and... i like them? I think I like them.
2013 will be remembered as "The Season of Infinite Pain" for me, and for many others, I suspect. High expectations have a way of making even good seasons frustrating; 2013 has been well-below "good." Not only did we fail to compete for a B1G Championship, we had our expectations boosted after a magical performance against Notre Dame, only to be crushed by consecutive weeks of struggling to beat two of the worst programs in college football.
I was going to wait until after the bowl game to write this diary, but this lull is killing me and let's face it--the BWW Bowl isn't going to change much.
This series is something of a follow-up to my diary re-ranking players based on Rivals ratings. Reading the beginning of that diary will help explain the player's rankings (as well as the Rivals ranking system). Additionally, I've added letter grades, which are explained more thoroughly at the end of the post, so that we can get down to business with the first position group in the series:
Season Grade: C+ Overall, it was a less-than-stellar year on the defensive front. My pre-season predictions said the fate of our season rested on the offensive and defensive lines, and I believe that turned out to be the case. The D-Line produced just 13.5 sacks, and only one player on the line had more than 2.5. The "right to rush four" was never earned, and the season suffered because of it.
That said, there were some positive signs. Frank Clark showed marked improvement, and Willie Henry emerged as a viable option to replace either QWash or Black in 2014. Wormley started to emerge in limited snaps, and other young guns like Ojemudia and Charlton showed flashes.
Big things were expected of Frank Clark in 2013
Season Grade: B+ To say Frank Clark made a big jump this year would be an understatement: he had 17 more tackles, 3.5 more TFLs, and 3.0 more sacks than in 2012. More importantly, he played much more consistently and held down his job as the WDE all season. He led the team in TFLs by a whopping 5.0, and many of those came against some strong opposition (2.5 vs. Iowa, 2.5 vs. MSU).
That said, the off-season hype and reports of him besting Taylor Lewan in practice pushed expectations to a probably unreasonable level, and he did not come through. I predicted that we would need at least eight sacks from Frank Clark if our defense was going to get the requisite amount of pressure on opposing passers to make 2013 a successful (B1G Champs) season. Not only did he fall far short of that number, his five sacks all came in three games: UConn, Penn State, and Indiana. In hindsight, we sure needed those sacks against UConn and PSU, but they weren't enough to win the game. His pass-rushing was pretty quiet--even though he deserved a few more QBH's, he only finished the season with seven (which led the team), and had just three in B1G play.
2014 outlook: It says here (again) that without significant production from Frank Clark (or a surprise at WDE), the whole 2014 team's ceiling is limited. It is vital for every 4-3 team to be able to produce consistent pressure from their front four, and the WDE is the guy with the best opportunities in our system. If Clark can't get to eight sacks in '14, we'll once again find ourselves in the middle-of-the-pack (#67 nationally in 2013 with 23.0 total) in sacks. That is not a good place to be.
Jibreel Black will be missed
Season Grade: B Jibreel Black is the kind of player you like more every time you see him play. I believe he was our most consistent performer on the line this year, even plugging-in at NT despite his 278 lb. frame. Black, by far, produced the most pressure from the interior of the line, and probably produced the most consistent pass-rush of anyone on the team.
Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough. He was tied for second (Cam Gordon) on the team with 7.5 TFLs and third (Chris Wormley) with 2.5 sacks. On the defensive line, only Clark and Willie Henry had more tackles. Yes, he was a productive player, but this needs to be the baseline for DTs if we are going to achieve our potential as an elite program. For Jibreel Black, I see a guy who maxed his potential and deserves to be remembered for his worthy contribution. But I also see a guy who stood out more than he should have because of pretty poor production by the D-Line as a unit.
NFL draft outlook: Black is a fringe prospect, IMO, with a minimal chance of being a FA pick-up.
Quinton Washington's 2013 was a bit of a mystery
Season Grade: C+ I call shenanigans. QWash finished the 2012 season strong--he had ten tackles in our last three games and a sack in the Outback Bowl--and appeared poised to be one of the team's most important pieces in 2013. While no confirmed injuries were reported that I am aware of, I believe there were some physcial issues that held him back this year. But that's just speculation.
What is certain is that his season was just mediocre. We needed him to eat blocks and make a few plays each game; he didn't do enough of either, registered zero TFLs on the season and just five solo stops. Expectations probably hovered around 35 tackles, 8.0 TFLs, and 3.0 sacks; he was far short of all of those marks. Sure, part of it was that we frequently had smaller DL packages out there, but if QWash had been playing up to his potential, I don't think Mattison would have kept him on the sideline. He was serviceable while he was in, but that's about the best I can say.
NFL draft outlook: Not happening. He appeared poised to be a late-round pick after last year, but a completely lackluster senior season seems to have erased that possibility.
It's remarkable that we never established a starter at SDE. Keith Heitzman was the presumed and nominal guy, but only started seven times and didn't even play in one of our games. Brennen Beyer is currently listed as the starter at SDE, and he spent most of the season playing SLB with his 250 lb. frame. It is not good that he is our best option at that position. Chris Wormely showed signs that he can play up to his lofty potential, but did not produce consistently. Matt Godin was sometimes on the field.
Willie Henry figures to start at either DT or NT in 2014. Despite playing in only nine games (and missing stat-boosters CMU and Akron) and starting just five, Henry racked-up 28 tackles and 2.5 TFLs. 13 of those tackles came in the final three games. QWash's 2013 fade gives me pause, but I will go ahead and predict a big 2014 for Henry anyway, in the 40 tackle range with about 10 TFLs. Tom Strobel (whom I wrongly predicted would have a breakout 2013) will also figure into the rotation here, and perhaps Henry Poggi and Maurice Hurst.
Beyer is the presumed starter at SDE, and, as Brian says, will likely fulfill his Roh 2.0 destiny. He will add 20-30 lbs. in the off-seasn and be solid but not spectacular, just as he has been this year. He will be reviewed again in the LB wrap-up.
Ondre Pipkins will probably be our starting NT if he can get healthy; that is a big "if" for a 300-plus pounder who's had trouble staying in shape when his legs worked properly. If it's not him, please feel free to panic as Richard Ash is currently listed as the #2 option at NT. After that? Ryan Glasgow is the only other guy with the requisite size (and the aforementioned Henry, which requires plugging someone else in at DT) to play the position. Perhaps Hurst will become a NT; Bryan Mone will be a true freshman and is likely to get some snaps.
Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton represent what I believe to be the most talented group of back-ups on the roster, and I expect both to contribute. Charlton may very well be big enough to play SDE and even DT on passing downs, and I hope we find a combination of players that can get pressure on third down without blitzing, which may put Ojemudia at the SDE.
The line will lose its interior starters in Qwash and Black, but both are replaceable. Henry is likely to be an upgrade at either position, and in the other spot...well, we may miss Jibreel Black if someone doesn't step-up. At SDE, I expect Beyer to be an upgrade over the platoon this year. Even if he's not, I'd expect Wormley to be an upgrade.
To be an elite defensive front, we need our line to produce around 20 sacks. That's 50% more than this year's group could manage. While I believe Clark will take another step forward, Beyer will be solid, and I am excited about the future for Henry and Wormley, 2015 is when Hoke's recruiting will have the D-Line up to snuff. I expect a "B/B-" season in 2014...quite a bit better than this year, but not yet elite.
- A+ Consensus All-American. One of the best players in the country regardless of position.
- A Likely Second-tem All-American/First-team All-B1G. A hugely impactful player that affects every snap for which he is on the field and is one of the better players at his position in the country.
- A- Likely All-B1G selection. A play-maker that forces other teams to adjust their gameplan.
- B+ An impact player who is a big factor in the team's success.
- B "The expectation for the position." At Michigan, this means you are doing your job well enough to get us to at least 10 wins and to challege for the B1G title.
- B- Not quite up to par. A player who may start, but an upgrade would be helpful.
- C+ Significant snaps for a C+ player will hold the team back from achieving its goals: 10 wins and a B1G championship.
- C An average college football player on an average team. Picture an average starter at Washington State.
- C- A player that is consistently unproductive and should only be on the field in an emergency situation or for garbage time.
- D+ A player whose performance hurts the team.
- D A player that should not be on the field for any reason at Michigan.
- F Pure disaster.
Please note that these grades are NOT representative of what I believe to be a player's future potential. I am not assuming anyone with a low grade will turn out to be an unproductive player at Michigan.
I recently watched the senior year highlight films of some of the incoming recruits. There were a number that exceeded my expectations relative to what I'd seen in their junior year highlight films and following the board comments for a year.
I was very impressed with the ability of both Funchess (reminds me of Shannon Sharpe) and Chesson's ability to make people miss after the catch, and Chesson looked fast on the field to go along with his track exploits.
I know I shouldn't be surprised by Kyle Kalis' ability, but I can't imagine an OL looking more college ready than Kyle Kalis. I expect he'll be the first non-center lineman off the bench in the fall.
I was also positively impressed by Mario Ojemudia. I expected him to look awesome but lacking in size. He looked awesome, but didn't look small to me. Given Beyer and Clark, he likely still redshirts, but I expect him to be a star down the road.
I was very impressed by Terry Richardson and Royce Jenkins-Stone. They look like awesome athletes who will grow into dominant players down the line.
A heads-up to anyone who is in the Ann Arbor area and wants to check out a lot of 2012 commits at once:
Farmington Hills Harrison takes on Cass Tech tonight at 8pm at Eastern Michigan University's Rynearson Stadium. Notable players include:
Farmington Hills Harrison: Mario Ojemudia (UM), Devin Funchess (UM), Aaron Burbridge (MSU, consensus 4*)
Cass Tech: Royce Jenkins-Stone (UM), Terry Richardson (UM), Laron Taylor (Iowa, 2* rivals, 3* scout, 3* 247sports), Ruben Lile (uncommitted, consensus 3*)
It should be a good game, as Cass Tech was unbeaten until it lost to Lake Orion last year in the Division 1 semifinals, while Harrison is the defending Division 2 state champion following a 14-0 season.
Five (!) 2012 commits have been selected to the 51 player watch list for the 2011 high school Butkus Award. This is great for not only these athletes, but also their current teammates, and for UM Football. Past winners include Manti Te'o, Jordan Hicks, and Tony Steward. Free rivals article, with complete list, is linked.
Best wishes for great senior seasons!
The Kyle Kalis commitment was a huge deal for Michigan. With 19 commitments on board there's no reason to think they won't be sitting at 20-22 by the time the season starts. They're on a roll and that momentum should continue soon. Here's a look at what happened this week and what's happening in the future. As always you can follow me on Twitter @TomVH and send me any tips or questions at TomVH@MGoBlog.com.
6'3", 220 lbs.
Farmington Hills, Michigan
Mario was one of the five commitments in Oregon for the Nike event The Opening. He, along with the other attendees, got to work with some top NFL talent while there.
I didn't run the forty as good as I thought I could. We got to work with Ndamukong Suh though. He had a lot of stuff to tell us about technique. We were doing ball get offs and one on ones. I think I did pretty good.
He also got a chance to meet some of the other Michigan commitments and do a little recruiting.
I already knew Terry and James [Ross] but I met with Erik Magnuson and Anthony Standifer. We did some recruiting. We were recruiting Sheldon Day, Danny O'Brien, and anyone that we thought Michigan wanted. I didn't talk to Zach Banner, but I heard he was saying Michigan was in his top group.
As for what he was saying to try to recruit prospects to Michigan.
We were joking around mostly, but we were saying come to Michigan. Look what we're building, look where we're taking the program and all these commits we have.
This event seemed to be a positive all around for everyone involved. All the prospects have been raving about the experience.
6'6", 280 lbs.
Magnuson was also in Oregon, but was working on the opposite side of the ball as Mario. He also got a chance to work with some NFL talent.
We got to work with Russell Okung, the offensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks. It was cool because he's in the league but he's young enough to joke around with us. He's out there helping me and he wasn't acting too big. He was out there telling me what to do better. He talked to me about my hand placement with my punch on pass rushing. He said he liked my footwork and aggression too.
Erik was also in on the recruiting pitch with the other commitments.
It was cool to hang out with the other commitments, it was good to put a face to the name. We were all doing some recruiting. Josh Garnett is really liking Michigan a lot, and Zach Banner this is my second week in a row being with him. I'm still trying to get Isaac Seumalo.
I asked Erik the same question as Mario, what is he telling recruits as to why they should choose Michigan.
I just ask them if they want to win a National Championship. Someone said that Michigan has the number one or number two recruiting class. Look at what Coach Hoke did at San Diego State. Give me one good reason why he won't do that at Michigan. I know Coach Hoke more than anyone else and there's no reason to think he won't win at Michigan.
The other recruits were listening to the pitch, and as you already know Josh Garnett and Zach Banner are both planning official visits to Michigan.
6'2", 295 lbs.
The theme with The Opening continues as O'Brien was also at the event. As Mario mentioned the commitments were trying to convince Danny to jump on board. He spoke very highly of the event.
It was sick, they over did it with everything. They had everything for us, three barbers on hand to cut our hair, and we got to play NCAA Football 2012 which was sweet. Ndamukong Suh worked with the defensive line the whole time. During one on ones he'd pull you aside and critique you. He said that my pad level on pass rush needs to get lower and he was showing me different stances and moves.
He was obviously around the Michigan commitments and took in what they were saying.
I hung out with Terry [Richardson] and James [Ross] a lot. We hung out with them and Ron Thompson and Anthony Standifer too. They were just saying comments here and there, and talking about how many spots are left.
As for what's next for Danny, he plans on taking some more visits in the near future.
I'm going to come out with a top six here pretty soon, Michigan is definitely in there. The plan is still to take some official visits then decide. I'm going down south from the 17th of July to the 23rd. I'm going to Alabama, Florida, and Tennessee. If Godin is going to the BBQ [at Michigan on the 31st], then I'll be there too [Tom ED: Godin is going as you'll see below].
Danny is well aware of the defensive tackle situation and knows that Michigan wants Ondre Pipkins as well. We'll see how that situation plays out, but I still think there's a decent chance the coaches would take two defensive tackles if those two were Pipkins and O'Brien.
BBQ at the Big House
The BBQ at the Big House is still happening this year. It's taking place on July 31st. Still a lot of time until it happens but I've confirmed some names that will be there so far, and a few that are undecided.
Commit OL Caleb Stacey
Commit LB Joe Bolden
Commit LB Kaleb Ringer
Commit LB Royce Jenkins-Stone
Commit DB Terry Richardson
Commit LB James Ross
Commit DE Matt Godin
Commit DB Allen Gant
Commit TE Devin Funchess
Commit DE Tom Strobel
Commit OL Ben Braden
DT Danny O'Brien
2013 RB Wyatt Shallman
WR Jehu Chesson: He told me he believes he will be there.
2013 OL Steven Elmer: His father told me they will be at the BBQ. As I reported on Twitter earlier, he and his father were on campus on Monday the 10th. It wasn't a football related visit, just more to walk around campus and see things.
OL Kyle Kalis: Says he's not sure yet. I'd imagine he'd be there, but we'll see.
DT Ondre Pipkins: There's a chance, but he doesn't know yet
OL Jordan Diamond: They're not sure if they are yet, but there's a good chance they will be. His mom told me, "Any excuse to visit. We'd like to go."
RB Bri'onte Dunn: He was invited, but his father told me he doesn't know if they'll be going yet. It might help if new commitment Kyle Kalis is on hand as well. We'll see if he makes it up.
Speaking of Bri'onte Dunn. I also tweeted this, but for you non-tweeters, if Ohio State's self imposed sanctions stick with the NCAA then I'm not expecting him to leave Ohio State. However, if they get a two year bowl ban then I think that's too much for him and there's a good chance he would leave. Just something to keep an eye on. The OSU compliance meeting is in August, so we won't know what the official word is until then.
The offensive line situation now that Kyle Kalis is committed has stayed the same so far. The plan for now is to take one more lineman, as long as it is one of the elite prospects on their board. That's the plan for now, it could always change but it looks like that's what will stick.
The commitment of safety Jarrod Wilson was a win for the Michigan coaching staff. Greyshirt commitment Jeremy Clark told me that he is still 100% with Michigan despite the Wilson commitment. This sounds right since the coaches laid out the scenario to him pretty clear.
MaxPreps has moved Michigan ahead of Texas with the number one recruiting class in the country with the addition of Kalis and Wilson.
If you missed this, you can see some pretty cool videos from The Opening event.
As linked by TomVH's twitter, there are lots of good 1 on 1 drill videos that you can check out featuring many Michigan commits and prospects.
There's a run blocking 1 on 1, pass rush 1 on 1, RB vs LB, and WR vs DB.
The Michigan interest is mainly in the linemen drills, as we had no commits in the WR or RB video, and no targets with the exception of Dwayne Stanford.
In the linemen drills, however, Mario is small but impressive. He blows by Zach Banner at one point, who is about double his size. Aziz Shittu, Danny O'Brien, and Sheldon Day are other DL that were impressive in the drills. Joshua Garnett, Banner, and Erik Magnuson are the main targets on OL.
Just some fun videos to check out of some of the best high school players in the country