[Ed. A—Pick your poison if you’re wondering why there aren’t any MGoQuestions: is it the GI bug that has kept me up and…uh, occupied since 4 AM, or is it that my wife could go into labor at any time? I’ll be back at Schembechler Hall as soon as I can. Thanks to MGoFriend Isaiah Hole for the video.]
Do you have the deepest position?
“Well, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know, we haven’t looked at it. I think the linebackers got some good depth, some good talent. I think there’s some good young kids all over that defense that are working to make the depth that we need.
“But up front, you know we want to always have enough depth to be able to rotate, and really, that’s what the spring is for us. We want our first group to get better and come out every practice to get better, and guys behind them gotta earn the right so that you say, ‘Okay, when we get in games, this guy can go in right now. I think you’re getting that. I think you’re seeing that.”
Who’s starting to earn that right?
“Well, Kwity Paye is having a really, really good spring. Michael Dwumfour, I think, is having one of the best springs that I can remember. I mean, he’s really playing hard, and Aubrey’s [Solomon] playing hard, and Carlo, Carlo Kemp every day comes out an gets a little better, and he’s playing a couple positions. I think we’ve got a number of kids that are doing good to try and get that first group [to] feel like they’re there.”
What distinguishes Dwumfour?
“Dwumfour, it’s been he’s so quick off the football. He has a lot of Mo Hurst in him. There’s times when you see him come off the ball and you just go, ‘Whoa, that’s really good,’ and he’s a little bit thicker and a little bit bigger.
“The other thing, it’s probably Rashan [Gary] and Chase [Winovich] and Bryan Mone’s leadership that have really gotten him to step up. He’s always shown flashes, but now all of a sudden he’s getting more mature. Times when he’d play really good, really good, really good, and then all of a sudden try to take a play off or he wasn’t ready to take that next play. He’s not doing that now. He’s pushing himself way past where he usually would, and that’s a real good sign for us.”
[After THE JUMP, a 275-pound man is referred to as “little Phillip.” Football!]
We often hear about service academy offenses. How difficult is it of a challenge to prepare for them?
“Defending option football and conventional football at the same time. That’s what we’ve been studying. Air Force has been very successful. Seven, eight, nine game winning streak. They go back and forth between conventional and option football.”
Your defense is scoring a lot, more than they’re giving up. Is that something that has been emphasized? Is that just guys making plays? How do you account for that?
“It’s a good thing. Very good players and a good scheme and they work very hard at being good on defense.”
Talk about your impressions about Lavert Hill. I know you’ve been happy with him.
“Yeah, been happy with Lavert. He’s asserted himself and played very well. Made the big play for us in the ball game this past week.
“Tyree Kinnel would be another person that I’d spotlight; defensive player of the game; sacks, two I believe; tackles for loss; interception for touchdown; seven tackles total, I believe. Well done. Brandon Watson also had a couple PBUs and played very well. Josh Metellus did good. Up front, I thought Rashan had one of his best games. Devin Bush again, another very good game for him; sack, tackle for loss, PBU. Outstanding game by him. Chase Winovich. Noah Furbush was better. Mo Hurst probably played the best of all of our upfront defensive players.
“So, there was a lot of good. Dodged a couple bullets. As was pointed out, scored two touchdowns on defense, so we’re doing well. We’re good. Attribute that to hard work and good scheme and good players.”
How has Lavert—how have you seen him digest all the information that a young starter has to digest?
“Yeah, doing well. Seeing him digest information very well. Comes from good stock. You’d love to be Lavert Hill Sr., to have Delano Hill playing professional football and now here you see Lavert in there starting at corner, making plays, helping his team win. Lavert Hill Sr.’s probably boring the heck out of the neighbors with how well his sons are doing.”
[Learn how to avoid emotionally hijacking Jim Harbaugh after THE JUMP]
On this side of the ball mass departures are more concerning, but mostly when we start talking about how defensive line spots have somewhere between 1.5 and two starters depending on how enormous the person in question is. The starters should maintain, or even improve on, last year's production despite losing two early NFL draft picks.
This would be a bold assertion except they already proved, or at least suggested, that last year.
Michigan and Ohio State are the only schools returning multiple 4-3 ends who finished in the top 20 nationally for pass rush productivity. pic.twitter.com/XNuV7KRBgL
"Rebuild or reload" ain't even a question here, at least until the freshmen roll onto the field.
STRONGSIDE DEFENSIVE END: REPENT
the unearthly glow came and went seemingly at random later we discovered it was the fibonacci sequence [Smoothitron]
Yea, we took the glowing babe from the heavenly pod and swaddled him and put him in the barn. Every fortnight we would provide him a cistern of water and an animal from the flock—at first chickens, then goats, and finally whole cows. Every time we'd open the door we dreaded the unspeakable gore we assumed we would find; instead only neatly folded hides and stacked, gleaming bones. Six months in he started arranging the bones into heartfelt notes of appreciation for the animals he was slowly turning into more of himself.
After a year, he asked to play football.
So! RASHAN GARY [recruiting profile] has completed his incubation period and will burst forth unto the world, writing very polite notes about how delicious opposing quarterbacks are and can he please have another. Last year Gary's impact was muted by the folks playing in front of him and the inevitable adaptation period as he tried to imbibe Don Brown's defense. Here he is vacating a gap because he didn't execute a stunt correctly:
Tsk, tsk, baby Godzilla. This wasn't exactly common but neither was it unheard of. Sometimes the entire defense would clearly be executing a line slant and Gary would go the wrong way or Gary would seemingly get a stunt/slant call that nobody else did, opening up a lane for the QB. That sort of thing made it hard to start him when Chris Wormley was wrecking tight ends and the defense as a whole was booting folks off the field in three snaps or fewer on the regular.
On the other hand, he did get just under 300 snaps. Here he is playing WDE at 290:
That dip around the corner is not something many people have, let alone 290 pound guys. There's a certain depth at which your edge rush is effective and a certain depth where it's just opening up big lanes like we saw against UCF. Eight yards is about that cutoff, and Gary was productively getting around the corner at eight yards with frequency.
Gary's promise is that he is the man you get to do both. He can beef up and wreck a tight end or tackle as the anchor…
…and he can do that bend-around the corner thing as a weakside end. His physical package is not of this earth.
Gary followed up his absurd physical feats from high school—"He out-jumped a wide receiver, he out-shuttled a defensive back and he out-40'd a BCS safety commit" at the Opening, at 287 pounds, as a high school junior—with yet more this winter. Even DPJ's performance couldn't hold a candle to Gary:
He ran a 4.5 at 290 pounds and beat every cornerback in the L-drill. We don't have an updated bench number, but last year he put up 26 reps at 225, which is good at the NFL combine.
He began to turn that into production as well. Gary generated a pressure stat on 13% of his rushes a year ago, good for top 20 nationally and fifth in the league amongst returners. PFF had him +13 for the season, which was a bit worse than Wormley on a per-snap basis. "True freshman is slightly worse than fifth year All Big Ten senior" is a good place to start from. If he improves as much as the average freshman he'll at least match Wormley.
If he lives up to the chatter he's shoot right past him. In addition to the obvious promise he showed as Wormley understudy is a veritable torrent of talk. Unreserved, rapturous talk. Mike McCray:
“He knows what he wants to do, and he wants to be the greatest defensive end to ever play the game. And you can see that every day when he comes to work. … Summer workouts, extra lifting, outside of practice doing extra work, he just wants to be great, and you can’t take that away from somebody if he wants it.”
"There's some people that are just aspiring for greater things than just the adulation of somebody. And I think Rashan is that type of guy. You'd really like him. … He just works and I really think competing is his favorite thing to do. And he has the ability to be great. I don't know what more to say about that."
Allen Trieu talked to a source and returned saying that Gary is "just a machine with everything he does … always the first one there during film, workouts, what have you." Webb says the buzz is "palpable" and that "virtually every player and coach [he's] talked to has made mention of how dominant Gary has been."
None of this is a surprise. Gary is a #1 overall prospect. #1 prospects have a success rate of 100% when they don't malfease their way off the field:
Recruiting rankings are in fact gospel when it comes to the bluest of the blue chips. Aside from a few guys (Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Brown, Seantrel Henderson) who didn't make it for reasons other than their talent, every Rivals or Scout #1 player in the last decade has at least been good and has usually been excellent. And even Brown and Henderson stuck on NFL rosters, with Henderson starting every game as a rookie.
And Gary is not your average #1 recruit:
Whenever he showed up at a camp a trail of superlatives followed in his wake. Jamie Newberg said he was "the single most dominant player" he's seen in a decade of covering the UA game. Barton Simmons said his Opening appearance was "the best defensive line performance since the Opening's inception". Mike Farrell said he "as dominant as I've ever seen." Brian Dohn said he is "the most impressive prospect I've covered at the high school level."
Entering year two all systems are go. He's refined his body and gotten more familiar with the scheme; when the coaches reference him it is to marvel. Gary will immediately be one of the best defensive ends in the country. This isn't even controversial.
[After THE JUMP: i like him mostly for the sacks but also because i get to use my ten dollar word "ebullient"]
“Good. It’s been good. We had a good day. Our guys had more energy and were moving around better; [they] had a bounce in their step. This’ll be a big weekend. This is—guys are going to get done with training, get into playing positions. It’s a big weekend for it because we start making those two-deep rosters soon. Train’s already left the station and it’s picking up steam.”
Are you going to give us those two-deeps?
“Uh…no, I didn’t say that.”
You said 8-15 practices for the quarterbacks to--
Has anybody stepped up? Is it still a three-horse race or a two-horse race?
“Yeah, John [O’Korn] and Wilton [Speight] have really stepped up. I think they’ve created a little bit of separation and they’re battling now. It’s going one with the ones and the next day the other’s with the ones and the other’s with the twos. We’re keeping a very close eye on it and it’s progressing well.”
Pep said the other day that one of the things he really likes [QBs to have] is command of the offense. As a former quarterback, what does that mean to you when somebody says they have command of the offense?
“Well, it’s just a process of knowing where all your players are and figuring out what the defense is trying to do to you or take away or give you or where they’re more vulnerable, being able to move the team in and out of the huddle, and make reminders is always another one.
“If a guy has good command of the offense he’ll be able to give other guys reminders, the running back or the fullback or a wide receiver or a tight end. He’s got it on the tip of his tongue and he just knows it cold; that’s having command of the offense.”
Is that the kind of thing that Brandon [Peters] has to do to get back to the same level as John and Wilton?
“Yeah, I mean, it’s just a process for him. He’s competing hard and doing good. Not to say that it’s set in stone right now. I think that the two guys have really created a little bit of separation.”
[After THE JUMP: right side of the line, the unblockables, young guys likely to contribute, and more]
“How we doin’? Everybody have a good summer? It’s over. At least for me. Really like our guys. Really high character group. It’s fun to go to work every day. We’re only three days in. The first two days you’ve got your pajamas on; you’re just running around in your shorts and t-shirts with the headgear on. Did our first day in uppers yesterday and got to see how we’re gonna be. Lot of learning to do. Huge learning curve.
“Trying to establish tempo and pace with this new practice schedule is interesting because in essence you really have one more week than you used to have, so that has to come into your thinking because you obviously want to get the guys all this information but you don’t want to jam it at them too fast that they can’t retain, and you actually have a little more time to install, get prepared and so forth.
“But you don’t want them bored with it either, so you have to keep them going at a reasonable clip so that they stay engaged and they learn and they participate with great energy mostly mentally; you know they’re going to do that physically. Good start the first three days. Excited about it.”
You’ve talked about maintaining the aggressive, attacking style of your defense even with losing so many starters. Realistically, does there have to be some dialing back with so many young guys or is it too early to tell?
“We really can’t tell. I think it’s a great question. I’m not trying to dodge it, but regardless of how we’re gonna go about doing it, because there’s several ways to do it, we’re going to be aggressive. I mean, that’s just the way we play defense. Now, we may do that different ways. We may play different concepts. Obviously you have a system. It needs to be flexible enough so that speed can get on the field and based on where that speed comes from positionally that your package is flexible enough that you can utilize those talents.”
In Chicago, Jim was talking about Kwity [Paye] and Luiji [Vilain], kind of raving about them on the outside. He mentioned them as outside linebackers and defensive ends. What have you noticed out of those two so far?
“Well, I’ll give you this: I watched pass rush yesterday—pretty good. Very good start. Luiji: extremely explosive, comes off the rock. Was really impressed with how well not only does he come off the rock but how well Kwity used his hands. Those guys are very talented guys, as Coach has alluded to, and we’re going to give them every opportunity possible to get on the field in some roles.
“Now, can they learn it all concept-wise? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute and develop confidence and then have their role broadened as we move forward.”
Luiji Vilain is a prototype edge rusher who packs the letter I into his name four times in eleven characters. Universally hailed by scouting services, Vilain's Army game surge nearly took him to five star status on 24/7. Not bad for a guy from the great white North who's only been playing the American version of football for two years.
The scouting here is very tightly bunched. There's no question about where he'll play or what his strengths are. Vilain gets off the line of scrimmage and attacks your face until he's making poutine out of the quarterback:
Greg Mattison: "He has tremendous speed, great size, and can really show his burst off the football. He is what you look for when you're recruiting a pass-rusher and outside player."
Michael Clark, Scout: "…explosive off the edge. …fires out of his stance and immediately puts a tremendous amount of pressure on his opponent. He is very physical at the point of attack and has quick hands, which allow him to consistently shed blockers. … changes directions fluidly and is relentless."
ESPN: "…lengthy and well-built frame that can continue to be developed and support additional good mass… excellent first-step quickness. Good initial burst and capable of quickly getting up-field and disrupting plays with penetration. … Demonstrates ability to fire out and shoot hands and maintain good football position … at times can catch blockers …can do a nice job of being active and violent with his hands in attacking blockers. …displays some tightness and lacks great bend."
Adam Friedman, Rivals: "the athleticism and strength to make a difference on every down. He sets the edge very well and is an asset as a run defender. …extensive arsenal of moves." Also: "His abilityto get off the line of scrimmage and blow past opposing offensive tackles is special. ….he can disengage from offensive linemen and set the edge when he needs to. …a very, very athletic, solid player and is near elite rushing from the outside. His ability to come off the edge really commands a double team sometimes and you have to know where he is in passing situations.
Clint Brewster, 24/7: "…twitchy ball-get-off and an explosive first step …fluid bend-ability … shows a variety of pass-rush moves, not just a speed rush. He's got the physical strength and the length to bull-rush offensive tackles or cross their face … nice swim move and arm-over move …aggressiveness and motor really stand out not only on passing plays but against the run ….run/pass diagnosis is impressive. … able to diagnose the read-option and come up with stops in the backfield."
Anon guy at Scout: "…explosive off the edge. He's extremely athletic and very strong. …changes directions well, has great speed and is good in pursuit. He is very good against the run and the pass. Vilain also has a high motor and plays very hard…very high ceiling.
Negatives are mostly the usual pad-level/is-in-high-school stuff. The main exception is Rivals, which was gung-ho about Vilain early (they had him #89), had a period of relative skepticism (dropping him to #180), and then hit the reset button after his impressive tenure at the UA game. Friedman explained the drop:
"He’ll dominate a lot of guys but when he comes up against the top-two or three offensive tackles [in camps] he has struggled a little bit. When he tries to go inside he can get washed down. … His hand technique caused him to drop a bit and then we saw a lot of other defensive ends that we really wanted to move up. They seemed to be more developed physically, No. 1, but also further along with their inside moves."
Those struggles against top level tackles were not present after his senior year. His week at the UA game saw him move up almost 40 spots on the 24/7 composite, moving him from fringe top 100 range to near five-star territory. And he got there by whipping up on guys like Trey Smith, Austin Deculus, and Jedrick Wills. Scout devolved into Jon Grudenisms as they named him one of the top five defenders in attendance:
If you want to know who was close to about half a dozen sacks, it would be this guy. Vilain got around the corner and pressure the quarterback numerous times. He also flushed the quarterback out of the pocket and set the edge against the run a couple of times too.
He had six hurries and three hits on the QB while playing maybe half the snaps. Rivals moved him back up, 15 spots higher than their initial take, because "he played with more power than ever before" and was constantly in the backfield. Mike Farrell went out of his way to say he's "not a five star talent" while naming him the guy with the most improved stock. I guess in Farrell's opinion Vilain is merely a very good, very well rounded, very athletic WDE prospect. He is not a Charlton-esque freak.
Vilain's late surge may be even better for his prospects than you'd expect from that rankings bump. Vilain went from chasing the top guys in his age group to crushing them. Scout:
…has taken his game to a new level this fall. He looks more explosive and stronger than a year ago. Athletically, he is still off the charts. He has great speed and changes directions fluidly. … refined his technique. Vilain is playing with better leverage, using his hands very well and has developed some moves.
…showed up yesterday looking like a million bucks. Several reporters from multiple networks commented on his build and overall appearance as a prospect. … When he first stepped onto the scene two summers ago for the Sound Mind Sound Body camp in Michigan Vilain was a long, lanky pass rusher. Now, he's a chiseled athlete with a much thicker overall build.
That was at the UA game, and when Vilain showed up for conditioning he was impressive in a college context. Lorenz:
Luiji Vilain and Aubrey Solomon look ready. While there was a clear dropoff from those players who have already been in the program, the two highly-rated true freshmen are looking solid right out of the gates. Vilain is up to 245 lbs., and you could see why they both were so coveted. They should be ready to contribute sooner than later.
Vilain is already a top prospect and it's possible that he's still got a period of rapid improvement in front of him. The story of his recruitment would be pretty encouraging if he was a potential sleeper; Vilain is already at a high level and may have tremendous upside yet to explore. Brandon Justice caught up with a coach who faced him and that guy said "he's got that Jevon Kearse look going for him," so… okay. Maybe he is a five star, like 24/7 just about made him.
If so, we should know quickly. Vilain has a ton of ability and opportunity.
Etc.: Five-seed in this year's Name Of The Year tourney but was knocked out in the first round by Demon Clowney, a name which 1) is probably not pronounced like a beast from hell, 2) was radically underseeded, and 3) belongs to the cousin of Jadeveon. Those 5-12s are gonna getcha.
Why Tim Jamison? Jamison was a highly touted WDE-only who came in around 50th nationally, like Vilain. He had a similar rep as an edge rush specialist and ended up a 6'4"-ish, 260-270-pound-ish WDE. He was a bit of a disappointment relative to his recruiting ranking, only emerging into a starter as a redshirt junior. He turned in two decent seasons (5.5 sacks in 2007 and 2008) and went undrafted; he did carve out a brief NFL career. Michigan hopes Vilain will be more impactful; he'll be the same kind of player even if he's the ten sack version.
BC's Harold Landry is the ten sack—or 16.5, whatever—version: a prototype WDE around 6'3" or 6'4" who Don Brown recruited. Vilain should seem a lot like Chase Winovich, as well. He's about the same size and Winovich was super productive in limited time last year thanks to his quick first step and relentless pursuit.
Guru Reliability: High. All star game, similar takes, very little projection. Still a little spread.
Variance: Low-plus. Already at or near a reasonable playing weight and slots easily into the WDE spot; some concern he didn't play great high school competition.
Ceiling: Very high. Everything you could want in a WDE except being a 6'6" superhero like Charlton.
General Excitement Level: Very high. Vilain's rapid improvement over the last two years culminated at an all star game where he shot past the best guys in his age bracket repeatedly. He's already very good and his lack of experience means he's got untapped upside even though he's a consensus top 50-ish player.
Projection: Most observers are projecting Vilain to hit the two-deep as soon as fall camp starts and this space is no exception. Michigan needs a Winovich backup. The odd Ron Johnson DT move, even if temporary, is foreboding for his future as a weakside end. Rueben Jones hasn't made much impact yet and looks significantly smaller than Vilain despite having a two year head start. There are no other veteran WDEs on the roster. Judging from their respective UA performances, Vilain is ahead of Kwity Paye and should remain there to start.
Vilain will have a second season as a rotation DE behind Winovich in 2018 and is the favorite to succeed him for a two year starting run thereafter.
Michigan represented in the real bracket. This Is March, and that means it's Name of the Year time. College football, which annually raises hundreds of names from obscurity, contributes five participants—at least five that I recognize—to this year's tournament:
1 seed Kobe Buffalomeat, an Illinois State signee. 15 seed Dredrick Snelson Jr, a UCF wide receiver. 11 seed Bumper Pool, a 2018 LB committed to Okie State (who Michigan pursued). 5 seed and Michigan signee Luiji Vilain(!). 1 seed Quindarious Monday, a 2018 safety out of Georgia recently offered by Michigan.
2 seed Sultan McDoom does not appear to be related to Eddie, FWIW. Also there is a Taco Dibbits who is presumably not related to Taco Charlton.
I believe Vilain is the first Michigan-affiliated participant since Iris Macadangdang made it to the final in 2009, losing to LSU DE Barkevious Mingo. Yes I knew that off the top of my head. Yes my brain is very good and full of useful things.
The NOTY bracket is always a magical one that different people will take different things from, like a diamond with 64 gleaming facets. Personally, I'm partial to Boats Botes. Boats.
Many, many spring practice(?) things. I was thinking about splitting out huge data dumps from Sam Webb and Steve Lorenz into a separate post but since they're mostly about winter workouts—ie not even practice—during the heart of NCAA tournment season maybe we'll just jam it in here.
Prepare for JAM:
Webb reports that Don Brown is bringing up Mike Wroblewski—who is apparently called "ROBO"—unprompted as the third ILB along with McCray and Bush. Sounds like Michigan will be rotating three guys for two spots.
Sam is asked which early enrollees are consistently drawing mention and responds with Cesar Ruiz and—surprise—Donovan Peoples-Jones. Lorenz also mentions Ruiz as "college ready" physically and broaches the possibility he'll be a four-year starter. That would necessarily kick either Mason Cole or Ben Bredeson out to tackle. Frey thinks he can bat Cole around this spring and it won't have a negative impact.
Lorenz also asserts that the coaching staff is pushing Juwann Bushell-Beatty because they think he can make it. They thought he was a reasonable option midseason, so he's got to be doing something right in practice.
Illinois State should have been in. Ken Pomeroy writes on the exclusion of Illinois State from the field. One reason I was mildly incensed about what the committee did this year is that they gave the numbers-literate a window for hope:
That discussion obviously went nowhere, as the Minnesota-Wisconsin seeding discrepancy and Illinois State exclusion demonstrate. Kenpom's take on the Redbirds:
Teams from a competitive mid-major conference like the Missouri Valley play a much different kind of schedule. Most games against teams outside the top 100 are conference games, which are just as likely to be on the road as they are at home. Also, very few of those “bad” opponents are going to be as bad as Howard or Western Carolina, whom Marquette played. Although it played many more teams outside the top 100, Illinois State still had fewer games (three) against teams in the bottom 100 than Marquette. As a consequence, a whole lot more of Illinois State’s games against poorer teams were potentially loseable, if the Redbirds had a particularly bad night or their opponent was feeling it. And the Redbirds did lose two of them—road games to Murray State and Tulsa. ...
If Marquette and Illinois State swapped schedules, the Golden Eagles would almost surely lose some games to teams outside the top 100. If you put Illinois State in the Big East, it would have earned some quality wins. No doubt, though, the Redbirds would do much worse than their 17-1 Missouri Valley Conference record when facing the tougher competition. But consider that Xavier went 8-10 against Big East teams not named DePaul and easily earned an at-large bid. The standard for small-conference teams is incredibly high, while the standard for major-conference teams is not as high as you think.
The "bad loss" mode of thinking fails to take into account the fact that when you play a high number of road games against teams with RPIs from 100 to 200, an NCAA quality team will be expected to lose some of them.
There are metrics that take this into account. "Wins Above Bubble"—defined as "the amount of wins you have - than the amount of wins an average bubble team would expect to have against the schedule you faced"—is an easy concept to grasp that ranks on overall resume instead of the distorted windows that arbitrary RPI bins provide. Illinois State was excluded despite being 1.5 WAB, ahead of 7-seed Dayton and 9-seeds MSU and Vandy*.
We blithely dismiss Illinois State's record because it came against "nobody", but anybody can be somebody on the road. Take Illinois State's game at Missouri State. On the day of the game, Missouri State was ranked #130 in Kenpom—bad loss territory if this was RPI. Illinois State was ranked #44, which is where nine-seed VT is ranked today and ahead of at-large picks VCU, Seton Hall, Providence, and USC. Kenpom gave Illinois State—which, again, was performing like a legit NCAA tournament team at the time—just a 63% shot at victory. Play nine road games against teams from 100 to 200 and an NCAA bubble team should lose a couple, as Illinois State did. Their record should have been enough to get them in the field.
*[I don't think WAB should be used for seeding; it's a selection metric. I mention the above teams because they were not only in the field but evidently not even on the bubble.]
New hockey coach maybe possibly. This gentleman appears to be Pavel Datsyuk's agent:
Obligatory disclaimer: agents are not always reliable sources, and the deletion of said tweet makes it even shakier. If, however, he is correct and Michigan has already moved to secure their next head coach that could mean they've gone off the board. IE: they hired Not Mel. It seems doubtful that this guy would be in the loop if it was Pearson.
Tuesday's post covered the final Rivals 100; since Rivals has released all of its final rankings. Scout, 24/7, and ESPN have finalized theirs as well. We're going to ignore small moves down, since those are mostly drops based on other guys flying up the board and don't signify a change of opinion regarding the prospect in question. Guys who had significant moves on at least one site:
COMMITS: STOCK UP
CT WR Tarik Black got a ten spot bump on Scout.
FL OL Cesar Ruiz saw steps forward everywhere ranging from minor bumps (247 moved him up 12 spots to #54) to more significant ones (up 36 spots to 41 on Rivals). ESPN has him 28th (up from 69th), which would be five-star territory except ESPN is apparently only handing that out to 14 recruits this year.
OH DT James Hudson had a big rise on 247 from 237th to just outside the top 100.
VA DE Luiji Vilain surged to the cusp of five-star status at 247 (up 49 spots to 36th) and up 107 slots to #74 on Rivals. ESPN bumped him up to 69th (nice) from #95.
MI DE Deron Irving-Bey got a ~25 spot bump on ESPN and a 10 spot bump on Scout.
FL LB Jordan Anthony got a ~30 spot bump on Scout and was otherwise static.
COMMITS: STATIC BUT I'M MENTIONING THEM ANYWAY
MI WR Donovan Peoples-Jones had a significant fall at 247 to 26th (from 8th) and minor bumps elsewhere. He's now in a very tight range.
MI CB Ambry Thomas dropped 30 spots to 62nd on 247; he gained about that many slots on Rivals but that only got him up to #146.
COMMITS: STOCK DOWN
CO QB Dylan McCaffrey took a nosedive. 247 moved him from 58th to 204th; Rivals slid him about 80 spots to land at #131. Scout and ESPN have him in that same range now.
TX OL Chuck Filiaga dropped about 60 spots to #175 on Rivals. He had a ~10 spot drop on Scout.
NJ LB Drew Singleton fell 21 spots at 247 to exactly 100th despite being laid up with an ACL injury. That's a grumble.
UT DT Jay Tufele jumped up to 14th (+25) on 24/7 and 37th(+64) on Rivals.
GA DT Aubrey Solomon jumped 11 spots to 20th on 24/7 and solidified his five star status elsewhere.
MS LB Willie Gay jumped 18 spots to 33rd on 24/7 and from outside the Rivals 250 to 73rd.
IA WR Oliver Martin rose to 47th (+23) at 247 and entered the Rivals 250 at #206.
GA WR Nico Collins fell about 40 spots to 200th at 24/7 and around 60 spots to 120th at Rivals
More positive than negative here, as the only player to take a major hit was McCaffrey; meanwhile three guys who are in the class (Vilain, Ruiz, Hudson) and four of the five major targets got bumps.
Aubrey Solomon trending to M, says everyone except Aubrey Solomon
Solomon with 2018 commit Otis Reese back in the day
Good news: Michigan's surge on 5* GA DT Aubrey Solomon'scrystal ball has continued unabated. Michigan's picked up the last 14 picks, amongst them another handful of 24/7 personnel including Steve Wiltfong. Further reports from the Michigan in-home are very positive as well:
“Aubrey’s mom was really impressed that he brought his daughter along,” Webb said. “The visit hit all the marks. Anyone doubting Michigan’s strong standing in the race just isn’t paying attention.”
“It was one of the best in-home visits ever. It was just a different setting to see a coach,” Solomon said. “My mom loved it, too, and was just shocked how engaging the coaches were, especially with my baby sister. His daughter and my sister got a long so well, it was just heartwarming and a great visit.”
Wiltfong went as far as to say that a couple of sources indicated it was a Michigan-USC(!) battle, which would be excellent news indeed.
Defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon (Leesburg, Ga./Lee County) said Alabama still leads.
"They still lead big, but not by a huge margin," Solomon said. "I like the physicality they bring and their defense."
That was Tuesday about an hour after the previous recruitin' went up; nothing about that statement has done anything to dissuade people from picking Michigan. The author of that piece, Ryan Bartow, is in fact the guy who was first to pull the trigger on a Michigan pick, and he remains unmoved.
Solomon says "right now I'm done" but that something could come up, because that's how this recruitment has gone. I go back to the UGA moderator who said Solomon might not even take in-homes with Saban and Smart. If that turns out to be the case Michigan fans can go into his Signing Day decision with a lot of confidence. If those guys do drop in it will be a nail-biter.
Elsewhere in five-star DTs, Lorenz has put in a crystal ball for UT DT Jay Tufele to Utah. That appears to be the consensus from both OSU and Michigan folks.
Oliver Martin will be going somewhere this weekend, or nowhere
Michigan has officially landed in Iowa City. Wolverines here for in-home visit with Oliver Martin today. pic.twitter.com/RCzEumNHi5
That's how geography works. You're always in a place. You're never nowhere unless you're Michigan State and it's bowl season.
Anyway, Michigan has once again put on a full court press for IA WR Oliver Martin, who they supposedly led for until a parting of the ways a couple months ago. That parting occurred when it looked like they'd get a dozen OL along with four WRs—I think you can assume that GA WR Nico Collins was a silent commit given the pattern here—and could not afford the space for a fifth. Martin is reputedly a Harbaugh fave-rave so the only reason they'd back off is if they thought they had no room.
With Collins now much more in play than previously thought and spots seemingly available, heeeere's Oliver again. Lorenz and Isaiah Hole flipped their crystal balls back to Michigan once pursuit was re-engaged in earnest, and Wiltfong might not be far behind. Lorenz:
I was around him all week at the Army game in San Antonio and there's definitely a bond between he and quarterback commitment Dylan McCaffrey. I also believe Martin would already be committed to the staff if they had the room earlier in the process.
Martin has a couple of officials left, one of which can be to Ann Arbor since his October visit was an unofficial. Depending on which article you read you'll discover that he's headed to Gainesville, Ann Arbor, dunno, or nowhere (because he has a swim meet on Saturday). An official to Ann Arbor is probably game over for the other chasers, but it sounds like the Martins might shut it down and just take some in-homes.
The Becton Oversight
mean mug grade: A-
I've neglected to mention anything about VA OL Mekhi Becton the last couple times. This was solely because I didn't have any Becton tabs. Lorenz reports that confidence is still strong on Michigan's end and that the academic angle is important to him. That passes the smell test since Becton was reputed to be a strong Virginia lean for a while. Wiltfong, however, is hearing differently:
247Sports was told last weekend that it could be a Louisville-Hokies battle for Becton who is also considering Michigan, Michigan State, Oregon and Virginia among others. There’s confidence around the Hokies program the 6-foot-7, 345-pound Becton will end up at VT.
Aaand this appears to be a direct quote of a text from a UL commit that the Louisville site may have published a bit unwisely:
“Becton (didn’t) talk much but is debating between Michigan and us, which is pretty dumb with early playing time at Louisville but he doesn't follow me back.”
I have news for this young gentleman about the state of Michigan's 2017 offensive line.
Further complicating matters: Becton has a VT visit this weekend and Oregon the week after. So that's four schools with insiders swearing up and down that they lead with Oregon lurking on the perimeter. Anything could happen.
Elsewhere in OL news, Lorenz reports that while PA OL CJ Thorpe will official this weekend it would be an "absolute stunner" if he flipped his commitment.
Weird Guy Watch
Rivals projects VA LB Ellis Brooksto Maryland, but mostly because they have to project him somewhere. Their certainty level is low indeed. 24/7 latest update on him states that the last-weekend visit is now up in the air between Michigan and Penn State.
Clemson OT transfer Jake Fruhmorgen has a narrow list of Michigan, LSU, and Florida. Sam caught up with his dad, who apparently reads PFF:
(Jake can) get a redshirt, and good strong year (training) will put him in a strong position to compete at LSU. And they ranked #1 in college last year as a unit.
The only site out there ranking OL units is PFF. Anyway. Florida just lost their OL coach and Fruhmorgen and father have put great emphasis on position coaching in their decision, so they are likely behind the eight ball a bit. Drevno has tried to get in touch, so Michigan appears set to pursue Fruhmorgen in earnest.
Isaiah Hole talks to 4* PA DE commit Donovan Jeter's coach about what he brings:
"Size and ability. I think the biggest thing out there, from a recruiting standpoint, is that they're looking for kids with size and they're looking for kids that can move. Donovan certainly possesses those intangibles. We saw a motor and an explosiveness from him in his stance"
Scout's John Garcia Jr clarifies that TN QB Jackson Gibbsis a PWO candidate at a few different schools and will be picking between M, Alabama, and UCLA. Reports a few months ago that he had gotten a bonafide offer never made any sense, anyway.
That shouldn't matter since his dad and both uncles played at M.
I will deign to mention that Michigan has offered 2019 MN OT Quinn Carroll, who looks to have the profile of a top 100 guy so far. There are a couple of big-timers instate as well as OH OL Nolan Rumler, as well.
As Webb mentions above, this was part of Harbaugh's in-home visit with 5* GA DT Aubrey Solomon. It appears to have gone well:
“Just finished such an awesome in home visit where we bowled, raced cars & finished a pre-k project celebrating 100 days of school for Lee County Pre-K, Solomon’s mother Sabrina Caldwell told The Michigan Insider. “He brought his daughter and it was the best visit ever.”
Yep, Harbaugh brought his daughter on a recruiting visit, which is no doubt causing the inmates of the RCMB to splutter in impotent rage. (Also targets of their impotent rage: women, people who don't drink Faygo, algebra.) Webb says he doesn't have a gut feeling on Solomon, but that he fits many of the criteria. It's usually a good sign when Webb starts getting a ton from the parents.
A couple of 247 guys have joined Barton Simmons with Michigan predictions, and they're both guys covering UGA. Both flipped from Alabama predictions, and while opinion on Solomon has blown like the wind since his decommit there's not much time for things to swing back—Solomon now says he's done with visits after he heads out to USC. Rusty Mansell, one of the Georgia guys who CBed Solomon to Michigan, is hearing that Nick Saban and Kirby Smart might not even get in-homes. That would be game over.
Solomon is obviously the top target left on Michigan's board and would almost certainly be in the two deep as a freshman; as the First Look post from last week noted, Michigan's interior line depth is nonexistent.
The other major targets
Georgia is buzzing for 4* AL WR Nico Collins, which would be deeply irritating after they swooped on Isaiah Wilson out of nowhere. At least Alabama is "no longer considered a factor" for Collins, per Lorenz. Webb says it's "become more of a toss up" since Fisch departed; Pep Hamilton will have to build a relationship in a short period of time. He still gives Michigan the edge.
Wiltfong reports that Michigan is getting back in the game with IA WR Oliver Martin, who most were projecting in this class until Brad Hawkins suddenly re-emerged. Martin has two officials left and Michigan could get one of them—his October visit was an unofficial. Wiltfong is still riding with ND.
4.5* MS LB Willie Gay fielded an in-home visit from Chris Partridge on Thursday that didn't generate much content in the aftermath. Mississippi State firing its defensive coordinator probably doesn't help the Bulldogs, but LSU is looming.
4* FL OL commit Kai-Leon Herberttook a visit to Auburn this weekend, and had a very crootin' quote in the aftermath:
"I'm definitely going to commit before National Singing Day or re-afffirm my commitment if I happen to choose Michigan," Herbert said. "I'm not that guy who does the hats."
Herbert is more of a Walking Dead parody video kind of guy. Herbert's commit is obviously butter soft at this point, potentially opening the door for Thorpe. Lorenz reports that Michigan is going to try to solidify him with an in-home after he visits Miami and UF the next two weekends; he doesn't see it happening.
4* NM RB commit O'Maury Samuels is the recruit most affected by Ty Wheatley's departure and has been somewhat soft for several months now. Michigan has an official remaining, which is good, and Sameul's father told Webb that there's only one other school in contention:
“I think (Arizona is the only other school being considered). I think he narrowed it down to Michigan and Arizona. There were other schools, but it’s Michigan and Arizona. If I had to bet on it.”
Much easier fending off one school, especially one coming off a tough year, than a full-court press from most of the SEC. Webb says it's "not a slam dunk"; Isaiah Hole reported that Samuels is "fully expected to qualify and to be part of the class."
Happy trails to 3* CT CB Brandon Sebastian, who abruptly cancelled his upcoming visit and is now set to stick with BC. Brice Marich says it was a "mutual" decision—unlikely. This is made even weirder by another weird thing: 4* ND commit Elijah Hicks decommitted from ND... so he could immediately enroll at Cal, which did not have a head coach at that juncture.
Michigan now has zero realistic targets* at defensive back. Reports that Michigan is getting back in with IA WR Oliver Martin may not be entirely Collins related; it's possible the fifth DB is going to be a wide receiver they convert, probably NJ WR Brad Hawkins.
*[Definition of "realistic target": someone who has been on campus or scheduled a visit.]
4* VA LB Ellis Brooks tells Rivals he will "probably" take a visit next weekend; he's currently at LSU and Oregon is on the docket this weekend. Michigan bumped ND, so there's that. Brooks is a big dude at 240; any Michigan pursuit should not be interpreted as pessimism regarding Gay. Brooks just took an official to Northwestern, so he's got a super weird top five: NW, Oregon, LSU, Michigan, and Maryland.
A couple of OL prospects now seem like somewhat reasonable possibilities. Bradon Justice reports that 4* PA OL CJ Thorpewill take an official next week. This space has mentioned Thorpe in passing after Michigan started poking around, but this is is the first indication this pursuit is anything serious. Thorpe is a legacy—thus that quote from his dad about how Urban Meyer can't recruit him—but a late January visit is always a threat.
Clemson OL Jake Fruhmorgen is transferring; Michigan and Florida are the schools most prominently mentioned for him at this early stage. Fruhmorgen played in 11 games as a true freshman and started the first eight games of Clemson's national championship season before getting knocked out with a shoulder injury. PFF reports that he didn't grade out well, but he's a true sophomore who has eight starts; probably some potential there.
Lorenz reports that Michigan is interested enough to check him out; in his opinion Michigan was second for Fruhmorgen during his initial recruitment. He'd have to sit out next year and then would have two to play; if Michigan has some extra spots, as it looks like they might, Fruhmorgen would be an opportunity to patch some holes in the upperclass OL.
Finally, Marich reports that Michigan has been in contact with 4* TN RB Cordarrian Richardson, a Clemson decommit. Jay Harbaugh is going to make an in-home with him, no doubt in the hopes of securing an official from him. Richardson has just three crystal balls, two of which are foggy—this is a potential Alpaca Out Of Nowhere recruitment if things go well.
Rivals finalizes top 100
Ruiz is the top rated center in a minute
The post-All Star rankings are generally the last ones, and Rivals is first out of the gate with a finalized top 100. Michigan commits:
#12 Donovan Peoples-Jones
#26 Jordan Anthony
#41 Cesar Ruiz (up from 77)
#52 Drew Singleton
#74 Luiji Vilain (up from 181)
#76 Tarik Black
Dylan McCaffrey was the only dropper; he's now outside the top 100 after being #52. TTB points out that everyone except McCaffrey took big upward leaps since the initial Rivals 100 for this class, so maybe not so much with the tinfoil hats this year.
“The rare polished high school center, Ruiz is a natural fit for the position. He shined at this year's Under Armour All-America Game, where he displayed impressive extension and solid power. The fact that he's spent his high school career snapping the ball from the center spot is a bonus for Michigan, which could use him at both guard and center early in his time in Ann Arbor.” – Rob Cassidy, Rivals.com Southeast Recruiting Analyst
“Vilain will be a great pass rusher at Michigan, but at the Under Armour All-America Game he showed that he's not a one-trick pony. He played with more power than ever before and had lots of success in practices. Vilain's presence in the backfield during the game showed he will have success against elite competition.” - Friedman
Lorenz reports that Michigan is really high on OH DT commit James Hudson. Same.
Michigan had its sights set on three NT sorts and hoped to get two; 3.5* TN DT Rutger Reitmaier decided to stick with Oregon, and now 5* GA DT Aubrey Solomon has a defined leader that is not Michigan:
“No doubt about it,” Solomon told BamaOnLine when asked if Alabama was his leader. “They stand by themselves right now. Huge lead.”
Solomon's had a tendency to change his mind during the process, but that does not sound good. It sounds... bad. This also sounds bad:
“I believe it is a huge lead and it is really I will say it is a SEC fight,” Solomon said. “That’s how I feel. It is a big SEC fight.”
Steve Lorenz caught up with him as well and that take sounds much more optimistic; there is an element of Solomon telling people what they want to here in a lot of his quotes. Publicly stating a huge Alabama lead is something that people usually do when they are going to commit to Alabama, unfortunately.
Meanwhile UT DT Jay Tufele is publicly favoring nobody and has scheduled officials to USC, BYU, and Utah in January. He is tough to read because he says everything is awesome.
Michigan: "Michigan is really awesome. When I took my trip, it's a real college town and I loved everything about it and it was awesome." ...
Ohio State: "Ohio State is a really great program.... Urban Meyer is an awesome coach too.
If you want to know who was close to about half a dozen sacks, it would be this guy. Vilain got around the corner and pressure the quarterback numerous times. He also flushed the quarterback out of the pocket and set the edge against the run a couple of times too.
Now how can a player ranked as a four-star and No. 181 in the country be the biggest surprise? Well, at least to me, I felt Vilain was a bit overrated and I didn’t expect he would hold up physically as he has so far this week. Vilain has been using his length well in one-on-ones and especially team play, and he’s been stronger than expected.
We'll see if that's enough for a move up. Farrell said he's "not a five star talent", but there's a lot of room between that and #181.
Michigan's other commits didn't come in for much evaluation. RI DE Kwity Paye got in through a fan vote and was tasked with some rushing drills as a DT, which is not his skillset. It doesn't look like his showing will result in a four-star surge for him; he was kind of lost in the wash. Farrell got in a brief mention ("Kwity Paye also had a few key hurries in addition to his tackle for a loss"); 247 doesn't have anything on him except some photos. Ditto FL OL Kai-Leon Herbert and MI S Jaylen Kelly-Powell. (NJ LB Drew Singleton was also named to the game but is still recovering from an ACL tear.)
None of those gentlemen got mentioned as disappointments by Farrell, so they'll probably be static.
“When I went to Michigan I felt like I was still in Starkville, Miss.,” Gay said. “The only thing different was the weather, and even that wasn't that bad to me. I fell in love with Michigan when I went up there.”
I haven't ever been to Starkville. Maybe it has a botanical garden too?
Gay does have an official scheduled to LSU later this month. He'll probably say various things before he commits that may or may not mean anything. There's a reason that nobody pulled the trigger on a crystal ball even after Gay proclaimed Michigan a strong leader after his trip to Ann Arbor, and this is the reason. Mississippi black hole, man. Gay told Lorenz that his "mind feels like it's changing every day."
The balls roll in for Filiaga; other OL bits
For a brief moment after TX OL Chuck Filiaga announced a top three of OU, Nebraska, and Michigan there was a thought that OU was the pick. That moment seems to have passed after Filiaga arrived at the Army game and started talking to people. Steve Wiltfong, the main guy talking up Oklahoma, put in a crystal ball for Filiaga to Michigan and a bunch of people followed, including Lorenz. Lorenz interviewed Filiaga—likely the impetus for his pick—recently:
"I've had Coach Harbaugh come to my house and come to my school," he said. "He talked to our team before our game against Poteet and talked to all of us and gave us a speech. Coach Drevno came two times. He came once to be the ears for Coach Harbaugh and the second time they both came, so I think I got the OK. He really has made me a priority."
That's quite a contrast from Michigan's approach with Aaron Banks, which was "send Jay Harbaugh a couple times." Filiaga told Lorenz he "has an idea" where he's going; it appears everyone at 247 does as well. Sam Webb also got an interview in which Filiaga said he had an idea of where he was going; he re-iterated that the distance won't be an issue:
“Mom and dad… family really… they don’t mind where I go to college,” said Filiaga.
Brandon Brown is reporting that mom is on board and Michigan should get Filiaga, as well.
Two bits of circumstantial evidence:
I haven't seen anything from OU or Nebraska writers, and that is almost always a good sign for the team whose reporters are getting interviews.
When various 247 staff writers with no Michigan/OU/Nebraska track record put in picks they're looking for cheap CB points.
It would appear that the Filiaga commit will be low drama.
Michigan will still pursue OL even if they get Filiaga; giant VA OL Mekhi Becton now seems like Michigan's biggest priority going forward. He gave a pretty generic update to Scout. One thing of note: his only official thus far has been to Michigan. He plans on making some trips in January; those will give an indication of which schools in his top five (M, MSU, Louisville, VT, and UVA) are actual competition and which are just hats on the table.
5* AZ OL Austin Jackson told 247 that it was "kind of likely" he'd make a January official visit to Michigan. That would be his last of the process. Jackson is widely reputed to be a USC lock, get him on campus, puncher's chance, etc.
Meanwhile, 4.5* FL OL Tedarrell Slaton says that he wants to play DT and that Kentucky and Florida are his top two because they're recruiting him at that spot. He'd later name UF his outright leader. Michigan is still drawing mentions, but those feel more perfunctory by the day.
“Urban Meyer called my dad, and he told him he should stop recruiting me because it’s not going to happen,” Thorpe said. “After I got my Penn State offer, Urban called my dad and then he fell off the face of the earth. I didn’t know what happened and thought Ohio State was just not offering me, but I talked to my dad a year after the call, and he was like, ‘Yeah, I told him he can’t recruit you.’”
Thorpe's dad was a PSU football player.
Weird guy watch
As mentioned in the previous roundup, Michigan's rapid-fire commit burst leaves them with few players on the board who seem likely to join the class. They're at 26, can take up to 32, and will probably suffer a decommit or two because this is crootin'.
Meanwhile things appear to be trending in the wrong direction for the most familiar names on the board. The DTs were discussed above. Sam relays that optimism on Elijah Hicks has "faded dramatically"; Slaton's barely on the board. So Michigan's going to have some spots to fill.
One is obvious: CT CB Brandon Sebastian, a BC commit, appears to be the next man up as Michigan searches for a fifth DB in the class. His official was pushed back; Marich reports it is back on for the 13th. Sebastian's a teammate of Tarik Black and will have his parents on the visit. That's spatula city, baby, as the weirdly heated BC-Michigan decommit battle of 2016 rages on.
If it looks like Gay is going to end up somewhere else, keep an eye on 4* VA LB Ellis Brooks. Brooks has already been on campus twice and tells Brandon Brown that Michigan is a definite possibility for a January official:
"That last official visit is very potentially for Michigan. I’ve been talking with Coach [Don] Brown seeing how things are going. Coach Brown is my man and Coach [Chris] Partridge is my man. I really like both of those guys a lot. I know they like me as a player and also as a kid. I have a really solid relationship with both of them. It’s cool with them."
Brooks is a high-academic kid who's more of an ILB type, whereas Gay can play the VIPER(!!!) position that Peppers manned this year. The fit is thus maybe not great, but if Jordan Anthony is a potential VIPER(!!!) it could work out.
Rivals currently has MI DE Aidan Hutchinson a nondescript three-star but their most recent piece on him projects that he "will absolutely begin to travel up the Rivals rankings and should be a Top 250 if not a Top 100 guy when it's over"; he's a Michigan legacy.