“I’m way more comfortable,” Gardner said. “Last year was my first year starting, and it was rough, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity. A lot of adversity I fought through, and I feel like I did a really good job of never giving up, never giving up on myself and my teammates. I feel my teammates recognized that, and my coaches recognized that, and I feel like that will help me.”
Blake Bars takes the title for greatest discrepancy between recruiting rankings and offer list in the class. One of the four sites thought he warranted four stars; Michigan, LSU, Florida, and a pre-crater Penn State thought he warranted an offer. That's weird. It's less weird because Bars is an offensive lineman with a golden bloodline, but it's still a little weird. What did Les Miles and Will Muschamp see in the guy that the recruiting sites mostly didn't? No idea. Why would in-state Tennessee ignore the guy? No idea. These things happen from time to time, I guess.
Compounding the confusion is a lack of scouting out there. In comparison to a guy like Magnuson—who hit every camp he possibly could and had me deleting thousands of words of scouting reports just because they were repetitive—Bars was a recluse. He didn't appear to hit any camps at all and he even turned down the Army game($) when they approached him late. (He'd already scheduled an in-home with Michigan coaches that day, FWIW.) His low profile most places didn't help: he didn't warrant one of those Scout breakdowns that go on their player pages, and Rivals didn't report on him in their "From The Road" segments. So there's not a ton out there.
What is out there is what you'd expect for a guy with Bars's rankings. ESPN's evaluation reads positive for most of it before dropping the "too small" item:
…although we don't see overwhelming playing strength, this prospect consistently gets movement as a result of his blocking base and good leg drive. Does a good job handling quickness and is a very effective as a down and double team blocker. … We see the athleticism to reach and gain leverage on shaded defenders showing the quickness necessary to consistently get a hat on active 1st and 2nd level defenders. Although we see the need for refinement in all areas of pass protection this guy possesses the long arms and nimble feet which should be assets… Bars doesn't appear to be an early starter at the major level of competition however his athleticism is a real positive. Once body mass is added to his frame he should have a long and productive career.
That makes Bars sound like a guy Rich Rodriguez would have chased all over the country to play guard, except he's already 290 pounds.
…not as tall as some of the other UM commits and could possibly end up on the interior, or with lack of depth at center at UM he could find a home there. He shows excellent balance, punch in his blocking, and the athleticism in run blocking. He plays with excellent knee-bend and keeps his pads low because he understands his position and trench war execution. … plays with that nasty streak that you like to see.
Darryl Funk told reporters on Signing Day that they didn't see anyone in the class as a center, but if they're going to change their mind on that it will be Bars who does it. He's got the intelligence—football family, Vandy, BC, Virginia offers to go with M—and Michigan's center is going to be 6'5" once the Hoke generation of lineman ascends into the starting lineup. Any leverage issues you might bring forward would be shared with his competitors. It's a viable plan B or C.
His toity prep school brought NFL lineman Kevin Mawae around to help coach linemen, and Rivals talked to him about Bars's strengths and weaknesses. Mawae started off by implying he was a bit of a project($)…
"He's going to have to work on his pass blocking technique. It's easy to beat guys when you're 6-6, 280 or whatever … the higher level you go, the more technique's going to be a bigger issue as far as pass protection and stuff like that. All in all, Blake did okay this year, but I thought he could have been even better. He relied a lot on size as opposed to just learning and understanding the technique, which is probably indicative of a lot of high school kids."
..and called him "definitely an outside guy" at 6'5" or 6'6" unless you've got one of those toolsy 6'7" guys, in which case he would be a viable option on the inside. Left tackle is a stretch since he's "not as athletic as you'd want your left tackles to be"… from an NFL perspective. Touch The Banner returned with a similar assessment, and his head coach also projected a move to right tackle or inside($).
"He's extremely athletic for his size, with really good feet, and maybe the thing that goes unnoticed but I can tell you is he has flexibility - he bends really well for a kid that size."
The elusive "bend" is a priority for all linemen as it allows them to get pad level, and pad level is the most important thing ever. When you don't have bend, you are "stiff" and transfer to Western Michigan after a year like Dann O'Neill (and then carve out a pretty good career for yourself anyway). Funk likes the bend of the class as a whole.
Aaand the final piece of Bars scouting is the proverbial mean streak. Barton Simmons($):
What stands out as much as anything when watching Bars is his tenacity. He likes to get after, he plays until the whistle blows, and he looks complete each block. He plays with that nasty streak that you like to see in offensive linemen. He has the frame you like as well.
This also makes a move to guard more likely, as they get to deploy the proverbial mean streak more liberally in the run game than tackles. If it matters that much. I mean… these "mean streak" assessments are about blocking a guy even more after you've already blocked him. Blocking him first seems to be 95% of offensive linesmanship, but everyone focuses on the proverbial mean streak. It's a meme and therefore unkillable. I wonder if Funk gives two dangs about it.
We've come to the time on Sprockets were we evaluated the guardiness of the offensive lineman, and Bars is guardy. The evaluations call him a tackle, the recruiting services rank him at tackle, but by virtue of not being 6'7" and not being a universal blue chip, Bars is more likely to slide inside than either of the OL previously covered in this series.
"Michigan wants me to play left tackle," said Bars. "That’s where they said they’d start me out at and go from there. I’m willing to play wherever on the line for a chance to get in."
…and there's no doubt Michigan will evaluate everyone they brought in for that spot. Chances are someone else is a better fit and Bars will be placed in the guard repechage.
Etc.: Empty. This used to happen a lot when these reports focused on guys like DJ Williamson. Not so much now. The googling, oh the googling.
Why Patrick Omameh? Omameh was initially supposed to be a tackle prospect before being moved inside, whereupon he was a second-level-reaching Te'o destroyer before the power-blocking Hoke revamp made him a fish out of water. He got better towards the end of last year and enters his senior year at around 305, still ready to be mobile at you.
Omameh came in with less recruiting hype but a much more plausible claim to being a sleeper after a late growth spurt took him from Big East TE recruit to Big Ten OL recruit. Bars is bigger coming in.
Guru Reliability: Low. OL, no camps, offers defy ranking.
Variance: Medium. Character related issues seem a very remote possibility and he's pretty close to playing weight already. Still needs to develop. Is OL.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. Athletic, good frame, seems like he could be a high quality guard playing at 310. Probably doesn't have the sheer length to be an elite tackle.
General Excitement Level:. Moderate-plus. The least hyped of the OL but he has great bloodlines and offers and despite the ratings the scouting reports are pretty good.
Projection: Redshirt. Then… whoah, has a very good shot at starting as a redshirt freshman. Even if you assume Kyle Kalis grabs one of the interior spots, Omameh, Mealer, and Barnum will be gone, leaving Jack Miller and Chris Bryant as the only other experienced scholarship interior linemen on the team.
Now that you're done shaking your fist at Rodriguez's one-man OL class from a few years back, Bars just has to be a better idea than one of those two guys to start in 2013. That's a 50-50 shot, more if Bryant doesn't lose enough weight to be effective. If he does grab that spot he'll have heat from behind as he tries to hold it; still, four years starting is not a remote possibility at all. Year one and two might be a little shaky.
But we NEEDED a million DBs because Tony Gibson could only screw up so many. Also I'd like to point out that our depth might have worked despite only taking 1 OL in 2010 if we'd taken more than 2 in 2011 (one of whom was Tony Posada). Even if we'd gotten Jake Fischer that's still only 4 over 2 classes. And Hoke does share slightly in the blame here despite his attenuated position. We pulled in 10 commits after Hoke was hired, and only one of them was an OL.
Coaching changes often (but not always) lead to a bad year in recruiting. I'm willing to write that one off as a transition period - i.e. no one's fault. We certainly recovered by the time the 2012 class came around.
This lack of upperclass OL next year has been my personal elephant in the room for sure. I certainly don't fault Hoke for only reeling in one more OL at the tail end of 2011 recruiting for reasons already mentioned, but knowing the crater in OL depth he was left with I would have loved to come out with 5-6 in the 2012 class for this reason.
Now, let's assume Lewan returns (and don't subject yourself to considering scenarios where he doesn't), would the coaches think about moving one of schofield, Braden, or Mags to the interior? it would probably be a more ideal scenario if one of them could hack it, as the remaining unproven/less hyped options would be competing for one spot instead of two.
My understanding of the metaphor, "Elephant in the Room" matches this from wikipedia,
"Elephant in the room" is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.
When has this discussion not happened? This topic and blaming it on one coach or another seems to fit more with the "beat a dead horse" metaphor.
I guess it could just be the shock that Hoke has recruited both blue chip OL and same very good but not blue chip OL in the same class. Consider the "crazy" amount of SDE/Three Tech people he recruited and the recent season ending injury to Wormley.
Yes, recruiting classes are different when the coach is clearly supported by the university, does not have a cloud of NCAA violations handing over him, and wins 11 out of 13 games a season. It's going to take a while to get used to this.
For myself I'm already over at the next dead horse ready for beating. Hoke's clear oversigning tactics, trying to cram 25 players into 22 spots, tsk tsk tsk.
Maybe, but maybe he didn't think they could hack it at Michigan. He stole Tamani Carter, Antonio Poole, and Russell Bellomy from lesser programs. Obviously, it's too early to judge how those recruitments will pan out (even Carter might go elsewhere and turn into a solid player), but none of those guys have stepped on the field yet. I'm not sure that Former MAC Recruit X is any better as a redshirt freshman than Kyle Kalis or Erik Magnuson as a true freshman.
All I'm saying is, if we're laying out blame, should we blame the guy who took 1 guy in 2010 (Christian Pace) or the guy who had about three weeks and was still able to add one commit to the OL crew (Chris Bryant) to get three total in 2011? Teams don't take just one OL in a full class. It just doesn't happen...unless you're Rich Rodriguez.
But hey, at least he got DJ Williamson and Conelius Jones and Antonio Kinard and Davion Rogers and Austin White and Demar Dorsey that year...
It does make for an interesting perfect storm. It's been popular to yell OMG ATTRITION!! but there's a combo of that, questionable position/numbers recruitment that you can only go "huh" to, and the talent level that of some that still seems like more sleeper chances than you need to take at a school like Michigan. There's certainly enough front line talent to go say, 11-2, but depth (and depth of talent) is some areas makes one wonder. But it'll get better.
I know this has been teased or talked about briefly before, but could someone help me make sense of the left/right tackle situation with a left-handed quarterback? Do teams with lefty QBs tend to move the lineman who would be their left tackle to the right (and vice versa) to protect his blind side?
(As a side note, this could have interesting consequences for an NFL team looking to maximize its bang for the buck. If you don't have to pay top dollar for a left tackle in order to protect your QB's blind side, you'd have more money to spread around the rest of the roster.)
Yes, the proverbial left tackle would likely become the right tackle if Morris were the full-time QB. You wouldn't want to flip those guys in a game or even mid-season, but that could be an offseason change if the coaches think Morris is going to be "The Guy."
Not necessarily, but play action rollouts and such are going to be more comfortable/successful going the other way. Straight dropbacks wouldn't necessarily be affected. You may also see more runs to the QB's left to set up those play action passes, too.
Also, if Magnuson or Braden are substantially better they'll probably play, guard/tackle distinctions be damned. Schofield was thought to be the tackliest possible tackle coming out of high school and the coaches didn't hesitate to put him inside last year.
I know you acknowledge this with the guru reliability
But it does show one of the dangers of the recruiting services: They really rank on who they see, not on how good a player is. If they're not going to a lot of camps and doing the the services work for them, they're kinda left out. Means nothing to any individual assessement, like Bars, but another reason to take these things as a guide, not the Bible.
I liked how you gave a nod to O'Neil. I don't know if we could use him right now or not, but in any regards it's nice to see him make something out of his situation, no matter how ill advised it might have been.
And I know anything not easily quantifiable gets the stink eye around here, but I think mean has more to do with just attitude (which is a factor on how a guy will respond to things, but not necessarily telling), but cumulative effect of playing like that. Yes, it's taking your blocks to the whistle. But it's also taking the guy to the ground, and landing 300 lbs on him. And not just getting in his way, but hitting him harder than he hits you. On one play is there any difference between standing in the way of a guy till your runner goes past or pushing him out of bounds? No, not really. But over the course of a game these guys aren't video game rankings. They're people. They get tired. They get hurt/sore. And if you're getting beat up for 2-3 quarters, sometimes they wear out or give up. And at that point you can pull a Wisconsin and not throw a pass for practically a half and still march down and score.
Great! You found an example from a decade ago to prove your point...
I'm sort of kidding, but there's a reason that traditions/stereotypes exist. A 6'2" tackle and a 6'8" guard are not the norm. Schofield played guard, but the options were somewhat limited once Barnum went down. It was Mealer (who has yet to win any job), Bryant (a true freshman), Khoury (whom the coaches didn't seem to like), or a walk-on. Ideally, there will be a viable backup guard within a year or two once the numbers get back up to par with where they should be.
I think it's also more rare that guard types move outside to tackle than it is for tackles to become guards. Usually guards play guard for a reason (they lack the lateral foot speed and/or have shorter wingspans) and can't get the big paydays that tackles get. Conversely, tackles are often taller, but their foot speed is adequate for guard and their longer arms don't hurt them if they move inside.
Bars is a tweener and could play several spots on the line, so it might be a shot in the dark to guess where he plays...but a lot of guys have an ideal position.