With the prospects for UM's team very dim, most of my focus this year will be on individual players (bravo J. Lewis!) go forward in 2014 i.e. who can help the next staff in 2015. There was an interesting question on our lack of NFL players/players development (a common theme) posted yesteday in the cluster**** that followed the game so I am going to piggyback on 2 pieces I wrote in April now that we are 4 games into 2014 and look back at our 2012 recruiting class and sort of do a "now" vs "then" analysis. This is what people do when they look at NFL drafts 3 years after the fact - which I find interesting.
This is not too in depth on each player since we know their names and their general impacts but at this point these are our juniors and RS SO so we have an idea of how their career will go, allowing for some variance. I only did the top 15 players or so - as a lot of players are not impactful at the bottom of the class.
Please note I am not a sunshine grader - a 5 star should be a step below Peppers level; very impactful early, a splash player, a conference stud. A 4 star should be a front line starter, etc.
2012 was a very important class - a highly ranked (7th at Rivals) and large one and the bedrock for Hoke's supposed success - i.e. the team that was "going to be competitive with Alabama in 2015 and 2016". As you read this list of contributors it just adds to the "where are our NFL players?" and "are these guys being developed to compete with the Oregon's, Bamas, Texas A&M, FSUs" etc. How many would legitimately play for those teams?
It is not encouraging - I see maybe 2 players who would be on their way to be stars in the SEC (Henry, Funchess), and a handful of guys who would start for a mid tier SEC team. And a whole lot of guys who have regressed or are not going to be contributing in any meaningful way as they go to their RS JR and SR years in 2015. Our two 5 stars are not impactful players who other teams have to worry about in year 3 of their career. That's just not good enough for a 7th ranked class.
My 2 earlier pieces if you are curious and want to get away from EMO land were:
Just going to rank everyone together, offense and defense
- Devin Funchess - new rank: 5 star. 2012 rank: 3/4 star. The only clear superstar on the team; with a pro style QB like a Cook or Hackenberg this guy would be bringing fear to all and being talked up like an Amari Cooper nationally. An immediate starter at TE, where he was a poor blocker, but eventually moved outside to a position he thrives at. Barring miracle will be gone in 2015 - sad face.
- Willie Henry - new rank: high end 4 star. 2012 rank: 3 star after thought tossed into the class late. Again I am not a sunshine blower who is giving Henry a 5 star. He has the chance to be a 5 star as a JR and SR if he continues his current path. For a guy thrown into the class on the week of signing date I believe, he has surpassed his much heralded signing class mate Pipkins and is a sky is the limit type of player as only a RS SO. Should be the rock star of the 2015 DL.
- Joe Bolden - new rank: 4 star. 2012 rank: 4 star. A "late bloomer" in that he didnt show much in flashes his first 2 years but the game seems to have slowed down for him and at this point is a very productive player. Should be the defensive leader on the LB corps in 2015.
- Jarrod Wilson - new rank: 4 star 2012 rank: 4 star. Some might think this is a sunshine grade but compare to classmate Jeremy Clark for example. He was a starter in 2013, and the rock of the safeties coming into 2014. Not a star but a decent starter - unfortunately injuries in 2013 and 2014 continue to haunt. Should retain starting role in 2015 barring some Joe Bolden type offseason surge by a peer.
- James Ross III - new rank: low 4 star (?!) 2012 rank: 4 star. I'm confused. This grade would be easy to give in any month before August 2014 I might be a sunshine blower on Ross III todau. Not sure what is happening here- from 2nd leading tackler on team last year to a spot player. While the 2 LB set seems to be the base formation of UM defense, Royce Jenkins Stone seemed to displace him versus even Miami of OH at SAM. Lack of bulk hurts and maybe by end of year this is downgraded to 3 star but cannot imagine his talent just disappeared like that. Confused about role in 2015.
- Ondre Pipkins - new rank: high 3 star 2012 rank: 5 star. Some will dispute my current rank and maybe injuries played a part but early 2013 I was not seeing a disruptive force - Malik McDowell is playing DT at MSU and Ive seen more splash plays from him in 3 games then Pipkins had in a year and a half. Yes even v Oregon, McDowell was impactful. Maybe Pipkins comes back and turns into a force but at this point a 3 star and a walk on are starting at DT and he is a rotation player maybe not 100% healthy.
- Erik Magnuson - new rank: high 3 star 2012 rank: high 4 star. Perhaps an unfair ranking since OL take more time to judge and he was the "best of the worst" of underclassmen OL in 2013. Not getting a "Lewan type talent" vibe from him as we felt from Lewan early in his career - i.e. uber talented but mistake prone. Seems "solid" and will be a decent Big 10 player. Best OL in this class it seems but its a low bar right now. Most likely also playing out of position (guard vs his natural tackle) due to lack of guards on team. Ranking could improve in 2015.
- Jehu Chesson - new rank: 3 star 2012 rank: 3 star Blocking machine that has yet to really put it together as a WR. Advertised as spped merchant - do not see that in actual games. That could be due to the QB not finding him but if he was a true speed demon TV analysts would remark more often how open he was as he made the DB look like molasses. That said, one of the best WR blockers seen in my time, and a hell of a special teams player. Seems destined for 3rd/4th WR role.
- Dennis Norfleet - new rank: 3 star 2012 rank: 3/4 star A sort of glue player with no real home. Mostly a special teams player and now a converted slot WR who does not get that many touches. For a player obtained on the last day of the recruiting cycle he has been an asset. But sometimes his lack of vision and lack of straight line speed stops him from being what UM fans wish he was to be IMO. That said a flash here or there in 2014, hopefully more growth in 2015.
- Chris Wormley - new rank: 3 star 2012 rank: 3/4 star. I came into the year super high on Chris Wormley. Thought he and Henry would be the 2 breakout stars on the DL. I was half right. An ACL held him back early in career - he came on late last year to make some splash plays that excited me but thus far this year, barely noticable. Due to size and ability to create TFL in 2013 still holding out hope this comes together for him in 2015. But right now a role player.
- Amara Darboh - new rank: 3 star 2012 rank: 3/4 star. This is a difficult grade - he won the starting job in 2013 before injury felled him. Has been quiet in 4 games aside from explosion vs a very bad Miami OH defense. Maybe in 6 weeks he will look like a major contributor. Maybe not. For now he is all about potential v production. This is a grade based on hope.
- Kyle Kalis - new rank: 3 star 2012 rank: 5 star With all the caveats of "can't judge an OL too much too early" this is up there with Terry Richardson as a major disappointment at this moment. Lauded as the "most college ready" OL we had - struggled mightily in 2013 and displaced as starter in 2014 either by injury or by a walkon. Has never looked like a "plus player" in his time yet. MSU starts a walk on at LT named Jack Conklin from the 2012 class who gave up zero sacks last year in pass protect at a tougher position; so its not impossible to ask for decent from this age of OL. Hence based on peer group, I am not going to say its unfair to judge him in year 3.
- Ben Braden new rank: 3 star 2012 rank: 3 star I've put him behind Kalis only because in the sh****** that was 2013 OL he never was even put in the rotation despite being handed a guard role in spring. He never took to it and obviously would not displace the two 2013 tackles. From people who watch OL a lot closer than me, he is one guy who they worry about the most in the first 4 games. Still have hope here for 2015 since he is a first year starter.
- Jeremy Clark new rank: 3 star 2012 rank: 3 star. No idea what Jeremy Clark is right now, seemed to have lost the competition for starting safety to Delano Hill in camp but injury thrust Clark into the role. Looked good versus App State but ... its App State. Seems to be a solid player but hard to tell. Maybe in 8 weeks we move him up 6-7 spots in this ranking, just too fresh of a prospect at this point to evaluate. Great size if he puts it all together
- Royce Jenkins Stone new rank: 2 star 2012 rank: 4 star Came in with a loaded offer sheet and was supposed to be 1A and 1B with Ross III. Rarely saw the field first 2 years on defense. Was supposed to be a camp star ala Bolden this spring and fall but with the SAM position eliminated thru much of the first 4 games has seen spotty playing time. When he did he has not graded well on UFR (-3 vs Miami OH if my memory serves) Hard to expect much from hin in 2015 which is already his senior year.
- Matt Godin - new rank: 2 star 2012 rank: 3 star He plays a little here and there. Did so in 2013 as well before an injury late. Sort of an emergency role player as best as I can tell. Not sure if there is any real upside in 2015 other than becoming a better emergency role player.
- AJ Williams new rank: 2 star 2012 rank: 3 star. Sort of a filler type guy at TE who does not catch the ball. His blocking is questionable. Jake Butt and Funchess both passed him quickly when given a chance and a converted DE now competes with him for time. With Bunting arriving in 2015 expect even less of a role go forward.
EDIT - I missed Mario Ojemudia in this list - I will insert him at rank 9.5 between Norfleet and Wormley. New rank: 3 star 2012 rank: 3 star . A backup DE who is not particularly impactful at this point, and rightfully stuck behind Frank Clark. 2015 role will be a starter by default as Taco Charlton, Henry Poggi, and Lawrence Marshall are the only other DEs currently on the roster slated to return.
I have not ranked Sione Houma as I am unclear of his impact or future; I don't notice him during game days, frankly not sure if he is playing much. Others can weigh in.
The following are not ranked - they have had little to no impact in their time at UM. I will therefore tag them as 2 star type of players as a bunch. At this point any meaningful contribution in 2015 forward will be a surprise.
- Terry Richardson - 2012 rank: 4 star
- Tom Strobel - 2012 rank: 3/4 star [never discussed as even a depth DL player]
- Blake Bars - 2012 rank: 3/4 star [never discussed as even a depth OL player]
- Allen Gant - 2012 rank: 3 stars
- Drake Johnson - 2012 rank: 2 stars [4th on current depth chart with 2 high profile 2015 recruits coming]
Last, no longer with the team
- Kaleb Ringer - 2012 rank: 3 star