Monday, July 21, 2014

2014 Season Countdown: #35 Royce Jenkins-Stone

Royce Jenkins-Stone (#52)
Name: Royce Jenkins-Stone
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 221 lbs.
High school: Detroit (MI) Cass Tech
Position: Linebacker
Class: Junior
Jersey number: #52
Last year: I ranked Jenkins-Stone #41 and said he would be a backup linebacker and special teamer. He made 5 tackles while playing in thirteen games, mostly on special teams.

Jenkins-Stone's biggest impact last season was when he initiated a minor brawl against Ohio State, for which he was booted out of the game (along with Buckeyes Marcus Hall and Dontre Wilson). It was a somewhat ugly incident, and despite inciting it by ripping off Wilson's helmet during a routine tackle, Ohio State came out looking worse after Wilson threw a punch and Hall flipped off the crowd on his way to the tunnel. Either way, the other parts of Jenkins-Stone's 2013 season were pretty forgettable. He couldn't pierce the rotation at linebacker, and he made fewer special teams tackles than a wide receiver (Jehu Chesson) and a fullback (Sione Houma).

This year brings a modified defense, the 4-3 Over, and some new hope for Jenkins-Stone. Recruited as a middle linebacker, he's too light at 221 lbs. to be the thumper in the middle that was expected of him. Instead, he's a special teamer who has shown an ability to slash downhill but not much else. While I normally wouldn't expect much of a guy who has essentially only contributed on special teams, I am making an exception for him. I have never viewed him as a read-and-react guy, so his new position as a SAM linebacker in the Over fits well - he should be able to blitz from that position and play downhill if flow comes his way. There were some rumblings in the spring that he had leapfrogged incumbent starter James Ross III (who bumped over from WILL in the shakeup), but I find it hard to believe that last year's second-leading tackler will lose his job to a special teamer with 11 career stops. However, I like how Jenkins-Stone fits at SAM, and I think he will get a fair amount of playing time on the defensive side of the ball, not just on specials.

Prediction: Backup SAM linebacker; 20 tackles, 1 sack


  1. Ha. I had forgotten that RJS was the provoker in that OSU melee. We should cut the special teams guys a little slack for erratic behavior because they get all jacked up for only one play and then have to come right off the field again.

    I can't discern whether the RJS hype from this spring is legit, or just motivational fodder for Ross. Ross seems to be in and out of GMatt's doghouse, so I would not doubt that it's that latter. I do remember watching the LB's closely in the '13 spring game and came away thinking that RJS was the worst one on the field, including young walk-ons. Did not see anything definitive in the '14 spring game, although he looked the part a little more. In retrospect, RJS arguably looked better as a FB than LB his senior year of HS. But HS recruiting reps now are all based on whether a kid develops early (physically) and looks good as a sophomore.

    But I'll hope like Magnus that this change to SAM will get him thinking less and allow him to maximize his physical talents. If the front four is stout, RJS may be set up for some success. Would be nice to see him become at least a competent player.

  2. If he doesn't show up this year I smell a transfer.

  3. The truth is that he had a major positive impact on the OSU game. It was good to see Michigan come out swinging, literally and figuratively. I just hope it isn't his career highlight...

    RJS may still live up to the talent and potential that his recruiting profile indicated, but I'd feel a lot better about if he was a RS Soph rather than a Junior. The spring hype felt motivational rather than authentic, but it was at least a good sign that RJS wasn't a bust. Still, I'd be surprised if he played more than backups like Bolden and Gedeon. It seems more likely that a freshman passes him for backup duties than he beats out Ross for a starting spot.

    The coaches also keep talking about wanting to get bigger at LB and RJS doesn't help. He seems destined to be a career backup.

    On the plus side, he may be deserving of an award for most overrated on TTBs 2014 countdown. An honor is an honor.

    1. I think the countdown is just a vehicle for Magnus and the rest of us to over-analyze players. I may be wrong, but I'm guessing that he puts a lot more time into researching each player than deciding whether a guy should be ranked 66 or 59.

    2. Overanalyze?! No way!

      I doubt Thunder did much researchin on RJS beyond the course-assigned reading materials for all hardcore Michigan football fanatics. I've been reading and commenting for long enough that I assume Thunder knows I mean no ill will or disrespect when I voice my contrary opinions.

      I love the countdown because it brings up these sort of Houma vs Gedeon discussions. The whole point of the ranking exercise is discuss relative values of players. That's the fun part. Otherwise, you can just go through position groups or recruiting class or whatever other more conventional construct you want. I don't care to read that sort of thousand-foot perspectives on the team; especially when they all boil down to if Nuss can fix the OL. I do however, want to dig in and discuss if Houma matters (and how much) and if guys like RJS are going to contribute or just eat bench.

    3. @Thunder

      PS doesn't think you're trying very hard. I got your back, man. This is Science.

    4. I'm totally mailing this in. PS is right.

  4. 34 left to go? I'll give it a wing. Without looking back at your countdown:
    Honorable mentions - Lewis and Stribling - I forgot about them doing this, the both could realistically be anywhere from 21 - 27.
    34. Bellomy - Odds are he wont be called upon, and I feel Speight could do equally as well.
    33. Miller - he will get a few snaps, and just a couple injuries before he's needed.
    32. Norfleet - excellent return man. Maybe a 5th receiver
    31. Hagerup - Wile can always punt, as shown last year.
    30. D. Thomas - I don't know if he's starting at safety or what. I hope he does, but we'll wait and see.
    29. Peppers - could play a variety of positions in the secondary
    28. Heitzman - Starting TE, going to get quite a few snaps even with Butt back.
    27. Dawson - he may need to be called upon
    26. Pipkins - would rank him higher but he's injured.
    25. Wormley
    24. J.Clark - Could start at safety as well. Don't know. Like his size and speed though. Has played the position, onlike Thomas.
    23. Hill - He's going to be needed. I think he'll be starting strong safety. Heck of an athlete.
    22. Morgan - proven linebacker. May not be the most athletically gifted, but he's proven he can play.
    21. Braden - starting RT
    20. Charlton - a snap away from being needed. Will be in certain packages.
    19. Shane Morris - If anything happens to Gardner, we're going to rely on him heavily.
    18. Taylor - replaceable
    17. Beyer - replaceable.
    16. Ross - he's a heck of a LB. I really like him.
    15. Kalis - We're going to need him
    14. Derrick Green
    13. Wile - I don't think there is another kicker who has shown the leg he has.
    12. Deveon Smith - I like him.
    11. Darboh - hopefully the preseason hype is justified.
    10. Bosch - looked competent as a frosh
    9. Jarrod Wilson - most reliable safety.
    8. Glasgow - We're going to need him
    7. Clark - yep
    6. Funchess - awww yisss
    5. Jake Ryan - yes
    4. Magnuson - Starting LT
    3. Henry - we need a stout DT. We have a lot of bodies, but not a lot of play makers.
    2. Countess. Don't feel I need to say anything to justify this.
    1. Devin Gardner. He is a play maker, and we would be lost without him.

    1. If I had to guess, you probably need to move Wilson and Magnuson up in that countdown. Both Countess and Henry are essential, but we have much more depth at CB and DT than we do at OT and S. Part of Thunder's rankings plays into positional need and depth. Honestly, if Morris progresses, Wilson and Magnuson could be more important than Gardner even though Gardner will be a bigger contributor, just because of the drop off we will see. Think 2010 secondary after Woolfolk went out.

    2. I understand how Thunder's system works. Magnuson is good, but is he leaps and bounds better than the other linemen we have? Shoot, he hasn't even started a full season for us, and he didn't look like the second coming of Long. I agree linemen depth is shotty, I agree Magnuson could be the best lineman we have, but I think 4th most valuable player on the team is right about where he could land. Maybe 2.

      Countess is great. Taylor is good, but Countess is great. I think Stribling or Lewis could be serviceable in his absence, but he adds a different dimension when it comes to cornerback. His ability is game changing, and would be missed tremendously if he were gone.

      Henry did show a lot of talent and ability last year. At nose tackle, who do we have? An unproven Godin and Wormley? RS freshman Hurst? I think interior tackle is our 2nd least talented position, right behind OL. Pipkins is coming off a torn ACL. Big men don't come back as quickly as freak athletes like Ryan do.

      I agree Morris could progress, but he's not going to have the athletic ability Gardner has. Morris can definitely move around, but again, he's nowhere near the athlete Gardner is, which is going to be needed with how porous I expect our line to be. I don't think you could make the argument Wilson is more important to the team than Gardner. Magnuson, MAYBE. If he steps up in fall camp and shows nobody is getting a sack on his side, it'll make me feel a lot more comfortable about our season. But he's coming off a shoulder surgery, and hasn't shown he's THE man.

      Wilson has been a player at safety, because who else has stepped up? Just because he's the only player we have there who has really played, doesn't mean the step down to someone else would be that detrimental in this case. But if you wanted to move him up to #7 I think I would be cool with that, but I'm happy with moving him down too..

      On second look at this, I would also be cool with moving Smith and Green down 3 spots each.

    3. Yeah, I didn't mean to be a dick and nit-picking your list. It looks pretty accurate. On second thought, Countess' ability to play nickel is quite important. The fact that the coaches haven't trusted anyone else with the spot yet says something. However, Lewis looked great in spring (spring disclaimers obviously), and Stribling should take a step forward too.

      I think Magnuson is definitely more important than Henry. Granted, both haven't played that much or been "THE" guy; however, our DT depth reads: 3T-Henry, Hurst, Wormley, Godin-and NT-Pipkins, Henry, Mone, Hurst (note: some guys listed twice). I do think playing Pipkins and Henry at both DT spots would really give us a boost in size we need, but if Henry were not to develop or get injured, we have other guys who could step in and probably give us similar production.

      Also, you are right about Pipkins returning from his ACL. The good news is he wasn't as rushed as Ryan's was because he had the off-season to rehab. Hopefully he comes back healthy and ready to play cause we need him.

      As for Wilson, he played because he played better than most of our other safeties. Yes, he also hasn't established himself as the guy at this time, but he is on progression to do it this year. It's pretty tough to step in and contribute at S right away. Now he has a full year of film and experience to draw on. I would expect him to develop. Plus, we are having difficulty locating a second S. We need Wilson to become a playmaker this year.

      All that being said, I think you're right in listing Gardner as the most critical player to our success. Great QB's can make up for a lot of teams' flaws. We need him to take another step to really give us a shot at the Big Ten this year.

    4. I don't think you can call Countess great yet. I think he is very good and COULD be great this year, but not yet. Coaches played soft coverage, he got worked by KSU's WR, and Rivals is trying to drum up rumors that Lewis is going to push Countess over to a part-time role. Not saying I buy that, but if he was great, it wouldn't even be discussed.

      He had a lot of INTs, and while those aren't exactly fumble recoveries, they are still mostly random events and not a great indicator of quality of play.

      As for Gardner, he's the #1 guy on the team, and it's not even close IMO. He's the most talented player, most experienced, at the most important position, without a proven backup.

    5. Oy. I think the word "great" is overused, so I won't call Countess great. But the kid had 6 interceptions last season, which is tied for #3 all-time at Michigan. He also averaged 28.2 yards/return and scored a touchdown. I guess the ball randomly found him in almost half of his games last year...and he randomly returned them for more yards than any other player in Michigan history, aside from Tom Curtis (on 10 picks).

    6. Lanknows.

      You're usually far off base to the point I don't like debating you with your regurgitated rivals message board arguments, if that is in fact where form your opinions. Last time I checked Countess is wearing #2, and had 6 picks last year.

      "He had a lot of INTs, and while those aren't exactly fumble recoveries, they are still mostly random events and not a great indicator of quality of play."

      Are you serious? You can't be serious. Do you understand the game of football? Do you even watch football? The greatest corners have great production for a couple years or so before they have less balls thrown their way because they're great corners. It's not random. How you could ever say it's random is COMPLETELY asinine. Every once in a while there will be a ball batted up at the line. Whoever recovers that football I can say is a random event. Those balls are more often recovered by linemen or linebackers though.

      I don't care what happened in one KSU game. The team didn't play that game. If you draw conclusions based on individual players from that game, a lot of our team sucks.

      Thunder, I can respect not throwing the word great out yet, but if he puts out the same production as he did last year, and you still refuse to give him the title of great, I will question why. I may dish it out more than others. Players on this team I feel are great: Gardner, Ryan, and Countess. I feel Funchess and Clark could be there this year too if they live up to a little hype. Anybody else would be quite the surprise.

    7. "Great" is going too far with Countess. You can't just disqualify the KSU game because it doesn't fit your argument. It would be much more reasonable to say, yeah, he got worked that day, but he's still a great player because X Y and Z.

      But I would still disagree with that. I mean, Michigan's own staff has said they played conservatively on the corners last year because they felt they had to because of their personnel. They've also been adamant that they're going to be much more aggressive this year, and it's become clear that Jourdan Lewis is going to be a part of that.

      All of that tells me that they weren't thrilled with the DB play last year, regardless of anyone's INT numbers. Granted, that's partly on the safeties, sure. But if Countess were already "great," we wouldn't be talking about how our corners need to be more like Sparty's.

    8. Ty Laws INTs went from 0 to 6 to 2. Did he get worse as a junior? Must be why he jumped to the NFL.

      Marlin Jackson's INTs went 3, 3, 2, to 1. Guess he really reached his peak as a freshman.

      Leon Hall's INTs went 3,2,4,3. He must have simply not gotten better between his freshman and senior years.

      Donovan Warren: 1,1,4 (it's generous of me to include him in this group, but I wanted a recent guy)

      "The greatest corners have great production for a couple years or so before they have less balls thrown their way because they're great corners. It's not random."

      Tell it to Charles Woodson, who had 5, 5, and then 8 his Heisman years. Must be because no one respected him...

      I agree with the less balls thrown your way part, but you don't need to have a bunch of INTs to prove that. CB is a lot like OL - the stats tell you a VERY small part of the story.

      Look, thunder and others made a big dang deal out of Brandon Herron's big 2-TD game early that year. I argued at the time that it was random and got criticized for it. I ended up being right. It was the only game Herron started all year and he was all but benched by the end of the season. Was his 98 yard return an indicator of his quality as a player? no. He was at the right place at the right time? yes

      Now, Countess is a good player, but INTs happen for a lot of reasons. Most coaches will tell you that pressure leads to INTs and is just as important, if not MORE important than individual DB's 'ball-hawking' abilities. Guys drop to the right spot in a zone and the CB never sees them. WRs leave balls hanging in the air or run the wrong route.

      Todd Howard was not a great corner, but he had 6 int's too....then the next year he had 2.

      I'd expect Countess to have 2 to 4 INTs this year, because that's about average for what very good CBs do. If he get's 6 again, I'll eat crow and admit he's a great one. Those guys like Woodson who consistently get a ton of them are rare indeed.

      And yes, return yards are even more random, because they're in large part a function of where they happen on the field.


      I don't read the Rivals message board, and I think most of their writer's are full of hot air but I enjoy reading their articles because, for whatever reason, they do get inside access that most are not granted...

  5. I will say certain offenses are more prone to interceptions vs. other offenses, but the corners that capitalize on those mistakes don't capitalize solely because of the offense's mistakes.

    I will say interceptions don't say who is the best corner, but they are a pretty good indicator.

    Throwing out numbers for hand picked corners doesn't paint a big picture.

    Marlin Jackson. As a senior, opposing teams the the ball his way less than 14% of the time. That's because they were worried he would grab a random interception. He was all American senior year.

    When corners show they dominate, teams don't throw the ball their way.

    Woodson in the NFL. 5 INTs his rookie season followed by 1 his second year. Voted to the PRO bowl each year. Teams learned not to throw his way, and recognized he was a great corner.

    Charles Woodson's int numbers in college went from 5, to 5, to 8. His 8 was due in large part to 2 two-pick games against rivals MSU and OSU, including his one handed MSU grab. He really showed up in big games. The majority of teams were afraid of him.

    1. Don't know how you can just throw out the MSU and OSU games from Woodson's season. Those happened. Did the other guys not play against MSU and OSU? Did they not show up? You're arguing out of both sides of your mouth.

      INTs are an extremely rough indicator for CB play. They are rare and often random events. They make up tiny fraction of the plays that CBs make. It's like judging a baseball player by how many grandslams he hits. Miguel Cabrera might get 1 in a season while Brandon Inge hits 3. That decide who the playmaker is.

      Deon Sanders is the first name that comes to my mind when I think of great CBs. His INT numbers were never consistent. He'd have 2 a lot of years, 6 other years.

      As you've argued, great CBs get avoided, so their INT numbers are low. Darrel Green never had more than 5 INTs. He had between 1 and 5 every year of his long HOF career. The numbers fluctuated from year to year - because of randomness, but he was always good.

      Low numbers to some extent prove they are good players who are avoided. Yet, high numbers also prove they are good because they "make plays". When you have conflicting conclusions it tells you that number isn't a good metric.

      Woodson had 1 interception in 5 of his first 8 seasons. Then he averaged 7 over the next 4 years. Then 2, then 7!, then 1 and 1. Now you can break down the reasons from year to year if you want but that looks extremely inconsistent to me, and all the greats follow the same non-pattern.

      The arc you describe (big INT numbers early followed by getting avoided) definitely happens sometime. But just as often as Woodson's big number leading to INTs going down you have guys like Revis whose INT numbers rose his first 3 years. You can't nail down a pattern, because there isn't one.

      Countess is very good, he could be great this year - but his INT numbers are unlikely to tell us that because he could be great with 1 INT or 10 INTs.