigan, Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio State, and South Carolina. Arkansas and SC were both recent offerrees, and Tuley-Tillman plans to attend Alabama's junior day, though he has yet to receive an offer from them—the newly-crowned national champs could be a major player in his recruitment.
Quickly: My interviews with PA TE Adam Breneman and IL OL Colin Goebel; 24/7 breaks down Michigan's current offer list for both offense ($) and defense ($); Shane Morris commits to playing in the 2013 Under Armour AA Game ($, info in header); and Michigan shows interest in Canton (OH) McKinley OT Xzavier McAllister ($, info in header), adding to the fantastic list of names on the 2013 recruiting board.