Preview 2016: Special Teams

Preview 2016: Special Teams

Submitted by Brian on September 1st, 2016 at 4:47 PM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker. Cornerback. Safety.

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[Eric Upchurch]

Depth Chart

Kicker Yr Punter Yr Kickoffs Yr Punt return Yr Kick return Yr
Kenny Allen Sr* Kenny Allen Sr* Kenny Allen Sr* Jabrill Peppers So* Chris Evans Fr.
Quinn Nordin Fr Quinn Nordin Fr Quinn Nordin Fr Jourdan Lewis Sr. Jehu Chesson Sr.*

John Baxter fled back to California after one Michigan winter and will get what's coming to him in the next ice age. Baxter is a uniquely good special teams coach and there wasn't an obvious replacement available; also Rashan Gary existed. So Michigan promoted Chris Partridge to a full-fledged assistant spot and split special teams duties between him and Jay Harbaugh.

There's probably going to be a dropoff in effort applied. Last year Michigan took timeout in a squib situation so they could insert Dymonte Thomas; they lined him up at the spot a squib should go and lo, he returned it to midfield. If that creativity persists it's evidence Harbaugh is pushing every available angle. I don't expect it to. John Baxter appeared to be a rare commodity: a difference-making special teams coach.

Even so, this should be a strength.

KICKER

Rating: 4

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[Bryan Fuller]

The dread was palpable last year when scholarship freshman Andrew David wasn't even in the conversation. A couple of walk-ons vied for the job and were by all accounts somewhere between vexing and terrible. So of course when KENNY ALLEN locked the spot down he hit 18/22, with one miss a bad snap and a second due in large part to a downright supernatural gust of wind that pushed a probable make wide. Allen was also 46/46 on PATs.

The catch, such as it is, is that Allen rarely attempted a field goal from outside 40 yards. Just six of his attempts were in the zone of mild difficulty; he went 3/6. He did hit a 47 yarder and he's a booming punter so the leg strength is likely there.

Even if Allen is unproven at longer distances, I will take a #collegekicker who is near-automatic from 40 and in every day of the week and twice on Saturday. Some additional range is the only improvement required.

If that range is not forthcoming, QUINN NORDIN [recruiting profile] also lurks. Harbaugh is uncomfortable with having Allen take every last kicking duty so it's possible Nordin gets some longer kicks. If Michigan does decide to spread the load out, kickoffs are a more likely deployment for Nordin.

PUNTER

Rating: 4.

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[Bryan Fuller]

KENNY ALLEN, yes that Kenny Allen, figures to win this job too. Allen in fact came to Michigan a punter, and a booming one at that. He's had two punts in games, both of which went 50+ yards, and since Brady Hoke's reaction to "you have to have an open practice" was to turn it into a special teams exhibition your author has seen Allen punt a ton. He's really good. He could challenge Will Hagerup and Monte Robbins for the all-time gross average, which currently sits at 45 yards even.

One department that figures to have a decline is pooch punting. Blake O'Neil's feathery touch on punts inside the ten was remarkable and unlikely to be repeated by any non-Aussie. When I caught Michgian's open practice at Ford Field, Andrew David was tasked with that nose-down pooch punting stuff that's all the rage. David's left the team since; that might signify Allen's not great at pinning the opposition deep.

QUINN NORDIN is also an option here.

Preview 2016: Running Back

Preview 2016: Running Back

Submitted by Brian on August 29th, 2016 at 3:11 PM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback.

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NOPE [Bryan Fuller]

[New bolded player rules: not necessarily returning starter, but someone we've seen enough of that I'm no longer talking about their recruiting profile. Extant contributor.]

FEATURE BACK Yr. SHORT YARDAGE Yr. 3RD DOWN YR. SPREAD H YR.
De'Veon Smith Sr. De'Veon Smith Sr. De'Veon Smith Sr. Jabrill Peppers So.*
Ty Isaac Jr.* Kingston Davis Fr. Drake Johnson Sr.* Chris Evans Fr.
Drake Johnson Sr.* Ty Isaac Jr.* Karan Higdon So. Drake Johnson Sr.*
Jabrill Peppers So.* Kareem Walker Fr. Ty Isaac Jr.* Ty Isaac Jr.*

Last year was more of the same from a Michigan running back corps that had slowly devolved since the moment Mike Hart left. Upticks from Brandon Minor and Fitz Toussaint were more than offset by yards eschewed, random running, that year Toussaint couldn't pass block a soul, and a steady stream of Michigan discards who blew up as soon as they landed on another team.

Large sections of your author's time were spent fighting with people about how bad it was or was not, so here's Dane Brugler on De'Veon Smith:

His vision and run instincts tend to run hot/cold, leading to questionable decisions, and with his lack of explosive traits, Smith needs to be more decisive and trust what he sees. He tends to leave you wanting more due to his marginal burst and instincts, but there is a place at the next level for Smith due to his power, ball skills and upside as a blocker.

It was pretty bad… and then it got better. Smith's outstanding Citrus Bowl was the exclamation point on a mid-season turnaround that looks a lot like those Chesson and Rudock experienced. It wasn't as dramatic, but it was there. I'm going to whisper the next sentence: it almost kind of looked like someone had figured something out.

Running back coaching matters? I want to believe.

THE MAN THE MAN THE MAN

Rating: 4

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[Seth Fisher]

After consecutive years where this preview listed options at all three roles above in an almost but not quite entirely arbitrary fashion, Michigan enters the season knowing who their first-choice back is: DE'VEON SMITH. They know who their short-yardage back is: De'Veon Smith. They know who their third-down back is: De'Veon Smith. They think he's good enough to put him in the bin with Amara Darboh and Jourdan Lewis and all the other veterans who don't need spring contact.

Survey says... eh, maybe. Smith's bravura Citrus Bowl against some tough, if potentially disinterested, customers was the exclamation point to a rollercoaster season. If you don't want to read the rest of this section here it is in 15 seconds:

Smith abandoned his pulling guard, disappeared into a pile of bodies, was still upright seven yards later, got caught from behind, shook off a defensive back, got caught by the same guy again, and shrugged him off once more like so much lint on his varsity jacket. Few sixty yard touchdowns in the history of Michigan football have been as likely to cause the coaching box to exclaim "what are you DOING?" the instant before the breakthrough.

That was Smith's 2015. For every shattered defensive back left trembling in a puddle of his own making...

...there was a truck lane ignored.

Last year's UFRs invariably contained a book-length subsection on the running backs and the yards they made or, more often, set on fire. As the lead back Smith came in for the plurality of the discussion. Depending on the week this discussion was either generally positive and hopeful...

/spittle shields at 70% and dropping

Actually… I got nothing this week. I thought the backs did well. I complained about a lead zone run last week. Michigan didn't block it well; Smith mechanically ran into the gap he should go in if they in fact did block it well. He ate a DT for minimal yardage. I didn't care if Smith actually got anything on the play, I just wanted to see him see what was going on in front of him and put a foot in the ground to give himself a chance.

He did that on this one:

That cutback doesn't look like it'll amount to much when he makes it but Michigan gets on some blocks and Smith runs through some guys and it's a nice gain. If he'd gotten swallowed by an unblocked LB back there it's still the right cut.

...or blackly grim:

I feel like this is going to lead into another running back diatribe.

Are they really diatribes?

YES

Large portions of last year's preview focused on Smith's tendency to run at random, which outlets other than the Michigan obsessive bits of the internet picked up on:

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The hope was Harbaugh and Wheatley could get Smith moving in the right direction more often, and for most of the season that was dashed.

But the frustration I experienced was not limited to Smith. Everyone who took more than a dozen or so carries made at least one mindbogglingly bad cut, from Drake Johnson to Ty Isaac to Derrick Green to Sione Houma. That's widespread enough to seem like a coaching issue, and Smith's trajectory confirms:

[UFR charting for ballcarriers is another spot where zero is bad. Zero means you got what was blocked and nothing else.]

Game Opponent + - TOT Pass- Team- Comment
1 Utah 5.5 7 -1.5 0   Cuts late let M down.
2 Oregon State 15.5 4 11.5 0 4 Brutal Legend
3 UNLV 2 8 -6 0   Two very bad plays and not much to make up for it.
4 BYU 9.5 4.5 5 3 2 Beast mode.
5 Maryland           DNP
6 Northwestern 7.5 1.5 6 0   On just 8 carries.
7 MSU 5 5 0 0 2 Grinder; a bit frustrating with the cuts again.
8 Minnesota   2 -2 0 1 No YAC.
9 Rutgers 6 0.5 5.5 0   Good game.
10 Indiana 4.5 2 2.5 2 2 Frustratingly slow sometimes but made up for it with power.
11 PSU 9.5 4 5.5 3   +2 blocking, +2 on catches, and then +3 late, which fits a pattern discussed below.
12 OSU 7.5   7.5 0 1 Made a significant number of yards himself. Zero pass pro minuses.
13 Florida 15 2 13 0 1 I be like dang
  TOTALS 87.5 40.5 47 8 13  

That is a veritable late-season surge. Smith came in for some clucking after the PSU game since I didn't care for three of his 13 carries, but in the context of the last five games that's the outlier and being good at running is the trend.

This was clearest in the bowl game. Smith probed for holes, showed off a Mike Hart-level backfield stutter, and fired off a decisive backside cut on his first three carries. The stutter's probably the most impressive but the cut is the most important:

That's vision, and I was floored as it continued for an entire game against the #5 S&P run defense:

And this continued! Presented with a DL penetrating almost to the handoff point Smith cut off his OL's back and blew through an arm tackle. On the three, Smith turned negative two yards into two by juking two dudes and running through a couple tackles. Even on certain runs where it looked like he'd screwed up, the tape revealed he was trying to make the best of a bad situation only to find that there was no relief elsewhere. It took me a couple takes to realize that this was Smith avoiding a wholly unblocked LB in the hole:

As I said in the table above, he's probably better off running right at the guy for a few yards but I prefer Smith seeing trouble and adjusting even if it doesn't work out. Early in the second half Smith cut to the backside of the line and got hewed down early because a safety blitz prevented Darboh from getting to the guy. That's an RPS minus; without the playcall Smith is ripping off another backside cut. Even with it if Cole had cut off penetration a little better Smith can attack the S head-on, and that usually ends badly for the DB.

At that point I hadn't done the OSU game and wondered if that was a one-off; now that the entire picture is in view it's obviously not. I mean… it's kind of a Rudock trajectory. It wasn't quite as obvious since Michigan tried its hardest to avoid the defensive lines of PSU and OSU, but it's there. That's why Smith was placed amongst the revered elders during spring.

So. The dude remains a nuclear-powered icebreaker. The number of tackles he blew through was truly impressive, and even when he was in fact being tackled piles had a tendency to lurch two or three yards towards the endzone:

I have literally dozens of these clipped:

Smith grinds out yards after contact better than any back I've seen at Michigan. Yeah, he's slow. Yeah, he's not going to juke a guy in the open field. But in the right situation he can be a killer. That situation is surrounded by very good blocking that delivers him three yards downfield on a consistent basis. Smith will turn that into five or eight or eleven yards better than anyone not named Fournette. Is he going to have that this year? Maybe, maybe not. Michigan should get closer to it.

Smith's peripherals are unambiguously positive. He fumbled just once last year. He was also a strangely effective third-down back, to the point where I called him "King Hippo Vincent Smith." This is mostly because of his consistently excellent pass blocking:

Smith has the oomph to stand up linebackers like nobody since Mike Hart. This was a point of discussion after Penn State, a game in which Smith only got eight carries and still managed to stick out as an asset:

Smith has power and agility and can pick guys up. Even big guys. … Then in this game he added a couple of dumpoffs on which he displayed that fun Smith-vs-defensive backs stuff. On back to back plays at the end of the first half he turned nothing into something, first getting a few when Rudock got nailed, and then plastering a DB across his windshield for a first down:

This is something you can work with.

His eight protection minuses on the season are only twice what Ty Isaac managed to acquire in scattered snaps against Oregon State, and there was a distinct lack of the "team" minuses I hand out when I'm not sure who screwed up. 13 over the course of the season is a really low number and off the top of my head I'd guess that two-thirds could not be on Smith.

As a bonus, Smith is a solid outlet option because of this SAT analogy:

De'Veon Smith : defensive back :: windshield : insect

His hands were good—one drop in 17 opportunities and a circus catch—and if not tackled immediately he's going to tack on 5 or so yards after contact.

In limited opportunities he's shown that he's also an asset as a run blocker:

After that game I described him as a "low-to-the-ground 230-pound brick"; after the pass block above I broke my longstanding commitment to pooh-pooh all motivation/effort talk:

I usually assume everyone's going all out all the time and dismiss motivation stuff, but this week I got frustrated with a couple players for a lack of want-to. Smith never lacks that. Smith wants to end you. Even if he's slow and his vision is lacking, that's something.

He's the kind of guy willing to play through just about anything, and that's something Harbaugh has noticed.

Smith is a good bet to be Michigan's first 1,000 yard back since Fitz Toussaint. He's got a half-season of being pretty good and has more upside than you'd expect because so many of his issues stemmed from an unfamiliarity with the offense and running back basics. Wheatley:

"(Now we're trying to) get guys like De'Veon and Ty Isaac (and Drake Johnson) to what I call a mastery level. Progressing past the things we did last year."

It says here that Smith's 2015 is a better version of his second half. Michigan will rotate him a bunch to keep him as healthy as possible—his pounding style is tough on him and caused him to miss chunks of multiple games—and this will keep his counting numbers from attracting national attention, but his YPC should take a big step forward along with his reputation amongst Michigan fans.

[After THE JUMP: Jabrill Peppers! And other guys, but also Peppers!]

Camp Chatter Hot Takes

Camp Chatter Hot Takes

Submitted by Brian on August 25th, 2016 at 12:43 PM

Previously: offense, defense & special teams.

Many people are saying things about Michigan's fall camp. Some are coaches, some are insiders, some are men wearing shoes as hats. Some of the things are true, some are maybe a bit misleading, some verge on balderdash. Let's evaluate things that people are saying for truthiness.

The quarterback battle is still up in the air

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[Eric Upchurch]

Thing: Nobody has ventured a strong opinion on Michigan's starter. You occasionally get a weak assertion that someone feels like a leader that's immediately followed with caveats. Tellingly, those assertions are split close to down the middle between the two main contenders.

Thing react: The coaches almost certainly have a good idea who it's going to be, but I believe that the race is tight enough that it might get overturned late and that there's genuine uncertainty amongst insiders. I'd strongly prefer an answer by now. I mean, it'll be fine since Harbaugh, but it's more likely that Michigan has one good QB than two.

Chris Evans!

Thing: Can't throw a rock on a message board without hitting an insider swearing up and down that Chris Evans is the truth. This has bled through to honest to God press conferences as well.

Thing react: It's tough to find snaps for Evans in an offense that's going to run a metric ton of tight ends onto the field along with Grant Perry and Jabrill Peppers. One thing Evans has going for him is Peppers's tendency to be the best at everything all the time: they'll want to keep his snaps down until they really need him. Evans is another spread H-back type. He'll slot into the Peppers role against the pushovers.

Still feeling like Evans hype is real but a year too early.

Ben Bredeson!

Thing: Ben Bredeson has been promoted into a bonafide 50/50 competition for the left tackle spot. Also impossible to throw rock on message board without hitting man enthused about Bredeson. He was the BTN's primary takeaway from their visit to practice, which says something about something.

Thing react: If you made me guess this instant I'd say he's the starting LT. I'm not entirely enthused about this either, but Bredeson is closer to the instant-start five star zone than Mason Cole was. Cole was the #127 recruit on the composite. Bredeson was #39. Bredeson's also 20 pounds heavier than Cole was as a freshman. He was the only OL at the loaded UA game who could annoy Rashan Gary, so maybe he is ready to take on mortals.

Cole managed to survive as a freshman. Bredeson can probably do better. The ceiling is probably something like Erik Magnuson's completely average 2015.

The freshman receivers are good

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[Bryan Fuller]

Thing: Michigan has already lost two of their five WR recruits, but initial reports on the three guys still on campus have been universally positive. All three are reputed to be explosive and dedicated.

Thing react: [sits and points at their recruiting profiles smugly]

None of these guys are going to play much this year, but if one or two emerges even a little bit that will ease everyone's mind about the 2017 receiving corps. I'm not worried. They can find three guys out of Ways, Harris, Perry, and the freshmen.

This defensive line is just… I mean…

Thing: All the usual suspects have come in for praise; the guys who have not been mentioned are guys who are taken for granted as really good players like Ryan Glasgow and Chris Wormley. Rashan Gary is mostly described with a blank look, a shake of the head, and a laugh because he is everything he's supposed to be. Chase Winovich and even Matt Godin are getting talked up as contributors.

Thing react: Yes to all of it. Godin suffered late last year because he played next to the third string NT and teams could double him with impunity; before that there was a period where he was keeping guys like Wormley and Henry on the bench to an extent. He's a good player and will see snaps. Charlton should blow up with increased playing time and his still-excellent upside.

Nobody says anything about the linebackers

Thing: Aside from the occasional direct response when a coach gets asked about them at a press conference, there is total radio silence about the inside linebackers. Brown keeps talking about redshirt junior walk-on Mike Wroblewski.

Thing react: I wouldn't take that as a sign either way. Linebacker play is difficult to get a read on. The last four years of Joe Bolden spring hype that petered out in to just okay play have made me suspicious of anything people say in this department.

One glance at the depth chart is enough to see that Wroblewski is going to play some. After the starters there is very little aside from freshmen. Devin Bush will play; Elysee Mbem-Bosse and Devin Gil are both very raw. Linebacker has more depth concerns than any position on the roster other than maybe safety.

David Long!

Thing: David Long is very fast and takes notes and is Jehu Chesson, cornerback edition.

Thing react: If Long remains healthy he is a lock. He's going to play this year and start in 2017 and that's going to be very little dropoff from Jourdan Lewis. Maybe not immediately, but by the time he's a junior definitely.

Backup safeties can play

Thing: Praise all available deities. Angry Michigan Safety Hating God seems to be focusing on receivers who might get moved to safety these days—in the last year he's hewed down Brian Cole, Brad Hawkins, and Ahmir Mitchell—and spared the actual DBs. As long as we're keeping Chris Evans on offense that trend can continue.

Tyree Kinnel and Khaleke Hudson are both getting plugged as definite contributors this year and solid replacements down the line. Neither is much of a surprise—Kinnel had a strong spring and Hudson is our favorite non-Gary recruit in this class—but not having either guy derailed is important for 2016 and critical for beyond. Josh Metellus has even come in for the occasional mention; hitting on him would be very nice.

Thing react: I expected to hear these things, but actually hearing them is a step on the road to having a functioning secondary this year.

Most of these things are about 2017 more than 2016

Thing: The camp chatter glosses over big swathes of the team because you don't need to be told about them.

Thing react: Gonna be a good year.

WTKA Roundtable 8/18/16: Backups are Good

WTKA Roundtable 8/18/16: Backups are Good

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[Bryan Fuller]

Sam, Brian, and Craig are gone, but the MGoBlog Roundtable's second string of Bruce Madej, Ace Anbender, and Ira Weintraub would start for just about any other Big Ten radio roundtable. Things they discuss:

  • Another second unit that would start for just about any Big Ten program
  • Fullbacks! Don't forget about Hirsch
  • Chris Evans hype that only makes sense if it's real
  • Bo Schembechler believed you shouldn't be allowed to write about football if you don't understand all the subtle and sublime intricacies of offensive line play
  • A different take on Happy Gilmore
  • Iowa fans still hate Ed

You can catch the entire episode on Michigan Insider's podcast stream on Audioboom, which includes John U. Bacon's show, the new Spath show, and more.

Segment 2 is here.

THE USUAL LINKS

Unverified Voracity Says Up Periscope

Unverified Voracity Says Up Periscope

Submitted by Brian on August 17th, 2016 at 1:02 PM

BTN preview. BTN had their day at Michigan and came back with some video and some nonsense—on the television a person said that Michigan would be running a lot more man coverage, which is a literal impossibility. I'm not doing a recap post this year since specifics were thin; MGoVideo has the show up if you missed it.

The most interesting bit was Howard Griffith and then the rest of the crew advocating for Ben Bredeson to start immediately at left tackle because he is "elite":

Dave Revsine did have a couple of things of interest, including a Rashan Gary-Bredeson battle:

Bredeson got some rep at the UA game as the only guy who could even sort of slow Gary down, and here he sort of slows Gary down. Given the roster tackle reps for Bredeson are an inevitability—he can play it even if it's not an ideal spot and options past the starters are extremely questionable. Sufficient tackle reps to convince onlookers that Bredeson should play now are a bit of a surprise.

A bit more from Revsine:

And yes Gerry DiNardo said some nice things. I can never take them seriously:

"When I saw them in the spring it was like a war at the line of scrimmage. It was what you imagine it looks like at Alabama and all the downhill teams."

"How Michigan football returned to its smashmouth roots" was written before the 2013 season and remains the single least correct thing ever put on paper.

Let's infer things from this still shot. Via Chris Evans:

That appears to be ones versus ones. Items:

  • David Dawson is at right guard. Kyle Kalis was spotted in a non-contact jersey earlier in fall camp so that's probably an injury issue rather than Dawson making a move past an established starter; he appears to be the top backup option at guard.
  • Evans is in an H-back spot, not at tailback, His best fit on offense is as an OSU-style H-back in the vein of Jalin Marshall or last year's version Braxton Miller. While Michigan's offense doesn't have a dedicated spot like that, they did end up with a guy more or less in that role: Jabrill Peppers. With Evans impressing and Peppers around the offense figures to use a hybrid RB/WR guy on a lot of snaps, especially because you can do a lot worse than having De'Veon Smith block for you.
  • Michigan is very spread out across the defensive line and features both Wormley and Gary at defensive end. Wormley is likely to split his snaps close to evenly between DT and DE; reports that Gary will start get another bit of weight to them.
  • Pretty sure that's Peppers man up over a tight end I assume is Butt.

This is a good amount of data from a still shot.

It's a competition. All those #1 jerseys handed out? It's a competition like everything else:

“The one is not really given to me. Right now, I don’t really know what I’m wearing,” Crawford explained at Michigan’s Media Day. “I’m just wearing it right now, so we’ll see. There’s a couple players that want it. Whoever gets on the field first is going to get it.”

The hybrid space player breaks out. Excellent Andy Staples article on Jabrill Peppers and his ilk:

Since 2008, when the NCAA adopted the current clock rules and spawned an era of up-tempo offense, defensive coordinators have tried with little success to devise a system that can match up with an opponent who won't allow the defense time to substitute. The answer, it turns out, wasn't a scheme but a person. What those coordinators were seeking was a human Swiss Army knife, a player who can successfully operate on any of the defense's three levels and move effortlessly among them from play to play. With such a player on the field, a 4–3 base can morph into a 4–2–5 nickel without a single substitution or presnap move to tip off the quarterback. That 4–3 could also transform into (what appears to be) a blitzing 3–4 by walking the hybrid player to the line of scrimmage. Of course, the hybrid doesn't always have to blitz when he drops deep into the box (the area that encompasses the width of the offense's down linemen and extends about five yards beyond the line of scrimmage). He might bail and cover a receiver. Or he could come screaming off the edge faster than any defensive end or linebacker an offensive tackle has ever seen.

BC's Matt Milano, FSU's Derwin James, and Duke's Jeremy Cash are also this variety of hyper athletic linebacker/mean-ass safety. Read the whole thing for a picture of what Peppers's role will be this year.

Doctor Blitz. The Ringer's Jack McCluskey on Don Brown:

BC sent so many defenders into the backfield that it produced four players with at least 14.5 tackles for loss (no other team had more than two). Yet the Eagles failed to land a single player in the top 20 in that stat — they didn’t have transcendent talents like Clemson’s Shaq Lawson (25.5 TFL, 12.5 sacks) or Penn State’s Carl Nassib (19.5 TFL, 15.5 sacks) inflating their numbers. Their best pass rusher, Matt Milano, led the team with 17.5 TFLs (tied for no. 21 nationally) and just 6.5 sacks (tied for no. 72 nationally).

And though the Eagles had been vulnerable to giving up big plays on the back end in Brown’s first few seasons in Chestnut Hill, by Year 3 they got the personnel and the scheme to the point where they were solid on both ends. In 2013, Brown’s first year helming the defense, BC gave up 47 passing plays of more than 20 yards (tied for no. 97 nationally); in his last year, it gave up just 29 (tied for no. 10).

Someone is also using CFBStats.com, and well. That stat about 20 yard pass plays is clear evidence that Brown's reputation as an attack guy is warranted, and extends even to situations where his teams are getting burned on the back end as a result. Michigan probably won't have an issue as severe as BC 2013, but the Boring Old Jarrod Wilson days are probably behind us, for good and bad.

Hype hype hype hype. Michigan's gotten a lot of it this summer and there is naturally a tendency to check on this since Michigan hasn't been a truly elite team in a long time. (The Sugar Bowl was fun, sure, but if we're being honest that team was crazy lucky.) Dan Murphy analyzes the situation an article; he also gets a telling quote from Jake Butt:

“We were struggling with toughness our first few years,” Butt said about his underclassmen days under the former coaching staff. “Down the stretch of games when our backs were against the wall we struggled and we lost a lot of games. Coach Harbaugh identified this, and he made the changes necessary and it worked for us last year. I think it will continue to pay off for us going forward.”

Brady Hoke talked a lot about toughness but he wasn't having four-hour practices.

Injuries across the league. Michigan hasn't been hit yet, knock on wood. Others have not been so fortunate:

Thing I don't care about anymore. Harbaugh blazing people on twitter was fun over the summer, but it's more or less football season now. Now we talk about football. I do not care about Harbaugh ending an interview early because Mark Snyder has the social grace of an autistic llama on PCP, or moistly goateed Jim Rome turning that into #content, or Harbaugh spending ten seconds of his life googling "Jim Rome Jim Everett".

It does not matter. Rich Rodriguez was nicer to the media than any Michigan coach ever has been or will be and they stabbed him in the back at every opportunity. The media read Goodnight Gorilla to Brady Hoke every night and Michigan fans still abandoned the stadium in droves rather than watch his offense-type substance. I don't think it's a negative. I don't think Ty Duffy's right when he says it's a positive:

Harbaugh has spent two years playing the pied piper and dropping the occasional crumb on social media. Every media member is talking about him. Every major college football coach is answering questions about him. He’s been forced to reveal nothing. He doesn’t demand media members go along with it. He knows they will.

Everyone is talking about Michigan. Harbaugh has kept everyone’s attention deflected away from Michigan’s quarterback battle, from Jabrill Peppers being poised for a breakout year, and from Rashan Gary arriving on campus as the No. 1 overall recruit.

Harbaugh has been “handling” the media, masterfully, since he arrived in Ann Arbor. The implication is that “the media” are going to turn on Harbaugh and somehow this fact will have some grave karmic implications for him. Spoiler: it won’t.

It's nothing. It is noise made by people who don't really understand what they're watching. Andy Staples doesn't care. He can write a thing about hybrid space players. Mark Snyder has nothing other than press conferences to live on because he's never cared to learn one thing about the sport he covers even after 20-some years.

Here's the thing: a large number of people like open contempt for sports press since so often they're contemptible.

This is not a problem for most fans because given the chance they'd stuff most of the media in a broom closet.

Anyway. This admittedly longish section is the last I'll mention it unless something really amazingly tone deaf happens.

Etc.: They're run/pass optioning safeties now. Also still getting illegally downfield. Gentry as a tight end. Harbaugh hides at Coach and Four. The Hoover Street Rag turns ten. Probably not.

2016 Recruiting: Chris Evans

2016 Recruiting: Chris Evans

Submitted by Brian on July 8th, 2016 at 11:20 AM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford.

       
Indianapolis, IN – 5'11", 186
       

Scout 4*, #190 overall
#11 RB
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#32 ATH, #7 INL
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#69 RB, #8 IN
24/7 4*, #305 overall
#7 APB, #4 IN
Other Suitors OSU, MSU, Indiana, Purdue
YMRMFSPA Dennis Norfleet or
Dymonte Thomas
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace. Future Blue Originals vs Brandon Peters.
Notes Twitter.

Film

Senior:

Junior:

Ace and Dave got single-game film from that FBO:

Chris Evans is one of the most unpredictable recruits in Michigan's class. One site likes him a lot, another likes him just fine, and a couple are meh. He listed at three different spots by those sites and could be any of four different things in Ann Arbor:

"[I’ll play] either defensive back, slot, running back."

At Ben Davis, Evans was a heavily utilized all-purpose offensive threat who rushed for over 2300 yards and caught 91 passes for over 1000 yards in his final two years, one of which ended in a state championship. His highlights see him line up in the backfield, in the slot, and on the outside. Meanwhile his seven-on-seven team used him as a defensive back frequently:

definitely looked the most natural playing cornerback … started his day by making a big interception down the field and then came back with several pass break-ups. …outstanding top-end speed

entered camp wanting to work on his DB skills and did just that. … improved the most out of every position, playing both CB and FS. His vision of the field continued to get better as he intercepted a great deal of passes during 7v7.

Pick an outcome, any outcome. Yes, that is a reasonable outcome.

While a lot about Evans remains uncertain, one thing that's not is his speed. A 4.4-ish 40 at the Army Combine just after his junior year is legit. Last March Steve Wiltfong noted that Evans has run a "4.4 hand-held every time" he lays down a 40 yard dash. At Best of the Midwest he ran a 4.37 40, and while that's solidly in the realm of combine fiction Evans's track career was impressive. Tracking Football places him in the 87th percentile of RBs based on his lycra exploits, which include a state championship in the 100 meter relay and a narrow defeat in the regular 100 meter state finals. And caveat-ridden, "quicker than fast"-deploying ESPN finally admits a person can run good:

…versatile athlete. … catches the ball without effort. …speed is better than anyone else on the field. … Displays a feel for finding an opening and then accelerating through it. He is slow to the hole and then displays a burst to slide through it. … Exhibits good feet and an ability to avoid direct hits. Can slide laterally and avoid a shot.

When Ace checked out the Avon-Ben Davis game featuring Evans and Brandon Peters last fall, Evans was largely bottled up until a 52-yard screen touchdown that is the last play on the FBO video above, but he did demonstrate that speed:

We got an early glimpse at how fast Evans is when his teammate returned a kickoff to the house (0:30 mark) and Evans, who lined up as the other return man, went from nearly a dead stop ten yards behind the play to a dead sprint, getting out in front to wall off the final defender who could've made a tackle.

Clint Brewster:

excellent downfield speed and is a long strider. …excellent explosive quickness coming out of his breaks. …. mismatch on third down coming out of the backfield matched up against a linebacker. … Nice agility and plus balance. Feet keep moving in tight spaces.

Evans can go. Full stop, no caveat, Chris Evans is going to be one of the fastest players in the Big Ten as soon as this fall.

Evans isn't just fast in a straight line, with many evaluations focusing on his fluidity and change of direction.

ESPN praises him as a "smooth, balanced, athletic player." He showed at Michigan's Indianapolis satellite camp last year and wowed onlookers. Wiltfong:

Evans has speed … but it’s how fluid he is that impresses. The 5-foot-11, 186-pound Evans is so smooth changing direction. … a cut above the rest [in] running back agility drills and in 1-on-1s it was easy for him to abuse the linebackers on the field. He’s sure-handed.

Scout compared him to five-star OSU commit Demario McCall (who you will not like very much over the next few years) because they were similar dudes:

elusive and fluid …juked some guys out of their socks and as usual, caught the football well.

Allen Trieu:

Excellent hands and pass-catching ability. Very comfortable running routes. A smooth kid who glides through traffic. Has good, maybe not elite speed and can make cuts and moves while going full speed. He's elusive and does a great job of finding running lanes.

Wiltfong again, at another camp:

… from the moment drills started he was on another level, showcasing the speed, balance and agility that will eventually make him a sought-after prospect. … Evans could not be checked during the competition portion, as there wasn’t a running back or corner that could match up athletically.

Scout:

Evans showed his quickness, fluidity and pass catching skills at the Core 6 Showcase yesterday.

Those pass catching skills pop up a lot. Evans isn't a running back who has to move to receiver in college because he's small. He's already advanced in that department.

can catch the ball, and not just the easy ones, and has good quickness and route running skills as well.

runs routes and catches the football with his hands like a wide receiver.

seemed to make a catch on every other play. A one-handed grab while staying in bounds on a downfield pass was perhaps the play of the day.

Evans is a guy with nearly 400 rushes who also keeps pace with many D-I high school wide receivers downfield. He'd be brutal to defend in a spread offense. He came to Michigan.

I think Evans ends up playing safety in Ann Arbor. This goes against the grain. While many people mention his potential at DB nobody outright projects him there; ESPN evaluates as a running back and the other sites keep bringing up his hands and routes. This isn't limited to analysts. In early January, Steve Lorenz relayed some information from the staff:

Michigan coaches were happy to hear that Chris Evans will not take any more official visits as they view him as a potential playmaker on the offensive side of the ball. … From what we're told, he could see carries directly out of the backfield or get touches at the slot wide receiver position.

There have been a few major changes since then. NJ WR Brad Hawkins—a player many were projecting to safety—looks unlikely to make it to campus. NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell, another potential safety, nearly transferred. And Don Brown replaced DJ Durkin at defensive coordinator.

The current situation:

  • Michigan has an ungodly pile of tight ends to suck up skill position snaps.
  • They bring back sophomore Grant Perry and brought in 1-3 other players who can play in the slot.
  • The safety depth chart yawns like a crevasse.
  • David Long and Lavert Hill exist.
  • Michigan's new defensive coordinator built the nation's best defense with two converted corners with great range at safety.

Evans has the best chance to be an impact guy at safety. Even if he's the best slot, he's probably the best slot by an inch. He might be the best safety option by a mile. Brown runs a lot of cover two and blitzes a ton; he needs guys who can eat up ground and prevent his aggressive ways from resulting in quick touchdowns. Evans promises to be that kind of guy… eventually.

There are some external indicators that Evans is best suited for the defensive backfield. His camp performances indicated potential:

…began his day playing cornerback where he was able to keep in check the best receivers at the camp with his lateral quickness and ability to turn and run.

Ohio State's late offer was sincere and a tad insulting, as late offers always are; it was as a defensive back. When Evans committed he said Michigan wanted him in the slot or at DB and that he had a preference:

"I want to play defensive back. I think that's the best spot for my future."

Soon after that preference was replaced with the usual "I'll play anywhere" quote, but I think that's illuminating all the same. A few months later he mentioned that Michigan was talking to him about corner and slot, but mostly they just wanted him because he was very fast.

Evans can probably get to a weight where he won't be a liability as a tackler. He's already put on around about 20 pounds…

As a sophomore, Evans weighed just 167 pounds. … “My sophomore year (Lawrence Central’s) Darrin Kirkland hit me and I felt like I’d go back 10 feet,” he said. “This year when we encountered, I didn’t feel like a toy getting thrown around.”

…to get to 185 or 190 depending on who you listen to; Wiltfong believes he can "easily add 20 pounds and be just as dynamic." When Tim Sullivan caught him in person he was impressed with his lower half:

…isn't very big but he's extremely well put together and chiseled. His lower body is very thick and allows him to be quick, fast, sudden, and also quite powerful.

And he seems to have the mental wherewithal that is a main asset for the last line of defense:

"I think I'm a good student of the game so I know where things are supposed to hit and what happens when this happens. I'm a student of the game and I work hard at it and my vision helps me on the field."

See also the upcoming "nah" quote about that OSU offer. He can hack safety, probably, and Michigan needs those. But if you told me he was anything else I'd believe you, too.

Etc: I submit to you the greatest quote in the history of rejecting late recruiting offers:

“It's like there's two girls and one girl is Beyonce, which is Ohio State. I’m like, dang, I want Beyonce because she looks good and has everything, so I want her. However, she is like 'nah' and I’m going to hold back. I don’t know if I want to go out with you right now. I’m like alright cool, then I will just hold back and do whatever I can and just chill. Then Halle Berry comes in and is like, hey Chris, what’s up and I like you. I’m like okay cool, so I am going to go with Halle Berry and have been going out with her since June. However, Beyonce pops back up and is like, hey babe, what’s up and remember me? We can go out if you want to? I’m like I got Halle Berry and I’m happy with her. That is what I want. I tried to get with you, but you didn’t want it, so I chose otherwise. Now that you want to jump back in, I got nothing for you.”

Also this:

"If you're going to write anything on me," says Evans, a star running back at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, "you've got to mention all of my offensive linemen, too, by name."

A quick, talented and rather humble young man, Evans knows his potentially bright football future might not be as shiny without the help of his five super-sized Ben Davis pals.

Jalil Brewer, Dylan Runyon, Pompey Coleman, Ahmad Malone and Quinton Tyler.

"That's the best O-line in the state," Evans says with pride.

Was considered a "heavy Michigan State lean" on March 23rd, visited Ann Arbor a week later, and then it was all over but the shouting.

Why Dennis Norfleet or Dymonte Thomas? Norfleet was a very good high school running back with the ability to pop it between the tackles and juke in tight spaces. Michigan moved him to slot receiver, where he was little more than a predictable jet sweep threat, and eventually to cornerback. Evans is considerably bigger than the 5'8" Norfleet but they're ranked around the same place and Michigan hasn't had another spread H-back type guy recently. I have similar fears that if Evans ends up being that slot/RB hybrid guy he'll be similarly lost. I have a hard time envisioning that as a major role under Harbaugh.

Thomas is a reasonable comparison if Evans ends up on defense. Thomas is taller, at 6'2", but even now he's listed on the roster at 195, a number Evans can hit as early as next year. Both dudes are super fast. Thomas was a high school running back first and foremost; he also played OLB. Evans shades more towards the corner side of the hybrid safety continuum, but as a terrific athlete with a lot of positional uncertainty and probable eventual destination as a cover-oriented safety Thomas is a kindred spirit, down to the length of time it'll take before he's ready to go.

Guru Reliability: Low. Big split, Indiana doesn't get a lot of focus, positional uncertainty, no All Star game.

Variance: High. For the same reasons listed above, more or less. Also my bet that he's a safety brings questions about tackling to the forefront.

Ceiling: High-minus. Evans's speed and intelligence could make him into a very good safety, but he's not 6'2" and also a bolt.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Very fast gentleman with a lot of question marks.

Projection: Redshirt. I expect his position will remain a question mark through most of fall camp and possibly through much of his freshman year; the guess here is that he ends up a DB by spring practice, either safety or corner. If so he'll be thrown into a melee as Michigan loses its top five defensive backs after the season.

He's not likely to win that melee at corner. He's not likely to beat out Tyree Kinnel at safety. That fourth spot, though, is wide open if Khaleke Hudson is indeed the Peppers heir apparent. If it's Evans that's almost certainly going to be painful in the short term. In year three and beyond I'd be pretty comfortable with Evans out there as a super fast safety who can turn and run when the opposition attempts to go over his head.

Thursday Recruitin' Specifies Cram

Thursday Recruitin' Specifies Cram

Submitted by Brian on January 14th, 2016 at 12:48 PM

Let's have an overview

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It's a three-week sprint to the finish line now. Michigan has 24 commits and is likely to go to 27 or 28. Steve Lorenz was pretty positive that it's 27 but that was before Willie Henry's departure. Sam Webb reported today that Michigan's max number was now 30(!), about which more later.

There are a number of commits on the fence. MD CB Sir Patrick Scott decommitted yesterday; I believe maybe three more decommits are on he way. In addition one commit is a grayshirt offer hoping for the Clark/Pallante bump. (And he knew this from the drop.) Given that, my guess is that Michigan has four current commits who don't sign for various reasons and will take approximately eight additional players.

They are done at QB and RB.

The situation at the other positions:

  • OL: Texas grad transfer Jake Raulerson, a center, is the top priority. If he goes elsewhere Michigan looks set to pursue MD OL Stephen Spannelis, a UVA commit. They will poke at Jean Delance to make sure he's sure.
  • WR: Michigan is still recruiting NJ WR Donald Stewart and FL WR Pie Young. They are in good shape for both. Before the number 30 got batted around I assumed they could not take both, but maybe they would now.
  • TE: MO TE Chase Allen is expected to commit on his official. Michigan will get an official from CA TE Devin Asiasi on the 22nd. Asiasi appears to be very open at this juncture. FL TE Jacob Mathis is also on the board.
  • DL: NJ DE Rashan Gary is kind of a big deal, M still seems like a strong leader despite recent Ole Miss talk. AZ DE Connor Murphy comes in the 22nd. TX DE Levi Onwuzurike is still an option but seems unlikely ATM.  Asiasi's teammate and CA DT Boss Tagaloa will visit Michigan at the same time. Michigan is also looking for additional options here.
  • LB: FL LB Jonathan Jones is an M/ND battle and signing day decision. FL LB/DE Joshua Uche has been treated as a DL by many but he's 6'1", 210, he's a LB. He visits, wide open. TX LB Dontavious Jackson is on the board but mysterious.
  • DB: CA DB David Long is giving Washington a chance to change his mind this weekend; if they don't he's in the boat. MI CB Lavert Hill is taking three officials and isn't the lock he was but M still seems to lead. NJ CB/S Jordan Fuller is down to the four big Midwestern programs and will visit OSU, M, and PSU. OSU may lead but it's fluid. PA ATH Khaleke Hudson probably fits most neatly at S.
  • K: MI K Quinn Nordin is the only name on M's board and seems likely to flip from PSU.

Before Henry left I'd been expecting Michigan takes eight additional recruits after they lose those decommits; now it could be nine or even up to eleven.

Wait, 30? That's unpossible.

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It's never been personally relevant so I've never looked up the specifics of what the NCAA and Big Ten rules actually are and how they intersect. A thorough Googling has clarified things.

There is an NCAA limit of 25 signees a year, but you can back-date midyear enrollees. Michigan can backdate all 7 early enrollees since their class last year was 16. They could hypothetically go up to 32 signees. Transfers do not count against that cap.

The Big Ten has a different limit that is essentially a "good faith" estimate of all the scholarships you have available plus three. The 28 number that gets kicked around is a misconception.

I still don't see where all the space is going to come from

dancing.0

Michigan is at 19 now so, yes, there is going to be some turnover. Given that Lorenz had a solid number of 27 for a couple months prior to recent events it seems clear that Michigan is already aware that several players will leave the program, likely those that have no road to playing time.

Meanwhile, remember those reports that last spring certain graduates were essentially trying out for their fifth year? Michigan is going to do that again, which is why only Terry Richardson has announced a departure amongst those players. Guys like Bars and Gant and Strobel will stay with the team through spring and possibly beyond if Michigan has room.

This means it will look like Michigan is oversigning when they're actually not. They will be over 85 because they are keeping their options open with fifth-year players in case there is unanticipated attrition. They will not be asking guys without degrees to leave.

Michigan is not dealing with Allen and Glasgow as scholarship players right now. There's a 99% chance they will get scholarships as slots always open up between spring practice and game #1, but those two slots are open for recruits.

So:

  • 19 spots
  • high probability of a Derrick Green transfer
  • ~3 fifth year guys who will be kept through spring but are not likely to be on the 2016 roster
  • ~2 walk-ons who are year to year

Michigan really has 25 spots now and clearly anticipates a few playing time transfers.

Anyway, on to events…

Visitors this weekend

50s-era-sorority-members-cramming-into-a-renault

The following uncommitted recruits will take visits:

  • PA ATH Khaleke Hudson. Hudson talked to Rivals, giving generally positive and unrevealing takes on his four finalists. Seems like a Michigan-Penn State battle.
  • MO TE Chase Allen. It would be a surprise if Allen didn't commit on the visit.
  • Texas grad transfer OL Jake Raulerson. It sounds like Raulerson is likely to commit; UCLA appears to be the main competition.
  • Maybe MI CB Lavert Hill. Hill cancelled his USC official and there is chatter he may take his umpteenth unofficial to Ann Arbor instead. There is a surge in MSU chatter from everywhere except the kid himself. He has an official scheduled there next weekend, and then a Clemson visit that is probably 50/50 to get canceled.

Webb reports that FL LB Joel Dublanko's visit has been moved to next weekend, which is the big one for Michigan. Dublanko doesn't have an offer yet.

Meanwhile the opposition will take swings at a number of Michigan targets:

  • CA CB David Long visits Washington. Harbaugh has an in-home immediately after on Monday. A commit could come at that in-home or shortly after; vibe there still excellent but crootin. In Long's case he's already been to UW a couple times so the chance they show him something that changes his mind seems low.
  • CA TE Devin Asiasi and CA DT Boss Tagaloa also visit Washington. The Washington 24/7 mods will fight you if you assert either is going to Michigan.
  • TN WR commit Nate Johnson visits Miami. While that quote I highlighted recently convinced many that he was not likely to stick, he told Rivals that Miami would have to "show [him] a lot to be right up there with Michigan." I think it's 80/20 they keep him.
  • FL WR Pie Young also visits Miami. He tells Rivals that it will be "hard" for Miami to catch Michigan but "it's not a big gap, anything can happen." Uh. I think the former sentiment is closer to accurate since recruits rarely downplay a host's chances like that.
  • NJ WR Donald Stewart visits Stanford. Conflicting info on how his recruitment will go, with Scout's Brian Dohn projecting Stanford and 247's Steve Wiltfong on Michigan.
  • TX S Chris Brown and TX LB Dontavious Jackson visit Florida. Your guess is as good as mine with those guys.
  • AZ DE Connor Murphy visits USC. USC just lost their recruiting coordinator so that's not good timing. They have a new DC Murphy will meet. Murphy named a final five of M, Bama, USC, Oregon, and ASU.
  • NJ CB Jordan Fuller visits Ohio State. OSU is thought to lead but Fuller is hard to read.
  • FL LB Joshua Uche visits Auburn. Uche is a Don Brown kind of guy but his recruitment has a distinct southern flavor. The Auburn 247 site thinks Florida is the favorite.
    • More on Raulerson

    Jake Raulerson has two years to play two and is essentially a JUCO who Michigan can take because he's a high-academic kid who got a degree in three years. If he gets admitted to Ross he's likely to come:

“It’s the position I played at Texas the whole time and like to play,” he said. “I want to get my MBA, so that’s a big deal, and I’m trying to make sure I have the maximum opportunity to do that but also play in a great program, win some games. I know both Michigan and UCLA will be good next year, offenses and defenses, so what’s the best opportunity?"

As a transfer he can wait as long as he likes before making a decision. Michigan has clearly prioritized him.

Unpleasant Lavert Hill rumbles evaluated

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MSU fans started getting excited about getting MI CB Lavert Hill in the aftermath of teammate Donnie Corley's commitment, to the point where their 247 site is saying things like this:

The key here is for the Michigan State staff to get Hill's mother on campus for his official visit to MSU. If Hill's mother gives him the green light, look for him to pull the trigger on the Spartans.

No quotes from the kid, just second-hand stuff including vague tweets from MSU commits who know Hill that could mean anything.

Cause for concern? Clearly some, yes. I'd still peg Michigan a heavy favorite. Wiltfong says he "hasn't heard anything that makes [him] believe he won't be a Wolverine" and that he "damn near enrolled early" at M, FWIW. Flipping mom is going to be a tough task after a million visits to campus, and if Hill's worried about the depth chart one conversation with someone who isn't trying to sell him on MSU should clarify—Michigan loses both Jourdan Lewis and Jeremy Clark next year.

Handicapping Donald Stewart

NJ WR Donald Stewart is surging back up crootin radars after Wiltfong ballz'd him to Michigan. The Stanford Rivals site catches up with him to provide some more context. Stewart has been admitted to Stanford, which is always a hurdle. On the other hand, he twice says he "absolutely loves" Michigan. One of these:

"I'm still not sure right now," Stewart said. "I'm just going to visit these next two schools. These are my top two. Like, I absolutely love Michigan."

Despite the who-you-talk-to factor the article is encouraging for Michigan's chances. Stewart doesn't say anything about a timeline except it'll come after his officials the next two weekends to his finalists.

Names that probably won't come to much but here they are

Lorenz reports that Michigan might get a visit from IL DE Daniel Joseph, a four-star Penn State commit. Interestingly, he notes that this intel is coming from Joseph's end, not Michigan. That might mean Joseph is seriously thinking about a move after PSU DC Bob Shoop's departure.

Also, KS S Isaiah Simmons reports that Greg Jackson just left his school. Simmons is an uncommitted four-star.

One final round of All Star evals

Brandon Huffman reports on the West team; David Long "has great ball skills and closing speed" while Dylan Crawford is a "polished route runner."

Allen Trieu has an extensive article covering all of the Michigan commits and targets. His take on MI OL Michael Onwenu:

Whenever he has had top competition in front of him at camps and other events, Big Mike has stepped it up big and he again impressed this week. He's tough to move and anyone who tried to bull rush him, even All-Americans, quickly got stone-walled. He's powerful, but can really bend for a kid his size and that extends his leverage advantage. He can be as good as he wants to be and he had a very good week.

Can't wait to see Onwenu develop into a sui generis player.

And while this isn't an Army eval, Steve Lorenz likes IN WR Chris Evans quite a bit:

Surveying Michigan's current commitment list in 2016, Evans is one player I feel is a safer bet to outplay his ranking than a lot of the players on the board. He has versatility and speed that can't be coached, and is one of those players that simply makes plays when the ball is in his hand.

Michigan's feelings are equally strong after fending off Ohio State for his signature.

2017 things or "items" or what-have-you

I've mentioned FL CB CJ Cotman a couple times already; Brandon Brown interviews him for Rivals:

“I paid really close attention,” Cotman said. “I think I watched every game that they played this year. I think I can fit into that offense. I would also like playing both ways and they used Jabrill Peppers for that.”

And Lorenz for 247:

I want to play on both offense and defense in college and the fact that Coach Harbaugh will give players an opportunity to do that makes me like them a lot. I know he is one of the best coaches in college football too, and that's something my family has talked about.

Not sure just yet if Cotman is really really interested in Michigan or if he's a kid who is equally excited about several different schools, but he's done a lot of talking to Michigan sites early and should be a guy high on your radar going in to next year.

He declared FSU his leader in August. That was before a bunch of other teams including M offered, however, and Cotman told both Lorenz and Brown he's looking to go out of state. We have put in an admittedly speculative crystal ball for Cotman. Who you talk to is important; Cotman has now given interviews to the three major Michigan sites in short order.

Other items:

There are plenty of visits and offers but it's hard to tell who's a major target this early. With 2016 still coming together we'll wait a couple weeks to put together the picture for 2017.

Monday Recruitin' Autodefenestrates

Monday Recruitin' Autodefenestrates

Submitted by Brian on January 11th, 2016 at 12:22 PM

Rashan Gary panic(!)

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There was a disturbance in the Force late last week that you may have felt. A full explanation is forthcoming because you better believe we're going full Kremlinology on NJ DE Rashan Gary's recruitment.

So: A couple of Ole Miss guys ballz'd Gary to the Rebels, which set off distressing rumbles from the wing of the Michigan fanbase that takes after Tweek. This was compounded when Chris Balas did the thing he frequently does where he furrows his brow at the $EC and makes grim noises about things going off the rails because people are cheating. That came just a couple days after his colleague Tim Sullivan said it would be "all but impossible" for anyone to catch up, went off like a bomb, and was deleted after a sorry-not-sorry apology didn't calm the Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork crowd.

In the aftermath both Scout and Rivals have reaffirmed their strong belief that Michigan leads for Gary. We're pretty good at the Crystal Ball stuff because we read between the lines, so here's my thinking. Who you talk to is as important as what you say. Rationale for Ole Miss ball flip:

The relationship the Ole Miss coaching staff has with Rashan's mother, Jennifer Coney, who is instrumental in his recruitment, is the predominant reason. It is very strong.

Okay. May be true. If it was true she might be talking to Ole Miss sites. But to my knowledge the ball-flipper's never talked to her. (After the Ole Miss official she talked to Wiltfong.) Instead it's Sam Webb who posts article after article featuring her thoughts on Gary's recruitment. One side has some vague second or third hand feelings. The other is talking to the horse's mouth. Don't panic. Crootin.

Gary visiting or not visiting or visiting

Michigan's going to have to fend off some schools, though. Gary has a line of coaches on the way in

"Dabo Swinney is coming, (Jim) Harbaugh is coming, (Gus) Malzahn is coming, (Nick) Saban is coming, Urban Meyer is coming," Gary's mother Jennifer Coney told NJ.com. "I don't know. There aren't enough days for everyone to come, but everybody wants to come and put their last pitch in."

…and a couple officials left. One is to USC, the other still undecided but maybe Clemson, and this is a bit of a twist:

"I'll probably take a couple non-officials to the three that I'm looking at, like a student of the day visit," said Gary. "So from there, after I take those visits, I should have a good idea of where I'm going."

That's not great news since it looked like Michigan was going to be the only school to get an unofficial. I'm a bit skeptical this tour is going to happen—a lot of recruits plan to do a bunch of stuff and then scale it back—and in fact as of yesterday that plan had been pared back. An Ole Miss Scout guy said there were no unofficials scheduled, even to Michigan, causing another round of fainting and autodefenestrations, but Gary's coach told TomVH that his visit schedule looked pretty good for Michigan:

Lorenz reiterates that he expects Gary along with teammates WR Donald Stewart, 2017 LB Drew Singleton, and maybe 2017 DT Corey Bolds on the 22nd. That is the most current intel. If he sticks to that we're golden.

But I learned how to spell it

Nobody really knows who leads for TX DE Levi Onwuzurike, but the previous roundup mentioned that various camps were split between his recruitment being a Michigan/Baylor battle and a Michigan/Washington battle. The implication there was obviously nice.

That appears to have been misplaced hope, as Steve Lorenz reports that Michigan "appears" to be out for Onwuzurike. That comes on the heels of a Washington 247 site interview with him—again, who you talk to is important. In it he says he's "80 percent sure" where he's going. I assume that's the Huskies*.

If Michigan is out for Onwuzurike attention turns to AZ DE Connor Murphy, FL DE Joshua Uche, and California teammates Devin Asiasi and Boss Tagaloa. Asiasi wants to play TE and Tagaloa is a DT, but Michigan already has a couple DEs in the class so like whatever man. Speaking of those guys…

*[Doubly annoying because I was going to sleuth the bad news based on "who you talk to" before Lorenz stole my thunder, such as it is. /shakes fist for various reasons]

Asiasi to visit like a Boss

Steve Lorenz reports that Asiasi has dropped his Alabama visit and will make it out to Ann Arbor for an official on the 22nd. So will Tagaloa, who named Michigan in a top five back in November. At the time Scout's Greg Biggins thought it was a UCLA-M battle, but that was before a USC offer came in.

Lorenz says Michigan has some optimism here. They do want to play together and Asiasi badly wants to play tight end; they're also NorCal guys familiar with Harbaugh's work with Stanford and the 49ers. Get the visit, see what happens. FWIW, USC gets the last word with both on the 29th.

One potential hitch in the previous bullet point

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Allen's YMRMFSPA is 100% guaranteed to be Ian Bunting

Asiasi's official is set for the 22nd. MO TE Chase Allen is coming in the week prior, and Steve Wiltfong hears that Allen is a "huge, huge lean" to M. Presumably he will commit on the visit, occupying Michigan's final(?) tight end slot in the class.

This is good. Allen's picked up offers from Nebraska, Mizzou and Oklahoma State in addition to the back-to-back Michigan and FSU offers. He is under the radar because he split his time between basketball and football in high school, choosing AAU over football camps and the like. He's a high upside, high academic guy who Michigan seems eager to take.

But it does make you wonder if Michigan will still be in the running for Asiasi and potentially Tagaloa the week after. On the one hand, if there's a school in the country that can make good on TE promises it's Michigan, and they could take Asiasi as an ATH. On the other, at some point you can't cram more guys in the phonebooth.

Cram cram cram cram cram (brief pause) cram cram cram

Speaking of said phonebooth, Wiltfong also recently ballz'd NJ WR Donald Stewart to Michigan. Stewart is a Paramus guy who Michigan looked good for early and then faded for as people assumed he would go to Stanford. I and most other people had written him off entirely until he announced a Michigan official, also on the 22nd.

I can't imagine FL WR Pie Young and Stewart fit into the same class at this juncture unless there's unexpected attrition and have no idea who's preferred. Young just re-iterated that Michigan leads at the South Florida Express tryouts (he was a spectator) but it is possible that Young's spot is accounted for since Michigan just picked up two slot types in TN WR Nate Johnson and CA WR Dylan Crawford. He did just announce a suite of officials to USC, Louisville, and Tennessee. He is a NSD decision; that may result in Young finding there's no room in the phonebooth.

In yet further cram news, Wiltfong also believes Michigan has a "great shot" with PA ATH Khaleke Hudson; he would pick M if forced to make a CB pick. Penn State losing DC John Shoop to Tennessee at this late stage has got to help. As mentioned last week, I loved Hudson in the Semper Fi bowl and am pro-get-him.

cram cram cram cram

More crammin' with positive Long vibes

CA CB David Long continues to trend towards Michigan. Lorenz joins Wiltfong and Barton Simmons with a ballz in favor of M after doing the proverbial digging, and Sam's gut is all like yeah:

That isn't "he is going to commit" but it ain't bad; I interpret that to mean he is set on Michigan but he has that official to Washington left and people can change their minds.

If he even takes it, that is. Rivals's Blair Angulo joins the chorus of folks expecting Long to commit to Michigan, and he's hearing that might come in the next week. That would obviously preempt a Washington visit. Probably, anyway. Crootin and all.

Assumption on the situation: Long has decided on Michigan but wants to follow through with a visit he told Washington he would make. He is considering dropping it because it's a waste of time for everyone. If he does indeed go to Seattle then UW might have a shot, but this feels like an inverse Nauta.

Evans solid again

IN WR Chris Evans got a once-coveted OSU offer and for a moment there it looked like he was set to visit on the 15th and presumably flip, but he changed course and will stick with his commitment:

Wiltfong reports that Michigan is indeed bringing him in on offense while the OSU offer was as a defensive back.

Meanwhile other wobblers are status quo. We'll see what this weekend brings with visits.

Further Crawford evals

A bit more on CA WR commit Dylan Crawford, Michigan's prize from the Army game:

“Crawford has been very good this week,” Farrell said. “He catches everything, that’s the thing with him. I haven’t seen him really drop anything. He’s not the fastest, he’s not the biggest, but he’s a good technician. He’s a smart kid. He’ll fit right in with what Harbaugh wants to do because he’s a willing blocker as well. I think he’s a well-rounded receiver.”

He was mentioned as a top performer on Thursday:

He looked to go through the motions throughout much of the first two days of practice, but he took his game to new heights on day three. His effort really stood out today. He got free a lot during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 and made sure to finish each run when the ball came his way.

Crawford is now qualifying his plan to take officials with an "if". None have actually been set. Even if those happen Michigan is very likely to hang on to Crawford, especially if Long commits with him.

2017 combine happens, articles are written

A caution: at this juncture a lot of out-of-state players have offers but have never been to Ann Arbor. Michigan might be their biggest offer right now. Meanwhile Michigan might have offered as a way to pique a kid's interest while they continue to evaluate a bunch of targets.

So even kids who say Michigan leads aren't that likely to end up in the class. Michigan might end up turning down the heat; they might pick up offers closer to home that are the ones they actually want. (In state or proximate is different, as they've been on campus and Michigan can and will take those prospects now.)

Anyway:

  • MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones releases a top ten with Michigan in it. Fast forward to Signing Day for that guy.
  • TX DT Marvin Wilson has Michigan on his radar but a top four of LSU, FSU, USC, and Bama. Wilson is one of the top 2017 prospects in the country.
  • MO WR Jaevon McQuitty really really liked his Michigan offer, telling Brice Marich that he tried to tell his parents but he couldn't because he was "shaking too much." Tentatively plans to visit in March.
  • FL OL Cesar Ruiz says he's tight with "like five" Michigan commits in this class since he just relocated from New Jersey to play at IMG. Maintains no leaders and will take his time. PSU, M, and UNC may be a tentative top three.
  • FL WR/DB CJ Cotman tells Josh Henschke that Michigan is the school he's "really leaning on"(?) because he likes Harbaugh and Partridge a lot. Cotman has early offers from OSU, Oregon and FSU along with M and looks like he'll be a big-timer. Hopefully leaning on someone is good. Someone who is familiar with the rap music please tell me.
  • FL WR Joshua Palmer names Michigan his leader. Michigan is currently his biggest offer, as he's a three-star type at the moment. Moved from Canada to St. Thomas Acquinas in an effort to get recruited, so Michigan is closer to home than southern schools.
  • TX RB Kennedy Brooks names Washington and Michigan his leaders, thus continuing this weird recruiting rivalry we've got with UDub.

Etc.

VA LB Jaquan Yulee decommitted from Alabama and Michigan is "in the picture." We'll see if he sets an official. Webb says that Michigan State is in the picture with MI CB Lavert Hill, "not that Michigan State is now the favorite or anything." Still expect Hill to Michigan. In that vein, TX DT commit Jordan Elliott says “I think we are about to get about three more commits. Big time guys, DBs."

Balas says TX OL grad transfer Jake Raulerson is "trending" towards Michigan. He visits this weekend. As a grad transfer he can take his time deciding, especially if he needs to finish this semester at Texas.

Rivals reported that M had offered MD OL Stephen Spanellis, a Virginia commit and teammate of MD OL commit Devery Hamilton. Nobody else has confirmed that.

Friday Recruitin' Is Already Happening

Friday Recruitin' Is Already Happening

Submitted by Ace on October 16th, 2015 at 5:59 PM

MSU Visitors: Biggest Recruiting Weekend Of The Fall

Well, I hadn't even started this post before Michigan got a commitment this weekend. Three-star GA RB Kurt Taylor is the newest member of the 2017 class; here's a short post on him for now, and he'll get the full Hello treatment on Sunday.

As for the rest of this weekend's visitors, 247's Steve Lorenz has the full list posted for free. Some highlights follow.

Official visitors:

  • Five-star GA TE Isaac Nauta is arguably the most important recruit left on Michigan's board—yes, perhaps even including Rashan Gary—and this weekend's visit will give the Wolverines a chance to push past home squad Georgia.
  • Four-star CA WR Dylan Crawford hasn't let on much about his recruitment, but 247 national analyst Steve Wiltfong recently put in a Crystal Ball pick to Michigan.
  • Four-star CA ATH Lamar Jackson was ticketed for USC by most; with that program in a state of disarray, the door is open for another school to make a move.
  • Four-star CA CB David Long is a Stanford commit but Michigan appears to have a real shot regardless.

Unofficial visitors:

  • Penn State commits Lavert Hill (four-star Detroit King CB) and Quinn Nordin (top-ranked Rockford kicker) will be two to keep an close eye on this weekend, especially Nordin. Hill's teammate Donnie Corley (four-star WR) is also expected to be in attendance.
  • Four-star 2017 CO QB Dylan McCaffrey, Michigan's top target at the position in the class, will be on campus. With Stanford, where his father Ed went and brother Christian currently stars, coming off a blowout of UCLA, Michigan might need to make a statement.
  • Several members of the Pipeline 9, including five-star Cass Tech WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, are expected to be there.
  • Three-star 2017 Ann Arbor Pioneer OLB Antjuan Simmons could be in line for an offer; his recruitment has blown up lately.

There are plenty more at the link above. This is a huge recruiting weekend for Michigan. That probably didn't need to be said.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]

Monday Recruitin' Chose A Good Weekend

Monday Recruitin' Chose A Good Weekend

Submitted by Ace on September 28th, 2015 at 3:39 PM

Home Shutouts Of Ranked Teams: Good For Recruiting

Well, that was a pretty good weekend to host the nation's top-ranked prospect for an official visit. While five-star NJ DT Rashan Gary hasn't spoken with reporters yet, 247's Steve Lorenz is hearing some very positive news emerging from a source in the know ($):

Heard from what I'd call a solid source that the two schools Gary has been highest on throughout the process are the two schools that most have connected him with: Michigan and Auburn. We were also told today that those around him would prefer that he go to Michigan. That's not necessarily including Mom, who we're told legitimately wants him to make his own decision.

We'll see what he says on the record; it looks like Michigan has positioned themselves about as well as they could heading into Gary's next four officials. If you tune in to MGoRadio this evening (5-7 pm, 1050 WTKA), Steve will be on to talk about Gary's visit and more on recruiting.

And, just as I'm about to hit publish, 247's Steve Wiltfong publishes an article in which he caught with Gary's mother, who accompanied him on the visit ($):

“I think he came out of it with a great experience,” Coney said. “When we got back to the airport in Detroit everyone had on Michigan gear, and even when we landed in Newark, he saw all the people wearing Michigan gear, and everyone knew Rashan and he was a big deal in the airport and big deal on the plane, and I think he saw a Michigan degree does travel and it is substantial.”

Oh, and then Wiltfong put in a Crystal Ball selection for Michigan. Being good is good, as it turns out.

A topic that'll surely come up is last weekend's other uncommitted official visitor, four-star CO DE/OLB Carlo Kemp, whose quotes to 247's Steve Wiltfong were to say the least quite promising ($):

“Yeah honestly [Michigan's lead has grown],” he said. “I’ve fallen in love with anything Michigan and Maize and Blue. Just like I did when I was up there the first time I had another good experience.”

The hold up on a possible commitment?

“I just want to make sure I’m ready,” Kemp said. “I really want to go out and see Notre Dame again. I’m going out there in two weeks. After I see that I think I’ll have a better understanding of where I belong the next four years.”

Kemp would fill a huge need at the BUCK position, which Mario Ojemudia currently occupies; he'd have a good shot at seeing the field right away with only Lawrence Marshall set to return at the position in 2016.

Speaking of potential commitments, The Wolverine's Tim Sullivan caught up with 2017 GA RB Kurt Taylor, who compared last weekend's unofficial visit favorably with the Georgia-South Carolina game he took in the previous week—"The Michigan game was just... 'more.' It was more exciting, more fans, the atmosphere was better at Michigan, it was just 'more.'"—and hinted strongly that he'll be in the fold before too long ($):

"I'll make my decision after this year, after my junior year," he said. "I will definitely know where I want to go by then. After yesterday, I think I know already. It was a lot to like there."

That could be music to the ears of Michigan fans.

Finally, 2017 IN WR Mac Hippenhammer told TMI's Brice Marich his visit was "great" and noted Amara Darboh's catch was "nasty," which, agreed ($).

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]