Recruits In Retrospect: 2011 Defense

Submitted by Ace on June 17th, 2016 at 3:13 PM

Previously: 2008 Offense2008 Defense2009 Defense2009 Quarterbacks2009 Offense2010 Offense2010 Defense, 2011 Offense

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:

  1. 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.




June 17th, 2016 at 3:40 PM ^

This was a vast improvement over the previous installments, which left me needing to drink a distillery dry and cry in a corner.

That being said, this still deserves a response of "f+$:#;'$-$(#(!!!!! Why can't we have nice things???"


June 17th, 2016 at 4:11 PM ^

Someone help me on Roh's actual contribution.

Disclaimer: I've got nothing against Roh; this is not a RR thing ...

My faltering memory recalls Roh being just a tick away from sacking the QB; sure, he created some pressure, but he never seemed to get there.  Am I recalling incorrectly?


June 17th, 2016 at 4:40 PM ^

or hell, even like 2 years of the same position with the same coaching, I think he could have been a serious baller. But he was learning a new role literally every year for 4 years. Putting him out in space as that hybrid whateva it was called was coaching malpractice, then moving him around back to hand in the dirt to standup and whatever is in between just gave the kid no chance to develop.


June 17th, 2016 at 4:51 PM ^

Our DEs never really got to any QB with regularity unless the opponent helped us with massive OL issues.  For the most part, Mattison had to generate pressure with blitzes.  I remember that Right2Rush4 fiasco, which was mainly a PR fiasco.  As in, our DL wasn't bad -- quite good, actually -- but in Hoke's four years we never got an organic pass rush with just the DL.  Frank Clark got close but then they started dicking around with press man despite no one on staff able to teach it.

People usually expect the WDE to attack the QB but Roh was basically invisible in a good way.  When our DL blew up a play it was usually Mike Martin/RVB blowing up the interior or Kovacs blitzing.  Roh's contributions mostly showed up in UFR which consistently showed that he was a Guy.  He couldn't sack the QB, but he Did Things like hold the edge when he needed to hold the edge or fight his block to force the play toward help.


June 17th, 2016 at 7:40 PM ^

Roh was asked to bulk up a ton and really became a different kind of player than he looked like as a recruit.  The guy you are leaving out of the equation though is Jake Ryan, who posted 27 TFL in the two years he played with Roh (as an underclassman).  He is the guy who really played that rush-end role we associate with a WDE and did it very well.


June 17th, 2016 at 7:31 PM ^

He played on the 2011 Sugar Bowl team and was HM all-conference, then was 2nd team all-conference (as voted by the coaches) as a senior.  If he had been able to redshirt you are possibly talking about a fantastic three year run as a starter with loads of all-conference recognition. 



June 17th, 2016 at 4:38 PM ^

for a Florida offensive UFR. Or an OSU defensive UFR, even, just to understand what the hell.

Anyway, can't wait for brighter retros in the years to come. I thought Chris Rock was solid at the Oscars this year, FWIW.


June 17th, 2016 at 5:29 PM ^

Going into that season, I hoped the D would improve to somewhere ranked in the 60's. I felt that was the most realistic thing I could hope for after the previous season.

They far outperformed what I expected. But even though it was a win, they still looked bad against OSU, who went 6-7 that year and was being coached by interim Adam Sandler. In their toilet bowl game, that same OSU offense wasn't very effective against an unranked 6-6 Florida team in a 24-17 loss. At the time, I just chalked it up to a rivalry game thing but in reality, we're just never at a point where the D can't get torched by those guys. Can this please stop?


June 17th, 2016 at 6:08 PM ^

"Harbaugh came in and told the fifth-year seniors they'd have to earn their spots." I don't understand the point. First, Countess said he was never told he had to earn a spot. Second, it's my understanding that 5th years have always had to be "invited back." Harbaugh just followed the existing principle.

kevin holt

June 17th, 2016 at 6:36 PM ^

Another money quote:

"Coach Narduzzi and coach Dantonio from Michigan State came by today," Clark said. "The thing that stuck with me was they want to know what's going on by Friday, if I'm going to attend Michigan State. It was something like that.
"But hey, if that's their deadline and it's not my deadline then I might be going somewhere else. I could wait 'til Saturday or I could wait 'til Monday. It doesn't really affect me because I know colleges have their needs."

But Dantonio isn't like other coaches cause he doesn't push his guys cause he knows he'll get his guys blah blah blah


June 17th, 2016 at 6:40 PM ^

it's like pouring over old court documents from your divorce and it takes you back. It evokes memories of that first marriage when you were young and foolish, thought you knew everything. You had run off and married a young European woman on a whim, thinking she would make everything right.  She was beautiful and funny and smart and wild. She had a great taste for wine and art and fashion. But very soon after your wedding you discovered that she had a dark side.  You had blown off her emotional instabilities as happenstance, coincidence.  But over time it grew and your friends and siblings tried to warn you.  Your mother kept reminding you that she never liked her in the first place.  You had fallen for her accent and her beauty but underneath she was frail and her weaknesses were weighing you down.  When you ended it you tried to sue for custody but she took the children and kept them from seeing you, and you were so shaken by the traumatic events that you called your high school sweetheart and had a one-night fling; a temporary bandaid meant to cover up the gaping wound underneath, and in the end you decided to marry her, because if you didn't you might find yourself going down the wrong road to drugs and violence and you were afraid of the person you might become. You couldn't hit rock bottom.  Not again. You weren't strong enough to be alone. So you believed she saved you and things were wonderful at first but after a short while you drifted apart.  Some nights you slept on the sofa for no particular reason other than to be alone.  You rarely spoke.  You never ate together.  Things just ended and you found yourself in a third marriage in less than a decade.  But even now you have found the girl of your dreams and yet you lie awake at night asking if it will ever end, how life can go on.  You find yourself bruised and scarred but you carry on, praying that one day it will get better. The last thing your mind sees every night as you fall asleep is Paul Simon singing "I am a rock, I am an island. A rock feels no pain, and island never cries."


June 17th, 2016 at 8:01 PM ^

into troubled dreams, but always warm and comfortable under your luxurious, cable-knit, Merino wool blanket. Always supremely stylish for any bedroom but with that hint of rustic charm that takes you back to those autumn nights at the chateau in Provence. $249, available in Midnight Blue, Emerald Meadow Green, or St. Tropez Tan. Exclusively in the J. Peterman Catalog.


Everyone Murders

June 17th, 2016 at 7:33 PM ^

I just looked at how pretty the actual maize on the picture of Desmond Morgan looked, assumed everything else was great, and jumped to the comments.  That maize looks fantastic!

Not a bad way to do it.


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