I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
As caught by—prepare yourselves for a username—MGoUser "Every Roh Has Its Thorn," Redshirt freshman-to-be Kaleb Ringer has put an "FSU" in his twitter handle and adorned his page with that bulldog hockey fans know and no one else does. Usually this means the guy in question has left the team, though in this case Ringer does still have some Michigan stuff around.
The handle change from "Ring_RingUM" to "Ring_RingFSU" is pretty indicative, though. Further supporting data: his brother is at Ferris and he tweeted "big brah I'm on my way" recently. That could mean anything, sure. This not so much:
I put my internet sleuth hat on. I declare he's outie, as the kids said like ten years ago. I have taken the hat off. I feel bereft.
Ringer sat out last year with an undisclosed injury that I've heard was a knee issue. If that robbed him of some of his athleticism he may have chosen to keep playing instead of taking a medical scholarship. Whichever it was, I'd heard that there was a possibility he wouldn't make it to year two a while ago.
The on-field impact should mainly be felt on special teams. Ringer wasn't going to be on the two deep at ILB with Morgan, Bolden, Ross, and Jenkins-Stone ahead of him and probably wouldn't have gotten many snaps this year.
This does bring Michigan down to 85 even if they bring back suspended punter Will Hagerup. Hagerup recently said something on Facebook that suggested he'd learned he would be reinstated; it wouldn't surprise me if the two events were related. IE: Hagerup got booted down to walk-on and now has to get in line. Just speculation, that.
Michigan currently has 15 scholarships for their next recruiting class, and with normal rates of attrition should get to 18-20. Ringer is the first member of the 2012 class to leave; it stands at 24. Here's Ringer's recruiting post if you'd like to reminisce.
Is anyone else paralyzingly bored with media output of late? I mean, I just read these articles in which the answers have become absolutely uniform…
"Right now, I'm just worried about this camp and Sept. 1 and Michigan football," [ANYONE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD] said. "I never really felt like I took any steps backward or anything, I'm just going to continue to work hard like I've been doing."
…and I feel a need to link it while at the same time feeling like I am wasting your time by doing so. This is why I said Vincent Smith was a carrot. Because I am bored out of my mind with fall camp. Vincent Smith is not actually a carrot.
Don't even get me started on Countdown to Kickoff, where the most interesting thing is whether or not Doug Karsch's hair tuft will be there. It wasn't always like this:
SOMEONE GET AN UNUSUAL BICYCLE BEFORE I LOSE MY WILL TO LIVE
I think this deserves Henri, the otter of ennui.
Strangely, I feel better. It could be worse: I could be a journalist trying to scrape something interesting out of this mess. Let's move on.
Ringer seems out. If you hit up Kaleb Ringer's twitter and scroll down a bit you'll get tweets from folk wishing him well on his recovery and Joe Bolden saying they can't wait for him to get back. (Also you'll get Ferris State's logo for some reason.) He mentioned something about going through a trial a few days ago, as well.
He's probably injured, is what I'm saying, and given the tenor of the tweets I'd guess it's something with a long-term recovery period. He already seemed likely to redshirt; now I'd say that probability is close to 100%. With Antonio Poole also out long-term, James Ross is going to see the field.
[UPDATE: Hoke just announced Ringer is out for the year. So is Chris Bryant.]
What I am saying. I may flesh this out into a bigger post later; for now, Her Loyal Sons put together a primer on Notre Dame's 3-4 defense. They have "cat" and "dog" linebackers that align strong and weak (or possibly to field or boundary—the post doesn't make it clear) and those guys are frequently deployed like so:
If this doesn't look familiar I have not been badgering you enough about how 1) moving to the 3-4 does nothing to help Michigan's DL issues and 2) that the 4-3 under is halfway between a traditional even 4-3 and the 3-4. Replace "CAT" with "WDE" and "DOG" with "SAM" and voila. ND will of course line up in a traditional 3-4 look and back that WDE-type-guy into coverage at times, but this assertion…
Unlike the 4-3, in which the defensive line almost exclusively rushes (save for some of the more exotic blitz packages), the setup of the 3-4 shines allows fourth rusher can really come from anywhere. While the Cat may be the pass rushing specialist, that doesn’t mean he will always do so.
…does not jibe with my observations last year, when Mattison flung all manner of zone blitzes at the opponent. The fourth rusher was very frequently not the WDE.
Anyway: 4-3 under personnel crammed into a 3-4 does not use more linebackers and only exacerbates issues with having 280 pound SDE/3techs.
Outrage! Not really. Carr told John Wienke to go to Iowa:
"When Coach Carr retired, he was the one — I actually always liked Iowa — but he told me probably to go with Iowa,” Wienke said. “That’s probably the next-best thing that was going to be for me with my style of play.”
Outrage level here is zero. Telling a recruit he probably doesn't fit is a lot different than allegedly telling the players already on campus they had a green light to transfer. Chances are Rodriguez would have phoned the kid up and said the same thing. I probably wouldn't have brought it up except for the fact that the kid is doing all that he can to honor Carr's guidance:
He's a punter now.
It's neutral you guys. The Alabama game is declared the "best of the Big Ten road schedule" by the Star Tribune [HT: Daily Gopher], which is one thing. Another is Countdown to Kickoff straying dangerously off-message at the 1:20 mark:
do not operate heavy machinery after watching countdown to kickoff
Michigan practiced at Ford Field to prepare for "all that road noise." It's a neutral site you guys. Neutral.
Yeah, let's do that. No, nevermind. Brandon said something to justify the Horror II that demonstrated his inability to grasp anything other than "attention = good." Hey, here's a bunch of CBS guys reminiscing about where they were when the Horror I happened. I bet you're going to go read that right now.
He said many other things as well, some of them appalling like moving the spring game to Ford Field. RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE. /is actually rabbling
Nonexistent CHL union still works. That's the argument from London, home of one of the more prominent OHL teams:
The CHL franchises operate as professional franchises. They are a business first and foremost. The scholarship program is great until you play professionally, then you lose it. That's not right.
They trade kids indiscriminately in an effort to make their business successful. They entice kids to come to their programs and when something doesn't work, they are tossed aside like a punctured jockstrap. Teams pay a player $50 a week and own him totally for four or five years.
That's the type of thing that needs to be addressed for the good of these players.
As for the assertion that the CHL is comprised of 60 teams that all operate as individual corporate entities, it sounds an awful lot like the structure of the NHL and last time anyone looked, the NHL had a players' association.
If they are individual entities, the colluding not to pay a class of employees is not kosher. If these guys ever get their act together they would probably get a heap of concessions without even trying.
Etc.: Oklahoma kid will fill one of your commercial breaks at Michigan Stadium this fall, is probably taller than Dennis Norfleet. I want to like this "open letter to Brady Hoke" from Grantland, but open letters are always painful. Hey, writer-guy: Brady Hoke is not reading your stuff. I am. Talk to me, not him. OSU FR Adolphus Washington is 50 pounds heavier than he was when he signed his LOI. That's probably not good from their perspective.
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.
|Clayton, OH – 6'0", 220|
|Scout||3*, #35 MLB|
|Rivals||3*, #17 ILB, #24 OH|
|ESPN||3*, 78, #23 ILB, #32 OH|
|24/7||3*, #20 ILB, #21 OH|
|Other Suitors||Illinois, Iowa, Cincinnati, West Virginia|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim.|
|Notes||Nephew of former MSU running back Javon. Dad played at Iowa.|
When your last name is Ringer and you live in the middle of Ohio, football is your destiny. Kaleb Ringer's dad played for Iowa. His uncle is near-great MSU tailback alum Javon. His two older brothers were high school stars who play for small colleges, and his youngest brother is a rising middle-schooler who will play for Northmont when the time comes.
So it's no surprise that Ringer's recruiting timetable was accelerated. As a ninth grader he was already being listed at 5'11", 209, and running impressive 40s at camps. Max Preps named him a sophomore All-American. He became a captain his junior year. And Ringer was open about his Ohio State fandom, leading to some absurdly overhyped expectations from the locals…
Ringer is the real deal...could be that Ohio has the top LB in the country 3 years in a row (assuming DePriest keeps that title on Scout). Yes, he could be that good if he keeps progressing.
…that spread to Duane Long ("Hashmark to hashmark it is hard to not pick Ringer. He is physical and a physical specimen.") and even the recruiting sites early on. His coach expected he'd be a nationally-pursued guy:
"We've had a lot of good linebackers and he's potentially going to be the best one," Schneider said. "(OL) Zebrie (Sanders) was a big recruit and went to Florida State, and nationally he's the biggest guy I've had here. Kaleb I'm sure will be the same way. People are talking about him and he's got a couple offers so far. When September 1 hits, I expect a lot more to pop up."
When Ringer committed in mid-April, only Scout had gotten a set of rankings out. He was a four-star and the #8 MLB. His lineage came with capital-e Expectations.
For a variety of reasons, those expectations soon faded into a profile of a three-star linebacker who's around the 25th-best inside linebacker in the country and not amongst the top twenty kids in Ohio. There are many reasons for this, the most obvious of which is his size. He's listed at 6-foot-even or 6'1" everywhere, just an inch taller than was being claimed for him when he was in ninth grade. He's stayed about the same weight, too, and for a guy with a reputation as a between-the-tackles thumper that might be a problem.
While there is some disagreement about his ability to cover and get sideline-to-sideline, "thumper" appears to be the leading archetype. Touch The Banner:
He's a thick kid who can drive runners back into the hole and stop their forward momentum. He stays low and drives through ballcarriers. He also seems to do a pretty good job of wading through the trash to find the ball. However, the criticism I've heard most often - and something I agree with - is that he lacks a great deal of speed and athleticism in the open field. Ringer is not a naturally gifted, fluid athlete. He's your quintessential thumper. Typically, a kid his size would end up at WILL, but I'm not sure he has the athleticism to do what a weakside linebacker would need to do.
ESPN has a similar take($):
Ringer is a tough customer, displaying very good playing strength as a run stopper. Has the size and athleticism for the inside linebacker position at the major level of competition. The strong wrap tackling skills we see should prove beneficial as a special team's coverage player. … We see good lateral movement to the edges however his playing speed in long pursuit gets challenged. When this prospect does step up his playing strength is obvious; does a nice job working through traffic, demonstrating the ability to maintain backside leverage. … We see a player with some playing speed limitations however one who plays with the motor and intensity necessary to make game changing plays.
Dissent comes from Allen Trieu, who lists speed as a positive and praises Ringer's range:
He may not wow you with the eye test, but put on the film and he's all over the field making plays. He's very solidly built, has a nose for the football and has legitimate sideline to sideline speed. He's also physical and can take on blocks. I have to see more of him in coverage, but he's a kid who could end up leading a team in tackles for several years in college.
Scout's Dave Berk's evaluation emphasizes a gritty tenacity and etc:
He shows tenacity in everything he does, and pursues and tackles downhill. He bolsters his run-stopping skills with the agility, quickness, and ability to drop back in coverage. He needs to add muscle mass, but, when he does, look out. He will be a good. The first thing you notice when watching Ringer in action is his ability to make plays. He shows gritty toughness with a hitter’s mentality from the middle linebacker spot. Kaleb is not afraid to mix it up. He does a great job of filling gaps and stopping the run. His ability to run from sideline to sideline and to do so with good angles makes him even more of a defensive weapon.
Why Scout dropped him from the #8 to the #35 inside linebacker is a mystery given that evaluation.
Rivals was all over the place in the three articles that scout him in any serious fashion. A Nike camp evaluation($) declared his "serious cover skills" and "hustle through the agility drills" were the most impressive aspects of his game while a take from Mike Farrell($) at the same camp says he's "a bit stiff at times, but has quick-twitch ability, can turn and run, and is very physical." An earlier game evaluation($) from Greg Ladky lists "lateral movement" as his main weakness. Rivals will sit in a corner arguing with itself for the duration.
Given the rankings I'm inclined to believe the less-optimistic aspects of the scouting reports above. Ringer did suffer through an injury-plagued senior year that may be partially responsible for his drop on Scout, but the other sites ranked him about where he ended up from the start.
But we've got more than that to go on after Ringer enrolled early and participated in spring practice. Hoke:
“He had a great spring. He had over a 3.0 (GPA). He did a great job from the academic side of it. He did a nice job of learning the defense. He was awesome. I think he can be in the mix (for playing time).”
He had one of those problems in space on the spring practice videos…
Play 7: Gardner makes a read, doesn't like it, and takes off. Kaleb Ringer can't quite get off a block fast enough to bring Gardner down.
…and also made a little impression in the spring game:
Kaleb Ringer had an impressive track-and-tackle on Hayes in the open field off a dumpoff. Next play he whiffed a tackle on Toussaint (I think it was him).
By showing up, getting good grades, and finding himself immediately in the second-ish unit he's cleared some hurdles between high school kids and playing time. It also gave some of the people who tell me things a chance to repeat the fact that Hoke and Mark Smith really like the kid, probably because of the gritty tough hardnosed bit.
Etc.: On committing to M:
“Of course you’re going to get that stink-eye look,” said Northmont High School’s standout junior linebacker on Tuesday.
“Like, what? You’re going to Michigan? But my parents, family and friends were very supportive. That helps in the process.”
Javon is not a fan of Kaleb's decision.
Per Ringer himself, Ohio State's lack of an offer wasn't about his play($):
He loved Ohio State, but on his fourth visit to Columbus, then-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell told Ringer that Ohio State hadn't offered him yet, "but it had nothing to do with football."
This pissed Ringer off and may have accelerated his decision to commit to OSU's main rival. If the issue was academic, it was taken care of quickly enough for Ringer to enroll early and notch a 3.0 in his first semester. If it was something else, it wasn't significant enough to put off a Michigan program that seems to be avoiding even slight character issues. Maybe Luke Fickell hates ringer tees.
Why Sam Sword? Sword was a quintessential two-down middle linebacker who was mean in the hole and not so great in coverage. He's listed at 6'1", 244 on his NFL profile, which is around the size Ringer should end up after the requisite time in the weight room. The concern is that the Swords of the world are dinosaurs in an environment of slot this and spread that.
If Sword's before your time, more recent linebackers Ringer might remind you of include Johnny Thompson and current MLB starter Kenny Demens, though I think Demens is surprisingly good in coverage for a guy who looks like a cube of muscle. It doesn't seem like that's expected out of Ringer.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Ringer apparently ceased going to camps after a Nike one between his sophomore and junior years and then got injured for most of his senior season. However, he was a guy on everyone's radar early and it's not like Ringer's offers defy his rankings.
Variance: Moderate. Injury makes him more of a wild card, but not a true boom-or-bust guy like Taco Charlton.
Ceiling: Low. Lack of growth leads you to believe he may be close to topped out physically and he doesn't have the pedigree of the other guys in the class. Seems like he's a two-down guy.
General Excitement Level: Low. As always, sorry but some guys have to get that designation. The only not-touted linebacker in a four-LB class—the one who seems like he's fighting with Joe Bolden—is that guy.
Projection: Early enrollment and status as a linebackery tackling guy could see him forego a redshirt to play a bunch of special teams despite the linebacker depth chart being three-deep at both spots he could reasonably play. If he's not needed on special teams, a redshirt is very likely.
From there, it's the same story detailed in the articles on Ross and Royce-Jenkins Stone: the two ILB spots are going to be a war for the foreseeable future, one Joe Bolden has a pile of tanks ready for. Ringer is unlikely to be the strongest candidate at WLB, so Ringer will either have to hope Bolden isn't as good as everyone thinks he is or can't stay healthy if he's going to get serious playing time.
Eric Upchurch. Upchurch's spring gallery.
The Spring Game came and went and I don't think it was just me: this one seemed flat in comparison to previous editions. The last time Michigan had a spring game so devoid of intrigue it was 2007, when senior versions of Hart and Henne ruled on offense and Lloyd Carr was the coach. Carr often seemed like he'd prefer it if his team played in front of no one, and this tendency was most frequently expressed at spring games. 2007 was boring and that was the way of things: boring.
- 2008: closed to the public thanks to Michigan Stadium construction, we still get our first glimpses at the spread offense… and our doom. The sense of the willies you got reading descriptions of what went on (you dismissed it as meaningless spring game stuff because you didn't want to ruin your summer as well as your fall) was the first indicator of what we were in for. The turnover party did not stop until the season did.
- 2009: Tate Forcier's coming out party. Program savior gets a run out for the first time as an early enrollee, performs brilliantly, everyone high-fives. Ace puts together Weapon of Choice video that is then recut into Weapon of Choice w/ Christopher Walken video. Youtube now thinks this video is set to Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend," which is Skynet-level commentary on how that Forcier thing worked out.
- 2010: Denard Robinson's coming out party. Program savior gets a run out for not quite the first time but definitely the first one in which he looks like a plausible quarterback, performs brilliantly, everyone high-fives. Afterwards mgovideo published cutups of all three QBs' snaps so people could engage in Lincoln-Douglass debates about who should be the starter.
- 2011: Will Al Borges stuff Denard Robinson into a pro-style offense designed for the exact opposite sort of quarterback? Answer: argh, yes. Spring game spawns offseason-long running debate about whether it's pure folly to move away from all shotgun, all the time. Borges participates in internal conflict version of that debate and generally sides with the shotgun crew, except against Iowa, for which we all pay dearly.
The past four years the spring game has been an important data dump that has indicated quite a lot of things about Michigan's season to come. Doom in 2008. Better quarterbacking the next couple years but with a fatal flaw: Forcier and Robinson's blowout performances came against Michigan's defense, which merely blew. Last year displayed to all how bad an idea it was to go under center a majority of the time.
This year Michigan spent about the same number of snaps as last year in the spread, ran Denard out there for one series, gave the established top tailback a few carries, and the whole thing was… just there, flopping around being dull and stuff.
Maybe this opinion is influenced by the fact that I wasn't there, but I don't think so. The things we think we found out are generally less exciting than "introducing DENARD ROBINSON!" and less important than the possibility we might totally screw him up. This is a sign of health in a program. It just makes this post a little less throbbingly important than it has been recently.
Anyway, there were some things we did learn…
DonkeyPuncher231 (please change that username someday, dear DP) has spliced together just about the whole thing:
The official site put out a highlight video about half that length:
An unofficial box score from AnnArbor.com. Notables:
- Gardner two of seven with an INT and 36 yards passing.
- Bellomy six of nine but the same yardage as Gardner.
- Gardner 9 rushes for 41 yards.
- Toussaint five for 39.
- Rawls 9 for 39.
- Hayes and Smith had one yard between them on 11 carries.
- "Unknown" caught two balls for 20 yards. Tacopants?
That data in hand, let's talk turkey.
Backup Quarterback Derby? I've Never Heard Of Such A Thing
Michigan's coaches took the Colonel Tressel approach to the obvious #1 storyline of the day, Russell Bellomy looking a lot better than Devin Gardner. Bellomy praise was ladled out but when a reporter asked point-blank who the #2 guy was, Hoke's response:
If you were to name a No. 2 quarterback today, who would it be?
“Well, it’s Devin.”
I see nossing. I do not comment on Devin Gardner throwing multiple five-yard dumpoffs in a manner that John Shurna thinks is unusual and Northwestern's perpetual 6'9" euro center who takes threes despite never making any of them thinks is inaccurate. Neither do I comment on Gardner throwing an interception that, while a pretty good play by one Blake Countess, was also very late.
Borges's Bellomy praise was specifically parceled out after a section of Gardner hype:
You gave most of the snaps to Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy today …
“Yeah, that’s what we were trying to develop. We decided before we came in that we were only going to play Denard just a little tiny bit. We wanted to see these other kids.”
Thoughts on their springs overall?
“Yeah I think Devin in particular has had an outstanding spring. He’s really done some very nice things and has developed in the position more and more. Needs more time in situations like this where there’s a lot of people watching and the pressure’s on and all that, but he has really done a nice job. And Russ -- I said it last week and the week before -- Russ has been steady and solid and [when] guys get open he hits them. He makes very few mistakes. He’s just one of those kinds of guys. He too is very athletic and can get himself out of some messes. He’s a solid guy.
If Gardner's been really good and Bellomy uninspiring but solid and mistake-light throughout the spring, only one of these traits came through on Saturday.
Twitter took the evidence on hand, considered it carefully, and wrote out a PhD thesis about how Gardner was terrible forever and Bellomy should be the backup quarterback as Gardner became LarryJustin FitzeraldBlackmon. And, yea, because twitter always has the most considered opinions these were not immediately regretted in the morning and… actually, hold that twitter sarcasm for one twitter moment.
Do we of the twitter hivemind regret that? Let's consider the evidence. Last year Gardner got into various games and threw 23 passes. He was 11 of 23 for 176 yards (7.6 YPA), one touchdown, and one INT. There was also this:
The defense would like to add this:
That's not much to go on. Let's make our data big, at least insofar as it can be made so.
In three consecutive spring games he's looked bad. You may remember Jake Ryan bursting onto the scene last year with a pick six thrown directly at his dome by Gardner. Yeah. Stuff on Gardner from the last spring game post:
As per usual, many events from the spring game are in the eye of the beholder. Is Devin Gardner's inability to find anyone open an indictment of him, an indictment of the second-team wide receivers, or… uh… like… people being covered? I know that latter seems improbable but I have seen football games in which this has happened. …
Unfortunately, there was a lot that was unambiguously bad, most of it from the quarterbacks: interceptions whistled yards over the intended receiver's head or thrown directly at linebackers, a Mallett-like plague of dropped snaps, offsides calls, etc. The general impression was more 2008 than 2010. … The QBs sucked on their own. …
Devin Gardner was also inaccurate in drills. They have this dig route where a slot receiver works to the seam then cuts his route off 15 yards downfield and Gardner was consistently missing it.
Robinson went out and did okay for himself after that business, minimizing its importance in our attempts to judge him. For Gardner it remains a big chunk of the time we've gotten to see him.
Here's the video of the year previous:
A summary of that from the immediate aftermath:
Devin Gardner looked raw as hell, fumbling snaps, scrambling into trouble, and reverting to that ugly shotput motion whenever he was forced to throw on the run. He looked like a freshman, which is okay because he is a freshman. However, the torrent of spring hype that suggested Gardner would probably not redshirt because he would be Michigan's best quarterback by UConn… eh, not so much. Maybe it was just a bad day. Even if it was an off day, Robinson showed enough to relegate Gardner to the bench for the first couple games and hopefully his whole freshman year.
Gardner did show the his deep touch on a third and long seam to Odoms that was laid in perfectly. Odoms dropped it.
Gardner got safetied and intercepted on the same play and still probably had a better overall outing than he did yesterday.
So. This is our oeuvre. Now consider Michigan's situation:
- They didn't even attempt a long pass yesterday, presumably because they were all covered. After tight end, wide receiver is the position on offense that could most use an instant talent infusion.
- Most of the unambiguously good things Gardner did yesterday involved his legs. That scamper down the sideline… good lord y'all. It's not a big stretch to declare him the best athlete on the team outside of Denard, and given that size and wingspan he could be pushing close to #16.
- Bellomy looks like a competent game manager should the need arise.
- Given Robinson's previous two seasons at QB, the need almost certainly will arise.
- Moving Gardner away from quarterback gives Michigan exactly two QBs this year and next and means either a true freshman or low-profile redshirt sophomore starts for M in 2013.
What do you do with that? Hell if I know. If you still had Forcier around and recruited a 2012 quarterback I would be at the post office right now watching Hoke mail a bow-clad Gardner* to Jeff Hecklinski. If there were enough of us and a fiddle we'd probably be singing Hava Nagila and dancing.
*[He's also wearing a full uniform, pervs.]
In Michigan's current situation, moving Gardner is asking for this interlude in game nine:
MCDONAUGH: Michigan's quarterback is now Jack Kennedy. Ask not what your team can do for you, Jack, amirite?
MILLEN: He looks really, really sweaty.
MCDONAUGH: Astute observation, Matt. Jack Kennedy is soaked in a bodily fluid we dearly hope is sweat.
MILLEN: Someone should get him an IV. I… what is that? That can't be healthy.
MCDONAUGH: Jack Kennedy is leaving a trail of viscous material behind him that must be a slurry of sweat and pure, distilled fear. Here's the snap. Kennedy hands off from the I-form… Vincent Smith with a one-yard loss.
MILLEN: Can all that fluid really be coming out of his body?
MCDONAUGH: Take it from my uncle Morty: all that and more. Vincent Smith with a one-yard loss.
MILLEN: How can he even hold on to the ball?
MCDONAUGH: I have no idea. This series of one-yard losses may be the most heroic in football history. Vincent Smith tackled for a loss of one.
MILLEN: Just look at him not fumble that snap despite having lost half his body weight in the past six minutes.
MCDONAUGH: It's kind of beautiful.
MILLEN: For spacious skies. For aglumb waves of grain. For purple mounted mohair above the fruit-tossed Spain. AMERICAAAAAAA—
MCDONAUGH: Hagerup in to punt.
MILLEN: –AMERICAAAAAAAA, GOD SPED HIS FACE ON THEEEEEE. AND CROWN THY HOOD WITH BROTHERGOOD FROM PEA TO SHINGLING PEA.
MCDONAUGH: Inspiring stuff from Ann Arbor. Michigan has six yards of offense at the half. We'll be back after this commercial break.
SCENE. This may have been drug-induced.
Anyway. They'd probably just put Gardner in and hope they hadn't stunted his development to the point where he'd be totally useless. Things would go poorly.
Could you blame them that much, though? If Hoke reaches for the brass ring next fall and it blows up in his face because Denard goes down and the guy who was supposed to be his backup is at wideout, I probably wouldn't even be mad. It would suck, but I want a guy who will swing for the fences.
While the coaches are going out of their way to make it sound like that is not in the cards, sometimes the relationship between reality and what coaches have to say to not have horrible things happen is great. If Devin wants to be the #2 QB going into fall Michigan would be foolish not to downplay the WR stuff until he's on campus in the fall. Once he's there, then talk to him about moonlighting while still being the #2.
Gun to the head, I think he does see a lot of time at WR in fall camp. He'll still practice most of the #2 QB snaps but also taking a share of snaps at WR when Denard is out there. They'll teach him one of the four spots—probably Hemingway's—and use him in certain three and four wide receiver packages for 15-20 snaps a game. If he proves to be a top-flight guy quickly Michigan might not have much choice about using him more in tight games, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
If Denard goes down for any length of time, it'll be Devin.
Meanwhile there are 20 or 21 other positions Michigan has to fill…
All Eyes(z) On Campbell
"It just means I can't slip at all, because I got 120 eyes on me now," Campbell said of leading the team on the field.
Well… there's no denying he looked a lot better.
Like, a lot. Last spring game guy was a lump who managed to not get blown off the ball most of the time and just about never did anything. During the year he was largely that with some nice plays mixed in, but too infrequently to be encouraging. In the spring game he had clearly progressed enough to actually beat his man to the gap more than once.
You know all those runs Rawls had where he had to abort mission and find another hole? Most of those were headed at Campbell. Since we got a baseline for Ricky Barnum in the time he got before his ankle injury last year—decent Big Ten player even then—that's a hopeful sign.
Mattison and Hoke hated it, though, hated everything. I am factoring in further improvement as this line Heningers themselves into ship shape by fall. Enough to survive a 'Bama onslaught? Probably not, but they'll be okay afterwards.
Other DL Items
Roh and Black each showed some pass-rush ability from their spots and neither got ostentatiously rammed into the endzone on a big run play. The going was tough for the offense. With four-ish starters back from an OL that paved the way for Michigan running backs—IE, no Denard—to average 5.7 YPA last year, I'll place that in the good column. The extremely tenuous good column.
One nice thing the moves do is it allows Mattison to play a ton of games with his line. Black and Roh can both function as outside DEs just fine, so Mattison can call plays where the line slants and stunts such that one of those guys ends up playing a WDE-ish slot whenever he wants. What Michigan lacks in bulk they'll have to make up for with quickness and the element of surprise; Mattison will have some chess pieces to do that with next year. Note that the touch sack on the Gardner waggle came from the containing… Black. Usually your three-technique is not the guy asked to do that.
The depth here was also encouraging. Richard Ash made a couple nice plays, which I was not expecting. One was an excellent string-out on a stretch play that forced the tailback to awkwardly cut behind him. I was beyond not expecting that. I don't think John Gasaway will get on me if I say I was shocked. Yeah. Later he showed up two yards in the backfield directly in the path of an iso; he got blocked from the side but the bounce he forced saw Marvin Robinson chop poor Vincent Smith down for a one-yard loss.
Redshirt freshman Keith Heitzman also was a standout on the second units, though his inability to flow down the line at the proper angle was the main issue on Rawls's fourth-and-short touchdown. He got into the backfield plenty. Once you've got a guy who can get there it's not that hard to get him to take the right angle against air.
Toussaint clubberates Morgan, via the Wolverine
None serious. Desmond Morgan took a cut block from Fitzgerald Toussaint and limped his way to the sidelines for the day; a source indicates that is not serious and shouldn't affect him at all. Jerald Robinson also had a minor boo boo that should not affect him.
The only player to miss the game was backup SDE Nate Brink, and that injury was no surprise since it happened before the Sugar Bowl. Barring a non-contact injury, Michigan should hit fall camp with everyone on the roster ready to go. Everyone save Brink, the suspended Josh Furman, and the mysteriously absent-but-returned now Tamani Carter got a full spring session in.
So they've got that going for them. That's a lot better than last year when five or six important players, including Toussaint and Lewan, were sidelined.
The Burzynski Start
World, meet Joey Burzynski, the redshirt sophomore walk-on who started at left guard in the spring game. That's not a huge surprise since a lot of shadowy spring practice reports praised him as a potential contributor and he had seen some time with the ones in the King of Tight Frames' highlight videos throughout the spring. His start may not mean anything more than Michigan wanted a decent right tackle (Elliott Mealer) on the second unit to give Bellomy a little time, but the guy started the spring game and must be considered an obvious member of the two-deep.
This is a development that strikes me as concerning. Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant has been getting a lot of shadow praise for a year now and he doesn't seem to be anywhere close to finding a starting job. Not only is he behind Mealer on most days when Mealer is a guard, he's behind Burzynski. Decrement your Bryant excitement meters.
No offense to Burzynski, but until proven otherwise the assumption here is that the spot featuring a walk-on is going to be a problem. Even if it's not that's a spot that will be subject to fierce competition in fall.
Q: does Michigan have enough faith in one of its incoming freshman tackles to move Kalis from primary tackle backup—this site's assumed role for him as a freshman—to left guard competitor? A: Dunno. I do know they like Ben Braden a lot, like far more than the recruiting sites did. Whether he's got the polish to be that third tackle or not I don't know. I would look at insta-move of Kalis inside as a good sign as far as Magnuson and Braden go. That'll be something to watch for in the spring.
Thomas Rawls: Ramming Speed
We got a few carries from Toussaint to remind us that yes, Virginia, Michigan has a true feature back again. The headliner amongst the backups was sophomore Thomas Rawls, who showed a knack in short-yardage ramming and the sort of spread-oriented north-south RAGE runs that Brandon Minor used to specialize in.
It was the short yardage that was most impressive. Michigan's OL was rarely getting Rawls the holes they intended to get him. I'll leave the debate about whether that was Mattison's DL being better than expected or the OL worse for people who enjoy debating impossibilities; what was certainly impressive is that when that happened to Rawls he downshifted behind wherever the intended hole was supposed to be and burst into the next one over—closer to the middle of the field. He lowered his head, knocked guys back, and showed enough presence of mind to reach the ball across the goal line when he was suspended near it. Your short-yardage back: check.
Rawls also displayed that north-south bowling ball mentality on a couple of belly plays from the gun on which flailing arm tackles failed to bring him down and he fell forward after contact. He's got enough of a package to also provide breathers for Toussaint when he wants out. He'll get 5-10 carries a game this year and fill a role. Not sure if he'll ever reach feature back status with two more years of Toussaint and the Isaac(?)/Smith cavalry coming in next season, but he doesn't have to to be a good idea.
Vincent Smith: Did I Do Something Wrong?
Dear Tiny Jesus,
It's me, Vincent. All praise to your save percentage. Could you make sure the spring game is the last time I ever run an iso play from under center? I never go anywhere and it hurts a lot when six 300 pound defensive tackles fling me into the natatorium.
Congratulations on your call-up with the Blue Jackets.
Tiny Bros Before Other Bros,
(Smith will be the third down back again and will level some dudes way bigger than he is to open up third down conversions. The power of Rawls hopefully compels Michigan not to run Smith out of the I any more.)
Spring game disclaimers apply, but where were Jerald Robinson and Roy Roundtree? They were out there. They were not targeted frequently. IIRC Roundtree got a hitch from Robinson on the first drive and then was not gone to again. Robinson featured from time to time but never as a downfield receiver, always as a checkdown option and usually a checkdown option being given a crappy pass.
The only receiver to make an impact was Gallon. I'd prefer Michigan's main target to be a big dude with a bigger catching radius, no offense Denard.
Secondary Status Quo
After a series of video clips heavily featuring comer Terrence Talbott with the ones instead of JT Floyd it was Floyd who got the start Saturday. He played well, making quick tackles on the short stuff. Later he broke up a slant on a goal-line situation only to get a horsecrap PI call (BOOO PRETEND REF, BOOO). While Talbott got some run, I don't think Floyd's job is under serious threat. Especially after Mattison gushed about him at that Glazier clinic some months ago.
As a unit the secondary was excellent. Countess got a pick and there were very few downfield completions. A skinny post from Gardner to Gallon stands out as the only one of note. Default note about how that makes the WRs look bad goes here; comparison to Michigan defenses pre-Mattison also does. To virtually skunk an offense in 60 plays is quality. With Talbott emerging Michigan seems to go four-deep at corner, maybe five or six depending on how ready Hollowell and Taylor are. The comparison to the Never Forget days is wondrous.
If the depth isn't quite as good at safety at least Jarrod Wilson and Marvin Robinson seemed on top of things… most of the time. Wilson was the guy Rawls made most of his highlights against. If either starter goes down there will be some hairy moments. One of the two should be able to replace 80% of Kovacs next year.
Robinson is out of the doghouse and to see him play well was good because I'd gotten some practice buzz that indicated he was out of shape. He's obviously not; he seems tuned in. Michigan will need him. Even if Furman's stuff was as minor as his lawyer suggests he'll be behind this fall. If it's not as minor he might not be available for a while.
Do Not Be Alarmed, Rich Rodriguez Is Still In Arizona
Formations and such: Michigan still can't run out of the I worth a lick, which is fine by me. I suppose we have to downshift into that stuff eventually, but I'd rather it be clear as day that the way to go is shotgun just to prevent any further Iowa-like misunderstandings of where Michigan's capabilities lie.
Aside from that the most interesting aspect of the day's formations was the most common set: two backs, three WRs, shotgun. That was the meat and bones of the spread and shred in its Slaton/White/Schmitt heyday and Michigan has a pretty good replica of that in Toussaint/Robinson/Hopkins, albeit without the spread-oriented OC and the lethality of the spread in the early aughts as allies.
This says what everyone expects about the TEs—yuck—and suggests that if Michigan can't block 'em they're going to spread 'em. If it's going to work they are going to have to make that gray area defender pay for cheating. We'll see.
Brandin Hawthorne: Mauler of Walk-ons
The most interesting thing that happened after Jack Kennedy entered, signaling the end of serious attention from most folk, was Brandin Hawthorne going ham. He shot a gap for a backfield TFL reminiscent of his slice into the Irish backfield late in that game, then intercepted a TE-bound ball on the next play.
He made a few other tackles here and there and looked… really good.
Now, we've seen him on the field and there's only one way Hawthorne making contact with a Big Ten blocker ends. That would be "poorly," and that would be why Desmond Morgan took his job last year and won't give it back this year.
I'm just saying, though. Just sayin' that when Michigan goes to a nickel package on a passing down I think having Hawthorne in there as a blitzer and cover guy instead of Morgan would behoove Michigan. Morgan's a little ponderous on his pass drops, and if it's a passing down Hawthorne's limitations against rushes aren't relevant. Just sayin'. Throwin' it out there.
You, athletic department intern who has to read these things: don't say you got it from me. Ask Mattison to repeat that thing he was saying a couple months ago about using Hawthorne as a nickel WLB and how smart that seemed even before he was killing walk-ons in the spring game. Yeah.
- Bellomy ran a QB power from the gun, so it's still there and it might stick around for a while. Bellomy did decently with it.
- There were also a few inverted veers, none of which went for a ton of yards. Gardner did impressively juke himself into a crease outside on one; he was blown dead before he could test it.
- Kaleb Ringer had an impressive track-and-tackle on Hayes in the open field off a dumpoff. Next play he whiffed a tackle on Toussaint (I think it was him).
- Jeremy Jackson's lack of separation from Blake Countess was… not surprising.
- Demens blanketed a Brandon Moore TE out that Gardner shouldn't have thrown but did; he made a nice play on the ball. His coverage is an underrated aspect of his game.
- Antonio Poole only popped up on my radar when he lost leverage on a Gardner scramble late.
Weather could have been worse. This is what Indiana was facing down for their now-cancelled spring game:
Tre Roberson put the One Ring into the fires of Mount Press Box and things returned to normal.
Random picture on the twitter:
Tuley-Tillman, Bosch… OH GOD WHAT DID THEY DO TO DENARD BREATHE BREATHEEEE
LaQuon Treadwell with Morris and Bosch:
Alumni game recap at AA.com.
Bullets and whatnot from:
Also AA.com has an article on Burzynski.
I am officially back from vacation and gearing up for the stretch run to Signing Day 2012. 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.
Remember DeAnthony Arnett, the 2011 four-star receiver from Saginaw who ultimately decided to attend Tennessee? He's looking to transfer close to home to be with his ailing father, who—according to a statement released by Arnett himself—has had two recent heart attacks and undergone dialysis. Arnett was strongly considering both Michigan and Michigan State during the recruiting process, and ideally he'd like to join one of those two programs while helping his family deal with his father's health issues.
Simple, right? Not in the SEC. Here's some epic scumbaggery courtesy of Tennessee coach Derek Dooley (quoted from Arnett's statement):
Coach Dooley has singled two programs that I can’t get an unconditional release to and they are the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.
He told me I can attend any Mid American Conference school I want and if I wanted to attend either The University of Michigan or Michigan State University I would have to pay for school instead of be on scholarship. I don’t know what’s next. My family can’t afford to pay for school, but my father’s poor health isn’t a good enough excuse for me to attend a BCS school close to home.
Therefore as a student athlete I feel coach Dooley is trying to hinder my success by not allowing me to compete at a BCS level and neglecting the fact my father is severely ill.
Tennessee's rationale is that they have "a policy of not releasing players to schools Tennessee plays or recruits against," according to a school spokesman. That same spokesman said that UT is not denying Arnett the opportunity to play FBS-level football, which is technically true, but have you ever watched the MAC? To say this goes against all moral and rational reasoning and instead sits firmly in the realm of petty absurdity is putting it lightly. MaizePages even adds hypocrisy to the list of Tennessee missteps in handling this situation:
What's worse is that Dooley's decision, with the assumed support of the athletic department and University president given their silence on the issue, also represents the height of hypocricy. The Vols benefited from a similar situation just a few years ago. In 2007, hoops star Tyler Smith was granted a full release by Iowa so he could be closer to his family since his father was battling cancer. Smith, who grew up a Vols fan, also requested and received a waiver from the NCAA not to sit out a season due to "extenuating family circumstances." Iowa did what was right for the student-athlete; Bruce Pearl and Tennessee happily took him in.
Yes, Michigan could really use a receiver of Arnett's abilities—he recorded 24 catches as a true freshman this season—but this is about what's right, not what could benefit the Wolverines on the field. Arnett could go to U-M or MSU next year regardless of Tennessee granting a waiver if his family paid his way through his first year at school, but he made it clear in his statement that isn't an option. Instead, he can either hope an appeal to Tennessee allows him to transfer to a Big Ten school without losing his scholarship for a season, or he'll likely be forced to transfer to a MAC school in order to be close to his family. The situation is especially unfortunate considering that not only are Michigan and MSU the two schools with the best football programs for Arnett, but they're the two FBS schools in the state with the best academics as well.
Just No Stomping, Mr. Garnett
Sam Webb's latest DetNews feature is on Josh Garnett, who talks about an on-field mean streak that he had to tone down after spending his junior year "just looking for a fight" on every play. Though he's chilled out a little between the lines, Garnett still says he's "like [Ndamukong] Suh, but on offense," which sounds pretty awesome to me. Here's the blue-chip OL prospect on how he could fit in along the offensive line:
"I think I'll play wherever I need to go first — tackle, guard, or center," Garnett said when asked to describe his game. "Athletically the coaches are telling me I (am capable of) definitely playing those spots. I do think guard is where I'm going to be able to excel the most. I've got big lower legs, I've got great technique, and good hands. I'm good at hand fighting so I think at guard I can use my abilities to come down on linebackers pretty tough and pull around those corners on a lot of those power plays."
Garnett will decide between Michigan, Notre Dame, and Stanford at the end of January—he decided against taking a visit to Miami this month—and he's leaving the logistics of his announcement up to his twin sister. That choice will come sometime after his official visit to Stanford, which is slated for the weekend of the 14th.
As for others along the O-line, Alex Kozan is considering taking a fifth official visit ($, info in header) to either Oklahoma or Oregon—his previous officials have been to Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan, and Auburn. Meanwhile, Jordan Diamond is "not close" to a decision ($, info in header), and he has yet to narrow his list of schools from a final eight.
One piece of big news to come in over the break is that four-star cornerback and current Penn State commit Armani Reeves will take an official visit to Michigan ($, info in header), though the visit hasn't yet been finalized:
"He'll visit Penn State January 13, so we have a few weekends after that we could probably get, though the basketball schedule is kind of crazy. We definitely want to get him out there. What we've done is keep in contact with the schools that have shown most the interest in him, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State. Michigan is a definite visit, Ohio State or Notre Dame, it will be one or the other."
It sounds like the Wolverines are in the best position to land Reeves should he decide to back out of his Penn State commitment. With the PSU coaching search looking like it could extend close to signing day, that seems like a very good possibility.
Happy trails to a pair of tight ends as Taylor McNamara committed to Oklahoma and former M commit Pharaoh Brown pledged to Oregon this week. Boston College commit Sam Grant appears to be the last viable option at tight end, and Michigan could actually be helped by McNamara's choice to go to Oklahoma, as that was one of the schools from whom Grant had recently received major interest recently.
The EEs Have Landed
As expected, three recruits from Michigan's class of 2012 have enrolled early, and it sounds like they're on campus and ready to start classes:
It appears at least three 2012 Michigan football recruits have enrolled early at the university.
There are listings for a Jarrod Arthur Lee Wilson, Joseph Daniel Bolden and Kaleb Stefon Ringer in Michigan's online directory of current students.
Those first and last names match three verbal commitments to Michigan, although a school spokesman said Thursday the program likely will not verify they are with the team until the start of winter classes.
This ensures that Michigan will be able to backdate those three players to the 2011 class and take 28 recruits in 2012.
From a recent local newspaper article, we find out senior (and sophomore) year stats for Michigan's most recent commit, receiver Jehu Chesson:
Chesson has been one of the area's top wide receivers the past two seasons. After grabbing 23 catches for 402 yards and four scores as a sophomore, Chesson had 53 receptions for 605 yards and scored 11 total touchdowns as a junior and had 53 catches for 757 yards and eight total touchdowns this fall.
Those catch totals are consistent, to say the least, and while he had fewer touchdowns as a senior, the increased yards per catch (from 11.4 to 14.3) indicates Chesson is improving after the catch.
Quickly: James Ross is named as Rivals.com's first-team All-American middle linebacker for 2011, while several commits make 247's Best of the Midwest list.
Tuley-Tillman Goes From Unknown to Blue-Chip
247Sports updated their class of 2013 rankings (I know, that was fast), and the top-ranked new arrival to their Top247 is none other than Peoria (IL) Manual OT Logan Tuley-Tillman, who went from unranked to the #38 overall player in the class (the article lists him at #37, but he's one spot lower when you click over to the rankings). For a full list of where Michigan offerees now stand, check out Touch the Banner.
Quickly, because this post is getting lengthy: Cass Tech corner Jourdan Lewis has Michigan at the top of his list, though he's yet to receive an offer ($, info in header); top-ranked TE Adam Breneman is looking to visit Michigan for a junior day or spring practice ($, info in header); the Wolverines offered a pair of Louisville (KY) Trinity prospects in WR James Quick and DE Jason Hatcher ($, info in header); four-star LB/S Su'a Cravens is already planning to take an official visit to Michigan during his senior season ($, info in header); TomVH profiles Good Counsel DB Kendall Fuller ($); and Sam Webb interviews Highland (UT) head coach Brody Benson, coach of 2012 commit Sione Houma and 2014 DT Bryan Mone, who received Michigan's first offer to a member of the current sophomore class ($).