Exit Kingston Davis

Exit Kingston Davis

Submitted by Brian on March 24th, 2017 at 3:04 PM

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I guess he really really didn't want to play fullback [Eric Upchurch]

Per Sam Webb, Kingston Davis is set to transfer.

Davis got a few carries early last year before an apparent redshirt. Meanwhile the quick emergence of Chris Evans and Kareem Walker navigating some rocky early waters makes the depth chart look tough indeed for anyone in the same class, as Davis was.

With Davis's transfer, the expected departure of Shelton Johnson would bring Michigan down to 85 before spring practice. That means no fifth years are potential cuts even if everyone else sticks it out.

Wednesday Presser 11-16-16: Tyrone Wheatley

Wednesday Presser 11-16-16: Tyrone Wheatley

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on November 16th, 2016 at 6:00 PM

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[Bryan Fuller]

[Wheatley sees Ty Isaac on the opposite side of the desk in the lobby/Towsley Museum]

“I’m about to talk about you. You know that, right? Wanna listen to it? Wanna come listen to what I’m about to say about you?”

[Isaac laughs and walks away]

With Chris Evans, he seemed to have the most productive day at Iowa. What were the things that stood out about him that maybe he was doing different than other guys?

“You said it. It was production. Certain games and certain backs—it was a penetrating front and Chris was able to hit some creases and go for it and be productive, so that was pretty much it. With guys we go to who has the hot hand and who’s productive and that was it. Chris was hitting creases.”

Were you guys trying to get him more as the game went on? I think he ended up with eight carries. De’Veon seemed to get carries down the stretch.

“Like I said, at that point whatever play is called and whoever’s doing well at that point in time, that’s who’ll go in.”

With so many guys that can go for you, what’s the room been like from a keeping it light but also keep--

“Chaos, man. They hate each other. [laughs] You see the bags under my eyes? Gray…I look like Barack right now.

“Nah, the room is great. The room, the tone has been set in camp. They understand the task, and the task is to win the Big Ten and then hopefully from that point on, as you know, the little gold trophy. So, the mantra for this university has been ever since the big man was here, ‘the team, the team, the team.’ So, it doesn’t change. You kind of put yourself to the side and put the team in front. The room is great. Guys are absolutely a treasure. I mean, a treat to coach and a treasure for me to have, so the room’s been great.”

[After THE JUMP: how to gain Wheatley’s trust, the secret to the Hammering Panda’s success, not noticing QBs in practice, and a quick injury update]

Preview 2016: Running Back

Preview 2016: Running Back

Submitted by Brian on August 29th, 2016 at 3:11 PM

Previously: Podcast 8.0. The Story. Quarterback.

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NOPE [Bryan Fuller]

[New bolded player rules: not necessarily returning starter, but someone we've seen enough of that I'm no longer talking about their recruiting profile. Extant contributor.]

FEATURE BACK Yr. SHORT YARDAGE Yr. 3RD DOWN YR. SPREAD H YR.
De'Veon Smith Sr. De'Veon Smith Sr. De'Veon Smith Sr. Jabrill Peppers So.*
Ty Isaac Jr.* Kingston Davis Fr. Drake Johnson Sr.* Chris Evans Fr.
Drake Johnson Sr.* Ty Isaac Jr.* Karan Higdon So. Drake Johnson Sr.*
Jabrill Peppers So.* Kareem Walker Fr. Ty Isaac Jr.* Ty Isaac Jr.*

Last year was more of the same from a Michigan running back corps that had slowly devolved since the moment Mike Hart left. Upticks from Brandon Minor and Fitz Toussaint were more than offset by yards eschewed, random running, that year Toussaint couldn't pass block a soul, and a steady stream of Michigan discards who blew up as soon as they landed on another team.

Large sections of your author's time were spent fighting with people about how bad it was or was not, so here's Dane Brugler on De'Veon Smith:

His vision and run instincts tend to run hot/cold, leading to questionable decisions, and with his lack of explosive traits, Smith needs to be more decisive and trust what he sees. He tends to leave you wanting more due to his marginal burst and instincts, but there is a place at the next level for Smith due to his power, ball skills and upside as a blocker.

It was pretty bad… and then it got better. Smith's outstanding Citrus Bowl was the exclamation point on a mid-season turnaround that looks a lot like those Chesson and Rudock experienced. It wasn't as dramatic, but it was there. I'm going to whisper the next sentence: it almost kind of looked like someone had figured something out.

Running back coaching matters? I want to believe.

THE MAN THE MAN THE MAN

Rating: 4

Pasted-image-at-2016_08_01-09_38-AM_

[Seth Fisher]

After consecutive years where this preview listed options at all three roles above in an almost but not quite entirely arbitrary fashion, Michigan enters the season knowing who their first-choice back is: DE'VEON SMITH. They know who their short-yardage back is: De'Veon Smith. They know who their third-down back is: De'Veon Smith. They think he's good enough to put him in the bin with Amara Darboh and Jourdan Lewis and all the other veterans who don't need spring contact.

Survey says... eh, maybe. Smith's bravura Citrus Bowl against some tough, if potentially disinterested, customers was the exclamation point to a rollercoaster season. If you don't want to read the rest of this section here it is in 15 seconds:

Smith abandoned his pulling guard, disappeared into a pile of bodies, was still upright seven yards later, got caught from behind, shook off a defensive back, got caught by the same guy again, and shrugged him off once more like so much lint on his varsity jacket. Few sixty yard touchdowns in the history of Michigan football have been as likely to cause the coaching box to exclaim "what are you DOING?" the instant before the breakthrough.

That was Smith's 2015. For every shattered defensive back left trembling in a puddle of his own making...

...there was a truck lane ignored.

Last year's UFRs invariably contained a book-length subsection on the running backs and the yards they made or, more often, set on fire. As the lead back Smith came in for the plurality of the discussion. Depending on the week this discussion was either generally positive and hopeful...

/spittle shields at 70% and dropping

Actually… I got nothing this week. I thought the backs did well. I complained about a lead zone run last week. Michigan didn't block it well; Smith mechanically ran into the gap he should go in if they in fact did block it well. He ate a DT for minimal yardage. I didn't care if Smith actually got anything on the play, I just wanted to see him see what was going on in front of him and put a foot in the ground to give himself a chance.

He did that on this one:

That cutback doesn't look like it'll amount to much when he makes it but Michigan gets on some blocks and Smith runs through some guys and it's a nice gain. If he'd gotten swallowed by an unblocked LB back there it's still the right cut.

...or blackly grim:

I feel like this is going to lead into another running back diatribe.

Are they really diatribes?

YES

Large portions of last year's preview focused on Smith's tendency to run at random, which outlets other than the Michigan obsessive bits of the internet picked up on:

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The hope was Harbaugh and Wheatley could get Smith moving in the right direction more often, and for most of the season that was dashed.

But the frustration I experienced was not limited to Smith. Everyone who took more than a dozen or so carries made at least one mindbogglingly bad cut, from Drake Johnson to Ty Isaac to Derrick Green to Sione Houma. That's widespread enough to seem like a coaching issue, and Smith's trajectory confirms:

[UFR charting for ballcarriers is another spot where zero is bad. Zero means you got what was blocked and nothing else.]

Game Opponent + - TOT Pass- Team- Comment
1 Utah 5.5 7 -1.5 0   Cuts late let M down.
2 Oregon State 15.5 4 11.5 0 4 Brutal Legend
3 UNLV 2 8 -6 0   Two very bad plays and not much to make up for it.
4 BYU 9.5 4.5 5 3 2 Beast mode.
5 Maryland           DNP
6 Northwestern 7.5 1.5 6 0   On just 8 carries.
7 MSU 5 5 0 0 2 Grinder; a bit frustrating with the cuts again.
8 Minnesota   2 -2 0 1 No YAC.
9 Rutgers 6 0.5 5.5 0   Good game.
10 Indiana 4.5 2 2.5 2 2 Frustratingly slow sometimes but made up for it with power.
11 PSU 9.5 4 5.5 3   +2 blocking, +2 on catches, and then +3 late, which fits a pattern discussed below.
12 OSU 7.5   7.5 0 1 Made a significant number of yards himself. Zero pass pro minuses.
13 Florida 15 2 13 0 1 I be like dang
  TOTALS 87.5 40.5 47 8 13  

That is a veritable late-season surge. Smith came in for some clucking after the PSU game since I didn't care for three of his 13 carries, but in the context of the last five games that's the outlier and being good at running is the trend.

This was clearest in the bowl game. Smith probed for holes, showed off a Mike Hart-level backfield stutter, and fired off a decisive backside cut on his first three carries. The stutter's probably the most impressive but the cut is the most important:

That's vision, and I was floored as it continued for an entire game against the #5 S&P run defense:

And this continued! Presented with a DL penetrating almost to the handoff point Smith cut off his OL's back and blew through an arm tackle. On the three, Smith turned negative two yards into two by juking two dudes and running through a couple tackles. Even on certain runs where it looked like he'd screwed up, the tape revealed he was trying to make the best of a bad situation only to find that there was no relief elsewhere. It took me a couple takes to realize that this was Smith avoiding a wholly unblocked LB in the hole:

As I said in the table above, he's probably better off running right at the guy for a few yards but I prefer Smith seeing trouble and adjusting even if it doesn't work out. Early in the second half Smith cut to the backside of the line and got hewed down early because a safety blitz prevented Darboh from getting to the guy. That's an RPS minus; without the playcall Smith is ripping off another backside cut. Even with it if Cole had cut off penetration a little better Smith can attack the S head-on, and that usually ends badly for the DB.

At that point I hadn't done the OSU game and wondered if that was a one-off; now that the entire picture is in view it's obviously not. I mean… it's kind of a Rudock trajectory. It wasn't quite as obvious since Michigan tried its hardest to avoid the defensive lines of PSU and OSU, but it's there. That's why Smith was placed amongst the revered elders during spring.

So. The dude remains a nuclear-powered icebreaker. The number of tackles he blew through was truly impressive, and even when he was in fact being tackled piles had a tendency to lurch two or three yards towards the endzone:

I have literally dozens of these clipped:

Smith grinds out yards after contact better than any back I've seen at Michigan. Yeah, he's slow. Yeah, he's not going to juke a guy in the open field. But in the right situation he can be a killer. That situation is surrounded by very good blocking that delivers him three yards downfield on a consistent basis. Smith will turn that into five or eight or eleven yards better than anyone not named Fournette. Is he going to have that this year? Maybe, maybe not. Michigan should get closer to it.

Smith's peripherals are unambiguously positive. He fumbled just once last year. He was also a strangely effective third-down back, to the point where I called him "King Hippo Vincent Smith." This is mostly because of his consistently excellent pass blocking:

Smith has the oomph to stand up linebackers like nobody since Mike Hart. This was a point of discussion after Penn State, a game in which Smith only got eight carries and still managed to stick out as an asset:

Smith has power and agility and can pick guys up. Even big guys. … Then in this game he added a couple of dumpoffs on which he displayed that fun Smith-vs-defensive backs stuff. On back to back plays at the end of the first half he turned nothing into something, first getting a few when Rudock got nailed, and then plastering a DB across his windshield for a first down:

This is something you can work with.

His eight protection minuses on the season are only twice what Ty Isaac managed to acquire in scattered snaps against Oregon State, and there was a distinct lack of the "team" minuses I hand out when I'm not sure who screwed up. 13 over the course of the season is a really low number and off the top of my head I'd guess that two-thirds could not be on Smith.

As a bonus, Smith is a solid outlet option because of this SAT analogy:

De'Veon Smith : defensive back :: windshield : insect

His hands were good—one drop in 17 opportunities and a circus catch—and if not tackled immediately he's going to tack on 5 or so yards after contact.

In limited opportunities he's shown that he's also an asset as a run blocker:

After that game I described him as a "low-to-the-ground 230-pound brick"; after the pass block above I broke my longstanding commitment to pooh-pooh all motivation/effort talk:

I usually assume everyone's going all out all the time and dismiss motivation stuff, but this week I got frustrated with a couple players for a lack of want-to. Smith never lacks that. Smith wants to end you. Even if he's slow and his vision is lacking, that's something.

He's the kind of guy willing to play through just about anything, and that's something Harbaugh has noticed.

Smith is a good bet to be Michigan's first 1,000 yard back since Fitz Toussaint. He's got a half-season of being pretty good and has more upside than you'd expect because so many of his issues stemmed from an unfamiliarity with the offense and running back basics. Wheatley:

"(Now we're trying to) get guys like De'Veon and Ty Isaac (and Drake Johnson) to what I call a mastery level. Progressing past the things we did last year."

It says here that Smith's 2015 is a better version of his second half. Michigan will rotate him a bunch to keep him as healthy as possible—his pounding style is tough on him and caused him to miss chunks of multiple games—and this will keep his counting numbers from attracting national attention, but his YPC should take a big step forward along with his reputation amongst Michigan fans.

[After THE JUMP: Jabrill Peppers! And other guys, but also Peppers!]

2016 Recruiting: Kingston Davis

2016 Recruiting: Kingston Davis

Submitted by Brian on July 13th, 2016 at 12:50 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles. S Josh Metellus, S Khaleke Hudson, CB David Long, CB Lavert Hill, LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse, LB Devin Bush Jr., LB Devin Gil, LB Josh Uche, DE Ron Johnson, DT Michael Dwumfour, DT Rashan Gary, DE Carlo Kemp, OL Ben Bredeson, OL Michael Onwenu, OL Stephen Spanellis, TE Nick Eubanks, TE Sean McKeon, TE Devin Asiasi, WR Eddie McDoom, WR Nate Johnson, WR Kekoa Crawford, WR Chris Evans, WR Brad Hawkins, WR Ahmir Mitchell.

       
Prattville, AL – 6'1", 225
       

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Scout 3*, NR overall
#101 RB
Rivals 3*, NR overall
#2 FB, #17 AL
ESPN 3*, NR overall
#77 RB, #31 AL
24/7 3*, #907 overall
#2 FB, #32 AL
Other Suitors Neb, UF, LSU, UL, MissSt, Miss
YMRMFSPA Sione Houma
Previously On MGoBlog Hello post from Ace.
Notes Twitter. Early enrollee. Prattville (Keith Washington, Bam Richards).

Film

Senior:

Sam Webb was taking in Michigan's satellite camp in Prattville, Alabama, last year when an older gentleman came up to him and started asking about Kingston Davis. "I hear Michigan's recruiting him as a fullback," the man said. Michigan was not recruiting Davis as a fullback. Webb said as much to the man, who then introduced himself as Davis's father. When Sam related this story to me he more or less made it sound like this:

Sam left with his head. Kingston Davis, who is not a fullback, committed shortly thereafter. Kingston Davis knows which recruiting sites had the audacity to declare him a fullback

…"All of (the schools) recruited me at running back. Rivals and 247, I didn't know what happened," Davis said. "They just put me down as a fullback, so everyone started thinking I was a fullback. But that's not my game."

…and he is not pleased. Beware, oh sites that ranked him thusly, for you know not the hour when a moose/human hybrid will find his revenge. You only know he will be carrying a football at the time of your doom.

Anyway. Davis was highly productive at Prattville, setting a school record with 1656 yards in his final season despite Prattville's failure to make the playoffs and going over 100 yards in 17 of his 23 starts. He operated like a high school Brandon Minor as a straight-ahead plowhorse in a spread offense. Five-star Alabama LB commit Lyndell Wilson is a fan after seeing Davis's thighs up close and personal 25 or so times:

"Kingston is an outstanding back and a bruiser. He's explosive for his size and makes big time plays when his team needs him to. … He's very underrated. I don't know much about what he does at camps, but when he puts the pads on and we're playing 11 on 11, he's definitely a beast."

Davis's scouting reports are in line with expectations for a guy who has to strenuously proclaim that he's not a fullback. His attendance at a Rivals camp in Atlanta saw him declared "one of the biggest backs in attendance"—not a surprise—and a guy who had "a ton of success during one-on-ones." That latter is a surprise. Unpadded camps are the worst possible showcase for a guy like Davis.

Tim Sullivan caught him in person, when he was an even bigger load that he seems to be now:

thick trunk and legs … not slow, but the added weight seems to have cost him a half-step of his quickness.… tough load for opposing defenders to bring down. … if a player doesn't hit him low, he's shrugging off the tackle attempt and continuing on his merry way (often into the endzone). He has good balance, and his feet are quicker than you'd expect for a player of his mass - though they can be even better when he's in excellent shape.

ESPN has another of those evaluations more positive than his ranking:

…compact and impressive looking frame. Fullback bulk. …enough speed to break and finish runs, good anticipation in space to feel traffic and change his course to finish. … Will set up blocks … Power style, gap scheme back who runs with good box acceleration. Not a back with high end agility. … true strengths are his size and power. Uses these attributes well working downhill on a consistent basis. Will run high losing some of his power and balance at times. …will punish tacklers consistently. … Understands his strengths and works to use them on each play.

Clint Brewster:

….big bruiser …tough runner that can also make subtle cuts in the open field to extend runs ..Not great maneuverability through the hole or change of direction …good power to run through tackles when he keeps his pad level low. He's a patient but decisive runner with a forward lean and a physical style… productive as a short yardage runner and should be a nice red-zone running back. Should fit will as a power runner in Harbaugh's downhill scheme.

Touch The Banner:

…. runs with his shoulders square to the line at all times and has good body lean. He runs behind his pads and will lower his shoulder to power through tackles from linebackers and defensive backs. He also has a good feel for seeing the hole, sliding laterally to get there, and pressing upfield. Davis also shows a couple nifty spin moves in the hole, rolls out of the grasp of defenders, and even displays an occasional stiff-arm. He falls forward after contact and should gain an extra yard or two while being tackled.

Tyrone Wheatley echoed TTB's evaluation, calling him a "big guy with great vision, great lateral movement and great ball skills" on MGoBlue and telling Webb on WTKA the following:

"This young man is a very, very good runner in terms of vision. His lateral movement is exceptional. Ninety percent of the game is played in traffic and he's able to slide to the next hole. He's sneaky fast. He's a ground-churning, move the chains type of back. A guy we need."

"Able to slide to the next hole" is key when you run a ton of power, because defenses will seek to redirect you with various slants and games and the like; both fullback and tailback have to be aware of the shifting situation in front of their faces and adapt. While Davis is never going to be the kind of guy you want to bounce the ball outside, having the agility and vision to make a course correction is the difference between Kevin Grady and Jerome Bettis. Davis's ability to do that is his main asset outside of the fact that he's borrowing various body parts from dinosaurs.

247 notes that Michigan pursued "bulldozer" Davis with "an aggression reserved for some of the country's top prospects." In this Davis is like tight end Sean McKeon, another guy with bleah rankings who Michigan clearly believes in enough to not only reserve a slot in the class but also an early enrollment spot. As I said in the McKeon profile, while I'd like Michigan to pick up the phone earlier with recruits they aren't going to take, a silver lining to their approach is that when a generic three star does get to Signing Day without incident that's a good indication Michigan likes him a lot better than their ranking.

Davis is the kind of guy who might have been a bigger recruit in 1970, when virtually every program was looking for guys to blow through arm tackles and run over folks when they ran power for the 40th time. While his recruiting rankings are mediocre all around, there was a flurry of interest from other schools even after he committed to Michigan. SEC powers Florida and LSU came in with offer-type substances. LSU's was… interesting:

“They told (my coach) that they wanted to offer me,” said Davis. “(The offer is for) tailback/athlete. Running back… (maybe) slot receiver.”

You'll note that the Gators and Tigers are both manball outfits. Mike Riley's Nebraska is headed that direction and also offered. Davis talked about visiting all these schools but only got out to Nebraska. Davis carries an appeal to a certain type of coach. One of those coaches is Tyrone Wheatley, who morphed from a lightning bolt at Michigan to a pounding NFL running back in one of the most dramatic playing-style makeovers I can remember. When Wheatley appeared on WTKA to discuss Davis and was just as adamant as his new protege that he was a tailback:

"Sometimes people just look on paper and (look at your measurables) and say 'you're a fullback.' Well, I'm not a fullback. If you watched me in college, I never iso blocked anyone. That's a different lifestyle," Wheatley said last week on WTKA-AM in Ann Arbor. "I spent my time avoiding people, not running into them. Kingston's the same way. People would look at his measurables and websites would list him as a fullback. He'd get upset, he'd call me 'coach Wheat, I'm not a fullback. ... I know you're not a fullback, relax.'

Davis has a head coach and running backs coach uniquely disposed to see him as the man with the ball.

Still, Davis's size will make or break his ability to stick at running back, and there are shades of Derrick Green in there. Just shades, mind you. Going into his junior year, Davis weighed in at 228 at a South Carolina camp; at the same time Green was trying to prove he wasn't a DL. However, Sullivan thought he was a big big dude during his senior year:

…we last saw Davis play in the spring, he was planning to shed a few pounds (he was 242 at the time) by the start of his season, but if anything, he looks even bigger now.

He's listed anywhere from 225 to that 242-or-bigger. MGoBlue has him at the lower number, but you take spring roster weights at your peril. Anywhere up to 235 and Davis is good to go as a bashing tailback; once he starts edging above that the ability to get to that second gap in the line gets compromised and the dread specter of fullback rises once more.

Etc.:  Acquired Harbaugh dab. Wolverine artistry skills mediocre at best:

image

Why Sione Houma? This is not necessarily a fullback comparison, as Houma played more and more tailback as the year went on and Michigan discovered he was not only capable of ripping through the line on a dive but juking the occasional DL in the backfield. Houma got up to 243 over the course of his career at Michigan and Davis may end up there given the fact he already hit that number in high school. Also he just looks Houma-sized even now; I wonder if the 225 he's listed at is fact or aspiration.

Derrick Green is another comparable if Davis can't keep his weight down and falls over way too easily for a guy his size. Touch the Banner suggested former Wisconsin tailback PJ Hill, and that's a pretty good one. Hill was only 5'10" but played at 220; he was a clubber with surprisingly deft feet. FWIW, Davis compares himself to Eddie Lacy. Lorenz brings up Chris Floyd.

Guru Reliability: Moderate. Everyone agrees, and Davis was healthy on a high-profile team. I do think that Davis may have gotten short shrift as a couple sites filed him as a fullback and forgot about him, because fullback.

Variance: Low. College size already, not a ton of upside, not much positional projection, comes from a military family.

Ceiling: Moderate. Won't ever be a home run hitter and there's a reason backs like him are a little bit out of style.

General Excitement Level: Moderate. Most likely outcome is that Davis is the thunder in a "thunder and slightly less thunder" RB platoon; there is a slim chance he's Toby Gerhart again.

Projection: 50/50 on a redshirt. Davis has the kind of body that is useful on special teams and running back is a spot where you generally have it or you don't; he's also physically ready to go and enrolled early. He could get some run this year, especially if there are injury issues. Even a redshirt zealot like your author would shrug at Davis playing this year.

In 2017 Smith is gone and a lot of carries will open up; Michigan fans are currently hoping that Ty Isaac is an obvious choice as his successor. Davis will still have an opportunity since with Smith's graduation he's a solid bet to be the best short-yardage back on the roster. He could graduate from that as an upperclassman, but even if he pans out I think he's still platooning with Walker or one of the guys who comes in this year.

Yes, fullback—hybrid fullback—is a possibility. While Davis is dead set against it at the moment, a Houma role might be appealing if he feels that he's the #3 or #4 tailback and is facing a choice between getting 50 extra carries on dives or watching from the bench.

Spring Practice Presser 3/10/16: Tyrone Wheatley

Spring Practice Presser 3/10/16: Tyrone Wheatley

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on March 11th, 2016 at 11:45 AM

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[Fuller/MGoBlog]

How’s the running back group progressing through six practices?

“Progressing well. Just trying to get certain guys like De’Veon [Smith] and Ty Isaac to what I call a mastery level, meaning that it’s progressing past the things we did last year. Instead of going through the hole and getting tackled by a guy it’s really working some moves, try and improve your game.

“With the younger guys, they’re doing well. They’re right where I’d expect them to be. A little overloaded in some aspects in terms of the information coming in on them, but they all look good. They all look good.”

How do you keep De’Veon healthy for a whole year?

“How do I keep him healthy for a full year?”

Yeah. I mean, that was obviously the challenge last year.
”He was healthy. He was relatively healthy. I mean, any football guy who lines up and takes that first—it’s like a car. Once you take that car off the lot it depreciates. It’s never going to be 100% value. So in terms of De’Veon, I think he was healthy besides the toe. But in terms of being healthy, some of the things we’re talking about now: being able to not run down the middle of guys, taking so many hits, being able to make some guys miss. That will improve his health, but I think relatively compared to last year he was relatively healthy.”

WelpThisWasGoingToBeMyMGoQuestion: What’s a realistic expectation for the two freshmen?

“Expectation? They’re true freshmen.”

So how much would that be?

“They’re freshmen! We won’t know. Right now it’s too hard to put anything on it. I’ll just put it to you this way: it’s freshmen. They’re freshmen. I mean, they’re good freshmen, but the fact of the matter is they’re freshmen. So to put an expectation on it is really unfair right now.”

For Ty [Isaac], who probably didn’t see as many carries as he wanted to last year, getting to the mastery level, has he put in more work? Has he taken to that a little bit differently this year?

“Yeah. I mean, regardless the point of the snaps, it’s still just age and being around and hearing it, so trying to take his game to that next level. So yeah, I mean, he’s working. He worked last year. He’s working this year. Sometimes a guy may just outwork you. That’s just a thing. It’s not that he did anything wrong last year. But he’s working hard. Yes, he is. Putting in the work.”

Do you feel like Drake [Johnson] is finally back to finally maybe 100%? He’s running track, too. He said that’s helping his leg and knee strength.

“Well, unfortunate part about me, I never was here when Drake was Drake Drake. So what I saw last year and just seeing a guy who’s coming off an ACL, he looked pretty darn good. So if we can improve him and get him past that, we should be looking at a much improved Drake, and he is looking good. In terms of track, he has a little more burst to him. But just in terms of football-wise, we’re trying to get Drake to that mastery level as well. It’s moving past little things like getting tackled, little better in pass-pro, things of that nature. So he’s one of those guys we’re trying to get to that mastery level.”

[After THE JUMP: some good news re: fullbacks, more on achieving RB mastery level]

Monday Recruitin' Snaps Cake, Eats It Too

Monday Recruitin' Snaps Cake, Eats It Too

Submitted by Ace on November 23rd, 2015 at 3:52 PM

I Will Now Surgically Attach Myself To My Laptop

247's Steve Lorenz has published an early list of visitors for The Game. It's free, extensive, and includes the following big names, among many others:

  • Five-star GA ATH Mecole Hardman, a Peppers-type who's expected to stay in SEC country but is giving M a serious look.
  • Four-star TX ILB Dontavious Jackson and his teammate, three-star S Chris Brown, will take their long-awaited official visits.
  • Four-star MD OG Terrance Davis, who maintains Michigan as his leader heading into his official visits, per 247's Luke Stampini ($).
  • Detroit King teammates LaVert Hill and Donnie Corley could be back on campus for unofficial visits, as could Hill's fellow tenuous PSU commit, Quinn Nordin.
  • Four-star FL DT Keyshon Camp is showing a lot of interest despite his USC commit; after taking an official in September, he'll pay his way back for an unofficial.
  • Three-star FL WR Keyshawn "Pie" Young has had Michigan at or near the top of his impressive offer list for a while. He'll be in on an official.
  • In addition to hosting a huge number of current commits, M will host six top-150 recruits each from the 2017 and 2018 classes.

Michigan also will have a second USC flip candidate on campus in three-star WR Velus Jones Jr., who added an offer a couple weeks ago and will be in on an official visit.

One big name who initially planned to make the trip is four-star TX OT Jean Delance, who had to reschedule his official visit because his team advanced in the playoffs. In a sign that his interest is legit, he told 247's Ryan Bartow that as a result he's pushing back his announcement date ($):

Delance had hoped to announce a verbal commit January 2 at the Under Armour All-American Game.

That's now up in the air.

"No I will not commit," Delance said. "I will visit these schools before I (am) committing if possible."

This might put Michigan in a tight spot if another lineman wants to commit before Delance is ready to make a decision, but that's one of those good problems.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]

Monday Recruitin' Gets Grimy

Monday Recruitin' Gets Grimy

Submitted by Ace on November 9th, 2015 at 3:58 PM

Cartwheels For Carlo

This is just great; newest Michigan pledge Carlo Kemp (Hello post here) filmed his commitment call to Jim Harbaugh:

"I had to do a cartwheel there" is an instant entry into the Jim Harbaugh Quote Hall of Fame.

The Denver Post has plenty of coverage on Kemp's commitment, including Kemp explaining why he made his decision:

"Do I see myself being there? Yes," Kemp said. "Definitely the town (Ann Arbor, Mich.) and atmosphere. And, of course, the academics at the forefront of it all. Michigan is one of the top, top academic programs and, of course, along with playing top-caliber football."

The chance to play for Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh, Kemp said, was also a huge factor as "everything I wanted is at Michigan."

Also of note from that article: Kemp will enroll early. And, of course, there's another great Harbaugh story, as Kemp's high school coach is the son of former Bo assistant (and later Colorado head coach) Bill McCartney, whose household served as the all-important sugar sanctuary for the Harbaugh children:

Tom McCartney recalled that he could consume his cereal of choice, but the only cereals permitted in the Harbaugh house "were healthy ones." Hence, John and Jim Harbaugh regularly went over to the McCartney household "for sugar cereal."

When Kemp and Pagano, who already knew about the cereal story, met with Jim Harbaugh last month while in Ann Arbor, they presented him with a gift from McCartney: a box of Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries cereal.

"That was our favorite cereal growing up," McCartney said.

Said Kemp: "Coach Harbaugh just started laughing when we gave it to him."

Harbaugh has great taste in cereal, even if Cinnamon Toast Crunch is the undisputed greatest cereal on Earth.

Kemp wasn't the only player to commit to the program this weekend; Bowling Green (KY) TE Dane Drobocky announced he'll join the team as a preferred walk-on in 2016, per Tim Sullivan. You can see his junior highlights on his Hudl page. The coaches are making a very concerted effort to build the preferred walk-on program; Drobocky is the third in this class, joining QB Michael Shuster and WR Simeon Smith, and several other PWO offers have gone out in the last couple weeks.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]

Wednesday Recruitin' Opens It Up

Wednesday Recruitin' Opens It Up

Submitted by Ace on November 4th, 2015 at 12:02 PM

Walker Decommits From Ohio State

Five-star NJ RB Kareem Walker had maintained his commitment to Ohio State even in the wake of a reportedly great official visit to Michigan a few weeks back. That is no longer the case.

According to TomVH, it's "not likely" Walker will take a visit back to Ohio State. This puts Michigan squarely in the driver's seat in Walker's recruitment, and the Crystal Ball picks are coming in heavy for the Wolverines, including from Guys In The Know like Lorenz and Wiltfong ($). Even though Walker plans to take more visits, this shouldn't take too long to play out; he plans to enroll early at the school of his choice.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]

Tuesday Recruitin' Moves Up

Tuesday Recruitin' Moves Up

Submitted by Ace on October 20th, 2015 at 2:16 PM

Visit Reaction: M Leads For Jackson

While the game itself didn't have the desired outcome, last weekend proved to be a good one for Michigan's recruiting efforts. Four big-time official visitors took in the game and the Wolverines look to have a great shot with at least three of them.

Top-100 CA ATH Lamar Jackson, who could be a corner or safety at Michigan, told 247's Steve Lorenz that the Wolverines now lead after his official ($):

"Yeah, I'd say Michigan leads," he said. "The Michigan experience kind of spoke for itself. The atmosphere at the game was incredible, the academics at Michigan are great and I learned a lot about the program, the players and the leadership of Coach Harbaugh was really impressive to me. I wasn't sure heading into the visit because it's a long ways away and I was not familiar with the weather, but the visit definitely changed my mind on things."

Michigan is clearly in great shape. This was Jackson's fourth official and he hasn't scheduled his fifth; while many considered USC the odds-on favorite, he has no plans to see them on an unofficial before announcing his decision at the Under Armour game.

Five-star GA TE Isaac Nauta is right up there with Rashan Gary as the top overall target on the board, and he told Scout's Chad Simmons he was "very surprised" by how much he liked Michigan ($):

"Coach Harbaugh told me and showed me that there is a both, a need for me, and a want for me at Michigan.  We looked at film, we had a talk, and I saw a lot.  at the end of the visit, I was just surprised more than anything else.  

"I just did not expect it to be that way.  My mind about Michigan has definitely been changed."

Lorenz chatted with us on MGoRadio yesterday and said the visit couldn't have gone much better; that said, he also thinks Nauta still ends up at Georgia, though Michigan has made this a tough decision. Nauta plans to announce at the Army All-American Game.

Top-100 WR Dylan Crawford spoke to Rivals' Adam Gorney after his official visit and discussed his potential role at Michigan ($):

"I really like how it went," Crawford said. "I could see myself fitting in there. I feel like I could play there. I like the coaching staff and obviously the Michigan education is solid and the networking there is unreal. "They don't really have a slot player who could take the fly sweep. They were showing me all the footage about how they have to bring Jabrill (Peppers) on offense to do the bubble screen routes and stuff like that. They said if I was there they wouldn't need to do that."

After talking to a couple sources close to Crawford's recruitment, Lorenz put in a Crystal Ball pick for Michigan ($). One team to watch is Oregon; they haven't offered Crawford yet and could become a major factor if they do.

Finally, after taking officials to both Notre Dame and Michigan, top-100 CB David Long told Scout's Greg Biggins he isn't certain about his Stanford commitment:

"I think there's still some question if they want me more  for receiver or corner," Long said. "Notre Dame and Michigan both are recruiting me 100% for corner but I think that's still in question a little with Stanford.

"I'm still committed but I'm also thinking about maybe opening things up a little to make sure I'm doing the right thing. It's such a huge decision and I want to make sure I'm 100% comfortable with it. You can't go wrong with Stanford and I know that but I just want to be totally sure about this."

Long said he "got a little better vibe and felt more comfortable at Michigan" compared to Notre Dame. He's still a Stanford commit and the other California schools will be in the mix as well.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]

Monday Recruitin' Plays Both Sides

Monday Recruitin' Plays Both Sides

Submitted by Ace on September 21st, 2015 at 2:11 PM

Weekend Visit Reactions

While the big-name 2016 visitors from last weekend haven't yet gone on the record with reactions, 247's Steve Lorenz—who'll be a guest this afternoon on MGoRadio—has compiled some insider notes on how things went.

The general feeling with five-star CA OLB Caleb Kelly is Michigan's visit went well but might not be enough to overcome Oklahoma's lead ($). Unless Kelly surprisingly declares Michigan his leader this week, that's to be expected—he still has four more official visits to go, including one to Norman. Michigan may in fact have a better chance of landing the weekend's other official visitor, three-star FL DT and USC commit Keyshon Camp, who reportedly spent a lot of time with his former high school teammate, freshman DE Reuben Jones.

The Wolverines are also hanging around for four-star Detroit King WR Donnie Corley, who made a somewhat surprising unofficial visit for the UNLV game. Here's what Steve is hearing about where his recruitment currently stands ($):

In sharing messages with [M commit David] Reese, Corley's interest in the Wolverines appears to be more legitimate than has been led on publicly.

At the same time, we talked to one source who said Michigan remains in the thick of the race for Corley's services, but that one unofficial visit doesn't likely upset the status quo, which is with Michigan State and Ohio State currently appearing to be in better shape for his services, if he was to decide today. However, the good news is that it would be a major surprise if Corley did not take an official visit to Ann Arbor at some point during the season, with the Michigan State game on October 17th being a solid possibility.

Not much has changed here: Michigan is in the mix much more than they were before but are still likely a little behind their rivals—the longer this plays out, the better it bodes for M's chances. One factor that could play into their favor: M is showing interest in three-star King ATH Armani Posey, who visited with Corley and doesn't yet hold an offer from anyone despite being one of the best players on one of the best teams in the state. Lorenz says Posey and Corley are close; if M makes a push for Posey, it could help them land the state's top senior wideout.

Michigan also hosted four-star 2017 TE Jimmy Jaggers, who told Lorenz after the visit that the coaching staff made a big impression on him ($):

"Everyone is all football all of the time and it really shows and rubs off on you," he said. "I got to talk to Jay, Jack and Jim Harbaugh for a solid 30 minutes yesterday and then today I talked to Jay again and we were with him after the game too. Their staff is phenomenal as a whole. It really stood out a lot to me."

Jaggers is showing high interest and he's one of M's top targets to join Carter Dunaway at tight end in the '17 class.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]