In the half-hour we spent on the field talking to players at Sunday's Media Day, the theme of this offseason and fall camp was clear: change is here. For the offense, that means a change in coordinators, and with that a significant difference in how they practice. The tempo is being pushed like never before in Brady Hoke's tenure at Michigan, and that also affects the defense, which is dealing with change of their own, as the coaching staff on that side shifts roles while the defense moves from a 4-3 under to a 4-3 over.
I caught up with Dennis Norfleet, Jake Ryan, and Wyatt Shallman to discuss these changes and more, including Ryan saying he feels fully recovered from the ACL tear that limited him to just five starts in 2013. Tomorrow, I'll have further player interviews with the significant portion of the team that hails from Cass Tech.
You're getting work in the slot now pretty much exclusively, it sounds like. How comfortable are you at that position right now?
I'm getting a lot better. The wide receiving crew is really helping me out a lot. Coach Hecklinski is a great coach, he's getting me to feel comfortable when I get in there and getting me comfortable with my plays, so I'm doing pretty well.
What's been the biggest difference with the new offensive coordinator, the biggest change between last year and this year?
The biggest change is we're moving faster, up-tempo. We're a lot better as an offensive crew, we're more than a team, we're a family, so that's what makes a big difference to us now.
With that big increase in tempo, it sounds like you guys are getting more reps in. How much of a difference has that made in terms of getting more comfortable in the offense?
It's a making a lot of difference. It's a big difference because we have a lot of rotation, everybody gets to know their plays, nobody's going out there not knowing what they're doing, and if they don't they have people to tell them if they go wrong. That's a big difference.
How do you see your role being this year? Obviously you're playing the slot, but there's a lot you can do, so how do you see yourself being utilized in the offense this year?
I'm just doing my job, you know. If I get open space, I do what I do best, you know. I'm also being a role model for the younger players that came in. We're basically working as a team in everything that we do.
At returner, you obviously have a lot of experience there. Coach Hoke said you're getting a lot of the reps there but that there are a couple freshmen who are also coming in and making a push. How do you feel at returner right now, and is that a place you feel you can make a really big impact?
Kick returning has always been something that I go into the game and everything, you know, willing that I want to return a kick [for a score] every game. We've been rotating a lot, we've got a lot of players that are competing, spots that's not really set out for who starts where, so we're just having fun in camp right now and competing.
It sounds like both at slot and returner that you're working a lot with Freddy Canteen. What have you seen out of him in the spring and fall so far?
Canteen's becoming a better young man, not just a football player, just in life. He's been looking up to the older receivers, like Devin Funchess, me, [redshirt senior walk-on Anthony] Capatina. It's just a lot of people he can look up to, to become a better person, both in our lives and football.
You keep mentioning how you guys have come together as a team. What's been the biggest change since last year, and do you feel like as an upperclassman now you're really grown into a leadership role?
When I came in, I did things that upperclassmen always told me was wrong that I didn't think were wrong, but now that I'm older I can see what they were talking about. You know, it's more than just a game. We're trying to win a championship, the Big Ten, so as we go along that's the focus of our days. That's what we're ready for.
[Hit THE JUMP for Jake Ryan discussing his transition to middle linebacker and his full recovery from the ACL tear, and Wyatt Shallman talking about his role in the offense and the changes in style under Doug Nussmeier.]
Previously: CB Reon Dawson, CB Channing Stribling, S Delano Hill, S Dymonte Thomas, CB Ross Douglas, CB Jourdan Lewis, LB Ben Gedeon, LB Mike McCray, DE Taco Charlton,DT Maurice Hurst Jr., DT Henry Poggi, OL Patrick Kugler, OL David Dawson, OLLogan Tuley-Tillman, OL Kyle Bosch, OL Chris Fox, OL Dan Samuelson, TE Jake Butt, TE Khalid Hill.
|Novi, MI – 6'3, 250|
4*, NR overall
4*, NR overall
3*, NR overall
4*, NR overall
OSU, MSU, Cinci, Syr
or Mike Alstott
or Tim Jamison
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post. Ace interview. Ace scouts CC vs OLSM.|
|Notes||Detroit CC (Mike Martin). Twitter.|
There is also a sophomore reel.
Wyatt Shallman is the weirdest multipurpose offensive tool Michigan acquired in this class, mostly because it took everyone—including me—about six months to believe he was an offensive tool at all. The recruiting sites considered him a defensive end before he committed. When 247 debuted its 2013 rankings, Shallman was #149 as a DE. On Rivals, he was in the same range at the same spot.
Shallman is at his best running North-South, and while he doesn't have top-flight speed, he does get to the second level of defenders in a hurry. When he reaches the back seven, he has a tendency to put his head down and try to bowl defenders over, which often works but also limits his big plays—to his credit, however, there wasn't a single run in which Shallman didn't fall forward for at least an extra yard or two.
I was impressed … with Shallman's agility. He's not going to utilize a lot of fancy jukes or spin moves, but his go-to move—the quick jump-cut as he approaches an oncoming defender—worked really well for him. Shallman isn't going to make a lot of guys completely whiff at the next level, but he's shifty enough to get defenders off-balance, and with his power that's enough to shed tackles—Inkster defenders were bouncing off of him all night.
…because guys who are near top-100 players at defensive end play defensive end, end of story. Catholic Central coaches had to make some hard decisions about Shallman when he spent most of his junior and senior years battling hamstring injuries; they used him mostly as a defensive end, exclusively so for a large chunk of his senior year. Tim Sullivan caught CC's game against Brother Rice and saw zero snaps for Shallman on offense. When ESPN noted him as a standout from the road last year, it was after a two-sack game on defense.
But Michigan isn't totally crazy here. Ace caught games from Shallman as a junior and senior and though he made a lot of progress as a DE, Ace still thinks he's best on offense. When OSU offered him, it was as an H-back. His trainer is Mike Barwis, and Barwis makes it sound like he's got potential:
"Physically, he's impressive," Barwis said of Shallman. "Kids his size tend to be sluggish and lumber, but he is very explosive. That isn't common." …
"If someone is looking for a big power back and they want to slam it down their throat, he can do that," Barwis said. "He's going to be a big, explosive, fast, power back. We did that with Owen Schmitt at West Virginia.
"You have your stealth speed back like Steve Slaton, and the next thing you know you give the ball to this tank and he's running a 4.6, hits you in the mouth, and he's gone."
In Michigan's case, they'll have Power A and Power B (and Power C, probably), but you get the idea.
ESPN went back and redid Shallman's profile last February, focusing almost exclusively on offense—and probably going off junior tape:
Has great size and athleticism for the fullback position at the major level of competition; in fact we definitely see tight end potential. … Shows good flexibility, agility and balance as a ball carrier; for his size, he displays good vision and quickness getting up into the line from a regular fullback alignment; can pick and slide while continually gaining ground up to the second level; flashes the wiggle to make first tacklers miss in space however he lacks the burst or second gear needed to clear traffic and break into open space. This guy is a tough between the tackles, power runner capable of moving the pile and shortening the game in the fourth quarter. Does a good job blocking off the edge; brings his feet, rolls his hips and blocks through opponents.
Receiving is the main area for improvement.
Shallman's coach echoes the ESPN eval:
"As a running back, he's got very good speed," Mach said. "He's powerful. He's got the ability to break tackles, not go down on the first hit and get the extra yard. I think he'll be a tough running back."
And Scout does as well:
Scout.com Player Evaluation:
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Light on his feet for a big man, Shallman projects as a big tailback at times and a fullback at others. Is a good athlete who catches the ball out of the backfield well. Good lateral quickness and agility for a kid who's 245-lbs. Will need to continue to learn and improve as a blocker, but does a solid job in that department as well. Has dealt with some injuries in his career.
Michigan may actually be a little crazy, actually, because their pitch to Shallman was running back, emphasis on "run":
"A lot of these teams were saying H-back or possibly even tight end," Shallman said. "So when he said, 'We want you at running back, we want you at tailback,' that really struck home."
One thing the Michigan coaches really like about Shallman is his size. Jackson told Shallman that it was rare to find someone with a body like Shallman's who is as explosive as he is.
Later Shallman would slighly clarify that running back would be amongst a number of positions he would feature at:
What the coaches have told him about when/where he'll be playing: Running back, U-back position where I can play tight end, fullback, running back.
Months of Shallman insisting Michigan saw him as a running back eventually caused three of the four sites to rank him as one of the top fullbacks in the nation; Rivals, the holdout, tossed him in the ATH pile. He held on to a fourth star because of his potential as a pure athlete, and ended up the top fullback because nobody saw him as a tailback and fullbacks don't get four stars. It's a little incoherent, but I feel for the sites on this one.
So… defense. When Shallman committed Michigan was yet to acquire the services of DeVeon Smith and Derrick Green, two highly-rated tailbacks who figure to push piles about as well as Shallman while bringing more big play potential to the table. Meanwhile, fullback/H-back is plenty crowded with Houma, Kerridge, and Hill currently also underclassmen.
Since the rest of those guys seem exclusively RB/FB types, it would not surprise to see Shallman move to the defensive end spot a lot of sites had him ticketed for before his commitment. There, he is probably the best fit at WDE. Notre Dame was recruiting him as a "CAT" linebacker, their equivalent in a nominally 3-4 system:
“They like me at the CAT linebacker position – which is kind of a linebacker/defensive end hybrid and a pass rushing specialist in their defense,” Shallman said. “They think my size and athleticism really translates well to that position.”
I'll spare you the digression on how ND's 3-4 isn't really that far from Michigan's 4-3 under down to the LB/DE hybrid, as that's beyond the scope of this post. SAM and SDE are also possibilities, with SAM more likely than SDE, where Shallman will always be undersized.
On defense, he's got pass-rush upside. Barwis shouldn't have dragged this guy out, but Barwis did so Barwis:
"The thing that makes him a unique prospect is that he's extremely quick twitch and explosive," he said. "Brandon Graham is a freak athlete, but Brandon is extremely quick twitch. This kid has that as well. Not to the degree that Brandon did when he went to the NFL, but I didn't see him when he was 15, either."
Josh Helmholdt caught DCC's 2011 opener (ie, Shallman's junior year) against Fordson, in which he impressed:
At times he looked to be protecting the leg, but mostly he went all out and looked sharp. His athleticism for a big prospect is outstanding and his speed is well above average for the defensive end position. We're still not sure if tailback is an option in college, but Shallman is definitely a high-end defensive prospect with a great motor.
Ace caught the OLSM game and came away with a glimpse at a mini-RVB:
Shallman is quick off the snap and plays much lower than he did last year, and he did an impressive job of getting leverage on his blocker and using his hands to break free; I didn't see him get pushed back more than once or twice on Friday. …
Perhaps most impressive was Shallman's ability to fight off blocks, as St. Mary's tried to cut him all night. He displayed great balance in fighting off low blocks; I don't remember him getting cut to the turf once.
Sullivan caught a game against an all-run Brother Rice offense:
Shallman had the strength to bull through offensive linemen - impressive for a guy who is probably not a lineman in college - and was able to two-gap his blocker on several occasions, maintaining leverage for runs that went to either side of him. On the pass rush, he was quick off the ball, and though he didn't have a wide range of moves to get by his blocker, he was able to harass the passer, even if it only resulted in one sack.
That' doesn't mean Shallman was perfect. … he was sometimes lackadaisical in pursuit down the field, and didn't show off a high motor. He also displayed only flashes of a killer instinct and defensive mentality.
Not sure if that's the persistent injury. Both of the other evaluations praise Shallman's motor.
The injury thing is a thing: after two solid years of hamstring issues you have to worry if that might become a chronic issue. Michigan might do well to give the guy a bit of an easier year just so he can get totally recovered before throwing him in the fire.
“I like anything that big, that strong, that fast,” Jackson said of Shallman. “I talk to a few people where he worked out and they said he is the most powerful guy that they have ever seen at that young age.”
This man must be a running back.
Why Aaron Shea? Well, yeah:
Hoke compared Shallman (who measures at a whopping 6-foot-3, 245 pounds) to Aaron Shea, a former Michigan fullback and tight end who went on to play in the NFL. The Wolverines like his ability to be multidimensional on the field -- someone who will be effective in multiple facets such as knocking people off the ball, catching out of the backfield and usage as a single back.
A (slightly) converted tight end, Shea was more on the Khalid Hill end of things, though. Shallman may find a niche as a pounding even-more-thunder back a la Mike Alstott or Owen Schmitt. Dare we say Toby Gerhardt?
Guru Reliability: Low. Most are in the same range but it's clear they've punted on actually ranking him by thrusting him into the FB spot like they did Brandon Minor. Meanwhile, extensive injury and a total lack of camps mean I don't put much stock in their rankings even if they do like the guy.
Variance: Very high. Could be anything from Mike Alstott to Owen Schmitt (minus the self-helmet bashing, probably) to Aaron Shea to Tim Jamison to Guy Who Doesn't Play At All.
Ceiling: Moderate? Doesn't seem to have out-and-out star potential anywhere, but could develop into a fringe All Big Ten player on either side of the ball.
General Excitement Level: Moderate? I punt. Likely to be a contributor somewhere, though.
Projection: I'd imagine a redshirt is likely what with the multiple injuries and lack of offensive snaps as a senior. He is in the range of guys who get drafted on to special teams, though.
After a presumed redshirt year, your guess is as good as mine. WDE appears to be in good hands for the next few years, but so does RB/FB. Is he going to take carries away from Derrick Green? Is he going to take U-back snaps from a considerably more advanced receiver in Khalid Hill? Given Shallman's athleticism the answers there are "maybe situationally." His best bet early is proving himself more of a dual threat than his challengers at U-back—ie, Kerridge can't be a threat as a receiver, Hill can't block, Shallman is less of a tipoff when he's in. Or playing defensive end. Or, I don't know, making omelets at Bursley. Multifunctional.
hi bennie! /Upchurch
It's an annual rite of fan dorkiness each year to try to be the first to guess which numbers the incoming freshmen will be given by obsessively google stalking them. Sometimes I have some inside knowledge from a recruit who was promised his digit, or tweeted his preferences or something. Here's how I did last year:
|Name||Pos.||# in HS||2012 Guess||Actual|
|Allen Gant||S||7 and 14||14||12|
|Chris Wormley||DE||47||84 or 68||43|
|Dennis Norfleet||RB/KR||21||21 if available, or 31||26|
|Devin Funchess||TE||5 and 15||85||19|
|Drake Johnson||RB||2 and 18||32 or 6 or 23||29|
|Sione Houma||FB||35||41 or 32||39|
|Terry Richardson||CB||3 and 6 and 9||9||13|
|Tom Strobel||DE||36||63 or 93 or 86||50|
|Willie Henry||DT||74||74 or 68||69|
Four out of 22 ain't…well yes it is. It was bad. This article is useless. Let's continue it anyway; I swear to do better.
Getting to know you. Each coach has his own tendencies with this so we'll get better at it in time. With Hoke, he seems to like having consecutive numbers in the same position group, perhaps for mentoring purposes because they sit next to each other in the locker room. It's far from a rule, but it's a trend. Carr rarely let a player share a specialist's digit, but Hoke doesn't seem to have a problem with it, for example Wormley and Hagerup share a number, and walk-on tight end Alex Mitropoulus-Rundus (I'm gonna just start calling him "Alex M-R") has the same digit as backup punter Kenny Allen. Rich Rodriguez was far more apt to share numbers, and the single digits were nearly always doubled up; Hoke has said in the past that he doesn't like doing that, and the practice has been limited—as of spring just 5, 12 and 34 had scholarship recruits in both numbers, adding 54 and 56 to those double-occupied by players on the two-deep.
The roster lies. The official MGoBlue.com roster still doesn't have DeAnthony Hardison, that nifty RB you saw in the Spring Game. He's #18. Also a practice insider told me Anthony Capatina is playing slot receiver, not "DB" as he's listed on the depth chart. Also weirdly missing from that roster is #79 right tackle Dan Gibbs (a Seaholm Mape!!!), a 2012 preferred walk-on whose twitter profile pic is him riding an oliphant:
Legends/Special #s: 1 because Braylon's scholarship killed the fun, unless Gallon gets it. It won't come as much of a surprise to you that 2 will probably be entering the Legends program this season. There will also be some push for 16, and I doubt it'll be assigned to an offensive player immediately. 11 for the Wisterts, 21 for Desmond, and 87 for Ron Kramer are currently open; it is likely they'll be assigned to veterans whose digits might then be made available if it happens before the season. Bennie's 47 and Jerry's 48 remain occupied by current players and there's no way a second guy will get them. And I've been told they're still working on the Harmon family with 98. Anyway they won't go to freshmen.
Already worn on both sides: 5 (Courtney Avery and Justice Hayes), 6 (Raymon Taylor and Brian Cleary), 12 (Gardner and Allen Gant), 13 (Terry Richardson and Alex Swieca), 15 (James Ross and Shaun Austin), 34 (Jeremy Clark and Brendan Gibbons), 43 (Chris Wormley and Will Hagerup), 54 (Richard Ash and Jareth Glanda), 56 (Ondre Pipkins and Joey Burzynski), 69 (Willie Henry and Erik Gunderson), and 95 (Anthony Capatina and Michael Jocz).
Available on offense only: 4, 7, 14, 18, 22, 24, 25, 30, 33, 35, 40, 50, 52, 53, 55, 57, 59, 66, 76, 92, 96, 97, 99
Available on defense only: 3, 8, 9, 10, 17, 19, 26, 27, 28, 29, 38, 39, 42, 45, 46, 49, 51, 58, 60, 61, 62, 63, 65, 67, 70, 71, 72, 75, 77, 78, 82, 84, 85, 86, 88, 94
Walk-ons with soft claims: Every year there's a Jon Keizer on the roster who thinks his number is safe, then some top running back recruit in the country (right: from Scout) runs him over with star power (dadada, didda-da diddadidda…). Scout teamers without scholarships often have their numbers taken, for example Charlie Zeller was 19 on the 2012 spring roster and Paul Gyarmati was sitting on 99, but Devin Funchess and Matt Godin nabbed those digits last fall. This year they are 15 (Shaun Austin—note that Ross has it on D), 18 (DeAnthony Hardison—note that Countess has it on D), 27 (Jon Keizer), 36 (AJ Pearson—note that Kerridge has it on O), 42 (Dylan Esterline), 46 (Clark Grace), 49 (Brad Anlauf), 51 (Bobby Henderson), 59 (Mark Lawson), 63 (Ben Pliska), 66 (Dan Liesman), 70 (Kris Mateus), 79 (Dan Gibbs), (91 (Alex M-R, though Kenny Allen wears it too), and 95 (Anthony Capatina and Mike Jocz). The other walk-ons I didn't mention (Dever, Cleary, Glanda, Burzynski, Reynolds, Allen, Gunderson, Jocz and the Glasgows) are either on the two-deep already or in the mix.
Currently unused: 20, 23, 31, 32, 37, 41, 44, 64, 68, 73, 74, 80, 81, 83, 89, 90, 93, π
You just said Pi. We're Michigan fergodsakes. All the constants—φ, ζ(3), α and δ, Euler's e, γ, λ, K, r, and Ω—ought to be fair game, and if someone takes √-1 and uses the nickname "Impossible" he will be my favorite for ever and ever.
EVERYBODY LET'S ALL BE #7!!!
|Name||Pos.||HS #||Tea Leaves||Best Guess|
|David Dawson||OG||71||Wore 55 in Under Armour game, 33 in Army AA game.||55* - His Twitter acct is David Dawson 5⃣5⃣|
|Reon Dawson||BCB||1||Wore 13, 24 and 1 in high school.||31 - seems to fit.|
|Jaron Dukes||WR||8||Twitter handle is @Jaron_Dukes8||83*
|Chris Fox||OL||73||Wore #13 (?) at Army AA game and #33 at Rivals 5-star challenge||73* - Guy likes #3|
|Greg Froelich||OG||77||Wore that and 75 in high school (preferred walk-on)||76 - Not exactly Steve Hutchinson.|
|Ben Gedeon||MLB||15||James Ross is already James Ross.||45 - David Harris's # but precludes punt coverage.|
|Derrick Green||RB||27||Wore 27 in Army AA game.||27* - call it a hunch. Sorry Keizer.|
|Delano Hill||Nk/FS||11||Looks like he's 40.||32 (Kovacs's other #) or 23|
|Khalid Hill||FB/TE||32||Very Kevin Dudley of him.||32 or 23|
|Maurice Hurst||NT||50||Wore #11 in Semper Fi Bowl.||68 - Mike Martin's #|
|Da'Mario Jones||WR||11||Wore #7 in that photo of recruits in white M jerseys. #15 at MSU camp. Same school as Tony Boles, who wore 42 at Michigan but had 18 touchdowns so...||14*
|Patrick Kugler||OC||57||Wore 57 at UA game. Dad and bro wore 57.||57 - O'KUGLER RULES!|
|Jourdan Lewis||CB||1||Also wore #17 at Cass Tech, #27 at Army AA game.||17 or 3 or 37.|
|Mike McCray||SAM||9||Wore #9 at UA game. Father wore 99 at OSU||9* - He and Dileo both likely to be on special teams, but not the same groups.|
|J.J. McGrath||K||13||preferred walk-on||35 - Or some kicker number.|
|Shane Morris||QB||12||Gardner switched, so...||7 - he already tweeted it.|
|Henry Poggi||3T||7||Wore 17 at UA game. Was given #7 locker in May. Plays jazz flute.||70 - Ross Douglass already took 7.|
|Dan Samuelson||OG||74||Photo out there of him wearing a Nebraska 74 jersey. Twitter handle is @dansamuelson74.||74 - it's available.|
|Wyatt Shallman||FB||49||49 is available on defense.||33* for his DCC teammate who passed away.
|Deveon Smith||RB||4||Is a 4-star?||4 - It's open.|
|Blaise Stearns||WR||1||Townie: Can't find what he wore at Huron before transferred. Preferred walk-on||89 - Doesn't exactly get 1st pick.|
|Channing Stribling||FS||8||#22 commit to the class.||8* - It's open|
|Scott Sypniewski||LS||56||Wore #45 at his long-snapper camp.||41 - Who cares.|
|Jack Wangler||WR||21||Dad wore #5 at Mich (preferred walk-on)||16*
|Csont'e York||WR||1||Was #667 at NFTC||81 - With an eye toward dropping the 8.|
Go ahead and make your guesses. We'll have our answers in a few weeks.
* UPDATE: After I posted this Magnus alerted me to his post of numbers that have already been revealed. I had some good guesses. I crossed out my comments if the guess was wrong.
Brace yourself. LSUFreek spent yesterday swapping rival coaches' hair. Paul Chryst/Dana Holgorsen:
Aaand our local rivals:
As Orson says, that makes Hoke look like a senator straight out of O Brother Where Art Thou.
Point Gene Smith. OSU's AD on the possibility of playing The Game at night.
"Are you crazy? What's wrong with you? It'll be noon. I have to be open to 3:30, but noon is my favorite time for that one."
Grudging respect meter: incremented.
Oh come on man. I'm gonna need some more detail on this($), Wyatt Shallman, before I agree this is a thing that actually happened:
In elementary school, he once caught a 10-pound bass using nothing more than a Spiderman fishing rod and a Lifesaver candy.
I wasn't born yesterday, Wyatt Shallman.
Goodbye, stupid o'clock bowl. The Big Ten has (likely) dumped the Insight.Chicken bowl in Arizona, not that Michigan ever showed up in it since any vaguely bowl-eligible Michigan program got snapped up as soon as the Big Ten bylaws allowed it and they were too far down the pecking order. I mean, that 7-5 outfit a couple of years ago got snapped up by the Outback.
For people looking for more variety in their bowl destinations, it's still grimly central Florida in the consolation prize area:
The Gator Bowl and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl previously had rotated the No. 3 Big Ten selection after the Rose Bowl. The Holiday Bowl is expected to get the No. 3 Big Ten pick, after Capital One and Outback. The next Big Ten team could go to the Gator Bowl or Music City Bowl, depending on the year.
They've only managed to insert the Holiday in there and lessen the big ten presence in the Gator Bowl. Meh. The Pinstripe and Please Change The Name Of The Bowl In San Francisco are likely to be added, but again so far down the pecking order that it's unlikely Michigan is around when those bowls are picking. Also slightly alleviating the central Florida malaise is the Orange Bowl, which will get a Big Ten team at least three times over the next twelve years. In those years the ACC will send a team to the Citrus. Miami, while inconvenient to get to, is essentially its own insane tinpot country that is at least interesting.
More helpful than the bowl switch up is the Big Ten taking back some of their autonomy as far as who goes where:
"We'll probably be somewhere in between (a bowl committee) selection and a conference placement," Delany said after the league's athletic director meetings in Chicago. "So what we'll do is give a lot of conditions to each bowl, and they will have to get conference approval for the selection that they choose.
"The goal is going to be that we keep these games fresh and also that the bowls create the best possible lineup. I think there's been some fatigue."
So if fanbase X that's been to central Florida six straight years ends up in a big pile of approximately equal teams they'd probably ship 'em to the Holiday or Music City.
Also in annoying things, the Holiday will feature the #2 Pac-12 team against the #3 Big Ten team. The Big Ten has a couple extra teams, yeah, but with the road-ish nature of that game that should be an even 2-for-2 or 3-for-3 if it's going to be even in the long run. The Big Ten doesn't help perception of itself much when its quest for maximum dollars continually puts them at a disadvantage in bowl matchups.
Weird thing I just thought of in relation to all this: if we do get a Ten Year War II going on the Rose Bowl is going to be the consolation prize for the loser of The Game. Ew.
Are we dumping the only incompetent Germans? This is admittedly a bit of a stretch that Drake Harris would be the one guy who knows what Michigan's plans are in re: their apparel contract, but he's tweeted out "when we got back to Nike, I hope we get [appalling uniforms that prove seventeen year olds are blind and/or insane]" and responded to a guy asking him about it that he thinks it'll go down in two more years. That's not accurate according to Angelique Chengelis, though the door is going to be open:
Brandon on WTKA says 3.5 years left on Adidas contact. Will honor contract. And then....negotiations begin
It is possible that they're telling recruits they plan to switch in an effort to assure them they won't end up having to play skins in a critical conference game. There are many, many reasons to do this, from Adidas's uniformly (ha!) appalling alternates to the labor kerfuffle to the fact that the only incompetent Germans can't supply Michigan with non-tearaway uniforms or replacements for the tearaway ones.
Well, yeah. Brandon says the 2014 Penn State game will likely be at night:
"That's a good hunch," Brandon said when asked the likelihood of a Michigan-Penn State night game at Michigan Stadium. "I would expect that Penn State game would be a terrific game in early October to have as a night game against a Big Ten opponent."
…because the other three are Maryland, Indiana, and Minnesota. Dave sounds a little defensive, must be getting a lot of heat for the Worst Home Schedule Ever. At least he acknowledges it's a problem:
"Football can be pretty boring in September if you've got all your teams playing down to competition," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said. "It's boring for the fans at the stadium and it's boring on television. We don't want to be boring, so we want to strengthen the schedule."
Also in October and November when you're playing Rutgers and Maryland every week. My mind is still struggling to interpret those as football games instead of extra byes.
Chrome it up! Death comes for us all. YOLO. Synergy. Brandon:
Michigan ended last season by making a rare alteration to its winged helmet, adding a matte finish for the Outback Bowl. That theoretically could open the door for more changes, including a chrome helmet, which many teams already employ for their alternate looks.
The idea surely would ruffle feathers in some corners of the fan base. But Michigan has also shown a willingness to push the envelop during the Brandon era.
So, would he do it?
Brandon said he is reluctant to alter the helmet so drastically -- but added, "never say never."
He cites "some polling done," which… I mean it's already locked in your brain or it's not. Also he calls college football "the platform" at some point. I hope MBA programs know they're killing the language.
/buys even more Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork stock.
I'm with Dave here though. The MSA president, still as useless as ever:
"The students are upset to say the least, they feel that the athletic department broke its long-held social contract with the students," said Michael Proppe, Central Student Government president for the 2013-14 academic year.
Oh I see they've changed the name to something more evocative of Stalin to emphasize their extreme lack of power. Anyway. Ahem.
YOU broke the "long-held social contract," Michael Proppe, by not showing up. You and lots of other people. The deal was: you get cheap tickets, show up, and be loud. You have altered the deal. Pray Dave Brandon doesn't alter it any further.
Etc.: Oh goody: "dead is a strong word" for expansion. Big Ten ADs want seven wins to be the minimum for bowl eligibility. Rutgers' new AD was on the wrong end of a lawsuit about discriminating against pregnant women. Kicker: is a woman.
It is Signing Day 2013, and if you weren't aware, Michigan has a pretty, pretty good class. With this post—and its accompanying defense post (coming tomorrow)—I'll attempt to give you a solid overview of the class, its strengths and weaknesses, and hand out a few superlatives. Let's start with a look at the offensive class as a whole and their final rankings from the recruiting services—click on each player's name to see their commitment post:
And now, some specifics:
BEST POSITION GROUP: Offensive Line.
This offensive line class is arguably the best in the country, finding strength both in numbers (six) and quality (five of the six are consensus four-stars or above and made All-American teams). As Michigan continues to fill in the holes left by some disastrous offensive line recruiting under Rich Rodriguez, this couldn't have come at a better time.
Among the group, guard Kyle Bosch is the most likely to crack the two-deep early; he's on campus early and has college-ready size—Michigan lists him at 6'5", 311 lbs.—to go with a polished set of skills. He won't start right away (let's hope) but could factor in as a backup. Center Patrick Kugler—the son of longtime NFL OL coach and current UTEP head coach Sean Kugler—might be the best of the bunch, though. He'll hit campus as the most physically gifted Wolverine at the position, and while he shouldn't be forced to play right away, he should be a multi-year starter down the road.
Honorable Mention: Running Back, Quarterback.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: No elite receiver
Yes, this class lacks a blue-chip wideout. Csont'e York and Jaron Dukes are both big targets who can go up and get the ball, while Da'Mario Jones could be a playmaker in the slot, but none are can't-miss prospects. This issue is mitigated somewhat by Michigan's strong recruiting at tight end—get a couple playmakers there and the pressure comes off the receivers in the passing game—but you'd still like to see a top-flight guy on the outside.
Honorable Mention: The only other issue with the offensive side of the class is the lack of a second quarterback for depth purposes, something the coaches decided wasn't necessary. Otherwise, every need was filled.
MOST LIKELY TO START FROM DAY ONE: Derrick Green
Not only is Green the top-ranked recruit in the class, but he comes in at a position of great uncertainty and, as of late, middling production. He's got the body of an NFL running back as a high school senior and is a perfect fit for Al Borges's ideal offense. It's unknown whether Fitz Toussaint will be ready to start the season after his ugly leg injury and his production was lacking in 2012 anyway; Thomas Rawls failed to impress in his stead. Green's toughest competition for the bulk of the carries may even come from fellow 2013 commit DeVeon Smith, arguably the best back in the state of Ohio. Either way, expect a freshman (or two) to make a big impact in the backfield next season.
Honorable Mention: DeVeon Smith, Jake Butt
SUREST THING: Patrick Kugler
Covered in part above, Kugler is as close as you'll get to a can't-miss offensive line recruit. At 6'5", 280 lbs. before setting foot on campus, he's got better size than any Michigan center of recent vintage. His father spent nine years coaching offensive line in the NFL, and Patrick's film makes it apparent that he's absorbed a lot of his father's teaching—from a technical standpoint, he's very advanced for his age. He participated in the Under Armour AA Game and held up very well against some of the best defensive linemen in the country.
Kugler's only competition at center right now is Jack Miller, who's been groomed to take over the position for a couple years but was too undersized to see the field as a redshirt freshman in 2012. Miller should step in and start in 2013—it's unrealistic to expect Kugler to have enough command of the offense to make the O-line calls after a few weeks on campus—but it's going to be hard to keep Kugler off the field in 2014 and beyond.
Honorable Mention: Derrick Green, Kyle Bosch
BOOM OR BUST: Logan Tuley-Tillman
Offensive lineman Logan Tuley-Tillman has the prototypical left tackle frame at 6'7", 307 pounds. He's also a relative newcomer to the game of football and spent his high school days overpowering opponents with sheer size and strength—as a result, he's got a long way to go from a technical standpoint. At last summer's Sound Mind Sound Body camp, Tuley-Tillman and David Dawson both got extensive work in with Michigan OL coach Darrell Funk—Funk used Dawson as an example for how to execute certain technical aspects of line play, then spent a good deal of time trying to get Tuley-Tillman to that level.
If Tuley-Tillman can put it all together, he's the future at left tackle and could even develop into an NFL prospect. With so much ground to cover, however, he could also get buried on the depth chart by more polished players. It should help that Tuley-Tillman is already on campus—with a redshirt year all but guaranteed, he'll have plenty of time to work on the fundamentals before worrying about seeing the field.
Honorable Mention: Shane Morris, Chris Fox
MGOSCOUTED STAMP OF APPROVAL: Jake Butt
Among the players I checked out last fall—on offense: Morris, Shallman, York, Dawson, Butt, and Hill—tight end Jake Butt really stood out with his performance on the field. Playing against cross-town rival Pickerington Central—featuring fellow Wolverine Taco Charlton—he hauled in nine catches for 93 yards and a TD while also making an impact at defensive end. Some of my impressions from that game:
Butt did a great job of snatching the ball away from his body and caught everything thrown his way. While he could be a little sharper out of his breaks, he runs crisp routes and positions his body well to give his quarterback a big target while warding off the defender. He was able to find space up the seam on multiple occasions but was also comfortable working on the perimeter, at one point catching back-to-back out routes when Central cheated to the inside in coverage. He's not going to juke past too many defenders after the catch, but he usually finds a way to fall forward for extra yardage.
At 6'6", 235 lbs., Butt has an ideal frame for the position, and his blocking really impressed me as well. He's another early enrollee, and I'd be surprised if he took a redshirt—he may not start from day one, but he's a better blocker than Devin Funchess and could give Michigan a scary one-two combo at tight end/H-back.
Honorable Mention: David Dawson, Shane Morris
THE SHANE MORRIS CATEGORY: Shane Morris
An overview of Michigan's 2013 class is incomplete without mentioning the team's quarterback of the future. Morris dropped from five-star status on Rivals and 247 after a senior season marred by mono and an uneven performance at the Under Armour AA Game, but he still has the highest ceiling of any of Michigan's commits.
The first thing that stands out about Morris is his arm strength—the ball explodes out of his hand with seemingly little effort. When he's on, it's a sight to behold. The problem—and ultimately why he dropped in the rankings—is that he's yet to show consistency; he still needs work reading defenses and relies too heavily on his arm strength to fit the ball into windows that sometimes aren't there.
Those expecting Morris to come in and take the starting job need to temper their expectations severely—the job is Devin Gardner's, and barring injury it'll stay that way. Morris could very well come in and earn the backup job over Russell Bellomy, however, and with a couple years of development he could be special.
Honorable Mention: Shane Morris
SLEEPER: Da'Mario Jones
Michigan snatched WR Da'Mario Jones, a Westland John Glenn product, away from Central Michigan, so he certainly flew under the radar for the bulk of the recruiting cycle. That may have been the product of playing in a league that doesn't get much exposure, however—Allen Trieu reported($) that UCLA, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, and Georgia all came to see him last week, though no offers came when he made it clear he was ticketed for Ann Arbor.
While the other two receivers in the class, Csont'e York and Jaron Dukes, are big guys who were on the receiving end of a lot of jump balls in high school, Jones is a guy who's shown his ability to work underneath and break big plays after the catch. With Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon back in 2013, he may not see the field right away, but down the road there's a clear role he can fill in the slot—a position that, granted, may be marginalized by the increased emphasis on tight ends—and nobody else on the roster who fits that mold after next season.
Honorable Mention: Wyatt Shallman, Khalid Hill
Today's recruiting roundup surveys the landscape as several coaches are fired and the rest prepare for in-home visits, recaps Michigan commits in their state playoffs, and more.
One Final Note From The Game
Massillon Washington DB/WR Gareon Conley was in Columbus for #THEGAME today, we are being told
— 11W Recruiting (@11WRecruiting) November 25, 2012
There's no official word on Conley's status, but don't expect him to be considered a commit for much longer. The question of whether or not he could find himself back in the class eventually is more difficult to answer; his situation isn't the same as David Dawson's or Pharaoh Brown's—Conley was up-front with the coaches about his desire to take visits. We'll have to wait and see if the coaches decide to treat his case differently.
And Now Let's Never Talk About The Game Again
In-home visits with recruits begin this week, and some very interesting names have emerged as players who will host Michigan coaches, including one we haven't seen in a while:
How bout this for blast from the past? Hearing #Michigan will drop in on Joliet (IL) RB Ty Isaac this week
— Sam Webb (@SamWebb77) November 26, 2012
Yes, that Ty Isaac, one-time top running back target and current USC commit. While there's no indication that he's wavering on his commitment, Lane Kiffin's job security has come under fire—especially in the wake of a derp-tacular finish to the Notre Dame game—and it's worth noting that recruits must approve of a visit before a coach can drop by; Isaac is at least willing to listen to Michigan's latest pitch.
Does that mean anything in regards to VA RB Derrick Green? I doubt it. Green's other presumed top choices, Auburn and Tennessee, have now both fired their head coaches—in Auburn's case, they just cleaned out the entire staff. That leaves Oregon, Miami, and Ole Miss as Michigan's top competition. Oregon doesn't fit Green's stated desire to play in a pro-style offense and Miami has the Nevin Shapiro cloud looming over their program. It's possible Green chooses Ole Miss out of a desire to play in the South, but that's a major step down in program quality compared to Michigan.
[For more planned in-home visits, a wrapup of last weekend's playoff action, and more, hit THE JUMP.]