So, about this defense:
Greg Banks (5th)
Ryan Van Bergen (Jr*)
|Renaldo Sagesse (Sr)||Adam Patterson (Sr)||Jibreel Black (Fr)|
|Craig Roh (So)||Ken Demens (So*)||
Jonas Mouton (Sr)
Thomas Gordon (Fr*)
|Brandon Herron (Jr*)||Obi Ezeh (5th)||Kevin Leach (Jr*)||Carvin Johnson (Fr)|
J.T. Floyd (So*)
Jordan Kovacs (So*)
Cam Gordon (Fr*)
James Rogers (Sr)
|Courtney Avery (Fr)||Marvin Robinson (Fr)||Ray Vinopal (Fr)||Terrence Talbott (Fr)|
That's our current defensive two-deep. Those of you watching this year know that they've been a bad, bad defensive two-deep. Among the many irksome memes floating around since this naughty two-deep had the unmitigated gall to lose two Big Ten games, is that they're not a "Michigan" two-deep, which is to say these are not the kinds of guys we normally would see getting playing time at Michigan.
So I went back through my memory, which for non-skill positions goes back to about 1996 with any "I watched all of his games" credibility, and tried to pick out the guys that our current D evoke.
This is an incomplete exercise; you are very welcome to suggest other analogues. My ultimate goal is to generate a two-deep of known quantities which, if I stare at it long enough, it will spark some sort of epiphany about the 2010 defense and what it portends for the rest of the year (and in so doing, beat Ohio State)...
For each, I've rated them on a 5-star scale, based on how you would expect him to perform on four typical linebackerish plays that come his way in a UFR:
|1 star||-2 or more||Liability|
|2 stars||-1||Not yet ready for D-I|
|3 stars||even||Usually competent|
|4 stars||+1||All-Big Ten|
|5 stars||+2 or more||All-American/NFL ready|
Remember that these ratings only apply to their contribution this year as a Michigan starter in that position, not their projected value in the future, or their recruiting ranking. If you want to convert it to recruit ranking, imagine what you would expect a player of that star rating to be playing at by their 3rd or 4th year at Michigan.
Greg Banks (Sr/5th)
Who: Will Paul 2007 (Sr/5th if he had come back)
Why: I mean, what else? Jake Frysinger? Pat Massey? Dan Rumishek? Eric Wilson? Will Paul was a fullback in '06 and graduated, but I'm going to ask you to imagine the 4-star bust who bounced around the D-Line depth chart had stayed there through his 5th year senior season. Like Banks, Paul was about 6'3/260 while on the D-line, good at not getting pushed out of the way, but bad about flowing down the line, or generating a pass rush.
2010 Value: **
Renaldo Sagesse (Sr/Sr)
Who: Jason Ptak 1999 (Sr/Sr)
Why: I thought about going with Jr/Sr Shawn Lazarus here, but Jason Ptak's existence is my personal little piece of Michigan trivia, and it fits perfectly. Ptak was a nobody recruit about the same size (6'3/290) as Sagesse who spelled Rob Renes (NT) and Eric Wilson (DT) from time to time. When he did this, he was perfectly "meh," but didn't ever look like he was getting run over. Sagesse was the last of the Montreal troupe (Kashama, Dubuc, Casseus) and like them was a nobody recruit who has been "meh" for four years.
Mike Martin (Jr/Jr)
Who: Alan Branch 2006 (Jr/Jr)
Why: Like I would pass up the opportunity...
Like Branch, Mike Martin was a 4-star recruit who appeared like a 5-star immediately, becoming a plus to the defense his freshman year, bigger plus his sophomore year, and took the leap toward All-American as a junior. Branch split double-teams with aplomb. Martin might even be better than Branch, since Alan didn't have quite MM's agility. But it's still a strong comparison.
Adam Patterson (Sr/Sr)
Who: Patrick Kratus 1998 (Jr/Sr)
Who?!? Thought you'd say that.
Why: Well, I'm running out of DT/DE tweeners here, especially lower-Rivals 100 guys who were complete busts, and I'm not giving Patterson even the courtesy of a Pat Massey comparison, though that would be the other pick. Pat Kratus was an academic All-American who played a lot of special teams for four varsity years. Kratus was a forgettable recruit with a frame that he never filled. Patterson too was rated highly because of his "frame" but he never grew into the DT/NT he was expected to, and was never mobile enough to do anything outside.
Value: * (because NT in our 3-3-5 exposes bad play)
After break: more guys.
Ryan Van Bergen (Jr/Sr)
Who: Juaquin Feazell 1997 (Jr/Sr)
Why: Feazell was an exciting defensive line recruit right about the time that people started paying attention to that kind of stuff. Like RVB, Feazell wasn't a major sack threat, but got the word "solid" applied to him throughout his career. In 1997 Juaquin didn't start, but rotated in at 3 of 4 defensive line positions (not NT) and was "solid" at all three. Feazell was a borderline NFL prospect after '98. The fit is pretty...uh..."solid."
Jibreel Black (Fr/Fr)
Who: James Hall 1996 (Fr/Fr)
Why: Hall was redshirted in 1996, actually, but he made that decision hard. Like Black, freshman Hall was too small to be anything other than a pass rush threat, but already generating lots of hype. In 1997, Hall leapfrogged a lot of older, more established guys to win a starting role, which he only relinquished to jump to the NFL (he went undrafted) after his redshirt junior season. Jibreel wants to be Brandon Graham, but I see him as a lot more of a James Hall before Hall was big enough to be an every-down lineman.
Craig Roh (So/So)
Who: Tim Jamison 2005 (So/So)
Why: I think this is a pretty strong comparison. Jamison got a lot of hype as a true freshman in 2004 before injury canceled that campaign (but too late to earn him a redshirt). As a sophomore, Jamison made the Freshman All-Big Ten team, mostly for his work as a DE/LB tweener. Like Roh, as a linebacker, Jamison was still a bit undersized and lost. Jamison got pushed back the following season by Biggs, but was finally large enough to play DE every down by '07, when he was a consistent backfield threat.
Brandon Herron (Jr/Sr)
Who: Emmanuel Casseus 2002 (Sr/Sr)
Why: I could also go with Grady Brooks, since both Brooks and Herron are Texas guys who were passed up by Texas because they would be major projects. But Herron is a lot more Casseus's size, and like Casseus is used primarily as a spell for the strongside OLB, and on special teams, not doing anything really distinguishing in that capacity.
Kenny Demens (So/Jr)
Who: Carl Diggs 2001 (So/Jr)
Why: I beat around this bush and finally decided it fits too well. Carl Diggs is usually mentioned around these parts in conjunction with Old School-ism for being a mastadon-plunker "ILB." Back in his day, this was expressed as "can't stop running quarterbacks." Demens hasn't played enough against anything spread-y to show such a weakness, but the rest of the Diggs M.O. fits, right down to the sophomore growth spurt to 6'1,250 lbs. (where Demens is listed), but still kind of short. Diggs got a few starts in 4-4 looks as a redshirt freshman, but started his RS Soph. campaign behind Eric Brackins, passing him near the end of the year. Other than injury, Diggs was thereafter the starter -- and source of grumblement -- through '03. This may be a reasonable expectation for Demens.
Obi Ezeh (Sr/5th)
Who: Scott McClintock 2005 (Sr/5th)
Why: There's really no comparison to Obi Ezeh, a 2-star fullback converted to linebacker who's now in his fourth year of starting...badly. The closest I can come is similarly sized, FB/LB Scott McClintock, a borderline 5-star recruit out of Belle Vernon, PA, who was always just next on the depth chart. In 2004, when MLB was a bench-emptying disaster zone, we saw why, as McClintock looked soft and lost. By 2005 David Harris and Chris Graham had displaced McClintock permanently, but names as eminent as Joey Sarantos accomplished the same feat. Ezeh has had a similar career of "would anyone please step up and replace this guy," with candidates from John Thompson, to Marrell Evans, to Austin Panter, to Kevin Leach, J.B. Fitzgerald and finally Kenny Demens getting their cracks at his job.
Jonas Mouton (Sr/Sr)
Who: Prescott Burgess '06
Why: The comparison fits so well that when I watch the 2006 Rose Bowl I feel like I'm watching '09 Mouton. Both were considered among the nation's best safeties (or skinny linebackers) coming out of high school, and both were nitroglycerine -- able to explode upon friend or foe at any time. By their respective senior seasons, the irresponsibility had lessened to the point that the good-to-awesome plays outweighed the reduced (but extant) mistakes.
Value: **** (and the four UFR-ed plays will probably be a -2, a -1, and two +2s).
Kevin Leach (Jr/Sr)
Who: Jeff Smokevitch 1998
Why: Smokevitch is listed at 6'0, which if he's 6'0 then I was definitely adding 2 inches to my height from 1998 to 2003 or something when I last ran into him at a Seaholm game and he was still 2 inches taller than my listed 6'0. But other than that, Smoke and Leach could be related. Smokevich played at Michigan at about 200 lbs., which is where the light Leach is at. Leach threatened to start last year when Mouton and Ezeh peaked at their incompetence, but I could see Smokevich doing that. Small and walk-on-y.
Thomas Gordon (Fr/So)
Who: Brandent Englemon '04
Why: Neither sniffed a fourth star (Englemon was a 2-star). Both are about 5'11 and 205. Englemon's thing was that he was able to spend long periods on the field without wracking up much in the way of UFR +/- and that's "Prison Abs" Gordon's thing, apparently -- or at least it is on the football field. In 2004, Englemon was, like Gordon, only a redshirt freshman. With Shazor and Mundy at safety, Englemon was safety stored away, learning the position after it was clear he wasn't a cornerback. We didn't see him until his sophomore year, when extended play at both safety positions looked a lot like T-Gord: you don't notice him except when he makes an easy tackle, and that's a good thing. Englemon would have liked Spur -- instead he bounced around on good defenses, mostly staying out of Jamar Adams's way.
Carvin Johnson (Fr/Fr)
Who: DeWayne Patmon '97
Why: Brian was predicting Jamar Adams here -- a big guy who's rangy and generates a lot of buzz out of practice. But I went with Patmon, another nowhere man who was a lot more Johnson's size, and as a youth in 1997 looked just as mistake-prone. Patmon got extended playing time in 1998 when Marcus Ray went down, and didn't make us want to kill him, except when we wanted to kill him. I came on Patmon when I was thinking about going with Tommy Hendricks (who would have loved Bandit). Patmon was the Englemon to Hendricks's Jamar Adams.
Jordan Kovacs (So/Jr)
Who: Jon Shaw 2001 (So/Jr)
Why: There's nothing quite like Kovacs, but Shaw comes the closest. Shaw spent his freshman year at running back while Kovacs didn't even make the team, but I couldn't find a better safety who was resposible but not athletic enough to keep up. Really, 2002 was Shaw's best year, when the pint-sized safety filled in for injuries to Cato June and Julius Curry. Our annee celebre, 2001, was spent mostly on the bench. The thing about Shaw was he could tackle -- if he just could just get to the spot to make the tackle. Kovacs, right? Honestly, Kovacs has no allegory at Michigan -- maybe at Iowa or something. We haven't had a guy this instinctual since Dave Harris, and haven't played someone so un-athletic since the '50s. If you've got a better stand-in for Kovacs, I'm all ears.
Marvin Robinson (Fr/Fr)
Who: Stevie Brown 2006 (Fr/Fr)
Why: I wanted to go Cato June here, but the Brown comparison from M-Rob's recruiting profile is probably apt, right down to the burned redshirt. Though Marvelous Marvin is basically the backup bandit, his profile says he will fill out and isn't that great in coverage, so Brown-like Spur seems a likely enough future destination. Brown as a freshman was a big, extremely athletic safety who was completely lost in coverage, generating a boatload of bad press until settling down to be a rather good OLB/Safety. M-Rob is wearing Brown's post-freshman number, but he's still a freshman, and Kovacs seems to have a pretty good lock on that spot.
Cam Gordon (Fr/So)
Who: Poor Man's Ernest Shazor 2001(Fr/Fr)
Why: Do you remember Shazor as a freshman? Shazor came in with a lot more hype, but then had some off-field trouble and took a redshirt. That's where the comparison is bad. Where it's good is in his play, and style. Shazor was a 6'4 spear from the start, who took some time to figure out coverage, and how simply hitting a guy does not a tackle make. His ability to fill a hole made Shazor a well-remarked Big Ten player by his junior/senior year. Cam, meanwhile, seems to have Shazor's nose for hitting, and problems with speed, tackling and coverage. Now just imagine if Shazor had to play as a freshman (Cam's redshirt year was at receiver so it basically can be discounted). I think a poor man's freshman Shazor is a rather fair approximation of what we've got in Cam.
Who: Anton Campbell '03
Why: A low-rated recruit, Ray, like Anton, was a running back as well as safety in high school, and set a few local records in track. Anton started off as a running back before switching to safety, and has about an inch on Ray, but both are about 200 lbs., relatively fast, and projects at their positions. Ray would be better off with a redshirt, but depth chart issues being what they are, he's nominally No. 2 at free safety.
J.T. Floyd (So/Jr)
Who: Brandon Williams 2001 (Jr/Jr)
(Obligatory 2001 Wisconsin TD relived):
Why: J.T. Floyd has about an inch on Williams, but they're similar players: cornerbacks with their heads in the game, but lacking top speed. They even wear the same numbers. But whereas Williams was buried on the depth chart until it was time to recover a key fumble on a Wisconsin touched punt, Floyd has been forced into the everyday lineup. With the corner position opposite him a disaster area, J.T. hasn't been tested much, but his tackling this year has left a lot to be desired. If you're wondering what Michigan would have looked like were junior Brandon Williams to be the best cornerback standing, this is what Michigan would have looked like. Note: Williams got a few starts in place of the 2000 dwarf tandem, about on par with Floyd's starts last year.
James Rogers (Sr/Sr)
Who: Charles Stewart 2007 (Sr/Sr)
Why: Look, really there's nobody to have seen any amount of playing time in recent Michigan history that compares with James Rogers. He is a senior positional vagabond who moved to safety and cornerback from receiver because it would help the team, but he remains a very stiff, not very athletic guy who shouldn't be playing cornerback. I went with the senior Charles Stewart because, like Rogers, he started out at cornerback before it became obvious he shouldn't be there, and then was equally bad at free safety. Both are tallish, and very stiff players who are going to get beat in coverage and don't tackle all that well. Stewart was thrust into playing time in '07 after Johnny Sears was a primary HORROR culprit, and before Morgan Trent appeared.
Courtney Avery (Fr/Fr)
Who: Chris Richards 2005 (Fr/Fr)
Why: The comparison works in a "what if we had to play Chris Richards in 2005" kind of way. Like Richards, Avery was a quarterback in high school who needed at least a redshirt year to learn defensive back. They're both about the same size: 5'11/175, and both are 3-star athlete fliers who, if they work out, would be considered sleepers. Richards, like Avery, came to campus without even a whiff of bad behavior, and a great academic record. Chris turned out to be either a bad seed, or too impressionable when hanging out with Carson Butler, but either way was sent off to finish his career at Stony Brook. Avery doesn't seem to have those troubles, but looks like what you would expect a smallish high school quarterback who never played CB and is expected to redshirt then provide kickoff coverage would look like if played right out of high school.
Terrence Talbott (Fr/Fr)
Who: Zia Combs 2000 (Fr/Fr)
Why: What Michigan fans remember about Zia Combs was that he was this suddenly effective cornerback when we were still shellshocked from Whitley and LeSueur wasn't available and we didn't trust Markus Curry at all and it looked for all the world like Brandon Williams (see J.T. Floyd, above) was going to start. That was Zia as a junior in 2002. In 2000, Zia Combs was a 5'11/160 3-star freshman who might play wide receiver and wasn't at all a threat to the carnage wrought by Whitley and Howard. This is Terrence Talbott, or the closest I can come to it. He does not yet know what zone coverage is, but might be good one day. Not yet.
Cullen Christian (Fr/Fr)
Who: Todd Howard 1998 (Fr/Fr)
Why: Because Cullen was a 4-star recruit and we thought he would come in and be awesome immediately (because he's got long arms, see?), but showed up obviously shorter than advertised, and not nearly, not NEARLY ready to play. Howard was also a 4-star recruit, part of the Great Big Haul of 1998 that turned out to not be as great as the season that preceded it. Howard wasn't expected to start right away -- with Woodson gone there was still Andre Weathers, James Whitley and William Peterson, but Howard would step in by '99, beginning the reign of a backfield that I once thought would be the worst in my lifetime. Howard eventually got pulled together and became an asset starting opposite Marlin by his senior year.
So now imagine our defensive line is a platoon of fictional 5th yr senior Will Paul and Ptak, Alan Branch as a junior, and Feazell in his '97 form. The linebackers feature a sophomore Tim Jamison as Spinner, sophomore Carl Diggs and senior Prescott Burgess in the middle, and freshman Brandent Englemon just spreading his 1-0-1 Englemon-wings for the first freshmany time at Spur. In the backfield, it's sophomore Brandon Williams giving it his all on one corner, Charles Stewart '07 hanging in there opposite him, with sophomore Jon Shaw in the box and a true freshman version of Ernest Shazor trying to jam his helmet into the turf and hoping an opposing player will be there to cushion him.
Bad. However, as to whether it's not the kinds of guys that Michigan plays, I only noted three backfield spots and one defensive line position where there wasn't an anologue with significant playing time to compare with current starters. There's small hope in that, by simply getting older, this might be a mediocre, bordering on "okay" defense next year.