Friday, October 17, 2014

Review of 2007 Recruiting: Defensive Ends

Michigan recruited Devon Still back in the day (here pictured with his cancer-stricken daughter, Leah;
image via Christian Post)
Tim Jamison, Sr.
Brandon Graham, So.
Greg Banks, RS Fr.
Adam Patterson, RS Fr.
Will Heininger, Fr.

Ryan Van Bergen
High school: Whitehall (MI) Whitehall
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #18 SDE
College: Michigan
Other notable offers: Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue
Scoop: Van Bergen redshirted as a true freshman. As a redshirt freshman in 2008, he started one game, made 13 tackles, and broke up 1 pass. He moved inside to start twelve games at defensive tackle in 2009, making 40 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 4 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery. Then as a redshirt junior in 2010, he moved back to defensive end and made 37 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 1 pass knockdown. He achieved all-conference Honorable Mention status in 2011 with 45 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 4 pass breakups, 3 fumble recoveries, and 1 forced fumble. He signed with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent but never played a game in the NFL.

Kourtnei Brown
High school: Charlotte (NC) Victory Christian
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #12 WDE
College: Clemson
Other notable offers: Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia Tech
Scoop: Brown played in eleven games as a freshman and made 12 total tackles, including 1 sack. As a sophomore in 2008, he made 16 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Brown redshirted in 2009. Then in 2010, he made 17 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss as a redshirt junior. Finally, he finished his career with 22 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception returned 20 yards for a touchdown, 1 fumble recovery returned 26 yards for a touchdown, and 3 pass breakups. He went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft but found his way into the league with the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, and St. Louis Rams.

Jared Glover
High school: Bixby (OK) Bixby
Ratings: Rivals 3-star, #29 WDE
College: Oklahoma State
Other notable offers: Nebraska, Texas A&M
Scoop: Glover redshirted in 2007. As a redshirt freshman in 2008, he was a backup linebacker and played in six games, making 5 total tackles. He left OSU prior to the 2009 season due to injury.

Everson Griffen
High school:
 Avondale (AZ) Agua Fria
Ratings: Rivals 5-star, #1 SDE, #6 overall
College: USC
Other notable offers: Florida, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon
Scoop: As a freshman in 2007, Griffen started two games and finished with 21 tackes, 5.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 pass deflections on the season; for his efforts he was a First Team Freshman All-America. In 2008 he made 18 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks as a backup. He earned the starter's job in 2009 and responded with 45 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 pass deflection, for which he was named Second Team All-Pac 10. He left school after his junior year and entered the 2010 NFL Draft, where he was picked in the 4th round (#100 overall) by the Minnesota Vikings. Since becoming a pro, he has had a few run-ins with the law. However, he has totaled 85 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 1 interception (returned 29 yards for a touchdown), and 3 forced fumbles as a backup for the Vikings and was re-signed this past off-season.

Devon Still
High school:
 Wilmington (DE) Howard
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #10 SDE
College: Penn State
Other notable offers: Miami, Ohio State
Scoop: Still redshirted as a freshman in State College. Between a torn ACL and a broken ankle, he missed almost all of the 2007 and 2008 seasons. As a redshirt sophomore backup  in 2009, he made 19 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. When I attended a coaching clinic at Penn State in the spring of 2009, Still was physically the most impressive guy I saw in practice. He started twelve games at defensive tackle in 2010, making 39 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 1 pass breakup. He came into his own as a 6'5", 310 lb. senior in 2011, when he made 55 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 pass breakup; he was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American. The Cincinnati Bengals picked him in the 2nd round (#53 overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft. In two-plus professional seasons, he has made 28 tackles, .5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. The Bengals recently made news by signing him so that his daughter's cancer treatments would be covered by their medical insurance.

John Stokes
High school:
 Memphis (TN) University School
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #13 WDE
College: Vanderbilt
Other notable offers: Alabama, Ole Miss, Stanford
Scoop: As a freshman in 2007, Stokes earned the long-snapper duties and made 7 tackles as a backup outside linebacker. He became the starting outside 'backer in 2008 and finished with 31 tackles and 4 tackles for loss. He platooned at OLB in 2009 and made 44 tackles and 2 tackles for loss. As a senior in 2010, he won the job outright and made 78 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 3 pass breakups. He was not drafted in the 2011 NFL Draft but spent some time with the Tennessee Titans as a long snapper before getting cut before the season began. As far as I can gather, he has not played in a regular season game and his football career appears to be finished.

Chris Strong
High school:
 Batesville (MS) South Panola
Ratings: Rivals 4-star, #3 SDE, #53 overall
College: Ole Miss
Other notable offers: Florida, Miami, Ohio State, USC
Scoop: Strong signed with Ole Miss in 2007 but had issues with his weight as he bounced back and forth between defensive end and middle linebacker. He started three games that year and made 19 tackles, but he quit football prior to the 2008 season and was not heard from again in the football world.

Martez Wilson
High school:
 Chicago (IL) Simeon
Ratings: Rivals 5-star, #2 WDE, #26 overall
College: Illinois
Other notable offers: Florida, Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC
Scoop: Wilson was a backup outside linebacker in 2007 and made 29 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 1 pass breakup on the way to being named a Freshman All-America. He became a starter in 2008 and ended the year with 73 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, and 3 pass breakups. He suffered a herniated disc early in 2009 and was given a medical hardship waiver after making 9 tackles in limited time. He returned with a vengeance in 2010 and started at middle linebacker, where he made 112 tackles (4th in the Big Ten), 11.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 1 interception, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 4 pass breakups, and 1 blocked kick. He was named First Team All-Big Ten and entered the NFL Draft after the year, foregoing his final year of eligibility. Wilson was picked in the 3rd round (#72 overall) by the New Orleans Saints in the 2011 NFL Draft and has played for the Saints, Oakland Raiders, and Dallas Cowboys since then, totaling 33 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 pass breakups over the last three seasons. He was cut by the Cowboys in August and has not signed on with another team.

Defensive end always seems like a questionable position to recruit, because so many players end up outgrowing the position or never filling out their frames. You can see in this class that a few guys remained as outside linebackers, while Still turned into a huge defensive tackle.

Biggest miss: Devon Still. The lean Rich Rodriguez years may have been improved a little bit with someone like Still in the middle, pairing with a guy like Mike Martin. Imagine that duo in the center of those defensive lines. Michigan fans may not have had to deal with watching Adam Patterson play nose tackle.

Biggest bust: Chris Strong. Strong didn't really have a position, and he was out of football after just a short college career. That's underwhelming for the #53 player nationally.

Best in class: Von Miller. Miller attended Texas A&M, where he played 4-3 outside linebacker, 4-3 weakside end, and 3-4 outside linebacker. His ability to rush the passer never waned, though. He had 17 sacks as a junior in 2009 and another 10 sacks in 2010. He was a 1st round pick (#2 overall) by the Denver Broncos in 2011, for whom he has 191 tackles, 41 sacks, 1 interception, and 11 forced fumbles in two-plus seasons. He's a two-time Pro Bowler and has 6 sacks so far this season.


  1. Nice writeup ... interesting to see who was considered, where they went, and what became of them.

    You mentioned the Still / Martin combination (DE/DT). That made me think ... football really is a team sport, where the sum is greater than the parts. But if we focus on just pair-combinations, what stands out as a pair-combination that really makes a difference when it works well? And why?

    Some things that come to my mind -- beyond the DT/DE combination you cited -- QB/WR obviously ... but also maybe the CB/S pair combination, where the two almost think as one? I'm sure there are pair-combinations on the OL that really make a difference when done well together ... LG/LT maybe? My football knowledge is not good enough to understand the LB/DL synergies.

    Just a thought and a question. Something to think about in this bye week.

    1. That's quite a good question.

      The first thing that comes to mind is a particular play from the 2011 version of The Game. OSU is backed up at their own 5 or so. The call is a stunt from RVB and Martin, with RVB coming around behind Martin's slant. However, things don't go as planned because OSU's (good) center hits Martin hard enough to slow up the slant. But it doesn't matter because the two seniors flip the script on the fly; RVB goes first and slants instead.

      The result? Miller gets sacked almost immediately at the 1 and the next play is a safety.

      The lesson is that players who are great in their own right get even better when they develop a feel for each others' game so they can cognitively adjust based on expectations. Does this help?