Austin Panter, Linebacker Guy
This happened over the weekend. I was, uh, busy with something else.
Michigan commitment #17 is an unusual one: JUCO linebacker Austin Panter. Michigan hasn't taken a JUCO since the days of Russell Shaw in 1997. The reason usually cited is that it's hard to get dodgy JUCO grades to transfer, but Panter maintains a 3.8 GPA at Butler County CC and originally decided on junior college not because of academic concerns but in an effort to get more exposure. His Iowa high school was tiny, playing eight-on-eight, and he had little opportunity to earn a scholarship at a major school thre.
There's little out there on Panter, but he does seem like a good prospect. He's Rivals #17 JUCO, a four-star with good measurables ("4.5" forty, as per usual, 6'3", 220). He was the defensive MVP of his league. Arkansas and Minnesota were the first schools on him, which doesn't sound particularly appealing, but JUCO recruiting is a weird world I don't have a handle on. His school doesn't allow recruiting until after the season, so there seemed to be a fairly quick transition: Panter finishes season, gets interest from a couple BCS programs and then Michigan swoops in. An early enrollee, he'll come in at middle linebacker and compete for a starting job with redshirt junior Johnny Thompson.
How does this affect the 2007 class? Not much. Panter comes in with two years of eligibility. He could take a redshirt year if he needs or wants to, but that would defeat the whole purpose of scrambling for a JUCO linebacker. By the time anyone who comes in as a freshman is ready to play, Panter will be gone. Consider this a linebacker back-dated to the 2004 class.
What does this imply about next year's linebackers? There's little upperclass depth and potentially some questions about Johnny Thompson. Beyond next year's projected starters (Graham-Thompson-Crable), Michigan has junior Brandon Logan and three redshirt freshmen... and that's it. Brandon Graham ending up on the line as soon as he showed up radically changed the linebacking outlook, as he was by far the surest thing in last year's class and the most physically ready to play. Panter will help bridge the gap between this year's crew and the Mixon-Patilla-Ezeh-Whoever We Get This Year generation.