well that's just, like, your opinion, man
This tweet would seem to confirm the fact that Dytarious Johnson won't be enrolling at Michigan this fall:
— Dytarious Johnson (@Dytarious__) June 19, 2016
That doesn't come as much of a surprise. Johnson didn't sign a LOI for what he described as a "transcript issue" on Signing Day. I'm not aware that LOIs have any academic restrictions—SEC schools will still sign-and-place guys who have little shot at qualifying—so that's a little odd. It seemed unlikely a player who did not sign had much of a shot at arriving on campus, especially since Michigan signed a couple of other guys who were rumored to have some work to do.
Michigan might circle back around to Johnson after a prep semester or year. Their 2017 linebacker recruiting implies that they won't; we'll see. We'd been assuming that Johnson would not be a member of the 2016 class so this doesn't change our projected 2017 class size or 2016 roster.
Last time out. Facing the suspension of Deandre Yedlin, Klinsmann flipped Fabian Johnson to the right and brought in Matt Besler as a left-back-type-substance. This looked weird on the surface. When soccer folk attempt to describe an overall tactical approach with a formation those formations are invariably symmetrical and identical in attack and on defense; neither of these things are true in practice. Besler barely ventured forward when the US had the ball; Fabian Johnson bombed up the right sideline all game. Both of these decisions were suited to their play, and the US played their best first half of the tournament. It was predictable but it put people in roles they were good at.
Things went nuts in the second half after red cards to each team. Jermaine Jones put a fist in the vicinity of an Ecuador player to even things up after Antonio Valencia got a second yellow card, turning what should have been a comfortable exercise in seeing out a game a man and a goal up into a frenetic finish. Klinsmann left Clint Dempsey on the field an inordinately long time, leaving the US with just seven guys trying to defend. This paid off with a goal, and then bit the US when Dempsey continued afterwards. Klinsmann also left on a number of US players on yellow cards and got his just desserts for doing so when an exhausted Alejandro Bedoya pulled an opponent back after getting beaten. He was issued a yellow that suspends him for this game. Steve Birnbaum would come on in the 93rd minute as a middle finger to common sense.
But they're here, in a semi-final against Argentina. This is an opportunity for history.
This dude 1) scores 2/3rds of a goal per game in the EPL, 2) comes off Argentina's bench
So… Argentina. The problem is that they're not just Messi. Throw a rock at the attacking players on Argentina's team and you will hit a cornerstone of one of the elite clubs in the world. A dude with 102 goals in 150 appearances for Manchester City comes off their bench. FIFA rankings blah blah blah; #1 does mean something.
After years of frustration they've finally figured out how to deploy Messi in the context of the national team: they tell him to do whatever he wants and try to run into useful places. Messi roams from sideline to sideline, from front to back, and is extremely difficult to mark out of a game as a result.
Their defense looks elite but is part a creation of their possession; they had a shaky period against Venezuela where the Rio Tinto outside backs were bombing forward and unsettling the D's organization. Venezuela hit a post, missed a penalty, and forced a couple excellent saves out of the Argentina keeper.
Argentina's back four is not to the standard of the rest of the team. They start Gabriel Mercado, a 29-year-old Liga MX player with just six caps, at one outside back spot. The other outside back spot is a Man U player who has trouble getting league appearances; Everton center back Ramio Funes Mori has been a bit iffy in this tournament. This is still Argentina we're talking about here but they're not overwhelming back to front like a Germany is. Those center backs are generally regarded as the weak links of the team, and a quick counter attack or successful overload could stake the US to a lead. Argentina is vulnerable to the kind of goals the US scored against Ecuador. The US can have a period of similar productivity, and maybe they have better luck.
Just one problem.
Wood is the man, and he's on the bench. Wood is a brutal loss since he's been maybe the USA's best player in this tournament not named John Brooks—he is capable of runs behind the defense and hold-up play, a complete forward the US hasn't seen since the brief moment when Charlie Davies was reaching his peak. While it came to little, Wood's tenacity and speed were most apparent on a run early in the Ecuador game that had no business turning into a shot but did nonetheless:
That is a guy who puts the fear of God into center backs.
Woods had two hockey assists in that game as his runs drove the opposition back to the mouth of their own goal and opened up space for crosses against a defense that had already spent a center back chasing him.* Davies was the last US forward to threaten like this. His activity became so integral to the USA's gameplan under Bob Bradley that Bradley not only brought but started Robbie Findley during the 2010 World Cup. Since Findley was a version of Davies with cement blocks for feet this was a mistake; it demonstrates just how dangerous and difficult to find a guy like Wood is for the US. (Except they've got another one playing in Seattle, but that's another post.)
Everyone assumes that the US will slide Zardes up top and try to get the same production. Zardes does match Wood's speed and endurance but Wood is super productive at finding space, something Zardes is erratic at. His first touch has been discussed to death for good reason; he's not likely to replicate Wood's production. The US is hoping he has a moment or two where it works out and he can apply his physical gifts. The other option is Chris Wondolowski, which: no.
*[Fancy talk for this is "running the channels." To execute this a center forward runs diagonally to the edge of the field, usually when the outside back is up the field. A center back generally gets pulled into an uncomfortable spot and the defense has to rotate to cover. Just like in basketball, a rotating defense is a vulnerable one. The second goal is a quintessential example of that activity.]
What now? Wood, Jones, and Bedoya are suspended for the semifinal. Losing the two central midfielders at the same time is rough but survivable since there are reasonable replacements; losing Wood is probably fatal for the USA's chances in a game where they don't figure to have much of the ball.
I'm operating under the following assumptions:
- The US will continue using Dempsey as a second forward under a true #9
- They will not be averse to asymmetry in the formation
- Darlington Nagbe made fun of Klinsmann's hair
Klinsmann has gone with all the old guys for his substitutions so far, frustratingly. Continuing that would be a major mistake. The Argentina back line had a lot of trouble with Venezuela's outside speed. Beckerman has just about reached his expiration date. I'd rather roll with a more athletic player there.
I would stick with the unbalanced formation the US used against Ecuador and slide Fabian Johnson up. You're going to need a moment of brilliance or two and Johnson is one of the likeliest candidates to provide that if he's allowed to play on the wing. It could look like this:
You could flip Pusilic in for Zusi but the chances of that seem very low.
FWIW, this is the formation most of the USA internet has arrived at. It lets Yedlin fly up the wing like Fabian Johnson did in the previous game and puts Johnson back at the spot that he excelled in this season for Gladbach. With Argentina down Angel Di Maria and Nicholas Gaitan they don't have a ton of width. Their outside backs don't get forward much; they don't do a whole lot of crossing. They had only 12 in the Venezuela game, and one of those was the ridiculous Messi assist from 40 yards out. All this means the US would do well to replicate their gameplan against Spain in the Confederations Cup: load up the middle and clear the crosses.
The gameplan with Beckerman looks something like this:
Nagbe has been more effective in the center of midfield in the last couple years of MLS play but this would be more or less fine. Other exotic options include dumping Dempsey for a 100% bunker, bringing in DM Perry Kitchen, and deploying Pusilic. None of these seem at all likely, but Klinsmann might Klinsmann.
Nagbe is critical because he is the USA's best bet to relieve pressure and get more of the ball. His exclusion has been somewhat reasonable to date; leaving him out in this game means both Zusi and Beckerman are playing and means the US is playing to survive a 90 minute onslaught and hope for the best in penalties. Given the situation Nagbe is a better defensive player than Beckerman. He would not fare as well in a defensive mid role but he doesn't have to play it, and Nagbe is a huge upgrade in both athleticism and ability to possess the ball.
This tournament is already a success. It's hard to imagine that the continual changes in both personnel and formation will persist going forward. The back five are just about set. Wood and Dempsey are your first choice forward pairing. Jones, Bedoya, Zardes, and Nagbe will battle for midfield spots. There's one slot in the first-choice 11 that is up for grabs based on performance (Zardes) and two that may have to be revisited due to age or continued problems with red mist (Dempsey and Jones). For a team that didn't start the same center back pairing since the assassination of Franz Ferdinand until the run up to this tournament that's a quantum leap forward.
Most of the questions concern backup spots now and even a couple of those (Jordan Morris, for one) have reasonable answers going forward. Outside back, as always, is the main area of concern.
Klinsmann still behaves like a man who's petrified people will see through the emperor's new clothes and is replacement-level at best, but… hey, replacement level! I can dig that!
Once again we are running our Big Ten preview with a fantasy draft gimmick. This serves three purposes: For you, it's a snarky, informative way to learn who's good in the conference; it cuts through bad hype and the murky waters of line play, and sets expectations for Michigan players against guys outside our biases.
For us the comments section never fails to be a sobering reminder that some of our wonky readership prefer having lives to infinite knowledge about Nebraska OL. For Brian, he gets to play Bo, turning his staff's natural competitiveness against each other to hone us into fine-tuned Big Ten football coverage machines. Summer vacation is for losers and Nick Saban.
Everyone drafts a team from available Big Ten players consisting of
- A QB, five OL, and six skill players on offense. Usually this breaks down in to a RB, three WR, a TE, and a wild card but things tend to get weird.
- 4 DL, 3 LB, 2 CB, 2 S and one wild card on defense.
- A punter and a kicker.
Standard serpentine fantasy draft.
Once three teams have filled a position group the final team must do so at most three rounds later. This is mostly intended to prevent someone from waiting on a QB until the end of the draft and occasionally results in hilarious things like "Nathan Scheelhaase goes in round 8".
Brian will make fun of me for taking a low-volume defensive player he will draft in the first round next year.
The winner will be the person with the most impressive team.
As randomly determined by RANDOM.ORG the order is
BiSB and Smoothitron are in the Slack thread to be spicy. Ace is on the clock.
Brian: JT Barrett is a much more reasonable selection this year.
BiSB: Over First Rounder Mitch Leidner?
Brian: I didn't say that.
BiSB: I mean, shit, sure… it's your funeral.
ACE: Round 1, Pick 1: Jabrill Peppers, Heisman Contender, Michigan
OFFENSE: WILDCAT Jabrill Peppers, RB Jabrill Peppers, WR Jabrill Peppers
DEFENSE: OLB Jabrill Peppers, CB Jabrill Peppers, NICKEL Jabrill Peppers, SS Jabrill Peppers
SPECIAL TEAMS: KR Jabrill Peppers, PR Jabrill Peppers
I strongly considered JT Barrett because of the dearth of proven quarterbacks, but…
…yeah, I’ll take the third-year, Don Brown-coached version of that guy.
[HEY READERS ARE YOU ENJOYING THIS SO FAR? SERIOUSLY. TRY THE JUMP IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE ME.]
Scouting Charles Matthews. Scout's Xavier site put together an uncommonly useful reel from Matthews's freshman year at Kentucky:
They don't cover some of the downsides, which comprise almost everything that can go in a Kenpom profile. Matthews had vanishingly small usage, turned the ball over a lot—although low usage will magnify TORate on a small number of TOs—and shot just 42% from the free throw line. All of these numbers have a low sample size, but it's clear Beilein has his work cut out for him developing the offensive side of Matthews's game.
Hudson destroys all comers. Pennsylvania's Big 33 game against Maryland was a few days ago*. Pennsylvania featuring an array of D-I talent. Most of the top guys from PA were there, including five-star PSU RB Miles Sanders, USC TE Cary Angeline, a half-dozen Pitt commits, and Slippery Rock DT Clark Wilford. Hudson blew these dudes out of the water. Hudson was the game MVP per the announcers (the organizers gave it to Sanders) and his coach raved about him to Chris Balas:
“He is an absolute freak,” Pennsylvania head coach Mike Matta of Downingtown East High said. “I didn’t look in advance to see if he’s a three-star, four-star, five-star or what, but I saw the film before the game, and when he got here … I can’t believe he got out of the state. Actually, I can’t believe everybody in the world didn’t make this kid a priority. There’s nothing he can’t do … and what he can do is just outrageous.”
Pitt partisans can only sigh and put weird commas everywhere at his escape:
Doing us all a favor, I'll get the Khaleke Hudson portion out of the way, first. If you watched the game, you undoubtedly understand the reference. "There's that number 21, again…" … seemed to be the only player on the field, tonight.
Various reporters we like… dang:
Khaleke Hudson is good. Damn good.
— Greg Pickel (@GregPickel) June 19, 2016
Khaleke Hudson just did amazing things on a punt return & it's going to get brought back, but I don't really care.
— Daniel Gallen (@danieljtgallen) June 19, 2016
Khaleke Hudson just tackled two Maryland players at the same time. #Big33
— 412-CFB-Recruiting (@MJsteelcityPitt) June 18, 2016
Hudson had a ridiculous punt return that was wiped out by penalty and thus not included in the clips VSN TV posted to YouTube.
*[Ohio dumped their traditional matchup in the Big 33 game because they kept getting housed, then tried playing Michigan, got housed a couple times, and has now given up entirely.]
Hawkins wobble: stand down? Brad Hawkins was recently the subject of a bunch of internet rumormongering based on the fact that he scrubbed his twitter page of any Michigan mentions and was not yet in the student directory—everyone else is accounted for. Ominous, but unless something drastic happened in the last few days it seems like it's a false alarm. Philly.com just named him their South Jersey player of the year, and the article to accompany the honor is pretty explicit about Hawkins's near future:
Hawkins has signed to attend the University of Michigan on a football scholarship. He plans to depart Friday for Ann Arbor to begin summer workouts.
Hawkins, who also is a strong student, stood outside the fence at Camden's football field at Farnham Park the other day and marveled at the speed with which his high school career had passed.
If he's not on campus by this weekend then you can start running in circles.
Man did I biff this one. The Swiss national team had a jersey blowout reminiscent of the various issues Michigan had a couple years back, and one of the infinite Swiss soccer players with an X in his name seriously outperformed yours truly when trying to snap back at the clothing company:
The shortage of action in France and Switzerland’s dull 0-0 draw in Lille on Sunday night prompted increased attention on deficient equipment, with Swiss kits tearing easier than paper and the winger Xherdan Shaqiri telling Blick: “I hope Puma does not produce condoms.”
Can't win 'em all. /kicks dirt
While the company in question here is Puma, the Only Incompetent Germans couldn't let a fiasco like this go by without getting involved:
Adidas were also left red-faced when one of their Beau Jeu footballs burst when Antoine Griezmann was challenged by Valon Behrami. One of Griezmann’s studs appeared to put a hole in the ball. The balls retail at £105.
Nike stuff will be available at Moe's in just under two months, everybody.
A minor fan revolt in Nebraska. Via GTP, the Cornhuskers made some news a few weeks ago when some Nebraska season tickets actually went on sale to the public. The local paper took the opportunity to interview some discontents in Lincoln. Nebraska has a get-in-the-door fee of 2500 that is causing a lot of people to balk:
Aaron says: “How many people out there are able to pony up a $2,500 donation per seat — or even $2,000 for seats in the east balcony? Drop that down to something people are more comfortable with and they’ll go in a heartbeat. The desire of fans to see NU play is still there, but the price of attendance has to be rationalized. (Shawn) Eichorst is no dummy, he’ll get it figured out.”
The rub is, these donations have been factored into the NU athletic budget for years. Take them out, or reduce them, and what fills the void? Scott has a thought:
“I can’t believe that the donations that would go away couldn’t be replaced by a $40 million Big Ten annual check.”
Scott also reminded: “In a previous century, considering the fact that 1) we were winning national championships, and 2) every game was not on TV, you could charge a donation to get tickets.”
This guy nails one of the worst feelings the Brandon regime imposed on Michigan fans:
“What really makes me hate the streak are those signs at the stadium: ‘Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football.’ It’s a guilt trip from the A.D.’s office. ... Don’t tell me I don’t love my team just because I won’t fall for what amounts to ‘emotional extortion’ in an attempt to separate me from my cash in the name of preserving this farce of a streak. Like any relationship, it works both ways."
It's a harsh world when supporting the team that you love simultaneously makes you feel like a rube. College football is trending away from that somewhat with better nonconference schedules, but seemingly only because they have to. If Nebraska's having trouble selling out you know there's something afoot in the wider college football world.
ESPN holds on. The other half of the Big Ten package goes for some dollars as well:
ESPN will pay an average of $190 million per year over six years for essentially half the conference’s media rights package, according to several sources close to the talks. Two months ago, Fox Sports agreed to take the other half of the package for an average of $240 million per year. CBS Sports also has told the conference that it will renew its basketball-only package for $10 million per year.
This is stoking Nebraska fans' ire when they see that windfall and compare it to their pocketbooks. For the league itself it clearly separates the SEC and the Big Ten from the rest of the Power 5, for as much as that actually helps them compete. Survey says… not much. NCAA rules induce a lot of inefficient substitutions that can't overcome proximity.
I wonder if the Big Ten will sit on a big chunk of this money in case the landscape isn't as friendly in six years when these deals expire. At that point it'll be more clear what shape the new media landscape is taking and how much money they can spend without overcommitting to a model that could come apart.
The FOX deal gives them first choice of games, so expect a lot of Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt over the next few years. OSU/Michigan is headed to FOX.
2017 athletic budget items. Michigan is back to break even after some big deficits at the end of the Brandon tenure. The new Nike contract and the return of the International Champions' Cup are aids:
Budgeted corporate sponsorship revenues are projected to increase by $1.49 million due to a new apparel agreement.
• Budgeted facility revenues are projected to increase by $1.4 million due to a special event in Michigan Stadium following a fiscal year with no such events.
Manuel's approach to his budget is slightly different than his predecessor's:
"It's not my mindset to say we're going to use Michigan Stadium to make money," he said Thursday following his budget presentation to the Regents. "We want to look at opportunities where they exist, but I don't step in with a philosophy of, I want to use Michigan Stadium to drive more revenue."
It's fine to use Michigan Stadium to drive more revenue as long as that revenue isn't 1) bankrupting student organizations or 2) flooding commercial breaks at Michigan Stadium with ads for weddings. Extra events are a good thing.
Etc.: Michigan's top newcomer will be a HUGE SURPRISE TO YOU if you just arrived from space from 50 years in the past because of time dilation. NCAA might cut satellite camp window to ten days. That's a more reasonable restriction than zero. Satellite camps cost 0.02 percent of Michigan's athletic department budget. Pride comes before the fall.
Per Jeff Goodman, Michigan has picked up a wing:
Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews is headed to Michigan, source told ESPN.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) June 21, 2016
Matthews was a freshman at Kentucky last year, where he played sparingly. He'll sit out next year and have three left.
As a recruit he was #59 in the 247 composite and the #16 shooting guard; at 6'6" he could play the two or three at Michigan. His ranking dropped over the course of his recruitment from five-star territory (he was #17 on the composite at one point) to the mid four-star range. The most recent scouting report comes from his freshman year:
Good: Matthews has been a pleasant surprise this season finishing at the rim and along the baseline. With some development, he looks to be a valuable asset to the program in the years to come because of his length, athletic ability and defensive prowess.
Homework: Must continue to round out his game and become a more consistent outside shooter.
This is not a typical Beilein recruit. He's the platonic opposite of Duncan Robinson:
"Last summer, they tried to play him at point guard--that’s not what he is," Calipari said. "He’s a playmaker off the ball. He’s a slasher, he’s a finisher." … At 6-foot-6 and 175 pounds, Matthews possesses many of the qualities that Calipari typically covets: he's long, athletic, can get to the basket and has the ability to defend multiple positions.
"He's a tireless defender. He can guard multiple players … He can get to the basket anytime he wants but he could always become a better shooter," DeCesare said. "He needs to work on his free throw shooting."
Mathews is super athletic and defensively oriented, which will thrill Billy Donlon. He might be something of a bricklayer, which won't thrill Beilein. Beilein is renowned as a guy who can teach offense and shooting; this will be a test.
The 2017 recruiting board was updated heading into the weekend. Meanwhile, I'm taking off for vacation tomorrow and will be out until next Wednesday. Naturally, today's send-off roundup is one of the longest of the year.
D-Tackle Out Of Nowhere
— Chad Simmons (@ChadSimmons_) June 18, 2016
There was very good reason nobody saw Aubrey Solomon's commitment coming. Solomon didn't even initially plan on being in Ann Arbor last weekend; he was supposed to be on an unofficial visit to Alabama. He told Sam Webb that once he got to Michigan and found out he had an offer, things moved quickly from there:
“I came into Michigan not knowing that I had an offer,” Solomon said. “Once I found that out it really changed everything. Then seeing what they could do for me in the future, like 10-20 years after football, I just fell in love with it. It wasn't just football, it was ‘what would I do for the rest of my life after football?’"
Solomon credited Chris Partridge and Jim Harbaugh for convincing him Michigan was the place to be.
The commitment of Solomon's 2018 teammate, Otis Reese, came as far less of a shock; Reese had previously named Michigan as his leader and he has ties to the area—his older brother is a redshirt freshman receiver at Central Michigan. Reese described the scene when he and Solomon committed to Webb:
"(Solomon) was feeling it but he kind of shocked me,” said Reese. “I didn't know he was going to commit."
"Coach Harbaugh was on the phone with my mom and we were talking about my commitment. Aubrey got on the phone talking to his mom and he said he wanted to commit. It was just like the whole room was lit… full happy emotions. They were jumping around. Actually my receiver coach (who brought them up on the visit) and Coach Harbaugh traded shirts. Coach Harbaugh still has (Lee County) shirt on, and my coach has his on. It was just a happy moment and it was a blessing."
Michigan nearly added another commitment on the weekend. Three-star CT OT Andrew Stueber impressed the coaches at camp enough to pull in an offer, and in the aftermath Steuber told 247's Steve Wiltfong that Michigan is "the one to beat" in his recruitment. Based on what Sam tweeted over the weekend, it sounds like Steuber will join the class as soon as he can get his mom to campus.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Owenu, OL Stephen Spanellis.
|Plantation, FL – 6'5", 215|
3*, NR overall
4*, NR overall
#9 TE, #34 FL
4*, #258 overall
#2 TE-H, #46 FL
4*, #270 overall
#11 TE, #36 FL
|Other Suitors||UF, Bama, LSU, UO, USC, Texas, SoCar|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
Nick Eubanks had the most alpaca-out-of-nowhere commitment since Carlos Brown. The first word that most Michigan fans heard about him was the fact that he'd scheduled a mid-week official visit mere days before it was supposed to take place; the day after that trip he committed over offers from a bevy of SEC powers and USC.
Whenever you're talking about a guy who's not a super blue chip you have to evaluate how committable those offers are. In Eubanks's case those offers were almost certainly OFFERS; Eubanks took an official to Alabama and had scheduled trips to Florida and USC before Harbaugh short-circuited things. Florida sites were calling him the Gators' top target at the position and more or less assuming he was in their class, a la Josh Uche. (In their defense, he said UF led in late November.) Bama may not have taken him; the rest of his list almost certainly would have.
That's because Eubanks has huge upside as a receiving tight end. Michigan 247 named him the guy with the highest upside in the class—although I assume that comes with an "other than Gary" disclaimer—because he has "NFL size and length" matched with "natural movements and athleticism." Others are on board:
…everything that colleges are looking for in a modern-day tight end. He's a big, smooth athlete who can really run and rack up yardage after the catch. Eubanks is a legit 6-foot-6 and should really fill out nicely over his college years.
…instant mismatch for Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage. His catch radius is incredible and he's a nightmare to cover in space.
One of the freakiest tight ends in the 2016 class … has been timed as fast as 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash
…nearly unlimited upside at the tight end position. He's 6'6"/230 and can leap like a basketball player. He has a frame that can build healthy weight.
“The kid’s a freak,” said Cape Coral Island Coast coach Wayne Blair …. "was just jumping over people” against Daytona Beach “He’s what everybody’s looking for in that flex, hybrid tight end,” Blair said. “And he’s still relatively new to football.”
He can leap like a basketball player because he was focused on that sport for most of his life. (Perhaps not a coincidence: his brother is named Kobe.) And everyone knows that short and fast power forwards make pretty good flex tight ends, eventually.
His upside is such that even too-cool-for-school ESPN offers up a report that's detectably positive:
… nice combination of height, length and athleticism. … excellent straight-line speed for size. … top-end speed to threaten the intermediate to deep part of the field and present a vertical threat. … needs to continue to develop as route runner. … Good hands with ability to extend for the ball. Displays very good body control to adjust to passes thrown off target. With height and leaping ability can be threat downfield in jump-ball situations. … still needs to develop physically and improve as a blocker … combination of height, leaping ability and speed can make him a tough match-up.
There's only one "can" in there. I think I deleted a couple "flashes," but this is a prospect who seems to have piqued the interest of a laconic group of gentlemen.
A huge upside prospect with only decent rankings is generally a project and Eubanks is no exception. On film he looks like another one of the hilariously jumbo WRs that populate high school teams. Projecting those guys to college always comes with a hefty bit of guessing. Any time you have to slap 50 pounds on a dude, things can go wrong. Generally slow things.
Meanwhile he's not exactly a mauler or a route artisan. Many reports invite you to read between the lines:
He can continue to work on his consistency catching the football, but is much improved in that department from the last time I laid eyes on him. Eubanks put forth the effort and really spent time on his blocking over the offseason, but is more of a threat in the pass game at this stage in his career.
…moves relatively well for his massive size (6-6, 208). He's established himself as a threat in the passing game, but will need to develop as a blocker before he arrives on a college campus.
…raw but he continues to develop rapidly. He's a basketball player that is still finding his way on the football field but his upside is as high as any tight end in the class.
…great frame and the ability to play on the line or to be flexed out. Has great length, he knows how to extend for the football, and he can use that to his advantage. He will fill out, add weight, and get stronger. Solid blocker, but can get better at the point of attack. More comfortable now flexed as a big wide receiver going out for passes.
While his highlights have a couple of decleaters amongst the various catches, there's nothing resembling technique in any of those blocks. He stands straight up, hits a guy half his size pretty hard, and goes Cato June on 'em. The most you can say about those blocks is that they display a want-to that Devin Funchess never really had. He does deposit a couple of defensive backs several yards downfield on screens.
Meanwhile reports on Eubanks's hands are mixed. It seems like he has good days and bad. There's the good report from ESPN above. 247 reported that he "needs to improve his catching ability and concentration" at the Opening regional he attended; Scout's eval declares his hands to be "solid" but lists "hands and concentration" as an area for improvement; Rivals said he had "consistent hands".
FWIW, his highlight film above has several incidents in which he lets the ball get into his body. Since he was a tight end without a ton of catches that film is probably 80%+ of the catches he made last year; I tend to side with the skeptics. Eubanks looks like a guy who's good at getting rebounds up high and pretty rough when the ball is in the dead center of his catching radius. I've just looked at a bunch of WR/TE Hudl video as these pieces come together gradually and it's clear Eubanks needs work in this department.
On the good side of the ledger, Eubanks just tweeted out an up-to-date weight of 235 pounds a few days ago. That puts him a year away from reasonable tight end size instead of the two a 215-pound guy (like, say, Ian Bunting) generally is. Also, Jay Harbaugh's evaluation of him mentions his ability in the classroom:
Nick is a great young man, exceptional student and outstanding athlete. He is easy-going and fun to be around but when Nick hits the field he is a very tenacious competitor….elite speed and length as a receiver that will allow him to stretch the field in a way that defenses in this conference aren’t accustomed to seeing on a regular basis.
Day-to-day intelligence isn't necessarily football intelligence but it's a good start; it's worth noting that when he took his official he toured the engineering school. There are a few indicators he's going to be able to hack a Harbaugh offense, especially after a few years.
And it will be a few years. Eubanks will take some time and could be just about anything once he comes out the other end.
Etc.: At one point Alabama was his leader, at which point a 247 article said he's "a perfect fit for any team that likes to get the ball into the tight end's hands"… ie, not Alabama.
Why Devin Funchess? Eubanks is the same kind of raw athletic clay Funchess was, and is ranked in about the same area—he's maybe a little bit better regarded overall, but that's splitting hairs. Funchess, of course, was a tremendous receiver immediately but hated blocking; Michigan gave up on the tight end experiment and finally moved him out to WR as an upperclassman. Funchess had occasional struggles with his hands, something the Eubanks scouting reports do mention.
Eubanks is already reporting a weight equivalent to Funchess in the NFL and is not likely to end up a wide receiver for Harbaugh reasons. (One: he needs tight ends. Two: it's hard to imagine a Harbaugh-coached player going through the motions as transparently as Funchess did in his final season.) His end result could be the kind of tight end we saw from Funchess early in his career, except with blocking.
If you want an actual tight end, Jake Butt is the closest approximation in recent Michigan history if Eubanks's hands are actually top-notch.
Guru Reliability: High-minus. Little bit of a split in the rankings and some disagreement on his hands, though that may be an artifact of his apparent improvement over the past year. Otherwise the services agree on who he is. Healthy, relatively high-profile guy.
Variance: High. Boom or bust guy. Could end up a drop-prone guy who can't block a soul.
Ceiling: Very high. Could be 250-pound Devin Funchess with a mean streak.
General Excitement Level: High. If Eubanks does bust it's a shrug-worthy event for Michigan, which will have tight ends coming out their ears either way. If he hits, look out. Does have a backup plan at WR since Michigan hasn't taken an enormous dude in a minute—at least not one that's probably sticking on offense.
Projection: Redshirt. Michigan has a bucket of tight ends already and two classmates of Eubanks are drawing buzz that they'll get on the field. Post-redshirt it's a crowded depth chart indeed.
Eubanks's career could follow the path that Ian Bunting's is: a redshirt freshman year with scattered catches followed by a more serious apprentice season as a sophomore and a bunch of catches as one of the top tight ends as an upperclassman. Or he could evaporate, or he could be Jake Butt except fast.
While teammate Aubrey Solomon's commitment came as a pleasant surprise, four-star Leesburg (GA) Lee County S/OLB Otis Reese had already declared Michigan his leader heading into this weekend before pulling the trigger yesterday. Reese put Michigan on top as soon as he added an offer in April; two subsequent first-hand interactions with the coaches, first at the Leesburg satellite camp and then at this weekend's Under The Lights camp, proved enough to earn his commitment:
"I think this was a pretty easy decision for me," he said after pledging to the staff. "The coaches here have treated me like family since they offered and spending time with them when they came to our school gave me a great foundation to build off of with them. Once I got here and experienced things a little bit more, I wanted to make it official."
Reese is the fourth commit in the 2018 class, joining Springfield (OH) teammates Leonard Taylor and Antwuan Johnson and fellow Georgian Jalil Irvin.
|4* S||NR S||NR S||
4*, 92, #11 S,
4*, #11 S,
Only 247 has released ordered 2018 rankings, and they have Reese sitting just outside their top 100. At worst, Scout has him in the same range—they've given early four- or five-star ratings to 122 prospects in the class. Rivals didn't include Reese in their initial, unordered top 100, which came out in mid-April.
Reese is listed by all four sites at 6'2" and 190-195 pounds. While he's regarded as a safety prospect, he's got the frame to play outside linebacker, and according to 247's Steve Lorenz Michigan plans to use him in the same role (well, defensive role) Jabrill Peppers will play this fall:
While he's currently listed as a safety in our database, we're told that Michigan actually likes him at the SAM linebacker spot and that both Don Brown and Chris Partridge love his game. Remember, Michigan held a satellite camp at Leesburg early on in the month, so they were able to get a great look at Reese and reportedly loved what they saw out of him.
As you'll see on his film, Reese already plays a similar role in high school; he spends a lot of time playing in the box or over the slot.
Most of what's out there on Reese comes from Scout's Southeast analyst Chad Simmons. Reese's Scout profile features an extensive sophomore evaluation:
EvaluationSOPHOMORE EVAL: Reese is a physical football player. He played varsity as a freshman and has improved regularly since. His size has stood out from the beginning, and by the time he reaches college, he may be playing inside the box on a regular basis as a linebacker. He is a real field general and he is used in coverage, in run support, and he blitzes off the edge as well. He is a little tight in the hips and he can improve in coverage. At his best when coming down hill in attack mode. He can close well and he makes solid tackles.
- Blitzing Ability
- Closing Speed
- Tackling Ability
Areas to Improve
- Backpedal Quickness
- Hip Flexibility
That sounds like a player tailor-made for the SAM in Don Brown's defense. Simmons added some more details following Reese's commitment:
What Reese is, is a versatile football player. You will see him in coverage one play, then he is lined up in the box chasing a running back down backside, and on the next play he is blitzing the quarterback. He is a football player who has been on the Scout radar since his freshman season. He has a great frame, and he is still growing, so projecting where he ends up playing at Michigan could go back and forth between safety and linebacker. He has a nose for the football. He is exceptional in blitz packages and he loves to come downhill and play physical. He looks most natural when moving north-south and when playing inside the box. In coverage, he is solid, but that is an area he can improve on. Reese can improve his feet, hips and reaction to receivers when asked to cover. He has a great body, great frame and the best football is ahead of him. He loves to compete, he loves to learn, and he is going to play hard on the field.
In addition to sounding like a Don Brown SAM, he sounds like a Harbaugh guy.
Back in February, 247's Kipp Adams identified Reese as one of the top underclassmen in Georgia, and included a freshman and sophomore stat lines that show Reese's versatility:
The next big prospect out of Lee County is 2018 hybrid safety Otis Reese. Reese, at 6-2, 195, reports offers from Troy, Central Michigan, and Louisville, with interest from Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. He had 55 tackles, four sacks, five tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries and four pass breakups as a freshman, and 52 tackles, six sacks, and seven tackles for loss during his sophomore season. Over the next two years, Reese should grow into a stout strong safety who can enforce the middle of the field.
That's impressive all-around production for an underclassman.
Reese holds offers from Central Michigan, Louisville, LSU, Troy, and UCLA. He camped at Alabama and Georgia but hasn't landed offers from them yet; several other top programs, including Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State, showed interest. Michigan got a big leg up in his recruitment by being the first major program to offer him.
FAKE 40 TIME
Freshman highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
At the moment, it looks like Reese will have a clear path to the field at SAM as soon as he steps on campus. Jabrill Peppers will almost certainly be off to the NFL by the time Reese arrives in 2018, and if Khaleke Hudson is needed at strong safety—which looks to be the case—then there isn't another player on the roster who fits the role as well as Reese. Of course, Michigan hasn't come close to wrapping up the 2017 class; safety commit J'Marick Woods has a similar build and the coaches are expected to take a couple more safety-types. It's hard to imagine Reese won't have some competition by the time he gets to Ann Arbor.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
It has four players in it, and will presumably add many more. Here's the class, which is now fourth on the 247 Composite team rankings, as it currently stands:
[Photo: Chris Nee/247]
Before showing up to Ann Arbor for Michigan's big camp weekend, four-star Leesburg (GA) Lee County DT Aubrey Solomon was considered a Georgia lean with strong mutual interest in the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida, and Ole Miss. Solomon's commitment today, unlike that of 2018 teammate Otis Reese, came out of the blue. Just look at his Twitter feed, which is SEC upon SEC upon SEC until this.
On my way to ichigan ...
— Aubrey Solomon (@AubreySolomon91) June 17, 2016
This coaching staff is rather good at recruiting. Yes, they got a head start with the Leesburg satellite camp, but this still came as a huge surprise.
Solomon helps fill a significant need at defensive tackle; he's the second DT in the 2017 class, joining in-state three-star Phil Paea, and the 15th total commit.
4*, #9 DT,
4*, #4 DT,
4*, 84, #6 DT,
4*, 91, #14 DT,
4*, #6 DT,
While all four services have Solomon solidly in the four-star range, there's a bit of a split. ESPN is particularly bullish—as is Rivals when you go by position rankings—while Scout and especially 247 aren't quite as high on him.
He is unquestionably large. Scout, ESPN, and 247 all list him at 6'3" and 300-305 pounds. Rivals has what looks like an outdated listing of 6'4", 287.
There's not quite as much scouting as I expected out there for a recruit with Solomon's rankings and offer sheet. What's out there, however, is impessive.
Solomon first emerged on the radar as a freshman who very much did not look like a freshman at the 2014 RCS Atlanta camp. Rivals's Josh Helmholdt named him one of the top underclassmen in attendance:
The 6-foot-3, 279-pound Solomon immediately caught our attention at the beginning of camp from a physical standpoint. There was a shock when he said he was still 15 years old and just a freshman. His play in one-on-ones created further intrigue as he had no trouble battling with the top interior offensive linemen from a strength standpoint. There are some technical issues to shore up, but nothing that cannot be fixed and plenty of physical gifts that cannot be taught.
247's Chris Nee scouted Solomon the following February at the Valdosta MVP Camp, and from his vantage point it sounds like Solomon made strides with his technique in the interim:
DT Aubrey Solomon - A 2017 defensive tackle from Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County who was very impressive on the day. He could have easily taken home defensive line MVP honors as well. A big, physical defender in the middle. Solomon exhibited the ability to play with leverage, drive his blocker off the spot, and finish the play. He has good quickness for a big man and was very active with his hands at keeping blockers off-balance. He reports multiple early offers.
Scout's Chad Simmons saw him at the same event and was similarly impressed:
Great frame at 6-3, 305 pounds and he does a great job of using his size and power to press offensive linemen and close the distance. Has the lateral quickness to play down the line verses high level competition.
Rivals's Woody Wommack saw Solomon in a game setting last fall, and while he got tempo'd a bit he still managed to show his potential:
Class of 2017 Rivals100 defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon looks like the real deal and was very impressive in Friday's game, even though his team took the loss. Solomon is a legit 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds with very little bad weight, and he was in the backfield all night. Ultimately, Colquitt's no-huddle offense seemed to wear him down as the night went along, but his conditioning should only improve as his career moves along. Solomon, who favors Georgia, Florida and Auburn early on in his recruitment, will be one of the most sought-after defensive linemen in his class.
ESPN's evaluation focuses quite a bit on technique, repeatedly noting that Soloman has to develop consistency—like many of their reports, "can" "shows" and "flashes" all show up often. While the hedging takes away some of the impact, ESPN ranks him higher than anyone else, and there's a lot to like if he puts it all together:
Can fire off and capable at times of disrupting with quick penetration. Can be stout as well when he wins with quickness and leverage, flashing ability to explode out and uncoil at contact. Pads can quickly rise at times and when do can give ground and needs to work on taking on the double team. Does good job of bringing his hands, but needs to improve upper body strength and do better job of extending and creating separation and work to get off blocks quicker at times.
Can quickly get off the ball and get up-field and disrupt, flashing an effective club and swim. Shows flashes of attacking half-man and working a rip, but can look to lean on the swim move and if doesn't win with initial move can get stalled and needs to continue to develop pass rush arsenal. Has power to drive blockers back and collapse the pocket with bull rush when stays lows, but needs to work to clear and finish. Has tools to be disruptive interior rusher, but needs to continue to refine and be more consistent.
They conclude he can be a "very good, if not excellent Power-5 DT," most likely as a three-tech who needs a little time to develop.
Scout's free evaluation is one of the better ones I've read on a defensive tackle; it puts the technique issues in the context of his overall physical ability:
EvaluationAn athletic defensive lineman who knows how to get off the ball. He is most effective with his quickness. He has good anticipation and he reacts quickly in the trenches. Really gets up the field. Can make plays in the backfield. Gets consistent penetration. Can use his hands, but needs to improve that, and his moves to counter offensive linemen. When he struggles, he tends to play high, so he can work on bettering his pad level. Just a quick defensive lineman who can make plays. Plays hard and plays fast for a guy his size.
- Lateral Range
- Quickness off Ball
Areas to Improve
- Pad Level
That's a 305-pound high school defensive tackle with "lateral range" and "suddenness" as strengths. I very much like the sound of that.
Solomon holds offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, UNC, Ohio State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, and USC. I probably don't need to tell you that is an excellent list.
Rivals completely destroyed the functionality of their database so I don't have as much here as usual. Lee County also features fellow new Michigan commit Otis Reese.
None that I could find.
FAKE 40 TIME
Solomon's Scout profile lists a verified 40 time of 5.47, which gets zero FAKEs. With DTs, short-range quickness and agility is much more important than running 40 yards fast in a straight line. In that regard, Solomon looks quite good.
Sophomore highlights and single-game reels can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Michigan will have to replace Ryan Glasgow, Chris Wormley (expected to play 3-tech this year), and possibly even Mo Hurst after this season, which will provide ample opportunity for freshmen to find a way onto the field. Solomon has that potential if he's technically sound enough; if he's not, he should quickly find his way into the rotation after a redshirt year, and he's got the look of a multi-year starter with NFL potential.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan can probably use another DT or two in the class in addition to Solomon and Paea, but Solomon's commitment makes that need far less dire. The 2017 class is now up to 15 commits, and that number is expected to get into the mid-to-upper 20s by Signing Day. Positions of need include offensive linemen of all sorts, WR, TE, SDE, CB, and S.
I'll leave this here:
— Alejandro Zúñiga (@ByAZuniga) June 18, 2016
Here's the class as it currently stands:
Always good to get a guy from Batman HS. [Keith Neibuhr/247]
247's Steve Lorenz reports Michigan, currently hosting a huge group of prospects for their camp, has picked up commitments from a pair of Georgia teammates:
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) June 18, 2016
Both play for Leesburg (GA) Lee County, where Michigan co-hosted a satellite camp with Georgia earlier this spring. Aubrey Solomon is ranked as the #6 DT and #94 overall prospect in the country.
Otis Reese, who Lorenz reports is being recruited as a SAM in Don Brown's defense, is an early four-star ranked by 247 as the #117 overall prospect in the 2018 class.
I'll have Soloman's full commitment post up as soon as I can get it together. Reese's will go up tomorrow.