this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Podcast? Yes. We couldn't record it yesterday because of Easter obligations. We will tape it this evening. It should go up tomorrow.
Missed it? It's on the tubes.
Ours got more attention than normal because it was so early.
The Michigan offense in one picture [Patrick Barron]
Rome was not rebuilt from atomized dust in a day. It was not good, obviously. People will tell you that the defense is supposed to be in front of the offense at this juncture… but not that far in front. When they say that they mean something like "it was a little ugly and they only ran for like three yards a carry." They mean that the final score was 17-10 or thereabouts.
They do not mean that the only offense of the day will be Amara Darboh catching fades against Poor Damn Dennis Norfleet, a 5'7" guy who hadn't played defense in college until being tested there this spring. The overall feel was reminiscent of the legendarily terrible 2008 spring game, which I didn't even go to because it was held at a high school to facilitate Michigan Stadium's renovations and still remember as the first "oh shiiiii" moment in the Rodriguez era.
To some extent this was all expected. Michigan fans have been debating between a true freshman, a guy who had 3.2 YPA last year, and a redshirt freshman who did not play. They were going up against a defense that has been pretty good the last couple years (until collapsing in exhaustion at the end of games). It was never going to be pretty.
But did it have to be that ugly? Bler!
Quarterbacks: come on down Joliet Jake. Morris was anointed the #1 QB coming out of spring by none other than Harbaugh himself, and that seemed about right after the spring game. That it did so after Morris went 11 of 24 for 5.6 YPA would have me purchasing bags of dehydrated food, water purifiers, and shotguns if not for the 99% official transfer of Iowa starter Jake Rudock to Michigan. Rudock may not be a conquering hero… but he will probably feel like one.
Malzone, the great (if vague) hope going into spring, did not look ready to challenge for the throne. I'm not on board with the arm strength complaints just yet, as those seemed to be generated by a wide receiver screen Lewis tried to jump but did not, giving up a first down on 2nd and 19 (in this game the equivalent of 2nd and Canada).
I may come around in the near future. The constant short stuff was disappointing: even his attempt at a game-saving two minute drill featured five yard hitch after five yard hitch. He did have one nice dart downfield that Chase Winovich dropped…
a linebacker linebacks even when he tight ends [Bryan Fuller]
…but that stands out as just about the only attempt Malzone made to get the ball down the field. There were a lot of doomed WR screens in there. And that two minute drill… oy. They got about 20 yards before time ran out. This is a tradition I would like to leave in the past.
One thing I'll say in Morris's favor. He's got that fade down pat. One got intercepted because Darboh didn't wall off and extend away from a defensive back and a couple more got dropped; the rest save one were completions, and I think Morris ended up leaving that one short because he got hit. The rest were on the money, in that space outside the numbers and inside the sideline where the receiver has space to play with and can detach from the DB.
That's a good location to have down, by the way. It's tough to throw and thus tough to get to for a lot of defenses. Deep outs, smash routes, corners, and those fades all end up in that general area. It's the location on the field that is the reason NFL teams go cuckoo for cocoa puffs when they find a Mallett type. Morris can buy himself a lot of leeway if that throw is as consistently accurate as it felt like on Saturday.
a lot of this [Eric Upchurch]
Run game: I don't know. Ty Isaac was all but out (he's credited for one carry I don't remember), so the Malzone team's tailback was Wyatt Shallman (12 carries, 22 yards) with spot duty from Ross Taylor-Douglas*. Shallman is more of an H-back in college and it showed.
Meanwhile, both Ace and I assumed that Derrick Green had been mostly held out with an injury of his own only to find out that he and De'Veon Smith apparently split carries down the middle. It's just that Green's 7 went for 8 yards and Smith's 7 went for 50.
Smith had a sequence early in the second half where he ran tough and his offense started getting some actual time on the field. That ended with a fumbled exchange, because of course it did. Smith never fumbled in high school and hasn't done so in college yet so that issue is probably a freshman-QB thing more than anything Smith did wrong.
If Michigan knew Isaac was going to be limited they should have swapped Green over to the Blue team to get a better feel for the competition between those guys. Either way it was a good day for Drake Johnson.
*[who has now completed his tour of all the positions you can play on a football field and can turn in his punch card for a free bag of Combos.]
The one good run. Cole gets a good push on Henry, Kugler seals away, RJS and AJ Williams battle to a stalemate, Cole gets to the second level, and Smith makes a nice out-in cut to put the other linebacker on the wrong side of the hole:
gif via Ace
If Michigan develops holes on the regular I think Smith has an advantage because his ability to grind out another two or three yards will be valuable in the Harbaughffense.
L to R: back, under threat, trying out [Bryan Fuller]
OL depth chart hints. Glasgow was back and playing center as if he had not violated his probation; the program said he'd gotten through whatever punishment the program had deployed for him. If he keeps his nose clean that should clear him to resume playing center this fall.
Meanwhile Michigan tried out Logan Tuley-Tillman as the left tackle on the blue team, bumping Ben Braden inside to guard. LTT picked up three legit holding calls; even so that implies that he's getting a serious look and Braden may move or lose his job. Erik Magnuson playing right tackle for the Maize team is another indication that the tackle jobs are not secure.
A scholarship guy who might be looking at some writing on the wall is Dan Samuelson, who was healthy enough to make the roster but IIRC did not play much, if at all. With a couple walk-ons seemingly ahead of them they might be down for the count. Bars (who I omitted from the rosters post by accident did play, at guard:
He is 62 next to Kugler [Fuller]
If you made me guess right now I'd say that Erik Magnuson is Michigan's starting right tackle this fall and that guard slot opened up by the various line shifts is the most heated competition out there. But that's firmly in wild guess territory.
Wide receivers: do we have a problem? There were a number of ugly drops, none more so than Jaron Dukes batting a ball in his facemask directly skyward for an interception. Morris zinged it with unnecessary force, yes. That's still a worst case scenario for a receiver. Dukes had another sorta drop later and doesn't seem like he'll be pushing past the established guys this year.
Elsewhere: Darboh had a drop and a fade wrested away from him but recovered late to be the Blue team offense. Going up against Dennis Norfleet significantly compromises that accomplishment, especially since most of the plays were "throw it over that guy's head," but Darboh did display strong hands and an ability to track the ball in flight in a difficult situation. Some people can do that (Junior Hemingway), and some cannot (Darryl Stonum). Darboh is in the former category. Can he get separation from the likes of Jourdan Lewis? I don't know—one downside of this format.
Receivers other than Dukes and Darboh were playing with Malzone and barely got targeted on anything notable. This year's spring hype machine, Brian Cole, was not a factor until deep into the second half; Freddy Canteen made a couple of nice catches on balls outside the frame of his body. There was not a whole lot else to talk about.
There was a notable lack of separation for receivers going up against actual defensive backs. That could be bad; it could be an indicator that the secondary is going to be as lights out as we all hope. As per usual, we'll find out abruptly in fall.
Poor Damn Norfleet. In the aftermath Harbaugh talked Norfleet up as a guy who could contribute in all three phases. Nope. The act of moving a guy his size to cornerback is waving a white flag on his career.
I mean… maybe not. Harbaugh is weird and one of the specific ways in which he is weird is his predilection for flipping guys from one side of the ball to the other. This could be a Harbaugh whim that doesn't mean much about playing time down the line. But it probably means that Norfleet is kaput. We'll always have that
punt return touchdown to seal the Maryland game inane irrelevant block in the back by someone far away from you.
BEARD. This is not Elliott, right? This is some other spectacular beard just hanging out on the sideline?
This is one Brady Hoke tradition I'm glad we're keeping.
Show me the Peppers! [Fuller]
Ace: Aside from the quarterbacks, which position group and specific player will you be keeping the closest eye on during the Spring Game?
Seth: Safety, Peppers.
I have a pretty good idea of what the corners can do—Countess can zone like a boss but isn't sized or speedy enough for lockdown press man—and I can't really tell what happens on the OL or DL without video. Quarterback is missing one or two contenders. Where the slot side safety lines up will tell us how aggressive they think they can get, especially when it's Peppers in that spot.
|My recurring nightmare|
Also I'm anxious to see who among Dymonte, Clark, and Hill can play when Peppers comes down to nickel. Hill has a bad rap in my brain from getting so turned around against Lippett on the TD pass that debarked the end of the game and the beginning of Dantonio's Revenge for Imagined Slights Hour. I hate it when a bad play is what sticks out to me about a guy and I really want to start banking some nice thoughts. Same for Dymonte and Clark. One of those three or Stribling is going to be at least half a starter in the nickel, and if it's Stribling we are back to a nickel who's not a run defender (ie Countess). The floor on this defense is pretty okay; I want to see how high the cathedral can go.
Alex Cook: I feel like this is a somewhat obvious answer, but I'll be focused on our secondary, which projects to be the best unit on the team by a fair amount. The offensive line is compelling for an entirely different reason; I'd like to see some breakout performances on the D-Line; QB is a clear concern, of course; but I'm very excited about the secondary.
Jabrill Peppers is the headliner there and, after a freshman year ruined by injury, Michigan fans surely are going to be thrilled to see him out there. He's probably the best player on the team and -- depending on if he plays on offense / special teams units -- he could be the most important non-quarterback on the team. Beyond Peppers, there's Jourdan Lewis, who's very good in my opinion, locking down one of the corner spots; I'm most optimistic about he and Peppers of anyone on the squad this year. There's Jarrod Wilson, who's unremarkable in the best way possible; there's Blake Countess, who didn't play well after recovering from ACL surgery (but could be in for a rebound season); there's Channing Stribling, who stands out immediately because of his size; Wayne Lyons won't be there, but he could start. There's a lot of depth there and if you're looking for a group to get excited about, watch the secondary.
[After the jump: aggresssssssssssiveeeeeeeeeee]
Not fair comparing Peppers to humans. [Upchurch]
Ace: Since there's always at least one: Who do you think becomes this year's Spring Breakout Guy?
Alex Cook (hoops beat): Can I answer with Jabrill Peppers? Last year was a complete and unmitigated disaster -- even our best recruit (of the past decade and perhaps longer) went down with an injury and missed pretty much the whole season. It's going to be easy for the national media to forget about him: Peppers didn't make any noise last year -- because of injury -- and Michigan isn't expected to do a whole lot (though we do have Harbaugh, which will be a well-tracked national storyline).
|I like big butts and we cannot lie, when we’re building an offensive line. When a kid walks in with fleet-foot spin, and lower-body weight you get sprung! [Upchurch]|
I'm a True Believer when it comes to Jabrill Peppers, especially after the move to safety, where he can be in the box and play a coverage guy in equal turn. The guy has "future top ten pick" written all over him and I'm guessing we'll hear all about that as spring progresses.
Seth: Yeah it'll be Peppers though we've been stoking that flame so long it can't be that much of a surprise when it goes up. So in the spirit of the annual "hey look what we found" of Spring let's go for a surprise candidate.
Logan Tuley-Tillman is what NFL left tackles are supposed to look like at 20 years old. Here's a guy who dropped 20 lbs from high school, then built back 10. He also had a hand injury last year to explain why he couldn't compete with a true freshman.
Brian on Monday mentioned a practice observer said the light went on. When that happens to a guy whose build matches the Michael Oher description from Blind Side, that means a Jake Long is born.
For LTT to crack the starting lineup now would mean he beat out (probably) Magnuson and Braden, two guys with 23 starts between them. Word from practice so far seems to be emphasizing that Cole and Miller are the only two OL from last year's unit who've locked down a job, then peg Cole as maybe moving to guard or RT. Reading between the lines it seems somebody’s job’s under fire from one of underclassmen. It could as well be Dawson—perhaps he can pull?—pushing from behind, since I’ve also read nice things about him coming out of practice, but the Cole thing suggests it’s a tackle who’s upsetting the standard order, and if that tackle was Magnuson we’d be hearing they plan to find a spot for Mags. Fox is still hurt, so that leaves JBB or LTT, and people are talking about the latter.
[Jump for more things Harbaugh makes better]
I'm going to skip the user-generated content column, since there wasn't very much of it this week, and talk about the position swaps. The top two diaries at right are new this week.
Something completely different. Brady Hoke attended the Detroit alumni association's annual event yesterday and went on WTKA this morning, leaking out some position changes and player updates, as well as explaining the thinking behind the defensive position coach shakeup. News via nickbob:
Jake Ryan moving to MIKE
Chris Bryant to take medical
Magnuson will miss "most" of spring, will do some individual stuff, surgery went well
Tuley-Tillman had hand surgery
Drake Johnson and Darboh are limited and working their way back
Some other odds and ends related to the D coaching moves
Also Taco Charlton will be moving from WDE to SDE. Let's discuss.
|More Ryan is a good thing. [Fuller]|
Moving Ryan. This, like the coaching changes, is a response to college football going mostly spread. Hoke said that Ohio State effectively neutralized Ryan against the run by spreading out, thus moving him out of the box. Here's your matchups for strongside linebackers on Michigan's 2014 schedule:
- Vs tight end/manball: MSU, Minnesota, PSU*
- Vs slot receiver, spread-to-run: App State, Utah, Ohio State
- Vs slot receiver, spread-to-pass: ND, Miami(NTM), Maryland, Indiana, NW'ern
The * for PSU is because Franklin's offense is a bit of a hybrid; when adapted to Penn State's current roster I'm guessing it ends up a zone-blocked, tight-end-heavy passing offense that moves at warp speed. Northwestern will be a lot more passy with Trevor Siemian instead of Colter. Only two games will heavily feature a SAM taking on tight end blocks.
Upside: anyone who's watched Te'o or Bullough against us in recent years can attest how much of a difference a great middle linebacker can make. The downgrade from Demens to last year's linebackers in deep zone coverage was probably the defense's biggest liability, and Ryan to date has been a plus zone defender.
Downsides: SAM just went from Michigan's strongest position on defense to a huge question mark, since Cam Gordon graduated and Beyer was moved to SDE, leaving just unheralded Spur (i.e. safety)-like object Allen Gant and neophytes.
The obvious thing would be for Beyer to switch back, though Hoke told Sam Webb that isn't happening. Rather James Ross may swap to SAM, and Morgan/Bolden/Gedeon will compete/rotate at WILL and backup MIKE. Weight Watch 2014 just became how big will James Ross be watch. If Ross seizes the position this spring I think things will work out fine, though this has to be a comedown from our hype going into last year. McCray or one of the freshmen could factor in.
The other downside is the most consistent generator of pass rush is no longer on the pass rush.
[Jump: moving Taco, OL damage, coach position switches]
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.
|Peoria, IL – 6'7", 285|
4*, #300 overall
4*, NR overall
4*, #104 overall
4*, #129 overall
Bama, OSU, ND, USC, FSU, Wisc
|YMRMFSPA||Schrodinger's Jake Long|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Ace on the other side of sanity. Ace interviews LTT, twice. We explore other things LTT burned on the internet.|
Early enrollee. UA game.
UA one on ones. Ace's SMSB stuff:
It's impossible to watch Logan Tuley-Tillman wander around a football field and not hearken back to the The Blind Side, specifically the bit wherein Michael Lewis describes the freak of nature that is the perfect left tackle.
He was wide in the ass and massive in the thighs … he had long arms … he had giant hands, so that when he grabbed ahold of you it meant something. But size alone couldn't cope with the threat to the quarterback's blind side, because that threat was also fast. The ideal left tackle also had great feet. Incredibly nimble and quick feet.
Tuley-Tillman has all of these things, which is why a who's who of college football programs offered him as soon as they found out a man of his particular dimensions existed. He had offers from Michigan, Ohio State, USC, Alabama, and Notre Dame by last January, because frames like his don't come around too often.
- ESPN's Michael White: "Long arms and bottom-heavy frame make him an absolute natural at either tackle spot. Showcased exceptional technique and patience in his pass set."
- 24/7's Clint Brewster: "LTT has outstanding footwork for a guy his size and does a nice job of keeping defenders in front of him. Tuley-Tillman’s upside is unlimited and he will be even quicker once he gets into better shape and sheds some extra pounds off."
- 24/7's Jason Sapp: "Long body and athletic legs ... Good first kick and reposts his arm well on counter action ... Will work on technique as his body matures and develops, but a high ceiling to be a force on the line ... Wide base."
- 24/7's Steve Wiltfong: "…has long arms and all the stereotypical things you are looking for in an offensive lineman. If he can keep his weight down, he has a chance to be special.”
- ESPN's scouting report praises Tuley-Tillmans "great size and athleticism," "long, broad frame," "very good lower body flexibility, "long arms and nimble feet."
- Scout's profile lists "arm length" and "size" as assets and mentions his "good frame with long arms."
Or you could just look at a picture. While the left one is doing something a bit goofy with perspective, without pads it's clear the guy's thighs are wider than his torso. The right is straight on, and also features a wide, wide human:
This is what a left tackle from central casting looks like.
In addition to being a large and fortituously-shaped human, Tuley-Tillman wasn't a slouch on high school fields in Illinois. ESPN's eval has all the stuff about his frame above and is really, really positive on the rest of it:
Tuley-Tillman is a dominant run blocker. He uses his great initial quickness to immediately establish an advantage when drive blocking. His agility and balance allow him to play on his feet in space. He comes off the ball low and hard … displays the foot quickness, agility and balance needed to adjust his feet to quick change of direction movement. … a tough customer who displays a nasty, no quit, finishing attitude.
They remained the highest on Tuley-Tillman throughout his recruitment, again likely because of their fire-and-forget ranking style. Other sites had LTT in the top 50 to start and steadily dropped him for reasons we'll get to in just a moment.
Other evaluators also praised Tuley-Tillman's nastiness, including Rivals's anonymous dude who was obviously an offensive lineman just based on his enthusiasm for hurting people…
Tillman is consistently giving great effort to finish his blocks with cruelty, which is a joy to watch. He stands 6-7 tall and uses his 280-plus pounds to punish defenders. He shows good quickness off the ball and gets into his block quickly on running plays. His foot drive is good and his hand placement is pretty good as well.
…and that odd Kyle Turley article from 24/7:
Tuley-Tillman has a big nasty streak, great size and always finishes. Coaches want to see a guy make his block, drive, and finish, and Tuley-Tillman does this. He also does a good job of maintaining his hands on guys and keeping them in front of him.
In these highlights, he has great leverage and point of contact. Not that he cannot improve in this area, as every lineman can and should, but he excels at it.
In pass blocking, I really like his kick. He uses this great kick perfectly to allow him to get into position to take on any defender.
LTT "has all of the building blocks and a great opportunity to be something special," says Turley after citing some technical issues that he downplays.
Of course there is the catch. Tuley-Tillman gradually slipped on recruiting rankings as the year went on because his technique issues became more apparent and his weight underwent an alarming swing:
"I'm looking to get add bulk up top, and I'm expecting to make big changes to my body at Michigan," he continued. "I weighed 340 pounds last summer, but I'm down to about 302 pounds right now. I can feel the difference in my quickness, and I like being at the lighter weight."
That was up from about 285 and may have been understating things. Tuley-Tillman is now listed at 285 on Michigan's roster, so he's made the full round trip. If you're trying to be optimistic, Tuley-Tillman's ability to flip a switch and get down to a weight where Michigan would actually like him to put it on instead of take it off is impressive.
Tuley-Tillman also struggled at some camps, partially because of the weight and partially because his high school is not exactly Eastern Christian Academy:
“The week I had, it was different because we come from a high school that was 0 and 9,” said Tuley-Tillman. “Not having that high level coaching and being able to be taught how to block, when to block, when to punch and when to do this and that. It was rough and I lost some reps.”
“It was one-on-one pass protection, which is like standing under the rim saying don’t jump, but don’t get dunked on. But it got me better and I appreciate the coaches taking the time to break stuff down one-on-one with me.”
Ace had a good example of where he stood in relation to David Dawson when he named LTT the boom or bust guy in the class:
…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.
And that was a good outing for him compared to some earlier efforts. Hemholdt noted($) that he was in "noticeably better shape" at SMSB and did a better job than he did on a "rough" day at the Columbus NFTC.
As a result of the weight and the camps, LTT took a big ol' rankings hit. The Rivals version($):
…added the weight you'd expect of an offensive lineman - he went from 285 pounds to 321 in the course of a single offseason - not all of it was good weight. That is partially on account of a shoulder injury that has prevented him from working as hard in the weight room as he'd like. While his strength was never a question, his agility suffered from the weight gain, and Tuley-Tillman will have to work his way into shape to move back up the rankings.
He did get back into shape. The rankings did not respond, but it did pay off on high school fields despite his terrible, terrible team not being able to do much. Josh Helmholdt caught him as a senior, after the wild swing:
Peoria Manual entered Saturday's game against Peoria with an 0-3 record and dropped this contest 44-0. But in the final minute of the game Tuley-Tillman was still on the field, still blocking all-out to the whistle and still trying to get his team up. Technically we saw a lot of the good things the 6-foot-7, 315-pound Tuley-Tillman showed in the summer: getting into his pass set quickly, utilizing his length, having fast, active hands. But his effort from kickoff to final whistle, especially after playing both ways all game, was the most impressive thing he showed this day. Tuley-Tillman has been knocked for his work ethic at times in the past, but he has really rounded into a leader and a high-motor kid.
Now that he's in a college weight program his weight should go up steadily, not dramatically, until he tops out in the 320 range. Some guys do have problems not blowing up a la Oprah, and fans (read: me) will keep an owlish eye cocked in the direction of the roster for any hints things are getting out of control for the next couple years.
Tuley-Tillman did enroll early. Since he's an offensive tackle destined for a redshirt we didn't get any extra information on him—can't find anything on this site or MLive of importance after January first—other than the highly encouraging 285 pound weight. While that early enrollment isn't going to get him on the field this year, it should accelerate his progress, possibly even to the point where he is a viable option next year.
Etc.: Ohio State fans, man. Helmholdt mentions that another asset for Tuley-Tillman is his left-hand dominance, which he likes in a left tackle… except if Shane Morris is the guy that'll be a detriment to the blindside tackle. I am not looking forward to three years of "but Shane Morris is left handed" when talking about the OL. I'll deal.
Why Schrodinger's Jake Long? Ideal left tackle that needs time and technique to reach a ceiling that's rather distant at the moment. Long is 6'7", 320. LTT will end up there. Long is awesome at football. Tuley-Tillman… ask again later.
Guru Reliability: Pretty good. Camps, but hard to tell much from high school stuff when your team is so dire. Also there's a fairly large split in opinion between the fringe top 100 guys and fringe four star guys.
Variance: Vast. Could be Long 3.0. Could transfer to a MAC school.
Ceiling: Vast. Prototype NFL left tackle who happens to be a long way away.
General Excitement Level: Uh, moderate? I do like the idea of adding a Tuley-Tillman to a lot of high-quality recruits, because if you miss on him oh well and if you hit oh baby. I'll give him a plus for getting all the way back down to 285 after the weight gain.
Projection: Is OL, redshirt.
After inevitable redshirt he'll probably be looking up at Erik Magnuson and Ben Braden. Probably. Even if you assume Braden is on track to have a starting tackle job next year, the other one will be an honest-to-goodness battle between Magnuson, Tuley-Tillman, Chris Fox, and maybe one of the 6'5"-ish guards (Kalis, Samuelson, Bosch) if Michigan is just overflowing on the interior.
Pick a name out of the hat there. If it is Tuley-Tillman that is a great sign, because that means the highest upside guy hacked through a jungle and has come out the other side kicking ass.
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