SPONSOR NOTE: Matt also bought a very silly Michigan bus this offseason. For no reason, really. Just to have a giant bus with a winged helmet painted on it. And other stuff, sure. An engine, probably. Twitter handle painted on the side because that's how we do.
So you can get a mortgage from a guy with a giant Michigan bus or a guy without a giant Michigan bus. Homesure Lending is the guy with the bus. This is an easy choice even if you don't need a term sheet in 15 minutes because you're a bigshot lawyer who is very bad at promoting your own books.
FORMATION NOTES: Hoo boy.
Michigan played almost the entire game in a 3-3-5 stack. Copious discussion below.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Exact snap counts are not available right now but the general picture was clear. On the DL, Michigan started Gary, Hurst, and Winovich. Those guys got the lion's share of snaps. Marshall and later Solomon rotated in at NT. Kemp got a few snaps when Gary needed to get told something. Winovich went the distance until garbage time, when Reuben Jones and Kwity Paye got in.
At linebacker Furbush and McCray were the OLBs with Bush at ILB. Gil got a couple early series as Michigan rehydrated McCray; that was the only rotation until late. On the last drive the LBs were Gil again, Mbem-Bosse, and Uche.
Secondary was Metellus, Kinnel, and Hudson the whole way at safety with Hill and Long generally first choice at corner. Long's injuries and solid play from Watson got him a healthy number of snaps. Thomas got in a little bit in the third and fourth quarters. There was no dime package. Also yes I'm lumping Hudson in with the safeties since he will split over the slot and occasionally play FS.
Michigan loses two of three starters from last year and has a couple of start-by-default replacements. Unlike the secondary, though, expectations are high for both newbies after veritable torrents of offseason hype. Michigan now has a linebacker corps that Doctor Blitz can do nefarious things with. Youth will lead to mistakes; Brown will solve his problems with aggression. As one does when one is Doctor Blitz.
VIPER: DOCTOR WHO JUST HIT ME WITH A TRUCK
Hudson is wha ah ah ah ah down with the sickness [Barron]
Yeah, Jabrill Peppers is gone. I'm not sweating it. I'm wearing a KHALEKE HUDSON [recruiting profile] fez, waving a Khaleke Hudson flag, and writing a PhD dissertation about Khaleke Hudson's senior highlight reel. Anyone who's read this site for a hot second knows its staff comprises the biggest Hudson fan group outside of his immediate family, and if he takes off like Michigan hopes he will they're going to have to really up their game at Christmas.
So far, so good as Hudson tries to redeem our unseemly enthusiasm. All the overheated rhetoric from his recruiting profile is on track, whether it was from an opposing coach…
"He is the best combination of strength, speed and burst I've seen in a long time," said Ruane. "Every tackle, run and block is violent with him. He will be playing on Sundays someday. And I'm happy he's graduating."
…or your author:
A multiple-position star who is seemingly designed by man and God to punish people … I mean, he's not Peppers. But other than not being Peppers, he's basically Peppers.
The people saying these things are now his coaches and teammates, and that's one step closer to realizing his potential. Chris Partridge:
Khaleke Hudson and the skills that he brings to that position?
“Violence. Aggression. Hammerhead. He’s a guy that just loves contact. I think that people feed off that, too. He’s becoming very well rounded as a player so he’s going to be very enjoyable to watch.”
“Well, I love him. He’s a very physical guy. His learning at that position has been outstanding and he’s competing at a high level. … Some guys’ arrow is flat, some guys’ arrow is down -- his arrow is constantly going up.”
Brown doesn't just rattle off praise for everyone—see the CB spot. If he's a Hudson believer that's meaningful.
Hudson got his first action on Michigan's punt block, where he was sufficiently explosive and physical to drive through shield blocking and return two to sender. But he was clearly behind Metellus, who was getting more garbage time snaps and got the call when Peppers was unavailable for the bowl game. That's likely because Metellus picked up the defense faster. Don Brown calls him a "savant"; meanwhile a couple of insider reports I got asserted that Hudson was a bit slow to grasp Brown's intricate defense.
Spring, and a definitive move to viper, has cleared Hudson for liftoff. He says he's got the defense down now:
"I feel like I know it really well now," Hudson said. "I still go back and forth with Josh. We both get reps at viper, but I feel like it's starting to be a good position for me."
"He’s very physical, he’s low to the ground, he gets under people, he strikes people, he plays really hard, he’s very self-motivated."
He impressed in the spring game. Ace named him one of the standouts:
The hype here isn't going to slow one bit after today. Hudson was everywhere on defense, looking like the heavy-hitting player we expected against the run and proving equally formidable in coverage, where he broke up a couple passes and nearly came up with an interception. As is his wont, he came inches away from a blocked punt, too.
That heavy hitting was deployed against John O'Korn in the picture that leads this section. O'Korn broke the pocket and looked certain to punch the ball into the endzone until he met Hudson:
"I think he's going to be one of the best players in the nation this year, and in the future, because he can play linebacker, and he can play safety. If he wanted to, he could probably play corner. He's just a freak athlete, and he's really good."
Webb asserted that Hudson kept it up from his excellent spring and has "found his home" at viper(!), where his tendency to be a large hadron collider was a "revelation." Later he'd talk to JT Rogan, who concurred:
"Khaleke Hudson is a great downhill player. He is similar to Jabrill Peppers... man, is he strong and he's fast."
He's "a bull against the run game" and Rivals reports that Michigan tight ends are hugely productive... when Hudson is on the sideline. That about covers it.
Hudson's a perfect fit for the glamor spot in Michigan's defense and has all the arrows pointing the right way. He'll have his share of busts in year one as a starter; when not doing that he'll be turning in more TFLs, big hits, and PBUs. He won't be Peppers, but he's basically Peppers.
[After THE JUMP: fey Johnny Depp! Hhhhhhhyyyyaaaaarrr!]
Welp, the backup DTs are a problem. The mere presence of Ron Johnson, who arrived last year as a 245-pound weakside end, on the interior is indication enough. Johnson was bad because it is not possible for a person to go from 245 pounds to a plausible DT in a year. I assume that dalliance will end the moment Michigan's fleet of incoming DTs arrives.
It was slightly more disappointing that neither Carl Myers nor Lawrence Marshall showed much. Myers is a walk-on but hey maybe he was a spiritual Glasgow; that looks really doubtful. A Higdon TD run was largely on Myers getting buried by single blocking. (Spanellis, for what it's worth.) Meanwhile Marshall's added weight and added weight and gone from WDE to SDE to 3T and usually your second position switch is when it starts getting late early. It's late early for him.
Aubrey Solomon is going to walk right onto the two deep, and thank God for that recruiting heist. Mike Dwumfour is going to get playing time by default so let's hope some of that positive chatter is good, and then it would be very nice if another freshman—probably James Hudson—was ready to eat some snaps.
The starters are more or less established and performed as you'd expect. Pass blocking was a major issue not just because of Devin Bush, but these gentlemen. We know what Maurice Hurst looks like as a player. We've got a good idea about Chase Winovich—though he's looking much more DE-sized than a year ago—and Rashan Gary is a given. He stunted inside once on a play that should have caught Michigan's D dead to rights, with Kugler pulling right to him. Gary blew through him to tackle for minimal gain. Dude is scary.
Bryan Mone looked healthy and effective on the snaps he got, so hooray for that. He shed Bredeson a couple times, albeit after giving up some yardage. He is likely to be a downgrade from Ryan Glasgow but with the guys around him he just has to be good for the line to be excellent.
Now encase them in carbonite until fall.
Carlo Kemp looked okay; Rueben Jones didn't show much; Donovan Jeter looks like a guy who will eventually be a DT/3T swing guy a la Wormley.
Mike McCray did not get a starter hook and had significant playing time in which he looked like Mike McCray.
sidewinder has missile lock [Eric Upchurch]
We got extended looks at couple non-starters guys, most prominently Devin Bush. Bush looks like he's benefited a ton from a year of S&C; this has amped up his blitzing, and Don Brown took full advantage. His timing and burst got him through the line frequently, and he is a major problem for RB pickups. He's short, so he's hard to get under. He's thick, so he's got a lot of momentum. He's fast, so also momentum that's how momentum works. The result was a number of blitz pickups that looked good for a moment before falling apart.
Bush's recruiting profile is (for the moment) prophetic:
if you ever thought to yourself "I wonder what Don Brown would have done with James Ross," Bush will answer that question for you.
Hurl him pell-mell over the line of scrimmage to good effect, it seems.
In that context the talk about Mike Wroblewski is probably a positive instead of an indication Michigan has a desperate lack of depth. (See Moundros, Mark.) He looks the part of the heady gritty grit gym rat, but more importantly he plays like it. I can't tell you how many times I've seen linebackers fail to understand what the line slant in front of their face means; here Wroblewski knows that the Gary slant means the ball is likely coming to the gap outside of him, and he fills with aplomb:
It's a simple thing; again I cannot tell you how many times I've shaken a fist to the heavens because a linebacker does not understand the implication of the line call.
Wroblewski's prominence isn't great news for the other inside linebackers currently on the roster. (This exempts Noah Furbush and Josh Uche, who are at SAM.) I don't know what number Jared Wangler is even after my annual "who the hell is that /googles roster" spring game outing. Elysee Mbem-Bosse is 52, and I mostly know that because he got edged on the early Isaac touchdown run.
I assume from the way Don Brown talks that these are the things Robocop does not do. Again, simple thing where you've got to know that you get outside your blocker and funnel back to help, and a thing I've seen not executed time and again. By long-term starters.
I did catch a couple plays I liked from Devin Gil, so he may be an exception.
Meanwhile, Furbush and Uche... I don't know what Michigan's going to do with them. Furbush had one impressive Jake-Ryan-like play on a crack sweep where he blasted through a block to pick off another blocker, but I'm not sure how he fits in Don Brown's defense. We've heard some things about how Uche is going to get some run as a pass rush specialist.
Not a lot of action for David Long or Levert Hill, which is probably a sign they're solid leaders at cornerback. (Or dinged up. Long was out on some kickoffs, FWIW.) Between the two of them they combined for one tackle; when they were out there they were barely targeted.
Washington is now in the conversation [Eric Upchurch]
Amongst folks who played a bunch Keith Washington stood out. I was watching him during a brief period where he was matched up on Donovan Peoples-Jones. He had good coverage on an incompletion, made a tackle after a drag route for two yards, and generally looked in DPJ's league. He added an impressive downfield pass breakup and a couple of "who is that?!" edge tackles when Michigan tried to run it to his side of the field. He was credited for half a TFL on one of those. This one is impressive awareness; I've seen a lot of cornerbacks fail to fall off their WR this quickly and give up ten yards on the edge:
Spring caveats apply. Two years ago Brandon Watson had a press-heavy spring game that featured a couple of impressive PBUs on Moe Ways; since then he's faded to an occasionally-used nickel who usually tackles after a slant is completed on him. His pick six in this game was a very bad decision by Peters he took advantage of; it wasn't paired with other plays that might have moved the needle for him as he tries to battle his way up the depth chart.
Both early-enrolled freshmen looked like they could use some seasoning. Benjamin St-Juste was repeatedly victimized by Tarik Black on quick fades during the John O'Korn-led comeback section of the game. I kind of hated one of the PI calls on him but this is because I am adamantly opposed to underthrow-caused pass interference and cannot be trusted in these matters.
Meanwhile Ambry Thomas looked like a freshman in the way DPJ and Black did not. He's lankier than I expected—"high cut" is the jargon term I believe—and looked spindly. Problematically so. Kareem Walker's impressive touchdown featured Thomas being fended off with ease.
If Washington has made a move like it seems Michigan can afford to redshirt one or both.
here comes the BOOM like it or not now that song is stuck in your head [Barron]
I said in the spring game preview I didn't want Khaleke Hudson to end someone but if there was a walk-on or band member or random civilian who would volunteer to get in a car crash they would be remembered. John O'Korn is none of those; he will be remembered nonetheless.
Hudson also picked up a PBU and a sack in his time on the field and looked sufficiently Peppers-esque for this site's honor and prognostication cred to remain intact for the time being. The emergence of a couple legit safety options and the Khaleke-Hudson-shaped spot in a Don Brown defense means Hudson's found his spot, and I'm eager to see how that works out. Good start.
Those legit safety options are Josh Metellus and Jordan Glasgow, both of whom showed well. Both guys got over the top of sideline fade routes to get or assist on PBUs. Glasgow stepped in front of a Speight pass for a 101-yard pick six. Less spectacularly but probably more importantly, both guys tackled with authority when called upon to do so. There was one particular open-field Glasgow tackle that was Kovacsian in its textbook solidity. Assumed starter Tyree Kinnel got his share of action as well, leading all players with seven tackles.
The coverage bust on the Gentry touchdown couldn't be traced back to any of those guys since they weren't in the area or on the field, and something Ace mentioned on the podcast was clearest with these guys: there was way less pointing and confusion as Michigan enters year two under Brown. Like the offensive line, these are a bunch of new starters who could be expected to dorf a number of plays. This happened rarely, if at all.
Assertion: no position group put in a more reassuring performance than the safeties. Michigan clearly thinks they have a hidden gem in Metellus and Glasgow turns out to be a Glasgow, so Hudson can slide down, and Kinnel is there to quarterback the whole secondary. This position group looks set to reload, not rebuild.
Houston, we have liftoff [Barron]
It's night and day from two years ago at this time, when people were openly petrified of the kicking situation. Kenny Allen eventually locked that down for two years, and now that he's gone Michigan looks... fine? Very good, even? Kyle Seychel, Ryan Tice, and Quinn Nordin all popped in to blast some kickoffs and groove field goals down the middle. Nordin's 48-yarder was a highlight because it almost cleared the net; I've heard people say that would have been good from 60 and I think this radically undersells what a bomb it was. Look at this thing!
That is a 48 yard field goal that goes over the goalposts. Tailwind or no that is spectacular.
Small sample sizes, of course. One good thing that we haven't heard coming out of the practice rumbles: kicker concern. Maybe they'll be fine. (Maybe they will suffer #collegekickers.)
Punter Will Hart looked okay, averaging 40 yards a kick on 8 punts. He seemed to have excellent hang time and could have gotten some more distance but angled a couple to the sideline. My main concern with him was that it seemed to take a while for him to get the ball off. There were two or three punts on which the crowd went "oooh" because the defense almost returned one to sender.
OTOH, if that could be more about Michigan being consistently good at getting to punts now that would be real nice. Michigan had impact block units last year for the first time I can remember. Maybe they downloaded Jon Baxter's brain into Partridge during the one year he was here.
Returns are an open question and something of a concern after two muffs, one on a punt, one on a field goal. I have a feeling we might come to fully appreciate Peppers's ability to cleanly field all manner of junk fired in his direction when his successor is not Jabrill Peppers. Kickoffs should be fine; they've got enough athletes now that they can just put a DPJ or, heck, Keith Washington back there. Punts are much trickier and disaster-prone. FWIW, Oliver Martin arrives in fall with a reputation for being something of a punt-fielding maestro.
“Great. I mean, we have great talent. We have a chip on our shoulder when we come to practice every day. We’ve got a lot of opportunity ahead. But yeah, feel really good about it.”
How much has Devin [Bush Jr.] progressed from last year to this year?
“Devin progresses on a daily basis, you know. He’s starting to understand what it takes to be a Big Ten linebacker. He’s having a heck of a spring so far. He had a heck of an end of the season and got better and better. And he’s the kind of guy who comes to work every day, so he gets better every day. You really see it. He’s working on some things. We’re very excited about him.”
Do you feel confident he’s one of your top three guys right now with Mike McCray and Wroblewski?
“No, I can’t say that. I think every linebacker is one of my top guys, you know. I think that they all have to come to work and they have an opportunity. It’s all about opportunities in the spring and if they show up, whether it’s one rep or a hundred reps, they’re got to take advantage of it and work their butts off. I’m not ready to say—at least personally, I’m not ready to say who the top guys are. I think they all have to earn and do their part.”
The ferocity that Devin plays with on special teams; does he play that way at linebacker as well?
“Oh yeah, oh yeah. He’s not allowed not to. He’s really good. He’s the kind of guy who shows up and just…he’s the kind of guy who shows up every single day and every drill, whether it’s special teams or linebacker stuff, he gets it and that’s important.”
[Hit THE JUMP for Partridge’s recruiting philosophy and the strengths of the LBs]
The old guard had been around forever—Desmond Morgan started as a freshman and had an injury redshirt in there—and is now gone. In their stead there is… well, a guy. Michigan's linebacker recruiting in the Hoke era was a major failing, so after one guy they've mishandled and one guy who narrowly evaded a career-ending injury there's freshmen and the only non-Order-of-St.-Kovacs walk-on on the two deep.
Could get hairy if anyone can get to these guys on the ground or protect their quarterback long enough to get 'em in the air. So probably not that hairy. Still, along with the offensive line and quarterback, linebacker stands out as a position at which things could go pear-shaped.
On the other hand, Peppers. He's actually in this post!
And this year he hopes to refine his immense talent into a TFL and PBU machine.
One part of his game is already flawless and has been so from the drop. He was a bonafide hybrid space player from his first snaps against Utah. Any sort of swing, flare, or screen to the wide side of the field was going to die horribly. Peppers was truly, literally unblockable in space. He'd slow up, pick his moment, and just explode past the wide receiver who drew the short straw:
Three times in this game Peppers destroyed plays that attacked the wide open spaces he is set to patrol. If Michigan can rely on that, those passes across the middle that open up because of bubble fakes get removed along with the screens; it's kind of a big deal to be able to do that.
The utterconsistencywithwhichthishappened became a defensive bellwether. I eagerly awaited the moment when the offensive coordinator got fed up with having zero access to a big chunk of his playbook and said "screw it." One snap later the OC was reminded why he wasn't doing this:
Blocking someone with his explosiveness on the edge is a futile task. This is a screen that he turns in barely outside the hash and still gets a tackle in on, because he can wait until the proper moment and just explode past the guy who drew the short straw:
Peppers gets places fast and brings a pop when he gets there. Sometimes he makes the play himself and sometimes he allows others to rally to make it, because he's constricting space that other guys cannot.
I say "mostly" because Peppers does need to refine a few things. He has a bit of Brandon Harrison disease wherein he gets going so dang fast that he overruns his target, and his tackling form could use some work. But even when he missed a tackle last year he funneled things back to his teammates.
As Peppers moves inside more often this ability will serve him well. There was a spate of tiny linebacker articles over this offseason, and this one from The Ringer highlights that Peppers evasion thing:
The key to smaller linebackers surviving in a land of 330-pound giants isn’t taking them on in single combat; it’s anticipating movements to avoid combat altogether.
“Those guys seem to make their living not by getting off blocks, but by never getting blocked,” Snead says. “They’ve got to read things quickly so they can use their deficiency to their advantage.”
There was the occasional indicator that Peppers would be able to continue his uncanny ability to blow past blockers even as space gets constricted. Here he reads the play and simply redirects past a fullback assigned to him:
His explosion is such that he can dart around blockers to the "wrong" side so fast that he makes it right. He makes all that Joe Bolden stuff work, and that'll be key when he is faced with much larger opposition.
We have some evidence what Peppers will look like as a linebacker. He was in the box on scattered snaps. He was kept clean, for the most part, and Peppers showed an ability to read and react. This isn't hard, but we don't have much else to go on:
He was used as a blitzer very occasionally, and looked much like he did whilst erasing screen games nationwide. He's fast and brings a load and often comes in too hot to get a clean shot.
If he does get a free run at a blindside target an Oregon State receiver can tell you what the likely outcome is:
Peppers has the potential to force a ton of fumbles.
When Peppers is an actual SAM linebacker and not reprising his hybrid space player role, Plan A is keeping Peppers clean by demanding double teams for the SDE; Plan B is Peppers blowing the minds of linemen and blocky/catchy guys with his ability to do make something conventionally understood to be wrong work for him.
He was still a bit iffy in the slot but started making it difficult for guys to get in their routes, and he started making the occasional play in off man. The Penn State debacle is evidence enough that his coverage is still a work in progress, but in this case we really do mean "work in progress" instead of "permanent problem" as people so often do when they deploy that phrase. His improvement should be obvious. He won't be perfect but slot receivers aren't going to get the best of him for much longer.
Peppers can and will do a half-dozen different things on D. You'll see him as a SAM, as a nickel, as a strong safety, as a boundary corner as Michigan tries to put out fires and exploit mismatches. Boston College SAM Matt Milano is a good baseline: 60 tackles, 17.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, and 3 PBUs a year ago. Peppers is around the same size and much more athletic. (I have no idea how athletic Matt Milano is and I'm sticking with that assertion.) I'd expect more pass defense stats and not so many TFLs since the DL will eat up their share, but as I said on the other side of the ball his omnipresence should lead to a bunch of stats both ways and a Heisman finalist slot.
Native of Cameroon. Twitter. Heir apparent to the Ojemudia Death Stare.
Elysee Mbem-Bosse and soon-to-come Josh Uche are the first Don Brown dudes. Brown wasted little time getting on the phone with a guy he had no shot at while at Boston College:
“When he first got the defensive coordinator job at Michigan, I was one of the people he called on the first day in the office. He was like I just watched your tape and loved every second of it.”
Both EMB and Uche came to campus shortly after his hire, hit it off with the program and each other, and committed soon after they returned home despite offers from SEC powerhouses thought to lead. In Mbem-Bosse's case that was Auburn; in Uche's it was Florida. That's reason for optimism both in EMB's specific case and for this recruiting class in general—there are three stars who could have gone to Minnesota and there are three stars who could have gone to Auburn, and this class's three stars are generally the latter.
When not demonstrating Don Brown's ability to recruit, Mbem-Bosse is Middle Linebacker Classic. He's really only got one way onto the the field, and that's by wrecking lead blockers and unleashing furious anger on ball carriers. At 6'3" he's tall for a linebacker and will probably top out at 250 or even bigger. As per usual with guys that big who aren't highly touted, that size comes with some compromises.
Let's start with the good: dude is a mean-ass dude.
ESPN: "powerful inside linebacker with great measurables for the position. Uses his hands to shock blockers and disengage to wrap up ball carrier. …. Has short area power to deliver a heavy hit.… thumper ready to make the jump physically … lot of tools desired in an upper-tier middle linebacker."
Woody Womack, Rivals: “really passes the eye test … athletic enough that he could move around and play a couple different positions. I think he could play all three linebacker positions.”
Touch The Banner: "…solid straight-line speed that’s maybe not in the 4.58 range, but not far off, either. Using that length and speed – plus a good understanding of pursuit angles – he can cover a lot of ground and wrap up ball carriers in space. When he arrives, he brings a punch and does a good job of wrapping up.
Rob Cassidy, Rivals, from a Rivals Camp: "long arms allow him to play bigger than his 6-foot-3 frame … extremely quick with his first step. He also ran well for a middle linebacker, as he shined in coverage even on the rare occasion that saw a running back test him deep." … "One of the most physically impressive linebackers in the country."
Son Of A Coach: There aren’t going to be many players who can stuff the inside run quite like Mbem-Bosse. He does a great job of scraping through the trash and arrives at the ball violently when he gets to it … very good tackler that runs through people. ... willabsolutely blow up the iso. … true inside linebacker that would thrive as a downhill run defender that is asked to blitz a lot versus the pass.
In the aftermath of that RCS camp, Rivals moved Mbem-Bosse into their top 250 at #157; he would eventually fall out but maintain a four-star ranking. They did explain why at the time, but that article was lost to their redesign. Yes, I am a little skeptical of that bump and subsequent fall, but their ranking is reasonable all the same.
That last scouting report segues into the downside: a guy who is "asked to blitz a lot" probably isn't too good in coverage. There are conflicting reports about how athletic Mbem-Bosse is, but virtually every report will mention "stiffness" and the like. A typical example from ESPN:
May be interchangeable between ILB and OLB given his athletic ability and potential to make plays outside of the numbers with his range. … shows some tightness opening and turning in pursuit. … We do not see the hips or fluid transitional skills to project high as a man coverage LB at the next level.
TTB says he's "not a great space player" and has a hard time bending or changing direction; Son Of A Coach says he "doesn't jump out as a great athlete", "looks a little stiff", and may not have sideline to sideline speed.
The upshot here is one you've already seen in the gentlemen listed as Mbem-Bosse's YMRMFSPA: Desmond Morgan. When Morgan got isolated on wheel routes against faster backs that didn't go very well. Michigan ran its coverages to minimize such occurrences, but when the rock-paper-scissors went badly there were moments he got exposed. EMB will have to be similarly protected. The good news is that Brown runs a lot of pattern-matching zone concepts and that's a good fit for a tall, rangy, smart linebacker. I know the takes on MGoBlue bios are always going to be the most positive ones available; even so, Brown seems legitimately high on his potential as a cover guy:
Coach Don Brown on Elysee Mbem-Bosse Elysee “Boss Man” is a true sideline-to-sideline guy. He plays downhill and can explode on contact and has really good coverage skills for a middle linebacker. He’s a no-brainer for us and fits exactly what we are trying to do within our system.
For Don Brown that may be true in a way it is not more generally.
Michigan can also mitigate whatever issues he might have in coverage by blitzing maniacally, which Brown also likes to do. This uncommonly useful segment from 247's Auburn site makes an excellent point…
…with his size and explosion trying to pick him up with a running back is a losing proposition for an offense. When the Nebraska Rivals site caught up with EMB's coach, it was just after a 4 TFL, 2 sack performance. He "definitely can pass rush." That is an element Morgan didn't bring during his time at Michigan.
A second concern is Mbem-Bosse's rawness. He only has two years of football under his belt and that does show up on film. Son Of A Coach and TTB mention "false steps" and occasional failure to recognize keys; Womack says he can be "a little hot and cold" because he "doesn't realize the impact he can have on every down."
That concern is mitigated by Mbem-Bosse's background. Like Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, Mbem-Bosse was born in Africa—Cameroon, specifically. Immigrants are often really driven people, as Darboh and Chesson have demonstrated, and Mbem-Bosse seems to be from a similar mold. Per his coach he speaks "about four different languages." His twitter feed alternates between Bible verses and various workouts, and dude has serious academic plans:
"Knowledge is something that can never be taken away from you,"Mbem-Bosse said. "The average time playing in the league [NFL] is about three-and-a-half years. That means I'll have 50 or 60 more years in my life. I want to be able to grow up, have a beautiful wife and kids and say I was able to get a good education.
"There are way too many kids who go to college and don't have a plan B, and they end up bankrupt and struggling through life. Even if I don't make the league, I want to say I was successful."
That's a quote a lot like the ones Chesson issued when he was a recruit, and that was a major factor when I named him (co-)sleeper of the year. (Mbem-Bosse isn't eligible to be SotY since he's got two four-star rankings, FWIW.) Per his coach he's in "all AP classes" and "excels in math"—my man. I think he's more likely to hit because of his background.
If EMB does hit his ceiling the stiffness won't be a huge concern. As I've said virtually any time someone criticized Morgan, MLB is about 80% knowing what to do and 20% being able to go do it. Mbem-Bosse is a long way away from knowing what to do but seems like the kind of guy who's likely to figure it out as time goes along here.
Why Desmond Morgan? Morgan was a lightly-regarded guy coming out of high school. He was mostly a quarterback, so he had some of the same projection issues that Mbem-Bosse does. At Michigan he quickly established himself a thumping hitter and solid zone coverage linebacker. Morgan's athletic limitations occasionally got him in trouble on wheel routes and the like, but his smarts and ability to rock free-releasing OL backwards made him a quality player.
Mbem-Bosse is higher rated, with a couple of four-star rankings, and considerably taller. He has more upside and eventually could be a guy of interest to the NFL.
Guru Reliability: High. Relatively large spread in the rankings but scouting reports are consistent. EMB was healthy and at a high-profile high school; I can see both sides of the coin with his rankings.
Variance: Moderate. Lack of experience means there's a lot of projection in his rankings and offers. In addition, most scouting reports indicate that he's an interior thumper only, so he doesn't have a plan B if MLB isn't working out. On the other hand, high-academic guy and driven immigrant.
Ceiling: Moderate-plus. EMB is probably never going to be an all-action three-down linebacker. He does project as a major run-stuffer in the middle.
General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. Michigan needs a hard-nosed MLB for the Wisconsins and MSU and OSUs of the world. This is that dude. Mbem-Bosse would be out of place in the Big 12. In the Big Ten he's a major asset.
Projection: MLB is another spot where some young guys might play since there's little clarity what will happen next year. EMB is probably 50/50 to redshirt—he's physically ready; he could use a year of mental prep. Either way he's not likely to see much time.
In 2017 there will be at least one LB slot open, possibly two if Peppers goes to the draft and actually is more or less a linebacker. That is unlikely to affect EMB, who will be in the mix at MLB and MLB only. With Bush already on campus and that SAM spot looking like it'll go to hybrid space player types it'll be up to Mike McCray whether that's a serious battle or not. Right now the assumption is he'll have to wait for McCray to graduate before getting a shot as a thumper in the middle as an upperclassman. The decks are clear for him to start for two or three years after McCray departs.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that Michigan was set to have a Signing Day unlike any they'd experienced since Signing Day became a thing. There are usually a smattering of commits and maybe a flip or two. This year was looking to maybe double that level of activity even before Michigan got it in their head to pull the ol' Bobby Bowden out:
Because of the Signing of the Stars event on National Signing Day, I am expecting most (if not all) of Michigan's remaining pledges to be silently committed to the staff until February 3rd. If they don't, it's either because Michigan believes it's their only chance to publicly secure said kid or the kid just doesn't want to wait to make it public.
Obviously that's not 100% with three commits in the last day. In Uche and Mbem-Bosse's case they had officials scheduled so the commits eliminate those schools as threats unless the recruits take the Nate Johnson path.
We have a plan for Signing Day, but if Michigan gets ten commits all bets are off. Let's hope RAILGUN™lives up to its badass name. In lieu of flowers please donate to a fund to investigate Ole Miss recruiting.
NJ WR Donald Stewartdeclared Michigan his leader. With Nate Johnson trending to Notre Dame and the rest of the WR class comprised of smaller guys, the 6'4" Stewart brings a unique skillset and should definitely be a take. He just visited his two finalists, so Stanford has little ammo left to catch up with.
Status quo with NJ DE Rashan Gary but we have a little section on him below for the clicks.
Ditto FL WR Eddie McDoom. He did not commit publicly; he did tell various people things were going really well after saying that he would commit if things went, you know, well.
AZ DE Connor Murphy hasn't talked to anyone yet about his visit. Michigan is generally regarded the favorite; his mom came up with him.
We project all of the above in the class in addition to Uche and Mbem-Bosse. On to guys who are still relatively open…
NJ CB Jordan Fuller doesn't say much, and when he does say stuff it's carefully calibrated to not give anything away. He did tell Scout's Brian Dohn that Don Brown showed him "really cool stuff" and that Michigan's defense looked "really fun to play," but for insight you have to go to second-hand stuff.
So let's do that. Dohn says he "knows the job Michigan did with Jabrill Peppers" and "loves" Michigan's academics but that ND and OSU were ahead pre-visit. He cancelled his trip to PSU and is thus down to three; Wiltfong doesn't think ND is much of a threat.
The Buckeyes have limited slots and just flipped a DB recruit from Louisville. They would likely still take Fuller. OSU 247 guy Alex Gleitman still thinks it's OSU but offers considerable uncertainty as he says that. Fuller is very much in play.
If this is indeed a package Michigan is hoping that Asiasi is the guy driving the bus here, as Michigan is school on his list most likely to let him play tight end for the duration of his career. At this point all of the finalists seem like they're in play.
[After THE JUMP: nothing at all has changed with Rashan Gary but you are still going to click through to confirm this]
Ellenwood (GA) Cedar Grove ILB Elysee Mbem-Bosse and Miami (FL) Columbus DE/OLB Joshua Uche both announced their commitments to Michigan this evening, becoming the 23rd and 24th members of the 2016 class. Tonight's commitment post features Mbem-Bosse; Uche's will go up tomorrow morning.
Mbem-Bosse is the third inside linebacker in the class, joining Devin Bush Jr. and Dytarious Johnson at a position of significant need. He chose Michigan over Auburn and Oklahoma, among others.
3*, #26 ILB
4*, #15 ILB
4*, 80, #13 ILB
3*, 86, #31 ILB,
3*, #17 ILB,
There's a split in Mbem-Bosse's rankings; Rivals and ESPN each list him as their second-to-last four-star among ILBs, while Scout and 247 place him well into three-star territory.
He brings plenty of size to the position. Scout and 247 list him at 6'3", 232 lbs., Rivals at 6'2", 228, and ESPN at 6'3", 230.
The consensus is Mbem-Bosse has the size, power, and tackling ability to potentially see the field early; the question is whether he's fluid enough in coverage. ESPN isn't so sure:
Will move laterally and keep his shoulders square to take on blocks and locate ball carrier but shows some tightness opening and turning in pursuit. Uses his hands to shock blockers and disengage to wrap up ball carrier. Shows good instincts and diagnosing skills versus full flow power-schemes with downhill action.
Has short area power to deliver a heavy hit when in proper position. Has the ability to jolt runner and use hands to dislodge the ball. Shows the ability to drag down runners with strong hands.
Shows good awareness in underneath zone coverage. Gets to the ball quickly with his ability to react to routes developing in front of him. We do not see the hips or fluid transitional skills to project high as a man coverage LB at the next level.. Shows good timing to blitz between the tackles.
Mbem-Bosse is a thumper ready to make the jump physically to the college level and has a lot of tools desired in an upper-tier middle linebacker. With continued flexibility through his hips he should climb our board.
In this film evaluation, Auburn legend Pat Dye's former offensive coordinator, Jack Crowe, calls Mbem-Bosse a "big, dominating player at the second level" over clips from his junior highlights, which mostly feature him stuffing the run but also show a deep zone drop and hit on a receiver:
Mbem-Bosse is starting to catch the attention of colleges all over the country. He is a physical, downhill linebacker that can run. Gets sideline to sideline quickly, and is not afraid to come up and strike. Has the length to play on the outside also and speed to play on the inside. Alabama and Georgia has been showing a lot of attention as of late.
The Tide eventually came through with an offer, though given they're the favorites for two five-star linebackers (Ben Davis and Lyndell Wilson), it's doubtful that offer is committable.
Son of a Coach's Jamie Uyeyama has a lengthy, free evaluation of Mbem-Bosse's junior tape that is a highly recommended read. It's detailed and critical, but there's still plenty of good in there:
There aren’t going to be as many players who can stuff the inside run quite like Mbem-Bosse. He does a great job of scraping through the trash to find the football and arrives at the ball violently when he gets to it. He is a very good tackler that [hits] through people.
He needs to use his hands better to not let blockers get to his chest, but he attacks them and is not afraid to take on a guard or fullback. He will absolutely blow up the iso. My main concern with him versus the inside run is that he sometimes will take false steps and does not recognize his keys in terms of pulling guards or down blocks on a consistent basis. He isn’t a good enough athlete to recover with false steps at the next level and must improve in this area.
He concludes that while Mbem-Bosse "has the tools to be a solid starting inside linebacker eventually," it could take him "a year or two" before he reaches that level. Like ESPN, he likes Mbem-Bosse as a blitzer but has questions about his ability in coverage.
Mbem-Bosse's profile reminds me a bit of Desmond Morgan's; he has a couple inches on Morgan with a similarly stout build, and based on his film I think he has a higher ceiling.
Mbem-Bosse holds offers from Alabama, Auburn, Duke, Florida, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Michigan, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Mizzou, Nebraska, NC State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wake Forest, and Wisconsin, among others.
Cedar Grove boasts another 2016 four-star in Auburn DT commit Antwuan Jackson. They've sent 16 other prospects to Power 5 programs since 2002, per the Rivals database, including former NFL tackle Marcus McNeill (Auburn).
High school stats weren't readily available.
FAKE 40 TIME
Mbem-Bosse's Hudl page lists an unverified 4.58, which gets three FAKEs out of five.
These highlights are dated from December 2014 but it appears there are clips from his senior season in there:
Single-game reels from his senior and junior years can be found on his Hudl page.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Mbem-Bosse will get an opportunity to crack the two-deep right away with Ben Gedeon as the only returner with significant experience at inside linebacker on the roster. He'll compete with Mike McCray, Chase Winovich, Noah Furbush, Reuben Jones, and Devin Bush Jr. for playing time. Ideally, he'd be able to take a redshirt year and work on his reads and coverage, but the roster may not afford that luxury, especially if Mbem-Bosse proves he can at least be a two-down run-stuffer from the outset.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Mbem-Bosse and Uche bring the total number of commits to 24 in a class that looks increasingly likely to reach 30. Mbem-Bosse's commitment should end Michigan's pursuit of linebackers Jonathan Jones, who's expected to wind up at Notre Dame, and Dontavious Jackson, for whom Michigan has seemed to be an afterthought even though they made his final five.
Top remaining targets include DT Rashan Gary, ATH Jordan Fuller, CB Lavert Hill, DT Boss Tagaloa, TE Devin Asiasi, WDE Connor Murphy, S Khaleke Hudson, TE Chase Allen, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Donald Stewart, NT Michael Dwumfour, WR/DB Pie Young, and K Quinn Nordin. It looks very likely DT commit Jordan Elliott ends up at Texas, and with other attrition still expected, Michigan could have as many as 10-11 spots to fill to wrap up the class.
"It's really a surreal feeling to get the opportunity to play for [Harbaugh]," Tagaloa said. "When I got the offer, I guess I couldn't really put it into words how I felt. It's just been a really great blessing to have all of these opportunities. Not that long ago, I was watching Coach Harbaugh coach my favorite team and now I could possibly play for him in college. That's a really cool feeling."
Tagaloa is a longtime teammate of top TE target Devin Asiasi, who he says is "like a brother" to him; they plan to take their official visits together and could very well end up at the same school. Both plan to take most of their official visits after the season and commit on Signing Day, so this recruitment will play out over the long haul.
Because this is how Michigan operates now, that wasn't the end of offers going out to California prospects last week. Top-100 CB Trevon Sidney told GBW's Josh Newkirk he'd like to visit Ann Arbor this summer after adding an offer ($). He said USC, UCLA, Washington, and Notre Dame are the schools going after him the hardest.
Three-star CA WDE Bryson Young only had three offers heading into the week—Colorado State, Fresno State, and Oregon State—before Michigan jumped into the fray and made a major impression, per Sam Webb ($):
“I was not expecting Michigan to look at me. They’re a great school and I never would have thought that they looked over here for players. It was a complete shock.” ...
“(Talking to Harbaugh) was one of those (things) I’ll never forget. That was amazing. I did not expect that at all. Talking to a coach from Michigan is fantastic enough, and talking to Harbaugh that was just unexpected. I’ll never forget that. That was great.”
Young said he's "definitely" considering Michigan now and he's looking to set up a visit. He may still be a tough pull from California—UCLA offered yesterday, and Young called USC his "dream school" while discussing the Michigan offer. The Trojans haven't offered yet, but if they do—which seems likely—they'll be the prohibitive favorite.