so much for that
The early enrollees to catch my eye were Dymonte Thomas, Jake Butt and Taco Charlton. Thomas played exclusively at the nickel spot; with Countess still not taking contact Avery mostly played outside. Anyway, Thomas's presence at the nickel is not unprecedented. They've wanted bigger guys there for a while, it seems. Michigan wanted to go with Thomas Gordon there before they determined he was needed at safety; Ohio State actually calls the spot their "star" linebacker, and it's usually featured safety-sized clubbers. Their current guy, Christian Bryant, may not wrap up but he will thump you if he gets a chance.
It seems like it would be hard to replace a long-term starter like Courtney Avery. In this situation, rumors that Avery is dogged by a chronic injury lend it some plausibility. Nickel is a spot at which freshman screwups are usually first downs, not touchdowns.
As everyone's already said, Charlton looks the part and then some. He was struggling in a drill before the scrimmage where half the OL would play half the DL on zone running, getting blown out of his assigned lane; once he got some time against the backup OL he dominated. Unless Cam Gordon's really good, he and Ojemudia will duke it out for the nickel DE spot Ryan's injury has vacated.
Butt looks like Funchess, except not quite as long. A redshirt would be ideal.
Here's some credence for Jake Ryan's mid-October recovery timeline: Chris Wormley tore his ACL in mid-August. Eight months later he took a bunch of contact snaps in the spring game. Mid-October is 7 months from Ryan's ACL tear.
Jibreel Black looked bigger than 276 pounds, frankly not far off Quinton Washington's girth. Michigan likes stunting him a lot, which is partially a way to take advantage of his quickness and partially a way to mitigate his lack of size. A stunt got that safety on the second play, as Clark and Black swapped. Both got past their guys, with Ross finishing up. Black's pressure helped force the near-INT from Morgan, too; he got a sack by shooting past Ben Braden.
Frank Clark and Taco Charlton had a hard time against Lewan and Schofield—no shame in that—and then started crubberating the backups. Since most of those backups are freshmen or walk-ons it's hard to get a read on how they'll do against mortal starters. Clark had a big cast on one hand, so increment your opinion of his performance.
Richard Ash made a couple plays, swimming past Glasgow on a Rawls run that broke outside because of poor contain; Keith Heitzman was able to beat the walk-ons but didn't do much against the starters. Matt Godin looked the part but has a ways to go. The SDE spot looks a little weak.
I didn't notice much from the nose tackles. I assume Washington is fine; Pipkins has another year apprenticing.
Linebacker Skynet is online?
That James Ross stick on Drake Harris mentioned in the previous post is becoming the most-discussed play from the spring game. It's as surprised as any of you are. MGoUser Michael Scarn picture-paged it, making the same assumption I did when I saw it: the linebackers are headed to the line of scrimmage as quickly as they are because this is a blitz.
[1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: according to mattison that wasn't an A-gap blitz
[1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: is that plausible?
[1:07 PM] Brian Cook: what was it?
[1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: he said that was just them reading and reacting
[1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: they're that good
[1:07 PM] Brian Cook: that's like skynet coming online
I don't think it's quite that. The blocking on this play is majorly screwed up. He's a screenshot from Mr. Scarn:
Jack Miller is in space, blocking no one. AJ Williams, at the bottom of the shot, isn't really blocking anyone either. He's moving past Ojemudia and only decides to block him once he sees air in front of him. Ojemudia should have to account for the QB if unblocked, so I think there's a reasonable case that you have two extra guys on the backside who should not be there, which then gets you the two extra unblocked linebacker sorts.
Trying to figure out what's going on with the defense is hard, then, because the play they're up against is a debacle. Yes, that's a little ominous. Let's ignore it!
It is nice that Ross reacts basically the instant Kalis tilts to pull. If this isn't a blitz, it is a killer read.
Whether this is over-aggression or Ross having magical pattern recognition is yet to be determined. What we've seen of him so far indicates the second.
Many eyes were on Gordon, including mine. I thought he did fine. In that aforementioned zone drill he was consistently getting the right amount of penetration into the backfield, holding the edge without opening up a crease inside of him. That ability to get the edge flashed on the negative Norfleet run. When deployed as a pass rusher, he was effective; nothing seemed to be on his head. Michigan will be fine at SAM.
FWIW, Brennen Beyer actually started. Gordon looked like a much better option, which isn't surprising since Beyer just got yanked back to SAM in the aftermath of the Ryan injury.
The safeties were not important. They got beat on the long Funchess catch (against Jeremy Clark, FWIW) and the Butt TD; most of the rest of the gains were to the outside. As we enter the post-Kovacs era that's a good sign. Jarrod Wilson is your tentative leader at the vacated safety spot. You might want to make that "heavy"—it seemed like they were running him out all the time in an effort to prep him for fall. Clark got more PT than Furman or Robinson, it seemed.
On the outside, Raymon Taylor gave way early after playing well. Usually the early hook is a sign of confidence in your abilities, so mark his starting spot in pen. Avery, Hollowell, Richardson, and freshman Douglas were the guys getting tested. Courtney Avery got beat on the opening play. That was admittedly a perfect throw that he could do nothing about once he had failed to get Darboh close enough to the sideline to cut off that space. That's a size mismatch. A little less salutary is getting beat by Jackson a couple times on comebacks and such. One of the memorable plays from last year's spring game was Countess having Jackson in his pocket for an interception; Avery was some distance from a not particularly fleet receiver. He did get a PBU on a bad Gardner throw underneath. That appears to be his comfort zone.
I was surprised at how well Delonte Hollowell showed. He broke on a lot of balls, getting some breakups, and he stuck pretty close to the shifty Gallon. I'm not sure how much that means when Michigan was dead set against playing him in the bowl game. Gallon is the perfect matchup for the tiny Hollowell. Bigger receivers will cause issues, and it's clear what kind of corners the new staff is after: big ones.
Terry Richardson got run over by Rawls. Hard to see him getting PT outside of passing downs, and it looks like Avery and Thomas are ahead of him on the nickelback depth chart.
Ross Douglas didn't stand out to me. During the anthem he was next to Taylor and seemed to be exactly the same height, FWIW.
Nothing much to note except that redshirt freshman punter Kenny Allen looked pretty good. I've heard he's been impressive in practice, as well. I'd imagine Matt Wile will keep the job since he has been a B, B+ option; if Allen takes it that's a good sign. Michigan looks set at that spot for a while.
Rittenberg notes that the fireworks were not on display:
Michigan fans didn't learn a ton about the 2013 team as the offense, as expected, was "very vanilla, very basic," as starting quarterback Devin Gardner put it.
If you're pining for the pistol, don't give up hope.
Also, Lewan noted some improvement from the line:
"We moved and established the line of scrimmage today, and I think that is one thing that we haven't seen in a while," senior left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "But what we do in the summer and do in fall camp is really going to define us as an offensive line."
Toussaint is still the leader at RB according to Borges:
"We went through half the year (in 2011), and we said, 'We're going through this doggone running back by committee deal.' And we finally decided, Let's put him in there, leave him in there and let's go,'" offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "Fitz came to the surface, and I think he will again (this year) before it's all said and done.
"He's certainly going to get a chance to prove it. I'll say that."
The starters were Brennen Beyer at SAM, Desmond Morgan at MIKE, and James Ross at WILL. I don't think Beyer is a starter-quality linebacker, and he didn't really make any plays. Morgan dropped an interception and failed to get depth on Jake Butt's touchdown catch, but he did look solid against the run. Ross looked fantastic at weakside linebacker, chasing down plays near the sideline and hitting running backs at the line of scrimmage. Cam Gordon looked like the superior player at SAM, made a nice tackle for loss on Dennis Norfleet, and blew up Butt on a Power. Joe Bolden looked solid at MIKE, but I'm concerned about the backup WILL position.
Today's recruiting roundup discusses the commitment of Scott Sypniewski, the new ESPN rankings, the status of Jordan Wilkins, and much more.
Hello: Scott Sypniewski
Edited but probably NSFW, because Lil Jon
As you know by now, Michigan offered and accepted a commitment from Ottawa (IL) long snapper Scott Sypniewski on Wednesday, sparking a rather mixed reaction followed by a reaction to the reaction, if you follow. Like Brian*, you can put me down for "thoroughly perplexed," especially given the timing of the offer—even if there's a potentially pressing need for a long snapper, wouldn't that be determined in the fall (especially given the presence of 2012 preferred walk-on Tyler Tokarsky) as opposed to June?
That said, Sypniewski at least represents one of the top players nationwide at the position, which has seen an increase in scholarship offers recently according to this Rivals article from May:
At least 25 of the 121 non-academies in the FBS ranks have long snappers who were awarded scholarships directly out of high school or junior college. Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell estimates that represents about a 20 percent increase over the last five or six years.
So, at least Michigan isn't alone; the article claims that students of long-snapping guru Chris Rubio earned scholarships to LSU, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Arizona State, and Michigan State (that would be one-time Michigan walk-on pledge Taybor Pepper) last year.
While I'm still not sure it was the wisest move to take a specialist at this juncture, there's one argument against taking Sypniewski that I'll address here: the cries that taking him precluded Michigan from bringing on Laquon Treadwell, Derrick Green or Jordan Wilkins, Kendall Fuller or Leon McQuay, and Joe Mathis. Like, four of those guys.
While Michigan is in great shape for Treadwell, he's the only player among that group that I'd say has a better than 33% chance of becoming a Wolverine, and that figure might be generous for most of those guys. Green keeps popping up in articles that don't mention Michigan($), Wilkins appears to be a strong Auburn lean (more on him later), Fuller has strong ties to Virginia Tech and Clemson, McQuay is a top-flight Florida recruit, and Mathis changes his favorite every time he visits a new school. Not trying to sound overly negative here, just trying to be realistic: getting any two of those players would be fantastic. There's no way in hell Michigan was getting four no matter how the numbers worked out.
In other current commit news, ESPN updated their top 150, introduced the ESPN300, and released their team rankings for the class of 2013. Unsurprisingly, Michigan tops the team rankings; the full list is here, but paywalled, while TomVH's analysis of the team rankings is free, which totally makes sense. Other Big Ten+ teams in the top 25: Ohio State (7), Notre Dame (10), Penn State (14), and Michigan State (22).
As for changes to the individual player rankings, TTB has the full breakdown, as usual. The big movers were Jourdan Lewis, who rose 15 spots and into the top 100, Mike McCray, who fell 29 spots, and Patrick Kugler, who jumped from #123 to #112. In all, Michigan has 15 players in the ESPN300, including 11 in the ESPN150. Shane Morris is the top-ranked commit at #32, which represented a five-spot rise for him.
Also releasing rankings was OhioPreps.com, the Rivals outlet focused on, um, Ohio. Michigan's Ohio commitments stand out among their position rankings for the class of 2013:
- DeVeon Smith is the #1 running back
- Jaron Dukes is the #3 wide receiver
- Jake Butt is the #1 tight end
- Taco Charlton is the #1 defensive end
- Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon are the #1 and #2 linebackers, respectively
- Gareon Conley is the #3 cornerback
- Dymonte Thomas is the #1 safety
Call me crazy, but I think the Wolverines are having a good deal of success in Ohio this year. Next thing you know, jerseys will be selling like hotcakes down there.
Quickly: Haven't had your fill of special teams highlight tapes? Good! Here's 2012 walk-on K/P Kenny Allen drilling a bunch of field goals. Jake Butt is invited to The Opening. Shane Morris earns an invite to ESPN's Champion Gridiron Kings event. Matt Pargoff, like Seth on Wednesday, ranks Michigan's top recruiting classes of the last 20 years.
*MGoHiveMind! Conspiracy! Dey took our jobz!
Change Of Plans For Wilkins
So, yeah, about TN RB Jordan Wilkins—the four-star back was initially slated to visit Ann Arbor on Saturday, but he'll have to reschedule after realizing that he has to take the ACT that day ($). Wilkins maintains that he wants to see all of his final four schools—Auburn, Michigan, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee—before making a commitment, but this still doesn't bode well. Sam Webb profiled Wilkins in the Detroit News, and Wilkins reiterated that he very nearly committed to Auburn on Monday. Message board rumors also have Wilkins maybe not liking Michigan's depth chart so much, which means this is ominous:
So what are major factors?
"Early playing time and coaches," said Wilkins. "I know I want to play with guys I get along with — that I can come and talk to about anything. I like coaches that I can talk to about anything because my high school coaches right now are like my second parents. I've always been close with my coaches, so that's another big thing.["]
Wilkins would like to have his decision made before his football season starts. My guess is that decision won't be Michigan.
The Wolverines somewhat surprisingly showed up on PA WR Robert Foster's top seven yesterday, joining Alabama, Pitt, Ohio State, Michigan State, Oregon, and USC. According to Foster's assistant coach, via an article by 247's Steve Wiltfong($), he's planning to visit Michigan and MSU this month. Foster also plans to take all of his official visits before deciding, so even if there's mutual interest here, it may be tough for Foster to find a spot in the class. One receiver who may move a little faster is MD WR Paul Harris, who will visit on June 19, according to Tremendous. He's one to keep an eye on.
Tim Sullivan reports that TX DT Hardreck Walker plans to make a decision by the end of the summer, but will continue taking visits, and he plans on taking an official to Michigan ($, info in header). We'll see how this one plays out, since the Wolverines are no longer really in need of a DT unless they decide that Henry Poggi fits best at strongside DE. Even then, shoehorning another defensive lineman in the class could prove difficult.
Quickly: Steve Wiltfong reports that Michigan offered CA ATH Darren Carrington, but there isn't an article to go with the tweet, so for now that's all the info we've got regarding any potential interest or visits. Michigan made the top five for AZ CB Cole Luke along with Notre Dame, Texas, Nebraska, and Cal. Happy trails to Su'a Cravens, who shocked the world by committing to USC. Cravens says he still plans to visit Michigan and his other finalists, but I wouldn't hold out hope for a switch. Don't do this, people.
Quick 2014 Updates
Not as much action as recent weeks on the 2014 front, but IL CB Parrker Westphal did visit campus on Tuesday and came away mighty impressed. He told Tremendous that Michigan is now the school by which he'll measure all of his other visits and he plans on being in Ann Arbor again for the BBQ at the Big House. Westphal is coached by former Michigan CB Todd Howard, who will likely accompany Westphal on his next trip.
Michigan is in line to get a very big visit, and visitor, in GA OL Orlando Brown, son of the late NFL lineman of the same name. Brown told 247's Clint Brewster that he'll visit Michigan on July 14th ($). Brown, who stands at 6'9"(!!), 360 pounds(!!!), projects to be one of the top tackles in the 2014 class.
The Wolverines will also get summer visits from a pair of quarterbacks. IN QB Brent Lyles will camp at Michigan on June 20th($), while OH QB DeShone Kizer plans to check out Ann Arbor again on either the 17th or 21st of this month ($). Kizer is one of two 2014 quarterbacks, along with MI QB Chance Stewart, getting a strong look at an early offer, while Lyles is hoping to break into that group.
Michigan bolstered their special teams depth and added a scholarship-level punter on the cheap yesterday when Fenton (MI) punter Kenny Allen agreed to join the team in 2012 as a preferred walk-on. Allen should provide quality insurance in case Will Hagerup gets the proverbial third strike and could easily be a multi-year starter once (well, I guess if) Hagerup graduates.
|NR P||2*, #13 K||2*, #33 K||NR P|
Unfortunately, none of the recruiting websites that have Allen ranked evaluate him as a punter, but they do have a couple evaluations available, though they all agree that he's in the 6'3", 190-pound range, for whatever that's worth. Scout has this report from kicking guru Chris Sailer:
Kenny is a great combo prospect (K/P). A good athlete that shows great potential in all areas. Has the skills to be one of the very best. A hard worker, that will only continue to improve. Kenny is big, tall, strong, and athletic. A great combo prospect. Punts for great distance and shows nice consistency. Definite D1A prospect.
ESPN has this to add ($):
Kenny is a very good kicker/punter. His strength right now is his punting. He showed very well at a Kohl's training camp and will be a very good college punter. His frame and overall leg speed make him an attractive punting candidate. The ball jumps off his foot and he does a good job of presenting a consistent target to hit with his drop. Kenny is a college level punter from a talent perspective.
Sailer has a website with his own independent recruiting rankings, and he has Allen as 4.5-star prospect (five being a Division I prospect, four being Division II, and so on), and ranks him as the #10 specialist overall and #2 combo prospect (there are also two other punters ahead of him) in the high school ranks in 2011. Sailer's latest evaluation of Allen:
Kenny is a very talented young punter. He has the size and athleticism to dominate in this area. Can hit a huge ball. Also a great kicker. A top combo prosepect [sic] in the Class of 2012. Will be a scholarship pick!
Allen also came in for praise in February at Jamie Kohl's Midwest kicking camp:
Three punters that impressed were Kenny Allen, a 2012 punter from Fenton High School in Michigan, R.J. Bain, a 2012 punter from Michigan and Sean Decloux from Canada. Allen's smooth mechanics and long frame should draw college interest in the years to come.
Finally, a couple of self-evaluations from Allen himself, the first from the Flint Journal...
The right-footed kicker indicated that he has been booting field goals in the 50-yard range during the Tigers' practices this summer.
"I feel I contribute a lot," Allen said. "I've been growing, getting a lot stronger with my legs. "I've been fixing my mechanics and working out the errors.I've kicked thousands of footballs. It's like muscle memory."
...and then this fantastic quote from a paywalled article on 247Sports [emphasis mine]:
“My strength is consistency,” Allen said. “On my bad ones, it’s still good.”
So, Kenny Allen turns bad into good. I like this.
Allen held a scholarship offer from Oregon State, and Rivals reports he had interest from Alabama, Iowa, LSU, Miami (YTM), and a host of MAC schools.
Sailer reports that through the first few weeks of this season, Allen averaged 43.0 yards per punt.
Junior stats via the Flint Journal:
Allen averaged 39.1 yards per punt as a junior, with his longest effort being 71 yards against Walled Lake Central on Nov. 12, 2010.
He was 3-of-5 on field goal attempts and had 37 touchbacks. He was an unanimous All-Metro League first-team pick as a punter while earning honorable mention honors as a kicker.
71 yards? Yes, please.
FAKE 40 TIME
He's a punter.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Don't let the walk-on tag fool you—Allen is a scholarship-level punter, as the Oregon State offer
belies shows. Allen will arrive on campus when Hagerup is a junior and—barring any further off-field shenanigans from Hagerup—he should be able to redshirt in his first year on campus. That'll leave him with another year as Hagerup's apprentice, then he'll compete with Matt Wile (who has struggled thus far with his punting and could just stick to kicking) for the starting job as a redshirt sophomore. From the looks of it, Allen should help Michigan have a seamless transition after Hagerup graduates, and provide quality depth at the position in case of injury/suspension.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Since Allen is a walk-on, even turning down at least one scholarship opportunity to play for his home-state team, he won't factor in to the oncoming numbers crunch as the Wolverines finish out the 2012 class. The needs continue to be at wide receiver, defensive tackle, offensive tackle, and perhaps running back.