Recruits In Retrospect: 2011 Defense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2011 Defense Comment Count

Ace June 17th, 2016 at 3:13 PM

Previously: 2008 Offense2008 Defense2009 Defense2009 Quarterbacks2009 Offense2010 Offense2010 Defense, 2011 Offense


Desmond Morgan significantly outplayed his recruiting ranking. [Fuller]

The good news: the defensive side of the 2011 hybrid RichRod/Hoke recruiting class turned out much better than the offensive side.

The bad news: that's a pretty low bar to clear.

This exercise will get a lot more fun next year, I promise.

Defensive Line: Roh 2.0 And A LB/TE/DE

In-state four-star DE Brennen Beyer was billed as a slightly less-hyped Craig Roh, which turned out to be a spot-on comparison in more ways than one. Like Roh, Beyer played early and often, appearing in 11 games as a true freshman on his way to 49 career appearances and 27 starts. Like Roh, Beyer bounced between defensive end and outside linebacker throughout his career. Like Roh, Beyer was a solid player who didn't post big numbers. If there's been a tighter YMRMFSPA fit, it's not by much.

The other two players listed as defensive linemen had uninspiring profiles and careers to match. Generic three-star DE Keith Heitzman's limited upside was apparent. Brian's projection:

May emerge into a depth defender in a few years.

After a redshirt, Heitzman was a low-impact rotation DE for a couple years, totaling 15 tackles before moving to tight end in 2014. He caught two passes that year, then Jim Harbaugh came in and told the fifth-year seniors they'd have to earn their spots; Heitzman wasn't a fan and grad-transferred to Ohio, where he posted decent numbers (22 receptions, 3 TDs) in his final season.

Columbus native Chris Rock (NTCR) saw his recruiting stock fall dramatically as a senior after he was initially billed as one of Ohio's top prospects. Rock left the program in the spring of 2012 before ever playing a down. In an usual move, he enrolled at Ohio State and walked on to the program after sitting out a year. He didn't see the field much in Columbus, either.

The star of the defensive class ended up being an unheralded recruit out of powerhouse Cleveland Glenville. The recruiting sites ranked Frank Clark as a middling three-star at tight end (Scout), outside linebacker (Rivals), and defensive end (ESPN). His profile features a rather fun series of headlines from the end of his recruitment:

Awesome sequence of articles from Rivals:

  1. Glenville LB close to being a Spartan? (money quote: "As many Spartan fans know, head coach Mark Dantonio does not push or pressure kids to make a commitment on their official visit.")

Save that face, yo.

Clark, of course, blew away those expectations in becoming Michigan's best defensive end. His college career ended in an awful way, with Clark getting kicked off the team for an ugly domestic violence incident. In spite of that, he went in the second round to Seattle and had an excellent rookie season.

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

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Recruits In Retrospect: 2010 Defense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2010 Defense Comment Count

Ace May 15th, 2015 at 2:06 PM

Previously: 2008 Offense2008 Defense2009 Defense2009 Quarterbacks2009 Offense, 2010 Offense

The series continues with a look back at the defensive prospects in Michigan's 2010 recruiting class. Rich Rodriguez took 16 defenders in the class; more of them failed to make it to the opening kickoff of their freshman year (four) than advanced all the way to Senior Day (three).

I apologize in advance.

Those Who Stayed


Obi Ezeh!

Especially in retrospect, Jake Ryan's recruitment was bizarre. Ryan was the most productive defender on a state-title-winning Cleveland St. Ignatius squad that got plenty of exposure; he played next to Ohio State commit Scott McVey; his highlight tape provided more than a glimpse of what he'd become at Michigan. He looked a whole lot like Jake MF Ryan, minus the flowing locks.

Yet Ryan went unranked for much of the process, and even after a strong senior season only earned middling three-star rankings. Michigan didn't offer Ryan until he took an official visit a couple weeks before Signing Day. Ryan, holding only MAC offers, committed the next day. Reading his profile today makes me wonder if I unwittingly ingested all of the drugs:

Why Obi Ezeh? Ryan is a big, slightly clunky middle linebacker who will easily reach Ezeh's current 245 pounds and may outgrow the position entirely. As a recruit Ezeh was an anonymous three-star in about the same range Ryan is; he was also a sleeper-type pickup who had not been on anyone's radar before Michigan grabbed him. Ryan is praised for his vertical attacking and dogged for his ability to cut through the trash sideline-to-sideline or effectively cover zones; Ezeh's career is ably summed up by those critiques.

Ryan has some assets Ezeh doesn't: a high school career at linebacker (Ezeh was mostly a running back), a head start on the system he'll be playing in, and Greg Robinson as a position coach. Hopefully he'll have some consistency in coaching as well.

Notably, Greg Robinson as a position coach was listed as a positive. Greg Robinson as a defensive coordinator was... not.

Jibreel Black's profile spent a lot of time hoping he'd become at least a poor man's Brandon Graham. While Black didn't come close to Graham's heights, he was a solid contributor his last three years, and he could've been more productive if Michigan's issues with D-line depth didn't force him into a role as a 275-pound nose tackle for much of his senior season. Black is one of many players from the Rodriguez/Hoke era whose career would've benefited from a redshirt year he wasn't afforded.

The career of Courtney Avery saw him go from promising freshman corner to clearly undersized spot starter to senior utility man—he'd finish his time at Michigan with 19 starts, five of them at safety in 2013. Avery was also a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, which shouldn't come as a surprise since he flipped his commitment from Stanford to Michigan; his high school coach thought very highly of him:

“He’s the type of kid that if he wants to be president of the United States one day, he will be. I got two compliments I could give him. That’s the first, and the second is if my daughter was 18, she could date him."

"Thanks, Coach. I'm deeply uncomfortable."

[Hit THE JUMP, if you dare.]

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Recruits In Retrospect: 2010 Offense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2010 Offense Comment Count

Ace May 13th, 2015 at 2:15 PM

Previously: 2008 Offense2008 Defense2009 Defense2009 Quarterbacks, 2009 Offense

It's apparently that arbitrary down time in the offseason when I take a look back at Brian's recruiting profiles for the class that just finished their time at Michigan. In this case, that class is the infamous 2010 group, the last full class brought in by Rich Rodriguez during his time at Michigan.

So, uh, you've been forewarned.

I'll start with the nine offensive players in the class, five of whom were wide receivers. If that sounds like a strange and dangerous way to contruct a roster, you may be a longtime reader of this here blog. Or maybe you just watched the offensive line the last few years. Either/or, really.

We're Really Sorry About The Coaching Thing

As a Pioneer grad, I have no idea how Pioneer won this game.

By the time Brian wrote up Devin Gardner's profile, he'd already enrolled at Michigan and participated in the spring game. The comparison that came up the most in his profile—and, really, the most reasonable one to make at the time—is a pretty good indication of the level of expectation for Gardner's college career:

Why Vince Young? The combination of size, speed, a wonky throwing motion, and the multiple comparisons from gurus tips the balance over to Young, who redshirted despite being the top prospect in the country and didn't come into his own as a passer until he played Michigan in the Rose Bowl—awesome timing!

Guru Reliability: High. Ton of exposure to him. Elite 11 camp, UA game, all that stuff. 
General Excitement Level: Towering. Vast. Expansive. 

Gardner, of course, stayed on track—except for the cameo at wide receiver—by looking like a future star when he took the reins after Denard Robinson's injury in 2012, and while he had some disappointing outings in 2013, those were largely chalked up to the O-line and playcalling. It came off the rails last year for a host of reasons covered so thoroughly they're not worth bringing up again. Needless to say, reading through his profile leaves one with serious what-could've-been feels.

[Hit THE JUMP for Dramatic Cupcake Hopkins and, well, mostly disappointment.]

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Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Offense

Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Offense Comment Count

Ace June 24th, 2014 at 3:06 PM


Gallon's levitation skills translated to the college game just fine.

Previously: 2008 Offense2008 Defense2009 Defense, 2009 Quarterbacks

Finishing out the series looking back on the 2009 recruiting class, here's a look at the non-quarterback offensive players, as described in Brian's recruiting posts of yore. But first...

My Bad, Cam

While I remembered to include then-OL, future-NT Quinton Washington on the defensive side of the ball, I forgot to do the same for Cam Gordon, the future defensive positional nomad who came to Michigan with most recruiting services considering him a wide receiver. As Gordon's recruitment wore on, it became more clear that his best spot may actually be in the defensive back seven, and thus we got one of the odder player comps I've seen:

Jason Avant, or maybe Prescott Burgess

Why Avant or Burgess? Bulky 6'2" wide receiver who will push 215 and lacks deep speed == Avant. Rangy linebacker who needs to put on 20 pounds, switch positions (sort of) and probably struggle with the mental part of being a college linebacker for a while == Burgess.

Free safety wasn't mentioned, because only an insane, desperate person would put a player matching that profile on the last line of defen--AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIGGGGHHHHHH. (Thank you, Denard, forever and always.)

Gordon ended his career as a backup outside linebacker and situational defensive end. Fire Tony Gibson again, just in case.

The Blue Darter

As for prospects who actually ended up at receiver, Michigan had two: consensus top-200 prospect Je'Ron Stokes, and a high school single-wing quarterback who—despite being an Army All-American—earned four-star status on just one site due to his diminutive stature.

PEAK MIXTAPE WEEZY WITH A KEVIN FEDERLINE REFERENCE.
HOW DID IT GET SO LATE SO SOON?

Though everyone pegged Jeremy Gallon as a pure slot ninja—he'd prove to be much more, obviously—the eye-opening highlights and strong Army week performance earned him plenty of hype:

Gallon is a Swiss Army knife of a player: pocket-sized, versatile, capable of surprising feats, and… uh… hard to tackle. (If you've ever tried to tackle a Swiss Army knife you know what I'm talking about. They're pointy.) It's hard to envision a scenario in which one of his diverse and sundry talents doesn't find him on the field, if not this fall than next.

Brian, I'd like to hear more about your past attempts to ... tackle ... pocket knives.

As for Stokes...

When Je'Ron Stokes committed to Michigan I was in an airport about to board a plane for Egypt by way of Germany, and as soon as he did I logged off and forgot all about him. Ever since when something reminds me of that commitment, it's like a weird bonus: oh, yeah, that universally-praised wide receiver in the class I never remember. He's like a ghost recruit.

Yeah, that was for the best.

Oh Damn, Fitz

From 2008-09, I worked as an intern at The Wolverine, and one of my primary tasks during football season was posting the stats of Michigan's commits each week. A back from Ohio's Division V Youngstown Liberty by the name of Fitzgerald Toussaint committed a few months before I got that job, so week after week that fall I'd look up his stats, bug out my eyes, and get incrementally more excited for him to see the field at U-M:

Fitzgerald Toussaint, Youngstown Liberty: Senior RB and Michigan recruit went over 250 yards for the seventh week in a row in a 33-28 win over Hubbard. After generating 16 yards on four carries in the first half, Toussaint erupted for 235 yards in the second half and scored two TDs. He has 1,950 yards in eight games.

He'd finish the season with over 2,200 yards and 28 touchdowns. Between those numbers and his excellently soundtracked highlights, I thought he'd be the next great Michigan running back:

That wasn't to be, at least in large part for reasons outside his control, but when remembering where Toussaint came from...

It wasn't all flowers and 90-yard touchdowns for Toussaint, though. His dad—also named Fitzgerald Toussaint—ended up in jail after stabbing his ex-wife's boyfriend… at a football scrimmage. Nasty business.

...I'd say 32 career starts, graduating from U-M, and getting a shot to make an NFL roster constitutes a very successful college career.

Vincent Smith's profile started out with similar recounting of a tough upbringing in Pahokee, then mostly waffled between excitement about his highlights/fit in the scheme and trepidation about his size, which was the subject of an awkwardly written ESPN scouting report:

ESPN says Smith lacks size "on paper"—which uh what about real life too—and says he runs "low to the ground," as if he has a choice.

Sadly, no mention of fingerguns or being a heat-seeking, defender-destroying missile.

Michigan rounded out a three-man running back class with Cass Tech product Teric Jones, who recorded the fastest time at the Army combine after his junior year but didn't receive much at all in the way of recruiting hype. By the time he got to campus the coaches were already considering a position switch:

In fact, Michigan might be shooting Jones into lots of space as a slot receiver. Rodriguez said Jones was a slot receiver who "may also get reps at running back" at the signing day press conference, and Jones did have some nice receiving numbers as a junior: 24 catches for 306 yards.

Jones ended up playing special teams as a true freshman, bounced between running back and cornerback as the thin roster dictated need, then left the team and went on medical scholarship before the 2011 season after a sophomore-year knee injury.

If You Just Take Two Linemen...

...you might as well make them NFL linemen, and that's exactly what happened with U-M's 2009 O-line class of Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield. Lewan, especially, was quite the steal; he was a total unknown until moving from defensive line to offensive line before his senior season, then vaulted into the top 300 recruits on all three recruiting services and played in the Under Armour AA Game in his first year playing the position. Michigan had a nice in with Lewan—his teammate at Chaparral High, Craig Roh, had been committed to U-M for months when Lewan decided to also head to Ann Arbor. 

While this usually doesn't happen, Lewan's high school coach ended up giving the most accurate forecast of his player's potential:

“Michigan is getting, in my opinion, the steal of this year's recruiting class in the country,” Ragle said. “I know that's a bold statement to make, (but) this kid’s ability on the field won't be questioned. He's as good an athlete on the offensive line as I've ever seen.

...

"He's as good athletically as any guy I have ever coached," Ragle said. "The thing that makes him so special is his upside when you think he's only been coached at the position for about eight months. But the one intangible that's most impressive is his nastiness --Taylor wants to burry [sic] someone on every play, and you can't coach that."

On point, Coach Ragle.

Schofield's rankings were in a similar range as Lewan's after a strong senior season. What stood out about him most was his athleticism—which translated to the college game, as he seamlessly transition from being Michigan's best pulling guard to a nimble pass-protector at tackle—and considering he's now 6'7" and 300+ pounds this is rather astounding:

In his first two years at Sandburg, Schofield ran the 110 high hurdles for the Eagles’ track team, winning a conference title his freshman year and finishing second his sophomore season. He also moved up to the varsity team for the state tournament during his sophomore year, finishing sixth in sectionals.

Unfortunately, there's no video of this, as the age of someone-on-a-smartphone-will-film-literally-anything hadn't hit yet.

So, with that exercise out of the way, who's ready to go over the 2010 class?

/click

On second thought, let's save that for next summer. Or perhaps never. Leaning towards never.

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Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Quarterbacks

Recruits In Retrospect: 2009 Quarterbacks Comment Count

Ace June 16th, 2014 at 2:08 PM

Note: With roundups of last weekend's Sound Mind Sound Body camp still being published, as well as various visit reactions from prospects currently on campus for Michigan's technique camp, I'm pushing back the recruiting roundup to tomorrow. Breathing into a paper bag in preparation for USA-Ghana may also have played a role here. Thankfully, I started writing this post last week.

Melanie Maxwell/MLive

Previously: 2008 Offense, 2008 Defense, 2009 Defense

I started writing up the 2009 offensive recruits as a whole, but I couldn't get past the first paragraph of Tate Forcier's profile before realizing the two quarterbacks in the class needed their own post. Hell, I couldn't get past the first sentence [emphasis mine]:

Tate Forcier is the one who didn't get away, the one who was planning on committing even when Kevin Newsome and Shavodrick Beaver hadn't twirled their mustaches in dastardly fashion and tied Michigan football's hopes to the train tracks before effecting their getaways. His brother is my favorite Michigan player of all time who never played. He is a relentlessly trained quarterback prodigy ready to step in on day one—which was a month ago—and challenge Steven Threet for the starting job. God help us if he flames out.

When this post was written, Forcier had already enrolled at Michigan and subsequently dominated the Spring Game—back when it actually resembled real football—in a fashion that caused junior-in-college me to make this video, and I'll admit it was no small thrill to see my name on this here site:

Then, of course, came spring:

I just watched that thing again and it's pure sport porn; I sort of wish Ace had left in Forcier's three incompletions—one bad read, one Stonum drop, and one overthrown screen—so it wasn't a just a possibly-misleading highlight reel but was instead the whole spring performance. My favorite part is that little swing pass to Moundros on the rollout: Forcier's getting pressure from a defender, calmly positions himself, and puts a perfectly-led ball right in Moundros' arms, allowing him to turn upfield against the chasing linebacker. That is the sort of precision Michigan's offense was lacking last year.

After a season of the Threetsheridammit offense, the fawning over Forcier's readily apparent potential was more than understandable. His accuracy and YPA for a high school quarterback were off the charts, as evidenced by... a (chart?) chart:

Year Comp-Att Yards Pct YPA YPC TD-INT
So 157 / 221 1637 71.0% 7.4 10.4 17-4
Jr 164 / 213 2387 77.0% 11.2 14.6 21-5
Sr 208 / 326 3424 63.8% 10.5 16.5 23-15

The disconcerting rise in interceptions and drop in completion percentage as a senior was chalked up to a heavily increased workload and a sieve-like offensive line, the latter quite apparent to those who watched him play that season. This brought forth a foreboding aspect to Brian's eerily on-the-money comparison to former Iowa QB Drew Tate:

Forcier was often reduced to scrambling around and chucking it hopefully, which obviously led to the interceptions. Here's another piece of the Drew Tate comparison I've been beating into the ground for months now: Tate (Iowa Version) also saw a senior-year spike in interceptions as Iowa's offensive line regressed (they gave up an extra half-sack per game when Tate was a senior) and Tate took matters into his own hands more often. This tendency can be either wildly good or wildly bad, and threatens to do so on consecutive plays this fall. Only experience will teach Forcier what he can and cannot do at this level.

As it turned out, we'd never learn if added experience would've reduced the considerable "no no no YES"/"no no no AAAAAARRRGGHHHHH" aspect of Forcier's game. As we all well know, he left school after being ruled academically ineligible for the 2010 Gator Bowl, by which time he'd lost his starting gig to Denard Robinson. A certain aspect of Forcier's schooling, at the time noted as a positive—his home-school setup enabled him to work with QB guru Marv Marinovich for hours upon hours—was probably not so positive:

On Fridays in the fall, Tate Forcier doesn't feel like going to school. The night's game is on his mind, and the quarterback for Scripps Ranch High in San Diego can't imagine studying a textbook rather than studying a defense.

No big deal.

"I'll tell my teacher, 'I have a game today,'" Forcier said. "He'll say, 'That's fine; you don't have to come.' And I'll go to my football school and watch film all day."

Ability to shred a cover zero or no, this doesn't really fly at U-M.

I swear I'll get to Denard soon, but first a couple more blockquotes. Marinovich's scouting report of his pupil was so oddly poetic Brian turned it into actual poetry:

"Tate springs off his feet. He bounds from side-to-side to avoid the rush and then accelerates. His peripheral vision is key allowing him stay focused and scan downfield. But really, his mental attitude toward the position along with quick feet and hand-eye coordination blended together is ridiculous."

A haiku version of this:

Tate springs off his feet 
He bounds from side to side, and 
Then accelerates

Finally, Brian makes a most unfortunate typo:

Why Drew Tate? That's my go-to comparison and I'm sticking to it. Forcier is about 6', maybe 6'1". He's nimble and though he took off frequently in high school, in college he won't have as much of an athletic advantage and will mostly use his feet to buy time to throw downfield. He has the proverbial moxie, which occasionally gets him into trouble. The Tate comparison is eerily accurate, except maybe Forcier is better school and will be more accurate than the occasionally-erratic Tate.

Welp.

With that out of the way, DENARD ROBINSON HIGH SCHOOL HIGHLIGHTS AHOY:

Huh.

Oddly, Denard's otherworldly running abilty wasn't nearly as prominent in those clips as you'd expect. There isn't so much as a hint of a run until nearly the two-minute mark. In fact, there are only a couple plays in the whole reel that really show off what he was capable of doing, probably because his offensive coordinator ripped the "OBVIOUS ROLLOUTS" page from the Al Borges playbook and left the rest. Denard's highlights are way better in theory than they are in reality.

I'm not sure there's better evidence of how much football offense has evolved even in the last half-decade than Denard Effin' Robinson running every play on his high school highlight tape from under center. In 2008, this may have gone unquestioned. In 2014, there'd be a federal investigation.

Denard's passing stats fell well short of Forcier's, as would be expected. Less expected were the rushing stats:

Oddly, Robinson's rushing yards weren't spectacular. He had only 538, which was fewer than Forcier had, though Forcier wasn't going up against big schools in Florida at Scripps Ranch. Does this indicate a Drew Tate Forcier-like tendency to run around in the backfield and then launch it deep? A couple of throws above and that yards per completion number indicate "yes", but he also breaks contain several times and takes off and those are just highlights so maybe he got sacked a lot for ridiculous yardage after running around like a headless chicken and I guess what I'm trying to say is we just don't know, dude.

We just have to go on the universal heavy panting about this guy's ability to outrun a cheetah in a Porsche strapped to a jet engine and dropped out of a plane. Which, like, okay.

I'd say the first bit is explained by the highlight tape. About that last bit: Both the "cheetah in a Porsche..." and "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium" tags were fixtures on this site before Robinson ever got to campus. Even before he proved Mike Patrick's "broken plays are very dangerous" mantra in real time, this was totally justified.

Deerfield Beach's Denard Robinson got the near-perfect start he needed, motored down the straightaway and won the 100 meters in a personal-best 10.44 seconds at the BCAA Track Championships at Coral Springs on Saturday.

Robinson's personal-best … is the second-fastest high school time in the nation, according to Dyestat Elite 100 rankings.

Denard's reaction was even better:

''I was kind of disappointed in myself to run a 10.44, but I will accept that,'' Robinson said.

It comes as little surprise that a bolt of lightning recruited to play quarterback for Rich Rodriguez received comparisons to Pat White from everyone, Brian included. The excitement to see this athlete in that offense managed to rival the avalanche of Forcier hype even though Robinson didn't get the benefit of an early enrollment. Surely the blogger who set Sam McGuffie's general excitement level at "AAAAIIEEEE!" saw the nearly unlimited potential that would soon be realized in arguably the greatest QB rushing season ever:

General Excitement Level: Slightly under high.

We're no longer on speaking terms, boss.

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