SPONSOR NOTES: We have determined that if the Iowa game goes badly user Sauce Castillo is the person to blame. This because it is not our fault, and it certainly isn't our lovely sponsor Matt's fault. We are going thanks to Matt, you see, and last time we did a blog road trip it ended… unwell. But that won't happen this time. Unless Sauce Castillo screws it up again.
In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, he is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.
If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.
FORMATION NOTES: There wasn't anything worth screenshotting as unusual. Here is a picture of how this game went.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Speight was your QB until the last three drives when things went O'Korn-Morris-Malzone. The RB depth chart looked to be Smith-Isaac-Evans-Higdon-Davis, with Isaac and Evans getting the bulk of the work once Smith's rib issue sent him to the bench. Poggi (15 snaps) and Hill (21) split things about down the middle at FB.
No surprises at WR, and the lack of passing cut into opportunities to see guys down the depth chart. McDoom may have passed Drake Harris? Way too early to tell. Nate Johnson was about the only guy who surprisingly didn't play, FWIW.
At TE it was all Butt and Bunting early. Wheatley and Asiasi didn't get snaps until the second half, I believe. Those two and McKeon all got around 15.
OL was Newsome-Bredeson/Kugler-Cole-Kalis-Magnuson, with Kugler getting the first and third quarters while Bredeson had the second and fourth. The second team line was JBB-Bredeson-Kugler-Onwenu-Ulizio. With Kugler on both lines he actually got 59 snaps, more than anyone else on either side of the ball. FWIW, Michigan left Newsome out for one drive after the established players left w JBB at RT and Ulizio on the bench.
[After THE JUMP: hair]
— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) March 1, 2016
I enjoy the guy yelling in the background.
Harbaugh has thrown the doors open down in Florida. There is a pile of stuff. So much stuff. Even before the open practice at 5PM today, there is so much stuff. Let's talk things and stuff.
First: yes, this is just technique work and mostly unpadded at that. Takes have largely been about throwing, catching, and defending said throws—there's not much you can take away on either line thus far. Oh and one other thing.
Jabrill Peppers, Linebacker
After @JabrillPeppers' heat in 30 yard speed drills he said , "your SAM backer is the fastest guy on the team! How does that feel?!" Lol
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) March 1, 2016
The most meaningful thing from the first few spring practices is the apparent move of Jabrill Peppers to strongside linebacker. Or, as they called it last year, "hybrid linebacker." While the nomenclature has changed it doesn't seem like a whole lot else has:
Through the first two days of camp, Peppers has played in the box almost exclusively. He's spent most of his time blitzing, supporting the run and covering tight ends underneath during 11 on 11 drills. In 7 on 7 workouts, he's drifted out to cover slot receivers, but he's never far away from the line of scrimmage.
That's more or less what Michigan did with him a year ago. The exception: against certain two-WR sets Peppers would slide out to boundary cornerback. Last year Don Brown rode with 6'1", 218-pound Matt Milano as his SAM, and all that dude did was lead the team in TFLs with 17.5 and add 6.5 sacks. Peppers is likely to be around that size, if a hair shorter, and obviously brings much more athleticism to the table. (I have no idea how athletic Matt Milano is. I am still comfortable making that assumption.)
Wolverine Devotee put together an every snap video from the BC-FSU game last year; Milano is 28. You'll see him lined up as an actual linebacker against heavier formations and often over the slot in lighter ones:
How does this change what everyone else does? One thing it likely signals is that the days where Michigan lined up a safety 15 yards back are over. To get away with the kind of light linebackers Brown favors you need to have all eleven guys potentially involved in the run game. You can expect Michigan to run "over" fronts most of the time, but that's not a change.
It also puts more pressure on the safeties to be able to defend man to man. Ian Boyd noted that the "ability of [BC] safeties to play deep overage is probably the strongest point" of Don Brown's most recent defense. I'm a bit leery of that given what we saw from Michigan last year—neither Delano Hill or Dymonte Thomas did a great job in those situations—but at least Thomas is fast enough to prevent a quick six points if he gets soloed up on a slot and things go badly for M.
Going forward, Tyree Kinnel will be very important. He entered Michigan with a reputation as a CB/S hybrid and that's exactly what Brown wants from his safeties.
The other SAM
we only have one Furbush picture so you might want to settle in with this shot [Patrick Barron]
Don Brown mentioned Noah Furbush as Michigan's other option at SAM linebacker:
Peppers finished last season with 45 tackles and 10 pass break ups. But this year, along with Noah Furbush, Peppers will be focusing more on playing SAM linebacker says Brown.
“Between Furbush and (Peppers), I think we can put those two guys together and create some dynamic ability out of that position. That’s what you are searching for,” said Brown.
Furbush is obviously a very different player than Peppers, and that might give you an indication of what Michigan is going to do when they do catch an Iowa or a Wisconsin. If Furbush fills out this year—his weight has been an ongoing mystery—he brings a lot more in the tight-end-whacking category than Peppers; meanwhile Michigan can move Peppers to CB or safety… or save some snaps in an effort to use him more on offense.
Also in "other SAM," Chase Winovich was recruited as Jake Ryan 2.0 and now sounds kind of like Jake Ryan 2.0:
He is all of 240 pounds and can still move as well as he did when he was 215. … If things go according to what looks to be the plan, expect to see Winovich playing standing up at times, and with his hand in the dirt at others. His non-stop motor and reckless abandon should help him when it comes to getting after opposing quarterbacks.
I'm not sure where Jake Ryan 2.0 fits in a Don Brown defense but am willing to find out.
While nobody is tipping their hand I continue to believe that Zach Gentry moving to tight end is a dead giveaway that John O'Korn is the guy and authoritatively so. Baumgardner:
When forced to throw the ball in traffic, O'Korn's accuracy was just more consistent. It wasn't perfect, but his touch was better and his ability to deliver throws on time looked superior to what we saw from Wilton Speight or Shane Morris.
That's probably not a shocker to anyone. But it was notable. The deep ball will be a work in progress for O'Korn and his wideouts, and it's still important to note that Jehu Chesson is still rehabbing an injury. But Jake Butt still catches everything underneath, and Amara Darboh can still haul in most anything thrown in his area. O'Korn is figuring that out.
Webb noted that O'Korn is "unquestionably the most athletic" of the QBs, which is a nice physical
intangible to have at 6'4". Speight and Malzone come in for mentions as well; Morris was probably at the other split squad practice so don't run to the hills with the news that he gone.
The hyped recruit has impressed as well. Brandon Peters was singled out by Harbaugh in a press conference after day two. Baumgardner made an effort to check him out during the brief time the media got to see him—he's been practicing mostly during the closed bit of Michigan's practices:
The main thing here: He's smooth and natural. When I spoke with a few scouts and analysts about Peters last summer, the first thing they all raved about was how he's nowhere near his potential. …
I've seen a lot of freshmen quarterbacks enter a program over the years and just look absolutely lost or panicked. Their feet are all over the place. They're throwing the thing as hard as they can on every rep. They're overwhelmed, basically.
Peters is far from a finished product, but he's not overwhelmed. That much is clear.
Here's hoping for two years of this kind of chatter before an epic showdown between Peters, McCaffrey, and whoever else survives the winnowing.
Recommend you hit up that Baumgardner article as he describes Harbaugh going through drills with the QBs; some excellent insight into what makes Harbaugh one of the best QB coaches in football.
Bunting has been impressing:
Ian Bunting didn’t have as good a day as Jake Butt, but he was close. The redshirt sophomore has terrific hands and showed trait on the play of the day. Bunting ran a skinny post. Coverage was decent, giving Alex Malzone a tight window to throw in. He fired a rope a little out front of his intended target where only Bunting had a shot. The ball was on him so quick that he only had time to extend one hand, but that was all he need to haul in the pass. He did so in stride and sprinted to the endzone to a series of oohs and aahs. It was his best play but definitely not the only one.
Also in there are takes on Wheatley (looking promising in the AJ Williams role, probably still needs to drop a little weight) and Gentry (upside, but needs time). Webb revisited Bunting after practice yesterday, asserting that he "looks like a guy poised to have a breakout season" because he is now blasting through linebackers on his routes and boxing them out. Here's to Ol' Skillet Hands making good on ridiculous MGoBlog hype.
Jake Butt is Jake Butt: he should win the dang Mackey this year.
Ty Wheatley hopes to be senior AJ Williams plus some athleticism:
"He's a big-bodied guy who can move people off the ball and when he goes out to run a pattern, he can work a guy," Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno said Thursday. "Those short routes by the tight ends are kind of like (playing underneath) in basketball. He's a big target, put the ball (wherever) and he can run with it."
Michigan has an obvious hole to fill at inline tight end with Williams's departure and Hill's move to fullback. Wheatley is unusually well suited to fill that hole despite being a redshirt freshman. Meanwhile, Michigan "never seriously considered moving him" over the offseason despite rumors to that effect.
Zach Gentry "needs to add weight… a lot of it" per Webb; I think everyone's expectation is that he'll have to spend a year getting used to the position before issuing a serious challenge for playing time.
With Chesson sidelined, there is Amara Darboh and then there is everyone else.
There's been some chatter about Ahmir Mitchell's physical physicalness, and one creepy super slow mo video:
Good battle between Ahmir Mitchell and Reon Dawson pic.twitter.com/4oOrV8h8DE
— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) March 1, 2016
It's a creepy super slow mo video in which he loses a slant route to Reon Dawson, so maybe he won't break through immediately. Baumgardner says he's "pretty raw" and that was indeed his reputation as a recruit. He's likely to sit on the shelf a bit as he matures.
I kind of expected Channing Stribling to fade a bit as Jeremy Clark continued familiarizing himself with corner, but Webb's talked him up a few times:
Stribling continues to make plays against everyone except Amara darboh. Darboh having his way all week
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) March 3, 2016
Webb elaborated a bit later:
He has made some really acrobatic plays. At the same time he has given up a few plays. Darboh has been particularly troublesome due to his superior strength and great route technique. Stribling also gave up the aforementioned deep ball to Harris, but again, he made many more plays than he gave up during the time the media was at practice.
Jourdan Lewis remains good at football:
Jourdan Lewis was his vintage self. I noticed one ball caught on him (a comeback route by Amara Darboh. He seemed to bait John O’Korn into a bad throw on one occasion. After taking away his man on a short route he began drifting back into the secondary and picked off O’Korn’s attempt to complete an out cut (sounded like Jedd Fisch said he should’ve thrown it sooner).
Not much more than the occasional mention of Clark and others. Still expect Clark to contribute extensively.
Ryan Glasgow and Jehu Chesson are still working out on the sidelines, as injuries are slowing them down. Neither is much of a surprise, but one name amongst the guys who aren't full go does worry: Wyatt Shallman was once again on the side after being full-go in the first practice. Guy cannot get healthy.
In happier news, both Bryan Mone and Mike McCray have been full-go. McCray's status is of particular note since last year he made some ominous noises about his long-term future. Also he is a linebacker, and Michigan needs some of those. Here is a positive noise about McCray that we will all dearly wish is true despite the fact they aren't in pads yet:
“He looks really good out here,” said Lewis. “He is probably one of the guys we look up to as the guy that should step up this year at that linebacker position. I’m excited for Mike. He has great upside.”
Getting a healthy McCray back is huge for Michigan.
Nick Baumgardner with the depth chart nerd assist:
Second-team OL (best I can figure): LT Bushell-Beatty, LG Dawson, C Kugler, RG Runyan, RT Ulizio
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) March 1, 2016
That is more or less as expected without Blake Bars. Those guys are in fact the only other scholarship OL on the roster until this year's class arrives in fall.
Baumgardner also caught the fact that in the second half of practice, after the third and fourth stringers left, the only OL to remain other than the starters was Kugler. Given Cole's versatility I would expect Kugler to be the guy who enters on any injury, and if there's going to be a shakeup to the expected starting five it would be Kugler pushing through at C such that Cole displaces a returning starter.
It'll be a 4-3 defense that's fairly similar to what Michigan did a year ago.
in 2015 U-M ran a 4-3 defense that played a ton of man coverage on the outside.
That’s still the plan in 2016, however, with a little twist says Brown.
“We’ll start with the four down (lineman) scheme, but we are not exclusively that,” Brown said. “We’ll do it all. We’ll play a lot of man (coverage) tight. But we will also play some other things. That’s the new piece. And that’s the learning piece.”
There will be more linebacker blitzing. Probably a lot more—Durkin had a five-man pressure he liked to run a lot but instances of true maniacal blitzing were very rare.
Harbaugh also elaborated on the split squad stuff:
“That was new,” Harbaugh said. “More one on one coaching for reps for each guy. The rule is no player can practice more than four hours, which every player practiced for four hours and had a nice little overlap there. Coaches had a six-hour day, but it just flew by. Just felt like it flew by. Logic is pretty simple there to understand. More coaching and more football for everybody.”
Indeed it is but it's also another example of Harbaugh figuring out ways to get maximum efficiency from the allotted rules.
And we have a first name for Pratt Just Pratt:
Another player that has been working out on the side is 6-5, 268 lb. sophomore offensive lineman Logan Pratt. This is noteworthy only because Pratt is one of the most impressive looking walk-ons I’ve ever seen.
Pratt will remain Just Pratt, I think.
Tell me about this O'Korn future. [Eric Upchurch]
The Question: Five things you want to hear coming out of spring practices?
1. De'Veon Smith is not missing holes that do exist. After struggling most of the year with hitting holes with consistency, Smith appeared to get 'Lasik Surgery' before the Citrus Bowl. He definitely had his best game of the season in terms of vision. Hopefully, it was not just against a defense that was checked out and it will be obvious as Spring Practice picks up. Also, hopefully, the offensive line, who has mostly been together for a few years, will give him something to see.
2. John O'Korn's decision-making is ahead of schedule. With Gentry apparently moving to TE and Peters taking his first reps as a collegian, it should be O'Korn's job to lose. He's always had the arm and measurables. The only question has been his head. Making the right reads and understanding the offense early in Spring will be a great sign.
3. Devin Bush Jr's reactions are impressive. With Ben Gedeon being the only LB left on the roster to see significant playing time, snaps at LB are wide open. DBJ fits Don Brown's LB profile very well. He also enrolled early for a reason. There's a good chance Michigan will need him to play right away. Usually the main issue with young players is the speed of the game. If he's reading and reacting well from the get-go, that will be a very encouraging sign.
4. No new serious injuries. Injuries in football are usually unavoidable. Two of the past 3 seasons Michigan has had a devastating Spring injury (Ryan in '13 and Butt in '14). It was very nice to not have one of those in 2015 -although, Mone was lost in Fall Camp. I would be happy with a major injury-free Spring.
5. The attitude around the program is not winning but dominating. Time for my #hottake. In Spring Training of '86, Davey Johnson told the Mets that he didn't expect them beat teams but to dominate them. The Mets put some pieces together in '84 and '85, but they didn't put together final piece or have the experience of knowing what to expect down the stretch. After keeping things close initially, the Mets blew the doors off the league in the 2nd half and had one of the most dominating teams in last half century.
This is the attitude that I expect from Team 137. They played well last season but were just not good enough in a few crucial moments. If you think that multiple guys turned down the NFL just for a B10 title, you're crazy. This team is talented enough, they're deep enough, they have the experience, now. There is no reason to think that anyone they play is legit better. I don't want to just see them beat the opposition. I'd like to see them dominate the game play.
[Hit THE JUMP for what else we're ready to hear]
back back back back not back (but there's another guy also back) [Bryan Fuller]
|Mason Cole||So.||Ben Braden||Jr.*||Graham Glasgow||Sr.*||Kyle Kalis||Jr.*||Erik Magnuson||Jr.*|
|Logan Tuley-Tillman||So.*||David Dawson||So.*||Patrick Kugler||So.*||Blake Bars||Jr.*||Juwann Bushell-Beatty||Fr.*|
It got better. It really did. The OL nadir is in the past. We can come out of the bunker and rebuild society now.
By any reasonable metric it in fact got a lot better. Michigan's YPC leapt 1.3 yards, going from 11th in a 12-team league to 8th in a 14-team one. If you only look at Big Ten stats Michigan is still 8th, and that's in the division that had the MSU, OSU, and PSU defenses. Sacks allowed had a near-identical improvement, going from barely better than Purdue to a spot in the respectable midsection of the conference. Advanced stats saw something similar. Michigan finished 50th in adjusted line yards*, 32nd in power success rate, and 72nd in adjusted sack rate. And that's with the running backs going the wrong direction constantly.
None of these numbers stand out, but neither do they linger in the seedy parts of the list next to Temple and Penn State and Louisiana-Monroe. They were average-ish. Most of the time they felt average-ish.
That's not a bad place to be with zero seniors and just two upperclassmen. While the unexpected departure of Jack Miller puts a small dent in the front's depth, his likely replacement, Erik Magnuson, is a redshirt junior who came in as a touted recruit and has a season's worth of starts to his name already. If you're willing to fudge a bit, Michigan has five starters back from that okay line. They've replaced Brady Hoke with Jim Harbaugh and Darrell Funk with Tim Drevno.
Could they be… good?
*[A stat that weighs the first few yards you get heavily and discounts long runs in an attempt to get a feel for how the line is doing.]
Cole coped [Eric Upchurch]
Rating: 3 of 5
Last year I gave this a 1 because Michigan was staring down a starting lineup consisting of a true freshman and a third-year guy who didn't even get a sniff during the chaos of 2013. They seemed to acquire these positions almost by default since the only other tackles on the roster were freshmen (redshirt or true) regarded as huge projects. Or they were starting at guard.
The 2014 edition of this post took a quick gander at what happened when football teams started freshman tackles. It was almost universally ugly. The best case scenario was Ole Miss, which deployed ultra-blue-chip Laremy Tunsil as a true freshman and was middling in both YPC and sacks allowed. All others trundled their way to seasons that were more or less disastrous.
Michigan was not disastrous last year. In what is certainly a first for offensive line projections in recent history, that prediction was pessimistic. MASON COLE, the true freshman, just about hit the top end of reasonable projections, those being:
The occasional freshman tackle can cope. I think Cole is one of those guys. But is he going to blow a guy off the ball and provide a big ol' lane at 292 pounds? Probably not. Our hope here is that Cole is a solid, agile pass protector in year one who is a meh run blocker.
Mason Cole coped. This is what that looks like in the run game according to UFR:
|App St||9.5||2||7.5||A fine debut|
|Notre Dame||4||2||2||Didn't seem overwhelmed at all.|
|Miami||8||5||3||Okay; also had one very bad pass pro.|
|Utah||3||2.5||0.5||Nice seal block ignored.|
|Rutgers||5||5||0||I'll take it.|
|Penn State||1.5||5||-3.5||Hull and Zettel bad matchup.|
|Minnesota||4.5||2.5||2||Overpowered a little but still okay day.|
|Indiana||3||0.5||2.5||Didn't mess anything up.|
It was rougher in pass protection, where I have had him for 16 protection minuses in 8 games. Those are worth about half a QB pressure/sack each. Otherwise things were pretty okay against non-elite defenses. Cole's debut season was… eh.
When it didn't go well, the usual reason was that Cole got blown backwards because he was a true freshman. These were the kind of things that were happening against Zettel and company:
This was a game in which Cole's inexperience and lack of big skrongness really hurt. Here Butt gets an excellent shoulder spear on Zettel, knocking him off balance. This should provide ample opportunity for Cole to step around and wall Zettel off, creating a crease Smith will hit trying to beat a safety for a big gainer. Instead Zettel comprehensively wins:
Cole got whipped on the Norfleet catch that put Michigan in position for the winning field goal; Michigan was fortunate that ball went to the WR instead of getting knocked anywhere.
Ennui prevented me from charting him against Joey Bosa, but I've gone back and rewatched the OSU game. Cole was okay. By the second half of The Game Ohio State decided that they should either blitz outside of Bosa and send him against the interior line (which only kind of worked) or have him go at Ben Braden (which very much worked). Don't get me wrong, Cole did get beat. It was a struggle; it was not one in which he was completely overwhelmed.
All of that is terrific for a true freshman. Cole grabbed the job, held the job all season, and played reasonably well. There has been not a whisper that he would go anywhere except for a blip during spring practice when he was playing center, that because Glasgow was suspended and Michigan was figuring out if he could play there a la Barrett Jones. All practice reports have held that he is a sure thing, greatly improved, etc. 247 heard this from multiple people in a 24-hour window:
Mason Cole has unsurprisingly established himself as a rock at the left tackle spot, and is primed to be the next great four-year starter to play the position.
Cole's added 13 pounds and should make a major leap in year two, what with the rare true-freshman-to-true-sophomore OL transition coupled with the general HARBAUGH.
That will probably still leave him short of dominant. Michigan's most recent really good left tackle, Taylor Lewan, took off in his third year. In year two Cole should slash the protection issues considerably and do okay against the better defensive ends in the league. A year like early Graham Glasgow—reliable, somewhat short on raw power—would set Cole up to be excellent as an upperclassman.
[After THE JUMP: four-ish additional returning starters who happen to be upperclassmen already]
While I was chatting with Brian last week he happened to pull up the top 7 composite recruits from the 2013 season. I followed and…
Woof. Green has obvious vision problems and hasn't emerged from a pile of guys among whom the most statistically effective last year was Drake Johnson. Dymonte Thomas and Shane Morris are already juniors and to date still seem to be at least a year's worth of good coaching away from ready.
That leaves us the offensive line class. Kugler seems to be on track to start when Glasgow surrenders his job—I've heard the same suite of nice things you have. Bosch transferred after performing about how you'd expect a true freshman thrust into a Borges-coached OL would. Fox hasn't been mentioned since a staff ago. Dawson we have only a little more data, much of that getting owned by Maurice Hurst in the spring game (if Hurst does that against Utah's OL I'll happily rescind that as a criticism).
On the other hand we caution all the time about giving up on OL when they're too young.
So when do you know about an offensive lineman?
This is a question I've been interested in a long time, going back to an article one of my Daily colleagues did on OL recruiting to highlight the injuries plaguing the classes Michigan took while I was there. I could never find the article but in January 2013 I tried to recreate some of that information, plus a 12-year update. I did a thing about a year ago on growth tracks to reset expectations for those 2012 and 2013 line classes. Let's check in again, this time with columns.
The towers shrink because players currently on the roster are included in the data, and obviously our information on them is incomplete. "Not available" is a catch-all for transfers, dismissals, guys playing defense, injuries and medicals and whatnot. "Excellent" is basically all-conference-ish, "Solid" is that, "Liability" are guys who were starting but the fan consensus was they shouldn't be or wouldn't but for things like the 2008 depth chart or gross Borges incompetence.
This time I differentiated between "backups" and "two-deep" (an imperfect thing from memory and pouring through old Wolverine annuals). The former are guys buried on the depth chart and unlikely to play; the latter are only the top backups we are relatively certain would have played if they weren't behind an established starter. It's not about being technically on the two-deep, more like the first one or two guys in if an OL goes down—Erik Magnusson last year, or Leo Henige forever.
- Redshirting is overwhelmingly the normal thing to do as a freshman.
- Only a handful of players are capable of starting (shades of yellow) as redshirt freshmen. If you take the yellow chunk from there and size it against the 4th and 5th years you can see only about a third of the eventually useful players are demonstrably so at that age. Sing the praises of any 2014s already playing; don't give up on any who are not.
- By RS Soph there is a big yellow expansion. The mysterious "backups" region has shrunk considerably. You have a fairly good sense of who these guys are by the end of this year.
- There is very little difference—just a slight improvement—between RS Juniors and 5th year seniors. The backups disappear into unrenewed 5ths.
If you're using this imperfect data set of 82 players, many of whom didn't complete their careers for non-ability-related reasons, to get a feel for when to judge an offensive linemen, you could say it's a half-life. Don't judge a (redshirt) freshman unless he's already playing well, but after their third year in the program if he's not on the two-deep the chances of ever doing so decrease exponentially.
What this means for the 2012-'14 OL classes
Be excited for: Mason Cole.
Be extremely content with: Mags, Kalis and Braden if they seem to be playing well this year.
Keep an eye out for: Kugler, Logan Tuley-Tillman, and David Dawson. These are 2013 guys mentioned as probable two-deep contributors, though our current scouting has Kugler pretty much ready to play, LTT half-way there, and Dawson probably not ready yet. Further data received on them this year will speak volumes about their futures.
Be patient with: Juwann Bushell-Beatty. If he pops up this year he's probably going to be awesome; if he's buried there's plenty of time that this doesn't matter.
Getting late: Bars, Fox, Samuelson. With Bars at least we've heard past mentions of him competing, though he was always kind of the last guy in that 2012 class. He may be on the Huyge track; if he's not on the two-deep this (his redshirt junior) year it doesn't seem very likely he'll be a starter in 2016. Fox has been hurt so much in his career (just going off of game reports) if he's not medicaled he probably deserves some extra time to get caught up. Samuelson I've heard nothing about; even when I ask people with insider-y info I get nothing.
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton, DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi.
|Wexford, PA – 6'4", 280|
5*, #27 overall
4*, #82 overall
4*, #101 overall
4*, #97 overall
Notre Dame, Florida, FSU, Miami, PSU, Stanford, MSU
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
|Notes||Father was Steelers' OL coach, now HC at UTEP. You guys.|
Junior highlights (he is the left tackle or a DT):
Offensive linemen are notoriously the hardest players to project. Enormous long-armed bodies might not be able to "bend" and end up at Western Michigan. 240-pound tight ends might balloon into the top pick in the NFL draft despite playing at Central Michigan. Relying on sleepers and development has been good enough to send Wisconsin to the last three Rose Bowls. Etc. There is no such thing as a sure thing on the offensive line.
But if there is, Patrick Kugler is it. Let us describe the ways:
- SIZE: at 6'4", 280-ish as a freshman Kugler will easily approach the 300-pound range that NFL centers usually are.
- PEDIGREE: his dad was the frigging Steelers' OL coach, and he was so good at that UTEP hired him to be their head coach. His older brother plays center at Purdue.
- TOUGHNESS: played through a torn labrum to participate in a high school all-star game.
- TECHNIQUE: no doubt because of his pedigree, folks say he was "easily the most technically sound offensive lineman" at said high school all star game in which he played despite having a torn labrum.
I mean. Seriously. You guys($).
Sam Webb: … if you’re a scout in the stands, and you’re watching Patrick Kugler on the field, what do you see?
Patrick Kugler: “I would just say mean. I mean, people who I go against don’t like me very much. I try to be the meanest guy out there. My dad taught me that. Just, if anything, be mean. I just try to be mean all the time, and if you’re pounding them into the ground, they just don’t want to get back up. That’s my goal.”
Sam Webb: Have you ever been on the field against someone and done something to them, and said ‘oh man, I feel bad about that’.
Patrick Kugler: “One time. This guy, he kicked me the play before, and I just grabbed him by the face mask and ripped it off, but I mean, I felt bad about that afterwards, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.”
You guys. His dad's advice:
Asked what words of wisdom his father has shared with him, Pat said: "Be nasty. Don't let up until you hear the whistle."
Pat paused and added more sage advice he's picked up having spent his whole life around football:
"Maybe give 'em a little after the whistle. Kill 'em, basically."
When he committed to Michigan and word came out that he was going to play center that made so much sense to me, and then as this season developed with its missed blocking assignment fiesta I craved the presence of Kugler on campus as quickly as possible.
I'm weird. I love David Molk almost as much as anyone to come through this program not named Denard. I'm weird, but I'm not wrong. In the NFL, centers who can do all the things that make your offense work with their brains are a fungible commodity. In college, they are a treasure. See also: Michigan's with-and-without-Molk YPCs in the Denard era. I'm not wrong. It is only barely hyperbole to call Patrick Kugler the most important recruit in this class.
As you might expect from the son of an offensive line coach, Kugler is an advanced technician and nasty dude. Virtually every scouting report will start off praising his technique and IQ. A sampler:
- Bob Lichtenfels, Scout: "Kugler is a technician and he is nasty. He finishes his blocks and always plays to the whistle. He has great feet and gets to the second level as well as anyone. Very dominant at the point of attack. … very cerebral and is rarely in bad position. Very good knee bend and deceptively athletic."
- Allen Trieu, Scout: "great feet and gets into the second level very well. He's a technician and a smart player … bigger and more athletic than most center prospects. You essentially have a kid that could easily play tackle or guard for most schools at center. That is also a position where smarts and knowledge of the game come into play and this kid certainly has it."
- An opposing coach: “He looks like an NFL guy playing with middle-school kids … You know he's a coach's kid. You can just tell. He's got great technique. He gets off the ball so hard. He does not look like he should run as fast as he does. You see kids that big and they're slow and gawky. But he's got great, great feet. I think he's in a class by himself. He stands alone.”
- Anonymous Rivals evaluator: "comes off the ball strong with good blocking angles and shows very little hesitation before impact on the defender. He does a good job of lowering his 6-5 frame to get under the smaller high school opponents he faces. … shows that he likes to put defenders into the turf with violence."
Kugler is not only the son of an O-line coach, but also one tough dude. … not unreasonable to think he can't easily fill out into a 300-pound interior lineman. He is a physical and tenacious run blocker. He does need to watch his pad level at times, but is able to play with good leverage. He does a good job of getting placement with his hands and being able to control defenders. He can deliver a good initial pop, but looks to have much better drive once he is into a defender rather than initial explosion on contact. He is able to create and maintain push with sustained leg drive and looks to bury the defender every play. He displays a good understanding of combo blocks and good pull/trap ability. He moves well in space and can get a hat on active second level defenders. … mixes good ability and heady play with a tenacious style to get the job done.
A lot of these scouting evaluations expect these high school kids to be NFL-level players based on junior high school film, and that's never more true than it is for OL. That's a highly positive evaluation with some minor, obvious issues—"does need to watch his pad level at times" is something you could put in every OL evaluation ever without raising an eyebrow.
Meanwhile, Scout's profile has our favorite Area For Improvement:
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Kugler plays both sides of the ball for North Allegheny. He has excellent quickness and feet. He has good flexibility and change of direction which is displayed when playing defensive tackle. Kugler has the athleticism and reach to play tackle with the mentality of an interior lineman. He gets good leverage and push on both sides of the ball. Finishes blocks and easily gets to the second level - Scott Kennedy
I assume that area for improvement is based on the idea Kugler would end up as a tackle, which some of the sites projected him to early. All eventually came around to the idea he would be an interior lineman.
Importantly for a guy projected to center, all of those evaluations emphasize Kugler's ability to get to the second level. If your center can pull—and Kugler will be able to—that opens up additional options in the run game, and if he's good at moving to the second level your inside zone game ramps up its effectiveness. It's a key attribute for a center, and not necessarily one I've seen mentioned much in evaluations of offensive linemen.
"Intensity" is another word that comes up frequently. Tim Sullivan:
Kugler showed outstanding stamina, athleticism and effort while playing both ways, just about the entire night for North Allegheny…. In the second half, Kugler played like a man possessed. His intensity greatly improved and he showed his leadership skills while pushing his teammates to put the game away. He was displayed very good technique and footwork while pass blocking and he showed a very good burst when he was run blocking. Although he is most comfortable when pass blocking, he gets to the second level extremely quickly and looks like he will develop into an excellent run blocker.
“Once the game starts, he changes to a different level of intensity,” Walker said of Kugler. “One of the reasons why he was so focused on schools in the B1G is that he loves to run block. He’s a physical kid, and he wants to put people in the ground. He’s a very aggressive blocker.”
A Brady Hoke kind of guy.
As mentioned, Kugler drew heaps of praise at the UnderArmor game, where he was the headiest, most advanced OL there:
…easily the most technically sound offensive lineman in attendance. He adapted well to different pass-rushing moves used against him, knew where to place his hands, and listening to him talk to other offensive linemen and the coaches nearby, his high football IQ was apparent.
He quickly adapted to both interior OL positions, earning a start at guard while simultaneously being named the best center around.
Patrick Kugler, Wexford (Pa.) North Allegheny
The Michigan commitment has manned the toughest position on the line in the all-star setting better than anyone else. Taking into consideration that it’s fast paced, with new install, very little time for connectivity among a line and in a setting that most certainly favors defensive linemen, the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder has been reactive, fundamentally sound and shown excellent lateral quickness.
I mean. You guys.
David Dawson- Dawson and Patrick Kugler might be the two best lineman overall on the white squad. … Patrick Kugler- Kugler was as good as advertised in the first day of practices. Kugler won the majority of his one on one reps and did a good job in the team periods. Kugler had outstanding technique and showed very good lateral quickness. Kugler had a mean streak and was able to move opposing defensive tackles in the run game.
Based on that performance and Kugler's all-around profile, 247 would name him (and David Dawson) to their All-America team, calling him the nation's top center.
Kugler is another opposite-of-character-issue guy what with his dad. (A pattern emerges.) His prep coach confirms:
“He’s a young man that loves the game,” Walker said of Kugler. “He loves to compete. He does a good job of getting himself prepared and taking on leadership responsibilities. He does all the little things off the field to prepare. He’s a student-athlete all the time. He does what he has to do in the classroom, and carries himself well. He’s a good kid to be around, he has the right kind of focus and he’s not taking anything for granted.”
I mean, Kugler told various sites he actively hopes to redshirt, something I have never ever seen. He backed off a hard stance either way a bit later, but the desire is clear:
"I have no idea if they want me to play next year, or not," Kugler stressed. "Personally, I'd love to redshirt and get that fifth year of education, but if the coaches need me to play that would be great. I'm a team guy first, so whatever they need from me is what I'll do."
Kugler further stated he hasn't even looked at the depth chart because "Michigan was the school I fell in love with, so that never mattered to me." As of January he was at 285, with a goal of arriving in the 295-300 range. (Area For Improvement: check.) He was also scheduled for surgery on his labrum. That must have slowed down his workouts, but with a four-month recovery timeline by the time he arrives on campus he will be full-go.
That depth chart is ripe with opportunity, with only Jack Miller and a couple of walk-ons currently competing at center. With the labrum injury and Glasgow showing he can be good depth for the interior spots, a redshirt is still in the cards. After that, it's going to be a war on the interior.
"I saw it in his face," Patsy said. "As a mom, you know your kid so well, and I could just see his face light up with emotion. I could see it starting to happen."
“I can't grow facial hair,” Kugler said with great disappointment. “It's bad. I've been growing it a month, and it's barely noticeable.”
People might be surprised to know that ...? Me and my brother used to play ping-pong the morning before every game. It would be intense ping-pong. We would wake up in the morning and play before school on game days. I don't know why, but we would play at 6:30 or 7 in the morning.
Kugler popped up in a "Spartan Sizzling Seven" at the start of last year's cycle as one of the most likely players to end up at State. That list: Riley Norman (MSU, but for track and field), Jon Reschke (check), Kyle Bosch, Steven Elmer, Patrick Kugler, Ethan Pocic, and Greg Webb. One of seven is… well, it ain't good. Kugler in particular twisted the knife, visiting State a half-dozen times, then hitting Michigan once and abruptly ending his recruitment a day before he was scheduled to go to East Lansing again.
Why David Baas? High school tackle at 6'4" who moved to the inside, starting at guard before moving to center, where he was an Outland finalist, Rimington winner, All-American, and second-round draft pick. Topped out at 310 pounds, which is well within Kugler's range, and was a highly-regarded recruit who hit some high school All-American lists.
Guru Reliability: A shade less than exacting. Healthy, high profile player, All Star game, consensus. They are projecting a position move.
Variance: Low-plus. Only the facts that this is an offensive lineman and that there is a slight position adjustment—albeit one almost every interior lineman makes—hold this down from plain ol' low.
Ceiling: High. It is tough for centers to work their way into the first round of the NFL draft because they're just less rare than 6'8" guys just as agile. He could be a Rimington contender, though.
General Excitement Level: Very high. You guys.
Projection: Nonzero chance he emerges into a starting job in year one. Likely? No. Would I even regard that as a bad sign? Well… yeah probably. But not as much of one as you might think. It would be lovely if they could get a redshirt on Kugler and have Miller in front of him for two more years and get a couple of upperclass years from an eminently prepared guy.
If that does happen, Miller is going to be pretty good. If Miller does stay in front of Kugler, Kugler will likely compete at the guard spot opposite Kalis as a redshirt freshman. That will either be vacant (if Ben Braden wins the job and moves to tackle) or held by Graham Glasgow.
That I can't project this guy to definitely start until he's a redshirt junior says something about the burgeoning depth on the offensive line. Some of these guys will wash out from injury or lack of ability; this is inevitable. But the guys who do work out are going to be high four-star potential sorts who have lived up to it, and the competition to emerge is going to be brutal. That's how you build a kick-ass line.