|STRONGSIDE LB||Yr.||MIDDLE LB||Yr.||WEAKSIDE LB||Yr.|
|James Ross||Sr.||Desmond Morgan||Sr.*||Joe Bolden||Sr.|
|Allen Gant||Jr.*||Ben Gedeon||Jr.||Jared Wangler||Fr.*|
|Jabrill Peppers||Fr.*||Mike McCray||So.*||Noah Furbush||So.*|
This is music to a new defensive coordinator's ear: Michigan sports an all-senior linebacker corps. All have started for multiple years, give or take a hand injury or benching here and there. They've even got a high-quality backup. Senior leadership is out of control, man!
Approximately the fourth-best* thing to happen to the 2015 team's chances over the last year was DESMOND MORGAN breaking his hand after the first game of the season. That didn't have much impact on where 2014 went; it gives this year's team a three-year starter to slot in the Jake Ryan-shaped hole at middle linebacker.
By this point you're probably tired of me extolling Morgan's virtues, and since he didn't do much last year other than fall behind Joe Bolden just long enough for me to eat a lemon this is going to be a rehash.
Morgan is a heady, athletic enough, stick-em tackler who's been yelling at the rest of the front seven to get in the correct spot for a few years now. He is your proverbial quarterback of the defense. That role will probably be lessened this year since the entire front seven consists of upperclassmen, but expect him to thwack Lawrence Marshall and maybe Mo Hurst should the need arise. Mike Spath got a great quote about Morgan's ability in that department:
On U-M's linebackers: "We played them two years ago and the guy that everyone seemed to listen to was [Desmond] Morgan. Those guys are invaluable. Everyone respects them.
"Last year, you didn't hear a lot of talk from the middle linebacker. I don't think Jake Ryan was a talker. He just wanted to do his own thing. He was very good at it, but he wasn't that guy in the middle of a defense that was taking care of the other 10 guys on the field."
When called into duty to make a tackle, he brings the wood.
During the 2014 Minnesota game he uncorked this ridiculous thing where he flew in on a blitz, had to leap over a guy, kept his feet, held up two blockers, and helped stuff a third and short.
When he's not making eye-popping plays he's keeping things going down-to-down. The one glimpse at him we got last year was enough for me to bring out a Picture Pages about Morgan's LB instincts.
Morgan found himself in a bad stop here, taking on a free releasing lineman in a bunch of space. He popped that OL back; the RB ran into said OL, and Michigan saved some yards.
When Jake Ryan faced the exact same situation later on that drive, he tried to make a spectacular play. His attempt to teleport around that OL was an instinct that served him well as a chaos-sowing SAM linebacker; when moved to MLB that instinct meant he didn't delay the back at all. Instead of six yards, Michigan gave up 11.
That's Morgan in a nutshell. He will hit guys hard and funnel back to his help and drop into his zone. He'll make it difficult for a QB to get a completion on him; he'll make it difficult for a running back to get YAC on him; he'll make it difficult for an OL to stay attached to him. He's not going to turn in Ryan's Tarzan plays, but you don't have to do that to be a great middle linebacker.
As David Harris demonstrated, MLB is a thinking man's spot. Harris was just about flawless with his reads, and his understanding of the game extended to ways to get off blocks without even taking them—one of his trademarks was in effect juking OL by momentarily fighting to one side of a block and then cutting back once the OL took a false step. Morgan had some moments like that a year ago:
Do that consistently and you get to be David Harris too.
Morgan's coverage is good. Very rarely does he vacate big tracts of land, as both Ryan and Bolden were prone to last year. He of course saved Michigan's bacon in the 2013 UConn game (for all the good that did them in the long run) with a leaping spear of an interception. Add it up and you get a 2013 UFR in extended, trying circumstances that looks like a guy who is on the verge of stardom:
|1||CMU||4||0.5||3.5||Crunch crunch bang bang|
|2||Notre Dame||7.5||4.5||3||Coped pretty well in coverage. Responsible for both EZ deflections.|
|3||Akron||6||3.5||2.5||Negative coverage number should be factored in here.|
|4||UConn||6.5||3.5||3||Saved the game.|
|5||Minnesota||11||3||8||First real test this year passed easily.|
|6||Penn State||9.5||4||4.5||Rough start, strong finish.|
|9||Nebraska||5||4.5||0.5||Blew one TFL big. Otherwise solid.|
|10||Northwestern||6||5||1||Drawn in by some misdirection.|
|11||Iowa||1||-||1||Pulled early with injury.|
UFR is tough on linebackers, so anything above zero is good. To consistently go over it over the course of a season, generally on heavy usage is very difficult.
The main drawback here is explosiveness. Morgan doesn't rack up TFLs and sacks; he's not great at getting to the quarterback on blitzes. (Run blitzes, on the other hand, he is excellent at, especially on short yardage.) He is not the kind of athlete that is going to make the NFL salivate.
But there are few guys I'd rather have on third and one. Morgan should reprise his 2013 with some incremental improvements. That would make him an All Big Ten level guy even if the lack of fancy stats prevents that from happening in real life.
*[Your top three are Dave Brandon late night email sessions, Harbaugh, and Jake Rudock's transfer.]
[After THE JUMP: seniors are made of leadership]
They don't know what kind of marsupial it is.
The internet helpfully pointed out that keeping wildlife, uh, a gravid marsupial, for uh, you know, domestic…
…ain't legal. Also, Mariaklots is correct. That thing is a wallaby. Shane Morris had zoobooks and knows.
— Shane Morris (@ShaneMorris_7) June 26, 2015
No word on the ferret, or which of the many splendiferous names I offered up was eventually chosen. (I have money on Ferret Bo Jackson.)
Never not funny. Every day is an entertaining day with Harbaugh. Bill Rapai shot the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp for us and returned with this set of photos that were taken within a few minutes of each other. Each one is magnificent. As a set…
…they are almost a Broadway play.
A titanic clash. You really need to read Zach Shaw's account of the IM softball final between the football and hockey teams.
“The T-shirt means everything to us,” said self-proclaimed team manager and owner Jared Wangler, who redshirted as a freshman linebacker on the football team last fall. “We lost out last year in the semi-finals, and didn’t come back for second place. We’re back with a vengeance.”
Motte, who was once a standout baseball player and teammate with Michigan baseball star Jacob Cronenworth before settling for sophomore forward on the hockey team, was slightly less enthused after the loss.
“To be totally honest, I didn’t know we got T-shirts,” he said.
Good news for a change. Phil Steele's published a ranking of teams based on experience in their two-deep and Michigan is not languishing at the bottom of the list, trying not to get its face punched in. Far from it, in fact:
|Pts||SR ST||SR 2D||JR ST||JR 2D||SO ST||SO 2D||FR ST||FR 2D|
(As per usual with Steele if you drill down on the team you know you're going to find a few assumptions that are off or not up to date, but he's broadly accurate.)
That is a combination of Rodriguez's extreme attrition followed by Hoke's almost total lack of same, and would normally bode well. When that team is coming off a coaching change caused by whatever that was last year the route to a good season is less clear; still, a veteran and pretty good defense returns almost everybody, as does the not-so-veteran and maybe-okay offensive line. Skill positions are the big question mark.
This is both true and infuriating to Notre Dame fans. It comes from Brian Kelly:
"I think we recognized that all of my football players are at-risk -- all of them -- really," Kelly told Notre Dame Insider. "Honestly, I don't know that any of our players would get into the school by themselves right now with the academic standards the way they are. Maybe one or two of our players that are on scholarship."
ND Nation reacted to this about as well as Roll Bama Roll reacted to a camp sleeper committing to Michigan, because ND Nation believes that when a student with a 2.5 arrives on campus the magical fairy dust on ND's campus makes them into a Serious Business major.
To its credit, ND does come down much harder on malfeasance than everywhere else. Nobody else suspends five players for a whole season for academic issues, and the kind of things those guys did are at least as common around the country.
More Austin Davis highlights. This appears to be from a camp a few weeks ago:
It's not much; it does look like Davis is getting big and stronk. He has nice footwork around the basket and finishes with both hands; the Jordan Morgan vibe is strong.
“He visited Kentucky, he just visited Oregon, he’s thinking about visiting Michigan and a couple of others. Will he do that? He’s not sure. Right now, it’s a two-and-a-half horse race, Michigan being the half. If they get the visit, you have to consider them a full-fledged threat."
Murray is a potential one-and-done—Draft Express has him 21st in their 2016 mock draft—who would jam pack the Michigan roster in the same way Jaylen Brown would have. Long way to go before anything comes of that, competing against Kentucky usually doesn't go well, other rosters are probably more attractive in terms of playing time available, etc.
Another hockey exit, this one before an entrance. Michigan lost a recruit to the OHL today: Sam Miletic. Miletic isn't being hyped as an impact player after a 12-15-27 line in 58 USHL games, which is both good and bad.
The good: Miletic wasn't slated for a scoring line as a freshman and Michigan should be able to replace him without a ton of trouble. The bad: Miletic, who dropped out of the final CSB rankings after being listed 192nd—probably undrafted—in the midterms, is exactly the kind of player who should avoid the OHL like the plague. In college he'd have four years to develop and a degree; in the OHL he's going to age out after two and then face a decision between trying to use the OHL's education package (which will cap at two years for him since he's not playing four years in the league) or trying to catch on in the pros somewhere.
In a vacuum this is pretty meh. In an offseason where it seems like anyone with an option is opting out, though…
And now you're nervous again even though it seems like everyone's already left. There was a lot of speculation that the player London was going to announce today was Zach Werenski, the freshman D who is likely to be a top-15 pick. That would be the cherry on the poop sundae that's been this hockey offseason. Why would that speculation exist when Werenski would be nuts to make any move before the draft?
Zach Werenski, a potential top 10 pick, is a perfect example. The Michigan Wolverines defenceman over the weekend admitted that he’s “open” to possibly leaving behind college hockey life for a chance to play major junior.
Development is paramount in a player’s late teens and Werenski’s future NHL team will have great influence on where he’ll be plying his trade during the 2015-16 season.
Werenski said he will not sign off on a transfer before the June 26 draft.
“I was really comfortable (in Michigan) and I had a good year,” the Grosse Point, Mich., native said at the NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo. “I plan on going back as of now.”
So there you go. The tone of this article ("development is paramount") suggests it was written by a juniors honk who badgered Werenski with some leading questions. But that departure is potentially another one on the horizon.
Hockey is officially this offseason's most depressing sport.
On expansion. Eleven Warriors surveys the 14-team Big Ten one year in. I'm mostly in agreement with their take—shortsighted, ham-handed, provides money. I don't think this bit is quite right:
One thing is for sure about Big Ten expansion: it made everyone in the conference a lot of money.
The Big Ten has expanded, and there is more money. I'm sure some of that is because of expansion. How much is an open question. Certainly not as much as the article implies:
In 2009, Big Ten schools each received about $19 million a year from the conference. It was a solid total, second to the SEC in per-school revenue, but not at its max. Adding Nebraska and Rutgers and Maryland to the conference made the Big Ten a whole lot more valuable. …
When the Big Ten signs its next TV deal in 2017, revenue distribution will be at least double what it was in 2009, $45 million or more per school. Ohio State's athletic department has been swimming in money since the move as well.
In terms of relative revenue the Big Ten has not increased its lead. It may have actually lost ground.The Big 12's largest payout in 2009 was $12 million to Kansas. By 2014, full members—of a conference that lost teams—grabbed $23 million. Average payouts were 21.4 million. Those numbers do not include school-specific rights that the larger leagues have bundled into networks. In 2014 the Big Ten distributed about 27 million. The gap is smaller in both percentages and raw numbers than it was five years ago.
The Big Ten is the last conference to have its rights come up and will get a bump to ever-more ludicrous numbers; that was going to happen with or without the two additions. The Big Ten would be swimming in dough either way; any benefit the Big Ten manages to extract from Maryland and Rutgers has zero impact on the ability of its teams to compete in major sports and a panoply of negatives for fans.
Etc.: I'm just talkin' bout Moe Ways. Tyus Battle has to pass on the USA U19 tryouts. Probable return to the court in July. Early signing period is happening for a test-run. Dan Beebe tried to tell 'em. They didn't listen. Caris will be good to go July 1st.
We get excited about certain things around these parts. Like fun-to-size ratios. And new official rosters with updated weights. We've had 24 hours to parse the Spring data, and with Brian on the road today it's up to me to see how they've grown:
Things of [a Certain Definition of] Interest:
- Brady Pallante is a fullback
- Ross Douglas is listed as Ross Taylor-Douglas, and is back at corner
- Ian Bunting is up to 6'7/243
- A.J. Williams is up to offensive tackle size (6'6/285)
Weight Gain/Loss 2000
A reminder of internet policy on weight changes: all weight gain is muscle fiber, all weight lost was fat, and all static weight means fat was replaced with muscle fiber. I've highlighted things discussed after.
|Player||'11||'12||'13||S'14||F'14||Sp'15||'11- '12||'12-'13||'13-'14||'14- 15|
Fullback & Tight End
|Maurice Hurst Jr.||270||277||282||281||12||-1|
[Hit the jump for discussion on this and other bits I could glean.]
News bullets and other items:
Hoke said that domestic violence is one of the first things they talk about in team meetings at the beginning of the year and they talk to the team about it at least four times per year
Hoke said after they had received all the necessary information the decision to dismiss Frank Clark from the program essentially made itself
Hoke has not spoken with Clark but does plan to speak with him at some point
Mario Ojemudia will start at WDE with Taco Charlton behind him
Henry Poggi moves to SDE to back up Brennen Beyer
"Obviously you all know and we put a statement out, I put a statement out, let's put it that way, we had a situation during the bye week with a young man making a bad decision and after getting all the facts that we could get and I could get I made the decision to dismiss Frank Clark from the program. What was reported and all those things, and I'm sure you've been through it with a fine-tooth comb, was unacceptable and it was not what we want here associated with our program. I know in the statement I talked about it being tragic and domestic abuse is tragic. It's tragic on a national scale. It's tragic. Obviously it's somewhere in our society and we all need to do something about it, and being a husband and being a father [and] having two sisters it's a message that I send strongly to our football team about how we will handle ourselves with women.
"That being said we're excited about Saturday. We're excited about playing Maryland, and the biggest excitement is that we've got 12 kids who are going to play their last home football game here at Michigan. We have 12 seniors. Two of them will have graduated. One of them will have his masters. The others will graduate either this fall at the end of fall or at the end of winter and we're very proud of what they've done representing the University of Michigan, and hopefully people will be in the stadium early so they can be honored and then we've got a great football game with Maryland."
Maryland on film, especially defensively: what have you seen from them?
"Well, they do a lot and they've got a pretty big package, especially when you get into third downs. They've done a nice job of attacking the quarterback. I think they are one sack above us in the league when you look at it from a defensive standpoint. I think they run very well [and] I think they obviously if you watched Saturday night's game, which I know I did, that game was a heckuva game for a little while and then kind of got out of hand with the interception for a touchdown. But they're very impressive with what they can do. I think they've won three or four games on the road so they've played well on the road also."
In light of how big an issue domestic violence has been mostly in the NFL this year have you spoken to the team before this weekend about that issue specifically?
"We speak about it constantly. Believe me, at least four times a year. We have people from the University come in. I've told our guys since day one that it won't be tolerated. It won't be tolerated in this program. All you have to do is think about I have a daughter who's 29. I have a wife. I have two sisters, And so that's always been probably one of the first things I talk about with our team least a couple times a year."
You probably just answered that, but did the current climate with how big this issue has been influence how quickly you guys made a decision?
"No, it really didn't. The decision was made after getting all the information that we could and that I could, and in doing that there really was no decision to be made. I don't know if that sounded right but…"
[After THE JUMP: More on the Clark situation and young players who impressed in the intrasquad scrimmage]
|Warren, MI – 6'1", 225|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
NR OLB, #17 MI
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#71 OLB, #13 MI
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#34 S, #6 MI
|Other Suitors||PSU (decommit), MSU, LSU|
|YMRMFSPA||Jordan Kovacs, except a linebacker|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Warren DLS(Shane Morris). Son of John Wangler, brother of Jack.|
Midseason senior highlights:
Whiplash time in this series as we swing from the highest-rated Michigan recruit in the history of recruits being ranked to one of the few guys in the class who qualifies for sleeper of the year consideration. (Note: the criteria here has expanded to allow one four-star rating from the four services, because there are very few candidates these days if you restrict yourself to pure three-stars.) OLB Jared Wangler is of course the son of John Wangler and brother of walk-on WR Jack, so when Michigan came calling it took him about a week to dump his Penn State commitment and sign on.
Despite the low rankings, Wangler has a few different indicators in his favor. A Penn State offer is nice; Wangler also had an MSU offer and an apparently legit offer from LSU. While that latter was undoubtedly influenced by Les Miles's relationship with the elder Wangler, it seemed to be a real thing($). Wangler was also selected to the UA game, though he missed it after shoulder surgery.
If those things are odd for a guy it appears no one even considered for a fourth star, well... yeah. There is something of a disconnect between those rankings and his scouting reports, too. ESPN's main downside is a need to add bulk, and opposite that you have these diverse and sundry positives($):
Demonstrates very good range to the sideline. Takes proper angles when in long pursuit showing the ability to open the hips to turn and run. ... Reacts quickly to the run and pass demonstrating the agility and balance needed to move through traffic and play downhill to the football. ... tough customer with solid wrap tackling skills and is a finisher who doesn't allow leaky yards after contact. ... relentless desire to chase down the football ...
We see very good underneath zone coverage skills. Displays the athleticism needed to cross over for depth with eyes on the quarterback and shows good short-to-medium route awareness along with high point interception skills. The ability to make tight turns along with his playing speed suggests man coverage potential. ... athleticism should prove very effective as an outside linebacker at the BCS level of competition.
So naturally they followed that report up by ranking Wangler several spots behind a dude going to Georgia State and a 5'10" dude with crazy eyes headed to Colorado. He did edge bros headed to Chattanooga and Albany, though. So he's got that going for him.
Allen Trieu has a similar take, calling Wangler a "very good athlete" and noting his ability to cover over the slot:
... often asked to play over the slot and drop into coverage. ... He does a nice job of taking on blockers and when he arrives at the ball carrier, he's a strong tackler who can deliver a strike. He's a smart, instinctive kid who keeps himself in good position, doesn't lose contain and does a good job of diagnosing plays quickly and using his ability to run to get to the ball carrier.
Trieu listed "athleticism," "hitting ability," and "pass coverage skills" as strengths in his Scout profile with "shedding ability" as an area for improvement--was really hoping for size there--and echoing his coverage praise:
Is able to play over the slot and does a nice job in coverage, both in man to man and dropping into zones. Has good closing speed to the football and is a good striker who explodes into his tackles. Having just transitioned into playing in the box, he simply has to continue to get stronger and work on getting off blocks.
247's Clint Brewster joins the "this guy can really cover" chorus:
...smart, tough, and plays with good technique at the outside linebacker position. He excels in the open field and does an outstanding job in coverage. .... Wangler has an instinctive and quick first step and made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. Wangler’s talent level doesn’t really pop out at you but he is solid in just about every area of the position. ...fluid and fast enough that he's often asked to line up over the slot and handle quick coverage responsibilities.
And his dad is not an unbiased observer but what the hell let's get his two cents:
"He's around the ball, has great ball skills. He'll hit you, and always when he hit, you knew you were hit. But he can move, too. The good thing everyone likes is he's 215 pounds, and he can get up to 230 easy because of his frame. He can cover, too, because he's a converted safety. He can take the slot guys, has the versatility to come off the end and blitz, take on a fullback or a guard and make a play."
So what's the deal with the rankings? The catch here appears to be the "if you can't say something nice..." nature of the recruiting industrial complex. When Wangler hit camps he'd usually get a brief mention along the lines of "good in coverage against running backs" or "underrated athleticism" before folks moved along to other prospects that jumped off the field more. Brewster touches on Wangler's general lack of wow factor in the "improvements" section of his eval:
Wangler isn’t the most talented player out there but makes up with for it being solid in most areas of the position. He has average size with pretty good athleticism but not great overall speed.
In a generally positive live evaluation, Rivals's Tim Sullivan noted his "impressive athleticism" one paragraph before stating that Wangler will never be the biggest or fastest linebacker on the field. His scouting is full of this kind of schizophrenia. Josh Helmholdt mentioned his "great speed to go with his coverage skills," for instance. Even his coach has a bit of hesitation to him sometimes:
"He'll come up and hit you. He's got good enough agility to make some plays in the open field."
It kind of feels like analysts say these things in the same way they say Nik Stauskas is not just a shooter, you know?
Wangler is a high school safety Michigan plans on moving down to linebacker; I bet one dollar that Michigan envisions him as one of those hybrid space players. Michigan's move to an over defense clarifies a lot of weird things we heard about his recruitment, like the thing he kept saying about how the coaches saw him as a SAM or a WILL.
Those are two entirely different positions in the under. They're still pretty different in the over, but it seems clear the meaning there was "if we become an over defense you are a SAM; if we stick with the under you are a WILL. " This is a fit that Magnus foresaw:
For him to fit at SAM, I think he would have to play in a 4-3 Over defense, where he could cover the tight end and play in the C gap. As for the WILL position, I think Wangler has the mental aptitude but not the speed; he diagnoses the plays quickly, but I think he'll be too slow to slice into the backfield or beat Big Ten running backs to the hole.
So for now he is a SAM, one who can hopefully cover a tight end and defeat his blocks. Sullivan caught him in person a couple times and believes this is the plan:
...has a linebacker's mentality at the safety position. Although he's the size of a safety at this point, he has the frame to grow into linebacker at the next level - which Michigan coaches expect him to do.
FWIW, he told Rivals in January he was up to 225, which means he could hit fall camp at 230 or even 235, which is already in the plausible range for playing time. Michigan should not need him, but that does not stop them from playing guys all that often.
Why Jordan Kovacs? Kovacs was always the world's best tiny linebacker even if he was pressed into duty deeper due to his ability to actually do the things a safety is supposed to do. Wangler appears to fill the tough tacklin', awareness havin', tight end lockin' role that Kovacs generally did.
Wangler's obviously bigger and will move closer to the line of scrimmage; he probably cannot be as utterly reliable as Michigan's best safety blanket in a decade and a half, but kid is from a football family, and is a legacy like Kovacs.
Other option here is Michigan's best and really only space linebacker in the past decade or so: Stevie Brown. Brown came with top-100 guru rankings and high praise for his athleticism that was not of the Not Just A Shooter variety, though, and struggled for most of his career to apply that athleticism in a positive way. Kovacs is closer.
Guru Reliability: High-ish. Was relatively prominent for a couple years, attended a number of camps, and there is approximate consensus. Did not get to show his wares at the UA game, though, and his offers dispute he rankings.
Variance: Moderate. Position switch doesn't really bother me since it is a move down, and it seems like he's already approaching a plausible playing weight. But it is a position move and he is a tweener.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. He can be an effective presence in the slot and a glue guy between front seven and secondary. Probably not going to blow you away with his rippling awesomeness.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. I like adding LB/S tweeners in this era of college football who can shift between hunting slot receivers and still put a shoulder to a tailback and make him stop. Wangler's got a number of reasons to think he'll outperform his middling rankings, as well.
Projection: It doesn't seem like there's a reason to play any freshman linebacker this year what with Michigan possessing a solid, veteran two-deep that has a couple of special teams options further down the depth chart in McCray and Gant... but a couple probably will. It doesn't seem like Wangler will be one of them, what with Ferns enrolling early and Michigan pretty well stocked on slot options what with Countess and the previous guy in this series.
After a probable redshirt, James Ross will have one more year before a free-for-all for the starting SAM job develops between Wangler, Allen Gant, and possibly Chase Winovich or Mike McCray, depending on how those guys develop. Dymonte Thomas may even be a candidate there if he does not win a safety job, at least in nickel packages. Wangler has an excellent shot of at least finding a role then, as it's doubtful Winovich or McCray will be able to approximate Wangler's cover skills. Gant, another converted safety, will provide a challenge.
Even so Wangler should have a three-year run as some sort of contributor and seems to have a good chance to start as a heady effort guy who is built to eliminate tight ends and tailbacks against teams who spread the field.