At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
Wyatt Shallman was the only in-state commit I hadn't had a chance to see so far this season, so last Friday I ventured back to Orchard Lake St. Mary's for a Catholic League tilt against his Detroit Catholic Central squad. Needing a victory to stay alive for a playoff berth, CC came away with a decisive 35-13 upset victory on the strength of their defense and a big rushing day from senior back Anthony Darkangelo.
Shallman, who's been nursing a hamstring injury that's kept him from playing on offense, spent the entire game at strongside defensive end. While St. Mary's ran almost entirely away from Shallman, he still managed to make an impact, recording two solo tackles, a pair of assists, and the pass breakup pictured above. 2014 defensive end Dylan Roney saw a lot more action from his weakside spot and acquitted himself well, recording eight tackles, including a couple impressive stops near the line of scrimmage. Here are some highlights of Shallman and Roney from Friday's game (apologies for the sometimes shaky camera-work; in order to get a good shot, I had to stand and go sans tripod):
Soundtrack: (Don't Be Comin' With No) Weak Sauce — Stanton Moore
[Hit THE JUMP for scouting reports on the defensive end duo plus an interview with Shallman.]
2013 DE Wyatt Shallman (Michigan commit): While Shallman is committed to Michigan as a running back, you'll read below that he hasn't ruled out a move to the defensive side of the ball if he's asked to do so. While I think, based on what I saw of him last year, that he's best-suited on offense, he's come a long way since last season as a defensive lineman. 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.
Shallman pursued plays nicely from the backside, recording two tackles by leaping onto the back of the ballcarrier; he did miss a tackle trying this method, and I'd like to see him try to keep his feet a little more, but he certainly showed off his athleticism.
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. While the St. Mary's quick passing game in conjunction with those cuts kept him from getting too much pressure on the quarterback, he adjusted by staying in the passing lane and getting his hands up; one such play resulted in him batting down a pass to the flat, and on another he stayed home and took down the quarterback when he attempted to scramble.
My only major criticism would be that Shallman did lose contain on a couple of pass plays, getting too far inside in his rush; he's enough of an athlete that he recovers well at the high school level, but he won't be able to get away with that as much if he's playing DE in college.
Overall, I thought this was a very strong performance for Shallman, indicative of the fact that he could make an impact on either side of the ball at the next level. At 250 pounds, he certainly has the size to play on the line, and his athleticism for his build is excellent. If he's asked to move to defense down the line, he should be capable of finding a spot in the rotation.
2014 DE Dylan Roney (unoffered prospect): Roney hasn't captured much attention yet as a 2014 prospect—in fact, the junior I expected to keep an eye on was OLSM WR/DB Jalen Watts-Jackson, who sat out the game with an injury—but he had a very productive game and showed a lot of improvement from last year. While Roney is still undersized, looking to be around 230-235 lbs. in my estimation, he's definitely put on weight and plays stronger than he did as a sophomore.
As St. Mary's usually attacked the weak side of the CC line, Roney was largely tasked with holding the point of attack, and he did so quite well; he stays very low off the snap and didn't get pushed off the line. Roney is a quick athlete and as such did an impressive job of chasing down plays on the edge and getting free from his blocker. He doesn't miss many tackles, either, wrapping up well when he hits the ballcarrier.
I was pleasantly surprised by Roney's game, and he might be a sleeper in the 2014 class. He doesn't hold any offers yet, but I expect that to change before long, and he could be an interesting prospect as a weakside DE if he continues to add bulk to his frame.
Interview With Wyatt Shallman
ACE: How is the season going for you? I know you're playing primarily on the defensive side of the ball; how is that going for you?
WYATT: You know, it's really fun, actually. I get to re-focus myself on defense since I haven't really played it this in-depth in a while. It's really just making me re-love the defensive side of the ball since it's been a while since I've played and I really enjoy it. I've been having a lot of fun. With regards to the season, everyone's having a lot of fun. We played a lot of tough teams early on and I think that helped with our game against St. Mary's because we really knew how to play against a tough team.
ACE: Talking about that game specifically, how would you assess your performance and what was it like to get a big win like that over a very good St. Mary's team?
WYATT: With regards to myself, I think I did very well. Like you said, they didn't run my way too much, but I expect them to next game since we have them again next week. There were a couple times where I was pass rushing and their quarterback got outside of me, and granted I turned and ran with him and he had to throw it away, but this week I'm going to definitely work on staying a little more separated from the blocker so I can turn and run and get that sack when he rolls out, because I was just getting pressures. I think I did pretty well, but there's definitely some stuff I can work on, and I'm excited to play them next week.
With regards to the win, it was really exciting. I was really happy for our team, we really needed that as a unit. I know we've had it in us the whole season, and like I said we've played some tough competition, so it was just good to go out there and do what we need to do—it was exciting.
ACE: I know you've been dealing with a hamstring injury. Where are you at with that right now and when do you expect to be at full strength?
WYATT: It's not even really that big of a deal. The coaches just want me to mainly play defense because that's where they've really needed me at, and they didn't really want me to get hurt. It's not really that big of a deal, just kind of keeping it in motion and that sort of thing. It's not really that I've been dealing with like it's an injury, it's more of a nuisance right now. I think I've been going pretty well and running down plays backside from my D-end position, standing up blockers and stuff, so I feel pretty good about it.
ACE: Do you think you'll possibly get some snaps on offense come playoff time, or is the plan to stick it out on defense the rest of the year?
WYATT: I'm definitely going to play a lot of defense the rest of the year, but once we get into the playoffs, yeah, I don't see why not unless we don't really need to. We've got a lot of great backs that are in my grade and we've got great backs that are in the grade below me, like Connor Holton and Zach Bock, they're both dynamic runners, and then in my grade David Houle and Anthony Darkangelo, so we've got a good stable of backs. It can only get better when I come in, but I've really got a lot of faith in those guys and they've shown they can carry the load very well, so I'm really proud of them and I'm not too worried about anything. I'm just worried about being a team player and getting the team where we need to be.
ACE: Talking about one of the other players on your squad, Dylan Roney seemed to have a very good game on Friday. How would you say he's developed this year and what do you see from him going forward?
WYATT: Dylan, first of all he's just a great football player. He really understands the game, he played as a sophomore at CC, which is quite the accomplishment because we play some good teams. I haven't really played with a kid who's so in love with the game of football. He comes out every single day and he's crazy and he loves to play and he loves to hit and he's aggressive, so the sky's the limit for him. He's very strong, he's well-built, he's fast, and he understands how to play the position.
I think with a nice offseason this year—and he's going to have a great highlight tape—he's going to get some offers. He's going to do some great things at CC and then when he goes to college he's going to get some great coaching at that specific position, because if there's one thing I can say about Roney it's that he's a very, very good athlete. Some of the catches he makes at tight end and the way he runs his routes, it's pretty impressive to see a kid that size with that athleticism. I'm really proud of him; he works hard every single day and he really knows how to play the position. I have faith in him, and like you said he had a great game against St. Mary's, which is a great team.
I'm just excited for him; I'm excited for everyone, I feel that everyone on our team has the potential to do great things and play college football, because everyone works so hard and as a team when we work hard and play hard, we're one of the better teams in the state, so I'm excited for everyone.
ACE: How often have you been talking to the Michigan coaches lately, and what have they been telling you about their plans for next year and their plans for your whole college career?
WYATT: Honestly, during the high school football season I really try not to worry about college. I have an obligation to my team as a captain to be 100% focused on what we're doing as a team. Yes, I do talk to the coaches, but it's really not about what's going to happen next season because quite frankly I'm focused on what's going on right now. I owe that to my school and I owe that to myself and I owe that to my other players. [I've had] good conversations with the coaches; I talk to them before games and they say good luck and stuff, and I keep in touch with them as much as I can, but like I said I have an obligation to focus on my team.
ACE: Were you able to make it down to the game on Saturday, and what did you think of the performance?
WYATT: I did go to the game. It was pretty rainy. I sat there with my dad and his friend for the first two quarters and watched it; what I saw I thought was pretty good. I like the way they did things; they adjusted, and I liked the way Bellomy stepped up and played—there were some dropped balls but that comes with the territory and the rain. I only saw the first half because after that I went and hung out with my girlfriend, because she goes to Michigan.
ACE: It looks like Michigan is starting to rotate in a few more running backs and get more of a running-back-by-committee approach going. Is that something you like to see?
WYATT: I saw that there were more backs in there, but that's also because they're doing a lot more offensive formations. They're doing a lot of different formations from what I've seen from last year. They've got a lot of dynamic backs and they want to get them the ball a lot. Toussaint's kind of the main back but then they've got a changeup in Rawls. I'm just excited to go in there and contribute in any way I can. If it's at running back, great, if it's at H-back, great, and who even knows, maybe even defense because I've been playing a lot of great defense lately. Any way I can come in and help contribute it's going to be fun, and I'm excited for it.
ACE: Your dad says you've never dropped a ball in high school. Is that true, and how much do you think you can add as a catching threat either out of the backfield or at that H-back spot?
WYATT: I've always been blessed with pretty good hands. I can always improve on them; I like to work on catching and that's something I pride myself in. Myself and Anthony Darkangelo actually have a count of how many dropped balls we have in practice. He's beating me right now—I have two this year and he has one in practice. It's something that I like to pride myself on and I really feel like I could be an asset at that position [H-back]. Granted, it's not the position that I've always played and I'd need some help coaching at it, but I think once I get into it I could definitely make some noise at that position.
ACE: Obviously the big news coming down yesterday was David Dawson's decommitment. What's the mentality of the current commits in terms of coming together after that, and what was the reaction after losing a commit for the first time this class?
WYATT: I just want to start off by saying that I hope David has a great career and I don't hold it against him; he's a high school kid and I've seen some of these people saying that I hope he does horrible or I hope he breaks his leg or something, and I don't wish that upon anyone. I just want to say that I hope he does well and I hope this is the right choice for him, because honestly this is a life choice. He's got to go where he's happy to play and where he wants to be, and if that's at Florida or wherever he's going, you know, hats off to him for being man enough to realize that and making that decision. I just wanted to say that first.
With regards to the rest of Team 134 and everyone else that's committed, I don't think that we're going to let that affect us. There's a lot of great talent out there. David was a great kid but this gives us an opportunity to find someone who is maybe a little bit more Michigan-oriented. If you don't want to be at Michigan then just don't come, and that's what he did. We want someone who really wants to be at Michigan and who really wants to be a part of this.
Yeah, I'm sad, he's a great kid and a great football player, but there's a lot of great football players out there. I'm excited to see what else can come of this. It's not a super big shock to me, since I always saw him tweeting about Florida and stuff. I thought maybe this was happening. It finally happened, good luck to him, and I think we understand that colleges are kind of a factory for football, so we just have to focus on what we've got to do as a team and not really worry about people leaving or coming. If you want to be here then we'll worry about you, if you want to be at Michigan then we'll worry about you, because we're a family and we're going to stay a family. If you don't want to be a part of this family then don't be here.
I was just going to write that same thing. It seems like he's a very intelligent kid with a good head on his shoulders. Michigan can never have enough kids like that on campus. I'm looking forward to seeing him play and contribute to the community.
You see that, board? He's seen people saying these horrible things about Dawson. DO NOT DO IT. It will be seen by the kids, and it reflects poorly upon the school when you do so. Why would they want to play for fans that'll turn on them in an instant?
If you're the kind of person who would get mad at a teenager for changing his mind on a major life decision, then step away from the internet.
For the last year, whenever people said they thought Shallman would end up on the DL, I didn't believe them and argued that he'd for sure stay on offense.
I'm much less confident in that stance now. And that has nothing to do with Shallman's ability at RB, but the fact that he's been playing DE full time, and more importantly, excelling at it.
Hands to the fire, I still think he plays offense. I think it will be less RB and more H-back or U-back, similar to what Khalid Hill is being recruited for. I'm picturing an athletic 6'3" 260 catching a ball and turning up field, looking for a safety to pummel.
He'll get on the field somewhere. If a kid that big and that athletic isn't getting playing time, that probably means really good things for our team.