Fall Camp Presser 8-8-14: Brady Hoke

Fall Camp Presser 8-8-14: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on August 9th, 2014 at 4:04 PM

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News bullets and other important items:

  • Blake Countess (groin) and Mario Ojemudia (ankle) were held out of practice but should return by Monday
  • Drake Harris injured his other hamstring and has been limited to doing rehab reps
  • The offensive line could change from morning practice to afternoon practice until they find a combination they like. Don’t shoot the messenger.
  • The open scrimmage on the 16th was Hoke’s idea and will feature…football. They’re going to play football.

Opening remarks:

“Thanks for coming. Number one, it’s always good to get in the pads for the first day. You know, even though you've been in short pads and helmets it was good to get out in full pads. It was good that the energy that we've had all week has been really positive, how the guys have reacted to some adversity that we put them under. Today we did a little crowd noise and certain situational football setting and you could see we've got a lot of work to do. So we'll continue to put a bunch of pressure on our team. You know, Blake [Countess], he's got a little bit of a groin so we held him out today. Mario's [Ojemudia] got a little bit of an ankle, he's in a boot, but talking to him he said that he feels better every day and I think he'll be okay. Blake and Mario, they should be by Monday ready to go so we're excited about that. We've had good practices but we've got a long way to go when you look at where we need to be.”

What would you say, in just the five days of practice, you've seen the most improvement of and where would you say 'we've got to get this better pretty quick?'

“Well, I guess the biggest thing is how they came into camp. From conditioning and all, the kind of shape we're in, to football IQ and where that's at, and that's why we’ve got to continue to put a lot of stress on them. You know, that way things become a little more reactive and automatic when you're looking at it. That's probably in how they're competing with each other, you know, we get a couple scuffles now and then, and most of that is guys just going. And they're going hard.”

Could you talk about the enthusiasm? They were jacked up at the beginning today.

“Well, they were jacked up at the beginning. It was great they were jacked up at the beginning and it was great they were jacked up at the end. I mean, you need both. You can always start fast but you've got to finish. I thought they've come out every day that way, so they've been excited about football. Obviously tomorrow we'll go two practices and that will be a little bit more challenging in some ways. I think we've got a really good plan when you look at the health and wellness and getting them off their feet and trying to get them as much sleep as we can. That's a little different than years past and I think that's a testament a little bit to how they've gone about their team business.”

About the freshman; are all of them participating?

“All of them are participating. Some of them have to leave a little early depending on what they have on the academic schedule.”

They're all qualified?

“Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yes. I didn't know you were talking about that. They're all qualified, they're all here.”

With being unsure whether Ty [Issac] is going to be given the opportunity to play or not, how do you decide how many reps to get him in case he can play or in case he doesn’t and you don’ want to take away from somebody else

“Right, right. And I think the one thing we’ve done is we are getting a ton of reps. How we practice—so there’s enough reps there. I think as we get closer, a week from now, when you start really game planning—because he really needs to take some reps to learn what the offense is.I think luckily he’s played at a Division I university and there’s a lot of similarities always but I think this has been beneficial for him and I think everyone’s kind of gotten what we need.

Would you be surprised if Devin [Gardner] wasn’t the guy in week 1?

“I would think he’s had a really good fall camp so far. You know, it’s five days. He’s right now the guy taking most of the reps with the ones but we’re splitting them up a little bit at times and if he’s not playing well, you know, Shane [Morris]—Doug’s not hesitant in practice to make that change and so they both are taking reps with the ones. Devin’s  getting the majority of them.

You talked a little bit about multiple running backs. Could you see early in the season, let’s say Devin’s the starter, trying to get Shane in there earlier than later and getting him some playing time?

“You know, we haven’t really talked about what kind of contingency plan or plan to try and get him, if he isn’t the starter, reps yet in that first game, second game, third game, fourth game, whatever it might be.”

You talked before about staying away from ‘I like this team,’ but do you have a sense of this team’s identity yet?

“No, not yet but we talk about it every day, their identity and what they want to make it. It’s things that you do repeatedly and they can be good or bad.”

And what’s the response you get?

“Well, I think from a physical standpoint it’s been real positive. I think from a competitive standpoint it’s been real positive.”

In terms of freshmen getting in the mix, Freddy [Canteen] especially…

“I think Freddy. I think Mason Cole. Mason Cole’s a good football player. I think I said that in the spring. He’s a little different than most freshmen offensive linemen in some ways. I think [Bryan] Mone, Mone’s a little different. Him being here was a big plus. Wilton Speight’s taken some good reps. Drake Harris is the other guy. He’s got a little bit of a ham, hammy, hamstring and so he’s a guy that hasn’t—he’s taken some limited reps but not like we’d like to get with him.

Was that something that he re-hurt this week?

“Yeah. He re-hurt it early in the week. Different hamstring.”

Did you guys think about shutting him down for a while?

“He has been shut down.”

You said he’s been doing limited reps…

“Limited, yeah. And most of those are rehab reps.”

You were in pads for the first time today. Do you know when you’ll have your first scrimmage?

“Yeah I do but I don’t know if I remember right now. Sometime next week, but I couldn’t tell you when it is. I kind of go by it daily.”

Blake’s injury is, you said, a groin. Is that related to the core [injury that caused him to have offseason surgery]?

“No. No, no, no. He’ll be fine.”

Is this just a brief thing with Drake here?

“You know, I’m not a doctor so it’s hard for me to really analyze that. I think it’s something that we’re very weary about. I think Coach Wellman, Strength and Conditioning—I think the rehab that we’ve done, I think Paul Schmidt and the trainers have all handled it very well. You know, is it a nagging thing? Maybe. Some people have those things so we have to think what can we do to help besides this rest and they know much better than I know.”

Who do you see mixing in besides Funchess among the wide receivers at the top spot?

“Jehu [Chesson]. Amara’s [Darboh] done well. Dennis [Norfleet] and Freddy [Canteen] right now have done a nice job. Bo Dever. Jack Wangler’s made some good plays but if I would look at that group I think Funch, Amarah, Jehu, Fleet and Canteen.”

Norfleet and Canteen are at slot?

“They’re at slot, yes.”

What kind of progress has Amara made after sitting out last year with injury?

“He really has come along real well. I think in the spring, probably the last two weeks, we could have put him in live stuff but we just decided not to. He’s done well.”

Where have you seen this week the impact of Coach Nussmeier’s new system on the offensive line?

“Well, I think there’s some things that we like more vertical. I think that the combination schemes that we want to be a little more heavy on the line of scrimmage. When you look at hands, you know, four hands on one man to initiate some movement on the line of scrimmage. I think the backs themselves, Drake Johnson, Derrick [Green] and De’Veon [Smith], they’re downhill guys so it’s punctured the line of scrimmage a little bit.

When it comes to the line right now, how do you balance moving guys around trying different things versus wanting to have one unit building cohesion playing alongside each other?

“How do you balance it? I think it can be tricky but I think it can be massaged very well. I think Darrell [Funk] has done a nice job with it and Nuss and who we’ve put in that first group and maybe that changes daily. I’m sure it will change from a morning practice to the afternoon at times until we really feel this is it with these guys. I think the competition there has been really good for us and I think they’ve come out every day very physical.”

So who was the first group today?

“Today it was Mason Cole at the left tackle position, Jack [Miller] was at the center position, Magnuson was at the left guard position for a little bit, Ben Braden was at right tackle, and the right guard was Graham [Glasgow] and David Dawson.”

Can I ask a question about the open scrimmage [on August 16th]?

“I’d love for you to.”

You talked about in the spring how you didn’t show your cards. Is this going to be the same kind of thing?

“That’s why you have to come.”

You could have opposing coaches come in, right?

“If they’re coming in during two-a-day…”

They could.

“Well, they could. Do you think they will?

Yeah, they could have a graduate assistant or somebody…

“Are you going to trust a graduate assistant right now?”

I think you were one once, right?

“Kinda.”

I don’t know your bio by heart.

“That’s okay. Yeah but what are you showing? We’re going to play football though.”

So you will keep your cards close to the vest.

“No, you said that. I didn’t say that. We’re going to play football.”

Whose idea was it?

“Mine.”

You’ve got to put this thing together pretty quickly.

“I think it’s good. You know, the more you look at pro football and for a team that’s got some youth but experience I think it’s good for them to be in front of people. Just like crowd noise today, I want as many distractions as we can get. I also think it’s great for Michigan fans because we love them.”

Do you want to invite us more to distract the players?

“No, probably not. You don’t distract them. You may distract me.”

Playing at home hasn’t been a problem. Have you considered doing a scrimmage at an away stadium?

“You know, we’ve done that. We did that when we were going to Alabama, to Texas. I thought that was really good for us. I thought it would’ve been maybe better if we could’ve opened it up and had people in Ford Field. I think that would’ve been pretty cool but that’s pretty hard to negotiate when they have their security, their event staff, all those things.”

Spring Stuff 2014

Spring Stuff 2014

Submitted by Brian on April 2nd, 2014 at 1:15 PM

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[Eric Upchurch]

wait spring football is what again

It's this practice thing that we used to think was super super important because the basketball team was a wet cat and the spring game was in late April. Now we haven't even thought about it because the basketball team is IMPORTANT and also still playing and they've moved the spring game up despite having horrible weather for seemingly the last decade solid.

So… yeah. It is a glimpse into what the football team might be like next year.

So last year's was a constant parade of quotes about how everyone was getting tackled for loss?

Well… no. It is a Pravda-like glimpse weighted by both the program's desire to look good in the absence of actual games and your hope that the next football season will be a fulfilling exercise in fandom.

Consider that hope to be disposed of in a dumpster behind a Five Guys.

All right, then. Let's enter the realm of football with a properly jaundiced eye.

Things To Watch

Will they be a single thing? "Aggression" is the guaranteed defensive watchword every time a coordinator change is made, and "simple" is the equivalent on the offensive side of the ball.

How much of this is standard boilerplate and how much of it is a real problem that Nussmeier is going to solve is pretty much the question for the season. (No, it is not "who is going to start at quarterback?" You are a silly person, person who thinks that.) Lord knows that this site spent most of last year—most of the last three years—blasting Al Borges for not having anything resembling a base offense in his time. Last year's wander from stretch to power to tackle over to inside zone and all things in between was particularly egregious.

It was hardly unprecedented. Michigan never figured out how to run play action off their best play, the inverted veer, never figured out that having mobile quarterbacks run the waggle is just asking them to eat defensive end as soon as they turn around, never figured out what, in fact, they were. Having an identifiable identity is step one towards having one of those offense things.

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Let's try to keep me alive this play, gents [Bryan Fuller]

Is the offensive line… tolerable? Extant? Sieve sieve sieve sieve sieve? I can't say the good feelings are pouring out of spring. This is not a world in which claims that true freshman Mason Cole has a great chance to play the most important position on the line…

…can be dismissed as so much spring hogwash. I mean, yeah, it's almost certainly spring hogwash. But given the situation that buzz comes off as a negative thing about people not named Mason Cole as much as it is a positive one about Cole.

Meanwhile Graham Glasgow, the one returning guy who had a job for the entirety of last season, got held out for a while due to an issue that will also see him suspended for The Horror II, and oh good now I'm thinking about what might happen in The Horror II without Michigan's best interior lineman.

Thinking: try not to do it.

Anyway, injuries have held near-sure-LT Erik Magnuson out and forced Michigan to try a parade of guys probably better suited to play guard at that spot. Reading the tea leaves, the most likely starting line for the spring game reads:

  • LT David Dawson
  • LG Kyle Bosch
  • C [Glasgow placeholder]
  • RG Kyle Kalis
  • RT Ben Braden

And in a perfect world that would remain the line through fall camp except for the insertion of Magnuson. When pinged for offensive line data, Hoke was his usual recalcitrant self but did not seem super enthused all the same:

"The physicalness isn't where we want it yet. I couldn't point out one guy who has been a great finisher.

"Probably Graham (Glasgow), as much as anybody, in some ways. Ben (Braden) is getting better. But we're not near where we need to be."

Not that they could be near where they need to be a few months after whatever that was.

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Here's to this being the "before" picture. [Fuller]

Are Are De'Veon Smith and Derrick Green any diff—. Previous sentence was tackled for loss. Green's been tweeting out pictures of his weight as he strives to get back down to the bowling ball that was the #1 overall tailback in the country to a couple of different services instead of the bowling ball he was last year. Here is a swathe of boilerplate.

"De'Veon's had a very good spring, Derrick's had a better spring than he did in the fall," Hoke said last week. "Justice Hayes has done some really good things, and I'm really proud of him. Both carrying the ball and in the protection game. It'd be nice to get Drake (Johnson) back and put him in the mix."

Chances are it will be hard to tell much what with the offensive line coming together and folks looking confused, but give me one cut from Green that he probably couldn't have managed last year and I'll be happy.

Is Ross Douglas viable at tailback? I kind of think no if only because the Hoke era has expressed a preference for large men running the ball even if they bring little else to the table other than size. Meanwhile, Douglas's bounce to offense comes in the context of Taylor/Countess/Peppers/Lewis/Stribling, a veritable bounty at corner that Douglas didn't figure to crack any time soon. He's also down the depth chart on offense:

"Justice, De'Veon and Derrick are a little bit ahead still, but I think Ross is giving us a little bit more depth and that's really good for us.

"We'll do this through spring and see how he does, and then make a determination if he'll go back to DB."

This kind of positional uncertainty is never a good sign for a prospect's future. If Douglas was in the mix at corner he'd be at corner. Instead he's fourth at best at tailback and probably fifth when Drake Johnson gets back.

But there is a new offensive coordinator who may do things like see what happens if you give Dennis Norfleet the ball, so you never know.

But that probably means the secondary is loaded, right? At first blush Michigan has more corner depth than I can remember. They return both starters from last year plus a couple of promising freshman who did the really hard part—sticking with your man—last year before wilting at the last minute. And then there's that Jabrill Peppers dude. Douglas's positional vagabondery would not be taking place if Michigan didn't go five deep in solid options at corner.

Wide receiver war. With Devin Funchess entrenched at wide receiver, playing time there is now at a premium. The departure of Jeremy Gallon opens up scads of catches, some of which will go to Funchess and Jehu Chesson. The rest will get spread out. While a number of those will go to Amara Darboh, who was building up steam with his play in practice last year before a season-ending foot injury, Michigan is still being cautious with him. You won't see him on Saturday:

“Right now I feel like I’m 100 percent, but they’re keeping me out,” Darboh said Thursday. “By the time fall camp comes around I should be 100 percent.”

One gentleman you will see, and possibly see a lot of, is Freddy Canteen. The freshman early enrollee has been this spring's easy winner of the Grady Brooks Memorial Spring Hype Award. Almost literally everyone who has gotten practice buzz or been there themselves has come away talking about his quickness and advanced technique. One example of many:

"Running with the ones" is a slightly overrated concept since in the course of a spring or fall practice just about everyone will get their shot on the top team to keep folks motivated and just to see what happens. Even so the Canteen drumbeat has been so consistent that he will be the guy everyone is watching for.

One guy you shouldn't expect anything from: Drake Harris. Harris has been shut down for the rest of spring with a hamstring issue. He had a similar problem for his senior year of high school and at this point it seems like he might be headed for a redshirt with Funchess/Darboh/Chesson/Canteen and last year's three-man class potentially ahead of him on the depth chart.

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I'm looking at the man in the mirror. Middle. Whatever. [Fuller]

And then the weird thing. Jake Ryan, middle linebacker. I'm skeptical Ryan will be able to transition to a very different spot that asks him to read and react and then shed responsibly. If he does manage it, it seems like a part of his barbarian nature will be lost. Ryan is a shocking vertical attacker; middle linebackers are not generally tasked with that. When Ryan has been drafted into read and react situations by defensive alignment, it has gone poorly.

But they're going to try it, and spring will be an opportunity to see what's going on with that.

Safeties: we have them? Michigan was clearly dissatisfied with Thomas Gordon midway through last year, which just goes to show that Brady Hoke was in Muncie or San Diego for the decade of Michigan safety play between Marcus Ray and Jordan Kovacs. Great he may not have been; he was pretty much good enough, and when other guys got in the game the step down from pretty much good enough to not was obvious.

Now Gordon is gone and the list of potential replacements is short (inexplicably so given Michigan's apparent need): sophomores Jeremy Clark, Delano Hill, and Dymonte Thomas. Michigan barely has enough dudes to put together a two deep, and there are few candidates to move from corner. Stribling's 176-pound frame would get him run over; ditto Lewis; they're not moving Countess; Taylor's run support is not a strength. That leaves Peppers (moving him away from boundary corner would be a travesty of justice) and redshirt freshman Reon Dawson, who's super super fast but raw and skinny.

So finding someone to play opposite Jarrod Wilson is an important target to hit with few bullets. Here's hoping Clark wins the job with ease; he's got the most experience.

Can a tight end hit something? One of the underrated problems with Michigan's offense a year ago was the tight end spot's total lack of progress. Devin Funchess proved that as a tight end, he was a good wide receiver; more worryingly, AJ Williams was hardly better despite not being, you know, a game changing receiver. Jake Butt was probably the best blocker Michigan had available, and he promptly tore his ACL. Jordan Paskorz left the program.

So. Michigan will hope Williams makes a step forward and turn to two guys coming off redshirt: Khalid Hill and Wyatt Shallman. They've also converted former SDE Keith Heitzman to that side of the ball. The freshmen are more H-back types than inline ones; Michigan may end up playing them both places just because they have to. Shallman's flirtation with tailback seems over:

Shallman has taken a few reps at running back this spring, but Hoke said he envisions him as a tight end-fullback hybrid.

Given the depth chart that makes sense. I'll be looking for anything resembling a block out of this crew.

Weather. Let's hope it's nice.

Michigan's Potential 2014 Impact Freshmen

Michigan's Potential 2014 Impact Freshmen

Submitted by Ace on February 19th, 2014 at 3:00 PM

OR: JABRILL PEPPERS AND COMFORTING UNCERTAINTY


Three receivers make this post. This guy isn't one of them.

For the first time in years, Michigan's depth chart isn't patched together with duct tape and hope, so the incoming freshmen of 2014 don't have as many opportunities for early playing time as past classes. This is worth celebrating, especially when one particular freshman is poised to make a big impact at a position with some experienced depth anyway.

After Jabrill Peppers, there isn't a clear role for any of the incoming freshmen, and getting this list up to five involved a few reach picks. Again, this is good. Without further ado, here's the list.

1. JABRILL PEPPERS, CB/KR/PR (6'1, 210; 5*, 247 Composite #1 ATH/CB)

Surprise! Despite the presence of four older cornerbacks with significant game experience (Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Jourdan Lewis, and Channing Stribling), Peppers is simply too talented to keep off the field. He should see immediate time in Michigan's nickel package, either as the nickelback or playing on the outside with Countess in the slot, and as the season progresses he'll challenge Taylor for a starting spot—with his size, athleticism, and ability in run support, Peppers is an ideal fit on the boundary.

With apologies to Fearless Leader, I believe Peppers will make an instant impact in the return game, as well. While Dennis Norfleet consistently threatened to break long returns, they rarely materialized last year. Michigan had just one kickoff return of 40+ yards (T-89th nationally) and none of 50+; just two punt returns went for 20+ (T-58th), one 30+, and zero 40+. Averages were middling at best: 49th in kickoff returns and 91st in punt returns. Fielding kickoff returns, at the very least, would be a great way to get Peppers the ball without overwhelming him with too much responsibility. If he has a role on offense this year, it'll likely be limited to just a handful of plays.

2. FREDDY CANTEEN, SLOT (6'1, 170; 4*, #41 WR)


Canteen is the player going solo/the one with insanely quick feet

Slot receiver is one of a small number of spots with total uncertainly on the depth chart. Just two players return there: Norfleet (six career "catches" that were actually end-arounds) and sophomore Da'Mario Jones, who only saw time on special teams last year. While Doug Nussmeier may have a different outlook, thus far the coaches have been hesitant to give Norfleet a significant role. A relative unknown committed to Central Michigan before Michigan came calling, Jones never rose above middling three-star even after flipping his commitment. This spot is wide open.

Enter Freddy Canteen, who went from completely off the radar when his high school didn't play actual games in 2012 to a hot camp commodity with ever-rising rankings in 2013. At 6'1, he's got the size this coaching staff covets, and his route-running is very advanced for an incoming freshman. On top of that, he's got speed to burn and a phenomenal name. What more can one ask for? It wouldn't surprise me at all if Canteen, an early enrollee, is the starter in the slot from day one.

3. IAN BUNTING, TE/FUNCHESS (6'7, 233; 4*, #11 TE)


Photo credit: J. Geil/Chicago Sun-Times

Bunting wouldn't have cracked this list a couple weeks ago; then Jake Butt went down with a torn ACL. Now Michigan is down to one tight end that actually catches passes, and that's only if you believe Devin Funchess is still a tight end. AJ Williams is almost exclusively a blocker (and he's still working on that), while Jordan Paskorz is a former linebacker without a catch to his name. Khalid Hill comes off a redshirt and could factor in as an H-back, but that's about it as far as tight end depth goes. There's room for another pass-catcher.

The question is whether or not Bunting will be at all ready to put his hand in the dirt; even in high school, he did most of his damage split out wide. At 233 pounds (on a 6'7 frame), he needs to bulk up significantly to be able to hold his own as a blocker. As an enormous receiver with great hands, however, he can at least see the field as a third-down/red-zone specialist; putting him on the field with Funchess poses major matchup problems for opposing defenses.

4. BRYAN MONE, NT (6'4, 328; 4*, #8 DT)

Another player on the list due to injury on the current roster, Mone could be forced into duty at nose tackle if Ondre Pipkins is limited in his return from a torn ACL. The only other true NT on the roster is redshirt freshman Maurice Hurst, who was listed at 270 pounds on last year's roster.

Mone's stock fell from near-consensus top-50 player to borderline top-100 prospect (or, in Rivals' case, flat-out three-star) after he looked overweight and out of shape at the Under Armour game. Mone put on a ton of weight in a short period of time before his senior season and it clearly affected his conditioning. Luckily for Michigan, he's enrolled early, so efforts to turn bad weight into good are already underway. It's highly unlikely Mone is ready to play a major role, but Michigan might need him to hold his own in sporadic rotation snaps and short-yardage situations.

5. MICHAEL FERNS, ILB (6'3, 235; 4*, #6 ILB)

Another early enrollee, Ferns isn't likely to see much early action on defense. James Ross and Desmond Morgan have the two ILB spots locked down, and both have viable backups with playing experience in Ben Gedeon and Joe Bolden. If there's an injury, however, Ferns is the incoming linebacker best suited to see the field with his size and status as an EE.

Ferns also fits right in on special teams—with his athleticism, he could make an immediate impact on coverage units. This will be a frustrating way to burn a redshirt if Ferns doesn't get some in-game experience at linebacker, but it's inevitable that the coaches will burn a linebacker's redshirt for special teams, and it may as well be the one most ready to see the field.

HONORABLE MENTION: WRs DRAKE HARRIS & MOE WAYS

Both Harris and Ways look like college-ready receivers; Harris benefits from enrolling early, while Ways has the bulk and blocking ability to see the field as a freshman. They'd be higher on the list if playing time on the outside wasn't so hard to come by. Funchess and Jehu Chesson should lock down the starting spots, Amara Darboh is another starting candidate now that he's healthy, and two other options come off redshirts in Jaron Dukes and Csont'e York.

Harris is coming off a hamstring injury that cost him his entire senior season. Ways made great strides from his junior to senior seasons but could still use some, er, seasoning. It'd be great if Michigan was able to redshirt both of these guys, especially if Canteen can also contribute on the outside. 

Thursday Recruitin' Crawls For The Team, The Team, The Team

Thursday Recruitin' Crawls For The Team, The Team, The Team

Submitted by Ace on February 6th, 2014 at 3:59 PM

Signing Day: It Happened, I Guess


OFFICIALLY OURS NOW

By the time I was able to get my laptop to start yesterday*, Michigan had already received LOIs from every committed prospect, and Malik McDowell had announced his intention to attend Michigan State. Brandon caught up with all the freshly inked signees on Tuesday night; other than the usual coachspeak-filled presser, there was little else of note to happen on the recruiting front yesterday for the Wolverines.

Of course, there's the McDowell situation, which is a mess. He committed to MSU in a ceremony at Southfield High School. His father attended, though he's still not a big fan of the decision; his mother did not. As of now, McDowell's LOI remains unsigned, and potentially could for a while:

I’m not legally able to do it because I’m not the custodial parent,” Greg [McDowell, Malik's father] told The Detroit News, noting that Malik is only 17. “[Joya Crowe, Malik's mother] has to sign it and I have to sign it, too. I don’t know when it will happen. Malik has to handle that with his Mom. I’m willing to do whatever my son wants. It’s been a long process and an uneasy process.

“That’s something he’ll have to deal with, because at the end of the day it’s all about him and he has to work it out.”

State's coaches sounded confident that he'll be a Spartan eventually—if worst comes to worst, McDowell doesn't even need a LOI in order to get his scholarship and enroll in the fall, though that leaves MSU in the unenviable position of hoping he sticks to his commitment without any binding document.

Could Michigan potentially get back into his recruitment in the meantime? It's highly unlikely. Malik is obviously intent on going to MSU; if he's forced to compromise with his mother, FSU and OSU are also possibilities—and there's also the matter of whether or not the coaches would want a player who may not really want to be in the program. Usually in these types of situations, the prospect eventually gets his wish, and that's what I expect to happen here.

As for actual newsworthy bits regarding Michigan's commits, there's one worth reprinting: Drake Harris, who missed his senior season with a torn hamstring, is "feeling more and more 100 percent," according to Jeff Hecklinski, and should be healthy for spring practice.

[Hit THE JUMP for a great Bo Schembechler story, Bo Pelini's unusual recruiting methods, lolTimBeckman, actual evidence that tweeting at recruits doesn't work, and more.]

In-State Recruiting Battle Update: Best Players in Michigan Edition

In-State Recruiting Battle Update: Best Players in Michigan Edition

Submitted by Seth on February 4th, 2014 at 4:48 PM

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Left: The Perfect Spartan [Fuller]. Right: Drake Harris [Josh Hemholdt/Rivals]

Tomorrow is Signing Day. If you live in the state of Michigan, that means you'll be hearing from your nearest Spartan about their Top 25, better-than-Michigan's (on one of the four sites) class, and how they always get the best player in the state no matter how far the definition of that must be stretched to achieve it.

Previously: The late Lloyd years, and A few of those things that happen sometimes, plus the new Hoke guy seems alright.

2012-'13: Return of the Normal

71426291-5598-e011-a486-001cc494a4ac_original Shane Morris

Left: Burbridge, Funchess and Ojemudia. Right: Shane Morris; yes we got him a better hat.

  Touted Recruits   Head to Head   Signee Rankings
Year Mich MSU Other   Mich MSU   Mich MSU
2012 3 2 1   8 1   2,3,4,5,7,8,11,12,21 1,9,14,25
2013 5 1 1   3 2   1,2,3,6,7,11,13, 17 4, 8, 14

Michigan wins: James Ross, Ben Braden, Dennis Norfleet, Matt Godin, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Mario Ojemudia, Terry Richardson, Devin Funchess, Shane Morris (though extremely early), Wyatt Shallman, and David Dawson

MSU wins: Aaron Burbridge, Jon Reschke, Dennis Finley

Elsewhere: DT Danny O'Brien (Tennessee), OT Steve Elmer (ND)

MSU never got around to offering Jourdan Lewis before that legendary February commitment blitz. In both of these classes once Michigan was done with what they wanted there just wasn't much left.

MSU's solitary victory in 2012 was Burbridge, who tired of Michigan's wait-'n-see approach with his academic eligibility.  Both of State's head-to-head 2013 wins were guys Michigan gave extremely cursory offers after they were already committed to MSU: legacy Jon Reschke, and OT Dennis Finley, a Cass Tech kid who was passed on earlier and then was offered during David Dawson's vision quest.

2014: Maintenance

Mcdowell 1391553 1181830

McDowell/Harris/Marshall

  Touted Recruits   Head to Head   Signee Rankings
Year Mich MSU Other   Mich MSU   Mich MSU
2014 2 0 or 1 1 or 2   3 0 or 1   3,4,8,14 (1?),5,7,10,16,24,25

This year the two mitten rivals had more than a few battles outside of the state. Montae Nicholson had lots of national offers and was a Michigan target until Michigan told him they were filled up at his position in August. Wisconsin DT Craig Evans, who flipped from the Badgers to the Spartans "not because of academics" yesterday, claimed a doubtable Michigan offer. On the flipside Michigan's entire LB class (Michael Ferns, Chase Winovich and Noah Furbush, plus our in-state legacy) and Juwaan Bushell-Beatty held unrequited offers to attend MSU.

But this isn't about that. It's about who owns the State of Michigan. And that is…

Head-to-Head Wins for MSU:

Head-to-Head Wins for Michigan:

IMG_2789
Marshall on the sidelines during Seaholm's late playoff comeback. [Me!!!]
  • WR Drake Harris: Committed to MSU as 2-sport athlete, switched to Michigan when he decided on football.
  • WDE Lawrence Marshall: Committed to OSU, then was thought an MSU lock, then switched to Michigan last spring. "The best players in Michigan go to Michigan" will go in bucket of all-time Sparty trolls. Other offers: Neb, Okla, Ole Miss. Bama and USC interest, but no offers.
  • WLB Jared Wangler: A 2-star with offer from…LSU?--oh right, he's Johnny Wang's kid. Was first a Penn State commit over MSU (also Cincy and Yale), who flipped on the offer to dad's school.

Michigan Commit who Michigan State Didn't Offer:

  • WR Mo Ways: MSU coaches visited, wanted him to camp again before extending their offer. ND coaches came that day too. He took an unofficial to M right after those meetings, got an offer, and pulled the trigger. Iowa, Rutgers were other offers, OSU, NWern were interested too.

Michigan State commits who Michigan didn't offer:

  • ATH (WR/CB) Jalen Watts-Jackson: SMSB camp offer, previously just had EMU and CMU interest. My neighbor's kid plays with Jalen at OLSM, and apparently he was the kid throwing the ball around on my street all the time; I didn't pay attention because I had no idea he was a D-I recruit before it got too cold, so I have nothing to offer.
  • LB Byron Bullough: Is a Bullough.
  • NT David Beedle: MAC offers, committed on offer after SMSB camp.
  • LB Deon Drake: Cass Tech kid Michigan passed on. Knee issues last summer.
  • OL Nick Padla: Illinois, MAC offers. M never showed interest.
  • TE Matt Sokol: Illinois and Wisconsin sent offers, Michigan never got involved.

Guys who went somewhere else:

  • CB Damon Webb: Urban getting the top-rated Cass Tech kid would be like Michigan doing the same from Glenville.
  • OL Tommy Doles: Academic-minded, early on looked like a Michigan lock; seems like there was a mutual parting last spring. MSU was interested, but never in it.
  • If Malik chooses OSU or FSU he goes here.
  • DE Jhonathan Williams: MSU was involved as a two-sport before he committed to Mizzou. ND flipped him in late November. Michigan had an offer in after losing Hand.

2015: The Year of Hover Cars and Mr. Fusion

Is next year! Great heavy this is scott.

107_bftfscientist

Power laces: alright!

So far MSU has commitments from OT/DT Kyonta Stallworth, CB Tyson Smith, and Jayru Campbell if he can right himself, but none of those were really Michigan targets. Campbell's Cass Tech teammates RB Michael Weber and OT Joshua Alabi both seem to be MSU leans at this point; again, Michigan hasn't been as involved. The big battle will be over Brian Cole, one of the country's top cornerbacks, and Michigan State seems to be in good position there right now. The other in-stater being fought over is SAM-like object Tyriq Thompson. I reiterate my completely non-professional preference that they offer Brother Rice QB Alex Malzone now.

Thursday Recruitin' Rekindles Interest

Thursday Recruitin' Rekindles Interest

Submitted by Ace on January 23rd, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Damien Harris Fallout: Back In It For Mike Weber?

2015 five-star RB Damien Harris decommitted from Michigan this week. After Al Borges—his primary recruiter—was fired, Harris decided he needed to take a step back and explore his options, though his mother says Michigan is still on top, per Sam Webb ($):

“The reason he came to this decision is he felt like when he committed, at the time, we felt like it was the right decision even though it was early,” she explained.  “Months later he has been thinking and thinking, ‘I didn’t really go and look at other places probably like I should have.  I didn’t consider other places like I should have.’   Even though Michigan is #1, and that hasn’t changed, he just wants to make sure he doesn’t have any regrets when he gets ready to enroll.  He just wants to make sure that he didn’t leave any stone unturned and wants to make sure he didn’t miss out on anything, even though he knows Michigan is still his #1.  That’s all.  He is just making sure that if he was to visit other places, he wasn’t going to regret not taking the full experience.”

Meanwhile, a certain despicable portion of the fanbase* isn't helping Michigan's cause. Harris has taken a lot of heat on Twitter for his decommitment and his coach told TomVH that could be a factor in his ultimate decision ($):

People need to back off of him [on Twitter]. He’s a 16-year-old kid. People are attacking him on there,” [Madison Southern coach Jon] Clark said. “You have grown men who are way out of line, and Michigan fans better ease up or they’re going to push him away from Michigan. The coaches aren’t; the fans are.

“The only impact a fan ever has on a kid is a negative one; that’s it. There’s not a fan out there that has a positive impact on this kid.”

To state the blitheringly obvious: DON'T DO THIS. I realize/hope this doesn't apply to 99% of you, but nothing you're going to do as a fan—positive or negative, in person or on social media—is going to make a positive difference in a prospect's recruitment. Leave the recruiting to the coaches and, as a general life rule, leave harassing high school students to... nobody. Nobody should do that.

Anyway, with Harris opening up his recruitment, Michigan has rekindled their interest in 2015 four-star Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, per GBW's Josh Newkirk ($):

“I talked with (Nussmeier) for a half-hour on the phone. He is real excited about recruiting me,” Weber told GoBlueWolverine. “He told me it was crazy that Michigan stopped recruiting me. So when he got there he was telling me how he really wanted me (at Michigan). It made me open my eyes back up to Michigan.

Michigan is back on the radar.

Weber named a top five of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Tennessee (in no particular order); the Spartans and Vols have been the presumed favorites for a while now, though the renewed Michigan interest could change that. It didn't take long for Weber to recipricate that interest, too—he was the only prospect in attendance at last night's Iowa game, which he seemed to appreciate. Whether or not things work out with Harris, Weber would be a great addition to the class; he's been very productive against solid competition for the last two years and looks great on film.

[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, new 2015 offers—including a long-awaited one to a California DE—the final Rivals250, and more.]

Nebraska Visitor List

Nebraska Visitor List

Submitted by Brandon Brown on November 9th, 2013 at 1:15 PM

Nebraska-vs-Michigan-

Thanks to multiple sources including Tim Sullivan, 247, and multiple Twitter accounts of recruits themselves, the visitor list for today’s game has been assembled and is pretty respectable. I was able to touch base with some of the players leading up to today’s game.

Commits

Grand Rapids (MI) Christian WR Drake Harris – Harris has been hampered by a hamstring injury throughout his senior season and he told me it’s been horrible having to just watch his team. He’s enjoyed watching his team succeed but obviously would rather be on the field. He will be in attendance for the Nebraska game and will be wearing his recruiting hat.

Kenton (OH) LB Noah Furbush – Furbush is a very keep-to-himself kind of kid. He is one of the few recruits I have never had any contact with. He doesn’t do much as far as interviews go and also isn’t much for social media. He just does work on the field, which is actually sort of refreshing.

Warren (MI) De La Salle LB Jared Wangler – Wangler is obviously very familiar with Ann Arbor and The Big House, but a game against Nebraska is a nice draw. He’ll be in attendance with his high school teammate, quarterback Giovanni Rescigno, and his father, John.

Southfield (MI) DE Lawrence Marshall – Marshall’s season was unexpectedly cut short by an upset loss to Seaholm in the first round of the playoffs, so Lawrence can now turn all of his football attention to becoming a Wolverine. That will include checking out his future team taking on the Huskers today.

2014 Recruits

Southfield (MI) DL Malik McDowell – Like Marshall, McDowell unexpectedly has extra free time now to focus on his recruitment. He has taken some surprise visits, like one to Ohio State a couple of weeks ago, and also to East Lansing. He’ll be in Ann Arbor today, a place he’s visited most frequently, to check out Michigan’s defensive line play.

Warren (MI) De La Salle WR Brent Morris – Brent, the younger brother of current Michigan quarterback Shane Morris, will be at the game today to hopefully see big bro’s squad get a win. The younger Morris doesn’t hold any offers yet, and probably won’t receive one from Michigan, but with no offers to weigh, a preferred walk-on is a possibility for him.

Warren (MI) De La Salle QB Giovanni Rescigno – There seems to be a De La Salle theme among this visitors list and Rescigno is another Pilot that will be in attendance. Rescigno currently has no offers.

Kenton (OH) QB Grant Sherman – Sherman is the high school teammate of current Michigan commit Noah Furbush and while he currently has no offers he comes from a polished program that produced the Mauk brothers.

2015 Recruits

Jackson (MI) Lumen Christi RB Khari Willis – Willis will be taking his first visit to Ann Arbor today a week after a record breaking performance of 303 rushing yards with 5 touchdowns. Willis has a few offers from Division II schools but that will more than likely change over the next year.

Indianapolis (IN) Lawrence Central LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. – I spoke with Kirkland Jr. and he sounded very excited to check out a game at The Big House. Coach Smith checked out Kirkland in action a few weeks ago and Kirkland can’t wait to meet the rest of the coaching staff today. He really wants to tour campus and check out Michigan Stadium as much as he’s allowed to. He really hopes an offer comes at some point even if it’s not today.

Grand Blanc (MI) DB Trevon Avery – The younger brother of Courtney Avery will be in attendance today, nothing new for him as he visits regularly. He doesn’t hold any offers right now but has good size and athleticism. He’s merely a name to watch at this point.

Brownsburg (IN) OL Evan Mallory – I introduced Mallory as a name to watch back during my M Block days and he is a pretty big Michigan fan. He told me he wants to try and talk with the coaches and watch Michigan win. He feels pretty good about his relationship with the coaches so far and wants a Michigan offer above all others.

Northville (MI) OL David Moorman – I’ve spoken with Moorman before, but wasn’t able to contact him before his visit today. The last time we spoke he talked about how strong his relationship was with Coach Funk and that an offer from Michigan would be beyond special. When I asked him if a commitment would follow he level-headedly answered, “Let’s just see if they offer first.”, with a laugh.

Bloomfield Hills (MI) Brother Rice QB Alex Malzone – Malzone’s name continues to pop up among 2015 signal callers and will visit today and for the Ohio State game at the end of the month. He’s in regular contact with Coach Borges and is looking more and more like a possibility for an offer at some point.

2016 Recruits

Clinton Township (MI) Chippewa Valley DB Stefan Claiborne

Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s LB Daelin Hayes

Saline (MI) QB Joshua Jackson (son of RB coach Fred Jackson)

2017 Recruits

St. Joseph (MI) DE Corey Malone-Hatcher

Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary’s LB Joshua Ross (brother of current LB James Ross)

Thursday Recruitin' Is Sophomoric

Thursday Recruitin' Is Sophomoric

Submitted by Ace on November 7th, 2013 at 12:25 PM

GOOCHLAND APPROVED


This GIS went much better than expected.

This feature on Wilton Speight has perhaps the least informative headline ever; that's okay, though, because it comes from The Goochland Gazette, and [keels over laughing].

Okay, pull yourself together, post rapturous blockquote:

Standing in a huddle on the sideline with his teammates just before kickoff, he towers over his running backs and offensive line by a good five inches. He gestures confidently, like a conductor fully in charge of an orchestra, wholly in tune with and in charge of his surroundings.

The next thing that strikes your attention is that beautiful spiral. Tight and wind-resistance, he hums the pigskin all over the yard, from sideline-to-sideline, completing every route in the playbook - hitches, curls, posts, outs, you name it — with uniform ease. Comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger are a given, not only because of his 6’6, 230 pound frame, but also due to his surprisingly nimble feet and his innate ability to prolong plays and spin productive downs out of would-be sacks.

Goochland.

Goodbye, JuJu

CA ATH JuJu Smith was always considered a longshot to end up at Michigan, even though he'd previously scheduled an official visit for the Ohio State game. After very positive visits to Notre Dame, Ohio State, and new contender Oregon, Smith dropped the Wolverines from his list, citing their less-than-stellar performance:

Before PANIC sets in, please note that this is relatively unusual; yes, of course winning helps recruiting, but normally a team's win/loss record affects the next class more than the current one (in this case, Michigan isn't doing itself any favors for 2015). If you click through to Tom's tweet, you'll note that he responds to someone stating that Da'Shawn Hand may feel the same way with a straightforward "No, I don't think that." Along those same lines...

Now, does Michigan's demoralizing loss to State potentially affect 2015 in-state recruits like Mike Weber, Josh Alabi, and Brian Cole? Absolutely. To Michigan kids who've now seen MSU take five of the last six games, the Spartans are now the state's top football program—and the most stable one. That doesn't mean they won't consider U-M—the flip side to this is a recruit sees plenty of opportunity to help bring a traditionally strong program back to the top—but at the same time, it obviously doesn't help.

Hand's Final Visit

Da'Shawn Hand's final official visit comes on Saturday when he watches 4-4 Florida take on Vanderbilt; while the Gators were once considered a potential dark horse, a season even uglier than Michigan's has robbed them of any momentum, especially with coach Will Muschamp squarely on the hot seat (while a team's record doesn't have a huge effect on most recruits, the coach recruiting them potentially not having a job next year usually does). Rivals's Mike Farrell, who's the recruiting reporter in closest regular contact with Hand, says in his latest column that he thinks Michigan holds a slight edge over Alabama ($). It's hard to see Florida jumping into the mix with Hand's announcement coming a week from today.

Etc.

The M Block's Eric Rutter pens a lengthy, quote-filled feature on 2014 commit Chase Winovich, covering his season, playing both ways this year, his friendship with fellow Pennsylvanian Sterling Jenkins (both plan to visit for the OSU game), and his feelings on Hand and Malik McDowell:

Chase then went on to share his thoughts on how Michigan will close the 2014 class, focusing specifically on defensive line prospects Malik McDowell and DaShawn Hand.  "I have a gut feeling that Malik McDowell will go to Michigan.  I'm not to sold on [DaShawn] Hand yet, but people seem pretty, pretty, really, really confident that they know their stuff and say he's headed to Michigan.  So I'm going to trust them and say, yeah, I hope he's going to Michigan.  But like I said, I definitely have that gut feeling on Malik McDowell."  This would put the finishing touches on a strong class that ranks among the best in the country for 2014.

Winovich is apparently taking his recruiting guru cues from Sam Webb.

If you've got a 247 subscription, Clint Brewster looks at five candidates to be Michigan's next 2015 commit ($).

247 released their Crystal Ball rankings; I'm currently ranked #40 (out of 194, so... I'll take it!) for 2014 and, thanks to Michigan's early efforts, am all the way up at #16 for the class of 2015.

Monday Recruitin' Feels At Home

Monday Recruitin' Feels At Home

Submitted by Ace on October 21st, 2013 at 2:45 PM


Malik McDowell (#67) is still taking his recruitment at a leisurely pace.

Not All Slow Recruitments Are Bad Recruitments

The list of players once considered long-time Michigan locks only to commit elsewhere is long, distinguished, and oft-cited in just about any discussion about MI DL Malik McDowell. This is understandable: after recruitments of players like Ronald Johnson, Dee Hart, Josh Garnett, Jordan Diamond, and Laquon Treadwell went awry, any recruit that seems to have every reason to pull the trigger yet draws out the process is now met with a healthy amount of skepticism.

In McDowell's case, however, his inertia appears to be a good sign for Michigan. After previously stating that he'd take all five of his official visits to out-of-state schools, that may no longer be the case, per Tim Sullivan ($):

"I want to wait until after the season [to take the visits]," McDowell explained. "I'm still going to try to make it down to Florida over Thanksgiving weekend. I don't know right now just because things are real busy.

"[In addition to Florida, LSU, and Alabama], I don't really have a last two visits planned; I might save the last two for some in-state schools, but I might go out-of-state, I don't really know."

While Michigan State is nominally in the picture, it would be shocking if McDowell chose the Spartans over the Wolverines, so this is quite a good sign for Michigan. Official visits to a trio of top SEC schools can alter any recruitment significantly, of course, but first McDowell has to actually follow through on those visits, which have yet to be set up; even if he makes it to all three schools, it's going to take a lot to unseat the in-state favorite given how many times McDowell has been on Michigan's campus. Given the direction McDowell's recruitment is (slowly) moving, I'd be surprised if he ends up anywhere else.

[Hit THE JUMP for the roundup of best commit performances from last weekend's games.]

Monday Recruitin' Decapitates, Shows No Remorse

Monday Recruitin' Decapitates, Shows No Remorse

Submitted by Ace on August 26th, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Commitments Come In Pairs, Volume [I Lost Count]

Michigan's 2015 class grew by two highly-regarded Ohio defensive backs over the weekend; if you missed them, here are the commitment posts for cornerback Shaun Crawford and safety Tyree Kinnel. The pair represent the fifth and sixth commits in the '15 class; to say the pace of recruiting has increased is an understatement:

Adding to that, Michigan's sixth commitment for the '14 class came when Ian Bunting pledged on April 23rd of this year; their sixth for '13 also occurred during The Greatest Mid-February Weekend In The History Of Mid-February Weekends.

Crawford and Kinnel aren't just highly-touted players from Ohio; they're both lifelong Michigan fans, which played a part in each of their commitments. Here's Crawford's post-commitment reaction to Tim Sullivan ($):

"Just being able to run out the tunnel and jump up and touch the sign, I've always seen it on Saturdays and finally getting the opportunity to do it is something I've always wanted to do," he said. "I can't wait to make the Michigan family happy."

And Kinnel talking to Scout's Dave Berk ($):

“We’re all Michigan fans because my dad grew up in Jackson, Michigan,” he said. “He just loved Michigan and ever since I was born, he just brained washed me on Michigan.”

They've been groomed for the Maize and Blue; now, do they fit The Pattern™? Of course they do. Crawford to 247's Mark Zakrajsek ($):

"I will bring my effort, that's the only thing I can promise right now," Crawford said. "With great effort all the great things I do on the field will come. I will play every down like it's my last because it's my dream to play on national television on Saturdays. My goal isn't to win the Heisman or any personal awards, I just want to be the best teammate I can be and make sure my team and coaches know I won't let them down."

And Kinnel's high school coach to Berk ($):

“Tyree comes from a great mom and dad,” said Minton. “He’s from a great close knit family and he’s not your typical high school kid that goes out and hangs out.

He’s much more like Braxton [Miller] was as they don’t mind staying in and playing a video game or something like that. He knows there are a lot of bad decisions that are out there and he doesn’t want to get caught up by anything like that.

As for on-field ability, I posted my favorite Crawford clip as a GIF and forgot to do so for Kinnel; Kinnel's coach talked up his instincts and play recognition, and this is a fine example—watch him play bracket coverage underneath the slot receiver while managing to keep his eyes on the quarterback, then come screaming from the opposite side of the field to stop the QB's scramble cold when it looked like an inevitable first down or even touchdown:

Making that play wasn't Kinnel's responsibility; he made it anyway after taking away the deep crossing route. Add that to the quote from his Hello post about Kinnel's coaches trusting him to call defensive audibles as a rising junior and we get an idea of his level of football smarts—he's very advanced in that regard for a player his age and it shows in his play.

Crawford and Kinnel were each Michigan's first offered prospects at their respective positions; their commitments add to an impressive trend in Brady Hoke's '15 class:

That is a remarkable stat considering four of those players—Crawford, RB Damien Harris, WR George Campbell, and K Andrew David—are considered among the very top prospects (if not the top) at their position, and only David didn't hold offers from multiple BCS powers when he committed.

[Hit THE JUMP for updates on Da'Shawn Hand's and Leonard Fournette's official visit plans, highlights of several Michigan commits from last weekend's high school action, and two reasons you're definitely going to want Hjalte Froholdt to end up at Michigan.]