Saturday, April 30, 2011

How well do scouting services predict the NFL Draft?

Two-star J.J. Watt was voted Overachiever of the Year by NFL general managers.

It's always interesting to take a look at which of the recruiting services does the best job of predicting future success.  Just looking at first round picks isn't the most in-depth study, but it's an indicator of accuracy.  The results:

1. Cam Newton: Rivals 5-star, Scout 4-star,
2. Von Miller: Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star
3. Marcell Dareus: Rivals 3-star, Scout 4-star
4. A.J. Green: Rivals 5-star, Scout 5-star
5. Patrick Peterson: Rivals 5-star, Scout 5-star
6. Julio Jones: Rivals 5-star, Scout 5-star
7. Aldon Smith: Rivals 3-star, Scout 3-star
8. Jake Locker: Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star
9. Tyron Smith: Rivals 5-star, Scout 5-star
10. Blaine Gabbert: Rivals 5-star, Scout 4-star
11. J.J. Watt: Rivals 2-star, Scout 2-star
12. Christian Ponder: Rivals 3-star, Scout 3-star
13. Nick Fairley: Rivals 3-star, Scout 3-star
14. Robert Quinn: Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star
15. Mike Pouncey: Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star
16. Ryan Kerrigan: Rivals 3-star, Scout 3-star
17. Nate Solder: Rivals 3-star, Scout 2-star
18. Corey Liuget: Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star
19. Prince Amukamara: Rivals 3-star, Scout 3-star
20. Adrian Clayborn: Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star
21. Phil Taylor: Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star
22. Anthony Castonzo: Rivals 2-star, Scout 2-star
23. Danny Watkins: Rivals 4-star, Scout 2-star
24. Cameron Jordan: Rivals 3-star, Scout 3-star
25. James Carpenter: Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star
26. Jonathan Baldwin: Rivals 5-star, Scout 5-star
27. Jimmy Smith: Rivals 3-star, Scout 3-star
28. Mark Ingram: Rivals 4-star, Scout 3-star
29. Gabe Carimi: Rivals 3-star, Scout 3-star
30. Muhammad Wilkerson: Rivals 2-star, Scout 2-star
31. Cameron Heyward: Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star
32. Derek Sherrod: Rivals 4-star, Scout 4-star

The average star rating for first round picks, as rated by  3.72

The average star rating for first round picks, as rated by 3.56

5-stars: 7
4-stars: 12
3-stars: 10
2-stars: 3

5-stars: 5
4-stars: 13
3-stars: 9
2-stars: 5

You'll notice that each of the 2-stars chosen by the recruiting services plays offensive or defensive line.  This is not a surprise.  As high schoolers fill out and grow, it's very difficult to project how their bodies will mature.  J.J. Watt, a 6'5", 220 lb. high schooler, developed into a 6'6", 292 lb. first round pick.

Smaller players develop sooner physically, so it's somewhat expected that cornerbacks and wide receivers are predicted with more accuracy.  A kid who's faster than everyone at 18 years old will probably still be faster than everyone when he's 21.  Picks #4 through #6 were a wide receiver, a cornerback, and a wide receiver, all three of whom were unanimously chosen as 5-star prospects by the recruiting services.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jonas Mouton, San Diego Charger

Jonas Mouton wheeee!

Michigan senior linebacker Jonas Mouton was drafted in the second round (#61 overall) by the San Diego Chargers on Friday night.  He will likely play inside linebacker for the Chargers.

Congratulations to Jonas Mouton!

Joe Bolden, Wolverine

Joe Bolden has some unfortunate team colors, but we'll forgive him.

Joe Bolden, a linebacker from Colerain High School in Cincinnati, OH, has committed to Michigan.  He chose the Wolverines over offers from Arizona, Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Northwestern, Penn State, South Florida, Stanford, Syracuse, Tennessee, and West Virginia, among others.

Bolden stands 6'2" tall and weighs 225 lbs.  As a junior, he had 90 tackles, 4 sacks, and 2 interceptions.  According to Scout and 247 Sports, he's a 4-star prospect.  Rivals and ESPN, both of whom are lagging behind in rankings, have not bothered to rank many prospects yet.  ESPN thought about it briefly and put him on the 150 watch list, and Rivals put him on the 250 to Watch list, which indicates he'll be no lower than a 4-star prospect to them, either.

Athletically, Bolden isn't out of this world.  He's not extremely big or fast, he's not particularly sudden, and not every play ends with an explosive tackle.  However, he seems to have exceptional play recognition skills.  He takes his one read step and then goes to the ball.  While he's not exactly a quick-twitch athlete, he has above average coverage skills because of his instincts and awareness.  Bolden also seems to have a top-quality motor with the willingness to chug back into plays that others would give up on.  He flies to the football, makes solid contact, and wraps up ballcarriers.

The more I've seen of Bolden, the more I like him.  He seems like a good kid and nearly has a 4.0 grade point average.  He's just a good all-around football player.  With his play recognition skills, I would like to see him play MIKE linebacker at 240-245 lbs.  I think he has the size and athleticism to play SAM, but quick diagnosis is key for a MIKE.

Colrain High School has produced a fair amount of talent for Michigan.  The most notable player for Michigan fans is probably B.J. Askew, a tailback/fullback who has played in the NFL with the Jets and Buccaneers.  The Cincinnati school also sent running back Mister Simpson and linebacker Cobrani Mixon, but both players transferred after one year.  Simpson is out of football, but Mixon was an all-conference player at Kent State and is hoping to get drafted this weekend.

Bolden is the third linebacker commit in the 2012 class, following Kaleb Ringer and Royce Jenkins-Stone.  There has been some talk that Jenkins-Stone - originally reported to be headed for MIKE - will end up playing SAM, and Bolden might give the coaches that flexibility.

Bolden gives the Wolverines seven commitments now, plus an additional player reported to be a silent commit.  The class is scheduled to be approximately 17 players strong, but that will surely grow in the months to come.

TTB Rating: 77

Attractive Michigan Girl of the Week: Tailgate Girl

If you have any other pictures of attractive women wearing Michigan gear, feel free to forward them to

Thursday, April 28, 2011

2011 Mock NFL Draft

This is my only chance to use this.  I present to you: Jaime Edmondson.

I can't be much worse than the "experts" at predicting draft choices (last year I picked four selections correctly, so I'm kind of awesome at this), so here goes nothing.

1. Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton - QB - Auburn
I'm only putting Newton here because everyone under the sun thinks the Panthers will choose him.  I would never in a million years draft Newton #1, and they just spent a first round pick on Jimmy Clausen.

2. Denver Broncos
Marcell Dareus - DT - Alabama
Dareus is widely considered to be the top defensive lineman in the draft, and the Broncos could use some stoutness in the middle.  I wouldn't use this high of a pick on a guy who probably won't be able to produce much of a pass rush, but I'm just a guy on the internet.

3. Buffalo Bills
Blaine Gabbert - QB - Missouri
The Bills would be reaching to get Gabbert this high, but the team needs a franchise quarterback.  Teams don't win in the NFL without good quarterbacks, and Gabbert's hair is luscious, so he's got that going for him.

4. Cincinnati Bengals
A.J. Green - WR - Georgia
The Bengals could use a guy to complement and eventually replace Chad Ochocinco.  And it might serve to help convince Carson Palmer to stick around Cincinnati for a little while longer.

5. Arizona Cardinals
Patrick Peterson - CB - LSU
In my opinion, Peterson is the best player in the entire draft.  He's a steal if he's still around when the Cardinals pick.

6. Cleveland Browns
Julio Jones - WR - Alabama
Well, the Braylon Edwards experiment didn't work.  Time to try again with a wide receiver.

7. San Francisco 49ers
Prince Amukamara - CB - Nebraska
Just a guess.

8. Tennessee Titans
Nick Fairley - DT - Auburn
I actually like Auburn, mainly because Bo Jackson was my favorite athlete as a kid.  However, I hate both of Auburn's top two prospects, Newton and Fairley.  But the Titans lost Albert Haynesworth recently, so they need another a****** defensive tackle.

9. Dallas Cowboys
Tyron Smith - OT - USC
The Cowboys won Super Bowls in the '90's by having the league's best offensive line, so it would behoove Dallas to rebuild that line.  Smith looks like the best tackle in the draft.

10. Washington Redskins
Von Miller - OLB - Texas A&M
The Redskins need a quarterback, but this is too high to take Jake Locker.  I could see them trading back to take Locker, Ponder, or Dalton later in the first round.  However, I think they'll take Quinn if they stay at #10.

11. Houston Texans
J.J. Watt - DE - Wisconsin
I just have a gut feeling (probably an incorrect one) that the Texans will draft another Badger.

12. Minnesota Vikings
Jake Locker - QB - Washington
The Vikings need a quarterback, and the guys on the current roster certainly aren't the answer.  This is too high for Locker, too, but I think somebody will take a chance on him, inaccurate though he may be.

13. Detroit Lions
Anthony Castonzo - OT - Boston College
Please, please, please . . . draft an offensive lineman.  I do not like Jeff Backus at left tackle, and the Lions always seem to pass on linemen in favor of skill players.

14. St. Louis Rams
Corey Liuget - DT - Illinois
I don't know.

15. Miami Dolphins
Robert Quinn - DE - North Carolina
My friend, who's a big Dolphins fan, thinks the team will draft Quinn.  I have no reason to disagree.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars
Ryan Kerrigan - DE - Purdue
The Jaguars took a couple athletic busts in the first round a couple years ago (Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves), so maybe it's time to draft a steady, powerful end.  Bill Parcells likes him, and that's good enough for me.

17. New England Patriots
Gabe Carimi - OT - Wisconsin
The Patriots need to strengthen their offensive line and keep Tom Brady healthy.  Carimi would seem to fit the profile of New England offensive linemen.

18. San Diego Chargers
Muhammad Wilkerson - DT - Temple
There's always some small-school guy who sneaks up on you.

19. New York Giants
Nate Solder - OT - Colorado
The Giants offensive line is getting old.  And maybe a good offensive line will make Eli Manning not suck quite so much.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Da'quan Bowers - DE - Clemson
Bowers should probably go higher based on talent, but I keep hearing about his knee issue.  Somebody will probably take a chance on him in the first round, though.

21. Kansas City Chiefs
Aldon Smith - LB - Missouri
A lot of people think Smith will go higher, but I just couldn't find where he would fit.

22. Indianapolis Colts
Derek Sherrod - OT - Mississippi State
Just like the Giants, the Colts have a patchwork offensive line and could use some help there.  They could go in a lot of directions, though - particularly anywhere on defense except DE.

23. Philadelphia Eagles
Jimmy Smith - CB - Colorado
The Eagles have always seemed to be good at the cornerback position, going back to the mid-'90's.  And that's worked well for them, so they might as well try to continue the tradition.

24. New Orleans Saints
Akeem Ayers - LB - UCLA
The Saints have been weak at linebacker for a few years.  Maybe they'll finally address the need.

25. Seattle Seahawks
Marvin Austin - DT - North Carolina
The Seahawks have a serious need at tackle, and Austin has first round talent.

26. Baltimore Ravens
Cameron Heyward - DT - Ohio State
I hope Heyward drops from the first round to, say, the CFL.  Probably a pipe dream, though.

27. Atlanta Falcons
Justin Houston - DE - Georgia
He's from Georgie, see?  And Atlanta's from Georgia, too.  It's a match made in Georgia.

28. New England Patriots
Mark Ingram - RB - Alabama
I don't think Ingram is going to be a great NFL running back, but he's one of those guys who just gets the job done.  And those are the types of players that New England seems to like.

29. Chicago Bears
Danny Watkins - OG - Baylor
Is there any team more boring than the Bears?

30. New York Jets
Adrian Clayborn - DE - Iowa
Clayborn seems like he would be a good fit in the 3-4 scheme, and I can't see him falling out of the first round.  I almost put Phil Taylor here.  I wonder if I'll regret that decision.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers
Aaron Williams - CB - Texas
The Steelers secondary sucks.

32. Green Bay Packers
Mikel Leshoure - RB - Illinois
I don't think the Packers want to rely so heavily on Aaron Rodgers to win games for them for the rest of his career.  He's great and everything, but it would be nice to be able to run the ball once in a while, too.

NFL Draft Preview: Ex-Wolverine-style

Justin Boren.

This is slightly related to yesterday's NFL Draft Preview: Michigan-style and completely related to the Ex-Wolverine Encyclopedia.  I will freely admit that I didn't put too much effort into this post, because I dislike two of the four players highlighted, and the other two aren't exactly Boy Scouts.  One is a traitor, one is a reported alcoholic, and two are borderline criminals.  So I won't exactly be rooting for any of these guys, but it will still be slightly interesting to see when and if they're drafted.  Those players are:

Justin Boren - OG - Ohio State
Boren, who played for Michigan from 2006-07, transferred to Ohio State and played the 2009-10 seasons for the Buckeyes.  He is 6'3", 311 lbs. and rated the #17 offensive guard by NFL Draft Scout.
Projection: 7th round or free agent

Eugene Germany - DE - Central Washington
Germany, who was on Michigans team from 2005-06, transferred to Arizona State and then Central Washington.  He is 6'2", 270 lbs. and rated the #76 defensive end by NFL Draft Scout.
Projection: Free agent

Ryan Mallett - QB - Arkansas
Mallett, who played for Michigan in 2007, transferred to Arkansas and played the 2009-10 seasons for the Razorbacks.  He is 6'7", 253 lbs. and rated as one of the top five or six quarterbacks.  A potential first round prospect at one time, his stock seems to have dropped off because of serious character issues.  Michigan fans predicted this approximately halfway through Mallett's freshman year.
Projection: 2nd round

Cobrani Mixon - ILB - Kent State
Mixon, who spent one year at Michigan in 2006, transferred to Kent State and played the 2008-10 seasons for the Golden Flashes.  He is 6'1", 241 lbs. and rated the #20 inside linebacker by NFL Draft Scout.
Projection: 7th round or free agent

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NFL Draft Preview: Michigan-style

Jonas Mouton (#8) should be one of just two Michigan players drafted this weekend

The NFL Draft has always been a fun time for me, because I would always sit around and wait for the next Michigan player's name to get called.  Between watching for a Michigan player to get drafted and waiting for the Lions to pick, one Saturday in April was perhaps the most exciting day of the football off-season.  But Michigan's production of NFL players has waned in recent years.

Ever since six players were taken in the 2008 draft - four in the first three rounds - the Wolverines have only been able to muster five total draft picks in 2009 (4th round: Terrance Taylor; 6th: Morgan Trent) and 2010 (1st: Brandon Graham; 5th: Zoltan Mesko; 7th: Steve Brown).  That's an average draft position of the 4.6th round.

By contrast, 60 players were taken from 1995-2007, an average of 4.62 per year.  On average, those players were drafted in the 3.68th round.  Not only has the number of Michigan draftees been lower in the past couple seasons, but they're getting picked lower, too.

That average draft position might rise slightly this year, but there will probably only be two Wolverines chosen this coming weekend:

Jonas Mouton - Linebacker
Mouton measured in at the NFL Combine at 6'1" and 239 lbs.  I think he could play a couple positions, either as a weak inside linebacker in a 3-4 or as a weakside outside linebacker in a 4-3.  He's pretty solid in coverage and changes direction well (video here, senior profile here).
Projection: 5th round to the Patriots

Steve Schilling - Offensive guard
Schilling measured in at the NFL Combine at 6'5", 304 lbs.  He had a pretty good Combine performance, but nothing stellar.  He played a lot of offensive tackle at Michigan, but I think he's strictly a guard at the next level.  Four years of starting experience should help him (senior profile here).
Projection: 4th round to the Browns

Undrafted: DT Greg Banks, OT Perry Dorrestein, LB Obi Ezeh, OG John Ferrara, LB Kevin Leach, FB/LB Mark Moundros, DE/DT Adam Patterson, CB James Rogers, DT Renaldo Sagesse, TE Martell Webb

I do think there is a remote chance that two other players get drafted late - Obi Ezeh and Martell Webb.  Ezeh was, for all intents and purposes, a four-year starter at middle linebacker.  That might be worth something to a team late in the draft.  And Webb turned into a very good blocker.  If a team is looking for a cheap blocking tight end in the 7th round, they could do worse than picking a 6'4", 268-pounder with decent athleticism.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Are these things connected?

Was Cullen Christian lonely?

Today at MGoBlog, Brian posted an e-mail from a former walk-on who said:
I talked with Bruce Madej for a while as well as Paul Schmidt.  I was surprised to learn that RR did not force freshman/sophomores to live in the dorm.  The only players who HAD to live in the dorm were the early enrollees, and they only had to stay there until after spring semester. Think about that. An 18 year old kid is going right from living at his folks place and attending high school to instantly living on his own, with rent and phone bills, gas bills, grocery shopping, etc ALL THE WHILE trying to maintain his athletics AND play for a demanding coach. There's no way an 18 year should be put in that situation. It's overwhelming.  Schmitty told me that was the first thing he told Hoke when he arrived.  Hoke immediately switched the policy back to freshman and sophomores MUST live in the dorm.
I found this interesting, since this information comes on the heels of some crippling attrition that included true freshman starter Ray Vinopal and highly rated cornerback Cullen Christian.  In an article on The Wolverine, Christian was quoted as saying:
I didn't come up here for the new coaching staff. So when Coach Gibson left, it got crazy; I wanted to be with somebody who recruited me, somebody who knows me and knows what I'm about.  That's why I picked Michigan in the first place, and if it was a different coaching staff, I wouldn't have committed there. It's a good school with a big name and everything, and they reeled me in. The main thing was Coach Gibson; that was the big thing in getting me to Michigan. I didn't really like it up here.  I didn't like the campus, and really, I've miserable since I've been up here. I think it was just about me and what I'm used to being around; there's a difference between living in Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor. A big difference. A lot of kids like it here, and some don't. It just wasn't for me.  So once the coaches left, there wasn't much holding me here. I was like, 'Why am I here? I don't know these coaches and they didn't recruit me.
The combination of these things makes me wonder if Rodriguez's rule about living situations had anything to do with the departures of Vinopal and Christian, among others.  I did not realize that the players were allowed to live elsewhere on campus, and obviously, it's difficult to know exactly how many freshmen in the past couple years took advantage of living off campus.  It had always been my understanding that freshman and sophomore athletes were required to live in the dorms, and I figured that was just the way of the world forever and ever.

But I do ascribe to the notion that living in a dorm is a key part of the maturation process for college students. I am not naive enough to think that kids can't get in trouble when living in the dorms.  However, it does alleviate some of the stress of buying groceries, paying bills, meeting new people, etc.  When students are forced to live in such close quarters, there are surely clashes of personalities, dustups, etc.  But long-lasting friendships are also forged.  I know many people whose friendships with their freshman year roommates turned into relationships that lasted beyond college.

Christian and Vinopal very well could have ended up transferring whether they lived in South Quad/West Quad or not.  But when Christian says, "Once the coaches left, there wasn't much holding me here," I start to wonder how many friends he had.  What should have been present is a strong bond with one or two of his teammates, guys who could have repeated the mantra "Those who stay will be champions" or fellow freshmen who were also struggling to climb their way up the depth chart.  We often hear recruits or recruits' mentors saying, "Don't go somewhere just because of the coaches, because they could be gone in a year."  That's exactly what happened to Christian, and now he'll be starting anew as a Pitt Panther.

Regardless, Brady Hoke has apparently returned to making freshmen and sophomores live in dorms, so all is right in the world.  Unless kids start transferring in droves.  Then we can blame it on something else.

Snapshots: How to Give Up 68-yard Touchdown Runs

With a couple exceptions, the spring game was largely devoid of big plays for the offense.  This was the longest play from the line of scrimmage.  It's the second team offense vs. the second team defense, but it gives us a good look at what the defense will be trying to do in 2011.

ABOVE: Prior to the snap, the defense is in a standard 4-3 under look.  FS Marvin Robinson is shifted over to cover the slot receiver, while SS Josh Furman is about 12 yards directly off the ball.  CB Terrence Talbott is walked off the line of scrimmage with only TE Mike Kwiatkowski on his side.  Meanwhile, H-back Ricardo Miller has motioned across the offensive formation and is now offset between the strongside OG and OT.

ABOVE: Initial action suggests it's a power run.  LG Rocko Khoury is pulling across the formation; Kwiatkowski and RT Erik Gunderson are double-teaming LDE Ken Wilkins, who has stood straight up.  Meanwhile, MLB Brandon Herron reads run and immediately steps up to fill the hole.  NT Will Heininger gets outmuscled and collapsed away from the play.

ABOVE: As RB Michael Cox gets the handoff, LT Kristian Mateus whiffs on DE Jibreel Black, who's totally and completely screwed if this is a rollout pass.  HB Ricardo Miller impacts SAM Jake Ryan with LG Rocko Khoury coming to help, while DE Ken Wilkins gets driven off the ball.  MIKE Brandon Herron steps up into the developing hole and WILL Brandin Hawthorne (?) flows to the ball.  CB Terrence Talbott has started to come up and support while FS Marvin Robinson follows his receiver across the field.

ABOVE: SAM Jake Ryan completely stones both blockers and stands his ground, while MIKE Brandon Herron meets RB Michael Cox about a half yard beyond the line of scrimmage; this should be stopped for a gain of a yard or two.  DE Jibreel Black missed Cox in the backfield and has run himself out of the play.  CB Terrence Talbott has stepped up in run support, and FS Marvin Robinson appears to see the ballcarrier and can presumably fight through a block to help make the tackle.

ABOVE: Oops.  MIKE Brandon Herron tackles like a middle schooler.  WILL Brandin Hawthorne (?) lies prone on the ground from just being in the general vicinity of football player-sized football players.  Meanwhile, FS Marvin Robinson has completely overrun the play and lost his leverage on the ballcarrier.  And because of his careless positioning, he flummoxes SS Josh Furman, who has finally stepped up to support only to be thwarted by a teammate.  RB Michael Cox sees the cutback and engages afterburners.

ABOVE: WR Martavious Odoms (?) has good position on CB Greg Brown (?) and walls him off.  As RB Michael Cox hits the 45-yard line, he's a half step in front of FS Marvin Robinson and a half step behind SS Josh Furman.  Speed has always been a question for Robinson, but Furman is a supposed burner who ran a supposed 4.37 in high school.

ABOVE: As RB Michael Cox crosses the goal line with a 68-yard touchdown run, FS Marvin Robinson has gone from half a yard behind Cox to about 9 yards.  SS Josh Furman has lost about 4 yards on Cox.  Of course, both were chasing Cox at an angle as he veered toward the left sideline, but neither ever seemed in danger of catching Cox once he turned on the jets.


  • Well, if nothing else, we know what Michigan's defensive alignment looks like and how the "power play" works.
  • Ken Wilkins, who just got outmuscled by a duo of walk-ons, will probably not be ready to play this year.  There's a reason that Jibreel Black was playing some 5-tech DT, and the above type of play might be it.
  • I like Michael Cox, but Giant Mistake #1 was Brandon Herron's complete and utter failure to even slow down the running back.  If you're a fifth year senior and can't slow down a guy who runs smack into your chest, hope is all but lost.  I guess I ought to cut Herron some slack because he did get bumped by Khoury, but still.
  • Angles and positioning are of utmost importance.  It's one thing if Wilkins lines up in the right spot and gets double-teamed out of the hole.  But Giant Mistake #2 on this play was Marvin Robinson thinking he was in a race with Je'ron Stokes to get to the sideline.  By the time Stokes said, "Aw, I was just foolin', man, I ain't gonna race you," Robinson was the Tie Bomber to Cox's Millennium Falcon.  Robinson must maintain leverage on the runner, because he doesn't have the speed to get caught flat-footed and then make up for it.  There aren't many Big Ten running backs who will be chased down by Robinson if he doesn't take good angles.
  • Good linebacker play makes this a 1- or 2-yard gain.  Good safety play makes this an 8-yard gain.  Bad linebacker play combined with bad safety play makes this a 68-yard touchdown run.
Fast forward to :56 to see the above play:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

2012 Offer Board Update

Well, at least we know Dominic Ramacher (#14)
won't be offended if Brady Hoke touches him.

The 2012 Offer Board has been updated:

Michigan TE Devin Funchess committed to Michigan.

Ohio TE A.J. Williams committed to Michigan.

Added Virginia DE Ken Ekanem.

Kentucky QB Zeke Pike committed to Auburn.

Added Pennsylvania OT Chris Muller.

Added California OT Max Tuerk.

Michigan LB Royce Jenkins-Stone committed to Michigan.

Maryland CB Ronald Darby committed to Notre Dame.

Added Texas FB Dominic Ramacher.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cullen Christian, ex-Wolverine

Cullen Christian made a brief appearance on the Michigan football team

Like so many others before him, Michigan defensive back Cullen Christian has departed before ever making an impact in Ann Arbor.  The 6'0", 187 lb. cornerback told Superprep, "I came here to be a part of something big and it has all fallen apart.  Part of you feels like you failed, while another part of you wants to go prove them they were wrong.  I need to move on now and do what is best for me."

When Christian says "prove them they were wrong," he's of course talking about the two coaching staffs who had him lower on the depth chart than lightly recruited fellow freshman Terrence Talbott and walk-on Tony Anderson, among others.

Christian played in ten games as a freshman and made 6 tackles.  However, he was beaten badly on a couple plays and often looked a step or two slow.  There were some questions about his speed coming out of high school, and the biggest question I had was about his tackling.  Despite those apparent faults, he was a top-six cornerback to both Rivals and Scout.  And as a senior in high school, he was selected for the Army All-American Bowl.  I'm not sure that many people expected he would be an instant star at the college level, but I don't think many people expected him to be buried on the depth chart, either; in addition to the aforementioned Talbott and Anderson, he also seemed to be behind fifth year senior Troy Woolfolk, redshirt junior J.T. Floyd, and classmate Courtney Avery.

Christian is the eighth (or ninth, depending on where you slot 2010 quarterback/defensive back Conelius Jones) defensive back to sign a National Letter of Intent for Michigan from 2007-2010 and then transfer or fail to qualify.  In other words, there are nine defensive backs floating around the free world (or the imprisoned world, in Boubacar Cissoko's case) who could be playing out their eligibility for the Wolverines right now.  He's also the seventh player of the 27-member class of 2010 to depart prior to the end of his freshman year.  Rich Rodriguez looks like less and less of a recruiting expert as more than 25% of his class disappears in less than a year.

This probably doesn't hurt Michigan in the short term.  Christian was likely a third-string cornerback, and that doesn't even take into account the incoming freshman class, which includes a few talented corners.  But it does potentially hurt Michigan in the long run, especially if other defensive backs continue to flame out at similar rates.  James Rogers essentially defaulted into a starting cornerback job as a senior in 2010, and continued departures could provide more opportunities like that in the coming years.

On the plus side, the Wolverines' small 2012 recruiting class just increased by one.  A class that looked to be 16 should now be able to take 17 players, and I would not be surprised if that number continues to grow.

I would bet a nickel that Christian ends up transferring to Pittsburgh (UPDATE: You owe me a nickel.).  He's from the Pittsburgh area, the Panthers were one of his finalists coming out of high school, his former position coach Tony Gibson latched on at Pitt, and he also has a former high school teammate and good friend, Brandon Ifill, who plays defensive back there.  Fellow ex-Michigan defensive back Ray Vinopal transferred to Pitt in recent weeks as well.

For summaries of other departures, check out the Ex-Wolverine Encyclopedia button at the top of the page.

Devin Funchess, Wolverine

Farmington Hills, MI wide receiver/tight end Devin Funchess flies through the air with the greatest of ease

Farmington Hills, MI tight end Devin Funchess committed to the Wolverines on Saturday.  He chose Michigan over offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, and Virginia, among others.  He's a 4-star recruit to Scout and the #6 tight end prospect in the country.  The 4-star ranking is echoed by 247 Sports.

Funchess stands 6'5" and weighs approximately 210 lbs., although he will surely continue to add weight.  He caught 34 passes for 709 yards (20.8 yards per catch) and 5 touchdowns as a junior while playing a lot of wide receiver.  Two of his high school teammates, WR Aaron Burbridge and DE/LB Mario Ojemudia, also hold offers from the Wolverines, but Funchess was the most likely to choose Michigan.  Harrison High School generally seems to be a Michigan State pipeline, but that didn't affect Funchess, whose sister currently goes to school in Ann Arbor.  The last Harrison product to choose Michigan was Charles Stewart in 2004.

The number of offers given out to tight end recruits suggested that Michigan wanted at least one blocking tight and at least one pass receiver from the position in the class of 2012.  The coaches seem to have filled that quota with earning commitments from Funchess and Ohio TE A.J. Williams.  When those two players arrive on campus in 2012, the only other scholarship tight ends on the roster will be fifth year senior Brandon Moore and sophomore Chris Barnett.  I will not be entirely surprised if Michigan continues to recruit the position, but the need has obviously been greatly diminished.  Southfield, MI Ron Thompson has been on commitment watch for several weeks, and these two commitments early in the process may have been an attempt on these players' parts to reserve their spots before they were taken.

When I watch Funchess, the first player that comes to mind is Ben Troupe, the former Florida Gators and NFL tight end.  He's a wide receiver with a tight end frame.  It may take him a while to get his body to fill out to adequate proportions, but San Diego State's starting tight end in 2010 was a redshirt freshman who was 229 lbs.  They split him out at times and got him some decent numbers, and that's what I expect from Funchess, too.  He catches the ball with his hands and adjust to the ball well when it's in the air.  He ought to be able to make an impact in the passing game early in his career, and he has the lateral movement and feet to be a solid blocker at the second level once he adds some strength.  If you want a Michigan comparison, he's Carson Butler with a good head on his shoulders.  I have high hopes for Funchess in the coming years.

Funchess is the sixth commitment in the class of 2012, which currently stands at 17 players.  That number will likely grow with the odds high for further attrition in the coming months.

TTB Rating: 75

A.J. Williams, Wolverine

Cincinnati, OH tight end A.J. Williams

Cincinnati tight end A.J. Williams committed to Michigan on Friday.  He chose the Wolverines over offers from Arkansas, Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Vanderbilt, and West Virginia, among others.  He's a 3-star recruit and the #15 tight end to Scout, but he has not been ranked by Rivals, ESPN, or 247 Sports.

The 6'6", 260-pounder lists a 4.9 forty, a 235 lb. bench press, a 415 lb. squat, and a 30-inch vertical leap.  Some analysts have suggested that he could grow into an offensive tackle, and that's not completely out of the question for a player his size.  However, Michigan's coaches currently intend for him to be a blocking tight end.

The high number of offers to tight ends in this class suggests that Michigan would like to take at least two players at the position, and the skill sets of those offers tell me that they would like at least one blocking tight end and one pass receiving threat at the position.  Williams is the blocking variety and has stated that the coaches want to use him to pave the way at the point of attack.  When he arrives on campus in 2012, the depth at tight end will consist of fifth year senior Brandon Moore and sophomore Chris Barnett.

Williams is the fifth player to commit to Michigan in the class of 2012.  There are roughly 12 more spots to fill, although further attrition from Michigan's current roster is likely.

There's very little available film on Williams.  The video below from Scouting Ohio offers some insight into his talents, but it's too grainy and short to allow many conclusions.

TTB Rating: Incomplete, due to lack of film

Attractive Michigan Girls of the Week: Sunglasses Girls

If you have any other pictures of Michigan girls, feel free to drop me an e-mail at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maize 'n' Brew: Post-Spring Game Recruiting Update


Over at Maize 'n' Brew, I put up a post with a summary of where Michigan's recruiting stands at the time being.

Welcome Back, 4-3 Under: The Defensive Backs

Would Ed Reed be too much to ask for?
(Hint: Not if you're Auburn.)

In the last week, I've broken down the ideal qualities of defensive linemen and linebackers.  Now for the defensive backs:

Alignment:  Dependent on coverage
Gap responsibility:  Outside contain
What should he look like?  Cornerbacks come in different shapes and sizes, but one thing to keep in mind with the 4-3 Under defense is that these corners are going to be put on an island a lot.  This is no longer a bend-but-then-break defense that utilizes soft zones and eschews man coverage.  These cornerbacks need to be up in the receivers' faces, often playing press man coverage.  Just like any defense, the strongside corner should be a little more adept at tackling and supporting the run.  The weakside corner should have excellent speed and ball skills.  Their job will typically be to force the receiver toward the sideline, maintaining inside leverage and forcing the quarterback to thread a ball between the defender and the sideline.
Best physical fits:  Troy Woolfolk (strongside; 6'0", 195 lbs.), Courtney Avery (weakside; 5'11", 167 lbs.)

Alignment:  Strong side of formation, but dependent on coverage
Gap responsibility:  Clean-up
What should he look like?  The strong safety is typically the bigger, more physical player of the two safeties.  He needs to be able to cover a wide range of athletes, from tight ends to wide receivers.  When it comes to run "fits," he's typically the clean-up man.  The free safety has responsibility for the weakside A gap, but the strong safety has no such commitment.  That means he should be the most reliable tackler of the defensive back group.  If anyone gets past the front seven, the strong safety should be fast enough to chase him down and strong enough to halt his progress.
Best physical fit:  Carvin Johnson (6'0", 195 lbs.)

Alignment:  Weak side of formation, but dependent on coverage
Gap responsibility:  A gap or filling the alley
What should he look like?  Because of the unique way the 4-3 Under uses the free safety, this position is somewhat different from what many would expect.  He is heavily involved in supporting the run, and while he won't have to take on many punishing blockers, he does need to stick his nose up where it doesn't seem to belong.  He should have good ball skills and the ability to patrol the middle of the field, because he will often be the deep man in Cover 3 or Man Free coverages.  He doesn't need to be the world's best athlete, but he does have to be a very disciplined, fundamental player.
Best physical fit:  Marvin Robinson (6'1", 200 lbs.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Welcome Back, 4-3 Under: The Linebackers

Shawn Crable would be ideal for the new regime

Last week I put up a post explaining how Michigan's defense will look in the coming years under new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.  Today we'll take a look at the linebackers.

Alignment:  9-technique, which is on the outside shoulder of the tight end
Gap responsibility:  D gap, which is outside the tight end
What should he look like?  If you're building a team, this guy should be your best overall athlete with the best combination of size, strength, and speed.  He resides on the strong side of the formation and holds the point of attack on most run plays.  He will be blocked on every running play and take on blocks from fullbacks, tight ends, and pulling guards.  He also needs to cover running backs out of the backfield, drop into flat or hook zones, or occasionally slide inside and blitz the interior line.  These varied responsibilities require unique overall athleticism.  Shawn Crable, who was about 6'5" and 245 lbs. and could run like a deer, would be the prototype.The physical freak you create in NCAA Football who's 6'6", 260 lbs., and runs a 4.3 forty . . . he's a SAM.
Best physical fit:  Jake Ryan (6'3", 224 lbs.).  Keep in mind that Ryan is just a freshman and probably weighs more than 224 at this point, but all these players are coming from a defense that didn't recruit players for the SAM position.

Alignment: 3-off, which is on the outside shoulder of the strongside guard and off the line of scrimmage
Gap responsibility:  B gap, which is between the strongside tackle and guard
What should he look like?  Your middle linebacker should be the tackling machine.  As opposed to the middle linebacker in the 3-3-5 (who lines up directly over the center), the MIKE in a 4-3 Under aligns himself on the strong side of the formation.  The formation of the defense funnels most running plays to the MIKE's vicinity.  He often has to defeat blocks from fullbacks, which means he has to have a sturdy frame.  He also needs to have a nose for the ball and roam sideline to sideline.  Unlike the 4-3 Tampa Cover Two defense, though, the MIKE in the 4-3 Under is somewhat protected in the passing game.  He needs to be able to cover crossing routes and hook zones, but the deep middle of the field will be covered by one of the safeties. Obviously, everyone would like to have a great athlete at every position, but the MIKE can afford to be a little stiffer in pass coverage.  The ideal size for a middle linebacker would be about 6'2" and 245 lbs.
Best physical fit:  Isaiah Bell (6'1", 245 lbs.)

Alignment:  1-off, which is on the inside shoulder of the weakside guard and off the line of scrimmage
Gap responsibility:  Flow to the ball
What should he look like?  Michigan had a great deal of success with smaller weakside linebackers when Hoke and Mattison were in Ann Arbor earlier in their careers, and I see no reason why that philosophy would change in the near future.  Guys like Larry Foote and Ian Gold were both very effective while being a shade over 6' tall and 205-225 lbs.  The WILL rarely needs to take on a fullback because of the defense's alignment; with a NT over the center and a DT over the weakside guard, it's difficult to create enough space in that A gap to send a big fullback leading up through the hole.  That means the WILL often gets a chance to flow to the ball and make things happen.  He will blitz often and pick up running backs or slot receivers on rare occasions, so he needs to be somewhat more agile than the MIKE.  So despite technically being an inside linebacker (aligned between the tackles), he can get away with being smaller.
Best physical fit: Antonio Poole (6'1", 210 lbs.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Royce Jenkins-Stone, Wolverine

Detroit, MI linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone spits with such force that his helmet pops off

The Cass Tech pipeline continues to be good to Michigan.  Linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone committed to the Wolverines over offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Cincinnati, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Miami, Michigan State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Tennessee.  His talent and those offers have added up to a 4-star ranking from both Scout and 247 Sports, while Rivals and ESPN have yet to rank him.

Jenkins-Stone is listed at 6'2", 215 lbs. and is being recruited by Michigan to be a middle linebacker.  He had long been considered to be a Michigan lean, but he raised a bit of a stink when he wasn't offered quite as early as he wanted.  Then the offer came early in February, and that calmed the waters.  Despite all the big-time schools that swooped in with recruiting pitches, Jenkins-Stone liked what was happening in Ann Arbor and finally pulled the trigger on Saturday.

He has the perfect frame to add weight proportionately and grow into a protypical MIKE.  With his height and musculature, I expect Jenkins-Stone to bulk up to 245 lbs. or so within a few years.  Speed and agility shouldn't be a problem as he adds bulk.

I have a lot of questions about Jenkins-Stone, though.  Detroit prospects are difficult to gauge, and he's no exception.  Too many Public School League players just kind of go out there, stand in the vicinity of where they should, and then take off running when the ball gets snapped.  The athleticism is there, but his technique and on-field discipline are questionable.  His stance is erratic, he leaves his feet and reaches too much when attempting to tackle, etc.  These are things that can be taught, but they're also things that a player has to choose to learn.  Once Jenkins-Stone adds a little bit of muscle, he should be able to compete for playing time whenever he chooses to refine his technique.

As I mentioned in the Kaleb Ringer commitment post, Michigan has a plethora of young inside linebackers.  The 2012 season should have presumed starter Kenny Demens, redshirt junior Isaiah Bell, and sophomores or redshirt freshmen like Kellen Jones and Desmond Morgan. Ringer could compete at either WILL or MIKE.  That means Jenkins-Stone could be pushing for time as early as 2013, although the competition will be stiff.

I think Jenkins-Stone has the potential to be a very good player.  However, my guess is that he will take several years to develop.  Cass Tech players like Boubacar Cissoko, Teric Jones, and William Campbell have been a little slow to develop at Michigan.  The jury is still out on Thomas Gordon, who hasn't played much in his first two years, but exists on the border of starting.  Brandon Graham took two or three years to realize his potential, depending on whether you think that happened in late 2007 or early 2008.  Dior Mathis and Daniel Easterly went to Oregon and Missouri, respectively, as part of the 2010 class, and both redshirted this past season.  Cortez Smith, who went to Indiana a few years back, was booted from the team for legal problems.  Exceptions exist - Joseph Barksdale and Vernon Gholston both had pretty early success at LSU and Ohio State, respectively.  It just seems that kids from the PSL take a little while to shake the bad habits.  But I do see leadership and passion when I watch Jenkins-Stone play, so if he can avoid some common pitfalls of inner city players (legal trouble, bad technique, etc.) and channel that passion into being the best player he can be, this kid could be a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine for the Wolverines in a few years.

TTB Rating: 86

Monday, April 18, 2011

Spring Game Highlights

Kaleb Ringer, Wolverine

Clayton, OH linebacker Kaleb Ringer

Kaleb Ringer, a linebacker from Clayton, OH, committed to Michigan on Friday night.  It had been strongly rumored, hinted at, etc. for about a month that Ringer would commit to the Wolverines.  He finally made it "official" on Friday, even though a newspaper reporter jumped the gun early last week.  Other options included Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisville, and Toledo.

Ringer is listed at 6'0" and 219 lbs.  As a junior, he had 85 tackles, 1 interception, and 1 touchdown.  According to Scout, he's a 4-star recruit and the #8 middle linebacker prospect in the country.  The other recruiting services haven't bothered to rank him yet, but when they do, I doubt they'll place him higher than Scout did.

He's a thick kid who can drive runners back into the hole and stop their forward momentum.  He stays low and drives through ballcarriers.  He also seems to do a pretty good job of wading through the trash to find the ball.  However, the criticism I've heard most often - and something I agree with - is that he lacks a great deal of speed and athleticism in the open field.  Ringer is not a naturally gifted, fluid athlete.  He's your quintessential thumper.  Typically, a kid his size would end up at WILL, but I'm not sure he has the athleticism to do what a weakside linebacker would need to do.

The Wolverines seem to be loading up on inside linebackers recently, with incoming freshmen Kellen Jones, Desmond Morgan, and Antonio Poole; and 2012 commits Ringer and Royce Jenkins-Stone, both of whom committed this past weekend.  With the exception of Poole, all of them seem like future MIKE linebackers.  Kenny Demens will be a redshirt junior returning starter in 2011 and likely stick around into 2012, which means Ringer should have a chance to redshirt as a freshman.  The only other middle linebacker on the roster beyond 2011 should be Isaiah Bell, who will be a redshirt junior when Ringer arrives on campus.

TTB Rating: 64

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Programming note

Just because.

The weekend of the spring game is a bad weekend to choose to go out of town, but it happens sometimes.  I'm a little behind on some fancy happenings over the weekend, but I'll try to catch up soon.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

2012 Offer Board Update

Buford, GA linebacker Dillon Lee (green jersey) makes the pick
The 2012 Offer Board has been updated:
Added Georgia LB Dillon Lee.

Ohio LB Kaleb Ringer committed to Michigan.

Added Texas RB Jonathan Williams.

New York DT Jarron Jones committed to Penn State.

Added Georgia CB Geno Smith.

Added South Carolina OG Patrick Destefano.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Attractive Michigan Girl of the Week: Erin Andrews

Erin Andrews with Michigan punter Will Hagerup

If you have any other pictures of girls wearing Michigan gear (or Erin Andrews, period), feel free to e-mail them to me at

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Quarterback Competition: Spring 2010 Highlights

Welcome Back, 4-3 Under: The Defensive Line

The 4-3 Under

A couple weeks ago, I put up a post that took a stab at the depth chart for 2011.  In the comments section, I was asked to describe what should be expected from each position.  I'll try to do that here.

Alignment: 5-technique, which is on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle
Gap responsibility: C gap (between offensive tackle and tight end)
What should he look like? It's only a matter of semantics, but head coach Brady Hoke and new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison appear to be referring to this position as the 5-technique defensive tackle.  Don't get caught up in the terminology - the term "5-tech" is more important than whatever comes after it.  This player needs to be able to stand up to double-teams by the tight end and tackle, which will come with some regularity.  He also needs to be able to rush the passer when the tight end releases or when the offense goes to the spread.
Best physical fit: Ryan Van Bergen (6'6", 283 lbs.)

Alignment: 1-technique, which is on the strongside shoulder of the center
Gap responsibility: A gap (between center and strongside guard)
What should he look like?  The most important thing for a 1-tech (a.k.a. nose tackle) is that he should be able to stand his ground against double-teams.  Any penetration or pass rush from a nose tackle is gravy, but if he can resist getting blown backwards, the rest of your defense has a chance.  It would be typical to expect a short, fire hydrant-type player to fill this role.  Tall players (such as 6'5" William Campbell) often struggle with losing leverage.  Mike Martin, the projected starter at nose tackle, is a bit of an anomaly, because he has the strength and technique to be successful at the position, despite being less than 300 lbs.
Best physical fit: Richard Ash (6'3", 320 lbs.)

Alignment: 3-technique, which is on the outside shoulder of the weakside guard
Gap responsibility: B gap (between weakside guard and tackle)
What should he look like?  Rather than size, the key at this position is the ability to get penetration.  Whether it's by brute strength or pure quickness, it doesn't really matter.  Most running plays go to an offense's strength, which means the 3-tech is expected to play the B gap while simultaneously squeezing the A gap and trying to prevent cutbacks.  In passing situations, the 3-tech ought to be able to beat a single block (typically the guard) and push the pocket.  Because of the job description, players of various shapes and sizes can play the 3-tech.  Albert Haynesworth was a great 3-tech at 6'6" and 335 lbs., but so was Warren Sapp at 6'2" and 300 lbs.
Best physical fits: Mike Martin (6'2", 299 lbs.) and William Campbell (6'5", 333 lbs.)

Alignment: 5-technique, which is on the weakside offensive tackle's outside shoulder
Gap responsibility: C gap (outside offensive tackle and containing outside)
What should he look like?  This is essentially the weakside end position that gets so much attention in recruiting each year.  He's typically the quicker and lighter of the two defensive ends.  While he should be more of a threat as a pass rusher, he needs to be able to hold his own against single blocking by the offensive tackle.  In certain blitz packages, he might also need to cover the flat zone or a running back out of the backfield.  You can expect this player to be between 6'3" and 6'5" and somewhere around 260 lbs.
Best physical fit: Craig Roh (6'5", 251 lbs.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ESPN The Magazine Breaks Down NFL Demographics

When no relevant pictures are available, why not Elisha Cuthbert?

I'm not a big fan of ESPN The Magazine, but I started getting it for free, so I skim through it every couple weeks.  There are a few interesting graphs in the April 18 issue about where NFL football players come from.  I won't publish the whole set of information and I can't find a link, but I'll pick out some interesting statistics for you.

1. California: 251
2. Texas: 211
3. Florida: 184
4. Ohio: 100
5. Louisiana: 91
6. Georgia: 88
7. New Jersey: 65
7. Pennsylvania: 65
9. New York: 64
10. Michigan: 60

New York isn't typically considered to be a big recruiting hotbed, but the numbers don't lie, I guess.  None of the other states were a big surprise.

1. SEC: 308
2. ACC: 278
3. Big Ten: 256
4. Big 12: 221
5. Pac-10: 215
6. Big East: 115
7. Others: 641

No big surprises there.

1. Miami: 45
2. LSU: 44
3. Ohio State: 42
3. Texas: 42
5. USC: 39
6. Georgia: 38
7. Florida: 36
8. Tennessee: 35
9. Michigan: 33
9. Cal: 33

Tennessee and Cal surprised me a little bit.  Tennessee hasn't been good for awhile, and Cal is only good on occasion.  There was a time a few years ago when Michigan would have been higher on this list, but a few guys have retired and the Wolverines haven't put out many NFL-caliber players since Lloyd Carr left.

Five Questions for the Spring Game

Michigan fans should keep a close eye on sophomore safety
Carvin Johnson (#13) this Saturday

Everybody else is doing it, so I might as well join.  These are the five things I'm most interested to see on Saturday.

1. Who will play free safety?  And will they be any good at it?
I am on the record as thinking Ray Vinopal should be the starting free safety in 2011.  Of course, Vinopal transferred to Pitt a few weeks ago, and now there will be another brand new starter at FS this year.  Nobody appears to want the starting job; the punishment for earning the job is a broken ankle (Troy Woolfolk), transferring to a Big East school (Vinopal, Ryan Mundy), or public embarrassment and a forced position change to linebacker (Cam Gordon, Steve Brown).

Sophomore Carvin Johnson will be the likely starter at FS on Saturday.  He hasn't quite earned the hype that Gordon earned in spring last year, but that didn't turn out so well for Michigan, so maybe practice observers are showing some restraint when evaluating the safety position this year.  I have some questions about Johnson's long-term viability at the FS position - he's more of a strong safety, in my opinion - because of his speed.  But Brandent Englemon wasn't particularly fast, either, and I would be ecstatic if Johnson played as well as Englemon did in 2007.

2. Which of the running backs emerges from the pile?
I'm also on the Michael Cox bandwagon, which you probably know if you've ever visited the site before.  Last year Cox was the most impressive runner in the spring game (unofficially, he had 6 carries, 38 yards, and a 22-yard TD run).  For some reason unbeknownst to me, the number of carries he got in the spring game matched his entire 2010 regular season total, too (6 carries, 56 yards).  In competitive situations, that gives Cox approximately 25 carries, 207 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 rushes of 20+ yards (I don't have stats for the 2009 spring game).

But I've been touting Cox as the team's best runner since late 2009, so my opinion clearly doesn't carry much weight with the coaching staff.  Other options include Stephen Hopkins, who has reportedly shared first team duties this spring with Cox; Michael Shaw, who's really fast and not much else; and Vincent Smith, who's average at everything except height.  I don't really know which one will come out of the spring looking the best, and the coaches have essentially stated that nobody has separated himself from the pack.  For now I'm expecting to see Cox have the most impressive day, but I'm trying to have an open mind.

3. Who's going to play WILL?
Maybe I'm the only one, but I'm pretty nervous about the weakside linebacker position going into the 2011 season.  For all the criticism of Jonas Mouton the past couple seasons, I think he would have been perfect as an inside linebacker in this defense.  Unfortunately, he's graduating just as a suitable defense and coaching staff gets installed.  Meanwhile, his potential replacements include converted safeties, a transfer, and a guy poking his head out of the doghouse.

The starting WILL seems to be redshirt sophomore Mike Jones, a 208-pounder who looks like a safety walked up to the line of scrimmage.  But no, really, he's a linebacker.  In case you're wondering, that's approximately seven pounds lighter than Steve Brown was back in 2009 when he was an undersized outside linebacker.  Brandin Hawthorne, another converted safety, has seen some time at WILL but is even smaller at 203 lbs.  Marell Evans transferred back to Michigan from Hampton and has one year of eligibility left.  And finally, redshirt sophomore Isaiah Bell has seen a bit of playing time on the weakside, but he doesn't seem to be like a viable option.

Evans might be your starting WILL in September, but with incumbent MIKE starter Kenny Demens out this spring with a shoulder injury, the Hampton transfer has reportedly been the #1 middle 'backer.  I'll be curious to see how Jones and the others stand up to linemen and fullbacks, but hopefully they can channel some Ian Gold and Larry Foote action.

4. Will we see any positive signs from William Campbell?
In all honesty, Campbell ought to have been a redshirt freshman in 2010.  If that were the case, it wouldn't be quite so concerning that he hadn't done much on the field yet.  But now he's going to be a junior, and he had better start producing soon if it's going to happen.  I really can't think of a better staff in college football to get the most out of Campbell, so if it's going to happen for the big guy, this is his chance.  I'm not that familiar with defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, but head coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison both have outstanding track records with defensive linemen.

I mean no offense to Ricky Barnum - or whoever's lined up opposite of Campbell - but if there's anyone I hope to see get destroyed on Saturday, it's him.  If Campbell can turn into a playmaker at the 3-tech DT position, that takes some of the pressure off Michigan's rush ends and undersized weakside linebackers.  I have a hard time seeing someone with Campbell's outsized body and personality fade into obscurity, so let's hope his play matches his gusto.

5. Will Denard tie his shoelaces?  How close will the quarterback competition be?
I have no doubts that Denard Robinson will be the starting quarterback on Saturday.  You don't bench a Heisman candidate that quickly, no matter how good the backup plays.  I didn't believe the Devin Gardner hype in spring 2010 because true freshmen simply aren't very good, but now . . . I might put some stock in it. Gardner has always seemed to be a better fit in a pro-style offense than the spread, so I think this offense suits him more than Robinson.  Denard's decision-making and accuracy scare me a little bit, although I admit his improvement from 2009 to 2010 was pretty incredible.  There's a possibility that he will make a similar leap in 2011, but last year's spring practice reports about Denard were glowing.  This year's . . . not so much.

Gardner has the stature, the arm, and the poise to be a franchise quarterback.  In the long run, I fully expect him to be a better signal caller than Robinson.  Whether that happens in 2011, 2012, or beyond, I think #7 will carry on the tradition of great Michigan quarterbacks.  The problem with the QB situation is that even if Gardner proves to be the best quarterback on Saturday (and in August practices), Michigan doesn't have the depth at the position to move Robinson to running back or wide receiver.  Perhaps the two best athletes on the team are Michigan's only two quarterbacks.  I can think of worse problems.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Steve Schilling, #52

2010 Countdown: #12 Steve Schilling

Schilling was a 5-star recruit to both Rivals and Scout and the equivalent of a 4-star player (the #106 overall player) to ESPN.  He played offensive tackle in a Wing-T offense at Bellevue High School in the state of Washington, but Rivals ranked him as the #2 offensive guard in the country.  I had just started paying attention to recruiting in the summer of 2006 (which was a few months after National Signing Day), but looking back at his high school film, it seems obvious that Schilling should have been headed for the guard position.

Schilling had illness (mononucleosis) and injury (shoulder) problems in 2006 and did not play as a freshman.  Most freshman linemen redshirt - although classmate Justin Boren played a little bit - but Schilling missed a lot of time that he could have spent conditioning and lifting.  He was essentially a true freshman in 2007, but started most of the season at right tackle, anyway.  It was a bit of a revolving door on the right side of the line that season, when five players made starts at right guard and two made starts at right tackle.  Schilling himself moved inside to right guard when projected starter Alex Mitchell was injured and/or disappeared.  (It's rumored that Mitchell actually quit the team, but was talked into rejoining the squad to bolster the offensive line later in the season.)  Schilling was overpowered repeatedly, especially against Ohio State.  He remained at right tackle through the abysmal 2008 season when the entire offensive line struggled to adjust to Rich Rodriguez's new blocking schemes.  By the time Schilling became a redshirt junior in 2009, the coaching staff had moved him to left guard, where he started all twelve games.  He looked much more comfortable inside and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention.  That led into a 2010 in which a Schilling-led offensive line paved the way for 3,101 rushing yards and 35 rushing touchdowns.  Michigan's quarterbacks were sacked only 11 times on the year.  Schilling started all 13 games and grew into a very good zone-blocking offensive guard by the end of his career.

49 career starts (25 at left guard, 22 at right tackle, 2 at right guard)

Team captain in 2010 . . . Three-time Hugh R. Rader, Jr. Award winner (2008, 2009, 2010), which is given to team's best offensive lineman . . . All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2009 and 2010 . . . Freshman All-America in 2007

I feel a little bit sorry for Schilling, although I probably shouldn't feel too sorry for a four-year starter at Michigan who will at least get a shot at an NFL career.  He was pressed into action way too early - at a position that didn't maximize his talents - and I think his development was stunted because of that.  The kid spent three years (well, more like two) playing tackle because it fit the team's needs, and that's admirable.  But it was pretty clear early in his career that he had a better future at guard.  He didn't have the foot speed and balance to play tackle, and his burly body screams "offensive guard."  I'm not sure that there was necessarily a better option, because other potential tackles were Mark Ortmann, Perry Dorrestein, and Mark Huyge, all of whom were also quite young in 2007 and 2008.  Coaches Lloyd Carr and Rich Rodriguez were probably doing the best they could with the talent available, but it's a bit of an indictment of Carr's recruiting that so few options were available.  Anyway, Schilling moved inside as a redshirt junior, and things improved significantly afterward.  He wasn't a bone-crushing mauler, but I saw successful runs behind the left guard and, as a senior, I saw Schilling latching onto inside linebackers more frequently.  While not a superstar, Schilling is an overall success story for Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez, and Rodriguez's offensive line coach Greg Frey.

Schilling has been projected in various spots for the NFL Draft coming up in late April.  He's generally considered to be one of the top ten offensive guards for the 2011 draft class.  Despite playing tackle for a few years, he doesn't seem to have much position flexibility.  At 6'4 1/8", his arm length is only a reported 32.75", which is two to four inches shorter than most tackles in the draft.  He will probably need to add some weight to his 308 lb. frame unless he ends up with a zone blocking squad.  But overall, Schilling could have a solid future as an NFL offensive lineman.  He should be drafted in the middle rounds (3rd to 5th), and I could see him having a decade-long career as a solid backup or nondescript starter.