Photo from Media Day 2010 by Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com.
LtoR: Phil Monolo, Stephen Hopkins, Michael Shaw, Fred Jackson, Fitgerald Toussaint, John McColgan, Vincent Smith. Not pictured: Cox.
Scheduling note: I'm gonna start separating the Dear Diary and rambling musings/studies/logorrhea stuff into two separate weekly posts. DD is moving to Friday to service your weekend reading demands, with the other stuff (name suggestions?) on Tuesdays. Also I'm going to try to make these ramblings less wordy, starting…uh, next time.
By now you know the meme: Fred Jackson likes to hyperbolize his running backs. This being the most active position battle, I figured a review of Jackson's current stud stable of studly running studs, half-studs and tail-studs might be in order.
Close your eyes, think of your favorite Michigan back of all time, and then imagine he's FASTER:
Mike Hart/Jamie Morris, Except Faster and More Agile!
Alias: #2 Vincent Smith (Jr/Jr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
This is not the greatest song in the world; this is just a tribute.
Omameh and Molk do the hard stuff but watch Smith do a Hart-y shoulder thing then almost get caught by a Hoosier DB.
Style: Pahokeean scat-back who can catch. Vincent is small, like Hart, and plays with ♥, like Hart, but when Smith tries to burrow the pile forward like Hart he looks like a 6-year-old trying with all his might to batter 10-year-olds, ie he ends up earning more respect than yards. And there's this:
* Yeah right.
Darren Sproles would be more accurate. I just can't think of another jackrabbit, and honestly I think he's more Hart than Jamie, except Hart is more like Jamie than Smith. Before his injury Smith was a vintage spread scatty RB who could also be a devastating receiver in the flat. He can jump out of a run into a big lateral juke and accelerate faster than any other back from a dead stop.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: It's 3rd and 8, and that nickel back needs some strong incentive to keep him from blitzing or dropping back to help cover the slant.
Is he THE ONE? Smith's nominally the returning starter and also the leader in rushes, career yards, and receptions/rec yards among the RBs. But probably not, since he's leeeetle, and physics. If the Spring Game is any evidence I-form man-ball means sending the RB into the 2nd level with Force, which is acceleration times something Smith lacks. Jackson says he's chosen a 3rd down back and inference leads to obviously Smith, therefore Smith's not the every-down back.
Mike Hart, Except Faster, and Bigger, and like Chris Perry…
Or Lawrence Ricks. Except Faster.
Alias: #28 Fitzgerald Toussaint (So/Jr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
Just a freshman…
Having trouble with time stamps. There's a good one of Ricks at 38 seconds, but the whole day's basically Ricks rushes broken up by great defense and AC highlights so deal.
FWIW that BG defensive back is actually pretty fast.
"Michael Hart ability with speed. The kind of guy that can do Michael's cuts, he can sit down, sink his hips and explode by making steps. He's faster than Mike and a very, very tough guy, like Mike was. He's very similar to Mike. He's not the type of inside runner Mike was -- but he's going to get there."
"He's got great feet, acceleration, strength, power," Jackson said. "I can compare him to somebody -- he's like a fast Chris Perry. He's going to be very good."
Style: I keep hearing people say Hart and I see it in that Fitz has those same thick, powerful legs that put his center of gravity lower than Pat Massey can bend. But Hart was sly with subtle plants that threw off tackle attempts. Fitz's highlight reel is full of knee-poppers and sideways slides he used to make lower-division Ohio high schoolers look like fools the way Barry Sanders made NFL players look like fools. Makes great moves and great cuts. Vision is unknown – he ran and reacted in high school. Then he goes to plaid.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: The practice hype (it started swelling last year at this time as well) turns into Fitz Toussaint atop the roster.
Is he THE ONE? The shift to I-formations and man blocking seems to favor him over Brown or Smith, but he's still a guy made for picking through zone, not taking on linebackers with his face.
Carlos Brown, Except Faster
Alias: #20 Michael Shaw (Sr/Sr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
Style: Glider who runs upright and a little leaned back, waiting to unleash a ridiculous gashing move from which he accelerates like an overused metaphor at the Woodward Dream Cruise. The move can be used to clear traffic or cutback, but with Shaw, like Brown, you only get to press the juke button once, and then you're mashing speed boost. Track star speed plus that move make him murder on bad teams.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: The playside hole is blocked perfectly and the backside DE for whatever reason (out of position, MACrificial) might not get there in time to fill before it's open green to the end zone.
Is he THE ONE? Probably not, but when you say "change of pace" back, Shaw is exactly what you're talking about. The kill-shot or bust nature of the slasher means they usually come paired with a softening agent: Carlos Brown & Brandon Minor, Tony Boles & Leroy Hoard (& Morris), Butch Woolfolk & Stan Edwards, Woody Allen & Bette Midler. Shaw will push a pile a bit and isn't as shoelace trippy as Brown was, but other guys can do much more with less. My sense is he's best deployed when the defense is way overmatched against Michigan's blocking, either because they're exhausted from chasing Smith/Toussaint and being battered by Hopkins, or because they aren't so good to begin with.
Jerome Bettis/Leroy Hoard, Except Faster
Alias: #33 Stephen Hopkins (So/So)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
FF to 1:28 for Hoard. Optional: stand out in the middle of U.S. 23.
Where's Keith Jackson with his rising"He's a HOSS!" when you need him?
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when:
Also when the offensive line has done its job, but so has the defense, and that means there's a linebacker headed for the same, only hole the running back can go through, and physics takes over.
Is he THE ONE? Well he might not be available early, and in a crowd that could hurt. Hopkins earned more carries as his freshman season went on. The offense seems to 'liek mudkipz' (I have no idea if I got this reference right). Count me among those holding back on visions of Wheatley (who was a bona fide track star as well as bruiser) or A-Train, who ran high and fell forward for those extra yards. Hoard but faster could be accurate, and not at all a bad thing.
Tshimanga Biakabutuka & Chris Perry, Except Faster & Stronger
Alias: #15 Michael Cox (Jr/Sr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
You knew this was coming.
Just flip to a random spot, it's probably Perry running for 8 yards.
Somebody's been messing with the sliders on Junior Varsity mode.
Style: Like Shaw/Brown he waits for the opponent to make a mistake he can exploit before hitting the gas pedal (Perry would just go). But Cox is built much thicker than the pure speed guys, and while he can burn in his way, he can also use his thick build for power. His main asset is great balance, which makes him hard to take down without crazy moves, and that's where the Biakabutuka reference comes in. Plus I wanted to link that video of him tearing apart Ohio State again because I was 15 when that happened and not yet sure if it's okay to develop strong feelings for people who dismantle Ohio State. I am pretty sure it's not okay to do so for people who dismantle Delaware State.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: You're drafting your 3-on-3 basketball team.
Is he THE ONE? Practice word since freshman year is he's the most naturally gifted, but practice hype from teammates et al. is refuted by observer reports mentioning Cox running the wrong direction, and missing his lanes. Latest is he's learning the playbook and might challenge later on. OTOH the guy does have ridiculous balance, and has broken a long one in every game he's appeared. On the other-other hand, most of his career yards were gained with Cone in at QB making DO throws to LaTerryal Savoy and Anthony Reyes. Unless he makes his move this year, this former camp offer from nowhere likely ends up a running back Notorious C.O.N.E.
Mark Ingram, Except Faster
Alias: #38 Thomas Rawls (Fr/Fr)
Video evidence of reincarnation:
Look how slow highlight reels were before high school coaches learned about 1.2x playback.
Hurray for "Higlights!"
Style: He's 5'10 and almost 230 lbs. as a freshman. That means lots of mass relatively low to the ground. He makes that lower, giving Rawls the same P.J. Hill-ishness that makes guys bounce off him.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: This guy was born to run between the tackles.
Is he THE ONE? Thickly built backs like him tend to be early-playable since their game is pretty straightforward. Watch Ingram's highlight reel – or Clarett's – as underclassmen. Such men are immune to arm tackling. To anyone not from Flint or with the last name Jackson, Rawls is almost certainly a lite version of those guys. How lite will determine how useful he is this year, and down the line.
Bobby 'Bomber' Nussbaumer, Except Faster
Alias: #5 Justice Hayes (Fr/Fr)
Evidence of reincarnation:
Actually in Nussbaumer's day bloggers got our video feeds from buying packs of chewing gum with cardboard prints of badly-colored newspaper clippings. Then we swished the cards around so it looked like their subjects were moving…
Reverse from 1948 card:
Halfback – Washington Redskins
Weight—170 lbs. Age—24
…Set all-time Redskin pass-catching record, finishing 2nd in league play to Bud Keane of Bears with 47 passes good for 597 yards. Named All-Big Ten halfback in 1945 while starring for Michigan. Is all-around athlete. Plays baseball, basketball and participates in track.
Style: Kind of like a less hyped McGuffie, no? And like McGuff, he hurdled some fool, and lost most of his senior year to injury.
Of all M's tailbacks you want him in there when: It's January 2014, Heisman-winning QB Devin Gardner takes the snap and suddenly Tennesse's defense is through the line and coming toward him – but WAIT, it's a screen to Michigan's playmaker Justice Mercury Willie Mays Hayes. He's loose in the open field with just one man – 7'2 safety JAWS – to beat…Hayes leaps OVER him. Touchdown Michigan! Michigan has put this game out of reach and barring a miracle Gardner and Hayes and the Wolverines are going to be your 2013 season National Champions! Hi dad!
Is he THE ONE? As in can he lead us to victory over the machines and free us from the Matrix? Yes. As in will he claim the job in 2011? No. But next year Shaw's gone and then Smith's gone, and Hayes should be a more filled out sophomore.
The smart money says all of these guys except Hayes will probably touch the ball this year. So if you really want to know what Michigan's backs will look like this year, put this on fast forward..
…or watch lots of games from 1980:
Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark,
LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, OL Jack Miller, OL Tony Posada.
FWIW: I didn't forget Bryant, I just ended writing up Rawls first.
|Flint, MI - 5'10" 210|
|Scout||3*, #77 RB|
|Rivals||3*, NR RB, #19 MI|
|ESPN||3*, 76, #84 RB|
|Other Suitors||CMU, Cincinnati, Iowa (sort of)|
|YMRMFSPA||Mark Ingram… with more speed! Or Kevin Grady.|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post from Tim.|
|Notes||Head coach is Fred Jackson, son of Fred Jackson|
If you've hung around here for the last six months you've heard of, and probably participated in, the gentle mocking of various people named Fred Jackson for their opinion of Thomas Rawls. You see, Rudy, people named Fred Jackson are all football coaches who redefine hyperbole when talking about running backs. Rawls's high school coach and college position coach are both named Fred Jackson because they are father and son.
The result of this unholy hyperbole combo follows. Go action son!
“Honestly, I did get a chance to watch Mark Ingram a few times,” Jackson said. “Mark is probably one of the best guys ever to come through here. Mark was great, but there’s something about this kid Thomas. If I was to compare them as high school backs, give me Thomas Rawls.”
“Thomas Rawls can lift you - I call it the ‘hit and lift’ - and keep on going,” Jackson said. “That, to me, is a special talent. Chris Perry had that. Chris Perry had the ability to hit you and keep on moving, and this kid can move the pile.” …
“I know Mark [Ingram, again] and I know Thomas [Rawls],” the Michigan running backs coach said. “They’re a lot a like. … My son is telling me he’s O.J. Simpson. He’s not that, but he’s the real deal.”
I'm sorry if your clocks/pets exploded once you read that last bit. I'm even more sorry if the entrails combined with the gears to form a mouth that moaned "too… much… hyperbole" before collapsing in a pool of gore. But it had to be related. It's like the Ring.
OJ Ingram did rush for 396(!!!) yards against Bay City Central, breaking Plain Old Heisman Ingram's city record of 377 set against Bay City Western. (Bay City high schools, it's time to fire Greg Robinson.) He also put up an astounding 1585 yards on 150 carries in just six games before injury felled him. He probably would have stomped Ingram's records to dust if he hadn't picked up the dread high ankle sprain.
But come on, Fred Jacksons. We've heard this before, albeit in mono. Surely no one not named Fred Jackson would make the same assertion—
"He's a great back," Trieu said. "He is one of the toughest runners I've seen. He's very compact -- a bowling ball kind of kid who can break tackles and has a good burst. While most people see him as just an inside battering ram, I think he proved to me over the summer and the course of this year that he has legit breakaway speed. He's also very underrated as a receiver out of the backfield. He might not be the tallest back, but I think we've seen recently that's an overrated quality for a running back." …
"I think Rawls compares favorably to Ingram," Trieu said. "They both have similar builds and running styles. I think Ingram picks his way and is more of a slasher, whereas Rawls really sees a crease and hits it. I don't think you want to say Thomas Rawls will win a Heisman, but coming out of high school there are definite similarities there."
Son of a bitch.
It's time to check the film because everyone is lying. Film says… he does have a few plays on his highlight reel where defenders ping off of his squat physique after grabbing and finding nothing but thigh. They're buried after the touchdowns where he takes off untouched, but they're there. 5:36:
So why did OJ Ingram have one BCS offer, that from Cincinnati, and nothing from Michigan until January 28th? Why does everyone rate him a generic three star?
"Grades" are the usual answer. In this case it's not entirely fanciful. Scout's Allen Trieu directly stated that Rawls's grades kept his rankings low:
"We rate guys conservatively who have not fully qualified yet," said Trieu. "So he's about ranked 13th in the state and a three-star. I think he could be higher, but our national rule across the board is we wait until they've qualified. Purely on the merits of his talent and what he's done throughout his career though, I think he's a top-10 player in the state and borderline four-star-type kid. He's had a fantastic senior season."
Everyone from Demar Dorsey to Justin Turner to Aaron Burbridge puts the lie to that, though. Recruiting services continually rank academic risks much higher than Rawls. And there are plenty of schools who don't care if you've got two axons to rub not-quite-together if you can play football. For one: where is the ubiquitous WVU offer?
Lack of good film and injury are more plausible explanations. Rawls got a new coach when Flint Central closed and Fred Jackson moved to Northern. This got him away from a wing-T Rawls was not a fan of:
My old coach ran the wing-T,” Rawls said. “I just didn’t like it. It didn’t fit me. He always had me at linebacker, and I did succeed there. When Central closed, the coach they brought over had a new game plan, a new formation which was the spread and the I-formation. I just worked hard, adjusted to the new formations and just blew up after that.”
Rawls had "good" junior film but it was the senior stuff Scout's Allen Trieu found "outstanding." That outstanding blow up lasted six games and Rawls got injured, potentially terminating interest from teams around the region. Trieu believed Wisconsin and Iowa would be "real options" down the line just before his injury.
Interest from elsewhere or no, he ended up at Michigan. Let's see what we've won. ESPN($):
… physically imposing back with good downhill attributes. Hits the hole with authority and flashes good downhill burst and momentum. Quick to see and hit the cutback. A decisive and aggressive runner who is constantly heading North with square shoulder pads and good lean. … Does not have real loose hips but can redirect sharply and jump-cut the first defender through the hole. … . Runs low to the ground and dips the shoulder through traffic making it difficult to get clean shot on him. Shows an extra gear and when he breaks free into the second level to separate initially but does not project to have ideal long-speed or great elusiveness as a major college back. Breaks consistent first contact but did not see the pile pushing power we were expecting.
They say he "can contribute" and slap a decided meh on his rating. Touch the Banner:
… big kid with thick legs, built powerfully and low to the ground. He has patience and allows blocks to develop in front of him, which also shows good vision to see cutbacks and running lanes. Perhaps the most impressive thing about him as a high school runner is the way he keeps his shoulders facing north and south when he makes his cuts; this allows him to break some tackles that other running backs wouldn't.
…Michigan fans might not like me for saying this, but Rawls reminds me of Kevin Grady. … Perhaps Rawls can contribute at fullback or in goal line situations at Michigan, but I'm not expecting Rawls to be a star for the Wolverines.
Finally, Trieu has been Rawls's biggest advocate($):
Analysis: Rawls just looks like a running back. He's stocky, has a low center of gravity and he runs powerfully. He breaks arm tackles, has good balance and a north-south style where he does not waste a lot of time going laterally. He's able to make cuts and bounce off defenders at full speed and get himself going back towards pay-dirt. He has good speed and can break the long runs and also shows good hands in the passing game. …
Verdict: Michigan, I think, got a steal here. You watch the film and it's hard not to be impressed. He's a tough kid with speed and he's underrated as a receiver. It will be tough to keep him off the field for long.
I'm going to start calling him Allen Fred Trieu-Jackson if he keeps this up.
It seems like Michigan coaches are on Trieu's side. Rawls has been informed he will not redshirt and Jackson spent most of his time at media day talking up his freshmen. That's kind of a giveaway, though, since they'd had the pads on for like a day at that point and Justice Hayes is a spread guy no one expects to play much. Motivation there, and then the general unreliability of Fred Jackson assessments. I wouldn't read too much into that, or expect Rawls to see much playing time this year. Down the road it will depend on just how many tackles he breaks.
Etc.: Unanimous all state; Flint POY. Commitment presser photos. Thomas Rawls recruitment is serious business. Fred Jackson says he has more speed than Mike Hart, which Rawls takes as a "huge complement." If Mike Hart was fast he'd be the best running back ever. In case there was any question, he did qualify($) in June.
Probably some other Thomas Rawls:
"We're a group of people who get together to watch a movie, with a common interest in all things Star Trek," said Thomas Rawls Jr., vice president of the local fan club, which split from the Peninsula- based USS Jamestown club several years ago to cut down on the tunnel travel. "We're an informal group of people who enjoy Star Trek."
Is "all dog."
Why Mark Ingram… with more speed? My name is not Fred Jackson.
Okay. Why Kevin Grady? Grady was a squat 215 pound high school kid who racked up tons of yards in high school by running untouched through poor competition and running over 150-pound kids. In college his lack of elusiveness or overwhelming size made him a mediocre straight-ahead runner who was a decent short yardage back and fullback but not a feature guy.
Rawls's film doesn't show a guy who's going to get outside often, he won't have elite breakaway speed in college, and his wiggle ain't wigglin'. His path to production is grinding through the tackles like the ball of knives Grady was always supposed to be.
If he's Kevin Grady in a downhill manball offense that might be a different thing entirely. Michigan switched to an all-zone all-the-time offense in 2006; Grady redshirted the next year due to injury and then stuck it out in the spread 'n' shred. It's possible he would have been a much more useful back if he was asked to run power. Also, Grady's personal issues hindered his development. Rawls is likely to be a better version of his predecessor.
Guru Reliability: Low. Analyst scouting reports vary extensively, and it sounds like the ratings would if not for the grades or the injury. Rawls is also a late riser who didn't make a big splash until he was a senior and was immediately injured afterwards.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. Running backs aren't that hard to rank, and I'm in agreement with the above guys who say he lacks the elite athleticism to be a force in college. He's a smaller version of Hopkins. If he does run as hard as his advocates, say, though…
Rawls is the biggest wildcard in this class. Could be nothing, could be OJ Ingram.
Projection: Has been told he'll play this year; I think he'll get a few carries here and there but generally be lost in the shuffle behind Shaw, Smith, and Hopkins. Next year Shaw is gone and he'll have the pass protection down; he could push to start then.
Apologies for the brevity of the updates, but I wanted to talk to a bunch of different people instead of going in-depth with anybody in particular.
Denard is adapting to the new offense well. He's getting the footwork down, and should be good to go by the start of the season.
Denard is looking forward to the opportunity to stay a little healthier this year, with less of a load carrying the ball on his shoulders.
Fullback John McColgan "is one of the toughest guys I've ever seen in my life."
The upperclassmen are the leaders in the backfield, but the young guys came in because they wanted to compete. Having a number of talented players back there makes everybody better.
Thomas has never had the opportunity to meet Mark Ingram face-to-face, but he really wants to. As a Flint guy, he really looks up to Ingram.
Even though Stephen had a couple fumbles last year, it was out of character for him. "I've never been a fumbler. I had maybe two in my whole high school career."
The new offense is a good fit for his skills, and he's looking forward to it.
The new offense is still going to put up points, because that's the goal of any offense. However, the pace will be slower to control the ball instead of running as many plays as possible, so scoring might drop a bit. That doesn't mean it's any less effective.
There are some differences for the wideouts going into the new offense, but it's nothing they can't adjust to.
There's definitely an emphasis on blocking for the wideouts in the new offense. If you can't or won't get out there and block, you won't play.
He's always had trouble being able to gain weight. He was on a similar diet as Ryan Van Bergen. The trick to gaining weight is to eat only the right things, but eat until you're full, and then just a little bit more. Sometimes, Taylor had to lie down in bed for a little bit after a meal and hope it didn't come back up.
It's exciting to be back down on the defensive line with his hand back in the dirt. "I don't want to worry about the past," but he's excited about the defense going forward.
It's been tough to play in a different defense every year, but again, he doesn't want to dwell on the past.
He had a relationship with Michigan's current coaching staff when they were at San Diego State. They had offered him a scholarship when he was a sophomore.
Matt had been planning to go to Boise State, but when Michigan hired the new staff, he set up a visit here. The plan was to head to Nebraska for a visit the following week, but he fell in love with Ann Arbor and committed to the Wolverines. Even though his visit was in January, the weather didn't bother him.
Jerald Robinson has great potential, and "doesn't know how good Jerald can be." He has good size and athleticism, and just needs to keep working hard to see that potential realized.
Jeremy Gallon has been impressive in fall camp. "Let's hope he keeps progressing."
The goal for the safeties is to not have a "second-best strong or free" safety, but have guys who are capable of stepping in at either safety position.
Jordan Kovacs is a tough, smart player, and that's what's helped him be a contributor here. That should continue going forward.
Thomas Gordon is performing well at nickel, and he's also trying to become a contributor at one of the safety positions. They want him to be able to do both roles. Troy Woolfolk is the same way: he's contributing at corner, but they also want him to have the ability to rotate in at nickel.
Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes have really helped push the others at the position to improve, because despite being freshman "they're coming in here like they're sophomores." He's as happy with those two as he's ever been with a pair of freshmen. (Fred kept returning to the freshmen, regardless of what he was asked).
John McColgan is a solid option at fullback. He's doesn't have the skill set of Kevin Dudley (glorified lineman in the backfield) or Chris Floyd (who had plenty of ability with the ball in his hands). However, he's a very smart player, and will get some opportunities, including in the pass game.
The left side of the line is mostly set: Taylor Lewan at left tackle, Patrick Omameh at left guard, and David Molk at center. On the right side of the line, there are pretty much three players for two positions. Ricky Barnum (guard), Mark Huyge (tackle or guard), and Michael Schofield (tackle) have separated themselves from the pack.
You always worry about depth, but it is definitely a concern this year. They'll have just a couple backups on top of a "solid top six." They're addressing depth going forward with recruiting.
Cam Gordon is most impressive in his love for football, and his strong desire to improve his game and get better.
There are a lot of players on the defensive line who are versatile enough to play multiple positions. Craig Roh, Jibreel Black, and others could see a bit of time on the inside, even though they're primarily defensive ends.
Brennen Beyer and Frank Clark are some impressive freshmen. (Note: Seeing Clark, he was taller than I thought, but also much skinnier: he looked like the second coming of Davion Rogers - OK, maybe not that skinny. Still, it sounds like he'll have an opportunity to play this year).
If you had 36 minutes in the "how long would it take a Jackson to wildly overstate the ability of Thomas Rawls*" pool, collect your winnings:
“Honestly, I did get a chance to watch Mark Ingram a few times,” [Fred Jackson Jr.] told The Flint Journal. “Mark is probably one of the best guys ever to come through here. Mark was great, but there’s something about this kid Thomas. If I was to compare them as high school backs, give me Thomas Rawls.”
He's like a Heisman trophy winner… except fast!
*[No offense intended to Rawls. All comments in this post reference the Jackson family's unique gift for shameless hyperbole and are not meant to reflect cynicism on the part of the author. The author legitimately enjoys this meme. He would find it sad if the Jackson family ever said a tailback was "okay." The author's life story was encapsulated in a Kids In The Hall sketch once. Hoke uber alles.]
Over the course of the recruiting process, MI RB Thomas Rawls has made it no secret that he'd commit to Michigan if he had the chance. Michigan has offered, and according to the Detroit News, Rawls will be a Wolverine. Apparently his coach was unable to contain the excitement until Thomas's press conference, at which Rivals confirmed he committed to Michigan.
|3*, #77 RB, #15 Instate||3*, 5.6, #20 Instate||3*, 76, #81 RB|
The sites are in agreement: Thomas Rawls stands 5-10, and about 215 pounds. Their rankings of him aren't very high, but there are some reasons for that. Scout openly downgrades players for being academic risks (which is stupid, because it's easy for the layman to tell whether or not he ultimately enrolls at school - rankings should be about skill, not some abstract "value" parameter), and ESPN says that he deserves to see his stock higher than it is, apparently not realizing that they're the ones ranking these kids. More from ESPN:
He is a physically imposing back with good downhill attributes. Hits the hole with authority and flashes good downhill burst and momentum. Quick to see and hit the cutback. A decisive and aggressive runner who is constantly heading North with square shoulder pads and good lean. Displays good explosive out of his cuts and can change speeds to elude.
So far, so good. Weaknesses?
Breaks consistent first contact but did not see the pile pushing power we were expecting. Competition at times appears inferior.
So, uh "AWESOME, except he plays against crappy competition" means he's the 81st-best RB in the country? Color me skeptical on their methodology (more on it in the next section). They also say he has the speed to break big runs against high schoolers, but may not be able to continue at the next level - a more reasonable criticism.
If that's the extent of their criticisms, sign me up for a guy with the upside that a bowling ball-type guy with all the positive attributes listed in the top section.
Scout asks Rawls to talk about his own game:
“I’m a power back and a speed back. I’m also pretty elusive. I can break tackles and always find a crease.”
The elusiveness might be overstated, as that's one of ESPN's criticisms of Thomas, but the combo of speed and power seems to be right in line with scouting reports.
A lack of offers may have kept his overall rankings low, but somewhere in the 3-star range - just a bit higher in the pecking order - seems to be legit to me.
[Ed.: Touch The Banner may provide some insight into the rankings that ESPN's boosterism does not: "Many fans want to compare Rawls to Mark Ingram, the Flint product who won the Heisman for Alabama in 2009. Admittedly, Rawls and Ingram have some physical similarities. Both are approximately the same height and even have similar gaits. But Ingram (who was a 4-star recruit) is and was quicker than Rawls. Michigan fans might not like me for saying this, but Rawls reminds me of Kevin Grady."
OTOH, LeVeon Bell.]
Central Michigan was Rawls's only offer almost through the entire recruiting process. Though Michigan didn't offer until close to the end, they were always right there for him.
Why so few offers? His grades have been a question mark, and that scared away a lot of schools. He insists he'll qualify to play as a freshman, so hopefully it won't be an issue. The lack of offers is part of what kept his rankings low, so look at it with a critical eye.
Sophomore and junior stats from Scout:
Thoimas Rawls made All-State Honorable Mention, All-Conference and All-City for his sophomore and junior seasons. As a junior, he rushed for 1,056 yards and 16 TD's on 138 carries and recorded 101 tackles. He says he can bench 285-pounds, squats 405 and has a 34-inch vertical jump.
And as a senior:
1,585 yards rushing on 450 carries; 21 touchdowns
He broke the single-game rushing record that a guy named Mark Ingram held for the Flint area, running for 343 yards and 5 TDs.
FAKE 40 TIME
4.5, per the premium sites. That's pretty darn good for a running back with Rawls's size. Of course, his reputation is as a guy who's pretty fast for his size, so I guess it makes sense. Three FAKEs out of five.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Michigan is in need of a power back, especially with the move to a pro-style offense. Michael Cox has shown flashes, but those have only been against the worst competition on the schedule. The previous coaching staff didn't trust his blocking or hands enough to play him on any regular basis.
However, Stephen Hopkins may have a lock on the starting (power back) position, and as an academic risk, it's probably for the best that Rawls takes a redshirt year to focus on academics and adjust to college life. That will also give him the chance to undergo a year of college weight training, and get acclimated with the playbook before he's ever expected to do anything on the field.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan really needs a defensive tackle and a tight end, but everything else going forward is pretty much gravy. There are five prospects - Fisher, Clark, Willingham, Barnett, and Cooper - still out there (that we know of), and the Wolverines should have room in the class to take them all, should they be so lucky.
Remember, all-time updates can be found on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board. If you have any recruiting tips or questions, you can e-mail them to me at [email protected] or tweet @varsityblue. For game updates on Wolverine commits, check out the Friday Night Lights series.
Desmond Morgan Goes Blue
Read the Hello: Desmond Morgan post for full details on the kid. He almost never smiles in pictures (at least ones on the internet), and more often looks ominous:
Fluff on Morgan's move to quarterback after only playing linebacker for his first three years. He's a well-rounded athlete, also playing hockey and lacrosse. The best part:
“Anything less than the playoffs would be very disappointing,” said Morgan, who has a 3.97 grade-point average. “There are a lot of great schools in the OK Red. I think the hard work in the offseason is going to pay off.”
Following the season, he was named to the All-Area First-Team defense, and captained it as Defensive Player of the Year:
“He knows where everybody is supposed to be. He makes the calls on defense and just his presence out there makes other guys around him better as well,” [West Ottawa Coach Jim] Caserta said. “… When you gameplan against us, you have to put at least a couple guys on him, and it makes the guys around him better.”
Opposing coaches were equally impressed:
“Desmond Morgan playing sideline to sideline, that kid can play at any college right now and I’ve admired that kid,” [Muskegon Coach Shane] Fairfield said after his team won 28-14. “That kid has inspired our defense, just watching him on film. He comes out here and runs like he’s Ironman. I’m glad our linebackers had a chance to play against him, because he made us grow up and realize how to play linebacker.”
Congratulations and welcome, Desmond.
Elsewhere in last weekend's visitors...
OH WR Darius Patton was "impressed" ($, info in header).
Though he visited last weekend, don't expect PA DT Rob Trudo to decommit from Syracuse ($, info in header).
MI DE/OL Anthony Zettel is ready to start thinking about a decision ($, info in header). Expect him to make his choice in early January.
Tom's Weekly Update has full reactions from OH WR Darius Patton, IL OL Chris Bryant, and LA CB James Richardson.
Prince Holloway, Come on Down?
FL Slot WR Prince Holloway is receiving an in-home visit from OL Coach Greg Frey later this month (the contact period ends next Monday), at which time his commitment status will be clarified. To recap, Holloway has said he's ready to commit to Michigan, joining his cousin, FL CB Commit Dallas Crawford, in the class.
Howeva, with MI RB/Slot Justice Hayes already in the class, I'm not sure if Holloway holds a committable offer at this time. Though MI WR Shawn Conway won't be a Wolverine next fall, Holloway, at 5-9, isn't really the prototype to fill the outside receiver position. He also has yet to achieve a qualifying score, and though it's possible for him to keep working toward that, Michigan's staff is probably leery of the risks after cases like Adrian Witty, Demar Dorsey, and Davion Rogers.
Within a week, we should have a much better idea of where Holloway stands with this coaching staff. Sam says on WTKA that he would already be committed to Michigan is not for a bit of a "slow-play."
Coaching Carousel Reopens Doors
PA CB Kyshoen Jarrett says he'll see who Pitt hires as a replacement before making any sudden decisions. If the new coach brings along a whole new, staff, it's more likely he'll decommit ($, info in header). However, he wants other coaches to know that he's available if they just wanna, you know, have a chat.
MI CB Valdez Showers remains committed to Florida for now. Now that the Gators have hired Will Muschamp, he'll likely come to a decision on his commitment soon.
FL DT Tim Jernigan eliminated Michigan and USC last week (HT: Dreisbach1817), but with Meyer resigning at Florida and the Wolverines playing in a bowl game just an hour away from his hometown of Lake City, Florida, might MIchigan have a chance to change his mind?
LA DT/OL Gregory Robinson commits to Auburn.
MD DT Darian Cooper has eliminated Michigan from consideration.
PA DE Myles Jackson committed to Rutgers.
OH LB Steven Daniels committed to Boston College.
GA S Avery Walls committed to Cal in the only painful recruiting loss in this week's update. Walls was actively recruiting for Michigan in the summer, but coaching uncertainty made it tough for him to pick the Wolverines, as he wants to enroll in January. (I'm not sure how it makes more sense to pick a school that went 5-7 and will be looking for a new coach soon, but whateva).
OH CB/Ath Tyler Williams committed to Akron.
MI RB Thomas Rawls is serious with his recruitment.
He’ll take an official visit to Central Michigan — the school that first expressed interest — next weekend. Then it’s off to the University of Michigan the following week, with a stop due in Toledo sometime in January. Cincinnati is in the process of setting up a date as well, said Rawls.
When he reaches a decision, he'll hold a low-key press conference at his school. And should he receive a qualifying test score, don't be surprised if that choice is Michigan. More local fluff.
OH QB Cardale Jones and his teammate, OH WR Shane Wynn, didn't make it to Ann Arbor for the Big Chill. Jones, at least, will try to reschedule for later this winter.
NJ TE/QB Tanner McEvoy has a final four ($, info in header). Spoiler alert: Michigan is in it.
Michigan has offered OH TE/Ath Frank Clark, and they're now a co-favorite for the Cleveland Glenville prospect ($, info in headers). Perhaps his recruitment will have an effect on his teammate Cardale Jones.
NC WR/LB Kris Frost still wants to start out at wide receiver at whichever school he chooses. His coach says he'll be excellent at either:
[Butler Coach Mike] Newsome said, "He's great on both sides of the ball. He thinks he's a better receiver than linebacker. I think he's a better linebacker than receiver, but the thing that makes him so much better a football player is he's just got 'it.' He's got the other factor to him that I can't coach into him, and that factor that takes his game to a whole 'nother level. He's just got an intensity level that helps him be better than folks he faces."
That intensity and his physical gifts - Frost has a 35-inch vertical leap and has been timed at slightly less than 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, for example - are what led more than 30 Division I colleges to offer him a scholarship.
Opposing coaches give the same level of praise:
South Mecklenburg coach James Martin said, "From a defensive standpoint, he completely understands the game. He understands formations. I've seen him make so many checks. He's one of the best linebackers I've seen since I've been coaching in Charlotte. On offense, when he gets out on the open with his hands and speed, he's a true threat."
Michigan can probably offer him much more opportunity at the wideout position, since Shawn Conway won't be in the class.
FL S Roderick Ryles, a teammate of FL RB Commit Dee Hart, will not attend Arkansas, because they don't need safeties. Michigan may be interested, though they didn't offer Ryles prior to his commitment to the Razorbacks.
JC defensive back Anthony Baskin visited Michigan last week.
PA LB/FB Nicholas Klass may walk on at Michigan ($, info in header).
MD CB Blake Countess is close to a decision ($, info in header).
Local fluff on an offer to CA K Connor Loftus.
IL QB Robert Gregory was named First-Team All-State as an athlete.
Michigan is in the top five for MI RB Juwan Lewis.
MI CB Terry Richardson was named an Under Armour All-American.
Sam Webb's recruiting column last week covered a junior combine that took place over the weekend. Once the 2011 class is wrapped up, the Wolverines will start to show serious interest in some of these guys.