Sunday, March 28, 2010

2011 Offer Board Update

Wide receiver Charone Peak

The 2011 offer board has been updated:

Added Gregory Robinson (OT).

Added Keith Lewis (FS).

Added Giorgio Newberry (DE).

Added Charone Peak (WR).

Added Jon Lewis (DT).

Added Joel Hale (DT).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 Recruiting Grades: Cornerback

Demar Dorsey: good football player, questionable dancer

Michigan picked up four commitments in 2010 from players who will likely end up at cornerback. Cornerback was a glaring need in the 2010 class, considering that the Wolverines enter this coming season with only three scholarship cornerbacks (Justin Turner, JT Floyd, Troy Woolfolk) on the roster, one of whom (Woolfolk) might play safety like he did in early 2009. These four cornerbacks might not immediately fix the defensive backfield, but they'll at least fill up the depth chart and offer some competition.

The first player to commit was Courtney Avery from Lexington, OH. Avery played quarterback - and played it well - as a high schooler, and if he were any taller than 5'10", he might have been worthy of some scholarship offers as a signal caller. Avery had been committed to Jim Harbaugh's Stanford Cardinal prior to pledging for Michigan, but impressed enough at Michigan's summer camp to garner an offer. Shortly afterward, he became a Wolverine. Avery has some shortcomings as a defensive back. He is an aggressive tackler, but he's small-ish and might lack ideal speed for man coverage. I think he'd be better off as a corner in a largely zone scheme, but he's the type of kid who could be a solid backup and perhaps contribute as a gunner on the punt team.

Following Avery, Terrence Talbott from Huber Heights, OH, committed to the Wolverines in mid-August. (His brother, Terry, is a DT commit in this class.) Talbott is a little sturdier than Avery at 172 lbs., and he's a bit smoother of an athlete. Talbott has good speed and excellent leaping ability. He's also a solid tackler and potentially a player who could see some time on special teams. I like him a little more than Avery, and I also think Talbott has better man coverage abilities.

Longtime Michigan lean Cullen Christian finally committed to play in Ann Arbor around Thanksgiving 2009. At the time, Christian was the highest rated defensive back and desperately needed in the wake of Boubacar Cissoko's departure from the team. Christian is a bigger cornerback at 6' and 180 lbs. He has the ability play deep safety but has insisted that he wants to play cornerback, and that's where I think he'll stay. I have some questions about his speed, but his technique is sound; he's a decent tackler but needs to improve in that area.

Demar Dorsey was the last cornerback to commit to Michigan, waiting until National Signing Day. Michigan fought hard to steal him from the likes of Florida and USC. He was an Under Armour All American and while he's rough around the edges, he has swagger and speed to burn. I think he'll be a free safety eventually, although Michigan's most immediate need is at cornerback, which is where he'll begin his career. Dorsey has had some off-the-field issues as a youth, but if he can keep those behaviors behind him, the sky is the limit.

Predictions: Courtney Avery will almost surely redshirt in 2010; I think he'll be a decent backup and special teams player throughout his career. Terrence Talbott will likely join his brother and Avery in the redshirt brigade (no relation to the band, by the way), but I think he has a chance to be a one- or two-year starter late in his career. Christian will play in 2010, whether he starts or not; he reminds me of Donovan Warren in some ways. Dorsey is the most likely to play this coming season; like Denard Robinson, he's just too talented to keep off the field. Whether he's returning kicks with Darryl Stonum, starting at corner, or the backup deep safety, his speed and athleticism can't spend a year on the bench.

Grade: A. Rodriguez and Co. did as well as anyone would have expected. I was underwhelmed early on when Avery and Talbott were the only ones onboard and Cullen Christian kept postponing what many thought would be an early commitment, but it all worked out in the end. In two or three years, Michigan's secondary is going to be crawling with speedy, hard-hitting athletes.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

2011 Offer Board Update

Added Ja'juan Story (WR, pictured above).

Added Bill Belton (SB).

Added Nick Waisome (CB).

Added DeVondrick Nealy (SB).

Added Jordan Walsh (OG).

Removed Eddie Goldman (NT), who is a Class of 2012 recruit.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mailbag: DeAnthony Arnett

You don't seem very high (or at least high as many Michigan fanatics) on
DeAnthony Arnett. Any particular reasons why?
There are a few reasons why I'm not particularly high on Arnett, although there's a lot of personal opinion involved.

First of all, I think he's a good player. I can't argue that he's not. He has some talent.

However, many people in Michigan think he could be a make-or-break type of recruit for Rich Rodriguez, and I don't see that. He's an outside receiver and Rich Rodriguez puts an emphasis on getting the ball to his quarterback, his running backs, and his slot receivers. On a team that lacks big-play speed at the outside receiver position (except junior Darryl Stonum), Michigan just finished a recruiting cycle in which they secured commitments from two slow-ish receivers (Jeremy Jackson and Ricardo Miller) and another who isn't exactly a blazer (Jerald Robinson). Furthermore, Michigan recently added 6'4" Shawn Conway for the class of 2011. So if Rodriguez is intent on bringing in a bunch of tall receivers with mediocre speed (all of whom earned early offers and committed early in the process, so you know Rodriguez really wanted them), why would a 5'11" receiver be a necessity?

Furthermore, I'm not sold on Arnett's elusiveness. He does a good job of adjusting to the ball in the air, but he's not exactly a huge home run threat with the ball in his hands. He cuts once and goes, usually only to be caught after another few yards. Can he get open, catch the ball, and gain a few yards after the catch? Sure. Is he the reincarnation of, say, Desean Jackson? No.

Also, I'm not a fan of what I've seen from Arnett in the media. This is where the biggest slice of personal opinion shows itself, but he seems like a bit of a prima donna in the making. I like my players sans ego, thank you very much. Every high school star believes he's a notch above the rest, but Arnett seems to lack the humility that I've seen a few recent beloved Michigan commits show. There's a reason Ricardo Miller and Devin Gardner have endeared themselves to Michigan fans so quickly; we like blue-collar athletes with good-natured competitiveness. And there's a reason some Michigan fans (including myself) were upset when Boubacar Cissoko waved demonstratively against Notre Dame, despite the fact that he was beaten repeatedly.

I don't think Arnett will be a bad player. He has above average skills for a college recruit. But I don't necessarily want him to be a Wolverine, and I certainly don't think his commitment would make or break this recruiting class. I will be neither surprised nor dismayed when he signs elsewhere next February.

Image via

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring Roster Tidbits

Ryan Van Bergen: Breakout year coming?

MGoBlog and The Wolverine have done a good job of breaking down the spring roster, so I won't waste your time or mine in parsing the roster much further.

There are a few noteworthy bits from today's press conference and the roster that I would like to highlight, however.

- Regarding the quarterback position, Rodriguez admitted that Denard Robinson is going to start seeing reps at wide receiver. While he stressed that Robinson is still going to compete at the quarterback position, this seems to be the beginning of the transition from the quarterback position to receiver that many of us have been expecting. I expect Robinson to be a full-time receiver by 2011.

- The popular number of pounds to gain this offseason was 17. Linebacker Isaiah Bell (237), offensive tackle Mark Huyge (305), tight end Brandon Moore (260), and offensive guard Patrick Omameh (293) all gained this amount.

- It seems apparent that the rumor we heard about the offensive and defensive lines is true: Rodriguez wants them to be bigger than they have been for the past two seasons. There's really no other way to explain the fact that there are now five (5!) offensive linemen over 300 lbs. when last year's only 300 pounder was freshman Quinton Washington. With almost six months left until the season, a couple other guys might get there before September, too.

- Tight ends Kevin Koger (251), Martell Webb (257), and Brandon Moore (260) are all getting in the "hefty" range for tight ends. There were a lot of people who thought Rodriguez was moving toward using tight ends heavily. This is significant evidence to the contrary. These guys seem to be blocking tight ends in the making.

- Ryan Van Bergen and Steve Watson are both listed as defensive ends. Van Bergen was a DT last year, and Watson was the third-string Quick end behind Craig Roh and Brandon Herron. Watson is likely to ride the bench once again, but as I expected, Van Bergen seems to be Brandon Graham's replacement at DE.

- Junior Hemingway is 227 lbs. That's too heavy for a receiver who wasn't that fast to begin with. If he continues to play at 220+ pounds, he won't be any kind of deep threat. This bodes unwell for Michigan's downfield passing game.

Monday, March 15, 2010

2010 Recruiting Grades: Linebacker

The realization that Michigan could be headed toward a 4-2-5 defense in 2010 makes the recent class's linebacker recruiting a little murky. The Wolverines desperately needed some linebackers in the class, but largely failed to get what Michigan fans - and anlaysts - wanted to see from Rich Rodriguez. Presumably, Michigan's two starting inside linebackers will graduate after 2010 (Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton), leaving only J.B. Fitzgerald, Kenny Demens, Isaiah Bell, and Mike Jones to play those two spots; only Fitzgerald has seen significant playing time thus far.

One of Michigan's first commitments of the cycle, Youngstown, OH, linebacker Antonio Kinard arrived on the scene. He played fullback and middle linebacker in high school, but throughout the recruiting process, he and analysts insisted he was being recruited for the Quick end position. Shortly before National Signing Day, Kinard revealed that the coaches would start him off at the weakside linebacker position. So it looks as if Kinard will be groomed to be Mouton's potential replacement. Kinard is 6'4" and only 202 lbs., so he has some filling out to do. He has the speed and athleticism to be an excellent defender, and it's promising that he actually played ILB as a high schooler.

Michigan's second linebacker commitment came from Josh Furman, a SAM prospect from Millersville, MD. Originally recruited to play SAM, the potential switch to the 4-2-5 essentially eliminates the SAM linebacker. So it remains to be seen what position Furman will play. However, his physical skills might be the most impressive of any player in the entire class. At 6'3" and 194 lbs., he supposedly ran a 4.37 laser-timed forty (which is surely fake, but still impressive, if only for its audacity). His speed is impressive, but he tends to run upright and could struggle with his agility at the next level. I don't expect the SAM linebacker position to disappear permanently (it might only be a one-year experiment to maximize talent), but Furman has the frame and skills enough to bulk up to weakside linebacker size. As for the 2010 season, I expect Furman to get some reps at strong safety.

Predictions: Kinard will almost surely redshirt in 2010, and I'd expect him to be around 230 pounds by the time he earns some playing time in a couple years. He's a more natural fit at inside linebacker than some of the other linebackers (Bell and Jones, for example), but I don't see him really pushing for playing time until his third year. Furman, on the other hand, could very well play in 2010. I think he could be an excellent special teams player with his speed and size. Furthermore, while I don't see him starting this year, he could very well get some backup minutes in the role of SS (or SAM). I wouldn't trust him in deep zone coverage just yet, but he would be a good matchup in coverage on tight ends.

Grade: C. Michigan really needed a middle linebacker in this class, which the coaches failed to secure. It's possible that Jake Ryan could play MIKE, but so far it seems he was recruited to play Quick end. Kinard has good upside, but he's a couple years away from contributing. That's fine because there are other options at weakside linebacker, but an immediate-impact sort would have been nice. Furman is a good player and could play a variety of roles; he reminds me a bit of recent Wisconsin Badger Jonathan Casillas, but with better pass rushing ability.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What will Michigan's defense look like in 2010?

News this past week has percolated from insiders to Michigan fans that safety Mike Williams will be changing positions from "safety" (he played both strong and free safety last year) to "spur." This has caused some confusion for Michigan fans, some of whom are concerned that Michigan will employ the 3-3-5 stack look that Rich Rodriguez utilized in his time at West Virginia.

Let me assure you that this will not be the case, at least not in my opinion. I expect Michigan's base defensive package in 2010 to be a 4-2-5 defense, and hopefully the remainder of my post will explain what personnel we should see this coming season and why.

First of all, the defensive line will likely be Michigan's strength once again in 2010. Michigan's best player (Brandon Graham) departs, but there are capable components remaining. I expect Ryan Van Bergen to slide over to the strongside defensive end from his old defensive tackle position. Mike Martin should become the 3-tech defensive tackle, who lines up on the guard's outside shoulder; this will give him a chance to penetrate against slower guards and avoid the double-teams he faced at nose tackle. Either sophomore William Campbell or senior Renaldo Sagesse will play nose tackle, and sophomore Craig Roh will play weakside defensive end.

With only two "capable" (and I use that term loosely) linebackers returning, it would behoove Michigan to employ as few linebackers as possible. Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh are both fifth-year seniors, and while they both underperformed last season, their backups (Kevin Leach and J.B. Fitzgerald) weren't much better, if at all. Last year's starting SAM Steve Brown has moved on, and his replacements were to be one of two second-year players (Brandin Hawthorne, Mike Jones) or incoming freshman Josh Furman, who won't arrive on campus until June. That's a lot of youth and inexperience. Further evidence that last year's SAM position will disappear lies in the fact that Mike Jones will be competing at the weakside linebacker position in the spring. I sincerely doubt the coaches would stock such an important position as the SAM with only Hawthorne and Furman.

Recent reports indicate that Troy Woolfolk, who played deep safety last year, will start spring ball at the cornerback position. While I don't think that Woolfolk will remain at corner through the season, this makes sense for spring ball. Why? Michigan's only returning scholarship cornerbacks are Justin Turner and J.T. Floyd, and Floyd would likely be a safety if the depth weren't so shallow. Reinforcements arrive in the summer in the forms of freshmen Cullen Christian, Demar Dorsey, Courtney Avery, and Terrence Talbott. Unfortunately, no cornerbacks (or defensive players, period) enrolled in January.

I'm going to break this down into three components, since terminology and positioning will likely change for this season. If you remember, last year's "free safety" was an in-the-box player, like Jordan Kovacs. The "strong safety" was the deep safety, which was manned by Troy Woolfolk before he moved to cornerback halfway through the season.

Spur is the name used to define a traditional strong safety-type player, someone who can play the role of a run-stopping outside linebacker but with better cover skills. However, the spur plays on the weak side of the defensive formation. Therefore, this year's spur will be much like 2009's free safety. As mentioned above, Mike Williams will play spur in the spring, and he could very well be our starter to begin the season. Other players who will likely play spur are redshirt freshmen Thomas Gordon and Brandin Hawthorne. He would usually have outside contain against the run. Both the spur and the boundary safety (see below) could have a deep zone against the pass, depending on the coverage called. In man coverage, he would have the #2 receiver (the second receiver from the sideline).

Deep safety
I hesitate to call this "free safety," but that's basically what it is. This is the safety who has the deep middle in a Cover 3, a deep half in Cover 2, etc. This spot will most likely be filled by Vladimir Emilien in the spring, but it's also where I expect to see Troy Woolfolk in September. I also think Cameron Gordon will get a tryout at deep safety, although eventually he'll likely play closer to the line. This is the safety who has the deep middle in a Cover 3, a deep half in Cover 2, etc. In straight-up man coverage, he could have the #3 receiver (the third receiver from the sideline) against a trips formation, but defensive coordinator Greg Robinson likely won't put him in that kind of call.

Boundary safety
I hesitate to call this "strong safety," but that's basically what it is. Jordan Kovacs, Teric Jones, and others will get a shot at the strong safety position. This player will likely have outside contain against the run and the strongside flat in zone coverage. In man coverage, he would have the #2 receiver (the second receiver from the sideline), whether it's a slot receiver or a tight end.

What does it all mean?
Well, what it all means is that the coaches are trying to get the best players on the field. They think that the team would be better off with someone like redshirt junior Mike Williams on the field than youngsters like Brandin Hawthorne and Josh Furman. And they also realize that there's no point in removing a player from the most talented and experienced unit (the defensive line) to put in an extra defensive back, which they would have to do in a 3-3-5.

If you're looking for further resources on the 4-2-5 defense, check out The Football-Defense Report, which is where I got the diagram above.

Friday, March 12, 2010

2011 Offer Board Update

Kris Harley: "Nobody calls me yellow."

The 2011 Offer Board has been updated.

Added Kris Harley (NT).

Added Eddie Goldman (NT), Prince Holloway (SR), Corey Marshall (DT), and Ben Kline (ILB).

Added Bobby Hart (OG) and Travis Hughes (ILB).

Added Cyrus Hobbi (OT).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

2010 Recruiting Grades: Defensive End

Jordan Paskorz: Bringin' sideburns back

Defensive end was one of the biggest needs for the Wolverines in 2010, and just like in the defensive backfield, Rich Rodriguez went after a bunch of them. With defensive MVP Brandon Graham leaving and precious few options to replace him (Ryan Van Bergen will likely slide over from 3-tech defensive tackle), Michigan successfully recruited five players who are headed for either the 5-tech defensive end position (Graham's slot) or the Quick end (DE/OLB hybrid like Craig Roh).

Technically, four of the five were recruited for the Quick: Jordan Paskorz, Ken Wilkins, Davion Rogers, and Jake Ryan. Only one (Jibreel Black) was expressly recruited to play strongside end. However, I think it's likely that a few players will filter to either inside linebacker or the 5-tech end.

The first to commit was Paskorz, a 6'3", 225 lb. Pennsylvanian. Paskorz committed in May of '09 and not much was heard from him after that. He chose Michigan over some middling offers from Virginia, Bowling Green, and Minnesota, among others. He looks bigger than his listed size, and he lacks the quickness that we've seen from the other Quicks who saw significant action in 2009 (Roh and Brandon Herron). I've maintained since he was recruited that I think he'll end up as a strongside end before all is said and done. The Quick doesn't drop back into coverage a great deal, but Paskorz would be a liability in coverage.

Shortly after Paskorz's commitment, another Keystone Stater tossed his hat into the ring for the Quick position - Ken Wilkins. Wilkins is 6'3" and 244 lbs., and there were quotes floating around from his coach that he has like a 30" waist and a 60" chest. He's like a male Barbie doll, except his chest is made from P90X alloy instead of plastic. I might have exaggerated those measurements, but basically, Wilkins isn't the type of kid who's going to suffer from weight issues. I think Wilkins has the athleticism and speed to play Quick, but he's another candidate to move to 5-tech defensive end, as well. (There was a Rivals article mentioning that Wilkins was told he could play 3-tech DT, but I have to believe that was a typo or a misunderstanding.)

Warren, OH, linebacker Davion Rogers flipped from West Virginia to Michigan in mid-January. He's listed at 6'6" and 210 lbs., and he mentioned at one point that WVU's coaches mentioned that he could play safety for them. That comment convinced me that WVU has some coaching woes coming down the pike. Regardless, Rogers changed his mind almost immediately upon receiving an offer from the Wolverines, so he obviously wasn't gung-ho about being a Mountaineer. Six-foot-six and 210 lbs. might get a wide receiver on the field immediately, but to be a DE/OLB hybrid, Rogers needs to start hitting the supplements.

A day after Rogers committed, Michigan raided Ohio for another linebacker in the form of Jake Ryan, whose 6'3", 220 lb. frame might make him a body double for Paskorz. Ryan picked Michigan over a handful of MAC schools, but he outperformed Ohio State-bound teammate Scott McVey (perhaps in part to an injury that slowed McVey). He played outside linebacker for St. Ignatius in their 3-3-5 stack defense, so he doesn't have much practice being an edge rusher. That being said, Ryan is the most likely of these four Quicks to end up as an inside linebacker.

A week after the commitments of Rogers and Ryan, Jibreel Black was the final end to commit. The last of 11 players from Ohio to pledge, Black is a 6'2", 253 lb. strongside end. He could grow into a defensive tackle, but with the shortage of 5-techs on the roster, I doubt he'll move inside. Despite not being an extremely highly touted player to all the recruiting sites, his offer list (including Illinois, Michigan State, South Carolina, and Wisconsin) was the most impressive.

Predictions: In my opinion, Jordan Paskorz is headed for a redshirt year, during which he'll bulk up and become a 5-tech DE; I do not see him contributing in any more than a backup role throughout his career. Wilkins could be a very good player at either position; I think he'll start off at Quick but eventually play DE. Rogers is almost certainly headed for a redshirt, but his position is perhaps the most defined - he's a Quick through and through; his athleticism could turn him into a feared speed rusher in the Big Ten, but he has to put on some weight and refine his fundamentals. With the shortage of inside linebackers, I think Jake Ryan might end up at inside linebacker immediately, and I would not be surprised to see him play in mop-up duty this year; the coaches need to groom some guys to take over for fifth-year senior inside linebackers Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh. Black will likely play in 2010 as well, because the depth at strongside end is essentially Van Bergen, redshirt freshman Anthony Lalota, and walk-on Will Heininger.

Grade: B. Despite going after a bunch of highly touted ends, Michigan ended up with 3-stars galore. While a few are headed for solid careers, in my opinion, only one is certain to be a very good player (Black). Luckily, by sheer quantity, at least one or two of the other guys will likely end up as pretty good players. If you can't get great quality, go for quantity.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Remember Me? I'm Ronald Bellamy (and Zia Combs)

Ronald Bellamy: the only Laker I've liked since A.C. Green

Former Michigan wide receiver Ronald Bellamy was hired recently as the new head coach at West Bloomfield High School. Bellamy played for the Wolverines from 1999-2002 and in his career, he had 67 receptions for 888 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Spinal Column Online recently conducted an interview with Bellamy, who spent a handful of years in the NFL before getting into coaching high school ball. He mentions Lloyd Carr as an inspiration and a mentor, which is one of the things about Carr that makes me admire him most. For the most part, he seems like a man who maintained positive relationships with his players after they left Michigan.

Additionally, Bellamy has hired Zia Combs, another former Michigan player, as his defensive backs coach. Combs was temporarily paralyzed during a 2002 game against Penn State, which ended his playing career. Luckily, he seems to be completely healthy now.

Take a look at Ronald Bellamy torching MSU (2:26 in the video below):

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Michigan Recruits are Speedy

A few days ago, Dr. Saturday wrote another column about how 40 times are exaggerated. In the recruiting world, 40 yard dash times are thrown around by players, coaches, and fans in a careless game of one-upmanship. You know that guy at the party who says he drank 30 beers when you say you had 12? That guy is all over the place in high school and college football.

With the recent NFL Combine results being posted on the internet, I thought I'd compare those times to the times of recent Michigan recruits at a few positions.

Denard Robinson - 4.48
Jarrett Brown (WVU) - 4.54
Tate Forcier - 4.55
Dan LeFevour (CMU) - 4.66
Zac Robinson (OK St.) - 4.71
Tim Tebow (UF) - 4.72
Colt McCoy (UT) - 4.79

Sam McGuffie - 4.32
Jahvid Best (Cal) - 4.35
C.J. Spiller (Clemson) - 4.37
Michael Shaw - 4.40
Ben Tate (Auburn) - 4.43
Austin White - 4.44
Ryan Matthews (Fresno) - 4.45
Joe McKnight (USC) - 4.47
Teric Jones - 4.47
Montario Hardesty (Tennessee) - 4.49
James Starks (Buffalo) - 4.50
Fitzgerald Toussaint - 4.50
Mike Cox - 4.50
Stephen Hopkins - 4.52

Lonyae Miller (Fresno) - 4.53
Shawnbrey McNeal (SMU) - 4.56
Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss) - 4.58

Jacoby Ford (Clemson) 4.28
Roy Roundtree - 4.40
Darryl Stonum - 4.40
D.J. Williamson - 4.40

Taylor Price (Ohio) - 4.41
Emmanuel Sanders (SMU) - 4.41
Golden Tate (ND) - 4.42
Brandon Banks (KSU) - 4.43
Kyle Williams (ASU) - 4.43
Je'ron Stokes - 4.44
Marcus Easley (UCONN) - 4.46

Josh Furman - 4.37
Jamar Chaney (Miss. St.) - 4.54
Dekoda Watson (FSU) - 4.56
Davion Rogers - 4.60
Jake Ryan - 4.60

Kavell Conner (Clemson) - 4.63
Cody Grimm (VT) - 4.64
Harry Coleman (LSU) - 4.65

So if one were to believe Rivals, Scout, and other recruiting articles, you would find that in the last three years, Michigan has recruited running backs who would have posted 7 of the top 14 times in the 2010 NFL Combine; wide receivers who would have posted 3 of the top 4 times; and linebackers who would have posted 3 of the top 5 forty times.

Furthermore, one would believe that Sam McGuffie would be the second-fastest player in the draft (behind Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford) and that linebacker Josh Furman would have tied Clemson running back C.J. Spiller for the third-fastest time.

What conclusions can we reach from this information? The first answer is . . . well, nothing that we didn't already know. High school forty times are exaggerated greatly. But the degree to which they are exaggerated borders on the ridiculous.

The second conclusion is that if Clemson can't win with such elite speed on its roster, then heads need to roll.

And the third conclusion is that, whether his time is fake or not, Denard Robinson is still really, really fast.

2011 Offer Board Update

The 2011 Offer Board has been updated.

Lawrence Thomas (ILB) committed to Michigan State.

Added Brandon Fulse (TE) and Tony Posada (OG).

Added Miles Shuler (WR).

Added Kyshoen Jarrett (CB).

Friday, March 5, 2010

2010 Recruiting Grades: Defensive Tackle

One of the biggest needs in the class of 2010 was for defensive linemen, especially on the interior. Each of the defensive tackles on the 2009 roster played significant minutes, including true freshman William Campbell. Even Ryan Van Bergen, who was recruited as a strongside defensive end, bulked up and was an effective starter at 3-tech DT.

Michigan's first defensive tackle commitment came in the form of Terry Talbott, from Huber Heights, OH. (Terry has a cornerback brother named Terrence, who also committed to Michigan.) The Talbotts committed back in mid-August 2009 and Terrence stuck with Michigan through a late push by North Carolina for his services. He's listed at 6'4" and 255 lbs., and he'll likely play 3-tech defensive tackle. I originally thought he would be a strongside defensive end, and some think he'll be a nose tackle. However, I think his quickness off the ball - and his lack of bulk - make him a better fit at 3-tech, where he can take advantage of one-on-one blocks from slower guards.

The second defensive tackle came from Richard Ash (pictured above), a 6'4", 263 lb. player from the developing pipeline in Pahokee, FL. Ash is the fourth player in three years from Pahokee (Martavious Odoms in 2008; Brandin Hawthorne and Vincent Smith in 2009). The word on the internet is that Ash has, uh, grown to be about 305 lbs. This is not necessarily ideal, as he seemed to be headed for the 3-tech DT position and doesn't need to be quite so big. I don't think he'll stay at 300+ pounds, but if he stays anywhere close, I'd say he's more likely to be a 1-tech nose tackle than a 3-tech. Ash's weight is something to watch for when summertime rolls around.

Predictions: Talbott will earn some playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2011. There's enough depth at defensive tackle that he can take some time to fill out. He has a very good first step, which bodes well for causing disruption in the offensive backfield. If he can maintain that quickness while adding 30 pounds or so, he could be an All Big Ten-caliber player. I have concerns about Ash, however. I have heard questions about his motor, and I have also heard that he played lethargically when his weight got into the 260s. According to Florida Varsity's Michael Langston, Ash had better production when he was in the 240s. I always question the upside of a player whose work ethic doesn't equal or exceed his talent, and that may be the case with Ash. I fear that Ash might not be much of a contributor at Michigan.

Grade: B-. Talbott seems like a good kid and he has plenty of athleticism. I think he'll be a solid starter in a few years. Ash could fill a need at nose tackle, but I think his ceiling is lower than his 4-star status would indicate.

EDIT: My original post switched Terry and Terrence's names. This will be an ongoing snafu for Michigan fans, but Terry is the DT and Terrence is the CB. Thanks to the Anonymous commenter below who caught the error.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

2010 Recruiting Grades: Tight End

Michigan offered three tight ends in 2010, but didn't get any.

Predictions: The class of 2010 tight ends will be better than Carson Butler.

Grade: Inc. They didn't really need a tight end, anyway.

Bonus: Hey, Zach Galifianakis is on SNL this weekend.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2010 Recruiting Grades: Slot Receiver

Two slot receivers joined the class of 2010, both of whom committed early in the process.

New England Patriot receiver Drew Dileo

The first is Drew Dileo, a 5'10", 175 lb. player from Greenwell Springs, LA. Despite not having overwhelmingly impressive offers, Dileo can fill a role at Michigan - punt returner. Since Steve Breaston left after the 2006 season, Michigan has suffered from poor to mediocre punt returning. The role was assumed by guys like Donovan Warren (who took a lot of chances), Greg Mathews (sure-handed but slow), Martavious Odoms (whose butterfingers only show on punt/kick returns), and Junior Hemingway (again, slow). Dileo can play slot receiver, but his earliest chance to contribute will probably be on special teams.

It's a good thing this photographer had a high-speed shutter.

The second commitment at slot receiver comes from D.J. Williamson, from Warren, OH. Williamson is listed at 6'1" and 172 lbs., meaning he's thin and willowy. He has state championship track speed, but unfortunately, that speed hasn't necessarily shown itself on the football field. Since his commitment, he struggled through a senior season in which he was injured and his quarterback play was subpar. He could play out wide or in the slot, but said on National Signing Day that he'll start off inside.

Predictions: Dileo reminds me of New England Patriots receiver . . . Troy Brown. He'll probably redshirt in 2010, as guys like Odoms and Jeremy Gallon could handle the punt returning duties. But at some point in his career, we'll likely see Dileo deployed as a sure-handed, occasionally exciting returner. Williamson as a slot receiver intrigues me. When he appeared to be an outside receiver in the making, I thought he would get outmuscled and I'm not impressed with his route running. He has reportedly suffered from the dropsies at times, but if he can get that problem worked out, Williamson could be a speedy Roy Roundtree in the slot working against slower linebackers and safeties. As it is, I don't see him contributing for a couple years.

Grade: B. Neither player is an immediate-impact sort, but they don't need to be with guys like Martavious Odoms, Jeremy Gallon, Terrence Robinson, and Roy Roundtree ahead of them (in addition to Teric Jones and Kelvin Grady, who could play slot). Dileo fills a hole, and Williamson has the speed to make a few big plays before all is said and done. Ultimately, this is a position/class where Rodriguez could afford to "miss" with a player or two and not suffer greatly in the future.

2010 Recruiting Grades: Wide Receiver

Jerald Robinson. #4. The red, white, and silver #4. Uhhh...the guy catching the ball. Yeah, him.
The Wolverines picked up three wide receivers in the class of 2010 (slot receivers will be a separate category). At one point in the process, Michigan had six commitments from guys who were recruited to play either wide receiver or slot, so Rich Rodriguez obviously thought the team was lacking at the position. This despite the fact that Michigan only lost Greg Mathews and Laterryal Savoy in 2009, and they shouldn't lose anyone in 2010.

The first commitment came from Ricardo Miller, a 6'2", 208 lb. wideout from Dr. Phillips in Orlando, FL. So intent to play at Michigan, he and his family moved to Ann Arbor to attend Pioneer High School. Miller was considered by many Michigan fans to be at least a 4-star prospect, with the chance to be a 5-star. Unfortunately, many of them hadn't seen him play at that point. Miller is a big receiver with a magnetic personality; he was even credited by Rodriguez as an ace recruiter. What he lacks is elite speed. He might even lack above average speed.

A couple days later, running backs coach Fred Jackson's son, Jeremy Jackson, announced his commitment to Michigan. Jackson stands 6'3" and 194 and attended Huron High School in Ann Arbor. In a slightly alarming trend, Jackson also lacks great speed, perhaps even more so than Miller. In fact, both Miller and Jackson are so big and so . . . not fast that there has been much discussion that they could move to tight end.

Jerald Robinson, from Canton South in Ohio, waited until February 2010 to commit. He's a 6'2", 175 lb. receiver, although when I first evaluated him, I really thought he would be a candidate to play safety in college. He's not exactly a blazer, although he's faster than Miller and Jackson. Like Jackson, though, he's decent at going into traffic.

Projections: At this point, I think all three of these players will stick at wide receiver - no tight end for Jackson or Miller, and no safety for Robinson. That being said, I do not think any of the three will be assuming the crown of Michigan's Next Great Receiver. At least one will almost surely play in the fall, and I wouldn't be surprised to see two of them on the field; Rodriguez isn't shy about burning redshirts, for the most part. Robinson is the most likely to be an impact player in the passing game. He possesses the best speed and big play ability. The other two will have to prove their worth early on by blocking in the running game.

Grade: C. I'm not a big fan of this class of receivers. All three players have good qualities, but they also lack elite physical talent. In an offense that revolves around getting its players in space, Rodriguez took several early commitments from guys who might struggle to get open. And if they do get open, they might not be able to do much with the ball. Laterryal Savoy earned a starting job in 2008 by being the best blocking receiver on the team, but it's somewhat disturbing to think that perhaps the best thing that comes out of this class is . . . a couple Laterryal Savoys.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Brandon Graham: Infallible Superhero

Recently, outgoing Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham was asked about Rich Rodriguez. He said:

After the season, we said that, ‘you can’t be up for so long, eventually you have to pay taxes,’ ” Graham said on Saturday. “That’s how we look at it until we get it back up. That’s what we’re going to do. I hope them boys get right next year. Because coach (Rich Rodriguez has) only got one more year — if they don’t do (anything). Because of the allegations, and then, if you have a bad year, then you’ve got to get someone new.
Last week I wrote a post about Morgan Trent making similar comments about Rodriguez's tenure at Michigan. Trent said:
I'm not surprised because I know what happened, and I know what kind of rules were broken. I couldn't see how they were going to get out of that. Whatever steps need to be taken (to restore Michigan's winning tradition), I'm all for it. What is happening right now obviously is not working. I don't know how long they're going to let this last until changes are made. This year is going to be the tell-all what's going to happen. We can't have three losing years in a row. Not at Michigan. To lose seven of last eight games (in 2009) is an embarrassment.
Representative of the Michigan online community, MGoBlog responded to Brandon Graham's statements with, "[These comments] don't say anything about Rodriguez, really. They say something about the guy offering the quote. Brandon Graham, as per usual, is win."

Compare this to MGoBlog's statement that, "The obvious contrast is with Morgan Trent, who sold out the program in a statement. He's just talking out of his ass because he dislikes RR, and I hereby excommunicate him."

My intention here is not to accost Brian, MGoBlog's originator. But since he's a knowledgeable Michigan fan, and someone other Michigan fans look to for leadership, his sentiments are echoed by many fans. These two statements are remarkably similar; the only significant difference lies within Trent's opening statement that "I know what happened, and I know what kind of rules were broken." And since the allegations told us all "what happened" and "what kind of rules were broken," I don't see how Trent's re-statement of public knowledge could possibly be damning.

My intention here is also not to attack Brandon Graham. What he said is probably accurate - this very well could be a do-or-die year for Rodriguez at Michigan. But the disparate reactions to each player's statement lie not in what was said, but who said it. As a likely first round draft pick this year, Graham has been afforded more leeway. He is our hero, so he can say anything he wants. Trent, on the other hand, had an up-and-down career and didn't get picked up until the sixth round of the 2009 draft; therefore, Michigan fans felt compelled to denigrate him in various uncouth ways.

This is nothing new. Talented and respected people get more slack. This is why Hollywood actors never serve time for domestic abuse or drug possession. It's why it was such a huge deal that New York mayor Michael Bloomberg *gasp* wanted criminal mastermind Plaxico Burress prosecuted to the full extent of the law for possessing a weapon illegally. In many instances, someone like Burress would get slapped on his left wrist while signing an autograph for the judge with his right hand.

But let's call a spade a spade - either Graham and Trent were wrong to say what they did, or neither statement was a big deal. I don't have a problem with either statement.