2011 Recruiting: Desmond Morgan Comment Count

Brian July 15th, 2011 at 11:33 AM

Previously: CB Greg Brown, CB/S Tamani Carter, CB Blake Countess, CB Delonte Hollowell, CB Raymon Taylor, and LB Antonio Poole.

Ottawa, MI - 6'1" 225


West Michigan All Star

Scout 3*, #42 MLB
Rivals 3*, #25 MI
ESPN 3*, 78, #24 MLB
Others 247: 3*, 83, NR
Other Suitors Northwestern
Previously On MGoBlog Tom interviews him. Commitment post from Tim.
Notes If he tells you you should claim $10.5 M US dollars, don't do it. OMG shirtless.


Preseason interview featuring HALFSHIRT in which he kicks the crap out of practice equipment. He was interviewed after the local All-Star game by some guy who didn't know he had a scholarship and didn't thonk him on the head.

Desmond Morgan joins the legion of Michigan defensive players who were high school quarterbacks. When Pharaoh Brown arrives next year Michigan will have former QBs at DE (Brown), LB (Morgan), and DB (Courtney Avery). Missing on "Big Tex" Beachum is the only thing between Michigan and a full set of QB-on-D-Pokemon.

As a result, Morgan's highlights are a little weird, alternating thumping tackles from a linebacker with thumping stiffarms from a linebacker who happens to be taking snaps from center. They're weird, but not exactly bad—while taking highlight video at face value is silly, man does Morgan light some dudes up. When Desmond Morgan impacts a high school football player that player suddenly starts going in the same direction Morgan is.

Michigan saw this, scouted a couple games, and extended an offer at the tail end of his senior season. Morgan, a lifelong Michigan fan, flipped out

“I don’t remember a time I haven’t watched Michigan football,” said Morgan, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound defensive standout. “I always idolized them as a kid. I’ve had the dream of playing in front of 112,000 fans on a Saturday afternoon.”

…and committed soon after. This prompted the recruiting sites to find out who the heck this guy was and offer the usual generic three stars provided most random sleepers who commit to a big school. Before that he had an offer from Northwestern and a few MAC schools. He has the profile of just a guy…

…but the scouting reports are kind of awesome. Scout's profile declares his positives to be "instincts," "hitting ability," and "lateral movement"—yes please—while knocking his size:

Smart, instinctive linebacker who fills gaps and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Has good lateral movement, solid foot speed, and has shown he can play sideline to sideline. Gets good depth in his drops in coverage and makes receivers think twice before coming across the middle. Good pop as a tackler, hits low and drives. Will need to add some weight when he gets to the next level. - Allen Trieu

I'm not sure about that downside. Morgan may not be 6'3" but he is a thick, punishing dude on both sides of the ball. Virtually all freshman have to put on weight; Morgan has to put on a lot less than, say, Antonio Poole and his 195-ish pounds.

Touch The Banner is also positive but isn't clamoring for extra stars:

… I fully expect Morgan to play middle linebacker at the next level.  He has the prototypical body type for the position.  He flows well to the ball and keeps his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage.  And when he hits, he puts some force behind it.  You can tell by the way he runs the ball and the way he tackles that he understands leverage and getting underneath his opponent. He also times his blitzes well and stays under control when attacking.

I understand why he's a 3-star kid.  He's not a quick-twitch athlete.  He looks like the type of player who will fill out to be about 245 lbs., plug his gap, make a bunch of tackles, contribute as a blocker or wedge buster on special teams, and just be a solid overall player.

ESPN($) liked him more than anyone else, rating him the #9 player in the state and the #24 MLB. Their evaluation reflects that:

Morgan is a very tough run stopper; displays dominant playing strength at the point of attack. Has the size and athleticism for the inside linebacker position at the major level of competition. His tough knock'em back tackling ability suggests very good potential as a special team's coverage player…. This prospect does a very good job with K&D recognition skills against the run; gets a good jump on the play, demonstrating tough, downhill stacking ability against the inside run. We like his hand use, showing the physical playing strength to take on and defeat blockers at the point; demonstrates the ability to play low and keep his feet free when moving laterally vs. the outside run. Flashes good underneath screen recognition ability however all area of coverage will need refinement; man coverage assignments must be carefully evaluated. This guy plays with the intensity and motor we look for when evaluating the ILB position; his tough tackling ability makes runners pay the price.

Other scouting reports are much in the same vein. Allen Trieu calls him a "throwback($)" who "will fill gaps and strike ballcarriers with bad intentions" while remaining coachable. He got his Michigan offer by proving his ability to pursue and get to the sideline as a senior:

Morgan has had a fantastic senior year. We knew coming into the year that he was a physical player with good instincts, toughness and tackling technique. The rise in the ranking is due to him showing the athleticism he has throughout the year. At quarterback, his agility and speed have proven to us that he can be an every down, sideline to sideline linebacker. Even though it was his offensive highlights that we saw this on, he has raised his game on defense as well, making play after play against the state's best teams.

The concern with linebacker highlights is they might obscure a large number of brainfarts where the guy ends up on the other side of the field from the ball, but the scouting reports—and Morgan's 4.0 GPA and 27 ACT, he probably could have gotten in without football—specifically praise his smarts. It's obvious why. Listen to either of the interviews above and compare to yourself at 17, and then there's this from a Touch The Banner interview:

"What are my greatest weaknesses? I'll be honest; I have quite a few of them. I'd say my biggest one would be my pass coverage and recognizing when two receivers are crossing, which one is the biggest threat, and [recognizing] which DB needs the most help picking up a guy coming across, things like that. So I'm working on that, getting depth and recognizing the different routes and being able to get underneath, making a play on the ball. In high school, we didn't have to do that as much, especially with all of the man coverage that we ran. And with line backing, I'd say we were usually more focused on the run. So the biggest thing I'm working on is helping my pass coverage game out."

Um… so… that's extremely specific and encouraging in a Zen sense. Desmond Morgan, like Brady Hoke, appears to know what he does not know.  That has a lot to do with his dad, a longtime high school coach who taught him much of what he knows:

It was [father] Scott who helped teach the game to Desmond from his experience of playing and coaching at Ferris State University, followed by many years in the High School coaching ranks. Mr. Morgan still helps his son break down film at home and provides another set of eyes through which to see the opposition. It was clear how much Desmond has learned and appreciates from his father, “Everything I’ve learned has been from my Dad, he’s had a great impact on my life, as well as the rest of my family,” Morgan said. “Going off to college it will be different because you won’t have that guy to lean on anymore, that guy to point out stuff when you might not see it.”

[note: above article comes from a site called "West Michigan All Star" that kicks out a ton of excellent content if you're into preps and whatnot on that side of the state.]

His senior stats (72 tackles, 4 FF) were a little depressed by a shoulder injury that kept him out of one game and forced him to only play QB in a couple others. That doesn't make him injury prone—he only missed three games in four years on varsity, and as a senior he played both ways most of the time. When healthy and exclusively a defender, Morgan made 120 tackles as a junior.

And now for the parade of fawning quotes. His athletic director:

“His work ethic is second to none,” Marsman said. “He’s a very, very hard worker and an excellent leader. He’s a great kid, very humble and not cocky at all, but confident. And he’s a great student (4.0 GPA, 27 ACT). He takes his academics very seriously.”

His coach:

“He knows where everybody is supposed to be. He makes the calls on defense and just his presence out there makes other guys around him better as well,” Caserta said. “… When you gameplan against us, you have to put at least a couple guys on him, and it makes the guys around him better.”

An opposing coach (link ibid):

“Desmond Morgan playing sideline to sideline, that kid can play at any college right now and I’ve admired that kid,” Fairfield said after his team won 28-14. “That kid has inspired our defense, just watching him on film.  “He comes out here and runs like he’s Ironman. I’m glad our linebackers had a chance to play against him, because he made us grow up and realize how to play linebacker.”

And Brady Hoke dropping not one but two instances of "tremendous":

“I mentioned how tailbacks usually are the best athletes on the team. Well in this sense, he was a quarterback and a linebacker and a tremendous athlete,” Hoke said about Morgan on the first day coaches are allowed by the NCAA to comment on the year’s recruiting class. “A lot of things they did offensively with the ball in his hands, decision making, all those things, and then how he liked to attack the line of scrimmage from a defensive perspective is something that got us excited, and he’s a tremendous young man, and we’re excited about him.”

Me too.

Etc.: "vampireguy33" is not his twitter account. Will wear #44. Blizzards don't shut down fax machines in West Michigan. Photo gallery. Commit article from the Sentinel.

Why Carl Diggs? If you disqualify David Harris on the grounds that it's unreasonable to expect a random three-star to turn into one of the best MLBs in the NFL you have to go back a ways to find a Michigan middle linebacker who made a habit of thumping, evil tackles. You have to go all the way back to Diggs.

Diggs didn't quite have the athleticism to be a star and wasn't a great cover guy but he was a three-year starter who was a fringe All Big Ten sort and a captain as a senior. Random scouting report($) on Diggs from a Bears site:

Pos: Tough, versatile linebacker best in the box. Quickly diagnoses the action, knifes up the field and forceful making in run defense. Breaks down well, strong at the point of attack and wraps the ball handler. Goes sideline-to-sideline, displays an adequate change of direction and gets depth on drops in zone coverage.
Neg: Lacks overall instincts in pass defense and skill in man coverage. Does not always play under great control and takes himself from the action at times

That is almost a replica of the ESPN report above.

Guru Reliability: Moderate. Fairly large spread, but a sleeper sort who improved a lot as a senior and isn't from the most heavily scouted area of the world. Seeming disconnect between scouting reports and rankings, though ESPN does that all the time.

General Excitement Level: Irrationally high. Most of the time I try to stick to offers and scouting reports and rankings when formulating this section but sometimes random three stars get me pumped up. Here we've got a punishing 225-pound coach's kid with excellent intelligence and enough athleticism to play quarterback. Everyone already moving him to fullback (as the emailer does, not Magnus) is doing him a disservice. Desmond Morgan is this year's MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year.

Projection: Kenny Demens presumably has MLB locked down the next two years; Morgan should redshirt, apprentice, and then battle for the job as a redshirt sophomore. Unless Jake Ryan moves to the middle because he's too good to keep off the field he's as good a bet as anyone to win that competition. Classmate Kellen Jones and this year's linebacker flood will be the main competition.



July 15th, 2011 at 11:49 AM ^

Desmond Morgan is the type of player that is going to keep getting better and better and will inspire those around him to keep getting better and better. this kid is exactly who will be one of the leaders and best in football and in the classroom, excited to have you Desmond!!

Shop Smart Sho…

July 15th, 2011 at 12:07 PM ^

Anyone else really impressed with his feet?  Kid seems to have great balance on both sides of the ball.  Quite a few times it looked like he either took or gave a hit that would normally cause someone to go down, and he just adjusted and kept moving.  Was also very impressed with the few times they showed him timing his blitz.  Kid got in and disrupted a handoff like Brandon Graham did against MSU.




July 15th, 2011 at 12:54 PM ^

I was thinking the same thing about his feet.  This kid has some moves.  Couple that with his size, intelligence and ability to deliver a blow, and I have to believe this kid will see the field earlier than expected.  I like him as a Mike, but the fullback talk also makes a lot of sense.  Either way, he's got a bright future.

We need more Desmonds!


Shop Smart Sho…

July 15th, 2011 at 1:18 PM ^

I think a lot will depend on how well the rest of the LB recruits develop.  If they come along quickly, I would be interested to know if the coaches look at using an H-Back.  You've gotta figure that he has pretty decent hands.  He obviously understands blocking, but also seems to have decent acceleration.  I don't think he quite has the frame to be a FB though. 

It should be an interesting few years while he develops though.  I'd like to think that he is going to be one of the recruits that really exceeds his rankings.  He looks to have that mix of ability and intelligence to pull it off.


July 15th, 2011 at 1:55 PM ^

in one of those long-ago recruitment interviews that he said he wasn't.  But how many football coaches who are also big Michigan fans just accidentally named their son Desmond?  Maybe they just didn't want to admit it to young Mr. Morgan so he didn't feel undue pressure.  Perhaps there's a great-great-uncle Desmond somewhere on the family tree.  He gets the benefit of the doubt, of course.  He clearly wasn't recruited because of his name, and can't wait to see him on the field. 


July 15th, 2011 at 12:29 PM ^

of moving him to FB a disservice? we have a glaring need at FB and this kid is probably the best qualified to make the move. he's big, tough, elusive, can catch & run and has the intellignece to make the move to FB. IMO, i think he's a play maker at the position, something not many teams can say.

you just hate the idea of having a FB on the field.



July 15th, 2011 at 12:37 PM ^

Whenever I see one of these solid 3-stars with great academics, I always wonder which one of them is going to end up our AD after a successful business career a couple decades down the line when all of us recent grads are blue-hair sit-down-in-front types.


July 15th, 2011 at 1:36 PM ^

Yup me too. I noticed they called the city Ottawa, MI. Minor detail but its really West Ottawa High School in Holland, MI.

The last WO player to get a football scholly was Rob Renes and he was a pretty solid nose for the 97 defense.

True Blue Grit

July 15th, 2011 at 1:36 PM ^

3 stars or whatever, I strongly believe this kid is going to be a very good player for Michigan.  Having a smart, hard hitting linebacker with a good motor is something we've lacked for a number of years.  We need a guy in the middle who can read the plays and be in the right position.   I kind of hope he stays at LB vs. switching to FB.  We'll see how he develops once here.  But, I'm guessing his 2nd year you're going to start seeing Mr. Morgan on the field.

Robbie Moore

July 15th, 2011 at 1:46 PM ^

As he is described and his projection to be a 6'1" 245 pounder YMRMFSPA Cory Schlesinger. He could do far worse. We do not have a fullback recruited. And we know Hoke/Borges want one.


July 15th, 2011 at 2:11 PM ^

But perhaps not if they let him run it more than the average battering ram (he's got legitimately sweet moves), and throw it to him every now and again. 

That pop he delivers on tackles is easily translated to delivering a blow as a blocker, however.  I see him making an impact on special teams as a true freshman (i.e. we'll notice him laying some whammo on kick return coverage tackles), then not sure from there.  Neither he nor his father seemed averse to playing FB if needed.  And if you've got an actual athlete/playmaker at FB (who also lays the wood), you can do some things.  


July 15th, 2011 at 3:08 PM ^

If Morgan is our best MIKE once Demens leaves or he's the clear heir apparent in 2012, then by all means have him play MIKE. Howver, if another one of our highly touted LBs is looking like a very good MIKE (Kellen Jones, Jake Ryan, any one of the 2012 guys) then I think Morgan's skill set would be great at FB and I'd much rather see him wrecking opposing linebackers than backing up ours.

I think the impetus for the "Morgan to FB" talk is the fact that starting in 2012 we'll have a lot of very good athletes vying for 3 LB spots, and I'd like as much of that talent to see the field as possible. I'm also on board with "Frank Clark to H-back."


July 15th, 2011 at 1:46 PM ^

Excited about Desmond joining the fold. Looks fast and powerful, and the weight gain should be easy and not overly disruptive. Will be interesting to see if he winds up on special teams and spot play as a freshman, though, since there is not much depth. I actually think he'll surprise a bit and may be a B10 second teamer his first full year.


July 15th, 2011 at 2:57 PM ^

Why do you say there's not much depth? It looks like we should have quite a few LBs this fall with guys like Cam, Demens and Jones or Evans starting, plus guys like Ryan, Herron and Fitzgerald filling in. That's 7 guys for three spots and doesn't count Isaiah Bell who hasn't generated much buzz but might still be ahead of a true frosh.

I'd rather let those guys handle it and redshirt Morgan. He can then be unleashed in 2012 ready to kill fools.

micheal honcho

July 15th, 2011 at 2:26 PM ^

I can tell you after seeing him play last year several times, then seeing him a few weeks ago at a local eatery, he's already bigger than he was playing. I'd guess he's 10lbs heavier and looks ripped in a polo shirt.

The other thing I cannot stress enough is that this kid is SMART, both generally and football smart. His instincts and decision making on D were as good as any HS player I've ever watched in person in the OK red. Vanderbeek(WOHS/MSU/Dallas)was bigger and dominated with sheer power, Holliman(WOHS/OSU) was also just a man among boys with sheer Div 1 size/speed, Renes(WOHS/UofM)dominated games with his incredible strength/balance inside but Morgan is truely, despite the big hits, a real thinking mans linebacker. I honestly saw all but one of his games last year and maybe saw him overrun or misjudge and angle 2 times(other than special teams where its a crap shoot).

He's my sneaky pick for best of the 2012 class. The fact that he was offered by RRod and yet seems to fit Hoke's image of a linebacker so well just says that he's got something(to impress such varied styles). I see him as a 2yr starter at WILL with an outside chance at all conference. Yeah, I'm a bit of a homer on this one but most of the guys good enough to get recognized out of WO seem to pan out pretty good. Hopefully that holds true for Morgan as well.


July 15th, 2011 at 2:47 PM ^

You can see Ben Braden and Juwan Lewis in Desmond's highlights.  In fact, Desmond actually tackles Lewis (#20 for the dark maroon team)-I'm too lazy to go through and find the time marker.  So, it's not like he's playing slouches.  The thing I liked most about watching was that when he tackled the ball-carrier he also tackled the men behind the ball-carrier.  It's like watching a bowling ball with arms. 


July 15th, 2011 at 2:59 PM ^

For whatever reason I have never seen this highlight tape. I must say I am very excited with the possibilities this kid brings.


July 15th, 2011 at 4:46 PM ^

throw back player indeed.  i imagine they will try him at FB - the HB especially since that is a position of need, very thin there.  at any rate, he will contribute, might not be all conference but a heck of player to have on your squad that gives a coach options


July 17th, 2011 at 11:21 PM ^

That's the first "ibid" I can recall in MGo-history.

The sudden appearance of ibid after a long period of no-ibid is generally as sign of one of two things:

1. Somebody was recently dragooned into copyediting a loved one's dissertation.

2. Somebody is reading W.L. Warren's nonfictional account of Henry II's life, just for kicks, and having been trained by DFW to do so is unable to ignore the footnotes.