A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.
|STRONG DE||Yr.||NOSE TACKLE||Yr.||3-TECH||Yr.||WEAK DE||Yr.|
|Keith Heitzman||So.*||Quinton Washington||Sr.*||Jibreel Black||Sr.||Frank Clark||Jr.|
|Chris Wormley||Fr.*||Ondre Pipkins||So.||Willie Henry||Fr.*||Mario Ojemudia||So.|
|Matt Godin||Fr.*||Richard Ash||Jr.*||Ryan Glasgow||Fr.*#||Taco Charlton||Fr.|
Strongside Defensive End
This is a two-or-three-way battle that will last into the season. The tentative guy at the top of the depth chart is redshirt sophomore KEITH HEITZMAN [recruiting profile], who backed up Craig Roh last year and was… well, pretty blah. He got crushed inside too often to have done well, and did freshman things like blow up the QB on speed options instead of stringing out to make the quarterback make a tough decision. I didn't actually grab a positive highlight from him last year, and I usually make a point to clip out something from a player I haven't seen do thing X before. His only good game in UFR was against Minnesota; most of the rest of the year he was around –1.
That's not to write him off. Heitzman was a low-rated recruit (actually a Vandy decommit) scooped up in the first-year Hoke blitz who needed to bulk up from the 240 pounds he was listed at as a recruit. Those guys usually take time. Now at 280, Heitzman is better equipped to hold up against the pounding.
Now that he's older and larger, expect plugging. He is the platonic opposite of Jake Ryan. Hoke:
Tell us about Heitzman.
"Keith doesn't do anything flashy. He just gets his job done. He's just truly one of those lunch pail guys who goes to work every day. Doesn't say much. Doesn't talk much. Just goes out and plays."
I… I've got nothing else here. I scoured the site for something interesting someone might have said about him, came up with that quote and a couple near-identical ones from last season (Q: What is Heitzman doing to get more playing time? A: Getting better). Now I'm out. Heitzman remains something of a mystery.
The bet here is an unremarkable season with a lot of platooning. Heitzman will play a lot of running downs, get pulled on passing downs (Black will take over as another WDE moves into the lineup), hold up decently, and get a lot of half-points in UFR for constricting holes. The upside here is low—at least for this year.
HAIR ZOOM 2013
Heitzman's main competition is CHRIS WORMLEY [recruiting profile], who was in line to receive snaps at three-tech last year when he blew out his ACL in fall camp. A year removed from that, Wormley is still shedding the injury tentativeness that comes with the territory. He is also growing out a ferociously ragged afro, because someone has to take over for Elliott Mealer's interesting hair. A salute to Chris Wormley!
What Wormley brings is hugeness. Ask Hoke:
"Number one, he's huge. He's a big guy," Hoke said. "He's done a nice job coming back from rehab, and probably a better job from the mental side of it. Chris has that potential to be an awfully good football player for us."
He has excellent athleticism attached to said hugeness. He's listed at 6'4", 289, and that looks to be almost all muscle. There was a lot of debate about him as a recruit, with a lack of high school production attributed to motor causing a split between "he's a top 100 kid" (24/7) to "he's a three-star" (Rivals). Ace was actually on the negative side of things:
Wormley's best way to get penetration was to simply run right around his blocker, and while this was nice to see in terms of evaluating his quickness, it brings up another point of concern—how is a 6'6", 270-pound Michigan-bound DE not completely flattening the 6'2", 225-pound offensive tackle across from him with malicious regularity? Again, motor wasn't the issue, but instead pad level; Wormley can get low on occasion, but several times he stood right up off the snap and let the tackle get right into him, turning him into a non-factor.
The fact that he was going to play early at a spot where Michigan had a couple of quality veterans in Black and Campbell is a step towards the top end of his evaluations. Mattison said he was "very talented" and "very smart" and is shedding the tentativeness brought on by the injury:
The thing that he's now showing that he didn't show in the spring is complete trust that he's 100%. So now he's back to turning it loose at different phases. He's got to do it every day. He's got to do it every play. But I don't think there's ever any thought in his mind anymore of, 'Oh, my knee.' "
Assuming Wormley's had a year to work out the kinks in his technique (Certainty Principle), he should be essentially a co-starter with Heitzman quickly. From there, performance will dictate playing time. You are rooting for Wormley to grab the job strongly, as he's the guy with large upside.
[After THE JUMP: Omar comin'? Depth! DEATH STARE 2013. TACO JUMPS OVER THINGS 2013]
It’s redshirt roundtable time. Our recruits:
- Brian Cook: 6’3/215, 5 stars, quarterback out of Michigan, rescues kittens
- Seth Fisher: 6’1/235, 3.5 stars, FB/TE tweener from Michigan, runs three homeless shelters
- Ace Anbender: 6’0/185, 4 stars, defensive back from Michigan, spends free time driving old ladies to church
- Blue in South Bend: 5’11/202, 5 stars, running back from ???, spent 5 years in a foreign country (Indiana) teaching the natives how to sanitize their water
- Heiko Yang: “5’9”/165, 4 stars, slot receiver from Ohio, committed early because he got tired of coaches calling and asking him to date their daughters.
- Coach Brown: 6’4/260, 5 stars, strongside linebacker from South Carolina, holds record for most keys to cities
- Mathlete: 5’10/180, 4 stars, cornerback from Kansas. Never around when Superman is; isn’t that so weird…?
And the question:
Time to guess which freshmen are redshirting this year--which will make to 2014 with freshman eligibility, and which won't but would if you were running the team.
Brian: First, I would like to congratulate [Seth] on [being awesome]. But nevermind all that. To the redshirtmobile!
One of the advantages of press credentials are all the free Batmobile golf carts. This is what we did with ours.
[After the jump: answers and answers in chart form]
"First one of the year, huh? Here we go."
Here we go.
"Well it seems like we've been practicing for two months already and we've only had three. I don't know if that's a sign of old age or just the intensity of how we're going, but it's really good to be out here. It's good to be practicing again."
There hasn't been a whole lot of yelling. It's a lot more instructing. Do the kids seem to be on message?
"Well our style of coaching is teaching. And I think if you compare our staff -- I don't think a lot of times you have to do a lot of yelling. This team that we have right now is trying to do it right in every way. When a team's trying to do that, whether they're really young or making mistakes because they're young, as long as they're showing the effort that they are, there's really no reason to yell at them. You just have to correct them. When you have a young team, you have to be a great teacher. That's what our staff is really working hard to do."
So the effort is there?
"Yes. I've been really pleased. Now we don't have pads on yet obviously, and a lot of times what happens with programs, when pads come on, sometimes some programs slow down. I don't think that's going to happen with this team. This team seems to really really embrace and has bought into 'we must play as hard as we can on every play, and we have to get 11 bodies to the football.' When you watch practice with not pads on, we're getting 11 bodies to the football. We're getting really really good effort, so that's been positive."
<No pads. Nothing to see after the jump.>
|Pickerington, OH – 6'6" 265|
|Scout||4*, #174 overall
|Rivals||4*, #237 overall
#10 WDE, #13 OH
|ESPN||4*, #116 overall
#9 DE, #7 OH
|24/7||4*, #108 overall
#3 WDE, #6 OH
|Other Suitors||Notre Dame, Nebraska, UCLA, Iowa|
|YMRMFSPA||Will Gholston, but not a cannibal|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Ace hit up the Pick Central vs Pick North game. Hello post.|
|Notes||Early enrollee. Given first name is "Vidauntae." Twitter. Pickerington Central (Caris LeVert).|
Ace also caught a game of his:
Taco Charlton was the sixth guy to commit on that fabled Saturday last February when Ace filed a worker's comp claim because his fingers had been worn down to nubs. What an awesome day for everyone who isn't Ace. But I digress.
As a result of the timing of his commitment, Charlton may have been somewhat overshadowed by ALL THE OFFENSIVE LINEMEN. Is it just me, or was Charlton kind of an "oh and that guy is around too" kind of commit? In any case that oversight went a ways towards being corrected when Charlton, an early enrollee, was listed at a strapping 265 on the spring roster and started collecting more hype than anyone on the defense not named James Ross.
Why is obvious. I mean, here's Charlton next to Shane Morris, David Dawson, and Mike McCray after the Columbus NFTC:
on the right, obvs
There you have three highly-touted, consensus-four-star recruits and a guy who makes them look like dudes headed to EMU. No one in Michigan's class—and almost no one nationally—approaches Charlton's first-guy-off-the-bus factor. But don't take it from me:
Charlton is the type of player that you want coming off the bus first as a prospect with phenomenal length and athleticism. There may not have been a defensive end in attendance that has a better set of raw tools to work with than Charlton.
That was as a rising junior, when he was probably 20 pounds lighter than he is now.
Also here is Charlton jumping over a six-foot tackling dummy.
I know. I know that's how tall people are.
Charlton was unsurprisingly a camp fiend what with the hugeness and athleticism. A take from one of the two NTFC showings he made last summer:
… won every rep he took. Camp settings are a perfect showcase for Charlton's outstanding physical tools. Charlton showed he has the speed to beat linemen around the edge and also his the natural strength to power through the opposition.
Charlton also hit up the LA NFTC since he was in the area anyway. Scout:
Charlton set the tone on the first 1-on-1, by blowing by the tackle without being touched. He too only lost 1-on-1, and won every other. The future Michigan Wolverine is a nice long athlete who just needs to add some weight, but he's got the quickness off the edge to be a top-tier pass rusher.
ESPN was there as well, saying he "has a lighting quick step to complement his long stride, making him nearly impossible to block."
An example of the camp killer aspect from The Opening:
4. Taco Charlton – Charlton is always good in camp settings because he has elite athleticism and elite frame. Once again he looked very athletic rushing the edge and turning the corner on offensive tackles and he continues to show one of the best sets of tools in the nation at the defensive end position.
Scout's take from that weekend:
…without question one of the best athletes in this group. He looks the part, he was very fluid during the drills … showed enough to make Scout think he could end up being one of Michigan's top recruits in 2013. He is still raw and he needs to get stronger, but he is athletic, he is very quick, he has good length, and a lot of potential.
I mean, the picture above says it all. If it doesn't, take it from Duane Long, who said his "potential is unlimited" and called his physical tools "elite." Saying he has a high ceiling doesn't do it justice.
The catch is actually playing football. While the Buckeye urban legend that Charlton didn't even start for his high school team as a junior was overblown (he missed a couple series in a high profile game), he is the opposite of just-profiled Mike McCray in that regard. He's a camp standout who doesn't quite translate that potential to production, or at least didn't before his senior year.
Even with a productive senior year you can watch those highlights and the fact that the 6'6" guy stands straight up after every snap leaps out at you. ESPN mentions that and similar technique issues in their evaluation:
…possesses excellent size … not always consistent, but he has very good initial quickness. He can be a tough edge run defender, flashing the ability to keep his pads down and use his reach. When he does, he can quickly separate and shed. He is a tall kid who needs to watch his pad level, though, and be more consistent with his technique as he can stand up too much to look in the backfield and can rely too much on his athletic ability and the fact that he is much bigger and stronger than most of the people he goes up against…. changes directions well and displays good balance and body control. …has the potential to be handful as a pass rusher. … does need to learn to use his reach and hands more to his advantage, develop a pass rush arsenal and have a plan as he can attack the whole man and get caught up.
Raw. And raw. And raw.
This didn't prevent him from being an effective player even during his relatively raw phase. Helmholdt caught the state title game Charlton participated in then:
My appreciation for Charlton grows after each new evaluation. I thought he was OK at the Ohio State NIKE Camp back in May, thought he was better when I saw him on film early in the season and thought he was really solid in last weekend's Division I state title game. …was effective bull rushing offensive tackles. But Charlton also does a great job using his hands and releasing from blocks. He did not record a sack in Saturday's game, but hit the quarterback as he released the football on at least two occasions and got good pressure throughout the night.
But in that evaluation you can see hints of a guy who just wasn't doing much as a junior, something Scout just plain states in their profile for him:
Body Control and Balance
Pass Rushing Skills
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Great athlete with an excellent frame. He really stepped it up as a senior and made more plays. Has to add weight and strength to become a more complete player, but has the tools to be a situational pass rusher early in his career. The fact that he's still learning, still growing, and has good physical tools leads us to believe his best days are still ahead of him. - Allen Trieu
Part of that rawness is an Andrew Copp effect. Charlton spent so much time playing another sport that it may have slowed his development in his main gig. With Copp that was football; for Charlton it was basketball($):
Playing basketball nearly year-round has been one thing that's prevented Charlton from reaching his potential so far. He drops weight during the long season - one that included a state championship for Pick Central this winter - and doesn't have the time to focus on technique for the football field.
Charlton dropped basketball last fall and has added 15 pounds as a result.
So all of this sounds wonderful but wait! We have to talk about The Great Opening Hot Take Controversy. Charlton showed up at the Opening, as you saw above, and drew praise for his general Taco-ness from many people. A couple of those evaluations are linked above; I elided a couple more. Then Farrell dropped some truthiness on those evaluators by naming Charlton the worst guy there:
…looks the part, he really struggled. He has great size, long arms and he is very athletic. However, he is also very upright, only has an outside move and when coaches tried to teach him misdirection or crossover, he didn't grasp it well at all. He was beaten on almost every 1-on-1 rep he took.
This got a lot of heat from various quarters, spurring a protests-too-much defense ("simply struggled regardless of what others say") and eventually a tweet from Charlton himself showing him atop the leaderboard for 1-on-1 rep wins at said camp. Charlton would later provide some perspective on a bad day:
"Yeah well, I did real good the first two days," he said. "I actually ended up still tied with the most wins, but I was doing real good the first two days. The last day, I was sort of sick, and then a whole bunch of stuff went on and I just wasn't feeling too good. The Nike guys asked me to wait and compete later in the day, to hold off and see how I felt later. I still was feeling a little bit bad, but I chose to compete."
So there you go. The lovely thing about Mike Farrell is how he makes the kids look professional. Honest day's work, that. Anyway.
As an early enrollee we have a bit more information on Charlton yet, including those 15 pounds. Charlton is an easy guy to notice and folks around the program did, what with Mike Rothstein projecting him to contribute right away and into the the NFL. Mattison did sound a note of concern about his motor, albeit after calling him "the prototype":
Taco Charlton’s been mentioned a lot. You said he’s the prototype. What do you mean by that?
“Taco’s name comes up a lot because if you’re 6-6, 265 and should be going to your prom and you’re here practicing football at Michigan, you’re going to like that. You always want strong, tall, athletic guys. Well, he’s 6-6. He’s very strong for his age, and he was a great basketball player. Now you have to get the mental part. He’s one, for example, it’s very interesting -- he’s one of the guys that doesn’t understand that at Michigan we run to the ball hard every play. And he sometimes thinks he’s going hard, but that’s maybe hard for where he was last year, not hard for where we are in this program. And he’s getting better and better.”
I took a close look at him during an inside zone drill Michigan ran before the game-like section of the spring game:
As everyone's already said, Charlton looks the part and then some. He was struggling in a drill before the scrimmage where half the OL would play half the DL on zone running, getting blown out of his assigned lane; once he got some time against the backup OL he dominated. Unless Cam Gordon's really good, he and Ojemudia will duke it out for the nickel DE spot Ryan's injury has vacated.
During the game-like section, Charlton was neutralized by Lewan and Schofield, then obliterated a walk-on tackle to get a contact sack against a guy wearing a red jersey. Blood makes the grass grow.
Etc.: Oblig. coach rapture quote($):
"I'll never look at No. 33 the same," Laminico said. "I won't be able to do that. It'll be hard for someone else to wear that number and really fulfill it. ... There are few people that can wear that number next after he takes it off for the last time."
UPDATE: Wins this year's Carvin Johnson Award for hatred of losing.
Why Will Gholston? ESPN's evaluator actually made that comparison in their profile of him and that made a ton of sense to me. Both are enormous lanky weakside defensive ends who are not finished products. In Gholston's case that's after three years of futilely trying to get around Taylor Lewan and deciding to injure him instead; Charlton has some time yet.
Gholston was overrated as a recruit but not by a wide margin as a long-term starter and mid-round NFL draft pick, which is about Charlton's baseline as a guy just outside most top 100s. Gholston was listed at the same weight Charlton was as a recruit and eventually worked himself up to 280; Charlton is just 15 pounds away from that already and is a bit shorter, so the leverage issues you get with ends that size should be slightly less of an issue.
If you want a Michigan comp, Shawn Crable is it. Crable was a chicken-legged stick person, which Charlton isn't, and spent most of his career at linebacker, which Charlton won't. They are in the same mold of athletic knives to hurl through offensive lines.
Guru Reliability: High. Same range, same things said, lots of camps. Farrell's HOT TAKE from the AA game is disputed, though, bringing it down from exacting.
Variance: High. Charlton is probably going to be a useful player no matter what simply because of his size, but the upside makes the variance wide. Charlton could be a poor man's Gholston… or he could be Julius Peppers, another 6'6"-ish weakside end.
Ceiling: Vast. A 6'6", 265-pounds-and-counting weakside defensive end that pans out in a big way is destined for the top end of the NFL draft.
General Excitement Level: High. Ceiling is a great thing to have with this coaching staff. Lot of work ahead for Hoke and Mattison with this guy. Heininger Certainty Principle don't fail me now.
Projection: Needs a year to learn, maybe two. If Clark lives up to half the hype, Charlton won't be a major threat until he's gone. Then it'll be an Ojemudia/Charlton battle it seems impossible for Ojemudia to win what with probably being 30 pounds lighter and five inches shorter unless Charlton just busts completely. Two year starting run for Charlton should be in the cards, one that could be anything from Tim Jamison (decent) to Will Gholston (good but overhyped due to physical impressiveness) to a flaming morningstar of quarterback doom.
If you're making me pick, I say Gholston.
Spring Game gifs? Oh, sure, I guess. This is the last post I'll have here until the 29th, as the next couple days are devoted to HTTV stuff and then I'm taking a little time off to recharge.
I'm continuing to tweak how I do gifs on here to hopefully make them more accessible for everyone—most of them are now dumbed down to 48 colors, which has greatly decreased file sizes. If you had trouble with them before, perhaps you'll give these posts another shot. Anyway, Dennis Norfleet:
This one was specifically requested by Brian, or at least that's how I interpreted the tween-at-a-Bieber-concert scream emanating from the stands when it happened. (Full run gif'd here, but I really wanted to slow-mo that juke.)
[Hit THE JUMP for fun with the names of a certain Pickerington-based duo.]
photoshoppers, start your GNUs
So we did the meet and greet Q&A thing, and other than the liveblog portion being pretty much a disaster, A+++ would do again. I couldn't type fast enough to keep up with all the good info in the Q&A so below I've written up those answers plus some we answered after the fact via email.
We're tentatively talking another one the Friday night before the Notre Dame game, so calendar that. If you're coming in from out of town, Jared of Sports Power Weekends, who sponsored this whole thing, mentioned he's putting together a trip for that weekend that includes tickets for the game and a private tour of the Big House before we do drinks and ALL THE SHANE MORRIS.
Some things went way better than expected and other things not so much. Didn't go well: We had no way to plug our mic into the speaker system, fortunately remembering just in time that bartenders have friends with guitar amplifiers. The other thing that could have gone better is we forgot to warn Brian that Jehu Chesson was in the audience before your favorite blogger launched into his heuristic reasoning as to why Amara Darboh would be more effective this year because Chesson is still a waif.
New heuristic: Chesson sitting = Heiko standing minus an inch.
Did go well: lots of luminaries showed up. Players current and former included Chesson, Countess, Donovan Warren, and John Duerr. An incomplete list of bloggers: Bryan Mac (aka BiSB), MGoPhotographers Eric Upchurch and Bryan Fuller, Burgeoning Wolverine Star, Lloyd Brady, M-Wolverine, Craig Ross, and LSAClassof2000. Epic shirts: Heiko's bubble screen smile, and a Branch-Morelli sweatshirt.
In things that surpassed all expectations, let me being with actual nicest guy in the universe Marlin Jackson himself. Walking out of the game to his car took about 25 minutes because he signed every hat, helmet, t-shirt or whatever thing put before him. We talked NBA decisions, how the Jake Butt TD was on Jarrod Wilson's as-yet-unadvanced field awareness, and that the biggest difference with this staff is they "teach football."
After being introduced by Brian as "the man who still has Reggie Williams in his back pocket," to kick off the Q&A Marlin talked about his Fight for Life Foundation. He was candid about his youth: Jackson grew up in the projects with a mother addicted to drugs and a father he never met. As you can imagine this isn't the best way to learn things like accountability, the value of an education, or even your own value and that of others. Marlin learned these things through Michigan; it's the goal of his foundation to give similarly underprivileged kids the opportunities he received because of his athletic talents.
Fight for Life runs three programs: Field of Dreams (link) is an in-school and after school program that basically helps get the kids back up to speed with their classmates. Seal the Deal (hyperlink) is a series of leagues and football camps for youth through high school with an educational/character-building component. R.A.P. (reach out and access your peers – url) is an SEL* program that gets kids to open up through, e.g. a discussion of their future aspirations or by presenting a paper on their favorite song lyrics. They need to raise about $200k per year to fund these programs.
* Social and Emotional Learning, the spread offense of education. Full context is linked above but you may cognate as learning that's the opposite of 'Another Brick in the Wall.'
We then talked about things like that one year the Colts paired Manning with a real defense, which receivers were the hardest to cover, and his impressions on the young defensive players at Michigan today. That after the jump. But first here's three generations of next-Woodsons: