Exit Michael Ferns

Exit Michael Ferns

Submitted by Ace on December 16th, 2014 at 11:58 AM

After a couple players tweeted the news, 247's Steve Lorenz confirmed that freshman linebacker Michael Ferns will transfer to West Virginia. Ferns, a 2014 four-star recruit from St. Clairsville, Ohio—very close to the West Virginia border—redshirted last season after enrolling early.

While Michigan loses a once-promising recruit, this is a transfer that shouldn't have a huge short- or long-term impact. Desmond Morgan, Joe Bolden, Ben Gedeon, and Mike McCray projected to fill the two-deep at inside linebacker in 2015, while Ferns's 2014 classmates Noah Furbush, Chase Winovich, and Jared Wangler provide options for the future. Michigan also returns James Ross, Royce Jenkins-Stone, and Allen Gant; as position groups go, linebacker is one of the deepest on the roster.

Ferns is the first member of the 16-man class of 2014 to depart the program.

2014 Recruiting: Michael Ferns

2014 Recruiting: Michael Ferns

Submitted by Brian on June 30th, 2014 at 3:56 PM

Previously: Last year's profiles, CB Brandon Watson, CB Jabrill Peppers, LB Jared Wangler, LB Chase Winovich, LB Noah Furbush.

       
Saint Clairsville, OH – 6'3", 230
       

rn_michaelferns_ms_200[1]

Scout 4*, #179 overall
#8 ILB, #9 OH
Rivals 4*, #211 overall
#14 ILB, #7 OH
ESPN 4*, #129 overall
#7 ILB, #2 OH
24/7 4*, #198 overall
#7 ILB, #9 OH
Other Suitors Ohio State, Notre Dame, Penn State, 'Bama, MSU, Stanford, Wisconsin
YMRMFSPA Desmond Morgan
Previously On MGoBlog Ace gets a big ol' I See What You Did There for his Hello post.
Notes Twitter. Enrolled early.  Participated in UA game.

Film

Junior year:

Hudl also has stuff from the first half of his senior year.

Michael Ferns is the recruit most likely to be known by random people who watch Good Morning America or read the kind of sports blog that's mostly pictures of taut young ladies. The former know Ferns because he did a very nice thing.

…Ferns took a sweep 52 yards down the left sideline and had nothing in the way of him and a touchdown.

But he slowed down as he approached the end zone and walked out of bounds at the 1-yard line. …

Two days earlier, freshman Logan Thompson’s father, Paul, died from a sudden stroke. Once McLean learned that Logan would indeed suit up for Friday’s game against Edison, McLean began to formulate a plan to help his freshman wide receiver “honor his father.”

Secretly, McLean instructed Ferns and the other skill players, if given the chance, to stop short on a touchdown so they could get Logan in. … McLean simplified the isolation play call with three words: “Just follow Ferns.”

“Mike and the line opened up a huge hole for Logan and he ran it right in,” McLean said.

The latter group of people knows Ferns because he's a baller, as Ferns posted Mississippi State's best effort to his Instagram account.

image

He did not appear to be swayed.

image

He was not even moved when Mississippi State asserted that they had a truckload of swag in Stark-Vegas.

Before he was twice-viral, Ferns was a big-time prospect playing at a small high school near the Ohio-West Virginia border who was picking up offers super early. Notre Dame issued him his second before he'd finished his sophomore year of high school, with Stanford, OSU, PSU, and Michigan following suit within a few weeks. After a round of visits, Ferns was down to Michigan, ND, and Penn State. He pulled the trigger in early August, with almost 20 months to go before signing day.

This early recruitment has taken off in the last few years, but the difference with Ferns is that teams were eager to have him on campus and have him commit—these days an "offer" often deserves scare quotes. Ferns was a sure thing, though:

“He showed up at 6-3, 220,” Saint Clairsville coach Brett McLean said today of Ferns, who is up to 235 pounds. “He played junior high football for us as a quarterback in the seventh and eighth grade. We knew we had a special player.”

He'll gradually add 10-15 pounds over the course of his career, but he's about as physically ready as you can be as a freshman, and he has been for years.

As a result, Ferns was placed in everyone's top 100 early before dropping about a hundred spots most places. (ESPN, as per usual, moves people less.) Because of the early commitment, small school, and inopportunely timed injuries, there's surprisingly little scouting out there for a consensus top-200 guy. But here goes anyway.

Ferns gets described as a "throwback" a lot, and while any highly-touted white linebacker is going to get hit with that term Ferns earned it. He played through the state playoffs his junior year severely compromised by injury. Bucknuts' Mark Porter:

“He is a throwback type. He is very physical. Obviously, everyone watched him play hurt in the playoffs and play through the pain and show off his toughness there. I think he could be an All-Big Ten linebacker up at Michigan.”

Mike Farrell of Rivals didn't quite invoke "throwback" but offered a slightly backhanded compliment in that vein:

"He is the stereotypical Big Ten linebacker," Farrell said. "He is explosive to the football and takes great angles. He is hard-nosed and physically impressive. He is exactly what you expect when you think of a major prospect from this area at that position."

It was when Ferns struggled through the early part of the Rivals Five-Star challenge before withdrawing with a leg injury that Rivals dropped him, stating the backhanded part of the above quote directly:

at his best when he is playing downhill and stuffing the run. Camp/7-on-7 settings do not showcase that element of the game, but they give a good sense of how a player moves in space and plays coverage. Those are the aspects of Ferns' game he needs to work on. He had trouble changing direction and turning to run with backs and tight ends down the field.

They also mentioned that flaw after an earlier Rivals camp that got Ferns his invite to their fancycamp, saying he was "stiff" in one on ones and such.

While both of those evals came in situations where only one set of eyes was there, there are echoes of that criticism a couple other places. ESPN mentions that he is "not real fluid opening his hips" as he attempts to get depth; they do credit him for being instinctive and "athletic enough to get to his spot" in zone. Allen Trieu puts in a mention that he "needs to work on coverage" in a brief scouting report.

That is the main—seemingly only—drawback. Everyone else praises his "great size and good closing speed," or things along those lines. Trieu's report mentions his track career and loves everything except the coverage:

ready for the college game. As a track kid, he has the straight line speed to run down ball carriers and is great when he’s coming forward… he’s a great blitzer and run defender.

247's Steve Wiltfong likes his size, versatility, and even those drops:

“He is a guy who gets into his drops quickly. He can survey what’s going on in front of him quickly. He can get to the ball quickly. He is a great athlete and a lot of top schools were recruiting him as a tight end.  … He brings great size to the linebacker position.”

ESPN:

Tall, well built with great bulk and solid functional strength. Possesses good range and straight-line speed to go sideline-to-sideline.

Is at his best filling downhill inside the tackles. Plays smart, reads keys and sees plays develop leading to very few false steps. Quick to get off the mark and fit his inside run gaps. Generates good short-area power. Plays square with adequate leverage and is difficult to turn out of the hole at his size. …appears much more effective pursuing downhill than laterally.

Tim Sullivan:

He has the mass to stop runners dead in their tracks, but is also athletic enough to make plays on the edge of the line. He has good hands and is very knowledgeable between the lines. …  not the type of player to chase running backs down outside the box. … classic run-stuffer more so than a spread-capable linebacker at this stage in his development."

Mississippi State:

… baller. Balls out with truckloads of swag. When balling out, balls further, reaching new frontiers of balling. Skee Lo was thinking of this guy. …Swagtruck baller. Six-hundred star recruit.

Thanks, Mississippi State.

So… Ferns is a guy who goes and hits people hard if they don't run away from him.

Ferns enrolled in January. Alarmingly, a hamstring injury slowed his progress. Count up the "injury" mentions in this article and… yeah. Two is probably a coincidence. Four is getting a bit alarming.

As a result of the hamstring, Ferns was held out much of the spring and did not seem particularly close to breaking into the two deep what with Michigan returning five players with meaningful experience.

Given that depth chart it would make sense to redshirt Ferns. Michigan has Ryan, Gedeon, Morgan, Bolden, and probably Mike McCray in front of him at the MLB and WLB spots. Linebackers tend to play on special teams, though. He's a strong candidate for Argh Why U No Redshirt of the year.

Etc.: Graduated high school in three years. Had a 4.0 at one point. The Pattern: yup.

Why Desmond Morgan? Ferns is a high-IQ thumper that limits YAC and played all over the field as a high school player at a small school. This fits closely with Morgan, who was actually the QB for his high school team. Both are at their best reading and going hard in restricted spaces.

Ferns is much higher ranked but Morgan has clearly outperformed his recruiting rankings in college; while no one will confuse Morgan with a coverage specialist he has generally gotten to the right spot at the right time for Michigan. He's adequate or maybe a little bit better there.

A potential area where this comparison falls down: a lot of people say Ferns is an excellent blitzer and has some of that vertical explosion Jake Ryan does.

Guru Reliability: Medium. Near-consensus on the rankings but injury held him out or slowed him down at some critical points where he could have confirmed his early offer flood and top-100 rankings. Played for a small school against iffy competition.

Variance: Medium. Advanced physically (thus the early offers), little positional projection, high IQ. On the other hand, low level of competition and he has had a lot of injuries, to the point where he may actually be injury-prone instead of just unlucky.

Ceiling: High-minus. Seems to lack the bit of athleticism necessary to warrant a "high"—like Morgan may top out as a B+ player. Does have that A- upside if he can blitz.

General Excitement Level: Moderate-plus. I'm a little down on Ferns relative to his rankings because he can't seem to stay healthy. If that recedes there's a good chance he contributes.

Projection: Doesn't redshirt, causing my mandibles to clack angrily every time I look at a depth chart by class for the next four years. Sees special teams time almost exclusively.

In year two, backs up either Gedeon or Bolden at MLB; will take a run at a starting spot vacated by Bolden in year three, and then has another shot a year after. Pretty much exclusively an MLB/WLB prospect, with MLB more likely since it somewhat limits exposure to coverage issues.

Michigan's Potential 2014 Impact Freshmen

Michigan's Potential 2014 Impact Freshmen

Submitted by Ace on February 19th, 2014 at 3:00 PM

OR: JABRILL PEPPERS AND COMFORTING UNCERTAINTY


Three receivers make this post. This guy isn't one of them.

For the first time in years, Michigan's depth chart isn't patched together with duct tape and hope, so the incoming freshmen of 2014 don't have as many opportunities for early playing time as past classes. This is worth celebrating, especially when one particular freshman is poised to make a big impact at a position with some experienced depth anyway.

After Jabrill Peppers, there isn't a clear role for any of the incoming freshmen, and getting this list up to five involved a few reach picks. Again, this is good. Without further ado, here's the list.

1. JABRILL PEPPERS, CB/KR/PR (6'1, 210; 5*, 247 Composite #1 ATH/CB)

Surprise! Despite the presence of four older cornerbacks with significant game experience (Blake Countess, Raymon Taylor, Jourdan Lewis, and Channing Stribling), Peppers is simply too talented to keep off the field. He should see immediate time in Michigan's nickel package, either as the nickelback or playing on the outside with Countess in the slot, and as the season progresses he'll challenge Taylor for a starting spot—with his size, athleticism, and ability in run support, Peppers is an ideal fit on the boundary.

With apologies to Fearless Leader, I believe Peppers will make an instant impact in the return game, as well. While Dennis Norfleet consistently threatened to break long returns, they rarely materialized last year. Michigan had just one kickoff return of 40+ yards (T-89th nationally) and none of 50+; just two punt returns went for 20+ (T-58th), one 30+, and zero 40+. Averages were middling at best: 49th in kickoff returns and 91st in punt returns. Fielding kickoff returns, at the very least, would be a great way to get Peppers the ball without overwhelming him with too much responsibility. If he has a role on offense this year, it'll likely be limited to just a handful of plays.

2. FREDDY CANTEEN, SLOT (6'1, 170; 4*, #41 WR)


Canteen is the player going solo/the one with insanely quick feet

Slot receiver is one of a small number of spots with total uncertainly on the depth chart. Just two players return there: Norfleet (six career "catches" that were actually end-arounds) and sophomore Da'Mario Jones, who only saw time on special teams last year. While Doug Nussmeier may have a different outlook, thus far the coaches have been hesitant to give Norfleet a significant role. A relative unknown committed to Central Michigan before Michigan came calling, Jones never rose above middling three-star even after flipping his commitment. This spot is wide open.

Enter Freddy Canteen, who went from completely off the radar when his high school didn't play actual games in 2012 to a hot camp commodity with ever-rising rankings in 2013. At 6'1, he's got the size this coaching staff covets, and his route-running is very advanced for an incoming freshman. On top of that, he's got speed to burn and a phenomenal name. What more can one ask for? It wouldn't surprise me at all if Canteen, an early enrollee, is the starter in the slot from day one.

3. IAN BUNTING, TE/FUNCHESS (6'7, 233; 4*, #11 TE)


Photo credit: J. Geil/Chicago Sun-Times

Bunting wouldn't have cracked this list a couple weeks ago; then Jake Butt went down with a torn ACL. Now Michigan is down to one tight end that actually catches passes, and that's only if you believe Devin Funchess is still a tight end. AJ Williams is almost exclusively a blocker (and he's still working on that), while Jordan Paskorz is a former linebacker without a catch to his name. Khalid Hill comes off a redshirt and could factor in as an H-back, but that's about it as far as tight end depth goes. There's room for another pass-catcher.

The question is whether or not Bunting will be at all ready to put his hand in the dirt; even in high school, he did most of his damage split out wide. At 233 pounds (on a 6'7 frame), he needs to bulk up significantly to be able to hold his own as a blocker. As an enormous receiver with great hands, however, he can at least see the field as a third-down/red-zone specialist; putting him on the field with Funchess poses major matchup problems for opposing defenses.

4. BRYAN MONE, NT (6'4, 328; 4*, #8 DT)

Another player on the list due to injury on the current roster, Mone could be forced into duty at nose tackle if Ondre Pipkins is limited in his return from a torn ACL. The only other true NT on the roster is redshirt freshman Maurice Hurst, who was listed at 270 pounds on last year's roster.

Mone's stock fell from near-consensus top-50 player to borderline top-100 prospect (or, in Rivals' case, flat-out three-star) after he looked overweight and out of shape at the Under Armour game. Mone put on a ton of weight in a short period of time before his senior season and it clearly affected his conditioning. Luckily for Michigan, he's enrolled early, so efforts to turn bad weight into good are already underway. It's highly unlikely Mone is ready to play a major role, but Michigan might need him to hold his own in sporadic rotation snaps and short-yardage situations.

5. MICHAEL FERNS, ILB (6'3, 235; 4*, #6 ILB)

Another early enrollee, Ferns isn't likely to see much early action on defense. James Ross and Desmond Morgan have the two ILB spots locked down, and both have viable backups with playing experience in Ben Gedeon and Joe Bolden. If there's an injury, however, Ferns is the incoming linebacker best suited to see the field with his size and status as an EE.

Ferns also fits right in on special teams—with his athleticism, he could make an immediate impact on coverage units. This will be a frustrating way to burn a redshirt if Ferns doesn't get some in-game experience at linebacker, but it's inevitable that the coaches will burn a linebacker's redshirt for special teams, and it may as well be the one most ready to see the field.

HONORABLE MENTION: WRs DRAKE HARRIS & MOE WAYS

Both Harris and Ways look like college-ready receivers; Harris benefits from enrolling early, while Ways has the bulk and blocking ability to see the field as a freshman. They'd be higher on the list if playing time on the outside wasn't so hard to come by. Funchess and Jehu Chesson should lock down the starting spots, Amara Darboh is another starting candidate now that he's healthy, and two other options come off redshirts in Jaron Dukes and Csont'e York.

Harris is coming off a hamstring injury that cost him his entire senior season. Ways made great strides from his junior to senior seasons but could still use some, er, seasoning. It'd be great if Michigan was able to redshirt both of these guys, especially if Canteen can also contribute on the outside. 

Thursday Recruitin' Rekindles Interest

Thursday Recruitin' Rekindles Interest

Submitted by Ace on January 23rd, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Damien Harris Fallout: Back In It For Mike Weber?

2015 five-star RB Damien Harris decommitted from Michigan this week. After Al Borges—his primary recruiter—was fired, Harris decided he needed to take a step back and explore his options, though his mother says Michigan is still on top, per Sam Webb ($):

“The reason he came to this decision is he felt like when he committed, at the time, we felt like it was the right decision even though it was early,” she explained.  “Months later he has been thinking and thinking, ‘I didn’t really go and look at other places probably like I should have.  I didn’t consider other places like I should have.’   Even though Michigan is #1, and that hasn’t changed, he just wants to make sure he doesn’t have any regrets when he gets ready to enroll.  He just wants to make sure that he didn’t leave any stone unturned and wants to make sure he didn’t miss out on anything, even though he knows Michigan is still his #1.  That’s all.  He is just making sure that if he was to visit other places, he wasn’t going to regret not taking the full experience.”

Meanwhile, a certain despicable portion of the fanbase* isn't helping Michigan's cause. Harris has taken a lot of heat on Twitter for his decommitment and his coach told TomVH that could be a factor in his ultimate decision ($):

People need to back off of him [on Twitter]. He’s a 16-year-old kid. People are attacking him on there,” [Madison Southern coach Jon] Clark said. “You have grown men who are way out of line, and Michigan fans better ease up or they’re going to push him away from Michigan. The coaches aren’t; the fans are.

“The only impact a fan ever has on a kid is a negative one; that’s it. There’s not a fan out there that has a positive impact on this kid.”

To state the blitheringly obvious: DON'T DO THIS. I realize/hope this doesn't apply to 99% of you, but nothing you're going to do as a fan—positive or negative, in person or on social media—is going to make a positive difference in a prospect's recruitment. Leave the recruiting to the coaches and, as a general life rule, leave harassing high school students to... nobody. Nobody should do that.

Anyway, with Harris opening up his recruitment, Michigan has rekindled their interest in 2015 four-star Cass Tech RB Mike Weber, per GBW's Josh Newkirk ($):

“I talked with (Nussmeier) for a half-hour on the phone. He is real excited about recruiting me,” Weber told GoBlueWolverine. “He told me it was crazy that Michigan stopped recruiting me. So when he got there he was telling me how he really wanted me (at Michigan). It made me open my eyes back up to Michigan.

Michigan is back on the radar.

Weber named a top five of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Tennessee (in no particular order); the Spartans and Vols have been the presumed favorites for a while now, though the renewed Michigan interest could change that. It didn't take long for Weber to recipricate that interest, too—he was the only prospect in attendance at last night's Iowa game, which he seemed to appreciate. Whether or not things work out with Harris, Weber would be a great addition to the class; he's been very productive against solid competition for the last two years and looks great on film.

[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Malik McDowell, new 2015 offers—including a long-awaited one to a California DE—the final Rivals250, and more.]

Monday Recruitin' Has The Heart Of A Tree

Monday Recruitin' Has The Heart Of A Tree

Submitted by Ace on November 4th, 2013 at 2:18 PM

Keeping His Hand To Himself

This week's edition of "First and 17" features Da'Shawn Hand's coach telling Mike Farrell, "I don't know if he knows for sure for sure. I feel like he really likes Michigan. He's gonna go feel the flavor of the SEC because of everything everyone's talked about, but... you know, I don't even know. I think he knows. I don't even know if pops knows yet ... At this point, none of where he picks will surprise me, because they're all great schools." (2:25 mark.) He also tells Roy Manning, who stopped by Woodbridge during the bye week, that he thinks Hand is leaning towards Michigan—but also that he likes Alabama, and this is before Hand's official to Tuscaloosa. (7:25 mark.)

Later, Hand discusses why he likes to keep his thoughts to himself (9:44 mark): "When I take one visit, everyone thinks I'm committing to the college ... I just don't like showing people my full hand, because then everyone can pick out your every move. Everyone tries to get in my head, but that'll never happen."

So... your guess is as good as mine. We'll know in ten days when he makes his announcement.

Michigan Still In Mix For Glenville Duo

Rivals's Josh Helmholdt caught up with highly-touted 2014 Glenville teammates Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith to discuss their respective recruitments. Like Hand, both are playing it coy when it comes to naming a leader, even though Ohio State is the presumed destination for both (especially Lattimore; fitting Smith into the class could get difficult for OSU). Both have four official visits left to schedule—Alabama is already on the docket for each—and Michigan is in the running for both. Here's Lattimore ($):

"I am going to take all of my officials. I have to plan them with Marcelys Jones and Erick Smith," Lattimore said. "Ohio State, probably USC, I might try to get out to Oregon, probably Michigan and Louisville. I was always interested in all those schools, and will give them equal opportunity."

And Smith ($):

Alabama assistant coach Bobby Williams was at Glenville on Friday and Smith is looking at rescheduling that trip for sometime in December. He has a group of a half dozen schools who are in the mix for his remaining four official visits.

"I am not for sure, but I know Ohio State, Michigan, Louisville, Kentucky, Michigan State and Georgia Tech too - those are all up there," Smith said. "You could say those are the schools I am really looking at right now."

With Lattimore and Smith planning their trips together, it's fair to guess that OSU, Michigan, and Louisville (along with Bama) have an edge—those schools are mentioned by both prospects. It's tough to see Michigan beating out Alabama and Ohio State given how the season is playing out and the fact that neither are sure they'll take another trip to Ann Arbor.

Meanwhile, four-star MI DL Malik McDowell has scheduled his official visit to Florida and tells GatorCountry.com that he's in frequent contact with head coach Will Muschamp. He's another prospect who's very difficult to read; the very frequent trips to Ann Arbor—and playing on the same line with commit Lawrence Marshall—suggest Michigan holds an edge, but it's clear that he's serious about looking around.

[Hit THE JUMP for the latest on Sheriron Jones, a must-read feature on a current commit, and a roundup of last weekend's high school action as playoff season gets under way.]

Tuesday Recruitin' Graduates (Really) Early

Tuesday Recruitin' Graduates (Really) Early

Submitted by Ace on October 15th, 2013 at 10:02 AM

The Foolproof Way To Avoid Senioritis

WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Michigan has its first official signee of the 2014 class. Impossible, you say? Not if you're Michael Ferns, who can sign because he graduated from high school in three years, according to WRTF.com. Ferns is finishing his senior season of football at St. Clairsville while taking classes at Ohio University-Eastern and will enroll at Michigan next semester—the normal time for early enrollees to hit campus.

Other recruits planning to enroll early include Wilton Speight, Bryan Mone, Drake Harris, Mason Cole, and the ECA duo of Freddy Canteen and Brandon Watson.

Froholdt, Weber To Visit This Weekend

The M Block's Eric Rutter caught up with 2015 DL Hjalte Froholdt, who's playing his junior season in a semi-pro league in Denmark; he's been able to come back across the Atlantic for visits, however, and after visiting Arkansas last week he'll be in attendance at the Big House this weekend—it'll be a big one, as he's getting close to a decision:

Froholdt has already announced a final top group of Arkansas, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State and intends to choose from those schools soon- as in within the next couple months, although an official date has not been set.  Froholdt visited Arkansas on Saturday to watch the Razorbacks host South Carolina for a 52-7 beating.  Michigan will get the next crack at impressing Froholdt as he will be in Ann Arbor on October 19 to watch the Wolverines host the Indiana Hoosiers.

Head on over to the original post to read Froholdt's comments about his relationship with Greg Mattison, his primary recruiter. SPOILER: He likes Greg Mattison. Michigan is very much in the hunt to land Froholdt and an impressive visit experience this weekend could put them in the driver's seat.

2015 Cass Tech RB Mike Weber talked to The Wolverine's Branden Hunter about his relationship with Michigan and upcoming visit ($):

"His commitment really didn't affect me at all," Weber said of [Damien] Harris' pledge. "I grew up liking Michigan, and I'm not scared of competition, so if that college is the best fit for me, that's were I'm going.

"I talk to Michigan a lot," Weber said. "I'm supposed to go to their next home game I believe, and coach Singletary wished me luck before the game. Michigan always shows love."

Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Tennessee are also mentioned as teams showing serious interest in Weber. The issue with his recruitment may not be one of interest as much as it is space in the class; with Harris already committed, I'd be surprised if Michigan takes two running backs unless more spots open up, and by that point they may have a hard time catching up to schools that have the room to tell Weber they can take him at any time.

[Hit THE JUMP for the latest 2015 offer and the weekly commit stat wrapup.]

Monday Recruitin's On Another Planet

Monday Recruitin's On Another Planet

Submitted by Ace on September 23rd, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Shaun Crawford, Mini-Jabrill

A much-anticipated matchup between Cleveland.com's top-ranked Cleveland St. Edward squad and #9 Cincinnati Elder didn't live up to the hype, as St. Eds ran away with a 48-7 victory. Much of the credit for the blowout goes to 2015 commit Shaun Crawford, whose stat line looks like one posted by a certain other defensive back headed for Ann Arbor:

Yes, it appears Michigan may have the best player on the best team in Ohio, and he's only a junior. This is nice.

Jabrill Peppers, Still Jabrill

2014 commit Jabrill Peppers, meanwhile, did a little bit of everything to lead Paramus Catholic to a 35-21 victory over DePaul. Peppers rushed seven times for 41 yards, caught four passes for 49 yards and a TD, returned a kickoff for 47 yards, tallied four solo tackles, recorded three pass defenses, and returned an interception 32 yards for another TD.

Got all that? If you'd like to see Peppers in action, a full replay of the game is available at msgvarsity.com, which also has clips of a big hit by Peppers and the pick six.

[Hit THE JUMP for more outstanding performances by Michigan commits, plus an interesting development in JuJu Smith's recruitment.]

Unverified Voracity Sits Down In A Hole

Unverified Voracity Sits Down In A Hole

Submitted by Brian on August 9th, 2013 at 3:00 PM

Ed-Ace: Brian is out of pocket for the weekend and left this to post for today; it's worth adding that the athletic department announced that radio play-by-play broadcaster Frank Beckmann will retire following the 2013 season — full release can be found here. It contains quotes from the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics AND the VP of Audio for IMG College, but not Beckmann himself, strangely. (Beckmann has since given quotes to Angelique Chengelis, FWIW.)

The Michigan offer letter. From Michael Ferns:

image

No mention of four years, one erroneously capitalized "Championship."

Read this now. Smart Football breaks down Jason Witten, and there's a reason to read the article other than a desire to weep about that Citrus Bowl in dickety-six: Chris Brown talks in-depth about the "option" route that is a staple of the Dallas offense… and will hopefully be a staple of Michigan's soon.

iB48ggU4Si4pm[1]

At its base, the option route is "go get open underneath" for inside receivers—usually tight ends—who run out to 8 or 10 yards and then either break outside, break inside, or sit down depending on what the coverage is and where the defender is relative to him. Witten's quite good at this, to the tune of 110(!) catches a year ago.

The option route is one of six core elements of the Michigan passing offense and the thing should emerge into a weapon as long as someone can run it. Devin Funchess is obviously the best bet, but don't sleep on Khalid Hill, all 258 pounds of him.

Gardner hype. Warning: Fall Out Boy may cause allergic reaction in haterz.

(This may be Wiz Khalifa?)

A STRANGE MAN DOES NON THINGS ON THE INTERNET. Pretty sure this is Wiz Khalifa.

FAMOUS RAPPIST
PROTIP: MAKE SURE YOU SPELL THAT WITH TWO Ps

He reminds me of Ed McCaffery and Wes Welker. Jon Kolesar gets the Wolverine Historian tribute:

Probably not Wiz Khalifa.

Anonymous and false boilerplate. You know, when Joe Tiller was around your anonymous quotes from Big Ten coaches features would have a heavy dose of bitchiness, thus making them interesting. These days no dice, as the opinions proffered are largely milquetoasty and sometimes flat out false:

"Their offensive line is very good, much like Ohio State and Wisconsin. Very physical up front, great defensive scheme. For two years, they were confusing us a little bit."

Wat.

This is the most interesting thing:

"They have a great package defensively. Their third down package — (defensive coordinator) Greg Mattison gives the illusion of pressure every time. You never know when they are really coming or not coming. It’s the different stuff that he does." … -

Okay, also:

"Nebraska is Nebraska — with people wearing those stupid hats."

Yes, I hope that is Brady. Very much.

Bring me a chicken, hold the dry white toast. Mike Rothstein has an interesting article on Taylor Lewan's nutrition reform:

“It sucks. It’s awful. The diet is rough,” Lewan said. “When you go out with your friends and they order pizzas and wings, I look at that and I’m salivating. I’m looking at it and am excited about it.

“I go to Buffalo Wild Wings and order a salad and five chicken breasts. I swear that’s what I do. They are like, ‘I don’t think we can do that.’ I’m like, ‘No, if you go to menu, there’s a button that says chicken breast.’ I found that out somehow.”

Lewan's dropped five percent body fat since last season and is doing complicated physical things at elite levels.

Etc.: Oh man, Michigan Hockey Net just put up the 2001 M-MSU hockey game at the Joe, an all time classic. Very good dude Bruce Madej to retire. Andrew Copp talks football. Congrats to Phil Brabbs, who's made it five years since his cancer diagnosis. CTK gets to Drew Dileo, and Dileo talks Norfleet(!). Desmond Howard considers joining the O'Bannon suit. MVictors has shots from practice.

Unverified Voracity Is Afraid Of The Mississippi Black Hole Again

Unverified Voracity Is Afraid Of The Mississippi Black Hole Again

Submitted by Brian on August 6th, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Number one breakout. ESPN's Travis Haney compiled a list of 50 breakout players for the upcoming season based on "a lot of input from coaches" and your new favorite quarterback is #1:

“I recruited him,” said one of the Big Ten coaches who played against Gardner late last year. “I know how good he can be. I would say I have been looking forward to him getting his chance, because he’s a really good kid, but they’re on the schedule again this year.”

Frank Clark also features at #35.

Swag. We are totally losing Michael Ferns to Mississippi State, you guys.

image

Following up on earlier assertion. I mentioned in passing in a previous post that I felt Bill Connolly was way underrating LeVeon Bell and way overrating Michigan State's offensive line in his Spartan preview for the year, and as I was looking up various things about Derrick Green I came across a stunning stat on Bell:

Le'Veon Bell gained 921 yards after contact in 2012, most among players from AQ schools. Bell gained more than 50 percent of his yards after contact and averaged 2.4 yards after contact per rush.

Bell got 2.3 yards before contact and 2.4 after. That is a man doing work to clean up for a terrible offensive line. And quarterback: Bell's 382 carries led the nation by 26.

Countdowns to kickoff. Taylor Lewan:

Countdown to Kickoff 2013: Day 28 - Taylor Lewan by mgovideo

Lewan is a thousand times more boring than he used to be. Leadership!

Also Quinton Washington and Jeremy Gallon. True story: bought a chair at Art Van this summer, marveled at the size of the guy they had hauling stuff around, realized that I knew who this was: Quinton Washington. Woo minimum wage, for one more year.

Also, the first day of practice:

Michigan Football First Practice Fall 2013 by mgovideo

Derrick Green's first carry went for 50 yards and birthed a unicorn.

Wide receivers block, then they receive. In-depth ESPN article on the blocking aspects of playing out wide comes highly recommended for interesting quotes and such. Minnesota safety Brock Vereen is either worried about his knees or an expert at backhanded compliments:

“They act as if they are more excited to block than they are to catch a pass,” Minnesota safety Brock Vereen said. “Sadly, I’m not even exaggerating.”

Michigan's dumped cut blocking for a lot of reasons, but the primary one is the fact that defensive backs just get up too darn fast these days:

“They are like those Weeble Wobbles that you had growing up,” Hecklinski said. “You can throw a great cut and he’s right back up making a play and golly, that’s a great cut."

"Golly," says the man eating everyone's lunch on the recruiting trail. #TheMichiganDifference.

The article gestures at one of the main reasons Michigan's wide receivers were so pumped up to block: with Denard Robinson on your team, any play could be a 20 yard run you fail to turn into 80, and then your ass is roasted. Hopefully they maintain the same urgency as Michigan moves to a system more likely to get you five (after contact, and by "contact" I mean "safety murder") than 50.

Hoke advocates earlier official visits. Makes sense, will never happen for the same reason a baseball season that makes sense will never happen:

“Having an official visit date in June would help football,” Hoke stated. “I know some of our friends in the Pac 12 and the SEC probably don’t want the young man and his family coming up to Michigan during the first two weeks in June, because they’re hoping it’s 10 below zero when those official visits take place.”

A rather large win. Wolverine Historian puts up the '95 Minnesota game:

Mack Brown offer letter. I just find this interesting. It's an official offer letter from Mack Brown to a guy named Lorenzo:

large[1]

[bigger version here]

Items:

  • The first bullet is basically Michigan's much-discussed and much-misunderstood "policy" about commits taking visits: you are committed if you are not taking visits, and if you visit elsewhere Michigan will not consider you committed. That doesn't necessarily mean they'll pull your scholarship offer, but your spot is no longer reserved and they may recruit someone else or just reconfigure their class. Why recruiting sites, opposing fans, and Michigan fans keep going on and on about it is a mystery to me.
  • Texas is explicitly offering four year scholarships, and seems to state that a fifth year is also guaranteed… but I think the fine print there means the firm handshake is still an option if the Head Coach wants it to be.
  • The pointlessness of the rule where players cannot get written offers before August 1st of their senior year is brought home in the first paragraph: Texas is "pleased to reconfirm our commitment to the football athletic scholarship you committed to earlier this year." The lack of written offers has led to the rise of the incredibly annoying "uncommittable offer" and prevents players from getting the exact stipulations of their scholarship offer in writing until long after many of them have committed. And it obviously does nothing to slow down the pace of recruiting.

The only way to slow down the pace of recruiting, by the way, is to let kids sign whenever they want. Eighth grader offers will come to a screeching halt, for real.

SBNation has a roundup of offer letters from around the country, featuring Comic Sans from Virginia Tech, "formally" spectacularly misspelled as "formerly" by Virginia, and Illinois claiming that those who attend there will play "championship football." That latter might be true if in fact the Big Ten has been relegated to the second level of English soccer. Which it probably has after last year. We done got relegated you guys.

Quite a rise. Four Michigan players make the final roster at the USA World Juniors evaluation camp: JT Compher, Tyler Motte, Boo Nieves… and Andrew Copp. I think 14 of the 18 forwards on the roster will be on the WJC team, so Copp's gone from JJ Swistak But Big to a guy with a very good chance of making the WJC team in 12 months. Wow.

Amen. Hoke on ND:

"I do not like the fact it's going away," Hoke said.

Asked who is a fault for all this, Hoke responded simply: "We would like to continue the series."

Realignment has replaced the ND game and games against Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Northwestern with Rutgers and Maryland.

Etc.: Harmon Of Michigan's theme song is a "Hollywood-style rendition of the Victors," and MVictors has it. Michigan Hockey Net posts the famous 2002 Denver-Michigan West Regional Final at Yost. Michigan players on the O'Bannon case.

Monday Recruitin' Sets The Date

Monday Recruitin' Sets The Date

Submitted by Ace on August 5th, 2013 at 3:07 PM

HANDOCALYPSE LATER


The answer is still no, and that's excuse enough to post this again.

More specifically, HANDOCALYPSE MID-NOVEMBER:

That, of course, is arguably the #1 overall prospect in the country, VA DE Da'Shawn Hand, who now has a decision date in mind — not coincidentally, his 18th birthday — with his field now narrowed down to his top three schools, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($):

Hand had been showing interest in USC and LSU but it does not sound as if they are being considered anymore.

"I just decided that there is no need for all of this to get drawn out," Hand said. "I was interested in USC and LSU but I know a lot about Michigan, Alabama and Florida and I'm just going to let them be."

Lane Kiffin reacted to this news by drinking a six-pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade and tearfully sending Hand a slew of angry texts that all ended in "im so sorry plz come visit". Les Miles chewed on fieldturf — the rubber pellets really add texture — and contemplated the meaning of... fieldturf, probably.

Hand will officially visit Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame game; he has yet to set up officials to Alabama or Florida, though both he and his coach say those visits will happen as well.

Whether or not those officials happen, Michigan appears to be in very good position — especially since Alabama's marquee home game, against LSU, occurs just five days before Hand plans to announce his choice. Given that Hand seems like the type of recruit who's going to be very well-versed in each school before he makes a decision, I'd be surprised if he waited that long to make the trip to Tuscaloosa. It's also still possible, of course, that he's blown away at the Notre Dame game and never ends up taking those last two officials. We'll see — it's never safe to count out Nick Saban.

Michigan could also see Hand's 2015 five-star buddy, VA DT Tim Settle, on campus in the relatively near future, per 247's Michael Bohlin ($):

"I am supposed to be going to Michigan but I don't know when," replied Settle. "I will be going to UVa for the Oregon game, I want to go to the Virginia Tech vs Alabama game but that one is in Atlanta so we'll see. I am also planning on taking a visit to USC at some point."

I'd speculate that Settle would visit for the Notre Dame game, in order to be on campus with Hand, but that Virginia-Oregon game is slated for the same day. We'll see if he ends up making the trip, but at the very least there's another five-star considering Michigan, and that's never a bad thing.

[Hit THE JUMP for more recruiting news, including Michigan attempting to snake-oil a legacy recruit, Bruce Feldman on what it'll take to keep the momentum going, and more.]