Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Michael Ferns III, Ex-Wolverine

Michael Ferns (front middle, image via Times Leader)
Rising sophomore linebacker Michael Ferns III has left Michigan's football program, most likely headed for West Virginia. He redshirted as a freshman this past season.

Ferns was Michigan's first commitment in the class of 2014 and committed in August 2012, almost six months prior to the next guy (Wilton Speight). Ferns spearheaded a project to send "Team 135" t-shirts to every new Michigan commit for the remainder of the class. Meanwhile, he was a stalwart at St. Clairsville (OH) St. Clairsville and earned some national notoriety for running out of bounds at the 1-yard line to allow a grieving high school teammate to score a touchdown. He finished the recruiting cycle as a 247 Composite 4-star, the #6 inside linebacker, and #158 overall.

Ferns was listed at 6'3", 239 lbs. and was playing middle linebacker, although he was reportedly really struggling to adjust to the college game. He was buried on the depth chart behind several promising inside linebackers, including a few who will be returning in 2015 (fifth year senior Desmond Morgan, senior Joe Bolden, junior Ben Gedeon, and redshirt sophomore Mike McCray II) and even some classmates.

The depth chart may have less to do with the transfer than some expect. Ferns was recruited to Michigan by Brady Hoke and sold on the "Team 135" thing, and now that whole idea has lost some of its luster. Also, Michael has a younger brother named Brendan, a 2016 linebacker who has not been offered by the Wolverines. The reasons for the lack of an offer are unclear (he's a 247 Composite 4-star, the #2 inside linebacker, and #74 overall), but that was probably causing some friction, anyway. Brendan holds offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, and West Virginia, and part of the plan could be to play together in Morgantown; 247 Sports' Crystal Ball prediction for Brendan has him at 64% for Ohio State.

Regardless, Michael Ferns is the first casualty from the 2014 class. The Wolverines have three other linebackers remaining from the 2014 class, and the aforementioned inside linebackers have the position pretty well under control. This move would not appear to affect Michigan's defense in the long run, and it opens up another spot in the 2015 class (LINK). Right now it looks like Michigan can comfortably fit 12 players into the class, but that number could grow in the coming weeks, depending on Michigan's coaching situation. I have heard rumors of a few other players also considering transfers, and I would guess that at least one or two of them come to fruition.


  1. I thought Ferns might migrate into a rush end. Anyway, not happy about the loss but once we nail down a coach recruiting will take care of itself.

  2. Buried? There are 4 LBs who are skipping town after this season meaning Ferns was probably in line to be a starter in 2016. Behind the vets, only Gedeon and McCray have looked like promising players.

    The 2014 class was a failure. Other than Ferns, most of the top targets were missed and we ended up with Plan E types and generic 3-stars. Furbush and Wangler sound like tweeners that may or may not fit whatever the new coach plans to run. Winovich has some promise and decent rankings but his offer came well after the top targets.

    Due to poor recruiting decisions and roster mismanagement, Michigan recruited a strange balance of LBs the last few years and now, with Ferns gone, we are likely going to have to start an underclassmen again in 2016.

    This is big loss.

    1. Yes, buried. The fact that there are 4 seniors graduating after 2015 does not change the fact that he is/was buried on the depth chart. He would almost certainly not play a significant role - if at all - in 2015. And saying he would be a starter in 2016 is a huge stretch. Some of his classmates (who also redshirted) were already ahead of him, and McCray will be a redshirt junior in 2016.

      Starting underclassmen is not a huge deal if you recruit/develop well. There are juniors and seniors all over the place who get passed up by younger players.

    2. This is not about 2015. This is about 2016 and beyond - for both sides.

      In 2015 Ferns will now play ZERO snaps, fewer than he would have at Michigan.

      The Michigan depth chart is barely above empty for 2016. McCray and Gedeon. None of his classmates are ahead of Ferns. None of them have any buzz.

      "Starting underclassmen is not a huge deal if you recruit/develop well"
      Guess you haven't noticed the OL situation the last couple years...

    3. You're wrong. Sorry but you are. Ferns was not doing well. Winovich was getting some buzz, Wangler was ahead of him in practice, and Furbush was hurt.

      I'm not saying he'll be a bad player forever but he wasn't going to get snaps in 2015, and he probably would be nothing more than a backup in 2016. It's just not a huge loss with the current depth chart.

    4. I'm going to remember this discussion and 2 or 3 years from now, when you are bitching about our LB play in 2016 or making excuses about how young they are in 2017 I'm going to bring this back up. Hey - see that senior all-conference player at WVU -- we sure could use this kid that you said was buried.

    5. WVU hasn't had an all-conference linebacker since 2011 when they were in the Big East. In 2016 Michael Ferns will be a redshirt sophomore who hasn't played a competitive game of football in approximately three years. Meanwhile, I've already pointed out to you the guys who were ahead of him on the depth chart and will (conceivably) still be on the roster in 2016.

      Also, I haven't really complained about the linebacker play at Michigan since Rich Rodriguez was here in 2010. The linebackers have been pretty good from 2011 onward. It's impossible to say how they'll do without knowing who the head coach is, let alone the DC or LB coach. But what I do know is that Ferns was behind virtually every other linebacker on the roster. So if you want to remember this conversation, go for it. I'm just relaying facts. I liked him as a prospect and I'm not glad he's gone, but I also don't think it's a devastating loss. Michigan has recruited the LB position(s) well for the last several years.