The Thousand-Foot View Of Recruiting: Offense

Submitted by Brian on December 20th, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Ace takes on the day-to-day process on a twice-weekly basis, but in case you haven't been paying super-close attention here's a primer on where Michigan stands as of today, and probably will continue standing until early January when some targets are likely to announce at All-Star games.

We'll start with the RR-Hoke hybrid 2011 class and focus on 1) how well Hoke's done, 2) what Michigan needs to fill out this class, and 3) what they'll be looking for next year.



2011 Hype 2012 Hype 2013 Hype
Russell Bellomy 3* nobody N/A Shane Morris 5*

PERFORMANCE: Bellomy was a late flier taken by Hoke after the Process left him scant time to find a bunch of dudes. We've seen that early results from this class of random last minute additions have been erratic. A couple are gone, a few more are contributors, others are still waiting in the wings. Judging recruiting prowess based on a rushed land grab made while still trying to find your footing is not a good idea.

This is kind of a long way of saying that Bellomy did not play well against Nebraska, and moreover seemed like a guy who just didn't have the arm strength to play at the top level, but that the decision to recruit him was not representative of much.

Meanwhile, Shane Morris is one of the top-ranked QBs in this class. He committed so early that it was clear Michigan would have had to do something spectacularly wrong to not end up with him. Still, points for not doing that, and for convincing Morris to hop aboard early enough to help sweep up most of a top five class by March.

OTOH, not taking a QB in this year's freshman class was a mistake, and while Morris is good his lack of high school production is somewhat concerning. (Yes, he had mono. Even considering that his junior/senior production is a little concerning.)


NEEDS THIS YEAR: Taken care of.

NEXT YEAR: With the hole in 2012 and Hoke's obscure mutterings about Bellomy having a "thing" that is not an injury but may prevent him from playing, possibly long-term, grabbing a guy is a top priority. Morris may scare guys off but it's at lot less intimidating when the hotshot freshman is just another backup.

Michigan has targeted a wide array of QBs; they have not offered any just yet. VA QB Caleb Henderson and OH QB DeShone Kizer are names to watch; instate, DCD QB Tyler Wiegers is someone garnering early buzz. Things are far less certain than last year, when Morris and Michigan had a mutual thing going on.

Running Back


2011 Hype 2012 Hype 2013 Hype
Thomas Rawls 3* Drake Johnson 2.5* DeVeon Smith 4*
Justice Hayes 4* Dennis Norfleet 4*    

PERFORMANCE: Hayes and Rawls were both late additions in the transition class, with Rawls coming aboard on Signing Day once he'd gotten some academic things taken care of. Hayes originally committed to ND, and then decommitted—the way in which it went down kind of seems like ND was the one pulling back. Neither has done much so far. In Hayes's case that's due to a lack of opportunity. In Rawls's it is not.

Last year Michigan all but struck out. Johnson played across the street from Michigan Stadium, putting up big numbers in an offense that was basically "snap the ball to Drake" and getting no offers except Eastern Michigan until M stepped in. Norfleet was committed to Cincinnati until a signing day flip that happened largely because Michigan had an extra scholarship. He's returned kicks and taken a few end-arounds so far. He was recently flipped to cornerback despite being 5'7", which says bad things about JT Floyd's availability, the options behind Courtney Avery and Raymon Taylor, and possibly his ability to run the ball. It would have been nice to see him get some run before they made that move, as you never really know until you put the guy on the field.

This year Michigan finally has a guy that fit what they want to do and can play. Skepticism from Rivals about DeVeon Smith is not shared by the other services, or fellow suitor Ohio State. He's a stocky stiff-arm specialist who's hard to knock over, suited to grind it out between the tackles and so forth and so on. As a single option maybe he's not ideal, but…

NEEDS THIS YEAR: If Michigan does get VA RB Derrick Green, many of these concerns evaporate. Green is a near-consensus five star who fits what Michigan would like to do as they move away from the spread—think Alabama.

Arm tackles nyet. With Smith that's a fine 1-2 punch.

Grade with Green: B+; without D. Big swing is possible at a position like RB where guys can come in day one and contribute.

NEXT YEAR: With Johnson coming off a redshirt Michigan will have three freshmen, two sophomores, and a junior. They'll probably take a guy; they can take it easy.

Wide Receiver


Jehu Chesson (left), Jaron Dukes (right) and Devin Gardner are going to get along just fine

2011 Hype 2012 Hype 2013 Hype
nobody n/a Amarah Darboh 4* Jaron Dukes 3.5*
  Jehu Chesson 3* Da'Mario Jones 3*
        Csont'e York 3*

PERFORMANCE: Rodriguez had a couple guys on the hook by the time he got the boot, and the decision to pass on Devin Lucien still grates. Lucien went to UCLA, redshirted, then had 10 catches in the first five games of the season and blew up Gus Johnson…

…before breaking his collarbone. Before that he was on pace for a 451 yard season over 12 games, which would have been second on this Michigan team.

There were no apparent grade or character issues with the guy, and Michigan opened the next year short scholarships. With no other WRs in the class, the only explanation for not taking him is badly mis-evaluating his talent relative to the other guys on the roster. The Process didn't help that. but if that decision ended up moving Devin Gardner to WR…

Let's not go down that road any further.

The next two years have been… eh. I actually like the 2012 class more than the recruiting rankings do, as Chesson got sleeper of the year status after his track season belied concerns about his speed and the vibe around the internet quotes was sufficiently awesome to make me think once he puts on the right amount of weight he'll be a player. Amarah Darboh comes with a solid four-star rep; those guys should both be players.

They'll have to be since the incoming class consists of three projects, and there was no 2011 class. Jones is the only speed guy, and Michigan yoinked him from CMU. Jaron Dukes could be a Junior Hemingway type eventually; York is more of a possession banger.


NEEDS THIS YEAR: LaQuon Treadwell is rapidly receding as a possibility, leaving Michigan with just the three sleeper types they've already acquired. If they could add a blue-chip, they would.

NEXT YEAR: Numbers look fine, but they'll probably need to take a couple more guys because most of the bullets they've got are of the iffy variety.

Tight End


2011 Hype 2012 Hype 2013 Hype
Chris Barnett 4* Devin Funchess 3.5* Jake Butt 4*
  AJ Williams 3.5* Khalid Hill 2.5*

PERFORMANCE: The pass-catching situation looks a lot better when these guys are figured in. Barnett was a Process-induced mistake who flamed out before fall practice; the other four guys look pretty good.

Funchess led Michigan in touchdown catches with five and should see his touches blow up in year two as Michigan gets more comfortable throwing over the middle of the field with the 6'5" Devin Gardner at QB. He'll have to put on weight to be less of a liability blocking. Williams would have redshirted in an ideal situation, as he desperately needed some time to figure out technique; he's going to be fine in time.

Butt is a guy to get excited about, a version of Funchess coming in 20-30 pounds heavier. Michigan figures to play all of the tight ends in the world in the future so a redshirt may not be in the cards for him. Hill is a low-ranked H-back type who will hopefully be a ++ version of a fullback.



NEXT YEAR: I don't think Michigan will go a recruiting class without a tight end as long as Hoke is around. With Hill and Houma on the team they can probably forgo the H-back sort and just scour for the sort of matchup nightmares Butt and Funchess promise to be. No names yet.

Offensive Line



2011 Hype 2012 Hype 2013 Hype
Tony Posada 3* Kyle Kalis 5* Patrick Kugler 4.5*
Chris Bryant 4* Erik Magnuson 4.5* Chris Fox 4.5*
Jack Miller 3* Ben Braden 3* Kyle Bosch 4.5*
    Blake Bars 3.5 David Dawson 4*
        Logan Tuley-Tillman 4*

PERFORMANCE: All three guys in 2011 were essentially Rodriguez guys; while Bryant committed after the coaching change, he had strung out a near-commitment to Michigan for months. Michigan lost MI OL Jake Fisher to Oregon and could not grab anyone late, but Process == pass.

The next two years Hoke did work, nabbing Kyle Kalis from Ohio State and Erik Magnuson from the West Coast. Enormous Ben Braden was an MGoBlog sleeper of the year and has been the subject of considerable practice hype; though that's always dodgy he seems poised to blow through his recruiting rankings. Some late whiffs on kids who went to Auburn and Iowa—how do you feel about this a year later, dudes?—were a temporary downer. Emphasis on temporary: by May Hoke had locked down five touted guys comprising an entire offensive line. (From left to right: Tuley-Tillman, Dawson, Kugler, Bosch, Fox.) Together they're the top line class in the country. Over two years enough guys will emerge from the nine to give Michigan a good to great OL.

A+. You can't guarantee success with folks as variable as OL; Michigan's done all they can to try.

NEEDS THIS YEAR: It seems like Michigan figured out they were going to have more spots in this class than they originally thought they would about a month ago, and since then they've been going after not only a guy to replace the decommitted Dawson (who turned out to be Dawson) but a sixth. Michigan seems to be looking at huge tackle types for the most part. Tennessee soft commit Dan Skipper and Nebraska soft commit Dan Samuelson came in last week and are the hot names.

NEXT YEAR: Michigan already has 6'10" man-mountain Denzel Ward committed. He's raw as hell, which shouldn't be a problem since I mean look at the table. He'll have time to develop, and he's already got an Ohio State offer, so the kid is a talent. A wild card, but a talent.

Past Ward, Michigan can settle down into a more normal OL recruiting structure after repairing Rodriguez's damage—3 or 4 total. They've got serious interest from FL OL Mason Cole and MI OL Tommy Doles; if they lock those two down it might actually be time to cool it.



December 20th, 2012 at 2:26 PM ^

Devin Lucien had 10 catches.

I know it's fun to say I told you so but I'd slow my roll on prorating and extrapolating based on 10 catches.

I'd probably also be wary of announcing the only possible explanation as viewed from 1000 feet.


December 20th, 2012 at 2:28 PM ^

how you look at UM with a 5* QB currently here and another 5* coming in along with 6 4-5* guys on the line to protect them and not want to play WR here. Especially since Borges has stated he wants to institue a big passing game and not much other competition to start day 1.


December 20th, 2012 at 2:39 PM ^

I hate to be the guy to talk bad about a recruit, but does Derrick Green remind anyone else of Kevin Grady?

He is strong and fast, but he doesn't seem to have great balance, which I think is essential for a great back.  I personally think Deveon Smith will be the better back.  He doesn't have elite speed and probably won't be an NFL running back, but I thought he had the better tape.

I haven't seen them play in person, though, and I have exactly 0 credentials for evaluation football players.  Just my thoughts.  I of course would be ecstatic if he comes to Michigan.


December 20th, 2012 at 3:09 PM ^

Trent Richardson's high school tape is much more impressive in my opinion.

In fairness, though, I also remember thinking Marcus Lattimore's high school tape didn't look all that great and he was definitely a great back (too soon to start talking about him as a football player in the past tense?).  


December 20th, 2012 at 7:57 PM ^

Kevin Grady's problems were fumbling, blowing out a knee (and never being fully back) and being a drunk.  Pre-injury and pre-alcoholism, Grady was a solid RB when he wasn't fumbling.  Look at his freshman year stats, they're as good as any back we've had since him, save Toussaint 2011.  Everyone likes to look at Grady as the text book 5-star bust, but it wasn't because he wasn't a good football player.  If we could recruit Kevin Grady minus those issues, we'd all be thrilled.

That said, I like Smith better than Green too, I've said it a handful of times.  That also said, I'd like both just to be safe.


December 20th, 2012 at 9:53 PM ^

Even in '05 he averged less YPC than any other back.  He couldn't catch, he wasn't a good blocker (despite having the build).

He had one good game his entire career (Indiana in '05).  He broke only 2 carries for 20 yards or more, despite many opportunities.

Grady was a bust.  Yeah, the injury and off-field stuff made him look worse than he might have been, but even as a freshman he was unexceptional.  He played because Max Martin and Jerome Jackson were ALSO busts and Hart couldn't carry the ball every play.  Then Minor took his job in '06.  After that it was all downhill.


December 20th, 2012 at 2:52 PM ^

If so, and we miss out on Treadwell (not sure why I'm saying "IF"???) wouldn't it make sense to put him at WR? It seems as though we will have capable replacements for TE.

Also, does this kind of confirm that Shallman will NOT be an offensive player?


December 20th, 2012 at 5:15 PM ^

I was thinking of New England when the TE's where mentioned as well. IF (IF IF IF IF) used correctly they could be a very effective combo. Maybe, as Tom Brady still proudly proclaims himself a Michigan man, he could give some pointers.

Or maybe, with many players moving to the coaching ranks, he could call plays in a few years.



December 20th, 2012 at 2:55 PM ^

The tables of the RBs and the WRs are really concerning to me. We don't have a lot of talent in those positions right now, and while someone might wind up being a surprise, it's hard to see much talent in the near future. For a team that could otherwise be contending for a national title in 2 or 3 years this is a big concern. Brian may say "Think Alabama," but Alabama has serious talent at every skill position which allows it to call a conservative game and still make plays.

That was, essentially, what Michigan relied on during the Carr era, and when there were guys like Braylon and Hart and Breaston breaking games open it mostly worked. With the guys we have now? Not so sure.

Maybe our defense will wind up being so incredible that we'll win 10-11 games a season anyway. But why take the risk? I wonder if the skills guys see Borges and get scared away.


December 22nd, 2012 at 12:37 PM ^

Yeah that's basically the MSU mindset. Sure, while sometimes three star recruits blow up, that almost has to happen statistically considering there are about a million of them. Do you really think Hoke et al are that much better at plucking the three-star wheat from the chaff, or would you rather get all five stars knowing that one or two of them might flame out but the rest will be rockstars? I know my answer.


December 22nd, 2012 at 1:19 PM ^

Oh, come on. You're engaging in reductio ad absurdum. Obviously I would rather have a recruiting class of 25 5-stars every year. What I'm saying is that the alternative to that is not all "doom and gloom." Yeah, 5-stars are nice, but in the past 5 years, the Heisman trophy was awarded to two 5-stars* (Tebow, Cam Newton), two 4-stars* (Mark Ingram and RG3), and a 3-star* (Sam Bradford). You can be good without getting a ton of 5-stars every year.

*Stars according to Rivals rankings.


December 20th, 2012 at 3:23 PM ^

I share your concern.  Hoke and co. haven't been able to close the deal (so far) with elite RB recruits.

The good news is that anyone can run behind a great OL.  The bad news is that it's not easy to get a great OL.  The Michigan fanbase has no choice but to pin their hopes of an effective rungame on a dominant OL (or, for the more optimistic, on 'sleeper' RB recruits.) A dominant OL is tough to project without a proven coach who can develop elite talent, no matter how great recruiting appears to be going.  I think the aggressive approach for OL recruiting illustrates the coaching staff's priorities.  They're taking as many as they can get, because they know they have to compensate for the high profile whifs at RB.

WR is the same deal, to some extent, but the thinking is a little different there -- as long as you assume Borges has a vision for a system that relies more on size than speed, Michigan might be OK.

It is disconcerting to be counting on a great OL and superior QB, especially when the OL is entirely unproven and the QB depth is so thin.  Looking out the next couple years, there's no one beyond Gardner and Funchess who has shown they're capable of playing at an all-conference level.  So let's hope Hoke's missteps in 2011 are indeed a function of the Process and not an indicator of poor judement.



December 20th, 2012 at 3:02 PM ^

You mention: "You can't guarantee success with folks as variable as OL"

What has the most variability and least on offense?  Curious, because I don't know.  


December 20th, 2012 at 7:52 PM ^

If I were to order these position groups in terms of variability from least to most, I'd say:

Running Back - easiest position to scout on offense.

TE - one step easier than WR because less is usually asked of them, more is about size.

Wide Receiver - many kids are underrated because most high schools either run a lot or don't have a good enough QB.

Quarterback - not because of the physical part, but because of the mental part.

Offensive Line - Everyone redshirts, almost everyone comes in needing a lot of technique and a lot of bulk. 

Blue In NC

December 20th, 2012 at 3:26 PM ^

Why is Shallman not listed at RB?  Buzz has been consistent that he will start there at least plus he is listed at RB on the recruiting board.

If UM gets Green with Smith plus Shallman as a possibility, I think RB has to rate an A.  Right?

Without Green, I would say "C" b/c Smith is still a good back and Shallman is at least decent at RB. 


December 20th, 2012 at 3:41 PM ^

For the 2012 class it seemed like we were getting full up pretty quick, but like this year, near the end more space became available. I wish we had kept Burbridge in play, or tried to flip him by signing day. At first it seemed like a risk and the right thing to do by moving on, but later in the process we had room, and nothing to lose by taking a chance on him not qualifying.


December 20th, 2012 at 3:50 PM ^

I've seen this mentioned elsewhere, including on TouchTheBanner today, but I wish we had a little more diversity in our WR corps.  Maybe we're going for the NFL model of having everyone that takes the field stand at least 6'2", but it seems that we've had the most success when our WR are a mix of different styles:

  • Braylon (big play), Breaston (slot), Avant (possession)
  • Manningham (big play), Arrington (possession)
  • Terrell (big play), Walker (possession)

You would think that the coaches look at guys like Dileo and Gallon and see potential for people who catch everything and go over the middle.  I suppose it is possible that they see those guys and say "I wish they were taller, let's find a 6'2" Drew Dileo!".  It is also possible that they look at the Patriots model of using two TE instead of slot WR.....though I would clarify to anyone thinking along those lines that the Patriots have only had one elite outside WR during their entire playoff run - Randy Moss.  Otherwise it was guys like Welker and Troy Brown making the tough catches. 

Someone else also mentioned the perception of Borges among the recruits.  I do wonder about that since it is hard for him to point to something on the field as a reference for potential recruits.  But you would think that Shane Morris takes care of that unknown.  Who knows....WR are always tougher to figure out. 


December 20th, 2012 at 11:26 PM ^

...or skills? Because how do you know what skill set the guys they recruit have yet?

Height wise, your examples aren't illustrating your point well:

Terrell 6'3"; Walker 6'2". Both tall.
Manningham big play 6'; Arrington possession 6'3".
Braylon is 6'3" and Avant and Breaston 6', but there were no slot ninjas there.

Everyone is over 6 feet, and have all the skill sets you desire.


December 20th, 2012 at 10:12 PM ^

Tommy is a great kid, i have several classes with him at Grand Rapids Christian and he is in my brass quintet and bible study. Great character, great christian guy. A  Michigan Man...he is leaning hard toward Michigan, his only other offer thus far is from Iowa st.