The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
You certainly know the man on the left, but do you know who's making the play on the right?
A couple weeks ago, I took a look at the most dangerous position groups Michigan will face on the 2014 schedule. Today, it's time to take a look at the best players, and this time around I took a team-by-team approach. In order of their appearance on the schedule, here are the dangermen who will be the focus of Michigan's game-planning in each of their regular-season contests.
Appalachian State: QB Armanti Edwards.
He graduated four years ago, you say? On an NFL roster, even? Well... I don't care. It's still Armanti Edwards.
Notre Dame: OLB Jaylon Smith
Smith is one of those five-star recruits who immediately live up to the billing. He started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, finishing third on the team in tackles (67) and second in TFLs (6.5) while generally looking like the Irish's best linebacker despite being surrounded by players with a lot of experience. He'll have to be the linchpin of Notre Dame's defense this year as the team tries to replace starting inside linebackers Dan Fox and Carlo Calebrese, who weren't all that impressive to begin with, as well as defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. With a standard sophomore leap, Smith could be good enough that his development alone overcomes the considerable losses in Notre Dame's linebacker corps.
Miami (NTM): WR/RB Dawan Scott
There's admittedly a dearth of choices from a team that went 0-12 in 2013, but Scott was a bright spot on an otherwise dismal Miami offense. His 15 yard average on 28 receptions led the team by over three yards. Until this season, he was actually listed at running back, and his 231 yards on 37 carries last season was good for second on the team. He's also a dangerous return man when given the opportunity, though the RedHawks reduced his special teams contributions last year as his role in the offense expanded. Miami does everything they can to get the ball in his hands, and given what's around him, that's as good a plan as any.
"It's Dres Day!" (!!!)
Utah: WR Dres Anderson
Utah's quarterbacks struggled last year, but that didn't matter much when they threw it to Dres Anderson, who led all Pac-12 receivers with an astonishing 18.9 yards per catch in 2013. It certainly helps that he can take a zero-yard pass and turn it into a 54-yard touchdown. The California native brings some explosive West Coast shit, and woe be upon the opponent that forgets about him.
Minnesota: CB Eric Murray
I guess I must acknowledge that Seth made one of the better picks of Draftageddon when he grabbed Eric Murray in the 18th round. While stats for defensive backs are often misleading, this chart speaks volumes about Murray's ability to play on an island with the best of them:
Minnesota runs a ton of man coverage, and they can largely get away with it because Murray makes life far easier on the rest of the secondary. At 6'2", 200 pounds, he's got the size to match up with just about any receiver and hold up well against the run, too.
Rutgers: DT Darius Hamilton
Hamilton is the type of five-star who needed a little time to marinate before starting to reach his prodigious potential; after a very quiet freshman year in 2012, he broke through as a sophomore, leading the Scarlet Knights with 11.5 TFLs and chipping in 4.5 sacks from the interior. He's got an NFL future, and he pairs with sophomore linebacker Steve Longa to give Rutgers at least a little star power on their defense. There may be a lack of high quality players on the roster, but Hamilton would be a big-time contributor on any of the teams on this list.
Penn State: QB Christian Hackenberg
While there may be more proven, experienced stars on the Nittany Lions—OT Donovan Smith and LB Mike Hull come to mind—there's little question the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year has the most talent of anybody on the Penn State roster. Hackenberg has all the tools to be a first-round NFL quarterback: size, arm strength, accuracy, and pocket presence that belies his youth. The big question for this fall is how he'll deal with the loss of the outstanding Allen Robinson, who accounted for a massive 1432 of Hackenberg's 2955 passing yards last year. There may be a Henne-like step back for the sophomore signal-caller, at least numbers-wise, but with a great group of tight ends and that level of talent, he should be plenty impressive again this year.
Michigan State: S Kurtis Drummond
I'll let BiSB handle this one, since he would've inevitably chimed in anyway in the comments:
Along with Kurtis Drummond's 4 picks and 6 PBUs, he made 91 tackles from the free safety spot. That typically signals DOOM for a defense, so to put up those kinds of numbers in such a dominant defense is really impressive.
He doesn't just get to play center field, either; MSU's Cover 4 requires him to defend receivers in essentially single coverage all over the field, and he looks like a corner when he does so. He has great ball skills and can flip his hips and run with anyone in the league. That's him running stride-for-stride with Devin Smith.
Drummond is generally regarded as the top free safety prospect for the 2015 draft, which almost certainly will get him into the first round, perhaps even the top half. His play merits the hype.
Indiana: RB Tevin Coleman
I'm clearly getting lazy, because for the second time in a row, I'll let a big ol' blockquote do the explaining, this one from SBNation's Bill Connelly:
But the primary reason I can't worry too much about Indiana's offense is Tevin Coleman. Highlight Yards basically look at a runner's explosiveness once he reaches the second level of a defense. Combining that with Opportunity Rate (the frequency with which you reach said second level), we get a pretty good idea for what kind of back you are. Coleman's 35.9 percent Opportunity Rate was nothing special, but no one in the country was more explosive.
Of the 199 FBS players with at least 100 carries in 2013, only seven averaged 8.0 highlight yards per opportunity or greater. Boston College's Andre Williams and Missouri's Henry Josey averaged 8.0, Maryland's C.J. Brown and Ohio State's Braxton Miller averaged 8.4, West Virginia's Dreamius Smith and UL-Lafayette's Elijah McGuire averaged 8.6 ... and Tevin Coleman averaged 12.0. His average was 40 percent better than the second best. He had 14 carries of at least 20 yards (only 12 players had more), and he had eight of at least 40 (most in the country). He is unlit dynamite every play he's on the field.
Short version: daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn. Indiana may miss Tre Roberson's running threat as a change-of-pace quarterback, but their running game is still in good shape with Coleman toting the rock.
Northwestern: RB Venric Mark
Yes, we (justifiably) made fun of Seth for making Mark the first running back off the board in Draftageddon, but when healthy he's one of the most versatile and explosive players in the conference. When he played 13 games in 2012, Mark rushed for 1366 yards on 6.0 YPC, chipped in 20 receptions out of the backfield, and took two punt returns to the house. He only managed 31 carries last year before a broken ankle cut his season short; if he's back to full strength, though, he'll be right behind Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah (and right with Coleman) in the conversation about who's the best back in the Big Ten.
Maryland: WR Stefon Diggs
Another star coming off a season-ending injury, Diggs was on the way to putting up some eye-popping numbers in 2013 before a broken leg ended his campaign after seven games. In that span, he caught 34 passes for 587 yards (17.2 YPC) while averaging nearly 6.5 yards on a handful of end-arounds and 23.4 yards on 12 kickoff returns. He's every bit the explosive playmaker he was billed to be as a highly touted recruit, and the solid depth and talent among Maryland's receivers makes it difficult for defenses to focus too much attention on him.
Ohio State: QB Braxton Miller
Well, yeah, it's hard to argue with the two-time reigning Big Ten MVP, even with all the stars along OSU's defensive line. Miller boasted a 24:7 TD-to-INT ratio, improved his completion percentage and passing yardage for the third straight season, and rushed for 1201 yards on 8.0 YPC when sacks are removed—and he even made strides in taking fewer sacks, too. While the loss of Carlos Hyde will hamper the Buckeye running game, they've got several talented replacements at running back, and the constant threat of Miller making something remarkable happen should keep Urban Meyer's offense quite dangerous indeed.
LAST TIME ON DRAFTAGEDDON: I saw a pale horse ridden by a guy who thinks Shilique Calhoun is a first round NFL draft pick.
ROUND 3 - PICK 1: Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
O: QB Braxton Miller (OSU), WR Stefon Diggs (MD)
D: DT Carl Davis(IA)
BRIAN: Stefon Diggs is recovering from a broken leg that snuffed out his year 7 games in, but we've already got plenty of evidence that Diggs is the most explosive WR in the Big Ten. A five-star recruit with offers from everyone, Diggs put up 848 yards as a freshman and was on pace for 1090 before the injury last year. He made the All-ACC team as a freshman and is being projected as a first rounder a few places despite the leg and the uncertainty about whether he'll come out.
I'm not particularly worried about that injury. Diggs returned to drills and 7-on-7 in early April, and broken bones are not the kind of thing you might worry about long term. He says he's faster than he was before despite being only 90%, and even if that's not true... I'll live with it.
The main issue with Diggs is that his production is dependent on his quarterback and his quarterback plays at Maryland and therefore will die six ways and be replaced by a linebacker midseason. Probable starter Caleb Rowe had 131 attempts last year and completed fewer than half of them. But in terms of my team, he's a perfect fit. Miller's good over the top and commands so much attention that WR screens feature one on one matchups. He's a guy who would be able to get a ton of free yards paired with Miller. Dana Holgorsen called him a "Tavon Austin clone"... except like four inches taller. As a bonus, he had two KR TDs as a freshman.
ROUND 3 - PICK 2: Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan
O: WR Devin Funchess (U-M), LT Brandon Scherff (Iowa)
D: DE Shilique Calhoun (MSU)
ACE: I could drag out all the stats on how Funchess blew up once Michigan realized he's a wide receiver, period. I could tell you how awesome it is to have a 6'5", 230-pound living matchup nightmare on the outside. I could discuss in exacting detail how Funchess, just a true junior, should have by far his best season in 2014. I could mention the (terrifying) possibility that he'll be a first-round NFL Draft pick at this time next year.
But you know all that. So let's just admire the freaky athletic ability for a little bit:
Is this a homer pick? I won't say no, though Funchess is the leading returning receiver in the entire conference.
Do I feel bad about it whatsoever? Noooooope.
BRIAN: That's no homer pick, man. Funchess is also getting first-round hype and with good reason. Not the reasons that the people picking Funchess in the first round have, like "is a tight end," but Funchess was the other guy before a big dip in available talent at WR.
ACE: Yeah, I mostly just wanted to set up that Archer reference. I would've taken Funchess here even if he played for Rutgers. Okay, maybe not Rutgers, but literally anyone else.
BISB: Anyone else? I'm picturing Funchess catching passes from Danny Etling, which would be a "Denard as pocket passer"-level crime against man-panda.
sorry, I heard "crimes BY man-panda" –ed
ACE: I stand by my original statement.
Also, I am now dead.
[AFTER THE JUMP: additional man-panda crimes! Seth Dumars!]
Dunn Visiting OSU First, Michigan Close to Wrapping Up Receiver Recruiting?
If you're a big recruiting follower, you likely already know this news, but Bri'onte Dunn is taking his first official visit this weekend ($, info in header), and disappointingly it's to Ohio State. He might visit Ann Arbor next weekend, but that isn't set in stone, and it appears that the tide has shifted back in the Buckeyes's favor in Dunn's recruitment. Brady Hoke and Fred Jackson have an in-home visit with Dunn scheduled for today, so by no means are the Wolverines out of it, but it looks like there's a good chance the blue-chip running back stays committed to Ohio State.
Meanwhile, things are moving very quickly on the receiver front after Amara Darboh committed last weekend. Michigan will take one more wideout in the class, and the leader in the clubhouse for that spot appears to be St. Louis (MO) Ladue Watkins standout Jehu Chesson, who has narrowed his list to Michigan, Iowa, and Northwestern and will announce his commitment on either December 21st or 22nd ($). The Wolverines appear to be the leader here, and a commitment from Chesson would make the rest of what I'm about to write rather irrelevant, but oh well.
Stefon Diggs, the Good Counsel five-star, is probably not happening—he made an official visit to Cal last weekend and will be at (sigh) Ohio State on an official this weekend, according to the Washington Post, which also had this quote:
“I was going to go to Michigan, but as of now, I’m not sure,” he said. “Maybe Auburn or Florida. I’ve got four left, so we’ll see how it goes.”
With the accelerated timeline of Chesson, it's time to give up the pipe dream of landing Diggs. Jordan Payton has narrowed his list to Michigan, Notre Dame, and Cal ($)—things have been quiet on that front from the Michigan end, and much like with Diggs, there may not be an opportunity for Payton to commit before Michigan is full at receiver. Cincinnati Moeller receiver Monty Madaris is planning an official visit to Michigan after Christmas break—he'll be taking visits to MSU and Cincinnati as well. Upland (CA) High receiver Kenny Lawler recently decommitted from Arizona State and has expressed interset in Michigan ($, info in header), but it's unclear if much will happen on that front. Darius Powe has Michigan in his top five ($). In all likelihood, Chesson is going to take the final receiver spot, and all of the above will be moot. If he surprises and commits elsewhere, however, Michigan still has a lot of strong options.
Yuri Wright Names Favorites, Old Names Popping Back Up on M's Radar
Well, hello there, top-ranked cornerback (from Rivals.com's Mike Farrell):
Wright is working on setting up a visit, and from everything he's saying, Michigan has a great shot at landing a commitment once he makes it to campus, though they might have to wait a little bit ($):
Finally, when it comes to the official visit targets Wright discussed, there is Michigan.
“I love Michigan. I can honestly say that,” Wright said. “That’s a school I’ve loved my whole life. I just loved it my whole life. I was definitely happy with that. They came away with the victory.”
Wright was hoping to announce at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan 7, 2012, in San Antonio, but he is no longer planning it because of timing.
Not a bad quote, that. Even if Michigan can't ultimately land Wright, they may have another option at corner if they want one in Penn State commit Armani Reeves, who could be taking a visit this weekend (again, Farrell):
Farrell also claims that Michigan has interest in Williams, which would be interesting and possibly disconcerting, since the Wolverines should be set at linebacker barring a decommit or academic issues among the 2012 commits.
Some quick hitters on O-line recruiting:
- Jordan Diamond has set two official visits ($, info in header), one to Auburn and the other for this weekend at Ohio State (sigh). My hated for Urban Meyer is growing at a rapid pace.
- Josh Garnett was "wowed" by his official visit to Michigan ($, info in header).
- Michigan is once again recruiting soft Mizzou verbal Evan Boehm, the top-ranked center in the country ($, info in header). He'd be a great fit in this O-line class and has a Michigan connection in friend Ondre Pipkins.
- Alex Kozan hosted several in-home visitors this week, including Michigan ($, info in header). He's still considering the Wolverines for an official visit. [EDIT: And by considering, I mean he's visiting this weekend ($). That's good news, obviously.]
- Tom has a good overview of offensive line recruiting for both 2012 and 2013 over at WolverineNation ($).
One more name to keep an eye on is J.P. Holtz, a tight end from Pittsburgh who recently decommitted from Penn State. Michigan has been in contact and could become a big factor in his recruitment:
“Coach Mattison came and saw me last week,” Holtz said. “He told me that I would fit in perfectly in their offense as a tight-end and that they want me to come visit soon.”
The 6-foot-4, 240 pound Holtz has already visited Purdue and Pittsburgh, and says he would like to visit Michigan before he makes his final decision.
“Michigan’s coaching staff and their stadium really sticks out to me,” Holtz said. “It would be nice to play in the biggest stadium in the country every week.”
Holtz is also considering Purdue, Pitt, Arkansas, and Michigan State.
Happy trails to Good Counsel running back Wes Brown, teammate of Stefon Diggs, who cut Michigan from his list this week ($).
This week's Thursday Recruitin' talks new recruiting rankings, more on the recent developments with Stefon Diggs, more wide receiver recruiting in general, and 2013 recruits who could be narrowing their focus in the near future. Usual request: Please let me know if you have any comments, criticism, suggestions, etc.—as always, I'll be reading the comments, and you can also reach me on Twitter or via email, where I'll also encourage you to send any recruiting articles of interest that you think I should include for the next week's edition.
New Scout 300 and 24/7 Rankings Released
Scout released their new top 300 for the class of 2012, and for the most part it was extremely positive for Michigan recruits. MGoUser AAB detailed where players ended up in the new rankings, and I've copied that list here with one addition:
It's worth noting that Joe Bolden (pictured above) had one of the largest jumps on the list, going from #229 to #94, while A.J. Williams's leap into the top 300 also came with a shiny new fourth star and a new designation: offensive tackle. Kaleb Ringer dropped off the list and was reclassified as a three-star, which shouldn't come as a surprise after he missed much of his senior season with an MCL injury. With 13 commits in the Scout 300, and several top targets in play, there's not much to complain about here.
247Sports, meanwhile, released their top 64 seniors in the state of Michigan, and while MSU commit Aaron Burbridge heads the list—legitimately, in my opinion—the Wolverines dominate the rest of the top ten with James Ross (#2), Terry Richardson (#3), Royce Jenkins-Stone (#5), Matt Godin (#7), Devin Funchess (#8), Mario Ojemudia (#9), and Ben Braden (#10). The other non-Michigan commits are Cincinnati-bound RB Dennis Norfleet (#4) and Tennessee commit Danny O'Brien (#6). Drake Johnson comes in at #17, six spots ahead of Juwan Lewis, while preferred walk-on punter Kenny Allen slips in at #59.
Bolden comes in for a lot of praise this week, being named to the Under Armour All-America Game and also earning district Defensive Player of the Year honors:
"Joe has been a tremendous leader for our team," Colerain coach Tom Bolden said. "He goes 100 miles-per-hour in practice and 100 miles-per-hour in the games. Everything he brings from an emotional and physical standpoint has been great for our team."
Unlike Madaris, Bolden orally committed to Michigan in late April, a decision that his coach and uncle, Tom Bolden, thought was an easy fit.
"It came down to UC and Michigan," the coach said, "but Joe liked the direction that Coach (Brady) Hoke is taking their program. He's an athletic throwback; he plays with reckless abandon, but he has the athleticism to get sideline to sideline."
Aside from the history of the Michigan football program, Bolden was lured by the academic standards of the university, something that is important to the senior who carried a 3.9 GPA this season.
Receiver recruit Monty Madaris earned the Offensive Player of the Year award in the same district—the Cincinnati area—while commits A.J. Williams and Caleb Stacey both earned first-team all-district honors along the offensive line. There's been increased talk that Williams will move permanently to tackle, and while he's open to the move, the 6'6", 275-pound senior thinks he can still come in and contribute at tight end ($):
“After this year I will have to find myself working out making sure my route running is still fine and my hands are still ok. A lot of people don’t know that I can still catch it and a lot of people think that I should switch to tackle and think I’m going to switch to tackle when I get to college. I think I’m athletic enough and I still have the soft hands, so if I keep working on certain drills and everything I’ll be able to get to college and show them off.”
Williams went on to joke about how tackles make more money in the NFL while making the point that he'll do whatever is needed to help the team win, so it sounds like position won't be an issue for him when he gets to campus.
Just to Be Clear, Stefon Diggs is an Option
After Sam Webb dropped his article last Thursday profiling Stefon Diggs and his renewed—and strong—interest in Michigan, he's become the recruit du jour this week for local outlets. Tim Sullivan discusses his recruitment in his latest piece at the Free Press:
“His route running, ability to get off the ball with ease and his quickness in and out of his cuts are only surpassed by his hands and flair for the dramatic,” said Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Mike Farrell. “He is the definition of a playmaker.”
Michigan was initially slow to pursue Diggs, but lately the interest from the Wolverines’ end has picked up. He recently placed Michigan in his top five schools under consideration, and is planning to visit Ann Arbor in December.
To steal a line from our fearless leader, DO WANT. Tom also has an (insider) article on Diggs, who continues to say and do all the right things, including getting his mother up to speed on the process:
"I get on the computer and do research on all the schools," [Stefon's mother] Stephanie said. "With Blake (Countess) at Michigan it does make me feel a little more comfortable. He's a super kid and comes from a great family."
Like his mother, Diggs also has some questions that he would like answered by the Michigan coaching staff. He's not yet willing to share the questions but says once they're answered, he'll be more willing to talk.
"I'm willing to say right now that Michigan sits well with me; I'm comfortable with Michigan," he said. "They would turn me into a better man, and once I get those questions answered, we'll go from there."
According to the article, Diggs will come out with a new top seven on November 29th, his birthday. It is very safe to assume that Michigan will be included. Also, if you missed this last night, two different MGoUsers gave extensive scouting reports on Diggs and teammate Wes Brown from their game last week, which you can find in this diary. Don't worry: neither disappointed.
Lakewood (CA) receiver Darius Powe tried to make it to Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame game, but couldn't. Don't take that as a sign his interest has wavered, however:
"I'm still trying to set that visit up but I haven't yet," Powe said. "After my season I should be able to sit down and get that trip planned. I really want to get out there, I love the offense and the fact they are a big-time school. Michigan, Oregon State and Utah are recruiting me the hardest right now."
The Wolverines were out in Lakewood a few weeks ago to check on Powe he said. Cal was also recently by his school.
All of a sudden, it looks like the Wolverines have a lot of options at receiver. One of those is still Amara Darboh, whose recruitment may be wrapping up before the new year ($):
“The last thing he told me was, ‘Ya’ know what? We’re going to get this thing wrapped up here pretty soon,’ ” [Dowling High School coach Tom] Wilson said. “He said he wanted to have it done by Christmas.
“I think he wants it done. He was offered between his sophomore and junior year. I think he’s done a great job of doing his homework. He’s not a kid that has fallen in love with the recruiting process, like some do. I think he’s ready to move on and have a clear direction of where he’s going to end up.”
Wilson added Darboh “keeps thinks close to the vest” and isn’t naming leaders, but much more clarity should be gained in the coming weeks.
Darboh will be in town for the Ohio State game after visiting
Ohio State Notre Dame this weekend, and I believe much of the clarity we're looking for will be provided shortly after those visits. Not visiting for the Ohio State game: cornerback Yuri Wright, whose team has advanced deep into the playoffs—he's looking to reschedule for after his season ($, info in header). Cryptic quote ahoy?
“I’m not going to say a particular school stands out, but Michigan is one of the schools that I’ve loved all my life,” Wright said. “There’s not a favorite right now.”
Tom would be proud, sir. Keep 'em on their toes.
Quickly: RB Wes Brown is another recruit seriously reconsidering his interest in Penn State ($, info in header); you can give up the Arik Armstead pipe dream, as the five-star named a top seven that didn't include Michigan ($); Saline long snapper Taybor Pepper has been offered a preferred walk-on spot ($, info in header); Tom discusses the dropoff in Michigan running back recruiting since landing five-star (sigh) Carlos Brown in 2006 ($).
2013 four-star receiver Laquon Treadwell—teammate of Anthony Standifer—"might be attending this Michigan game this weekend," according to his Twitter account. Treadwell could be a candidate for an early commitment. He's been working on getting his mother to come with him to Ann Arbor, as she wasn't able to make it with him for the Notre Dame game and he'll need her stamp of approval before pledging to a school. According to Tim, Treadwell tried to make it to the Illinois game last week and now is looking to visit Michigan not just this weekend, but for Ohio State as well ($, info in header). If he's already coming up for multiple games in a row, it's a very good sign for the Wolverines, obviously.
Meanwhile, Toledo Central Catholic DB Jayme Thompson made it in for an unofficial visit this week, and said he had a "real nice visit," according to MGoUser and Facebook friend jessiegoblue. If Facebook is to be believed, Thompson's middle name or nickname (you can never tell with Facebook) is Norf. Norf!
Thompson gets the more formal treatment at Scout ($). He's expecting an offer to come in soon [UPDATE: He got one, according to 24/7]—likely at cornerback—and may already have narrowed things down to just two schools:
With an offer from Michigan potentially coming soon, Thompson will still try to wait things out with two school’s [sic] currently on his mind.
“I’m going to try to wait things out. It’s basically between two schools right now, Michigan and West Virginia. West Virginia is the second offer I’ve got and I really like the coaches there.”
I got to watch Thompson when Central Catholic took on Chris Wormley and Toledo Whitmer earlier this year, and he's a very fast, hard-hitting high school safety who I think would fit in anywhere in the secondary at the next level.
Gilman (MD) DT Henry Poggi looks to be one of the highest-rated recruits in the junior class, and Scout has a video interview with him in which he names a top five. It's paywalled, but you can see the teams tagged in the article: Michigan, Tennessee, Stanford, Alabama, and Auburn. It might be tough to keep Poggi from landing in the SEC, but the Wolverines have a very legitimate shot here.
Finally, Tom discusses Michigan's targeting of power backs in the 2013 class ($). If Michigan can't land a big-time running back for 2012, getting a combo like Ty Isaac and Wyatt Shallman will likely be necessary, though that could happen even if the Wolverines pull in Bri'onte Dunn or Wes Brown.
This week's Thursday Recruitin' welcomes Michigan's newest commit, has updates on Shaq Thompson and Stefon Diggs, and discusses the new release of the 2013 Top247. Usual request: Please let me know if you have any comments, criticism, suggestions, etc.—as always, I'll be reading the comments, and you can also reach me on Twitter or via email, where I'll also encourage you to send any recruiting articles of interest that you think I should include for the next week's edition.
Before I start, a quick note: I've been getting a lot of questions on Twitter about which Penn State commits Michigan could poach given the current situation at State College. I feel, especially after the events of last night, that such issues are not appropriate to discuss at this time. If a player decommits and expresses interest in Michigan, I'll be happy to discuss such matters at that time. Until then, I think it's best to focus on what's most important in that situation, and that certainly isn't recruiting.
Hello, Drake Johnson
(Photo credit: Angela J. Cesere, AnnArbor.com)
Michigan picked up its 24th commit of the 2012 class in Ann Arbor Pioneer running back Drake Johnson, an under-the-radar recruit and track star who pledged on Tuesday morning as soon as he was offered. You can find my hello post here, and while it's critical of Johnson's game, I hope people realize that I'm pulling for Johnson to wildly exceed expectations (I'm a Pioneer grad, too)—this is really awesome to see for any local kid:
"When I was in little league, we used to be the Washtenaw Jr. Wolverines," Johnson said. "I always had really close ties to Michigan within my family and within the people I know. Michigan has always been the place I wanted to go, and now that the chance has come up it is almost magical."
Johnson's commitment should not affect Michigan's recruitment of Bri'onte Dunn, a sentiment echoed by Scout's Allen Trieu in this AnnArbor.com article:
Johnson is the first running back to verbally commit for 2012, so there still is room for another. Additionally, Johnson is a shiftier runner who excels in space and is terrific in the passing game. He could be used at slot receiver or in the kick return game, Trieu said.
Dunn, on the other hand, is more of a bruising type.
"Dunn is your classic pounder," Trieu said. "I think they’ll be used differently, so there’s room for both in the class. I don’t think they will butt heads in that regard, because they’re both very different."
Congrats to Drake for the offer and commitment, and I look forward to seeing him suit up in the Maize and Blue.
The other big news of the week for current commits came yesterday, as TomVH reported that Pharaoh Brown would come in at tight end instead of defensive end ($) after the coaches gave him the choice to play his preferred position. In the five games where I could find complete stats, Brown put up 614 yards and four TDs on just 25 catches this season while playing wide receiver for Brush, and at 6'6", 220 pounds, he could be a matchup nightmare on the offensive side of the ball. I still expect both Devin Funchess and A.J. Williams to come in at tight end as well, though Williams could be more of a sixth offensive lineman (and potentially move there full-time down the road) after playing tackle his entire senior year of high school.
Quickly: Cass Tech's Terry Richardson and Royce Jenkins-Stone prepare to square off against Warren De La Salle and Shane Morris this weekend ($); Caleb Stacey was named to the 2012 International Bowl; after coming up just short the last two years, James Ross is on a mission to get a state title for Orchard Lake St. Mary's ($); and TomVH profiles Ben Braden ($).
Shaq Thompson's Visit Plans Up in the Air
I reported last week that I had talked to five-star CA S Shaq Thompson, and he told me he would be taking an official visit to Michigan, though he wouldn't confirm which week. There were rumors that he would visit for the Nebraska game, but—as Sam Webb predicted—it sounds like he'll be coming up for a non-game weekend in December so the coaches can get to know him better and gauge his true interest ($):
Thompson was slated to visit Michigan later this month when the Wolverines host Nebraska but those plans have now been altered.
“I’m just focusing on our team right now,” Thompson said. “We have the playoffs coming up and I don’t want to take any more visits until after the season is over. I’m still talking with Michigan and could visit in December but I don’t have a date set right now.
This is good news, and it seems to confirm that Thompson is really interested in the school, and not just a free trip to check out Ann Arbor. Landing him would obviously be a huge coup for the Wolverines, and getting him on campus would be a big step in the right direction—we'll see if he nails anything down in the near future.
The other five-star to recently pop back up on the radar is Olney (MD) Good Counsel WR Stefon Diggs. Sam Webb posted a two-part message board thread yesterday detailing why Michigan has a real shot at Diggs ($, info in header), who now holds the Wolverines in his top five. The Wolverines have a good connection in good friend and former teammate Blake Countess, who was doing some recruiting of his own over Twitter last week. We'll see where this goes, but it sounds like Michigan has a chance to pull in another blue-chip player at a position of great need.
[UPDATE: Sam Webb just posted his weekly recruiting article at the Detroit News, and it's on, yep, Stefon Diggs. Lots of good stuff in there, including the tidbit that Michigan and Cal are the two schools most likely to receive official visits, while his other three haven't been determined. There's also this:
Countess hasn't been shy in conveying that message to his former teammate. The freshman cornerback's advocacy has been instrumental in establishing Michigan as one of the favorites for Diggs' services.
"Blake is my close friend and his word is bond," said Diggs. "I take what he says (absolutely). He would never lead me in the wrong direction. When he says it, I take it to heart. I truly believe him. He speaks highly of Michigan. I respect Michigan a lot. They showed a spark in interest lately. I just look forward to opening the line of communication more and setting up a visit."
Yeah, it's okay to get a little excited about this one. More on this in the next week, but I figured that article was worth passing along now.]
247Sports released their initial Top247 for the class of 2013—Shane Morris comes in as the No. 12 overall player and No. 2 quarterback, while Dymonte Thomas is 35th overall and the No. 3 safety. Not a bad early haul for Michigan, and it could get much better, as the list is littered with Michigan offers. Instead of replicating good work that's already been done, I'll direct you to Touch the Banner, where Magnus has done a fantastic job compiling a list of the players with offers and interest from the Wolverines who made the Top247.
Crete-Monee WR Laquon Treadwell, who made the Top247 himself, was named the Chicago-area player of the week last week, and comes in for high praise from his high school coach:
“He has the obvious size and athletic ability, but what makes him special is his competitive edge and toughness,” [Crete-Monee coach Jerry] Verde said. “He is a blue-chip wide receiver that loves to hit.”
While Treadwell’s future is at wide receiver, Crete-Monee is taking advantage of his size and athleticism in other ways this season. Verde has also made him a defensive end. Like at wide receiver, Treadwell has been impact player on defense and had eight sacks this season.
“He is also often times unblockable as a defensive end due to his speed and surprising strength,” Verde said.
Treadwell had a hugely productive junior season, has been to campus multiple times, and is teammates with 2012 commit Anthony Standifer. He's one to keep an eye on as the focus begins to turn to the 2013 class.
Quickly: Tim looks ahead to the 2013 class for the Free Press; 247 launched their Michigan site last week, with articles on Shane Morris ($) and Toledo Central Catholic safety Jayme Thompson, who currently has Michigan in his top two along with West Virginia ($, info in header); TomVH reports that blue-chip CA linebacker Michael Hutchings has interest in the Wolverines ($, info in header); and Tim profiles Lemont (IL) OL Ethan Pocic, a recent offeree, at The Wolverine ($).
In this week's Thursday Recruitin', Danny O'Brien's decision is just hours away, but don't hold your breath, Bri'onte Dunn takes over the fourth quarter, and the Cass pipeline appears it will continue into 2013. Please let me know if you have any comments, criticism, suggestions, etc.—as always, I'll be reading the comments, and you can also reach me on Twitter or via email, where I'll also encourage you to send any recruiting articles of interest that you think I should include for the next week's edition.
Danny O'Brien Announces Today
Hooray for timely news, even if every indication has O'Brien leaving the state. Just in case something crazy happens and he ends up blue (again, unlikely—if it does, I'll be torn between being happy for a new commitment and angry at myself for skipping the presser) here's a couple quotes from Tim Sullivan's Freep piece on O'Brien's decision, which takes place at 2:30 this afternoon:
"O'Brien has always had an explosive first step,” said Rivals Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt. “Over the course of the spring, (he) added 25 pounds to his frame and, with the weight gain, came the needed strength.”
O'Brien plays all over the field for Powers, lining up at defensive tackle, defensive end and even running back. [Power coach Bob] Buckel, in his first year, considers it a blessing to have O’Brien.
“I’ve been a head coach 29 years, but this is my first year at Powers,” he said. “It’s nice to come into a program where you have a great player your first year. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he got the chance to play a little bit of offense in college.”
O'Brien will choose between Michigan, Tennessee, Alabama, and Michigan State. Check any O'Brien-related message board post and you'll get a pretty good idea of where he's very likely to end up.
In other news on (for now) uncommitted prospects, Tim also breaks down the top remaining 2012 targets on the board for the Wolverines. Jordan Payton and Amara Darboh, who have already visited campus, seem to have a leg up in terms of securing the open spot(s) for wide receivers in this class over Monty Madaris, who hasn't yet been to Ann Arbor, though he plans to do so later this season. The rest is stuff you probably already know, but if you want a good primer on the most likely names to fill in the class, it's a very solid breakdown.
Fox Sports Ohio televised Bri'onte Dunn's latest game, and Scout has the highlights available for free. Click through to see the video, and here's a summary from what turned out to be a remarkable fourth-quarter performance:
For much of the game, it seemed as if Dunn would get only a token carry or two and be used mostly as a decoy. Then the fourth quarter came, and GlenOak's strategy to use Dunn became clear. Call it "Jordanesque"; keep it close, then let the star take over.
Dunn had two carries for three yards heading into the fourth quarter. He had 15 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown in the final frame alone. That could almost be considered a night off for the workhorse running back who is likely to finish his career with over 1,000 carries.
Dunn had injured his hip the previous week, which explains his lack of carries early, but his performance in the final stanza propelled GlenOak from a 7-3 deficit to a 16-7 comeback victory.
Quickly, the paywalled stuff: Misleading Scout headline says Zach Banner has a timeline ($, info in header), when said timeline is that he'll announce his decision date for "either before or after the Army [All-American] Game]." His last three official visits will be to Notre Dame, USC, and Washington; he has already visited Michigan and Oklahoma. Five-star receiver Stefon Diggs has cut his list down to 11 ($, info in header), and Michigan is among them, though I wouldn't get excited unless he takes an official visit (obvious statement is obvious, I know). Good Counsel (MD) prospect Wes Brown has a top six ($, info in header), and it appears Michigan has another potential option at running back if they can't lure Dunn away from Ohio State. Wideout Jehu Chesson has a top five that now includes Northwestern ($, info in header), and yes, Michigan is in it for him as well.
Hit the jump for the rest of Thursday Recruitin', including updates on 2012 commits and videos of Jeremy Clark and Shane Morris, plus much more from the class of 2013.