“On the offense last year, they had great spacing. That’s what I remember. Great spacing, great shooters, like Nik Stauskas, who’s not there right now. But they always have someone to fill the roles. They have a cutting offense, kind of hard to guard.”
A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||THREE-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Craig Roh||Sr.||Quinton Washington||Jr.*||Will Campbell||Sr.||Jibreel Black||Jr.|
|Nate Brink||Jr.*#||Richard Ash||So.*||Ryan Glasgow||Fr.#||Brennen Beyer||So.|
|Keith Heitzman||Fr.*||Ondre Pipkins||Fr.||Matt Godin||Fr.||Frank Clark||So.|
Okay okay okay. Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Feel the lung expand and contract, and feel a calmness wash over you. Yeah. Calm. Calm.
Michigan lost three starters, may be starting a 280-pound three-tech, moved the only returning starter, and has a walk-on seriously pressing for playing time. If they're not starting a 280-pound three-tech, they're starting a 280-pound WDE. Will Campbell inherits a starting spot essentially by default.
No no no no. Calm. Callllm.
The big piece of news that hit when the Big Ten Network was let inside the velvet rope at Michigan practice was Jerry Montgomery naming Quinton Washington one of his starters instead of Brennen Beyer. This was followed up by a depth chart confirming this fact.
Clarity came Monday when Hoke made an appearance at the UM Club of Greater Detroit's kickoff dinner that I was at, waiting for the Q&A session with Greg Dooley and Angelique Chengelis. Hoke took questions, someone asked him about the defensive line, and Hoke gave a straight answer. To paraphrase: Michigan is planning on rotating six guys. Washington will be the nose in certain packages with Campbell at three tech and Black at WDE. In other packages they'll remove Washington and slide everyone down, inserting Beyer at WDE and going with Roh-Campbell-Black-Beyer.
Who's the sixth guy? You got me. I'd guess it's Nate Brink, but it didn't come up.
this year he'll totally live up to this image. really! (probably not really.)
This time we mean it, Will Campbell: it's now or never. The one-time five-star recruit is now a senior. He's been handed a starting spot by the graduation of three DL starters and Rodriguez's crappy recruiting. This makes everyone nervous because obviously.
There is some good news on this front. After a couple years in which Campbell appearances were all but guaranteed to draw this sort of commentary…
I'm not at the point where I can tell you the ten different things Campbell did to get blown four yards downfield, but I can blather on about pad level: man, pad level. Am I right?
…his cameos were fairly effective last year. He got limited snaps, of course, but only ended up negative against Iowa, when he got cut twice on big Coker runs. He had a +5 against ND, a +3.5 against SDSU, a +4 against Minnesota, and a +4 against Illinois, three of which came when he blew up a third and one by himself:
Unfortunately, these positives and highlights are all against the worst offensive lines on the schedule (and ND, oddly). Michigan didn't put him out there much against tougher competition; now they've got no choice.
"The most dramatic change I've seen in a body on our team is Will Campbell," said left tackle Taylor Lewan. "His body is transformed. He was a sloppy 350 and now he's a toned down 308 kind of guy. He looks real good. His conditioning shows it. You should see him run. He's like a gazelle. It's unreal. I think Will is going to do some special things this year."
Come on, baby. He's getting the full-court press from Michigan's three-headed DL coaching staff, and I wished and hoped my way to thinking he was a lot better this spring:
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.
While that hasn't kept the coaches from grousing about things, their expectations are not my expectations.
Finding out that Campbell will flip between three tech and the nose is probably a positive tea leaf. Leverage has always been a problem, and at 6'5" he's never going to be a great burrower. Get him one on one and he can deposit folks on their butts. That is what he'll generally be allowed to do at the three. His ability to do that on passing downs is going to be a huge factor in how effective that line configuration is—three techs can get good rush, and Michigan's ability to get pressure out of the WDE spot is very much in doubt.
What to expect here is a mystery. My WAG: adequate play that's on average a few points to the good on UFR charts (which is average for DL, as it measures MAKING PLAYS more than not doing so). Maybe a fringe draft pick if Michigan is pretty lucky. I don't think he'll be worse than Heininger, and he was pretty decent by the end of the year.
[hit THE JUMP for the GREAT MYSTERY beyond the KEN OF MAN (and Craig Roh)]
YMRMFSPA: [404 File Not Found]
The recruiting news isn't coming as fast and furious as earlier this summer, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to discuss. This week's Recruitin' Mailbag covers the biggest needs in the 2014 class, the 2013 recruit with the best player comparison, potential switches in the 2012 class, and why Shane Morris's high school stats don't match the hype. If you'd like to ask a question for the next mailbag, email me or tag your question with #mgomailbag on Twitter.
What are the three biggest priorities for the 2014 class in terms of positions? — @browngalaga
Two position groups immediately stand out to me as top priorities for the 2014 class: quarterback and running back. While Michigan appears to have their quarterback of the future in Shane Morris, they didn't take a QB in 2012; if Devin Gardner doesn't get his medical redshirt, Morris and Russell Bellomy will be the only scholarship QBs on the roster in 2014. With Morris in the fold, it's not imperative that Michigan takes a top-100 type, but they'll need a solid prospect who's a good bet to start as an upperclassman.
At running back, Michigan isn't lacking in pure numbers—barring attrition, six scholarship RBs will be around in 2014, plus fullback Sione Houma—but they're still missing that workhorse, every-down back that Wolverine fans are accustomed to seeing. Instead, there's currently a variety of situational backs—Hayes and Norfleet as slot types, Rawls and Shallman as battering rams—plus DeVeon Smith and Drake Johnson. I don't see Johnson as a threat to crack the two-deep at running back, putting a lot of pressure on Smith to pan out. If Michigan whiffs on Derrick Green, they'll need a big-time prospect to come through in 2014.
As for the third position of need, that's a little tougher to pick, which says a lot about the job Hoke and Co. have done filling the holes in the roster. I'd go with nose tackle; unless Willie Henry and Maurice Hurst Jr. both land there and develop into rotation guys, there will be a huge need for depth behind Ondre Pipkins. At a position where you need a solid rotation of players to keep everyone fresh, getting at least one guy who can clog the middle certainly wouldn't hurt.
[HIT THE JUMP FOR DYMONTE THOMAS YMRMFSPA AND MORE]
1: pew pew pew 2: a man Al Borges isn't 3: an alternate universe
I think there is no way Mario O plays. A ton of guys could be put on field before him. Several combos could fill the WDE spot better, eg Ryan-Cam Gordon combo puts our best, or at least most experienced, backup on the field, Ryan-Avery is similar, or how about flip back Roh for a Roh-Brink/Heitzman/Wormley/Black(?) replacement. Given how important a redshirt could be to Mario, I would think coaches will be creative.
I agree with you philosophically. Ojemudia should get a redshirt. I get frustrated when certain players have theirs burned for what seems like no reason. I'm with you, man. But… I don't see how he doesn't get on the field if Clark's issues are severe.
The problem with the above scenarios is that they reduce Michigan's specialization by flipping guys around and they still leave Michigan an injury from putting Ojemudia on the field. Is that injury reasonably likely? Yeah. So it seems to make more sense to leave Ryan at SLB full time, where he is still getting a grasp on all the particulars, and Roh at SDE, where he needs every snap he can get to figure out how to deal with his size limitations. The immediate payoff here seems real, and given the way Michigan is recruiting they figure they will be able to insert a Taco Charlton or 2014 kid into the lineup when Ojemudia graduates without losing too much. Of course, Mattison just told everyone that he was comfortable with the idea of Ryan at WDE in practice and proclaimed his faith in Cam Gordon's ability, so what do I know?
But even with that move, you're still juggling just three players between two positions. That's not tenable. If the coaches know Clark is going to be back relatively promptly, then I can see holding Ojemudia out the first couple games and getting him the redshirt. If Clark's out until Notre Dame or later, I think you have to blood Ojemudia and worry about the consequences in the distant future.
This may be a non feasible idea, but why not kill two birds with one stone by creating a triple option package for Denard and company? Everyone says its really hard to prepare for Air Force, and we could prepare our defense while surprising the crap out of Alabama. Think about it, our RB, FB, QB combo are familiar with zone reads and are a lot better than any combo air force will ever have. We surprised Ohio with the inverted veer last year, and Bama's young defense won't know what hit 'em.
In addition, I can't help but think kicking and coverage teams, plus Denard's (hopefully) reduction in interceptions will make up for the fortunate 80% fumble recovery rate. The special teams will likely improve with the influx of talent and depth we are getting, or negated by rule changes. Either way its a net gain for Michigan in special teams.
Unfortunately I think we have to file that under "not feasible." Triple option is not something you can go into halfway. Hell, Michigan's speed option last year was mostly a Denard run off-tackle that had little if any chance of getting to the tailback. The one time Denard pitched it was a fumble caused when a blitzing linebacker met him after he'd taken one step playside. While it had the excellent benefit of keeping defenses honest and shooting Denard into secondaries, calling it an "option" is being generous.
Adding a true triple option and trying to get him to better understand Borges's West Coast passing attack is way too much to bite off in one fall camp. Since Borges is what he is, he's going to do what he does, and that's get Denard to throw more accurate balls that are less frequently intercepted.
The inverted veer is a different business because it's a handoff. The worst thing that happens there is you make the wrong decision and you eat some yardage. We almost saw the worst thing with the option last year, and that's the last thing an offense trying to cut down on turnovers needs.
IN RE: making up for fewer fumbles recovered. I'm not sure the special teams will be much better than last year except in the realm of punting. Gibbons is still Gibbons, kick returns just got nerfed, and it's damn hard to have an impact punt return game these days what with everyone spread-punting their way to seven gunners. Punting should be better because Hagerup will either get his foot on straight or a quick hook for the steady Wile, but we're talking a few yards a game.
The interceptions, sure. Denard's interception rate dropped over the tougher second half of the year and he should improve somewhere between noticeably and spectacularly in year two with Borges. That still leaves Michigan treading water even in the most optimistic turnover scenario, and the schedule has taken a turn for the bear-like.
pre-bama thought experiment. in december of 2006, alabama offers rich rodriguez their head coaching job. he accepts. what happens to both alabama and michigan from then on?
Well, let's start with Alabama. They struggle through an RR-at-WVU transition year probably a little bit worse than their initial 6-6 Saban year, with Star Jackson taking over for the Bama bangs QBs midseason. Jackson doesn't end up transferring to nowheresville and becomes something like Pat White but probably not as good. No one gives six hundredths of a crap about the academics of RR's incoming recruits or Rita's jaguar pants, but RR probably still makes his fatal "I don't need Casteel that badly" error. With a somewhat more secure powerbase and money-providing demons, he does not hire GERG on try #2 and cycles through one of the then-available proven SEC DCs (Jon Chavis, for example).
This plus the better fit with his recruiting makes his defense not the worst ever assembled at the school he's coaching. He gets his QB a year earlier and has considerably better talent than he inherited at Michigan. He's replacing a total loser, one of many such since Bear. He does at least okay, probably pulls off an SEC title game or two, maybe wins it once, and sees a BCS bid or two.
He's probably still at Alabama in a Pelini-esque state: decent success, the fanbase is relatively happy with him, but they'll start to sour after a subpar year and two means you're out, buddy.
Meanwhile, Michigan finds itself adrift in the middle of the Les Miles/Bill Martin boat thing without a seemingly A-list candidate willing to jump. At that point I have no idea what they do. At the time I was muttering about how Jim Grobe mutterings were just the worst. Ferentz was out, Schiano was out, Miles was out, and Tedford was seemingly uninterested. Michigan clearly had no idea where to go, whereupon Rodriguez fell into their lap.
If Rodriguez is not there… does it matter? I'm not sure it matters. Lloyd was not Bo but he did have an impressive winning percentage, a national title, and the continuation of a record bowl streak. Would a pro-style coach have been able to turn Threet/Sheridan/no OL/nobody at all into a bowl appearance? I don't think so. At that point you're working from behind the eight ball and you have to be really fantastic to pull yourself out of that tailspin. Would Hoke have survived that? I doubt it; at that point his resume was a bunch of .500 seasons at Ball State. Would any outsider Michigan could have acquired have managed to hang on? Maybe by another year or two.
Even if we have no clue about who takes the reins in RR's absence in 2008, we can hazard a guess at their fate: similar hammering by OSU, flameout in 3-5 years, replacement. That's the way of things whenever you replace a legend, and if Carr wasn't a legend (debatable) he was definitely the continuation of Bo. It would have taken a truly A-level coach to not bomb out with no quarterbacks and no safeties and no offensive line, and it didn't look like any were available.
In the end, both programs are probably happy with the way things turned out. Alabama's case: duh. Michigan's: Rodriguez was such a terrible fit that Michigan rejected it in three years, at which point Hoke was just plausible enough to show up and shock everyone by doing everything right for going on 18 months.
|Farmington Hills, MI – 6'2", 220|
|Scout||4*, #20 DE, #162 overall|
|Rivals||3*, #30 WDE, #12 MI|
|ESPN||4*, #23 DE, #5 MI|
|24/7||3*, #28 WDE, #9 MI|
|Other Suitors||Michigan State, Stanford, Missouri, Illinois|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Ace checks out Harrison games against Cass Tech and Brother Rice.|
|Notes||Enrolled sort of early, in April.|
Children under 17, pregnant women, and men with heart conditions should stop reading this post now. It's about to get real.
INCOMING: MARIO OJEMUDIA DEATH STARE
When not staring a borehole through a camera lens, Ojemudia has two hobbies: making opposing offensive linemen say "where the hell did he go?" and heralding a sea change in in-state recruiting by going from Michigan State lock to Michigan signee. Even if you're not the kind of person who watches recruiting videos, I suggest taking a gander at Ojemudia's. It's kind of like watching a 215 pound version of Mike Martin in high school. He is there, and then he is not, because he's in the backfield.
That's why he's a D-I prospect and the kind of ultra-productive high school player—127 tackles as a junior lineman! 104 as a senior! A total of 26 sacks!—who gets ranked the top player in the state by newspapers more focused on high school production than college potential. He makes things happen. Those are tackles, and they are often of the screaming Viking incursion sort.
He does this with BGO($):
An acronym often used in the coaching world when describing defensive lineman is their BGO (ball get off). Mario Ojemudia is a defensive end with big-time BGO. Ojemudia is a fast twitch athlete at defensive end that can beat the offensive tackle out of his stance with his BGO.
Ojemudia has a large arsenal of moves to keep his opposing offensive tackle off balance whether it is the swim move, spin move, speed rush, or even the bull rush as he shows great strength for an undersized, 6-foot-2, 215-pound defensive end.
This has gotten him to Michigan. To get on the field he's got to add 30 pounds and retain that, which is always an open question. Some kids can, some can't.
If he can, things look good what with the stats and the highlight films and such. Ask his coach:
"Mario just has a motor that is unbelievable," Herrington said. "…He's about 215-218. If he gets up to college and he gets up to 245, he'll just be amazing. He could be a hybrid. We've never played him (standing) up, but he's fast and he could play an outside linebacker. I think he is better down, but he's always wanted to play up as a linebacker, so we'll see."
One of the games Ace caught featured Ojemudia's suspension for wearing pads at the Opening and Brother Rice running clock after racking up a big lead and was not of much use, but the season opener against Cass Tech was more productive:
Mario Ojemudia: The good news for Michigan fans is that if there was one player who impressed as much as Burbridge, it was defensive end Mario Ojemudia. … Cass Tech simply couldn't stop him on the pass rush, and he brought it on every play, showing an excellent motor and a great nose for the football.
Ojemudia stood up well to double-teams, flashed a nice swim move a couple times, and made sure to finish every play, including chasing down Cass's running back from behind on one occasion. To me, Ojemudia looks like a perfect fit for rush end, and he appears to have the frame to add some pounds without losing athleticism.
That star-laden game was loaded with scouts and both Scout's Allen Trieu and 247's Steve Wiltfong reported back similarly. Trieu:
Trieu on the Cass Game:
Ojemudia goes inside-outside for the Hawks, often playing inside of the right tackle, but will be converted to more of a true edge guy or potentially a stand up rush backer in college. He is very quick off the ball, plays with excellent pad level and motor. He was in the Cass Tech backfield quite a bit and laid a big hit on their quarterback in addition to a sack. He's relentless and looked like he was playing at a different speed than the Cass offensive line.
…had his way with the Cass Tech offensive line, registering a couple sacks, a few more tackles for loss and several quarterback hurries. … His explosiveness off the snap was evident. It almost appeared like he knew the Cass Tech snap count as he was so quick to get penetration into the backfield.
Rivals's Josh Hemholdt saw in Harrison's second game($):
…picked up where he left off last week by registering two tackles for loss on the game's first two plays. He would later add two sacks to his stat line. Ojemudia is much more effective when he is lined up outside the tight end and has room to work. When he is moved down over the tackle he tends to get bottled up, but as an outside rusher he is nearly unstoppable.
Won't it be nice if someone's saying that the snap count must be known when Michigan's defense is on the field? If the results are anything like those Jerel Worthy turned in during his three years of torment, yes. I digress.
Anyway, you get the idea. Ojemudia is undersized and has to make a transition to defensive end in college, which makes him a risk, but his production is such that people throw out names like Freeney, Suggs, and a guy you may be familiar with:
"Defensively, the only player in my 50 years of coaching I'd compare him to is LaMarr Woodley (Saginaw High)," Herrington said. "We played Saginaw in the playoffs (in 2001, Harrison defeated Saginaw 31-14 in Division 3 semifinals) and Woodley was pretty good. Mario can't be blocked. He burst onto the scene his junior year." …
"It was like coaching a back, he's so agile," Herstein said. "He has powerful hands and had that explosiveness."
For his part, Tom Lemming called him "the best in the state." Hype: feel it run through you.
He's got the death stare, he's got the BGO, he's… thirty pounds lighter than Michigan's smallest starting linebacker. That is why he is not Woodley to the ranking services, and why he's the biggest X-factor in the class. A small subset of Ojemudia-like players have the speed and ability to maintain their production at higher levels; most end up not making it. Only time will tell here.
The nice thing for Ojemudia—but maybe not the team—is that if he doesn't get big enough to fend of tight ends effectively there is a hole at SAM he would fit into nicely. Either way, he'll be an edge rusher. Michigan has discussed both with him…
Coach Mattison was told me that he was having me come in as a standup defensive end or outside linebacker," Ojemudia said. "My role would be just blitzing from both spots."
…and chances are wherever Ojemudia ends up his instructions will be simple: see that guy? He's the quarterback. Use your eye lasers.
Ojemudia early in the process:
"I've been (a Michigan State) fan. Michigan State has been one of the only schools that has really been talking to me that much -- actually physically talking with me. That's got my interest in (Michigan State) up there."
A couple months later, he and Harrison teammate Devin Funchess were commits and Aaron Burbridge was banging down the door but had to be turned away because Michigan couldn't take a gamble on the sort of academics that become a will-he-or-won't he offseason subplot in the aftermath of Rodriguez attrition.
Why Shantee Orr? Orr was the last truly short linebacker-type substance to man the rush LB (as it was called then)/WDE (as it's called now) spot. Orr was 6'1" and ended up 246 by the time he hit the NFL, which is about Ojemudia's ceiling. He was never a star but he was productive and could have gotten there as a senior had he not made a financially-motivated decision to enter the NFL draft.
And, hey, if you want to get super-optimistic, here's Tyrone Wheatley's recruiting pitch($):
“He compared my film to Dwight Freeney's,” Ojemudia said. “He said they’re identical and I liked that. He really wants me to go there. He talks to me once a week about life and everything.”
I'll take it! Freeney is also 6'1" but managed to near 270 pounds. For Mattison's part, he said Terrell Suggs. I mean, like… okay. If that's all.
Guru Reliability: Moderate-plus. Yeah, there's a big discrepancy between the two positive services and the two negative ones, but shouldn't there be? Ojemudia's the kind of player who should draw radically contrasting views on his talent.
Variance: Very high. Ojemudia could end up anything from a special teams player too small to see the field on D to that Freeney guy.
Ceiling: High. This is not "very" high because of size limitations. If those don't prove a huge problem, he can be that edge threat 4-3 unders look for.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Boom-or-bust prospects default to "moderate."
Projection: You'd imagine a 220 pound defensive lineman would be a lock to redshirt, but Michigan's lack of depth everywhere along the line and Frank Clark's uncertain status may prevent that from happening. He will likely be pressed into service unless Clark's charges are dismissed—that is a suspension-level event and the only other WDE available is starter Brennen Beyer.
When pressed into service, Ojemudia will fill Clark's role from last year as a situational pass rusher only. There is no way he can hold up on the edge against any team with a pulse that wants to run the ball. Down the road he'll get more of the same, backing up or rotating with Beyer and/or Clark until such time as there's sufficient depth at WDE to yank one of them over to SLB, likely Ojemudia.
♪ Well a whole season played with the first string guy is usually quite lucky.
And a squad who plays with the second team out can be anything but fussy.
But a team whose seen an important guy down—head concussed, knee on the ground!
If they ain't got depth around, then all goes to poopie.
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but depth is hard to get!
To poopie, to poopie, to poopie, but we can get there yet! /♫
This is a continuation from last week when I went through the expected offensive depth chart and tried to predict what would happen—what's the dropoff? how do we react?—if each starter is injured for an extended time. Now, I'm not here trying to roll into town and stir up trouble, see? I'm a purveyor of portents and hedger of predictions only. What I seek to do is prepare us for any one of these dings, so that if one occurs we can say something intelligent like "it hurts to lose Roh but Black is probably the less replaceable!"
Why not all defense? Things slow down from here because the defense has a lot of intermeshing parts, and because there actually is depth in places to speak of.
Mattison's er Michigan's defense has been characterized by interchangeable positions but really each spot is more of a sliding scale from NT to field corner where each one overlaps the things on either side of it. The listed spring/recruiting weights play this out (click e-bigitates):
Quickly again. Photos are all by Upchurch unless otherwise noted. Ratings are given in Saturn-punting Zoltans. Think of them like stars except more heavenly. Five is an all-conference-type player (Denard to Kovacs); four is a guy you'd call "solid" (RVB to Demens); three is an average B1G player (Morgan to Hawthorne); two is a guy with a big hole in his game (freshman Kovacs); one is trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poole.
Nose Tackle (Avengers)
Geeks / O. Ryan Hussain|TheWolverine / 247 Sports
In case of emergency: I'll be honest; this one is impossible to call straight. The 4-3 under is like the 3-4 in that it leans on the nose to suck up double teams and create mismatches elsewhere. The ideal is a superhero, and for the last few years we've had one of the best (by Ghost of Bo).
Hulk is gone but the franchise must go on, and for now that means we are 100% committed to making Thor work.
If the old 5-star takes up the hammer he's the pivot point of a great defense. If he doesn't then one of two mystery men could be anything from serviceable to disasters, and most things in between.
The upside on all three of Michigan's nose tackles is mighty. Weirdly, we think we know more about the true freshman, Ondre Pipkins, than the redshirt sophomore. Pipkins was a 4 or 5 star whose huge, squat, Tongan frame and jovial, Hoke-impersonating character made him and Michigan's need for nose tackle a cosmic destiny. If he's got the goods we'll see Pipkins early in spells of Campbell. True freshmen (Martin, Gabe Watson) of his caliber have fared well enough in rotational duty. The later this season goes, the more comfortable you can feel about Pipkins when he's called upon. Caveat: until he's called upon you have no idea if he can hack it, and for every huge dude you can name who could play right away (Marcus Thomas, Suh, Ngata, [sigh] Johnathan Hankins, DeQuinta Jones) there's 30 who need to spend a year as Ben Grimm before being The Thing. /metaphor used up.
In case of dire emergency: …break glass on Richard Ash. Nobody knows on this guy, who was recruited by Rodriguez as the last Pahokeeian project for Barwis to tear down and rebuild. The tear-down went unnoticed through 2010 and '11 and we caught a glimpse of possible rebuild when, 20 lbs. svelter, he made a few plays nice in the backfield. Ash could be anything from ahead of Pipkins to Adam Patterson. If that's where we are I could see Quinton Washington sliding down.
Rush Tackle (3-Tech)
Right: Dell Callihan|UMGoBlog
In case of emergency: The coaches have made it clear that Jibreel Black can play, and moving him two slots down the size/speed slide chart of defensive positions means they want him on the field, and that they want 5-tech-ish skills at the 3-tech. This being a swing position means the backups could be different things.
Quinton Washington is a big dude who was an offensive guard until he and Will Campbell were swapped for each other in that experiment. He still looks like a guard, and has yet show much at tackle besides easily dismissible coach hokum right after the move in 2010 so it wouldn't look like Rodriguez was throwing substances at surfaces to see what sticks.
Q stuck although the OL he left is now about as leaky as the DL he came to save. That the coaches moved Roh and Black down the line tells you something about their faith that Washington is ready, and going into his redshirt junior year that might mean he'll never be. He's seen time on goal line situations and is likely to again. Early in the year I wouldn't be surprised if he or Ash—whichever wins—is backing up both interior line spots, and that later on we see some Pipkins and Campbell together time.
In case of dire emergency: Ken Wilkins has been absent enough from chatter that people email me asking if he's still on team. Yes he is on the damn team, and he's still just a RS sophomore, but yeah, there's room for true freshmen on the three deep. Those two seem to be Godin and Henry, the lesser heralded of the heralded class, both of whom would benefit from redshirts. Henry is the larger. Chris Wormley, whom I rate at 5-tech, seems a more likely backup.
Strongside End (5-Tech)
In case of emergency: Craig Roh has to be the hardest four-year starter to project in history, thanks to many different careers as too-small WDE in a 4-3, a miscast OLB in the 3-3-5, then as the edge rushing WDE in Mattison's 4-3 under. Now he moves to RVB's old spot.
The backup here is almost assuredly Nate Brink, whom the coaches love but the fans hardly know because he's been hurt (he missed Spring because of it). When the coaches talk about the one-time walk-on they make sure to hit all of the Ecksteinian points: "coachable", "hard worker", "toughness", "great technique", "great motor." To that I might add he's 6'5 and 263, which is normal for the position. He's not Heininger (who as a sophomore backed up Brandon Graham), except in that he's some of the things you wrongly thought about Heininger. Then again I remember Brady Hoke making all sorts of guys into effect tech linemen.
If you'd rather see stars, Keith Heitzman is your guy. The beneficiary of the spring time Brink missed, the redshirt fresham was rated higher at tight end out of high school yet apparently good enough at SDE that the coaches moved Jordan Paskorz instead of him. Either this was a promise made at the time of his last-minute recruitment—likely since Tim reacted strongly when I say him and the TE depth chart together—or an endorsement by Hoke that he can play, or both. Best guess is it's both.
In case of dire emergency: Any of the freshmen linemen but Pipkins and Ojemudia are ready built for 5-tech. Of these Chris Wormley was a longtime high school star, which tells me he is probably physically ahead of the other guys right now. Tom Strobel is the other proto-RVB here. One day I expect we'll see the two of them playing next to each other at 3- and 5- respectively.
Backups: Mario Ojemudia ???, plus 5-techs
In case of emergency: Well if one goes down the other starts. Following a trend, both Clark and Beyer were OLBs last season, while this spot was rotated between Black and Roh. Though technically a unit change, the job they did last year—outside rusher—and what they'll be called on to do this year are not all that dissimilar. It speaks well to both that they played as true freshmen ahead of once-touted Cam Gordon. Read less into that, since Gordon was hurt to give them the opening and their skillsets are different from his.
They're also different from each other. Beyer was the more highly regarded and will get called "solid" more often because he's less eventful than Clark. Clark has the greater athleticism (see: interception in Sugar Bowl) though has been convicted of multiple accounts of giving up the edge, a freshman mistake repeated in spring. The rest of the D-line by design is meant to free these guys up for sacks, thus I see both rotating. If one goes down we lose the rotation.
The only other designated WDE is freshman Ojemudia, who is about 200 lbs. right now and would be 2009 Craig Roh'ed by most of the OTs and TEs on our schedule. Far more likely, in the event we lose one of the sophomores, we'll see one of the 5-techs or SLBs move in before the shirt is lifted from Mario. Craig Roh has played WDE more than any other spot, and Brink has the coaches' trust to fill in at 5-tech.
In case of dire emergency: Packaging still covers but there's Ojemudia if you need him. Packaging means in pass situations you just put Jake Ryan here and have Cam Gordon or Brandin Hawthorne or a nickel corner come in; otherwise go "big" (for a certain definition of such) with Roh back to wide and whichever backup DT/SDE in the game instead.
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.