[Ed. A—Thanks to Orion Sang and The Michigan Daily crew for passing along audio]
This is kind of interesting for us.
Just last year we were on the other side—
“Oh, that’s right, on the other—”
How’s it been for you?
“Uh, this has been just a great opportunity and coach Harbaugh has been a guy that obviously I’ve followed for a long time, and the opportunity to come and learn from him and kind of see how someone else kind of does it and puts it together, it’s really been a lot of fun.”
Can you take us through how he contacted you, and how long did it take you to jump on this offer?
“Well, kind of, maybe, I don’t know if he got the wrong number and I answered. You know, I don’t really know how it came about but we got a phone call and was obviously very excited to come and, if nothing else, just getting an opportunity to kind of stand in the background and see how something’s operated, and that’s what’s been really good. He extended the offer and I was really excited about that. My wife and I are really excited about being in Ann Arbor.”
Taking over the wide receiver group, what was the first thing you wanted to teach this group of wide receivers?
“Well, I think there obviously is a lot of talent there, and good, young talent. The thing I really enjoy is being in that room with them. They’re really good people, good young men.
“For us, one of the focus areas has been ability to, number one, get open, especially against all the press coverage that you see. They’ve really worked on honing their skills and trying to do what we’re trying to teach them to do, and yet we’ve got a long ways to go, but at the same time it’s really a fun group of guys and it’s great to be around them.”
[After THE JUMP: Curr Dogg, SEC speed, and how the basketball team could fuel the WR group’s success]
Arizona is ranked for the first time in a minute after four straight Pac-12 wins. Tate watched Arizona's first four games from the sideline. Last year he completed 40% of his 45 passes and rushed for under 5 yards a carry.
A bit further north in that same conference, Stanford barely escaped an awful Oregon State team as QB Keller Chryst averaged 4.3 yards an attempt. Sophomore KJ Costello played the vast majority of previous high-scoring wins over UCLA and Arizona State. Twitter was rife with bitching about Chryst and stupefaction at what it would take for Costello to enter the game as the Cardinal labored towards a win over the 1-7 Beavers. You may remember that Michigan's first choice at QB two years ago was Costello; it was only after he committed to Stanford that Michigan started looking around.
A bit further south in that same conference, Sam Darnold watched USC start 1-2 under Max Browne last year before emerging as a 67%, 3000-yard, 31-9 TD-INT flamethrower and Rose Bowl winner.
A bit closer to home, Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke spent most of the 2016 season watching Tyler O'Connor bork it before getting a chance midway through the year. A few years back MSU also spent a brief, wonderful period as the worst offense on the planet under Andrew Maxwell before pulling the trigger on the Connor Cook era. Wisconsin left Alex Hornibrook, the conference's #2 QB by passer rating, on the bench early last year, and then benched him for their final two games.
Nobody knows! Even coaches. Coaches think things. They have the limited amount of data that practice provides, and then there is game data, and all of this information pales in comparison to a giant, looming Fear Of The Unknown. Some decisions make themselves; others have to wait until there's literally no way a second-year player is worse.
There is a moment when even if the backup sometimes seems like a semi-sentient radish in a human suit, he's the man, man. Welcome to that moment.
John O'Korn's struggles after Purdue sent the Michigan internet down a fairly appalling rabbit hole of speculation about Brandon Peters. "Promising young player stuck on bench for bad reasons" is such a trope that everyone knows the name of an otherwise obscure baseball player who Lou Gehrig replaced: Wally Pipp. The hundred-year persistence of this pattern was not good enough.
Nor were a plethora of recent examples at Michigan itself: Mike Hart behind David Underwood. Ben Gedeon behind Joe Bolden. Heck, even this very year Michigan went with Nolan Ulizio despite the fact Juwann Bushell-Beatty is older and apparently better. Sometimes the wrong guy is playing.
None of this mattered. O'Korn was bad so something had to be wrong with his backup.
So the last few weeks you couldn't throw a rock on a Michigan message board without hitting someone either implying or directly stating that Peters was a weird aspie with a fidget spinner and no future, Rain Man in a helmet. It's one thing when this comes from anonymous insider wannabes and entirely another when Rivals's Chris Balas calls a redshirt freshman a "big recruiting mistake" and says he "wouldn't be surprised" if Peters transferred.
Gasoline on the whisper fire, based on nothing. And this the second time Rivals has fueled baseless Peters transfer rumors that had to be debunked. The first time it was by Peters's father. This time Peters did it himself.
It turns out Brandon Peters is at least as plausible a second-year quarterback as anyone else suspected of being a sentient radish. Never in the history of Michigan Stadium has a soft toss in the flat or a fullback checkdown been met with more rapture, because everyone was worried that there was a good reason Peters was behind O'Korn, and that meant doom both now and later. Rutgers guys were annoyed at it, for some reason:
"It seemed like the crowd was kind of obnoxiously cheering," Rutgers redshirt senior Dorian Miller said with a smile. "(Peters) completed a 10-yard ball and the crowd belted out. Football is football, so I'm sure you could apply that to any team and the fans would respond like that. It's not a knock on them."
Just when folks who haven't seen Peters in action started wondering if this guy's arm strength was substandard, Peters stepped up in the pocket and ripped a laser at a receiver just in front of a safety. The ball got in a half second before the safety arrived, and the absurdity of the whisper campaign really settled in.
Brandon Peters is a quarterback in 2017, which means he was scouted to death in high school. And the thing that really leapt out to both Ace and I was that slow build to a ripping throw. Peters has the natural ability to vary his throws so they're catchable when they can be and darts when they have to be. That featured in his recruiting profile:
He varies trajectory and speed based on the situation. My favorite throws in the Brownsburg game above are two high-arc, low speed passes to his tight end that are the exact right throws in those situations. That's the definition of a "catchable ball."
Peters seemed like a savant, especially in the aftermath of Shane Morris's approach to the game. He had no QB guru, like most quarterbacks do these days. He ripped through high school football. This wasn't a guy completing half his passes who might be moldable into a guy down the road. Personality issues didn't prevent Peters from impressing the entire recruiting industry and flying up rankings after a senior year ending at the Army game.
So what are we doing when we search for some personality flaw when a second year player can't get into the game just yet? Why is a mountain of evidence from across college football not enough? And so what if the dude is more engineer than prom king?
Even if Brandon Peters isn't George Clooney—and I'm not saying he is or is not—has anyone actually seen Rain Man? Placed in his element, Rain Man is a baller.
this guy's mustache got an HM [Barron]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 Rashan Gary. Gary was rampant, consistently blowing around the corner to sack and/or terrify the quarterback. The Rutgers LT gets some NFL hype; Gary, and Chase Winovich to a slightly less rampant extent, made that guy look like a walk-on.
#2(t) Mason Cole and Mike Onwenu. Cole and Onwenu tentatively seemed like Michigan's most mauling OL on a rewatch, but probably I could have given this to any member of the blocking crew and not been particularly off.
#3 Sean McKeon. McKeon was able to dig out a throw low and behind him to convert a third and long; he was the only guy to pull in multiple passes. He probably would have scored on that fourth down if Peters put it on him. In addition, McKeon's blocking was excellent for a second consecutive week.
Honorable mention: That guy's mustache. Poggi, Hill, Kugler, JBB, and Bredeson all chipped in on a dominating ground game. Isaac and Higdon made the most out of the blocking. Winovich, Hurst, and Bush were all their usual selves.
8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue) 5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana), Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana, #2 PSU), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana, #1 Rutgers), Mason Cole (#1 Cincinnati, T2 Rutgers). 4: David Long (T3 Indiana, #1 PSU) 3: Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana)) 2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati, #3 PSU), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue, #3 Rutgers), Mike Onwenu(T2 Rutgers). 1: Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Brandon Peters completes a short waggle pass to Ty Wheatley for a first down.
Honorable mention: Peters completes another soft toss to Poggi on his next opportunity. Higdon breaks free for a game-sealing long touchdown. Kareem Walker scores. Various annihilations of the Rutgers quarterback. Various annihilations of the Rutgers front seven.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Michigan misses a run fit against a wildcat formation, ceding a long touchdown that tied the score at 7. At the time it felt like that was the start of a very long day indeed. Also long wildcat touchdowns remind me of the Penn State game.
Honorable mention: O'Korn throws a pick in the direction of Gentry when he's covered by a 5'9" guy; O'Korn fumbles the snap and Michigan eats a 14 yard loss; Rutgers uses the same damn screen play MSU scored on to get down to the two.
10/21/2017 – Michigan 13, Penn State 42 – 5-2, 2-2 Big Ten
I'm still trying to figure out how this is a wicked burn [Patrick Barron]
Got a new mattress. Wife had been saying we should get one, and then I read this article about the crazy Online Mattress War between dudes who had gotten millions of dollars in affiliate sales as mattress reviewers and a leading mattress company that sued them. The company was kind of right that the mattress guys were not fully on the up and up, but neither was the company. The twist ending: company just bought the site and magically their problems were over, man.
Everyone wins, except the average Joe just looking for an honest mattress review. Insofar as that is possible. Which it's not for an idiosyncratic product that is supposed to hold up for years and years.
This article still convinced me that I should just buy a mattress online, because any industry that has people in that level of desperate hand-to-hand combat is a place where The Online is legitimately disruptive. Also I went into an Art Van once and felt like I needed a shower after I left. I bought one office chair. Guy said I was making an amazing choice buying this office chair. I had an incredible eye for office chairs. Nobody in the world could have picked out an office chair finer than the one I had just acquired, and at such a price. And so forth and so on.
So: I am sold that mattresses are vastly overpriced and open to disruption. Also I am the kind of person who would rather roll the dice on Amazon reviews than talk to someone who works on commission. So I went with the company at the beginning of the article that purveyed a mattress the vaguely shady review guy returned. They were not mentioned again and thus seemed to be more on the up and up than everyone else. I dislike angle shooters.
Here is an internet mattress. It comes in a white box that seems far too small for a mattress. After you hack through an Amazon's worth of plastic coverings to unroll it there is a final layer of protective covering. Pierce that with the steak knife you've commandeered and the mattress will take in a great gulp of air, like a drowning man who suddenly finds himself at the surface. Then you have a mattress.
It's springy. Good? I don't know? I slept on it. It was fine.
It is odd somehow, but that's probably not its fault. It's probably always odd to get a new mattress. It's doubly so for us since the monstrosity we are replacing is an old hand-me-down "pillow top" that's like a foot taller than this thing. The hand-me-down is the 1955 Buick of mattresses. It could double as a boat or siege weapon. You couldn't put it in a trebuchet unless you wanted to flatten something three feet away, but it would do quite well as a battering ram. Nice and roomy underneath. The padding above would mute the impacts of various rocks, arrows, and other sundry implements of murder being flung at your head. The tag you're not supposed to take off swears that flammability is not an issue. And when you get that thing going, momentum is going to take you right through that door. Have fun storming the castle!
Anyway, the placement of the reading lights in our bedroom now makes way more sense.
The child—who goes by Denard Robinson Cook on the internet because I want his Google results to be his fault, not mine—lost his mind at this whole procedure. One of the great challenges of deploying the internet mattress was getting the little goober off the box spring long enough to simultaneously have a bed and an un-suffocated child.
He bangs the box spring and finds its texture pleasing. "BANG," he says, sort of. Getting the plastic off the mattress is a longer than expected, so he runs off to look at the old mattress, which is not in the spot it's been literally his whole life. "OH WOW," he says, distinctly and repeatedly. When the mattress arrived he pointed at the box and exclaimed "OH WOW" for two solid minutes, at varying levels of intensity. The intensity varied from much to lots.
Perhaps he has been raised to find beds and bedding to be a delight. Later I would discover that when my wife makes the bed there has evolved a certain strange ritual. There are four pillows, and after each is sheathed in its cover the wife will promise the child a "boof," which consists of whacking him surprisingly hard in the face with the pillow and throwing it on the bed. The child falls to the ground, cackling merriment, and gets up demanding to be boofed again.
After the pillows are all on the bed the child is thrown onto it, whereupon he flings himself onto every nook and cranny mutter-yelling "boof." Should an adult have the temerity to join the child on the bed, he or she will be shooed away. The child will cry "ah-weigh" until the offense is repaired, and then resume boofing itself.
This was the only part of the mattress procedure with an unpleasant whiff. It is now clear that the child enjoys throwing himself headlong at things, and having things hurled headlong at himself. He thus might want to play football, which is a sport of no account whatsoever that all thinking people rightly condemn.
Higdon, not Long above[Eric Upchurch]
Known Friends And Trusted Agents Of The Week
you're the man now, dog
#1 David Long? I guess? Long intercepted a pass on PSU's third drive, forestalling the beat down until the second half. He was considerably assisted in this endeavor by a Penn State miscommunication, but the other choices here are guys with under 50 yards of offense or other members of a defense that didn't do great. On a day when Michigan got bombed, just one tackle for Long is probably a good thing.
#2 Karan Higdon? Averaged three yards a carry and this felt sort of noble in the circumstances, with half his carries buried at the line by a defense with no respect for the pass and another fair chunk actually decent.
#3 Khaleke Hudson? I guess? TFL, PBU, and a QB hurry, whatever that means in the box score. Notably did not get torched by anyone unless my memory has failed me, which, thanks, memory. Doin' me a solid.
8: Devin Bush (#1 Florida, T2 Cincinnati, T2 Air Force, #1 Purdue) 5: Chase Winovich(#1 Air Force, #2a Purdue), Mo Hurst (#1 MSU, #2(T), Indiana), Karan Higdon (#1 Indiana, #2 PSU) 4: David Long (T3 Indiana, #1 PSU) 3: Mason Cole (#1, Cincinnati), Ty Isaac (#2, Florida, #3 Cincinnati), Lavert Hill(#2 MSU, T3 Indiana)) 2: Quinn Nordin (#3 Florida, #3 Air Force), John O'Korn (#2 Purdue), Rashan Gary(T2 Indiana), Khaleke Hudson (T2 Cincinnati, #3 PSU). 1: Tyree Kinnel (T2 Cincinnati), Mike McCray(T2 Air Force), Sean McKeon(T3 Purdue), Zach Gentry (T3 Purdue), Brad Robbins(#3 MSU), Brandon Watson (T3 Indiana).
Who's Got It Better Than Us Of The Week
Michigan punches in a touchdown from the six by loading up in a three-TE set and manballing it in with power. This briefly saw Michigan come within a point and was the last event in the game that could be read as hopeful.
Honorable mention: David Long's INT; other touchdown; several plays on which PSU did not score a touchdown.
MARCUS HALL EPIC DOUBLE BIRD OF THE WEEK.
Quinn Nordin misses an extra point, which made it clear that it was about to be that kind of night.
Honorable mention: Most of the rest of the game. Saquon Barkley's opening touchdown rather stands out amongst the writhing mass of events. About one minute in to the game everyone was like "okay this is a huge loss," and they were eventually correct. Would rather that did not happen.
[After the JUMP: mattress SEO mattress links mattress reviews mattress coupons mattress mattress]
They're gone, all gone. Michigan loses every receiver on the roster with more than 13 catches a year ago (Grant Perry). A couple of disastrous Hoke recruiting classes mean the chasm from the departed to the new generation is almost as large as theoretically possible. And Freshman Wide Receivers Suck™. Should Wilton Speight be shivering under his blanket at night?
Maybe. But maybe not:
by the year 2047 this jpg will be replaced by preprogrammed electronic disco[Seth]
Wait wait wait that's not what I meant to copy and paste at all.
“Alright, I’ll give you a couple. The receivers are doing really well. DPJ and Oliver Martin and Tarik Black are making a lot of plays. They really are. They’re making some superb athletic types of plays. I’ve never seen freshmen doing it the way they’re doing it."
247 is reporting that Michigan's freshman quartet has been excellent and that a source says the WR spot is "in better shape than it has maybe ever been in." Maybe not all freshman wide receivers suck. Also there's a sophomore.
OUTSIDE RECEIVER: YOUNG, THE GIANTS
please don't forget the guy wearing #1 [Patrick Barron]
With the departure of Chesson and Darboh and Drake Harris's flip to defense Michigan returns all of nine career catches on the outside. Those are about evenly split between KEKOA CRAWFORD [recruiting profile] and Moe Ways, but only one of those gents is currently projected to start: Crawford.
As is usual for freshman wide receivers, Crawford's first year was mostly spent blocking guys. He had one bad drop early and one circus catch late…
…and thus ends data about his actual receivering. He did make a catch on a dig against Hawaii and a couple others, but they were routine opportunities that can only give you pause if they were dropped; they weren't.
The blocking was an immediate plus. He came in with a reputation in that department and upheld it:
He looks like a worthy heir to Darboh and Chesson in that department, at least.
With insiders orbiting the freshmen like sharks circling a school of fish, there's been next to no insider talk about Crawford this fall. I did pick up this bit in spring:
Kekoa Crawford lacks DPJ's explosiveness—as do most humans—and looks about like he did when he got on the field this year: very good blocker, big target, good routes. Strong belief he can be a quality #2 receiver this year, and an okay #1 if necessary.
Earlier in the week we talked about the big play antics of freshman Tarik Black. Late in the week it’s Donovan Peoples-Jones. … he stood out the most in first-WR-group that consisted of DPJ, Kekoa Crawford, and Eddie McDoom.
If Crawford is feeling rather overlooked, fair enough. He was an Army AA himself, a high four-star guy ranked in a tight band just outside of everyone's top 100. He's not chopped liver. From his recruiting profile:
…electric in and out of breaks. …quickness to separate …brings a lot to the table after the catch as an elusive player with good moves.
…very competitive speed and slippery elusiveness… knows how to use his feet, hips and burst to gain separation. … athletic and precise and has a good feel for the game.
…does everything well. …solid frame and is much stronger than he looks. …nice burst, is a polished route runner and has good top end speed. …
He's already gotten some run and is holding his own athletically in college. Crawford won a couple of winter combine events and finished a close second to Donovan Peoples-Jones in a few more; the most notable results were a 4.49 40 and 35 inch vertical. That is in line with his top-ten SPARQ score from the Opening during his senior year. Crawford consistently tests in the NFL B+/A- range, and that'll be more than enough in college.
There's about to be several butt-tons of freshman hype in this post, but don't be surprised if Crawford emerges from this season as Michigan's leading receiver. Long term you're hoping he settles into the Avant sidekick role to one world-obliterating type; this year he should be the outside guy who is most reliably in the correct spot. If this sounds unimpressive, please review this site's abiding love for Avant.
[AFTER THE JUMP: seeking one freshman dude, maybe two]
“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]
“They’re working hard. They’re working hard. It’s a very talented group. I think they have intensified the level of competition amongst that receiver group. To say that they’ve made progress is somewhat of an understatement.”
MGoQuestion: Obviously it’s a meritocracy but how do you plan to get all those young receivers on the field considering the depth and the talent there?
“Well, we still have 25 days before we play a game, so there will be guys that continue to make progress that separate themselves and ultimately give themselves a chance to play. “
Have you already seen some players emerging in front of the group?
“I think there’s been a ton of guys that have had really good days. It’s just a matter of stacking days and being consistent and once again, in time Coach will have some hard decisions to make.”
There’s so much talk about the younger receivers. What about some of the older guys? Maurice Ways comes to mind. How is he doing and how does he fit in?
“Well, like I said, I think the younger receivers, they’ve made all of our receivers have to work hard—not that they wouldn’t have to work hard anyway, but just getting reps is really competitive at this point. We have a lot of reps over the course of practice so everybody has a chance to get up there and make plays and there’s a ton of guys that are making plays.”
Is there a noticeable difference in how the receivers are with chemistry [and] timing with Wilton Speight as opposed to in the spring?
“No. I think overall as an offensive unit we’ve improved from a continuity standpoint. I think that’s what you’re saying. I think that the time that the players spent this summer in the player-run workouts gave them a better sense of the timing that’s required for us to be successful as an offense, and so there have been improvements.”
Obviously the guys have to get a grasp on what you’re teaching. How much of a sense of control do you feel being new, going through camp? How much do you feel like you have a sense of control?
“I don’t know that ‘control’ would be the word I would use. I think the players are starting getting more of a conceptual understanding of what we want to do schematically on offense, so as a result they’re playing faster.”
[After THE JUMP: how QBs adjust to young WRs and an interesting point about the speed of the offense]
…tremendous height and is a one-on-one nightmare on fades, redzone shots and underneath slants and crossing routes. … huge wingspan and long levers. … fast enough especially considering his size.
I mean, look at this wingspan photo to end all wingspan photos:
This here blog just spent a very productive afternoon trying to extrapolate a measurement for that wingspan from different photos and came up with something along the lines of Collins's height plus two or three inches. That's approximately 80", barely behind Devin Funchess's NFL-combine-best 83". And as a bonus, Allen Trieu asserts he's grown an inch between January and his arrival at fall camp.
Nico Collins casts a long shadow at noon. In this everyone is agreed.
Everyone also agrees that Collins is a mid-to-high four star somewhere between 120th and 200th nationally. Scouting reports get a little wobblier once you start drilling down—praise for his hands leavened with the occasional cautious note, that sort of thing—but in general describe an uncommonly gazelle-like huge person. SBN's Alex Kirschner:
…it’s not easy to have good body control when you’re a high-schooler and you’re 6’5. But when Collins runs routes, he looks fluid. He can run dig routes across the middle at any level of the field. He can take a screen pass and run behind blockers. And at his size, he’s obviously dangerous on fly patterns down the field and fade routes to the corner. … he’ll require safety help on a lot of his routes, opening up lanes elsewhere on the field. He’ll be a tremendously valuable player to have, whether his numbers are huge or not.
…not a burner at close to 6'6" … but he showed a bounce in his step … may have surprised some with how he moved … really covers a lot of ground quickly with his long strides and he sneaks up on some defensive backs in coverage. hands have gotten better and more consistent. … has been known to fight the ball some, but last week, he really received the ball well, and caught just about anything that he could reach."
big, did not drop a pass on the night as he showed excellent hand-eye coordination and concentration. …can change directions better than many kids his size. … great upside.
Collins has the height and arm length of a tight end but retains enough mobility to be a threat across the middle, on screens, and underneath—especially because job one of anyone in coverage on him is not getting beat vertically by a guy with the catching radius of two guys standing on top of each other.
Collins's hands and ability to make a play in traffic are also consistently praised. ESPN:
… capable of outmuscling and shielding DB's from the ball and makes for a wide catch radius … not very crisp … room to improve footwork. … big, strong hands … Focus and concentration when in a crowd is very strong and he does a great job of adjusting to the ball. … Wins more jump balls than most receivers not only because of his size, but timing as well. … significant jump ball weapon and redzone mismatch. Doesnot need to beat DB's over the top to win vertically due to size, body control and range to elevate. …easy to label Collins a pure possession type, but he has more juice than that athletically. Runs well enough and his size is obviously appealing.
… gigantic, smooth and polished wide receiver prospect. … red zone weapon if ever there were one. …. can box out a defensive back in space and then go high-point the football. … doesn't need to blow the top off a defense to be effective in the downfield passing game. … He catches passes over the middle without fear, he knows how to adjust in the air, he knows how to use his body and attacks the football with his hands.
…excellent hands and is better after the catch than given credit for, has displayed consistency and physicality as he's grown into his 6-foot-5 frame. Collins can challenge most defensive backs at the high point and he is a willing blocker on the edge.
…great body control … room to fill out and he has reliable hands. He doesn’t get a ton of separation on film but he provides a nice window for the ball, adjusts to poorly thrown balls and is a red zone nightmare … willing and physical blocker.”
A report from his Opening regional performance praised his ability to "high point the ball with ease" and noted his body control and long arms; Scout's eval asserts he is a "very dependable wideout who catches the ball well in traffic"; a 7-on-7 reports asserts he's "very sure-handed." Some of that tracks backs to his hands which are, like everything else about Collins, oversized.
Unfortunately for Michigan fans' ability to crow on twitter at satellite camp skeptics, Collins's stock fell appreciably over the course of his recruitment. He dropped a fifth star at Rivals and slid out of a couple other top 100s to land where he is currently: a very good but less than elite prospect.
…sometimes vanishes in games … big-time prospect for sure, but there are more sudden, explosive wide receivers in the country.
…potential is sky high. … he hasn’t spent his senior season always living up to his lofty ranking. Collins goes in streaks and has a tendency to go quiet for long stretches despite his overwhelming physical advantages.
It's not always a WR's fault when he falls out of an offense (see his YMRFSPA for a tragic instance of that principle). Collins did have a drop in production as a senior but it was relatively minor. He went from 60 catches for 1100 yards to 46 for 900 over his last two years in high school. "Vanishes" is pretty harsh, especially given the vagaries of high school quarterbacks and offensive lines.
Another, likely more valid, complaint was that Collins didn't light it up at either the Opening—where he had a couple of okay games before withdrawing with an injury—or the Army game. The pile of rapturous Oliver Martin chatter from the previous post is largely absent. Only Rivals actually chose to say something negative; in addition to the above they mentioned that he "went quiet for the most part during all-star season":
…impressive build … solid hands but struggledto get separation from top-flight defensive backs. … he’ll need to become more explosive to develop into a truly elite college talent.
This is probably because Rivals was far higher on Collins than their competitors and Collins's performances were in line with others' expectations. They're not necessarily wrong: there were a bunch of guys being talked about at the Army game and Collins was not one of them. That says something if we're trying to distinguish between a potential five star and a merely very good prospect.
Another potential issue is Collins's debatably sloppy route-running. There are plenty of brief camp evaluations that say he's great, but the more skeptical takes have more specifics and ring true. Touch The Banner:
…does not have great speed and is a long-strider as a runner. … short-area quickness is [an] issue, and that affects his route running. He is a little bit sloppy with his routes and needs to improve in that area to create separation."
Collins' overall consistency with his route running could use some work. … won't be able to afford sloppy technique …false step habit.
I'm also guessing that Collins is going to have some issues adjusting to press coverage. It might take a minute for Collins to absorb the finer points of getting past it, and a year or two to build the strength to shove folks off of him.
Once he does, though… what if Funchess was a wide receiver from the drop and played with Jim Harbaugh quarterbacks? I'd like to see that. I hope we do.
"I'm a Michigan fan through and through,” the elder Collins said laughingly. “I could be in Jamaica somewhere (and) I'm still a Michigan fan. Yeah, I'm a Michigan fan through and through. The football down here is pretty tough, but you like to be true to your team. You grow up as a Michigan fan or any fan, that's who you like to ride with."
Why Devin Funchess? Obvious. Funchess is the biggest receiver in Michigan history and Collins will match or even surpass his size in time. Funchess was a low-four star thanks to a Rivals whiff, with most folks incorrectly labeling him a TE. His effort level late in his career was questionable, with good reason, but he was still a second-round pick and immediately an NFL starter. Collins will need a couple years to get up to 230 or so to match him.
As for other comparables, pick anyone in the huge leaping guy mold that is increasingly common across college football. Michigan played 6'5" Oregon State WR Jordan Villamin recently, along with BYU's all-enormous WR corps. Mike Evans of Texas A&M. Kelvin Benjamin at FSU. Etc. Etc. Anywhere there's a gent who's not covered when he's covered.
Guru Reliability: Very high. All Star game, zero positional projection, pretty tight range.
Variance: Moderate. Separation issues are a thing and conjure the specter of Jeremy Jackson on the downside. Could end up being just okay because WRs aren't usually that big for a reason.
Ceiling: Vast. WRs aren't usually that big, and if he pulls it off…
General Excitement Level: High. I'm not quite as high on Collins as the rest of the WR class, which is insane, but in most years he'd be the headliner.
Projection: Likelier than the rest of the class to redshirt because Martin comes in as the most polished WR in the last decade of Michigan freshmen and both DPJ and Black enrolled early. I'm not sure there's room to play four freshmen WRs, and it sounds like Collins has the most work to do (unless he doesn't).
Again, it's difficult to project these WRs because they are all outstanding prospects. Chances are someone gets pushed aside and someone becomes a #1 to rival Braylon. Either could be Collins, or he could settle into a redzone weapon and #2-#3 WR for the duration. I don't know. I do know that whoever does start is going to be the veteran of a danged war and is more likely than not to be nationally elite.
The following folks did not play and are thus unmentioned: Drake Harris, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Nolan Ulizio, Ian Bunting, JaRaymond Hall.
In addition, a few guys got the you're-a-starter hook: Mason Cole, Chris Evans, and Kekoa Crawford were only out there briefly.
A little more feelingsball
HI [Bryan Fuller]
That was fun! I enjoyed it. The weather was terrific and the game was sort of an actual one insofar as OL depth permitted it and there was football to be observed and conclusions to be drawn from that football. At no point did anyone put on a little mesh hat so they could run an hour of kickoff drills.
Jim Harbaugh may be completely unpredictable in many things—he did not talk to reporters after the spring game, oddly—but he's made Michigan football very fun. I appreciated this on Saturday, sitting outside and watching the actual football. So, it seems, did many other people: I've usually just driven to the Crisler parking lot and parked. This would have been impossible on Saturday. The announced attendance (57,000 and change) was a totally made up number but it seemed plausible. What a nice change.
So... this might be a thing. If you recall, last year we entered the spring game expecting John O'Korn to be the starter; there had been some mumbles that Wilton Speight was right in the thick of it that most people discounted because of previous mumbles about how great O'Korn looked in practice. The spring game was an inflection point:
I am now convinced it's a real competition. Wilton Speight only had six attempts, but he completed five of them, confidently. I also had the benefit of observing the Ford Field practice, where nobody seemed clearly ahead of the pack at quarterback. Another piece of evidence in favor of a real competition: no quarterback got a quick you're-a-starter hook. John O'Korn is not a lock.
On Saturday Speight didn't get a you're-a-starter hook. He got a you-threw-a-101-yard-pick-six hook. John O'Korn took over for his team's final two drives, driving for touchdowns on both. Meanwhile, Brandon Peters did this:
One pick six marred an otherwise confident and accurate performance. The two best throws in there are probably the ones to Nate Schoenle, about whom more in a second. The first was a third and long conversion at 4:30 that looks a lot like the guy we saw on Peters's high school tape—unusually, I mean that as a compliment. He's got his guy, he knows it, and he tosses an accurate, catchable ball. Peters's ability to vary speeds is uncanny for a young quarterback, and it's good to see some of that is translating to college.
The second is the Schoenle wheel route to open the winning drive, which is just... dang, man. That's a hell of a throw, and Peters was making it most of the day despite a strong and swirling wind. (The earlier fade down the sideline that Jordan Glasgow got over the top on felt like it had been pushed by that wind.)
Peters moved decisively to get out of the pocket when necessary, scrambled for a touchdown, did not throw into coverage much, and was accurate on all but a couple throws. He looked very plausible at the same time Speight struggled.
As always you do not want to read too much into a disjointed, pressure-laden spring game. Unlike last year's QB competition this one has an incumbent. It's always hard to dislodge a guy who has a season under his belt, especially a guy who was reasonably good last year. Speight finished third in the league in passer rating and #2, Perry Hills, had 18 attempts a game. He's still the starter, probably. The spring game added "probably" to that sentence.
easy for Isaac [Eric Upchurch]
Chris Evans got three carries and then sat for the day, in case you were wondering if he was a sure-fire starter. That's the same playing time De'Veon Smith got last year. Evans looked as shifty as he did a year ago but may have added some extra YAC power; hard to tell in that brief glimpse.
So instead of that let me tell you a thing about Evans: he coaches a local kids flag football team. This in and of itself is odd and very, very Harbaugh. An acquaintance of mine relates that his kid is in this flag football league, and that his game was at 7:15 in the morning, with a potential second game at 9:30 if his kids' team won. Chris Evans is at this game. Not because his team is playing—his team is the one waiting for the winner at 9:30. Chris Evans is... taking notes? Watching intently? Is Chris Evans, starting Michigan running back, scouting a flag football game at 7 in the morning? Yes. Yes he is.
One other Evans-related note: while he didn't participate in much of it, I'd be surprised if the frequent five-wide shotgun looks weren't related to his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Hopefully Michigan gets on the good side of that McCray-Dalvin Cook go route matchup this year.
In Evans's absence we got a lot of Karan Higdon (12 carries to lead everyone), Kareem Walker, Ty Isaac, and walk-ons. Higdon and Isaac looked like Higdon and Isaac; both were the beneficiaries of the second-team DTs getting consistently gashed. I continue to like Higdon's combination of sharp cuts and low pad level and think he'll a productive #2. Isaac looks fine, but his touchdown was untouched and he didn't make a ton on his own. Walker didn't get a ton of opportunity he did have another run like he did last year where he bounced off some tackles to gain additional yards.
Your walk-on du jour here is Tru Wilson, who was quick through the hole and very small. Very little chance he breaks through the five scholarship guys who will be on campus this fall.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
Black can go get it [Eric Upchurch]
The wide receivers are going to be young but that might not matter. Kekoa Crawford got a quick hook and can be penciled in as a starter. Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black certainly look the part already. DPJ was held relatively in check by Keith Washington, and I'm already like "impressive job, Keith Washington" when he's been on campus for two years and DPJ has been on campus for two months.
Black played the part of Guy Opposite Dennis Norfleet on O'Korn's touchdown drives, running the same fade over and over against Benjamin St-Juste for completions and flags. Black is bouncy, 6'4", and adjusts well to balls in the air. He's all right. Meanwhile, Brandon Brown got a shot of Nico Collins veritably looming on the sidelines.
The guy behind him to the right is 6'2" Brad Hawkins. Collins is huge. Collins, Black, DPJ, and Hawkins are a veritable fleet of catching-radius guys who can go get contested balls and make quarterbacks right. That is one recruiting class. Also they got Oliver Martin. I'd managed to forget how ridiculous this WR class was.
In the slot, Eddie McDoom was doing McDoom things before an apparently ankle injury knocked him out. On replay that injury didn't seem too bad: there was no plant or twist. Ankle injuries generally don't keep guys out months and months, so he's probably going to be fine this year. Here's hoping, because I don't want to disappoint this guy.
Curse everything in the world that prevents us from selling that.
Also in the slot was walk-on Nate Schoenle, who was on the receiving end of Peters's best throws of the day. One was a tough diving catch on the game-winning drive. At 6'2" Schoenle gives you downfield ability a lot of slots lack and Peters is clearly comfortable with him; I mentioned him as a guy generating buzz before the game and he'll generate more of it now. Nate Johnson didn't get a target, IIRC. Schoenle looks like a real threat for slot PT.
[UPDATE: Johnson did make a catch, fumbling as he fought for extra yardage.]
So with all that it's getting late early for Drake Harris and Moe Ways. Harris did not participate, and for a guy with his injury history facing down this wide receiver class that is tough. Ways did play but not until the second half when the rotation was getting deep indeed. Two of his plays were questionable, as well. He ran a four yard route on third and five; he messed up his footwork so badly on a back-shoulder fade that both of his feet were out of bounds on a potential touchdown. (Ambry Thomas got hit with a flag for holding him, FWIW.)
Eubanks looks the part now [Patrick Barron]
At tight end Nick Eubanks appears to have made a move. He looks like a tight end now, which is step one. He was also targeted frequently. Michigan only found middling success doing so; the sheer number of balls he saw implies he's been making plays this spring. Here he only almost made a play, dropping a tough fade route from Peters after executing a textbook Manningham slow-and-extend to wall off the safety he'd gotten over the top of.
As a recruit Eubanks was regarded as a crazy athlete who needed seasoning. He's probably a year away from delivering on that athleticism; he certainly looks the part now.
Zach Gentry, meanwhile, both does and does not. Does he look like a tight end? No.
no [Bryan Fuller]
Does he look like Jeff Samardadjzijaadfh? Kind of. Except tall!
Zach Gentry is out here at the spring game putting the secondary on skates.
That's a busted coverage and not exactly black-belt receivering but just look at the guy and his long loping strides and ability to shake enough to put not-Kovacs on his butt. Spring reports frequently noted that Gentry fielded a ton of targets, and sure if I'm a quarterback I'll look for the guy who puts Jake Butt's catching radius to shame. I feel a Funchess move coming on.
Ty Wheatley Jr is Michigan's sole remaining Kaiju, and that makes me sad. When I checked out his blocking that made me happy, though. He had another of his catches where he looks implausibly fast for a large man, and with Asiasi's departure he's going to get a ton of PT; he's Michigan's top blocking TE by a mile now and he brings a two-way ability that could be lethal. Just has to develop a bit.
if Runyan could be a real RT candidate that would be nice [Bryan Fuller]
The spring game format seemed designed to keep the defensive line from annihilating everyone and succeed in that regard. The starting line, or close to it, was kept together; the backups mostly got Michigan's second-team DL. And while those second-team DTs are huge alarm bells, that's another post.
This is for this post: I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of defenders swallowing a tailback two yards in the backfield. Setting aside five yards lost when Kareem Walker unwisely decided to reverse field, Michigan backs were TFLed for a total of six yards. That means that the OL was getting its assignments right virtually the whole day. I don't expect that when one OL is playing deep into the regular season; for two to mostly get it right in spring, with all the rotation they've been doing, is impressive. Steve Lorenz keeps bringing up the Ewing Theory in relation to the OL departures...
3. I'm sticking with my Ewing Theory belief on the offensive line's potential in 2017. Ace Anbender at MGoBlog picked out former PWO Andrew Vastardis as a guy who stood out today and I'm inclined to agree. Vastardis was one of three or four PWOs last cycle the staff believed would, not could, be a difference maker sooner rather than later. He's not going to start this season, but he was a good indicator that a lot of guys have improved this off-season. Cesar Ruiz is ready. The pieces still need to be shuffled out, mainly at right tackle, but holes were paved consistently today.
...and I can see that. If Michigan can field a line that doesn't have a guy who runs by first-level defenders on the regular that would be good for their YPC and my blood pressure.
Your starter-ish line was: Cole/Bredeson/Kugler/Onwenu/Runyan, with Cesar Ruiz and Andrew Vastardis from the second unit impressing both myself and Ace. Given the context...
Vastardis looks on another level from Myers and Marshall, necessary but not sufficient for PT.
...we shouldn't anoint the guy as Glasgow 4.0 just yet. Straight up dominating some bad players is a good first step, and he did that. Most of Michigan's big runs came when the second-team DL got caved in by the second-team OL.
Also in walk-ons I'd love to get lucky on: ominously-named Greg Robinson has plausible size at 6'6" 290, per a yet-to-be-updated roster, and played a bunch at left tackle. He got blown up on a couple runs and did not seem nearly as fluid as Vastardis.
Ruiz got some run at guard in the second half, FWIW, but Bredeson never kicked out to tackle. These things seem to be contradictory since the OL with Ruiz at guard necessarily has Bredeson at RT. Michigan either 1) thinks Bredeson can't play tackle, 2) thinks he needs all the time at guard he can get to get ready for the season, or 3) thinks a guy on the roster is a capable RT. That latter could be Bushell-Beatty, who we did not see because of injury, or Runyan. Your author is guessing that #2 is the truthiest here, after Bredeson's understandably error-prone freshman year.
Blitz pickups were pretty bad; unclear if that was a tailback issue or a QB issue or an OL issue. Probably some of all three. Blitz pickups in spring against Don Brown and squat missile dude Devin Bush were always going to be a problem. They are a problem. It would only be notable if they were not a problem.
Michigan has its second Signing Day commitment from a blue chip recruit hailing from deep in SEC country. After five-star GA DT Aubrey Solomon pledged this morning, Pinson (AL) Clay-Chalkville WR Nico Collins closed out the class by choosing the Wolverines over Georgia.
While Collins didn't quite have as dramatic a recruitment as Solomon, his took similar twists and turns; he was long considered a Michigan lock until a late Georgia surge that the Wolverines managed to overcome. He's the 30th commit in the 2017 class and the fifth at wide receivier, joining Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, Oliver Martin, and Brad Hawkins.
4*, #24 WR,
4*, #17 WR,
4*, 82, #21 WR,
4*, 92, #29 WR,
4*, #23 WR,
After Rivals briefly had Collins in five-star territory, there's now a strong consensus on his ability; all four sites have in a relatively tight range in both the overall and position rankings, with Rivals still on the bullish end and 247 on the bearish.