Watching DT recruiting play out this year has been very informative as far as how this staff is looking at defensive schemes and personnel. It is the opinion of most fans (judging by message board angst) that we are sorely in need of top-notch defensive tackles. The recruiting emphases of the staff this offseason, however, suggest they do not think they need many "DT" bodies. I put DT in quotes to refer to high school players playing the position, or players ranked and projected for that position by the recruiting sites.
In fact, it seems we are planning to either (a) move DEs to DT from among our current players, or (b) only use one traditional DT at most times. One cannot be sure--it is not that we don't have the bodies to play a pair of DTs with backups. However, if we expect to be playing two DTs with sufficient backups--comprised of players recruited as high school DTs--our numbers would seem low and our recruiting at the position more lackadaisical than one would expect from this otherwise highly motivated staff.
As a case study, it is interesting to observe the recruitment of Hankins and Talbott. Hankins (Scout: 28 DT, Rivals: 5.5, ESPN: 77) is higher rated than Talbott (Scout: 50 DT, Rivals 5.5, ESPN: 73). More importantly for the MSU-insecure among us, he hails from within the borders of Michigan. But we were not crazy about Hankins. We are pursuing Talbott. The difference?
The most immediate one is body type. Talbott has tall, rangy, DE build. As ESPN begins, and ends, its assessment:
Talbott plays a little out of position in high school as a defensive
tackle. In college he could be looking at a move to defensive end...a bit of 'tweener position wise right now.
Indeed. He looks like a DE. But we are recruiting him to play on the inside. I think what DT recruiting this year suggests is we no longer are shopping for Terrance Taylors, i.e. stout 4* gap-stuffing fire hydrants. Or jelly roll behemoths. We will take an athletic behemoth like Will Campbell (or any 5* in our backyard, probably), but on the inside now we want guys who are fast and active. I like this approach.
It is interesting to observe that many pundits have deep doubts about the ability of Michigan's speed defense approach to withstand the power running teams of the Big Ten (nevermind the parallel stories on how the whole league has gone to the spread). I agree it will be interesting, but I have more confidence than most. If teams truly are gashing us within the tackles we can always send more bodies crashing into the box. At least we can do that more easily than scattering our stout bodies across a wide field to cover spread sets (see Ohio State 2006, App St./Oregon 2007, etc.)
Terry Talbott is not a win in the recruiting war in terms of quantified ratings, but I think he is a terrific fit for a scheme that can be implemented to terrorize opposing offenses from sideline to sideline. I am voting "yes" for Terry. I hope you will too.