Mike Lantry, 1972
This goes out to all those young linebackers out there who have given me your letters of intent:
♪ There was Bell, and a Hill, but I never saw them playing
No I never saw depth at all, 'till there was you.
There were safeties who gained weight, and a JUCO straight from Butler
But they were no Obianna Ezeh, 'till there was you.
Oh there were walk-ons, and converted fullbacks, they tell me,
And sweet freshman "Spinners," and Roh at "Quick"…
There was Ken-ny Demens, and a plush-toy Castor face-wash,
But no other linebackers at all, 'till there was you.
Till there was you! ♫
Linebacker depth: EXTANT!
This is Part III of the thing where I go over the depth chart and predict what will happen if the starter at any given position is hurt for an extended period of time in 2012: Who goes in?, What's the dropoff?, How do things shuffle?
And this time, there's goods here. There's depth in the SAMs and the WILLs and the MIKEs and the macks and the rovers. Whatayatalk whatayatalk: Where'd-we-get-it? With a Greg who knows the territory! With the jacks from the buckeyes, and the bucks from the mitten, and ROLBs from the overlooked, redshirted, 3-star, buck- and spart-passed over huckleberry bin. Whatayatalk, whatayatalk. Ya can talk, ya can talk, ya can bicker ya can talk, ya can bicker, bicker, bicker, ya can talk all ya want, but it's different than it was!
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.
SAM (Strongside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Jake was a revelation last year as a redshirt freshman who as the season progressed kept giving the coaches less and less excuse to yank him. The nature of his position, which rotates often, and the nature of his cavalier game make it hard to quantify the effective difference of an injury here. By design he's the most replaceable guy on the defense; by the magnitude of his effect when he's in the game, there are few, if any, guys on the team who you'd less like to lose. He was far from perfect—his problems holding the edge led to some ugly things in the Northwestern-Michigan State part of the year—however there were also those times when a "running" quarterback would see this crazy freshman coming inside the edge blocker and think to himself "oh I'm so going around that idiot," only to end up flat on his back 20 yards in the backfield. Nothing was more satisfying to a fan base recovering from Passive 3-3-5 syndrome than seeing this crazed high-necked Viking bellowing something unintelligible at fast-retreating Logan Thomas.
Heiko took this
Cam Gordon is the nominal backup, and since the freshman who played ahead of him last year (Beyer) has made the move to WDE, you would imagine the onetime receiver, onetime epitome of ethereal spring optimism at free safety, and onetime 3-3-5 spinner will have finally settled into a useful something. He spent most of last year with a back injury that gives us precious little information on what he might become. So is C.Gordon a junior stunted by position switches, bad fundamental coaching and injury who's now ready to erupt, or a guy with bad fundamentals doomed to be remembered for that one time he was badly cast in the hero role of a box office flop?
What you want are his credentials for a position that rotates like a train of traveling salesmen; what I've got for you is a barbershop quartet of coaches singing songs about him. One thing they don't say is "platoon." Despite his safety pedigree and safety frame versus Jake Ryan's oft hand-down deployment, the coaches haven't indicated Gordon is a situational backup. The SLB in this defense is supposed to be more like a WDE than the other two linebacker spots, and Cam is not that. On the other hand he seems tailor-made for the side-job of the SLB: covering the guy in the slot.
So I'm saying if Ryan goes down, Michigan probably goes with Gordon and eases off the gas a bit, leaning less on pressure and more on coverage from the position. The real drop-off won't be too severe, as there are other guys who can blitz if the SLB becomes more coverage-oriented, and there are rush options extant. The apparent drop-off will feel like when we lost Marcus Ray—the defense is still the defense but that sense that somebody's about to lose an important body organ will be appreciably depreciated. You'll see Gordon plenty either way.
In case of dire emergency: Well like I said this position rotates. Don't know what will happen with Clark, but if he's in at WDE that means Brennan Beyer can easily reprise his 2011 role over here. Mario Ojemudia could be pressed into service. And any of the freshmen linebackers could end up here. Of the four, I picked Royce Jenkins-Stone as the SAM since Bolden already seems to be the two-deep man at Mike, and Ringer was here for spring practice at Mike, and scouting reports say Ross is a coverage-y WLB-type, while RJS has been described as a raw, blitz-loving knife. That's an SLB. It'd be best if he redshirts to learn how to be the second-most aggressive guy on the defense (WDE is the first) while holding the edge.
MIKE (Middle Linebacker):
In case of emergency: Responding to my size chart in last week's article, TSS started a thread about how Demens, who's listed at 248 on the spring roster (which is a copy of last fall's), has significantly more beef than the rest of the linebacking crew. The image above seems to reject the notion that he's the Carl Diggs among the Brackinses; the variability charts for the 2012 linebackers say he's huge (right, via TSS). So I checked the average listed size for a Michigan contributing linebacker since 1993, and it says he made big:
|2nd (Sophomore or RS Fr)||236||228|
|3rd (Junior or RS Soph)||246||232|
|4th (Senior or RS Junior)||248||233|
|5th year Senior||252||238|
Most of our starters played over 240 in their 4th or 5th years. Over 230 is where it seems the contributors need to be. And when you look at the depth chart for 2012 there are exactly three dudes who seem likely to fit that description:
|Kenny Demens||248||Jake Ryan||230||Desmond Morgan||220|
|Joe Bolden||230||Cam Gordon||222||Brandin Hawthorne||214|
|Mike Jones||224||Royce Jenkins-Stone||215||Antonio Poole||212|
|Kaleb Ringer||219||James Ross||209|
Knock-knock … Orange … yada yada … you have Joe Bolden, the 2012 recruit I am most giggity about, and for good reason. He had the kind of performance as the starter (Demens was wearing that club you see above) in the spring game that makes even the cautious prognosticators say "I think we have something here." Then they pull out the David Harris comparisons.
There's nothing I can really add to the recruiting profile or the lofty expectations except to focus on what he brings to the table right now. That is a guy with freshman-grade Kovacsian play-diagnosis skills that must be tempered by "is a true freshman," plus a lot of range and athleticism that must be tempered by "is probably not strong enough yet to get off blocks." I don't think Demens should be worried about losing his job this year unless he's banged up, however in that eventuality Michigan has something between what Desmond Morgan was last year and a freshman Manti Te'o on hand, and should be just fine. Orange you glad!
In case of dire emergency: The phrase "Who? MIKE JONES!" had a very short meme life on the MGoBoards, and it is the considered hope of every Michigan fan that it should never become the headline of an MGoInjury Roundup or uttered without irony inside Michigan Stadium ever. Before the injury that ruined his 2009 coaches were suggesting he might displace Mouton; alas that seems to have been motivational spring hokum. More hype/hokum was Mattison saying he's an unstoppable speed rusher. We saw Jones a bit while Michigan was killing clock against Minnesota and he looked, um, safety-ish. There is a job for a safety-ish linebacker in this defense—the Will—but there are so many other slight LBs on this roster that tripping the 220-something wire puts you into the mix at middle. I would think before we see Jones start, Morgan would slide down to MLB and Hawthorne become the full-time WLB. While time is running out for Jones, he's not ignorable.
WILL (Weakside Linebacker):
In case of emergency: You can argue about the stars being low for a sophomore whom I already said was at 3 stars when starting as a true freshman—that was at the end of last year and I expect Des should still be improving exponentially as this season goes on. I also predict this year you'll start seeing more Jake Ryan in him, since everyone from recruiting analysts to coaches have raved about grittiness, something we haven't had the opportunity to see much of just yet. If our next Eckstein McGritsalot loses that opportunity, the safety net is the the safety-like Brandin Hawthorne.
If you have the opportunity to give the coaches one suggestion for 2012, please join the MGoCrusade to have Hawthorne deployed as the WLB when Michigan goes to nickel. Until Morgan emerged in the second half of last year, Hawthorne had lain tenuous claim to defense's most open position. Brandon Herron, the beefy Yang to Brandin's Yin, dropped out of the race after the double-fumble touchdown rally and has graduated. Hawthorne was excellent in coverage, knifed into the backfield for a key stop against Notre Dame, and displayed Pahokeeian speed to all parts of the field … except when a blocker came near.
For you Tiger fans, Hawthorne is the Ramon Santiago of this defense. He is great at what he does, but playing him every down is going to expose his weakness against the run. So what does happen if Des goes down? It's probably Joe Bolden, but with more Hawthorne appearances.
In case of dire emergency: Trouble with capital T, rhymes with P, stands for…oh actually we don't know what we have in Antonio Poole except his name lends itself well to the Music Man theme. Really he's a redshirt freshman who was ignored by Rodriguez but picked up quickly by Hoke. His recruiting profile lists abilities of play diagnosis, tackling, and translating of the Facebook pages of CRex's in-laws. Third on the depth chart is where you'd want a redshirt freshman to be. Anyway if you see Poole that means he's better than expected, or that "dire emergency" includes the MLB depth chart too. Same goes for James Ross, who was at one point the highest rated linebacker of the 2012 uber-haul, and may yet have a long career beside Bolden (Orange!), however he's listed in the vicinity of 200 lbs. and would probably benefit from a redshirt more than Ringer, who was here for Spring ball. Since redshirting a consensus high 4-star is a luxury we haven't had around the linebacking parts in some time, I suggest we take advantage of it.
|Detroit, MI – 6'2", 215|
|Scout||4*, #2 MLB, #111 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #9 ILB, #4 MI, #184 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #9 ILB, #2 MI, #113 overall|
|24/7||4*, #25 OLB, #209 overall, #5 MI|
|Other Suitors||Alabama, Florida, Miami(that Miami), Oklahoma, MSU|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Tim. Ace scouts Cass games versus De La Salle, Cody, and Harrison. Ace interviews him.|
|Notes||Cass Tech (everyone). Army All-American.|
Michigan's third Westside Cub in the 2012 class, Royce Jenkins-Stone is also the second consensus four-star linebacker and second Cass Tech kid covered in this series. As a recruit he's a lot different than his Police Athletic League compatriots, though: where both James Ross and Terry Richardson are praised for advanced skillsets and knocked for their size, Jenkins-Stone is an A-level athlete who needs some molding.
Jenkins-Stone's name first started popping up when he was a rising junior hitting the camp circuit all Cass Tech kids hit hard. Barry Every came back with this evaluation($) from the 2010 Columbus NTFC:
Royce Jenkins-Stone, 6-2/216, OLB, Detroit Cass Tech (2012 class)
Has quick feet, long arms and a great frame for adding more muscle mass. … Displayed tremendous lateral movement during the 10-yard boundary drill, basically taking away any chance of a running back just trying to hit the sideline.
CONCLUSION: Detroit Cass Tech has another future star in the making. He has the size and speed to become not only one of the top prospects in Michigan next year, but a national recruit.
That was borne out as Jenkins-Stone went on to a productive, aggressive junior year. He racked up 90 tackles and a handful of sacks as he spearheaded the Technicians' defense. When the recruiting sites started releasing rankings, he was first or second in the state; Rivals had him the only Michigan kid in their top 100. ESPN's evaluation($) was last updated in June of 2011 and serves as a snapshot of where his star was before his senior year:
Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. This guy is a strong knock'em back tackler who will punish ball carriers when the opportunity presents itself; should be very productive early as a special teams player. … Although we detect some hip tightness we see the flexibility, balance and agility necessary to play in space; does a very good job getting a jump on the ball; is quick to key and read, displaying a tough downhill attacking style vs. inside and edge running plays. Shows the playing strength necessary to shed blockers while moving through traffic; keeps leverage on the ball showing good change of direction skills. … Does a great job with run and pass blitz timing; has the explosive playing strength to beat blockers through gaps and put immediate pressure on the quarterback; is responsible for quite a few sacks and hurries. This guy has very good instincts; plays with the intensity and toughness necessary to create havoc anywhere on the field.
Allen Trieu's assessment is similar, listing aggressiveness, athleticism, and toughness as assets and discipline as a drawback:
Has solid size and good speed and athleticism. An aggressive player who is best when in attack mode and shooting gaps. Good ability in coverage, as he has good ball skills and length. Improved as a junior in reading plays, but can still have a tendency to over run some plays. Often times, he is beating blocks with speed and sheer aggressiveness, so he will have to learn to take on and shed blockers at the college level.
Unfortunately, since then his star has waned a bit. Cass got annihilated in their season opener against Harrison and Jenkins-Stone did not have an impact. Josh Helmholdt($) on that:
With a Rivals100 ranking, more was expected of Jenkins-Stone in his senior season opener, but the 6-2, 215-pound prospect did not disappear completely. He registered a couple tackles for loss and showed off great speed, but got bottled up too often and had trouble picking his way through traffic. Jenkins-Stone moves well in space and when he hits you, you're going down. He made a great play ripping the ball from a Harrison back to force a fumble in the second quarter. The awesome physical tools were still recognizable, but this was certainly not Jenkins-Stone's best performance.
Helmholdt followed that up with some commentary on why Jenkins-Stone dropped like a jenkins-stone in Rivals's postseason rankings revamp:
"As a junior, Jenkins-Stone played an aggressive, downhill style of football player and was all over the field. We saw him live in two and a half games as a senior, though, and he had lost that aggressive style and was playing back on his heels. Jenkins-Stone has also grown very little since we saw him the first time as a sophomore and that raises questions about his ability to add the necessary strength and bulk to play inside in college."
Much like the last time I saw him play, there was a concerted effort by his opponent to run away from him, but I must admit I was still disappointed by his performance overall. RJS has all the physical tools you'd like to see in a BCS-caliber linebacker, but it appeared either his effort or instincts were lacking at times (my, er, instinct is that the latter is more the issue, since RJS appears to be very into the game emotionally at all times)—this is no more apparent than in the third clip from the video, in which he bites hard on an end-around fake and leaves a huge gap for the quarterback to take off up the middle.
This is not to say that I don't think Jenkins-Stone is a good player—when he's aggressive, he does a good job of finding a way to the ball and either making a play or forcing the ballcarrier into the rest of the defense. I like the way he's able to shed blocks to get to where he wants to go, and his athleticism and size combine to be a huge asset, and if anything, he's just got to harness that athleticism and play more under-control.
A later game against De La Salle was better; Ace pointed out that RJS also got 22 carries as a meat-grinding tailback and that Cass Tech's reliance on him on both sides of the ball suggests his motor is excellent. Cass did claim a whopping 145 tackles for him as a senior. I'm a little skeptical of that since his numbers in the three games that were heavily scouted add up to maybe 15 tackles.
After his somewhat disappointing senior year, Jenkins-Stone fell out of top 100s everywhere but retained his guy-we-rank-and-give-four-stars status. ESPN and Scout continued to list him just outside of their top 100s, but ESPN still has a fire-and-forget tendency.
You may note the weird offer list, with huge national names but no Penn State, Notre Dame, or Ohio State. (MSU did offer, but they're going to offer any four-star prospect in the state every year.) That's probably the local powers wanting Cass kids to actually show up on campus before they seriously pursue yet another player headed to Michigan. The recruiting articles on Jenkins-Stone mention a planned Notre Dame trip, but are silent about the result of it—it probably never happened. The powers halfway across the country were tossing the offer out as a way to get interest.
The local heavies hesitancy was well-founded. RJS was the first Cub to commit, taking himself off the market in mid-April($) right after Kaleb Ringer. Like Richardson, he flirted with visits to some of the power offers he picked up but ended up backing off after getting a stern phone call about the consequences of doing so.
At Michigan he'll start out as part of the MLB/WLB battle royale. However, the depth chart suggests someone is moving to the strongside. With Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark poised to duke it out at WDE, Jake Ryan's only backup is actually older than him. Michigan is going to have to slide someone down.
With Joe Bolden looking like the heir apparent at MLB and James Ross too small, the prime candidates are Jenkins-Stone and Ringer… except Ringer is listed at 6'0" most places and is not regarded as a vertical attacking threat in the same way RJS is. Michigan had already moved Beyer when Ringer showed for spring practice and he was still playing on the inside.
If Michigan wants to start grooming a Jake Ryan replacement this fall, RJS is the guy. While most of the sites list him as an inside linebacker, various analysts note the possibility he'll move outside. More Trieu:
He is truly has the physical presence to play inside, and the athleticism to move outside depending upon where Michigan needs him and has the potential to compete early. An aggressive player who is best when in attack mode and shooting gaps.
From both a roster standpoint and a player fit standpoint, that seems like the move. Most of the evaluations above hint that he's better as an athlete who can operate in space instead of a play-reading, traffic-evading inside linebacker. SLB is the land of insane athletes who can terrorize quarterbacks and take on tight ends without having to worry about guards or seam routes, and that sounds like Jenkins-Stone.
“They’re getting a kid that is athletic,” Wilcher said. “A kid that has great hands, catches the ball well. Good feet. Strong and has great speed for the linebacker position. One that can cover backs coming out of the backfield. Michigan runs the same style of defense we run, so I think hell fit right in. He’ll know all the calls and all the gaps, and I think he'll adjust quickly.”
An old old Webb News article.
Why Jake Ryan? Ryan is an often-irresponsible (but getting better) vertical attacker around 6'2" who has filled out into the 230-240 pound range and spent his high school career terrorizing backfields as a blitzer.
It's not a fantastic fit because the recruiting services missed on Ryan thanks to his late emergence and he played as an OLB in a 3-3-5; RJS was an inside linebacker in a 3-4. It's still pretty good. If you were going to list three assets and a drawback for Ryan you'd be hard-pressed to deviate from Trieu's formulation of RJS above: aggressive, athletic, tough… and a bit undisciplined.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Healthy, heavily scouted, same (or very similar) college position, and an All-Star appearance.
Variance: Moderate. Does need to put on some weight, may end up a bit of a tweener between the inside and outside, and has some boom/bust potential.
Ceiling: High. Seems a notch below the nutso athleticism that would get him a "very high" but easy to see him topping out at an all-conference level.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. A little leery of the senior-year backslide a lot of responsibility on offense may have had something to do with that. Probably needs to make an adjustment to a position he hasn't played before. Doesn't seem as likely to hit his ceiling as Ross or Bolden, but still nice bullet to have in the chamber.
Projection: Jenkins-Stone is the most likely of the four incoming linebackers to redshirt. Bolden and Ringer came in for spring practice and Ross has a reputation as a guy who sees the game ahead of his years. Even if he makes the move to SLB Michigan has two solid options in front of him. Given the evaluations above, burning a redshirt for special teams activity seems highly inadvisable.
After a hypothetical redshirt year, RJS will find the linebacker depth chart largely in place. Only Kenny Demens departs after this year; with everyone else back it'll be tough to fight past Bolden, Morgan, Ryan, Gordon, et al, to find the field. He should get plenty of time on special teams and some garbage time drives. He'll probably find his way onto the two-deep as a redshirt sophomore and will be a prime candidate along with Mike McCray to replace Ryan in three years.
Yes. Michigan has a touted guy they shouldn't have to unearth until he's a redshirt junior. On defense and everything.
Between National Signing Day and the Superbowl, we are in the last little oasis of The Footballs before the other things take over again. Then comes the long months before little bits of spring trickle in. So let's with the footballs! The footballs last year! The footballs this year! The footballs in four years!
Maize_in_spartyland put a lot of time into using this year's success as a predictor for next year's strengths of schedule across the conference, including early 2012 projections for each team. Michigan's schedule is up there but Nebraska and Penn State seem to have the toughest roads ahead, not that you have any sympathy for either of them.
CRex continued (2002-2005) and then concluded his year-by-year study of Minimum Playoff Size, with 2006 through 2011. He's got a 5-team playoff for 2006 that doesn't include Michigan, which highlights the problem with doing this with hindsight (ie including the bowl results) instead of looking at the pre-bowl situation and saying "THIS would settle it."
He also put together a long review of Coaching the West Coast Quarterback, a book by one Al Borges and his brother Keith in 2002 while they were at Cal. If you're the kind of person who buys coaching books by your team's coordinators* there's one new one left at a reasonable price on Amazon. Or you could read the diary. Combined effort nets this man Diarist of the Weeks.
With NSD passed we really are into next year now. One last trip, then, into that which was 2011, courtesy of Eye of the Tiger, who after a bolded "But" with an ellipsis and its own line goes on to make a good point that V-Tech ended up looking eerily like Mississippi State 2010. The offense scored a few more points but wasn't as good as expected. The defense was WAY better than we dreamed. Brunette girls fixed the kicking problems (Misopogal: "We are awesome like that") and we all converted back to the church of…Time of Possession?!?
What I learned this season was that ToP may not matter in many cases, but it sure does when you're exactly the kind of team that has close to zero depth on defense. Then you really should keep them off the field if you can. Oregon can do the uptempo thing because they have lots and lots of depth on defense. They may not be Alabama, but they have a legion of solid dudes they can substitute in and out, and that's exactly what they do.
This makes sense. Let's recruit like 10 DL/LB this year so we don't have to … oh we did that. Carry on.
The Footballs, Recruiting is Perspective:
RJS and the Temple of Zooms
Well you know how National Signing Day went down. In case you missed some of the lead-up, Ace interviewed 2012 commit Royce Jenkins-Stone, the No. 1 player in the home state according to Scout (but not Dantonio). And you figure he's run out of funny names for 2013 prospects, but there's still one (Florida OT) Laremy Tunsil to go along with a boring old electric 6'4 receiver from Jersey named Charlie. Six Zero turned the microphone around and interviewed the weirdly named Ace Anbender.
WolverineBlue took Scout's recruiting scoring system and tried to predict where Michigan would land. It's as of 1/24, so needs updating after we know what the OL are doing, but he's accurate as of this writing. WolverineLake went backwards in time, grabbed a bolded personality, and showed the Scout recruiting rankings are predictive but the margin for error is big enough to drive Wisconsin's offensive line through it.
So the plan this year was to lean on the front court while breaking in a new PG so he's not overwhelmed with responsibility an…hey, this freshman IS our offense:
Player Year FGM Assists Team FGM % Team FGM Eric Turner 1981-82 163 120 696 40.70% Trey Burke 2011-12 99 92 472 40.50% Daniel Horton 2002-03 151 134 706 40.40% Manny Harris 2007-08 159 86 709 34.60% Jalen Rose 1991-92 206 135 1,014 33.60% Gary Grant 1984-85 169 140 936 33.00% Kevin Gaines 1999-'00 110 133 780 31.20% Antoine Joubert 1983-84 118 102 867 25.40% Dion Harris 2003-04 112 76 823 22.80% Darius Morris 2009-10 52 84 732 18.60%
So Trey Burke is right there among the leaders for this metric.
Raoul goes on to compare him favorably against the best point guards in the country in how much of his team's offense is generated by the 1.
AC1997 has put together a fantastic and nice-looking study on Michigan's season to date. This is outdated post-Indiana but still very good and very relevant as it breaks the schedule into good wins, good losses, bad losses, and what various outcomes of what cometh would mean.
Hey, what was up with our Power Play vs. Notre Dame eh? Yesman2221, our resident hockey guru other than that Cook guy, PP'ed Michigan's PP.
Etc. In the fall your blood is for beating Ohio. But in hockey/hoops season, you can put it all toward beating State. M Wolve with a list of places to donate. If your name is Zack Novak you are welcome to give directly at Breslin. A couple of Blockhams.
Best of the Board
OH FATHER! M PULLS TWO SIGNING DAY SURPRISES
Congrats to two new MGoDaddies who kept Michigan fans on edge for only a few hours before leaking their new sons' final college choices. Shortly after these announcements Mark Dantonio assured alumni he already had a solid verbal from the top 2030 prospect in the state. Further shout-outs to zohizzle101 for the recruit profiles you see above, and comment of the year from gajensen:
WE'RE GETTING COMMITS IN PAIRS AGAIN!!1!1!
I would also like to send out my deepest condolences to the Facebook friends of Florida Blue and Wolverine In a Bag. Once there were epic Youtube links, lolz pics from George Takei*, and breaking Michigan news—no more. As of now the baby has probably already taken over the profile pic and will be the subject of every update until at least 2016. In other M legacy recruits, Madonna's pushing her daughter to choose Michigan.
*Damn you Takei, another hour of my life. Sigh. Urban Meyer in college:
YOU'RE FOR THE G-MEN SUNDAY RIGHT? YOU'RE WHAT? HHHMMMMMMM.
No Dave Baas, I'm not rooting for your team, and not just because the Giants' whites look like a certain group of unmentionables when your helmets are off. I'm sure the readers have some sort of deep-seated reasoning, or office squares, or deep knowledge about the Pats and Giants, but since the Lions have never sniffed such a thing in my lifetime, in Superbowls I root for whoever's got the most Michigan guys and/or fewest Buckeyes, with ties going to the most favoritists of M players, or guys who haven't won before. This year the Giants have Super Mario and David Baas of the Daves*, versus Tom Brady and Zoltan the Inconceivable. The former link there is 12 trivia about Brady. The latter is a link to a link to a Romanian Space Emperor/Epic Punter/Business Major doing Borat. For this, I wish him great success.
*My senior year Michigan ran most of its plays up the middle behind an interior line made up entirely of guys named Dave. Since I didn't have access to a blog at the time I just tried to get my section to call them things like "Dave Petruziello of the Daves" or "Dave Pearson of the Daves."
NO LEGS? NO VAK!
MGOBLOG: THE MAGAZINE RETURNS
As Brian announced in a meta thread, we are bringing back "Hail to the Victors" this year, and for the first time producing it independently. Look for future updates on this as we use your support to prove we can afford to do it. There's still some time to submit your ideas of things you would pay for to help support the launch effort.
ACE: THE PODCAST
++ = listen.
NFL's new rookie cap might drive more players to the NFL faster. Future Museday: how many 4- and 5-stars make it to NFL Contract #2. If you've caught yourself double-posting something and want us to erase your heinous, unforgiveable crime for all time, you can change the title to "Mods Please Delete," or you can invoke the Space Emperor (of Space).
With the Thursday Recruitin' posts getting lengthy and signing day just over a week away, we decided—with the help of some reader requests—that it would be best to do two recruiting roundups per week. So, welcome to Tuesday Recruitin', which should serve to wrap up the happenings of the previous weekend and set the table for the upcoming week. Thursday Recruitin' will now be moved to Friday and focus on any upcoming visits while catching up with the events of the week. This new setup allows me to get more recruiting information to you each week and should cut down on the total link overload that was quickly becoming an unwanted staple of my recruiting roundups. Anyways, there is much to discuss, so let's get this party started.
Caleb Stacey Decommits; How Will M Round Out The Class?
Caleb Stacey announced on Saturday that he was changing his commitment from Michigan to Cincinnati, citing a desire to stay close to home during college:
"When it came down to it, Caleb just wanted to stay closer to home," said Oak Hills assistant coach Kyle Ralph. "He's a Cincinnati kid, and as it came down to it, he was more comfortable staying home in Cincinnati."
In fact, Stacey actually got in touch with the Cincinnati coaching staff himself, as they had respected his pledge to Michigan and backed off from recruiting him. Stacey's decommitment leaves the Wolverines with 23 commits (four along the O-line) in the class of 2012, leaving up to five spots available. While Michigan looks to have a good shot with higher-ranked offensive linemen Josh Garnett, Jordan Diamond, and Alex Kozan, Stacey's absence will be felt—he was the only current commit projected to play center, a position of great need for the Wolverines, and only Kozan looks like he could fill that void.
This week will be huge for offensive line recruiting, starting with Josh Garnett's announcement on Thursday afternoon. Garnett has officially narrowed his choices to a final two of Michigan and Stanford ($, info in header), as expected. Michigan did get the last word, as Brady Hoke made the final in-home visit to Garnett on Sunday. I expect Garnett to end up as a Wolverine, though that's admittedly based on zero inside knowledge of his recruitment.
Hoke also has the final in-home visit with Kozan, who will choose between Michigan, Iowa, and Auburn. Kozan told GoBlueWolverine that he will announce his choice "right after the Coach Hoke visit," which is scheduled for this Friday ($). He claims no leader at this time, and Hoke has the chance to make a very strong pitch—with Stacey out of the class, Kozan could be the most important recruit left on the board due to his ability to play center.
Jordan Diamond, meanwhile, will announce his decision on February 3rd—two days after signing day—between Michigan, Ohio State, Arkansas, Auburn, and Wisconsin. Michigan coaches have an in-home visit with him today, and he also maintains there's no leader in his recruitment.
Moving on to other position groups, two major targets formally decommitted this week: cornerback Armani Reeves from Penn State (same as Diamond link) and tight end Sam Grant from Boston College ($, info in header). Both could make their decisions as soon as this week. Reeves is now down to Michigan and Ohio State, and hosted Brady Hoke on Saturday before welcoming Urban Meyer—along with OSU assistants Everett Withers and Mike Vrabel—to his home last night. While some Buckeye insiders anticipated a commitment, none has come, and Greg Mattison will see Reeves tonight for his final in-home visit. This looks like a 50/50 tossup.
Grant, meanwhile, will likely choose between Michigan, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.
A few happy trails: Yuri Wright found a home at Colorado despite recently being kicked out of Don Bosco Prep for his controversial tweets; Monty Madaris will decide on Wednesday, and he appears to be down to Cincinnati and Michigan State; four-star OL and soft Wisconsin commit Kyle Dodson plans to announce his choice on Saturday between the Badgers, Ohio State, Michigan State, USC and Auburn ($).
Receiver Commits: Anything But Divas
You have likely read the story of receiver commit Amara Darboh, who lost his parents to the civil war in Sierra Leone when he was just two years old before finding his way to Des Moines, where he found a family and eventually became a four-star football recruit. Chantel Jennings profiled Michigan's other receiver commit, Jehu Chesson, on WolverineNation today, and the article is well worth the cost of ESPN Insider. I'll do my best to block-quote as little as possible, and encourage you to read the whole thing, which details Chesson's charity work—along with his knack for juggling—as well as his path to the United States ($):
In 1993 Chesson was born in war-torn Liberia in the middle of its first civil war. The country had broken into factions, and by the time the war was over in 1996, nearly 200,000 Liberians had died. Chesson moved from Liberia to the Ivory Coast, and from the Ivory Coast to St. Louis when he was 5.
He doesn't have many memories from that early in his life, but he saw on TV when Liberia fought its second civil war and the unrest that has come from it.
He could be angry. He still has family in Africa. His grandmother is there.
But Chesson said the kids have taught him how to forgive. He laughs when he talks about two young kids at the camp who fight and punch one another, but 10 minutes later they're playing with each other again.
He said that even though some of those kids have very little, they have the capacity to forgive, which some adults -- who've been tarnished by money or pessimism -- can't do.
"The best and worst part of it all is that I can ponder a question about why some are born into greatness and others never get a chance," Chesson said. "I'll probably never get an answer. But I can give of myself, which is sort of like working toward an answer."
The level of maturity shown by Chesson—as well as Darboh—would put many 30-year-olds to shame, and I'm very excited to see him don the winged helmet and, more importantly, get the opportunity to earn a degree from Michigan.
The Detroit News is rolling out daily profiles of the recruits on their Blue Chip list, and so far they've covered Terry Richardson, James Ross, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Matt Godin, and Devin Funchess. Most of it is fluff—Richardson discusses his spirituality, Ross—like Ben Braden—played hockey, RJS wants to be a chef, Godin wanted to play QB as a HS freshman, and Funchess plans to become a coach—but for those doubting Ross's size and ability to play inside, he has a message for you:
"I believe my size benefits me," he said. "I'm quick to the ball. When I was at the Army (All American) Game, I was able to get to the ball quickly. I'm able to get through the holes. I make the reads, and at the snap of the ball I can step into those holes. Can I get stronger? Sure I can. And I will."
Ross said the U-M coaches have no plans to move him to another position and that he is slated to play weak-side linebacker.
"I'll be the linebacker that checks the slot receiver or the running back out of the backfield," he said.
We'll see in the fall if Ross is really 6'1", 220 pounds, as the article claims, but even if he's a little smaller I think WLB is the best position for him.
Quick 2013 Hitters; New 2014 (!) Offer
A quick roundup of the news on current junior prospects:
- Woodbridge (VA) C.D. Hylton linebacker E.J. Levenberry, who visited Michigan last weekend and holds an early offer, has the Wolverines in his top three with Florida and FSU ($, info in header).
- Top-ranked tight end Adam Breneman revealed a list of upcoming visits on his Twitter; he plans to take a trip to Ann Arbor in March, and he's also got visits set for Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame. He's also looking at Miami and North Carolina for potential unofficials.
- In case you missed it, Michigan was one of several schools to recently offer Monaca (PA) Central Valley receiver Robert Foster, an early candidate for five-star status ($, info in header).
- Four-star Pickerington (OH) North TE/DE Jake Butt had the coaches drop by last week ($, info in header), and he says Michigan will be in the mix when it comes time to narrow down his list of schools.
- Cleveland (OH) Shaker Heights ATH De'Niro Laster told Greg Mattison he plans to take an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor the weekend after signing day ($, info in header).
- Somerville (NJ) Immaculata four-star DE Tashawn Bower expects a Michigan offer soon after talking with Coach Curt Mallory ($).
- Sam Webb's weekly DetNews piece is on Lemont (IL) OL Ethan Pocic, who recently earned top offensive lineman honors at the Core6 Showcase in Westmont, IL, which also featured top junior linemen like Logan Tuley-Tillman and Colin McGovern.
- Happy trails to Trotwood-Madison cornerback Cam Burrows, as one of the top players in Ohio pledged to Ohio State last week.
Finally, Michigan gave out its second verbal offer to a class of 2014 prospect. Woodbridge (VA) defensive end Da'Shawn Hand picked up his sixth offer as the Wolverines joined Boston College, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, N.C. State and Rutgers. Hand tallied 21 sacks as a sophomore and earned district Co-Defensive MVP honors. Michigan's other sophomore offeree is also a defensive lineman, Highland (UT) DT Bryan Mone, teammate of 2012 pledge Sione Houma.
This week's Thursday Recruitin' recaps the All-American games are takes a look at what could be a big visit weekend for the Wolverines. Usual request: please contact me via email or Twitter (or leave a comment) with any suggestions, tips, or links you think should show up in the next recruiting roundup.
Big Visit Weekend: Will Wright Make It?
The recruitment of four-star cornerback Yuri Wright took some bizarre twists and turns this week, as there remains disparate view between recruiting sites on whether or not he'll even be on campus this weekend for his previously-scheduled official visit. Sam Webb suggested on WTKA that, in essence, the staff has cooled on Wright and he's no longer among the list of visitors. Over at The Wolverine, Tim Sullivan talked with Wright and his coach and both were still under the impression that the visit was still on ($). I'm not sure what the situation is, though Wright looked very raw at corner during the Army All-America Game and the buzz is that he could project better as a free safety—the coaches want a true corner, so it's quite possible the staff have turned their attention to Armani Reeves.
Speaking of Reeves, the current Penn State commit, he will be in Ann Arbor for an official visit this weekend ($). He had played the waiting game while Penn State looked (and looked, and looked) for a new coach, and now that New England offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is in the fold there, Reeves was able to make his schedule. Since O'Brian is coaching in the NFL playoffs this weekend, Reeves will be at Michigan, and he'll visit Penn State with his last official. Ohio State has also emerged with some new-found interest, and it's likely Reeves will take a trip to Columbus next week.
In other DB recruiting news, four-star corner Kenny Crawley decommitted from Tennessee, and Michigan could be in the picture for him:
Crawley, a shutdown corner who notched 43 tackles and five interceptions last season, will take an official visit to Kansas next week with teammate John Walker, a senior defensive back, Johnson said.
Crawley is also considering Auburn, Georgia, Maryland and Connecticut. He is also going to re-consider Michigan, Johnson said. His remaining official visits will likely be to three of those five schools.
“We’re sitting down and considering [official visits] today,” Johnson said. “I think Georgia is playing a key role in there. Colorado is real high on his list. He liked the school and liked what they got.”
Considering the lack of any word on Crawley and Michigan since last Friday, when the above article was posted, and the lack of clarity on whether or not the coaching staff is even pursuing him, consider this a longshot prospect for now. It looks pretty clear that the staff is putting most of their efforts into trying to flip Reeves to Michigan, then be done with defensive back recruiting for the class.
Meanwhile, Jordan Diamond has narrowed his list to a final five, though it's not set in stone:
"I've got five but things could change," Diamond said. "With coaching staff changes going on, I'm definitely going to wait it out."
Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Auburn and Arkansas are the final five listed by the Maxpreps number seven offensive tackle in the class of 2012. He has officially visited all but the Wolverines so far and is looking for each program to match the criteria he's laid out.
Diamond will visit Michigan this weekend, Arkansas next weekend, and he's tentatively scheduled to head to Wisconsin the week after that ($).
Another prospect who has just been confirmed by Scout to be visiting on an unofficial this weekend ($) is tight end Sam Grant—teammate of Kyle Kalis—who has maintained since December that he would like to wrap up his recruitment in the near future. He reportedly had a great visit at Oklahoma last weekend, and they will be a major threat, but if Michigan can make a big impression this weekend we could be on commitment watch.
Happy trails to Monty Madaris, whose finalists are Cincinnati, Michigan State, and Kentucky (and Ohio State, if they offer), and David Perkins, who was considered by the Wolverines as a running back prospect but now has a final five of Mizzou, Ohio State, Oregon, Illinois, and Cal after things never really got off the ground with his Michigan recruitment ($).
Ondre Pipkins: Video Gold
First of all, if you somehow missed Ondre Pipkins's Brady Hoke impression, just click here right now. DO IT. Now you can watch his highlights from the Army Game, where he recorded two tackles and a forced fumble—take special note of his annihilation of a poor, unsuspecting QB at the 2:05 mark and him somehow chasing down Stefon Diggs and knocking the ball loose at 2:35:
The big man has some surprising wheels, looked fantastic in the game, and he drew a lot of praise for his work all week. He won Rivals.com's Mike Farrell's award for the prospect who improved his stock the most ($), and was named by Brian Perroni as the #6 performer overall for the West squad ($), taking both practices and the game into account:
The huge 6-foot-3, 330-pound defensive tackle moves much, much better than a player his size should. Pipkins proved to be a tough matchup for a very good offensive line all week in practice. In addition to his strength he has a motor that is nonstop. He had one of the most impressive plays of the game where he chased the opposing quarterback all the way to the sideline and made a huge hit that left the crowd in awe.
On top of that, Farrell cited Pipkins as the "War Room Favorite" for the player who hit it off the best with the reporters, and he did the Hoke walk after nailing Hoke's introductory press conference speech. Quite a week, that.
Also drawing major praise from the Army game was Kyle Kalis, who earned the #5 spot among the East's top performers on Rivals ($):
The 6-5, 305-pound Kalis was moved between tackle and guard most of the week in bowl practices and showed he could be effective against college-bound defensive linemen in either role. When game time rolled around Kalis was used exclusively at right guard and was solid in that role, despite spending his entire senior season at tackle. Throughout the week, Kalis proved to be the most consistent offensive line prospect on the East squad. He does not have the upside of a D.J. Humphries, but he has the size, strength and technique to step on the field early in his career.
Kalis actually matched up several times against Pipkins in the game, and they both won their fair share of battles—they'll likely reprise that matchup many more times in future Michigan practices, as Kalis certainly looked at home at guard.
For more from the Army Game, make sure to check out highlight videos of all the Michigan commits plus Yuri Wright over at MGoVideo.
In the Under Armour Game, early enrollee Joe Bolden was one of the top standouts of the week from any position group, tallying seven tackles during the game (highlights courtesy of MaizeNBlueJ):
24/7's J.C. Shurburtt was duly impressed by Bolden in this free article, which also covers his thoughts on Terry Richardson:
The Michigan commit was impressive all week in practice, and quickly caught all the coaches attention at Under Armour. He is a guy that certainly really impressed with his football IQ. Not just that, but his ability to move laterally, and his general ability to play his assignments and to not take false steps. He reads the play and is more athletic than people give him credit for, and is one of those guys that if you go to a camp or see him at a 7-on-7, maybe he is not as high on your list, but you put him in pads and you can really see this guy having a great college career and playing a lot in the National Football League.
Shurburtt noted that Richardson is not physically ready for the college game, which does not come as a surprise, but was very impressed with his athleticism. Bolden, meanwhile, was also named the week's Best Tackler by Rivals.com's Chris Nee ($). Sam Webb has a complete rundown on Bolden, Richardson, and Josh Garnett, plus early practice impressions of the Michigan commits in the Army Game, in his column last week in the Detroit News.
Not to be forgotten is Mario Ojemudia, who participated in last Tuesday's inaugural Semper Fidelis All-American Game. Though an ankle injury kept Ojemudia out of the second half of the game, Scout's Josh Newkirk still came away with a favorable impression ($):
Ojemudia only played the first half because of an ankle injury he sustained right before half time. It was nothing serious, but he sat out the second half for safety precaution. That said, in the time that Ojemudia did play, his presence was felt. He made two tackle on the afternoon and held contain pretty well. He did get caught up with bigger bodies at times, confirming his admitted need to add bulk to his frame. Other times he showed why even at his current weight he can be a handful and why he’ll be even scarier when he is heavier.
Ojemudia matched up once against Jordan Diamond and used his quickness to beat Diamond with an inside swim move. He really needs to put on weight—as I noted last week, he was often stonewalled at the line of scrimmage—but he's a heck of a pass-rush threat even at around 215 pounds.
Quickly: Chantel Jennings profiles early enrollee Kaleb Ringer, whose dad hit it off so well with Hoke that Michigan's coach almost forgot to extend Ringer an offer when he was on his official visit ($).
Two blue-chip juniors will be on campus for visits this weekend: Joliet (IL) Catholic RB Ty Isaac will be in Ann Arbor on Saturday ($, info in header), and Woodbridge (VA) C.D. Hylton LB E.J. Levenberry will also visit on Saturday ($, info in header). It's great to get two highly-touted prospects on campus this early, as both players project to be near the top of their position groups nationally in the 2013 class.
Michigan offered several prospects in the last week, highlighted by five-star receiver Robert Foster ($, info in header). Foster wasn't the only receiver to pull in an offer, as Michigan also extended one to Uriah LeMay, who I interviewed this week, and Wylie (TX) receiver Marcell Ateman ($). Louisville (KY) Trinity DE Jason Hatcher—whose teammate, junior receiver James Quick, was recently offered—also picked up an offer ($, info in header).
New blog on the scene Tremendous scored a chat with Logan Tuley-Tillman, who named a top five, in order, of Michigan, Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio State, and South Carolina. Arkansas and SC were both recent offerrees, and Tuley-Tillman plans to attend Alabama's junior day, though he has yet to receive an offer from them—the newly-crowned national champs could be a major player in his recruitment.
Quickly: My interviews with PA TE Adam Breneman and IL OL Colin Goebel; 24/7 breaks down Michigan's current offer list for both offense ($) and defense ($); Shane Morris commits to playing in the 2013 Under Armour AA Game ($, info in header); and Michigan shows interest in Canton (OH) McKinley OT Xzavier McAllister ($, info in header), adding to the fantastic list of names on the 2013 recruiting board.
Usual request: please contact me via email or Twitter (or leave a comment) with any suggestions, tips, or links you think should show up in the next recruiting roundup. I will be taking a vacation starting, oh, just after this gets posted, and I'll be doing my best to stay away from my computer over the holidays, but if something big breaks I should be able to address it. Since it's a recruiting dead period, it's unlikely that will be the case, but you never know.
Hello: Jehu Chesson
Oh, hey, new commit! Jehu Chesson became the 24th member of the class of 2012 yesterday, and you can find much, much more on him at his commitment post. Chesson's senior highlight reel also came out yesterday, unfortunately after I did the "Hello" post, and I think you'll be impressed (though you might want to turn your sound down/off):
Check the 2:27 mark if you want to see him go into full-on beast mode. Welcome to the fold, Jehu.
Chesson's commitment probably closes out Michigan's receiver recruiting for this class, but just in case it doesn't, here's the latest on recruiting at the position. Jordan Payton has Cal on top of his list ($), which now includes Arizona State and UCLA along with Michigan and Notre Dame, and signs point to him staying out west. He will make his decision at the Army All-American Game on January 7th, and he's currently trying to figure out if Notre Dame is too far away from home ($, info in header)—I think it's safe to assume Michigan is in the same category. With a recruiting dead period for the holidays and an early January decision, I'd be very surprised if he didn't end up at Cal.
As for Monty Madaris, he's narrowed his list to Michigan, MSU, Cincinnati, and Kentucky—he plans taking an official visit to Ann Arbor the weekend of January 13th, but it's unsure if that will be affected at all by Chesson's commitment. We'll have to wait and see there.
While the immediate need at receiver looks to be filled, offensive line is still a priority for the coaching staff, and Michigan is still right in the thick of things for Josh Garnett. Garnett has narrowed his list to three schools—Michigan, Notre Dame, and Stanford—and says they are all tied at the top for him ($, info in header). It sounds like Michigan has some extra incentive to perform well in the Sugar Bowl:
All three programs are set to face off in bowl games this season. Notre Dame will face Florida State in the Champs Sports bowl on Dec. 29, Stanford faces Oklahoma State in the Fiesta bowl on Jan. 2, and of course Michigan plays in the Sugar Bowl live on ESPN against Virginia Tech at 8:30 p.m. EST on Jan. 3. Now that the hectic visits of the regular season have come to an end, Garnett will use the bowl games to further evaluate the product on the field at each school.
"After all the bowl games I'd have a little more perspective," he said. "I'm going to be able to watch them on TV now, and see how they fare against great opponents. So I can definitely watch all the schools and watch the O-line play, because I really couldn't do that during the regular season."
Garnett is also a very serious student, and he's looking towards medical school down the road, as you can read about in this column by Chantel Jennings ($).
Meanwhile, Jordan Diamond has established a top five of Ohio State, Auburn, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Michigan ($, info in header)—he claims no leader at this time, though he had a glowing review of his recent official visit to Auburn ($, info in header). Michigan will have another chance to make an impression when Diamond takes his official visit the weekend of January 27th, making the Wolverines his last visit before he makes a decision.
Alex Kozan is still narrowing things down, but says he is approaching a decision, though he doesn't have a specific timetable ($). While Michigan appears to have a decent shot at landing one of the three aforementioned O-line recruits, they're also still contacting other prospects, including four-star Las Vegas Desert Pines OL Jeremiah Poutasi, whom the coaches stopped by and talked to last week ($). He says he'd consider a visit, so we'll see if things pick up on that front soon. Michigan is also still in the running for a visit from current Wisconsin commit Kyle Dodson, who's also looking at Ohio State, Auburn, USC, and MSU ($).
Sam Webb discussed the recruitment of cornerback Armani Reeves in last week's DetNews feature, and the four-star Penn State commit gave him an update on where things stand:
"I just want to see what Penn State's going to do as far as bringing in a new coach and what his plans are and what he's going to do before I set anything official up," Reeves said. "(Penn State) has expressed that they're going to hire a coach towards Christmas. That's the dead period, so it gives me a lot of time to think about everything — where they're heading and what direction they're going. "If they hire a coach before Christmas, that really gives me a good indication if I need to take the visits or if I'm going to stay committed.
"If I do take any visits, it'll definitely be Michigan and Notre Dame, those will probably be the only two schools."
We'll have to wait to see what happens with Reeves, but there's also top-ranked corner Yuri Wright, who will be taking his official to Michigan on January 13th after placing them as co-leaders along with Colorado. I expect the Wolverines to be able to land at least one of those two prospects—they're in strong position for both, and if Reeves decommits from PSU it looks like Michigan would be in the driver's seat there.
Quickly: Tight end Sam Grant—a current Boston College commit and HS teammate of Kyle Kalis—is looking to end his recruitment as soon as possible ($, info in header)—he's taken official to Michigan, Arkansas, and BC, and just landed an Oklahoma offer; Michigan is showing interest in four-star ATH David Perkins as a running back, but they still have to make a push to get him to schedule an official visit—he's got all five planned, but late January visits to LSU and Tennessee are tentative at this point ($); Bri'onte Dunn will, in fact, enroll early at Ohio State ($, info in header), so if you haven't taken the many signs that his recruitment is over to heart, well, it's over. Best of luck to Bri'onte.
Michigan Commits Make All-America Lists
- Kyle Kalis made the first team on SI; he's also a finalist for the Anthony Munoz Offensive Lineman of the Year award, which will be handed out during the Army Bowl dinner on January 6th.
- Devin Funchess is the second-team tight end for SI, while his teammate Mario Ojemudia earns honorable mention on the D-line.
- Chris Wormley and Royce Jenkins-Stone also earn honorable mention by SI.
- Speaking of RJS, he's a first-team linebacker to ESPN after recording 145 tackles and five sacks this season.
- Terry Richardson earns ESPN second-team AA honors at corner, incidentally alongside Yuri Wright.
Congratulations to all of the commits above.
Chantel Jennings caught up with linebacker commit Joe Bolden to talk about enrolling early ($, info in header):
For his final winter break, Bolden is focused on spending time with friends and family, what he calls "the important stuff." But he's still remembering the long-term goal while he's packing for college and getting ready to move in, and that outweighs the negatives of leaving high school early.
"It's weird thinking that I may not have a winter break again," Bolden said. "But if we're playing in bowl games and hopefully national championship games, then I have no problem with it at all."
Bolden is quickly compiling a lengthy dossier of awesome quotes; file the last bit under that category.
After many commits took recent official visits, there's a slew of paywalled articles out there documenting their excitement to get to Ann Arbor. Kyle Kalis tells 247Sports his favorite NFL player is none other than Steve Hutchinson. Sam Webb interviewed Tom Strobel, who told his coaches to let Urban Meyer know "to not even bother. I've made my choice," which is all kinds of fantastic. Erik Magnuson, whose first offer was from San Diego State back when Hoke was their coach, tells Chantel Jennings he's "always wanted to play for Coach Hoke."
I wish I could just blockquote the entire article, but just go now and read Sam Webb's latest on 2013 Peoria (IL) Manual OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, who shows maturity well beyond his years as he works to give himself and his family a better future:
"Coming up in this city I had a lot of friends that were on the right track and had opportunities like me, but got killed or wound up in jail," said Tuley-Tillman. "For me, (failure) is not an option. Not working hard is just not an option. I will do whatever it takes to send myself to the next level. Every time I'm at home and I see my niece, I just look in her eyes and I just know that she depends on me to do something for her — (something) to better (our) future. I want success as bad as I want to breathe. It's not something that won't happen for me. It's something that will happen because I'm doing all the things in order to get there."
He's not kidding around when it comes to doing whatever it takes—Logan talks about scraping together the money for a train ticket so he can go work out in Chicago at Core6 Athletes on the weekends and spending extra time after school with a tutor to make sure he's prepared for college academically. There's recruiting news in there too—Michigan is still on top for Tuley-Tillman, despite a recent push from Notre Dame, and he's thinking of making a decision on March 20th, his 17th birthday—but I can't recommend enough reading the whole article to get a sense for the type of quality young man Michigan is recruiting.
Last weekend the Pontiac Silverdome hosted the Maximum Exposure camp, and a couple of recognizable names stood out. Shane Morris ran a 4.7 hand-timed 40 and was reportedly outstanding throwing the football, but the big standout was Berkley Edwards—younger brother of Braylon and currently a Chelsea Bulldog—who ran a camp-best 4.35 40-yard dash ($). If Michigan is interested in Edwards—likely as a receiver—he'll be listening. Both Morris and Edwards also were standouts at the Sound Mind Sound Body combine, and there's a free 247 article detailing their exploits.
Quickly: Tim has a rundown on many of the recent offerees over at the Free Press; Michigan offered top safety prospect Su'a Cravens ($, info in header), Ashburn (VA) Stone Bridge DE Jonathan Allen ($), and Yuri Wright's Don Bosco teammate, DE Alquadin Muhammad ($, info in header).
Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, and I'll be back to run down film on Virginia Tech before the new year. Thanks for all your support as I continue to settle in to the new job. It's been an incredible four months, and I have a great appreciation for the job, my co-workers, and the readers—I'm having a blast, and I hope you all enjoy my contributions to this great site.