Friday, February 6, 2015

2015 Recruiting Awards

Lawrenceville (NJ) School offensive tackle Grant Newsome
It's that time of the year. The class has wrapped up (barring any last-minute changes), and it's time to start judging. Here are the annual recruiting awards, chosen by yours truly. If you want to look at past years' awards, here they are: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.

And away we go!

Best Overall Recruit: OT Grant Newsome
I'm tempted to go with Brian Cole, who is Michigan's top-rated recruit in the class. But I believe that this coaching staff will do a great job of developing offensive linemen, and I think Newsome is the cream of the crop. He has the size and the athleticism to be a very good left tackle, so without a true superstar recruit, I'll put my metaphorical chips on Newsome.

Best Offensive Recruit: OT Grant Newsome
See above.

Best Defensive Recruit: DE Shelton Johnson
This is a bit of a gamble here, because I have bad memories of Rich Rodriguez-era Floridians. I'm attempting to put most of the Rodriguez years behind me, so I'm going with Johnson. He has a good body to work with, he can play low, he's athletic, and he's violent. But if he takes things seriously, I think he can be Michigan's best defensive end since Brandon Graham.

Recruit Most Likely to Make an Early Impact: K Andrew David
Michigan enters the year having lost both their punter and placekicker from 2014. The punting job should go to walk-on Kenny Allen, but the placekicking job is there for the taking. Allen can do both, but he has reportedly been shaky. Meanwhile, David is the 247 Composite #9 kicker in the country and has a pretty clear path to the job. Add to that a dedicated special teams coach in John Baxter, and hopefully David's impact will be a good one.

Fastest Recruit: CB Keith Washington
Michigan's class is light on skill guys, with only Washington, WR Brian Cole, WR Grant Perry, RB Karan Higdon, and S Tyree Kinnel. While I doubt Washington's claim that he can run a 4.3 forty, he does have impressive acceleration and earns this prestigious award by a hair over Cole.

Strongest Recruit: OT Grant Newsome
With a 305 lb. bench and a 465 lb. squat, Newsome edges out fellow offensive lineman Nolan Ulizio (315 and 410, respectively).

Best Under-the-Radar Recruit: WR Grant Perry
My original criterion was going to be any guy who's a 247 Composite 3-star or lower, but I just can't bring myself to count Shelton Johnson - who fits that description - as an under-the-radar guy since he was wanted by some big-time schools. So my next choice is Perry. Perry is a guy who I don't think will be a superstar, but I think he will reach the level of being a consistent possession target.

Most Overrated Recruit: QB Zach Gentry
Michigan doesn't have many to choose from this year, so I'll put Gentry here since I think of him as a boom-or-bust type of guy. Gentry has all kinds of physical tools, but his mechanics are raw. Having played very weak competition in New Mexico and being so far from home, Gentry has the type of profile where he might transfer away from Michigan if he doesn't win the starting job within a couple years. The Wolverines are bringing in a lot of competition - especially if Houston transfer John O'Korn is official - and the quarterback position has a high turnover rate because those kids want to play. I do think Gentry has higher upside than classmate Alex Malzone and anyone else on the roster save perhaps Shane Morris, but Malzone is a hometown kid who might stick it out a little bit longer.

Most Likely to Redshirt: OG Jon Runyan, Jr.
Runyan did get bigger from his junior year to his senior season and looks more the part of a college lineman now, but he still looks the least ready of Michigan's three offensive linemen in the class. The rest of the signees play positions where freshmen contribute regularly, except for quarterback - but Michigan has a wide-open quarterback position. My non-lineman pick would be RB Karan Higdon, who joins a team that includes three guys who have started games at Michigan (Derrick Green, Drake Johnson, and De'Veon Smith) and perhaps the best of the bunch coming off a transfer redshirt year (Ty Isaac).

Personal Favorite Recruit: WR Grant Perry
I'm picking the underdog here. Perry grew up a Michigan fan and you could tell throughout the process that he was dying for a Michigan offer. There were reasons for Michigan not offering, but Brady Hoke's coaching staff told him to be patient and that an offer might come. Late in the process, Jim Harbaugh's staff extended an offer. Perry, already committed to Northwestern by that point, flipped to the Wolverines almost immediately but not until he took the time to let the Wildcats' coaches know. This is a feel-good story about hard work, perseverance, and love for the program.


  1. I'm sure you meant to qualify your condemnation of RR Floridians to the defense, as on offense RR brought in Denard and the midgets from "The Muck", great players all.

  2. The last seven years have dampened my ability to get too enthusiastic about things, but with the new staff and a new year approaching, I feel the pull to dive in.

    It looks like Newsome is the consensus stud of the class. I would *love* to see the OL settle down and if not be roadgrader great, at least reliable.

    The big storyline for 2015 is going to be, obviously, how the QB position shakes out. I'm hearing a *lot* of chatter about Malzone.

    The guy from this class that I'll be interested in seeing how they develop is Nolan Ulizio. Why? I don't know ... he seems to be pegged as a middling OL guy, and I'm rooting for him to surprise people and become a good OL dude.

    As I sit here at 5:49am and type this, I'm thinking about the 2015 seasons and what comes into my mind is how the DL does. I'm remembering back to Brandon Graham and Mike Martin, and I miss having a DL where most plays had those guys making the QB feel heat.

    Lots of talk about the new kids in this class, but one thing I'm really curious about is what *existing* players come forward and shine under the tutelage of the new staff. I wonder who some of those guys might be?

    1. Except we really do want the line to be roadgrader great...

    2. Yes, of course. The chances of that in 2015 are low. Improved is almost a certainty. The question is how much improved. And is the improvement consistent across the line, and reliable play to play and game to game. That was my point.

  3. I also like Perry a lot. I know that a lot of people, including the entire Hoke staff apparently, are looking for 6'3" guys who can run like the wind and jump like an NBA player to be the star WR. That's fine and important. But you also need a guy who will have great hands, get open, and be reliable. You just watched the Patriots win the superbowl with multiple versions of that guy. Dileo was arguably one of our biggest (underused) assets for those reasons. Guys like Odoms, Avant, Calloway all filled that role well.

    I'm going to be very curious about Wheatley Jr. I know he's not an ideal TE prospect, but he's the only one in the class. I look at him and I see a guy who is bigger and more athletic than Williams, bigger and heavier than Jake Butt, just as tall as Ian Bunting but with an actual TE body, and stepping into an offense that loves TE. I doubt he'll ever be a star, but considering that no one on the roster has proven anything or looks the part of a TE better than him right now I think he could be intriguing.


    1. My view on Wheatley is that he's bound to be at least "good." Stanford created good tight ends, and he's as good of an athlete as any of those guys. But he has a ceiling. I don't think he's the next Vernon Davis or Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. Could he be the next Coby Fleener? Yeah, maybe.

    2. "I know that a lot of people, including the entire Hoke staff apparently, are looking for 6'3" guys who can run like the wind and jump like an NBA player ..."

      As far as the Hoke staff is considered, it seemed that just being 6'3" (and not TOO SMALL) with reasonable bulk would get you in the door. "Run like the wind" is not the first thing that comes to mind with Hoke WR recruits.

  4. Magnus,

    Do you think Harbaugh & co. are excited to have Bunting? I know coming our he was really a jumbo WR, but it seems like he could fill in nicely in this offense. Also, kind of the same story with Shallman, except at H-back? Thoughts?

    1. I would assume Harbaugh and company are happy that Bunting is here. I'm not sure about Bunting's blocking/toughness, but he's more of a mismatch for linebackers than someone like Wheatley because of his wingspan, speed, and receiving abilities. I see no reason why Harbaugh and Bunting shouldn't be a match.

      I would say the same thing about Shallman. I'm not sure about Shallman's blocking abilities, but I do think he should be able to fill a role at some point, if not this year. I think Shallman is a more talented runner than Kerridge, so it will be interesting to see if they try to work him on the field in some packages. Kerridge has been reliable and sure-handed, too, so it will be a position battle to watch.

    2. Shallman is the biggest winner of the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes. He just went from being a man without a position to being a strategic asset in Harbaugh's system. I always thought Shallman went blue simply out of loyalty and love (both reasons I appreciate) but feared he just didn't fit anywhere. Well, he will fit now. It will be fun to see how Jimmy uses him.

    3. Another big winner is Kerridge. I think he is the best FB UM has had in a while, just hasn't had much of a role with the last two OC's. Nuss apparently loved him and tried to get him on the field as an HB/wing, even though he is like 6'0" and it was awkward for Kerridge. Harbaugh's offense will definitely make greater use of the FB's.

      I have a hunch Bunting will be a pretty good blocker. He was darn aggressive blocking from the WR position in HS, to the point where it stood out on his film. Of course learning the ins and outs of blocking DE's will be a challenge for him, but I don't think we are talking about another Funchess when it comes to blocking intensity. The mentality seems to be there.

    4. @PS

      That's a strange comment for a walk-on who they turned into a starter.

      Yeah, the transition to Nuss wasn't good for Kerridge, but he still saw the field a good bit for a guy at a position that was supposed to be near-obsolete.

      Harbaugh's gonna use him, but there are other guys there too.

  5. Why do so many people think Dernard was one of our better qb's? He was very exciting to watch, but how many quality wins did he have? 1 against OSU and 1 against MSU when both of those programs were having down years. His biggest win was probably against Neb. I'm throwing out the ND and VT games because there were so many jump balls thrown, those games go to the receivers. I haven't even mentioned his football IQ, probably the lowest of any QB to ever play at UM. How many cut backs did he make and never to switch the ball in his outside arm only to get hit and fumble???? I also remember many offside calls where instead of trying to take advantage of a free play, he would run the ball out of bounds or throw it away. I don't want to take away what a great person he is, but lay off the great quarterback crap.

    1. As a sophomore in 2010, Robinson set the single-season Division I FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback and became the only player in NCAA history to both pass and rush for 1,500 yards. Robinson also broke the Big Ten Conference season record with 4,272 yards of total offense (2,570 yards passing and 1,702 yards rushing) and led the conference in rushing.

      Then Brady Hoke and Al Borges happened and still .....

      By the end of the 2011 season, Robinson had eight of the top 10 single-game total offense totals in Michigan history, including 948 yards in two games against Notre Dame. His total offense output in 2010 (4,272 yards) and 2011 (3,348 yards) rank as the top two single-season totals in Michigan history.

      How many cut backs did he make and never to switch the ball in his outside arm only to get hit and fumble????

      Seriously? That's your criteria? Missed offside shots?

      It's good for you to remain anonymous because you are a flaming idiot.

    2. Denard carried the team on his back for multiple years. Agree that he left much to be desired as a passer, but UM would have had some much darker days without him.

    3. I love Denard and all, but we should note that every school's offensive records are getting destroyed in the current era. The sport is simply far more open offensively than it ever has been. This is sort of like the steroid era in baseball except it's more about scheme than juice.

    4. On that scheme thing. I agree completely with regards to Denard and RR's version of the spread offense. However, the Nick Sheridan/Steven Threet version of RR's offense sucked, in near epic fashion. Denard was the entire difference and magnificently so.

      With regards to the last two years of Denard's career here, which one would reasonably expect to be his most productive by virtue of experience and physical maturity, Denard was handicapped if not outright impeded by Brady Hoke's, Al Borges coordinated albatross. Which I would argue is the single most egregious example of talent wasted by scheme in the history of college athletics.

      I'm not advocating for Rich Rod in this conversation, but had Denard not been saddled with Hoke/Borges, and had been able to go out there and run RR's scheme's ..... "Whoa Nelly!" to quote the great Keith Jjackson.

    5. yeah agreed. denards not a natural QB but he wouldve broken even more records and won bigger games if he received better coaching / did not suffer coaching switch and if he had more talented teammates. his teams were not very good - maybe 1-2 good OL, 1 good WR and average RB each year, not to mention awful defenses.

      he was just starting to excel in RRs O and then coaching change. hoke and borges not only forced him to try to excecute schemes / passing concepts not suited to his abilities but constantly were in his ear about "allowing the O system to work for him" and "stand tall, run his progressions, and get it to playmakers" - well he was the only real playmaker.

      you can add 1-2 more solid wins in osu and south carolina if the coaches were not awful and if his teammates helped a little more or were little more talented. borges / hoke even managed to mess up using denard the RB / O weapon in those games which is just remarkable and one of many reasons san jose state, etc - and that 2nd half vs osu will forever remain one of worst called halves of football.

      denard was not a great QB but also wasnt a natural QB - he was an elite athlete that willed his team to some wins singlehandedly and also make some key mistakes (many due to hokes square peg in round hole insanity). but the guy did more than his share to win football games compared to his teammates and coaches - and the entire country enjoyed watching him play

    6. Roanman, great stuff! Preach it brotha!

    7. You sound like somebody who wanted Shane Morris to start.

      Denard Robinson would have won a Heisman in 2011 or 2012 if Dave Brandon hadn't shown up.

  6. We're short on players likely to make a big impact any time soon, but overall it's not that bad a class, talent-wise. A few holes because of the small size, but if by some small miracle we landed Smith at LB, things would be looking even better. But if all of the Hoke/Funk apologists are to be believed, we have to give Newsome four years before we can have any reasonable expectations for him, so look ahead to 2018.

    For right now, any success we have over the next two years will depend solely on the ability of Harbaugh and his staff to salvage something from the 2012 and 2013 classes, which up to now have produced basically no real impact players, just bodies. 2012 may be a lost cause at this point, but with a year of ass-kicking, we might get one decent year of production out of the seniors in 2016. Beyond that, hopefully recruiting will start to build momentum in 2016 (which will unfortunately be our third small class in a row), followed by a big class in 2017.

    1. From that 2012 class, I would say Willie Henry, Devin Funchess, and Joe Bolden have been more than "just bodies." I don't think the 2012 and 2013 classes have been as dire as you make them out to be, although obviously the overall product on the field has been subpar.

    2. '12 was definitely overrated in retrospect, but still solid. '13 is TBD, but it would be nice for a couple OL from that class to show up this spring.

      The key to everything is QB. A good QB makes changes the outlook for the entire offense, and sometimes the team. If JH can get one of these young guys on track early, good days are ahead.

    3. Funchess was productive (partly because Gardner looked to him too often, for lack of any decent alternative), but still somewhat of an underachiever. Bolden and Henry made some plays, and are probably the best of our front 7, but I wouldn't call either of them an impact player. No matter how mediocre your defense is, SOMEONE has to start and make some tackles. Nobody's going to be touting them as AA candidates next year, though. If those are the best two defenders in that entire class, that is definitely underwhelming.

  7. Thanks for your thoughts, Magnus! One question, though: What source do you use for the bench and squat stats to determine the strongest recruit? I only ask because in the comments of MichiganMan14's great write-up of the Karan Higdon recruitment, the OP lists Higdon's bench at 365 lbs and his squat at 425 lbs.

  8. Can we give some sort of love to Tyree Kinnell? Dude has been committed forever and stuck with UM when a lot booths thus didnt and he had plenty of schools coming at him.

    1. Indeed. Some bigtime schools went after him and he said no-thanks. He fits the new prototype of safeties who can cover and hit. I'm very excited about him -- and with the lack of depth (at least before Peppers shifted over) in the underclass ranks, Kinnel may be in line for a starting job sooner rather than later. HUGE get for a team that needed to land DBs in this class.

  9. whoa whoa have BAD memories related to Gallon, Odoms, Smith and Denard??? Those are some of my all-time favorites. Off-field issues aside, Gibbons had a pretty cool career too. Going form bust to rock-solid (at least from short distance). Nice to see a guy persevere like that a kick some memorable game-winners. Marvin Robinson was a bust and few others didn't pan out, but Rodriguez reaching into Florida worked out very well for Michigan I would say. It was the local guys (Michigan and Ohio) where he was less successful.

    The criticism of Gentry seems unfair. Texas gave him very good reasons to decommit. Before that he was very firm.

    I'm lower on Malzone, Perry, and Runyan than most.

    I'm higher on Kinnel, Washington, and Jones than most.

    Agree Newsome is the best recruit. Gentry could get there but he's more uncertain. Kinnel may end up earning this spot too.

    Instant impact: Jones -- Michigan badly needs some speed off the edge and Jones offers it. I think they'll get him coached up quickly and WDE/RLB is a spot where you can use youth. Jones might be there as a pass-rush specialist at least and is likely to help on special teams. [The kicker is obviously the RIGHT call here, but I wanted to add Jones in too.]

    Personal favorite: Higdon. Great backstory and a high character kid. Plus I like the shorter/stout backs in general. It would not surprise me at all if he's the leading rusher in 2016.