Finishing out the series looking back on the 2009 recruiting class, here's a look at the non-quarterback offensive players, as described in Brian's recruiting posts of yore. But first...
My Bad, Cam
While I remembered to include then-OL, future-NT Quinton Washington on the defensive side of the ball, I forgot to do the same for Cam Gordon, the future defensive positional nomad who came to Michigan with most recruiting services considering him a wide receiver. As Gordon's recruitment wore on, it became more clear that his best spot may actually be in the defensive back seven, and thus we got one of the odder player comps I've seen:
Jason Avant, or maybe Prescott Burgess
Why Avant or Burgess? Bulky 6'2" wide receiver who will push 215 and lacks deep speed == Avant. Rangy linebacker who needs to put on 20 pounds, switch positions (sort of) and probably struggle with the mental part of being a college linebacker for a while == Burgess.
Free safety wasn't mentioned, because only an insane, desperate person would put a player matching that profile on the last line of defen--AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIGGGGHHHHHH. (Thank you, Denard, forever and always.)
Gordon ended his career as a backup outside linebacker and situational defensive end. Fire Tony Gibson again, just in case.
The Blue Darter
As for prospects who actually ended up at receiver, Michigan had two: consensus top-200 prospect Je'Ron Stokes, and a high school single-wing quarterback who—despite being an Army All-American—earned four-star status on just one site due to his diminutive stature.
PEAK MIXTAPE WEEZY WITH A KEVIN FEDERLINE REFERENCE.
HOW DID IT GET SO LATE SO SOON?
Though everyone pegged Jeremy Gallon as a pure slot ninja—he'd prove to be much more, obviously—the eye-opening highlights and strong Army week performance earned him plenty of hype:
Gallon is a Swiss Army knife of a player: pocket-sized, versatile, capable of surprising feats, and… uh… hard to tackle. (If you've ever tried to tackle a Swiss Army knife you know what I'm talking about. They're pointy.) It's hard to envision a scenario in which one of his diverse and sundry talents doesn't find him on the field, if not this fall than next.
Brian, I'd like to hear more about your past attempts to ... tackle ... pocket knives.
As for Stokes...
When Je'Ron Stokes committed to Michigan I was in an airport about to board a plane for Egypt by way of Germany, and as soon as he did I logged off and forgot all about him. Ever since when something reminds me of that commitment, it's like a weird bonus: oh, yeah, that universally-praised wide receiver in the class I never remember. He's like a ghost recruit.
From 2008-09, I worked as an intern at The Wolverine, and one of my primary tasks during football season was posting the stats of Michigan's commits each week. A back from Ohio's Division V Youngstown Liberty by the name of Fitzgerald Toussaint committed a few months before I got that job, so week after week that fall I'd look up his stats, bug out my eyes, and get incrementally more excited for him to see the field at U-M:
Fitzgerald Toussaint, Youngstown Liberty: Senior RB and Michigan recruit went over 250 yards for the seventh week in a row in a 33-28 win over Hubbard. After generating 16 yards on four carries in the first half, Toussaint erupted for 235 yards in the second half and scored two TDs. He has 1,950 yards in eight games.
He'd finish the season with over 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns. Between those numbers and his excellently soundtracked highlights, I thought he'd be the next great Michigan running back:
That wasn't to be, at least in large part for reasons outside his control, but when remembering where Toussaint came from...
It wasn't all flowers and 90-yard touchdowns for Toussaint, though. His dad—also named Fitzgerald Toussaint—ended up in jail after stabbing his ex-wife's boyfriend… at a football scrimmage. Nasty business.
...I'd say 32 career starts, graduating from U-M, and getting a shot to make an NFL roster constitutes a very successful college career.
Vincent Smith's profile started out with similar recounting of a tough upbringing in Pahokee, then mostly waffled between excitement about his highlights/fit in the scheme and trepidation about his size, which was the subject of an awkwardly written ESPN scouting report:
ESPN says Smith lacks size "on paper"—which uh what about real life too—and says he runs "low to the ground," as if he has a choice.
Michigan rounded out a three-man running back class with Cass Tech product Teric Jones, who recorded the fastest time at the Army combine after his junior year but didn't receive much at all in the way of recruiting hype. By the time he got to campus the coaches were already considering a position switch:
In fact, Michigan might be shooting Jones into lots of space as a slot receiver. Rodriguez said Jones was a slot receiver who "may also get reps at running back" at the signing day press conference, and Jones did have some nice receiving numbers as a junior: 24 catches for 306 yards.
Jones ended up playing special teams as a true freshman, bounced between running back and cornerback as the thin roster dictated need, then left the team and went on medical scholarship before the 2011 season after a sophomore-year knee injury.
If You Just Take Two Linemen...
...you might as well make them NFL linemen, and that's exactly what happened with U-M's 2009 O-line class of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. Lewan, especially, was quite the steal; he was a total unknown until moving from defensive line to offensive line before his senior season, then vaulted into the top 300 recruits on all three recruiting services and played in the Under Armour AA Game in his first year playing the position. Michigan had a nice in with Lewan—his teammate at Chaparral High, Craig Roh, had been committed to U-M for months when Lewan decided to also head to Ann Arbor.
While this usually doesn't happen, Lewan's high school coach ended up giving the most accurate forecast of his player's potential:
“Michigan is getting, in my opinion, the steal of this year's recruiting class in the country,” Ragle said. “I know that's a bold statement to make, (but) this kid’s ability on the field won't be questioned. He's as good an athlete on the offensive line as I've ever seen.”
"He's as good athletically as any guy I have ever coached," Ragle said. "The thing that makes him so special is his upside when you think he's only been coached at the position for about eight months. But the one intangible that's most impressive is his nastiness --Taylor wants to burry [sic] someone on every play, and you can't coach that."
On point, Coach Ragle.
Schofield's rankings were in a similar range as Lewan's after a strong senior season. What stood out about him most was his athleticism—which translated to the college game, as he seamlessly transition from being Michigan's best pulling guard to a nimble pass-protector at tackle—and considering he's now 6'7" and 300+ pounds this is rather astounding:
In his first two years at Sandburg, Schofield ran the 110 high hurdles for the Eagles’ track team, winning a conference title his freshman year and finishing second his sophomore season. He also moved up to the varsity team for the state tournament during his sophomore year, finishing sixth in sectionals.
Unfortunately, there's no video of this, as the age of someone-on-a-smartphone-will-film-literally-anything hadn't hit yet.
So, with that exercise out of the way, who's ready to go over the 2010 class?
Michigan junior receiver Je'Ron Stokes is no longer with the program, athletic department officials confirmed today.
Stokes was a touted recruit out of Philadelphia who decommitted from Tennessee in favor of Michigan after Phil Fulmer got axed, but he hardly played in his tenure. He would have been a senior next year.
Speaking of next year, here's the WR depth chart:
Actually, that's not too bad. Michigan was probably going to grab two wide receivers in this class anyway but now they absolutely have to.
Meanwhile, remember those concerns Michigan might have to push some guys out after the season to make room for the horde of new recruits? Yeah… never mind. Michigan's at 23 open slots right now with a few fifth years who are obvious candidates not to return. At this point 27 or 28 is more likely than 26.
The situation here is similar to tailback, where Michigan doesn't exactly have a proven star but they do have a ton of options. Outside, Darryl Stonum could blow up, Junior Hemingway could stay healthy, and Martavious Odoms could be a quick blockin' bugger that springs other guys to big gains. In the slot, Roy Roundtree will act as team safety blanket and any of the three guys behind him could provide the woop-gone YAC Darius Reynaud gave West Virginia. At tight end, if Kevin Koger can catch the easy ones he'll be a lethal complement to the zone read.
The bottom here isn't bad, as it consists of a ton of throws to Roundtree and decent contributions all around. The top is enticing, with silly yards per catch possible on the outside and chain-moving consistency on the inside.
Greg Mathews has graduated, a couple kids left the program over the past couple years, and Junior Hemingway is destined to be hit by a meteor in week three, so Michigan's getting creative at outside receiver by moving slot-sized slot Martavious Odoms outside. Despite Odoms' diminutive stature, this makes sense given the situation. Below you can see Odoms doing some catching and all that, but you can also see him chop much bigger guys to the ground time and again. When my Florida recruiting source said Odoms was a "tough SOB" he was not kidding:
Last year everyone was down on Odoms despite his productive freshman year (he was Michigan's leading receiver) because of a series of fumbles late, when it was cold and he was wondering how many limbs he had because he certainly couldn't feel more than two. There was a pretty terrible diary around these parts that met with a strong response. People got strained. Futures were question. It was tense.
For my part, I was "skeptical any slot would beat him out" and "bet on a lot of hurried backtracking" after the year; one half out of two ain't bad. Odoms didn't exactly get beat out but no one's wresting Roy Roundtree's job from him after he blew up in the last third of the year, and while people claiming Odoms sucks are thin on the ground these days any backtracking was steady, possibly even languorous. Fumbles were reduced but not erased as Odoms lost his punt return job to Junior Hemingway. He faded into Bolivian at the end of the year.
So he's at a crossroads. The question is how effective will Odoms be on the outside. No one really knows since all we have to go on are some vanilla scrimmages from spring and fall during which deep passes were anomalies. Things we do know:
Odoms was 16/17 on easy catches last year (presumably these were a lot of bubble screens), 4/6 on moderately tough ones, and 1/3 on very tough ones.
He was a receiver for five(!) years at Pahokee after signing up in eighth grade and has played inside and out since.
He is really short.
We don't have a lot of information about his routes, but he did smoke Indiana safety Nick Polk on that game-winning touchdown. Limited touches after were probably not his fault. He certainly had decent enough hands, though a double-clutch here and there led to frustrating incompletions on the wheel routes he ran frequently.
By moving outside, Odoms has ceded most of the screens to Kelvin Grady and Roy Roundtree and will see his per-game production drop. He'll still be involved, though how much depends more on Roundtree, Stonum, the tight ends, and the tailbacks, all of whom seem to offer either more big-play ability or reliability than a 5'8" outside receiver. Odoms is likely to finish in the middle of the Michigan receiver pack with between 20 and 30 catches.
Darryl Stonum has been something of a disappointment his first couple years. Last year the conversation in re: Stonum was largely about pages and the benefits of getting on the same one with the coaches. When it wasn't, it was about dropped balls. When the season rolled around Stonum started every game but came up with such a paucity of highlights that I've got more on Patrick Omameh, an offensive lineman who played in three games, than him. HIs stats boggle the mind: 13 catches for 199 yards, one fewer catch than he managed as a freshman. End of stats.
As a result, Stonum came up for repeated psychoanalysis in UFR, most of it focusing on his inability to adjust to balls thrown downfield. Against Eastern this happened:
This occasioned a long section about how Forcier left this short but this was the week after ND, when 1) Stonum turned a very makeable deep catch into something almost impossible by turning inside when he had five yards of room to the sideline and 2) Mike Floyd turned Michigan cornerbacks into roadkill. The resulting consternation:
I'm grabbing this just so people can maybe talk about Stonum's adjustment to this. I think it's poor. He misjudges the ball and doesn't slow up enough and turn, which would probably have led to the DB running him over and a PI call. Mike Floyd [or Braylon Edwards] catches this, right?
This persisted; after the Wisconsin game I launched the "same old complaint" when Stonum failed to adjust to a poorly-thrown deep ball and allowed it to get intercepted when he really should have been able to at least bat it down.
Receivers often take time to break out, but the really amazing ones often get there their sophomore years (Braylon, Manningham, and Howard all blew up in year two), so expectations were busily being scaled back when… my gawd, that's Rick Vaughn's music!
Yes, for the second consecutive year Michigan has discovered one of their wideout needs glasses. You'd think that after the coaches discovered one of their wideouts was secretly blind as a bat they would have declared mandatory eye exams for all, but they didn't, so the above clips happened and everyone was very sad. Now? Well, Stonum's reportedly had an outstanding fall camp:
"This is the most consistent we've had Darryl on a day-to-day basis. He's going to be a big factor for us. He's a very talented guy that has a renewed sense of hunger."
As his recruiting profile suggested and kick returns showed, he has electric speed. The coaches seem to be on the same page with him. The quarterbacks are not going to be freshmen. He can now see the damn ball. He could totally blow up, or he could rack up 20 catches and have a version of that year Steve Breaston had after Edwards graduated where it became clear to all that he just didn't have it downfield. I have no idea what it will be, which makes Stonum the offense's #1 X factor going into the season. He can swing games by himself if he lives up to the chatter. A real live deep threat in an offense helmed by Denard Robinson can be preposterous: Chris Henry averaged 25 yards a catch(!!!) his freshman year at West Virginia.
That's Stonum's best case: not that many catches, but a lot of long ones and some game-swinging touchdowns. The worst case is more of the same.
Odoms's move outside pushes Angry Michigan BLANK Hating God's favorite target to the bench, at least nominally. After Junior Hemingway missed spring ball to go along with missing most of 2008 and spending 2009 at half-speed with an array of Minor-like injuries that were just tolerable enough for him to play, it seems like the Michigan coaches finally decided they couldn't rely on him to be around long term and placed him on the bench. Since receiver's a spot at which rotation is incessant he'll get his share of time, leaving the move mostly symbolic, but it is a symbol.
Surprisingly for a guy who barely outpaced Stonum last year with 16 catches, he's got a substantial highlight reel you can see at right. He was also named "first among equals" after the Western game. It's mostly deep stuff: burning Western Michigan, exploiting Illinois over-reacting to a play, burning Illinois and then getting caught from behind, etc. As recruit his rep was an explosive leaper who lacked top-end speed—I compared him to Marquise Walker—and that has been borne out. It's tough to tell if his meh career to date is underperformance or just three years of terrible luck. If he can stay on the field he should be a solid, useful addition to the receiving corps. He's 225 pounds, which makes him a slant threat not duplicated elsewhere on the roster, and last year he was 10/10 on easy catches and 2/3 on moderate ones. His hands are good.
He should have a role and improve on his 16 catches of a year ago, although possibly not by much.
The single other outside wide receiver with any experience is sophomore Je'Ron Stokes, a six-foot guy with excellent athleticism who could have played in the slot if that wasn't already being fought over by four or five guys. Stokes was just outside of top 100 lists as a recruit. Michigan snatched him away from Tennessee after their coach implosion. The takeaway from the recruiting profile:
An electrifying game breaker with excellent speed, Stokes could use more size on his current 6’1” and 180 pound frame. He has great hands, knows how to get open, makes a lot of acrobatic catches and is terrific after the catch.
He's got a bit more size now, checking in at 193 at last report. He was another guy who blew his redshirt last year; his single highlight last year was digging out a low ball dubbed CONESTRAVAGANZA I in the late stages of the Baby Seal U game. He was injured in the spring and only came on late, but he was also pretty much absent from the fall scrimmage; another year mostly on the bench seems likely.
The third string is all freshmen. The only one to appear on the official fall depth chart was Jeremy Jackson (profile), the "lumbering" son of running backs coach Fred Jackson. Lumbering he may be but he's also the son of a coach and has the route running skills and hands you'd expect from such a gritty gritterson of a player. He'll play, likely sparingly. That should mean that classmates Ricardo Miller (profile) and Jerald Robinson (profile) are headed for redshirts.
Roy Roundtree's second catch as a Michigan Wolverine was a game-tying touchdown in the pouring rain against Michigan State. This was a good omen. Over the next few games his playing time increased, though his catches remained infrequent because he was seemingly targeted only when it was a terrible idea to do so. Then Odoms got injured. Roundtree announced his presence with that 77-yard catch-and-run against Illinois about which we will speak no more, then showed Purdue the true power of snake oil:
A good day from the receivers, and by "receivers" we mean "Roy Roundtree." The one drop didn't hurt much since it was on a screen that was going to get blown up anyway. Minor could have helped out by pulling in a low throw by Forcier, too. Other than that: Roundtree, Roundtree, Roundtree. The 1 he pulled in prevented an interception on Michigan's first drive of the day, converted a first down, and lead to a touchdown.
Plus he did this:
Martavious Odoms just saw his job come under howitzer fire. Odoms has been valuable, too, so he won't just go away, but Kelvin Grady's time just got eaten up and I think Roundtree is the starter even when Odoms is healthy. This might also presage some dual-slot formations that have been absent so far in Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan. Kid's pretty good, and quicker than you'd think given the Hawthorne incident last week.
Did I mention that Roundtree was last year's Rick Vaughn? All hail occasionally checking your receivers' vision. Someone check Denard Robinson right freakin' now.
Roundtree continued his rampage over the last two weeks of the season against Wisconsin and Ohio State, yielding this season breakdown:
First eight games: two catches, 44 yards.
Last four games: 30 catches, 390 yards.
Project the last four games over the course of a season and you get 90 catches, 1200 yards, and a season second only to Braylon Edwards's 2004 campaign in the annals of Michigan lore. So… yeah. That's probably not going to happen. But it would be pretty cool i it did, huh? More realistically, Roundtree should double his output from last year, ending up Michigan's leading receiver with 700-800 yards.
For the record, last year Roundtree was 16/16 on easy catches, 4/8 on moderately difficult ones, and brought in his only super-tough attempt of the year by wresting away a sure interception from a Purdue linebacker. He's not that big. He's pretty fast but not that fast. He's not that shifty after the catch. But he's open and he's where he's supposed to be, which is right in front of the quarterback, and he'll catch the ball. So they throw it, and he catches it, and yeah he's basically the apotheosis of the Purdue receiver.
EXCESSIVELY DRAMATIC KELVIN GRADY WALLPAPER FTW
Basketball refugee Kelvin Grady's found himself in an impressive position on the depth chart by warranting an OR with Roundtree. This represents progress; Grady's 2009 was cut short by frequent dropped balls. By Iowa one was enough to yank him or the game. Late in the year UFR noted that nine of the twelve flat drops on the year had been turned in by the tight ends and Grady. After the Illinois game, Roundtree was contrasted with Grady because when Roundtree "is thrown a ball that hits him in the hands it does not fall to the ground." You get the idea: hands not so good.
That's perhaps understandable after Grady thought he'd left football behind for good when he signed up to play point guard for Tommy Amaker. After two years on the basketball team he found himself behind walk-on, read the writing on the wall, and picked up the cleats again. The rust was evident.
But Grady just keeps making plays in practice. That was the reason he was given the opportunity to drop those balls early in the year even with Odoms in front of him and Roundtree nipping at his heels, and the reason he's listed as a co-starter on the depth chart despite Roundtree's stunning end of year breakout. He featured in more "Countdown to Kickoff" highlights than any other non-quarterback; in the fall scrimmage he certainly looked like a top-level option, once taking a reverse from Robinson to score on a one-play, 30-yard drive. A review of his high school highlights reveals the sort of explosive agility that Michigan's other slots seem to lack:
As a bonus, since he was a high school running back he'll be better suited to those spread 'n' shred plays where a slot receiver motions into the backfield to become a second running back. It's hard to imagine Roy Roundtree doing that, so adding Grady to the rotation adds pages to the playbook. He'll see time, and could even supplant Roundtree as the preferred destination for quick screens… if the hands come around.
The backup story remains the same, except older. Terrence Robinson's first two seasons at Michigan have resulted in an injury redshirt and one catch for 13 yards against Baby Seal U. He was fairly prominent in spring and fall, though not nearly as much as Grady was, and is in competition for the punt return job. His problem has always been hands—he was mostly a QB/RB in high school—and that's prevented him from seeing the field. With two guys in front of him it seems like it will be another season spent watching. He'll probably get some real playing time when Grady is tired and Michigan is looking for their slot to be one of those RB/WR flex guys in the mold of Dorrell Jalloh.
Freshman Jeremy Gallon (profile) took a redshirt last year after arriving late because of some academic issues. He should find the field some this year but reports from practice suggest that Gallon did not put in the same sort work some of the other wideouts did and that this will hamper his playing time. Also an issue is a foot issue that isn't severe enough to keep him out of practice but does warrant walking around campus in a boot.
Gallon was a (figuratively) big recruit from a couple years ago, a one-time member of the Rivals 100 and solid performer at the Army Bowl who is by far the most guru-approved of any Michigan slot receiver. With two older and more established options in front of him, his best chance for playing time will be taking return duties away from Odoms.
Kevin Koger started the year off in Braylon Edwards fashion by reeling in 3/4 passes rated 2 (difficult but makeable) and 3/4 rated 1 (great googly moogly). He then finished the year off in Braylon Edwards fashion by dropping every routine ball that came his way. The result was schizophrenic: by the end of the year Koger was 7/10 on tough catches… and 7/11 on easy ones. Matters came to a head against Penn State:
Koger's great start came to a clunky halt with an 0/3 day, and no one really helped out except for the running backs. Forcier's day wasn't good, but it wasn't as bad as the numbers suggest.
He added another "bad drop" against Illinois. That and backup Martell Webb's similarly frustrating hands is part of the reason Roy Roundtree blew up in the last three games.
Koger did not exactly bounce back from this over the offseason, dropping a couple passes in the fall scrimmage and being conspicuously absent from offseason chatter both above- and underground. With depth at slot looking healthy, the entire tight end position could see itself minimized if they don't perform.
There's a good chance they will, though, with all three players returning. Koger himself is entering his true junior season; as a highly sought recruit with a year and a half of starting experience under his belt he should improve considerably. The downers from last season do consist of four dropped passes, after all. Two fewer and everyone's talking about how it will be pick your poison underneath. Small sample size disclaimers apply. When you look at the stuff at right it's hard to envision a guy with that much talent finding himself minimized, especially when Denard-related freakouts see him hand-wavingly wide open frequently.
Senior Martell Webb has seen the most playing time to date. He was an infrequent target a year ago. The quarterbacks threw him six passes, one of which was uncatchable and the rest routine. He was only 3/5 on those routine balls, possibly explaining why he wasn't targeted on them more often. He put on 12 pounds from last fall to spring, then took a couple off during the summer and is now a solid 255.
Koger's blocking has been iffy, and while Webb didn't stick out in my memory as a crusher all but one of the clips at left are positive run blocks: he's likely to be the choice when Michigan goes to its I package. Unless he has an epiphany about having the ball in his hands (and Koger doesn't) his receiving stats are going to look a lot like they did last year. Throwing it to him is plan G when you've got three receivers, guys like Vincent Smith coming out of the backfield, and a considerably more dynamic starter at tight end. Webb's a fullback, basically.
The third and final scholarship tight end on the roster is redshirt sophomore Brandon Moore. He was a highly touted recruit with loads of offers when he committed to Michigan early in the hybrid Carr/Rodriguez class, but then dropped off with an indifferent senior year. Since his arrival he's been locked behind Koger and Webb—the only clip I have of him is a catch against Baby Seal U. Without any buzz otherwise, that will likely continue this year.
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WTKA-in'.My appearance on WTKA in one section thanks to Paul. John U Bacon is the host, as he often is, and the third guy in the booth is Wayne Drehs of ESPN.com, who's in town for the year on a Knight-Wallace fellowship. You should skip to six minutes in because the first caller goes forever.
Bonus: I'll be on WJR today at 5:15 with Mitch Albom.
I'm also scheduled for a Thursday appearance on WRIF, a Saturday morning appearance on WJR, and I will be rocking it at WCBN on a regular basis this fall.
For the record. You could attempt to deal with the specific points and accusations leveled by this here blog, or you could try to paint the author here as an anonymous internet nutjob and avoid any substantive discussion. The Free Press chooses Door Number B, link omitted for obvious reasons:
Twitter is also being used to pass links to the petition as well as share links to mgoblog.com, which has emerged as a go-to place for displaced U-M fans who have given up on the Free Press.
In a blog post on Monday, the site said traffic was temporarily crashing the server.
The Michigan fan blog has branded its coverage of the Free Press report as "Jihad the second," alluding to a holy war on the behalf of Islam.
Most of the posts are written by someone who identifies himself as Brian.
No contact information is given.
I don't know, guys… is the link that says "contact" on top of the blog too obscure? I know it's not huge and red and blinking. For the record, I identify myself as "Brian" because that is my name. My last name is Cook. I even have a bunch of biographical details up. My email address—which plenty of people seem able to find—is [email protected]. If you click the link, it will email me.
Detroit Lions rookie Carson Butler, who played at Michigan, said he didn't think players had to do a lot more work for Rodriguez last year when compared with previous seasons under Lloyd Carr.
"It was just a different structure," Butler said.
Butler said it didn't seem as if the players were forced to spend excessive time training and practicing.
"I don't know all of the exact rules, but I don't remember anything that seemed like it was too much," Butler said. "If the weight room was open, you went. If there was a run, you went. It's just what you do to be a better football player."
I… you… how? What? I can't comprehend this. If Carson Butler, who was basically told to enter the NFL draft because he was not welcome back, has Rodriguez's back here, I need to find anyone who will take bets on Michigan picking up a major violation and put the farm on "nay."
"My wife [Juanita] and I talk to Je'Ron every day. We follow him through the internet, by phone, and we've been up there on a couple of occasions," he said. "We spent an entire Thursday through Monday up there, and I'd see guys voluntarily go into that weight room on Sunday and Saturday and put in extra work.
"I know [the allegations] are not true, because I know how [strength coach] Mike Barwis cares for these kids. He's taken my son to bible study and to church. These are the kinds of things that impress us about the program and Rich Rod and his staff. They are good people, and I hate the fact that every negative thing put out there brings the wrong perception to the Michigan program.
University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez is being sued for defaulting on a real-estate loan to build high-end condominiums in the shadows of Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium.
Rodriguez's financial advisor says he's the "victim of a real-estate Ponzi scheme," FWIW.
Recycle. I'm sure Tim will cover this in Tuesday Recruitin' but it's worth a mention here, too: Devin Gardner's bounced up to the #53 player in the Rivals 100, which makes him the #1 QB in the country of any variety. This is where I remind you that MGoBlog got swank HD video of Gardner from Saturday's Inkster-Pioneer game. Yes, we are going to link this until everyone who reads this blog watches the video.
Back and forth. I never actually got around to addressing the ethics of the whole Rodriguez thing, instead choosing to focus on the potential penalties and overall picture, and now I don't have to because the WLA has a couple of articles on the thing that cover it. CFaller's is required reading:
Workouts are voluntary, but so is playing time” is not, in my e-pinion, a wink and a nod to the NCAA rules, but an actual credo embraced by most of these kids. The way I see it the coaches don’t say this as a way to force kids into “volunteering” for workout, but rather to remind them of the environment they are part of.
When Je'Ron Stokes committed to Michigan I was in an airport about to board a plane for Egypt by way of Germany, and as soon as he did I logged off and forgot all about him. Ever since when something reminds me of that commitment, it's like a weird bonus: oh, yeah, that universally-praised wide receiver in the class I never remember. He's like a ghost recruit.
So it's ironic that Stokes is one of the best-scouted and most-well-known players in the class. He first burst onto the scene as a sophomore, when he started hitting camps and killing them:
Stokes, 6-foot-1 and 171-pounds, was named the MVP, with a 28-inch vertical, 8’8” broad, 4.49 shuttle, 4.62 40, 21 reps at 150-pounds, and a number of circus catches during 1-on-1’s.
From appearances he went to virtually every camp within reasonable driving distance of Philadelphia, establishing his athletic bonafides time and again. It's gotten to the point where people in Pennsylvania name-check Stokes when they're trying to hype up their own kids:
Harrigan said of Jackson: "…for my money, not even that kid from Northeast [Tennessee-commit Je'Ron Stokes] has anything on Malik when it comes to athleticism."
This familiarity led to an avalanche of early offers. By the time he committed to Tennessee he had a boatload of major ones:
Stokes had offers from all over the map, including UCLA, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, N.C. State, Oklahoma and Rutgers.
Penn State and Notre Dame were also on that list; later Georgia would try to get involved. Oddly, Rich Rodriguez's offer gun would skip Stokes until a few days after his commitment. This would become relevant when Phil Fulmer went out the door, Lane Kiffin entered, and Tajh Boyd got cut loose. Understandably leery of Tennessee's quarterback situation, Stokes re-opened his recruiting, focused on Penn State, Michigan, Illinois, and picked Michigan on signing day. Divers alarums.
Ghost recruit can play. ESPN was extremely enthused, saying he's a "really good football player, no matter how you slice it" and ranking him well within their top 100. Details:
He's a high-motor player who is aggressive in everything he does. Always seems to be going full speed. Has very good height and a wiry build that can take on additional bulk and get stronger. Has exceptional foot quickness and appears faster than he is. He's sudden, shifty and explosive. May not be a true burner, but his long speed is very good. Can line up outside or in the slot, where he shows very good zone awareness. Knows how to find open holes, settle in soft spots and work the intermediate zones. Has the quickness and acceleration to separate from man-to-man coverage. He's very explosive out of the break. Shows soft hands and plucks with ease on the run. He's a very good leaper who can elevate to high-point the ball and make difficult catches in traffic. Has the ability to threaten defenses vertically because he reaches his top speed so quickly. Works the middle of the field a lot as a slot receiver and shows some toughness.
ESPN does provide some notes of caution about route-running, but yow! The Pittsburgh Sports Reportechoes:
An electrifying game breaker with excellent speed, Stokes could use more size on his current 6’1” and 180 pound frame. He has great hands, knows how to get open, makes a lot of acrobatic catches and is terrific after the catch.
"Great hands" was a descriptor I came across with regularity during this googlestalk. Another example, this from a major combine where Stokes took home the offensive MVP:
Stokes, from Philadelphia (Pa.) Northeast, was dominant in the one-on-one drills, showing off his excellent route-running, quickness in and out of his cuts and great hands en route to his award. It didn't matter what route he ran, he was smooth, got separation and caught any ball within reach.
When the ball is in the air he has what scouts like to call ownership of the ball. It is his and his alone. He uses solid leaping abiliy, good hands and tremendous body control to make tough catches in traffic.
Though Stokes is slightly less well-regarded on the other major sites, he started off around the same level on Scout, where he was a five-star at one point, and Rivals, where he was in the top 50, before a steady drop over the course of his senior season. Why? I couldn't find any explanations, except a mention in that Athlon article about Stokes playing mostly defense towards the end of the year.
I did get an email from a reader who had corresponded with a local preps guy not fond of the shift key who was not a fan, claiming his average per catch—around 10—to be lowest among city leaders and citing a lack of willingness to go over the middle. The guy's opinion seemed heavily biased by dislike of the family, though, and I don't put much stock into the scouting prowess of one bitter guy with no track record versus, you know, everyone else.
Where will he play? Maybe the slot. Maybe on the outside. In this AMP video prompted by Stokes' early commit to Tennessee, Rivals' Mike Farrell projects him as a slot receiver and has high praise for his abilities:
Stokes is a guy capable of turning the short gain into a big play. His lateral quickness and good feet give him great change-of-direction. He also possesses excellent speed. When he makes the first defender miss and gets a seam, he can take it the distance.
In Michigan's signing day press conference Rodriguez suggested that Michigan would use Stokes both in the slot and on the outside; that flexibility will help him see playing time early. In the long term, Stokes will probably settle into one spot or the other based on the receivers around him.
And now, here's Pat Summerall not being even slightly hyperbolic:
HE'S TAKING OVER THE CITY. HE RUNS A 4.3. SEND IN MOTHRA.
Why Mario Manningham? Stokes ended up a bit lower on Scout and Rivals but ESPN and a wide array of ancillary ratings ranked Stokes around where Manningham was. Stokes is about the same size and is praised for his ability to make catches in traffic, plus his athleticism. What about that slot stuff? Well, remember that Citrus Bowl when Michigan came out in the spread and Manningham jetted all over the field taking handoffs and darting from place to place? Yeah. Manningham could have been a slot in this offense, too.
Guru Reliability: High. Stokes participated in every camp he possibly could and made an All-Star game appearance. If there's anyone in the class the recruiting services are intimately familiar with it's him. General Excitement Level: High. Stokes has the offers, the ratings, and the praise. Also, the scratchy voice seems like rich material for RBUAS, should Johnny emerge from hibernation. Projection: Where he starts will depend more on Jeremy Gallon's SAT score—about which I know nothing, to forestall the inevitable questions—than anything Stokes does. If Gallon makes it, Stokes will probably slide outside and fight for a spot on the second unit behind Mathews and Hemingway or Stonum. If he doesn't, he'll probably shoot it out with the slots. Either way, a redshirt is a 50-50 proposition:
"They never promised him that he would start or anything," Ronald Stokes said. "But they said that if he came in and did the things that he's capable of doing, there would be a good shot that he would not be redshirted the first year.
The last couple days have been a weird rollercoaster for Michigan fans debased enough to get really into recruiting like yrs truly. Denard Robinson, Adrian Witty, and Je'Ron Stokes were supposed to be in the bag; the defensive tackle recruits were anyone's guess, Quinton Washington was probably staying home, and Sam Montgomery was a longshot.
Then yesterday Stokes and Robinson were thrown into considerable doubt, Montgomery cut us, the defensive tackle recruits seemed gone, and everyone wanted to slit their wrists—which is completely ridiculous, I know, but it's not like I was immune. It made me morose; I concentrated on other things, like who you should root for down the stretch in college hockey. Recruiting: it's like herpes for your brain.
Today, Washington overturns the conventional wisdom and picks Michigan, both defensive tackle recruits seemed likely to stay—until recently, about which more in a bit—and what tide you can pick out in the chaos of information on Stokes and Robinson now appears to be trending positive. I've scoured message boards of a half-dozen teams, assimilated all the conflicting information flying around, and if you put a gun to my head and made me predict what was going to happen tomorrow it would look like this:
Pearlie Graves: Michigan
Adrian Witty: Michigan
Denard Robinson: Michigan
DeQuinta Jones: Arkansas
Je'Ron Stokes: Michigan
Awesome! Oh no… what's that? It's horrible! It's orange! It reminds me of a phallus!
Not so fast, my friend! My confidence level in all those predictions save the one on Adrian Witty, about whom there appears to be little controversy, is incredibly low. Each of the four-stars have, intentionally or not, created a perfect aura of uncertainty about them. At some point in the last couple days I would have predicted every one of them to Not Michigan. The god of recruiting is Loki, and these men are his perfect minions. Should be a fun day tomorrow.
“I could change my mind, but I’m leaning towards Arkansas. I’ll make a final decision (Wednesday),” said Jones, who took an official visit to Auburn in addition to Arkansas, Tennessee and Michigan. “Basically, I like everything about Arkansas. I really like the coaching staff.”
If Jones has an 11th-hour change of heart, Tennessee would appear to have the inside track. “I want to play SEC ball,” Jones said. “That’s what I grew up watching.”
So, yeah, that's not good. Also, if you think Rueben Randle was close with Ramgod you have to check this out:
Mark of the beast! Mark of the beast!
Denard Robinson. Robinson saw a huge surge in Florida optimism that ended with Florida, apparently, getting the boot. Luke Stampini of soflafootball.com thinks it's M:
Denard RobinsonDeerfield Beach: Looks to be down to Michigan, Florida, and Kansas State. I think he chooses the Wolverines, but the Gators’ odds seem to be improving as time goes by.
Given the massive Florida surge followed by the implosion that's not the latest and greatest info, but it's still pretty recent. Most indicators here have returned to good. (HT: VB.)
Je'Ron Stokes. Well… let's just say the impression I've got is that when Stokes hung out with Will Campbell at the AA game they swapped ideas on how to cause the most heart attacks amongst internet nerds. Mission accomplished, gentlemen.
"He's going to sign with somebody," Martin said. "We knew some of the these issues going in and I was told that there's a possibility they could hold a scholarship for him once everything got straightened out. Now, everything's changing."
Michigan, Cinci, Kentucky, and NC State now comprise Carradine's short list. If Illinois cut him loose because they didn't think he could make the grade it seems doubtful Michigan will leap on him*, but if he's sitting out there after signing day—which looks likely—and Michigan's sitting around with an unused scholarship or two—which also looks likely—Michigan could sign him in the hopes he makes it in. They could use another DE in the class.
*(No slight to Illinois intended; Big Ten minimums are Big Ten minimums, is all.)
It's near signing day so the news is a bit more likely to expire before I can throw it at you so how about a special pre-weekend recruitin' blast? We established baseline expectations going into the final week of recruiting on Monday, so consider any unmentioned recruit to be status quo.
I've ceased updating the board, as it will be obsolete in under a week. Anyway, the changes:
The vibes on PA WR Je'Ron Stokes continue to be very good. The latest bit of public information comes from Bill Kurelic:
Stokes says he will decide between Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois and Georgia, but speculation has him changing his commitment from the Volunteers to the Wolverines when he announces his final decision next week.
Stokes may take a visit to Georgia this weekend but that's up in the air. Penn State is out, leaving Michigan geographically best situated; Tennessee's quarterback situation also has Stokes a bit leery. There have been a lot of favorable indicators here, like Tennessee message boards basically writing him off. Signs point to huzzah.
The status of the Deerfield Beach duo of FL QB Denard Robinson and FL CB Adrian Witty is also nearing consensus. The Wolverine's Josh Helmholdt:
Robinson, a quarterback, and Witty, a cornerback, are good friends off the field and want to attend the same school together. Only Michigan and Kansas State have offered both. Florida is also a contender for Robinson, but this one looks like it will go in Michigan’s favor.
[Robinson] is a game changer who will be a big-time player (although maybe not at the QB position) on the next level. While Florida is still in play here, I feel like it is more likely that Robinson will end up at Kansas State or Michigan on National Signing Day.
At this point it's fair to say that Robinson and Witty going somewhere else would be something of a shock. Not quite as much as "Beaver to Conference USA," but, hey, whatever.
(There is one dissenter, but given the tidal wave of opinion going against this guy I bet dollars to donuts that he's just out of the loop.)
Washington has cut Clemson and Tennessee and will make his decision from USC, Michigan and Miami. USC and Michigan are the top two but he will visit Miami this weekend.
His coach seems to think it's tight:
"Michigan and South Carolina have done an outstanding job recruiting him. I wouldn't want to be him right now."
South Carolina message boards are considerably more chipper about Washington than UT boards are about Stokes, FWIW. (For perspective: "OMG he's ours" is the standard position of all message boards and should be taken as an absence of good news rather than a presence of bad news.)
Stock Stubbornly Immobile, Like Gene Keady's Hair
LA DT DeQuinta Jonestook his official and, like many southern kids, was surprised he was not eaten by a polar bear:
“Snow was piled up everywhere,” said Jones, who verbally committed to the Wolverines over the summer. “But it really wasn’t that cold to me.”
One of the highlights of the trip for the handful of recruits was getting to pay a visit to coach Rich Rodriguez’s home. “We went to coach Rodriguez’s house and played pool,” Jones said. “It’s a three-story mansion.”Overall, Jones says his visit, “went real good.”
Prognosis remains the same here: likely but not definitely Michigan.
SC DE Sam Montgomery has cut Oregon from his list but the buzz on this one is pointing to North Carolina, they of the overflowing class and few spots. ESPN's JC Shurburtt says Michigan also trails another school:
While it's still a situation where anything could happen, several reliable sources have said that the recruitment of Under Armour All-American defensive end Sam Montgomery (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood) focuses on three programs: North Carolina, LSU and Michigan. Most believe the Tar Heels and Tigers to be the frontrunners.
There's still a chance here but it's a slim one unless UNC DL coach John Blake gets hired by the Jets. Blake has just shot down those rumors.
LA LB Barkevious Mingo is taking a visit to… uh… UConn this weekend. That's probably not relevant. Also probably not relevant: Michigan in Mingo's recruitment. OH OL Marcus Hall has basically dropped Michigan, as expected.
LA WR Travante Stallworth reconfirmed his commitment to Auburn; he's out. LA DE Benny Logan got his LSU offer and committed.
A 2010 Item
Lest you think that FL WR commit Ricardo Miller is not big time:
This morning, Miller picked up a scholarship offer from LSU. This afternoon, Alabama faxed a written scholarship offer to his school. He is firm to the Wolverines.
That's pre-signing day offers from Alabama, LSU, Florida, and, of course, Michigan. Ricardo Miller is big time.
For the first time in more than 20 years, Michigan State could have a recruiting class better than Michigan's.
Scout ranks Michigan's class #16; State is sitting at #35. Rivals ranks Michigan's class #7 and State's #15. As mentioned above, Michigan looks to add three or four highly rated players before signing day. State is basically done. In no way is this assertion accurate except in the mind of Tom Lemming, who is creepy.
Removed LA WR Kenny Bell (once again solid to LSU), FL DE Alex Williams (we out), FL CB Jayron Hosley(dropped by M), NC OL Travis Bond (UNC), AL LB Tana Patrick (dropped us), MS S Dennis Thames (MSST), FL LB Mike Marry (not visiting). Added LA QB Brandon Mitchell, then immediately removed him because he committed to Arkansas. Thanks for nothing, buddy! (omg jk)
Many, many guys go off the board this week and a few of them hurt:
MS S Dennis Thames failed to escape the mighty gravitational pull of the Black Hole of Starkville.
NC OL Travis Bond decided to cram into North Carolina's phone booth.
FL CB Jayron Hosley, well…
Okay, on Hosley. He visits USF, says he's basically going to USF, and now isn't even visiting. The reason is odd:
It appears Michigan and Ohio State have told Hosley they are full at cornerback, and no longer have room for him in their respective classes.
That could be cover. Michigan might not want to bother paying for a visit for a guy who's all but stated he's going to South Florida. But OH CB Mike Williams of Glenville apparently doesn't have a M offer, either. What? Michigan's got one excellent corner in each of the last three classes but these days you need four or five competent corners to deal with four- and five-wide offenses. Corner is definitely not full, but M is acting like it.
If they've got silent commits from FL CB Adrian Witty and FL QB/ATH/CB Denard Robinson, okay, they're full. But, uh… AFAIK most think Robinson is still ticketed for Florida. I don't get this.
Rivals has put out their final rankings for the year, and with them comes the usual celebration and rage. A summary:
Campbell and Lewan were basically static; Schofield, Forcier, Gordon, and Toussaint all fell about ten spots because they didn't participate in all-star games. (They didn't necessarily get downgraded, but several players were impressive and flew up the board, necessitating small drops for those who would otherwise remain in place.
Those changes are basically in line with expectations, if a little less enthusiastic than Michigan fans might like. Turner's leap up the board is the most impressive move, as that's rarefied air he's approaching. He's two spots away from five stars.
Slightly disappointing: OH LB Isaiah Bell didn't get that fourth star we thought he might after showing well at the UA game.
It's hard to call either LA DT DeQuinta Jones or OK DT Pearlie Graves commitments anymore given what they've been doing lately: taking visits and talking up other schools. Jones stopped in at Auburn last weekend and now lists Arkansas, Auburn, and Oklahoma along with Michigan. Jones visits Michigan on the last recruiting weekend, so they've got a chance to re-sell him. But, uh:
"It [the trip to Arkansas] exceeded my expectations," said Jones, 6-4, 302, 4.9, who orally committed to Michigan last summer. "The weight room was 110 yards long; it was fantastic. I liked the stadium and the academic center. I loved everything."
"I might wait until signing day and surprise a lot of people." Jones said.
This is not much of a commitment.
Also Wavering, But Wavering For Justice!
Michigan is no stranger to the recruit piracy game, of course, and they're taking shots at a number of receivers who are technically committed elsewhere. One is LA WR Travante Stallworth, the military kid who's still committed to Auburn but open to a couple other schools. He took a visit to M two weeks ago and last week it was South Carolina's turn:
"My trip to South Carolina went well," Stallworth said. "I spent a lot of time with Coach (Steve) Spurrier and his son, who is the offensive coordinator. They want me to come in and replace Kenny McKinley, who was their all-time leading receiver there. They told me I could play the slot and get the ball on screens and use my speed."
Compare that to his quote on Michigan from the same article…
"At Michigan, it was different than any other college campus I've ever been to," he continued. "They have outstanding facilities and the academics are top of the line. Coach (Rich) Rodriguez wants me to come in as a slot receiver and even said I could try quarterback. If it didn't work out, I could switch to receiver. They just want to get the ball in my hands in the open field."
…and it sounds like South Carolina isn't the choice. Auburn is a more significant hurdle than they were before, though, with the hiring of Gus Malzahn, and will get a shot at convincing him to stick next weekend. That's his last visit.
Another is PA WR Je'Ron Stokes, a nominal Tennessee commit also considering Michigan, Illinois, and maybe Penn State. He visited Michigan this weekend. Quote:
"It went good," Stokes said. "It was definitely a fun trip. I didn't know what to expect. I hadn't been to Ann Arbor or Michigan. I got all my questions answered."
Then parse this one closely:
"After Tennessee I don't know who would be next," Stokes said when asked who his second choice is. "It is between Illinois, Michigan, Penn State and Georgia. I'll announce on signing day at my school. I want to do it around noon."
Given Stokes' earlier comments about Tennessee I think that's more a "…but I'm still committed" statement than a real claim that UT is most likely to sign him.
FL WR Willie Haulstead is committed to Florida State but took a Michigan visit and may end up signing with Michigan; Helmholdt says Michigan is still "very much in contention," continuing a recent trend of vague optimism in his recruitment.
Haulstead's commitment may not be honored by Florida State for an unpleasant reason (at least for Seminole fans): increased scholarship reduction stemming from the department-wide cheating scandal that engulfed Florida State before their bowl game last year. Tomahawk Nation and Scott Carter theorize thusly:
AC would not be surprised to see the scholarship losses double from 5 over 2 years to 10 or so over 3 years.
We told you about this last week. Carter and I probably share similar sources on this, though I can't be sure. As previously reported, Carter and I agree on the certainty of increased scholarship reductions.
(IMO, Florida State would be within their rights here to pull an offer from Haulstead since his "commitment" is obviously not that strong and he took a visit elsewhere; this would be something different than South Carolina yanking an offer from an already-committed player.)
Florida State's already got two other wide receiver commits in the class, and before Willie Downs lit up the Army game as a cornerback most also considered him a wideout. WR would be an obvious place from which to cut.
Finally, GA WR/TE Terrell Mitchell isn't a decommit but he is a wideout so we'll stick him here. Tworeports have him visiting; I've put him on the board.
Okay, so Bond is gone and two major targets remain on the line.
OH OL Marcus Hall of Glenville made quite a ruckus when he visited Michigan after months of waffling and then named M his leader. I'm still not quite sure how to take it, but I think this from longtime Ohio State insider-type guy Unionfutura is about right:
The biggest problem is he already took his visit to OSU, to me all this means when Marcus hits the south on his recruiting swing those teams will trash Michigan more. I still think he'll end up a buckeye. We'll know more after the Miami trip. If Michigan's still his leader after Miami then we're in trouble.
Co-sign from the opposite perpsective.
SC OL Quinton Washington also visited South Carolina this weekend. The resulting quote:
Washington has been strong on USC for several months.
“I can’t say they’re No. 1, but they will be in my top group when I finish my visits,” Washington said. “I really do like it. It’s just a great place to be.”
South Carolina is presumed to be the top competition for the quiet Washington; I don't think that provides any illumination either way.
SC DE Sam Montgomeryvisited North Carolina—still inexplicably not full—this weekend. His mom provides a quote:
"We're still taking visits and he has not make a commitment,' Mrs. Montgomery said. "We were very impressed with the Carolina business school and facilities. We enjoyed spending time with coach Davis and coach Blake. Everybody was friendly and very enjoyable. The accomodations were first rate."
That's not "two steps ahead of everyone else" but it's also not the loquacious Montgomery. The quote from mama Montgomery does highlight one tough thing to overcome for Michigan: she did not come on the trip to Ann Arbor. Montgomery has a busy week ahead, with LSU on the weekend, a midweek trip to Oregon, and a final visit to Tennessee.
Etc.: LA LB Barkevious Mingovisits LSU, doesn't say much, still presumed to be Tiger lock.
Big official visit weekend coincided with 8-12 inches of snow and, perhaps fortuitously, one of Michigan's traditions most likely to appeal to muscle-bound 17 year olds: a bigass snowball fight. Various posters participated; there's an MGoBoard thread. (Poster MGoAndy took one for the team in a delicate area, which sucks for him but hopefully means good things for the baseball team.) Barkevious Mingo was also spotted at the Saturday hockey game.
“They said they really need a quarterback and that I’d fit in really well and could play early,” he said. “I know it’s a big program, but I haven’t been looking into them much and don’t really know a lot about them or coach Rich Rodriguez. I’m really not considering them right now.”
Ah. You say "no." Moving on, then…
With rumors of a Eugene Smith visit proving unfounded the last real quarterback prospect Michigan has a shot at is FL QB/CB/WR Denard Robinson, who visited this weekend with teammate and FL CB Adrian Witty. Witty's got an offer now, and the hope is Michigan can sell the duo on a package deal:
“That’s a real good thing too, if we were both to go there, at least we’d know each other. We wouldn’t feel left out.”
Given the number of open scholarships available and the situation at both QB and corner I'd take Robinson even if he cost two scholarships; getting a potentially useful guy at a position of need is a bonus.
SC DE Sam Montgomery is one crazy cat, man. As of a couple weeks ago Michigan was a solid fifth on an ordered list of favorites. Last week, Michigan was even-ish with LSU and North Carolina. This week:
Michigan will play host to Under Armour All-American defensive end Sam Montgomery (Greenwood, S.C./Greenwood) for an official visit this week and Montgomery said on Wednesday night that the Wolverines may have pulled ahead a little.
"I am really liking (Michigan) right now," Montgomery said. "But LSU is in there as well."
"I was impressed by the bond of the players. They were all family. I loved them to death. There's no selfishness. They are all on the same page. They are ready to win some games. And playing opportunity is there. I'm high on Michigan right now. They are two steps ahead of everybody. But I'll wait and make my decision after all the visits."
Okay. Okay. Okay. WTF? Let's attempt to synthesize this:
Montgomery says random things. Every year there are a few guys who either change their mind every two days or just enjoy the chaos they can cause with a quote; Montgomery is one of those guys. Michigan fans were introduced to him when he said something like "I'm from Detroit! I love Detroit!" in a recruiting article; his mom would later laugh that off with something like "that boy ain't from Detroit."
Some crotchety folk might disdain this sort of showmanship, but I look on any Michigan recruit who might 1) be awesome and 2) give ridiculous, Irons-brothers-like quotes as a must-get. If his name lent itself to Mingo-stole-my-baby jokes I would cry if he went anywhere else.
But the downside (given the very latest on his recruitment): any sort of lead Michigan might have is ephemeral.
One thing that does help is the uncertainty at LSU. Though DL coach Earl Lane isn't officially out the door, LSU sort of hired a guy to do his job. It would be awkward if Lane didn't, you know, do something else. And The Valley Shook is already talking like Lane is gone. There were a couple of damage control articles at LSU sites over the past few days in which Montgomery said more Things, but losing your recruiter is never a positive. All that stuff about LSU leading is at least doubtful.
That is a really unambiguously "schwing" quote.
So. I think Montgomery is still more likely to end up at LSU or Tennessee or somewhere in the south than Michigan. If he gets through the next week without naming someone else his leader I'll feel much better; if he gets through an official visit without dropping a similarly schwing quote on another school I'll feel better still.
Jones on the roam
Elsewhere in uncertainty, LA DT DeQuinta Jones took a visit to Arkansas this weekend and offered up this less than reassuring quote:
"I'm still with [Michigan] right now, but I've been talking to my family," Jones said. "They've told me to make the best decision I can make for myself."
There is also this:
While Jones said distance to Ann Arbor, Mich., wouldn't be a factor in his decision, he said playing at Arkansas and in the SEC would allow his family to see him play more often and could factor into his decision.
As suggested earlier, Jones' commit is pretty soft.
Still more scouting
Last week's mondo scouting dump from the All-American games missed a couple stragglers. I thought OH LB Isaiah Bell wasn't going to get any traction from his showing at the UA bowl, but this may indicate otherwise:
After struggling through the first practice and temporarily moving to linebacker, Bell found his rhythm starting on Day Two. A big safety, he was able to come up to the line of scrimmage and stop the run as well as cover the inside receivers. Though he could add some bulk and be a very good outside linebacker at Michigan, he has the instincts of a safety in the passing game. Sunday's game proved that as he finished second on the team with five tackles and also added a pass breakup. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Rivals rated him the #8 player on his team at the UA bowl, one spot ahead of ninja quarterback Russell Shepard(!). ESPN already liked him, and the UA game didn't change things. They said Bell "opened up everyone's eyes with his coverage ability." While there's no chance Bell passes Shepard in the actual rankings, it sound like he's due for another star.
Meanwhile, more praise for AZ DE Craig Roh, who Rivals named the #5 player on his team:
After a somewhat slow start to the week, the future Michigan Wolverine really turned things up. He is the definition of a pass-rushing defensive end. He was able to use his athleticism and quickness against the much larger offensive linemen throughout the week's practices and did not give the quarterbacks much time to throw. Roh also showed a bit of surprising strength in being able to bullrush the offensive tackles at times. He had one sack and three hurries in Sunday's game.
Michigan commit Craig Roh (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) had a great week in Orlando and proved to be a dangerous pass-rusher. He is smart and possesses a wonderful motor. He will need to add bulk to his frame once he hits Ann Arbor, but he is still tough versus the run. He is very good with his hands, and his spin and counter moves will make him a handful as a pass-rusher. Roh rose from No. 87 to No. 48.
With ESPN's inexplicable disses of Justin Turner and Will Cambpell, Roh's the highest-ranked Michigan commit to them. (It's clear ESPN had no one at the Army game, as every big mover in their top 150 attended the UA game. Cutting off their nose to spite their face there.)
AZ OL Taylor Lewan also rose in ESPN's rankings, ending up at the fringe of the top 150 (link ibid):
A late bloomer at the offensive tackle position this season is converted defensive lineman Taylor Lewan (Scottsdale, Ariz/Chaparral). Lewan, who wasn't initially on the radar, debuted in the ESPNU 150 at No. 147 thanks to his raw athletic talent and consistency in winning the vast majority of individual battles. He should be a very productive offensive lineman as he matures and his fundamentals sharpen.
Corners: yes-no-maybe, no (probably)
OH CB Mike Edwards named Tennessee his leader last week. This week, he claimed no leader…
"It looks like it will be Tennessee, Michigan or Cincinnati. I don't have a favorite. I've only visited Cincinnati."
Tennessee solidified its standing as the top team on Mike Edwards’ list during an in-home visit from coach Lane Kiffin and running backs coach Stan Drayton on Thursday.
Or did he? That article contains no quote from Edwards to that effect, just a lot of boilerplate responses to stock questions. So, eh… eh? Eh. I call him mini-Montgomery.
Edwards will visit Michigan this weekend, at which point we'll have a much better feel for M's chances; at this point the declared Tennessee lead, even if it's been backed off on, seems convincing enough to me. And then there's the Glenville stuff. I'm slightly pessimistic here.
It is bad because Hosley just visited South Florida and that article comes from USFNation.com. The inescapable conclusion is that Hosley's headed to USF. He will still take the Michigan trip he has scheduled for next week. That's even more obviously a longshot than it was a few days ago.
It's even more likely now that Michigan takes a last-second flier on a corner with pretty meh offers.
Offensive linemen, once again
Everyone was very excited about man-mountain Chris Freeman earlier in the year, and since three of Michigan's teammates had just migrated from Trotwood-Madison to Michigan it looked like M had a pretty good shot. Then went months and months without much, if any, news on Freeman and now it looks like he and Michigan have parted ways:
"I know I want to go to Wisconsin, Missouri and Tennessee," Freeman said. "I'd like to get at least three visits in, but I don't know for sure. My favorite would be between Wisconsin and Tennessee."
That leaves Michigan with three shots at another OL in the class. One of them is SC OL Quinton Washington, who'll take a few visits and then decide:
Other programs have been working hard to establish similar relationships. They've also focused a great deal of effort on securing one of his remaining official visits. Three are now finalized -- Clemson this weekend, South Carolina on Jan. 17 and Tennessee on Jan. 24. According to Craig [Washington, Quinton's father], Michigan has set the visit-bar very high for those schools.
"I think for Michigan, being first was great," he said. "I am going to have schools that are going to have a lot of stuff to live up to. I don't know if anyone can do that. Honestly, I think Michigan has got just as good a chance as anybody right now."
Hard to parse that last quote: "I don't know if anyone can live up to his Michigan visit… they've got, eh, a chance." My general impression of the internet's general impression is that South Carolina is a slight favorite, but the internet isn't sure about that.
NC OL Travis Bond keeps waiting, but other schools aren't. Our semi-regular source on North Carolina recruiting chips in with this:
NC State is done with OL recruiting. They're out. Source said that Bond had been a silent commitment to UNC for a couple of weeks and would make it official after his 1/16 visit.
How in the hell UNC plans on fitting all these guys on campus, let alone in this recruiting class, remains unknown, but I'm sure it's totally on the up-and-up.
Finally, I have a well-elucidated stance on OH OL Marcus Hall: I will believe he is at Michigan when he is a redshirt sophomore living on Geddes. But I will point out that he did in fact take an official to Michigan and there is now a GBW article up from them asking "is there a new #1 for Hall?" and the answer to these questions is always yes. And then I'll point out that PA CB Corey Brown called Michigan his leader and then visited OSU and committed, surprising no one. Recruits will often shade their answers to please the person interviewing them. It's human nature.
But Bill Kurelic is a major Ohio State booster and, well:
Earlier today I posted the information about Marcus Hall after his visit to Michigan. Hall said the Wolverines may have pulled into a slight lead over Ohio State with Miami next.
Could this be something here? I'm not getting my hopes up but it's taking a bit more effort than it used to. One of the BuckeyePlanet mods says "think Campbell," FWIW, clearly implying that the shift in favorites is for drama only.
(Kurelic on a couple more visitors:
DE Sam Montgomery (S.C) told me Michigan is now in the race after his visit to Michigan, but he still has trips set to North Carolina, LSU and Tennessee.
QB Denard Robinson (Fla.) was impressed with Michigan, but did not commit. He says he is considering Michigan, Florida, Georgia and Kansas State.
Is that bad news on Montgomery since it's not as positive? Eh, maybe not, since the really good quote from Montgomery was given to a local reporter. It could be a representation of how negative Kurelic tends to be about Michigan and that means we're definitely getting Hall(!). Or it could just be way, way too much read into a random statement. (Hint: the latter.))
LA WR Travante Stallworth also took a visit. Kornblut has an update but no quote, saying only his mother accompanied him and it was "a good time." MGoBlog's own Tom VanHaaren has a bit more:
I just talked to Travante Stallworth, and he was very excited about the visit. Terrence Robinson was his host, and thought he was a cool guy. Travante has seen snow before, and watched the snowball fight. He said the best part for him was how family oriented everyone was, especially the coaches. He felt very comfortable with all the players, and more importantly the coaches. …
He said that all the recruits that were there were all excited to be there, and they all had an awesome time. He said, "We all talked among ourselves about a few things," and he felt like the vibe was good.
I've been optimistic about Stallworth since Tom's interview earlier, but Auburn hired Gus Malzahn in the meantime—defying Chizik's previous claim to be a "smashmouth" devotee—and is a more serious threat than they were before.
Stokes will make official visits to Michigan the weekend of Jan. 16 and Illinois the weekend of Jan. 23.
“I’m going to try and squeeze in Penn State,” Stokes said. “I won’t take more than four visits. The other school is Georgia, but right now it looks like Penn State will be the fourth visit if I take a fourth one.”
On the other hand, that does sound pretty good for Michigan. Stokes seems leery of Tennessee now they've dumped both their quarterback recruits—and have no one in last year's class to boot—which would leave Illinois as the only real competition if Stokes doesn't take a fourth visit.
Editorial Opinion:Recruiting board lives here. MI panic machine Will Campbell is discussed here and here; don't ask me, I don't know. Other items follow; it's a busy week with the Army All-American game practices in full swing and most of content flowing freely. On with the show.
Gentlemen of a committed persuasion
OH CB Justin Turner, FL WR Jeremy Gallon, FL K Brendan Gibbons, and NJ DE Anthony LaLota are all on the East team; I haven't heard much about Gibbons or LaLota—some of the kids don't get down until later—but the other two have been impressive.
Gallon tore it up the last couple days, catching a number of touchdowns and generally appearing to be the best receiver on his team:
"He's electric," East coach Terry Smith said. "He's very shifty, very athletic. We're trying to get some plays to get some space for him to let him do what he does best."
Michigan recruit and probable Tennessee decommit Je'Ron Stokes echoes the praise:
"He's good," wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes said. "They have him in the slot and the way our offense is run I might want to go to the slot. He's getting a lot of passes thrown his way. He's doing a great job. The thing is they have a receiver lined up on the linebacker. That's a mismatch right there."
Meanwhile, Turner—a safety in high school—is getting reps at corner, where Michigan wants to move him when he gets to campus. He's playing opposite onetime Michigan recruit Darius Winston and living up to his rating (same article):
Michigan commit Justin Turner was at cornerback and even surprised himself with his strong performance after not stepping on the field since his Massillon (Ohio) Washington team lost in the playoffs on Nov. 1. Turner is rated as the third-best safety in the 2009 class but moved to corner because of the missing players.
"I haven't touched the field since we lost in the playoffs so I'm very surprised with what I did," Turner said. "All the great athletes and coaches out there watching, you can't get beat. You don't want to get beat. That was my first time on the field since we lost. I've been lifting. I feel good."
WR: Gallon messed with the secondary most of the day. Stokes had some big plays. Thomas way too stiff to be playing receiver.
CB: Winston was a lot better than everyone here. Turner moved to corner and adjusted fairly well.
Ah, Darius Winston, why did you decommit only to recommit?
Speaking of Stokes
That guy praising Jeremy Gallon up there, PA WR Je'Ron Stokes, appears to be Michigan's best shot at another outside wide receiver in the class, which may or may not be a need depending on the final positions of commits Dewayne Peace (a potential defensive back) and Cameron Gordon (a potential linebacker). Stokes' commitment to Tennessee is flimsy at best:
Philadelphia (Pa.) Northeast wide receiver Je'Ron Stokes is only 50/50 about sticking to his commitment to Tennessee according to good sources. Stokes committed to Tennessee back in April but waivered a bit when new head coach Lane Kiffin decided against keeping Tajh Boyd and Bryce Petty in the 2009 recruiting class. Stokes wants to visit Illinois and Michigan in January and is also looking at Florida and Georgia. His younger brother, 2010 quarterback Malik Stokes, had an offer from the old staff but is being re-evaluated by Kiffin. Stokes has been told that Tennessee will not be taking a quarterback in this class and will go after a big name in 2010.
Far be it from me to question Lane Kiffin's decision to boot a top 100 QB prospect in favor of nobody whatsoever, but some lucky school is going to send him a thank-you note later, and it sounds like either Illinois or Michigan has an excellent shot at following that up with a boquet of flowers.
Mingo the Merciless
There are a thousand reasons to desperately want LA LB Barkevious Mingo, at least 400 of which relate to his name, but it he's unlikely to sign with M despite Michigan being his only scheduled visit:
Though the Wolverines are set for his first visit, Mingo confirmed that does not mean that they're one of his top schools. In fact, they have some ground to make up as the 6-foot-5, 209-pounder currently lists a top three of USC, Alabama and LSU, in no particular order.
If he visits there's a chance and etc etc etc.
Unfortunately, Michigan hasn't materialized on the lists of any quarterbacks that weren't already listing them. This leaves FL QB Denard Robinson as the only potential accompaniment for Tate Forcier in this year's class. The latest on him:
"I like Michigan because the old coaches from West Virginia are there," he said. "Coach Rich Rodriguez is trying to install his system there and I think I'd be a good fit. They need a good dual-threat quarterback like me."
Robinson has already visited Georgia and Florida and plans to go to Michigan, Kansas State, and UCF.
Tate Forcier, meanwhile, was on the radio a few days ago and said things. A brief example:
LL: Is there a quarterback that is in college or the pros that you think your game might remind people of a little bit?
TF: My goal is to be a little bit like Colt McCoy. I'm almost nearly the same size and speed. It’s possible I may have a stronger arm than him. That’s kind of a lot to say, but I think if I worked hard I could maybe follow in his footsteps and be the type of quarterback that he is.
The best defensive lineman in the state that no one ever talks about is Bastrop's Dequinta Jones (6'3 275), who runs a 4.8 forty and can play the game as well as any in the country. Jones is committed to Michigan, and I predict he will start after one year and play as a true freshman for the Wolverines.
LSU got a commitment from teammate Josh Downs, who is 6'1 280 and is more of a true nose guard. I really think Jones is the best defensive tackle on the team and could be as good one day as former Bastrop defensive tackle Claude Wroten as well as current LSU and former Bastrop player Kantravious Aubrey.
Now Michigan just needs to hold onto him; Jones is something of a soft commit and has tentative plans to visit Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Etc.: OH RB commit Fitzgerald Toussaintreaffirms commit, is interviewed by the Vindicator.