2011 Recruiting: Russell Bellomy

2011 Recruiting: Russell Bellomy Comment Count

Brian August 23rd, 2011 at 11:36 AM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark, LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, OL Jack Miller, OL Tony Posada, OL Chris Bryant, RB Justice Hayes, and RB Thomas Rawls.

       
Arlington, TX - 6'3" 190
       

Russell_Bellomy_Univ_of_Michigan

um… that number's taken, Russell

Scout 3*, #39 QB
Rivals 3*, NR
ESPN 3*, 78, #35 QB, #87 TX
Others

247: 3*, 85, NR

DMN: #61 in TX

Other Suitors Purdue, Boise State, USF, Minnesota, Michigan State
YMRMFSPA Pick a Forcier
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim.
Notes Has a twitter. LIKES MATH!

Film

Senior film:

He's also got a junior reel. Workout porn? Workout porn.

Russell Bellomy continues Michigan's newest tradition: yoinking a Purdue commit whenever they change coaches. Bellomy isn't quite as touted as Roy Roundtree, who grabbed a fourth star here and there, but that didn't stop Brady Hoke from channeling his inner Nutt:

"He was away recruiting when I was up there, but when I called him and committed he took the phone away from his mouth and let out a 'yee haw,'" Bellomy said. "He was fired up."

Both Michigan and Purdue fans are hoping this is the last time this particular meme gets dug up for a while.

So what have they won? A developmental prospect. Bellomy's a bit like Justice Hayes in that he seems like a better fit for the offense Michigan just dumped. That might not be a big deal long term—unlike Hayes, Michigan actually got interested in Bellomy after the transition—but Bellomy is not Chad Henne. He's described as an "efficient spread offense QB" and completed only 58% of his passes on a run-heavy team. He rarely broke the 20 attempt barrier. Opposing coaches($) say stuff like "he was much more effective in the pocket than we expected" and "you have to respect his passing ability as well." He needs work.

But he's got excellent size and athleticism and Michigan has the luxury of turning his next two years into a montage video. This is what happens at programs that are not whipsawing from one thing to another in the midst of an epic recruiting funk.

Bellomy's recruitment started with a half-dozen okay BCS offers highlighted by Michigan State, Purdue, USF, and Boise State before camp season began in earnest. When Bellomy hit those up he consistently featured in the recap sections. Not so consistent were his evaluations. When he camped at his local Elite 11 feeder they said he was a bomber($) who needed to work on his throwing on the run:

DQB, Arlington (Texas) Martin
This tall, lean, athletic quarterback displayed a live arm and quick release. He will need to add some muscle mass and work on squaring up his shoulders while throwing on the run. Bellomy actually looked better throwing deep out routes than he did shorter passes. He has the height and the tools but needs to be more consistent with his mechanics. You can definitely see why interest in him is starting to pick up.

Later that summer he hit up that 7 on 7 competition during which we were all panting for Demetrius Hart. There they said he could really throw on the run but needed to work on his deep ball($):

…  maybe the most exciting player to watch on that team was quarterback Russell Bellomy, a Purdue commit, who made the short and long throws and also threw well on the run but sometimes struggled with his consistency on the deep passes.

So there you go.

When Rivals tracked him down during the season($) they praised his touch ("often placing the ball over the shoulder of the receiver") and height while criticizing his mechanics and sackalicious pocket presence.

ESPN($) says he's "much better on tape" than in camp settings:

… gangly frame that has a ton of room to fill out and develop strength. While his mechanics can be a bit wild and inconsistent, Bellomy displays toughness, grit [ed: yessss] and a competitive demeanor. Is a riverboat gambler that looks like a pocket passer, but is a deceptively good overall athlete with good foot speed and quickness for the position. Gets the ball out quickly and with good zip to short and intermediate areas of the field. Gets set quickly, shows very good feet in his drop and can anticipate routes and throws to a spot very well. … a very good runner and improviser. Shows quickness, elusiveness and top end speed to be a guy that you have to contend with as a runner on the perimeter or the zone-read keep…. delivery can be long and awkward at times. He has a good arm, but not great power or the ability to consistently stretch the field vertically.

Like the man said: developmental. Bellomy has a great athletic and academic package and just needs time to see whether or not he can fix his whack mechanics. Speaking of whack mechanics, here's a Cade McNown reference from Touch The Banner:

Bellomy has some serious wheels and escapability. … Interestingly, Bellomy is a bit like offensive coordinator Al Borges' old protege, Cade McNown. Bellomy is a little bit taller than McNown, but he's mobile, has somewhat erratic mechanics, and lacks great arm strength. He shares those qualities with McNown, although the former UCLA quarterback also lacked some leadership qualities. Judging by a couple interviews I've seen of Bellomy, he seems to be a very grounded, respectful, humble young man.

Bellomy has numbers to back those interview impressions up, namely a 4.0 GPA and a decent SAT. Coach quote:

“Anytime you’re talking about a student who’s a 4.0 GPA, and I think the best indicator of that is the past couple of years, just throwing the ball, he’s upwards of 30 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He takes care of the ball and has a great understanding of not only what he’s doing but what everyone else is doing around him.

"Should that all break down he has the athleticism to not only outrun you, but also the ability to make you miss. Especially at 6’4”, he’s surprisingly elusive and you have that aspect from an athletic standpoint. ... Early on in his career he was predominantly under center in two and three back sets. I think that created a toughness in Russell so he’s just as happy to throw a block as he is a touchdown.”

That last bit isn't just hype. I know, you don't believe me. I didn't believe me. When you're scouring for Bellomy information and you come across his coach saying

"We give a hammer award after games that we win, a brand new sledgehammer, for the game's hardest hit," Martin coach Bob Wager said Wednesday. "Russell won it twice -- from the quarterback position. He's not afraid to throw his body around. He enjoys the physical aspect of the game."

…you file it under Rapturous Coach Quote and forget about it until Bellomy pops up and says this:

"The QB position at Martin High School was not the average QB position. I was used as a blocker a lot in the wildcat. I'd be in the slot as a QB, and I'm not going to block the person in front of me. I look for the hammer shot." ... I have two videos on my phone. That's what I like to brag about.

Russell Bellomy has forked over precious phone space for two videos of himself crushing an unsuspecting high school kid. That rapturous coach quote is on the money. Bellomy's the only quarterback I've ever come across who brags on his blocking. Hoke brought this up in a press conference: "toughness" (of course) was a major draw when Michigan was figuring out which quarterback to go after. He's got that in spades.

Now he just has to figure out when he's going to get sacked and how to throw the ball consistently. We need a montage.

Etc.: Boiled Sports was not so happy about the decommit. I love the guy in the comments who says Bellomy bailed because he "wasn't seeing the field until about 2013" if he became a Boiler. Also love this ND fan who thinks his commit is a "signal to Denard Robinson." Andrew interviews him on TTB. Went viral when he committed to M. Interviewed by some extra from Twilight.

Stats:

 
  Rushing Passing
Year Att Yds TD PA PC Pct Yds TD Int
2010 (Sr.) 120 804 9 196 113 57.7 1,564 15 4
2009 (Jr.) 102 438 6 202 121 59.9 1,546 13 3

Why Pick a Forcier? It's not a particularly tight comparison but one of the Forciers is the best Michigan comparable in recent history. Jason never played so we'll stick with Tate. Both are mobile quarterbacks with good athletic ability who no one will confuse with Denard; neither has NFL-level arm strength. When ESPN describes someone as a "riverboat gambler," visions of Tate Forcier wheeling around doing something you're either going to love or hate dance around your head like sugarplums.

Differences: Forcier was vastly more polished than Bellomy is coming out of high school. Bellomy spent his summers playing baseball; Forcier spent his hanging with Marv Marinovich. At 6'3" Bellomy has more long term upside; he's also more likely to hit that upside because he is not an ultra-flake.

Guru Reliability: Very high. Except for that flip on whether it's his deep ball or his short stuff that needs work the assessments are all in line both in terms of rating and subjective attributes.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-minus. Bellomy is a boom or bust sort who could completely wash out because he never improves his accuracy or could get it and then become a legit pro-style quarterback with Henson-level wheels. He's got a tough route to playing time; if he gets it he'll be close to the latter.

Projection: Obvious redshirt unless there is an injury calamity. Will compete with Shane Morris and Devin Gardner to replace Robinson in 2013. Probably will not win the job. Gardner has a year on him and brings a lot more recruiting oomph. Never know, though.

If Bellomy doesn't start and Shane Morris passes him for the backup spot we could see him move to tight end, wide receiver, or even linebacker. He's got the frame to get up to 230 or more and enough athletic ability to give it a shot.

Comments

2011 Recruiting: Justice Hayes

2011 Recruiting: Justice Hayes Comment Count

Brian August 18th, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark, LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, OL Jack Miller, OL Tony Posada, OL Chris Bryant and RB Thomas Rawls.

Grand Blanc, MI - 5'10" 176

Justice_Hayes_UM-thumb-300x401-79799

Scout 4*, #14 RB, #131 overall
Rivals 4*, #3 AP back, #4 MI, #85 overall
ESPN 4*, 79, #22 RB
Others 247: 4*, #6 APB, #3 MI, #149 overall
Other Suitors Notre Dame, Iowa, Michigan State, Tennessee, Wisconsin
YMRMFSPA Steve Breaston
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim.
Notes Has a twitter.

Film

Junior film:

He got injured early this year so no senior film. He did McGuffie some dude as a sophomore:

When Justice Hayes suddenly dropped Notre Dame($) for Michigan in November he was switching one spread for another. While the offenses of Rich Rodriguez and Brian Kelly have significant differences they both have room for a cat-quick tailback who looks like "a big cornerback" and can change direction on a dime. They have yet more room for a guy like that who can double as a slot receiver. So that made sense.

A couple months later Rich Rodriguez was panhandling, Brady Hoke was the new coach at Michigan, and Justice Hayes was proclaiming his undying loyalty to the Wolverines. That makes… well, less sense. Hayes is Michigan's consensus top recruit of the 2011 class, but the question remains: can Michigan use him effectively?

Don't take it from me. Ask his high school coach:

"He's okay in between the tackles, but I see him more as a slot," said Delaney. "But he's so versatile you can line him back up with the quarterback and have a dual threat back there that way. You could put him back there and motion him, bring him across and sweep… a lot of things."

Allen Trieu's assessment upon Hayes's switch($) is ironic, declaring him a "good fit" because Hayes "would have had to grow into an I-Back type role at a power running school." Boilerplate about Borges's creativity and experience with wide-open passing attacks goes here; doubt about his role in an I-form, TE-heavy power-running offense is not erased by it.

Still, Hayes seems like the kind of kid you might have to build some offense around. The scouting reports portray him as one of those proverbial Weapons. His Rivals profile praises him as a "very, very quick back": before getting into some intangibles:

His body structure is reminiscent of Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick.
… will need to add some more strength and size in order to make yards after contact at the next level. He could work on his balance. …. Hayes is very versatile and could player defensive back, wide receiver or running back at the next level. He is a high-character kid that possesses serious leadership skills. ... He adds instant speed and will be hard to keep off the field.

Rivals rates his size and strength as average, his elusiveness and speed "blue chip," and his agility "as good as it gets." ESPN($):

Flashes great elusiveness and suddenness through the hole and second level. Sees the field well and redirects through the small creases sharply. Can stop-start and make tight cuts showing great balance and body control. A great jump-cutter who consistently makes the first guy miss but will also stick his foot in the ground and get north; elusive but a decisive runner as well. … Feet and body never stop on contact allowing him to spin out of a lot of arm tackles. Very slippery and does not give defenders a clean shot. … projects to be more of a change-of-pace, multi-purpose type of back at the major college level; at least until he fills out his frame and gains more downhill power. … has big-play potential with his initial burst and ability to reach top-speed extremely quick. Would make an ideal space-player in a spread offense at the next level; could develop into a great weapon [ed: see?] if used creatively.

The copious scouting reports from his camp appearances follow much in the same vein. A Rivals eval from the Army Combine praises his excellent change of direction and soft hands while claiming he'll need to gain "at least 20 more pounds" if he's going to be a feature back. As a result of that and his killer shuttle (4.09, third at the event) he was named to the All-Combine team($) at the Army Game ("excelled as a pass receiver … could play three different positions").

He hit up the Columbus Nike Camp, where he was "the best route-runner" at RB and "caught everything smoothly," looked like "the perfect physical cornerback" and displayed "superb" ball skills. He made that All-Combine team, too. At the Michigan Showcase he was "unstoppable" because of "ability to get in and out of his cuts and explode past defenders."

His catches are often spectacular. One from the Army Camp($):

"He ran a wheel route down the sideline. He caught the ball at its highest point - he had to have been 35 inches off the ground - like he has been doing it all his life. He is just a natural athlete."

One from his high school season—the play he broke his wrist on:

Hayes broke his wrist on what Delaney called one of the better catches he's ever seen. "We had the football right at the end of the half and our quarterback threw a bullet with no time remaining to the back of the end zone, 25 yards or so, and he split the defenders but came down on his wrist," he recalled.

You get the idea. Hayes is a 7-on-7 god.

Meanwhile, being a feature back isn't totally out of the question. Multiple analysts praise his decisive cuts and ability to run through traffic. Scout:

Very conscious of clearing his feet from the arm tacklers going low. Runs bigger than his listed size. Makes people miss with subtle moves rather than exaggerated lateral movement. Very good runner in traffic helps him eat up chunks of yardage quickly despite not having blazing top end speed. Very little wasted motion in his running style. Vision in traffic makes him valuable between the tackles despite his size - Scott Kennedy, Scout.com

ESPN's Billy Tucker says the usual stuff about 7-on-7 godliness but also mentions some ability to hit it upfield:

"Now this guy is not just an extremely quick and sudden east-west cutting runner. Hayes runs hard for 180-pounds and will stick his foot in the ground and get North when he sees a crease. That decisive cutting style and fluid change-of-direction skill should allow for good production in Ann Arbor."

john-gruden

oh, no reason

This guy is a Weapon. Michigan will use him.

Hayes will be a test for Borges's ability and Hoke's flexibility. The evidence suggests Hoke is going to be flexible enough to allow Borges to play with his toy. If so, Hayes has the ability to be a guy people pine for whenever a screen goes for four yards. "Justice Hayes would have gotten eight yards," they'll sigh, "and returned that kickoff to midfield." His size and a logjam in front of him will prevent that from happening right away, but his exciting combination of hands, quickness, and vision promise spectacular plays. It'll be up to Michigan's offensive brain trust to mine his assets with sufficient frequency.

Etc.: Chooses Notre Dame, temporarily. Name found worthy of "CALL HIM JUSTICE HAYES AND THEN SEE DEATH" EDSBS headline. Jim Stefani says he actually changed his name to Justice from "Will McDaniel," which good call. This massive, free breakdown from Vol Nation says all of the above and more. If you want to get irrationally excited about Hayes, read it.

May return kicks:

“Kickoff return,” Hayes said. “We’ve got a great amount of running backs and they’ve been peaking lately. So probably not this year, but I’m definitely going to compete to try and get a spot in the kickoff return.

“It doesn’t matter (what I do), just coming in to compete.”

Why Steve Breaston? Michigan hasn't had an all-purpose Weapon like Breaston since his departure and hadn't really had one before. While Breaston is a couple inches taller and was therefore strictly a wide receiver, his out-of-this-world quicks made him a guy to get the ball to any way you can—as long as it's not between the tackles.

Breaston, like Hayes, entered Michigan a rail-thin consensus four star who needed to gain weight. Hayes would have to scrape the very top of his potential be as elusive as Breaston but he does have one major advantage: hands. Breaston's hands were underrated by a pack of perfectionists who saw every dropped slant as a hanging offense but they weren't much better than okay. Hayes sounds like he's got Jason Avant's hands in a tailback's body.

Guru Reliability: Very high. While the injury robbed him of much of his senior season he'd already attended every camp he could; rankings and scouting reports are near-unanimous, with the only disagreement about whether or not he can be an effective runner between the tackles. The injury is a wrist injury and should not impact his speed.

General Excitement Level: High. Would be "very high"—the only ranking short of "eeee"—except for nagging concerns about his role in what projects to be a very pro-style offense. At worst he'll be a third down back and slot, but that role is something less than he might have become in the spread.

Projection: His versatility will allow him to see the field quickly on special teams and spotting various players on offense. With no slots in the class—no receivers at all—and the pending departures of three of the top for WRs he could find himself being groomed for a significant role as a sophomore. If that doesn't happen he's a heavy favorite to become the third down back when Smith graduates; at that point he'd also be in the WR rotation. Nonzero chance he puts on enough weight to be a feature back but that's not particularly likely.

If everything goes pear-shaped and he just does not fit in the offense it sounds like he'll have a shot at corner, too. Seems like that would be a waste, but not as much of one as not finding a role for him at all.

Comments

2011 Recruiting: Chris Bryant

2011 Recruiting: Chris Bryant Comment Count

Brian August 17th, 2011 at 2:54 PM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark, LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, OL Jack Miller, OL Tony Posada, and RB Thomas Rawls.

       
Chicago, IL - 6'4" 340
       

chris-bryant-hat

Scout 3*, #21 OG
Rivals 4*, #203 overall, #19 OT
ESPN 3*, 77, #37 OG
Others 247: 3*, 89, NR
Other Suitors Illinois, Stanford, Arizona, Ohio State(-ish)
YMRMFSPA Also Alex Mitchell
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim. Tom interviewed him in January, again just before his commitment, and just before his arrival in June,
Notes Former teammate of 2012 OT target Jordan Diamond

Film

Oddly, his highlight film has embedding turned off. So does "Meet Big Chris," which is just a slideshow. It does have a picture of Bryant with Derrick Rose, if that's your thing.

Chris Bryant is the second mauling, pile-pushing guard Rich Rodriguez acquired just in time for Brady Hoke to clap his hands together and go "wheee" at the prospect of turning opposing linemen into damp smears. Okay, Rodriguez didn't quite seal the deal, but this was a JT Floyd situation: by the time the new guy had set up digs Michigan had been the heavy leader for so long that the actual commitment was a foregone conclusion.

I was under the impression Bryant was a better-regarded recruit than he actually ended up. This is probably because of my bias towards Rivals's software (this year conclusively demonstrates that Scout's rankings are superior). Rivals has him a member of their top 250; other sites offer just three stars. His offers were similarly kind of eh: despite a number of camp performances his best other offers were from Illinois and Arizona. Ohio State was on the verge of offering for seemingly half the recruiting year but never did end up pulling the trigger.

That's not too surprising given the scouting reports. They paint a picture of an enormous, enormously strong guy with questionable technique and a bit of a weight issue. Bryant's ceiling is high, but his risk of flaming out is similarly high. Specifics from ESPN($):

Bryant is a raw talent with very good upper body playing strength, flashing the ability to dominate defenders. Has the size for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition however his body mass will need to be redistributed through off season conditioning. … Can come off the ball low and hard but more often his initial fit and pad level are high; needs to improve his ability to play low coming off the ball however once he gets his hands on defenders the results can result in pancake blocks. This player could have problems with active 1st and 2nd level defenders unless his initial quickness and pad level improve. ... We like the aggressive finishing attitude this guy brings to the game, it's what we like to see from offensive linemen.

Scout echoes, with an addendum that they believe he's coachable:

STRENGTHS

Feet

Intelligence

Power And Strength

AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT

Technique

Big bodied lineman who can move well for a kid his size. Smart, and takes to coaching quickly. Has great power and strength. When he gets his hands on someone, he usually wins. He has exceptional punch and can knock defenders off balance easily. He still is somewhat raw with his hand placement and technique, and is a tad top heavy, but has a ton of raw ability, and the type of aggressive, hard working attitude you want in a lineman. - Allen Trieu

Elsewhere Trieu says he's "very strong, but raw" and "picked up techniques quickly" at camps. After improving "each and every time out" over the summer he was a candidate to move up to four stars. Obviously, he didn't.

The Michigan Showcase was one of those camps, and Scout came back with an epic amount of scouting. Here's a freebie from a couple of their Ohio guys:

He moves well for a kid his size. He's athletic, has good feet and what I really liked was that he took to the coaching and worked hard from start to finish. The coaches were really getting on him to use his punch and after that, that's when we saw his power and ability to just stone defensive linemen. He still needs more of that technical work, but he picks it all up really fast and when combined with his physical tools, he has a chance to be a really good college lineman.

Again there are some technique and weight concerns. Trieu much the same in a News article with some extra emphasis on his coachability.

A couple months later he hit up another camp that Sam Webb reported back from, saying it looked like he'd taken off a few pounds and that he'd gotten a lot better($) since the last time people had seen him:

It was his pass blocking that scouts wanted to see improve. It’s easy to see that it has. Bryant showed better lateral quickness, was more adept at opening his hips in order to prevent rushers from getting around the edge, and possesses a devastating punch. He still lunges at times and can get caught off balance, but his technique is clearly improving.

Touch The Banner says the usual bit about his weight and then gets into a couple of important positives:

The bottom line is that Bryant is a very powerful kid. … When you watch Bryant's film, it's evident that he plows over defensive linemen. He's the type of lineman that demoralizes you by blocking you into the ground and then hitting you again and again when you try to get up. Eventually players just bide their time until the whistle blows. He's not quite to the level of Taylor Lewan in nastiness, but he's pretty close.

The thing I like most about Bryant, though, is his footwork. For such a big kid, he moves his feet superbly. Unlike fellow class of 2011 behemoth Aundrey Walker, Bryant keeps his feet moving throughout the play. Whereas Walker gives opponents a shove or two and expects them to give up, which they often do, Bryant drives his man or keeps his feet moving laterally in short, choppy steps. (Bonus: I ranked Bryant just ahead of Walker and just behind recent USC commit Cyrus Hobbi back in January.) His excellent footwork and potentially overwhelming size and strength should turn him into an excellent offensive lineman at Michigan.

There are always injury and motivation risks when talking about a guy Bryant's size but the good camp performances and consistent reports he is a high character, coachable kid mitigate those. He should spend the next couple years slimming down and getting that power even more powerful before debuting as the first of a generation of pulling road graders in two years. Hopefully this coach quote

“He was incredible in the things he was doing out there,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said of his Bryant’s season. “He was dominant out there.”

…will be something we're saying by that point. Hoke will say he needs work.

Etc.: I have no comment on the two comments on this random blog post. Random exchange from a CU message board:

6-5 330lbs.? Wow, what are they putting in the Chicago water supply?

calories

Visited for the Big Chill.

Why also Alex Mitchell? Bryant isn't Posada but they are the same genre of player: 6'4" monster guards. Mitchell is the recent Michigan prototype for those guys, displaying both the promise—he started early and played pretty well—and danger—left the team out of shape—of those sorts. Hoke's Michigan won't beg him back if he won't put the effort in, at least.

I like Bryant better than Posada because his agility is reputed to be better, he's the size everyone expected he'd be, and his recruiting rankings are significantly better.

Guru Reliability: Moderate. Guy was healthy but there's a mismatch between the scouting reports and ratings; there's also a wide spread in the ratings themselves.

General Excitement Level: High. Bryant is the same weight as Posada but escapes the ding because everyone knew that going in. He's going to be in an offense that suits his talents and just needs to work on his technique and endurance; he's already got the strength. TTB's two main assets—nastiness and feet—are especially encouraging.

Projection: While Michigan's lack of depth on the line might force Bryant to forgo a redshirt, they've still got two or three options (Schofield, Khoury, Mealer) before they'd be forced into that. Severe injury issues on the interior will see Huyge move inside so it will take at least two and probably three injuries before they take the redshirt off.

If that doesn't happen, he gets the redshirt. The following year will be status quo minus Khoury, the presumed starting center. In 2013 he'll be a considerable favorite to win a starting job once Omameh and Barnum graduate.

Comments

2011 Recruiting: Thomas Rawls

2011 Recruiting: Thomas Rawls Comment Count

Brian August 16th, 2011 at 4:31 PM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark, LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, OL Jack Miller, OL Tony Posada.

FWIW: I didn't forget Bryant, I just ended writing up Rawls first.

       
Flint, MI - 5'10" 210
       

thomas-rawls

Scout 3*, #77 RB
Rivals 3*, NR RB, #19 MI
ESPN 3*, 76, #84 RB
Others NR
Other Suitors CMU, Cincinnati, Iowa (sort of)
YMRMFSPA Mark Ingram… with more speed! Or Kevin Grady.
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim.
Notes Head coach is Fred Jackson, son of Fred Jackson

Film

If you've hung around here for the last six months you've heard of, and probably participated in, the gentle mocking of various people named Fred Jackson for their opinion of Thomas Rawls. You see, Rudy, people named Fred Jackson are all football coaches who redefine hyperbole when talking about running backs. Rawls's high school coach and college position coach are both named Fred Jackson because they are father and son.

The result of this unholy hyperbole combo follows. Go action son!

“Honestly, I did get a chance to watch Mark Ingram a few times,” Jackson said. “Mark is probably one of the best guys ever to come through here. Mark was great, but there’s something about this kid Thomas. If I was to compare them as high school backs, give me Thomas Rawls.”

Go action dad!

“Thomas Rawls can lift you - I call it the ‘hit and lift’ - and keep on going,” Jackson said. “That, to me, is a special talent. Chris Perry had that. Chris Perry had the ability to hit you and keep on moving, and this kid can move the pile.” …

“I know Mark [Ingram, again] and I know Thomas [Rawls],” the Michigan running backs coach said. “They’re a lot a like. … My son is telling me he’s O.J. Simpson. He’s not that, but he’s the real deal.”

I'm sorry if your clocks/pets exploded once you read that last bit. I'm even more sorry if the entrails combined with the gears to form a mouth that moaned "too… much… hyperbole" before collapsing in a pool of gore. But it had to be related. It's like the Ring.

OJ Ingram did rush for 396(!!!) yards against Bay City Central, breaking Plain Old Heisman Ingram's city record of 377 set against Bay City Western. (Bay City high schools, it's time to fire Greg Robinson.) He also put up an astounding 1585 yards on 150 carries in just six games before injury felled him. He probably would have stomped Ingram's records to dust if he hadn't picked up the dread high ankle sprain.

But come on, Fred Jacksons. We've heard this before, albeit in mono. Surely no one not named Fred Jackson would make the same assertion

"He's a great back," Trieu said. "He is one of the toughest runners I've seen. He's very compact -- a bowling ball kind of kid who can break tackles and has a good burst. While most people see him as just an inside battering ram, I think he proved to me over the summer and the course of this year that he has legit breakaway speed. He's also very underrated as a receiver out of the backfield. He might not be the tallest back, but I think we've seen recently that's an overrated quality for a running back." …

"I think Rawls compares favorably to Ingram," Trieu said. "They both have similar builds and running styles. I think Ingram picks his way and is more of a slasher, whereas Rawls really sees a crease and hits it. I don't think you want to say Thomas Rawls will win a Heisman, but coming out of high school there are definite similarities there."

Son of a bitch.

It's time to check the film because everyone is lying. Film says… he does have a few plays on his highlight reel where defenders ping off of his squat physique after grabbing and finding nothing but thigh. They're buried after the touchdowns where he takes off untouched, but they're there. 5:36:

8:35:

So why did OJ Ingram have one BCS offer, that from Cincinnati, and nothing from Michigan until January 28th? Why does everyone rate him a generic three star?

"Grades" are the usual answer. In this case it's not entirely fanciful. Scout's Allen Trieu directly stated that Rawls's grades kept his rankings low:

"We rate guys conservatively who have not fully qualified yet," said Trieu. "So he's about ranked 13th in the state and a three-star. I think he could be higher, but our national rule across the board is we wait until they've qualified. Purely on the merits of his talent and what he's done throughout his career though, I think he's a top-10 player in the state and borderline four-star-type kid. He's had a fantastic senior season."

Everyone from Demar Dorsey to Justin Turner to Aaron Burbridge puts the lie to that, though. Recruiting services continually rank academic risks much higher than Rawls. And there are plenty of schools who don't care if you've got two axons to rub not-quite-together if you can play football. For one: where is the ubiquitous WVU offer?

Lack of good film and injury are more plausible explanations. Rawls got a new coach when Flint Central closed and Fred Jackson moved to Northern. This got him away from a wing-T Rawls was not a fan of:

My old coach ran the wing-T,” Rawls said. “I just didn’t like it. It didn’t fit me. He always had me at linebacker, and I did succeed there. When Central closed, the coach they brought over had a new game plan, a new formation which was the spread and the I-formation. I just worked hard, adjusted to the new formations and just blew up after that.”

Rawls had "good" junior film but it was the senior stuff Scout's Allen Trieu found "outstanding." That outstanding blow up lasted six games and Rawls got injured, potentially terminating interest from teams around the region. Trieu believed Wisconsin and Iowa would be "real options" down the line just before his injury.

Interest from elsewhere or no, he ended up at Michigan. Let's see what we've won. ESPN($):

… 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. … Does not have real loose hips but can redirect sharply and jump-cut the first defender through the hole. … . Runs low to the ground and dips the shoulder through traffic making it difficult to get clean shot on him. Shows an extra gear and when he breaks free into the second level to separate initially but does not project to have ideal long-speed or great elusiveness as a major college back. Breaks consistent first contact but did not see the pile pushing power we were expecting.

They say he "can contribute" and slap a decided meh on his rating. Touch the Banner:

… big kid with thick legs, built powerfully and low to the ground.  He has patience and allows blocks to develop in front of him, which also shows good vision to see cutbacks and running lanes.  Perhaps the most impressive thing about him as a high school runner is the way he keeps his shoulders facing north and south when he makes his cuts; this allows him to break some tackles that other running backs wouldn't.

…Michigan fans might not like me for saying this, but Rawls reminds me of Kevin Grady.  … Perhaps Rawls can contribute at fullback or in goal line situations at Michigan, but I'm not expecting Rawls to be a star for the Wolverines.

Finally, Trieu has been Rawls's biggest advocate($):

Analysis: Rawls just looks like a running back. He's stocky, has a low center of gravity and he runs powerfully. He breaks arm tackles, has good balance and a north-south style where he does not waste a lot of time going laterally. He's able to make cuts and bounce off defenders at full speed and get himself going back towards pay-dirt. He has good speed and can break the long runs and also shows good hands in the passing game. …

Verdict: Michigan, I think, got a steal here. You watch the film and it's hard not to be impressed. He's a tough kid with speed and he's underrated as a receiver. It will be tough to keep him off the field for long.

I'm going to start calling him Allen Fred Trieu-Jackson if he keeps this up.

It seems like Michigan coaches are on Trieu's side. Rawls has been informed he will not redshirt and Jackson spent most of his time at media day talking up his freshmen. That's kind of a giveaway, though, since they'd had the pads on for like a day at that point and Justice Hayes is a spread guy no one expects to play much. Motivation there, and then the general unreliability of Fred Jackson assessments. I wouldn't read too much into that, or expect Rawls to see much playing time this year. Down the road it will depend on just how many tackles he breaks.

Etc.: Unanimous all state; Flint POY. Commitment presser photos. Thomas Rawls recruitment is serious business. Fred Jackson says he has more speed than Mike Hart, which Rawls takes as a "huge complement." If Mike Hart was fast he'd be the best running back ever. In case there was any question, he did qualify($) in June.

Probably some other Thomas Rawls:

"We're a group of people who get together to watch a movie, with a common interest in all things Star Trek," said Thomas Rawls Jr., vice president of the local fan club, which split from the Peninsula- based USS Jamestown club several years ago to cut down on the tunnel travel. "We're an informal group of people who enjoy Star Trek."

Is "all dog."

Why Mark Ingram… with more speed? My name is not Fred Jackson.

Okay. Why Kevin Grady? Grady was a squat 215 pound high school kid who racked up tons of yards in high school by running untouched through poor competition and running over 150-pound kids. In college his lack of elusiveness or overwhelming size made him a mediocre straight-ahead runner who was a decent short yardage back and fullback but not a feature guy.

Rawls's film doesn't show a guy who's going to get outside often, he won't have elite breakaway speed in college, and his wiggle ain't wigglin'. His path to production is grinding through the tackles like the ball of knives Grady was always supposed to be.

If he's Kevin Grady in a downhill manball offense that might be a different thing entirely. Michigan switched to an all-zone all-the-time offense in 2006; Grady redshirted the next year due to injury and then stuck it out in the spread 'n' shred. It's possible he would have been a much more useful back if he was asked to run power. Also, Grady's personal issues hindered his development. Rawls is likely to be a better version of his predecessor.

Guru Reliability: Low. Analyst scouting reports vary extensively, and it sounds like the ratings would if not for the grades or the injury. Rawls is also a late riser who didn't make a big splash until he was a senior and was immediately injured afterwards.

General Excitement Level: Moderate. Running backs aren't that hard to rank, and I'm in agreement with the above guys who say he lacks the elite athleticism to be a force in college. He's a smaller version of Hopkins. If he does run as hard as his advocates, say, though…

Rawls is the biggest wildcard in this class. Could be nothing, could be OJ Ingram.

Projection: Has been told he'll play this year; I think he'll get a few carries here and there but generally be lost in the shuffle behind Shaw, Smith, and Hopkins. Next year Shaw is gone and he'll have the pass protection down; he could push to start then.

Comments

2011 Recruiting: Tony Posada

2011 Recruiting: Tony Posada Comment Count

Brian August 15th, 2011 at 3:26 PM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark, LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, DE Brennen Beyer, and OL Jack Miller.

       
Tampa, FL - 6'4" 340
       

tony-posada

Scout 3*, #45 OT
Rivals 3*, NR OG
ESPN 3*, 78, #34 OT
Others 247: 3*, 86, NR
Other Suitors USF, Missouri, Texas Tech, Tennessee
YMRMFSPA Alex Mitchell
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim.
Notes Some other Tony Posada is the "worst witness ever."

Film

No highlight film, but here's Posada auditioning for the rugby team:

He's the enormous guy wearing #75 pushing that pile into the endzone.

Tony Posada is one of two very large persons Rich Rodriguez recruited just in time for Brady Hoke to deploy them as Wisconsin-approved donkey haters. It's unknown why Rodriguez decided to grab not one but two 340-pound mashers in his final recruiting class, but whatever the reason he's given Michigan a bit of a head start at guard as it transitions back to MANBALL.

Eventually, anyway. Three-forty is not a good weight to be if you want to play early. In high school he was listed at 320 or even 310. While 320 is the weight at which people start fibbing you lighter, not heavier, it's likely Posada put on some bad weight in the offseason. There is no weight between 320 and 340 that is good. And he was listed at 6-6 in these articles, so… yeah.

Further delaying his debut is Posada's actual height. It mean's he's a guard all the way. The recruiting rankings mostly declare him a tackle, but tackles aren't 6'4" anymore. Michigan has two junior starters at guard, so he won't be in contention for a job for two years.

If he's fit by then he's got a shot. A lot of people have written Posada off after his Godzilla-like appearance on the roster but his profile isn't actually that bad. Michigan offered Posada on Signing Day, before anyone else had. Texas Tech was his other finalist($); Missouri and USF were in the final four.

When Rodriguez got fired Mississippi State and Rutgers tried to get back in($). Posada actually took a visit to Starkville but decided to stick with Michigan after they threw him in jail for picking flowers. This is a Johnny Cash reference, not reality. In reality he is not from Mississippi and is thus unaffected by the local black hole. He also reported a Tennessee offer, FWIW. Florida said($) "lose ten pounds and we'll offer you," which is probably just a nice way to say "wait," and then he didn't and Florida moved on.

So that's a decent list of schools. Posada had more recruiting cred than Mark Huyge, who's turned into an on-and-off multi-year starter.

His scouting reports aren't bad either. ESPN($):

Posada has great size along with enough explosion and playing strength to dominate defenders at his present level of play…. Possesses enough flexibility to work out of both a two and three point stance showing the agility and balance to block quick on the line movement. Does a nice job when asked to reach front side with a quick up field first step. Can play on his feet in space however quick flow linebackers could present problems. This prospect demonstrates quick set ability from a two point stance; flashes good bend for his size, can slide and play flat footed to the deep set point without leaning in or crossing his feet. … arm length and quick hands should be an asset; does a nice job working to get his hands back inside the frame. This is a tough guy with an aggressive finishing attitude.

Even if he was 30 pounds lighter when that assessment was being made that's a thorough, positive evaluation with multiple references to good feet and "bend"—the lack of which has seen many highly touted OL flame out.

The Florida recruiting specialists at the Tha Ringer have a more reserved outlook:

- OL Tony Posada | 6'6, 315 | 2011 | Committed to Michigan
He best projects as an offensive guard to me, maybe a right tackle in a downfield running attack. His feet are really slow to get started -- speed rushers just kill him. Plays with a lot of intensity, but lets his emotions get the best of him at times. Loves to maul defenders in the run game.

Mauling defenders, you say? Brady Hoke points exuberantly!

brady-hoke-points-more

Brady likes it

Scout's Mike Bakas has a similar assessment($), asserting that he is college-ready when it comes to the ground but will require a year or two if he's not going to get his quarterback killed:

He's very strong and has the ability to just maul defenders at the point of attack. … big enough where he could stand to shed a few pounds. He's not a kid you will often see 30-40 yards downfield throwing blocks. While he can manhandle defenders, he can also struggle against smaller, quicker guys who can give him troubles. He has more raw size, power, and strength right now than athleticism, quickness, and flexibility. … has some upside, especially in the running game, and is probably a couple years away from being ready to make a big impact in the passing game.

Coach quotes also play up the mauling. An opponent($):

"We thought maybe we had them but they made the decision in the second half to turn the football over to [five-star tailback] James Wilder and they just ran behind Posada play after play after play, and there was really nothing we could do about it."

Manatee's offensive coordinator also praised him for never taking a snap off: "When you're that big and as skilled as he is at this level you're just going to dominate and [your] biggest obstacle is really yourself because you have to decide how aggressive you'll be."

Citing a lack of film, Touch The Banner doesn't say much more than "dude is a guard."

Dude is a guard, and clearly a mauling, pounding drive blocker. He's going to have to turn a lot of bad weight into good before he steps on the field at Michigan, and it's possible his weight and pass protection struggle will condemn him to the bench forever. If he manages to slim down he could be the vanguard of This Is Physical Michigan.

His coach thinks that's happening:

"Tony's best football is ahead of him," said Plant coach Robert Weiner. "I mean he is on the upswing for sure and has gotten so much better year to year, even the last few months. He's a student of the game and has all the physical traits to be another great lineman at Michigan. We are all real excited for him."

Etc.: Commitment video. More commit video. Some guy who thinks he's 1985 John Cusack interviews him. Seems sharp in this Q&A. Photo gallery.

Some people are jerks:

"We didn't know if he still had a scholarship at Michigan," Christine Posada said. "We had other colleges calling him and telling him that he wouldn't have a scholarship at Michigan and he should come to their school.

"They were scaring this 17-year-old kid."

Don't tell Brady:

Posada also believed he was a good fit in good Rich Rodriguez's spread offensive attack.

"I like Coach Rod's offense," he said. "The offensive tackle isn't squished next to a tight end at the line of scrimmage. It's a power football scheme that still allows you to be physical and dominant."

Why Alex Mitchell? Like Posada, Mitchell was big. Mitchell was reputed to be a tackle when he was a recruit but showed up monstrous and slid inside quickly. He then emerged into a starter and run mauler before his drive evaporated. He packed on pounds, quit the team, was begged back despite being ever more corpulent, and played during Infamous Carr Denouement.

Mitchell was higher rated but didn't pan out; Posada's career hinges on avoiding the hamfate that befell his predecessor.

Guru Reliability: High. Posada was healthy; scouting reports are consistent, rankings are pretty much in the same range; Plant is uber-scouted.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-minus. The recruiting rankings and scouting reports warrant a moderate; coming in at 340 is a bad sign.

Projection: Lock to redshirt. Michigan has Khoury and Mealer at guard ahead of him on the two deep and while Chris Bryant is equally Weisian he's also rated a lot higher. After that he'll compete against Bryant and the incoming flood of freshmen for two starting jobs. He'll have a year on the freshmen, but they'll have recruiting ratings and their ability to show up at a more ready-to-play weight on their side. I'd say his shot at starting is 30%.

Comments

2011 Recruiting: Jack Miller

2011 Recruiting: Jack Miller Comment Count

Brian August 9th, 2011 at 11:10 AM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark, LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, DE Chris Rock, and DE Brennen Beyer.

       
Toledo, OH - 6'4" 270
       

jack-miller

Scout 3*, #16 C
Rivals 3*, #53 OH, NR WDE(?)
ESPN 3*, #53 DT
Others 247: 3*, 85, NR
Other Suitors BC, MSU, Pitt, Stanford, Illinois
YMRMFSPA generic non-Molk C
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim. Tim had not one but two in-person evals. Tom interviewed him.
Notes Younger brother Matt is 2013 OL prospect.

Film

Jack Miller is tough to get a read on for many reasons. One: googling "Jack Miller" turns up all sorts of folk even when you include stuff like "football" or "St John's," his high school. Two: the recruiting sites mostly rank him as a defensive end but Michigan plans to play him at center.

But, man, if you want local news clips do I have some local news clips. BAM

imageimage

Maybe someday, they'll be able to catch the real deal - the gym's inspiration - an actual rat named Stuart, after Stuart Little.

"Kind of like Rocky catching the chickens," said Jack Miller as he laughed. "Maybe we'll try to catch Stuart one day.

"I think when we leave, he gets out here on the turf and does a few agility drills and what not. He watches us. He learns."

That segment's title: "Welcome to the Rat's Nest!!!" Words. There are none.

There's much more. I feel like I know Howard Chen like my own surprisingly old, surprisingly Asian sportscaster son now. KAPOW (commitment). WHAM (lack of decommitment after Rodriguez firing). POW:

image

In order of preference: Harbaugh, Hoke, Other, Howard Chen, Miles. ZEERP (I am out of Batman whap noises):

"There's a whole new energy and a whole new vibe with Michigan right now," he said. "The program's re-invigorated, I think. Coach Hoke's doing a great job putting a new face to the program and everybody's loving it."

Unfortunately, the dogged efforts of Mr. Chen to publicize Jack Miller's ability have not been replicated elsewhere. ESPN's useless evaluation evaluates him exclusively as a defensive tackle after dismissing OT, his high school position, as an option. Here is the useful bit:

He already is a fairly big kid and displays the frame to pack on more good size and will likely grow into a fulltime interior player sooner then later. … Offense is an option. He is a physical run blocker who gets hands on, but needs to watch his pad level.

There you go. Watch your pad level, kid. Like every other high schooler in the universe.

That evaluation is it as far as scouting reports from major sites go. Scout and Rivals don't really have anything, and Rivals persisted in ranking him as a defensive end anyway.

We do have a couple of local evals. Sometimes dour co-blogger Tim had a "Mikey Likes It" moment or two with Miller:

Offensively, he had pancake blocks on nearly every running play. I was more impressed with him on that side of the ball.

And the next time he caught up with Toledo St. John's:

On offense, he's a vicious blocker who never seems satisfied unless his man is pancaked. His quickness in pass-blocking isn't the greatest, but Ross didn't have anyone who could make him pay for that (and he won't have to deal with it as much playing on the interior of the line in college). He could have an impact on either side of the ball in college, but he looks like a future David Molk(!), nasty streak and all.

And Touch The Banner noted the nasty streak while expressing some reservations:

He's clearly an aggressive player, both on offense and defense. He likes to hit people hard. And when he does, he doesn't celebrate. To me, that means he's used to it. It's not an exciting novelty for him to punish somebody. It's just his job.

However, one criticism that I have of Miller is that he plays high. This is a problem both on offense and defense, and that concerns me, especially as an interior lineman prospect. Especially if he's going to play center, leverage is of utmost importance. And in my opinion, playing low is something that's very difficult to change. It's something that comes naturally or it doesn't. That's the difference between elite players and so-so players.

And his own evaluation praises his ability to snap the ball—something Michigan fans have learned not to take for granted of late:

“I think I am best suited in the long run for offensive line,” Miller said. “My body type and how I move, I think, is more suited for offensive line.” …

“I can snap the ball and shotgun snap real well, so (the coaching staff) really likes that,” Miller said.

So he can snap and is mean, and comes by this meanness naturally, and does not notice it. He's also got the frame to become a large, drive blocking sort and a pad level problem that might make that difficult. Pass protection is not an asset but he should be able to get by on the interior. In a hypothetical world where the recruiting services other than Scout bothered to project him to his college position it sounds like they'd all be okay three-star ratings anyway.

Miller should be an asset off the field. He's got excellent academics—Northwestern and Boston College were his leaders until Michigan hopped in:

Northwestern will be difficult to leapfrog. The offer he desperately covets is the Michigan Wolverine piece of paper.

"It is historically such a great program," said Miller. "It is not very far from home. It is not Toledo. It is definitely one of those programs. If they were to offer me I would have to take some steps back. It is probably the only program I that would do that for me."

And he's had to grow up quickly. Unfortunately, his dad died of lymphoma two years ago:

Jack is the most mature high school kid that I have ever seen,” Pearson said. “I guess that's because he's had to be. But the other thing is because he wants to be.”

That Miller has become such a presence wherever he goes can be largely attributed to his father — an energetic, engaging personality himself — a guy who made sure to pack maximum effort into his relationship with Jack and younger children Matt and Molly, especially in his final eight years while he was battling his disease.

Barring injury, Miller will be around for five years. Barring something unexpected with the lineup he'll start for three of those years, and he'll probably be at least okay unless the pad level issue is chronic.

Etc.: District lineman of the year, FWIW. Has a younger brother Matt in the class of 2013 who's already got a Toledo offer—may be a guy to keep an eye on. Summer training:

The results are clear: In two years, Jack Miller's gained about 50 pounds of muscle. His brother Matt's gained about 70, still has two years left in high school, and already has a scholarship offer from Toledo.

"You hate it a little bit right now," Jack said. "You're thinking, 'God, I'd rather be laying on the couch or in the pool' or something like that, but for the big picture, when it comes Saturdays at the Big House, that's what it's all about."

MGoBlue bio features a fake 40 that goes to 11:

Prep … attended St. Johns Jesuit High School (2011) coached by Doug Pearson … played defensive end and offensive tackle … ran 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds … bench pressed 315 pounds and squatted 475 pounds … had a 30-inch vertical jump …

FAKE!

Why Generic Non-Molk C? There are two phases in my understanding of center play: David Molk and vast ignorance. I don't think Miller is going to end up playing much like Molk, who's about six-foot and lightning quick for a guy pushing 300 pounds. Molk is a blunt talker but his mean streak is a bit limited because he often expresses it by balletically sealing a defensive tackle out of hole instead of clubbing a guy to the ground.

Miller, by contrast, pushes the upper bounds of how tall you want a center to be at 6'4" and could top out significantly over 300 pounds. It sounds like his strengths will be punishing people unless he gets too high and gets punished himself. This means he's not Molk, and honestly I could tell you bupkis about specific traits of previous Michigan centers.

Guru Reliability: Garbage save Scout as they don't even bother to rate him at his best college or high school position. Also centers are the most-ignored offensive linemen.

General Excitement Level: Moderate. Developmental center project who seems to have the attitude and size to make it. Technique will come, or it won't.

Projection: With Molk and Rocko Khoury in front of him Miller is a lock to redshirt even given the depleted state of the offensive line. He's not likely to beat out Khoury as a redshirt freshman, but he will have the job almost by default in 2013. Michigan's collecting OL rapidly in the 2012 class but none are center types; anyone competing with Miller will be switching positions or a true freshman.

Comments

2011 Recruiting: Brennen Beyer

2011 Recruiting: Brennen Beyer Comment Count

Brian August 5th, 2011 at 1:47 PM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark, LB Kellen Jones, DE Keith Heitzman, and DE Chris Rock.

       
Plymouth, MI - 6'4" 220
       

beyerinside

Scout 4*, #12 DE, #76 overall
Rivals 4*, #16 SDE(?), #5 MI, #201 overall
ESPN 4*, 79, #24 DE
Others 247: 4*, #11 OLB, #6 MI, #208 overall
Other Suitors Notre Dame, MSU, UCLA, NW
YMRMFSPA Craig Roh
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim. FNL video as well.
Notes Has a twitter.

Film

Brennen Beyer is a throwback to the Natural Way of Things in-state as established by Bo and Mo and Carr before the cliff Michigan recruiting went off. He's a universal four star from Michigan, he wanted to go to Michigan, he got the offer, committed, and never wavered. Bully for Beyer and the Natural Way.

All four recruiting services have him a four-star player and Scout had him in their top 100. It's easy to see why if you hit up the senior-year footage above, which features a lot of Beyer taking on and defeating blocks en route to making plays. That's a changeup from highlight reels that feature the star swooshing past confused linemen en route to killing some poor 5'10" sophomore. (See: Brown, Pharaoh and Ryan, Jake, not that there's anything wrong with killing sophomores.)

Beyer gets past people even when they try to do something about it:

Beyer overwhelms offensive linemen with his initial burst off the ball and his hands are so quick, it must appear to the linemen that there's simply a flurry of movement in his face. Beyer has a terrific frame and sometimes seems to be made of elastic as he's able to lay out and contort his body to get a ball carrier trying to elude him. Simply needs to add weight and continue to get stronger to be a dominant defender - Scott Kennedy, Scout.com

Tim reported back that Beyer has an odd build with a long torso, long arms, and short legs but didn't know what to make of that, good or bad.

The scouting reports think the bit about the arms is good, anyway. A coach quote:

“I saw him do a 330-pound power clean. For a high school kid? Wow! His arms are so long, too. He’s got really long arms and knows how to use them. But he’s just so strong.”  …

“You can’t block him one on one as a defensive end,” Sawchuk said. “He had those sacks against Rockford, and that’s a well-coached team.”

Sawchuk returns to those arms in a freebie interview with Sam Webb:

Sam Webb:  From a skill set standpoint; what does he do well, what are the strengths of his game?

Mike Sawchuk:  “He has got a motor that does not quit.  He just keeps on coming at you.  He has got great arm length.  He’s really worked on his explosiveness in the weight room with power cleans and the parallel squat and all the stuff we do in the weight room.  Probably his greatest thing is his quickness and his motor.”

people look at the way he uses his hands and gets separation and he’s got those long limbs and his motor and they just love it."

Beyer also draws praise for his lateral quickness and corner-turning first step. A report from the Michigan Elite camp($), which was the only one he attended:

There may not have been a more impressive prospect at the camp … Beyer's first step was unmatched and there was not an offensive lineman in the camp that could keep him from turning the corner. With 4.5 speed and tremendous lateral quickness, Beyer could be a standout at either DE or LB.

All this and he's an excellent student (3.9 GPA, pursuit by Northwestern and Stanford) and citizen. A bit more from Sawchuk and Webb:

Sam Webb:  In your experience with Brennen (Beyer) as a player over the years, just what [do] you think of him as a player?

Mike Sawchuk:  “Obviously since he’s been in our program he’s done nothing but work his tail off.  He’s one of those kids that worked his tail off, not only on the football field and in the offseason and that, but in the classroom as well.  He also works at being a great citizen, good character kid.  He really has no weaknesses in my eyes.”

That's probably why he was the center of an "epic" M-ND battle that thankfully didn't turn out to be at all epic.

Downsides? There must be downsides since he's not rated higher. All right, yes, there is some disagreement about just how advanced Beyer's technique is. ESPN—the least enthusiastic of the services by a good distance—put out a report that's only middling($):

He gets off the ball well. While he can tend to lose them at times for the most part he uses his hands well to take on blockers. He needs to watch his pad level, but flashes the ability to keep leverage and be tough at the point of attack. Displays the ability to shoot his hands and create some separation, bend at the knees, generate power from his lower body, and hold his ground. Does a good job of being able to stay square and work along the line of scrimmage. … He is a productive pass rusher. He will use his hands to punch and try and knock blockers out of their cylinder. Displays the ability to try and work to the shoulder and use a move to clear from the blocker.

That's a lot of "flashes," "can," and "displays." It's pretty positive overall but the implication is clear. TTB echoes:

Has a tendency to turn his shoulders, allowing blockers to get into his chest. He does not drive his feet when making contact with the ballcarrier; stronger runners will gain extra yards after contact. He needs to refine his pass rushing moves, because he uses virtually no technique aside from his speed. Beyer rarely uses his strength to overpower blockers or deliver a strong initial blow.

Don't let me take Magnus out of context here—that's just one part of the "weaknesses" section in a scouting report that praises his hands, agility, and dedication ("the definition of a high-motor player") before making the inevitable comparison to Roh. It's just that we're in the weaknesses bit of the profile.

There's also the usual bit about how high school player Brennen Beyer is in high school, which is not college, and if Brennen Beyer would like to play in college he should become college-sized. Everyone (ESPN, coach, TTB, Scout) says this shouldn't be a problem since he, like Chris Rock, has giant meaty bones on which to hang sheets of muscle.

So let's and then see what happens in two years. Hopefully something that sounds disgustingly like celery when we watch the replays of it twenty times.

Etc.: Turned Rockford into Mudville:

LANSING -- The cheers and screaming fell silent in a matter of seconds for the Rockford football team and its fans.

Tears of joy quickly became tears of sorrow. A return trip to Ford Field and a chance at another Division 1 state championship was denied when Plymouth senior end Brennen Beyer made a game-winning touchdown catch with two Ram defenders in tight coverage in the back corner of the end zone with 4.5 seconds remaining. …

"(Beyer) is a great kid, and he just keeps playing," Plymouth coach Mike Sawchuk said. "As a coach, obviously, you have doubt (when they score that touchdown with just over a minute to play), but these kids never quit."

Stats:

registered 65 tackles and 12 sacks at defensive end as a senior year... caught 31 passes for 10 TDs as a senior ... compiled 45 tackles, nine tackles for loss and nine sacks during his junior season ...

Teammate and future ND (boo) K Kyle Brindiza on Beyer:

The skills he possesses are crazy," Brindza said of Beyer. "On defense, he comes off the ball so well and he's super-fast, so he's able to get to the quarterback quickly. On offense, he's a big, fast target with great hands. He can outjump a lot of defensive backs, which makes him hard to stop."

Why Craig Roh? Again, take it from the horse's mouth:

"He said they could see me playing a defensive end-linebacker hybrid position like Craig Roh's playing now for them. It's been exciting."

That was the Rodriguez crew, but there's no indication Hoke and company think any different. (Except for that linebacker business. Screw that in the ear.) They're recruiting Craig Roh WDE types in Mario Ojemudia and Pharoah Brown, so that spot will exist.

Roh, meanwhile, was a too-light 6'5"-ish pass rusher who high school offensive tackles thought had super powers. He had a bigger profile thanks to a standout performance at the UA game [Ed-M: and a bit more technical praise -- see: "crab people" meme)], but in all other ways Beyer is Roh-like.

Guru Reliability: Not quite high. Would have been nice to see Beyer go up against elite folk at an all-star game, as those are often illuminating when it comes to the best of the best. As it is there's a not-insignificant spread in his rankings from all-conference sort to good starter.

General Excitement Level: High. Near universal acclaim, impeccable academics, effort level widely praised, high level of athleticism, and good size. If there are any red flags for Beyer they are hard to make out. He'll need some time to get big, I guess.

Projection: Weakside DE is one spot where Michigan is fairly well stocked. Roh and Jibreel Black (and maybe Brandon Herron?) make for an enticing rotation, one that hopefully allows Beyer to redshirt. If Ryan Van Bergen's graduation forces Black to flip to the strongside—and it probably will since the other options are Rock, Heitzman, or a true freshman—Beyer will see plenty of time spelling Roh as a redshirt freshman in 2012. The starting spot will be his to lose in 2013.

Comments

2011 Recruiting: Chris Rock (Not That Chris Rock)

2011 Recruiting: Chris Rock (Not That Chris Rock) Comment Count

Brian August 4th, 2011 at 9:42 AM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark, LB Kellen Jones, and DE Keith Heitzman.

       
Columbus, OH - 6'5" 250
       

chris-rock

Scout 3*, #70 DE
Rivals 3*, #50 SDE, #38 OH
ESPN 3*, 78, #34 DE
Others NR
Other Suitors Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Nebraska, MSU, Illinois, Pitt, Cincinnati
YMRMFSPA A poor man's Ryan Van Bergen
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim. He caught Rock's game against OLSM.
Notes Columbus DeSales (Patrick Omameh).

Film

When Chris Rock's parents named their baby boy they could not anticipate the electric success of another guy named Chris Rock or the tortured googling that bloggers would be forced into as a result. Blogs didn't exist and the other Chris Rock was probably ten. But here we are.

The other Chris Rock, the one who committed to Michigan last May, is a DE/DT whose impressive size and strength saw him named the #4 player in Ohio in January of 2010 by Bucknuts, likely off a huge game in the state semi where he had three sacks. Before that Duane Long ranked him #4 as well, in front of uber-LB Trey DePriest. One of the "most heavily recruited players in the state," he picked up a Notre Dame offer and ended up on ESPN's top 150 watchlist; when he committed to Michigan he was consensus four-star.

Unfortunately, since then his star has been on the wane. Notre Dame's offer went yoink after they pulled in their epic DE class and each rankings revision seemed to knock Rock down a few more pegs until he ended up the consensus meh three star you see above. People started knocking the strength that was an early asset. In his senior year he "struggled to make an impact" as teams went away from him. While that's understandable, a high level D-I prospect should be a terror against D-III high school kids.

The drop came because he just didn't play very well. When Tim caught a DeSales game he came back with a blunt assessment:

I was not impressed with Rock's play. It's possible he was just having a bad night, but there have been reports from this entire season that suggest Rock is "just a guy" out there. Though St. Mary's gameplanned a bit to keep him out of the game (running away from him, double-teaming him, etc.), that's not the only reason he wasn't a factor.

He was routinely stoned by St. Mary's tackle #72, and it's not like that guy's going to go on to play Division-1 football. For being the biggest (not fattest) guy out there, Rock's strength seemed to be seriously lacking, and his movement skills left something to be desired.

Touch The Banner was similarly unenthused:

To be honest, I'm not enamored with Rock. A large part of that is due to the fact that his highlight film is full of offensive linemen completely forgetting to block him. I find it difficult to get excited about a player who accrues a bunch of sacks while barreling unimpeded into the offensive backfield.

… My biggest issue with Rock is that he stands straight up on the snap. He's able to push around weaker players when playing so high, but if he tried to push around a 310 lb. Big Ten tackle like that, Rock would get tossed around like a rag doll. He doesn't use his hands well to shed blocks, and he also finds himself losing contain a little too frequently. He has decent speed for a 250-pounder, so he can make up for his poor fundamentals at times. But some of his habits are less than ideal.

… He could be a decent college starter, but he doesn't have the instincts or athleticism to be an elite player for Michigan.

TTB suggests a move to three-tech is in the offing, something that's echoed by Scout's strengths and weaknesses:

STRENGTHS

Body Control and Balance

Intensity/Effort

AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT

Lateral Range

Strength

Rock had another fine season at DeSales. He plays defensive end and tight end currently, but could possibly be a defensive tackle at the next level. Needs to continue to add strength, but has good size and plays with intensity.

While ESPN is a little more enthusiastic than the other two scouting services, they echo many of TTB's criticisms($). They're a bit less straightforward about it: Rock "can be active with his hands," "needs to watch his pad level," "needs to develop his pass rush arsenal," and "can seem a little rigid in his overall movement." His main asset is "very good" size and a frame that will allow him to pack on the pounds; they also mention the possibility he will end up at defensive tackle.

So there's that. On the good side of the ledger we have frame and size and size and frame, plus intelligence—he might actually execute his plan to major in business and Northwestern and Stanford were also after him—and coachability. One of the guys who worked the OSU Nike camp last year interacted with him and posted about it on Buckeye Planet:

Just worked with the kid this weekend at the Nike Camp, wonderful kid, very coachable, had good dialect with him, had a good concept of how to set up the offensive linemen, and had good hands.

And when Rivals talked to his coach they got a lot of frame stuff($):

"First of all, he's big - he's got a big frame and a long body … He's very athletic for his size. He's a tough kid. He's made a lot of plays. He's led our team in sacks for two years, so he does a nice job of rushing the passer. I think when you get a kid with that size that has that kind of athletic ability and quickness, with even more potential to grow, they become pretty attractive."

"He's pretty athletic, and you're talking about a kid that wears a size 17 shoe, so there's a lot of potential for even more growth," said the DeSales head coach. "I've only seen him at D-end, but I've heard others speculate he could play elsewhere. Depending on how much weight they can put on him, I think he could play on the interior as well."

The consensus: Rock is a smart but weak guy who's an iffy athlete… with giant meaty bones you can hang a lot of muscle on. Sometimes these things work out:

will-johnson-2will-johnson

left: high school Will Johnson.
right: terrifying bald fifth-year-senior and good starter Will Johnson

That frame and his early potential netted him a total of 25 BCS offers, including Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. His senior year was a step back but the frame had lots of people thinking they could build Rock into something. Michigan's got three DL coaches, by the way.

If they can slap a redshirt on Rock that would be great, and if they've really moved Kenny Wilkins inside he'll probably be better than Rock as a freshman—he's a guy you'd like to see take a fifth year.

Etc.: 15 sacks and 10 PBUs as a sophomore. First job was at Abercrombie & Fitch. Also he bites his nails. This week in groan-worthy recruiting site headlines($): "Bearcats hope to roll with Chris Rock." Shot of him getting told to get that weak stuff out of here. If you can get this to work, here's a video of Rock tipping and intercepting a pass to clinch a tight game.

Rock on the other Rock:

"Ever since I was little kid, ever since Chris Rock became famous as a comedian," Rock said.  "My mom always says I was named before he was famous."

But the question remains:  Is Rock humorous?

"Sometimes I can be," he said.  "I like to lighten the mood."

Rock on his decision:

“When I think about it and just think about what Michigan has to offer, really they were the only school that offered me that had the total package,” Rock explained.  “It has the academic side, the athletic side, and the biggest stadium in the country. I liked the campus a lot when I visited there. I liked the teammates. I know Patrick Omameh. He went to my high school and he is a good kid. If he likes it there I knew I would like it there too. It was really everything.”

Why a poor man's Ryan Van Bergen? For one, that's what the coaching staff told him:

U-M is expected to use Rock in much the same way they use defensive end Ryan VanBergen. During his visit to U-M in March, the coaching staff told Rock they felt he brought similar strengths to the defense as VanBergen.

Van Bergen, like Rock, is a 6'5" SDE/three-tech tweener with decent pass rush skills who doesn't appear to excel at any one thing. Van Bergen was a consensus four star a lot closer to his ceiling upon entering college, though. Rock's contributions seem considerably farther off—or at least they would if Michigan had anything other than panic behind the starters at DT.

Guru Reliability: High. DeSales pumps out D-I players every year and Rock played every game of his career. If the flu excuse is legit he could be more like the player he was hyped up to be in the immediate aftermath of his junior season, but he's probably well pegged.

General Excitement Level: Okay. Seems like a good program kid who will scrape the ceiling of his potential in three or even four years. His potential isn't off the charts, but if Wisconsin and Nebraska were interested I'll take my chances.

Projection: The apparent lack of explosion probably takes DE off the table, so expect Rock to start off at three-tech DT. Without Terry Talbott he may be forced into action early, which he probably won't do well with. He could develop into one of those slightly-above-average pluggers that littered Michigan lines in the mid-aughts; there is a possibility his giant meaty bones eventually allow him to be a bit more.

Comments

2011 Recruiting: Keith Heitzman

2011 Recruiting: Keith Heitzman Comment Count

Brian July 26th, 2011 at 10:55 AM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, LB Frank Clark, and LB Kellen Jones.

       
Hilliard, OH - 6'3" 240
       

keith-heitzman

Scout 3*, #63 TE
Rivals 3*, 5.5, NR SDE
ESPN 3*, 75, #157 DE
Others 247: 3*, 83, NR
Other Suitors Vandy, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois
YMRMFSPA Jake Frysinger
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim
Notes  

Film

Keith Heitzman is probably the only player in the history of either program to decommit from Vanderbilt in favor of Michigan, so even if he gets buried on the depth chart and emerges from his eligibility totally anonymous but well-educated he'll always have a special place in the hearts of recruitniks everywhere.

Can he be more than an answer on Extreme Sports Nerd Jeopardy? Well… probably not. Disclaimers about star rankings and Jerry Rice apply, but the odds are the odds even if the occasional player beats them. The odds are stacked against Heitzman.

Scouting reports and rankings make this clear. ESPN($) breaks out "adequate" like a seriously depressed Lloyd Carr:

He gets off the ball well. He can be a physical kid at the point of attack, but needs to be more consistent especially with his hands. He displays the ability to maintain some leverage and hold his ground. Will flash the ability to shoot his hands and create separation, but needs to be more active with his hands and use them to not only protect his legs…. Displays adequate speed in pursuit and needs to be sure to utilize good angles and also secure when tackling. Does an adequate job of taking on pulling lineman. Needs to keep working on his recognition skills…. Needs to be more active with his weapons, develop his pass rush arsenal, and not attack the whole man. Heitzman is a solid defender who will flash some tools to be tough versus the run and pass.

This is the same scouting service that said Isaiah Bell stands for BIG PLAYMAKER, or something. They really loved them some Isaiah Bell. Here they very politely say "MAC." Touch the Banner is in the same boat:

Heitzman has some physical skills, including a willingness to hit and some pretty quick feet. But his footwork as a blocker and a defensive end are suspect. He gets by on having superior athleticism and size, but those advantages will disappear somewhat at the next level. 

…  Defensively, Michigan has a fair number of options at end, all of whom have superior size and equal athleticism. Even if the Wolverines suffer an injury or two at DE, Heitzman should rest easily on the sideline for a year or two.

Even the normally fawning coach quotes are muted:

“Keith is a special kid,” he said. “Obviously, I’m a little biased, but he’s got terrific durability. He’s started every one of those (41) games. He’s never missed a game. I don’t recall him ever missing a practice.”

That is a good attribute to have, but when you read everything every high school coach says about his Michigan-bound players ("turns offensive linemen into tacos… the most delicious tacos you've ever had!"), "he was there" falls a little flat.

Scout is slightly more encouraging:

An excellent athlete, Heitzman lines up full time at defensive end and part time at tight end. He gets a nice jump off the line and has quick hands. He needs to get bigger and stronger in the weight room if he's going to play either tight end or defensive end on the next level. He's a good run after the catch player because of his athleticism and does a good job with a speed rush at end.

Offers and ratings concur; Heitzman is just hanging on to his third stars at every site. His other offers were the dregs of the Big Ten and SEC. Late involvement from Illinois, a team that recruits decently and has actually seen a bowl game in the last decade, is encouraging in context.

HOWEVA, our most recent data points are encouraging ones. He was unanimously voted his district's defensive player of the year:

Lineman, KEITH HEITZMAN (Hilliard Davidson) 6-4, 250, sr. A unanimous choice as the Central District Division I Defensive Player of the Year, Heitzman used his brute strength and athleticism to overwhelm opponents. He also was one of Davidson's top blockers at tight end. "He was a game-changer on both sides of the ball," White said.

District DPOY might not sound that amazing but when the district includes ND recruit Eilar Hardy and OSU recruit Ron Tanner it's not nothing.

Then Heitzman was a standout on the Ohio Big 33 team that laid waste to Pennsylvania:

While Teague, Ohio's Mr. Football, was grabbing the attention on one side of the ball, it was Hilliard Davidson grad and University of Michigan-bound defensive end Keith Heitzman that set the tone for the Ohio defense.
His combination of quickness and power was too much for Pennsylvania, as he spent most of the game in the opposing backfield.

The other starters on the Ohio line were OSU commit Steve Miller and a pair of guys headed to Michigan State, FWIW. Heitzman collected a sack or two sacks or an interception or maybe all of the above; he definitely forced an interception on Pennsylvania's first drive of the day. He even finished the Ohio scoring with a one-yard TD run.

His performance($) defied the expectations set above:

He’s been consistent, giving great effort on every snap of the ball. When talking with Ohio coaches about Heitzman they mention the word “motor”. It’s his motor that has caused him to be so disruptive coming off the edge although he’s also done some damage working inside out. He uses his hands well, and has surprising strength at the point attack.

That's from Michigan's Scout site and is probably biased, but local observers were also impressed. As a bonus, Heitzman claimed to be up to 250 pounds at the event.

That's hopeful in the same way Greg Brown's strong spring performance was. It gives a prospect most people had written off as a backup or special teamer some new life. Heitzman's new upside seems to be an avearge-ish starter, but here's hoping we read one of those articles about "shutting up the critics (and by critics, we mean people who think critically)" in a few years' time.

Etc.: Davidson beat Glenville for the state championship in 2009. Enjoying his new status as a hater:

“I grew up an Ohio State fan, but I wasn't a die hard or anything, but I’m gladly hating them right now. It’s been mainly joking around. Everyone is pretty proud, and it’s just that it’s going to a big time school and things like that.”

Heitzman's coach on his recruitment:

"Coach Rodriguez had begun recruiting Keith in late December, about a week or two before he got fired," Davidson coach Brian White said. "He left behind all the phone numbers of the players he was looking at. Coach Hoke, who I have known for a long time, got back with me as a courtesy, and I encouraged him to keep Keith on his list and sent along some film."

Eventually, the combination of Michigan's football and academics won over Heitzman and his mother, both of whom, according to White, "were gung-ho about Vanderbilt and the prestige of education there."

Why Jake Frysinger? Heitzman's reasonable long term upside is as a rotation SDE or three-tech who gives the starters a blow and contributes here and there by not getting run over. Frysinger, who appeared in 44 games while starting two, is the quintessential Michigan rotation DE. He may have been a bit taller and was definitely a bigger recruit, FWIW.

Guru Reliability: High. Healthy player at a high profile school; recruiting services are in agreement.

General Excitement Level: Meh. Would be "low" but the flicker of hope provided by the Big 33 performance raises it a bit.

Projection: Obvious redshirt and unlikely to work his way past the competition in the race to replace Ryan Van Bergen next year. May emerge into a depth defender in a few years.

Comments

2011 Recruiting: Kellen Jones

2011 Recruiting: Kellen Jones Comment Count

Brian July 22nd, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, LB Antonio Poole, LB Desmond Morgan, and LB Frank Clark.

       
Houston, TX - 6'1" 210
       

kellen-jones

Scout 4*, #12 MLB
Rivals 3*, #29 ILB, #69 TX
ESPN 3*, 79, #35 OLB
Others NR
Other Suitors Arkansas, Texas A&M, Stanford
YMRMFSPA Larry Foote
Previously On MGoBlog Commitment post from Tim. Tom interviews him and gets some commit quotes. User tomcat sits next to him on a plane and is impressed.
Notes Also a small white dude drafted by the Oilers.

Film

Those are senior highlights; there is also a junior reel.

Occasionally, Spartan taunting will cause the message board to recycle a discussion about whether non-alum Michigan fans are real Michigan fans and how the core, I-know-what-Great-Books-is folk should react to them. Kellen Jones's dad Sean is the answer to this question.

The elder Jones grew up wanting to play for Michigan but didn't end up a D-I prospect, but a decade or two after his playing career at Morehead State ended, his influence saw a kid from Houston want nothing more than to don a winged helmet:

Q: How did you end up at Michigan?

A: It was a dream offer from the get-go. My dad’s dream was to go there, and he passed it on to me. It’s Michigan — Big House football. It’s a great academic school with history and tradition, the winningest program in college football, so it’s an all-purpose fit.

Q: So you’re going to be living your dad’s dream. How thrilled is he?

(Dad Sean Jones played at Morehouse College, Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater.)

A: He’s so excited. I think he might be more excited than I am. He sings Hail to the Victors. He’s looking up the videos and all types of stuff.

The answer: come one and all, especially if you are a large and mean.

The Jones family's Michigan fandom saw Kellen select Michigan over a wide array of mid-level BCS offers of which Arkansas, Texas A&M, Stanford, and Missouri were the most impressive. Jones made a little bit of noise about opening his recruitment back up when Rodriguez was fired but a couple of phone calls from Hoke and Mattison and he was solid again.

As a result, Michigan has a slashing blitzer on the three/four star borderline who is badly needed. Like Morgan, scouting reports focus on his intelligence. Unlike Morgan, they also praise explosive athleticism. (Morgan's edge is two inches and twenty pounds.)

Touch The Banner:

The best parts of Jones' game are his intelligence and instincts.  He has a knack for finding the ball even if he has to wade through the trash.  Furthermore, as a high school middle linebacker, he has experience playing the position, which ought to enhance the speed with which he picks up the college game.  Once he finds the ball, he's a solid tackler who could be a devastating hitter once he puts on the necessary weight and refines some tackling technique issues. 

His highlight film above helps confirm. It features a large number of plays on which Jones has to pick through trash or defeat blocks to get to the ballcarrier. This may be because of its extensive length—a lot of shorter videos leave out scraping plays because they don't often result in HERE COMES THE BOOM—but it may also be because a lot of high school linebackers don't do that kind of thing very often.

That's not to say he doesn't bring the boom:

“He’s just a violent football player. He’s going to leave his mark when he makes contact with you,” Kimball said of Jones

[Kimball] describes a play not on the highlight film: “…the guy’s momentum stopped going forward instantly. It was amazing that they were both conscious after that hit,” Kimball said. “I don’t know how both of them got up and walked off the field. It was one of those types of collisions that looked like two diesel trucks running into each other.

“Poor running back, he didn’t see it coming, barely.”

Hurray concussions!

“I love to hit, I love to hit,” Jones said laughing. “When the season starts everyone is excited. You hear the fans, the crowd and I love to make contact and knock somebody into the dirt.”

Hurray everything!

“As a linebacker, I’m very instinctive,” said Jones, who has a 3.4 grade-point average and plans to major in mathematics and engineering.  “I’m very good on the blitz. I’m aggressive to the ball and I’m a great pass rusher. I’m very passionate about the game.”

Did you have a tingle thinking about a linebacker who understands what a tangent is? I did. This is a signal you have Asperger's disease even if it doesn't exist anymore.

While most list him as an inside linebacker, ESPN and Jones himself believe he can play inside or out. ESPN's take($):

… excellent athlete … Has the size for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. We like this guy's flexibility, balance and agility; does a good job with K&D run recognition skills however his strength is the ability to avoid contact and beat blockers to the point of attack with quickness. Moves through traffic very well with good change of direction ability; is able to keep leverage on the ball and is seldom out of position. Flashes downhill ability vs. the inside run but not the big tough inside linebacker type who consistently stacks at the point. … capable of creating havoc in the backfield against the run and pass. Is productive blitzing up the middle or off the edge; shows good timing with quite a few sacks and hurries. … The intense motor this player brings to the field results in big momentum changing plays.

Scout more than echoes the section on his effectiveness as a blitzer:

Amazing on the blitz, he is as instinctual as you can find. He has a feel for getting through blocking and getting in to attack the quarterback, also good at blocking kicks. His size is okay but it is not above average. Good speed he uses it to his advantage on blitzes and coverage. Does a great job of working through blocks.

All things being equal, Jones might be destined for MLB. Things are not equal, though. Michigan has two more years of Kenny Demens in the middle, a potentially solid backup in Marell Evans, and fellow freshman Desmond Morgan. On the weakside there's just Mike Jones and Antonio Poole. While Poole is about the same level of recruit Jones is he's probably 15-20 pounds lighter. Jones could—probably should—be on the two-deep at WLB the day he steps on campus. His long term future could be in the middle, but until Demens departs he's needed on the outside. His coach echoes($) that evaluation:

"I don't think he is going to be there yet to play inside linebacker as an incoming freshman - that's a pretty tall task for any freshman - but at outside linebacker I think he has the ability to come in and play pretty soon," Kimball said. "On the perimeter I think he can make a pretty good impact with what they are doing out there, and over time, as he develops the college bulk to him, I think he can progress into the middle."

That versatility will make it easy for Jones to be on the field early and often even if Brady Hoke is dead set on filling a four-deep at LB.

Etc.: Hanging out with Ray Lewis. Hanging out with… um… Rich Rodriguez. Watch him sign a piece of paper. Played in that "USA vs the World" game. Player of the Week feature from the local Fox affiliate. Extensive interview with The Victors Voice.

One more fawning coach quote($) for the road:

"I don't see how he could be close to maxed out, not because of his physical abilities, but because of his work ethic," Kimball said. "He's almost a straight A student and the strongest guy on the team, but he puts those types of standards on himself... he's really focused for a young man. He does not do anything half throttle, whether that is in the classroom, the weight room or on the practice field. He has a relentless pursuit of perfection."

Aw, hell, here's another:

“We’ve got some great coaches here, but it’s (Jones’) aggressiveness that’s really made him the player he is,” Kimball said. “We spend actually more time at practice telling him to chalk it back a little bit. … We had to tell him, ‘Hey, man, look, we’re just trying to get a look here, you’re running scout team defense of whatever can you maybe give us a better look, because we’re not going to face a guy like you the whole season.’”

Why Larry Foote? Foote was a slightly undersized linebacker (6-0.5, 240-ish as a senior at Michigan) with good athleticism who could get to the sideline and was at his best when sent on the blitz. He bounced between MLB and WLB; as a senior he annihilated all comers with 23.5 TFLs.

Here's an old scouting report($) from Scout leading up to his NFL draft year:

THE GOOD:  Quick, athletic linebacker that flies around the football. Explosive first step moving to action, scrapes well laterally and pursues the ball carrier with speed. Effectively redirects to the ball carrier, displays a quick and fluid change of direction and shows excellent range in pass coverage. Gets depth on his drops, adequate footwork covering backs or tight ends off the line of scrimmage and can play in space. Works hard, plays with reckless abandon and goes sideline to sideline for 60 minutes.

THE BAD: Small, slow shedding blocks or rather easily moved out of his angle of attack. Lacks body control and may not have the flat out speed to be considered at strong safety.

Jones seems to have all of the good bits above and sheds better than Foote—at least against high school competition.

Guru Reliability: Fairly high. Spread in rankings is pretty large, but was healthy at a big school in Houston. Scouting reports are consistent; differences in opinion appear to be due to varying opinion on how well he'll be able to overcome a lack of size.

General Excitement Level: Slightly under high. Size is a limitation, though it shouldn't be a huge one if he doesn't end up in the middle. The experience, athleticism, intelligence, and desire to plant his face into your pancreas at speed all appear to be there.

Projection: Moved to WLB in his first week on campus and probably on the two-deep against Western. No reason to redshirt him with the linebacker flood behind him and Michigan will need him unless Mike Jones is unreasonably good for a meh recruit who missed last year with an injury. Will probably spend the first half of the season spotting Jones—remember that Thomas Gordon will see significant rotation as the nickelback—and then it's 50-50 he takes over the starting job a la Demens.

Long term I think he sticks at WLB since he'll be established there and some combo of Morgan/Bolden/RJS/Ross will turn into a productive middle linebacker. A potential four-year starter.

Comments