Formation/Substitution Notes: Not much at all. No noticeable substitutions. In terms of formation, Michigan would drop a couple of wings a few yards back on punt when Indiana stacked the line. Michigan also brought the gunners in tight and staggered two wings when it looked like Indiana was going for the all-out punt block with a little over a minute to go in regulation.
[After THE JUMP: DPJ’s development, Ben Wallace-ing your way to success, and other items from Puntapalooza 2017]
There are guys, and there are dudes. Donovan Peoples-Jones is a dude. He is a dude who posted the best SPARQ score in the nation… as a junior. He is a dude who casually flips over six-foot fences for a comedy vine. He is a dude who effortlessly executes 52" box jumps.
"…he jumped almost ten-something, eleven-something? And I was like, 'God, it's that far?' … Everyone else was doing like eight or seven. I was like, 'Y'all better jump farther! There's no way that he could outjump everybody!' … I Googled up what was the furthest jump, right? I said, 'Holy shit! He's got the furthest jump in the United States! He outjumped everybody in the combine! He has the record!' I was like, 'Oh my God!'
This shows up in his testing. Those SPARQ components are nuts, as you might imagine. DPJ ran a 4.42, 4.0 shuttle, and had a 42 inch vertical. Two things: he was the first non-senior to ever win, and he was the only prospect in his class to finish in the top 25. He wasn't able to defend his championship because of an injury, but he didn't get slower. When Michigan released the results from their spring combine, DPJ had the top 40 (4.41) and vertical leap on the team; Chris Evans and Benjamin St Juste narrowly pipped him in the broad jump and shuttle components.
It also shows up in the scouting reports, which don't stint on the superlatives. Camp takes:
Steve Wiltfong, 247: "…speedster with incredible leaping ability." Also: "…speed really showed up, just flat running by defensive backs. …no question one of the freakiest athletes in the United States."
Allen Trieu, Scout: "…elite athleticism and smoothness was on display in one on ones. Man, it's a hot one."
Josh Helmholdt, Rivals: "one of the most well-rounded wide receiver prospects to come out of the Midwest in the last decade." Also: "easily [created] separation and [caught] everything that came his way. …excels in the categories of speed, athleticism and strength, but even with all his physical traits the five-star’s best asset may be his work ethic and desire to be the best.
Isaiah Hole, 247: "…prototypical college size … possesses speed, route-running ability, hands and an insane vertical leaping ability that put him heads and shoulders above many of his peers."
Ace Anbender, this here site: "smooth runner who covers a ton of ground without looking like he's moving that fast, but his acceleration and top-end speed are elite. … impressive mid-air adjustment[s] … five-star athlete. Something about the midday sun." Also: "stellar athleticism and soft hands … really explosive off the line… toughness after the catch."
Barton Simmons, 247: "He's so effortless and such a smooth glider that it's hard to really grasp how athletic this kid is. There isn't a receiver in this class with the physical tools and complete package of Peoples-Jones."
Woody Wommack, Rivals: "He’s so smooth running downfield that it looks effortless and his always-consistent hands were on full display. *Santana guitar solo.*"
"…regularly showed the ability to stretch the field vertically, while also catching short-to-intermediate balls to prove he's dangerous at all levels. …plays such a fluid game and has built himself up enough physically that it's difficult for cornerbacks to know what he's going to do. If you play him tight, he can break free. If you play him too soft, he will run right by you. …did what he was supposed to do against some of the nation's top prospects.
“Peoples-Jones has the size and strength to destroy press coverage, the speed to get deep on cornerbacks and the precision in his route-running to create space in the short and intermediate passing game. …exceptional work ethic and dedication to his craft.
Exceptional athlete with above-average size, but top notch speed, explosiveness and outstanding leaping ability. Shows the ability to make tough grabs downfield with defenders on him, and has excellent body control and ball tracking skills. Must still get stronger and continue to polish his route-running, but has all of the physical tools to be a go-to receiver in college.
Tall, sturdy and physical … can just pull away from most, if not all pursuit. …really impressive especially on angle breaking vertical routes -- posts, streaks, corners etc because he doesn't have to gear down … strong hands and a wide reach. Plucks cleanly and we really like his over the shoulder focus on deep balls. Will come down with the contested ball and when in tight quarters can outmuscle the ball from defenders.… difference maker vertically due to size/speed combo. … can routinely win one-on-one and take the top off a defense. …doesn't have an expansive tree yet. Possesses impact qualities.
"Difference maker" and "impact qualities" are rare indeed in ESPN evaluations.
Their take also gets into another important facet of DPJ's game, especially since we're comparing him to Braylon Edwards: he has great hands. Our in-person scouting has notes of it, and when he showed up for the Army game he was a vacuum:
…showed his five-star ability by catching pretty much everything. The Michigan commit showed great body control to make catches on two contested deep balls in one on ones and made a diving catch behind him on a poorly thrown short route.
…did have a couple highlight reel catches during the week of practice, but he gets the nod here primarily because he was so sure-handed.
They also preferred him to last year's #1 WR prospect, Arizona State's K'Neal Harry, because he's "more polished and physical at the same stage," and named him one of ten "can't miss prospects."
The one blip of negativity comes from this site, naturally. Over the course of DPJ's Cass career Adam, Dave, and Ace scouted him four separate times, and in doing so caught something important that the other reports tend to overlook:
As far as route running goes, Peoples-Jones rarely ran anything other than a fly or a slant, making that part of his game difficult to judge.
Cass utilizes a very run-centric offense, and then they bomb it to Peoples-Jones two or three times a game. He usually catches one for a touchdown. … It’s hard to tell whether Peoples-Jones is a good route runner because he usually just runs a go route and torches a corner in the process.
Cass's passing game was not very developed. MLK head coach Tyrone Spencer:
"I think we still haven’t even seen what he can really do because Cass runs a lot of zone read concepts so he still wasn’t getting the ball a lot."
This is more about the limitations of a high school offense that isn't IMG than Peoples-Jones, but he didn't run the full gamut of routes he'll be expected to in college. That's what ESPN is referring to when they say he "doesn't have an expansive tree yet." Until he does his effectiveness will be somewhat muted.
"He's really serious about being good, that's what's stood out the most. That's standing out even more than some of the physical attributes that he has. So far so good. But he's serious about being good. Very smart."
““He’s really locked in. He’s really focused and really wants it. He’s very mature and has a very good concentration level. He wants to be a student of the game. He wants to do it right."
There's a certain variety of five-star who comes in without having to be de-recruited, and the kind of things that get said about them in press conferences are along these lines. Also the physical things are pretty nice. Speight:
"Donovan was doing things today that were pretty freaky. Just the catch radius he had. If the ball is way out here; there was one that was going way out of bounds and he just plucked it. Some guys that were standing out of bounds just looked at each other after that one."
Practice reports from on-site observers were "very encouraging," per this very site, because it "took him just a few practices to establish himself. Unfortunately, he was dinged up and in and out of the lineup. Per Pep Hamilton he missed "quite a few practices," which limited him to "flashes of extreme talent." He was held in relative check in the spring game, for whatever that's worth.
Survey says: not much. Peoples-Jones is a stellar athlete who's already gotten his head coach to talk about him like a future captain. It's not if he becomes a star. It's when.
Why Braylon Edwards? Edwards remains the gold standard for terrifying downfield receivers at Michigan. He was a sleeper recruit, not the top WR in the country, but that was a scouting failure more than anything. By the time Edwards entered the NFL draft he was 6'3", 210, and running sub-4.5 40s. (He posted a 4.45 at the combine and a 4.36 at Michigan's likely-more-forgiving pro day.) At Michigan he was able to cruise by many defensive backs and out-leap or out-muscle anyone who was able to keep up. Hopefully DPJ won't have Edwards's unreliable hands or tempestuous relationship with the head coach.
Other comparables, per national guys, include Sammy Watkins and Mike Williams (Clemson edition). Tai Streets and Jehu Chesson are Michigan options.
Guru Reliability: Exacting. One of the most heavily scouted prospects in the country, eerie agreement, no positional projection.
Variance: Low-plus. A tiny worry or two in here: he wasn't asked to run a full route tree at Cass and he's had a couple of lingering minor injury issues. Other than that all systems go.
Ceiling: Vast. Could easily be the first WR off the board whenever he ends up in the NFL draft.
General Excitement Level: Giggity. Michigan has not had a five star wide receiver since David Terrell. I'm looking forward to having another one.
Projection: Will play this year, obviously. Likely to fall into a genuine platoon situation early with Crawford, Black, and probably one other as Michigan starts the year wondering if they have a top two. Like Black, does not have a clear path to a starting job any time soon because of the other guys in this absurd WR class; will have to fight tooth and nail for snaps. He will get his share because he can line up on the outside and demand safety help from day one.
Breakout is likely at some point as he refines and expands his route tree; that's really the only thing missing, and a guy getting talked up by his coaches like DPJ already is will get there. Relevant question in year three is likely to be "will there be a year four?"
Donovan Peoples-Jones was billed as the next Detroit-produced superstar practically from the moment he set foot on the field for Cass Tech as a freshman in 2013. If anything, he surpassed those lofty expectations during a superlative high school career that culminated last month in a state championship blowout of Catholic Central—Peoples-Jones led the way with six catches for 119 yards and a touchdown.
In the interim, his reputation reached near-mythical status as absurd feat of athleticism after absurd feat of athleticism went viral. Here's Peoples-Jones fooling around on Vine in the summer before his sophomore year:
Here he makes a 52-inch box jump look effortless in front of Devin Gardner and several stunned onlookers:
Despite possessing so much natural physical talent that he could probably skate by without doing homework for the rest of his life, he's also a straight-A student and aspiring orthopedic surgeon; reports surfaced over the summer that he was shadowing doctors at Michigan's medical school. Even for a mom quote, this is a hell of a mom quote:
“His focus and determination, sometimes, especially during football season he’ll stay up till 2 or 3 in the morning doing homework,” Rozlyn said. “I’ll ask him if he wants any help and he says no it’s my responsibility to get the work done.
“His character. I watch him every day just want to be the best. He’s taken everything I’ve put into him and multiplied it three times over. He’s just a gift. Definitely a gift. He has the kind of determination and focus, I look at him and he’s teaching me. He’s leading and guiding me. As Christian people we’re taught that sometimes the children will lead you. He’s one of those, he’s gifted.”
While Peoples-Jones had long been considered a heavy Michigan lean, he never let on as much publicly, which led to a dramatic final couple weeks of his recruitment. Florida State and Ohio State emerged as serious contenders. Tonight, in a nationally televised announcement on ESPN2, he chose to stay home.
[*it's not, sorry.]
5*, #4 WR,
5*, #2 WR,
4*, 87, #4 WR,
5*, 98, #1 WR,
5*, #1 WR,
The only site that doesn't rate Peoples-Jones as a five-star (ESPN) has him ranked higher than one that does (Scout). All consider him somewhere between great and super-great; as a result, he's the top receiver in the composite rankings.
Peoples-Jones is listed at 6'2" (or 6'2.5") and 190-200 pounds on every site save Rivals (6'1", 188), which has an outdated figure—he measured in at 6'2", 200 at this year's Opening finals. While not imposingly tall, he's done a great job of filling out his frame over the last couple years; he already looks like a college wideout.
[Hit THE JUMP for what is without a doubt the longest Hello post I've ever written.]
A tentative and incomplete list of Spring Visitors
There will be a ton. A bunch of in-state guys not listed will be there, but they often decide late. There will probably be another half-dozen regional guys who make it in who either aren't talking or haven't been unearthed by recruiting sites yet.
NJ DT Corey Bolds.
NJ LB Drew Singleton Bolds and Singleton are both at Paramus. Looks like it will come down to M or Clemson for both. The duo pushed back their visit from random spring practice to the game itself. Don't expect Singleton to drop; his dad told Sam Webb that they have a suite of visits set up ranging from Cal to PSU to Auburn. He also said having Partridge around was "huge" and "huge" and "HUGE."
NJ DT Fred Hansard. Hansard's visit is a bit of a surprise since he set a decision date and usually that means your mind is made up. Nobody thought it was made up in favor of Michigan; a two-day visit will give them a chance to change his mind.
AL WR Nico Collins is one of those kids who has a bunch of southern schools and then Michigan on his list. Normally those recruitments end up with the player staying in the SEC, but people say Michigan has a real shot with Collins thanks to his dad. Here's hoping pops wins the day here, since Collins brings something Funchess-esque to the table. ESPN scouted him at the local Opening regional:
He has tremendous height and nice length. He has big, strong hands and a wide catch radius and was consistent catching the ball. He was not the fastest target in attendance, but did display good ability to drive off the line quickly and among the biggest targets there he did flash ability to use his size.
MA RB AJ Dillon is one of those dudes. He completed an unofficial on Tuesday and—surprise—enjoyed it.
"Toured campus, got a feel for Ann Arbor and was really impressed by the school after seeing the academic studies," Dillon said. "Seems like a great town. And the facilities were amazing."
In the aftermath 247 OSU analyst Alex Gleitman entered a crystal ball for Michigan. Lorenz says he's "as in tune" as anyone is with Dillon's recruitment. That ballz was quickly followed by a mighty one from Steve Wiltfong, who says the visit was a "game changer." Dillon has already been to Notre Dame and Wisconsin, the schools previously thought to lead. Those CB flips seem pretty meaningful.
If Michigan does land Dillon they're getting a heck of an athlete:
At last summer's New Jersey/New York Nike Football The Opening Region, Dillon posted the top Nike Football Rating of the day with a score of 114.12, Dillon measured in at 6-foot-1, 229-pounds and ran a 4.64 electronically time 40-yard dash, a 4.39 shuttle, a 38 ½-0 power ball toss and 36-6 inch vertical.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, who is ridiculous, turned in an electronic 4.45 at about 40 pounds lighter than Dillon—for a 230 pound guy dude can move. Heck, 4.64 is the same time Dylan Crawford ran at the Opening, which placed him eighth overall. If Dillon played better competition he might be a major, major recruit. Instead he's at the tail end of most top X lists.
Samuels, who came into the event with just an offer from New Mexico State, was the talk of the event when it was done, beating out a number of Texas natives for RB MVP honors and more importantly, became the first player from the state of New Mexico to ever be selected to The Opening Finals.
He ran an electronic 4.45 just like Peoples-Jones and regrets that since his hamstring was a little wonky. Michigan fired out his first major offer right after that camp and he will be up for the spring game. Samuels is shaped more like Fitz Toussaint than an angry horse, so he and Dillon might not overlap much in terms of skillset.
"Coach Wheatley (compared me to) a young ‘AP’ (Adrian Peterson),” said Samuels.
Samuels is listed at 5'10", 188, which means two of him stacked on top of each other would equal one Adrian Peterson, who emerged from his father's head fully formed with switches in both hands. Must be something Fred stashed in the beverage fridge.
“They were both nice,” he said of his visits to Iowa and Michigan. “It’s hard to compare the two, but I think Iowa had the edge there.”
Benjamin cites the fact that Iowa is operating with two- and three-star running backs and he could have a bigger impact. I don't think he's heard about AIRBHG yet. Four star running backs who head to Iowa City are signing up for Final Destination: Cornfield. Benjamin's already visited a bunch of places; at this point you have to take the Iowa lead seriously.
Four-star linebacker DeAndre Wilder, who has an offer from the Wolverines already, is one of the notable names. Joining him will be freshman running back Nayquan Wright, a phenom who already holds offers from Alabama, Miami, Florida State, LSU and Notre Dame.
Wilder said he and Bush "go back." Lorenz believes he'll return for an official visit, which was M's primary goal.
Also in attendance was FL CB Naytron Culpepper. Sounds like they're taking a bunch of guys with various talent levels around, as one of the stops on their tour is EMU. MSU and ND are also on the docket.
Fast and furious they are as Michigan tries to import kids before spring practice ends. Cass OL Jordan Reid, who has an offer, was at Michigan for the third time in a month yesterday and may end up at that Ford Field practice. (I'm guessing one of the primary motivators for opening the practice is for its utility as a recruiting tool.) Ditto Cass S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, who is entering Lavert Hill territory as far as omnipresence in Ann Arbor goes.
Instate OL/DL Phil Paea, as mentioned, was also in. 6'8" MI DL/OL Robert Hudson, a new name, stopped by as well. Hudson is obviously far too tall to play DT, where Scout ranks him, but hasn't even tried out at OT yet. Probably a guy to watch through his senior season and a potential late riser.
I forgot to mention OH CB Amir Riep, who visited a week or so ago. Riep is from Colerain, Joe Bolden's alma mater. Bolden's dad is the coach there but OSU's DB coach was hired away from Colerain so there are connections on both sides. Riep said nice things about the visit but…
“It was really important for me to get up there to be honest,” he said. “Growing up in Ohio and watching Ohio State, I would have never really thought much about Michigan. It was so much different than what I had pictured in my head. It amazed me how nice everything was up there.”
…sounds like OSU is still the favorite. ND and LSU are also in the picture.
Legacy MI DE Aidan Hutchinson picks up his first offer from LSU. Les (and Cam Cameron) do throw out random Michigan offers from time to time, especially when they know the family, but rarely do those end up with serious pursuit; guessing that's the case here.
This one is weird. Per Brice Marich, NV QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson says he will return to Michigan for the A4 QB camp "for sure." Michigan was very attentive on his recent unofficial:
“I talked to the whole offensive staff individually, toured through the football facility and campus, sat down with numerous people dealing with the school part of my visit, and went to the Big House.”
"…at Ohio State every coached welcomed me. Only one or two offensive coaches and coach (Jim) Harbaugh welcomed me at Michigan. I kind of prefer Ohio State. It seems like more of a fit, especially the offense.”
WTF? This is why I try not to pay too much attention to 2018 at this juncture.
"I love Ohio State," Gill said. "They are definitely in my top five for sure, along with UCLA, Michigan State, Tennessee, and Michigan. Ohio State and Michigan are very similar in a lot of ways. They are just two great schools and programs."
USC and UCLA are up next so he's not close to having a final list; could maybe probably come down to a classic M/OSU battle.
Michigan won't be getting the top QB in the country in consecutive years, it appears, as 2018 GA QB Trevor Lawrence seems lukewarm on a Michigan offer… possibly because M forgot they offered him months ago. Lawrence is ticketed for some SEC school.
Did I mention that OH LB commit Antwuan Johnson's dad is a Michigan fan? I might have. Either way should help that commit stick. Meanwhile, Johnson's teammate and OH DE Leonard Taylor sounds like a guy who Michigan might even lead for:
"When I was up at Michigan it felt like home, and I love the way Coach (Jim) Harbaugh is running things up there," he added. "They have a great academic program, and I really liked the city of Ann Arbor."
I wouldn't be shocked if he dropped at or just after the spring game. Think that's < 50%, but it could happen.