Incompetence on a level that Michigan unlocked against Michigan State and Nebraska cannot be achieved by one man or even one team (MSU is good at defense, and hey, Nebraska did some good things). There's still the possibility that Borges and his charges are sabotaging themselves, but since that's impossible to prove let's permit that they do in fact wish to progress the ball forward, and parse out how much responsibility lies in the various inadvertent factors.
I thought I'd take us back through a timeline of the events that led to the state of the offensive roster, picking up blame on the way.
I wish we could blame this whole thing on the old coach. Wouldn't it be the most ironic thing if the great guru of offense was really at fault for Michigan's offensive woes? There are really three things I think we can lay at his feet, in order of importance:
Hired DCs he couldn't work with and made them run defenses they didn't understand, thus dooming Michigan to another coaching transition.
Recruited just one OL in the 2010 class.
Didn't recruit a single tight end or fullback, nor a running back who can block except Smith, whom he didn't redshirt.
Michigan's 2009-2011 tight end recruits.
Tight End, Briefly
We've had #1 out, and #3 is debatable: Y U NO RECRUIT THE BREAD AND BUTTER OF BORGES'S OFFENSE, GUY WHO INVENTED THE OFFENSE THAT MADE BORGES'S OFFENSE OBSOLETE? I can't blame him for skipping fullbacks or running backs who can block since he had a track record of developing fullbacks from the walk-on program, while his backs, e.g. Toussaint, were recruited to operate in space. I wish he'd redshirted Vincent Smith, or gotten a medical for him.
But I do think he could have seen the need for tight ends even before the abilities of Koger and Webb opened his eyes to that. Rodriguez ignored the position for two years, and when he started looking again it was for the 2011 class that was devastated by Rosenberg and The Process: Hoke and Borges went on the hunt for last-minute TEs in 2011 and came back with Chris Barnett, a vagabond of the type that Michigan typically stays away from. Barnett transferred almost right away; I put that on having just a few weeks.
Tight end is another position that typically requires a lot of development, but Michigan knew by mid-2011 that its 2013 starters would be, at most, true sophomores, and knew a year later that neither of their 2012 recruits were much for blocking. At this point any sane human would not have made the ability of their tight ends to block a key component of their offense.
Offensive Line, Longly
Rodriguez put all of his eggs in the 2011 OL recruiting basket, and Michigan ended up with all their eggs in a project recruit's basket.
As for the OL, the failure to recruit just one offensive lineman in 2010 is the centerpiece of modern bitching. Is that fair? Here's a line from Brian in Mike Schofield's recruiting post, dated June 2009:
"Michigan didn't need a huge offensive line class one year after taking six big uglies and graduating zero, but you never want fewer than three and you always want quality."
So yes it is established MGoPrecedent that fewer than three OL in a class no matter how much meat you have stacked for the meat god is not cutting it.
Offensive line recruiting happens a bit earlier than most other positions. Since they're unlikely to be starting for several years (even redshirt freshmen are pretty rare) OL recruits rightly look for coaching stability more than early opportunity. The 2009 class was narrowing down their lists before the 2008 season, and so on. With that said here's a timeline of Michigan offensive line recruiting:
2009 (recruited in early 2008): Tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, and guard Quinton Washington. This despite a huge/mixed haul from 2008, when RR added Barnum and Omameh to Carr's class of O'Neill, Mealer, Wermers and Khoury. For the record O'Neill left the team in June 2009, and Wermers was gone in July (though his World of Warcraft account was presumably active), so the coaches wouldn't have adjusted to either of those departures at that time. Meat for 2013 Meat God: three redshirt seniors, one a potential Jake Long 2.0, can't do more because there's still six guys from the previous class.
I was wondering if you could answer the question as to why Jeremy Clark and Michigan would pursue a grey shirt versus a preferred walk-on. In both cases the player has to pay their own way until a scholarship is available. But with a grey shirt you can't practice with the team at all. Is the thinking that they would then get a psuedo sixth year? I would think having the player on campus and practicing with the team as a walk-on that first year would be better than hoping he earns a scholarship by sitting around doing nothing for a year.
Also, I know we all share concerns about the size of this class and where the scholarships will come from - but I have a more specific question for you. How do you feel about only taking one at the DT spot? My thinking is that it is one of the hardest positions to project (cough-Will Campbell-cough), you need a healthy rotation of players, and you need size. I have no idea why the staff wouldn't want two true defensive tackles in this class given the lack of depth and talent at that position. I would even take one lower rated DT in this class if you get a star DT with another scholarship. I think that's far more important than just about every other position at this point.
Adam Chicago, IL
On grayshirting: you do get a psuedo-sixth year since your eligibility clock does not start ticking until the subsequent year if you are a mid-year enrollee. Clark could enroll, redshirt, and have four years of eligibility starting in in 2014. Enrolling in the fall starts your clock, so the fall of 2012 would be Clark's redshirt year. Also, being a preferred walk-on costs money.
I'm not actually sure what path Clark will take since grayshirting is an overloaded term that refers to both enrolling without a scholarship and not enrolling until winter. It could be either depending on how quickly Michigan thinks they'd want to deploy Clark and if he wants to/can make the financial sacrifice to enroll without a scholarship.
On the defensive tackle spot: I don't think anyone gets Michigan's plan there. When the 2012 class hits campus the only potential nose tackles on the roster are Quinton Washington and Richard Ash; the only three-techs are Will Campbell and Terrance Talbott. Both Talbott and Ash have been dogged with rumors they have health issues and neither was exactly a slam-dunk recruit. No one has played; Michigan took no true DTs a year ago. Campbell will be a senior and Washington a junior.
Meanwhile, the defensive line sees more rotation than any other position in football—Michigan rotated four guys last year even when the options were walk-ons and journeymen like Adam Patterson.
So it seems nuts to me to turn down a consensus four star DT with the offers to match, as it seems they will if Pipkins and O'Brien both want to sign up. Even if they can move some combination of Godin/Wormley/Strobel/Rock/Wilkins inside, those guys are all tall dudes who probably can't deal with the nose.
That leaves essentially no one after Martin graduates. Hoke's made all the right moves so far but if he takes a scholarship fullback over a desperately-needed nose tackle people should question that.
Hi Brian, First, the giant scoreboard at Yost: on the post today it indeed appears to be gigantic and I was wondering if you had a chance yet to see if this thing might interfere with sightlines across the ice or corner to corner? Don't know if anyone remembers/cares, but there was a giant block hangy-downy scoreboard there back at Yost in the early 80's and it hung down too far. If you were sitting really high up in the endzones or even in the top couple of rows on the sidelines, the scoreboard actually hung down far enough to block your view across the ice. It was worse than obstructed view at Tiger Stadium, though I guess that might be because Larry Herndon never ran very far. So, the end-zone scoreboards were actually an innovation kind of because there were then no seats obstructed by the scoreboard hanging down. Someone must have thought about that one before they hung this thing, right? I am suspicious of change, get off the lawn, I miss the Apple IIC, etc.
The board is currently closer to the ice than it will be when it is finally deployed, and while it's certainly larger than the current one I don't think it's significantly taller. And the top couple rows on the sidelines are now usually vacant because of overhangs.
Second, we've seen a lot of decision matrices about 4th down, go for it vs. field goal vs punt on different places on the field. Would it be possible for someone to do a historic survey?
For example, I bet that matrix looked a lot different for a 1972 Bo team than for a 1998 Lloyd team because of the efficiency - or not - of the passing game back then. Bo going for it on 4th and 7 with his option teams was a totally different animal than Carr going for it on 4th and 7 with Henne and Braylon. I guess what I'm asking is, can those 4th and charts be adjusted backwards for inflation? I bet they would explain a lot about the evolution of 4th-and theory and about Carr's reluctance to not punt from the opponent's 41. JS
A historic survey is outside the scope of a mailbag response but it's probably unnecessary anyway since the Mathlete tackled something similar in a past diary that got bumped to the front page. Two charts, one for high offensive expectation…
…and one for low offensive expectation…
…show the increasing viability of the punt as scoring decreases.
Game theory in the paleolithic era was probably better than it was over the past 20 years. It seems we've passed an inflection point where going for it is the choice, but teams are still being coached by guys who came up under old school coaches who had totally different probabilities in their head. It's like adding four cards to a deck and asking 1950s poker players to cope—eventually they'll make a mistake because the game has changed.
I think it is worth noting that the West Coast offense, which Borges favors, can be traced directly back to Sid Gillman, the same Sid Gillman whose offensive style was loathed by manball loving Woody Hayes when the two of them were rivals at Cincinnati and Miami of Ohio respectively. Also, the most famous west coast quarterback of all time is Joe Montana, and he was hardly an immobile pocket passer.
I am probably being overly optimistic, but do you think there is a possibility that Michigan's offense in 2011 will resemble Auburn's 2010 offense in that it will be a hybrid of spread elements and pro-style elements? Yes I realize that Denard's skill set is not identical to Cam Newton's, but based on some of the remarks Borges has made and Hoke's likely realization that Michigan fans aren't going to be patient for wins, I think this is the most likely direction for the offense.
I'm not sure I agree with the above emailer's police work there. Auburns' offense worked so well because they didn't even need any semblance of a pro-style attack because an inverted veer with Cam Newton was short-yardage gold. Newton was recruited to run the same offense he did run. When there was a mismatch between the offensive coordinator's vision, that of the head coach, and available personnel, both Tony Franklin and Tommy Tuberville got fired. Auburn is not a good analogue.
I'm not sure if there is in fact a good analogue for the transformation Denard is going to be asked to make. Usually when you have a talent like him at quarterback the head coach doesn't get fired because you win a bunch of games. I've searched my memory banks for an example of a successful returning spread quarterback dealing with a new, more pro-style system and can only recall the most ironic possible name: Pat White.
White, of course, was coming off of West Virginia's 48-28 demolition of Oklahoma; WVU was third nationally in rushing offense, 15th in yardage, and 9th in scoring. The next year Rodriguez was out and Bill Stewart brought in Jeff Mullen from Wake Forest; Mullen preached balance but seemed to respect the accomplishments of the previous regime:
“I don’t want it to be too much different. You’re talking about a group of men who left here who were very successful coaches, and they installed one of the best offenses in the country. I’m not going to come in here and turn it around,” he said.
WVU still ran the spread but lost some of its maniacal dependence on the run (70% in RR's last year, 63% in Stewart's first) and large chunks of its derring-do. West Virginia lost almost a yard per carry in the transition despite running less and retaining White and Noel Devine. Total yardage dropped to 59th, scoring to 73rd. You will not be thrilled to hear that turnover margin remained as ludicrously good as it was for the bulk of Rodriguez's tenure.
I think something like that dropoff may be in the cards for Michigan. Mullen was no slouch. He was able to staple together decent outfits at Wake Forest despite having a massive injury plague strike his already-depleted roster. But his expertise did not align with the skills of his offense and as a result a bunch of returning starters got a lot less explosive.
I do think Al Borges is going to put together something that tries to take advantage of the parts he has. If I had to guess I'd say Brady Hoke's public statements about manball are just statements—at San Diego State Borges had full sway to do what he wanted, and what he wanted was a lot of different things including quite a bit of zone running. But you can't expect Borges to be Rich Rodriguez when he's spent much of his career fiddling with passing routes instead of the slight adjustments Rodriguez used to keep Robinson ahead of the pack.
The falloff from the transition probably won't be as bad* but if Borges can just maintain Michigan's YPC I'll be thrilled.
*[Reasons: The offense wasn't as good as that WVU unit and shouldn't be exposed to such a withering regression to the mean, Denard is lower on his learning curve than White, there's no equivalent to losing Slaton, general coaching ept-ness will probably go up, field goals.]
Though the senior season for Michigan's 2011 signees is long-gone, and we've moved our recruiting focus to 2012 (and even 2013), A few of Michigan's incoming freshmen participated in their last games as high schoolers over the past two weekends.
Three Michigan commits played in this game - all on the Ohio side, so you should be (kinda) glad to see that Team Ohio won by a lopsided 50-14 score.
According to Eugene Hankerson of GoBlueWolverine, LB Antonio Poole finished with 6 tackles and a sack, DE Keith Heitzman had 3 tackles and a sack, and DE/LB Frank Clark made 2 tackles (though the highlights embedded below certainly show Clark with a big sack at 4:40, and Heitzman scoring a rushing touchdown, so don't take Gene's numbers as gospel truth).
Heitzman helped set the tone early as his pressure on Pennsylvania quarterback Matt Johnson led to Gabe Gilbert's interception on the game's first possession. Heitzman sacked Johnson in the second quarter, leading to a Pennsylvania punt from its end zone.
"Playing against the best I'm hoping will prepare me a little bit more for what's to come at (the University of) Michigan," Heitzman said.
Duane Long talks Big 33, and no surprise, he spends much of the time fawning over Ohio State commits (both because he's a slappy, and because OSU's players played very well in the game). However, he did manage to mention a couple future Wolverines:
A couple of Michigan kids were outstanding last night. Antonio Poole was the best linebacker in the game. He is a great fit for the hybrid position. Late offer Keith Heitzman from Hilliard Davidson was a major problem off the edge. If [OSU's Steve] Miller didn't have the quarterback dialed in, Heitzman did. It is hard to pick a best lineman in the game out of this lot. You could have picked Miller, [future Kent State running back Trayion] Durham or Heitzman.
Thanks to Eastern PA Football, we have highlights on the internet. You're looking at #2 (Heitzman), #15 (Cark), and #18 (Poole) in red.
This is an East v. West battle in the state of Michigan, and this year, East reigned supreme by a 30-13 score.
LB Desmond Morgan (#48 for the West) was the only Michigan signee who participated, but a few former targets, including Penn State signee Anthony Zettel, also took part. Following the game, Morgan talked to the press:
“Overall, I thought we played pretty solid,” Morgan said. “We came in with a lot of heart and we held that up. We had three or four breakdowns on long balls and that hurt us. There are a lot of great players out here, and it was fun to play with them.”
When Tamani Carter committed out of nowhere in late January Michigan fans scrambled to find out who the hell he was. The answer, oddly: a guy who had committed to Minnesota less than two weeks before. It's not hard to envision Hoke and company arriving at Michigan, surveying their secondary, and going "oh shiiiiiiiiii." Carter looked like a vaguely plausible guy so plunk went the offer gun.
But despite an extremely plausible story—and the fact that he signed up to play for Minnesota's perpetually beleaguered secondary—that implies Carter is just a random guy destined for special teams duty, he did have a decent offer list. Arizona was after him so hard they're still breathless about their not-very-narrow miss months later (they "made a huge run at him"). He made multiple visits to Stanford and seemingly had an Iowa offer. Those three schools seemed to constitute a top three through his senior season. Snagging a kid away from those three and Minnesota is considerably more encouraging than "best case: Gopher starter."
Of course, you're very cynical so you're asking yourself why on earth anyone with those offers would end up at Minnesota. While he did have an offer from the Hawkeyes at some point, he went from planning an official to Iowa City($) in October to not taking an officials other than one to Arizona, so it seems likely Iowa withdrew that sometime during the middle of the season. The same presumably goes for Stanford. So he wasn't an enormous priority for either. When you're adrift in a post-Process January, though, anyone who could play at Iowa or Harbaugh-era Stanford starts looking pretty good.
"Make all interceptions. Recover all fumbles," explained Carter.
Scouting type stuff. Carter's consistently listed at 6'0" or—at worst 5'11"—so it's odd that his size is consistently criticized. If he's fibbing surely he's not fibbing any more extensively than the vast populace of "5'9"" corners littering rosters across college football. Despite that a scouting article at… um… Scout published after Carter's Michigan commit features three separate guys worrying about it($). Allen Trieu:
My one knock would be size, and he's not very tall or thick at all. He will need time in the weight room before he's able to cover bigger, physical wide receivers.
First off, he's not very tall, but he's a nice, little athlete. It seems a little surprising for Michigan to go after him, because I would think they would be going after bigger defensive backs. He is a good player, and has skills, and the only real question would be his height. He's under 6-foot tall, and that will always be a challenge, covering the taller wideouts.
Assuming he overcomes his height limitations, and there are players that can do that, his speed and athleticism will get him on the field at Michigan, along with his intelligence.
ESPN($), meanwhile isn't too worried about height, but the other bit:
Has more than adequate height but his leaner frame and lack of great strength are concerns when projecting for the college level.
I was going to point out how weird Berk's assertion that Michigan wouldn't recruit Carter because of his size was by pointing to Michigan's roster, but it turns out that roster has dispensed with any pretense of reality by listing both Courtney Avery and Terrance Talbott at 5'11", which I'll eat my hat. Greg Brown is a mere 5'10", so he's probably just suffered a horrendous accident that leaves him without knees.
The point of all this is you will never get a truthful answer about any corner's height and if Carter can plausibly (or even laughably) claim to be six foot that makes him bigger than most of the guys already on the roster and probably as big as anyone else in the recruiting class.
So if Carter was crazy athletic that might not be a problem. That's up for debate. All the Scout guys were impressed ("light on his feet and has great quickness," "possibly sub 4.5," "moves really well"), but ESPN not so much:
Turns into a receiver in one-on-one coverage demonstrating great ball skills and body control. Has good extension, timing and leaping skills making him a very effective defender on the jump-ball. While fluid with good footwork, we do feel like he will be challenged in man-to-man coverage at the major college level. Appears quicker than fast and lacks great explosiveness and top-end speed needed to recover vertically. … Does not show great vertical speed or an extra though to project as a true difference-maker at the major college level.
"Tamani had a very special season," said Central coach Jay Sharrett to ThisWeek last fall. "When we needed a pivotal play, he was always there for us. Whether we needed a big reception, interception or fumble recovery. Tamani was the guy who made plays that won games for us."
"He's a corner that doesn't, he kind of enjoys the physical part of the game," Sharrett said. "He's a good, solid tackler and when it comes time to drive his shoulder pads, he'll do that.
Whether he'll have the athleticism to pull that off in college is a question. TTB mentions he'd like Carter more if he was going to be "playing a Cover 2 defense and sitting in the flat most of the day." It might not matter since a quick glance of at the roster shows someone has to move to safety. Greg Brown didn't and it doesn't seem like the other freshmen are suited to it, so Carter is the obvious candidate.
Why Markus Curry? Not a great comparison because Michigan hasn't recruited a whole lot of guys like Carter in the past, but Curry was a bit shorter than six foot, not heavily recruited, and seriously vulnerable to the deep ball because he didn't quite have the athleticism to keep up with college wideouts.
Guru Reliability: No reason evaluators would have anything wrong here: he was healthy and playing at a heavily scouted school. High. General Excitement Level: The usual level of disclaimer applies but: low. Projection: More of a lock to redshirt than anyone other than Russell Bellomy. There are three other corners in the class, all either more hyped or ahead of the curve after enrolling early, and three or four corners already on campus who will probably be ahead of him on the depth chart. Long term, someone's moving to safety and it's probably not Countess or Hollowell—the bet here is he moves to FS soon after arrival and ends up backing up Carvin Johnson for a while, possibly emerging as an upperclassman.
(Brown stuff at the two minute mark.) Scouting Ohio has junior film.
Greg Brown committed to Michigan a long, long time ago. This site's "Hello" post dates back to September of 2009, mere days after new Hurricane Tate Forcier had made his debut at Michigan. At the time we had little to go on except Jim Stefani's comprehensive database ("very quick, speedy, athletic, great body control, fine ball skills and has fluid hips… impressive at the 2008 Michigan summer camp and was rated by some onlookers as the second best CB at the camp as a mere freshman") and some message board post wherein Brown is declared Fremont's "next big professional athlete" by someone who is probably not an NFL scout. The mere fact he had a committable Michigan offer—and reported another one from Michigan State—before his junior year even started was the most powerful evidence we had at the time that he was going to be some variety of Big Time.
It didn't really work out like that. He never even looked like emerging from the Pit of Generic Three Stars, spent most of his senior year playing linebacker, and seemed like yet another questionable move by Rich Rodriguez when it came to defensive recruiting. Rivals doesn't even bother to rank him outside of "you'll get three stars and like it." When he had a brief flirtation with Syracuse at the tail end of 2010 that seemed like a development that would inevitably lead to Brown and Michigan parting ways like various other "whoops, you committed" players(e.g., Dewayne Peace, Jordan Barnes) had under Rodriguez.
He stuck, though, and was the only member of this recruiting class to enroll early. No one expected much from him, but there he was in the spring game…
…giving up a touchdown, sure. But giving up a touchdown that seemed like offensive pass interference after being close enough to be shoved by the wide receiver. I don't have to remind Michigan fans about what happened last year and how being in the same timezone as a wide receiver is an improvement.
This would be a hilarious reach but for Brown getting consistent praise in the spring. It's still a bit of a stretch but three things make a trend, right? (1) Hoke after spring:
"He has improved every week," Hoke said of Brown, from Fremont (Ohio) Ross. "I think he's got a great future. Sometimes when there's an opportunity and a guy comes in there and competes, he might just win (the job).
Freshmen contributing this fall: "Really haven't thought about it much yet." Depth concern at OL and DL might provide some opportunities, but it's too early to say. Corner? "Maybe. We'll see. Greg Brown's really, in the last week and a half he's really stepped up." Courtney Avery has stepped up as well.
In a huge surprise to me, I saw some really good play from Greg Brown—at corner—in the last Saturday scrimmage [ed:ie, the Saturday before the spring game]. This was mentioned by the coaches, so it is not a secret or my insanity.
That sort of praise did not pop up about the departed Cullen Christian, for one. So it means something. How much it means is something we'll have to wait four years to find out, but at the very least it suggests Brown has a chance to be someone other than Darnell Hood.
As for what kind of player he is, the scouting reports read like the opposite of the ones we got for Avery and Talbott last year. Those praised the kids' athleticism and worried about their smurfiness; Brown's think he's got good enough size but don't know about those hips. ESPN($):
Has average height with good overall body length; should continue to fill out well. Plays bigger and taller on film than listed measurables. A bit high and rigid in pedal and opening and turning but uses his hands well and can stick to receivers in man-to-man without giving up much separation. Looks to be a better zone and underneath corner. Closes with above average speed and quickness. Displays more-than-adequate change-of-direction skill and overall footwork. … Very effective in deep coverage as well and defends the jump-ball well with his good leaping and high-point skills. Comfortable around the football and his polished receiving skills show. However, we do question his transitional skills and ability to flip his hips fluidly when matched up versus fast major college wideouts; not real explosive as a runner and speed could get challenged vertically as well.
He's a bit stocky, and played exclusively outside linebacker on defense for Fremont Ross. Even at a position closer to the ball, he rarely seemed to be in on any plays, despite having a chance on some of them. As a linebacker, he only covered tight ends from the slot in pass coverage and did an adequate job staying with a guy half a foot taller than him. … His speed wasn't that impressive.
Those reports are in opposition Allen Trieu's, but Trieu caught him right at the start of his junior year—Tim saw him in his last HS game. Trieu($):
The report I had read coming into the game was that he did not have great timed speed, but watching him, I saw that he played fast. He also plays with a lot of aggressiveness and attitude and that showed in run support. He isn't afraid to come up and make tackles. He isn't a particularly powerful tackler, but he went low and got the job done. As a receiver and return man, he showed his quickness and open field elusiveness. Areas for Improvement: Brown plays bigger than his size, but he is undersized.More Trieu($):
FWIW, local Ohio observers had a slightly higher opinion than Tim or the rankings at large. Ohio Varsity made him the #5 DB in the state, ahead of OSU commit and high three-star Dejuan Gambrell.
Why Grant Mason? Mason was around 5'11" and was not athletic enough to get an NFL sniff, but he was a useful piece as an upperclassman after his transfer from Stanford and started as a senior. Like Mason, Brown is a good student (3.5 GPA) and projects as a guy to develop in the hopes he ends up a useful piece behind a star.
Guru Reliability: You'd think high since he's been fairly high profile—evaluators had two years of games to check him out in the full knowledge he was a Michigan commit. The spring stuff might bring that into question. General Excitement Level: If you asked me on Signing Day I was going to politely suggest that not everyone can be a starter and Brown was probably going to be Darnell Hood, but one spring ball later Brown looks like a viable threat to crack the two deep and is 50-50 to be a starter at some point. A bit below moderate, then. Projection: also 50-50 to redshirt. Michigan's starters should be Woolfolk and Avery and they are apparently going with Thomas Gordon, not a corner, as a dedicated nickelback. So it's JT Floyd, Terrance Talbott, and the three freshmen competing to be the two guys who rotate in. I'm guessing only one freshman plays—Brown may not have the hype but he showed up early.
As far as the future goes, he'll be in a war to replace Woolfolk next year. He probably loses that to someone, at which point he'll have to wait for Avery to graduate before he gets a shot.
The 2011 class is over, so it's time to look ahead to next year. But first...
As you may recall, Michigan signed 19 talented high schoolers last Wednesday, including a signing Day surprise(ish) in TX TE Chris Barnett. Yes, I mostly just wanted an excuse to use this picture again.
Of course, OH S Greg Brown was already enrolled in Ann Arbor, and didn't need to fax his LOI.
As for the other prospects who were still on the table:
MD DT Darian Coopersigned with Iowa. He had been favoring the Hawkeyes for some time, and a late push by Michigan (courtesy of defensive coordinator Greg Mattison) couldn't sway him to be blue.
CO LB Leilon Wilingham signed with UCF. He committed to Texas A&M without ever visiting, and then had reported silent commitments to Colorado and Michigan before switching to the Knights on Signing Day. He's a loss for Michigan's class, but sounds like a kid who can't make up his mind, either.
For those who can't stop asking about FL WR Prince Holloway despite repeated claims he wouldn't come to Michigan, he signed a letter of intent to a Junior College in Kansas.
Since I've been actively neglecting the 2012 class in favor of in-depth coverage of 2011 for the past couple weeks, updates from rising seniors should be hectic throughout the month of February. Things should settle down by the end of the month, and look for a recruiting board (with revamped format) by that time.
First, let's look at a list of 2012 recruits with offers:
Michigan has an offer out to WA OL Zach Banner, who has already committed to participate in next year's Army All-American Bowl. He's one of the top prospects in the nation, and is probably a longshot for the Wolverines.
DC DT Eddie Goldman, one of the nation's top defensive linemen, holds a Michigan offer, but is probably a longshot.
Ohio State-centric recruiting experts are already conceding OH DE Chris Wormleyto the Wolverines. His reasoning gets a little muddled, but if Ohio State will give up Wormley in order to land Adolphus Washington and Greg McMullen, more power to them.
Yes, I want Wormley. No, I am not going to lose any sleep over his decision to go to Michigan should be choose to do so. Great kid and I wish him all the best should that be where he chooses to spend the next four or five years of his life.
Wormley is going to be a solid 4-star or borderline 5-star guy, so Michigan's recruiting class should get a great early boost should he decide for the Wolverines.
There may be a couple more offers out there, but this is (almost) all of them that I'm aware of. A couple guys are already committed to other schools - such as FL WR Avery Johnson to LSU - so I haven't included them.
Before expressing worry about "Hey, this kid loves Michigan and we're slipping because we haven't offered him yet," keep in mind that the Michigan staff wants to evaluate prospects on film before extending an official offer. Some of them may even be close to committing if they held a Michigan offer, and the coaches want to know for sure whether it's a prospect that they really want before the kid potentially joins the Class of 2012. Offers should be coming soon for a lot of these guys, so it's not a huge delay, especially for a new coaching staff. Here are some of the guys for whom that possibly applies:
A safety with that size and instincts, a sound tackler who is comfortable in both the run and pass is going to be a big time recruit. Should be a prospect that can come in and player earlier than later. The weaknesses we see are nothing that can’t be corrected with solid coaching and a willing learner, which Bradley is.
Bradley's from Trotwood-Madison, one of Michigan's favorite schools of late.
Happy Trails (already!) to AZ QB Connor Brewer. One of the top pro-style QBs in the country committed to Texas.
You've probably heard most of the details already - and if you want the full play-by-play, read through the end of yesterday's liveblog - but here are some greatest hits from Brady Hoke's Signing Day presser yesterday:
All signed recruits are expected to qualify to play next year.
Jack Miller was singled out as a center. Tamani Carter was listed as a safety. Chris Rock was listed as a defensive end, but Hoke mentioned that some defensive linemen in the class may end up moving inside.
There is no update on Devin Gardner's redshirt status (so you can stop asking).
Michigan will run a 4-3 defense next year, including under and over fronts.
And now, for the video I shot of Michigan's assistant coaches. What can you expect? Offensive line coach discusses the future positions of Michigan's three commits (it's still possible that Tony Posada plays tackle, and some current players may move positions as well), Fred Jackson breaks down the game of Justice Hayes and Thomas Rawls, offensive coordinator Al Borges discusses the skillset of QB commit Russell Bellomy and talks about adjusting his offense to take advantage of Denard's skillset, and recruiting coordinator Chris Singletary describes holding the class together during a coaching transition.
Be sure to pay attention at 2:35 for an EPIC FRED JACKSON, as he calls Thomas Rawls a faster version of Anthony Thomas and Chris Perry:
He is like the 2nd and 5th all-time Michigan rushing leaders...except faster!
One other quick note: Singletary told me off-camera that the coaching staff would solidify a couple dates for Junior Days in the next week. I would guess that February 12th and March 5th (home basketball weekends) are good guesses.
Michigan has gained a commitment from TX TE Chris Barnett.
Hat! Dyed Beard!
3*, #16 TE
4*, 5.8, #14 TE, #224 Overall
3*, 78, #20 TE
The premium sites can't agree on how tall he is, with Rivals and Scout saying 6-6, but ESPN going all the way down to 6-4. Despite that, all three list weights within a few pounds of each other, at about 247. ESPN's evaluation:
Barnett is a kid who as a tight end can present a big target with his long and lean frame. He has good height and while he needs to keep filling out he has plenty of room to add size. He has good hands and displays the ability to use that reach and extend and bring the ball in. He runs solid routes and does a good job of finding the soft spots in zone coverage and being able to settle and get open. He is a tall kid who appears to need to build speed and displays adequate acceleration whether getting into his route or after the catch. He displays adequate leaping ability, but will go up and get the ball and that coupled with his size can present a tough match-up and a nice target in the red-zone. He is a tough kid who will fight for yards after the catch. He is not very elusive, but will lower his shoulder and try and fight his way through tackles. While he needs to add bulk and may not physically look like a in-line blocker, he is productive. One thing he does well is he gets hands on and gets good placement. He needs to improve his overall technique as a blocker, but when he gets locked on he is tough to beat. Moves his feet, but needs to watch his pad level and you would like to see him consistently deliver a good initial pop and use his lower body strength more. Works to stay with blocks. Displays upside as player who can stay in and help as a pass blocker. Displays the ability to keep a solid base and move his feet and mirror, but does need to be sure to bend more at the knees. Barnett has good size and the ability to be productive as a both a receiver and blocker.
The phrase 'chillin, but my swag's on full attack' can definitely be applied to Barnett's game out on the field. He plays under a controlled tempo until it is time for him to explode out of a break or plant a defender into the turf on a block. It is a great year for the tight end nationally and with the proper development and focus Barnett could end up being one of if not the best by the time he leaves college. He has the size and the tools.
Were they drunk when they wrote that lede? I lean towards yes. They list blocking, competitiveness, and route-running as his strengths, while saying he needs to improve his body control and strength. Rivals also evaluates his game:
On the Hoof: Tall, long-armed athlete is a bit thin in the chest and thick through the midsection. Barnett has a nice powerbase to go with long, thick legs. His build is similar to Stanford redshirt freshman Levine Toilolo.
Needs Improvement: Needs to reshape some of his bad body weight and improve his overall speed. Added upper-body strength will also improve his run blocking ability.
Most Impressive: Has very soft hands for a huge tight end and is a mismatch for shorter defensive backs. He also runs precise routes and knows how to use his body to shield off defenders from making plays on the ball.
Conclusion: His size makes him a candidate for early playing time, especially on passing downs and in the red zone.
They love his size and ball skills, while saying his speed, strength, and agility are just good.
Barnett decommitted from Arkansas to join Michigan's class of 2011 (he had previously decommitted from Oklahoma to join Arkansas's class), and the Razorbacks know what a good tight end looks like. "Bobby Petrino tight end" is like "Wisconsin offensive lineman" or "USC pro-style quarterback" in terms of recruiting cachet from a single offer.
The rest of Barnett's offers, then, should follow suit. Miami (YTM), USC, Clemson, Florida State, Notre Dame, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Stanford, and Utah are just a few of his more notable names. Despite "meh" grades from the recruiting sites, the offers say this is a big time tight end prospect.
The recruiting sites only have estimates for his stats, with ESPN having sophomore numbers:
Caught 25 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Rushed for 150 yards. Registered 130 tackles and six sacks. Missed three games following knee surgery...
And Scout bringing the senior year:
As a senior Barnett racked up 300 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Not exceptional numbers, but as with most high school prospects, it's hard to determine the quality of his team and the opposition, as well as his team's offensive style. Especially since tight end isn't a "glory position," those stats are nothing to sneeze at.
FAKE 40 TIME
OK, if these numbers are legit, this dude is a beast. Scout lists him with a 4.55 40-yard dash time, and Rivals says 4.52. Those are very good numbers for a wide receiver prospect, and much more so for a 6-6 250-pound tight end. Since both sites have such specific times, and since they're so close, I'm inclined to believe they might be legitimate. Still, that only knocks it down one spot to four FAKEs out of five.
Junior year highlights from the YouTube:
I couldn't find senior highlights on Youtube.
OTHER PEOPLE NAMED CHRIS BARNETT
Apparently there's an MMA fighter named Chris Barnett. People REALLLLY like putting MMA videos on Youtube.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Though the Wolverines really needed a tight end in this class, that doesn't necessarily mean Barnett will get onto the field right away. Kevin Koger will be a senior this year, and if redshirt junior Brandon Moore can become a contributor, Michigan's top two TEs are locked down.
However, Barnett seems ready to play immediately, and though he can add a bit of strength and weight, he has the speed to make defenses pay for overplaying the run. I think he'll get a bit of playing time as a true freshman, splitting the #2 spot on the depth chart with Moore.
After Koger graduates, Barnett should see tons of playing time in Michigan's TE-heavy offense. By the time he's a junior, All-Big Ten honors are a strong possibility, and don't be surprised if he contends to be an All-American a a senior.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan has a true tight end in the class, leaving defensive tackle as the only strong need. Any prospects on top of that are icing on the cake, as Michigan has filled all of its other needs by now, and they're unlikely to run up against the scholarship limit. CO LB Leilon Willingham is the only known prospect left on the board.
Barnett is a great pull for this coaching staff, and they've gone well beyond showing they can recruit. With just a couple weeks of contact, they've reeled in a number of good prospects (Barnett, Antonio Poole, etc.) and continued the recruiting job Rich Rodriguez's staff did (Countess re-commitment, Taylor and Bryant commitments).
Getting started around 7AM. We'll be running most of the day, at least until after the 2PM press conference. We won't shut it down while there is a good possibility any prospects will pick Michigan today.
Over the course of the recruiting process, MI RB Thomas Rawls has made it no secret that he'd commit to Michigan if he had the chance. Michigan has offered, and according to the Detroit News, Rawls will be a Wolverine. Apparently his coach was unable to contain the excitement until Thomas's press conference, at which Rivals confirmed he committed to Michigan.
3*, #77 RB, #15 Instate
3*, 5.6, #20 Instate
3*, 76, #81 RB
The sites are in agreement: Thomas Rawls stands 5-10, and about 215 pounds. Their rankings of him aren't very high, but there are some reasons for that. Scout openly downgrades players for being academic risks (which is stupid, because it's easy for the layman to tell whether or not he ultimately enrolls at school - rankings should be about skill, not some abstract "value" parameter), and ESPN says that he deserves to see his stock higher than it is, apparently not realizing that they're the ones ranking these kids. More from ESPN:
He is a physically imposing back with good downhill attributes. Hits the hole with authority and flashes good downhill burst and momentum. Quick to see and hit the cutback. A decisive and aggressive runner who is constantly heading North with square shoulder pads and good lean. Displays good explosive out of his cuts and can change speeds to elude.
So far, so good. Weaknesses?
Breaks consistent first contact but did not see the pile pushing power we were expecting. Competition at times appears inferior.
So, uh "AWESOME, except he plays against crappy competition" means he's the 81st-best RB in the country? Color me skeptical on their methodology (more on it in the next section). They also say he has the speed to break big runs against high schoolers, but may not be able to continue at the next level - a more reasonable criticism.
If that's the extent of their criticisms, sign me up for a guy with the upside that a bowling ball-type guy with all the positive attributes listed in the top section.
“I’m a power back and a speed back. I’m also pretty elusive. I can break tackles and always find a crease.”
The elusiveness might be overstated, as that's one of ESPN's criticisms of Thomas, but the combo of speed and power seems to be right in line with scouting reports.
A lack of offers may have kept his overall rankings low, but somewhere in the 3-star range - just a bit higher in the pecking order - seems to be legit to me.
[Ed.: Touch The Banner may provide some insight into the rankings that ESPN's boosterism does not: "Many fans want to compare Rawls to Mark Ingram, the Flint product who won the Heisman for Alabama in 2009. Admittedly, Rawls and Ingram have some physical similarities. Both are approximately the same height and even have similar gaits. But Ingram (who was a 4-star recruit) is and was quicker than Rawls. Michigan fans might not like me for saying this, but Rawls reminds me of Kevin Grady."
OTOH, LeVeon Bell.]
Central Michigan was Rawls's only offer almost through the entire recruiting process. Though Michigan didn't offer until close to the end, they were always right there for him.
Why so few offers? His grades have been a question mark, and that scared away a lot of schools. He insists he'll qualify to play as a freshman, so hopefully it won't be an issue. The lack of offers is part of what kept his rankings low, so look at it with a critical eye.
Sophomore and junior stats from Scout:
Thoimas Rawls made All-State Honorable Mention, All-Conference and All-City for his sophomore and junior seasons. As a junior, he rushed for 1,056 yards and 16 TD's on 138 carries and recorded 101 tackles. He says he can bench 285-pounds, squats 405 and has a 34-inch vertical jump.
4.5, per the premium sites. That's pretty darn good for a running back with Rawls's size. Of course, his reputation is as a guy who's pretty fast for his size, so I guess it makes sense. Three FAKEs out of five.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Michigan is in need of a power back, especially with the move to a pro-style offense. Michael Cox has shown flashes, but those have only been against the worst competition on the schedule. The previous coaching staff didn't trust his blocking or hands enough to play him on any regular basis.
However, Stephen Hopkins may have a lock on the starting (power back) position, and as an academic risk, it's probably for the best that Rawls takes a redshirt year to focus on academics and adjust to college life. That will also give him the chance to undergo a year of college weight training, and get acclimated with the playbook before he's ever expected to do anything on the field.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan really needs a defensive tackle and a tight end, but everything else going forward is pretty much gravy. There are five prospects - Fisher, Clark, Willingham, Barnett, and Cooper - still out there (that we know of), and the Wolverines should have room in the class to take them all, should they be so lucky.