The nation's consensus top center, IMG Academy's Cesar Ruiz, committed to Michigan this afternoon over Auburn and Florida, who I found out were the other finalists only when Ruiz made his announcement. This may have been a foregone conclusion. You should watch his announcement video if you're into such things:
I Have Officially Committed To ... pic.twitter.com/zgUjbNUPyL
— S A U C Y ™ (@_OverCees) December 19, 2016
Michigan beat out a significant portion of the country's best programs to land Ruiz. He's the 23rd commit in the class and the fifth on the offensive line.
4*, #2 OC,
4*, #1 OC,
4*, 84, #1 OC,
4*, 95, #1 OC,
4*, #1 OC,
Ruiz is the nation's #1 center to every site save Scout, which lists him one spot below Texas Tech commit Jack Anderson. Scout is a minor outlier in Ruiz's rankings and still has him in the top 100, and his rankings are in such a tight range that his composite ranking is higher than any individual ranking. There's a strong consensus on Ruiz's talent.
There's also a strong consensus on his size: he's listed at 6'3" and 313-321 pounds. He's got the ideal build for a center and enough bulk to play guard.
Ruiz has been a well-regarded prospect since his time at Camden (NJ), where he was teammates with freshman DE Ron Johnson and incoming WR Brad Hawkins. He picked up his first offers, from South Carolina and Temple, in March of 2015, and was one of the underclassman standouts at the RCS New Jersey a month later. By the beginning of May, he held offers from Alabama, Auburn, and LSU, and Bama's 247 site listed him as the starting center on their fantasy two-deep for 2018.
Ruiz was part of the group that won the Big Man Challenge at that summer's Rivals Five-Star Challenge, and he showed that he's a natural center at the Under Armour Future 50 camp to end the year, per 247's Luke Stampini:
Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy center Cesar Ruiz was the smallest offensive lineman on hand on Friday, but the four-star prospect looked natural snapping the ball and handling bigger defensive tackles. He was able to sit back with a wide base and stay in front of pass rushers using his feet.
After transferring to IMG for his junior season, Ruiz was back on the camp trail this past summer. Rivals considered him one of the best players at February's RCS Orlando and liked his potential to get even better with added strength:
Ruiz was his usual steady self. The four-star prospect is a well-rounded lineman that can play center or guard. He moves well for a player of his size and has been well-coached throughout his career. He will continue to improve rapidly as he gets stronger.
He earned an invite to the Opening finals at the Orlando regional with a performance Scout considered the best of any offensive lineman in attendance:
Ruiz worked at guard in the Final Five, but he is a center, and that is where he did most of his damage Sunday. He is very strong at the point of attack, he set a great base, and at times he wasn't moved. If Scout had to name a Top OL, it would have been him.
He soundly won two of three reps in that Final Five while working at guard:
Ruiz didn't draw much mention from the Rivals Five-Star Challenge save for in Mike Farrell's awards column, when the recruiting analyst praised Ruiz for missing only one rep after taking a nasty poke to the eye.
Ruiz was stoning defensive lineman after defensive lineman last week. He has great lower body strength, he showed great punch, and he was rarely pushed backwards. It is hard to find a better center out there in 2017. Ruiz is considered to be a strong Alabama lean at this time, but there are others involved here. One to watch is Michigan, but like the Wolverines, all others are chasing the Crimson Tide right now.
OL Cesar Ruiz vs DT Jay Tufele. No. 1 center in the country pic.twitter.com/ONE7AaPds0
— Brian Perroni (@Perroni247) July 9, 2016
247's Barton Simmons was blown away by his Saturday performance:
I didn't realize Ruiz was this good. He just couldn't be moved. It's not that he's a massive guy on the inside, it's just that he plays with such good leverage, such good hand placement and such tenacity that he won almost every rep. Even massive bodies like Marvin Wilson and Tyler Shelvin weren't able to overpower Ruiz but the more active defenders like Jay Tufele couldn't out-quick him either.
247, unsurprisingly, named him to their Dream Team, saying he "looked like a total star" during the week. Follow the Opening finals, Scout moved Ruiz into their top 100, and 247 jumped him all the way from outside the Top247 to #67 overall.
There's surprisingly little out there on Ruiz from his senior season even though he played at the most heavily scouted high school program in the country. This recap of IMG's win over Georgia powerhouse Grayson from 247's Steve Wiltfong is the closest thing to a single-game scouting report from the 2016 season:
I thought the left side of IMG’s offensive line played well in the second half in Notre Dame commit Robert Hainsey, Top247 2018 offensive guard Curtis Dunlap and the nation’s No. 1 ranked center in 2017 Cesar Ruiz. Mond did some damage running behind those three.
Rivals's latest rankings update, from two weeks ago, bumped Ruiz up 41 spots into their top 100:
“Ruiz boasts an incredibly strong upper body with massive legs and a great base. Still, his true worth is in his versatility. He can easily play guard at the next level but is also capable of remaining at center, where he has a heap of experience. Ruiz will likely go north for college. Michigan is the heavy favorite to land his pledge, but North Carolina and Penn State are also options.” – Cassidy
ESPN's evaluation concludes that Ruiz could be an early contributor and should be a multi-year starter at center:
Ruiz is a very good center prospect with good experience at the position. Looks to be progressing well and continuing to get better and has experience working against good competition on a daily basis. With continued growth as a player has potential to come in and compete for time as freshman, but if not in the big picture can be a guy who anchors a line for several seasons for a Power-5 program.
Scout's free evaluation praises his pad level(!) and doesn't have too much to critique:
EvaluationRuiz plays with a low pad level and explodes well. He is quick to the second level and his agility allows him to manipulate his body and make square blocks on smaller targets. He has a strong initial punch and once engaged, he drives his legs and turns the defensive play to open a hole. He retreats well in pass protection and he reads blitzes well. Adding more knee bend and getting his hands inside more are key to his development. -- Brian Dohn
- Body Control and Balance
- Quickness Off Ball
Areas to Improve
Ruiz is the rare true center prospect who's considered such not because he's undersized, but because he's a great fit for the position. He's much more experienced at the position than most high-level high school prospects—who often play tackle no matter what in high school—and he's proven he can hold up on the interior against the best competition in his class.
Alabama, Auburn, Baylor, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Virginia Tech, among others.
IMG is a sports academy in Florida with a crap-ton of top-flight talent. Michigan held their spring practice there last year for reasons that should be obvious by now.
Is OL, no stats.
FAKE 40 TIME
ESPN lists a combine time of 5.26 seconds, which gets zero FAKEs out of five. That was less than a tenth of a second off the top SPARQ-recorded time for a center in this cycle. He had one of the better shuttle times among centers at 4.66, posted a solid 28.7" vertical, and missed the best powerball throw by half a foot at 42'0". His 97.92 SPARQ score is best among centers in the class, per ESPN. His Hudl profile also lists a 375-pound bench press and 610-pound squat. That is a lot more than I can do.
Single-game reels from his senior year can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Ruiz probably won't get a chance to play right away unless Mason Cole goes pro and Patrick Kugler is needed at guard—let's not do that, please—but once Cole graduates there's a good chance he takes over the center spot as early as 2018.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Ruiz is the only center commit Michigan needs, and he's the fifth total commit along the offense line; M could take up to three more OL to round out a class that should reach 32. Their next commitment could (probably should) come at 4 pm today, when in-state DL Deron Irving-Bey makes his announcement. More could come later this week. Ruiz's IMG teammate, four-star LB Jordan Anthony, is scheduled to announce on Thursday, and there are rumors that more decisions could be bumped up to this week.
Other top targets include five-star CA RB Najee Harris, five-star GA DT Aubrey Solomon, top-100 UT DT Jay Tufele, top-100 NJ OLB Drew Singleton, top-100 TX OT Chuck Filiaga, and four-star MS OLB Willie Gay.
For the second straight game, Michigan obliterated a completely overmatched foe. The Wolverines jumped out to a 19-2 lead against Maryland Eastern Shore and didn't let up from there. They led 49-22 at the half with as many three-pointers (8) as the Hawks had field goals. They finished with 28 assists on 32 baskets, led by a career-high ten dishes from Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who entered the game within 90 seconds of tipoff after being replaced in the starting lineup by Duncan Robinson. (Update: Beilein said a clerical error caused Robinson's unexpected start.)
Derrick Walton had a near-flawless performance, scoring 21 points on ten shot equivalents with six rebounds, five assists, a steal, and no turnovers. UMES had no answer for DJ Wilson and Moe Wagner, who combined to go 10-for-11 from the field. Xavier Simpson had four assists and three steals. Ibi Watson had two dunks, one off an assist from Sean Lonergan. Former student manager Fred Wright-Jones made a three to send the bench into hysterics.
Michigan has one more non-conference game on Thursday against Furman before Big Ten play begins on New Year's Day at Iowa. While the last two games have been fun, its arrival will be welcome.
Our new shirt (still making subtle changes)
- Jive turkeys: who are they, what do they want, and why are they trying to influence our Harbaugh?
- Who’s the third turkey, since Dantonio may not be eligible.
- DPJ’s recruitment.
- Hoops: UCLA was kind of fun until it wasn’t. The frontcourt of the future is going to be totally different than past Beilein teams but PG spot is hindering the pick & roll. Mo Wagner can solve a lot of Michigan’s problems, but don’t underrate what McGary was in his short time here with comparisons. This isn’t a scary Big Ten.
- Forward down the field: Craig Ross was a Browns fan until they drafted Manziel.
- Michigan hockey is bad. Protecting Red’s legacy.
You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom.
THE USUAL LINKS
NY OL Isaiah Wilson decides at 11:35 (or, given how these things go, thereabouts) and there's still an undercurrent of uncertainty about his choice. Most people still think it's Michigan despite this talk of a Georgia surge, and an article posted yesterday at 247 offers an opportunity to deduce. Here's his high school coach explaining why Wilson moved his decision up:
"I came up with the idea after seeing Jim Harbaugh here," Fountaine said. "He spent a couple hours here, and he is just like a big kid - he's got a different personality. But seeing him walk around the school, with such a and how the kids respond - everybody knows who he is. Football is so important to the school, so I thought it would be great for him to do it in front of his entire student body."
Fountaine says he contacted Wilson while he was on his official to Georgia to pitch the idea.
Wilson immediately agreed, which again doesn't sound like a guy who is still contemplating a decision. He probably knew it was Michigan at about the time he moved it up from the UA game to Christmas, as well, and knew at about the time the Alabama insiders' confidence went off a cliff.
It is of course possible that Georgia changed his mind. Weirder things have happened in recruiting. This is why it is sometimes known as crootin. Still feeling as confident as possible given that Wilson, like DPJ, seemingly hasn't given anyone the wink-wink. Per Sam Webb it's crickets for all three suitors. Fun! (Not fun.)
Anyway, we'll know in an hour or two.
Same. [Isaiah Hole/247Sports]
Donovan Peoples-Jones was billed as the next Detroit-produced superstar practically from the moment he set foot on the field for Cass Tech as a freshman in 2013. If anything, he surpassed those lofty expectations during a superlative high school career that culminated last month in a state championship blowout of Catholic Central—Peoples-Jones led the way with six catches for 119 yards and a touchdown.
In the interim, his reputation reached near-mythical status as absurd feat of athleticism after absurd feat of athleticism went viral. Here's Peoples-Jones fooling around on Vine in the summer before his sophomore year:
Here he makes a 52-inch box jump look effortless in front of Devin Gardner and several stunned onlookers:
— Chris Huff (@Performance80FS) March 21, 2016
Here he dunks over a small village:
The small village reacted accordingly.
He won the PSL title as a junior with a 10.93 100-meter dash. He ran the anchor leg on Cass Tech's state title-winning 4x100 relay and state runner-up 4x200 relay.
Yes, that athleticism translates to the football field. Here's his go-ahead touchdown catch with 25 seconds left in this year's state semifinals:
— Blake Parpart (@bparpart28) November 20, 2016
Despite possessing so much natural physical talent that he could probably skate by without doing homework for the rest of his life, he's also a straight-A student and aspiring orthopedic surgeon; reports surfaced over the summer that he was shadowing doctors at Michigan's medical school. Even for a mom quote, this is a hell of a mom quote:
“His focus and determination, sometimes, especially during football season he’ll stay up till 2 or 3 in the morning doing homework,” Rozlyn said. “I’ll ask him if he wants any help and he says no it’s my responsibility to get the work done.
“His character. I watch him every day just want to be the best. He’s taken everything I’ve put into him and multiplied it three times over. He’s just a gift. Definitely a gift. He has the kind of determination and focus, I look at him and he’s teaching me. He’s leading and guiding me. As Christian people we’re taught that sometimes the children will lead you. He’s one of those, he’s gifted.”
He was one of the foremost prospects to speak out against the short-lived satellite camp ban, too. If it's still possible to use the term "Michigan Man" without a hint of irony*, it's applicable here.
While Peoples-Jones had long been considered a heavy Michigan lean, he never let on as much publicly, which led to a dramatic final couple weeks of his recruitment. Florida State and Ohio State emerged as serious contenders. Tonight, in a nationally televised announcement on ESPN2, he chose to stay home.
[*it's not, sorry.]
5*, #4 WR,
5*, #2 WR,
4*, 87, #4 WR,
5*, 98, #1 WR,
5*, #1 WR,
The only site that doesn't rate Peoples-Jones as a five-star (ESPN) has him ranked higher than one that does (Scout). All consider him somewhere between great and super-great; as a result, he's the top receiver in the composite rankings.
Peoples-Jones is listed at 6'2" (or 6'2.5") and 190-200 pounds on every site save Rivals (6'1", 188), which has an outdated figure—he measured in at 6'2", 200 at this year's Opening finals. While not imposingly tall, he's done a great job of filling out his frame over the last couple years; he already looks like a college wideout.
[Hit THE JUMP for what is without a doubt the longest Hello post I've ever written.]
Yes another one so soon, it's recruiting time.
Hello Tarik Black
What techniques have you seen out of him that he's truly dominant at?
I think his route-running ability is freakish, to be honest. He has an innate ability in and out of a cut and create separation, no matter what you're doing. And he will catch any ball near him.
Brian Dohn has some more scouting at, uh, Scout:
When getting off of the line of scrimmage, Black knows how to set up the cornerback and stick his foot into the ground and make a cut. He gets his head around quickly and locates the ball well.
Black also has big, strong hands, and he does a very good job of securing the ball quickly and heading up the field to make yards.
I'm not sure who he'll get compared to when I do the recruiting profile. Michigan hasn't had a lot of 6'4" guys at WR with Black's apparent polish. FWIW, Black will enroll early.
Orbiting panic guy getting a workout
Drama must accompany any announcement from a recruit in the five star range even when there doesn't seem to be much available, and we hit that point with MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones and NY OL Isaiah Wilson yesterday. There has been FSU and OSU chatter about Peoples-Jones, and there was a surge of Georgia optimism—one that included a couple crystal balls—for Wilson.
The situations for both are similar: there is a genuine uncertainty since neither player has told coaching staffs where they are headed prior to their announcement. Black was a silent commit for a couple months before his announcement, and there are some other guys on the board who are equally drama-free. Neither of these gents are that.
Webb reports that Peoples-Jones was still sounding folks out for advice as of Monday. DPJ has been on Michigan's campus a zillion times, including an official visit last weekend; Isaiah Hole reports that he spent a lot of time with Najee Harris and his mother, purportedly in an attempt to recruit them to Michigan. Lorenz says it would be a "considerable upset" if he went anywhere else, etc. This has a Lavert Hill vibe to it where there's some uncertainty going into the announcement but the sheer number of visits DPJ has taken and his connections to Michigan should see M win out.
DPJ announces at 8:30 on ESPN2.
The Wilson stuff looks like a Reverse Nauta to me. If you remember last year's recruitment of TE Isaac Nauta you'll remember the surge of Michigan optimism late that ended up petering out. This is a little different since 247's Ryan Bartow has issued a CB for Wilson to UGA based on a "trio of contacts." He's currently the only member of the insider crew with that opinion. Lorenz is still hearing Michigan; Bama people are hearing Wilson "prefers to play in the SEC" but that Alabama isn't really in it anymore for whatever reason and still riding with Michigan; Mike Farrell and Adam Friedman at Rivals are picking Michigan; 247 Georgia guy Rusty Mansell thinks it's "tight" but also goes with Michigan.
I still go back to that Friedman article I've referenced a couple times where he said he pretty much knew where he was going. That was before the Georgia visit. So for Georgia to win this recruitment one of these two things has to be true:
- Everyone was completely wrong about Wilson's inclinations for the duration of his recruitment and a single unofficial over the summer to UGA was enough to overcome full-court presses from Alabama and Michigan.
- Georgia did enough on his official visit to overturn an already-made decision.
I guess it's possible; I'll believe it when I see it. Wilson should decide around noon tomorrow.
Obligatory Najee Harris section
Wheatley coaching Harris at Michigan's satellite camp in Antioch
Sam Webb dropped what is probably the longest insider post on a single recruit I've ever seen. The topic, as you may infer from the section header, is naturally CA RB Najee Harris. There's too much in it to even summarize. The most salient bit in my eyes is the total media blackout since Harris's visit:
That includes Scout's Bama writer A.P. Steadham, who has actually spent time in Najee's home interviewing his mom. He was the first to interview her, and for that matter I think he has interviewed her more than anyone else. Since the visit I’m told he has gotten crickets.
Huffman has spoken with the kid and folks in the school more than anyone else in the media (Huff is SUPER connected Antioch). So far crickets for him too (but don’t expect it to be that way much longer).
That blackout results in the kind of reports you see about Harris, where guy who works for team-oriented recruiting site asks team sources how they feel. Naturally they feel real good. 247's Hank South is their main Alabama guy and reports that "a source familiar with Harris's recruitment" believes Harris will stick with 'Bama, which is basically what they've been saying for a year with no more or less conviction.
The other running backs
Harris's uncertain status and AJ Dillon's BC flip puts the other two RB commits in the spotlight. MSU appears to be kicking the tires on 3* GA RB Kurt Taylor. Dillon's decommit should make Taylor's spot in the class much more secure. Still worth noting since that's the only non-Michigan activity on Taylor's profile since April, when he may or may not have taken an unofficial to South Carolina.
Meanwhile NM RB O'Maury Samuels was upgraded to "moderate" on the imaginary flip watch spreadsheet after his official had to be delayed until January so he could re-take the ACT. Sam mentioned a potential Brad Hawkins redux in the Scout best guess list; not everyone is up for a prep year if someone else will take you immediately.
If Harris goes the wrong way Michigan could end up with a thin RB crew. Probably doesn't matter a ton since they have three contributors returning and Davis/Walker coming off redshirts, but I really liked both Samuels and Dillon as prospects.
In case you'd like to know how competitive Michigan State is in the race for MI DE/DT Deron Irving-Bey's commitment, here's an MSU recruiting insider bombing the talent level of the only instate four star other than MSU legacy Hunter Rison the Spartans have a shot at:
A source added that, "Irving-Bey's senior film wasn't that impressive and doesn't play with a high motor."
Spartan Tailgate was told Irving-Bey is not likely to end up at Michigan State unless they miss out on several other defensive linemen targets ahead of him. That's one of the reasons why Irving-Bey hasn't taken an official visit to Michigan State yet.
Irving-Bey will announce on January 7th at the Army game. MSU's several DL targets in front of Irving-Bey... will not do that.
Also in mmmmhmmmm:
A source close to Harris told SEC Country recently that he prefers Alabama’s weight program more so than Michigan’s. In fact, one player Harris personally knows at Michigan became very out of shape, and it was off-putting. Harris is a workout freak and Alabama strength coach Scott Cochran may be the best in college football.
That is almost certainly Harris's trainer and indicates where he wants Harris to go more than anything else. The idea that there's a huge problem with a Michigan S&C program that is about to put 12 kids in the NFL draft is bush league pyschout stuff, man.
EPISODE IV: A NEW ROSS
Senior film from 4* MI LB commit Josh Ross:
Ross is a bigger version of his brother and will probably play ILB what with Michigan recruiting various safety/LB hybrids for the Peppers spot.
CA CB Elijah Hicks is in a holding pattern after his official to Michigan. His coach still swears up and down he'll sign with ND, but he is an unreliable narrator. Michigan stopped by PA OL and PSU commit CJ Thorpe for whatever reason. Unless things go haywire down the stretch that's unlikely to amount to anything either way.
2018 CA WR Amon-Ra St Brown, younger brother of ND WR Equanimeous, says he will definitely visit Michigan. ND turmoil might open the door for M.
2019—you are old and will die soon—GA OL/DL Chris Hinton Jr is a potential five star who Michigan has offered. He's worth a mention even at this early stage because both his parents went to Northwestern. I'm giving him an honorary hyphen and expect he'll be a hot name around this time next year.
Former MSU DT Craig Evans lands at Oregon State after a JUCO year. Oregon State is where Gary Andersen is after he left Wisconsin in a huff, largely because he couldn't get guys like Evans, a former UW commit, in. So there's a thing.
MI CB Donovan Johnson shot up to #7 in the state on the composite, which is a bummer for Michigan twitter screenshotting. Johnson just committed to PSU. MSU didn't even offer, which is the weirdest thing about this year's in-state recruiting.
Also I just need to say that Alabama is recruiting guys named "Buggs" and "Ruggs" at the same time. That is all.
Bust items. Michigan's annual football bust was last night. The most important thing arising from it was either Harbaugh emphatically stating he was not leaving Michigan and that three "jive turkeys" were spreading rumors to damage the program...
Harbaugh says talk of him leaving is coming from "enemies," namely three coaches who he calls "jive turkeys"
— Adam Schnepp (@aeschnepp) December 14, 2016
...or this photobomb.
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) December 14, 2016
Better men than me will have to parse a winner between those two items. I mean.
I did a GIF search for jive turkey and was not disappointed pic.twitter.com/gEHQxeqekz
— Joe (@joefedewa) December 14, 2016
Split those hairs, if you will.
Other bits and pieces:
- John O'Korn's status is up in the air: you "may see him back here next year."
- Also in fifth year limbo: Wyatt Shallman, Patrick Kugler, David Dawson. We've been assuming Shallman gets a firm handshake since RB and FB are both full of guys and he hasn't been able to stay healthy. Michigan will probably need the OL depth Kugler and Dawson provide. It wouldn't be much of a surprise to see one or both start, but last year Michigan went into spring camp over 85 and without various exits the axe could have fallen on a guy like Matt Godin.
- Maurice Hurst was not present—some guys had class commitments—and Harbaugh urged people to @ him to encourage him to return. Hurst's publicly stated he is leaning towards a return. Obviously that decision is not made yet.
- Harbaugh further stumped for a sixth year for Jeremy Clark.
It is possible to take recruiting rankings too seriously. We take them seriously around here, but not this seriously:
FSU has the talent advantage in the game at every position except the offensive line.
That's a Tallahassee Democrat article titled "It's Experience versus Talent" in the Orange Bowl, which, uh
Because of the Michigan offensive line, the Michigan offense has a higher average recruiting ranking than the Seminoles despite the Seminoles having the edge at the skill positions and quarterback.
So not really. Also Michigan's defense has a walk-on at nose tackle... a walk-on who will be a mid-round draft pick. The moral of the article is that the recruiting rankings are close to a wash and Michigan is a bunch older, which helps explain why Michigan is a touchdown favorite.
Harbaugh's fourth down decisions analyzed. Long piece on Harbaugh's punt or go-for-it decision from Big House Analytics finds that somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of the time Harbaugh agrees with math dorks:
Ultimately, we have a 77.8% “success rate” here, if you will — out of Michigan’s 45 non-garbage-time punts and their nine non-garbage-time fourth-down conversion attempts, Harbaugh’s decision to punt or go was Romer-approved or at least defensible given the complexion of the game (in my opinion) 77.8% of the time. If you want to go by the book (meaning the punts I deemed as defensible but not Romer-approved counting against our success rate instead of for it), our score is 59.3%.
This analysis doesn't get into anything team specific, so Michigan's iffy running game and killer defense don't factor in. Both of those argue for a more conservative tack. Only a couple of Harbaugh's decisions stood out to me as poor: punting on fourth and five from the OSU 36 early was pretty bad. On the other hand, that set up a first half where OSU was constantly pinned back and Michigan eventually cracked their D for a TD. It was very Ten Year War, and you could see why people tended to play that way back in the day.
Meanwhile on that FSU OL. Sometime OL starter Wilson Bell was arrested for failure to appear after a hit-and-run on property. No word yet on whether that affects his availability for the bowl game. I'd guess that it doesn't since no announcement has been made yet.
Hitching your revenue model to the cable bundle was foolish. It's going to take some time, but not as much as some people thought it would. ESPN is already becoming a bit of a boat anchor for Disney:
ESPN was thrust into the spotlight in November when the ratings company Nielsen predicted the sports juggernaut would lose 621,000 cable subscribers that month. Nielsen estimated the sports network would lose another 555,000 subscribers in December.
The cable bundle is going to dissolve. That is inevitable. I sure as hell wouldn't have cable if I didn't watch sports, and about 100% of people younger than me have the same opinion. Since sports is by far the most expensive thing in the cable bundle, grandmas who just want to watch HGTV will bolt and we'll be the only ones left. At that point you don't get to put your hand in New York's pocket just because you added Rutgers, and then Rutgers is a barnacle on the Big Ten.
Maybe they can just eject them like the Big East ejected Temple? That's the ticket?
Draft split. Todd McShay's first mock draft has Peppers 4th; he fell out of PFF's first round mock. I'd split the difference there: Peppers obviously has some things to work on, but no athlete as outrageous as he is will fall to the second round.
McShay also has Taco Charlton(24th) and Jourdan Lewis(28th) in his first round. Hopefully Charlton does go in the first round, because then I will be less peeved about his lack of a redshirt. Also he deserves it.
Also of note for Michigan fans: McShay has OSU CB Marshon Lattimore and UW OT Ryan Ramczyk in his first round. Both guys could return to school; Michigan would obviously prefer it if they did not.
Russell Wilson part 2? 247 reports that Wisconsin is looking like the landing spot for ND grad transfer QB Malik Zaire. Zaire has about 100 career attempts to his name over the last three years and brings Devin Gardner-esque athleticism. He's not a slam dunk, but he's looked better than Alex Hornibrook. Would give Wisconsin another element.
The life of an analyst. Fascinating article on the guys who get their foot in the door for Bill Belichick:
Daboll was well prepared. He had spent two years as a grad assistant at Michigan State under Saban, so could speak semi-comfortably about scheme, self-scout, all that. Then Scarnecchia asked him about salary.
What do you think you should make?
Daboll had researched this, too. He had made calls to colleagues, and had dug up salary surveys from the NFL Coaches Association. He believed the average annual salary was around $65,000. He also thought, having worked for Saban, that he was a tad better than average.
"So I say 70," Daboll recalled. "And Brad Seely leans over and says, 'Would you take 15?' I go, 'Yessir.'"
NFL teams lowballing QC types like they're newspapers out here. Article also has a bunch of details on what breaking into football coaching is actually like. It is a ton of yes/no game charting.
Etc.: Carol Hutchins wins the inaugural Pat Summitt award. Well deserved. Minnesota suspends ten(!) players indefinitely. They decline to say why because of "privacy restrictions relating to student educational data," which tells you why. [UPDATE: Nevermind. Very bad.]
Peppers and mom in NYC. Some Don Brown twist stuff. Will Lockwood will be out for some time thanks to an obvious boarding incident that went uncalled but still separated his shoulder. "Christmas camp." Sounds fun!
Friday, December 9, 2016
Michigan 4, Wisconsin 7
UM 1 UW 0 PPG 09:49 Assists: Lockwood & Allen
Michigan goes away from the 1-3-1 they’ve been using most of the season and aligns in the umbrella with Kile working the point. Kile happens to have the puck, swinging it to Lockwood in the right faceoff circle.
Lockwood takes his sweet time with the puck, as well he should. He’s looking for something to develop, and that something ends up being the defender taking a knee when he thinks Lockwood’s about to shoot. This opens up a pass at the red line for Allen, and the pass can be made with confidence because 1.) the nearest defender is on his knee and 2.) the rest of the defense is occupied with other Michigan skaters and won’t be able to challenge the pass aggressively.
Allen sees the seam between defenders, and with said defenders collapsing on net Piazza is left unchecked to the goaltender’s left. Allen threads a nice pass through the lane.
Piazza one-times it, leaving Berry with no chance of stopping a shot for which he has to get all the way across the crease. Michigan does a nice job here of moving the puck; once it’s on Lockwood’s stick and then moved behind the net, the goaltender has to lock the post and the defense shifts away from Piazza.
[Hit THE JUMP for some weird bounces]
After some minor technical difficulties, four-star Cheshire Academy (CT) WR Tarik Black committed to Michigan today in a ceremony at his school, choosing the Wolverines over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Notre Dame, and many others. Black is the second wide receiver in the 2017 class, joining Brad Hawkins, and the 21st commit in the class overall.
4*, #13 WR,
4*, #10 WR,
4*, 81, #31 WR,
4*, 92, #29 WR,
4*, #17 WR,
We have another prospect whose rankings fall into two distinct groups. Scout and Rivals both consider Black a top-100 prospect; ESPN and 247 still regard him as a four-star but place him in the ~200 overall range. There are multiple possiblities for why this split exists. Notably, Black participated in a bunch of the Rivals-only camps, which could mean Rivals has the best read on his game—or they could be rewarding him rankings-wise for participating in their camps. (This is why I hate the Rivals camps that only Rivals can cover.) There's hope it's the former, as Scout—the other site to rank him in the top 100—got out to one of his games this fall while ESPN and 247 lack much in the way of in-person scouting reports.
The four sites are in general agreement on Black's measureables, listing him at a strapping 6'3" or 6'4" (Scout splits the difference) and somewhere between 201 and 208 pounds. He's got great size for a possession receiver who can also be a contested-ball threat downfield.
Black is about as well-scouted as a prospect from Connecticut is ever going to be in large part because he's hit the camp scene hard since at least 2014, when mentions of him started popping up on Rivals. Black was an immediate contributor on varsity as a freshman in 2013, scoring nine touchdowns. Rivals named him one of the top underclassmen at the RCS New Jersey the following spring and invited him to their Underclassmen Challenge, where he also made the top performer list:
Black came all the way from the Nutmeg State and stood out with his size and route-running in a large group of wide receivers. He has very good size for his age and showed good hands as well. Syracuse and Temple have offered and he will be one to watch in New England.
Black impressed onlookers at Penn State's Junior Elite Camp that summer; he was one of three 2017 wideouts (Donovan Peoples-Jones was another) to earn mention from 247's Sean Fitz as one of that summer's PSU camp standouts:
The 6-foot-2, 183-pound prospect is smooth and adjusts well to the ball in the air. He's a natural athlete and should continue to improve his numbers as he adds explosiveness.
After a productive sophomore season, Black hit the camp circuit again. Josh Helmholdt ranked him higher than any other underclassman in a loaded field at the 2015 RCS New Jersey:
Of all the top wide receiver talent in attendance, Black may have as much upside as any of them. Another tall, fluid receiver who measures 6-foot-2 and 184 pounds, the class of 2017 four-star glides down the field and is very clean in and out of his breaks. Maybe his best attributes, however, are his hands, which were on display when a quarterback led him too far across the middle and Black had to reel in a fingertips grab while maintaining his balance.
247 concurred with this assessment, calling him a "smooth, gliding type who covers ground quickly" after the FBU Connecticut camp.
The rankings split appears to stem from last summer. Black got only passing mention from 247's Steve Wiltfong after the New Jersey Opening regional and he wasn't invited to the Opening finals, where all four of the recruiting outlets would've had a chance to scout him in depth against top competition. Black once again was a top performer at the RCS New Jersey, however, which earned him an invite to the Rivals-only elite camp, the Five-Star Challenge. Before the Challenge, he participated in Michigan's satellite camp in Connecticut, where he won the shuttle drills competition, per TMI's Eugene Hankerson.
At the Five-Star Challenge, Black's performance ranked behind only top-50 OSU commit Tyjon Lindsay's and ahead of the likes of five-star Alabama commit Jerry Jeudy's among pass-catchers:
Black was the second-most consistent wide receiver at the event and managed to shine in both the morning and the evening sessions. Black’s length allowed him to grab a couple of overthrown balls and his crisp routes allowed him to create gobs of separation on intermediate routes. There were faster wide receivers at the camp, but few were as consistent downfield.
He made Mike Farrell's all-camp team—which, hilariously, is called the All-Farrell Five-Star Challenge Team—and was honorable mention for Farrell's best hands award behind winner Najee Harris(!). When Rivals did their next rerank, they moved Black up 52 spots into the top 100, and he's stayed there ever since.
247, which didn't get to see Black at the Five-Star Challenge (or, obviously, at the Opening finals), moved him down from #119 overall to #186 in their July update. The perception of Black very much depends on which camp—and how many camps—a particular outlet attended where he was present.
[UPDATE: Tim Sullivan hopped into the comments to provide a helpful explanation for why Black didn't get many mentions after the Opening regional:
Black didn't do the full day of workouts at the New Jersey Opening camp (he skipped the testing, IIRC), but he did get picked to the elite group when they separated them out for the 7-on-7 portion of the day. He was solid there, but had a much more notable performance the day before at the New Jersey Rivals Camp.A lot of kids who were great at one of those two were just OK at the other - the nature of camps on back-to-back days.
That's far preferable to Black participating in full in the Opening regional and not making an impact, obviously.]
Scout, thankfully, got out to a game of his this fall, and even though the opposing defense gameplanned to keep the ball out of Black's hands, Brian Dohn found him worthy of his top-100 ranking:
Black is not targeted much because teams bracket him in coverage, but the Scout 100 receiver is still impressive to watch. He gets off the line of scrimmage in a flash, is smooth in the open field and high points the ball well.
Dohn expanded on that scouting report for Scout's free evaluation:
EvaluationBlack is a big target who tracks the ball well and high-points his catches. He goes over the middle and can also get down the field. He has big hands to secure the ball and tucks it quickly. He gets off the line well and is quick in and out of breaks. He knows how to use his size against the defensive backs. He needs to add strength to be more physical down the field and also to be a more effective blocker. -- Brian Dohn
- Ability To Beat Jams
- Hands and Concentration
Areas to Improve
- Blocking Ability
I'll give the final word to ESPN, which ranks Black the lowest of the four sites despite a relatively glowing evaluation:
Looks to have big hands and the ball rarely gets to frame. Times jumps well and high points the ball better than most. Above average body control opening up and adjusting to throws outside strike zone. Tracks deep ball well and fields over the shoulder throws naturally. Has upside as a jump ball or redzone pass catcher from a size advantage. Is a wide target capable of adjusting to errant throws.
Lacks top flight elite speed, but is very effective after the catch and fast enough. Is elusive in traffic flashing the ability to make first tackler miss while his smooth stride and tough finishing effort can eat up chunks of yardage. Is difficult to tackle and difficult to be on the jump ball. Probably at his best as a run and catch guy using his size to win downfield. Works hard to catch the football and is reliable. Will make his fair share of big plays particularly in the red zone.
Black is a quality guy. He's got terrific measurables, he is sneaky athletic and rangy and he catches the football very well the vertical passing game. Can play on the inside and outside which gives him value. Shows toughness and once he develops more savvy as a route runner he could be a polished guy. Will have to adjust to level of competition in college. A prospect for the top five conference programs.
Minor route running issues and a lack of elite speed are his main issues and his ability to catch contested balls helps make up for both of them. There could be concerns about consistency given his somewhat uneven camp performances—unfortunately there's little available detail on his Opening regional showing—but he looks like an excellent possession receiver with some big-play and red-zone upside. Amara Darboh with an extra inch or two isn't a bad comparison.
Black holds an elite offer sheet featuring Alabama, Auburn, Arizona State, Georgia, Louisville, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin, among others.
Black and classmate CJ Holmes, a four-star Notre Dame commit, are the second and third four-stars from Cheshire Academy in the Rivals database, following 2009 North Carolina signee Joshua Adams. The program has produced a healthy number of three-stars who usually wind up staying in the East; current Penn State safety Malik Golden is a Cheshire Academy product.
While there are complete stats on MaxPreps for Black's first two years of high school, there aren't for his last two seasons.
FAKE 40 TIME
Black's Hudl page lists an unsourced 4.48 40 time, which gets four FAKEs out of five. That would be a near-elite electronic time, which doesn't fit with the scouting reports. He's certainly not slow, however.
Junior highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Like the other receivers who will be in this class, Black will get a chance to see the field right away following the departures of Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. His ability to play on the outside or in the slot should get him more reps. As a bigger possession guy, I like his chances of carving out a role relatively early in his career; he's a very different receiver from this year's freshmen.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Black is Michigan's 21st commit in the class and their second at wide receiver, joining Brad Hawkins, who was originally a member of the 2016 class before taking a prep year. The Wolverines should take two more receivers in the class; we'll find out Thursday night if they get in-state five-star Donovan Peoples-Jones, which is the expectation, and four-star AL WR Nico Collins is a Signing Day decision.
Other positions of need include offensive line, defensive tackle, and linebacker. The pace of commitments should pick up considerably in the very near future: DPJ, as mentioned, announces tomorrow, and that's followed in quick succession by decisions from offensive linemen Isaiah Wilson (Friday) and Cesar Ruiz (Monday).
MA RB AJ Dillon has flipped to Boston College, a school with some jive turkeys doing their edits.
— AJ Dillon (@ajdillon7) December 14, 2016
Watching an offensive player agree to play at Boston College is always a sad thing, but per Sam Webb they sold him on the opportunity to definitely play running back and Michigan said they said "90%" with a chance of linebacker. Meanwhile NM RB O'Maury Samuels's visit was postponed for an SAT retake, so his recruitment is obviously in some question.
Michigan is of course trying to reel in CA RB Najee Harris, the #1 recruit in the country. If they get him, this is a non-event. If they don't... eh, Michigan has Ty Isaac, Chris Evans, Karan Higdon, Kareem Walker, and Kingston Davis plus whoever they do end up bringing in this year. Dillon is an excellent athlete who is a coup for BC; Michigan looks like they'll be fine at RB for the next couple years either way.