Mailbag: Recruiting Concern, Countess Impact, Are We Basically Iowa, Outrageous Afro

Submitted by Brian on June 9th, 2015 at 12:30 PM

Dytarious Johnson is mean

The question we no longer have to answer about basketball


Does it concern you yet that Harbaugh and staff are going after so many 3-star or less recruits (and even unranked ones) rather than shooting for more 4- and 5-star types?  Might JH be underestimating his own standing and instead still be in "I'm at Stanford" mentality (i.e., "I need to find the hidden gems because the 5-stars are going to USC, Alabama, and such")?

Thanks for the blog, and give Ace a raise.

Hail to the bloggers,


This is so overblown. Michigan has ten commits. Five of them are composite four-stars (Swenson, Onwenu, Peters, Falcon, and Evans). Of the five who aren't, one committed to Brady Hoke (Harding), one is (probably) a fullback (Reese), and one picked up Nebraska, LSU, and Florida offers after his commitment (Davis). The two other guys are Kiante Enis and Dytarious Johnson. Enis ran for three thousand(!) yards last year and Johnson looks like a BAMF on his Hudl film.

That is not a high flier rate thus far. The two guys who truly qualify are both gentlemen an expert talent evaluator has seen in person.

Meanwhile, here is a list of high four star recruits who Michigan is thought to lead for: NJ WR Ahmir Mitchell, NJ WR Brad Hawkins, PA TE Nasseir Upshur, MD OL Terrance Davis, WI OL Ben Bredeson, MI DE Khalid Kareem, and NJ DE Ron Johnson. They are at or near the top for five star NJ DT Rashan Gary and CA LB Caleb Kelly.

They won't get all those guys; they'll get a healthy chunk, and they'll get involved with more guys down the road. It's not going to be an Alabama class but it should be comfortably top ten.

And that's only half the reason recruiting concern is overblown. The other half:


That class was Andrew Luck and three stars. It followed a class that was all three stars, and ranked ninth in the then Pac-10. Stanford was slightly better than that when those classes bore fruit. Recruiting is important; coaching is more important.

[After the JUMP: Countess impact, concerns that Michigan's skill position players are no better than Iowa's, outrageous afro.]

Countess departure impact

Hi Brian,

First, I want to say that Belle & Sebastian should absolutely do the voice overs for the next hype video. Amazing.

Second, I want to ask if we're overreacting to the Countess departure. Competition is good, yes, but was he going to see much playing time given what we saw of the nickel package in the spring game? I recall peppers staying down in the nickel and the main substitution was a linebacker for an additional safety.

Also, isn't it odd that he's supposedly leaving for a better defensive fit but is joining a defense run by Durkin's former boss, and edsbs nemesis, Will Muschamp? I would assume those defenses would be very similar.

Stephen Bowie

It's true that Peppers is slated to be a full-time nickel and that Michigan's solution for adding a defensive back is to bring in another safety. Countess's departure is still a blow.

Here are some reasons:

  • We don't actually know if Lyons is better than him. He bounced in and out of the starting lineup at Stanford, like Countess did at Michigan.
  • Players do get better, especially ones who are now being coached by NFL DBs instead of a former linebacker with no experience as a secondary coach.
  • Even if Lyons is better than him, injuries happen.
  • Countess could have provided some flexibility if for whatever reason a zone is a better idea in a certain matchup.

I don't think it's time to rend our clothes about it; it does warrant more than the shrug that's greeted the rest of the offseason departures.

As far as his destination, it depends on what Muschamp is going to run. I'm not sure how wedded he is to the in-your-face man coverage Countess didn't do well with last year, especially in a secondary that has lost a lot of players. Even if Muschamp's ideal defense is crazy aggressive, this year's Auburn D might be better suited to playing bend-but-don't-break, which Countess is very good at.

But aren't we basically Iowa?


Multiple times during your Jake Rudock UFR's you've expressed your opinion on the Iowa receiving corps, and their substandard level of play. While I think we all agree that even at his worst, Rudock's performances were better than those we saw under center at Michigan last season. One major perceived weakness for this years offense is indeed the WR's. My question is two-fold.

1.) Do you think Michigan's crop of receivers is at least on par with what Iowa trotted out there last season?

2.) Even if they are even, what kind of impact can Rudock make on the output of that position group? You have also noted that Rudock is great at timing routes and accuracy, however with no receiver really capable of creating separation how will that translate?

Thanks in advance,

1.) I think Michigan will provide at least comparable weapons for Rudock. Darboh seems pretty similar to Tevaun Smith, Iowa's best. Smith is a rangy downfield threat who may have a bit more athleticism than Darboh.

They are pretty similar.

Even if the guys behind Darboh aren't great shakes it's hard to believe they're worse than Martin-Manley and Powell, who drop a zillion balls and run bad routes. Jake Butt should be at least on par with Jake Duzey and could be considerably more.

Michigan's pass protection should also be much better. It is continually surprising how frequently Iowa's OL gets clubbed when they attempt pass protection—in four and a half games (Illinois is up next) I've seen Brandon Scherff get beat more than Mason Cole did in an entire season. And don't get me started on Iowa's guards. They are a good to very good run-blocking line. Pass pro is a mess.

2.) A lot of the underneath routes I'm seeing Rudock throw get yards after the catch not because of the sick route skills of any particular receiver but because of the play design: picks, drag routes coming open after a deeper receiver ran off a zone, etc. That's something Michigan can exploit as well.

And I do think Michigan has a couple of slippery underneath guys, at least in theory: Freddy Canteen and Brian Cole could add some zest to the short stuff.


This question and a lot of the comments on the Rudock passing UFRs are laced with concern that problems with the Iowa offense are going to feel very similar to problems with the Michigan offense this fall. I don't disagree. Michigan's looking for fifth-year WRs for a reason, and the running game is going to be more than a one-year fix.

I do think Rudock is underrated because he hasn't gotten a whole lot of help. If Michigan's line can take a reasonable step forward in pass protection, that alone will make Rudock look like a much better quarterback.

Yes sir your subject is correct

Dept. of outrageous Afros

long story how I acquired this, just last week, but thought you or whoever is/was into retro Afros (not that there is another kind) might like it.


photo is from Lutheran West, Dave Baxter, prep star of the week in the Detroit Free Press'


Baxter, the least aerodynamic Michigan athlete in history, was a part of the 1974 basketball recruiting class. He arrived one year before Phil Hubbard, for historical context. He was a third round pick in the 1978 NBA draft. The family of squirrels that lived on his head represented him, and now has one of the most successful sports agencies ever headquartered in a tree.



June 9th, 2015 at 12:50 PM ^

Figured I'd go to 247 and take a look at MSU's current 2016 class since everyone and their brother has been raving about it the past few days:

as of 6/9/15

MSU - 17 commits. #6 nationally

5 - 4* and 12 - 3*


UM - 10 commits. #17 nationally

5 - 4* and 5 - 3*


I'm assuming that MSU's class is probably close to being filled, while UM has a long way to go. We're going to easliy surpass them in the number of 4*'s, probably add 1 or 2 - 5*'s, and easily obtain a top 10 class. Plus with Harbaugh's eye for talent, I see absolutely nothing to worry about. HARBAUGH!!


June 9th, 2015 at 12:59 PM ^

Exactly. When you consider Michigan is in the top 20 on Rivals right now with only 10 commits, that is actually really impressive given the number of commits on the teams around them. And it's very likely that of the 3 commits they just got, as well as Davis, that they will have at least one or two guys who get a bump.


June 9th, 2015 at 3:49 PM ^

There is a big variance in how the 3 stars are graded though - you can be a "87" or a "83" grade and still be a 3 star.   So not all 3 stars are "the same".  You could have a class loaded with very high 3 stars (87s, 86s) and it would rank well.

Put another way the diffrence between a "low 4" and a "high 3" is negligible.  It might be 40 spots on a national rank which means nothing in the big picture.

Right not MSU's average player rank is almost identical to UM's at 88.4 (UM 88.6 after they upgraded Johnson to a 3 star).  This is in Texas A&M, Tennesee, UCLA range.  (and 2 pts clear of Florida right now with 15 recruits)

As someone else said it's not so much that MSU is going to have a top 5 class but they have done good things with classes in the late 20s to early 40s and this class will be ranked much better than is typical for them.  So they are finally bearing fruit from now half a decade of very good results.  TCU and Baylor are similarly bearing fruits - those schools have earned it.

If UM beats them by 2-4 spots or whatnot is really not that much of a big deal one way or the other.  They are not going away - their recruiting is improving and they have a lot of player developers in their staff.  Hopefully UM quickly rises to be competitive on the field v MSU- the last 2 years have been brutal.

And while everyone watches MSU and OSU, PSU is putting together a hell of an early class with an average rank of 91.5.  Still not a believer of Franklin but a big fan of their overlooked DC.

p.s. Hi Pinky.


June 9th, 2015 at 6:22 PM ^

will probably end up around 20. Im not really interested in being the 5th best team in a 4 team playoff. I know that is a big deal to them but we are setting our standard higher here at UM. MSU has a few nice pieces in this class but Its certainly not worthy of this #dreamteam deal. 

Nutmeg Mills

June 9th, 2015 at 12:50 PM ^

This aired during the 1992 season and I for one bought the "handsomely rugged sportswear" hook, line and sinker as I purchased some of this collection back in the day. Coach Gary Moeller looking sharp and that is former UM Associate Athletic Director and current Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long posing with his military-grade cell phone.


June 9th, 2015 at 12:51 PM ^

I've been critical of our WRs but I'm not writing them off.  I think even Darboh has a lot to prove.  That's really the story here, for me.  They all seem to play a lot slower than their level of athleticism.  Either they're still uncomfortable (as of the spring game) or much of their recruited athleticism just hasn't translated well to gridiron.  Only time will tell, but some of those guys are running out of it.

That said it would be a remarkable coincidence if none of them pan out.  They're all way too athletic.


June 9th, 2015 at 3:19 PM ^

It also can't be stated enough how improved the game preparation, player development and in game strategy will be.  I don't think Harbaugh is going to be stubborn to the point of putting his players in position to fail.  I think Iowa's team last year would have looked way different if it were coached by Jimmy. 


June 9th, 2015 at 12:53 PM ^

Our O line is by far the most underrated or underappreciated unit on the team going into this year. That (along with a defense) is what Harbaugh has that he did not have at Stanford from day one.


June 9th, 2015 at 1:16 PM ^

That's a great point. We have seen many times in the past that simply bringing in one elite (or at least very good) position coach and replace a less than average one it can have a huge effect on a single unit. Which, when you consider that as it relates to other position groups on this team...


June 9th, 2015 at 2:18 PM ^

As a coach he overperformed in the run game with a n00b line at USC, and the starters are already rather good at pass pro, so yeah.

Thing is, I just think overall the offense is in such a discombobulated state (3rd OC in 3 years) that I wonder how much of their experience is useful, how much is wasted and how much needs to be un-coached.  The IZ won't be completely wasted but Brian predicts they'll go from zone blocking to gap blocking, so they're not picking up where they left off either.  The RBs were neglected until now and something seems to be holding the WRs back.  The offense couldn't be in better hands but they won't be able to change schemes overnight.

I'm with the pundits on this one; I think early on the team is going to need the defense to carry them through games.  Again.


June 9th, 2015 at 1:51 PM ^

Yes Ricky Green did have a great 'fro. The '75-'76 team was great with Baxter backing up Grote and Green. Most people thought Baxter would start on that year, but that's because no one really knew how good Ricky Green, a juco transfer, was going to be... which was first team all-american in '76-'77. The '75-'76 team was really fun to watch, especially once Tommy Staton and Alan Hardy, both freshmen (who lived across the hall from me at West Quad) started contributing off the bench. 

Starting 5: Green, Grote, Wayman Britt (a 6'2" forward), Johnny Robinson, and Phil Hubbard.

The bench: Baxter, Joel Thompson, Hardy, and Staton.

This team could play serious defense and run you out of the gym. They were national runner-ups, and were one Grote free throw, a front end of a 1and1 with six seconds remaining with a two point lead in Bloomington, from ruining Indian's undefeted season.

Also, honorable mention 'fros to Thompson, #20, and Bobby Jones #41.

M Go Old and I…

June 9th, 2015 at 1:15 PM ^

I remember watching Dave Baxter play, his glorious 'fro used to move back and forth on his head as he would bring the ball up court, sometimes it looked like it would move six or eight inches with every step! Man I miss the late 70s!


June 9th, 2015 at 1:29 PM ^

Michigan should have over last year's Iowa team is predictability. Watching Iowa last year they were the proverbial 3 yards and a cloud of dust.  Passing came into play for Iowa generally on desperation situations such as 3rd and really long.  I believe the coaching upgrade at Michigan should infuse a lot of unpredictability in Michigan's game plan this year.  

Lou MacAdoo

June 9th, 2015 at 3:07 PM ^

Brian, I agree completely with your outlook on this recruiting class. Three thousand yards and a BAMF!!! There's still the possibility of some top guys picking us. We cool.

My question for you is, where is my daily fix of Harbaugh being awesome and blowing minds at another camp? I've seen no news from Houston. No commits, no OMG shirtless posts, no insider info from fans in the stands. Disappointing. I guess I'll get back to work.


June 9th, 2015 at 3:17 PM ^

I've been thinking the same.  After all the hype and news from Alabama, Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania, there has been almost nothing from Texas.  Maybe there haven't been as many journalists there or once it's out of SEC country and the novelty has worn off it's not as big news.


June 9th, 2015 at 3:03 PM ^

I dont get the pushback on Johnson from some Michigan fans.  Perhaps they are just star-struck or are afraid about what their Spartan or Ohio buddies will say or tease them.

Johnson's film shows the he is a fast, explosive athlete who has great football instincts.  He takes excellent angles to the football and has an aggressive streak to his game.  He appears to be the type that can play well in space and cover TEs and slot WRs efficiently. 

That is the type of LB that can be a game-changer on a college defense.  Certainly you need those types of guys vs. spread offenses...or to roam from side to side making tackles all day and then sending him on a blitz, or trusting him in coverage on key passing downs.

Johnson could also excel on special teams, and he probably will early in his career.

82 tackles at the HS level is very good production.  Kid is a balla.