Previously: the offense.
hello [Patrick Barron]
This is the good part. There were a few folks trying to find the nearest available ledge after yesterday's post. I'm not sure if they're wildly optimistic about HARBAUGH and expect next year's team to be year four Stanford or if I came off too brutally negative. Either way, this post will be a lot sunnier.
It's not a 3-4. Unless Michigan was sandbagging in their spring game they are running a defense quite similar to last year's—at least as far as the front seven goes. We have great experience with paranoid coaches as Michigan fans and not once has a major structural shift in the defense been concealed in spring. Even last year under Sir Puntsalot Michigan went full man press and that was their defense until circumstances dictated otherwise.
So we'll run with the assumption that what Michigan put out there was about what they'll run. This game saw Michigan run a 4-3—actually more of a 4-4, but more about that later—almost all the time. They went so far as to deploy Royce Jenkins-Stone as a weakside end because they were all out of weakside ends outside of Lawrence Marshall.
They will mix fronts, as all teams do. It is not a radical departure from last year's approach. And that's a good thing.
There is a departure. That is…
A hybrid space player is here. The biggest difference between Mattison's defense and Durkin's is at safety. Under Hoke it was difficult to tell who was the strong safety and who was the free safety. That will not be the case this year, as Jabrill Peppers was operating as a lightning fast outside linebacker for big chunks of the game. He tattooed running backs in the backfield more than once.
Peppers barely left that location. When Michigan went to a nickel package they did so by bringing in an extra safety and leaving Peppers over the slot, where he nearly caused an interception by breaking on a quick slant to Bo Dever.
[@ right: Upchurch]
If you were worried that moving Peppers to safety would make him a peripheral player who mostly shows up when making a tackle ten yards downfield, don't be. The vision of Peppers provided on Saturday was one of Tennessee-era Eric Berry or Packers-era Charles Woodson: an all-purpose sower of havoc. Berry had 16 TFLs his final two years at Tennessee. Woodson evolved into an NFL Defensive Player Of The Year as something beyond traditional positional definitions:
“They’re playing a lot of nickel, you know the old split six, so an eight man front,” said Mornhinweg. “They’ve got a good cover man with [Charles Woodson] down there who’s a very, very good tackler, so they sort of invite you to run the football into that base type personnel group however they’re very good.”
While that would normally be a successful strategy, Woodson’s ability to defend the run as a slot cornerback gives the defense some teeth.
“They feel very comfortable with him playing in that, which really is like a WILL linebacker position, he’s a physical guy,” said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. “He has great speed. He’s a great blitzer, great blitzer. So that’s how they use him.”
Woodson acted as that triple threat:
Woodson is fast enough to get to the quarterback in a hurry, but still strong enough to defend the run. Most of all, he’s a highly talented cover cornerback.
That is Peppers's role. Michigan's "nickel" is a base package with a hyper-athletic WLB; its base set looks like an eight-man front with a guy in that front who can cover anyone on the field. The defense is designed around his uncommon abilities.
Hurst was a regular annoyance to Morris [Bryan Fuller]
Activate DT depth. One of the striking things about the roster is that I had no idea who got struck first when drafting the defensive tackles. Glasgow and Henry were starters last year but both Mone and Hurst flashed ability as backups; a year later everyone's back and Maurice Hurst is in your base every play.
As a recruit Hurst was regarded as a lightning quick first step above all, with questions about whether he could hold up. That makes him an ideal three-technique. Three-techs get more one on one matchups if the nose tackle absorbs doubles, and Hurst is a good bet to shoot into the backfield. That was the case on Saturday. Hurst was a regular entrant into the land where TFLs are made.
He was going up against Ben Braden and David Dawson at guard, neither of whom is established as a starter-level player on the inside. But Braden did start all of last year and Dawson was a well-regarded recruit; neither is a walkon; both have been around a couple years. He was slicing through those guys with regularity.
Henry did well for himself after the first snap and should maintain the starting job. That two-deep looks set to be a high quality platoon.
I am ready to respect your authoritah [Eric Upchurch]
Inside backers are ready to rip. With James Ross out and Royce Jenkins-Stone drafted at WDE, the third linebacker in most sets was an odd duck. It did not seem to matter much, because the ILBs were filling with abandon. I have long been a skeptic about Joe Bolden's ability to hit people hard, but I thought he looked great.
There has always been a hesitancy about his play that has caused things like third and two conversions when Bolden goes entirely unblocked; that feels like it's finally out the door. Bolden showed up in the backfield a ton and hit guys hard when he showed. If that is not a spring mirage that sets Michigan up excellently for fall. Desmond Morgan's return gives Michigan another hard-hitting, dead-stop-tackler with a ton of experience, and Ben "Inexplicably Not Redshirted" Gedeon is ready to be the guy who spots both starters so regularly that he is a virtual starter as well.
The third linebacker should be Ross if healthy. In this defense I wonder how much run he'll get. Michigan has gone from a team that resigns itself to a ton of 4-3 sets against spread personnel (remember Jake Ryan walking out over three WR sets?) to one downright eager to play nickel.
In any case, two senior linebackers is a luxury.
Questions. The pieces are there for an outstanding defense. In my mind there are four main questions:
- Can anyone rush the quarterback?
- Can they find a second man press cornerback?
- Are the safeties reliable enough?
- Will the offense sell them out too much?
The last question is beyond the scope of this post. Suffice it to say that the last two years the defense had a tendency to collapse late after the offense's millionth three-and-out of the game.
Let's try to address the others.
Marshall is a breakout candidate and a 2015 key [Fuller]
Can anyone rush the quarterback? Michigan has not had a standout pass rusher since… Brandon Graham? Jake Ryan had a year in there but then he blew out his knee and wasn't an impact player as a junior; as a senior he had a distinctly muted impact (2 sacks) as a middle linebacker*. Brennen Beyer led last year's team with 5.5; Frank Clark had 4.5; neither was the kind of edge terror that needs to be accounted for every play.
Prospects are dim for that guy to emerge this year. Lawrence Marshall, a highly-regarded in-state recruit coming off a redshirt, has gotten a lot of hype. It would be a meteoric rise to go from not playing to being a terror. Mario Ojemudia is what he is at this point.
Michigan's best hope might be Taco Charlton, who seems set to move back to the weakside end after a season spent on the strongside in a 4-3 over. Charlton has a package of athleticism that is unmatched; this is a point where the proverbial light might come on. A spring injury prevented a hype train from building up steam; he'll be a guy you hope starts opening eyes in fall.
The defensive tackles also offer some promise here. Glasgow offered little pass rush a year ago, but Hurst, Mone, and Henry could be plus gentlemen, especially if they're all fresh because they can rotate freely without much drop in production. And the havoc Peppers causes might open up opportunities for other guys.
Even so this seems like the biggest gotcha in Michigan's quest for an elite defense.
Can they find a second man press cornerback? Michigan wanted to run an in-your-face aggressive defense last year and did so until it became clear that this was exposing Blake Countess to Spock levels of toxic radiation. Jourdan Lewis thrived, though, and returns as Michigan's #1 corner. Is there someone around who can let Michigan go Teddy KGB on opponents?
The two main contenders here are Countess, a year wiser and receiving cornerback coaching from a couple gentlemen with a slightly better pedigree in that department than the departed Roy Manning, and Stanford transfer Wayne Lyons. Lyons started for large chunks of the year for a lights-out Stanford secondary; he was regarded as something of a weak link. He can be the weak link in the #2 defense in the country and I will find that acceptable.
I give the slight edge to Lyons here, as he is bigger and faster than Countess. The boundary corner slot beckons.
A darkhorse: Brandon Watson. The redshirt freshman spent some time at safety last year, which made no sense since literally the only thing he did in high school is line up with his facemask molecules away from the opposition and jam the hell out of them. He looked pretty good on Saturday.
Are the safeties reliable enough? Jarrod Wilson is probably fine. I thought Michigan's tendency to jerk him around because he gave a team a small window to hit a pass in was one of their worst qualities under Hoke. They played nonsense guys over him from time to time, seemingly out of pique, and the defense got worse. Anyway, he's back and he should be reliable to good.
The second safety is not really Peppers since Peppers is a destroyer-of-all-trades in or near the box. The second safety is the guy who comes in when Michigan goes to the nickel that we are all going to interpret as Michigan's base defense by midyear. That is some combination of Delano Hill, Dymonte Thomas, Jeremy Clark, and Tyree Kinnel. Clark and Hill are the favorites. The numbers there are reasonable; can they find a player?
*[A move that was way more bonkers than it seems in retrospect because of Morgan's injury. Michigan opted to move their only impact rusher to MLB when they had Bolden and Morgan at ILB.]
“Well, everybody alright? I’m good. Who wants to start?”
You have a couple of players who are new to the position in Brandon Watson and Ross Douglas, though Ross Douglas has played it before. How are they adjusting to that change?
“They’re doing well. It’s a whole different deal for everybody. It’s a different defense, so everybody’s making a lot of adjustments but those two guys are coming along just like the rest of them.”
We’ve heard it said that you’ve played a lot more press coverage than they’re used to. How have they adjusted and how much work is that?
“It’s a lot of work. It’s a new total concept for the defense, for these guys who haven’t played- for Jourdan [Lewis] two or three years, for Blake [Countess] four years- so it is a new concept. It’s a whole new technique they’re learning so it’s taking time but they’re working their butts off. They’re working extremely hard at it and in time we’re going to get it done.”
Press was something they tried last year and did a little bit of it and struggled with it. Are you guys totally committed to it?
“Well, that’s coach Durkin’s defense, yes. So yes, we are totally, 100 % committed. We’ve just got to find the guys who catch on the fastest and handle the technique the best.”
Most cornerbacks are really excited about the chance to do that. Has that been the case here?
“Absolutely for us, and in recruiting they’re very excited to hear we’re aggressive on the outside and they want to see and hear what they’d have to do, so I think it will help us in that respect as far as getting some other corners in here.”
Can you talk about Lewis and Countess in particular and their ability to do that?
“Yeah, Blake’s an extremely hard worker. He’s very focused. Jourdan’s a natural at it. He’s probably our most natural corner for what we’re asking him to do. He does it pretty good but he’s still got some things to get better at because of the fact that it’s something they haven’t done all the time as far as last season goes. But those two are definitely, as far as technique-sound and even athletically and mentally, more experienced in that way.”
[After THE JUMP: Skills needed to play press, a transfer from Stanford confirmed-ish, and depth chart discussion]
Tremendous Lloyd quote!
That's a young-looking Lloyd Carr from the 1990 recruiting pamphlet that Bauglieve found on Ebay. In case the photos come down from there eventually I put them on the MGoServer for posterity (click for each):
The comments have mined all sorts of nuggets from these. Count my vote with those who want to see Harbaugh bring back one-handed, shirtless pushups on the Diag. The football fans would feel more connected to the players, and I'm sure the student body would appreciate the peck show way more than the usual entertainment in that space.
Team 138 offers its sarcastic gratitude. Originally posted in the forums, I moved Qmatic's walk through the wasted redshirts on Michigan's roster to the diaries because this is something we're going to be referencing all too often for the next few years. Morris is on there although he had to play once Bellomy tore his ACL because Gardner's ribs were becoming…you know what, let's not get into what Hoke did with Gardner.
I can show you how Hoke's redshirting practices compared to his predecessors because it's tracked on my spreadsheet:
Circumstances played a role in this certainly, but by Hoke's third year the rate of redshirting should have shown a climb into the 70s that a healthy program has. I'll probably address this in a Jimmystats sometime this offseason.
How to Man Your Baughlls
Just a glance at his formations screams old-school, smash-mouth, 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust SPARTAAAA:
Thing is, these offenses are notorious for being predictable in an era of S&C parity. So why does it work?
Tell us, dragonchild.
Deep head trauma is bad. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a horrible, progressive, degenerative disease of the brain long known to the sports world as "punch drunk." The provable link between it and repetitive brain trauma (specifically deep trauma, i.e. not all concussions) is meaningful to football especially because there is a clear moral dilemma in rooting for people to do a thing that can do that to them.
Neurologists released a study awhile ago that linked the age of first exposure to football and cognitive impairment. As happens with released studies, a few people who read the peer reviewed journals pour over it, and media folk read the title, decided if it fit their favorite narrative, and either canonized it or ripped it.
TSS wrote a diary this week to walk you through the study and what it actually says, which is that the progression of CTE is suggestively linear from the point you started playing football.
Best of the Board
BUT IT DOESN'T HAVE ITS OWN LOGO
Over the last couple of weeks it came out that the extremity of the student body's distribution of doucheiness is trying to Create the Future™ of Michigan-themed game day music. What I mean by that:
My best friend was not being hyperbolic about his freshman roommate.
Wolverine Devotee decided to use this as a reminder that we have traditional songs beyond The Victors. Hot Time might have been relegated to history, but we still sing Varsity during the pre-game, and Let's Go Blue!, and the cowbell cheer, as well as several covers the band has adopted (Blues Brothers, Temptation, Hawaiian War Chant), and the alma mater. If, like me, you've been singing "Denard Robinson, Robinson oh Robinson" to Varsity since Brian suggested it, maybe it's time we all learn the lyrics. They are (music):
Men of Michigan onto victory, Ev'ry man in ev'ry play.
Michigan expects her Varsity to win today!
Rah! Rah! Rah-rah-rah! Win for Michigan!
Varsity, Down the field.
Never yield, Raise high our shield.
March on to victory for Michigan,
(And the Maize and Blue)
Oh Varsity, We're for you,
Here for you to cheer for you.
We have no fear for you. Oh Varsity! (repeat)
At the risk of moving myself incrementally rightward in the douchechart, I posit that Michigan's second fight song is a better composition than 90% of fight songs.
COYLE V. SCHEMBECHLER
Michigan House '75 has a brother in law who played from '69 to '73 with, among other legends, 1972 captain and right guard Tom Coyle, who passed away in 2012. This was how Coyle was recruited to Michigan:
He and Tommy had just gotten back from a job and were covered in paint. This and twelve other kids running around when Bo and Malony arrive. Old Man Coyle proceeds to pass beers around to everyone including Tommy. Bo is shocked, turns to Mrs. Coyle and says, "Excuse me Mrs. Coyle," and then turns to Tommy - "If you drink that beer, I'm going to kick your ass!"
Bo was no teetotaler, but he did refuse to do Michigan Replay if Budweiser was sponsoring it. So guess what happens then, or read on.
Your Moment of Zen:
via Dr. Sap
"I think we'll always run the option because what it can do to defenses." –Jim Harbaugh
This has been the worst-kept secret in Michigan football for a month or two now, but I think this from Rivals is the first official confirmation that Michigan is indeed bringing in Stanford defensive back Wayne Lyons as a graduate transfer this fall:
Lyons confirmed his plans to transfer to Michigan.
"Midterms have my attention, but yes, there is some truth to the rumors," Lyons said via text Feb. 9, adding he planned to report June after graduation. "I'm looking into taking a visit before then."
I'm going to ignore the "some truth" bit since everyone's been discussing it sotto voce for a month and his mom got hired and he's planning to report in June.
Lyons was a touted recruit out of Fort Lauderdale, a top 100 player on the composite and the #4 safety in the country. He broke his foot two games into his freshman year and has been a contributor since as a cornerback. He moved into the starting lineup as a junior, finishing fifth on the team in tackles and picking off Notre Dame twice. He was less involved last year, and Stanford fans are kind of eh about him:
He's a decent corner. I've heard that he'd be better as a safety (or maybe nickel corner, which is how we used him a lot this year), and supposedly we wanted to move him that way.
I think the consensus would be that he never quite played up to his expectations, but I'd be sad to see him go.
With Jabrill Peppers moving to safety, Michigan has more of a need at corner. Michigan lost Raymon Taylor and returns Blake Countess and Jourdan Lewis; there is an opportunity to be a nickel corner or to beat out Countess, who had a shaky junior year.
Michigan's walk-on situation makes it difficult to determine exactly how many scholarships are available. Lyons's arrival would hypothetically deprive Kerridge or maybe Kenny Allen of a scholarship, but in all likelihood someone leaves before September. In practice, it's moot. FYI: Michigan has filled 16 slots with their recruiting class and the transfers of O'Korn and Lyons, which is approximately the number they had to give.
UPDATE: there's an excellent diary from alum96 with more background on Lyons. It doesn't sound like he's a world-beater, but sometimes kids get a lot better as seniors. And the alternative here is leaving a scholarship open.
DON'T DO THIS
WEBER FIASCO DEFCON 1. The damn day after Mike Weber signs a LOI to Ohio State, running backs coach Stan Drayton leaves for the Bears. Weber:
I'm hurt as hell I ain't gone lie
— Mike Weber (@mikeweber25) February 5, 2015
The timing of this move is odd, to put it mildly.
John Fox was named the new Chicago Bears coach in early January, and much of his coaching staff was in place shortly thereafter. It seems curious Drayton would be making the move only after Weber signed his letter of intent to play for Ohio State.
UCLA pulled a similar stunt with their DC. Roquan Smith managed to find out before he used the fax machine, but you have to think that maybe some of UCLA's defensive commits would have looked around if UCLA had announced when they knew about it a month before signing day. Just more of the usual crap.
Recruits! DON'T SIGN A LETTER OF INTENT.
DON'T SIGN A LETTER OF INTENT
I mean, if you're a random three star and they say sign this paper or we're moving on, go ahead. If you're a big deal, do this:
The NCAA last fall began allowing football prospects who plan to enroll in January to sign financial aid agreements with college programs as early as August 1 of their senior year. The agreement, which allows the college program to have unlimited contact with the player and publicly speak about him, binds the school to the prospect, but not the prospect to the school. So there's nothing to dissuade a situation like that of Josh Malone, who signed financial aid agreements with four schools before ultimately signing with Tennessee.
Sign a financial aid agreement. It's like the LOI, except backwards, and that makes schools hate it. Instead of stuff like this happening to you, you can have hilarious quotes like this apply to your situation:
"You're basically taking the word of the kid," Mallonee told the AJC. "That's part of the issue."
Meanwhile. Can't say I'm surprised about this.
Unconfirmed rumblings that an Ohio State BEAT WRITER knew the RB coach was leaving, but held off on reporting it so not to lose Mike Weber.
— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) February 6, 2015
Upshot. Could this lead to Weber flipping back to Michigan? Maybe. Schools can release players from LOIs.
Institutions are now empowered to grant a full and complete release from the NLI at anytime. To do so, an official Release Request Form must be initiated by the prospect and submitted to both the NLI office and the signing institution.
There's also an opportunity to appeal when school refuses to release a player, a process that ND signee Eddie Vanderdoes successfully went through a few years back. I'm unclear on what, exactly, this means as part of the Vanderdoes case:
The victory for Vanderdoes comes after a rather lengthy (and sometimes public) spat with Notre Dame and head coach Brian Kelly, who allowed Vanderdoes to enroll at UCLA, but refused to release him from the letter of intent he signed with Notre Dame in February.
Kelly can't prevent a guy from enrolling wherever he wants, and there appears to be no partial release from a LOI. The Bylaw Blog post on the topic implies that this was a straight-up win for Vanderdoes after Kelly refused to release him.
In any case: OSU could release him if the publicity gets bad enough, or Weber could decide to go somewhere else and attempt to appeal. If he did not win that appeal he would have to sit out his freshman year and he would lose that year of eligibility, making him a true sophomore in 2016.
Weber would have to want to pursue that, of course. It's possible he gets over it.
ESPN doing Hatch things. Hatch things:
Hiring various people for 'crootin' and 'lyzin'. Michigan announced they've hired longtime college coach and Harbaugh family associate TJ Weist as a "senior offensive analyst." Weist was the WR coach at Michigan in the early 90s, when a guy named Desmond Howard was hanging out, and was most recently the OC at Connecticut.
This analyst position is not a full assistant job, so Weist won't be able to work with players directly or recruit. He'll do film, find tendencies, and advise. Usually when established coaches take these jobs they're short-term gigs before something opens up elsewhere.
Michigan's also hired Gwendolyn Bush as "director of player development." Bush is the mom of Wayne Lyons, the fifth-year Stanford transfer who's supposed to be landing in Ann Arbor.
This has led to a couple of assertions that Michigan is getting down and dirty. If so, let's be clear why: it's not because Michigan wants a defensive back who will be around for one year. It's because Bush was—uh—"team mom" for South Florida Express, a high-powered 7 on 7 outfit that launched the careers of Teddy Bridgewater and Geno Smith, amongst many others.
— Brett Goetz (@sfecoach) February 5, 2015
SFE won the national 7-on-7 championship, which is apparently a thing that exists now, and got profiled in SI, etc etc.
Meanwhile, Lyons. The Lyons transfer thing has broken loose from the paysites and made the Mercury News:
Stanford coach David Shaw on Wednesday enthusiastically described all 22 players who signed letters of intent as part of another well-regarded recruiting class. He was slightly less eager to discuss a player who might be leaving the program.
Cornerback Wayne Lyons is reportedly considering a transfer to Michigan, where he would play one season (as a graduate student) for former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.
"For those guys going into their fifth year that want the opportunity to play someplace else,'' Shaw said, "I've never said no, never tried talk anybody out of it.''
Lyons started seven games last year for Stanford's kick-ass defense. Michigan doesn't really need a defensive back but they've got a slot if Joe Kerridge isn't guaranteed a scholarship (and since it's highly likely someone leaves the team before fall that's probably moot anyway). May as well fill it with a quality player.
Michicon Valley. SJSU hires a familiar name:
I'm hearing former NFL lineman and Michigan GA Adam Stenavich will be the new #SJSU OL coach with Keith Carter off to the Atlanta Falcons.
— Jimmy Durkin (@Jimmy_Durkin) February 5, 2015
Then they did the thing:
SAN JOSE -- San Jose State officially announced two of its coaching hires on Thursday, with Al Borges being named offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and Dan Ferrigno the special teams coordinator/tight ends coach.
Greg Robinson is of course the DC. It will be… interesting to see how SJSU does this year. I predict bad.
Meanwhile in offensive coordinator hires that Michigan fans are extremely skeptical of. Tennessee is actually, officially doing their thing:
For UT followers: Mike DeBord has told his staff, colleagues at Michigan that he is leaving for Vols, per source w/ knowledge of situation.
— Evan Woodbery (@TheSaintsBeat) February 5, 2015
DeBord has never coordinated anything approximating a mobile quarterback and couldn't even find a position coach job after leaving the NFL, instead landing at Michigan for an Olympic sports administrator thing. Let's see if he can submarine Butch Jones's 80 recruits per year.
Dabo's very particular. This private bathroom thing is a thing.
My favorite thing that I've seen so far covering National Signing Day at Clemson. pic.twitter.com/EmY13lhwsv
— Brian Franey (@FraneyESPN) February 4, 2015
I've heard worse ideas. BYU signed a guy who's never played football before. Does this sound like an idea on par with hiring an Olympic Sports Administrator to be your offensive coordinator? Not so fast my friend:
— BYU Cougars (@BYUCougars) February 4, 2015
That's no moon. Unless it's orbiting a planet. Then it totally is.
Etc.: In case you were considering taking Dave Zirin seriously about anything ever, you probably shouldn't. Vegas odds for the hockey national title are bonkers. Iowa wasn't real happy with the Higdon flip.
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@example.com or tweet @varsityblue. For game updates on Wolverine commits, check out the Friday Night Lights series.
Assume The Position(s): Offense
MI RB Thomas Rawls was the subject of last week's Sam Webb recruiting column in The Detroit News. He was super-productive in his senior year:
Despite sitting out two games with a high ankle sprain Rawls rushed for 1,585 yards and 19 touchdowns. His year was highlighted by a 344-yard rushing effort against Saginaw Heritage in Week 4 and a 396-yard rushing effort against Bay City Central in Week 5.
Scout's Allen Trieu breaks down his game:
"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."
As long as he can nail a qualifying score on his standardized tests, it's likely he'll land a Michigan offer - and soon ($, info in header). It sounds like the Wolverines are a heavy favorite to land him should that happen:
Even if new suitors do come calling, they clearly will have a steep hill to climb. "I'm going to wink my eye a couple of times about this, but let's just say I'm thinking about staying close to home (to play college football)," he said.
With Justice Hayes coming in as a slot receiver, the Wolverines still have a bit of room in the class for another true running back - the "big back" complement to slashing Dee Hart - and Rawls could be that guy.
Elsewhere in running backs, FL RB DeVondrick Nealy still favors Michigan ($, info in header). His skill set is more on the Hart/Hayes end of the spectrum, so I'd be surprised if Michigan's coaches accepted a commitment from him.
Also on offense, Michigan is looking for a tight end. NJ TE Jack Tabb has narrowed his list to 6 ($, info in header), and will take just a couple more visits before coming to a decision, hopefully by Christmas. If he doesn't commit to the Wolverines, recent offeree OH TE Darien Bryant might get increased heat.
The Wolverines are also seeking another offensive lineman, with IL OL Chris Bryant the most likely option. Bryant is on the verge of an offer from Ohio State ($, info in header), and will announce a commitment in early January. Can the Buckeyes catch up to his current favorites?
Rivals has started rolling out their Position Superlative rankings (they've done the offense, and have only done D-line thus far on the other side of the ball). Michigan commits and targets feature:
- FL RB Commit Demetrius Hart is the #3 Home Run Threat and #2 Best in Space among running backs.
- FL WR Sammy Watkins (who has committed to Clemson, but might consider Michigan if his teammate Dallas Crawford has any say in the matter) is the #1 Deep Threat and #2 Best After Catch (MI WR DeAnthony Arnett is #4 in that category) among wideouts.
- Since OH OL Commit Jack Miller is rated as a DE, he's not eligible for Best Run Blocker among offensive linemen, but from what I've seen him do against some of the best competition in Ohio, he might belong there.
- FL DT Tim Jernigan is the #3 Athlete, #3 Best Pass Rusher, #3 Best Run-Stuffer, #3 Quickest, and #5 Strongest among defensive tackles. LA DT Mickey Johnson, a fringe Michigan target, is #2 Strongest.
- MI DE/OL Anthony Zettel is the #4 Strongest D-End (GA DE Ray Drew is #5), and #2(!) Pass-Rusher. Zettel has also been named the Golden Helmet Winner as the Class B Area Player of the Year.
I'll recap once more if Michigan targets and/or commits are ranked in the defensive back 7.
Elsewhere in evaluations, Poole1Dan passed along a first-hand report on MI RB Commit Justice Hayes:
Hayes is not a Big Ten caliber running back, at least not from what I saw in the Milford game. But as a slot receiver, he's pretty good. He displayed excellent body control on the 21 yard TD catch and could be dangerous in a Steve Breaston way on bubble screens. He could motion into the backfield and be a poor mans Percy Harvin (something Michigan has yet to deploy with any of their slots in the RichRod era). With his agility and vision, he might be Michigan's answer at punt returner, which has been a disaster ever since Breaston graduated.
As always, take one-game scouting reports with a grain of salt, but as this seems to corroborate a lot of what we've heard about Justice so far, it's worth paying attention to.
Josh Helmholdt talks about the visit weekends coming up over the next two weeks, including a group of five this weekend:
Michigan will kick off its December official visit period with five official visitors this weekend. Commitments like Cass Tech cornerback Delonte Hollowell, Plymouth defensive end Brennen Beyer and Fremont (Ohio) Ross cornerback Greg Brown will be joined by uncommitted prospects Wayne Lyons of Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard and Blake Countess of Owings Mills (Md.) Good Counsel.
Tom's weekly update touches on Lyons's visit. Helmholdt also mentions a host of prospects for the Big Chill:
Recruits who have already scheduled their official visits to coincide with the Big Chill include Chicago Simeon offensive lineman Chris Bryant; Cleveland Glenville teammates Cardale Jones and Shane Wynn; Holland West Ottawa linebacker Desmond Morgan; Winter Springs, Fla.; linebacker Ryan Petro, and West Branch Ogemaw Heights defensive end Anthony Zettel.
Tom will keep us updated on the latest as the weeks go on (including a January visit from top KY LB Lamar Dawson), so stay tuned.
Josh Helmholdt says that OH CB Greg Brown and FL RB Dee Hart are the only currently-committed recruits planning to enroll early. Brown tells him:
"I'm just focusing on finishing my high school education next month and in those following couple weeks, I will be enrolling at Michigan to play ball for the Wolverines," Brown said. "I just can't wait to get in the Big House in front of those 110,000 fans and play some football."
As mentioned in yesterday's Friday Night Lights post, Hart will be formally invited to the US Army All-American Bowl tomorrow, so I'll have full coverage of the announcement next week.
There are several other prospects considering Michigan who are looking into early enrollment, including NC WR/LB Kris Frost and GA S Avery Walls, both participants in the Army All-American Game, who plan to announce their commitments at that time.
Tom's Weekly Update has a few pictures of TX LB Commit Kellen Jones alongside some former Michigan greats.
We've been wondering is NC QB Marquise Williams would decommit from North Carolina, but if he does, it seems like Virginia Tech, not Michigan, will be his destination. He remains an unhappy-face on the recruiting board, but I won't remove him quite yet.
GA DE Ray Drew has narrowed to a final 6, not including Michigan.
OH LB Percy Johnson, an ex-pat from Michigan, has committed to Cincinnati.
MD WR/S Deontay McManus has received a Michigan offer.