So far he has not been very good at even that one dimension
Early Returns on UM Football's 2012 Recruiting Class - Offense
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.
Will break this down into 2 diaries - this one for offense; defense is here.
OFFENSIVE LINE - this is by far the hardest group to judge because it is the one position group where if there is a failure anywhere in the line, everyone can look bad. Secondary to a degree is the same but nowhere does a misstep by your teammates stand out more than the OL unit. Again caveat is we rushed these guys to play rather than waiting until RS sophomore year.
 Kyle Kalis
Background: 5 Star all Everything, spurned OSU for UM. Other offers incl Bama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, etc.
Comment: Most highly touted OL recruit in this 2 class OL haul; many had dreams of Hutchinson 2.0. After redshirt year was expected to come in and be competent, and be the 3rd best player on a line book ended by 2 potential NFL tackles. Instead major struggles, a benching, and never stood out.
Early View: Too early to tell but will judge him a bit more harsh than the other OL due to (a) hype / expectation / pedigree. and (b) MSU threw in a "no star" at left tackle named Jack Conklin from the same 2012 class who was named freshman All American at a more prominent position on the line. That reflects poorly on Kalis and/or coaching at UM. Still has 3 years ahead of him and can live up to potential.
 Erik Magnuson
Background: High 4 star with offers from high end schools such as Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Stanford, USC.
Comment: Natural tackle was pushed into guard role due to need despite being undersized. Of the Kalis, Bosch (true freshman), Magnuson trio - he seemed to do the best job of the three... of course that bar is very low. Despite injury he has been slated to start at most important OL position this year, so coaching staff showing trust. Coming in at or near 300 lbs this fall would be a plus.
Early View: On track with potential out of HS. In a normal environment a RS sophomore pushing for a starting gig would be tracking at Lewan level. In this environment it is difficult to tell as lack of alternatives / upperclassmen smudges outlook.
 Ben Braden
Background: 3 star local giant with offers from regional upper end schools ala Wiscy/MSU.
Comment: Natural tackle but slated to play guard 12 months ago to fill need, but was not a good fit at this position so had nowhere to go as there were 2 established starters. Magnuson seemed to be primary backup in coaches views if there had been an injury to starting tackles. Lauded for physical makeup.
Early View: Too soon to tell. No one has seen him yet in a real game; coaching staff has him as a starter at RT. If he turns into a 3 year RT starter, he will have played above his potential / offer.
 Blake Bars
Background: Interesting mixed views out of HS, some places 3 stars, some places 4 stars but offer sheet would lean towards 4 with LSU, Florida, PSU, South Carolina among suitors.
Comment: Seems to be lost in the depth chart. Rarely discussed as a player challenging for a starting spot. Find that troubling in light of how desperate we were last year for any OL player, and this year... hear names like Dawson ahead of his.
Early View: Too soon to tell but lack of discussion about him seems to bode poorly. Seems to be tracking as career backup unless something changes.
OFFENSIVE SKILL PLAYERS - generally these guys can play early if they have high upside.
 Devin Funchess
Background: 3/4 star with offers from upper end Midwest programs such as Nebraska, MSU, Missouri.
Comment: One dimensional TE who suffered in blocking schemes, even through mid sophomore year. Pushed out to WR latter half of last year, where physical prowess and dimension he excels at (receiving) could be utilized. Had some Braylon Edwards moments both good and bad last year with highlight reel catches and dropsies. Should have massive year, esp if can reduce drops.
Early View: While not a great TE due to lack of blocking, has exceeded expectations in production as 2nd most dangerous non QB threat after Gallon last year and top target this year. Some already worrying he might leave early for NFL - because we are UM fans and that's what we do.
 Jehu Chesson
Background: 3 star with offers from Iowa, Northwestern, Missouri, etc
Comment: Was deemed to be the 3rd/4th type WR behind Gallon, Darboh, Dileo out of camp last year. Injury to Darboh pushed him higher up food chain. Did not do much in receiving area esp in first half of year but picked up some late in year; ended with 15 catches for 221 yards. Amazing ability to wipe out 3 defensive players at once with blocking skill in bowling ball fashion. Special teams monster...already.
Early View: On track with potential out of HS/offer sheet. Will have lots of competition coming his way, but worst case looks to be one of the best blocking WRs in past 10 years. Would like to his 'speedster' label applied with some gashes downfield - started to happen a bit late last year.
 Amara Darboh
Background: 3/4 star with offers from Florida, Notre Dame, Wiscy, Iowa, etc.
Comment: One of the most buzzed about players during spring last year until injury broke the hearts of fandom. So for now a mystery. A healthy Darboh with 30+ catches this year would have him tracking well.
Early View: Until we see him on Saturdays impossible to speculate but last year's buzz seemed promising.
 A.J. Williams
Background: 3 star tight end with mid range BCS offers such as Arkansas, MSU, West Virginia, NC State.
Comment: Much like Funchess extremely one dimensional at this point but his dimension is blocking. Caught 1 pass for 2 yards in 11 games. Reviews are mixed on his blocking skills. Jake Butt took playing time as year passed, Heitzman has been moved over this year - facing a lot of competition with Bunting on the horizon as well.
Early View: A bit below projection due to one sided nature of skill set... which is more akin to a small tackle rather than a TE. Ability to grab 1-2 passes a game would help but emergence of Butt looks to put him in backup role.
 Sione Houma
Background: 2/3 star fullback with offers from Utah, Utah State, Washington
Comment: I will leave comments for those more well versed in analyzing a fullback. Devin/Denard type offenses don't allow for much FB type play; maybe this changes in the Morris/Speight era. Right now mostly a special teams player.
Early View: In line with projection out of HS.
 Drake Johnson
Background: 3 star local whose only other offer was Eastern Michigan.
Comment: Won backup RB role ahead of highly rated freshman last year - some question if that was more a reflection of the freshman RBs or Hoke sending a message. Was able to generate all of 2 carries before evilness hit him.
Early view: Too soon to tell but any production would be a bonus versus offer sheet. Depending on 2015 RB recruiting could be facing a logjam on depth chart.
 Dennis Norfleet
Comment: Surprise 3/4 star committment on signing day; taken from Cincinnati
Background: Gets most of playing time as a kick returner. His forays into punt returns have been... challenging. Often said to be "so close to breaking one" on kick returns. Limited role on offense thus far - a bit of a scat back type, with 4 rushes and 6 receptions. Coaches looking to convert him into a slot WR role this year.
Early view: In line with college offers but more production on offense would help reach full potential, esp for the services that gave him 4 stars. Or becoming a poor man's Breaston on kick returns.
OVERALL TAKE: Again it is early ....especially for those who redshirted. 3 of the 4 lineman are in line for projected starting roles on 2014 squad - if they all catch on and become 3 year starters this will be a fantastic haul for the OL even if Bars never plays a minute. If even 2 become 3 year starters it will be a very good thing. Need at least 1 to be "elite" to help take this team up the food chain. Next 12 months should tell us a lot on what to expect in 2015 and 2016 from this group.
Funchess has been the biggest win thus far in the skill players versus expectation. Darboh and Chesson still have potential to be major contributors and seem on track versus expectation as best as we can tell. Other skill players at this moment seem more like niche / backup players but that fits in relatively in line with expectations for them out of HS.
I like that MSU is included in that statement. :)
I think the basic overall theme for the offense, and the team as whole, is that they are young and more young.
Skill position wise, I think they will be fine this year and will only get better.
I'm concerned that the O line is still one year away from becoming solid. I have no doubts that of the 10+ blue chippers on the roster that 5-7 will turn into absolute beasts. I just don't know if that will happen this year, 2015 or 2016......
My only hope for this season is that they are at least servicable, limit negative plays and allow the RBs to at least get to the line of scrimmage. I think that will be an immediate improvement. This team doesn't have to rush for 2,000 yards this season, but they do at least have to show some kind of running game.
But based on your comments, it appears the coaching staff has a lot of work to do. Also, for some reason I had thought many of the offensive players had come in with higher credentials. Clearly that is not the case. Other than Kalis, they appear to be an average bunch.
too soon to tell?
Kalis - ugh, yet probably rushed in his development like all offensive lineman on this roster. Still, the NCAA is littered with kids 1-2 years out of HS producing at much higher levels.
Magnuson - injuries aside, seems like a player destined to play at a decent level. Injured shoulders are not ideal for OL, especially at LT when you consistently reaching for speed rushers coming around the end.
Braden - early hype, but if he getting passed by the likes of early enrollee Mason Cole....
Bars - never heard of him.
Funchess - seems like the only plus player to me. Anxious to see him as the true #1 and how he responds.
Chesson - capable pass catcher, but doesn't seem physical enough in run game.
Darboh - seemed like a potential break out player last year based on reports, but injuries are a part of the game and have set many highly rated kids back and will continue to do so for eternity.
Williams - meh. outclassed by Butt and hopefully future recruits! Should have went to Iowa and turned into an NFL LT.
Houma - whoma?
Johnson - reach late in the process. Injuries not helping.
Norfleet - has he broken one yet? No.
Unimpressed overall with these recruits. Illustrates the struggle of the staff to develop talent. At the same time, look at rivals in the league and they're not that impressive either. An understatement to say that this season is huge. These players are either going to make meaningful contributions or get passed up by younger players. Considering the lack of upperclassmen, these men have no choice but to step up. If not, feel free to transfer.