to play football, not to play trumpet
tyrone wheatley jr
“Everything’s great. Enjoying myself.”
What's caught your eye the most about your running backs?
“Talented group. Real talented. They haven't even scratched the surface. That's really what has caught my eye, so right now I'm kind of like an artist with a blank canvas. I can just have at it. That's really what it feels like.”
What's it been like for you to be back here as a coach?
“Haven't really thought about it to be honest, because my focus is Big Ten championship, national championship, 2000-yard rusher, so my days here haven't really – and I've been the type of person once I left here, I left here. I was onto better things, things that this place had catapulted me on to do. That's where my mindset was. But now I'm back for a totally different reason, so… you know, I'm a coach.”
We haven't talked with you since your son signed with the University of Michigan. Talk about that aspect of having him join you here.
“Well, it's a great thing. As a father you're always happy for your child and his success and the things that he's done, but once again, I'm just focused on the guys that are here right now and when he gets here he'll have his fair time. He'll have his time to get it, but right now my focus is on the guys that are here.”
Were you getting a little bit of a better feel for them today with them having the pads on?
“Not really. You can understand who they are even without the pads. The pads is just kind of one of the things a) that shows the physicality and b) if they are in hitting shape and that type of deal. As far as the feel, watching film of those guys and studying them I kind of already had a feel for who they were.”
We haven't had a chance to see Ty Isaac with him sitting out last year. What does he bring different than the other guys in terms of style and things like that?
“I don't think it's just Ty Isaac being different. Each guy brings a different aspect to the game. I’d just say that probably – I wouldn't say probably, he is the largest one out of the bunch. But in terms of difference, that would probably be it just about him being different – [he’s] bigger. He has great feet, good vision, he's a smooth runner but I wouldn't say he's any different than any other guy.”
[After THE JUMP: the characteristics of an ideal Tyrone Wheatley-coached back]
According to multiple outlets, Tyrone "TJ" Wheatley Jr. chose Michigan over UCLA this afternoon, and will join his legendary father—now the running backs coach—in Ann Arbor. Wheatley is regarded as an athlete who could play either tight end or defensive end; in this class, he'll most likely start out on offense. Wheatley is the 14th commit in the 2015 class and the first at tight end.
4*, #25 DE,
|4*, #13 TE||3*, 79, #12 TE-Y||4*, 90, #13 TE||
4*, #12 TE,
Only Scout evaluated Wheatley as a defensive end; perhaps not unrelated, they rank him the highest of the four services. The tight end disctinction appeared to hurt his ratings elsewhere. Wheatley was an early member of the Rivals250, but they only placed five TEs in their final rankings (as opposed to 17 SDEs). He came closer to the top list on 247—their top ten TEs made the Top247. Wheatley also made ESPN's Junior 300 back in July of 2013, then gradually slid back to a three-star—his underclassman evaluation focused much more on his potential as a defender than his final scouting report.
All four sites list him at 6'6" with a significant spread in weight: anywhere from 245 (Rivals) to 270 (Scout, which also gives him an extra half-inch of height). A recent quote from Wheatley Sr. pegs his son at 6'6", 255—he'd apparently reached 270 before cutting some weight.
I guess the lack of interest in New York high school football trumps the desire to evaluate a four-star prospect in person, as there's surprisingly little on Wheatley outside of camp and film evaluations. Luckily, most scouting reports focus on his prospects as a tight end, where he's expected to end up at Michigan.
ESPN likes his potential more on offense than defense; here's what they have to say about his ball skills and blocking ($):
Ball Skills: Displays good hands with the ability to extend and catch away from his frame. Displays ability to reach up and snag passes thrown above his head. Flashes adequate ability to adjust to throws off target, but displays some tightness and not always natural when having to open up frame and adjust.
Blocking: Flashes ability to deliver an initial pop and get good placement with his hands with enough strength to control defenders when he gets locked on. Needs to watch pad level and more consistently roll hips at contact. Displays adequate ability to adjust and get a hat on second-level targets.
Always with the pad level.
Wheatley worked out at tight end at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp way back in 2013, and he impressed GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz ($):
At 6-6, 240-pounds, Wheatley Jr. certainly isn’t a gentle giant and despite the non-padded drill work the tight ends did on Saturday, the son of former Michigan great Tyrone Wheatley was able to use his physicality and size to his advantage in the 1-on-1’s against linebackers. Wheatley Jr. already runs refined routes for such a young prospect, showing a nice resemblance of footwork passed down by his father.
Much more recently, Wheatley had a standout performance in the Semper Fi All-American Bowl practices, earning top performer honors on the third day from 247's Alex Gleitman...
Alpha Dog: Tyrone Wheatley Jr.
The 6-foot-6, 260-pound tight end is one of the most physically imposing players on the East team, but it is his athleticism and soft hands at that size that make him the outstanding prospect that he is.
Wheatley had an outstanding today in general skeleton drills, as well as the scrimmaging and goal line sessions, flashing enough speed to get free from defenders, as well as using his strength and body size to get positioning in shorter yardage situations.
The chatter among onlookers at practice was that there was no question that Wheatley was the most impressive performer in today's practice session.
...and coming in second according to Rob Cassidy of Rivals ($):
Wheatley Jr. is a menace. He has a wide body and impressive strength. And while he usually shines as a blocker, he made his presence known in the passing attack on Friday. He didn't look pretty catching passes at all times. In fact, he fought the ball on occasions, but he always made the catch when targeted. He made a long list of plays throughout the afternoon and always seemed to find a way to get open in the flat.
Scout's free evaluation focuses on his ability on defense:
Wheatley plays tight end and defensive end, but he looks more comfortable and natural on defense. He gets off the ball quickly, but sometimes gets upright too quickly. Wheatley has the size to overpower an offensive tackle, and also can use his speed to get around the edge. In addition, he can run a play down from behind and is versatile enough to move inside and play defensive tackle if he adds the weight. -- Brian Dohn
That sounds pretty ideal for an SDE in Durkin's hybrid system. The other defense-focused evaluations come from 247's Clint Brewster in 2013, looking at Wheatley's sophomore film ($)...
As a defensive end, Wheatley is a destructive force with his size and strength. He is instinctive and can hold the edge in the run game or get after the quarterback with his extremely long wingspan. Wheatley Jr. has a pretty good motor and doesn’t quit, as he will make plays downfield or away from the line of scrimmage. He gets his hands up to deflect passes and gets in passing lanes.
...and a Rivals camp update from the following spring, when Adam Friedman named him the top performer at the NFL Prep 100 ($):
Wheatley was far and away the best player at the camp. The Rivals250 defensive end has added a lot of strength to his core and it helped him play with good leverage. Wheatley used that strength to help push offensive linemen out of the way en route to the quarterback. He also showed very good technique, beating offensive linemen inside and outside.
I'll give the final word to a man who's quite familiar with Wheatley—his father, who went into exacting detail on his son's game in a free interview with Sam Webb that's well worth your time:
Tyrone Wheatley, Sr.: “His route running, understanding leverage, understanding zone reads. I think that is the biggest improvement where he has blossomed, where last year he was just running to run. He was running routes. He didn’t understand coverage and how to set a route up, when the defense is in a zone or set man coverage up. Now there are certain routes that he likes and is he starting to (make more plays). He knows he is going to be doubled team or however they are going to play him. He sees that right off the bat. He understands the leverage and how to get open in those situations.”
The elder Wheatley noted yards after the catch and blocking technique as areas for improvement. Check out the full interview for his thoughts on TJ as a DE.
Wheatley held offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, UCLA, UNC, Washington, and Wisconsin, among others.
Wheatley is the first four-star prospect in the Rivals era (2002-) to come out of Canisius. In fact, the only three-star prospect they've produced is 2014 Pitt signee Qadree Ollison.
According to MaxPreps, Wheatley had 11 catches for 182 yards and two TDs in a run-heavy offense and 68 tackles, 24 TFLs, ten sacks, three pass deflections, four forced fumbles, and two blocked punts on defense en route to NYSSWA Player of the Year honors as a senior. The previous year, he recorded 16 catches for 190 yards and two TDs along with 41 tackles, 14 TFLs, two sacks, an interception, and four forced fumbles.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the four sites list a 40 time.
Senior highlights at tight end:
Junior offense highlights:
Junior defense highlights:
Single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page. Unfortunately, there's no available highlight tape of him on defense as a senior.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Wheatley could contribute on either side of the ball and fill a pretty big need; it appears he'll at least start his college career at tight end, where he could see the field immediately as a big blocker who can slip out into the flat and occasionally threaten up the seam. Whether he comes in on offense or defense, it's unlikely he'll take a redshirt—Michigan needs help at DE, as well.
While Wheatley's lack of top-end speed and post-catch elusiveness may limit his ceiling, he should be an important cog in Harbaugh's offense due to his ability to block and catch at his size. If he ends up on defense, he should provide depth and eventually make a bigger impact as a strongside DE.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Unless WR Van Jefferson pulls a surprise or Michigan sends out some late offers, Wheatley is almost undoubtedly the last commit in the class.
FL RB Karan Higdon: flips from Iowa to Michigan
CT TE Chris Clark: inexplicably chooses UCLA
AL CB/QB Keith Washington: flips from Cal to Michigan
MI RB Mike Weber: sticks with OSU
GA LB Roquan Smith: picks UCLA
TN WR Van Jefferson: 1:30? 3:45? Vision quest?
FL DE Shelton Johnson: 3 PM
NY TE/DE Ty Wheatley Jr: 3:15 PM
CA CB Iman Marshall: 4 PM
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Tyrone Wheatley Jr. (far right) on his recent visit.
This post will be updated as new info comes in.
6 PM TUESDAY UPDATE: Added Shelton Johnson to the board.
7 PM TUESDAY UPDATE: Added Keith Washington to the board.
10 PM TUESDAY UPDATE: Added Karan Higdon to the board.
National Signing Day is tomorrow and the action gets started early for Michigan, as tight end target Chris Clark is slated to announce at 8:30 am ET. Here's eveything you need to know heading into the biggest day on the recruiting calendar.
The Current Class
Michigan currently sits at nine commits, headlined by in-state ATH Brian Cole—who's expected to end up at receiver, though he could also play safety—and New Mexico QB Zach Gentry, a recent flip from Texas. The list should hit ten by tomorrow; as you probably gathered yesterday, three-star Brother Rice WR Grant Perry, who was offered this week and decommitted from Northwestern last night, is expected to commit... well, any moment now.
The current list of propsects with offers and legitimate Michigan interest is down to eight prospects, including Perry. Here's the rest of the board, with their announcement time (if they've scheduled one) and my best guess at M's chances:
FL CB Jarius Adams (Rutgers commit) — 3-star, #125 CB, #1388 Overall (247 Composite)
Adams is a Rutgers commit who took an official to Michigan last weekend, and he's down to those two schools. He's actually expected to announce his destination sometime today, and it appears he'll stick with his current commitment.
CT TE Chris Clark — 4-star, #2 TE, #85 Overall
The one-time Michigan commit (and, previously, UNC commit) will choose between Michigan and UCLA at 8:30 am on ESPNU/WatchESPN. While Clark has been arguably the new staff's top target, insiders from both sides believe he's leaning towards UCLA. Of course, Clark's recruitment has been tough to predict all along, so we'll just have to wait and see.
TN WR Van Jefferson (Ole Miss commit) — 4-star, #11 WR, #108 Overall
Jefferson's recruitment is hard to pin down, as well. He committed to Ole Miss on January 25th, got a Michigan offer three days later, and took an official visit to Ann Arbor last weekend. Rumors swirled of a possible flip when he left campus, but a recent report from 247's Barton Simmons indicates he's expected to stick with the Rebels, albeit while leaving open the possibility that he'll change his mind.
CA CB Iman Marshall — 5-star, #1 CB, #4 Overall
The pipe dream. Marshall has long been expected to end up at USC and that hasn't changed despite a solid official visit to Michigan a couple weeks ago. Florida State is also a factor; after visiting FSU, M, and LSU, Marshall cancelled a planned official to Oregon. He's announcing his decision on ESPNU/WatchESPN at 4 pm ET.
GA LB Roquan Smith — 4-star, #5 OLB, #47 Overall
While there was a fair amount of optimism after Smith's official visit in January, spurred by his strong bond with DJ Durkin, that's all but vanished in recent days. Steve Lorenz reports that Smith is expected to choose between in-state Georgia and (of course) UCLA, with the Bruins the surprise favorite to land him ($). He'll announce at 11 am ET on ESPNU/WatchESPN.
MI RB Mike Weber (Ohio State commit) — 4-star, #9 RB, #78 Overall
The Cass Tech star has totally shut down communication with the media in recent weeks, and it doesn't seem like insiders on either side have a clear idea of what he's going to do. Since Weber sat down with Jim Harbaugh last week there's been increasing optimism from Michigan's end, however, and in the last day or so that's leaked over to the Ohio State side of things. We'll see.
NY ATH Tyrone Wheatley Jr. — 4-star, #12 TE, #312 Overall
Wheatley is another prospect who's gone quiet with the press, but an out-of-the-blue trip to Ann Arbor last week provided a great deal of hope that he'll join his father at Michigan. According to Lorenz, the team with the best chance of stealing Wheatley away from Michigan is, in fact, UCLA, who's come on strong of late ($). He's expected to announce around 3:15 pm ET tomorrow.
LATE ADDITIONS: FL DE Shelton Johnson — 3-star, #20 SDE, #364 Overall
Late Tuesday afternoon, 247's Clint Brewster reported that two sources are telling him Michigan has a legitimate shot with Johnson, who visited in January. Johnson is also considering Florida State (the presumed favorite) and Miami. He's high school teammates with Markel Bush, who could be in line for a late offer.
AL CB Keith Washington (Cal commit) — 3-star, #76 ATH, #954 Overall
This is a suprising name to add to the board, as Washington initially rebuffed Michigan and never visited campus, but I'm told he'll choose between M and Cal at 8:30 am ET.
FL RB Karan Higdon (Iowa commit) — 3-star, #40 RB, #478 Overall
Higdon will choose between Michigan and Iowa at 8 am ET, according to Hawkeyes247's Andrew Kulha, despite previously announcing that he'd reaffirmed his commitment to the Hawkeyes after taking an official visit to Ann Arbor last weekend.
Michigan has at least five open spots left in the class (assuming Perry takes a spot), and it doesn't look very likely that they'll get five players from the above group, so there's a decent chance we'll see a late offer or two go out, Dennis Norfleet-style. While the very nature of these offers make them pretty tough to predict, two names come to mind as potential candidates.
Unranked FL CB Markel Bush took an official visit a couple weeks ago; if Michigan misses out on Adams and Marshall, as expected, he could fill a need at corner. Bush doesn't hold any offers and would likely jump at the opportunity.
Cass Tech three-star LB/FB Michael Oliver, a Central Michigan commit, has come up as a potential late offer, and he could fill a need at either linebacker or fullback.
Official Visits Wrapup
This guy is a legend pic.twitter.com/nD6MewDzAT
— Chris Clark (@Clark8Chris) January 18, 2015
While Michigan's big official visit weekend hasn't yet produced a commitment, it certainly moved the needle for some of the program's top targets. Four-star CT TE Chris Clark—who appears to have rocked khakis on his visit, based on the above picture—was already familiar with Michigan's campus. He came to Ann Arbor to meet Jim Harbaugh, and told MLive that couldn't have gone much better:
"It's crazy, he's really intense, and you really like that," Clark told MLive on Sunday. "He grew on me a lot. I didn't know what to think at first, I wasn't sure what he'd be like. But once I left, he really, really grew on me.
"He's the best coach I think I've sat down with. I just think he's awesome."
An important note: Clark had an in-home with UCLA's Jim Mora last week. Clark now says his two finalists are "neck and neck" heading into this weekend's official visit to UCLA; Harbaugh will have an in-home with Clark after that visit, hopefully allowing him the last word in the process. Momentum looks to be swinging Michigan's way, though we'll see if that changes after Clark sees UCLA's campus for the first time. Clark is slated to make his decision on Signing Day in a televised ceremony on ESPNU.
Michigan also made significant progress with top-50 GA LB Roquan Smith; per TomVH, the Wolverines are poised to make the cut when Smith narrows his list to three ($):
Heading into the trip, Smith had Florida, Georgia, Michigan and UCLA as his likely top four. He has yet to take his official visit to UCLA, but says he should have news before that trip.
"[Michigan is] in my top and I'll be coming out with a final three next week," he said.
I'd assume Florida is the odd team out here—the main reason Smith looked at Michigan in the first place is because they hired DJ Durkin, who'd recruited him while at UF.
Three-star FL CB Damon Arnette, a South Carolina commit, got some important perspective from his player host, Jabrill Peppers, per Scout's Amy Campbell ($):
“Me and Jabrill had this conversation, just based off of speaking to him, he’s ready, you know what I mean? I can tell he’s going to be a great player, and I think that’s maybe something I want to be a part of. Him being back there behind me,that would be great. I can tell, since he got hurt, that put a drive in him,” Arnette said.
“Speaking with Jabrill, he was saying when he got hurt, he was going crazy because he didn’t know what else he could do, but then he realized he’s getting a great education. God forbid something happens to me, if I end up going to Michigan, I still have my education to fall back on.”
Arnette sounds like a strong candidate to commit; he had effusive praise for the coaches and even said he loved the weather—not exactly the norm for a Florida kid visiting Michigan in January.
The only uncommitted official visitor who doesn't sound like a distinct possibility to end up in the class is three-star FL DE Shelton Johnson, who said the visit was "pretty good" to Scout's Corey Bender ($). Nothing he said in there gave the impression Michigan should challenge Florida State, the presumed leader, for his commitment.
Meanwhile, five-star CA CB Iman Marshall is on campus. There will be much more on him later in the week.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Second 2015 QB In Play?
Even with Alex Malzone already on campus, quarterback is a major question mark for Michigan not just for 2015, but moving forward, and it appears Jim Harbaugh is going the extra mile to make sure he gives the program as many options as possible at the position:
Jim Harbaugh coming to Gilmer to see McLane Carter. He has a pretty good eye for qb's. Florida and Texas Tech just called as well.#Winner
— Jeff Traylor (@CoachTraylor) January 11, 2015
Carter has a very interesting profile, in part because he doesn't really have one; he's unranked on Rivals and Scout, while ESPN and 247 don't even have pages for him. Carter is picking up major school interest, however, after a senior year in which he led Gilmer to an undefeated state title season in Texas' 4A Division 2 (a medium-sized classification) while posting this stat line: 220-297 (74.1%), 3969 yards (13.4 YPA), 47 TDs, 2 INTs. Pretty good stats, I say.
There are a couple reasons Carter may have flown under the radar. He transferred back to Gilmer this season after spending his junior year at Salado, where he put up less impressive stats for a worse program. It also doesn't look like he hit the camp circuit much at all; the only camp eval I can find is, oddly, from last spring's RCS Detroit camp, per Rivals' Josh Helmholdt ($):
It was a long trip up to Michigan from northeast Texas for Carter, and he made the trip worthwhile by having a solid showing. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound left-handed passer spun the ball very well on Sunday. His tight spirals cut through the wind when it was blowing hard later in the day. Overall Carter showed good arm strength and decent accuracy on his passes.
There's also a free scouting report from Scout after one of his playoff games:
Carter has a good frame (6-2 1/2, 190) and very smooth, left-handed delivery. His delivery isn't completely overhead, but it's close. He has a deceptively strong arm. That's probably because his southpaw delivery looks so smooth and effortless. He awaits his first FBS offer, but should start getting more attention as signing day approaches.
His senior tape, embedded at the top of the post, is pretty impressive; while his arm strength doesn't jump off the page, his accuracy sure does, especially on his deep throws. He also displays decent mobility, and based on both the film and his stats, his decision-making is excellent. He may not be a five-star talent, but he certainly looks like a guy who should at least have some sort of recruiting profile; with interest from the likes of BYU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and now Michigan and Florida of late, that should happen soon.
Whether or not Michigan makes a serious run at Carter (something I now hope they do given the length of this section), it's encouraging that Harbaugh might take a run at another quarterback in this class. That's no knock on Malzone, who I believe is a quality prospect; it'd just be nice to add some depth to the position, especially after what we've witnessed the last couple seasons. Any attrition at that position in the next couple years, given the current construction of the roster, could be really tough to handle.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]