that makes one of us
Butt don't fail me now [Adam Glanzman]
|Joe Kerridge||Jr.*||Khalid Hill||Fr.*||AJ Williams||Jr.||Jake Butt||So.|
|Sione Houma||Jr.||Wyatt Shallman||Fr.*||Keith Heitzman||Jr.*||Ian Bunting||Fr.|
Just when we'd split out the various gradations in blocky-catchy guys into its own section of the preview, Al Borges had to go and get himself fired. Cumong, man.
They're all still on the roster and Michigan's going to try to use them so we're sticking with it. This section of the preview consists of everyone who isn't quite a skill position player and isn't quite an offensive linemen. Let's reprise last year's explanation of what is what to orient ourselves:
- FULLBACK: a man with a steel plated head who runs into linebackers, gets two carries in his career, and has six catches. See: Kevin Dudley.
- U-BACK: A "move" tight end who motions all about, rarely lines up on the actual line of scrimmage, often goes from fullback to a flared spot or vice versa, and operates as more of a receiver than the fullback. Must be a credible threat to LBs; ends career with 40 catches. See: Aaron Shea.
- TIGHT END: Larger that the U-back, the tight end is a tight end who is actually tight to the end of the line. He comes out, lines up next to a tackle, helps him win blocks, and clobberates linebackers at the second level. He goes out into patterns as well, and may end his career with 40 catches himself. See: Tyler Ecker.
- FLEX: Sort of like the U-back in that he rarely lines up on the line of scrimmage itself, but if he motions away from his spot near the line, it's not to fullback but wide receiver. They get a billion catches and break Jim Mandich's record eventually. See: every ND tight end ever.
And of course many of these people bleed into other categories. Think of these position designations as Gaussian distributions in close proximity to each other.
Kerridge hits his upperclass years, also linebackers [Maize and Blue News]
Same guys, potentially less of a role. Doug Nussmeier comes from a one-back coaching tree, and one-back guys are usually a lot more interested in putting two tight ends on the field than a fullback, because fullbacks don't threaten vertically. Given the situation at tight end and the need to bash out a yard or three on the regular, these guys will still be involved. Just maybe not quite as much.
JOE KERRIDGE remains the starter here and should hold on to that designation. It seems like he's been around forever already and he's still got a year left after this one; now is the time for him to start imposing himself on opponents. He did a fair job of doing so last year:
|CMU||4.5||-||4.5||FBs did well.|
|Notre Dame||7.5||1||6.5||Isos were a high point.|
|Akron||2||-||2||Blocks got cut away from.|
|UConn||1.5||2||-0.5||Not heavily involved.|
|Minnesota||6||3.5||2.5||Let some guys under him.|
|Penn State||1||0.5||0.5||Blocks couldn't even become relevant.|
|Nebraska||6.5||3.5||3||Got good movement.|
|NW||3||1.5||1.5||Soon to be a WR.|
|Iowa||4.5||1||3.5||Good game, quasi third-down back.|
When the blocking was good enough to make him relevant he did his job, and did it well. It was not all terrific, as he had some questionable plays against Minnesota:
But by the end of the year he was taking a bunch of snaps as a pass protector on throwing downs, acting as Gardner's lead back on occasion, and even catching things out of the backfield. I didn't chart the OSU game but I did review it and Kerridge had a quality day highlighted by this thunderous block:
My God man. I heard that this place's Heap of Smoked Linebacker was excellent, but the descriptions do not do it justice. That is Dudley-worthy there.
Nussmeier isn't likely to deviate from his belief that tight ends on or near the line of scrimmage are much more threatening to a defense than fullbacks, but when Michigan absolutely must scatter a linebacker's equipment across the field, Kerridge will be the weapon of choice.
[After THE JUMP: I googled Jake Butt's name so by god you are going to read the things I have to say about Jake Butt.]
It’s redshirt roundtable time. Our recruits:
- Brian Cook: 6’3/215, 5 stars, quarterback out of Michigan, rescues kittens
- Seth Fisher: 6’1/235, 3.5 stars, FB/TE tweener from Michigan, runs three homeless shelters
- Ace Anbender: 6’0/185, 4 stars, defensive back from Michigan, spends free time driving old ladies to church
- Blue in South Bend: 5’11/202, 5 stars, running back from ???, spent 5 years in a foreign country (Indiana) teaching the natives how to sanitize their water
- Heiko Yang: “5’9”/165, 4 stars, slot receiver from Ohio, committed early because he got tired of coaches calling and asking him to date their daughters.
- Coach Brown: 6’4/260, 5 stars, strongside linebacker from South Carolina, holds record for most keys to cities
- Mathlete: 5’10/180, 4 stars, cornerback from Kansas. Never around when Superman is; isn’t that so weird…?
And the question:
Time to guess which freshmen are redshirting this year--which will make to 2014 with freshman eligibility, and which won't but would if you were running the team.
Brian: First, I would like to congratulate [Seth] on [being awesome]. But nevermind all that. To the redshirtmobile!
One of the advantages of press credentials are all the free Batmobile golf carts. This is what we did with ours.
[After the jump: answers and answers in chart form]
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton,DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OLLogan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch, OL Chris Fox, OL Dan Samuelson, TE Jake Butt.
|Detroit, MI – 6'2", 235|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#32 TE, #21 MI
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#8 H-back, #9 MI
|24/7||3*, NR overall
#31 TE, #14 MI
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Ace scouts East Village.|
|Notes||Transferred from Crockett to East Village Prep, FWIW.|
Recommend the John Woo-approved touchdown at 20 seconds. Also, Scout's Josh Newkirk put together a reel of his performances at one 7-on-7 tourney that's impressive both for its length and some of the catches Hill brings in:
We're in the thick of this year's crop of hybridized, NFL-style versatile offensive players. You know, the guys that will let Michigan crank you from a big formation on one play and flip to a four-wide the next with limited personnel switching. Khalid Hill will live in the heavier end of Michigan's formations, moving to and fro across the line of scrimmage, blocking and heading out into pass patterns. SB Nation has an excellent primer on Hill's job description I recommend you take in all of, but the short version from the man who kind of invented the spot himself:
This takes you back to [former Redskins Coach Joe] Gibbs' description of the modern H-back: "An H-back has to have good hands and be super smart."
Bonus items include bone-shattering blocking (taken for granted at the NFL level, I imagine) and the ability to get vertical from time to time; Hill hits on at least a few of these categories. According his coach, he has them all…
"He's a great pass catcher. He has the blocking ability of a lineman, the athletic ability of a skill guy, and the hands of a wide receiver, so he's a match-up nightmare. What he brought to the table for us this year was, he created mismatches down seams of the field."
…but coaches tend to get excited about their kids. To the scouts!
The one he's definitely got: hands. Virtually every report I've collected praises them first off. 247's Clint Brewster:
The first thing that really jumps off the tape about Hill is his catching radius. He can scoop a pass up off of his shoelaces or go up and make a tough catch well over his head. Hill also has good arm extension when making a catch, not allowing the ball to get close to his body. Hill is quarterback friendly and really makes an inaccurate pass look easy to catch with his natural adjustments. After the catch Hill shows an excellent burst of speed and can really make a bigger defender miss a tackle or plow over a smaller one. Hill does a great job of getting vertical on seam routes when lined up in the slot or attached at the line of scrimmage. Hill runs precise routes, really getting good separation from his opponent with sharp cuts and head nods.
Regardless of how he lines up he can help move the chains as a receiver. He has good hands and demonstrates that he can consistently extend for the ball. … good quickness and is active with his hands in working to clear past defenders who may try and hinder his release. He is a solid route runner best suited as a short-to-intermediate target. He has solid speed, but comes across as a kid who is a little quicker than fast and doesn't look to possess the ideal long speed to be a vertical threat. After the catch he will quickly get turned up-field and fight for what he can get.
You'll note an almost total lack of blocking notes in both evaluations above, and that's for a reason: ESPN says that's an area that "could use some real development."
But back to the receiving. Ace took in East Village Prep's opener, in which Hill went for a 65-yard TD, and reported back:
Hill's first catch of the season was a slant route that he took 65 yards for a touchdown; the throw was slightly behind him, but he reached back and plucked the ball out of the air without breaking stride, then turned on the burners and outran the entire Oak Park secondary. It was a very impressive effort that showed off Hill's potential as a receiver.
Hill looked very comfortable working over the middle, whether he lined up at tight end, H-back, slot, or wide receiver; he's at his best finding open space in the heart of the defense. His hands look good as well, as he caught everything thrown his way, making sure to catch with his hands instead of his body. When running routes, Hill showed why he earned a Michigan offer.
That is a piece of skill Michigan fans have recently seen out of Drew Dileo in a guy 50 pounds heavier and a half-foot taller: a rare quality. But back to the blocking issues.
However, Hill ran into problems when asked to run block. He had a difficult time staying engaged with defenders and knocking them off the ball; on several occasions, he never found someone to block at all.
Is it good news that Hill was such a valuable receiver as a high school player that his blocking can lack so badly? Well… maybe. In hybrid land a lot of these guys get picked for the one skill they have because coaches think they can fix the other bit. As we learned with Funchess last year, though, a mismatch guy is only a mismatch if he can block.
Once Hill can do that, though, he has potential to "surprise" defenses. Another recurring theme in the evaluations is continued references to his surprising—always surprising—athleticism. Scout's eval:
Scout.com Player Evaluation:
Hands and Concentration
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Stocky kid with surprising quickness and athleticism for his build. Very light on his feet, has great route running skills and ability to catch the ball as a tight end or H-Back. Soft, reliable hands and good run after the catch schools. Will have to learn to block potentially from the backfield as he may see time there in college. Not your traditional tight end at 6'2, but has the skills to be a matchup problem. - Allen Trieu
The ever-popular "size" area for improvement and more references to his developing blocking skills feature.
Tim Sullivan caught him at a 7-on-7 event:
He looks like a defensive lineman … but has quickness and speed that are bound to surprise those who think he's just a big man playing tight end, rather than a true athlete. He isn't going to run by many safeties, but makes quick, sharp cuts to get open in the middle of the field, or toward the sidelines as an outlet on some plays. He has the frame and leaping ability to make high catches over the middle - and the fearlessness to jump and make plays with his body exposed.
Hill presented a serious matchup problem for defensive backs unaccustomed to handling a player with his combination of size and athleticism. Hill runs crisp routes and has soft hands, so while he doesn't wow you with his frame or speed, he finds a way to get open and has developed a great rapport with his future college quarterback.
You get the idea. Let's continue attacking the horse, though:
Steve Wiltfong: "The sure-handed Hill knows how to get open, and was the go-to guy for Morris throughout the weekend."
Brewster at SMSB: "Hill does a great job getting in and out of his breaks. He did a nice job of getting separation from his defenders and snatching the football with his arms extended to not let it get anywhere close to his body."
Sullivan at the Columbus NFTC: "Hill impressed again on Saturday, with more athleticism than he's given credit for at times, precise routes, and as always, very good hands. "
Ace at SMSB: "Hill looked very good in the reps I saw him taking, running crisp routes and catching almost everything thrown his way. He nearly pulled in a ridiculous one-hander early in the morning session, but couldn't quite haul it on; otherwise, any pass in his direction resulted in a catch. Hill isn't the fastest tight end out there, nor the biggest, but he finds a way to get space from defenders and then shield them off with his body."
I declare this horse deader.
Hill camped as a junior, which got him on Michigan's radar. He won the positional MVP there, no doubt a help as Michigan evaluated him for their early offer. It didn't hurt that Hill and Shane Morris rolled around the 7-on-7 circuit on the same team, as Ace mentions obliquely above. Morris developed faith in Hill to the point that you can get a 3 and a half minute highlight reel out of one 7-on-7, as you see above, while other guys on the Max Ex team (like C'sonte York) can only squeeze out a minute and a half by adding some practice reps in.
As a senior, Hill may have added some blocking skill after a shoulder injury forced an interesting, temporary position move:
“Two weeks ago the A-C joint in my shoulder got sprained in a game and I couldn’t do anything but block, that’s the only thing that didn’t hurt,” Hill began. “So I told my coach to put someone else at tight end and I’ll play offensive tackle. Same thing happened last year when I hurt my knee- I moved to tackle. I just want to be on the field to help my team in any way possible. It’s all about the team.”
(File under The Pattern as well.)
Sullivan caught one of his later games and focused on his blocking, which was much-improved in his eyes:
[Hill] was far more aggressive and willing to punish defenders in this game, and played a big role in opening up holes. He also used his hands to prevent the defender from disengaging, which allowed him to seal the edge.
Hill still shows a tendency to get off balance at times in his blocking, especially on the edge. While it's unlikely to harm the team in any significant way, that can limit big runs if they break into the secondary. On a similar note, he was beaten in space a couple times, but given his athleticism, that should be an easy fix to make.
He still had issues making second-level blocks after coming off combos, FWIW, something Ace noticed when he scouted East Village as well.
So… Hill has some developing to do as a blocker, especially because most of his activity is going to be of the lead variety from now on, something he hasn't done much of yet. That'll delay his bid for playing time; once he gets that down he has the potential to be a guy linebackers swear to themselves about when they try to take a block and he flits by. Hill has the potential to be a premium piece of the offense when space gets constricted.
Etc.: Junior stats: 29 catches for 448 yards, six TDs. Lingo ahoy!
"I feel great," he said. "There's a smile on my face. I'm cheesin'."
That's immediately post-commit.
Why Phillip Lutzenkirchen? Auburn's red-zone touchdown machine is the best I've got on the college level. Lutzenkirchen spent his days on the Plains blocking on short yardage and slipping out into uncovered pattern after uncovered pattern. His catching ability was superb for a guy his size and he brought enough wood as a blocker to convince AU opponents to sell out against the run, much to their detriment.
Lutzenkirchen is in the same height range but did top out at nearly 260 pounds; Hill may end up ten pounds short of that.
Guru Reliability: High. Lots of camps, and while there's a little divide in the rankings (Scout has him just a few players away from a fourth star; Rivals ranks him below an in-state tight end headed to Air Force) everyone says he's the same player.
Variance: Moderate. Will be a blocking back and guy who catches some short stuff, occasionally getting into a wheel route; blocking must develop.
Ceiling: Low-plus. While Hill can be a useful cog, that seems to be the limit. Does bring some potential as a consistent mismatch if he can learn to block, though.
General Excitement Level: Low-plus. Is kind of a fullback, and how many kind-of-fullbacks are going to be on this roster? On the other hand, seems like a red-zone efficiency piece, and who doesn't like red-zone efficiency?
Projection: Probable redshirt since most of the evals mention he has a long way to go as a blocker. He does fit the profile of a guy who will get time on special teams sooner rather than later, though, so nonzero chance he ends up covering kicks. A serious role in the offense will have to wait.
How long is a mystery. He's got Sione Houma and Joe Kerridge in front of him in terms of seniority, and Kerridge got a lot of playing time in which he showed some promise as a Kevin Dudley-style linebacker eraser… as a redshirt freshman. It'll be a battle for Hill to pass him full-time.
Situationally… yeah, there's room, especially after Gardner graduates and Shane Morris presumably ascends to the throne. A couple years down the road Hill will presumably be accustomed to blocking out of the backfield and his 7-on-7 running buddy will be looking for him in practice whenever they're on the field together.
hi bennie! /Upchurch
It's an annual rite of fan dorkiness each year to try to be the first to guess which numbers the incoming freshmen will be given by obsessively google stalking them. Sometimes I have some inside knowledge from a recruit who was promised his digit, or tweeted his preferences or something. Here's how I did last year:
|Name||Pos.||# in HS||2012 Guess||Actual|
|Allen Gant||S||7 and 14||14||12|
|Chris Wormley||DE||47||84 or 68||43|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB/KR||21||21 if available, or 31||26|
|Devin Funchess||TE||5 and 15||85||19|
|Drake Johnson||RB||2 and 18||32 or 6 or 23||29|
|Sione Houma||FB||35||41 or 32||39|
|Terry Richardson||CB||3 and 6 and 9||9||13|
|Tom Strobel||DE||36||63 or 93 or 86||50|
|Willie Henry||DT||74||74 or 68||69|
Four out of 22 ain't…well yes it is. It was bad. This article is useless. Let's continue it anyway; I swear to do better.
Getting to know you. Each coach has his own tendencies with this so we'll get better at it in time. With Hoke, he seems to like having consecutive numbers in the same position group, perhaps for mentoring purposes because they sit next to each other in the locker room. It's far from a rule, but it's a trend. Carr rarely let a player share a specialist's digit, but Hoke doesn't seem to have a problem with it, for example Wormley and Hagerup share a number, and walk-on tight end Alex Mitropoulus-Rundus (I'm gonna just start calling him "Alex M-R") has the same digit as backup punter Kenny Allen. Rich Rodriguez was far more apt to share numbers, and the single digits were nearly always doubled up; Hoke has said in the past that he doesn't like doing that, and the practice has been limited—as of spring just 5, 12 and 34 had scholarship recruits in both numbers, adding 54 and 56 to those double-occupied by players on the two-deep.
The roster lies. The official MGoBlue.com roster still doesn't have DeAnthony Hardison, that nifty RB you saw in the Spring Game. He's #18. Also a practice insider told me Anthony Capatina is playing slot receiver, not "DB" as he's listed on the depth chart. Also weirdly missing from that roster is #79 right tackle Dan Gibbs (a Seaholm Mape!!!), a 2012 preferred walk-on whose twitter profile pic is him riding an oliphant:
Legends/Special #s: 1 because Braylon's scholarship killed the fun, unless Gallon gets it. It won't come as much of a surprise to you that 2 will probably be entering the Legends program this season. There will also be some push for 16, and I doubt it'll be assigned to an offensive player immediately. 11 for the Wisterts, 21 for Desmond, and 87 for Ron Kramer are currently open; it is likely they'll be assigned to veterans whose digits might then be made available if it happens before the season. Bennie's 47 and Jerry's 48 remain occupied by current players and there's no way a second guy will get them. And I've been told they're still working on the Harmon family with 98. Anyway they won't go to freshmen.
Already worn on both sides: 5 (Courtney Avery and Justice Hayes), 6 (Raymon Taylor and Brian Cleary), 12 (Gardner and Allen Gant), 13 (Terry Richardson and Alex Swieca), 15 (James Ross and Shaun Austin), 34 (Jeremy Clark and Brendan Gibbons), 43 (Chris Wormley and Will Hagerup), 54 (Richard Ash and Jareth Glanda), 56 (Ondre Pipkins and Joey Burzynski), 69 (Willie Henry and Erik Gunderson), and 95 (Anthony Capatina and Michael Jocz).
Available on offense only: 4, 7, 14, 18, 22, 24, 25, 30, 33, 35, 40, 50, 52, 53, 55, 57, 59, 66, 76, 92, 96, 97, 99
Available on defense only: 3, 8, 9, 10, 17, 19, 26, 27, 28, 29, 38, 39, 42, 45, 46, 49, 51, 58, 60, 61, 62, 63, 65, 67, 70, 71, 72, 75, 77, 78, 82, 84, 85, 86, 88, 94
Walk-ons with soft claims: Every year there's a Jon Keizer on the roster who thinks his number is safe, then some top running back recruit in the country (right: from Scout) runs him over with star power (dadada, didda-da diddadidda…). Scout teamers without scholarships often have their numbers taken, for example Charlie Zeller was 19 on the 2012 spring roster and Paul Gyarmati was sitting on 99, but Devin Funchess and Matt Godin nabbed those digits last fall. This year they are 15 (Shaun Austin—note that Ross has it on D), 18 (DeAnthony Hardison—note that Countess has it on D), 27 (Jon Keizer), 36 (AJ Pearson—note that Kerridge has it on O), 42 (Dylan Esterline), 46 (Clark Grace), 49 (Brad Anlauf), 51 (Bobby Henderson), 59 (Mark Lawson), 63 (Ben Pliska), 66 (Dan Liesman), 70 (Kris Mateus), 79 (Dan Gibbs), (91 (Alex M-R, though Kenny Allen wears it too), and 95 (Anthony Capatina and Mike Jocz). The other walk-ons I didn't mention (Dever, Cleary, Glanda, Burzynski, Reynolds, Allen, Gunderson, Jocz and the Glasgows) are either on the two-deep already or in the mix.
Currently unused: 20, 23, 31, 32, 37, 41, 44, 64, 68, 73, 74, 80, 81, 83, 89, 90, 93, π
You just said Pi. We're Michigan fergodsakes. All the constants—φ, ζ(3), α and δ, Euler's e, γ, λ, K, r, and Ω—ought to be fair game, and if someone takes √-1 and uses the nickname "Impossible" he will be my favorite for ever and ever.
EVERYBODY LET'S ALL BE #7!!!
|Name||Pos.||HS #||Tea Leaves||Best Guess|
|David Dawson||OG||71||Wore 55 in Under Armour game, 33 in Army AA game.||55* - His Twitter acct is David Dawson 5⃣5⃣|
|Reon Dawson||BCB||1||Wore 13, 24 and 1 in high school.||31 - seems to fit.|
|Jaron Dukes||WR||8||Twitter handle is @Jaron_Dukes8||83*
|Chris Fox||OL||73||Wore #13 (?) at Army AA game and #33 at Rivals 5-star challenge||73* - Guy likes #3|
|Greg Froelich||OG||77||Wore that and 75 in high school (preferred walk-on)||76 - Not exactly Steve Hutchinson.|
|Ben Gedeon||MLB||15||James Ross is already James Ross.||45 - David Harris's # but precludes punt coverage.|
|Derrick Green||RB||27||Wore 27 in Army AA game.||27* - call it a hunch. Sorry Keizer.|
|Delano Hill||Nk/FS||11||Looks like he's 40.||32 (Kovacs's other #) or 23|
|Khalid Hill||FB/TE||32||Very Kevin Dudley of him.||32 or 23|
|Maurice Hurst||NT||50||Wore #11 in Semper Fi Bowl.||68 - Mike Martin's #|
|Da'Mario Jones||WR||11||Wore #7 in that photo of recruits in white M jerseys. #15 at MSU camp. Same school as Tony Boles, who wore 42 at Michigan but had 18 touchdowns so...||14*
|Patrick Kugler||OC||57||Wore 57 at UA game. Dad and bro wore 57.||57 - O'KUGLER RULES!|
|Jourdan Lewis||CB||1||Also wore #17 at Cass Tech, #27 at Army AA game.||17 or 3 or 37.|
|Mike McCray||SAM||9||Wore #9 at UA game. Father wore 99 at OSU||9* - He and Dileo both likely to be on special teams, but not the same groups.|
|J.J. McGrath||K||13||preferred walk-on||35 - Or some kicker number.|
|Shane Morris||QB||12||Gardner switched, so...||7 - he already tweeted it.|
|Henry Poggi||3T||7||Wore 17 at UA game. Was given #7 locker in May. Plays jazz flute.||70 - Ross Douglass already took 7.|
|Dan Samuelson||OG||74||Photo out there of him wearing a Nebraska 74 jersey. Twitter handle is @dansamuelson74.||74 - it's available.|
|Wyatt Shallman||FB||49||49 is available on defense.||33* for his DCC teammate who passed away.
|Deveon Smith||RB||4||Is a 4-star?||4 - It's open.|
|Blaise Stearns||WR||1||Townie: Can't find what he wore at Huron before transferred. Preferred walk-on||89 - Doesn't exactly get 1st pick.|
|Channing Stribling||FS||8||#22 commit to the class.||8* - It's open|
|Scott Sypniewski||LS||56||Wore #45 at his long-snapper camp.||41 - Who cares.|
|Jack Wangler||WR||21||Dad wore #5 at Mich (preferred walk-on)||16*
|Csont'e York||WR||1||Was #667 at NFTC||81 - With an eye toward dropping the 8.|
Go ahead and make your guesses. We'll have our answers in a few weeks.
* UPDATE: After I posted this Magnus alerted me to his post of numbers that have already been revealed. I had some good guesses. I crossed out my comments if the guess was wrong.
It is Signing Day 2013, and if you weren't aware, Michigan has a pretty, pretty good class. With this post—and its accompanying defense post (coming tomorrow)—I'll attempt to give you a solid overview of the class, its strengths and weaknesses, and hand out a few superlatives. Let's start with a look at the offensive class as a whole and their final rankings from the recruiting services—click on each player's name to see their commitment post:
And now, some specifics:
BEST POSITION GROUP: Offensive Line.
This offensive line class is arguably the best in the country, finding strength both in numbers (six) and quality (five of the six are consensus four-stars or above and made All-American teams). As Michigan continues to fill in the holes left by some disastrous offensive line recruiting under Rich Rodriguez, this couldn't have come at a better time.
Among the group, guard Kyle Bosch is the most likely to crack the two-deep early; he's on campus early and has college-ready size—Michigan lists him at 6'5", 311 lbs.—to go with a polished set of skills. He won't start right away (let's hope) but could factor in as a backup. Center Patrick Kugler—the son of longtime NFL OL coach and current UTEP head coach Sean Kugler—might be the best of the bunch, though. He'll hit campus as the most physically gifted Wolverine at the position, and while he shouldn't be forced to play right away, he should be a multi-year starter down the road.
Honorable Mention: Running Back, Quarterback.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: No elite receiver
Yes, this class lacks a blue-chip wideout. Csont'e York and Jaron Dukes are both big targets who can go up and get the ball, while Da'Mario Jones could be a playmaker in the slot, but none are can't-miss prospects. This issue is mitigated somewhat by Michigan's strong recruiting at tight end—get a couple playmakers there and the pressure comes off the receivers in the passing game—but you'd still like to see a top-flight guy on the outside.
Honorable Mention: The only other issue with the offensive side of the class is the lack of a second quarterback for depth purposes, something the coaches decided wasn't necessary. Otherwise, every need was filled.
MOST LIKELY TO START FROM DAY ONE: Derrick Green
Not only is Green the top-ranked recruit in the class, but he comes in at a position of great uncertainty and, as of late, middling production. He's got the body of an NFL running back as a high school senior and is a perfect fit for Al Borges's ideal offense. It's unknown whether Fitz Toussaint will be ready to start the season after his ugly leg injury and his production was lacking in 2012 anyway; Thomas Rawls failed to impress in his stead. Green's toughest competition for the bulk of the carries may even come from fellow 2013 commit DeVeon Smith, arguably the best back in the state of Ohio. Either way, expect a freshman (or two) to make a big impact in the backfield next season.
Honorable Mention: DeVeon Smith, Jake Butt
SUREST THING: Patrick Kugler
Covered in part above, Kugler is as close as you'll get to a can't-miss offensive line recruit. At 6'5", 280 lbs. before setting foot on campus, he's got better size than any Michigan center of recent vintage. His father spent nine years coaching offensive line in the NFL, and Patrick's film makes it apparent that he's absorbed a lot of his father's teaching—from a technical standpoint, he's very advanced for his age. He participated in the Under Armour AA Game and held up very well against some of the best defensive linemen in the country.
Kugler's only competition at center right now is Jack Miller, who's been groomed to take over the position for a couple years but was too undersized to see the field as a redshirt freshman in 2012. Miller should step in and start in 2013—it's unrealistic to expect Kugler to have enough command of the offense to make the O-line calls after a few weeks on campus—but it's going to be hard to keep Kugler off the field in 2014 and beyond.
Honorable Mention: Derrick Green, Kyle Bosch
BOOM OR BUST: Logan Tuley-Tillman
Offensive lineman Logan Tuley-Tillman has the prototypical left tackle frame at 6'7", 307 pounds. He's also a relative newcomer to the game of football and spent his high school days overpowering opponents with sheer size and strength—as a result, he's got a long way to go from a technical standpoint. At last summer's Sound Mind Sound Body camp, Tuley-Tillman and David Dawson both got extensive work in with Michigan OL coach Darrell Funk—Funk used Dawson as an example for how to execute certain technical aspects of line play, then spent a good deal of time trying to get Tuley-Tillman to that level.
If Tuley-Tillman can put it all together, he's the future at left tackle and could even develop into an NFL prospect. With so much ground to cover, however, he could also get buried on the depth chart by more polished players. It should help that Tuley-Tillman is already on campus—with a redshirt year all but guaranteed, he'll have plenty of time to work on the fundamentals before worrying about seeing the field.
Honorable Mention: Shane Morris, Chris Fox
MGOSCOUTED STAMP OF APPROVAL: Jake Butt
Among the players I checked out last fall—on offense: Morris, Shallman, York, Dawson, Butt, and Hill—tight end Jake Butt really stood out with his performance on the field. Playing against cross-town rival Pickerington Central—featuring fellow Wolverine Taco Charlton—he hauled in nine catches for 93 yards and a TD while also making an impact at defensive end. Some of my impressions from that game:
Butt did a great job of snatching the ball away from his body and caught everything thrown his way. While he could be a little sharper out of his breaks, he runs crisp routes and positions his body well to give his quarterback a big target while warding off the defender. He was able to find space up the seam on multiple occasions but was also comfortable working on the perimeter, at one point catching back-to-back out routes when Central cheated to the inside in coverage. He's not going to juke past too many defenders after the catch, but he usually finds a way to fall forward for extra yardage.
At 6'6", 235 lbs., Butt has an ideal frame for the position, and his blocking really impressed me as well. He's another early enrollee, and I'd be surprised if he took a redshirt—he may not start from day one, but he's a better blocker than Devin Funchess and could give Michigan a scary one-two combo at tight end/H-back.
Honorable Mention: David Dawson, Shane Morris
THE SHANE MORRIS CATEGORY: Shane Morris
An overview of Michigan's 2013 class is incomplete without mentioning the team's quarterback of the future. Morris dropped from five-star status on Rivals and 247 after a senior season marred by mono and an uneven performance at the Under Armour AA Game, but he still has the highest ceiling of any of Michigan's commits.
The first thing that stands out about Morris is his arm strength—the ball explodes out of his hand with seemingly little effort. When he's on, it's a sight to behold. The problem—and ultimately why he dropped in the rankings—is that he's yet to show consistency; he still needs work reading defenses and relies too heavily on his arm strength to fit the ball into windows that sometimes aren't there.
Those expecting Morris to come in and take the starting job need to temper their expectations severely—the job is Devin Gardner's, and barring injury it'll stay that way. Morris could very well come in and earn the backup job over Russell Bellomy, however, and with a couple years of development he could be special.
Honorable Mention: Shane Morris
SLEEPER: Da'Mario Jones
Michigan snatched WR Da'Mario Jones, a Westland John Glenn product, away from Central Michigan, so he certainly flew under the radar for the bulk of the recruiting cycle. That may have been the product of playing in a league that doesn't get much exposure, however—Allen Trieu reported($) that UCLA, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, and Georgia all came to see him last week, though no offers came when he made it clear he was ticketed for Ann Arbor.
While the other two receivers in the class, Csont'e York and Jaron Dukes, are big guys who were on the receiving end of a lot of jump balls in high school, Jones is a guy who's shown his ability to work underneath and break big plays after the catch. With Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon back in 2013, he may not see the field right away, but down the road there's a clear role he can fill in the slot—a position that, granted, may be marginalized by the increased emphasis on tight ends—and nobody else on the roster who fits that mold after next season.
Honorable Mention: Wyatt Shallman, Khalid Hill
Today's recruiting roundup covers the MSU visitor list, a potential 2014 commit, Michigan's gentle giant of a commit, and more.
Denzel Ward: Michigan's next commit?
Last weekend, Michigan offered 6'9" IL OT Denzel Ward, who visited for the Illinois game and came away gushing about the visit and talking about receiving his "dream offer" from the Wolverines. Ward spent the game with Logan Tuley-Tillman, who gave him his best recruiting pitch, per Tim Sullivan ($):
"Me and a 2014 tackle, Denzel Ward, we both were there," Tuley-Tillman explained. "We hung out like the whole day, and we'll come back next weekend together. We had a lot of fun, and everybody already thinks we're brothers. We're going to start going along with it, too. We had fun, we both had a good time.
"I was just showing him what it was, and how it really is a family atmosphere up there, and how he would already have someone that would be there for him to help him with anything."
The pitch appears to be working—Ward will be back on campus this weekend after spending the week tweeting all of the positive things about Michigan. He might have something up his sleeve, too:
— Logan Tuley-Tillman™ (@LoganTillman) October 17, 2012
An early commitment is a definite possibility here.
Ward won't be alone as a big-time visitor for the State game; Tremendous has the whole list, and it is lengthy. Michigan's two biggest 2013 targets, VA RB Derrick Green and IL WR Laquon Treadwell, will both be present, as will a pair of backup options at wide receiver in MI WR DaMario Jones and OH WR Elijah Bell—neither hold offers but could pick one up as we near signing day if Treadwell doesn't commit. Don't expect Green or Treadwell to make a decision this weekend, but a good visit could go a long way towards locking up a commitment in both cases, especially when it comes to Green.
Visiting 2014 prospects with Michigan offers are MI WR/DB Damon Webb, FL OL Mason Cole, PA S Montae Nicholson, PA TE Brenon Thrift, and OH ATH Marshon Lattimore. The first 2015 offer, KY RB Damien Harris—who projects to be one of the top handful of prospects in that class—will also be on campus; he camped at Michigan over the summer.
There's also a major basketball recruit slated to visit in improbably-named 2015 five-star WI C Diamond Stone. He already holds offers from UCLA and Wisconsin, among others, and is likely to pick one up on his visit [EDIT: As multiple commenters reminded me of, Beilein doesn't offer prospects until the summer after their sophomore year, so Stone won't be picking one up on this trip]. Fellow 2015 five-star IL PG Hyron Edwards might make the trip up for the game, as well.
This is obviously Michigan's biggest recruiting weekend of the season, and we could see several offers go out to 2014 prospects; we'll see if a commitment is in the cards.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the Dawson replacement situation and more.]