"Well it seems like we've been practicing for two months already and we've only had three. I don't know if that's a sign of old age or just the intensity of how we're going, but it's really good to be out here. It's good to be practicing again."
There hasn't been a whole lot of yelling. It's a lot more instructing. Do the kids seem to be on message?
"Well our style of coaching is teaching. And I think if you compare our staff -- I don't think a lot of times you have to do a lot of yelling. This team that we have right now is trying to do it right in every way. When a team's trying to do that, whether they're really young or making mistakes because they're young, as long as they're showing the effort that they are, there's really no reason to yell at them. You just have to correct them. When you have a young team, you have to be a great teacher. That's what our staff is really working hard to do."
So the effort is there?
"Yes. I've been really pleased. Now we don't have pads on yet obviously, and a lot of times what happens with programs, when pads come on, sometimes some programs slow down. I don't think that's going to happen with this team. This team seems to really really embrace and has bought into 'we must play as hard as we can on every play, and we have to get 11 bodies to the football.' When you watch practice with not pads on, we're getting 11 bodies to the football. We're getting really really good effort, so that's been positive."
Taco Charlton was the sixth guy to commit on that fabled Saturday last February when Ace filed a worker's comp claim because his fingers had been worn down to nubs. What an awesome day for everyone who isn't Ace. But I digress.
As a result of the timing of his commitment, Charlton may have been somewhat overshadowed by ALL THE OFFENSIVE LINEMEN. Is it just me, or was Charlton kind of an "oh and that guy is around too" kind of commit? In any case that oversight went a ways towards being corrected when Charlton, an early enrollee, was listed at a strapping 265 on the spring roster and started collecting more hype than anyone on the defense not named James Ross.
Why is obvious. I mean, here's Charlton next to Shane Morris, David Dawson, and Mike McCray after the Columbus NFTC:
on the right, obvs
There you have three highly-touted, consensus-four-star recruits and a guy who makes them look like dudes headed to EMU. No one in Michigan's class—and almost no one nationally—approaches Charlton's first-guy-off-the-bus factor. But don't take it from me:
Charlton is the type of player that you want coming off the bus first as a prospect with phenomenal length and athleticism. There may not have been a defensive end in attendance that has a better set of raw tools to work with than Charlton.
That was as a rising junior, when he was probably 20 pounds lighter than he is now.
Charlton was unsurprisingly a camp fiend what with the hugeness and athleticism. A take from one of the two NTFC showings he made last summer:
… won every rep he took. Camp settings are a perfect showcase for Charlton's outstanding physical tools. Charlton showed he has the speed to beat linemen around the edge and also his the natural strength to power through the opposition.
Charlton also hit up the LA NFTC since he was in the area anyway. Scout:
Charlton set the tone on the first 1-on-1, by blowing by the tackle without being touched. He too only lost 1-on-1, and won every other. The future Michigan Wolverine is a nice long athlete who just needs to add some weight, but he's got the quickness off the edge to be a top-tier pass rusher.
ESPN was there as well, saying he "has a lighting quick step to complement his long stride, making him nearly impossible to block."
4. Taco Charlton – Charlton is always good in camp settings because he has elite athleticism and elite frame. Once again he looked very athletic rushing the edge and turning the corner on offensive tackles and he continues to show one of the best sets of tools in the nation at the defensive end position.
…without question one of the best athletes in this group. He looks the part, he was very fluid during the drills … showed enough to make Scout think he could end up being one of Michigan's top recruits in 2013. He is still raw and he needs to get stronger, but he is athletic, he is very quick, he has good length, and a lot of potential.
I mean, the picture above says it all. If it doesn't, take it from Duane Long, who said his "potential is unlimited" and called his physical tools "elite." Saying he has a high ceiling doesn't do it justice.
The catch is actually playing football. While the Buckeye urban legend that Charlton didn't even start for his high school team as a junior was overblown (he missed a couple series in a high profile game), he is the opposite of just-profiled Mike McCray in that regard. He's a camp standout who doesn't quite translate that potential to production, or at least didn't before his senior year.
Even with a productive senior year you can watch those highlights and the fact that the 6'6" guy stands straight up after every snap leaps out at you. ESPN mentions that and similar technique issues in their evaluation:
…possesses excellent size … not always consistent, but he has very good initial quickness. He can be a tough edge run defender, flashing the ability to keep his pads down and use his reach. When he does, he can quickly separate and shed. He is a tall kid who needs to watch his pad level, though, and be more consistent with his technique as he can stand up too much to look in the backfield and can rely too much on his athletic ability and the fact that he is much bigger and stronger than most of the people he goes up against…. changes directions well and displays good balance and body control. …has the potential to be handful as a pass rusher. … does need to learn to use his reach and hands more to his advantage, develop a pass rush arsenal and have a plan as he can attack the whole man and get caught up.
Raw. And raw. And raw.
This didn't prevent him from being an effective player even during his relatively raw phase. Helmholdt caught the state title game Charlton participated in then:
My appreciation for Charlton grows after each new evaluation. I thought he was OK at the Ohio State NIKE Camp back in May, thought he was better when I saw him on film early in the season and thought he was really solid in last weekend's Division I state title game. …was effective bull rushing offensive tackles. But Charlton also does a great job using his hands and releasing from blocks. He did not record a sack in Saturday's game, but hit the quarterback as he released the football on at least two occasions and got good pressure throughout the night.
But in that evaluation you can see hints of a guy who just wasn't doing much as a junior, something Scout just plain states in their profile for him:
Body Control and Balance
Pass Rushing Skills
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Great athlete with an excellent frame. He really stepped it up as a senior and made more plays. Has to add weight and strength to become a more complete player, but has the tools to be a situational pass rusher early in his career. The fact that he's still learning, still growing, and has good physical tools leads us to believe his best days are still ahead of him. - Allen Trieu
Part of that rawness is an Andrew Copp effect. Charlton spent so much time playing another sport that it may have slowed his development in his main gig. With Copp that was football; for Charlton it was basketball($):
Playing basketball nearly year-round has been one thing that's prevented Charlton from reaching his potential so far. He drops weight during the long season - one that included a state championship for Pick Central this winter - and doesn't have the time to focus on technique for the football field.
Charlton dropped basketball last fall and has added 15 pounds as a result.
So all of this sounds wonderful but wait! We have to talk about The Great Opening Hot Take Controversy. Charlton showed up at the Opening, as you saw above, and drew praise for his general Taco-ness from many people. A couple of those evaluations are linked above; I elided a couple more. Then Farrell dropped some truthiness on those evaluators by naming Charlton the worst guy there:
…looks the part, he really struggled. He has great size, long arms and he is very athletic. However, he is also very upright, only has an outside move and when coaches tried to teach him misdirection or crossover, he didn't grasp it well at all. He was beaten on almost every 1-on-1 rep he took.
This got a lot of heat from various quarters, spurring a protests-too-much defense ("simply struggled regardless of what others say") and eventually a tweet from Charlton himself showing him atop the leaderboard for 1-on-1 rep wins at said camp. Charlton would later provide some perspective on a bad day:
"Yeah well, I did real good the first two days," he said. "I actually ended up still tied with the most wins, but I was doing real good the first two days. The last day, I was sort of sick, and then a whole bunch of stuff went on and I just wasn't feeling too good. The Nike guys asked me to wait and compete later in the day, to hold off and see how I felt later. I still was feeling a little bit bad, but I chose to compete."
So there you go. The lovely thing about Mike Farrell is how he makes the kids look professional. Honest day's work, that. Anyway.
Taco Charlton’s been mentioned a lot. You said he’s the prototype. What do you mean by that?
“Taco’s name comes up a lot because if you’re 6-6, 265 and should be going to your prom and you’re here practicing football at Michigan, you’re going to like that. You always want strong, tall, athletic guys. Well, he’s 6-6. He’s very strong for his age, and he was a great basketball player. Now you have to get the mental part. He’s one, for example, it’s very interesting -- he’s one of the guys that doesn’t understand that at Michigan we run to the ball hard every play. And he sometimes thinks he’s going hard, but that’s maybe hard for where he was last year, not hard for where we are in this program. And he’s getting better and better.”
I took a close look at him during an inside zone drill Michigan ran before the game-like section of the spring game:
As everyone's already said, Charlton looks the part and then some. He was struggling in a drill before the scrimmage where half the OL would play half the DL on zone running, getting blown out of his assigned lane; once he got some time against the backup OL he dominated. Unless Cam Gordon's really good, he and Ojemudia will duke it out for the nickel DE spot Ryan's injury has vacated.
"I'll never look at No. 33 the same," Laminico said. "I won't be able to do that. It'll be hard for someone else to wear that number and really fulfill it. ... There are few people that can wear that number next after he takes it off for the last time."
Why Will Gholston? ESPN's evaluator actually made that comparison in their profile of him and that made a ton of sense to me. Both are enormous lanky weakside defensive ends who are not finished products. In Gholston's case that's after three years of futilely trying to get around Taylor Lewan and deciding to injure him instead; Charlton has some time yet.
Gholston was overrated as a recruit but not by a wide margin as a long-term starter and mid-round NFL draft pick, which is about Charlton's baseline as a guy just outside most top 100s. Gholston was listed at the same weight Charlton was as a recruit and eventually worked himself up to 280; Charlton is just 15 pounds away from that already and is a bit shorter, so the leverage issues you get with ends that size should be slightly less of an issue.
If you want a Michigan comp, Shawn Crable is it. Crable was a chicken-legged stick person, which Charlton isn't, and spent most of his career at linebacker, which Charlton won't. They are in the same mold of athletic knives to hurl through offensive lines.
Guru Reliability: High. Same range, same things said, lots of camps. Farrell's HOT TAKE from the AA game is disputed, though, bringing it down from exacting.
Variance: High. Charlton is probably going to be a useful player no matter what simply because of his size, but the upside makes the variance wide. Charlton could be a poor man's Gholston… or he could be Julius Peppers, another 6'6"-ish weakside end.
Ceiling: Vast. A 6'6", 265-pounds-and-counting weakside defensive end that pans out in a big way is destined for the top end of the NFL draft.
General Excitement Level: High. Ceiling is a great thing to have with this coaching staff. Lot of work ahead for Hoke and Mattison with this guy. Heininger Certainty Principle don't fail me now.
Projection: Needs a year to learn, maybe two. If Clark lives up to half the hype, Charlton won't be a major threat until he's gone. Then it'll be an Ojemudia/Charlton battle it seems impossible for Ojemudia to win what with probably being 30 pounds lighter and five inches shorter unless Charlton just busts completely. Two year starting run for Charlton should be in the cards, one that could be anything from Tim Jamison (decent) to Will Gholston (good but overhyped due to physical impressiveness) to a flaming morningstar of quarterback doom.
Spring Game gifs? Oh, sure, I guess. This is the last post I'll have here until the 29th, as the next couple days are devoted to HTTV stuff and then I'm taking a little time off to recharge.
I'm continuing to tweak how I do gifs on here to hopefully make them more accessible for everyone—most of them are now dumbed down to 48 colors, which has greatly decreased file sizes. If you had trouble with them before, perhaps you'll give these posts another shot. Anyway, Dennis Norfleet:
This one was specifically requested by Brian, or at least that's how I interpreted the tween-at-a-Bieber-concert scream emanating from the stands when it happened. (Full run gif'd here, but I really wanted to slow-mo that juke.)
[Hit THE JUMP for fun with the names of a certain Pickerington-based duo.]
So we did the meet and greet Q&A thing, and other than the liveblog portion being pretty much a disaster, A+++ would do again. I couldn't type fast enough to keep up with all the good info in the Q&A so below I've written up those answers plus some we answered after the fact via email.
We're tentatively talking another one the Friday night before the Notre Dame game, so calendar that. If you're coming in from out of town, Jared of Sports Power Weekends, who sponsored this whole thing, mentioned he's putting together a trip for that weekend that includes tickets for the game and a private tour of the Big House before we do drinks and ALL THE SHANE MORRIS.
Some things went way better than expected and other things not so much. Didn't go well: We had no way to plug our mic into the speaker system, fortunately remembering just in time that bartenders have friends with guitar amplifiers. The other thing that could have gone better is we forgot to warn Brian that Jehu Chesson was in the audience before your favorite blogger launched into his heuristic reasoning as to why Amara Darboh would be more effective this year because Chesson is still a waif.
New heuristic: Chesson sitting = Heiko standing minus an inch.
Did go well: lots of luminaries showed up. Players current and former included Chesson, Countess, Donovan Warren, and John Duerr. An incomplete list of bloggers: Bryan Mac (aka BiSB), MGoPhotographers Eric Upchurch and Bryan Fuller, Burgeoning Wolverine Star, Lloyd Brady, M-Wolverine, Craig Ross, and LSAClassof2000. Epic shirts: Heiko's bubble screen smile, and a Branch-Morelli sweatshirt.
In things that surpassed all expectations, let me being with actual nicest guy in the universe Marlin Jackson himself. Walking out of the game to his car took about 25 minutes because he signed every hat, helmet, t-shirt or whatever thing put before him. We talked NBA decisions, how the Jake Butt TD was on Jarrod Wilson's as-yet-unadvanced field awareness, and that the biggest difference with this staff is they "teach football."
After being introduced by Brian as "the man who still has Reggie Williams in his back pocket," to kick off the Q&A Marlin talked about his Fight for Life Foundation. He was candid about his youth: Jackson grew up in the projects with a mother addicted to drugs and a father he never met. As you can imagine this isn't the best way to learn things like accountability, the value of an education, or even your own value and that of others. Marlin learned these things through Michigan; it's the goal of his foundation to give similarly underprivileged kids the opportunities he received because of his athletic talents.
Fight for Life runs three programs: Field of Dreams (link) is an in-school and after school program that basically helps get the kids back up to speed with their classmates. Seal the Deal (hyperlink)is a series of leagues and football camps for youth through high school with an educational/character-building component. R.A.P. (reach out and access your peers – url) is an SEL* program that gets kids to open up through, e.g. a discussion of their future aspirations or by presenting a paper on their favorite song lyrics. They need to raise about $200k per year to fund these programs.
* Social and Emotional Learning, the spread offense of education. Full context is linked above but you may cognate as learning that's the opposite of 'Another Brick in the Wall.'
We then talked about things like that one year the Colts paired Manning with a real defense, which receivers were the hardest to cover, and his impressions on the young defensive players at Michigan today. That after the jump. But first here's three generations of next-Woodsons:
The early enrollees to catch my eye were Dymonte Thomas, Jake Butt and Taco Charlton. Thomas played exclusively at the nickel spot; with Countess still not taking contact Avery mostly played outside. Anyway, Thomas's presence at the nickel is not unprecedented. They've wanted bigger guys there for a while, it seems. Michigan wanted to go with Thomas Gordon there before they determined he was needed at safety; Ohio State actually calls the spot their "star" linebacker, and it's usually featured safety-sized clubbers. Their current guy, Christian Bryant, may not wrap up but he will thump you if he gets a chance.
It seems like it would be hard to replace a long-term starter like Courtney Avery. In this situation, rumors that Avery is dogged by a chronic injury lend it some plausibility. Nickel is a spot at which freshman screwups are usually first downs, not touchdowns.
As everyone's already said, Charlton looks the part and then some. He was struggling in a drill before the scrimmage where half the OL would play half the DL on zone running, getting blown out of his assigned lane; once he got some time against the backup OL he dominated. Unless Cam Gordon's really good, he and Ojemudia will duke it out for the nickel DE spot Ryan's injury has vacated.
Butt looks like Funchess, except not quite as long. A redshirt would be ideal.
Here's some credence for Jake Ryan's mid-October recovery timeline: Chris Wormley tore his ACL in mid-August. Eight months later he took a bunch of contact snaps in the spring game. Mid-October is 7 months from Ryan's ACL tear.
Jibreel Black looked bigger than 276 pounds, frankly not far off Quinton Washington's girth. Michigan likes stunting him a lot, which is partially a way to take advantage of his quickness and partially a way to mitigate his lack of size. A stunt got that safety on the second play, as Clark and Black swapped. Both got past their guys, with Ross finishing up. Black's pressure helped force the near-INT from Morgan, too; he got a sack by shooting past Ben Braden.
Frank Clark and Taco Charlton had a hard time against Lewan and Schofield—no shame in that—and then started crubberating the backups. Since most of those backups are freshmen or walk-ons it's hard to get a read on how they'll do against mortal starters. Clark had a big cast on one hand, so increment your opinion of his performance.
Richard Ash made a couple plays, swimming past Glasgow on a Rawls run that broke outside because of poor contain; Keith Heitzman was able to beat the walk-ons but didn't do much against the starters. Matt Godin looked the part but has a ways to go. The SDE spot looks a little weak.
I didn't notice much from the nose tackles. I assume Washington is fine; Pipkins has another year apprenticing.
Linebacker Skynet is online?
That James Ross stick on Drake Harris mentioned in the previous post is becoming the most-discussed play from the spring game. It's as surprised as any of you are. MGoUser Michael Scarn picture-paged it, making the same assumption I did when I saw it: the linebackers are headed to the line of scrimmage as quickly as they are because this is a blitz.
[1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: according to mattison that wasn't an A-gap blitz [1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: is that plausible? [1:07 PM] Brian Cook: what was it? [1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: he said that was just them reading and reacting [1:07 PM] Heiko Yang: they're that good [1:07 PM] Brian Cook: that's like skynet coming online
I don't think it's quite that. The blocking on this play is majorly screwed up. He's a screenshot from Mr. Scarn:
Jack Miller is in space, blocking no one. AJ Williams, at the bottom of the shot, isn't really blocking anyone either. He's moving past Ojemudia and only decides to block him once he sees air in front of him. Ojemudia should have to account for the QB if unblocked, so I think there's a reasonable case that you have two extra guys on the backside who should not be there, which then gets you the two extra unblocked linebacker sorts.
Trying to figure out what's going on with the defense is hard, then, because the play they're up against is a debacle. Yes, that's a little ominous. Let's ignore it!
It is nice that Ross reacts basically the instant Kalis tilts to pull. If this isn't a blitz, it is a killer read.
Whether this is over-aggression or Ross having magical pattern recognition is yet to be determined. What we've seen of him so far indicates the second.
Many eyes were on Gordon, including mine. I thought he did fine. In that aforementioned zone drill he was consistently getting the right amount of penetration into the backfield, holding the edge without opening up a crease inside of him. That ability to get the edge flashed on the negative Norfleet run. When deployed as a pass rusher, he was effective; nothing seemed to be on his head. Michigan will be fine at SAM.
FWIW, Brennen Beyer actually started. Gordon looked like a much better option, which isn't surprising since Beyer just got yanked back to SAM in the aftermath of the Ryan injury.
The safeties were not important. They got beat on the long Funchess catch (against Jeremy Clark, FWIW) and the Butt TD; most of the rest of the gains were to the outside. As we enter the post-Kovacs era that's a good sign. Jarrod Wilson is your tentative leader at the vacated safety spot. You might want to make that "heavy"—it seemed like they were running him out all the time in an effort to prep him for fall. Clark got more PT than Furman or Robinson, it seemed.
On the outside, Raymon Taylor gave way early after playing well. Usually the early hook is a sign of confidence in your abilities, so mark his starting spot in pen. Avery, Hollowell, Richardson, and freshman Douglas were the guys getting tested. CourtneyAvery got beat on the opening play. That was admittedly a perfect throw that he could do nothing about once he had failed to get Darboh close enough to the sideline to cut off that space. That's a size mismatch. A little less salutary is getting beat by Jackson a couple times on comebacks and such. One of the memorable plays from last year's spring game was Countess having Jackson in his pocket for an interception; Avery was some distance from a not particularly fleet receiver. He did get a PBU on a bad Gardner throw underneath. That appears to be his comfort zone.
I was surprised at how well DelonteHollowell showed. He broke on a lot of balls, getting some breakups, and he stuck pretty close to the shifty Gallon. I'm not sure how much that means when Michigan was dead set against playing him in the bowl game. Gallon is the perfect matchup for the tiny Hollowell. Bigger receivers will cause issues, and it's clear what kind of corners the new staff is after: big ones.
Terry Richardson got run over by Rawls. Hard to see him getting PT outside of passing downs, and it looks like Avery and Thomas are ahead of him on the nickelback depth chart.
Ross Douglas didn't stand out to me. During the anthem he was next to Taylor and seemed to be exactly the same height, FWIW.
Nothing much to note except that redshirt freshman punter Kenny Allen looked pretty good. I've heard he's been impressive in practice, as well. I'd imagine Matt Wile will keep the job since he has been a B, B+ option; if Allen takes it that's a good sign. Michigan looks set at that spot for a while.
Michigan fans didn't learn a ton about the 2013 team as the offense, as expected, was "very vanilla, very basic," as starting quarterback Devin Gardner put it.
If you're pining for the pistol, don't give up hope.
Also, Lewan noted some improvement from the line:
"We moved and established the line of scrimmage today, and I think that is one thing that we haven't seen in a while," senior left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "But what we do in the summer and do in fall camp is really going to define us as an offensive line."
"We went through half the year (in 2011), and we said, 'We're going through this doggone running back by committee deal.' And we finally decided, Let's put him in there, leave him in there and let's go,'" offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "Fitz came to the surface, and I think he will again (this year) before it's all said and done.
"He's certainly going to get a chance to prove it. I'll say that."
The starters were Brennen Beyer at SAM, Desmond Morgan at MIKE, and James Ross at WILL. I don't think Beyer is a starter-quality linebacker, and he didn't really make any plays. Morgan dropped an interception and failed to get depth on Jake Butt's touchdown catch, but he did look solid against the run. Ross looked fantastic at weakside linebacker, chasing down plays near the sideline and hitting running backs at the line of scrimmage. Cam Gordon looked like the superior player at SAM, made a nice tackle for loss on Dennis Norfleet, and blew up Butt on a Power. Joe Bolden looked solid at MIKE, but I'm concerned about the backup WILL position.
“We’re so proud of those guys. We’re so proud of that basketball program. I mean, what they’ve done with that young team is so special. We’re pulling for them just like everybody else.”
What do you see from Jarrod Wilson?
“I’ve seen him since the day he got here, and he’s one of the first we brought in at semester. He’s very mature. He’s a young man that studies the books, studies exactly what he’s supposed to do by position, has great pride in the way he plays, and he’s a very good athlete. All he needs now is just continued reps in game-like situations, and that’s what we do in practice a lot. He’s a very consistent football player, too. A lot of times young guys will show flashes of why you recruited them, and then you say ‘Aw man’ when you step back.”
Sorry to interrupt your day of madness with more football right now, but since the Spring rosters were recently published it's time for that annual MGo-Tradition of way overanalyzing weights and numbers and stuff...which Brian just informed me he's working on too [ED: this was written on Monday] after I got most of this written so figure this is Part II to that. By request the Depth Chart by Class received a major overhaul. Clicking on a name will bring up their MGoRecruiting profiles, hovering over a name gives you the current height, weight, and the player he'd most resemble if everything works out.
Before we get to the new faces, let's pick through that video. Non-bullets:
Offensive Line-Up: Miller seems to be the #1 center. The first clip shows him snapping the ball to Gardner, who hands off to Justice Hayes. Later while Lewan is talking we see two snaps (both of them pulls to Schofield's side) where the 1st team goes and the second team steps up in order behind them. Screen grab:
Starters at the moment appear to be Schofield-Burzynski-Miller-Braden-Lewan. Second team is Gunderson-Kalis-Glasgow-Bars-Mateus. Magnuson (at RT), Ben Pliska (at C) and Bosch (at LG) are the guys walking up behind them. Chris Bryant appears to not be doing these things yet; I don't know where LTT is, nor preferred walk-on Dan Gibbs. I'm not so worried about Kalis since the coaches still love him and it's early enough in spring that you'd expect a freshman to be behind last year's first backup. That Braden's practicing with the ones ahead of the 5-star, and he's the guy pulling, seem to bode very nice things for him—like potential star things. I am worried that there may not be enough guys in the picture above to make two teams for a real spring game.
Thomas Gordon interview. He says this year's defense is much faster. Let's qualify that; here's our current expectations for new starters vs. the departures:
Kovacs to winner of safety free-for-all: Thomas Gordon appears to be sliding down to strong safety but the other spot could be any of Jarrod Wilson, Josh Furman, Marvin Robinson, Dymonte Thomas, Jeremy Clark, Allen Gant or Delano Hill, and if anything can be gleaned from Hoke's comments that list is a pick 'em through Thomas right now. Unless it's Clark or Gant the safeties are gaining a lot of speed, though that's overrated next to Kovac's intuitiveness.
Demens/Morgan/Ross/Bolden to Morgan/Ross/Bolden. Ross and Bolden are the faster dudes, though apparent speed at linebacker is more instinctual than athletic. We're trading Demens's underrated coverage and size for a sizeable jump in response time, which should work out to better run defense offsetting the loss in pass pro.
Roh/Campbell to Wormley/Heitzman/Black. But don't totally discount Godin, who's the guy in the video providing the requisite attack on a sled. I've got Wormley hype in my shopping cart and need just one more positive review to buy. It may seem weird that the coaches are still saying the 290-lb. redshirt freshman is an SDE while Jibreel Black, holding steady at 276, is the presumed DT, but remember they did the same with Heininger at 3T and RVB at 5T much of 2011. They're pretty interchangeable.
JT Floyd to Blake Countess. An upgrade.
A more accurate description would be the further you get from the line the greater the intensity of a general shift from greater experience to greater talent. It's hard to say if the net will be a better defense until we see what kind of sophomore leap we got out of the Class of 2011.
Welcome, early enrollees and your numbers:
# Previously worn by
Patrick Omameh, Leo Henige
Jim Mandich, Mark Campbell
Mike Taylor (LB), Carl Russ
Alfie Burch, Mark Jacoby
Dan Dierdorf, Jumbo Elliott
The one that stands out obviously is Taco Charlton, whose camp measurements had him at linebacker size while his spring weight puts him already well within the bell curve for starting WDEs. Woodley and Jibreel Black are the only rush ends in recent memory to arrive over 260 but they're a lot shorter guys. The closer comparison is Glen Steele, who was 6'5/255 as a freshman in '93, redshirted, and got into the rotation in '94 at about 270. Before we were thinking Taco would be either redshirted or deployed as a kind of situational Shawn Crable while the coaches waited for him to grow into a regular down player, but if he's large enough already to stand up to OTs, that puts him squarely in competition with Beyer/Clark/Ojemudia.
The other guy significantly off from the services' numbers is LTT, who's down 36 lbs. from what Rivals said. We were rooting for this! Scouts said he put on some bad weight last summer and he's a project recruit who like Long/Lewan before him needs a redshirt to learn technique no matter what the OT depth chart looks like right now.
Dymonte Thomas is also 1 or 2 inches taller than the sites pegged him.
Somebody's an early '70s fan. That 33 for Taco stands out; I'm sure he'll have an explanation that isn't "Let me give you a history lesson." But if you blinked at a non-back wearing that number, you could use a little refresher on early '70s linebackers. Michael Taylor (NNMT) survived Bo's weeding out process to become an All-American inside linebacker, tallying 132 tackles his senior year. The number was immediately inherited by Carl Russ (right), who walked on to the '71 team and starred on the '73 and '74 defenses, two of Bo's best. Both 33s had short NFL careers.
As for Rick Leach's digit going to a defensive back, considering all the recruiting profiles of 6'2" corners you'll be seeing here this summer you might as well read up now on Alfie Burch, the early '90s prototype for big boy boundary cornerbacks who can stand up to blocks on the edge and neutralize tall/rangy receivers. Course Ross Douglas isn't that—he's more of a nickel type. In the '70s it was worn by Mark Jacoby, Bo's "Wolf" who played kind of a Shawn Crable role from what's technically the same field position (SAM) that the nickel corner plays.
There is also a new crop of walk-ons. Hello new walk-ons!
Hometown (High School)
Hinsdale, Ill. (Hinsdale Central)
Plymouth, MI (Plymouth)
Tecumseh, Ontario (L'essor)
Hopewell Junction, NY (John Jay)
Novi, Mich. (Novi)
Lansing, MI (Lansing Catholic)
Johns Creek, Ga. (Northview)
Alex Mitropoulos-Rundus was on the roster last year as David. Internet search pulls up an interview with a really girlie site called Michigan: Her Campus where he's asked questions about what he looks for in a girl.
"I don't ever really think about a list of things that girls must have, I'm more of the type of guy that just knows when it's right or not. We all have that gut feeling."
Gals don't even know when they've been Sam Webb'd.
Position Changes: Only ones of note are Wormley is listed as a "DL" (was a "DE" last year) and Matthew Godin was a "DT", is now a "DE". Safeties Allen Gant and Jeremy Clark are back to the nebulous "DB" which means nothing. Interestingly redshirt junior Anthony Capatina, listed as a kicker last year, is now a "DB". Matt Wile is listed as a "PK" and preferred walk-on Kenny Allen is a "K/P" so Hagerup remains the only designated punter on the roster. Read into that what you will.
Non-Returning Walk-ons: You've heard of some of them but from last year's roster we're missing receivers Steve Wilson and Devon Micou, tight ends Nate Allspach and Chris Eddins, safeties Charlie Zeller and Andrew Offerdahl, and cornerback Chris Maye. Walk-ons who didn't return for a 5th year are onetime rotation Seth Broekhuizen, injured Nate Brink, and long snapper Curt Graman.
This class is pretty evenly spread across the position groups—an argument could be made for pretty much any group on the field. In an effort to avoid giving all of the awards to Dymonte Thomas, I'll go with the linebackers here. After 2012's big haul, Michigan only needed a couple of linebackers in the class, and they filled their two spots with a pair of very solid prospects in Mike McCray and Ben Gedeon.
The lone linebacker spot the 2012 class didn't cover was on the strong side, and McCray's size (6'4", 230 lbs.) and athleticism make him an ideal fit there. Gedeon, meanwhile, is a stellar athlete—he also starred at running back for Hudson—who should be able to cover the field sideline-to-sideline from the weakside linebacker position.
Honorable Mention: Safety, Cornerback
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Strongside DE
There isn't one, and that's the only hole in this class on the defensive side of the ball. After Michigan brought in three SDE-types in 2012—Matt Godin, Tom Strobel, and Chris Wormley—there wasn't a major need, especially with in-state standout Malik McDowell firmly in their sights for the 2014 class.
MOST LIKELY TO START FROM DAY ONE: Dymonte Thomas
Defensive highlights start at the 4:22 mark.*
It's distinctly possible that no member of the 2013 class starts on defense next season, and that's a very good thing for Michigan. If one will, however, it's safety Dymonte Thomas, a dominant force in the state of Ohio at both running back and safety for the last three seasons. Michigan has to replace Jordan Kovacs, and if Jarrod Wilson isn't ready to step in at free safety, it's likely that Thomas Gordon will play there while Thomas slides in at strong safety.
Thomas may be the best pure athlete in the class—if he wanted, he could've easily been a four-star running back recruit—and he brings a very physical presence to the secondary. He should be an asset in run support off the bat and he has all the tools necessary to be solid in coverage, as well. Down the road, I think Thomas will be an all-conference—or even All-American—player, and it may be tough to keep him off the field this fall.
Honorable Mention: The only other play I see having a shot to start this year is Taco Charlton—he's an impressive player and the weakside DE spot is open to competition. That said, I don't see that happening unless Michigan gets hit by the injury bug.
*Also of note: those are junior highlights. His senior reel is well worth a look.
SUREST THING: Dymonte Thomas
See above. Frankly, I'm surprised Scout was the only service to rank him as a five-star.
Honorable Mention: Henry Poggi. Poggi may not be a superstar—he doesn't always explode off the ball on film—but he seems like a guy who should at least be a solid starter down the road.
BOOM OR BUST: Jourdan Lewis
I've seen cornerback Jourdan Lewis play in either a game or camp setting over a half-dozen times at this point, and he's an outstanding athlete who could conceivably contribute in the return game or even at receiver. When he played across from current Wolverine Terry Richardson as a junior, I thought Lewis was flat-out the better player—he's a little taller and is extremely good at making a play on the ball. After giving him a closer look this year, however, I noticed a couple holes in his game:
There are a couple major concerns I have with Lewis, however, that were on display on Friday night. He does rely on that recovery speed far too much in man coverage—if OLSM's quarterback had thrown that hitch on time, for example, I don't think Lewis would've been able to break up the pass. Then there's run support, where Lewis is very limited by his small frame; at his size, he has to be completely committed to throwing his weight around and tackling with proper technique, and I don't see that at this point. He tends to dive for an ankle-tackle and shies away from major contact—there's a stark contrast between him and Webb, who's both bigger and more willing to lay a hit.
Lewis has all the athleticism necessary to be a very good cover corner, but he's going to need to add some weight, embrace the physicality of the run game, and refine his coverage skills if he wants to be a major contributor at cornerback. If that doesn't work out, he could flip to offense and be a playmaker in the slot, so his versatility gives him a lesser chance of flaming out, but there's no guarantee he'd stick there, either. I think Lewis is a prospect with a high ceiling, but he's going to have to work to get there.
Honorable Mention: Maurice Hurst Jr.—the athletic big man could wreak havoc on the interior, but he's got to learn to play low.
MGOSCOUTED STAMP OF APPROVAL: Taco Charlton
When I drove down to Pickerington to see defensive end Taco Charlton's Central squad take on crosstown rival North (and fellow commit Jake Butt), I expected to see a raw pass-rushing specialist. Instead, I saw him play an instrumental role in keeping North running back Godwin Igwebuike (Northwestern commit) well below his usual numbers, sacrificing his personal stats to key on the run—and he still came up with 1.5 sacks:
Despite having a reputation as a pass-rush specialist, Charlton was instrumental in limiting Igwebuike on the ground, finishing with ten tackles and 1.5 sacks. He was largely tasked with keeping contain, and I don't recall a single instance where a running play got outside of him if it went to his side. While he sometimes allows offensive linemen to get their hands into his chest off the snap, he did a solid job of engaging and using his hands to shed blocks. He played a very disciplined game against the run, showed off a very high motor—especially impressive since he also moonlighted at tight end and on special teams—and always seemed to end up around the football.
As a pass-rusher, Charlton showed off more of a power game than what I've seen from him on camp film, getting his hands inside the blocker and bull-rushing to great effect. He still has that impressive speed around the edge and got pressure on a couple of speed-rushes, but for the most part he went right at his blocker—likely due to his contain responsibilities against the run.
Charlton has also really begun to fill out; Michigan lists him at 6'6", 249 pounds after he enrolled early, and he's got the frame to easily get up to the 270-pound range without losing his impressive quickness. I think he could factor into the weakside DE rotation as soon as this fall, and down the road he could be the edge-rushing threat that Michigan has lacked at DE for some time.
Honorable Mention: Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill. I've covered Lewis; Hill wasn't a guy I really focused on while watching Cass Tech since he was a long-time Iowa commit and there were so many D-I prospects on the field, but it wasn't hard to notice him anyway—he always seemed to find his way to the football and was a solid tackler once he got there.
SLEEPER: Channing Stribling
When cornerback Channing Stribling earned an offer—and subsequently committed—at Michigan's camp over some more highly-touted prospects (including eventual teammate Reon Dawson), he was a complete unknown despite coming from a football powerhouse at Matthews (NC) Butler. He was immediately pegged as an underrated sleeper, and after a senior season spent making big play after big play, it seemed like he was on the verge of making a huge leap in the recruiting rankings.
That never quite happened—Stribling ended up as a three-star across the board, so the sleeper label still fits. At 6'2", 170 pounds, he's very tall for a cornerback, and his playmaking skills were on display all year—in one game last fall, he had two receiving touchdowns, a defensive touchdown, and a kickoff return for a touchdown. If Stribling can fill out his frame and refine his coverage skills, he could be a very good corner; he's also extremely raw, and maintaining the quickness to cover college receivers at that height is no easy task.
Today's recruiting roundup covers Leon McQuay III's timeline, the sixth O-lineman possibility, and more.
Before I get into today's (rather scant) recruiting news: the NCAA recruiting dead period began on Monday and extends through January 3rd, which means coaches can't meet with recruits in-person and can only call them once a week. As a result, unless something major breaks, this will be the last recruiting roundup until after the bowl game.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he chose Michigan," his father said. "The defensive coordinator basically sat us down and walked us through how he is going to be used. If that actually holds true, he is going to be lining up in different spots. He is expected to make plays. He has been labeled a playmaker. That's a lot of expectations, but Mattison has been doing it for a while so I'm pretty sure he can look at somebody and tell exactly what he is going to get out of them."
With coaching shakeups on defense at both USC and FSU, it looks like McQuay's recruitment will come down to Michigan and Vanderbilt, where head coach James Franklin is personally recruiting him. While McQuay had long maintained he'll make a decision at the Under Armour All-American Game, a tweet from his father yesterday indicated that may no longer be the case:
New drama L3 may not be able to announce at under armour game because of indecision of school choice.
Todays' recruiting roundup covers Laquon Treadwell's top five, new highlight tapes for Denzel Ward and Taco Charlton, new 2013 and 2014 offers, and more.
Reschke Offered, Treadwell's Top Five
Michigan's coaching staff raised some eyebrows over the weekend after finally offering 2013 Birmingham Brother Rice linebacker and MSU commit Jon Reschke, a Spartan legacy who hasn't shown much interest in the Wolverines. Since Michigan had previously turned away linebacker recruits like Alex Anzalone and E.J. Levenberry, saying they were full at the position, the offer caused concern that a current commit was looking around. That doesn't appear to be the case, according to Tremendous, with rumors that Mike McCray was considering Ohio State debunked.
So, why the offer? For one, Brother Rice is a very strong in-state program, and Reschke was reportedly none too pleased with the lack of an offer (or serious interest) from Michigan. More importantly, however, Reschke is a heck of a player—I thought he was deserving of an offer last year, and he's stepped up his game even more this season—and with the fluid nature of recruiting, it's entirely possible that the scholarship situation at linebacker has changed. While I'd be surprised if Reschke flipped from MSU, he's close friends with Shane Morris, and he'd be a worthy addition to the class.
Matters aren't looking up on the Laquon Treadwell front, unfortunately, as he named an ordered top five to Scout's Beth Long after Crete-Monee's state semifinal victory last weekend ($). That top five, in order: Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Michigan, Michigan State. Treadwell hasn't even visited the two Oklahoma schools yet, though officials are planned to both, but he has been to Oxford; barring a late turnaround—and in recruiting, that's not exactly unusual—this won't end well.
As for a backup plan, scratch MD WR Paul Harris off the list, as he reaffirmed his commitment to Tennessee despite the news of Derek Dooley's ouster, per Rivals's Adam Friedman ($). While Harris leaves some room to look around, it doesn't sound like he'll consider Michigan. Michigan did host a committed 2013 prospect last weekend in Trotwood-Madison CB Reon Dawson, an Illinois commit, according to 247's Clint Brewster. The three-star could be another option if/when Gareon Conley starts taking visits.
Michigan also handed out a 2014 offer last weekend, to FL WR Artavis Scott, high school teammate of offered OL Mason Cole, per multiple outlets. Scott is a four-star on all three sites that have released early rankings and is also on the ESPN150 Watch List, so he's universally regarded as a top prospect. The Wolverines have established themselves as one of Cole's early leaders, which should help them with Scott; both visited for the Michigan State game.
[For the rest of the recruiting roundup, including Denzel Ward's junior highlights, hit THE JUMP.]