Monday, June 9, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #70 Maurice Ways

Maurice Ways
Name: Maurice Ways
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 195 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Country Day
Position: Wide receiver
Class: Freshman
Jersey number: N/A
Last year: Ways was a senior in high school. He finished as a 247 Composite 3-star, the #77 wide receiver, and #494 overall. He had 55 receptions for 1,261 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Final TTB Rating: 77

Ways had a bit of an underwhelming offer list when he committed to Michigan last April (Iowa, Pitt, Rutgers, some MAC schools), but for the life of me, I can't figure out why he wouldn't be a 4-star recruit to the recruiting services. Ways struggled with catching the ball early in his high school career, but that issue improved as he gave up basketball and concentrated on football. A tall guy with good leaping ability and speed makes for a huge catch radius. Either way, he enters a phase of his career where star ratings don't matter anymore.

Ways is perhaps more physically ready to play as a freshman than the other two wide receivers in his class, but Freddy Canteen had the spring to get ready and brings an element of speed that is somewhat lacking in the experienced players. Whether Ways plays or not depends largely upon how deep the coaching staff wants to go with the receivers. At least one receiver seems to play each year with no discernible benefit (Junior Hemingway, Toney Clemons, Drew Dileo, Jeremy Jackson, Da'Mario Jones, Csont'e York, etc.), and Ways could be that guy in 2014. Canteen appears to have a definite role on the team, but the Wolverines replace three senior wide receivers from last year (Jackson, Dileo, Jeremy Gallon). The return of redshirt sophomore Amara Darboh from his foot injury fills one more spot, so Ways will find himself in a battle with the likes of York, Jones, and Jaron Dukes for scraps of playing time. It would make sense to redshirt him, but the most logical thing doesn't always happen.

Prediction: Redshirt


  1. Agree that Ways seems underrated. Liked what I saw from the kid during the recruiting cycle.

    At outside WR, Darboh, Chesson, and Funchess certainly play. I see UM playing five outside WR's over the course of the year (non-garbage time). So out of the trio of York, Jones, and Ways, I think two of the three play. If Ways is better than one of those guys, he likely plays. If he is better than both, then it's a lock. I'd bet that he plays - just think he'll be more talented than all of the '13 kids. And good WR talent typically does not sit.

    Even though Canteen was practicing on the outside in the spring, I think his primary snaps come from the slot position. Nussmeier seems to like the 3-WR set and disfavor the FB more than Borges did. So there may be more WR snaps overall in '14.

    1. Different offensive coordinator and everything, but last year Michigan played 7 wide receivers (Gallon, Funchess, Chesson, Jackson, Dileo, Reynolds, Norfleet) in non-garbage time, plus a couple more in less important roles (York, Jones).

      If Michigan plays 7 wide receivers in non-garbage time this year, they have 5 practically guaranteed (Funchess, Chesson, Darboh, Norfleet, Canteen) with room for at least 2 more.

    2. Your assessment that Dileo had "no discernible benefit" strikes this one anonymous commentator as pretty harsh. He made some fairly tough catches in a few of the games. I always thought he should have seen more passes thrown his way.

    3. I agree. But as a freshman (1 catch, 3 yards), he didn't need to play. If he had redshirted, he would likely be returning in 2014. And I, for one, would welcome him back as a reliable fifth year senior, whereas virtually every guy on the roster is unproven (Funchess had had problems with drops, Chesson improved but didn't produce a great deal, and the other guys haven't played).

      So what was the benefit of playing Dileo in 2010? It's hard to discern one.

    4. I can think of two plausible benefits.

      One - Dileo might have been more ready to play in 2011 than he would have been coming off a red-shirt. Maybe the marginal loss in experience costs Michigan one of it's narrow victories and a sugar bowl bid....

      Two - It costs an extra scholarship, so maybe we don't recruit (in other years) a fringe recruit like Jake Ryan or Norfleet because we have too many 5th year seniors on the roster.

      Not saying I wouldn't rather have Dileo around this year, just saying that there's a cost to red-shirting kids that is often ignored. The payoff has to be worth the investment. For many typical 3-star types (like, say, Jeremy Jackson) Michigan is better off not using the red-shirt. [And yes, they can choose to not use the 5th year, but in practice that often doesn't happen because coaches are conservative and prefer playing veterans they know.]

    5. One - fair enough
      Two - Not sure if this holds -- usually fifth year seniors either know their role on the team or they leave with the degree like some of our guys have done.

    6. Numerous times in recent years, the coaches have said goodbye to players after they've played four years but haven't seen the field much (Rocko Khoury, Mike Jones, Jordan Paskorz, Richard Ash, etc.). I don't buy the idea of "more recruits cycling through" as a viable argument. A guy like Dileo would/should be granted a fifth year. A guy like Richard Ash probably shouldn't. You can make that determination after four years.

      I really don't think Dileo's minimal playing time helped much with his performance in 2011. There's no way to prove or disprove either of our theories, but he didn't play enough to make much of a difference, in my opinion.

    7. Dileo was a smart ,quick guy who made some important #rd down and TD catches.

    8. Yeah, it's not provable in either case. I do agree that giving a firm handshake to 5th year guys mitigates the concern I raised. However, I have less confidence in the coaches applying it shrewdly than others do.

    9. Can you think of any guys who have stuck around for a fifth year with no reason? From what I see out of this staff, fifth year seniors who will be backups end up transferring or quitting football (Mike Cox, Mike Jones, Richard Ash, Rocko Khoury, Jordan Paskorz, etc.). I can't think of a single fifth year guy who has returned just to be a backup or bit player.

    10. I think it was a bigger issue in the past when the program was more stable. We've struggled to even have the full allotment of scholarship players in the last 6 years. But if you look back on rosters in the early 2000s you see some marginal players (e.g., Doug Dutch) sticking around for 5th years. Even if they didn't play much more than special teams. From Dutch's Wiki page:

      Dutch attended The University of Michigan from 2004-2008. He started out his collegiate football career as a wide receiver wearing the number 81. He redshirted his freshman year. During his sophomore year he saw limited time as a reserve wide receiver and punt returner, catching 4 passes for 34 yards and returning 2 punts for 9 yards. Before his senior season he converted to cornerback and switched to number 35. He saw limited time on special teams and recorded one tackle. Dutch was again a reserve defensive back and special teamer during his final year of eligibility in 2008.

      If you force me to look at the rosters of the last few years it's tougher because of all the attrition and the 5th year transfer rule, but I can point to one guy who the team may have benefited from not red-shirting: Brendon Gibbons. Setting aside the off-field problems, I don't see much reason to red-shirt kickers and punters. Did Gibbons help us win games last year? Yes he did, but I they'd have done just as well with Wile and using the scholarship on another player. Maybe we don't win Northwestern but maybe we use his scholarship to land the next Jake Ryan or Mike Hart who helps us win a whole lot of other games.

      I'd like the seasons when we have more than two scholarships allocated to kickers be non-existent.

    11. A couple things:

      Doug Dutch hung around as a practice squad player in the NFL for a couple years. I believe he was with the Redskins and Ravens. So while he didn't do much on the field, I think there's at least a chance that his athletic potential made the coaches want him to stick around in case things finally clicked for him. IIRC, he was a highly rated recruit, too. So he may be an exception, but that was 6 years ago and with a different staff.

      Gibbons was terrible during his redshirt freshman year in 2010. To me that indicates that he was even worse as a true freshman. Maybe the staff didn't want to redshirt him when they offered him a scholarship, but perhaps his play forced them to do so. Then when 2013 rolled around, the coaches had the chance to keep a pretty good kicker (Gibbons) or pass along the job to an unproven guy (Wile).

      Personally, aside from the off-the-field issues (which is a different issue altogether), I'd rather have a proven fifth year kicker - who helped us win the Northwestern game and others - than use that scholarship for a guy who MIGHT be the next Jake Ryan but could also be the next Isaiah Bell or Ken Wilkins. And that's really the point, isn't it? After four years, the coaches have a choice of whether to let Gibbons stick around or to let Richard Ash transfer to Western Michigan. If you don't redshirt a guy, you don't have that option.

      As for not having more than two scholarship kickers, that's really not relevant here. Furthermore, they have just two scholarship kickers in 2014 (Wile, Hagerup), and they are only scheduled to have one in 2015 (Andrew David).

    12. Last year they had 3 scholarship kickers (Hagerup, Wile, Gibbons) plus had a couple of preferred walk-ons that sounded capable (McGrath and Allen). That seems like luxurious depth to me. I think there's no question Gibbons was terrible his first few years on campus, but his case is a bit unusual - most kickers don't seem to get much better over time.

      You're absolutely right that a given scholarship could end up an Isiah Bell as easily, or more easily, than a Jake Ryan. But that's just the point -- you want as many bullets as you can get because not every shot is going to be a hit. A 5th year senior means one less bullet.

      I don't think Dutch was that big of an exception. Like I said before, if you dig through the 2000s rosters (or 90s) you'll see a lot of examples of role-player type 5th year seniors. Fullbacks, backup linemen, special teamers. It's tough for coaches to turn away a player they know they can rely on for what amounts to a lottery ticket on a young player. Most coaches are conservative by nature.

      I think the attrition and struggles of the last 6 years explain why you haven't seen more Doug Dutch's. The good players are often having to play as freshman, so the number of 5th year candidates is limited. If Dutch (or Jeremy Jackson) was eligible for the 2014 season, I think you'd see them invited back. You assume that Ash and Khoury weren't invited back but that might have been the players decision. With Mike Cox it sounded like that might have been the case from his comments made after leaving. Some guys are tired of sitting on the bench.

      Doug Dutch was the pre-5th-year transfer WR version of Mike Cox. He had talent but never contributed that much to Michigan. Those red-shirts didn't help Michigan. Similar situation with Ryan Mundy, though he actually played a lot, just not that well. With the 5th year "free agency" on the table now, there's even less incentive to save a player. Like Jon Horford and Russel Wilson, players who coaches would love to keep, can walk away. Devin Gardner could have done it this year. It's not always up to the coaches.

    13. Earlier you said you don't trust this staff to make shrewd decisions about getting rid of 5th year guys. I asked you to give an example of a 5th year guy whom this staff has kept around without good reason, and you have failed to do so; your one example is a 5th year guy who just happened to be Michigan's starting kicker for the final three years of his career. Meanwhile, I've given you numerous examples of 5th year guys who have not returned. On top of that, I believe all of the 5th year guys during Hoke's tenure have been starters, with the partial exception of Cameron Gordon, who was a captain and a part-time starter in Jake Ryan's absence.

      You can refer back to what happened in 1998 or 2002 if you want, but that was a long time ago with a different staff, so it really has nothing to do with you "not trusting this staff."

    14. I gave you doug dutch, in 2008. You've probably noticed the program has been through some turmoil since that season.

      For some/most of the 5th year guys we don't know if it was the coach's choice, the player's choice, or a mutual decision. You're making assumptions that may not always be valid and we have some clear examples of where they are not.

      I doubt this staff's judgement on this front because I doubt EVERY staff's judgement on this front. It's a general critique of coaches. There are Doug Dutch's all over the country now. Here's one random example:

      ... and there will be Doug Dutch's in Michigan's future one they return to success, build depth, and can afford to sit more kids. I'm confident of that.

      And honestly, I don't have a huge problem with it. It's an inefficiency that coaches use to mitigate risk, not unlike giving a scholarship to a fullback or third kicker. It's understandable. My only point, to fans who want to red-shirt pretty much everybody, is to recognize that there is an opportunity cost there and not fret so much about 'burned' red-shirts. It's good and bad when it happens.

  2. I don't get the 'underrated' hype. A guy who is described as raw, not a burner, and has had issues catching the ball. A guy whose offer list is unimpressive and benefited from playing with a big time QB recruit. Yes, he's tall - so are a bunch of other guys that can't beat the Drew Dileos and Jeremy Jacksons of the world for playing time. I don't see any reason to think any more of him than a typical 3-star recruit.

    I don't doubt that Ways could play as a freshman, since I'm even less impressed with York and Dukes, but Darboh, Chesson, and Jones seem to have the edge both in seniority and long-term potential.

    1. He was raw, but he improved as a senior. He's not a true burner, but not all 4-star guys are burners. His offer list was unimpressive, but he committed in April (and probably received unreported offers after that). And you say that he played with a big-time QB recruit while not acknowledging that Ways is big-time, yet, the QB (Tyler Wiegers) was deciding between Iowa and the University of Pennsylvania at the end of his recruitment.

      Either way, I think he's underrated.

    2. There are not a lot of 6'4" "burners" out there who can catch, so to downgrade a big-frame WR for not having track speed is not being realistic. The NFL is full of Jason Avant types. My point with calling him underrated is that he has the potential to be as good or better than Harris, despite the rankings.

    3. I'm not 'downgrading' him for being slow. I'm questioning "upgrading" him for being tall. My thing with tall WRs is - it's great if you're Calvin Johnson and can run as fast as DBs - but most are not. If catching radius mattered that much, you'd see a bunch of 6'7 WRs on the field...

      Avant ran a 4.5 40 and was pretty highly recruited. He was ranked higher than Drake Harris in his WR class coming out of high school. He's Michigan fan's go-to player reference for slower receivers but the guy has/had legitimate talent.

      I don't have a problem with people thinking recruits are underrated, I just don't see where it's coming from with Ways.

    4. If Weigers went to UofM, I'm sure people would be talking him up as underrated too...and I'd probably question that as well.

    5. I would certainly be talking up Wiegers as being underrated, but I was doing that when he was committed to Rutgers and when he decommitted and when he committed to Iowa. I've been saying for a year and a half that I think Wiegers is a better QB than the one we actually offered and got in Wilton Speight. I'm not one of those "people" who thinks every Michigan recruit is underrated, but I do believe that in Ways's case.

    6. My opinion on Ways is from watching his film. I tend to watch the highlight reels from UM commitments and form a judgement based on that.

      By the way, I also thought that York from the previous class had some potential based on his film as well. I would not call him underrated because he frankly looked lazy at times. In the class before, i thought Funchess was an absolute stud and should have gotten more national attention.

    7. I don't put much stock in highlight reels. Sam Mcguffie made me add a little extra salt to my skepticism, not that he was a bad player.

      @Thunder - I actually think Speight is the one who is underrated. Identifying those kind of personal favorites is one of the most fun parts of recruiting. I'm just not very impressed by what I read on Ways.

      @PS, your comments on Funchess' commitment post were positive, but did not indicate you thought he was "an absolute stud".

    8. I remember watching the bulk of the tape on the 2012 class the spring after they signed. That's when more senior tape is available. And I saw Funchess' all star game as well. At some point he just popped out to me and I started hyping him (maybe on other UM boards). Just thought he moved so fluidly for a guy his size.

      Not claiming to get them all right. I admit that I really liked Ojemudia's tape as well and expected him to be a good starter for UM. He may have Jibreel Black disease - a good player who has difficulty carrying the necessary weight. Also liked Ross a lot. I guess the book is still open on those two.

      Frankly, highlight reels are pretty much all we have to go on other than articles by the recruiting services. Sometimes they tell you a lot, sometimes less. But they tend to give you a picture of the guy's potential.

    9. We have offer lists, recruiting write-ups, HS football coverage, camp evaluations, quotes from coaches, and sometimes direct quotes. You can often read a lot between the lines of these things if you consider the context.

      The highlight clips seem to be about having the right footage and a good editor more than anything else. I don't see that as being too relevant. I can respect other people picking through all the noise to evaluate athletic potential, but I think it's tempting to draw conclusions from it that are tenuous at best.

    10. Well a key attraction to this site is the fact that Thunder is willing to watch the highlight tapes and analyze them himself. If he weren't, he'd just be regurgitating the opinions of others and that would not be very interesting.

      You may discredit highlight tapes, but a lot of coaches who get paid big $$ make scholarship offers based on them. A school cannot nationally recruit without relying on them heavily - and I know for a fact that a guy like Mattison will value the tapes much more than a Rivals rating. On what other basis do you think that UM is early-offering these prospects in places like Texas and Florda? Highlight tapes and a quick visit to the school are often all they have to go on.

    11. I really doubt that any coach makes offers based on highlight tapes alone, ever.

      I don't doubt that they watch them, and I don't doubt that highlight tapes might get a coach interested, but I'm sure there's a whole lot more evaluating and background research going on after that (and probably before it too.)

      I'm sure Mattison will value game tape more than someone else's opinion who he doesn't know or trust (especially a built-to-entertain recruiting site), but he's not going to look at a heavily edited 3 minute highlight clip and shoot an offer out to a kid based on it.

      Texas and Florida offers,probably come from contacts these coaches have in the area -- other coaches, instructors, and talent evaluators. They're not watching every HS game obviously, so they rely on tips and word-of-mouth. They also pay for private scouting (i.e., consulting). If/when they are interested in a kid, they probably request tape, call around asking about him, call a kid up directly, maybe send someone to watch games, maybe meet them in person.

      Maybe they don't see or meet every offeree in person, but I'm sure they do more diligence than watching a highlight clip.

      I don't believe they rely heavily on highlight tapes at all. I think, at best, they might get a coach's attention.

  3. Sigh. Watch the film, he sees the field, blows through space and is gone. Burner or not a burner, this kid runs fast. I'd redshirt him mostly because I think we're deep enough most everywhere to redshirt nearly everybody with the exception of Peppers, Canteen and maybe Mone. I'd think long and hard about saving Mone if I could. I'm looking forward to going to war year after year again with 16/18 Seniors in our 2 deep, 10/12 of whom are redshirts.

    It would have been a wonderful thing to have a fifth year Senior Captain Dileo this year.

    1. Oh yeah. Fifth-year Dileo as a captain would've been a wonderful thing. Def. agree.

    2. Agree on Dileo's specific case, but it's also nice to have up to 25% more recruits cycle through your program. A 5th year senior starter is great to have, but if a guy is just a career-long backup or special-teams player (e.g., Jeremy Jackson) and you give him 5 years of scholarships, the value isn't there.

    3. I don't remember the details with the Dileo case. But freshmen are playing early and making an impact on CFB these days. Fantasy or not, most kids come in expecting to play right away, especially the highly recruited ones. It's contagious. If a freshman deserves to play because he is more talented than the upperclassmen, I think you have to play him - even if he does not make a big impact on the field.

      It is absolutely vital that the coaches maintain the notion that the depth chart is a pure meritocracy. Otherwise, they run into morale issues or players will think coaches are playing favorites. And many recruits these days are rating programs on whether or not they play freshmen during the recruiting process. I don't remember who they were, but I think I saw two quotes this last month where recruits stated that whether a program plays freshmen was a top criterion.

      So you can debate the rationale of redshirting a specific player. But there are definitely costs to red-shirting freshmen who are better than the upperclassmen seeing the field. Of course, coaches realize this as they deal with recruiting and team morale on an everyday basis. But these factors are not fully appreciated by fans.

    4. @PS

      Good points about recruiting perceptions.

      I think that while we fans see the obvious benefit of 5th year players being around, we tend to understate the soft costs and unintended consequences.

      Next year will be interesting to see who is invited (and wants to be) back between Bellomy, Hayes, Glasgow, Miller, Heitzman, Kerridge, Countess. Glasgow is the only lock, IMO, as Countess may go to the NFL. Otherwise, there will be some tough decisions to be made.

  4. I think we can all agree that Jeremy Jackson was a special case. A nice little bonus and reward for Fred's many years of loyal service on the trail. i can't really begrudge the man, or the kid as it is an almost universal coach's dream to get to coach his own kid. This is even true when the two fight like cats and dogs.

    I can't think of one guy we used as a freshman who wouldn't have been a better fifth year senior than he was a fourth year senior. I would be delighted with incoming classes of around 18 kids would mostly play late and then graduate. that's a recipe for a string of 10 win or better seasons. The Alabama model is a disgrace.

    1. I think Jackson's career would have played out exactly the same as if his dad coached somewhere else. There are a lot of examples of unexceptional backup WRs who contribute for 4 years, fellow Huron High School alum Carl Tabb was another one. Not everyone is going to the NFL. "Special" is the last adjective I'd apply, but Jackson outplayed and outlasted a bunch of other WRs in his class.

      I wonder if the rate of 5th year seniors would correlate with team success. My guess is that, once you control for program/coaching stability (i.e., unstable programs are unlikely to have many 5th years due to attrition, and are also unlikely to be successful) that you wouldn't see much correlation.

      The best thing about redshirts is that they keep your options open and result in some really good seasons from 5th year players.. The problem is that they stall development and put talented players on your bench. The red-shirt doesn't help Michigan if Ryan Mundy, Mike Cox, and Jon Horford are going to take their talents elsewhere.

  5. Agreed with all the comments about needing to redshirt more players. I can think of Wiscy as a perfect example or model on how to do it. Every single year it seems half their starters are redshirt seniors. They consistently have a two deep of majority upper classmen, 4th and 5th yr seniors.

    1. Helps along the lines, where physical development is critical. Don't know if it helps them at skill positions where they don't use the RS nearly as often.