"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Joe Bolden and James Ross Go Blue
Tom broke the news of Bolden's commitment last week, then caught up with Joe for a quick interview:
I wanted to [commit] in person because it shows more respect when you say it in person and look someone in the eyes to tell them you're coming to their school...
I'm very solid on it. I wouldn't have made the decision if I wasn't. There were a lot of factors that played into it, and there were some factors on why I did it so early. I thought why wait if it's the right school, with the right people, and I don't see any better opportunity to play college football and get an education.
While he's not exactly a quick-twitch athlete, he has above average coverage skills because of his instincts and awareness. Bolden also seems to have a top-quality motor with the willingness to chug back into plays that others would give up on. He flies to the football, makes solid contact, and wraps up ballcarriers.
Jack Slice on The Wolverine Blog:
His hips aren’t stiff and he can drop into coverage well, he’s got good coverage awareness. He reads the QB’s eyes at all times. Bolden probably plays smarter than either of the other two LBs we have committed.
There's essentially nothing to dislike about Ross as a prospect. Even though he's not lightning fast in a straight line, he's a true "quick twitch" athlete. Watching his feet and hips move, he has the agility of a safety. But the most impressive thing about Ross is how quickly he diagnoses plays. I'm not sure that I've seen a high school player - and certainly not a Michigan recruit - make quicker decisions and find the ball faster than Ross does.
As for past commits, MI TE Devin Funchess got a writeup in the Oakland Observer.
Last week, it seemed like Gunner Kiel was a longshot for Michigan, so I only spent a little bit of time discussing him, but he's since visited Ann Arbor, so an ESPN profile suddenly becomes much more interesting.
"I still need to be more vocal and be the person that people can rely on. I try to be upbeat about everything -- workouts, conditioning, studying the playbook... I'm a great competitor, I hate to lose," Kiel said. "I'm going to work as hard as possible and try to make the other players on the team better every single day. Hopefully I can be the consummate teammate."
Making said article even more interesting is that the author included Michigan among his four favorites:
Michigan: "They have a new coaching staff and they are bringing a new offense on the table that's going to feature the passing game a lot. It's going to be a good system and they will be successful."
Meanwhioe, here are some Tyler O'Connor Highlights:
($) Maybe got offered.
OH QB Austin Appleby talks about coming back from a knee injury last fall:
Appleby searched every nook and cranny he could for rehab edges. He found a a device called an ARPwave. It is similar to electro-stimulus muscle training, only amped up. It can be painful. Dwight Freeney used it to recover from an ankle injury during Super Bowl week and play in the game in 2010.
“It is the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Appleby said. “But I am so much stronger because of it. They would stick it to my quads and hamstrings, jack it up, and I would have to hold squats and lunges. The first month or so, I couldn’t make it up my stairs.”
His recruitment is blowing up, and many analysts say it will get even bigger once he proves he's healthy.
Happy Trails to WA QB Jeff Lindquist, who committed to Washington.
A couple more prospects are expected to make decisions soon. MI DE/DT Matt Godin will announce on May 12th (that's next Thursday) and MI TE Ron Thompson has been planning to announce soon, but may push that back:
I'm just not ready, it's too much. I think I'm far from a decision to be honest. There was a team that was looking good, but now there are others that have come aboard and I'm not sure if I'm ready.
Godin is choosing between Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. Tom says that Thompson may still announce on the 11th, but it's no longer a certainty. "There was a team that was looking good" definitely seems like it should be followed by "and then they got two tight ends committed."
MI DE Mario Ojemudia (a teammate of Michigan commit TE Devin Funchess) has been making noises on twitter about making a commitment this month, so keep an eye out for him. [ed: As mentioned on the sidebar yesterday, rumblings out of Harrison suggest Ojemudia will end up at M. The main competition conceding is about as good of a sign as you can get.]
“I am still committed to Ohio State,” said Dunn, who rushed for 2,030 yards last season and scored 22 touchdowns. “I have been visiting other schools. I was basically trying to tell (the writer for the recruiting site) I’m still committed to Ohio State, but I’m going to visit other schools to keep my options open if anything happens to Ohio State. Who knows what’s going to happen.”
Dunn's father repeated that position to Tom, though they are considering a visit to Ann Arbor. "I am committed to School X but still taking visits," as former Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez would tell you, is secret code for "I am not committed to anybody, but School X is my strong leader." Since the chances of anything happening to Ohio State are 100%, keep an eye on Bri'onte.
Tom spoke with MO DT Ondre Pipkins about when he'll be making a decision:
Yeah, I'll narrow it down to a top five in June sometime... and I'll probably make my decision after my season. I don't mind waiting that long, it doesn't get annoying if you can manage it and prioritize things the right way.
Michigan appears to be in strong position.
Tom spoke with OH DE Adolphus Washington,
We're open to everybody. We like Ohio State because we grew up fans of Ohio State, but we're giving everyone a chance. Michigan is recruiting me very hard. A lot of people say that I'm an Ohio State lean, but Michigan is still recruiting me hard and I like that. That says a lot about them that they're still coming after me like that. Their program was down last year but I think they're an up and coming program and they'll be back.
His high school Athletic Director played for Michigan's linebackers coach, Mark Smith, at Indiana, a potentially helpful connection. He also described his game:
I'm 6-foot-4, 258-pounds right now. I think my strengths are rushing the quarterback and being the first to the quarterback. I think I need to learn how to use my hands more, to use my hands better. That's something that I work on.
The Wolverines could certainly use an elite edge rusher.
NY CB/S Wayne Morgan told 24/7 Sports that he's most interested in Rutgers, Syracuse, and UConn, though they must have omitted the part where he said "and least interested in winning football games" (glass houses and all that, but whateva). Michigan dropped in on him last week.
Michigan is "still in the mix" for AZ OL Andrus Peat.
Lifelong Buckeyes fan Tom Strobel is "warming up to Michigan" ($, info in header).
OH OL Kyle Dodson is "still high on Michigan" ($, info in header).
Michigan has boosted its position ($, info in header) with OH WR Dwayne Stanford.
PA OL Tyler Alt was the O-Line MVP at the Penn State Nike Camp. Michigan coaches want him to camp in order to earn an offer.
Michigan is in a top-5-ish substance for MD DT Ryan Watson. He's a teammate of 2011 signee Blake Countess.
Alabama offers MI DT Danny O'Brien.
According to Sam Webb, OH S Bam Bradley favors Pitt and MSU.
Michigan has offered MO WR Durron Neal.
Michigan has offered AZ CB/WR DJ Foster.
Happy Trails, CA DT Aziz Shittu. He committed to Stanford, which is no surprise.
Happy Trails, OH OL Benny McGowan. The teammate of DE Ifeadi Odenigbo committed to Michigan State.
Michigan is showing interest in Detroit Catholic Central lineman Wyatt Shallman (a teammate of Matt Godin).
OH RB Dymonte Thomas visited Ann Arbor on his way home from Michigan State's spring game. He's openly an Ohio State fan, but says he'll give every program a chance.
Recruiting guru Jim Stefani runs down some prospects of interest to Michigan in the 2013 and 2014(!) classes.
Since I'm out in Arizona I have been saying Saguaro ATH DJ Foster (5'10", 180 lbs) was more than worthy of an offer for some time. He finally got a Michigan offer Monday, and I caught up with him to talk about it. Here's a look at his defensive film and what he had to say.
TOM: I know Michigan offered today, but who came out to see you?
DJ: Coach Ferrigno stopped by school today. I couldn't really talk much, you know how that goes. Today was the first day of spring ball though so he watched a little bit of our defensive practice. After that he said that I had an offer from Michigan. Auburn was out today, they didn't offer but they told my coach that they might be offering pretty soon.
TOM: I know your coach, Coach Sanders, has been saying Michigan should have offered you for awhile now. Where is your interest level at with Michigan?
DJ: My interest is pretty high. When Cyrus [Hobbi] took his visit last year to Michigan he said it was hands down the best campus he had ever seen. That stuck with me, so I hope I can get out there to see it. Plus all the tradition and history they have, and I know a few guys out there like Taylor [Lewan].
TOM: I'm assuming when you say you want to get out there that it would be for an official visit, and not an unofficial visit?
DJ: Yeah, I plan on taking all five of my official visits. I'm definitely going to try to use them on schools that I can't really see on unofficials. I would love to use one of them on Michigan.
TOM: I know Michigan is kind of late to the party here, but do you have a top group yet?
DJ: As of now I kind of have a top five, but schools keep offering so it keeps changing. Right now it's USC, ASU, Oregon, Stanford, and Cal. That changes all the time though, like when schools like Michigan offer. My top three is probably USC, ASU, and Oregon for now.
TOM: To jump back to Michigan, have the coaches told you what they're recruiting you as? You're so versatile you can probably play anywhere.
DJ: Michigan is recruiting me as a defensive back. I'm fine with that, I like either side of the ball.
TOM: Speaking of your versatility, can you describe your game to people that haven't seen you play?
DJ: I can adapt to anything. If they want me to play receiver or cornerback, I'll work hard no matter what. I have some size and power, and I have very good vision. I don't really know if I'm better on offense or defense, I like both sides. I have people tell me both, some people say they see me as a defensive back in college so I don't know.
TOM: Since the Michigan attention is coming late, is there still a chance for them? I know you said your interest is high, but what does that mean?
DJ: Definitely, I like Coach Ferrigno, so they definitely have a chance. That's going to be big for me is the relationship with the coaches, and my parents are going to have a say in it. I'm not going to rush into anything, and like I said I'm going to take all my official visits.
|Olney, MD - 5'9" 174|
|Scout||4*, #20 CB, #213 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #10 CB, #133 overall|
|ESPN||4*, 80, #14 CB|
|Others||247: 4*, #15 CB, #166 overall|
|Other Suitors||Penn State, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Maryland|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Good Counsel is massive talent repository. Army AA.|
More video than you can shake a stick at. Here's a highlight package from the beginning of his senior year:
You can see individual clips of Countess taking a punt return the distance, doing the same on more than one kickoff, separating a receiver from the ball, catching touchdowns, and so forth and so on. Seems like a really nice kid in this Post interview.
Blake Countess was sure he wanted to go to Michigan. He committed on December 17th of last year, when Rich Rodriguez was hanging by a thread, and hardly wavered after some guy he'd probably never heard of was installed in the aftermath of the bowl debacle. So maybe it's not a surprise that when he does an interview he seems like a kid who Has The Proverbial "It" Together. For example:
Countess on his decision:
“Nobody really knows if [Rodriguez is] going to be there next year or not,” Countess said. “But going into this process, [I knew] college football coaches come and go. That's just how it works. My dad told me whenever I got a new offer that I should pick a school based on where I'd want to be if I wasn't playing football. [He said], ‘That's where you're going to be happiest.' With Michigan, I'm hoping Coach Rod is going to be there. If not, I picked a school that I like no matter what.”
Raise your hand if you sounded that mature at 17. Right, that's a small slice of the women and only the women. Default coach quote:
"He's worked really, really hard for it," said Milloy who also recognized Countess for his academic achievement and strong character.
"He's a great kid, he's a good student, he's a gentleman," said Milloy. … "He's just a really nice kid, he's fun to be around and I've never heard anybody, teacher, player, opposition ever say anything bad about him."
In addition to being the opposite of a flake, Countess is a heavily scouted, fairly OMG shirtless cornerback who played the position for the duration of his career. The rankings you see above have a little wobble but not much in the grand scheme of things: Countess is somewhere between tenth and twentieth amongst cornerbacks nationally and somewhere in the 150-250 range overall according to all four (yes, there are now four) services.
Countess is small. He checked in at 5'9" and 166 pounds at the UA combine he attended and any randomly selected scouting report on him will mention it: "despite his size," "physical player for his size," "an inch or so smaller than you'd like," etc, etc, etc. He'll probably hit the field at Michigan ten or so pounds heavier—he'll have had a year to add some muscle—but that height isn't going anywhere even when the roster declares him a 6'9" power forward.
However, that might be his only drawback. We've established he's a solid dude, and all those scouting reports that mention his size as a drawback spend the rest of their reports going "dang." He ripped the turf up at that UA combine, drawing a headline on ESPN:
If his performance during Friday's National Under Armour All-American Combine is any indication, cornerback Blake Countess could very well emerge as one of the top prospects at his position on the East Coast during the 2011 recruiting cycle.
Countess was outstanding in all phases of the combine, which included testing, position drills and 7-on-7 work for the skill position prospects at the event. He ran one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the event (4.54 seconds), ran blistering times in the short shuttle (3.94 seconds) and L-cone (6.5), had a 36.5-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 185 pounds 10 times. Countess also was very smooth during position drills and was good in coverage during 7-on-7 work.
At the time he only had offers from Maryland and Wisconsin, but after that performance he picked up another dozen, most prominently from Penn State, Tennessee, and Arkansas. That list is short of all-conquering but is impressive. ESPN reiterated their impression after he showed at a Nike camp in May:
Another corner who came in to the camp with a big reputation and definitely lived up to it was Blake Countess. Countess was very active during the 7-on-7 session and took as many reps as any of the defensive backs. His ability to break on the ball and his quickness in exploding out of his backpedal were very impressive.
That camp included Michigan target and eventual Alabama commit Hasean Clinton-Dix and Army AA teammate Jonathan Rose.
Moar camps. After that, or before that, or possibly during that, Countess went to more camps. Then after, during, or before more camps, he went to more more camps. He attended everything he could reasonably get to and caused scouting report after scouting report to drop from the heavens.
Countess attended an "FBU" camp, where he was the "best defensive back on the day":
The 5-foot-10, 171-pounder was all over the field, jumping routes and showing good instincts. Countess is very low in his backpedal, changes direction quickly and is aggressive. He can play off coverage as well as tight but his strength is in zone coverage.
Another eval praises his hips, recovery speed and ball skills while claiming he needs to be lower in his backpedal—uh, but the other guy nevermind—and complains about his height; a third says "it's his confidence and short-term memory that sets him apart from the average college prospect."
Countess attended an "MD Elite Showcase," where he ran a similarly blazing shuttle and did his best Shakira impression (non-making-out-with-Pique edition):
Countess had the best testing day of anyone, running a low 4.5 40-yard dash and posting an amazing 3.95-second shuttle. In the one-on-ones he was physical off the line, flipped his hips well and showed good hops and ball skills. Although he's not the biggest cornerback, he plays bigger receivers well and is adept at playing the ball in the air and timing his jumps.
Someone randomly reported an ND offer at that time, FWIW. Countess attended a "Premier" showcase that may actually be the "Elite" showcase and, well, you know: ball skills, "top notch" acceleration, "smothered" receivers. Finally, there's a reference to a DFW-esque "New Level Athletic Event" at Rutgers during which he "shut down some of the best talent on the East Coast."
After his senior season Countess was an Army All American and came in for the usual round of scouting that implies, and by now it's just the same: hips on a swivel, physical, ultra-competitive, short. The only variation from the usual is concern about "faster, quicker receivers looking to take him deep"—in the Army setting his recovery speed seemed lacking. Former UNC ball magnet Dre Bly was still proffered as a comparison. On the other hand, a second evaluation says he has "no problem" running with the fastest receivers there and praises him for jumping a slant(!) for an INT. There is the usual stuff about how he's small and light.
All of these camps saw Countess rise in the rankings. In June he was hanging on at the bottom of the Rivals 250; as you can see above he moved up more than 100 spots in the final rankings. The biggest leap came midway through Countess's senior season when Rivals slid him up from 245 to 156:
"Countess showed real physical toughness and a willingness to come up and hit in game action, something we questioned based on his size," Farrell said. "He's as fluid as we thought, very smooth and an all-around terrific cornerback."
Any concerns from the Army appearance didn't appear impact his stock.
The universal chorus on Countess has been established: "prototypical cover corner" who lacks the ability to thump running backs at the LOS a la Marlin Jackson and will make fade routes scary but does everything else.
Etc.: Army presser gallery. Come on Twitter background. His sophomore highlights come with FLAMES. Touch The Banner suggests Ty Law as a comparable, while acknowledging Law got to be a pretty big dude later in college and in the NFL. Even more scouting reports are superfluous, but:
- "really jumps out at you with his ability to change directions and close on the football."
- "a classic overachiever that should outperform and outwork his opponents."
- "reads routes and quarterbacks well, can be difficult to create separation on as he is very quick and has a good recovery burst."
- "steady and heady cornerback prospect with natural cover corner skills."
Why Courtney Avery++? As a recruit Avery was far less hyped but he's had a year to defy those rankings. Those ended up pessimistic because he was more of a quarterback than a defensive back in high school. Last year he showed those proverbial hips on a swivel as he established himself the best of last year's defensive back crop. He's in line to be a three-year starter.
Avery is an inch or two shorter than you'd like but he's not preposterously small a la Boubacar Cissoko. Though willing, he probably needs a year or two to get the strength necessary to tackle collegians. He has a knack for staying close to opposing receivers and playing the ball while it's in the air.
As far as the increment, Countess will enter college with a lot more polish and should press for playing time even without someone's ankle exploding. I think we might have more information on Countess than we do on Avery even after the latter's been on campus a year.
Guru Reliability: Very high. Countess was healthy, attended every camp he could, was an Army AA, and played at one of the most heavily scouted high schools in the country. He's also a cornerback, where athleticism rules all. If they're going to be right about anyone it's Countess.
General Excitement Level: High. There are a couple settings above high—very high and vast, FWIW. Countess seems like as close to a sure thing as you can find: good student, good kid, good player who's had every pore analyzed by a half dozen scouts. He's got a ceiling a 6'0" version of himself wouldn't have; barring injury he seems like he will scrape that ceiling.
Projection: His height will always be a hindrance but if I had to bet he starts for three years and ends up an All Big Ten sort of player. Will not redshirt since he's polished and will probably be better than anyone behind the starters on day one; solid favorite to take over for Woolfolk next year.
development: Boren does not haz it. brilliant photoshop via TTB
Development. A killer post on BHGP analyses schools' NFL draft performance relative to what you'd expect given their recruiting rankings. The conclusions:
- Stars matter. No surprise. Guys with five stars are more than four times more likely to be drafted than those with three.
- Michigan is average. They've had 21 draftees and expected 20.6. This places them 29th amongst 66 BCS teams. I'd bet Michigan would have done very well if this study focused on a time period five years earlier; in my imagination their "development ratio" starts off near OSU's, gradually drops as the OL degrades late in the Carr era, and implodes in the aftermath of massive attrition under Rodriguez.
- USC, Ohio State, and Iowa outperform. Interesting diversity at the top, as the #1 school is also the #1 recruiting school—impressive—and three through five are Iowa, Cal, and Wake Forest. Clemson is sixth, further proving that the Tigers have been the worst-coached BCS team of the last decade.
- Duke sucks. Duke sucks.
- U-S-BIGTEN. I'm going to gank this chart:
Rank Conference Recruits Drafted BCS Expectation Development Ratio 1 Big Ten 172 150.4 114% 2 Pac 12 166 152.0 109% 3 Big East 94 87.8 107% 4 ACC 183 177.2 103% 5 SEC 216 223.8 96% 6 Big 12 157 189.7 82% 7 Non-BCS 121 295.4 40%
If you're interested in going to the NFL, avoid the Big 12 and head north. Also, I'm guessing that non-BCS number suggest that Rivals' drilldown rankings (e.g., three stars being rated 5.5, 5.6, or 5.7) have some merit.
- U-S-RICHROD. West Virginia has the highest "win ratio" amongst BCS teams despite not sending anyone to the league, and while that's an artifact of being the best team in the Big East over the period surveyed WHY DID YOU HIRE GERG AARGH
I have a slight beef: study author UpUpDownDown looks at these numbers strictly through the lens of player development. He breaks conference numbers down further into offense and defense, and then further breaks down offense into skill and offensive line, finding the Big Ten murders everyone on the OL and on D while the Big 12 struggles immensely in those two categories. This is attributed to playstyle, specifically the Big 12's addiction to passing spreads.
I think there may another element at work: scouting services overrating certain sections of the country and underrating others, particularly the Midwest. Rivals (the source of the rankings used) doesn't even have a Midwest analyst. Meanwhile, OL rankings are particularly inaccurate since many high school kids need to put on 50 pounds before they can play in college. The flipside—skill position players more easily projectable—sees a much, much lower spread amongst conferences. The worst-performing conference is the ACC at 94% of expectation; the best is the Big East at 108%. That's a much lower spread than you see in the D and OL numbers, one that looks like an even distribution distorted by a little randomness.
If there was a regional bias in recruiting rankings, hard-to-evaluate OL would be the place it would show up most prominently. I think there is. Your ratings are just wrong when Wisconsin has two four-star linemen in the last five years, as they do on Rivals. They are not evaluating linemen correctly. I'm not sure what Big 12's hole of suck on defense represents but I'd be more convinced it was a playstyle thing if they were running 3-3-5s or something. Going up against Blaine Gabbert and a bunch of other passing spreads doesn't make much difference to anyone but a few linebackers, it seems.
In any case, it's a really interesting post you should read all of.
We have done derped. We have lost our superiority when it comes to not erecting embarrassing billboards:
One: Paul Reiser probably came up with the text. Two: it's on I-94, which goes from Canada to Indiana without even brushing up against Ohio. Three: it's derp enough to put up a billboard after you win something. It's extra super derp to do so after not winning since 2003. Five derps out of five.
Recruiting digression. Brady Hoke : linebackers :: Rich Rodriguez : slot receivers. Michigan now has eight in two classes and speculation naturally turns to where these guys all fit. Specifically, can any of them play somewhere else?
The answer for all four in this class appears to be "no" unless Bolden or Jenkins-Stone pack on a lot of pounds and end up at WDE. Ringer's six-foot and Ross six-one and they'll both end up around 230. On a football field guys that size play LB, FB, or RB and nothing else. Even Bolden and RJS are stretches at DE. Those guys are linebackers one and all.
Last year's class, if you don't remember:
- MI QB(!)/LB Desmond Morgan.
- TX LB Kellen Jones
- OH LB Antonio Poole
- OH LB/TE Frank Clark
According to Rivals, none of these guys is more than 6'2" and Morgan is the heaviest at 225—the others are all at 210. No one's mentioned safety for any. So… these are all linebackers too unless Clark swaps to TE, which is going to be at least as crowded as LB if Ron Thompson signs up to be the fourth tight end in the last two classes.
Someone's going to lose out and get flipped to fullback; other than that, all these guys are linebackers for life. That gives Michigan 13 next year, which is a bit excessive for three starting spots. Or at least it would be if we weren't currently enduring a wasteland at the position. I'd guess the 2013 class is homeruns or one random three star picked up late.
Further recruiting digression. The top ten kids in the state are probably Ross, RJS, Devin Funchess, Mario Ojemudia, Aaron Burbridge, Dennis Norfleet, Terry Richardson, Ron Thompson, Dan O'Brien, and Matt Godin. (Ben Braden might be in there somewhere, too.) Michigan has three, is presumed to be the heavy leader for two more (Godin and Thompson) and is in a short group of leaders for Ojemudia, Richardson, and O'Brien. If the chips fall the right way Michigan could get 7 or 8 of the Michigan top ten, which is not only far better than Rodriguez ever did but would be better than Carr's best instate efforts by some distance.
Part of that is it seems like Michigan is producing better football players these days—everyone in that top ten save Norfleet has a Michigan offer, or would have one if his grades were better (Burbridge). That never happened under Carr. A big chunk appears to be Hoke doing work.
Too good to be true. Red might have believed he'd get his whole team back after exit interviews but Mark Burns of the Daily has responded to/fueled/confirmed rumors that Brandon Burlon is gonzo. Some speculation is that he's seriously pisssed off you guys that he was passed over in favor of Clare for the Frozen Four games.
Losing Burlon hurts, but at least Michigan seems well-covered on the back end. Clare will draw into the lineup regularly and the spot opened up by Langlais's graduation will be filled by incoming freshman Brennan Serville, a guy rising up NHL draft boards. He should go in the middle rounds.
Meanwhile in hockey news of a bizarre and speculative nature, Mike Babcock's son is winding his way from the USHL and crazy rumors that Michigan will take him and Babcock will coach him after Red leaves have duly cropped up. Yost Built collects those.
The Appalachian State debacle was my third day on campus. My freshman tickets sat me in Section 16, far away from my fellow students. I sat next to a white-haired old man--whose natural hair color might've been blue--and his son each week. My enduring memories of that first game are conveniently sparse; my first memory is of Chad Henne zipping a passing to Mike Massey in the opening drive. I saw it all from my bird's eye seat in Row 96 of Section 16; it was perfect and logical, a rational manifestation of our pre-season top 5 ranking. Then, the defense took the field.
It's been an eventful few days, and by the time most of you read this Michigan will have gotten its newest commitment. Outside of that commitment here's a look at a few other prospects and future happenings. As always you can find more updates on my Twitter page, and please feel free to email me with tips and questions at TomVH@MGoBlog.com.
6'5", 260 lbs.
Matt Godin recently announced that he was ready to make his decision. He's yet to decide on how he will announce it, and is currently mulling over a few ideas.
I decided on my date because my family is all going to be home, and it's just the right time to do it. I feel, other than these three schools, there is nowhere else I would like more.
That date is May 12th, and the three schools are Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. I will let you know how Matt decides to announce his decision when he tells me.
6'4", 210 lbs.
Another instater that had been planning on making his announcement within the next weeks, Thompson sounds like he's now wavering on what to do.
I did [have the announcement scheduled] but I still don't think it will happen. I'm just not ready, it's too much. I think I'm far from a decision to be honest. There was a team that was looking good, but now there are others that have come aboard and I'm not sure if I'm ready.
Apparently there are some bigger name schools that are showing Thompson interest and they may have caught his attention. I, for some reason, didn't take this to mean that he really isn't going to announce on the 11th. Just don't be surprised if it doesn't. There may be a few questions that need to be answered with Michigan and their two TE commits.
5'11", 167 lbs.
I know it's a bit early to be talking about 2013 prospects, but Thomas already holds a Michigan offer and he was just on campus in Ann Arbor.
I went up there [Saturday] after the MSU spring game. I really, really like Michigan. I like how they do their schooling and they put school first and then sports. I was supposed to go up there awhile ago, but I couldn't because of baseball.
Besides the Michigan offer Thomas also holds verbal offers from Michigan State and West Virginia. This visit to Michigan gave him a chance to talk to the coaches and see the facilities up close.
The coaches were just really nice about everything. They walked me around different places, and they showed us the locker room and the lounge. They didn't really sell me on anything, they were just telling me about the program and what they have to offer.
Although Thomas admits to being an Ohio State fan, he says he will take a more business approach to his recruitment.
I am an Ohio State fan, but I'm going to look at what's best for me. I don't want to pick a school and then say I wish I would have gone to Ohio State. I also don't want to pick Ohio State and say man I wish I would have gone to a different school. I'm thinking about committing after my last game of my junior season, so we'll see what happens.
Thomas really likes Ohio State, but I take him at his word that he'll be unbiased in his approach. He's in contact with 2012 RB Bri'onte Dunn, FWIW.
Ohio LB Joe Bolden decided to commit in person in Ann Arbor because it was more respectful.
Ohio RB Bri'onte Dunn has not re-opened his commitment from Ohio State, but he will be visiting Michigan soon. He just got an in school visit from Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. I believe there is genuine interest there from the Dunns. They are interested to see the outcome of the NCAA investigation at OSU.
DT Ondre Pipkins will narrow his list in June, which will also be around when he's visiting Michigan. He told me that he will likely make his final decision later on, but there is a chance it could happen in the summer time. He said an earlier decision will depend on how his summer visits go.
Pennsylvania RB Greg Garmon is visiting Michigan in the next couple weeks. He wants to learn more about Michigan, who is in his top three with Penn State and North Carolina. The Tarheels currently lead.
New York QB Chad Kelly, nephew of Jim Kelly, will be visiting Michigan today [Monday]. He does not have an offer yet. Like the rest of the unoffered QBs, he might have to wait to see how everything plays out before he gets considered.
BECAUSE THREE LINEBACKERS SIMPLY ISN'T ENOUGH!!! MI LB James Ross has become Michigan's 8th commitment in the 2012 class, and the fourth linebacker. His announcement is happening live on WTKA as we speak (...er, I post?)
|4*, #2 MLB||250 Watchlist, NR LB||150 Watchlist, NR ILB||4*, 95, #2 ILB #84 Ovr|
The sites, they like this guy. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he's probably the consensus top recruit in Michigan's class right now - he and Royce Jenkins-Stone are typically listed right near each other in-state, but 24/7 Sports is much higher on Ross.
Scout and 24/7 say James is 6-1, but Rivals and ESPN say 6-0. Having seen the kid play in person several times, I would say 6-0 is more likely to be the accurate number. He's also listed between 209 (Rivals) and 217 (ESPN) pounds, with the middle votes cast at 215. Going with the majority, 215 seems to be the appropriate number.
Though none of the premium sites offer evaluations, Scout has a couple free articles talking about his game. The first:
Ross has been as dominant a PAL player the city has had in recent years. He is already pretty filled out for a kid as young as he is and his footwork in drills was quick and fluid.
That's prior to his sophomore year of high school. "As dominant as the city has seen in recent years" puts him on par with or more productive than recent #1s like William Campbell, Lawrence Thomas, and Will Gholston. The next breakdown puts him in the top five most-likely candidates to be the #1 recruit in Michigan's class of 2012:
He may not wow you with pads off like a Lawrence Thomas or Will Gholston, because he does not have the size of those guys, but you put the film on and Ross is arguably the best pure football player in the state. Toughness, big hits, excellent instincts and football smarts. He has all the intangible qualities you want in a middle backer.
That seems to be the book on James: not tall enough to be a true physical specimen, but he makes up for it with his football intelligence and willingness to lay the lumber. Sam Webb's weirdly-NCAA Tournament-themed recruiting column for the Detroit News listed Ross as a 1-seed:
He has all the top colleges looking at him and he is a guy that consistently, from game to game, plays the same way every single play. He fought through injuries in his junior season and demonstrated great toughness in the process. He's 6-1, 215, with good enough speed. His best attribute, though, is he is bona fide football player. This kid thinks the game as well as anyone.
Again with the football intelligence. For the record, Michigan has landed another "#1 seed" (Royce Jenkins-Stone) and a 2-seed (Devin Funchess).
This kid's offer list is something to get very excited about. We'll slowly build, starting with some of his less-notable BCS offers. Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Missouri, Pittsburgh, and Purdue are some of the middling programs that have offered this kid.
Then, there are the schools that have either had excellent success on the field or on the recruiting trail, specifically with linebackers: Arizona State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, and USC. The latter three all have legitimate claims to some sort of mythical "Linebacker U" distinction, and are keynote offers.
He also had interest but no offers from Alabama and LSU, which would have really sealed him as a top prospect.
Scout has numbers from his sophomore year (though they're listed with the wrong dates):
103 tackles, five sacks, five forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and an interception in his first year of high school football.
I haven't seen any more recent stats for him, but I'll be on the lookout.
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the recruiting sites have listed a 40 time for James, so I get to give out my default five FAKEs out of five.
There's also a partial sophomore reel, completed in part 2. You can also catch some glimpses of him in last year's Friday Night Lights feature on Chris Rock. He's fullback/tight end/linebacker #6 in red.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
So Michigan has all these linebackers in the past couple classes, and though James seems to be one of the 2012 guys who's most ready to play immediately, all the new depth might mean he doesn't have to. If the coaches want to get the kid on the field, special teams and mop-up duty are an option.
Following a couple years of duty as a special teams and depth player, James should be able to work his way into the lineup as a junior (possibly a redshirt junior), and even have a star turn or two. By the time he leaves Ann Arbor, he could be a multi-year all-conference player. He has NFL potential, as long as teams aren't scared away by his lack of height.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
OK, now they really have to be done accepting commitments from linebackers, right? The position is filled with two exceptional recruiting classes over the past two years. Although, especially given the haul in 2012, some of last year's guys may be due for position switches.
After the coaching staff picks up a couple defensive linemen, another good offensive lineman or two, and a quarterback, they should have the luxury of being very picky about who they pursue, and only going hard after the top guys.
Here's people dressed in grad gowns dancing in the Diag to Rusted Root:
The cards at the end made me think it's an elaborate advertisement for the sponsor. But I have questions: did they use real grads? Did we go to blue gowns this year, or did they just figure we use Duke's tailor? All I can find out on the inter-webs is that musical theater major Erik Heitz was involved with it.
Anyway it's a nice segue into saying so long to last week's graduates. I thought I had it bad, showing up the year immediately following football and hockey national championships to have Brian Cook's class be all like "Ha Ha, You Missed It!"* Well these cats started classes the week of The Horror, and leave with the taste of the "okay now we have to fire him" blowout to Mississippi State. In the process they survived three losses to Michigan State, four losses to Ohio State, an Ultimate Test of Fandom Endurance, and the punch to the dong that turned Corey Liuget's life around.** However they did witness two comebacks versus Notre Dame, Illinois in OT, postseason runs from eminently likeable hockey and basketball squads, and apparently more flash mobs than any class in history.
So here's to the Class of 2011. You got pretty hosed seeing just the carcass of Bo's Empire, and then having to suffer three years of rebuilding just so we could knock down and declaim the whole damn edifice. Yet there you were, every week, boozed up in the student section with all the optimism of a Denard smile, and all the un-canned coordination of a flash mob. You should all get avatar badges or something.
* This was literally the front page headline of our Daily freshman orientation issue.
** Bonus: Article written by "Tim Sullivan" (NTTS).
Those Who Will Never See This Day
About a month ago I promised a Part II to revisiting the Decimated Defense series. I got all the research done, down to making images of the charts, and planned to get it out the following week. But then I got early winds of the Cullen transfer (and learned I was seriously depressing my only follower on Twitter), so I put it off, and put it off, and put it off. With some fallout coming down the line from Tat-gate, Michigan State's Third Annual Assault and Potluck, and whatever Saban has to do to get down to 85 again (they're at +11 according to oversigning.com), maybe it's best we wait 'till at least fall practice for the whole reveal.
Still, with sincere apologies to DosLeches, Cullen's transfer to Pitt leaves the pool of defensive backs in the same perilous state it's been in for Class of '11's entire collegiate career. Observe (UPDATE: sorted by position, and where you'd expect them to be on the depth chart given projection as recruit and time in program):
|Starred, left after Junior season for NFL, not drafted|
|Fell down depth chart, resisted move to FS, transferred before 2010 season|
|Played as fr and so, but got kicked off team during 2009 season|
|2007||Troy Woolfolk||5'11"||176||5.5||Injured for 2010 season, Medical redshirt, expected starter at CB in 2011|
|Played as freshman, transferred after 2011 Spring Game|
|2008||J.T. Floyd||6'0"||179||5.5||Injured during 2010 season, if recovered possible starter at CB in 2011|
|Not admitted to university|
|No redshirt, graduated after 2010 season|
|2010||Courtney Avery||5'10"||165||5.5||Played and started as Fr, projected starting CB in 2011|
|2010||Terrence Talbott||5'10"||172||5.5||Played and started as Fr, backup at CB|
|2011||Greg Brown||5'10"||180||5.5||Freshman EE|
|2011||Blake Countess||5'10"||171||5.8||Incoming Freshman|
|2011||Delonte Hollowell||5'8"||162||5.7||Incoming Freshman|
|Bust, head injury in 2010 effectively ended career|
|Moved to Spinner/LB, played sparingly as So., transferred late in 2009 season.|
|Not admitted to university|
|Held back by injuries in early career, transferred before 2010 season.|
|Transferred citing playing time (?!?!!!) before 2009 season|
|2010||Marvin Robinson||6'1"||190||5.8||Backup in 2010, projected backup at SS in 2011|
|Moved to LB, injured in 2010, possible starter at WLB in 2011|
|Moved to LB, fell down depth chart, bust.|
|Started at FS in 2010, moved to LB, projected starter at SLB in 2011|
|2010||Josh Furman||6'3"||194||5.7||Redshirted in 2010, 3rd on depth chart at SS|
|2010||Carvin Johnson||6'0"||185||5.7||Played SLB/Spinner as Fr, projected starting FS in 2011|
|2009||Thomas Gordon||5'11"||199||5.5||Played as freshman, projected backup at either S position in 2011|
|Was starting FS by end of fr year, transferred after coaching change in 2011|
|2011||Raymon Taylor||5'10"||167||5.8||Incoming Freshman|
|2011||Tamani Carter||6'0"||175||5.5||Incoming Freshman|
|2008||Jordan Kovacs||6'0||195||4.9||Student body walk-on, 3rd year starter at SS as RS Jr in 2011|
Here's the talent distribution versus the field, with incoming freshmen not counted because they're freshmen:
Take where you were right before Woolfolk went down last year, remove James Rogers, and add a year of experience to everybody, and that's Michigan's 2011 defensive backfield. As you can see the closest thing after Troy to an upperclassman with any kind of recruiting hype is Marvin Robinson, a true sophomore who doesn't seem likely to displace Kovacs and may move to linebacker in the future. Unless the new staff works miracles and/or some of these guys were very underrated, please keep expectations low. Best case scenario is nobody gets hurt, Carvin as a sophomore is the second competent free safety at Michigan since 1997, and the unit performs like a poor man's Notre Dame.
Sorry DosLeches. It depresses me too, but a Ngata/Mattison face-mash can always cheer me up.
There were two this week not counting TomVH and Tim (YTTS).
First, stubob put up Part II of his Gauging Team Effectiveness blog, this time with San Diego State broken down. It's not a very tight comparison since there's a huge difference in schedule strength but the results show some competency. Inspired by the exercise, the_white_tiger posted a long and detailed response on his blog Maize-Colored Glasses. Takeaway from the latter is that Hoke inherited a thing that was worse than we thought it was, and left it a thing better than we thought it was. There may be something to those uber alleles after all.
As for your Diarist of the Week, that goes to Captain, who ran with a theme from the alma mater to give us a fitting metaphor for the state of the program:
Although his success may still lurk in the realm of our collective optimism, Brady Hoke is already bringing something palpable to this team. It's light materialized into rote sound bytes about "toughness" and "fundamentals." It's identity. It's the dawn that ends the night.
It's morning in Michigan.
Yet another new Wolverine, and we're on the front page again. Action since last rankings:
4-27-11 Ohio State gains commitment from Frank Epitropoulos.
4-29-11 Michigan gains commitment from Joe Bolden.
4-30-11 Michigan State gains commitments from Benny McGowan, Zach Higgins, and Riley Bullough.
|Big Ten+ Recruiting Class Rankings|
|Rank||School||# Commits||Rivals Watchlist||Scout Avg||ESPN Watchlist||24/7 Avg|
All rankings will be on the 5-star scale this year (when available) for easier comparing across services. Full data after the jump.
OH LB Joe Bolden has been openly favoring Michigan for a couple weeks, and talking about making a decision "at any time." Well, that time has come, and he is the newest member of Michigan's 2012 recruiting class. As he told Tom: "God told him in more than one way that Michigan was his home."
|4*, #27 OLB||NR OLB||NR ILB, 150 Watchlist||4*, 90, NR OLB|
Scout and 24/7 Sports both say the kid is 6-3, whereas Rivals and ESPN both think he's 6-2. Having seen the kid in person, I would guess that 6-3 is closer to the accurate number, despite my hesitance to trust Scout's measurement numbers. As for weight, Scout is the most optimistic at 230, 24/7 Sports says he's 220, and Rivals/ESPN split the difference at 225. We'll trust that average.
On to the evaluations. Starting with Scout, which asks Joe to describe his game:
“The linebacker is the quarterback of the defense. I think I’m a great leader and communicator. My voice is heard on the field and I play smart. I’m also a big hitter and when I make contact I drop and go through people. I can also move well sideline-to-sideline. My game is not perfect and I’m always trying to do things better and get better at everything.”
From the horse's mouth, he's a big hitter and speedy player. If that's not enough, we'll take his high school coach's word for it:
"Speaking as a head coach, he is a phenomenal player. He can play inside and he can play outside at the linebacker position. He covers a lot of ground, he is smart, and he can make the checks. He is a thumper. When he gets there he makes an impact. When he tackles kids, they stay tackled. Plus he carries a 3.9 GPA and is a great man off the field. I think all that makes him a great football player and a great young man."
Now, to be fair, said high school coach is also his uncle, Tom Bolden. However, he echoes the same things: vocal, speedy, big hitter. Scout's Allen Trieu also talks about Joe:
"He has very good size, and he's a tough, hard-nosed football player," Trieu stated. "He's a classic, throwback type linebacker, but he's not just a run stuffer. He runs well and shows good ability in coverage. I think he can be an every-down linebacker and that's why so many schools are after him... Put that all together and he has a shot at playing early and often."
That's a raving review for a guy that doesn't even make Scout's top 25 outside linebackers.
He's also a multi-sport athlete, as ESPN points out that he's a baseball player as well.
Joe has the offers of a mid-to-high BCS-caliber prospect. Arizona, Arkansas, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina, NC State, Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue, South Florida, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and West Virginia were his BCS conference offers.
So he doesn't exactly have offers from the Ohio States, Floridas, Alabamas, and USCs of the world, but "Penn State linebacker" is an offer with nearly as much cachet as "USC Pro-style QB" or "Wisconsin offensive lineman." This is a Big Get.
Scout has junior numbers :
Joe Bolden finished [with] 90 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions. He says he has a 32-inch vertical jump. Bolden may also play college baseball. He’s an outfielder (.300 batting average, three home runs).
FAKE 40 TIME
None of the premium sites have 40 times, which means an automatic five FAKEs out of five.
ScoutingOhio provides an abbreviated junior highlight:
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Joe seems like a very good athlete, and one who is pretty polished as a high schooler. That may sound like a recipe for early playing time, but Michigan landed a big linebacker class in 2011, and already has 3 in this year's crop, so he might not be needed, unless he gets some special team time in the Brian Cook Memorial Wasted Redshirt Year. Let's hope that doesn't happen.
Following a redshirt season, he'll get that special teams time, and a little bit of time as a backup in the rotation. By the time he's a senior, I think Bolden could have All-League potential, and be a mid-round NFL Draft pick.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
That's 3 linebackers, after Michigan landed as many as 6 last year. Brady Hoke and company are probably going to have to start slowing down on linebackers and focus on other positions (or phrased a different way, they have the luxury to do so). They might be willing to take one more elite 'backer, pending the final positions for some of last year's guys, but it would have to be a truly top prospect.
As for the rest of the class, offensive and defensive lines are still priorities. A quarterback, wideout, and safety would be nice as well. After those needs are filled, they can really focus in on top-top talent regardless of position with the final scholarship slots.