to play football, not to play trumpet
Today's recruiting roundup discusses the Elite 11 and NFTC camps in Columbus, Ty Isaac officially narrowing his field to three, new offers for 2013 and 2014, and more.
Commits Excel in Columbus
Shane Morris, equally adept at deep bombs and photobombs (via)
It was a busy weekend for Michigan commits, as Columbus hosted an Elite 11 regional on Friday followed by a Nike Football Training Camp on Saturday. Shane Morris bounced back from a lackluster performance in April's Dallas Elite 11 regional, taking home MVP honors in the Columbus edition and earning himself a spot in July's Elite 11 finals, which take place in Los Angeles. Morris beat out a field that included Notre Dame commit Malik Zaire, Ohio State commit Jalin Marshall (who will likely play receiver in college), Northwestern commit Matt Alviti, and Purdue commit Danny Etling. Here's 247's Barton Simmons on Morris's performance:
1. Shane Morris, Warren (Mich.) De La Salle – Good luck trying to pin a fear of competing on Shane Morris. Despite his lofty ranking and his early commitment to Michigan, Morris is at seemingly every event he can get to, eager to prove himself. On Friday he did just. He can put loads of velocity on the ball without digging deep, he showed great accuracy throughout the day and he has a smooth and natural composure in the pocket. Morris’ performance earned him an invite to the Elite 11 finals this summer.
“Over the past couple weeks Morris has been preparing to show he has more than just the big arm, and he proved that on Friday,” said Rivals.com Midwest Recruiting Analyst Josh Helmholdt. “The opposite of overthrowing is trying to aim the ball, but Morris showed improved accuracy and spun the ball better while varying his speeds and trajectory.”
Michigan's star quarterback recruit wasn't the only commit to earn MVP honors over the weekend, however, as David Dawson (OL MVP) and Mike McCray (LB MVP) took home hardware from the NFTC. In fact, Michigan and Ohio State pledges dominated Saturday's event—of the seven players to earn invites to The Opening in Oregon, all were either future Wolverines (Dawson, McCray, Morris, and Taco Charlton) or Buckeyes (Marshall, Cam Burrows, and Billy Price).
Dawson in particular drew rave reviews, earning top weekend performer honors from 247's Simmons...
1. David Dawson, OL, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech – There were Michigan commits out in droves on Saturday, all wearing their Wolverine gear and waving the flag in Ohio State country but none represented quite as well as David Dawson.
A player with good length, Dawson showed good athleticism as an edge protector in one-on-ones but really separated himself with his finisher’s mentality. Dawson really fought to win his reps in one-on-ones and many of those reps he won with authority.
...and Rivals's Helmholdt ($):
Dawson capped off his MVP performance on Saturday by stoning defensive line MVP Billy Price in the final offensive line/defensive line one-on-one. Dawson has been dominant throughout the off-season, but this may have been his best performance to date. He was moving his feet better than in events past, and he channeled his mean streak well, even if he went past the whistle on a few plays. Dawson ended up with more pancakes than any other lineman we saw in the one-on-ones and physically manhandled the majority of defenders he faced.
Dawson also made Scout's Bob Lichtenfels's top ten list($) along with Morris. You can see footage of Dawson, Logan Tuley-Tillman, and Charlton from the one-on-one blocking drills below, courtesy of Rivals:
Dawson's mean streak is on full display, as is Charlton's speed, though he also gets stuffed on one rep when the speed rush doesn't work out. You may notice that Tuley-Tillman looks a little ponderous and out of shape—he's been battling a shoulder injury that's hampered his conditioning and essentially forced him to block with one arm, so don't get too concerned.
Helmholdt listed Charlton as his #5 lineman at the NFTC, saying "offensive linemen could not handle Charlton's speed, but he also surprised them with his strength, even knocking Kyle Meadows backward on one rep." Meanwhile, Tim Sullivan provides evaluations for Mike McCray ($)...
McCray's ability to cover running backs out of the backfield had previously been considered a question mark, but it's one that he answered emphatically on Saturday. He was able to go stride-for-stride with all but the quickest tailbacks there, and showed the ability to not only blanket a receiver, but make plays on the ball as well. In edge-rush drills, he showed the ability to overpower running backs and tight ends, but also a quickness to go around them that's uncommon in a player his size.
...and Khalid Hill:
Hill impressed again on Saturday, with more athleticism than he's given credit for at times, precise routes, and as always, very good hands. He developed a nice chemistry with some of the quarterbacks in attendance, and although tight ends didn't get the ball much, he made the most of the opportunities presented to him.
Overall, it was quite a weekend for the Wolverine contingent in Columbus; Morris may have locked down five-star status, while Dawson and Charlton look poised to move up when the recruiting services update their rankings.
Speaking of which, Scout unveiled their initial 2013 team rankings, and it comes as no surprise that Michigan holds down the top spot, the first time that a school other than Texas has ranked #1 in Scout's initial release. Ohio State is at #4, Notre Dame #5, Penn State #12, Nebraska #17, and Michigan State rounds out the list at #20.
Isaac Down to Three, More 2013 News
Josh Helmholdt caught up with IL RB Ty Isaac after his latest trip to USC, and while this has been presumed for a long time, Isaac has trimmed his list to three schools ($):
"Right now, it's Michigan, USC and Notre Dame," Isaac said. "Among that group some are ahead of others, but I think it's down to them. Hopefully I can get this thing knocked out soon.
"If all goes well and nothing else comes up, hopefully I can get this done before my season starts, whether that be soon or in August. If not, I've got until February 2nd. I don't see it going that long, but if circumstances warrant that then so be it."
In good news for Michigan fans, Isaac also mentioned that a pre-decision trip to Ann Arbor "could take place in the near future." Considering his statements above, it's logical to think that the Wolverines are still in a very strong position to land his commitment, with Notre Dame probably on the outside looking in right now.
CA S Su'a Cravens will announce his decision on June 6th, his mother's birthday, and according to Scout's Lindsay Thiry he's narrowed his choices to five schools ($): USC, UCLA, Michigan, Nebraska, and Ohio State. Rivals's Adam Gorney reports, however, that while Cravens will take a trip to the Midwest before his decision, he will visit just two of those Big Ten schools, though he won't say which one is out of the running ($). Regardless, USC will be the team to beat, and I have a tough time seeing him go elsewhere.
The Wolverines continue to send out wide receiver offers, with the latest going to FL WR Alvin Bailey, the high school teammate of five-star safety Leon McQuay III. Bailey tells 247 that he's feeling the time crunch of the recruiting process, and while he hopes to visit Michigan he might not get the chance ($). He seems like a player who will stay in-state, though a four-star at a position of need—not to mention a teammate of an elite prospect—is certainly worth an offer.
Quickly: MA DT Maurice Hurst Jr. will take visits to Michigan and MSU in the near future, then make his decision before the start of his senior season ($). Happy trails to TX DE Christian Lacouture, who surprised many by committing to Nebraska on Saturday.
M Leading for McDowell? Plus More 2014 Offers
2014 MI DE Malik McDowell continues to rack up the offers, with his latest coming from Notre Dame, and he also impressed at the NFTC over the weekend. The Detroit Loyola product recently named a top five of Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama, LSU, and Ohio State, but one school might stick out above the rest ($):
The recruiting process is just getting started for Detroit (Mich.) Loyola class of 2014 defensive end Malik McDowell, with Notre Dame becoming the latest school to offer this past Friday, but Michigan may have already established itself as the school to beat.
“You could say that,” McDowell said after participating in the Ohio Nike Football Training Camp Regional at Ohio Dominican University on Saturday.
I've been hearing the same myself, though McDowell still wants to take visits—especially to the SEC programs—before coming to any sort of decision.
Michigan continues to send out offers to elite rising juniors. TX S Edward Paris, the #10 overall prospect in 247's early rankings, picked up an offer over the weekend ($). He'll be tough to pull out of the South, but says he would like to come up for a game in the fall. DC CB D'Andre Payne already has Virginia as his leader, but Michigan—amongst several other schools—threw their hat into the ring last week ($). Finally, Tremendous reports AZ WR Dionte Sykes picked up a Michigan offer a couple of weeks ago, and he'd like to take an unofficial visit over the summer.
Today's recruiting roundup addresses some disturbing Twitter-related news, the recruitments of Ty Isaac and Henry Poggi, a pair of new 2013 offers, and a way-too-early top 25 for the class of 2014.
On Twitter and Recruits
Prepare to be creeped out:
Ohio State has learned that a convicted sex offender from Kentucky has made contact with Buckeyes student-athletes both in-person and through social media websites.
The Lantern obtained a Friday email that was sent from OSU athletic director for compliance Doug Archie informing Buckeye student-athletes that the university is aware of photographs OSU players have taken with Charles Eric Waugh, 31, a man listed on Kentucky’s sex offender registry, Archie said in the email.
"The University has become aware that an individual who is listed on Kentucky's sex offender registry has recently been seen in pictures with our student-athletes," Archie said in the mail, which was preceded by a warning text to student athletes.
Land-Grant Holyland has further details, including screencaps of Waugh tweeting inspirational quotes to Ohio State players and recruits and a photograph of him with 2013 recruits Alex Anzalone, Joey Bosa, and Mike Heuerman (above). Waugh is a registered sex offender—and currently on probation—because he was convicted in 2007 of "five counts of possession of matter portraying sexual performances by minors." As Land-Grant Holyland points out, Waugh could be in deep trouble, as the terms of his probation explicitly prohibit him from using any social media platform that allows access to minors, which is obviously the case with Twitter.
What strikes me most about the whole ordeal, however, is that several people—including a pair of current Buckeye players—came to Waugh's defense when he was called out by LGH on Twitter for sending quotes to underage kids and "pandering for [retweets]." This happened prior to the revelation that he was a sex offender, but I still find it deeply worrisome. One of the most prevalent arguments I see when people defend interacting with high school recruits through social media is that many of the recruits enjoy those interactions, so they're justified. I can't agree with that logic—there's a reason most high school kids can't vote, and it has to do with gaining a proper understanding of the world around them.
I'm not saying people shouldn't ever follow recruits; given the nature of my job, that would be hypocritical. I honestly don't see why people want to do so—the amount of relevant news gained is dwarfed in comparison to the sheer volume of high school drama, tweets with far too much information, and life musings of high schoolers—but that's your prerogative. When the line is crossed to interacting with recruits, however, it becomes a problem; even if you can't see an issue with chatting with a high school kid you don't know, there is the fact that NCAA violations are being committed at an alarming rate. I've had people ask me to tweet at recruits and encourage them to go to Michigan, which not only violates NCAA rules and the principles of journalistic integrity, but is also asking me to insert myself into a life decision for which I have no business giving input.
I realize that I'm speaking to a small fraction of the blog's readership, and also that there are a large number of fans who won't see this. But things will change soon—this isn't the first or last time that recruits will unwittingly interact with a sex offender, to put it bluntly—and I can't foresee fans having such unfettered access to recruits remaining the norm. Get ahead of the curve, remember that you're dealing with high school kids, and understand that it isn't your job to tell these young men what they should do with their lives. Brady Hoke will handle recruiting just fine without you.
(As for Facebook, by the way: don't. Just don't. Please don't make me list the reasons why you shouldn't "friend" recruits.)
Isaac Visiting USC, More 2013 News
IL RB Ty Isaac will take his second trip to USC this weekend, and according to Sam Webb he'll be accompanied by his mother ($). While I still think Michigan has the edge in his recruitment—his mother indicated that another visit to Ann Arbor is likely—this does signal that USC is a legitimate contender, perhaps moreso than Notre Dame. Isaac does ask that people not read too much into the trip, however:
“At this point (people) are going to find out (about the visit) anyway,” he said. “They’re going to have writers out there that hear that I’m out there, and they’re going to write about it. I can’t control that. I knew I had it set up for about two weeks and I kind of didn’t want to say right when I knew because you know how some of these guys on the internet are. They go crazy… like two visits means a commitment. But it’s tough… you have to get out and see these places. Just because it’s far away doesn’t mean it should be a one visit type deal. I’ve been a lot of places multiple times, so we’re just checking it out again.”
Please don't let Isaac doing his due diligence cause panic(!) in the comments. Also, as he has said in the past, Isaac plans to make his decision before the fall.
Rivals caught up with MD DT Henry Poggi after his visit to Alabama, and he played things close to the vest, abstaining from naming any leaders ($). He's working on setting his first visit to Penn State, however, and also is considering trips to Texas A&M and Cal. Given that he's taken three trips each to Michigan and Alabama, I wouldn't expect those schools to become a threat unless he takes return visits.
According to TomVH, Michigan sent out offers to two new prospects ($) this week in Fort Lauderdale (FL) University School of Nova South teammates WR Jordan Cunningham and DT Maquedius Bain. Cunningham is strangely listed at either 6'1" or 6'3" and makes the top 150 on both Rivals and ESPN, though he garners three-star ratings from Scout and 247. MAQUEDIUS BAIN (yes, he gets the all-caps treatment) is currently a Florida State commit, but he could possibly open up his recruitment; he's in the top 100 on both Scout and ESPN, but also has three stars on two sites.
Neither offer should come as a surprise considering Michigan's needs, especially with how things are trending at wide receiver. While things look good for Laquon Treadwell, there's still along way to go before he decides. Meanwhile, TX WR Eldridge Massington just committed to USC this afternoon ($, info in header). Fellow TX WR Marcell Ateman committed to Oklahoma State on Wednesday. NC WR Uriah LeMay cut his list down to ten ($), and it doesn't include the Wolverines. With two more receivers a near-necessity for rounding out the class, don't be surprised if Michigan goes hard after some new names on the recruiting trail.
Quickly: Sam Webb's DetNews feature this week is on CA ATH Elijah Qualls, who's trimmed down his current list to Washington, Oregon State, Arizona, Nebraska, California, Michigan, Iowa State and UCLA, though USC, Oklahoma, and Oregon could just into the mix if they offer. He's considering using an official visit to check out Ann Arbor. Michigan added a quarterback for the 2012 class, picking up Detroit Jesuit's Brian Cleary as a preferred walk-on.
Camps! Plus 2014 Updates
It's a big weekend for Michigan commits, as Columbus will host an Elite11 regional today then the Nike Football Training Camp on Saturday. Shane Morris will try to earn a spot in the Elite11 finals after failing to do so at the Dallas regional last month, though he'll face stiff competition from Stanford commit Ryan Burns (ESPN's #17 overall recruit) and others.
The NFTC will play host to commits Jourdan Lewis, Taco Charlton, Khalid Hill, David Dawson, and Mike McCray, who will attempt to raise their stock with strong camp performances. Scout's Allen Trieu has an extensive free preview; uncommitted recruits of note include Cass Tech DT Kenton Gibbs (no M offer), IN DT Darius Latham (offer), and a host of 2014 prospects, including MI WR Damon Webb, OH WR Thaddeus Snodgrass, MI LB Deon Drake, MI LB Gary Hosey, MI LB William White, and MI RB Lorenzo Collins. I know TomVH and Chantel Jennings will be there, as will the guys from Tremendous, so there will be no shortage of coverage on the event next week.
247 released a (very) early top 25 for the class of 2014, and several players holding Michigan offers made the list, including top overall prospect VA DT Da'Shawn Hand. Other offerees: NJ CB Jabrill Peppers (#3), MD OT Damian Prince (#13), NC OT Bentley Spain (#17), DC CB Jalen Tabor (#20), and MI DE Malik McDowell (#23). [EDIT: Tim Sullivan just posted over on The Fort (and said I could pass this along) that Peppers doesn't yet hold a Michigan offer, despite statements Peppers has made to the contrary. His coach confirms that Peppers doesn't have an offer at the moment.]
Peppers named a top six this week that includes Michigan, and he revealed to 247 that he grew up as a fan of the Wolverines ($). Joining the Wolverines are Stanford, USC, Miami (YTM), Notre Dame, and Ohio State; Peppers said that Michigan will "definitely" be in his top five when he has one, and he's working on setting up an unofficial visit. Getting in early on Peppers would make for a fantastic start to the 2014 class.
Quickly: Kyle Turley and J.C. Shurburtt break down Logan Tuley Tillman's junior film—there's not much insight beyond what Turley wrote up last week, but it's interesting to see him go through tape. David Dawson is still getting visited by other schools, with Florida making a particularly strong push, though he remains committed and won't take visits elsewhere—he's well aware of Hoke's policy. Trieu breaks down the emerging 2014 prospects in the Midwest, including recently-offered Parrker Westphal.
Today's recruiting roundup takes a look at full junior film for four 2013 commits, addresses an interesting theory on offensive line recruiting, and details a couple of recent offers.
Butt Taco D-Train MANBALL*
It's been a slow week for recruiting news, so luckily ScoutingOhio's Mark Porter unleashed full-length junior highlight videos for four Michigan commits. Here they are, with some brief analysis; first up is TE Jake Butt:
Once you get past the first half of the video, which is comprised of defensive highlights, you get to see some impressive play from Butt at tight end. He catches the ball away from his body, displays sure hands, and does a really nice job of turning back to the quarterback and giving him a target on just about every route. These are just highlights, but he also looks solid as a blocker. Butt doesn't have off-the-charts athleticism and he could be a little sharper on his route-running; he still looks like a player who could come in and have a quick impact if he can add the necessary size and strength before he hits campus.
DE Taco Charlton:
Charlton mostly played as a situational pass-rusher last fall, so his highlights aren't as lengthy as the others. That said, the outstanding athleticism that makes him such an intriguing prospect is on full display, as he's often able to just blow by opposing blockers without facing much resistance. There are issues with technique, especially when it comes to shedding blocks; those should improve with proper coaching, a summer on the camp circuit, and starter's experience in the fall. Given Michigan's depth at defensive end, Charlton likely won't have to play right away, but he looks like he could make a big impact down the road, at the very least in the same role he played last year.
S Dymonte Thomas:
Before you start calling for Thomas to play running back, check out the next tape (and also remember that Michigan is seriously in the mix for Ty Isaac). We don't get to see Thomas playing much safety in the above clip—he spends a lot of his time in the box—but we do get to see his sideline-to-sideline speed, quick diagnosis against the run, and ability to come up and lay a lick. I don't see a whole lot not to like here, though I'll be interested to see if he plays more deep half as a senior and we get some more film of him in coverage; there's not a lot to go on above.
RB DeVeon Smith:
Hello, MANBALL. Smith may not have breakaway speed, but he displays everything else you'd like to see when running the football: great initial burst, good vision through the hole, legs that don't stop moving upon contact, and the power to punish defenders for attempts to arm-tackle. The one caveat to this video is that Smith didn't play the highest level of competition last year; he comes from the same league at Fitzgerald Toussaint, however, and that worked out just fine. We don't get to see him block much, and passes are limited to swings and screens, but there's little doubt that Smith should have an impact carrying the football.
Former All-Pro offensive lineman Kyle Turley evaluated four of Michigan's five offensive line commits in a free article at 247Sports; he's apparently over his OUTRAGE from Brady Hoke leaving San Diego State (his alma mater) to coach at Michigan, because the reviews are quite positive. Unfortunately for us, they're also pretty much identical for each of the four players (Logan Tuley-Tillman, Chris Fox, Kyle Bosch, and Patrick Kugler). In short:
Strengths—Mean streak, size
Can Work On—Pad level, footwork
Part of this is because leverage and technique can always be improved upon, especially in making the transition to the college game. Also, Michigan has assembled an impressive collection of big linemen who finish blocks with authority. There is a little more insight in the full article, including the fact that Bosch appears to be the most college-ready of the four.
*That's gotta provide an SEO boost, right?
Pro-Sized Offensive Linemen: Good
I was pleased to see that SBNation recently unveiled Land-Grant Holy Land, a new Ohio State blog spearheaded by 11W and EDSBS contributor Luke Zimmerman. This recruiting-related article for the site by DJ Byrnes, however, should probably be addressed. I won't give "Brady Hoke's Blind Spot" the full FJM-style fisking, but here's the setup after a brief discussion of how good former OSU OL Alex Boone looked as a high school prospect [emphasis mine]:
Two years later, I watched Alex Boone get eviscerated by Urban Meyer's Florida Gators. Play after play, there was another rabid jackal clad in orange and blue, running down a previously elusive Troy Smith. There was no mercy and no quarter given. There was no pity. It was just unrelenting pressure, and Alex Boone succumbed to it.
The next year, Alex Boone got eaten alive by LSU's defensive line in a game where I'm surprised Todd Boeckman wasn't killed. Again, it was a straight up mauling for which Boone and his compatriots had little defense. The Buckeyes didn't get beat like a drum against LSU as they did against Florida, but it was another poor showing for the offensive line. (SEC coaches understand: a deep, versatile defensive line will give bigger, slower offensive lines nightmares over the course of a game.)
So, this is why I laugh at Michigan and their recruitment of Boone-like clones to stock their offensive line. It's also why I get super giddy when I compare those efforts against Urban's.
Yes, this is an argument against recruiting pro-sized offensive linemen, and the crux of the argument is based on the failings of Alex Boone. There are many flaws to this, but the most notable is that Alex Boone didn't fall short of expectations at Ohio State because he was 6'8", 310+ pounds. He fell short because, through most of his college career, he was a raging alcoholic, at one point admitting to drinking up to 40 beers a night during the weekend. That will slow down just about anybody.
Byrnes then notes the rather massive human beings Michigan is bringing in for both the 2012 and 2013 classes, as well as the extremely high level of talent the Buckeyes are assembling along the defensive line. I have no argument here—there should be some epic trench clashes in the future of this rivalry. I think Michigan has a good chance of coming out on top in those clashes, however, because this simply isn't true:
Brady Hoke will be good for Michigan. He may even beat Ohio State once or twice during his tenure, but he doesn't seem to realize that college football has shifted away from massive, clattering offensive lines. By the time he does, it might already be too late.
First, it's worth noting that massive =/= unathletic. Taylor Lewan is 6'8", but he's also got remarkably quick feet. Anyone who watched 6'9", 345-pound tackle Jonathan Ogden play as a pro remembers him for somehow resembling the world's most devastating ballerina. As for the college football world moving away from large offensive lines, here are your spring depth charts for the two teams to play for the 2011 national title:
1) If college football is moving away from behemoth offensive lines, we forgot to inform the SEC, which has somehow managed to make do.
2) *Looks at Alabama's depth chart, shudders*
So, in short, you probably shouldn't worry about Michigan reeling in large classes of man-sized linemen being a bad thing. This argument could probably have been accomplished with one word—Wisconsin—but it's a slow week.
Okay, one last thing. Urban Meyer was hired on November 28th, 2011. After that date, the Buckeyes added three offensive linemen to their 2012 class: Taylor Decker (6'8", 315), Joey O'Connor (6'4", 295), and Kyle Dodson (6'6", 315). Yep, Meyer isn't stupid, either.
[So, um, MnB's Zach Travis did this too, and his take is worth a read as well. I swear I wrote this yesterday. So it goes.]
New Offers, Ojemudia Enrolls Early, Etc.
Michigan isn't slowing down on the hunt for wide receivers, as Tim Sullivan reports that their latest 2013 offer was extended to three-star MD WR Paul Harris ($, info in header). Harris stands at 6'3", 185 lbs., and he plans to attend Michigan's one-day camp on June 21st. The Wolverines are a mortal lock to add two more receivers to the class, and I wouldn't be surprised if they take three given the lack of proven depth and the scholarship no longer being held for E.J. Levenberry.
Tremendous got the scoop that the Wolverines also threw their hat in the ring for one of the top defensive prospects of 2014, NJ CB Jabrill Peppers. Peppers already holds offers from Florida, LSU, Miami (FL), Notre Dame, Rutgers, and South Carolina, and that list will likely include a laundry-list of national powers before all is said and done. Peppers told Aquaman that he grew up watching Michigan—favorite players: Mike Hart and Mario Manningham—and has interest in a visit, either in the summer or fall.
11W's Alex Gleitman spoke to four-star MA DL Maurice Hurst Jr. after a recent visit to Columbus, and Hurst stated that he'll visit Michigan and Michigan State in the near future, and then he'll be "done with visits." He'd like to make his decision in the next month and a half, and currently lists Ohio State, Michigan, and Virginia as the schools sticking out to him. Buckeye coaches apparently told him that they'll take another defensive tackle; we'll see if the loaded D-line class there affects his decision, especially if things go well on his trip to Ann Arbor.
The Wolverine's Andy Reid reports that 2012 DE Mario Ojemudia will enroll for spring term on Monday, giving the man with the laser death-stare a leg up on strength and conditioning, not to mention a head start in the classroom. Ojemudia needs to add a fair amount of weight before he'll be able to line up with his hand in the dirt, so this is welcome news.
You can probably rule out Michigan for a couple of California prospects. CA RB Justin Davis has "pretty much" narrowed down to a final three of USC, Cal, and Washington, and he expects to make his decision soon ($, info in header). With the Wolverines focused in on Ty Isaac and Derrick Green, that doesn't come as much of a surprise. If Michigan was back in the market for linebackers after losing out on Levenberry—very unlikely, considering the prospects they've turned away—they seems out of the race for CA LB Michael Hutchings, who's aiming for a summer decision and is only mentioning Pac-12 schools as possible visit destinations ($).
Quickly: Free Rivals article on CA WR Demorea Stringfellow, who Mike Farrell describes as a "tough matchup for cornerbacks" because of his size (6'2", 185) and ability to go up and get the football.
Eric Upchurch. Upchurch's spring gallery.
The Spring Game came and went and I don't think it was just me: this one seemed flat in comparison to previous editions. The last time Michigan had a spring game so devoid of intrigue it was 2007, when senior versions of Hart and Henne ruled on offense and Lloyd Carr was the coach. Carr often seemed like he'd prefer it if his team played in front of no one, and this tendency was most frequently expressed at spring games. 2007 was boring and that was the way of things: boring.
- 2008: closed to the public thanks to Michigan Stadium construction, we still get our first glimpses at the spread offense… and our doom. The sense of the willies you got reading descriptions of what went on (you dismissed it as meaningless spring game stuff because you didn't want to ruin your summer as well as your fall) was the first indicator of what we were in for. The turnover party did not stop until the season did.
- 2009: Tate Forcier's coming out party. Program savior gets a run out for the first time as an early enrollee, performs brilliantly, everyone high-fives. Ace puts together Weapon of Choice video that is then recut into Weapon of Choice w/ Christopher Walken video. Youtube now thinks this video is set to Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend," which is Skynet-level commentary on how that Forcier thing worked out.
- 2010: Denard Robinson's coming out party. Program savior gets a run out for not quite the first time but definitely the first one in which he looks like a plausible quarterback, performs brilliantly, everyone high-fives. Afterwards mgovideo published cutups of all three QBs' snaps so people could engage in Lincoln-Douglass debates about who should be the starter.
- 2011: Will Al Borges stuff Denard Robinson into a pro-style offense designed for the exact opposite sort of quarterback? Answer: argh, yes. Spring game spawns offseason-long running debate about whether it's pure folly to move away from all shotgun, all the time. Borges participates in internal conflict version of that debate and generally sides with the shotgun crew, except against Iowa, for which we all pay dearly.
The past four years the spring game has been an important data dump that has indicated quite a lot of things about Michigan's season to come. Doom in 2008. Better quarterbacking the next couple years but with a fatal flaw: Forcier and Robinson's blowout performances came against Michigan's defense, which merely blew. Last year displayed to all how bad an idea it was to go under center a majority of the time.
This year Michigan spent about the same number of snaps as last year in the spread, ran Denard out there for one series, gave the established top tailback a few carries, and the whole thing was… just there, flopping around being dull and stuff.
Maybe this opinion is influenced by the fact that I wasn't there, but I don't think so. The things we think we found out are generally less exciting than "introducing DENARD ROBINSON!" and less important than the possibility we might totally screw him up. This is a sign of health in a program. It just makes this post a little less throbbingly important than it has been recently.
Anyway, there were some things we did learn…
DonkeyPuncher231 (please change that username someday, dear DP) has spliced together just about the whole thing:
The official site put out a highlight video about half that length:
An unofficial box score from AnnArbor.com. Notables:
- Gardner two of seven with an INT and 36 yards passing.
- Bellomy six of nine but the same yardage as Gardner.
- Gardner 9 rushes for 41 yards.
- Toussaint five for 39.
- Rawls 9 for 39.
- Hayes and Smith had one yard between them on 11 carries.
- "Unknown" caught two balls for 20 yards. Tacopants?
That data in hand, let's talk turkey.
Backup Quarterback Derby? I've Never Heard Of Such A Thing
Michigan's coaches took the Colonel Tressel approach to the obvious #1 storyline of the day, Russell Bellomy looking a lot better than Devin Gardner. Bellomy praise was ladled out but when a reporter asked point-blank who the #2 guy was, Hoke's response:
If you were to name a No. 2 quarterback today, who would it be?
“Well, it’s Devin.”
I see nossing. I do not comment on Devin Gardner throwing multiple five-yard dumpoffs in a manner that John Shurna thinks is unusual and Northwestern's perpetual 6'9" euro center who takes threes despite never making any of them thinks is inaccurate. Neither do I comment on Gardner throwing an interception that, while a pretty good play by one Blake Countess, was also very late.
Borges's Bellomy praise was specifically parceled out after a section of Gardner hype:
You gave most of the snaps to Devin Gardner and Russell Bellomy today …
“Yeah, that’s what we were trying to develop. We decided before we came in that we were only going to play Denard just a little tiny bit. We wanted to see these other kids.”
Thoughts on their springs overall?
“Yeah I think Devin in particular has had an outstanding spring. He’s really done some very nice things and has developed in the position more and more. Needs more time in situations like this where there’s a lot of people watching and the pressure’s on and all that, but he has really done a nice job. And Russ -- I said it last week and the week before -- Russ has been steady and solid and [when] guys get open he hits them. He makes very few mistakes. He’s just one of those kinds of guys. He too is very athletic and can get himself out of some messes. He’s a solid guy.
If Gardner's been really good and Bellomy uninspiring but solid and mistake-light throughout the spring, only one of these traits came through on Saturday.
Twitter took the evidence on hand, considered it carefully, and wrote out a PhD thesis about how Gardner was terrible forever and Bellomy should be the backup quarterback as Gardner became LarryJustin FitzeraldBlackmon. And, yea, because twitter always has the most considered opinions these were not immediately regretted in the morning and… actually, hold that twitter sarcasm for one twitter moment.
Do we of the twitter hivemind regret that? Let's consider the evidence. Last year Gardner got into various games and threw 23 passes. He was 11 of 23 for 176 yards (7.6 YPA), one touchdown, and one INT. There was also this:
The defense would like to add this:
That's not much to go on. Let's make our data big, at least insofar as it can be made so.
In three consecutive spring games he's looked bad. You may remember Jake Ryan bursting onto the scene last year with a pick six thrown directly at his dome by Gardner. Yeah. Stuff on Gardner from the last spring game post:
As per usual, many events from the spring game are in the eye of the beholder. Is Devin Gardner's inability to find anyone open an indictment of him, an indictment of the second-team wide receivers, or… uh… like… people being covered? I know that latter seems improbable but I have seen football games in which this has happened. …
Unfortunately, there was a lot that was unambiguously bad, most of it from the quarterbacks: interceptions whistled yards over the intended receiver's head or thrown directly at linebackers, a Mallett-like plague of dropped snaps, offsides calls, etc. The general impression was more 2008 than 2010. … The QBs sucked on their own. …
Devin Gardner was also inaccurate in drills. They have this dig route where a slot receiver works to the seam then cuts his route off 15 yards downfield and Gardner was consistently missing it.
Robinson went out and did okay for himself after that business, minimizing its importance in our attempts to judge him. For Gardner it remains a big chunk of the time we've gotten to see him.
Here's the video of the year previous:
A summary of that from the immediate aftermath:
Devin Gardner looked raw as hell, fumbling snaps, scrambling into trouble, and reverting to that ugly shotput motion whenever he was forced to throw on the run. He looked like a freshman, which is okay because he is a freshman. However, the torrent of spring hype that suggested Gardner would probably not redshirt because he would be Michigan's best quarterback by UConn… eh, not so much. Maybe it was just a bad day. Even if it was an off day, Robinson showed enough to relegate Gardner to the bench for the first couple games and hopefully his whole freshman year.
Gardner did show the his deep touch on a third and long seam to Odoms that was laid in perfectly. Odoms dropped it.
Gardner got safetied and intercepted on the same play and still probably had a better overall outing than he did yesterday.
So. This is our oeuvre. Now consider Michigan's situation:
- They didn't even attempt a long pass yesterday, presumably because they were all covered. After tight end, wide receiver is the position on offense that could most use an instant talent infusion.
- Most of the unambiguously good things Gardner did yesterday involved his legs. That scamper down the sideline… good lord y'all. It's not a big stretch to declare him the best athlete on the team outside of Denard, and given that size and wingspan he could be pushing close to #16.
- Bellomy looks like a competent game manager should the need arise.
- Given Robinson's previous two seasons at QB, the need almost certainly will arise.
- Moving Gardner away from quarterback gives Michigan exactly two QBs this year and next and means either a true freshman or low-profile redshirt sophomore starts for M in 2013.
What do you do with that? Hell if I know. If you still had Forcier around and recruited a 2012 quarterback I would be at the post office right now watching Hoke mail a bow-clad Gardner* to Jeff Hecklinski. If there were enough of us and a fiddle we'd probably be singing Hava Nagila and dancing.
*[He's also wearing a full uniform, pervs.]
In Michigan's current situation, moving Gardner is asking for this interlude in game nine:
MCDONAUGH: Michigan's quarterback is now Jack Kennedy. Ask not what your team can do for you, Jack, amirite?
MILLEN: He looks really, really sweaty.
MCDONAUGH: Astute observation, Matt. Jack Kennedy is soaked in a bodily fluid we dearly hope is sweat.
MILLEN: Someone should get him an IV. I… what is that? That can't be healthy.
MCDONAUGH: Jack Kennedy is leaving a trail of viscous material behind him that must be a slurry of sweat and pure, distilled fear. Here's the snap. Kennedy hands off from the I-form… Vincent Smith with a one-yard loss.
MILLEN: Can all that fluid really be coming out of his body?
MCDONAUGH: Take it from my uncle Morty: all that and more. Vincent Smith with a one-yard loss.
MILLEN: How can he even hold on to the ball?
MCDONAUGH: I have no idea. This series of one-yard losses may be the most heroic in football history. Vincent Smith tackled for a loss of one.
MILLEN: Just look at him not fumble that snap despite having lost half his body weight in the past six minutes.
MCDONAUGH: It's kind of beautiful.
MILLEN: For spacious skies. For aglumb waves of grain. For purple mounted mohair above the fruit-tossed Spain. AMERICAAAAAAA—
MCDONAUGH: Hagerup in to punt.
MILLEN: –AMERICAAAAAAAA, GOD SPED HIS FACE ON THEEEEEE. AND CROWN THY HOOD WITH BROTHERGOOD FROM PEA TO SHINGLING PEA.
MCDONAUGH: Inspiring stuff from Ann Arbor. Michigan has six yards of offense at the half. We'll be back after this commercial break.
SCENE. This may have been drug-induced.
Anyway. They'd probably just put Gardner in and hope they hadn't stunted his development to the point where he'd be totally useless. Things would go poorly.
Could you blame them that much, though? If Hoke reaches for the brass ring next fall and it blows up in his face because Denard goes down and the guy who was supposed to be his backup is at wideout, I probably wouldn't even be mad. It would suck, but I want a guy who will swing for the fences.
While the coaches are going out of their way to make it sound like that is not in the cards, sometimes the relationship between reality and what coaches have to say to not have horrible things happen is great. If Devin wants to be the #2 QB going into fall Michigan would be foolish not to downplay the WR stuff until he's on campus in the fall. Once he's there, then talk to him about moonlighting while still being the #2.
Gun to the head, I think he does see a lot of time at WR in fall camp. He'll still practice most of the #2 QB snaps but also taking a share of snaps at WR when Denard is out there. They'll teach him one of the four spots—probably Hemingway's—and use him in certain three and four wide receiver packages for 15-20 snaps a game. If he proves to be a top-flight guy quickly Michigan might not have much choice about using him more in tight games, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
If Denard goes down for any length of time, it'll be Devin.
Meanwhile there are 20 or 21 other positions Michigan has to fill…
All Eyes(z) On Campbell
"It just means I can't slip at all, because I got 120 eyes on me now," Campbell said of leading the team on the field.
Well… there's no denying he looked a lot better.
Like, a lot. Last spring game guy was a lump who managed to not get blown off the ball most of the time and just about never did anything. During the year he was largely that with some nice plays mixed in, but too infrequently to be encouraging. In the spring game he had clearly progressed enough to actually beat his man to the gap more than once.
You know all those runs Rawls had where he had to abort mission and find another hole? Most of those were headed at Campbell. Since we got a baseline for Ricky Barnum in the time he got before his ankle injury last year—decent Big Ten player even then—that's a hopeful sign.
Mattison and Hoke hated it, though, hated everything. I am factoring in further improvement as this line Heningers themselves into ship shape by fall. Enough to survive a 'Bama onslaught? Probably not, but they'll be okay afterwards.
Other DL Items
Roh and Black each showed some pass-rush ability from their spots and neither got ostentatiously rammed into the endzone on a big run play. The going was tough for the offense. With four-ish starters back from an OL that paved the way for Michigan running backs—IE, no Denard—to average 5.7 YPA last year, I'll place that in the good column. The extremely tenuous good column.
One nice thing the moves do is it allows Mattison to play a ton of games with his line. Black and Roh can both function as outside DEs just fine, so Mattison can call plays where the line slants and stunts such that one of those guys ends up playing a WDE-ish slot whenever he wants. What Michigan lacks in bulk they'll have to make up for with quickness and the element of surprise; Mattison will have some chess pieces to do that with next year. Note that the touch sack on the Gardner waggle came from the containing… Black. Usually your three-technique is not the guy asked to do that.
The depth here was also encouraging. Richard Ash made a couple nice plays, which I was not expecting. One was an excellent string-out on a stretch play that forced the tailback to awkwardly cut behind him. I was beyond not expecting that. I don't think John Gasaway will get on me if I say I was shocked. Yeah. Later he showed up two yards in the backfield directly in the path of an iso; he got blocked from the side but the bounce he forced saw Marvin Robinson chop poor Vincent Smith down for a one-yard loss.
Redshirt freshman Keith Heitzman also was a standout on the second units, though his inability to flow down the line at the proper angle was the main issue on Rawls's fourth-and-short touchdown. He got into the backfield plenty. Once you've got a guy who can get there it's not that hard to get him to take the right angle against air.
Toussaint clubberates Morgan, via the Wolverine
None serious. Desmond Morgan took a cut block from Fitzgerald Toussaint and limped his way to the sidelines for the day; a source indicates that is not serious and shouldn't affect him at all. Jerald Robinson also had a minor boo boo that should not affect him.
The only player to miss the game was backup SDE Nate Brink, and that injury was no surprise since it happened before the Sugar Bowl. Barring a non-contact injury, Michigan should hit fall camp with everyone on the roster ready to go. Everyone save Brink, the suspended Josh Furman, and the mysteriously absent-but-returned now Tamani Carter got a full spring session in.
So they've got that going for them. That's a lot better than last year when five or six important players, including Toussaint and Lewan, were sidelined.
The Burzynski Start
World, meet Joey Burzynski, the redshirt sophomore walk-on who started at left guard in the spring game. That's not a huge surprise since a lot of shadowy spring practice reports praised him as a potential contributor and he had seen some time with the ones in the King of Tight Frames' highlight videos throughout the spring. His start may not mean anything more than Michigan wanted a decent right tackle (Elliott Mealer) on the second unit to give Bellomy a little time, but the guy started the spring game and must be considered an obvious member of the two-deep.
This is a development that strikes me as concerning. Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant has been getting a lot of shadow praise for a year now and he doesn't seem to be anywhere close to finding a starting job. Not only is he behind Mealer on most days when Mealer is a guard, he's behind Burzynski. Decrement your Bryant excitement meters.
No offense to Burzynski, but until proven otherwise the assumption here is that the spot featuring a walk-on is going to be a problem. Even if it's not that's a spot that will be subject to fierce competition in fall.
Q: does Michigan have enough faith in one of its incoming freshman tackles to move Kalis from primary tackle backup—this site's assumed role for him as a freshman—to left guard competitor? A: Dunno. I do know they like Ben Braden a lot, like far more than the recruiting sites did. Whether he's got the polish to be that third tackle or not I don't know. I would look at insta-move of Kalis inside as a good sign as far as Magnuson and Braden go. That'll be something to watch for in the spring.
Thomas Rawls: Ramming Speed
We got a few carries from Toussaint to remind us that yes, Virginia, Michigan has a true feature back again. The headliner amongst the backups was sophomore Thomas Rawls, who showed a knack in short-yardage ramming and the sort of spread-oriented north-south RAGE runs that Brandon Minor used to specialize in.
It was the short yardage that was most impressive. Michigan's OL was rarely getting Rawls the holes they intended to get him. I'll leave the debate about whether that was Mattison's DL being better than expected or the OL worse for people who enjoy debating impossibilities; what was certainly impressive is that when that happened to Rawls he downshifted behind wherever the intended hole was supposed to be and burst into the next one over—closer to the middle of the field. He lowered his head, knocked guys back, and showed enough presence of mind to reach the ball across the goal line when he was suspended near it. Your short-yardage back: check.
Rawls also displayed that north-south bowling ball mentality on a couple of belly plays from the gun on which flailing arm tackles failed to bring him down and he fell forward after contact. He's got enough of a package to also provide breathers for Toussaint when he wants out. He'll get 5-10 carries a game this year and fill a role. Not sure if he'll ever reach feature back status with two more years of Toussaint and the Isaac(?)/Smith cavalry coming in next season, but he doesn't have to to be a good idea.
Vincent Smith: Did I Do Something Wrong?
Dear Tiny Jesus,
It's me, Vincent. All praise to your save percentage. Could you make sure the spring game is the last time I ever run an iso play from under center? I never go anywhere and it hurts a lot when six 300 pound defensive tackles fling me into the natatorium.
Congratulations on your call-up with the Blue Jackets.
Tiny Bros Before Other Bros,
(Smith will be the third down back again and will level some dudes way bigger than he is to open up third down conversions. The power of Rawls hopefully compels Michigan not to run Smith out of the I any more.)
Spring game disclaimers apply, but where were Jerald Robinson and Roy Roundtree? They were out there. They were not targeted frequently. IIRC Roundtree got a hitch from Robinson on the first drive and then was not gone to again. Robinson featured from time to time but never as a downfield receiver, always as a checkdown option and usually a checkdown option being given a crappy pass.
The only receiver to make an impact was Gallon. I'd prefer Michigan's main target to be a big dude with a bigger catching radius, no offense Denard.
Secondary Status Quo
After a series of video clips heavily featuring comer Terrence Talbott with the ones instead of JT Floyd it was Floyd who got the start Saturday. He played well, making quick tackles on the short stuff. Later he broke up a slant on a goal-line situation only to get a horsecrap PI call (BOOO PRETEND REF, BOOO). While Talbott got some run, I don't think Floyd's job is under serious threat. Especially after Mattison gushed about him at that Glazier clinic some months ago.
As a unit the secondary was excellent. Countess got a pick and there were very few downfield completions. A skinny post from Gardner to Gallon stands out as the only one of note. Default note about how that makes the WRs look bad goes here; comparison to Michigan defenses pre-Mattison also does. To virtually skunk an offense in 60 plays is quality. With Talbott emerging Michigan seems to go four-deep at corner, maybe five or six depending on how ready Hollowell and Taylor are. The comparison to the Never Forget days is wondrous.
If the depth isn't quite as good at safety at least Jarrod Wilson and Marvin Robinson seemed on top of things… most of the time. Wilson was the guy Rawls made most of his highlights against. If either starter goes down there will be some hairy moments. One of the two should be able to replace 80% of Kovacs next year.
Robinson is out of the doghouse and to see him play well was good because I'd gotten some practice buzz that indicated he was out of shape. He's obviously not; he seems tuned in. Michigan will need him. Even if Furman's stuff was as minor as his lawyer suggests he'll be behind this fall. If it's not as minor he might not be available for a while.
Do Not Be Alarmed, Rich Rodriguez Is Still In Arizona
Formations and such: Michigan still can't run out of the I worth a lick, which is fine by me. I suppose we have to downshift into that stuff eventually, but I'd rather it be clear as day that the way to go is shotgun just to prevent any further Iowa-like misunderstandings of where Michigan's capabilities lie.
Aside from that the most interesting aspect of the day's formations was the most common set: two backs, three WRs, shotgun. That was the meat and bones of the spread and shred in its Slaton/White/Schmitt heyday and Michigan has a pretty good replica of that in Toussaint/Robinson/Hopkins, albeit without the spread-oriented OC and the lethality of the spread in the early aughts as allies.
This says what everyone expects about the TEs—yuck—and suggests that if Michigan can't block 'em they're going to spread 'em. If it's going to work they are going to have to make that gray area defender pay for cheating. We'll see.
Brandin Hawthorne: Mauler of Walk-ons
The most interesting thing that happened after Jack Kennedy entered, signaling the end of serious attention from most folk, was Brandin Hawthorne going ham. He shot a gap for a backfield TFL reminiscent of his slice into the Irish backfield late in that game, then intercepted a TE-bound ball on the next play.
He made a few other tackles here and there and looked… really good.
Now, we've seen him on the field and there's only one way Hawthorne making contact with a Big Ten blocker ends. That would be "poorly," and that would be why Desmond Morgan took his job last year and won't give it back this year.
I'm just saying, though. Just sayin' that when Michigan goes to a nickel package on a passing down I think having Hawthorne in there as a blitzer and cover guy instead of Morgan would behoove Michigan. Morgan's a little ponderous on his pass drops, and if it's a passing down Hawthorne's limitations against rushes aren't relevant. Just sayin'. Throwin' it out there.
You, athletic department intern who has to read these things: don't say you got it from me. Ask Mattison to repeat that thing he was saying a couple months ago about using Hawthorne as a nickel WLB and how smart that seemed even before he was killing walk-ons in the spring game. Yeah.
- Bellomy ran a QB power from the gun, so it's still there and it might stick around for a while. Bellomy did decently with it.
- There were also a few inverted veers, none of which went for a ton of yards. Gardner did impressively juke himself into a crease outside on one; he was blown dead before he could test it.
- Kaleb Ringer had an impressive track-and-tackle on Hayes in the open field off a dumpoff. Next play he whiffed a tackle on Toussaint (I think it was him).
- Jeremy Jackson's lack of separation from Blake Countess was… not surprising.
- Demens blanketed a Brandon Moore TE out that Gardner shouldn't have thrown but did; he made a nice play on the ball. His coverage is an underrated aspect of his game.
- Antonio Poole only popped up on my radar when he lost leverage on a Gardner scramble late.
Weather could have been worse. This is what Indiana was facing down for their now-cancelled spring game:
Tre Roberson put the One Ring into the fires of Mount Press Box and things returned to normal.
Random picture on the twitter:
Tuley-Tillman, Bosch… OH GOD WHAT DID THEY DO TO DENARD BREATHE BREATHEEEE
LaQuon Treadwell with Morris and Bosch:
Alumni game recap at AA.com.
Bullets and whatnot from:
Also AA.com has an article on Burzynski.
Joe Mathis In Play
comes with your choice of hairstyles. gotta catch 'em all!
CA DE Joe Mathis (not that Joe Mathis) has long been presumed a USC lean, but after his on-again-off-again unofficial to Michigan actually came off on Friday he's talking very highly about the Wolverines. He went so far as to name Michigan his leader:
With a day to sleep on it, Joe Mathis tells me Michigan is his leader following yesterday's visit. Currently hanging out Khalid Hill and David Dawson.
Sam Webb [note all tweets have been translated from the twitterese as per usual]:
Joe Mathis said he got chills walking down the tunnel at Michigan Stadium yesterday. Mathis also said Michigan will be in his top 5 and he guaranteed an official visit to Ann Arbor in the fall.
Michigan OL commit David Dawson said he can't wait to get at Mathis on the field today, but will really recruit him off of it.
"It was beautiful. I really enjoyed myself since it was so nice," said Mathis. "I went down the tunnel (at the Big House) and got chills. It was crazy."
Though recruits typically are high on a school following a visit, there was no denying Mathis' enthusiasm for the program after getting to see it up close and personal. He did not commit over the weekend but certainly came close and had no trouble figuring out where the Wolverines fit into his list of top schools.
"I was going to (commit) but I said that would be selfish because I didn't see other schools," he said. "Michigan is number one on my list. I don't have a top five, it's Michigan and that's it. I did have a top five with USC but I was like, that's selfish of me because I didn't see other schools. Coming out here, my mom was saying it was going to be too cold out here but this is me. I love the coaches and this is me out here."
Mathis added that the visit was much better than recent unofficial trips to USC and UCLA as well.
Usual disclaimers about a long way to go apply. Mathis might be one of those kids who gets excited about everybody—he's already committed to and decommitted from($) Washington. Mathis is likely to back off in a couple weeks when USC/whoever guys get ahold of him and maintain neutrality into the fall. He's already told GBW($) that he doesn't have a top five yet but that when he names one Michigan will be on it, which is a bit less thrilling.
If Mathis continues to state Michigan as his leader over the next month, that is legit and it's time to get excited. He would be an excellent pickup as an SDE/three-tech—Mattison told him he'd be Michigan's Terrell Suggs—and could help corral five star safety/athlete Su'a Cravens, his cousin. Mathis and Cravens have already announced they will take a joint official visit to Michigan this fall.
Shane Morris and Jourdan Lewis via TomVH.
Lewis, Dawson Stock: Rising
Ann Arbor's Concordia College hosted the Adidas Invitational (formerly known as Best of the Midwest, FWIW) over the weekend. Every recruiting service was there, as were a ton of Michigan commits and targets: Shane Morris, David Dawson, Joe Mathis, Malik McDowell, Kyle Bosch (just observing), and a bunch of rising juniors trying to get pub for 2014.
Aside from the Mathis stuff, the most notable developments over the weekened were strong performances from MI OL commit David Dawson and MI CB commit Jourdan Lewis. Dawson impressed with his weight—he's down to a svelte 280—and strength:
Michigan Top247 commit David Dawson dominates Joe Mathis in tire tug a war. Strong legs. Powerful. Dawson proved it was no fluke dominating Mathis again.
Mathis got the better of Dawson in a 1 v 1 later, FWIW. Since he's ticketed for guard I'll take that tradeoff. BONUS DAWSON-MATHIS TUG OF WAR TANTALIZING TIDBIT:
Joe Mathis and David Dawson just did a tug of war that Dawson won. One of the kids here said "you're gonna be on the same team anyway"
That's from Allen Trieu.
Lewis was even more impressive on both sides of the ball, blanketing a couple of high level receivers—ND commit James Onwualu and Big Ten-bound Kevin Gladney most prominently—at cornerback while impressing at receiver himself. Bryan Fischer:
Detroit (Mich.) cornerback Jourdan Lewis was Morris' favorite target as the versatile athlete played running back, wide receiver and defensive back in an impressive showing. He showed enough to be one of the top offensive and defensive players after several nifty catches on both sides of the ball, including a very nice snag along the sidelines with a defender draped all over him while running a route.
When Onwualu managed to beat Lewis deep it was enough of a rarity to draw comment. That's a good weekend. Multiple observers named Lewis one of the top two performers at the camp along with IN LB Jaylon Smith, who Michigan is unfortunately going to have to face at either OSU or ND. Josh Helmholdt didn't do so explicitly but in Rivals' (free) recap of the Invitational it's again Smith and Lewis getting top billing.
Lewis seems in line for a bump to consensus-four-star territory. Dawson should maintain his current rankings, but it seems like recruiting sites are now looking at him as a guard. That will hamper moves further upward.
Malik McDowell Eager To Commit To… Someone
Everyone's after 2014 MI DE Malik McDowell early and for good reason: he is a 6'6", 260-275 pound monster with Michigan and Ohio State offers already and his plan is to make a decision during his junior year. Get to it or miss out. Here's McDowell talking to ESPN's Chantel Jennings:
I'm surprised they can get Jennings in the same frame with that guy.
Anyway, the key passage in that video comes after Jennings asks McDowell why he'd like to get the decision out of the way so early:
MCDOWELL: It's really my dad, he said that he can't commit until my junior year.
JENNINGS: If it was up to you, you'd commit earlier?
MCDOWELL: Yeah, to a school that I would really like to go to.
JENNINGS: Any idea what that school would be?
MCDOWELL: Um… no.
Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more. McDowell grew up a Michigan fan and an early decision usually goes in favor of the team he's most comfortable with. AFAIK he's only taken unofficials to Michigan so far. He does plan on taking in spring games at Michigan and Michigan State.
Miscellaneous Invitation Bits
MI QB Shane Morris showed up and was Shane Morris:
The 6-3, 190-pound lefty ... bounced back from an up-and-down performance at the Dallas Elite 11 tryout in a big way. His arm strength is well-known, but his accuracy was picture-perfect the entire afternoon, and he showed more ability to put touch on passes than he has at times in the past. Although it seems unlikely, Morris might have raised his stock even higher than it already was.
The accuracy issues that Morris dealt with at the Dallas Elite 11 camp did not recur.
The top 2013 sleeper($) to come out of the camp was OH LB Jerome Lane, a 6'3", 217 pound kid out of Akron who seems destined for outside linebacker in college. He clocked an impressive 4.47 and caught everyone's eye. He's planning to hit up a bunch of school camps over the summer and see what happens. If things fall through with EJ Levenberry (about whom more below) he could be a guy to keep an eye on.
Meanwhile, Dawson said he thought IL OL commit Logan Tuley-Tillman was a "done deal" to transfer to Cass Tech but Cass HC Thomas Wilcher threw cold water on that by saying he is "not optimistic." Cass is a magnet school but they can only recruit within the Detroit school system, so if Tuley-Tillman moves closer to Ann Arbor the Technicians won't be an option.
In news about uncommitted guys, Shane Morris said his "top recruiting priority" is IL RB Ty Isaac and "he thinks things are going well."
Morris and Dawson finished 1-2 on Helmholdt's list of top offensive performers($) at Adidas. 2015 Cass QB Jayru Campbell was 8th, "one of the most consistently accurate" passers on the day and better than 2014 Chance Stewart, 10th. Lewis is second on his defensive list with Mathis 4th, McDowell 5th, and Cass DT Kenton Gibbs 7th. Smith took top honors and a sleeper CB out of Fort Wayne named Tyvel Jemison was the interloper at third. Gibbs seems to be making a move($):
This was the best single performance we have seen from Gibbs in more than a half dozen times seeing him. The 6-3, 285-pound defensive tackle was quick and powerful in the one-on-ones and played with more discipline than we had seen from him in the past. He found it easy going in the one-on-ones, handing offensive lineman after offensive lineman defeats. Gibbs has always had the potential, and he now appears closer to realizing it.
He'll be the number one guy to watch for an offer at Michigan's summer camp.
And an important update on a 2015 recruit from TomVH($):
QB Jay'ru Campbell's hair is feathered and lethal.
Devon Allen: Fast
Zoom! Note that he is finishing in front of a dude with dreadlocks.
AZ WR Devon Allen is a name that keeps popping up, and for good reason:
Devon Allen of Brophy College Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) is Superman.
What else can you call the junior who dazzled the standing room only crowd at the 45th Arcadia Invitational after he won a total of five gold medals — four in a four-hour span Saturday night?
All he did was set state records in winning the 110-meter high hurdles in 13.52 seconds and the 300-meter intermediates in 36.39, capture the 200 dash by the slimmest of margins at 21.10 — all this after warming up by running a leg on the Broncos' 4x100 relay team that clocked a glittering 41.15.
Those hurdles numbers are second nationally this year. The last guy to win three events at the Arcadia Invitational—described by ESPN as "the country's biggest in-season high school track meet"—was Xavier Carter, who you may remember as a five-star LSU recruit who ditched football to run track professionally. Devon Allen is fast.
Michigan has an offer out to him as a receiver. If he commits prepare for the perpetual, not-very-accurate Ed McCaffery comparisons.
Not In The Barn Yet
Michigan fans have been expecting a commit from EJ Levenberry for a while now, with his visit to this weekend's spring game the expected point in time. Get out your Lee Corso head because not so fast, my friend($):
Virginia linebacker E.J. Levenberry Jr. spent a week in Tallahassee to learn more about Florida State.
Even if that was a spring break diversion, I don't think I've ever heard of a week-long visit. In that article Levenberry says his time down there "helped FSU a lot" and that they're now tied with Michigan at the top of his leaderboard. That actually seems good since the full-court press with FSU couldn't vault them into the lead.
Levenberry's still coming up this weekend and has no set decision date. According to the article, it "may happen in the summer." If Levenberry escapes Ann Arbor without making a commitment it's time to consider him a guy who Michigan may get instead of will get.
Ohio State is backing off PA WR Robert Foster, one of the top ten kids in the country, for off-field reasons. This should clear up why Michigan didn't so much as bat its eyes at a five star at a position of need inside the footprint. OSU insider types are also not very confident about their chances with MD DT Henry Poggi, which would leave Michigan alone atop his leaderboard if accurate.
NJ DT Greg Webb commits to Penn State, another good get for BOB and another step away from the Ten Year War II meme—PSU is just about keeping pace with Michigan and OSU so far. That one hurts Michigan because he seemed like their best shot at a highly-rated NT. At least he went to PSU instead of OSU. Kenton Gibbs is happy with that development. He'll camp in an effort to get that NT scholarship.
2014 MO OL Andy Bauer is Michigan's first miss in that recruiting class. He's off the board to Missouri. I suspect Michigan will survive.
OH WR Kevin Gladney was calling Michigan a slight leader a month or so ago but omitted all mention of Michigan($) in a recent a interview with Trieu. He does mention visits to Nebraska and MSU plus interest in OSU despite a lack of interest. Writing is on the wall there.
Michigan was never after MI OL Cameron Dillard but since he just committed to Florida now seems like a good time to note that there must be a dearth of linemen in the South for Michigan to be going up against Alabama so often for their OL and for Florida(!) to offer MI OL/DL Poet Thomas before anyone other than EMU and pick up Dillard… who didn't even have an MSU offer. Instead MSU grabbed a guy from Texas. Very strange.
Dillard is the first Michigan player to leave the state for an SEC power without even token resistance from the in-state schools… ever? It might be ever. Certainly since I've been following recruiting.
Finally, DC CB Devin Butler committed to ND over PSU and M. I'm not sure Michigan has room (or need) for a third corner in the class anyway.
Michigan offers HI DT Scott Pagano, who wants to decide by August 10th. That's a hell of an unofficial visit schedule if true.
Ed-Ace: Michigan handed out two other offers recently. OH CB Ross Douglas, a Penn State commit who previously visited Ann Arbor without an offer, now has one in hand. With Butler and Tre Bell committing elsewhere, it's possible the Douglas offer is a sign that the coaches still want a third corner in the class if there's room. The coaches also offered 2014 NC OL Bentley Spain, joining North Carolina, N.C. State, and South Carolina.
Tom Lemming also released his initial 2013 top 100, and Magnus has the full breakdown over at TTB.
Hey, kids! Ace is off this week so I'm taking over your semiweekly recruiting overview. Why now instead of Tuesday? Taco time.
Go West, Young Mexican Staple Cuisine
OH WDE commit Taco Charlton was headed out to California for a family trip and they just happened to be having a Nike camp at the same time. Charlton decided to stop by:
If that looked like an impressive burst off the edge, you may be a Scout/ESPN analyst. The positive buzz from the event has already been translated from the twitterese and annotated by mgouser Michael Scarn:
Taco Charlton made his way to the LA Nike Camp, and he looks like one the best DE's here. Ready for one v. one drills.
Taco Charlton is 3-0 going against the #1 OL group. He and Joel Mathis [Scout's #8 DE in the country with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Nebraska, ND, Oklahoma, USC] are DL MVPs on my board today.
Charlton finally got handled by the West's top OL Nico Falah [Scout's #3 OT in the country with offers from Florida, ND, Oregon, USC], but he then finished 2-0 against another of the West's best - Kenny Lacy [Scout's #15 OT with offers from Arkansas, Nebraska, most of the Pac 12 save USC and Oregon, WVU].
Greg Biggins also opined that "no one has come close to stopping" Charlton, a "blur off the edge." ESPN analysts on site declared him "unblockable off the edge and huge" and said he "passes every test." Michigan recruit Joe Mathis won the DL MVP; Charlton was a close second.
[UPDATE: ESPN's Craig Haubert: "a bit in the mold of William Gholston, doesn't quite have the mass that Gholston has but is a tall, long player. … He's got a nice burst. He's not overly quick-twitch, but what he is is pretty smooth and fluid for a kid his size. He did a nice job against offensive tackles in one-on-one when they gave him the inside. He was able to quickly redirect and use that long reach to knock their hands down.]
While 247 and Rivals were not present—or at least not tweeting—those two services are already high on Charlton. Scout is the only service with rankings out that didn't have him in their Top X players list, something that sounds like it will change at the next available opportunity. That would leave one (ONE!) of Michigan's sixteen recruits outside the Scout 300. That is tight end Khalid Hill, who is looking like the 2013 Sleeper Of The Year by default.
You've undoubtedly heard OSU fans scoff about Charlton not even starting for his high school team last year, an accusation that is true. (He was a pass rush specialist.) The camp setting is a good one for a 6'6" quick-twitch guy who may not know how to play football yet. He'd be a guy to watch for a move down during the season if he doesn't turn his potential into production. Michigan is able to take a flier on a high-ceiling kid like Charlton thanks to Beyer, Clark, Ojemudia, etc. If he doesn't work out someone else will. If he does… hoo boy.
Tremendous got a camp reaction from Charlton. He'll try to duplicate his impressive performance at the upcoming Columbus Nike camp.
Go Slightly East, Young Mountain
Logan Tuley-Tillman, Shane Morris, some short guy, and Patrick Kugler via Morris's twitter. Good lord is Michigan bringing some big dudes. Also check LTT's shoes.
Undoubtedly worn out by his daily commute from Chicago to Ann Arbor, IL OL commit Logan Tuley-Tillman plans on relocating to the state of Michigan($, info in TomVH tweet) this fall. Fire up your high school dream-team fantasies now. He won't be protecting Shane Morris's backside, though—he wants to enroll early, which De La Salle does not permit. Ace is no doubt rooting for Pioneer to cut down on travel time.
Perhaps more enticing than LTT showing up in the area even earlier than expected is what he told 247 in a freebie:
“I have been helping recruit a running back, wide receiver, and a linebacker from my class,” said Tuley-Tilman. “I can’t say which ones but I am pretty confident they will be going to Michigan. I just try to stress to those recruits about how much of a family we are at Michigan and that we really have something special going on here. The support at Michigan from the fans and everyone around the university is better than anywhere else in my opinion.”
I'm guessing those guys rhyme with Shmy Shmisaac, ShmaQuon Shmreadwell, and Shmen Shmedeon. Michigan is the presumed leader for all three. IL RB Ty Isaac has returned from USC, has no visits planned at the moment, and wants to decide sometime in the next couple months. OH LB Ben Gedeon has been less definite about his timetable but also seems on the verge of picking a school. He is planning a Stanford visit this weekend, after which a commitment could come at any time. Ohio State insiders say they're scrambling to get back in, which implies this is going a particular direction. IL WR LaQuon Treadwell is the farthest away from the Hokéball*. He's still planning a full slate of official visits before he decides.
BONUS GOODBYE MASSIVE ATTRITION NOTE: LTT's currently got a GPA just under 4.0.
*[Is it possible that no one has referred to this recruiting binge as Hokémon yet? Gotta catch 'em all.]
Go To Another Header Concept For The Secondary, Author
Michigan's still going after a number of defensive backs despite having commitments from MI CB Jourdan Lewis, OH CB Gareon Conley, and OH S Dymonte Thomas. They were in on DC CB Devin Butler, who has an announcement date and seems headed to ND or PSU. They're recruiting Priest Willis and a couple other guys from the West Coast. They are of course in on super-safety Su'a Cravens, and now they're pursuing a Cole Luke from Arizona:
“Michigan has been recruiting me pretty hard,” said Luke. “They are a great school and have a great football program, so why wouldn’t I be interested in them you know. Michigan has produced players like Charles Woodson, who I really look up to. I know that they have a good coaching staff because of what Michigan did last year so that’s what really stands out to me about them.”
He says there's an offer out for him, but you know how it goes these days with the whole "committable offer" business. Offers to guys across the country can be mere visit inducements. Luke is visiting Texas and Oklahoma in the near future but doesn't have anything scheduled for Michigan yet.
In other longshots Michigan is still pursuing, presumed VT lock and MD CB Kendall Fuller will make it up for the spring game. On campus, have a shot, etc. OH CB Darian Hicks has also set a visit($), though he lacks an offer.
This suggests Michigan is planning for 24 guys in the class. They've got 16 commits now. If they add a tailback, two WR, two DL, and two LBs they'll be at 23. There's no room for another defensive back unless they grit their teeth and go with two WRs or forgo one of the highly-touted linebackers Michigan seems to be heavy leaders for… unless they go to 24.
Is this a Dymonte Thomas backup plan? Probably not. OSU just flipped OH S Jayme Thompson, the Toledo kid who set three or four announcement dates in February in an effort to trawl for big local offers. When none were forthcoming he eventually went forward with a SeVon Pittman-style non-commitment to West Virginia. That ended yesterday.
OSU's now got three defensive backs in a class that won't get very big. Picking up Thompson looks like cutting their losses. We'll see. Buckeye insiders refuse to give up the ghost there.
BONUS GAREON CONLEY IS GOOD BIT. TomVH on Michigan's corner commits:
I'll go on the record to say that I think Gareon Conley is the real deal. No one is talking about this guy, and he's 6-foot-1, 170 pounds with tons of athleticism, speed and ball skills. I've heard "no brainer" when his name was brought up. On top of that, Jourdan Lewis is no slouch. I saw him play plenty of times this past season and he was always making plays.
Conley is a potential riser as we go into the fall.
Defensive Line Shakeout
With Michigan down to a few targets almost everywhere, defensive line is the one spot with some remaining mystery to it. MD DE/DT Henry Poggi is a prime target for the SDE/3-tech spot; NJ DT Greg Webb is a priority at nose tackle or three-tech, and then… fuzzy. This is the normal way of things in early April. We are spoiled.
Poggi is the best bet. He's friends with IL OL commit Kyle Bosch and his recruitment has morphed from a Michigan/Alabama battle to a Michigan/Ohio State battle. It is always good when you're the constant on a shifting leaderboard. Webb either has Michigan first or fourth or tied in a top group of four($):
"Probably during the summertime I will cut it down to a good five schools. Penn State, Ohio State and Alabama are the three that will automatically make my list.
"Michigan has been recruiting me the hardest. Their coaching staff of Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison are d-line coaches, so if they think a player will be a good defensive linemen I feel like they just reach out to them a lot and that's what's happening. I talk to those guys a lot. Actually, I think that Michigan will definitely make my final list too."
TX DE and A&M decommit Christian LaCouture is visiting for the spring game…
"I'm going to visit Michigan April 14th for their spring game," he said. " Probably after that, I'm not going to visit any more schools. By then, I'll probably have the team where I want to go."
…but says LSU leads:
"Like I said, LSU right now is probably the team to beat."
When a kid's last name is LaCouture this cannot be a surprise.
CA DE Joe Mathis—Cravens's cousin—won the Taco Charlton Invitational Camp MVP and will return the favor by flying out to Detroit(!) for this weekend's Best of the Midwest Camp. When Tremendous talked to him he said he'd swing by Michigan as a part of that trip; Beaver is disputing that but I'm sure Steve asked and got an answer. Beaver gets huffy when other people break things. TomVH confirmed that Mathis will "try to swing by" this weekend.
IL DL Josh Augusta claims an offer and will swing by both Michigan schools($) this week when he's on Spring Break. He's an anonymous three star but did just pick up an Oklahoma offer; at 6'5", 275 he's probably an SDE/three-tech. Michigan has also reached out to MA DL Maurice Hurst Jr according to 247. He's a 3/4-star tweener who is the son of a former NFL player.
Meanwhile, the is-he-recruited-isn't-he on AL DT Rod Crayton… don't expect him at Michigan.
The Cthulhu Kid
…is what I might call TX WR Eldridge "Eldritch" Massington if he ends up commiting to Michigan. Massington told Tremendous that Michigan was his leader on Friday. Ace provided SNL highlights; here's a few actually featuring football from a camp now two weekends ago and an analysts's take:
"Throughout the day Massington's great frame and surprising speed made him a near impossible cover for defensive backs through the day. He struggled, a time or two, with drops but with as many quality catches as he made it seemed to be a mental lapse or two rather than a problem of drawing the ball in," said SoonerScoop.com Recruiting Publisher Josh McCuistion.
Needs moar tentacles to catch ball.
Si Se Puede
A realistic finish to a 24-member class: Isaac, Treadwell, Massington or OH WR Kevin Gladney (high three-star sort), Webb, Poggi, Gedeon, Levenberry, random three-star DB/TE/DL. Jebus. If I had only known I wouldn't have let Ace do this.
/remember the eight-commit weekend
/takes it all back
CA CB Chris Hawkins is off the board to USC.