Desmond Morgan significantly outplayed his recruiting ranking. [Fuller]
The good news: the defensive side of the 2011 hybrid RichRod/Hoke recruiting class turned out much better than the offensive side.
The bad news: that's a pretty low bar to clear.
This exercise will get a lot more fun next year, I promise.
Defensive Line: Roh 2.0 And A LB/TE/DE
In-state four-star DE Brennen Beyer was billed as a slightly less-hyped Craig Roh, which turned out to be a spot-on comparison in more ways than one. Like Roh, Beyer played early and often, appearing in 11 games as a true freshman on his way to 49 career appearances and 27 starts. Like Roh, Beyer bounced between defensive end and outside linebacker throughout his career. Like Roh, Beyer was a solid player who didn't post big numbers. If there's been a tighter YMRMFSPA fit, it's not by much.
The other two players listed as defensive linemen had uninspiring profiles and careers to match. Generic three-star DE Keith Heitzman's limited upside was apparent. Brian's projection:
May emerge into a depth defender in a few years.
After a redshirt, Heitzman was a low-impact rotation DE for a couple years, totaling 15 tackles before moving to tight end in 2014. He caught two passes that year, then Jim Harbaugh came in and told the fifth-year seniors they'd have to earn their spots; Heitzman wasn't a fan and grad-transferred to Ohio, where he posted decent numbers (22 receptions, 3 TDs) in his final season.
Columbus native Chris Rock (NTCR) saw his recruiting stock fall dramatically as a senior after he was initially billed as one of Ohio's top prospects. Rock left the program in the spring of 2012 before ever playing a down. In an usual move, he enrolled at Ohio State and walked on to the program after sitting out a year. He didn't see the field much in Columbus, either.
The star of the defensive class ended up being an unheralded recruit out of powerhouse Cleveland Glenville. The recruiting sites ranked Frank Clark as a middling three-star at tight end (Scout), outside linebacker (Rivals), and defensive end (ESPN). His profile features a rather fun series of headlines from the end of his recruitment:
Awesome sequence of articles from Rivals:
- Glenville LB close to being a Spartan? (money quote: "As many Spartan fans know, head coach Mark Dantonio does not push or pressure kids to make a commitment on their official visit.")
Save that face, yo.
Clark, of course, blew away those expectations in becoming Michigan's best defensive end. His college career ended in an awful way, with Clark getting kicked off the team for an ugly domestic violence incident. In spite of that, he went in the second round to Seattle and had an excellent rookie season.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the post.]
Linebacker: Three Swings, One Hit
With Clark ending up on the defensive line, the 2011 class featured two top-300 linebackers and one who had next-to-no recruiting hype. Guess which one ended up as a four-year starter?
Desmond Morgan was a high school quarterback who also played linebacker. Rivals ranked him as their #25 prospect... in Michigan. The film and scouting reports were a lot more promising; he was every bit the run-stuffing thumper he'd be in college, and Brian bestowed him with MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year honors. That was impressive. This sentence, following a remarkably in-depth quote from Morgan about his weakneses, on the other hand...
Desmond Morgan, like Brady Hoke, appears to know what he does not know.
As for the higher-ranked linebackers, Antonio Poole had a tremendous Facebook profile (lists employment as "hurting people and winning national championships") but got buried on the depth chart early, in part due to injury, and ended his playing career before 2013 for medical reasons.
Kellen Jones didn't even get a profile on this site because he'd already left the team. Jones had one of the most nomadic careers in recent memory; after departing Ann Arbor, he appeared in 12 games for Oklahoma as a freshman, transferred to Clemson for two seasons, then enrolled at Wisconsin for his final year before leaving the team just two games into the 2015 season.
Defensive Backs: We'll Always Have Delonte Hollowell's Twitter
Michigan took five defensive backs in 2011. Three stuck around long enough to make an impact of some sort with two becoming starters—not bad, all things considered.
Three-star Fremont Ross (Woodson's HS) CB Greg Brown was the first commit in the class by some distance; he pledged way back in September of 2009 and only wavered slightly before signing. While Brown got some spring hype after enrolling early, his profile foreshadowed doom; his recruitment never took off and by his senior year of high school he was playing linebacker, which is far from ideal for a player expected to contribute at cornerback. Not long after the other freshman corners surpassed Brown on the depth chart pretty much the moment they set foot on campus, he transferred to D-II Findlay.
The other washout was three-star Tamani Carter, one of the late Hoke pickups after the coaching change. He left the team after his redshirt season; as best I can tell, he ended up at Ohio but didn't continue his football career. Carter got the rare "low" General Excitement Level in his profile.
DELONTE HOLLOWELL was a known commodity based on past experience:
Delonte Hollowell is archetypical in many ways. He committed to Michigan before anyone else in his class (doing so before the previous signing day), he's a cornerback best described as "beyond tiny," and he comes from Thomas Wilcher's Cass Tech program. He is the median Cass Tech recruit.
This was on point:
General Excitement Level: Meh. I can't get over Hollowell's obvious physical limitations and the parade of Cass Tech guys who need a ton of coaching before they can be effective in college, if they ever get there. He's got a role, but it will be a limited one achieved only after a few years in the program.
Hollowell's obvious physical limitations—even the normally lyin'-ass recruiting sites listed him at 5'8"—prevented him from being more than a bit player at nickel.
Raymon Taylor initially committed to Indiana before his dream school, Michigan, flipped him after a long-awaited offer. Brian pegged him as a possible early contributor but not a future star, which is precisely how his career played out—he got limited time as a true freshman before becoming a solid, unspectacular three-year starter.
The gem of the defensive class by both the rankings and early-career play was Army All-American Blake Countess, for whom Rivals had a particularly good scouting report after one of his camp appearances:
The 5-foot-10, 171-pounder was all over the field, jumping routes and showing good instincts. Countess is very low in his backpedal, changes direction quickly and is aggressive. He can play off coverage as well as tight but his strength is in zone coverage.