Watch the birdie.
In my day freshmen appeared on the scene knocking down Bobby Hoying passes, shutting down Terry Glenn, and cleaving Eddie George. Then they'd switch to offense and fold Mike Vrabel in twain. What's the matter with kids today? The cast today:
- Ann-Margret as Brian Cook
- Dick Van Dyke as Seth Fisher
- Bobby Rydell as Ace Anbender
- Jesse Pearson as Brandon "Birdie" Brown
|Of the young linebackers, we've seen a lot of Bolden but not much from him. [Upchurch]
It's an expectation (or a conceit) at Michigan that recruits follow a "track" of progression that should see them all-conference and worth drafting after four years in the program. Of the 2012 class and the few '13 guys who've seen action, who do you see as ahead of schedule, or worryingly behind?
Ace: I'm not even going to bother with the 2013 class because it's beyond too early to discuss their progression versus expectations; frankly, that's the case for the 2012 class as well, but they at least have a handful of guys who have broken through and seen extensive time.
Three players who are clearly ahead of schedule are Devin Funchess, James Ross, and Willie Henry. Funchess has gone from dangerous-but-terrible-at-blocking tight end to dangerous-and-oh-god-so-dangerous wide receiver, and he's got an NFL future even if his blocking never develops as much as we'd hope. Ross has had an up-and-down year but still has a stranglehold on the weakside LB starting job; he's a future all-conference player once he adds a little more weight to take on blocks—his instincts are already there. Henry's initial expectations weren't as high as the other two, nor has he played at their level consistently, but he's easily exceeded expectations for a late three-star pickup just by seeing the field and holding his own.
[Jump like a Funchess]
The only player I'd pin as being "worryingly behind" at this stage is Terry Richardson, who's been surpassed by a couple of true freshmen on the depth chart and is still an awfully thin 167 pounds—even if his body develops to the point that he's a viable Big Ten corner, he could find himself stuck behind Channing Stribling, Jourdan Lewis, Jabrill Peppers, and Shaun Crawford from the two classes behind him. This is entirely speculation: he seems like a strong candidate for a transfer due to lack of playing time.
Coach Brown: I agree with Ace's stance on the 2013 guys but I'll play the game and talk about the true freshmen a little bit.
I know it's painful to think about Channing Stribling's two sure-fire interceptions that he somehow didn't catch, but the kid is impressive to look at and has obviously done something to earn playing time and trust early. I really like his upside and see him being a very dependable All-Big Ten type of corner before his time at Michigan is through. I also think Jake Butt has done a phenomenal job at tight end even though he still looks too skinny to really be called on to do much in the blocking game. I think by the time he is a junior at about 6'6", 250+ lbs. he will be invaluable for whichever young quarterback we have throwing the ball by then.
|Waaay too early to write him off, but if he's Carlos Hyde 2.0 you'd expect to see it by now. (As readers noted, Hyde's freshman year was 32 carries for 112 yards)[Upchurch]
This might make me the extremely unpopular new guy or it might just be what tons of other people are thinking but just don't want to believe. I'm worried about Derrick Green. For a 5-star, #1 running back, 240 pound, bruiser with speed....he hasn't really flashed anything special. I know, I know...the offensive line has not been very good, but he just seems to go down way too easy for his measurables and reputation. He could still turn into an outstanding player but I just feel like if a running back has #1-player-at-his-position ability, it should be glaring.
For the 2012 class I think Ace nailed the early surprises in Funchess, Ross, and Henry. I think Jarrod Wilson has done some good things earlier than most would've expected as well and I think he is going to be very good for the next 2 1/2 seasons. Considering Ojemudia was a 3-star DE at barely 200 lbs. I think he did exceptionally well as a true freshman, and while this year he hasn't seemed to progress as much as one would expect, he is still very serviceable for a true sophomore.
I don't know if I'd label him as "worryingly behind" but I remember being very excited about the potential of Royce Jenkins-Stone and when you look at his offer list you can see why. All of the big boys were after him and he seemed to have that perfect combination of size, speed, and nastiness that looks phenomenal at the linebacker position. His career so far consists of 10 tackles and he's barely been noticed on special teams. With two fellow linebackers from his class (Ross and Bolden) and one from the 2013 class (Gedeon) getting playing time in front of him already, you wonder if he'll ever be a regular in the rotation.
Seth: Golly fellas, I'm not asking you to write anybody off. Just asking if Kalis's struggles mean he's maybe not next-Hutchinson, or if Hutchinson looked like that as a freshman.
For the record, he didn't. Michigan's 1997 offense did a lot of running into stacked boxes with expected results but they usually got 2 yards from Backus and Hutchinson blowing guys off the line. The other guy (Ziemann, a converted DE) was the problem, not the freshmen.
|Lewis is the other freshman corner who seems to be really close to good despite being on screen for some of the really bad. [Fuller]
That said there's very few linemen among those who turned out to be pretty good who could perform like Magnuson and Kalis have as redshirt freshmen, and only Boren ever started as a true freshman as Bosch apparently will now. If I had to put them on tracks now I would say Magnuson (who seems like their favorite so far given how the coaches have been trying different ways of working him in) is going to be at least Stenavich/Schofield. Kalis is on the Matt Lentz track with plenty of room to grow into more. To even be starting now Bosch has to be touching that Hutch realm, or David Baas.
Co-sign on Stribling. Rather have a guy who can get to the right spot and just needs to time his jumps better than all the lost puppies who've roamed our recent secondaries. Jourdan Lewis too seems like he is getting there and just gets beat by great plays.
While on the freshmen, I am high on Gedeon; he is already better than Ross and Bolden looked last year at this time and he was consistently doing good things when I did that special teams UFR. If that matters at all, then Dymonte Thomas is raw raw raw but tantalizing--I wish he'd redshirted; I've got a strong Ernest Shazor vibe there.
Brian: Yeah, no one's being written off yet, but as more data comes in expectations rise and lower. No one's a better example of that than Ben Braden, who was a consensus three star but had so much buzz I called him sleeper of the year along with Chesson. That looked on track when Taylor Lewan was calling him a physical freak on par with himself and he was slotted into the starting left guard role in the spring; now he's been shuffled out to tackle and beaten out by Erik Magnuson, who played when Lewan went out against Penn State and is himself now a starting guard. Braden was way ahead of pace, and now he's... uh... on it? Slightly behind blog expectations?
|Despite seeing tons of early snaps, A.J. Williams still looks in need of a lot of experience before he's a net positive contributor as a blocker; he'll probably never be much of a receiver threat. [Upchurch]
A couple other guys who seem to be lagging are Blake Bars, who was overwhelmed in the spring game and has not once been brought up as a potential solution to Michigan's interior line issues, and Tom Strobel, who was weirdly thrust into the mix at three-tech and hasn't seen any time. Being passed by a guy in the class that came in after you is always a bad sign, as Bars was by Bosch. It's not quite that obvious with Strobel, but not one snap on a rotation-mad line means you're starting to slip behind folks. AJ Williams is playing a lot, but uh... I see room for improvement.
As for guys ahead of schedule, I would also say Jarrod Wilson. This is a team that doesn't get much pressure, which in turn puts pressure on the safeties to not bust stuff. Wilson's been beat maybe a couple times this year and has also made some nice plays, which puts him well ahead of the curve for a true sophomore safety. I may just expect every safety to be a total disaster, no exceptions. I would also put Jourdan Lewis out there, as he's been in great coverage even if QBs are making the best throws of their careers against him.