"Coach Mattison told me what the Ravens were about, what he thought," Beyer said. "He definitely encouraged me. I hold his opinion in high regard."
Joe Bolden hype comes in both unapproved and approved forms.
We had the fortune to get a practice report from a deeply anonymous person who wormed their way Inside The Fort, and here is what he or she or it reported, in my words:
Jabrill Peppers is mostly a nickel back but they are giving him a few experimental snaps at safety. While it seems like they are going to start him out there, as the season develops he may get more playing time when Michigan has four DBs on the field by taking that SS spot. Delano Hill's absence complicates things. He was leading at SS before he injured his jaw.
The alarming O-Line lineup tweeted out was at least temporarily a real thing. FWIW, that was Cole-Magnuson-Miller-Dawson/Glasgow-Braden. Kalis was not repping much with the first team. The slash-Dawson in that line above should be taken with a grain of salt—he looked another year or two away in one-on-ones.
That unit was not looking great even by early fall practice standards, so maybe they switch it up. Hoke told the assembled horde at Media Day that they hoped to settle on a top five by next week. They're still in experiment mode.
Jeremy Clark is your leader at SS with Hill sidelined. Brandon Watson is apparently #3 there until Hill gets back. Thomas did not get a mention.
Sigh… Joe Bolden seems to be for real. This is not bad for Michigan in general. It is bad for me because if Bolden starts the opener over a healthy Desmond Morgan I eat a lemon on the internet. But he's continued to get more time than Morgan. Jenkins-Stone is also getting a lot of time, but for whatever reason Ross was held out of this practice so that may be more about his absence than anything else.
Jourdan Lewis may be your best corner. He will push Taylor heavily; they're already splitting reps down the middle and Lewis is outperforming not only him but Countess.
Norfleet looked "f---ing great" and is the #1 slot. No, the insider is not me. I swear. Canteen is practicing both inside and out as they try to figure out their best configuration.
DeVeon Smith is the #1 back. Green and Hayes seemed running neck and neck for #2, with Drake Johnson the last serious competitor behind them. Hoke announced at media day that Johnson was 1b to Smith's 1a, so maybe they're seeing subtler things. Or Green is still on the motivation train.
While Ty Isaac looked pretty good, they're mostly running him with/against scrubs. That seems like an indicator they don't expect to get a waiver for him.
There is some zone read. FWIW. They ran zone read drills under Borges, too.
The defense is "crazy aggressive." They are serious about it, deploying a ton of press—just like the spring game—and using Peppers as a freelance sower of destruction on blitzes. Linemen are shifting frequently, giving the offensive line issues with pickups.
The defensive line should have good depth. Hurst and Wormley were both mentioned as seeming like starter-quality players, and the just-returned Pipkins was praised for his agility. He dominated one-on-one sessions and made some spin moves that seemed "impossible" for a guy his size. OL caveats apply.
Expect a lot of screens. Screens are the way you deal with a wobbly OL.
In HTTV last year we made a strange assertion: that given the relative drop-off to their replacements, Kovacs would probably be missed more than Denard Robinson. I thought I'd pose the question now concerning this year's seniors, except there's one guy who could have gone 1st overall in the NFL draft LAST YEAR, and he's being replaced by either a member of the worst interior offensive line in Michigan memory or a guy who couldn't beat out one of those guys for playing time.
|Actually, #2 Taylor Lewan's twosie and #3 Taylor Lewan's pet pig are also out of the running. [Upchurch]|
So, OTHER than that guy,
Which senior will Michigan miss most next season?
Ace: I'll leave a couple very strong candidates aside—namely, Jeremy Gallon and Thomas Gordon—and go to the other bookend of the offensive line, Michael Schofield. Michigan already needs to get much (much) better play out of the interior of the line next year, not to mention a major step up in blocking from the backs and tight ends. Losing not just one, but two NFL-quality tackles means the Wolverines once again head into a new season with major uncertainty up front.
I expect the interior line to be better, especially since some of the true freshmen who weren't viable options this season—especially Patrick Kugler and David Dawson—should at least be ready to compete for a spot on the two-deep. Losing Schofield along with Lewan, however, means that there's almost no margin for error with the new tackles; Michigan needs to find two decent starters out of Ben Braden, Erik Magnuson, and... that's about it.
I guess Dawson could play right tackle, as could Kyle Kalis, but both are more natural fits inside. Chris Fox, coming off a major knee injury that delayed his freshman progress, and Logan Tuley-Tillman, a raw-upside prospect with a heavy emphasis on raw, probably won't be ready to step in and be very effective.
Losing Lewan hurts the most, of course; that's compounded by the absence of Schofield—who really came into his own this year—leaving Michigan with, at best, four relatively unproven players competing for two open tackle spots while the interior of the line is still very much a question mark.
[After the jump: Pining for (Scho)fields]
|Free Safety||Yr.||Strong Safety||Yr.|
|Courtney Avery||Sr.||Thomas Gordon||Sr.*|
|Jarrod Wilson||So.||Josh Furman||Jr.*|
|Jeremy Clark||Fr.*||Delano Hill||Fr.|
[* = player has taken redshirt. # = walk-on]
Well, here it is. Michigan has lost Jordan Kovacs and the replacement derby has gone about as poorly as it could have. Jarrod Wilson was the guy they wanted to take the job and has not done so; Michigan moved a 5'9" slot cornerback back to safety because they had more faith in that guy knowing the defense than Wilson, and then that guy got hurt in a way that is not the way that he is perpetually hurt.
So… yeah, at least we'll have a good perspective on how valuable Jordan Kovacs was?
LET'S PULL THE BAND-AID OFF FIRST. The free safety slot is currently a competition between JARROD WILSON [recruiting profile] and COURTNEY AVERY that has gone to Wilson by default early because of arthroscopic surgery for Avery. Avery's only supposed to miss two games.
This preview projects that Avery will be the starter upon his healthy return, for various reasons. These are mostly about Wilson, so I guess we'll address him first. When Michigan moved him into the starting lineup last year in the bowl game, pain followed. Unless the entire rest of the defense was wrong on, Wilson was the culprit on a 70-yard South Carolina pass…
Wilson is on the numbers at the 40. He is supposed to be offscreen(!) to the right
…and the game winner…
it's called CENTER field
…in situations where it was just flat-out blowing simple centerfield assignments. We've made a lot of allowances for freshman whatsit in these previews, but Wilson hasn't done anything positive so far—literally. The only thing he charted on last year before infinite minuses in the bowl game was a critical, legit pass interference penalty on Tyler Eifert in the Notre Dame game. (That was third and goal. Ouch.)
And then there's the late move. When it leaked into the media, Hoke was of course asked about it:
MGoQuestion: What does Jarrod Wilson have to do to solidify his spot at safety?
"He's got to have production."
MGoFollowup: Have you been worried about his lack of production?
"No, we just think that we have good competition and there's guys having some production. He's got to have more."
This is terrifying because at safety, "production" means not doing things like those pictures above. Compounding the terror somewhat is that Wilson enrolled early and should be less raw, more familiar with the defense, etc.
You can hold onto this, I guess?
Do you have an idea who might start Saturday at this point?
"You know, I think Jarrod [Wilson]'s had a nice last two weeks of fall. I think the pressure that was put on him by other guys ... Josh Furman's improved. I would say Jarrod probably."
Does that make you feel good? If so, give me some of your enjoyment.
Okay, okay: Wilson does have some experience and safety is not a kind spot for freshmen. As a recruit, his frame and size got him a lot of nice offers, including Penn State, Notre Dame, and Stanford. Kovacs said he'd picked the defense up fast last year…
“He’s come in and picked up the defense really, really well. That’s one of the things he’s got the football smarts and as a defensive back you really need that,” Kovacs said. “Don’t get me wrong, there are things he needs to get cleaned up and improved on, but I’m definitely impressed with how much he’s progressed and how good of a ballplayer he is as a senior in high school. He has a lot more time here and I expect big things in the future.”
…and while that doesn't seem… you know… true, we are extrapolating from limited data here to wave our doomy fingers of doom. It could work out! Yeah!
[After THE JUMP: Courtney Avery trying to come back, Thomas Gordon definitely doing so, and dodgy depth.]
left: Bryan Fuller
Earlier this offseason I stumbled onto an old article where Bill Walsh wrote what qualities he looks for when drafting various positions. Meant to be a one-off on the offense, I took requests for a defensive version and broke it up into D-Line, linebackers, and now, finally, the defensive backs. The idea is since the coaching staff is building a "pro-style" team with principles more akin to the Walsh ideal that dominates the pros than the collegiate evaluations made on scouting sites and the like, we shall re-scout the 2013 roster for Walsh-approved attributes.
Since coverages have changed the most since Walsh's day—a reaction to the spread—this is probably the least valuable of the series. To bring it back on point, I've gone off the page a little bit to note some of the attributes that NFL defensive coaches are looking for nowadays, and what those changes mean.
Plankamalu / Shazorvacs/ M-Rob if all quarterbacks were Brian Cleary
Walsh Says: 6'3/215. Now hold your horses before going all "SHAZOR?!?" on me—I'm making a point: The type of player you have at safety depends on the type of system you want to run and the type of player you have everywhere else. If you're going to be playing more odd coverages (cover 1, cover 3) then you want your strong safety to be more of a run support guy, in many ways a fourth linebacker. If your base coverage is even (cover 2, cover 4) the strong and weak safeties will be more similar:
"There are other systems of defense where both safeties play a two-deep coverage and only occasionally come out of the middle to support the run. They basically play the ball in the air, the middle of the field and the sidelines. When you do that, then the stress is on the cornerback to be the support man.
So you must keep in mind these various philosophies when considering what types of cornerbacks and safeties you want to put together in forming a defensive secondary."
The attributes of your defensive backs should be complementary. Here's what Walsh is getting at: your backfield has to be able to defend the pass first and the run second. And here's the key: the more you can trust one player to handle coverage without help, the more you can stock up on extra run defense with the other guys. If your backfield already has plenty of coverage, you can have a strong man:
"The strong safety is historically the support man. He must have some of the traits you look for in a linebacker. In fact there have been some hybrid players in that position. Cincinnati had David Fulcher [right], who was as big as some linebackers but could function also as a safety. The Bengals moved him weak and strong, inside and outside and he became that extra man that the offensive run game had to account for but often could not block.
"But the typical strong safety is someone who can hit and stop people and respond spontaneously and go to the ball. Naturally, the more coverage talent the man has the more you can line him up on anybody."
Today, defensive coordinators sit on porches, remember when you could play a guy like Fulcher, and say "those were the days." The epitome of this type of safety is former Buckeye Doug Plank, who defined his position to such a degree that the defensive system itself was named for his number (46).
It's also called the "Bear" defense because it was the Bears
This defense was at the height of its popularity when Walsh joined the 49ers in 1979, and it was this defense his model passing concepts shredded. The defense played to Plank's strengths as an overly aggressive, hard-hitting run stopper with some coverage skills. The SAM linebacker in today's anti-spread sets (e.g. the 3-3-5's "Spur") is a closer analogue to the Plank-style player than the modern strong safety, with the key difference being that, as a safety, you couldn't put a blocker on a 46 without removing one from a lineman or linebacker, meaning the SS could flow cleanly to the point of attack and wrack up ridiculous tackle numbers.
College teams loved this, since passing quarterbacks were hard to come by and the big boys were running three yards and a cloud of dust (and later the option). A lot of cool names for linebacker-safeties were passed down from this period, such as the "Wolf" on Bo's teams, or the "Star" (names which today are coming out of retirement for the nickel-SAM hybrid position in base 4-2-5 anti-spread defenses).
Walsh's Favorite Wolverine: Why does a mid-'70s response to off-tackle NFL running games matter to a collegiate defense in 2013? Well because we have a really good free safety, and play tight end-heavy outfits this year in UConn (T.J. Weist, a rare member of the Gary Moeller coaching tree, is taking over there), Penn State, Michigan State, and Iowa, with the outside possibility of a Wisconsin if we make it to the conference championship. Also because the coaches have been subtly putting safety-like objects (Woolfolk, Gordon, and now Dymonte Thomas) at nickel, and recruiting a few linebacker-sized safeties.
I don't know what he'd think of Kovacs. We loved him, but Jordan had two weaknesses: 1) his lack of overall athleticism made exploitable if left in wide coverage (see: his abusing by Ace Sanders on the last play of the Outback Bowl, and the utter disaster that was GERG's attempt to play Kovacs as the free safety in 2009), and 2) his lack of size made him blockable if a lead blocker could get to him (see: bad things happening whenever Mouton abandoned contain).
He would have loved Ernest Shazor, a knife blade listed at 6'4/226 with a scatback's acceleration who loved nothing better than demonstrating the force equation. Brian calls Shazor "the most overrated Michigan player of the decade" because he has to live with the bolded subconscious of UFR, and nothing pisses off a figment of a blogger's imagination like a safety who gives up a big play in coverage.
Here's the point: the ideal safety would be a dude with the size and stopping power to pop a lead blocker and make the tackle or lay out a guy like Shazor, read and react like Kovacs, and cover like Charles Woodson. That human doesn't exist. A combo of epic athleticism with plus headiness and serviceable tackling and size equals Ed Reed or Sean Taylor. Epic headiness with plus size and serviceable everything else nets you Doug Plank, with plus athleticism: Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu or Rodney Harrison. The trick is to have epic everything between your safeties; for strongside then it's not Ernest Shazor or Jordan Kovacs; it's SHAZORVACS!
What to look for in a Scouting Report: At either safety position, instincts rate highly and speed after that (less so for the strongside). You're looking to first make sure you have enough coverage in the entire backfield, and once you do you can use this position to stock up on linebacker traits: tackling, size, taking on blockers, personal contribution to local seismic activity, that sort of stuff.
What you can learn on film: Everyone loves those bone-jarring hits and coaches are more than happy to put them in a recruiting video, but not all hits are created equal. Sometimes they're generated by another defender cutting off the lead blocker, other times it's your guy reading the play so early he can go all-out on the hit. More important is what happens to the ballcarrier: he needs to go down. Safeties are going to be left in space, and making that tackle is more important than making the offensive player wish he'd never met this oblong brown thing.
What could signal bust potential: Remember you want a safety, not a horse, i.e. overrating the secondary, linebacker-y attributes and expecting the rest to come along. Adequate coverage and good instincts need to be there or else this guy is just a platoon player. "May be a linebacker on the next level" is a red flag, unless he actually becomes a linebacker. Brandon Smith's recruiting profile is instructive.
It's usually good policy to discount ESPN's opinion when it's in wild disagreement with the other services, but here I tend to give their rip job ($, "he's not a fast-twitch athlete and lacks explosive quickness and speed"; "Takes too long to reach top speed"; "He can be late, takes false steps and doesn't see things happen quickly enough") some credence. Reasons:
- Rivals started off very high on him, ranking him around #50, but steadily dropped him as the year progressed despite his status as a high-profile uncommitted player.
- Despite all the guru accolades Michigan's main competitors were Rutgers and South Carolina; other offers came from Maryland, NC State, Wisconsin and West Virginia. He wanted offers from Florida and Ohio State which never came.
- You always risk looking like a tool when you rely on your super awesome scouting skills and six plays on youtube to discern a kid's fate, but... yeah, I didn't think he was all that.
The guy left in a huff after they tried to wring the last bit of value out of him as a Doug Plank-like extra linebacker vs. Wisconsin, and Wisconsin ground us to dust, but then Smith was a high school quarterback whose development as a defender had to come almost entirely from the Rodriguez-era coaching staff. Anyway you've seen this again and again: rave reviews for the guy's "frame" and a profundity of attributes that would make him seem a really nice horse, combined with not nearly enough "makes plays." First have all of the safety stuff: can read and react, cover, and tackle in space. Then care about the size.
How our guys compare: Jarrod Wilson (6'2/196) remains my favorite to start at this spot because he is adequate (not yet plus) in coverage and the other guys aren't. Like the Jamar Adams he reminds me of, Wilson doesn't stand out in any category but doesn't have any major holes in his game other than being young.
The other leading candidate is Marvin Robinson who scares the hell out of me. He was a big-time recruit early in the process thanks to apparently having an early growth spurt, and his profile was filled with horsey metaphors. The same player still hangs on that frame (he arrived at 203 and never deviated more than 3 lbs from that) and hopes for him hang on the comparative competence in coaching plus the fact that being behind Jordan Kovacs is a perfectly reasonable excuse for not seeing the field earlier.
The redshirt freshmen at this position are stiff and linebacker-ish with instincts, more Plank than Polamalu. Jeremy Clark is all of 6'4/201 and did an okay job against the run in the Spring Game I covered in this space a few weeks ago, but lacks speed. Allen Gant also had instincts praised as a recruit, but also lacks the kind of athleticism and would at best develop into a slightly bigger and less heady Kovacs. If going forward Michigan can develop a superstar at the other safety spot or with a corner, they might be able to Plank it with one of these guys—when Woodson gave us that opportunity in '97, Daydrion Taylor and Tommy Hendricks went ham.
Thomas Gordon is super-instinctive and would be a perfect fit here except he's needed at the more important free position he's been playing.
[The rest, after the leap.]
I don't either. See Brady Hoke's century-long tenure. What do you mean I posted it Monday? Get out of town.
This been all banners and Never Forget and all that business for a long time. Michigan's secondary woes didn't start with Rich Rodriguez, who merely carved out a crevasse of hopeless abyssal despair previously unknown to man from a moderately deep trench of hopeless abyssal despair. The secondary has not been good for a long, long time.
But it was last year. I'm about to put up the "coverage" metric the blog tracks. Points are awarded for DBs close enough to receivers to make a play on the ball (even if the ball is caught) and subtracted when guys are open enough to get YAC or easily convert first downs on third and medium situations. If you're batting .500 here you're doing pretty well. Drum roll:
|1||WMU||6||11||-5||A lot of this was Herron, frankly.|
|2||ND||17||18||-1||Good deep in press man.|
|5||MINN||10||5||5||Tony Gibson –6.02 x 10^23|
|6||NW||13||15||-2||Not bad. Some issues getting RPSed.|
|7||MSU||9||12||-3||That's not too bad against a senior QB.|
|8||Purdue||11||6||5||Excellent number given the ratio.|
|9||Iowa||11||14||-3||Good recovery after weak start.|
|12||OSU||11||30||-19||Not so much.|
The OSU number stands out as the only truly bad day of the year not easily explained away by a linebacker who hit the bench after the game in question. That was not entirely on the secondary. Greg Mattison NFLed himself, changing up Michigan's scheme and putting his charges in positions that were untenable or close to it. Even so Michigan's pass efficiency defense rocketed from 103rd to 36th in a single year.
How did this happen? EXCLUSIVE EXCLUSIVE EXCLUSIVE MUST CREDIT MGOBLOG.
|Boundary Corner||Yr.||Field Corner||Yr.||Nickelback||Yr.|
|JT Floyd||Sr.*||Blake Countess||So.||Courtney Avery||Jr.|
|Raymon Taylor||So.||Terry Richardson||Fr.||Delonte Hollowell||So.|
I know. I know. This ish be cray. I have no idea what that means. I saw Ace tweet it at some point and thought about crayfish probably.
|step for step|
|all over this dude|
|beats Jenkins block|
|the oh shiiiiiii|
Michigan returns their top three corners from a year ago, all of whom were pretty good. The depth has been whittled down by the departures of Terry Talbott and Tamani Carter, but they've got a couple sophomores and a touted freshman and should be okay unless they get a flood of injuries. Give them a year and it'll be time to forget Never Forget.
JT Floyd is the headliner in so many ways. After the Penn State game pictured above I said he'd run "three of the worst coverages I've ever seen," and time has done nothing to change that opinion. He got yanked after that game; his last two games UFRed in 2010 were a –8.5 against Iowa ("oh my God the slants") and the –9 against PSU ("awful, awful, awful"). Everyone was openly petrified that he would play; this space predicted Courtney Avery would start and Countess would usurp Floyd's spot posthaste. Instead Countess usurped Avery's spot and Floyd developed into a pretty good Big Ten corner.
The highlight was his game-sealing interception against AJ Jenkins…
…and Floyd was no one-trick pony. I kept an owlish watch on him as he played to the point where I checked his coverage on plays that didn't go anywhere near him. The results were pure Ripley's. He may have sucked containing runs/screen to his side but…
…I still think he's the best corner Michigan has right now. I base this off plays when opponents run twinned routes and I can see a Woolfolk or Countess cover the same slant on the same call; almost invariably Floyd is hugging the receiver tighter. This is not the best example because the QB set him up for this one but whether it's in man or zone Floyd seems to get more plays on the ball than anyone else in the secondary:
Meanwhile, count the long receptions Floyd's given up this year… I've got one, an undefendable Michael Floyd fade on which he had a rake at the ball. When they go after Michigan deep it was Woolfolk and Countess getting most of the exposure. That's good enough for me when trying to figure out who's good in an area of the field you only see when someone hasn't been good (or one of Michigan's quarterbacks has decided they're tired of being on the field).
I know. OMG. Floyd stands alone as the most soaring, magnificent demonstration of the differences between the last staff and this one.
This is not to say he turned into Charles Woodson. He was consistently subpar on bubble screens and other run-support tasks, which was especially frustrating since he is the boundary corner. He, like everyone else, got smoked by Posey in the OSU game, and he still seems to lack a certain something when it comes to deep speed. When I broke down Michigan's "NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE BALL" coverage, a few different coaches got in touch with me to tell me this was something commonly called "trail" coverage. Trail is something you do when you get beat and can't look for the ball; it's supposed to be a plan B when you're really good. For Floyd, it was plan A.
Which, fine. More than fine. Hallelujah. The guy can play. He's got flaws, only some of which will get worked out, and his top end is a stray All Big Ten vote or two and a seventh-round pick, and who cares about any of that when JT Floyd can play football.
TONY GIBSON MINUS ALL OF THE POINTS
Minus all of the points.
[After THE JUMP: Kovacs! A lack of long touchdowns! Depth!]
Hello. This is an annual series profiling Michigan's incoming recruiting class. I do it so that I have a Kiper-like instant recall of biographical facts on all these guys and because since a information-strewn football season has passed between most of these guys' commitments and now. You read 'em because it's the summer.
A note on "YMRMFSPA": this stands for "you may remember me from such players as." It's not supposed to be a projection of how good a player will be, but rather who he'll remind you of in the event he works out. The players I use as comparisons all worked out. I can't compare someone to Avery Horn because I don't know what Avery Horn played like.
Previously: First of the year
|Madisonville, KY - 6'4" 205|
|Scout||3*, #71 S|
|Rivals||3*, #37 S, #4 KY|
|ESPN||3*, 76, #53 S, #6 KY|
|24/7||3*, #47 S, #8 KY|
|Other Suitors||MAC schools, Illinois, NC State, Cincinatti|
|YMRMFSPA||Ernest Shazor, but sane!
|Previously On MGoBlog||Tom interviews Clark. Tim commit post.|
|Notes||Name is hard to Google.|
A previous highlight reel has been removed from the tubes.
Jeremy Clark lived the life of an itinerant hobo last summer looking for an opportunity to play Big Time college football (or any college football at all), camping at Cincinnati, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Western Kentucky, Austin Peay(!), and probably others early in the summer. He almost succeeded when his camp tour took him to Ohio State in June. There he was one of three defensive backs being heavily evaluated for an offer. Najee Murray was the immediate winner in that derby; OSU told the other two guys they were "interested." He got his first smattering of offers in the aftermath.
The next weekend Clark hit up Michigan's camp and got his wish: a grayshirt offer that he took immediately, short-circuiting further developments with OSU and anyone else. By the time he grabbed the grayshirt he was turning down you-can-play-now offers from Illinois, Cincinnati and NC State: Clark wants big time.
He'll get it, and he'll get it this fall after Michigan upgraded him to the full-fledged offer in mid-October. This was a talent thing. Clark had been told that if Jarrod Wilson, Michigan's main safety target in the class, picked someone other than Michigan that he'd get the full offer, but by the time Clark was moved to 2012 Wilson had been committed to Michigan for a couple months. This was also before Michigan's late run of disappointment in the 2012 class. It was a move spurred by his play as a senior…
“They sent their coach down to watch practice last week and they were so impressed with him and our team,” Weaver said. “They wanted to get him on campus right away.”
Clark … and the rest of the Maroon secondary shut down Lone Oak QB Cole Ousley last week. … “I thought he was a very good football player,” Lone Oak head coach Orville Haskins said. “Their skill kids are really good.”
…and designed to ward off any suitors offering what Michigan was unwilling to. So he'll be on campus in the fall.
The main questions about Clark are these:
Is he really a 6'4" safety?
Can he run?
How legit was this interest from Ohio State and "other (SEC) suitors"?
Question 1: probably. That picture above is one tall, narrow dude, and there's no jitter in any of the recruiting services' listings save for a 6'2" handed out by ESPN. Everyone else says 6'4". Maybe he's really 6'3". He's still really tall for a defensive back. As far as the safety bit of that question, yeah, very probably. Part of his extreme sleeper status was the usual crazy growth spurt:
“He has the potential to be the best player I’ve coached ,” Weaver said. “He grew four inches from the summer of his sophomore year to his junior year. He grew four inches and runs a 4.4 40 (yard dash).
“He can fly and he likes to hit.”
So he's used to the idea of being a 6'0" safety. The only thing that would drag him away would be the height making it problematic to stay there.
That doesn't seem like it's going to be the case. When he committed Scout replicated this Sam Webb evaluation from camp:
This 6-4, 175-lb. safety was one of the surprises of the day. He flashed good speed and EXCELLENT ball skills. He is a bit of a sleeper on the national scene because he has grown four inches since last fall. Just as impressive was the fact that he soaked up the coaching like a sponge and just seemed to really be relishing the overall experience. After his showing today, the Wolverines are definitely wide awake to his talents. Cincinnati just offered him and don’t be surprised if a number of others, including Michigan, turn up the heat.
ESPN also says free safety all the way($) in an evaluation that's more positive than his ranking:
Clark is a tall and rangy free safety prospect with a lot of production. Very lean without a lot of bulk, strength and power to his frame right now but we like his upside and room for development as an overall player. Not yet a real explosive defender at this point but mobility and range are good. Covers a lot of ground and is active around the ball. Shows good instincts and awareness skills. Displays very good range and the ability to get over the top of routes in deep coverage. Utilizes his length to his advantage. Tracks the ball well and will go up and high-point utilizing his great height and extension. Does a good job reading the quarterback and underneath route development from a centerfield position. … Lunges as a tackler and lets up some leaky yardage. Tends to drag and question ability to provide stout run support in the box early on in college. Overall, Clark has the height, range and instincts coveted in a safety prospect. Has some weaker areas as well but feel most will be improved as he continues to work on his physical development and becomes comfortable in his taller frame. Has a high ceiling.
Weaknesses are his man-to-man technique, ability to make tight turns, and tackling/run support issues but ESPN feels "most will be improved as he continues to work on his physical development and becomes comfortable in his taller frame. Their evaluation of his ceiling: "high."
Trieu's assessment is less down on the tackling but similar otherwise:
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Clark is a tall defensive back that has to add some weight to his frame, but loves to come up and hit. Is willing to throw his body around, takes good angles to the football and delivers strong blows to ball carriers. Good straight line speed, but can be a little upright and straight legged in his back pedal. Good range and overall ball skills. - Allen Trieu
His coach echoes the praise($) for his smarts, saying "He has a great speed, he's very physical. He's a really smart kid. And he has a knack for getting to the football." If he doesn't work out at safety I'd guess the ball skills and the size mean a move to WR is more likely than linebacker. Also Michigan has all of the linebackers.
As far as question 2, Clark evidently ran a 4.47 40 at WKU when he hit up their camp the day after OSU's—itinerant hobo, I'm telling you—and a 4.48($) at the Cincinnati camp. If true and not a hilariously under-clocked hand-timing, yes, he can run. If? If. Elsewhere he's listed at 4.7, considerably less enthralling. I'd say he can run enough. Every scouting report has at least mild praise for his straight-line speed. There was even a random rumble($) from Rivals that Clark could play corner after Clark reported that Curt Mallory told him he could play "anywhere in the secondary($)," which would be… interesting.
I probably shouldn't have even brought up #3, as it's inherently unknowable. Erratic rumors that Florida(!), of all teams, was going to come in with an offer if Michigan didn't budge off the grayshirt don't seem credible, since they still could have offered after it. However, Clark's coach did name names once, in a Rivals article($) from Andy Reid:
"That's how he's taking it, and he's fully on board for Michigan. I've had some other schools call me to try and hop in on him now, that offered him to come in as a regular 2012 recruit. But I've talked to his parents, and we're firm. Once he committed, he's done."
Since Clark committed, he's received offers from Cincinnati and N.C. State to come in as a regular 2012 recruit. Weaver has also fielded calls from Florida and South Carolina expressing interest, but Clark has not reciprocated said interest.
You can spin that into an offer was totally coming if Clark showed reciprocal interest if you like. Clark's dad also made an oblique reference($) to "other schools" calling him in the fall by way of explaining Clark's loyalty. Given Clark's profile it's not hard to see teams being wary until seeing senior-year performance. The local paper reports that Clark only played in five games as a junior, and there was the whole growth spurt thing.
If you're making a case that the recruiting services have been excessively cautious in their evaluations of Clark and he's underrated, you've got a good deal of ammo. This is the kind of camp offer that I like to see: an under-the-radar kid with a big ceiling. Sometimes they never work out (Mike Cox), but at least you're not picking up a guy whose top end is decent. Add in Clark's loyalty, dedication, and frame and Michigan may have something here.
Clark had 70 tackles, 15 pass breakups, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, three interceptions and four defensive touchdowns as a senior. During his junior season, Clark had 75 tackles, eight pass breakups and three interceptions.
"A guy that we had in camp and watched run around and watched his film and thought he was a great fit."
Scored a lot of touchdowns on defense and special teams, including a fumble rumble, an 81-yard punt return, and going 3 for 3 on housing interceptions.
Why Ernest Shazor? Admittedly a huge reach since Shazor was one of the most touted recruits in the country and Clark is… not. But it was either that or pick a 6'0" kid. This seems less inaccurate.
Shazor is the only Michigan safety in recent memory with a frame comparable to Clark. What Clark lacks in recruiting hype and the athleticism that saw Shazor become a five star he will hopefully make up for by not being a complete nutcase who gave up more long touchdowns than anyone during Michigan's long search for halfway competent safety play. Shazor started out of necessity, blew it time and again,—he's still looking for Deandra Cobb—checked out entirely after murdering Dorien Bryant to save that one Purdue game, and went from a projected second rounder to out of football in a month or two.
If anything, this is being harsh to Clark. If he starts for as long as Shazor does he'll be a much better player.
Guru Reliability: Low. Kentucky is not heavily scouted and Clark was a virtual nobody until his commitment, when the sites shrugged and gave him the Default Three Stars We Give Almost All Random Michigan Sleeper Commits.
Variance: Large, large, large. A junior year injury, the growth spurt, the uncertainty about speed and the obscure location.
Ceiling: High. 6'4" safeties who can go are rarities.
General Excitement Level: Give it a B+. Clark's profile does fit that of a plausible sleeper, and his size will be a major asset if he works out. The link above in which Tom talks to Clark's father gives the impression that he comes from a high-quality environment, as does his refusal to consider anyone other than M even when he was on a grayshirt, and he should come close to maxing out that talent. I like Clark's profile more than most of Michigan's three-stars this year; he's not quite Sleeper of the Year but I give him a good shot at being a contributor.
Projection: Obvious redshirt with 4-6 guys likely in front of him this fall including classmate Jarrod Wilson, an early enrollee. After that he looks like a free safety all the way, hopefully one with sufficient instincts and straight-line speed to bring that frame into play. That means another year cooling his heels behind Thomas Gordon before being in serious contention for a job.
I kind of think he gets one, though. Wilson will provide stiff competition but may do so at strong safety after bulking up. Clark's never going to be the guy you want charging down into the box to Kovacs people and brings a skillset to free safety that could be tough to match.