Ace is on vacation this week.
Rashan Gary is never impressed
NJ DT Rashan Gary, the consensus #1 player in the country, has been on Michigan's radar for a while. Michigan has been the tentatively presumed leader after they hired Chris Patridge, Gary's high school coach, to be their recruiting coordinator. Gary himself hasn't said much, but after a swing through the Midwest on visits that's beginning to change.
Sam Webb recapped Gary's visit on the Scout message board($). Gary's mom:
"Michigan hit every detail," Jennifer Coney said. "EVERY detail."
There's a bunch more at the link. The vibes there are pretty good; Gary is planning one more trip this summer, to Georgia, and then they plan on narrowing his list. It does not sound like OSU is going to be a main competitor.
But it's never easy with a guy as highly touted as Gary. 247's Steve Wiltfong:
— Steve Wiltfong (@SWiltfong247) June 29, 2015
Sounds good... except that Wiltfong put in an Auburn Crystal Ball for Gary. Gary's mom again($):
“You can know for sure Michigan is going to make the cut,” Jennifer Coney, Gary’s mother said. “You know Auburn is going to make the cut."
That would be a top two, then.
Michigan is also in on five-star CA LB Caleb Kelly, who was in attendance for a satellite camp in his area. He has a very practical take on things:
"It's like any other coach: you get told what to do, and you go ahead and you do it. It's just cool to have it be from the Michigan coaches. It's a big-name school and that's cool."
He has a who's who of offers; Oklahoma is currently strong on his Crystal Ball.
The New Jersey Migration of the Early Harbaugh Epoch
A pile of New Jersey (and environs) players made it out to Ann Arbor last week, with great success. Four star NJ DE Ron Johnson is already in. Four star NJ WR Brad Hawkins, Johnson's teammate, is probably next. He is scheduled to announce on Friday; Michigan and South Carolina are pretty much the only contenders; he has a visit scheduled to Michigan for July 19th.
Rule eight of following recruiting is that "a recruit who has a visit scheduled for after an announcement is going to the school he is visiting." (Rules 1, 3, 7, 13, 50, and 121 are "DON'T TWEET AT RECRUITS." Number 144 is "SERIOUSLY.") Also, Michigan has fielded every Crystal Ball pick since February.
Ahmir Mitchell has a bowling trophy
Fellow NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell is also nearing a decision. Star-Leger reporter Todderick Hunt:
2 teams stand out 4 Mitchell although he's not ready 4 me 2 release them at this time. But seems to B gettin closer. pic.twitter.com/BEOgONFUZF
— Todderick Hunt (@TodderickHunt) June 27, 2015
Michigan is one of those teams. OSU is the other according to Rivals. Mitchell just announced that he would not be doing any more interviews before his decision, so he's clearly thinking about making one in the near future. Lorenz is hearing positive things($), and the Crystal Ball is an M blowout.
BTW, Mitchell's pretty good($).
There are few players in the country that are comparable to Mitchell. His size, explosiveness, competitiveness and reliable hands were on full display on Saturday. Cornerbacks that tried to jam him at the line of scrimmage were quickly dispatched and errant passes were hauled in with ease. There was one pass that Mitchell hauled in with one hand between two defenders. He had to pin it against his body because the defender was holding onto his other arm.
In not-quite-New-Jersey-but-pretty-much, Philly-based PA TE Naseir Upshur came back from the trip beaming, rating it a "ten of ten($)". He's got a commitment date scheduled for August 8th. Rule nine of following recruiting is "a recruit who issues a commit date soon after a visit is probably going to that school." When that doesn't happen, it's usually because another school swoops in with a visit before the announce date and changes things. That is a possibility here($):
*Alabama is still very likely to add another tight end to its current 2016 haul of two standing commitments at the position, and one of their top targets - Naseir Upshur - a 6-foot-2, 233-pound four-star prospect out of Philadelphia, will be visiting Tuscaloosa with his family on July 17. Michigan is trending with Upshur on the Crystal Ball at 74 percent at the moment. Upshur plans to commit on August 8.
We saw Alabama grab Khalid Kareem. It could happen, but Steve Lorenz notes that($) "Michigan's lead has reportedly grown into a very strong one at this point" and that he is one of the safest bets on Michigan's board" at the moment.
Finally, 2017 NJ OL Cesar Ruiz was on the trip, picked up an offer($), and sounds very excited about it. Michigan is a tentative early leader.
Sometimes I get the feeling that a certain player is not going to end up at Michigan despite everyone assuming they'll end up at Michigan. This usually happens when Michigan's lead goes on and on and on without a commitment actually happening. See: Parrker Westphal.
In related news, FL LB Jonathan Jones still maintains that Michigan is his leader($):
Sam Webb: It seems like someone is committing to Michigan every day. Is the number of scholarships they have left something that is on your mind at all?
Jonathan Jones: “Not really. I’ll be honest when it comes to all my top schools. Four years is a huge part of my life and I’m going to train that out and I’m not going to rush myself for any school. … I’m going to be honest with you, I’m real pressed to go there. There my leader most definitely, but it just wouldn’t be a wise decision to check out that school and leave all my other options unsettled."
Jones wants to take all his officials and may decide as late as signing day, and doesn't appear to be the type of guy to get sped up because Michigan is filling up. Michigan would definitely take him now. Will they take him in December or January? Depends on a lot of things.
FWIW, Jones has an academically-oriented top five of M, Notre Dame, Duke, Stanford, and Oklahoma and seems to be the kind of guy who Harbaugh is after.
"Jim Harbaugh is their new coach and he has a lot of NFL experience," he discussed about the Wolverines. "He can translate that to the college game, and I can gain a lot of knowledge from what he has to offer. I have a lot of family on my father's side that lives in Detroit. That's not too far away so I'll have them there to support me if I went there. Their academics stand out."
They'll have to beat out some heavy hitters here. Alabama, FSU, Georgia, and Clemson are also on his list. Kelly came out to Sound Mind, Sound Body, so there's real interest there. Wiltfong says Michigan is "very much in it."
Michigan's also recruiting AZ DE Connor Murphy, who relates his weird history with Harbaugh on the tubes:
This one's a longshot, but Michigan's trying to get GA DE Antonneous Clayton on campus for a visit($).
Swenson still around
IL OL Erik Swenson has been committed to Michigan for over a year now—his recruiting profile is going to start the same way Tyree Kinnel's did—and Nick Baumgardner would like to remind you of his existence:
"The first thing (Harbaugh) told me was 'you're a lot bigger than you look in pictures,' " Swenson laughed. "He's a great guy. He's not the guy he sometimes gets portrayed as in the media, the guy who is always yelling and screaming, doing anything for a win. He wants to win, obviously and he can be serious, but he's funny, relaxed. He's got a great personality."
Swenson's now a part of a great OL recruiting class that is currently four deep on touted prospects and could add a fifth any day now if MD OL Terrance Davis decides to drop.
Reese maybe not so much
Michigan has a couple of wavering linebacker commits. One is instater David Reese, who apparently committed as fullback but is now having second thoughts. This might have something to do with MI WR Desmond Fitzpatrick's recruitment. The two are teammates and Fitzpatrick seemed like he was about to flip from Louisville to Michigan… and then didn't.
That and Reese's desire to play linebacker have him poking around. He took a visit to Maryland:
"I just want the initial opportunity to play linebacker because that's where my heart is. But I understand that if I didn't start for two years then I would want to see the field-of course I want to play. So of course I would go at fullback. But I feel like I can actually play at linebacker."
He offered the "I'm committed but keeping my options open" spiel as well. If I had to bet I'd guess he ends up flipping elsewhere.
Etc.: 2017 TN RB Cordarrian Richardson is a guy to keep an eye on.NC OL Landon Dickerson sets an official for Oregon State. Michigan has faded with CA CB David Long but he is planning a visit($) before a decision. Stanford is a heavy leader.
While I was chatting with Brian last week he happened to pull up the top 7 composite recruits from the 2013 season. I followed and…
Woof. Green has obvious vision problems and hasn't emerged from a pile of guys among whom the most statistically effective last year was Drake Johnson. Dymonte Thomas and Shane Morris are already juniors and to date still seem to be at least a year's worth of good coaching away from ready.
That leaves us the offensive line class. Kugler seems to be on track to start when Glasgow surrenders his job—I've heard the same suite of nice things you have. Bosch transferred after performing about how you'd expect a true freshman thrust into a Borges-coached OL would. Fox hasn't been mentioned since a staff ago. Dawson we have only a little more data, much of that getting owned by Maurice Hurst in the spring game (if Hurst does that against Utah's OL I'll happily rescind that as a criticism).
On the other hand we caution all the time about giving up on OL when they're too young.
So when do you know about an offensive lineman?
This is a question I've been interested in a long time, going back to an article one of my Daily colleagues did on OL recruiting to highlight the injuries plaguing the classes Michigan took while I was there. I could never find the article but in January 2013 I tried to recreate some of that information, plus a 12-year update. I did a thing about a year ago on growth tracks to reset expectations for those 2012 and 2013 line classes. Let's check in again, this time with columns.
The towers shrink because players currently on the roster are included in the data, and obviously our information on them is incomplete. "Not available" is a catch-all for transfers, dismissals, guys playing defense, injuries and medicals and whatnot. "Excellent" is basically all-conference-ish, "Solid" is that, "Liability" are guys who were starting but the fan consensus was they shouldn't be or wouldn't but for things like the 2008 depth chart or gross Borges incompetence.
This time I differentiated between "backups" and "two-deep" (an imperfect thing from memory and pouring through old Wolverine annuals). The former are guys buried on the depth chart and unlikely to play; the latter are only the top backups we are relatively certain would have played if they weren't behind an established starter. It's not about being technically on the two-deep, more like the first one or two guys in if an OL goes down—Erik Magnusson last year, or Leo Henige forever.
- Redshirting is overwhelmingly the normal thing to do as a freshman.
- Only a handful of players are capable of starting (shades of yellow) as redshirt freshmen. If you take the yellow chunk from there and size it against the 4th and 5th years you can see only about a third of the eventually useful players are demonstrably so at that age. Sing the praises of any 2014s already playing; don't give up on any who are not.
- By RS Soph there is a big yellow expansion. The mysterious "backups" region has shrunk considerably. You have a fairly good sense of who these guys are by the end of this year.
- There is very little difference—just a slight improvement—between RS Juniors and 5th year seniors. The backups disappear into unrenewed 5ths.
If you're using this imperfect data set of 82 players, many of whom didn't complete their careers for non-ability-related reasons, to get a feel for when to judge an offensive linemen, you could say it's a half-life. Don't judge a (redshirt) freshman unless he's already playing well, but after their third year in the program if he's not on the two-deep the chances of ever doing so decrease exponentially.
What this means for the 2012-'14 OL classes
Be excited for: Mason Cole.
Be extremely content with: Mags, Kalis and Braden if they seem to be playing well this year.
Keep an eye out for: Kugler, Logan Tuley-Tillman, and David Dawson. These are 2013 guys mentioned as probable two-deep contributors, though our current scouting has Kugler pretty much ready to play, LTT half-way there, and Dawson probably not ready yet. Further data received on them this year will speak volumes about their futures.
Be patient with: Juwann Bushell-Beatty. If he pops up this year he's probably going to be awesome; if he's buried there's plenty of time that this doesn't matter.
Getting late: Bars, Fox, Samuelson. With Bars at least we've heard past mentions of him competing, though he was always kind of the last guy in that 2012 class. He may be on the Huyge track; if he's not on the two-deep this (his redshirt junior) year it doesn't seem very likely he'll be a starter in 2016. Fox has been hurt so much in his career (just going off of game reports) if he's not medicaled he probably deserves some extra time to get caught up. Samuelson I've heard nothing about; even when I ask people with insider-y info I get nothing.
Previously: Last year's profiles.
|Dayton, OH – 6'0", 205|
|Scout||4*, #150 overall
|Rivals||4*, #225 overall
#15 S, #10 OH
|ESPN||4*, #196 overall
#12 S, #7 OH
|24/7||4*, NR overall
#16 S, #13 OH
|Other Suitors||ND, MSU, Ark, Bama|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace. Brandon Brown interviews him.|
The world was a very different place when Tyree Kinnel committed to Michigan. It was August of 2013. Michigan was coming off a bumpy year induced by Denard Robinson's ulnar nerve turning traitor, but before that they were contending for the Big Ten title a year after Brady Hoke entered on wings of fire, winning the Sugar Bowl. Innocent Michigan fans frolicked in local meadows, unaware of the nuclear fires just over the horizon.
In the cratered aftermath Kinnel pokes his head out of his foxhole and cries out for his classmates. "Crawford! Campbell! Harris! Anybody? Anybody?" Alex Malzone pops up, helmet in bad shape but otherwise none the worse for wear. Otherwise… silence. Wither the commits of yesteryear, yea. We shall remember them as they were on recruiting sites, and get only slightly bitter when they do something good in college.
This is a long and largely unnecessary way of saying that Kinnel had a lot to think about after he decided on Michigan. After Shawn Crawford defected to the den of iniquity that is Notre Dame he tried to bring Kinnel along. He visited; he decided to stick out Michigan's coaching search instead. Kinnel really wanted to be at Michigan.
As a result there is a lot of chatter about where he might go and less actual scouting than you'd expect from a guy who committed before his junior year. And a lot of the scouting that exists is in the immediate aftermath of his commit—it's a bit dated. But we forge on.
In Kinnel, Michigan's locked down a potential replacement for Jabrill Peppers after he blasts off to the NFL. That's not to say he is Peppers. He is a safety-sized gentleman who is capable of covering people one on one, though. Rivals Ohio analyst Mark Givler:
"He's a strong kid, a good sized kid. I really like his versatility in the secondary because he's able to cover like a corner, but he also plays the game like a free safety. He'll bring some versatility back there, and he'll move around wherever the coaching staff will need him to move." …
"I think he's ultimately probably a free safety, but again, he's been put in a lot of man to man coverage situations at these camps and performed very well. He could have easily been a corner the way he performed at these camps. His build and strength to run sideline to sideline, though, makes him a great free safety prospect."
“Kinnel is just a great athlete. I would put him up there with guys like Cam Burrows and others like that from years past. He’s half safety and half corner. He has great coverage skills. He has good size. He is a fit kid.”
Rivals' Josh Helmholdt:
"He has the body, size and physical measurable of a safety, but he covers like a cornerback, I am very high on him as a prospect. He is certainly very talented, and physically, he brings everything to the table that you want from that position."
You get the idea.
If Michigan sticks with the perma-nickel defense they appear to be running with Peppers that would make him a strong candidate for that slot. If he does end up at free safety, that's fine too—the back half of his high school career was spent there (and running back and punt returner).
Some other scouting highlights:
- Clint Brewster, 247: "always around the ball …able to track the ball down on deep passes and make the INT or pass breakup. He does an excellent job of fighting for the ball and out-competing the receiver. … excellent quickness and a great burst to get to the ball-carrier. … elite agility and quickness. … could make the switch to cornerback at the next level if need be"
- Dave Berk, Scout: "Brute strength is above average … biggest question we’ll have going into his college career is the smoothness of his hips flipping out of his backpedal … no problem covering a lot of ground and does a great job in the deep half of the field showing above average instincts. His ability to cover an area and be in position to make plays is extremely high for such a young player."
- Tim Sullivan, Rivals: "Physically, Kinnel is everything that a college coach wants in a safety. He showed off his speed on kick returns and in closing on plays to be made. He's never going to be the fastest player, but he has enough speed to make an impact at either the strong or free position. He's a hair over 6-1, and every bit of his listed 190 pounds with even more room for growth. He showed off his strength in making forceful tackles (especially the disrupted screen play) without getting full leverage behind his body."
- Adam Gorney, Rivals: "Multiple times on out routes, Kinnel came up and stepped in front of the pass. He showed off great instincts and a great ability to read receivers' routes and then come up to make the play. Kinnel's backpedal is smooth and then he turns and runs well with receivers."
- Allen Trieu, Scout: “High football IQ who may not have the straight line speed some desire. Great body control and instincts with the ability to provide strong run support. Tough hard-nosed player who has no problem putting a hit on an offensive player. Great hands … Must continue work on coverage skills.”
What separates Kinnel from the all-world hype of Peppers is the usual: speed and size. Kinnel isn't a slouch in either department, but neither is there a unanimous chorus of "wow" at his raw athletic tools. Nobody ever said Jabrill Peppers was "a bit more athletic than many believe him to be," as Tim Sullivan did($) after an in-person evaluation.
It's hard to tell whether how real size concerns are since so many evaluations come from old film, but after watching Kinnel's junior tape 247's Clint Brewster said he was probably "closer to 5'10, 180" and "more quick than fast." He ran a 4.5($) at OSU's camp as a rising junior, which sounds excellent until you remember that OSU's camp is where all the kids get their 4.2 40s. He's still pretty big and quite fast. In that same eval, Sullivan noted that he has "plenty of speed to get things done." He's just not Peppers.
He is a high football IQ guy who really really wanted to be at Michigan…
Wednesday morning Tyree Kinnel expressed the dream he shared with his father to play at Michigan. During his speech to those in attendance at the school’s gymnasium, Kinnel thanked his friends, coaches, teachers, family and parents. After catching his breath and soaking up the moment, Kinnel looked back at his parents a second time and told them. “The Dream Came True!”
…and was calling audibles as a junior in high school. His high school DB coach:
"He has the size and speed, but he has something that you can't teach a lot of players: he has the instincts to see things before or as they are happening. This gives him the ability to make reads quicker and make plays. He knows how to disguise coverages and he knows how to read opposing offenses. As his position coach, I've given Tyree the permission to call audibles on our coverage."
Everyone's got bust potential; Kinnel's seems very low.
Why non-superman Jabrill Peppers? Kinnel offers a combination of safety instincts and man-to-man cover skills that should make him a hybrid space player like Peppers figures to be this year. As spread offenses respond to the intense quarters coverage that had MSU's D at the top of the world two years, the importance of covering the slot as he bombs deep is a priority, and Kinnel is a guy who offers that ability.
I usually try to grab someone in the same talent stratosphere—or that we've, you know, seen play—but Michigan has not deployed anyone of Kinnel's ilk in my memory.
Guru Reliability: High. Kinnel was healthy, playing the position he projects to, and hit a reasonable number of camps.
Variance: Low. Not much mystery here.
Ceiling: High-minus. Consensus four star who is a very solid athlete playing a spot he projects to well.
General Excitement Level: High. Note that there are levels above "high" in this arbitrary ranking system. Kinnel should be a contributor and a starter, probably a good one.
Projection: You'd think he's in line for a redshirt since Michigan has a veteran two-deep (Wilson, Hill, Clark, Thomas) in front of him at safety even if you don't slot Peppers in there. We don't know Harbaugh's inclinations in this department yet, though. One thing that might help: safety types are often drafted for special teams, but Jon Baxter likes to use a lot of starters there. That should reduce demand for pointless redshirt wastes.
Anyway, after a freshman year spent either getting no or very few snaps he will have on opportunity to compete for a starting job in year two after Jarrod Wilson graduates; more likely he has another year of sparse snaps. If Peppers hits the NFL in two years, that will be his first prime opportunity.
Pipkins got on the field late in the opener last year [Bryan Fuller]
Ondre Pipkins will attempt to use his last year(s) of eligibility elsewhere and he is not happy about it:
"I feel I'm healthy and ready to play," said Pipkins, who played last season after he was cleared to return from a torn knee ligament. "I don't want to sign the form. I wanted to play for my seniors and for the team. Coach Harbaugh said, 'I recommend you take the medical.'"
Pipkins said he felt constant pressure to retire. …
Harbaugh told him that he wanted "to make sure you graduate from Michigan" and that the coach did not plan to invite him to fall camp due in part to medical concerns. The lineman added that Harbaugh told him that he did not believe he would be drafted into the NFL for medical reasons.
"I feel bad I wasn't able to complete this journey with my classmates," Pipkins told ESPN. "I feel I am healthy and without pain. I believe Michigan wanted to free up the scholarship. I felt I was practicing well and could compete at a high level at the nose tackle and tackle positions."
First off, good for Pipkins for saying something about it—and apparently painting Harbaugh in a somewhat sympathetic light.
But this is a strange situation for a lot of reasons. I can't really figure out why Harbaugh would want to run Pipkins out of town:
- He was scheduled to be a senior and Michigan is at 85 scholarships right now, with the three former walk-ons (Kerridge, Glasgow, Glasgow) we think will get scholarships in 2015 accounted for.
- Pipkins thus doesn't impact the numbers in the 2016 class; the only reason he'd need to go this year is if Michigan was going to bring in yet more transfers.
- ND DE transfer Jhonathan Williams was just told no by Michigan.
- I'm sure at least one other player has a very legit medical hardship-inducing injury they haven't announced yet.
There were some rumors Michigan was looking at fifth year wide receivers that haven't come to fruition as of yet, but none of this really makes sense. Michigan seems to have room for him, and the move would appear to be a redshirt (that he should have gotten as a freshman /shakes fist at Hoke) so that he can be a fifth year somewhere else after getting his degree. That is unless he actually shouldn't play football.
Pipkins asserts in the article that Michigan wanted the scholarship… but for what?
Jim Harbaugh is a man like any other. He wakes up in the morning and puts his pants on one leg at a time. Except once his pants are on, he walks walks outside and drops gold:
walking the Ann Arbor streets with coach Harbaugh 〽️〽️ pic.twitter.com/JcEfjI2my7
— Pop (@NaseirUpshur) June 25, 2015
Choosing a favorite still from this is like picking between children. Let's start with the first frame, where the whole family is together even if one of the boys is doing that "I don't want to be in this" facepalm:
That we think is 2017 center Cesar Ruiz. Your cameraman is Naseir Upshur. Let's meet the rest of the crew:
Ahmir Mitchell is gonna wait to give a reaction, and Cesar has moved the hand over his mouth to keep from committing right then and there. Ron Johnson Jr. has no such reservations, and it's hard to blame them because…
Yes, the board has photoshopped. More than one of us went immediately to Popeye:
What do you think of Harbaugh, Ahmir?
Guys we are not even half-way through this thing.
We pan back to our videographer because the whole family couldn't fit in one frame.
…and oh hi Drevno.
Show us your mean mug Drevno.
Drevno's mean mug says "Home Depot is having a sale on gardening supplies!" The pen in his polo is ready to take down window measurements or commitments at a moment's notice. Or to sign for a Pizza Bob's smoothie.
There you go, Alabama bloggers: maybe this is a secondary violation. As we conclude Ruiz says "yeah-oh," and the kid with a bowl cut…
…the luckiest kid in the universe nods along.
They don't know what kind of marsupial it is.
The internet helpfully pointed out that keeping wildlife, uh, a gravid marsupial, for uh, you know, domestic…
…ain't legal. Also, Mariaklots is correct. That thing is a wallaby. Shane Morris had zoobooks and knows.
— Shane Morris (@ShaneMorris_7) June 26, 2015
No word on the ferret, or which of the many splendiferous names I offered up was eventually chosen. (I have money on Ferret Bo Jackson.)
I have committed to The University of Michigan thanks to everyone who believed in me and gave me the opportunity!! pic.twitter.com/BNv5rljqR0
— Ron Johnson Jr (@RonJohn24) June 25, 2015
The first of what could be multiple New Jersey commits in the 2016 class went down this afternoon when four-star Camden DE Ron Johnson announced his commitment to Michigan on Twitter. Johnson is currently on campus along with fellow 2016 prospects Ahmir Mitchell and Naseir Upshur, both of whom held Michigan in high regard heading into the visit, and surely in even higher regard now that they've hit the streets of Ann Arbor with Jim Harbaugh.
Johnson is the 20th commit in the 2016 class, the 14th this month alone, and the second defensive end, joining Rashad Weaver.
|3*, #48 DE||
4*, #6 WDE,
4*, 83, #16 DE,
4*, 92, #17 WDE,
4*, #14 WDE,
Scout is the major outlier here, despite giving him a pretty solid evaluation. Otherwise, Johnson easily ranks as a four-star.
Johnson is listed at either 6'3" or 6'4" and somewhere between 220 and 240 pounds. He's got the frame to add a significant amount of bulk, which is good, since his game suggests he'll fit best as a strongside end.
For being the low outlier in the rankings, Scout sounds quite optimistic about Johnson's potential in their free evaluation:
EvaluationJohnson has an excellent motor and also plenty of athleticism. He gets up the field in a hurry, but also uses technique, including a nice swim move. He stays low at the snap and can dip his shoulder to get around the edge, and also can chase a play down from behind. He needs to work a bit on his change of direction, which is good for a kid his size. His speed off the edge is why colleges like him a lot. -- Brian Dohn
- Hand Quickness
Areas to Improve
- Change of Direction
ESPN's scouting report features a lot of talk about wanting to see Johnson be more consistent in various aspects of his game, but given their conclusion and his lofty ranking they're clearly high on his potential ($):
Johnson is a prospect that brings some excellent physical tools. Can rely on size and strength some and needs to be more consistent with technique, but defender that can be a well-rounded and at times punishing presence in the trenches.
While ESPN praises his "raw strength," it sounds like Johnson needs to get stronger and/or refine his technique so that becomes a more consistent asset for him on the field. Rivals' Adam Friedman listed him at #7 among defenders at the RCS New Jersey camp in April, praising his edge rushing while noting he has work to do on the interior ($):
Johnson is a very skilled edge rusher with good balance and great length. He is very explosive off the line of scrimmage and does a good job of lining up the offensive lineman and faking one way before going the other. Johnson is still working on his overall strength and that will really help him on his inside rushes.
Rivals moved Johnson into their top 100 in the spring, as he showed quite literal growth from last year ($):
Johnson has gotten a couple of inches taller since the beginning of last season and it will surely help his game. His strength at the point of attack is undeniable and he's able to shed blockers and make the play. As a pass rusher, he can go to the inside, outside or bull rush. As his repertoire expands, the Johnson could end up moving up the rankings.
When Johnson got to the Rivals Five-Star Challenge earlier this month, however, he didn't impress as much as Rivals expected, getting a "Bear Market" mention from Mike Farrell in the aftermath:
DE Ron Johnson is ranked a bit too high right outside the Rivals100 and was small in comparison to the rest of the group without flashing the needed speed.
The raised level of competition may have affected Johnson, who apparently doesn't play against a ton of top-end talent at Camden. 247's Rutgers outlet noted that when naming Johnson their #4 player in the state this spring ($):
At 6'4" and 240 pounds, Johnson is an explosive, athletic defensive end with great strength and a phenomenal motor. He uses his hands very well and has a great understanding of the game. One of his biggest strengths is his versatility, as he can line up anywhere along the [defensive] line and can use his speed and an explosive first step to create an instant advantage over the offensive linemen. Johnson does not face the greatest competition but he still projects as a player who can make an impact, at least from a pass rushing standpoint, as a true freshman.
Johnson's most recent camp appearance came at South Carolina, where he stood out to 247 national analyst JC Shurburtt ($):
Johnson was perhaps the quickest defensive lineman in the defensive line group during Saturday's Showcase. He is explosive and has a wide variety of pass rushing moves to get past blockers. Johnson impressed in the quickness drills and looks the part. Combine that with what you see on film and it's easy to see why he has a high offer count.
Johnson has a lot to work with from a pass-rushing standpoint, and his overall game should improve as he adds more strength and, eventually, gets pointed coaching at the next level. He might not possess the lateral mobility to play the hybrid BUCK position in DJ Durkin's defense, but he's plenty athletic for a guy who will have his hand in the dirt.
Johnson holds offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Boston College, Miami (YTM), Michigan State, Ole Miss, Mizzou, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, South Carolina, Syracuse, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, among a handful of others.
Johnson is the first Power 5 commit to come out of Camden since three-star WR Matt Marshall signed with Arkansas in 2009. They're more talented of late, however, as Johnson is joined on the team by four-star WR Brad Hawkins—who may announce later this month and could very well join Johnson in the class—and four-star 2017 C Cesar Ruiz, who's also on campus this week.
According to 247, Johnson recorded 84 tackles and ten sacks in his junior season.
FAKE 40 TIME
Scout lists a verified 40 time of 4.60, but I don't see that figure anywhere else, including on ESPN's profile that contains other testing results but omits a 40 time. I'll give it three FAKEs out of five, but even if he's a little slower than listed, he's fast for a defensive lineman.
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Johnson has a chance to see the field pretty early in his career, provided he develops enough physically by the time he gets to campus. Chris Wormley, Henry Poggi, and Shelton Johnson should be his primary competition at strongside end when arrives in 2016, and I wouldn't rule out his ability to crack that depth chart as a true freshman. Even if he redshirts, he should be in line for playing time as soon as his second year on campus.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is up to 20 commits for the 2016 class, including Benjamin St-Juste (a potential 2017 enrollee). Johnson fills a significant need at defensive end. Michigan can now focus on adding prospects at wide receiver, tight end, defensive tackle, outside linebacker, and cornerback, as well as likely one more offensive lineman.
Johnson's commitment could help sway the New Jersey contingent of Hawkins and Mitchell, as well as PA TE Naseir Upshur, to join the class, as well as providing a strong early impression of Michigan for Ruiz. With five-star Paramus Catholic DT Rashan Gary also very much in the mix, it's doubtful Michigan is done pulling in prospects from the region in this class.
Noooobody expects a Drake Johnson! [Uphchurch]
Scheduling note: Yeah we had one on Monday; that was last week's, pushed back by all the commitments.
Seth: Every year there's at least one guy from down the depth chart who emerges as a major contributor even though we barely talk about him in the season previews. Who's the surprise guy this year?
Ace: Provided he's healthy when the season starts, and it appears he's on track, I'll go with Khalid Hill. Michigan is going to need a second tight end option after Jake Butt in Jim Harbaugh's offense, and Hill flashed potential last year before he tore his ACL in October. Known as a smooth route-runner with good hands coming out of high school, Hill showed off a somewhat unexpected aspect of his game—bowling over defenders in the running game:
Hill is limited by his size—he's a pure H-back at this point—but he should still prove quite useful as a reliable receiver and very willing blocker.
Alex: I would go with somebody on the defensive line. I'm not sure if Durkin will be as liberal with his defensive line rotations as Hoke/Mattison were (and I don't know if Mattison will be given the leeway to rotate again, which seems like a good bet) but if he is, I think that we could certainly have some breakthrough candidates on the defensive line. There's plenty of opportunity at the end spots—Ojemudia hasn't gotten big enough to be a consistent performer and Charlton still hasn't approached his level of recruiting hype (and potential, theoretically). Glasgow has one DT spot locked down, and Willie Henry seems to have a stranglehold on the other.
But if he can get on the field, my surprise performer is Maurice Hurst. He has a lightning-quick first step for a man his size and if we can get him to generate pass rush from the DT position, that will allay one of our biggest prospective weaknesses on that side of the ball. Mone, Wormley, and Poggi (who's a SDE) could all also be huge surprises as well.
Adam: I also think we're going to be surprised by one of the tight ends, but my choice is Ian Bunting. We know about Harbaugh's affinity for blocky/catchy guys, and Bunting's well on his way to being one. He put on 16 pounds over the winter, bringing him to a respectable (and much more in line with the rest of his position group) 243 pounds. At that weight he should be able to line up, put a hand in the dirt, and not tip off a pass play.
The catching part of being a blocky/catchy guy was never going to be a problem for a dude who has opposable skillets attached to his arms. Blocking was always going to be the issue for a nominal tight end who spent most of his high school career lining up outside, and even then it was simply a matter of size rather than willingness; Bunting posted separate highlight film of his blocking on his Hudl page. Now that he's in the range of plausible weights for a D-I tight end I'm expecting him to be the kind of matchup nightmare the Harbaughfense thrives on.
Seth: Brian wrote in HTTV that James Ross III had plateaued from the incisive freshman we were so excited about. One implication of being a base nickel with Peppers as a strongside slot space monster is that lifts a linebacker. Or did last year, cutting heavily into Ross's snaps. I find this sufficient underratement to justify defining him as a "surprise" star on this year's defense.
The loss of snaps to nickels may not be such a big deal this year, depending on how much of the Florida defense is ported to the new platform. There Durkin loved a lean, mean attack piece. His SAM last year was Neiron Ball, now with the Raiders. For Florida Ball was a Ross-like object consistently deployed as field side LB, whether that was technically MLB, or a nickel, a meat-raw version of the aggressive safety in the other slot. Given Michigan's uncertain DE depth, that surfeit of 30 (three DL) fronts would be a welcome wrinkle in Ann Arbor, drawing Ross back into the lineup instead of an end.
I also think he's still a better player than Bolden—that gap seems to narrow when Bolden faces Michigan's own offense because knowing the plays lets him match the effect of Ross's intuitiveness. Ross came on later last year as Michigan left him in as a hybrid spacebacker, and while that job is now Peppers's, any configuration that takes Ross off the field seems worse than the +Ross option. Add a bit of havoc from the aggressive stuff and sharing a side with Peppers and Taco, and there's plenty of opportunity for Ross to build his NFL highlight reel this year.
Brian: My surprise contributor this year is Dennis Norflee—dammit.
My surprise contributor this year is Delano Hill. He is officially a backup at safety, but in practice my hunch is that we see an awful lot of him. Jabrill Peppers is all-time nickel and he's going to be at or near the LOS at all times. Michigan faces a number of spread teams; Hill will be a de facto starter against them. He will also play extensively in regular manball games, because those also feature lots of passing downs—especially against a run defense that should be very good. He will play, a lot.
When he does Michigan will have a very fast, hopefully instinctive safety. Marcus Ray has been pumping him up as the best guy there, and he's a dude who knows safety play. I've been impressed in limited snippets so far as well; the bet here is that he eats into linebacker snaps on the regular.
thumbs up [Bryan Fuller]
Class size: fishy?
Since the 2016 Michigan recruiting class has already grown beyond the 14 scholarships that are known to be available, do you have a take or any insight as to how far Coach Harbaugh is willing to go with regards to oversigning? Is it simply a matter of players not being offered a 5th year or could we actually see Michigan take a step toward opening the Harbaugh wing of St. Saban's Memorial Hospital?
I have a hard time believing that we could get that draconian with recruiting, but is there a danger that we step too close to the line that coaches like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban crossed a long time ago?
A quick glance at the Depth Chart By Class shows a large number of redshirt juniors who are not currently contributors. At this point many aren't expected to be. Those guys can graduate and either take a fifth year elsewhere or head to the real world without anything about their departure being shady. There are between four and six candidates for the firm handshake on the roster.
Also, I've heard that there were a couple guys who were likely to take medical redshirts of the legit variety. I'm surprised we haven't heard any announcements about that yet—maybe there's enough room for the players in question to see if they can get back to where they need to be this year.
Add those two things together and you have 20 or so spots right now. It's reasonable to expect playing time and other attrition to get Michigan to the 25 they seem to be planning on—most teams in year one of a new coach see attrition like that.
I don't expect this to be a long term trend. Harbaugh's classes at Stanford ended up with 19, 17, 22, and 22 kids. That is a mere 80 in four years. (The transition class between Harbaugh and Shaw was 19, FWIW.) Harbaugh is clearly alarmed at the state of the roster and is trying to get in guys who he thinks are a good fit as quickly as reasonably possible.
It is possible it'll seem shady in February. Right now it looks like a reasonable approach.
Cat fight fix, more attrition stuff.
Ace's Stanford recruiting diagnosis reminded me of JH's public cat fight with Mike Hart and Jamie Morris. I did some digging yesterday on whether those fences were mended and found general statements from Morris about Jim being the right guy for the job before his hire in Dec/Jan, but nothing direct. This scuffle was a huge deal at the time and many wrote off Harbaugh for good. Do you know if this was all swept under the rug or if we've kissed an made up?
I'm not sure if Mike Hart buried the hatchet with Harbaugh. I didn't hear anything about it during the search, and it is possible that he was omitted from the "everyone call Jim Harbaugh" list, whether by accident or on purpose.
I have heard that Harbaugh and Carr had a conversation about a lot of things that did directly address those comments to the satisfaction of both men. Thus Carr's public advocacy of hiring Harbaugh even before that was accomplished. From my impressions of both men I'm guessing they're never going to be best buds; Carr was clearly practical enough to identify the best option for Michigan's coaching search.
Also in regards to Ace's post, it seems like this year will serve as a decent case study for how JH will handle 'crootin. We are taking guys at an astonishing pace this summer, and a class that is estimated to be near the 28 man limit is already filling up. Like most, I found that a bit unsettling and hope the additional public attention at UM curbs this activity (especially if Jimmy's going to cast stones at OSU 'crootin).
As I mentioned above, Harbaugh history in terms of attrition is very conservative. Some of the decommits Ace detailed aren't how I'd want Michigan's coach to go about things, but at least those guys were able to get the picture relatively early and find places.
[After THE JUMP: "his guys," speed, Harbaugh counterfactuals.]
Catching Up: St-Juste, Hamilton, Kareem
Benjamin St-Juste [photo via 247]
We're slowly getting more information on the unexpected commitment of Canadian cornerback Benjamin St-Juste. Tim Sullivan suggested earlier this week that St-Juste could come in as early as this fall. Based on what St-Juste told TMI's Brice Marich after his commitment, however, 2016 is the most likely option:
“I have already graduated high school in Canada because we graduate one year earlier than the U.S. and now I need to add the same courses they have in the U.S. to be eligible. It is not fair for Canadians. So I need to do extra courses to be eligible and do another year. As soon as I get that, then I will be leaving Canada to be playing at Michigan.”
This isn’t the first time the Maize & Blue have harvested talent from Vieux Montreal. St-Juste will be following in the footsteps of former Wolverines Renaldo Sagesse, Alain Kashama, Emmanuel Casseus and Deitan Dubuc. If all goes according to plan he will make his way to Ann Arbor as part of the 2016 class.
247 is the first to rank St-Juste, giving him three stars based on the admittedly scant information available. Steve Lorenz caught up with former Michigan CB and current Bolingbrook (IL) head coach Todd Howard, who helped coach the defensive backs at Michigan's camp, to get his thoughts on St-Juste:
"The first thing that stood out to me was his size," Howard said. "He's a legitimate 6'3" and with a helmet and cleats, he looks all of 6'4"-6'-5". The other thing that stood out immediately about him was that he is definitely a true cornerback. When we first started working, he asked if he should be working with the safeties. I don't think he even realized he has the athleticism and length to play the cornerback spot at a high level. He showed excellent footwork and played with a very low pad level for someone of his size as well. He was very impressive."
That's a tall corner. If St-Juste's feet are quick enough, there's a lot to work with.
There were two major announcement yesterday, one that went Michigan's way and one that didn't. Four-star Farmington Hills Harrison DE Khalid Kareem chose Alabama over Michigan, even though he came very close to ending up with the Wolverines, per MLive's Nick Baumgardner:
"At one point, yeah, I did think I'd end up at Michigan," Kareem said Wednesday. "But I really just had to think about what the best decision was for me and my family."
Kareem mentioned a particular recruiting factor that will work against Jim Harbaugh until he's had time to turn the program around:
The competition Alabama will face on the field in the Southeastern Conference and the competition Kareem will face in practice every day with the Crimson Tide's established roster were the tipping points.
Right now, Michigan's not on that level. Kareem said the chance to play for a national title right away was important to him. If Michigan were in that spot right now, would his decision be different?
"Yeah, it might've been another factor," he said. "I know they're going to get there. But (Alabama's there right now)."
Despite all that, Kareem didn't feel totally firm in his choice until yesterday morning. We'll see if the coaches continue pursuing him or if they move on to other targets.
On the flip side, four-star MD OT Devery Hamilton joined the class yesterday afternoon. He told Rivals' Adam Friedman that Michigan's academic presentation played a major role in his commitment ($):
With academics played a huge part in his decision, Michigan went the extra mile to show Hamilton everything at its disposal.
"I met a professor from the business school," he said. "He was very open and inviting. He seemed like a nice person. I also talked to a pediatric oncologist at their hospital. He was very friendly. Both of them made sure that, if I was interested in going into either one of those fields, Michigan had the resources to point me in the right direction."
I think we've retired "The Pattern™" as a thing, but if we're still using it, Hamilton fits the bill.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]