Tim's best effort at a transcript of the press conference. All answers are paraphrases.
Brandon: Relief comes from the fact that it's all out there. Made the notice of allegations public within 24 hours of receiving it—same story here. Lot of pages, lots of detail, documents speak for themselves—what happened, why, how they plan to deal with it.
Who's to blame for the situation?
Brandon: I take full responsibility for issues across the athletic department. Sloppy handling of information. Failures in checks and balances as well as through the chain of command. No single person to blame.
Probation is expected. Do you anticipate that? What would probation mean to the program?
Brandon: We have identified probation as a self-imposed sanction. 2 years is appropriate. No additional sanction, but a significant amount of reporting to the NCAA over the duration. Puts the program under the microscope.
Will there be any other discipline against the individuals other than a letter of discipline?
Brandon: One guy [Herron] was terminated for lack of integrity in the process. Everyone else will receive a reprimand in the file. They didn't perform duties to the appropriate level, causing the violations.
Should the NCAA define exactly what S&C and QC should do?
Brandon: When the smoke clears, a bunch of topics need to be discussed. Can improve job descriptions in NCAA rule. We misunderstood between compliance and NCAA re: interpretation of those rules. We can work with them to tighten up those definitions - what is and isn't permissible. Not a criticism of the rules, but we can see where we interpreted it wrong and make the improvements.
How do you avoid this becoming a distraction again?
Rodriguez: Players and staff stayed focused through the investigation last year, which started mid-season. This ongoing case shouldn't affect players at all. They're excited about the upcoming season, and it's a relief to get it over with. Shouldn't distract.
Recommending as a punishment that they lose more practice time. What if the NCAA says it's not good enough? What if NCAA says recruiting or postseason restrictions? Would that surprise or upset?
Brandon: More thorough review will indicate that the sanctions include a little more. Terminated the individual who had the integrity problem, reprimanding those involved, removing QC staff, and prohibiting QC from sitting on coaching meetings, etc., for a year. We believe based on the advice and precedents, we've matched up the consequences with the content of the violations. NCAA has the ultimate authority, and we'll speak in front of them in August.
NCAA says Rich fostered an atmosphere of non-compliance. Why do you disagree?
Brandon: Strongly disagree. Internal investigation showed that's not the case. Compliance group says this is one of the most open coaching staffs. They had the ability to access whatever they wanted. Rich and crew made no effort to hide anything from the compliance staff. Rich understands following the rules, and has a history of doing so.
Provision in Rich's contract that says he could be terminated. Why hasn't he been fired?
Brandon: COULD be cause for termination. I don't think the violations that occurred are significant enough. Said in February that he wouldn't be fired, and the investigation didn't change their mind on it. We don't believe termination is appropriate under these circumstances.
The NCAA looks to take each violation on its merit, and respond accordingly. The people we've retained said that's right to do.
What if NCAA says scholarship or recruiting violations?
Brandon: every case with Reductions in scholarships or coaches, or postseason bans, has stemmed from serious lack of institutional control or a competitive advantage. The NCAA can disagree if they want, and we'll have our day in front of them.
What were the precedents? [Ed.: Jesus. "Can you do my research for me?"]
Brandon: You can piece it together from various other cases.
How much has this investigation cost?
Brandon: I have no clue. It's not relevant. Did what we had to do to protect our interests and employees.
Is the M image tarnished?
Brandon: There's nothing good about any of this stuff. It's unfortunate. Our history and tradition is out there for the world to see. We'll let our integrity continue to stand as it has. We made mistakes, but we're being transparent, accountable, and doing something about it.
Who was responsible for crafting the response?
Rodriguez: My counsel and the University worked very closely. I was obligated to give an individual response. We'll continue to work closely, correcting the issues that we need to correct. We'll get together to prepare for the meeting with the infractions committee. Everyone that was interviewed has been forthright and accommodating.
Do you now have a chance to focus on football?
Rodriguez: This is not the only thing I've been working on. Issues within the program and my response have been time-consuming. Moving on from this (knowing what the investigation entails). It's important to be transparent, and this shows that.
What did you want to get across in your response?
Rodriguez: No one main point. Wanted to present the details from the investigation. We go in front of the committee, and have to explain what happened, the response lays the groundwork for that. There will be more questions we have to answer. My response details what I needed to explain, where communication broke down, and where we can improve.
No evidence of disregarding student-athlete welfare?
Brandon: Super important. There was innuendo about that we were mistreating players—to the level of abuse—which wasn't true. None of that was the case, and there was nothing in the practice time issue that endangered welfare of student athletes.
Rodriguez: That was the most important issue for me. We've always looked out for student athletes, and will continue to do so. The investigation made clear that the student athletes never felt endangered - and never will. Rodriguez enjoys developing student-athletes.
How is extra hours not interpreted as a competitive advantage?
Brandon: Not counting stretching as warmup is a violation. It's still a significant leap of logic to call that a competitive advantage. The amount of time that went over could not be perceived as a competitive advantage.
Was it a new coach issue?
Brandon: We had a whole new coaching staff, with a whole new routine. Most of the people in administration have been around for a long time. There was a combination of many factors. We will never have lower-end chain of command people having discussions about things, without reporting it up the chain of command. We're going to handle any issues at the senior levels.
What was it like to have the school defend the charge against you?
Rodriguez: there have been mistakes made at various times by various people, and I've had to answer for it. Talking about an atmosphere of non-compliance is a serious allegation, and my response and the school's response indicate we don't think that's the case.
"I have named the boy Caleb," he announced to her finally in a soft voice. "In accordance with your wishes." The woman made no answer, and slowly the man smiled. He had planned it all perfectly, for his wife was asleep and would never know that he had lied to her as she lay on her sickbed in the poor ward of the county hospital.
"The University is satisfied that the initial media reports are greatly exaggerated if not flatly incorrect."
-University of Michigan
So there are about a zillion documents to go over but here are your thunderbolts of justice:
- Michigan has reduced the number of QC staffers by 40 percent (ie, by two) and prohibited them from attending practices, games, and coaches meetings for 2010. A new bylaw specifically allows QC staffers at coaches meeting, but Michigan won't take advantage of this until 2011. Michigan will not add more QC staffers until the 2011 season ends.
- Michigan will give back 130 hours of practice time over the next two years.
- Michigan has taken "corrective action" to prevent a repeat.
- Two years of probation.
…aaaaand that's all, folks. No scholarships, no reductions in the number of actual coaches, and they didn't even fire anyone other than Herron—the other QC staffer they're losing is Braithwaite, who's now an actual coach. This is actually less severe than the mild sanctions this site has ballparked since May. The NCAA will accept the report essentially as-is in August and Michigan will get on with it.
This is it, by, the way: these documents are the official results of the investigation release to the public and the NCAA. Michigan took this seriously enough to bring in third-party NCAA investigators and this is what they turned up. If there is anyone out there still defending the original article as something other than a one-sided hit job that cost Michigan thousands of dollars and should cause any Michigan fan to boycott the Free Press until the people who wrote and edited it are gone, read the PDFs. Just a couple days ago someone was complaining that characterizing the violations as "stretching" was a dishonest representation of the violations and hurt the site's credibility. It's true that there is a tale of sordid institutional miscommunication buried in the documents, but "warm-up and stretching" is literally 90% of the hourly overages. The QC issues came because Rodriguez thought they were classified as S&C assistants, which they were not.
Compare that—a very serious document that will have consequences if it is wrong—to the Free Press report detailing lurid excesses, student abuse, and complete disregard for NCAA regulations. If newspapers cared about truth in reporting as much as the university does about its compliance with NCAA regulations, everyone involved with the story would be looking for a new job.
[Editor's note: Tom's put out a torrent of content about this weekend's BBQ at the Big House. Other items in you may be interested in:
- MD DT Darian Cooper didn't name any leaders following the trip but did say Michigan helped themselves: "They weren't trying to hype anything, and I really liked that. We just got to sit back and talk about life and not all football, which was great."
- FL RB Demetrius Hart did not make it in due to the expense of two trips to Michigan back-to-back. "Nothing has changed" as far as the Harts' opinion of M.
- Michigan has offered three additional kids in Ohio: DE Austin Traylor, TE Nick Vannett, and C Ryan Kelly. Traylor says he will visit; the interest levels of the other guys is unknown. Vannett is reputed an OSU lock.
Now on with this particular show.]
One of the prospects in attendance at this past weekend's BBQ was McKeesport linebacker Branden Jackson. Branden is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound middle linebacker for his team who runs a 4.5-4.6 forty. Here's what he had to say about the trip, and his versatility.
TOM: What did you know about Michigan before this trip? Why did you have interest?
BRANDEN: I just knew that Michigan was always good. They have a good track record, a huge alumni base, and they have those nice helmets. I liked some of the players growing up, and I also knew they had the biggest stadium, but that was about it.
TOM: So what were you expecting out of this kind of visit?
BRANDEN: I was really just expecting to get a feel for the school, the players, and the environment. I wanted to see if I could fit in, and I got exactly that. Exactly what I thought I would.
TOM: What about the environment, or atmosphere, stood out to you?
BRANDEN: The campus was really nice. I knew it would be, but it was really nice. Once I got around some of the players, too, I knew I wouldn't be left out. Everyone was just real nice, and made you feel comfortable. They weren't hyping anything, they were just being real about what they go through. I hung out with Tate Forcier, and Roy Roundtree a little bit. Roy's hilarious, he was cracking jokes the whole time. I talked a little with Stephen Hopkins, too. It was good to hear from someone that just committed, and just got up there.
TOM: Did you get to have as much fun with any of the coaches?
BRANDEN: Yeah, coach Gib [Gibson]. Since I met him, he's been real cool. He's always been down to earth with me, and he's in to modern things, too. He's not too old school, and I like that. I actually talked to the defensive coordinator, too. He was a little older, so I didn't know how much we'd have in common, but he was real cool, too. I was surprised, he knew a lot about some modern things.
TOM: What was the conversation like between the coaches?
BRANDEN: We were just talking about the things I'd get out of Michigan. The education, how big the alumni base is, and how that can help with jobs. We talked about the defense, and if I came there, I would play outside linebacker. They like quick, aggressive, and athletic linebackers. We also talked about how the head coach wants to offer kids that will add to the family atmosphere, and help create a bigger family, which was cool.
TOM: Does the outside linebacker spot fit you? Are you comfortable with that?
BRANDEN: I'm 6-foot-5, and 220-pounds, but if you look at me, I don't look like I weigh that much. I have really good speed, and I feel like I'm smaller for the middle spot, so the outside is probably better for me. I actually used to play safety, but we were short on linebackers, so I had to play in the middle. I'm aggressive, though. I like to come off the edge, even though I'm in the middle, I cover tight ends all the time in our defense. I'm pretty versatile; I could really be anywhere on the field. The last time I ran the forty was around a year ago, and it was a 4.5 something.
TOM: I know you wanted your teammate, Delvon Simmons, to come with you, too. He didn't make it?
BRANDEN: No, he couldn't make it, but I'm going to tell him everything about it. He'll definitely want to come back up with me in the summer. We talk about going to the same school all the time. I say if it happens, it happens, but he says it's definitely going to happen. I don't really know yet. It's too early for me to narrow things down, until I take more visits. Michigan is definitely up there, but there's no list, yet.
Thanks to three exceptionally useful videos put out by MGoVideo now you can take in the performances of all three Michigan quarterbacks during the spring game in about 15 minutes. Bonus points for the awesome audio selections.
Standard caveats about spring apply, but it's still amazing to watch Denard's development.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has made it clear that today is the day Michigan will send a hundred or so practice hours onto the beaches of Normandy, where they will be cut down by the relentless pillbox gunners of the NCAA. We'll find out what the results were tomorrow. This does not count as Godwinning myself because I am attempting to make a D-Day reference and not angry enough at the infractions committee to compare them to Nazis. Promise.
Anyway: there will be other sacrifices as well. I've been unable to figure out exactly what those will be, but the word is "an eye for an eye." Since we are talking about practice, in the words of the Great Iverson, this will mean giving back the excess hours two for one and possibly putting some restrictions on quality control assistants or giving up the use of a coach for some period of time.
Back in February when the university announced the Notice of Allegations, message board folk scoured the NCAA archives for similar infractions and came up with two recent examples at San Diego State and Florida International; this blog then attempted to figure out what tomorrow would look like. Both gave up a bunch of practice hours over three years and imposed some additional coaching restrictions. San Diego State then took six total years of scholarship reductions. The Bylaw Blog's proprietor did not think that was something Michigan would see done to them:
Based on the difference between these two cases [SDSU and M], I would say reduced scholarships are still on the table, but are most likely to be self-imposed. Michigan might give up scholarships if they believe scholarships are worth less than practice and they can reduce the practice penalties somewhat by giving up something else.
IE: San Diego State probably had a chronically under-supplied roster then and the scholarship penalties were giving away things they didn't need. Michigan won't want to follow that path, though I've been pushing the idea that Michigan might take one this year because they won't be able to get up to 85 scholarship players anyway. On the other hand, the practice penalties won't be severe. Michigan's total hour overages come to 66. If they give back two for one (132 total) and they're allowed to spread that over three years Michigan will have to give up 44 practice hours this year. That's not a whole lot, especially if some of them take the form of conditioning sessions that go from mandatory to "voluntary," which seems like a reasonable thing to do since the practice overages were conditioning sessions.
Potential Complicating Factors
There are two things in Michigan's naughty file that do not have clear precedents. One is the "Failure to monitor" accusation leveled at Rodriguez. (The separate failure to monitor accusation against the university was something SDSU and FIU got hit with, so the penalties they took include that.) The NCAA took a poke at WVU to see if they were sitting on any records of malfeasance as part of their new effort to tag coaches with stronger consequences—see also the proposal to track coach-specific APRs—but the chance of that turning up anything other than a chagrin-inducing lack of records at WVU is slim. Still, it is possible the NCAA could levy a sanction against RR. Since this is a new initiative what that might be is unknown.
The second is exactly how bad the Quality Control staffer excesses were. It is one thing if they were helping out with stretching; entirely another if they were basically operating 7-on-7 drills supposed to be voluntary. That has not been made clear.
Once On The Beach
Once that's announced Michigan is basically done. In both of the similar cases above, the Committee on Infractions didn't impose any additional punishments except short probationary periods of two (the minimum) and three years. Michigan has those precedents to work off of and has hired the former head of the COI to prepare the response. The announced sanctions will be accepted by the COI basically as-is in August, and then it will start to recede into the past.
I'm actually looking forward to the word coming down tomorrow, as the distant possibility the NCAA sets fire to everything should be removed. This is especially relevant for recruits, as Michigan should be able to point to the self-imposed sanctions and declare the ability of the program to compete will not be compromised. After tomorrow, we can start talking about the important thing: wins and losses.
Michigan took two of three games at Penn State this weekend to claim a #2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. While all three games had many great positives, the ending to game two is how this series will be remembered. Michigan held a 4 run lead going into the bottom of the 9th, and the bull pen collapsed.
Weekend recap, series thoughts, and a look at the Big Ten bracket after the jump
[Bumping this to the top because it's relevant for today - Tim]
You asked for it.......multiple times, so here it is. I was going to wait, but I figured it would give everyone something to do. This is the same as the Spring Game list, this can change, it's not set in stone, and it's only the people I've confirmed so far. There are more people coming (I'm assuming), I just haven't gotten in touch with them yet.
- OL Anthony Zettel - He said he probably won't pull the trigger.
- DE Chris Rock - He also said he probably won't commit. It's getting close, though.
- DT Darian Cooper - He's very excited to come see Michigan. He'll be in with his mother.
- Corey Marshall - Supposed to be there, not 100%
- WR AJ Jordan - He'll be there (as of now), and he's pretty excited about it.
- Commit DE Brennen Beyer
- LB Branden Jackson - Michigan has a good chance here, he's from PA.
- DB Dondi Kirby - He'll know by Friday if he's going, or not. He lives in PA, so it's not too far for a last minute decision. If he comes, LB Armstead Williams will be coming with him. They're best friends, and travel together, and potentially want to go to school together. They're both going to wait until signing day, but Michigan is in good favor with both of them.
- OL Ryan Kelly - One of the newer offers from Ohio, which you can read about here.
- LB Sean Duggan - He was invited (this is more of an invitation event, so not a lot of random people will be showing up), but can't make it.
- WR Damiere Byrd - Hasn't been hearing much from Michigan lately. I'm assuming it's because we're in on Spiffy Evans, AJ Jordan, Sammy Watkins, and DeAnthony Arnett.
- DE Deion Barnes - No ride, and didn't know about the event. (No invite)
- LB Kris Frost - Unfortunately his family can't afford the trip again. He's rescheduling for the summer.
- RB Demetrius Hart
- LB Lamar Dawson - He's coming out with a top list in the next week, or two. He's going to try to visit this summer.
- DB Daren Kitchen - Too far, and he plans on camping this summer. If he has an offer when he comes up for camp, expect him to commit, or already be committed. He told me there's a 90% chance he'll commit to Michigan. LSU has been recruiting him (he's from LA), but he really likes Michigan right now. He loves Charles Woodson, and thinks he can be a big corner like him. Kitchen is 6'2", 175 lbs.
- OL Aundrey Walker - Glenville....(insert fart noise here).
- TE Ray Hamilton - Can't make it
- DB Dondi Kirby - He's not coming. if he's going, or not. If he would've made it, LB Armstead Williams would have come with him. They're best friends, and travel together, and potentially want to go to school together. They're both going to wait until signing day, but Michigan is in good favor with both of them.
- OL Ray Ball - Recently offered. He was very honest to me when we spoke. He said he does really like Ohio State and Wisconsin, despite the fact that OSU hasn't offered. He said he's from Ohio, so he just likes OSU because of that. He also told me that he's excited to see what Michigan has to offer, and despite his interest in the other two schools, it doesn't mean Michigan won't get a fair look. (side note: He sounds like a really respectable, religious kid. I was impressed with him, and also he's a giant). His uncle moved the visit to June 5th, they have some things going on right now.
Never trust a man with a ridiculous unibrow.
Basketball recrutniks will remember one Patrick Beverly, the late-rising Chicago wing that Amaker had seemingly locked down before a late trip to Arkansas suddenly flipped the kid. Beverly would go on to be a freshman All-American in 2006-2007. After a strong sophomore year he was ineligible as a junior and left Arkansas; he currently plays in the Greek league. If Beverly had signed up with Amaker there's a strong possibility he's still around today.
Anyway, afterwards there were more than the usual grumblings about dolla dolla bills y'all, many of them from moderator types on Rivals who usually shoot those things down. There wasn't any proof, though, and these things get old and people forget them.
[Oklahoma] acknowledged Wednesday that it was investigating phone calls made by former basketball assistant Oronde Taliaferro to determine whether he had committed any NCAA violations. In a statement, the school indicated that Taliaferro had made calls to a Merrill Lynch representative in Florida and the content of those calls was under review.
Oklahoma claims Taliaferro did not break NCAA rules by simply making the calls. The school's investigation started after a TMZ.com report that former player Keith "Tiny" Gallon had received a wire transfer from a Merrill Lynch representative. …
Taliaferro resigned in April after three seasons on coach Jeff Capel's staff, and the school said he wanted to "focus on other employment opportunities." Warren and Gallon have both entered their names in the NBA draft. …
The Tulsa World and The Oklahoman reported Wednesday that the school released documents showing that Taliaferro exchanged at least 41 phone calls and 25 text messages with Hausinger between May 2009 and March 2010.
Getting that cheddar, yo. Also of note: when Beverley exited Arkansas he outed a massive team-wide cheating scandal before someone got him to recant. Chances Beverly's change of heart were because of the majesty of Fayetteville: minimal. Also see new Golden Knight Isaiah Sykes. Here's to the NCAA hammering Oklahoma and taking a hard look at Arkansas.
Excellent work by the local papers in both these situations, by the way. #*&$ing stretching is the end of the world over here.
About that banner contest: obviously, it has not come off. This is because I am working on Hail To The Victors 2010, a process that should be complete in a couple weeks, at which point we will kick festivities off. If you wanted to submit a banner the door is still open.
Also in sitebulletins: there's a wiki page up designed to be an inclusive list of whatever the community thinks is worth keeping around in an easily-accessible form. Trusted users (>500 points) can edit it. It's available under the "Useful Stuff" tab.
Olympic Mascot Horror Lookalike. The Olympic mascots:
Yes, they're terrifying. Yes, they're hovering. It is now time for everyone to figure out what they look like from your childhood. My entry: the Spathi from Star Control 2. They're cowardly mollusks!
I'm waiting for the day when the Olympic mascots look like the Umgah. (Also: SC2 was released as open source and is now available in a form that functions on modern computers. If you didn't play it back in the day you'll probably find it too clunky, but anyone looking for a blast from the past will enjoy a game still in my top five list all time.)
Guh. I know this is a very nice column with many nice things to say about Zack Novak and Manny Harris, but… just dude dude no:
Manny, Manny kudos to Wolverines' Novak
| Five minutes with most NBA Draft prospects and you can tell if they have character; if you can pay them a fortune to represent your team and not lose sleep at night.
You know they've got game, but can you trust them?
Five minutes is all it takes.
Do their faces light up when talking about the game? You need that, rookie or vet, in an 82-game season.
And so forth and so on with the one-sentence paragraphs hot of the cliché press. Anyway, apparently Harris patterns his game after George Hill. Do you know who George Hill is? He's a 6'2" point guard who started about half of the Spurs' games this year because Tony Parker was injured. He averaged 12 points per game. He's also a 40% three-point shooter. Manny Harris compares himself to a player who is 1) nothing like him and 2) not even that good. I don't even know what's going on. What is going on? I don't know.
He's very nice and says nice things about Zack Novak when asked about it by a guy who speaks like a slightly deranged man, offering staccato blips about what's important in Northwest Indiana. Then, to see if he can get away with it, he compares himself to a cucumber. But, like, the cucumber that plays for the Timberwolves. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Moving on up. The Big Ten is pushing for an earlier start to official visits, namely June:
"So many kids are taking unofficial visits right now and the cost to families is astronomical trying to go see X amount of schools in June,” Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “It only makes sense. How many of these kids are making early decisions, making verbal commitments, without ever taking an official visit that you can pay for to be on campus for that 48-hour window?"
This is an obvious thing for the Big Ten to push for since top recruits are concentrated in the South these days and getting a kid to campus radically increases your chance of signing him. It also reflects the changing reality of recruiting, where a ton of kids are off the board by the start of their senior seasons. Undoubtedly, the SEC and Big 12 will try to shoot it down but what their rationale could possibly be is a mystery.
Also, there's the now-usual assertion that an early signing period is on its way:
"The coaches are in favor of [an early signing period], most of the leagues are in favor of it," Alvarez said. "Somehow it got stopped in legislation last year. We're not really sure where, but everyone seems to be in favor of it. That wasn't the case a few years ago. A few years ago, it was split 50-50."
As I've said before, I don't see why there have to be signing periods at all. Just implement a system where any time a prospect wants he can be put on a non-binding "do not call" list that exempts one school. Coaches can't contact a player on the list and players can't take official visits to schools other than the exempted one. That way the "verbal commitment" actually means something without locking in a player in case of a coaching change.
Lethal. One of Michigan's soccer recruits got a shiny thing. That's incoming freshman striker Soony Saad and the Sports Drink Co Soccer Player Of The Year Award. Saad got it for scoring 76(!!!) goals this season and leading his team to the… round of 16. It's his measly 15 assists that did them in.
The Saad shiny thing dossier:
An All-America first team selection by ESPN RISE and a National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American in 2009, Saad was also the 2008 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Player of the Year. The Michigan Soccer Coaches Association's Mr. Soccer this past fall, Saad concluded his high school career with a state-record 172 goals to go along with 51 assists.
Good lord. Does this happen in high school soccer programs? Do people just put up like three goals a game? Dearborn is representing of late, what with Miss USA and Saad.
He should be an impact player at Michigan immediately after choosing Michigan over UCLA and Akron, which latter is a much bigger deal than it sounds. #1 Akron was undefeated last year until the NCAA final and stomped Michigan 5-1 during the regular season. The entirety of their starting defense was named to the US-U20 team. Akron is no joke.
Etc.: Six Zero continues his series profiling the many eccentric characters who comprise the MGoCommunity. This edition features MS Paint maestro The Shredder. The RCMB spends much time putting video game Tate Forcier in compromising positions. The new Miss USA drops a "Go Blue" on the Today show, then explains her stripper pictures. Win? Win. Cam Gordon is Bruce Feldman's #2 breakout star of spring.
|Cleveland, OH - 6'3" 220|
|Scout||3*, #81 OLB|
|Rivals||3*, #30 MLB, #34 OH|
|ESPN||3*, 77, #58 OLB|
|Other Suitors||MAC schools|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post.|
|Notes||Yes, has same name of love interest in "Sixteen Candles." St. Ignatius also sent the Massey brothers to Michigan.|
I don't usually recommend people watch recruits' highlight films, as they invariably give a distorted impression of the player and are often saddled with songs by Saliva. In Jake Ryan's case an exception should be made. You see, Rudy, St. Ignatius plays a true 3-3-5 on defense and Ryan's tenure as a quarterback-thumping blitzer at OLB gives you an idea of what Michigan will be looking for from Jonas Mouton and Craig Roh this year. Also, watching Ryan obliterate unprepared guard after unprepared guard as the most productive member of the St. Ig's linebacking corps is reassuring given his slim offer list and status as the proverbial sleeper. I'll wait.
All right then: Ryan was a late pickup that Michigan leapt on once it became clear the plan A guys at linebacker were headed elsewhere. This is usually the point at which you start hearing about a senior breakout spurred by a growth spurt and followed by a flood of late mid-level offers, and in this Ryan is much like any other pickup… minus the late offers. Michigan was the first and only BCS school to offer Ryan, though no other schools got a chance since Ryan accepted the Michigan offer on the spot.
At the time, Ryan was virtually unranked by all the sites; since then his stock has climbed dramatically. He got another star on Scout, jumped eleven places in the Ohio state rankings on Rivals, and was actually evaluated by ESPN. He now sits in the range where he's just another three star linebacker, which isn't great but isn't bad for a guy Michigan swooped in on late. Brutal defenses at Iowa and Wisconsin are built on the Jake Ryans of the world.
St. Ignatius is a high school football machine that just picked up its tenth Ohio state title, and Ryan was their best defender last year. That has something to do with an injury to fellow linebacker and Ohio State commit Scott McVey, but Ryan was also the district's defensive player of the year, beating out not only McVey but OSU commit Darryl Baldwin and five-star safety Latwan Anderson. High school awards don't necessarily correspond to collegiate upside but Ryan was the most productive guy in a group of solid to hyped collegiate prospects:
Ryan used his outstanding pass-rushing technique to register a team-leading 104 tackles for the Wildcats with 62 solos, 26 tackles for loss, eight sacks, eight quarterback hurries, four deflected passes and two fumble recoveries.
He did this against a selection of Ohio's top teams, as well: at 2:40 in the highlight film above you can see him make a critical fourth-down stop against Glenville and Ohio State commit Christian Bryant.
As to what kind of player Ryan is, he is a large one suited to attacking vertically with some agility issues that may force a move to the line or removal in passing situations. Rivals on Ryan's game versus Harding:
PERFORMANCE: Had a pair of sacks and a handful of tackles near the line of scrimmage in St. Ignatius' 10-7 win over Warren Harding.
STRENGTHS: A taller linebacker prospect that will continue to get bigger and stronger. Rushes the quarterback well and does a solid job a getting off blocks and finding the ball carrier. Missed much of his junior season due to injury. Ryan would be a major recruit if not for that setback.
WEAKNESSES: Ryan plays outside linebacker right now, but I am not sure he has the speed and agility to play that position at the next level, especially in regards to playing in space and covering running backs or tight ends in the passing game. However, he is simply a good, smart football player that could grow into a monster inside linebacker or a defensive end.
A preseason evaluation from the same guy says his listed 6'3" may be "a bit short," wonders about a move to DE, and praises his size and range.
ESPN's evaluation conflicts with both itself and the evaluation above, praising Ryan's ability to cover ground while complaining about cutbacks::
Has good height and body length on the outside needed to keep blockers off his body when attacking vertically or stringing out the run to the perimeter. Uses hands well as a shedder. Covers a lot of ground and is difficult to outflank. … Flashes good overall sideline-to-sideline range on run pursuit. A good backside chaser and he plays with a motor and desired toughness. Brings it as a blitzer off the edge; is quick off the snap and closes hard. … shows some lateral stiffness changing direction and playing the cutback. Does not sift real fluidly through the wash and appears to be a much better vertical attacker than lateral. Plays high and can open his whole body up at the point of attack. Pass coverage skills will be tested if matched up versus quicker slots.
ESPN praises his frame and overall physical ability, as well. There is room for "a lot more bulk," again raising the possibility Ryan ends up at defensive end. Touch The Banner disagrees with that but only slightly:
…Ryan is best suited for middle linebacker. He seems to do a good job of diagnosing plays and taking good angles toward the ballcarrier. He has a solid frame and could easily play at 240 or 245. He's reported to run a 4.6 forty yard dash, but I question that time.
Ryan is stiff in the hips. He moves well for a high school linebacker, but he looks like a defensive end who's playing out of position at outside backer. He does not have great lateral speed, and I do question his tackling ability. Despite a couple highlight films I've seen, I haven't seen a single de-cleater. All of his tackles seem to be him falling on a player who's already going down or grabbing a runner and letting his 220-225 lbs. drag down the ball carrier. He doesn't have the aggressiveness I would like to see in a kid that size at the linebacker position, but he was suffering from a wrist injury, so that might have made him a bit tentative.
Ryan certainly has the requisite aggressiveness when impacting stationary quarterbacks—a couple of his hits early in the highlight reel are brutal—and if he can "easily" get to 240 or 245 another 15 pounds will put him in the range of a defensive end.
Finally, take this Ohio State message board guy's opinion for what it's worth:
Jake Ryan is a great kid from a good family. After McVey got injured in the week 1 game against Glenville and Scott tried to play one-armed the rest of the season, Ryan was Ignatius' best defensive player this year by a wide margin. Jake had a great year and has an excellent frame at 6'3 225#, he is a big strong kid that can run in the high 4.5s, he is a very athletic kid. Versatile athlete that played FB this year, some TE in the past and also excelled on KO and PR coverage.
To this point, I have been perplexed by his offer sheet, which is essentially every team in the MAC conference. He is far better than a MAC player, I would have expected his offer sheet would read something like Boston College, Vanderbilt, Indiana, Virginia, Northwestern, Michigan State, Iowa, Pittsburgh, Louisville, etc at this point.
That said, I think this is a stretch offer for UM. Jake is a B10 talent, just but not a Big 4 talent IMO. [Ed: since there are at least three schools on that list that have had killer linebackers the last few years, whateva.]
While he possesses good speed, he doesn't possess the lateral sideline to sideline speed that I would want to see at an elite BCS school. Watch his film, when he is making plays near the sidelines, often times it is after someone has already turned the play back inside. … Kid does have an excellent frame and should have no problem adding weight, maybe they want him to play with his hand down at DE, that would make more sense to me.
There is a fairly weak explanation for Ryan's outsized production compared to McVey: even though McVey's shoulder injury occurred in week one, teams "gameplanned for a healthy McVey" and let Ryan do whatever he want. As I said, take it for what it's worth. To me, that's rationalization. While McVey's injury makes it difficult to judge how he progressed as a senior, one guy is 6'3" or more and the other generously listed at 5'11". Most sites rank them about equal; they're approximately equivalent prospects.
Elsewhere, Ohio high school observer Duane Long said Ryan "plays with great intensity and runs well" in a preseason evaluation that foreshadowed his senior rise; Scout calls him a "very good athlete" with "excellent timing and anticipation on the blitz."
So, I'm confused. Multiple evaluations say he runs well; multiple evaluations question his lateral speed. Hell, multiple evaluations call him "very athletic" and then turn around and question his athleticism within a paragraph. The reports are generally similar to what we're hearing about Craig Roh as a 3-3-5 OLB: superior going forward, iffy when asked to change directions. A big guy who can run fast is not often able to redirect all that momentum; when he can the resulting rankings are rapturous, not generic.
Why Obi Ezeh? Ryan is a big, slightly clunky middle linebacker who will easily reach Ezeh's current 245 pounds and may outgrow the position entirely. As a recruit Ezeh was an anonymous three-star in about the same range Ryan is; he was also a sleeper-type pickup who had not been on anyone's radar before Michigan grabbed him. Ryan is praised for his vertical attacking and dogged for his ability to cut through the trash sideline-to-sideline or effectively cover zones; Ezeh's career is ably summed up by those critiques.
Ryan has some assets Ezeh doesn't: a high school career at linebacker (Ezeh was mostly a running back), a head start on the system he'll be playing in, and Greg Robinson as a position coach. Hopefully he'll have some consistency in coaching as well.
Etc.: Wolverine Tactics extols Ryan's virtues. GBMW is fairly positive but mentions he doesn't use his "flipper" very well, which is either football jargon or an indication Ryan is part dolphin. And now the St. Ignatius linebacker equivalent of that ESPN commercial, except without the making out:
One thing Michigan and Ohio State fans can agree on: this gives everyone the heebie-jeebies.
Guru Reliability: High. Late bloomer but the Michigan commit prompted re-evaluations after his productive senior season. All reports are consistent, and the rankings are in a relatively small range (assumption: the #30 MLB is about the #60 OLB). Apparently no combines, though.
General Excitement Level: Moderate. It seems clear that Ryan's got some agility limitations that put a cap on his upside even if he's got a nice frame. A defensive end move might not be possible given Michigan's depth chart, leaving him as a linebacker who is solid against the run but potentially a liability in pass coverage.
Projection: It's not a lock he redshirts if Michigan is using its linebackers in a fashion identical to St. Igs. He'll actually be the linebacker with the most experience in a true 3-3-5 this fall and he should be pushing 230 by the time the season rolls around. If there's an injury or he's a savant he could press for immediate playing time if the starters do not improve.
More likely, Michigan will redshirt him and pack on 20 pounds, whereupon he'll compete with JB Fitzgerald and Kenny Demens for one of the linebacker jobs left open following the departures of Ezeh and Mouton.