Overkill Is Underrated
You've seen the run. You've seen it twice. You've seen it a thousand times. You've seen the picture pages. Now let's see the analysis; 247's JC Shurburtt gives his take on where Michigan should play cornerback/safety/tailback/receiver/savior Jabrill Peppers, per Steve Lorenz ($):
"We think he's probably as good or better at defensive back, but there aren't a lot of teams that want to test him in that manner, so there's not as big of a sample size," he said. "That doesn't mean he won't turn out to be Patrick Peterson or Jimmy Williams, but those guys are exceptions to the rules and because of the unknown factor, it's hard to project him higher on defense [than running back]. We saw Peterson, for example, in high school cover and cover and cover some more. There was no doubt about it. With Peppers, we just don't know. What does it for me, though, and why I say offense is this- if he's a safety (which I think he will be- and probably one of the best in college football from the moment he steps on the field if that's what happens), then you have to think Michigan will have or can go find other great safeties."
Shurburtt goes on to say that Peppers is a more "electric and dynamic" running back than Derrick Green or De'Veon Smith (no argument here), and that's why the Wolverines should play him on offense—go for the Auburn-under-Borges embarrassment of riches strategy.
I think Shurburtt is hampered here by a lack of knowledge of Michigan's defensive depth chart, as I read the last part of the above blockquote and thought, well, they have these two great running back recruits—and another coming in Damien Harris, an explosive big-play threat—and much less certainty at safety (and corner, as well), so Peppers could help the team out more in the defensive backfield. The difference between Peppers and Green/Smith/Harris is probably not going to be as great as the difference between Peppers and his competition at safety or corner, and that's no knock on Michigan's defensive backs—the talent level at running back is just getting a little ridiculous.
Then there's the fact that an all-world safety—or a lockdown corner—is more rare and valuable than even a great running back, and I think Michigan is doing the right thing by planning to start Peppers on defense. Plus, it's not like they won't let him see a few snaps on offense, not to mention as a returner, and putting the ball in his hands just a few times a game may be enough for him to make the desired impact on the scoreboard while still being a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. I'd rather see him paired with Dymonte Thomas at safety for every defensive snap, or locking down half the field across from Blake Countess or Raymon Taylor or Channing Stribling, than getting 10-15 touches a game in a running back platoon, especially since he should still get his hands on the ball anyway a la Charles Woodson.
Regardless, this is, like, the best of problems. Hoke über alles. Swag Mattison fo' life. Etc.
Speaking of Finding Safeties...
Michigan appears much less likely to do so in the 2014 class after telling PA S Montae Nicholson—long thought to be a very likely candidate to end up in the class—that they're no longer actively recruiting him because (and this part strikes me as odd) injuries have affected the numbers for this class, per The M Block. Unless Courtney Avery's injury is much more serious than expected, or the coaches aren't telling us about a season-ender for another player—even for The Fort, that seems unlikely—then I'm not sure what's really going on, because the current listed injuries shouldn't affect next year's scholarship count.
Sam Webb posted on The Victors Board($) that Michigan hit a numbers crunch, and while they're not currently pursuing Nicholson they're still leaving the door open if the scholarship situation changes—though, given Nicholson's impression that he's essentially being dropped, it could be tough to get back in the race. Webb also debunked a rumor that Nicholson's situation was affected by any changes in 2015 defensive back recruiting; there was a Twitter rumor going around this week that five-star junior corner Minkah Fitzpatrick was transferring to Paramus Catholic, Jabrill Peppers' school—and that was taken as a good sign for Michigan—but that transfer isn't happening.
At this point, it looks like Michigan's 2014 class will wrap up with Da'Shawn Hand and Malik McDowell, and they'll try to grab a safety if another spot opens up or one of those two players goes elsewhere. With Nicholson looking to make an earlier decision, that could mean Michigan's top priorities at safety are now CA ATH JuJu Smith and OH S Erick Smith, who are planning to choose later in the recruiting cycle; by then, Michigan should know if they've got the space to take another defensive back.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Leonard Fournette's official visit plans, game film (finally!) of Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson, unoffered four-star juniors coming out of the woodwork with plans to visit, and more.]
It's Happening! Probably. I think.
GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz catches up with Leonard Fournette's dad to clear the air on a potential official visit to Michigan, which Mr. Fournette (mostly) does ($):
Asked whether or not the Wolverines will be in line for one of five official visits this fall, Fournette’s father responded without hesitation.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “We most definitely want to take an official visit to Michigan.”
He had to say "want" instead of just "most definitely" because nothing is ever, ever set in stone, especially since the Fournettes haven't set actual dates for any of their five official visits yet. Still, it sounds like they're serious about the younger Fournette seeing Michigan, and there's a decent chance that trip actually materializes.
Disappointing Lack of Jungle Beats
Thanks to Scout's Brian Dohn, we now have actual video evidence of Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson playing actual football in an actual game, and both look like players who were very deserving of their Michigan offers. Here's Dohn's overall take on Canteen($)...
After watching Canteen during the 7-on-7 circuit, the feeling was he could be an elite player but he had to show it in pads. Well, he did. Canteen is versatile and exciting. He has elusiveness in his ability after the catch, and he is an exceptional route runner who did not disappoint. He is good on film, but it doesn’t do justice to the speed he plays at when watching him live.
...and a chunk of his "What to like" section on Watson:
Watson was physical and was able to flip his hips and run with the receivers. He was comfortable playing press coverage, and he rarely let the receiver release and get into his route with any kind of rhythm. He also had a very good interception (not on tape) in which he closed very quickly on a ball thrown 20 yards down the field over the middle.
When looking for negatives, Dohn cited blocking and strength for Canteen, and ... wow, nothing for Watson, who acquitted himself well in run support in addition to jamming the heck out of every receiver he faced. Major points scored for the "trust the coaches" contingent from these two.
2015 commit George Campbell also got the live eval treatment from Scout, though unfortunately he struggled in a blowout scrimmage loss, per Jamie Newberg ($):
On their second possession of the first quarter Campbell dropped what would have been an easy touchdown reception. He beat the defender badly on a go-route, just flew right by him (and the safety was late) but the ball went in and out of his hands.
That was a sign of things to come for Campbell on offense. He had two receptions and fumbled on both occasions. One was questionable because he may not have ever had possession of the ball to begin with.
Campbell reportedly played a much better game on defense, FWIW, though Newberg still likes him best at receiver; the knock on Campbell has always been his hands, and even in one of his worst games he still displayed the tantalizing ability to flat-out run past everybody. If he can develop his hands, he's still very much a wide receiver with vast potential.
More Commit Praise
Scout named 2014 commit Bryan Mone the best defensive tackle in the West region, beating out a couple guys with very impressive offer sheets ($):
The Skinny: Mone is exactly how you draw it up when you're looking for an impact college defensive tackle. He has a great frame, plays with good pad level, has plus level quickness and is relentless in pursuit. He does a great job getting off blocks, uses his hands very well and plays with a motor. He has the ability to fit in with a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme and could see the field early in college.
Also: decapitates fools.
Damien Harris is one of Rivals initial five-stars from the 2015 class (Campbell, according to Tim Sullivan, was considered but barely missed the cut); they've got a lengthy free profile on him with plenty of scouting. A sample:
"In a year loaded with top-end running backs, Harris stands out because he has the size and burst above the rest right now. He sees the hole, hits the hole and can be gone in a flash despite being a big back. He's also very quick cutting and has start-stop ability, but what I like the best is his finish. He won't go down easily. It's odd because the last two years we've had many five-star running backs but 2015 is much, much deeper overall. That being said, Harris could be one of only a couple who end up as five-stars, and that makes him special. Big backs with a little wiggle and excellent speed are hard to find, and ones who like to deliver punishment and work hard are even rarer." -- Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst, Rivals.com
Yeah, Michigan will be fine at running back regardless of what they decide to do with Jabrill Peppers.
2015 four-star PA OT Sterling Jenkins, who visited Michigan this summer for the BBQ, has four trips planned for the fall, per Scout's Derek Young ($):
September 2 – Florida State at Pittsburgh
October 12 – Michigan at Penn State
October 26 – Penn State at Ohio State
November 30 – Ohio State at Michigan
“Pittsburgh, Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan are my top four schools right now,” said Jenkins. “I talk to each of those schools a good amount and I’m a big priority for each of them. I want to see how each is like when they’re playing games and see what its like on the campuses.”
Jenkins is Michigan's top priority at offensive tackle, where they may only have room for one more commit (in addition to Jon Runyan Jr.) in the 2015 class.
2015 four-star SDE Darian Roseboro named Michigan as the fifth school in his ordered top five behind NC State, Auburn, Duke, and Tennesse (I know, weird list), and told 247's Ryan Bartow that he'd like to catch a game in Ann Arbor during his bye week ($). With Michigan's track record on visits, they could shoot up his list if he makes it to a game, especially since... I mean, Duke? Word?
In other four-stars seemingly coming out of nowhere to express interest in Michigan, TomVH dropped this tidbit in passing on Twitter:
Burrell is the #151 player overall and #16 tackle in the composite rankings; of the schools listed above, only Michigan and Florida have yet to extend offers. If he makes it to campus, there's a good chance he'll pick one up, which could put a little pressure on Jenkins to commit if he wants a spot in Michigan's class.
Steve Wiltfong profiles top 2015 WDE Jashon Cornell, whose mother gave birth to him when she was just 14 years old; the story of his rise into elite high school recruit is well worth your time.
Tom Markowski on Malik McDowell's transition to Southfield, where he'll see fewer double-teams playing next to Michigan commit Lawrence Marshall.
Remember Antonio Kinard, one of the washouts from the disastrous 2010 class? He's still being recruited, now as a JuCo prospect who's hoping to get qualified and land at a big-time school, potentially Miami (YTM).
Headlines from the future: Denzel Ward Transfers To [Insert School Here]