"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Note: video from last year is lightboxed; previous years will take you off the page.
Rating: 5 of 5.
|Brandon Minor||Sr.||Mark Moundros||Jr.*|
|Carlos Brown||Sr.||Kevin Grady||Sr.|
|Mike Shaw||So.||Anonymous Walk-on||----|
|Mike Cox||Fr.*||Anonymous Walk-on||----|
|UW veer TD|
|Used as H-back|
|PSU TD #1|
|More PU RAGE|
It's no coincidence that Michigan's running game took a quantum leap forward when Brandon Minor was installed as the starter against Penn State and told to run very hard in one direction until the gore covering everything proved too slippery to get a foothold on. MINOR RAGE was born in a shocking first half against Penn State and all other options were instantly demoted to second-best. Gone was the preseason depth chart that featured a whopping three "OR" denotations. When healthy, Minor was the guy. It was obvious from his first drive against the Nittany Lions. It was obvious from his first thumping run:
After weeks of watching a couple freshmen zip into linebackers or, more often, linemen and then attempt not to get killed, Minor blasted into the secondary and left one of Penn State's safeties in a heap. Debate: over.
So what the hell took so long? Well, Sam McGuffie did flash hints of talent, most impressively against Notre Dame, before opponents figured out that you could just murder his brain. Minor, battling a wrist injury all year, put the ball on the ground with alarming regularity when he got the odd carry early in the season. And there were persistent rumors that Minor found himself amongst the discontented masses on the team that did not fully buy in. (Yes, this which makes Minor's post-season callout of any lingering Zion Babbs a bit odd, but it is what it is.)
Also, Minor hadn't been that impressive in his first two years at Michigan. This preview last year noted the gap in YPC between Minor and Carlos Brown—one that persisted even if you chopped down Brown's 85-yard ramble against Minnesota to something more reasonable—and came down on the skeptical side of things:
Minor runs too upright and stiff for my tastes. He's clearly slower than Brown and the fleet freshmen, has little wiggle, and tends to plow over and through defenders instead of trying to avoid them. Sometimes this ends with Minor spectacularly trucking someone; sometimes it ends with Minor taking a wicked shot from a headhunting linebacker or safety. …
IMO, he gets his fair share of carries throughout the year but is clearly less effective than at least one other tailback and possibly two.
This prediction looked bang on for six games, at which point Minor's projected best case—a poor man's Darren McFadden—sort of came true, didn't it? Minor's not going to go in the top ten of the NFL draft but he had his moments of thunderous downhill stomping, slashing through holes and over and through and past out-of-position defenders. He was one of the few players to seem a physical match for Penn State and Ohio State defenders and should improve further with a year of buy-in and Barwis. Evan Royster may be an obvious selection for All Big Ten tailback this year, but they put two on the team and from this vantage point Minor's as likely as anyone to claim that second spot.
There is a caveat, though: if healthy. I may have been wrong about Minor's overall efficacy but the ominous injury note above was borne out. Minor's early fumbling problems were caused by a wrist issue that lingered through the year and he missed the Northwestern game not with any specific issue but just because he had gotten the hell beaten out of him the past few games. Minor missed sections of camp after an offseason car crash left him with persistent headaches. Asking him to be a Ringer-level workhorse is a bit much.
|Loping vs Purdue|
|Tripping over Leman|
|Nice first down|
Meanwhile, the man this preview thought would claim the starting mantle, albeit nominally, came down with the usual array of nagging ailments from hamstrings to hangnails to exploding penguins. Carlos Brown hardly found the field all year. In fact, he was en route to a medical redshirt before Minor came down with that comprehensive ass-kickage and he was brought out of mothballs to play in the most unpleasant game ever staged. Despite the rust, wholesale lack of a passing game, and driving sleet, Brown impressed, racking up 115 yards on 23 carries—five per—with a long of only 17 against Northwestern's fair-to-good rushing defense.
Carlos Brown, this is your abridged Northwestern UFR:
Brown splits them and is a safety away from six points. … I really wish Brown didn't go down so easily on this one; with Mathews blocking downfield a cut outside might make this a touchdown. … Brown runs through the flailing arms and is away for a good gain. … Brown splits the two linebackers, then jukes a safety(+1), picking up the extra five yards he needs for the first. … should try to bounce it all the way back behind Sheridan—Steve Slaton used to do that to good effect—but instead just runs into a bunch of dudes. … makes a sweet spin move to evade the rolled up corner and safety. Free of those two, he picks up the first down. Major + play from Brown here. … Brown is indecisive with the safety and gets taken down. [Ed. Note: after ten yards.] … Here's the season for you: Michigan runs against what's essentially a five man front, gets a vast gaping hole and will pop Brown into the secondary for somewhere between eight and a zillion yards, and Brown falls harmlessly to the turf three yards in the backfield.
Carlos Brown got out of the grave and turned in an excellent running day, though a series of slips and stumbles prevented him from breaking a long one, and that last zone stretch on which he turned a likely first down into third and thirteen was a killer.
That's consistent move-the-chains production from a guy we know has gamebreaking speed. Combine the two and you might have something resembling the top-50 player Brown was coming out of high school.
That's the trick though, that and not having a series of freak hand, ankle, groin, hamstring, thigh, spleen, and pancreas injuries that limit him to one 85-yard touchdown against Minnesota and a lot of dour, beslinged observation from the sideline. There's no time like the present for Brown to live up to the extensive recruiting hype and occasional 80-yard touchdown—he had another one in the spring game.
If Brown is healthy and if Minor is healthy at the same time, expect to see a heavy dose of two-tailback sets that allow Michigan to zone read in either direction, run plenty of triple option, and prevent opponents from teeing off towards one side or the other. Rivals actually ranked Minor as a fullback coming out of high school and last year Minor's occasional deployment as a lead blocker was effective, as this Michigan State defensive end can attest:
Unless, of course, he's still wondering why his legs are made of eels and the sky smells so prickly.
Backups And Whatnot
|Season's first TD|
|Gets tackled oddly|
With Sam McGuffie wisely choosing his ability to remember where he lives and Conference USA over a sophomore season at Michigan, Michael Shaw is other experienced option on the depth chart. Last year he did his best Brown impression, alternating impressive, zippy runs with groin injuries. He added some bonus freshman stuff, too: the occasional horrible decision that ended in a seven yard loss or fumble, either of which events ended with Rodriguez spittle arcing across the field.
Like Denard Robinson, Shaw is made of dilithium, the winner of the 200, 4x100, and 4x200 at the Penn Relays his senior year of high school and a guy who was shocked when someone, anyone managed to track him down from behind once he broke into the open field:
"I broke a long run and got dragged from behind. It was then that I was like, 'I'm really hurting. I've never not been able to run, not been able to explode.' "
There was good reason for the slowdown, a groin injury that would eventually require offseason surgery for a "sports hernia." If Angry Michigan Running Back Hating God doesn't get involved again, Shaw should see extensive work as a slot-capable tailback on passing downs and all-purpose injury/fatigue backup as he's groomed for the (or, more likely, a) starting job in 2010. Somewhere between 50 and 100 carries at a high YPC and one or two runs where he goes so fast he mutates into a frog-like thing and everyone pretends it didn't happen afterwards would be a tantalizing sophomore year.
Past Shaw there's a cavalcade of freshmen in two groups. Group one—pounding Minor sorts—is Mike Cox. Cox is a redshirt freshman out of a New England prep school better known for producing hockey stars than football players. They only play nine game seasons; Cox was hurt for most of his senior year; no one scouted him before that because right New England prep school; then he redshirted. So, yeah, we don't know much about Cox. There have been erratic positive practice mentions that make the Minor comparison and suggest Michigan made the right choice when they went for Cox over instate star Jonas Gray, now at Notre Dame, after seeing the two side-by-side at camp. Cox should see some time spelling Minor, as Michigan doesn't have anyone other than him to pick up the thundermoose mantle.
Group two—spread ninjas—has two guys in it, both true freshmen. Ohioan Fitzgerald Toussaint was the higher-rated by the recruiting sites. He spent his senior year either shredding defenses for like 250 yards on 10 carries or getting swamped for like 40 on 20. There was little in-between. His highlight video is full of fancy jump-cuts and serious change-of-direction skills; he's slightly undersized but who cares, right? Toussaint's had some injury issues in fall camp and it sounds like Michigan is looking at redshirting him, which they obviously should since he's fifth string at best. Recruiting profile here.
And then there is tiny, zippy Vincent Smith, who arrived for spring and did this during the Michigan drill…
…impressing everyone and reminding us all that Rich Rodriguez might have some idea what he's doing when it comes to tiny who-dat running backs.
Smith's spring game was just okay, but the practice buzz up until that point was very positive. The buzz since has remained equally positive, with teammates dropping his name apropos of nothing. Here's the always-excitable Fred Jackson:
“Small guy, but a big back. He plays big. The way he blocks you and the way he’ll run over you. I’m going to bet that he’s 170 pounds, I don’t know exactly. But I’m going to say he’s 170 pounds and he runs like he’s 200 pounds.”
It's Smith, not Shaw, who's listed as the first backup to the two seniors on the initial roster. That means no redshirt and frequent duty; I'm betting he's the fan favorite in the race for the starting job next year. His recruiting profile beckons for the curious.
I have a hunch that Michigan fans and opposing linebackers are going to become very familiar with redshirt junior fullback Mark Moundros this fall. We know that Rodriguez likes to feed his ogres, and last year Michigan had some success passing to Moundros out of the backfield until opponents caught on to that one play they can actually do and shut him down.
This year Michigan figures to have several plays they can actually do and one spectacularly accurate short-range passer. You can see a glimpse of a Moundros-heavy future in the Forcier
porn highlights from the spring game: Forcier gets pressure from an outside blitzer on a rollout and hits Moundros dead in stride. Moundros turns it up in front of a trailing linebacker and picks up a first down. Shades of Aaron Shea there. Shea was Michigan's last frequently-used H-back, an all-purpose fullback/tight end who hauled in 38 catches in 1999. While that number might be a stretch for Moundros something like 20, most of which turn into first downs, isn't out of the question. The occasional carry might be in order, too.
|Blocks three guys|
|Crushing a corner|
As far as backups: with Vince Helmuth's move to the defensive line and eventually the MAC, there really aren't many options. Kevin Grady is still around but he's not much of a fullback and after four years disappointing on and off the field the chances he picks up a major role are slim indeed. He's listed second on the depth chart at the spot, FWIW. Michigan's best bet for a backup will probably be a to-date anonymous walk-on. Both Owen Schmitt and Moundros started as walk-ons, after all, and Rodriguez has directly stated he won't recruit scholarship fullbacks in the future. He prefers to breed them in Barwis vats in the IM building basement.
First we talked coaches, and now onto the players themselves.
- Shaw is hoping that he will be able to stay fully healthy this year. He has his burst back, and he just needs to get his confidence going full blast again.
- "I'm kinda favoring it [the injury]. My confidence is returning, and I just can't let up in rehab."
- The indication that there was something truly wrong was the Minnesota game. He was caught from behind for the first time in his career - "and I've been playing football since I was 7 years old" - and his dad called and said there must be something more serious wrong with him.
- The team had lots to prove in the offseason, and they took their workouts to a whole new level to prove it.
- Grady will play both fullback and tailback "whatever position helps the team win." Being able to play multiple positions gives the team more personnel versatility.
- "I haven't played with my brother since I was a sophomore [in high school], so it should be pretty cool."
- As defending the spread goes, it's the more experienced defensive teams that are best at trying to shut them down.
- Mathews isn't sure whether the spread offense will best help prepare him for the NFL. "I still have my old playbook, so I can always look at that." If anything, he says playing in multiple offenses over his career might help make him a better all-around receiver.
- Different offenses (such as the spread) work well in college, which is what makes the college game more fun to watch. However, in the NFL, there are so many good athletes on defense that it's difficult for these offenses to succeed.
- He has only been in Ann Arbor a little over two weeks, though he participated in voluntary workouts over the summer. It was frustrating to wait at home and miss the first week of practice, especially because he needed to get going on the adjustment to college ball.
- Turner grew up a Michigan fan (and took grief from Ohio State fans once he committed to the Wolverines), and he has some family in the area, so if he feels homesick, they're only 20 minutes away.
- Charles Woodson was the reason that Turner liked Michigan as a child, and he was happy to get the #2 jersey to honor his idol. Though he hasn't met Woodson, his eyes lit up when told that he would probably have the opportunity. "Today?" Sorry, it will have to wait until the season.
- Koger will be used as a true TE, flexed out wide, and this year, they're adding in some packages as an H-Back.
- In terms of catching passes, his use won't be too different from last year - though hopefully he'll see more passes thrown his way: "If I'm open, I'll get the ball."
- He's looking forward to spending a year healthy. The wrist injury plagued him all last year - even after he made his breakthrough later in the season.
- It was a relief to break out against Penn State, but not too big because he was expecting to do it eventually. That doesn't mean he was too frustrated with his performance leading up to the game, though. He's forgotten about all of the struggles last year (both individual and team) and looking forward to this year.
- He doesn't care if splitting carries reduces his time in the spotlight, saying "I'll take them as they come. Whatever helps us win."
Don't forget about Paul's media day photo gallery, either. It features Michigan QBs holding hands, and should not be missed.
The fortune cookie of articles. Does it seem like this description of Shaun Alexander's recruitment should end with "…in bed"?
Alexander drove through a snowstorm to Michigan, where the school’s recruiting hostesses greeted him in their standard-issued khaki pants and golf shirts.
A week later, Alabama representatives picked him up in a private jet. On the way to Tuscaloosa, the pilot slid over and let Alexander fly. Once on campus he was greeted by a group of sundress-wearing co-eds named the ’Bama Belles. The young lady assigned to Alexander was the reigning Miss Alabama runner-up.
I'm pretty sure I know what that infamous golf shirt outfit looks like (right):
Michigan has since replaced those shapeless… items with something more appealing. Maybe they allow the hostesses to wear something other than cotton garbage bags these days.
Michigan would get the last laugh when Ryan Pfluger shanked an extra point in the first overtime of the 2000 Orange Bowl, and in 2004 the NCAA would significantly restrict the ability of schools like Alabama to fete their recruits Paris Hilton-style.
Show me your jets. There's been a lot of scuttlebutt about how Michael Shaw's injuries saw his abilities decrease in his intermittently-impressive freshman year, but I believe this is the first confirmation of such a thing from the man himself:
"I remember the Minnesota game, and nine times out of 10 that's a touchdown," Shaw said, referring to his 48-yard run, which led to his season-best 71-yard day. "I broke a long run and got dragged from behind. It was then that I was like, 'I'm really hurting. I've never not been able to run, not been able to explode.' " …
"I had significant playing time last year," Shaw said. "With those two guys (Minor and Brown) in front of me, it's up for grabs, and camp is a great platform for me to show I can still play and I'm ready. ... I'm about 90%. I'll be 100% by camp."
Yes. Remember that Mike Shaw is also made of dilithium. Last year he fumbled and disastrously tried to bounce it outside a few times each, but when he wasn't forcing facepalms out of the fanbase he was slashing into the secondary and picking up 20 or so yards a couple times per game.
Shaw's unlikely to wrest the starting job away from the two seniors unless both succumb to injuries. A good sophomore year would see Shaw remain healthy, rip off the occasional long run whilst spotting the two co-starters, and throw down the gauntlet for anyone who presumes to challenge him in 2010.
More for the great leap forward. The latest effort of Football Outsiders' college guru Bill Conolly tackles tailbacks and has a number of data points relevant to Michigan. The stat in question is "Points Over Expectation." The brief summary: it's a metric that rewards you for rushing for lots of yards over many carries. It's something midway between YPC and yardage. (You can get a longer explanation at the link above.)
The notes of interest:
- Sam McGuffie checked in with the seventh-worst POE number in the country last year.
- Brandon Minor had the 12th-best POE number, and is the tenth-best returning tailback.
- Javon Ringer ran a lot, but to little effect:
Ringer was fourth in the country in rushing yards last year, but where did he stack up in POE? A whopping 137th, between Ball State backup Cory Sykes and Colorado backup Demetrius Sumler. Ringer's 390 carries merited a POE of -0.3, meaning an average college running back would have put up exactly what he did in 390 carries. While there is certainly skill (or at least good genes) involved in managing 30 carries per game without breaking down, it is unlikely that the skills Ringer possesses will in any way translate to pro success
In football numbers always require interpretation. Mine: the difference between McGuffie and Minor is partially, maybe even mostly, due to the radical improvement of Michigan's offensive line as the season progressed. The vast bulk of Minor's carries came in the second, effective half of the season. McGuffie was stuck running behind some super-confused guys.
But, man, the size of that gap is epic. Minor was more effective by leaps and bounds. This may something anyone who watched the two could tell you anecdotally, but if last year's Michigan's running game was the 12th-most effective in the country when Minor got the ball that's an accomplishment nearing magnificence. I've been making the case here that we should expect the rushing offense to take a considerable step forward this year; these numbers support that, possibly even to an extent I haven't dared suggest.
On Ringer: I think most people who saw a lot of Ringer would disagree with Connolly's conclusion at least somewhat. Ringer's lack of per-carry production was a product of extreme overuse, predictable playcalling, and being backed by the "threat" of Brian Hoyer*. I've also heard from a couple of educated Michigan State fans that the reason last year's Michigan State team had about one run play—power off tackle—was the ineptness of the offensive line. That's all they could do. He was not put in a position where he could succeed, and he managed to get drafted despite Dantonio treating him like a pack mule. Ringer has talent—probably not NFL-level, but you could say that about a lot of tailbacks with much better POE numbers.
It'll be interesting to see whether the repertoire expands next year or if they're the new Rock, Rock, Rock of the Big Ten. I lean towards the latter. Dantonio may have herded the cats at State into something resembling a competent defense, but offensive creativity does not seem like a specialty.
*(Brandon Minor gets to deploy all these excuses as well since Michigan ran two-thirds of the time when he was the feature tailback, largely because the alternative was having Threet or Sheridan throw. And yet… the numbers. I'm going to go breathe into a paper bag for a while and then write "I will NOT predict 9-3" on a chalkboard 500 times.)
Ah, Doyel. I've previously called Gregg Doyel a junior-high version of Christopher Hitchens and that he remains, but goddamn if it isn't satisfying to read a Christopher Hitchens piece when his strident personal morality happens to intersect with yours. So, yeah, Doyel's latest is a rip job on the inane Meyer-to-ND meme personally started by professional provocateur Paul Finebaum, and I like it.
I want to highlight this bit:
Finebaum's source? He doesn't mention one. Because he doesn't have one. His source is either Spurrier's "rumor down there," or that vast empty space Finebaum calls his skull. …
the Meyer rumor won't leave. Newspapers in Gainesville, Fla., Nashville, Tenn., and Orlando, Fla., have written about it, all in the past six days. Why? Because of Spurrier. And Finebaum.
This is pretty much the exact thing newspaper partisans get upset about when a baseless rumor flies about the blogosphere, reproducing willy-nilly despite a total lack of evidence or credibility. This is not a bug unique to the internet. Like everything else, it just happens much more slowly in newspapers.
In a way it's even more likely to result in untruthiness. Scratch the right sort of Notre Dame, Michigan State, or Ohio State fan and eventually he'll say something along the lines of "lol, Shredriguez" because last year a West Virginia newspaper published an embarrassingly credulous story about Rodriguez invading the Sacred Single Hardcopy Room and destroying all evidence that West Virginia even had a football program. The thing in question takes on a patina of reality due to the institutional momentum behind such a meme—it in a newspaper, it must be true—even if it's purest crap.
Etc.: Terrific UMHoops post on the three-point line move and Michigan's bombing ways.
A disclaimer on the "You May Remember Me From Such Players As": YMRMFSPA is supposed to be a rough estimate of what kind of player the recruit could turn into if he pans out. It is not a projection. The players listed tend to be very good because no one knows what kind of player Doug Dutch is; we just know he can't get on the field. I am not saying that I expect Martavious Odoms to be Devin Hester, the best return man in the history of the NFL. I'm saying that Odoms is sort of like Devin Hester and if we roll a second critical hit on our critical hit roll he might be half as good.
End disclaimer. On with shew.
|Delray Beach, Florida - 6'0" 190|
|Scout||2*, #93 S|
|Rivals||3*, #41 ATH|
|Other Suitors||Rutgers, Syracuse, Miami (DB), LSU (WR)|
|YMRMFSPA||Pat White, obvs. Or Reggie Ball with less fail.|
|Notes||Pronounced "Fay-gin." Like Faygo. He was destined to come up from birth. No word on if he likes ICP or not. Hopefully not.|
Justin Feagin is Not Terrelle Pryor, and he is at the moment the only quarterback recruit in the class of 2008 and one of only three that will be on Michigan's roster this year. A small-school star largely ignored by the recruiting services, Feagin is the "dual" in Michigan's upcoming Dual Threet offense.* Zing!
I've said this before, but this is one of the recruits in this class I'm baselessly excited about in defiance of recruiting rankings and reason. If you're so inclined you can see Feagin doing squats until two in the morning in his quotes. Feagin on Pryor:
"What if he does go to Michigan? Shame on me if I sit back and think he's better than me. If he wants to play quarterback, we'll have to fight each other for the job. If I win the job, then I'll know I beat out the No. 1 quarterback in the nation."
Feagin on... Pryor:
"I hope, and it would be better for me, if he goes to Michigan. That really lets me see where I stand as a quarterback and if I have really enough potential. He's a good player, and if he goes there that means I have to work twice as hard to get what I want."
This seems something other than the standard blah blah bleur bleur, and I've read a lot of blah blah bleur bleur in my time. Highlights:
Feagin was also heavily involved in his team's state championship, running for 200-some yards and getting burned for a couple touchdowns by Alabama recruit Melvin Ray. He finished third in Florida's Mr. Football voting this year despite playing in the state's smallest classification.
Feagin's recruitment got off to a slow start but by his senior year he had offers from a dozen schools, most prominently LSU (for wide receiver) and Miami (for defensive back). Feagin wanted a shot at quarterback and waited, at which point I think the big schools pulled their offers due to space concerns. (Miami was so full they were trying to jam Martavious Odoms in their class by offering him a track scholarship.) Michigan was left with Rutgers and Syracuse and won that battle.
Feagin sounds like the kind of guy who will thrive under the pressure of the Rodriguez regime and is clearly a high caliber athlete. However, he'll take a ton of developing to be a legitimate quarterback, especially at his height, and I expect that he'll serve as an insurance policy for Threet until such time as the coaching staff can bring in some more highly-touted guys, at which point he'll find a home at wide receiver or in the secondary.
*(Anyone wanting to fight me about that sentence is welcome to.)
Guru Reliability: Dude, like nil. I don't care if he's not an actual quarterback, anyone who has offers from Miami and LSU is not a two-star prospect, Scout. And ESPN didn't even evaluate him.
General Excitement Level: Moderate overall, meh at QB.
Projection: Someone's going to play Tebow to Threet's Chris Leak this fall; unless Carlos Brown locks that down, it'll be Feagin. I have no idea what to expect, but think his future is probably somewhere other than quarterback.
|Cypress, Texas - 5'11" 180|
|Scout||4*, #7 RB, #63 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #10 all purpose back|
|ESPN||79, #30 RB|
|Other Suitors||USC, Alabama, Texas A&M, Cal|
The very first mixtape appearance.
McGuffaggedon is nigh.
The liveblog of his HS game.
|Notes||Good... bad... he's the guy with the gun.|
The most obscure member of Michigan's 2008 recruiting class, little-known Sam McGuffie had a moderately successful junior year devoid of highlights, long touchdown runs, and Superman-like feats. Please enjoy this five minute compilation of three yard off-tackle runs:
Mmmm, second and seven.
Despite all of that above -- part of a remarkable junior season in which McGuffie ran for 3,121 yards and 43 touchdowns -- Rivals cited his size and controversially omitted him from their initial top 100, then several more editions of the list before relenting after a Nike camp where McGuffie impressed.
When the season rolled around, McGuffie picked up a high-ankle sprain and a shoulder separation, missing large portions of the first two games before blowing up for 500 yards in the next two. Scout shot him up into their top 50; Rivals dropped him down 100 spots. When McGuffie's nationally televised game rolled around, he limped through an entertaining loss to another team with the word "Cy" in it somewhere. By that time his shoulder injury had gotten so bad that his attempts at pass protection consisted of falling at blitzers' feet. when it looked like he was going to get hit, he spun away from it and went back-first into tacklers. It was weird, and disappointing until the extent of his injuries came out. He probably shouldn't have been playing at all.
Rivals dropped him out of their top 250.
I'm not one of those who scoffs at recruiting rankings, but their continued skepticism about McGuffie is puzzling. He has the offers (Michigan, Florida, USC amongst a host of others), the stats at perhaps the highest level of competition available in high school football, and reel after reel of jaw-dropping highlights. He has the fourth-highest SPARQ rating in the history of whatever the hell a SPARQ rating is because he showed up at a combine before his junior year of high school and ripped off a 4.32 40, a 3.83 shuttle -- I'm not exactly sure if my calculations are correct, but I believe this means he finished the shuttle before he started it -- and a 41' vertical leap.
Though the guys around McGuffie aren't exactly household names yet one, Josh Haden, just got done starting his freshman year as a Florida cornerback. And though McGuffie weighed in at just 164 pounds at that combine, this year he was supposedly up to 185. Stature didn't keep Rivals from ranking Noel Devine the #15 prospect of 2007.
I don't get it. Plenty of offers, spectacular performance when he's not injured, eye-popping combine performances, and the most electrifying highlight reel of the year equals diss. I'm with Scout and Tom Lemming: Sam McGuffie is awesome.
With McGuffie's supply of awesome established, we can turn to how he fits in the spread 'n' shred. Even skeptical Rivals gave McGuffie the nod as the year's best RB in space:
Guru Reliability: Two warring camps, so low.
General Excitement Level: AAAAIIEEEE! Man... this offense is McGuffie's jam, man, and the Church Of Barwis will excommunicate anyone who doubts his his's ability to get up to 200-some pounds without compromising his lightning quicks. Steve Slaton says what.
Projection: He's the man, man. Will battle Brown and Grady for carries at first; probably a Noel Devine role his first year.
|Avon, Connecticut - 6'0" 203|
|Scout||4*, #35 RB|
|ESPN||77, #69 RB|
|Other Suitors||UConn, Maryland, BC, Penn State(?)|
|Meet Mike Cox? Also there is a sort-of transcript of a Facebook interview.|
|Notes||Degree of difficulty applies on all jokes about his name. (IE: please no "Mike Cox is huge" jokes.)|
All that sarcastic stuff about McGuffie above actually does apply to Cox, who showed up at Michigan's camp a complete unknown and left a Michigan commitment. Cox grabbed a RB offer from highly touted instate back Jonas Gray despite Gray's blazing 4.3 forty. Gray was given an "athlete" offer; Cox was the guy Michigan wanted.
There's almost zero reliable data on Cox. His high school conference is well known for hockey -- read full of rich white guys named "Higginbotham" (no, literally) -- and is awful at football. Adding to the uncertainty is a senior-year injury that kept him out of four of his team's measly eight games against the sweater-as-cape pricks of the world. We know the Michigan coaching staff liked him enough to offer him over Gray, but that was for Mike Debord's zone stretch extravaganza. Rodriguez runs a completely different offense.
Cox got offered by East Coast schools like Boston College and Maryland, so he's not a total flier, but... yeah, still pretty much a flier.
Guru Reliability: Nil. Cox hits all the potential sleeper checkmarks: injury, obscure school, overlooked part of the country, questionable level of competition.
General Excitement: Meh.
Projection: Cox had mediocre offers and guru rankings -- even the Scout 4* is a fringe one -- and was recruited to play an entirely different system. He seems the least likely skill recruit to contribute.
|Trotwood, Ohio - 6'0" 185|
|Scout||4*, #29 RB, #215 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #6 RB, #102 overall|
|ESPN||78, #58 RB|
|Other Suitors||Penn State, Tennessee, Iowa, Nebraska|
|Nothing, as he was a PSU commit forever.|
|Notes||FWIW, "Takkle" ranks him #62.|
(Shaw is listed here but only nominally, as the general consensus is that Michigan will bring him in as a receiver.)
The last signing-day heist to come in for Rich Rodriguez and his wizard hat, Michael Shaw is a guy stuck between two positions. Shaw was a running back for the Trotwood-Madison program that was so generous to Michigan this year, but most observers believe he's being brought in as a slot wide receiver by Michigan.
By June, Shaw had a ton of offers. Michigan was among them and was rumored to be the favorite for his commitment, but the presence (and skittishness) of RB commit Sam McGuffie caused Michigan to offer Shaw as a DB. He didn't like that and committed to Penn State in August. In November he made a brief cameo in the Rivals 100, though he eventually ended up just outside of it. He seemed content until Rich Rodriguez was hired at Michigan; in early January he announced he'd take visits to Tennessee and Michigan. He only took the latter, then went dark until Signing Day, whereupon The Drama unfolded.
That's been hashed and re-hashed. Currently un-hashed: what does Michigan have in Shaw? Scout on Shaw after seeing him in the Herbstreit game against Kentucky Highlands:
It was not like people did not notice him while he led Alter a state championship in 2006, but the move to the "Wood" guaranteed that schools could no longer delay in making him know that he was at the top of their priority list. He was considered by many to be a "system" back, but this game should quiet those critics. He is an explosive player that is multi-faceted. His hands are amazing, he has a feel for the defenders, he has good feet, and he is undoubtedly one of he fastest players in the Midwest.
Bob Lichtenfels' impression from the same game:
The four-star running back showed his electric hips and superb vision. Shaw is not only a great back, but he is a tremendous receiver out of the backfield.
ESPN disagrees completely, complimenting Shaw's ability to get "tough yards after contact" but expressing concern about his speed. He "lacks an extra gear." Which is, like... the exact opposite of what everyone else says. WTF?
I am not a scout, but in the Shaw video at Scouting Ohio I saw a guy with a knack for catching the flare, good speed, and exactly one move: an upfield cut followed by a bounce-out that got him outside high school defenders with regularity. He's clearly fast, sets up his blocks pretty well, and has that glide cut down -- thus the comparison to Antonio Pittman above. But virtually no Shaw runs were between the tackles. Tough yards after contact were few and far between. Maybe ESPN got the wrong film or the highlight reel misrepresents Shaw's strengths... but that's a lot of outside pitches. In comparison the Sam McGuffie tape is full of spins, slashes, hurdles, and wicked cuts both upfield and outside. I can see why Shaw's projected as a wideout.
Not like that will matter hugely, anyway. In the Rodriguez system the slot guys are half running back, frequently coming into the backfield to participate in a triple option, reverse, or end-around. Darius Reynaud, WVU primary slot receiver for the past few years, replaced Steve Slaton at RB when he left the 2006 Louisville game, and was a frequent target on screens that function as running plays and the occasional end-around.
Guru Reliability: High, with the exception of ESPN.
General Excitement: Moderate.
Projection: I don't know what position he'll play or how good of a fit he'll be at either. He seems to be out-RBed by McGuffie and out-slotted by Odoms and Robinson. His high school stats (around 5 or 6 YPC) are also a little lacking compared to most high DI caliber guys.
Quarterback. The below assumes no Pryor. If Pryor does pick Michigan, it's an obvious A+.
D. With Rodriguez's entrance Mallett's exit QB instantly shot to the top of Michigan's to-do list and Justin Feagin isn't sufficient when your other QBs are career backup David Cone and well-regarded but unproven Steven Threet. Don't get me wrong, I like Feagin in an irrational way, but I'd like him even better as the second quarterback who could pan out but no big deal if he does or not and not, like, the only athletic QB on the roster.
Rodriguez was handicapped by his late switch and what appear to be ludicrous demands on the part of South Florida signee BJ Daniels, but this remains a results-based charting service.
Running Back: A. Your personal grade will vary based on your opinion of Sam McGuffie's talents. He's Bill Brasky to me, so up goes the A. Picking up Michael Shaw is an excellent insurance policy/secondary recruit that almost guarantees Michigan will have a high caliber tailback from this class. Mike Cox has a funny name and could contribute.