We’re standing in the shadows to the side of the sun-soaked center of Schembechler Hall. Henry Poggi’s eyes drift over my shoulder and narrow in an unnerving manner if you are the object of attention of a 257-pound man with a penchant for Stone Cold Steve Austin t-shirts. “Look at him,” Poggi says. “He’s so sassy. That sassy walk.” I look back to see Patrick Kugler turn down a hallway to his left, his shorts swaying, his beard straining to reach a sleeveless block-M hoodie that he’s thrown on over a t-shirt.
I ask Poggi about Kugler’s beard, specifically whether it’s some kind of follicular revenge plot to get back at Jake Butt, Ben Gedeon, and Poggi for, respectively, the Snidely Whiplash, Wolverine-plus-a-mustache, and Undertaker looks they famously deployed for their 2016 team photos. “Pat thought he looked good in his picture and he thinks his beard looks good even though he looks disgusting,” Poggi says. “Pat was making fun of us about it.”
It’s the kind of barb you’d expect from someone’s brother. “I love his beard, personally,” Robert Kugler, Patrick’s older brother says. “I used to rip on him because I can grow a decent beard, my dad grows a good beard, and his has just been disgusting. This is the first time it’s been thick enough that he can grow it out. I know he’s pretty proud of it.” Okay, maybe Poggi’s comment is more like something you’d expect a friend and housemate who’s almost as close as a brother to say.
At the very least, he’s uniquely qualified to talk about the beard’s progression. Kugler and Poggi started living together their freshman year in West Quad. They’re now on their fifth year of living together and their third year in a house on Vaughn Street that, like the Michigan program in April 2017, lost quite a few guys to the NFL.
The Vaughn Street house is nothing spectacular; it’s a typical college-town house on a typical college-town street. Its importance, though, is difficult to overstate. From running up the On Demand bill with bad movie rentals to silently sitting in the living room, from watching too much American Ninja Warrior to making life-altering decisions, the house saw it all and was the catalyst to a bond between seven guys—Patrick Kugler, Chris Fox, Henry Poggi, Jake Butt, Ben Gedeon, Shane Morris, and Chris Petzold—who came to college from all over the country and left closer than most families.
Before their group could form each of the seven had to decide Michigan was the right place for them. The seeds of that decision were planted more than a decade ago for Kugler. Unlike most recruiting stories this one doesn’t start with a letter or a call or a DM but a golf course, a tailgate, and an extra ticket.
[After THE JUMP: “I wanted to be a four-year starter, wanted to be All-Big Ten, wanted to be an All-American, and just as time went on I just wanted to prove to everyone that I did belong here at the University of Michigan, that I wasn’t a dud or someone who they wasted a scholarship on.”]
Media Day uncovered another loss that had not yet come to light with redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Chris Fox bringing his playing career to a close.
A native of Parker, Colo., the 6-6, 303 pounds Fox played in one game last season, but was not introduced with the lineman on Thursday despite appearing on the roster.
An athletic department official confirmed that Fox will continue with the program as a student assistant coach. He will be moved to a medical scholarship, which does not count against the 85 scholarship limit set by the NCAA.
Fox was set to be a redshirt sophomore this fall and opens up a 2016 scholarship as a result. Michigan was already at 84 scholarship players give or take a Norfleet, so his departure opens up another slot for a walk-on.
Tips? Hesitant about getting bombed on the message board? Email me.
The Harbaugh era seems considerably less paranoid than the previous regime. Practice reports are coming in from a lot more sources than they used to; no doubt this is partially because excitement sees a lot more people on the sideline. I do hear that they're less concerned about "X looks good, tempo is fast" reports getting out.
Tempo is fast, by the way. Harbaugh has brought a high-rep style to practices in an effort to get everything he can out of every countable hour. It is not exactly Oregon hyper-speed where all coaching is done after, in film. It's a lot closer to that than the Hoke-era practices were. A recruit's parent took in a practice and posted about it to a Facebook group, and his impressions match some others I've been sent:
1. Tempo of practice and the philosophy. Very different from last year. 2 sets of scrimmages per field. A play is being ran an avg of 25 to 35 secs. If they went two groups, they would alternate but each group ran a play every 25secs. So ... Coaches saw 2 plays every 30 secs. Ton of reps. Very different from last year. Coaches are coaching very quick between plays. Emphasis on getting the reps in during practice and correcting mistakes in film. Practice was very similar to how Saban runs his practices.
2. There really is competition at EVERYTHING. I saw several of these "competitions." A couple examples ... QBs did a "fastest release/ball speed" comp. On command, they had to throw a bullet pass 20yds. Malzone looked good. Several races took place today as well but most know about those.
Those were vintage 1990s; these are a lot closer to modern speeds. Michigan is running multiple reps at a time on opposite ends of the field with first and second teams.
(Aside: I can't help but draw a line between Hoke's deliberate practice pace and his program's inability to operate at any other speed.)
Practices have also been extremely long. How one practice can be longer than another when NCAA maximums are mandated for everyone is unclear; possible that Hoke was spending some of his countable hours in other ways? That seems highly improbable, but so do Michigan's results the past couple years.
When practice was over Harbaugh brought the team around him and awarded the day to the defense. As a reward he told them they had to run while the offense watched because “here, the winners are the ones that earn the opportunity to get better.”
But allow your author to read into things some. Fisch on Malzone:
"He's got a lot going on. But he's handled it unbelievably well. He's unbelievable in terms of his ability to not let things bother him. To be consistent and play the game. If a play doesn't go right, he's right back in there for the next one. A short-term memory is phenomenal for a quarterback."
Wilton is a very large man, he's a big guy (at 6-foot-6). He can see everything. He's a pretty good athlete and he throws the ball well. He doesn't seem to have had a ton of experience.
"Shane has a very strong arm, as everybody knows, he spins it well and he just has to understand that, really, that's not the most important thing. If you have a really strong arm, then you have a really strong arm. That's what you have. Now, it's a matter of 'what can you do with it?' How do you utilize it? His skill set and his arm strength are tremendous and he's very comfortable. It's fun to watch him in the huddle, he has a really good command of what we're asking him to do."
Even so, the overall vibe from that presser seemed to confirm reports floating around at Scout, Rivals, and in my inbox: there's considerable debate about who looks better between Malzone and Speight… and there ends the debate. Scout's observers tend to like Malzone. Rivals's like Speight. Malzone is reportedly adjusting to the size of the players in front of him; Speight doesn't have that issue and is a year ahead of Malzone in terms of college prep.
Early days obviously, but it feels like the QB race is two horses with Morris lagging behind. Gentry and maybe Rudock are yet to enter.
Tailback Battle Royale
See above in re: term. Tyrone Wheatley has a lot of options here and is doing a lot of correcting in drills. Will be interesting to see if there's a performance differential there. The latest practice video from the department features Wheatley heavily if you'd like to hear him talk some.
Most of these guys look like they've looked. Johnson's out; Smith may be a hair faster; it's tough to tell if Green's vision problems are any better in this context. (Most people observing practice do so from the sideline, where holes are not always visible.)
There is the new guy, of course. Ty Isaac is "huge" and "could be a linebacker." He injured a finger somewhat badly in one practice but shrugged it off to continue with drills. This undoubtedly earned him some Harbaugh toughness brownie points. (He did sit out some on subsequent days.)
…and while Harbaugh seemed pretty dismissive about supposed position moves earlier this spring, they are looking at him there. When I fretted that this didn't make a lot of sense given the seeming surplus at H-back, Ace reminded me that Harbaugh switched guys around like mad at Stanford. Doug Baldwin played both ways; Owen Marecic played both ways. Harbaugh loves to experiment, and when he finds a Football Player that guy tends to Play A Lot Of Football. Possibly the same dynamic here.
Because man does Michigan need something above and beyond Butt/Bunting/Hill/Shallman/Houma? And Pallante? And apparently Henry Poggi?
Is it possible Winovich is getting a legit look at tailback? I doubt it but it's not like Michigan's not looking for options there.
It seems clear that Michigan has a relatively set front seven with a lot of depth at three-tech and some at linebacker. So they're taking the opportunity to test out anyone who may be an effective manballer.
FWIW, Ian Bunting looks promising but could still use some more weight on his frame if he's going to be a true dual-threat at the TE spot. When asked to catch the ball he looks "terrific," with the kind of wingspan that will remind you of Funchess "plus a couple inches." Hands are reputed to be excellent. Sam cited him as a potential breakout player.
Sione Houma has been held out with an injury, FWIW.
Receiver Battle… somewhat Royale
Drake Harris exists! He is full go in practice after like two straight years of hamstring doom. Reports alternate between impressive play and extreme skinniness. I believe both; this year will likely be a learning/glaring at hamstring owlishly/getting bigger campaign for him. 247:
There's no doubt about one thing: Harris is going to have to gain some weight in the next six months if he wants to see the field this season. However, the early impressions of him are twofold. One, he's finally 100% healthy and is a full-go at wide receiver. Two, he's been very impressive off the edge and has been a favorite target for a couple of the quarterbacks in early drills.
Harris was kind of a big deal before his leg acted up on him, remember. He was a top-50 prospect who Michigan had to fend off Alabama for after a 2,000 yard junior season.
Other reports are so scattered it's tough to draw conclusions from them. There are a lot of receivers, there are a lot of reps, an observer can easily sink into confirmation bias. At various time's I've heard good things about Ways, Chesson, Norfleet, and Bunting. Darboh's been absent so far and Canteen may still be too small to get off jams; I wouldn't read a whole lot into the former since Darboh is a known quantity.
OL Somewhat Settled(?) Royale
There's significant rotation along the offensive line, as you might expect. Other than the returning starters the biggest threats for playing time are Patrick Kugler, David Dawson, and Logan Tuley-Tillman. Miller and Braden are the returning starters under the most threat.
It is impossible to tell anything about these guys yet, as this is the point in the year when they're at the greatest disadvantage. Having eight real options is excellent, at least.
Chris Fox is still injured. You may remember that he came in after suffering a severe knee injury in his senior year of high school, ballooned up into the 350 range, and hasn't been talked about much subsequently. At least early this spring he was still on crutches. We are rapidly approaching the point where a medical scholarship is the most likely outcome.
At this point you can probably recite this bit with your eyes closed: OFFENSIVE LINEMAN SIGNEE X is huge, agile, and one mean sumbitch on the field, whereas off the field he rescues kittens from nefarious, head-tilting Ohio State fans; he got four stars from every recruiting service as a result; Michigan got him over an Ohio State or Alabama offer; he's about 6'5" and could play inside or out because he has the feet of a tackle and a guard's hatred of anything in pads.
“I am the meanest player you will ever meet” Fox said confidently. “That’s the way I play. I just play mean. You go into beast mode with good technique—you’re dominant.”
Everyone agreed to the point where his ratings are downright creepily in sync: all four services ranked him in a range from 118 to 142nd nationally. He was considerably higher to start, but kids in Colorado kind of get lost in the shuffle and Fox blew out his knee late in his high school season, so he couldn't get in any face time in front of scouts at the All Star things. The drop is both reasonable and perhaps not indicative of Fox's talent level.
Meanwhile, I should take quotes from all these articles and see if anyone can figure out who they're talking about other than Logan Tuley-Tillman. Cue coach:
"When he's out there, he really wants to dominate. I mean dominate," Murphy said. "So, if he can put you on your back and make sure you know who put you there, that's what he's going to do. And he does it a lot. We're talking pancake blocks. I wouldn't want to be a defensive lineman, man, I really would not.”
"The thing that most people have told me that stands out the most is how physical he is," Huff said. "He really is trying to destroy people when he hits them. He's not just a big body. He's a real football player for sure."
“…once he puts those pads on, he transforms into this angry guy. He is very nasty. He is a real physical kid. He won’t play after the whistle but will play up until that whistle stops blowing. He’s got more of that guard mentality. He would much rather scrape it up with defensive tackle then a speed guy on the edge. He’s also very technically sound. He’s very fundamentally sound. He has great bend. He’s got great hand placement."
…physical and aggressive O-line prospect … He has good height, looks to have a solidly built frame and displays very good upper and lower body strength. He displays the ability to quickly get out of his stance and into defenders, and can deliver a good initial pop on contact. Flashes the ability to engage with good hip roll and drive defenders off the ball with sustained leg drive. … Displays good feet and can react to and handle quick movement. ... A tenacious blocker who looks to finish and bury opponents. In pass protection, he uses hands well and can deliver a good punch. He is able to maintain a good base and shadow rushers.
Pad level tut-tutting is present, as always. They project him to right tackle with possibilities at guard.
Unlike Bosch, Fox showed out at a number of camps as a rising senior. At the Top Gun thingy he was a cut above the rest of the OL along with ND commits John Montelus and Steve Elmer, a "very solid all-around prospect" who settled in at right tackle:
…Fox worked almost exclusively at right tackle on Friday, and looked comfortable in that spot. He could also be of service at the guard position in college, but right tackle appears to be his best position. Fox used his strength to dominate most defensive ends he went against on Friday, but he also showed quick feet in handling speed rushers. The only times he got caught was when a rush end would make a second move across his face, but after getting beat early he corrected that and never let it happen the rest of the day.
…a massive player with a solid base, and despite that mass, he moves very well. He's already built like a college lineman, and has time to add strength before contributing in college - even though he probably doesn't need to. Fox was one of the few players to win a rep against 2014's top player, Da'Shawn Hand, and was not soundly beat on any rep.
Rivals put him on their "All Lobby Team," noting his massiveness again and calling him a 300-pounder with little bad weight. Also, uh:
There seems to be toughness inherent in the way he's built physically.
I'm not sure how that works but okay.
Fox was an excellent example of what camps are useful for these days. Michigan actually offered him at the 2011 edition of the same—ie, basically at the same point they offered John Runyan Jr.—and impressed him enough that he pulled the trigger on last year's Ace-murdering Commitmas. By the time his recruiting year rolled around Michigan had already done the work to snatch him away from OSU.
One reason Michigan could do that is Fox was already enormous as a sophomore, when a CU evaluator called him "just huge" and projected he would play at a "darn good 330" en route to rapture and an eyebrow-cocking comparison:
… an athlete for a big man his age and his size--moves well, flexible, is a big time knee bender, and he is a mauler - loves contact - not afraid to mix it up but athletic enough to shut down Stephen Gibson when he tried some moves and speed rushes at CU's camp. Fox plays with a level of violence and passion you don't see very often in high school offensive linemen. It's a beautiful thing to watch. …
Most like: Jake Long
Fox doesn't seem to have added any height since then, which makes him a bit less of a Long comparable. As mentioned above, he's being projected at right tackle with sprinklings of guard:
…we think he projects best on the interior of the line. He’s a physical and nasty player who moves well in space. He’s very athletic for a big man, has a great frame, plays with a motor and has a great upside to him.
Michigan will throw Bosch, Dawson, and Fox into a blender; all will work at both tackle and guard and a couple will end up being designated sixth and seventh OLs no matter who goes down. Versatility is a theme here: other than Tuley-Tillman, everyone profiled so far has the ability to play inside and out. Think of the OL roster going forward as centers (Miller, Kugler, probably Bars), left tackles (LTT, Braden, Magnuson), and other.
Also as mentioned, Fox tore his ACL and missed his All-Star game appearance. He should be rehabbed for fall practice, not that it will matter for a guy almost certain to redshirt. For what it's worth, the ACL issue was not as clean as, say, mine:
“I have a torn ACL and a double torn meniscus on my left knee,” Fox said. “It was the last game of the season. We were up by big. I was just running down field blocking a kid. I just twisted up on it weird and heard it pop three times. That’s it.”
Google says that adding torn menisci to an ACL issue is fairly common in contact sports and not an enormous extra burden on the injured player. A lot of OL retire with knee issues, though, and when you're as massive as Fox is the stress on that joint is severe. It'll be something to watch going forward.
Etc.: Will look like UltraPicard by his senior year.
"He has a lot of compassion for people and he has a heart bigger than his body," Huff said. "He really is a great person and I think that comes from mom and dad. Once you get to know them they really are special people. You just don't see it very often.
"His athletic ability, his size and strength and his passion from snap to whistle is pretty impressive, too."
Why John Runyan? Runyan is the prototypical grinding, driving Michigan right tackle. Runyan has an inch or two on Fox—listed at 6'7" most places—but Fox should get up into his weight range if the evaluators are correct. Runyan is also from a time before recruiting rankings were a thing.
Downside here is a Rueben Riley type of tackle that's more a guard out of position, but if that's the case he'll just play guard because someone else will be a better fit outside.
Guru Reliability: Moderate. Consensus, some camps, but hard to judge against Colorado competition. Late injury both adds variance and prevented evaluators from adding an All Star appearance to their opinions.
Variance: High. While he doesn't have that much weight to add, his high school competition wasn't great and the ACL tear is a potential setback. It should be fine, sure, but should does not equal "will."
Ceiling: High-minus. It seems like Fox is the other designated tackle in the class; it also seems like he is not a prospective LT and may be a better fit at guard. Otherwise, hoorah.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Unlike a couple other guys in the class who seem like exceptions to the "OL are hard to project" meme, Fox is right in the heart of big guys with potential who may never be heard from again. See "variance." Still, when Chris Fox is the guy you're fifth-most excited about in a recruiting class, yeah buddy.
Projection: Is OL, redshirt.
After, MEAT FOR THE MEAT GOD. I don't favor him to win the coming tackle battle since Magnuson will have a year on him and Tuley-Tillman six months plus however much weight room stuff the ligament tear is going to force Fox to miss, but yadda yadda OL are weird anything can happen multiple huge angry mean streak bullets equals pretty damn good line by 2015 at the latest. Meat for the meat god.
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.
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($) that UCLA, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan State, and Georgia all came to see him last week, though no offers came when he made it clear he was ticketed for Ann Arbor.
While the other two receivers in the class, Csont'e York and Jaron Dukes, are big guys who were on the receiving end of a lot of jump balls in high school, Jones is a guy who's shown his ability to work underneath and break big plays after the catch. With Drew Dileo and Jeremy Gallon back in 2013, he may not see the field right away, but down the road there's a clear role he can fill in the slot—a position that, granted, may be marginalized by the increased emphasis on tight ends—and nobody else on the roster who fits that mold after next season.
The recruiting roundup returns to cover... the dead period. Oh well.
While You Wait For The Others
I'm back from a vacation totally not spent playing an unhealthy amount of FIFA in my pajamas, but recruiting is still in a holding pattern—the holiday dead period continues through Thursday. It's the week for All-American games, however, so recruiting reporters have descended upon San Antonio and St. Petersburg to catch up with the nation's top prospects.
The latest on FL S Leon McQuay III does not sound promising. ESPN's Derek Tyson reports he'll announce his decision on Friday from three as-yet-unnamed schools, and the Wolverines may be on the outside looking in ($):
The four-star athlete has a top five of USC, Michigan, Oregon, Vanderbilt and FSU, but McQuay said he won't have all five hats for his selection on Friday.
"Yeah ... I don't know [if Michigan still in consideration]. I don't know how many hats I'll have up there," he said. "My dad said he wasn't paying for five hats. I'll probably only have three hats up there.
McQuay, who will enroll in January, said Florida State is the only school that has accepted him for admittance so far, but he is working with other schools to gain acceptance.
Sam Webb confirms he'll visit a Michigan bowl practice, so the coaches will get one last shot to sway McQuay, though with mere hours remaining until the Outback Bowl their priorities likely lie elsewhere. Insider rumblings haven't been particularly positive regarding McQuay and a choice for the Wolverines would surprise.
VA RB Derrick Green reiterated to Mike Farrell that Michigan is his favorite, with the rest of the picture murky—Florida State recently offered and could get an unofficial visit, while Oregon is now out of the picture ($). If a school is going to pass the Wolverines, it will have to be soon, as Green said "I definitely know [a decision is] going to be in January."
Let's just say there's more reason for optimism surrounding Green than McQuay.
One new 2013 name emerged in the last couple weeks: PA OT Jaryd Jones-Smith, a three-star lineman who could take an official visit on January 18th ($). He doesn't hold an offer yet, and it seems like he could be a backup plan for guys like Dan Samuelson and Cameron Hunt.
[Hit THE JUMP for an important hair-related bulletin, All-American week primer, and more.]
Todays' recruiting roundup covers Laquon Treadwell's top five, new highlight tapes for Denzel Ward and Taco Charlton, new 2013 and 2014 offers, and more.
Reschke Offered, Treadwell's Top Five
Michigan's coaching staff raised some eyebrows over the weekend after finally offering 2013 Birmingham Brother Rice linebacker and MSU commit Jon Reschke, a Spartan legacy who hasn't shown much interest in the Wolverines. Since Michigan had previously turned away linebacker recruits like Alex Anzalone and E.J. Levenberry, saying they were full at the position, the offer caused concern that a current commit was looking around. That doesn't appear to be the case, according to Tremendous, with rumors that Mike McCray was considering Ohio State debunked.
So, why the offer? For one, Brother Rice is a very strong in-state program, and Reschke was reportedly none too pleased with the lack of an offer (or serious interest) from Michigan. More importantly, however, Reschke is a heck of a player—I thought he was deserving of an offer last year, and he's stepped up his game even more this season—and with the fluid nature of recruiting, it's entirely possible that the scholarship situation at linebacker has changed. While I'd be surprised if Reschke flipped from MSU, he's close friends with Shane Morris, and he'd be a worthy addition to the class.
Matters aren't looking up on the Laquon Treadwell front, unfortunately, as he named an ordered top five to Scout's Beth Long after Crete-Monee's state semifinal victory last weekend ($). That top five, in order: Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Michigan, Michigan State. Treadwell hasn't even visited the two Oklahoma schools yet, though officials are planned to both, but he has been to Oxford; barring a late turnaround—and in recruiting, that's not exactly unusual—this won't end well.
As for a backup plan, scratch MD WR Paul Harris off the list, as he reaffirmed his commitment to Tennessee despite the news of Derek Dooley's ouster, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($). While Harris leaves some room to look around, it doesn't sound like he'll consider Michigan. Michigan did host a committed 2013 prospect last weekend in Trotwood-Madison CB Reon Dawson, an Illinois commit, according to 247's Clint Brewster. The three-star could be another option if/when Gareon Conley starts taking visits.
Michigan also handed out a 2014 offer last weekend, to FL WR Artavis Scott, high school teammate of offered OL Mason Cole, per multiple outlets. Scott is a four-star on all three sites that have released early rankings and is also on the ESPN150 Watch List, so he's universally regarded as a top prospect. The Wolverines have established themselves as one of Cole's early leaders, which should help them with Scott; both visited for the Michigan State game.
[For the rest of the recruiting roundup, including Denzel Ward's junior highlights, hit THE JUMP.]
Today's recruiting roundup covers the MSU visitor list, a potential 2014 commit, Michigan's gentle giant of a commit, and more.
Denzel Ward: Michigan's next commit?
Last weekend, Michigan offered 6'9" IL OT Denzel Ward, who visited for the Illinois game and came away gushing about the visit and talking about receiving his "dream offer" from the Wolverines. Ward spent the game with Logan Tuley-Tillman, who gave him his best recruiting pitch, per Tim Sullivan ($):
"Me and a 2014 tackle, Denzel Ward, we both were there," Tuley-Tillman explained. "We hung out like the whole day, and we'll come back next weekend together. We had a lot of fun, and everybody already thinks we're brothers. We're going to start going along with it, too. We had fun, we both had a good time.
"I was just showing him what it was, and how it really is a family atmosphere up there, and how he would already have someone that would be there for him to help him with anything."
The pitch appears to be working—Ward will be back on campus this weekend after spending the week tweeting all of the positive things about Michigan. He might have something up his sleeve, too:
Big weekend for #Michigan football don't ask questions just stay tuned in #goblue !!
An early commitment is a definite possibility here.
Ward won't be alone as a big-time visitor for the State game; Tremendous has the whole list, and it is lengthy. Michigan's two biggest 2013 targets, VA RB Derrick Green and IL WR Laquon Treadwell, will both be present, as will a pair of backup options at wide receiver in MI WR DaMario Jones and OH WR Elijah Bell—neither hold offers but could pick one up as we near signing day if Treadwell doesn't commit. Don't expect Green or Treadwell to make a decision this weekend, but a good visit could go a long way towards locking up a commitment in both cases, especially when it comes to Green.
Visiting 2014 prospects with Michigan offers are MI WR/DB Damon Webb, FL OL Mason Cole, PA S Montae Nicholson, PA TE Brenon Thrift, and OH ATH Marshon Lattimore. The first 2015 offer, KY RB Damien Harris—who projects to be one of the top handful of prospects in that class—will also be on campus; he camped at Michigan over the summer.
There's also a major basketball recruit slated to visit in improbably-named 2015 five-star WI C Diamond Stone. He already holds offers from UCLA and Wisconsin, among others, and is likely to pick one up on his visit [EDIT: As multiple commenters reminded me of, Beilein doesn't offer prospects until the summer after their sophomore year, so Stone won't be picking one up on this trip]. Fellow 2015 five-star IL PG Hyron Edwards might make the trip up for the game, as well.
This is obviously Michigan's biggest recruiting weekend of the season, and we could see several offers go out to 2014 prospects; we'll see if a commitment is in the cards.
[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on the Dawson replacement situation and more.]
Today's recruiting roundup wraps up last weekend's high school football action and more.
Jake "Butts" In Early*
Tim Sullivan reports that tight end commit Jake Butt made arrangements with his high school and the Michigan coaching staff to graduate in December and enroll early ($). Kyle Bosch, Taco Charlton, Ross Douglas, and Logan Tuley-Tillman are also slated to arrive in Ann Arbor this winter, and Dymonte Thomas will likely join that number as well.
Given the lack of depth at tight end, this is great news for the Wolverines. Devin "The Funchess" Funchess emerged on Saturday as the future at the position, but he's more of an H-back ("U"-back in the Borges offense) or big wide receiver than a traditional tight end, while Butt has the versatility to play with his hand down or off the line. Butt has a good shot at earning a large role in the offense next year and this increases his shot of earning a starting job right away.
*Jesus, I'm sorry.
Backs On Backs On Backs
Michigan only has two running backs committed in the class of 2013, but you wouldn't know that based on last weekend's high school football games. Cornerback commit Ross Douglasrushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries to lead Avon to a 40-14 victory. Future Wolverine linebacker Ben Gedeontallied 107 yards on 18 carries to help Hudson to a win of their own. Safety Dymonte Thomas spearheaded a Marlington comeback with 166 yards and two touchdowns—including the go-ahead score—on 19 carries. Then there was 285-pound nose tackle Maurice Hurst Jr., who pounded in a one-yard touchdown in a Xaverian Brothers blowout victory, set up by a 24-yard run in which he dragged two defenders to the brink of the goal line.
It's hard to believe, but some Michigan commits had the nerve to excel at non-RB positions over the weekend, as well. Two-way lineman Chris Fox, who is slated to play guard for Michigan, paved the way for a 34-14 Ponderosa victory and earned the admiration of a Highlands Ranch coach:
"Hey, Foxie," an opposing assistant coach yelled Saturday afternoon after the final play. "Great job. You kicked our butts."
While the Air Force game wasn't the huge visit weekend that Michigan State will be, there will still some major targets on campus. A large Cass Tech contingent made the short trip from Detroit, including 2014 CB Damon Webb, who told Tremendous that he could see himself ending up in Maize and Blue. 2014 Grand Rapids Christian OL Tommy Doles took in the game and told Allen Trieu($) that the B2 stealth bomber flyover was "incredible." 2013 in-state kicker J.J. McGrath was on hand as well and told Tremendous the visit really helped Michigan, though the deciding factor for him will likely be which school offers him a scholarship.
Things have been quiet on the Joe Mathis front, at least where Michigan is concerned, and it sounds like it could stay that way for the 2013 California four-star: he told Rivals analyst Adam Gorney that he plans to take official visits to Texas A&M, Washington, and Utah, and isn't sure where else he'll visit following a good trip to UCLA ($).