Jimmystats: The 2018 Class in Context, Part II: Defense Comment Count

Seth March 2nd, 2018 at 10:22 AM


Very different types of 3-stars [Eric Upchurch, 2013]

This is take two (take one got deleted) of Part II of my attempt to put the recruiting rankings of this year’s commits in context within the ~500 previous Michigan commits we have Part I: The Offense lives here.

Since the last one I’ve been dealing with a health thing. In fact I’m writing this from the hospital, where they’ve had me holed up since last Friday. Between tests, consultations, vitals, and literally almost 100 needle pokes into my vascular system, I’ve had time to complete a substantial update to my roster database, which now goes all the way back to Gary Moeller’s first year, plus some long overdue tweaks to how I value position and regional rankings.*

I’ve also been playing around with interactive charts on Tableau:


Click to get to the chart since I can’t figure out how to get embedding to work yet. I’m new at these so bear with me as I learn.

* [Methodology for stat nerds: I averaged the 247 composites of each rank for each position, then plotted it on a graph and used the logarithmic formula]




Young Wormley was 70 percent potential, 30 percent hair [Upchurch/Bryan Fuller]

After Michigan loaded up with linemen last year and secured two one of the top DEs for 2019, they could afford to get picky in 2018. They still got one potentially immediate contributor and two excellent choices for sleepers of the class. Aiden Hutchinson got a late ratings bump from the sites which pushed him up from a near-perfect Ryan Van Bergen comp to “not just a four star” range.


The only relatively recent guy Michigan captured in this range was Craig Roh, but if Rivals hadn’t been so contrarian with Wormley I think that would be your closest comp. 247 was the highest on Wormley and came out about the same on Hutchinson’s kid. He’s supposed to be coming in to play defense but if you want to project him at guard, well, here’s the closest comp:


We have to scroll down to the mid 3-stars for Taylor Upshaw and Julius Welschof:


Note that’s not “generic three star” like Greg Brooks/Rondell Biggs, but neither is it “just missed a fourth star” like Carlo Kemp and Jibreel Black. As I said, I love the potential with both of these guys. Upshaw is the son of an NFL player who didn’t start playing football until recently. Welschof is a German athletic freak and mogul skiier who gathered a lot of interest from the big-time schools he camped at. The recruiters were always playing catch-up there too. Rivals didn’t take to Welschof—otherwise the sites placed them in the same range as some other position-switchers or needs-to-gain-weight types with high ceilings to unwrap in a few years.

Defensive end is a position where the talent apparent in high school translates more directly to an NFL career:


(and that’s totally the reason I showed this)

Fortunately for our hopes here the only guy from the three-star bin considered an athlete on the level of Upshaw and Welschof was Shelton Johnson, and his career crumbled for off-field reasons.

[After THE JUMP: used to be better before I had to rewrite all of it]




Confused people thought Foote was a safety [UM Bentley Library]

I chose to put all the linebacker-flavored linebackers together into one big pile unless they were a specific type recruited to be more of an outside edge attacker (Jake Ryan, even though he technically played middle linebacker one year) or quasi-safety (Khaleke Hudson). The former got filed under “EDGE” and the latter under “Safety.”

All of the sites rated Cameron McGrone as an outside linebacker…


…with 247 calling him a five-star and Rivals and pre-merger Scout putting him as a solid top 200 four-star. The result was a solid four-star in about the range of James Ross, though he’s got an obviously close comparison: Larry Foote.

Foote and McGrone were almost identical in size coming out of high school, though in Foote’s day that meant he got rated mostly as a safety—today nobody balks at the idea of a Ryan Shazier-like guy at outside linebacker and that’s where McGrone got placed. However we believe Michigan intends to use McGrone more like Foote: an undersized knife at middle backer who can win inside running plays by dodging blocks and screaming through gaps, and win outside running plays by matching or surpassing the speed of backfield weapons to the edge.

We’ve already seen this in what Don Brown does with Devin Bush Jr., the inevitable comparison when Brian gets around to that recruiting profile. But from a rankings out of high school perspective, McGrone/Foote are in a different category from Bush. Michigan’s current little ball of hate was helpfully tied with Ian Gold, a converted running back who like Bush straddled the three-/four-star line and confounded scouts who couldn’t imagine a 5’11/210 guy taking on fullbacks and releasing offensive linemen.

Michigan gave Bush the full-court press, to the point of falling out of contention for two interested prospects who’d become solid freshman starters for Florida (David Reese) and Oklahoma (Caleb Kelly). Last year’s breakout season for Bush showed that pursuit was justified. In McGrone, Michigan thinks they got the heir apparent, but from a body the scouts agree should be in the NFL, even if they can’t understand where. The Foote example is extremely close.




Two-time consul Quintus Coverduoicus Metellus Pius covered a lot of ground

Your guess is as good as mine as to which of Michigan’s long, lanky types will end up at corner or safety. Until Faustin got another 20 pounds in his Michigan bio they were all Channing Striblings:


again click to get. yellow blobs are the 2018 commits

For the moment I’m guessing that Sammy Faustin and German Green are the safeties while the other two stay at cornerback.


The former is based on the fact that Faustin weighed in at 190 (20 pounds heavier than he was listed as a recruit) when he got to Michigan, and very few modern cornerbacks are that big as freshmen. In fact the two DBs I have in my database who came in at 6’2/190 were Brian Cole, a WR/S athlete, and Marvin Robinson, an HSP type who outgrew even safety while he was here.

The most useful—and encouraging—entry in range is Josh Metellus: same build, though two inches shorter, and similar game. A thinner J’Marick Woods is another one, though Woods was a bit more than a generic three-star. Faustin, by the way, is almost identically ranked with Vincent Gray, so you can mentally replace one for the other on either scale.

As for the “other” Green twin, he’s the more athletically questionable of the pair due to his injury, and was rated as a safety by half the sites, and again we’ll come to cornerbacks rated around where he’s at (FWIW it’s J.T. Floyd and Tamani Carter).


There are no safeties after Englemon so you’re looking at the history of Michigan’s real flyers at the position (not that they’ve taken many—Carr was notoriously light on safety recruiting). Nobody here was 168 pounds, and Green is 6’2, so I have to imagine a redshirt beckons even on this redshirt-averse team. If Green fills out I actually believe he’ll be a cornerback, with an upshot of Channing Stribling.

A safety version of him isn’t easy to find in Michigan’s annals—Northwestern star Kyle Quiero, who’s listed as 6’3/190, is a better comp than any of the above. Since this scout can apply to virtually any of these guys I’ll share the Draftageddon writeup on Queiro from last year:

PFF thought Kyle Queiro was almost as good as [MGo-faverave Godwin Igwebuike] while playing mostly deep centerfield to Igwebuike's boxier role. On film the distance is wider. Igwebuike is a Player who eats jet sweeps and screens for lunch. Queiro, who's 6'3, is more of a Jarrod Wilsonian binkie, keeping the hashes clean and long runs to field goal drives. He's athletic enough that they use him to cover slots out of the nickel in their sub packages. Injuries kept him off the field for the early part of his career and much of September so his 53 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 6 PBUs, and 2 INTs (you remember the club) are in 10 games.




large cornerbacks defy physics [Fuller]

Again, any of these guys might move over to safety, so you can look at their average star ratings and mentally place them in the group above. As cornerbacks, look forward to a lot of YMRMFSPA Channing Striblings this summer. Three out of four doctors suggest that undersells Myles Sims:


lol this as a usual suspects lineup

The dimensions are off but a Leon Hall plus three inches is the out-of-high school rating here, with Jourdan Lewis and Lavert Hill in close proximity. The significant outlier here is 247, who thought Sims was only a marginally better prospect than Faustin and Gray, and held to that perspective all through last year. The book on Sims is he is better at playing off than up in a guy’s grill, which suggests he’s the most likely of this group for a switch to free safety (where ratings-wise he’d be on par with Stevie Brown).

The Stribling comp is still low when we scroll down to the not-other Green bro:


Yooooooo, it’s another St-Juste! Okay, St-Juste minus 20 pounds but yo! Gemon Green is in that Mike Hart range of three-stars who juuuuust missed a fourth star and therefore get falsely filed in the “nobody thought much of him” bin. Au contraire, Green is a big get, and there’s another comp nearby for both him and St-Juste: Andre Weathers, the tall lockdown cornerback opposite Woodson who held up to an entire 1997 of “let’s go THAT way.” Moeller (and Greg Mattison) liked those big cornerbacks back in heyday of 21 personnel (think standard I-form) because you could leave them over a tight end when the offense motioned to a twins formation. That’s a clue to what Brown wants today with his versatile defensive backs: offenses will motion and spread you all over the place, and the less you have to follow people across the formation the more resilient your defense will be to that stuff.

We finally get to the Stribling range as we arrive at Vincent Gray (and Faustin, cornerback edition, who at 3.57 would be right after Gray):


Ironically we find all the tall guys down here. Or perhaps not ironically—given the outsized ratings of the Cass corners of yesteryear I’ve long suspected that little guys tend to perform better in camp settings and against high school receivers (who almost invariably suck as freshmen receivers), but their jam technique goes to hell when it meets a Big Ten-caliber receiver and his route chops. Once the technique sets in on both sides the guys with longer arms can survive with length against anyone but a true burner (and a QB/OL who can live long enough to get the ball down there).

The hit-or-miss history of these lengthy men is on display in the Gray range. Stribling made himself valuable right away (but for a weird phasing in and out of existence early in his career), and supersized Jeremy Clark moved from safety to near star cornerback before a badly timed injury. Brandon Watson is shorter but he’s long-armed and came out of high school a jam expert. James Rogers, a camp commit, is a significant step down in talent level, and those relatively stiff hips were visible on the field. But in the destitute 2010 backfield Rogers’s size was a significant improvement upon the raw athleticism of…you know what let’s not relive all that.

Let’s instead scroll down to the real cornerback flyers, whereupon we discover the original ranking of Utah transfer cornerback/nickel Casey Hughes.


No, Michigan corners do not often come in that low. Even Tamani Carter, a “need the dudes” late grab in Hoke’s incoming transition class who barely lasted his first spring practice, got a “oh, Michigan likes you” ratings bump. J.T. Floyd is a good example of what a tall but maybe not as athletically gifted cornerback can do with good technique. The next drop takes you to “if it will help sign Denard” Adrian Witty. These are mostly irrelevant since Hughes was a barely recruited signee out of Las Vegas in 2014 and comes to Michigan as an 11-game Utah starter in 2018. The plan according to Michigan’s coaches is to have Hughes battle Watson for the 3-3-5/nickel role since that was somewhat of a weakness the last two years (Ambry Thomas might leap both of them).


Naked Bootlegger

March 2nd, 2018 at 11:07 AM ^

While I'm happy to see these stats and profiles, please just get better.   Best wishes for a speedy recovery.    A recovery hopefully kickstarted by another B1G hoops tourney championship!  


March 2nd, 2018 at 11:26 AM ^

It makes me feel good to see the names Larry Foote and Ian Gold in making a comparison to one of the new guys. Let's hope the comparison is apt.



March 2nd, 2018 at 4:43 PM ^

like, instead of the doctor, we'll send you to bolivia.  glad you are out of the hospital and on the mend, but this is fair warning, you are not allowed to get sick again.  ever.