We had a QB that played here a little while ago named Denard Robinson. Was pretty good, set some records, but I guess easily overlooked.
This Week's Obsession: Alex Malzone: a Henson or a Cone?
Camps are forming around Malzone: is he a program savior who just happened to be born in the right state rooting for the right team, or is he a Plan B kind of guy you'd expect to go to State in a heretofore "normal" year? Where would you put him on the Cone-Henson Scale?
Explanation of the Cone-Henson Scale of Quarterback Recruit Excitement Level:
Cone is the guy you get when Henne just completed his freshman season, and you only hope to see in freestyle rap videos or junk time against Delaware State; Henson was the late-'90s equivalent of top overall player in the country. He who cannot be charted not charted--went back to '98 so it won't be the "Cone-Mallett" scale. I have them ranked worst to first within the categories, which are:
- Need the Dudes: David Cone ('05), Justin Feagin ('08), Jermaine Gonzalez ('00), Spencer Brinton ('01transfer), Russell Bellomy ('11), Jason Forcier ('06)
- Seems Like Our Kind of Guy: Steve Threet ('07 transfer), Wilton Speight ('13), Tate Forcier ('09), Clayton Richard ('03), Andy Mignery ('99), Matt Gutierrez ('02), John Navarre ('99), Shane Morris ('13)
- Hey-O!: Devin Gardner ('10), Chad Henne ('04), Ryan Mallett ('07), Drew Henson ('98)
Ace: I'd say Malzone fits snugly into the middle category. I expect that by the end of the recruiting cycle, if not sooner, he'll be a four-star or close to it on all of the recruiting services—Scout already has him there, the Rivals guys are hinting he'll get the bump when the non-Rivals250 four-stars are released Wednesday, and ESPN left him entirely unranked despite a glowing evaluation. 247 at least ranks Malzone, but has him behind a few players with very limited offers—the pro-style QB three spots in front of him on their position rankings holds this offer sheet: Arkansas State, Charleston Southern, Georgia State, Marshall, Middle Tennessee State. I think Malzone's gonna jump that guy.
|In '96, Jason Kapsner was a recruit on par with Mallett. Michigan didn't take a QB in '97 but people figured with Kaps, Dreisbach and Brady on the roster, Henson might have to wait until 2001 for the roster to clear out. [SI]|
Also supporting Malzone as an "our kind of guy" recruit is the timing of his commitment; if Michigan didn't feel he was capable of being a quality college starter, they wouldn't have offered him eight months before Signing Day in a class with room for just one quarterback. Also, Malzone seemed like a prospect who would've committed to Michigan regardless of when they offered—being a Wolverine was clearly a lifelong dream of his—and U-M evaluated plenty of highly ranked QB prospects; there was no reason to offer when they did if they didn't believe he'd be able to supplant Morris (or Speight) when the time comes.
Finally, there's his film, various camp evaluations, and recent offers; all point to Malzone as an accurate passer with solid arm strength and the intelligence to quickly absorb and take command of a playbook. The area most cited for improvement last fall, Malzone's baseball-influenced mechanics, had become a source of praise by this spring's camp season. His height (6'2") and lack of a Henne/Mallett/Morris-level cannon will probably keep him from being an NFL prospect; that doesn't so much matter at the college level, however, and I see no reason he can't succeed as a starter at Michigan.
BiSB: If those are the categories, then he's pretty much in the "Seems Like Our Kind of Guy" stratum. He's clearly not a Need The Dudes, as they offered him relatively early (knowing he would grab the offer) with several other non-desperation guys still on the board. He's a four-star already to Rivals, and as Ace said he's likely to move up in the other services. He had interest from other big-time programs, and seemed to be "on the rise" as they say. But he's not in the "Hey-Oh!" group simply because he's a 6'2" pocket passer and doesn't have the Henne/Mallett/Morris-level arm strength.
That said, I like that they grabbed Malzone. He seems like a moderate-ceiling, high-floor kind of talent; you can only go so wrong with a guy with a solid and extremely accurate arm. I've only seen his highlights, which don't tend to show the Tacopants moments, but they show excellent touch and ball placement, and are consistent with his 67.6% completion rate and 9.9 YPA. There are no glaring red flags mechanically, especially if he (as has been suggested) tinkered with his slightly long delivery in the off-season.
Also, Michigan needed a quarterback in this class, and before Malzone committed they did not have a quarterback. Now they DO have a quarterback. That's infinitely more quarterback than they previously had. And that is good. They took they some time courting the mega-recruits in Cali, but didn't leave themselves without a solid Plan B. Hard to complain too much.
Seth: I normally make fun of people who get tautological in player evaluations, but gorrammit there's no better way to describe Alex Malzone's game than "he's a Quarterback!" High school highlights are usually kids showing off their arm strength, floating jump balls to the end zone and running around high school dudes, or in the case of Wilton Speight, throwing off his back foot a lot. This is Malzone:
If there's arc in most of his throws, it's because this 17-year-old has calculated the exact trajectory needed to clear the linebackers, a thing that continues to baffle EA Sports and John Navarre to this day. I've made no bones on the board about my excitement for this kid who plays on a field I went by every day on my way to school, calling him "Tiny Brees" for his accuracy and lack of height. He also looks like that guy who was throwing to John Kirby when Kirby broke Lynn Swann's 24-year-old record for receptions at Serra High. That Guy also left scouts, teammates, and coaches unable to describe his game in any sense but the tautological one.
|Yeah you see it. |
I went to Groves, rooted for Seaholm (long story), and the neighbor's kid plays for OLSM, so I'm supposed to hate all things Rice, but Malzone is just delightful to watch in ways you wouldn't expect a "pro style" guy to be. He sees, he does. Sees, does. That ball's out of his hands so fast, and then you look downfield to figure out what it was he saw and there's a receiver not breaking stride trailed by a DB who doesn't realize he's about to come into frame.
I also got the vibe for awhile that Michigan wasn't seeing it. Coach Brown was writing another "No seriously guys HERE's the QB picture no HERE no HERE" post every other week last season as Borges chased a Swedish dual-threat, various California gunslingers, etc., only to have that list scrapped for an entirely new one filled with all the national recruits when Nussmeier arrived. That whole time I spent oscillating between annoyance and panic that the old This Is Michigan™ hubris was opening the door to, say, an in-state program that looks quite inviting at the moment, especially since (recently retired) Fracassa's program has always had its Spartan sympathies. MSU picked up their 2015 QB before Malzone dropped, but not before all my Drew Stanton nightmares returned en force.
He'll end up ranked about where Tate Forcier was, but my excitement level is more on the upper end of "seems like our kind of guy." Since I started writing for Brian this site has been all about offense predicated on running against 5.5 guys in the box, but a dead-on-balls accurate quarterback who makes quick reads and quicker decisions is a pretty nice offense too.
hence the "He who cannot be charted "
I missed that but probably due to the fact I do think that Denard can be charted.
He would fit in the "need the dudes" category. At the time, Tate Forcier was the focus, he enrolled early, and was, as I recall, higher rated. Most (not all as we had a post "Its All About Denard" prior to Denard's sophomore season) really didn't foresee his impact. Certainly not when he was signed.
The point is, sometimes the guys that would be categorized as "need the dudes" develop into stars.
I didn't chart guys whom Michigan brought in with the intention of having him try out as an athlete QB but the majority figured he'd end up a receiver or DB. That includes Denard, (friend of the blog) Diallo Johnson, and Antonio Bass. Feagin I included because he was the only QB of his year when Michigan desperately needed one. It's just too hard to place the other guys in these piles, since they weren't recruited with the same sense of "this is our quarterback of the future for this year."
Understand, but the QB situation we had at the time was a disaster (I think Sheridan graduated and Threet's transfer was least imminent), wasn't Cone the only other QB on the roster? For at least the first 2 years Denard, by necessity, had to be a QB.
To me that seems to fit a "need the dudes" guy.
he was a back up behind Forcier.
that is my recollection as well.
I still feel a great sense of loss over Antonio Bass. So much potential.
I don't think it was an oversight so much as where do you put him on a one-dimensional scale for pocket passers? As a pocket passer he was terrible; he made horrible reads, threw too many jump balls and didn't know when to scramble. But he was a perfect fit for a spread option because the extra guys you needed in the box to contain him meant someone was often open by a good five yards. As a player he was indispensable, but he's nowhere near Malzone in playing style so it just makes sense to leave him off.
There are many QBs that have been recruited and have had careers primarily as runners, and there are systems that exploit that, the wishbone from years ago, or now, RR's spread read option.
Regarding his career as a passer, yes, he was poor, but when he was signed you don't know how his is going to develop. Is he going to develop as a passer like Vince Young or Troy Smith (both of which were better passers and decision makers), or like, well, Denard Robinson.
When recruited, Robinson was known to be extremely fast. But there have been plenty of RB's that had speed but did not pick up the kind of yards that Denard did. I always thought that what separated Denard from most is that he had an uncanny knack of picking has way through traffic, and then when open, turning on the jets. And I don't think anyone saw this during his recruitment - I don't think Denard had many other offers.
Technically I believe he was recruited as an athlete.
He was listed by the recruiting services as an athlete, but he chose Michigan over Florida because we wanted him to play QB.
We really went after him after Shadovrick (sp?) Beaver decommitted in favor of Tulsa. We needed more than one QB in that class on the heels of the '08 SheriThreetDamnit! year.
And I think before that QB Kevin Newsome decommitted and ended up at Penn State.
We sure got the short end of that stick.
According to Rivals, Denard committed on 2/4/09, so right before signing day. We had Cone and Tate Forcier (early enrollee, so both were on campus at the time) as the only other QBs on the roster at that late date.
RR sure put in his thumb and pulled out a plumb on that one.
If you want to laugh at the board with the benefit of 20/20 hinsight, search an old thread titled "Beaver gone to C-USA" or something like that. We all bascially went nuts b/c we were "stuck" with Tate and Denard.
Watched some of his film. Is #5 getting recruited too? Doesn't look to have ideal height, but seems like a kid a lower-level program would definitely covet. Made good catches, came back to the ball, and lowered his shoulder when necessary to get a few extra yards. Pretty nice to have that kind of a WR.
Tiny Brees? Malzone is actually taller than Brees...
Hey you found the joke.
Gutierrez was supposed to be THE guy over Henne before injury, wasn't he?
so from a career standpoint, it wasn't the end-all be-all.
It wasn't that set in stone but yeah he was the heir apparent after a redshirt year then a season as Navarre's backup with spotted seasoning. He got hurt in fall practice and that lingered (though he still served as holder), while Henne beat out Clayton Richard. Michigan lost to ND that year partly because of nightmare officiating but mostly because the offense was streamed down and super conservative so as not to wreck Henne's confidence.
Had Gutierrez not been hurt, Michigan wanted to redshirt Henne, though once Clay decided on baseball that would have ended.
Also, we made the mistake of not running the heck out of true freshman Mike Hart from the get-go. That ND game (my first as a student) was really, really painful (sooo many field goals) but it helps that it was Mike's coming out party.
Did we keep the offense super conservative until the final game of Henne's career so as not to wreck his confidence, too?
That bowl win against Florida drives me nuts because it shows how freaking unstoppable we could have been if we tried literally anything creative during Henne's career rather than throwing rock whenever possible.
They opened up that offense plenty in 2006. In 2007 Henne was too hurt to be much use by the ND game. And first halfs in 2005 were generally good offense but Michigan would go into a shell as soon as they got that 10 point lead, running Hart left every play until Hart got hurt.
My recollection is the Gutierrez was going to start the opener, but it wasn't set in stone that he was the established starter.
He was pretty highly rated recruit as well.
FYI, Alex malzone is already a 4 star to scout AND rivals.
Rivals, you baffle me. A four star but not even ranked nationally at his position? AAARRRGGH
It doesn't show on his profile, but on Michigan's Rivals page, Malzone has an "11" listed as his position rank.
Ahead of some other guys people were high on - Sils, Kearns, Nick Johns, and just behind Zach Gentry.
The comment about "lofting a ball over LBs heads which EA sports is trying to figure out still" made me laugh. I get so frustrated still when a LB makes a 1 handed backflip pick.
"Dead-on balls accurate"
It's an industry term
No, he's not the QB the coaches really wanted. I think that's pretty clear. Off the top of my head, I think there were at least 5 concrete offers before him, plus kind of an offer to Deondre Francois and a rumored offer to Ricky Town. Stidham, Rosen, Sills, Barnett...
Malzone is a consolation prize. He might turn out to be good, but he's clearly not in the coaches' top echelon. You don't want until 8 months before National Signing Day to offer your one quarterback in the class. Michigan was almost at the point in the recruiting cycle where reasonable people start flipping out and saying "Why the f*** aren't you recruiting a quarterback?" Just before they got there, Hoke and Nussmeier broke down and offered the local kid.
So...I don't know how to feel. We could be worse (like offering Feagin or Cone), but I don't think it's a great match. We'll see.
Here's my commitment post on him:
Very happy Sills never commited
Why is Shane in Seems Like Our Kind of Guy and Gardner in Hey-o?
Shane was a 5 star to Scout, 40th overall, 4 star to Rivals, 81st overall, and 4 star to ESPN at 127th overall
Devin was a 5 star to Scout, 43th overall, 4 star to Rivals, 132nd overall, and 4 star to ESPN at 128th overall
I was thinking the same thing. Shane's profile cooled a bit during his mono-troubled senior season, but he seems to be a definite hey-o in terms of his ranking and the sense of "THIS is the guy of the future!" that's always been around him.
Are we just discounting him because he was a lifelong fan and his recruitment was a foregone conclusion? Had he been from California, a guy of his profile would be considered a major coup.
I used more than stars. You'll note one is the top of one group and the other the bottom of the next group, which reflected the rankings where either straddled that line between 4 and 5 stars. The difference was the fan reaction. Morris: trepidation over his senior season and lingering effects of mono. Gardner: leaping gazelles we've got ourselves a Vince Young for whenever Denard is done.
Even with his senior season, I'd put Morris in the top category. Tons of talent, very high rankings even after the dropoff, huge amounts of hype, and he has an artillery piece connected to his left shoulder.
There was plenty of trepidation about Gardner's wonky passing motion and accuracy out of high school, too...
Agreed - the hype on Shame was immense before the senior year. Devin was also quite intense as he was "the next Terelle Pryor". Both were super hyped local boys.
Gardner was a great get, but, as you mentioned, he was not anymore of a "sure thing" to the recruiters than Morris.
I know you have to rank them, but Gardner and Morris, to me, are on an equal plane. Not only in terms of their recruiting stars, but also in the sense that a new-ish head coach had finally snagged "His guy" for the future of the team. Gardner as a highly ranked dual threat when all we had was Tate and the unknown quantity of Denard, and Morris as a highly ranked pocket cannon when all we had were dual threat guys making mediocre fusion cuisine with Borges.
From Gutierrez to Henne changed the Michigan quarterback dynamic for years to come. Up to that point there really was competition at quarterback every year but once he got hurt it became Henne's team for better or worse. I always think back to that decision and wonder what would have happened if Gutierrez had gotten another chance. I believe he was undefeated in high school or damn close. Henne had all the tools but he needed time to learn and hone what he had. Sigh...
I wouldn't say there was that much competition at the QB spot after Brady left. In 2000, QB was Henson's job. Navarre just filled in while Henson was hurt. There might have been a little competition in 2001 but Navarre was the QB for pretty much the entire season. 2002 and 2003 was all Navarre. So much so that I think they moved the back QB in 2001 (Gonzales) to wr in either 2002 or 2003.
Gutierrez ended up making it to the NFL even after his shoulder injury and transferring to a small program. I know Henne has ended up as a part-time starter in the NFL, but I really think Gutierrez would have been a good quarterback for us. I just wish he and Henne hadn't existed at the same time.
I always felt bad for Gutierrez since he was the prototypical "work hard, wait for your turn" QB. Although Henne turned out well, I agree that Gutierrez would have been a very good to great Michigan QB - he understandably left when the Henne writing was on the wall (i.e., that Henne had a firm grip on the starter's position, tender age notwithstanding).
It's nice to see that Hoke & Co. have rebuilt the QB ranks to a point where in coming years we may be saying "it's a shame QB X never made the field because QB Y was so good" as opposed to our recent years of "Dear Lord, please dont let [Denard][Devin] get hurt - we've got precious little in the cupboard!"
Now just need to close out the in-state recruiting with Brian Cole, Mike Weber, and maybe Tyriq Thompson if we don't land Justin Hilliard. Oh and add Roseboro and KLS. Please and thank you.
I think it's highly unlikely that we land all 3 of those in-state guys.