to play football, not to play trumpet
David Guralnick/The Detroit News
Continuing my theme of getting super-meta this offseason, I decided to take a look back at the MGoBlog recruiting recaps from the class of 2008—hello, blogspot!—and see how they stand up now that those players have either moved on from the program or are fifth-year seniors. 2008, of course, was the franken-class of Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez recruits, a bizarre blend of pro-style plodders and size-challenged spread speedsters. While it boasted 17 four-stars among 24 commits, finishing a very respectable tenth in the Rivals team rankings, the class would prove to be an unmitigated disaster, ravaged by attrition and marked with disappointment.
So, let's go back to a time when Michigan fans still held out hope for landing Terrelle Pryor—when these were written, still
holding out for a better contract mulling his decision a month after signing day—to spearhead this newfangled spread offense. Today, I'll take a look at Brian's offensive evaluations, and the defense will be covered next week. For reference, links to the original posts: Quarterback and Running Back, Receivers, Tight Ends, Offensive Line. If you're anything like me, perusing those is a remarkably fun way to waste time.
Easy Joke Is Easy
With a major change in offensive scheme, Michigan was in desperate need of a dual-threat quarterback. Pryor was the ultimate prize, and Rodriguez was forced to hedge his bets with Justin Feagin, an under-the-radar athlete from Florida whose best offers were to play wide receiver at LSU or defensive back at Miami (YTM).
Projection: Someone's going to play Tebow to Threet's Chris Leak this fall; unless Carlos Brown locks that down, it'll be Feagin. I have no idea what to expect, but think his future is probably somewhere other than quarterback.
Namely, the inside of a courtroom. ZING! (Really, when it comes to the 2008 quarterback situation, dark humor is the only option lest you want to break down in tears.)
Ironically, it was his off-field actions that made Feagin one of the recruits Brian was "baselessly excited about in defiance of recruiting rankings and reason," due to late-night workouts and multiple quotes expressing no concern about potentially having to compete with Pryor for the starting job. It was noted that Feagin required "a ton of developing to be a legitimate quarterback," which was readily apparent during his brief appearances as a freshman. Then came the cocaine stuff and subsequent boot, so we'll never know whether Feagin could've turned into a passable receiver.
I started following recruiting seriously when a friend showed me Noel Devine's highlight tape during my senior year of high school. Since I had little understanding at the time about how recruiting actually worked, I was bitterly disappointed when Devine seemingly had zero interest in Michigan (and vice versa), eventually ending up at West Virginia. I swore never to get my hopes up about highlight tape heroes again.
So the next year, when another atom-sized running back took the YouTubes by storm, I had little hope that this Texan doing heel-clicks on the backs of linebackers would even consider donning the Maize and Blue. Even so, I'd watch his tape on repeat, sharing it with friends whenever the opportunity arose; seeing their eyes bug while asking what in the hell they just watched never got old. This is what they saw [NSFW audio warning]:
Then, of course, the impossible occurred: Sam McGuffie signed with Michigan, though not before nearly shattering our dreams during a signing day flirtation with Cal. Brian, however, was nonplussed, proferring this muted reaction to McGuffie's inclusion in the class:
General Excitement Level: AAAAIIEEEE! Man... this offense is McGuffie's jam, man, and the Church Of Barwis will excommunicate anyone who doubts his his's ability to get up to 200-some pounds without compromising his lightning quicks. Steve Slaton says what.
Projection: He's the man, man. Will battle Brown and Grady for carries at first; probably a Noel Devine role his first year.
Oh. Unfortunately, you all know how this one went. McGuffie showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman in 2008, but also the durability of a paper bag. After finishing the season as the team's second-leading rusher, he decided to transfer closer to home, ending up at Rice, where he'll be a redshirt senior in 2012. Not exactly what we'd all envisioned when the guy who frontflipped over J.B. Shugarts at the Army Game hit campus.
McGuffie wasn't the only back in the class, however, as he was joined by two other intriguing prospects. Rich Rodriguez earned the "snake-oil salesman" moniker for snatching Roy Roundtree from Purdue (more on him later), but his other signing day surprise was pulling Trotwood-Madison RB Michael Shaw away from Penn State. You'll never guess what Brian noticed on his film [emphasis mine]:
I am not a scout, but in the Shaw video at Scouting Ohio I saw a guy with a knack for catching the flare, good speed, and exactly one move: an upfield cut followed by a bounce-out that got him outside high school defenders with regularity.
And thus we find the origins of bouncebouncebouncebounce.
The final back in the class was a relative unknown from the football hotbed of Avon, Connecticut. Mike Cox's name required a disclaimer in the notes section of his profile—"Degree of difficulty applies on all jokes about his name. (IE: please no "Mike Cox is huge" jokes.)"—while his school's sporting pedigree invited a healthy dose of skepticism:
There's almost zero reliable data on Cox. His high school conference is well known for hockey -- read full of rich white guys named "Higginbotham" (no, literally) -- and is awful at football.
Until reading the profile, I had completely forgotten that Michigan took Cox over four-star Detroit Country Day product and eventual Notre Dame commit Jonas Gray. In retrospect, I think it's safe to say that was a mistake, even though Gray wasn't a major contributor until his senior season. At least we got four years of stale dick jokes, though.
NEVER FORGET, Part Deux
Rodriguez's hire brought to Michigan the era of the waterbug slot guy, which promised to be great fun for a fanbase used to watching tiny track-star guys tear it up only for opponents. The recruit expected to come in and make a big splash early was four-star Terrence Robinson out of Klein, Texas, and all it took was one physics-defying play to see why:
Commits pulling Hakeem Olajuwon post moves at warp speed during a football game understandably cause a fair amount of excitement. Brian busted out the obligatory Breaston comparison and projected him to be in the mix at both returner and slot receiver. Robinson finished his Michigan career with one catch, two kickoff returns, and one punt return for a grand total of 94 all-purpose yards.
Michigan's other slot ninja was Pahokee's Martavious Odoms, whose profile contains endless testimonials about his rabbit-chasing speed. Brian's comparison is Devin Hester and also a version of Steve Breaston that actually catches the bombs:
General Excitement Level: Moderate++. He's never going to be Braylon Edwards but if he's as fast as his reputation he could be a dynamite returner and even a deep threat: remember Steve Breaston's ill-fated career as the target of bombs? Well, he was open by yards time and again because opposing players got smoked by his moves and always dropped the ball. Odoms looks like he's pretty good at hauling in deep balls.
Projection: Will press for time as a returner immediately and is 50-50 to be the designated bubble screen guy, with Terrance Robinson the other option. Starts off with an advantage on Robinson because he's spent the last four years as a receiver.
Evaluation severely lacking in mountain goat blocking praise.
Despite the excitement over the tiny slot guys, the biggest expectations were reserved for consensus top-100 receiver Darryl Stonum, who chose Michigan over Florida, Alabama, USC, and Florida State. Breathless hype part one:
Natural change of direction? Fluid hips? Comes down with jump balls? A mix of Braylon Edwards and Mario Manningham... which, like, dude.
And part two:
General Excitement Level: Maximal. The second most likely kid in the class to have a long, productive career at Michigan, IMO, behind Dann O'Neill.
Stonum's production disappointed, even after it was discovered that he'd been playing half-blind and needed contacts, and his career came to an untimely end after a string of alcohol- and driving-related arrests.
The last of the four receiver recruits was Roy Roundtree, another Trotwood-Madison star whose projection was the closest to the eventual reality:
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Never going to be a gamebreaker, but a likely contributor. Has to add a lot of weight to be an effective player.
Projection: Redshirts, plays sparingly his second year, and is 50-50 to emerge into Michigan's #2 WR.
Roundtree redshirted, then led the team in catches in each of the next two seasons, though this was more the product of the offense—Roundtree was the main beneficiary of QB Oh Noes—than him being a true #1 receiver, though he may be forced into that role this season.
The 2008 class also featured two four-star tight end recruits, though both came with significant question marks. For Brandon Moore, the third of the Trotwood trio, the question was whether he was the future star who earned top-100 rankings and big-time offers after a standout junior season or the potential bust whose stock slipped significantly during a disappointing senior year. Scout actually started out with Moore as their #98 overall prospect before dropping him all the way to three stars and the #43(!) tight end. The verdict:
General Excitement Level: High, with caveats. Moore is a boom-or-bust guy with much potential but a long way to go.
Projection: Great success, great failure, or somewhere in between. Specific cat is specific.
Barring an out-of-nowhere breakout season in 2012, bust it is.
Meanwhile, Michigan took a head-to-head battle with Ohio State for Toledo Whitmer's Kevin Koger, but it was unclear whether he'd stick at tight end or eventually make a move to defensive end:
It must be said: Koger is widely regarded a prospect of equal or greater merit at defensive end, and with Nick Perry's escape to Southern Cal Michigan finds themselves with one defensive end recruit across two classes. Though it's possible one of the linebackers -- most likely Marcus Witherspoon -- could end up with his hand down, Michigan is critically short there.
A down-the-line move was projected, but that was largely based on the assumption that Moore would pan out. Instead, it was Koger who'd get the lion's share of the snaps at tight end for the next four years.
Brian's O-line Knowledge Has Come A Long Way
One of the staples of the recruiting recaps is the "YMRMFSPA" section, in which Brian compares the recruit's style of play to a notable former player (usually a Wolverine, but not always, as evidenced by the Hester comparison for Odoms). With Michigan pulling in six offensive linemen in 2008, coming up with the proper approximation got a little difficult:
Dann O'Neill: YMRMFSPA Jake Long. No pressure.
Kurt Wermers: YMRMFSPA Matt Lentz?
Elliott Mealer: YMRMFSPA Matt Stenavich(?)
Rocko Khoury: YMRMFSPA Uh, that other un-touted guard person.
Ricky Barnum: YMRMFSPA Rod Payne?
Patrick Omameh: YMRMFSPA ????
Dave Petruziello and Leo Henige feel very neglected, man.
As you can see above, before Taylor Lewan was the Next Jake Long, that distinction went to Dann O'Neill, a top 100 recruit from Grand Haven. Not only was O'Neill quite a talent, his services were desperately needed along a thin offensive line:
Dann O'Neill might be Michigan's most critical recruit. The only tackles in the last two recruiting classes are incumbent RT Steve Schilling, three-star Perry Dorrestein, and two-star sleeper (as in "only had offers from MAC schools" sleeper) Mark Huyge. Finding two starting tackles from that group once the Zirbel-Ortmann class graduates in two years was looking very risky.
Brian projected O'Neill to start "at some point, hopefully later (say, as a redshirt sophomore) rather than sooner (say, this fall)." Instead, he never played a down as a Wolverine, transferring to Western Michigan after his freshman year. He would eventually earn a start at Michigan Stadium in 2011, but as a member of the Broncos.
The other future washout on the line was Indiana guard Kurt Wermers, whose off-field hobbies were not exactly typical of a football player [emphasis Brian's]:
Wermers was also named to the stupidly named "Offense-Defense Bowl" in Miami. The OD bowl appears to be a sort of second-tier all star game. Big whoop, except for the press release announcing the selection:
"Wermers, a veritable renaissance man whose hobbies include weightlifting, playing guitar, singing, and reading, also enjoys spending time on the virtual field of battle in the wildly popular massively multiplayer role-playing game World of Warcraft when not battling in the trenches on the football field."
This dovetails with information from May about Wermer's participation in... an a capella group:
"I love it," Wermers said of singing. "It gives me a chance to get away from big jocky athletic guys and hang out with a different group of people."
I don't think we'll be having any discipline issues with young Mr. Wermers. It's just a feeling.
Wermers left the team before the 2009 season, saying he decided to transfer because Rodriguez was "bringing in a lot of different kids that were not my kind of crowd," and running the team like a business (Wermers signed when Carr was the coach, but obviously never played under him). It was later revealed that Wermers was academically ineligible when he announced his transfer, probably because he was playing WoW instead of going to class. Discipline issues: check.
The player who's actually panned out was the lowest-ranked among the six, Patrick Omameh, a two-star DE to Rivals and the #87 OT to Scout. There wasn't much comment on Omameh beyond addressing his sleeper status; speculation about his future position turned out to go 0-for-2:
There are conflicting reports as to whether Omameh was recruited as a center (where his intelligence would help with the line calls) or tackle; that will get sorted out somewhere down the line.
As you know, Omameh is entering his third year as the full-time starter at... right guard.
Finally, Ricky Barnum peered into the future and got a serious head start on his future team's biggest rivalry:
Various people are probably irritated with Ricky Barnum: Urban Meyer, for one. Also OH OL Zebrie Sanders, who tried to commit to Florida but was told to talk to the hand because Barnum and another player had filled Florida's OL quotient for the year. Sanders, also rejected by Georgia for the same reason, ended up at Florida State and Urban ended up short one highly recruited interior lineman. Not that anyone will ever shed a tear for Urban Meyer.
Well done, Ricky.
Former Michigan offensive lineman Kurt Wermers was academically ineligible when he announced his transfer to Ball State last week, sources told ESPN.com.
… But according to sources with knowledge of the situation, Wermers was already out.
His academic struggles would have prevented him from suiting up with the Wolverines. Wermers wasn't even enrolled in summer school at the time of his departure.
Wermers' comments now appear even more self-serving. She didn't break up with me, I broke up with her. And she was a whore anyway. Meet my new girlfriend, who looks like a horse. I mean, really: "I thought I'd get out when I could." Super.
(No offense, Ball State fans, it's just that you're in the MAC and all that. You're a very pretty horse.)
Ugh APR. My concern about Michigan's APR tickling the edges of the 925 cutoff is now increased: you get two points per player per semester, one for keeping them at school and another for keeping them eligible. Michigan got 1/2 for Threet in his final semester; they get 0/2 for Wermers, which makes his departure the equivalent of two guys.
Um, why would Wermers be in summer school? Weird little addendum from Rittenberg there at the end. Wermers left the team months ago and Rodriguez officially announced it in May. Obviously he wasn't enrolled in summer school.
Who is Deep Throat here? I'm sure Wermers' academic status is common knowledge in a certain circle of folks close to the program, any one of whom could be a source credible enough for Rittenberg to go with. I hope none of the coaches were peeved enough to be one of them.
So ESPN spent the first five or ten minutes of College Football Live yesterday talking about how screwed Michigan was because "another player(!!!)" was leaving Michigan, never mind that Wermers' departure was officially announced two months ago. But you get a couple of quotes from a kid transferring into the MAC and the universe is ending.
I don't think it matters much in the grand scheme of things because only one thing—winning—matters much in the grand scheme of things. That does not mean it's not annoying as hell. The part that's still lodged in the ol' craw at the moment is that "not my crowd" statement. What crowd? By the time Wermers announced he'd transfer, the only Rodriguez recruits that had made it to campus were the guys he filled out Carr's last class with and the early-enrollers.
Those players are as follows.
2008: Ricky Barnum, Justin Feagin, Martavious Odoms, Patrick Omameh, Terrence Robinson, Mike Shaw, Roy Roundtree, and Taylor Hill. (I'm not including Brandon Smith and JT Floyd, who were technically uncommitted when the switch happened but were more Carr recruits than Rodriguez recruits.)
2009: Vlad Emilien, Tate Forcier, Anthony LaLota, Will Campbell, Vincent Smith, Brandin Hawthorne, Mike Jones.
Who constitutes the infamous crowd here? We're looking for players that don't fit the profile of a typical Michigan recruit. So not these folks: Hill transferred after about two seconds, Omameh is an engineer, Shaw was a Penn State commit who Carr had offered, Roundtree was a Purdue commit,—both were teammates of Carr commit Brandon Moore—Campbell was basically a Carr recruit, Emilien is an honors student, and so are LaLota and Jones. Both of LaLota and Jones were picking between ND and Michigan.* And Forcier is the younger brother of a Carr recruit.
I really doubt there was any culture shock from the arrival of guys from Ohio and guys who strongly considered Notre Dame. That's been the pattern of the program for years.
The remainder: the Pahokee guys, Feagin, Barnum. And I guess Terrence Robinson. It's hard to interpret Wermers' "crowd" in a way that doesn't mean poor black kids from Florida, and I guess Terrence Robinson.
Which is all the long way of saying that 19 year olds should offer pat, positive answers and shut up, lest they say something that gives the wrong impression.
*(FWIW, Jones' decision was easy since ND did not offer.)
The doorbell rang and now I'm sitting outside here with no one to talk to except a burning bag of what I'm sure is poop. How are you doing, poop? Well? That's nice to hear. Would you like to spend the next four years lifting until you explode? Oh. Ok then.
Fun day to be out of pocket, as I missed another offensive lineman burning his bridges on his way out the door:
"I really didn't get along with the new coaches," Wermers said. "They were bringing in a lot of different kids that were not my kind of crowd. Coach Carr's staff was a whole different ballgame. It was like a family. But when Rodriguez came in it was a whole different feeling. It was more of a business.
"I figured I'd get out while I could."
I especially like the last sentence, which conjures up images of a daring midnight escape from Barwis wolves. Elliot Mealer stumbles fatally, falling a step behind. From the shadows, a flash. Mealer finds himself pinned to the ground, left to think about what awaits him…
…"Save yourself," Mealer cries weakly. "Get out while you can." In the dusky background, there is the shimmer of metal and a faint cackling. The last thing Wermers sees before tearing into the night is Mealer being hooked to a squat rack; both men's eyes fill with tears.
Passing through the thick foliage, Wermers vows revenge. I'm going to find someone from the Northwest Indiana Times, he thinks. And then we'll see what the score is.
But seriously folks: there were hints of this on the premium message boards when Wermers' departure was announced. One of Wermers' uncles, who had provided updates on his recruitment and was therefore established, posted a long thing about how Wermers felt the program was too hard and wouldn't let him do what he wanted to academically and that this was very bad. That went over about as well as you might expect.
The overall theme from "it's more of a business" and the uncle-based complaints: the program asked too much from Wermers, especially if he wasn't going to be on the two-deep, and he'd rather boot to a MAC team where he can see the field and enjoy Ball State's fine programs in broadcast journalism or whatever.
And, really, okay. If the program's too high a bar for some guys who signed up for a different coaching staff, that's fine. The academic complain is hard to reconcile with Patrick Omameh, engineer and future starting tackle. The "not my kind of crowd" reference is pure red meat for rivals, but can we like, you know, wait for any of these supposedly bad kids to rack up a single Fulmer Cup point before we run screaming from them? Yes, their dreadlocks are very scary. No, that doesn't mean they're evil. And I have heard Ohio State recruits cite "it's more of a business" as a reason they picked OSU.
I understand some bitterness is natural when you end up in a program you didn't really sign up for and don't like the new guys. But you'll have to do better than some references to Those People and veiled complaints that things are too hard to impress at this point. I will start getting concerned if players Rodriguez recruited start leaving the program or Michigan makes anything more than the tiniest one-point dent in the Fulmer Cup.
As Kurt Wermers' uncle posted on premium message boards a few days ago, the redshirt freshman guard Wermers isn't returning. (I was trying to get a second source before loosing it into the wild; in retrospect that was probably excessive caution borne of the whole he-is-he-isn't-he-is McGuffie thing. I knew the poster was Wermers' uncle from his posts during Kurt's recruiting, and he posted that the decision had already been made.)
Wermers was a middling recruit who hadn't generated any practice buzz yet. He wasn't going to be in the two-deep this year, so the impact on 2009 should be nil. Down the road it'll depend on how many others end up leaving early; some level of attrition is fine but we saw the fruits of widespread losses last year.
I wonder who this is directed at: "Stay tuned. There's a couple guys I'm gonna sit with here. Just guys that maybe if they're not doing all their responsibilities and doing what they need to do to be part of our football program may not be back. I hope that's not too many."
Um… a couple? Obviously Grady is hanging by a frayed thread and will have to plead for his place, but I'm hoping "a couple" is just PR.