Thursday, June 30, 2011

2011 Countdown: #62 Brandin Hawthorne

Brandin Hawthorne
Name: Brandin Hawthorne
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 203 lbs.
High school: Pahokee High School in Pahokee, FL
Position: Safety/linebacker
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #7
Last year: I ranked Hawthorne #52 and said he would be a special teamer who might make a tackle or two.  He was a special teamer and made 1 tackle.

Hawthorne was a high school safety and bounced around his first couple years at Michigan, playing free safety and Spur, which is like a strongside linebacker.  So far he has two seasons of special teams action under his belt . . . and that's about it.  He seemed to be one of those tweeners that Rich Rodriguez liked to recruit so much, the kind that don't really have a position now that some coaches with an actual defensive blueprint have arrived.

This spring Hawthorne saw playing time at both safety and weakside linebacker, and I will admit that he looked better in the spring than he has in the past couple years.  However, he seemed to get most of his action at WILL, and I just don't see him getting to sniff playing time at the position.  Not only will he be fighting some current players for the position (Marell Evans, Mike Jones, maybe Jake Ryan), but the Wolverines have a couple freshmen arriving on campus to make a push for playing time (Antonio Poole, Kellen Jones).  At only 6'0" and 203 lbs., he seems to be a career special teamer.

Prediction: Special teams contributor

Getting to Know -- Desmond Morgan

Desmond Morgan had his sights set on Michigan during the recruiting process. Originally committing under the Rodriguez regime, Desmond remained firm in his pledge to the university from the beginning to the end of the coaching change. "I committed to the school, not just the coaching staff," he stated. And although Morgan is currently undecided about his college major, he is a 4.0 student who should fit in nicely with his chosen school's academia.

Desmond grew up in Holland, Michigan, which is located on the far west side of the state. Taking advantage of his surroundings, Morgan often enjoyed going to the beach with friends and listening to music while playing a pick-up game. Rap/Hip-Hop is his preferred style of music, and although I don't listen to a lot of that genre, I do have the internet, so I know what it's about.

When I caught up with Desmond, he was preparing for the 2011 Michigan High School Football East West All Star Game and also getting interviewed by people other than me. He performed well in the contest, tallying six tackles. But it's clear that Desmond isn't complacent about his football capabilities:
"What are my greatest weaknesses? I'll be honest; I have quite a few of them. I'd say my biggest one would be my pass coverage and recognizing when two receivers are crossing, which one is the biggest threat, and [recognizing] which DB needs the most help picking up a guy coming across, things like that. So I'm working on that, getting depth and recognizing the different routes and being able to get underneath, making a play on the ball. In high school, we didn't have to do that as much, especially with all of the man coverage that we ran. And with line backing, I'd say we were usually more focused on the run. So the biggest thing I'm working on is helping my pass coverage game out."
With his intelligence, work ethic and willingness to look in the mirror, Desmond sounds like a coach's dream. It's just not yet completely clear which coaches will get the opportunity to work with Morgan. Although Desmond was definitely recruited as a linebacker, it has been speculated on this blog that Morgan's skill set could lead to playing time at another position, such as fullback or upback. We are not alone: Desmond and his dad see that as a possibility too.
"Most of the talks [with the coaching staff] have been playing linebacker. To be honest, I don't even know which position, as far as one of the linebackers, it will be. But my junior year I played fullback as well; I actually started at fullback. So I kind of understand the fullback position a little bit. But I'm open to anything. At this point, the way I look at it - any position that they need me to play that will allow me to help the team and see the field, I'll do....My dad had read some of the online stuff, and I think that planted the idea in his mind too, and he said, 'What do you think about fullback?' And I was like, 'What do you mean?' And he said, 'With the new staff, they might be looking for fullbacks - would you be open to that?' And I said, 'Yeah, sure, whatever it takes to get on the field, I'll do it.'"
During Desmond's senior year, he didn't see much/any time at fullback because he was too busy playing quarterback. Yep, if you didn't already know, he played middle linebacker and quarterback. That's quite the unusual pairing, but as unusual as it may be, Thunder often writes that playing QB in HS contributes to a player's overall development and understanding of the game. So I asked Morgan about it.
"I grew to understand offenses a lot better. It helped me to see my keys on the other side of the ball, recognize pass coverages, see pre-snap stuff...but first and foremost I think it's leadership. Before my junior year I played middle linebacker and was the captain of the defense, I guess, and I understood the leadership role...but I definitely gained a whole new respect for leadership by playing quarterback because I didn't realize how close the two positions were in regards to leading their sides of the ball. And playing both of them helped me grow into more of a team leader."
Although Desmond's days as a QB are almost certainly finished, he should be able to peruse through the offensive playbook at his convenience since he's rooming with 2011 QB Russell Bellomy. Here's to Morgan's success in the winged helmet -- be it at linebacker, upback, fullback, quarterback or slot receiver.

EA Sports' "NCAA Football 2012" Ratings Released

EA Sports' NCAA Football 2012 rosters were released, and here's a run-through of the Big Ten's teams and ratings.  Michigan's portion begins at 2:08.

A few oddities:

- Seth Broekhuizen is an 82 overall
- William Campbell is literally the worst DT on the team
- J.B. Fitzgerald is your starting LOLB and Brandon Herron starts at ROLB
- Cam Gordon is listed as a strong safety instead of a linebacker
- Jordan Kovacs is an 89 overall
- Marvin Robinson is the starting free safety, and Carvin Johnson is his backup
- Vincent Smith has 91 speed, but Michael Shaw is only an 87 in that category . . . which is the same as Stephen Hopkins

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mailbag: What will it take to get Bri'onte Dunn?

Bri'onte Dunn (#25 with ball)

Assuming Bri'onte Dunn is waiting to see what the sanctions are prior to decommitting from OSU, how lenient will the penalty have to be to keep Dunn in the fold at OSU?
Bri'onte Dunn, the heralded running back from Glenoak High School in Canton, OH, has given every indication that his commitment to Ohio State depends upon how badly the NCAA punishes the Buckeyes for their transgressions.  He and his family maintain that he's committed to the program, but I think that's generally because he's leery of seeming wishy-washy, drawing the ire of Ohio State fans, etc.  After all, if he commits to another school right now and then the NCAA only gives OSU a slap on the wrist, he'll not only anger people by decommitting in the first place, but he'll infuriate another fan base who hope to see him wearing their jersey.  For now he's playing it safe, and I think that's the smart thing to do.

Dunn's father has suggested that a multi-year bowl ban will weigh heaviest on the decision.  If the Buckeyes are prohibited from participating in the postseason for three years, that could be Dunn's whole college career.  Who wants to go play football where you might not ever play during bowl season?  Even though Dunn has the size and talent to make it to the NFL, some guys' best accomplishments and legacies are built in bowl game performances.  When I think of Tai Streets, I think about his 4 receptions, 127 yards, and 2 touchdowns against Washington State in the Rose Bowl.  When I think of Adrian Arrington, I think about his 9 receptions, 153 yards, and 2 touchdowns against Florida in the Capital One Bowl.  Streets went on to a nondescript NFL career, and Arrington has seven career catches for the New Orleans Saints.

Recent rumors on message boards and from "insiders" have suggested that Dunn's more and more likely to stick with his Ohio State commitment, but I think that's partly because the NCAA investigation keeps getting elongated due to the new information popping up here and there.  The longer it takes for the NCAA to punish Ohio State, the better chance Dunn has of sticking.  And despite some obvious shenanigans regarding Terrelle Pryor's use of loaner cars, no wrongdoing has been found yet.

Pryor, the other accused players, and the university are still on the hook for the selling of merchandise, the free tattoos, and the alleged selling of autographs; Jim Tressel is still on the hook for lying and playing dumb.  There's a chance that the NCAA will say, "Well, Pryor left the school, and Tressel resigned, so here's a stern look and wagging of the finger and don't do it again."

I think it's more likely, though, that Ohio State gets a couple years of holidays off and the loss of a few dozen scholarships over the next few years.  USC got two years of bowl bans and 30 scholarship losses, but USC's issues mainly involved one player (Reggie Bush) and an assistant coach.  Ohio State's issues probably involve less money, but they were pervasive and involved the most visible employee of the university.  And by "employee" I mean Tressel, but I guess Pryor counts, too.

To answer your question more concisely, I think two years of bowl bans keep Dunn in Columbus.  Three years sends him elsewhere.  That doesn't mean Dunn would necessarily come to Michigan, because he's also been looking at Penn State.  But if I had to guess, I would say Michigan is #2 on his list if Ohio State's program does indeed get blasted by the NCAA.

2011 Countdown: #63 Terrence Robinson

Terrence Robinson

Name: Terrence Robinson
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 175 lbs.
High school: Oak High School in Klein, TX
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Redshirt junior
Jersey number: #8
Last year: I ranked Robinson #57 and said he would be a backup returner and slot receiver.  He was both of those things and had 1 catch for 43 yards to go with 1 kick return for 23 yards.

Robinson is a former 4-star athlete from Texas who got a lot of Michigan fans buzzing early, based largely on one high school move that started off great but ended with him stumbling to the ground untouched.  Beyond that he has 2 career catches for 56 yards, 1 kick return for 23, and 1 punt return for 11.  And once the Brady Hoke regime took over, it seemed to make Robinson even more of an afterthought.

Three- and four-receiver sets will still be a large part of Michigan's offense in 2011, but that doesn't mean the new coaching staff favors 5'9", 175 lb. receivers to play in the slot.  If Robinson wants to make an impact on the team, it will probably be in the same way that he's kinda sorta had a chance to play in the past few seasons - on kick and punt returns.  Especially with a quarterback who's only 6' tall, the team needs taller receivers running routes over the middle of the field.  Robinson looks like he might be a bit player for the rest of his career.

Prediction: Backup kick and punt returner

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2013 Offer Board Update

Shaquille Wiggins looks a lot like . . . 

. . . 2010 target Lamarcus Joyner (now at FSU).

The 2013 Offer Board has been updated:

Added Colorado OT Chris Fox.

Added Ohio TE Ben Gedeon.

Added Virginia LB E.J. Levenberry.

Added Georgia DE Reginald Carter.

Added Michigan OT Steve Elmer.

Added Georgia CB Shaq Wiggins.

Added Texas WR Jake Oliver.

Added California LB Michael Hutchings.

Added Maryland DT Henry Poggi.

2011 Countdown: #64 Kellen Jones, Wolverine

Kellen Jones

Name: Kellen Jones
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 225 lbs.
High school: St. Pius X High School in Houston, TX
Position: Linebacker
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #52
Last year: Jones was a senior in high school (no commitment post)

For a moment I forgot why I never posted about Jones' commitment.  Now I remember - I was vacationing at the beach and had better things to do (in other words, sitting in a hot tub, playing Frisbee, using my superior height to dominate in pool volleyball, and checking out the . . . sunsets).  But I'm not at the beach now, so this might be a little long winded.

I was thoroughly excited about Jones' commitment.  He's a missile-like 6'1" and has reportedly put on 10 lbs. since his senior year year, when he was listed at 215.  The size isn't particularly intimidating right now, but he obviously works hard in the gym and has been following Michigan's workout regimen this spring.  I see no reason why he can't bulk up to 240-ish pounds in a couple years.

Jones had offers from the likes of Arizona, Arkansas, Boise State, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Purdue, Stanford, Texas A&M, and Virginia, among others.  Scout ranked him as a 4-star and the #12 middle linebacker.  He was a 3-star, the #29 inside linebacker, and the #69 player in the state of Texas to Rivals.  ESPN placed him as a 3-star and the #35 outside linebacker, and 247 Sports ranked him as a 3-star, too.  As a senior in 2010, he had 110 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, and 8 sacks.

The best parts of Jones' game are his intelligence and instincts.  He has a knack for finding the ball even if he has to wade through the trash.  Furthermore, as a high school middle linebacker, he has experience playing the position, which ought to enhance the speed with which he picks up the college game.  Once he finds the ball, he's a solid tackler who could be a devastating hitter once he puts on the necessary weight and refines some tackling technique issues.  There are times where he just hits guys and lets his weight drag down the ballcarrier, which isn't going to work in the Big Ten, at least not until he hits 240 or so.

Jones' size has led some to believe that he'll be headed for the WILL position at Michigan, but he was recruited to play the MIKE.  And when I watch him on film, the MIKE seems to be where he's best suited.  Jones plays sideline-to-sideline rather than downhill.  As a MIKE in a 4-3, he needs to flow from side to side and make tackles all over the field.  The WILL linebacker needs to read the play and go now (a skill that 2012 linebacker James Ross possesses in spades), and while Jones diagnoses plays quickly, it just doesn't seem to be his style to get upfield.  Other than when his coaches sent him on blitzes (which was often), most of his plays seemed to be made a couple yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

If you had asked me back in January, I would have said that Jones might be the #2 middle linebacker this fall. However, the return of Marell Evans to the team makes that a little more questionable.  Evans played well at MIKE this spring and while I expect him to play WILL this fall, he could slide over to MIKE if Demens suffers an injury.  It would seem that Jones will be in a constant battle for playing time with Demens a redshirt junior and then the stellar 2012 linebacker class (Royce Jenkins-Stone and Joe Bolden, in particular) pushing him after Demens graduates.

TTB Rating: 78

Prediction: Special teams contributor; backup linebacker

Monday, June 27, 2011

Blake Bars, Wolverine

Blake Bars (#67)

Nashville, TN, offensive lineman Blake Bars committed to Michigan on Sunday.  He picked the Wolverines over offers from Boston College, Clemson, Florida, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Mississippi State, Penn State, Purdue, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Virginia, among others.  His other two finalists seemed to be Penn State, where his brother plays linebacker, or the hometown Vanderbilt Commodores.

Bars is a 4-star recruit to Rivals, but only a 3-star to the other three major services.  He's the #34 offensive tackle to Rivals, #38 to Scout, and #56 to ESPN.  He stands 6'5" and 275 lbs., benches 310 lbs., and squats 425.

I would be curious to find out how Bars appeared on Michigan's radar.  There are various ways that coaches find out about players (privately hired scouting services, word of mouth, the internet, high school coaches sending game film, etc.), but Bars has an aunt who lives in Ann Arbor and a grandmother who lives in metro Detroit.  It seems like more than a coincidence that Michigan ended up offering a kid from a state that Michigan hasn't recruited much.  Only two other players from Tennessee have Michigan offers: wide receiver Drae Bowles and running back I'Tavius Mathers.  The last Michigan players to come from the Volunteer State were the Brackins brothers (Eric and Phillip) and behemoth fullback Sean Sanderson a decade ago.

As for Bars' future, he stated that the coaches want to start him off at left tackle.  And who am I to argue with the coaches?

Well, I'm a blogger, and that's what bloggers do, dammit.  The kid looks like a guard to me.  Maybe a right tackle, but not a left tackle.  He doesn't have a great first step or a great initial punch, and those things concern me, period, let alone for a blindside protector.  There are times where it looks like he has a little too much weight on his heels coming out of his stance, and he could afford to lengthen his first step a couple of inches.  It seems like sometimes he takes a false step by picking his foot up and putting it right back down in almost the same place.  When engaged with defenders, he also tends to overextend himself and get himself off balance.  Good opponents, especially ends and tackles who practice these things, will toss him to the side if he tries that with them.

Hopping in my DeLorean, though, I have a fledgling theory that left tackle might NOT be a blindside protector by the time Bars sees the field.  Since freshman offensive lineman typically redshirt, he'll be a redshirt frosh in 2013.  That's the same year that highly touted quarterback Shane Morris will hit campus.  Highly touted left-handed quarterback Shane Morris.  Ah-ha!  So it's quite possible that when Bars is playing left tackle in 2013-16 (or something like that), Bars will be protecting Morris' front side.*

Frank and Joe Hardy ain't got nothin' on me.

I do think Bars is a solid addition, especially if Michigan can pick up one or two more highly touted linemen.  He's not at the head of the class, but he's a kid who likes to finish blocks, has the frame to play at well over 300 lbs., seems conscientious and well spoken, and has family connections in the area.  That ought to keep him around for the duration of a career that could see him develop into a solid starter at the tail end, as a redshirt junior or senior.

*I realize that Devin Gardner will still probably be around in 2013, Russell Bellomy might be the starter, etc.  Obviously, we're getting way ahead of ourselves when projecting the starting QB position three years down the road.

TTB Rating: 71

2011 Countdown: #65 Tamani Carter

Tamani Carter (#3)
Name: Tamani Carter
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 175 lbs.
High school: Pickerington Central High School in Pickerington, OH
Position: Safety
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #20
Last year: Carter was a senior in high school (commitment post here)

TTB Rating: 62

Carter was one of the kids recruited by Brady Hoke and Greg Mattison once they were hired at Michigan.  Michigan fans didn't have much time to get familiar with him, and he didn't create a ton of buzz when they did find out more about him.  He was one of those tweener players with a mediocre offer list and an unspectacular highlight film.  But he was a defensive back, which Michigan needed.

Although listed as a cornerback by recruiting services, Hoke introduced him as a safety on National Signing Day.  That's probably a good thing, because I don't see Carter having the athleticism to run with Big Ten wide receivers on a regular basis.  He might get a bit of seasoning this year because of Michigan's shortage of safeties, but Carter will be blocked for major playing time by more experienced or more athletic players.  He could be a Brandent Englemon, fill-in starter type somewhere down the road, though.

Prediction: Backup safety

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Maize 'n' Brew: June 25 Recruiting Update

Kayden Kenzie

This week's recruiting update is up over at Maize 'n' Brew, so have at it.

2011 Countdown: #66 Raymon Taylor

Raymon Taylor
Name: Raymon Taylor
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 170 lbs.
High school: Highland Park High School in Highland Park, MI
Position: Cornerback/safety
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #21
Last year: Taylor was a high school senior (commitment post here)

TTB Rating: 67

Taylor is one of the Wolverines' more intriguing players from the class of 2011.  He could play several positions at the next level, including cornerback, free safety, or wide receiver.  He doesn't have ideal change-of-direction skills for corner, nor ideal size for safety and wide receiver.  However, he was a productive player on both sides of the ball, and I have to give him credit for that.

At least a couple of the five freshman defensive backs are going to contribute this fall, and Taylor ought to be up there battling for time.  He has the overall skill set to see time on special times, and as I said in his commitment post, he reminds me of James Rogers.  Rogers saw a little time as a freshman cornerback back in 2007, so maybe we'll see a repeat of his career.  The Wolverines are also a little low on receivers, so I wouldn't be entirely surprised to hear that Taylor's taking snaps on offense in August, either.

Prediction: Backup defensive back; special teams contributor

Saturday, June 25, 2011

2011 Countdown: #67 Erik Gunderson

Erik Gunderson (#69)

Name: Erik Gunderson
Height: 6'8"
Weight: 298 lbs.
High school: Milan High School in Milan, MI
Position: Offensive tackle
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #69
Last year: I did not rank Gunderson.  He didn't play in any games.

Gunderson was one of those kids who created a wee bit of buzz when he chose to attend Michigan and become a walk-on.  Those things happen when you come out of high school standing 6'8" and weighing 338 lbs.  But many assumed that he would be too stiff to play at this level and he would spend a few years standing on the sidelines, blocking the view of fans sitting in the first row.

But Rich Rodriguez was the coach and he criminally under-recruited various positions, including offensive linemen the past couple years.  By default Gunderson might be the #4 offensive tackle for the upcoming season, and he actually acquitted himself well this past spring.  He could be an emergency option in case of injury, and he has an outside chance to push for playing time in the next few years.  However, I have to think that if an injury bug hit the offensive tackles ahead of him for any length of time, somebody like Patrick Omameh would probably slide from guard to tackle to fill the gap.

Prediction: Backup offensive tackle

Freshman Numbers Revealed

A poster over at Rivals posted the following jersey numbers for the incoming freshmen.  I'm not sure how accurate they are, but here's what he gave:

3 Russell Bellomy
5 Justice Hayes
18 Blake Countess
20 Tamani Carter
21 Raymon Taylor
24 Delonte Holowell
35 Greg Brown
38 Thomas Rawls
40 Antonio Poole
44 Desmond Morgan
45 Matt Wile
52 Kellen Jones
57 Frank Clark
58 Chris Bryant
79 Tony Posada
82 Chris Barnett
92 Keith Heitzman
95 Chris Rock
97 Brennen Beyer

Sorry, I did not get Russell Bellomy (EDIT: Bellomy is #3.  Thanks, readers!) or Jack Miller.

2012 Offer Board Update

Ohio running back/fullback Alden Hill

The 2012 Offer Board has been updated:

Colorado OT Paul Thurston committed to Nebraska.

Ohio OG Tyler Orlosky committed to West Virginia.

Massachusetts OT Eric Olson committed to Northwestern.

Ohio DE Greg McMullen committed to Nebraska.

Pennsylvania OT Chris Muller committed to Rutgers.

Texas OG John Michael McGee committed to Oklahoma.

Added Ohio RB/FB Alden Hill.

Ohio OG Kyle Kalis decommitted from Ohio State.

Texas OT Trey Keenan committed to Texas Tech.

Ohio DE Se'von Pittman committed to Michigan State.

Added Georgia WR Jason Croom.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Jeremy Clark, Wolverine

Jeremy Clark
Jeremy Clark, a safety from Madisonville, KY, accepted a greyshirt offer to play football at Michigan.  Clark camped at U of M this past week, and the coaches were impressed enough to give him a chance to join the football team.  With the 2012 class getting nearer and nearer to completion, there aren't enough scholarships to go around right now if all of Michigan's desired pieces flal into place.  In a greyshirt situation, the student-athlete must pay his own tuition for the first semester of college (Fall 2012 in Clark's case), but he will receive scholarship aid beginning in January 2013.

Clark is a 6'4", 205 lb. prospect at North Hopkins High School.  He reportedly runs a 4.47-second forty yard dash, which is exceptional for a kid that size . . . and also probably exaggerated.  Prior to the opportunity at Michigan, he had full scholarship offers from Akron, Ball State, Central Michigan, Illinois, North Carolina State, Ohio, and Toledo.  Clark says that he won't succumb to advances from other schools that want to give him a full ride from the beginning, but if his stock continues to soar (he had zero FBS offers up until a couple weeks ago), I can see that coming into question.  

Last season Clark had 75 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 8 pass breakups for North Hopkins, which finished with a record of 5-6.

You can take a look at Clark's highlights below, but there's not a whole lot of excitement on my end right now.  His coach stated that Clark has grown three inches in the last year, and apparently not too many college coaches were too enamored with him until he started camping.  So there's a very good chance that his body has matured throughout the offseason, and if he's done some work on his own in the film room, he might have improved some of his weaknesses, too.  But from what I see here, he's slow to read plays, slow to react at times, takes questionable pursuit angles, doesn't have the greatest of playmaking abilities, doesn't hit hard with consistency (although there are a couple nice blows), and doesn't wrap up when he tackles.  Overall, he looks like a good high school player, but not worthy of high-level FBS interest.

From the way it sounds, Clark is in line to receive a full scholarship offer from Michigan if Akron, OH, safety Jarrod Wilson chooses Penn State or Notre Dame.  If Wilson commits to the Wolverines, then the greyshirt scenario will take place.  So keep an eye out for Wilson's decision, which should be soon.

TTB Rating: 49 (rating system here)

2011 Countdown: #68 Greg Brown

Greg Brown (#35) looks on as Je'ron Stokes (#6) catches the TD pass
in the 2011 spring game.
Name: Greg Brown
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 180 lbs.
High school: Ross High School in Fremont, OH
Position: Cornerback
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #35
Last year: Brown was a high school senior

For some reason I failed to write up a commitment post for Brown when he committed back in September of 2009.  That's probably because I was super busy right at the beginning of football season, but now I have nothing to link to.  Crap.

Brown enrolled early back in January, and that ought to give him a leg up on some of his defensive back classmates.  Early reports from spring practice weren't exactly glowing, but he started to gain some steam as the spring session continued.  Brown played a fair amount in the spring game, and reviews of his performance were mixed.  He had good coverage at times, bad coverage at times, and wasn't particularly effective supporting the run.  Overall, though, he did about as well as one could expect of a freshman early enrollee.

With the return of three starting cornerbacks (Troy Woolfolk, J.T. Floyd, Courtney Avery) in the fall and some more talented classmates hitting the field in August, Brown's chances of making a major impact this fall are slim.  He might play against the MAC teams on the schedule, but regular special teams duty might even be a stretch.

Prediction: Backup cornerback

Attractive Michigan Girl of the Week: Buck the . . .

If you have any other pictures of girls wearing Michigan gear, drop me an e-mail at

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Poll Results: Michigan's leading tackler in 2011?

Kenny Demens (#25) wraps up the ballcarrier with help from safeties Ray Vinopal and Jordan Kovacs (#32).
Image via
The results:

Kenny Demens, MLB: 64%
Cam Gordon, SLB: 15%
Jordan Kovacs, S: 7%
Jake Ryan, SLB: 6%
Marell Evans, LB: 2%
Carvin Johnson, S: 1%
Other: 1%

Well, Demens wins the poll in a landslide victory.  As the middle linebacker and the most likely starter to retain his position, he's probably a good choice.  Demens was the third-leading tackler in 2010, accounting for 82 total stops in just 7 starts.  That's 11.7 tackles per start, which admittedly isn't a perfect measurement, since he did play a backup role to Obi Ezeh before usurping the MLB job.  Demens was my hoice.

I'm a little surprised that Cam Gordon finished #2 in the voting.  He was the fourth-leading tackler in 2010, with 77 total tackles.  He's heavier than the 207 lbs. at which he played last season, but it might be a bit of a stretch to expect him to be a force at SAM for the upcoming year.  He's going to face a stiff challenge from the larger redshirt freshman Jake Ryan, who earned rave reviews in the spring and had a solid spring game.  They might split the snaps there.

Safety Jordan Kovacs is the leading returning tackler (he finished just one tackle behind departed senior linebacker Jonas Mouton, 117 to 116).  Kovacs started 13 games last season, which gave him 8.9 tackles per start.  He has touted sophomore safety Marvin Robinson pushing him for playing time, but I would expect the two-year starter to retain his job, at least for the beginning of the season.  His overall number of tackles will almost certainly drop, though, due to a [hopefully] improved defense that will get off the field a little quicker.

Strongside 'backer Jake Ryan finishes #4.  He had zero tackles last year, mostly because he watched from the sidelines.  I think he'll be a force in stopping the run, but expecting a first-year starter and redshirt freshman to lead the team in tackles is a bit of a stretch for me, especially if he and Gordon are neck-and-neck for the job.

Fifth year senior Marell Evans picked up only a few votes, which was slightly surprising to me.  Evans started at MLB this spring when Demens had shoulder surgery, and he's my bet to be the starting weakside linebacker on September 3, provided Demens is back at full strength.  Evans only has 4 tackles and half a sack in his college career, which consists of one start back in 2008 and a bunch of special teams action.  He transferred to Hampton after the 2008 season and didn't see the field for the past two years, but he looked solid during spring practices.

Carvin Johnson, the other projected safety, got a few votes, too.  Johnson was the 16th-leading tackler in 2010 while starting only three games due to injury.  He had an impressive spring, though, looking comfortable in the new defense and picking off a couple passes in the spring game.

I would be interested to hear which player(s) were the reason for "Other" votes, since defensive linemen and cornerbacks rarely lead teams in tackles.  The only other possibilities seem to be safety Marvin Robinson or weakside linebacker Mike Jones, both of whom I project as backups.

2011 Countdown: #69 Christian Pace

Christian Pace
Name: Christian Pace
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 280 lbs.
High school: Avon Lake High School in Avon Lake, OH
Position: Center/guard
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #64
Last year: I ranked Pace #86 and said he would redshirt.  He redshirted.

Pace was only 259 lbs. last year, which is roughly what I weigh after Christmas dinner.  But I'm not trying to play offensive line in the Big Ten, so he needed some time to grow.  He has grown since then, adding 21 lbs., which still isn't enough.  The last time I saw Pace, 330 lb. defensive tackle William Campbell was teaching (er, forcing) him to moonwalk back into the path of running backs.

Pace did make appearances at guard this spring, which means he could be a backup in multiple locations.  However, there are still several guys on the roster who can play center (David Molk, Ricko Khoury, Elliott Mealer, Ricky Barnum) that would probably be better options than the 280 lb. Pace.  We'll probably see him on the field this year against, say, Eastern Michigan.  But that might be it.

Prediction: Backup center/guard

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

2011 Countdown: #70 Jared Van Slyke

Jared Van Slyke
Name: Jared Van Slyke
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 196 lbs.
High school: John Burroughs High School in St. Louis, MO
Position: Safety
Class: Redshirt senior
Jersey number: #31
Last year: I did not rank Van Slyke.  He missed the season due to a broken clavicle.

I overlooked Van Slyke in the 2010 Countdown mainly because he was a walk-on, but once August practice rolled around, he looked like he might earn some playing time at free safety.  Then he broke his clavicle and missed the entire year.  But way back in 2009, he played in nine games and made 2 tackles as a safety and special teamer.

Michigan has enough depth and experience at the safety positions that he's probably out of the running to play much defense, but Van Slyke returns for his final year of eligibility with a shot to make an impact once again on special teams.  And if injury/attrition rates for defensive backs continue at the same rate they have in recent years, who knows?  Maybe he'll get a shot to start.

(Yes, he's the son of former St. Louis Cardinal and Pittsburgh Pirate Andy Van Slyke.)

Prediction: Special teams contributor

Getting to Know -- Matt Godin

If Matt weren't such a nice guy,
I'd find him intimidating.

Through and through, 2012 defensive line commit Matt Godin is a Michigan Man. Matt grew up in Fenton, MI and would often travel to Ann Arbor with his family for dining, entertainment and football. As a child, Matt was so passionate about Michigan football that he would sometimes "cry over games." Matt also heard a lot about Michigan academics while growing up, since his father, sister and brother are U-M alumni. So when the time came to declare his college of choice, Matt wisely evaluated his many options and selected the Maize and Blue. As he puts it, "Michigan is in my blood." Now that's Pure Michigan.

Although Matt remains focused on his senior season with Detroit Catholic Central, he is also strengthening relationships with his fellow 2012 Michigan commits - and they have a goal:
"...Erik Magnuson, he's a great guy, and I recruited him since day one. I know [James] Ross, obviously - we both play in the Catholic League. Richardson and Royce, I know both of them; they're good guys...Our class is working really hard and will continue to work really hard to restore Michigan. We've all talked about it."
Let it be known that Touch the Banner endorses the ambitions of these fine young gentleman. And to help turn these ambitions into reality, Matt expects to forego a redshirt season and see the field his freshman year:
"I want to play my freshman year. And they [the coaches] told me that there's a high percentage that I'm going to play my freshman year. I know a lot of schools just say that to kids to get them to go [to that school]...but they said they need someone who can come in and play on the D-line. Other than that, coach Jackson wants me to come down [to Ann Arbor] as much as possible next year to see the drills so when I get there [as a student-athlete], I'll already know how to do them."
Matt even has a good idea of where and how he'll contribute to the team:
"We have the main position which I'm going to play, which is the 5-technique. I guess you'd consider it more D-tackle, but I'll also play outside...I'm only going to have one guy blocking me. It's more of an outside position, actually, but I'm going to be run stopping a lot, too."
Interestingly, Matt is committed to wearing the same pair of shoes throughout a given football season, a practice he intends to continue at Michigan. At the very least, this will endear him to Denard Robinson - I would think.

For a defense in need of big bodies, this 6'6'' 270lb Michigan Man is a welcomed addition. Currently, Matt is one of four 2012 defensive line commits, along with Pharaoh Brown, Mario Ojemudia and Tom Strobel.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

2011 Countdown: #71 Terrence Talbott

Terrence Talbott (#22)
Name: Terrence Talbott
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 171 lbs.
High school: Wayne High School in Huber Heights, OH
Position: Cornerback
Class: Sophomore
Jersey number: #22
Last year: I ranked Terrence Talbott #69 and said he would get scarce mop-up duty.  He had 16 tackles and 1 pass breakup.

Talbott was someone who played significant minutes in 2010 that probably shouldn't have.  He was undersized and outmatched, but the dearth of experienced cornerbacks, the injuries to Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd, and the departure of Justin Turner turned Talbott into a 13-game contributor on special teams and at cornerback.

There were lots of rumors this spring that Terrence left the team at one point, and that the coaches gave him a couple days to consider whether he wanted to stick with the new staff or not.  Ultimately, the smaller Talbott returned to the team but was largely invisible throughout the spring.  Barring further injuries in the defensive backfield, I expect him to be buried on the depth chart again in 2011, which is where he probably should have been last year.

Prediction: Contributor on punt and punt return; backup cornerback

Monday, June 20, 2011

2011 Countdown: #72 Isaiah Bell

Isaiah Bell
Name: Isaiah Bell
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 245 lbs.
High school: Liberty High School in Youngstown, OH
Position: Middle linebacker
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #26
Last year: I ranked him #65 and said he would contribute on special teams. Bell did not play at all.

I was an unabashed fan of Bell when he was coming out of high school, but I would be lying if I said I didn't have my doubts about him at this point.  He didn't even play special teams as a redshirt freshman, and there have been persistent rumors about his work ethic, conditioning, attitude, etc.  He was largely non-existent in the spring game, too.

This coming season ought to be a barometer of what path Bell will take for the remainder of his career.  If he still can't get on the field on special teams, that's bad news and probably speaks more to his attitude than physical talent.  Walk-ons litter special teams units (Floyd Simmons, Zac Johnson, Tom Pomarico, Mark Moundros, Tony Anderson, etc.), and Bell obviously possesses more athleticism than most walk-ons.  But if Bell starts to see the field a little bit on specials and gets sprinkled in there on defense, then he might be a late-blooming type who can help the team as an upperclassman.

Prediction: Special teams contributor . . . ?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Maize 'n' Brew: June 18 Recruiting Update

I put up the weekly recruiting update over at Maize 'n' Brew.


2011 Countdown: #73 Antonio Poole

Antonio Poole
Name: Antonio Poole
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 215 lbs.
High school: Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, OH
Position: Linebacker
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #40
Last year: Poole was a high school senior (commitment post here)

TTB Rating: 82

Poole is one of the most exciting prospects in the 2011 class for Michigan, because he offers a glimpse into the "old ways" of Michigan football.  He's a weakside linebacker who's a little on the small side, but he's a good blitzer and can run a little bit.  Weakside linebackers in Greg Mattison's defense are players who have little responsibility other than "see ball, get ball."  As soon as Mattison was hired, he made it a point to visit Poole and push for a commitment, which showed that Mattison really wanted Poole.

I think Poole might be ready to get on the field immediately, even if it's only on kick coverage.  He's the type of downhill linebacker that Michigan fans ought to be excited about, and he could even work his way into some reps if some of the upperclassman WILLs don't play well early in the season.

Prediction: Special teams contributor; backup linebacker

Saturday, June 18, 2011

2012 Offer Board Update

Florida running back/safety Marcus Maye

The 2012 Offer Board has been updated:

Florida C Ty Darlington committed to Oklahoma.

Texas WR Dominique Wheeler committed to Texas Tech.

Added Florida SS Marcus Maye.

Georgia WR JaQuay Williams committed to Auburn.

Missouri OG Evan Boehm committed to Missouri.

Florida CB Brian Poole committed to Florida.

Ohio OG Kyle Dodson committed to Wisconsin.

Georgia DT Jonathan Taylor committed to Georgia.

Georgia DE James Deloach committed to Georgia.

2011 Countdown: #74 Terry Talbott

Guess which one is the defensive tackle.
Name: Terry Talbott
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 248 lbs.
High school: Wayne High School in Huber Heights, OH
Position: Defensive tackle
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #96
Last year: I ranked Terry Talbott #76 and said he would redshirt.  He redshirted.

That's right, 248 pounds.  Guess how many Big Ten tackles are 248 lbs.?


The bigger Talbott (his younger, smaller brother Terrence is a Michigan cornerback; #14 in the above photo) had some back issues in the offseason and ended up having surgery.  That may have prevented him from adding weight, but whether he has a good reason or not, there's still a very tiny chance that a 248 lb. lineman is going to make an impact on the interior.  The coaches have flirted with moving walk-on defensive end Will Heininger inside to tackle in order to spell the Wolverines' behemoths.  Talbott is likely headed for another year of watching on the sideline.

(Rumor alert: Terry Talbott's name has been floated as a guy whose career might be unable to continue due to his back injury.)

Prediction: Another redshirt.  Not possible?  Fine.  Bench.

Friday, June 17, 2011

2011 Countdown: #75 Jordan Paskorz

Jordan Paskorz
Name: Jordan Paskorz
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 242 lbs.
High school: Hampton High School in Gibsonia, PA
Position: Linebacker
Class: Redshirt freshman
Jersey number: #94
Last year: I said Paskorz would redshirt.  He redshirted.

Paskorz was an OLB/DE tweener coming out of high school, and he remains somewhat in positional limbo.  In the 2011 spring game, he still looked pretty skinny and was largely invisible at outside linebacker.  I still maintain that he's probably too stiff to be a linebacker, so it's hard to see where he fits.  Meanwhile, a couple guys seem to be ahead of him on the depth chart, including classmate Jake Ryan.

I don't expect Paskorz to contribute much in 2011, either.  There has been virtually no practice buzz surrounding him, and he appears to lack the explosiveness required for linebacker.  His best opportunity for playing time probably comes on the punt unit or the kick return team.

Prediction: Special teams contributor

Marcus Ray Talks About Football, U-M, Life

This photograph makes an excellent desktop background.

If you're not familiar with former Michigan strong safety, Marcus Ray, then a cursory glance at his stats and awards will inform you that he was a hell of a player during his time in the Maize and Blue. Most significantly, Marcus started all 12 games for the National Championship-winning '97 team, earning all-conference recognition. Since then, he's played snaps in the NFL, spent years as a coach, and published a book on life. Below are his personal insights and entertaining memories from an enjoyable conversation.

TTB: Your book “Rays of Light: Let there be Light” touches on many elements of the human experience. It has been described as entertaining, intellectual and one-of-a-kind. Can you tell us more about it?

MR: It's an inspirational quote book, and I use a lot of puns, idioms, plays on words - just different ways to see light from a more practical side. I've been speaking at middle schools, Juvenal homes and prison systems, trying to inspire people to live their lives and not make things too complicated...I think what I say, people can relate to.

TTB: So this book sounds like a compilation of your life experiences and an outreach effort to help guide others along life's path. Is that right?

MR: ...what I've done is learn from other peoples' poor choices and my own and follow it up, providing a solution. The whole premise is that all is not lost. And I actually got that from Michigan roots and experiences, I've been able to remix 'em, if you will, and paraphrase them into something I think can be a global message.

TTB: Transitioning into your playing days now, what are some of your fondest memories from from the '97 season?

MR: Well number one, I remember that we made a commitment to win the championship before the season started, like Spring Ball. The seniors had left; the freshman weren't there yet. It was those core guys, sophomores, juniors, soon-to-be-seniors, and we kind of looked in the mirror and said "we're just tired of losing." We made a commitment in the spring of '97 and we said we're not going to lose to Northewestern; we're not going to lose on Hail Marys; we're just not going to lose.

...but my fondest memories would be the way we showed resilience against Notre Dame, turning the ball over 3 times in the 4th quarter inside our own territory and we stuffed 'em. I remember Iowa going up 21-7 on us in our house, and Tim Dwight returned a punt on us - I had two interceptions that game. Those games built our character and proved to us that we were battle tested...I just think the comradery of that team--friendship, brotherhood, loyalty--represented everything that Michigan stands for...

TTB: You were a highly rated prospect out of Columbus who selected U-M. What was that like?

MR: As far as growing up, I've never liked the Buckeyes. I told someone I was born in [Ohio State] University hospital - I think I slapped the doctor and told my mom, 'Let's get out of here.' Like, this place is not for me. Everyone down here loves Ohio State so much that my little, small personality at the time was that I wanted to be different...and once Michigan started recruiting me, my dreams started becoming reality.

TTB: Speaking of OSU, they've been in the media for all the wrong (right?) reasons. Do you have any thoughts on that?

MR: I wasn't jumpin' for joy but I wasn't exactly complaining neither...I mean, we've had three sub-par seasons in a row, so we have our own mess to clean up. But I don't mind seeing those guys finally havin' to deal with something. But all these Buckeye fans want to make excuses, but I say, 'hey, just because you got caught doesn't mean that everyone's doing it.'

I remember Lloyd Carr when he suspended me my senior year: he didn't even have all the facts but said, 'we're doing things the right way; I'm going to hold a press conference and put out a suspension.' And not just me, but he punished guys who just weren't doin' the right thing. And I think it helps you out latter on in life. It teaches you that you're not above the rules; we're not going to win at all costs; we're going to win the right way...and at Michigan, you're trained to believe that it's more important to be a part of something that's bigger than yourself. Ohio State, they think they're bigger than everyone else, so what seems big to us is small to them.

TTB: Can you tell us more about the relationships that you developed at U-M?

MR: Charles and I were actually the closest out of everyone and we kind of were in our own world, only because we were roommates, and as you got older, you move out of the dorms. But those relationships, man...I mean, Charles was my best man. Sam Sword was at my wedding. We all still support each other. It's truly one of those things that we were so blessed to be with such a great group of guys--and we had such a great leader--that we still all connect to this day.

TTB: You spent some time in the NFL, too. So given your experience as an athlete at the college and pro levels, how important do you think it is for elite-level college football programs to consistently send players to the NFL?

MR: ...I think the schools who are elite - they do need to produce their fair share of professional athletes because that's most peoples' dreams that play that sport [CFB]...I know that Chad Henne signed with Michigan over Penn State because Michigan really was quarterback U in his last 20 years...


Marcus is also expecting to release another book, titled "1997: The Making of a Champion" around this time next year. Publication is temporarily delayed to include more "Brady Hoke stories," and Charles Woodson will write the foreword. Marcus wants to make fans feel like they "put the shoes on, wore the winged helmet, and touched the banner(!)." Stay current with MR by following him on Twitter or liking him on Facebook.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

2011 Countdown: #76 Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons
Name: Brendan Gibbons
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 227 lbs.
High school: Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach, FL
Position: Kicker
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Jersey number: #34
Last year: I ranked Gibbons #18 and said he would be the kickoff specialist.  He kicked off in several games, went 1-for-5 on field goal attempts, and finished 13-for-14 on extra point attempts.

Well, the reason I selected Gibbons as #18 last year was because he needed to step up for Michigan to be successful.  The other option at placekicker was walk-on Seth Broekhuizen.  It was a silly notion to pick Gibbons, who required a redshirt year in 2009 because he couldn't beat out walk-ons that year, either.  I should have known better.

I've learned my lesson.  Here's Gibbons all the way down at #76.  The Rodriguez regime recruited California kicker Matt Goudis to give Gibbons a challenge, and when Goudis de-committed in favor of Miami, the newly hired Hoke staff successfully recruited California kicker Matt Wile, who frankly can't be any worse.  There have been rumors that Gibbons has been stubborn, won't respond to coaching, and generally seems to be dead weight.  And aside from all that, he was third on the team in kickoff average behind punter Will Hagerup and the aforementioned Broekhuizen.  This job is wide open.

Prediction: Backup kicker

You can now follow Touch the Banner  on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Poll Results: Michigan's Fastest Player?

Denard Robinson blazes out of the blocks with former Michigan
offensive line coach Greg Frey watching from the background.

Denard Robinson: 87%
Troy Woolfolk: 6%
Josh Furman: 3%
Michael Shaw: 1%
Darryl Stonum: 0%

In a predictable landslide victory, Denard Robinson wins the race.  I wasn't fully convinced that Robinson was the fastest dude on the team until the Notre Dame game last year.  His acceleration on that 87-yard touchdown run was incredible.

The only player that I thought might give him a run for his money was Troy Woolfolk, an indoor track runner himself.  Woolfolk's nickname when he was playing free safety back in 2009 was "The Eraser" for the way he made up for everyone else's mistakes.  I have yet to see him truly get burned in a footrace, so hopefully he can return from his ankle injury without lingering effects.

Furman and Shaw are both speedsters in their own right.  Furman reportedly ran a 4.37 forty yard dash in high school, and Shaw was a potential qualifier for the Junior Olympics in high school if he had decided to stick with track.

Stonum is a little too boozed up to run straight right now, so I guess that's why he didn't get any votes.

2011 Countdown: #77 Teric Jones

Teric Jones (#14)
Name: Teric Jones
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 195 lbs.
High school: Cass Tech High School in Detroit, MI
Position: Running back
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #14
Last year: I said Jones would be a backup safety and special teams contributor.  He was buried on the depth chart at running back (3 carries, 7 yards) and played special teams.

Jones is aiming for the first annual James Rogers Award, given to a Michigan player who has no clue what position he'll play from year to year.  He entered college in 2009 as a slot receiver, moved to cornerback shortly into his freshman season, switched to safety in spring 2010, then played running back once the season began.  He suffered a serious knee injury in the Illinois game and missed the rest of the 2010 campaign, as well as spring practice in April.

I presume that Jones will still be playing running back, although his availability is unclear.  Considering the fact that Vincent Smith returned from his own serious knee injury suffered in the 2009 Ohio State game by the following September, I can only assume that Jones will be ready to play again in 2011.  However, Jones hasn't done anything particularly special at any position, and there's no reason to expect that he'll push for playing time if healthy.  Whether it's as a running back, cornerback, or safety, Jones' best bet for getting on the field would be on special teams.

Prediction: Special teams contributor and backup running back; 1 carry for 3 yards

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ESPN 150 Released

Washington, D.C. defensive tackle Eddie Goldman

The ESPN 150 was released a couple days ago.  Two Michigan commits appear, including cornerback Terry Richardson (#68) and linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone (#117).  Players with Michigan offers:

1. Mario Edwards - DE - Texas (Florida State)
2. Eddie Goldman - DT - Washington, D.C.
3. Dorial Green-Beckham - WR - Missouri
4. Noah Spence - DE - Pennsylvania
6. Keith Marshall - RB - North Carolina
7. D.J. Humphries - OT - North Carolina
9. Stefon Diggs - WR - Maryland
12. Gunner Kiel - QB - Indiana
16. Kwon Alexander - LB - Alabama
17. Arik Armstead - DE - California (USC)
22. Andrus Peat - OT - Arizona
26. Connor Brewer - QB - Arizona (Texas)
30. Kyle Murphy - OT - California
31. Geno Smith - CB - Georgia
34. Jabari Ruffin - LB - California (USC)
37. Cyrus Jones - RB - Maryland
39. Devin Fuller - QB - New Jersey
40. Yuri Wright - CB - New Jersey
41. Nelson Agholor - RB - Florida
42. Avery Johnson - WR - Florida (LSU)
43. Joshua Garnett - OG - Washington
44. Jonathan Taylor - DT - Georgia (Georgia)
45. Dominique Wheeler - WR - Texas
50. Ifeadi Odenigbo - DE - Ohio
53. Ellis McCarthy - DT - California
55. Evan Boehm - OG - Missouri
56. Peter Jinkens - LB - Texas (Texas)
57. Max Tuerk - OT - California (USC)
59. Brock Stadnik - OT - North Carolina (South Carolina)
60. Zach Kline - QB - California (Cal)
61. Patrick Destefano - OG - South Carolina (Clemson)
62. Durron Neal - WR - Missouri (Oklahoma)
63. Jordan Jenkins - DE - Georgia
66. Deon Bush - CB - Florida
67. Darius Hamilton - DE - New Jersey
68. Terry Richardson - CB - Michigan (Michigan)
69. Devonte Fields - DE - Texas (TCU)
70. Ronald Darby - CB - Maryland (Notre Dame)
72. Dillon Lee - LB - Georgia (Alabama)
82. Reginald Davis - WR - Texas (Texas Tech)
84. Darius Powe - WR - California
85. Jordan Simmons - OG - California
88. Aziz Shittu - DT - California
89. Tee Shepard - CB - California (Notre Dame)
93. Dalton Santos - LB - Texas
96. Adolphus Washington - DE - Ohio
97. Jarron Jones - DT - New York
98. Ty Darlington - OC - Florida
100. Tyriq McCord - DE - Florida
101. Se'von Pittman - DE - Ohio
102. Drae Bowles - WR - Tennessee
103. Jordan Diamond - OT - Illinois
106. Latroy Pittman - WR - Florida (Florida)
111. Dwayne Stanford - WR - Ohio
117. Royce Jenkins-Stone - LB - Michigan (Michigan)
119. Avery Young - OT - Florida
125. Zach Banner - OT - Washington
128. Derrick Woods - WR - California
129. Michael Starts - OG - Texas (Texas Tech)
130. Eli Harold - DE - Virginia
132. Dominic Ramacher - TE - Texas (Oklahoma State)
135. Tommy Schutt - DT - Illinois
136. Brian Poole - CB - Florida
138. Jake Rodrigues - QB - California (Oregon)
140. Kyle Kalis - OG - Ohio (Ohio State)
144. Sheldon Day - DT - Indiana
146. Jordan Payton - WR - California (USC)
147. Kent Taylor - TE - Florida
150. Raphael Kirby - LB - Georgia (Miami)

2011 Countdown: #78 Desmond Morgan

Desmond Morgan
Name: Desmond Morgan
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 225 lbs.
High school: West Ottawa High School in Holland, MI
Position: Linebacker
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #44
Last year: Morgan was a high school senior (commitment post here)

TTB Rating: 76

Morgan was a battering ram of a high school quarterback, where he didn't really throw much . . . and didn't really juke people . . . he just kind of ran people over.  And over and over and over.  I like high school quarterbacks at virtually any position, because those kids understand the game and usually (except in the case of Terrelle Pryor) understand leadership.

Morgan is the rare freshman who doesn't really need to bulk up to play at the next level.  He might not be as strong as he'll need to be, but 225 lbs. is a pretty solid build for a freshman linebacker.  Michigan is somewhat short of inside linebackers for the upcoming season, and there's a good chance that Morgan sees some mop-up duty on defense.  He also has the build to be a blocker on kick return units and might even be able to help on kickoff coverage.

P.S. There has been some talk that Morgan could turn into a fullback, but so far that notion comes entirely from fans and not from anyone important, such as the coaches or Morgan himself.

Prediction: Special teams contributor

Monday, June 13, 2011

Welcome, Andrew!

Andrew joins the list of sexy men covering Michigan football that previously
consisted of one other person: Me.  (Not pictured: Me.)

Collaborations have been popping up all over the Michigan blogosphere in recent months and years, such as the Varsity Blue guys joining MGoBlog, DGDestroys adding his recruiting knowledge to Ace Anbender's The Wolverine Blog, and the guys over at Maize 'n' Brew adding me to the roster a couple months ago.

In the same vein of collaboration, much like the cast of Ocean's Eleven (and Twelve and Thirteen), the Miami Heat, the Raconteurs, Monsters of Folk, and the immortal Fear of Pop, I would like to welcome Andrew to the fold at Touch the Banner.

Andrew is a dedicated Michigan fan and a school professional who will be lazing around soon, like school professionals are wont to do in the summer.  He recently moved back to southeastern Michigan and has built up some contacts within the state.  He will be creating some content for the site, mostly in the form of interviewing people connected with the Michigan football program.  There's some good stuff in store for you, so I hope you enjoy his contributions.  Look for his first post later this week.

Welcome, Andrew!

2011 Countdown: #79 Delonte Hollowell

Delonte Hollowell
Name: Delonte Hollowell
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 163 lbs.
High school: Cass Tech High School in Detroit, MI
Position: Cornerback
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: #24
Last year: Hollowell was a high school senior (commitment post here)

TTB Rating: 58

Hollowell is just one of many Technicians to pick Michigan in the past few years.  He was Michigan's second commitment for the class of 2011 and never wavered when the old coaching staff was fired in early January.

Hollowell looks like the most likely of the freshman cornerbacks to redshirt.  At only 163-ish pounds and having run track this spring, he probably hasn't had much time to bulk up.  And college players in the Big Ten generally need to be bigger than 163 to play.  A few of these freshmen defensive backs will probably play, either on defense or special teams, but my guess is that Hollowell won't be one of them.

Prediction: Redshirt

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Maize 'n' Brew: June 12 Recruiting Update

I don't know who this is.  Berenger Rose is pretty good looking.

The weekly recruiting post is up over at Maize 'n' Brew.

Erik Magnuson, Wolverine

Erik Magnuson: His father would be proud.
Trust me.

Erik Magnuson, an offensive tackle from La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, CA, committed to Michigan on Saturday.  He chose the Wolverines over offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, California, Cincinnati, Colorado, Miami, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oregon State, San Diego State, Stanford, UCLA, Utah, Washington, and Washington State, among others.

Magnuson was reeled in by tight ends coach Dan Ferrigno, who handles a lot of Michigan's recruiting on the west coast.  The coaching staff originally made contact with Magnuson when they were at San Diego State, and they parlayed that early relationship into convincing the young man to drag his butt halfway across the country.  Magnuson had maintained that Michigan was his leader for the past couple weeks, and when he finally got a chance to see the campus, that was all it took.

His current ratings:

ESPN: 4-star, #24 OT
Rivals: 4-star, #5 OT, #34 overall
Scout: 4-star, #16 OT, #97 overall
24/7 Sports: 4-star, #13 OT, #85 overall

As you can see, the reviews of Magnuson indicate that he is either good or very good.  He shows very good balance and mirroring abilities as a pass blocker; his kick slide and ability to cancel inside rushes should serve him well at the next level.  He also has a mean streak on the field and likes to finish his blocks.

Something Magnuson lacks is truly elite athleticism.  Although he has the traits I mentioned above, his feet aren't particularly quick.  If I were coaching or training him, I would really be working agility training to get his feet moving a little better.  Speed rushers could potentially give him some trouble in college and beyond.  His run blocking could also use some work.  There are times when he uses his upper body to hook defenders rather than getting his feet and hips around to the front side of the block.  That won't work with stronger players.  Furthermore, sometimes he lets his base get a little too narrow when run blocking, which could hamper his ability to stay on blocks.  That last point is the easiest to correct, though, and shouldn't be an issue in the long run.

Magnuson seems like a LT/RT tweener to me.  He doesn't have the elite quickness that I'd like to see in a left tackle, but he doesn't have the mass (right now) or run blocking technique to be great at right tackle.  I do think these issues are correctable, but his success depends upon how quickly he can shore up these weaknesses.  Hopefully it happens soon.

This gives Michigan 16 commitments for the class of 2012.  As things stand now, there are two remaining spots to fill.  The Wolverines still need a nose tackle and another offensive lineman; I would prefer a guard since Michigan has four guards who will be fifth year seniors when the 2012 class arrives on campus.  A quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and safety would be welcome additions if the class expands.

TTB Rating: 87 (view the rating system)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

2012 Offer Board Update

Jehu Chesson (#5)

The 2012 Offer Board has been updated:

South Carolina OG Patrick DeStefano committed to Clemson.

California WR Malik Gilmore committed to Oregon State.

California OT Erik Magnuson committed to Michigan.

Ohio DE Tom Strobel committed to Michigan.

Maryland DE Michael Moore committed to Virginia.

Missouri WR Durron Neal committed to Oklahoma.

California TE Taylor McNamara committed to Arizona.

Added Pennsylvania OT Adam Bisnowaty.

Texas LB Dalton Santos de-committed from Oklahoma State.

Georgia DE Jarontay Jones committed to Virginia Tech.

Added Missouri WR Jehu Chesson.