Exit Drake Harris

Exit Drake Harris

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on November 28th, 2017 at 6:36 PM

Like Wilton Speight, Drake Harris announced on Instagram that he plans to transfer elsewhere for his fifth year.

I want to take this opportunity to first and foremost thank everyone who has believed in me up until this point. My journey has had many bumps in the road and the cards I have been dealt were not particularly ideal. However, the end is far from near. -To Coach Hoke, thank you for giving a young boy his dream of playing at The University of Michigan. -To Coach Harbaugh, thank you for helping me expound my athletic abilities and mold me into the athlete that I am today. -To my teammates, friends, family, and fans, you never gave up on me and always allowed me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If It wasn’t for you all, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Without further notice, I will be continuing my football career elsewhere for my 5th year season. I will forever cherish my memories in the Big House and I will never forget the lessons and qualities that made me a Michigan man. Forever and always, GO BLUE!

A post shared by Drake Harris (@drizzygetbusy12) on

Harris enrolled in January 2014 with a trainload of hype trailing him; he ended up a top-100 prospect on the 247 composite and the seventh-ranked receiver in nation. He initially committed to Michigan State to play both football and basketball, but decommitted after deciding to focus solely on football, and his stock exploded from there.

Hamstring injuries hampered his career from the start and cropped up over and over again. He eventually switched from receiver to corner before this past fall camp. By September, there were rumors that he was leaving the football team to play basketball for John Beilein. In the end, injuries forced him back to receiver, and he caught his first and only pass of the season against Ohio State in what turned out to be his last game in a Michigan uniform.

Per our depth chart by class, this would put Michigan at 87 scholarships (including the 2018 16-man class). With more attrition likely to come, Michigan should be able to add a few more members to their recruiting class before signing day.

Report: Exit Football Drake Harris, Hello Hoops Drake Harris

Report: Exit Football Drake Harris, Hello Hoops Drake Harris

Submitted by Ace on September 18th, 2017 at 2:26 PM


[Left: Patrick Barron; Right: MLive]

Michigan wide receiver Drake Harris may soon become Michigan guard Drake Harris, and this has nothing to do with a massive weight gain. A Scout user spotted Harris posting clips playing basketball on his Snapchat a few days ago, and now The Wolverine's Chris Balas is reporting that Harris plans to suit up for John Beilein:

We've heard Michigan redshirt junior wide receiver Drake Harris will be pursuing basketball now ... yes, at Michigan. Head coach John Beilein will take him in a heartbeat if the football coaches approve (we've heard Harris met with the coach yesterday), and we believe they will (and probably already have).

As a recruit at Grand Rapids Christian, Harris initially committed to Michigan State as a two-sport athlete. Basketball, in fact, was his primary focus until his spectacular junior football season, and the recruiting services regarded him as a composite top-100 basketball recruit before he chose the gridiron—at one point Rivals had him ranked as high as #46 overall in the 2014 class. He earned first-team all-state honors on the hardwood as both a sophomore and junior; he didn't play his senior season because he enrolled early at Michigan. ESPN liked his potential when the evaluated him as a junior despite being the low outlier among his basketball rankings:

Strengths:
Drake is smooth scoring wing who is a solid shooter out to 20 feet. He can score from all over the floor: long range, mid-range and he can get to the rim. He has real good size for a 2 guard at his age. Pretty good defender.

Weaknesses:
Drake needs more consistency with his effort. He can disappear at times.

Bottom Line:
Drake is a real up and coming talent in the 2014 class. Drake is a solid athlete and has plenty of upside. When he is assertive he is one of he better scorers in the class. It'll be interesting to see how he progresses.

He certainly asserted himself for most of his junior season, averaged 24.2 points per game and leading Grand Rapids Christian to the Class A state semifinals, where he went out with a bang.

Harris would have two seasons of eligibility remaining on the hardwood; since he began the year with the football program, his scholarship would still count against football for this year, though basketball has an open slot anyway.

While it's obviously difficult to project how a player will fare in a sport he hasn't played competitively for four years, Harris may be able to provide some depth at guard. At 6'4", 188, he's got good size, and we know he doesn't lack athleticism. In addition to providing scoring punch, he was a good passer in high school, to the point that his coach wanted him to be more selfish:

The strength of Harris' game is his ability to attack the basket off the dribble and score or find teammates for high-percentage shots.

"Defenders can't stay in front of him," Majerle said. "That is what gives him so much potential as a point guard. He has good ball skills and he is a great athlete. I also think that he has a great natural feel for the game which is what you want to see from a point guard. He is a good teammate and an unselfish basketball player. Sometimes he is unselfish to a fault."

While he wasn't known as a shooter, he could pour it on at times, and his form looks decent (albeit a bit slow on the release) on film; he also displays good court vision and some flashy passing ability.

Whether Harris plays both sports or moves full-time to baskeball, this shouldn't have a major impact on the football team. He only had eight career receptions before moving this fall to cornerback, where he hasn't seen significant playing time. He'll have to shake off some rust on the hardwood, but at the very least he's an interesting athlete to have at the end of the bench.

Preview 2017: Cornerback

Preview 2017: Cornerback

Submitted by Brian on August 31st, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back. Wide Receiver. Tight End And Friends. Offensive Line. Defensive End. Defensive Tackle. Linebacker.

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osmosis for the win please [Bryan Fuller]

Depth Chart

Boundary Corner Yr. Field Corner Yr. Nickelback Yr.
David Long Fr.* LaVert Hill So. Brandon Watson Jr.*
Ambry Thomas Fr. Brandon Watson Jr.* Ambry Thomas Fr.
Drake Harris Jr.* Benjamin St Juste Fr. Jaylen Kelly-Powell Fr.

This spot has gotten steadily wobblier as the offseason has worn on. Talk of an open competition went from fanciful to deadly serious. Coaches made grumbling noises about player availability. One of Michigan's only experienced wide receivers was added to the mix after spring practice. The ideal scenario where Long and Hill are second year players just like sophomore  Jourdan Lewis seems unlikely at the moment.

Things probably shouldn't be bad. If you're not a little nervous you're braver than this preview. There is a distinct whiff of job-by-default here. If the two highly-touted second-year players aren't up to it the alternatives are either true freshmen, a couple of modest recruits with little on-field track record, and a guy who flipped from WR in spring.

But it'll probably be fine? Maybe?

CORNERBACK

RATING: 3.

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[Fuller]

The #1 spot here was an open question even after the insiders had several cracks at making projections. Then Mike Zordich evacuated LAVERT HILL [recruiting profile] prior to the Dresden portion of his recent press conference. Nobody can accuse Zordich of being a coachspeak robot after this:

How are those young corners coming along?

“Not fast enough.” [/laughs] “Not fast enough. They show flashes. I’ll say this: Lavert has, since his injury, he’s been pretty consistent and you can see him increasing every day and getting better. ...

So Lavert’s responded to whatever challenge you—

“He has. He absolutely has. He came back. He didn’t practice much in the spring. We were very disappointed about that and we expressed that with him. This summer he really worked hard, then unfortunately he gets injured. But he came back and just picked up and the arrow’s going up. The arrow’s going up. Can’t say that about the rest of the guys.”

In a way this might be good news? Seriously? Zordich clearly wasn't around to spare anyone's feelings and he was fairly enthusiastic about Hill, who entered as a massive wildcard. If he's putting it together enough to spare himself from a coach on the warpath... I might take that and run. One wonky spot is easier to fill if you have a bonafide War Daddy who can man up an X receiver aligned away from trips.

Hill can be that guy. He is a high ceiling, low floor gentleman. During high school he was either in Lewis-level coverage or watching a long touchdown from the next county. Current Belleville head coach Jermaine Crowell, who was at one time the position coach for both Hill and Lewis, laid it down:

Vert is more athletic than JD [ed: Lewis's nickname]. He’s faster than JD ... His vertical is better. But JD has always had that edge, he doesn’t care who you are, he’s coming at you. JD will line up against a seventh grader and treat him like he’s the best receiver in college.

“Lavert might not necessarily do that. He rises to the challenge. He wants to go against the best of the best to prove himself. You have to be more consistent. Once his consistency gets there he’s going to be unreal.”

That take has been spot on so far, with Hill reports alternating between marvels at his "hip pocket coverage" and worries about his compete level. Webb cited an anonymous rival coach comparing Hill to Ambry Thomas:

"If Vert had Ambry's intensity he'd be the #1 corner in the country. Hands down."

Elsewhere in that post is an assertion from another Detroit-area high school coach that Hill, not Lewis, not Thomas, not Desmond King, is the "most talented corner in recent memory to come out of the city." Janus looks both ways. The duality of man, man.

In limited time last year (about 60 snaps) Hill came out at essentially zero to PFF; he was not frequently mentioned in UFR. He did have a couple moments where the incessant Lewis comparisons seemed pretty on point:

He had a couple of similar plays in garbage time; in the bowl game he was in good position and got hit with a dubious PI flag after mutual handfighting between DB and WR:

This is largely encouraging. When Hill was targeted he was in a good spot and able to make a play on the ball. Pass interference savvy can be developed. Being close enough to need it is a good start.

But inconsistency has continued to dog Hill, at least until recently. After spring practice the coaches were openly frustrated with his tendency to take a knock and then miss reps. Zordich:

“Lavert is a natural at it. LaVert has got to get better at finishing, straining, more effort, but talent – he has it. He just has to make up his mind on how he wants this to roll.”

Similar grumbles persisted through the first half of fall camp, and then they cleared like smoke. Webb started talking him up a few days before Zordich confirmed Hill's rise to the world at large, saying he is the lone "fixture with the first group" and that he "stepped up his game significantly"; Rivals reported that Hill has "finally stepped up, big time."

Webb has also asserted that Michigan trusted Hill covering the slots last year and might be the guy sliding inside when Michigan goes to a dime package. That opens up the sixth DB spot to any of the competitors and is a valuable thing in one of your corners. It's also a Lewis comparison point.

Hill could be anything from sophomore Jourdan Lewis...

...who was already an All Big Ten guy at that point in his career, or he could be a version of Jourdan Lewis who gets lost way too much and sees a bunch of TDs go over his head. Finding out will be fun! Or possibly not fun!

[After THE JUMP: lock no longer]

Fall Camp Presser 8-3-17: Don Brown

Fall Camp Presser 8-3-17: Don Brown

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on August 7th, 2017 at 10:04 AM

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[Upchurch]

“How we doin’? Everybody have a good summer? It’s over. At least for me. Really like our guys. Really high character group. It’s fun to go to work every day. We’re only three days in. The first two days you’ve got your pajamas on; you’re just running around in your shorts and t-shirts with the headgear on. Did our first day in uppers yesterday and got to see how we’re gonna be. Lot of learning to do. Huge learning curve.

“Trying to establish tempo and pace with this new practice schedule is interesting because in essence you really have one more week than you used to have, so that has to come into your thinking because you obviously want to get the guys all this information but you don’t want to jam it at them too fast that they can’t retain, and you actually have a little more time to install, get prepared and so forth.

“But you don’t want them bored with it either, so you have to keep them going at a reasonable clip so that they stay engaged and they learn and they participate with great energy mostly mentally; you know they’re going to do that physically. Good start the first three days. Excited about it.”

You’ve talked about maintaining the aggressive, attacking style of your defense even with losing so many starters. Realistically, does there have to be some dialing back with so many young guys or is it too early to tell?

“We really can’t tell. I think it’s a great question. I’m not trying to dodge it, but regardless of how we’re gonna go about doing it, because there’s several ways to do it, we’re going to be aggressive. I mean, that’s just the way we play defense. Now, we may do that different ways. We may play different concepts. Obviously you have a system. It needs to be flexible enough so that speed can get on the field and based on where that speed comes from positionally that your package is flexible enough that you can utilize those talents.”

In Chicago, Jim was talking about Kwity [Paye] and Luiji [Vilain], kind of raving about them on the outside. He mentioned them as outside linebackers and defensive ends. What have you noticed out of those two so far?

“Well, I’ll give you this: I watched pass rush yesterday—pretty good. Very good start. Luiji: extremely explosive, comes off the rock. Was really impressed with how well not only does he come off the rock but how well Kwity used his hands. Those guys are very talented guys, as Coach has alluded to, and we’re going to give them every opportunity possible to get on the field in some roles.

“Now, can they learn it all concept-wise? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute and develop confidence and then have their role broadened as we move forward.”

[More after THE JUMP]

The "Speed Is Overrated" Era Is, Mercifully, Over

The "Speed Is Overrated" Era Is, Mercifully, Over

Submitted by Ace on May 17th, 2017 at 12:40 PM


The successes. [Patrick Barron]

In his four-year tenure at Michigan, Brady Hoke accepted commitments from eight recruits who entered the program as wide receivers. With Drake Harris' move to cornerback, one remains at the position on the current roster: senior Moe Ways, who has five career receptions and doesn't appear likely to play a significant role this fall.

After the Harris news broke, The Mathlete posed a question to the group in the mgo-slack chat:

Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson are obvious; both just went in the NFL draft after productive college careers. If we take this question literally—including only players who were recruited as wide receivers—then the third answer tells you all you need to know about Hoke's recruiting at the position: Moe Ways, he of the five career catches.

Here are Hoke's recruits ranked by receiving yards. I've listed them by the position they began their careers playing, because this staff well and truly thought Devin Funchess was a tight end for two years before getting it right:

  1. WR Amara Darboh, 2062
  2. TE/WR Devin Funchess, 1715
  3. TE Jake Butt, 1646
  4. WR Jehu Chesson, 1639
  5. RB De'Veon Smith, 251
  6. TE/FB Khalid Hill, 226
  7. TE AJ Williams, 164
  8. RB/WR Dennis Norfleet, 157
  9. FB Joe Kerridge, 123
  10. TE Ian Bunting, 118
  11. RB Drake Johnson, 107
  12. RB Justice Hayes, 105
  13. FB Sione Houma, 91
  14. S Jabrill Peppers, 82
  15. WR Moe Ways, 64
  16. RB Ty Isaac, 54
  17. WR Drake Harris, 50
  18. FB Henry Poggi, 47

It's understandable, in this relatively short time period, to have the type of chasm that exists between Chesson and Smith—a team can only have so many top targets. Having not one, not two, but three fullbacks rank ahead of the next player recruited as a wide receiver (and a fourth threatening to pass him), however, is not.

You may note that the entire 2013 wide receiver class—Jaron Dukes, Da'Mario Jones, and Csont'e York—is missing from the above list. The trio produced two catches for 13 yards at Michigan, all by Jones. In retrospect, perhaps this wasn't the best recruiting strategy:

Michigan signed three receivers last week, none of whom ranks better than a three star.

They seem to be big on size, but lack elite speed.

That doesn't concern receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski.

"Speed is overrated," he said last week. "Obviously, it's something we have to have. But speed is overrated. How can you truly judge the speed of a high school kid on the perimeter when maybe he touches the ball three times a game?

This is how a true sophomore, Kekoa Crawford, wound up as the old man among expected two-deep contributors at receiver this year. Thankfully, Jim Harbaugh followed up on a strong 2016 receiver haul with, by recruiting rankings, the best receiver class in program history. One look at Donovan Peoples-Jones will dispel any notion that this staff believes speed is overrated. Thank the football gods.

Good Unverified Voracity For People Who Like Bad Unverified Voracity

Good Unverified Voracity For People Who Like Bad Unverified Voracity

Submitted by Brian on May 16th, 2017 at 1:11 PM

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[Patrick Barron]

All position switches are good news and bad news. Drake Harris is now a cornerback:

I'm dubious that this will work out, but Sam Webb asserts that Harris was not flat out told to move—he was in fact told that if he stays at WR he would be a contributor. The uncertainty at corner is greater and a guy with Harris's frame has a super high upside if it works out. Yes, Richard Sherman was inevitably brought up.

Moving your most experienced WR to CB after spring practice says something about the guys who are still there: DPJ and Tarik Black must have shown plenty for Michigan to move forward with those two guys and Kekoa Crawford as their main outside threats. It obviously says less than great things about cornerback, but I wouldn't get too despondent. Flipping guys around just to check is a Harbaugh trademark; sometimes it's paid off handsomely.

It is not a great sign for Harris's playing time since it directly states that he got passed by the two early-enrolled freshmen as soon as they showed up. Richard Sherman, yeah, but for every Sherman there are 20 shots in the dark that fail to salvage careers. There's a 10% chance he's a starting corner, a 20% chance he's on the two deep, and the rest of it is fading into Bolivia.

A combine weekend is good and bad. It's bad for the NBA prospects of Michigan's two potential early entrants, and that's good for Michigan. DJ Wilson had an injury that prevented him not only from playing 5 on 5 but also testing, which he would have been real good at. Wagner had a Wagner-versus-Oregon weekend, not a Wagner-versus-Louisville weekend. Both landed on Chad Ford's Go Back To School team. Both have also more or less directly stated that they are not going to stay in unless they're in the first round. Wagner:

“If I have that feeling that a team believes in me that much to draft me in the first round, I’d have to seriously consider that.

“As long as I don’t have that feeling, I won’t risk losing two years of eligibility at the University of Michigan.”

Wilson:

"If it's anything second round, then I don't really think that I'll be staying in the draft, I'll probably come back to school," Wilson said. "That's the good spot that I'm in -- I don't have a bad choice either way."

Wagner seems to be solidly in the second round and we can expect him back. Wilson is in a tricky spot; various mock drafts have him at the tail end of the first, including SBN and DX. I don't think he's going to have clarity either way unless a team gives him a guarantee.

In other combine news, any Michigan fan could have told you this:

Standing vertical leap (no steps) high scores: Donovan Mitchell (36.5 inches), Derrick Walton Jr. (36), Frank Jackson (35.5), Devin Robinson (35.5) and Derrick White (35.5)

Secretly 6'8" Derrick Walton and his rebounding chops.

WHY. WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS

This week in amateurism. Jim Delany gets a 20 million dollar bonus; the Big Ten is blindsided by complaints about Friday night games. Jim Delany is still getting a 20 million dollar bonus; this year's basketball schedule is so borked because of someone's bright idea to play the conference championship a week early so it can be at Madison Square Garden that Michigan might only play 30 games. And this is on the table:

“Do you end up playing a nonconference game during that week that’s after the conference [tournament] finishes up in New York?” Phillips pondered. “That’s a possibility. But who do you get who’s available? Do you play another conference game, and it’s a ‘nonconference’ game, but you play another conference opponent during that week? And I think you’ve got to be creative … how long a layoff is too long, where it really starts to have an adverse effect when you go into the postseason, whether it’s the NCAA or the NIT?”

If it maximizes revenue like a duck, pays only lip service to everything else like a duck, and compensates executives like a duck, can we finally pay the players?

Can't even scrape right. I wouldn't pay much attention to that NCAA report about the number of staffers across college football:

The Irish have a combined 45 on-field coaches, strength coaches, graduate assistants and support staff, according to the survey distributed to the NCAA Council last month. Notre Dame is followed closely in the top five by Texas (44), Georgia (42), Auburn (41) and Michigan (40).

However, the NCAA told CBS Sports the methodology to measure the staff sizes of 127 FBS schools in 2016 came from mere website research.

That research is also wrong. The report was for internal use and was obtained by CBS, thus putting a not ready for prime-time document on display. The numbers in it are not worth your time.

More worthy, perhaps, is this thought process:

The number of those added support staff is not capped. In fact, some argue that the NCAA should limit staff size even as they try to determine whether such a restriction can be legally instituted.

"You got it," said Phillips, also Northwestern's athletic director. "Maybe you can't limit [it], but the idea is that's how we've structured ourselves in the past. That's why we don't have seven assistant basketball coaches."

The money has to go somewhere. Now a lot of it is going to low level staffers. If it can't go to low level staffers it will go to midlevel staffers. Or it will buy Jim Delany yet another Ford Fiesta. You know he's just got a hangar full of 'em.

Etc.: Notre Dame is done paying Charlie Weis. xoxo miss you, Big Guy. M-OSU on Fox appears all but official. Hockey commit Antonio Stranges gets an "A+" rating from SBN College Hockey. Money has to go somewhere.

Justin Meram is doing work in MLS this year. I wonder if he regrets closing the door on the USMNT by playing for Iraq. I certainly regret it. Haven't had a winger in a minute.

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Maryland

Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Maryland

Submitted by Brian on November 10th, 2016 at 3:07 PM

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SPONSOR NOTES: We're going to Iowa thanks to Matt, and he's going to be tailgating prior to the game. If you're going, hit him up and stop by. We'll be around for a few hours before the game, traffic and weather willing.

In addition to being a gentleman replete with Michigan tickets, Matt is also a good man to know if you need a mortgage. It's striking that we actually get non-astroturfed comments about positive experiences with Matt not infrequently.

If you're buying a home or refinancing, he's the right guy to call.

FORMATION NOTES: Maryland switched between fronts a bunch, seemingly because they were trying to find anything that could possibly work. A 3-4 was their base set through the middle of the game; late and early they were mostly four-man fronts.

None of this went well. Here is an obligatory picture.

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Michigan didn't do anything wacky with formations aside from some pistol stuff that is pretty standard at various places around college football.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: 59 snaps for the line before they were pulled on the final drive. Braden-Bredeson-Cole-Kalis-Magnuson for the third straight week; Kugler got two RG snaps after the Kalis personal foul. Butt and Darboh were close to omnipresent with 47 and 44 snaps; Chesson got 33.

De'Veon Smith usage surged to two-thirds of Michigan's snaps, with Ty Isaac limited to four. Evans and Higdon had 13 and 11. Peppers got four. Hill and Poggi continued to split FB snaps about down the middle. Asiasi, Bunting, and Wheatley all got around 20 snaps; Crawford, McDoom, and Harris got around 10.

[After THE JUMP: many, many touchdowns.]

Maryland Postgame Presser: Jim Harbaugh

Maryland Postgame Presser: Jim Harbaugh

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on November 6th, 2016 at 11:00 AM

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[Upchurch/MGoBlog]

Might be a broken record, but might that have been Wilton Speight’s best game, and could you talk about how he extended plays by sliding around in the pocket when he needed to?

“Yeah, that was…statistically, and just the eyeball, that’s the best half of football I’ve ever seen a Michigan quarterback play. I think the statistics back that up. Yeah, moving and throwing and accuracy and extending plays, all of the above. I don’t know how you play better than Wilton did. I think there was one throw that wasn’t a great throw. That was it. Other than that, it was a perfect game as a quarterback and that’s really tough to do.”

This team continuing to roll. How much more enjoyment do you get out of seeing these guys as the season progresses and you see the execution as it is each and every week?

“I enjoy it a lot. I really felt that the week of practice we had was outstanding, and then you, when you have a week like that where it seems better every week and the practices are really sharp and crisp, then you want to see that again on gameday. You feel like if you’re good in practice you’re going to be good in the game, and I thought our guys were great in practice this week and then they were great in the game, so that, get a lot of enjoyment from that.”

De’Veon Smith went over 100 yards. I know you talk a lot about liking how hard he runs. How’d he look to you today?

“He looked great. He really did. He was one of the big factors in our team’s success. We didn’t punt again in the ballgame. I don’t know if we’ve done that in the season—maybe one or two times. But it was, a big part was him. The yards he got after contact were real eye-opening, and he’s so tough to get down. Three touchdowns, but extending drives and contributing. We had a lot of first downs today, and he contributed to that in a big way.”

Clearly the scoreboard reflected it, but what was it like for you to coach against DJ Durkin, your former defensive coordinator, and what were the emotions that went into it?

“The normal emotions. Definitely a friend. Watch what he’s done at Maryland, he’s doing a fantastic job. And what he did for us, what he did for our football team—he was a great contributor to our ballclub.”

[Hit THE JUMP to find out what offended Harbaugh’s football sensibility and the football gods themselves]

This Week’s Obsession: New Contributors Stock Watch

This Week’s Obsession: New Contributors Stock Watch

Submitted by Seth on September 27th, 2016 at 12:00 PM

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Asiasi-asi! Oy! Oy! Oy! [Bryan Fuller]

Our weekly roundtable.

The Question:

How are our pre-season predictions on new starters and heavy rotation guys holding up? Eligible players are anyone getting significantly more snaps this year than last.

---------------------------------

The Responses:

David:

UpTyree Kinnel. I'm relieved and satisfied from what I've seen from Kinnel so far; he looks to be another Boring Safety™. Hooray!

I looked back through the last few defensive UFRs and he received increasingly more snaps, hovering around +1 while being relevant on only a few plays. After Clark got hurt Kinnel seemed to be the DB of choice to take his spot and shift others around as necessary. Kinnel has also been used on special teams and blocked a kick. While he's not going to be a starter just yet (hopefully), his work load should increase, and for the moment it looks like that will come without a drop-off. I'm not thinking that anyone ever has serious doubts about whether he could contribute on this team, but he's at least met expectations so far.

DownOn the other end of the secondary spectrum appears to be Brandon Watson. He hasn't played a ton, but he definitely saw his snaps go up for the Hawaii and Colorado games. In the UFR he was -2 and -3, respectively, for those games. He was put in the slot against Colorado for the first couple of quarters and definitely looked overmatched. He's always been a guy who could potentially succeed if he got a good jam on a WR...however, when that does not happen, he looks lost in space. With Michigan's current and future set of CBs, its not looking like Watson will see too much extra time in close games, or not on defense anyway. It looks as if he could be destined for special teams duty for the long term.

[Hit THE JUMP for MGoBlog contributors trying very hard to find something that hasn’t gone right so far.]

Preview 2016: Wide Receiver

Preview 2016: Wide Receiver

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2016 at 11:56 AM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback. Running Back.

Hello. This post is sponsored by XFINITY, which is a space company. They'd like to take you to Mars—

It's a cable company.

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Ah, so it is. Good catch. Back in my day we had to watch television on big stone tablets, but if you're an on campus student you can sign up for free(!) streaming of live sports, including BTN, to any of your gadgets. Off campus students can get both TV and internet service for $79.99 a month with no contract. Non-students, also known as "sad adults," can check out what's described by XFINITY as the "immersive X1 system"—are we sure this isn't a space company?

YES.

Fine. Can check out the immersive X1 system here.

[NOTE! This section uses the UFR catch chart. Passes are rated on a three point scale for catchability. 3: routine. 2: challenging. 1: crazy. There's also a zero for times when the player was thrown to without any chance of a reception.]

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This is a 1. [Bryan Fuller]

Depth Chart

WR Yr. WR Yr. SLOT Yr. SPREAD H Yr.
Amara Darboh Sr.* Jehu Chesson Sr.* Grant Perry So. Jabrill Peppers So.*
Moe Ways So.* Drake Harris So.* Jabrill Peppers So.* Chris Evans Fr.
Eddie McDoom Fr. Kekoa Crawford Fr. Nate Johnson Fr. Drake Johnson Sr.*

Michigan returns the entirety of a receiving corps that was amongst the best in the country by the end of the year. Last year's preview issued both inside and outside receivers a "2" in one of a few posts that were insufficiently optimistic about Harbaugh player development. That was accurate for a bit what with Chesson's inability to get on the same page with Jake Rudock and Grant Perry's freshman deer-in-the-headlights start; by the end of the year Chesson was putting the Florida secondary to the sword and Perry was juking guys for touchdowns on the goal line.

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I have no reason to put this in the post but refuse to delete it [Seth]

Chesson enters this year a player highly anticipated by NFL types, usually named one of the top five wide receivers in the country whenever someone deigns to put a list together. Meanwhile, Harbaugh has spent the last several months swearing up and down that Amara Darboh is the team's best receiver. Per anonymous Big Ten players they're kind of a big deal:

“two receivers that they have, I think they are arguably the best duo in the Big Ten.”

Also Jake Butt exists. Whoever ends up taking snaps at quarterback is going to have a good time.

OUTSIDE RECEIVER: OUT OF AFRICA, INTO ENDZONES

RATING: 5.

Time is rapidly dwindling for Tom Rinaldi's soft-focus feature on Michigan's all-African-refugee starting WR corps; it says here that by midseason their collective performance will demand one. I wish I could bet on things like this.

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[Bryan Fuller]

Let's start with JEHU CHESSON, whose single-season performance took off like no other Michigan receiver in recent memory. Last year's edition of this preview said it was "anyone's guess" who got receiver snaps other than Darboh and spent a big chunk of its time talking about Chesson's vicious run blocking. This was because Chesson was coming off a 14-catch season during which he was "imprecise" and had a Darryl-Stonum-like ability to turn reasonably well-thrown balls downfield into adventurous incompletions. Drake Harris was given nearly-equal billing based on a torrent of practice hype and a relative silence regarding Chesson.

A couple of games into the season it seemed like nothing much had changed. After the Oregon State game—in which Chesson failed to adjust to a deep ball and picked up a bad offensive pass interference call—I said he was "just not consistent enough."

Here began a parabolic upward curve that ended with The Assassination Of Vernon Hargreaves By The Nice Person Jehu Chesson. Entering this season Chesson is hyped as a potential first round pick by CBS, NFL.com, and Sports on Earth. That is some kind of trajectory.

The breakout came in two stages. Against Maryland he had his first career four-reception game. He brought in a couple quick posts despite getting hit on or actually before the catch and burst open on another couple deep routes. He was overthrown on one and couldn't bring in a tough over the shoulder catch on the second. The latter was on Chesson—he didn't take the fastest path to the ball because he misjudged its flight—but all was forgiven on an eyepopping end-around:

Over the next few weeks Chesson established himself as a regular, productive receiver. From the Maryland game to Rutgers five weeks later Chesson had 16 catches, exceeding his previous season high. The 66-yard touchdown you see above was trumped by a kickoff return touchdown against Northwestern. I started comparing him to Steve Breaston. Chesson had a ton of catch-and-run chunk plays last year thanks to his speed; against Northwestern he impressively got the corner on Anthony Walker, the fastest LB in the Big Ten:

He displayed some of Breaston's shiftiness on his end-arounds and even seemed to have the same fatal flaw:

"I really feel like Jehu has everything it takes to be a great player, a great pro player," Harbaugh said ... "The only thing he was missing was tracking the deep ball and making those deep ball catches."

The lasting memory of the Utah game was a sure touchdown just evading Chesson's fingertips because he slowed down. While I thought that was the right play since he'd burned his man by yards, the lack of comfort and communication between QB and receiver was costly. There was a drop or two in there as well.

And then:

Chesson was the beneficiary of the Indiana defense and Jake Rudock's late season surge. He went off for over 200 yards, 64 of which were on a telepathic Rudock strike between four defenders. But even if you provide an Indiana discount, this was a new level for Chesson. He adjusted to a Rudock punt downfield...

...and on fourth and goal he went up and secured overtime despite getting nailed by two guys. Yes, that was just Indiana, but Chesson added 100-yard days against both Ohio State and Florida to end the year. The Assassination Of Vernon Hargreaves By The Nice Person Jehu Chesson caught eyes nationally, and while yes it's nice that Chesson beat a top 15 NFL draft pick deep twice, for my money that wasn't even the best thing he did in that game. My vote goes to this incompletion:

Chesson also had a spectacular over the shoulder catch while getting interfered with. Reasonable people can disagree on which of the five spectacular things Chesson did against Florida is the best one, and there is your massive improvement in a nutshell.

How much of this was massive improvement and how much was simply being given opportunities Rudock was not affording him earlier in the year is unknown. You have to wonder what his season would have looked like with a locked-in Rudock from the drop. He wasn't any less open early:

Add in a few of those early bombs and expectations this year would be truly out of control.

Or possibly just plain accurate. Chesson has everything you want in an elite receiver. You can heap expectations on Chesson and he'll be fine with it. Chesson's an A+ dude committed to The Team The Team The Team:

Asked if he put in papers to seek information from the NFL draft advisory board this winter, Chesson nearly started laughing.

He says he's more focused on wrapping up his degree in May and finding a graduate program to enter for next year.

"Maybe it was naive, I don't know," Chesson said with a smile. "It's great to have individual success, but that's not where I get my happiness from. If I don't play and I see other guys being successful, that's great. If I feel I can help the team win, anyway I can help I'll do it."

His speed is unquestioned, and occasionally subject to absurd hype.

"People don’t realize just how fast Jehu is, said UM tight end Jake Butt. "He’s easily a 4.3 (40) guy. He might even run in the 4.2s in Indy.”

While that's only possible in the land of handheld stopwatches, Dane Brugler asserts that Chesson's a "loose athlete with galloping speed" and a "a legitimate fifth gear," and he's judging with an eye to playing in the NFL.

He's a terrific blocker. Chesson's proficiency in this department is such that you probably know what gif comes next...

Jehu Chesson gif[1]

...and there was little to no dropoff even as he emerged into Mario Manningham 2.0. Against Rutgers he wrecked a DE:

Michigan frequently motioned him closer to the tackle box and used him as a blocker against linebackers, generally with success. (They also lined him up as a tight end on occasion, but he almost never actually blocked in those cases.) He had 28.5 positive run points to just 8 negatives, and while a chunk of those positives were for what Chesson did with the ball in his hands every NFL scout goes out of their way to praise his work without the ball. ESPN:

Excellent effort as a blocker. Leaves it all on the field. Takes good angles and busts his tail to get into position. Big and strong enough to sustain blocks once in position. Throws his body around in order to make a block when he can't get into good initial positioning downfield. Love watching this guy play the game.

His hands are solid to good—36/38 on routine catches and 9/14 on challenging ones a year ago. He's 6'3". He's not a technician yet but if he continues on his current path it won't take him long to get there. (Brugler: "prone to body catches and needs to add polish to his route tree.") That's the last box to check.

His trajectory is straight up and he's got the physical and mental ability to scrape his ceiling. He's going to be great as long as someone's throwing it to him. All Big Ten and off the draft board by round two, it says here. The huge numbers required for postseason awards are probably off the table given the diversity of weapons Michigan has.

[After THE JUMP: Peppers! (Was addressed as a running back and is not in this post!)]