Orange Bowl grading. The PFF takes will not surprise you:
Michigan’s offense was completely overmatched against the Seminoles’ dominant front-seven, and the Wolverines earned well below-average grades for team run blocking and team pass protection. All five offensive linemen, fullbacks Khalid Hill and Henry Poggi and tight ends Ian Bunting and Tyrone Wheatley all earned below-average run-blocking grades
Woooooof. It is a good thing that Drevno has a track record that allows him to deflect most of that to the previous regime, but even with that track record I can see a bunch of discontent popping up next year when he's (probably) starting a true freshman again. Why does every departing coach at Michigan have to leave a ticking timebomb on the OL? This is three straight:
- Lloyd Carr's last team dug Alex Mitchell out of retirement so he could get rolled like everyone else against OSU and gave Rich Rodriguez seven scholarship OL.
- Rich Rod had a recruiting class with one OL, who was medicaled after a year. The next one saw him bring in an OG who quit football a week into fall camp.
- Hoke at least tried, but his 6-OL class looks like it's petering out into zero starters and the numbers after that were far from sufficient.
All the evidence you need about Hoke's OL recruiting is the projected number of Hoke-era OL who will be starters in Harbaugh year three: one.
Anyway, the defense was terrific. So hooray.
Draft in or out: mostly out. NFL decisions for 2017 Michigan opponents are rolling in. Gentlemen who are headed for the draft:
- Florida: LB Alex Anzalone, DT Caleb Brantley, CB Teez Tabor, CB Quincy Wilson
- OSU: WR Noah Brown(?!), RB/WR Curtis Samuel, CB Gareon Conley, S Malik Hooker, LB Raekwon McMillan
- PSU: WR Chris Godwin, DE Garrett Sickels, LB Nyeem Wartman-White
- MSU: DT Malik McDowell, S Montae Nicholson
- Northwestern: LB Anthony Walker
- Wisconsin: LB TJ Watt, OT Ryan Ramcyzk
- Indiana: LB Marcus Oliver(?!), RB Devine Redding(!?!)
JT Barrett, Jason Cabinda, and Josey Jewell have announced returns. Michigan got good news from Mason Cole and Maurice Hurst and less good news from Jabrill Peppers; OSU is also expected to lose CB Marshon Lattimore.
Draft stock, meanwhile. Taco Charlton has cracked a couple of first-round mock drafts to pay attention to. PFF has him 29th:
Charlton was having a strong season then took his game to a new level down the stretch, grading as our No. 4 edge defender from Week 9 through the end of the season. He was strong against the run and disruptive as a pass-rusher, picking up eight sacks, 10 hits and 32 hurries on only 251 rushes, and his two-year production is among the best in the nation.
Meanwhile Todd McShay shot him all the way up to 13th:
Charlton finished the season on a tear, compiling 10 sacks in his final 10 games. He has always had the raw ability, but this season, he showed more consistency and refined technique. Charlton has the ability to be an edge defender in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme in the NFL.
He was 26th in late December. Peppers is still 8th to McShay; PFF has him a late first-rounder. Lewis is hanging around the middle of the first round, usually.
Coordinator lockdown. Michigan is going to lose coaches on a regular basis, because Harbaugh. They've set out to lock down their coordinators, though. Don Brown got a five year, $1.5 million deal that is certainly unprecedented for a Michigan assistant coach and may be unprecedented nationwide. I don't think I've ever heard of an assistant getting a five year deal.
Soon after, Tim Drevno got a five year, $1 million deal. Drevno might leave for a head coaching job at some point, but if it's not a P5 gig he'll be taking a paycut.
Rumors that Ty Wheatley might be a candidate at WMU seem to have petered out, FWIW.
Making football more like debate. Nate Silver did things approximately as nerdy as I did in high school, and they even had similar tournament formats:
The solution that debate tournaments devised is something called power-pairing. Power-pairing just means that teams with the same record are paired off against each other, so that a team that starts off the tournament 2-0 will face off against another 2-0 team, for instance. It usually works by drawing the first two rounds of a tournament at random,1 and after that, everything is power-paired.
This turns out to be a surprisingly elegant solution. It helps to make the matchups relatively even, which not only helps students to learn more but also usually tells you more in determining the best teams. Furthermore, the pairings are somewhat self-correcting. Suppose a good team happens to randomly draw very tough opponents in its first two rounds and gets off to an 0-2 start. They’ll receive some compensation by being paired with easier opponents the rest of the way out — an 0-2 team and then a 1-2 team, and so forth. As another bonus to this system, the best teams are put through the gantlet and really earn their keep. A team that finishes its tournament undefeated or with just one loss will have beaten a lot of very good teams along the way.
They also did this at quiz bowl tournaments. Silver proposes a radical reshaping of Big Ten play in which each team gets three rivalry games, a couple early-season games scheduled by the previous year's standings, and then four "flex" matchups based on current standings. He's honed it fairly well:
- You know whether you're home or away in the flex weeks.
- Three rivalry weeks is enough to satisfy anyone.
- The flex matchups make late season games more meaningful.
An example of the latter point:
In our simulated season, Penn State played (and defeated) Wisconsin, Nebraska and Illinois, a decent group of opponents whom they didn’t play in the actual regular season, but skipped games against mediocre Indiana, Purdue and Rutgers, whom they pointlessly faced in real life.
This site has railed against 14-team conferences and plead for dynamic scheduling since their inception. To me the uptick in meaningful games and much more meaningful result is worth disrupting the hallowed season-ending rivalry weekend, but I understand if that's a bridge too far for you. I'm in, though.
BONUS reminder: this is the best way to do Big Ten basketball scheduling:
19 game conference schedule.
PHASE 1: round robin.
PHASE 2: line is drawn between 7th and 8th teams in the league. Mini-leagues subsequently play round-robin.
That would be killer, man.
Oh man... oh man. Here's this!
I'm trying to think of a less appreciated Tennessee assistant football coach than Mike DeBord.
Still ... OK, I give up.
This is a guy named John Adams. He is a newspaper columnist engaging in such 1990s classics as "talking down to his readers" and "using points and yards per game," so he's a natural DeBord ally. Hell, he's still using 1990s offenses as benchmarks.
In fact, DeBord proved to be one of Jones' best hires. In his first season, he revived UT's running game, which averaged 223.7 yards per game, second in the SEC. This past season, the Vols averaged 36.4 points and 443.7 yards per game.
In 1997, with senior All-American Peyton Manning at quarterback and offensive guru David Cutcliffe calling the shots, the Vols averaged 34.3 points and 482.8 yards per game.
This will be news to Adams, Debord, and Baby Spice, but it's no longer 1997. Tennessee's offense finished 28th in S&P+, which is almost perfectly mediocre in a metric that adjusts for strength of schedule. There is a reason DeBord moved to Indiana and not up the P5 ladder.
Walker is still extant. Kareem Walker had a rough start but seems to have evened things out:
"I got a 3.0 this semester," Walker said with a smile. "At Michigan. That was like 'wow." That felt good. I worked hard for that.
"(Harbaugh) hasn't seen (the report card) yet, but I told him I about a grade I got (a while back). I had to leave practice one day for a paper and I ended up getting a B+ on that. I told him about that grade. He liked it."
There are going to be a ton of early enrollees and even so the most fascinating guy to hear about and see will probably be Walker. He was brought up unprompted by various people during bowl practices as a guy to watch, and he's a talented dude.
What went down at Minnesota. The abortive boycott after ten players were suspended in the wake of a sexual assault investigation looked terrible, and looked worse after the Title IX report was released. Tracy Claeys got fired in its wake. If you're wondering what those guys were thinking, the Pioneer Press has an extensive interview with DE Gaelin Elmore:
PP: But at any point, when Coyle comes in to explain the suspensions, did anyone think, well, he’s the AD, he knows what he’s doing?
GE: No, because his answers made it seem like he had no idea. And it was like, you’re the AD, you did this; how do you not know enough? That’s when a lot of guys were like, ‘This isn’t right.’ We had no idea. (The suspensions) came out of nowhere. If someone just has a conversation with us before (the suspensions) happen, says, “You know what? This is a Title IX, EOAA investigation, it’s really out of our hands; we’re going to suspend the guys until it’s clear,” we’d have been fine. Or even when it was released to the public, at least tell the public the kids were suspended based on the investigation that has been ongoing since Sept. 2. If that’s said, (the boycott) doesn’t happen. But none of that happened, and our team felt we had no other option.
Bad decisions with low information from the team and a Dave Brandon Classic mismanagement of the public relations from the Minnesota AD. I'm a bit surprised that PJ Fleck decided to jump into that business feet-first, but then again he is crazy.
Let's patch holes in this boat that's already on the bottom. What's worse than not enforcing any of your actual rules? Making up new ones to seem virtuous.
One of the buzz words from Tuesday's NCAA recruiting seminar is: IAWP. As part of recruiting reform, the NCAA has proposed during a two-year period before a recruit's anticipated enrollment and a two-year period after the recruit's enrollment, an institution shall not employ individuals associated with a prospect (IAWP) in a non-coaching staff position.
Harbaugh's done this three times, hiring Gwen Bush, Chris Partridge, and Devin Bush Sr. All three of these people are good, and qualified for, the jobs they now have. Meanwhile half the SEC signees are getting paid. What's the point of restricting possibly dubious transactions when you are utterly incapable of enforcing the rules already on the books? Ugh. Amateurism is the worst.
Speaking of, here is a NYT article surveying CFB players on how they spend their stipends:
When the full-cost-of-attendance stipends were approved two years ago, there was worry among some college administrators that athletes would waste the money on frivolous purchases. But Georgia running back Nick Chubb said he saves his money every month, and his teammate Jeb Blazevich said he was surprised to learn how many Bulldogs send the money home to their families as soon as they receive it.
“That blew me away,” said Blazevich, a tight end from Charlotte, N.C. “That’s the thing that got me to love this team so well, just seeing these guys’ heart and sending the stipend home. These guys are good guys, and they want to do well by their family.”
Paternalistic concerns about How The Youth Will Spend Their Money are the worst arguments in favor of the current system. If they waste it all they're no worse off than they are now.
Etc.: What do you have to do to get ejected from a Philly press box? You can find out here. Rumors that Michigan-Florida might get moved to Sunday are unlikely to amount to anything. Spencer on the title game and the Rose Bowl. Smart Football on that power read pitch both teams were running in the championship game.
[Wheatley sees Ty Isaac on the opposite side of the desk in the lobby/Towsley Museum]
“I’m about to talk about you. You know that, right? Wanna listen to it? Wanna come listen to what I’m about to say about you?”
[Isaac laughs and walks away]
With Chris Evans, he seemed to have the most productive day at Iowa. What were the things that stood out about him that maybe he was doing different than other guys?
“You said it. It was production. Certain games and certain backs—it was a penetrating front and Chris was able to hit some creases and go for it and be productive, so that was pretty much it. With guys we go to who has the hot hand and who’s productive and that was it. Chris was hitting creases.”
Were you guys trying to get him more as the game went on? I think he ended up with eight carries. De’Veon seemed to get carries down the stretch.
“Like I said, at that point whatever play is called and whoever’s doing well at that point in time, that’s who’ll go in.”
With so many guys that can go for you, what’s the room been like from a keeping it light but also keep--
“Chaos, man. They hate each other. [laughs] You see the bags under my eyes? Gray…I look like Barack right now.
“Nah, the room is great. The room, the tone has been set in camp. They understand the task, and the task is to win the Big Ten and then hopefully from that point on, as you know, the little gold trophy. So, the mantra for this university has been ever since the big man was here, ‘the team, the team, the team.’ So, it doesn’t change. You kind of put yourself to the side and put the team in front. The room is great. Guys are absolutely a treasure. I mean, a treat to coach and a treasure for me to have, so the room’s been great.”
[After THE JUMP: how to gain Wheatley’s trust, the secret to the Hammering Panda’s success, not noticing QBs in practice, and a quick injury update]
NOPE [Bryan Fuller]
[New bolded player rules: not necessarily returning starter, but someone we've seen enough of that I'm no longer talking about their recruiting profile. Extant contributor.]
|FEATURE BACK||Yr.||SHORT YARDAGE||Yr.||3RD DOWN||YR.||SPREAD H||YR.|
|De'Veon Smith||Sr.||De'Veon Smith||Sr.||De'Veon Smith||Sr.||Jabrill Peppers||So.*|
|Ty Isaac||Jr.*||Kingston Davis||Fr.||Drake Johnson||Sr.*||Chris Evans||Fr.|
|Drake Johnson||Sr.*||Ty Isaac||Jr.*||Karan Higdon||So.||Drake Johnson||Sr.*|
|Jabrill Peppers||So.*||Kareem Walker||Fr.||Ty Isaac||Jr.*||Ty Isaac||Jr.*|
Last year was more of the same from a Michigan running back corps that had slowly devolved since the moment Mike Hart left. Upticks from Brandon Minor and Fitz Toussaint were more than offset by yards eschewed, random running, that year Toussaint couldn't pass block a soul, and a steady stream of Michigan discards who blew up as soon as they landed on another team.
Large sections of your author's time were spent fighting with people about how bad it was or was not, so here's Dane Brugler on De'Veon Smith:
His vision and run instincts tend to run hot/cold, leading to questionable decisions, and with his lack of explosive traits, Smith needs to be more decisive and trust what he sees. He tends to leave you wanting more due to his marginal burst and instincts, but there is a place at the next level for Smith due to his power, ball skills and upside as a blocker.
It was pretty bad… and then it got better. Smith's outstanding Citrus Bowl was the exclamation point on a mid-season turnaround that looks a lot like those Chesson and Rudock experienced. It wasn't as dramatic, but it was there. I'm going to whisper the next sentence: it almost kind of looked like someone had figured something out.
Running back coaching matters? I want to believe.
THE MAN THE MAN THE MAN
After consecutive years where this preview listed options at all three roles above in an almost but not quite entirely arbitrary fashion, Michigan enters the season knowing who their first-choice back is: DE'VEON SMITH. They know who their short-yardage back is: De'Veon Smith. They know who their third-down back is: De'Veon Smith. They think he's good enough to put him in the bin with Amara Darboh and Jourdan Lewis and all the other veterans who don't need spring contact.
Survey says... eh, maybe. Smith's bravura Citrus Bowl against some tough, if potentially disinterested, customers was the exclamation point to a rollercoaster season. If you don't want to read the rest of this section here it is in 15 seconds:
Smith abandoned his pulling guard, disappeared into a pile of bodies, was still upright seven yards later, got caught from behind, shook off a defensive back, got caught by the same guy again, and shrugged him off once more like so much lint on his varsity jacket. Few sixty yard touchdowns in the history of Michigan football have been as likely to cause the coaching box to exclaim "what are you DOING?" the instant before the breakthrough.
That was Smith's 2015. For every shattered defensive back left trembling in a puddle of his own making...
...there was a truck lane ignored.
Last year's UFRs invariably contained a book-length subsection on the running backs and the yards they made or, more often, set on fire. As the lead back Smith came in for the plurality of the discussion. Depending on the week this discussion was either generally positive and hopeful...
/spittle shields at 70% and dropping
Actually… I got nothing this week. I thought the backs did well. I complained about a lead zone run last week. Michigan didn't block it well; Smith mechanically ran into the gap he should go in if they in fact did block it well. He ate a DT for minimal yardage. I didn't care if Smith actually got anything on the play, I just wanted to see him see what was going on in front of him and put a foot in the ground to give himself a chance.
He did that on this one:
That cutback doesn't look like it'll amount to much when he makes it but Michigan gets on some blocks and Smith runs through some guys and it's a nice gain. If he'd gotten swallowed by an unblocked LB back there it's still the right cut.
...or blackly grim:
I feel like this is going to lead into another running back diatribe.
Are they really diatribes?
Large portions of last year's preview focused on Smith's tendency to run at random, which outlets other than the Michigan obsessive bits of the internet picked up on:
The hope was Harbaugh and Wheatley could get Smith moving in the right direction more often, and for most of the season that was dashed.
But the frustration I experienced was not limited to Smith. Everyone who took more than a dozen or so carries made at least one mindbogglingly bad cut, from Drake Johnson to Ty Isaac to Derrick Green to Sione Houma. That's widespread enough to seem like a coaching issue, and Smith's trajectory confirms:
[UFR charting for ballcarriers is another spot where zero is bad. Zero means you got what was blocked and nothing else.]
|1||Utah||5.5||7||-1.5||0||Cuts late let M down.|
|2||Oregon State||15.5||4||11.5||0||4||Brutal Legend|
|3||UNLV||2||8||-6||0||Two very bad plays and not much to make up for it.|
|6||Northwestern||7.5||1.5||6||0||On just 8 carries.|
|7||MSU||5||5||0||0||2||Grinder; a bit frustrating with the cuts again.|
|10||Indiana||4.5||2||2.5||2||2||Frustratingly slow sometimes but made up for it with power.|
|11||PSU||9.5||4||5.5||3||+2 blocking, +2 on catches, and then +3 late, which fits a pattern discussed below.|
|12||OSU||7.5||7.5||0||1||Made a significant number of yards himself. Zero pass pro minuses.|
|13||Florida||15||2||13||0||1||I be like dang|
That is a veritable late-season surge. Smith came in for some clucking after the PSU game since I didn't care for three of his 13 carries, but in the context of the last five games that's the outlier and being good at running is the trend.
This was clearest in the bowl game. Smith probed for holes, showed off a Mike Hart-level backfield stutter, and fired off a decisive backside cut on his first three carries. The stutter's probably the most impressive but the cut is the most important:
That's vision, and I was floored as it continued for an entire game against the #5 S&P run defense:
And this continued! Presented with a DL penetrating almost to the handoff point Smith cut off his OL's back and blew through an arm tackle. On the three, Smith turned negative two yards into two by juking two dudes and running through a couple tackles. Even on certain runs where it looked like he'd screwed up, the tape revealed he was trying to make the best of a bad situation only to find that there was no relief elsewhere. It took me a couple takes to realize that this was Smith avoiding a wholly unblocked LB in the hole:
As I said in the table above, he's probably better off running right at the guy for a few yards but I prefer Smith seeing trouble and adjusting even if it doesn't work out. Early in the second half Smith cut to the backside of the line and got hewed down early because a safety blitz prevented Darboh from getting to the guy. That's an RPS minus; without the playcall Smith is ripping off another backside cut. Even with it if Cole had cut off penetration a little better Smith can attack the S head-on, and that usually ends badly for the DB.
At that point I hadn't done the OSU game and wondered if that was a one-off; now that the entire picture is in view it's obviously not. I mean… it's kind of a Rudock trajectory. It wasn't quite as obvious since Michigan tried its hardest to avoid the defensive lines of PSU and OSU, but it's there. That's why Smith was placed amongst the revered elders during spring.
So. The dude remains a nuclear-powered icebreaker. The number of tackles he blew through was truly impressive, and even when he was in fact being tackled piles had a tendency to lurch two or three yards towards the endzone:
I have literally dozens of these clipped:
Smith grinds out yards after contact better than any back I've seen at Michigan. Yeah, he's slow. Yeah, he's not going to juke a guy in the open field. But in the right situation he can be a killer. That situation is surrounded by very good blocking that delivers him three yards downfield on a consistent basis. Smith will turn that into five or eight or eleven yards better than anyone not named Fournette. Is he going to have that this year? Maybe, maybe not. Michigan should get closer to it.
Smith's peripherals are unambiguously positive. He fumbled just once last year. He was also a strangely effective third-down back, to the point where I called him "King Hippo Vincent Smith." This is mostly because of his consistently excellent pass blocking:
Smith has the oomph to stand up linebackers like nobody since Mike Hart. This was a point of discussion after Penn State, a game in which Smith only got eight carries and still managed to stick out as an asset:
Smith has power and agility and can pick guys up. Even big guys. … Then in this game he added a couple of dumpoffs on which he displayed that fun Smith-vs-defensive backs stuff. On back to back plays at the end of the first half he turned nothing into something, first getting a few when Rudock got nailed, and then plastering a DB across his windshield for a first down:
This is something you can work with.
His eight protection minuses on the season are only twice what Ty Isaac managed to acquire in scattered snaps against Oregon State, and there was a distinct lack of the "team" minuses I hand out when I'm not sure who screwed up. 13 over the course of the season is a really low number and off the top of my head I'd guess that two-thirds could not be on Smith.
As a bonus, Smith is a solid outlet option because of this SAT analogy:
De'Veon Smith : defensive back :: windshield : insect
In limited opportunities he's shown that he's also an asset as a run blocker:
After that game I described him as a "low-to-the-ground 230-pound brick"; after the pass block above I broke my longstanding commitment to pooh-pooh all motivation/effort talk:
I usually assume everyone's going all out all the time and dismiss motivation stuff, but this week I got frustrated with a couple players for a lack of want-to. Smith never lacks that. Smith wants to end you. Even if he's slow and his vision is lacking, that's something.
He's the kind of guy willing to play through just about anything, and that's something Harbaugh has noticed.
Smith is a good bet to be Michigan's first 1,000 yard back since Fitz Toussaint. He's got a half-season of being pretty good and has more upside than you'd expect because so many of his issues stemmed from an unfamiliarity with the offense and running back basics. Wheatley:
"(Now we're trying to) get guys like De'Veon and Ty Isaac (and Drake Johnson) to what I call a mastery level. Progressing past the things we did last year."
It says here that Smith's 2015 is a better version of his second half. Michigan will rotate him a bunch to keep him as healthy as possible—his pounding style is tough on him and caused him to miss chunks of multiple games—and this will keep his counting numbers from attracting national attention, but his YPC should take a big step forward along with his reputation amongst Michigan fans.
[After THE JUMP: Jabrill Peppers! And other guys, but also Peppers!]
let me show you how we handle punks in the district, punk [Patrick Barron]
Everywhere I turn this offseason, it seems someone is writing another article lauding the aggression, complexity, blitzes, and disguises built into Don Brown's defense. These attributes have obvious upside, but are we overlooking what could be a very steep learning curve for this defense? Can we really expect these guys to flawlessly execute such a reportedly complex defense within the first year?
There will be transition costs; there always are. When you're real good and have real good players those can be overcome. Last year's offense had a bunch of transition costs and still rocketed from 82nd in S&P+ to 30th; in FEI they went from 100th(!) to 33rd. This leap occurred despite weekly UFR diatribes about how various people on Michigan's offense still didn't really know what they were doing.
It going to be tougher for the defense to have anything similar since they were already very good. It's hard to improve much from 20th (FEI) or 2nd (S&P+). The leap from DJ Durkin to Don Brown is probably extant; it is certainly less grand than the leap from Brady Hoke to Jim Harbaugh. Meanwhile Brown's defenses have tended to tread water in year one:
There's a ton of noise in that data since we're not accounting for returning starters and the like. It still suggests that a great leap forward should not be expected.
On the other hand, Don Brown has never been handed even half of the talent he's got this year and it's almost all very experienced. Michigan's starting D consists of eight seniors, a redshirt junior, Jabrill Peppers, and Rashan Gary. While these guys haven't worked on certain things Brown does, they've at least encountered them from time to time; they can also spend the bulk of their offseason working on that stuff since you can take it as read that they've got man free coverages down.
It is a concern, but the schedule is reassuring. I'll take a series of early biffs against teams Michigan beats by 21 instead of 28 if the payoff is a defense that is finally, finally, finally equipped with the state of the art in shutting down a spread n shred. The talent available should mitigate some of those hiccups—a coverage bust doesn't hurt you if the QB is running for his life—and once those get smoothed over, Michigan's ceiling is higher.
Let's go moo
In my travels throughout the internet I came a cross a rather unique rendition of 'Let's Go Blue' that I thought should be shared. There is a man named Farmer Derek, a high level Bard no doubt, who serenades his cattle and posts the songs on YouTube. At the end of his version of Royals by Lorde he goes into Let's Go Blue and the cattle respond in kind. I don't know what should be done with this video, if anything, but I believe it should be shared and thought you should be notified. Cheers.
Sincerely yours in football,
This is a great service to the fandom, Pinball Pete:
[After THE JUMP: not cows responding to Let's Go Blue so why even bother]
Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford, WR Chris Evans,
WR Brad Hawkins, WR Ahmir Mitchell, RB Kingston Davis.
|Wayne, NJ – 6'1", 210|
|Scout||5*, #28 overall
|Rivals||4*, 181 overall
#6 RB, #5 NJ
|ESPN||4*, #45 overall
#4 RB, #2 NJ
|24/7||4*, #328 overall
#12 RB, #9 NJ
|Other Suitors||OSU, FSU, ASU, AUB, Bama|
|YMRMFSPA||Denard Robinson, RB version (but slow!)|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Some scouting from earlier today.|
|Notes||Twitter. Early enrollee. DePaul(Michael Dwumfour).|
There's also a Bergen Catholic-Depaul Catholic game on Youtube in which Walker gets 23 carries. Ace compiled that into an every touch video:
Kareem Walker, The Number One Running Back In The United States, committed to Ohio State at halftime of the national championship game. That was a public relations move that ended up backfiring when Walker re-opened his recruitment due to the audacity of Harbs and eventually flipped to Ohio State's ancient enemy. Then recruiting sites had to go and ruin it by tumbling Walker down their rankings, because recruiting sites don't know a good story when they see one.
Walker's rep took a huge hit right at the end of the cycle, with Rivals dropping him from the cusp of five star status to #181 and 247 dropping him over 200 spots to a fringe four-star guy. He was vulnerable to such a hit for a few reasons. He couldn't participate at the Opening because of a sprained ankle. Walker's Hudl film stops abruptly after his sophomore year, leaving just a couple of highlight reels of the variety that irritatingly slow-mo any missed tackle.
It was in this environment that Rivals yanked his fifth star before the Army game. In San Antonio they wanted him to "prove something" at an exhibition:
Walker recently lost his fifth star and has gone from a decisive, one-cut brute at running back to a bit of an indecisive runner who questions his instincts and dances a bit too much. Ball security is also an issue.
Five-star brute Walker rushed for 1607 yards as a junior. Indecisive dancing Walker rushed for 1517 yards as a senior en route to a state title. Both halves of that assessment are goofy. Walker was never a "brute" in the vein of De'Veon Smith, and at least in that Bergen Catholic game above his ability to ghost through the melee at the line of scrimmage was impressive. One man's indecisiveness is another man's patience.
So. A gimpy Walker playing behind an offensive line trying and failing to deal with the ridiculous 2016 defensive line class didn't do so hot, and a couple of sites were already looking at him with a skeptical eye. Per Walker himself his first day was "slow" because he was unfamiliar with the plays and "going through the motions"; he picked it up later. The first impression lingered, however. Afterwards got absolutely bombed by 247 and Rivals:
Walker has been indecisive and has not hit the hole with authority. He did not seem to get a good read on the play as it developed and he has lacked explosion the last few days.
…needs to hit the opening faster and then fall forward when getting tackled. Sometimes, the Michigan commit hesitates as things develop.
Walker does not have the same running instincts that Miles Sanders, the other running back on Team Armour, shows. Walker continues to run timidly.
Thus the big dips. On the other hand Scout and ESPN were like "whatever, he rules." Scout's Dave Berk did note an "up and down" day, citing a lack of comfort, but blew it off because he'd seen Walker plenty already. Their ranking barely budged.
[After THE JUMP: this one is long enough to have a jump!]
While we still have some time left to kill before football, there's some leftover football sitting right there on the YouTubes, and some of that leftover football features future Michigan players. With more high school games being uploaded in full these days, we're going to be doing more single-game film breakdowns here, starting today with last year's game between DePaul Catholic, featuring 2016 signees Kareem Walker and Michael Dwumfour, and Bergen Catholic.
DePaul fell 15-13 in a tightly contested game, and they may have pulled out the win if Walker hadn't sat out most of the first quarter for undisclosed reasons. He managed to break the 100-yard barrier anyway. Here are all of his carries from the game edited into one video:
As we learned during his late-cycle rankings plunge, Walker isn't a no-doubt prospect like Leonard Fournette—the eye-popping runs are largely absent from his highlight tape. Seeing him work over the course of a full game, however, improved my perception of Walker. His vision was very good, and he does subtle things that will become more apparent on the next level; I love the way he patiently set up his blocks like he did at the 0:55 mark.
Walker's acceleration is solid when he picks his spot to go. While he runs upright in the open field, he does a good job of getting behind his pads to get through tackles at the point of attack, and he uses his off-arm well to shed arm-tackles from defensive backs. When it gets down to it, he finds a way to get upfield. He's not the most explosive back, nor is he the most powerful—he could definitely add some muscle in his lower half—but I like his potential to be a productive college back; the instincts that Michigan's backs have often lacked of late are present in Walker.
As for Dwumfour, he mostly played right defensive tackle, and he's relatively easy to pick out in these clips—he's the only DePaul D-lineman wearing white gloves and white cleats/spats. Before posting this video, a caveat: this is every snap I could get a clear view from Dwumfour (all but 6-8 snaps he was out there, best I could tell), so don't look at this the same way you'd look at a highlight reel—a highlight reel would contain maybe three or four of these plays.
Let's start here: this was a rough game. Dwumfour has a bad habit of bolting upright after the snap, and in this game his opponents capitalized by stonewalling him again and again—there are a couple plays on which he literally gets turned around 180 degrees after the snap (and one more that didn't make the video because ESPN cut to the play too late). On a down-to-down basis, he wasn't very good—he didn't have the strength or motor to overcome his obvious lack of technique.
Of course, Michigan isn't recruiting Dwumfour to be the player he was in high school, and you can see flashes of why they took him that aren't "is best friends with Rashan Gary." Dwumfour has a quick first step and a couple of moves that can get him into the backfield in a hurry. When he does fire out low, he moves people, but he doesn't appear to have much technique that would allow him to disengage—something that can be corrected.
It's not surprising to me that Dwumfour was a generic three-star. He's a big body with athleticism, but there's a lot of work to do to get him to the point where he can contribute at the Power 5 level. Michigan shouldn't need him to be an instant-impact guy, and that's for the best; I'm not sure he'll be ready to play more than scattered snaps for a couple years.