Friday, April 26, 2013

Maurice Ways, Wolverine

Detroit (MI) Country Day wide receiver Maurice Ways
Detroit (MI) Country Day wide receiver Maurice Ways committed to Michigan on Thursday.  He chose the Wolverines over offers from Iowa, Kansas, Pitt, Rutgers, and a bunch of MAC teams.

Ways is a 6'3", 195-pounder.  As a junior in 2012, he had 51 receptions for 957 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Rivals: 3-star, #54 WR
Scout: 3-star, #51 WR
247 Sports: 3-star, 87 grade, #84 WR

Ways was picking up a steady stream of MAC offers along with a few mid-level BCS teams until the Wolverines offered a couple weekends ago.  The writing seemed to be on the wall that he would commit to Michigan fairly soon, but Pitt went ahead and offered, anyway.  He visited Michigan again and committed to the coaches.

There's a lot to like about Ways.  He's a tall, lanky kid with the ability to get the ball at its highest point.  He has good straight line speed and the ability to take the top off the defense, due to both his speed and size.  He shows a natural ability to adjust to the ball in the air, whether he's boxing out defensive backs, accelerating through the ball, or getting his hands in the right position for the catch.  He can go high or low to get the ball and makes a lot of great catches.  With some added weight, he will be very difficult for cornerbacks to check at the line of scrimmage and tackle head on; that will also only help him as a blocker, and he's already a pretty willing and able in that area, where he keeps a wide base, moves his feet, and uses his hands well.

What Ways lacks most is lateral quickness and the ability to make people miss; he's not the type of player you want to see returning punts or the guy who will catch short passes and turn them into long gains.  There have also been reports that Ways is inconsistent catching the ball; the highlights obviously show a kid who can make some very difficult catches, so the ability is there, but perhaps not the concentration.

I think Ways can have a good future at Michigan if he achieves the consistency required to get on the field.  I'm not worried about his athleticism, despite his lack of short-area quickness.  The talk about the pass drops is slightly concerning, but that's not something that can be discerned through highlight videos.  At the very least, he can be used as a blocker who can stretch the field; in the best case scenario, I think he has All-Big Ten potential.  I'm not the first one to say this, but his build, gait, speed, and athleticism remind me of former Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards.

Ways is the seventh commitment in the 2014 class and the second receiver, joining Drake Harris; he is also the first scholarship player from Country Day since linebacker Kenny Demens in 2008.  That school has also produced players like 2014 QB Tyler Wiegers (committed to Rutgers), 2013 DT Poet Thomas (Texas Tech), 2011 WR Kenny Knight (Illinois), current Miami Heat small forward Shane Battier, and former Michigan basketball player Chris Webber.

TTB Rating: 77 (ratings explanation)


  1. I sincerely believe that we just picked up two way underrated receivers this week and are soon to be a matchup nightmare for anybody's defensive secondary going forward.

    As much as I have loved the little guys from "The Muck" for their toughness, playmaking and especially their blocking, this will be better.

  2. I'm not crestfallen or anything, but I don't see much to be excited about here. Feels like a missed opportunity. Another slow tall WR, but this one has the added bonus of not being able to catch. Maybe. We don't know of course, and these coaches have no track-record to trust or not trust, but they clearly value size above any other trait. At least they have a vision for what they want - I'm just not sure it's the right approach. Give me a Desmond Howard or Jeremy Gallon once in a while. Big guys are great, but you gotta have some fast WR who can shake coverage and get YAC. Every tall kid isn't a 'matchup nightmare' and we can talk about 'catching radius' all day - but the NFL would be filled with 6'6 WR is this is what mattered. It's mostly 5'11 to 6'2 guys and they all can get separation.

    The thing about Braylon was that he was a track star - the pure speed was there to go with the size. Like Ways, he wasn't highly recruited, but he had the bloodlines and speed to project a high ceiling. Seems like a lazy comparison to the last great UM player at the position. I'm guessing Ways is closer to JeRon Stokes than Braylon Edwards.

    Ways doesn't have much of an offer list, isn't highly ranked, and fits the mold of guys we already have. Every wideout we get - people talk about winning jump balls - but football is a lot more than that. I'm sure one of these recruits will be a very productive all-conference caliber player - that's just the direction our offense seems to be headed. Whoever wins the starting WR job is going to be in a position to succeed. Maybe it's Ways who is the star, but it's not going to be Chesson and Darboh and York and Jones and Ways and Harris and... they aren't all going to be stars, but our WR corps should be alright.

    Every 3-star recruit we get, people want to think they're underrated. Some are, but most are not.

    Just like at RB, most of these kids will be backups, special teamers, or transfers. I would guess Ways is headed for that sort of career, particularly because Chesson and Darboh will get more opportunities, Harris is higher rated, and recruiting in future should continue to trend upward at the position if they have the passing game success we all hope for and envision.

    1. I think we disagree on Ways's speed. I agree with you that we need more than speed, which is why I'm not enamored with York or Dukes. But Ways is faster than those guys; he's not shifty, but he's faster.

      Drake Harris is, though, a guy with some shake to him. Guys like A.J. Green have found success in college and then the NFL by being 6'4" and a little over 200 lbs. And Artavis Scott is a guy who can be your Jeremy Gallon or Desmond Howard-type player, if Michigan is lucky enough to get him.

      It's not a lazy comparison to Braylon Edwards. There are similarities in the way they play. Nobody's saying he will as great as Edwards. Edwards was a tall-ish receiver who had good speed, but he never showed a ton of elusiveness; he also made great catches and missed some easy ones; he was also not the type of player Michigan put out there for kick/punt returns.

      Je'Ron Stokes was 6'1" and 181 lbs. as a freshman whose strengths (according to Scout) were "Ability to beat jams, Hands and concentration, Speed." Ways is 6'3" or 6'4" and 185 lbs. as a high school junior, and you said yourself that Ways had questionable hands and lacks speed.

      It seems to me that the only one guilty of making a "lazy comparison" is you.

    2. Right, my point with Stokes was to be similarly lazy - the most recent tall WR that was a bust vs the most recent tall WR that was a star. Edwards was a track star, Ways is not. That's a huge difference and where the comparison is lazy.

      Stokes was higher regarded than both Edwards and Ways FWIW.

      I don't see any evidence for Ways being fast. If he's really 6'4 and fast, his offer list would be much better - and he probably wouldn't have been on JV his soph year. Seems more likely he is 6'3 (or less) and not fast.

      I would love to land Scott, and if a WR is tall and fast that's a bonus - my point is that ability to get separation is the most important thing. A few 'leapers'/'jump ballers'/'high point' guys is great, but an entire WR corp of them is not a great strategy, IMO. It's setting up your offense to be one-dimensional in a way because you can't get by with jump-balls exclusively, no matter how tall your WRs are. I think our TEs could handle a big chunk of that (very limited) responsibility, especially if they're going to be 6'6 or 6'7.

    3. Stokes isn't/wasn't tall. He was listed at 6'1", meaning he's probably 6'0".

      You don't see evidence of Ways being fast? There's a whole highlight reel of him blowing past people and outrunning them. I'm not saying he'll run a 4.3, but he has plenty of speed.

    4. FYI: You loved Vincent Smith, who ran a 4.82 at Michigan's pro day. My boy Michael Cox ran a 4.58. I'm just saying...

    5. I dont know why you keep responding to Lank. This post was pretty much the outing point that he will say anything contrary, regardless of accuracy, to make a point. Its not necessary to love everything (just as you disagree with many recruiting decisions) but many of the lank's comments are bitching for the sake of bitching which deserves scorn.

      Big Nate

    6. I'm not big on highlight tapes because of talent/competition. Is Ways still blowing by people in Texas or Florida elite leagues? I don't know. The offers tell me probably not.

      I loved Vincent Smith relative to Mike Shaw, and I never thought he was good as ballcarrier. I too was a fan of Mike Cox, if you recall. But you win the prize for biggest fan for sure.

      @Big Nate - I'm a contrarian to the people who cheer every 3-star we land as underrated and root for them to get bumped by the recruiting sites. I like some of our 'sleepers' too, once we take a kid, I don't care what happens to his rankings. Not impressed with Ways though. I generally agree with Thunder but don't see what to be excited about here. He's like a bunch of guys we already have.

    7. @Big Nate

      I don't know why Thunder responds to Lank period. They have proved time and time again that they are a less than stellar football/recruiting analyst.


  3. Just so no one thinks I'm a hater - I think the staff is doing an awesome job recruiting. I like every kid we've taken in this class I'm very high on. I love Speights - good touch for a big kid with a good arm. I think getting Harris was a coup. Cole, Ferns, and Mone seem like studs. Bunting should be a weapon that is fun to watch. I like their patient approach overall. My only issue is with their offensive approach - maybe I just need to see it to believe it, but I remain skeptical and concerned about the relative lack of speed compared to other elite programs. And I find the height obsession on offense to be counterproductive - especially at RB.

    1. Why is the "height obsession" at running back counterproductive? The coaches have brought in the 6'0" Derrick Green, the 5'11" DeVeon Smith, the 6'1" Drake Johnson, and the 5'7" Dennis Norfleet; the only evidence in your favor is the 6'3" Wyatt Shallman, who will probably not end up playing running back. The six running backs taken so far in the NFL Draft have averaged just over 5'11". Not counting Shallman, the four running backs brought in by Michigan average just under 5'11".

    2. Norfleet was an afterthought and is being viewed as a role player at best by the coaches. I think he'll prove them wrong and be more, but that's beside the point. Most of the guy's they've targeted have been on the taller end like Johnson (a 2-star kid). I don't have a problem with Green or Smith, but the offers for Shallman and the aggressive pursuit of taller RBs who have committed elsewhere (Tenn, OSU, USC) compared to the far more passive pursuit of shorter backs is curious.

      LOL to average height as an argument. Not counting Norfleet, the average height is 6'1 - well above the NFL average. Getting silly.

    3. If Shallman plays tailback at Michigan, I might agree with you. Virtually nobody thinks he will. So fine, take out Norfleet - who HAS played running back and did well in the spring game. I don't know why you remove him (actually, I do - just to suit your argument), but the average for the tailbacks is 6'0". Not exactly huge. Throw in the fact that most kids exaggerate their height by an inch or so, and you're looking at guys who are even smaller. DeVeon Smith is probably 5'10". Green is probably 5'11".

    4. Well, Shallman thinks he will and the coaches are saying he will. Not saying I think so, but it's no sure thing that he moves. Norfleet on the other hand, they've said he's not an every down back from day one. They've moved him to CB for a while. They think he might be able to help at WR at times. If you're going to exclude one guy from your sample, it'd be him.

      If you want to argue the coaches haven't targeted tall RBs fine - but it seems obvious to me that they have. If you look at the top RB recruits many, if not most are in the 5'9-5'11 range, but the guys Michigan wanted most were 6'2 (Dunn in 2012) or 6'3 (Issac in 2013) and other guys they wanted and were in on went either 6'1 or 6'2 (Garmon and Brown in 2012 Wilkins in 2013). Green's not a guy you turn away, obviously, but he became their priority almost by default. These coaches are not so biased they won't take a talented guy with size that is not what they view as perfect. As long as a guy has some power (weight) to him, they'll take him - but it's not like Green and Smith are short either. Would this coaching staff take Mike Hart? I don't think so. Would they recruit Denard Robinson for anything other than CB - no.

      They clearly have a vision for the RB position and it seems to be Anthony Thomas. I don't really think this is worth arguing about, but whatever.

      I like the guys they've gotten outside of Rawls and Johnson (though Johnson could fit the Thomas mold). I was just never a big fan of A-Train in the first place, though obviously he was far from a bad player, I want a little more from my RBs - less dependency on OL creating big holes, more tackle-breaking and avoiding tacklers.

      Just my personal preference perhaps, but it seems to me that these days you have to be a pretty rare talent to be tall and successful in the NFL. Not a lot of Adrian Peterson's out there anymore - the days of Okoye and Means are gone. The typical back is more compact - better to avoid tacklers. I think our coaches thinking may be antiquated here, but if they're going to take guys like Norfleet and Green often enough, or they're going to land 5 stars like Dunn and Issac in the future - I'll be happy whatever their height is.

    5. This is such a stupid conversation. You can't exclude a guy from the conversation who HAS PLAYED RUNNING BACK AT MICHIGAN and then include a current high schooler who has not played a down of college football and very well might end up at fullback/U-back. Your insistence on excluding Norfleet from the discussion makes the rest of your argument fall flat on its face, because it's clear that you're not willing to be open-minded about the topic. FYI: Along with Ty Isaac, the coaches also pursued the 5'10" Kyle Hicks and the 5'11" Keith Ford in 2013.

    6. LOL - I excluded a player only to mirror your approach. Just pointing out you excluded the wrong one. Norfleet did play at RB -- then got moved to a different position.

      Averages with outliers are dumb, try the median if you want to make your point.

      Michigan offered Hicks and Ford but were never serious contenders for either. Like I said - they'll offer elite guys that aren't tall, but their focus is on bigger players and their top targets are unusually tall.

      ...At least we agree it's a stupid conversation to have.

  4. I am dying to see norfleet in the offense.... screens ....dump off passes hell let him just run around and if he gets open throw it to him .....Wes Welker made tom brady a superstar....small shifty players work well when the field is stretched its common sense how is Borges not seeing this

  5. Wes Walker made Tom Brady a superstar? Wow!!!!!

  6. Yea lil far fetched but seller had a unreal amount of catches each year breaking 100 like 4 or 5 years in a row watch shat manning does with him this year