2013 Recruiting Wrap: The Defense

Submitted by Ace on February 7th, 2013 at 3:58 PM

PREVIOUSLY: The Offense


Dymonte Thomas

Following up yesterday's breakdown of the 2013 recruits on offense, here's a look at Michigan's defensive class—click each player's name to see their original commitment post:

Name Position State Rivals Scout 24/7 ESPN
Henry Poggi DT MD 4 4 4 4
Maurice Hurst Jr. DT MA 3 4 4 3
Taco Charlton DE OH 4 4 4 4
Ben Gedeon LB OH 4 4 4 4
Mike McCray LB OH 4 4 4 4
Jourdan Lewis CB MI 4 4 4 4
Ross Douglas CB OH 4 3 4 4
Reon Dawson CB OH 3 3 3 3
Channing Stribling CB NC 3 3 3 3
Dymonte Thomas S OH 4 5 4 4
Delano Hill S MI 4 4 4 3

And now, some superlatives:

BEST POSITION GROUP: Linebacker

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.

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*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.

Honorable Mention: Delano Hill

Comments

turtleboy

February 7th, 2013 at 4:12 PM ^

Other honorable mention at sleeper recruit/impact freshman would be Maurice Hurst. Upper classmen Wilkins and Ash have yet to contribute meaningfully, Wormley is coming off an ACL injury, and Poggi needs to put on weight to play inside. Our 2 deep could very well be Washington/Pipkins, then Henry/Hurst at times next year with Black subbing in situationally, and Wormley and Ash rotating in as the season wears on.

Magnus

February 7th, 2013 at 8:59 PM ^

I guess I'm not seeing the rationale for putting him out there.  You've got Pipkins and Washington returning (both of whom played quite a bit/started), and then you have Richard Ash, Kenny Wilkins, Willie Henry, Jibreel Black, Chris Wormley, and Matt Godin.  The first five are certain defensive tackles, and the last few are 3-tech/5-tech tweeners.  Provided that Wilkins has never set foot on the field, do we really need to burn a guy's redshirt to be the sixth or seventh defensive tackle?

The true freshmen who have played defensive tackle over the last several years have been the #3 or #4 guys at the position (Martin, Pipkins).  If you're lower on the totem pole, history suggests you'll stand on the sideline.

turtleboy

February 8th, 2013 at 3:59 PM ^

I'm not saying our need is dire, i'm saying it could happen. I suppose the coaches didn't really need to burn Peewee's last year, or potentially Wormleys until he got hurt, either. Since they were ready to burn two DT's redshirts last year I'm surprised everybody things this is totally crazy. Heck, they threw half our freshman class at Alabama first game of the season last year. They like to rotate a lot of guys in on the line, and in different looks, and use different guys in different games. You could also look back at the 2012 UFRs and see that we regularly had DT's sitting games out last year for one reason or an other. Also the coaches keep stating that play time is won, and they put the best 11or so out there, so he could be a better DT option than half those guys, despite his youth, once in a while.

As for our depth we could have 8 guys playing 1 and 3 tech, or we more likely could have fewer. Black could stay at 3 tech, or he could take over the starting SDE job Roh left open since he'd be the best SDE we have, and rotate in at 3 tech as needed, like he did rotating spots last year. Wormley is coming off an ACL injury, and could be ready in Spring ball, or he might not be 100% or game ready in September. Wilkins has never played, and Ash's ceiling might be third string. Godin is 6'6" and under 280, so he could play 3 tech, but he might be stuck at SDE for another year, while Hurst is only a year younger, but he's 300+, explosive, highly  athletic, and while he does play high at times, at 6'2" it's probably not a big issue because he uses his hands so well, and he could be a better option than Godin, Wilkins, or Ash next year inside.

nmaxwell88

February 7th, 2013 at 11:50 PM ^

Was about to post the exact same thing.  I think he was measured at a camp this past summer at something like 6'1" and change.  Definitely not taller than 6'2".  It's a shame because that almost 3 inches of height can really determine how much weight he can pack on without losing speed.  That being said, I think he'll be a good player for michigan down the road

cigol

February 7th, 2013 at 4:53 PM ^

Any shot of Wilson (FS) and Thomas (SS) playing together this year?  Much like Kovacs, Gordon was solid against the non-passing B1G, but looked like he was running in a sand box with swim fins on against the athletic aerial attack of South Carolina.  

While conference play is what matters most, I'm just anxious to see a tall, fast hitting / hawking secondary as opposed to the slow / smart chess pieces that Mattison has to place perfectly.

BornInAA

February 7th, 2013 at 5:19 PM ^

Channing Stribling's little brother sits in one of my daughter's middle school classes. He plays both ways (QB and DB - I believe) on the football team. They call him "the strip" because of his ball stripping ability. He has a strong desire to go to Michigan like his brother.

turd ferguson

February 7th, 2013 at 5:46 PM ^

My gut votes for Delano Hill has the sleeper recruit in this class.  His speed, tackling ability, and instincts have drawn rave reviews, and the Cass Tech coaches seemed to think he was badly underrated.  He feels like a multi-year starter to me.

YoOoBoMoLloRoHo

February 7th, 2013 at 6:16 PM ^

during the NSD interviews:

1. Taco has already added muscle and size; hinted at likely playing time this fall to boost pass rush.
2. Frank Clark weighs 274 - that's SDE or 3-tech size; Taco & Mario at WDE?
3. Poggi will play end for runs and inside for passing; Hurst likely focus on pass downs for inside quickness as frosh.
4. Jourdan definitely slated for DB

I think fewer frosh play this year, but 5-6 will get time in passing downs and isolated situations.

YoOoBoMoLloRoHo

February 7th, 2013 at 9:24 PM ^

Jabreel played 3-tech with a 279 listed weight and was light. Frank has gained 57 pounds in 2.5 years so he could certainly break 280 before August. Underlying point: that's probably too large for WDE.

Double digit with ST is definitely likely. I referred to D or O plays as 5-6 contributing; I doubt 10 see action 1st-3rd down.

michgoblue

February 8th, 2013 at 10:41 AM ^

"The staff has shown they'll do that"

I think that the staff played so many true freshman because they had to, not because they wanted to.  In every instance that I can think of where a true fresman played, it was because we were woefully thin at the position, or because the non-freshman ahead of him was just a significant step down in athleticism.

As we get further from the RR years, and their terrible recruiting / retention, there will be less of a need to play true freshmen.  Instead of having to choose between a highly-ranked true freshman and a slow, small or otherwide limited experienced player, we will be choosing between an athletic, highly-rated true freshman and an athletic, highly-rated experienced player.

 

Hannibal.

February 8th, 2013 at 9:30 AM ^

I wouldn't be surprised to see Taco Charlton getting lots of playing time, maybe even starting at WDE by the end of the year.  He's got that "terror off the edge" pedigree that Roh had coming in, but he's about 30 pounds heavier.  The WDE spot has gotten zero production the past couple of years.  That job is wide open, and Michigan desperately needs to be able to get a pass rush without blitzing. 

Magnus

February 8th, 2013 at 10:32 AM ^

Zero production?  Frank Clark as a backup had 25 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery.

The problem is that the starter is Brennen Beyer, who had 19 tackles, 1/2 a tackle for loss, and 1 forced fumble.  Those are pitiful numbers for a starting defensive end.

Clark isn't perfect, but I thin the wrong guy is getting the majority of the playing time...

I don't think Charlton is going to be starter quality this year.  He's got three guys ahead of him, and I didn't even mention Mario Ojemudia.

Hannibal.

February 8th, 2013 at 10:58 AM ^

Two sacks is pretty anemic.  Jordan Kovacs had that many.  Combine that with Beyer and Ojemudia and you have three on the season in 13 games.  That sucks.  The 12 TFLs between the three of them is less than one per game, and I don't think that you can make the argument that these are guys who contribute to the game in a non-box score way.  Combine that with the fact that we only forced 7 interceptions on the season.  We sucked horribly at getting pressure on the QB last year.  It was a big factor in the bowl game.

boliver46

February 8th, 2013 at 9:42 AM ^

I'd like to see Taco on the field.  Other than Jake Ryan, pass rush was negligible for much of the year.  Would like to get more pressure on the QB, and I think Taco can help big time in that area...

swalburn

February 8th, 2013 at 1:30 PM ^

I really love the last two recruiting classes completed by Hoke and company.  They have addressed a lot of concerns and I think we are on our way to competing with anyone in the country over the next couple years.

Blue boy johnson

February 8th, 2013 at 2:45 PM ^

My gawd 6 DB's, I think a couple of them go straight to special teams for a year and earn some valuable PT. I would venture, Lewis, Douglas, Thomas, and Hill are special teamers. They may end up playing more than ST's but they will play ST.

Stribling I think could RS or he could earn time at Corner. For me, it's hard to say, but if he shows playmaking ability at Corner, I think he plays early and often.