"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."
The media got a chance to talk to Michigan Offensive Coordinator Calvin Magee earlier today. Note from his press conference follow.
- There have been a lot of fun competitions to watch at every position. Nobody wins or loses a starting spot in spring football. Guys have the summer to improve their bodies, and position battles really take place in fall camp. The next five spring practices still give guys a chance to emerge.
- There have been a number of injuries that have given younger guys a chance to prove themselves this spring, specifically center (David Molk) and Outside Wideout (JR Hemingway and Je'Ron Stokes).
- As much of a jump in offensive production as there was from Year One to Year Two (from 109th to 59th in total offense, from 101st to 41st in scoring offense), Magee hopes there will be equal improvement between last year and Year Three. There is finally returning experience at important positions, and guys that have had three years in the system. They finally aren't starting fresh.
- The early enrollees are adjusting to the pace and physicality of college ball. The coaches need to keep reminding themselves that these guys are basically still high schoolers.
- Magee and Rodriguez have never butted heads about playcalling. When you gameplan the right way, you know going into a game what you're going to do. The only thing that can get frustrating is when the execution isn't good.
- South Florida first contacted Magee about applying for their head coaching job, not the other way around (Skip Holtz eventually won the position). Magee lived 15 years in Tampa, so he is familiar with the area, and actually graduated from USF while he was playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Interviewing for the job was a good experience, but he doesn't really think about becoming a head coach that frequently, aside from a long-term career goal. He just worries about doing what he can at Michigan: "Man, we're about to do what we're supposed to do here." He didn't want to leave unfinished business in Ann Arbor.
- Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are both getting time running with the 1s in practice. Now that they have game experience, the coaches are really working on their mechanics and fundamentals. Splitting time with the 1s gives both a chance to compete.
- Tate Forcier "played like a freshman" last year at times. He faced new coverages every week, and it takes time to teach a kid everything.
- Denard Robinson is learning the entire offense. They didn't plan to only have him run QB sweeps, etc., last year, but that's just what happened. He will have a much better comfort level with the offense this year, with spring practice, game experience, and film study.
- Devin Gardner has been good. He's very competitive, and he wants to compete with the other two guys right away. He's not going to sit behind them without doing everything he can to compete with them first. Magee would like to see him compete for the starting job in the fall, because it means that there are several viable options at QB. If he plays well enough to get onto the field, they don't have a problem not redshirting him.
- Experience at quarterback will give the coaches much more comfort with their play calls. They'll be confident with the entire playbook.
- The competition is heating up, and it's fun to watch. The coaches would love to have three or four options in the season. Guys who can play multiple roles within the offense give the team some flexibility.
- Mike Cox is a powerful guy, who is very physically talented. Last year, he maybe thought that it wasn't "his turn" yet, and he'd have to wait for Minor and Brown. The coaches had to make sure he realized that if he can compete and earn the job, it's his, no matter what. He's taken that attitude to heart this spring.
- Vincent Smith will be back in fall camp, competing with everyone else for a starting role.
- Fitzgerald Toussaint needs to keep learning the playbook, and he'll be good to go. He's done a good job with that so far.
- The coaches know what Mark Moundros is capable of, but with him moonlighting at linebacker this spring, it's given John McColgan a chance to get a lot of reps, and getting that experience in practice will really help him down the road.
Slots, Tight Ends, and Wideouts
- When they recruit slots, a lot of the guys can also play outside receiver positions, so they've moved there for spring with the injuries to Hemingway and Stokes. Roy Roundtree's "been mostly all outside right now." He was originally recruited as an outside receiver, so he can play both positions.
- Terrence Robinson is playing really well this spring. His first year, he was in a competition with Martavious Odoms for a starting spot, but got injured. A similar thing happened last year, which led to the emergence of Roy Roundtree. He's finally healthy, and can do a lot of different things.
- Jeremy Gallon is coming off a redshirt, and should have a chance to contribute at multiple positions. Like Odoms and Robinson, he's a very shifty guy, with a lot of ability.
- The tight end position has been really good to watch this spring. Magee isn't sure which of the two main guys (Kevin Koger and Martell Webb) is better. Webb is turning into a real team leader.
- The three redshirt freshmen coming up are very good. Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield showed their talent on the scout team last year, and it's fun to watch them compete in the offense. They are a little immature (though they weigh more than they look - they aren't far off from their target weights), but very competitive. Lewan has been playing left tackle, and Schofield right tackle. Quinton Washington had been doing well, but he's been a little banged up.
- David Molk's injury has given some other centers a chance to get reps. Rocko Khoury has been getting a lot of time, and Elliott Mealer is playing in there as well. They're building depth at center.
- Mark Huyge and Perry Dorrestein have "been fine this spring." It's their third year in the system, so they understand what the coaches want.
- Steve Schilling is playing as well as he ever has since this coaching staff has been in town. He's turning into a real leader on the offense.
- Last year, there were too many injuries to have any real competition on the offensive line. This year, it's much better, and the competition is fun to watch.
Assorted items of possibly dubious validity that have darkened my inbox about spring practice. Are these accurate? Useful? Worth reading? Possibly not. Will at least one player who these reports suggest will be a ninja spend his career doing nothing? Yes. Will you absorb the reports voraciously anyway? Absolutely!
I'm on the record as skeptical that Denard Robinson presents a serious threat to Tate Forcier, but multiple sources here and elsewhere keep saying it looks even, or even advantage Robinson, thus far. Robinson's got a zippy arm that bests Forcier when it comes to short-range oomph and has vastly improved his accuracy. This makes him a plausible quarterback. He remains ridiculously fast, and is actually running the read option now.
Areas for improvement: throwing on the run, reading defenses—when the D deviates from its vanilla schemes Robinson has a nasty tendency to throw it directly at defenders—and pocket awareness. On long throws he still has a tendency to throw ropes that give receivers little opportunity to adjust to inaccurate balls.
There has been little chatter about Forcier, with some observers theorizing he's still dealing with the after-effects of his shoulder injury and others claiming he's totally healthy and just not progressing as fast as Robinson. That latter makes some sense, as Forcier has been exposed to high-level coaching for years. He's a lot closer to his ceiling than Robinson.
Despite all the Robinson talk, most people are hesitant to suggest he would actually start. Michigan is installing the 3-3-5 and running vanilla coverages. There's a long way to go from seeming competent in spring to being the starting quarterback. More realistic is a continued timeshare with Robinson moonlighting at other skill positions when Tate is at the helm.
Devin Gardner, meanwhile, looks like a freshman. He needs work on his mechanics, doesn't know the offense that well, and is clearly behind the two sophomores. He's running a lot of those Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Zone Stretch plays that Robinson was relegated to last year. If Denard can establish himself a viable option Gardner seems headed for a redshirt. His long term potential remains totally sweet.
It sounds like Mike Cox is the tentative leader at this point. He alternates punishing Minor RAGE runs with mental mistakes that undoubtedly have Rodriguez throwing his hat and saying he's dang-diddly-anged disappointed in the young man. Cox has the best combination of size and speed, and that uncanny balance he flashed during some of his garbage-time runs is no fluke. Caveat: Vincent Smith is sometimes suggested as the probable starter. Cox is entering his third year in the program so the mental mistakes may be a long term issue, unfortunately.
Michael Shaw is next in the pecking order, less likely to break a tackle than Cox but more likely to take something a long way. He's also been mentioned as a player who needs to work on the mental side of the game some.
Stephen Hopkins is getting the sort of reviews you expect him to: he is a horse, a load, a freight train, a moose, etc. He will run straight ahead until he falls over or he burrows into the wall in the endzone. If Cox doesn't establish himself as a short yardage back, the duties will likely fall to Hopkins.
Toussaint comes in for cursory "looked good" praise but it seems like he's trailing the relative veterans. White is probably redshirting.
Wideouts and Tight Ends
Hard to tell anything with Hemingway and Stokes out; in their absence Roy Roundtree is practicing outside and drawing mixed reviews. Drops are supposed to be an issue with everyone, but Roundtree gets more stick for it than others.
Mixed reviews on Darryl Stonum, with a couple reports citing his obvious physical superiority to the rest of the WRs and projecting a strong season. Again, hard to tell absent his most serious competition.
Roundtree may stick outside even after the injured return because Odoms, Gallon, and Robinson are all having strong springs. Robinson and Grady are taking a number of snaps in the backfield—think Darius Reynaud—and doing well with it. Both were high school tailbacks. Robinson and Gallon seem to have the inside track on punt returns.
Tight ends are the same as they were last year. It sounds like they're focusing more on the slots this year.
The interior line remains as expected: Schilling, Molk Placeholder, Omameh, with both guards coming in for regular praise and the Placeholder (Khoury, mostly) having issues snapping the ball. That's supposedly getting better.
On the outside there's been some shuffling with Dorrestein and Huyge flopping left to right at times. This may be due to Taylor Lewan's (right) quick emergence. He's been called an "obvious future star" and "reminiscent of Jake Long." Reports are still conflicting on his readiness but all agree that his upside is as rapturous as the recruiting gurus promised; it seems like it's matter of time before he claims the left tackle spot. That timeframe may be September or it may be next year. The most recent move suggests the move may come sooner rather than later. Flipping Huyge to the right seems to be an effort to get Michigan's best five on the field. If I had to bet, I'd go with Lewan as the starting LT against UConn.
Washington (when healthy) and Schofield have also gotten good reviews; that whole class seems to be panning out so far. Huyge and Dorrestein haven't been the subject of much chatter good or bad. With the quarterbacks focusing on shorter routes the opportunities for serious pass protection have been intermittent.
Renaldo Sagesse continues to play well. Will Campbell is huge and still working on technique issues but much better both physically and mentally; it sounds like those two will be the NT platoon. I'm pretty confident they'll be a good one. That leaves Van Bergen and Martin outside with Banks and Patterson backing up. It's hard to tell how much of the praise for each of the senior backups is real, but given how Sagesse played last year I think he can hang. Patterson and Banks I don't know about.
Specific mentions of RVB have been few and far between. Banks and Patterson are getting talked up publicly but aren't drawing a ton of hype on background.
This comes with a "just spring" warning since he was buried all of last year, but Kenny Demens is getting a significant amount of buzz and is taking some of Ezeh's snaps with the first team. The scheme change may suit him: the Casteel-style 3-3-5 doesn't need a huge MLB, just a tough guy willing to plug his face on a guard and make the nose tackle right all the time. His speed and blitzing is a good fit for the new system. He's been laying his share of thumping hits.
Other than that, it's MOTS in the linebacking corps, with Mouton and Ezeh seeming like Mouton and Ezeh. If there have been any adjustment pains for Craig Roh they haven't made it into the wide world. He seems to be doing very well. Adding 20 pounds turns him from overmatched but promising into beast, apparently. From the inbox's lips to God's ears.
The Cam Gordon hype train continues unabated, with words like "excellent," "natural," and "seems vaguely like an actual safety" getting thrown around. (Latter praise invented by me to tamp own expectations down.) ESPN's Adam Rittenberg gets in on the act:
Safety Cameron Gordon, a converted wide receiver, drew praise from Rodriguez and several players I spoke with.
Most positive reports about receivers read "hauled in pass and was disemboweled by Gordon, but held on." Caveat: all the quarterback reports indicate that Michigan is working on short stuff incessantly, so opportunities to get dragged way out of position and give up, oh, I don't know, a third and thirty-seven conversion have been limited.
With Emilien out with another injury, Brandin Hawthorne is second-team at deep safety. Rodriguez has been wary about the lack of depth there.
Troy Woolfolk is about on par where he was last year: pretty good Big Ten corner, may have a bit more upside than that as a senior. Then there's JT Floyd. He is "vastly improved." I know. I'm skeptical, too. According to Rittenberg, Woolfolk had praise for Floyd as well.
The bad news: Justin Turner gets a universal "meh," with a couple of reports indicating that a 6'2", 210-pound corner is not likely to work out and a position move is in the cards once the quartet of freshman corners hits campus in fall. One talks up James Rogers, his teammate on the second team, in favor of him. Bleah. As of now the third string corners are walk-ons so Turner continues to labor at a position it seems he doesn't have the quicks for. With Gordon developing a death grip on deep safety, Turner's best shot at playing time in the near future may be as a spur or bandit.
As far as the hybrid SSs go: Jordan Kovacs has the weakside spot (bandit) locked down. This is no surprise for anyone who saw him play there as a freshman walk-on. That box safety thing is tailor made for him. The other side is a total mess, with Mike Williams giving way to a combination of redshirt freshman Thomas Gordon and walk-on Floyd Simmons. It's unclear whether the Williams demotion is a temporary thing due to injury (Williams is in green) or a long term move to other players, but it seems like it's closer to the latter. The Hawthorne move leaves a couple of marginal players duking it out at a spot that requires dealing with a lot of blocks. Reports have neither been positive or negative. They mostly confine themselves to who's playing where. Gordon has laid a couple pops, apparently.
I wouldn't be surprised to see someone move to the spur for fall; Carvin Johnson and Marvin Robinson will have opportunities to earn immediate starting jobs.
With Will Hagerup not enrolled yet, there's not much you can tell about the punters. On the Huge Show yesterday Rodriguez said he was the most likely freshman to start (surprise!), so it sounds like there isn't anyone in camp threatening to make an Olesnavage-like move.
Placekicking, on the other hand, has everyone it's going to have and the initial reviews are seriously negative. Brendan Gibbons is reputed to have a big leg but questionable accuracy. Field goals have been something of a fire drill so far. Here's a terror-inducing Rodriguez quote:
"The kicking game is a concern simply because we've been inconsistent in practice. I couldn't tell you who our starting kicker is. It changes in 15 minutes. I don't know if that's going to be resolved until the fall. Brendan Gibbons has a strong leg, but he's been back and forth. Other special teams, we've got athletes, but the kicking and punting is not at the point where we feel comfortable."
This is an early list of who is going to be at the Spring Game this year. This list will continue to grow, since these are only the players I've talked to so far. Some of the visits could change as we get closer, so just remember that.
I'll keep adding to the list as I talk to more people, but here's what I have so far.
WR DeAnthony Arnett
OH LB Percy Johnson
OH DE Bryan Baird - Said he will probably be there, not positive.
OH DB Greg Brown (commit)
MI DE Brennen Beyer
MI CB Delonte Hollowell (commit)
MI OL Anthony Zettel
FL RB Demetrius Hart (Mom coming too.)
FL S Dallas Crawford - Yes. This is a big one for Michigan.
FL WR Sammy Watkins - Yes. Also big.
MD DT Vincent Croce - Yes, as of now.
TX RB Jarrell Oliver (same school as Stonum, Herron, Woolfolk)
NJ LB Antoine Pozniak - He's coming with the "Top Prospects Family." Je'Ron Stokes dad is the founder of Top Prospects Family.
NJ ATH Miles Shuler
PA DE Deion Barnes - 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds. Same school as current wolverine Je'Ron Stokes, and his brother Malik Stokes.
NJ LB Andre Hodge - Top Prospects
Other Top Prospects Family - Ronald Butler, Tyron Stevens, Lamar McKnight
IN OL Tony Springmann
GA WR Justin Scott
FL DE Anthony Rabasa
PA DB Kyshoen Jarrett - No, as of now. Family might decide to come, but no for now.
OH S Ron Tanner - He has baseball.
OH DE Robert Mincey - No, he'll be at Toledo. No offer, not sure if he'll get one.
OH DT Kevin Williams - He'll be at Nebraska, for their spring game. He was recently at Michigan for one of the practices. It seems like it's down to Nebraska and Michigan. He'll make his choice shortly after the 17th
NC LB Kris Frost - No. His family waited too long to buy tickets, so they were too expensive when they went to buy them. He's NOT going to Auburn's spring game over Michigan's, he's going to Auburn's because it's only 6 hours away. He figures he might as well go somewhere, if he can't make it to Michigan. They are trying to find another time to make it up.
AR QB Kiehl Frazier (2011) - No for the spring game. I spoke with his father, though, and they're really excited about Michigan. He said they DEFINITELY plan on making a trip to Ann Arbor. They really like Coach Smith, and are excited to see Michigan.
NJ WR Damiere Byrd - Track Meets
MI RB Justice Hayes is going to try to make it. Not positive yet.
OH TE Ray Hamilton - There's a "strong possibility" that he'll be there. Not definite.
OH OL Aundrey Walker - Doesn't know for sure yet. It's still a possibility.
OH WR Shaq Washington - Going to try to make it. He doesn't have an offer, but Michigan is one of the few schools he's hoping to get an offer from. He thinks he fits the offense really well.
OL Matt Frazier - Didn't end up making it to practice the other week. He fell ill, and couldn't make it. He's either coming for the spring game, or one of the early games of the season. Most likely a game, though.
21. Jon Merrill (down 1)
68. Jacob Fallon (down 18)
95. Luke Moffatt (down 20… yeesh)
99. Alex Guptill (2011, down 1)
153. Derek Deblois (2011, up 17)
Kevin Clare was 132nd in the midterm rankings and is now absent. He's also been playing with the U17 team, not the U18s… not a good year for him. (Note that the CSB rankings claim Deblois was 63rd in the mid-term rankings, but he was actually 170th. Either way that's not a spot at which a lot of players get drafted.)
Obviously not good, but there's a tendency for players at the top of the ratings to move down so not too damaging. Luke Moffatt's stock continues to collapse; what happened to the guy who was the #2 pick in the OHL draft?
Baraka Obama-a. Remember Kelly Baraka? Unless you're an old-school M recruitnik probably not. If you don't: he was supposed to be a total ninja RB before a number of high school pot arrests saw him lose his shot at an M scholarship. He never made it anywhere else and has regularly featured in "where are they now?" features end up with the Kalamazoo Xplosion, a minor league football team. Not that you needed me to tell you that with a name like "Xplosion."
Yeah… anyway. About that ninja bit:
LeGarrette Blount ain't got nothing on Kelly Baraka.
Video revamp. Inside Michigan Football sans browser-crippling software:
Schilling's beard is a confidence-building one.
Slings and arrows. The Mathlete takes a look at luck over the past two years in the Big Ten and nationally, re-running last season based on performance-adjusted PPG metrics and slicing out some of the huge swings from random plays like fumbles (he leaves in interceptions). Unsurprisingly, Michigan hasn't been on the kind end of things:
I had some questions about whether this "luck" factor was really luck, but there doesn't appear to be any correlation between excellent teams and good fortune. OSU and Penn State average out to be basically even. Iowa nets out around –2. Michigan State's 9-3 2008 team was the second most-fortunate in the country that year, something that checks out in the statistics. It passes a cursory sanity check.
So, then: Northwestern is your official Big Ten lucksack with Minnesota a distant second. If I'm reading the graph right, the Wildcats have been the luckiest team in the country two years running. The negative outlier for 2009—that dot sitting right at –3.0 on the y axis—is Oklahoma, by the way. Not that you needed to be told that a seven-win Stoops outfit suffered its share of outrageous fortune even beyond the Bradford injury.
One stop scouting. The NTDP moved to the USHL this year, which the NHL scouting community loves. Previously, the development team had puttered along in the NAHL, in which draftable prospects are few and far between. Now they're in the USA's premiere junior league and scouts are going "eeee":
"The whole design of the program has given us the selfish benefactor of comparing the Under-18 team on one weekend against the University of Michigan and older players, and then watching them against their group peers the following weekend. But because this is such a select team, an elite team, we think that the elite 18-year-olds should be able to compete against the 21- and 22-year-olds who were not selected in the draft. Those players are older and more savvy but for some reason were passed over."
This should help the NTDP hold on to some of the elite Americans they've lost in recent years. (Example: Stefan Matteau, son of longtime NHLer Stephane Matteau, has accepted a slot according to Michigan Hockey Net.) The 2011 NTDP is a relatively motley bunch. Michigan hasn't recruited anyone from it, a rarity these days. That will change for 2012, as Michigan will have at least two on next years U17s. Boo Nieves is a holy lock for the team and Heisenberg says Connor Carrick has already accepted an invite.
More Brandon panting. David Brandon loves America:
“Expanding the tournament, I believe is a bad idea … there are certain things that if they are not broke, don’t try to fix ‘em. If there is a better, more outstanding platform out there than the NCAA Final Four and basketball tournament, you have to tell me what that is.”
Not that this matters as the 96-team tournament becomes a foregone conclusion. I can't wait for that 9-24 matchup that will determine who has the right to face at eight seed. Guh.
While I'm on Brandon, contrast Michigan's hiring process with the fiasco that went down in Eugene after Mike Bellotti was presented a $2.3 million going-away present after accepting a job with ESPN:
[Oregon president Richard] Lariviere made two things clear: that he initiated the change in leadership and that university officials made missteps in dealing with Bellotti’s contract that no longer will be tolerated.
“This institution did not follow acceptable business practices in the past,” Lariviere said. “That will not be repeated by my administration.”
Makes the hundred grand or whatever Michigan spent vetting candidates seem like the chump change it is.
Lariviere fired Bellotti because of an "increasing need for strong financial and business management"; the ESPN job was a late development that seemed to allow all parties to save face. (Then it blew up in their face, but it was a nice try.) The trend in athletic directors is clear: CEO types.
Walk it back. Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick has read enough livid emails about Notre Dame's national cachet and the potential damage to Catholicism that would result from Our Lady joining up with those secular hooligans and is now changing tack on Notre Dame's role in Big Ten expansion:
That, Swarbrick insists now, was not a signal that Notre Dame is more open to finding a home for football in the Big Ten or any other league.
"The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame," he says. "You wind up with only three conferences. You wind up with two tiers of conferences. Now, all of a sudden, it's not three divisions in college; it's four. It's the big change.
"I don't see that happening."
Please reduce your ND-to-B10 DEFCON to 85. Swarbrick adds:
"I really do believe strongly that we're sort of uniquely positioned to continue to chart our own course."
Sort of uniquely positioned? DEFCON back to 84!
In other Big Ten expansion news, Barnhardt writes about a 16 team Big Ten, spurring another round of PANIC duly shot down by DocSat, resurrected by the St Louis Post-Dispatch and OSU athletic director Gene Smith:
"I believe that if we expand, you probably ought to look at more than (just adding a 12th school)," Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said.
Stressing that was his opinion and may not be shared by some colleagues, Smith added that he believed the impact "would be pretty massive."
A sixteen team Big Ten is stupid. I complained earlier that an expansion to 14 would see Michigan play Penn State 29% of the time; going to 16 would drop that to 12% (eight conference games) or 25% (nine). That's not a conference any more. The only way it could work would be to adopt promotion and relegation. Whenever I bring this up people point out that the radical swings in team quality characteristic of college football could doom very good teams to irrelevance, and they're right. But it makes more sense than pretending to be in a conference with a team you play once every eight years.
If you're going to expand like that, I think 15 is the number. My completely bats proposal for a 14-team Big Ten is mathematically unworkable, but if you add a 15th team you can break the conference into three divisions of five that play each other and two (or possibly three) opponents in each of the other divisions, and then you can have relegation/promotion crazytimes at the end of the season. This will never, ever happen.
I'm hoping this is all a game of chicken to convince Notre Dame to sign on the dotted line. Expansion of the Big Ten past twelve teams is an idea on par with a 96 team NCAA tournament.
Reviews of a mixed variety. Local scouting service "Best of the Best" returns from the MSHAA playoffs with impressions of a number of players, three of them relevant to your interests. Isaiah Sykes:
He doesn't have a jump shot to save his life, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better finisher and slasher in the 2010 class statewide. Also drop dimes like a 5'9 PG. Terrific rebounder, and is great at getting the defensive board and starting the fast break and making something positive happen with the basketball. High majors are recruiting him, and it's warranted, would be a good late pick up for any up-tempo college team.
He's already committed to Michigan, but I don't know if he'll be successful in that system. In order to succeed at the highest level, picking the right system will be a absolute necessity for him. At the end of the day, he's a SG, and that's the bottom line. He produces and gets the job done, at that's what every team needs. He's a very good finisher for his size at the high school level and he can score in bunches when he gets rolling. All in all, his upside is limited in my opinion.
Decidedly negative, that. Hopefully he can develop a jumper over the next year and a half. Finally, Amir Williams:
A defensive phenom no matter the game because of his length, size, and timing, his effect on the game will be felt no matter what. He is also a hungry rebounder, who attacks the glass. Those are two big positives that you'd like every big man to have in their game, once the offensive part of his game becomes more consistent, we could be looking at another McDonald's All American out of the Country Day program.
As always, the running log of updates can be found on the Michigan Football Recruiting Board. The technology is acting wonky, so make sure you log in on that page to see the most recent version.
AR QB Kiehl Frazier (pictured at right) has an outstanding website on which he claims a Michigan offer. He also reports offers from the likes of Auburn, Florida, Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Texas Tech, to go along with interest from Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Ohio State. Basically what I'm trying to say is this guy will be a heavily, heavily recruited guy. The site also features a highlight video, in which he looks like a Black Righty Tebow. Michigan is often one of the schools he mentions first among his scholarship offers:
"I have 22 offers," Frazier said. "They are coming from everywhere. LSU, Arkansas, Florida, UCLA, Michigan, Nebraska -- there are just too many to try and name.
He says he wants to play in a pro-style offense to prepare him for the next level, but is open to playing in a spread.
A likely-irrelevant note on FL TE Nick O'Leary. The kid's also a star lacrosse player in high school (and it should come as no surprise that I like this). Of course, it's highly unlikely Michigan lands him for a number of reasons. He has options like Ohio State (where his grandfather, Jack Nicklaus, might have played golf or something) for football and national powers like Maryland and Cornell for lacrosse.
AZ OL Andre Yruretagoyena has received an offer to play in the Under Armour All-American Game, further evidence (on top of his recent USC offer) that his recruitment is blowing up. His former teammates Craig Roh and Taylor Lewan both played in the game two years ago.
"If you watch his highlight tape, he is nasty on the field," Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle said. "He dominates. He can run. He's fast and he's nasty."
Michigan has the advantage of a couple former Firebirds on the roster (and for Craig Roh, excelling as a freshman starter).
OH DT Kevin Williams will make his college decision in the first week of May.
"I leave [Monday] for Wisconsin," Williams said. "I'll be there until Wednesday. I'll watch spring practice. I'm thinking about visiting Illinois later this week. I'll either do that or visit Michigan State on Thursday or Friday."
Williams also plans to attend Nebraska's spring game on April 17. "I'll be there for three days," Williams said. "And I might show up at Michigan one more time."
If he takes the bonus visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan would be considered the team to beat. Otherwise, it's a Nebraska-Michigan battle.
MI DE Brennen Beyer has long been considered something of a Michigan lean, and Sam Webb gives him double coverage on GBW, talking to his coach:
“He has got a motor that does not quit. He just keeps on coming at you. He has got great arm length. He’s really worked on his explosiveness in the weight room with power cleans and the parallel squat and all the stuff we do in the weight room. Probably his greatest thing is his quickness and his motor.”
...and The Detroit News, where Allen Trieu of Scout.com says he'll be a top-100 prospect in the 2011 class, and Beyer himself says:
"I still like Michigan a lot," Beyer said. "But I'm really looking hard at Michigan and Notre Dame right now."
"I guess just when I feel like I've been to the college I want to go to, and I'm 100 percent sure that it is the right place, I'll commit."
Beyer plans to return to Ann Arbor for Michigan's spring game on April 17th. His remaining visit schedule has yet to be determined.
Despite overtures from Notre Dame, I think Michigan is still considered the favorite. His spring game visit could be a potential commitment time for Beyer.
VA LB Curtis Grant, who holds a Michigan offer, will trim his list to 10 by the beginning of the season, but won't announce his final decision until Signing Day.
NC LB Kris Frost has declared Michigan has favorite, and said he'd visit for Michigan's spring game, but the latter is no longer the case. He told Tom that he waited too long to buy plane tickets, and can't afford to make it to Ann Arbor on April 17th. He'll instead attend Auburn's spring game, but only as a backup plan. He recently took a "fantastic" visit to the Plains ($, info in header), so the more times he visits, the less he looks like Michigan leads.
Message board posts are always a potentially-risky source for recruiting info, but someone purporting to be a family member of NJ Ath/Slot Miles Shuler says he'll be visiting Ann Arbor for the spring game. He is also a very fast dude.
According to Top Prospect Sports (née Michigan Sports Zone), NY LB Antoine Pozniak will visit Ann Arbor for the Michigan Spring Game. He recently visited LSU, but did not come away with an offer from Les Miles. He was originally a class of 2010 prospect, but will enroll at The Hun School in New Jersey (or Oak Ridge Military Academy in North Carolina, if you ask Rivals) for a postgrad year.
OH DB Charles Perdue (from Youngstown Liberty High School, alma mater of Isaiah Bell, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Antonio Kinard) plans to make it in for the Michigan spring game. I hadn't heard of Perdue until this news, so I'd be surprised if he's offer-worthy.
I'll spend a lot of time in next week's update covering Spring Game visitors, but for now, you can check out Tom's constantly-updating diary, running down some of the kids who plan to be in town.
FL DE Anthony Chickillo has a Michigan offer, and hopes to take a visit to Ann Arbor (along with "as many schools as I can" before he makes a decision.
MI LB Terrell Porter apparently excelled at the BadgerSports 7-on-7 at Glick Fieldhouse a few weeks ago ($, info in header, video in article), and now he plans to take an unofficial visit to Michigan ($, info in header).
Job Security And Recruiting
FL RB Andrew Buie (pictured at right) talked to the Jacksonville Times-Union about what he's looking for in a school, and the answer should sound familiar to Michigan fans by this point:
The main priority for me in looking at a school is the stability of the program. I realize anything can happen, but I really want to go to a program where there won't be a coaching change.
This sentiment is almost certainly aimed at Michigan and Rich Rodriguez. Negative recruiting and a general air of Freepiness around Ann Arbor has given several recruits reason to think that Coach Rod will not be around after the 2010 season.
We all know FL RB Demetrius Hart has heard a lot of this, which has put his recruitment into something of a whirlwind, and MI RB Justice Hayes has told WTKA's Sam Webb that he would have committed to Michigan (audio) by now had the Wolverines had success on the field the past two years, and there was no need to worry about Rich Rodriguez's job security.
So what is there to do? Despite lacking success the past couple years on the field, Michigan has been able to pull in well-regarded recruiting hauls. Winning on the field this season will show that MIchigan is a place that recruits can come if they want to compete for Big Ten and national titles, and remove any doubt that Rich Rodriguez's job is safe, since apparently Dave Brandon saying, "Rich Rodriguez is the coach of the University of Michigan football team. He's our coach, he's my coach, he should be everybody's coach" (audio) is not enough to prove that.
Speaking of Hart, he and his teammate, FL S Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, recently visited Alabama. Though Clinton-Dix has said it will be nearly impossible for anyone to top Alabama on his list, neither prospect committed to the Tide - yet ($, info in header). Clinton-Dix could decide "at any time."
But before everyone starts getting their hopes up, there is still at least one more thing to consider.
"April 12, Michigan," Hart replied to what his next plans are. So he'll add another chapter with a trip to Ann Arbor, where he already has a good friend and former Dr. Phillips teammate Ricardo Miller on the Wolverines' roster...
Hart actually was very very close to committing to the Wolverines at the end of this past season, but then decided to hold off while he started to take unofficial campus visits. Each school he has seen has had an impact on his considerations. He's been to Florida, Florida State, USF and of course Auburn and Alabama.
If that visit date is accurate, it would mean a week-long visit to Ann Arbor, since the 12th is Monday, and the Spring Game isn't until Saturday (1PM, Michigan Stadium).
Bill Kurelic runs down the top 5 prospects in the state of Michigan (Thomas-Arnett-Hayes-Beyer-Miller), and continues to spread the (false) notion that MI RB Onaje Miller had a Michigan offer at the time of his MSU commitment. SC DE Deon Lee is "hearing from" Michigan, as is SC LB Myles Jackson. FL OL Zach DeBell, who holds a Michigan offer, will decide during his senior season. Fluff on PA DE Shawn Oakman. PA LB Ben Kline wants to decide before (or early in) his senior season. Elite Scouting Services runs down the top 100 in Florida. Happy Trails to AZ OL Christian Westerman, who committed to Texas.
Central Michigan (15-10)
|Wednesday 2:30pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium|
|TBA||vs||Bryce Morrow (1-0, 7.71 ERA)|
|Stats||Audio (WBCN)||Video ($2.99)|| |
|Notes: 32-27-2 All-Time vs CMU, Last meeting a 2-10 L in 2009. |
Game time has been updated to avoid rain.
Michigan and Central Michigan have quite the heated rivalry over their all time series, as adequately reflected in the all time series being so close. This isn't even due to decades old scores either, Michigan hasn't beaten CMU since 2007 (13-3), being beat pretty bad 10-2 in 2009 and 3-7 in 2008. Go a couple years back and you'll find the barn burner of 2004 played in Mt. Pleasant. Michigan escaped with a 14-13 win in the most back and forth games in recent memory. The series has been a great one, and all indications are that this year's installment will be just as awesome.
Central Michigan comes in with an RPI just under 200, and a strength of schedule rated 192 in the country. The Chippewas have a solid series win over Miami in MAC play, but not a lot else to write home about in terms of quality wins. They've played two other Big Ten teams this season, Indiana who shut them out 9-0, and Michigan State, who won by a score of 13-10.
The offense is lead by Nate Theunissen, who, as of Tuesday pre-UIC* is batting .409 with 13 doubles, 3 homers, and 24 RBI. He's by far their leading slugger with a .659 slugging percentage, and leads the team in on base percentage with a .459. Also worth noting is Dale Cornstubble. He's batting .357 with 20 RBI and .488 slugging percentage, 2nd only to Theunissen. Billy Anderson is their next top hitter with a .354 batting average and a .485 slugging percentage, but he's also their stolen base threat with 11 on the year. His 15 attempts are about 40% of the teams attempts, so don't expect too much from anyone else. All three of those hitters have about the same on base percentage, mostly in the .450-.460 range. That's quality, especially for the MAC.
*All these stats were before the UIC game on Tuesday.
Pitching profile, weather, and thoughts after a jump.
Your MGoBracket victor is the elaborately misspelled entry "tickeledtodeath": he will be covered in luxurious cotton from head to waist. All hail his perspicacity, and scorn his willingness to pick Duke as national champion. It was a crazy tournament: the winner only got half of the Elite 8 and half of the final four.
Runners up in the MGoBracket contest are Nate-Dawg, phil solomon, drewg32, and MGoAero. Please email me an address and a size preference.
Fearless Leader finished a respectable 78th, if you're interested. I had Wisconsin in the final four, did get Duke in the final and had Butler as an Elite Eight team.
- DE Will Heininger (right) has torn his ACL and will have surgery to repair it. His status for the fall is dependent on how his rehab progresses.
- Martavious Odoms, Junior Hemingway, and Je'Ron Stokes will practice a little today and will hopefully be full-go by the end of the week.
- Vlad Emilien, Jared Van Slyke, and Quinton Washington will hopefully return to practice next week.
- The guys who are out for spring (David Molk, Brandon Herron, Mike Martin, and Vincent Smith) are progressing on schedule.
- Tate and Denard are splitting reps with the first team. Rich does not care if one guy wins the job, or if he has a few guys who are ready to play. He wants to have at least two QBs ready to play. The guys understand that they're competing for the starting position.
- Tate Forcier is being challenged by the coaches this spring, with football, academics, as a student-athlete at the University. He's very competitive, and likes being challenged to improve.
- Denard has a better understanding of the offense and the passing game than he did last year (unsurprising, since this is his first spring). He still has a ways to go, but he's improving. Once he gets the QB position down, he'll learn other positions to get him on the field.
- Gardner is fun to be around, and has a high energy level. He's learning quickly, but still has a lot to improve upon. The coaches can't expect too much too soon.
- The quarterbacks are practicing full-contact to work on their ball security. Normally they'd have non-contact jerseys. Once the QBs get used to taking some hits, they'll let them wear non-contact jerseys.
- Michael Cox has had a very good spring, and Michael Shaw has had some good days and some days "where we expected more out of him." Fitzgerald Toussaint is also in the first group with them; he's gotten bigger and is getting a good grasp of the offense.
- Stephen Hopkins is a big guy, and they needed a big back to replace Minor and Grady. He has a chance to play some at big back this fall.
- Austin White has been a little banged up this spring. However, he has the talent to help the team in the future.
- Kelvin Grady and Terrence Robinson have gotten some reps at running back. Grady missed some strength work when he was practicing with the basketball team this winter, and Rodriguez would let him return to basketball this fall only if he can handle it academically, and isn't just going to sit on the end of the bench.
- There is still competition ongoing at the safety position. They don't have a comfortable 2-deep, and probably won't until fall. Vlad Emilien's injury has hurt them there.
- Cameron Gordon has had a really good spring, and that's one of the better personnel changes they've made.
- Jordan Kovacs is capable of playing any safety position.
- Some days there has been good kicking performance, sometimes not so good. The situation still isn't comfortable punting or placekicking.
- Will Hagerup with arrive in the fall and will compete with Seth Broekhuizen for the starting punter spot in the fall.
- There is no starting kicker yet, as the best performer is different every day. That situation won't be resolved until fall. Brendon Gibbons has a strong leg, but he's been back-and-forth.
- The snapping and coverage units look good, and they have the athletes to contribute there.
- "We'll have a better team, and I expect us to have a good team, yes." This spring practice is much, much better than two years ago, and is a little better than last year.
- Chemistry - The leadership can come from not only the 12-man senior class, but also some underclassmen who can be leaders.
- Thursday, Friday, and Saturday is the annual coaching clinic. Thursday will be a practice in just shorts, and Saturday will be a full-scale scrimmage. This is the most important scrimmage of the spring.
- There has probably been more talk about the changes to the defense than there have actually been changes. They did a lot of multiple-front stuff last year, and Greg Robinson is trying to best fit the scheme to Michigan's personnel. They're trying to find the right combination of simplicity for the player to learn and the flexibility they'd like from the defense.
- Regarding Demar Dorsey, Rodriguez said "If anything changes with any of our signees, I'll let ya'll know if anything happens with that."
After Rich was done speaking, the media got a chance to watch a couple periods of practice. My observations from that:
- Injured guys running inside Glick Fieldhouse: Mike Martin, Vincent Smith, Brandon Herron.
- Red Shirts (no contact): Quinton Washington, Zac Johnson, Vladimir Emilien.
- Green Shirts (limited contact): Devin Gardner, Austin White, Je'Ron Stokes, Junior Hemingway, Karl Tech, Martavious Odoms.
- Mark Moundros only practiced with the linebackers.
- Adam Braithwaite quote of the day: "We're gonna be the best-tackling team in America."
- Visitors to practice: former Michigan QB Rick Leach, former WVU running back Avon Cobourne, the leading rusher in West Virginia history and current Montreal Alouette.
|Lexington, Ohio - 5'10" 165
|Scout||3*, #35 CB|
|ESPN||73, #94 CB|
|Other Suitors||Stanford, Louisville, Vanderbilt|
When you need a fawning quote about the newest commitment or signee, no matter how obscure, the kid's high school coach is the #1 source. I've read hundreds of these things, but I've never seen anything quite like this:
“He’s the type of kid that if he wants to be president of the United States one day, he will be. I got two compliments I could give him. That’s the first, and the second is if my daughter was 18, she could date him."
That's Lexington High coach BJ Payne on star quarterback and corner Courtney Avery.
Avery was the first cornerback Michigan picked up in the class, receiving an offer after showing up and dominating Michigan's summer camp. Payne again:
"He had a phenomenal workout at Michigan, which is exactly what we expected of him," Payne said. "He was the top defensive back there and he performed as such."
Shortly afterward Avery switched his Stanford commitment to Michigan, ensuring one Wolverine coed a gentleman suitor in the near future.
Unfortunately, the local paper is one of many under the misapprehension that locking your archives behind a paywall will do anything other than annoy bloggers so Avery's high school exploits are a bit foggy. We do know he was an explosive full-time quarterback as a freshman and sophomore before starting both ways as an upperclassman. He started every game of his high school career he was healthy for, and his TD-INT ratio was something any of Michigan's QBs would aspire to:
Courtney Avery, QB, Lexington - Four-year starter and Michigan commit is as good an athlete as we'll see at any level. He threw 26 TD and just 3 INT last year.
That goes double for his completion percentage as a junior:
A starter at quarterback since his freshman year, Avery completed 73 percent of his passes during the regular season (122-for-166) for 2,095 yards, 21 touchdowns and one interception and was the Ohio Cardinal Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
Too bad he's not 6'3". Avery also runs track and was the star of Lexington's basketball team. Too bad he's not 6'10". Avery wasn't too shabby as as a defensive back, either, finishing his career with seventeen interceptions and being named first-team All Ohio last year. He did this despite an ankle injury that limited him in a few games and forced him to miss a couple others. By season's end he was a player who had "battled injuries all season."
Scouting Avery might as well start with another ridiculous quote from his coach. Payne's in the tank for this kid to the point where his praise can't be taken seriously. I mean:
“He a true cover corner,” Payne said. “He’s a Deion (Sanders)-type corner. He’ll lock you down. And he’ll come up and hit. He thinks he’s 6-3, 220. We had to tell him, hey, tone it down a little bit because he was our quarterback, too.”
He's like Deion Sanders, except an awesome hitter. All right, then. Does he also peel garlic?
Payne does claim that Avery is the best athlete and football player he's ever gotten his hands on, which means something since Payne coached former Ohio State receiver and current Miami Dolphin Brian Hartline. Hartline was a productive starter at OSU and a fourth round draft pick; if Michigan gets that sort of production out of an anonymous three star that's a major win.
Hartline has the advantage of being 6'2", though. Avery doesn't. He's 5'9", although that seems like an actual 5'9" and not a fanciful Cass Tech 5'9". Even so, the common thread in scouting reports is "this guy is good, but tiny." Scout's evaluation:
A good football player who possesses above average speed and good quickness and agility. Is smart and understands the game. Picks up quickly on routes and has the athletic tools to close on plays. He does not have prototypical size, but is able to play up on the line. He is a well built kid, but is not real tall.
FWIW, Scout was much higher on Avery than other sites. When he switched his commitment to Michigan he was on the fringe of four stars, and though he's slid because of the ankle he's still fairly close.
ESPN's evaluation is surprisingly positive for a guy they give a MAC-like 73:
Avery is an exceptional athlete that his only limited by his physical size. He is light weight but has very good speed and excellent quickness. … Has good hips and can turn and change direction without any loss of balance or control. Shows the ability to play man to man coverage as a corner and can run stride for stride with the wideout on the takeoff route. Closes quickly on the receiver when playing zone coverage. Displays good tackling abilities but size makes it difficult to really explode through the ball carrier.
As a bonus, longtime Ohio high school football observer and Bucknuts guru Duane Long thought highly of Avery, calling him a "borderline Buckeye caliber recruit." That's pretty good for your fourth cornerback.
Avery's offers are probably not a good barometer of his talent since he committed to Stanford in April of last year, short-circuiting other schools' efforts. At the time of his commitment he had a smattering of offers from MAC-type schools, with Vanderbilt and Louisville coming in after he was supposedly off the market. Just before signing day there were rumors Florida was taking a look after hiring the coach who recruited Avery to Stanford, but those didn't materialize into anything.
Why Grant Mason? I remember Mason being considerably shorter than the six-foot he's listed at in his various NFL bios, just like Avery is considerably shorter than the 5'11" he's credited with on Michigan's official site. Anyway, Mason was a slight cover corner who transferred from Stanford and developed into a fairly decent starter as a senior. He had similar meh recruiting rankings and was also a smart, athletic kid limited by his size. It sounds like Avery may be a better athlete.
"When Courtney started narrowing down his schools, he had Stanford and Michigan and Northwestern and Vanderbilt and Duke. They all are great academic schools," Payne said. "A lot of kids would be glad to have one of those schools interested and Courtney had offers from all of them.
In case you were afraid Rodriguez was restricting his corner recruiting to the juvie halls of America.
Guru Reliability: Low. Avery is a known quantity in high school circles but nowhere did I find any mention of a camp or combine at which recruiting gurus could have been present. Combine that with full-time duties at quarterback and a senior-year ankle injury and it's tough for anyone to project Avery to the other side of the ball.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Avery seems like a better bet than most three stars because he's walking around with whatever the opposite of a red flag is. He's smart, athletic, and has transitioned to corner well. Michigan saw him in a camp setting. His size doesn't seem like a huge problem if he's going to be a cover corner.
Projection: Likely to redshirt since Michigan will have four or five corners in front of him this year. He does need a little more beef than he's got currently. After that, time on special teams and maybe a nickel package or two with an eye towards starting as an upperclassman.