Argh on you, club_med. Yes, I am flattered that you were inspired by my annual FEI-based bowl game watchability article, and I think it's great that you added Sagarin to it. Except now I actually have to find something else to write next Tuesday. Perhaps I'll do senior haikus.
Cam Gordon I still can't believe They pegged you as a safety Here is your meat: raw.
Sorry Brian. You can do the next USCHO/RPI/Standings poll update from Center Ice. And he can take over LSA's weekly stat wrap, and LSA can take Best & Worst after the bowl game from bronxblue, who can do Inside the Box Score instead of ST3, and we'll send him to cover the press conference, and that'll be how we replace Heiko.
Season of Infinite Pain, Reviewed. "The Year of Infinite Pain" (glossary) was a name Brian came up with for 2005, before he knew what 2008 or 2009 or 2010 or 2013 could be like. Now diary giant Ron Utah is using "The Season of Infinite Pain" to describe this one. Not saying things won't improve, but, you know, that's just a might set up against two rivals who are peaking in a tough division, and a national competitive environment in which a lot of teams wantonly break the rules and ours doesn't. So just in case we need some more names:
The Autumn of Infinite Pain
The Time of Infinite Pain
The Annum of Infinite Pain
The Age of Infinite Pain
The Span of Infinite Pain
The Fiscal Year of Infinite Pain
If we are actually living in the last, here's guessing I don't make it past the 2014 Notre Dame game. If Dantonio and Urban get to 10 wins apiece against us there are several synonyms for "infinite" (eternal, interminable, perpetual, everlasting, boundless, incalculable, supertemporal) that may be substituted in various combinations.
Anyway Ron's wrap starts with the defensive line, which he gave a C+, but I think he's too high on Clark's season, too hard on Washington's (he was injured), and there needs to be more analysis of the heavy (ha!) rotational guys like Henry, Beyer, Ojemudia, Wormley, Heitzman and Pipkins.
Not on the Pistons, that's where. AC1997 is tracking Michigan guys in the NBA, as well as the transfers and dudes playing abroad. I'd love for this to be a regular monthly update for each season in action (so have a hockey one, and a baseball one, and football from August (free agent movement) through the Superbowl.
In my day freshmen appeared on the scene knocking down Bobby Hoying passes, shutting down Terry Glenn, and cleaving Eddie George. Then they'd switch to offense and fold Mike Vrabel in twain. What's the matter with kids today? The cast today:
Ann-Margret as Brian Cook
Dick Van Dyke as Seth Fisher
Bobby Rydell as Ace Anbender
Jesse Pearson as Brandon "Birdie" Brown
Of the young linebackers, we've seen a lot of Bolden but not much from him. [Upchurch]
It's an expectation (or a conceit) at Michigan that recruits follow a "track" of progression that should see them all-conference and worth drafting after four years in the program. Of the 2012 class and the few '13 guys who've seen action, who do you see as ahead of schedule, or worryingly behind?
Ace: I'm not even going to bother with the 2013 class because it's beyond too early to discuss their progression versus expectations; frankly, that's the case for the 2012 class as well, but they at least have a handful of guys who have broken through and seen extensive time.
Three players who are clearly ahead of schedule are Devin Funchess, James Ross, and Willie Henry. Funchess has gone from dangerous-but-terrible-at-blocking tight end to dangerous-and-oh-god-so-dangerous wide receiver, and he's got an NFL future even if his blocking never develops as much as we'd hope. Ross has had an up-and-down year but still has a stranglehold on the weakside LB starting job; he's a future all-conference player once he adds a little more weight to take on blocks—his instincts are already there. Henry's initial expectations weren't as high as the other two, nor has he played at their level consistently, but he's easily exceeded expectations for a late three-star pickup just by seeing the field and holding his own.
Odd. They rank high on the entertainment scale for OL highlights, assuming you like huge guys caving in not so huge guys.
This is going to sound really familiar. Kyle Bosch is basically David Dawson give or take an inch and a ton of recruiting drama. He's a rather large guard who could kick out to right tackle if necessary, he is an advanced technician for his age, he has the hatred of all other living beings in pads necessary to get a scholarship offer from Michigan, he is a consensus four star just outside of most top 100s with one enthusiastic site depositing him around 50th.
The biggest difference for the purposes of this post is camps. Dawson went to all of them. Bosch mostly ignored them. He did get an Opening invite and showed up, but he came down with something nasty and had to leave just a day in. The only other mention of a camp I can find was an observation-only visit to SMSB. So there's significantly less scouting out there.
What exists is Dawson-esque. The themes that emerge with both guys: a love of contact, an ability to get downfield, and a defender on the ground. A Notre Dame evaluator took a look at Bosch back when it was assumed he would end up in the blue and gold:
For me, his two best traits are the nastiness with which he plays the game and the swagger he has on the field. Many offensive linemen play with attitude and confidence, traits that Bosch also possesses. What Bosch seems to have on film is a swagger that is often displayed by skill players or linebackers.
Bosch is also "physical and aggressive," has "good agility and good foot quickness" and gets off the line quickly; main downside was a bit of hip stiffness that might make it unwise to put him on the edge against a quality rusher—apparently that means you can't change direction as effectively in a pass set.
"I think the biggest thing is that he has such a high motor. He's a very intense football player, and I think a lot of times, bigger kids like that take a while to develop that. But he has an intensity level that I've never seen in a big guy. He loves contact."
"His ability to finish blocks is pretty special, I think," Horeni said. "A lot of linemen his size just want to lean on people, but he rolls his hips, which is something you see at the next level. He explodes on contact and drives through the person.
"There's countless times this year when the guy he's going against gets a little bit off the ground and then (Bosch) buries him into the ground. It's something special."
…shows the ability to be able to get to that next level really quick. His explosive nature really stands out on film. His strength, size and punch off the line gives him a chance to have an instant impact. Like the others, he is a finisher. He naturally finishes his block, has great drive and gets to the next level. … has less to work on than the other guys.
Bosch is a physical and aggressive line prospect. … good first-step quickness to get into the defender. He uses angles well and is at his best when he can block down or work in tandem. He flashes the ability to come with a lot of force and deliver a big pop when he gets an angle and has the upper body strength to knock defenders to the ground. He does display some tightness in his lower body and is not as strong at this stage as a drive blocker… will be physical and fight, but doesn't create the type of push that his size or aggressiveness would suggest he could. At this stage, he is more of a wall off blocker. He does an solid job of working up to second level, adjusting on the move and getting a hat on active defenders.
A left tackle for his St. Francis team, Bosch is usually the biggest and strongest player on the field, and he plays like he wants everyone to know it. He is big and athletic and takes pride in finishing his blocks and stacking up pancakes. He has good flexibility and leg drive as he excels in run blocking. He'll gain strength and leverage as he continues to fill out his frame and refine his technique.
So there's that. I wonder if "technique" is just a thing they throw up there for anyone without an obvious drawback. Every high school player ever needs to work on his technique. With Bosch ranked in Scout's top 50 that's a possibility.
"They told me they project me playing as a guard or a tackle," he said. "They said they love my footwork and they love my athleticism, and they could see me playing both positions. But I'm learning to snap and I'm getting better. I could be a triple-threat and be ready to contribute as early as possible. I've been busting my butt in the weight room and watching film, and I'm getting to become a Swiss army knife at the next level."
The lack of ideal height likely rules out left tackle, but if he's one of the five best he could play on the right.
In spring they played him at guard, so assume that is preferred. Most of the evaluations say he is better there, sometimes explicitly, sometimes by mentioning an exceptional ability to get to the second level, which is more important on the interior. An example from pain-loving anonymous Rivals evaluator:
He comes off the ball quickly and runs well in open space. He plays with a high level of aggression and does well to position himself for knockout blows on linebackers. He shows good lateral mobility when he attacks the second level.
Perhaps his best strength is his ability to not slow down on impact, and yet he stays under control with good pressure on the defender. He does not slow his feet or hesitate with his hands when he engages his opponent. Most importantly, he is on the attack on every play and looks to finish his block by planting his opponent into the turf.
This is a guy you want to pull, pull, pull, pull. That indicates guard. Also potentially indicating guard is a twitter conversation from May between Shane Morris and David Dawson I stumbled across. I will translate from the twitterese:
DAWSON: For every retweet I do 10 push ups and 10 curls, GO!
DAWSON: Shane Morris, I'd advise you to be extra nice to YOUR LINEMAN
MORRIS: dat bull 4 lyfe
DAWSON: and I'm your right tackle you better be EXTRA nice
I don't really know why Morris is referencing DatBull unless he, like myself, is operating under the assumption that there is no bad time for a DatBull reference.
Anyway, I place about 10% weight on a position declaration made before arrival on campus and assume that whoever is on Morris's blindside should he ascend to the starting job will be a natural left tackle. Still, if one of the 6'5" guard types is going to pop outside it seems it'll be Dawson. I expect both eventually find homes on the interior.
On his high school mascot being a Spartan: I think I'll be able to get over it pretty quickly and embrace the Wolverine. Our motto is actually "Go Blue!" because we're the Blue Spartans, so we're kind of an oxymoron.
Why Maurice Williams? A 6'5", 302-pound swing player between guard and right tackle, Williams took some time to round into a starter, but once he did he was a second-round NFL draft pick and stuck around the NFL for about a decade before a series of injuries did his career in.
Williams was recruited before the era when people tried to rank these folks, and I can't find anything on the internet that might indicate hype level. Oh well. Bosch is actually heavier than the NFL-vet version of Williams right now and may end up pushing 320.
Guru Reliability: High. Consensus, healthy player, low amount of projection, but basically no camps.
Variance: Low-plus. Again, no low for OL. But Bosch, like Dawson, doesn't have as far to go as many. He's already at a good 307 and may or may not have good technique. The hip-rolling thing is a hurdle cleared that can hamper people's careers.
Ceiling: High. Has the size and disposition to be an NFL player.
General Excitement Level: High. This is a recording.
Projection: Is OL, redshirt.
Afterwards it's the same thing you heard after the Dawson/Kugler/LTT posts: a war beckons on the interior. Next year two spots open, and whether one of them is on the interior or not, Michigan is going to play its best four guys and a center. Bosch and Dawson are your frontrunners on the interior.
Again, predicting a winner there is a foolhardy exercise, but projecting the guy who emerges from the melee with a machete in his teeth to be pretty friggin' good at football is obvious. One or two or three of these guys is going to get injured or lost in the shuffle and not work out; Michigan will be able to weather those hits without problem.
It's an annual rite of fan dorkiness each year to try to be the first to guess which numbers the incoming freshmen will be given by obsessively google stalking them. Sometimes I have some inside knowledge from a recruit who was promised his digit, or tweeted his preferences or something. Here's how I did last year:
# in HS
7 and 14
84 or 68
21 if available, or 31
5 and 15
2 and 18
32 or 6 or 23
41 or 32
3 and 6 and 9
63 or 93 or 86
74 or 68
Four out of 22 ain't…well yes it is. It was bad. This article is useless. Let's continue it anyway; I swear to do better.
Getting to know you. Each coach has his own tendencies with this so we'll get better at it in time. With Hoke, he seems to like having consecutive numbers in the same position group, perhaps for mentoring purposes because they sit next to each other in the locker room. It's far from a rule, but it's a trend. Carr rarely let a player share a specialist's digit, but Hoke doesn't seem to have a problem with it, for example Wormley and Hagerup share a number, and walk-on tight end Alex Mitropoulus-Rundus (I'm gonna just start calling him "Alex M-R") has the same digit as backup punter Kenny Allen. Rich Rodriguez was far more apt to share numbers, and the single digits were nearly always doubled up; Hoke has said in the past that he doesn't like doing that, and the practice has been limited—as of spring just 5, 12 and 34 had scholarship recruits in both numbers, adding 54 and 56 to those double-occupied by players on the two-deep.
The roster lies. The official MGoBlue.com roster still doesn't have DeAnthony Hardison, that nifty RB you saw in the Spring Game. He's #18. Also a practice insider told me Anthony Capatina is playing slot receiver, not "DB" as he's listed on the depth chart. Also weirdly missing from that roster is #79 right tackle Dan Gibbs (a Seaholm Mape!!!), a 2012 preferred walk-on whose twitter profile pic is him riding an oliphant:
Legends/Special #s: 1 because Braylon's scholarship killed the fun, unless Gallon gets it. It won't come as much of a surprise to you that 2 will probably be entering the Legends program this season. There will also be some push for 16, and I doubt it'll be assigned to an offensive player immediately. 11 for the Wisterts, 21 for Desmond, and 87 for Ron Kramer are currently open; it is likely they'll be assigned to veterans whose digits might then be made available if it happens before the season. Bennie's 47 and Jerry's 48 remain occupied by current players and there's no way a second guy will get them. And I've been told they're still working on the Harmon family with 98. Anyway they won't go to freshmen.
Already worn on both sides: 5 (Courtney Avery and Justice Hayes), 6 (Raymon Taylor and Brian Cleary), 12 (Gardner and Allen Gant), 13 (Terry Richardson and Alex Swieca), 15 (James Ross and Shaun Austin), 34 (Jeremy Clark and Brendan Gibbons), 43 (Chris Wormley and Will Hagerup), 54 (Richard Ash and Jareth Glanda), 56 (Ondre Pipkins and Joey Burzynski), 69 (Willie Henry and Erik Gunderson), and 95 (Anthony Capatina and Michael Jocz).
Walk-ons with soft claims: Every year there's a Jon Keizer on the roster who thinks his number is safe, then some top running back recruit in the country (right: from Scout) runs him over with star power (dadada, didda-da diddadidda…). Scout teamers without scholarships often have their numbers taken, for example Charlie Zeller was 19 on the 2012 spring roster and Paul Gyarmati was sitting on 99, but Devin Funchess and Matt Godin nabbed those digits last fall. This year they are15 (Shaun Austin—note that Ross has it on D), 18 (DeAnthony Hardison—note that Countess has it on D), 27 (Jon Keizer), 36 (AJ Pearson—note that Kerridge has it on O), 42 (Dylan Esterline), 46 (Clark Grace), 49 (Brad Anlauf), 51 (Bobby Henderson), 59 (Mark Lawson), 63 (Ben Pliska), 66 (Dan Liesman), 70 (Kris Mateus), 79 (Dan Gibbs), (91 (Alex M-R, though Kenny Allen wears it too), and 95 (Anthony Capatina and Mike Jocz). The other walk-ons I didn't mention (Dever, Cleary, Glanda, Burzynski, Reynolds, Allen, Gunderson, Jocz and the Glasgows) are either on the two-deep already or in the mix.
You just said Pi. We're Michigan fergodsakes. All the constants—φ, ζ(3), α and δ, Euler's e, γ, λ, K, r, and Ω—ought to be fair game, and if someone takes √-1 and uses the nickname "Impossible" he will be my favorite for ever and ever.
"I took this picture at the pre-Super Bowl NFL Tailgate Party last week of my brother and Urban Meyer. My brother's hat was backwards but he twisted it around as I set up for the pic. Thought you might enjoy."
As you may have heard on National Signing Day Urban Meyer inked a lot of five-stars (and poached as many three-stars from his conference rivals), then rounded on the rest of the B1G for not faring so well. MaizeNBlueInDC took to the Scout rankings to confirm, compiling the recruits by state to demonstrate how each conference was doing versus its footprint. He starts with a chart that seems to suggest the Big Ten recruited just like every other major conference except the SEC which I graph:
The parts I faded are the top two teams from each conference according to Scout's team rankings, respectively Bama/Texas A&M, UCLA/Wash(!), Mich/OSU, Okla/Texas, Clemson/FSU, and Rutgers/Cincy. That's what Urbz is whining about; he and we finished with the 1 and 2 teams to Scout, and the fourth Big Ten team doesn't appear until two spots above Kentucky. Course I'm not sure what Meyer expects to say at the coaches meeting except "Stop being MAC coaches promoted to your Peter Principle limit." For QED purposes, a reminder of Big Ten coaching hires since 2007:
2007: Saban/Tressel acolyte who turned Cincy into a BCS team, LSU's DC, Mack Brown's recruiting guy, Indiana's OC who coached Ball State before Hoke.
2008: WVU's head coach who invented the spread 'n shred
2009: Eastern Kentucky's head coach (hired in '08 under grooming plan)
2010: Bob Stoop's longtime OC
2011: SDSU's head coach, NIU's head coach
2012: Two-time national championship winner at Florida, Toledo's head coach (CBs under Tressel), a Belichick assistant
2013: Utah State's head coach, Kent State's head coach (WRs under Tressel)
Recently the SEC has taken to hiring rising star high school coaches who spend a year at Arkansas State, but they've also pilfered Bielema and hired a string of successful coordinators and guys who turned mid-majors into Top 10 teams, and, you know, former national championship winners who tried the NFL because their NCAA dynasties were no longer challenging.
Returning to the Diary of the Week at hand, the rest of the charts use the state data to show things like the SEC has a third of the nation's talent while Big Ten states accounted for a sixth—every other conference is less than us. In the comments turd furgusoncharted where the schools line up in ranking vs avg prospect rank to see if they're just hauling in more kids period. That also makes for easy graphing and general usefulness so:
In other takes on meeting Meyer's standards, here's EGD with a list of Urban-approved, non-"Don't be a Peters'd MAC coach" tips for Big Ten coaches heading out on the recruiting trail.
Scene: A little-used back room of the Palmer House in Chicago, its walls lined with trophies honoring the conference's academic achievements, and tasteful sweaters. A group of men and a duck mill about, most huddled around a smartphone showing walrus porn. One is eyeing the gilded stand lamps, apparently wondering if they're bolted down. They are watched by a shadowy figure in a ski mask. JIM DELANEY enters…
: The Big Ten Emergency Meeting on Recruiting Top Talent to the Midwest will now come to order. B1G T3N Divisions, ROLL CALL:
: Dammit Barry.
: I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce our two newest members, Notre Dame and Texas.
: Hark, fair commissariat, thou speakest in error, for surely thou didst mean mineself and mine good compatriot of Mary's land.
This class is pretty evenly spread across the position groups—an argument could be made for pretty much any group on the field. In an effort to avoid giving all of the awards to Dymonte Thomas, I'll go with the linebackers here. After 2012's big haul, Michigan only needed a couple of linebackers in the class, and they filled their two spots with a pair of very solid prospects in Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon.
The lone linebacker spot the 2012 class didn't cover was on the strong side, and McCray's size (6'4", 230 lbs.) and athleticism make him an ideal fit there. Gedeon, meanwhile, is a stellar athlete—he also starred at running back for Hudson—who should be able to cover the field sideline-to-sideline from the weakside linebacker position.
Honorable Mention: Safety, Cornerback
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Strongside DE
There isn't one, and that's the only hole in this class on the defensive side of the ball. After Michigan brought in three SDE-types in 2012—Matt Godin, Tom Strobel, and Chris Wormley—there wasn't a major need, especially with in-state standout Malik McDowell firmly in their sights for the 2014 class.
MOST LIKELY TO START FROM DAY ONE: Dymonte Thomas
Defensive highlights start at the 4:22 mark.*
It's distinctly possible that no member of the 2013 class starts on defense next season, and that's a very good thing for Michigan. If one will, however, it's safety Dymonte Thomas, a dominant force in the state of Ohio at both running back and safety for the last three seasons. Michigan has to replace Jordan Kovacs, and if Jarrod Wilson isn't ready to step in at free safety, it's likely that Thomas Gordon will play there while Thomas slides in at strong safety.
Thomas may be the best pure athlete in the class—if he wanted, he could've easily been a four-star running back recruit—and he brings a very physical presence to the secondary. He should be an asset in run support off the bat and he has all the tools necessary to be solid in coverage, as well. Down the road, I think Thomas will be an all-conference—or even All-American—player, and it may be tough to keep him off the field this fall.
Honorable Mention: The only other play I see having a shot to start this year is Taco Charlton—he's an impressive player and the weakside DE spot is open to competition. That said, I don't see that happening unless Michigan gets hit by the injury bug.
*Also of note: those are junior highlights. His senior reel is well worth a look.
SUREST THING: Dymonte Thomas
See above. Frankly, I'm surprised Scout was the only service to rank him as a five-star.
Honorable Mention: Henry Poggi. Poggi may not be a superstar—he doesn't always explode off the ball on film—but he seems like a guy who should at least be a solid starter down the road.
BOOM OR BUST: Jourdan Lewis
I've seen cornerback Jourdan Lewis play in either a game or camp setting over a half-dozen times at this point, and he's an outstanding athlete who could conceivably contribute in the return game or even at receiver. When he played across from current Wolverine Terry Richardson as a junior, I thought Lewis was flat-out the better player—he's a little taller and is extremely good at making a play on the ball. After giving him a closer look this year, however, I noticed a couple holes in his game:
There are a couple major concerns I have with Lewis, however, that were on display on Friday night. He does rely on that recovery speed far too much in man coverage—if OLSM's quarterback had thrown that hitch on time, for example, I don't think Lewis would've been able to break up the pass. Then there's run support, where Lewis is very limited by his small frame; at his size, he has to be completely committed to throwing his weight around and tackling with proper technique, and I don't see that at this point. He tends to dive for an ankle-tackle and shies away from major contact—there's a stark contrast between him and Webb, who's both bigger and more willing to lay a hit.
Lewis has all the athleticism necessary to be a very good cover corner, but he's going to need to add some weight, embrace the physicality of the run game, and refine his coverage skills if he wants to be a major contributor at cornerback. If that doesn't work out, he could flip to offense and be a playmaker in the slot, so his versatility gives him a lesser chance of flaming out, but there's no guarantee he'd stick there, either. I think Lewis is a prospect with a high ceiling, but he's going to have to work to get there.
Honorable Mention: Maurice Hurst Jr.—the athletic big man could wreak havoc on the interior, but he's got to learn to play low.
MGOSCOUTED STAMP OF APPROVAL: Taco Charlton
When I drove down to Pickerington to see defensive end Taco Charlton's Central squad take on crosstown rival North (and fellow commit Jake Butt), I expected to see a raw pass-rushing specialist. Instead, I saw him play an instrumental role in keeping North running back Godwin Igwebuike (Northwestern commit) well below his usual numbers, sacrificing his personal stats to key on the run—and he still came up with 1.5 sacks:
Despite having a reputation as a pass-rush specialist, Charlton was instrumental in limiting Igwebuike on the ground, finishing with ten tackles and 1.5 sacks. He was largely tasked with keeping contain, and I don't recall a single instance where a running play got outside of him if it went to his side. While he sometimes allows offensive linemen to get their hands into his chest off the snap, he did a solid job of engaging and using his hands to shed blocks. He played a very disciplined game against the run, showed off a very high motor—especially impressive since he also moonlighted at tight end and on special teams—and always seemed to end up around the football.
As a pass-rusher, Charlton showed off more of a power game than what I've seen from him on camp film, getting his hands inside the blocker and bull-rushing to great effect. He still has that impressive speed around the edge and got pressure on a couple of speed-rushes, but for the most part he went right at his blocker—likely due to his contain responsibilities against the run.
Charlton has also really begun to fill out; Michigan lists him at 6'6", 249 pounds after he enrolled early, and he's got the frame to easily get up to the 270-pound range without losing his impressive quickness. I think he could factor into the weakside DE rotation as soon as this fall, and down the road he could be the edge-rushing threat that Michigan has lacked at DE for some time.
Honorable Mention: Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill. I've covered Lewis; Hill wasn't a guy I really focused on while watching Cass Tech since he was a long-time Iowa commit and there were so many D-I prospects on the field, but it wasn't hard to notice him anyway—he always seemed to find his way to the football and was a solid tackler once he got there.
SLEEPER: Channing Stribling
When cornerback Channing Stribling earned an offer—and subsequently committed—at Michigan's camp over some more highly-touted prospects (including eventual teammate Reon Dawson), he was a complete unknown despite coming from a football powerhouse at Matthews (NC) Butler. He was immediately pegged as an underrated sleeper, and after a senior season spent making big play after big play, it seemed like he was on the verge of making a huge leap in the recruiting rankings.
That never quite happened—Stribling ended up as a three-star across the board, so the sleeper label still fits. At 6'2", 170 pounds, he's very tall for a cornerback, and his playmaking skills were on display all year—in one game last fall, he had two receiving touchdowns, a defensive touchdown, and a kickoff return for a touchdown. If Stribling can fill out his frame and refine his coverage skills, he could be a very good corner; he's also extremely raw, and maintaining the quickness to cover college receivers at that height is no easy task.
Here's the pics I could assemble from 2013 signing day, because the most exciting thing that happened today was 18-year-olds signing pieces of paper and standing by fax machines. If you've got others post 'em below with attribution and I'll add.
To begin, here's ESPN'slead photo with Shane Morris and Wyatt Shallman in a DeLorean, because if you're going to take the Michigan program Back to the Future why not do it with some style. Also the stainless steel construction… stand back.
It is Signing Day 2013, and if you weren't aware, Michigan has a pretty, pretty good class. With this post—and its accompanying defense post (coming tomorrow)—I'll attempt to give you a solid overview of the class, its strengths and weaknesses, and hand out a few superlatives. Let's start with a look at the offensive class as a whole and their final rankings from the recruiting services—click on each player's name to see their commitment post:
This offensive line class is arguably the best in the country, finding strength both in numbers (six) and quality (five of the six are consensus four-stars or above and made All-American teams). As Michigan continues to fill in the holes left by some disastrous offensive line recruiting under Rich Rodriguez, this couldn't have come at a better time.
Among the group, guard Kyle Bosch is the most likely to crack the two-deep early; he's on campus early and has college-ready size—Michigan lists him at 6'5", 311 lbs.—to go with a polished set of skills. He won't start right away (let's hope) but could factor in as a backup. Center Patrick Kugler—the son of longtime NFL OL coach and current UTEP head coach Sean Kugler—might be the best of the bunch, though. He'll hit campus as the most physically gifted Wolverine at the position, and while he shouldn't be forced to play right away, he should be a multi-year starter down the road.
Honorable Mention: Running Back, Quarterback.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: No elite receiver
Yes, this class lacks a blue-chip wideout. Csont'e York and Jaron Dukes are both big targets who can go up and get the ball, while Da'Mario Jones could be a playmaker in the slot, but none are can't-miss prospects. This issue is mitigated somewhat by Michigan's strong recruiting at tight end—get a couple playmakers there and the pressure comes off the receivers in the passing game—but you'd still like to see a top-flight guy on the outside.
Honorable Mention: The only other issue with the offensive side of the class is the lack of a second quarterback for depth purposes, something the coaches decided wasn't necessary. Otherwise, every need was filled.
MOST LIKELY TO START FROM DAY ONE: Derrick Green
Not only is Green the top-ranked recruit in the class, but he comes in at a position of great uncertainty and, as of late, middling production. He's got the body of an NFL running back as a high school senior and is a perfect fit for Al Borges's ideal offense. It's unknown whether Fitz Toussaint will be ready to start the season after his ugly leg injury and his production was lacking in 2012 anyway; Thomas Rawls failed to impress in his stead. Green's toughest competition for the bulk of the carries may even come from fellow 2013 commit DeVeon Smith, arguably the best back in the state of Ohio. Either way, expect a freshman (or two) to make a big impact in the backfield next season.
Honorable Mention: DeVeon Smith, Jake Butt
SUREST THING: Patrick Kugler
Covered in part above, Kugler is as close as you'll get to a can't-miss offensive line recruit. At 6'5", 280 lbs. before setting foot on campus, he's got better size than any Michigan center of recent vintage. His father spent nine years coaching offensive line in the NFL, and Patrick's film makes it apparent that he's absorbed a lot of his father's teaching—from a technical standpoint, he's very advanced for his age. He participated in the Under Armour AA Game and held up very well against some of the best defensive linemen in the country.
Kugler's only competition at center right now is Jack Miller, who's been groomed to take over the position for a couple years but was too undersized to see the field as a redshirt freshman in 2012. Miller should step in and start in 2013—it's unrealistic to expect Kugler to have enough command of the offense to make the O-line calls after a few weeks on campus—but it's going to be hard to keep Kugler off the field in 2014 and beyond.
Honorable Mention: Derrick Green, Kyle Bosch
BOOM OR BUST: Logan Tuley-Tillman
Offensive lineman Logan Tuley-Tillman has the prototypical left tackle frame at 6'7", 307 pounds. He's also a relative newcomer to the game of football and spent his high school days overpowering opponents with sheer size and strength—as a result, he's got a long way to go from a technical standpoint. At last summer's Sound Mind Sound Body camp, Tuley-Tillman and David Dawson both got extensive work in with Michigan OL coach Darrell Funk—Funk used Dawson as an example for how to execute certain technical aspects of line play, then spent a good deal of time trying to get Tuley-Tillman to that level.
If Tuley-Tillman can put it all together, he's the future at left tackle and could even develop into an NFL prospect. With so much ground to cover, however, he could also get buried on the depth chart by more polished players. It should help that Tuley-Tillman is already on campus—with a redshirt year all but guaranteed, he'll have plenty of time to work on the fundamentals before worrying about seeing the field.
Honorable Mention: Shane Morris, Chris Fox
MGOSCOUTED STAMP OF APPROVAL: Jake Butt
Among the players I checked out last fall—on offense: Morris, Shallman, York, Dawson, Butt, and Hill—tight end Jake Butt really stood out with his performance on the field. Playing against cross-town rival Pickerington Central—featuring fellow Wolverine Taco Charlton—he hauled in nine catches for 93 yards and a TD while also making an impact at defensive end. Some of my impressions from that game:
Butt did a great job of snatching the ball away from his body and caught everything thrown his way. While he could be a little sharper out of his breaks, he runs crisp routes and positions his body well to give his quarterback a big target while warding off the defender. He was able to find space up the seam on multiple occasions but was also comfortable working on the perimeter, at one point catching back-to-back out routes when Central cheated to the inside in coverage. He's not going to juke past too many defenders after the catch, but he usually finds a way to fall forward for extra yardage.
At 6'6", 235 lbs., Butt has an ideal frame for the position, and his blocking really impressed me as well. He's another early enrollee, and I'd be surprised if he took a redshirt—he may not start from day one, but he's a better blocker than Devin Funchess and could give Michigan a scary one-two combo at tight end/H-back.
Honorable Mention: David Dawson, Shane Morris
THE SHANE MORRIS CATEGORY: Shane Morris
An overview of Michigan's 2013 class is incomplete without mentioning the team's quarterback of the future. Morris dropped from five-star status on Rivals and 247 after a senior season marred by mono and an uneven performance at the Under Armour AA Game, but he still has the highest ceiling of any of Michigan's commits.
The first thing that stands out about Morris is his arm strength—the ball explodes out of his hand with seemingly little effort. When he's on, it's a sight to behold. The problem—and ultimately why he dropped in the rankings—is that he's yet to show consistency; he still needs work reading defenses and relies too heavily on his arm strength to fit the ball into windows that sometimes aren't there.
Those expecting Morris to come in and take the starting job need to temper their expectations severely—the job is Devin Gardner's, and barring injury it'll stay that way. Morris could very well come in and earn the backup job over Russell Bellomy, however, and with a couple years of development he could be special.
Honorable Mention: Shane Morris
SLEEPER: Da'Mario Jones
Michigan snatched WR Da'Mario Jones, a Westland John Glenn product, away from Central Michigan, so he certainly flew under the radar for the bulk of the recruiting cycle. That may have been the product of playing in a league that doesn't get much exposure, however—Allen Trieu reported($) that UCLA, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, and Georgia all came to see him last week, though no offers came when he made it clear he was ticketed for Ann Arbor.
While the other two receivers in the class, Csont'e York and Jaron Dukes, are big guys who were on the receiving end of a lot of jump balls in high school, Jones is a guy who's shown his ability to work underneath and break big plays after the catch. With Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon back in 2013, he may not see the field right away, but down the road there's a clear role he can fill in the slot—a position that, granted, may be marginalized by the increased emphasis on tight ends—and nobody else on the roster who fits that mold after next season.
National Signing Day still ongoing, but we already have a pretty good idea how things are going to play out.
6:00 a.m. - The sun has yet to rise in College Station, Texas. A lonely fax machine sits in Kevin Sumlin's office. There is no way for it to know the hell it is about to experience. It can't comprehend such things. It is just a machine.
7:10 a.m. - Brian Kelly receives his 100th Letter of Intent for 'Lennay Kekua,' to go along with 37 for 'Manti Te'o's Fake Girlfriend' and 6 for 'That Catfish chick.' "Very original, jackass," he thinks to himself. Kelly looks in his mini-fridge, but finds it empty. He calls up Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, and threatens to leave for the NFL if Notre Dame doesn't pony up breakfast.
7:13 a.m. - An out-of-breath Swarbrick arrives with an Egg McMuffin. Kelly grunts a half-hearted, "okay I'll stay."
Om nom nom
7:44 a.m. - Out of absolutely nowhere, damn near every five-star recruit in the country commits to Ole Miss. Yep. Ole Miss. This is in no way suspicious. Stuff like this happens occasionally; the best players in the country will sometimes all decide, basically at the same time, to attend the same school, even if that school hasn’t won its conference since the Kennedy Administration. Why are you so suspicious of this? Just because Ole Miss is 13-24 (and 4-21 in conference) over the last three seasons? Or because Ole Miss has never been ranked higher than 15th in Rivals’ rankings? Or because one of their five-star recruits tweeted out a picture of a pile of cash recently? That’s all just circumstantial evidence, man.
8:02 a.m. - Michigan blog circles awaken, but unlike most are unconcerned with the events of this day. For you see, Michigan is different than the other schools, who view the purpose of recruiting as stockpiling talent and accumulating star ratings. Michigan is not concerned with such things. Michigan attempts to accumulate Michigan Men. Men who think only of the team. The team, the team, the team. And though they are few in number, their moral standing and forthright character will make them superior athletes, scholars, and gentlemen at the end of the day. Some players may be more highly ranked than these Michigan Men, but those rankings do not capture the essence of teamsmanship and sportitude that make these Michigan Men special. And though those more highly ranked players may choose other schools, in doing so they demonstrate that they are, in fact, not Michigan Men, and were therefore unworthy to don the winged helmet. Those who stay, gentlemen. Those who stay.
8:12 a.m. - Word hits Michigan blog circles that Derrick Green has submitted his LOI. Michigan fans respond with a "WOOOOOOO FIVE STAR RUNNING BACKS BABY!!! OUR CLASS KICKS YOUR CLASS'S THREE-STAR ASS. SUCK IT, DANTONIO. NUMBER ONE!!!"
8:54 a.m. - A kid with discernable football talent sends his paperwork to Colorado. All are confused.
Did… did you watch the last few years?
9:10 a.m. - ..."What is this madness?" wonders the poor fax machine. He has not stopped churning for a moment. He is on his third drum of toner and sixth ream of paper, and there seems to be no end in sight. There is no time to contemplate the greater meaning, however, as another fax is coming in...
9:36 a.m. - A bright-eyed and talented young running back from Iowa beams ear-to-ear as he hands his paperwork to his high school athletic director. "Send this to the attention of Kirk Ferentz at this number, please," he says. As the fax machine starts to whir, the young man feels a strange twinge in his right knee, and he suddenly senses that someone, or something, is behind him. He turns, but nothing is there. He shrugs and laughs it off. Alas, it is too late for him already.
10:01 a.m. - Urban Meyer enters his office to gaze upon the hundreds and hundreds of LOIs on his desk. Seemingly every major recruit in the country, including those who already enrolled early at other schools, has sent their pledge to Ohio State. Meyer feels a touch of guilt for having not explained better to all of these young men that most of their offers were not "committable." Meyer sifts through the pile for the letters from the 21 kids he really wanted, and places the rest of them in the recycling bin.
11:53 p.m. - Mark Dantonio picks up... you know what? No one really cares.
File Photo. I think. I didn’t look very hard.
12:01 p.m. - Brian Kelly calls Jack Swarbrick and and informs him that he is considering leaving to coach the Baltimore Orioles, and that he is rather hungry.
12:07 p.m. - Swarbrick arrives with a chicken carbonara sandwich from Quiznos. Kelly reaffirms that he is still completely devoted to Notre Dame.
12:47 p.m. - Bo Pelini receives a letter of intent from a highly touted defensive lineman. Pelini immediately calls the young man and berates him for 20 minutes for his inexcusable penmanship.
YOUR Fs LOOK LIKE F***ING Ts. AND HOW THE HELL IS THAT A D?
2:17 p.m. - In Tuscaloosa, a dozen non-contributing underclassmen and a handful of oft-injured juniors are asked to load all of their equipment onto a truck as part of a "new drill." They don't suspect anything, despite the fact that their first task upon arriving at Alabama had been to unload about a dozen sets of football pads and other equipment from a truck very much like this one.
2:58 p.m. - A Tennessee commit tells local reporters how excited he is to compete for an SEC Championship. No one has the heart to tell him.
3:39 p.m. - ... Too much. This is simply too much. His motherboard smoking, his outer shell warped from the heat, the poor fax machine longs for the sweet release of death. They are coming slower now, but the short break between letters only offers cruel hope that maybe, just maybe, the the previous letter will have been the last. And yet, each respite is interrupted by OH COME ON, WHO THE HELL NEEDS THIS MANY WIDE RECEIVERS?
4:11 p.m. - In West Lafayette, Darrell Hazell hears the knock on his office door that he has been dreading. Brady Hoke enters, walks to Hazell's desk, and picks up Hazell's pile of LOIs. Hoke thumbs through them slowly, removes one from the pile, folds it neatly, and places it in his pocket. Hazell starts to protest, but realizes the futility. Danny Hope had explained to him about the natural order of things. Hoke adjusts his wizard hat and leaves without a word. Hazell vows revenge, but deep down he fears he may just be fooling himself.
6:41 p.m. - Gus Malzahn once again checks the connection on his fax machine. Had he given his recruits the wrong fax number? I mean, he DID have some commitments, right?