It took two years, but it seems the OG signing day that used to thaw our frozen midwinter hearts has been usurped by its pre-bowl season sibling. Michigan is expected to sign one prospect today, Washington D.C. safety Quinten Johnson. That signing barely even counts, as the only reason Johnson didn’t submit his letter in December is because his head coach asked that he do so with all of his teammates in a ceremony at their school in February. I thought an interesting alternative to pulling together a recruiting roundup that has nothing to do with players that can sign today would be to look at Michigan’s highest-rated player in the 2019 class, OK S Daxton Hill. His 0.9927 composite rating on 247 places him eighth on their list of all-time recruit rankings, sandwiched between Brandon Graham (0.9930) and Donovan Peoples-Jones (0.9925). Not bad company to keep. Hill’s every-snap film is particularly relevant to our interests because of Michigan’s roster; there’s certainly real competition in the form of Brad Hawkins and J’Marick Woods, but Hill is the Twitter favorite to step in and fill Tyree Kinnel’s vacated free safety spot. Taking in a full game should allow us to better assess whether he’s mentally and physically ready for the next step.
Michigan football is no stranger to landing commitments from under-the-radar recruits early and watching them rocket up the rankings (see: Charbonnet, Zach), and it appears they have another excellent candidate to do just that in 2020 AZ QB JD Johnson. Oklahoma signee Spencer Rattler, a five-star prospect ranked #23 overall in the composite, started ahead of Johnson at Pinnacle HS until Rattler was ruled ineligible for the remainder of the season in late October after violating the school district’s code of conduct policy. Johnson turned heads in his final four games under center as he led Pinnacle to Arizona’s 6A semifinals before losing to Perry. His performance garnered praise from writers such as 247’s Blair Angulo, who said that “…there's no question that Johnson was set to see his stock rise considerably this coming spring evaluation period so it was good for the Wolverines to get Johnson up to campus for a visit shortly after extending the scholarship offer and locking him down.”
Thanks to the wealth of broadcasts on Pinnacle football’s website, we can get in on the ground floor. I decided to cut up Pinnacle’s 6A quarterfinal win over Red Mountain for one exceedingly simple reason: at #12 in the state and #728 nationally, they were the highest-ranked team Johnson started against. He was a big reason Pinnacle won, too, completing 17 of 27 attempts for 354 yards (13.1 YPA) and two touchdowns. He also ran seven times for a non-sack-adjusted 28 yards, with a long of 12.
ESPN may have pulled back on publishing scouting reports of recruits, but with a little bit of ingenuity, some luck, and a whole lot of editing we’re still able to use the Worldwide Leader’s coverage to our advantage. Not in the form of scouting reports from their analysts, of course—sorry, you’re stuck with me—but in their programming. The funny thing about having to fill nearly 9,000 hours of air time each year across each network is that they occasionally shelve the talking heads for a bit and broadcast actual games that are relevant to our interests.
Some of those games, such as the one scouted here, feel like what ESPN 2 should be broadcasting as often as humanly possible. Here they took advantage of a mid-October marquee matchup of schools that are top-tier nationally (Grayson was 153rd per Maxpreps, Archer 69th), both with rosters littered with DI prospects. Grayson has highly-regarded, heavily-recruited bookends on their offensive line. At left tackle is Wanya Morris, a five-star and the 13th-ranked player in the country. At right tackle is the focus of this post, Trente Jones. The most recent re-rank on 247 saw Jones shoot up more than 280 spots with no signs of stopping. He has moved up 55 spots in the composite in the last week alone, now checking in at #167. After watching him against Archer, I’m more surprised that he spent so much time ranked around #300 and less about the jump to the edge of the top 150.
[After THE JUMP: "Hm, a person who weights 100 pounds more than me moves in ways I could only hope to," says the guy with a bag of Jelly Belly next to him]
Minnesota is the land of ten thousand lakes; PJ Fleck is the man of ten thousand oars. It’s a seemingly synergistic combination, and it’s easy to see why a 17-year-old from the west side of Michigan might want to join one of the first few Big Ten squads led by the man who just took Western Michigan to the Cotton Bowl. Then Jim Harbaugh got involved.
Mayfield’s commitment-decommitment-commitment only draws a two out of five on the Crootin’ scale, which is barely enough to raise an eyebrow for a player hovering near the top 300 in 247’s composite rankings. What’s likely to draw eyebrows, though, is where Mayfield ends up in the rankings. As Ace pointed out in his Hello post, the sites that are really high on Mayfield are—surprise!—the ones that have seen him play.
With that in mind, I jumped on the opportunity to cut together every-snap videos from two of Mayfield’s junior-year games. You’re looking for the right tackle, #74, in the videos below. He’s easier to spot in the video above the jump; he’s the one who doesn’t appear to be wearing socks.
[more run blocking and pulling]
[Hit THE JUMP to check out that sweet sweet pass-pro footwork plus a scouting report]
Hayes is #80, TC West’s RT is #56, and that’s all I need to break out the Braden picture
Traverse City is well-known for many things: cherries; the film festival; top-flight restaurants (Georgina’s is a favorite), beaches, breweries, and bars (likewise Low Bar); and vineyards that look like they were photoshopped. Offensive tackles, however, aren’t going to make anyone’s list who isn’t related to former Oregon lineman Jake Fisher. Traverse City isn’t likely to become a recruiting hotbed overnight, but Traverse City West, Fisher’s alma mater, has another future DI player to export in 2018.
Ryan Hayes hasn’t hit the camp circuit and has been lightly scouted by the main services, so finding a full game from his junior season is especially intriguing. More intriguing still is how much is left to the imagination: Hayes is so athletic that his coaches have decided to use him as a full-time TE. He’s fairly easy to pick out in the video below; just look for the giant. Beyond that, he’s typically lined up as the in-line tight end on the right side of the line. The few times he’s not in the frame it’s because they split him out wide (by himself, too). Oh, and those few special teams plays? Don’t look for him on the line. He’s the punter, and he has a leg.
[Ed. Note- A: I know the letterboxing is weird. I started using a new video editor today and didn’t want to redo three hours of work. I’ll figure it out before the next FBD]
The first thing that stands out about Hayes, the one theme that’s present from the start of the game to the bitter end*, is the ferocity with which he plays. He has miles to go as far as technique is concerned (particularly with his hands) but when he connects, his goal is not just to move but to bury the guy. His combination of athleticism and nastiness is on display at 1:01, where he hops over a diving defensive lineman and twists an unsuspecting linebacker to the ground. He’s so much bigger than everyone else his age that he can lean on guys and, thanks to the head of steam derived from his speed, still crumple them. Of course, there are times where leaning on guys turns into him falling off of them. He's great at identifying and targeting the right guy to block in the run game, but his form needs work. I envision him taking a massive step forward with Greg Frey and Tim Drevno; a TE-turned-tackle learning the majority of his technique in college is as far from a red flag as you can get.
As a tight end, Hayes’ hands were hard to judge in this game. They seem to be at least solid and possibly a plus, but his quarterback’s throws were so off the mark that he only had a good chance to grab half of what was thrown his way. His athleticism and ability to wall off defenders was sufficient enough for him to never slip lower than the QB’s second read; he was overwhelmingly the primary read. He can also absorb a chip and still get into his route, so there’s certainly some upside to him as a receiver near the goal line.
The Michigan staff intends to bring Hayes in as a TE, though he has the height, speed, and athleticism to eventually slide in and play tackle. He’d have to put on some weight (he’s currently around 255), remain as athletic as he is now, and learn to extend his arms. One of the scouting services noted “power and strength” as an area for improvement; splitting hairs here, but I think he has tremendous lower body strength (seriously, watch the kid punt) and gets knocked for a lack of power because of his tendency to pop his elbows out and ram into guys with his arms folded. He’s also going to have to work diligently at learning the ins and outs of pass protection; being your team’s primary receiving threat doesn’t leave much time to pass protect.
There will be at least seven other tackles on campus when Hayes arrives, which ostensibly gives him the opportunity to redshirt, refine everything a tackle needs to, and see the field against teams other than Rutgers in three years. The quickest route to playing time, though, is as part of a Kaiju Redux package, where he could play the Godzilla to Wheatley Jr’s Mothra. With a roster stocked with field-stretching-leapy types like Bunting and Gentry, Michigan’s sorely lacking a tackle-sized object who has the run-blocking chops to play in-line and is also athletic enough to be a threat should be find himself open in the flat. If Hayes doesn’t come in and fill the Asiasi role, he’ll need to marinate for quite a while. With Frey and Drevno in charge, that’s not a bad thing.
*(West, down 13-12, was driving late in the fourth quarter when their QB was picked off, sealing their defeat.)
The sinuous path of Oliver Martin’s recruitment has reached its end with Martin’s Michigan pledge last evening. Martin seemed like he might commit to Michigan at any time this past fall; after appearing to be a Notre Dame lean, 247’s Crystal Ball moved in favor of Michigan before moving back to Notre Dame and finally ending solidly in favor of Michigan. Crootin! With all the buzz around his name, I decided to look for a full game to scout. Thanks to Friday Night Lights’ youtube account, we’re able to take a look at the 4A state title game.
It’s still better to have a full game than a highlight tape to scout, but there are times—as happened here—where there are extenuating circumstances that limit a player’s productivity. Dowling bracketed Martin all game, and it wasn’t until late in the second half that West would try to duplicate the one successful target they had in the second quarter by having Martin run deep ins. On top of that, Dowling’s pass rush was too much for West HS; their QB often found himself scrambling away from one or two un/partially-blocked defenders and flipping the ball to a nearby safety valve. Even so, there were impressive parts of Martin’s game worth noting.
[Note: Martin’s typically lined up at the bottom of the screen. The easiest way to spot him, though, is to find the guy in the knee-high white socks.]
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jaylen Kelly-Powell, and Ambry Thomas are no strangers to being featured in Future Blue Originals posts; David and I scouted October’s Cass-King PSL playoff game, and Ace, David, and I took in King’s game against Southfield A&T in the Prep Kickoff Classic. With Michigan losing their top two outside receivers, Peppers at SAM, and Lewis and Stribling at corner, it seemed like the time to take another look at the three Cass and King commits that have a shot at seeing the field for Michigan in 2017.
I headed back to the Youtube mine to find another complete game film chock-full of Michigan prospects. This time we’ll take a look at the regular-season meeting between Cass Tech and King, which was played in early October on Cass’s weather-beaten field; you’ll see the sloppy field conditions come into play multiple times throughout, though not to the point where we’re unable to get a good feel for the incoming freshmen’s strengths and weaknesses. A quick aside: I’ve had this tab open since the video was posted, and in that time Mike James has uploaded more full games that would very much be of interest to Michigan fans.
If you read last week’s roundtable and you’re anything like me, you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about different line combinations and wondering who might be able to slide where and which guys are most ready to see the field right now. That’s where Youtube comes in.
Cesar Ruiz is purported to be one of the more college-ready linemen in the 2017 class, which is something of an OL luxury for Michigan if that does end up panning out. Ruiz earning the starting nod at center would allow them to move Mason Cole out to tackle if need be; yes, that’s putting the cart before the horse, but you wouldn’t be reading this site if you weren’t a cart-before-horse-putter now and then. Thankfully, Ruiz went to IMG Academy. IMG has a number of games on the youtubes, and a week without hockey to GBGA presents a perfect opportunity to take an every-snap look at the nation’s composite best overall center.
I couldn’t find a full game where Ruiz was lined up across from a DI nose tackle, but the Cetennial game cut-up below does feature a two-star 3-4 DE in BYU commit Seleti Fevaleaki. On top of that, the game itself was incredible. It was a true shootout, with the teams practically trading touchdowns and extra points until there were just 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter. IMG converted on 3rd-and-16 with a 38-yard heave into the end zone; they then decided to go for the two-point conversion (and likely win). They converted, Centennial’s Hail Marys fell short, and IMG held on in a fashion befitting the teams that would end the season ranked third (IMG) and eighth (Centennial) nationally in USA Today’s HS poll.
A couple weeks after Dave and I saw Brandon Peters's stellar game against Ben Davis in person, Peters played a televised game against Brownsburg, which featured their own star quarterback in 2017 five-star Hunter Johnson. Peters led Avon to a blowout victory with a virtuoso performance, completing 20/28 passes for 335 yards (12.0 YPA), six touchdowns, and an interception on a great throw that was ripped out of his receiver's hands in the end zone.
Here's every throw from that game save for a two-minute portion that wasn't in the full game video—we're missing a touchdown pass, but everything else is there.
The first two throws on the reel display one of Peters's best characteristics: his ability to adjust his throws depending on the situation. At the 0:10 mark, with a receiver—one who'd drop a hard-thrown, catchable ball later in the game—open underneath for a first down, Peters makes an easy toss in a spot where the receiver can easily secure it, turn, and get some YAC. Seeing that throw in a vacuum might make you question Peters's arm strength, but on the next play he uncorks an inch-perfect deep ball down the sideline for a touchdown.
Peters displays solid pocket presence. He's athletic enough to elude free rushers while still keeping his eyes downfield, though he can occasionally do that to a fault—0:59 is a example of this going right, and the very next clip, in which Peters fumbles because he holds the ball too long and doesn't sense the pressure behind him, shows how it can sometimes go very wrong.
Otherwise, there's little to critique. Peters gets the ball out quickly and accurately, puts the ball in spots that maximize YAC, and shows off excellent arm strength when he has to—see the throw 3:58 for evidence. While his mechanics aren't perfect—he fades off to the side a little on that throw—there's nothing in there that can't be fixed rather easily, especially by coaches the caliber of Harbaugh and Fisch.
While we still have some time left to kill before football, there's some leftover football sitting right there on the YouTubes, and some of that leftover football features future Michigan players. With more high school games being uploaded in full these days, we're going to be doing more single-game film breakdowns here, starting today with last year's game between DePaul Catholic, featuring 2016 signees Kareem Walker and Michael Dwumfour, and Bergen Catholic.
DePaul fell 15-13 in a tightly contested game, and they may have pulled out the win if Walker hadn't sat out most of the first quarter for undisclosed reasons. He managed to break the 100-yard barrier anyway. Here are all of his carries from the game edited into one video:
As we learned during his late-cycle rankings plunge, Walker isn't a no-doubt prospect like Leonard Fournette—the eye-popping runs are largely absent from his highlight tape. Seeing him work over the course of a full game, however, improved my perception of Walker. His vision was very good, and he does subtle things that will become more apparent on the next level; I love the way he patiently set up his blocks like he did at the 0:55 mark.
Walker's acceleration is solid when he picks his spot to go. While he runs upright in the open field, he does a good job of getting behind his pads to get through tackles at the point of attack, and he uses his off-arm well to shed arm-tackles from defensive backs. When it gets down to it, he finds a way to get upfield. He's not the most explosive back, nor is he the most powerful—he could definitely add some muscle in his lower half—but I like his potential to be a productive college back; the instincts that Michigan's backs have often lacked of late are present in Walker.
As for Dwumfour, he mostly played right defensive tackle, and he's relatively easy to pick out in these clips—he's the only DePaul D-lineman wearing white gloves and white cleats/spats. Before posting this video, a caveat: this is every snap I could get a clear view from Dwumfour (all but 6-8 snaps he was out there, best I could tell), so don't look at this the same way you'd look at a highlight reel—a highlight reel would contain maybe three or four of these plays.
Let's start here: this was a rough game. Dwumfour has a bad habit of bolting upright after the snap, and in this game his opponents capitalized by stonewalling him again and again—there are a couple plays on which he literally gets turned around 180 degrees after the snap (and one more that didn't make the video because ESPN cut to the play too late). On a down-to-down basis, he wasn't very good—he didn't have the strength or motor to overcome his obvious lack of technique.
Of course, Michigan isn't recruiting Dwumfour to be the player he was in high school, and you can see flashes of why they took him that aren't "is best friends with Rashan Gary." Dwumfour has a quick first step and a couple of moves that can get him into the backfield in a hurry. When he does fire out low, he moves people, but he doesn't appear to have much technique that would allow him to disengage—something that can be corrected.
It's not surprising to me that Dwumfour was a generic three-star. He's a big body with athleticism, but there's a lot of work to do to get him to the point where he can contribute at the Power 5 level. Michigan shouldn't need him to be an instant-impact guy, and that's for the best; I'm not sure he'll be ready to play more than scattered snaps for a couple years.