redshirt ALL the players
why Hoke & co don't see this as a competitive advantage I don't understand
if you seek an image of the most Wisconsin OL ever, enter here
Preface: this is the view of one football fan, without the level of intricate knowledge of a Space Coyote nor someone who has broken down game film play by play. Also these are early views and player X who looks "ok" today may turn into star in 2015 - we never know. So downvote accordingly. ;)
Thought it would be interesting to take a look back at UM's 2012 recruiting class now that we are 2 years into it. To refresh this was the 7th ranked class in the country per Rivals; here is the list of players. While early to judge some of these guys as many redshirted, some are already going to be juniors in 2014 and this class will go a long way in determining on field success in the 2014-2016 seasons.
I've broken down the class in position groups and am giving one person's view on "early returns" in light of expected production, "starzzz", and what type of schools were in competition. Hence a player who Alabama, Florida, USC, OSU were after has a higher bar than Illinois, Vanderbilt, Boston College. Of course those who have played 2 years have more of a body of work than those who were redshirted. Also players on both the DL and OL were generally given more leeway due to their typically slower development.
Early view is based on production if applicable (RS players have less to work with), behind the scenes buzz (i.e. Darboh looked to be a front line starter last year), and eye test.
Part 1 for offense is here, below is defense.
DEFENSIVE LINE - Players here outside of elite high end are graded on a more forgiving curve as OL / DL players generally will take longer to bulk up to necessary size/strength for these positions.
 Ondre Pipkins
Background: 5 Star, received offers from Bama, Florida, USC, OSU, Michigan State, etc
Comment: Along with OL Kalis, the two 5 stars in the class. Pushed into playing rotation as a freshman due to need, started sophomore campaign as a key element of the line but faced significant injury in game 5, unfortunately too late to receive medical redshirt. Impact when in somewhat in question. Only tallied 7 tackles including 1/2 for loss - 0 sacks - inclusive of some not very good opponents a player of this level would seem to be able to excel versus. If one views him as a run stopper rather than a Jerel Worthy type, reviews are mixed again as UM defense was gashed often down the gut with or without Pipkins in.
Early View: With normal DL depth/ quality, Pipkins would probably have been redshirted as a freshman so already has 2 years down with only 2 to go. In light of star status and offer sheet, a bit underwhelming especially in relation to splash plays seen from classmates - specifically Henry. Looks like a decent starter but not trending to star player from early results. 2014 year could have limitations due to ACL injury.
 Willie Henry
Background: 3 star after thought (pledged week of signing date I believe) coming out of OSU pipeline school Cleveland Glenville. Offers from regional non powers such as Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
Comment: After redshirt year, came on in second half of 2013 season to be a significant contributor, essentially taking Pipkins spot and running with it. While still needing to build strength to hold point of attack (and still giving up gashes in the run game) was main player in interior of DL who provided splash plays. 32 tackles, 3 for loss, and half a sack.
Early View: Far exceeding potential of stars / offer sheet. Poised to be major piece of the DL in next 3 years on current track. Maybe the JMFR type of this class in terms of production vs offer sheet.
 Chris Wormley
Background: 3/4 star from Ohio who had mix of Big 10 offers - at the top end Michigan State and Ohio State; at lower end linois, Indiana,.
Comment: Suffered ACL freshman year. A rotational backup in 2014 but like Henry made obvious splash plays. Along with 19 tackles, had 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Considering potential after affects / recovery of ACL might take large leap in 2014 as a playmaker.
Early View: Slight upside to potential out of HS; with room for this to increase substantially over HS projection due to youth and anticipation that a player is not 100% recovered from an ACL until the 2nd year after surgery. If early returns are an indication poised to be major piece of DL in next year. Ironically that is his position listing on spring roster and at 292 lbs could be a hybrid btw DE and DT.
 Tom Strobel
Background: Like Wormley, 3/4 star from Ohio who had a higher end offer sheet consisting of multiple midwest upper end programs - OSU, Nebraska, Wisconsin,Iowa along with Stanford.
Comment: Thus far a bit of a mystery. Suffered an injury of some sort before Akron game but was not a significant backup before then, only played in 1 game all year. Listed as DE on spring roster at 268 lbs so someone like Charlton seemed to jump ahead of him already. Like Bars on the OL his name does not seem to come up much in discussions.
Early View: Too soon to tell but lack of participation last year raises some question marks. If not a significant part of 2-3 deep this year, seems on track for backup role - esp if younger players begin to make impact.
 Matt Godin
Background: 3 star local with offers from Michigan State, Missouri, Wisconsin and Vanderbilt.
Comment: Backup in 2013 who saw a bit more action than Stroble, with appearances in 7 games. Others can speak for eventual role - I don't see him discussed much but perhaps will take a Heitzman type role out on the end but is currently listed as a 283 lb DT so if that is the role competition from Poggi and Hurst looms one class behind. [note: Poggi currently listed as 271 lb DE and Hurst 277 lb DT on spring roster]
Early View: Too soon to tell as had limited backup role in 2013 but played more than Strobel; facing some good competition in both his class and the one behind his.
 James Ross III
Background: 4 star with Midwest focused higher end offer sheet including OSU, Notre Dame, MSU, Nebraska, and Penn State. USC also threw their hat in the ring.
Comment: Despite being undersized, an immediate contributor as a freshman, with multiple splash plays that excited fan base. Unfortunately came back in 2013 at nearly the same weight and is playing a rough position at a "large safety" size - inhibits ability to get off blocks and with weak DL play, the level of play was not as impressive as exciting freshman year. He still quietly finished with the 2nd most tackles on the team and if not for injury before OSU would have been first overall.
Early View: On track with HS expectation; a very good player who can still be great in his remaining 2 years. Perhaps body does not support it but a 230-235 lb frame would seem to help him but speed is his game. Just needs DL to help keep him clean so he can fulfill potential.
 Royce Jenkins-Stone
Background: 4 star Cass Tech star offered by Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, MSU, Missouri.
Comment: Did not redshirt and was a special teams player mostly as a freshman, who most expected to contribute something in 2013. Something turned into essentially nothing - 5 tackles in 13 games. A head scratcher.
Early View: Thus far probably the largest disappointment in this class on the defensive side of the ball in light of HS prospects. Many considered Ross and RJS 1A and 1B and cornerstones for the 2014-2015 LBs - but right now it seems 1 for 2. Already buried on the depth chart mid season, true freshman Gedeon passed him late in the year and made obvious impact. Unless something changes as he enters junior here, the best hope appears to be a quality backup role.
 Joe Bolden
Background: 4 star, top 150 type Ohio prospect with offers from Arizona, Iowa, Penn State, Stanford, West Virginia, etc.
Comment: Thrust into a backup role in 2012, due to depth issues - perhaps not really ready. Become a steady contributor in a backup role early in 2013, and started pushing Morgan late in the year, garnering 4 starts. Credited with 54 tackles, including 4 for loss and 2 sacks. Production surprised me a bit when I reviewed defensive stats because I don't "notice" him on the field that much - not sure if that is good or bad.
Early View: Already entering his junior year, seems to be on track or slightly below HS track not so much for production reasons but lack of high impact plays. Seemed to come on late in 2013 so could be one to watch in 2014 but stuck behind man child JMFR in the middle.
 Kaleb Ringer
Background: 3 star prospect with mid level Midwest offers including Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Louisville. Outside of UM offer, Iowa was second best.
Comment: He gone.
Early View: N/A
 Allen Gant
Background: 3 star safety prospect with offers from Stanford, Boston College, West Virginia
Comment: Redshirted in 2012, special teams player in 2013. No impact on defense as he was moved from safety to a linebacker role.
Early View: A bit below expectation but with caveat of position switch and a lot of LBs ahead of him including Beyer and Gordon in 2013. Thus far no production on defensive side of the ball. 2014 should tell us if he will become a backup or become primarily a special teams type player.
 Jarrod Wilson
Background: 4 star with solid national offer sheet including Stanford, Notre Dame, Penn State, UCLA, and Michigan State.
Comment: No redshirt, had limited playing time as a freshman which earned massive EMO points going into 2013 from Brian. Seemed to calm most of us with his play although he was pulled from starting lineup in back half of year for certain games. Confusing as most of us thought he was playing pretty well. 50 tackles including 2 for loss; will be a huge part of the secondary in 2014 as he is the only safety with experience. Protect in bubble wrap.
Early View: On track with HS expectation - seems to be growing into role and will be a 'cagey vet' in a very young secondary in 2014.
 Terry Richardson
Background: 4 star Cass Tech CB with high end offers across the country including Bama, LSU, USC, Oklahoma, OSU, Notre Dame, PSU, UCLA.
Comment: Welp. Based on offer sheet many said "he is our Antonie Winfield; that projection has now been moved to '15 class Shaun Crawford. While undersized the expectation was after gaining some weight this level of player would be pushing for a starting role in a depth challenged secondary if not last year, than in 2014. Instead players 1 class behind him in Stribing and Lewis took over key backup spots at the corners and Richardson was effectively redshirted as he did not see any game action. With Peppers riding in on his stallion in 2014, best case for Richardson this year seems to be 6th corner. Maybe.
Early View: Well below expectation; I put him "ahead" of Royce Jenkins-Stone as 'less disappointing relative to HS pedigree' only because of size issues that would always hinder him unless we struck gold with a Winfield type development. With only Taylor graduating after this year, faces a crowded group of competition - hope is he develops at this point into a dime type corner at some point.
 Jeremy Clark
Background: 3 star prospect with mostly MAC offers outside Illinois and NC State.
Comment: Redshirted in year 1, limited role in year 2 mostly on special teams. Large opening for major playing time in 2014 in very young group of safeties but a mystery man for now.
Early View: Not enough information for any assessment. Lack of depth at his position has him poised for a significant role; if that is by default is left to be determined.
OVERALL TAKE: With the caveat it is early this class looks like it is light in the secondary mostly due to Richardson, in line at the LBs (some hits and some misses) with potentially the best haul on the DL due to early splash play ability out of Henry and Wormley. Eventual elite potential could still fall to 5 players - James Ross III, Jarrod Wilson, Ondre Pipkins, Willie Henry, and Chris Wormley. Personal view is Henry has already impressed more than Pipkins despite stars/offer sheet - others may disagree with my view.
2014 should tell us a lot about junior / senior year prospects for Strobel, Godin, and Clark. All should be significant backup players this year. Bolden seems likely to take over starting MLB in 2015. Any development out of Royce Jenkins-Stone would be helpful for this class.
redshirt ALL the players
why Hoke & co don't see this as a competitive advantage I don't understand
Works when you have competent juniors and seniors. We are lacking upperclassmen on the depth chart. Hoke would love to redshirt, but can't until we get past our attrition problems.
We are burning redshirts on special teams, meaningless garbage time snaps, and rotating in freshman who are not ready to contribute (and hurting us -- see Jarrod Wilson @ ND)
The other options aren't present. There have been few serviceable upperclassmen. Special teams is still a big part of the game. Look at the games we've given other teams short fields. Chesson was great on special teams last year. Should he have redshirted if he wasn't playing WR? No. He was one of our best ST players.
I'm all for redshirting, but would you rather run out Furman or Ash instead of a more talented freshman. I think redshirting is how State has done so well. I just don't think we are there. Yet.
Should we put guys like Countess back on Specials teams to preserve redshirts for guys?
a major competitive disadvantage in recruiting. It's a strategy best suited for schools that can't draw top end talent. Every single one of the schools with recruiting classes comparable to or better than ours play a lot of true freshmen. Top recruits often pay a lot of attention to how teams use freshmen.
Will depend largely on the development of the 2012 class on both sides of the ball. I'm personally not very optimistic but it would not be a huge surprise to see a few of these players make big strides this year.
Early returns are mildly disappointing. We needed impact players in that 2012 class and while we might have some solid contributors, I'm not seeing any future 1st team all Big Tenners. There is nobody ahead of schedule other than arguably Henry.
I dont think Strobel had a committable OSU offer.
To rebuild depth and quality depth. Hoke came in looking 2 DTs along with all positions being very thin. Since this staff reversed that trend with great recruiting and adding quality players in the depth chart.. It all resides on producing this great talent we haven't had in years. Hopefully we can say the foundation is built after this season.